The one border I’d argue for

Intractable polarization

In writing my dissertation, I focused on U.S. domestic politics and seven tendencies of conservatism I had identified. I was resisting consideration of the wider world because I did not want to overgeneralize and I had a massive amount of material as it was—that dissertation came in at over 400 pages—over four times the expected length.[1]

So I’ve been slow to take on Trumpism as a wider phenomenon affecting for examples, eastern Europe, Turkey, Brazil, and the Philippines, as well. It’s a scholarly myopia that as a human scientist, I hope to avoid. I have failed here only in part because I simply don’t have the sense of those places that I have of the U.S. where, since moving to Pittsburgh, I have seen even that my California perspective was too limited.


Taking on the wider problem is problematic. I am stuck as an Uber driver, seemingly unable to escape, having failed to find gainful employment in now 21 years.[2] There is work I need to be doing, that is in fact essential to an understanding of the world we live in, and that I am prevented from doing.

In the meantime, y’all know I don’t like borders. I see them as depriving human beings on an arbitrarily “wrong” side of rights and privileges they would be entitled to on the “right” side, and for this, there can be no ethical justification whatsoever: Either humans are humans with human rights or they aren’t and they should universally be treated that way.[3] But I am tired of bullies and of being bullied. If there must be borders, it should be between, on one side, Trumpists and Trumpist-style authoritarians who insist on dehumanizing the “other,” and on the other, the rest of us. Because it is increasingly clear that while they may delight in their absolute disdain for us, we cannot live with them.


Ukraine


Since alleged Ukrainian “Nazis” are such a hot topic, right now, it might be worth remembering that Josef Stalin, Vladimir Putin’s hero, signed a peace treaty with Adolf Hitler, allowing the latter to blitzkrieg the rest of Europe, before attacking the Soviet Union.

During the Cold War, the term [“Nazi” or “Fascist”] came to apply to anyone in the West or those who opposed Russia, [Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale University] said.[4]

Jon Allsop, “A week of whiplash and the need for cool heads over Russia and Ukraine,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 18, 2022, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/russia_ukraine_invasion_whiplash.php

Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s Quasi War Begins,” Puck News, February 18, 2022, https://puck.news/putins-quasi-war-begins/

Maegan Vazquez et al., “Biden says he’s now convinced Putin has decided to invade Ukraine, but leaves door open for diplomacy,” CNN, February 18, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/18/politics/joe-biden-russia-ukraine/index.html

Anne Applebaum, “There Are No Chamberlains in This Story,” Atlantic, February 20, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/02/munich-security-conference-chamberlain/622872/

John Hudson and Missy Ryan, “U.S. claims Russia has list of Ukrainians ‘to be killed or sent to camps’ following a military occupation,” Washington Post, February 20, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/02/20/ukraine-russia-human-rights/

David Ignatius, “Surprising cracks, if small ones, appear in Kremlin support for Putin on Ukraine,” Washington Post, February 21, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/02/21/putin-ukraine-invasion-kremlin-support/

Dan Sabbagh and Rowena Mason, “UK says ‘serious doubts’ exist within Russian military about invading Ukraine,” Guardian, February 21, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/21/uk-says-serious-doubts-exist-within-russian-military-about-invading-ukraine

Ann M. Simmons, Yaroslav Trofimov, and Matthew Luxmoore, “Putin Orders Deployment of Troops to Breakaway Regions in Ukraine,” Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-alleges-ukrainian-incursion-kyiv-says-moscow-makes-up-fake-incidents-11645453512

Jon Allsop, “The weight of words in the Russia-Ukraine story,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 22, 2022, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/russia_putin_recognition_ukraine.php

Philip Bump, “‘Genius,’ ‘Savvy’: Trump reacts to Putin’s moves on Ukraine exactly as you’d expect,” Washington Post, February 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/22/trump-reacts-putins-invasion-ukraine-exactly-youd-expect/

Anthony Faiola, “The moment when Putin got real,” Washington Post, February 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2022/02/22/putin-speech-analysis-ukraine-russia/

Julia Ioffe, “Will Putin Get His World War III?” Puck News, February 22, 2022, https://puck.news/will-putin-get-his-world-war-iii/

Frank Jordans, “Ukraine-Russia: Germany suspends Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline,” Associated Press, February 22, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-business-germany-europe-berlin-79e3dafb0d231f6a033613b7dab78cdf

Andrew Restuccia and Tarini Parti, “White House Calls Russian Moves an Invasion After Initially Refraining From Using Term,” Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/white-house-calls-russian-moves-an-invasion-after-initially-refraining-from-using-term-11645549648

Eli Stokols and Tracy Wilkinson, “Biden announces sanctions against Russia for invasion of Ukraine,” Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-02-22/biden-allies-taking-calibrated-approach-in-response-to-putin-as-russian-tanks-invade-ukraine

Ann M. Simmons, Alan Cullison, and Yaroslav Trofimov, “Russia Begins Military Operation in Ukraine,” Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/ukraine-shifts-to-war-footing-tells-citizens-to-leave-russia-11645616181

Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu, “Top senator warns Putin cyberattacks could trigger bigger war,” Axios, February 23, 2022, https://www.axios.com/mark-warner-putin-cyber-attacks-ukraine-40c5e959-5093-4d79-bf24-8d4731edb293.html

Jon Allsop, “Propaganda, confusion, and an assault on press freedom as Russia attacks Ukraine,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 24, 2022, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/propaganda-confusion-and-an-assault-on-press-freedom-as-russia-attacks-ukraine.php

Miriam Berger, “Putin says he will ‘denazify’ Ukraine. Here’s the history behind that claim,” Washington Post, February 24, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/24/putin-denazify-ukraine/

Julian Borger and Angelique Chrisafis, “Decision to invade Ukraine raises questions over Putin’s ‘sense of reality,’” Guardian, February 24, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/24/putin-russian-president-ukraine-invasion-mental-fitness

Shira Hanau, “Declaring war on Ukraine, Russia’s Putin cites goal of ‘denazification’ of country with Jewish president,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 24, 2022, https://www.jta.org/2022/02/24/global/declaring-war-on-ukraine-russias-putin-cites-goal-of-denazification-of-country-with-jewish-president

Chico Harlan and Taylor Telford, “Stocks claw back after Russia’s attack on Ukraine roils markets,” Washington Post, February 24, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/24/ukraine-europe-markets-russia/

Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s New Iron Curtain,” Puck News, February 24, 2022, https://puck.news/putins-new-iron-curtain/

Matthew Karnitschnig, “How Germany helped blaze Putin’s path into Ukraine,” Politico, February 24, 2022, https://www.politico.eu/article/how-germany-helped-blaze-vladimir-putin-path-into-ukraine/

Arshad Mohammed and Jonathan Landay, “Explainer: Why Russia and Ukraine are fighting for Chernobyl disaster site,” Reuters, February 24, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/why-russia-ukraine-are-fighting-chernobyl-disaster-site-2022-02-25/

Reuters, “Factbox: How Ukraine’s armed forces shape up against Russia’s,” February 24, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/how-ukraines-armed-forces-shape-up-against-russias-2022-02-01/

Reuters, “Oil soars past $105 as Russia’s attack on Ukraine rattles markets,” Al Jazeera, February 24, 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2022/2/24/oil-soars-past-105-as-russias-attack-on-ukraine-rattles-markets

Adario Strange, “Kyiv or Kiev? How to pronounce the name of the capital city of Ukraine and why,” Quartz, February 24, 2022, https://qz.com/2133021/this-is-why-the-name-of-ukraines-capital-is-kyiv-not-kiev/

Robin Wright, “Putin’s Historic Miscalculation May Make Him a War Criminal,” New Yorker, February 24, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/putins-historic-miscalculation-may-make-him-a-war-criminal

Yuras Karmanau et al., “Ukraine’s capital under threat as Russia presses invasion,” Associated Press, February 25, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-vladimir-putin-volodymyr-zelenskyy-boris-johnson-business-08f569df695831ee467979527ea2e241

Farrah Tomazin, “Biden calls invasion ‘a dangerous moment for freedom around the world,’” Sydney Morning Herald, February 25, 2022, https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/biden-calls-invasion-a-dangerous-moment-for-freedom-around-the-world-20220225-p59zk0.html


Donald Trump

Finances

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

The case was always a high-wire act. Unlike the parallel civil case under investigation by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, which only needs to reach a threshold of “preponderance of the evidence” to find Trump liable for violating the law, the D.A.’s criminal case would have had to convince a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Trump had criminal intent to defraud. Real-estate valuations of the kind that Trump was under investigation for manipulating are also often slippery, but Vance’s team had hoped to prove that Trump engaged in a decades-long pattern of criminal fraud. Dunne, in particular, spent years on the investigation, and, although he and Pomerantz apparently never thought the case would be easy, they both believed that it had merit.[5]

After campaigning on a promise to pursue Donald Trump, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was bored by the case his prosecutors were developing.[6] So they resigned.[7]

Corinne Ramey and Deanna Paul, “Two Prosecutors in New York Investigation of Donald Trump Resign,” Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/two-prosecutors-in-new-york-investigation-of-donald-trump-resign-11645650257

Jane Mayer, “Why Does New York’s Criminal Investigation of Donald Trump Appear All But Over?” New Yorker, February 24, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/why-does-new-yorks-criminal-investigation-of-donald-trump-appear-all-but-over


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  2. [2]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Things I shouldn’t have to say about borders,” Not Housebroken, December 26, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/12/26/things-i-shouldnt-have-to-say-about-borders/
  4. [4]Miriam Berger, “Putin says he will ‘denazify’ Ukraine. Here’s the history behind that claim,” Washington Post, February 24, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/24/putin-denazify-ukraine/
  5. [5]Jane Mayer, “Why Does New York’s Criminal Investigation of Donald Trump Appear All But Over?” New Yorker, February 24, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/why-does-new-yorks-criminal-investigation-of-donald-trump-appear-all-but-over
  6. [6]Jane Mayer, “Why Does New York’s Criminal Investigation of Donald Trump Appear All But Over?” New Yorker, February 24, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/why-does-new-yorks-criminal-investigation-of-donald-trump-appear-all-but-over
  7. [7]Jane Mayer, “Why Does New York’s Criminal Investigation of Donald Trump Appear All But Over?” New Yorker, February 24, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/why-does-new-yorks-criminal-investigation-of-donald-trump-appear-all-but-over; Corinne Ramey and Deanna Paul, “Two Prosecutors in New York Investigation of Donald Trump Resign,” Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/two-prosecutors-in-new-york-investigation-of-donald-trump-resign-11645650257

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