Go shorty, it’s your Earth Day; we’re gonna party, like it’s your Earth Day

Ali G. once got Christie Todd Whitman to recite this bit of poetry in her capacity as an EPA administrator, and coming from her under his tutelage it was indeed poetic. Ali G. was one of the few public figures not only to discern but also to successfully apply the truly proper ways to approach self-important members of the White community. Although Whitman was always fairly down-to-earth for a daughter of the New Jersey Hunt Country, her gracious submission to a shitty Anglo-Jamaican rap number and a spurious but actually pertinent question about the possibility that whale shit pollutes the ocean was a rare opportunity to demonstrate that she wasn’t just another high hat from the upcountry. As I’ve said about the LCDS community, the Hunt Country is full of people who would benefit greatly from a reminder that they, too, are of the flesh, and Ash Wednesday, even for those who fancy themselves devout Catholics, just doesn’t get the job done like bullshit about whale shit. Whitman handled the whale dookie question about as well as anyone would, with a succinct comment to the effect that even though whales take huge dumps, the ocean is really yuge. The biggest. Elegant.

I can’t count the number of self-important upper-crust types from back east (including a Southerner here and there) who would have responded to a question like that with Giuliani-at-the-Al-Smith-Dinner levels of petulance and ill humor. American customs outside the strongly Millington for Sheriff parts of the South don’t encourage the address of these shitheads as m’lord or m’lady, so maybe all they have left to cling to so bitterly is their prissy, gratuitous, self-aggrandizing sense of high manners. This is why Americans didn’t start addressing the adult Jeff Sessions as “boy” nearly soon enough, and why if we are indeed a society that believes in second chances, we should start right now. That should fit neatly into our national treasury of conversion stories: “I was near thirty-five when I was convicted in my heart that it was wrong to call a neotenous, bigoted creep with planter pretensions ‘colonel’ or even ‘sir,’ as a fellow might address a peaceable sharecropper when passing him on the street.” It doesn’t because, well, Millington, what’s your twenty? The Attorney General is throwing furniture again. Rundel, grab your net; this one’s gonna be slimy.

One local elite from back east (Appalachian/fringe Midwest rust belt, really) who didn’t have his head all the way up his own ass on the maintenance of the social order was a college buddy with an almost Churchillian eloquence and an exceptionally bad case of the family eccentricity. Some friends once took him out to a strip club for his birthday, where the chorus line serenaded him with the go shorty birthday song (I have reasons for not frequenting these establishments) and a stripper pointed at her crotch and told him, “This is where babies come from, bitch!” (I have additional reasons). As my buddy related the story, “‘Excuse me?’ And she repeated, ‘This is where babies come from, BITCH!’ Yes, so I had been told; thank you for confirming my suspicions.” This dude has lately taken to haplessly trying to wine and dine amateur girls of loosely his class at fancy dinner joints on the Main Line, using comingled personal and parental allowance funds. The fair ladies in question routinely cancel on him but he doesn’t have the heart to call the restaurants and cancel his dinner reservations, so he calls the Insurance Schmuck over for a mandate instead. Heh. I think I spelled that correctly after all. He’d do better to hire sex workers, but given his experience with strippers, I can’t entirely blame him for thinking that they’re just about as insane as his family and friends.

I slept in my car last night and haven’t changed my clothes yet. I say “my car” because this week is the first in something like eighteen that I’ve had a car of my own. Super Civic’s replacement is a 2010 Focus from one of the shabbier but more reputable car lots in Merced. It had 89,600 on the odometer when I bought it, it runs nicely and handles very nicely, and I’ve gotten it up to 42 mpg on the highway. I paid a bit over $8,400 in all after the DMV and its state entourage took their pound of flesh. Why the fuck am I talking about my car all of a sudden? That’s a fair question, but it’s more relevant than it may look at first glance. My old highbrow crowd back east wouldn’t be caught dead with title to a used Focus. I’m not sure I’ll be caught live with it, either, since I bought the car on something of an impulse and had the paperwork mailed to my old address in Rancho, meaning that I may have to threaten management with legal action to successfully take delivery of my own US Mail. I lives here; can I come in and get that stuff and immediately leave again? The latest bit of middle-class shiznit that I’m lusting after is a PO Box at Fort Sutter. If one is available, six months’ rent will probably cost less than dinner with or (presumably) without the latest flaky chick in some Second Empire-ass Addams Family mansion in Radnor or some shit.

This weekend, I’m driving from Merced to Crescent City to at least start cleaning out my second storage unit. I had no desire to drive half the length and width of California during a total closure of 101 at the Mendocino-Humboldt county line due to a massive landslide; 101 in Northern Humboldt and Del Norte and 299 over from Redding are undergoing their own emergency debris removals, too. It’s a pain in the ass, but qualifying for a rental car without a credit card is even worse. I’ve finally been approved for one with my parents as cosigners, but the physical card is still either in production or in the mail to their house. Just as a matter of environmental principle I don’t like putting ultra-high mileage on cars when I could take public transportation part or all of the way instead, but in this case the perfect (someone else directly using the skies as a tailpipe sewer instead) is the enemy of the good (finally clearing out the storage unit and no longer paying $44 a month, increasing in June to $50, to rent the damn thing).

A great many of the middle and upper classes in this country don’t make the least effort. Some of these pretend to care about the environment, even deeply and passionately so. I find it impossible to decide whether the greenwashing hypocrites or the climate change deniers are ultimately worse. There’s no objective truth to any of their stances. One side is captivated by its own ritual fealty to science and the purchase of a dizzying variety of Veblen goods featuring state-of-the-art energy-saving technologies. In its zeal to save the earth (sic), this side promotes outright frauds, notably including carbon offsets in which someone is allegedly hired out of the kampong to plant endemic seedlings on the ruins of an abandoned palm oil plantation, totally sucking up all the carbon dioxide emitted by one’s flights to Costa Rica, because everyone knows that Indonesian business concerns have never engaged in corrupt practices and can reliably be remote-audited from Falls Church. The other side indignantly denies over a century of reputable hard science (the actual science, not the Nye/Tyson metascience for mass audiences, which one fucking loves in the name of science that one hardly understands), calling it an elaborate conspiracy and hoax, because admitting that, yeah, burning millennia worth of sequestered carbon and releasing it into the atmosphere with no meaningful recapture process might destabilize climates in unpredictable ways, would get in the way of the full enjoyment of crew cab pickups and dirt bikes and shit. Yeah, that was unwieldy, but you can republish it with your own editing if it’s that important to you.

It’s hard to believe that either side believes its own talking points. If they’re serious, they have to be nuts. This says some extremely bad things about our national leadership, but it should come as no surprise. Of all the poster children the climate change activist movement could have promoted, why the fuck did it ever tolerate Al Gore? Uh, yeah, we all need to have fewer children and drive less, so here’s a guy who has four kids, flies all over hell every week lecturing grandees about climate change, and lives in a mansion the size of a small warehouse. The denialist side is represented by equally ridiculous shitheads who effectively argue that there’s no way they’d get sickened or killed if a Peterbilt’s exhaust pipe were hooked up to their home HVAC systems. Okay, then, I’m sure James Inhofe won’t object to my rolling a dumpster full of yard debris, cow pies, and spent batteries into his living room and setting it on fire with a liberal dose of lighter fluid. Oh, he’d object to the liberalism? Good to know.

The sanctimony from both sides is over the top. The denialists use kooky interpretations of some of the most dubious passages in the Bible to bolster their nonsense: it doesn’t matter because Jesus is coming back soon anyway (gaudeamus igitur for the Junior Anti-Sex League) (alternately, let’s have this man we revere clean up after us like we’re toddlers who just dumped Costco bulk scrambled eggs all over the carpet), the Book of Genesis is a math textbook, there was only ever one Flood, ad nauseam. The climate change promoters (construe as you wish) smugly quote passages from a Bible that a great many of them avowedly disbelieve, their point being that their opponents are piss-poor stewards of God’s creation. They’re right in exactly the same way that Rob Ford would have been right to warn Amy Winehouse about the dangers of hard liquor and cocaine. No, that isn’t quite it; they’re right in the same way that the mayor would have been right to call the cabbie’s daughter a dirty drunken crack slut.

Of course, the worst side effects of this orgy of consumption fall on the poor. It falls onto Waffle House waitresses living in falling-down two-bedroom ranch houses in a neighborhood between the freeway and the refinery where raw sewage backs up into the streets every time it rains and everyone has cancer by the age of thirty. The political class in this country does not live in such neighborhoods, and it does not socialize with their residents. The local elites in the same counties don’t socialize with or listen to these poors, either, although they make a lot of noise about speaking on behalf of all salt-of-the-earth American Christians.

Earth Day, then, is one of our national gifts as a post-Lenten society. If ever there was a spirit of voluntary, thoughtful asceticism in the US mainstream, it was nowhere to be found by my time. Self-denial is left to the desperately poor, for whom it is a matter of survival. It isn’t really so much self-denial, then, as other-denial. New Orleans celebrates the hell out of Mardi Gras, generally on a schedule independent of the parallel liturgical schedule of the Roman Catholic Church (hence New Orleans, not New Amsterdam or New York). Lent, one assumes, is neither big nor easy, and in truth, for those who observe it, or who try from time to time, it can be plenty long and hard. It certainly doesn’t fit marketing schedules as well as Fat Tuesday, the late winter feast, followed by Easter, the early spring feast.

We postmodern can add Earth Day, which isn’t formally a feast but is a perfectly serviceable Easter proxy for the unbelieving and the unobservant, a celebration perfectly consistent with Crystal Harris’s calendar of fun stuff. For the lucky among us, every day is Earth Day. For the unlucky, it’s Ash Wednesday and Good Friday all goddamn year long. One class does nothing but feast; another does nothing but fast. Any prudent person with even the dimmest sense of vaguely paranormal power would expect some form of damnation as a consequence for this arrangement. In the fogs of the not too distant past, we had a springtime feast to recover from a winter of privation and quiescence (verging on hibernation in many villages) and to replenish our energy for a summer of hard, hard work; in our own time, we have Picnic Day.

We are alienated from everything. Statistics show US Catholics taking more communion and less confession; one guess as to which one is a free snack. I don’t mean to write a Second Book of Isaiah about how we’re all just a bunch of vicious shitheads, or maybe I do. The story of a rich man, a camel, and the eye of a needle comes to mind. If I were one, I’d use my discretionary income to buy Steely Dan deep tracks on vinyl, not Fiddler on the Fucking Roof. I’d have to buy the record player, too, and housing close enough to proper shack size to safely house it. And myself. I’m in way the hell better socioeconomic shape than tens of millions of Americans, but I’ve still spent most of my adulthood surrounded by frightening low-class chaos that threatens to consume me.

Is it any wonder that an haute bourgeoisie that refuses to observe the common fasts also refuses to listen to the poor when they speak? I’m relieved whenever I can get a word in edgewise about the chaos I’ve seen and lived. I’m relieved whenever I can get my White People to take a break from their fun stuff and listen to real stuff that is unfun. A Hugh Hefner bimbo of the quarter is as fitting a herald of our times as anyone. That’s about as serious and mature as we seem to be. As I’ve said before, adulting is hard, but like Kajieme Powell, I’m taking a stab at it. Lord have mercy on us, because that last sentence was more mature than a number of entire American political movements. At least it wasn’t about Harry Potter, and I can’t say that about the Democratic Party.

Calling the United States a Protestant nation is a slur upon Protestantism. Calling us a Christian nation is a Piss Christ slur upon all of Christianity. The best I can say is that we’re at a really, really bad developmental stage that we refuse to recognize and can’t be bothered to transcend. The Benedict Option is about a lot more than two groups of assholes having a court fight over whether one of them will be forced to bake the wedding cake for the other. That’s just more national immaturity and petulance. I guess I have more common cause with Rod Dreher than you or he might think, at least when he isn’t bitching about Ariel Castro’s suicide as a failure of Orthodox penance. I’m living a more Lenten life this Easter afternoon just because I haven’t yet gotten around to food today than I find entire neighborhoods and congregations living during Lent, and that’s sad, because I suck at Lent. It means, I suspect, that many of us are fundamentally alienated from ourselves, just as we are alienated from our neighbors and our natural surroundings.

We live unbalanced, disordered lives. We keep the absolving forms of confession and indulgence in our carbon offsets, but we scrap whatever true repentance these old forms once inspired in us. It’s only fun stuff if we get automatic forgiveness and don’t have to change anything, after all. It isn’t as much fun to be an equal to the underclass on Yolobus as it is to lord it over an ever so slightly higher class of Help on Uber, where every day is Jeeves Fetch the Car Day. Judging from RT ridership stats and the cell phone lot at the Sacramento Airport last night, Sacramentans love them some Lyft. The airport put out a low-capacity portapotty at the cell phone lot for the jitney army. It’s always nice to see a government that spent a couple billion dollars on airport terminal expansion and a new basketball arena set up the conditions for a crowd-sourced Pot-o-Shit Friend situation on public property.

Environmentalism and social justice my fat white ass.

The irredeemable

Aaron Hernandez’s death is an excellent opportunity for tasteless dark humor: “I heard he was out with a neck injury,” etc. ad nauseam, come the nausea when it may. For the most part, I approve of it. Morbid humor can be a cathartic agent and a useful, albeit indirect and subtle, meditation on our own mortality, which can be one hell of a demon to try to confront directly.

The particular circumstances of the Hernandez case make tasteless jokes about his death especially justifiable: he was, after all, a raging thug, a convicted murderer, and, in spite of his most recent acquittals, arguably a serial murderer. There are a great many Americans who do not belong in our prisons; Aaron Hernandez was not one of them. There was nothing that the state could do to protect society from that man other than to confine him to the best of its ability until he stopped being a threat to others, and absent the possibility of an utterly infirm old age that was decades into his future, if it was in his future at all (remember, he was exceptionally physically fit for a man of any age), he showed no prospect of reform. Most parole systems in the US, definitely including life without parole regimes, are unjustifiably merciless, but it would be reckless to grant a convict like Hernandez any form of release without extreme due diligence and caution. The guy didn’t just stumble into some bad circumstances and make some mistakes. He didn’t just get mixed up with the wrong crowd. By some accounts, he was a sociopath, and by most he was violently troubled to his core. A 25-year non-parole period (the statutory maximum in Canada) might have been enough to simmer his ass down, but we’d be fools to count on it. Most murderers have a low risk of recidivism, even by the standards of violent felons in general, but Hernandez wasn’t most murderers. In his short life at liberty, he showed himself to be a hyperrecidivist. We don’t want thugs like him getting all worked up and putting a gun to some poor schmuck’s head for no reason, just in case he feels like blowing some more brains out. Forget punishment or retribution; for everyone else’s safety, that animal needed to spend a damn long time in a cage.

Now comes the news that Aaron Hernandez has cut his own sentence short. I can’t blame him. It was the only form of mercy he could seek. This is a separate matter from whether he belonged in prison (he absolutely did). No amount of prison reform would have made it possible for the state to show him real mercy without putting the public at grave risk of injury and death. Any improvement of his quality of life that the Massachusetts prison system could have brought about would still have featured his confinement to a secure facility. He would still have been forced to live out his foreseeable life in an extremely small and confined world. This isn’t cause to be smug or self-righteous; it’s a necessary evil. Nothing else can be done safely with men such as him. A person might sincerely discern a call to minister precisely to men of his character, to offer the most hardened and lost some hope of repentance and redemption, however faint, and come away unable to fulfill this calling. From that perspective, it’s actually less tragic when dipshit women who get horny around trouble start pen pal relationships with Charles Manson; it’s still bad news, but at least they get some jollies from their efforts.

Is it too much to hope and pray that Aaron Hernandez finds the mercy that he sought through his suicide? The state protected its peaceable constituents from him for the remainder of his life, so its duty to us is done. Many people, especially in a society as shamelessly bloodthirsty as the United States, would have preferred that Hernandez be executed, often in some gruesome fashion whose very proposal indicates a deep psychic sickness tending towards depravity. The State of Massachusetts had the decency and the principle to deny the mob this selfish, coarsening satisfaction, and Hernandez’s last violent act, it seems, was a private act entirely against himself. The prison staff who tried to revive him and then had to deal with his remains when their efforts failed may sustain some psychological trauma, but their jobs force them to deal with the horrors of prison life as partial outsiders every day, and at least they have been spared the very real trauma that psychologically healthy people feel for having committed a homicide after taking part in executions.

Questions of what prison staff should to do prevent inmate suicide, especially on the part of lifers and others serving long sentences, are morally and practically trickier than they look at first glance from the outside. A corrections spokesman said that Hernandez would not have been housed in the unit where he hanged himself had he shown any signs of suicidal ideation or action. This sounds believable; many prisons do in fact take great care to watch for signs of suicide and put their visibly suicidal inmates on suicide watch. None of this changes the fact that they’re watching over inmates who are serving life without parole, or even just surreally long sentences for more or less harmless crimes, under a judicial regime almost entirely devoid of mercy. Suicide offers some of these inmates their only hope of release. It’s hard to scare them of eternal hell when they’re already living in it every day.

This is something that civilians, especially the ones who comment the loudest about all the bad things that should be done to criminals, consistently miss. They cannot fucking imagine what it’s like to be locked up in a prison for decades on end, looking at the same walls every fucking day, with no hope of release until either old age or death. It is inherently an extremely limiting environment. It is nothing like civilian life, except maybe for quadriplegics, the locked-in, or the very chronically bedridden. That some people truly need to be there for the protection of the rest of us doesn’t make prison anything but an abnormal and naturally evil environment. Nor does it mean that incarceration should be the first response for most crimes. It’s depraved to imprison people who aren’t truly dangerous, and it should come as no surprise that some of those who enter prison close to harmless are released in a state of hardened anger; just give a moment’s thought to the company that they’ve been forced to keep and the conditions in which they’ve been forced to keep it. No shit our prisons vomit out troubled recidivists.

Psychological interventions for lifers and longhaulers are questionable. Staff are forced to either ignore inmates because they can’t hope to do any good anyway or treat them under conditions that make their effective treatment impossible. In many cases it’s impossible to provide psychiatric care without violating the Hippocratic Oath. Many prisoners are suicidal because their continued survival in prison will inevitably do them grievous harm and they objectively have no other avenue of relief; staging psychiatric interventions against their wishes is a direct harm verging on torture. The political will to give prisoners real hope of real mercy is spotty (in spite of significant reforms, we’re alone among countries with elements of self-government and the rule of law for the grotesque excess of our penal system), so of course some of them take matters into their own hands one last time. Missionary assholes showing up with cheap, tone-deaf references to slavery and imprisonment as analogies for shit like porn habits don’t help things, either. Incarceration isn’t a necessary precondition for suicide, but it sure helps. Giving a desperate, suicidal person a reason to live is dangerously tricky in normal circumstances, and the circumstances in prison, as I’ve mentioned, are anything but normal. It’s bullshit to tell a man like Aaron Hernandez that it isn’t the Promised Land that’s waiting for him on the other side if only he puts the bedsheet around his neck and takes that last step. Anyone who has spent an entire life at liberty and says otherwise is as crazy about prison life as Psychotarp is about everything under the sun. As Darshan Singh (himself a fairly sick puppy) always said in his farewells to others, but not in his own, “God bless you. I am sending you to a better place than this.”

A few years ago, when Ariel Castro committed suicide in prison, Rod Dreher spat out a homily of American Conservatism (TM) in which he pronounced that he would have preferred that Mr. Castro had devoted his life to contemplation and repentance. Castro was the Cleveland bus driver who had kidnapped young women and held them hostage for years in his house, resulting in a 999-year prison sentence upon his conviction. He killed himself about a month after his transfer to state prison, greatly disappointing Rod Dreher. The American Conservative has an exceptionally civil commentariat, but Dreher’s posturing over this case annoyed the hell out of his normally cordial peanut gallery. At least one asked, more or less verbatim, “Why did you write that?” It was a good point, and not a troll job. (The American Conservative is one of the most flame-retardant publications on the internet.) A convict he had never met had just killed himself in Ohio, making the news only because he had already made the news for being a source of distress to damsels, and now this scold was showing up from Louisiana to chide the dear departed prisoner for being a moral coward. What the hell was it to him? Coming from Dreher, this bottomfeeding was especially rich, indicating that he had managed to complete adult catechesis as an Orthodox Christian and miss the part about praying for the salvation of the dead. Oops. Wow Much options Many freewill None penitence Omg st benedict Very confuse.

Dreher writes for a living. I scavenge deposit bottles for a living. Construe “living” however the hell you like, as long as Dreher’s is three or four orders of magnitude larger than mine currently is. Maybe an American could “conserve” some of his salary and remit it to me instead, since we’re writing about the same shit. Okay, not exactly; I’m not the one who got paid to argue that some infamous creep in Ohio did me bogus by refusing to pray his days away in his cell like a pre-Lutheran Martin Luther.

Admit it: you’re already missing our regular buddies Sauce Boss, Northside Juice, Raw Ginger, and Fish Man, and they’ve hardly been gone for a full screed. I certainly am. But at least I’m not getting my coffee from Sweet Melissa of the Maritimes. It’s free, and you don’t even have to ask her for it, but it comes at a cost. Nor am I doing life without parole for murder. Real pleasant, I know, but we would all do well to count what blessings we have, especially when Darshan Singh isn’t the one conferring them upon us.

Remembrance of things misplaced

Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Diversity Drive? Well, shit, neighbor, I don’t know why I even asked, because I know full well how to get there myself. I’ve walked its entire length. It’s an immediate left turn off 101 on the way down from Waldport. I refer specifically to Diversity Drive in Yachats. As with Poo Poo Point, it’s a real place, and you can look it up if you don’t believe me. You can also look up the pronunciation of Yachats, which the locals will correct if you don’t because the missionaries or whoever first got the white people up in that motherfucker transliterated the local Indian language into a bunch of goofy shit having no relationship to normal (sic, mostly) English spelling conventions. Wow Much corpse of discovery Many pioneer None pronounceable Omg jason lee Very confuse.

The key thing to understand about Yachats is that it’s governed by the Society for the Prevention of Monty Robinson for Sheriff. Hence Diversity Drive, as opposed to diversity living on the drive. Or, as they say in Post-Soviet Canada, diversity drives YOU back into arrivals hall! Funny thing, it is also departures hall for one-way traveler! If you don’t have the energy to communicate to create the change you want to see in the world, perhaps you have the energy to communicate to create the taste you want to see: in my case, none whatsoever. I know, I know, that must have come as a terrible shock. Am I saying that Raw Ginger and Fish Man needed to be on a squad made up entirely of Village People as a precondition for their involvement in excessive force and perjury, eh? Of course not. Am I saying that I feel bad about preferentially pigsploiting this particular squad because it wasn’t pulled out of the usual box of crackers? Again, of course not. Is there any organization at all to my thinking? The night’s still young, so hell if I know. Much of Oregon politics is dictated by the Society for the Prevention of Monty Robinson for Sheriff. Hence not only Diversity Drive, the Amanda Trail, and the Ya’Xaik Trail (they’ll correct your pronunciation on that one, too), but also Dead Indian Memorial Road. A state that once took pride in the dereification of the red man now feels guilt, which it assuages by indulging in endless debate that it finally cuts short by spending a pile of money on new road signs specifying that the State now memorializes the dead Indian, instead of just naming a road after him. Glad we cleared that up.

What does any of this mean about popular sentiment in Oregon towards Indians? Those being questioned would not surprise me by correcting my language about Native Americans, proving my point. It’s a miracle that Kirk Siegler hasn’t been sent to Woodburn to meet Latinos who self-identify as Mexicans. The people who get bent out of shape over this shit never seem to be the ones hanging out with Indians. I knew a guy in school who had “GO SKINS” vanity plates on his car. That’s “skins” as in Redskins, the same team whose name Scott Simon is too woke to utter on the air. Dude with the Go Skins tags was a Nez Perce from Idaho. I got the strong sense that Indian pride was the only reason the Redskins had a fan base any farther afield than Glen Burnie, since I wasn’t aware of any other Redskins fans around me and never heard anyone saying anything like, “You know, they’re playing well.” This is why my head always spins when I hear other white people declare the Redskins name offensive to Indians. And what was the race of the minister who sternly advised me that the Hispanics I had just mentioned offhand found that term offensive because they’re Latinos? Hint: rhymes with the second syllable of “uptight.” Kirk Siegler reported the opposite cultural learning of Pueblo for make benefit glorious nation of Bougiekistan, so surely he is one of the great chroniclers of our age.

#TeshTips: Those who talk like this may not be talking to members of those races whose honor they so defend. Yachats, like many cities in Oregon, is an excellent Whitey Rancheria, a great place to find people whose reflectiveness is literally only skin-deep. Oregon has an embarrassing history of aggressive racial discrimination featuring especially bloody campaigns to exterminate its Indians and a racial covenant in its original state constitution barring the settlement of blacks. The latter, which has had no force of law for well over a century, has come to inspire lengthy woke thinkpieces about how Oregon is so hostile to the Community, what a scandal it is that Oregon is what to this day because it was officially white in its olden times, and so forth, notably coming from people who aren’t generally writing from any of the heavily black neighborhoods that they could find as nearby as the South Sound. They’re uncomfortable with natural law, but they also don’t really want the assertions of positive law that would forcibly integrate Oregon using newcomers who didn’t want to live there in the first place (nor do Oregon’s current black residents, who in fact exist, seem interested in such social engineering). The sermonizing about Oregon’s lack of brothers and sisters is just that. Wow Much lectures Such tendentious Omg jason lee Very annoy, I guess.

Yachats, for its part, is even whiter than Oregon as a whole. Go figure. Then again, minority neighborhoods so often feature visible poverty, and Yachats is all about coastal chic and shit. It’s reminiscent of White People in Santa Fe culturally appropriating Pueblo architecture from Indians who culturally appropriate the trailer and junkyard from the white man. May the circle be unbroken. That’s another community that’s eternally trying to prevent Monty Robinson for Sheriff, but let not your heart be troubled, its hinterlands are one of the best places in the Americas to be struck off your motorcycle by a drunk Indian whose oncoming Jeep just drifted into your lane.

I shouldn’t pick on Oregon so crudely. It isn’t the only state where farmland is paved over with streets bearing sick names like Harvest Drive. How you gonna get a harvest out of that, you dumbass? Statistically, innovation is not a primary goal or practice of American business, but it sure is a popular street name in business parks. The buses to Arden Fair stop, disgustingly, at the corner of Challenge and Response. Finally, two words that I can immediately use in a sentence: “The city of Sacramento never has a response to the challenge of its homelessness problem.” The orchard job listings that I find in California are all at Orchard Supply Hardware, just as every vineyard job listing I find in Southern California is for some shitty fast food joint on Vineyard Avenue or what-the-fuck in, like, Ontario. All applications for these jobs must be submitted through a secure website with picky browser requirements and an incomprehensible URL, whose algorithms will immediately shitcan your application.

And how could New Jerseyans not cherish liberty? They named their fucking airport after it. We name our infrastructure after virtues now. Muammar Qaddafi publicly pronounced himself liberty, inter alia; we declare one of our shittiest airports Liberty, in a time of constitutional crisis in the aftermath of a false flag attack on our commercial aviation system, no less. The idea is that we’re not supposed to notice that it’s gone.

Naming shit after Jimmy Hoffa would be funny. God knows that mobbed-up wonder hasn’t been around much lately. (I know: too soon.) Liberty Airport and the USA-Patriot Act are just goddamn sick.

Small-town values

The only people in our extended family to have owned and operated a restaurant are also, respectively: 1) the only one who is constitutionally unable to properly wash dishes by hand (i.e., actually get them clean); and, 2) the only one to allow rats to beshit an active food processing facility and rent-paying tenants to shit wherever and however they wanted because he failed to provide them indoor plumbing.

Why do I recacapitulate this, for lack of a better term, shit? It’s my story, too, because the shitbirds invited me into it and fucked it all up too catastrophically to disinvite me now, and there’s a perversely cathartic release in remembering that a bunch of grotesquely filthy bastards has serially endangered the public health by improperly disposing of human waste on a property whose operation I continue to fund, in reminding myself that in spite of this bullshit I still haven’t taken legal action in my capacity as an investor of record, and also I don’t shit in trash cans. Other things about my life may be in frightening disarray, but that’s a start.

More disturbingly, there are broader lessons to be learned from this clusterfuck. If small business claims that it’s being strangled by red tape, Ghomeshi-style, it might be a good idea to make sure that the small businesses in question are run by people with minimal standards of personal and corporate responsibility instead of taking everything a bunch of self-important blowhards say about their entire sector of the economy at face value. Maybe the health department really is trying to make sure that we don’t get food poisoning. On the face of it, why the hell should I trust small business as an institution when the Family Shrew and, God help us, Joe Dirtbag are how I first became personally familiar with small business? If they’re speaking for it and claiming their involvement in it as a point of pride, why should I not demand that the full force of the regulatory state be brought down on any small business that appears to be the least bit negligent or unethical? Or, to be more charitable to JD and FS, why should I not believe that they ran a more or less clean and safe restaurant only because their failure to keep it scrupulously clean would have resulted in its forced closure by county officials in a matter of months? The latter scenario, which seems to be the most accurate, concedes that they’re responsible enough to abide by common decency and minimal diligence when the regulatory state forces them into compliance; that is, that they’re filthy and derelict when left to their own devices but not unwaveringly intransigent deadbeats every time the civil authorities order their compliance with duly enacted laws governing their business conduct.

The key word there is “every time.” It was only as I was writing the last paragraph that I remembered Joe Dirtbag’s avowed membership in the tax-optional business community. That bastard’s life is a blooming onion of rediscovered immorality. His restaurant failed to account for and remit meals tax as required by municipal law, so when it got into trouble, Joe Dirtbag spit out a jumble of post-hoc justifications, all of them evasive and dishonest beyond a reasonable doubt, for lowballing the city treasury. As unethical business practices go, this was exceptionally flagrant (mofo went on the record in the local papers, accusing the city of misappropriating the tax money, as if that was a justification for tax-dodging), but even so, it’s hard to believe stories of small business as a wellspring of personal and civic virtue when one’s own exposure to small business features such a turducken of sleaze. It makes ethical behavior in any sphere of life look incidental to entrepreneurship, at best.

What inspired this repeat visit to Pot-o-Shit Friend and friends was a conversation with a restaurateur in Nevada City who asserted that none of the local homeless were destitute families with children because all of them were derelict drug users. Hearing this from a small businessman, even from one who was exceptionally gracious in his dealings with customers, uncorked the old brew of grievances that I nurse against Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew, in particular the ones having to do with their abuses of trust and goodwill in their capacity as entrepreneurs. Somewhat to my surprise, this semi-short retelling by way of context was so dispiriting that it killed my writing juju for most of the next three weeks, especially for subjects involving small business. (Whole Foods is big business.) There were other things going on in my life, most of them irrelevant to small business and its hostility to the poor or wherever the hell I was trying to take my screed about the prejudiced comments of this restaurateur in Nevada City.

That said, it’s probably for the best that I’ve slept on it for most of a month; hopefully I’m a bit more clearheaded as a result. The mythology of private enterprise, and of small business in particular, holds that those undertaking it are burdened by responsibilities and risks whose enormities non-entrepreneurs cannot fully grasp, and that as a consequence non-entrepreneurs should respect, nay, admire, entrepreneurs for taking on such burdens. We should, to borrow an exceptionally unctuous turn of phrase from what may be an exceptionally unctuous age, thank them for their service.

This seems at first glance like a basic courtesy, but just as many in the thank-you-for-your-service crowd live in a deep ignorance of the military that allows them to idolize it in ways that its own personnel would find stunningly foolish, reflexive respect for small business as an institution and for those undertaking it relies on the gullibility and ignorance of people who either have not had bad experiences with small businesses or have construed any such bad experiences in ways that do not blame small businessmen or their businesses. The demand that the rest of us respect small business owners assumes that the latter are consistently conscientious and morally straight. (Hey there, Chester!) It doesn’t take very many encounters with the owner-operators of ghetto corner stores to become convinced that this is an unfairly positive prejudice.

My own dealings with Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew, who didn’t generally seem like such bottomfeeders in their restaurant management, are powerful examples of immorality in small business. They often seemed to don entrepreneurship as one of their ostentatious identities, and when they did so they often carped about unreasonable meddling from out-of-touch government functionaries. If they had just been obnoxious in their assertion of a reasonable grievance their stance might have been justifiable, but then JD pulled the taxdodging stunt and turned the farm into a feudal manor, effectively beyond the reach of the law because no one wanted to involve The Man (until I got too fed up with it all to keep humoring this bullshit artistry).

The frank truth is that if the farm were subject to regular health and building inspections it would not be in such a state of filth and disrepair. That would be a government intrusion in the same way that the Red Bluff Police effected a brief government intrusion of the room next to mine because I had called 911 to report a likely battery in progress, followed by a brief government intrusion of my room to take an informal statement from me and quietly mention that the guys next door had been drinking. There are clear public safety and welfare interests at stake in these cases: not letting meatheads brawl in a hotel all night and risk killing one another in disputes over gentlemen’s loans (sic), not letting rodents infest food processing facilities, that kind of thing. Hearing a small businessman claim strangulation by red tape and then let rats shit all over the floor of his winery for months on end suggests that much of the opposition to regulation is motivated not by a desire for liberty and the pursuit of happiness but by a desire for codified privilege at the expense of other parties, both witting and unwitting. How do I forget that I’ve heard complaints about intrusive government from Pot-o-Shit Friend’s landlord? That’s easy: I don’t. And I probably shouldn’t.

Derelict traveling kids screwing around in nice Gold Country towns all summer are a convenient foil for diligent small business owners who are tied down by all their grunt work, whether they feel like it or not. They’re too convenient. Traveling kids and disheveled addicts are popularly representative of the homeless, to my own disadvantage, but they are not statistically representative. Traveling kids showing up in Nevada City with their dogs and their packs are a prominent annoyance, but I’d be surprised that they’re even a seasonal majority of the Nevada County homeless. There’s no way that laziness and drug addiction are the only ways to become homeless in Nevada County, which has a high cost of living and a high reliance on service-sector jobs, many of them poorly compensated, for its economy (sic, mostly). Let’s leave aside arguments that there’s more dignity in loafing around the Mother Lode while loaded (I totally didn’t spell any of that correctly on the first try) than in obsequiously catering to affluent tourists from the Bay Area, or not: there is something to be said for not doing a song and dance for a pittance just because the local Chamber of Commerce has declared tourism to be the economy of the future, and there’s something to be said for ruining the Beautiful Cookbook vibe for the overly precious, especially when this ruination can be accomplished by one’s mere day-to-day existence.

This is especially true in tourist towns that cater to visitors who are pathologically indolent, if only for the weekend: who the hell are any of them to complain that someone else is a bum for being indolent? Ad hoc remedies to this supposed problem quickly descend into equal protection violations (vagrancy laws, etc.), although not as quickly in jurisdictions as avowedly woke as Nevada County. Nevada City’s businesses seem to be mostly on their own here, left to ban large backpacks, sleeping rolls, and the like from their premises in their piecemeal effort to break up the hair clog. If the bleeding-heart liberals want to feed the vagrants, or the pigeons, it’s their personal decision, nothing that the Chamber can override in a fit of reactionary pique.

This bullshit, I assume, intensifies in the summer high season, causing me to note that ain’t none of them out picking blueberries. That’s a real economy; selling energy crystals to lace-curtain hippies is not. The trolley line has been gone since 1924, so Mr. Rogers hasn’t got a thing to dispatch to pick these crackers up. Back when the line was in service, the trolleys stopped at a place called–I swear, it’s on the maps; look it up–Town Talk. Yeah, Nevada County scares me a little bit. If anyone deserves an exemption from the town talk (TM) about lazy fuckheads who have drug problems and won’t get a job, it’s not the tourists but the more marginal bums who are too poor to work for a living. I have a bachelor’s degree from a liberal arts college, and I get into situations where I can’t afford to work for a living. That isn’t as easy to look up, but it’s no less true. As I’ve said before, some of us, we ain’t hardly touched dem shine ricebowl, and we know it. As I’ve also said, we’re all in the midst of a fourth-turning economic collapse that still hasn’t been brought to an end, professionally massaged U3 numbers notwithstanding.

Within a day of hearing from the restaurateur that there are no deserving poor among Nevada City’s homeless, I read a police blotter item in the local paper about a 911 call from a woman who told the dispatcher that her baby daddy was housing their children in a broken-down van in the parking lot of a McDonald’s in Grass Valley. So, yeah, the homelessness problem doesn’t affect families with children. Glad we cleared that up. I couldn’t tell from the blotter what all was wrong with the father, meaning that I couldn’t rule out drugs, nor could I exclude the possibility that the baby momma hallucinated the circumstances, but I can say for sure that that kind of thing does happen to entire families. Traveling kids are the overtly homeless; families living in vans are the underbelly of the homelessness problem. Where the traveling kids have no shame, families going to the poorhouse which is the automobile have nothing but shame. The most deserving homeless include the most discreet, because the discretion is motivated by an intense desire not to draw negative attention. I know this personally because I’ve fucking lived it. The actual homelessness of circuit-riding hippies can only be determined on a case-by-case and week-by-week basis; I wouldn’t be surprised to learn of ones whose housing situations have been more stable than mine, but I try to bathe and change into clean clothes regularly, so appearances can be deceiving.

This may sound like a dear-hearts-and-gentle-people admonition not to judge a book by its cover, which is not my goal but whatever. If there weren’t so much ignorant prejudice–and I mean this is the most literal, specific sense–about drug users and the homeless, we’d have less trouble integrating the marginal into mainstream communities. I got the sense that the restaurateur above didn’t really know anything about drug users, like how to accurately identify them. I may be wrong, but he seemed pretty sheltered. It’s reasonable of me to trust my own experiences with tweakers, stoners, alkies, and junkies over what a prejudicial stranger living on the Whitey Rez told me about how they’re all homeless because they’re hooked on drugs. For one thing, I usually find traveling kids pretty fucking sober, and I’d rather give walking-around money to a hard case who could really use some damn drugs right now. Will he spend it on drugs? Well, that’s kind of the point, right? Get back to me after you’ve personally watched a junkie score some dope, shoot up, and stop jittering almost immediately. Yes, they should be given housing and meals, too. It’s cheaper and more humane that way than having drug users end up in emergency rooms for exposure to the elements as well as overdoses, since we all know that hospitals totally are not full of control drugs or staffed by anyone who’s ever taken a little something-something from the crash cart for a quick pick-me-up or passed a whiner the good stuff for a half hour’s peace. As my grandmother calmly rated her pain to the LPN in pursuit of Vicodin, “It’s about a four.” (Lynn Majors is a solid eleven, and that’s a clinical fact.)

No, I’m not saying that I’ma go score me some drugs, or that you should do likewise. I’ve seen people get scary fucked up on hard drugs, and I do not recommend it. But vilifying drugs and their users in a society whose combination of instability, desperation, and purposelessness so strongly encourages escapist recourse to drugs and the community of other drug users is insane. Giving addicts necessities that they can’t readily sell for drug money, like a place to live and regular free meals can at least mitigate the bad effects of drug abuse. (Who the hell would buy a stolen refrigerator or a plate of church food from some oddball hawking shit on the street?)

We can’t judge our way out of this problem when we’ve largely judged our way into it. The worship of positive law as an omnipotent fetish is for people who have not recently spent time on the Albuquerque bus system. Holla atcha cracka, ’cause it ain’t me, lawd, it ain’t me.

Yeah, I guess Whole Foods would carry that

Whole Foods is a key institution for Tempe’s White community, including many nonwhite members who have dual membership in the Community. You don’t have to be white to be White, and you don’t have to be White to be white: compare, for example, Calvin Williams (vocation: law enforcement; avocation: golf) with his fellow Ohioan Ben Roethlisberger (vocation: FOOTBALL; avocation: rape).

Whole Foods was inevitable in a city that has two Starbucks stores well within half a mile of each other on, I shit ye not, Rural Road. The intersectionally homeless and unemployed would be able to keep the lobbies occupied in both stores, but it’s the rest of y’all fools who are keeping that shit in business for us. Not having Frappuccino money is how I have whoring money, or something like that. Both of these companies are officially woke, and God knows the cheap stuff straight out of the pot at Starbucks gives a cracker no option but to #StayWoke. Whole Foods, however, is significantly more obnoxious. Starbucks makes sense for anyone who wants to get a quick cup of coffee at a price that isn’t clinically insane, or an entire day of discount wifi. Whole Foods makes sense for those who are too stuck up for Safeway. If little Taylor and Bailey just absolutely need 365 product lines in their dinners because conventional processed foods are poison, *very Jeff Foxworthy voice* you might be a yuppie douchebag. Of course stewardship unto the Seventh Generation would be the ancient Indian legend cherished by these dipshits when they aren’t driving their children to lacrosse practice. Monty Robinson doesn’t need to dress up like a preppy asshole and run around with a stupid net on a stick in order to maintain First Nations traditions of reckless aggression; he, like lacrosse nation, lives in the motor age.

Sauce Boss on a bicycle would kill fewer passing motorists than Sauce Boss in a Jeep, but it’s illegal to bike all the way to the Whole Foods at Rural and Baseline. The our-parking-lot-is-our-manor bullshit and the threats to prosecute stray bicyclists, etc. for criminal trespass prove anew that Whole Foods’ environmental correctness is thoroughly bogus. If that company cared about the environmental externalities of its business model, it simply would not do business with landlords who post signs threatening to have its customers prosecuted for bicycling through the parking lot at one of its stores. That’s all there is to it. It would not tolerate lawful-evil assertions of overbearing positive law by bourgeois supremacists scheming to redline the poors by making one of their main forms of transportation unnecessarily inconvenient. But that was never the target demographic. Whole Foods seeks customers of a certain class, not of a certain other class that is cordially invited to take that shit back to South Phoenix. This is why it agrees to do business with landlords who post blanket bans on the use of bicycles on their property, under penalty of criminal law. It isn’t about warding off packs of teens who zip around and do wheelies all afternoon; that’s easy enough to stop by telling them to take it somewhere else. Whole Foods has a market waiting to be exploited in the best place, aside from Florida, to find municipal government by homeowner’s association, and frankly this market doesn’t look too concerned about the welfare or convenience of the carless local poor.

Your lenses aren’t quick enough to adjust to this essay’s next Transition(s). This particular Whole Foods has a large selection of wine–ha! I initially wrote that as “whine!”–for the liberal enjoyment of its White People. A SWPL store catering to inferred lushes who joke about the drinking problems that they don’t really have lol jk is no surprise. What floored me was one particular wine, on discount at $10.99 from a list price of $11.99 (i.e., definitely good gettin’ drunk wine for the less-than-spendthrift affluent), whose makers promised to donate a portion of proceeds to fund microloans in the Third World. It was called OneHope, vinted by Bob Mondavi Jr. and marketed by some self-important do-gooders in Napa whose precise identities don’t really interest me since Napa isn’t one of my parts of California.

The whole concept is exquisitely White, even painfully so. Here’s something that a White Person was planning to drink immoderately anyway, but in this case another squad of White People have promised to do some accounting juju with the proceeds to fund African blessings of the rain or some shit (much like carbon offsets), so the White Person can live well and do good at the same time, just by being a woke wino. It might as well have materialized straight out of a TED Talk. Hell, it may already be a TED Talk, not that I’m looking that bullshit up when I could return to the backlog of Scott Simon sermons that I finally started listening to this evening. Guy Raz has a voice that makes me want to die, so of course he emcees TED Talks on NPR these days. The only thing missing from OneHope is a smartphone code that can be scanned for a free Uber ride. What else would one drink after a hopeless (heh) day of complaining on Twitter about how the City of Austin fucked one’s shit up by not allowing ridesharing services for South By Southwest?

This is a crowd that loves to talk about “feelings,” as in their being “sorry that you feel that way,” i.e., in a way that contradicts their own feelings, which are of course deeply informed by supreme objective rationality, so I guess I “feel” hesitant to trust these smarmy fucks for a hot second on account of my mostly financial reasons for sleeping on Amtrak. They venerate a comprehensive suite of cultural touchstones that I used to try to give the benefit of the doubt, even over my better judgment, just on the possibility that my own gut feeling was overly sensitive and shrill, until I realized that the constituent parts, no matter how objectively harmless they looked in isolation, did in fact cohere into a disgusting, intellectually and ethically bankrupt whole. It made no sense for Whole Foods, a leftists’ grocery chain, to be run by a sock-puppeteering blowhard from Texas who was always bitching about how unions are superfluous and counterproductive on account of his own great magnanimity as a captain of business. It makes all too much sense for a grocery store catering to neoliberals to be run in this fashion. Similarly, mass transit is dramatically better than ridehailing apps by every standard of civic stewardship, but a frighteningly wide swath of the Democratic Party’s current base has gravitated to Uber as one of its idols, in the truest biblical sense, conveniently ignoring the ongoing torrent of scandalous news about that exceptionally sleazy company. This is the shit that passes for the American left.

Microlending fits into this pattern perfectly. It started showing up fifteen or twenty years ago in bleeding-heart centrist rags of the sort that discreetly fail to question the fundamental moral legitimacy of multinational corporations because that might offend people (read: sponsors and the affluent sellout segments of their audiences, the ones with the discretionary income). The story was that the poor in the Third World had been shut out of capital markets that the affluent in the First World take for granted and that the foreign aid money meant to lift these poor bastards out of poverty had been looted by unsavories. Concern-trolling of the foreign aid budget was important to these stories: nonmilitary foreign aid made up a tiny percentage of the US federal budget and a modest portion of the budgets of our wokest European allies, and much of the measly nonmilitary foreign aid that the USG was providing was (and still is) administered by CIA assets (hence most of the unsavories). The military aid to right-of-center juntas and tinpot dictators (direct allowances for unsavories) dwarfed the bleeding-heart budget that some of the same foreign crooks stole less completely, but the death squad budget was never put up for serious adult debate or subjected to the prominent scrutiny that was given to foreign aid programs.

The gist of the argument for microlending was that feel-good direct aid was being wasted by shitty governments, so the solution was for Western capitalists and their westernized allies to set up shop as usurers in countries with weak civil societies and weak, corrupt regulatory regimes. It was never put so bluntly, of course. Instead, it was presumed that these governments would always be crooked, meaning that the private sector would be able to regulate its own dealings with foreign borrowers better than these borrowers’ governments would ever serve their interests as constituents. It was also assumed that the supposed beneficiaries of these loans–the borrowers, not the usurers–had had enough charity and now needed a hand up, not a handout. Assuming that the complaints about the in-country looting of foreign aid money were accurate, the beneficiary population of this supposed charity hadn’t actually been receiving its advertised measure of charity because the funds had been stolen. Stories were circulated about piss-poor seamstresses in shithole villages being lent a few hundred dollars apiece to buy some extra sewing machines and become hella entrepreneurial. These stories slickly omitted the possibility of charities shipping the same equipment overseas and donating it directly to the target beneficiary population without pain of usury, with the option to slip the odd customs officer an extra twenty to expedite the shipment.

The potential for imperial abuse under color of law was huge. It was buried just beneath the surface of these stories. At the time, I fleetingly wondered whether the borrowers were risking indenture for amounts of money they couldn’t afford in the event that their businesses were less lucrative than they’d projected. It seems that this is exactly what happened to many microborrowers.

It’s reasonable to say that every fucking thing the neoliberals have touched they’ve turned into slimy shit. It’s equally reasonable to dismiss with prejudice every scheme and theory that shows traces of their influence for being irredeemably corrupted by their influence. Their work should be treated as fruit of the poisonous tree, every bit as much as the cultural output of communism has ever been treated. They may not have an equally bad track record, but they’re awfully close. In some respects, they’re even worse: the Khrushchev Politburo directed a decade or so of Soviet world leadership in civil aviation; even Brezhnev, a puffed-up geezer, managed not to grievously fuck up the Tu-144 project with meddlesome central planning. One of the best things that can be said of Elon Musk, a serial government sugar baby, is that his companies have roughly the same relationship to the US government that Tupolev and Ilyushin had to the Soviet government, but he’s less honest about it. Most of what the neoliberal project has produced is a battery of overlapping cons, rackets, and lies.

Criticizing these predatory scams is a great way to annoy cool people with disposable income, often the same ones who assume that Bill Gates is profoundly charitable because he has a foundation and that Warren Buffett is totally aboveboard. That motherfucker is a billionaire who takes his grandchildren out to Dairy Queen once a month and was audiorecorded by NPR haplessly trying to order an Egg McMuffin by describing its ingredients to the drive-thru cashier. Dude’s a phony, just like Holden Caulfield predicted. NPR wanted America to believe that a man detail-oriented enough to personally run a multibillion-dollar private equity firm was too much of a doddering old coot to know the menu shorthand at a restaurant where he regularly dines. I’d like to see proof that a team of investment analysts couldn’t equal Berkshire Hathaway’s performance for $50,000 plus benefits apiece per year.

Yes, I’d like to see someone prove this negative. I can understand paying an aeronautical engineer more per hour than I make picking blueberries, because engineering aircraft takes mad skills, needs to be done exactly right, and when it is done exactly right it yields a bitchin’ plane. I cannot understand why anyone who talks the story of neoliberalism for a living should not be scavenging chow mein out of a dumpster for dinner and sleeping under the Cross-Bronx Expressway. Substance abuse isn’t enough to deserve ending up living a life like that, but putting poor bastards out on the streets because they didn’t learn how to polish their bullshit properly and succeed in the knowledge economy damn well is.

Florida Man on the make

This WaPo investigation of Steve Bannon’s residency has attracted a lot of attention in Never Trump circles, most of it quite self-righteous. My own feelings about the scandal are more nuanced and sympathetic, in spite of the appearance of sleaze. The gist of the article is that Bannon fraudulently registered to vote at three addresses in Florida where he never actually lived, presumably for the purpose of evading income tax in the states where he was working and physically present. There’s some rich white trash gossip blended into the story, too–acid in the hot tub, blacklisting by real estate agents for trashing the mansion, cuckoldry by the third ex-wife who was also smuggling drugs into the county lockup, that kind of thing–but the justification for this Steely Dan deep track in prose is that Bannon was shady and naughty in his statements about where he lived.

That’s the part where I have to side with Bannon for personal and civic reasons. If there’s evidence that he was evading state income tax in California, the Franchise Tax Board should investigate him and move to collect any back taxes and penalties that he is determined to owe. Florida has a sleazy history as an onshore liability island for wealthy fugitives from taxation and civil judgment, as publicly conceded by noted Floridian of convenience, Kato Institute benefactor, sports memorabilia enthusiast, and Nevada baseball coach O. J. Simpson. It also gave semi-disgraced former California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush a peace officer’s commission. As a failed police applicant, I think that rules.

But California’s rights to collect lawful taxes and civil judgments from debtors who have fled its territory or renounced legal residency in an effort to evade its jurisdiction ex post facto do not limit the right of former California residents to register to vote in Florida in accordance with Florida law. Florida is famously permissive about overseas absentee registrations, or at least was in the days of the Brooks Brothers Riot and the hanging chads. If it’s similarly permissive in its registration of part-time or casual residents who spend most of their time in other states or territories, that affects California only insofar as California’s elections officials should try to cancel the duplicate registrations of voters who have reregistered out of state.

Even if the Trump Administration has a hypocritical projection complex about individual voter fraud because it’s teeming with officials whose voter registrations are irregular (e.g., two states at once), and even if Bannon’s ties to Florida were as nonexistent as his ostensible neighbors suggest they were, Bannon had a chaotically itinerant mode of living that limited his ties to any particular jurisdiction. If you think that this rootlessness abrogated his right to vote, good luck turning back the same half a century or so of federal case law that allows me to vote in a city where I’ve spent a total of two or three weeks in the past five years. California uses intent to return as an alternate means of maintaining legal residency for voters not physically present in their most recent domicile. That is, in layman’s terms: I lives here; can I come in? Florida, according to the WaPo article, does not have a legal definition of residency. If the butthurt whiners complaining to the authorities that he didn’t actually live in Florida succeed in getting action taken against him, Bannon can always say, basically, “what does that even mean, ‘live here?'” He already has lease and utility documents in his name ready for his defense, documents indicating that he did live there, or else was allowed to live there (can I come in?), along with a busy schedule in other states that he can use to assert that he didn’t have time to visit Florida, his home.

The people ratting him out for his bogus voter registration are a precise civic analogy for Mean Girls: “She doesn’t even go here!”

It sure looks like a Stanford stunt, Florida being to sworn Floridian Stephen Kevin Bannon what Antigua was to mandatory Floridian Robert Allen Stanford, but as a US citizen whom no one had gone to the trouble of legally disenfranchising, he has a right to vote somewhere. Why would he want to vote in Florida and not in some other place where he was actually spending time? That’s his decision to make, not yours or mine. Why did he not actually turn out to vote, according to official records? That’s absurd, especially in the midst of all this tut-tutting about the bogus registrations, but again, it was his decision to make.

The scolding gets even worse when it starts concerning discrepancies between Bannon’s driver’s license (Orange Bubble, apparently) and voter registration (again, in the Sunshine Up Your Ass State). At this point, the only way to make Bannon look bad is by rebuking him for not spending enough time at the DMV. It takes a special kind of dipshit to want to die on that hill, but Trump’s milkshake has brought all kinds of liberal Looney Tunes to the yard. There are less fitting and just reasons for the Democratic Party to finally die than a platform demanding that its political enemies submit in full to the arbitrary whims of the shittiest, most dysfunctional parts of the administrative state. I’d hazard a guess that Bernie Sanders, like me, doesn’t care about his damn voter registration. That’s just the latest reason why Bernie would have won. I’d hazard a corollary guess that the DLC wing of the party, the one consuming it from the inside, really is arrogant enough to try to crucify Steven Bannon for not getting a Florida driver’s license.

Here we have a political lunatic and deadbeat absentee father, a multimillionaire presidential adviser with rights to luxury corporate housing wherever he travels who looks like he lives in an Econoline cargo van full of Top Ramen and Wild Turkey that he parks on crappy parts of PCH, and I’m almost entirely on his side for falsely claiming residency in Florida and then failing to vote on at least three successive voter registrations. I’m on his side because the mob is ganging up on him not just for being a crook, but for being low-class. I’m on his side because a bunch of bourgeois assholes are trying to bully a fellow citizen out of their electorate for sounding trashy. I’m on his side because those of us who sleep in our cars have a right to vote, too. It ain’t me all the time, lawd, but it’s me enough of the time, and I’m not about to forget it. We don’t need a fixed address to vote. All we need is some combination of a street corner, rescue mission mail room, PO box, and friend’s apartment, along with enough executive function to remember the election date before it passes.

Millions of Americans live shabby versions of Steve Bannon’s itinerant lifestyle. I’ve been one. Many of them have forsaken their right to vote on account of the chaos or restrictive advice about their civil rights. I’m thankful not to have been disenfranchised in this fashion. I’m proud that I’ve asserted my right to remain on the voter rolls as a legal resident of a slumlord apartment that I formally abandoned pursuant to Green v. Superior Court half a decade ago. The endgame of letting people with messy personal or professional lives vote in jurisdictions to which they have weak ties is much more procivic than the endgame of letting local busybodies suppress the voting rights of eligible voters who have chosen to undertake itinerant lifestyles or been run out of town. Having rented from thuggish slumlords in a county with a weak, largely underground labor market and subsequently gone out of state for work and better housing, I fall into both categories. My civic stake in Humboldt County is not one that I’ll allow some stuck-up, easily scandalized bourgeois shithead to take away from me just because I’m not in the area enough of the time.

Bannon’s circumstances are surprisingly similar to mine. Even if his Florida voter registration was a tax structuring device, the scandal-mongering over it is a dangerous assertion of combined bougie Democrat and bougie establishment Republican will to suppress voter turnout. Both constituencies want to suppress marginal voters because both have self-serving policy goals that will alienate the hell out of a broad, strongly engaged electorate. Their great point of agreement these days is the feeling that it’s deplorable to see so many deplorables elect such a deplorable. They keep standing by shit candidates who would be hopeless in high-turnout elections and are lately getting booed by their own constituents when they show their true colors.

To paraphrase Christopher Lasch, our elites are revolting. They think much the same of us. They don’t want to share their electorate with losers who hot-bunk in cracker shacks. Questioning the citizenship of Steve Bannon, possible Cracker in Spirit, is a useful proxy attack on the uppity lumpenproletariat. It’s easier and less overtly disreputable than admitting to their own monumental class bigotry, just as smearing low-class whites feels less scummy than saying the same things about the same behaviors on the part of low-class blacks.

Tough shit. Trash is citizens, too, massa.

Bogus midcentury nostalgia and other yuppie wannabe bullshit

As Holden Caulfield would say, the New York Times is read by a bunch of phonies. It must be. Just look at the shit it publishes. I know this because I just looked up “Holden Caulfield phonies” on DuckDuckGo; it’s not like I’m gonna read that nonsense just because it comes recommended by the sorts of people who read the Times. Some fictional twit rode around Manhattan in a taxicab bitching about phonies or some shit, and years later a guy who had set out (and failed) to read every book in the University of Hawaii Library construed this story as a license to Imagine No John Lennon.

One of the most dangerous category errors we could devise would be to assume that the Gray Lady’s lifestyle readership is engaged with the real world in a way that Mark David Chapman, committed Lennonist, was not. Most of them aren’t crazy enough to, I dunno, hunt down and shoot Chad Kroeger because of something that reached into their psyche from the pages of Infinite Jest. At this point, something’s gotta go wrong ’cause I’m feeling that Lennon wasn’t exactly a better artist or person than that greasy Canuck hairball. Before you call me crazy, remember that I regularly appreciate even worse Canadians. I guess I’d be hipper if I appreciated more obscure Canadian acts, such as Moxy Früvous, whose members surely would never be criminally charged with the strangulation of commissioned air force officers.

Oops. Shit, Ghomeshi, wasn’t Williams available?

There’s still time to turn Big Ears Teddy around for the rest of this essay. That was really the least fucked up part of it. It only looked like a mess. The NYT’s lifestyle beats are the real messes here. Jian Ghotmesi and Colonel Underpants are both part of the real world. If they should die, think only this of them: that they were chargeable to some foreign field, but Dr. Shipman forever to England. Whatever else you might say about this last outburst, it was nonfictional. Don Draper, on the other hand, is fictional. He never existed. So which of these rude gentlemen does the Times find germane to the nonfictional lives of its nonfictional readers?

Why, the made-up guy. Duh. Palm Springs per se is relevant to Millennials because of Mad Men and Frank Sinatra. Virgin America and JetBlue fly there nonstop from JFK, so ditch your angel in Harlem and get your ass on that Eurotrash big metal. For the serious street cred among hip young things, Palm Springs is within an easy drive of Coachella. Get thee fucking stoked. These are the cultural touchstones that have young people of a certain not totally loaded class swarming the Medicare Sled Desert: a long-dead show business drunk, a fictional TV show about ad men with drinking and attitude problems, and an annual vacation from reality for affluent members of the intersectional drugs community. Somebody had better keep Mr. Rogers on standby to dispatch that trolley.

There’s no subtlety to this period wealth LARP, no sense that maybe it’s decadent and embarrassing. A vacation rental landlord actually went on the record to say, “People come to let down their hair and live the martini lifestyle. You will be living just the way Frank Sinatra did in 1947.” That’s obviously not quite right: Frankie boy, if I’m not mistaken, kept his hair midcentury high and tight, and no one is anal enough to redo the hundreds of little things that have changed in the seven decades since for period authenticity just to impress some Rat Pack hipsters with Airbnb accounts. Coachella, of course, has fuck-all to do with the midcentury, unless we’re talking about Joel Salazar’s great-grandfather failing to provide drinking water for a dozen braceros.

It speaks volumes about the superficiality and ignorance of these tourists that their understanding of the midcentury in their own country is a famous singer supposedly using his fuck-you money to live as a wastrel in a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Of everything that was happening socioeconomically between the Second World War and Watergate, most of it very different from Frank Sinatra being a desert lush, this is what resonates with them. Just this evening I was looking semiseriously at house listings in every cheap dump of a town in California that came to my mind, and one of the cheapest deals I found was a 1959 open-plan ranch house on the outskirts of Twentynine Palms, selling points: walls and ceiling mostly intact. That’s midcentury modern architecture, too, bitch. Google Maps shows a drive of an hour and a half from downtown Palm Springs. Twentynine Palms sounds like a shithole, but it’s more convenient than Trona, which is as painfully shitty a place as I’ve ever visited.

What the Times omits, of course, is that the cool cats with the discretionary income don’t want to put the effort and capital into rehabilitating a desert rancher in an out-of-the-way, crappy third-order suburb of the Los Angeles Basin when they can instead larp the Rat Pack in Rancho Mirage. There’s nothing stopping one from putting on a bathrobe, taking a handle of gin into the loo, and turning on a space heater. Okay, to be scrupulous, this assumes some sort of housing, but the Palm Springs vacation crowd has no compunction about making presumptions that dwarf that of everyone being housed. The Finns have an anecdote about a couple of gentlemen who did likewise in a sauna (Finn 1: “Cheers!” Finn 1, an hour later: “Cheers!” Finn 1, after two hours: “Cheers!” Finn 2: “We came her to drink, not to talk!”) . But none of this is really about life in the desert. If it were, twits wouldn’t be swooping in from dramatically different climates, cranking up the AC, planting landscaping that multiplies municipal water consumption by a factor of five, and then bitching about allergies.

True, it’s cooler in the winter, even clement, but these idiots can hardly be expected to know. They can’t be expected to know squat. Life on the ground for normal people in southeastern California is nothing like their highbrow theme vacations. South of Mammoth Lakes and east of Saddleback, most Californians live in scandalously ugly built environments, many of them with scandalously bad public services as well. Palm Springs and a few nearby municipalities hugging the foothills are exceptions that prove the rule. The Georgia O’Keefe-ass desert chic fades into shabby sprawl around the airport, and by Indio the cityscapes have gone entirely to shit. The Salton Sea is disgusting, a century-old open-air sump of contaminated, photochemically stewing agricultural runoff that can be smelled for miles. Tellingly, during the same midcentury that Palm Springs’ tourists celebrate for Sinatra, Draper, and the gang, there were years when more tourists visited the Salton Sea than Yosemite.

Palm Springs has a booming local tourist economy that has emerged around people who are alienated from the means of production, from their own national history, and from the mainstream of their own society, if there still is such a thing. The problem isn’t that they’re sheltered; it’s that they’re more politically engaged than the average citizen and make decisions on behalf of everyone else based on their own extremely sheltered ignorance, which they ridiculously conflate with all of American culture and civics. They don’t know any better because they haven’t been told, although it’s anyone’s guess whether they’d actually listen. They celebrate idols, both historical and fictional, who were almost aberrantly privileged for their time. They seem not to realize how far out of the mainstream these idols were, and they’d probably become hostile and tell their critics to lighten up if they were given a basic history lesson. Lightening up is the last thing I’m of a mind to do; I can’t imagine that this phoniness doesn’t have grave policy ramifications that degrade my own socioeconomic prospects and quality of life. They are clueless about the rural folkways that keep much of the Coachella Valley, and by extension California, productive, folkways that involve prolonged exposure to extreme heat and, God willing, do not involve Joel Salazar.

This mentality is of a piece with comments about how deadly serious aspects of real life, often involving public policy, are like Game of Thrones or Harry Potter. Check out this listicle about ten ways the Holocaust was like The Hunger Games. As Patrick Nonwhite put it, Stalin created hard times, and he was the strongest man! When Stefan Molyneux’s memes start looking like points of light, we have a serious problem. I know I’m filling in some blanks here, but I get a bad feeling that the entire country is falling into the vise grip of an electorate and a leadership answering to it that fundamentally refuse to orient themselves in observable civic reality. We have Mad Men tourism for wannabes who admire martini wanker bullshit artists. Scranton has Dunder-Mifflin tourism for boob-tubers who, very disturbingly, appreciate The Office as a brilliant satire of their own lives, not as a Faulknerian tale of unfathomable oddities whose paths they hope never to cross. Jolly old England has Downton Abbey tourism, advertised on PBS (DEFUND IMMEDIATELY), celebrating a vapid, parasitical manor lifestyle that was established through an enclosure campaign orchestrated by an alliance of crooked politicians, hanging judges, and privateers as vicious and psychopathic as ISIS.

I hate to think that I may be the only fucking adult in the room. I’d love to be proven wrong, but that isn’t happening in the clown show that American politics have become.