Social credit and the closing of the last new frontier of the West

Banking is effectively unregulated in the United States today. A genuinely regulated banking system would not come anywhere close to allowing a dystopian horror show like this. It’s powerfully telling that a corporation involved in consumer financial services in any capacity whatsoever can even propose a scheme to datamine social media activity for computerized approval or denial of credit lines without being taken into receivership or placed under a special master or a consent decree. That’s completely fucking out of line. It’s utterly lawless.

The Overton Window on what banks are allowed to do has been in bizarroland for over a decade. In 2008 megabanks were allowed to crash the global economy, further embezzle their already precariously depleted reserves to pay their departing executives multimillion-dollar serverances for their recklessly incompetent and fraudulent leadership, claim stupefying sums of bailout money from national treasuries in the name of economic stabilization, and emerge all but intact. The fundamental failure of accountability wasn’t that none of the crooks went to prison; it was that these incorrigibly feral organizations and their atrocious leaders were not put under any meaningful increased regulatory control going forward. Government officials conceded that these banks had nearly provoked a breakdown of civilization, that they had come within days of so utterly destroying the faith and credit in their own corporate assets and obligations as to prompt oil refineries and trucking companies and electrical utilities to abruptly cease operations, and they STILL got bailed out intact and barely supervised, with the same crew of good old boy psychopaths in charge of the same unwieldy organizations for the same grossly excessive pay. In many cases, the compensation of these amoral shysters INCREASED in the aftermath of this disaster.

Meanwhile, private citizens were put out on the streets on the basis of fraudulent filings by their banks, and that didn’t fucking matter, either. Systematic institutional perjury? Who gives a shit, right? And do you suppose some level of government stepped into the breach to bypass these flagrantly crooked banks and get its consituents rehoused? Of course not. Maybe on a case-by-case basis, depending on the length of the waiting lists for Section Eight or the projects going into this meltdown, but that’s anal-rententive nitpicking. The short answer is hell no. Good enough for government work, as they say. And yes, that’s a grievously unfair way to appraise bureaucracies that were T-boned by the crisis after decades of deliberate underfunding and besiegement by hostile, nihilistic politicians, but that’s the whole point: nothing fucking mattered.

It still doesn’t. The banks still have the license to do whatever the fuck they fancy to their own customers. Last I recall hearing, the retail banking industry as a whole was collecting more in bogus fees on depositors than it was in interest payments from borrowers. That’s some acid-bathed Jefferson Airplane shit. Wells Fargo was notorious for fraudulently resequencing customer transactions in order to charge overdraft fees years before it really made the news for opening accounts without customer authorization. The industry is full of RICO-ready criminal conspiracies, but nothing happens because it doesn’t matter.

There’s a part of me that hesitates to denounce the banks and their regulators so categorically, a pang of temptation to credit the feeble mop-up operation dispatched by the Obama Administration for forcing banks to allow their customers to opt out of overdraft protections and have the turnkey computer systems already operating their bank cards preemptively decline overdraft charges, for example. But that’s really too generous. The banks deliberately shit the bed for fun and profit, and the governments responsible for regulating them deliberately jacked off at the switch. The official corruption was staggering, both in the banks themselves and in the governmental agencies and officials responsible for externally regulating them. One tangential but germane example was Barack Obama’s furious eleventh-hour push, ultimately in vain, to enact the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Now why on earth would a good conscientious liberal like Mocha Haole ever feel a fire lit under his ass to do a thing like that? Why, because he’s a crook and the trusts were offering him a fortune in speaking-circuit baksheesh payments. It was the same deal as the Big Dog and Glass-Steagall. That was the eminently reasonable and prudent federal law whose repeal, allowing retail banks to return to their Roaring Twenties tradition of dicking around with high-risk speculative investments, did so much to get the international economy into the mess that Obama did so little to remedy, and so haltingly.

That’s the thing about these scumbags: they never stop going on the offensive. It’s permanent war for them. Their war, as has become all too painfully obvious, is on their own customers and constituents. In a word, it’s on us.

To hell with them, and to hell with the unilateral equanimity and nuance to err on the side of not accidentally blurting out an almost certainly immaterial exaggeration of their lawlessness. I’m at least trying to be accurate, and I’m up shitposting again. These ghouls won’t even tell their own loan officers not to file perjured documents in foreclosure proceedings.

Here’s where it gets even weirder and more dystopian. There is still, in spite of the grotesque bloat of the FIRE sector and the stranglehold that the sector has on the US economy, a significant minority of unbanked people living in the United States. It roughly tracks the medically uninsured population. According to Vice, the CPFB determined that 45 million Americans, or “almost 20 percent of the adult population,” was unscoreable for credit as of 2015. It should be shocking and scandalous that a fifth of the American population is shut out of any basic service. If the numbers surprise anyone, though, it’s because we’re living in a stubbornly segregated society, in fact one that is increasingly cleaved along class lines. That’s how affluent Americans can honestly come up empty when they try to name an unbanked acquaintance. It should be shocking that a tenth to a fifth of the US population, and sometimes even more, keeps showing up in the statistics year after year, even decade after decade, deprived not only of medical insurance or banking services but even adequate food, shelter, or water.

This shit just fucking festers. No end ever comes into sight. It’s because the people who run this joint don’t fucking care.

And so, for decades on end, a customer base of the American underclass festers, desperate enough to do business with retail usurers: check cashing joints, car title loan joints, payday lenders, pawn shops. Most of this shit is nothing but legalized loan-sharking. But these are the disposable Americans: illegal immigrants, felons, the homeless, the broke, the bankrupt, women (mostly) who have had their bank accounts closed for being prostitutes. I’m sure some #TCOT shitbird is fit to be tied for seeing illegal immigrants described as Americans for these purposes, but what can I say? They’re here, and everyone knows it. It’s impossible to overhear or skim mainstream news media without stumbling upon shrill warnings that if we repatriate them and try to feed ourselves we’ll starve.

The industry can’t be arsed to give a damn about any of these. It’s notoriously hostile to felons and sex workers, as if being forced to provide them accounts for being residents would be tantamount to forcible banking for Mobutu Sese Seko. (Mr. Mobutu was adequately banked, thank you very much, although he was reputed to prefer Switzerland.) And the generalized poor? Lol, what a bunch of losers.

Except now the industry insists that it wants to get this wretched refuse into the credit markets, same as the (oddly diminishing) middle class. The impediment is, as mentioned above, that they’re unscoreable. They’re broke as fuck and have no credit history.

This was for some reason never presented as a problem when international NGO’s were touting microfinance as the next big thing. I understand they still are, although I blessedly stopped actively following that shit over a decade ago. I do, however, remember quite a volume of gushing about it from my teen years in the late nineties. Fifty- and hundred-dollar loans were making all the difference in the world to piss-poor Bangladeshi village women, or to Kenyans or whoever. That shit was huge. Or maybe I just happened to be reading their advertorials.

It was impressive that the target communities were nowhere near the permanent offices of the organizations originating the loans. The microfinancing business was obviously an excellent way for members of the Western professional-managerial class to rack up the OneWorld miles long-hauling it on Her Majesty’s Right Bitching Imperial Big Metal. Adam Gellin was more interested in doing that with McKinsey, but what the fuck, the NGO circuit has never been bad on this count. (That is, not for its employees. Its clients? Lol.)

If it’s feasible to do due diligence on piss-poor credit applicants thousands of miles away in Third World villages, then, what the hell is the problem with doing similar due diligence on credit applicants living in the ghettos, barrios, and trailer parks of the United States? Lower A’Advantage status is the only one I can see.

But no, we have to datamine these poor fuckers’ social media accounts and let the computers do their inscrutable juju. THAT is how we’re going to determine their fitness for consumer credit.

It’s hard to believe that the corporate officers behind this scheme aren’t institutionalized. Entire sectors of American business, really, are run by people who belong in fucking group homes. Requiring credit checks for apartment rental and job applications in a country where a fifth of the adult population has no credit score? You gotta be shitting me. Systematically discriminating against felons in the country with the highest incarceration and supervised release rates on earth? This stuff is insane.

We’ve got a bunch of grown adults with lucrative, benefitted professional jobs acting like it’s just sandbox funtime to make consumer credit decisions by aggregating noise about applicants and feeding it into a computer program. I’d be stunned and more than a bit alarmed if they landed junior keyholder positions at Arby’s. They’ve got a troubling aura of unemployability. They don’t understand their own businesses, and they don’t understand business in general. It’s either that or they just don’t care. Whole lot of Rumsfeldian unknown unknowns in the air around them, and they’re obviously not curious enough to try to figure any of that shit out before they run off and upend vulnerable people’s lives with their half-cocked nonsense.

I take this horseshit a bit personally because the responsible parties, or more aptly the irresponsible, are mostly my childhood class peers, and those who aren’t are at least the sort of college-educated yuppie I was theoretically schooled to be. It stings to lose out to these bumptious, arrogant little fucks, but it’s clearer and clearer that businesses fall into the thrall of such grandiose dimwits because they’re smooth enough to bullshit their way to the top, and I’m painfully aware that I don’t have the heart to bullshit interviewers.

If it still sounds admirably plucky to fake it till you make it, I remind you again that these are corporate officers who have arrogated to themselves and their colleagues the authority to approve or deny the consumer credit applications of extremely vulnerable applicants based on datamining algorithms that nobody understands. Even for the in-house brain trusts developing these programs the processes amount to blind men groping an elephant. There’s a good chance that that’s true even of the programmers. It’s prudent to assume that they’re garbage-in, garbage-out, kludged to the max. The Vice article claims that they have not been made available for independent expert review. That’s no surprise; every fucking company with a shady program like that hides behind claims of proprietary information. It’s nothing but trade secrets for these assholes. Fuck your welfare as a credit applicant.

Jacob Bacharach is right: these fools are pig-ignorant about the humanities, and it shows. They’re proposing to surveil vulnerable populations, ones widely treated as pariahs by the classes that own and staff banks, on behalf of a banking industry with a very ugly history of discrimination against a variety of unpopular demographics. This is really basic shit, and they don’t seem to get it. On top of that, these idiots are Pollyannas about technology. Who would ever think to use IBM equipment to coordinate the Holocaust? Or trains? Please. Stop being a Luddite.

I increasingly tend to think that the techdicks behind these programs are too insecure to examine themselves. The psychosocial gloss here is that they project their unspeakable fears of their own profligacy and poor creditworthiness onto the underclass they’re scheming to surveil. The low-key, no-nonsense nerds who used to dominate high tech started getting run out of the industry in the early dot-com years, crowded out, bullied out, or in some cases I assume simply annoyed into retirement by the rising tide of fart-sniffers, suckups, flimflammers, MBA’s, and fellow-traveling trash.

It speaks volumes that Elon Musk has remained in the good graces of the tech industry as a runaway public dipshit. An industry that cared about its public reputation would not tolerate his antics. He’d have people approaching him privately and telling him, dude, you need to either shut up or go away; you’re making the rest of us look bad. By this point he’d have been publicly repudiated months ago. Like, oh, him? Nah, we’re done with Fuckwits over there. And capital? The banks would be impressed in the worst ways by his companies’ books and production floors, and that clown wouldn’t be able to get the time of day on Sand Hill Road.

It has to cause cognitive dissonance in the tech industry, even among true believers in the bro belt, to watch this ridiculous son of a bitch keep getting his ass kissed in the Valley after turns out faulty cars behind schedule from dangerous and horribly mismanaged production lines, smokes pot on camera in a radio studio for the lulz, and has the SEC publicly admonishing him to stop shitposting 4:20 memes about upcoming stock offerings in his capacity as a corporate officer of record.

This isn’t about being able to have some fun at work. For one thing, that’s a disingenuous position. The frat house horseshit is quite well known as an excuse to underpay and abuse employees in the dot-com world. It’s like, oh, no, I’m not your boss, I’m your buddy! Let’s go play foosball! Let’s go bounce around on some beanbags! This sounds like Michael Jackson-ass Neverland playtime for a reason. These guys aren’t total pedos, but a lot of them are exploitative douchebags on the hunt for legal fresh meat, and their whole model is some real Peter Pan shit. Any functioning adult with the faintest bit of good sense expects to be paid enough to live decently as a condition of employment, and every city where the tech industry sets up shop ends up with its cost of living spiked to hell. Palo Alto is the notorious epitome, but these assholes have fucking gentrified Midtown Reno.

Let’s think about Elon Musk again for a moment. Developmentally normal adults do not act like him. That is not normal behavior for a man in his forties. It just is not. How has he not been exiled to Sun Valley along with that bad sheep from San Francisco who drives the Starbucks circuit in the Truckee Meadows, surprising the customers in line behind him with hair whooshes of his greasy ponytail? That dipshit’s parents bought him a house. I’m not totally sure on the Sun Valley part, although I think I heard it was somewhere in that direction, but it bloody well wasn’t in Pleasant Hill or at the fucking top of Divisadero. No Pelosiland for our neighborhood greasy boi.

That’s just barely not acceptable behavior in the tech industry. It codes as too low-class and lone-wolf. It’s just a touch too dirty, creepy, and low-functioning, but this is not because the community has standards of decorum. As far as I know, the rather loathsome Peter Shih became more popular in the industry, not less, for his gross “forty-niner” comments. They’re fours who act like they’re nines. Get it? Hurr durr, I’m employed in a coveted professional capacity, but I’m not busy enough to refrain from blogging about these fucking ugly bitches for trying to make time with my suave Asian ass.

I keep thinking back to another story I heard about a county employee who just about got run out of Hood River for fubarring the election–I want to say he was the IT guy–responsible for the scandal of the decade, total clusterfuck that made it impossible for him to show his face around town, and the next thing anyone heard of him was that he’d resurfaced in the other Washington, hired into a salaried position with the Department of Homeland Security.

Hey, it’s the federal way. That was awful, but it’s better than the Spanaway, and I’ll accept all brame. Getting fired is awful, and the story was that this dude was just incompetent, not malicious. What I don’t get is what gives that makes some worse-than-useless idiots eligible for the Peter Principle and others, often much more competent, unable to get anywhere. The explanations that make the most sense are the worst ones: bougies circling the wagons, bullshit artistry, cokehead solidarity, blackmail.

Meanwhile, somebody has to stay down on the farm to feed the rest of us. You’re welcome, of course, up to a point, but I’m not taking the full helping of piss. I wonder whether the alternative-scoring hustlers would care to go scrape some social media profiles in Imperial County. I knew it was bad; El Centro and Calexico are tied with Hemet for the worst energy I’ve ever felt in California, and Hemet doesn’t have a Border Patrol checkpoint perimeter around the mother of all open-air agricultural waste sumps. That said, good fucking God is it bad. We aren’t even pretending that it isn’t a sacrifice zone. The county is able to account for 1,400 homeless residents out of a population of not quite 182,000. What the hell is the problem? Not enough space to house them? By the way, that’s probably a low estimate. There are homeless who do not want to be counted for various reasons: pure shame is one; fugitive, sex offender, and immigration status are quite likely in a border county in the most bloated carceral state on earth.

The East of Eden parts of California get a bad rap for their surplus trailer trash: Slab City, tweakers living on government checks in Apple Valley, etc. ad nauseam. Slab City aside, though, the scandalous thing about Imperial County’s poverty is that it afflicts so many people who bust their asses to feed this country. It’s crawling with farmworkers who are subsisting on free lunches and shit like powdered eggs, or even sleeping in parking lots. The extreme seasonality of the Imperial Valley’s crops, which are heavy on winter and spring greens, is responsible for the seasonal fluctuation of the county’s unemployment rate from a baseline of 10-20% in the winter to a peak of 20-30% in the summer. Maybe it’s’ down since I last checked; it’s a hell of a way to live regardless. Imperial County is the only American jurisdiction whose unemployment numbers I basically trust, because it’s the only one whose residents are poor and desperate enough not to crawl into the shadows or bullshit the surveyors. All the same, I guess I should add a point or two to adjust for Slab City.

Why do I even pay sales tax to this fucking state? Where the hell is that money going? Oregon has no sales tax (Yachats and Ashland lmao), and it doesn’t seem to have anything quite as degraded as Imperial County, or even LA Skid Row for that matter. Is the skim off the business I’m not taking to Oregon going to anything but the prisons and the Highway Patrol? What the fuck is the use of a bunch of punk-ass Chips in a state that won’t provide the people working its farms with so much as a cot and a patch of shade?

It’s unbelievably disgraceful and scandalous. We’re running a full-blown failed state at the local level in a number of places. People who bust their asses for a pittance to feed this country sleep in parking lots because their employers are too cheap to either to pay them enough to rent rooms on the US side or to provide them so much as dorm bunks, and simultaneously because the federal border apparatus, despite its militarized bloat, is too inefficient to process immigrants who are known to be admissible in a manner permitting them to commute the last few miles home at night. The supply lines to keep Slab City’s residents alive have to be a privatized, ad hoc version of what it takes to run a Sudanese refugee camp. It’s the same worst-of-both-worlds mashup of modern dependency and medieval overland logistics.

A smaller population of fugitive sex offenders with expired registrations is said to camp out off the Pacific Crest Trail around Lancaster. These places are some hard, hard country. It’s psychosexually satisfying to reactionary wine moms who cycle between postmodern ennui and primal hysteria about children’s safety to scapegoat sex offenders, but even aside from the serious moral problems with this scapegoating, it’s worth remembering the circumstances of Jacyee Dugard’s captivity. When Dugard was finally located and freed, she had been living with her kidnapper and his sadsack codependent wife in a part of rural Antioch notoriously overrun with sex offenders. Their exurban semirural neighborhood was one of the biggest contiguous blocks of land anywhere in the greater East Bay that was free of the schools, playgrounds, churches, and other child-friendly public facilities around which California forbids registered sex offenders to live.

They were living in the Perverts’ Pale of Settlement. There’s no guarantee that Dugard would have been freed sooner had she been kept in a more or less normal neighborhood, but it’s striking that she spent so much of her captivity in such an abnormal one, surrounded by a population of reviled criminal outcasts who were officially subjected to second-class citizenship because they had all been in serious trouble with the law. Where better to hold a kidnapping victim in plain sight than among a population of steamingly resentful pariah ex-cons with a grab-bag of disordered sexual proclivities? No need to reinforce the basement in those parts, Castro.

The very point of this shit, all of it, is to studiously pretend that the throwaway populations don’t exist. The half-assed saving grace in NorCal is that its sacrifice zones aren’t as sprawling as SoCal’s, or nearly as bleak as the worst. Huge swathes of Southern California have been sacrificed. Many Californians write off the entire Inland Empire as one of these, although that’s quite a bit too simplistic. Redlands, Loma Linda, and Claremont are gorgeous. That said, the rest of the IE? Yeah, it’s pretty much an archipelago of shitholes. I met a woman on the train not long ago who, having been counseled not to say “nigga,” gushed that that was how all her Moreno Valley homies talk. And the far northern slopes of Big Bear and the San Gabriels? Fuckin’ A, that’s a godforsaken arc if ever there was one. Is Twenty-Nine Palms marginally better than Apple Valley? Does it fucking matter?

Doggy?

One is traditionally fucking stoked to go to Coachella. One is not traditionally fucking stoked to go to Indio. Indio is located squarely within the Coachella Valley, where they have Coachella. This is the other end of the basin from Calexico. We can tell it’s classy because there are parts of town that aren’t awful, and because none of it is as overwhelmingly toxic as the entire shoreline of the Salton Sea.

My mistake is to concede that this geography exists. It is to think, from time to time and as fleetingly as I can manage, of Hemet.

We’ve really shit the bed. This helps explain why the leading techdicks are now getting wound up about the idea of terraforming Mars. It’s also because they’re grandiose narcissists, of course. Bezos and Musk are out trying to race rocketships. It’s some real 1958 Popular Mechanics erector set shit, except that these are grown-ass men at the helms of business empires.

Fuck. It just hit me: the garage genesis mythology swirling around HP and all the rest, which is mostly bogus anyway, is supposedly about underdog pluck and such shit, but everyone knows garages are where the dudes of the family fuck around all weekend. It’s like how my mechanic uncle was “fixing up” old cars in my grandmother’s driveway until the neighbors called code enforcement because the same debris field of stray tools and parts had been strewn around the same broken-down shitbox Audi for more months than they could count and jack shit was being done about any of that. Yeah, it was a Palo Alto thing, not the driveway project so much as the busybody neighbors, but it’s not like that was ever a smart project to “work on” at the ass end of Hesperian Boulevard.

Seriously, though, what the fuck does the average bozo invent in his garage? One of my parents’ tenants was manufacturing selfie sticks in my childhood house and hawking them at trade shows in Emeryville. He had a breadwinner wife with a computer science degree, and then he didn’t anymore.

The problem with this model of self-esteeming man-children moving on to trash the next frontier is that we’re flat out of frontiers to trash. That’s why they’re itching to get in on the Final one. That’s why they’re chomping at the bit to go to Stavvy Baby’s beloved bitch-ass space. Musk can’t even build cars whose bumpers don’t shear off in the snow, so I’m sure that’ll go just swimmingly. The creep’s had enough work done on his face–like, 200-degree Max Headroom-level 10,000-grit dermasculpting–that he ought to be able to burn his boy Jeff with the sickness just by recommending an ophthalmic plastic surgeon. o_O But no, these cunts have to race each other into outer space.

That’s one ringing self-endorsement for their work here on earth.

It bears specifying, lest this detail go ignored and unexamined as too obvious to be worth mentioning, that these two, like so many of their competitors, set up their primary shops in the United States. That’s as true of Jeff the birthright American as it is of Elon the Robert Allen Stanford-style Canadian-American. America was supposed to be where refugees from the Old World’s hobbling class bigotries could flee to start over, free to prosper away from the meddlesome, prejudiced intrusions of their condescending betters.

Yeah, we had our issues, as we like to call them these days, our regional custom of owning other people and condemning their entire lineages to racial attainder, that kind of thing. So, okay, that part we majorly fucked up, but we always had the frontier, where, well, don’tcha fuckin’ know, looks like we systematically massacred or banished dozens of other peoples for the crime of being there first. The point, however–and this part was actually worth something, as heinous as its external costs were–was that we kept finding these world-historically exceptional amounts of space to let the lower strata of our ethnic ingroups start afresh in states of civic and socioeconomic equality that they’d been denied back home. We spread thousands of miles from coast to coast to coast across the width of North America, then hopscotched across the Proto-Canadian Big Beyond to take over the last remaining Russian colony in Asia, and then, already sharing a narrow maritime border with continental Asia, established an island empire extending as far into the Pacific Ocean as the Philippines.

To this day we have Guam, Tinian, and Saipan. They’re apparently shitholes, but they’re ours. We’ve still got American Samoa, emphasis on Samoa, not American. None of these places are worth a damn for anything but domestically offshored sweatshops at a time when we’ve shitted up our continental holdings from coast to coast.

We’ve done a real number on this joint. Lawrence Ferlinghetti lyrically described California as the end of the road for the American Dream or some such, and indeed, at a certain point there really is nothing more than the Great Highway, the last spit of sand, and a hundred horizons of cold surf. He’s originally from back east, so I suppose he’s always understood on some level that Puerto Rico is not a viable substitute.

What, then, are a bunch of Mexican field hands supposed to think of us when they’re sleeping in that parking lot because the Calexico Port of Entry is fubar? They’re already, so help us, in el centro imperial. There are reasons why strains of thought suspicious of and hostile towards El Norte endure in Mexico. On the other hand, these poor bastards are at least here with some hope of self-improvement. They’re in the promised land to work, to save something up, maybe to send some remittances home so their relatives can build a new house.

What in the hell is the native permanent underclass supposed to think about this same awful regime? It’s rude to say this in bourgeois circles, the kind of thing that goes to show just how easily class transcends political ideology when it’s time to circle the wagons against the restive poor, but there are people in this country who can’t trace their ancestries back to a time when their kin weren’t constantly getting the shaft from glib, scummy good old boys. All they know from their family lore, or from what is left of it, involves some condescending shithead from the school district or the social services office humiliating them, or some thug ADA or cop terrorizing them, or some great-uncle getting turned into hamburger meat in Nam. When we hear preening assertions about how real Americans in real America respect the police and the military and all that shit, we’d be wise to remember that this is probably just the provincial elites arrogating to speak on behalf of their entire communities, same as it ever was.

Maybe the class lines are more fluid than that. Maybe the allegiances are more complicated and ambivalent. In either case, it’s safe to say that entire communities have been structured so that no one on the outside hears a word from the local losers. Notice that just about everybody we hear from on NPR from the deep deplorable interior has significant property or business holdings: shops, factories, farms. They have distinct class interests for bitching and moaning about the town junkies.

If a lineage gets driven clear across America to the water’s edge by a succession of hostile elites and finds that it can’t get by in Venice Beach, either, then what? There’s always Slab City. Deeper inland might work if you don’t mind the Mormons. But there’s so little anymore that some gang of shysters hasn’t enclosed and squeezed like a recalcitrant juice orange for the rent. The beat poets may have been a bunch of pretentious yoyos or whatever, but the geography of picking up and moving on to the next place really does change pretty drastically in, say, San Ysidro or Port Angeles. Other countries start showing up in the yard. Bluewater appears by the unfathomable league.

Mind you, the true coastal San Diego classic is the skank-ass river bottom. It’s nice that Mexico is positioned to reserve some of the good shit for itself and leave us with a slimy, soggy, half-assedly palm-studded mat of shit. It’s also cool that the San Diego River is the same shitty bottom dribbling out to the bay without the Boundary Waters Commission.

But when that’s all that’s left between Dairy Mart Road and the beach, where the fuck is there to go next? Wednesday night praise and worship in Lahaina with Glenn, Don, and the ghosts of missionaries past? Landside at Honolulu is reported to be teeming with the homeless all night every night, and I don’t hear the other Lawrence channeling the other Don, minus Glenn, to blow the tiny bubbles up our asses for that. We might as well go into town and rumble with the Micronesians, or see if the Kealohas are yet in a position to take delivery of mail.

Alaska is no more virgin than Hawaii. It had active Homestead Act claims into the 1960’s, like it was ever worth a good goddamn to hack a living out of a section of any of that, but both of these frontiers have inconvenient local color, we might say, da kine we didn’t ask anyone to pass us at the luau. I once watched an episode of Hoarders featuring a crusty old soldier from Fort Wainwright who totally had buyers lined up for these classic trucks and nearly caved the second story of his detached garage into the first in a pile of his junk until a structural engineer showed up with a big metal beam. Excuse me, operator, THIS is a lot of stuffs? No, THAT is a lot of STUFFS! The state police beat up that way, to judge from television, is mostly shit like 3:1 staff-to-inmate ratios to aerially evacuate the village drunkard to the big town drunk tank, a night hike into the woods on the outskirts of Fairbanks in half a foot of snow when it’s headed for twenty below to plead in vain with some Into the Wild sourdough to come to a shelter, and, Scout’s Honor, Trooper Cooper chasing drunk drivers around the Mat-Su Valley. In the actual, honest-to-God news, it’s more like the governor firing the public safety director because he won’t let her shitbag trooper brother-in-law be Safety Bear at the state fair.

By the way, these two states, Hawaii and Alaska, have two of the three highest per capita levels of Spam consumption in the country. The missing third is Arkansas. Don’t tell my heart, and by God don’t tell my cardiologist.

We’ve really blown it as a nation with these settler stunts. We’ve spent our entire national history, straight back to Plymouth Rock, figuring we can just keep kicking the can down the road. Thing is, cracka we outta road. We really have conquered every last resort. Ferlinghetti, Henley, Frey, et al. were on to something. It’s no coincidence that they were actively writing contemporaneously, give or take a decade, to the exhaustion of viable Homestead Act claims in Alaska. What else was there for us to take? The Yukon Territory? The Port of Churchill? Don’t laugh; it’s pretty close to warm water now. Our dorky boi Pompeo is on it.

It’s pathetic, tragic, actually. We ethnically cleansed these stupefyingly vast swathes of land of their indigenous peoples as a way to provide lebensraum for our cherished coethnics, and then, possessing these lands, we used them instead to exploit and degrade our own people. It’s troubling how deeply ingrained this habit is in us as a nation. The Massachusetts Bay was settled by the Puritans as a place to conveniently fuck off not from the British, but from the Dutch, Holland had been liberal and gracious enough to take them in when the British Crown and Parliament wouldn’t stop getting all up in their business, but they got sore about their children coming down with Dutch values. Oops. Ever since then, in a traceable, uninterrupted line, we’ve been using the frontier as a combined refuge for our own oppressed asses and external dumping ground for the undesirables.

The frontier as a banishing ground dates back at least to Roger Williams, religious dissident, lovingly incented by the Puritan authorities of Colonial Massachusetts to kindly fuck off to that other patch of swamp. We call it Rhode Island. The Founding Fathers, for their part, were quite keen on the Appalachians as a ready-made Cracker Rez and military outpost for Our Highlanders to crack Indian skulls for God and Country. Legitimate interior grievances against federal oppression date back at least to Shays’ Rebellion, provoked in large part by a foreclosure and disenfranchisement racket run by financial elites on the Connecticut Valley’s poor yeomen, and the Whiskey Rebellion, a peasant showdown with federal revenuers and eventually George Washington himself over intrusive tax farming to service the federal debt.

Over the centuries we ethnically cleansed peoples from the Penobscot to the Navajo, from the Seminole to the Nisqually. We did what we could to leave them with nothing more than the Bosque Redondo, a few miles of contested fishing river, or the Foxwoods Casino. We somehow put the Cherokee over the oil. Now having this land, what did we do with it? Enclosed it and used it to oppress our own coethnic poor, mostly. If they didn’t like it, they could always move somewhere else. That meant somewhere to the west: the Pioneer Valley, the Cumberland Gap, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Utah. California. Alaska. Go far enough west and you end up in the fucking east, back in the, back in the–shit, did the Soviets even want any of that? They said they did, but they were always trying to look tough.

Of course, we couldn’t look in the mirror without staring at the stain of slavery. We ended up in possession of Texas after a bellicose rabble of our slaveholding emigrants rose up against the Mexican government for daring to enforce the human rights of its own constituents to be free of bondage. A cynical Texan I heard years ago on NPR claimed that Texas agreed to be admitted to the Union in order to have the US federal government assume its sovereign debts. I’ve never researched this, but it sounds about right for the Southern gentry.

The slavers did, however, loudly start some shit they couldn’t finish. The Alamo foreshadowed Fort Sumter, which itself eventually permitted General Lee a pleasant, gentlemanly day at Appomattox. The late antebellum Solid South shenanigans in Texas, Missouri, and Bloody Kansas effectively sealed the deal to get the rest of the American West admitted to the Union as free soil.

We blew that, too. We had a historic opportunity to imprint a better, more humane colonial culture on California when we assumed jurisdiction over it, and we all but failed. Spanish colonization of California had been nightmarish for ordinary residents, a pastiche of theocratic royalist enslavement along the Mission Trail–El Camino Real, or the King’s Highway, as it can be translated into English–and enormous private land grants to court favorites and their cronies for the establishment of practically feudal ranching empires. We really didn’t do much to break that shit up or reform it. We’re probably still dealing with the ramifications of the Forty-Niner influx, which flooded California with get-rich-quick dipshits. We’re definitely still dealing with the legacy effects of the railroad trusts, as is nearly every other state in the Union to some extent or other.

We can’t just keep banishing the fruit of our national demons over the next horizon. We can try all we like, but we cannot exile our own sinfulness or the devastation it wreaks into the next frontier. It’s easy to use this as a pat explanation for everything, and alluring and fun and so forth, but there seems to actually be something to it. A 400-year habit of progressively exhausting the capacity of new territorial conquests as dumping grounds for the flotsam and jetsam of several boundlessly arrogant colonial projects now consolidated in one nation surely has a warping effect on the national spirit. In the longue durée of these national tragedies, the mere half century or century, depending on our specific criteria, that we’ve stumbled along without a credible frontier left to exhaust in this fashion is a fairly short episode, so maybe we should be patient. It’s hard to decide whether to take encouragement or discouragement from this gloss.

Either way, the actual, abundantly documented history of the United States is damn near saturated with gutwrenching evil. The same framers of the Constitution who are despised in shriller quarters as dead white males not only held blacks in bondage but also schemed to dispossess their fellow whites. It was never enough even to be English.

Many of our revered Founding Fathers were, in their business lives, nothing but shakedown artists and thugs: the Virginians with their plantations full of slaves, Hamilton with his corporate waterfall squat on the Passaic. It’s scandalous. It’s also a matter of abundant public record. They made some crucial improvements over the British system they’d inherited, including their explicitly doing away with titles and royalty, but we’re out of our minds to turn to them as our moral true north. Yet we keep compulsively doing exactly that. Lin-Manuel Miranda has made a hell of a name for himself with a road show empire devoted to making this civic pantheon of manor thugs and corporate sleazeballs look hip.

For all our talk about how jealously we guard our freedoms, we seem awfully uncomfortable as a nation with the intellectual freedom to say, hey, these guys were pretty fucking questionable. There’s a palpable timidity and immaturity about it, even a psychosis. Intertwined with that, and going back through most of our history, to points barely shy of first Anglo settlement, is our enthrallment to leadership classes that screech incessantly about the duty of hard work while scheming every way they can to personally live off the work of others.

Jefferson at least recognized that this was a serious failing, one that would be painful to transcend. He was a monster as a person, a man who ruined the lives of his fellows as their master, but at least he valued his own liberal arts education. For many of my own college-educated acquaintances, the point of having a liberal arts education is to be able to brag about having a liberal arts education. If we insist on being that solipsistic, I can’t think of a good reason not to just lie. “I have a degree in the liberal arts. What do you mean, I’m ‘illiberal?’ What’s ‘illiberal?’ Stop making fun of me, you friggin’ jerk.”

There I go shitposting about the uneducated educated again. What’s crazy is that these bumptious college fuckheads are so common. They’re ubiquitous around many schools, and where they exist in any large numbers they’re shockingly domineering. They have a cryptofascist mindset. Duh, of COURSE you have to brand yourself and manage your own reputation to get a job! The liberal wing of this class aspires to integrate the guard pool at Dachau, not just the inmate population. I take license, but not much license. There really do seem to be a lot of collegiate idiots who define civil rights as Bull Connor telling the fire department to go home.

I’m still referring to college-educated Democrats, or mostly to the Democrats. The Republicans present with a different cluster of symptoms, although there’s some pretty impressive overlap, mainly due to the entrenchment of common class interests and the unfolding moral degradation of both major parties. Shit, we’ve now got Joe Biden bragging about his role in the civil rights movement. What’s next? George III reminiscing about that crazy night when he borrowed Paul Revere’s spare horse?

There’s no reason to exclude gerontocratic brain damage as a factor, Ronald Reagan painfully recalling how he helped liberate the Nazi death camps and so forth, and Funny Uncle Joe seems if anything more publicly disinhibited than ever with the bad touch. Septuagenarian neurological decline as the bridge this nation needs across the aisle: God bless America. Atrios, among others, has blamed the Boomers on lead poisoning, and there are crazier things to think about Joe Biden than that he ate paint chips.

Political analysis veers into psychoanalysis more often and readily than I’d like, but it’s hard to look at some of these leaders and their constituencies without suspecting that they are somehow profoundly mentally disordered. We might figure, oh, it’s just the Orwellian style in American politics, but more than a few of these people seem to have crossed the magical threshold from insincerity or cognitive dissonance into planted memories. This whole scene gives off the vibe that life under the Party is even worse than Orwell painted it. There’s a huge amount of more or less made-up shit that we’re expected to believe as members of polite society. Donald Trump hasn’t possibly done or said anything senile in public over the past month. Barack Obama was a liberal reformist who fixed banking and healthcare. Bernie Sanders is too old to be medically fit for the presidency, but Hillary Clinton doesn’t possibly have incipient neurological damage or substance abuse problems or mental instability or anything else inhibiting her fitness. Uncle Joe is just Uncle Joe. Pete Buttigieg is a genius and a visionary for being able to string together multiclause sentences. Well now, whaddaya mean he has a shady record as the mayor of South Bend? Where did you hear that? It wasn’t in the Times! It wasn’t on NPR!

Of course it fucking wasn’t on NPR. We’re really in Wonderland here, and not the one I like to visit on the Blue Line. Sorry, buddy, I’m too busy trying to get myself off, CHAHLEE. The psychological projection at play here is really worrisome. It’s ramped up hard among the quasiliberal intelligentsia since 2016. There’s something troublingly illiberal about the assumption that the Grey Lady, infamously punked to shit by bogus intelligence prior to the second Gulf War, is eminently trustworthy and any obscure outlet disagreeing with it must be suspect. On at least three separate occasions I’ve been questioned point-blank by Boomer bougie liberals about what my sources are for specific criticisms I’ve made of the neoliberal system or its darlings of the month.

There’s an unnerving edge to these questions. The real Cold War redux isn’t some spook-ass shit that Putin and Putin alone is doing to our precious Yankee Doodle Dandy selves; it’s Americans’ studiously ignorant failure to recognize and admit that the United States has a controlled mainstream press. This has a really uncomfortable late Soviet feel. It calls to mind neighborhood busybodies who dutifully took at copy of Izvestiya every day giving the hairy eyeball to anyone who dared breathe a word about the samizdat. No news in the Truth and no truth in the News, as the word on the Soviet street had it.

The liberal stance here is a crazy one: no, we aren’t imagining things, YOU’RE imagining things. It’s only ever dissidents who hallucinate shit. There’s no way the unemployment stats are cooked to make the government look good; that’s just as crazy as your deplorable nostalgia for a bygone era of good factory jobs that never existed, which you’re pining for only because you’re a sexist and a racist.

This sputtering argumentation, if we’re generous enough to call it that, is so jumbled, desperate, and disordered that it’s prudent to attribute it entirely to psychological projection and make revisions as warranted if there emerges any evidence to the contrary. Recapitulating the unspeakable racial prejudices of liberal elites feel superfluous and tiring, but it’s worth noting that they sure seem to be desperately throwing things at the wall to see what will stick on their vogue folk devil, the (extremely sic) white working class. Shitlib projection of structural sexism onto a folk devil is harder to prove. The vile categorical slurs that elements of the alt-right direct at women as a group, that they’re uniformly incompetent and antisocial, etc., are too crazed to take seriously without being a lunatic, an abrasive ugly drunk, or a shut-in. They do, however, make some sense in the narrow context of Hillary Clinton’s campaigns for the presidency: she had, after all, launched her own political career by cravenly riding the coattails of her two-timing husband. The counterfactual proposals for her parallel-timeline ascension to political power without the Big Dog might as well try to count the angels on a pinhead. She was famous for being his wife. There’s no unringing that bell.

This chip on the shoulder stands out in Hillary’s case. Other American women have followed their husbands or fathers into elected office without such defensive carrying-on. I find it quite plausible that a large portion of her base preferred to project sexual anxieties onto outgroup scapegoats than to admit the full extent of its own class privilege. Surely this projection was exacerbated by unmentionable unease with the belligerently feminist campaign of a woman who, in the years immediately proceeding her own election to the US Senate, had been something of a laughingstock for putting up with escalating humiliation by her almost psychopathically unapologetic husband.

More planted memories, perhaps. The showdown between Hillz and the Donald was officially about feminism versus masculinism. Framing the pussy-grabbing uproar as a front in the war of the sexes was overwrought. That would have been a perfectly on-brand horndog utterance for Slick Willie, and it was considered bad form on the establishment center-left to speak ill of his presidency in 2016. It does say something about that schoolmarmish dork Mike Pence that he didn’t have the principles or the self-respect to point to that scandal as the last straw and walk away from the campaign, but only a fool would insist that the profession of Christianity be about Christian living in this sick country. Playing second fiddle to that shambolically horny oaf was never meant to be a ministry. Pastor please. As always, the Republicans were in it to win it, and the Democrats were in it to lock down their backup consultancies in the likely event of their own loss.

Notice that the projectile neurosis and anxiety of these Democrats class-codes as bougie. The Republicans try to class-code their own Freudian projection as something like the extreme low end of the petty booj; attendees are encouraged to dress down for abortion clinic protests and See You At The Pole, but they’re also encouraged to shower. They’re inevitably better at threading such needles than the Democrats, because they’re singleminded, focused, and ruthless, while the Dems clumsily try to act like they aren’t networking to line up their next sinecures for the next time they drop the ball.

Winston Smith’s comments in 1984 about salvation coming from the proles sound contrived, but Orwell was onto something, certainly in the 21st-century American context. It really does take influence and disposable income to be such a dipshit about politics. Apathy is a categorical error for why the broad underclass doesn’t turn out to vote, if not a weasel word; usually it’s that they can smell the con job from a mile away and refuse to be bothered to vote for it. When the chips were down, Jed Bartlet was every bit as much the triangulating psychopath as Bill Clinton, but he didn’t go around getting his dick wet. That’s somehow pathetic enough to make up for the lack of an explicit Ricky Ray Rector storyline. The West Wing was a bougie show because no one else had the spare energy to watch extra-dry political porn.

Shitlib political projection extends to the endless gross comments about how the white working class “votes against its own interests.” #TeshTips: It actually votes against bourgeois liberal interests, and mainly it doesn’t vote at all. There’s something refreshing, then, although also bleak, about lowbrow conceptions of politics that don’t revolve around the suite of current courtly euphemisms and instead expect elected officials to deliver the fucking goods. The lower classes end up at a huge advantage over their superiors, almost by accident, precisely because they won’t countenance distracting masturbatory horseshit in the name of politics.

I’d hate to romanticize the proles for any of this. The sort of learned helplessness that so many of them apply to their own citizenship because they’ve been screwed over so many times in the political sphere is tragic. But in many ways they just don’t have the margin of error to indulge in the functionally psychotic politics of their betters, and to the extent that they use it in their own interest or the common interest that can’t be anything but an asset. Marxist exhortations about nothing to lose but chains get pretty overleveraged, but at the same time much of the grossest, most bizarre argumentation of our bourgeois strivers amounts to an attempt to stay in the right authority figures’ good graces and hold on to sinecures that the poor cannot imagine landing. The fuck is a personal brand worth in Slab City?

It’s hard to exaggerate how intellectually and morally degraded the American bourgeoisie is today. It’s become markedly worse over the course of my lifetime. I don’t entirely trust my own perceptions, since they involve childhood memories dating back to the age of six or eight, but I could swear that there weren’t nearly so many adults in the eighties desperately trying to kiss ass for a precarious living. It was a pretty shallow decade, and there was no shortage of fools for the system, but the system wasn’t nearly so broken, and there weren’t nearly so many denialists desperately insisting that it was working just fine. There were plenty of yuppie idiots who believed in farfetched, self-interested shit like an escalator of upward mobility that some people just didn’t board as early as others–say, lettuce cutters in Salinas versus some Glengarry Glen Ross midlife crisis case whose mistress had just puffed her hair back up for the evening’s droptop Beemer ride down PCH. Even so, and even thinking back on the adults I knew in the context of what I’ve since read about the Reagan era’s unionbusting, I don’t recall that menacing psychotic edge.

2008 changed everything. The crash was to the American economy what 9/11 was to American geopolitics and domestic security. But we dare not talk about this. We’ve all been gaslit about this for over a decade straight by now. It’s impolite in bourgeois and elite circles to categorize the 2008 crash in a magnitude much greater than the quickie crash of 1987, the Bush I recession of ca. 1991, or the dot-com bust of 2001. Excuse me? This is why people don’t trust the official numbers. From what I can tell, the US has haltingly and regionally recovered to something like its pre-crash prosperity over maybe the past three or five years. The caveats I’d insist on adding to this statement would be endless. We had officials bragging that the “Great Recession” was over in, like, 2011. That was not the case.

Notice, too, the prominently missing D-word. The crash was right on schedule per Strauss and Howe’s generational model–we’d be quibbling about a single calendar year for an even eighty from 1929–but it seems there are certain things we aren’t allowed to say, spells we are forbidden to break. It’s got perhaps a little something-something to do with an old Cleveland hospital story. Doctor: Do you get depressed? Patient: No, I gets de Plain Dealer.

Don’t none of us gets de Plain Dealer in this fucking joint no more. By the way, the rank and file at Local 1 got slashed by something like three quarters just this year. Steam that one on down to the lake.

Think about the brain scrambling it takes to insist that “we” have all “recovered” from the “recession.” They said so on the news, and the Telescreen loves us. The class and generational splits are excruciatingly blatant here: owning real estate is the only reason to possibly believe that it’s good for rents and real estate prices to rise faster than wages, and being retired damn well helps, too. In addition to all the gaslighting and moral warping and disorientation from observable reality (e.g., ignoring tent cities), the defenders of this system can’t even distinguish their personal interests and values from objective statements of fact. It’s real epistemic closure hours in Sundown America.

And I wish it were just the Boomers. I’ve got thirty-something friends and acquaintances who believe this same happy horseshit. The pressure to go along with this insane nonsense to get a job is more pronounced among Gen X and much more pronounced among Millennials; the Boomers who blame the young punks for complaining about it (and tanking their home values) are comfortably retired.

This is some truly desperate cargo cult thinking. It’s the kind of regime that collapses catastrophically. Think Christmas with the Ceausescus. Many of the downwardly mobile who have been dispossessed by this regime are furious about it. Some of them will never forgive those responsible. For Millennials in particular, there’s the added annoyance of being categorized on account of nothing but our age and the marketing considerations with some of the most obnoxious cokehead poseur assholes and hustler trash: Instagram influencers, hipster dipshits, some Quisling cocksucker who made a fortune investing family money and is now whining about kids his own age wasting theirs on avocado toast, ad nauseam.

Every shred of this crap is directed at insecure targets who hope they have something to gain or fear they have something to lose. This explains the Tiger Mom scam: we ching-chong are here to move your white cheese whether you’re up for it or not, and I totally didn’t just kiss that lecherous mick’s ass in the newspaper to give my daughter a job.

The poor don’t figure into this shakedown. It’s that nothing-to-lose problem again, but it’s also nothing to gain. They’re too wise to the world to fall for that shit. They may go along with it when their bosses or customers are around, but they know better. They don’t have the luxury to lounge around all day in the Land of Make-Believe, and they’re also too astute about how the society above them actually works not to notice how far short they fall of the unspoken qualifications that get their betters into the plum positions. There are people whose families have been living lives of such quietly observant subordination since time immemorial.

Let’s come back to alternative credit scoring. Of course it was rich fucks and their subaltern booj who came up with that. What poor person would decide whether or not to lend a buddy some gas money based on some shit on Facebook? Hell, what person who ever spends time with the poor would do that? This crap is just nerds who don’t understand how algorithms work bullshitting each other about data analytics. Trusting banks just because is painfully bougie. The poor know they’re most likely in for a screw job. You have to be either affluent or an upward-bound kiss-ass to act like that, and either way you have to be lost in the Kool-Aid.

Expecting banks that can’t ethically make credit decisions based on two- or three-variable scoring protocols to have a computer deep-learn how to ethically do infinite-variable credit scoring is nuts. The poor know that it’s just another excuse to abuse them. We’re talking about people who refer to their girlfriends as their fiancées when they meet with prospective landlords. They’re familiar with off-the-books rules. How will this affect what they post? That’s harder to say. It could cut either way, or both ways at once. Like so much else about poverty and social subordination, it’s a setup for unpredictable volatility.

The free speech angle in general is worth examining. The tech industry resents vigorous free speech because it gets in the way of its social control schemes. It’s the same stance as with advertisers, corporate busybodies, authoritarian churches and their pushy members, or any feral division of government. It’s to be expected that there will always be a small hardcore remnant of such dictatorially inclined creeps in the prison services, the Marine Corps, Scientology, the CIA, or among shady weirdos looking to hold onto their extreme wealth. What disgusts me so about the avowedly liberal elites today is that they act barely any better than this despite holding expensive degrees from schools that should have taught them better, and if they’re challenged over this they descend into defensive tautological sputtering.

These are people with zero understanding of corporate power and why it’s dangerous. Don’t like your job? Get another job. No one’s forcing you to work there, Kunta Kinte. This is an grade school understanding of social relations. Most people who’ve had a shitty manager or franchisee at Burger King know better than this. There’s a power imbalance when one party has lawyers and money and the other doesn’t.

It’s revoltingly servile. Of course there are bad actors who abuse positions of authority to make adverse decisions against the vulnerable for their own psychosexual gratification. Of course the banking industry is shady as all hell. Sure, individuals can choose not to apply for consumer credit, but that’s not the fucking point. Bank of America is not Donna on the Corner deciding whether or not to lend your broke ass a five spot. It’s a chartered and insured financial institution. If Donna on the Corner can afford to spare a five, BofA can risk default on some $100 credit lines. $500 or $1,000 shouldn’t necessarily be a problem. There are mechanisms for banks to centrally block charges to cards they believe to have been compromised or that have been reported lost or stolen.

There’s no legitimate reason at all for alternative credit scoring. It’s just another scheme for privileged shitheads to surveil and police as they wish the constitutionally protected speech of their social inferiors. Enough of them loathe their own freedom of speech that they won’t mind loathing others’ as well.

This, by the way, is why I never submit to counsel to watch what I post on Facebook unless I’m convinced that I’ve recently made a huge ass of myself. There are people I try not to offend because I respect them, but I’m not about to timidly censor things I feel deserve to be said just because some shithead resents me for not quaking in my boots about what some hiring manager might think. Management ain’t welcome there anyway, and besides, Facebook runs psychological experiments on its users without their knowledge or consent. It’s a Tuskegee Experiment of the Mind. What the hell am I going to do to corrupt THAT?

If applications for consumer credit are denied because the applicants’ social media posts got datamined and flagged by some pop-psych quackery purporting to be risk analysis, the problem isn’t free speech; the problem is failure to regulate the banks. This really sounds like all the worst corporate minds coming together to boss private citizens around and admonish them about what they’re allowed to publish. It’s abhorrent to just go along with this shit or make excuses for it. The people behind it aren’t in positions of power because they’re meek and gracious. That’s just more gaslighting.

It gets tiresome to deal with affluent people who act either like there aren’t born losers in this society or like things will magically work out for them if they just, you know, whatever or something. There’s no telling when human agency will suddenly go AWOL in these Pollyanna stories, although it’s pretty consistently when it might implicate powerful institutions and their officers. As I said near the start, this is the sort of situation where the proper role of government is to just fucking steamroll the banks and their contractors for going rogue on defenseless customers.

Joan Didion, in her piece on the high school rape gang scandal in Lakewood, California, wrote of a Faulkner story about a proto-Kardashian starlet from new money Okie stock who got chewed up and spit out by the Hollywood celebrity gossip machine, disgracing her oilman father and breaking his heart. The moral, she wrote, was that there are people who think they’re cut out for California but ultimately can’t make it. It’s evocative and eloquent, but it misses some key points. Lakewood got thrown into crisis because a crew of BRAC beancounters at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, technocrats who would never personally face the consequences, abruptly decided to terminate another bloc of keystone jobs for the broad middle class in a community they couldn’t be bothered to care about and let the locals figure out what to do for themselves now that they had been left on the curb with last week’s trash. That didn’t account for the latchkey kid Lord of the Flies stuff, but it was germane to Lakewood’s overall health and viability as a city that the federal government nurtured it as an industrial center and then abandoned it after a few decades with no transition plan. Didion painted this as something that mostly just kind of happened, like an act of God.

There’s something deeply wrong with us as a society for refusing to admit that some of our poor are poor because the affluent and the rich keep robbing them of their shit. Or that it’s more than just some. They aren’t all the liquored-up no-account loafers that so many of us secretly aspire to be. A lot of them work for us.

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Ain’t no one lion here: that Tiger Mama, she’s a snake

Amy Chua was bad news from the get-go. The coldly ambitious opportunism of her celebrity career has been disgusting all along. She was already a tenured Yale law professor, but far be it from a model minority like her to rest on her laurels by just holding down her day job or some shit. Hell no. This woman was going places. She just had to traffic an incredibly inflammatory line of yuppie bait preying on the worst racial and class insecurities of the American upper middle class. A self-published nobody turned Fifteen-Minute Caucasian Sensation is obviously beyond the pale for uploading a rude video about Ching-Chong Chinee in the college library, a bigot culpable for the most reprehensible communal tension, but a tenured Ivy League law professor isn’t out of line at all to brag about what a domineering asshole she is to her own children because she’s Chinese, so it’s a cultural thing demanding respect from the white majority, or furthermore to threaten to socioeconomically annihilate by child proxy any soft, lazy crackers whose parents don’t spend their pre-K-19 school careers driving them like pack mules.

Is this what we’re calling Transpacific cultural exchange now? In that case, I’m Frank Fat. Well, for God’s sake at least I’m not bullshitting you about the latter part. Say, will I see anyone BUT you tonight?

Was Chua ever a Chinese-supremacist bigot, or did she just play one on NPR? She’s a birthright US citizen married to a fellow birthright American citizen and Jew, which, unless we feel like really rolling around in the weeds, is what we call white. Everybody knows the Book Jews went soft in, like, 1975 or some shit and started letting their kids major in Bong Studies on the six-year program at Hampshire College. I’m descended from some of that myself, and I publish this shit. Then again, teaching law at Yale seems like something that’s more about money than books, not that we ever get a break from that crew of Type A social climbers, of whatever ethnic happenstance, bragging about their “scholarship.” Pot-o-Shit Friend, upon information and belief also a Jew, is apparently less of a sex pest and drunkard than Jed Rubenfeld, but we already knew that about his drinking non-habits: I’ve accused him of some shit, but I’ve never accused him of being a lawyer.

That said, whether it should have been or not, Chua’s family background is uncannily revealing. Her parents weren’t just Chinese; they were Overseas Chinese, initially on diaspora in the Philippines. What’s wrong with this? To listen to some of the indigenous locals, everything. To anachronistically Cliffs Notes our Sowell bibliography, the Overseas Chinese got the natives in Southeast Asia steamed like a tower of shumai baskets by being immigrant dream hoarders, and then the Chinese in general, plus the Koreans and whatever, did the same damn thing to the Americans once they’d had it with whoever had fucked their shit up back hella east. That cabin crew on what I swear used to have a hub in Memphis and be called Northwest Orient got into more trouble for singing “Kung Fu Fighting” in the galley on a flight back from East Asia than Chua has ever gotten into with the same wokescolds for threatening the entire cracker box with a Chinese steamrolling if they don’t abuse their kids into a state of competitive excellence.

Bitch please. Do we really imagine that stark, enduring, gaping ethnic disparities in socioeconomic status become tenable when members of the wealthier minority brag about their own superior adaptiveness? Normally, my thoughts about the Overseas Chinese would be, like, oh yeah, Ahok, that guy fucking rules. I’d hate to be the putz who shows up and says, sure, your constituents use toilets, but I know Oregonians. Amy Chua is something else. She’s such a provocatively nasty and craven piece of work that I can’t see why she shouldn’t take her sleazy ass to a shitty part of Jakarta and get in line for a bumiputra beatdown. Indonesia has some terrible authority figures, but let’s face it: Robby Kaligis never shot my white ass. He’s as respectfully nonviolent towards me as the VC were towards Mohammed Ali. It’s not like I’ve got any parochial objections to a command staff fuccboi like Djoko “oh, was that a camera I was smiling at” Hariutomo, or a Casual Friday batik dinner party son of a bitch like Natalius Pigai. Look at the camera for this photograph, and tell me, if today was your last day in this facility, would you care to discuss your flight plans over an intimate private dinner?

The derangement to imagine for one second that any of that shit is about respect for prisoners in transit and their human rights is out of this world, but whatever else is wrong with such cases, they’re aren’t American thought leaders. Chua is fucking awful. For years there was no end to her obnoxious model minority shtick about how her kids and those of her coethnics were going to smoke the shit out of our lazy little white brats if we didn’t whip them into shape for the race of life. As disgusted as I am to see anyone platformed to preach about this divisive garbage in my country for any reason, I’m sure I’d be more outraged, not less, if I had Chinese blood; I’m Jewish enough for Hitler, after all, and I know how uneasy I get when I see Jews behaving scandalously in a classically Jewish fashion.

As I hinted at above, though, it turns out that Chua is really just a socially climbing courtier. Her model minority act was just a way to scare the Bo-Bos for profit and get her name into circulation as an up-and-coming public intellectual, not just another nobody with a graduate division appointment in the Ivy League like her husband. The ethnically fraught family origin myths of her childhood were the natural wellspring of her book deal bullshit. She was just writing what she knew, and what she knew happened to dovetail perfectly with mass hysteria over the socioeconomic annihilation of the native stock at the hands of her ruthlessly competitive coethnics. It was like The Secret, but retold as an autobiographical screed about the traditional and typical Chinese glorious historical and cultural justifications for terrorizing one’s own children, complete with suggestions for equally menacing threats to utter around the wasp nest about the socioeconomic devastation of the rising generation of the lazy native stock at the hands of this exotic academic superrace.

Yes, it is as racist as it sounds, but that was never the point. The point was to sell the fucking tiger mom book. An equally offensive treasury of baroque complaints about the Jews that went out of style in 1960 might be fun, but it wouldn’t sell. No one would give a shit about that caliber of Fiddler on the Roof-ass throwback Borscht Belt striver crap. Everyone moved out to Greenwich years ago, Hyman. We’re all worried that our lazy kids are gonna have to settle for New Paltz if they don’t stop playing video games, or, like, Brandeis.

Besides, Chua runs in white, and very White, circles. As we’ve discussed, she’s married to a white guy. There are still occasionally characters like Joel Kotkin who carry that chip on their shoulder all the way out to the OC and spend their late middle age bitching about how transit-oriented development is offensive because Brooklyn was always a shithole–God, the guy acts like he could be an uncle–but there really aren’t that many still in circulation who are worried about passing. Does Billy Joel sound like he cares? Yes, he’s Italian, too; ain’t Fat Cracka never called that a bad idea. And what Beltway psychotherapist’s son worries about whether he’ll be able to code-switch his way into Yale?

Running an academic department as an ethnic ghetto doesn’t fly. It may be practicable to hire or admit a model minority plurality, but it doesn’t do to bar the door against the fancy cracker. It’s not like the Chinese or even the Jews predominate in the halls of power. How many Jews do you know named Brett?

Well shit. Our loud sniffly boi Brett Michael is a Yalie himself. Do you reckon he might have an association or two with our Tiger Mother? Why, I do declare he does. How bow dah. Cash either of them inside, where the wailing and gnashing of teeth produces a job offer, as does shitting on the floor in the Judiciary Committee hearing room. And yes, it is about the cash. It’s about that sweet long green. Kavanaugh’s already got his, but he has a way of blowing it rather fast, as one does in one’s deep spectator’s love of the National Pastime and absolutely not as a consequence of a gambling problem. He’s had some pretty sweet gigs for a downwardly mobile lace curtain Irishman, though, consistent six figures for jobs where he enjoyed the latitude to explicitly fantasize about the details of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair in the guise of due diligence about why the horniest bastard in Washington didn’t immediately level with the Inquisition of Dorkemada about his involvement with his intern, then two successive federal judgeships that he has used to convene his own clerk harems.

Or, as Brett Michael likes to put it, mentorship of women in the law. It’s some real Hugo Schwyzer shit. It’s been an open secret in Washington legal circles since at least the Clinton impeachment that he’s a repressed pervert with an unhealthy fixation on the sex lives of strangers politically adverse to his own faction. As we all know, this went just fucking great for Gateside Downlow and J. Denny Dundiddly. We don’t have to worry about Brett’s possible homosexuality anymore than we had to worry about the heterosexually wide stance of the married gentleman from Idaho when he went on the boob tube to fume about the “nasty, naughty boy” they were both pursuing. Brett Michael is on the record about his deep respect for young women, on the court and in his chambers. His recruitment binders are full of women.

And it’s not like he’s just saying whatever goofy shit comes to mind at the moment to try to put the feminists at ease for a spell. He’s got his girls’ basketball team, and the free time to coach it as a side gig to his federal judgeships. He’s got his clerks. As Amy Chua told her law students, they have a certain look, and so should you. They’re all supermodels, she said.

This motherfucker is even worse than Clinton. The Big Dog wasn’t all like, ew, Monica’s fat. He didn’t mewl about his deep respect for women, either. He put on his puppy-dog face and asked America, aw shucks, do you think I stepped out, now; and then, when caught too deeply in flagrante delicto to pretend that he hadn’t done a thing, he half-assed a public act of contrition. But everyone knew why he was there, and he did the least he could to hide it: he was in town to bang some good bitches. The boy was after that poon-flavored Tang.

In Schwyzer’s case, the intersectional Pasadena Community College and Onlline communnities had to listen to this obnoxious dork preach about how much he respected women, then disclose out of the blue in one of his feeble streams of consciousness that he’d nearly killed an ex-girlfriend, was considering self-harm, was for real going to retire into a private life of penance and contemplation, or on second thought mount (giggity) a comeback once the news cycle turned over and use his male ally street cred to chase some more tail. It’s like John Lennon and the wifebeating. Can these assholes ever muster the courage to shut their fucking mouths and stop annoying us with their phony autohagiographical efforts?

Kavanaugh is just as phony and perverted. He’s also a coked-up maniac. Why not entrust our daughters to him as their mentor in the law, or as their basketball coach? It’s Title IX Sports, bitches. Say what you will about Kenneth Fitzhugh for looking like Charles Cullen and murdering his wife, but trust me that he never walked around the AYSO fields moaning about how he respected women too much ever to throw one down the stairs to her death. When I heard that he’d murdered his wife, I thought, oh yeah, I remember him, and come to think of it, he was the kind of creep who’d murder his wife. Weird motherfucker, but he didn’t even poison the orange sections like some Melissa Ann Shepard wannabe, and he sure as hell was too quiet to wander around blabbing about the deep story of his abiding respect for any of the female or otherwise honored acquaintances he’d never harm.

Title IX Sports is a real store, by the way. It’s located–where the fuck else?–in Palo Alto. I can’t wait to have some equally bicoastal elite assholes accuse me of being against girls’ athletics just because I’m against Coach Brett Kavanaugh. That’s like insisting that I’m opposed to gymnastics just because I make fun of Larry Nassar. In fact, I’m opposed to gymnastics because it somehow manages to combine digital rape at the hands of Lawrence of the Labia with the verbal abuse of the Karolyis AND repetitive stress injuries of the sorts that are inflicted on thoroughbred racehorses. No homo, but having that weird dork’s fingers up my ass for some damn reason while he talks about theodicy sounds like the least troublesome part of the gymnastic experience.

God. We might hope that these girls would be encouraged to play pickup ball or something. I used to do that in college, and nobody got weird with me on game nights. Then again, that’s about what we’d expect for a slow-moving widebody who took advantage of the no-cut athletic policy to prequalify for the high school cross-country team with a personal best first-mile split of some shit like 7:50. It’s no way to get a prominent judge’s attention.

Guess you gotta tart yourself up a bit for the Justice, sweetheart. As I like to recapitulate from time to time, my youth soccer coach murdered his wife, and he was a vaguely unsettling weirdo around the pitch for years before that, but he never gave off any serious red-flag vibes. This fuckhead Kavanaugh is nothing but red flags. The PTA parents in his neighborhood pimp their daughters out to him so that he can play the dutiful sports father. There are people in his life who can’t be bothered to give a shit that he spent hours screaming at a roomful of US Senators in a liquored-up, coked-up fury about how he wasn’t a rapist and is STILL coaching their daughters.

One of his most famous colleagues pimped out HER own daughter to him as a clerk. That’s our girl Amy again. She gave that motherfucker a male ally reference in exchange for a clerkship for her daughter. She bemoaned that her daughter would suffer professionally from Kavanaugh’s elevationt to SCOTUS because it would eliminate the appellate clerkship he’d offered her. The daughter then put out a shaggy dog story about how she had in the meantime accepted an Army JAG Corps commission, then gotten out of it to accept a Supreme Court clerkship with, of all justices, one Brett Michael Kavanaugh.

Who the fuck knows what the Goddamn Army had to do with her. It must have been either more than it ever wanted or else blessedly nothing. This chick got a job because of who her mom is. That’s what fucking happened. In the end it had nothing to do with her mother being abusively Chinese and everything to do with strategically kissing a judge’s ass. This chick and her balls-to-the-wall meritocrat mother apply no expectation of merit or even fitness to powerful men they have an interest in enabling. Amy Chua has told her law students to watch their figures and dress up like tramps to impress a federal appellate judge, lately an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. She has threatened bad references for students who have complained about her husband’s sexual harassment.

And about her daughter’s new boss again: what in all hell is wrong with that guy? AshKav is a MILF. He has one of the hottest wives in Washington, and he still has to use his Supreme Court office as an ogling ground? Dafuq?

These are sick, unfathomably dishonest and manipulative people. Every fucking one of them. At least one of the two Chua-Rubenfeld girls has turned into her own scumbag mother, and she isn’t even thirty. It’s too generous to assume that the Kavanaugh girls aren’t headed in the same direction, considering the shitheads they have for parents.

It’s almost enough to call into question the Founders’ constitutional prohibition of bills of attainder. We have to chase down Tiffany fucking Trump to find an adult who comes from such a background and isn’t a hereditary dipshit crook. We have entire fucking lineages corrupted to the core, and we’ve still got this Yalie bitch lecturing us about how our parents are insufficiently abusive for our competitive modern world. To hell with the lot of them.

Or, if you will, more like Vanderpump Sucks

My parents recently visited Hemingway’s house and cats in Key West. It’s an ongoing Habsburg animal husbandry project commemorating an awfully troubled man. My mom said that this pride, numbering several dozen in all, was being propagated by a breeding pair and a half, made up of two toms and one lady, if I caught it correctly. Whatever it takes to keep them stocked with extra toes, I guess.

What really moved me, though, was my mom’s description of how completely indifferent these cats were to the high-volume flow of visiting tourists. Total strangers could come up to them and pet them, and they would not react. They wouldn’t even arch their backs or purr. My mom seemed to find everything about this irresistibly cute. I found it almost heartbreaking. Mind you, I’m the guy who spent the evening of New Year’s Day on a BART train to Richmond blubbering through a veil of tears about the heartbreaking beauty of date palms and live oaks. Take that for what you think it’s worth. And I knew intellectually that Hemingway’s cats were doing better that me. Free of all anxiety and safe from all distress? That ain’t me; it’s them.

The cats are all right. When I think about it rationally, I recognize this. I still can’t shake the uneasy feeling that they are somehow living in a bad liminal space between life and death. I can’t tell if they’re in heaven or hell. Obviously it’s heaven; they’re cats. They’re fed. They’re sheltered. They aren’t even annoyed by cuddlebug strangers, unlike so many other cats. Maybe they’re just too lazy to react. It sure sounds like they’re pretty fucking blissed out.

The title today is, shit, I dunno, something borrowed, something stolen, something *Officially Avuncular Joe Biden Voice* Geez Louise do ya gotta get on my ass about the frickin’ plagiarism again. I culturally appropriated it from Twitter. I did not come up with “Vanderpump Sucks lol” on my own. I wasn’t familiar enough with the show to think like that.

I like it, though. It’s a good line. A number of exceptionally intelligent Twitterati had been posting about Vanderpump Rules for some time. When I read the show’s Wikipedia page, I couldn’t even figure out what the premise was. That’s how vague and vapid the descriptions were. The other materials I skimmed online, from some fan pages, made it sound dreadful. Then I found myself in a motel room on a night when USA was airing Modern Familynot my beloved Garbage by Dick Wolf, and I happened upon Vanderpump Rules while surfing the channels to see what else was bad.

I left it on at a background volume for an hour and change while I did laundry in the sink and checked in on the storylines from time to time. It was amazingly dreadful. The episode I caught was, from what I gathered, a recap of the preceding season. It was the same rotten shit over and over again. They went out partying in Malibu, and they yelled at each other. They flew to Miami Beach, where they went partying and yelled at each other about their sexual insecurities and rivalries. They flew to Aruba to go partying, and they had another tearful shouting match about their latest torrid love triangle. For all I know maybe it was Cabo or Acapulco or Cozumel. I wasn’t following it too closely. The sink full of my underwear was more appealing.

This whole spectacle was narrated in a dissonantly deadpan male voice, more like a documentary than the breathless expressions of shock I’d come to expect on “reality” shows. It was way too calm and matter-of-fact. The effect was about that of the urbanely sonorous narrator from the Ken Burns documentary treasury voicing over an hour straight of Komodo Dragon slasher footage, with the same spare, poignant fiddle music. (“Ashokan Farewell” as a fiddle solo doesn’t exactly do justice to the utter horrors of the Civil War, but that outfit isn’t anachronistic enough for Edwin Starr. So it fucking goes.) It was constant, unrelenting emotional acting-out. Everyone on the show was a miserable screaming cunt. They were all visibly haunted by their own lust, jealousy, and wrath. The women were louder and more tearful than the men, but the men weren’t any great shakes themselves; most of them looked like they were larping stone-cold assholes in a bid to convince themselves that they weren’t just as troubled as the women they were trying to seduce.

These boors all lived in a state of what looked like alarmingly arrested development. They operated under the flaky auspices of their den MILF, Lisa Vanderpump, a socialite whose accent didn’t so much conform to any liminal point on the linguistic spectrum between her native England and her adoptive California as to her own generically posh standing. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard poseurs from New York and Philadelphia talk like her, and probably ones from Chicago. The guy I talked to on the Coast Starlight who was dressed like Robin Hood and was actually from Metairie or some shit had a bit of that going on himself. Lisa Vanderpump had a strong botox spinster air about her. From what I could tell, instead of children she had this collection of young adult lushes, ostensibly to run her bar, and a weakly matronly interest in keeping them from shitting too violently where they ate on account of their shambolic workplace shagfests. In fact, no one on the show had children, or nieces or nephews for that matter. They were all too busy being loudmouthed drunks.

It was a terrible scene. Most of these people looked like they were on track for suicide by forty. If I saw anyone acting like them in real life I’d be worried. These fools were on camera going headlong into a void of their own making. No one had the sense to intervene and show them a better way. It was the bystander effect all around. We’re all just here for the lulz, you know. These were some of the most visibly troubled people I’d ever seen in any venue, real-life or literary, insatiable thrill- and risk-seekers hurting towards imminent existential crises due to their own untampered desires, and even their mother figure Lisa mostly seemed to figure, oh well, kids will be kids.

Incredibly, one of the premises of Vanderpump Rules is that these lost souls are gainfully and steadily employed. They supposedly tend bar and the like at Vanderpump’s club. Eight hours a week of structured work or study time should suffice to keep most people from turning out that bad. Then again, these “jobs” don’t vanish when the “employees” “holding” them jet off to Puerto Vallarta at will to–what else?–go partying. Like, everyone does that, right?

Of course not, but I gather that the idea of this awful show isn’t to follow the ordinary lives of ordinary people. Nor is it the first clue in American popular culture that we have a deeply unhealthy relationship to work. These miserable cunts don’t come close to the 30:1 work-to-flimflamming ratio that prevails on The Office. I remind my readers again that that series is supposedly about a corporate office, and that it is apparently not intended as a Faulknerian journey into a world unfathomed, but as a commentary on what we (who the fuck is us?) all do for a living, as Americans with payroll jobs.

I get, although just barely, the escapist appeal that Vanderpump Rules can have for the drearily employed. I cannot fucking imagine how it could do anything to the unemployed but to cause them to recoil in visceral horror. That’s been me for all too much of my life, and everything about that lot of sorry cases looks like the most self-destructive ways I’d possibly behave if I fell in with the worst possible drinking buddies. It isn’t even that I’m worried about developing a drinking problem; for years now I’ve figured that I generally drink too little alcohol, not too much. I’ve known drunks who don’t act like that, and I’ve known sober people who slouch towards that Gomorrah.

It occurs to me that video and computer games, so widely vilified for turning a rising generation or two into useless, lazy couch potatoes, have saved countless lives. They’re the source of structure and purpose that many people have today. They’re the replacements for workplaces and voluntary organizations. In many cases, I suppose they inspire better player behavior than Lisa Vanderpump and her managers. Some games are execrable, but the headspace in others is pretty healthy and wholesome. And shit, they’re probably cheaper and less subversive to the overclass than regular socialization in meatspace.

The good news is that there does seem to be a threshold at which people at loose ends stop stirring up scorched-earth drama to fill the void, consequences be damned, and become content with their own boring lives. The bad news is that this threshold is roughly the same as the threshold of mental retardation, if not a bit below. That is, it pays to be retarded. Every form of price has its refuge, we might say. Slow and steady wins the race. On second thought, slow should be good enough.

What? Do you think I’m happy because I’m so bright? Tard please. It’s a mixed blessing. I don’t wanna wax Pauline on an Ephesian’s ass all night long, but it can be an affliction. Christ wasn’t distressed at Gethsemane because he was all slow on the uptake and shit. There are times when my extraordinary memory and perceptiveness feel like a cross I’m too weak to bear. This sounds way the fuck too much like a second mass reading, but like Det. O’Hara’s beloved crunk, it comes from inside, *ostentatiously sworn chest-tapping motion* from right here.

What rules (lol) about Vanderpump’s squad is that although they’re far from the threshold of retardation, they’re also by all appearances none too bright. They’d be too drunk to arise from their stupors if they were. Believe me on this; I’d be Rob Ford on the subject of Jamaicans for hours on end if I had to suffer through that shit as a participant. No, that wouldn’t be a drinking problem; it would be the blessed alternative to a sobriety problem.

It all just goes to show that it’s possible to have extreme emotional dysregulation AND mediocre intelligence. God bless.

The implications of some of this stuff are bleak. The Vanderpumpers are some screwy motherfuckers for not having hobbies. There’s a reason why the Menendez Brothers played chess by mail. There’s also a reason why I stay away from Donovan: I don’t need those two teaching me chess. The Vanderpump Rules drunkards are prisoners of their own tragic psychic and social impulses, but there’s no reason not to learn the same lessons from actual prisoners. There’s a story about Bernie Madoff, kind of funny but ultimately pretty sad, and his excessive free time in Butner. Madoff’s a member, along with Jonathan Pollard and a handful of nobodies, of the Jewish gentlemen’s kaffeeklatsch. Coffee Hour is something that passes for a weekend high holiday in the federal prison system, and these fellows have extra coffee hours to go while away their extra time, which they’ve got in such abundance that the Bereans ought to go back to Kentucky and leave it wrongly undivided. Anyway, some of the other gents in the group have a real thing for speculating about the homosexuality of anyone who crosses their mind. One day, Madoff supposedly got fed up with this Doppler Gaydar live feed, and interrupted it: “It’s always queer this, queer that. Don’t you have anything better to talk about?”

As I said, it’s kind of sad. This wasn’t the rhetorical question it should have been. There was, alas, an answer: No. Granted, prisons are terrible places, earthly hells that ruin inmates in mind, body, and soul. Bernie asked a troubling question, though, certainly more troubling than his offer to help the prison out with its bookkeeping (say what, now): What happens when we’ve told all the stories?

The nice thing about forgetfulness is that we forget what we don’t remember and are ready to learn it anew. That’s pretty fucking sad itself, but it’s better than Butner. Say, maybe it isn’t the best idea to make criminals sit around all day in a half-supervised cage warren with a bunch of other criminals and minimal outside stimulation.

Dr. Kaczynski would like to thank you all for coming to his Ted Talk. Yeah, yeah, I guess we’re better off with Mr. Explodeypants and that Rudkin freak in long-term storage in the Weatherless Underground, but still. And why the fuck we’ve gotta keep Bob down there just on account of the Russian connection is beyond me. Were they just trying to make sure that the Tsarnaev kid wasn’t the only one showing up there from the FBI?

As John Mellencamp puts it, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone. I don’t think most listeners have any idea how fucking deep and disturbing this is. I didn’t give it any serious thought until a few months ago. It’s a hell of a letdown, if you think about it. This, I have to suspect, is what the raging young things on Vanderpump Rules are trying to forestall, the calm after the storm. As I said, it’s why we take up hobbies. They’re better than being bored. So is a job guarantee, but we’re as mature enough as a nation for that as we are for a studio-shitcanned Mellencamp song about an interracial couple. We’re here for the teen power ballads, not the deep shit. Crystal Harris wasn’t kidding: we’re all just here for the fun stuff.

How the fuck do I keep remembering that name and who the hell that is? The only mysteries of the Rosary that I can reliably place on their customary days of the week are the sorrowful, but, what, eight or nine years later I can still recall verbatim language used by Hugh Hefner’s ultimate girlfriend and the powerfully cursed energy of their interview with Larry King.

A man’s wife and their son’s baseball coach: it’s a beautiful thing. Hef and Harris were bowling together, not alone. Then she turned into too much of a fucking ditz even for him. I wasn’t too surprised. It lasted while it lasted, and it lasted through a geezer-to-geezer conversation during which the eye-rollingly bored trophy fiancée didn’t appear entirely familiar with the concept of Barack Obama.

Here’s the pathetic part: that was still a marked improvement over Vanderpump Rules. As they say about sex in Maine, it’s all relatives. That’s better than Vanderpump Rules, too, and I can’t say that it necessarily produces the worst cats.

A backup GretaWire for maximum convenience of truth

Guys. Greta Thunberg isn’t just a concerned young citizen. She’s a clairvoyant-savant who can see carbon dioxide wafting out of smokestacks. Don’t take my word for it. Take her mother’s:

Greta is able to see what other people cannot see.  She can see carbon dioxide with the naked eye. She sees how it flows out of chimneys and and changes the atmosphere in a landfill.

Lolwut. Your daughter can do what, now?

This is everything that’s wrong with celebrity environmental activism in a single short paragraph. This was already a case of an amateur celebrity uttering what could be construed as diktats about how other people are to live their lives, in the specific form of a teenager who was encouraged to skip school and sit around on the sidewalk like a bum all day because her message was so special and important. The ESP claim dials the act up to 11. In addition to the usual hearty self-esteem of celebrity, itself rather obnoxious, and in addition to the usual highbrow carrying-on about respect for disability, we now have the mother of the Rain Man’s betrothed declaring that the young woman can literally see a form of pollution that others, by definition most of them poorer and less influential, are too insensitive to notice.

This is a terrible look. Special Needs Joan of Arc and her Truancy Tour make concerns about climate change look like nothing but the latest way for the affluent to buy themselves and their kin privileges, both tangible and intangible, while the rabble, idiotic losers that they are, have to go to class. This bullshit is worrisome because the cause Greta is championing, the no-shit truth that burning millennia of accumulated fossil fuels in a matter of decades has a series of dangerously destabilizing effects on the global climate, is a very real and serious one. I’m lucky to be in Santa Rosa, of all places, right now, and not in the paths of the floods and tornados back east, or the deadly heat wave that set in over Northern India, or the dewpoints of up to 82 degrees Fahrenheit that were recorded this week in South Texas. The fires haven’t gotten going around here this season, but that’s only so far.

It’s no hoax or illusion that this wholesale conversion of stored elemental carbon into atmospheric carbon dioxide is upsetting the Goldilocks climatic regime of the past few centuries and millennia, the one under which settled agriculture began and then spread around the globe. It is not credulous to believe that there is indeed some even worse shit coming down the pike on account of this upsetting of the global carbon balance, or that it is bringing us to the outer limits of what meteorologists and climatologists can reliably predict.

Ironically, Greta Thunberg’s maternal proxy claim of PSP isn’t as outrageous as it appears on its face. Conferencegoers become drowsy not just from the speakers but from poor ventilation causing spikes in carbon dioxide concentrations. This is accidental sedation using the same principle as smoking a beehive to sedate its colony. The concentrations are often double or more those that have been measured recently at the Mauna Loa Observatory, but it’s conceivable that there are people who are sensitive to variations in the 300-500 ppm range, not just 300-1,000 or more. Granted, I’m amenable to spiritual, supernatural, paranormal, and other nonscientific explanations that annoy the hell out of the IFLS crowd, so take it for what you think it’s worth. I’ve met people who I believe have such gifts to some extent or other, though, so I’m not too concerned about what some Dawkinsbot is screaming about John Hagee dopes or what have we.

The Thunberg case doesn’t sound like anything of the sort. It sounds like Goop-ass yuppie woo-woo combined with excessive parental stage management. I get a bad vibe from her mother showing up to mouth off about this spectacular nonsense. It calls to mind Michael Jackson and JonBenet Ramsey. It seems best for parents to pump the brakes on such juvenile ambition, not step on the gas. Celebrity massively fucks up fully grown adults all the time. It seems that it might have an even worse effect on children and adolescents. There was a spate of reports a few years ago, for example, that Macaulay Culkin had not turned out all right. OTOH, the latest material I skimmed just now suggests he’s gotten over the worst of his club-shambling, and I’m just some putz with a blog.

Nah, celebrity is just plain bad. I had a pushy group of friends treat me like their own private celebrity years ago, and it was exasperating. I figure it should be impossible for any normal person.

Then again, these are perhaps not particularly normal people. I did a triple-take when I read the line about Greta being able to see invisible carbon dioxide emissions at their sources. When I first read it, I’d been doing some intense, upsettingly deep reading in a state of extreme sleep deprivation and emotional volatility. I’d been walking around the California State Capitol grounds whimpering the Hail Mary in tears, as one does, that kind of thing, the Normal One that one has downtown. Then I had trouble looking it up because I kept going to a different site than the one where I’d found it. I figured, gee, maybe I just imagined that; that can’t be for real. I didn’t want to assume that the dipshittery went that deep.

It does. It just goes to show how bizarre such celebrities are, how unlike ordinary people. How does one even achieve such grandiosity and certitude? When such inflated self-esteem entrenches itself factionally in politics, as a claim of infallible group virtue, the results are disastrous. In the United States, we can see this in the Republican Party’s capture by religiously combative business elites and the Democratic Party’s capture by notionally liberal secular academic elites. There’s a party for the provincial aristocracy, there’s a party for the cosmopolitan clerisy, and for the rest of us there’s sweet fuck-all. Hence an entire nation of three hundred-some million governed by two theoretically adversarial superminorities of its most obnoxious citizens.

It’s awesomely gross to imagine this same mentality manifesting itself as the overweening self-importance of an individual, but there’s sadly little need to imagine it. You may, for example, be familiar with Al Gore. The international environmental action conference circuit is bursting with such phonies: Clooney, DiCaprio, Branson, the Gateses, the Obamas, Billary as one or as both. The list may be exhausting, but it’s far from exhaustive.

It’s a bit mortifying, quite honestly, to ponder what some of the bit players who apparently make a real effort to walk the talk must think of these blowhards logging hundreds of thousands of miles a year on their Gulfstreams to dick around in diverse styles of deluxe resorts and/or run their mouths about carbon footprints. Greta Thunberg and her people swear that she travels within Europe by train, and that much I have no reason to doubt. More European travelers should do so. It’s disgraceful that the EU and the EEC have facilitated Ryanair and at the same time allowed Europe’s passenger rail system to remain so expensive and disjointed. The environmental damage of overseas flights out of Europe could be reduced by concentrating flights to Asia in Warsaw and Helsinki and flights to the Americas in Lisbon and Shannon. The average European has no good reason to fly to Sharm al-Sheikh, but the environmental effects of flying there would be less out of Athens than Schipol, Gardermoen, or that obscure Home Counties landlubbers’ village turned world-class airside clusterfuck, Heath Row.

Seriously, this isn’t as crazy as it sounds. I’ve reduced the carbon footprints of many of my own transcontinental trips in the US by taking the train to interior airports, including Chicago (both, unfortunately; Midway sucks ass), Denver, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas. I’ve also made three transcontinental trips entirely on Amtrak. It’s manageable for those who aren’t in a huge hurry, and frankly, way too many Americans are in a huge hurry for no justifiable reason.

The distances in Europe are shorter, and much of the continent is transected by high-speed rail lines that smoke anything we’ve got stateside. Europe’s permissive regulatory regime for internal civil aviation is bonkers. Here, at least, Thunberg is 100% right: rail is the way to go. Screw the airlines; they’re free to go into businesses other than bullshit  cross-Channel hops between London and Amsterdam.

Yet there she is, associating with Al Gore and his fellow-traveling absurdly opulent hypocrites. The cognitive dissonance of being surrounded by people who are living such a lie must be overwhelming. Somehow not thinking about it, not even letting it cross one’s mind, would be an adaptive response, but it’s so ridiculously hard to miss. The extent to which climate change denialists on the American right wing loathe Al Gore has been in widespread circulation practically for Thunberg’s entire life. The moment he went on tour with his Inconvenient Truth, as contrasted with own exceptionally convenient living and travel arrangements, he evolved as a RWNJ folk devil from the sighing Sore-Loserman lockbox blowhard, complete with the killjoy schoolmarm of a wife whose panties were always in a bunch because she was scandalized by the movies, into the world’s premier climate hypocrite, the guy demanding from his mansions and private jets that working stiffs give up their SUV’s.

Even someone who is blessedly unaware of the crazy shit constituting soi-disant conservative thought in the United States today would, we’d assume, notice the untenable hypocrisy of Gore’s constant refusal to live beneath his own means as a rich man worried about the environmental effects of unrestrained luxury. This should be inescapably obvious. In her own travels, after all, Greta Thunberg reassures her audience that she does what she can as an individual to avoid flying at all. Shouldn’t this put her, if nobody else around her, in a position to express her misgivings about her supposed allies in the cause being chauffeured by Gulfstream all over hell? Is she THAT well-trained not to criticize her class peers?

Maybe it’s just that she’s wealthy, cosmopolitan, and European. Gore probably still has some currency in Europe as the presidential candidate who honorably accepted his dishonorable defeat at the hands of the shockingly alien George W. Bush and his coterie of dirty tricksters. Gore comports himself roughly like any number of Europe’s residual discreet nobles and royals. Continental Europe still has a number of constitutional monarchies whose sovereigns, let alone heirs and collateral members, would be able to travel around the United States just about unrecognized. W, by contrast, spent his governorship and presidency carrying on like an embarrassing shithead the Windsors would have exiled to the colonies. He was exactly what disgusts and alarms Europeans about Americans, a brash, proudly homicidal sadist bragging about his being born again and smugly signing death warrants in the name of God. (He has, of course, since improved in stature as a contrast to the current Oaf of Office.)

Much of the excuse-mongering for jetsetting celebrity climate activists, though, seems more universal than that. Emmanuel Macron, a fastidiously pro-European anti-Trump career technocrat, provoked the yellow vest protests by moving to balance the French national budget on the backs of workaday provincial motorists and let the elite jet set off the hook for its much higher per capita carbon emissions. The struggling lower-middle class read this move as an austerity scam, not the environmental protection measure the Sciences-Po crew claimed it to be. Nobody drove a tractor to Paris and hosed government buildings down with cow shit to protest the callous imperiousness of US officials.

In fact, the popular sentiment across wide swathes of the Global West–nay, even the world at large; fuckin’ Duterte, dawg–is for renewed nationalism as a belated check on runaway internationalism. This sentiment has a whole lot of incumbent elites around the world spooked. They fear the mob. This acting-out has to be irrational and bigoted, they insist.

The scene gets confusing when other transnational elites show up to plot with and back fashy trash like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, and when the same seedy characters draw the bulk of their support from elites within their own countries, not from working stiffs. The loudest noise about nationalism from either side of these fights, however, consistently arises from the working premise that the fight is between ordinary citizens of sovereign nations and transnational elites whose primary concern is the international order, not national interests. A jarring example of this is the potential battery of global effects of Brazil’s prerogative as a sovereign nation to clearcut its lion’s share of the Amazon Basin from edge to edge. Bolsonaro’s public stance is one of fuck all y’all, we’re going in. Given the importance of tropical rainforests as drivers of the global water cycle, this seems maybe not so good, perhaps a cause for some form of international intervention.

Another fun layer of this longue durée Shit Napoleon is the extent to which local or national sovereignty in many countries, notably including Brazil and the United States, has traditionally featured the inalienable right of the local overclass to have its way with the racialized local underclasses. This is the skeleton key to the horrors of what passes for federalism in the United States. Why the hell wouldn’t we have a war over that? It’s easy to see why impressively white characters of impressively privileged backgrounds such as Bolsonaro, Oscar Pistorius, Elon Musk, or the Third Successive Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Secessions might chafe at international inquiries into their doings. Or, under an uncomfortably strong federal government, federal inquiries.

I don’t know why I included Oscar on this list; he’s just a bladerunner who killed his wife and then blamed black street criminals. One can understand, for that matter, why certain Johnny-come-lately Germans in certain high-latitude parts of South America might find national sovereignty more comforting than intrusions on the part of international organizations, let alone the skullduggery of third-country spy shops visiting from parts abroad yet to mothball the gallows. It’s funny how just about every inhabitable high-latitude landmass in the Southern Hemisphere manages to take part, along with Europe and North America, in the global Fancy Cracker Cycle. It’s uncanny to encounter well-bred Swedes in the United States, well-bred Danes in South Africa, and formerly landed Seth Effricans and Rhodesians in Australia all using the same indignant talking points about socialism and minority crime. Yankees with bugout spreads in Argentina mostly just yell about socialism and pitch investment scams in their e-mail blasters, although they, too, managed to find one of the white spots on a dark continent.

Did you think there was just one? And by sweet Sugarman, did you think you could get away from it?

That said, the idea of liberal elites having ulterior motives for their causes is not a crazy one. A great deal of their shtick is not exactly aboveboard.

The commencement speaker this year at *MY OLD SCHOOL*, Dickerson Collitch, was Pierce Brosnan. The justification for inviting these tendentious fuckheads up onto the steps of Old West to bother a dutiful captive audience with whatever happy horseshit happens to tickle their fancy is always that they are the worthiest of the year’s honorary doctoral conferees. Somehow this feels even worse than just picking some random asshole’s name out of a hat. The justification provided seems to do nothing but degrade the speechifying even further. One year they had Christiane Amanpour over for this honor, probably because she was already on television all the time. Another year they trotted out the predictably slimy Ed Rendell, for roughly the same reason. In fairness, Rendell had an easy time appearing gubernatorial on account of his hapless opponents, including an ex-Steeler whose campaign amounted to being the Republican nominee and bloodlessly referring to a grab bag of muddleheaded conservative platitudes as “Pittsburgh Values,” a Libertarian freak who lit a five-dollar bill on fire during a debate to demonstrate the worthlessness of fiat currency, and a Republican opponent who reacted to that stunt with an ill-humored lecture about how he believed that was a federal crime. John Jones, whose speech wasn’t too bad, was given the mandamus of the faculty and the rights and privileges appertaining to the audience’s ass because he was an alumnus who had been in the news, never mind that it had been for nothing more than doing his damn job when his docket got beshitted by the litigious aftermath of some biblethumping shitheads taking over a school board. Last year they gave a guy an honorary doctorate and a platform because he’d gone to Dickinson, inherited a family lake house in the Adirondacks, and been in charge of LL Bean. His talk was unbelievably good for a rambling spoken-word autobiography about emptying the wicker backpack of one’s life every now and then, a wicker backpack that he’d seen in a whole-body vision years before he saw it in the catalog (White People), and how the entire graduating class would be getting that same wicker backpack as a gift from him and the company, obnoxiously White non-ergonomics and all, a speech using hundreds of words to say what that Ethiopian bus driver in Martinez said in all of seven: Wow, you have a lot of stuffs!

The stuffs they carried, so heavy on the back because the straps were designed to be gently counterergonomic. Brain geniuses that they are who arrange these programs, the year following Stephen Smith’s story of oh, the places you will go to see about getting rid of this stupid fucking backpack I just shipped to each of you, they airlifted Pierce Brosnan in from whichever of his mansions he was enjoying to speak about how he’d just been awarded an honorary doctorate in being an environmentalist. I looked Brosnan up after I learned of his speech, and I discovered that although he’s buddies with the guy who hawks CD’s out of a cart in front of the Princeville Foodland, he is domiciled in Los Angeles. The Kauai spread is just one of his places. What else did we expect of him? He’s a movie star.

What, then, did Pierce discuss in his lecture? Why, his thoughts on how materialism is overrated and the new graduates sitting before him should go out into the world to do something deeper, not just hustle for cash.

In other news, William Howard Taft is annoyed with the neighborhood street urchins for being so preoccupied with food. When I describe college as an institution designed to exterminate the critical thinking faculties of its students and alumni, I ain’t hallucinating jack shit. Trotting out a bigshot movie star to lecture a graduating class that just completed an intensive, and exceptionally costly, multiyear college program about how money really isn’t everything is just fucking insulting. The expectation that all present reverently sit through whatever stream of condescending nonsense such a phony feels like pissing on them in whatever uncomfortable weather happens to blow into town that day is really nothing but a feudal submission ritual. Comedians and musicians get heckled all the time for nothing worse than performing kinda-shitty sets in venues where there is no taboo against audience members walking out at will. In commencement exercises, the audience PAYS to be captive. I wander around in the back when I attend such events for a reason.

Only an absentminded fool or a brainwashed idiot would show up for this horseshit thinking that it is NOT a consumer service. My understanding is that these aren’t just expensed gigs for the keynote speakers, but paid ones. These phony assholes are slushfunded honoraria to forsake their mansion collections long enough to swoop in and mouth off about the high ideals that the assembled ought to pursue, as opposed to the pursuit of wealth, fame, and worship to which the speakers themselves are objectively devoted. Then the host institutions commissioning these blowhards send out another round of junk mail to solicit alms to pay for their endlessly mounting expenses.

Excuse me, but I’m not the only one who never meant to pay for any of that shit. Convocation speeches are never, but never, ordered towards anyone’s education. Damn straight the captive payors should demand that they at least be entertaining. That’s the only way to justify Pierce Brosnan’s riding the circuit to lecture captive audiences of his inferiors about the well-examined life: it’s a barrel full of monkeys for those who are merely amused, not offended, by extreme phoniness.

The popular backlash against the shambolically insincere grandstanding of this ersatz clerisy is as predictable as it is rude. The backsass is a bitch when it finally arrives. This is what so upsets the liberal bourgeoisie and its leaders: the fear that they are losing the privilege of being worshiped cultural and civil authorities. They regard this as their birthright. This fear is why they insist, against most of the available evidence, that Trump was elevated exclusively by the deplorable basket of America’s Great Value Crackers, not put within sprinting distance of the White House by a coalition of car dealers, cardiologists, affluent retirees, and dumbass good old boys at the county waterworks who tell constituents to dilute their tap water when they fuck up and overdo the permanganate augmentation. Liberal elites are more or less comfortable with lateral dissent from the right; they shit their pants at the thought of dissent from below.

They’re scared to death that they’ll have to answer to people who can honestly, clearheadedly, forcefully demand to know why they sold them out and screwed them over. They carry around an unspeakable guilt about what they’ve done. They are conscious of grave sins they dare not confess to a rabble they fear will pursue them with swords and pikes. The extent to which the affluent Republicans they so cherish as prospective allies refuse to reciprocate their interest, instead encouraging them to go choke on dick, just adds to their panic. The incumbent Democratic leadership, as represented by such specimens as Chuck, of Chuck and Nancy, openly fantasizes about building a yuppie electoral juggernaut and finally being done with the recalcitrant hardhats that it’s halfheartedly continued to humor.

Wantonly insincere graduation speeches are just one periodic spell of magic cast by the ruling authorities to enforce mass compliance with ulterior overclass norms. Notice that there’s a great deal of dissembling and misdirection about how significant these events actually are and who exactly holds the agency to participate in them or not. Faculty and staff are paid to show up and play their parts. That much is just part of the “one third administrative bullshit” that a professor once described to me as the third third of his job, after teaching and research. It’s basically a crappy annual Equity acting gig, followed by an opportunity to socialize with colleagues and students. As I said, though, the students and parents pay for that shit. Some self-important fuckwit is up there insulting their intelligence for fifteen or twenty minutes straight, and they’re footing the bill. It’s moral hazard to just sit there in reverent silence and listen to some of that crap. It seems fit for a back-turning reverse attention ceremony like the Bridge Over the River Kwai Alumni Council did for the Emperor of Japan on his state visit to London.

Why doesn’t anyone do that more often? Out of respect for the dignity of the exercises, as best I can tell. Never mind that the keynote speakers routinely stand up and strip the exercises of all dignity by, say, pontificating from beneath a suffocating layer of smug (Pierce Brosnan), engaging in inappropriate product placement for their companies in the course off narrating their memoirs (Stephen Smith), or being Ed Rendell (Ed Rendell).

And what are the official justifications for having graduates and their kin sit through this garbage? Why, no one forced you to be here! Of COURSE the speeches are canned! By the way, though, we do really need your money to pay for academic and extracurricular programming.

The disquieting thing about this degradation of the already rather ridiculous pomp and circumstance is that those orchestrating it expect the audience to graciously submit to whatever insulting clown-ass bullshit their speakers choose to vomit forth, to keep up the act that it is in fact eloquence and wisdom, that these are bons mots of great repute, and then, no matter how annoying or useless or offensive the programming was, to whine about how they never have enough money. Call it the NPR Model.

But higher education, a bit like NPR’s business offices, is just one sector of the economy that has been licentiously allowed to grow beyond its own justifiable significance, power, and size. In the case of the undergraduate divisions, it’s theoretically four, and in practice anywhere from about two and a half to seven, years of youthful removal from the labor market (or, on in some cases, not), followed by a lifetime of adult living, whatever the fuck that manages to be. Mind you, it may be overpriced and overleveraged enough to crash the national or international economy in the next credit account slice-and-dice, but per se it accounts for fairly small percentages of the workforce and the GDP. There’s life beyond college for those of us who didn’t cross over as undergraduates to be on call for those left behind (TM), as intercessors. How, then, might the manipulative, condescending arrogance of a falsely modest convocation speech manifest itself in the broader world as we engage it (lol), and how might restive portions of the target audience react?

A survey of Greta Thunberg’s handlers and celebrity associates helps answer the first part of the question. For the second part, it’s worth a look at one of the new populist political parties in Greta’s corner of the world, after a fashion: the Finns Party.

The Swedes and the Finns have their traditional beefs, just as the Russians have their Stroganoff, but these are mostly passive-aggressive or quiescent at the moment, and the common threads that bind the Nordic Countries run pretty deep. Just as Thunberg has been curated and publicized as the conscientious voice of the world’s youth, her general worldview and style of activism are commonly upheld as the true voice of Europe.

This arrogant stance works until it doesn’t. There have always been Europeans who have smelled a rat whenever someone like Thunberg showed up. In decades past, there was enough broad prosperity that this distrust amounted mostly to a philosophical or aesthetic distaste. Over the last decade or two, however, much of Europe has fallen into variable states of socioeconomic disintegration and desperate grievance. It has nurtured mileuristas, yellow vests, and penniless Athenians donning their Sunday best to beg for change in front of the opera house.

One of the main thrusts of the Finns Party is that Europe’s internationalist trade and industrial policies have been calamitous for workaday Finns. The party’s gloss on anthropogenic climate change is a conspiratorial one: they suggest that climate change is a hoax to deindustrialize Europe and dispossess its industrial workforce. It’s a ratfuck, they say, a dirty trick by cosmopolitan elites to humiliate and subjugate the working stiffs who work the forests, the pulp mills, and the smelters. It’s a muscular party whose officials aren’t afraid to be brash; one party leader declared that if every Finn shot himself, the environmental effects of the population decline wouldn’t even be detectable.

If this sounds nutty, we ought to take a look at how the cosmopolitan elites on both sides of the pond relate to the industrial working classes. For the most part, they do so pretty squeamishly. There’s a great deal of hostility. If the working class doesn’t wage class war, the professional/managerial class sure as hell does. This faction, not the trade unions, is the wealthier, more connected one, so of course it holds the real power.

It’s impressive how widely Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment, a clumsy attempt to denounce a seedy mob of gaming den bigots, was class-coded as a top-down yuppie attack on the working class at large. Publishing gonzo screeds full of racial and sexual slurs online isn’t any more an honest job than Hillz’s own insider commodity trading, but it didn’t matter. Suddenly she was on the warpath against the white working class.

This extrapolation was an overreach strictly with respect to the basket of deplorables gaffe, which wasn’t a true gaffe so much as a memorable malapropism from a shabby public speaker. The inference of class bigotry was not, however, a holistic misinterpretation of Clinton. This is the same woman who promoted her environmental platform by bragging about her plan to put a bunch of coal miners out of work. Whatever was really going on within the minds of Clinton and her movement, it had to be bad news for industrial workers.

It’s surreal, by the way, to watch industrial policy become gendered in such a Manichean fashion. Daddy Trump famously enjoyed playing around in truck cabs and touring factories; Mommy Hillary infamously did not. The Finns Party apparently gets the bulk of its support from male voters. I can’t imagine why female voters in industrialized communities would shy away from such a party and leave it to male voters. Surely Finland has female industrial workers by now. Right? And could the war of the sexes be so total that women in these communities are voting to spite their own breadwinner husbands? The social atomization necessary to cause that would be bizarre. My guess is that much of the sex discrepancy is the result of the Finns Party winning over frustrated men who have never set foot in an industrial workplace but aspire to industrial work or something like it. It stands to reason that a populist party unabashedly blaming cosmopolitan elites for devastating the industrial base and its workforce would capture the I coulda been a contenda vote.

As I said, it’s a guess. Some of this shit doesn’t make sense.

The Finns Party’s broad critique of postindustrial neoliberalism, however, is pretty solid. The neoliberal project habitually hijacks environmental concerns to justify its rackets and scams. Deindustrializing the industrial Global North didn’t clean up the global environment and save the earth; it broke the unions and externalized the environmental costs to poor countries with dirtier production practices, corrupt governments, workplace conditions straight out of hell, and nonexistent due diligence protocols. It’s hard to enforce Finnish business standards in Vyborg, a border city in a historically Finnish and Swedish part of Russia. Doing so is effectively impossible in Vietnam or Bangladesh. The frantic mutual sycophancy that elites use to get jobs is all too real a phenomenon, and one that is unfortunately generally coded as a feminine vice. There are compelling reasons to prefer industrial jobs and the hard skills they demand to the customer service positions that are so often offered as replacements for redundant hard hats and their relatives in deindustrialized areas. Many of these service sector jobs, frankly, are hourly positions as servants catering to tourists. They combine the constant humiliating ass-kissing of the cosmopolitan elite job market with the low pay, precarity, low status, and humiliating performative social subordination of low-end wage labor. As with bourgeois office politics, this sort of work is generally coded as feminine, not masculine.

Finland’s frustrated woodsmen and factory hands may be churlish to object to this disruption of their job markets, but they aren’t crazy. The bourgeoisie and the supreme overclass have done exactly what they fear to every other country they’ve been able to seduce. Greta Thunberg and her associates don’t have to worry about their own livelihoods; such worries are for the little people, the deplorables, if we may. Europe’s working stiffs are astute to infer that they’re tempting scapegoats for contemptuous elites who are suspiciously eager to industrialize piss-poor foreign shitholes. They are not keen to be sacrificed for anything of the sort. They’re citizens, not serfs, and they know it.

This still doesn’t quite account for the Nordic cultural appropriation of the Glen Campbell Galveston gun cleaning ceremony. That much is pretty fucking crass and coarse, a hell of a stark way to frame what started out as a dispute over industrial policy. It perhaps tempts observers to amend Godwin’s Law to apply to self-harm references. At the same time, the transnational elites have been begging for it. For decades now they’ve been baiting their opponents to get terminally fed up and bluntly say, well, then, maybe we’re just too white and advanced NOT to kill ourselves, and most of us have military firearms training, you know. There’s a limit to the amount of passive-aggressive sermonizing citizens with marketable industrial skills will lie down and just take from head-in-the-clouds city slickers in the name of science or progress or Europe. The prospect of being further emasculated by the bumptious environmental pronouncements of a silver-spoon teenaged Swedish truant must badly chap their asses.

Perhaps they conflate the intersecting elements of the Pan-European neoliberal project with one another, but surely they’re among the normal ones for not having the time and energy to devote themselves full-time or more to following the intricacies of European politics. It should be enough for them to be aware of the alternating selective self-loathing and messiah complexes that drive so many European elites, plus the shady custom these elites have of using this disordered thinking to further their imperial business ventures in exploitable parts of the Global South. They correctly smell the rat. It is not an honorable or aboveboard initiative that their betters are pursuing here. They’re using some very shady racial tropes to chase the alpha of international scab labor arbitrage. They correctly discern, at some level or other, that genocide and suicide are flip sides of the same tarnished coin, and that there are those who might conspire to make the choice for them, against their own will.

I don’t know that the Finns Party is run by particularly mentally well leaders itself. I do, however, *Flippantly Swinging Spandau Ballet Voice* know this/much is/true: If every Finn shot himself, it would be an authentically Finnish finish.

*Glen Campbell, back on the line* My Good Lord, the boy ain’t all right. Well shit, Campbell, do you think the Brits were all right, either in the forties or in the eighties? That was some messed-up stuff. That’s even worse than Soviet-aligned Estonia, where is all night shift long Comrade Marvins listen to YOU!

That other line, though. “I bought a ticket to the world.” Not a whole lot of my prep school or college classmates coming back down from that, far as I can tell. It is, indeed, that which we engage.

Maybe we’ve been trained to talk too much for anyone’s good. This whole spectacle calls to mind the anecdote, in the classic Russian tradition, of the two Finns who went drinking in the sauna. The one Finn said to the other, “Cheers!”, then an hour later, “Cheers!”, and an hour later yet, “Cheers!” The other Finn looked at him and glared: “We came here to drink, not to talk!”

Kippis, you taciturn mute bitch. Za piva! I suppose it’s just as well in the end that Greta Thunberg is from Stockholm, not Helsinki. In Sweden, autism can be a personal identity. In Finland, it’s the longstanding national identity.

Sky burial

The shit that’s been going down on Everest–or perhaps up on Everest–is pathetically tragic. There are those who mine it for schadenfreude. I can’t. It’s that horrific. Maybe it’s just my foolish assumption that even ghouls have some glimmer of conscience, but I can’t imagine not being crippled with guilt to learn that I had bodily climbed over the sick, the dying, and the dead, for any reason. Soldiers come home from war devastated by the knowledge that they did so to save their own lives in the hot fog of combat. Everest’s summiteers use human corpses as footholds for no better reason than to be able to brag to their peers that they made it to the top. There’s no good reason not to lie about that. Okay, there is one: the Need to Post. We’ve got a bumper crop of dipshits scrambling up there like wild hogs for the fucking Gram. There shouldn’t be any reason not to fake the video in that case, since Photoshop works to put precious Madison’s face on a rower’s body for college admissions purposes.

This applies, however, only if we fail to account for extreme vanity. Why bum around at inhabitable elevations in Nepal and then bullshit your buddies about it when you can personally climb all the way to cruising altitude? It’s for sale, after all. The summiting process is one of the most miserable things going; what used to be merely a grueling trek through a land where man is not meant to be is now exactly that in the form of a death march assembly line. It resembles meatpacking for a reason.

Most of the people who attempt this are obviously out of their fucking minds. I hike fairly often at elevations up to 5,000 feet above sea level, and from time to time up to 10,000. I rarely start feeling faint from the altitude until at least 11,000, and I’ve twice walked around on the summit of Pike’s Peak comfortably enough, although I had to pay extra attention to my breathing. The first time, with my scout troop, I was the jackass showoff who JOGGED short sprints while our scoutmaster sat on a stoop, looking like he was about to vomit. I still think summiting Mount Everest is a terrible idea. It’s obviously unsafe, and it looks like a hellhole. Nah, a hellspit. Climbers staging for the final ascent are said to often be too altitude-sick to put on their crampons. They literally cannot put on their fucking shoes. That’s how compromised they are by the thin air. It’s an emergency if a commercial airliner loses pressurization at half that altitude, but they didn’t pay a hundred grand a pop to give up just because they’ve lost the executive function to dress themselves.

The pay-to-play permitting regime is one of the worst aspects of the summiting frenzy on Everest. The infamous photo showing nothing but climbers for a hundred-odd yards up to the top is actually not the result of a strictly laissez-faire framework. Every one of those fuckwads supposedly had a permit from the Nepalese government. The problem is that there are no fitness standards for getting a permit. Any ambulatory wheezing wonder with the cash to pay a Sherpa wannabe dipshit for guide services can get one. Some guy on the Takeaway said that the entry bid to get a newjack hustler from the valley floor who’s got no business dicking around at Base Camp is $50,000. $100,000 is what it takes to get someone who knows what the fuck he’s doing. Nepal is said to be exceptionally corrupt: no surprise for a poor country that serves as a company town for rich Western tourists. What else did we expect? It’s the resource curse, basically the same deal as oil, diamonds, or rare earths.

It strikes me that the rich tourists involved in this bullshit are paying for something much more insidious than guide services, reputable or questionable. They’re paying to be praised as pioneers, bad-ass explorers, conquerors. These are often ones who pay for such praise in every other area of their life. All they have to do is fire everyone who isn’t a groveling suckup. The help know the drill and keep themselves strategically tactful. This means not calling a man an arrogant fool just because that’s what he obviously is. Bringing this practice into the target cruise altitude range for a fucking 757 isn’t the best idea, but we aren’t here to engage only in sensible, non-life-threatening ideas, now, are we? But of course, we most certainly are not. I once flew from Chicago to Phoenix on a 757 at a cruising altitude of 19,000 feet, and the pilots pressurized the aircraft, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t shoot for a cool ten above that with maybe some scuba gear, since you’re already such a business champion and shit, and winners don’t quit.

I haven’t looked into this, but I’d guess that there’s a fair amount of overlap between Everest’s pay-to-play summiteer dipshits and big game hunting tourists in but definitively not of Africa. Waka waka hey hey, bitch, it be time. I once leafed through a big game hunting magazine, and Lordy is there some unspoken, unspeakable colonial psychosexual shit going on in that cracker basket vis-à-vis the local color they hire as guides. The leopard may not gaze back–the whole point to the guide hoisting it up is that it’s dead–but the abyss fucking does.

This is the shit people do with wealth. I could swear, once these fuckheads stop having to trade off cheaper airfare for older scotch they turn into degenerate lion sport shooters and fellow-traveling trash. They never shoot the lion because it’s a maneater; that’s an unsporting loser move for the local darkies to make. They shoot Cecil because he’s a big bad cat and their dicks are small. It’s their penis mightier. Or they shoot Jericho the Lion, whose brother, Cecil, was also a lion. #TheMoreYouKnow, pussy.

This is what they do with disposable income. I’d love to see what they’d do without it, such as spend less time scrambling over their competitors’ fresh remains along a trail of trash and turds. Linear Pot-o-Shit Friend is now the least awful thing about Everest. If that’s how they spend their money, shitting in a high-altitude snowbank next to an illegal dump and climbing over their fellows’ lifeless bodies, soon to be abandoned to the mountain, for a shot at the pitiful bit of glory they bought themselves, they could do to have less of that long green.

Raise the top marginal rates.

Gore not, lest thou thyself be Gored

Al Gore is infamously a colossal hypocrite, a self-serious climate scold who jets around the world from megamansion to luxury conference to megamansion. It’s a terrible fucking look, this limousine liberal intoning ominously about the looming catastrophe that we face if “we” don’t do something about “our” consumption, conveniently (not inconveniently) defined to exclude Al, the first-person speaker, from us, the first-person plural.

The complementary auras of austerity for thee but not for me and self-loathing breast-beating about being sinners in the hands of an angry Earth are terrible for any political movement that isn’t hard-right; it makes the entire left look childish, disingenuous, deranged, and powerfully sick, while making the science-optional nihilistic hard right at least look like a coherent band of adults forcefully demanding and seizing that which they claim as their due. Association with the likes of Al Gore is a loser’s proposition. It draws attention to the cause, but so much of that attention is so discrediting that even the most genuine, sincere, nuts-and-bolts activists, the ones actually walking the talk, inevitably get tainted by the ostentatious presence of that appalling phony in their movement.

The appearance that Gore actually believes any of this shit on some level may be his greatest political liability. He probably lost the electoral vote in 2000 due to the rap he got as a self-serious drone and killjoy, a second coming of Jimmy Carter with an extra side of whining, facing off against an impishly charming fuckup from an even wealthier and more politically powerful family. Americans aren’t as averse to ascetic moral leadership as they’re advertised to be by the It’s Always Sundown in Simi Valley brigade, as Carter demonstrated in the more competent and no-nonsense months of his presidency, but we can smell a phony or a bitter try-hard coming from a mile away. My man Long Face fell into that same trap in 2004 but harder, to my unfolding horror and disappointment, against the same smirking dry-drunk cokehead. This let’s-grab-a-brewski bullshit about personability is not the sole determinant of electability in American politics, but it’s important, especially when a candidate with irrepressible charm and confidence tap dances the fuck all over some tongue-tied old fuddy-duddy, whiny scold, or condescending Masshole silver spoon who’s too bashful to follow his own fucking instincts and just call it as he sees it.

We just referred to Al Gore’s old boss for a reason. Bill Clinton has lost his polish in his old age, but he was a natural. Carbon footprint? Lol. Big Dog don’t care. That prick, once thick and famously slick, now so weak and cadaverous, can still be induced to say any degrading, humiliating thing before a live audience and television simulcast just to get his hectoring wife off his ass for the rest of the evening and go back to what he cherishes: dicking bimbos. It’s sleazy, but it’s more or less normal. Slick Willie’s yuck factor has jumped over the course of his wife’s formal political career as he has gone soft and capitulated to her demands for twee sentimental horseshit, but he still doesn’t particularly act like he gives a shit, since Hillz is his wife, not his /Borat Voice/ My Intern.

Through the lens we’ve been using, Al Gore looks pathetic. A specific examination of his business ventures as an emeritus vice president, however, shows him to be less embarrassing as a grown-ass man but ever so much sleazier and more crooked. It’s all too obvious from records of his business ventures that he flies the climate circuit for a living. For the conspiratorially minded, it’s easy to imagine why the oil companies might prefer to have this sleazy, sighing phony dipshit (or DiCaprio and associates) as the public face of climate change instead of their own internal technical reports from decades ago, which predicted almost exactly what is happening today.

Let’s take a look behind the fucking curtain, eh. As I said, this dude is sleazy. He’s awfully aggrieved and anxious, too, for someone so rich and comfortable. Thing is, though, it’s basically an act. I don’t know what else to make of the fucker’s antics. Maybe it’s a method acting project gone awry; staying in character for so long seems risky, an excellent path into the Twilight Zone. Gore has always been something of a whiny dork, which helps his business in ways that Slick Willie barely even trying to pretend to give a shit would not.

That Canucklink is a real rabbit hole. Look around internally from link to link, and before long you’ll find copious stories of Money Canucks behaving disreputably in pursuit of more of that bitchin’ beaver buck, but I don’t know who the fuck most of them are, and they aren’t hilarious enough for immediate international canucksploitation, so I don’t really care.

Alas, I know exactly who Al Gore is, or thought I did. I had no idea that he was involved in a venture capital scheme to sell indigent Kenyans solar-powered home televisions on the subprime market using a subscription service requiring DAILY payments of roughly $0.50 US, with remote shutoff and negative credit references for late payments, as well as comprehensive datamining of all subscribers. Waka waka fuckin’ hey hey. It’s curious, in a way not at all inconvenient to Al Gore or the truths he lives, that it’s never time for Africa to receive nonexploitative foreign aid, free of cumbersome, treacherous strings, from his kind. Is it even possible for these filthy-rich scumbags not to blackmail piss-poor African peasants over late payments of fifty cents? Would that be too reputable? Al Gore is supposedly worth, if you can believe it, $350 million. Dot-org, lol. These are great numbers that keep popping up. Seriously, though, I never imagined the boor being worth that much. I knew he was rich, with his mansion archipelago and all, but I assumed he bought most of his lifestyle at the discount window, as one does at his station. With all the foundation sugar-sweet that fucker suckles and the high profile he maintains, there’s no reason he needs even ten million in assets under his personal control to live like a king.

This scheme is inevitably a strange attractor for the usual suspects, including quasi-Kenyan Mocha Haole and his cuddle buddy Richard Branson, along with some that we might find unusual: C-List Eurotrash, D-List Canadian foundation shysters, local contact scumbags to put a useful indigenous face on the operation. Why, of course I respect African culture! Mobutu Sese Seko is a friend! I don’t follow East African politics or civil society closely enough to have the foggiest clue where M-Pesa’s local color sits on the totem pole, and most of what I do follow comes from Eyder Peralta, mainly for aesthetic reasons. Scout’s Honor, his Twitter handle is EyDerp. Did I take some liberties transcribing that? Not compared to NPR, I fucking didn’t.

It’s eerie to hear so many of the same names popping up time and time again, on multiple platforms. Just the other day, intersectional librarian-grade dork and radio MILF Mary Louise Kelly interviewed some Eurotrash dipshit from Avaaz about how awful it is that European voters are consuming right-wing fake news from unapproved sources (as opposed to center-right fake news from NPR, for example). I couldn’t believe it because Avaaz keeps showing up in the Canucklinks I’d been reading about these international men and women of surprising mystery in the mainstream climate activist movement, the one-degree-of-Al-Gore crowd. I’ve read only glancingly about Avaaz, but its name keeps showing up as a doer of the dirty work that is PR for these characters, so, of course, lo and behold, it fields some butthurt Eurodork to bitch about how ordinary Europeans are being brainwashed by the wrong propagandists.

The leading Eurodork in this movement today is one Greta Thunberg, a young Swede. If you’re more blessed than me, you’ve never heard of her. This avowedly autistic chick showed up out of nowhere at the age of fifteen, playing hooky in front of government buildings in Stockholm to demand action on climate change. All of a sudden, she’s riding the conference circuit–by train within Europe for the street cred and the bitchin’ rides, presumably by plane for the overseas trips beyond the reach of Eurail–and being lauded for her great principle and bravery. The bravery part doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense, frankly; sure, she skips school for these events, but if the Swedes are as laidback about truancy as they are about adults getting a damn job, they don’t give a shit, and I’m pretty sure they’re cool with the most ridiculous alternative schools, sic or not.

It turns out, additionally, that Thunberg comes from a wealthy and quite prominent family. It’s odd that we hear so little in the effusively positive reports covering her activism any mention of the rather germane circumstances of her upbringing. As Swedes go, she’s no Kamprad, but then again, neither are the Kamprads; remember, IKEA is a Dutch company now, and old man Ingmar was basically Swiss for most of his life, also for tax purposes. Actually, she may come from a MORE prominent family, in strictly cultural terms; she’s descended from a number of bigshot artists and also from Svante Arrhenius, not from weaselly expatriate captains of industry.

We don’t hear about this because it is not meant to be any of our business. It is our business, obviously, but it is, again not inconveniently, omitted from the agendas prepared for us by our betters, just as Thunberg’s occasional class-traitorous comments before the Davos set are scrubbed from the official public releases.

Why do these people carry on so? They’re doing all right themselves, and so much of their social conscience is blatant horseshit. Thunberg is one of the rare cases who is principled enough to stray off-script and have to be edited after the fact for the general audience, who might otherwise get the wrong ideas about not tolerating the transnational overclass in its current bloated form. Al? He doesn’t go off-reservation. Barry? Hell no, Mocha Haole was a CIA brat, then a carpetbagging Chicago machine operator. These guys aren’t dumb. They know who not to cross. They know what it takes to hog that prime spot at the tit, and they do what it takes.

But why? Why does Al Gore keep showing up to march in climate rallies? That isn’t work in any reputable or meaningful sense, but it is effort. Why isn’t he off fondling masseuses instead? I mean, he does that, too, but why doesn’t he do more of that and less circuit-riding preacher man shit? He’s already loaded.

Maybe that bullshit is what it takes to get the good free eats from the discount window. I don’t have any reason to suspect that he’s being blackmailed for his life or liberty, or even for any significant portion of his personal wealth. Maybe there’s some narcissism involved, but it’s hard to imagine that he, having narrated his own jarred head episodes on Futurama, can hold a candle to either of the Clintons here. He’s actually hella down-to-earth by comparison.

This still doesn’t explain the fucking mansions. It’s like these characters truly have no sense of enough. At some point, one would think, the maximalism would sate them and they’d start going semiminimalist, or at least not maintaining their OWN mansions, at their own household expense. It’s not as if this guy can’t Kato Kaelin a spot at any of the dozens of other mansions owned by peers who like the press they get for being seen with him. I’m not saying that this is a good look on them, just that they’re vain enough to assume it is. There’s no way Gore isn’t a permanent fellow at the Kato Institute. Please. At his prominence? No way is he not. Absolutely not needing the place to crash is how one gets the place to crash. Note that I did not phrase that as “you,” because it ain’t you, I assume, and it ain’t me, either, Lawd, it ain’t.

And blackmailing Kenyan shantytowns for fifty-cent daily payments? What the fuck makes someone who already cashed out bigtime with preferred stock options and speaking fees do that? The same damned greed, I suppose. God knows Billary, lately expanded to include Chelsea as a confirmed member, have this in spades. #TeshTips: For them, Charlotte is whom one discusses with the attorney general at the airport, not the airport. Sky Harbor? The entire fucking sky IS their harbor, asshole.

Notice, too, that every fucking scheme these high rollers promote turns out to be a huge scam or shakedown. Microfinance, charter schools, offshoring, you name it: these scumbags have an atrocious record. Microfinance sounded like a good idea the first few times I read about it, from those promoting it, I now realize. It turns out to be colonial usury. On second thought, even if the banking sectors in the target countries are lacking, are they so bad that the fucking jet crackers have to swoop in from the Global North? Is there nobody local, in the government or the business community or both, who can run a fucking bank? Is there no one in these entire countries who can locate and start doing business with underserved domestic communities? Kenya’s troubled; I get that. But is it THAT backwards? I don’t particularly fucking think so.

Sure enough, these assholes are even grosser and more ruthless than they look. With this shit as the status quo ante, Belt and Road make as much sense as anything else. The Chinese need only be marginally less imperious in their imperialism than the Global West. Are they, however, North or South? They self-identify as Middle, for whatever that’s worth. Not a particularly appealing crowd running that joint, to my way of thinking, but look at their competitors in my own country. Dear God what a fucking disgrace. I went to fancy schools for grades 9-17, so I can’t socialize with the people I knew as a teenager or an early twentager without running into some dipshit who assumes that these are reasonable and ethical ways of doing business, not exploitative postmodern imperial nightmares. I have parochial reasons to be disgusted with this shit, not just strictly highminded ethical ones. For their part, my old classmates from *MY OLD SCHOOLS* have parochial reasons not to question it; if they don’t personally exploit these mechanisms for paychecks, they have friends, or their kids have friends who have parents, who do.

Neoliberalism is a cancer worse than anything ever devised under Western European socialism, and worse than a great deal of Eastern Bloc communism. The Finns never came up with anything so horrific when they were two-timing us with the Soviets, not by a long shot. It isn’t even a free market regime. Does Al Gore sound like he’d care to do business in a free market, with his customers as free to leave as to keep shopping? Of course not. He’s no earnest fool. And what the hell would he hawk? Neoliberalism isn’t the sweet home of productive economic actors with eminently marketable skills. It wouldn’t be, like, 40% lawyers if it were.

For that matter, it takes quite a bit of disposable income to do the do-gooder shit down in Africa, or, from South Africa, which is way down in Africa, up in Africa. That 12:30 flight ain’t free, Madysyn. Using overseas mission-ass bullshit as blat encourages nothing so much as more aggressive parasitism, abroad and at home. It isn’t the kind of thing one can do while also, say, operating a farm. This is why the talented tenth spends so much time certifying and bragging about its skills instead of developing and honing actual skills. I’m able to personally operate a vineyard and winery day to day with minimal assistance, but let’s face it: that’s because I’m a fucking loser. I don’t see many of my school peers, even the ones who would like to do something of the sort, doing anything like that.

Mind you, it doesn’t take disposable income for Al Gore to pull that shit. For him, it PRODUCES disposable income, or at least frees it up by taking care of his food budget for the duration of the trip. Does it surprise you that he has access to a cheaper window for these opportunities than the sleazy yuppies aping him?

Imagine what these fuckers will do when, or if, rural Africa develops electrical grids and governmental institutions on par with what it already has in its better-governed urban areas. Wouldn’t that come as a shock to them. *Terminal Robert Dziekanski Voice* Kraut please, not to me. Does that look off-grid to you?

Oh. That again. Why? Because as they say in fishing, which unlike this other shit resembles work, don’t forget the pole! Farming fish is definitely work, too. Being a Mountie is work, but only on a case-by-case basis. Every long-term disability case theoretically still on the force whose detachment commander doesn’t want to anything about her sex pest corporal is the least disreputable Canadian I’ve complained about yet in this post. Even Fish Friend, last I heard, hasn’t gotten fed up enough with that outfit to go back to his net.

Perhaps we’d be wiser to rundel in a better jungle, or a more lucrative one. Monetizing a new line of Sweet Melissa of the Maritimes fiction would make more sense than anything I’ve been doing around here. So would coffeetime with Sweet Melissa, because that would involve free coffee. The lady is indeed a shepard to so many men. Mary Louise Kelly is a published author. Why the fuck am I doing this? What is this, Vaclav Havel stumbling all over himself trying to live in truth again? Well, would you czech that out?

Shit. All I can do is denounce these shady bastards. That’s about it, to add to the quorum admonishing them to bless their own goddamned rains.

You can rely on the old man’s power and his second wife’s old man’s money

Meghan “My Father” McCain blatantly owes her job, since that’s what we call such high-profile paid gas flows, to her father, Jump Cord Straight Talk Himself. It bears repeating from time to time that we never particularly needed either of these characters in our public life, or in the Navy (in the Navy). He brought his extreme temper and powerfully troubling, basically unexamined demons from Nam to Congress. She brings her easily offended daddy’s little grown up conservative girl act to the boob tube. Both of these fuckheads get passes from their peers in the media-political complex because they’re supposedly maverick moderates or some shit, same as Jeffry Agonistes, Lord Anguish got passes for making his ostentatious shows of feeling pained for dancing for his thirty pieces of silver. By my reckoning we’ve no need or use for Jump Cord Straight Talk as an airborne intercessor when we’ve got St. Richard Russell. Yeah, that again, but remember, he was a better pilot and a better, more sincere person, I have to figure. And yeah, Beebo is as canonized as my retarded great aunt’s boyfriend is for canning pineapples, as one did in the Goddamn Army circa 1943, as a member of the cannon company.

Jump Cord Straight Talk was extended such nauseatingly gushing eulogies upon his takeoff to the next level because he was a celebrity who strategically flattered other celebrities and the sorts of striving servant trash who orbit celebrities. In his case, these were primarily journalists. The old boy knew how to play the game. His daughter, not good for much else and known for absolutely nothing but the father she had, also knows how to play the game. When push comes to shove, this shit is about not crossing the wrong people. Meltdown shouting matches are okay, but coherently denouncing the system or its power players as corrupt is beyond the pale. Those who hold that patch of ground are cast outside, where there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Who would want to risk a crash into that horrifying precarity? That shit’s for the proles, doggy.

All the same, it is curious that a regression to the mean like Meghan McCain would insist on living in the public spotlight as a television political commentator. A serviceable one-word explanation for this young woman’s self-exposure to serial public humiliation as an idiot pretending to be a great political mind by inheritance is vanity. Narcissism works, too. Such cases are raised to assume that they’re great minds. Taking a mulligan on the entrance exam for one’s fancy girls’ school at a time when daddy was a US Senator might be a clue that one has some intellectual deficiencies of some sort, but the household staff is trained not to articulate any such suspicions or encourage them in their downwardly-intellectual charges. (Downward from what is a fair question.) You may think I’m referring to drivers and maids and cooks and maybe butlers, and that’s cool, since I’m referring mainly to admissions officers, guidance counselors, teachers, and shrinks. Everybody who isn’t a member of the household is a member of the staff.

There’s another, equally embarrassing explanation for why Meghan keeps sputtering about the celebrity politicians she habitually name-drops and the virtues they supposedly taught her: that she needs, i.e., desperately wants, the paycheck. Her class doesn’t do that shit for the exposure; even when they’re vain enough to expose themselves so promiscuously, they don’t do it for the exposure. What are they, fucking proles? Of course not. Unpaid internships are for the little people. That’s middle-class bullshit. These assholes either socialize with peers who bill a year’s salary for a normal job to deliver a single canned lecture or deliver such speeches themselves as “work.”

Being paid a salary to go on the tube and impulsively blurt out the first idiot thoughts that spring to mind about how one is disrespected for being a conservative woman and one’s father is being disrespected for having been a conservative man with a liberal brain tumor may not quite be the apotheosis of welfare through nepotism, but it’s a strong contender. My God, Brando, would you put that lumberjack’s special plate down for two seconds and take a look at that gassy thick bitch. I don’t get paid to publish this stuff. If I get my shit together enough to monetize it, I’ll still be a fucking piker in a world of dumbass silver spoons who get paid upper-middle-class salaries for the asking just to go on the air and piss and moan about their dear departed parents’ precious legacies. That this chick keeps this bullshit up when she’s set for life just from the family beer store money and is also married to a B-List (maybe even A-List) wingnut welfare claimant is pathetic. Maybe she really doesn’t have anything better to do.

There’s nothing new about the rich indulging in baroque interpersonal feuds, dramas, and neuroses, but it grates on me, and should grate on us all, that this dipshit gets a major television platform to carry on like that as a paid job. It’s disgracefully corrupt. We should have no idea as a nation who the hell this woman is, or probably who her husband is, either. In a healthy society, such characters would pop out of the woodwork from time to time, distraught, whimpering, Jesus Christ, I’m a total fuckup, I have no fucking idea what I’m doing with my life, I must be damned to be a wastrel. There’d be less point to the wealth under this scheme, though, and no point to the privilege. The Meghan McCains of the world live to be publicly celebrated for being the most vapid possible shitheads.

Being the greatest nation on earth and all that shit, the freest, the bravest, etc. ad nauseam, we inevitably synthesize the old imperial decadence of the outbreeding-optional British royal family with the meritocratic death drive of our own theoretically socially fluid market democracy. The point here is that these rich cunts aren’t just high-bred and glamorous, but also the smartest things on the block. Lets be honest about the damned Windsors: no one gives a shit if Liz is a fucking retard as long as she’s functionally verbal. No one fucking cares. Elizabeth says shit like, “Do you come from Germany, do you?”, as a response to being told that a footballer comes from Germany. It’s excruciatingly stupid, but her family is constitutionally barred from Parliament, so it’s not the scandal it ought to be. (Why in all hell do they keep supporting this family so lavishly?) Charles, famously of Chuck and Cammie, causes scandal by having a mind. Dan Quayle was right: not to have a mind is being very wasteful; how true that is, that it’s a terrible thing to lose your mind. Problem is, Mr. Vice Potatoe came from a republican background, not from a lifetime as the heir apparent to the throne of Great Britain. Hence all the constitutional considerations, i.e., mostly idle gossip, about the propriety of whom he’s fucking under what domestic auspices, if any, and the pearl-clutching about how he’s expressing political opinions. A proper British set of balls would encourage any British yeoman (or, minus the actual balls, yeowoman) to cut that prick off if he started making nonsense and say, piss off, you funny-looking cunt, who the fuck are you.

God bless America, for we’ve got Downton Abbey AND every famous politician’s dimwit daughter insisting that she’s possessed of political insight worth hearing. One of the morals of the college admissions cheating scandal is that by Garrison we dare not call these ruthless strivers’ children below-average. This specifically has to do with scholastic achievement, as elided into intellectual capability so as not to call into question the moral and intellectual integrity of the grading, testing, test-prep, and admissions regime. No one much cares if the brats are growing up into absolute monsters as long as they do well on the SAT, or alternately are available to fly to Houston (yes, Houston) to meet with a mercenary proctor who is down to do well for them.

We have ourselves a fucking problem.

TeshTips: Most of these characters, including the ones who take their own tests, aren’t really all that smart. It’s basically idiot-savant genius in a lot of cases, and after a quick look at our politics it shows. The veneer of intellectual excellence, however, is crucial because we have a highbrow culture that recoils from any sign of intellectual mediocrity. Forget Kaplan, and remember that we’re assuming that genius is why everyone in college who’s in college ended up there.

It’s ridiculous to imagine that completing a bachelor’s program has any socioeconomic value to someone like Meghan McCain. It’s preposterous. What the fuck is that lady gonna do with a degree that she can’t do without one, being who she is? And what does it matter that she isn’t the sharpest tool in the box? Barring Wacko Jacko-level profligacy in her personal finances, she’s set for life.

Here’s the thing, though: aside from the unwanted attention that a cohort of to-the-manor-born dropouts might draw to the structural injustice of the system benefiting their own lazy, stupid asses, a whole lot of these rich pricks as individuals are horrified by the idea of looking and feeling stupider than their social inferiors. A Senator’s daughter cannot countenance a life of humility forcing her to graciously Sam Cooke I don’t know much about politics. Being taken seriously and respected for one’s political thoughts isn’t the be-all and end-all of what (grab a barf bag) David Brooks calls the moral life. Normal people recognize that there are other forms of virtue that the politically ignorant have no particular difficulty living. Normal people have loved ones who live good lives and make good company even though they’re intellectually mediocre or, as we used to call it, a bit slow.

Mind you, Meghan McCain is also running the same sleazy grift as every other wingnut welfare claimant in the land, bitching about not being respected for being a conservative and a Republican. I hate to break it to you, sweetheart, but most of that ain’t conservatism, and the Republican Party is not a respectable organization. Trying to teach any of these personal responsibility enthusiasts the personal responsibility of accepting the ill repute they earn by aligning themselves with a disreputable and justifiably reviled political movement is always a fucking treat. As always, it whips that I don’t earn a dime for any of my efforts in these pages and would have to put in extra work with no guarantees to stand a chance of changing this, while they get paid handsomely to be a bunch of proudly retarded cretins.

This is why we make fun of them. They aren’t paying us to desist.