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.

More seniors by the sea: spank you for your service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wellness” may actually be a thing, but if it is, the United States hasn’t any at all

When I was on the train from Denver to Chicago a few months ago (the day after Inauguration Day, in fact), I overheard a gentlemen tell his associates, “Niggas be on rent control. Niggas be thinking they ill.” As the white cop from Sanford and Son would surely say, gosh, I hope they feel better; maybe they should see a doctor if they still feel ill in a day or two. By the way, I didn’t mean to be sarcastic about the guy on the train; he seemed very much a gentleman, although if he construed the niggas in question to be exclusively Community members, I know enough San Franciscans to assure him that he’s very much mistaken. Native San Franciscan O. J. Simpson has no cause to complain that the rent is too damn high (and Nevada has many such cases), but many of those who moved to his city in the aftermath of his departure do, and as we’ve discussed in these pages before, the City is becoming a less and less hospitable community for the Community.

That was all coherent, regardless of whether it looked it. If you want something incoherent, look at American health policy. That isn’t just sic; it’s literally, powerfully ill. If there’s any subtle coherence to it, it’s a thoroughly evil coherence buried in the thicket of evasion and bad faith and lies that is crucial to convince the non-psychopathic majority of those active in national politics, as elected officials, activists, formal observers, and voters alike, to go along with any of the evil shit. The federal sausagemaking process doesn’t allow leaders with evil designs to get anywhere by professing their intention to throw the poor, the sick, and the otherwise vulnerable into the lion pit for moral edification and profit; that’s too crude and obvious not to rile up a silent majority of decent Americans and sandbag the entire campaign.

Unfortunately, Congress is full of creeps who are too smart and devious to do anything that clumsy. To a scandalous extent, we’re represented by crafty operators who know how to establish what the CIA likes to call plausible deniability. Of course these creeps would use a CIA-derived intellectual framework and operating system in their official work; they’re high-functioning psychopaths whose main offices are inside the same Beltway as Langley. Certainly the prospect of Dennis Hastert crossing paths with the blackmail squads at Langley or, to evoke Washington’s most famously fabulous blackmailer, the J. Edgar Hoover Building is, to rectify that odious CIA term, plausibly undeniable. Put me in, Coach! I’m ready to play! *AS HE SAID.* Nah, given that that sorry old has-been couldn’t even wheel himself into FMC Rochester without bumping into the curb, it’s hard to imagine that he’s joined the Juice in our country’s venerable tradition of coaching the boys in baseball on the yard.

And no, I can’t imagine why anyone would ever think of wrestling as somehow being gay.

That was quite gross, but again, we’re talking about Washington. The train where I learned about the niggas who be thinking they ill on account of their rent control went through Yorkville, allowing me to feel a few minutes of snickering superiority over the Accidental Speaker, what with his court-ordered cool change in that Mayo Clinic satellite campus and my being at liberty on a bitchin’ ride. Why take part in the Bureau of Prison’s shabby socialism when you can take part in Amtrak’s fine-ass socialism? Why be governed by the iron fist of the law when you can ride that iron horse? Of course, any of this is better than a tropical getaway to Iron Prison. *Very Andrew Chan voice* I’ve got a hole in me now…. Indonesia is an ally. Why in hell? Maybe it has something to do with statecraft in the Hastert-as-puppet tradition. They (construe as you like) have been blackmailing our politicians for decades. Harry Truman complained pointedly in his private letters about the deep state using sexual gossip as leverage over elected officials, and the monumental blackmail record of that fruit in the dress at the FBI is infamous to anyone familiar with any but the most sanitized histories of the federal government.

Some of it is surely more prosaic than that. Simple bribery–trapping flies with honey and all that–can be awfully effective. Kamala Harris is reputed to have sold her official services to crooks in the FIRE sector for $2,000; Spiro Agnew was ridiculed in his own time as the first politician who could be bribed with a bag of groceries. There is much slush sloshing around Washington, and it sloshes into many funds. A frank mercenary presumably has fewer potential downsides and needs less handling than a blackmail case with a kiddie-diddling history. It’s one thing to be a den of crooks, but when someone like Hastert comes along for the ride, the organization hosting him turns into a den of crooks who are also perverts. Congress may be able to withstand its own reputation for fraud, but does it really want to look like Penn State? WE ARE!

No, Pizzagate isn’t that crazy. The precedents are there, and let’s be honest, John Podesta looks way the hell creepier than J. Denny Dundiddly ever did.

Regardless of what exactly is driving federal healthcare policy, it’s ugly and evil, just as the resulting federal policy is. It’s absolutely scandalous that any political party would take pride in a wasteful, half-assed regulatory capture kludge like Obamacare, especially a party that also takes pride in being its country’s left wing. The AHCA, the Republican House’s repeal and replacement bill, is even worse. It’s bad enough that the House Republican Caucus may have actually overplayed its hand this time. Its members were already getting booed and shouted down at town hall meetings by their own constituents, and now they’re responsible for a monstrosity whose express purpose is the replacement of a lesser monstrosity that, in spite of all its siloing of the electorate and its unfunded individual mandate and its giveaways to vile crooks who have all the moral scruples of organ harvesters on Communist Chinese killing fields, at least got a good chunk of the uninsured population onto health insurance plans under a tightened regulatory regime that finally forced insurers to honor their own policies and stop cherry-picking their risk pools. The House has now passed legislation to replace it with a horror show encouraging insurers to penalize their policyholders, who are quite often functionally indigent, with draconian penalties for lapsed coverage and deny coverage on the basis of a horrifically expansive list of preexisting conditions, threatening people with lifetime ruin for seeking exactly the timely medical care that saves themselves and those insuring them significant long-term expenses by forcibly deputizing clinicians as informants.

The potential threat to public health here should be obvious, since such a hostile, punitive regime will inevitably discourage the sick from seeking treatment for contagious diseases. The sight of this new dystopian frontier being opened by a party of belligerent shitbaggers is awesome, in roughly the sense of watching a Komodo Dragon stalk and pounce on a water buffalo. We’re watching hideous creatures satisfy their hunger in real time; that’s all. The Democrats behind the ACA were, amazingly, C. S. Lewis’s robber barons; the Republicans behind the AHCA are Lewis’s moral busybodies, although they’re also rampaging robber barons. It was wrong of me to be so harshly moralizing towards our dragon friends above: as literal cold-blooded reptiles, they really don’t eat all that much, no matter how dramatic their feasts. The Democrats are mixed up with their own rogues’ gallery of corporate crooks, but they don’t give safe harbor to anyone like Mo Brooks, who has opined that those who lead good lives don’t come down with preexisting conditions, or even anyone quite as intractable as Paul Ryan at combatively operating a free-market fog machine to give the entire party cover for its current ass-raping.

The Republicans have the advantage of pushing this agenda from a position of consistency, in contrast to the cognitive dissonance that Democrats face when they sell out their own base and get called on it. The Democrats are at least a tiny bit chastised by the knowledge that their own base is demanding universal single-payer coverage, generally in the form of Medicare for all, ever more loudly and cohesively. When they get told off at their town hall meetings, it’s by exactly the constituencies that their party mythology celebrates as worthy and valued: modest working men and women (lately expressed as “working families,” presumably on the chance that child labor laws really aren’t that important), the disabled, the indigent, widows and orphans, those living on “fixed incomes” (as with our working families above, on the apparent theory that an income cannot be fixed at a very comfortably high level), the vulnerable and mistreated in general. The Democratic leadership has notoriously been currying favor with credentialed professionals at the expense of workaday voters and trying to hammer them together with narrow identitarian constituencies and underclass client bases (think downmarket immigrants and welfare types) into a ramshackle coalition that’s barely viable enough to win elections pending the glorious mass die-off of the future dead white males, but even the neoliberal Democrats spearheading this agenda are quietly embarrassed, as they should be, to be involved in this mass ratfuck. They know that they’re throwing decent people under the bus. They know that they’re engaging in an epic campaign of treachery against honorable constituencies that were crucial in the electoral and legislative victories of Democrats going back to FDR at the national level and at least Al Smith at the state level. They aren’t quite insane enough not to realize what hypocritical shitwads they’ve become; maybe close, with their Harry Potter and Josiah Bartlett fantasies, but not quite. The shame, embarrassment, and guilt that they quietly feel on account of their treachery and hypocrisy makes them less effective at governing than their Republican opponents, but they’ve turned the Democratic Party into a beast that’s hardly any less worthy of destruction than the GOP, and that takes some doing.

That there’s a constituency for psychopathic public policy like the AHCA at all is disturbing, but the Democrats bear at least as much blame for indirectly empowering this constituency than the Republicans bear for directly leading and representing it. It’s a noisy, belligerent minority that believes any of the worst Republican talking points sincerely enough to want to get its fellow citizens sickened and killed by turning them into law. The Democratic Party is the one that refused to give the silent majority of decent Americans a credible alternative because it was too busy selling out to big donors and the talented tenth. They lose to structural Robert William Pickton not because the American public demands healthcare by Sick Willie, but because they fucking suck. They tell struggling voters to trust them because they keep Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in leadership positions, and then they publicly make fun of the same voters for being bigots when they don’t vote as instructed.

If they had any principles at all, they’d marginalize their own crooks and sleazeballs for fear of causing scandal before the electorate and causing the election of deranged reactionary bigots. There is a frightening sadistic streak in the American public, as witnessed by our rather slowly dwindling support for capital punishment, which until recently was the stance of a consistent majority of Americans, but the Democrats won’t even tolerate anyone within their ranks who advances a pocketbook platform compelling enough to convince law-and-order authoritarians and reactionaries to put aside their differences on criminal justice and vote for the reliable delivery of the goods. This isn’t rocket science; it’s how the screeching segregationist George Wallace won a supermajority of the black vote for the Alabama governorship against a staunch integrationist Republican with a libertarian streak. That, and he was known in well-connected circles for sincerely respecting the black people in his own personal and professional life. Convincing voters through back channels that their public ugliness is all for show is the last thing today’s establishment Democrats can be expected to do. I have one degree of separation from Nancy Pelosi, and that degree of separation, who was party to a regional roundtable policy meeting including her, told me that she seemed totally insincere and uninterested in anything that the group was discussing. One of the matters under discussion was mental health care, so, yeah, we’re in really fucking good hands there and it absolutely is not just Pelosi’s hands wandering into our pockets.

The Democratic Party has set its own social agenda back decades by indulging in this bullshit. We can’t know for sure what would have happened to the death penalty abolition movement starting in the mid-seventies had the party not started catering to yuppies, and it certainly ran some tone-deaf, gaffe-prone idealists in its later upstanding days, but it’s telling that the Democrats progressively entrenched their reputation for not caring about the interests of anyone but the very rich, the intelligentsia, and the very poor starting no later than the Reagan Administration, and that the main interlude in the midst of this reputation collapse, the Clinton Administration, featured constant triangulation, hard rightward moves on social and economic policy that were rarely offset by moves to the left, and a renowned aura of scandal. By some accounts, Monica Lewinsky and her mostly blue dress saved Social Security from Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. Kenneth Starr as white knight for the social safety net is a pretty appalling thought, but we all go to war with the dork army we have, not the handsome jock that our loyal dork fights to depose from his palace. And of course, Ricky Ray Rector’s thoughts on the Big Dog, if any, may have been different from ours; they presumably weren’t ones that a man would want to contemplate over dessert.

If we must go to war by other means with the Democratic Party we have, God help us. The profound lack of principle and courage shines through. It can’t help the party electorally. On some level, voters must respect its opponents just for having the balls to stand for something, even something evil. The expectation that the Democrats will provide jack shit for representation and constituent services complements their moral spinelessness nicely. Elections are won by building coalitions, and the Democrats suck ass at building coalitions, so here we all are.

But the GOP’s talking points about health policy don’t have the same reptilian appeal that its talking points about punishing criminals do. They can’t credibly argue that, had they been in full power, they would have fried Jeffrey Dahmer before his yardboy got the chance to do in the iron age what they would have done in the electric age. Verily I say unto you, serve man, and ye shall be served. They can’t credibly argue that they’re out to get psychopaths like Charles Manson so that he doesn’t get to grow old at taxpayer expense. (The hilarious thing about that fucker is that he was set afire by his fellow not for being a remorseless thug, but for dissing the Hare Krishnas.) With healthcare, they can’t help but betray their intention to kill your child in an act of cosmic punishment for getting cancer. Or your spouse, or your mother. There go all the sincere religious conservatives. For a party that counts on supermajority support from religious breeders who adopt special-needs children, the AHCA is one dumb move. We’re already watching this stunt backfire in the town hall meetings.

Maybe I feel a touch of schadenfreude watching this dumpster fire, but mainly I feel a sense of relief at the increasing likelihood that the Republican Party is joining the Democratic Party in shooting itself in the foot. It’s about time.

There are two viable paths for healthcare in the United States to take. The less viable one is to revert to an independent, perhaps even underground, patchwork of solo-practice doctors, nurses, social workers, and whoever else has the wherewithal to set up shop as some sort of medic, with or without training. This is already the reality in some ghetto neighborhoods whose residents are afraid of arrest by warrant troll squads from their police departments if they seek care in nearby hospitals. A less dystopian version of this is the country doctor who accepts payment in cash on the barrel head, a chicken, a bushel of pickles, porch repairs, or God knows what else country folk are theoretically able to provide as payment that would possibly be of use to the doc. This Norman Rockwell-ass piece of fiction for submission to Country (the magazine of pornographic nostalgia, not the geography) might work for hangnails and limb fractures, but it doesn’t explain what will happen when some poor bastard tries to pay an oncology team with the last haggard old cow left in their backyard for their child’s leukemia treatment. Anyone who isn’t an idiot knows that it’ll be either charity care or chaos.

So if we’re to avoid a horror show in which the poor and middling must either limit themselves to primitive primary care or pin their hopes on the inscrutably arbitrary whims of medical GoFundMe campaigns and hospital charity care (as with kitchen gunshot removal in the ghetto, already an existing lifestyle in many US communities), we’re left with the second option: single-payer care or some close variant of it. As I’ve mentioned a number of times before, single-payer has enjoyed consistent majority public support for decades, although this is in no way reflected by the negligible level of support that it enjoys in Washington and in the mainstream media. The goal of universal single-payer care is to expand Medicare, an extremely popular existing program, from the elderly to the entire population. It’s a hell of a lot more straightforward and less distressing than dealing with private insurance companies and the “Marketplace” that so enchants the small class of bureaucrats and think tankers who make a living talking about such insipid, Kafkaesque bullshit.

Finally doing on Capitol Hill what Tommy Douglas did in Saskatchewan most of a lifetime ago is rabidly opposed from the right in the name of liberty (or, in the case of the thoughtlessly ignorant, freedom and liberty). It doesn’t help that the United States has an exceptionally well organized and funded lobby of Christian dominionists who define liberty in the most grotesquely Orwellian fashion imaginable, truly as slavery to their doctrines or the next thing to it, but they have no trouble making common cause in this particular campaign with free marketeers, secular starve-the-beast agitators, and corporate propagandists.

The pertinent question to ask, then, is how the campaign to protect hospitals and health insurance carriers from all duty to patients, policyholders, and the public is possibly consistent with the big three inalienable rights that the US Constitution explicitly declared sacrosanct: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s considered worthy in patriotic circles to be familiar enough with these three inalienable rights to recite them from memory, so let’s look at what it would take to uphold them concretely in our healthcare policy.

Life: easily lost as a consequence of untreated disease.

Liberty: impossible in any meaningful sense for a person who has been thrown into crushing lifelong debt by medical bills that were assessed using secret chargemasters, retail cost markups worthy of a supermarket in Venezuela, discharge scheduling tricks, and bad-faith network-shopping.

The pursuit of happiness: impossible for a person who is sick, injured, or disabled and unable to get treatment.

What I’ve just proposed would give Congress’s self-declared constitutional conservatives mass aneurysms. Try to imagine Paul Ryan not talking over me if I argued for this program on behalf of the general welfare, which the Constitution also charters the US government to promote. Now try to imagine the Speaker taking the floor to argue that the same limited government dictated by the Constitution forbids congressional appropriations and protected sales franchises for pharmaceutical manufacturers. You might as well imagine that you live among Harry Potter and his wizard friends. Shit, the Democratic Party’s educated base already does that. Fuck. It’s a fun joke, but I forgot that it isn’t just a joke. As Firehat said, The West Wing is what Lenin had in mind when he said that the intellectuals are not society’s brains, but its shit.

The Democrats aren’t unable to completely flip the script on the Republicans over health policy, as I just did over five minutes in a fucking Starbucks (one of the few bougie status platforms that I am not embarrassed to share with the shitheads); they’re unwilling to flip the script. It’s their script, too, you see. Does the market fetish sound like it possibly came from the grassroots? Does anyone normal use “marketplace” in conversation? I guess I might use it to say that I stopped listening to Marketplace so often after that salty Texan who talked about being able to tell who was swimming nekkid when the tide went out retired from his regular chitchat position opposite Kai Ryssdal. I remember vividly where I was that day: driving through Fallon an hour or so before sunset on my way to Reno and whatever pile of filth awaited me in Oregon.

The Democrats don’t talk like the rest of us. The Republicans sometimes do. What a fucking disaster. We’ve got hundreds, no, thousands of people on Capitol Hill who should be on public assistance. Shit, they’re already drawing public salaries even when they pull a Chaffetz and wheel into the chamber on a knee chair a few hours post-op to vote to throw peons who need knee surgery into the gutter, to fend for themselves like good upstanding Americans. Why should I or some loser who plays video games all day in his secret place or some single mother on food stamps be ridiculed as charity cases and not that smarmy, goofy son of a bitch from Los Gatos?

Put them on welfare and that Section Eight. Give them a thicky trick, for all I care. From where we’re starting, we can hardly do a thing but save money by putting these fuckheads on the regular dole.

On the sunny side, though (hey there, Chesterfield!), we’re looking at a Democratic Congressional majority starting in 2019 the way things have been going this year. Maybe, if we don’t become totally derelict in the meantime, it won’t be a shitty one this time around.

Shit. Shit. Shit. *PISS* coming out of Tom Perez’s *ASS*

Yeah, that was gross, but what else is new about the Democratic Party? That party is consumed by such a grotesque, overpowering impurity of spirit that it daily haidt-fucks the shit out of its own base, offending us by moral senses we didn’t even know we possessed. Ooh baby, Ghomeshi, don’t stop now.

Yuck, eh. As they say on SEPTA, Dude, It’s Rude (TM). Honestly, though, Sweet Baby J. smothering a bitch with Big Ears Teddy himself on the Market-Frankford Line at City Hall at high noon wouldn’t be as sick and disgusting as the Democratic Party. Nor would it be a daytime knifepoint groping or fatal hammer bludgeoning–both of which are well-known antecedent traditions on the MFL. *Very Economist Eurotrash wanker voice* It’s hell on the El, old boy.

I mention all of this–okay, some of it I mention just to be gross before the grosser, i.e., the party for whose 2004 presidential ticket I did ground campaigning in FUCKING LEBANON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, YOU SHITTY INGRATES–I mention most of this because Tom Perez has been in the news for saying “shit” a great deal in his public appearances. Lambert Strether has discussed Mr. Perez’s newfound potty mouth at Naked Capitalism here and here. Speaking of things that are more disgusting than anything I’ve written about Jian Ghomeshi (I remind you that most of you still come here for Dubai Porta Potty; I monitor the stats), there’s a presumably bottomless recursion to the articles on, for lack of a better term, shit having to do with Tom Perez and the like. To which I now contribute, through my most grievous fault, etc., but I didn’t start it, and again, most of y’all are here for worse than that.

We do not have the omniscient intellectual capacity of gods, so our involvement in this crap, whether as readers, writers, or both, comes at the expense of our involvement in anything else, which would presumably be more intelligent, more edifying, more aesthetically worthy, and frankly more interesting. Then again, the fuckheads who are ruining the Democratic Party are hella into Harry Potter, so maybe not. There is no bottom. The abyss does not merely gaze back; it stares. We’d be better off watching that Missouri Highway Patrolman drill through heads with his eyes at Ron Johnson’s late-night press conferences. Again, that would be less disturbing than examining what’s become of the Democratic Party today. (Note: I am not and have never been a resident of Missouri; your mileage may vary.) So I’m proud to say that I have not read the original pieces that Strether linked in the Water Cooler. No, I have not done my homework. Bitch I’m a back-row kid. Arnade is my homeboy. I stopped reading Sister Carrie the very, to me, sentence that Theodore Dreiser’s writing went definitively to shit, and that was for a high school book report, which I bullshitted after rereading my other reportable book, The Good Soldier Schweik. Sister Carrie was (I’d fucking hope) the worst story ever written about a whore in Chicago, and I, Charlotte Simmons or whatever, don’t hold with that kind of literature. Politico isn’t literature, fam. (At least Dreiser wrote enough shit at once to pretend.)

Besides, I don’t need to read the original pieces to know what’s happening here. What it is, is in fact all too clear. Wow Much buffalos Omg rick springfield Where jesse Very distract. I’ve seen Tom Perez’s stunt before. This isn’t my first time getting bucked headlong into the bullshit at this rodeo. Perez is gaslighting us. The Harvard study discussed by Politico indicated that Teh Millennialz regard cussing as an indicator of honesty and shit, virtues they’d like to see in a politician–say, one not named Clinton. This raises an obvious question: did we really need Hahvahd to tell us this, or did Hahvahd need to tell us this as an administrative condition of its receiving continued funding for the study of why we young punks would sooner trust a hypothetical person who uses vulgar language in public than a deranged ex-first lady with an exceptional reputation for public corruption and a parallel reputation for telling Secret Service agents to get fucked behind closed doors, causing some of them to take refuge behind palace curtains? The whole thing sounds like an I Fucking Love Science article, and the original study comes from the university whose undergraduate school sent bar none the most immature and flippant admissions representatives I ever encountered during my college search to meet with my tour group when I visited the campus. As much as I rag on Dickinson, at least it didn’t have anyone worse than a mild doofus try to recruit me, not a crew of total asswads who treated us like kindergartners.

We can know that Perez is gaslighting us for a couple of reasons. His membership in good standing in the faction that ratfucked Bernie Sanders is one; it would be foolish to trust anyone currently deputized by Democratic kingmakers to clean up that mess and do reputation management. Another is the elaborate, Late Bourbonesque cult of court manners that the same establishment faction self-righteously, and over time desperately, demanded of the entire nation as a condition of participation in the political process. This campaign to smear the legitimacy of Sanders and Trump voters in particular as illegitimate on account of our failing or refusing to participate in the establishment’s bogus court rituals may have been enough on its own to seal Trump’s victories. Stylistically different but substantively similar talking points were constantly being vomited forth by Republican operatives throughout the primary season, followed by endorsements of Clinton in the general election by a number of prominent Republicans. It was almost as if the two party establishments, nominally at such vicious odds, wanted the same downmarket constituencies to meekly shut up and die. Instead, a number of us turned out to vote in unapproved ways, and we’re still hearing about the highbrow butthurt months later.

Perez wasn’t an A-Lister in this DLC court etiquette bullshit, but unlike Trump, Sanders, and their supporters, he was no dissident against it, either. He lived by that dumbass exclusive code, just like most of the Beltway does. This code holds, among other things, that it’s déclassé to use vulgar language in public. This has nothing at all to do with a sense of decency. It’s a way, rather, for some of the most grievously indecent people in the country to exclude their moral betters from politics and maintain their stranglehold on the power, the glory, and, let’s not kid ourselves, the money.

When the Democrats’ new damage control guy suddenly starts using his potty mouth in public, it’s a raging clue (Ooh! I’m getting a clue, too!) that we’re being rolled. Bernie need only raise his voice and speak bluntly to the Queen Presumptuous to be smeared as an unwashed and hence unfit vulgarian by the same kingmakers who have deputized Perez to take the lead on their public relations. The rest of us have spent years being smeared as basically unfit to vote just for using politically incorrect language: for speaking in the Vulgate about race and sex, for showing anger instead of false politeness and being critical of the state of the Union when we have been told to be positive, and for using words that, per FCC decency (sic) regulations and the Sorkinian house style, one would not expect to hear on The West Wing. When a Party enforcer like Perez shows up at rallies with the same parlance that he and his colleagues and bosses would use as grounds to try to bar the rest of us from polite society and shove us back into our deplorable basket, it’s false modesty of the worst sort. Some people take up a habit of cursing late in life due to adverse experiences, mental illness, dementia, or Phineas Gage situations. The Democratic leadership did not elevate Tom Perez to his current position because it took him to be a disinhibited headcase. It elevated him because it expected him to be a competent and loyal chief operative. This is the same apparatus that sprang into no-holds-barred emergency damage control every time Hillary did something that voters might find goofy or disturbing, like faint into the arms of aides. This crowd does not knowingly deputize loose cannons.

None of this means that the Democratic establishment is competent, at least at its nominal raison d’être of winning elections and governing effectively in pursuit of its avowed platform. Conspiracy theories that the Democratic Party is actually ordered towards the professional and financial aggrandizement of its nomenklatura, at whatever expense to its agenda or its viability as a governing party that this aggrandizement may cause, are popular because they’re much more consistent with the behavior of the party over the past twenty or thirty years than any alleged spirit of public service or principle will ever be. The extreme dissonance between the Democratic Party’s enduring New Deal origin myth and the attendant presumption of devotion to the interests of the common man on the one hand and the party’s recent evolution into an uneasy, unwieldy coalition of insatiable yuppie technocrats and a lumpenproletarian client base on the other has provoked an ongoing existential crisis. The sight of a bunch of bitter, resentful, condescending social climbers haplessly trying to rule as the dominant partners in a sorry-ass coalition that they’re forever trying to maintain with submissive partners that they obviously, if usually tacitly, regard as uneducated losers and repeatedly get steamrolled by a Republican Party that’s equally incoherent but more ruthless and skilled makes many people, especially on the left, wonder why the fuck the Democratic Party continues to exist. Glosses holding that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, to take a couple of unpalatable examples, are really just amoral social climbers do much to explain why the Democrats remain so stubborn in the face of both humiliating losses and withering criticism for inadequate representation from left-leaning constituencies that they still refuse, partly for sentimental reasons and partly for strategic ones, to formally disavow. Think labor unions: it’s bizarre that the closest American party to a mainstream labor party cannot reliably turn out the union vote, sometimes in its favor and sometimes at all.

This is a party that despises its own base, and unlike the GOP, it can’t advance a halfway credible cover story to distract its target useful idiots from the useless job it does representing them. It lacks the message discipline, and crucially, it lacks the moral and intellectual consistency to convince its own subordinate constituencies that there’s any basis for its own legitimacy. Republicans at least have the forthrightness to suggest that certain virtuous people (Paul Ryan) fundamentally deserve to rule their moral inferiors (factory workers who don’t have the investment savvy and insider information to get rich from their 401(k) accounts). (Substitute Larry Craig and sodomites to taste, if you have any; I’m just trying to maintain a wide stance on these matters.) The Democrats swear that they believe in equity with all their hearts, that even the poorest, most marginalized, and the most vulnerable deserve a say in the process. When they humiliate losers by treating them like losers, similar to the Republican approach but cagier, they become hated not just as predators, but as liars and hypocrites as well.

Whether or not Donald Trump gives a shit, as Perez insists he does not, is hardly relevant when it’s so hard to believe that Perez and his crew give a shit, either. They’re the ones who have spent their careers sandbagging every effort to implement exactly the social welfare reforms that their own base demands (and that, in some cases, a consistent majority of Americans supports). This is why attendees at the recent Democratic unity tours that he’s been undertaking with Bernie Sanders have been booing at the announcement of his name. They know that Perez and those he’s backing up have done them dirty. Nevertheless, he persists (TM), although to what ultimate effect is anyone’s guess.

The potty talk may just be the latest hapless scheme to badger aggrieved uppity voters into submission. The sheer contempt with which Hillary Clinton and her campaign addressed voters was stunning. Much of it was premised on a self-righteous belief that voters had no reason to be angry, or even no right. Now that the electorate is officially not #WithHer, it’s suddenly decorous to be angry, but only at a specific scapegoat who: 1) beat Clinton in the general election; 2) upsets the hell out of the same Democratic nomenklatura and hangers-on who ratfucked Bernie and derailed his reform platform; and, 3) ran on a reform platform of his own that was arguably much more compelling and credible than Clinton’s, a platform that had much in common with the Sanders platform and gained Trump the support of many BernieBros of various genders and sexualities.

The viable constituency for this nonsense is tiny. I’d guess that it might include a quarter or so of the electorate in a low-turnout year and not even five percent in a high-turnout year. It’s limited to a very special (as in “education”) subset of the yuppie swarm which believes wholeheartedly in woke liberal virtue-signaling, as opposed to being an unabashed mercenary with no core values whatsoever or an enthusiastic player of Glengarry Glen Ross games and believer in some explicitly Darwinian framework justifying them. Of all the worldviews pitched to yuppies, this may be the most internally inconsistent and vulnerable. It’s certainly one of the surest to alienate the less successful, since it requires selling one’s soul not only to an extortion racket but also to an obvious intellectual fraud under the auspices of a punitive regime of political correctness. It just doesn’t require as much mental energy and vigilance to successfully navigate a standard boiler room culture.

The minority that has figured out how to function in the woke yuppie rat race, however, or in any event thinks it has, is extremely predominant in the coastal power centers. This is who runs Manhattan, the Beltway innards, Hollywood, and a great deal of Silicon Valley. There’s some real social proof on this regime’s side. It’s the main operating system of government, the media, big business, and the deep state, and it’s aggressively promoted as the obvious way to get ahead in life. The woke yuppie swarm has spent decades by now looting every institution it can invade, doing so with increasing aggression and arrogance by the year. It does not enjoy the prospect of being forced to steal less or share more of what it has already stolen; hence much of its anger at Trump and his voters, in particular his working-class voters. It’s assumed in these privileged circles that his less prominent affluent voters will be always be allowed to do their own looting, precisely because they’re affluent; the jarring thing is to see the poors demanding a cut of their own in exchange for bullshit like hard physical labor on production lines and lifelong loyalty to companies that turn around and throw them out like last week’s trash. Class solidarity is rarely discussed in polite circles, but the affluent damn well have it when push comes to shove.

One of the things that so infuriates the woke affluent about Trump is that he doesn’t code as properly affluent. He doesn’t kiss the slimy rings that the affluent are raised from early childhood to kiss. He won the presidency with none of the “credentials” that the proper upper middle class so obnoxiously worships as prerequisites for public office (in subversion of the US Constitution’s very specific, very limited qualifications for office): no training or degree in public policy, an educational background that the test prep crammers regard as gauche, no prior election to public office, no prior civil service appointments, no membership in some other politician’s policy entourage. All he had was some crappy TV shows. That this is relevant experience for the “Television” branch under P. J. O’Rourke’s “Money, Television, and Bullshit” model of government is lost on these yuppies. Why would they read a frickin’ conservative (which he isn’t particularly) when they could Netflix and chill with some vintage West Wing? Trump himself seemed to have believed this model when he ran for the presidency, and now, circa Day 100, he’s all like, wow, it’s a lot of work, but don’t get me wrong, I like work. (No, he doesn’t.) Then again, he won the election in spite of this stance, or because of it. Josiah Bartlett is your president in the same way that Mariska Hargitay is my girlfriend: it’s a nice idea, especially for the unabashedly insane. Lt. Benson is hawt, and Martin Sheen, well, he isn’t his own coked-up public failson, at least. Also, I’m don’t go around acting like, hey, I wanted Bernie to win, so I’ma pretend that he’s the real POTUS. Not wanting to sound like the craziest bum on skid row is adequate motivation for this minimal measure of daily realtalk, but then again, I don’t run in policy circles.

Hillary, of course, was the one who was supposed to win that thing. We’ve all heard more about this by now than probably ever should have been written. Even so, new sordid details keep emerging, especially with the recent publication of Shattered, the latest Clintonworld third-party confessional potboiler. One of these details is that Clinton and her campaign seriously considered running under the slogan, “It’s Her Turn.” Just fucking think about that for a second. “It’s her turn.” There goes the entire rust belt, you dense bitch. That’s the kind of shit that cooler, more grounded heads had to veto, and still the entire campaign was a monument to hubris and entitlement under the auspices of career girl feminism. Whoever wasn’t whacked in the head like Robert Speed around there didn’t veto nearly enough of the mean girl from the corner office shit, including the posturing about destroying the coal industry as an offering to Gaia (oops, looks like we just dropped Appalachia into the shitter) and the basket of deplorables line (an ugly attitude, and besides, normal people just don’t use that kind of imagery and syntax). Clinton ran a captivatingly fuck-all-y’all campaign, one that couldn’t have been designed any better to piss off voters in the swing states that all the horse race enthusiasts swore she needed, and still there is this loud and apparently prolific hard core that can’t imagine how she lost to that yutz.

Something I saw recently (I think at Naked Capitalism, as with the links above, but I’m too le tired to look it up) described how many of Clinton’s voters saw themselves in her and therefore took her loss as a personal affront. It may be an indication of my own increasing isolation from my native class that I was surprised to read about the existence of these dipshits, even though at least two college acquaintances who fit the mold perfectly spent the entire 2016 campaign season polluting my Facebook feed, among hundreds of others, with Clintonian agitprop, and that I initially found it impossible to imagine what could drive a person to think like that. For their part, they can’t imagine what would ever drive a person to vote for Trump (uh, the crazy, power-hungry bitch you tried to force on us, you overeducated morons), so the feeling is mutual.

In fairness, this constituency was probably a small minority of Hillary’s ultimate turnout, although it was the only one that seemed to vote for her with any enthusiasm. The environments that produce people who can imagine themselves in Hillary Clinton’s place as anything other than a form of escapism are extremely sheltered, both by their nature and by their deliberate design. Think “reach schools” and the assholes who don’t feel embarrassed to talk about “reach schools.” I attended one of my nearer “reach schools,” and look at how that turned out. I don’t think I exaggerate how stuck up, arrogant, and sheltered the dominant social circles at Dickinson College are. Sometimes, it seems tragic that the Philadelphia Police Department didn’t bomb the Main Line instead. (The actual line could be rebuilt faster than anyone has ever tried to rebuild West Philadelphia. Remember, my great-grandpa was a maintenance of way foreman for Union Pacific, so I know about these things.) The minority constituencies whose support Your Fleek Abuela decided she needed and deserved in 2016 (after her dogwhistling to the discount salty crackers in 2008) didn’t turn out as she ordered them, and the silent majority of them in the provinces (including places like Grand Concourse, because New York is just a bunch of elites) weren’t the ones who were so famously upset about the adverse outcome of the election. A generally underestimated number of minority voters either didn’t turn out, undervoted on the presidential contest, or voted for Trump.

The real enthusiasm for Clinton came from two constituencies. The first was people who expect to always be successful because they have always been successful and come from successful families. The other, much of it regressing to (or past) the mean from successful families, was the temporarily embarrassed woke millionaires. With the former not being the sharing kind and the yuppie economy having been a game of musical chairs since at least 2008, the latter is noisier than it is numerous, and neither one has remotely enough influence or raw numbers to win an election when the losers they’ve left in the gutter show up to vote.

The tide stopped rising a decade ago, and no amount of Pravdaesque stat-massaging can convince those who have been left behind otherwise. What’s left now is mostly a series of overlapping speculative echo bubbles while the remaining affluent stab one another for the chance to stab the truly vulnerable and flee with their stuff. Major costs of living that are deliberately omitted from “core inflation” statistics are rising uncontrollably: medical care, health insurance (sic), food and fuel (not always but often), housing in the fewer and fewer areas that still have decent job markets. As I’ve said before, the Millennials without cars trend is driven to a larger extent than the mainstream press will ever admit by dispossessed young people who quite simply cannot afford the costs of car ownership; it takes an out-of-touch asshole to attribute it all to socially conscious hipster douchebags, but out-of-touch assholes are never in short supply in the modern newsroom. I recently found a listing for a fairly spacious ranch house in Hawthorne, Nevada for something like $115k. That may sound like a good deal on the surface, ignoring the 100% chance that Hawthorne is a shithole and questions of what the fuck anyone would do for a living in Hawthorne after moving there (“nothing” is a valid answer). Besides, that’s a depressed housing market (and a depressing one, for the same reasons), and depressed housing markets don’t provide the eternally appreciating home values that are necessary and proper in a nation of house-flippers.

That’s far from a comprehensive list of grievances that those left out of our (sic) economic recovery (sic) have against our governments and a rogues’ gallery of other deadbeat institutions, both public and private. When so much pain has been inflicted on us for no justifiable reason, it is perfectly reasonable of us to demand that our political leaders feel our pain and do something about it. I don’t mean this in the early Clintonian sense of the Big Dog feeling our pain (and, for a number of the women among us, our more tangible and marketable assets; but, like Larry Craig, I cannot speak from experience). A charming schmuck like him can get away with his lies, endless triangulation, and heartless treachery towards the poor, the uneducated, and the otherwise vulnerable in generally strong economic times by catering to a strong, proliferating middle class and boosting some poors into its ranks (also, by having weak Republicans and a funny-looking Texan with bizarre habits of speech as his opponents).

The problem is, we shot our national wad twice during the Clinton and Bush millennial pump-and-dumps, and we’ve been too spent since then to repeat our earlier performances. We’re in a spot precisely analogous to a cokehead recently passed out from an all-night snort-and-shag, just as we were during the first Great Depression. We never fucking learn. Well, our leaders don’t; whatever popular sense of prudence and stewardship exists in the Clintons’ constituency is of no use to a power couple that has figured out how to get paid off retroactively for putz mitzvahs including the repeal of Glass-Steagall. Billary may not explicitly use the royal we, but they sure live by it.

What Trump and Sanders both brought to their campaigns was an empathy that voters found credible and sincere. Trump’s voters have gotten endless ridicule for believing a word of it from the mouth of their silver-spoon oaf, but again, let’s not lose sight of how singularly bad Hillary looked to voters outside her own narrow liberal elite circle. Talk of white genocide, feminazi mass killing or neutering of men, tacitly military invasion by hostile foreign populations, and the like may sound crazy to the successful and the secure, but they are much more consistent with the lived experiences of voters who are personally vulnerable or who live in areas that have been ruined by strategic neoliberal policy decisions. There are in fact credible antecedents for a secessionist elite selectively using immigrant populations as a compliant reserve army of scab labor, sending other people’s children off to pointless wars to be maimed and killed while carefully sparing their own, and economically destroying whole counties. The notion of wealthy liberals deliberately scheming to eradicate Appalachians from the face of the earth and forever destroy their culture is objectively reasonable when the liberal party’s overwhelming favorite candidate brags about her plan to destroy the coal industry, by most reckonings the closest thing rural Appalachia has to an economic foundation. Clinton’s little-discussed nuts-and-bolts platform for economic redevelopment in Appalachia wasn’t nearly enough to override the popular sense that she hated Appalachian people and wanted them to die. If she didn’t want voters to think that she might be a genocidal maniac who would find a way to butcher them and replace them with a more compliant minority client base, why the hell did she consistently speak about so many of her fellow citizens in such a contemptuous, hostile fashion? They’d be wise to assume that she is of a mind to feed them the literal opiates of the masses (already happening) or send their young off to the desert to be turned into hamburger meat in service to Al Qaeda (again, already happening, but the elites don’t notice it because their families no longer serve in the armed forces).

How did the Democratic Party respond to the anger that Trump and Sanders expressed on behalf of their prospective constituents? By smearing them as negative Nellies, of course. It was unbecoming of them to be negative as presidential candidates in a way that it somehow was not unbecoming of the DNC to tip the scales in favor of its least viable and most reviled candidate or for the DNC and its favored candidate to smear workaday voters by the tens of millions with a single stroke, all of this explicitly in the name of democracy. The Democrat ratfuck squad operated this brightsiding campaign in tandem with a smear campaign accusing its rivals of having bad manners. Trump, who has reveled in his own bad manners for the entirety of his public life, is antifragile to these attacks, not that anyone in the Hillary camp (including, again, the entire DNC, because it is a party of majesty and might) was bright enough to notice this. Sanders is antifragile to these attacks as well, but for different reasons. Although he can be gruff and rumpled, few Americans take him for anything like an oaf; the consensus is that he’s ultimately a gentleman who fights fiercely but fairly (oh dear, one’s mind fills with thoughts of Hahvahd!) for his principles. Bernie enjoys exceptionally high positive public sentiment and exceptionally low negative public sentiment for a nationally known politician. When he speaks ill of billionaires and Hillary Clinton, it’s very widely agreed that he’s standing up to bullies and thugs who tear the public a new one for a living.

Demands for high manners are especially rich coming from and on behalf of Hillary, who has a notoriously gauche and graceless persona. This is a woman whose crude public manners and reputation for even worse behavior in private have serially alienated American voters, including huge numbers of Democrats, along with a reputation for being a habitual liar. Complaining about Bernie’s interruptions and wagging of the Finger of Accusation (didn’t Bill Clinton do that quite a bit himself?) amounted to denouncing the most honest and ballsy peasant in the village for calling Marie Antoinette an out-of-touch crook. The sexism card works only with a small cadre of women privileged enough to think about nothing but sex, and it misses the possibility that other women immediately recognize Hillary as a classic crazy bitch. How many Americans would not relish the opportunity to interrupt a royal grandiosity of her character for endlessly bullshitting and belittling them? For that matter, how many Americans voted against Hillary as a voodoo proxy for bad bosses who would fire them at the first sign of backsass?

When I mentioned above that this isn’t my first time being bucked into the bullshit at this rodeo, I wasn’t referring only to politics, although shitty, disingenuous politics didn’t materialize out of the blue in the 2016 season. The main thing I had in mind was the Go Hard Big Dick saga, particularly Bill Durden’s bizarre gambit to show that he was as hip as anyone afterwards. Durden clearly got worried about the amount of political capital he’d burned with his rabid tirades about the Go Hard Big Dick T-shirts. He had made a laughingstock of himself by verbally abusing members of the student government at the top of his lungs and showing absolutely no sense of humor about a T-shirt which, although admittedly immature, was generally regarded by the student body as some good shit. It was juvenile, but so were we. So, as it turned out, was Bill Durden. He already had a reputation for eccentric grandiosity, which he had painstakingly cultivated with his bow ties, Harry Potter glasses, and flowery (synonym for florid?) orations about Benjamin Rush and how we’d be ingrates not to tithe Noble Dickinsonia our first fruits. We were the ones tittering at a harmless off-color joke; he was the one turning a college into a boiler room scam.

Durden’s idea of damage control was unbelievable. I stumbled into it midway, and I was floored. He was up on stage at Common Hour (a weekly come-one-come-all lunch symposium series) reading from what I took to be a novel about a couple of highbrow New English drunks with a sailing problem. The thing was, I couldn’t really tell what the gist of the story was, except that it seemed to involve a domestic dispute that both parties were trying to resolve by profusely cursing at each other. It wasn’t Wow Much drugs None coherence Omg agent zuñiga Very confuse brainscrambled raving with some incidental cursing, either, like maybe there was some LSD in the mix. I couldn’t make heads or tails of what had these two domestic shitheads so upset, but it was because they were utterly foultempered and foulmouthed, not because they were confused or jittery or distracted. They sounded like absolutely miserable company. Shit, Teddy, why didn’t you take them to Chappaquiddick instead? When I tried to reconstruct this literary tirade for a friend afterwards, I was confounded to gibberish. That’s how badly the cussing had mangled the syntax. It was unfathomable. For a rough comparison, it was Mixups in my Mind’s recounting of the gas station bum fight over the other derelict bum’s fucking dog and Mixups’ fucking rotisserie chicken, but at a hundred thousand times the price point. One does not simply buy into such a lovers’ quarrel, unless one is a Dickinsonian.

William G. Durden ’71 had achieved something rare and precious: gratuitous vulgarity. There was no other point to his reciting this crappy story. It was a shithead’s postwar Ah, Soh Tour with Emperor Hirohito. No, that’s unfair. The emperor was there to listen for once; the Durd was there to lecture, as always. He obviously expected to humanize himself by going on stage and uttering an incomprehensibly dense string of obscenities in his highbrow Mid-Atlantic accent, reading this garbage dutifully from an open book. There was certainly a weird awesomeness about it, just as there would be to watch Emil Skoda calmly deliver sixty percent Heavy Seven content from his couch for five minutes straight (but at a higher emotional temperature, because Billy D. didn’t do air conditioning in public). It didn’t make Durden look down to earth, though. It just made him look like a fucking jackass. Like, here’s a motherfucker who’s in charge of a liberal arts college for half a million a year, and in one breath he’s verbally abusing students over a naughty T-shirt that upset some alumni donors, and in the next he’s reciting a piece of fiction that projects the parlance of the downtown San Diego mental and behavioral health community onto the Downeaster cool change set. *Very Leon Bridges voice* Sail your own damn ship, mister. Honestly, I’m not even completely sure that these pottymouths were described as the Christopher Cross kind; all I know is that it was some of the most pointless sensory overload I’ve ever experienced, and that it made the sitting president of my alma mater look like a raving buffoon at precisely the time that he was trying to make himself look normal.

Durden taking the stage to publicly recite an incredibly obnoxious passage of shit lit for the sole purpose of showing that he was, in fact, able and willing to épater les bourgeois brought Dickinson College into disrepute. This had nothing to do with the utterance of the Heavy Seven per se; it had to do with his vomiting forth an over-the-top string of obscenities serving no identifiable intellectual purpose, ostensibly as a way of exposing us to the arts and letters but really as a way of slumming it with the vulgarians for the lunch hour. It was indefensible. I would not have even tried to justify it to an outsider or refute arguments that it showed Durden to have gone mad. Sure, this Common Hour reading had been for show, but it clumsily stumbled the line between a breach of academic decorum (obvious) and a breach of fitness for high academic office. Dude retired from his office with something like six and a half million in cumulative salary, none of which he had had to spend on housing since we had lent him a campus mansion for the duration of his presidency. It would not have been too much of us to remind him that we were his constituents and demand that, as our lavishly compensated fiduciary servant, he act like a fucking adult in public. It turns out that isn’t just the Millennials who have difficulty adulting, and to the extent that we do have such difficulty, it’s worth considering that hundreds, if not thousands, of Dickinsonians practically worshiped Bill Durden.

Durden’s disreputable behavior in this pottymouth incident, however, went far beyond the merely uncouth. It was meant to look a bit disinhibited, but I don’t think it actually was. At heart, it was much more calculating, disingenuous, and devious. The purpose of his Common Hour oration was to toss us an obscure, inconsequential piece of literature about a salty lovers’ quarrel as a red herring so that we’d stop waving the bloody Go Hard Big Dick shirt. It was a scapegoat for our juvenile sense of humor. Of course, the purpose of the Go Hard Big Dick shirts wasn’t just to be off-color; it was to poke fun at our alma mater by making exactly the crude association with its name that any dirty-minded member of the public beyond the limestone walls would make, for obvious reasons. A fairly healthy swath of the student body recognized on some level that it was healthy to prick (heehee!) that thin skin and let some excess air out of the gasbag. Now now, Mr. Carlin himself reminded us that it’s kosher to prick one’s finger, but not to finger one’s prick; where on earth do I get these rude notions?

As it happens, Dickinson wasn’t the only school in Pennsylvania to get its panties into a Gordian knot over the potentially off-color interpretations of its name, or the most embarrassing at the institutional level. Arcadia College came to be because the administrators of Beaver College refused to transcend the lowest common denominator presented to them by elements of the rabble that enjoyed the obvious sexual insinuations about their school’s name. This is why there is only one acceptable president to govern Arcadia College, by any name it may take for itself: Dr. Mike Hunt.

The Go Hard Big Dick clusterfuck was inadvertently probative of every suspicion that Dickinson’s mentally awake (hey there, Chester!) students had about Durden and his circles of suckups taking themselves and their school far too seriously. I say inadvertently because Durden’s aim was not to show his hand, but to bully and then entertain everyone who had been giving him shit into submission. I’ve never had a very accurate sense of the relative numbers of true believers, dissidents, and apathetic in the Dickinson community, but the Go Hard Big Dick mess did a good job of drawing the battle lines. Durden’s stance was that this was the one sacrosanct thing he had ordered us to respect, and we had gone ahead and desecrated it.

The possibility that the T-shirts were a way to denounce a false idol was out of the question. There was not in fact any transcendent holiness that Durden was protecting, or even any meaningful virtue. He was a chief racketman running interference for his racket. He had gotten all riled up because some asshole alumni had tried to extort him into forcing compliance with an ex post facto morals code that they had no authority to legislate or enforce by threatening to boycott fund drives and because he, as the very well paid end point for all uphill shit flows at his institution, he had been forced to take shit from these impertinent, puffed-up, extortionate busybodies. As a fellow who professed his own love of obscenity at Common Hour, he had been free to use some pertinent obscenity with these bigshot donors for a change, and tell them that he’d be remiss not to recommend a cheese to pair with their White Whine, specifically, a Manchego fuck yourself. It’s always a salty, nutty Manchego fuck yourself, except for the rare circumstances that warrant the recommendation of a Manchego Foquaulliaulle. And if you’re the sort of brilliant internationalist that Dickinson educates, you’ll know exactly how to pronounce that.

These were the lessons we were expected to learn from our education (deathly sic): to contribute on demand to affinity scams; to fold like wet noodles at the first bit of sass from bumptious, puffed-up little punks who demand dictatorial powers to decree their own student code of conduct at a college that they do not lawfully govern in any fashion just because they contribute to its capital campaigns; to be scrupulously well-mannered before public shitheads who have neither scruples nor manners; to be, in general, compliant little bitches in the hope of currying our own extra helpings of that dirty sugar sweet in due course of time. It’s the next thing to a Nigerian e-mail scam or one of those situations in which the other Bernie Madoff with your money. People with bachelor’s degrees in the liberal arts come in for special ridicule when they fall for these scams precisely because they’re expected to be wiser than that on account of their education. We’re expected to know better.

As a consequence of our exposure to Bill Durden’s bullshit, many of us know worse. And no, it is not reasonable to expect people who fall for this shit in a specific area of their lives to be immune to the same fraudulent lines of argument in others. Isn’t the whole fucking point of a liberal arts education to cultivate habits of thought and practice in one’s entire life that protect one from these depredations and help one live in a manner so as not to visit the same depredations on others? But who the fuck am I to carry on about any of this shit? Allan Bloom? After all, I went to school in Brain Washington.

Dickinson College draws the bulk of its student body and the overwhelming bulk of its donor pool from the same dirty strata that the Democratic Party has taken to mining for its own base, since it’s grown so tired of the sorts of deplorables who do, like, actual mining for a living. The pathologies are so eerily similar because they come from the same source. And they conspire to rule us all. They assume that they can muddy the waters by code-switching into the Vulgate for authenticity. They assume they can justly bamboozle us with these cheap stunts because they live in a world where calling out authority figures for bad faith and fraud is simply not the done thing. Why wouldn’t everyone else live by the same degraded moral code by which they govern their own lives? It fills their own rice bowls, after all. It’s some real Ephesians 3:20 shit. Some of us, of course, we ain’t hardly touched dem shine ricebowl, but we’re deplorables, and one needn’t be bothered to listen to grievances from that basket.

The Democrats are scared that we’re getting wise to their scams, hence the vulgarity. They can’t imagine a regime in which the consequences for public vulgarity are nothing worse than a consensus that, hey, that fucker up there is a vulgar bastard, but at least he delivers the goods, while the consequences for dishonesty and fraud are the voters leaving your lying, thieving ass on the sidewalk with last week’s trash at the next election. They can’t imagine an environment in which people stop giving to boiler room affinity scams because they’re fed up with the ill tone of the pitches and can’t see how the money is going to any good end or being stewarded appropriately. They can’t imagine that they’ve depleted the pool of prospective marks who even feel any affinity for these scams because they cannot restrain their own greed and love of exclusivity.

Me? I’m going to get laid, doggy. Nigga why the fuck are you speaking to me in Chinese, nigga? I’m going to El Cajon City to get laid, doggy. If that sounds like language fit for the San Diego Trolley, it’s because I heard it on the San Diego Trolley. The gentleman’s doggy was not his nigga, and certainly Chinese is the traditional and typical glorious language of my niggas. There’s nothing stopping a person with some residual self-respect from getting off in Mission Valley and letting a cholo ride on alone. But that was just a low-functioning oaf. To put it conservatively, Tom Perez and Bill Durden are worth MTS day passes for life; it’s too bad they don’t use some, so that they might associate with their own kind and not with the rest of us. The ones who could really use a damn trolley trip are hardly ever the ones who are taking one. Taking Harry Potter seriously is a different kind of trolley trip, specifically the Pittsburgh living room kind, even if the woke millionaires, current and temporarily embarrassed, who use it as their escape hatch from real life would never move to a community where the mailman, of all losers, is the most respected member. We’re well past the point at which anyone in our cherished fiction has a real job.