The permanence of the temporarily embarrassed millionaire

Let’s be perfectly blunt. America, as it is popularly understood and celebrated, is predicated on a carefully unexamined magical assumption of upward mobility for all in due course of time. This is the founding myth without which its sociopolitical regime would immediately collapse. We tried race-based chattel slavery and ended up with a civil war barely beyond living memory of independence, followed by a fitful decade-long postwar reform effort and, not quite another century later, a peacetime federal military intervention to forcibly secure the civil rights of African-Americans in the South over the violent objections of their local and state governments. There’s still a horrific percentage of Americans who believe in eternal racial attainder, but one is socially marginalized for openly expressing anything of the sort outside a narrow, aberrant swath of the Deep South. For all the talk about how racist Alabamans are, that shit hasn’t flown on the shop floors of Birmingham’s steel mills since sometime around the Second World War. You read that right: Bull Connor didn’t even have the monolithic support of his own Whitey local.

This isn’t to say that LBJ called all the Congressional bigshots into the White House shitter for some legislative shuck-and-jive and racism magically evaporated like so much morning fog from Cicero to Southie to the Upper East Side. The point is that it was driven at least partway underground, so that for the past half century bigots have generally had to offer explanations other than righteous racial attainder for why African-Americans continue to have such a large share of the poor outcomes in the United States. Overpowering social conventions have forced them to blame the shortcomings on communal cultural problems (Bill Cosby famously keeping his pants either all the way up or, in the presence of Quaaludes and fetching women not his wife, all the way off) or individual behavioral problems inhibiting individual success (e.g., non-Cosby criminality). The Overton Window was budged pretty hard, and it still hasn’t been pushed back to where it was under Jim Crow. It’s still considered beyond the pale to insist that the black man not be allowed to rise by his own merit because he was put on this earth, and certainly this continent (gee, wonder how that happened), to pick a bale by sundown.

Old-line African-Americans and the more troubled Indian tribes are the only ethnic groups that are routinely exempted from or ignored by the assumption of permanent upward mobility. African immigrants are generally believed to bypass the socioeconomic problems that bedevil native-stock blacks (Nigerians very much so, Ethiopians as a matter of course, Somalis and Liberians somewhat less so). To the extent that specific Indian nations are recognized beyond the Rez as discrete societies rather than a vague red mass, the Cherokee and the Mohawk have a reputation for levels of human development that most other tribes sadly do not. Remember, blacks and Indians are the exceptions here. No other racial or ethnic group on the face of the earth has a significant number of Americans prejudging it incapable of upward mobility upon its arrival in the United States. Yes, I’m including Cambodians and Micronesians. That’s how deep the American belief in upward mobility is.

Occasionally we get a leader who recognizes that ever-increasing and broadening prosperity is happy horseshit and cuts the brightsiding. Clintonworld hates the shit out of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump for calling bullshit on its scam and insisting that something actually has to be done to restore America to what it should be. Trump is mainly a vector of false reform, a man who has shown himself to be evil and surrounded by advisors who are even worse, but it’s striking how salty he made both the center-left and the center-right with a four-word slogan implying that not everything was sunshine and lollypops and it was time for the government to do something on behalf of those constituents it had been forsaking. Trump and Sanders were appealing to an overlapping suite of grievances, so of course they got a huge amount of overlap in their voters (YUGE!). In the past, we’ve gotten blunt candor about things being bad from Jimmy Carter, reviled for years on the hard right for the sweater and the national malaise; LBJ, with the Civil Rights Act and the Great Society Campaign; FDR, with the Four Freedoms, the fireside chats, and the New Deal; and his cousin Teddy the trustbuster. If these guys had had continuity of leadership for a century we might be in pretty good shape today. Instead, the periods between their administrations included a number of horrible bullshit artists: Harding, Coolidge, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, another Bush, Obama, and nearly another Clinton. This ignores all the authoritarian horror shows orchestrated by our best and worst modern presidents alike: Hoover’s ideologically driven ineptitude and consequent rumble with the Bonus Army look benign compared to the eugenicist lunacy and authoritarian extremism of Wilson, who, by the way, blew the singular chance to win Ho Chi Minh over to the American side at Versailles because, duh, that cracker never had any truck with a gook. Yankee Doodle Dien Bien Phu, my old boy.

What’s scary is how rarely we get leaders who have the courage to tell us that we do not and will not just magically end up with a chicken in every pot. It’s idiotic to assume that we’ll automatically remain free, healthy, and prosperous because we’re the greatest nation in the world, ever. It’s deeply scandalous that this is a mainstream political opinion and that dissidents marginalize themselves by challenging it. It’s the language of toddlers at a sporting match. Why would we not be the champions of the world? Of course, “we” won the Second World War, or our fathers did on their way from *FACT CHECK* Bethlehem to Asbury Park for the Fourth of July weekend, never mind that the USSR sustained fifty times as many casualties and had to recapture much of its own most productive territory on its way to Berlin. Yeah, maybe we’re somewhat exaggerating the amount of fashy ass we kicked as one of the last parties to join the Allied war effort.

Fixing the mess we have now means untangling seventy years of ever more muddleheaded national mythology, which is expressed in all sorts of unexpected, disorienting ways. We’re taught that we’re a wealthy, prosperous, stable country, always on its way up to greater things and always lifting up the less fortunate peoples attached to our own. We aren’t taught to ask who the fuck is “us,” an increasingly pertinent question at a time of bifurcation between a lucky, affluent, sheltered minority and a proliferating underclass of the damned. “We” kicked all that fashy ass, came home and porked our Yankee broads for some Boomers, did the civil rights thing, something-something Goodnight Saigon but whatever, spent the eighties getting rich and the nineties cutting our hair and having the emo angst but still getting even richer, kept that good shit going for most of another administration, and then, when it all came crashing down, internationally and spectacularly, decided that it was just a short “recession.” The five million-plus who disappeared from the official payroll from 2008 to 2009 were erased just as effectively from the national discussion about why the hell we even have an economy.

I mentioned the Baby Boom above. It’s axiomatic in hip circles that the Boomers are Satan incarnate, and that isn’t entirely the fault of the small, beleaguered successor generations that they barely birthed. Their most prominent members have behaved execrably for decades and left the young in a world of hurt. In many cases, however, they’ve also ruined their age peers or themselves. It’s Boomers who keep making the news for being too broke to retire. Whether they frittered their money away on stupid shit, lost it to Wall Street scammers, were obliterated by medical debt, or just got vaguely in over their heads in an increasingly hostile economy, it’s gone.

The money they lost in whatever combination of these bad moves and misfortunes isn’t coming back, so we might as well not get too worked up if a different pool of money is diverted to them through, say, Social Security. As a rule of thumb, we need to get these fuckers out of the workforce to make room for youngsters who have never been given a decent chance, and no-strings-attached cash disbursements are the best way to go about it. Also, working the indigent elderly like draft animals when their bodies are already wrecked is evil.

At a more detached philosophical level, though, the proliferation of a new cohort of elderly poor raises some interesting questions about the classic American trajectory of upward mobility. The elderly are supposed to have savings and income because of the magical economy and shit, i.e., Mr. Roosevelt giving us all Social Security, God and Paul Ryan willing, but also a lifetime of thrift and whatever. Or, as the famous RV bumper stickers say, “I’m spending my children’s inheritance!” (Also available to articulate providential respect for one’s grandchildren.) The linear shit is supposed to make everything get better over time.

It sounds ridiculous when it’s phrased so plainly, but this is exactly what we’re taught. We don’t keep seven generations (TM) in bondage; we manumit the children of our Mexicans. The only surviving member of a sibship that the Ottoman authorities otherwise arrayed on crosses on a road into Yerevan begat a rug salesman in Glendale begat defense counsel to Mr. Orenthal James Simpson begat the lady with the famous picture of her ample rump covered in coconut oil begat North and Chicago, but certainly not Humboldt Park.

Divergent lineages begat three successive generations of supercilious assholes who own three thousand acres of almonds and citrus and half the car dealerships in the valley while their self-serious cousin reads the six o-clock news in Fresno, but we don’t need to worry about any of that. I’ll be Mayor Bridgeport Daley if these aren’t classic all-American stories of grit, determination, and in no way unspoken emergent ethnic mafias that make a downwardly mobile honky appreciate Robert Mugabe’s land tenure policies in racially neutral terms. Just in California we’ve had Dutchmen, generic whiteys, Portuguese, Japanese, Armenians, Sikhs, Italians, and lately occasional Mexicans buy up untenably large holdings that leave nothing worth cultivating for anyone else. We’ve got an ethnically-American diverse planter class that won’t hire anyone but indigent Mexicans to do the grunt work on their haciendas (love too learn Spanish!), or Thais if the wetbacks get uppity. Whoop de fuckin do. Dora can teach your children how to communicate with the maid and the gardener while a tiny mixed diaspora drawn and descended from the most ruthless people from a dozen old-world countries exploit loopholes in American land ownership policy and labor law and publicly defame the employability of the US citizenry in a campaign to ensure their supply of unenfranchised foreigners who won’t complain about workplace safety problems and wage theft.

None of this is any reason not to give America a participation trophy. It continues to exist as a polity, after all, and it’s Already Great. That’s why Hillary is here to make it whole again, you deplorable basket of shit. Somehow a generation of young people was ruined by parents and coaches who didn’t go full Karolyi on their asses with constant playing fields of Eton horseshit about how sports are a crucial preparation for life, and yet the deterioration of an entire country’s labor market, social cohesion, morality, and overall health had nothing to do with the same adults failing to adequately steward their society for thirty or forty years. There are people who earnestly complain that Millennials have difficulty finding work and functioning in the workplace because AYSO failed as a vocational training program. It couldn’t possibly be something more proximal, like the modern Anglo-American workplace being a Black Mirror hellscape of precarity, artificial scarcity, and managerial aggression.

We have a republic, if we can keep it. Guess what? We aren’t fucking keeping it. Maybe it really is that the Boomers had it too easy growing up. It’s appalling how many examples there are of Boomers graduating into a healthy job market and society and leaving in their wake an unnavigable pile of rubble and shit. As Stefan Molyneux and his boys like to say, good times create soft men, and hard times create hard men. If I had drawing skills, my DeviantArt page would include reworkings of this sacred instructional imagery to include the Hardly Boys among the Moguls. Ew, get a clue!

The odd thing is that I wouldn’t describe most of what I’ve heard of postwar prosperity as soft or softening on those raised in it. For one thing, we’re talking about birth cohorts that were raised with more marketable skills than young adults today were taught in childhood. These are people who apparently knew how to cook, clean, sew, fix things, and so on by the time they started high school, let alone graduated. I’d be surprised if these skill sets haven’t deteriorated since the midcentury. And there was nothing soft about the yuppie aggression of the eighties. The Summer of Love nonsense, for that matter, tacitly brought out a latent suite of Darwinian behaviors that were antisocial but very much competent and adaptive: being the shithead who scored the pussy in that jungle took adult wiles, not the regressive neurosis and anxiety that plague so many young people today.

The bad stuff wasn’t actually started by the coddled and the soft. It was started by amoral aggressors who took advantage of the prosperous and mildly permissive times of their youth to become ethically and civically lax, then spent their middle and old age responding to ever-worsening incentives and exploiting ever more licentious loopholes. We’re barking up the wrong tree if we think these people fucked up their society and left us with a mess because they didn’t have any work ethic or drive. What they didn’t have was the sense of noblesse oblige to give a damn about those less successful than themselves. This is why we have Uber and unpaid internships instead of a national industrial policy.

To scale the fractal down to the local, where Tip O’Neill claimed to take his politics, Pot-o-Shit Friend is too lazy to steward a healthy society, or a healthy living room. Joe Dirtbag is not too lazy, but he gets his jollies from watching losers live in squalor on his property and illegally charging them rent when he can. He had the work ethic to run a restaurant and still has the work ethic to maintain several acres of wine grapes to near-commercial standards, but as the Ragin’ Canajun perceptively noted, he doesn’t have any maintenance ethic, and so his property is in shambles. Hell, if he were apathetic and inattentive, he wouldn’t try to bait other men into dangerous feuds like he did with me, Busboy, and the cop.

Busboy sitting on ass all the live-long day isn’t the problem in this context. It’s unfortunate, and the reclusive idleness of Pot-o-Shit Friend and Lady Pisspan was really unfortunate, but there is no fucking incentive to have a work ethic around there. No one fucking gets paid, and showing up to work for Joe Dirtbag means risking entanglement in some beef that threatens to turn violent if anyone responds in kind to his fighting words. This fucker owns a couple dozen acres of prime farmland, and it is literally impossible to work for a living for him. If he’s wondering why more people hanging around his property don’t work for a living, that’s why. If he doesn’t pay anyone a cent for doing heavy labor for him or lift a finger to maintain the shanties he rents out, who the hell does he expect to show any fucking responsibility as an employer or a landlord?

This is why the shady pay arrangements at the berry farm where I work the summer harvest doesn’t bother me so much. It isn’t what it should be, but the In-Laws deduct and remit FICA taxes and live by a halfway respectable labor theory of value, not to mention that they don’t harass employees the way Joe Dirtbag does, care about employee safety, and maintain a safe workplace. (Mother-in-Law’s occasional outbursts are seat-of-the-pants emotional failures of self-control, not chilling gaslighting campaigns, and she beats herself up about them afterwards more than I wish she did. If the bullshit stops and I don’t see it back on the horizon, I’m cool.) This is a case where the perfect is the enemy of the good, and the piece rate is good enough.

The Joe Dirtbag situation is an evil which is the enemy of the perfect and the good. He isn’t a decent guy who’s just kind of cheap. He’s a petty feudal lord. The down-and-out exist to be “helpers,” as the Family Shrew says, compliant little fruit bitches and shack tenants who never complain about how they’re paying an adequately housed landlord to live in a fucking travel trailer with a pit outhouse in the yard and no indoor plumbing or farmworkers whose landed boss always has a cool story about how he doesn’t have to pay anyone and will have steam coming out of his ears if anyone calls bullshit.

These fuckers act like the universe will magically provide paid work to anyone who actually needs the money while they Tom Sawyer pushovers into being their unpaid field hands. Years ago JD had the nerve to chide me for referring to a semi-paid employee of his as a field hand. For fuck’s sake, do I sound like I’m offended that my bosses at the blueberry patch refer to me and my colleagues as pickers, when that’s exactly what we are? Again, scrupulous OSHA compliance and partial compliance with wage and hour laws is a hell of an improvement over flippant noncompliance with all laws and regulations restricting nonpayment of wages, the maintenance of death traps, and harassment.

It’s absurd, nay, superstitious, to expect anyone else to step into the breach and abide by the laws of the land and common decency to make Joe Dirtbag’s farm irrelevant to the labor and housing markets when he’s allowed to do whatever the fuck he goddamn pleases at whatever cost to those around him with near-total impunity. Just as with unpaid internships and unionbusting, this shit has a contagious degrading effect. None of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that he’s obtained at below-market rates from investors has gone to ensuring that the winery building is safe, clean, and intact or that anyone on the property has a sanitary place to bathe and shit. The rent he collects doesn’t go to any of that, either.

These are the job creators of American small business. Will it surprise you to learn that JD and FS have dabbled in superstitions about trickle-down economics, just world theory, and how disloyal theoretical customers eating at Burger King and Denny’s fucked up their restaurant business in a market harboring neither of the former? Last I checked, the Family Shrew had a handwritten affirmation on a wall in their house saying, “Every day, in every way, I am growing richer.” Counterpoint: Bitch you are not. This is a woman who has gotten no less than $15,000 from my parents to cover emergency household expenses (money my dad gave JD to buy a new Subaru), in addition to tens of thousands from other parties that are beyond my ability to calculate, and she was still eating half-wilted, half-rotting lettuce out of an old one-gallon sour cream container.

I am not going to find a portal into an authentic or functional working-class existence from either of these two dipshits. They’re proud crackers whenever anyone is on to their schnorring act, mortally offended bourgeois business leaders whenever anyone is on to their insolvency, and humble pensioners just trying to get by in embarrassingly hard times whenever anyone acts like the reputable thing for them to do for their staff would be to set up an accounts payable operation. If they’re the moral standard, I shouldn’t be online writing this shit; I should be out by the freeway flying a sign. I swear, the only thing I’m paid to do when I’m working on their property is to scavenge deposit bottles. That’s it. It’s reason enough to limit my efforts to my own reclamation projects and leave JD to his own devices in the parts of the vineyard he hasn’t abandoned.

We can tell that we’re having a second Great Depression, not a fucking recession followed by a recovery of green shoots and sunshine up my ass and yours, because there are still people living on that filthy death trap of a farm and the county authorities aren’t down there every week to respond to citizen complaints. It’s a version of the rural poverty that preceded and helped precipitate the first Great Depression.

This shit won’t fucking restabilize itself. JD knows all the local do-gooders and half the elected officials. He’s married to a goddamn social worker. There’s no making this shit up. The Family Shrew has a bachelor’s degree in social work and five years’ professional experience in the field, and she’s got people shitting in a one-holer outhouse and sleeping without heat on her property. This is the kind of shit LBJ was horrified to discover in Appalachia half a century ago. But no, it harsh the mellow to blow the whistle on any of this.

Maybe I’ll be there to shake your hand. Maybe I’ll be there to share the land and then share my story about it with sheriff’s dispatch. It’s forecast to be down to twenty next week, but as JD and FS will agree, their country cabin is so warm and cozy. FS actually preened about this on a night when Island Boy sent me back down to the farm with a pair of winter socks. A few days later I nearly drove back up there and threw the socks at that mofo, Kajieme Powell with the pastries-style.

This is how they treat family. Franklin Roosevelt bragging about his warm fire on the radio was satire when the Onion published it. Around here, it’s real life. Of course these shitheads assume that blood’s thicker than water. They figure that renting a dump without plumbing from an asshole who presumes himself above all laws is thicker than water, too. Nice phone number they’ve got at Port Coquitlam code enforcement, Willie. Shame if I called it, eh.

I’m one of the ones who thinks of ways to demand redress for these horror shows without resorting to violence. That isn’t all of us in the United States. Put that CCR record on the turntable, look out your back door, and see if that isn’t a storm on the horizon. Ain’t all of us got the Walgreen’s royalties to see us through the bad times, Fogerty.

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Adventures in bourgeois feminism

How do I put this delicately? You guys are gonna get Donald Trump reelected. Excuse me, you girls and/or gals and/or strong independent women and/or buddies and friends. I guess those last two are inclusive, but mainly of Canadians, not that I can ever resolve to avoid the near occasions of canucksploitation when Sweet Melissa of the Maritimes herself got a government grant to go on a speaking tour about how to be a battered wife, since the husband she’d run over with her car had a prior scheduling conflict. I’m not here to say that he definitely didn’t rape her, but she definitely did poison that other husband’s coffee on their honeymoon in Newfoundland, and I’m not the only one you’ll find Online.

If I weren’t recapitulating the usual story about how the Lady is my Shepard, I’d be going straight into repulsive commentary that one can’t avoid by refraining from dating online or joining the Halifax Police Service, specifically, NPR. From one perspective, I should have left the radio off when I turned it off on account of the hourly news segment about whiners who got butthurt over #GrammysSoMale. From another perspective, I would have missed a worthwhile roundtable of Ira Flato, Zeynep Tufekci, and some techie Mick Gavin something-or-other about proliferating surveillance technologies. I’d have equally missed it had I merely expected Ira Flato to neurotically chap my ass like usual, so there’s that, too. Look it up for yourselves if it sounds that interesting; I don’t mind readers thinking that I’m not a feminist, but I do mind y’all expecting me to be your ever-loyal link bitch.

Other perspectives include bright-and-early plural ones, with Lionel Osborne. Everybody’s welcome and his son is dead. That’s certainly better than the “female perspective” that a feminist friend insisted would make me feel less kindly about prostitution. This woman isn’t a dummy at all, but that comment was part of a massive, catastrophic failure of American thought. This failure affects a hell of a lot more than just high feminism. This is a society whose mainstream earnestly reads Tom Friedman without asking whether that fool is on speed, or on coke. There’s something pretty wrong when random women who wouldn’t personally feel comfortable engaging in sex work do feel comfortable unilaterally erasing the individual decisions of other women with, you know, other individual perspectives. The blatantly crazy thing to anyone who looks at this mess holistically is that prostitution is the most overwhelmingly female line of work this side of surrogate pregnancy and wet nursing. I’ve never gone around claiming that Cousin Gigolo is statistically representative of the business; I assume there are more women than men turning tricks with their landlords (and ladies!) for a rent discount or waiver, and that most of them aren’t exactly my cousins, either. It’s like Kato Kaelin but with sexual privileges, and also usually with lady parts instead of gentleman parts.

By the way, what’s really wrong with these arrangements is the slumlording, but we don’t do class consciousness around here. That’s how #GrammysSoMale even became, as they say, a thing. We’re all socialized to identify with the most unattainable heights of success and get sore because what theoretically stopped us from becoming movie stars is Harvey Weinstein, not the statistical fact that most SAG members don’t get enough work or earn enough royalties from prior work to make rent. There are, what, five billion people of working age on earth and a few thousand bigshot slots in entertainment, plus a few tens of thousands of less prominent but still comfortable positions? Do the math. #STEM: Making good minds GREAT!

We’re all temporarily embarrassed millionaires. We all just wanna be big rock stars. Thanks for erasing my recurring aspiration to get legal status to pick fruit in BC, eh. It wasn’t enough to leave me to my own devices to run into walls on the HRSDC website. Seriously, I’ve felt about harvest job listings in Abbotsford the way some Mexicans feel about jobs cutting lettuce in El Centro, except that, but for the grace of God and whatever other luck went into it, I’m not desperate enough to climb sacred perimeter fences. But there’s a broader point here. It’s nigh impossible to find Americans, or at least mainstream bourgeois Americans, who admit to aspiring to do an honorable job well and earn honest wages for honest labor. Everyone insists on being excellent, which in practice means going into management and degrading subordinates for profit. It’s easier to make a living under this model by unsheathing the long knives than by developing and applying productive skills. Betsy DeVos swears that she’s all about hard work, but if you’ll excuse my indulgence in radical labor theory, collecting commissions on one’s downline is not work.

Complaining that too few women were honored in the one of the most prestigious music awards shows on earth and that anyone who feels that the honorees were chosen for merit is a raging misogynist is batshit insane. The syntax of that sentence wasn’t much more lucid, but whatever; I’ve shaken off worse than complaints about that, including relationships with leading citizens of Wyomissing. For the vast majority of Americans, including ones from affluent families who are arrogant enough to presume themselves fully exempt from economic downturns, identifying with Taylor Swift is nuts. Using gender non-parity in an awards show to infer a misogynistic conspiracy to marginalize female vocal artists is flamingly fucking nuts. Like, do you cunts EVER listen to the radio? Don’t stop, ’till there’s nothing but the, but the, nah, that was kind of gross. The Krush: 92.5: Still not the Central Coast’s favorite listen-in-prison station. Or maybe, for all I know, it is. I do know that that bullshit station has never hooked my white ass up with a job in the wine industry that it so ostentatiously celebrates.

Our catastrophic failure of thought includes, not surprisingly, a catastrophic failure of empathy. In plain terms, why the fuck would I give a shit about gender parity in the Grammys when I’m regularly sleeping in my car? Normal people with normal concerns quite frankly do not give a shit, and anyone secure and privileged enough to spare the concern for successful female entertainers who got snubbed in an awards show should realize that this is a hobbyhorse with which people of more modest means and more pressing concerns will have limited patience.

Then again, it’s stunning how sheltered some people have been raised to be. They wallow indefinitely in their comfortable ignorance because no one around them has the nerve to tell them that they’re fucking idiots. If anyone stopped by to tell them off for erasing their social inferiors, they’d just angrily erase the bearer of rude news. On Facebook, this can be done in a single majestic click.

Some of them are barely more like Taylor Swift than some waitress; they’re just secure enough. The Insurance Schmuck’s ex-fiancée is one. Like Taylor Swift, she selectively uses feminism to assert herself as a strong independent woman, but she also has an uncanny ability to find affluent boyfriends, and she all but openly cares more about the welfare of dogs than the welfare of the poor. I was warned in the past not to share this story, but fuck off if it chaps your ass, because a few years ago this chick managed to get her father to drive drunk in the middle of the night from Erie to Rochester while the Rochester Police were doing a lengthy welfare check on her and the Insurance Schmuck at her mother’s request because she hadn’t responded to the most recent text messages that her mother had sent in the aftermath of a domestic dispute that these two fine young lovers had had in their hotel room. She was in her twenties by the time this shitshow went down. If I recall correctly, she had already graduated from college.

Here’s what bothers me about this. I’ve had my parents stage similar interventions later in my life, if nothing quite that ridiculous, but I’ve always recognized that these interventions indicated some inability on my part to function independently. This chick is duplicitous enough to want to have it both ways, and from what I can tell everyone around her has spent her entire life tacitly encouraging her to do exactly that. These dipshits think her shtick is cute. In reality, it is objectively antisocial and dyscivic. Scaled up, it destroys societies.

This woman never struck me as particularly talented. In a healthy society, that would be fine because she’d still be able to make a decent living doing something requiring mediocre talent. Unfortunately, she lives in a particularly licentious corner of an extremely unhealthy society. This is why I’m convinced that she specifically is a fount of fascism, under one partisan label or another. And I’m picking on her because she’s frighteningly representative of the failspawn of our generation, in particular the downwardly mobile young women. We have a huge number of children of affluence who are inevitably reverting to the mean in a period of extreme socioeconomic dysfunction and cutthroat immorality. They’ve been indoctrinated since early childhood with a toxic combination of self-esteem drivel, devious horseshit about their own meritocratic worth, and exhortations to greatness.

Do tell that this may not end well when it coincides with a Fourth-Turning secular collapse of the international economy. I’ve been in the schools. I’ve seen it. I’ve met the results of this campaign. Some of them have turned out better than could reasonably be expected of them. Others are fucking nightmarish.

This mishmash of braindead talking points is most effective on the least talented. These are the ones who need to get in on whatever identity politics scam they can to get ahead since whatever talents they do have will leave them in poverty under our current socioeconomic dispensation. Bourgeois feminism works for up to half of them, give or take. Mostly take, because lower-class women know damn well that this song and dance isn’t being performed for them. All this Lean In shit is part of the grand Dunning-Kruger operation to convince children of privilege that they’re as special as their own upbringings and to shield them from the disheartening evidence that their own desultory skills would wash them down into the beleaguered underclass without outside intervention.

Sheryl Sandberg is shrewd enough to tell that there’s a market for this garbage. Oprah is definitely more functional and thoughtful than the women she targets; Sandberg probably is. I mentioned Zeynep Tufekci above, and I don’t recall hearing her bitch about ridiculous petty grievances of the sisterhood. Nor do I often hear women who are competent and accomplished at much of anything, from running a farm to practicing nursing or medicine to just being really fucking well-read and well-spoken, gripe promiscuously about shit like how hurtful it is that so few women were honored at the Grammys and some male chauvinist pig had the balls to justify it on the basis that most of the worthy honorees the committee found were men. I do sometimes hear them complain about the sort of women who do complain about this shit, if you can stand the meta world discord (don’t say I didn’t, say I didn’t warn you about that sort of thing), and I do know that if I saw prominent, privileged men carrying on like on a regular basis and getting platformed by major news organizations I’d be furious.

This still doesn’t answer why I keep listening to NPR. I can’t account for myself, except to say that it’s pretty impossible to catch any of the good stuff without at least risking exposure to something absolutely fucking retarded and disgraceful. #SPORTS are mixed up with shameful talking points about Russian meddling that Scott Simon has been instructed to disseminate, but I end up sleeping straight through #SPORTS, half-waking for five seconds of commentary about the President’s foul mouth, and remembering nothing at all after I’ve finally awoken for good for the afternoon but Chicago Senpai saying “shithole” on air. I’m actually doing all right today, since I caught most of a mostly good episode of Science Friday, which I always expect to suck ass. I don’t suppose I have a good voice for radio, but with talent like that, and the Radio Lab and TED Radio Hour assholes, I can’t say that I’m uncompetitive. As they say about sex in Maine, it’s all relative.

My problem is that I keep listening to a network that revolves around people who at least pretend to be doing something with their college degrees. Before I came in to write this I was scavenging deposit bottles from parking lots in Reno. Grievances about butthurt divas getting other women butthurt because they think they’ll be Taylor Swift someday if only men stopped being so mean obviously resonate with me. I’m in a nice part of Reno, as Reno goes; I’m not a fucking mascochist, now; but I’m not out here pretending that a fancy college education in the liberal arts and also some sciences enable me to function in American office cultures that are Dilbert hell minefields, is why I recognize which cans the State of *OPSEC* Whore Gone will pay me to turn in when I’m next in *THIS PLACE DOESN’T EXIST, EITHER* Slammeth Balls, or produced the literary skill to traffic “lyrics” of “Benny and the Jolts” and “Gerry and the Hearstoppers” “tunes.” Did I mention that modern American society devalues the shit out of independent and informal education, along with independent thought? I don’t expect all of my own material to be original when I’m shitposting about Mounties again, nor do I expect payment for recycling my shiznit. What, me Durden?

As Lenin said, the intellectuals are not society’s brains, but its shit. He wasn’t entirely wrong, and Soviet state radio wasn’t entirely worse than NPR. I’m just some asshole with a blog. They’re just some assholes with a federally funded, Congressionally chartered national radio network. Mark my words: any fund drive that I undertake won’t be THAT bad.

Siraj and Me

When I saw lefty Twitter elements telling Siraj Hashmi to get fucked for dissing Chelsea Manning, I thought, gee, I think I may know that guy, and then, holy shit, I think I went to school with him. I didn’t recognize his picture, but the name is awfully unusual, and sure enough, it’s the same dude.

My first reaction upon confirming this was to hate Dickinson College even more than usual. Of course our dear Dickerson Collitch was sending meritocratic hotshots to the imperial center to enforce Democratic Party orthodoxy on Ben Cardin’s behalf for a living. *MY OLD SCHOOL* really is a hidden Ivy.

I didn’t exactly know Siraj, but I knew who he was, and by Facebook’s count alone, we have dozens of friends (“friends”) in common. But knowing most of these people is absolutely fucking useless. Learning that yet another social climber I often saw around campus gets a byline to drag primary challengers who threaten the incumbencies of elected officials who feel entitled to their jobs didn’t make me wonder why the hell I’m scavenging deposit bottles for the pocket change (duh: the money), but why in God’s name I can’t get payroll employment and decent housing on demand. No one pays tuition to a bumptious school like Dickinson on the suspicion that the completion of its coursework and receipt of its diploma won’t be a safeguard against unemployment and homelessness. It really is that simple; shove the talk of individual meritocratic pluck back up your ass if you disagree.

It isn’t just the amount of money that that school’s graceless, ungrateful administration hoovers up from all possible directions: I also knew far too many people with overt psychiatric or substance abuse problems that were serious enough to call into question their employability, and as far as I can tell the vast majority of them are gainfully employed, usually in prestigious positions. There’s something other than meritocracy at play when dozens of people who consistently acted like they were on course to end up drifting between rehab programs, psych wards, and SRO’s on the Bowery instead end up living in nice apartments in nice parts of our most expensive cities and holding down well-paid, stable, professional (sic, ish) jobs. So help me, I am not the only dysfunctional graduate among the people I knew there, or the most dysfunctional, and I’m sure in retrospect that there in fact was a great deal of coke drifting around campus, even though I only recall hearing about other drugs (mostly pot, hash, and shrooms). I say this because Dickinson enrolls and duly barfs back out exactly the class of entitled, belligerently grandiose prep-ass shitheads who drive cocaine demand worldwide.

Okay, not so much in interior BC; that disgraced Mountie sarge from the public information office at the Kamloops detachment wasn’t all about selling that base to investment bankers. That market figures, why buy crack already baked when you can bake your own at home, like Papa Murphy’s? *Sloppy second opinion from Rob Ford incoming* Because by the time you’re ready to smoke some crack, you’re too fucking blacked-out drunk to cook shit. I mean, I don’t see why else I’d smoke crack. Do you guys smoke that shit when you’re sober? Jesus Christ, Lillooet must be a shithole.

Cool, the one word that I was awake enough to hear Scott Simon utter on air over the weekend and still remember after I properly woke up. #StayWoke. Monty Robinson doesn’t need crack to commit perjury and DUI vehicular manslaughter. Here we go again; what a shock. I know most of you didn’t come here to rundel in the jungle; y’all are still here for that crap I wrote about Gulf Arab gents shitting on Western rent girls, and that’s gross. Not that I can dictate another man’s taste, of course. As my second-degree acquaintance Taylor Swift always says, haters gonna haidt; sheikh it off.

Surely you’ll be asking the Lord to have Mersey upon me if I force another Gerry and the Heartstoppers meme into this discourse. On this side of the 49th Parallel, it’s traditional for a man to take up fishing for his midlife crisis, so as much as I, SDPD reject and all, admire those who somehow get onto the force hella late in life (Chuck Quackenbush, too), I can’t help but question Fishy Horse’s judgment for going to Depot. No, that’s not true; it’s the recreational fishermen who are disturbed. None of this is to say that the RCMP isn’t a shitshow; it was having salacious sexual harassment scandals years ago, before that was cool, to the point of routinely sidelining disgruntled female constables on long-term disability at 100% pay because their corporals were assholes that the brass didn’t feel like disciplining. The RCM Buddy/Guy RC is a great agency for those who want to get paid to look dead sexy on a horse, then get paid to drink all day in their apartments and/or quietly wish that they were back on the island in chest waders, tugging on a big-ass net.

Dickinson graduates get paid for dumber, more useless shit than any of that. Hell, my parents live near Saratoga Springs, and Sauce Boss never did anything that ridiculous with a horse. That right there is the kind of thing that seems to happen to those who are blessed with discretionary income more than they are with sense. They dress up like Pride and Prejudice extras to go watch runts batter thoroughbreds with riding crops until they break their legs. It’s an elaborate mating ritual, and the eugenics aren’t just for the horses. It’s that feeling when one must court exclusively with those who are suitably white, or at least suitably White, so that those who marry into the family can afford their gambling problems. If you come across a bunch of inbred-looking mediocrities at the track, that’s probably why.

The asshats whose stranglehold on Maryland politics Chelsea Manning is trying to break have more of that hybrid vigor, but this doesn’t mean that they’re defensible. I’m guessing that the Pimlico crowd is Republican, which is just as well, since they’re just about the last constituency that the reputable parts of the Democratic base would want dictating the agenda.

The clarifying thing about shooing the Main Line trash off to the Republican Party was that it maintained a reasonably coherent adversarial relationship between a highbrow reactionary party and a lowbrow leftist party. It forced the affluent to admit that they were looking out for their own class interests, in case anyone was gullible enough to think that they were doing anything else. It limited the cognitive dissonance to have William F. Buckley squaring off against Cesar Chavez or what have you.

What we have today is a clusterfuck. The Democrats still swear that they’re looking out for the workingman, but Katie bar the fucking door against anyone who gets in the way of total yuppie aggrandizement. Then they wonder why the poor vote “against their interests,” since the Democratic Party is obviously defending the interests of laid-off miners and assembly line workers by catering obsequiously to MBA’s, corporate lawyers, and fellow-traveling SuperZIP desk jockeys. The poors must just be a bunch of ignorant,  uneducated religious zealots, certainly not attentive observers fed up with a party that insists on brownnosing every asshole who has ever tried to lay them off and then condescendingly blame them for being out of work.

The Democratic Party’s base in Maryland is said to be even worse: specifically, dominated by government workers. If these were just schoolteachers, yeomen running the region’s public works, and the like, it’d be fine, but what it really means is that the Democratic Party sucks up to every self-serious piece of shit who works for the NSA, along with every equally mentally disordered social climber who is attached in some capacity to Capitol Hill or the White House.

These are the worst government employees in the country. Only Virginia rivals Maryland for the low moral character of the residents it has working in and around government. This is why the Old Dominion has gone light purplish-blue: enough hangers-on in the functionally reactionary arms of the federal government have been convinced that the Democratic Party is the protector of their livelihoods and that their own welfare rises and falls with that of the alphabet soup of three-letter national security agencies to swing NoVa 60-40 or better in favor of Democratic candidates. That, and the Republicans have their thumbs up their asses on the regional traffic problem. Their increasing cultural affinity for the Democratic Party, though, is premised on the party being tacitly but fundamentally reactionary. They’re the imperial enforcer class. They aren’t about to get stoked for anyone who explicitly condemns the imperial order and implies that their jobs make them personally complicit in war crimes.

Hence all the dipshits this region sends to high office: Tim Kaine, Steny Hoyer, Ben Cardin. This list alone includes the weirdo who did jack shit for Hillary Clinton’s campaign except make her look bad by association with him, the gutless wonder who (along with Nancy Pelosi, because of course) forced Barack Obama to scuttle his plan to tax 529 college savings plans, as one does when one represents Affluenza Acres in Congress, and the tyrannically censorious shit ticket who wants to criminalize the BDS movement. That alone is reason enough to run Cardin out of Congress. He’s so eager to curry favor with the worst Jews on earth that he’s proposing to abrogate the US Constitution in fealty to a regional imperial power that, incidentally, once bombed a US naval ship, causing multiple casualties. I’m not exactly Jewish, but I’m Jewish enough to assert that this whole sick spectacle makes American Jewry look bad and that I will blame Ben Cardin if I ever catch blowback for it.

The way everyone involved in this movement for compulsory Zionism and fealty to whatever governments besides Israel’s are sloshing around in the garbage bag of official US allies is batshit fucking insane. Releasing video evidence of war crimes by US military personnel is treasonous, but moving to subvert the US Constitution on behalf of a foreign power is not. In what parallel civic universe is it acceptable to shitcan the First Amendment because a foreign government is butthurt about activists calling it out for human rights abuses? It would really be worthwhile to reinvigorate a Yiddish tradition of shanda smackdowns in this country, just so that troublemakers from AIPAC think twice before starting shit that makes other Jews and Semi-Semites look bad. No joke, I’d rather be ethnically associated with Harvey Weinstein; at least that way, I could point to Our Lord’s Servant Gerald and J. Denny Dundiddly as gentile concelebrants in the fellowship of the grope and the perv.

Siraj Hashmi trots out barely sourced anecdotes about how “some think” that Manning is a traitor who belongs in prison for the rest of his original term and shouldn’t have gotten hormone treatments for the purpose of sex reassignment behind bars. It’s no great accomplishment to find Beltway loudmouths who indulge in such gross fantasies of uninterrupted revenge, but why should the Democratic base tolerate, let alone cater to, this trash sack of bullies and hired thugs? This is extremely illiberal argumentation. A reasonable political alignment might include one major party with a bloodlust for carceral overdrive, but we already have the GOP for that, and that’s as good a place as any to shoo off anyone who tries to corrupt the decency of the Democratic Party with shitty bureaucratic revenge fantasies. I’d be quite happy for the Democrats not to contest the Republicans’ claim on depraved authoritarians and their heinous fantasies of incarcerating political prisoners for decades on end and punitively denying them medical care. That’s hateful, toxic garbage that no decent party should welcome.

“Some” “think” all sorts of crazy shit. This doesn’t mean that they deserve a platform for the normalization of their vicious lunatic notions. The guy on the LA subway the other week whom I had the beat cop go check in on thought that his daughter might be on the train and looked like he might lunge at any of our throats in his quest to find her. I’ve encountered other disturbed people who were muttering stories of blunt-force trauma to the knees or thought we all might be surrounded by portals to other dimensions. There’s no reason to give them a platform just because they have a story to tell. If a nutjob shows up with violent hallucinations and delusions of persecution, there’s no reason not to let him find his own audience, or to have patrol turf him out to the Hollywood Division if he won’t maintain an indoor voice and gait on the train.

We all ought to be as sensible about no-platforming equally disturbed political movements. A college education might be worth something if it taught the discernment between the decent and the indecent, the sane and the insane, and instilled the moral courage to call out disordered argumentation without fear or favor, but it wasn’t in college that I learned how to call out authority figures. As the half-cocked excuse for political science in the link shows, college didn’t do that for Siraj Hashmi, either. That’s a great example of what’s wrong with the selective objectivity of American journalism. We end up with the equivalent of soundbites from Kevin Vickers and Melissa Ann Shepard about whether or not it’s wrong to kill people for money and amusement. There’s no discernment of the bad from the good, and, so long as there’s a faction advancing it, no refusal to give a position a platform because it’s blatantly heinous.

The horserace concern-trolling has Hashmi all worked up about how omg Manning primarying Cardin might make deep-blue Maryland elect, if you’ll get this, a Republican. What, like Larry Hogan? LOL. Love too learn that a novice primary challenger is the reason why the Democratic Party may not have a stranglehold on statewide elected office in Maryland, as opposed to Maryland’s sitting Republican governor.

And if Manning spoils the election for some theoretical Republican? Boo fucking hoo. Cardin hasn’t alienated me to the extent that Hillary Clinton has, probably because ignorance is bliss, but he’s one US Senator out of 100, representing a state that has been exceptionally corrupted by some of the worst possible federal largesse. If that AIPAC-rimming dipshit is indispensable to the Democratic Congressional Caucus, the Democratic Party is screwed.

Besides, Cardin and the voters whose support he most cherishes are exactly the constituency that needs to be humiliated for the national good. We aren’t talking about an incrementalist moderate like Doug Jones running against the execrable Gadsden Lovin’, or Claire McCaskill, a Blue Dog embarrassment under normal circumstances, holding the line against a sexually superstitious religious zealot like Rep. Legitimate Rape. Don’t tell my heart, my akin breakin’ heart. We’re talking about a constitutionally transgressive blowhard running interference on behalf of a foreign government and representing a state where, in spite of the commanding lead that his party usually holds in statewide elections, his partisans are up in arms about how the party will be wrecked by a primary challenge, and he therefore deserves to proceed into the general election unopposed.

Already I like the idea of a Republican junior senator more than that of another six years of Ben Cardin. As a rule of thumb I prefer Democrats to Republicans, but I won’t mind losing one seat out of a hundred to punish these assholes for their boundless sense of entitlement. This is for the same reason that I enjoyed Trump as punishment, and still sometimes do. The people who get saltiest about these upsets are exactly those I want to see humiliated with a dose of their own medicine. If they throw a shit fit over the loss of “their” Senate seat in Maryland, I’ll just point and laugh.

It’s the same thing I would have done had Trump won Oregon or Vermont. The 2016 election was so dynamic, and the underlying sociology so unspeakably weird and unstable, that I thought he had a perceptible chance of carrying California. I didn’t consider twenty- or thirty-point swings in his favor from the professional polls to the electoral returns to be out of the question. In both Oregon and Vermont, I thought that the proud independence of the electorates might sink Hillary’s chances, with traditionally Democratic voters bristling violently at the dictatorial campaign to compel them to be #WithHer. Losing either Oregon or Vermont would have made the Democratic establishment shit bricks. That’s their territory, after all, and they weren’t ones to consider the possibility that it’s bad political strategy to demand the unbroken loyalty of a state whose very popular US Senator they just ratfucked out of a presidential nomination that he would have taken straight to a general election victory. Hell, even a one-state Bernie win in the general or a victorious cruise of the Stein Steamer down Lake Champlain would have been glorious, not just as a positive win but also as a way to pump up the beautiful Hillbot salt works.

Say what you will about my political judgment, but I think we came pretty close to something of the sort. Bernie didn’t win office in Vermont by barking, okay, listen up, you hayseed ingrates, I’m from Brooklyn and this is how we’re gonna do things. He got there and stayed there by having the humility to listen to people. Donald Trump got into office by sounding like he halfway understood the concerns of workaday Americans and maybe gave a damn, while Hillz lost the Rust Belt, Appalachia, and the entire election with her air of superiority. I was intellectually prepared to see her lose a number of solidly blue states by provoking a stealth male backlash against her feminazi grandstanding, along with Oregon and Vermont for being a carpetbagging city slicker who won’t stop telling her inferiors what to do.

In the end, the Donald didn’t win any states that no one was expecting him to win. He did just well enough at the margins in a bunch of swing states to carry the election without stealing any of the hardcore Democratic strongholds for the majestic offering of salt. That is, Democratic voters who were disgruntled with Hillary and her campaign turned out for her anyway. I bloody well didn’t, but quite a few did. She won decisively in many of the counties where Jill Stein did well. Conversely, Trump overcame serious spoiler challenges from Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin, although to judge from DNC talking points they don’t count as spoilers because, hush, let’s not talk about that.

The shitty ingrates who run the Democratic Party have gotten more loyalty from their disaffected base than they’ll ever admit, so I don’t see why they shouldn’t continue to do without mine. Their conversion of an erstwhile labor party to a rallying cry for overeducated douchebags I used to see around campus doesn’t fucking help.

Kaiser Permanente makes me want to expatriate

Bear in mind that I’m not one of the loudmouthed whiners who bumptiously threaten to emigrate every time the electorate coughs up a butthurtful president. As the Founders would agree, the President is merely the presiding executive. Yes, Wow Such educational Much insights Omg beth ruyak Very explain. Never mind that this does have to be explained to the brainwashed hordes who stumble around our republic on an endless contact high from the presidency’s inflated, bogus majesty. Presidents come, presidents go, and Trudeau, Canada’s mentionable Justin, is something of a weaselly little shit himself.

US healthcare policy is grotesquely wrong in ways that transcend our presidential administrations. Employer-based insurance arose as a wartime contingency that industrial firms used to woo employees without falling afoul of federal wage controls. Let’s spell it out: that’s “wartime” as in World War II, exactly the war you had in mind. WWII ended in 1945. The UK established its National Health Service before it completely ended wartime rationing. Tommy Douglas rolled out Medicare in Saskatchewan in the early sixties and took it national mid-decade.*Very Gary Johnson voice* What is “Saskatchewan?” Hint: it’s closer to the United States than Tommy is by blood to Kirk and Michael.

There is something deeply, embarrassingly wrong with a country that cannot, over the course of more than half a century, replicate the very successful and popular national health insurance system maintained by the country with which it shares its longest land border and predominant language. (Sorey, mes putains, mais c’est comme ça exactement.) This is not a cultural foible; it’s an utter fucking national disgrace, not to mention a relentless attack on the constituents who are forced to make do with a deliberately sabotaged insurance system. It’s not like we used our national sovereignty to come up with a novel healthcare system that actually fucking works. What we did was take a lame ad hoc arrangement whose very origin was disingenuous, kept it halfway functional for twenty or thirty years, and then spent another thirty or forty years deliberately wrecking it before finally making a half-assed, piecemeal effort at reform that still arbitrarily allowed a large minority of the citizenry to fall through the cracks. We yoked our healthcare system to a labor market that we then deliberately destroyed. On what planet is any of this shit reputable?

My dealings with Kaiser Permanente are a result of the scandalously feeble reform effort mentioned above, euphemized as, LOL, the Affordable Care Act. I don’t want to hear a damned word about how I could have applied for Medicaid instead; in a decent society, I’d have Medicare by now, and you would, too. Those of us who so much as dabble in payroll employment already contribute deductions to Medicare for the care of the elderly, the disabled, and so forth, so why in all holy fuck can’t our federal government figure out how to expand the same system, which bloody well works, to everyone, and stop fucking siloing us into dipshit narrow-eligibility plans for which we may suddenly become ineligible for no good reason? This shit shouldn’t even exist. It’s fine if KP or whatever wants to pitch specialty services to people who are already covered by a functioning national health insurance system, but the patchwork that we have now is criminal. The extra disruptions that it imposes during changes in work status alone are proof of its criminality. The neoliberal weasel pack obviously relishes its use of employer-based insurance as a cudgel to get Americans to seek and hold down jobs, but Medicaid beneficiaries face the prospect of losing eligibility precisely because they responded as intended to this incentive to work, but fuck all y’all, we’re living in an Uber economy now. Say what you will about Tim Hortons being run by absolute shitheads; at least they aren’t in a position to fuck up their employees’ healthcare every time they dick around with their hours or employment status. #TIMMEH!

Thanks to advance premium tax credits whose mechanisms I can’t face researching, I’m now able to pay my premium bills without financial hardship. This would feel like something resembling customer service if I could figure out what in the everloving fuck KP will be charging me if I, you know, need medical care. But for the grace of God, etc., I don’t have any conditions necessitating examination or treatment on any sort of timely, let alone emergency, basis, but I do have some minor complaints that would be worth treating. My blood pressure, on the high side, probably alarms others more than it alarms me. I guess I could use some psych services, but like hell do I have any plans to seek psychiatric care in the United States ever again; that much I WILL be taking abroad, if I take it at all.

More pertinently, I guess, I have a small lesion on my forehead that I’d like to have excised. It’s mostly just a nuisance, but it can be painful to the touch, and it seems too big to prudently excise myself, as I’ve done with skin tags. This is how I know what shits run Kaiser. I researched the cost of getting the damn thing removed through KP’s patient portal, and I couldn’t come up with a fucking price quote. They’ve got half a dozen or a dozen or fuck if I can accurately say how many pissant codes for different dermatological procedures, but they don’t have anything like a standard outpatient dermatological excision cost. It depends on what the doc thinks about my lesion.

If I go to a private dental clinic for a cleaning, the dentist doesn’t tell me afterwards that I’m on the hook for $100, not the standard $75, because my teeth are kind of big and funny, not like normal teeth. Dental care in the United States is a classist clusterfuck, but at least it generally has transparent price schedules. Not being formally trained in dermatology, I don’t know what exactly I have on my forehead; that’s why I’d like to have someone who does know about dermatology identify and remove it. In an accountable system, this would be done by someone whose network doesn’t have a kickback arrangement with the pathology lab, not a presumption of innocence that I’m ready to grant Kaiser Permanente. There might be a compelling medical reason to have the lump put under the scope, but I wouldn’t trust KP to make that decision with my interests in mind rather than its own, or to refrain from soaking me for the path workup just to pad its own bottom line, not when I can’t tell what it plans to charge for the five or, liberally, ten minutes needed to lop it off in an outpatient clinic. Healthcare in the United States is increasingly devoted to the arbitrary hosing of vulnerable patients with junk bills, and I have a $6,500 annual deductible to exhaust before I’ll stop being a profit center for Kaiser.

One of the points of being insured is that it should make more sense to get medical treatment at home than to go abroad. That is not what we have in the United States. It probably makes more sense for me to seek routine medical care in Mexico than from “my” doctor in Rancho Cordova. I can more accurately say that Bob is “my” conductor on the Lakeshore Limited from Buffalo to Rensselaer, since I’ve ridden with him twice. KP’s patient portal gives me the option to e-mail “my” doctor, so theoretically I could badger him with demands to be told exactly what his practice will charge me for treatment, demands that I do not have to make of Amtrak, which discloses the full cost of its fares upfront. I’d expect much less, and probably none, of this sort of blindside junk billing from a clinic in Tijuana, and I know that there isn’t any on Amtrak or MTS. The trolley goes right to the city gates, mostly (muh fuckin Ped West), so it’s mainly a scheduling problem, as in, when does the train leave. I may be wrong, but I assume that a Mexican clinic, private or public, would charge less than Kaiser for exactly the same standard of care, and that a private clinic would probably have a shorter wait time.

William and Mary certainly won’t do, now, but Guadalajara might. Guad is said to be home to one of the crappiest medical schools in the Americas, but I don’t know how much of that is just the snobbery of docs who were admitted to medical schools stateside. Regardless, love too militarily restabilize Grenada on behalf of the US expatriate student body. I’m waxing a bit flippant here, but I am not kidding. We have one of the worst healthcare systems on earth, including the Third World. We’re starting to fall behind Rwanda on primary care. True story: Rwanda has taken advantage of Western foundation money to scale up comprehensive home visits for HIV patients, and meanwhile American hospitals have security guards wheeling freshly discharged patients out to bus stops in the snow while they’re still wearing hospital gowns. This is anecdotal evidence, but try accounting for the existence of these anecdotes. I’m n0t pulling these stories out of my ass. We’ve got a bunch of extremely bad processes and extremely bad outcomes, coupled with the highest costs for patients and insurers. None of our First-World peer nations can compete with what we spend on healthcare as a percentage of GDP, and the rest of the First World consistently beats the shit out of the United States on patient outcomes. How hard do we really think it is for Mexico, with its halfway functional and accountable government, to also smoke us across the board?

And of course Canada leaves us in a cloud of dust. When Canadians come to the United States for treatment, it’s usually affluent ones bypassing the waits for elective treatment at home by purchasing it at a premium from American hospitals. Don’t ignore for a second that they also bypass all the obstructions and traps that American hospitals, often the very same hospitals, set in front of American patients. They pay enough to be exempted from the red tape and extortion. If one of our hospitals even tried to screw them over, they could summarily repatriate and have the Canadian courts order the scumbags to get fucked. US hospitals have stronger incentives to treat Canadian patients well than they have to treat American patients well, precisely because these Canucks have more options at their disposal, notably including the quite adequate hospitals back home.

Let’s not compare Canadians who get their medical care at the Mayo Clinic with Americans who get screwed raw by whatever shitty rent-seeking community hospital happens to be nearest by when they take sick. The Rwandan accompagneteur program, which provides regular home visits to indigent patients living in huts, is a much more apt comparison. I’m not trying to preemptively argue that the Canadian government has never run a useless shitshow of a clinic on an Indian reserve, since that’s plausible enough, but we can’t take at face value the White Whines of Canada’s most affluent medical tourists when they, or whatever stateside shitbirds are defaming their provincial and federal governments from a think tank perch, complain about wait times. Besides, it’s not like I was ever told that I’d have to wait a month and a half to get a bunion examined by a podiatrist in Lebanon, PA. We totally don’t have wait times for non-emergency care in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, or atrocious maternal and child mortality rates.

It’s harder to get an answer from Kaiser Permanente about how much it will charge to lop that fucking lump off my forehead in a ten-minute slash-and-dash than it is figure out from the immigration and HRSDC websites what I’d have to do to obtain legal residency in Canada. This speaks much better of Canada, which is not my home and native land, than it does of the United States, which is. This ain’t a case of love it or leave it. I’m not a loud patriot, but I’m a patriot. I’d consider an offer of Canadian citizenship a high honor, much higher than OBE or OC or some shit, but I would not accept an offer of Canadian citizenship lightly. Expatriating while remaining registered to vote in California, as is my right as a US citizen with established residency ties to California, and using expatriation as the basis for an exemption from the Obamacare individual mandate, is a completely separate matter. That’s no failure of patriotism. Patriotism does not demand submission to the most boneheaded and corrupt dictates of an unaccountable, bought-off government. Neither did patriotism demand submission to the draft and deployment to Vietnam to hold the line against communism in Southeast Asia, or, as this mission was reinterpreted in the enlisted ranks, to kill the fucking shit out of the fucking gooks. Canada came through for us when Lyndon used that fool’s errand to get his constituents killed for the aggrandizement of his Johnson. Canada came through for quite a few of my country’s fugitive slaves, too. I don’t see how it didn’t treat them better than my own people did.

No, I’m not trying to start Canada Day celebrations five and a half months early. That’s not why I maintain the internet’s treasury of Sick Willie, Sweet Melissa of the Maritimes, Colonel Underpants, and Northside Juice and the Shady Blues memes, even if Thick Lizzie is no sexy male nurse Lynn Majors. I’ve heard of a number of serious complaints about communal tensions and problems with the police affecting Afro-Canadian communities in Nova Scotia and Ontario. I’m not about to get up on Monty Robinson’s high horse and insist that Canada is the perfect community for the Community, although, if I did, I wouldn’t get drunk and fall off, and I’ve never committed a fatal DUI. It was fun when Kwesi Millington sued the CBC for defamation, and it would be fun if Sauce Boss sued me for accusing him of constantly falling off his horse. All of this is more fun than health policy in the United States. Canada has its shambolic intersectional creeps, murderers, perjurers, bus cannibals, and drunks, but it also had Tommy Douglas. We had FDR, the half-measure Douglas who left behind the employer-based health insurance system that we still can’t fix. Frankie Boy couldn’t have known what a clusterfuck we’d make of this ad hoc wartime arrangement that was directly not his doing but the doing of Business Plot industrialists who had been brought only partly to heel by popular and government pressure in the midst of a systemic economic collapse.

I don’t feel like dignifying any Merle Haggard-ass blowhards who would like to impugn my patriotism. This is my country, but it’s a deeply sick and dysfunctional country. It’s unreasonable to assume that we’ll somehow magically keep this whole deal together and heal ourselves in due course of time when our national track record of reform is so poor. Go figure that the love-it-or-leave-its cheer on everyone who bails on Venezuela or Cuba on account of grievances with socialistic central planning. This isn’t really about loyalty to place. Michael O. Church is right that America as a concept has historically meant many things, but what’s worrisome is that so many of these things have been powerfully destructive and evil. Our healthcare system as it has evolved for most of living memory is no result of national virtue.

And we’ve damned most of a continent by our very political culture and geography. Canada and Mexico are the only sizable countries that are within close range for expatriation, and they, plus a number of Central American countries, are within firing distance of one of the most insanely grandiose empires the world has ever known. This is one of the really disturbing things about healthcare policy in the United States. This chronic dysfunction and extortion isn’t being codified by the corrupt government of some tinpot dictatorship, but by the world’s sole extant imperial hyperpower. This arguably ignores China, but the Chinese politburo is more pragmatic and less grandiose. Whatever is wrong with the United States will inevitably threaten its neighbors. We aren’t a backwater like Honduras or El Salvador. Those countries have stumbled into national disaster, and we’ve rarely been bashful about giving them a good hard push, but they don’t have the demographic capacity to overwhelm their neighbors. We do. This can’t be good news for North America long-term.

As Juarez said, Mexico is so far from God and so close to the United States. Canada, for its part, has been aptly described as a pimple on the American ass. The saving grace, perhaps, is that Kaiser Permanente can’t begin to work out the billing code to remove it.

Rooms into which Lucretia walks: a disgusting tale of violence and extreme prejudice

From time to time my Facebook feed burps up a reposting of an old saw by Mark Twain about how travel is fatal to prejudice and shit. I believe “fatal to prejudice” is a verbatim excerpt, but I really don’t feel like looking any of that shit up for accuracy. It’s a twee, insipid, foolish sentiment, one of the great Victorian self-owns. Living in the bizarre hellworld of our current gilded age is excruciating, but at least we don’t have Mark Twain, a wildly successful novelist, directly lecturing an audience made up overwhelmingly of his socioeconomic inferiors about its duty to travel–basically, yo, get out and broaden your horizons, doggy–instead of considering the possibility that intractable circumstances having to do with their limited means prevented them from leaving town, meaning that one can’t necessarily afford to travel, nigga. At least I must hear of this happy horseshit only secondhand, a century and change after the fact.

No, I will not be looking up the date, either. I can place Twain’s gross, meretricious utterance in the correct part of the American socioeconomic cycle and opposite the correct suite of transportation technologies, and that’s enough. It was a time when one might have traveled to Cleveland by steamboat, or by train, also a steamer. You could have a water-level speed train, if you’d just lay down the tracks. *Peter Gabriel, one hand on the wireless, other hand caressing the emergency brake* Good God, this guy makes me sound normal. It was also a time when Cornelius Vanderbilt had his wife committed to an asylum for refusing to leave Staten Island. She must have preread Momma Leone’s Note.

This was not a healthy, balanced society. Mark Twain condescended to the homebody poor about the virtues of travel in the midst of a quite full human lifespan of intensifying vice and social dysfunction in his country. It’s my country, too, but it doesn’t always feel like it. Love it or leave it? I was looking into the Canadian immigration process under Harper and Obama, friend. By some measures, it took the Great Depression and the Second World War to put a stop to an orgy or elite rapacity and meddlesomeness that started around the time that the Erie Canal was completed. The precise dates are only vaguely important. Historians, such as I theoretically am at the bachelor’s level, get too fucking intellectually invested in idiotic trivia, basically chiding their peers and the noncredentialed about how the madman’s subway screed started at 17:35 on the Uptown 6 train, not at half past five on the 2 Train, while missing the part about how he wasn’t just muttering rudely about all the bitches he’d bang but was also explicitly threatening to gut his enemies with a bowie knife.

Direction notwithstanding, will I see YOU tonight? Just yesterday afternoon I saw a guy on the LA subway who was so violently insane, yelling at the top of his lungs on board the train about how there is no God and no Devil and he couldn’t find his daughter, that I flagged down a passing cop after we both got off, me for some extra space and him God only knows why. The cop thought that what I described sounded utterly routine (“We always have that”), but he came back a few minutes later to tell me that he’d shown the fellow the way out of the station. It was a fair enough point for the cop to think that I must not have been used to the neighborhood, but the guy on the train had been 1% of the 1% batshit insane, a blatant threat to the safety of anyone within lunging distance. He wasn’t just sitting on a bench muttering, “Smashed in his knees with a two-by-four; smashed in his knees with a sledge HAMMA!” In that case, I’d have found another bench, for some love away from my brother. I was, for better and worse, not his keeper, and the LAPD didn’t know what to do about our old boy yesterday other than to usher him upstairs, to be the Hollywood Division’s street beats’ problem. The subway was historically the LASD’s turf, but I guess, to paraphrase a lady on the Blue Line who was booked into jail not six hours after she showed me her citation for jumping fare, po lease think they the motherfucking sheriffs.

To be clear, I didn’t witness anything that looked remotely like police misconduct in the midst of this mess, and the cop I flagged down comported himself excellently. I wouldn’t have been as eager to alert him if he hadn’t looked so levelheaded. At the same time, I don’t think the department dealt with this guy as effectively as it should have. Casting him out of the darkness and bouncing him upstairs got him out of the confined spaces, and since it’s an especially bad idea to physically corner people who are so agitated, that was a big help, but there’s still an unaddressed public safety problem when someone who is so acutely agitated in public is turned into a departmental hot potato and bounced around from division to division and watch to watch until some cop who doesn’t mind the extra paperwork (and, let’s be honest, the overtime for filling it out) dumps him on Men’s Central Jail, turning him into the Sheriff’s Department’s custodial problem. Realistically, that’s where dude was headed and still is headed every time he’s out on the streets. It just isn’t likely that anyone, sworn or not, will reach out to offer him the psychiatric care he so urgently needs and divert him from the revolving door at Men’s Central.

Come to think of it, I’d be interested to hear the thoughts of Dion Joseph or someone else with equivalent experience on Skid Row about whether or not this guy was in fact way above the baseline for street crazy, as I thought. I know there’s some really gritty shit out on the streets, and I don’t assume that I have a comprehensive sense of how bad it gets. Maybe our friend from the subway isn’t out of the ordinary on Skid Row. In that case, it’s a damn scandal, because there are peaceable, decent people who are trying to get by there, and they don’t deserve to be menaced by the most violently insane people in the county any more than peaceable, decent people living in Westwood or Burbank or the Hollywood Hills.

Let’s not forget that this chaos, squalor, and privation isn’t festering in Lagos or Manila or Tegucigalpa, but in developed parts of Los Angeles. This is the situation in the second largest city in the United States. We have no fucking idea of how to address our national poverty problem. And it is a national problem. LA doesn’t have a homelessness problem just because it’s a wicked city that fails to take care of its own or tolerates vices that other places don’t. It’s a prime dumping ground for people from across the country who have been abandoned by their local governments and communities. It’s the Law of the Westbound Bus: that bus is headed west, and you, a bum, are getting on it. Wesley Willis, pray for us. You can bet the oil patch that the Kern County authorities send their undesirables over the hill when they can. (The Bay Area works, too.) In Capitalist Inland California, Grapevine hears it through YOU!

Those who can afford to travel out of town and overseas can afford a shitty crosstown bus transect. You’re interested in exploring the cultures of, like, Bali and Phuket and maybe Puerto Vallarta? How about Silver Lake, bitch? I have a number of first- and second-degree contacts who are into something that they like to call “Deep Travel.” Oddly, or not, it does go as deep as Florence and Normandie. I drove my parents across Normandie the day before Christmas Eve. The GPS suggested it. As a guy from Huntington Beach by way of Aliso Viejo said at Christmas dinner, wow, that’s deep LA. He’s right about that. Maybe the 405 is so backed up for a reason. Every asshole who wants to defund Metro has a cool story about how the automobile democratized Los Angeles, in contrast to rich New Yorkers in their cabs and limousines. LA not having mass transit or cabs must be why I took a cab ride and traveled another one or two hundred miles by Metro this calendar month.

Not knowing John Dennis Diddly about squat and cough about the most famous cities in our own country, we’re totally gonna learn lots of interesting shit about other countries if only we spend a week or two at a time visiting their luxury resorts. This is what the upper crusts and those catering to their travel interests mean by travel and cultural immersion. We can tell that they’re full of shit about cultural immersion, even if they aren’t deliberately bullshitting anyone, just by looking at the Indonesian prison system. That has to be one of the most genuine cultural immersion programs on the face of the earth. The Bali Nine weren’t planning to travel that deep, but, hey, two of them got to visit Nusakambangan as well. You wouldn’t believe how degraded the experience of air travel has gotten. Myuran Sukumaran was initially known to the police as “the negro,” but they shot four Nigerians alongside him, in addition to others in other midnight mass executions, plausibly enough because they were black.

The Southern Cross thing rattled quite a few Australians, and for good reason, but Americans (okay, not Frank Amado) are distant and sheltered enough from this particular violence to continue not giving a shit. Who is Frank Amado? Let’s put it this way: from a parochial American perspective, “Who is Frank Amado?” is worse than “What is Aleppo?” Indonesia, which has condemned an expatriate US citizen to death for drug trafficking, isn’t even our worst ally. It’s in the second or third tier for human rights violations among US foreign military aid recipients.

This is why Fat Leonard should be president. Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the United States: name the country, and he has a better human rights record than the incumbent.

Those who don’t and won’t learn about other cultures in their hometowns won’t learn jack shit about foreign cultures by swooping in, hanging out for a few days, and then launching back out, but we don’t often hear about how fucking ignorant the jet set is because it’s a set that’s basically never told point blank that it’s full of shit. No one has the nerve to tell these people, uh, no, you’re wrong about that. Who’s around them when they travel abroad? The local intelligentsia (Lenin: “The intellectuals are not society’s brains, but its shit”), other Westernized elites (Lenin again), merchants, and servants. This is not a representative cross-section; it’s a fucking Tom Friedman column. Friedman isn’t surrounded by people who tell him that he’s full of shit, either. #TeshTips: Hotel staff are recruited and paid to put up with bullshit from ugly Americans. Construe to apply to other nationalities as needed; we aren’t the only ones.

God is it a surreal elite conceit to believe that servants are honest about touchy subjects with those they serve and that they aren’t actually servants anyhow. Sure, your Uber driver is your social equal, and I’m Junipero Serra.

Travel doesn’t inherently broaden horizons. That’s as insane as thinking that one’s daughter may be on the train, so maybe one should open the door and lunge into the next car while that fine-ass rolling socialism is swaying around at 70 miles an hour. For most bourgeois travelers, let alone the hardcore elites, it narrows perspectives and confirms prejudices. Like, Van Nuys and Compton are gross, ew, so let’s go somewhere overseas where the poors aren’t so uppity. Why can’t America’s lower classes be more like our waitstaff at the Sandals Resort? People actually think like this, maybe not explicitly but definitely to an extent that warps their perceptions of reality, and then they turn out at elections.

The greatest sin here, the greatest affront to truth, is that most of them won’t admit that that they’re trying to get away from unpleasantness, and in some cases won’t even admit that there is anything unpleasant that they might possibly want to flee. I’ll admit that I’ve been holed up in Starbucks for a couple of hours because Starbucks isn’t all fucked up like 7-Eleven or the average bodega. I try to do business with companies that aren’t all fucked up. That’s a little itty-bitty something to make the world an imperceptibly better place. One reason why I so appreciate this joint is that I got coffee the other day at a 7-Eleven in Twentynine Palms and I do not feel like doing that again.

Is it too much to ask my fellow Americans to pay some fucking attention to our own godforsaken society? Is it too much to ask people who are mentally capable of paying attention to get their heads out of their asses and do so from time to time? Instead of engaging the world, maybe we should engage our own fucking society. That was unfortunate but inevitable; I can’t forget the sorts of internationally meddlesome dipshits who studied alongside me at *MY OLD SCHOOL.* Great, another fool who goes on service trips to the Caribbean but never takes SEPTA at home. There’s no end to this crap. Can’t we at least, though, admit when we’re fleeing something unpleasant? I suppose I’d rather go hiking in upcountry Mexico than watch the mentally ill wander around Silver Lake in a state of chronic disorientation and collide with street thugs who never deal with their own severe behavioral problems. That’s why I take the subway when I’m in town. I know, that went just great yesterday.

Could we have some humility, though? Ivan Illich was openly working through some profound psychological and existential problems in his writing, but he was onto something when he got all, like, hey, feel free to come down here for a hike, but for the love of God don’t come here to lecture us. He would have loved the deal where Busboy’s girlfriend had to pay rent to live in a school bus under a slumlord’s authority in order to save up money to go volunteer at the women’s collective in Nicaragua or wherever the fuck she meant to do that. That’s why she had to live half a stone’s throw down the hill from Pot-o-Shit Friend’s all too humble abode. I’m the one who complained to code enforcement about that clusterfuck. In English. In the same county. Near where I often drive for a lengthy coffee break from shit that I don’t have the energy to fix.

I suppose Illich would have needed another handle of tequila for the story about my cousins who flew from San Francisco to London to Accra and then drove north for hours to show the Mohammedans the “Jesus film,” instead of maybe staying home in Humboldt County to try to socially orient the tweaker problem in a way that they might possibly do something positive about it. We never care to bless our own damn rains. This was the same crew that boldly decided not to cancel its travel plans after its local contact, from the Christian South, was beaten nearly to death over a fatal road accident. If that’s Christianity, lose me with that thumper shit. Oh, and this is fun: most of the congregation and even most of the mission group described the heavily English-speaking country where they had gone to minister to non-Anglophone Muslims in the rather near aftermath of sectarian violence “Africa.” I don’t need to bless anyone’s rains when I can instead bless the efforts of any interested Ghanaian to describe Reno as part of California. That’s beyond fair.

I’m on the road yet again, so I’m in no position to lecture other Americans to learn to be still, but learn to be still, bitch.

Kasich, you uppity bitch

Pittsburgh has a fancy-ass airport express bus, the 28X, to get the fancy highlanders downtown and back in a hurry. The 28X sticks to the busway and the freeway and the mall perimeter and shit (okay, a bit of West Carson, too), in the interest of expediting the good bougie voters with their jobs and all between the islands of good stuff at an adequate altitude above the hardcore flyover country.

Muh fuckin Port Authority 24 Local, tho. What can I say? It came first this afternoon. Hey, that could be a working sociosexual allegory about the riders, too. The poors are certainly said to be less sexually dysfunctional. Giggity. But no kidding, Rogers, there’s some gritty, gritty shit awt there past Mawnt Warshington and the Inclines, dawn in the old mill tawns, and it seems our Buckeye boy Johnny K. didn’t stick arawnd to fix any of it.

When I got into teh dawntawn myself, I double-checked with Google-Fu, and sure enough, that fucker is from McKees Rocks. It’s inconceivable. I’ve seen much, much worse American neighborhoods; McKees Rocks looks poor and seedy but pretty socially functional, maybe even more than average. The bizarre part is that its most famous native son (I have no fucking idea who, if anyone, it’s contributed to our varieties of sportsball) is the Republican presidential candidate who carried Manhattan and only Manhattan. That’s like Sargent Shriver and William F. Buckley running for the presidency and winning only the bad parts of Cincinnati, pretty much just Scott Parlier, Mack the Pipe, and the $20 carside blow-and-go crowd.

I know, I know, that silver-spoon second-generation developer oaf from Queens with the flagship properties in Midtown Manhattan who won all the backwards constituencies in the general election because that crazy bitch smeared the lot of them as comprehensively immoral and implied that they’re all hot-bunking in the same basket.

John Boehner was brought up in even poorer circumstances in an equivalent inner suburb of Cincinnati. The GOP has a real thing about elevating guys who grew up closer to the railroad tracks than they’d have liked and now deplore and look down on their own hometowns. They must bring some bogus air of authenticity to the party’s ongoing campaign to loot the commonweal until it’s flat out of lootables. I’m all too familiar with the self-loathing Staten Islander thing, and I’ve now met that alumni council dipshit with the Hickenlooper-on-steroids Main Liner act and the chip on his shoulder for being from hick-ass Missouri (I’ll shit bricks if it turns out that he’s from Columbia or fucking St. Charles). I’ve basically learned how to deal with the occasional feeling of embarrassment before the normies on account of an early childhood in Palo Alto, and my very aggravating collegiate background has exposed me to plenty of insufferable assholes who use their own proud privilege to shit on anyone and everyone who doesn’t comply with their gross efforts at social control, so I don’t know what the fuck degree of extra latitude I’m expected to accord some toolbox who’s been salty for a decade or five about the petty slights that came from earning consistent six-figure incomes for years on end after an upbringing in a solidly middle-class part of New York City or Joplin, or alternately as Mr. McFeely’s son.

To my knowledge I’m the only party to this bullshit who regularly sleeps in his car. Then again, Palo Alto has to be a much better and likelier place to feel like shit for sleeping in a car as a fully employed and taxpaying member of society than Donner Pass is for doing so as a once again unemployed guy who’s planning to go for a hike after Weekend Edition Saturday. There’s a real failure of perspective here, and it starts to look willful. These shady mofos love them some class restratification and bigotry, with the proviso, of course, that only a bleeding-heart tax-and-spend commie leftist would ever wage class warfare. They don’t want to be on the hook for government services for the losers they or their recent ancestors left behind back home, losers who aren’t necessarily so utterly impoverished or unskilled or dysfunctional and who would tend to converge back on broad middle-class norms with assistance more modest than what the wealthy exurbs routinely demand of their public officials.

An upper middle class and national elite dominated by fifth-generation lawyers who are much because they are Dutch would expose the economic hard right wing to some glaring credibility problems. The hard right will look bad and lose a critical mass of voters if there were obviously no social mobility, and a generationally entrenched, ethnically denominated upper crust would drive home the obvious. (Don’t tell anyone that our current Second Great Depression is making the same point even more grotesquely and horrifically.)

That’s why the GOP enjoys regularly pipelining fresh ethnic talent up from the ranks of Expanding Whitey. What, do you still think we’re all swooping in here from the WASP nest? Why, here’s a wetback’s kid who worked at the family taco stand into his twenties, and here are some other NPR-ready members of Pueblo’s Hispanic Latino community who don’t look too closely at how they closed the mill down and also the bus system is fucking useless, and here’s a shanty kraut with a baker’s dozen of brothers and sisters, and from another few hundred miles up the river, czech it out, here’s a guy who climbed his way out of Hunky Hollow, the point being that every one of these enterprising ethnics believes in our private-sector job creators, and there’s no way that any of them enjoyed a stable home and neighborhood life growing up because dad was a union postal worker.

The great uncrackable nut in this bowl, of course, is America’s established local color, the ones insufficiently blessed by the rains back home. Or, as the drill instructors ask of the new arrivals at the Atlanta Police Academy, do they listen in the Motherland? The Republican Party keeps thinking up and then abandoning schemes to win over African-Americans, but with rare exceptions, the Community doesn’t bite. That’s what happens when partisan hacks use patently insincere and cheap talking points about self-reliance on the one constituency that has most reliably gotten a rough ride in their rodeo; it’s also the last constituency to turn down stable public-sector union jobs, because it knows from painful experience that the alternatives are straight out of hell.

All God’s other colorful people, not to mention everyone who automatically gets the Whitey Sign these days, are useful fodder the GOP’s classic #TCOT argument by anecdote. This includes African immigrants, who presumably become African-Americans while our ethnic rhetoric definitely slouches toward gibberish. No, I don’t mind accusations that I’m more bork than bite. Congress has never refused me the opportunity to rule. Ooh, we’d better airlift the judge to Lehigh Valley, because he just got BURNED.

I can’t blame John Kasich for wanting to move somewhere more prosperous than McKees Rocks or get away from neighbors who live vicariously through the Steelers instead of trying to actualize their own lives. It’s easy to see how an environment like that could get depressing, stifling, and limiting. This is a free country. There’s nothing inherently objectionable about moving somewhere else domestically, or expatriating, for those who feel driven to leave it because they love it. (Muh HRSDC shiznit, eh. *Headdesk* *St. Jean de Brebeuf voice* Oh, you think YOUR eyes hurt after reading all that? Ha!) The dispiriting fourth-turning truth of the matter is that the broad prosperity of postwar Pittsburgh, won at such cost by the unions, was what allowed so many people in the postwar generations to move out into the suburbs and turn into reactionary starve-the-beast nutjobs.

But what’s the problem with reminding Kasich of his own roots? He’d certainly remind me that I was a bougie Palo Alto boy if he caught me saying nice things about socialism and shit. Free market extremism wasn’t what gave Pittsburgh a middle class. Anyone who acts like that was the case is either a lying sack of shit or flaming nuts. Andrew Carnegie was a hideous thug who belatedly made concessions to the employees he deliberately kept in poverty only after they took on his subaltern Frick and their Pinkerton goon squads. A dear friend from Allison Park gave me a blunt assessment of Carnegie’s charitable motivations: late in his life he realized that he was going to hell and wanted to belatedly atone for his depredations in an effort to secure his own salvation. Getting his name plastered on a whole bunch of shit probably didn’t hurt; there are apparently those who get their jollies from such enterprises–say, the current Oaf of Office.

A sensible person has to wonder about someone who was raised on the Allegheny County waterfront in a household headed by a mailman and came away thinking that government and labor unions were the problem. Kasich’s complaints aren’t, like, geez, the city never filled the potholes on our street and that son of a bitch Hoffa was such a racketeering disgrace to the rank and file that I hope they buried him somewhere deep and far away. Having been raised in the stable prosperity nurtured under robust government and high union membership, he’s here to burn some shit down. It’s almost less disturbing if he’s just a garden-variety crook; imagine how sad it would be for a man raised in such an environment to actually believe that smallminded, ungrateful nonsense in the depths of his heart.

True story: I’ve seen Randian RWNJ Republicans brag about their “Pittsburgh Values.” This raises questions, including where in all hell they came up with such an idea. Pittsburgh and quite a few of the nearby older towns are solidly Democratic, anywhere from about 60-75%. There’s an outback of hardcore Republican strongholds surrounding the urban riverfront core and the other Democratic-leaning suburbs (including Castle Shannon, I recall); this outback extends hundreds of miles into the wooded void, practically to the edge of the Main Line and the outskirts of Scranton. But none of this exurban and rural swath is fucking Pittsburgh. “Hey, I’m in Chicago. Okay, I’m actually in Gary. But didn’t that sound nice?”

This is where we get into the realm of Republicans flat-out making shit up. John Boehner is proof of the great opportunity that is America. Look at him, raised by humble kraut barkeepers in a beyond-full house, and he made Speaker. That proves that anyone, with enough hard work and determination, can become the Speaker of the House.

Uh, no it fucking doesn’t. How many speakers does the House have at a time? Hint: the office is called “The Speaker of the House.” (I know, the whole lot of them can’t be induced to stop speaking.) What the hell does Boehner’s success mean even for his own siblings? That’s one position at the top of a national legislative body of only 435, plus some hanger-on delegates from the colonial territories. Not a whole lot of room for contenders there, Brando. Every individual Congressman represents a district of something like 680,000 (look it up for your fucking selves if the precision is that important to you; that’s why we have the internet until next Thursday). That still isn’t awfully many slots for America’s enterprising.

Pathetically, the same people who act like Boehner is a success story for having been so successful in politics, and Kasich too, I guess, if he’s extreme enough for their taste, also get up on their high horses about how the only appropriate venue for job creation is the private sector. They fucking venerate the “job creators” in so many words. What I have to wonder is, if the private sector is so majestic, why don’t they go look for some damn work in it? None of these assholes waxing obnoxious about job creator bullshit in Congress has worked exclusively in the private sector. I have, though. Their fellow travelers in the Randian think tanks and on the opinion pages aren’t a hell of a lot more free-marketed. What in the bloody hell would Megan McArdle have to offer in a competitive free market? Wingnut welfare has many such cases. What self-respecting person who has ever held down a proper summer job would take these useless, bumptious assholes seriously?

If these toolboxes think government is so awful, why do they keep competing for additional terms of paid government employment every two to six years? I’m not over here demanding the abolition of the private sector, and frankly neither is anyone else who isn’t absolutely ridiculous. The fucking Norks barely managed to destroy private enterprise for a few decades, and once the disappearance of their Soviet subsidies along with the dissolution of the USSR blew the shit into their fan, they mostly stopped trying. That’s what the world’s most belligerent and deranged extant totalitarian regime has achieved against the private sector. The infamous Slow Ghomeshi on the American private sector is fictional. To the very small extent that it exists in some greatly attenuated form, much of it is actually the doing of landlord rent extraction. What we hear about, though, is the chronic saltiness of pissant entrepreneurs who think they shouldn’t have to do basic bookkeeping and compliance work instead of getting however shady they damn well fancy come payday and tax time.

Could government be less burdensome and more helpful to small businesses and sole propietorships? Sure. The flip side is that assholes like Joe Dirtbag could start paying their damn sales taxes and stop making up crappy post hoc stories about why they didn’t pay up and shouldn’t have to do their part because reasons. That creep alone blew a good chunk of my goodwill towards the noisy beleaguered entrepreneur with his series of little tax-dodging stunts. I don’t try to buy shit off the books to dodge sales tax, so I don’t appreciate a deadbeat who also doesn’t pay me or anyone else who helps him run the farm cheating the city because reasons.

Let’s not stay so parochial, though. Here’s the Galaxy Brain take: robust government services like the Port Authority and a paid professional fire department can facilitate more private enterprise, not less, by maintaining a functional, reliable public infrastructure that anyone can use without a second thought. That seems to work for the Pittsburgh urban core. The Pittsburgh firefighters’ pension may still be underfunded, but at least the PFD doesn’t have its head up its ass about bringing new hires on board to cut back on the overtime, unlike, say, BART. Then again, BART vs. the Port Authority may well be a case of getting back what we pay in, for what it’s worth. Trolley time isn’t quite make-believe around here, but it’s pretty fucking unintuitive, and its delivery none too speedy.

I’m sure I could find plenty of #TCOT dipshits out in the North Hills and Butler County and shit who assume that the City of Pittsburgh has a private sector every bit as vigorous as Moscow had in the forties, but that’s because our national politics are insane. Our recent habits of stratification and sorting don’t fucking help. Hell, just look at our known Yinzer boy John moving up to Columbus and digging in. He’s got a case of the accent, but it’s too bad he doesn’t have a case of something other than the projectile ignorance of his own hometown’s history to go with it.

At least he won New York, New York. Not Brooklyn, Queens, or the Bronx, and God no, not Staten Island, but our boy from McKees Rocks cracked the cultural barrier of Radio Deluxe Country. That earnest socially climbing dork couldn’t even get a plurality in Allegheny County, and now that I’ve taken the bus through his old neighborhood with a dozen or so neighbors (Hello!), I can’t begin to convey what a glorious thing it is that he carried Manhattan and choked everywhere else. John Kasich is special just the way he is, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful fucking day.

 

Russian to judgment

Uh, shit, that was uncalled for, but so is the endless Democratic Russia hysteria.

Look, I’ve been to Russia. I spent a full month staying with host families there, first in Moscow and then in St. Petersburg, in the summer of 2002. My personal feelings about Russia are complicated and ambivalent, but they’re personal. They have to do with stuff that has no bearing on Russia’s foreign policy and only accidentally anything to do with its domestic policy. I don’t feel like ruminating over the details, but my worst experience was a run-in with some bad cops, so I have no trouble believing that Russia has serious civil liberties shortcomings. I also walked by at a distance of ten or twenty yards while a guy was getting kicked repeatedly in the guts by two other men on a side street off the Nevsky Prospekt, in a part of St. Petersburg that I otherwise took to be exceptionally prosperous and orderly, and quite a few of the Russians I’ve met over the years, both in country and back in the US, back in the USSA, have had an unnerving nihilistic bearing. I also know full well that I came nowhere close to seeing the worst that Russia has to offer.

The point is that no one has to convince me that Russia can be fucked up. Mine own lying eyes have seen it. Truth be told, few things have made me prouder or more grateful to be an American than personally discovering and then reading further about what a social and political clusterfuck Russia is. In many crucial ways it is a deeply troubled and unhealthy society. I doubt any significant part of it has fully turned the corner in the past fifteen years, and by some measures it regressed greatly after I made it back home (notably, on racist and xenophobic violence). So I’m not averse to legitimate criticism of the old bear den.

Nothing about the moral panic over Russian interference in the 2016 US elections is legitimate or sane. It’s the batshit fucking insane raving of pig-ignorant political extremists. It’s rabies. These deranged shitbirds have poisoned the well so badly that I can hardly trust a bad word about the Kremlin from the BBC, an organization that would hopefully be in a position to hold the Kremlin to some account. NPR is a hopelessly lost cause. I thought things were getting sketchy after they fired Bob Edwards and ramped up the House Voice, but I couldn’t see anything this surreally crazy coming down the pike.

Every time Russia engages in some modest bit of statecraft or spycraft, it magically becomes the world’s premier force of fifth-column subversion and international mind control. It’s unbelievable that we’re hearing about this absolutely insane shit on NPR and not on Coast to Coast AM. The Kremlin hired a few hundred undercover PR flacks to propagandize and troll American voters on social media. It spent a couple hundred grand on Facebook ads. Big fucking deal. We just had an election season that cost multiple billions of dollars and produced a big drop in turnout from 2012, along with a huge undervote in the presidential race, which is usually the main attraction when it’s on the ballot. The Kremlin was an irrelevancy. It was spitting into the wind.

Besides, everything the Kremlin has been accused of doing is done on a much wider and more sustained basis by Western spooks, lobbyists, and fellow-traveling shady pieces of shit. We never hear the hysterical Russia horseshit broadened to criticize AIPAC, the Pentagon bot army, or the multinational corporate leviathans. These outfits are the ones responsible for the serious propaganda. It’s not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a start. The Kremlin hiring underemployed twentagers to engage Americans with their our hearts go out to the Ceausescu family, sad day for Nicolae English can’t hold a candle to this fog machine.

If we’re worried about their ads corrupting our citizens’ minds, uh, Citizens United, fuckwits. Pervasive, unrelenting advertisement campaigns orchestrated by Bernaysian master manipulators are fine as long as they’re being run out of the usual WASP nests (Madison Avenue, K Street, Langley, Silicon Valley) (and, yes, they’re cooler than they once were with the Irish and the Jews and so forth), but Katie bar the fucking door if someone shows up at a Moscow ad agency with a hundred grand to spend on English-language copy. When our old boys do it on a colossal scale, it’s mere advertising; when the damn Red Octobers do it on an almost bashfully modest scale, it’s high treason.

Now we’re hearing feverish calls for Russia Today to be registered and surveilled as a foreign lobbying organization. Gee, with a name like that, you don’t say that it has possible cultural or political ties to Russia. What’s so rich a Yank could barf about this is that RT is open about its presumable ties to the Kremlin (not much of a Union of Right Forces organ, to judge from its coverage), while CNN, the WaPo, and so forth fraudulently pretend not to be crawling with Anglo-American spies, junta-ready generals, ruling politicians, seedy party hacks, and similar trash.

This doesn’t even begin to touch the endless corporate interference, even in NPR and PBS, our federally chartered and funded public broadcasting syndicates. Julie Rovner reports for Kaiser Health News now; no way that’s run by a major for-profit health insurance company and hospital operator that might have a political or policy ax to grind. And no way are my insurance premiums somehow being pooled to fund this highbrow Intelligence for Your Life crap. The mainstream media in the US are little more than payola, product placement, and Pravda-grade regime bulletins these days. NPR and PBS manage to simultaneously suck up every bit of compromising corporate funding they can sniff out, tangle with bumptious, grandstanding Congressmen in annual government funding disputes, AND bother their viewers with grating, guilt-trippy calls for alms several times a year. The PBS NewsHour is brought to you by Tote Bag Nation, some passive-aggressive assholes in Congress, and BNSF: The Little Engine That Could Get Out of the Southwest Chief’s Way But Totally Won’t.

Then we’ve got the cool stories about blackmail, the famous Piss-Trump kompromat. Yeah, nothing reminiscent of the Hastert thing there, or possibly similar to Roy Moore’s political relationship to Alabama’s business elite. The same assholes who got blindsided, or so they say, by J. Denny Dundiddly and Gadsden Lovin’ are sure that the most unabashedly louche president anyone can remember is vulnerable to Kremlin blackmail because he was videotaped getting off while a couple of hookers peed on a hotel bed.

A couple of questions come to mind here. First, who the fuck is Christopher Steele? He sounds like the pen name of a third-rate potboiler spy novelist with a first-rate drinking problem. Does he exist? Did the guy playing him ever work for the clandestine services? Is he a mercenary crisis actor, or is he a glory-whoring fabulist? Nobody has produced the fucking pee tape. Nobody has even produced a forgery purporting to show King Bigly and the Honeypot Rent Harem defiling the sacred one-time marriage bed of his predecessor. Plenty of people have fabricated ridiculous stories to position themselves under the glow of much lesser glories. Maybe the bastard is who he says he is and did what he says he did, but we can’t exactly believe him or anyone associated with him. His supposed employers, Her Majesty’s Spying Limeys, are some of the most incorrigible liars and dissemblers on earth. They’re a bit on the ridiculous side, but the idea that they’d keep some washed-up Oxbridge decoder ring wannabe with an unsubstantiated story about a video showing some whores wetting a bed on their international A Team is strictly for public consumption. One way or another, they’re punking us with this fool.

The Democrats used to lose elections honorably. Nobody really had great hopes for Mondale or Dukakis. Gore was reluctant to challenge the results of a blatantly corrupt election in Florida, by some accounts because he’d been advised that being a sore loser who brought the Brooks Brothers Rioters into the disrepute that they deserved was not the way to secure a feeding spot at the retirement trough. My man Long Face acted like, well, I tried, but shucks. He failed me and a whole lot of other hopeful Democratic voters, but he didn’t dishonor us.

2016 was the first time that the Democrats dredged up a ridiculous foreign scapegoat for their failures. It figures that they did this after trying and failing to force the pack to eat a sickening helping of their dog food on behalf of their raging bitch of a candidate. It figures that they did this after their scandal-plagued disaster of a queen failed to follow up her party coronation with campaign stops in the Midwestern swing states everyone with a lick of sense knew she needed to win, managing to lose the Electoral College in spite of a national popular vote lead in the millions. The Clintons have always had a loose relationship with the truth, but under Bill this relationship was cordial enough. Under Hillary it’s frostier than a February dawn in Vladivostok. He was the irresistibly charming Arkie son of a bitch; she is the repulsively charmless ice queen who’s bitter towards her husband for being a chronic adulterer, bitter towards Mocha Haole for beating her the first time around (“that man,” as Bill is said to refer to him), bitter towards Bernie for nearly beating her even though her operatives tipped the scales, and bitter towards the Donald for having the unexpected amateur’s horse sense to actually pull off a victory as a first-time candidate for public office.

If anyone would blame Kremlin mind control for a political loss, it would be this grotesque hag and her sycophants. The disreputable response is a function of a disreputable candidate and campaign. These losers lose sorely because they’re sore losers. Their form is too disordered to permit normal functioning.

It can’t be that they fucked up an already weak and shitty campaign; it must have been long-distance Russian brainwashing. The voters who got Trump over the top can’t have had rational or coherent reasons for voting for him and against Clinton; they must have been feebleminded enough to fall for a mind control campaign run by junior political operatives engaged in nothing worse than rude internet chatter. America was already great; there’s no way a sensible American could have thought otherwise, no way that a savvy political outsider could have tapped into the formerly unexpressed grievances of an aggrieved public by hammering on a catchy four-word campaign slogan. Russians must have convinced them that the United States had some kind of unresolved class problem, just as the damn pink Soviets were the only reason why anyone thought the midcentury United States had a race or civil rights problem.

Surely it was the Russians who fabricated the sexual assault allegations against George Takei to interfere with his meme warfare, not anyone who was still personally upset with George Takei for having sexually assaulted him. If that horseshit can be proof positive that the victor didn’t legitimately win the presidential election, surely it can be reasonable doubt for a sexual assault case in the court of public opinion.

Joe McCarthy sincerely regarded the Soviet Union as a menace to his country, not to his party or his career. That’s the difference between honest paranoia and the sorest losers ever endlessly grinding a political ax. These shitheads don’t care who or what they destroy as long as they either come out on top or, barring that, find a way to take cheap revenge on their proliferating enemies.

Fuck the Democratic Party. It has to either be reclaimed by decent people or allowed to convulse its way to its belated death. I can’t stand popcorn, but if I can’t vote it back from its current eighth circle of hell land of make-believe, I’ll be glad to grab a cup of coffee and maybe some hash browns and pull up a chair.