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.

A voice whining petulantly in the desert, lecturing an audience that may or may not be there

It’s hard to compile an exhaustive list of things that are childish, deranged, or otherwise embarrassing about the Panera Democrats meme. My initial foray into this swamp was just the first draft of history and shit, and it’s a hell of a lot to process, to I missed some things.

The proclamation of Panera Democrats as a crucial part of the base may be the apotheosis of limousine liberal centrist triangulation. I don’t want to jump the gun and announce that this frontier has been closed only to watch the Democrats slouch across some even worse horizon of privilege, but maybe, just maybe, we’ve finally wandered down to rock bottom on this wretched journey. Bill Clinton’s famous soccer moms were heavy on tiger moms overscheduling the hell out of their precious snowflakes and running themselves ragged to no good end in the process, but at least their lifestyle was understood to revolve around their family affinity for a team sport. The conception of Panera Democrats is explicitly of overly precious bougies who hang out in pretentious, overpriced suburban cafes with surprisingly bad coffee. The implicit sense of the target demographic’s lifestyle degenerates from some fashion of involvement in athletics to a strictly construed interest in lunch under the auspices of a specific upscale marketing affiliation. One gets the sense that sex would require too much exertion. The Democratic Party’s campaign strategy is subsumed into the marketing strategy of the one allegedly affordable place where Bougie feels comfortable getting lunch.

Even more pathetically, much of this target demographic obsesses neurotically over its weight as a way of bodily demonstrating its own superiority to the fat poors. #TeshTips: If you eat at Panera regularly and never get a cinnamon crunch bagel because you’re worried about the calories, you’re a fucking loser. If a diabetic has the good sense to take a supersized dose of insulin in preparation for the Price Chopper strudel (grandma’s taste didn’t always revolve around gallon jars of mayonnaise and government cheese), what the hell is wrong with you? That’s the one good thing I’ll concede about Karen Handel: she looks like she wouldn’t let Dotson finish all of Johnson and Belmar’s leftover fries at Steak-n-Shake. That is, she has really healthy eating habits compared to the woke college-educated quasiliberal base the Dems were trying to catch with Jon Ossoff. So does Fat Sammy, and that boy can eat.

Am I done insinuating that in my own stress-eating I, too, serpas the emotional and psychological maturity of America’s affluent social anorexics? I dunno, but I do know that I spelled that entire sentence correctly. WHO DAT. I have to get to bed pretty soon so that I’ll be safe to drive my parents to Albany for a medical appointment tomorrow morning, so the answer to my original question is probably yesish on second thought. For real, Billy Nungesser has a healthier relationship to food than some of these lettuce eaters at Panera; one has to figure that he enjoys some jambalaya, and some more jambalaya, and that he gets his somewhere better than Safeway. I’m pretty sure that this substantial detour is an exclusive function of my insomnia, jet lag, and fucked up sleep schedule, so, as I said, it’s hard to compile an exhaustive list of what’s wrong with the Democrats. Life is like a box of chocolates that way: you never know what you’re gonna get, but you can be pretty sure that Sam Dotson won’t put it back in the box. Never mind. I’m pretty sure that last part was nonsense, but these essays are too much trouble to edit, and it’s wicked late, so bon appetit, bitches.

One of the things the Democrats are striving to reward and turn into the basis of an enduring political movement is terminal alienation from all means of production. I’m kind of fat, but I’m also kind of a fruitboy. The Dems’ goal is to stop the working class from climbing back out of the dumpster where they disposed of it and instead to lavish praise and constituent patronage upon useless eaters who neurotically deny themselves normal meals without observing Lent (long story, sort of, but it’s an old agricultural holiday) and drive all over hell to fuck around in gyms because the cosmos provided Mexicans to do all the heavy labor. It’s foolish to get into high dudgeon with bougies for being so wasteful per se, but why the fuck does a major party have to cater to this shit? We saw it a few years ago with the bizarre health insurance exchange ads featuring two Millennial women in Lycra tights sitting on exercise balls with hearty glasses of wine in hand. This was part of the same advertising campaign that gave us Pajama Boy. #GetTalking. Roissy got into a snit because the wino chicks were fat, although to be honest they had only slightly more cushion for the pushin’. The real scandal, of course, is the celebration of entire classes of needlessly wasteful useless eaters and the concomitant maintenance of a separate class of foreign peasants to do all the dirty work.

All of this arises from a profound failure of coherence. Couldn’t the elliptical spinners be hooked up to electrical generators? No. That would require too much thought about electrical shit when we’re here to pay the creative class, not some peon electrician who’s already overpaid for not having a respectable and worthwhile skillset.

This, I’m afraid, is the dark crux of the matter. Don’t assume that I’m actually right about this; I still have to get to bed, so as Lambert Strether says, talk amongst yourselves, and as I say, it’ll be Christmas in July if more than one of you shows up here. There could be something even worse that explains the prissiness and impracticality of the Democratic establishment, and I’ll need to think about something much more retarded to have a hope of falling asleep.

What I meant to say before Wow Much words None concise is that the Democratic establishment very much wants to live in a world that does not force it to reckon with the existence of anyone who’s uneducated, unskilled, or poor. From this perspective, Panera is a great place to pretend. One is free to ignore the help, and given how shitty some of these college boys and girls are to the help, that may not be an entirely bad thing. It’s like a badly decorated version of the college cafeteria. The poors are priced out of the joint, peons magically keep it clean (for which we must punish them for not staying in school, of course), and one’s peers of a certain suitable class consequently stop by in abundance for an adequately foo-foo lunch on the go. Clintonworld Democrats would like to think that they aren’t so heartless, but if they aren’t there yet, they’re well on their way. What did you think “nudge theory” is? There’s also, of course, curtain theory, which holds that any unaccounted-for Secret Service agents can probably be found hiding behind the curtains. I know I wouldn’t have made that up if it weren’t a quarter to two in the morning, but it’s still way not creepy compared to shit that neoliberals earnestly promote. Abuela, she don’t like the little people thinking for themselves, you see. If we did, we might not agree that the only reason we’re racist is that we didn’t stay in school and then make lots of money.

This faction wants to campaign in Panera because it is deeply uncomfortable with the possibility that the rest of the country (which it immiserated) is not much like Panera. This is a good indication of how fucking sheltered and useless and idiotic the Democratic Party has become. Going to a recycling warehouse in Pennsyltucky and gladhanding forklift operators is a breach of fun stuff. A McDonald’s that was just mopped from end to end is several orbits beyond their comfort zone. That Donald Trump seems to actually enjoy talking to deplorables about industrial policy, if perhaps more than he enjoys actually thinking through it, must mean that he’s a troglodyte.

The factories are coming back, folks. They aren’t gonna do that. It isn’t the smartest, but if Donald Trump, who construes fun stuff to include jawboning about industrial policy in ways that may actually yield decent jobs after this and that and whatever (elegant!), is the true sign of our times, at least it assuages my recurrent fear that Crystal Harris is the greatest prophet of our age.

Manufacturing surplus citizens

This essay at Counterpunch (h/t Naked Capitalism daily links) makes a fairly strong and chilling case that the US, UK, and Saudi governments and powerful non-state actors directing them deliberately orchestrate both terrorism and high-volume drug trafficking against civilian populations, including their own constituents. It concisely surveys a number of blatant Anglo-American and Saudi atrocities in Vietnam, the Los Angeles ghetto, death-squad Latin America, and Yemen, all places where the governments in question have been caught behaving heinously. A similar case that jumps out at me, and which I’ve discussed a number of times before, is the FBI’s bizarre failure to stop the Tsarnaev brothers from bombing the Boston Marathon, an exceptionally suspicious dereliction of duty.

A lot of really ugly shit concerning Western military and intelligence services and their allies (overwhelmingly sic) has been swept under the rug, and I’m willing to follow parts of the rabbit hole even deeper than Aidan O’Brien leads us. What initially caught my attention about the US opioid crisis wasn’t the emergence of the crisis itself but the appearance that powerful, meddlesome outsiders with axes to grind were stirring up a moral panic about yet another marginalized community. I strongly suspected early on that the actual prevalence of opioid abuse and overdoses was being exaggerated to such extremes that the crisis verged on being a hoax. Some of the media where I was hearing about this supposed epidemic were ones that obviously had no compunction about serially smearing the vulnerable, even entire communities, in the interest of telling a good story and then cashing out in full. The spectacle had tinges of the hysteria over sex offenders, and the United States already had a long, seedy, even tragic history of moral panics over drugs.

At the risk of sounding all Jill Stein autism vaccine healing crystals cuckoo and maybe accusations that I’m from Tiburon, I should mention that I believe in a strong element of magic appertaining to certain lines of evidence and argument based on the position and motives of those making the case. Come to think of it, that’s pretty fucking nuanced and this-worldly for Marin, but whatever; my actual native city has gotten all kinds of fucked up since I moved away. What I mean by magic isn’t what anyone who’s interested in selling you magical shiznit has in mind. What I mean, for example, is that the motives of a private citizen ruing the drug devastation of her hometown are so dramatically different from the motives of a sensationalist news outlet from out of town and the breathless mercenary reporters it dispatches to cover the story that keeping the facts straight isn’t enough to avoid the grotesque distortion of the resulting message once it passes into the hands of outsiders with ulterior motives. Put more bluntly, no one at the eleven o’clock news actually gives a shit about druggies in McDowell County. It’s fundamentally different when someone who genuinely cares about an affected community voices anguish and concern, but that’s not what we’ve got with a lot of the coverage. Instead, we hear city slickers who look down on and distrust and despise Appalachians intoning about the seriousness of a drug abuse crisis in Appalachia. There’s no way in hell that most of the out-of-town journalists and commentators on this beat actually want what’s best for these communities. To them, Appalachians are just disposable pawns in whatever culture war is being orchestrated above their pay grade, but surely Jim Webb will agree that Appalachians have always been ones to take on the belligerent dirty work for the lowlanders.

It’s not just Appalachians, of course. They’re just some of the most conveniently reviled communities currently under popular examination for substance abuse. Of course the trailer trash are all on hillbilly heroin. In the eighties, of course the hood rats were all on crack. In many American communities, especially to points west, of course the white trash is just a bunch of tweakers. Or was, in any event. Used in a vaguely prudent fashion, meth is a drug conducive to getting one’s ass to work, but that assumes that there’s work. Perhaps the streets know something that the official employment statistics do not.

What we haven’t heard recently, at least not from mainstream sources, is bitching about immigrants being up to their eyeballs in the damned drugs. The Gilded Age featured a moral panic about sexually predatory Chinamen and opium. Reefer madness attributed the suspiciously Latin marijuana to Mexicans, also presumed sexual deviants. These gentlemen, we were told, put a white bitch at risk. A hundred-odd years later, the Chinese are a premier model minority and the Mexicans make such dutiful gardeners. We have to turn to the streets to hear anything about Mexicans drinking and driving, insurance optional. Stories to this effect from coherent sources are all over the internet, but they’re never in the news. Why? The Cathedral is masterful at communal smear campaigns, so why are Mexican drunks who come off work dog-tired and crash their uninsured vehicles into locals and their rigs justified in news reports, when there are any, as kind of just having forgotten their driver’s licenses at home? It doesn’t take a license to refrain from driving drunk and fatigued.

The point here isn’t to justify preferentially smearing a certain foreign outgroup. It’s to reiterate that poor white boys and girls are already being smeared wholesale as unemployable junkies (who were until recently unemployable tweakers), and to ask what the hell gives for the campesinos. The whole thing gives off a powerful aura of Friendship Ended With Mr. Cracker Now Mr. Beaner Is My Best Friend. It’s coming from the Cathedral and from management, so we’d all be tragic fools to assume that anyone promoting these memes of hardworking, dutiful immigrants and drugged-to-hell wastrel Americans will ever restore friendship with the forsaken.

My sense of magic in rhetoric was inchoate for a long time, and it may still be, but one thing I can say is that the almost liturgical repetition of stories about workshy, softened, drug-abusing American proles is a fnord and an effort to fulfill an ugly managerial-class prophecy. The workshy part has been constant for decades, whether or not there’s been an acute moral panic over some low-class drug. The Mexicans, we’re told, are here to do the jobs that we won’t. In point of fact, many of these jobs involve a dirty old school bus full of a peasant underclass towing a porta potty out to the job site for ten hours of stoop labor, so it isn’t just that it sucks to cut lettuce. Most of these jobs, portajohn on a trailer or not, are not advertised. As a seasonal commercial blueberry picker, I’m struck by how many packages of blueberries I’ve seen labeled for cities where I’m all but certain, because I’ve searched the regional job boards during the growing season, that there are no help wanted ads for blueberry pickers. One package that I saw recently was labeled for a ranch in King City. I’d seen ads (translated into English, no less) for blueberry pickers in Santa Barbara County, but I’d had no idea that there were any commercial blueberry growers operating in Salinas County. I did know that King City was where the police chief had been leading a criminal ring that stole cars from gray-market field hands. Extrapolating working conditions in the local fields is reasonable. *Downmarket Wesley Willis voice* GET ON THE BUS!

Accusing white Americans of pandemic levels of hard drug abuse dovetails beautifully with what farm country management wants, which is NOT old-stock Americans, of any race, really, working as field hands. In the Northern shorthand, this is generally expressed as white farm workers. In parts of the South, black farm workers from American lineages as old as any of mine bear the brunt of the discrimination. In parts of the South where the poors can’t help but #RaceTogether, management panda-bears the shit out of the local help. The problem with both of our kinds is that we got uppity, whereas the Messicans know their place. The last part applies to just about every state in the Union. The Mexicans are just better workers, though it’s funny that they keep showing up here flat out of civil rights. It makes sense that peasants who have spent their entire lives busting ass in the fields (and often don’t mind being sloppy as hell) work faster than people from middle-class backgrounds who started doing farm work as teens or adults, but that doesn’t explain why so many farm jobs are made needlessly awful and not advertised.

A related stance I’ve repeatedly encountered from growers, which makes me think that a Mugabe/Castro/Chavez expropriation isn’t necessarily such a bad idea, is condescension for daring to show up looking for farm work as a mainstream honky without an ag degree. They don’t say it, but I can read it. It doesn’t matter what these planters think about nonwhites; their attitudes towards fellow white people who are noncompliant with their specific conception of country life are proof positive of Klan-level bigotry. It’s worth jack shit if they’ve got a Portuguese guy and a Japanese guy and a Sikh and a Mexican mixing it up with the Dutchmen in the Farm Bureau local; they still act like I’m an interloper in their cartel for trying to see if they’ve got work that doesn’t totally suck. Instead of a 100% Anglo-Saxon planter class that rigs labor, land, and commodity markets and prejudicially throws its deficient fellow citizens onto the Darwinian trash heap, we’ve got a multiracial planter class that rigs labor, land, and commodity markets and prejudicially throws its deficient fellow citizens onto the Darwinian trash heap. O beautiful for spacious!

Thank God, this isn’t the entire farm ownership class, but it’s a frighteningly large chunk. The political reaction of this class is totally fucking insane. This reminds me, so I might as well pass it on (TM), like other Values (TM): a quick look around Fresno demonstrates that the Kardashians are some of the least problematic Armenians. #TheMoreYouKnow. One of the things that’s so crazymaking about this whole mess is that the owner class, high on its own work ethic, disavows the existence of a class problem in flyover country while simultaneously making it tacitly but unmistakably clear that I’m subverting their class by being a non-wigger white boy in search of menial farm work.

This shit is worse than street people with free fare cards heading uptown to intercept incoming Cubs fans by yelling, “Any of you white motherfuckers want a free ride?” It’s a hell of a lot more racist, for sure (“black motherfuckers” would be equally consistent with the prevailing community standards), and I get really annoyed with shady fuckers who want to sell me discount fare media, so I’m not here to put in a good word for the turnstile hustlers anymore than I’m here to praise the Dunkin’ Doorman.

On second thought, maybe I should be out to praise the low-functioning. We’ve got plenty of the high-functioning running our farms and our other big businesses, and look how that keeps turning out. Oh no, we aren’t racist; we just hate other white people for being lazy, soft, and feckless. H-1B coders with diplomas from fly-by-night for-profit coding schools are totally more competent than Cal Tech-trained American computer scientists. We’ve never had anyone chop his arm off with a meat cleaver because we sped up the slaughterhouse line to the point that Somali refugees are the only way we don’t end up with 400% annual turnover by hiring the most desperate slumdogs who just snuck up here from Oaxaca.

All of this is where we’ve already ended up. The people who run this joint have deliberately given immigrants more hope than they’ve given the natives, and hence less motivation to abuse drugs, but even some of the immigrants are seeing that it’s a damned raw deal. The black working class has gone from a pariah part of the drugs community in the eighties to the downmarket native constituency that one dare not criticize, probably because the Hillbots still expect black voters to do something for them and never notice that they’re being used. The Fuck Whitey chapter of the platform sure isn’t getting them anywhere, but that isn’t the only truckload of bullshit that they’ve brought down on their own heads. Go figure that it’s coming from the same first lady who enjoyed the services of penal house slaves of a certain non-Caucasian persuasion.

I’ve gotten into some anguished spots over my own difficulty finding work, but God knows how many millions of Americans have had it worse and are also being told in even starker and more explicit terms that they are obsolete and to be replaced. No wonder we’ve got an abundance of white folk who are hella into bad dope sets. What the fuck else would anyone expect? The enterprise and the optimism of methamphetamine? I can’t say that I wouldn’t be shooting black tar myself if my prospects crashed down through several circles of hell.

None of this just happened. None of it. It’s more like they scaled up the Tuskegee Experiment by a factor of several thousand, with the drug availability as a surprisingly minor component. They know damn well why we’re sick and dying. They know because they orchestrated the whole diabolical thing.

Doing something right for a change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The beatings will continue until workforce health improves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M’honky, you’re most welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go shorty, it’s your Earth Day; we’re gonna party, like it’s your Earth Day

Ali G. once got Christie Todd Whitman to recite this bit of poetry in her capacity as an EPA administrator, and coming from her under his tutelage it was indeed poetic. Ali G. was one of the few public figures not only to discern but also to successfully apply the truly proper ways to approach self-important members of the White community. Although Whitman was always fairly down-to-earth for a daughter of the New Jersey Hunt Country, her gracious submission to a shitty Anglo-Jamaican rap number and a spurious but actually pertinent question about the possibility that whale shit pollutes the ocean was a rare opportunity to demonstrate that she wasn’t just another high hat from the upcountry. As I’ve said about the LCDS community, the Hunt Country is full of people who would benefit greatly from a reminder that they, too, are of the flesh, and Ash Wednesday, even for those who fancy themselves devout Catholics, just doesn’t get the job done like bullshit about whale shit. Whitman handled the whale dookie question about as well as anyone would, with a succinct comment to the effect that even though whales take huge dumps, the ocean is really yuge. The biggest. Elegant.

I can’t count the number of self-important upper-crust types from back east (including a Southerner here and there) who would have responded to a question like that with Giuliani-at-the-Al-Smith-Dinner levels of petulance and ill humor. American customs outside the strongly Millington for Sheriff parts of the South don’t encourage the address of these shitheads as m’lord or m’lady, so maybe all they have left to cling to so bitterly is their prissy, gratuitous, self-aggrandizing sense of high manners. This is why Americans didn’t start addressing the adult Jeff Sessions as “boy” nearly soon enough, and why if we are indeed a society that believes in second chances, we should start right now. That should fit neatly into our national treasury of conversion stories: “I was near thirty-five when I was convicted in my heart that it was wrong to call a neotenous, bigoted creep with planter pretensions ‘colonel’ or even ‘sir,’ as a fellow might address a peaceable sharecropper when passing him on the street.” It doesn’t because, well, Millington, what’s your twenty? The Attorney General is throwing furniture again. Rundel, grab your net; this one’s gonna be slimy.

One local elite from back east (Appalachian/fringe Midwest rust belt, really) who didn’t have his head all the way up his own ass on the maintenance of the social order was a college buddy with an almost Churchillian eloquence and an exceptionally bad case of the family eccentricity. Some friends once took him out to a strip club for his birthday, where the chorus line serenaded him with the go shorty birthday song (I have reasons for not frequenting these establishments) and a stripper pointed at her crotch and told him, “This is where babies come from, bitch!” (I have additional reasons). As my buddy related the story, “‘Excuse me?’ And she repeated, ‘This is where babies come from, BITCH!’ Yes, so I had been told; thank you for confirming my suspicions.” This dude has lately taken to haplessly trying to wine and dine amateur girls of loosely his class at fancy dinner joints on the Main Line, using comingled personal and parental allowance funds. The fair ladies in question routinely cancel on him but he doesn’t have the heart to call the restaurants and cancel his dinner reservations, so he calls the Insurance Schmuck over for a mandate instead. Heh. I think I spelled that correctly after all. He’d do better to hire sex workers, but given his experience with strippers, I can’t entirely blame him for thinking that they’re just about as insane as his family and friends.

I slept in my car last night and haven’t changed my clothes yet. I say “my car” because this week is the first in something like eighteen that I’ve had a car of my own. Super Civic’s replacement is a 2010 Focus from one of the shabbier but more reputable car lots in Merced. It had 89,600 on the odometer when I bought it, it runs nicely and handles very nicely, and I’ve gotten it up to 42 mpg on the highway. I paid a bit over $8,400 in all after the DMV and its state entourage took their pound of flesh. Why the fuck am I talking about my car all of a sudden? That’s a fair question, but it’s more relevant than it may look at first glance. My old highbrow crowd back east wouldn’t be caught dead with title to a used Focus. I’m not sure I’ll be caught live with it, either, since I bought the car on something of an impulse and had the paperwork mailed to my old address in Rancho, meaning that I may have to threaten management with legal action to successfully take delivery of my own US Mail. I lives here; can I come in and get that stuff and immediately leave again? The latest bit of middle-class shiznit that I’m lusting after is a PO Box at Fort Sutter. If one is available, six months’ rent will probably cost less than dinner with or (presumably) without the latest flaky chick in some Second Empire-ass Addams Family mansion in Radnor or some shit.

This weekend, I’m driving from Merced to Crescent City to at least start cleaning out my second storage unit. I had no desire to drive half the length and width of California during a total closure of 101 at the Mendocino-Humboldt county line due to a massive landslide; 101 in Northern Humboldt and Del Norte and 299 over from Redding are undergoing their own emergency debris removals, too. It’s a pain in the ass, but qualifying for a rental car without a credit card is even worse. I’ve finally been approved for one with my parents as cosigners, but the physical card is still either in production or in the mail to their house. Just as a matter of environmental principle I don’t like putting ultra-high mileage on cars when I could take public transportation part or all of the way instead, but in this case the perfect (someone else directly using the skies as a tailpipe sewer instead) is the enemy of the good (finally clearing out the storage unit and no longer paying $44 a month, increasing in June to $50, to rent the damn thing).

A great many of the middle and upper classes in this country don’t make the least effort. Some of these pretend to care about the environment, even deeply and passionately so. I find it impossible to decide whether the greenwashing hypocrites or the climate change deniers are ultimately worse. There’s no objective truth to any of their stances. One side is captivated by its own ritual fealty to science and the purchase of a dizzying variety of Veblen goods featuring state-of-the-art energy-saving technologies. In its zeal to save the earth (sic), this side promotes outright frauds, notably including carbon offsets in which someone is allegedly hired out of the kampong to plant endemic seedlings on the ruins of an abandoned palm oil plantation, totally sucking up all the carbon dioxide emitted by one’s flights to Costa Rica, because everyone knows that Indonesian business concerns have never engaged in corrupt practices and can reliably be remote-audited from Falls Church. The other side indignantly denies over a century of reputable hard science (the actual science, not the Nye/Tyson metascience for mass audiences, which one fucking loves in the name of science that one hardly understands), calling it an elaborate conspiracy and hoax, because admitting that, yeah, burning millennia worth of sequestered carbon and releasing it into the atmosphere with no meaningful recapture process might destabilize climates in unpredictable ways, would get in the way of the full enjoyment of crew cab pickups and dirt bikes and shit. Yeah, that was unwieldy, but you can republish it with your own editing if it’s that important to you.

It’s hard to believe that either side believes its own talking points. If they’re serious, they have to be nuts. This says some extremely bad things about our national leadership, but it should come as no surprise. Of all the poster children the climate change activist movement could have promoted, why the fuck did it ever tolerate Al Gore? Uh, yeah, we all need to have fewer children and drive less, so here’s a guy who has four kids, flies all over hell every week lecturing grandees about climate change, and lives in a mansion the size of a small warehouse. The denialist side is represented by equally ridiculous shitheads who effectively argue that there’s no way they’d get sickened or killed if a Peterbilt’s exhaust pipe were hooked up to their home HVAC systems. Okay, then, I’m sure James Inhofe won’t object to my rolling a dumpster full of yard debris, cow pies, and spent batteries into his living room and setting it on fire with a liberal dose of lighter fluid. Oh, he’d object to the liberalism? Good to know.

The sanctimony from both sides is over the top. The denialists use kooky interpretations of some of the most dubious passages in the Bible to bolster their nonsense: it doesn’t matter because Jesus is coming back soon anyway (gaudeamus igitur for the Junior Anti-Sex League) (alternately, let’s have this man we revere clean up after us like we’re toddlers who just dumped Costco bulk scrambled eggs all over the carpet), the Book of Genesis is a math textbook, there was only ever one Flood, ad nauseam. The climate change promoters (construe as you wish) smugly quote passages from a Bible that a great many of them avowedly disbelieve, their point being that their opponents are piss-poor stewards of God’s creation. They’re right in exactly the same way that Rob Ford would have been right to warn Amy Winehouse about the dangers of hard liquor and cocaine. No, that isn’t quite it; they’re right in the same way that the mayor would have been right to call the cabbie’s daughter a dirty drunken crack slut.

Of course, the worst side effects of this orgy of consumption fall on the poor. It falls onto Waffle House waitresses living in falling-down two-bedroom ranch houses in a neighborhood between the freeway and the refinery where raw sewage backs up into the streets every time it rains and everyone has cancer by the age of thirty. The political class in this country does not live in such neighborhoods, and it does not socialize with their residents. The local elites in the same counties don’t socialize with or listen to these poors, either, although they make a lot of noise about speaking on behalf of all salt-of-the-earth American Christians.

Earth Day, then, is one of our national gifts as a post-Lenten society. If ever there was a spirit of voluntary, thoughtful asceticism in the US mainstream, it was nowhere to be found by my time. Self-denial is left to the desperately poor, for whom it is a matter of survival. It isn’t really so much self-denial, then, as other-denial. New Orleans celebrates the hell out of Mardi Gras, generally on a schedule independent of the parallel liturgical schedule of the Roman Catholic Church (hence New Orleans, not New Amsterdam or New York). Lent, one assumes, is neither big nor easy, and in truth, for those who observe it, or who try from time to time, it can be plenty long and hard. It certainly doesn’t fit marketing schedules as well as Fat Tuesday, the late winter feast, followed by Easter, the early spring feast.

We postmodern can add Earth Day, which isn’t formally a feast but is a perfectly serviceable Easter proxy for the unbelieving and the unobservant, a celebration perfectly consistent with Crystal Harris’s calendar of fun stuff. For the lucky among us, every day is Earth Day. For the unlucky, it’s Ash Wednesday and Good Friday all goddamn year long. One class does nothing but feast; another does nothing but fast. Any prudent person with even the dimmest sense of vaguely paranormal power would expect some form of damnation as a consequence for this arrangement. In the fogs of the not too distant past, we had a springtime feast to recover from a winter of privation and quiescence (verging on hibernation in many villages) and to replenish our energy for a summer of hard, hard work; in our own time, we have Picnic Day.

We are alienated from everything. Statistics show US Catholics taking more communion and less confession; one guess as to which one is a free snack. I don’t mean to write a Second Book of Isaiah about how we’re all just a bunch of vicious shitheads, or maybe I do. The story of a rich man, a camel, and the eye of a needle comes to mind. If I were one, I’d use my discretionary income to buy Steely Dan deep tracks on vinyl, not Fiddler on the Fucking Roof. I’d have to buy the record player, too, and housing close enough to proper shack size to safely house it. And myself. I’m in way the hell better socioeconomic shape than tens of millions of Americans, but I’ve still spent most of my adulthood surrounded by frightening low-class chaos that threatens to consume me.

Is it any wonder that an haute bourgeoisie that refuses to observe the common fasts also refuses to listen to the poor when they speak? I’m relieved whenever I can get a word in edgewise about the chaos I’ve seen and lived. I’m relieved whenever I can get my White People to take a break from their fun stuff and listen to real stuff that is unfun. A Hugh Hefner bimbo of the quarter is as fitting a herald of our times as anyone. That’s about as serious and mature as we seem to be. As I’ve said before, adulting is hard, but like Kajieme Powell, I’m taking a stab at it. Lord have mercy on us, because that last sentence was more mature than a number of entire American political movements. At least it wasn’t about Harry Potter, and I can’t say that about the Democratic Party.

Calling the United States a Protestant nation is a slur upon Protestantism. Calling us a Christian nation is a Piss Christ slur upon all of Christianity. The best I can say is that we’re at a really, really bad developmental stage that we refuse to recognize and can’t be bothered to transcend. The Benedict Option is about a lot more than two groups of assholes having a court fight over whether one of them will be forced to bake the wedding cake for the other. That’s just more national immaturity and petulance. I guess I have more common cause with Rod Dreher than you or he might think, at least when he isn’t bitching about Ariel Castro’s suicide as a failure of Orthodox penance. I’m living a more Lenten life this Easter afternoon just because I haven’t yet gotten around to food today than I find entire neighborhoods and congregations living during Lent, and that’s sad, because I suck at Lent. It means, I suspect, that many of us are fundamentally alienated from ourselves, just as we are alienated from our neighbors and our natural surroundings.

We live unbalanced, disordered lives. We keep the absolving forms of confession and indulgence in our carbon offsets, but we scrap whatever true repentance these old forms once inspired in us. It’s only fun stuff if we get automatic forgiveness and don’t have to change anything, after all. It isn’t as much fun to be an equal to the underclass on Yolobus as it is to lord it over an ever so slightly higher class of Help on Uber, where every day is Jeeves Fetch the Car Day. Judging from RT ridership stats and the cell phone lot at the Sacramento Airport last night, Sacramentans love them some Lyft. The airport put out a low-capacity portapotty at the cell phone lot for the jitney army. It’s always nice to see a government that spent a couple billion dollars on airport terminal expansion and a new basketball arena set up the conditions for a crowd-sourced Pot-o-Shit Friend situation on public property.

Environmentalism and social justice my fat white ass.