Totally fictional fiction: Anniversary Coffee Date

By the end of the afternoon he was about ready to strangle the barista. She would not shut up. “HI! WELCOME IN!” “THANK YOU!” “HI EVERYONE! WELCOME IN!” Sometimes it was bearable. Other times, it was piercing. He’d finally tune out the background noise, itself an awful atonal asynchronous jumble of blenders being turned on and off, chair legs scraping on the floor, cash registers and ovens beeping, abrupt shifts in conversational tones from across the lobby, order announcements, scoops being plunged into the ice chest, and the horrible mix of punk, scat jazz, and emo crossover country they’d somehow patched together from the instantly identifiable playlists corporate approves for the stores companywide, and there it was again. “HI! WELCOME IN!”

He kept banging his head on the chandelier above his table when he stood up to stretch his legs. This lady’s greetings and farewells were worse.

He started consciously noticing and listening for subtleties of accent and cadence after he moved back to California, sounds to reassure him in his dysfunction and neediness that he was finally home. The way this chick spoke seemed off, for a white girl in NorCal. At first he took her accent for Midwestern. After an hour or two of her unpredictable but reliable onslaughts, he reclassified it as Lower Brahmin Northeastern. NPR. He had no idea where she’d been raised, of course, and he knew plenty of lifelong Californians who sounded like they’d picked up their accents out of state, even overseas. This barista had obviously not learned her hello-and-goodbye shtick in the community. It came from corporate. “WELCOME IN” was one of the tics he could date not to a vague time range but to the aftermath of a specific, jarring episode. It had appeared out of nowhere in the days after a different barista, also a white woman, also speaking with a cadence and intonation that belonged on NPR and only on NPR, had the Philadelphia Police arrest a group of black men for asking to use the restroom in her store. Her reasoning was that they should have bought something first.

She called the managers of outside, as some describe the police. She was already the manager of inside. Calling up the chain of command was her duty, as she saw it.

The Philadelphian was why this other chick, in wine country, was now, years later, bellowing welcomes and farewells over the muzak every minute or two. The Philadelphian was why the new protocol was to specify the directionality of a word that had been understood since before the days of what anyone would be pedantic enough to call English as a reference to movement into a space, not out.

Surely the company psychologists are aware of this, he thought. We see you entering our space. We are on guard for invaders.

Why have we been doing this for twenty years, he wondered. He wasn’t even forty. More than the second half of his life to date had passed under this surreal post-traumatic national culture, this regime of paranoia and fnords. Even after the horrific ongoing reaction to the marginally less horrific, long-finished attacks had calmed into something that felt comfortingly survivable, the country remained by any reasonable standard insane. Civilians were still walking around thanking random soldiers they’d never met for their service. He occasionally had veterans ask him if he’d been in the service, to his surprise and honor, or spontaneously open up with stories about their own deployments along canals full of shit in Vietnam. In a bad week it might be a naval deployment. How on earth he displayed a military bearing sufficient to make veterans think he was a comrade in arms was beyond him. It helped that he’d never thanked a soul for taking up arms.

“You’d be stinky for the next week!” “We all thought our gunny sarge was ancient!” The guy who told him this was sitting across from him on a bus, easily ninety by that point, miraculously still fit enough to hop on and off the bus without assistance and present enough to tell the old war stories from the European theater. “How old do you think he was?” “Oh, he was probably 35!” They’d somehow both made it to 21st-Century Reno.

Service, everybody was again careful to call it, something more often praised than performed. The ones who made it home alive were grateful. Nobody talked about the ones who weren’t. To be aware of them, one had to talk to soldiers, or talk to people who talked to soldiers. Quite a few guys made it home with little to say about Bataan. Whoever “we” were, white or yellow or brown or dead in Port Chicago, we were fighting an alliance of arrogant nuts that time, two grasping, arrogant, overextended empires in the habit of alienating the locals in their colonies with racist diatribes and massacres, plus a thundering drama queen who in a better governed Italy might have been prime minister for an August. This time, “we” were the ones who thought Afghanistan worth conquering. We were the ones who took up with torture-prone Uzbek satraps against a nation of the fiercest, most skilled guerrilla fighters on earth, on their own home territory. Then “we” toppled our old Sunni Arab buddy in Iraq, sending him to the gallows at the hands of “our” new “allies” at a time when “we” were increasingly tempted to launch first strikes on Persia.

Fuck, he thought, this is sure a society that likes to play away games.

He forgot why he was in there in the first place. “We” were “reopening” after “quarantine,” in this instance meaning that it was finally legal to dine in again. Not being able to sit down in a coffeeshop and just dwell had been horrible. More unprocessed trauma, he thought. More repressed pain in a country that couldn’t recognize itself as a whole if it tried. Everything here was a synecdoche for everything else. “We” were not “quarantining” on the kill floors to feed well-to-do hypochondriac shut-ins whenever they summoned a delivery serf to fetch them a package of factory-dressed meat. Everybody was not in fact staying home. He could never cope with the feeling of national dissociation he got from listening to trendsetters construe America to be California to be America and neither to include Manteca.

There’s everybody, and then there’s the help. Was he crazy to be alarmed by the appearance of bullies trying to operate a complicated, dangerous machine while denying the very existence of its most crucial components? Over half a million had died before their time in the midst of this national delusion about “quarantine,” with hundreds more joining them every day, the news kept saying. His parents trusted the news more than he wished, in ways he found made them more paranoid about ordinary Americans and more trusting of predatory officials. The previous fall, he’d bought a ticket back east to visit his parents the week New York State exempted California from its interstate quarantine order, painfully conscious of the half year they’d spent upsetting him over the phone with politics they’d picked up from homicidal liars on TV, mostly New Yorkers. He felt a wave of relief every time he managed to puncture their cocoon. This was harder to accomplish virtually. As much as he hated being so aware of this, on top of everything else, he was thankful to remain so oriented in the real world, and no less proud to have made it nearly a year and a half without going on Zoom.

This coffeeshop was closerr to the real world than his own apartment or, God forbid what He always allowed, his own head. America, too, was corporate. Its energy, too, was off. By God’s grace, he could at least observe it firsthand in the flesh, not just hear about it on television from hysterics whose understading of the world came from television. At long last Americans living in all but the most neurotic corners had been given back their dispensation to live their lives in public. He spent the afternoon seizing it.

The noise seized him back. He gave up on his halfhearted reading agenda and tried to do some journaling in real time. He knew there was meaning to tease out of the barista’s deafening greetings. He bogged down trying. Staff outbusts punctuating background noise were all he could hear or think. He was stuck in the tunnel of welcoming.

He looked at airfares back east. He scrolled his feeds on alt, trying to break through ennui and confusion. Nobody was posting anything that captured his interest, just as he expected for an Indian Summer Saturday afternoon. He left for church. He was mentally and spiritually dulled to the liturgies from start to finish, but at least some moral and aesthetic thought had gone into them, and he appreciated it. There were worse things to repeat all afternoon.

Four mornings later he landed in Buffalo. He spent the balance of the week eating goat curry takeout by the falls and riding an incomprehensible bus system past Love Canal and Polish cemeteries in black ghettos and the square where riot cops cracked an old man’s skull open in front of a live TV crew, at a volume that came through for the folks back home. He was happy to be back in the water for a week or two, ultimately closer to three, away from the boasts of serial Gavin Newsom voters about how little time they were spending in the shower.

Manhattan, strangled to death by public health regulations according to refugees freshly arrived in Florida, was more chaotic than he remembered it from the eve of the plague, suffering from degraded public accommodations but not to an extent that hadn’t been looming on the horizon for decades. The subway worked better than he expected when he went to the Battery on an Amtrak layover. The ferry terminals at the Battery and St. George were both close to immaculate. The grime on the ferries was unremarkable for New York. That was the perverse wisdom of the toxic putzes who kept worming their way into high office in New York City. They insisted on misgoverning the one city in their state that could not be killed. It never occurred to them to try to ruin Buffalo.

The American derangement washed back over him when he got a coffee for his joyride on the ferry. The franchisees were ethnic, Indian or Pakistani, as far as he could guess. They spoke with a half-Mideastern, half-Outer Borough diction as authentically New York as badly-dressed Jews rushing through Penn Station. One of the younger guys manning the Dunkin shoved an order at a customer with a shout of “Stay safe.”

From what, he wondered. He knew, but he wondered. The same guy exchanged safety wishes over the counter with two other employees before he got his coffee and headed into the terminal. He escaped the pleasantries. These fuckers know it’s a fool’s errand talking like that to reserved out-of-towners, he thought, and just as well. He’d read a bit about the Spuyten Duyvil derailment and the crash of the Andrew Barberi. Two at the throttle and at least one of them awake, seemed to be the moral of those stories. When he recalled the LIRR shooting months later, he assumed he’d forgotten about it because taking the train was still safer than driving and he didn’t usually perceive threats to life or limb from weird loners walking around all pissed off about shit.

There were eyes everywhere in both terminals. A black private security guard ran a bomb-sniffing dog over his suitcase on his way into the Battery terminal; in St. George, it was two Italian cops in khakis, probably Port Authority but not worth trying to tell. Two security guards all but rushe him into the elevator on the Battery when he tried to take the escalator. Baggage. Nobody was going to get injured by it.

Eyes.

His trip went fine in spite of them, off without any additional hitches. He made it downtown and back to midtown on the train without incident, barely even delays. Might he see somebody tonight? It was a month after the floods, two before the government gas exercises, and another few until the attacks. The goddamn government.

He’d come in a good season.

The Barberi pushed out, past the single looming needle that replaced the pair of looming towers, making one out of two, past Ellis Island, past the dock cranes of Bayonne, past the Statue of Liberty. A city might be overrun with the worst Irishmen and Italians, the worst Pollacks, even the worst Jews, and despite it all it might still be home to a big French broad who’s always got a light. As the mayor said that garish bright fall, we harbor all kinds. His police agreed.

Few understood them.

Dammit, he thought. Understanding. Jesus came to understand things at Gethsemane, and look what that got him. An entire generation had now been born, the oldest and most precocious of them fully raised, under the guidance of hopelessly idiotic paranoiacs. In a parallel timeline, he might have become a paranoid idiot, not a paranoid visionary, silently trying to understand.

It’s a horrible country, he realized, but it ain’t bad. From this expanse of the Bay, the Brooklyn side, midway between the hipsters, the yuppies, and the cops, a fellow might mistake her for a Jersey girl.

Welcome the hell in.

Fauci and the fuzz

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

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

The cops know this. This is why they escalate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They couldn’t even make it nice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cat people. Many such cases!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That fucking putz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fulfillment center. Christ.

Covid and me, but enough about Covid

Some overly earnest Marin ditz went on Forum to warn Krasny and the whole crew (failspawn represent) that, while the Rona lockdowns may be provoking mental health problems in our children and suicide and so forth and so on, “they will never be able to live with themselves,” I think it was, with the knowledge that they may have killed their family elders because they just had to return prematurely to their brick-and-mortar schools. I don’t know for a fact that she was from Marin, but she was totally from Marin, in the same way that little Sierra will definitely feel intense permanent guilt for the statistical possibility that she will hypothetically kill Grandma at a time when the entire general public is also liable to accidentally kill Grandma if we insist on being so selfish as to send her back to a socially engaging institutional environment that has historically kept her from being acutely suicidal on a daily basis.

This comment offers much too consider,,, about Hellth. Our children will, by that scold’s reckoning, definitively and inexorably feel lifelong guilt for harm that they will subjunctively cause by a combination of unknowable, uncontrollable variables and random chance. We need to spare them this inevitable possible psychic harm for their inevitable possible reckless child and adolescent behaviors.

Forum is a forum for many, not just one, to air their morning Perspectives. Mine is that Michael Krasny was too unbiased before that piece of work and would have done better, civically if not conversationally, to cut her off midsentence and change the subject. This is why I have parasocial relationships with the characters who are actually at the controls. Michael State gets paid to monitor his one o’clock rebroadcast of Shitty Arts and Lectures. Am I dropping a check in that collection plate? Not as long as Amazon is! Sure, there’s value in respecting other people’s opinions, in listening respectfully and all that shit, but these are curated conversations, discreetly but to good effects knowable only to those who go to the back of the house to watch the sausage being made in real time. They have producers at the phones to screen out (or, in Rush Limbaugh’s case, screen in) the real nutter butters and abrasives. The producers must have thought that woman had a reasonable Perspective.

The guilt she was promising our troubled young for not hermetically sealing themselves off from the world is conditioned. It’s the result of neurotic, obsessively micromanaging adult authority figures putting chronic pressure on the children in their lives to conform to unreasonable strictures. This pressure commonly crosses the threshold of emotional abuse. Telling children that they’re risking their grandparents’ lives by visiting friends is alarming and distressing. Adults should have an utterly compelling, easily explained reason to dare say such a thing to a child, or even about a child. Otherwise they would never get over the guilt of having distressed the least of these. Right? I heard it on me State Radio.

Different State, alas. Good morning, it’s whine o’clock.

It’s a Brahmin Thing. Why else would I listen to it? That’s quite a way to disappoint Mom and Dad. Traditionally, we pulled it off by not getting into Swarthmore and having to settle for a safety school, maybe one of the Claremonts. These days we’re doing it by killing Grandma. They always wanted us to stay in school. Now they need us to stay out of school. It seems like a reach to accuse us of such things, even as seniors, not mere freshmen.

Oh Lord I’m using words in sentences again, and I’m using them wrong. We’ve been over it before. There is, in fact, an appropriate way to use “reach” and “safety” in a sentence. That sentence is this: “It would have been a good idea for Robert Sanchez to reach for the emergency brake in the interest of passenger and crew safety.” Please. Do you imagine for a second that any of these assholes send their children to good schools? I don’t hear about them filling out applications for Ryerson or Trinity Western!

*Terminal Robert Dziekanski Voice* Must you always write these stories for the shock value? Hey, these are morbid cultural contexts, but they’re about chains of causation that can be traced. They are not prophecies of our young surely experiencing lifelong guilt and grief for possibly theoretically killing their elders with the plague. They’re manslaughter stories, not stories of some poor harried kid getting blamed for a death that may or may not have occurred and may or may not have been the poor young person’s fault. Like, maybe I’ll write some Stephanie Lazarus-series noir, or maybe I’ll write some stories about a cop feeling sad for being on the same bus as a guy who got shot that night.

Fuck. I just heard her on the rebroadcast. Ditz was from Oakland. “No child will ever get over the trauma of knowing that they….” possibly were responsible for possible deaths in their families. As I said above, it’s conditioned guilt. It assumes the most tragic possible means to the worst possible end, in this case in the confidently predicted subjunctve likely fact that the kids will possibly kill their statistically future dead family elders.

“I know it’s hard….” Yeah, social deprivation to the point of suicidality? You don’t say! That sounds like it might be a hardship! It sounds like something a society might want to limit by reintegrating children and adolescents with their peers! We have a growing body of evidence showing pervasive, acute, severe mental illness arising in minors during prolonged social isolation, in a correlation too strong for the isolation not to be causative–let’s be blunt: this is where common sense becomes science–but we can’t send the kids back to school, because if we let them interact with classmates they will statistically murder their grandparents and then feel bad about it.

Most Americans will agree that suicidality is usually a sign of an unsound mind. Many will say it always is. Most of the same Americans will also insist that suicide is a choice. It’s a choice made of free will with an unsound mind. This is horseshit normcore that persists mainly because it goes unchallenged. If the only reason people want to kill themselves is because they’re crazy, it’s illogical to expect them to mindset their own way back to mental health. This isn’t just a case of the down in the dumps. Come the fuck on. If we’re barring the door against assisted suicide for the lucid terminally ill, we’re out of our own minds to expect the acutely agitated to muster the clarity of mind to step back from the ledge as a matter of mindset discipline. We’ve already established that they’re incapable of exercising personal responsibility because they’re insane. Yes, the suicidal should have a better mindset and should try to cultivate one, but they fucking can’t. That’s why they’re suicidal. Sweet Christ on the Cross.

Ah, right, that’s capital punishment. That’s the good stuff we support, as a Christian Nation, doing to our prisoners what the Romans did to Jesus. This isn’t just an American problem; Constantine was pretty pre-American, a guy who would have been all like, dafuq is America, could you cut out the prophetic shit for five minutes. Christian support for the death penalty is an embarrassing example of what happens when a movement of oppressed imperial subjects is elevated into the religion of the imperial oppressors. Hence the paradox of functionally post-Christian countries in Europe abolishing the death penalty, recognizing that if it was a bad thing to do to Jesus it’s plainly a bad thing to do, while the world’s leading extant empire extols executions as godly, as an empire would if it had originally been confederated from colonies whose economies revolved around the discipline of chattel slaves with extra ad hoc Stations of the Cross.

What other passably mainstream strains of political thot blessed this new country? This part’s fun, too. The two other competing strains that stand out are crooks who had goons squat on waterfalls until they could have piss-poor workmen build factories (lately fictionalized for celebration in song) and tyrannical religious busybodies.

All we have to do to build ourselves a nightmare society is pick out some of the worst aspects of each of these models from the buffet of American civics. That there’s a plateful. It does something to explain why we have a woman calling in to a radio show all bent out of shape about how children are bringing upon themselves a lifetime of earthly damnation upon themselves for accidentally infecting their elders with a deadly contagion–as Yaakov Smirnoff says, conscience examines YOU!–in a country with some of the world’s most lavishly funded, overstaffed, ill-disciplined police forces and governments catering to heinous corporate shakedowns.

With any self-reflection as a society we’d be breathing down the necks of our prison, social services, and regulatory agencies to do absolutely everything in their power to stop the spread with voluntary measures individuals would be eager to take, like better occupational and residential conditions, and only THEN trying to figure out how much life-threatening emotional distress our children should sustain to keep their relatives alive. The positive test rates at San Quentin were through the fucking roof. What did we expect, though? Our prisons are crowded and unsanitary. They provide woefully deficient healthcare. No shit they’re incubators.

Empire always comes home, unless it crashes for the night with its mistress in El Cerrito.

These aren’t the only reasons why we’re blaming children for individually infecting and killing their families. To understand it, we must understand the culturing of narcissism via the self-esteem movement and its offshoots. Spare the lasch, spoil the mind. YOU are special. YOU can do anything. YOU can change the world. /Yaakov Smirnoff Voice/ In Post-Soviet America, anyone can do YOU!

Killing Granny would make for quite a change, huh.

What’s odd about this fixation on the child self in these circumstances is that the rest of the country is trying to kill her, too. Rona wants the Honored Citizenry dead. We are all its vessels; it, our master. Junior isn’t the only suspect in this case. There are other actors, JonBenet. Sweet baby girl there are other actors.

Many are grown-ups.

I ain’t sayin they act the part. Ever looked at our governments?

Grown-ass American adults are clueless about first-mover advantages and disadvantages. The children of overbearing helicopter parents are hopeless to reeducate themselves. The luckier ones may start the process in earnest sometime in adolescence; the unlucky never do. Not all fruit of the flying tiger can successfully launch.

The first-mover advantage for neurotics trying to protect their sick or, worse, hypochondriac loved ones is modest to nonexistent. Affluent families with living space to spare are detectably endangered by infected visitors; poor families living in crowded congregate homes are so endangered by immunocompromised working adults that secondhand exposure to school transmission is a distraction from the real threats. There are strong negative feedbacks at play in both cases, too: the affluent can afford better, prompter medical care than the poor can hope to get for free, while poor children enjoy potentially lifesaving health benefits, for themselves and others, from free school meals.

Did I ever mention that Americans’ holistic thinking is shit?

Imaginary first-mover advantages in a cultural milieu of generalized communal narcissism explain many of the stupidest things about mainstream bougie America. There is no perceptible first-mover advantage in the real world to buying an electric car: it’ll be more expensive and suffer from glitches that will be worked out in later, more affordable models. The main first-mover advantages to taking the train instead of driving are less crowded, possibly less delayed trains and avoiding parking and traffic in crowded neighborhoods. A minor one is a greater proportional effect on ridership and farebox revenue, assuming the planning and funding bodies weight these metrics heavily enough for them to make an appreciable difference. Saving the world by not driving is not a first-mover advantage. Get the fuck outta here. It may be helpful for an individual to get into the habit of using transit or biking or walking or whatever, but tens of thousands of your neighbors will be driving over the hill to Tahoe once the storms clear for a day or two regardless of your decision to /New Day Brian Watt Voice/ stop miss riding on BART and get your approval-seeking East Bay ass on BARTTTT. Take the kids out for a day trip. Shit, man; main thing they’re fucking up are the headways. It’s still a sweet-ass ride.

This is how carbon offsets were ever able to find a market. It takes an awfully selective self-esteem to believe that flying to Bali or Cozumel or whatever (it isn’t JUST Americans, mate) does not change the world for the worse but paying a third party to pay a fourth party to pay a fifth to not let a sixth poach a jungle for timber and also the palm oil we need for our “carbon-neutral” biodiesel or whatever feed stock we need for “carbon-neutral” jet fuel will save the world, one individual act of powerfully world-changing virtue at a time.

For the record, I’m still against dawn charters to Cilacap, but hoo boy is there some Anglosphere imperial proxy violence behind the penal archipelago of Nusakambangan, and the individual voter has a rather piss-ass first-mover advantage voting for Gough Whitlam. Her Majesty votes too, you see, through Her Security Services. #StillWithHer. Okay, #NotInScotland, ya dense cunt.

So, yeah, United Fruit–I mean, Chiquita! Ole!–Shit, Sven, they sell that in Hibbing, too, don’tcha know, and only da wurst grocers ever barred da Finns from da store–is a company worth not patronizing, same as whatever we’re calling Standard Oil these days, but your high virtue-signaling is not why. My understanding about my great-grandparents in East Kansas is that this isn’t why they kept gardens. Hey, Swanson, ya need some tomatoes? Well now what’s that got to do with the immorality of driving to the supermarket in Topeka? Can’t see why you’d be looking to save anything but the gas, or maybe your tires, but yours always have more tread than ours.

Shucks. None of this makes any sense.

It warps people’s mind to constantly tell them that they have the power as individuals to change the world. One way or another, it goes to their heads. Some become crudely grandiose. Others turn neurotic, anxious, and self-loathing, convinced that they’ll never measure up to expectations.

This is why the same communities that vomit forth so many condescending know-it-all collegiate (but rarely collegial!) professionals had full-blown epidemics of mental illness on the eve of the shutdowns, as they started their crash course in performative social isolation. It’s rough on everybody exposed to it, but it has an especially powerful warping effect on the young, who are particularly impressionable and dependent on older authority figures for their prosperity, if not their survival.

*****

Believe it. It’s bad. A few years ago my youth minister friend in Maryland met one-on-one with the teens he was mentoring in Howard County and asked them, entirely open-ended, if they thought there was anything they thought they weren’t discussing in their classes and needed to start incorporating. Every one of them immediately said mental health. These kids were living deep enough in the liminal geography between the relative normality of Baltimore and the overpowering abnormality of Washington to have to process additional unwelcome weirdness, including constant ambient exposure to NSA employees, but the pressure to excel was nothing that would have been out of place in Greenwich or Palo Alto.

The subordinate naturally read their superiors better than their superiors read them. This is germane to the downmarket strata of the Trump coalition, among other things the overbearing parents of my friend’s teen mentees are disinclined to consider. I’d say this less confidently if he’d had these conversations in Loudoun or Prince William or some shit of that nature, still not exactly good but on the other hand not situations indicating that the rest of the capital metroplex must immediately be culturally partitioned into Baltimore and the residually Southern parts of Alexandria. There’s something bad happening out past the Patapsco, hun. What the hell’s going on there, hun.

It’s White People, Randol, and I’m afraid that includes PG. How’s that for insight?

You think I’m just shitposting. Huge swathes of Metropolitan Washington (we already have a DMV here in California, tyvm, and the one in Ukiah isn’t half bad) are overloaded with courtiers. Tom Fucking Friedman is basically a courtier for God knows whom above him, the spooks who own the families who own the newspapers or whatever. Jeff Bezos is not in fact a nerd, but he’s some kind of CIA asset; it came in as a help when he decided to buy the Langley Ledger.

The gist of it is, nobody around there below the top stratum, the one that can just be glimpsed from down here on a clear day, lives with anything like freedom of thought. The adults all have to censor any politically incorrect thoughts they harbor. Fuck, Nancy Pelosi toes the same dogshit stupid line because it helps her grift the PMC normies. It’s The Prosperity Gospel, by Lin-Manuel Miranda. They all act like if they stop believing and parroting the unhinged prevailing community understanding of how the world works the world will stop turning and they’ll float away into the void.

Shit, I dunno, maybe you could drop out and get mom and dad to cash your disappointing ass out to Havre de Grace. It’s cheaper than GMU!

As we discussed above, Baltimore is a sphere of its own, but its cultural hinterlands are strangely delineated, like they’ve been gerrymandered: York County is part of Baltimore, but they have to share their airport with Washington. Dredge that in a bowl of Old Bay seasoning and smoke it. As cities go, though, Baltimore is pretty normal. It has its horseshit gentrification, but not to an impressive extreme. It’s a fractal of real communities, rooted in purpose and place, not a summoning swamp for the spirit orbs of a continent’s worth of ghouls.

It’s similar to the Virginian parts of NoVa that way. There’s somewhat less deranged insularity in the politically integrated parts of NoVa, like outer Loudoun, because they’re settled by newcomers with somewhat stronger ties to the real world back home. They’re less of a scrum of social climbers desperate not to alienate some two-bit authority figure or snitch and lose their meal ticket.

As Colby Cosh would say, that’s the part of Toronto that works for a living. It’s a geographical and cultural fringe, fading bit by bit from the imperial center into the near perpihery. The shift is starker to the northeast, where the imperial blob smears up against Baltimore and is brought to a definitive stop. That’s what happens around a city with a working deepwater port, a working railhead, and a working base of heavy industry. There are naturally more people around who can explain what the hell their jobs are. This has salutary effects.

Washington is exactly the deracinated seat of imperial power where officials would issue plague decrees and then get upset with the subjects in public for disobeying them. DC is connected in a sort of node-and-synapse network to an archipelago of equivalently deracinated and sheltered outposts of the imperial center. Pete Buttigieg cares more about K Street than the poor neighborhoods of South Bend. The Beltway teems with mandarins who are aware of San Francisco and Manhattan but clueless about Winchester and the Eastern Shore.

The official shit-flipping at Trump for butting into Covid policy and making a mess of it was never really about competence or reverence for science; it was a retaliatory attack on the bridge-and-tunnel oaf for one-upping the career credentialed on their own turf. It was frankly harmless to blather nonsense about using orthoscopic probes to blast UV light up everyone’s blood vessels when the supreme priest of American medicine orchestrated a campaign of lies about the efficacy of masks and then admitted on the record to lying about herd immunity thresholds to manipulate public opinion on vaccines.

It isn’t Trump’s fans who set the gold standard for medical gullibility here. They didn’t take his bullshit about UV blood disinfection seriously. They were aware that at least some of his public health commentary was entertainment, not advice. They also recognized that he was surrounded by hostile liars engaging him in a pissing match over their superior credentials. They could see through Anthony Fauci, the imperious figurehead who lied about masks through a weeks-long Chernobyl moment provoked by a looming failure of the supply chain (the most charitable explanation) and later tried to play it cute by reassuring America’s children that an imaginary out-of-shape fat old guy was immune to Covid-19. Trump didn’t demand reverence in the midst of his worst performances.

*****

The skeleton key to this mess isn’t reason versus superstition. It’s obedient fealty to credentialed authority figures versus resentment and defiance.

It goes back to the Puritans and the Cavaliers. Two of the major factions still battling for the soul of America were well defined and understood in Britain at the time of first colonial settlement in North America. In parallel with the agitation of the latter-day Cavaliers–a name we might say fits a bit too squarely in the horse’s mouth–and often in tandem with it is a very old-school peasant revolt, in this case against the clerisy. Proles aren’t crazy about the petty aristocratic aims of the provincial bourgeois elements leading the revolt against the Covid restrictions, but the booj are reliable allies in this fight.

An emotionally untethered, grandstanding provincial businesswoman like Lauren Boebert would have less public trust and confidence back home if she weren’t lashing out at enemies she and her poorer, less propertied, less capitalized neighbors have in common. The antics of showboats in small business have limited currency in the provinces. Word gets around if the owners do wrong by their help, and many do. When Beltway swamp critters with terminal degrees start yelling at them for not following doctors’ orders, the coalition alignments shift into something closer to what Our President (Nothing But Respect) calls the rural versus ural.

This shit is about motives, not facts. It’s about process, not outcome. Few antimask zealots would object to sneezing into an elbow as a courtesy to others. Yeah, you cover your fucking mouth when you sneeze or cough. No shit. Don’t be an asshole. The core reason why antimask woowoo has a following is that it’s a dramatic adverse reaction to imperious authority figures who never actually gave a damn about them in the first place. The American medical system is a disaster zone. The provincial know it’s bad. Opposition to the ACA is especially rational and coherent in states whose governments refused to expand Medicaid: another unfunded mandate with burdensome paperwork, thrust down from on high by hostile gods.

There’s simply no getting a critical mass of voters to believe that the same governments crookedly allowing medicine to degenerate into a racketeering cartel Shanghaiing patients and their families into debt bondage at random for quack treatments and drylabbed chart printouts, causing countless deaths and ruining countless surviving victims, is suddenly consumed with deep concern about the wellbeing of ordinary Americans in the face of a new plague. They didn’t give a shit about Vioxx or opioids or the extreme occupational stresses and bad medical care driving workaday Americans to use painkillers or Flint or the tobacco industry’s deadly fraud, but put rich city slickers at risk of a respiratory disease they’re probably healthy enough to weather because other rich city slickers won’t stop traveling overseas to disease hot spots, and suddenly everybody needs to do their part to stop the spread. Suddenly everybody needs to bear the pain. The same city slickers won’t give up their country houses–their refuges–or their on-demand delivery services, but they’re happy to bar the restaurant door to country folk who’ve always done their own grocery shopping, leaving the owners and employees to twist in the wind.

*****

Normie centrists are hopeless to get into the heads of their Rona truther enemies because they’re smugly clueless about the cultural context actually driving the shrillest opposition to their cherished Science. The shutdown orders are a triggering event for the provincial right wing, not a self-contained set of grievances. The metropolitan neoliberal center has, in fact, looted and pillaged many of their communities for profit. The natives have reasons to be up in arms.

These grievances are not secrets. The town goes to hell when they shut the mill down. Yank a tenth or a quarter of the local jobs, including many of the best-paid, and no shit there’s trouble. Occupational conditions and prospects going to hell do much to explain the severity of the opioid epidemic, property and violent crime, housing precarity and homelessness, hunger, and infrastructural decrepitude out in the provinces. In thousands of American communities one factory, one mine, or a cluster of facilitites in a specific industry were the socioeconomic linchpins. Removing them predictably caused ruin.

The provincial dispossessed are in no mood to forgive and forget. Why would they? They’re able to read the ruling class in the imperial center better than their rulers can read them, and they know imperial hostility when they see it. They’ve watched the credentialed centrist wrecking crew stand back and point at them and laugh and sneer while their world, already smaller and more stifling than anything the masters and administrators of this empire can imagine suffering in their own lives, comes crashing down.

Elite demagogues and grifters exploit precarious provincials. Absolute wackjobs like Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene move in to bear their standard. What else did the political establishment expect? It refused to represent ordinary Americans; it was too busy robbing them blind. Power abhors a vacuum. They shouldn’t be so whiny about unsavories seizing territory they abandoned in a spirit of open disgust.

They can’t help it, though. They’re too privileged.

*****

The left behind, as they’re known in the Christian press, expect nothng good for themselves from that distant puritanical overclass. This is true across the board: working-class normies, combative local notable Cavaliers pursuing beefs with rival Puritan elites for social control (again, Boebert is a restaurateur), cynical System D hustlers, dropouts of all sorts, the schizoid elements of the welfare underclass. Many such cases!

What’s weirder to them is the apparent extent of the Brahmins’ self-destructiveness on account of Covid. Scandals that find hypocritical officials retiring from their daily health scoldings to mask-free sit-down dinners at fancy restaurants or departure areas for forbidden flights en route to forbidden reunions with their kin–in meatspace, not the eerie ether–are obnoxious but relatable. They show officials to be humanly shitty. Michael Moore lied about not owning stocks, Al Gore flies between his gigantic mansions on private jets, Bill Bennett is a degenerate high-roller, J. Denny Dundiddly, which is both a full sentence and a title of dishonor: These guys are disreputable, but they aren’t WEIRD. They indulge in comprehensible human vices, not performative mental illnesses.

The horrors of the Republican Party today would be sitting ducks for a functioning left-wing party. The true base for the worst hard-right wackjobs is provincial upmarket, not hillbillies crawling around their travel trailers looking for loose change to pay for some heat. We like Uncle Bernie! The rural underclasses aren’t looking to cast their lot with a collection of moralizing hustlers and perverts, let alone with stuffy high church twits like William of Values. It’s a mischaracterization to blame Alabama’s white poor for elevating a mall-cruising piece of gentry trash to the state supreme court and then to the US Senate, or poor Illinoisans or Iowans for sending Coach to Congress. Much of the vote for these seedy characters is always local elites, people whose British counterparts certainly would certainly be above using a scrupulously heterosexual sport of rolling around on the floor and groping other young men as a program of hazing and grooming.

All the same, none of this perversion is a form of alienation from humanity. It’s of the flesh, not just the spirit. It’s nothing like the newly fashionable Brahmin gnosticism for hypochondriacs. They’re shut-ins because they are desperate to mortify the flesh to save it. This is why they have retreated into a reclusive domestic life revolving around contactless deliveries and computer-mediated interactions of pure spirit. They dare not fuck. They dare not even hug.

It does, in fact, rhyme. Stay home if you sicke; come over if you thicke. People out in the provinces notice that postmodern sexual dysfunction is more advanced in the hip cities than it is downhome. The idea of being monogamous because an affair will transmit a deadly respiratory virus to multiple third parties doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense to them as medical advice. They see it as another manifestation of cosmopolitan neurosis. The taint of ritual impurity could come from sex outside one’s pod, or it could come from kids playing outside their pods, or it could come from visiting friends and family in the normal course of normal, healthy relationships, again outside the pod.

No, if I’d meant friends with benefits, I wouldn’t have said family. We don’t use our acronyms the same way here in Bar Harbor, pal. We protect each other against stranger danger by staying home.

We might say that reclusive neurosis is the new Maine Thing for the smart set. People in the rest of the country peer into the SuperZIPs and feel uneasy at how the adults are behaving and how they’e raising their kids. Another cohort of dysfunctional overachievers is about to drop, looking to save the world but really to rule it, or at least to get rich trying. The kids are gonna turn out like shit if they keep being warned that they’ll kill their grandparents with a hug and have to interact with all but members of their own households over screens. It won’t do them any good to live life by videoconference. Big crops of sexually clueless and dysfunctional porn addicts are cumming. Yeah, breeders in American Dork–goodness, I mean American Fork–watch porn, too, because somebody around there has to be driving the Utard consumption stats through the roof, but there’s no reason a person who reads the sports section of the Deseret News every day can’t play some pickup hoops.

*****

The truly fatal mistake the cosmopolitan health scolds make is to meddle yet again, and more disruptively than ever within living memory, in the family lives of people who never wanted a thing to do with their strictures. The feeling in the imperial periphery is that it’s okay for the elites to fuck their own children up with terrible upbringings but they had better not mess with kids whose parents are trying to raise them right and teach them some social skills.

The grievance that the family is under attack is valid. The specifics can be pretty muddleheaded. The LGBT righs movement is at most an oblique attack on the family by way of an important assertion of individual rights against mob attacks and busybodies. Sex education in general, e.g., teaching adolescents about proper condom use and how the hell adult bodies work, is certainly not: venereal disease and the accidental bearing of unsupportable children make family life worse, not better.

These particulars serve as distractions from the very real economic attacks on the family from without. Everybody who’s upset with liberals for corrupting their children with instruction in fornication and godlessness agrees that children are expensive and that it’s a problem. The potential for misdirection is huge, and the right wing takes full cynical advantage of it. This doesn’t negate the proven fact that avowedly center-left Democrats in the neoliberal wrecking crew have spent the last several decades seeing to it that college is a prohibitively expensive necessity for employment. It doesn’t negate what they’ve done to the quality of medical care or what they’ve done to turn life into a fruitless bureaucratic maze.

Family can survive these onslaughts. Individual members may perish, life expectancies may plummet, but a cohesive family may yet muddle through and come out on the other side into God knows what but at least into something. This probably sounds like some kind of Guideposts-ass Chestertonian primer, but it’s absolutely true. The dispersion of my own family all over the country has had disruptive effects on me. It’s given me reason to travel and see some glorious places I would otherwise miss, so I’m not trying to call whine-one-one here, but the socioeconomically disruptive effects of having a dispersed family are worth keeping in mind.

Telling total strangers to uproot themselves and move to the city because there are no jobs left at home–gee, wonder who took them?–is heartless. For the upper and upper middle classes, the uprooting may be a traditional intramural hazing ritual, bad news but very local news. When they put the same pressure on outside communities they’ve dispossessed for profit, it’s an act of war. Trashing the economy trashes the family, and trashing the family trashes the economy. The mutual feedbacks are plain as day. Any fool can see them.

It raises questions about why the elite mainstream is hellbent on doing things that weaken families, communities, and local economies. It makes their antinatalism sound suspect: they’re idiots to neurotically avoid having chidlren of their own, but why in all hell do they have a problem with US for having children?

The precedents for the same elites conspiring to destroy poor and middling communities are countless. It’s perfectly reasonable to suspect that any given campaign they’re running in neighborhoods not at parity with their own is an outside attack. It’s exactly what they always do.

Do they possibly have good reasons for wanting the children of their socioeconomic inferiors to grow up without interacting with loved ones in the flesh? This lockdown shit has been going on for almost a year, with no projected end date. The US government has a long history of chemical and biological experimentation on unwitting citizens. It has a long history of poisoning and killing citizens with chemical and radiological materials, in ways that routinely involved immunosuppression.

Out on the streets and Facebook, the new town square, conspiracy theories circulate about the Rona being programmed with a kill switch that the government will flip once it’s achieved the cull quota. To middle-class normies it sounds batshit crazy, but if it’s science fiction, it isn’t fictional by much. The capacity of the gain-of-function creeps at Fort Detrick to breed strengthened and attenuated strains, in effect contagions and wild vaccines, is without a fucking doubt there. Anthony Fauci is by his own shameless admission a serial liar. Americans who’ve been on the wrong side of American medicine are right to distrust that asshole. We all should. Top infectious disease expert my fat white college-educated ass.

If family is all we have, we should visit our families. If friends are all we have, we should visit our friends. Should these visits be physical? Sure. Why not. The rest of the community is breathing the plague on us, too, forcing “us” to hole up inside like we’re in the path of a hurricane. Should these visits be sexual? It depends on how many of you are Mainers.

Geez, that was gross, Terry. I mean, Jerry, or Larry. For real, though. Every fractal of this thing is broken. It’s up to each of us to repair our little pieces of it. We can start by not traumatizing our children with tall tales about how they’re murdering their grandparents. No, you’re just a kid, not Governor Cuomo.

Why is my applicant pool full of derelicts with disqualifying backgrounds, like having trash in their cars?

The NewsHour, like its sister programs on NPR, is great at burying its ledes. Perhaps you were wondering why young Americans no longer want to go into paid apprenticeships in trades that can reliably pay six figures. Whaddaya fuggen know, the bosses are happy to go on the boob tube to complain that kids these days have poor work ethics, have drug records, have traffic records, got fired, by the way the wage progression is five or ten years slower than advertised in the bold print, and drive to interviews in cars full of trash.

That last one is a red flag. It corroborates my suspicion that housekeeping is worthwhile in a structure adequately serving as a house but that, space permitting, it’s civic indeed to leave incidental trash in yours, regardless of its effect on your boss and his lost feelings of accord. It’s widely understood on the streets that employers make excuses to walk by applicants’ cars during interviews so they can scan for prejudicial cues. A common one is car seats. It’s illegal to discriminate in hiring based on family status, so it’s risky to ask applicants if they have children, but we’re all about smalltalk under duress, here in America, and as Funny Uncle Joe knew and used to good political effect, we’re all about our cars. There’s something wrong with you for taking the bus to work. Why are you poor?

The story about the deteriorating youth work ethic is horseshit. There have always been lazy people; in the American South, they were often called planters; but this is not generallee a country that gives its people good reasons to work. Fewer Americans would quit or get fired if American workplaces weren’t so toxic. Improvements in work conditions and compensation reduce turnover. Everybody in business who isn’t a moron knows this; when they act surprised it’s because they’re bluffing in hope of a discount and don’t care about having a stable workforce. Lower turnover means more pie, but some of these characters wouldn’t pay for their slice like I do at Safeway. How the hell do you think they caught Robert Durst? Are we surprised to discover that a prevailing business culture giving license to employers to make jobs abusive and ill-paid coinciding with a secular consignment of the young to precarious contingent positions doesn’t result in an overflowing pool of eager young talent?

Vinny what’s-his-name in Seattle is a classic public broacasting crybaby employer. He went on TV to whine about how his applicants are shit and that sucks because he’s desperate for apprentices to help him with his plumbing businesses. Maybe that’s why so many marginal applicants show up. He says he’s desperate; let’s see how desperate he is lol. He’s basically saying, man, I need a girlfriend. No, I mean I need Dagmar Midcap in my bed right now.

How many shit-tier books do we have about cultivating a mentality of abundance instead of a mentality of scarcity? I guess that genre is another style of All-American abuse. I already knew it was a huge grift.

Aaron Bady made an impressively perceptive point after that militia crew in Michigan got popped for plotting to assassinate the governor and photos circulated showing the country dump where one of the plotters lived: “the obsession with rural clutter really does map onto an inability to conceptualize real poverty, with disturbing preciseness.” One of the reasons my cars accumulate trash is that I don’t litter. Others include half-cocked plans to burn paper trash and deposit bottle storage pending cashout runs. Chaka can. Chaka can.

The clutter of genuine poverty takes specific forms that are hard to describe but unmistakable. It’s an obscenity, as Potter Stewart would say. It isn’t a car full of trash as much as a car full of old clothes and knicknacks haphazardly mixed with bits of trash. It certainly isn’t owning a yard full of unsold junk with resale value; that’s property, not poverty. People end up too broke to afford groceries in spite of their junkyards; they don’t own junkyards because they’re flat broke or piss-poor. The chaotic clutter of genuine poverty is unmistakable. It can be found in any weekly motel. We’re still doing nothing about homelessness in this country, so there’s no need to hurry up and visit it before it’s gone.

For what it’s worth, Seattle has a severe homelessness problem, including a large population of warm homeless living in rundown vehicles. I’m in no mood to humor a Seattle plumber who brags about how much he pays his employees and then whines that his applicants keep pigsty cars. He was complaining about cars in conditions that many of his neighbors and much of the NewsHour’s audience would immediately take as evidence of homelessness. It wasn’t until I was on the verge of homelessness that I really started accumulating piles of shit in my cars. After I became fully, undeniably homeless, this became a habit. It’s still a habit, and I haven’t been homeless in over a year and a half.

Fuck you and your plumbing business if you think it’s a problem, and fuck the PBS NewsHour. They need to start sending Paul Solman on assignment to interview people who show some goddamn manners when they go on television.

No, this doesn’t mean I’ll stop listening to that shit. It’s a trunk full of deposit bottles and paper trash for the mind, if I may be so charitable about an organization that’s always asking me for money instead of paying me some.

Before we talk about your investments, what’s new? Anybody hiring so we don’t all have to keep trying to game the market for a living? Franklin upfront and I’ll try fixing your sink.

The civil liberty to dine in at Denny’s buck naked and smear stool on the stool

It would be instructive, and most likely encouraging, to see what communities beset by Covid-19 could do just with mask use. Chinatown in San Francisco is a piss-poor neighborhood with large numbers of residents living in crowded SRO’s. Its infection rates are some of the lowest in the United States. Chinamen wear masks.

That’s what happens when a foreign enclave operates on a longstanding set of cultural norms oriented towards good public and personal health. The Inscrutable Oriental covers her face. The gaijin can have very little eye contact, as a trick.

The key here is that the mask compliance comes from internal peer pressure. Do honored elders riding the 1-California without a dozen words of English between them give a damn about what some rich white bitch thinks about the faddish public health measures? Of course not.

The Mexicans take the same path to a very different place. We might call them a different kind of dirty. Goodness gracious, Dora the Explorer never taught our children to say such awful things about the maid! How dare one? Dad’s banging her! Down in the crowded parking lots, out for some prayer time–look, Siegler, they may be Hispanic Latinos, or they may be Latino Hispanics, or they may be Latinx Hispanx, and this obviously has something to do with what it’s like to live in a plywood shack without indoor plumbing heaving watermelons into a truck for condescending landed Armenians–but in any event, you can see them there, on Saturday morning; they hold hands, stand up, and sing about what it’s like up there.

Given the current circumstances, I’m more inclined to be concerned about what it’s like down here, where I find myself the only masked party in all too many crowded public buildings. If syphilitics were walking around in supermarkets unpredictably splooging straight at other shoppers’ bussies with firehose force, I’d want them to wear pants, and I’d goddamn fucking well wear pants.

Did I mention that sex education in the United States is really bad? That it’s haphazard, squeamish, and disingenuous? Explaining masks as condoms for the face doesn’t work on those who have internalized ridiculous misinformation from sexual busybodies about how condoms don’t work.

What the hell do we expect Mexican peasants to think about any of this? Yanqui scolds want to limit their family formation but also want them (tacitly, tacitly!) to remain a reliable supply of scab labor. America, as Americans conceive of it, is squirrelly about giving them a civic stake, again because prompt naturalization in full would scotch the cheap labor deal. Do they really want to listen to a bunch of rich Dawkinsbots who suddenly care about their health as a likely disease reservoir endangering the White Community tell them to walk around in public wearing surgical masks? “The eugenecists don’t want us getting them sick because we live in poverty to feed them, sweetie.” Hoo boy, that’ll go over just great.

Encouraging foreign customs means suffering from foreign customs. There isn’t an option here to pick just the good stuff (cheap, meek help; taco trucks) and leave the bad stuff (The El Centro Center of Respiratory Excellence). This ain’t the Golden Corral. What the elites are insinuating here is arrogant and crass: Oh, we wanted you to breach the rules by coming here and putting up with housing that never met code, but we NEED you to follow the rules now that OUR health is at stake!

Yeah fucking right.

That’s the thing about the puritanical health cult. The lower orders can smell puritanical scolding before they can see it. There are usually two things that make Brahmins suddenly care about the health of the inferiors they consign to naturally unhealthy lives. One is their own superiority complex. Positional flexes require relative positions. The other is pissant defecit hawk concern-trolling of the public budget. They don’t want to pay modestly higher taxes to help the less fortunate live healthier lives without coercion, so they impose sin taxes on soda and cigarettes to cover the gaps between Michael Bloomberg’s actual and proper tax burdens and to give the little people “nudges,” such as the Mayor might enjoy off the platform and into the tracks on his celebrated subway ride.

Any of the rest of you white motherfuckers wanna get under the train for free?

The simple, elegant explanation for much of the baffling psychology of American politics is that people hate being condescended to and bossed around. College-educated centrist normies pretend, rather unconvincingly, to find it acceptable and justifiable, if not enjoyable. In point of fact, a healthy society would deal with Cass Sunstein by repeatedly stuffing him into a locker. How’s that for a “nudge” lol bitch. Is it so hard to grasp why there’s popular resentment of a socioeconomic regime based on nothing but nagging, indoctrination, surveillance, and coercion? Anybody normal and sensate would be livid.

The Rona would have taken and would still be taking a very different trajectory in the United States if the average American weren’t chronically exhausted and on edge. I can’t prove it, but I guarantee it. We eat terribly, at once too much and too little. We’re chronically short on sleep because we’re expected to work like draft horses all the time, regardless of how much work there actually is to do, and in ways that strategically leave crucial work undone. (See the poor state and limited extent of our rapid transit systems.)

Living in the United States is its own crushing cognitive load. Our medical system is designed to Shanghai patients into life-ruining debt if they get sick. Our health insurance schemes are insane: baroque, designed to divide rich against middle against poor, designed to mentally and emotionally ruin patients with gratuitous paperwork, and generally useless, even under the ACA. Every American lives in chronic fear of violent street crime at the hands of our unaccountable police. (I don’t believe for one second that Blue Lives Matter loudmouths are truly comfortable around cops. An unspoken but major reason for their boorish extremism is a deeply repressed desire to flatter a violent armed gang into turning its violence against anyone else.) Our hiring managers and line supervisors are exactly the power-mad busybodies who should be last in line for authority over others. As with the police, everyone in the country knows this but few dare admit it. Many won’t even admit it to themselves.

Everything about this nightmare is the profile of a society that will inevitably do a horrifically bad job of mitigating contagious disease. Indeed, before we suffered the Rona and did so little about it, we allowed diseases including hepatitis and tuberculosis to spread unconfronted among inmate and homeless populations. The officially, if tacitly, sanctioned conditions in our prison and homeless encampments are manifest threats to public health for the civilian population at large, not just deliberate atrocities against a vulnerable scapegoat caste. The spread of respiratory diseases and HIV from inmates to unwitting noninstitutionalized civilians via guards is inevitable. In coarse terms, guards and inmates bang each other. They breathe on each other. It’s somewhere between naive and delusional to expect Americans, of all peoples, to get a grip on our congregate institutions and put a stop to that shit. We can hardly (ooh, a clue!) get our own dumbasses to use condoms.

This isn’t a society that’s just funny around the edges. There’s nothing harmless or endaring about this. It is not incidental dysfunction. Objectively, it is systemic, catastrophic mental incapacitation. I’m absolutely serious about this. The mainstream American population is too mentally overwhelmed to think critically about this shit and make reasonable decisions about how to respond to it. The intellectual, emotional, and psychological burdens of coping with, shall we say, this American life on a day-to-day basis put us in a position as bad an any country on earth to respond adequately to a pandemic, and also our ruling institutions are systemically corrupt.

Considering the scandalous clusterfuck that passes for normcore in this sick country, we’re doing much BETTER than we should at dealing with this shit. I’m seeing people generally wearing masks around strangers in public and not making a stink about it, for masks or against them. This is encouraging. We were fated to suffer at least as huge a flood of paranoid and traumatic ideation, disinformation, self-absorbed grandstanding and scolding, and embarrassing woowoo from the Dread Ailment as we’ve gotten from it. Expecting better is like giving Rob Ford a fifth of whiskey at the close of business and wondering why there isn’t any left to take for one’s cough at bedtime. Shit, partner, I musta been drunk to smoke crack!

Our media amplify the stupidest, crookedest, most irrational voices. Desperate cloutchasers stumble all over each other in the cheap seats to ape whatever mental and behavioral health problems They are modeling for them. To paraphrase Colby Cosh, couldn’t you fucking DO something for a living?

*Smug Dril voice* No. Working for a living has been made precarious, degrading, and often not much of a living. It’s perversely rational to dig in with one tribe or another and post ideological bullshit for a shot at patronage. According to our national mythology, we want less of this, not more, but it would make our very worst people clutch their pearls and maybe yell if we broke HR’s back and told the furloughed to look for work or claim public assistance like any other loser they’ve chosen to culture for a paycheck, so we shut up and put up.

Who’s “us?” You tell me. How many people do you find making the Benedict Option work? I ask sincerely, not rhetorically. I only sound like a Socratic shitbag (in this paragraph, at least). We all bob around in the sea of everybody else’s bad decisions. Here in America, these decisions are, as I said, cultured.

That sounds like something we (“we”) do with coronaviruses at Fort Detrick. Hey now! #TooSoon. *Driling the whole goddamn way down again* John Mick Cane is alway’s telling Congress not to funding Amtrak, butt he care ;snot of funding,, thre “Anne Thracks.”

How bow dah. We still haven’t figured out how we cashed the ultrapotent weapons-grade anthrax ousside the suspiciously weak biosecurity cordon at the other end of 270 from the mailing addresses. Honestly, why are we concerned that Red China may have been up to similar monkey business just outside–for real–Wuhan? I mean, that would be no good, too, but it would have to get past US customs for direct innoculation of civilian constituents of a hostile power. In this analogy, our own Intelligence For Your Death services are the mad scientists, and we, the people, are the hostile power. Either the Chinese hosted the 2019 military olympiad in Wuhan to blame their dirty work on us, or we sent a delegation to Wuhan to blame our dirty work on them. If either or both are up to that shit, it’s good and goddamn well my stance that we are to scrutinize the bioweapons lab half an hour from where one of my best friends lives.

That is, our own.

The popular reactions are insane because the circumstances triggering them are insane. Things would be much more normal and comprehensible if we were facing only a pandemic. What we’re really facing here is worse. It’s more complicated and intractable. The same underlying sicknesses we’ve failed to treat, let alone cure, for decades–comorbidities, if we may–are with us more than ever, now that they have a runaway communicable disease outbreak as a channel through which to work their ruin. Before the Ailment, our job market, housing market, medical system, schools, and social safety net were all busted for those trying to use them. The effect of the Rona is to push these failed institutions over a tipping point into even worse states of dysfunction and evil.

The question, of course, is failed for whom. Are you forced to use these failed institutions? Do you truly think it’s bad that they have been failed? Is there anything the officials that sabotaged them into their current state can do to repair them, either by changing their own behavior in office or being forced back into private life?

Do you vote?

Take me for Shitty Socrates again, if you wish. For my part, I wish these were just rhetorical questions, and I were just being a pain in the ass. It has not been good for anyone’s grasp on reality to hear constant screaming at fighter jet volume to the effect that the Democratic Party is the American left. How the fuck does that work? Biden is a Democrat. So was Strom Thurmond. The Jefferson-Jackson Dinners that county party affiliates often host are not polisci roundtable discussions of the left-liberalism of either of those thugs, any more than the GOP today gives a shit about anything Lincoln had to say, or did not have to say from his back pew at St. John’s, since we were not the God he petitioned. [Insert gratuitous carrying-on about Intercessors for Protestants, to taste (sic).]

Washington warned Jefferson and Adams to flee from all political factions. Oops lol. That bit of counsel against monkey business sure went to hart! Still, the political alignment of Teddy Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Jesse Jackson (upon information and belief, a Clinton) opposite Reagan, Deukmejian, Wilson (bad vibrations, Pedro), Gingrich, and that whole gang made sense. We properly classified our right-wing psychopaths. We called them by their true names.

These days, Confucius say, Wow None rectification Such psychotic Very confuse. It started in earnest with the Clintonite-Blairite Third Way bullshit. It was easier to recognize Gropey Joe as a sleazy crypto-Dixiecrat throwback with Dick Gephardt on the scene. His Hairhat Widebottom Jimmy helped make sense of moderately liberal Republicans like Arlen Specter. Moonbeam, also a moderate liberal, was too far left to be a California Republican.

So what the hell is Kamala Harris? She’s a Wilson-Deukmejian Republican, duh. Homegirl ain’t got no need to cook with gas when she can nonfatally stew them and pull them from the crockpot now and then for discount duty on the firelines, but otherwise, that’s glaringly what we’re facing in our next vice president. I’m going insane to listen to the same freaks who have spent the last four years calling Trump a bearfucking traitor shriek that she’s the bulwark we all need against right-wing reaction. Cracka ya shittin me? Either they’re gaslighting us or they’re batshit insane. Or, /annoying little Mexican girl meme/, Why Not Both.

Wesley Willis was psychotic, but these cases (many such!) are not to insinuate that Wesley was the psychotic one. Vibing at 24th North and 24th West but knowing that it’s for the best to cut the outpatient behavioral health before you head up and out for San Diego is the genesis of nothing crazy enough for the Democratic mainstream to tolerate today, Aftab.

Normal constituents walking the genpop yards with something resembling critical thinking skills often mangle the details. Donald Trump is a trusty old Epstein associate, not an avenging angel waiting to swoop in on a child liberation mission with information that may lead to the arrest and execution of his associate Hillary Clinton. Bribes of $2k per chart to drylab Rona diagnoses doesn’t quite ring true for the corruption of our esteemed medical doctors. Where are the busty pharma reps? Where are the dinner junkets and the free pens? The classic fill-and-bill doesn’t require bogus diagnoses, just diagnoses. Patient’s eye were equally reactive and dilated. Please insert my usual review of systems.

What the Fauci fans don’t get here is that an embarrassingly inaccurate story can be a scandalously true story. It gets into the air when Mina Kim goes on air for an hour of publicly AND corporately funded conversation returning often to grievances that public disregard for the season’s ominous warnings hurts the feelings of doctors.

PPP, baby. PPE? Wha dah? Huh. We’re just keeping the focus on the things that matter. It’s the insolent individual’s fault that our extremely ill-equipped physicians and nurses are sick and scared, not the fault of the hospital groups nickel-and-diming them on N95 masks to satisfy their own boundless greed.

Surgeon-Quisilngs like Bill Frist and Tom Price are doing their best to bait laypeople into a bum fight with their own colleagues. Love too bee in the Medical Fraternity. It isn’t as cunning or successful as they think. It never is. As the most successful, they win the battle but lose the war. No matter how passionately unlicensed workaday Americans hate or resent doctors for being arrogant, incompetent, and spoiled, they know on some level that the student debt, “health” “insurance”, and hospital “nonprofit” rackets are the ones Shanghaiing them to death for being injured and sick. If they have problems with their own internists for misdiagnoses or terrible bedside manner, they’ll definitely have problems with shitsack social climbers drawing federal salaries to fly around for leisure on government jets or make insane speeches before Congress about how the last defense against the culture of abortion is the heroic effort to keep a woman who obviously has a life expectancy measurable in hours on life support because she’s one small miracle away from pulling a Lazarus trick. It’s pretty easy to direct attention away from banally mediocre doctors doing the yeomen’s work of medicine and back to the bigshots, where it belongs, by noting that the Terry Schiavo guy was a surgeon cosplaying as America’s neurologist and also a beneficial owner of a huge, hyperprofitable, morally seedy hospital group.

Eyy, now, same ting applies to you, Tony. Sayin’ Santa don’t get da cold aw da flu, ya coal dat medicine, pal? This ain’t Miracle on 34th Street, asshole. We can tell that we’re dealing with a cult when people who gush about Anthony Fauci as a scientific authority coo about how it’s cute or some shit for him to reassure our nation’s children. No. Absolutely fucking not. Either Covid-19 is serious or it’s a false alarm. The hysterics do not get to have it both ways. The chief of the main national infectious disease lab used a global pandemic as an opportunity to joke about how a tubby old sack of lard who exercises for 24 hours straight and sits around the rest of the year is immune to a virulent disease whose comorbidities include obesity, old age, and cardiovascular decrepitude.

Say it again: If this shit is serious and you’re in charge of explaining how serious it is, you do not get to joke around about it in public. You don’t get mulligans for burning public confidence.

This bullshit, like so much else about the official response to the Rona, and about America in general, is psychotic. This dude is the leading public authority on what he and his peers ominously insist is the gravest threat to public health in a century, and they’re all expressing their horror at the prospect of ordinary Americans spreading the contagion by visiting each other over the winter holidays. In the midst of his longwinded warnings, he abruptly pulled a Transformers mindbend from reality into fantasy and back by incorporating flagrantly misleading make-believe patient information into a children’s story about a mythical character amounting to a hybrid of Messrs. Grayling, Ross, and McFeely. This–mental health, do you call it? It’s delicious. We haven’t got a thing like it on any of the Offworld Planets.

It’s nuts. We’re badgered to listen in rapt reverence to the medical pronouncements of this man who is crescendoing about how we all need to cancel Thanksgiving the same week he’s on the record playing doctor about the perfect health and prognosis of an ancient beltstretching fatty from a series of Bernays-era Coca-Cola ads who rides around in the sky behind a team of reindeer.

This barely fit for Sesame Street in normal times, a few characters short of a cast. We could have a clumsily functional community with a bum, a bickering gay couple, an obnoxious hypomanic stress eater, and a moping depressive. Instead we have a cargo cult for children featuring a workhouse full of peasant shorties manufacturing toys for Deer Team Shoko Asahara. Obviously, though, the real problem here is that this year’s most prominent doctor carries on in earnest about this bitch-ass wizard crap like a kindergarten teacher and then snaps back into his usual harangues about how we’re going to kill Grandpa by having dinner with him, because he’s old.

There’s an ugly theme to these lectures on public health. Our officials are telling us, in rapid fire, what Christianity is, what Judaism is, what family life is, what friendship is, what dating is, what school suddenly is, what sports are, what children’s play is. We can’t control for how aggrieved citizens feel about mask requirements or dining room closures because these are proxies for fiercer upset about orders from on high to stay out of churches and whorehouses. Our rights of free association are abrogated by governments that can’t compel basic hygiene in nursing homes during an infectious disease crisis–or, worse, won’t. These are the authorities ordering us to stay out of each other’s living rooms and backyards. These are the ones instructing us to keep our children locked up indoors and allowed closely supervised play dates with peers from a maximum of one other household, lest they kill us all.

Everything is suddenly ritually impure, except for nursing aides who work in multiple homes every week, guards who are allowed overtime assignments on different yards from those where they work fulltime, squalid underclass bunkhouses, and every conceivable industrial setting that was already unhealthy and dangerous before the pandemic. These things are fine. Curiously, they allow parasites who already have a huge lot of money to save money and live better. Peasants filthy enough to deserve to shit in the same big bucket under a cubicle the size of a phone booth towed behind a barely serviceable school bus are out of sight and out of mind, as always until it’s time for some more idpol, of ambiguous ritual purity. Oops I just shat in a ditch and wiped my ass with my hand. As a Latina, sometimes you do that and then get back to work cutting lettuce and arguing with your mother.

Amen amen I say to you, the Lord of Leviticus works in mysterious ways. If we were serious about any of this, we’d thrust every landed Armenian but the Kardashians up against the warehouse wall daily until they gave their fieldhands proper flush toilets and time on the clock to use them. Instead we nod along to every horseshit story from some Dutch prick or off-white Nisei Farmers League fuckhead about how the Mexicans are the last people with an American work ethic.

We have ALWAYS known how to prevent or immediately remediate these threats to public safety and health: send inspectors in to raid properties that provide their employees squalid accommodations or do anything to keep them from taking bathroom breaks, including low piece rates, and send goons in after them to kick the shit out of any recalcitrantly filthy bosses. We don’t refrain from that because it’s coarse. We refrain because we prefer to reserve our police violence for the uppity poor, those without restrooms and the time to use them.

The authorities know what they’re doing when they reserve the enforcement of immigration laws for abitrary stochastic use against individual unauthorized immigrants and leave all relevant laws unenforced against employers who pose a chronic threat to workplace safety and public health. They may have known what they were doing when they dragged their feet about recommending universal mask use spring, in the face of swelling public pressure to stop lying about the efficacy of masks for the general public and finally provide the same guidance they’d been giving hospital staff all along. Regardless of the motivation–calculating and evil or just inept–this episode was a prolonged Chernobyl moment. It’s a miracle that it left a meaningful swath of the American public with any trust or confidence whatsoever in our authority figures.

It didn’t leave much.

The weirdness of so much of our current circumstances–the draconian Taylorist crackdowns on students and teachers under the auspices of online schooling; the sudden proliferation and fame of the same glitchy, hitherto unheard-of videoconference platform used for schooling, endlessly promoted as a wonderful alternative to visiting in person; the creepy deployment of the police state as a fnordforce to keep people out of well-ventilated, perfectly safe outdoor public opposite the open official license to dangerously ill-ventilated indoor private establishments to operate at will; the decreeing of interstate and even intercity quarantine orders as obvious CYA measures and public health theater; the scapegoating of religious congregations for a contagion that the officials denouncing and threatening them failed for months to contain–somehow leaves much of the rest of the official response looking inept, the ad hoc work of panicked idiots always caught off-guard, even with months of notice.

The most vivid current example of this ineptitude and panicked haste is the heady blooming official freakout about high-volume holiday travel over Thanksgiving week for communal family meals. Who the hell didn’t see this rush coming? Travelers start making their reservations for holiday trips months in advance. A quick look at the trade literature for the common carrier and lodging associations gives anyone interested months’ advance notice of the year’s travel trends. There’s a thick deck of wildcards this year on account of the pandemic, but all an official had to do was compare, say, one-month and three-month advance reservation volumes for the winter holiday weeks to ordinary weeks on either side. If there’s a noticeable spike, that means there’s a holiday rush coming down the concourse.

The rising volume, tone, and constancy of the warnings and pleas not to travel over the past week or so indicates that the authorities got blindsided, and bad. Any fool could have seen a holiday travel rush coming, along with gatherings for a feast day and seasonably cold weather ushering the congregations indoors. This wasn’t the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

I’ve been listening to NPR again, out of unfortunate tradition but also for the unexpected blessing of a two-cycle Freeman-Huizenga-State hat trick. *Reassuring Voice of the Witching Hour* I’m Michael State. It’s Thanksgiving, at midnight.

If only we all waited in joyful hope for the proclamation. The hysterical Safety Bear scolds have spent the whole week living at 23:59 Wednesday night, sweating bullets, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Their commentary has been getting crazier and crazier. They’ve been unraveling live on air, at first day by day, now almost hour by hour.

There were NHK reporters who stayed calmer covering the Tohoku tsunami, reading ground reports and government alerts on the fly over live helicopter footage of populated areas getting sea-scoured at highway speed while desperate motoists tried to outrun the wave for high ground and JR dispatchers lost contact with doomed trains. The trigger this time is popular defiance of the latest, shrillest public health guidance. The people marinating in this upset and worry enjoy some of the best healthcare and prognoses available in the event of infection. The threat alarming them to the point of hue and cry is almost entirely vicarious.

What stands out again, for those following or studying any of this shit in detail, is that so many of our authority figures are fixated exclusively on holiday travel as the determinant of transmission threatening to overwhelm our hospitals. To judge from the average newscast, the condition and management of our hospitals, nursing homes, jails, packinghouses, and other congregate facilities is irrelevant. That’s just the way it is, Hornsby. Could you just stop being selfish and not hug your grandparents to death this year?

Our betters have stooped to the point of proctoring the Marshmallow Test. Forego this one Thanksgiving and this one Christmas out of faith in all the Thanksivings and Christmases to come. It’s a baffling thing to beg for in the midst of months of wailing about the mounting death toll and the looming toll to come. Who’s saying Grandma will still be with us next fall now? The same grand hysterics insisting that her life expectancy is dropping from years into weeks, of course. This is logic,, and Science.

This is the exasperated pearlclutching tone of prissy, self-serious martinets who cannot believe that THEY will actually defy US. My God, they are actually disregarding our lectures. They are actually doing it.

No shit they are. Families and friends living in an avowedly free country are going through with our longstanding national tradition of visits over the winter holidays, this time in a year when we’re all being warned at impressively full volumes that we need to wait to live our lives because life is shorter than ever. If today was your last day, would you eat that slice of pecan pie? If you won’t, the governor will.

What we’re witnessing is a captain and his first mate clumsily hammering their ship back together with meat mallets while it takes on water and lists upside down. At least that’s how they feel as they shout after us into the void, demanding that we return to quarters at once. This analogy is getting pretty bad, Leon; I can hardly see where its going, even from the bridges.

The prospect of a collection of pissant nerds who ever really want for anything mistakenly assuming that their inferiors are plunging us all into an imminent existential crisis by prospectively taxing the strategically underfunded and understaffed parts of our healthcare system, the parts these same mandarins never use, is pretty funny. It’s a redux of the very salty waves of cringe and cope they’ve spent four years crashing onto apostates and uppity poors (but not their shitty Republican class peers) for riding the Trump Train or–hey yo!–the Stein Steamer. Maybe I’ll finally check this year’s H20 returns. Any of you punks sailing with me?

The incumbent grievances had to do with a messy gossip queen freestyle-beefing with other celebrities from his living room couch while filling his adult diaper and calling it policy. The new reason for the season this Festivus is private citizens going to dinner without permission. First as farce, then as farce again. We still aren’t doing anything to properly staff or stock our hospitals. Will there be an aide to clean you up when you shid your doo-doo ass? It depends.

I’m not taking about our thicc moist boi, though. Not this time. Meditating upon Strom Thurmond, Lisa Novak, and Shoko Asahara, I believe I’ve identified our First VolDiap President.

You love to smell it. Maybe I’m just shitposting about the man who is definitively our first Online President. He’s right about the losers and the haters. They’re upset with him for being openly performative in his official duties, leaving them in the dust as public speakers by being a seat-of-the-pants buffoon, and sometimes having fun at it. He believes in a society where there are jobs for dumb people, crummy students, people with PhD’s from crummy colleges. This is not the future liberals want. Trump is too liberal for them.

You read that right. Did I ever affy that this shit is not retarded?

Tangential to the additional hundreds of thousands who will or alternately will not come to a brutal and untimely end because you chose to maintain Michael Hancock’s family life, we’ve come to the promised land of government as Vanderpump Rules. The incumbent president, agreeing to vacate the White House but refusing to concede, officially proclaimed Thanksgiving a day of gathering and worship (lol wtf). An Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States used a majority concurring opinion to clap back at the Governor of the State of New York that it’s liquor vendors and accupucturists who are getting us all sick unto death, not the Jews. Every one of these freaks draws a government salary. I’ve occasionally cleared minimum wage picking blueberries.

We have Illuminati or Freemasons or CIA or whatever taking advantage of the pandemic to circulate creepy code phrases like “Dark Winter,” “Great Reset,” and “Build Back Better.” Then we have Andrew Cuomo and Neil Gorsuch in a public standoff about what is authentic Catholicism and what is to be done about the Jews.

But again, who’s the liberal in this beef, and who’s the one we’re bound to hear on a live mic, fuming about kikes? Probably the one who went on public radio to say “nigger wops.” /Alan Chartock, miserably stirring a thimble of schnapps into a cup of chamomile tea/ Speak for yourself, Governor. You’re the colored fellow.

It’s hard to imagine how none of these ridiculous characters are able to convince the public to put on a damn mask in the grocery store when the sex education that might provide a conceptual framework for harm reduction is missing, replaced by purity pledges and other pious woowoo, and when the pro-mask authorities are carrying on with sob stories about dead people (over half an hour straight of Rona obits on the NewsHour Thanksgiving evening), statistically challenged panics about holiday travel, “curfews” when the prisons are still badly over their unreasonably crowded design capacities, bans on private gatherings of more than two households (whose actual enforcement will provoke homicides), and grossly unprofesional cutesy blather about a made-up old fat guy who never gets sick.

New Mexico still had its casinos open during a “mandatory” quarantine of arriving travelers from 46 other states. Many cities and states whose officials keep shrieking about the health and death tolls have their restaurant de jure open for indoor dining, or “outdoor” dining in enclosed plywood street sheds with some vents on the sides.

What the hell are we doing? I long assumed public corruption. A more elegant and all too believable explanation is that the governments need the sales tax revenue. *Taking a big hit of primo Duke City Crank and pulling a two heads one cube on the poor schmuck cleaning my face cubicle at the poker table at Isleta Casino* Love these health measures! Love this economy, baby!

A scrum of weird religious mummers bouncing around Brooklyn in top hats and overcoats but not masks aren’t the only ones breathing all over each other in our time of sickness. The only fucking idea we have of Irish culture in this country is low-functioning performative alcoholism. We have plentry of assholes who live to own the libs. Watching Lori Lightfoot, I can’t imagine why.

Scolding fits are easier and more fun than governing.

The cops know

It’s curious how so many violent weirdos are able to carry on with impunity right in front of the police: Dahmer, Pickton, DeAngelo, Wortman, Tsarnaev, Abdulmutallab. Concerned citizens can beg the police to investigate them in the disappearances of missing loved ones, for naught. Other countries’ cops can alert their counterparts through official channels with prophetic warnings of looming attacks: what he did here today he may do there tomorrow, and then, whaddaya fuggen know, Boston gets bombed.

Nobody could have predicted it. Oddly, the FSB did exactly that. That cat has an anger management problem, and he’s running with the beards back home. The Russian security services think he may mean his adoptive homeland harm? You don’t say!

In the Tsarnaev case, the feds iced the meathead principal, iced some contacts with knowledge or involvement, and are itching to ice the kid brother for being a patsy and a whipped little bitch. Gee, maybe one of the tens of thousands of G-Men who didn’t give a shit about what Tamerlan Tsarnaev thought about them because they weren’t his terrified little brother would have been in a better position than poor Dzhokhar was to stop him. I thot that was why we paid them.

Nah, face it, Jack. We know better than that. These things we cherish above Ruby. Up against the wall, signora, if you’ve got space for my book in your depository.

I got sideshowed on my way to the BART station today. Friday, three in the afternoon, jaywalkers everywhere, and some asshole was doing donuts in a stolen hot red Porsche on MacDonald Avenue. I was going to miss my train out of Richmond regardless, and all I got in the end was a free round tripout of Millbrae on Caltrain after one of our sister trains struck a car at a grade crossing around Hayward Park. The transit scene was fubar. The sideshow was the scary part. I stayed calm, and thank God our boy was competing in it as an individual sport. It could have been worse.

/Borat Voice/ My part-time wife chicksplained to me that sideshow cars are stolen. Duh. Always. Whaddaya mean, always? When Lisa Novak goes for a drive, it depends. That explains how fourth-generation welfare claimants living in ramshackle tenements can afford Escalades and Beamers. They come by them the old-fashioned way.

She knows about these things. My woman has an ear to the ground. She showed me a video of an all-night sideshow in Oakland, ten hours of uninterupted footage of caterwauling, twerking, donuts, and honky–I mean, honking. I can’t white see how that happened. You may not be able to say wop on NPR (Andrew Cuomo is!), but you are, indeed, allowed to say WAP. Schitt, Huizenga, oil beef hooked on anything but phonics. I saw enough of that video after two minutes. It was boring. YouTube has ten-hour cab videos of winter train trips across Norway. Still, the white boy can have a little doofus in a gold chain clowing around on the hood of a Mercedes, as a treat.

/BV/MPTW says the sideshow districts are no-go zones for the police. The cops don’t have the courage, physical or moral, to confront the mob. It tracks: they’re barely brave enough to answer the door at the cop shop armed and in full uniform. It’s like they say about the Crips: they’re blue, but they aren’t Blue Shield. It’s good to know that one of the infinite duties the police do not in any meaningful or, God forbid, binding way have is the duty to break up all-night hooligan takeovers of public streets using stolen motor vehicles. You know, #TeshTips, that kind of thing. Our police chiefs would fire Anirut Malee for keeping the peace, not the law.

One might wonder about the capabilities of our police agencies’ proliferating helicopters and BearCats and CCTV cameras and shit to interdict stolen vehicles on their way to sideshows. Shouldn’t these lavishly appointed outfits be able to use their fun toys to stop stolen cars from being driven to sideshows, say, on the probable cause of the registered owner who reported his Maserati stolen out of Piedmont affying that he did not give the current driver permission to drive it to 98th Street? Well, uh. There was a time a few years ago when the only type of crime increasing in San Diego was auto theft. The insurance companies demand their paperwork. There’s no paperwork for threatening to murder protesters for tailing the vans carrying their freshly blackbagged comrades.

Some of these pathologies are in fact particular to local cultures. There are police departments that fire bad cops. There are others that hire the shitcanned as lateral transfers. Constituents had to storm the city council chambers in Fairfield the other day to get their officials to do something about the serial killer thug they’d hired out of Vallejo, one of the homies with the bent points on his star.

In LA, where bitter, hard-aged young men with Huey hours came home to their pick of police work and television work, they do chases. Everybody wants to be a star, Fuhrman. They all want to be stars. Send me a goddamn picture postcard you blotchy creep. No matter how many choppers were on the trail, the LAPD’s ground patrols always ended up escalating the aftermath of their botched traffic stops until their erstwhile quarry crossed a dozen city lines, cleanly felled a palm tree onto an electrical line, and Russell Wellered a six-year-old into a Yoshinoya. Bill Bratton showed up from New York, took a look at this whatthefuckular bullshit, and ordered an end to it. His cops mostly complied, or so the papers said.

The East Bay does sideshows. They’re a team sport. It’s hard to say what it’ll take to stop them, but doing nothing ain’t it. This isn’t a case of standing down when some poor schmuck with a drug warrant gets triggered and flees a traffic stop for a broken taillight. It takes a force to defeat a force.

Or, as we discussed above, the cops could nip that shit in the bud. They’re already contact-tracing every kid in the neighborhood for gang affiliations, real or spurious. Of course, they could also do something about the murders, too, say, by intervening when somebody they know has beef is getting openly agitated. They could tell the hothead’s target to hop in for his own safety and ride out the storm. The violence isn’t senseless. It’s the inevitable reaction of feuds with weapons.

The cops know this. The overtime must be better on homicide than it is on patrol.

Any affluent city policed in the fashion of Oakland would recall its entire government within the year. The Palo Alto Police Department does not allow its officers to ignore car theft reports and fuck up their homicide investigations so they can focus on precrime augury on neighborhood kids’ Instagram accounts and violent jumpouts. No, asshole, you’re here to STOP street crime. Police departments in rich areas don’t have the latitude to blame violent crime problems on prostitution and drugs. They’re forced to investigate actual fucking crimes, not just complain that Kenneth Fitzhugh was loaded on coke and probably motorboated it off strippers sometimes.

That’s what monogamy gets you, boys.

Not for one second do I believe that the Richmond Police were unable to stop that asshole from doing donuts in front of me and dozens of pedestrians on a crowded city street in broad daylight. As we were told some months ago at a Gavin Gabbin, we’re decisions, not conditions. Our cops choose to be bad at both. Those who fire together wire together, and we can all see how our cops have become wired. They’re guard labor for capital, but they can hardly be bothered to do work for the insurance companies.

/Most civic Roger Schafer Spanish Space Program ground control voice/ I didn’t do shit to the bomb! I was cutting government waste!

Whatcha gonna do when war is no more? Whatcha gonna do when war’s verdun?

We wait in joyful hope for the Blessed Eschaton, the day to come, not right now but someday, somehow, if you can hold fast to patience, Kroeger, we will climb aboard the Cruise Ship, leave it all behind, sail to Lahaina, and get into a street fight over a picnic table with a family of Micronesians.

This is how we allocate territory and resources more aloha. That’s almost an anagram for haole, whose insolent ass the Visitors Aloha Society of Hawaii will gladly return to sender, with or without an escort to the gate from the Attorney General’s office. One of the meanings of aloha is “goodbye,” yeah? She jus toldja, Pablo, yeah? She ain’t invited ya to da luau dis time, not to come here and pass da kine dacha coffin.

When push comes to shove, to wax delicate about these rude matters, the rules are whatever the hardest group of hard bastards to show up to the pig roast say they are. Indigeneity is an arbitrary, nebulous concept. “We were here first; who the hell are you?” is a reasonable position, but reasonable doesn’t carry the guns. Multiple indigenous tribes fight for control of the same patches of the Levant, the Caucasus, and the Balkans, with renowned results. Maybe they aren’t indigenous after all, depending on whom their ancestors charged in and beat to death first.

As Rachel Dolezal will agree, we’re all Africans. Pitcairn Islanders are mixed and at the same time inbred. They’re like Mainers, always thinking they’ll accomplish something by miscegenating with the Canucks. If you’re here, you’re family, and you might not want to be.

Back here on the Mainland, haole be talking the story all words-like about how we need to respect and obey our kupuna, notably including John Bolton. That Chesapeake Walrus was on NPR again, this time for his book (duh) but also to promote in-person voting, the civic pilgrimage of standing in line with the rest of the neighborhood. Why wouldn’t that pompous son of a bitch act like a quadrennial or biennial trip to the school gym to vote is the only time Americans ever leave the house to engage in the agora or the polis? Yeah yeah, we have off-year and primary elections, too; whole lotta folks showing up for that lol.

Voting is expressly and strictly a mechanism for the individual citizen to tell the government what to do. For example, a common constituent demand is “mail me my ballot, bitch.” In other words, I’m telling you what to do for me, and I’m telling you from home, asshole.

This is meta, but barely. We have to fight for our right to fight for our right to tell John Bolton to fuck off from the goddamn radio. That ghoul got over a million people killed for no good reason and tens of thousands more grievously injured or maimed, and there he is, using a book plug to complain that voters aren’t sufficiently reverent in how they vote. That’s what this shit is. It’s a procession. It’s a pilgrimage. It’s the fucking Stations of the Cross and the Camino de Santiago and all that shit, but for Norman Rockwell-ass nerds. Of course we should resent the government for pushing this shit on us. Of course we should vote the bastards out if they don’t put a stop to it and let us vote with maximum convenience.

John Bolton wants us to wait in line like dutiful pilgrims to express our will to our governments. I don’t suppose the lines at his polling places resemble those in, say, Atlanta under Brian Kemp, probably in large part because his neighbors think it’s ridiculous and demand ballots by mail. I fucked around at the County Center for a few hours on election day in March and watched traffic at the drop box, but I’d be pissed if Sonoma County told me to do that as a condition of voting, and I’m annoyed to hear John Bolton, of all Strangelovian horrors, being the faux-folksy codger who says that’s how it ought to be. Andy Rooney wasn’t behind a string of war crimes.

At some point, I have to wonder what isn’t meeting tonight to make waiting in line to vote feel so resonant. The Rotary? The Knights of Columbus? We do rather more of that than we should, as Americans, and we have precious little to show for it. The good Tocquevillean shit doesn’t work so well when Carnegie and Frick hire their Pinkerton goon squads. Standing up to such thuggish scum is how people wrest back their rights from tyrants. Queuing up in a parish hall like it’s the fucking unemployment office doesn’t connect cops with bricks.

We’re confusing upstream and downstream here, just as Bolton and the gang would have it. Since riots and other protests have been flaring up this year, we’ve been hearing more than usual about how much our public officials and other supercilious derelict busybodies respect peaceful protesting but abhor rioting, violence against police, and every other tactic that forces them to pay attention and do something. Of course they want a few handfuls of doofuses milling about on the National Mall in tricorn hats. Of course they want the pussyhatters, wearing a different style of tricorn watering the tree of liberty with a more peaceful flow of blood.

They started allowing us (sic?) to vote in the first place as a way to figure out how to keep the bricks in their place in times of popular grievance, i.e., by keeping the cops in theirs. It wouldn’t be unproductive to stage a runway sit-in anymore than it was unproductive of Richard Daley to send that streets crew into Meigs Field at half of dawn. Remember, we’re trying to get our way here, not express fealty to officials who can’t be bothered to care. *Most civic antigentrification Roger Schafer voice* I didn’t do shit to the dozer! I was cutting concrete!

The same tyrannical impulse drives all the scolding our Oaf of Office caught a few weeks ago for calling our war dead losers and suckers. The war dead he caught the most flak for disrespecting were from the First World War, the War so Great they didn’t try to plan for one greater. In other news, Francisco Franco is still dead.

I’m unaware of Americans of any importance making a patriotic stink about the Grand Army of the Republic in my lifetime. This is in stark contrast to Vietnam, although somewhat oddly not Korea. In effect, Trump holds the majority opinion on honoring our WWI dead, specifically, that it’s unimportant.

The namecalling doesn’t play as well in Peoria. Constituents who support Trump’s effort (lol sic) to get our boys (and girls!) out of the desert may well take offense to hear their antiwar president speak so contemptuously of war’s victims in the United States Armed Forces. Again, though, the doughboys he was dissing have been dead hella long, and the media shot their load on the story by focusing on Trump’s disrespect for our irrelevant war dead from the trenches of the Western Front and not on those who didn’t manage to run through the jungle.

As obnoxious or offensive as our Thicc Moist Boi’s private commentary may be construed, it was heartfelt. He genuinely and personally believed that the cemeteries weren’t worth visiting. The shitheads who piped up about his disrespect for our war dead don’t care about our war dead themselves. Many of them obviously treat military personnel, dependents, and casualties with dripping contempt. They did the same thing here as always. They seized on the latest bullshit controversy to impugn Trump’s character because they resent him for being a messy bitch from Queens who lives for drama. People of his character should not usurp high office, they fume.

What they mean by character, of course, is poor manners. Most of his predecessors were men of shockingly bad character. It’s just that they cleaned up well and the Donald does not. SuperZIP gaslighting victims now esteem George W. Bush, a man who respected our troops enough to get thousands of them killed in a war he started on false pretenses, with the main effect of destabilizing a country whose strongman the Blob hated for some reason, even though he was one of the less hostile officials in his region. Fuck off if you think I’ll grant that cokehead failson the good repute of caring about the military personnel under his command. He cared about them as much as he did the victims of 9/11. *Suprisingly high-energy Jeb! voice* Please, collapse.

Donald Trump gets war in a way few of his recent predecessors have. There may be an idiot-savant element to it, but he has the good sense to recognize that it was disastrous of the US to intervene in WWI and a Vietnamese civil war. Framing the disaster in terms of the gullibility or lameness of the grunts who fought these wars is pretty close to the mark, even if offensive. If they’d refused to go, we wouldn’t have gone, because they were us.

The battlefields and cemeteries don’t really tell us what happened. They’re misleading if we aren’t careful. I’ve walked around Valley Forge and Gettysburg. They’re deceptively peaceful. They’re long cleansed of the blood and piss and shit and moans of death. We watch Ken Burns for some drumming, a quick spot of shooting, and another spin of that sweet-ass Ashokan Farewell. Gettysburg wasn’t like that, either.

An area I like even better than Gettysburg is the Catoctin Mountains. I’ve walked around the ruins of the Catoctin Furnace and read the interpretive signs. It may have taken a loser or a sucker to run the forge for the rich degenerates who owned it. It certainly did to work for Carnegie. It takes nothing of the sort to divert ball bearings to the riot police. Horsey go wheeee!

Donny Fingers cares about that every bit as much as he cares about Camp David. What good is it for golf? The fucking government owns it, so he can’t charge for accommodations. That loser Lincoln only has one Bedroom.

Camp David has been used for peace, though, and so, in bizarre ways, has Donald Trump. That’s one of the reasons he’s so hated in Washington. He won’t mouth their deadly pieties. He’ll mouth his own, of course, but not theirs, and hoes mad.