Gerald Ford at Heaven’s Gate

One of the most haunting Inside Baseball stories to emerge from modern American political life is the story of Gerald Ford telling his golfing buddies that he was sure he would go to hell for pardoning Richard Nixon. This story was publicized by Hunter S. Thompson, a man who famously found his own measure of peace towards the end after a career of fastidiously measured commentary, so we can make of it what we will, but the possibility that it wasn’t 100% bildungsroman fiction or otherwise total bullshit gives me pause.

The implications are eerie. Most glaringly, Ford had resigned himself to his own looming damnation because he had a conscience. Without one, he would not, as they say, have given a damn. Whatever he was feeling, whatever combination of regret, haunting, fatally poor judgment in a time of crisis, or tragic political destiny, these were the thoughts of a man capable of moral thought and willing to engage in it despite the fear and the pain.

Or, as his incidental biographer would say, the loathing. By the way, did you know that the hippie Boomer swarm now has earnest hagiographies of Thompson on film? You probably didn’t want to know that, but you do now. #TheMoreYouKnow, assholes. Incorrigibly parasitic and belligerently entitled Boomer shitheads living vicariously through the storied moral clarity of their tortured mad-genius auteur senpai is always a scene of beauty. Truly this is a tapestry that ought to be chucked into the fucking wood stove once we’re done burning the all the combustible death-trap fixtures on the commune, since it really isn’t and never has been one. Not that it would necessarily be a bad idea to burn it all down at once, or that I have any idea what 1946 birth cohort ever gave an uppity youngster like me the concept of arson as praxis.

Sure, Thompson could be legit wack, and he was temperamentally one to comingle fact and opinion, but the essay of his that I linked ran in the Atlantic, which employs professional fact-checkers, so that probably isn’t just a cock-and-bull story that the old boy made up for the moral force or the lulz. And as I said, it’s haunting. In the archival imagery, Ford consistently looks more at peace than many of his predecessors, especially Nixon and LBJ, and at least two of his successors, Bush II and Trump. He pulled some dipshits moves when he was in Congress, but in no way did that make him special, and it’s painful to imagine a man who completed his presidency with such public grace and decency quietly bearing such a burden in his old age.

The possibility that he was damned by his own conscience is even scarier. Does this mean that psychopaths, who are so numerous in politics, outmaneuver the judgment seat precisely because they are so soullessly evil? Do these ghouls actually corrupt the source code so utterly that they, of all people, can evade judgment? Given how demonically they carry on here on earth, it’s worth pondering, but not enjoyably so. If life is in fact the one-night stand that forever is not, think about what this may mean, and be thankful that I’m not meming Bryan Adams for thoughts on heaven. *Glen Campbell, back on the line, as he is from time to time* Well, I can’t say that dying didn’t at least spare me some of this ridiculous horseshit, but God help y’all if that fucker ever leaves the airport when he flies through Houston and is allowed near a computer after that. *I’m afraid this sidebar’s over.* Seriously, does Dick Cheney ever give these things a moment’s thought? W? Henry Kissinger?

All three are still among us. Kissinger looks like hell, whence so many think he came, and has for years, and yet he’s still hobnobbing with leaders who would be too embarrassed to associate with him in public if they didn’t hold the rest of us in dripping contempt. Ford wasn’t some It’s a Wonderful Life-ass nightgown cunt of a heavenly do-gooder, but the grotesque swathes of what came before and after him in high office make him look positively good, and we’ll never be able to grope our way to decent leadership again if we don’t keep the memories of what we’ve done halfway right in the past. I’m not trying to bitch and whine about the Donald as some special apocalyptic aberration, either; Jimmy Carter is the only successor to Ford in the presidency to date who had the decency not to flagrantly degrade their office for scandalously crude and selfish reasons.┬áIf Ford thought he was going to hell for what he did in office and no other modern president felt likewise after examining his own conscience, that speaks eloquently well of Ford and terribly of the others.

What makes this story really perverse is that Ford was sure that he would be damned because he had shown mercy. This may have something to say about the nature of mercy and its flaws, but what it really speaks to is the sheer dysfunction and perversion of American politics. The crux of Ford’s guilt for pardoning Nixon was that he had established moral hazard. This would be a much more compelling argument if Tricky Dick hadn’t just been driven from office by a Congress outraged enough to impeach him. Congress hadn’t even had to follow through with a trial and removal from office; the threat to do so had been adequate. Nixon had already faced a significant measure of justice and accountability; resignation in lieu of trial has always been an option for officials facing impeachment, because impeachment is expressly a mechanism to compel sitting executive officials to prove their fitness for office when a quorum of legislators question it.

The crooks and thugs who eventually followed the Nixon Administration included some real choice pieces of shit, but Ford had no way to predict any of that. There was no way to predict Oliver North by extrapolating from Chuck Colson. There was no way to extrapolate Reagan as president from anyone who preceded him in that office, and it would have been extremely difficult to predict his policies as president from those he pursued as the governor of California. The only arc that anyone could have followed without functionally supernatural powers of observation and prediction was that Sunset in America would continue to be a vapid dogwhistling bullshitter. Not a decade after Ford’s retirement, the Republican Party started going in a direction that had nothing to do with him or those around him. Ford was never the one collecting the country’s worst religious busybody wackos, starve-the-beast supply-side asshats, and latter-day robber baron scumbags.

The fundamental mistakes in Nixon’s aftermath weren’t even his to make. Ford had retired after an exceedingly long career in public office, and sensibly and decently so. No one anywhere else on the political spectrum had the power or the political skill to stop the unsavories from commandeering the GOP and redirecting it to their ill ends. By the time Congress started seriously demolishing its credibility as stewards of the powers of impeachment and removal, Ford was quite elderly and a critical mass of his nominal fellow-travelers in the GOP had no interest in what he thought of their mummery and grandstanding. The Clinton impeachment, followed as it was by the Bush, Obama, and Trump nonimpechments, did a great deal of damage to the credibility of national political norms, but that wasn’t on Gerry Ford. The sexually repressed wacko hardliners in the GOP brought articles of impeachment over a blowjob, and since none of Slick Willie’s successors have been impeached for extreme civil liberties and due process violations or verbal outbursts of gross public immorality, a norm has been established that impeachment is an impotent mechanism (giggity) for loudmouths with skeletons in their own closets to use when they’re butthurt that the president is getting too much action from his plump Jewess.

*Larry Craig, taking the typical wide stance* I wasn’t jealous of HIM, you naughty little twerp! When our leadership class has recently included such gems as Gateside Downlow, J. Denny Dundiddly, and the Third Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Secessions, we’d be jerks to try to lower the boom on Gerald Ford, or to agree with him for being so painfully hard on himself and so despairing of his own fitness for godly mercy.

Honestly, Ford should have gone to mass. He should have gone to Rosary gatherings. There wasn’t any need for him to convert, but that was a man whose inherited Protestant faith failed to provide him the guidance he needed through an especially difficult moral quandary that would have tried any president. Carter has never noticeably been failed by his Baptist faith, nor was Nixon by his Quakerism, but Ford would have been well advised to go to mass and the Rosary, find an out-of-the-way seat, and listen and be still. He needed that. He was a prominent object lesson on why we pray for our dead.

To be sure, he would have made a great first Catholic ex-president. That would have been badass as fuck. By Zapruder we haven’t had one yet, no matter how fervent we may insist that we would cherish him above Ruby. Tricky Dick would have made himself a respectable credit to the faith, too; peace at the center isn’t exactly Catholic, but it’s close enough. (Mainly it’s too Anglo-Saxon in its phrasing.) No, I’m not trying to be cute or start a flame war or anything. The old crook knew that he was troubled. He was humble enough to recognize that he had gotten grandiose. Besides, much of the reason why he looks so bad is that his contemporaries in Congress were assertive enough to hold him to account. They didn’t just talk about booting his ass out of the White House, as they feebly and ridiculously do these days when Trump mouths off with his latest heinous outburst.

If you want a scandalously bad RCIA hotshot candidate, try Mocha Haole in all his chameleonic smugness. Try the Big Dog or LBJ, both of them incorrigibly slippery Dixie sleazeballs. Go figure that it wasn’t a man of chastity or decorum who showed up in Washington with those initials. As he supposedly said, banging his fist on the table, I’ve had more damn women by accident than the Kennedys have had on purpose! Whether he said that or not, that’s truer than Gerald Ford’s irreversible and eternal damnation, and if we’ve five minutes to put Signora up against the wall in this, our time, rightly divided, we oughtn’t spend it praying for any of those three because they perhaps came to some grief in an indulgence of horn.

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Orange you glad you don’t live in the Chinese part of town

Hoo boy. Orange County’s piss-ass homeless shelter nimbyism has reached the judicial override stage, and it is not pretty. A federal judge, David O. Carter, has partially asserted dictatorial emergency powers over the county government and a number of city governments to compel the approval of shelter sites and enjoin the enforcement of vagrancy laws in the interim. This isn’t a case of the judiciary lording it over the legislature and the citizenry for fun; it’s a proportional, and quite patient, assertion of the human rights of a marginalized, impoverished citizen constituency against a powerful, violently hostile constituency that defines itself by property rights as property owners, not by civil rights as citizens. What the judge is telling the local officials and the propertied agitators driving their intransigence is that they have dragged their feet for far too long on the establishment of adequate rehousing facilities for the residents of the homeless encampments that they are so eager to raze and that they have absolutely no latitude to criminalize the existence of their indigent neighbors to protect their own property rights and precious, precious feelings.

There’s a really ugly ethnic angle to this dispute, one that the white liberal consensus in California finds too uncomfortable to name, but as a homeless honky native to Palo Alto and registered to vote in Sacramento County, I’ll be damned if I’ll be guilt-tripped into holding my peace about it. It’s the fucking Chinese. They’ve behaving execrably. A clannish, racialized, affluent, propertied rabble of immigrants and their children are petulantly trying to criminalize the existence of a native lumpenproletariat, most of the latter from families that have been in what is now the United States since time immemorial.

That’s ethnic cleansing if it happens in Yugoslavia, and it’s ethnic cleansing if it happens here. A bunch of haughty rich asshole foreigners moved in en masse from overseas, established a colonial settlement, and are now sore as hell that the inherent vices of their neighborhood include their native-stock birthright citizen neighbors, whom they defame wholesale as filthy criminals who depress their property values. We now have to listen to these thugs and their spawn, whose family money does not generally come from scrupulously licit sources, carry on about how they’re blameless and worthy and it’s only the native proles whose shit stinks.

There is something dysfunctional about any society where a racialized settler population feels able to lash out in this fashion without fear of retaliatory pogroms. Chinese money, again, from a variety of questionable sources, has driven a good deal of the housing bubble that has made it impossible for the native poor to afford housing in Orange County. This isn’t some insurmountable natural law; the crooked upper crust of a systemically corrupt nation in the early stages of industrialization fled overseas with its wealth and parked it in real estate in a handful of markets that it found culturally and legally hospitable, one of these (a relatively modest one, in fact) being Orange County. This is crude ethnic gangsterism, but with more bigotry than the old Irish, Italian, and Jewish mobsters indulged in their more magnanimous years. The proposition that a cohort of rich, grasping Chinamen who hate the everloving shit out of the peasants back home give a hot damn about the high ideals of ethnic and socioeconomic pluralism of their adoptive land is insulting. This is one of the most illiberal, intolerant populations ever to have landed on our shores.

What do I suppose I’d try to do if I were in their shoes? For starters, I’d try not to act like a raging fucking asshole colonial settler-bigot begging for banishment to the Breslau Ghetto as an unassimilable scion of an incorrigible ethnic crime family. I’m not Jewish enough for temple, but I’m Jewish enough to take care not to be a fucking shanda fur die goyim. This bourgeois ethnic cleansing bullshit in Orange County isn’t the first time propertied overseas Chinese have behaved in ways that called to mind the all-time worst of Europe’s Jews and grievously tested the tolerance of the native ethnic majority in their host nations. Everything that I’ve read about the overseas Chinese indicates that California’s 21st-century native stock is reacting to these provocations with a level of goodwill, patience, and magnanimity that the ethnic Thais and Malays have not historically shown their ancestors in Southeast Asia.

We have no special national duty or, God help us, regional moral duty as a liberal sanctuary state, to be the only host population on the face of the earth to act like this shit is fucking Sesame Street. This right here is the episode in which a foreign lynch mob that had no connections to the neighborhood a decade or two ago tries to burn Oscar alive in his trash can to clean up the neighborhood. There’s some nice happy horseshit at the base of the Statue of Liberty about the tired, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, and my great-grandfather embezzled from his employer in the East End of London to buy a cabin across the Atlantic and the direct admission at the Battery that came with it, but tired, huddled, and breathless ain’t who’s jacking up the cost of housing in the OC, cracka.

If we have sacred values to defend, we might want to consider that this overseas gentrification jet set is too fucking illiberal to share these values, which presumably include allowing those already present in the neighborhood as birthright citizens to live peaceably without being ethnically cleansed by Johnny-come-lately interlopers from families that bought their way into the country. They’re the ones who showed up out of the blue and used money to muscle their way into existing communities with no regard for the welfare or even survival of the neighbors they displaced. They’re the ones who expect native-stock children to compete like their lives depend on it for college admissions and jobs, but without the tight ethnic networks to grease the skids before them.

I’m sure some concern-trolls will preen about how I’m trying to launch a reprise of the Chinese Exclusion Act. That isn’t what’s happening here. The dynamics have flipped. The native stock driving Chinese exclusion in the nineteenth century were bigoted as all hell, and the Chinese they were so hellbent on driving out of the land were peasants, piss-poor, marginalized immigrants who would have been grievously oppressed by their social betters back home had they stayed. What we have now is an affluent native stock that bends over backwards to be tolerant towards an even more affluent and networked immigrant community while the latter takes the lead in efforts to commit the wholesale official oppression of the poorest old-stock Americans in their neighborhoods and drive them east of Eden, or at least east of Corona.

The non-indigent old-liners who might otherwise be upset by this foreign aggression against their fellow citizens, to wit, Americans from long-established families whose ancestors did not purchase residency within living memory, prefer to pretend that none of this ethnic unpleasantness is happening. Well, guess what, white girl? It is happening.

Sure, the Chinese have bourgeois white allies in their fight to bar the door against the riffraff, fancy crackers whose class interests overlap with their own and whose other nimby interests include the adamant belief that El Toro is a terrible place for an airport. Still, they’re further emboldened by the residual hopes or assent or God only knows exactly what of downwardly mobile native-stock young people who were raised to believe in and still refuse to disbelieve every bit of American Experience-ass bleeding-heart horseshit about how we worked through all the bad shit, like, fifty years ago and all get along now. This has the potential to cause some hardcore cognitive dissonance as a foreign population, raised in a dramatically different cultural, political, and civic context with nothing but contempt for the welfare of the marginalized poor, buys its way into a civic stake that it aggressively uses to harass its neediest neighbors.

I’m afraid that this situation really is as crude and ugly as I’m chronicling it. Some of the worst colonial aggression on earth today is coming from the Chinese. The birth hotels in the San Gabriel Valley, a fairly seedy area by overseas Chinese standards, cater to families wealthy enough to afford airfare and long-term lodging for their unemployed expectant mothers. The current Chinese diaspora in Vancouver includes absolute Gulf Arab Eurotrash-grade degenerates who drive their sports cars across toll bridges at triple the speed limit on licenses in bad standing. These asshats and their families have dumped so much cash into the local housing market that the cops who pull them over can hardly afford rent on the Lower Mainland.

These shitheads are not typical Chinese. That would be like insisting that the shittiest yuppies in Central Bucks or North Jersey are typical Americans. If a diaspora of that character took over, say, Tijuana and jacked up the cost of housing beyond what any Mexican of normal means could afford, I’d angrily disavow them as their compatriot. I already can’t fucking stand pig-ignorant Tri-State money wops who condescendingly talk about “percent diversity” at their alma maters like their families have always been High Whitey when my own grandparents were denied public accommodations because they were taken for Jews. If such a constituency were overheating housing markets abroad and doing everything in their civic power to demean and expel the natives they’d already dispossessed with their housing bubble, it would be a national scandal. We’ve got a few goldbug-intersectional bourgeois-supremacist Yanqui fuckwads kicking around Latin America in a spirit of superiority, along with a handful of serious high rollers rich enough to buy bugout spreads in New Zealand, but as asshole emigrants go, we’re pikers compared to High Chinky.

The Chinese we do get in our affluent cities are not looking to play by our most scrupulous rules. They wouldn’t have the money to expatriate anywhere decent if that were how they rolled. Scrupulosity is not how fortunes are made in post-Deng Mainland China. Honorebly feel my balzac for more universal insights into great fortunes and forgotten crimes, but je me fouquine souviens this much about the PRC in particular: that its industrialization as a major exporter in the late twentieth century involved levels of corruption well in excess of the norms in Japan and the industrialized West. We, the greatest nation on earth and shit, started reverting towards our own historic Gilded Age crookedness around the time we started our serious trade with China; the prior standards from which we were, by Bork, slouching towards Gomorrah were of a much higher caliber than what China’s industrialists and their apparatchik cronies adopted. Likewise, it’s safe to assume that a great deal of the money overheating housing markets in the old British colonies (crikey, you mates, too), was expatriated prior to or in deliberate circumvention of the Chinese Politburo’s big anti-corruption drives.

No, this doesn’t account for the entire Chinese diaspora. There are decent people trying to honorably find better lives for themselves and their families who have the misfortune to share an ethnic community with a bunch of belligerent loudmouths pushing a moral panic about the dirty gaijin infesting the place they now call home. This is not enviable. Still, there’s a really disturbing appearance that the entire barrel is being spoiled by the bad apples who speak so loudly on the community’s behalf. I just get a really bad feeling about some of the communal dynamics here, that there are decent people whose personal inclinations are towards tolerance but who are more eager to be buddies with the shittiest social climbers from back home than to stand up for the despised vulnerable. Assimilated members of the first birthright generation must be in a particularly unenviable spot, wondering why the fuck mom and dad are such lunatic bigots.

What I really hate is the appearance that some of the most vicious immigrants a nation could ever admit have successfully hacked our code and turned it against us. At the risk of going full Goldwater, we’re tolerating the intolerant, and that’s no virtue. Actually, it’s even worse than that, and seedier. We’re granting some of our richest immigrants bogus victim points based on atrocities that some of our worst native-stock ancestors committed generations ago against peasants whom the current model minority we so zealously defend would enthusiastically treat just as badly back in the old country. More than a few of us are being over-the-top solicitous towards crooks who buy their failspawn driver’s licenses and academic slots beyond their normal meritorious qualification because we think one of our shithead great-great-grandpas once Marky Mark-style beat the shit out of some coolie. Maybe that happened, or maybe it didn’t, but regardless, it’s a part of our national middle-highbrow lore now. This sure looks like white guilt on behalf of a pushy ethnic clan that will never even try to reciprocate this bent-over-backwards graciousness. We can tell what they’re saying about us in English in public, but many of them are bilingual and have use of ethnically segregated private spheres. Mandarin must be a useful language in which to express one’s amazement at the whitefellas for being a bunch of utter goddamned fools.

By the way, there’s a special place in purgatory for our own goody-two-shoes Orientalist Brahmins and their socially climbing hangers-on. These are as American as apple pie and driving all the chinks out of Frisco. I’ve long had this really unsettling feeling that the open fascination of a large swath of the American upper crust with the outward trappings of Asian culture, a fascination dating back in earnest to the days of Crocker and Stanford, did much to drive the Great Value crackers into their infamous fits of violent anti-Asian rage, first against the Chinese in the nineteenth century and then against the Japanese during the Second World War. The appearance that we’ve been using indigent neighborhood laundry operators as political pawns and battering rams in our own insipid domestic class standoffs since at least the conclusion of our Civil War (you know, the one we held to deal with the whole racial thing) must infuriate Asian observers and convince them that we’re all absolutely reprehensible.

If they’re colonizing our neighborhoods in a spirit of contempt for the poor neighbors whose fellow citizens they seek to become and their US-born children already are, it isn’t without provocation. There is a certain gross reciprocity to the whole enterprise. We certainly don’t have much moral authority if our own bourgeoisie celebrate Asian shiznit as a way to passive-aggressively showcase model minority designer immigrants to the recalcitrant poor as reminders that they’re disposable and replaceable.

Free tea and dumplings at the Irvine Metrolink station in observance of the Chinese New Year? Fuck off, yuppie scum. I can make my own goddamn hot and sour soup.

No, I don’t feel good for having written this. I feel gross. But it has to be said. A pushy, clannish immigrant constituency driving the native stock out of the neighborhood it has colonized is no occasion for tolerance. It’s an invasive horde. It should be given no quarter. Like hell I’m here to celebrate their immigrant story when they’re behaving so rottenly and in such bad faith and I, a native Californian, am sleeping in my Focus again. God, it must be really alienating to live in Irvine as an affluent member of the neighborhood ethnic majority.

So, no, I don’t mind gloating over their being a federal judge’s bitch. They brought it upon themselves. Judge Carter gave Orange County’s municipal governments all kinds of time to fix a human rights disaster that they’d caused, and instead of making a bona fide, adult effort to fix it, they caved to pressure from their worst constituents and did jack shit. The last thing I’m willing to excuse is a bunch of calculating foreign-stock shitheads whimpering like Otto Warmbier because they’re subject to the jurisdiction of the federal courts of the country where they chose to immigrate, like they have any cause to be upset. We have a judiciary precisely to restrain such graceless thugs when they take over elected governments and pervert due process to their private ends. That’s privilege. My using language like money chink to smear bad people who probably call me white devil or some shit in private is not.

The only other thing I’ll say about this is that I want the eventual PBS documentary about this spat to prominently feature the same spare, poignant fiddle music that Ken Burns used for the Lewis and Clark story. I reckon those motherfuckers were more racist than I am, and since this shit is already absurd, I demand that it be aesthetically absurd. No, I have one more demand: that the accompaniment be performed by an all-American bum, of whatever race (even a drop of Chinese blood would be epic), who took up the violin at the age of, like, forty, not by some fucking asshole who clawed into the principal’s chair in the high school orchestra in an effort to secure admission to Wellesley. As Wesley Willis, neither of him a reach school, might have said, GO DIPLOMATS BITCH!

Damned if that isn’t the most wholesome character to wander into this story yet. That’s what happens when you’re told that you have to stop yelling like a wild animal in the Genesis on Western. His problem was that he didn’t clean up well enough to yell like a wild animal in the Irvine City Council chambers.

Hustling deposit bottles: a useful skill to teach your precious brat in case he turns into a downwardly mobile college-educated bum like me

A year or two I came across an absolutely trash-ass human interest story about some do-gooder tyke in Dana Point or San Clemente or some shit who had supposedly earned over ten grand by collecting deposit bottles, ostensibly driven by his “passion for saving the earth.” I respect myself too much to look any of that shit up, and any effort any of you make to flame me in the comments for being lazy or sloppy in my writing will fail miserably to offend me as much as this original fucking aw-shucks dear-hearts-and-gentle-people happy horseshit story about the SoCal bottle brat does.

Everything about this story was gross, intellectually dishonest, and soul-deadening to anyone wandering by with the barest modicum of critical thought. “Saving the earth” is a muddle-headed synecdoche that this kid was encouraged to trot out to embellish his casual gig as a trashpicker into a grandiose campaign to remediate a measure of the environmental damage that his bougie parents and their bougie neighbors will never, ever for the rest of their lives stop causing, unless they are thrust into a state of utter socioeconomic ruin. The very notion that prepubescent children should be encouraged to have and express “passions” is a frivolous, decadent indulgence that more often than not snowballs into Baby Einstein-ass Tiger Mom excess, in which Mother is now distressed that precious little Taylor failed her (or his!) kindergarten admission interview and anyone with any goddamn sense is looking on in dumbfounded alarm, wondering who the hell sent the Hueys into the jungle this time.

The kids are in fact all right, or would be if their parents weren’t absolute fucking headcases. If the little ones aren’t profoundly troubled, and I mean legit wack, they’ll mature in due course of time into adequately well-rounded teens and adults. What in all hell this has to do with the childish horseshit that has them transfixed at the age of six or eight is not anything that the adults in their lives should give a second’s thought unless the brats have I’ma-go-stab-my-kid-sister-level emotional or behavioral problems. This is not the fork in the road in the path through the yellow wood that makes all the difference. Get your head out of your ass. I went to Walter Hays Elementary, and I regularly pull over at Interstate rest areas to sleep in a dumpster-on-wheels Focus, with a dedicated canning box AND canning bag on the right rear passenger’s seat; more on this shortly. In case you’ve been too fucking dense and self-absorbed to notice, we have social problems in this country that transcend our early childhood curricula and were not caused by little Parker’s failure to apply himself in “science class.”

#TeshTips: Problems that adolescents and adults face need to be addressed in adolescence or adulthood, when they happen, not in early childhood, when they did not. We already have Jonathan Franzen, a national treasure, to write tendentiously about how, ja, don’tcha know, my parents back in Minnesota kind of fucked me up all Freudian-like, and now I’m a Franzen character. Remember this much: if you’re worrying about your minor children blowing one-shot decision points with permanent life-altering consequences, you share a pastime with the guy whose characters include the little squirrel that likes to fuck, and the solutions to this mess are political ones that you are too chickenshit and craven to demand of your elected officials.

Continuing our #TeshTips, #BigBandStyle, bitch, children’s interests are different from adults’ interests, and if we’re still worried about their meaning when we’re already in our thirties or forties, we have failed to put aside childish things. I describe our high-turnout voters; Gloria in Motherfucking Excelsis. We’d be boorish to harangue children about how we birthed them into an impossibly cruel world, but oops, we’re already doing that by micromanaging them for admission to Harvard as tweens. All the same, as excessive as it might be to drain them of all wonder at the world they will someday inherit, we’d be wise to use those opportunities for guidance that come our way to let them know that, no, this is not, has never been, and never shall be a society of princesses, marine biologists, firemen, and astronauts. Or, statistically, a society of Ivy League graduates. Slightly off-topic, GO DIPLOMATS! NPR tells us that there’s a board in the public high school in Wilton, Connecticut, for students to pin the insignia of the colleges that have accepted them and Joaquin Guzman for Mayor.

Our children deserve some head-not-up-the-ass guidance about productive roles that they might take as grown-ups. Chaka Can, hustling bottles is honorable work, Chaka Can, I feel for that, if nothing else, so the South County Can Brat is learning skills that may serve him well and honorably in his adulthood. But even that the human-interest fuckheads just had to pervert into a Story Whore item about the exceptional glory that hustling deposit bottles brought this kid because he was in it for the right reasons, or so he and his stage-managing parents insisted. It couldn’t just be, check it, this kid has an after-school job that any able-bodied person could do, kind of like household chores but with more cash flow.

By the way, that kid DID NOT earn ten grand hustling bottles. Take it from his colleague in the business. That did not happen. His parents guilted other shitlib bougies into giving him big-ass piles of cans. It was basically a Dunkin’ Doorman deal. Shit, I’ve lied about how much I make hustling cans to impress prostitutes, and I’ve never implied making as much as an adult as this brat supposedly made as a second-grader enrolled in school fulltime. I wish I could make $30 a day doing that. Believe me, I’ve got my eyes on the prize. Problem is, the prize ain’t there.

Lemonade stands are another kid culture guilt grift; any sensible adult who wanted some lemonade would go to Stater Bros and stock up on Minute Maid concentrate, not wait for some brat to pretend to be an entrepreneur and to have a work ethic. Next thing you know, these kids will grow up into dipshits who think that being at rock bottom in the Amway downline is entrepreneurship, too.

We are a deeply stupid nation.

Also, stop worrying about the kids not developing a work ethic because of some bullshit about how you didn’t ostentatiously teach them lessons about summer jobs or chores or whatever when they were, like, eight or twelve. I didn’t start doing farm work at all until I was in my mid-twenties and commercial farm work until I was thirty, and I have the work ethic to pick blueberries fulltime for less than minimum wage. Speaking of which, we have no labor theory of value in this country. Ain’t my fault, though. If the Ditzney Princess or the ADHD spazz kid in military reform school don’t have a work ethic at the age of twelve, maybe it’s because they’re fucking twelve. Believe me, I don’t have a problem working with grown-ups instead.

In awe at the size of this lad. Absolute secure housing unit.

It’s the fifth anniversary of some Facebook shitposting that I did about Robert Rizzo working the parking lot at the Surf Museum in Huntington Beach (“I used to direct traffic at Hershheypark, so Bob’s a colleague”), including some kind words about Chris Christie’s superior character that didn’t age well after the George Washington Bridge thing, so I looked up Rizzo to see what has happened to him in the meantime. He’s presumably done with the lot gig, since they don’t have those at Lompoc, but a bit like Najibullah Zazi on quadruple rations, I can’t find where the hell the feds and/or CDCR have stashed him: the feds say he and five or six other guys named Robert Rizzo have been released, news reports at the time of his sentencing said that he’d be staying in the federal system to serve his state sentence, and CDCR shows no record of him in its inmate lookup portal. Given that he was facing well over a tenner less than five years ago, someone isn’t sharing pertinent information with the class.

When I compared Robert Rizzo to Chris Christie, I meant it. That boy is what we call thicc. Or was, depending on what he thinks of prison food. There are prisoners who lose weight because the food is shit, but it doesn’t take much slush off the top of ten mil or whatever the hell in illegal government kickbacks and looting to fund a commissary account for the long haul. Fat Sammy and the Unified Command memes are and shall remain an important part of the memetic treasury in these pages, but Sam Dotson has shit on Rizzo for being a stout shorty. It’s historically been debatable whether Italians can be white, but if they can, my good trolley bitch, that’s one fat cracka.

That said, whether it ought to be said or not, what inspires me to prose today isn’t Robert Rizzo but Chuck Rizzo, whose name came up when I was trying to locate Bob the Big Boy in the American Gulag. Chuck Rizzo is, for starters, an unremarkably normal-looking guy, both handsomer and more height/weight-proportional than Robert but nondescript by normal standards. He’s facing but not yet serving a federal nickel bid for a mob trash racket in Metro Detroit. Daddy was a trash crook, too, and a Charles. God bless our American family-own small business job creators, then.

The stunning thing about the Chuck Rizzo case was the objection that the prosecution raised to his being released on bond after sentencing to get his affairs in order and allowed to report to prison at a later date: specifically, that he was a suicide risk, and that a planned family reunion prior to his surrender date was likely to push him over the edge. The judge ruled in Rizzo’s favor, saying that the prosecution’s objections were serious but not convincing. But on the subject of elephants and the rooms they might trash, do we maybe think that if this guy is suicidal, it’s because he’s facing years in prison?

*Permanently contemplative Dennis Lynn Rader Voice* I spend quite a bit of time in my room myself. But seriously. Incarceration is not a routine setback or challenge in life. Suicide is hell on those left behind, but it takes a hard damn heart not to admit that prison can be a hell of its own, or that five to five and a half years in prison is nothing because the system passes down sentences centuries long. These are not things to minimize. They’re horrifically serious.

Any prosecutor who stands up in a courtroom and asks a judge to remand a convict to prison so that he can’t commit suicide while out on pre-surrender bond is a sociopathic sadist. That’s some powerfully depraved thinking. Yeah, dipshit, you know why he might be suicidal? Because of you. You’re the one doing everything you can to ruin his life out of spite. Even if a convict isn’t suicidal, as Rizzo’s defense convinced the judge, he has alarmingly good reasons to be suicidal, and every fucking one of these reasons could be neutralized singlehandedly by the prosecution not seeking prison time. That’s what prosecutors would do if their main concern were about the mental health and survival of their defendants and convicts. This is separate from the public safety arguments against releasing dangerous criminals into the community without supervision, but the prosecution here wasn’t arguing anything of the sort; it was disingenuously asserting itself as a defender of its adversary against himself.

Really, judges should give prosecutors one warning to shut the fuck up about their concern for defendants’ wellbeing before holding them in contempt of court. It’s a fundamentally perjurious mindset, not a series of lies in a strict technical sense but a line of argument driven by such utterly bad faith that it’s tantamount to lying, and it is without a doubt a form of deliberate false witness. Prosecutors in these situations patently do not give a rat’s ass about the welfare of those they’re prosecuting. More often than not, they seem to be driven by a pathological, personal, visceral hatred, including a desire to see evil visited upon their adversaries. They don’t get upset because someone will make a tragic, impulsive, heartbreaking, irreversible mistake; they get upset and scandalized that they’ll be denied the opportunity to punish those who have desperately sought a higher mercy.

That’s who deserves the Flint water supply. Lock their asses in cells plumbed into the river until they publicly disavow the evil they’ve promoted. If some crew of crooks gets caught running a trash racket, their contracts can be canceled and their ill-gotten gains clawed back. Allowing manifestly vicious, hateful, vicariously violent lunatics and sadists to draw public salaries as criminal prosecutors is a much deeper and more serious problem. That’s much harder to fix by enforcing the law. If no one will watch the watchdogs, maybe we’d be better off putting them all down.

The notion that prison is a place where the suicidal can be protected from themselves is as laughable as it is grotesquely evil and false. What’s next? Insisting that EMT-firefighters have the lowest possible occupational exposure to smoke and contaminated sharps? That the way not to be called a snitch-ass pig is to become a cop? To paraphrase Daniel Holtzclaw, suck white dick. Chuck Rizzo’s prosecutors asked a judge to immediately remove him from a reasonably stable environment where he had adequate psychiatric care to an unstable, chaotic, vicious environment where any psychiatric care he had been receiving would be interrupted and replaced, almost certainly, with a lower standard of care. Not many years ago a federal court found psychiatric care in the California prison system so pervasively bad that it placed the entire CDCR mental health system under the supervision of a special master, eventually ordering inmate releases to reduce the population to a manageable level. California may have been an extreme case, but there’s no fucking way it had the only prison system in the country that was failing to provide adequate psychiatric care to its inmates.

Yeah, let’s add another nonviolent convict with a history of suicidal ideation to our already crowded and dysfunctional federal prison system so that he doesn’t kill himself. That’ll go just great.

There’s a broader point to be made here, too: our prosecutors are batshit fucking insane. Do you really want to tell me that that Anne Marie Schubert is not clinically paranoid? Mama Grizzly cowering behind the chain link fence with delusions of persecution at the hands of angry community activists whose meetings she refuses to attend in the interest of her physical safety is certainly a good approximation of paranoid psychosis and projectile PTSD. The bum who ran into the governor’s mansion trying to flag down the Highway Patrol to shoot the mountain lion that was growling at him from inside the dumpster wasn’t that crazy. He’d just wanted the good guys with guns to shoot down the bad guy with fangs, but after his arrest, he told KCRA that he’d had mental health problems in the past and on second thought there probably hadn’t been any lion. It took a guy who had been acutely psychotic two or three days to say, shit, I guess I hallucinated that cat, but damned if we can ever get a hypervigilant district attorney to admit that, no, as a matter of fact no one was trying to assault or murder me, because yelling at a public official to do her job is not a form of assault, homicide, or violent threat.

Again, we may be better off without this apparatus of hell than we are with it. We really don’t understand peace or mercy as a nation, not even when it’s staring us square in the face. We hardly even have the gumption to tell flagrantly paranoid security officials to take their CalPERS and fuck off back to Citrus Heights. I don’t give a shit if Schubert wants to self-medicate with chardonnay; the problem is that she’s being paranoid and lashing out on the public dime at a time when she has executive prosecutorial discretion. If she wants to be batshit crazy on her own time, that’s her business; this current shit is our business.

The Chippies should give that poor bum a Starbucks gift card for what they and the Sheriff’s Department did to him, since they’re already quite familiar with Starbucks. They owe him a Dunkin’ Doorman offering for his trouble. I’m not lion, and neither is that dumpster.

Conservatives: what is it all about? And liberals: what is THAT all about? Who among us can say what is good, or what is wack, or what is Aleppo?

My suspicion during the 2016 election that Donald Trump was the more liberal major-party candidate is being borne out, in some small measure at least, by his current enthusiasm for his powers of clemency. Having recently commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a nonviolent offender serving life without parole for drug offenses, the Donald is now openly mulling the possibility of sparing the Rod from another six years as a compulsory Coloradan.

Trump’s use of his clemency powers is woefully inadequate to the sheer scale of the American penal state, but it’s very much welcome and encouraging. We should all seek more of his executive mercy, not less. It’s appalling, then, to see liberals, both sworn and credibly inferred, getting visibly uncomfortable with his enthusiasm for these particular powers. These same creeps think it’s super cool and badass when he directs military aid or strikes unto wholesale Muath al-Kasasbeh on some godforsaken patch of desert that the degenerates of the House of Saud have for some utterly selfish reason come to revile, operations that profligately waste our own national treasure and talent on atrocities that in no way serve our national interests, and conversely they vomit cheap accusations of sedition at him for being reluctant to clash with Russia, the country whose security services diligently warned the FBI about Tamerlan Tsarnaev prior to the Boston Marathon bombing.

Everything about all of this indicates that liberalism, as preached and practiced by the Democratic Party and its talented tenth base, is nothing of the sort. How talented this tenth is at anything other than state-patriotic bullshit is debatable, as is how precisely it is a tenth, as opposed to a fifth or whatever; my own belief in liberalism, at least, includes the principle that the rest of you are at liberty to do your own fucking math.

Overall, it seems to be diminishing in size but compensating for its numerical diminishment with intensifying stridency, defensiveness, hypervigilance, and grievance-whoring. A cornered animal is as good a model as any for this constituency. The Hillbots were and still are infamously rattled by the popularity of Bernie Sanders, a dark horse who came in from the fringes and nearly won the presidency (*Most Meritorious Adam Parkhomenko Voice* How could he would have?) with a democratic socialist platform that appealed to a downwardly mobile society. Bernie’s base included a great many humiliated children of the middle and upper-middle classes, i.e., exactly the constituency that fucks shit up for the incumbent political class when it isn’t delivered what it was promised from birth.

The data wonk brain geniuses in the Clinton campaign didn’t grasp that this is the same educated, civically engaged, and angry stratum that historically produced fine specimens such as Che Guevara and Pol Pot. Their arrogance and surreal ignorance of sociology and political history goes far to explain why they were so alarmed and so fucking salty that the young people they had failed in the course of their own looting of the commonweal were energized by a barnstormer who talked about revolution as a philosophical guide but was really just a mashup of Ike, FDR, and Tommy Douglas.

Time and time again, and on every conceivable issue, these shitty, condescending, crooked sellouts are scandalized that anyone in their party’s putative base has actual principles and tells them, their social betters, to assert and defend these principles or go to hell. Their entire attitude boils down to fuck all y’all for being uppity but God damn you if you don’t reverently vote for us as ordered. It’s a mystery how they keep choking against outrageous Republicans with this gracious, winning, and fully becoming stance. They must have forgotten every fucking thing they learned in social studies from grades K-16 (17? 18? 20?), notably including the civic stake and civic equality that everyone in their native class was taught to demand as a sacred birthright. Remember, these shitheads are mostly failspawn who didn’t have what it took to go, say, to medical school; awfully few of them street-fought their way out of some trailer park or housing project.

In concert with their anger towards uppity reverse yuppies, they’re publicly steaming mad at the poor in general for putting Trump into office, an unwashed mass that they caricaturishly construe as “the white working class.” Although they prefer to be discreet and disingenuous about this vice, they admire wealth, in fact idolize it to a biblical extent, so blaming the Great Value crackers for Trump is much more comforting than admitting that white working-class turnout, like working-class turnout across the board, was about as low as ever and maybe sixty or eighty percent of Trump’s votes came from reactionary provincial elites and other affluent fashy trash.

Again, do the math. I’ll do the social studies: these fucking assholes are acting like the worst dorks in a dysfunctional seventh grade class, desperately seeking the approval and support of whatever shitty rag-tag defensive force they can muster from the teachers’ pets and other goody-two-shoes dipshits against the class clown, a two-bit bully they fear and hate mainly because he sometimes corners them in the hallways and gives them noogies. Hence the newfound “liberal” reverence for the FBI, the CIA, and the “intelligence community” in general, “communities” harboring and empowering some of the worst people in the country. These people are so psychosexually stunted, dysfunctional, and selfish that they’d rather stand back while random peons are swept into the maw of the American security state over trifling offenses than admit that they’re sniveling, unprincipled shitheads trying to boss around constituents who seek to comport themselves as actual adults and maybe meaningfully assert some real principles while they’re at it.

Donald Trump isn’t entirely wrong that Rod Blagojevich was arbitrarily and unfairly swept into that maw. The guy was a crook, but his real undoing was that he put his loud mouth to a wiretapped phone line. In a very real way, he’s in federal prison for having a low-class manner of speech. The kind of crass, corrupt transactional politics he tried to plot over the phone is scandalous and wrong, but nothing about it was objectively unusual. He got into trouble for being candid in a recorded conversation about influence-peddling and quid pro quo sleaze that most politicians have the tradecraft to discuss implicitly and in private.

To use an all too obvious counterexample, what Mayor 40892-424 tried to do paled in comparison to what Bill and Hillary Clinton have actually done to abuse and profit from their high offices for decades. Neither in scope nor scale nor severity did Blago ever hold a fucking candle to Billary. On top of that, he’s a more decent, down-to-earth, and normal person than either of them. He’s an especially stark contrast to Hillary, but Bill was always a vicious, treacherous, bigoted piece of work, and in his old age he’s turned into a short-tempered cadaverous scold. Blagojevich achieved a graciousness and good humor in crisis that would have been impressive by any standard, and which neither of the Clintons, whose circumstances have often looked ominous but have never been so dire, has ever come close to achieving.

Liberalism might include any number of positions, but there are some things that it absolutely is not. Bringing a self-serious, self-righteous G-Man on NPR to moralize about how serious Blagojevich’s crimes were and how he therefore needed to be punished is grossly illiberal. Eric Holder belatedly admitting that he thought the 12-14 year sentence was excessive is liberal, but what a fucking profile in courage, waiting six years to express a public opinion as a former US Attorney General about what he regarded as a disproportionate federal prison sentence.

The Democrats really don’t fucking get it. They’re so convinced of their own righteousness, of their own superiority to Donald Trump, that they can’t imagine a situation in which they make him look good, even after they’ve set him up in favorable situations countless times and he’s repeatedly used them to make himself look like the better party to whatever the hell bullshit they orchestrated. A few days ago they were snarking about whatever the hell Kim Kardashian could have been doing in the White House to waste Trump’s time. Pleading for clemency on behalf of a federal prisoner who was serving life without parole for drug trafficking was what, and in an accomplishment that any practicing criminal defense or appellate lawyer would admire, OJ’s lawyer’s daughter prevailed on behalf of the petitioner whose case she was pursuing and secured her very prompt release for time served.

For all we know, Trump’s next move may be to spare the Rod to do an old buddy a solid and trigger the libs. Trump hasn’t been using his executive clemency powers nearly vigorously enough, but what he’s doing is a start. Anyone who cherishes liberty and seeks to rein in the American penal state will welcome the mercy he has shown Alice Marie Johnson and any mercy he grants Rod Blagojevich. Johnson’s sentence commutation is a crucial and worthy model of mercy. Everyone bitching about how she or Blagojevich or anyone in their league had some “debt” to “pay” to “society” is a fucking ghoul. Trump, the president whose ADHD has gotten him fixated on his presidential clemency powers on a regular basis, isn’t the ugly evil one here. The prospect of the Clintons, or even Barack Obama, sending Blago to FCI Englewood as a scapegoat to show off the Democratic Party’s intolerance for corruption within its own ranks is utterly hideous. The appearance that the Clintons scapegoated Anthony Weiner in exactly this fashion is no less gross and immoral. They’re evil; Dick Pic Tony is an unappealing but ultimately harmless neighborhood flasher who somehow got into Congress and, against the odds, showed himself (ew) to be the most normal and moral of the three of them.

One would expect any avowed liberal with a lick of sense to recognize the general virtue of praying for mercy, not justice, but the Democrats today are a vicious bunch of illiberal idiots. They aren’t even idiot-savants; that would involve some sort of narrow genius or savvy, and they’re too profoundly fucking retarded for any of that. If they’re sore that Donald Trump is upstaging them as a liberal, it’s a simple enough thing to remedy: they can return to actual liberalism, to a credible belief in liberty that they’re willing to lift a finger from time to time to defend. If they don’t want Kim Kardashian and Jared Kushner to be leading advocates for criminal justice reform, they might start by devoting less time to praising reactionary shitheads like Chuck Schumer and Claire McCaskill as cherished and indispensable members of their congressional caucus. As Kim might say, but probably more eloquently if the cameras are off, I, like, walked into a political vacuum here, and was like, wow.

That’s exactly how I feel every time I behold the Democratic Party and its affiliated media outlets. I’m, like, wow, you guys really are that fucked up. They screwed the pooch on all the basic socialist planks that kept labor on their side with promises to zealously promote individual liberty instead, then screwed the pooch on criminal justice just as hard and made a show of how much they hate anyone who isn’t either a yuppie or a meek low-class client voter. They’re now the party of culturally left-of-center gentrification sellouts, and they can’t even lock that constituency down because it naturally tends towards increasing reaction as its fortunes improve. They might assert the freedom to be a peaceable bum downtown, but that would piss off the boutique and restaurant owners, small business owners being by many accounts the most virulently reactionary constituency of all. Their conception of liberty has shrunk to such a pathetic, unimaginative, philosophically impoverished, degraded, feeble state that it is now basically the right to be affluently gay at brunch.

Rod Blagojevich would be an improvement. As the white boy who keeps integrating the mess halls and exercise tracks at FCI Englewood, he already is an improvement. The Democrats would welcome him back if they could tolerate anyone who’s honest and has some actual principles rattling around in there with all the pay-for-play hustling scams he’s working.

No, I’m not kidding. Just look at the crop of shits they currently let out in public. They’ve got nowhere to go but up with the guy who knows from personal experience that prison isn’t necessarily the best idea and that the FBI isn’t our friend.

Cuck and Nancy

Both of the major US political parties are deeply aberrant and pathological, but the Republicans at least act like functioning adults capable of more or less making their own way in the world. They’re unspeakably evil, and the ones who aren’t personally so actively cover for colleagues who are, but at least they stand up for themselves and for what the principles that they profess. They’re America’s scumbag stepfather, and we’re their battered wife and kids.

The Democrats could be the beat cop who stares Stepdaddy down at the front door on these repeat calls, civilly but resolutely telling him, no, sir, it is not acceptable for you to beat the shit out of your own family over nonviolent expressions of disrespect and you are not helping your own cause by coming to the door in a wifebeater and cursing responding officers out with a tirade about how it’s your house, your rules. The Democrats could be the ones asserting that the police is the public, the public is the police, and we are here as representatives of that public to enforce its moral and legal sense that no man has the right to treat his kin as his chattels, the point being that if you lay another finger on anyone in this house or utter one more threat we are taking you downtown.

The glaring problem with this strategy is that the Democrats all act like Monk. It doesn’t take expanding galaxy brain to figure out how to deescalate tense situations but also be credibly firm with those who refuse to be decent and start acting in good faith. These are key interpersonal skills that every well-run police organization seeks out and trains into its recruits. But again, we’re talking about the Democrats, so all bets on intelligence are off, an adjective that also applies in the broadest general terms to the entire fucking party establishment.

I’m unfair to Monk; these smarmy losers are a version of Monk who also neurotically scolds everyone all the time. Combine the halting neurosis of Terry Gross with the schoolmarmish lecturing of Brenda Jorett about how young people today no longer have the work ethic or the punctuality needed to succeed in the workforce, then blend that with the know-it-all international club nerd preening of Marco Werman and Michele Kelemen’s Wa Shing Ton Ian delivery style, and you’ll still only approximate what an excruciating embarrassment these assholes are. It isn’t just that they lack all morals and ethics, as the Republicans do; they can’t even stand up like competent adults in public and make their damn case. Instead they rarely go a week without saying or doing something to inspire sympathy with the bullies who would have shoved them into high school lockers. Even as thirty-year veteran members of Congress they act like whiny little wussies desperately seeking the approval of their worst peers, and despite being the sworn liberal left, won’t stop being tattletales and teachers’ pets. This is the team it takes to make the Republicans’ horrifying psychosexual perversions look respectable by comparison, just by virtue of being relatively functional, mature, and self-sufficient.

One of the latest examples of shitlib sniveling came from Nancy Pelosi. First off, it’s really cool that being a wealthy major landowner, employer of nonunion farm labor, Baltimore mayor’s daughter, and habitual hippie-puncher is now a premier form of leftist praxis and politics. That aside, though, maybe Nancy, as a sworn liberal, has abiding values about the inviolability of individual cultural liberty and the courage to defend them? Lol jk. “I love the National Anthem….and I love the First Amendment, and I’ll just leave it at that.”

Glad we cleared that up. This is the US Representative for almost the entirety of San Francisco, the sweet home of raucous left-liberal dissent, and she can’t be arsed to assert the right of unionized celebrity entertainers to defy compulsory public displays of patriotism. If she won’t breathe a word in defense of their right to express their individual consciences, she won’t do jack shit for any of the rest of us. These overwrought displays of national piety have nothing to do with the game they were hired to play. It’s Pentagon agitprop that is not in the contract, and the players have the solidarity and the market power to grind the entire league to a halt if Roger Goodell or any of his fellow executive sleazeballs try to insert it.

Then there’s the question of what in hell drove Pelosi to commit an unforced error in the course of trying to suck up to a constituency of racist reactionaries who have always despised her and always will. This is the sort of whinging capitulation traditionally attributed to Neville Chamberlain and the French. None of the people she’s trying to win over will show her any respect or forbearance in appreciation of her mealymouthed agreement with their framing. They’ll enthusiastically steamroll her all the same.

What she has accomplished is the further alienation of a widening swath of her base that already distrusts her for good reasons. For these voters, the ones who put her and her fellow travelers into office, liberalism is worthless if it doesn’t include the liberty to defy bumptious demands to worship the flag. If they wanted to do that, they’d have joined the goddamn Army and gotten a soldier’s pay for their trouble. The point of cultural liberty is that no meddlesome reactionary piece of shit can force an unwilling civilian to perform ritual acts of worship on demand. Liberalism is a philosophy devoted to the defense of liberty, in case words still have meanings.

Shit, even on military bases personnel run for cover whenever Colors is about to begin so that they aren’t forced to stand at attention saluting the flag. If active-duty military personnel regard this patriotic worship as something fit only for the color guard, who are assigned specifically to carry out that bit of hocus pocus twice a day and paid accordingly (less time writing bullshit PowerPoints, presumably), maybe the rest of us who didn’t sign up for any of that should recall that we didn’t sign up for it (duh), aren’t being paid for it (again, duh), and ought to have the civic pride to refuse to be bossed around by rogue martinets.

Nancy Pelosi, of all elected officials, shouldn’t be obsequiously catering to the easily offended feelings of a bunch of bigoted Zhdanovite pricks who hate her and her constituents and whom her constituents revile no less. This is terrible retail politics. The sick thing, however, is that it’s surprisingly effective wholesale politics, at least until the voters go into full revolt. She doesn’t give a rat’s ass about what her ordinary constituents think about this donnybrook; they aren’t the ones with all the campaign money. She’s trying to split that baby on the increasingly arrogant assumption that the rank-and-file voters won’t do anything about it and in the hope that all the sugar daddies and mommas paying the party off will keep cutting the big checks to their loyal servants.

She’s probably also trying to clear the path for barely electable centrist ciphers to execute the Manchin/McCaskill strategy with district electorates that are historically liable to vote for absolute gobshites. This makes sense for anyone who thinks that it’s an accomplishment for the leading center-left party to end up with a caucus including Joe Manchin. These numbskulls won’t stop acting like it’s an accomplishment for their party not to host the creeps whose lexicons include “legitimate rape” and “China people.” We might ask why they don’t instead deploy, say, Democratic politicians who are generally admired in West Virginia, but they’d rather lose with a slimy schmuck than win with a straight shooter who disses them for being crooks. We can’t have Bernie upstaging the kingmakers by helping revive a strain of mountain populism that they find yucky. It must be that the miners are all hicks who vote against their own interests and can’t see through a poseur like Don Blankenship–you know, the guy who came in fifth out of six in the total popular vote between the two primaries, a real popular down-home coal-mining country boy multimillionaire who lives in Las Vegas.

It happens so constantly that it must be a feature, not a bug: forthright, energetic, aboveboard candidates with muscular speaking styles and unapologetically robust platforms hit the trail and become popular, sometimes out of nowhere, and the party apparatus flips its shit about how uppity they are for standing up to establishment shitheads that everybody hates. It was the solemn duty of all feminists to be #WithHer, specifically, Hillary Clinton, in 2016, but now that Cynthia Nixon is running for the New York governorship with much lower negative ratings and a reform platform that inspires voters, it’s time for feminist solidarity to go into the shitter so that everyone can rally around the slimy incumbent putz. This crew never much cared for Zephyr Teachout, either, and it infamously hates Bernie Sanders. For these scumbags, the problematic candidates are always the ones who have popular platforms and don’t enter the race surrounded by an aura of scandal and sleaze. The divisive characters are the ones who don’t make voters want to vomit.

From a psychosexual perspective, the left-populist candidates act like worthy adult adversaries, the sort of grown-up plain dealers a Republican might respect in spite of their disagreements. As a matter of sheer political strategy, Donald Trump recognized that disgruntled Sanders primary voters were worth inviting into his coalition for the general election since they might get him over the top, and so he deliberately appealed to them from time to time and highlighted his agreements with Sanders. But that’s the kind of thing that happens when a candidate has a coherent electoral strategy. What happens when a candidate does not is Hillary. That crazy fucking bitch spent her entire campaign gratuitously demeaning voters whose support she demanded. Not taking Bernie on as her running mate alone showed how flippant and unserious she was about electoral strategy. Tim Kaine was an in-your-face fuck-you to everyone inland of Manassas. Bernie would have won as vice president, too, because he would have given voters positive reasons to vote for the ticket, but what do I know? I’m just a bitter BernieBro deplorable who refuses to admit that it was all Russia’s fault.

The reactionary right wing will always seize on signs of weakness and insincerity in its adversaries, whether real or imagined. The Democratic Party leadership might react by supporting the vigorous, upfront, no-nonsense populists who already caucus with the party or seek its nominations. So what does it do? Duh: it runs a sniveling collection of finger-wagging schoolmarms and oily putzes and then berates the electorate for being disloyal to these, its betters.

This is surreal. It inevitably pisses voters off, but beyond that, it fails by its own avowed standards. The Democratic establishment is always complaining about narrowminded economic populists forsaking crucial cultural liberties and trying to reinsert itself to hold the line, but in the case of this flag donnybrook, Nancy Pelosi has done nothing of the sort. She could have stood up and, on the twin bases of racial justice and individual freedom of conscience, told everyone trying to extort shows of patriotic fealty from the players to get fucked. She could have told the owners to count their blessings for being so successful and the bigoted fans to take their Zhdanovite whining back into their secret places, where it belongs. She could have told the fans that it’s their problem if they’re too upset by players’ politics to keep watching the games, and hence their decision to make about being ready, or not, for some FOOTBALL. She could have told them to love it or leave it. That was good enough for lefty dissidents, so it should be good enough for whining rightists. You don’t hear me whining about how George Clooney’s annoying politics make Money Monster problematic, or about how Clint Eastwood is too much of a crotchety old conservative geezer for me to watch Gran Torino.

Why can’t Nancy say anything of the sort? It probably comes back to the money and the cash, which she so welcomes. Leftists have been warning about this inherent contradiction of liberalism all along, about the inevitable abuse of campaign contributions to compel bad policies that no one but the bigshot donors want. The more thoughtful and quiet sorts of conservatives, as opposed to batshit crazy projectile reactionaries, have warned about this as well, and for overlapping reasons. Politicians become so insatiable for campaign money that they get bought off by ghouls. This assumes, rather charitably, that they aren’t absolute ghouls themselves.

The whole point of liberalism is that it protects ordinary citizens from authoritarian infringements of their liberties, including demands that they publicly worship the flag or other patriotic idols on command. If Nancy won’t assert the right of professional football players to refuse Pentagon-funded commands to salute the colors or denounce the owners and the league for treating their majority-black players with a contempt nearly worthy of Jim Crow, she sure as hell won’t stand up for my right not to pledge allegiance to a fucking stars-and-stripes hot air balloon upon its launch. I went along with it because I was too tired to walk away, but that bullshit is not a fucking regulation US Flag. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s a violation of the US Flag Code. It’s not that I give a shit about some dingus squad going to the expense of customizing a hot air balloon to look extra gay (the French: historically and today, a people of great heterosexuality), but if we’re here to properly revere Old Glory, that bag of gas ain’t it. If every passing image of some flag demanded immediate compulsory respect, Otis Redding would have sung the Liberian national anthem all day long.

When individual Democrats are worth something, I don’t mind voting for them. The problem for most of them is that being at all worthwhile or respectable or useful conflicts with being a bunch of simpering, equivocating, pants-shitting castrati who are chronically sore with their own constituents and their party’s most popular politicians for getting in the way of their consultant-class rackets. I’ll be Warren Harding to vote for any of that.

Midnight in the Garden of Food and Devil

Americans are being killed and sickened by contaminated lettuce again. Take a moment to think this over and consider what it means, not only to have this happening anywhere for any reason but to have it happening in what is widely regarded as the wealthiest and certainly the most powerful country on earth. Again, we aren’t hearing about hospitalizations and deaths from fecal coliform bacteria on meat, which has the guts near the good stuff and also a lot of stuff that oughtn’t be eaten but is; this is romaine. Field greens are supposed to be entirely segregated from the nasty.

We should be asking pointed questions about this scandal. For one, who shit on the lettuce? This last contaminated crop, like prior bad batches, was grown domestically, around Yuma. There was no foreign chain of custody for US food safety officials to have any difficulty tracing to the port of entry; this is on us. In another public safety win for the Department of Homeland Security, the shitleaf went through Border Patrol interior checkpoints on its way to market, but those jackbooted thugs are looking for a different leafy green, the maddening reefer, which, come to think of it, is now objectively safer to consume than lettuce. Hell, for that matter, cocaine is probably the most antiseptic substance on the money supply. #TheMoreYouKnow, baby.

Again, someone got shit on the lettuce, and no one in government stopped it at any point until unwitting customers had already started getting dangerously sick. By the time that happened, the potentially contaminated lot under recall advisory was huge. Officials were basically out shrugging and telling the public, eh, don’t eat romaine, then, I guess. It turned out that pretty much the entire romaine crop on the US market at the time had been grown around Yuma and that there weren’t many growers in the business. This was an industrial-scale agricultural concern that had befouled the fresh food supply. If your filthy uncle cooks dinner without washing his hands, your family might get sick. This was one of those deals where Uncle Shit works somewhere upstream in the cutting or boxing of fresh lettuce for the national market, but no one can tell where until there’s an outbreak to trace.

Romaine can be grown in a greenhouse or high tunnel anywhere in the country year round, but for some reason the entire winter crop is grown in one of the driest, most Aral Sea-ass agribusiness shitholes in the land. That reason is Mexicans. We divert their treaty water for our own uses, but then we’re all like, don’t mope around, now, amigo, we’ve got work here. I’m not kidding when I say that the location of these plantations is determined by the wetback supply, not the water supply. Sure, Yuma has deep dirt and a lot of sun, too, but it’s the last goddamn thing upstream of Mexico on a river that Las Vegas, Phoenix, Wickenburg, and Southern California are all jockeying to suck so dry that it never reaches the sea.

This is why we ask why the fuck anyone is growing lettuce there, when it’s a bullshit crop that can be grown on the kitchen windowsill at home if it’s that important. If the Mexicans stopped showing up to cut it, we’d get to hear the latest White Whine from farm country about how food is rotting in the fields again and also we’re being racist, but let’s be real here: there’s nothing racist about granting low-class Mexicans the same license as low-class Americans to go on welfare, and if romaine rots in the field, that means it can’t travel thousands of miles to rot in your fridge. How sad.

The American Gothic waste-not-want-not ethic is a myth. I actually believe in it, but no one in agribusiness or food processing does; everyone in the industry who whines about how the racist government-provoked wetback shortage is causing food to rot in the fields would gladly open a tank valve and pour milk into the river to goose disappointing commodity prices. These are not honorable people, as proven by their custom of importing crews of foreign field hands with no civic stake in the country to spend fifty to sixty hours a week stooped over making the same three or four cuts again and again and again. Gee, could that be why the work is so awful? Could it possibly be that a few thousand people are worked like donkeys in a salt mine for minimum wage to cut a crop that any fool could grow on a shelf in her apartment, without all the stooping?

Before you assume that there’s an applicable minimum wage just because the owners say there’s one, remember that these companies are using international labor arbitrage to hire desperate foreigners with limited English skills, including many who are present in the United States without work authorization. It would take a fucking ethnographic field study to ascertain the actual prevailing wages because the entire business is run by politically manipulative liars. It’s insane to believe a word out of anyone’s mouth from the crew bosses on up, unless it’s about how they knowingly hire illegals, because that’s something they definitely do all the time.

Nor will I bury the hatchet about how offensive, scandalous, and plainly evil it is for planters and their PR flacks to brag about how having destitute fifty-year-old diabetics with 40% of normal hand and wrist function bend down and whack the base of a lettuce stalk with a machete ten thousand times a week is a humanitarian and cultural exchange program. If the Mexicans all decide they wanna go play video games instead, I won’t blame them; that isn’t a life well examined or well spent, but it’ll be good for us, the assholes who expect them to keep showing up and wrecking their bodies cutting our lettuce for a pittance.

And if they keep having fewer and fewer babies to replace the aging farm workforce, again, we deserve it. It’s really interesting how this celebrated Mexican devotion to hard work and family which we celebrate at management’s encouragement is exactly what management wants to keep payroll expenses down. They obviously don’t want childless thicky tricks on birth control, already an East LA thing, to start being a Mexican thing in Mexico, too. It’s none of their damn business, of course, but that never stopped them.

The Chicana lady I have in mind washes her hands because she’s clean and wholesome. I’m not saying we need whores to start cutting our lettuce, but, geez, I’d say we need better handwashing protocols one way or another. Not getting one’s unwashed wiping hand all over the lettuce is kind of like not rawdogging a bunch of different strangers of visibly dubious health and hygiene: it’s basic, commonsense sanitation, but sometimes it’s too much to ask. Hookers are usually really fastidious about condom use, but we’re getting our field greens from crews that include the equivalent of crazy amateur bar skanks, in addition to ones whose instinctive standards of cleanliness are higher than the dangerously excessive demands of their jobs permit them to maintain. This is how we end up with people popping a squat and leaving gifts for their fellow laborers in the vineyard to unexpectedly encounter, or alternately skipping meals until after quitting time to suppress the urge to shit.

No sane and ethical society would tolerate any of this whatsoever. It’s entirely unacceptable and unnecessary. Absolutely nothing about it is inherent to farm work; it’s exclusively the result of hiring a few thousand unenfranchised foreign peasants to spend sixty hours a week doing work that a few hundred thousand or million Americans should be doing for an hour or two a week. The field greens industry invests jack shit in research and development for employee ergonomics for the same reason that it doesn’t provide portapotties within a manageable walk of the field: because it has this disposable foreign peasant workforce at its command.

That’s a workforce that can’t disappear from the United States fast enough. No, I’m not demanding another Operation Wetback. As I said above, video games are a reasonable alternative, at least for those not personally wasting their lives playing them. Besides, importing the Frenchies to do grunt work in New England and Upstate New York was a crackerized clusterfuck in its own right, and not just on account of Paul LePage. The point is that the class clashes between the poor and the higher classes are bad enough when everyone speaks the same language, so anyone trying to dual-track a foreign proletarian vulgate in alongside what everyone with a lick of honesty recognizes as the Lingua Franca has bad motives and is setting the entire society up for trouble. The whole Franco-Anglo thing in Canada seems to have gotten a lot less stupid and vicious as Canada has gotten its shit together and started solving its social problems. This societal advancement is much less forthcoming in Mexico; hence, among other phenomena, Central American refugees who don’t seek resettlement in a country better-governed than their own where they already speak the language, instead risking their lives crossing it to get to a much more alien land where they can more reasonably expect to survive.

Let’s get real: would anyone expect an acculturated, enfranchised, lower-middle-class American workforce operating in a well-regulated industrial regime to have the same difficulty abiding by professional standards of cleanliness? Americans are getting sick and literally dying (*Robert Dziekanski, overhearing the talk of Kwesi Millington’s home and native land* #MeToo, Biggie; you’re literally killing me) because what turn out to be critical food safety protocols are being left to harried foreign peasants working in ragingly lawless environments. These are not environments in which employees feel comfortable taking the time to properly wash their hands. Followup news items on the shitleaf have mentioned that it isn’t a problem anymore because the entire romaine industry has relocated to the Salinas Valley for the summer. Great, the place where they put an unimaginably shoddy-looking portable shitter on a trailer behind a school bus; I can’t imagine what would go wrong with a food safety regime being run in that physical context.

These are not the inscrutable mysteries of the salad field. This shit is Upton Sinclair for vegetarians. It’s the equivalent of a peddler’s cart full of unrefrigerated chicken meat that was dressed with a rusty steak knife. Businesses are allowed to sell this shit, which includes actual shit, because we don’t have laws around here. It’s a miracle that these outbreaks of foodborne illness don’t happen more often.

Please, to the fucking table.