All the little above-average kids growing up on the skids say, KEILLOR SUCKS!

Public radio is a nice little medley of hot garbage. Some of it is merely the chronicling of America’s litany of evils, in which House Voice reports and you decide, but not all of it. Other servings of trash are made to order in house, and yes, we, Man, are the ones being served. Here are some recent examples, the first four from Morning Edition this morning, the fourth from a prominent emeritus newsman of Lake Oh, Be Gone:

1 A project to develop sewing robots, ostensibly for the purpose of bringing textile jobs back to the United States, because, as the reporter lectures us by sheer assertion, the old-fashioned textile jobs requiring seamstresses to operate the machines will not be coming back. Neither will any of the thousands of poor bastards who have needlessly been killed in factory collapses and other preventable industrial catastrophes in Bangladesh, but you didn’t hear that on NPR.

2) A discussion of the awfulness of life on the job, and after the job, for farm laborers in the watermelon fields of South Texas, partly from a labor perspective, partly from the perspective of growers who are journalistically given the latitude to make shit up without being fact-checked. Continue below for an agsplainer from someone who picked some damn blueberries this week and assumes that he knows too much about farming to work for NPR.

3) A visit with refugees in New Jersey, who are expected to get jobs, like, right now and are given help with job placement, in contrast to their locally-sourced new neighbors, who are given low priority for job placement, told to suck it up because it’s our fault for not having that immigrant hunger, and then treated like we’re on furlough from the group home when we consider voting for the last candidate standing who proposes actually hooking us up with jobs;

4) A conversation with one of the industrial-grade shit tickets advising Trump on economic policy, who averred, with one of the worst shit-eating snickers I’ve heard in my life, that, no, you can’t get a tax credit (for child care, in this case) if you don’t have a tax liability to offset–or, as Mixups in my Mind would more honestly put it, fuck you, you derelict bum (add fucking comments about fucking dog fucking stealing fucking rotisserie chicken to fucking taste).

5) From “author and radio personality” (WaPo) and “fuckhead” (Lambert Strether) Garrison Keillor, an overly lengthy and tangled homily ex cathedra about how Donald Trump and Jesse Ventura are uncouth shitty shitheads who appeal to other shitty losers, and also about Scandinavia, having an anvil fall out of a tree (it makes a bit of sense, but barely so), what happens if the preacher brings a walrus to church, and meatheads who fucked around all period in the sheltered back rows of their high school history classes and now expect to being waited on hand and foot with job offers instead of lectures from tendentious scolds like Garrison Keillor.

Since I slept at a rest area last night, but at one close enough to Portlandia that I’m writing this from a bitchin’ shopping center in Wilsonville, pursuant to #WINNING (trust me, it’s an improvement over Linn County), let’s look at the items above in no particular order, but without the particular disorder that ja, don’tcha know who brings to the discourse. Strether and a number of Naked Capitalism readers offered insightful comments about Garrison Keillor’s background and mindset:

Re Garrison Keillor and liberal hate speech. I sure would like him to elaborate on how history classes help one deal with his job getting shipped off thanks to a Clinton to some third world hovel. Try as I might, it is becoming increasingly hard to keep myself from succumbing to hate toward bloviating two faced hypocrites of the liberal persuasion…


Keillor has been regularly slamming DT in recent columns in the WaPo. A friend says Trump must remind GK of all the jocks who picked on him in high school. Now that Keillor has himself brought high school into the argument that sounds like a good guess.

Some of us once loved his show but he’s the king of a very small kingdom and has confessed that he is in the business of telling “comforting lies.” I suspect one reason celebrities don’t know much about the dark side of HRC is that they get all their information from the NYT.


I suspect that if the 90s Keillor appeared in Keillor’s 70s Lake Wobegon, he too would become an object of satire.

“The king of a very small kingdom” is exactly right, and I loved his show back in the day too.


Yeah… there’s a class element to it too. Read “Who Do You Think You Are?” about his Anoka County chdhood, from the We Are Still Married anthology, and there is a solid bitterness there, for all that It’s-Funny-Because-It’s-True. I grew up in the same area, although many decades later; our high schools were in the same athletic conference and were cut very much from the same cloth. A few years ago I mentioned the name of my hometown to a co-worker from the southwest suburbs, someone who was doing a weekend college program to finish up her degree now that the kids were in school, and her very un-self conscious reaction was to say, “Really? I never would have guessed. That’s such a white-trash town.”

It’s the part of the state that gave the world Michelle Bachmann and there’s always been a religious, and religiously based, anti-intellectualism there. For all that Keillor’s made a career out of nostalgia for small-town Midwesternism, the kid in him identified with Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and at 74 I think there’s a part of him who still hates the jello salads and the fishing openers and the Wisconsin Synod Lutheranism for being tacky and narrow-minded. I guess that makes him the archetypal Dem.

Keillor’s stance is quite reminiscent of Kevin Williamson’s diatribes against the sexually dissolute, uneducated, irreligious, drugged-out losers from the shithole towns where he grew up before escaping to his high-profile sinecure as a storytelling city slicker. Keillor is acting like an aged Adam Gellin, still fuming about the dumbasses who made fun of him for studying, even now that he’s successful beyond anyone’s expectations and they’re living in a world of hurt. Even if Trump’s partisans devote much of their energy to foaming at the mouth about the cuckoldry of other men, and an appalling number of them do exactly this, there is no reason why intelligent people of any political persuasion can’t rise above their level, for reasons of self-respect if nothing else, and say things that aren’t so overbearingly petty and coarse. Garrison Keillor chooses not to do this. Two roads diverged by a yellow snowbank, and Mr. Keillor chose the one yellower, lower, and more traveled.

In Soviet North Country, Robert frosts YOU!

BoBos are too scared to admit it, but Keillor’s Lake Wobegon shtick neatly encapsulates a great number of the things that are deeply, earnestly, pathologically wrong with bourgeois American society. The notion of all the children being above average is objectively batshit fucking insane. Having a patently insane thing said at a melodious near-whisper by a heavily medicated Minnesotan doesn’t make it sane. It is impossible for everything in any data set to be above average. I know, Wow Much maths Such beautiful None mind Omg john nash Very explain. Keillor and his audience maintain an inside meta joke about how they’re all in on this joke, but these are the same people who cattle-prod their own children to the point of academic and extracurricular exhaustion. It isn’t actually a joke. The audience in fact takes the overachievement of its own children with dead seriousness. It’s do or die in their world. Yeah, they gently make fun of some Scandisquares for being dullards who smack their dying husbands for sneaking downstairs to taste the lutefisk (“Ole! It’s for de funeral!”), but it isn’t as gentle as it appears at first glance. Much of Keillor’s audience is cosmopolitans who would hate to end up living constrained lives among such a sorry bunch of rural losers, even if the local economy sounds fairly stable and prosperous. They’d rather trade complaints with their Danish friends about how wrong the American peasantry is to lend credence to that orange-haired buffoon. Me, I rarely complain about a danish if it’s from Svenhard’s, and no, I wouldn’t have inflicted that on y’all if I’d gotten enough sleep last night.

These are people who cannot countenance working in a textile mill or a watermelon field, cannot countenance their precious snowflakes taking such a job, and cannot countenance the sort of proletarian losers who hold, let alone seek, jobs of that sort. A great many of them are intrinsically hypocritical for living in households supported by well-paid (if not overpaid) jobs in protected professions (definitely including medicine and the law, probably including law enforcement and corrections, too) while making fun of workers in more vulnerable industries from seeking equal protection against race-to-the-bottom international competition. It’s never Tom Friedman’s job that must be outsourced to some guy in India with that third-world hunger, and India, like Tom Friedman, is internationally renowned for its mustaches.

Textile jobs could in fact be brought back to the United States if the US government stopped allowing a bunch of piss-poor, perennially corrupt countries with terrible labor standards to dump their exports into the US market tariff-free and started making textile exporters abide by basic workplace safety and human rights standards as a condition of market access. No, this would not be unfettered free trade. Do I sound like I give a shit about that? Cracker do I sound like I care about your damn orthodoxy? I’m not even arguing that Bangladesh, say, should be shut out of the US textile market. I am saying that Bangladesh should not continue to have completely unrestricted access to the US market no matter how often its government allows its manufacturers to kill a thousand of its citizens in one fell swoop by operating a factory in such a state of disrepair that it collapses into itself, killing everyone.

One does not simply respect Bangladeshis and their culture by doing nothing, even in one’s own country’s trade policy, to hold factory owners and feckless government officials accountable for the wholesale manslaughter of Bangladeshi textile workers. The same sort of thing used to happen in the US textile industry, e.g., in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, but then labor activists started standing up and saying bitch this is going to stop right now. There is no more a venerable fount of Bangladeshi oneness than there was a fount of transcendent Americanism uniting Andrew Carnegie with the all the guys he got killed in preventable boiler explosions during 24-hour shifts. As Americans, we have no obligation to reward murderous labor practices in Bangladesh just because many of its citizens are poor enough to take textile jobs under those conditions. We certainly have no obligation to do so because some shitheads who would never work in an American textile mill in Lowell or Kanapolis and who feel deep contempt for those Americans who do hold such jobs lecture us about how we’re showing disrespect for landless Bangladeshi peasants by taking away THEIR jobs just because these jobs, under conditions tolerated by their unresponsive, corrupt government, keep getting the same uprooted peasants killed in major industrial accidents.

Let’s move on to the watermelon thing. NPR interviewed a guy whose career in the fields was cut short when he fell off a watermelon truck, permanently injuring his arm. The premise is kind of funny, but it isn’t funny when it happens to you. It sounds like melon growers in South Texas work their field hands like slaves and pay them shit. The US Department of Labor, part of a federal regulatory apparatus that has generally been running deliberately enfeebled enforcement operations with deliberately understaffed offices, has been bombarding South Texas growers with citations for wage and hour violations, in spite of a local workforce that is largely afraid to complain about its mistreatment. An exceptionally large number of illegal immigrants work in South Texas agriculture, partly due to the area’s sheer proximity to Mexico, but also due to the battery of Border Patrol checkpoints going inland (which are not nearly as comprehensive in California; Pala Road FTW). These checkpoints cause the illegal labor pool to swell in South Texas. Apparently it’s easier to cross the Rio Grande and get into the United States than it is to get through the checkpoints and into the rest of the United States. This is perverse as all hell, but I’m not surprised.

Pursuant to Brandenburg, I’m totally cool with anyone who wants to humanely smuggle these people into the rest of the country by train, truck, box van, small plane, panga, whatever, and I’m I’m even cooler with anyone who has the moxie to bribe the everloving shit out of the Border Patrol. I say, pop some punk-ass Chips with Pellegrino, but pop some punk-ass Migra with gin and tonic by the liter. Ice the fuckers, too; it’s hot in South Texas. Realtalk, if we’re serious about keeping the wetbacks from being exploited as scab labor, we need to focus on workplace I-9 enforcement, not dress some thug up in green fatigues and have him stand in front of some tollbooth brandishing an assault rifle. That only stops the least resourceful illegal immigrants and further distorts the labor markets along the border. The other thing we (as in, “We tortured some folks”) could do would be to stop approving H-2A visa blocks for farm workers commuting in from Mexico daily every time some grower in Imperial County (reported U3 unemployment rate chronically around 20%) comes up with a sob story about how Americans don’t want to do the work he needs done.

The NPR report in item #2 made the watermelon harvest out to be intrinsically hellish. I’ve never worked with watermelon, so I can’t say for sure that I’d find it unbearable, but I do know that I wouldn’t generally want to work ten- or twelve-hour days in any crop, especially in the very hot and humid weather that is typical in South Texas. It’s tiring to work 40- and 48-hour weeks picking blueberries in Western Oregon, where the weather is much more clement. The In-Laws, not being whip-wielding psychopaths, recognize this and don’t expect their pickers to work more than eight hours a day. Not being international wage arbitrage shitheads, for that matter, they hire Americans. They allow their own kind to dogfood the manual labor. These jobs are usually better when locals not working under duress are allowed to dogfood the grunt work.

I complain about the stupid shit that keeps going down at that berry farm, and not without cause, but let’s be clear: it is NOT a boneyard dystopia. Many American agricultural operations get their employees injured or killed. NPR interviewed a melon grower in South Texas who justified his poor pay scale by saying that he has to deal with market forces, including the higher freight costs that he faces for being so far from major US cities, in contrast to growers in Georgia who are twice as close to the Northeast. This would be much more believable if growers in North Carolina, which is even better situated for freight costs to the big markets, didn’t preside over some of the worst work and housing conditions in American agriculture. Then there’s the matter of melon growers getting their employees into situations where they fall off trucks and ruin their arms. This isn’t a workplace safety problem inherent to watermelon production. As far as I know, none of my ancestors in Alabama fucked up their arms for life by falling off a watermelon wagon. Traditionally in the South, slaves, sharecroppers, and other poor country people enjoyed growing watermelon as much as they enjoyed growing anything because it was an easy crop. Their misery was in cotton.

NPR has no fucking clue why watermelon would be an enjoyable crop to tend under Anglo Jim Crow but a hellish one under Mexican Jim Crow, but I do. It’s because, no matter what else was terrible about life in the rural South (a lot, probably), there wasn’t usually anyone threatening to fire and dispossess po’ crackas of all races (see Thomas Sowell for further details) if they didn’t spend ten or twelve hours a day heaving melons by relay up from the ground and over the tailgate of a big-ass truck.

There isn’t a crop on earth that some manorial shithead and his foremen can’t turn into a Carnegie-and-Frick industrial hellscape for their employees. If they can do that to watermelon, a crop that piss-poor Southerners of all races have traditionally been eager to grow, they can do it to anything. For that matter, there have been yeoman families in the South and the Southwest who have picked their own cotton by hand without going full Tobacco Road. Just because cotton once drove American slavery doesn’t mean it has to always and forever be a wellspring of forced labor. Actually, cotton still drives American slavery in Texas and Louisiana, although we prefer to call it “prison labor” and “paying their debt to society.” If the penal farm wardens got bored with cotton, though, they could just as easily abuse their inmates at a catfish farm and processing plant.

The prisoners who work these plantations (yes, they’re mostly black; why do you ask?) don’t have high enough incomes to qualify for Trump’s proposed childcare tax credit, either. Neither do the brown workers who keep the company in the black to points further south and west. They don’t get anything back because they don’t pay anything into the fund in the first place. Sales tax? Property tax? Traffic fines? DMV fees? Shhh. Hush, now, y’hear. You dasn’t give the freeloaders any such ideas. That’s not the way things work around here.

Sherman, kerosene, and a match used to be the way things worked around here. Right, O’Hara? Cut cane, woman. Pick a bale by sundown. We can use strategic arson to name and claim the property insurance, or we can use it to Make Watermelon Great Again. Well, tolerable, in any event. Sux 2b poor if the only way to make a meager living is to chuck melons into a truck all the live-long day and hopefully not die in a workplace accident, I guess.

Some of us have to be below average, Keillor. Otherwise the rest of yinz wouldn’t have a thing to eat.


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