Other sides of town

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please accept my warmest welcome into this world.

Panera Democrats

Good bloody grief, the GA-06 special election has given us a barfworthy new shorthand for the narrow, polarizing constituency of tepidly semiliberal Republican-leaning suburban social climbers that the Democratic establishment, for some hideous sentimental reason, still swears will get it over the top. As I often am, I’m late to this particular shitshow, which started two months ago, but just a few hours ago I came across some astute leftists on Twitter discussing it, and hoo boy is it some dumb, dumb shit. A high mucky-muck in the Democratic Party named Brian Fallon went on Twitter during the first round of the special election, on April 18, with this gem:

Even if he doesn’t hit 50 tonight, Ossoff is showing us the path to retaking the House. It runs through the Panera Breads of America.

Dude are you fucking serious? I think I’d heard of Fallon in contexts other than this Panera Democrats wanking fantasy, but I don’t follow the horse race bullshit closely enough to keep track of however many dozens of A-Listers, hundreds of B-Listers, and so on down the line maintain some kind of hideous relationship of patronage in exchange for sycophancy with Clintonworld. I guess I maintained some vague benefit of the doubt that the machine was savvy enough not to keep anyone around who was so utterly retarded. The moral of the story, if there is one, must be never to give anyone who’s ever been in the Clintons’ orbit the benefit of the doubt.

Before I continue, I might as well air some of my own mixed feelings about Panera. On the whole, I enjoy the chain. A dear friend of mine (a suburban Republican who considered Trump a nutcase and a distraction during the primaries; how topical!) and I have gone to half a dozen Paneras in Pennsylvania and the one at Horton Plaza in San Diego. Most of the food is good, although one scorched bowl of French onion soup in North Hollywood (Wow Much travels None homeland) got me woke af to the truth that the properly executed recipe still sucks. At the same time, the scrupulously anodyne corporate office park aesthetic has increasingly aggravated me over the years (they decorate their cups with fucking clip art). Starbucks is a vastly bigger chain with vastly higher revenue, but it feels human. Panera makes Dunder-Mifflin not look disturbing. More pertinently, Panera’s price points have been floating into the ionosphere for the past few years, or, in the Vulgate, it’s hella expensive, dawg.

We’re dealing here with a chain that subtly triggers customers who have had bad experiences in office jobs by reminding them of work, has good but not reliably good food, and costs a fortune for a fast-casual chain that often doesn’t even offer a tip jar. Panera is super bougie, a great place to get a bagel for $4.50 and then remember that Dunkin’ Donuts sells bagels that are almost as good at half the price. Bullneck has predicted that Panera will implode in another five years and produce a wave of strip mall vacancies. I’ve watched new hires watching training videos in the kitchen, so I don’t particularly doubt it. It’s already verging on a retail version of the Juicero.

This is not where socioeconomically mainstream people regularly eat. Statistics, which the Democratic brain trust supposedly has entire staffs to collect and analyze, prove this, and so does knowing people who aren’t yuppies. Right there we have two complementary ways that the DNC establishment is nothing but idiots. They don’t know anything from personal experience about how normal people live, and their yuppie statisticians don’t know anything from statistics about how normal people live. That’s the lot and portion of believing that Nate Silver is some kind of savant.

This dumbass Fallon probably avers that the path to a House majority runs through the Panera lobbies of the land because he’d rather hang out at Panera than have to deal with non-servant proles on their grubby turf. I’ve conducted much funemployment in Starbucks lobbies, and homelessness, too, so I don’t have a problem with people doing fuck-all in Panera all the live-long day. In Fallon’s case, I don’t really have a problem with some homelessness, either. If we’re going to continue having homelessness, why can’t public idiots partake of it in the interest of meritocracy? I write this stuff as a labor of love. I don’t get paid for it, no matter how mentally or emotionally taxing it is. I’ll get into a laser focus for hours at a time. You might wonder, then, why the laser spends so much time focused on the same handful of canucksploitable disgraces. Can’t I communicate to create something else? I even forget to meme Jian Ghotmesi. All I can say is that I’m imperfect. I’m not the hardest on the eyes, but I’m no Lynn Majors. I don’t expect to get paid for any of this shit. In the case of Dubai Porta Potty, I expressly expect not to get paid for it because no one should be paid for such a thing. Ready the net, Rundel, and make sure it’s a big one, because I’m fixing to grill up a regular Galilee camp meeting fish fry on the embers of these takes.

So here’s what bothers me: I pour myself into these essays because I feel called to bear witness to these things, with no compensation and no expectation that I’ll be paid, and then some overpaid idiot like Brian Fallon comes along and makes a raging public ass of himself for a living by demonstrating that he fundamentally does not understand American politics, which is his precise field. We’ve got the worst and the dimmest destroying a party FOR WHICH I DID VOLUNTEER GROUND CAMPAIGNING IN OPPOSITION TERRITORY so that they can loot what they consider their share of the ruins; smearing people who operate at a thousand times their intellectual wattage on a slow day (not just me; I could probably name dozens that I follow online) as ignoramuses; smearing the unemployed, the menially employed, and the marginally employed (again, not just me; in this case, millions) as wastrels; and ensconcing themselves as an unaccountable overclass in the name of meritocracy. I’ve seen claims that Fallon makes six figures for quixotically misdirecting the Democratic Party with his dumbass conflation of Alpharetta with the entire United States. The Dunkin’ Doorman is worth more to society than that retard.

It isn’t just that the Democratic establishment high-hats its intellectual superiors, e.g., laymen who notice that GA-06 is hella rich and the rest of America isn’t. They spent something like $30 million on Jon Ossoff and wouldn’t even give James Thompson or Rob Quist money for mailers. That isn’t incompetence; it’s fin-dom by omission. Mother is displeased. Abuela must punish the prodigal by disinheritance, but Jon, he’s a good boy, so he shall be given the entire estate. It’s Agatha Christie as reinterpreted by Megan McArdle.

This is our main left-wing party.

The two parties spent a combined $50m in a pissing match for a single House seat in Chrisley Country. What the hell did the Democrats think they were going to accomplish there? I had distant family in Alpharetta because a cousin married a guy who flew the big metal for Delta. Certain elements must not care for the neighborhoods closer than half an hour beyond the far end of the MARTA system. No, I’m not trying to dogpile Southerners for being racists. GA-06 has a significant black minority, although a small one for the Deep South. There are enough Latinos in suburban Atlanta for a beefy white police chief to walk down the Buford Highway pleading with constituents who just got off the bus to cross somewhere safer. On the other hand, the main takeaway from Chrisley Knows Best is that it’s past time for Summer Benton to choke a bitch. (Have at it, Hockenberry.) The McMansion vote isn’t living up there out of an abiding love of Whitey. They aren’t looking to break bread with the salty crackers. As they say down by the Chattahoochee, it’s a clay-ass thang.

Atlanta isn’t the only metropolis that has a problem with clay ass, although for a family that has a TV show for the sole purpose of showing off its own, the Chrisleys sure have none. Benton, you copy? I forgot to mention that the “Who the hell is Whitehead?” case involved an abandoned apartment complex sort of down towards the airport, in an area where my relatives must not have considered moving. It was the wrong kind of community, but not just because it was the wrong Community. Atlanta’s black middle class didn’t seem eager to live there, and a fancy bitch in Alpharetta certainly has no interest in dirtying herself in a neighborhood of mobile (sic) cracker shacks.

If we assume that the Atlanta metroplex is a microcosm of the United States, maybe one Congressional district in five is like GA-06. By law, one district out of 435 nationally is GA-06. There was no strategic purpose for the Democrats to dump $30m down that hole, but it was a form of therapeutic hippie-punching for shitheads who were still sore about the Bern and the Donald, a good way to show Rob Quist who was boss. It was also a good excuse to slander Po’ Whitey. Check it, there’s brown and yellow and black folk in the Sixth now, and everyone’s all educated, unlike the troglodyte racists in the rest of Georgia. This didn’t explain what political worldview would inspire a Brahmin Indian cardiologist not to vote Republican. 100% of the black 13% or whatever of the electorate is still only 13%, because Wow Much Mathematix. The Democrats expect African-Americans to vote for them. Is it because they’re black? Around Atlanta, a growing part of the black middle class is actually from Africa. Would a Nigerian orthopod be any less inclined to vote for Tom Price than Tom Price? The Democrats are working through this thing with shitty math and shitty sociology. If political science is actually a science, it isn’t in their hands.

As Lambert Strether likes to say, the Democrats are discovering that Republican voters prefer hardcore Republicans to softcore Republicans. Or maybe they aren’t discovering it; they may actually be that dense. They ran a centrist triangulator with a Milton Street-level commitment to residency in his own district but without Milton Street’s honesty about where he lays down his head, threw another of their Hail-Mary passes to their theoretically adequate ramshackle coalition of college fuckheads and racially denominated client bases, and then they choked. This toff told them to go campaigning in Panera, and then journalists discovered, to no sensible person’s surprise, that working-class black voters who weren’t all dead set against turning out were actually down at Burger King and had abandoned Panera to #TCOT.

But Burger King is gross. Like the proles who eat there, amirite? This is how petty the Democratic establishment is. This is how precious. Panera is their safe space. They just haven’t gotten around to accepting that the Alpharettans who have the money to darken (nay, greatly lighten) its doors have a reactionary highbrow politics suitable for the country club, not a mealymouthed posh woke politics suitable for quizzo night in Adams Morgan. Perhaps they are just at an early stage of their grieving. They still want brown to stick around out of some sense of political inertia and umpteenth-generation feeling of gratitude to the Democrats for nurturing civil rights leaders including LBJ (the Civil Rights Act) and Bill Clinton (Ricky Ray Rector). They want to cobble their racial subalterns together with just enough woke yuppies to form a critical mass, on the apparent belief that racial love for their august party will surely convince fast food workers to make common cause with hospital executives who would sooner have them live under a freeway overpass than share a bit of the wealth.

This ain’t no You Pick Two, cracka.

Stick a fork in the Nork Dork

If anyone alive today has forfeited his right to life, it’s Kim Jong-Un. There are others who are no less intrinsically heinous but precious few who are as threatening both to their own countries and to international stability.

Chide me if you like for advocating the assassination of a foreign head of state, but realize that I do not determine Piggy Gangnam Style’s longevity. (Nor am I the first to call him by this utterly appropriate epithet; I learned it from High Arka.) I am as effective at dereifying Piggy Gangnam Style as I am at reifying Mariska Hargitay into my bed to give me a Slow Cosby. If competent international men and women of mystery decide that it’s time for the fat bastard to go, it’s most probably that time of the autocratic cycle again. Do I mean to imply that there will be blood? Of course, but that ain’t necessarily so: Juche Porky had his own non-Spanish-speaking Dominican brother taken out in a cleaner fashion, although not his sleepy uncle. Alternately, and perhaps more feasibly, someone in his own government might decide that it’s time to Stauffenberg Kim, or that he’s murderous enough that his executions might as well not all be undertaken in vain. Some underling or underlings of his might determine that they’re hardly any less likely to be executed for taking him out than for leaving him unharmed, and that they have a good chance of finally triggering national reform three quarters of a century late by excising him from the body politic.

What I am not advocating is anything remotely as brutal as what Kim had his criminal justice system do to Otto Warmbier. As a matter of principle I’m in favor of some incidental vengeance, but mainly I’m interested in seeing a third-generation psychopathic serial murderer, tyrant, and international nuclear menace neutralized for good. The local circumstances seem idiosyncratic enough, and crucially very different from those under any of the dictators in Arab Spring country, that the assassination of Kim would stand a good chance of catalyzing a German-style reunification rather than some kind of factional bloodbath. Korea is a rare case of extreme political tension arising in the practically total absence of religious and ethnic tensions, a cohesive, ethnically unified nation that got split arbitrarily by a truce line into one half that evolved over the next several decades into an exceptionally reputable member of the international community and another half that entrenched itself as a sclerotic, hypermilitarized international pariah state, overtly threatening nuclear war with its neighbors on a regular basis.

Capturing Kim Jong-Un and hauling him before an international tribunal would be a restrained act of retaliation against a man whose family kidnapped Japanese civilians for lifelong enslavement as cooks and tutors, but doing so would risk provoking the remainder of his government into doing something much crazier than usual in a gambit to win his release. Assassinating him might cause enough chaos in his government to enable an international military invasion followed by a latter-day Marshall Plan, all of it under the direction of the other, much more competent Korean government, the one whose parliament recently impeached the scandal-plagued president and whose courts subsequently had her peaceably arrested and placed into pre-trial detention.

When dealing with a regime like North Korea, there’s definitely something to be said for communicating to its henchmen in language that they understand, i.e., cross us and die. That, after all, is exactly the stance that Pyongyang takes towards Seoul, Tokyo, Washington, Beijing, its own citizens, disfavored foreign visitors including Otto Warmbier, and even immediate members of the ruling family. There’s no shame in telling a thug like Piggy Gangnam Style that since he lives by the sword, he should be prepared to die by the sword. The practical impediment is that he’s always getting up in everyone else’s face and rattling the biggest, sharpest sword. The rest of us are scared of him, and with good reason. He’s the third successive member of a lineage that starves, enslaves, or butchers everyone who gets in its way domestically and threatens to annihilate every foreign enemy within range of its missiles, a troubling stance for a government that construes as its enemies any party asking it to stop firing nuclear-capable missiles into foreign airspace or start abiding by minimal human rights standards at home.

Otto Warmbier made a foolish, tragic mistake in a moment of passion and paid for it with his life. As a practical matter, cautioning foreign tourists in North Korea not to disrespect the regime is like cautioning Canadian anglers and their relatives not to try to share the same section of stream with actively fishing grizzly bears. It’s only prudent. The disanalogy, of course, is that a grizzly doesn’t bear (heh) moral culpability for swiping a fool’s face off in a fit of territoriality. For that matter, grizzlies don’t usually go looking for trouble with humans. The ruling Kims, who are human, do. There are reasonable arguments, mainly ecological, to be made for coexisting with grizzly bears. There are no such arguments to be made for coexisting with Kim Jong-Un and his henchmen, except that they’re liable to kill us if we try to kill them. Kim Jong-Nam, the Tokyo Disneyland enthusiast with the deficient Spanish proficiency, wasn’t even assassinated for getting in his little brother’s way or threatening his hold on power, but for being an occasional family scandal who spent the bulk of his time traveling internationally on a deliberately low and apolitical profile. If a wildlife officer would blow a bear’s brains out because the animal is imminently or repeatedly threatening human life, why the hell shouldn’t a capable party euthanize an absolute dictator who won’t stop threatening everyone around him? The North Korean regime offers show trials, torture, artificial famine, nuclear proliferation, a standing threat to physically obliterate Seoul, and most recently the unexplained fatal medical neglect of an American prisoner it had held incommunicado for over a year on a fifteen-year hard labor sentence for what would have been a minor infraction in any country with the rule of law. We may owe ourselves or South Korea the restraint not to provoke another world war, but we sure as hell don’t owe Juche Porky and his goon squads a damned thing.

The unfortunate thing about Stauffenberg’s bomb was that fucking table leg. Sturdy German construction again.

This doesn’t have to be about punishment. Whether Kim is to be punished for his atrocities can be left to whatever awaits him on the other side of the veil to decide. This is exactly how I feel about Chapo, by the way. In retrospect, I wish one of the Marines who recaptured him had shot him like Khrushchev’s boys shot Beria. Chapo wouldn’t have whimpered as much in extremis, and the responsible Marine would have been an instant national hero in Mexico. Many of the guys who have been brought before war crimes tribunals have been pitiful has-beens (Eichmann in his Argentine shack, Saddam in his rat hole). Someone like Chapo, who’s still active and in touch with an army of hit men, is so conclusively guilty and dangerous that a trial would be little more than an opportunity for adversarial showboating and his continued survival itself is a threat to the lives and safety of countless thousands of people who have crossed his cartel.

The one difference in Kim’s case is that since he’s a state actor it might be possible to neutralize him by forcing him into an Idi Amin-style exile. That’s not a risk that I’m particularly inclined to take, and it’s certainly not a courtesy that I’d like to see extended to him. There’s a great deal of honor, although admittedly also some real risk, in putting a foot down and telling Pyongyang that the Warmbier incident is the last straw. Even if it’s a bit hypocritical for US officials to take such a hard line on a foreign government when their own government has an understanding of federalism licentious enough to allow states to deny consular access to condemned foreign convicts, they’d be entirely in the right morally to take that hard line and then either stand back or help out when domestic activists try to level consular access standards up for foreigners incarcerated in the United States.

This idea that, oh, we forgot to mention that the citizen of yours whom we disappeared into our gulag after terrorizing him in a show trial has been in a coma for over a year is really unconscionable. I suspect that the officials who released Warmbier for medical evacuation back home had an oh-shit moment during their negotiations over the prospect of repatriating his corpse. They probably had prison doctors telling them that Warmbier was dying, and as nihilistic and madcap as the Norks can be, they are not self-destructive enough to want to be the ones pronouncing an American political prisoner dead. Hell, the doctors were probably shitting bricks at the thought of taking the fall for allowing their prisoner to die instead of merely medically clearing him for torture, as instructed. They were in a position to save their own lives by getting him back home and not allowing him to die under their care in service to a hereditary megalomaniac who had his own uncle executed by anti-aircraft fire for falling asleep at a cabinet meeting. The news reports have had a lot to say about high-level diplomacy, some of it mediated by Swedish intermediaries, leading up to Warmbier’s release, but Pyongyang won’t give a credible explanation of what happened to him medically while he was incarcerated, and at least three other US citizens remain in North Korean custody, so there’s no reason not to think that prison doctors sounded the alarm about their maintaining a terminally brain-damaged man as a sort of in-house zombie Mao and successfully begged their superiors to get him the fuck out of the country before they stopped being able to keep him alive.

I know that we’re supposedly dealing with the most inscrutable Orientals here, but this is a regime with an uncanny knack for self-preservation in spite of its own extreme eccentricity and belligerence. It seems to understand that brinksmanship doesn’t work for regimes that go all the way over the brink. There’s some real value, then, in demonstrating to these thugs that they don’t get to start shit with everyone else and then back down at the eleventh hour, often in exchange for international financial sweeteners. There’s an extremely unfortunate realpolitik to the moral hazard of playing along with this family junta in the hope that it won’t lash out catastrophically, but the really honorable and effective thing for the international community to do would be to forcibly finish what North Korea has started. I feel rash just for suggesting all of this, but at the same time this is a pariah regime that thrives by repeatedly showing other, less vicious, more responsible governments that it lives in a parallel world without consequences of its own making and that there’s nothing that the rest of them can do about it.

Honestly, my best guess is that the Chinese will be the ones to cross the Rubicon, that is, the Yalu. Japan and the United States have sea buffers, South Korea is scared to death because its capital city is fully within the short-range artillery “kill box” bordering the DMZ, and Russia has only a few scattered homesteaders and the like who can be evacuated away from the border if shit starts hitting the fan. China is the country that has a militarily troublesome neighbor disgorging impoverished non-Chinese-speaking refugees into a number of its industrial border cities and generally stirring up shit while simultaneously angling for military aid and cooperation. For a number of years the Chinese Politburo has been getting awfully sick of all the Nork bullshit, and it’s historically educated enough to know that this wouldn’t be its first modern military invasion of Korea. Beijing’s frank amorality is precisely why it has devoted so much effort to establishing civilian business colonies throughout the Global South. Surely it looks at South Korea, not a fellow people’s republic, as a more harmonious and stable trading partner than the economically moribund, batshit crazily revanchist communist crime family in the North. As much as Red China doesn’t want to fully disavow Mao, it has little use for a egregiously dysfunctional neighbor whose government won’t stop reenacting the Cultural Revolution with extra doses of nepotism and family intrigue.

I don’t want to see another ill-advised international bloodbath (gee, like we have going RIGHT NOW IN YEMEN, for the most godawful geopolitical reasons), but I won’t be upset at all if someone gets in there and cuts the head off that snake. That’s a hermit kingdom the same way Ariel Castro was a hermit bus driver. Good riddance if it goes.

Doing something right for a change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More seniors by the sea: spank you for your service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The beatings will continue until workforce health improves

This is why I (sometimes) still listen to NPR. I exclude Scott Simon from any deliberate boycott, of course, because Chicago Senpai don’t do House Voice, and I guess I could exclude Robin Young as well for reasons having less to do with #SPORTS. *Devin Yamanaka transmission incoming* What’s going on, Ed. *Radio disquiet* Hey there, Devin, here’s a bitch over in Maine who sounds normal but is actually insane.

If that sounded odd, you haven’t listened to enough drivetime Cap Radio. Nor am I the one whose boss got all riled up over D. Money and Smoothie, mythical niggas from wicked south who don’t have anything to do with their kids. Mary Mayhew, Maine’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services, plays the good cop to Paul LePage’s crazy cop. It may be embarrassing that Maine is governed by your crazy racist uncle, but ultimately, likely in a matter of years, not decades, the political expression of LePage’s salty Canuck geezer act is naturally self-limiting and self-correcting. There’s a constituency for his loosely wound bigotry, but it’s too small to win statewide elections on its own. Even George Wallace at his most avowedly racist delivered the goods to his constituents, largely irrespective of race. Paul LePage didn’t get to where he is without the holistic political sense to successfully navigate an unhealthy political ecosystem that was failing to do right by ordinary Mainers, a credible appearance of empathy for their grievances, and some ability to articulate how he’d redress them. He was already governor when he made the comment about D. Money and Smoothie hitting the road after getting your daughter into trouble, so he had some political capital available to burn.

And in any but the unhealthiest political ecosystems, that’s the kind of language that inspires voters to keep an eye out for promising challengers. It alienates voters who expect the governor to behave with some dignity and tact in public. It alienates voters who don’t like being lectured about social morality (not as a euphemism, because it’s ultimately about much more than just sex) by a disinhibited old coot who watches too much Fox and Friends and acts like he has a real problem with interracial marriage, too. Many Mainers, especially younger ones, have black friends, either Somalis or scions of the old stock from points south, or else are black themselves; they might not take kindly to a governor who crudely dogwhistles smears about an entire race in a fashion worthy of a right-wing chain letter. If anything, Somali-American voters might be more sympathetic to LePage’s comments, insofar as they construe these as targeted criticism of specific Community pathologies that they, too, find objectionable; the bitter experiences that many Somali immigrants have had with old-line African-Americans were a key motivation for their initial enthusiasm to #RaceTogether in the Great White North instead. Voter disapproval of LePage needn’t be so nuanced, though: his beef with D. Money and Smoothie is enough to worry a decent swath of voters, possibly enough to swing elections, that he’s going senile, is too needlessly combative and wound-up to function adequately in high office, or is just a fucking idiot.

Mary Mayhew, by contrast, is smooth and clean. Too much so, in fact. She’s far, far more dangerous than LePage. LePage is too low-functioning to keep his true feelings close to the vest. If he’s got a bee in his bonnet about something, he pipes up about it in whatever crude, goofy manner springs most immediately to his mind. He can pretty much be read at face value. LePage is the one who impulsively mouths off with ideas that are unambiguously meanspirited or just plain nuts. Mayhew is the one who sticks to painstakingly scripted talking points and delivers them with scrupulous ritual civility. This doesn’t mean that her ideas are any less nutty or evil than LePage’s, or any different at all. What it means is that inattentive observers, including voters, read her at face value and fall for another snowjob, just as they do with any other slick, urbane bullshitter.

This wasn’t the first time that Here and Now had left me with an aftertaste of why the fuck was that shithead just given a national interview slot on the radio. They did worse in the same hour of the same episode when Robin Young interviewed a cheap faculty provocateuse (we strive to be gender-sensitive, yes?) who got all up in Richard Spencer’s face at their gym about what a Nazi piece of shit he was and so on and so forth, ultimately resulting in management yanking his card. The good professor had previously gotten into it with management over a “Puck Trump” cap that she had worn with, she admitted, an ambiguously printed capital P. In that segment, I discovered that it’s okay to say “spic” on the radio but not “nigger,” specifically in the context of, “I want you to be raped by a spic or a nigger.” No, I’m not going to link to that, not because it’s hateful but because the Here and Now homepage is a mess and I really fucking don’t feel like looking any more of that shit up. If you were looking for a way to demonize someone who also gets rape threats from Pakistani security service goons, that’s it right there.

These were segments that I just happened to hear on my way in and out of Safeway for a culturally appropriational Chinese fressfest. And that’s not even the worst that NPR/PRI/PRX/Public Fuck Me Arse has to offer. I don’t know how or why Marco Werman always sounds like such a simpering prick, but he does. Young and Hobson are pretty damn down-to-earth for Boston Brahmin types, no matter how much hot air hasn’t been let out of their guests. Marketplace has better aesthetics, in a weirdly overcaffeinated way, but they’re all fronting for the kinds of rich moneybags and slicked-up, condescending mercenary white shoe boiler room salesmen most Americans wouldn’t hesitate to throw into the sea. The TED Radio Hour with Guy Raz is its own circle of hell.

NPR is run by people who seem constitutionally unable to grasp that, just because some sleazy, overly coached fraud has something devious to say, they don’t have a duty to journalistic ethics or the public trust to give her a national platform to say it. The Spencer horseshit is a case in point. Richard Spencer is nothing more than a preppy douche from North Dallas who, we might say, dicks around with Nazi cosplay because it makes his Little Richard feel mightier. You know, I could use a good penis mightier, Trebek. Spencer became famous for yelling sieg heil shit and getting an arm stiffy over Trump in a hotel ballroom, then stayed famous for making (mostly) less inflammatory comments, getting sucker-punched by antifa at a rally, and now for being bothered by a crazy bitch with an ax to grind at his gym.

Why the fuck is this loser in the news, again? He isn’t running for public office. He holds no elected or appointed office at any level of government. Civically, he doesn’t even rise to the level of a nutter who shows up every Tuesday night to reciprocally talk over the mayor and the city council about the fluoride conspiracy. Spencer is really just the beneficiary of some weird kind of dark political magic inadvertently practiced by journalists who can’t resist juicy targets, do the real work or even thought necessary to discern what’s newsworthy, or assess threats to save their own lives. Trump, who got wall-to-wall coverage of his campaign speeches from supposedly hostile news outlets including CNN, is another beneficiary, but he was running for the presidency. Spencer is the equivalent of a nobody who occasionally gets into bar fights. He might make the local police blotter, but that’s it. NPR has successfully taken an inconsequential dipshit who was drifting around in grad school and reified him as a serious civic and political leader.

We’re told that this is because journalists want us to hear both sides. Gee, that’s nice. I’m sure radio producers have absolutely no discretion or limits on airtime that they can use to choose losers by not inviting them into the discourse. We don’t hear very much about single-payer health insurance from national news outlets, NPR or otherwise, a curious silence about a policy that enjoys the consistent support of a majority of the American electorate and is increasingly being demanded, loudly and explicitly, at town hall meetings with the elected. Or should I say, the Elect? They certainly seem to go through life with that level of self-esteem, after all. They may not be Dutch, but they’re very much. I’m sure I’d have a harder time getting anyone at Here and Now to hear out a detailed proposal for a revamped public housing program and exactly how I plan to keep the whole thing from turning into the Robert Taylor Homes than that shrill, openly crazy bitch from Georgetown had getting on the air for nothing more than having gotten into a three-way with Richard Spencer and the management at their gym over her feels about Spencer’s having taken Himmler as his spirit animal.

None of these people can do true objectivity, nor do they want to, because it would make them sound like wet noodles, so they do false objectivity. This craven, disingenuous stance does much to explain the long-term decline of public trust in the mainstream news media since the mid-twentieth century: there’s nothing crazy about distrusting organizations that exert powerful influences on public opinion on the basis of biases that they swear up and down they in no way whatsoever possess.

By far the loudest grievances about media bias come from the right wing, in no small part because the authoritarian right is crawling with masterful, relentless grievance whores. Some of these grievances are pure assertions coasting on inertia and repetition since the 1980’s, when there was something approximating a systemic leftwing bias in the mainstream media, at least relative to the prevailing political coalitions in Congress and in a number of statehouses. Challenging supply-side economics and the death penalty in the time of Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson was a leftward push on the national discourse that could, alternately, be rebuked from the right as suspect elite obstruction of the duly enacted will of the majority or backed up from the left as actual leadership. Given that the factions opposite mine in this discourse show no compunction about arguing through the most idiotic and provably false assertions, I see no reason to present a detailed counterargument right now for why I believe that the mainstream media going into the early nineties showed something closer to true leadership and courage in the face of out-of-control majoritarian sentiment and the demagogues whipping these sentiments up than agitprop worthy of Pravda.

In the early 1990’s, something changed. I was a tween to early teen at the time, so my perceptions weren’t as keen as they are now, and I haven’t looked through the contemporary archives much, but I distinctly recall a number of ugly reactionary trends appearing in what had previously been regarded as reputable outlets in leftist and centrist circles starting in the early nineties, and the rot has mainly intensified since then. Formerly sober outlets piled onto the bandwagon with salacious, hysterical coverage of the threat of sex offenders in the aftermath of the Megan Kanka murder and did practically nothing to debunk the crazy talking points that ended up conflating serially murderous pedophiles with public urinators and statutory rapists of sexually mature older teenagers. Dateline NBC degenerated from a reputable but still engaging investigative news program into what South Park so aptly ridiculed as informative murder porn, and then into a form of outright pornography that collaborated with a metastasizing carceral state to publicly humiliate losers who had been foolish enough to get catfished by Chris Hansen and his chatroom creep squad. Towards the end of the decade, NPR fired Bob Edwards, a class act, fairly solid journalist, and perfectly popular host who had a truly exceptional radio voice, replacing him with the proliferating pool of barely distinguishable borgs who definitively established the disturbing house voice that prevails at NPR to this day. This move successfully killed two birds with one stone, namely, ethics and aesthetics. As far as I’ve been able to tell (I’ve yet to see a satisfactory explanation for why the hell NPR shitcanned Edwards, let alone an admission ex cathedra), this was a personal part of NPR’s simultaneous campaign to solicit ever more corporate gray and dark money while also, but of course, whining ever more gratingly to its listeners that the fund drives would continue to interrupt the programming they hfad tuned in to hear until they coughed up the damn cash.

By now, we live in truly fucking awful times for mainstream reporting. It’s pretty much been getting worse for my entire lifetime, and I see precious few signs of improvement. The withering complaints that leftists in particular level against the NYT and WaPo are on point: these papers of record, respectively, for my country’s de facto commercial capital and its de jure political capital have been behaving more and more execrably over the course of my adult life. I’m disappointed with the censoriousness with which many leftist elements have carried on about Ross Douthat, but Tom Friedman is a bumptious charlatan, Ruth Marcus is a less talented and more vicious print version of Brenda Jorett who beclowned herself by defending Sam Brownback’s honor in the face of juvenile trash talk on Twitter from Overland Park, there’s a lot of intersectional bad faith and bad writing floating around the syndicated columnist pool in general, and Bret Stephens, from everything I’ve heard, sounds like a shameless bullshitter and a lunatic. One of the few charitable things I’m willing to say about this shitty pool is that David Brooks has some weird redeeming aesthetic value, and that I don’t care if others think he’s an annoying piece of shit because I think he’s a charming piece of shit.

It’s appalling to listen to people running interference for all this horseshit by rebuking newspaper readers as censorious for canceling their subscriptions (Bret Stephens was a popular last straw), as if the reading public has a civic duty to pay against its will for the upkeep of pitiful hacks who produce nothing but endlessly accumulating piles of court propaganda and personal sexual fantasy, much of it aesthetically worthless. Maureen, g’day m’lady; also, Jesus Kristof what up cracka. If it were literally horseshit, you might be able to find someone to cart it off to the shroom crew in Kennett Square, and if you did, you’d get paid by the ton. This kind, you pay for instead, and if you’re a landless Millennial like me, ain’t no use for any of that in the garden that you don’t have.

Commercial print news and public broadcasting have been turned into little more than findom scams on their audiences. It’s shameful, to the extent that those running the scams are capable of feeling shame, and I’d no sooner put money on that than I’d put money on the damn ponies or the NPR pledge drives. This is a bit off-topic (isn’t it all?), but there’s a bronze pig statue in the Reading Terminal Market called Philbert, situated atop a big plexiglass lock box, and customers can feed coins and bills into Philbert’s mouth and, if they’re attentive, watch the money (the coins especially) immediately fly out his ass into the collection plate. Okay, not off-topic, just off-color. Really, though, Philbert would be a fundraising model for NPR, since he welcomes the money and the cash, but he does so graciously. Also the money supposedly goes to projects better stewarded than NPR, the idea being something like at-risk youth in the Badlands getting some garden space, some seeds, and some mentorship instead of another yuppie in Fairmount getting another fucking tote bag.

Is that all you get for your money? Mama Leone, pray for us. At least bless us with soup, if not with sense. I hardly ever set foot in Market of Choice but, yes, I spend too damn much time in Market of Choice. Still, I count my blessings that I grew up around this crowd and didn’t end up on the Spectrum. I don’t know much about vaccines, a type of biology, but I do know that an hour of Marco Werman a day is enough to catch autism, and the kids are hopeless if they’re around the tote bags, too. You may be thinking, shit, this all sounds kind of autistic, so all I can say is, look, I’m really not that autistic. Like, I’ve got other cultural references at my disposal that I don’t find embarrassing. Believe me, I’ve known some strange rangers who do not. I’m not particularly like this when I leave the computer; many other such cases that I personally know or have credibly heard of roll in the deep with this shit all life long.

Again, one of the disturbing things here is that Here and Now is some of NPR’s better programming, so if it’s that bad, the whole joint must be fucked. Hell, even Marco Werman looks normal in pictures, so I don’t know what the hell is wrong with him. No, come to think of it (you heard it here first, not five seconds after I did), that twit may be some kind of low-functioning dipshit, the brownnosing class dork to Paul LePage’s racist uncle. I can’t recall getting the bad feeling that he was running a serious con on his audience. It was always pretty much just the dork from the multicultural club giving another school assembly presentation that went on too long. As I said above, two segments in the same half of the same Here and Now episode maxed out my bullshit meter the other day. That isn’t just some dipshit neighbor kid who always wants you to come over and listen to his collection of weird-ass international folk music and Skype with some guy he somehow knows in Lahore or Nairobi or God knows how the fuck he pulls any of this off when he doesn’t have any friends in his own school. As much of a public twit as he is, The World has never blindsided me with anything close to a crazy bitch using “spic” and “N-word” in the course of bragging about how she got all up in the face of some cosplay Nazi at the gym. I still don’t want to listen to a simpering dork talk to some Anglophile grandmother in Delhi about how nice it is to have a cup of tea when the monsoons haven’t quite yet arrived, and there’s probably more than a bit of subliminal neoliberal programming mixed into the programming (many such channels!), but there really is something to be said for programs that don’t give off that Gathering Fall of Rome feeling.

Some of the most dangerous people we could encounter are ones who come across as perfectly normal and engaged but who are, upon any examination, in some crucial way batshit crazy or depraved, because we’ll inevitably end up taking them at face value and getting screwed over for our gullibility. This is something that doesn’t get repeated nearly enough in the Anglo-American world today, or for that matter in much of the West. All sorts of noxious bullshit gets repeated to no end, but not that. These are the sorts of thieves and killers who will end up breaching our defenses.

Mary Mayhew, the Maine health poobah from some distance above, is perfectly designed to breach our defenses. Actually, I should put on the Gillespiean leather jacket and clarify who’s us, Kemo Sabe: formally educated people of the sort of liberal to centrist persuasions who have been successfully conditioned to believe that the Cathedral is looking out not only for them, but for everyone. Many less educated people are too street-smart to believe such a thing for a hot second; for their trouble, they get ridiculed for putting credence in conspiracy theories that do not involve elaborate Kremlin conspiracies that conflict with everything that has been soberly observed of the Kremlin under Putin. The elites, they’re all just Russian to judgment.

That was terrible, but so was the amount of sleep I got last night, so it shall stand. It’s eerie and a bit frightening to realize the extent to which trust in versus distrust towards authority figures and their institutions codes for class. With a very few caveats, it’s reasonable to say that it’s considered low-class to distrust religious leaders, law enforcement officials, social workers, teachers, school administrators, doctors, dentists, news media, and landlords. To the extent that religious piety or fervor is still coded as low-class, it’s due to a combination of delayed observation of cultural trends (the highbrow right wing has been having a shit fit about the decline in church attendance among the lower classes, but this bitching circulates mostly within the Buckley and Buddies community) and the success with which middle- and upper-class godbotherers catfish as discount salty crackers. The dentistry thing is striking, too, in a really scandalous way. Dentistry in the United States isn’t a profession; it’s a caste. It’s hard to refute arguments that dentists assume themselves put on this earth to make a shit ton of money by specializing in dental diseases of the rich and another shit ton by flipping their practices to other dentists (the last part I heard straight from a dentist’s daughter). Personally, I feel mostly goodwill towards the individual dentists I’ve known, but I’ve had consistent dental care my whole life, as well as several years of orthodontic work in my teens, and I’m well aware that a widening swath of the American public can’t afford routine checkups and prophylactic work. The ongoing involvement of dental associations in extreme to-hell-with-your-mouth reactionary politics is a national scandal, and when a profession that requires fishing around in other people’s mouths full-time degenerates into such a hostile, corrupt racket, it’s hard to imagine what sector of the economy is immune from equal corruption.

The lower classes have wildly different experiences with authority figures than the middle and upper classes. Their encounters are much more often adverse. I can speak to this based on nothing more than my dealings with my landlords in Eureka, whose systemic mistreatment of their tenants and rental applicants was barely known among local homeowners but notorious among renters. It isn’t a delusion if they really are out to get you. Okay, it is a delusion if Psychotarp construes it to include Methodist-Catholic conspiracies including antisemitic arson, but even then there may be some truth mixed up with the crazy. In many cases, the condescension, hostility, and even paranoia of authority figures dealing with the poor has to be seen to be believed.

The middle and upper classes shield themselves from this mistreatment so thoroughly that they can hardly imagine it exists. It’s unfortunate, then, but not surprising that the affluent have converged on a bipartisan worldview that aggressively defends authority figures from all challenges of legitimacy. They’re just trying to get everyone else to help them vote their own interests. One of the most diabolical things I’ve ever seen is the creation of a false appearance of division within the top ten or twenty percent. Of course the broad overclass wants the rest of us to think that it’s fighting internally over obnoxious wedge issues: yelling about sex and abortion, yelling about guns, constantly relitigating the Scopes Monkey Trial, ad nauseam. The overclass may even want to believe this about itself rather than face its own uncanny class solidarity. It’s relevant that Dave Ramsey dresses worse than the flophouse downtowner I saw on the San Diego Trolley who told his girlfriend, “I can’t afford to go to the bank no more.” The flophouse fellow was a genuinely indigent man with a sense of dignity that he asserted by dressing as well as he could; Ramsey is a moneybags with the false modesty of a man who can’t afford to check Goodwill for hand-me-down Reyn Spooner shirts. Hence all these alleged religious, aesthetic, and cultural divisions among an upper class that, even from its nominal left, refuses to really call out Paul Ryan or Ted Cruz for orchestrating attacks on the commonweal, let alone call out landlords for putting rental applicants under duress to pretend that they’re engaged to be married in the hope of securing apartments. A left wing (LOL) that won’t defend its own sworn principles can’t be expected to defend fair housing law, either.

Again, so fucking much of this is really about class and nothing but class. It’s almost impossible to exaggerate. Let’s use this class gloss, then, and ignore all others as red herrings. Mary Mayhew’s manner of speech codes overpoweringly as upper-middle-class. The lower classes find it ridiculous and pointless to talk like that, a decent swath of the truly secure upper classes have too much self-respect to debase themselves in such a fashion, and the middle-middle has ways to make a living that don’t require turning into a talking points robot. Paul LePage’s manner of speech codes strongly as lower- to lower-middle-class, although it’s harder to pin down to a specific caste because he’s harder to pin down, too. LePage was a French-Canadian runaway who learned English late in his adolescence, in the midst of a period of homelessness and itinerant living that he entered to protect himself from an abusive home environment. Right there I can tell that he has more in common with me than Mayhew does, no matter how divergent our upbringings and socioeconomic backgrounds. LePage managed to achieve upward mobility over the course of a chaotically fluid life, and his career has had him liaising (mostly successfully, it appears) with people from all over the place socioeconomically, so it stands to reason that his speech is all over the place, too. He flies by the seat of his pants, just as he has his whole life. As embarrassing as the D Money and Smoothie incident may have been, he was really just extemporaneously articulating concerns about sociological pathologies of the lower classes that he, unlike the Kennybunkport set, was willing to examine and think over.

Wikipedia tells me that he also called out their associate Shifty and later said, “Let me tell you something: black people come up the highway and they kill Mainers. You ought to look into that. You make me so sick.” We might say that LePage has a heart of some darkness, or, as George Wallace put it, his heart is as black as anyone’s here. All the same, I’m not convinced, just on the basis of his public comments, that he’s a committed bigot. It may just be that he’s always done everything on the fly (coming from a background like his, that’s the only way to get by) and has an impolitic way of discussing his efforts to interdict criminal elements from Dorchester. As I mentioned above, these comments probably play better in the Somali community in Lewiston than we’ll ever hear in the mainstream press. Like Somali immigrants, he integrated into Anglo Maine from an alien community with an alien tongue. You might as well wait for a blizzard on Waikiki as wait for the mainstream media to even consider the possibility that there’s some unexpected intersectionality here, or to report on the well-established mutual antagonism between African-Americans and Americans from Africa in other parts of the country.

Excluding politics, the likeliest way for LePage to outearn Mayhew would have been for him to maintain seniority in a union shop and for her to teach at a private school, as a woman of a certain class who is able to take such a financially déclassé but socially prestigious position thanks to family money. LePage is one hell of an outlier in terms of his drive, the runaway son of a mill hand who learned English, finished school, and cofounded his own small business. Any number of people might work their way up from skid row with a union card in a functioning mill town, but LePage’s story is exceptional, and unlike so many bootstrap stories, it really seems to be a function more of hard work than of luck.

When I was thinking about Mayhew, I had a vague feeling that I knew her from somewhere, but it was only when I recast her as a (nonunion) private school teacher that it hit me, hard: I knew her from Lancaster Country Day School. Not her specifically, but women on the faculty who were dead ringers for her: the same voice, the same accent, the same subtly affected style of speech. LePage is too seat-of-the-pants to put up an affectation; the stuff he says may be goofy or coarse, but it comes from the heart. Mayhew, we might say, speaks from a transplanted heart. It’s striking how fucking timid some of these scions of the upper middle class are, how afraid they are of having their own opinions or feelings or observations, how readily they take refuge in the hive mind. I knew a bunch of them at Country Day, and another, bigger bunch at Dickinson. The men don’t show any more courage than the women; they just express it a bit differently, creating a shitty sexual dimorphism in khaki and pastel. These people are interchangeable units who can be plugged straight into any corporate propaganda machine. Some of them are pleasant individually, but as a collective they paint a hellscape.

Mayhew is another of these cyborgs programmed with intersectionally neoliberal/Tea Party talking points that she most civilly regurgitates on the radio with absolutely no consideration of whether they make any fucking sense. If she’d gone up on stage at a Country Day school assembly during my time there and said any of that shit, somewhere between a third and half of the student body would have looked at her, like, cracka dafuq. That’s how she would have been received at a prep school that catered to a large constituency of dutiful generational social climbers and did a good job of managing the makeup of the student body so that never harbored enough students with behavioral problems to form a Lord of the Flies quorum. (Individual losers with modest behavioral problems were fine.) At most public schools, I have to assume that the reception would be even worse. Mayhew got a straight-faced reception at WBUR because WBUR is staffed by people who have been trained to keep a straight face before sleazy, ridiculous bullshitters who ought to provoke unabashed snickering whenever they open their mouths. Their idea of balance is to have LaDonna Pavetti on with actual statistics at her command showing that disability beneficiaries commonly return to the workforce once they have recovered enough to hold down jobs, then phone Mary Mayhew for a rebuttal that’s nothing but talking points about nudge theory and the dignity of work (which, as we’ll see shortly, that bitch is not qualified to discuss). It’s like Opposing Viewpoints about nursing: “I’m relieved that Charles Cullen isn’t practicing it any more” vs. “A proposal for expanded hospice nursing on medical/surgical units, by Charles Cullen, RN, RIP Bitch.”

There’s a certain amount that a person has to be paid, monetarily or in kind and usually consistently, to inspire loyalty to this horseshit. I can’t exactly what this threshold of corruption is, and as with many matters involving individual preference, your mileage may vary ($2,000 in campaign cash for Kamala Harris, reputedly a bag of groceries for Spiro Agnew), but I know that I ain’t hardly touched dem shine ricebowl and that there’s no unringing the woke bell for me at this point. Like Paul LePage, I’ve seen some heavy shit, and I ain’t about to unsee it. I know people who are corruptible for fairly small amounts, but no one has even tried to corrupt me by the hour, so I might as well reiterate that if you’re going to run a racket that is enabled by paying people off, you gotta fucking pay a guy off. My adult social life has revolved around watching a vulgarity of disingenuous WASP’s and fellow travelers try to run a mesh of glorified mob rackets while still maintaining their degraded yet overly precious sense of WASP propriety and parsimony, a squeamishness which makes it impossible for them to deliver the goods to key players that any sensible mobster would keep happy, and now it starts to look like the whole damn thing is starting to implode. It’s actually metastable and starting to shift and creak in the wind? Gee, one doesn’t say.

As the Last Psychiatrist always liked to say, if you’re reading it, it’s for you. The Here and Now interview with Mary Mayhew was probably just a psyop on Bougie, because NPR (duh) but also because that’s who will listen in good cheer to a hellish downeaster version of Brenda Jorett lecture America about “pathways” to the “dignity” of work. Mick Mulvaney’s tirades about how “we need you to come back to work” at least sound sort of normal. Who the fuck talks about “pathways to independence?” What we’ve got here is a mashup of a TED Talk, an I Fucking Love Science article, Romney/Ryan blather about “takers,” and an undergraduate botching the quasiplagiarism of Malcolm Gladwell at daybreak the morning the paper is due, and this shit is being dignified with a one-on-one interview on nationally syndicated news radio. The whole thing was a John 3:16 sermon on the Protestant work ethic minus the poetry. The neoliberals ruin everything they touch, but we knew that already. At least Peru’s Maoists will agree that there’s only one acceptable Path, although they’ll surely insist that Mayhew’s is too dark, and even they had the self-respect not to call it a fucking “pathway” or talk about incentivizing it with anything shy of honest infantry.

That bitch doesn’t know a goddamn thing about the dignity of work. Someone like Paul LePage who actually outfought the streets might have a legitimate point to make about the payoff of hard work, but Mayhew is so full of shit, you might as well go ahead and write her the Movantik prescription right now. We’ve got a rapidly dwindling pool of adults in this country whose interactions with the workplace have involved consistent dignity and a rapidly growing pool who have encountered deep humiliation and degradation, often with nothing to show for it after being chewed up by dead-end application processes under the direction of hiring managers who have shit for manners. Dignity? Bitch please. And the compulsory work regime that Mayhew is trying to impose is exactly the thing that will degrade work environments for EVERYONE, not just for the workshy, and strip them of what dignity they still have. No one who has a lick of business being in management or ownership wants to train and supervise an unwilling workforce of marginally employable headcase and gimps; the only people who want anything to do with that are psychopaths and sadists, walking horror shows who progressively drive away their own good employees.

For someone whose diction is so clear and deliberate, Mayhew’s thinking is godawfully muddled. She actually said, verbatim, “work is the solution to poverty.” The fuck? Money is the solution to poverty. Gifts or payments in kind can work, too. If the state meets the material needs of its needy, it has met their material needs. This should be self-explanatory. Whether or not they’d be somehow happier or more existentially satisfied or purposeful if they had jobs is a separate matter, tangential at best. A lot of the beneficiaries in question are acutely sick or injured and unable to function normally in the workplace, so there’s that, too. Sure, there are some malingerers and frauds on the disability rolls, but there’s also Psychotarp, and that fucker is crazy. Who in hell would want to hire him? There are people in this world who are too crazy to shovel gravel into potholes; Mixups in my Mind, whom I personally know, is one. I know from personal experience that ministering to the neighborhood nutters gets in the way of running a business, or anything else that one was planning to do, for that matter, like take two minutes to burn some paper trash in a wood stove.

Mixups and Psychotarp are too disturbed for their own families. If we have the compunction not to be a society of psychopaths, we’ll recognize that people of their psychological condition are inevitably going to run at a financial loss and will have to be chargeable to the state in some fashion for their own welfare, if not for the protection of public safety as well. It’s perfectly conceivable that Mary Mayhew fundamentally does not understand what it’s like to deal with disturbed people or what it takes to provide for the disturbed. Regardless of her clinical background, I have personally dealt with two acquaintances who are stone nuts, and I do not take kindly to some partisan zealot dumping people who would be better off in state hospitals or nursing homes into a workplace or onto the streets, in either of which they’ll cause nothing but grief for the rest of us.

This idea that income should somehow inevitably be associated with dignity is bizarre. Do I sound like I go armpit-deep into recycling bins in pursuit of my own dignity? Did I drop it down there? No. I do it for the money, like any sensible person would. The State of Oregon pays me damn well for my labor, but the cash kiosks at BottleDrop don’t spit out dignity vouchers. God, that sounds like something that the right wing would earnestly propose. It probably has already. There isn’t any particular dignity in accepting handouts from my parents, either, but I’m not the kind of petty dumbass who doesn’t appreciate the help staying afloat and living decently. Why, then, is a woman with a steady, benefited job running a state HHS department given a platform to lord it over the precariat with boasts implying that she has dignity and we don’t? It’s snacktime, sweetheart, and today’s snack is a hearty wedge of Manchego Fuck Yourself.

I know, I know, it so often is. This isn’t the first time that Here and Now has gone poorie-punching. As with the Mayhew segment, their primary target is noncompliant yuppies, actual or inferred, but if that’s their stance towards the college-educated, it’s wise to assume that their stance towards mere high school graduates, let alone dropouts, is even more hostile. They’re telling the rest of us how to live, and frankly they expect us to bend over and lube up. They only act refined and thoughtful. I can tell the difference between dignity and purpose (going for a hike) and money (rummaging through trash cans again), but their guests can’t. Oregon has excellent hiking and excellent canning; get you a state that can do both. And the state government isn’t full of officials who use ugly social controls like nudge theory to police up the poors. Instead the legislature is like, forget your nickel a bottle, ’cause you’re getting a dime now. One of my reasons for maintaining California voter registration is to incrementally retrieve California’s government from its increasingly third-world standards of accountability to the public. I’m not saying that I necessarily have a prayer, just that I’m keeping the dream alive, in large part because I work in a neighboring state whose government isn’t a row of burning dumpsters.

Anyone who gives it some thought could flip the script on a cheap poor-shaming bullshitter like Mary Mayhew. It’s pretty simple: why are you sitting up there in the state government telling workaday people how to live their lives? Why are you up there telling people down here on the ground that they aren’t sick or injured? Bernie Sanders flips the same script as a matter of course, although usually against bigger, juicier targets. The rest of his caucus doesn’t because it believes in garbage like nudge theory, too. Why would the Democratic establishment call Mayhew out when there’s hardly any daylight between them? If anything, they believe in an even more elaborate battery of meritocratic punishments and rewards that systematically brutalize the poor.

The failure of journalistic competence in the Mayhew interview was epic. Mayhew was allowed to get away unchallenged with an assertion that “we have thousands of job openings.” That’s nice, but it’s distracting and barely relevant. Any alert, self-respecting interviewer would have asked her what sorts of jobs these are. They could be part-time gigs at Hannaford for the purpose of calling in the slacker and last-in-first-out pools when one of the lifers has a medical appointment. Worse, the Maine job market contains several hundred thousand positions, either full or vacant, so there could easily be thousands of openings at a time due to nothing more than retirements and normal turnover, even in a slack job market. Mayhew succeeded in finding an interviewer who was either unable or unwilling to ask followup questions based on quick mental arithmetic informed by a rough estimate of Maine’s population. It’s impressive to discover that radio hosts who seem perfectly well put together are so fucking incompetent and lax when push comes to shove.

Job retraining, which Mayhew also promoted, is a perfectly sensible idea if it’s done right, but she isn’t up to that job. Cool, here are a dozen guys who can’t really use their arms because they got repetitive stress injuries pulling green chain, and here’s a job opening in skull base surgery. Mayhew is clearly arrogant enough not to notice these details. It isn’t really that difficult to train PhD’s to compete for special education slots; all it takes, as they say, is the right nudge.

Then there were Mayhew’s comments about using Medicaid work requirements to encourage volunteerism, which also went totally unchallenged. I found these powerfully offensive and devious. I understand that it’s considered boorish, even inconceivable, to criticize volunteerism or argue that there should be less of it, not more, but I’ve seen too many loudmouthed, longwinded shitheads abuse voluntary organizations as platforms to indulge their own grandiosity, and too many schnorrers in positions of power and ownership abuse volunteerism for reserve labor pools that they conveniently don’t have to pay for their for-profit work, to shut up and keep the stiff upper lip when right-wing con artists pipe up about the virtues of voluntary organizations as replacements for competent government services.

That entire realm is shot through with serious boundary problems, as I can attest from horrifying personal experience. The particular form of volunteering that Mayhew advocates, a public-private partnership using the coercive power of the state to drive its beneficiaries into volunteer positions with private and religious organizations, will inevitably attract predatory do-gooders like moths to a lamp. I’ve rarely run into a proposal whose outcome I can predict with such confidence. This arrangement will bring the worst, most predatory busybodies to the yard and reward them, both financially and morally, for their meddlesome, condescending grandiosity. Some of the organizations who will line up at Mama Sugar’s tit are already patently criminal enterprises: the Salvation Army, for example, is accused by its clients of routinely running the homeless out of its shelters for minor infractions, barring them for thirty-day periods, and selling the personal property that they leave behind in its thrift stores, and its call-me-major grandiosity is legendary.

Shit, Rogers, the automobile is a better poor house than that. Its an absolute goddamned disgrace that the Democratic Party not only compulsively fields candidates who can’t relate or get through to the legion victims of these predatory businesses (Hillary Clinton) but also actively sandbags and sabotages the few who can and will (Bernie Sanders). It would be scandalous enough for one of a country’s two major political parties to regularly front Hall and Oates Effect rich bitches to run interference for obscenely rich scolds, authoritarian busybodies, and fellow-traveling predators, but the United States has both of its major parties pushing an agenda that seeks to drive the vulnerable into poverty and the poor into what can reasonably described only as forms of slavery. The Democratic Party is overrun with puffed-up, overeducated creeps who believe in nudge theory every bit as passionately as Mary Mayhew does; their disputes with her, if they even have any, are over inconsequential aesthetic differences or which particular pool of losers is to be driven to slaughter first. Neither of these factions has any moral center to defend. One of the Democrats’ great wanking fantasies this year is that Joel Ossoff (ed.: Oops, Jon; gimme that Ephesians 3:20, baby) will blaze the path to a new majority coalition held together by educated suburban professionals, relegating the Republican Party to a rump of country cracker-ass deplorables. This is yet another reason why I’ve come to despise the party that I rejoined just last year as a registered voter: at the institutional level, it is not only deeply evil, but also strategically and tactically inept beyond belief. Just because I regularly vote for its candidates and consider its main opposition even worse doesn’t mean that I don’t want to destroy it and see what emerges from its ruins.

NPR acts on a fierce institutional affinity for the Democratic Party, so of course it gives moralizing bourgeois-supremacist shitheads like Mary Mayhew a judgment-free zone on its nationally syndicated programs. Homegirl ain’t looking to loot ricebowls for hungry fuckers who could use some damn rice. Neither is that crazy bitch from Georgetown who is too bashful to utter “raped by a nigger” on the radio but not too bashful to spit out “raped by a spic.” If that kind of unnewsworthy garbage is fit for a family radio show, every fucking word I’ve published in these pages is fit for the internet.

M’honky, you’re most welcome.

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.