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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyre Island: a schadenfreudetastic overseas overproduction of elites

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

The setting:

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

The promise: 

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

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

The reality: 

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

Plaintiffs’ complaint: 

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

**As in Crystal.

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

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

Defendants’ response: 

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

Dissenting victim impact statement: 

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

Governmental response: 

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

Precedents in musical history: 

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

Aggravating factors: 

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

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

Mitigating factors: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The chronicle of Young Turks who are in no way whatsoever running for high office

Mark Zuckerberg is not running for the presidency. We know this because he has been on a tour of living rooms and auto assembly lines in Midwestern swing states, as one does out of pure philosophical interest in the folkways of Flyover Country and never out of crass political interest. Similarly, we can be sure that Chelsea Clinton is in no way involved in either her own first campaign for the presidency or her mother’s third because she and/or back-of-the-office staff have devoted her Twitter account to some of the most painfully anodyne political commentary and career girl agitprop imaginable and has recently sat for a number of flagrant softball interviews with high-circulation national newspapers and magazines. These are but of course some of the things that one does simply because one and/or one’s forever grasping mother is just kind of bored and can’t think of a thing to watch on Netflix at the moment.

Zuckerberg’s tour of the Midwest has inspired an interesting conspiracy theory holding that Sheryl Sandberg put him up to it as a way of shooing him off the Facebook campus so that she could take over. The premise here is that the way to distract the Zuck from his current techdick glories was to put it in his head that there’s a greater glory awaiting him, specifically, a political glory whose pursuit happens to lure him way the fuck out of Menlo Park. It sounds plausible, but so does the idea of Zuckerberg having a heartfelt personal interest in running the United States and officially collecting our Likes. It’s exactly the sort of situation in which Sandberg’s sleazy scheme to Lean In on her boss could coincide perfectly with his own interest in becoming the ultimate meddler in national and world affairs. Sandberg planting the idea of the presidency in Zuckerberg’s head is true to her character, but so is Zuckerberg’s grandiose belief that he is morally fit for the presidency and not too scandal-prone and controversial to win it true to his own character.

Think about it: the more encouraging scenario here features a scummy gambit by the Lean In bitch to inflict a notorious tech dork on our presidential politics not half a year after the conclusion of our last interminable presidential election season. It’s pretty pathetic. Any way we look at this episode, it says a great deal about the degradation of our national leadership. We’ve got the boy king coming down from Olympus for a perfectly innocent cultural mission to the mortals, and if we’re lucky, we’ve also got an obnoxious, devious corporate feminist putting him up to this stunt with no expectation that it will be anything but a wild goose chase for him.

Yuck. What I find most worrisome about this presidential grooming tour is that Mark Zuckerberg is no longer the sputtering, ridiculous babyfaced dork that he was when he first catapulted himself onto the Silicon Valley A List. Outwardly, he has grown up enough to start looking arguably presidential. Let’s not pretend that the air of gravitas and majesty that is famously expected of our presidents can be achieved only by the cultivation of some precise appearance of patrician grace that only members of our own political party, whichever one we favor, can possess. Our recent presidents have included a Georgia peanut warehouser, a screen actor who won reelection after bumbling his way through a debate while sundowning from Alzheimer’s Disease, a hilariously tongue-tied patrician fuddy-duddy, a first-generation lace curtain Arkansas hillbilly who was renowned for his “bimbo eruptions” before he had even been elected, a raging dry drunk failson who fancied himself a Texas cowboy, an alleged Chicagoan who had been raised in Hawaii by white Kansan parents but was black enough on account of his absentee father to be helpfully smeared as a Muslim Mau-Mau Manchurian Candidate (this made him look calm by comparison to his own nut gallery), and a famous television oaf with a habit of plastering his name everywhere in thousand-point type. A techdick who was a total dork in his twenties but doesn’t look like such a dork in his thirties is not a dramatic departure from these awfully inconsistent recent antecedents. No, this does not mean that it would be a good idea to put him in the Oval Office, but since when have we stopped to make sure that any of these guys would be a good idea? These are the guys responsible for the fundraising rental of the Lincoln Bedroom, “Mission Accomplished,” and “We tortured some folks.”

Exactly what Chelsea Clinton is trying to accomplish is harder to suss out. The National Review article that I linked above is some good shit, even if it gets a bit overbearing from time to time in its fussy conservative snark. The comparison of Chelsea’s sorry excuse for a career to Kramer’s retirement to Florida in his forties is entertaining, but it perpetuates a category error about the purpose of what is charitably described as her employment. It isn’t just that she’s a scion of immense privilege. Chelsea’s purported work life has a very different look from the purported work lives of Trump, Kennedy, or Bush scions. The latter families produce a few wastrels who are easy enough to cashier out of the public eye, some drunks and cokeheads, and a great number of prominent scions who, at least at first glance, take on prominent leadership roles in business or government. Chelsea Clinton is the only child of a young dynasty, and her own children are too young to be put into any sort of power, so there are no internal points of comparison for her, and there is also no one in her generation to distract the Clinton paparazzi from her disreputable behavior. At W’s worst the Bushes had their dutiful Jeb, and the Kennedies are legion.

The point of Chelsea’s arguably flaky career path was never, it seems, to teach her a work ethic, nor was it fundamentally to keep up appearances of productivity and upstanding citizenship in her family by way of saving face for her parents. Nor, it seems, was it to try to establish her on a path that she would find personally fulfilling. It’s plausible that Billary have been grooming her for her own power, but that doesn’t appear to be the case, either. Millions of Americans with none of the Clintons’ influence and wealth have careers that look as haphazard as Chelsea’s, but one of the advantages that the Clinton machine surely gives Chelsea is the capacity to have someone else do enough advance work to make sure that she isn’t blindsided by the sorts of bad workplace environments that convince workaday people to abruptly quit their jobs.

The most credible explanation for Chelsea’s apparent dilettantism is that she is actually showing up just long enough to milk organizations on her parents’ behalf and maybe cash herself out satisfactorily. Her stint at NBC was especially notorious for her lavish pay and her not awfully much work. It’s easy to imagine Matt Lauer boiling with resentment that he has to pay his dues by showing up before dawn and pretending to give a shit about celebrity gossip for thirty years straight and maintaining his gravitas before a tacitly suicidal racist Paula Deen in order to make his fortune while that talentless Clinton bitch gets to wander in and out at will from the next thing to a no-show job at his company, nay, in his office building, just because of who her mommy and daddy are. But what kind of fool would be surprised to learn that NBC is crookeder than the Hana Highway? That outfit retains its reputed roleplaying furry because he has the talent and the work ethic to pull the damn thing off. It retained Donald Trump for somewhat different reasons (only somewhat), and it retained Chelsea Clinton for distinctly different reasons. The Donald occupied the overlapping portion of the Venn Diagram, the intersection of genuine on-air talent and wholesale corporate graft. Lauer is squarely (roundly?) on the talent side, while the Chelsea is squarely (and in this case I do mean square) on the graft side.

I just recalled that NBC hired Jenna Bush as a front-of-the-house faildaughter, too, and also unfortunate failson Luke Russert. What a shitty outfit. NBC paid these presidential failspawn not for their direct services but as proxies for the corruption of their families. Hell if I know what exactly any party was getting out of the deal, but these were no social calls. Roughly the same thing is true of Chelsea’s alleged career as an author. She’s got all these books out under her name that were almost certainly farmed out to ghostwriters, and some of the material is embarrassing enough that one has to wonder why the fuck anyone with an ounce of self-respect as, say, the holder of a PhD in international relations would be willing to put her name on such horseshit. Chelsea is an author of record for, among other works, a 402-page volume of civic agitprop for teenagers and the text to an illustrated children’s book called, if you can stomach it, She Persisted. Must the bitch make Mitch McConnell look sympathetic and not constipated for the first time in his career?

That isn’t a writing career, of course. I’m a lot closer to having a writing career than Chelsea Clinton, and I scavenge deposit bottles for a living (sic, generally speaking, but don’t hate). I follow amateurs who haven’t published anything in years (Success is Overrated, for example) who have writing careers that leave Chelsea’s in the dust; there may not be much to follow from day to day, but when there is, it’s worthwhile. Countless people make some kind of living personally writing their own material, and much of it is very much worth reading. Too much, in fact: Mark David Chapman not so famously got behind on his reading at the University of Hawaii before he very famously got ahead for good on his Lennonist agenda.

So why is Chelsea Clinton taking credit for superfluous, vapid garbage that she didn’t even write? It’s because she’s a living licensing agreement. She’s a franchiser of her own name.

Is it really a surprise that the Clintons are involved in such a scam? It’s pretty restrained compared to their Foundation and Global Initiative. We can at least be pretty confident that this particular slush isn’t directly watering Middle Eastern unsavories. God only knows who’s latched on to the publishing scam as a second- or third-order crook, but its visible parts look pretty Buy American, and in an environment as degraded as Clintonworld, that’s worth something.

As an only child of overachieving parents, I used to sympathize with Chelsea Clinton, and I guess I still do on some level. Her family is one hell of a burden to inherit, and there’s little she can do to escape it. Her regression to the mean might be disappointing, but it’s entirely to be expected. Consider, for one thing, that her preternaturally charming and eloquent father bred with her ice monster of a mother. On the other hand, she’s somewhere past the age of moral responsibility by now, even if her (sic) writing suggests otherwise. There must have been other things she could have done for a simulacrum of a living that didn’t involve running interference for her parents and acting as their bagwoman. Are her parents deranged and desperate enough to put her under duress to do these things? I guess maybe I shouldn’t completely rule that out. We don’t hear a peep out of Amy Carter these days, but Jimmy and Rosalyn are no Bill and Hillary, so who knows.

Can we really make heads or tails out of any of this shit? The Clinton White House has to have been an exceptionally bizarre upbringing. As much as Chelsea’s recent behavior has been reprehensible and deserves ridicule and rebuke, she’s the one who was born into it. Her parents are the ones who chose to go into their life of crime. Of all the Boomers who were too selfish to breed, what hideous sin did we commit as a nation for the Clintons not to be among them? It says something that Chelsea is apparently sober and able to raise her own two young children (to the extent that any of the obscenely rich raise their own children), while Amy Winehouse, the daughter of a mere pharmacist and a mere cabbie (okay, London cabbie, so the motherfucker knew his maps) was the one who terminally burned out at 27. Unfortunately for the rest of us, this gives Grandpa the opportunity to conveniently show up on the tarmac in Phoenix for an impromptu conversation with Loretta Lynch about Charlotte, and also golf. For us mere peasants, Charlotte might be where American has us change A321’s on some all-day or all-night itinerary from hell; for Ma and Pa Clinton, she’s a get-out-of-jail-free card. The Clintons don’t fly that Eurotrash big metal, now, and they don’t need no Sky Harbor when the whole world is their harbor.

The National Review article above mentions Chelsea’s profligate offerings of thanks to people you and I wouldn’t know from Adam’s off ox, as her daddy liked to say back in his downhome days. In that sense, Chelsea’s publishing isn’t about its own text, but about its credits. Billary famously maintain an Infernoesque multi-quantum orbit of sycophants, errand boys and girls, hired muscle, court propagandists, James Carville, and assorted hangers-on. One of Chelsea’s responsibilities, we learn, is to feed this shitty flock, which can apparently be thanked adequately by giving it credit for the inspiration for some of the worst writing in the Anglophone world. Surely there are some kickbacks somewhere in the mix as well, since it’s impossible to imagine that this is not a crowd that welcomes the money and the cash. Narcissism is a good adaptation for that business, but imagine being in it only for the narcissistic supply. What a fucking loser one would have to be to associate with such scum without mercenary motives. Don’t worry, though: the Clinton campaign strung along plenty of unpaid interns.

Bill and Hillary went into business as a criminal couple, but with Chelsea, their yuppie snowflake, some years past her social debut and active in the family business, the Clintons can at last properly be called a crime family. Sometimes Jeremiah Wright’s God Damn America sounds like a prayer; other times, it sounds like nothing more than a news announcement.

Give a man a fish and he’ll maybe be glad you gave him a fish dinner instead of another lecture

This is one of the shadiest, most disgusting things I’ve seen recently. It’s almost bad enough to make me give derelict traveling kids walking-around money, and I never give the circuit-riding hippie swarm their daily bread. Some other chump is offering them that abundant portion; if they weren’t getting any, they wouldn’t be out on the town squares in suspiciously hip towns doing fuck-all all the live-long day.

The approach I just described is the adult one: homeskillet looks like a willfully useless deadbeat piece of shit, and one doesn’t fancy giving money to the undeserving poor, so one doesn’t hand him that dollar. That was easy, wasn’t it? All it takes is the discernment, independence of mind, and assertiveness that comes with not being a stone idiot or the world’s easiest pushover. It doesn’t require a fucking ad campaign to tell grown-ass adults how to spend their money. Shit, that sounded pretty anti-American, but it’s true. As I’ve been told the retarded are taught in their group homes, we’re adults, so we get to make our own decisions. Surely that applies to the majority of us who are not profoundly retarded, too.

What we really have here is people who are butthurt that other competent adults are choosing to give their own money to bums they’d herd into workhouses if they ruled the world, or maybe onto killing fields, just to burn off the dead wood. They’re sore in the ass because they don’t get to dictate the terms of other people’s charity in ways that force the poor (and, in the case of our traveling friends above, the allegedly poor) into the shadows, where they may meekly inherit absolutely none of the earth. The visible existence of the poor makes them uncomfortable, and the assertiveness of the poor as alms-beggars in decent neighborhoods offends their precious sense of the proper social order.

Handouts don’t help? Where the fuck did they get a dumbass idea like that, and why the hell is it a public service announcement with a printable don’t-feed-the-critters sign? Isn’t there some faint possibility that panhandlers pass the hat for that love offering because they could use some damn money? They want some help, and they often get some help; how does that not help? As Dmitry Orlov beautifully explained the sort of Americans who are too proud to take charity, what do these dummies find so objectionable about the free money: that it’s money, or that it’s free? Panhandlers have material needs that they’re looking to meet, and money allows them to meet some of these needs. Again, if you think they’re getting enough money from this line of work (sic, but not entirely), you don’t have to personally cough yours up. (I like to assume that I don’t write for shlemazels, but with all the referred traffic I keep getting on account of Dubai Porta Potty, I probably kid myself.)

There’s a PSA campaign about this because we live in an earthly hell of omnipresent fnords. I refer mainly to Americans here, but not exclusively. (God, the fucking English. What the hell is being done to them, or what are they doing to themselves? I hardly know which question to ask.) This fnordscape is lovingly constructed and maintained by our betters for our own betterment, but really for theirs. The “service” in these public announcements is part of the ongoing campaign to serve man. There’s a book about us, guys, a cookbook, of all things. If we aren’t the servants, we’re the ones being served. The Handouts Don’t Help website does not attribute itself to any individual or organization; there’s no disclosure of who is behind the campaign, so on our own we can only guess as to the motives, but we can assume that they aren’t good. Any halfway reputable individual or organization would take credit for its public campaigns, but here we have utterly anonymous communication by a presumably influential outfit (I first saw the sign posted to the window of a Starbucks) on a subject that is not sensitive enough to warrant anonymity (big money doesn’t like bums, and you shouldn’t, either). This is nothing like whistleblowing or private citizens blowing off steam about pain-in-the-ass associates on an anonymous gossip blog. It’s much more like the creepy Values (TM) billboards badgering the public to stop being so whiny and defeatist. We’re on point to ask why the hell a billionaire recluse is funding that shit and what the real point of it is, since there’s a kind of Arbeit Macht Frei quality to it.

How’s that, again? It’s part of the “nudge theory?” That was more than just a “nudge,” Coach Hastert.

The other thing that’s going on with these signs is that professional do-gooders in social services are upset by the feeling that they’re being cut out of the ecosystem of poverty. They want nothing more than to be the dominant parties in this ecosystem, so bums who don’t reach out for help as the submissive parties really kill their vibe. They don’t like feeling irrelevant and useless to society on account of their being given nothing to do; that feels too much like panhandling. One of the explicit goals of the Handouts Don’t Help campaign is to flush charity cases out of the shadows and into the formal social services system by denying them all informal assistance from other private citizens. The campaign asserts, rather unbelievably, that panhandling revenue keeps street people from seeking the services that they need. Aside from the obvious usefulness of cash to enable individuals to purchase needed goods and services from any willing vendor within their physical reach, the assertion that street people are distracted from reputable, competent social services organizations by the easy money ignores the very real possibility that these organizations are not in fact reputable or competent. The streets know things, and it’s well known on the streets that social services come at some pretty steep costs: you know, every form of refuge having its price, but Don Henley enjoying nicer forms than your sorry white ass ever will, that kind of thing. Panhandlers take a huge amount of shit from hostile passersby, and often from bad cops, but they also get quite a bit of companionship and material assistance from other passersby who treat them as social equals, and they don’t have to jump through hoops for that.

The lack of empathy necessary not to see that this arrangement has the potential to offer more human dignity and less humiliation than submission to formal social services is powerful, but social services are infested by ostentatious do-gooders who have too strong a sense of personal superiority to feel any such empathy. They’re in it for the right reasons, after all, so why wouldn’t some desperate bum recognize this and submit accordingly? Getting pho money from Willie Brown in the course of pointing out to him that Kaitlin is a trans-Jenner sounds like better eating and better company than being condescended to by godbothering scolds behind the Salvation Army chow line who call themselves Major. It’s still a degraded lifestyle, and one is still a charity case (for that matter, you’ll never guess who’s buried in Grant’s tomb), but at least it isn’t an unrelentingly invasive bureaucratic nightmare worthy of the DMV unfolding every night in a religious panopticon. Everything about chatting about Brutlin Jenner with Willie Brown is trashy, but at least it’s consistent with full citizenship and the rights and liberties thereto appertaining. You might even read about it afterwards in the San Francisco Chronicle, a newspaper by and for freemen (although you’d be better off reading C. W. Nevius instead, which might result in something closer to self-government than ad hoc bread and circuses). The Salvation Army? That ain’t freedom they’re offering you, kid. The Arabs have a word for what they’re really after in you: islam.

Let’s give street people some credit: they generally know when they’re around people who are out to prey on the vulnerable. They have to be street-smart to survive. Even the floridly psychotic among them tend to have a horse sense about who’s looking to do them harm and who’s looking to do them genuine good, a horse sense that only the most extreme, most acute, most violent psychosis can overwhelm. If your don’t think they’re mistreated in mental hospitals, I’ve got a room in Sonoma that you might like to sublet. Sure, there are a lot of people out on the streets who are in the grip of clinical paranoia that embellishes and distorts their observations into delusions having no readily identifiable bearing on reality, but many of these delusions contain a very real kernel of truth. It isn’t just a persecution complex if one is actually being persecuted, and the vulnerable (e.g., the homeless and the mentally ill) are irresistible targets for persecution. They have weaknesses that predators cannot miss.

Social services do a poor job of screening out predators, and slumlords that take social services vouchers for the indigent often actively recruit predators into their management. Similarly, Psychotarp was not off-base when he wrote that the Housing Authority had revoked Joe Dirtbag’s rental authority, just confused about the details: he was almost certainly referring to the code inspection that I had requested on account of Pot-o-Shit Friend and company. Psychotarp correctly noticed that things were amiss and untoward around the farm, and he’s absolutely fucking batshit, the craziest person I’ve ever known. The poor in general are exposed to bad conditions and mistreatment that the affluent would either buy their way out of or, in the rare situations where they couldn’t, sue into full abatement. The lifelong affluent have trouble believing some of these stories because they’re so outrageous and grotesque, but they’re true.

For many street people, staying on the streets means not being lectured and surveilled by grandiose, paranoid scolds who attach a mesh of strings to every bit of their charity they dole out and assume that everyone they serve (that word again) has a substance abuse problem. This is one of the flaws in social services that housing first programs cut out by not giving petty tyrants with authoritarian personalities opportunities to act as gatekeepers. The charity provided by many rescue missions, sober living houses, and the like isn’t nearly as charitable as a direct handout to a panhandler. Charity as leverage to force full behavioral compliance for the sake of moral regimentation is not charity; it’s bullying, and like all bullies, those offering it target the weakest, most vulnerable people they can find. Giving a bum money with no assurances of how he’ll spend it is true charity. Giving someone food and drink unconditionally is true charity. When I say “unconditionally,” of course, I mean that it doesn’t require attendance at a religious service, baroque intake procedures, or any other gatekeeping bullshit. Give a man a meal, and he’ll probably eat it, although if it’s repulsive, he might not. A decent charity cookout at the park will be received more gratefully than a shitty pile of canned slop in a mess hall after a three-hour intake wait. Denny’s will have better eating, too, and definitely better hours. Begrudging a bum his Crazy Spicy Skillet is, for lack of a better term, crazy salty. No, that’s Panda Express. If this is all about incentives, what the hell is wrong with incentives for people to do honest labor providing wholesome, tasty food at a clean restaurant open to the public instead of virtue-signaling how much they care about the poor by ritually feeding them crap with strings attached in a soup kitchen?

Sure, there are more efficient ways to feed the poor, at least in theory. Food banks work, but mainly for people who have kitchens at home, and as with soup kitchens, they tend to be huge time sinks. This totally isn’t a problem for anyone who isn’t personally poor, vulnerable, and forced to hurry up and wait for some do-gooder to actually do good. The armed forces pay their personnel to put up with this kind of shit; rescue missions don’t pay their clients, so maybe they shouldn’t put up with it. This is exactly why we have media of exchange, i.e., money: to avoid timewasting clusterfucks. If some assholes at the Oregon Country Fair want to barter an old VW bus for a barrel of pickles, that’s their business for throwing the pearls of their own affluence into the swine pit; being affluent, that probably isn’t their full pearl supply. Demanding that the poor live in a similar fashion as a way of showing their gratitude is evil.

It turns out that Handouts Don’t Help is a local campaign in Redding. That’s even more reason to be leery of it. Redding is the home of Bethel Church, a powerfully insane congregation that should never be given authority over charity distribution. As it happens, Bethel is all about handouts for its own operations, and its congregants are always begging for alms for frivolous travel expenses on mission trips, usually to nice neighborhoods in nice towns. This is a city whose dominant religious congregation, which is not the only one of its worldview, is exceptionally nutty and profligate. Any charitable contributions that get into the hands of an outfit like that might as well be used for a good asswiping and flushed. We’re talking about a city swarming with charismatic kooks with axes to grind who are constantly networking with wealthy benefactor (for money) and vulnerable pushovers (for narcissistic supply, which they self-charitably call ministry). Handouts Don’t Help offers absolutely no description of how it disburses the contributions that it collects, a red flag for any charity but an especially bright one for an umbrella organization operating in a city in the sway of extremely well connected religious nutcases with an appallingly superficial, emotionally unhinged sense of spirituality that includes “coffee with Jesus.” If I don’t know for a fact that charitable contributions solicited by a bum-shaming campaign are not going to any programs under the auspices of a church that was too extreme for the Assemblies of God and now encourages its spinsters to set a place at the table for the Lord, I’d give a decent loafaday bum a bit of Denny’s/bottle shop/whoring money instead, because at least that way there isn’t a chance for asshole middlemen to get in the way and divert it to total dipshits before it’s even been spent.

That’s the other glaring category error in Handouts Don’t Help: it assumes that anyone giving money to panhandlers does not give money to food banks, shelters, or any other organized charitable programs. This is fucking nuts. Individuals’ personal finances are finite, and compassion fatigue sets in at some point, but there’s nothing stopping someone from giving both direct alms and indirect support for the poor to charities. I’ve given money to my disabled vet sign-flying buddy from the rest stops for his migrations to Stand Downs in Washington State, and I’ve given money to food banks. How in hell are these donations mutually exclusive? The food bank that I’ve usually supported puts out coupons at the local grocery store that customers can rip off and hand to the cashier. It’s easy as shit if I’m not feeling miserly, and I’m confident that the money goes to a reputable organization that actually feeds the hungry, not to no telling who may be hanging out behind closed doors with a Chamber of Commerce front group that wants me to give money to formal charities as a way of chastising the poor.

I know, it’s our hard-earned money and shit, so do I work for a living? I took my ass into BottleDrop this morning, so I did last night. If I were a psychopath, I might not find this as enjoyable as making the indigent sing for their supper, but like any sensible bum, I welcome the money and the cash.

Snow day

The Soviet Union had these state-run neighborhood grocery stores called “Produkty.” “Products” was an accurate enough translation, although “Goods” or “Groceries” is probably a bit more precise. A number of these stores were still around in Moscow and St. Petersburg when I went to Russia on a summer immersion program in 2002. The most memorable one, a bit south of Nevsky Prospekt and a mile or two from the waterfront in central St. Petersburg, was staffed by a dead ringer for The Rock who told me two or three times, roughly verbatim, “All of our vegetables are disgusting. Just look at them.” I’d been sent out to buy zucchini for a crappy pasta dish that some girls in the exchange group wanted to make. When I tried to describe what I was looking for in Russian (like a cucumber, called “zucchini” in English), another customer told me that he knew exactly what I meant in English but needed to call a friend for the Russian translation. When this dude got his buddy on the phone and translated my question into a less tangled and childish Russian, the Rock of Russia inevitably told us that he did not in fact have zucchini in stock. Looking at me like I was becoming a greater fool every minute I spent in his store, he pointed at his produce again and reminded me that–who could even guess it?–it was all disgusting. The Rock of Russia was right on all counts.

This is a true story, by the way, as true as a story about Russia can be, I suppose (and the Western press assumes). Another story I heard about Russia, from a doddering emeritus professor of the humanities, was that Mushrooms are the Soul of Russia: absolute bullshit, no idea how he came up with that, according to one of our local language instructors. Less full of it but no less confused was the old lady housesitter who answered the phone when one of the guys in our group tried to reach his parents in Massachusetts, on around June 1: “Who’s this? You’re where? Where? Oh, Russia! How’s winter?”

By most accounts, Soviet-era Produkty stores sucked ass. Worse, entire city sectors, even entire cities and neighborhoods, had no alternatives to these shitty stores and their shitty product lines. In the worst times, customers had to spend hours waiting in line just to get into these dumps and see if they were selling anything that was worth buying. These stores were classic Soviet state enterprises in all the worst customer-service senses. The only workaround was whatever local barter and black markets had arisen in the shadow of the totalitarian state. These emergent markets were said to be much more robust in Poland, the radish of the Eastern Bloc (“red on the outside, white on the inside,” snork snork) than in State-Patriotic Mother Russia. So, yeah, shopping sucked.

We have nothing like that back in the US, back in the USSA. It’s not as if we have a car-owning bourgeois population that shops at properly stocked and managed Kroger stores with tenuous connections to the bus system while Mike Brown huffs it through a desolate urban food desert to the neighborhood QuikTrip. Don’t be a silly comrade. We have markets, bitch. And we couldn’t possibly have the highest incarceration rate on the face of the earth, aside from an obscure juntastic oddity or two, or a notoriously violent prison system teeming with convicts whose interrogations and trials featured procedural irregularities.

Nah, that’s crazy. So is the driveway plowing market where my parents live. For an area supposedly populated by a flinty, hardy, independent stock of country people who don’t like meddlers telling them what to do, it’s a sorry-ass excuse for a free market. It’s actually a hillbilly cartel, and the hillbillies who plow driveways in my parents’ part of the county seem to be a bunch of derelict shitheads who should never have been licensed to drive. They do sloppy, incomplete work and extensive damage to the graveling, which would cost thousands of dollars to have professionally repaired. Much worse, they drive like bats out of hell: I’ve seen them rounding narrow blind curves at forty miles an hour in their heavy-duty work trucks. It’s a miracle that they don’t regularly cause fatal accidents. These guys are the single readily identified threat to driver and pedestrian safety on my parents’ road. They often scare the hell out of my dad.

The side-by-side contrast with the comprehensive state could hardly be starker. My parents’ road is plowed and treated by the county highway department, which rarely allows more than a few inches of snow to accumulate. County trucks usually come through several times before the hillbilly cartel shows up to do $40 (sic) of work for my parents in all of five minutes. The county trucks are a foot or two wider than the hillbilly plow trucks and three or four times the unladen weight, but they’re always driven at safe, cautious speeds. Similarly, I’ve never seen state troopers or sheriff’s deputies go hot-dogging down my parents’ road. There are sections where too slow is a hell of a lot better than too fast. Some of us don’t want to be struck dead by lunatics.

The Nor’easter that’s coming in overnight is expected to limit travel pretty severely and make roads impassible in its heaviest hours. If the highway crews can’t keep up with it, it will be due to the sheer force of the storm, not official incompetence. Having spent my teens and early twenties in Southern Pennsylvania, I appreciate governments that don’t stick their thumbs up their asses all day and let critical infrastructure get shut down every time it snows. The fuckjobs at PennDOT were always blaming the freeze-thaw cycle for the poor condition of roads that they didn’t feel like maintaining. New Jersey had the same freeze-thaw cycle, and mysteriously, its highways weren’t such shit. I’ve seen enough of NYSDOT and the county crews up here to be confident that they aren’t jackoffs.

This doesn’t excuse the private plow cartel. They’ve left my parents snowed in for hours after eight-inch snowfalls that didn’t come close to producing whiteouts. It doesn’t excuse my parents for putting up with that bullshit, either. They’ve been stuck in their house solely on account of the last two hundred feet leading up to their garage. They don’t have a snowblower because that would be expensive and shit. They don’t have an old truck with a plow on standby because that would be too rednecky. They don’t try to get their neighbor from across the street, a responsible and upstanding local redneck with whom they’ve always gotten along wonderfully, to plow or sand their drive when the regular plowboys drop the ball. He jumped in and sanded the base of the drive from the bed of his truck free of charge when I ran into him a few years ago, and he’s definitely more responsible than whoever the hell my grandmother’s boyfriend’s surviving cousin is dispatching. If the neighbor and people he saw fit to hire were running the local plow business, none of this horseshit would be happening. Instead, anyone in the neighborhood who wants to hire private plowing help is stuck doing business with these reckless assholes.

It’s scandalous. As far as I know, it’s true, i.e., it isn’t some local whopper that my parents were too credulous to disbelieve. They’ve heard corroborating details from people who seem perfectly honest and are not Cousin Gigolo’s known plowkin. I shouldn’t be that harsh on Cousin Gigolo: he’s just a low-rent sugar baby, not the holder of a semiformal monopoly franchise on gigolo services in his town.

What keeps upsetting me is that every time something around here just doesn’t fucking work, my parents act like it’s local color, and if anything about it isn’t aesthetically hideous, they gush about how it’s so “cute.” Why in hell should I give a shit about the cuteness of the Saratoga train depot? It’s all right, and I don’t want some megalomaniac going full Robert Moses on it, but for fuck’s sake, it has only two scheduled Amtrak trains a day each direction, and at least half the southbound runs have shit for connections beyond New York City. It’s okay for travelers who don’t mind getting in at midnight or half past three in the morning. I don’t see a way to make that work.

My parents are even more captivated by the dumbass Polar Express excursions that the Adirondack and North Creek Railroad runs seasonally around Christmas, which have the depot mobbed with children in pajamas around the time the northbound Ethan Allen Express arrives. Even if I enjoyed children in bulk, I’d be offended to listen to gushing about how a station that is lucky to secure public appropriations for once-daily increases in intercity passenger rail service every twenty years has no trouble lining up private funding for vanity runs to take brat packs up the Hudson in pitch dark so they can pretend that they’re on a magical mystery train to the fucking North Pole. The fact that these twits are running a real train based on a fictional train is crazy enough; that they’re doing it in a region where the public transit varies from mediocre to useless to nonexistent is truly pathetic.

A few years ago, my mom carried on about an item in the local free rag out of Lake George that mentioned a couple of old ladies who had traveled from North Creek to Saratoga on a sightseeing run and connected to Amtrak, or vice versa, the idea being that the A&NR was a common carrier now. Of course it fucking wasn’t. I’ve driven across the tracks recently, and they look like they haven’t been used in months. I’m glad that the tracks are finally back in service and that the line hasn’t been irrevocably converted into a rail trail (irrevocably not for technical reasons, but on account of nimbies), but if it were viable as an Amtrak connecting service, I’d be the first to learn of it. I hate to have to drive everywhere, so I stay abreast of transit news. There isn’t much of it in the North Country.

This stuff wouldn’t be bothering me so if I were modestly independent of my parents when I’m staying up here. Instead, we’re codependent. There is something very wrong with their objections to my getting a cheap clunker for my own use up here and to my getting rental cars. They’ve become visibly offended when I’ve complained about being marooned at their place because I’m dependent on them to borrow a car or get a ride. There’s inevitably excessive emotional drama when my mom comes along to drop me off at the train station. I do not like her acting like I’m going off to war when I’m actually going off to Atlantic City for three days. It’s needlessly upsetting. In the past, she has gotten so clingy with me on the platform that she’s inadvertently cut off other passengers in her frantic efforts to walk all the way up to the train door; these incidents upset and alarmed me enough that I’ve started explicitly telling her to stay away from the train while I’m boarding (i.e., allow me to board like a grown-ass adult). A car of my own, either rented or owned, would allow me to stop taking part in public performances of Phil Collins musicals, but my parents are broken records whenever I suggest anything of the sort. They always freak out over minor logistical details that I’d have no difficulty solving. Where would I park it? Well, shit, do I look like I’d be unable to find a storage facility? I’m already renting two walk-in storage units in two states. I’m convinced that they’ll be absolutely useless in any effort I make to register a car in New York State (say, by agreeing to be co-owners of record), just as they have never agreed to cosign on a rental car for me or cosign on a credit card for me so that I can readily qualify for a rental car on my own. I have no objection on principle to bringing a bike up here for my personal transportation, assuming that I can somehow bicycling work over the distances involved, but I’d be surprised if my mom didn’t get all worked up over my bike cluttering up their garage.

One obvious solution would be for me to get a job in the area. But here’s the bizarre thing: I’ve suggested it to my dad two or three times, and maybe to my mom as well, and even though I’m the unemployed failson here, my dad has consistently turned discussions of my getting a job nearby into utterly fruitless and ultimately demoralizing quagmires. He insists on knowing what I want to do for my own optimal happiness and self-actualization, which he infers would be more likely to happen in California. Funny thing, being holed up against my own stated wishes in their retirement house for weeks on end and stress-eating my way through Lent ain’t it, but the truth is that I’d be flat broke if I’d been left to my own wits, and I’m the only child of two aging parents who insist on isolating themselves in the middle of nowhere, hundreds to thousands of miles from anywhere that I’ve chosen on my own to live or work. My parents have repeatedly expressed concerns with or frank opposition to a number of the goals I’ve expressed, including getting work back east where I can visit them more frequently, flying in from the West Coast every few weeks if they’re holing up in the Adirondacks, maintaining California legal residency at all costs, and not being abused by Joe Dirtbag.

The strictly fiscal impediments to some of these goals aren’t as daunting as they sound: for example, I suspect that I could simultaneously rent cheap apartments in marginal but decent parts of California and New York or Pennsylvania for less than a thousand dollars a month combined. The obstacles would be finding willing landlords who don’t insist on prohibitive employment, credit, and reference checks. The sociological aspects of socioeconomics can easily overwhelm the strictly economic aspects. The amount of trust and sociability needed to make couchsurfing and other cohousing arrangements work, for example, is ever so much higher than advertised. Without a doubt it’s safer for me to get a walk-up apartment of my own in any reasonably peaceable distressed housing market in Upstate New York than to trust my safety and welfare to strangers I met over the internet. Honestly, it’s safer for me to sleep in a car at a rest area than to shack up with randos I haven’t had time to vet.

I don’t think I have a prayer of convincing my parents that, given my weird personal circumstances whose development they’ve encouraged, it would not be frivolous of me to rent an apartment on each coast. It doesn’t matter that I’ve spent horrifying amounts of money on cheap lodging, some of it seedy or even dangerous, or that I’m the one who has routinely slept in cars or on trains to make ends meet and they’re the ones who spent $420,000 on a retirement house in a remote area where they had no friends. The sheer irrationality that I come up against is stunning. I’m not sure it would make a difference if I put together a spreadsheet showing exactly what cost savings I expected to achieve, line by line, by getting apartments; if they subconsciously found anything eccentric about it, or possibly even anything low-class, they’d probably sandbag it with irrational objections.

I’ve already gone through a period of years during which my parents repeatedly insisted that a relative whom I was explicitly accusing of specific abusive acts was ontologically incapable of abusing me; just in the past week or so I’ve had reason to believe that my parents are starting to provide Joe Dirtbag with cover again. My guess is that I’m really pretty stable and clearheaded for someone who has had a family clusterfuck like that lurking in the background for years on end and coming to a head every few months. Anyone who isn’t insensate would find it disruptive. My parents seemingly can’t or won’t let go of a vicarious desire for evidence that things are fine between me and Joe Dirtbag. This desire overpowers whatever interest they have in letting me protect myself from a man who I swear has serially abused and preyed upon me, so they distort and elide what they must to pretend that he isn’t really that bad whenever I am not actively promising to have law enforcement bar the door against him the next time he tries to come back into my life.

At the same time I’ve been dealing with the bizarre situation of being recurrently homeless but unable to discuss my homelessness frankly, no matter how calm and matter-of-fact I am, without getting the upper middle class completely bent out of shape. For two or three years I’ve consistently found it less distressing to be homeless than my parents, their friends, and some of my own friends visibly find it to hear that I’m homeless. It’s no wonder that homeless outreach services in this country are so terrible. Who the hell wants to be humiliated to walking death by emotionally overwrought concern trolls or religious busybodies for two hots and a cot? The most absurd outburst of this sentiment that I’ve encountered was from the family friend who asked me, almost verbatim, why I didn’t go to medical school instead of being homeless and worrying my mom. I don’t give a shit who you are or how sensible you usually are; to say a thing like that is profoundly and undeniably insane. Housing crises are not fixed by going back to school; they are fixed with adequate housing under tolerable conditions, full stop. The broad socioeconomic conditions of wasting a large chunk of my early thirties in my parents’ retirement house at incalculable cost to my short- and long-term health are less tolerable than I’d hope to have in my life, but beyond a certain threshold, which is never as distant as I’d hope, the alternative looks to be destitution on skid row. Or in rural terms, the Pot-o-Shit Friend Option. There’s no need to be that loser to live around that loser.

Keep this in mind, too: I’ve been watching people who own real estate in Palo Alto have emotional meltdowns because their children are failures as conduits of vicarious success. That statement’s so White, it’ll cause snow blindness. God help us, it’s also true. It’s probably a logical end result of a community too squeamish to buy its disappointing children sinecures and too craven to challenge the yuppie project. As I’ve said before, as failspawn we could be living in Lillooet crack dens, while in point of fact some of us hardly even drink. Palo Alto is a great place to neurotically compare the regression of one’s special snowflake towards the mean to several thousand overachieving Chinamen. It’s madness.

That sounds like something Rob Ford might have said. The big guy wasn’t woke when he put the coke into Etobicoke, but I maintain that he was a strong contender for the most effective cultural pluralist Toronto has seen in living memory. Bougie doesn’t usually do that kind of pluralism. It’s too permissive. It doesn’t give young’uns enough structure to duly impress their parents with great academic and professional success. Sino-Indian tiger parenting is surely a better model.

The adult decisions I’ve had to make are not the ones I expected. It never occurred to me what I’d be willing to do to keep a roof over my head until the projectile domestic acrimony between Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew mushroomed into an implicit but clear threat of sudden domestic violence against me. After that, I consciously admitted to myself that I’d already been putting up with horrific emotional abuse for weeks and months at a time over a period of years precisely in the hope of keeping myself off the streets. If Dickinson College tried to prepare its students for this possibility, it might find its donations being diverted, say, to long-term housing funds, and maybe its tuition money as well. It would be much better to preserve and abundantly refill this rice bowl by preaching abiding faith in gods of great providence. I suppose it’s a more pleasant story, unless one is savvy enough to tell that it’s dangerous bullshit or until one’s ass is thrown out into much more predatory and chaotic communities.

Realize that it is practically impossible for me to discuss any of this with most of my relatives or with many of my friends. I stumbled onto the wrong side of a gaping cultural divide that no one wants to bridge.

Bogus midcentury nostalgia and other yuppie wannabe bullshit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brahmin pornography

It’s another Pleasant Valley Sunday, another day for you and me in paradise. Oh, look twice at this sloppy outburst of literary feminist navelgazing commissioned across the street from the Port Authority. Or, better yet, don’t look even once; it’s pretty dreadful. TL;DR: A chronic international student asks why it’s okay for men to wander vagrantly around the great (read: not totally dangerous) cities of the world when women are sometimes treated like common whores for doing likewise, and why the feminine version of the French masculine word for parasitical walkabout traditionally connotes sitting on ass like a proper lady, discovering in the course of her research that certain literary women before her did, in fact, partake of the Hemingway-on-the-loose shit, and incidentally some stuff about the existence of local working classes hidden in plain sight in the Beautiful Cookbook tableau of city life.

Alternate working title: Everybody’s Gone Swerfin’, Swerfin’ USA. Working girls, construed to also include laundresses and produce hawkers, were supposedly accorded the liberty to go out on the streets with whatever they were selling, while women who were evidently useless, but not their male counterparts, were not given the same street passes. The NYT being the NYT, there’s no ready way to tease the sexy sexual politics apart from the unsexy class politics, but this is no social science, it’s just another sticky day of literary horseshit for you. Yes, that was bad, but have you read the link yet? I still haven’t read it through, mainly because it sucks. Think about better uses of $27.00 plus applicable tax for ownership of a copy of this:

Following Elkin as she explores the city, we inch into memoir territory. Although she is a native of New York, she makes her first acquaintance with aimless urban walking in France. To her, the streets of Paris “seemed saturated with presence, even if there was no one there but me. These were places where something could happen, or had happened, or both, a feeling I could never have had at home in New York, where life is inflected with the future tense.”

Jesus Christ, Caulfield. At least she isn’t spending so much on cabfare. It’s fascinating to learn that New York City, whose history I’ve studied, doesn’t have one. 27 divided by 140/200/350/600/20/whatever=do your own damn math and you, too, can figure out how close the money you didn’t spend on that stupid book could get you to being able to hire your next honey. I decided not to exclude blow-and-go from thick, and I do mean thick, bitches in Over-the-Rhine, as portrayed on Police Women of Cincinnati. Maybe I should have, and by “maybe,” I mean “absolutely.” You’re welcome. Cincinnati is a famous city, too. Jerry Springer was once its mayor. Some redneck dipshits hollered vaguely aggressive abuse at me from their truck while I was walking around Newport (maybe Covington?), every bit as much on my own as these lit chicks. When school was dismissed, I got to hear a dirty white boy telling his eight-year-oldish daughter, “Daddy thought he was gonna have to go to jail today, but I told the judge, fuck that shit!” This was his response to hearing from the crossing guard, a kindly redneck lady growing old before her time, that his daughter had done really well on her most recent test and that he’d be proud of her for that. Should I write a book about any of this? No, that’s the wrong question. I could bang out something presentable and more or less coherent in a matter of days, but if I did, would I have a snowball’s chance on Diamond Head of getting it plugged in the NYT Book Review?

The most insightful take I’ve ever heard on The Catcher in the Rye was from some high school students in the South Bronx, who were floored that Holden Caulfield was so discontented when he had the privilege of being able to fuck around the nice parts of Manhattan in a taxi all day. Like, doesn’t that fool have to work? If he’s so privileged, why is he so unhappy? Aside from the litany of ways that the privileged sabotage their own psychic wellbeing and that of their dependents (let’s turn Big Ears Teddy around; he shouldn’t have to see that, either), these kids were right. If an overrated novel was going to inspire Mark David Chapman to off John Lennon, that was at least a fitting enough one. Mr. Lennon, most recently of New York, is certainly no longer inflected with the future tense.

I’ve bought day passes and gone joyriding on RTC to see if anything interesting was happening at the Reno Airport, largely because I couldn’t figure out what the hell else I was in a position to do with my week. Where’s my New York Times book review? More to the point, what’s the buy-in price on that scene? I have a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts from a regionally prestigious private college in the Northeast, and my network is fucking useless. What’s the source of the money that keeps these bitches wandering around Paris with no visible means of support? Don’t tell me I’m the only one who’s on an allowance. If I’m not mistaken, Reno is cheaper than Paris. I submit that these broads have access to capital. I personally know a woman who, for reasons not fully explained to me, has the means to frequently travel between the West Coast, expensive expat parts of Mexico, and Morocco, and, as far as I can tell, to do so without sleeping in doorways. She’s on the lit scene, too. I’m pretty sure JetBlue isn’t offering $84 specials to Casablanca.

According to the Emily Bailout story, the buy-in for a graduate sinecure at Alma Mater, Tried and True was Noble $50,000, payable upfront. My understanding is that Emily Bailout doesn’t even have a talent for writing overwrought Paris, Je T’aime bullshit. Whom am I failing to pay off for a damn job?

The most disgusting thing about this is the expectation that everyone agree with the proposition that the Times is a left-wing paper. It’s actually a mishmash of cultural limousine liberalism and reaction in crypsis that makes John Lindsay at his worst look like Richard Nixon at his best. There are reasons why Jacobin doesn’t have its own office tower on Eighth Avenue. Or, for that matter, its own postmodernist recreation of a Soviet secret police headquarters within walking distance of the White House. Democracy Dies in Darkness, after all, and the NYT and the WaPo, full as they are with spooks, know a thing or two about the dark side.