Faulkner in the fields

One of the two caterwauling Robin Thicke wannabes at work collaterally assaulted me the other day by chasing a kid he was bullying around the end of a row and up the aisle where I was working, straight into my immediate work area. It was painfully obvious that he acted with criminal intent to assault his target and didn’t give a shit that I was in his path. That isn’t how he conceived of it, but that’s because he’s a thug who thinks that he has a civil right to throw his weight around and bully pussies however he pleases. What provoked this assault was pathetic: dude was salty that his target was poaching a distant, heavily cropped part of his row instead of staying on his assigned row. It was a fucking territorial dispute.

I read Thicke Bro the fucking riot act about getting physically aggressive with other employees and told him that I would call the police if he laid a finger on me. What rattled me about the aftermath of this assault, though, was that his primary target defended him, telling me that he was “just joking around” and couldn’t have meant any harm because he was smiling. I’d seen the fucker smiling, but I wasn’t about to tolerate that piece of shit assaulting two innocent coworkers just because he misdirected us with facial expressions contradicting his unmistakably belligerent body language.

I couldn’t tolerate an emotionally abused kid defending a workplace bully who had just assaulted me as well, but I also got really uncomfortable with how upset I was getting with this mark, who was obviously an innocent traumatized wimp who felt boxed in, literally and figuratively, between me and this guy he was going to have to face again and again; the guy who assaulted us is either family or a close peer-level family friend, although I couldn’t follow which. Worse, I was afraid that this situation would escalate to additional assaults, all too likely including batteries, if I stuck around that day, and I did not want to be put in a position of having to physically restrain Thicke Bro and risk being investigated for assault myself. So I left the property, wrote an advisory email to the sheriff’s department, and then contacted my bosses with a copy of the advisory email and some additional information on what had happened and what else I was afraid might happen as a consequence.

This turned into a three-hour time sink over a couple of two-minute workplace confrontations, but I thought it prudent to formally document what had happened and, more importantly, to eliminate any risk that our bully boy thought I might be bluffing about calling the cops. I know the type. A man of his character may despise a victim who tattles to authority figures for being a pussy, but he’ll fear one who has been in touch with the police, because he knows that the next move may result in his own arrest. These guys are not all that principled at heart. They talk a loud game about manly honor and shit, but when push comes to shove, they will not stand up to vicarious assertions of power on behalf of their victims by authority figures with arrest powers. Besides, they never abide by standards of honor themselves. If they did, they wouldn’t physically bully other people at work over territorial disputes that they started in a fucking berry field.

This may sound like a Story Whore submission about my trauma, a passion play in which I will shortly don my Vietnam Veteran trucker hat (that breathable plastic, tho), pull the list of PTSD symptoms out of my breast pocket, and let me tell you about it. There’s a government disability pension waiting at the far end of that rainbow of lies for anyone who doesn’t colossally fuck up his own story, so it ain’t me, Lawd, at $5.50 an hour gross on a good day it ain’t fuckin’ me. Nor do I want to exaggerate how upsetting or scary the actual assault was. That one bad act isn’t what still has me rattled half a week later, not when I’d gotten through to my homie that Five-O would be driving Miss Daisy down to Albany in chains for being a bad girl if he ever did anything of the sort to me.

What still rattles me about this situation is the cultural context that enabled it. This dispute did not arise and escalate to the point of assault in a cultural void. If one two-bit thug who made it past my bosses’ normally sound gut check at the time of hiring assaults me and another picker out of the blue, I can have my pushy boi policed up on short order. Honestly, I assumed all along that the guy was just a bit of a clownhatting dipshit with a questionable idea of how to dress for work, and then suddenly he assaulted us, so I don’t see what the In-Laws, who spent much less time around him, could have detected in the way of warning signs.

Similarly, if Thicke Bro’s fellow Thicke Bro is too codependent, verbally combative, and generally off for me to tolerate any more of his caterwauling after this incident, he’s just one bad member of an otherwise good crew, and I can make sure that he isn’t given the opportunity to get up in my face about how I did his buddy bogus. In this case, I’ve already gotten both of these guys fired. This is a power that I don’t feel comfortable possessing, let alone exercising. Calling the police for assistance fending off threats to one’s safety or welfare is appropriate for anyone who trusts the responding agency and its officers enough to make the call, but getting people fired somehow just seems much more extreme.

Neither of these guys seemed capable of basic, normal self-control in a professional setting, and one of them committed an unprovoked physical attack that nearly turned outright violent just to throw his weight around with a less assertive coworker, but still, getting people fired is an awesome power that is all too wantonly abused these days by drama queen shitheads who want to make a point about some moral panic they’re having and don’t care if they get a well-meaning person branded with the scarlet letter in the process. Adria Richards getting the dongle guys fired for being sexually crude (must have been a damn boring meeting for that to rise to the level of humor) and the internet mob going after Justine Sacco for making a comment about white people not getting AIDS while she was in the air because they were vicariously offended on behalf of all black Africans were cases of puritanical assholes throwing their weight around, with consequences much worse than the average non-contact workplace assault.

These boys are gone, and good riddance. But here’s where things get really fucking tricky and weird. The kid who was the target of that assault is presumably still on staff, and I’ll be floored if he developed the backbone to stand up to the two-bit thug peers in his life over the weekend. Normally I try to live by the Prime Directive in my dealings with the locals on the job, unless they open up to me to an extent convincing me that they aren’t defensively deep in the country authoritarian bullshit. This case isn’t normal: a bullying victim was adamantly defending a guy who had just assaulted me and saying that he had done nothing wrong, and it’s bloody obvious that he was defending the thug because he was scared of the guy and didn’t want more trouble. I might as well try to reason with a codependent victim of domestic violence about how her husband really is incorrigible wifebeating trash. I come to Oregon to pick fruit, not to do high-stakes social work as an amateur who’s half on/half off the clock. And to scavenge deposit bottles. Chaka Can, Chaka Can, I’d rather not feel for any of this horseshit, Chaka Can.

On top of this, all of which is already a huge mess, we’ve got an ambient religious environment that I really don’t want to criticize at work but which seems to be causing more harm than good. Few of the people involved with that farm are not evangelical Christians. I’ve known a few pickers who haven’t said anything about their religious affiliations but seemed to be something along the lines of sporadically churchgoing Main Line Protestants or Catholics. As a churchgoing Catholic myself, I don’t generally feel like, uh, coming around and talking it over (Is Wilsonville far away? Don’t answer it if you think I care), because that potentially means arguing about evangelical practices and beliefs that have been misattributed to Catholicism by evangelicals who’d rather pretend that there aren’t any disputes over, say, praying for the dead. (How do you spell that, Captain Queenan? “Depotted?”)

We were already dealing with an ongoing but low-level threat of an uncalled-for, pain-in-the-ass cultural exchange that has no business arising in the workplace but does anyway because we’ve got a bunch of kids in the mix who don’t understand that they were not raised in the only mainstream American culture. With this assault, though, we’ve now got the public evangelical piety of a timid bullying victim, a minor who got upset when I tried to stand up to his bully even though his bully had assaulted me, too. Hey, that’s a hashtag! Let me pull out this list of symptoms and TELL you about my trauma!

I’m not inferring anything. The target of this assault previously told me and another picker that he would be taking a week off later in the season because “I have to go to something called Moody.” This has to refer to a vacation bible school affiliated with the Moody Bible Institute. This kid is being raised under the auspices of a religious community that is failing to protect him from grievous bullying or teach him how to respond effectively to mistreatment by peers. He goes to VBS, he probably goes to weekly Bible studies, he almost certainly goes to church at least once a week, and he got upset with me for pulling rank as an adult on an out-of-control peer of his who had just assaulted both of us.

This strongly suggests to me that he’s recently been under the authority of adults acting under church auspices who knowingly allow bullying on their watch and make excuses for it. As much as I don’t want to get sucked into any bullshit cultural exchange over Catholicism versus evangelical fundamentalism or whatever, I’m very much of a mind to lower the boom on any congregation that even toys with making excuses for its adults’ or older teens’ failure to police bullying under its auspices. Church needs to be a safe space for the vulnerable, and that means that those holding its authority cannot be a bunch of excuse-mongering derelicts. This is basic adult supervision. It should go without saying, but there are some real dipshits and more than a few abusers (mostly emotional, I’d guess, but occasionally sexual) who use congregational authority to throw their weight around and aggrandize themselves. We just can’t be allowing children, or God forbid adolescents, to establish a pecking order like chickens. This is not a fucking barnyard.

In this context, the prissy squeamishness of so many Christian conservatives around crude language doesn’t come across as a mildly annoying foible but as a rank, damning expression of predatory hypocrisy. As far as I can tell, the guy who assaulted us is unchurched or the next thing to it, although I’m basically reading the tea leaves here. His codependent buddy got hit by a car and lives out in the woods, where he’s been ministered to and resocialized by a community of tweakers who hang out in front of the corner store down the street from the railroad bridge. I’m not making any of this up, and I’m 100% sincere and descriptive, not trying to make light of any of this, when I say that I think this fellow may have sustained untreated brain damage in the accident. There was something unusually disinhibited about his manner of speech that I don’t think can be fully explained by his club bro act, and he told us that he is still frequently in physical pain from the accident months later. He routinely interrupted others with abrupt, sometimes off-topic questions that he asked without normal volume modulation. I’m thinking maybe a Phineas Gage situation, and I mean this seriously.

So we’ve got this guy trying to recover from being hit by a car while he’s camped out down by the river most of the time, when he badly needs housing and could probably use a low-intensity inpatient behavioral health treatment program for whatever all is wrong with his head. Ain’t that America, Mellencamp. So far, so bad, and this looks like a real clusterfuck that no individual or family will be able to resolve with normal acts of charity, but now we seem to have people hanging out in the fray who think that what’s wrong with both of these dudes, Gage Bro and Rage Bro, is that they cuss too much. This is a dire problem, one that I am not exaggerating. American evangelical thought on public morals really, truly is so crude. I’m sure that I’d have an easier time convincing the wimp who was the primary target of the assault that using the Heavy Seven is more problematic than chasing a submissive peer around a hairpin corner at the end of a row over a completely bogus territorial dispute.

To be clear, I do not believe that any of the In-Laws are so foolish; they’re exactly the sort of responsible adult authority figures who are needed but so often missing in situations like this. The problem is that they’re in no position to fix dysfunctional, abusive subcultures that only incidentally overlap with their own much healthier and responsive culture (Mother-in-Law has had her troubles, but she knows that she has and clearly strives to do better). They’ve got this heavily indoctrinated adolescent pushover who refuses to stand up for himself and got upset with me when I stood up for him, apparently because he feared that I’d get him into trouble for going after his bully buddy. Unfortunately, this is exactly the kind of shit show that flares up when timid people who won’t think for themselves are put into environments with authoritarian premises, such as fundamentalist church youth groups. The In-Laws stumbled into this mess in part because the dysfunction of a pathological, ungodly fucked up evangelical community marginal to their own church circles at the closest bled into their workplace at the same time that the dysfunction of Tweaker Hooverville started to wash ashore from the opposite direction.

I can’t fix this horseshit. If I could, I’d be worth $12 an hour, minimum bid. The shit hit the fan and I was suddenly doing the work of a school guidance counselor, completely unpaid, at a job where I’ve never cleared minimum wage for more than maybe fifteen minutes at a time. That isn’t a high enough pay grade for me to put myself smack in the middle between a bunch of prim churchy types who are against swearing, a bullying victim who angrily insists that he wasn’t one, and a thug from the crew whose best friend is fit for outpatient services on Tri-Met.

That doesn’t work. The boundaries are completely fucked. There’s a place for street ministry, but that place is not five yards from where I’m trying to pick fruit. That’s like saying that because a priest hears confessions as part of his ministry he has a duty to be utterly gracious when a crazy bum comes into his rectory garden and throws a shovel at him because he’s the devil while he’s picking tomatoes for dinner. We need to have a different, proper place for those who break into the Governor’s Mansion to flag down the Highway Patrol to shoot the mountain lion that’s been growling from inside that dumpster. No, that’s a poor analogy: dude admitted that, on second thought, he probably imagined the cat. Sometimes the kitty is in the dumpster; other times, the kitty is in one’s head. You know how that happens.

The guy who lives in the woods under the wings of tweakers has a girlfriend who worked with us briefly and said that she might have to leave work early because she didn’t have her schizophrenia meds. She seemed pretty high-functioning, just a bit jumpy and anxious sometimes. She was certainly no Psychotarp or Mixups in my Mind. I have no problem working around people with a history of psychosis who aren’t disruptively symptomatic, and I mean that. The problem is that we’ve got a whole lot of people on the loose in this country with untreated behavioral problems. The better results include Mixups in my Mind or Psychotarp talking nonsense at me for half an hour, which might be okay if I’ve got the time. The worse results include Mixups throwing a wheelbarrow across the parking lot because he’s having a mad.

Have I told you lately that inpatient psychiatric beds facilitate productive economic activity, and that I love you? That last part is bleeding-heart horseshit, but the first part is true, so will I see you tonight? The 72 bus to Clackamas Town Center works, too. Forget about getting Charlie off (CHAHLEE!); at least Charlie knows that he wants to get off and isn’t all like, let me fucking off right here, then standing in the doorway yelling about how he has to get off, then, once he’s finally off, banging on the door trying to get back in, like he’s P. J. O’Rourke’s Anacostia slow boy and he lives there.

Contra the evangelical language police, the problem isn’t with neighborhood bums who go up to Addison and ask whether any of you white motherfuckers want to get on the train for free. That’s, uh, unfare, but that isn’t what’s really wrong with the CTA; does that sound like Rahm Emanuel to you? Okay, maybe a bit. Fat Cracka paid for his ride, by the way. Fat Cracka pays, because Fat Cracka cares. Too much, in fact. It should be my Monday, as they say (yuck), but I’ve already scavenged two deposit bottles today, and that’s work, and $5 to putz around on WES sounds pretty damn appealing right now, because that’s some bitchin’ self-propelled diesel and the Tualatin Valley somehow isn’t nothing but social problems, so I’ll do without anyone who has an Uber account getting up in my face about how that’s too little radical compassion or too much self-care.

Don’t ask me how that became a sentence. Whose tent have YOUR boots been under? There’s no need to ask who I saw in the tent village in front of the charity lunch spot downtown last night, either, or why I walked a full circuit around the Greyhound depot, or why I started the seven o’clock hour in a darkened church sanctuary, waiting for the contemplative mass to begin while I thought about how maybe Pot-o-Shit Friend should have used kitty litter. I’ll understand if Father needs to excuse himself from the altar to find some soap. He might have enough to spare to wash out my mouth, but where does that leave my brain? How, pray tell, can one minister to the Body of Christ when one has such difficulty ministering to the entire head?

God bless. This ain’t mere Christianity; it’s the agony of Gethsemane as farce. Welcome. Take a look around and see what you find. Share it with the congregation if the spirit so moves you, for all are welcome in the meetinghouse that we call life. Lord have Mersey upon us, this sounds like a Mrs. Robinson remix, but Mrs. Robinson didn’t live in the woods with all the bodega tweakers, so do share with us your newest testament of latter-day horrors. I’ve shared worse.

Stay tuned for our next issue, devoted to 4,000 words about how you totally know you’re a 2010’s kid if you’ve ever given thanks that you haven’t been stabbed on MAX.

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Back to blu, uh, uh, uh

Yeah buddy, I’m on my fucking way. This shit is easier too ex plane hear,,,, On Line, than in meatspace because, for example, if I’m driving from Reno to Eugene or whatever the hell all afternoon and half the night no one demands to know whether I live in Reno. I’d have a straighter answer about where I live if it weren’t so impossible for someone in my circumstances to specifically live somewhere. Sometimes I tell people that I live in Sacramento,  and I does lives there, can I come in, except that I don’t particularly. That’s a simpler position to take, and it’s adequate for the DMV, which refused to take my $181 registration renewal fee on credit today. For people those who don’t need to know but ask regardless, saying that I live in Sacramento opens me up to too many questions about what I do in Sacramento, and as a rule of thumb I damn well do not feel like answering that shit.

Usually I’m able to get the overly inquisitive to take the hint and shut up after I hem and haw with a few sentences that don’t really answer anything or mumble something verging on total gibberish. I’m like Ike, minus the commission (and the salary and the base housing and the Tri Care, baby). There are awfully few people whom it’s worth my while to talk my true story, and I’m not out of line to propose that Americans have a habit of asking too many fucking questions, and consistently the wrong ones.

My circumstances are fairly extreme and unusual, but they are not in fact unique. Close variants of them, especially as they pertain to housing specifically, can account for probably five to ten percent of the US population. That fucking Asian bitch in the Pacific Grove marathon finisher’s T-shirt who told me that I wasn’t homeless when our paths crossed in Elko on our way to the eclipse can take that shit back to the part of California that is about to tumble into the sea, although truly she deserves to live indefinitely in Mountain Home. Even if I’d had the patience to suffer an extended conversation with that fucking cunt-ass health yuppie, I don’t know that I’d have been able to explain to her that homelessness is defined by a lack of stable and suitable housing, and that there are gradations of homelessness, meaning that my being decently dressed and showered when I met her and able to travel in no way negated my homelessness. That’s like handing a bum a Greyhound ticket and saying, look at that, you just stopped being hungry. The worst of this shit does not afflict our common carriers or our highway system. There’s actual competition in transportation, with caveats. Housing is a rent-seeking speculative clusterfuck, a pervasively corrupt business that brings out the worst in the worst people.

Do I feel like explaining any of this to random high school juniors in East Bumfuck, Oregon, just because they’re on a harvest crew with me? Not fucking likely, cracka. Most of them have the good sense and the tact not to push these things, but the few who don’t discourage me from continuing to show up at all, since I’m really not there for the money, either, although no money would mean absolutely no thicc boi honey. God, that sounds like a Cousin Gigolo story, except I have no reason to believe he ever got paid. I’ve actually written very little about most of the busybodies I’ve encountered at the berry farm, since characters like the ADHD spazz kid and the Ditzney Princess are more fun. Even the Ditzney Princess wasn’t one of the busybodies. Ironically, she had maybe the most mature reaction I’ve ever gotten to the Pot-o-Shit Friend story, finding it purely sad, not riotously hilarious as my youth minister friend back east did.

Cousin Gigolo and Pot-o-Shit Friend are threads in (grab at least a five-gallon, for the other end) the tapestry of my life. How would I explain them to prim broad middle-class Evangelicals who refuse to use language as salty as “shit?” Mostly I don’t. Since my work experience is not Cousin Gigolo’s, these stories are not safe for work. Because, let’s be clear about this, I don’t keep going back to this underpaid gig for some unspeakably vapid hipster fuckery or cultural exchange or to do guerrilla ethnography. If I were trying to understand the provincials for some awful reason, I’d make sure that I didn’t constantly have bosses on the periphery. I try not to shit where I eat. I’m not Pot-o-Shit Friend; he’s just this shitty fucking asshole who twinked his way into my life and, can running over, twinked his way back out, his dark legacy indelible on the white plastic of our erstwhile winery equipment. I sure as hell didn’t want that motherfucker around so that I’d have an interesting story to tell; I would more joyfully tell the same story about some other sorry bastard’s family agricultural compound.

If I wanted to tell stories about religiously preoccupied dipshits, I’d deliberately engage with Mormon missionaries. The thing about the cultural exchange and the guerrilla ethnography, though, is that it just falls into my lap. As they say in the Ethiopian diaspora, stuffs happen. That’s more accurate than anything that’s said publicly about immigration, in any event. I’m there to pick fruit. Being all up in the berry bush all summer long is the good shit. Being bothered about the moral necessity to tithe on one’s summer earnings as a minor when the entire family gets free haircuts from their barber friend is not. Horseshit washed-in-the-blood talking points that no one present has thought through are not. I don’t have a prayer of getting through to most of these kids, and I’m not there to do that anyway.

What I’ve overheard of Mother-in-Law’s spirituality is much more thoughtful and interesting, but it isn’t germane. It’s never the people who think in depth about their religious traditions who get pushy or just plain stupid about religion. That’s all too much the case for people who have received authoritarian traditions that they dare not question. If sola fide is the Holy of Holies, that’s a can of worms that I do not feel like opening and I will be of no help. Sola scriptura? Lol. I know, I know, I’ve heard the reheated jokes about how Catholics risk Protestantism by toting a Bible around or reading one, but with some of these people, Fukuyama is a moot point: history has nowhere to end because it hasn’t even started. I’m not about to be the one to try to orient intellectually uncritical teenagers in the cultural and historical context of the religious traditions that they’ve inherited from their parents. That’s a tar baby. The ones who are interested will find their way in due course of time.

Hence my double life. Hell, triple or quadruple. I pass for at least a borderline normie among country-ass Republican godbotherers, and I’m responsible for all of this. Again, I’d rather be known as the originator and curator of the Bad Mountie meme treasury than as the Dubai Porta Potta guy, but these things are not for me to dictate. I’d certainly rather not become known for most of this crap at work, but if it happens, it happens. These are, indeed, a lot of stuffs. Keeping this right here separate from normie ag work is really just about tact, something I have more abundantly than certain colleagues. Yes, the Ditzney Princess was one. I don’t care how pretentious that sounds; it’s true.

This shit keeps going down in a county that also has $20 jailbait gay-for-pay. Over-the-Rhine price points are always a sign of economic health. So is a $.25 daily tip share. Dem shine George coin don’t come free.

All the same, this job has pretty good conditions overall, including effectively perfect workplace safety, and is career-coherent for me. Truth be told, it should be career-coherent for anyone who isn’t going into something like medicine or engineering. No, not the law. God help us, Americans actually think that’s a net benefit to our society, tell Brad to send her up the fucking river they do, Deirdre.

More Americans and fewer Mexicans should be doing farm work in the United States. This much I keep getting right. If more Americans did farm work, we might have a working understanding of what an economy is instead of being batshit insane. I took the train through Salt Lake City last night, and in the course of sightseeing the good shit in core urban Salt Lake and Provo, I lost all confidence in the city Mormons anew. Theoretically, the Mormons should be able to reorient the rest of us towards a gambling-free working nuts-and-bolts economy. The problem is that in practice they’re all over the fucking place. One hour, they’re putting up a decade’s worth of canned goods; the next, they’re running some shit-ass MLM scam out of an office park in Draper, and they’re doing it with a straight face. SEO and the brainwashed dipshits who believe in it are bad enough in the best of circumstances; in parts Napoleonic, the cultural treats include SEO with a servant’s heart.

I have to assume that the Mormons are behind Oil Stop, too; they would be. If that sounds bad, remember that they’re on the record as responsible for Jamberry. I’ve confessed to nothing in these pages as disreputable as that. If you’re secretly sucking cock for a living in American Fork, good for you. I assume that costs more than $20, but mercenary Mormon MILFs are far from the worst thing to come out of the Wasatch Front. We’re talking Stacy’s Mom who knows how to make, like, six different Jell-O salads. Cousin Gigolo has a formal culinary background himself, if I’m not mistaken. None of these honest small businesspeople should be ceding the moral high ground to some fuckheads with an SEO company in an office park that can be seen but not readily accessed from the train.

At least I’m wandering around here with a working concept of what a real job is and what’s bullshit. So are my colleagues. Having an honest, productive job and a crazymaking family religious tradition is better than having an equally bonkers family church and a lead on the shit I saw advertised from the train last night, which made Denver for Millennials look reputable. Let none of us cease to rub yuppies’ faces in it.

Gerald Ford at Heaven’s Gate

One of the most haunting Inside Baseball stories to emerge from modern American political life is the story of Gerald Ford telling his golfing buddies that he was sure he would go to hell for pardoning Richard Nixon. This story was publicized by Hunter S. Thompson, a man who famously found his own measure of peace towards the end after a career of fastidiously measured commentary, so we can make of it what we will, but the possibility that it wasn’t 100% bildungsroman fiction or otherwise total bullshit gives me pause.

The implications are eerie. Most glaringly, Ford had resigned himself to his own looming damnation because he had a conscience. Without one, he would not, as they say, have given a damn. Whatever he was feeling, whatever combination of regret, haunting, fatally poor judgment in a time of crisis, or tragic political destiny, these were the thoughts of a man capable of moral thought and willing to engage in it despite the fear and the pain.

Or, as his incidental biographer would say, the loathing. By the way, did you know that the hippie Boomer swarm now has earnest hagiographies of Thompson on film? You probably didn’t want to know that, but you do now. #TheMoreYouKnow, assholes. Incorrigibly parasitic and belligerently entitled Boomer shitheads living vicariously through the storied moral clarity of their tortured mad-genius auteur senpai is always a scene of beauty. Truly this is a tapestry that ought to be chucked into the fucking wood stove once we’re done burning the all the combustible death-trap fixtures on the commune, since it really isn’t and never has been one. Not that it would necessarily be a bad idea to burn it all down at once, or that I have any idea what 1946 birth cohort ever gave an uppity youngster like me the concept of arson as praxis.

Sure, Thompson could be legit wack, and he was temperamentally one to comingle fact and opinion, but the essay of his that I linked ran in the Atlantic, which employs professional fact-checkers, so that probably isn’t just a cock-and-bull story that the old boy made up for the moral force or the lulz. And as I said, it’s haunting. In the archival imagery, Ford consistently looks more at peace than many of his predecessors, especially Nixon and LBJ, and at least two of his successors, Bush II and Trump. He pulled some dipshits moves when he was in Congress, but in no way did that make him special, and it’s painful to imagine a man who completed his presidency with such public grace and decency quietly bearing such a burden in his old age.

The possibility that he was damned by his own conscience is even scarier. Does this mean that psychopaths, who are so numerous in politics, outmaneuver the judgment seat precisely because they are so soullessly evil? Do these ghouls actually corrupt the source code so utterly that they, of all people, can evade judgment? Given how demonically they carry on here on earth, it’s worth pondering, but not enjoyably so. If life is in fact the one-night stand that forever is not, think about what this may mean, and be thankful that I’m not meming Bryan Adams for thoughts on heaven. *Glen Campbell, back on the line, as he is from time to time* Well, I can’t say that dying didn’t at least spare me some of this ridiculous horseshit, but God help y’all if that fucker ever leaves the airport when he flies through Houston and is allowed near a computer after that. *I’m afraid this sidebar’s over.* Seriously, does Dick Cheney ever give these things a moment’s thought? W? Henry Kissinger?

All three are still among us. Kissinger looks like hell, whence so many think he came, and has for years, and yet he’s still hobnobbing with leaders who would be too embarrassed to associate with him in public if they didn’t hold the rest of us in dripping contempt. Ford wasn’t some It’s a Wonderful Life-ass nightgown cunt of a heavenly do-gooder, but the grotesque swathes of what came before and after him in high office make him look positively good, and we’ll never be able to grope our way to decent leadership again if we don’t keep the memories of what we’ve done halfway right in the past. I’m not trying to bitch and whine about the Donald as some special apocalyptic aberration, either; Jimmy Carter is the only successor to Ford in the presidency to date who had the decency not to flagrantly degrade their office for scandalously crude and selfish reasons. If Ford thought he was going to hell for what he did in office and no other modern president felt likewise after examining his own conscience, that speaks eloquently well of Ford and terribly of the others.

What makes this story really perverse is that Ford was sure that he would be damned because he had shown mercy. This may have something to say about the nature of mercy and its flaws, but what it really speaks to is the sheer dysfunction and perversion of American politics. The crux of Ford’s guilt for pardoning Nixon was that he had established moral hazard. This would be a much more compelling argument if Tricky Dick hadn’t just been driven from office by a Congress outraged enough to impeach him. Congress hadn’t even had to follow through with a trial and removal from office; the threat to do so had been adequate. Nixon had already faced a significant measure of justice and accountability; resignation in lieu of trial has always been an option for officials facing impeachment, because impeachment is expressly a mechanism to compel sitting executive officials to prove their fitness for office when a quorum of legislators question it.

The crooks and thugs who eventually followed the Nixon Administration included some real choice pieces of shit, but Ford had no way to predict any of that. There was no way to predict Oliver North by extrapolating from Chuck Colson. There was no way to extrapolate Reagan as president from anyone who preceded him in that office, and it would have been extremely difficult to predict his policies as president from those he pursued as the governor of California. The only arc that anyone could have followed without functionally supernatural powers of observation and prediction was that Sunset in America would continue to be a vapid dogwhistling bullshitter. Not a decade after Ford’s retirement, the Republican Party started going in a direction that had nothing to do with him or those around him. Ford was never the one collecting the country’s worst religious busybody wackos, starve-the-beast supply-side asshats, and latter-day robber baron scumbags.

The fundamental mistakes in Nixon’s aftermath weren’t even his to make. Ford had retired after an exceedingly long career in public office, and sensibly and decently so. No one anywhere else on the political spectrum had the power or the political skill to stop the unsavories from commandeering the GOP and redirecting it to their ill ends. By the time Congress started seriously demolishing its credibility as stewards of the powers of impeachment and removal, Ford was quite elderly and a critical mass of his nominal fellow-travelers in the GOP had no interest in what he thought of their mummery and grandstanding. The Clinton impeachment, followed as it was by the Bush, Obama, and Trump nonimpechments, did a great deal of damage to the credibility of national political norms, but that wasn’t on Gerry Ford. The sexually repressed wacko hardliners in the GOP brought articles of impeachment over a blowjob, and since none of Slick Willie’s successors have been impeached for extreme civil liberties and due process violations or verbal outbursts of gross public immorality, a norm has been established that impeachment is an impotent mechanism (giggity) for loudmouths with skeletons in their own closets to use when they’re butthurt that the president is getting too much action from his plump Jewess.

*Larry Craig, taking the typical wide stance* I wasn’t jealous of HIM, you naughty little twerp! When our leadership class has recently included such gems as Gateside Downlow, J. Denny Dundiddly, and the Third Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Secessions, we’d be jerks to try to lower the boom on Gerald Ford, or to agree with him for being so painfully hard on himself and so despairing of his own fitness for godly mercy.

Honestly, Ford should have gone to mass. He should have gone to Rosary gatherings. There wasn’t any need for him to convert, but that was a man whose inherited Protestant faith failed to provide him the guidance he needed through an especially difficult moral quandary that would have tried any president. Carter has never noticeably been failed by his Baptist faith, nor was Nixon by his Quakerism, but Ford would have been well advised to go to mass and the Rosary, find an out-of-the-way seat, and listen and be still. He needed that. He was a prominent object lesson on why we pray for our dead.

To be sure, he would have made a great first Catholic ex-president. That would have been badass as fuck. By Zapruder we haven’t had one yet, no matter how fervent we may insist that we would cherish him above Ruby. Tricky Dick would have made himself a respectable credit to the faith, too; peace at the center isn’t exactly Catholic, but it’s close enough. (Mainly it’s too Anglo-Saxon in its phrasing.) No, I’m not trying to be cute or start a flame war or anything. The old crook knew that he was troubled. He was humble enough to recognize that he had gotten grandiose. Besides, much of the reason why he looks so bad is that his contemporaries in Congress were assertive enough to hold him to account. They didn’t just talk about booting his ass out of the White House, as they feebly and ridiculously do these days when Trump mouths off with his latest heinous outburst.

If you want a scandalously bad RCIA hotshot candidate, try Mocha Haole in all his chameleonic smugness. Try the Big Dog or LBJ, both of them incorrigibly slippery Dixie sleazeballs. Go figure that it wasn’t a man of chastity or decorum who showed up in Washington with those initials. As he supposedly said, banging his fist on the table, I’ve had more damn women by accident than the Kennedys have had on purpose! Whether he said that or not, that’s truer than Gerald Ford’s irreversible and eternal damnation, and if we’ve five minutes to put Signora up against the wall in this, our time, rightly divided, we oughtn’t spend it praying for any of those three because they perhaps came to some grief in an indulgence of horn.

In awe at the size of this lad. Absolute secure housing unit.

It’s the fifth anniversary of some Facebook shitposting that I did about Robert Rizzo working the parking lot at the Surf Museum in Huntington Beach (“I used to direct traffic at Hershheypark, so Bob’s a colleague”), including some kind words about Chris Christie’s superior character that didn’t age well after the George Washington Bridge thing, so I looked up Rizzo to see what has happened to him in the meantime. He’s presumably done with the lot gig, since they don’t have those at Lompoc, but a bit like Najibullah Zazi on quadruple rations, I can’t find where the hell the feds and/or CDCR have stashed him: the feds say he and five or six other guys named Robert Rizzo have been released, news reports at the time of his sentencing said that he’d be staying in the federal system to serve his state sentence, and CDCR shows no record of him in its inmate lookup portal. Given that he was facing well over a tenner less than five years ago, someone isn’t sharing pertinent information with the class.

When I compared Robert Rizzo to Chris Christie, I meant it. That boy is what we call thicc. Or was, depending on what he thinks of prison food. There are prisoners who lose weight because the food is shit, but it doesn’t take much slush off the top of ten mil or whatever the hell in illegal government kickbacks and looting to fund a commissary account for the long haul. Fat Sammy and the Unified Command memes are and shall remain an important part of the memetic treasury in these pages, but Sam Dotson has shit on Rizzo for being a stout shorty. It’s historically been debatable whether Italians can be white, but if they can, my good trolley bitch, that’s one fat cracka.

That said, whether it ought to be said or not, what inspires me to prose today isn’t Robert Rizzo but Chuck Rizzo, whose name came up when I was trying to locate Bob the Big Boy in the American Gulag. Chuck Rizzo is, for starters, an unremarkably normal-looking guy, both handsomer and more height/weight-proportional than Robert but nondescript by normal standards. He’s facing but not yet serving a federal nickel bid for a mob trash racket in Metro Detroit. Daddy was a trash crook, too, and a Charles. God bless our American family-own small business job creators, then.

The stunning thing about the Chuck Rizzo case was the objection that the prosecution raised to his being released on bond after sentencing to get his affairs in order and allowed to report to prison at a later date: specifically, that he was a suicide risk, and that a planned family reunion prior to his surrender date was likely to push him over the edge. The judge ruled in Rizzo’s favor, saying that the prosecution’s objections were serious but not convincing. But on the subject of elephants and the rooms they might trash, do we maybe think that if this guy is suicidal, it’s because he’s facing years in prison?

*Permanently contemplative Dennis Lynn Rader Voice* I spend quite a bit of time in my room myself. But seriously. Incarceration is not a routine setback or challenge in life. Suicide is hell on those left behind, but it takes a hard damn heart not to admit that prison can be a hell of its own, or that five to five and a half years in prison is nothing because the system passes down sentences centuries long. These are not things to minimize. They’re horrifically serious.

Any prosecutor who stands up in a courtroom and asks a judge to remand a convict to prison so that he can’t commit suicide while out on pre-surrender bond is a sociopathic sadist. That’s some powerfully depraved thinking. Yeah, dipshit, you know why he might be suicidal? Because of you. You’re the one doing everything you can to ruin his life out of spite. Even if a convict isn’t suicidal, as Rizzo’s defense convinced the judge, he has alarmingly good reasons to be suicidal, and every fucking one of these reasons could be neutralized singlehandedly by the prosecution not seeking prison time. That’s what prosecutors would do if their main concern were about the mental health and survival of their defendants and convicts. This is separate from the public safety arguments against releasing dangerous criminals into the community without supervision, but the prosecution here wasn’t arguing anything of the sort; it was disingenuously asserting itself as a defender of its adversary against himself.

Really, judges should give prosecutors one warning to shut the fuck up about their concern for defendants’ wellbeing before holding them in contempt of court. It’s a fundamentally perjurious mindset, not a series of lies in a strict technical sense but a line of argument driven by such utterly bad faith that it’s tantamount to lying, and it is without a doubt a form of deliberate false witness. Prosecutors in these situations patently do not give a rat’s ass about the welfare of those they’re prosecuting. More often than not, they seem to be driven by a pathological, personal, visceral hatred, including a desire to see evil visited upon their adversaries. They don’t get upset because someone will make a tragic, impulsive, heartbreaking, irreversible mistake; they get upset and scandalized that they’ll be denied the opportunity to punish those who have desperately sought a higher mercy.

That’s who deserves the Flint water supply. Lock their asses in cells plumbed into the river until they publicly disavow the evil they’ve promoted. If some crew of crooks gets caught running a trash racket, their contracts can be canceled and their ill-gotten gains clawed back. Allowing manifestly vicious, hateful, vicariously violent lunatics and sadists to draw public salaries as criminal prosecutors is a much deeper and more serious problem. That’s much harder to fix by enforcing the law. If no one will watch the watchdogs, maybe we’d be better off putting them all down.

The notion that prison is a place where the suicidal can be protected from themselves is as laughable as it is grotesquely evil and false. What’s next? Insisting that EMT-firefighters have the lowest possible occupational exposure to smoke and contaminated sharps? That the way not to be called a snitch-ass pig is to become a cop? To paraphrase Daniel Holtzclaw, suck white dick. Chuck Rizzo’s prosecutors asked a judge to immediately remove him from a reasonably stable environment where he had adequate psychiatric care to an unstable, chaotic, vicious environment where any psychiatric care he had been receiving would be interrupted and replaced, almost certainly, with a lower standard of care. Not many years ago a federal court found psychiatric care in the California prison system so pervasively bad that it placed the entire CDCR mental health system under the supervision of a special master, eventually ordering inmate releases to reduce the population to a manageable level. California may have been an extreme case, but there’s no fucking way it had the only prison system in the country that was failing to provide adequate psychiatric care to its inmates.

Yeah, let’s add another nonviolent convict with a history of suicidal ideation to our already crowded and dysfunctional federal prison system so that he doesn’t kill himself. That’ll go just great.

There’s a broader point to be made here, too: our prosecutors are batshit fucking insane. Do you really want to tell me that that Anne Marie Schubert is not clinically paranoid? Mama Grizzly cowering behind the chain link fence with delusions of persecution at the hands of angry community activists whose meetings she refuses to attend in the interest of her physical safety is certainly a good approximation of paranoid psychosis and projectile PTSD. The bum who ran into the governor’s mansion trying to flag down the Highway Patrol to shoot the mountain lion that was growling at him from inside the dumpster wasn’t that crazy. He’d just wanted the good guys with guns to shoot down the bad guy with fangs, but after his arrest, he told KCRA that he’d had mental health problems in the past and on second thought there probably hadn’t been any lion. It took a guy who had been acutely psychotic two or three days to say, shit, I guess I hallucinated that cat, but damned if we can ever get a hypervigilant district attorney to admit that, no, as a matter of fact no one was trying to assault or murder me, because yelling at a public official to do her job is not a form of assault, homicide, or violent threat.

Again, we may be better off without this apparatus of hell than we are with it. We really don’t understand peace or mercy as a nation, not even when it’s staring us square in the face. We hardly even have the gumption to tell flagrantly paranoid security officials to take their CalPERS and fuck off back to Citrus Heights. I don’t give a shit if Schubert wants to self-medicate with chardonnay; the problem is that she’s being paranoid and lashing out on the public dime at a time when she has executive prosecutorial discretion. If she wants to be batshit crazy on her own time, that’s her business; this current shit is our business.

The Chippies should give that poor bum a Starbucks gift card for what they and the Sheriff’s Department did to him, since they’re already quite familiar with Starbucks. They owe him a Dunkin’ Doorman offering for his trouble. I’m not lion, and neither is that dumpster.

Cuck and Nancy

Both of the major US political parties are deeply aberrant and pathological, but the Republicans at least act like functioning adults capable of more or less making their own way in the world. They’re unspeakably evil, and the ones who aren’t personally so actively cover for colleagues who are, but at least they stand up for themselves and for what the principles that they profess. They’re America’s scumbag stepfather, and we’re their battered wife and kids.

The Democrats could be the beat cop who stares Stepdaddy down at the front door on these repeat calls, civilly but resolutely telling him, no, sir, it is not acceptable for you to beat the shit out of your own family over nonviolent expressions of disrespect and you are not helping your own cause by coming to the door in a wifebeater and cursing responding officers out with a tirade about how it’s your house, your rules. The Democrats could be the ones asserting that the police is the public, the public is the police, and we are here as representatives of that public to enforce its moral and legal sense that no man has the right to treat his kin as his chattels, the point being that if you lay another finger on anyone in this house or utter one more threat we are taking you downtown.

The glaring problem with this strategy is that the Democrats all act like Monk. It doesn’t take expanding galaxy brain to figure out how to deescalate tense situations but also be credibly firm with those who refuse to be decent and start acting in good faith. These are key interpersonal skills that every well-run police organization seeks out and trains into its recruits. But again, we’re talking about the Democrats, so all bets on intelligence are off, an adjective that also applies in the broadest general terms to the entire fucking party establishment.

I’m unfair to Monk; these smarmy losers are a version of Monk who also neurotically scolds everyone all the time. Combine the halting neurosis of Terry Gross with the schoolmarmish lecturing of Brenda Jorett about how young people today no longer have the work ethic or the punctuality needed to succeed in the workforce, then blend that with the know-it-all international club nerd preening of Marco Werman and Michele Kelemen’s Wa Shing Ton Ian delivery style, and you’ll still only approximate what an excruciating embarrassment these assholes are. It isn’t just that they lack all morals and ethics, as the Republicans do; they can’t even stand up like competent adults in public and make their damn case. Instead they rarely go a week without saying or doing something to inspire sympathy with the bullies who would have shoved them into high school lockers. Even as thirty-year veteran members of Congress they act like whiny little wussies desperately seeking the approval of their worst peers, and despite being the sworn liberal left, won’t stop being tattletales and teachers’ pets. This is the team it takes to make the Republicans’ horrifying psychosexual perversions look respectable by comparison, just by virtue of being relatively functional, mature, and self-sufficient.

One of the latest examples of shitlib sniveling came from Nancy Pelosi. First off, it’s really cool that being a wealthy major landowner, employer of nonunion farm labor, Baltimore mayor’s daughter, and habitual hippie-puncher is now a premier form of leftist praxis and politics. That aside, though, maybe Nancy, as a sworn liberal, has abiding values about the inviolability of individual cultural liberty and the courage to defend them? Lol jk. “I love the National Anthem….and I love the First Amendment, and I’ll just leave it at that.”

Glad we cleared that up. This is the US Representative for almost the entirety of San Francisco, the sweet home of raucous left-liberal dissent, and she can’t be arsed to assert the right of unionized celebrity entertainers to defy compulsory public displays of patriotism. If she won’t breathe a word in defense of their right to express their individual consciences, she won’t do jack shit for any of the rest of us. These overwrought displays of national piety have nothing to do with the game they were hired to play. It’s Pentagon agitprop that is not in the contract, and the players have the solidarity and the market power to grind the entire league to a halt if Roger Goodell or any of his fellow executive sleazeballs try to insert it.

Then there’s the question of what in hell drove Pelosi to commit an unforced error in the course of trying to suck up to a constituency of racist reactionaries who have always despised her and always will. This is the sort of whinging capitulation traditionally attributed to Neville Chamberlain and the French. None of the people she’s trying to win over will show her any respect or forbearance in appreciation of her mealymouthed agreement with their framing. They’ll enthusiastically steamroll her all the same.

What she has accomplished is the further alienation of a widening swath of her base that already distrusts her for good reasons. For these voters, the ones who put her and her fellow travelers into office, liberalism is worthless if it doesn’t include the liberty to defy bumptious demands to worship the flag. If they wanted to do that, they’d have joined the goddamn Army and gotten a soldier’s pay for their trouble. The point of cultural liberty is that no meddlesome reactionary piece of shit can force an unwilling civilian to perform ritual acts of worship on demand. Liberalism is a philosophy devoted to the defense of liberty, in case words still have meanings.

Shit, even on military bases personnel run for cover whenever Colors is about to begin so that they aren’t forced to stand at attention saluting the flag. If active-duty military personnel regard this patriotic worship as something fit only for the color guard, who are assigned specifically to carry out that bit of hocus pocus twice a day and paid accordingly (less time writing bullshit PowerPoints, presumably), maybe the rest of us who didn’t sign up for any of that should recall that we didn’t sign up for it (duh), aren’t being paid for it (again, duh), and ought to have the civic pride to refuse to be bossed around by rogue martinets.

Nancy Pelosi, of all elected officials, shouldn’t be obsequiously catering to the easily offended feelings of a bunch of bigoted Zhdanovite pricks who hate her and her constituents and whom her constituents revile no less. This is terrible retail politics. The sick thing, however, is that it’s surprisingly effective wholesale politics, at least until the voters go into full revolt. She doesn’t give a rat’s ass about what her ordinary constituents think about this donnybrook; they aren’t the ones with all the campaign money. She’s trying to split that baby on the increasingly arrogant assumption that the rank-and-file voters won’t do anything about it and in the hope that all the sugar daddies and mommas paying the party off will keep cutting the big checks to their loyal servants.

She’s probably also trying to clear the path for barely electable centrist ciphers to execute the Manchin/McCaskill strategy with district electorates that are historically liable to vote for absolute gobshites. This makes sense for anyone who thinks that it’s an accomplishment for the leading center-left party to end up with a caucus including Joe Manchin. These numbskulls won’t stop acting like it’s an accomplishment for their party not to host the creeps whose lexicons include “legitimate rape” and “China people.” We might ask why they don’t instead deploy, say, Democratic politicians who are generally admired in West Virginia, but they’d rather lose with a slimy schmuck than win with a straight shooter who disses them for being crooks. We can’t have Bernie upstaging the kingmakers by helping revive a strain of mountain populism that they find yucky. It must be that the miners are all hicks who vote against their own interests and can’t see through a poseur like Don Blankenship–you know, the guy who came in fifth out of six in the total popular vote between the two primaries, a real popular down-home coal-mining country boy multimillionaire who lives in Las Vegas.

It happens so constantly that it must be a feature, not a bug: forthright, energetic, aboveboard candidates with muscular speaking styles and unapologetically robust platforms hit the trail and become popular, sometimes out of nowhere, and the party apparatus flips its shit about how uppity they are for standing up to establishment shitheads that everybody hates. It was the solemn duty of all feminists to be #WithHer, specifically, Hillary Clinton, in 2016, but now that Cynthia Nixon is running for the New York governorship with much lower negative ratings and a reform platform that inspires voters, it’s time for feminist solidarity to go into the shitter so that everyone can rally around the slimy incumbent putz. This crew never much cared for Zephyr Teachout, either, and it infamously hates Bernie Sanders. For these scumbags, the problematic candidates are always the ones who have popular platforms and don’t enter the race surrounded by an aura of scandal and sleaze. The divisive characters are the ones who don’t make voters want to vomit.

From a psychosexual perspective, the left-populist candidates act like worthy adult adversaries, the sort of grown-up plain dealers a Republican might respect in spite of their disagreements. As a matter of sheer political strategy, Donald Trump recognized that disgruntled Sanders primary voters were worth inviting into his coalition for the general election since they might get him over the top, and so he deliberately appealed to them from time to time and highlighted his agreements with Sanders. But that’s the kind of thing that happens when a candidate has a coherent electoral strategy. What happens when a candidate does not is Hillary. That crazy fucking bitch spent her entire campaign gratuitously demeaning voters whose support she demanded. Not taking Bernie on as her running mate alone showed how flippant and unserious she was about electoral strategy. Tim Kaine was an in-your-face fuck-you to everyone inland of Manassas. Bernie would have won as vice president, too, because he would have given voters positive reasons to vote for the ticket, but what do I know? I’m just a bitter BernieBro deplorable who refuses to admit that it was all Russia’s fault.

The reactionary right wing will always seize on signs of weakness and insincerity in its adversaries, whether real or imagined. The Democratic Party leadership might react by supporting the vigorous, upfront, no-nonsense populists who already caucus with the party or seek its nominations. So what does it do? Duh: it runs a sniveling collection of finger-wagging schoolmarms and oily putzes and then berates the electorate for being disloyal to these, its betters.

This is surreal. It inevitably pisses voters off, but beyond that, it fails by its own avowed standards. The Democratic establishment is always complaining about narrowminded economic populists forsaking crucial cultural liberties and trying to reinsert itself to hold the line, but in the case of this flag donnybrook, Nancy Pelosi has done nothing of the sort. She could have stood up and, on the twin bases of racial justice and individual freedom of conscience, told everyone trying to extort shows of patriotic fealty from the players to get fucked. She could have told the owners to count their blessings for being so successful and the bigoted fans to take their Zhdanovite whining back into their secret places, where it belongs. She could have told the fans that it’s their problem if they’re too upset by players’ politics to keep watching the games, and hence their decision to make about being ready, or not, for some FOOTBALL. She could have told them to love it or leave it. That was good enough for lefty dissidents, so it should be good enough for whining rightists. You don’t hear me whining about how George Clooney’s annoying politics make Money Monster problematic, or about how Clint Eastwood is too much of a crotchety old conservative geezer for me to watch Gran Torino.

Why can’t Nancy say anything of the sort? It probably comes back to the money and the cash, which she so welcomes. Leftists have been warning about this inherent contradiction of liberalism all along, about the inevitable abuse of campaign contributions to compel bad policies that no one but the bigshot donors want. The more thoughtful and quiet sorts of conservatives, as opposed to batshit crazy projectile reactionaries, have warned about this as well, and for overlapping reasons. Politicians become so insatiable for campaign money that they get bought off by ghouls. This assumes, rather charitably, that they aren’t absolute ghouls themselves.

The whole point of liberalism is that it protects ordinary citizens from authoritarian infringements of their liberties, including demands that they publicly worship the flag or other patriotic idols on command. If Nancy won’t assert the right of professional football players to refuse Pentagon-funded commands to salute the colors or denounce the owners and the league for treating their majority-black players with a contempt nearly worthy of Jim Crow, she sure as hell won’t stand up for my right not to pledge allegiance to a fucking stars-and-stripes hot air balloon upon its launch. I went along with it because I was too tired to walk away, but that bullshit is not a fucking regulation US Flag. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s a violation of the US Flag Code. It’s not that I give a shit about some dingus squad going to the expense of customizing a hot air balloon to look extra gay (the French: historically and today, a people of great heterosexuality), but if we’re here to properly revere Old Glory, that bag of gas ain’t it. If every passing image of some flag demanded immediate compulsory respect, Otis Redding would have sung the Liberian national anthem all day long.

When individual Democrats are worth something, I don’t mind voting for them. The problem for most of them is that being at all worthwhile or respectable or useful conflicts with being a bunch of simpering, equivocating, pants-shitting castrati who are chronically sore with their own constituents and their party’s most popular politicians for getting in the way of their consultant-class rackets. I’ll be Warren Harding to vote for any of that.

Jimmy quit, Jody got married, shoulda known we’d someday get Gross

It could be worse. We could talk about the other Terry and relapse into acute Kathoholicism. We’ve done that before.

Nah, only on NPR could it be worse. So guess what? It’s on fucking NPR. I’m trying to boycott this interview with a navelgazing Limey songstress I could have sworn I’d never heard of in my life, and since I haven’t opened any of the overly copious NPR livestreaming services on my laptop, I’m currently succeeding. *Terminal Robert Dziekanski voice* And I guess you could say I’m “current” ly dying over here.

God, what a shock that always is. If you go to the trouble of listening to that interview or reading the highlights, neither being anything that I’d recommend, you’ll discover that it’s worse than anything I have to say about the RCMP. I.e., mostly about how they killed that one Pole, but there’s no reason it can’t be about how they sexually harass their own. For the same reason, the linked interview is worse than anything NPR will ever have to say about maladjusted Mounties, artistically or otherwise. If we’re going to carry on about dipshits with residual feudal duties to the Queen and chronic sociosexual dysfunction, we ought to carry on about the ones with the clipped cadences and the equally fine-ass two-tone field blues, not some borderline-Eurotrash emo civvy in a poorly fit Marimekko-style top and her excessive discography. We might as well at least find a crew that dresses well for its sexual harassment and its command mismanagement, not the lady who looks like she’s wearing long sleeves to hide the cutting scars on her forearms. Let’s call it “Of Corporals, Cocksuckers, and Cowardice.” Let us all, in one spirit, lift up our voices from the fish pond to the sky and rundel in that jungle.

NPR can’t even put the fun into the dysfunction. It’s not as if they’re spending the hour interviewing someone who’s mature, organized, and focused on the important things. This is someone who released an antinatalist retrospective on the virtues of hormonal birth control, in song. Contraceptive music exists, and it’s every bit as bad as pro-life music. One didn’t want a baby, but then one wanted a baby, and by then it was hard to have a baby. Additionally, Tracey Thorn has records about how much it sucks for a girl to not really be one of the guys even though she’s in their band, to be denied the traditional male license to be a derelict permaflaneur (because this is totally about sex and has never been about class), and to date a romantic derelict with a guitar who turns out to be emotionally hostile or distant or flaky or unstable or some shit. A woman, she tells us, can have a guitar, too.

Don’t look at me all weird for publishing Gerry and the Heartstoppers “tunes.” I’m not involved in any of the above horseshit. True story: I once got halfway involved in a love triangle with a bipolar chick whose main boyfriend, the one she wouldn’t disclose to her parents because they were Catholic and he was a Jewish atheist, met her because he was working on a documentary about Charlie “Murder is the Charge!” Robertson and she was babysitting for the district attorney. That whole thing was a dumpster fire by week four or five. I turned into a horrible emotional mess when it undeniably failed. I didn’t publish a fucking sob song about it and then go on NPR. Neither did I ever, nor do I plan to ever, pollute the Anglophone songbook with emo shit about how the thicc Jewess with the dead sexy Chicagoland accent who probably wanted to fuck me but I couldn’t tell because she turned me off with what seemed to be her idea of foreplay, specifically, pushing all five fingernails against my kneecap, hard, and spreading them out in unison.

This shit doesn’t need to be on NPR. It’s why we have YouTube and blogs. If you’re feeling (Mos)sad about these things, sing a song, and you’ll feel better, and I’ll feel better if you keep it to your damn self. It makes all too much sense that Fleetwood Mac’s “Sara” is a wistful pro-life ballad. Are we all supposed to be sad that what’s-her-name aborted the Henley brat? It was, like, forty years ago, and it wasn’t our fucking kid. Do we really have to keep hearing about that? Some family friends, also Baby Boomers, who were dating back then eventually had a child because they got queasy about the repeated abortions that resulted from their unplanned pregnancies, and now they have grandkids, but again, they didn’t commemorate it in a fucking acoustic storm.

Speaking of desperadoes, etc., it seems that the Henley fellow was inspired to vomit out his own god-awful bit of musical moralizing about the wrongfulness of gossip because he was starting to be accused of being a mob-adjacent Roy Moore-grade Quaalude teenybopper. Or, as Rex Tillerson might say, moron this shortly.

We’d all do better if the entirety of our public discourse about family values or the lack thereof were a Socratic monologue with Ali G.: “Sex: what is it all about? And babies: what is THAT all about? Is it good, or is it wack?” The moment people with opinions on this shit try to express them in cultural media, we end up with mewling assholes getting airtime in Redding to sing about letting all the babies be born. That shit won’t stop abortion. It will, however, degrade music.

None of these fuckheads, on either side of our wedge issues, is making society better through artistic advocacy. It isn’t a Satanic red herring to point out that allowing elevated levels of lead to persist in public drinking water supplies, and not just in Flint, either, has horrible effects on prenatal, neonatal, and childhood health and development. Hardcore pro-lifers put me off with their shrillness and enemy-of-the-good idealistic extremism, but I am not concern-trolling the movement by pointing out that their failure to raise hell over the contamination of water supplies right here in the United States demonstrates their insincerity and incoherence. Lead contamination is causing women to miscarry when they want to carry their babies to term. Ritually yelling at the Congress and the Supreme Court every spring doesn’t do a damned thing to remedy this ongoing disaster. You might as well take the youth ministry group down to the Tidal Basin to contemplate life and death, time and eternity, and the gratuitous sexuality of fruitless flowering ornamental plants under the cherry trees. I might as well go down to the Capitol Mall in Sacramento to contemplate how bitchin’ Senegal date palms are under the Senegal date palms. The rains can bless that, too, right here, right now. Alternately, we can bless the sprinkler system, only to have the state turn parts of it off for months on end to show Californians what a dry lawn looks like. #TheMoreYouKnow.

The Boomers are great for anyone who wants to listen to complaints about how having children is terrible and also not having children is terrible, and the only possible way to resolve this existential crisis is public art therapy. The pro-life vs. pro-choice standoff is not all that much more than two dueling lobbies of bougies with too much time and disposable income on their hands defaming one another for the feels. If they wrote “Anything Helps, God Bless” on their signs instead, they might get a positive return on their investments, but hooray for our signs, amirite. On our leading public radio afternoon arts show, the antinatalist-turned-natalist of these complaints get mixed up with grievances about how, aw oyt, mate, back when I was twenty Oy had some mates who were in me band and they didn’t act like Oy was to’ally one of them because me was a chick, not a bloke. Yeah, not having a perfect clique of friends in one’s teens and twenties is possible only for chicks, not for dudes.

Terry Gross could have asked, so, like, do you have cousins or siblings who have kids, so you could maybe, like, be involved in their lives instead, you know, but that would have been off-topic in a discussion about how the coordination of one’s own family planning, feminism, and possible woke polyamorous lesbianism is le hard and merits the more than occasional song. Plus, it would upset the neoliberal apple cart to question the breaking up and dispersion of what would otherwise be intact extended families. If we discover that this is deleterious for Limey cunts with disposable income, we might discover that it’s really bad for indigent New Orleanians, and if that happened we might start voting for elected officials who scandalize NPR’s sponsors.

There are from time to time artists who can cover these themes appropriately: Croce, Joel, Rodriguez, Winehouse. None of them are this emo Limey cunt who just spent most of an hour on the radio, more like Whinehouse, I have to say. It isn’t due to the Jews; look at the Jews we embargo in this discourse. Sure, half-Jews, mostly, but that never stopped Jeff Bezos from being absoslute piece of shit. If I’m off dicking some hooker who already has kids, at least I’m not singing piss-ass songs about the piddling deficiencies of my family life when I could be devoting my energy to expressing more serious grievances that might be resolvable instead, and neither is the hooker. The only song we need about that is the one about how they tried to make me go to Rahab.

I’m probably pissing into the wind by mouthing off about NPR again when I know where to find wild bay laurel three miles from here, but at least I just missed half of Fresh Air, all of that fucking Boston international relations dorkfest with the Werman twerp, and the first broadcast of Marketplace. I also missed a rare opportunity to meet Donna Apidone, Devin Yamanaka, and Randall White People in person at New Helvetia. Now, how DO I keep misspelling that man’s name? I have no idea what’s happening, Randall; I’m just a fat cracka who spends too much time on the light rail. I could have actually fucking met these fools today; not sure I’d have had to pay for the honor, in which case no way in hell was I meeting any of them. Say what you will about my knowing who they are and how to spell their names; that can’t say anything good about me. Just remember this: what bougies who maybe didn’t have kids when they should have need is friends or therapists; they don’t need platforms or audiences, and you don’t need that set of fucking Cap Radio pint glasses.

What’s going on, Ed, back home in SoCal is better than any of this shit up here. I really have to go, though, both because I’ve had enough internet for the afternoon and because it’s that time of day again when there are updates at least every half hour regarding legal developments involving the President’s outside counsel, the dirty movie lady, and maybe even that prune-ass sticky-fingered roller shithead from the Auburn Police Department. No time for a roast, Joey; this is civics.

Do I deserve two and a half pounds of coffee for that? Mom?

NBC syndicated a bullshit red-herring human-interest story (*Jeffrey Dahmer transmitting on channels you REALLY don’t want to contemplate* No, I’ve never denied my interest in being a humanitarian) about some eight-year-old camera-ready goody-two-shoes in Louisiana who found a hundred-dollar bill on the floor at Walmart and, with his mother’s help, took it to the lost and found office, The bill turned out to belong to a, what the hell, 86-year-old, I think it was, who was on a “fixed income” and unable to afford groceries without it but who “don’t do nothing to get in the way of anything I’ve left with the Lord,” or some shit. This is the level of our public theology because we’re a nation of drooling retards. No, I am not looking that shit up for accuracy; that’s close enough, unless you were looking for something other than a reduced-grease version of Joel Osteen.

Choke me, Ghomeshi, every one of these fucking geezers is on a “fixed income,” as if the problem with the money is that it comes in predictably and reliably on specific dates in accordance with a set disbursement period and not that there isn’t enough of it. If we flat-out admitted that for some citizens, honored and otherwise, the month lasts longer than the money, we’d have to admit that we have an enduring population of the poor, just as the Lord, to whom this particular geezer trusted his lost servant Benjamin, promised us. Who dat! There are thoughtful ways to wrestle with the existence of poverty and other forms of suffering under the watch of a merciful God, but go find the Christian commission in which Jesus is all like, nah, the whole lot of you might as well just be totally irresponsible heartless fucking derelicts, it’s all good, fam, I got it. Nah, this is America; if that scripture didn’t exist, we’d make it up, and you can bet the church social hall we already have.

NBC wanted us to watch this bumptious piece of non-news and feel heartwarming feels about how people are actually good and there’s still goodness in our bad world and shit. Lol, not because of NBC is there any of that. NBC is run by absolute fucking psychopaths. Matt Lauer wasn’t even in charge of that shit, really just an overpaid circus monkey when push came to shove, and he renovated his office into a remote-controlled rape dungeon. When Rodney King asked why we can’t all just get along, he meant it. He was confused and abashed about all the rioting, like, damn, I’m just some dusthead who got into a rumble with the LAPD on the nightly news, and just look at this shit. NBC has no such modesty, nor will it ever. It has no such capacity for shame. The happy horseshit about this kid turning in the fucking C Note and being the Lord’s servant and whatever-the-hell is a red herring to distract viewers from the psychopathy of rapacious, insatiable organizations like NBC and the vicious kinds of people who work for them and generally seek their favor.

We wouldn’t want this brat to earn nothing for his fifteen minutes of fame (eh, more like three; we still live in times of faint mercy), so of course he got a reward for his good deed. Part of this reward was fresh tomatoes, “his favorite” (gag me again, Ghomeshi), but the other part was a gift of $20.

This was where I perked up. That sweet, sweet math. When I dropped that ten spot on the floor and the Dunkin’ Doorman pointed it out to me, what he thought he deserved, I guess for not pocketing it, was a coffee. There are different sizes and shit, but the rough value is two bucks. That is, 20%. To be really anal about the Dunkin’ Doorman’s commission, the commission he wanted for his bum mitzvah was somewhere between maybe 16% and 25%, i.e., 20% for the normies among us.

What the Dunkin’ Doorman didn’t get, because he got his name in these pages, but our brat in Louisiana did get, was basically a tip on the low end of the generous range for a food service line worker. To judge from these episodes, the going rate is 20% off the top for not being an opportunistic thief. It’s great work if you can get it, but what does this say about our values? What does it teach our young people? We know what it teaches the Dunkin’ Doorman: to pester strangers for coffee. But he was doing that already. Hell, he’s likely as not a flat-rater. Drop a dollar bill on the floor and I don’t see why he wouldn’t still think he deserves a coffee for not stealing that, too. You might as well preemptively hand him the bill, unless you want him to feel the thievery in his heart when he either does or does not pocket it.

There’s no solution to that dude. I don’t want him to go hungry, but I suspect he’s actually getting by, and I hate the idea of the trash stream, the gluttony, and the zoom-zoom that would result if everyone that fool asked to buy him a coffee bought him a coffee. Hell, he probably wanted straight-up cash money, which he could spend on something other than coffee if he felt the urge, but I’m sure he didn’t want to sound crass.

The thing is, as much of a pain in the ass as the Dunkin’ Doorman is, I can’t help but grudgingly respect him for being so unabashedly American. He articulates, actually quite modestly, all the crassness that the rest of us so disingenuously refuse to express because it would make us look bad. Do we believe in doing good deeds for the sake of doing good? Hell no. We believe in that because we hope someone will pay us twenty dollars. We’re looking for that Jacksonian lifestyle. The only halfway charitable explanation for the dipshittery of passing the plate to buy Elon Musk a new couch is that these asshats secretly, but also rather clumsily, hope Elon will shower them with unearned largesse. The other explanations are unspeakably horrific. They hope that the Seth Effriken shithead will reciprocally Go Fund Them so that they no longer must, to paraphrase that classic of the Canadian songbook, go and fund themselves.

BTO is still worse, buddies. Don’t look at me like that.

We could all do worse than the Dunkin’ Doorman in the expression of our own crassness. In fact, we have to do worse to have a hope of getting the story of our generosity on NBC at :20 after the hour. I’m left to my own devices to tell the story about how I once found a ten spot on the ground in a parking lot, with no one else around to claim it, and rushed it over to the nearest Wells Fargo. Together, we’ll go, actually, not far at all in this case. I think I transferred an extra $10 to Capital One that afternoon, for whatever piss-ass bit of pocket change that was worth. But hey, $10 is $10.

Actually, the local story in that part of the country is specifically that $20 is $20. As in, “I’m not gay, but $20 is $20.” I’m not gay either, but I notice that that’s a whole lot more per hour than I’ve ever been paid to pick fruit. Some doofus has to get sucked off under the bleachers at the high school stadium before the labor theory of value shows up around here. It’s terrible, this end of the innocence, but look on the bright side, or on the sunny side, as we Scouts used to say (in total heterosexuality, of course, by Chestserfield), and in this case, I’m not NBC, so this really is a bright side: you’ll never find a lawyer who can be paid to dwell on details that small.

I must say, Lauer is one hell of a job creator as a retiree.