Other sides of town

On the same day when my dad and I had lunch in one of the prolific bougie-ass eateries out past the SUNY Albany campus in Stuyvesant Plaza (my heavens, Poirot, truly, if one is not Dutch, one is not much!), a particularly bad house fire destroyed three houses and displaced dozens of residents just up the hill from the Amtrak right of way four miles to the east, in the ghetto (in the ghetto).

Oh. That liturgy again. Mustn’t we have a different one, by which we might proclaim that white lives matter, too? Never mind. Stuyvesant Plaza has a mostly white but racially integrated customer base. The ghetto row house fire over on Manning displaced an integrated community, too, not just a Community, but if you think that’s the salient aspect of this disaster, take a fucking look at the neighborhood. Why, hello, neighbor! Beautiful day; would you be mine? Actually, on second thought, I’d prefer not to be yours. CDTA doesn’t do trolleys, either, so there’s that, too.

I don’t always watch the local television news, but when I do, I usually need another Dos Equis. This is reminiscent of the time my dad was looking at houses for sale in Ilion, with an eye towards buying me one, in the same week that Ilion managed to lend one of its murderers to Glens Falls, my parents’ county seat. Albany hollows out because it’s fallen onto the wrong side of the tipping point that leaves it with residents like the shady losers on the video clip in that link. Thanks a lot, Gladwell. “Inner city” has increasingly become a misnomer for bad parts of town in the United States, just as it has been for generations in Europe, but it isn’t off the mark for a shithole like Albany. The worst I can say about downtown Troy is that it’s spatially disorganized and a bit rundown. What I’ve seen of Rensselaer is mostly just on the low end of mediocre. I often keep an eye out when I’m passing through the Capital District, either by road or by rail, and the outer parts of downtown Albany stand out for scary decrepitude. As Billy Fish says in Streets of Fire, I can’t go there! That place is the shits! Having browsed real estate listings for blighted houses and razed lots brokered by the Albany County Land Bank, I agree: it’s a whole big lot of the shits.

Who, then, inhabits this positive feedback loop? Again, the shits. I had a powerfully negative gut reaction to everything about the human and canine tableau from the street in front of that fire scene. The canine part was pit bulls of exactly the sort that Michael Vick might take into his place of business, never to honor or cherish. Similarly, I wouldn’t trust what any of the residents I glimpsed in the news footage for reassurances that pit bulls actually have really nice temperaments and are just misunderstood. That’s the kind of thing the residents look like they’d say about their boyfriends, too. Girlfriends? I wouldn’t rule that out, either. It mustn’t be the worst neighborhood to find what the ghetto-ass bitches of 103rd Street in South Los Angeles call “just a ghetto-ass bitch.” (“She ugly! She always gonna be ugly! Her hair always gonna be nappy! She wanted me to bring some food, but I ain’t gonna do that on principle!”)

The video clip in that link gave me an instant, overwhelming feeling that these fuckers are trouble and their dogs are trouble, that they’re trouble on account of their dogs and that their dogs are trouble on account of them, and that the continued breeding of any of their lineages would inevitably be dysgenic. I have no guilt about saying any of this. It has to be said. People like them poison their own neighborhoods. When I get priced out of decent neighborhoods, they end up poisoning my neighborhoods, too. That’s one of the reasons why I sleep at rest areas so often. I try to stay away from shady hood rats who saunter around in public wearing exposed wifebeaters and trashy women who keep fighting dogs and then bullshit everyone about how they totally aren’t dangerous and totally weren’t bred just for the amusement of childhood associates of Michael Vick. People like them make excuses for their own aggressively chaotic behavior; it is in no way my duty to second their self-justifications.

As a broader society, we’re fucking witless and hapless and derelict before these people. The problem with prison, aside from the evil of imprisoning people who aren’t ongoing dangers to society, is that prison is boarding school for cholo-ass gangbanger shitheads. Most of them come back to the old hood after a study abroad period during which they often enjoy significant social continuity with their neighbors from adolescence. Really well thought out, guys. Instead of a few gangs of troublemakers at loose ends in a neighborhood with moderating peaceable influences from women, children, the elderly, and more sensible men, we set up entire campuses of nothing but hardened men with criminal records and the sorts of people who are willing, allowed, and occasionally even able to work around concentrated hordes of hardened criminals. How could this possibly go awry?

We don’t do a hell of a lot better with the ones left behind in the hood while homeboy is off in the hoosegow: tenants’ rights protections that are weak in most jurisdictions as written and useless everywhere in practice, underfunded school systems that are dismissed as professional Siberia for career staff and cravenly exploited as stepping stones to graduate school by the social climbers in Teach For America, comprehensively deficient government services. Private one-on-one relationships are always a possible path to neighborhood improvement, but who the hell wants to go into a physically disintegrating ghetto full of the people and dogs in that video clip and try to reach out to the least recalcitrant? It turns out that it’s mostly religious busybodies, i.e., yet another source of chaos.

Donald Trump seems to get that these neighborhoods are in trouble and that their young people need a more coherent sense of purpose, but his thinking is scatterbrained and inchoate, and, as with pretty much every other president we’ve had, supporting poor majority-black neighborhoods is a low priority for him. He understands, maybe indirectly, that we won’t be integrating the people on that video into the knowledge economy or the creative economy or whatever the fuck we’re calling it this month. Knowledge of what? How to bullshit the gullible about the temperament of the neighborhood pit bulls? We’ve got a bunch of dogs over there that surely come from troubled lineages and surely have been raised in troubled environments, so maybe their owners can communicate to create (well, now!) post hoc excuses for how and why the maulings of passing schoolchildren just kind of unfortunately happened for a living. It doesn’t take much to tell that that neighborhood is under the sway of its own trouble (trouble, trouble, trouble; am I mistaken, Miss Swift?).

The most viable solution is to reorganize the economy in some fashion so that the relatively competent and ambitious residents of these shitty neighborhoods are able to make a decent living doing something menial but productive and work their way up towards better things as they and their descendants are able. We’re able to fritter away the national treasury on foreign wars in hostile sand pits where our boys and girls hardly speak the language but not to reimpose tariffs on Chinese flipflops and lightbulbs. What the fuck? I’ve been getting flak for advocating protectionism again, but I can’t help but suspect that one of the reasons why the United States has a trade policy that so exposes its manufacturers and their employees to cutthroat foreign competition is that our government has spent the last twenty-plus years pursuing anything but protectionism, that we haven’t succeeded because we refuse to try. What we have instead are proliferations of chav dysfunction in the socioeconomic vacuums left behind where the productive economy has been mothballed. We have constellations of old mining and mill towns on the skids, and our decision as a polity has consistently been to run away while they turn into incubators of god-awful dysfunction and misery, on the spurious assumption that they’ll somehow gentrify. Spoiler: it ain’t happening.

When efforts actually are made to do something for these communities, they regularly end up being needlessly confrontational or arrogant. IUD-for-EBT schemes to sterilize welfare mothers like so many excess deer put residents on edge about soft genocide and stir up the hornet’s nest. Casino redevelopment leads to pawn shops, problem gambling, an economic worldview predicated on insane bullshit, and before long casinos cannibalizing one another and their owners paying for airtime to pester viewers to write to their elected officials in support of regulatory capture. Frank massacres of restive populations would provoke riots, guerrilla insurgencies, or terrorist attacks; see Ferguson for a mild and quite restrained preview of the available civilian avenues of redress. We’re already earning the ugly dividends of our cancerous penal state. The social and political blowback from the opiate mess will be ricocheting everywhere for years to come.

We already have these adrift, aggrieved barbarians within our gates, but what does the Democratic establishment want to do? Hang out at Panera and call that praxis. What does the Republican establishment want to do? Market-based something-something dignity of work and Kwesi Millington for Sheriff. The Donald still doesn’t look like he can hold a candle to the Bern on industrial policy, but he’s just about all we’ve got working that beat in a federal leadership position. Pelosi? Schumer? McConnell? Ryan? Turn Big Ears Teddy around and haidt-fuck me now, Sweet Baby J. 

That’s still less disturbed than our partisan leadership teams, and also much of what I’ve read of the meta-Haidt literature. These shitheads claim to come to Washington on a quest of principles, so it’s fascinating to learn that being an oily crook and deliberately letting constituents die are principles now. Big Ears shouldn’t have to see any of this.

There are competent, sober, well-meaning people who try to bridge the gap left behind in abandoned cities by disastrous industrial policy and official neglect. I’ve been lucky to meet some of them. One of them is an ex-Detroit cop who worked with my cousin’s husband in a mentorship program for at-risk high school boys in Ann Arbor. This guy is one of the calmest, most levelheaded, most naturally urbane people I’ve ever met. It didn’t surprise me much to learn that he, too, had gotten the hell out of Detroit and quit the force. These are both popular movements. Is it because he’s white? He’s black, so probably not. This alleged white flight always involves surprisingly much of the Community these days. Sure, it’s a 91% black population that’s left behind, almost La Haye-style, but that’s due to differing distributions of education, income, marketable skills, and so forth by race, which overlap at the margins. I’m reading between the lines a bit here because my mom talked to this fellow at much greater length than I did, but when a city is too chaotic and threatening for someone who has his head on that straight, it’s got problems. I’m pretty sure, too, that the Detroit PD is too derp-derp to establish a reserve unit in an effort to lure back cops who are able and willing to take small doses of the crazy but want to do something more fruitful with the bulk of their careers.

On the other hand, I hear that Detroit’s collapse has opened a new frontier for urban goat herders, and that’s aggie even for Da-a-a-a-a-vis. Sometimes a badly troubled city can end up with some exceptionally resourceful people setting up shop in unexpected niches. Ironically, parts of Detroit may be so abandoned that small communities of homesteaders and entrepreneurs are able to move in and provide a majority of the eyes on the street just by showing up. I’ve never visited Detroit, so I’m going based on news articles and accounts from acquaintances who have spent time there, but it sounds like it’s developed a really unusual urban fabric in recent decades.

One of the reasons why I despair about this stuff so easily and get so wound up is that I feel like I’m the only person stumbling into the margins and then trying to hold the line in defense of middle-class values like not starting a street fight with another thug at the light rail station because you say the other guy sold meth to your kid sister. I hardly ever detect functional people from the broad middle class, and I mean really broad, who are there to shoulder some bit of the burden. All the woke folk are off at Panera, doing politics and shit, among what they construe as Democrats. (LOL.) I really don’t feel like being the only functional, non-underclass person who’s trying to provide ad hoc adult supervision in some neighborhood prison yard while all my peers are off in the land of Harry Potter and Josiah Bartlett, being the great winners that we were all taught to be. I certainly don’t want to be the little bitch who keeps doing that for free while maybe half of one percent of the peers I’m following on Facebook admit to some sort of unemployment. Hence the eye that I keep out for deposit bottles. Chaka Can Chaka Can; I welcome the money and the cash, Chaka Can.

The other thing is that I have to protect myself from that dysfunction. Cousin Gigolo comes from a rural family that isn’t much different from the shadies in that video from the fire. Hell, his mother burned her trailer down for the insurance money; do that to a rowhouse, and you, too, could be on TV. I know all these yuppies who live in places like Manayunk and Pacific Beach, and I really don’t take kindly to any of them suggesting that I’m the one who’s failing to adult. They have no idea how good they have it and how much economic redlining goes into keeping them safe from the abandoned rabble. At least when I sleep at rest areas, I know what I’m fleeing and can give turn-by-turn driving directions to it. I might even be able to locate the house in Camden that I saw on fire half a block south of the Speed Line over the winter.

Please accept my warmest welcome into this world.

Manufacturing surplus citizens

This essay at Counterpunch (h/t Naked Capitalism daily links) makes a fairly strong and chilling case that the US, UK, and Saudi governments and powerful non-state actors directing them deliberately orchestrate both terrorism and high-volume drug trafficking against civilian populations, including their own constituents. It concisely surveys a number of blatant Anglo-American and Saudi atrocities in Vietnam, the Los Angeles ghetto, death-squad Latin America, and Yemen, all places where the governments in question have been caught behaving heinously. A similar case that jumps out at me, and which I’ve discussed a number of times before, is the FBI’s bizarre failure to stop the Tsarnaev brothers from bombing the Boston Marathon, an exceptionally suspicious dereliction of duty.

A lot of really ugly shit concerning Western military and intelligence services and their allies (overwhelmingly sic) has been swept under the rug, and I’m willing to follow parts of the rabbit hole even deeper than Aidan O’Brien leads us. What initially caught my attention about the US opioid crisis wasn’t the emergence of the crisis itself but the appearance that powerful, meddlesome outsiders with axes to grind were stirring up a moral panic about yet another marginalized community. I strongly suspected early on that the actual prevalence of opioid abuse and overdoses was being exaggerated to such extremes that the crisis verged on being a hoax. Some of the media where I was hearing about this supposed epidemic were ones that obviously had no compunction about serially smearing the vulnerable, even entire communities, in the interest of telling a good story and then cashing out in full. The spectacle had tinges of the hysteria over sex offenders, and the United States already had a long, seedy, even tragic history of moral panics over drugs.

At the risk of sounding all Jill Stein autism vaccine healing crystals cuckoo and maybe accusations that I’m from Tiburon, I should mention that I believe in a strong element of magic appertaining to certain lines of evidence and argument based on the position and motives of those making the case. Come to think of it, that’s pretty fucking nuanced and this-worldly for Marin, but whatever; my actual native city has gotten all kinds of fucked up since I moved away. What I mean by magic isn’t what anyone who’s interested in selling you magical shiznit has in mind. What I mean, for example, is that the motives of a private citizen ruing the drug devastation of her hometown are so dramatically different from the motives of a sensationalist news outlet from out of town and the breathless mercenary reporters it dispatches to cover the story that keeping the facts straight isn’t enough to avoid the grotesque distortion of the resulting message once it passes into the hands of outsiders with ulterior motives. Put more bluntly, no one at the eleven o’clock news actually gives a shit about druggies in McDowell County. It’s fundamentally different when someone who genuinely cares about an affected community voices anguish and concern, but that’s not what we’ve got with a lot of the coverage. Instead, we hear city slickers who look down on and distrust and despise Appalachians intoning about the seriousness of a drug abuse crisis in Appalachia. There’s no way in hell that most of the out-of-town journalists and commentators on this beat actually want what’s best for these communities. To them, Appalachians are just disposable pawns in whatever culture war is being orchestrated above their pay grade, but surely Jim Webb will agree that Appalachians have always been ones to take on the belligerent dirty work for the lowlanders.

It’s not just Appalachians, of course. They’re just some of the most conveniently reviled communities currently under popular examination for substance abuse. Of course the trailer trash are all on hillbilly heroin. In the eighties, of course the hood rats were all on crack. In many American communities, especially to points west, of course the white trash is just a bunch of tweakers. Or was, in any event. Used in a vaguely prudent fashion, meth is a drug conducive to getting one’s ass to work, but that assumes that there’s work. Perhaps the streets know something that the official employment statistics do not.

What we haven’t heard recently, at least not from mainstream sources, is bitching about immigrants being up to their eyeballs in the damned drugs. The Gilded Age featured a moral panic about sexually predatory Chinamen and opium. Reefer madness attributed the suspiciously Latin marijuana to Mexicans, also presumed sexual deviants. These gentlemen, we were told, put a white bitch at risk. A hundred-odd years later, the Chinese are a premier model minority and the Mexicans make such dutiful gardeners. We have to turn to the streets to hear anything about Mexicans drinking and driving, insurance optional. Stories to this effect from coherent sources are all over the internet, but they’re never in the news. Why? The Cathedral is masterful at communal smear campaigns, so why are Mexican drunks who come off work dog-tired and crash their uninsured vehicles into locals and their rigs justified in news reports, when there are any, as kind of just having forgotten their driver’s licenses at home? It doesn’t take a license to refrain from driving drunk and fatigued.

The point here isn’t to justify preferentially smearing a certain foreign outgroup. It’s to reiterate that poor white boys and girls are already being smeared wholesale as unemployable junkies (who were until recently unemployable tweakers), and to ask what the hell gives for the campesinos. The whole thing gives off a powerful aura of Friendship Ended With Mr. Cracker Now Mr. Beaner Is My Best Friend. It’s coming from the Cathedral and from management, so we’d all be tragic fools to assume that anyone promoting these memes of hardworking, dutiful immigrants and drugged-to-hell wastrel Americans will ever restore friendship with the forsaken.

My sense of magic in rhetoric was inchoate for a long time, and it may still be, but one thing I can say is that the almost liturgical repetition of stories about workshy, softened, drug-abusing American proles is a fnord and an effort to fulfill an ugly managerial-class prophecy. The workshy part has been constant for decades, whether or not there’s been an acute moral panic over some low-class drug. The Mexicans, we’re told, are here to do the jobs that we won’t. In point of fact, many of these jobs involve a dirty old school bus full of a peasant underclass towing a porta potty out to the job site for ten hours of stoop labor, so it isn’t just that it sucks to cut lettuce. Most of these jobs, portajohn on a trailer or not, are not advertised. As a seasonal commercial blueberry picker, I’m struck by how many packages of blueberries I’ve seen labeled for cities where I’m all but certain, because I’ve searched the regional job boards during the growing season, that there are no help wanted ads for blueberry pickers. One package that I saw recently was labeled for a ranch in King City. I’d seen ads (translated into English, no less) for blueberry pickers in Santa Barbara County, but I’d had no idea that there were any commercial blueberry growers operating in Salinas County. I did know that King City was where the police chief had been leading a criminal ring that stole cars from gray-market field hands. Extrapolating working conditions in the local fields is reasonable. *Downmarket Wesley Willis voice* GET ON THE BUS!

Accusing white Americans of pandemic levels of hard drug abuse dovetails beautifully with what farm country management wants, which is NOT old-stock Americans, of any race, really, working as field hands. In the Northern shorthand, this is generally expressed as white farm workers. In parts of the South, black farm workers from American lineages as old as any of mine bear the brunt of the discrimination. In parts of the South where the poors can’t help but #RaceTogether, management panda-bears the shit out of the local help. The problem with both of our kinds is that we got uppity, whereas the Messicans know their place. The last part applies to just about every state in the Union. The Mexicans are just better workers, though it’s funny that they keep showing up here flat out of civil rights. It makes sense that peasants who have spent their entire lives busting ass in the fields (and often don’t mind being sloppy as hell) work faster than people from middle-class backgrounds who started doing farm work as teens or adults, but that doesn’t explain why so many farm jobs are made needlessly awful and not advertised.

A related stance I’ve repeatedly encountered from growers, which makes me think that a Mugabe/Castro/Chavez expropriation isn’t necessarily such a bad idea, is condescension for daring to show up looking for farm work as a mainstream honky without an ag degree. They don’t say it, but I can read it. It doesn’t matter what these planters think about nonwhites; their attitudes towards fellow white people who are noncompliant with their specific conception of country life are proof positive of Klan-level bigotry. It’s worth jack shit if they’ve got a Portuguese guy and a Japanese guy and a Sikh and a Mexican mixing it up with the Dutchmen in the Farm Bureau local; they still act like I’m an interloper in their cartel for trying to see if they’ve got work that doesn’t totally suck. Instead of a 100% Anglo-Saxon planter class that rigs labor, land, and commodity markets and prejudicially throws its deficient fellow citizens onto the Darwinian trash heap, we’ve got a multiracial planter class that rigs labor, land, and commodity markets and prejudicially throws its deficient fellow citizens onto the Darwinian trash heap. O beautiful for spacious!

Thank God, this isn’t the entire farm ownership class, but it’s a frighteningly large chunk. The political reaction of this class is totally fucking insane. This reminds me, so I might as well pass it on (TM), like other Values (TM): a quick look around Fresno demonstrates that the Kardashians are some of the least problematic Armenians. #TheMoreYouKnow. One of the things that’s so crazymaking about this whole mess is that the owner class, high on its own work ethic, disavows the existence of a class problem in flyover country while simultaneously making it tacitly but unmistakably clear that I’m subverting their class by being a non-wigger white boy in search of menial farm work.

This shit is worse than street people with free fare cards heading uptown to intercept incoming Cubs fans by yelling, “Any of you white motherfuckers want a free ride?” It’s a hell of a lot more racist, for sure (“black motherfuckers” would be equally consistent with the prevailing community standards), and I get really annoyed with shady fuckers who want to sell me discount fare media, so I’m not here to put in a good word for the turnstile hustlers anymore than I’m here to praise the Dunkin’ Doorman.

On second thought, maybe I should be out to praise the low-functioning. We’ve got plenty of the high-functioning running our farms and our other big businesses, and look how that keeps turning out. Oh no, we aren’t racist; we just hate other white people for being lazy, soft, and feckless. H-1B coders with diplomas from fly-by-night for-profit coding schools are totally more competent than Cal Tech-trained American computer scientists. We’ve never had anyone chop his arm off with a meat cleaver because we sped up the slaughterhouse line to the point that Somali refugees are the only way we don’t end up with 400% annual turnover by hiring the most desperate slumdogs who just snuck up here from Oaxaca.

All of this is where we’ve already ended up. The people who run this joint have deliberately given immigrants more hope than they’ve given the natives, and hence less motivation to abuse drugs, but even some of the immigrants are seeing that it’s a damned raw deal. The black working class has gone from a pariah part of the drugs community in the eighties to the downmarket native constituency that one dare not criticize, probably because the Hillbots still expect black voters to do something for them and never notice that they’re being used. The Fuck Whitey chapter of the platform sure isn’t getting them anywhere, but that isn’t the only truckload of bullshit that they’ve brought down on their own heads. Go figure that it’s coming from the same first lady who enjoyed the services of penal house slaves of a certain non-Caucasian persuasion.

I’ve gotten into some anguished spots over my own difficulty finding work, but God knows how many millions of Americans have had it worse and are also being told in even starker and more explicit terms that they are obsolete and to be replaced. No wonder we’ve got an abundance of white folk who are hella into bad dope sets. What the fuck else would anyone expect? The enterprise and the optimism of methamphetamine? I can’t say that I wouldn’t be shooting black tar myself if my prospects crashed down through several circles of hell.

None of this just happened. None of it. It’s more like they scaled up the Tuskegee Experiment by a factor of several thousand, with the drug availability as a surprisingly minor component. They know damn well why we’re sick and dying. They know because they orchestrated the whole diabolical thing.

Doing something right for a change

In this case, what I did right was coming back east on the next thing to a whim two or three weeks before the start of the blueberry season. I made a similar trip last summer because I was headed for flat broke in a hurry, and the result was that I missed all but two weeks of the berry season without accomplishing anything but the minimally adequate replenishment of my short-term savings and some day tourism. It sucked, mostly, but I could see shit for options.

Some still wonder why young people today are so pessimistic and jaded and hesitant. My experiences last summer are a useful example. I had to skip out on most of a seasonal job that I love on account of true financial necessity (as in less than a week from ending up in a rescue mission), and the seasonal jobs anywhere near my parents’ place simply didn’t look worth pursuing. It was a pretty damn pleasant visit on the whole, both for the month or so that my parents were there and for the two and a half weeks while they were traveling in Europe, and I didn’t resent their nicer travel habits a bit even though I was doing goofy shit like eating nothing but grilled romaine with Caesar dressing and a bag of cherries for breakfast at noon in an empty house, but from any broader perspective than the upcoming month and my own short- to medium-term solvency, it just didn’t make any sense.

I ended up quasi-committing, then bailing, on a pushy invitation from the Insurance Schmuck to come get drunk with a number of our fellow white boys around the Inner Harbor on the weekend immediately after one of the Freddy Gray acquittals, and explaining myself in a series of impulsive Facebook rants. This was the one bleak episode I recall from that trip, and it didn’t last for more than 48 hours or so. I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on rail fare just to show up exhausted for a night or two of over-the-top horseshit with a group that I was afraid was about to recklessly stumble into hot summer riots in one of the most restive cities in the country. It scared me that these guys were going to Baltimore at all in the midst of the Freddy Gray troubles: I was in no way expecting the police to hold the line around the ghettos, not because I thought that they’d screw around or deliberately botch the riot control but because public feeling on the streets seemed to be on the verge of getting completely out of anyone’s control, police or otherwise. I was getting an unshakable, deadly serious Bonfire of the Vanities feeling, and it didn’t seem to register with the other guys that maybe it wasn’t a good time to yuppie it up in Ball’mer. Consequently, I was relieved to learn afterwards that none of them had come to harm, and for that matter that the protests following that acquittal hadn’t even risen to the level of significant vandalism. I’d been on edge, waiting for the city to hit a flashpoint sending racially inflamed mobs surging through the Cool Change District, in contravention of #yachtlife, if not of life and limb in general, and hoping that the whole thing would simmer down until the guys had gotten the fuck out of Dodge.

After that, I think I realized that it was better to be kind of bored than to put on a Lacoste shirt and caterwaul into an American Rio de Janeiro on a beautiful day for a race riot. What’s that, Mr. Caray? No, I don’t think that’s how the aggrieved youth elements were planning to use a bat, and even though Baltimore’s in the American League, I’m pretty sure that crew is too open-sourced to designate a hitter. Dem Cubs, tho. Sometimes one has to #FlyTheW just because one didn’t come within three hundred miles of Camden Yards on an inauspicious weekend to #RaceTogether. Hell, even on the best weekends they fuck up the crab. Dunkin’ Donuts didn’t even run out of everything bagels on me last summer. #WINNING.

This summer, my finances are dramatically better and my parents have resolved the bullshit sources of a number of our fruitless arguments. My dad cosigned on a credit card for me, which came through after nearly a month of nailbiting delay triggered by poor guidance from the branch clerk who guided us through the initial application and aggravated by the whiny, combative customer service (sic) dipshit we drew on our first complaint call. My parents are now tentatively planning to buy a new car for my mom’s use and keep the old Civic that she’s currently driving for my use when I’m back east. Between that and what I assume is my ability to reliably rent a car on my own because I have a credit card now, I’ll have two options for not having to borrow one of their cars or bum a ride from them when I’m back here. That’s a lot better than no options and eruptions of back-and-forth yelling when I suggest spending on a second clunker a tenth or less of what they’ve spent on that fucking pontoon boat. My having spent less on the Focus that I bought earlier this year than my parents and Farmers (what up, Skoda) gave me to replace Super Civic means both that I have a cushion and that I don’t get bent out of shape when my dad says something like, oh good, that means we don’t have to give you the money we need for our new dock. Against the odds, that’s fewer words than he used to explain this situation, which is still a bit whatthefuckular. But mainly I’m just trying to survive here, and not spending $13,000 on a nearly new Fit over the winter is a key reason why I’m not circling the financial drain again. The money and the cash, I welcome it, and because I also steward it, I have it.

Poverty isn’t just in horses; it’s also in boats. The Adirondacks have both, and I assume Gerry Rundel knows about both. Whatever Fish Man was catching prior to 2007, it was sure better than any seafood I’d expect a Marylander to advertise. Remember, White Lives Matter, too. Mind you, I don’t necessarily mean poverty for the boat owner; it might be my poverty instead, hence my extended trip back east last summer. This year, on the other hand, there’s actually enough to go around for a while in spite of that fucking dumbass money pit of a boat and its choking outboard motor. I’m not about to don Vineyard Vines (surprisingly many such cases on my way through Chicago the other day) and make thoughtless comments about how I don’t really care about money (Bonaroo doesn’t pay for itself), but I’m also not about to be as chickenshit on the internet as I am in real life before FIRE sector blowhards who brag about how they eat what they kill. In meatspace I must either make peace with them or be a hero and bait them into shouting matches because there’s no diplomatic way to burst their bubbles. I’ve never needed a fucking Honor Dinner to pick blueberries exclusively at piece rate.

It’s like a commission, but one that no way in hell will cover your rent on its own. Cousin Gigolo might go to an Honor Dinner just for the free eats, but I’d demand to be paid like a proper manwhore, because that’s affective labor. My version of the real world can’t be any less valid than the version cherished by people who think that angling for the frontmost row possible at an Honor Dinner isn’t mortifying. That’s like, oh, Jesus, which among us shall sit at the Father’s left hand, left and right being zero-sum and all, but for the most dumbass idolaters imaginable. These fuckers would worship Willy Loman if they were told that he had the best Midwest Region sales numbers for the quarter. I’m not kidding. That’s how idiotic they are before the successful. At least the golden calf could be melted down into something useful, like dental fillings.

This is one of the crowds that most strongly insinuates my failure to live in the real world and its own superior character for being makers, not takers. The conversion of the last holdouts among them to the Romney 53% Club is inhibited mainly by their Clurban social liberalism and the enduring affliction of Hillary Clinton on the Democratic Party. While we’re back on the subject, fuck the Democratic Party. *Rahm readies the knife* DIE! DIE! Of course, when he actually gets innocents killed, it’s called “policy.” RAHM SHANTI RAHM HARE HARE. And, as always, a belated cold Chicago morning to you and yours, no matter how drippingly gross and not windy enough it was over the weekend. FIRE sector employees made that? They earned that? Bullshit. They dindu nundat. Me, I dindu nuffin last summer besides pick about 375 pounds of blueberries, but as I mentioned, the piece rate isn’t the best, so not everyone in a business like that can afford to work for a living. I give thanks that I sometimes can.

Coffee Hour with Carlos Danger

It’s a foregone conclusion that Anthony Weiner will do time in federal prison for sexting a piece of Carolina jailbait. This is a blatant case of politically driven prosecutorial overreach leading to a miscarriage of justice and the wrongful delivery of yet another human sacrifice into the maw of our grotesque carceral state. As American miscarriages of justice go, Weiner’s is minor, almost pedestrian, but when a former member of the US House of Representatives who’s married (in some fashion or other; like I have the energy to follow that seedy soap opera from day to day) to a high-ranking aide to a major-party presidential candidate gets sucked into the criminal justice buzzsaw over one of his pitiful electronic flashing incidents, none of us should feel safe from that awful machine.

Weiner was apparently subjected to a tacitly selective prosecution on account of his marriage to Huma Abedin, but his high profile should not assuage our fear of prosecutorial overreach as obscure private citizens who aren’t married to Washington bigshots. Basically, we’re talking about a petty, completely peaceable sexual pervert who is being subjected to the full crushing force of the federal gulag because he happens to be domestically involved with a high-level assistant to a bigtime political crook. He didn’t get into trouble because of what he did; he got into trouble because his electronic trail crossed paths with the electronic trails of people close to him who were running a completely separate, much more destructive criminal enterprise and his electronic devices were swept up in federal raids targeting serious criminality for which he has not been charged and of which he appears completely innocent. That the original targets of the investigation (especially Hillary Clinton) have not been charged just adds insult to injury, since there’s an actual public interest in bringing them to justice but the only party to face criminal charges is a tangential one who was too hapless to cover his own tracks or successfully outmaneuver the feds.

It’s the Starr Report all over again, but with hard time. This is nothing to celebrate. It’s something to fear. It’s a threat to liberty and equity, something to demand be put to a definitive end.

It’s praxis to make fun of smooth public perverts by way of pancaking their elaborate public relations operations into a pile of smoldering rubble. This is why one should be proud to refer to Coach by worthy epithets such as Denny Dundiddly (with or without the leading J., to taste–which absolutely is not why we’re here), Diddlin’ Dennis, or the Inadvertent Minnesotan, and, in the Happy Valley context, to extend to any Nittany Lion apologist one’s sincere hope that the grope and the perv of our Lord’s Servant Gerald be with you always. WE ARE–PEDO BEAR! It would be great fun, for that matter, to orchestrate a cover of “Cherish” by the Association with Jerry Sandusky, Jimmy Savile, and Graham Spanier forming an A Capella chorus and the bells rhythmically chiming in from Joe Paterno’s open casket; the only reason I’ve never produced an animated cartoon to this effect is my own technical ineptitude as a draftsman and an audiovisual producer. (I’m on the fence as to whether I’d like Bill Cosby to round out this trio into a foursome; I’m not sure that he’s quite weird enough.)

But these guys are seriously dangerous. Anthony Weiner is not. Exposing him is superfluous. Before he got into legal trouble for going to Carolina in his pants, he was notorious as the freak with the unsolicited dick pics. The mention of his name elicited reactions of, oh God, not that creep again. Now that he’s pleaded guilty to minor internet perv and entered into a binding agreement not to appeal sentences running to a couple of years, even with maximum time off for good behavior, he’s still the loser with all the dick pics. He’s been getting called out and ridiculed for this shit for years.

Besides, Weiner dindu nuffin like Denny Dundiddly dun. Yes, that’s a complete sentence. If you think that was excruciating, try one that you have to serve at the BOP. Hastert managed not only to serially abuse boys who were under his authority as their public high school teacher and wrestling coach, but to intimidate them into silence for decades after the fact while he ascended to Speaker of the House. That whole situation was way the hell worse than anything Anthony Weiner shambolically achieved. We had a witness-intimidating sexual predator passing for normal so successfully that he became third in succession to the presidency, and his victims apparently didn’t even use confidential back channels to blow the whistle on him. The only reason he was exposed, very belatedly, was that one of his victims shook him down privately in a manner that cornered him into getting tripped up by arcane, draconian banking laws and then lying to FBI agents about what he’d done. The original conduct in the Sandusky scandal was even worse, although Sandusky’s victims and their parents behaved more responsibly than Hastert’s did, and one parent nearly got him to confess in a wire sting arranged by the Pennsylvania State Police years before he was finally arrested. The things Bill Cosby is accused of doing are vile, notwithstanding possible shortcomings in the credibility of his accusers.

All of these guys make Anthony Weiner look like a village idiot. One wonders how he ever had the acumen and the self-control to be elected to Congress. He comes across like he’d get tripped up running to be a town selectman. But as I’ve always maintained around here, low-functioning pests are vastly preferable to high-functioning ones. Weiner isn’t even a proper psychopath; Diddlin’ Dennis, Our Lord’s Servant Gerald, and Lord Pound Cake may be real psychopaths, but Weiner can hardly maintain frame for two minutes. He’s transparently dysfunctional and impulsive, so as embarrassing as his public self-service may be, when we elect him, we at least know what we’ve elected. A shlemiel like him keeps his constituents on guard. A smooth operator like Dennis Hastert is able to con the unwitting for decades and make a killing at public expense until suddenly, don’tcha know, he has to go north for a spell because it turns out that it was all a big hideous Winesburg LARP.

The big furor over Weiner’s downfall, of course, is that he sexted a minor. The implication here is that he is some horrific, unconscionable threat to the innocence of children. This is frankly as laughable as it is arbitrary and draconian. We’re talking about an adolescent victim, and most likely a rather precocious one. She was out on the internet chatting with strange men. Gross shit happens in chat rooms, but most of it isn’t enduringly harmful, and only a fool wouldn’t adopt viable reaction and coping mechanisms. If a fifteen-year-old of normal intelligence can’t figure out how to get up and walk away from gross shit on the internet, the girl’s got problems. By her mid-teens, an adolescent should be able to turn somewhere or to someone to get away from bad virtual situations. This is really pretty basic stuff. It applies to dudes, too, of course. There is gross shit on the internet. If you give someone unknown or untrustworthy your phone number, there may be yucky stuff on your phone, too. This is why parents and whoever else is mentoring a young person should teach and model ways to react to the yuck by getting away from it. If some loser is jacking off in front of the YMCA (it’s fun to stay there!), cross the street. If you see dogshit on the street, don’t go step on it, and if you do, find a more or less sanitary way to wipe it off. Or to shake it off, but they don’t raise them to be that mature in Wyomissing.

The truth is, the internet is a safe space for pig poop balls. So is any barnyard. I have reasons for working with plants. Chatting with strangers on the internet can result in unsolicited junk shots. Or, for Cousin Gigolo’s mother, it can result in moving to Florida in one’s forties to shack up with a distaff AOL chat pal (possible evidence of butch lesbianism), then ending up with $5.90 in one’s checking account and calling my mother in Pennsylvania with a sob story (evidence of mutual white trash-yuppie discord for which any lesbianism is merely the unpopped cherry on top). On the internet, we’re all grown-ups, although hardly any of us act it. Ooh, I just said “hardly!” I’m getting a raging clue, boy! The whole joint is a virtual Bowery, and everyone who has a lick of sense knows that there’s some heavy shit on Skid Row. At least it’s just virtual; whatever horrors one sees there can be put out of sight by fleeing back into the real world.

I assume a certain lack of chaos and danger in meatspace here, so your mileage may vary, but there’s probably something to be gained by not holing up on the damn web. Conversely, for people from really awful real-life environments, there may be much to be gained by fleeing TO the web. Regardless, a kid ought to learn how to put yucky stuff aside in the virtual stacks in preparation for when she starts using the internet to search for pornography. Yes, or he. I’d use the gender-neutral “shit,” but I don’t care to let my antecedents go totally AWOL. Let’s be honest: as with every other new communications technology, the internet’s early adopters were heavy on smut peddlers, and there’s an enduring demand for that crap. There’s shit you wouldn’t want to read in the library, too, and not all of it is sexually explicit. *Commanding Russell Williams Voice* What do you mean, “naked,” soldier? Look at this photograph; every time, you’ll see I’m wearing clothes. Specifically, smallclothes.

See? You went on the internet, and that just popped up over your transom. I #CommunicateToCreate #CanadianContent again. A Southern man don’t need any of them around, anyhow. Millington, they’re throwing furniture again. Do you copy? They’re all throwing furniture.

There’s certainly a possibility that our Carolina jailbait friend and her family are motioning the table. There are credible enough allegations circulating that this fifteen-year-old was used by her high-power Republican family as a honeypot to trap the Big Weiner. Yes, these are conspiracy theories, but not all conspiracy theories are nonsense. This kind of thing is all too plausible; just look at the Trumps. Some aristocratic families groom their children for the family business starting when they’re toddlers; that’s definitely the done thing in many wealthy parts of the South. The real defense that this brat has against assertions of her own moral responsibility, then, isn’t that she’s a minor per se, but that she’s the minor dependent of a sort of crime family. Archer isn’t just fiction; it’s also ethnography.

No, I won’t jump on the bandwagon to defend the Christian womanhood of wealthy white Southerners, or that of Betty Shelby. It ain’t me, Lawd.

At least the all-you-can-eat Weiner buffet has gotten Jeffrey Toobin to smirk uncontrollably at double entendres on CNN. That’s appropriate for any overeducated writer of true-crime potboilers. No one would give a shit about him if he merely practiced his beloved law. Dude makes his living in the gutter, so it’s only right that he’s caught wandering around snickering and covered in filth from time to time. I initially composed that as “only write,” so I’m not all present and accounted for myself. Just because counsel is entertaining and informative doesn’t mean that he’s also reputable. After all, why would I expect a man of good repute to tell me all about Kato Kaelin and his McGrilled chicken sandwich deal?

I came across some crap I was hoping not to see while scouring the meme mines for that (let me tell you about my trauma!), so you’d better enjoy it. The abyss has already gazed back into me today; y’all are up next.

More seniors by the sea: spank you for your service

Maybe my cynicism comes at a personal cost. The turd is never the most popular thing in the punchbowl, and many have insinuated that I’d do better in life by being more positive, although few have had the courage to be forthright about it, since they know that I’d dress them down for being craven and brightsiders are not generally ones to enjoy being criticized for their chickenshittery.

On the other hand, positivity didn’t do jack for me back when I had more of it; I don’t count painfully tenuous reprieves measurable in months from the enduring hell of modern American downward mobility as victories, except maybe as the Pyrrhic kind, so I get the feeling that negative thinking or cynicism or whatever the hell else I may have that’s not safe for LinkedIn is actually the weakest link in the chain. And it’s not that I truly have no reason to be positive or hopeful: every time I cause a yuppie offense or discomfort by being poor (define however you fancy; the yuppie swarm certainly does), I count my loss as a victory and a gain. This is why I generally support sidewalk defecation in downtown San Diego. Pacific Beach, too. It forces yuppies to savor the same flavor from which they so assiduously shelter themselves at such great expense, to their own cash flow and to our civics. It shows them that a generational social climber from CB East may be able to buy her way into an apartment in PB (hella West), where the locals show more concern for the welfare of dogs than for that of their fellow citizens, but not permanent safety from, say, now, that didn’t come from a dog. It is praxis.

If I pretended that my country didn’t have a class problem, it would still have a glaring class problem. Some will win, some will lose, some are born to sing the blues, and others are born to use their eerie ability to mimic Steve Perry as their meal ticket out of the Philippines. That a band from the midcentury Bay Area put out a famous song semiconsciously advancing a Hindu nationalist’s resignation to the caste system is not necessarily as embarrassing as CCR. The aesthetics can always be worse, until they can’t anymore (e.g., John Fogerty’s solo career as an intellectual property defendant). So can the simultaneous inflation of the Mid-Peninsula real estate and cupcake retailing bubbles, theoretically.

Where, then, are the old-fashioned small-town values that will fix this crazy world? In your head, mostly. Small towns dumping their social services problems on big cities (or, in the Cougar’s annoying formulation, the big town) is as American as an apple pie on every mother’s dining room table and a dose of napalm on every VC hut cluster. The jungle: one had better run through it, old boy, not walk.

For certain demographics, running, not walking, away from small towns is a similarly good idea. There are, in fact, victims in these political economies. Many of them treat the poor like shit, for one thing, and they’re terrible to political dissidents. The meme that small towns are too wholesome even to carelessly fail anyone is as pernicious as it is absurd, but it has impressive staying power. No one believes such a thing about San Francisco for a hot second, but there’s no shortage of people who construe Norman Rockwell as a news photographer for every cow town rag in the land.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Curry County appears to be a product of demographic cleansing. It’s basically a matter of public record that Del Norte County maintains itself in the opposite fashion, by keeping a couple thousand of the most violent and troubled men more or less or working age in an exceptionally bad and very expensive state prison. That’s over two thousand jailbirds plus their keepers in a county of depopulating county of fewer than thirty thousand. Curry County’s population is growing, but mainly from infusions of honor: its 65+ population went from 28% to 32.1% from 2010 to 2015. Brookings and Gold Beach are tidy, pleasant towns, but I can’t believe that they magically got that way without any social services disincentives when Crescent City is such a mess and Eureka is a socioeconomic dumpster fire. The Census Bureau indicates very few infants and toddlers in Curry County, so the golden oldies didn’t move there to reciprocally honor their birthright citizen grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but it was awfully dumb of me to assume that these Boomers have any to thus honor in the first place. Not many under 18, either, but over 65? Many such cases!

It’s a categorical error, then, to assume that we’re talking about an organic community. In addition to the citizenship of the elderly (who do vote, so maybe it’s just another constituent service), in Curry County WE HONOR VETERANS. A number of counties in Southern Oregon, some of them with local governments that are run on a shoestring that’s frayed to the breaking point, have commissioned such road signs at their county lines instead of paying for actual government services. Maybe the Vietnam-era veterans’ activists wanted that more than they wanted a public library; the noise about Nam certainly comes from a subset that makes the whole lot of them sound like the Pettiest Generation. Let me tell you  about my trauma. I don’t need a list to tell any of you about how often I sleep in my car, but some of them need lists of symptoms for their periodic disability pension reviews, just for reference in the course of describing their own psychological states.

They’re really into Memorial Day in on the Wild Rivers Coast, so much so that the parade in Brookings cut off access to Fred Meyer from 101. Great job keeping the homeless from our coffee, there. I ended up taking a detour on, I shit ye not, Easy Street and going to Harbor to finish drying the previous night’s laundry before coming back in past some of the most hellacious oncoming traffic I’ve ever seen in a town of that size. In Capitalist America, parade rains on YOU! I know, I’m glassing everyone with my mug of bitter again, but I have a point here. None of that shit keeps me out of unbelievably weird and unhealthy socioeconomic situations. Joe Dirtbag is a pretty significant local civic poobah, but that never stopped him from bringing Lady Pisspan, Captain Flimflam, and Pot-o-Shit Friend onto his property instead of a toilet. If I wrote to the city council about his behavior and the condition of his farm, they’d immediately know who he is. I’ve seen civic and business leaders behave in ways that are absolutely execrable. I don’t project their bad behavior onto all civic and business leaders, but I have to assume that I can extrapolate some of it. Likewise, one might assume, based on all the ostentatious honor and thank-yous for their service and the like that are ritually shown to veterans that the United States consistently provides top-notch housing and medical care to veterans in need. In point of fact, it’s less trouble and more fun to organize a fighter jet flyover from Kingsley Field than to deal with the chronic scandalous mess that is the VA. Like Crystal Harris, we quite enjoy fun stuff. Unlike Crystal Harris, some of us don’t ever have anyone as thoughtful as Hugh Hefner around to maybe talk some half-sense into us.

What we do have, if we’re in Curry County, whether we’re of it or not, is KURY-FM, with its afternoon host intoning at length about how Memorial Day is “the reason for the season.” Dude seems to think that there would not be any sort of seasonal celebration of the start of summer absent America’s endlessly proliferating war dead. I don’t even feel comfortable with spiritually deracinated holidays, so I can’t be the only one the fucker’s lost with his sonorous piety. He also wants homeowners to call the Brookings Police or the Curry County Sheriff, at the numbers he reads out on air, if they see, say, a “meth-looking dude” prowling around their backyards, as if alert neighbors wouldn’t spontaneously call the police about obvious prowlers who appear to be high on hard drugs. It’s always nice to have a community radio station that doubles as a broadcast version of Nextdoor, since it’s unimaginable that such a spirit of neighborly vigilance would never mutate into hostile paranoia abusing state power to infringe on the civil liberties of people who truly dindu nuffin.

My favorite civic bullshit this weekend was probably the “Celebrating Volunteerism” newspaper extra. LOL. Love too promote volunteerism as a civic panacea in a county whose economy is based on interstate pension transfers from CalPERS and the Social Security Administration. Also love too travel in a county with such a strong volunteer spirit that it can’t keep its sheriff’s substations open during normal weekday business hours. There are local governments in Southwest Oregon that are deteriorating towards scopes of service worthy of early postwar Somalia. I realize that the HBD creeps will get their panties into a knot about how I’m comparing a Whitey Rez to the Heart of Darkness, but there’s no way in hell these counties aren’t socializing undisclosed costs onto state, federal, and out-of-area local governments. Douglas County has a particularly entertaining version of local self-reliance that revolves around rejecting tax levies by referendum because everyone expected the feds to keep paying the county a shitload of timber royalties for its public lands, even when the industry basically shoots its wad and the royalties consequently dry up. Curry County has dealt with reduced federal timber royalties of its own in recent decades, but for geographical and demographic reasons it’s had an easier time driving out its poors, or maybe more accurately swamping them with affluent retirees.

One thing that can be said for California’s fee-entrapment form of state government in this context is that it at least produces some government revenue, which is theoretically available for something besides Highway Patrol salaries. Josephine County has gone to the opposite extreme by running out of money to run its jail (partly due to a failed ballot levy) and not fielding police night watches.  It’s a shitty tradeoff, though: CHP saturation patrols that produce minimum court clearance fees of $25 over $4 worth of burned-out license plate bulbs versus needing a cop in an emergency and hearing the smooth sound of radio silence coming down on the night shift (on the night shift).

Toqueville commented on Americans’ over-the-top interest in voluntary organizations during his grand tour in the Era of Good Feeling. He also commented on country innkeepers and restaurateurs who charged so much for so little that they were the next thing to crooks, so for a people with so little in the way of personal business scruples we sure had a lot of scruples about the private morals of our neighbors. Toqueville caught the leading edge of the (Orwellianly misnamed) temperance movement and the proliferation of organized teetotalers’ societies that it inspired, and he questioned why a man couldn’t quietly take his water by his hearth instead of making a big public spectacle of his renunciation of alcohol. That’s my question, too. You wouldn’t believe the amount of seltzer water I drink in the privacy of my own car unless you saw the shambolic piles of empty cans strewn about in the passenger foot well. Left to my own devices, I hardly touch alcohol in any form. I do not, however, need a busybody to convict me of the need to do something that I’m doing already because it’s an order of magnitude cheaper than decent beer and significantly cheaper even than garbage like PBR, and I certainly don’t need a fucking meeting.

As an excellent bumper sticker puts it, “I’m not an alcoholic, I’m a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings.” If I had to choose, I’d take a society of drunks, especially ones who sober up before operating heavy equipment. Drunks are less obnoxious and more prone to mind their own business. I don’t need some timid authoritarian cult follower trying to cure my phantom drinking problem because I unwisely mentioned that I used to drink a lot, years ago. AA combines the meddlesomeness of a camp revival with the administrative pointlessness of a student government meeting. I’d have to be lusher than the Hamakua Coast to even think about getting involved with that bullshit.

In Curry County, they’re able to do Robert’s Rules of Order dozens of times over for meetings to organize petty fundraisers, but they can’t find anyone to staff the sheriff’s substation in Harbor because, just a hunch, they’re too cheap to pay anyone for the trouble. I’m past the point where I’d sit on my ass there for free all day. They’ve got a sign on the door telling people with probation appointments to knock loudly if no one answers. That’s one case where, if you’re lucky, the door will not be answered.

A county government that can’t figure out how to secure basic funding from its own constituents wants its petty criminal element to look gift horses in the mouth on demand. What a fine bunch. They might think of tweaker burglary as social services taxation by other means. I can’t feel too bad for an electorate that complains about getting the Wild West when it refuses to pay for anything more than the Wild West.

A Damn Yankee’s stray thoughts on the latest official Confederate monument horseshit

The City of New Orleans–the municipality with the police department straight out of hell, not the fine-ass consist of Hoosier-overhauled all-American rolling socialism that will take you all the way up the river to the heart of the jurisdiction of another, perennially NBC-approved police department that comes modestly more indirectly out of that same horrid pit–recently undertook the ceremonial removal of a series of statues honoring some of the Southland’s sons of secession.

Proud Mary, pray for us and bless us, I guess. As we know from NBC and, if we’re a bit less civically embarrassing, from the news, Yankee cops never torture suspects in black sites for confessions to crimes that they didn’t commit, threaten to gouge a suspect’s eyes out with a Bowie knife as a way to get intelligence for Intelligence, weigh an enemy down in chains for a live water burial that is stopped in the nick of time by an up-and-coming detective who is rather bizarrely named after the local street system (just one of those differences of opinion that Hank Voight respects, as any sworn thug would), criminally harass and manhandle citizen activists with felony wiretapping charges for videotaping police misconduct, and/or gun down peaceable, retreating civilians in barrages informed by a combination of too much Red Bull, too much training, and too little command discipline. As we also know, perhaps from Richard Engel’s late-night live broadcast, hanging a sad old tyrant b’ism Muqtada for good measure after chasing him into a dirt hole in the ground and orchestrating the ceremonial Arab shoe defilement of his statues magically eliminates the need for civil society, state administrative capacity, police patrols, and the rule of law as bulwarks against years of helter-skelter mass-casualty bloodshed for years on end.

The city fathers of N’Awlins belatedly yanked (heh, I just said “Yank”) several statues of famous secesh from public property in cover of darkness and brought in a crane for a proper daylight Saddam-in-effigy hoisting of none less than Marse Bob Lee himself. This was done because it’s, like, literally 2017 already and shit, and maybe, I suspect, because Mitch Landrieu is literally a scion of the Landrieu family. The Landrieus, they’ve had Mitch, they’ve had Mary, and mercy, mah Lawd, Ah due decleyah, they’ve had Moon. The point being, the official removal of these statues had nothing at all to do with a hereditary politician being too shrewd to give up a gig that spares him the need to do honest work for a living and/or be a discreet family embarrassment ridiculed as a permanently “trusted” charity case. This was in no way a demagogic stunt by a grandstander who’s too white and too outwardly self-respecting to go full Chocolate City (like Ray Nagin, that sad crook who, for some awful reason, is now chargeable to you and me), but who, like any good little shitbird of a professional triangulator, never loses track of which way the winds are blowing, and from which swamp.

Shit, white boy. Can I be an ally without using that kind of language? Sure, I guess so. Can I have fun being an ally without using that kind of language? Hell no. Ellen wants me to have a little, and I’d have more of it if that horrifying, abjectly histrionic, socially climbing bull dyke took her badly-dressed ass back to Metairie and retired from public life. I’d sooner have gone to Coleman and listened to Robert Gisevius weep bitterly all afternoon than watch that bitch pollute my country’s television. Montgomery, where Bobby G. is being warehoused at our expense these days because that, too, is how we try to reify an NOPD that won’t blow you clear into the river with a twelve gauge because a public emergency is its latest excuse for charging around like a Latin American death squad, at least has something like scenery. I’m not saying that I’d get my schadenfreude from the misery of that sorry bastard; I’m just saying that some things (the long fugue of a cop who was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong attitude) are less utterly horrifying than others (a woman who should never have made it onto the traffic accident beat at the lowest-rated network affiliate in Shreveport but is, for reasons generally indicating that we’re a wicked and stupid people fully deserving our own collective punishment, syndicated nationally every fucking weekday afternoon).

There are worse Louisianans than Mitch Landrieu, then. Let us give thanks for the small blessings in our lives. Still, if you’re a New Orleanian, that dipshit is your mayor. I don’t have the Cajun-seasoned pride to know whether the jambalaya and the jazz funerals are enough to make up for that, but I do know, as a Californian, that free fish tacos at a Train deep tracks concert in the one clean part of Oakland wouldn’t be enough to justify a second Gray Davis administration. *Very Michael Franti voice* That’s the sound/of sunshine/up my ass….

Just a hunch, but maybe some of the Who Dat Ah ain’t nevah leavin’ da rivah pride is a red herring tossed out by wholesale thieves to distract goobers from, oh, the condition of the levees and the local police department’s recent history of renting its cops out to restaurants on private details during which they give customers beatdowns for criticizing the gumbo. As far as I know, that only happened once, but correcting it to the singular doesn’t stop a federal police force from looking like maybe a good idea in certain jurisdictions. Speaking of which, I understand the RCMP has a disused gateside foursome available for lend-lease to allies, including an emotionally volatile ginger, a professional storyteller, a guy who doesn’t have to go to Bourbon Street to get saucin’ like he’s in Tsawwassen, and a famous fish friend. Just you try to communicate to create a more electrifying story about seafood and spice.

Mercy, O’Hara, that again! And mercy, most of you are still here for Dubai Porta Potty, but at least I don’t use force of arms to compel y’all to shut your mouths. Gumbo Goombah, on the other hand, is as Southern as sweet potato pie, and he comes from a strain of Southern thought that never asks Admiral Farragut for thoughts on who might benefit from a permanent cool change.

For this crowd, statues honoring the secesh are public affirmations of piety, not the irreplaceable source of their faith. Their investiture with totem-like powers is rather silly. This goes for both sides. I guess I’m not going anywhere in Louisiana politics with an attitude like that, but what the hell, these are not mature expressions of political fervor.

On the secessionist side, it’s awfully curious that, of the losers in all American wars, the Confederates are the only ones with all this venerated public statuary. We don’t see monuments to Arnold and Cornwallis in Saratoga. Rommel and Tojo don’t grace the west end of the National Mall. Vietnam vets are so not Fonda Jane that the latter has taken to speaking publicly about her conversion to Christianity and whatever the fuck it was that she was doing with Ted Turner, not her brief flirtation with Ho Chi Minh, who was much more popular in Vietnam as a political and military leader than Turner is in Montana as an overly moneyed buffalo poobah. Even in Japan, a sovereign nation that bites its tongue internationally not so much because it will be cut off for fielding leaders who indulge in politically inflammatory speech as because it seeks to remain most Uncle Sam’s most harmonious military aid sugar baby and trade-surplus financial dominatrix, it is still widely considered rather edgy and tasteless for politicians to publicly commune with the Greatest Generation at the Yasukuni Shrine.

Sure, the Union had an interest in mending bridges with the subjugated Confederacy after Appomattox, but so did the UK have an interest in making nice with the dear departed colonies after the Treaty of Paris, and as I mentioned above, we don’t do ostentatious Redcoat statuary on this side of the pond. We were pretty sparing in the execution of Confederate officials, too: Jefferson Davis got to spend some time in federal chains for his trouble, but Robert E. Lee was given the deferential Hirohito treatment without intervention from MacArthur, so in the end it was mainly a few exceptional sadists (the Andersonville thug, for example) who took to the rope for their war crimes.

In the midst of this campaign of mass pardon, the Union also undertook the Reconstruction, an ambitious project, foreshadowing the Marshall Plan in some ways, to rebuild the South’s institutions free of the taint of chattel slavery and racial attainder. It was as Reconstruction faltered and then failed catastrophically, a bit over a decade after the conclusion of formal hostilities, that the Confederate statuary started proliferating in earnest. These monuments didn’t cause revanchist Jim Crow aggression against African-Americans; they were lagging indicators of a burgeoning reactionary political regime that was enforcing its will through ISIS-grade campaigns of terror.

The real problem was never some dipshit worshiping an idol of Marse Bob; it was organized terrorism, including Muadh al-Kasasbeh-grade public immolations and thousands of vigilante hangings. To this day, the fundamental problem is a carceral state that strategically targets black communities for the selective enforcement of laws, many of these governing victimless crimes, and the systemic abuse, most egregiously in the Deep South, of prisoners for unpaid labor, much of it heavy and coerced. On their own, the public statues to the Confederate generals would have as much political power as some sperg praying to a bedroom shrine of Father Serra and the Duke of Albuquerque for belated royal Spanish vindication against the usurping shrew QE I and that Swiss prick Sutter. They’re rallying points for a political culture that’s perfectly well entrenched and organized with or without them. They’re really just ancillary expressions of political power.

We can see the same thing with the increasingly gaudy courthouse monuments to the Ten Commandments in Alabama under that endlessly godbothering shithead Roy Moore. Moore was able to carry on his pissing match with the feds to the benefit of his judicial career, i.e., his political career, because Alabama’s entrenched political culture lavishly rewards such ostentatiously pious stunts. Alabama is littered from end to end with Baptist churches. So are some of its neighbors: as an organizer at Lutheran-Episcopal Disaster Response in Ocean Springs told us, “When there’s six of us and six of them, we tend to do things together.” If that stupid granite tombstone of the Commandments in the courthouse lobby was a ministry of Christian witness or a reification of Christian civic virtue, I’m Increase Mather. The public godbothering, this aggressive establishmentarianism, was already an inescapable feature of Alabama politics; Judge Moore was just a sheepdog marking the territory on behalf of the flock.

That’s really all anyone is accomplishing by becoming a party to these disputes over Confederate monuments. They’re pissing matches, almost literally so. Is the Confederate battle flag heritage or hate? Shit, white boy; get you a cracker banner that can be both. They retired the Southern Cross from the South Carolina statehouse after Dylann Roof shot up Mother Emmanuel. It’s so interesting that no one has ever committed a spree killing without inspiration from feverish internet racism message boards and a fixation on that particular insurrectionist flag. A nutty creep with a racial ax to grind shoots up a bible study, and the problem is obviously a controversial flag that mostly inspires others to fly the same controversial flag. Suddenly it goes from obnoxious political recursion to incipient armed RaHoWa.

The Raising Up of the Storm Roof gave the Unionists an unusually convenient opportunity to mark their territory. Mind you, they didn’t flex their political muscle by going balls to the wall over blatantly racist (and very blatantly classist) voter ID laws. Their conception of politics is mostly flipping the bird at Strom Thurmond’s grave as praxis. The latest monumental grandstanding in Louisiana runs along the same lines, except that in this case the retirement of the secesh from public life didn’t obviously have anything to do with anything else. God knows what kind of wag-the-dog trick Mitch Landrieu may be trying to perform; in a city and, for that matter, a state that dysfunctional, there’s no end to the shit that an unprincipled politician would have the motive to sweep under the rug. New Orleans is a Potemkin Village Disneyland surrounded by a barely governed third-world city that is sinking progressively into the outer reaches of the ocean. Then again, the Landrieus have always been good Democrats, so they certainly wouldn’t want the city to rise again in a regressive fashion. Besides, bayou Louisianans have always cherished that seafront lifestyle; this progress merely allows them to live more intimately with their beloved Gulf.

In Post-Soviet America, Gulf of Mexico vacations down at YOU! Ain’t that, well, actually not nearly the scariest thing about America, let alone Louisiana. Orleans Parish has just about the most underfunded and understaffed urban public defenders’ office in the United States, and Louisiana has absolutely the highest incarceration rate on earth. Other countries don’t do federalism the way we do it. In Canada, Belgium, and Switzerland, it’s a vehicle for harmless linguistic snits. In Germany, it’s mostly a budgeting partition. In the United States, it’s a license to raid black urban neighborhoods for plantation slaves to staff Angola. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. Genuine criminals are caught up in the dragnet, too, but that’s practically incidental to the true purpose of this regime, as is any personal reform they achieve. This regime is ordered to the socialization of breeding costs for an enduring plantation system without having to commission privateering raids in West Africa, since it’s always so expensive to bless the rains. Even by the licentious mainstream humanitarian standards that are generally applied to judicial and prison systems in the United States, the Louisiana system is extreme.

Ultimately, the Society for the Prevention of Kwesi Millington for Sheriff loses the energy to fight truly egregious injustices, which are wildly out of control in Louisiana, when it wastes its time and energy bitching about venerable statues of the Confederate officer corps and the waving of the Southern Cross as a bloody shirt for the discount salty crackers. The conspiratorial way to look at this is to conclude that it is entirely by design. By the way, you pretty much have to be on the Asperger’s Spectrum to give a shit about the Confederate political flag, that is, the official colors of the government for which the rebels were ostensibly spilling so much blood. Plenty of people talk about the Stars and Bars, but hardly anyone, especially in the North, even recognizes it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people refer to the Stars and Bars when I’m certain that they have the battle flag in mind. For a long time I conflated the two myself.

Do I care if some loser wants to fly a Rough and Ready city flag over a State of Jefferson flag over a Gadsden Flag over the Cracker Banner over Old Glory herself? Frankly, I don’t, Butler, you shifty creep. My sense of patriotism is not so easily wounded because it is reaffirmed every time a well-governed, duly constituted federal force sits a goon squad of local-yokel tyrants the fuck down, neosecesh or not, and tells them how exactly how they are going to behave as a condition of their presence within the sovereign territory of the United States of America. That’s why these colors don’t bleed; it isn’t the damn dye job. But maybe that’s why I do so much of my politics over the internet. It’s easier to argue over totems than values, and totems seem to be what rile up the screechers.

FYI, Amtrak’s other trains out of New Orleans terminate in New York City and Los Angeles. No matter which direction you head, if you go to the end of the line, you end up under the jurisdiction of a horror show of a municipal police department, and if you want to get to the least horrific of the three, all you’ve got is a train every two or three days that, if it’s running on schedule, pulls in at, like, four in the morning. The real reason to leave on that midnight train to Georgia, believe it or not, is that it leaves at a vaguely civilized hour: namely, midnight. I know, Wow Very Explain. Even so, I like my train service like I like my Deep Southern government: efficient, accountable to its customers, clean (sort of), maybe on time, smooth, air-conditioned, and, oh hell yes, federal.

Fyre Island: a schadenfreudetastic overseas overproduction of elites

Haven’t there been enough hot takes about the Fyre Festival clusterfuck already? Of course not.

The setting:

Great Exuma. (I’m sorry to hear that you have such a condition.)

The promise: 

Bitchin’ tunes performed beachside by some of today’s hippest musical acts before an audience of marriageable and eligible young people of a certain class in a certain decorously partial* state of undress, complemented by deluxe chartered transportation, real good eats, fine-ass crash pads, and opportunities for audiences with visiting gods from the extended Kardashian Pantheon.

*(The author did not mean to imply that any of this is not horseshit. I report; you decide. And many of you decide to read only Dubai Porta Potty, so there’s that.)

The reality: 

Conveniently absent entertainment acts/gods, soaking wet disaster relief tents, canceled charter flights, an unannounced lock-in in an airport terminal without air conditioning, and crappy cold sandwiches.

Plaintiffs’ complaint: 

Defendants conspired to communicate to create expectations of Instagrammable Fun Stuff fully in accordance with the Harris Standard.** Instead, they forced defendants to live like refugees on a vacation to the Bahamas, Madoff with their money, and fed them deficient forms of Sammich.

**As in Crystal.

Those three words, though. No, not the three that inspire soft rock emo acts to tendentious song because they cannot otherwise muster the courage to express their love to their love. Does that storytelling former horse friend have to be the Sheriff of the Bahamas now, too? Is it, as they always say, because he’s black? Maybe, if I were more culturally sensitive in these matters, or hadn’t done exceptionally no travel in Florida and the Caribbean for someone who spent his high school years as a junior member of the Pennsylvania haute bourgeoisie, I would understand that Grenada isn’t part of the Bahamas. Besides, si je me souviens correctement, Northside Juice was born in Montreal, which is as Canadian as repeatedly threatening to secede from the Confederation over pissant linguistic disputes. If that happened, what on earth would the Francosecesh do with one D. Russell Williams, formerly of Trenton, currently of Port-Cartier, and forever of his own interest in your daughter’s drawer full of drawers? Guess you’ll have to find someone else to maintenir le droit maintenant, mec.

That’s more than some of my prep school classmates remember from our French classes. It’s also more, I was told, more than some of them could remember of where they had changed planes on vacation the previous week.

Defendants’ response: 

“[I]t was NOT A SCAM!…. I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT….”

Dissenting victim impact statement: 

Yeah, it kinda sucked, but as a merely middle-class party crasher, I very much enjoyed watching the rich bitch about a bunch of petty shit. Verdict: #WINNING!

Governmental response: 

Significantly more diligence and competence from the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, an agency with a vague, general fiduciary responsibility to tourists visiting the Bahamas, than from the festival’s organizers, who had an explicit contractual responsibility to their guests to deliver on their promises barring unforeseeable acts of God, a responsibility that is enforceable in US and Bahamian courts.

Precedents in musical history: 

Jim Morrison inciting his audience to a punk-on-pork riot in Hot Summer Chicago, then retreating backstage and fleeing through a private back door (mmm, mmm, mmm, lookin’ out mah….); The Rolling Stones’ Saigon-style aerial evacuation from Altamont in the face of the Hell’s Angels; any shitty, overpriced nightclub with a half-assed HVAC system and no kitchen.

Aggravating factors: 

Kendall Jenner took undisclosed payments well into the six figures to promote the Fyre Festival, causing it to materialize out of thin air as a cultural phenomenon. This was a violation of FCC regulations requiring the disclosure of paid content on electronic media, and it was done under the auspices of a commercial festival that was mismanaged to the point of wholesale fraud. If she does federal time, even in pretrial detention, for this scam (which was NOT A SCAM!), we’ll know that there’s still, or again, something like the rule of law in the United States. Or maybe in the Bahamas. The Bahamian authorities can always file extradition papers against Kendall Jenner, Ja Rule, and their crew once they’ve filed indictments, and a chartered international Con Air flight might do these fuckers some good.

Then there’s the sandwich thing. Someone took the time to make and box shitty sandwiches by the hundreds in the midst of a logistical crisis affecting hundreds of visitors. Any wildfire food service contractor can have a decent hot chow line up and running within a matter of hours of touchdown on site. So could many amateur church disaster response operations. The Fyre Festival took place on a site adjacent to a Sandals Resort. If that joint didn’t have enough spare kitchen capacity and staff to do a hot catering job on short notice for a market-rate fee, I’m Paul Prudhomme.

Mitigating factors: 

I’ve taken the Reno bus system to gas stations and eaten better than that. Get your white ass into Maverik before eight in the evening and you can procure world-class sammich, too. Or after eight, depending on what the specific store has in stock. It’s open all night long.

The point is, these festivalgoers were idiots. We had some preppy douchebag from Raleigh carrying a generationally proliferating diversity of Roman numerals behind his surname and complaining about how he’d paid too much for some sandwiches, and meanwhile I’m over here, warm homeless, eating a hundred times better for eight dollars a meal, if I’m a glutton who gets the damn Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cookie, too, at a convenience store chain that I can reach on a bus through skid row with a $3.75 prepaid day pass. What a fucking dumbass. Not me, of course; that WASP shithead from Raleigh.

I’ve been told that I’d love Burning Man, for that matter. What absolute nonsense. I might as well pick up some thugs and losers from the rescue mission, go roll around in the dirt somewhere out near Fernley all weekend, like a fucking animal, and then throw a wad of twenties into the Truckee River. Can it just be that I live too close to the edge these days to be taken with a stone-idiotic latter-day potlatch for White People? Burning Man is one of the stupidest goddamned things I’ve heard of in my life. Lately it’s had class divisions and resentments on account of luxury tents. Great: techdicks pulling Muammar Qaddafi shit and riling up a bunch of lesser assholes who still have the money to LARP that Sudan refugee camp lifestyle and then bitch about how down-to-earth and oppressed they are.

Why does the Air Force never test-bomb the parts of the desert that could use a good nuking? To Burn Man: It’s a Barbecue Book.

Of course there’s always a barely hidden sexual purpose to these festivals. They may not be breeding grounds, exactly, or courtship grounds in any proper sense, but they have an unmistakable matchmaking purpose. They unite people of reproductive age who are presumably sexually fit and compatible under the auspices of approved chaperone organizations that tacitly promise to keep out the riffraff and fuglies. The idea here is that if you get raped, it’ll be a proper Brock Turner rape, not the ineffectual ministrations of some hopeless dweeb, or if you’re a dude, you won’t be pawed by homely bitches with weak social skills all weekend. *Most Maggie Smith Voice* What is a “week-end?” No, come to think of it, it’s more about class than looks, and when it’s about looks, it’s about looks that reinforce the same poisonous class expectations as ever. The young men at these festivals would sooner be expected to marry some none-too-pretty debutante mean girl from a good family (sic, probably) in Laguna Niguel or Alpharetta than dilute the family fortune with the smoking hot, genuinely down-to-earth maid’s daughter from Boyle Heights or trysts with some working girl from the Pork-n-Beans. I don’t know much about Florida, but what I do maybe I shouldn’t. At least I know when I’ve changed planes in Miami.

These dumbass festivals just pretend to be countercultural and subversive. Hell, the Fyre Festival was hardly even countercultural, given how thoroughly celebrity bullshit has crowded out square middle-class values in the mass mind. Surely the potential upsides to currying favor with Ja Rule and the Kardashians is greater than the upside of extra shifts doing whatever the fuck it is that the scions of the Roman numeral set in Raleigh do for a purported living. Plus one would be hanging out with the kind of people who also have enough disposable income to fly overseas in the hope of chilling with Kendall Jenner. Write it off as a networking expense, brah.

I’m more subversive than that by taking the bus. I’m more subversive than that by chatting with bums at Starbucks. There isn’t any money to be hustled out of my listening to Psychotarp’s nonsense for half an hour straight or giving the RTC another $3.75, though. For that matter, I don’t think most of the hookers I’ve hired are being shaken down by organized crime to any bothersome extent, which I can’t say about the Fyre Festival’s attendees. Some of them (the hookers, not the idiots with the case of Exuma) I know for the next thing to a fact are not being shaken down, and I’m including among these an admitted junkie and a lady with a $300-a-month lease on a Mini Cooper. I can’t stop the small businesswomen I support from supporting expensive forms of big business. For that matter, I’m not the kind of grandiose prick who thinks he should.

It isn’t necessarily that hard to cut off the racketeers. All it takes is the wherewithal to find businesses that aren’t bloody obvious rackets and do business with them instead. Thing is, you don’t get the social proof that comes with the popular insiders’ rackets that way. It’s just you and some hooker, or you and some convenience store clerk and some Cheddarwurst. That may not be Germany’s Best Wurst, but I’ve had the latter, too, at the Heidelberg in Queensbury. Not that I know Cousin Gigolo and his landlady to be classy and/or solvent enough to put on the ritz and spend ten dollars apiece eating out. Uh, not that way. But at least he gets free rent out of the deal. Some of the other fuckwads above spent more on a single case of Great Exuma than Cousin Gigolo doesn’t spend on rent in two years.

The most appalling thing about the Fyre Festival is that these rich shitheads got taken over by other rich shitheads. The Dunkin’ Doorman may not deserve my coffee money, but he damn well deserves theirs.