You Cut The Customer. We’ll Cut The Costs. That’s The Countdown Commitment (TM).

The good arrogant people of Auckland got to enjoy some real SEPTA-grade knife work this past week. One in the local beards in residence whole-ass 61-Ridge cut a baker’s half-dozen bitches in the supermarket, in this case at the LynnMall, and that sounds like majors fun. The average Kiwi can only guess where the country is in its latest countdown to the next stochastic mass-casualty attack, although, in all fairness,given the official overreach in plaguetime and the disclosure that this random angry ex-con was shot dead on a minute’s notice by his own 24/7 surveillance detail, a casual observer might be forgiven for detemining that the average New Zealander is a cop.

It’s always fun when a grossly overpoliced country with a troublingly high incarceration rate and a habit of addressing its simmering racial tensions with performances of right sentiment proclaims its own national exceptionalism vis-a-vis its biggest, strongest eye of five. Washington may be the world leader and Wellington one of the stragglers, but Gough Whitlam tho. At least Australia has the common consideration to take that stance as a federation.

Love that rude old Anglo tradition of self-government.

The story holds that the real attitude problem starts beyond the Bombay Hills. But there seems to be a gap in the pines, letting the aggression through. I mention this because my parents and I drove within two blocks of the Central Dunedin Countdown, the site of this year’s first mass stabbing, and by all evidence we’ve been in the Auckland Airport more recently than the Current Individual. An old bald prick with immigration demanded my driver’s license and then told me I should shave next time because I didn’t match my passport photo before he let me leave the country. Meanwhile this dude was a Gary Glitter-grade cop attractant and they couldn’t bundle his ass across town and onto a one-way flight abroad. Dun nuh nuh nuh nuh. Huh. How bow dah.

We also spent a night in Riccarton, three or four blocks up Deans Avenue from the Masjid al-Noor. For some reason I didn’t look up the locations of the massacre and had no idea at the time. I went for a walk downtown through the park when I was there, and I mean, I’ve suffered from my share of postmodern ennui, so I don’t entirely know what gives. Guess I’m no individual. Is there no way to hire adrift local kine yoof to pick mangoes instead of jailing charter widebodies full of Vanuatuans in Howard Springs for a fortnight? I’m absolutely in earnest about this. I’ve been picking tomatoes commercially this summer long enough to get sprung from the Springs. It’s good for the food supply, and it’s damn well good for me.

Then again, Australia gave Mark Wahlberg priority for quarantine over its own citizens stranded abroad. I’m waiting to hear about some shifty billionaire sneaking, or getting snuck, into Queenstown without offcial dispensation. New Zealand is expensive enough that its border officers and police are guaranteed for sale, maybe not all of them, but it only takes one.

Or, in the case of our man in New Lynn, thirty. What’s going on there? What’s going on HERE? The FedEx Hoosier brony had been interviewed by the FBI. Nova Scotia isn’t exactly here, even in Maine, but Gabriel Wortman was known to the RCMP. Sick Willie, too, of course: woman after woman desperately begging the cops to investigate him, one Vancouver sergeant hitting a brick wall and getting ridiculed around the office for taking them seriously, and then, supposedly out of nowhere, a rookie Mountie burning the guy on a gun warrant. The trolley time hothead in San Jose had been found with a diary containing a screed about how much he hated the VTA when he was pulled aside for secondary inspection on his way back from the Philippines.

The Individual, briefly of Christchurch, now of Auckland (but not one of the nice parts), had to have been known to NZ Immigration and the police. I have trouble believing they were too incompetent to know where he’d been on his trips abroad. They had to have had an idea. They’re in touch with their counterparts all the time. They”re constantly snooping on all sorts of people, mostly good, for all sorts of reasons, mostly bad. New Zealand’s population is barely larger than the combined populations of Brooklyn and Queens. It famously has rural folkways resembling Vermont’s, although it’s a deceptively urbanized country, but still, somebody needs to run the farms and ports and warehouses, drive the trucks, and run the butcher shop at Countdown. #TooSoon. When a country of only five million fields its own national intelligence servces to liaise with the three-letter agencies in the Potomac Swamp in addition to lavishing its police, prisons, and courts with money and personnel, it’s surely by design a country of professional busybodies and snitches. Sure enough, New Zealand does a terrible job regulating the shit that matters, like rent, mold in expensive low-end rentals, and utility rates. It celebrates Maori liveries, though!

It probably shouldn’t come as a shock that Jacinda Ardern is in charge of the Society for the Prevention of Monty Robinson for Police Commissioner. We might say the Countdown detail put the lead into leadership the other day. Again, #TooSoon. They think it makes them look good, just like they think when they scrub the old imperial liveries off the Air New Zealand planes, but these are the same cops who insisted on not following our dude closely enough to stop him BEFORE he cut up the Countdown. They didn’t want him to think he was under surveillance, you see.

Bullshit. How did they imagine a normal person would react to having the same rotating cast of suspicious characters popping up out of the woodwork in the middle distance every day or two while he went about his own business? They turned him into a paranoiac. He’d already been in prison, a known breeding ground for mental illness. If he’d told, say, a therapist he was being followed, he would have been correct.

“Goodness, that sounds farfetched.” Yeah, that’s the point. These suspicions are implausibly bizarre by design. Why would some foreigner have his own snoops following him around at all times? The police would never do that! Please. They’re out solving crimes. They don’t have the time to waste on that kind of nonsense. Buddy’s seeing things.

Indeed. He’s seeing things that are there, always lurking in the background of his life. He fell for a gaslighting campaign. Who wouldn’t? The police drove him literally crazy. When, still under their eerily watchful eyes–more like sixty, am I right fellas–he snapped, they were there to shoot him down on a big box floor, but not before he slashed several other shoppers.

Every one of them should be sued into a moldy downmarket flat for being close enough to send that poor guy over the edge but too far away to actually stop him from committing a violent attack on the general public. Their whole story is that he was a threat to public safety. No kidding. I know nothing in particular about what New Zealand has in the way of sovereign immunity, but they should sue everyone involved for not doing their jobs.

Of course, for that matter, it’s tricky to say what exactly was their job. The dirty thirty trailing this dipshit around Auckland officially report internally to Andrew Coster and externally to Jacinda Ardern, as Liz reigns but does not rule. Gough gough something something Pine Gap something something gough gough. Alexander Acosta mentioned characters lurking in the shadows BEHIND Jeffrey Epstein. Wood does dat godda do wid pussy? Probably a lot. Now I’m not here to assert that he killed himself, or that he’s dead, only that he belongs to intelligence.

On New Zealand’s per capita basis, the Tri-State could field four national intelligence services, perhaps even five (!). Every one of them might be an improvement, as long as [locate your nearest airsickness bags] the district lines didn’t gerrymander the “up-and-coming” parts of Brooklyn and the Connecticut Shore into Manhattan. Park Slope and Williamsburg won’t be the only things “coming back” up your throat and “revitalizing” your mouth by the time you’re done thinking about that and definitely done with lunch.

God knows how many smug nationalistic sermons are still in the pipeline vis-a-vis Kiwi moral superiority and this most recent Countdown caper. The ones I bought at Safeway a while back weren’t bad, but I’m all for comparison shopping. New Zealand is the cone tray with the beast vellues, the beast pull lease, the beast six, the beast loires, the beast all the reast of et.

Give it a rest, mate. That whole society dealt with Brenton Tarrant as a cultural institution by denying him object permanence. To reverse effect and cause, everybody on earth who finds his message resonant and has an internet connection knows his name. The same idiot impulse is why the NZ government thinks dually rechristening their land as Aotearoa is a reasonable substitute for the currently absent regulations that would make it possible for ordinary Maoris to afford their electric bills.

Forgive me for being in no mood to listen to any of these self-righteous phonies. Their prison service has seized the moral low ground from any of the local color who would get fed up with The Individual and dispatch him with a shank to the neck. For a time the waiting list for returning citizens and permanent residents to get hotel quarantine slots stretched to a full year. Think about this for a second. These poor saps signed up to wait a year for the privilege to spend two weeks locked in a hotel room under paramilitary guard.

At heart, this is not a decently governed country. At least its spook cops had the decency and good sense to let our Sri Lankan friend go out and about in the neighborhood and ice him on the spot when he snapped, albeit with a made-for-TV delay. None of these antics prove anything good. Victoria imposed a similar public health lockdown for three and a half months and still very nearly let Covid-19 go endemic. It went fully endemic in swathes of Continental Europe that imposed equally draconian lockdowns. New Zealand has a population close to Victoria’s and overseas shipping ties that would take years to sever without causing catastrophic failures of domestic supply chains. During the first lockdown, its truckers were grateful to businesses in Ashburton for allowing them to use public restrooms.

This applies mainly to the United States, but I do not accept chastisement on behalf of societies that refuse to provide their own people with toileting and bathing facilities. That’s an intolerable regression of human development levels. It’s the stuff of failed states. It doesn’t matter why they crack down. Plague is no excuse. Indoor plumbing saves lives. Everything about the shutdown of public services is an attack on the vulnerable poor to assuage the hysterical fears of the coddled affluent. The affluent vote, and they lose their minds at the possibility of exposure to the diseases of the poor. They’re scared to death of equity, as some of them lately like to call it.

New Zealand’s virtues here are damningly weak. Kiwi normies have the decency to grant foreign countries a degree of object permanence they deliberately deny their own politically inflammatory criminal undesirables, but it’s mainly on account of national narcissism. Where Brahmin Americans assert their own ritual purity to elevate themselves above the ritually impure servant castes, whom they casually dehumanize (“just pay everybody to stay home”), New Zealand proclaims itself the supreme Brahmin country, a national caste apart and above. Yeah, how much bulk grain are yinz importing from unhealthy second-world states like the Dakotas?

Again, in fairness, it’s somewhat less insufferable and toxic than the corresponding stance in California. I always enjoy listening to voters who seem to grossly outnumber their sensible neighbors preen about how Tinder and Uber use less water per capita and per unit GDP than the almond groves of Lost Hills. It’s also cool and normal that they maintain much higher almond content in their feed than I do in mine.

On the defecit side of the ledger, New Zealand has no viable political opposition to the biosecurity fortress state its government rolled out overnight last year. We have the Sierra Foothills, whose local rich get their own groceries. Hell, even Victoria has crazy Facebook moms.

Why does everything in New Zealand have to be all Cares Emoji? The Ardern government can’t even govern their own police.

I knew I had a reason for stickng with New World.

Gavin none of it

Nob Hill Dreamboat is on course to go down on his own ship. Don’t think about that sentence too deeply. He said it himself: “The 69 individuals who went down.” In that case, it was a very nice medical adventure to Imperial County, during one of the early provincial outbreaks proving, to anybody thinking critcally about the reported infection rates, that Covid-19 was already endemic in North America. The Governor in this space, the State of California, has made it a point of pride to establish proof points showing that much is being done and what’s being done is doing something besides having a discreet evening out at the French Laundry.

I like Gavin, and I always love a Gabbin. I’ll still probably vote to recall him. By this point, I’m not motivated by any particular thing he’s been doing or not doing, but by the recognition that the threat of recall has apparently been the only force holding him accountable over the past year and a half when his instinct was to make an unrecognizable mess of the state’s economy for others to clean up afterwards, when “we” were out of “lockdown” and “quarantine.”

I don’t give a fuck if Larry Elder gets elected. I’ll probably vote for somebody else, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t even have a particular interest in who Larry Elder is. He yells on the radio for a living, it seems. I think I’d rather listen to a Gavin Gabbin, but this isn’t a snap election to decide who covers Michael State’s shifts this week. I’d probably rather have Kevin Faulconer clashing with the Democratic legislative supermajorities in Sacramento on day one, since he’s a rare case who’s both powerful and sensible, but again, it doesn’t matter. There’s no first-mover advantage to voting for or against any of these characters. Statewide elections in California are aggregations of tens of millions of votes. They aren’t a movie starring you, the brave individual elector who casts straight Democratic tickets every year because MSNBC and your dipshit rich liberal peers all said so.

Liberals never get this. It’s like they’re constitutionally incapable. I did not throw my vote away by voting for Jill Stein. Come on. My voyage on the overly spacious decks of the Stein Steamer did nothing, in practical terms, to erase Her three million vote margin over Him in California, or to swing any of the famous Midwestern swing states where the Democratic Party ceded elder outreach to cubicle drones in St. Petersburg. Most of us know more about Hill’s family life than we do about Dr. Jill’s. For very embarrassing reasons, this is officially proclaimed as an endorsement, not an indictment, of Her. Some additional light housekeeping I must do, As A Man, is to clean up my filthy bachelor pad and stop hoarding paper trash for a sense of control over my own life, but in the current instance to note that we’re using “Dr. Jill” to refer to the medicine woman, not to the educatrix.

Liberals will never get this, either. Their passive-aggressive hypocrisy over this kind of honorific bullshit to pull rank on their enemies pisses ordinary voters the hell off. They repeatedly lose voters who would otherwise be sympathetic to their messages. Voters don’t need to know the specifics, like who the hell Jill Stein is, to get an overpowering taste of the flavor. Dat’s da kine they’re passing: smarmalade. Dat’s always da kine, yeah?

For all its braying about civic duty and protecting your right to vote, the Democratic Party can’t conceive of anybody who votes based on an independent critical assessment of personal interests or values, not as a form of worship. Values voters are like Bigfoot, of course: everybody has stories but nobody has pictures. All the same, let’s stipulate as a guiding value a desire for robust, reliable scientific evidence to guide public health. We’ve all been lectured that Democrats believe in Science. *Randy Newman Enjoying Coke Voice* We fucking LOVE it! We’ve been lectured, too, about how dangerous it is to listen to claims about the state of the art of the science–Do you have other sources that make more sense?–from random people a guy we know who knows another guy found on Facebook or whatever.

No, we must listen to Dr. Fauci. Excuse me? Who the fuck does he think he is? Who does ANYBODY think he is? That motherfucker told us diarrhea ships were safe in plaguetime and masks don’t work. He’s a spook. That’s right. Fuck the “intelligence community.” The stupidity community isn’t that dumb. We like to be cautious around the slippery, to take things slow, if we may.

We’re beating the dead horse again. We’re reheating yesterday’s dinner for Nigel St. Nigel. The loose, malleable, chameleonic, arbitrary nature of who the hell is “us,” a group I’ve been presenting as everybody from myself to the Democratic Party to the whole country, is as relevant as ever. The Democratic habit of using what Mencius Moldbug clamed Bertrand Russell would have called “nostrisms” is endangering the career of yet another of its prominent elected officials. They just can’t help themselves. Constantly presuming to speak on behalf of a whole country after decades of complaints over this obnoxious habit is no way to dispel a reputation of elitism, smugness, and arrogance.

Like, could you actually shut the fuck up and listen for once? Maybe ordinary Americans have good reasons to want to keep going to Applebee’s, and in any event, it might be a good idea not to smear them as homicidal maniacs for enjoying one of America’s most popular chain restaurants. Yeah, it’s a bit overpriced and salty, but fucken A, no politician with any damn sense thinks it’s a good idea to make fun of voters for eating there and then act like the French Laundry scandal was exaggerated for partisan advantage.

It isn’t even just that Applebee’s is a cultural totem, although Brahmin snark artists have done their best to demonize it into one. Much of it is just workaday voters enjoying a night out at Applebee’s, or at any other restaurant where people with a bit of disposible income can afford a decent meal out, and resent the party of America’s gourmands suddenly declaring that the restaurants are closed, then sneaking a governor who’d trashed the restaurant scene for everybody else into a private party at a fancy-pants Napa resort restaurant where the bill for one could cover a dozen or more at Applebee’s. The thinking doesn’t have to be conspiratorial. It can just be, oh, come the fuck on, man, things were hard enough for us already, and now you want us to suffer the consequences of your failure to control a viral disease outbreak.

The inescapable question of who’s “us” may be best answered as something political types should make sure they’ve confirmed before they speak about it in public. The poor prevailing quality of mainstream political thought in the United States today exacerbates this arrogance and idiocy. The Republicans’ huge advantage here is their appeal to balls-to-the-wall jocks, hustlers, and religious nutjobs. The postmodern Democratic Party’s appeal is to pissant nerds who whine for the mods every time they get called out for playing dirty. If they were more in touch with the country, they’d be consciously aware that America hates a loser.

What has me back up on this bullshit about “us” is a recent viral tweet tritely relitigating the tired point that the government could have just “paid everybody to stay home for eight weeks.” “We” could just pay for “everybody in Thailand” to have an elephant, too. The original line was about every Thai having a servant. The premise here is a generous one: I’m free to be me and you are too.

This discredits the hell out of the Democratic Party, and by extension the broad left as it’s generally understood. Who, exactly, is included in “everybody” for our fun springtime cottagecore minute? Do some of us keep home grocery stores? Home medical offices catering exclusively to those living in our own homes? Home Home Depots?

It’s absurd. “Essential workers,” who have (quite fully) earned extensive attention for not being able to stay home, famously had to go to work while everybody stayed home. There’s people, and then there’s workers.

But enough about the Democratic Party.

This style of argumentation has a powerful discrediting effect on the broad Western left, from the hard center to the hard fringes. It springs forth from a stunning casual, thoughtless ignorance. It’s muddled to shit. “We” could be anybody from the whole wide world down to the Independent Republic of Oneself. It can change from minute to minute.

The thot leaders propagating these memes barely know what they’re including and excluding from minute to minute. The menacing but loose talk about “lockdown” and “quarantine” may be the worst of it.

The penal implications of “lockdown” have spread to the schools as the institutional cultures and operatons of American schools have become more penal, and into various other workplaces in tandem with the proliferation of mass shooters, seemingly more often than not known to the FBI at the time of their rampages. Need anything from the Philippines? Just heading over for a minute to pen a journal about how much I hate the VTA; be right back.

Similarly but more so, “quarantine” always had a very specific, narrow meaning prior to all this bullshit. It was a hard, official, externally enforced physical segregation from others for a set period to limit the spread of contagious illnesses. It was NOT a year-plus of mostly sitting around the house, doing some work, hanging out, doing awl dissandat, ordering some UberEats.

This kind of sloppy thinking and loose talk drives everybody nuts. It’s truly hard to stay sane in the midst of it. I spent way the hell too much time reading about it and listening to it, taking it seriously as a fnord for me to heed, when really, for the most part, it was a bunch of hall monitor twerps barking at everybody else and carrying limp little sticks.

Democrats keep getting themselves into trouble because they associate themselves with this bizarre, crazymaking bullshit. The wise move is to disavow all of it, to decisively, credibly split from the entire puritan caste system that has been hardening in supposedly liberal communities for the past few decades and markedly intensified under their Covid regimes. Every time they associate themselves with this garbage or advocate for it or try to enforce it, they open the door for Republicans to demonstrate that they, unlike the #resistance, #resist the urge to treat the servant poor as ritually unclean, if that’s even how they naturally think. It’s surprisingly important to realize that most of the opposition to this Brahmin Safety Bear hysteria comes from people who do their grocery shopping in person. They know, on some level, that Democratic governments do jack shit to get the poor out of flophouse crowding and squalor, just like their own Republican local governments. Project Roomkey, for example, is a belated half-measure, its facilities run in a rather patronizing, meddlesome manner, marginally aleviating the poverty and squalor that good liberals do their damnedest to sweep away and ignore while their home equity rockets up to the same unimaginable heights that drive rents out of their own servants’ reach.

Gavin Newsom infuriates conservatives, as they proudly think of themselves, by ridng around in front off them on his hgh horse. Again, the terminology is baffling; conservatism, as they practice it, has turned into a mashup of provincial elite political reaction, battles to defend outrageous privileges (think, groping subminimum-wage waitresses and withholding tips if they won’t pull down their masks for a full facial), and frank liberalism. It’s conservatism that drives officials to order the closure of multiple whole classes of public congregate facilities in the interest of public health; it’s liberal to allow the continued normal brick-and-mortar operation of, as Fr. Jonah Lynch had the sloppiness to publish without a fucking Oxford Comma, “the theatre, the church and the brothel.” He’s no Cardinal Dolan in substance, but I keep trying to look up “Fr. Jonah Lunch.” By any name, he’ll agree: the internet is majestic, hear,, On Line.

It’s always the ones who belong in public ministry that they yank over some harmless trifle. I know, I should stop talking about politics, for my own mental health and the community’s. That’s what’s good about California’s recall provision, though. If Andrew Cuomo were the governor here, he’d no longer be our governor. He’d have been out on the curb with last week’s trash months ago.

In my estimation, Gavin is a mediocre governor. John Cox would have been wildly worse because he’s insane. I’m not voting for a freak with a talk radio cadence who brings a grown grizzly bear out of a trailer on a chain to spout dangerous nonsense about water policy during a severe drought. One of the things I trust Newsom to do right is steward the Russian River about as well as any official could in a period of extreme overallocation.

The problem is how he’s handled the Rona. He’s too far out there with the nanny state restrictions on public life. He decreed a social curfew for a while, which mercifully went unenforced, as far as I know. The same schoolmarm mindset behind San Francisco’s regressive sin tax on sweetened prepared drinks is behnd the idea that the state should order its subjects not to visit their friends or lovers at night. Like, what the fuck, bruh.

That isn’t all of it. The problem with Newsom’s mindset is deeper and more complicated than his being a rich kid with almost Trumpian domestic style. He’s still getting shit on over the French Laundry scandal, but I’ve been disinterested in that from the start; it provoked a healthy backlash against the public health restrictions in the backwards interior, holding him accountable to my satisfaction and helping force officials to level up the public health regime to allow more ordinary people to lead more normal day-to-day lives.

What troubles me is his involvement in recovery culture. He’s apparently a sincere devotee, grateful for helping him confront his demons of alcoholism and anger. I don’t begrudge him these blessings one bit. I’m happy for anybody who’s able to get out of a hellish rut through the discipline and fellowship of recovery groups. But recovery cuture is a horrible model for public policy. The internal cultures of some recovery programs are unhealthy. Many of them have boundary problems towards their own members, sometimes to the point of effectively holding members hostage. This is especially true of programs that treat court referrals; these usually veer into outright cult abuse under color of penal authority.

This is not a culture that should be tolerated when it gets pushy with nonmembers. No. YOU do not boss Me around about what I eat or drink or watch or how much I exercise. Come up with a coherent argument for why I should follow your advice for my own improvement or leave me alone. I’m not a fucking alcoholic just because I /Most Southernly Lubricated Congressional Voice/ have a little libations with lunch. James Clyburn himself sounds like a mere lush. Remember: You aren’t an alcoholic; you don’t go to meetings. These are the #TeshTips to draw a federal salary and top-tier benefits #BigBandStyle. I’ve always figured that cat gets too much poon to need porn. Fellas. Is it gay to advise against long-term manbuns on account of traction alopecia and then spin a One Direction record? Fellas. Am I gay?

There’s no need to care about everything. There’s no need to answer every question. There’s no need even to ask. By God’s grace we’ll find a way to get bi.

My ex says Gavin blows up her gaydar. Gay af, she told me. Whatever. Sexuality isn’t fully malleable, but it’s malleable. That’s why the CIA funds the porn tubes. It’s government qat all up in Djibouti, updated for the electronic age. It’s at once sedative and refreshing to hear about a client state that still knows how to send one group of semiemployable surplus young men out in trucks to distribute a mild sedative chaw to its remaining shabaab, as a chill pill, as a quiet afternoon delight, As A Treat. Water is a limiting factor for the series of tubes, too. Electricity? As they say in parts better unknown but all too close for those who engage over the ether, it depends on the load. Are we dooing it inside or outside?

In a word, this is postmodernism. It’s a liability for the Democrats. Many constituents wisely prefer to keep their lives merely modern, to take advantage of advanced conveniences but continue to have real social calls, to have real sex with real people. They’re wise to refuse to move their entire lives online on government command.

The failure of American authorities to publish consistent, coherent guidance on mask use is inextricable from the sorry state of sex education in the United States. They aren’t diapers for the face; they’re condoms for the face. The analogy isn’t exact, but it’s close enough. It works.

Their repeated fuckups on masks are enough to permanently destroy their credibility about all health measures among a significant minority of Americans. Why are they making us live our lives online? What’s really in the vaccines? Frankly, these are reasonable questions, and our officials have not satisfactorily answered them. These are the same officials led by “the country’s top infectious disease expert,” Anthony Fauci, the same guy who bullshitted the country about this disease and then bragged in a New York Times interview about his campaign of medical bullshit. It’s completely unreasonable to trust Fauci or anyone appealing to his authority. My own reason for being so adamantly pro-mask and consistently wearing masks in crowded areas is commonsense medical wisdom dating back into Medieval Times. It’s a culture, and it’s a costume. I mean, I don’t want people coughing and sneezing all over each other, especially now. It has nothing to do with whatever the hell that New York serial liar is honking at us on the boob tube today.

The Republican Party is a horror show in most regards, but it’s often been more reasonable about public health restrictions than the Democratic Party over the past year and a half. That’s worth a lot. It’s worth more than it should be. Maybe they’re just different flavors of dogshit. It may suck, but I’m voting for one of the flavors regardless.

I take no pleasure in saying this, but Gavin needs to go.

Fauci and the fuzz

The Rotterdam curfew riots were good. There’s no need to pussyfoot around the ethical nuances of when, how, and why one is allowed to protest during a global pandemic or the associated “lockdown” and “quarantine”–moron this language in a bit–when the cops are seizing their latest official excuse to get out of line. It’s quite straightforward. The government issued an outrageous order, and the public angrily, forcefully, proudly resisted its execution, out in the street. Out in the street, indeed. They reacted proportionally and appropriately. When the Dutch government declares bedtime and orders its citizens back to quarters, the proper response is to go Electric Avenue on Europe’s strappingest ethnic street gang.

The left makes a significant mistake when it reacts squeamishly to such assertions by the aggrieved governed against an abusive government. The police are hopeless to deescalate disputes over outrageous diktats that they are personally doing their violent best to enforce at the moment. The Arab Street might not have gone home if the cops had stood down and let them hold the street, but they most likely would have dispersed into manageable, peaceable groups. All they wanted to do was hang out at night in peace. People who are allowed to do so pretty quickly stop marching into intersections and throwing projectiles at cops. They think, huh, it could be me on that tram, trying to go clubbing downtown, while some other asshole throws rotten eggs at the windshield.

The cops know this. This is why they escalate.

The ethnic nature of the Rotterdam riots makes some uncomfortable. Restive darkies call the social project of Postwar Europe into question. This is especially true for dutiful bourgeois liberals who think in terms of ethnic and partisan stereotypes. They hate not to think of the savages as noble. Stipulating the occasional violence of nonwhites might play into the hands of the alt-right or something. It couldn’t just be, even in a particular instance, a group of constituents hitting back because they’re sick of being mistreated by their shitty government.

What’s that? It’s bedtime? New phone who dis.

Certainly the question of what brown can do for you–You’re up? Still? At this late hour?–is by now a hoary one, one dating houelle becq into the pest. Are there problems with the politics of De Joof? Okay, maybe, but why the hell do we care? Their objection in Rotterdam was to a mercifully somewhat inept attempt by their government to apply a version of the same lockdowns that had already mass-traumatized the populations of Spain, France, and Italy, some of the same countries that had also achieved world-leading reported fatality rates from The Dread Ailment. This shoudn’t be objectionable. Maybe some of the rioters had Islamic establishmentarian politics or excessive lust for the local wenches. So? That wasn’t why they were out. They were out because they were sick of the fucking cops.

It’s the same thing with the Yellow Vests. Many in the bourgeois center-left are uncomfortable with the rude mass mobilization of center-right car culture normies over gas taxes. Personally, I dislike the premise of their stance, but let’s be real. Their grievances are legitimate. The French government really has been hosing them for living outside the big cities. They aren’t out objecting to proposals for improved bus or train service; one of their bitter complaints is that the only decent transit service is in Paris and a few other cities where they couldn’t afford to live. Their complaint is that instead of services, they get fees. The complaints of the Not Exactly Much who are Not Exactly Dutch were based in decades-old grievances about the government taking advantage of them and sending cops after them to keep them in line. Either or both of these factions could easily find common cause with any number of garden-variety elements of the European hard left.

Huh. The G-7 or G-20 or G-6 or whatever they’re calling it these days surely isn’t directing any of its security services to diffuse any such social synergies at the first sign. They would never do that. Even Mr. Grayling, the smart one, has but three eyes. This, strategia della tensione, do you call it? It’s delicious. The closest thing we have to it on Mars is probably a clam linguine of some sort, but you do realize, we must import our ingredients.

The Democratic base doesn’t care for any such alliances anyway. Their beloved Intelligence Community never sanctons anything of the sort. It’s too Trumpian, poaching a fraction of the hardhats because the rest of the field has absolutely no industrial policy, not just a half-cocked one with no details beyond Reopen Our Beautiful Mines. Protests getting out of hand might alienate swing voters, causing the retention of an incumbent whose idea of policing is maybe, or maybe not, somewhat worse than that of the hand-picked dirty cops forced through the nomination process to oppose him. I’ve personally heard this kind of thing. Protesting too raucously just because the thugs on the Buffalo riot squad audibly cracked Martin Gugino’s skull open in a live-televised pavement check might cost Biden the support of swing voters who, uh, must think that’s an acceptable thing for the police to do and also consider not voting for Republicans, this in a country whose national consensus for a time was that the Third Precinct Stationhouse was no angel.

This idea that we can and should just vote our way out of whatever the government is doing to us is a funny one. It’s come to be closely associated with the Blue No Matter Who freakshow. There’s no need to convince me that there are Republicans who are better than Lori Lightfoot and Eric Garcetti. These bars are low. The Republicans who carry on about this high civic Boy Scout Handbook piety are mostly #NeverTrump rear-guard losers. John Bolton proudly enjoys waiting in line at his polling place to cast his ballot. He says it like a guy who never has to wait in line for anything else.

There are officials who understand languages other than raw power. The problem is with those who don’t, for example, in San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Aurora, Ferguson, Minneapolis, Kenosha, Chicago, Austin, Louisvlle, Atlanta, Washington, and Philadelphia. One of these cities after another is governed by Democrats. To fix this mess with Democrats, we’d have to find different Democrats. But that would upset swing voters or moderates or developers or something.

When the prissy booj object to unauthorized protests or riots, they do so on account of at least two obvious blind spots. One is an intense discomfort, even humiliation, before unmistakable proof of the rottenness of their governments and officials. “Joe Biden is a decent guy at heart.” This should be a deeply embarrassing thing to say. Ironically, the other obvious reason for their prissiness is much less embarrassing and cringe precisely because it’s so nakedly, crassly self-interested. They’re big on Marquess of Queensberry Schoolhouse Rock bullshit, and so furious with the Donald for shitting on the floor at their neverending party of politics, because it works for them. For them, it delivers the goods. It’s no coincidence that Rachel Maddow is so popular with people who own their primary residences free and clear.

Why wouldn’t electoral politics work? We own a house. We have home equity. Yeah, champ, that’s the problem. It’s a Ponzi scheme, a gigantic pump-and-dump racket. It’s the most blatantly zero-sum rentier shakedown. Go ask “liberals” in Redwood City or Novato how they feel about Project Roomkey motel contracts.

It hits different when the system doesn’t give you shit. I’m relatively fortunate, as the dispossessed go, but it isn’t the least bit lost on me that I’m fortunate largely by proxy, through my parents. This is just how Obama and Congress wanted it. The adult dependent provision of the ACA was no goof. They knew what they were doing.

On some level, that is. Some of them are stone-cold naturals and also blithering fucking idiots. There’s an alarming amount of reptilian quasi-thinking inside the Beltway, on the part of people who know exactly what works to keep the whole ship listing along just seaworthily enough to keep them employed but unable to articulate a coherent political theory for why the hell that is. Yeah, you’re all making work for yourselves and your marginally employable cronies designing and administering a system that would start actually working if the lot of you were banished to the cane fields. No, to public assistance; I respect people who cut sugarcane too much to inflict useless eaters on them.

These are people who will do nothing good until they are made to feel pain. Mind you, their pain thresholds are hilariously low, e.g., not being reelected, or being told off at restaurants for their atrocious “public service.” They rarely get the pain they deserve. Bolton the Baltimore Walrus is probably less miserable than he looks. Remember, he’s a psychopath, not a normal person. People like him spend their time whining about, say, how total strangers are spoiling their Voting Experience by demanding and returning absentee ballots because that’s the closest thing they face to hardship. Trump is yelling again? Hey, pal, nobody’s making you watch that or professional wrestling or whatever other trashy programming would upset you.

In the context of the extreme hardship, pain, and early death the ghouls in charge of our governments inflict on their constituents, shutting down a freeway or an airport or a railyard with a protest occupation would be downright genteel. Considering the alternatives, which so many already suffer, there’s nothing wrong with some light rioting now and then.

This may sound like armchair edgelord agitation, and I guess it is. I’m too cowardly to take part in any of these festivities in person. Is a virtual riot a thing? A socially distanced riot?

That isn’t any more pathetic than the language and tactics our officials actually use in their desperate efforts to co-opt protest movements. The displays of this deranged, arguably psychotic thought process were on embarrassing display last summer, during the Black Lives Matter protests, with officials giving express dispensation to protesters but only protesters to gather in large groups. But they weren’t mouthing their platitudes about peaceful, responsible protest because they supported the protests. They pulled that shit because they were afraid of the movement. The last thing they want is the rabble they represent compelling their representation.

They wanted everybody milling about on the square downtown, during daylight and only daylight hours, kneeling with the chief and the brass. They wanted the protesters to feel emotionally invested with the cops who would beat and gas their comrades later that night. They wanted the protesters to think of their obvious adversaries–you know, the ones whose brother in arms provoked that round of protests in the first place by choking George Floyd to death with his knee–as allies.

The psychology behind the kneeling ceremonies is troubling. It’s baffling to honor a martyr to police murder by joining cops in a ceremonial reenactment of his murderer’s physical stance. I’m not sure that’s what the cops or the elected officials theoretcally (at times even de facto) commanding them were thinking, though. I hesitate to assume that they WERE thinking. I’m sure they remembered kneeling for the National Anthem as the Kaepernick Thing. Every police department is always downstream of every other police department’s worst cultural touchstones, so once one agency got the idea, others had to follow. An agency can’t just ignore the cool new cop thing.

The Floyd protests caught officials off-guard. They were a holy shit moment. What, we can’t just let a cop choke a guy to death anymore? Chauvin can’t get away with it just because Pantaleo did? Oh. The public reaction was a consequence of too little work and too much TV, some said. We were supposed to Netflix and Chill through “lockdown,” not CNN and Heat Up. Officials came up with the protest safety protocols and the civic justifications for them on the fly. I don’t think they were trying to subjugate the family by sanctioning protests but not funerals, or the religious by sanctioning protests but not services. They were cobbling their shit together on the fly. In many cases, it took their cops a single night to prove their own contempt for the public health protocols they’d been commissioned to enforce, when they gassed whole neighborhoods or even pulled protesters’ masks down to blast them in the face with pepper spray from a foot away. Was it a good idea, from a public health perspective, to further overload the jails with protesters there was little or no ground to arrest in the first place? Of course not. That’s why the cops did it.

****

There were protests against “lockdown,” too, but no good Brahmin dared support them. Besides, many of them were the work of antisocial extremists. Wine moms barging into Trader Joe’s to yell at the nearest cart jockeys about their right to shop unmolested and undressed had as much to do with civil liberties as shitting on the floor at Tim Hortons. That’s a style of protest, too. Like any protest, it loses its magic when they mayor issues a permit and guidelines.

Few jurisdictions in the United States had genuine lockdowns. Most Americans were never ordered or even advised to go into real quarantine. Otherwise, “quarantine” and “lockdown” were misleading synonyms for a raft of very poorly drafted and explained shelter-in-place orders, i.e., the usual horny-for-rules nerds, hypochondriacs, avoidants, paranoiacs, and other poorly adjusted characters cowering behind closed doors in obedience of the fnords. We were allowed out of the house, mostly. It was just that we weren’t sure we were. The way we (“we”) were using publc health language was shockingly hyperbolic. Describing a work-from-home lifestyle revolving around ordering in from restaurants and fleeing to the Hamptons on impulse as “lockdown” or “quarantine” was a bit like referring to incoherent assault threats from a schizophrenic across the street as Manzanar.

A huge number of Americans bobbed through these extreme but exaggerated disruptions of public life in a state of chronic psychological trauma. This was the case in a number of European countries, too. The pot-banging and clapping ceremonies at shift change by the hospitals, the balcony singalongs, all the talk about “cottagecore” and what “we” were doing to get through “lockdown” and “quarantine,” and the rest of the cult shit drove a whole lot of people truly mad. In ways, it would have been better if it had made more people go openly crazy, instead of the chronic, low-grade zombie reactions that were most common and obvious. The combination of gross linguistic exaggerations and muted, avoidant behavioral patterns was bizarre and unsettling. Then there was all the deranged make-believe shit: “virtual happy hour,” “Zoom reunion,” Sober Scotch Hour with Rob Ford, etc.

The distortions of language seem deliberate. It’s easy for trendsetters–influencers–to propagate linguistic tics by example and repetition. Some of the antics to emerge during the pandemic were just fucking suspect. No way in hell would nurses working with hypercontagious ICU patients during a respiratory pandemic have the time, energy, or, ideally, the bad judgment to stage linedancing routines in the hallways.

We were being gaslit. This wasn’t a case of I’m myself and you are too. This shit really was used to attack all of us. What really happened to Tiffany Dover? Beats me, but I know I don’t have as much trust in the caliber of management that runs hospital nursing pools as I did before these weird-ass fainting and dancing spells, and I had little trust in the first place.

What the fuck are we supposed to think of Anthony Fauci, if we really think about him? Eyy, I make-a da spikey protein! Well? That wasn’t as cringe as the poem Scott Simon read about him, and it wasn’t dishonest. Fauci was the guy who fucked up the response to AIDS for Ronald Reagan. There’s something really off about his combative turned amicable relationship with Larry Kramer. He’s a sworn liar. Let’s play around with the herd immunity threshold. Let’s focus-group that shit to see what it takes to get everybody to take the new mRNA vaccines, which are going to save everybody’s life because oops there’s a new variant they don’t seem to cover.

No shit ordinary people will react to this bullshit and dissembling and lying and manipulation by veering into woo-woo.

I don’t believe a word of Fauci’s internal e-mail admitting that masks don’t work. It’s common sense not to want random strangers breathing and coughing and sneezing whatever the hell they’ve got in their lungs all over me. It’s common courtesy of me not to pass it forward if they wheeze their skanky shit on me. #Values #PassDaKine.

For others, it’s common sense that masks cause extreme carbon dioxide buildups, don’t work, traumatize children, ad nauseam. I just try to set the example that they’re a viable, perfectly bearable way to maybe keep myself and those around me healthier than we’d otherwise be. For Tony, Joe, Rachel, and the gang, they’re some kind of marshmallow test hazing ritual or something. Covid-19 is not the only virulent pathogen whose transmission masks can inhibit. Setting aside all the weirdness surrounding the vaccines and assuming they all work as advertised, Covid-19 vaccines do not prevent the contraction of transmission of influenzas.

This shit isn’t about public health. It’s about ritual purity versus impurity. It’s about piety versus impiety, obedience versus disobedience. What were my sources for hesitating to get the vaccine? Not that honking Italian son of a bitch. I’ll say that much. Crowning a serial liar with a long history of bad research decisions, notably including gain-of-function projects that alarmed many of his colleagues, as the world king of infectious disease makes many highly reasonable people want to do their own fucking research before doing anything he advises. That asshole reacted to the cruise ship disasters in Yokohama and Sydney by berating Americans not to cancel their cruise reservations.

Maybe he’s wrong about masks after all. If he isn’t, he was.

You read that right. I can’t believe I had to write it. I can’t believe it makes sense.

****

Anybody from the nominally educated centrist to center-left top quartile or so of American society faces intense pressure not to question this narrative. They have jobs on the line, or places to stay, or assistance from wealthier relatives. This does much to explain why there has been so little pushback on the public health narrative from the left and so much from the right. We face the same pressures for saying anything neutral or positive or nuanced about Trump, here in Bougiekistan.

I reacted differently. The moment I heard official lies and discrepancies, I took them as existential threats. I wouldn’t trust anybody I witnessed behaving so dishonestly and recklessly in a bad part of Rancho Cordova, either. Nobody gets between me and my survival mechanisms. I don’t allow it. I’m not taking medical orders from homicidal serial liars.

My hypervigilance immediately cued me in to the big drivers of infection. I took the initiative to stop going to Mass a week before the last one indoors. For months after outdoor Masses resumed, I not only wore a mask (as strictly mandated and universally followed) but also stayed silent during the communal prayers. I remembered the horror stories from that Lutheran choir in the North Sound.

But churches were obviously only a middling vector. The American authorities put their thumbs up their asses and basically did nothng while infections spread like wildfire through prisons, nursing homes, farmworker shacks, slaughterhouses, and every other 100% predictably ultra-high-risk congregate setting that had been in dire need of regulatory enforcement for decades over extreme threats to human health and life. Like, come on, you can’t seriously be telling me the bus downtown is too dangerous for me to take just for the hell of it but San Quentin is safe for occupancy. That’s insane.

The same state government that presided over a catastrophic outbreak in San Quentin couldn’t guarantee a seat on the next bus to Santa Rosa because Golden Gate Transit was enforcing a strict 20% capacity limit. Yeah, that’s something they’ve always cared about at CDCR, percent of capacity.

The anecdotes to similar effects are endless. Our lives were upended for over a year, for reasons that have yet to be credibly explained, with mediocre public health outcomes.

This is the case in Europe, too, as we’ve discussed above. Mark Rutte had riots on his hands because he insisted on imposing the same heavyhanded, statistically ineffective measures that had fucked up life in several other esteemed members of the European Union. It was odder for him to make the decision than the heads of government he copied. Rutte is reasonably down-to-earth for a politician. He lacks the theatrics of Italy’s rotating cast of premiers (which frankly should have kept rotating over the past year), the grand narcissism of Emmanuel Macron, the seedy corruption of Spain’s elected officials and minor royalty, or the raucous buffoonery of BoJo and his cabinet.

He still decided that he had to deploy cops at bedtime, in the interest of stopping Covid. The way these fuckers think, I swear, is that they won’t be able to spot the virus on patrol at night because it’s too dark. They’re morons and busybodies. Will people slip into one another’s houses without government permission because they want to smoke dope or have sex? Sure. They’ll also need to leave for work during curfew hours.

Cops are too fucking dull to tell the difference. I’m serious. Ordering them to enforce curfews only makes them dumber.

Riots, by contrast, sharpen their intellects a tiny bit. Riots send a message: you aren’t in control just because you say you are; you’re our public servants, not our babysitters; we set our own bedtimes.

One of the neat things about the Rotterdam curfew riots is that they were explicitly about the curfew. American liberals and leftists felt compelled to sublimate their disaffection with the business closures and constant warnings and lectures and channel it into anger over police murders of black constituents. They had to pretend that they were exercising the one specific dispensation they had as good kids and good liberals to leave the house and freely associate with their neighbors.

They had to pretend that Anthony Fauci isn’t a cop.

He’s a fucking cop. He isn’t even the kind of cop who’ll defuse a street fight or talk down the disturbed or give a stranded motorist a roadside jump. He’s an asshole who lectures and threatens and lies to the general public for a living. He gets paid to goad us to act as scolds and stool pigeons while the government employing him stands back in the face of millions of preventable deaths. Yeah, I know, we don’t care about deaths that aren’t from Covid. He’s what would happen if Joseph DeAngelo kept the anthrax next to the roast.

We could have had Sacco and Vanzetti integrate the police instead.

Mona, a girl who shoulda gotten an A, at C

Chinua Achebe declined to write stories based on his decades in the West. Westerners already had enough storytellers, he said. He insisted on focusing not just on what he knew, but on what he knew had gone untold.

“Mona At Sea” is one of the stories Achebe had in mind. Another rich college girl is having her quarter-life crisis, and we get to read about it. Cool.

But why wouldn’t we? Who reads? Who writes? Why must the corpus of torrid, gutwrenchingly dysfunctional sexual affairs always chronicle the troubles of tweedy nerds strolling the ivied halls for intellectually curious mentees living in their sexual prime? Are humanities dorks gazing leering across the veal pen at the young things the only ones seeking and achieving such rejuvenation? Do petroleum engineers and bus drivers and public benefits claimants who mostly hang out in the neighborhood playing video games and doing some light babysitting also have affairs? Of course. What they don’t do is write. When they do write, they probably have more interesting stories to commit to paper anyway.

That’s how we get Franzen. “Ugh, he’s the person everyone wishes had died instead of David Foster Wallace.” I haven’t fictionalized the Cousin Gigolo story. “Romans-a-clef are lazy and dishonorable. They’re cheap shortcuts.” Who gives a shit? I’m too busy with nonfiction; that’s all. I don’t give a shit about the high ethics of this craft, and neither did the ancients, they of the classics. This is modernist nerd shit, the stuff of bored Victorian scolds. Vicky didn’t bang after Al died of shitwater, but the rest of them sure did. Oh, Archbishop. Fancy seeing you in the hallway this evening. Yes, I suppose I should give the Earl’s wife a rest, perhaps have a gin and tonic while she recovers.

No, I’m not planning to do the reading. It’s okay. The reviewer don’t always do the reading, either. “Mona at Sea” is of a canon many of us already know. Why else would it get dedicated segments on NPR? There is, to the best of my knowledge, no rude ditty by the title of “Bang, bang, Lourdes.” She’s forsaking her Christian name on a national news broadcast, hon. What’s going on here, hon. Sure, a girl might not have had legs for days in decades if you hire her in Lexington Market, but at least she won’t try NLP bullshit on you, hon.

Ah, an overachiever wannabe girlboss who acts like she knows what she wants in a career suddenly can’t have one because there’s no economy and we’re all idiotic enough to imagine Mocha Haole will fix it, and now she’s Online and frustrated. Gotcha. There’s a swollen population of unemployed young people with college degrees and mood disorders, and this style of literature is proliferating. Tell me something I don’t know, or don’t. We get the literature we buy. We get the literature we deserve. Something like that. Hell if I know. The parents want to know why their adult kids are so fucked up, too.

I described Mona as a rich girl, but I should specify. She isn’t hang out around the family compound doing this and that and go WASP diffident on anyone who disses her for it rich. She’s rich enough to have a reserved spot in her childhood bedroom. As Charles Carreon carried on, you don’t mess with the man from Tucson. Apparently you do mess with the woman from Tucson, if she isn’t the one suing the Ashland city government for booting her personal blog full of photoshopped pictures of Kathleen Parker sucking George W. Bush’s cock from the fiber network. We might say Mona is the real deepfake here. She’s the one who considers it her due to be living independently in New York and slaying in finance. That’s why it’s so humiliating for her to have her cheese moved on arrival in Manhattan and have to move back home to the provinces. Nothing happens in Tucson.

She isn’t exactly rich, then. She’s merely affluent. She’s mere upper-middle, not upper. A rich girl in her spot would be living in a nice apartment in a nice–maybe even up-and-coming!–neighborhood in New York on her parents’ dime and working, perhaps, in a job her parents bought for her. Or she’d be in the guest house, or hanging around the family camp up north, something of that nature. If she were old money–real money–she wouldn’t be distraught about any of that shit. She’d be like, eh, job market looks shitty and I’m bored, wanna go sailing?

Fuckups from truly rich families aren’t the ones who get hot and bothered about being failures. They have to have serious psychological difficulties or come from truly toxic families to end up like Mona. That shit’s for their subalterns, the strivers always serving them and so rarely managing to join their ranks, neurotics who are never satisfied that they’ve arrived even when they have. And yeah, some of it is just a #mindset; I’ve known people who prove it; but the hard cases skew upper middle, and they skew hard. They start showing up in families that are barely too poor to have anyone living comfortably off the portfolio yields. Just as importantly, though, they quickly vanish as the graph moves left into the fat middle, past the threshold where the only way to get a stockbroker is through one’s parents, as a legacy client. Whaddup homies.

Characters like Mona aren’t necessarily stereotypes, but they are inevitably archetypes. They have to fit into a narrow mold.

This may be TMI, and not just salaciously, but it’s worth sketching out the archetype in graphic detail. These are very specific characters. They’re specific because they’re crafted to appeal to a very specific audience with specific neuroses and terrors and NPR affiliate memberships.

They are not ones to imagine no more reading, especially after they semivoluntarily go hikikomori and have the time to read. All the fucking time in the world; grab your glasses, Bemis. We might say that our old boy Chapman “hit the mark,” in the University of Hawai Library and again in Manhattan. We whacked da limey, yeah? We just couldn’t figure out how to do the reading aloha-like. Dat’s da problematic kine, da kine ya write down, da kine da haole teach to teach da bible to da local kine.

What girls like Mona never expect to be able to do is the fun reading. They have the glasses–eh, the contacts–but they don’t have the time. All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl indeed.

But she can’t be dull. She needs to be sharp. She’ll fall through the cracks if she loses her edge. She’ll be ruined. At all times she needs to be on point. I’m Tom Assbrush.

That’s something else. It do not be nearly enough like that, as they say online, problematically. For these cases as much as any, college is not libertine. It is not Rabelaisian or Bohemian or in any other way relaxed. It could be a place of sexual fluidity and discovery, chaotic and messy but stabilized by a highly functioning community. For some students it is. For students like Mona, it’s nothing of the sort. It isn’t even a catalytic environment of any sort. Cast aside all sexual and matchmaking functions, and it’s still a spiritual and intellectual wasteland. Striver kids like Mona aren’t there to make friends, as television teaches us to be our reality, or to learn to think. They’re there to learn how to make money. Mona’s attempt to break straight into high finance in a center of the global financial system is the key point here. I knew enough business majors to know this. Marketing and communications majors are just as shallow, and also dumber.

We can easily pigeonhole Mona’s psychological type. She’s a Type A who bottles her feelings up until the dam bursts and they spill where they will. In her case, they flood out in dramatically, in full public view. A review on GoodReads mentions a drinking problem. Color me shocked, Kwesi. If you’ve been around elite college kids, you’ll recognize the unacknowledged, unconfronted dysregulation. You’ll recognize the unmentionable, haphazardly treated mental health, behavioral health, and substance abuse problems. This shit’s classic.

We’re dealing with people whose attitudes towards the human body and mind are truly deranged. They verge, quite crassly, on gnosticism, the body being filthy and in need of subjugation, and since we’re on the subject the mind as well. lt’s a fascist mindset, albeit one focused on mental rather than physical athletics. These are intensely intimidated young people, adult dependents whose parents pay for them to be hazed for four years in the hope that the kids will graduate into a career track where they get paid to complete additional hazing rituals until their pledgmasters are satisfied or just bored. One of the precipitating events turning Mona’s life into a crisis after graduation is her suddenly being denied her due opportunity to prove herself in a paid hazing program.

It’s Parris Island for con artists. The job she was offered and then denied because the employer offering it abruptly closed was of the sort that never has professional qualifications. It isn’t dentistry or the law. She’d need more professional training to be a CNA or a hairdresser.

The big firms could hire whizzes straight off the street to work their portfolios if they wanted. They choose to hire hungry kids fresh out of college. It’s about class perpetuation as much as business. I could figure out market analysis pretty quickly. I know quite a bit about commodities and some types of stocks. I know a lot about the operations and markets of a variety of companies.

What I’m not about to do is live like a goddamn crackhead. That’s the problem. I’d leave for lunch and keep walking. They hire kids who’d sooner commit suicide or defenestrate in an amphetamine fugue. I’d answer my cell and tell them the report’s their problem now. The hustlers they hire will never let go of their sense of duty. Duty to what? They don’t care. They’ll never care. It doesn’t occur to them that maybe the analysis of brain-fried 25-year-olds shouldn’t be a critical factor in a $10m short of the Brazilian corn market or whatever the hell they think makes sense as an economy.

These kids have to conform to a very specific, very narrow type. If they deviate they won’t get hired. Maybe if they’re honest-to-God whizzes they would, or if they know people, or if they’re charming enough to compensate, but it’s striking how many of them are slender, often to the point of looking like they have eating disorders. They’re all on drugs, of course. They’re obsequious neurotics who miscalibrate their speedballs and fly off the handle. After hours they’re absolute wrecks.

They’re trained for this shit starting in high school, if not preschool. They need perfect GPA’s. They need extracurriculars. They need compelling personal narratives. There’s no time to slack off, to be children, to be adolescents. They’ll be ruined if they try.

This is why they converge on the same eerily sick physical and psychological profile. The ladies have to be slim. The gents have the latitude to be buff, but not generally husky. The bosses would rather not have anyone, of either or any sex, looking like a roustabout who pulls crab pots all day and eats like a longshoreman. The idea is that these eager young things can find the money for dentists, dermatologists, gym memberships, dietary supplements, and whatever else they need to look great when they eat and live for shit.

The college girl who’s going places needs to be daintily pushy. She doesn’t have to smell clean as an escort, but she needs to smell good, and under no circumstances ethnic or poor. Liquor breath or a postgame sheen are fine. Smelling like months of Top Ramen, cigarettes, and hidden corners of weekly motel rooms is not. She needs just enough time to go to the bathroom, but not a minute more, unless it’s to break down in tears over shit a reasonable, assertive person wouldn’t tolerate in the first place. Her stools can look as awful as her gut feels, but she can’t have gas that won’t wait for a toilet.

She should sexualize herself for the gratification of her bosses, but not do anything coarsely womanly like mention her period or accidentally show it. It’s probably no accident that there’s been so much overwrought discourse about menstruation in middle-highbrow circles recently. Like any other bodily fluid or gas, menstrual blood is more noticeable on a white-collar clean freak than on a woman who’s been mucking livestock stalls. Oh, did I bleed through my pants? I’ll keep that in mind when I hose off the pigshit. Fewer and fewer affluent Americans under thirty have ever changed a baby’s diaper.

There’s a very real, very bad trend back towards companies asserting ownership of their employees’ bodies. Amazon basically won’t allow its employees bathroom breaks. Jim Beam asked its employees to report their periods to help it monitor time theft in the bathrooms. It’s been harder and harder to find public restrooms over the past few decades, a situation that suddenly got much worse with the Covid-19 shutdowns. Thankfully, this much is finally starting to reverse in earnest. On the other hand, public schools have been forcing this extreme bodily discipline on their students for centuries. This applies in Britain, too. *Under the Eton Privy voice* There may not be a bottom below, chap, but there’s always a bottom above!

Despite their obnoxiousness and intermittent misandry, feminist loudmouths have a point about the objecification and possession of women’s bodies. The Dallas Cowboys got into trouble for bullying and demeaning their cheerleaders–who are obscenely underpaid, by the way–with lectures about things like portion control at meals and how often they should change their tampons. These assholes hired women to be crack performative athletes, and they act like they’ve made it into their twenties unable to properly attend to their own personal hygiene. The problems here go beyond bad bosses. We shouldn’t have people who think like that in positions of power, period.

Heh. Look on the bright side, though. *Yogi Berra Patriotism Voice* Only in America can a fat Jewish truck stop hooker from Salt Lake City sing the National Anthem in a Major League ballpark.

It’s extremely neoliberal idpol to focus on menstruation as a burden in a society with pervasive, extreme fatigue and mental illness. How much of the problem is premenstrual or menstrual pain, and how much of it is delirious fatigue and Ford Stomach in inexcusably harsh academic and corporate environments?

On second thot, tho, that’s more a faildaughter vealpen thing than a girlboss thing. The Business Success Girls (and Guys!) are too busy climbing the greasy pole to give much mind to any of that. For the failspawn, it’s a transference of serious failures of neoliberal Western society onto sexualized grievances conferring extra idpol points. On the serious career track, it’s an unacceptable admission of weakness. A woman can’t admit to being tired for any other reason, either.

This shit might be excusable if it were ordered towards motherhood. Raising children is exhausting, and childrearing duties usually get dumped on women. If my ex is reading this, I’m eager to do my part to change this again, but for real, raising kids is no joke, especially for anyone trying to equal her as a mother. The thing is, if aggro college girls were trying to train for motherhood, they’d have kids already. They wouldn’t be waiting until their mid-thirties to fob one or two brats onto a Guatemalan nanny so they can go back to Goldman Sachs two months postpartum to express breast milk in a special stall.

We’re just about back to wet nurses in this country. You and me, baby, unfortunately, ain’t nothing but mammals.

This whole system is obviously broken. The writing about the corporate agenda for the white-collar workforce was on the wall by the time Clinton was elected; for the blue-collar workforce, Reagan wrote it in boldface starting on day one. The bosses kept throwing enough scraps into the pit to keep the office drones mostly in line until the 2008 crash. They spent the next decade and change fucking around and kinda sorta finding out. Then the Rona hit. They inside-traded the shit out of the pandemic and the restrictions it triggered, and they’ve pretty successfully turned public opinion against laid-off service workers who want to stay on unemployment benefits, but they’ve blown it with their cube monkeys. No one wants to come back to the office. Employers are facing mass resignations for forcing employees to return to the office full-time.

Good.

This is the arrangement Elizabeth Gonzalez James has Mona begging to join. It’s garbage, but college trained us to chase garbage. Those of us who refuse suffer for our refusal. Those who comply suffer in different ways. Most of this suffering is needless. It’s destructive and parasitic. Everybody’s just trying to justify taking a bigger slice of a possibly growing but also possibly shrinking pie. That’s all high finance is.

Occupy Wall Street comes in for criticism, rightly enough, for being the sour grapes of young people who would have demanded their own jobs on Wall Street if they’d discerned a chance in hell of being chosen from the midst of the scrum. From the perspective of figuring out who the hell is actually trying to run this joint instead of looting it, critics like Partial Objects were right. From the perspective of what the graduating classes of, say, 2007 onward were promised and not delivered, desperate strivers like Mona are entirely in the right. What kind of whipped little bitch would allow moneyed authority figures to promise and then revoke opportunities to make a killing busting ass for the machine, instead plunging the educated young into unemployment, underemployment, even precarity, even poverty? Surely that demands loud, explicit pushback.

That’s no time to let Larry Summers off the hook. His ilk should reap what they sowed. They sowed mass dispossession of the educated. Historically, the harvest that yields is revolution.

Contra the scurrilous implications of America’s legion Dignity of Work scolds, a great many Americans would do productive work if they got the chance or have the chance and do exactly that. We often don’t see counterfactual happen in the wild, because America runs not on Dunkin, but on coercion. If extended unemployment isn’t axed, who will be willing to work at Applebee’s? We’re trying to run a business here! We’re trying to run an economy! I dunno. Maybe try not groping $2.13-an-hour teenyboppers in the walk-in freezer for a while. See what happens then. Notice, too, that we’re running low on the local kids who historically staff the restaurant industry because of exactly the set of incentives that allowed the restaurant industry to become so bloated in the first place, i.e., ordering the national economy to the proliferation of one-child-policy yuppies.

This is the future conservatives want, too, especially Never Trump conservatives. Sic, mostly. The same people who get up and yell about soft whiners and their avocado toast take every opportunity to deputize volunteer programs as arms of the state, on the theory that forcing the unemployed to work or volunteer (hey, asshole, could you give me the dignity of saying that I work?) will forcibly build character in the otherwise restive poor. One thing this definitely accomplishes is turning volunteer programs into strange attractors for the worst sorts of beancounters and busybodies, repelling good people who mind their own business enough to actually get shit done.

The way this country is structured and run, it’s impossible to piece together a national labor budget. It’s impossible to figure out how many billions of hours of work a day or year it actually takes to run this fucking joint. It can be impossible to come up with a county-level labor budget. This is before we even try to figure out how much extra work we’d have to do if we made our own shit instead of importing it all from China and Bangladesh. Maybe that’d inspire us to buy less shit.

For the same reasons, it’s impossible to come up with a budget for how much of the work, or “work,” we do as a nation is bullshit. How can we fault Mona for wanting to milk this beast dry? It’s hard to get by these days without pulling that titty, and it’s a hard titty to pull. You won’t have the energy to crank it and yank it if you think about how the hell there’s a drop left in the udder. That’s for Mexicans and Chinamen.

*****

There’s some darkly amusing meta to the literary enterprise that produces works like “Mona at Sea.” We discussed the rich versus the truly rich earlier. Too much leisure can be toxic. This is something American voters and officials might want to consider before setting the same dogshit employment policy as ever. In any event, the true upper class is much more comfortable with leisure than the upper middle class, and it shows. Actual abundance is the best way to develop a mindset of abundance, not that Stephen Covey would know this as the grandson of charter members of the LDS Church and all that. Decent scions of families like his are no-names, not A-List self-help authors who grift the VA with their training seminar materials.

Upper-middles are scared to death that they’ll collapse into ruin if they ever stop running. That’s one of the things that horrifies and scandalizes them about their unemployed Millennial children and peers. We show them show them some of their alternatiive life paths, paths they might have taken if they weren’t balls-to-the-wall hustlers who punch down at every opportunity, paths they even still might take to make room for decent people who just can’t compete with them. I don’t know what our hikikomori are getting out of their anime habits. Maybe it includes an understanding of why so many salarymen raised hikikomori back in the bukkake motherland.

One of the cultural effects of upper middle class striver neurosis is discomfort with storylines that don’t involve some kind of apocalyptic quest. Their literature can’t be one of comfortable stasis in life, or merely entertaining stasis. The postmodern canon has no room for authors like Faulkner. Americans today can’t cope with fiction mostly bereft of sex, grand adventures, grand quests, and rites of passage. We can’t process characters who are drawn as object lessons, not role models. We’ve been raised not to understand any of this shit.

Conservatives like to critique sexualized literature as coarsening. It’s reasonable enough to read “I Am Charlotte Simmons” as a lengthy anti-sex bildungsroman, full as it is of shambolic characters who are sexually active and miserable. Tom Wolfe, another great of the Southern Canon, was too hypomanic to keep it in a fellow’s pants himself. There we have it. Sex–which, as the discography of Soulja Boy and Robin Thicke shows, we aren’t particularly having–gives a quick and dirty dopamine hit, not the kind of maintenance dose Faulkner administers with his collection of schizoids and paranoiacs and so forth. That Swedish beefcake in “Snow Falling On Cedars” gets to nut in his white wife in the shower after work while her Japanese ex-boyfriend goes on trial for murder, in a story surprisingly free of suicide for the maritime side of Washington State. Real smart collection of ethnics they propagated up there, huh. The author went on to win a bad sex writing award in absentia for a retelling of Oedipus Rex, conferred upon him in the name of “David Guterous.”

Is sex what’s wrong with bad literature, then? I wish that were it. It isn’t what’s wrong with Harry Potter. The Potterverse doesn’t have any, if I understand it correctly. For a generation and a class so focused on status and purged of sensuality, that sounds about right, flying around on broom adventures for clout while the Cockneys dutifully run the physical plant. The UK doesn’t account for its actual economy, either. As financial hubs go, London is arguably even worse than New York. The Potterverse is Downton Abbey for twerps with an excessive interest in ersatz paranormal phenomena. The biggest problem with these cases is that they’re given white-collar jobs.

I’d rather bust in some dude’s Swedish wife like I’m Chad Kroeger than grant that horseshit children’s series the validity its fans demand. Maybe I’ll skim “Mona At Sea” after all, for possible sex. The reviews mention something along the lines of blackmail material from social media. That’s the kind of dirt fraternity and sorority archivists used to keep on graduates. It was enough for Turkish intelligence to get Dennis Hastert to sandbag resolutions condemning the Armenian genocide. It is good and normal that an entire generation of digital natives has been lectured about the reputational threat of posting nudes or drinking pictures, and meanwhile the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House was being blackmailed for sexually initiating high school wrestlers under his authority. Put me in Coach!

More people actually working for a living would reduce this crap. The problem is, it’s hard to make a living working, and that’s exactly as capital wants it. Uber is out of drivers? Well shucks. Can’t see how that happened! Let’s see how it does with inside-sales subprime auto loans as a recruitment tool.

Meanwhile a girl in Tucson is out of college and out of work. It’s good to hear about a novel whose moral is that hustling ain’t worth shit. It won’t become worth anything again until we do less of it.

At the corner of suck my cock and fuck you too pal

Being the disorganized anxious-avoidant dipshit I am who knows as much about psychiatry as a keen observer would expect, I ran out of lamotrigine on a trip back east and had to get my prescription transferred from California to New York. There’s no Safeway here, which, oops, but there is Walgreens, so I got to spend $68 for would have cost me about $20.

They couldn’t even make it nice.

That was after all the discounts. I had to pay $20 to get it for $47.99. They’re probably trying to shave another penny or two off their rewards rebates, but they’re definitely trying to bamboozle customers who aren’t in the habit of rounding up to the nearest dollar in the presence of sleazy retailers. The $20 was to join the prescription discount club. You have to pay for prescription coupons at Walgreens. Membership is good for a year, so I can now get all the lamotrigine I want for a 150% markup until next June, unless they raise the discounted subtotal again.

The online coupons I was finding for Walgreens were horrifying. The cheapest was something like $150. I asked the pharmacist about the rack rate. $389. Bitch the fuck? It wasn’t her fault, of course, but dear fucking God. It has to be awful to complete pharmacy school and then discover how many of the job openings are with the same sleazy passive-aggressive shakedown behemoth. It has to be annoying, to say the least, to be professionally trained to spot and intercept drugs with potentially fatal interactions and be forced to tell customers that because they don’t have the proper coupon and their insurance is out-of-network they’ll be paying $400 for a bottle the size of a shot glass half full of universally available generic antidepressant tablets the size of Grape Nuts. Is it under $20 at Price Chopper, with that other coupon? Yes. Is it $389 here at the MSRP? Yes. Why? Fuck me, man; I only work here.

In a country with the rule of law, it would be possible for any customer getting Shanghaied like that to have government auditors collect and return $369 in change the next business day, along with the change due every other customer for every other gross overcharge. Real Heads of Depression recognized it as the 25, and everybody recognizes lamotrigine as definitely not an artisanal antidepressant ground, mixed, measured, and packaged by hand by Ye Olde Village Compounding Apothecary. This shit isn’t Charlie Smithgall walking into the garden with a mortar, a pestle, and a pair of scissors to custom-cut an order of St. John’s Wort. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t charge $389 for that, either.

None of this has shit to do with the free market or supply and demand or economies of scale. It’s extortion. The real retail break-even point for lamotrigine 25 mg 240 count is probably under $10. That should be enough to cover what it costs to manufacture, ship, stock, and dispense the pills. If it isn’t, Walgreens would do fine running the pharmacy as a loss leader for the rest of the store, to get the goobers in for the markups. The cost of getting that shit from the factory floor to the patient’s hands is not $1.62 a fucking tablet. Break me off a piece of something weaker, Stossel; I’m already hallucinating.

This bullshit has yielded Canada much tourism. Drug prices, eh. It’s like how my parents had to drive an hour and a half to Plattsburgh instead of 45 minutes to Queensbury for their Rona shots, and had to go to the old SAC base four times, because their Honorable Governor’s high orations about public health and how much he cared, did not extend to making it feasible to get the damn vaccine. I’m a low-grade paranoiac who keeps up with fellow travelers, and yes, there have been irregularities with these vaccines, and by God do the overwrought incentives raise questions, but when I got over my paranoia last month, I’d waited long enough to walk in for the J&J one-and-done at the Aviation Mall and walk out less than an hour later. They have brined me now alhamdulillah; alhumdulillah I am brined in full. Plattsburgh was so popular nobody went there anymore. That’s why the putz is noisily offering a SUNY/CUNY tuition lottery in a desperate effort to shoot all the kids. Business is down.

Greetings from the Hellstate. Montreal is always worth a visit, and many wouldn’t go unless they had to run errands, but that’s the problem. Who the fuck wants to take a bus to Montreal just to go to some random pharmacy? It’s no accident that our Canadian vice president graduated from Westmount. Neither of our dogshit major parties, if we even conceive of any others, have space under the big tent for a Francopopulist who figures ya hon hon hon have to represent Trois-Rivieres but sure, we can fund a friend’s Metro trip, too, but why the fuck wouldn’t you base the whole system on pneumatic tires, are you a goddamn Toronto limey bastard.

It’s so different now anyway. It’s so much worse. Canada is currently indisposed, to us a(ll), at least. It wishes not to catch sick, and we’d be inconsiderate not to show full trust, confidence, and deference before the demands of a couple of greasy nepotists like Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford when they insist that they’re just trying to keep their constituents healthy and alive. It’s a disappointingly American story, one reminiscent of Cuomo and any number of shitbags in and around the White House. Thank God Canada hasn’t vomited its own Anthony Fauci into a position of supreme epidemiological authority. Of course, Canadians can always borrow Tony, same as they can listen to NPR, watch NBC over the air if they’re close enough, and go shopping in New Hampshire lol jk sucka.

NAFTA Schengen is even farther away than it was. The only way to come close to enjoying it now is to know where to shimmy up against the cliff to evade the sensors and know you shit in dumpsters a few times, just not exactly how many. That’s what happens when you’ve done all the drugs, just like Keith Richards, except you always took the generic versions.

I repot, you de shite. What’s especially shitty about this for me is that, absent the still-indefinite closure of the land border and my parents’ screwiness about driving places when they live in a municipality with absolutely no public transit, we’d pretty reliably be able to drive to Montreal in under three hours and get hella drugs hella cheap. In October 2015 I got an ENT PA to scoop some special fall colors out of my ears. After he spent under ten minutes examining and rotorootering my ear canals, he got one of The Doctors to write me prescriptions for oral ciprofloxacin and Ciprodex ear drops. The Ciprodex came in the same style of itty-bitty bottle used for food coloring. It isn’t particularly complicated shit: same antibiotic as the tablets, cipro, plus dexamethasone, a common steroid, in normal saline. Yeah, it has to be medical-grade, not a thimble out of the Dead Sea, but it doesn’t fucking take CERN to produce that shit.

It cost $231. I’m not kidding. It was definitely well over $200. My dad was, quite reasonably, taken aback. I went online and found a forum where a Canadian pharmacist reported having it in stock for a retail price of about $30.

The loony is more or less worth something, but never by that much. We’re getting scammed. We’re all getting shaken down.

The germane question here isn’t anything about how enterprising and innovative America’s pharmaceutical companies are, leading the world in the development of new drugs; they either get the government to pay for that shit, throw a bit of their own money here and there at Boomer Dick Pills, or don’t do R&D at all. No, the germane question is the cost of toothpaste. Toothpaste, like prescription pharmaceuticals, is manufactured under strict quality control. Industrial chemists make sure it’s to spec. If we feel like being way too fucking generous and assuming that the suspension of a long proven, widely used antibiotic and steroid require quality control costs a hundredfold greater per cc than toothpaste, Cirprodex would cost, like, $5 a bottle. AIM sells for a buck a tube at Fred Meyer.

We don’t need to be exact here; leave that for the chemists. All the math we need for this STEM project, for making good minds GRRRREAT!, is this problem, using examples from the community: Compare and contrast Mr. Charles with Ming. In this problem, Mr. Charles is a normal-size housecat I met in a B&B in the Shenandoah, while Ming is the adult tiger Antoine Yates kept in the ghetto (in the ghetto), with family buckets of KFC and also an alligator.

Cat people. Many such cases!

I was probably too generous with the $5 estimate. I don’t give a shit. I took statistics in college becuase everybody would have made me even more self-loathing than usual if I’d dropped out. Whatever. The problem with this country, and others, too, but definitely the God-blessed US of A, is that our ability to work with orders of magnitude is fucked. It doesn’t work. In a vague conceptual way, Americans understand that Bill Gates has a higher net worth than a dentist. What they don’t get is, okay, look: Assuming Bill Gates is worth an even million, your dentist is worth a plate of spaghett at Denny’s. Depending on circumstances, that might include an iced tea, dessert (why?), or even the tip, as a special treat. Your dentist isn’t going out for dinner at Cattlemens in this scenario without a HELOC.

America’s Dumber Is Always Open. For real, using the same ratios, Bill Gates the bare millionaire would make it impossible for a successful dentist to take the wife (or husband!) and kids out to lunch without getting in hock to Donald Trump’s lenders. (Ronald Reagan went for free.)

Raise the fucking marginal rates, of course. The same people who don’t grok the dire significance of not dispossessing thugs like Gates, Musk, Bezos, and Buffett into mere multimillionaires–yes, Sir Warren gets the haircut, too–often don’t understand just how astoundingly widely the possibly nonfictional R&D costs borne by pharmaceutical companies are distributed once a drug is in production. Lamotrigine isn’t artisanally hand-pressed by Keebler Elves. It pours off the production lines like wheat down a combine harvester’s spout into a hopper. Yeah, they pay a lot of people a lot of money to keep the operation running smoothly, with fewer recalls for fatal side effects in theory than in practice, but that’s because they churn out absolute shitloads of drugs. Yeah, a 757 costs more than my Civic. It’s because I’m not clown-carring a manifest of 200 from O’Hare to LAX in four hours.

What if United loses money flying my fat ass across the country? Good. Century Boulevard! We LOVE it! Actually, some of us don’t so much. Beyond the incomprehension of scale, there’s a deeper principle of trying not to get cucked and suck cock for The Brands when they sustain operating losses on some transactions. They’re what we call too big to fail, and they’re called that for a reason. They do not just kind of oopsy-doopsy lose money and not get it back. That only happens when they’re looted down to the nuts and bolts. But that’s okay, too. That’s why we have a government. They need their constituent services. The grand or so I lost on United and American stock after 9/11 so they could float new offerings and then charge me thirty a bag at check-in wasn’t enough.

Drug prices make airfares look comprehensible. The system is based on the assumption that nobody actually pays the full price because everybody has insurance or a coupon or something. Okay, so why the fuck is that the list price? I’m prudent to demand to know exactly what the pills will cost me if I cut the bullshit and just pay upfront. For one thing, Kaiser was out of network, just as I expected. For $20 or $36 or whatever at Safeway, I don’t mind. It’s different at a pharmacy that offers what amounts to a $321 convenience fee. That’s the difference I would have had to pay just to pay for it and leave. To get it for *only* $68 I had to wait nervously while the pharmacist and a tech punched God and they alone knew what into a computer terminal.

Only a tiny number of unlucky customers, chosen arbitrarily, get to pay full freight while everybody else gets a steep discount. Cool, Walgreens is the Menands Police Department. Real normal, honest, ethical way to run a business here, chief.

What’s so insane about this shit, not just evil, is that the more the customer pays, the less work the other parties to the transaction have to do. The discounts go only to those who put up with transaction delays for gratuitous bookkeeping or somehow joined one of the specific health insurance programs contractually permitted to enter into billing disputes with the specific pharmacy filling the prescription.

Nobody who doesn’t get paid to deal with that shit should have to deal with it. Entire workforces are trained to consider it normal and appropriate to dump pointless administrative burdens onto their customers on behalf of their employers and then act like they’re doing their customers favors by typing some hocus pocus into a computer for a discount code. Any grocery store doing this would go out of business. Price Chopper doesn’t offer five-pound sacks of potatoes for a hundred dollars but let customers wait around nervously at the register for a discount of 30-95%.

It rules that so many Americans resent the poor for getting free medical care or prescriptions in the Obamaphone tradition instead of just demanding free shit for themselves, too. They already scheme for free shit; fuck around with the mortgage interest deduction and find out. What they don’t like is being forced to admit that they get free shit–they work hard to live in a neighborhood with good schools and Kwesi Millington for Sheriff, you see–or sharing social services wth the poor. Medicaid you get for being a lazy freeloader, but Medicare, now that you earn.

Fuck off. If Medcaid sounds good, demand it as a public option. Demand admission. Demand it for everybody, right here, right now. Bang on the door at HHS: I lives here; can I come in? If enough people join the chorus, the answer becomes yes. The drug benefit needs to stop being this copay and that deductible and start just being drugs. Like, time out, boss, this shit’s been on the formulary forever, five spot and a receipt if I pay cash, but I have my number, so I’m getting it for free. You assholes can talk to the government about it; I’ve already paid.

Dat R&D tho. We can’t be disincentivizing innovation. Otherwise our pharmacorps will stop hiring research scientists and turn into stock buyback operations. What on earth would happen if Amerca stopped believing in hard work?

Buddy that ship’s been sailing for decades, centuries if there’s a free slip in Charleston. A mighty ocean is our national self-esteem. It isn’t seaworthy, but it’s out there.

That fucking putz

Andrew Cuomo is in the news again, for the first time in an hour, grandstanding about how you should get out and see people, do things, recall the governor. Oh. Maybe not that last part, if we muster the impertinence to ask him.

Cuomo is #NotMyGovernor. I live in California. It disgusts me that he is my parents’ governor. We’ve been over this before, and I’ve been more than over him. His current exhortations to get out and stop being reclusive and avoidant is basically gaslighting. It’s hard to be sure he’s forward-thinking enough to deliberately gaslight, given all the awful shit he impulsively blurts out in the moment. He’s manipulative as all hell, but he’s a creature of chaos.

His chaos evokes Donald Trump’s, but as usual, I’m pretty sure it’s worse, and he is, too. The Donald shows little interest in bossing the little people around. It always bears repeating that Trump upsets the Brahmin chattering classes and their PMC subalterns because he openly, plainly beefs with revered political scumbags who are, by sacred tradition, accustomed to the due deference of their seniority and station. Trump had the nerve to directly insubordinate himself to them in full public view. He had the nerve to openly relish it. Jen Psaki is obviously a catty, manipulative asshole in private–she all but openly is in public–but she gets a pass for observing Beltway etiquette.

Cuomo is a man of terrible manners. He enjoys permanent dispensation to act like that because he’s to the governorship born. He has the good savvy to grease all the right wheels, of course. A gruff but relatively decent governor’s son like Jerry Brown wouldn’t get far by openly telling bad actors to get fucked and airing their /John Fogerty B Side I’m definitely not being blackmailed voice/ dirty laundry. New York politics have an unwashed crass transactionality worthy of Chicago. This is true of the city and the state. Upstate New York is swamped by Downstate and New York City, and Downstate would be have trouble holding its own against the city if the state line were drawn at the far edges of Ulster and Dutchess. But really, the whole state is like that. Rochester and Green Island pull the same shit. Menands uses Interstate 787 as a tax-farming platform to extort fines out of motorists for bogus moving violations, just like Steilacoom and Roy. (Ferguson’s entire government is a gang of highway robbers.) One end of the town has one dipshit with a plow crew responsible for clearing driveways after storms; the other end has a different crew of dipshits.

It goes back to Hamilton. Cuomo got ahead and stayed ahead by giving the hustlers their daily greasing. Rivers Casino is Schenectady’s economy now because it generates GDP, which is a useless made-up proxy but we don’t care about that. It “creates” “jobs.” There’s better work to be done that would actually make Schenectady a better place to live, but again, we aren’t here to care about backwards shit like that. We’re here to lure tourists in from downstate or crossstate or Connecticut or, on the Justin Time schedule, Canada. The communities sending Schenectady its tourists will in turn squeeze some share of the Capital District’s traveling Schenctards. It’s the same three-card monte the good old boys (and girls!) run at the local scale through gentrification projects. Churn the circular canal and skim off the top.

As usual, the brunt of the workload gets dumped onto untermenschen: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, J-1 Slavs, prisoners, deplorables. That’s what happens when nine-to-fives refuse to work. I can’t blame them. The incentives suck. I can barely afford to do farm work myself. It’s the same case for many Mexicans, just worse. I’m backstopped against debt. For people without kids, the classes of debt the poor take on are worse than living in a car or couchsurfing. I say this having slept in my car more times than I can count. Once the poor get into debt, it immediately becomes viable as a Why Not Both. America’s nine-to-fives are painfully aware of this. It’s buried pain, but they feel it. It chills their bones.

That’s why Applebee’s is “hiring.” Whom? The last thing our aggrieved shortstaffed employers will do is admit that they’re trying to pay and treat their people better instead of worse. NPR keeps airing Both Sides segments for employers to complain that they can’t compete with the government’s welfare compensation packages. If the producers need to drop one of the sides for some more tranny talk (not Chartock, and not Car Talk), they’ll gladly drop the voice of labor. Marketplace, bizarrely, is one of the shows that doesn’t. *Smoothly greasy Kai Ryssdal voice* This–is Mao Hour.

This bullshit about economic incentives and disincentives and nudge your slimy Beltway ass into the Tidal Basin, or rather nudges, is a great example of what these assholes try to do for a living instead of anything a reasonable person would classify as work.

They’re the ones who shitted up the stimmy. Trump came to them with a straightforward proposal to give a whole bunch of people a big check, but their marginally employable loser relatives and cronies needed policy analyst jobs instead of the allowances and childhood bedrooms they’d otherwise get from their parents, so they fine-tuned it into a means-tested kludge. The Oaf of Office instinctively recognizes that ordinary Americans fucking hate that shit, all of it. Every dysfunctional system that makes Americans suicidal is run like that: the IRS as a consequence of the tax schemes it’s mandated to enforce, the welfare bureaucracy, education, health insurance, grants for everything under the sun.

Trump knows it’s popular to just have the government give everybody some money. His opponents don’t care. Straightforward government checks any dumbass can understand don’t make the West Wing crowd feel important. They don’t make them feel needed and valued for their expertise. Busybody nerds can’t stand universal free programs.

Cuomo suffers from a tragically monumental ego. It’s insatiable. He’s governor, following in his father’s footsteps but forever in his shadow. Nepotism is not the root of Cuomo’s problem, as Jerry Brown has shown throughout his career. He needs to be in charge. That’s his idea of leadership. Many politicians approach their love of power with a measure of subtlety. They love power, but they also take pride in being of service. Cuomo’s thing is histrionic heroics. He needs to save the day. He saves the day by bossing the lesser orders around. Stay home. Okay, now go out. Go home. Okay, now go out again. Give your quarantine form to the National Guard at the airport for permission to enter the state. Guardsmen may meet your train at Penn Station, but only if it’s Amtrak, and probably only if it’s long-distance. Don’t think about the inconsistency of not intercepting almost any other incoming traffic or the civil liberties implications or the disturbing questions of what the hell happened at the nursing homes.

The Governor cares. The rest of the state would be better off if he didn’t.

Cuomo’s goal isn’t to be a steadying hand. It’s to be a grand hand. He leads and his people listen. He’s Qaddafi minus the fun comstumes. He presided over one of the most horrific Covid-19 death tolls in the world, then got the networks to cover his grandiose news conferences (he has a brother at one, after all) and threw the state’s weight around with intrusive, manipulative public health theater shows like the Excelsior Pass.

He isn’t there to safeguard his constituents. He’s there to pretend. If he’s too high on his own supply to tell the difference, does it even matter?

Cuomo’s constituents won’t take the state back from him, or can’t. Maybe they enjoy the leash. Surely a few do–New York City has become even more of a reservoir of unfortunate perversions than it was prior to Giuliani–but most probably either benefit from the crookedness or feel powerless to bring it to a halt. Many of those who might try have fled to Florida or the Poconos. Replacing them with gentrifiers and immigrants or porque no los dos has mediocre civic effects, as any project would if most of its members couldn’t vote and the ones who could have shit for economic politics. The Chapo left-liberal types seem to punch above their demographic and political weight. Not every cultural phenomenon is a political or demographic phenomenon.

Mind you, I’m spitballing this part wetter than most of the rest of it; take it with salt to distaste. For whatever it’s worth, I don’t think the role of property ownership in voting patterns and turnout is adequately appreciated in American politics in general, and more voters in New York City own property than the average American imagines. The rest of the state is much closer to the national average.

Cuomo is a more naked scold than most about his prerogative to treat his office as a control room full of dials he can turn at will to dictate public opinion and behavior. It’s Hamilton by way of Bernays by way of Giuliani and his worst cops, as interpreted by the guy who tried to honor his father’s legacy by saying “nigger wops” in front of Alan Chartock. The old Hamiltonian model was awful, but to its credit, its main purpose was to tell the grunts what to do and how miserably little they’d be paid to do it. Over the years, more and more busybodies and scolds folded their shit into the mix. It’s probably no coincidence that New York is one of the great centers of global advertising. The skim keeps many in country houses, too comfortable and sheltered to repudiate Cornelius Vanderbilt and his legacy–why, hello, Mr. Cooper–for being abusive and privileged enough to get his wife committed to an asylum for refusing to leave Staten Island. More than a few of the rich are manipulative enough to consider bogus commitment proceedings in family disputes a good thing.

The putz wants us to go traveling again. Excuse me, who the fuck asked you for an opinion, pops? That right there is the piece of shit who scared me out of visiting my parents for months after the case counts dropped to my satisfaction with that abusive interstate quarantine order and the Guard deployments. I don’t hate or resent him as much for now pumping up a wave of rebound travel, but he still fucking disgusts me for doing that. Travel this summer is going to be awful. My experience flying east the other week sure was. Burbank and National were fine, and Santa Rosa was manageable, but Charlotte was slammed and LAX was just fucking awful. Our masters are ginning up extra rebound travel on top of what we’re naturally (or unnaturally?) facing so we can spend fifteen minutes in line at Hudson News to drop eight bucks on a barely edible sandwich from the poor man’s Pret-a-Manger.

They knew something like that would happen. Every supply line and workforce needed to run the tourist hospitality sector got rekt for a year, and now they want to just turn everything back on, like water heated precisely to 120 F out of a waterfall shower in one of their lofts. Ain’t happening, pal.

What they’re really doing is playing mind games with the proles, as ever, and insider-trading both sides of a market crash and rebound. They know when to place their positions. They know when to get in, when to get out, and where to spent the loot. If a crowded hub terminal in one of the busiest airports in the country has a single overwhelmed newsstand with garbage for food as its sole concession during the redeye rush, they’ll do what they always do: fly private. If the traveling public suffers for trying to reunite with loved ones in the thick of a substantially engineered travel rush, we’ll still be excellent profit centers.

I, for one, can’t wait to hear the next good news out of Rivers Casino once we’re done hearing the current good news out of Amazon’s new warehouse in Schodack.

Fulfillment center. Christ.

Doctoring the stats, if we may

We live in noisy, acrimonious times, bombarded by denunciations of the kids these days for being disgraces to their parents. The barbs the Baby Boom caught were more or less for being insolent, i.e., too mature. The ones Millennials catch are even worse. Go read about that recrimination and religitation and general upset somewhere else, say, in any of the hundreds of passages where it’s already been beaten to death like Nigel St. Nigel’s dinner steak in these pages alone.

Occasionally an absolutely standout statistic pops over the transom and brings this bullshit into the stark relief it so desperately needs but so rarely gets, spotlighting the unlikelihood that tens of millions of extra Westerners under forty independently but simultaneously developed the same set of dysfunctional habits, made the same bad choices, and ended up with the same disappointing accomplishments and bleak prospects. From time to time—more like day or few, for those who aren’t numbed by the cultural onslaught—a snapshot pops up to prove, and I mean prove, that what’s happening is not just entire youth cohorts of current, erstwhile, and aspiring hikikomori freely choosing to make ruins of their own lives.

Tonight’s snapshot, for me, was a graph of the annual number of medical graduates in the postwar United States. The line rises steadily through around 1980. Then it falls into an undulating plateau for the next three decades, before rising more steadily again over the past decade, to the present day.

Did the national population do that? Of course not. It didn’t drop some years or decades and rise in others. It kept growing. Say, the turn of the eighties didn’t feature any other pivots from stewardship into schemes to sneak into other people’s houses and gorge on their seed corn at their kitchen tables, did it? Surely that wasn’t a period of constant strikes and lockouts in an effort to hold the line on the worst of the yuppies.

Metric after metric stagnated or reversed in the seventies and early eighties. It’s chart after chart after chart. It turns out they decided to stop training yuppies into doctors, too. It’s odd. It’s surprising. Aren’t the doctors all yuppies?

Yeah. That’s gotta be why. It’s artificial scarcity. When the unions attempt to enforce a third artificially scarce day of each air traffic controller’s work, they’re lazy freeloaders. When the medical schools and professional associations allow the training of new physicians and surgeons to detach from population growth in an aging country on course to start really aging a generation into the future, that’s, uh, markets something. It couldn’t be professional collusion. It’s not like Adam Smith snickered about how it’s impossible to put any two of any type in the same cafe at the same time and not immediately get them to hatch a conspiracy to fix prices.

The civic implications of Adam Smith complaining not just about every possible sort of tradesman being a born price-fixer but also about landlords are important, eternal vigilance as the price of freedom and all that shit. If that priggish gasbag was Mao by way of the Marquis of Queensberry, maybe the business of business really is monkey business and the landlords really are parasites. Smith happily granted that tradesmen are mere cheats. This might be worth keeping in mind when our elected officials and think tank sinecurists open their pieholes to spend time as the economics faculty.

As fellow tradesmen (and women!), certain members of the b College of Esteemed Barber-Surgeons might wish to do likewise for their own financial gain. They might wish to establish themselves as a strictly select fraternity.

Midwives and midwifery enthusiasts have things to say on this topic.

We risk veering into woo. Is natural childbirth any better than natural root canal or natural orthopedics? I don’t have any she-crunchies in my circles to impress at the moment; none of the bitches in that fight are mine. So let’s flip the question. If obstetrics is such a good idea, why have we spent forty years trying to have less of it? Patch my damn cunt right now, Adams! Be of cervix!

This is an entirely serious question. If a stagnating pool of physicians serving a growing population moves out of general or internal medicine and into OB/GYN for the pay (say, due to student debt), there will be a different mix of ill effects on national health, in this case through the neglect of routine checkups and preventative care, and there probably still won’t be enough obstetricians.

Did the raw ability of American medical schools to train new doctors falter for decades in the midst of breathtaking medical and pharmaceutical breakthroughs? I don’t particularly think so. That isn’t a deal where they just dump all the lab instructors into fulltime R&D. These are complementary parts of the system. They have synergies.

That’s a ridiculous answer for why medical school graduations plateaued alongside surges in the yuppie population. It’s more sensible to explain it by pointing out that recruiters for high-frequency trading shops spent years telling undergraduate math whizzes they were too smart for medical school. Don’t waste your career listening to geezers cough; come help us exploit our microsecond advantage over the other bastards by writing algorithms for the direct line we have from the NASDAQ floor to our new server farm in Hoboken.

These are gentlemen’s pastimes. It’s the kind of parasitic legerdemain that would tempt any ruined aristocrat who’s otherwise prone to club his fellow to death because he was budgeting tonight’s winnings for the latest round of last-ditch payments on his ample household debt. Granted, there are workarounds. For example, parliamentary immunity as a refuge from debtor’s prison is an exercise of classic Burkean conservatism.

It helps to know people to get into medical school these days, too. For veterinary school it’s just about a necessity. Mom and Dad are vets, they both know a bunch of other vets, and whaddaya know, precious Madison seizes the opportunity to shadow one of their colleagues and then gush about it on her improbably successful application for veterinary school. Honorably and lucratively, the family tradition endures.

In the Old World, this professional arrangement would generally be called a hereditary guild. Here, in the land of the free and the home of the brave new one, it’s called—well, shucks, it’s called nothing. We’re one of the most obnoxiously, inexhaustably talkative peoples on God’s green earth, and we somehow don’t have the language to describe the hardening tendency of children, in this case the children of the upper middle class, to take up their parents’ lines of work, to the exclusion of young people from other, less fortunate families.

Counterintuitively, it’s because Americans believe so deeply in the power of language. This is why we lack the language to talk about shit the English, the crew of our mothership and the namesake of our common tongue, traditionally classify with a single syllable. Over here, we’re pretending it isn’t odd that the children of veterinarians have such a preternatural inability to regress to the professional mean of not being veterinarians. They get prodded and hazed through the same test hell as any of their class peers, but kum-on, they aren’t all that competitive. They are not all so smart and capable.

Problem is, our Brahmins today get really touchy about what to do with the family dimwits. Maybe it’s their fault if they won’t study hard enough, but that’s beside the point. The dim their families will have with them always. The intense pressure to succeed doesn’t help, either. Some of their cognitive deficiencies—like, where if you talked to them just to talk to them without thinking about their excellence as striver brats you might walk away thinking they aren’t too fucking bright—arise from the pressure to turn them into Scantron idiot-savants. I was transiently dumber for putting up with that shit. You would be, too.

As Dan Quayle supposedly said, not to have a mind is being very wasteful; how true that is. Palo Alto’s teen suicide victims present, or absent, with scholastic aptitude such that they’d have to go to Atlanta to pass their tests. Youth suicide clusters in affluent communities may well in fact skew test scores and college acceptance letters upwards; I don’t care whether they’re crass enough to think of this, because I am, and I consider it a legitimate, relevant consideration.

All they’d do in Atlanta is grab a damn eraser. Encouragingly, it’s the same approach the proctors took on the Operation Varsity Blues show. Hey, champ, I know a guy in Houston. We’re seriously talking about saving people’s lives here.

*****

I’m shitposting, but I am not kidding. Colleges drive teenagers to suicide, and many more to self-harm, by playing around with the admissions dials to goose their cut of the vig. Then they wonder, oh no, our students have mental health problems. How did that happen? This stance conveniently opens up a slot in the trough for every grifting oddball with a PsyD to devise “solutions” that don’t force their employers to solve a goddamn thing. Our colleges retain an awful lot of in-house solicitors and regulatory specialists per capita for institutions that deal with customers they’re destabilizing to the verge of suicide by commending them to the mental health care of psychologists they employ.

Sociopathic multinational corporations that pull this company town shit on their employees in the interest of “wellness” at least pay them a little something for their trouble. The college model is to charge fees for healthcare upfront, along with tuition, and then delay or deny requests to apply the same fees, by this point on deposit at interest and declarable as liquidity on applications for corporate lines of credit, towards bills for the mental healthcare of outside providers who do not have prima facie conflicts of interest.

This shit is just too fucking obvious to give the benefit of the doubt. Rob Ford needed, like, a week of heat from the press to be like, yeah, I guess I can only prove that I smoked crack, but I’m pretty sure I was also drunk to the point of incapacitation, because that seems like the reason why I’d smoke crack. Dude’s Rock.

I am not here to humor anyone who runs a fucking chartered and accredited bachelor’s or graduate program and insists that isn’t a conflict of interest because it’s complicated and I don’t understand. No, asshole, I’m not a moron. I fucking understand. The arrangement for student mental health services at these schools is tangled but easy enough to describe and explain.

The schools are the immediate payors, the patients are their students, and the clinicians are their employees. The patients, usually via their much more solvent parents, have parallel customer relationships with the payor, as tuition-paying students and de facto policyholders enrolled in a group health coverage plan providing routine outpatient care in campus clinics closed to the general public.

Here’s where it gets sick. The clinicians have the specific, exclusive responsibility of treating mental health outpatients who almost always present with specific complaints against the clinicians’ employer, which is also the patients’ insurance carrier and provider network for psychological care whenever classes are in session and they happen to be on campus.

These are distraught teenagers and early twenty-somethings telling psychologists, all but explictly: Your employer is why I’m sick. Your employer is why I’m cutting myself and thinking of suicide. You work for my college. Our college is emotionally ruining me.

This is a mental healthcare system where the patient has an adversarial relationship with the counselor’s employer, EVERY SINGLE TIME. On rare occasions a patient’s difficulties may not have a provable relationship to the school, one of those situations that’s totally unlikely but plausible enough for Coast to Coast. Okay, I’m not saying I was on meth, but I’m not saying the alien didn’t stick a probe up my butt to download my soul, but I’m definitely saying the way I treat my patients is exactly the way I would if they weren’t telling me I’m working for the same organization that makes them want to kill themselves.

*****

At the institutional level, nobody at these schools can do a thing without debasing themselves to some combination of sophistry and carnival barking. That’s an American story if ever there was one. The combination of self-seriousness and power may be the most ruinous thing about this system. It seems not too conducive to peace of mind to bully teenagers already passing through a drawn-out, incoherently justified liminal period that their future wellbeing in everything from earning capacity to professional advancement to marriage and childrearing depends on their successfully walking a gauntlet of power-mad boors, scolds, busybodies, snitches, and lunatics.

Yes, the individual authority figure is allowed to be a mix-and-match; yes, it’s payable upfront; yes, usurers are standing by with installment plans. Call now.

I swear to God, it’s enough of a rite of passage to get the kids into the payroll workforce. The rest of this shit is just fucking insane.

I once had dinner in the same room as John Yoo for a symposium about Lincoln and Taney and why that did or did not make it okay for the intelligence services to subject detainees they’d gotten for bounties to mock executions. You know, the usual. We were treated to the usual high platitudes about robust debate and intellectual diversity and my balls, which were feeling better than they would have in Homan Square. The idea was that we’d be incurious not to give a fair hearing to a scholar of such stature just because we disagreed with his positions.

Whipped little bitch that I still so often am, I fell for this shit. A fair hearing of that asshole’s heinous and yet boring arguments would be to scream at him to shut up and promise to call 911 the next time he comes into sight. That reaction would rise vaguely towards the level of street justice. A pampered asshat like John Yoo would be horrified. People like him flip their shit at the thought of being heckled. They consider it censorship to be denied salaried academic posts and honoraria just because everything they have to say outrages their paying audiences.

This is the usual grievance about cancel culture: some bigshot pissed the wrong people off in exactly the way he knew not to do when he was on one platform, and how he must suffer the humiliation of having to take his large, established audience to a different, comparably prominent platform whenever he feels like it. The same assholes who are so fed up with liberal snowflakes throw a fit whenever one of them is belatedly denied ongoing payment to say absolutely any rotten thing that comes to mind on Fox News. They get outraged at the possibility of a marginal loss in viewership just because one of them barked a vile racist diatribe through a mouth too wine-soaked to form normal consonants.

To make it even more pathetic, they’re all bitter about their relegation to Fox News or some other platform of similar cultural dominance because a fair society would reward their talents with an appointment to Harvard. Yeah, Harvard doesn’t want me, either, doofus. Harvard does not encompass all possible atrocities just because it’s atrocious.

On the other hand, Boalt Hall made space for Philadelphia Eichmann.

This is the point where I start feeling like I’m fucking hallucinating. I’m just some schmuck who does more or less his fair share of the country’s farm work and publishes huge amounts of weird samizdat, some of which a few strangers enjoy reading. I’m over here chronicling the surreal from time to time, and I feel like a huge disappointment for not doing something more worthwhile. Meanwhile, the surreal who give me themselves as posting fodder do circle jerks for a living. They give each other accolades for publishing “legal scholarship” that would get them fired from the average newsroom for incompetence and serious ethical lapses. They get strivers to prove their own genius for a chance to pay for lectures about how it’s constitutional to commit the kinds of war crimes that got all those guys hanged in Nuremberg. It takes excellent grades and stratospheric LSAT scores to get into John Yoo’s lectures, plus a small fortune in tuition and fees.

Academic grades are barely credible without any of these freaks. They have the same problems with fraud, corruption, and chain of custody as subprime mortgages exhibited in the crash of 2008. The very premise of this system is that it can use printouts of some spreadsheet calculations derived from summary reviews of academic performance to classify alumni as anything from heroically hardworking geniuses to lazy retards, often based on coursework whose only copies existed for all of a day or two. To continue the unnerving hallucinatory feeling, the reason grades and grade point averages are taken so seriously is that the assholes relying on them are too lazy to review applicants’ portfolios. The standardized tests serve the same purpose.

The only thing we know about sexual quid pro quo in academia is that it’s underreported. I guarantee it. Sucking or fucking the right person to change some letters and numbers for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of future earnings is exactly what happens when the stakes are as high as they are now.

Most of this perversion and dissolution is only circumstantially provable. There’s conclusive, thoroughly documented evidence of the parallel ideological extortion that pervades academia and institutions associated with it. Freedom means the latitude to treat Alan Dershowitz like any other jerk with vile politics. It tells us what we need to know about the extent of intellectual freedom that it’s beyond the pale for so many professors and reporters to repay the foultempered immorality of such characters with anything but graciousness and patience. It isn’t mercy or magnanimity to put reactionary shithead lawyers on TV. It’s enabling. It’s collusion.

The assholes could always just grab soapboxes and serve as models of pluck and independence for the young people they rue have turned into whiny, easily offended conformists. They hate the idea. It would be an ego hit. I don’t usually look at my site stats these days. None of these emotionally volatile freaks would be able to resist. None of them can bear to be denied Harvard’s imprimatur, or to be quiet on any platform within their reach about the injury they sustain by being so denied.

*****

The simple explanation for their ill cheer is that they’re courtiers. They’re as bitter and resentful as any other chorus of petty little bitches about being barred from the courts of true power, those stuck kissing noble ass in Avignon for a living always pining for Versailles, where they’ll finally show the world that they’ve arrived.

Bruh, they feed you, right? And of course they do. Courtiers and whatever else they are as well—priests, scholars, jesters, counselors—are fed by the sweat of other brows. It’s one of the draws of the gig. They just have to concoct or perpetuate whatever story it takes to convince the peasants that they shouldn’t have to pitch in on the chores.

What makes these already miserable “conservative” crybabies go from the tragically insatiable to the farcical is their confusion of prestige with power. Sure, maybe critical race theory or whatever on earth is the matter with Larry and the Lady Mathematicians is obnoxious. That doesn’t mean it’s relevant. The people who actually run the Ivies and the United States are happy enough to toss some more feed into the vealpen on demand while those with the real wealth, power, and privilege either do their own whining about how marginalized they are or simply ignore the spectacle.

Our dean of humanities Dr. Summers plays both roles, getting rich and powerful and also splashing around in the mudpit of academic feuds. The litmus test of power, however, is simple. Whoever is getting rich is who matters. That’s the finbros and Tommy Tuberville before it’s anyone maxing out at $30k complaining about representation or free shit from the sponsors to fill out the team.

*****

The more or less reasonable assumption about the applicant pools and student bodies of prestigious universities—the Ivies, the Hidden Ivies, the flagship state schools—is they’re drawn from elite families, ones corresponding at least to the aristocracy or the medieval court clergy. This is intuitive, except it isn’t entirely the case. Harvard wouldn’t make its applicants grovel like peasants if it didn’t regard them as peasants. It esteems a few of them as true nobles; the remainder it regards as mere peasants with disposable assets.

Making these losers do a song and dance is entertainment for profit. It confirms the Good Schools as good schools, ones worth slashing throats and paying fortunes to attend. It reinforces the national and transnational class structures.

Once the higher strata of the peasantry matriculate, their mental health becomes important, because if it decides to go on sabbatical again the kids might do something to make their schools look bad, like drop out. The embarrassment of a high dropout rate comes with a significant loss of tuition and fee revenue, which also makes a school look bad.

There’s no fence bounding the prison. It’s still prison psychiatry.

To quote Zachary Karabell’s awfully unfortunate phrasing, what’s college for? It’s for itself. That’s the thing. It isn’t to prepare students for the professional world or cultivate in them the life of the mind or any of that shit. It’s an expensive crowdsourced matchmaking service, after a fashion, although Grove City is the only college to be honest about this pupose, and hence somewhat coherent. At other colleges the matchmaking role is mostly incidental; the same striving assholes might just as easily meet each other in prep school or grad school or even some yuppie bar in the big city, being yuppies.

The faculties do not govern themselves. Professors can be profoundly disturbed, but one thing they are not inclined to do is elevate the most parasitic flimflammers from among themselves to serve as their chiefs. The quality of administrator drops noticeably from department chair to college president. The central administrators are so much more expensive and so much worse. The principle is that it costs more to get more; quality of personnel demands quantity of funds.

Everything about this is happy horseshit. It’d be cheaper to elevate a sitting professor for a year or two instead of mounting national searches for the best of all candidates, and the candidates would be better. But that’s not the point. The point is to semi-randomly reward suckups for their sycophancy and corruption. Our college presidents couldn’t possibly be pulled from a grab bag of obnoxious, arrogant mediocrities for awards of salaries multiples of what any of the professors they govern earn and also free mansions. Surely they’re intellectuals of great distinction.

The true extent of academic self-government is the department. In some universities it may be an internal academic division, a “college” or “school” or whatever. /Most philosophical Jeffrey and the Jailbait Enjoyers salon voice/ Karabell, I don’t care what it’s for. What’s “college?” Yeah, okay, but wood does dat godda do wit pussy?

It has much to do, of course, just not in coherent or scrutable ways. HQ and the assholes who call their shots—the boards of trustees, the boosters, individual alumni who live to throw their money and weight around—tend not to interfere directly in departmental operations for a number of reasons, all of them better than nothing but none of them reputable. They want their precious schools to look good, and a reputation for sleazy bigshots intruding into departmental affairs is bad. They don’t want tenured faculty getting hostile, and if the vulgarians push the envelope the eggheads most assuredly will. These moneyball shysters are in it to make bank and move bank, not to get berated back off the academic quad by professors who are both avowedly and by consensus more educated, making a scene only to defend the ethical and intellectual high ground.

Besides, the departments have nothing of value to seize in the first place. They’re loss leaders for the big grift. It’s the vealpen again. No need to close the gate; just toss some feed in over the rail. They’ll gladly lie down and chew.

This is why the big cheeses keep the humanities departments around. This is why they don’t pare down the 100-level chemistry courses to excuse the morons who enroll for the distribution requirements and to have the TA’s turn on their Bunsen burners and do their math. They need to pretend that everybody who graduates is educated. Chad Kroeger is educated enough to admit he’s uneducated. That’s too educated.

Okay, he’s singing about high school. Is it the same notorious retard factory in Alberta that it is down here? It’s no pride of th’ American side, to judge from the bitter complaints of its being a volume-discounted version of college with marginally worse academic and occupational results. Nobody who comments on this shit has the intellectual curiosity to go after the deeper, real problems when it’s so easy to whine about low returns on investment. The rest of us get the discourse they deserve.

*****

If college’s intellectual mission is the formation of intellectually curious critical thinkers, a critical thinker would think college graduates would stand out for that, not for being insecure social climbers who get upset whenever somebody disses one of their cults at lunch. If the goal is to produce well-rounded physicians–hold up, because if that’s what we’re doing, we need to start by redesigning medical school.

It must feel too much like vo-tech to think about reclassifying medical training as a strictly professional course of study, such as the law still is in the crustier corners of Vermont. Medicine needs to be a profession of the Renaissance Man (and Woman!), not a grubby trade in which the barber-neurosurgeon is expected to know more about where and how to cut the brain than he does about the classics, butt enough about the Castro, or than she does about walking into her ex-boyfriend’s kitchen and yelling at him while he calls 911 from upstairs because she just woke him up from a nap. Understand, we cannot have the general public accusing The Doctors of exactly the obsessive narrow intelligence that’s drilled into them over the course of their medical training. This would decrease the public’s confidence in, as doctors do not call it but those who seek to marry doctors do, the medical field.

The popular understanding of this shit is all wrong. Everything I publish in these pages is the liberal arts. This right here is the real deal. You can say, well now, it’s nothing but gonzo shitposting, and fine. What I’m saying is still this: Whenever I barf forth another 2,500-12,500 words about Kwesi Millington or whatever the hell to polerize a friend, I’m objectively engaging in the liberal arts. There is no strict professional or technical purpose to this stuff.

There are strict professional and technical purposes to medical education. That’s why we’re all made to pretend that our doctors have to be Jonas Salk and also Marcus Aurelius. Look, I can hardly give my dentist a clear field of view when he starts talking to me about how much he loved “those trees with the pretty bark” (eucalyptus, I determined) on the first trip of his life to California because there was a clinical conference in, like, Altadena. I don’t need him to learn additional topics of conversation; that’s for his personal life, not my already full mouth.

Mind you, I’m just being too smart for school again. I’m not entirely joking, either. One of the purposes of the broad education of medical doctors, and Dr. Puliafito has indeed given a broad or two an education, is to encourage the public to think, patiently, as it were, of polymath brilliance as a proxy for the sharp clinical knowledge and acumen the same doctors may or may not possess.

What the fuck does that have to do with anything? I’m not over here telling Dennis Geyer where to cut, or what to cut, other than out the antics on the bridge, because young man I do not like the sound of that. Do we need or want our surgeons writing crap like that? No. We might wish for them to write post-op notes based on actual reviews of systems, but we can’t have a thing that nice, either. The professional standards are surprisingly mythical. Please insert my usual review of systems.

Medicine is a profession in which Dan Crenshaw’s eyes are equally reactive and dilated. The only way to face consequences for writing notes of that quality is to do so in a practice that maintains its own internal standards. The Mayo Clinic will probably shitcan anyone it catches doing that. The average hospital group? Lol wut, sure. Basically, you can do whatever until you get fired or sued, and if you get into either sort of trouble, you can find somewhere else to work. Drylabbing is okay as long as nobody gets maimed or killed, and the med-surg nurses are there to handle the med part.

My usual, please.

There might be less in the way of funds to slush if the normies start wondering what the fuck doctors know. Out in the streets a lot of Americans are bitter about medical mistakes and the incompetents who make them, but the main point is to overwhelm them by bamboozling nine-to-fives who vote. Dr. Oz is a doctor, you see.

Yeah, no shit. I’ll go to a different cardiac surgeon if I need one because he only practices part-time and the rest of them are somebody else. Does that mean he knows anything about probiotics or superfoods that can’t be learned from a list of ingredients? Does he know anything about exercise that any rando who gets out for a walk doesn’t also know? Of course not. He’s some freak on TV who eats an ounce of raw walnuts for lunch. He’ll be telling me what to eat just as soon as I’ll listen to some performatively folksy dipshit from the Farm Bureau tell me the parish hall coffee in his thermos is good enough for a breakfast at daybreak under the old oak out front of the barn when you’ve got twelve hours of silage to cut. Okay, then, you drink it, you twerp.

That’s the other thing: A whole lot of Heartland Leaders are teachers, not farmers. (I’m leaving the lawyers aside because they’re too numerous to be interesting.) Ben’s Ass—now goodness, can somebody teach me how to spell?—was a college president. Both of his parents were high school teachers. Lyndon Johnson and Chuck Grassley went to normal school. Denny taught in one.

Take that one to the mat. We all wrestle with these things, if we’re so unfortunate. The mere instructor goes to Minnesota for being homosexual; the true rancher goes there to BE homosexual.

The folksy wonders strutting around Washington and its many outposts around the world with their obnoxious method acting projects are eggheads. They’re thousands of times more likely than the average American to have Ivy League pedigrees. So much school, so little refinement. What the hell was the point of sending them? Brett Kavanaugh did not need to enroll to learn about beer.

Are we still to imagine college refines its alumni? Are we still to imagine it has a culturing effect? They matriculate as crass boors, and they graduate as crass boors. As Tom Lehrer might say, it’s a sewer like the rest of life, just costlier.

Rich people love having the merely affluent extrapolate and project their own fussy aesthetics and habits to the very top. They want the upper middle class to imagine that the overclass is not crawling with what Michael O. Church called uncultured barbarians. They want the PMC to continue to take Donald Trump for a poor man’s idea of a rich man, not simply a rich asshole. Between their sheer wealth and their forsaking of the noblesse oblige their ancestors learned the slightly hard way in the Depression, a rich person with coarse tastes today faces few obstacles to acting like Donald Trump. The press earnestly celebrates the vile antics of the rich. We love our celebrities, don’t we, folks. The authorities do little to temper their worst impulses. The matriarchs and patriarchs who were around for the lessons of the Depression in real time are too frail, feebleminded, or dead to meaningfully object. Who was that negro? Why, he was Kofi Annan, Mrs. Astor. Well, now, surely his parents were not foolish enough to name him Coffee.

The hardcore rich do whatever the fuck they please whenever the fuck they please. Sometimes they actually, sincerely try to be reputable and modest. We hear very little from or about these cases. The infamous hard workers among the rich work, or hold acting roles showcasing their own work ethics, almost exclusively to gather and hoard more wealth and power.

During the Great Compression they had to restrain themselves or be restrained. They had to negotiate with unions and submit to regulators. They love their current restoration to the powers of gods on earth. They have always consideed these powers their birthright. It smarted to have their worst wants denied for several decades on account of government intrusion into their affairs and the omnipresent threat of swift mob violence for overreach. They’re gratified to again be given tacit blessings to set quotas in ways forcing their employees to wear adult diapers. They approve of the prerogative Donald Trump used on television to ritually humiliate “apprentices” by breathing the words of ruin upon them like Zeus. They consider this a good model for the economy and for their own lives.

Yes, this includes #resist #WithHer #NeverTrump scolds. As always, it’s about substance, not style.

*****

As we mentioned above, medicine is a grubby, tiring way to try to make a fortune, and one requiring high intelligence. Some families are practically medical castes of their own. There are, for example, many Drs. Gupta. Judy Dench once got the sads on As Time Goes By and had to see a Mr. Percival, a Norman French cunt. To judge from the compensation packages, American doctors push their children High French and Original Brahmin children into medicine for the money. Prestige is the other obvious factor.

To be quite blunt, medical doctors and their class peers do not have a 70% or 90% lock or however much of it is they hog on young adult children capable of completing medical training and serving capably as doctors. Come on. Too many of their kids are too dull or soft or, inflammatory though it is to admit this away from the academic vealpen, traumatized to get through medical school and a residency the way these programs are run.

In the USA today (lol), these rounds of hazing are all too clearly a series of forced marches into a crooked, cruel system that doesn’t work. On an alarming number of floors, it’s acceptable for doctoring to fall somewhere between an acting gig and cosplay. The Village People were not in fact a cop and a logger and whatever. A medical license is worth its printstock as evidence of fitness for a physician who drops acid to make rounds “fun” or a surgeon who scrubs in too drunk to maintain normal gross motor function when he gropes his scrubs nurse with a breast pocket full of sharps.

It’s hard to imagine the quality of available medical staff not plummeting as word gets out about incidents of that nature. It’s more than a few assholes; it’s all the enablers among their colleagues turning a blind eye to flagrant unfitness for duty that could get patients killed, plus the openly homicidal executives and shareholders, plus the ethical impunity for consorting with cheerleader bimbos hawking the latest patent medicines on the junket circuit.

The prevailing ethics and standards of care in American medicine today are, if anything, higher than they should be given how notoriously riddled it is with profiteers, quacks, drylabbers, and other trash who have no business anywhere near it. It’s a powerful strange attractor for bad actors that is incidentally also a powerful strange attractor for good actors.

Where’s the tipping point? I think we’re right around it, but I couldn’t say for sure which side. Ask Malcolm Gladwell. Are Nickelback the dumbest Canadians? They sing popular songs about life, death, relationships found and lost and maybe found again, the sociology of small towns, luck good and bad, high school, sex in the shower, and the criminal justice system. Gladwell is famous for writing about how if you play a lot of hockey, there’s a good chance you’ll get good at hockey.

By God my stories about how if you spend 1,000 hours learning about horses at a government sleepaway school you’ll have no idea how to calm down a Pollack are better than that.

*****

The answers are so straightforward and yet so daunting. Train more doctors instead of whatever the hell we’re doing to miseducate our smart people instead. Nationalize the big pharmacorps, which profiteer on government research all the time as it is. Investigate the shit out of anyone trying to trade dinners and swag and a little something-something under my blouse for prescription sales, on both sides of the agreement; that setup is a way for our already quite well-compensated physicians and surgeons to charge their hookers to company expense accounts. Break up the for-profit hospital groups. Yank their nonprofit status on grounds of fraud. Establish more and better government clinics.

Medicare for All or Medicaid for All or Tricare for All would be a good adjunct.

Or an army of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed idealists could try to join it and reform it from the inside. It’s admirable, until it turns into a sellout fiasco like Teach for America or the law for most anybody. It’s the usual shit about systems and their inertia and peer pressure from colleagues and the kids’ classmates and all the rest of it. It’s a fucking mess, rather like the mainstream culture of this decadent, decrepit land.

Besides, you won’t need to call Toni Morrison to babysit your toddler while you become a neurosurgeon. There aren’t any openings. Help is not wanted.

God help us if they ever force Carol off the media

Dammit, Douglas, you incorrigible Maritime heartthrob, I may sound too hypomanic not to get Hortons on mane, but this time the pride is again th’ American Side’s, as it happens. Radio so bad, Big Ears Teddy will turn himself back around and refuse not to “bear” witness.

Have I used that one before? It’s about time in any event. The big news this time for us public radio trainspotters, as Colby Cosh calls us, pertains to On The Media, a program on the media. They sure as hell weren’t gonna call it On The Bala Cynwyd, am I right, Garf. #ThatWasBad #DudeItsRude. It turns out that that urbane Main Line dean of reporters was a toxic asshole who liked to throw bullying tantrums around the office and failing to abide by HR’s demands that he behave himself. Justice in his case was not particularly swift, but it was dramatic. Bob’s permanently away this week. I’m Brooke, and I’m glad about it.

That was also bad. It shouldn’t be a terrible surprise to hear that Garfield’s personality fell short of his persona. These are actors. If you find Buddha on the road, kill him. If you find Michael State on Facebook, repost parish hall normcore. My ex thinks he sounds like a slut and Beth Huizenga is out of her goddamn mind.

Whatever. As much as they’re anything, they’re entertainers. We invite them into our homes and cars and workout headsets and mind. We fancy them friends, buddy. Good guys. They work in a dynamic business, working urgently to balance the unbalanced on the fly on strict deadlines. It should be no surprise that more than a few of them are unbalanced themselves. They’re theater kids.

Excuse me: theatre kids.

The worst of these actors take advantage of the high pressure, high stakes, and tight deadlines to justify behaving however the hell they want. In Jian Ghomeshi’s case, this meant not just choking women but berating his production staff to pull everything together while he went incommunicado on deadline because he was having a mood. It’s a miracle Q was ever ready by airtime.

You have to have thick skin to hack it in the business. Jian Ghomeshi has exceptionally thin skin. What they really mean is you have to have thick skin to work around Jian Ghomeshi. Honestly, I sometimes wonder if he’s even happy with himself, no matter how inexcusable it was for him to take his disappointments and upsets out on staff and threaten to get colleagues blacklisted for saying anything bad about him, e.g., his renown for choking a bitch.

Radio is no place for a sensitive little crybaby, the Bob Garfields of the world like to say. They say the same thing about running a restaurant, working in an operating room, and every sleazy sort of sales work. Complaints about political correctness and oversensitivity consistently come from or on behalf of the most hypersensitive, emotionally incontinent outburst artists in whatever business is under discussion.

It’s always about maintaining the existing power dynamics. First they came for Bob Garfield, and I said nothing, because Bob Garfield had contractual employment protections and guild representation the likes of which I never expect to enjoy. An ordinary line employee would be fired on the spot for pulling that shit, assuredly so for doing anything of the sort to a supervisor. It’s only certain people who enjoy the latitude to throw bullying fits around the office. To WNYC’s credit, it lost its patience with Garfield for persisting in screaming at colleagues and subordinates over editorial differences and has previously released hosts as prominent as John Hockenberry for being sex pests. To its discredit, it seems to have quite a few problem personalities. As we say online, you truly hate to see Tanzina Vega on the HR list.

Living vicarious professional lives through the personnel disputes of media bigshots is pathetic. They’re nothing like us. Theirs is a different, separate, alien world. Lead characters in all media are infamously prone to be divas. This doesn’t make their behavior acceptable. If Bob Garfield’s behavior was as chronically problematic as WNYC’s outside auditor found, he needed some time away from the studio to chill the hell out. Terminating him outright was a reasonable decision when he’d already been formally warned to keep his temper in check.

“Cancel culture” is a red herring. The much bigger threat to the occupational viability of ordinary Americans is the combination of merciless at-will employment; intrusive, abusive employers; and the strategic absence of government job guarantees or even the faintest glimmer of full employment policies. It isn’t Bob Garfield getting shitcanned for having an unacceptable anger management problem at work and having to go on Twitter and Substack to complain about it, still a public citizen. It isn’t Don Imus getting axed not to talk about “nappy-headed hoes,” or rather, for talking about “nappy-headed hoes.”

It was some kind of foul feelings towards a team of lady ballers, I recall. To paraphrase the Ghetto-Ass Bitches of 103rd Street, their hair always gone BE nappy. The people who make the hiring and firing decisions in these cases don’t spend much time on the Blue Line, but that’s beside the point. Imus upset and scandalized the advertisers. He knew he was pushing the envelope by being racially edgy on air. They heard that tirade and decided they’d had enough.

Some of these characters are Greekly tragic. Garfield sounds more like a garden-variety bully who elected to dispense with self-control around the office, a man with an awful temperament but a sincere love of journalism and interest in its cultural context. Rush Limbaugh was something else entirely, a bitter old man who had every creature comfort and still bitterly fumed about random strangers being cheats or freeloaders or loafers because the bitterness and the fuming made him ever richer and more popular. As a young man, Rush wanted to do baseball radio; he was passionate about it and impressed people with his encyclopedic knowledge of it. The problem with this career is that it would have left him doing the yeoman’s work for yeoman’s pay in some local or regional market. The money was in being an angry reactionary who always sounded and looked ready to drop dead of a heart attack.

Wow Much rosebud Such sad. I can’t imagine having a platform of that topical latitude and not using it to reach out to loved ones I’ve lost and miss, to say good things about them in terms vague but recognizable to them and the real heads who know them, much as I sometimes do here with an audience of several of you, give or entirely take. I’m still dealing with a fresh breakup, but I might still be hella emo about this shit in more placid, less troubling personal times, with a somewhat more normal emotional and spiritual life. I truly don’t get why people like Limbaugh don’t pivot back to baseball once they’ve gotten some fuck-you money, just open up a free-for-all call-in about the Cardinals or whatever because the audience is already there and will gladly follow them to other platforms in the event of programming disputes.

Commercial radio is a collection of cesspools different from NPR’s. The lowest common denominators Rush Limbaugh exploited included the desire to rape. Guys who would have tested the waters more carefully in their local bars found, if we may, a safe space on his show and other syndicated garbage heaps of that sort to fume about how women were asking for it. Most of the commentary was sublimated enough to keep the advertisers from flipping their shit, but it was about rape. Imus’s comment about the basketball team touched on the ugly, arguably epigenetic American history of racialized rape, maybe only subconsciously, but it was a real factor.

Their target demographic is the same one that expresses its disgruntlement that the broads these days need to lighten up, toughen up, and just deal with a little light touch and talk around the office. The reasons to try to do better than that are obvious and compelling, and they aren’t all liberal in nature, either. In some sense or other, they’re all fundamentally conservative; the point is to try to set and hold a working sexual ethic that keeps the dumbest, worst elements in the workplace from using it to distract all and distress many by being uncontrollably horny all the time. As I’ve said before, Hillz is the conservative on this shit and the Donald the liberal. America is still not ready to have this conversation, but nevertheless, she persisted–in this analogy, I’m not with her, but personally her–to #GetTalking.

*George Nori Voice* Dominic, from Windsor, California, on the Wildcard Line. Go ahead.

The aliens consented.

They consented to what?

The aliens all consented.

Are you saying you consented to their sexual advances?

They consented.

[Sagest Dril Voice] Butt they care not,, too “Fap Only.” *Seinfeld electronica scene break*

Am I right fellas, etc., all that. That’s a big swath of who listens to that garbage, and a bigger chunk of the disposable income the advertisers covet: winery scions who can damn well afford to hire hookers but instead go into politics to rape their fellow elected officials. More than a few listeners are the doers of Denny Dundiddy deals; as fewer point out than care to hear, the loudest on any given seedy or perverted thing having to do with sex tend to be the worst about it themselves.

But now goodness, Sgt. Karsnia, I thought the acoustics in that restroom were just fine!

Yeah, I’m flying, too, on the night shift (on the night shift). Seriously, though, this combination of sexual repression and abuse is a significant reason why so many people are reluctant to engage in the workforce. Expanded to include other forms of abuse intersecting with sexual abuse, it’s a main reason. Decades of unrelenting propaganda about how it’s good to be abused at work–The Office, The Apprentice, Uber as hustle culture–have somewhat backfired. Work? Ah, yeah, work, that’s where you go to get annoyed by morons and treated like shit by assholes for poverty wages and then fired for displeasing one of them.

The whole edifice is shakier than it’s made out to be. Office normcore as a dipshit cover for abusive scheduling practices may be stable. Offfice normcore as a cover for sexual harassment of subordinates is metastable at most. That’s the kind of shit that has male loved ones cleaning their guns. The academic and affluent nature of activism against campus rape pisses off Walt Kowalski wannabes who call in to talk shows to bitch about how everybody’s so goddamn soft these days. It’s much less objectionable to people in the same towns–conservative, liberal, left, whatever–who are sick of getting groped by scumbag customers and shift managers at Applebee’s for a summarily recovable pittance, or who are furious that their sisters, wives, or daughters are being mistreated in that fashion. Company men were allowed to abuse longshormen’s daughters as a hiring condition until they weren’t. It had to do with their discovery that getting beaten to shit for trying to have their way was a credible promise, not an idle threat.

Bob Garfield ain’t got shit on that crew. He’d be on the mild side among franchisee sex pests. The Grey Lady accuses him of using “a barnyard epithet.” I’m not exactly fascinated, but bullshit, I guess? He’s mainly nursing a bruised ego from getting canned from a job where he sounded rather miserable anyway. It’s a useful object lesson in not being able to get away with that shit just for being prominent and playing the urbane WASP Jew on the radio. I didn’t even give a shit when I discovered he’s actually a Jew. He’s not exactly fun like Psychotarp or Pot-o-Shit Friend or Steph, in case the first two are having trouble with their sisters. #TooSoon. All he did was clean up from his disinhibited fits and emo moping in time to do the gentleman-scholar thing on NPR every week, or more recently every two or three weeks, depending on when Brooke Gladstone was hosting in his stead, stoically but now audibly quite the frosty Jewess herself.

Jewish conspiracy? I know, enough about NPR, but those two could barely conspire to put out a fucking radio show. As the old Brooklyn proverb warns, Christ, Mort, are you enough of a putz to believe a pile of crap like that?

As much as it must sting to be fired, Garfield picked a good country for his termination. He might be shocked to discover what happens to the easily upset when they get agitated in Canada under the name of Robert.

Protest peacefully! Express your frustration, but please not your anger! Wear your masks! Get a permit! Be home by bedtime! Stay off the freeway!

Minnesota is getting riot season going early this year, huh. No, ja, Pekka, don’tcha know, da colored folks aren’t too happy abaout naouw. And ya thought da ethnic trouble was bad enough between your kind and the high-class krauts!

Gee, one wonders why. The same secondary megalopolis where a beat cop is on trial for murdering a black man over a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill just had another beat cop shoot another black man to death because he was driving on an expired car registration with an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror and an active arrest warrant. The police woman in the latest case mistakenly drew her taser, according to her chief. Did any of them learn anything from Johannes Mehserle? If so, what?

The authorities didn’t give their dispensation and blessing for the Black Lives Matter protests last year just to gaslight their constituents. It was whatthefuckular, for sure, having mayors and governors and health officials give their constituents an extraordinary hall pass in the thick of nearly universal orders to shelter in place, but for real, that’s what they always fucking do. The only difference that time was the ongoing outbreak of a virulent respiratory contagion. The provenance of and official reactions to the Dread Ailment have been questionable, to say the least, but most reasonable Americans knew better to taxi the nightclub circuit mutually freebreathing on total strangers all night under the circumstances.

This raises a question: Is there a difference between mixing unmasked with strangers indoors in a probably futile effort to bone one of them and mixing outdoors, mostly masked, in street demonstrations pushing back on the police for asserting their prerogative to strangle citizens to death at will? Geez, Ole, I know some a ya are priddy dense, but da ya fucken think?

The civil authorities knew they had an uprising on their hands. Dr. King’s beloved white moderates love to blame the upset on people staying home, being out of work, and watching too much TV, which, goodness, I can’t imagine there were any official incentives or demands or ubiquitous fnords encouraging such idleness, and it’s conceivable that unusual, unexpected free time makes it easier for the public to follow national news of, say, two Buffalo riot cops cracking an old activist’s skull open in front of local news crews for calmly walking up to their formation with a peace offering and the entire riot squad resigning when their colleagues faced criticism and minimal professional discipline for committing an aggravated battery that National Guardsmen in formation behind them narrowly prevented from turning into voluntary manslaughter by being the first ones with the decency to provide first aid and call an ambulance. Maybe these are policing practices that ought to have captured closer attention from more Americans in their earlier, sometimes less violent manifestations, back when we theoretically all had work. Yes: Buffalo riot police did nearly murder an old man for approaching them in a spirit of serenity and peace; yes, the Denver Police did shoot out a man’s eye in an attack that was either the result of terrible trigger discipline with riot control weapons or, all too likely, a reprisal attack on a random civilian for breaking a curfew on his way back from work; yes, Salt Lake City cops did shove a barely ambulatory old man to the ground for being in their way on the periphery of a protest; yes, the security services brutalized Christopher David when he calmly approached them to ask them if they gave a damn about their oaths of office; yes, riot police in Walnut Creek and San Diego made explicit murder threats over loudspeakers; yes, a Houston cop deliberately trampled a woman with his horse; yes, Pennsylvania State Police kettled and pepper-sprayed protesters on an embankment for briefly occupying the Vine Street Expressway, in the same city where Joey Baloney beat the shit out of protesters just because he was pissed off and felt like serving America a spicy wooder ice.

It was truly the Spirit of 76, American cops going hardcore Redcoat on their own constituents for challenging their samurai privilege to whack anyone who disobeys their arbitrary, contradictory orders, gives them mouth, or in any other petty way displeases them. It’s hard to believe, for example, that Bill DeBlasio has the NYPD under his civilian control. Likewise Lori Lightfoot, Ted Wheeler, and possibly the grandiose, Ceausescuan Eric Garcetti, although that sociopathic creep looks like he quite enjoys the classic folkways of the LAPD.

The United States turned out to be full of derelict, plausibly blackmailed or threatened with assassination, who would not or could not control their own cops. The whole country was suddenly suffering from a bad case of pigs mad.

As always, these shitheads did their thing. They tried to coopt the protests. They, those elected to answer petitions from the public, told the public how to petition. We admire your passion. We welcome your peaceful protests. We want you to make your voices heard. No, you are not allowed to riot. No, you are not allowed to loot. No, you are not allowed to be on the streets after dark. It’s bedtime, serf. Return to quarters at once.

That’s why they expressed their approval of protests. That’s why they declared protests an essential activity. They wanted to assemble a controlled opposition to divert and diffuse the public’s raw leverage: same shit as ever, just this time with a respiratory pandemic on the loose, as constantly reiterated through lecture series, human interest trend pieces, and fnordforce deployments.

What these morons figured was that if the protesters validated their permission to assemble for the narrow purpose of telling them to control their goddamn cops, they’d be in for a penny, in for a pound in the face of their every other overbearing diktat. That’s what they expect their constituents to do in the midst of escalating stochastic police attacks. They expect scared, angry constituents to subordinate their own anger to the feelings of Jacob Frey.

Yeah, that’ll fucking happen. “We know you’re scaed and upset–” Yeah, no shit, boss. You gonna do something about it, or do we have to shut down the freeways? Oh, YOU’RE the one who’s deciding to barricade freeway exits, raise the drawbridges, and retreat into your home behind multiple lines of riot cops, like a mad queen? Get fucked, bitch.

“Rioting and looting won’t accomplish anything. Please, express your anger, but–” Oh. Is that so? It immediately gets officials’ panties into a twist. It makes them visibly uncomfortable. It throws them off balance. Is that nothing?

Huh. Maybe these horny-for-rules scolds and the paranoid propertied constituents they always prioritize over anyone vulnerable don’t want to face genuine, credible pressure from their inferiors. Maybe they don’t like actual leverage from below. It sure seems like they get hella squirmy whenever they’re cornered. They sure seem to hear but not listen. It’s the same problem their cops have with private citizens. It’s exactly the objection the same elected officials have to direct actions that violate their instructions. Oh no, they strayed off the parade route!

The peasants are coloring outside the lines. Ousside, but such a long wait for the government cash. How bow dah. Let’s give the LAPD three billion this year, though.

We’re all bad babies indeed. We’re so insolent. They tell us how to express our feelings, and we insist on expressing them as we see fit. We just won’t listen. The subject can have a little peaceful protest, as a treat, but just a little.

It’s striking. Officials who never do shit to bring grocery stores into food deserts or public services in general into the ghettos suddenly go on edge whenever a mob smashes the windows at the Speeday, overturns the hot dog rollers, and for some reason leaves most of the pastries in place–in fairness, Kajieme Powell didn’t much care for them, either, it seems–because a cop just murdered one of their neighbors during a traffic stop and the chief described it as a tragic accident. Our upset public officials, the same ones who refuse to disciplne their police forces and instead deploy them like occupying armies whenever there’s an outburst of unrest over an act of violence on the part of their colleagues, insist that rioting and looting, the same direct actions that so palpably unnerve them, are senseless and useless.

As Melissa Ann Shepard always said, oh, come on, sweetie, you don’t have to step out on me and get your coffee in the breakfast line when I’ve already made us a pot. They don’t actually want us petitioning for the redress of our grievances. They don’t want their constituents getting so uppity. It’s inconvenient. It’s disruptive. If it doesn’t stop, it will force them to do something about their rotten, violent, seditious cops. Their sermons about the proper, effective way to protest are a pile of bullshit, and by now the people they claim to represent know it.

*Most civic Roger Schafer midnight munchies voice* I didn’t do shit to the Speedway! I was cutting food costs!

Title IX Sports

It’s welcome to see two preeminently disreputable American institutions belatedly get discredited in the midst of the Rona. I refer, of course, to college and NPR.

In NPR’s case, the discrediting is a result of enough Americans listening to enough NPR to realize that it’s too rotten to deserve their financial support until it loses Amazon’s, Google’s, and that of every other multinational corporation whose sponsorship its reporters end up disclosing several times a day. The target audience has more disposable income than it did before the shutdowns, not less, but work-from-home means listen-from-home, and they’re listening too closely to pay up on demand. KQED shouldn’t need to nag its audience for over a week for a million and a half or three million or whatever half-assed house money it claimed to need badly enough to preempt Michael Krasny less than a month before his retirement. These are gross signs, but they’re good signs.

In the case of college, it’s that there isn’t any. In the nominally good times preceding those we enjoy today, the American undergraduate academy overpromised and underdelivered to a vile extent. With “classes” and “activities” now virtual, its delivery of the socially and sexually catalytic effects it promises its students is nil. A handful of campuses have more or less successfully reopened, usually with extraordinary screening and surveillance regimes. A larger group have reopened haphazardly and disastrously, e.g., making the news for quaranting students in dormitories without food deliveries. Most have remained closed. Setting aside the questionable academic and intellectual objectives of these hallowed institutions, they’ve entirely lost their usefulness as places to party, hang out, and get laid. These are not the only extracurricular forms of social enrichment our colleges are now denying their students, either, but they’re some of the more important, and they’re gone. They’re no longer fully delivered to a minority of students and partially delivered to the rest or anything of that nature. We’re doing everything over the computer now.

Ah, yes, that’s what the visionaries of the early Obama years called a MOOC. Instead of paying administrative rentiers outrageous sums to be dead weight on academic programs under their authority, we could all go online for the Great Courses on tape with a streaming video component. Surely this was in no way a coping mechanism in the face of a fourth-turning economic crash, of course.

Oh. We still have to pay full tuition? Huh-uh. Get fucked.

As I’ve bitterly spilled pixels by the millions arguing, undergraduate education in the United States has been crying out for a teardown overhaul for decades. It went into the pandemic all but unreformable. Anything to break its leverage over its “communities” is welcome. It’s serendipitous for applications and enrollment to finally decline in earnest because institutions that have been shaking the country down for two generations are showing their whole ass by continuing to ask for money. Until last year they offered brick-and-mortar programming that was to some degree or other worthwhile. All they’re offering now are series of videoconferences.

Colleges and their boosters complain that they still face the same fixed costs as ever, plus some. Okay, but why the fuck is that a concern for the general public? Pay me to worry about that shit and I’ll start worrying about it. Yes, I mean this literally. Pay me the fuck up already. Pay up or shut up. Full-freight Zoom school is like Qantas charging full Transpacific first class fares for streaming rights to a collection of YouTube videos of Longreach. This idea that random private citizens have a duty to worry about the solvency of recently profitable corporations because they’ve hit a few rough quarters is completely fucking outrageous. American colleges are manifestly for-profit institutions. If they were actually bona fide nonprofits they would not pay prized administrators multiples of their usual and customary salaries for senior tenured faculty.

Most of these schools, sob stories about hard times and all, are nonprofits the same way the Brands magically shift shape from Irish to Dutch to Liberian to Wilmingtonian, Delaware written on my heart because I’m an unhinged old lawyer who shouts fighting words at factory workers in an authentic blue-collar way. They’re as fraudulent as the home country we share. There have been reports in sober, rigorous media that many American colleges and universities are in trouble because they’re facing capital calls on their endowment assets. Uh, yo, how did that happen? Isn’t that shit supposed to be, like, professionally managed? How did it end up sounding like collateral for investment on margin? Excuse me, but I’m less interested than ever in donating to any institution whose peers are reported to be doing that.

The ethical standards governing these organizations are fictional. It’s impossible for bad actors to get banished from accreditation. If the accrediting bodies enforced ethical standards, the American academy would turn into the Pitcairn Islands of institutional fraud. No, I’m not saying they aren’t full of predatory sexual deviants, too.

Charts showing the relative sizes of the total faculty and administrative workforces over time are amazing. The faculty grows very slowly and modestly while the administrative apparatus balloons. Ironically, university faculty bodies are historically autonomous, going back into Medieval Europe. Our professors are effectively bossed around by their own clerks. If our colleges were in fact academic universities, their faculties would elect provosts, the provosts would appoint administrative aides as necessary to shoulder the workload, and the aides would remain subordinate on pain of termination. It wouldn’t matter what the fuck they decided to call the provost: president, chancellor, superintendent, whatever. The point is, a credibly academic institution would be governed by academics for academic purposes. Larry Nassar would be possible; Jim Jordan and Dennis Hastert would not.

Do we still wonder why they’re called “Greek Organizations?” Yes, Virginia, there is a Nebraska Coed. In fact, there are many. No, they are not the worst Nebraskans. Come out. Don’t make me wait. Ben’s Ass–goodness, one would think I graduated able to spell–in any event, Mr. Ass claims to have impressed a group of coeds at his own Nebraska university into erecting a big bristly Christmas tree in full public view, to make the season festive. FreequentFlyr/IndyFinance calls this story a lie. Perhaps Mr. Ass would have dodged temptation by wrestling with these hard questions somewhere back east, among young men.

It’s fun!

To wax a bit more earnestly around the bush, athletics are probably a better grooming ground than academics. The main reason there’s such a treasury of stories about professors having midlife crisis affairs or whatever else we care to call them with students is that it’s professors who write maudlin autobiographical fiction, alternately classified as fantasy fiction or memoir. They’d find it too humiliating to write novels celebrating what Denny Dundiddly dun. Coach, for his part, is too dim to write his own story. Which coach? Does it even matter? Lawrence of the Labia was smarter than Marter, which don’t aspicca so wella Bela, but that’s about as impressive as any other barber surgeon outwitting a vulgar meathead by sneaking food into the girls he’s trying to starve. *Unsolicited Jeff Foxworthy Voice* Every month my wife sees the need to set menstruate. The Karolyis don’t need a second look to know what’s wrong with the old lady. Bitches be feedin.

Seriously, though, it’s an overwrought revenge of the nerds deal to imagine the campus sex pests as a collection of tweedy dorks with elbow patches when it’s the sports teams and fraternities that show up and pay for the joint. Nobody gives a shit about lit. Professors sometimes get involved in seedy or predatory sexual arrangements, but they’re probably underrepresented, especially at schools with big sports programs or frat scenes, and with rare exceptions they don’t have nearly the clout it takes to make allegations go away.

It’s generally safer on campus than off. The Brock Turner episode attracted so much attention in part for nasty psychosexual reasons, Blondie being the hot kind of rapist and all that, and because the media love to terrorize affluent parents for profit, but also because it was so jarring to hear about a Stanford student forcibly raping a classmate because he came across her passed out on the street in a town as fastidiously kept as Palo Alto. Nobody gives a shit when that happens on the Rez. Nobody but his mother cares enough to cry when it happens in the ghetto (in the ghetto). The Rez, the ghetto, Skid Row, the outlaw block: That’s where it happens all the time. Garrido and his sad-ass wife got popped because he took the family onto the UC Berkeley campus and made a scene in God’s name, and also in destiny’s oops lol. Nobody bothered them as long as they stayed on Pervert’s Flat.

For real. Do you want to fantasize about getting raped by that ripped young thing under the California palms–healthfully, as Wolfgang Puck would say, even robustfully? Or do you want that gnarly-ass son of a bitch doing the deed in a warren of shacks down by the waterfront, not just east of Eden but hella fucking east, and then dumping a few cans of stir-fried Hamburger Helper onto a bed of Top Ramen and calling that dinner? Ellie Clougherty complained about Joe Lonsdale making her freebleed onto NICE furniture in NICE hotels. There are handsomer gingers, and he’s a bit odd around the edges, but he dressed well and kept his woman in style. I mean, I’d rather have Summer Benton have her way with me in the abandoned apartment complex from the Who the Hell is Whitehead episode (might be the one they now have on the radio) than have that slovenly fat lady who called my aloha shirt jazzy dance up on me in the Bonneville Transit Center.

The analogy here is that I’d rather have the hot weirdo with the tighter curves get weird on my fat white ass than the normal one with the looser curves get normal on me in a facility that still has normal plumbing. Winco may have novels on this topic.

As a cradle Southern Baptist from Loudoun County turned Antiochian Orthodox convert on the philosophy faculty at Leiden always said, every analogy at some point becomes a disanalogy. *NYC Guido Voice* Eyy, in that case, how about data analogy! Nah, jus kidding pal, dis one’s all right too!

****

Rape is a criminal felony. The Brock Turner case infuriated moneyed hysterics not living near Jannie Ligons because it showed forcible rape not to be felonious enough. To judge from the uproar, the kid got away with it.

But he didn’t. He went to jail and was put on the registry. These are not lenient consequences. County jails are brutal. Sex offender registries consign registrants to functional outlaw status; that’s how the Garrido family ended up on the outlaw block, safely away from the prying eyes of the police.

Other punishments are worse. That isn’t the fucking point. A standard booking in a well-run county jail would set off the average SVU junkie into ballistic outrage. So would registry placement. They’d do exactly what Brock Turner’s lawyers did for him.

Or, as I started to write it, Brock Lawyer. We watch too goddamn much TV. There’s an old Vineland aphorism about this: “Ukh uh akha akha oomb.” Something to that effect. We deaden ourselves with that shit.

“Sex crimes get prosecuted.” No they don’t. SVU is a show about a cougar-milf who sometimes gets laid. If you try to press charges against a sexual assailant you frankly have no fucking idea what any of them will do on your behalf. It’s best to assume they’ll do jack shit. Check out patrol response times and rape kit backlogs in Detroit. You’ll have to actually look it up. Joe Bageant was right. Hologram don’t serve no dark meat. Audiences are not immediately rapt before tales of useless police forces doing nothing about the high-frequency stochastic outbursts of chaotic violence in a visibly, incontrovertably failing state. This is why there are so many shows about hot white pricks raping hot white hoes, or like, kinda sorta raping them but nobody remembers much about it, or black guys who wouldn’t quite get barred at the door from the SEPTA 61-Ridge no matter how rough they are in Division I ball.

Look. Fat Cracka, ya boy’s seen some shit. They don’t farm out the writing and casting to schizoid tweakers who hang out around Market East. SVU is a Guild job. Dominic “Denver Dago” Carisi asking about a 5150 doesn’t break frame. It’s retarded, but only the nerds notice. It’s a big jump shy of the handsomest Scotsman ever to wear a botwie in Tulsa helping the handsomest shifty kraut in a squad polo shirt and a collection of Twilight Zone homely sidekicks figure out why the permanent motel underclass beef over baggies of crank and then whack each other.

That’s some fairly honest programming in spite of its picturesque rawness. It’s also difficult to spin into parasocial narrative arcs. Just when they start looking shippable, they’re off to chase down the next crew of hopeless lowlives paying some secretly affluent midcaste Indian family doublemarket rates for everyone on the property to live in permanent squalor. It raises questions more troubling than why Benson is banging Tucker and not Amaru and by the way she’s helping the highcaste deep undercover trust fund Londoner blackmail a Homer and Langley prospect over his shoe fetish while Tucker flips the male dominatrix whose client the priest is reciprocally blackmailing Tucker’s cousin the monsignor. Inspector Lewis and–good God, speaking of funny-looking whites, Sergeant Hathaway–also investigate murderers of money, as one does in Oxfordshire. It’s always some shit with a castle and an inheritance, not wot, oy can’ affawd a boy’ o’ bread foaw me daw’ah, at’s woy oy glassed the coppa.

It’s fine to be Tommy Gilbert weird and just kind of hang out and do drugs until it’s killing time. What won’t cut it is being the kind of seaboard white who has never bought a piece of clothing costing more than ten bucks and will never move out of the crummiest weekly dump on Route 30 in the part of Absecon that doesn’t have sidewalks. That’s drugs, too. That, too, is behavioral health in the community. It still doesn’t quite work. Clean it up and drop it as a storyline now and then, maybe, but for real, none of that is who the audience want raping their daughters. We’re looking for class here. We’re looking for fit, handsome, chiseled young men whose parents have the money to pay full freight at universities that carry liability insurance.

The abandoned dope house can’t burn down by the Speed Line in Camden. The City of Chicago will pay to make it happen under the El. That way it can be woven into a season arc that ships Florida Woman with the ginger whose brothers back in Australia are all white supremacist surgeons. We aren’t looking for Greyhound passengers. We’re looking for fire lieutenants who are general contractors, aldermen, ambulatory, and verbal. All things are possible with a broad set of shoulders.

Chicago has ax bars.

****

Scenario: A classmate gets violently drunk and batters you. He’s always getting absolutely trashed and forcing himself on whoever is partying in the same room and catches his attention. Everybody on campus knows how he rolls. He gets pissed off at other guys for making moves on chicks he wants to bang and Jonathan Josey floorchecks them to show them who’s boss. He waits for thots to get plastered at house parties and moves on them while they’re blacked out, confused, and visibly uncomfortable. He roofies their drinks. He prevails upon brothers who would rather slip away one-on-one with affectionate women to join him in gang rapes. After all, they were hazed into SAE, too. They’ve all done the Elephant Walk.

You’re aren’t one of his “brothers.” Regardless of the loose terminology he spits when he’s on benders, you did not sign up for any of that shit. One of his buddies invited you to the kegger. Or it was a come-one come-all walk-in affair. You start flirting with one of the girls on the dance floor. You begin, in the Burmilian parlance, to dance up on one another. Tough guy doesn’t like it. He gets up in your face and gives you a good shove. You lose your footing.

You look like an ass, but mainly you’re pissed.

Or you’re the girl. For some reason this asshole butted in and pushed that cute guy who was chatting you up out of the way. The poor guy looked mortified. Last you saw he was out the door, silent.

You stick around. As the eastern sky lightens, you realize you’ve lost several hours. You can’t remember what time you formed your last reliable memory of the night. All you know for sure now IS now. You’re sprawled out on a filthy couch. Your underpants are on wrong. They’re wet in a way you can’t explain.

You remember the asshole barging in, yelling at that kid you liked, and shoving him. You’re sexually experienced and confident enough to tell this is unusual, and you can’t account for the past several hours. You dimly remember the asshole making moves on you. You dimly remember squirming and moaning, uncomfortably, with a man pinning you down. You think it was the same asshole who shoved the guy dancing with you to the floor.

You think you were raped.

****

The fundamental question in each of these scenarios, male victim of battery and female victim of rape by incapacitation, is the same. Are you: 1) ashamed; 2) intimidated, or 3) angry? Which of these reactions is dominant?

You personally witnessed a man widely known to be menacing and violent commit a battery in front of dozens of bystanders. As the male victim, you can testify clearly to what he did to you personally. Alternately, as the female victim, you can testify to what you witnessed him do to a third party and a second violent crime you believe he committed against you while you were incapacitated and at best semiconscious.

That dude committed at least one prima facie violent crime, likely two. Legally, you have the option to press criminal charges in the local district court. You and the assailant were both under the jurisdiction of the local government, not just the college. The local government has legal primacy over the college. Legally, it is allowed to send investigators onto campus or execute raids there to the same extent as it is on any other private property under its jurisdiction. That shit ain’t Gitmo. College officials and boosters can piss and moan, but it isn’t their call. Their gentlemen’s agreement with the town cops ends whenever the townies determine they’ve stopped being gentlemen.

You plot out the process for a criminal complaint. You research it. It looks impossible, not worth the trouble. You’re mad as hell; you’re adamant that that piece of shit knew better and did not have any right to a warning; he knew his way to the Rubicon, to the waters he fondled with his feet like a whore on Hunter Biden, glaring and smirking at the punks on the far shore.

There were other witnesses, but it isn’t enough. They’ll be intimidated into silence or perjury. The defense will assert that they were too drunk and distracted to be credible. It all happened in the fog of war. By the time it’s over, you’ll be exhausted and emotionally bruised and he, through his attorneys, will have established reasonable doubt if the investigators ever believed they had probable cause.

It ain’t SVU.

This still leaves the civil courts. You can sue his ass. You can throw everything at the wall: petition for a no-contact order broad enough to indefinitely bar him from campus and settle for whatever the court grants; demand a financial settlement, on the record, no NDA, no mercy but the option to refuse to stipulate wrongdoing; a private investigation to trace his entire social and professional circles and interview every person in it who seems likely to have information; service of legal process to the assailant, all relevant college officials up to the president and the chair of the board of trustees, and all likely peer conspirators; a full court press at discovery.

You can make it clear to him, in public, that he will be given no second chance for what he did. If he doesn’t voluntarily stipulate the existence of your complaint on the record, you will exhaust all lawful channels to force his surrender. It isn’t about the other chumps he abused with impunity; it’s about the first time he went too far on the wrong person.

You can go to the press. You can publish affidavits on social media. The threshold for a finding of liability for defamation is high. All you have to do is demonstrate that your outcries were bona fide. If he pushes forward with a suit, he’ll open himself and his fraternity up to discovery. The lawyers will warn them. He’s done the same shit to too many other people. All it takes is one complainant blowing the whistle to break the dam on all of them. The first complainant gives cover to the rest. As they say in London, Melbourne, and Chicago, leaders lead from the front.

It doesn’t usually work out this way. Few plaintiffs are willing to force resolutions on the record. Sometimes, though, Grandma calls the sex crimes squad and gets Holtzclaw off the streets.

****

If that sounds daunting and fruitless, you could always have your complaint adjudicated in house by a hearing officer or tribunal working for the college. We have a big chunk of federal law setting forth this process. It falls under the same title governing men’s and women’s sports.

Title IX.

The Title IX sexual assault adjudication process sets off every possible alarm. The whole thing is a kangaroo court. Hearings are held in secret under the auspices of institutions claiming authority in loco parentis over students old enough to take on massive unsecured debts and enlist in the armed forces. Their rulings have no force of law off campus; at the same time, they expose the accused to life-altering consequences based on questionable evidence admitted into evidence in proceedings with no independent oversight or public scrutiny. The adjudicators have the legal counsel of college solicitors available on demand; they forbid students legal representation at hearings. The adjudicators work for institutions that are extremely likely to be adverse in the near future to either or both parties they’re judging. They have a glaring vested interest in issuing rulings that minimize institutional exposure to liability for serious offenses committed on their property and under their official auspices. They forbid students appearing before them from copying, or sometimes even viewing, documents relevant to civil or criminal cases they might well pursue.

What the fuck is any of this shit? It’s insane. It’s a mesh of systemic conflicts of interest under the private authority–the privilege–of institutions that actively commit preemptive obstruction of justice the moment parties appearing before their courts seek outside resolution of their grievances. Courts–real courts–want to ascertain what remedies parties appearing before them in civil cases have pursued shy of filing suit. Title IX tribunals put defendants and plaintiffs alike in the position of having to respond to judges that they submitted to the private arbitration of complaints of violent crime before closed courts operating under obvious conflicts of interest and actively refusing to cooperate with duly commissioned judges presiding over real cases in the real world.

It’s just fucking bizarre. Schools do not have the sovereign authority to exempt themselves or their students from the jurisdiction of the criminal courts over accusations of violent crime. If I returned to Dickinson to audit classes as a graduate and decided to beat some other student up for some dumb reason, no shit I’d be subject to arrest and criminal prosecution by the civil authorities. This is a good reason not to go whole-ass Preston Brooks on some twerp at the roundtable seminar because you think he mouthed off and you’re mad.

In most circumstances people don’t get to just beat the shit out of one another whenever they’re upset or for whatever insult set off their hair-trigger tempers. Going into Giant and threatening to rape a cashier would be grounds for arrest on the spot. This is common knowledge. It has a strong deterrent effect. What the fuck happened to make accusations of forcible rape subject to private binding arbitration before patently interested arbitrators?

Betsy DeVos infamously did an anti-feminism and a patriarchy when she limited the scope of Title IX hearings to provide more protections for the accused. Betsy is a bad woman from a very bad family, a wretched moralizing lush with grossly feudal pretensions. On Title IX, she was right. She’s a shithead, just not a total shithead. Calling an atrocious kangaroo court system into question was absolutely the right move.

Here’s another thing: I know the type who sit in judgment on Title IX tribunals. I’ve personally interacted with students who served as hearing officers in underage drinking cases. They’re some of the shittiest, most untrustworthy morons I’ve ever in my life known. They’re the same officious petty tyrants who make life hell on line employees at Sheetz whenever they take positions as junior keyholders. They’re larp-grade Judenrat busybodies, unspeakably contemptible.

Their bosses, the people in charge of the Title IX adjudication process, are even easier to understand. They’re college administrators.

****

Driving home from my girlfriend’s place last night I was tripping balls delirious. We’d been hanging out in her room all night. By her reckoning we’re definitely not a couple, but we talked it over, and I was as much of a dumbass as ever to fear she was dumping me from what she insists is not actually a relationship. She was all like, chill; breathe; we can just be intimate. Her idea of “shitty relationship material” is being a single mother of kids who get along bettter with me than I ever expected and consequently often not having time to have me over. If that’s a shitty relationship, I’ll be damned to imagine a good one.

Sociologically, it’s fascinating to talk so much with an exceptionally lucid and perceptive person who knows a stunning variety of the most incorrigibly fucked up losers and freaks in a county of nearly half a million. I was mostly telling her more stories about the down-and-out shitting in trash cans and dumpsters and the likes. She had some appalling stories of ungovernable medical doctors. One was a cute, peppy milf type who bragged about dropping acid before rounds to make work more fun. Hersheypark Happy, I believe was what we called it. Another was a surgeon who drove one of his OR nurses so mad that she left nursing entirely to do well-paid but not particularly moral clerical work. Her problem with the surgeon was that he came scrubbed into the OR stumbling drunk and poked her with sharps in the course of groping her by the breasts.

It was a four-and-a-half-hour marathon of intermittently verbal storytelling. As Sedge Thomson might reluctantly say, if you can’t be legible, at least you can be plausible. I finally drove off around 4:15. At a few points I realized I didn’t really know where I was: probably Santa Rosa, maybe Kansas. I was on a road I drive all the time. Joe McConnell came over the air with his 4:20 wake-n-shake when I was about a third of the way home. That was the only point of temporal orientation I achieved.

By God’s grace I made it home intact and unmolested. Joe came on for his second report of the morning at 4:50. 580 over the Altamont Pass was already down to 15-35, I believe he said. Normal speeds for that time of the morning, in any event.

Fucken A.

I think I fell asleep to Brian Watt’s early local news at 5:22. I had no interest in staying awake for Saul Gonzalez’s chat with Tony Thurmond about some educational bullshit or other. I already spend too much time thinking about the schools. Brian and Saul have a satisfyingly long-lasting effect on me when I’m that fucked up. It’s enough to check in, confirm that their delivery styles are as engagingly bizarre as ever, and go the fuck to sleep.

In the midst of drivetime with the public sector local notables, the mothership piped in from Washington with a report of the latest scandal in the NCAA. It had to do with the lady ballers at March Madness being given shabbier gyms than the gents.

That put me straight back into the preverbally surreal. The coeds were salty about having a disappointing gym. Unbelievable. They were getting national radio airtime to complain about how the men’s teams had nicer workout equipment.

I was flooded with transverbal thot. /Borat Voice/ My Part-Time Wife was facing a full day of Sisyphean parenting on no sleep. Meanwhile a group of elite athletes were throwing themselves a pity party on NPR for having to complain to get a nicer gym to replace their less nice gym, on the basis that having had only a small, crummy gym for their private use was sexism.

NPR’s White Whines always register with me. This one, this time, registered with an inarticulable but overwhelming power I never experience. All I could feel, mentally, was the preverbal–transverbal–knowledge that that squad of bitches didn’t have any real problems, so they were complaining about bogus ones.

They were so embarrassingly close to complaining about real problems. They teetered on the very precipice of karolying the Song of Sport. Lawrence of the Labia, Lying Jordan, J. Denny Dundiddly, Our Lord Joseph and His Servant Gerald: As Yaakov Smirnoff always said, Coach puts in YOU! One might get the idea that the same programs that offer their male players equal no pay have problems worse than shitty workout rooms for away games. Weren’t colleges supposed to be problematic for fostering so much rape? On the other hand, if the focus is carefully kept on bullshit about how the fellas got sweeter iron, one might not.

Those chicks will finish their college careers. A very few will go on to the WNBA, to complain about getting less pay from semi-lucrative teams instead of crummy gyms from very lucrative ones. Most won’t. You won’t play pro hoops, either. I may not know who you are, but that much I know. The rest of the ladies will move immediately into girlboss power careers doing jobs obtainable through mere highbrow hustle, not supernatural athletic talent and luck. From there they will ruthlessly pursue the assortative mating necessary to conceive the next generation of female overachiever, or the male kind.

It has been my misfortune to be aware of Dr. Levine as both.