NPR gets worse and worse. Avowedly commercial drivetime radio in either of our national languages calls into question why the FCC remains chartered if it won’t put a regulatory stop to such atrocities, so the possibility of NPR offering something better is alluring. It’s always nice to imagine that there’s good in our world. Instead, the totebaggers offer us merely a different horror. Its superficial aesthetics are better, just as Bernie Madoff’s superficial aesthetics were better than those of an Amway consultant or car salesman who won’t get out of your face, but I shouldn’t be so snarky about the old crook: dialing in to the Butner Jewish Gentlemen’s Kaffeeklatsch would be a huge improvement (yuge!) over the shit I just heard on Morning Edition.
For some awful reason probably having to do with a neurotic bourgeois obsession with the micromanagement of daily schedules, NPR has started advertising itself as something that’s hella informative to listen to for just twenty minutes a day. My points of clarification are twofold: First, if it’s some good shit, why the hell wouldn’t it be a good idea to listen to the entire program, or to get a portable radio (please to not encourage shut-in behavior) and listen to the entire day’s worth of programming, and, second, if it alternately sucks, why listen to it in the first place? The House Voice has also been advertising a website called Curious, which purports to help its audience or readership or instascannership or whatever the fuck learn the good stuff, like Mandarin Chinese, in, I recall, thirty-minute increments.
I needed only twenty minutes this morning, or thirty, or thirty, or maybe thirty-five, which I will not be doublechecking because I cherish the feeling and the appearance that I am not insane, to hear two separate but equally grotesque pieces of sponsored content for the neoliberal regime.
The first was an interview with Joaquin Castro, a Democratic Member of the House for San Antonio, in which Mr. Castro (Raul sounds better by the day) used the recent mass-casualty migrant smuggling truck incident to plug additional work visas for foreign agricultural and high tech workers. Neither Castro nor Steve Inskeep (I’m not doublechecking whether it was that cracker or David “Big Sexy” Greene at the mike, either) discussed the possibility that ag and tech have trouble recruiting Americans because the work conditions and the management suck. We’ve discussed ag at length in these pages, including the sad truth that the In-Laws are far from the worst (DiL actually called me a few minutes ago for an unruffling of feathers, invitation back to work, and IDK WTF all, because as dysfunctional as that operation is, it’s a weirdly self-righting ship). We’ve discussed tech less, but others have discussed it at painstaking, salacious length. These industries have to recruit foreigners because they either shut out or alienate the locals.
Joaquin Castro is a certifiable self-bullshitting fool because he described Texas as having major highways running north and south and east and west, making it a crossroads. This contrasts it with a number of other states, including Hawaii, maybe Alaska, and absolutely no others. A family friend had a classmate at University College London who turned in hilariously overwrought research papers, one of which described Burma as having, like all countries, lakes and rivers and mountains and plains, and noted that the northern part of Burma is called “North Burma,” and so forth around and into the compass. Castro is the same dude, but without the flowery, uncalled-for literary descriptions of William the Conqueror’s horses snorting into the cold dawn mists at Hastings.
This shit about highways running in four different directions and crossing each other was the reification of “Perspectives” with Lionel Osborne, but without the comedic charm, and not at 4:43 in the AM, either. This ain’t Coast to Coast, cracka; the aliens would have better insight into the geography of Texas. *Transmission of Data incoming* According to your human directional conventions, United States Highway Number 87 runs in the approximate directions of northwest and southeast, crossing many other highways along its path on vectors diagonal to theirs. *Data set complete* Some of our more familiar, less legal, aliens might wonder what the fuck it matters whether there’s a different highway running in a different direction as long as there’s air conditioning in the trailer, but their voices weren’t of any use to NPR under the circumstances.
Neither was any discussion of the Border Patrol’s internal checkpoints, which are as comprehensive in Texas as they are in any state. Even putting aside the serious constitutional and civil liberties problems with the checkpoints, a trailer smuggling dozens of illegal immigrants (by some accounts, up to 180) seems like exactly the sort of thing the checkpoints were established to interdict. The idea is that the Border Patrol has no fucking capacity to properly patrol and secure the border (yeah, this is problematic, too), so instead it takes advantage of a number of natural chokepoints on the interior highway system in sparsely populated parts of the Southwest to make sure that nothing fishy with respect to immigration status is allowed to pass deeper into the country, into the unsecured (secured?) parts. Yeah, great job there, guys. You come bother us on domestic passenger trains through Buffalo, but nothing seemed off about this truck? Do these jagoffs even check cargo manifests against what’s actually in the trailer? Of course not. I mean, maybe sometimes, but there’s nothing comprehensive about this regime. It’s totally arbitrary. It’s security theater. The difference is that TSA officers dress up like Boy Scouts as reimagined by a cop-fancying Village People cover band, while the Border Patrol dresses up and arms itself like the guys on the East German side of Checkpoint Charlie.
The second whatthefuckular item on NPR this morning (and there may have been more, for which I’ve tuned out) was on the Marketplace Morning Report segment. Marketplace seems to have started as a sort of intellectual diversity initiative, a neoliberal show focusing on investing and flapper lounge music to balance NPR’s otherwise bleeding-heart left-liberal programming about serious news that won’t directly get a cracker rich. As the rising tide of neoliberalism has swamped the rest of NPR in recent years, any interest in programming balance or variety became spurious as a justification for Marketplace. What little non-neoliberal programming is still on NPR is increasingly relegated to off hours, in the same manner that Coast to Coast AM and Perspectives with Lionel Osborne are safely confined to marginal parts of the AM.
Everybody’s welcome and his son is dead.
This particular Marketplace Morning Report segment wasn’t nearly so honest. It was about how Americans aren’t doing as well as economists would expect in such strong economic times. As always, the overpaid fuckers chatting about this stuff couldn’t imagine that the economic data were erroneous, too narrow, or bogus. A large percentage of the population getting by with no or very little savings is unmistakable evidence that whatever prosperity and stability there is in the country is not being shared widely at all. The numbers that they mentioned were pretty bleak, bleak enough to make me feel really damn lucky for having family backstopping and savings at all.
We’ve got a lot of broke-ass poor folk around here, just as we’d expect if we looked at the labor market and the attitudes of hiring managers with any intellectual perceptiveness. This isn’t the Sorrowful Mystery of the Passion; it’s just sorrowful, in a way that isn’t mysterious at all for those of us who don’t work at NPR. I know, I know, I was listening to it, so it must be for me, but think of me as an NPR hipster; it’s, like, my PBR, my dive bar, my wearing a bowler hat and a plain American Apparel T-shirt at work in a kebab shop in Echo Park like a fucking asshole because I somehow don’t see a problem with looking like I’m still in my underwear when I’m wearing a rich Englishman’s hat indoors. Do I sound like I listen to that shit earnestly?
The thing about this MMR piece (which will not, for better and worse, be followed up by an MMRBQ) wasn’t just that it lacked any self-awareness about the upper and upper-middle classes being responsible for the widespread economic malaise at the household level by doing everything in their power to drive wages for the classes beneath their own into the gutter. That much would have been merely a bit dense, a modest self-own on the part of a crowd that has always believed in self-ownership.
The really bad part, the creepy part, was the proposal of nudge theory IFL Behavioral Science Pavlovian policy tweaks to encourage savings, including entering people into prize competitions for opening savings accounts. This is exactly why workaday Americans, and the lower sorts of loafaday Americans, distrust soi-disant experts. They’re always adding insult to injury, in this case by condescending to people who flat-out cannot afford to put money aside for savings, and talking in public like they’re knowingly running society-wide psychological experiments that have not passed institutional review without the consent of the test subjects.
This shit is not far at all from some of the less lethal experiments that got Nazi scientists into trouble after the war. It gives off whiffs of Tuskegee. There are supposed to be institutional and legal safeguards in place against this kind of abuse, and yet it’s being discussed openly, shamelessly, on nationally syndicated radio programming. One World Government, Agenda 21, chemtrails, and similarly florid conspiracy theories start to make sense as attempts to process these elite attitudes that merely get some of the details wrong. The international collusion of neoliberal elites is a matter of public record. It isn’t exactly crazy to assert that elites that admit to using advanced psychological and behavioral programming techniques on the citizenry at large are also unscrupulous enough to deliberately poison the air with God knows what. FEMA camps aren’t necessarily any more grotesque than the current American penal state, which in some states exceeds the Soviet Gulag on a per capita incarceration basis and at least rivals it for human rights abuses. WHO DAT!
This entire regime is predicated on the mass degradation of the public. How else would anyone think it’s normal and not insulting to offer the chance at a prize as an inducement to open a savings account? That isn’t even a free toaster. I might be young, but I ain’t stupid enough to fall for that. In any healthy society, the usual reason to open a savings account would be, gee, I have some extra money sitting around that I don’t feel like leaving in my checking account or sewing into a mattress, and I like the idea of earning interest on it. Could the lack of interest (heh) in savings accounts have anything to do with interest rates being at historic lows? I earn 0.75% annual interest on my savings account. It’s better than nothing, but isn’t a hell of a lot. Good luck getting 1% APR on consumer credit, though. As private consumers, we still have to pay the bank 15-25% APR on outstanding balances, if not worse. Mortgage terms are somewhat more generous, but qualifying for a mortgage is a bitch.
Capital One cut my interest rate from 0.9% to 0.75% after I opened my account. If everything is about incentives and micronudges, why don’t I close the damn thing? Answer me, Gladwell. Are we seriously to believe that savings rates wouldn’t be higher at 4 or 5% annual interest returns? How is this sort of incentive, which is normal and not creepy, impossible but being entered into a contest to win some crappy prize for opening a savings account on uninspiring interest terms totally doable? What is this shit? Publisher’s Clearing House? No, that big check is worth big money. This shit is more like parish hall bingo with Lynn Rader.
Ooh, you’re thinking, she sounds sexy! Yes, he is. Sexy male code enforcement officer Lynn Rader memes are an improvement over any of the Pavlovian mass experiments the neoliberals have to offer. I make fun of another serially murderous creep on an F-List blog best known for a half-assed hot take on Arab failsons shitting on international rent girls (sometimes there’s nowhere to go but up; #KeepClimbing); neoliberalism makes fun of all of us while pretending to be acting in our best interests as our structural Mengele.
In this context, Donald Trump not talking and acting like a disingenuous Josef Mengele wannabe was an adequate selling point. His deal was basically, look, I’ma go fun a bunch of the creeps who keep trying to run the Milgram experiment on you guys, and I’ll sandbag them if they try to mess with you again, and wow, this is a really cool fire truck, magnificent, really elegant machine. The five seconds that he isn’t wowed by the fire truck are enough to show that his heart is in the right place, or at least in a less wrong place than Hillary Clinton’s. We’ve seen what she does with her laser focus. We’ve seen what her fellow travelers do.
The class aspect here is deliberately hidden, but it’s very real. Do Tom Friedman and Megan McArdle live under this regime? Of course not. This regime is for the little people. McMegan gets paid to write about how we’re too sensitive to the victims of the Grenfell Fire and put too many regulations in place in an effort just to keep them from dying prematurely in raging apartment fires. No amount of driveling, bigoted idiocy will get the shitbirds who talk the story of neoliberalism fired and replaced by H-1B’s who just graduated from communications programs in Bangalore or Guadalajara. The experiments aren’t being run on them; they’re exempt. How fucking convenient.
This piece at Dissention is spot on: “Neoliberalism works only as long it operates in a command-control type of socio-economic-legal environment.” It’s painfully obvious that the incumbent elites are not approaching us as free citizens making free decisions in a free market. No one normal and healthy wants to be a customer in a regime that tries to get the broke to open savings accounts by entering them into penny-ante prize drawings after dispossessing them from the opportunities that used to be available, more or less for the asking, to earn a living wage doing stable work.
It’s striking, too, that the amount of red tape needed to keep this regime running, to operate its elaborate mechanisms of monitoring, reward, and punishment, would fatally choke any small business operating without access to unlimited below-market capital and would hobble large businesses operating in a free market. I’ve often wondered, for example, when Panera will finally collapse under its own dead weight. Panera has efficient kitchen lines putting together dishes developed by some exceptionally talented test chefs in clean, well-lit, well-maintained facilities, but I can swear sometimes that the entire chain is on the verge of choking on its own corporate horseshit, and I can’t help but wonder when its customers, even its most safe-for-work bourgeois corporatist customers, will either run out of the discretionary income to spend on that joint or get fed up with the fucking muzak and clip art. Watching a new hire half-attentively watch a training video in the kitchen with no one from floor management present forced me to move the projected failure date up by years, but as they say, only the Father knows the day and the hour.
Great place to go looking for Democratic voters, though.
There was a third piece on Morning Edition this morning that I didn’t think to include until just now, about sin taxes making the poor spend more of their income on cigarettes and claim federal food stamps more frequently. States’ rights, bitch. This third piece was, surprisingly, not creepy. It was the only bit of humility I was able to readily discern this morning. It admitted, without defensiveness, that smokers want their damn smokes and will make whatever third party they can find, in this case the feds, reimburse them for the jacked-up price of their cancer sticks as imposed by their state and municipal governments. It implied, more than openly enough for me to stop denigrating NPR’s morals for a full paragraph, that socialism is a viable way to pay for the costs of neoliberalism. Personally, I don’t smoke and consider cigarettes super gross, but between Hizzoner Michael Bloomberg and the Smoking Chair, I’ll take the Smoking Chair every time. The purpose of whatever ungodly amount cigarettes cost in New York City is to punish the poor and fob tax costs off onto them so that elected officials don’t have to stand up to affluent voters in a state of apoplectic tax revolt. We might well never have heard of Eric Garner if classy crackers like Don Draper were still smoking that shit.
Spend twenty minutes listening to All Things Considered this afternoon and you, too, can be Icarus.