Why the hell do I still work for these people?

Sweet fucking hell. I made it through not quite seven workdays and 300 pounds of fruit before Daughter-in-Law’s Husband butted into my fucking business out of nowhere, point-blank asking me where I stay when I come up here. This is, amazingly but truly, worse than anything the Ditzney Princess ever asked me and worlds worse than anything the ADHD spazz kid ever blurted out. The Ditzney Princess was annoying as all hell but never impertinent; our spazzy boi told more than his share of fucked up stories, but they were all really quite harmless to the rest of us as listeners, and mostly fun, too.

Why the hell anyone who runs a goddamn business thinks it’s appropriate to interrogate employees about their housing situations is beyond me. If they’re wondering whether the sprawling piles of junk in all passenger seats and footwells mean that I live out of my car, yeah, Occam’s Razor says that I may be doing that and in no mood to discuss it with meddlesome authority figures. They’ve got all the phone and address information they need in my file. That information is current enough for them to reliably get in touch with me. Jawboning me about where I’m staying night to night has fuck-all to do with that.

If they’re interested because I keep coming in late, I’m almost always the last picker on site every afternoon, and of course they don’t pay any of us enough to compel punctuality. They basically understand this, and there isn’t usually any weirdness about it, but it should go completely without saying that this is not a gift horse that they ought to harass with their clumsy dental tools. Horsey may go chomp-chomp, and horsey may definitely bolt to Newport or Reno or some shit. They know the history, and again, they’re usually pretty tactful about it. But there’s something legit wack about thinking that it’s at all appropriate or reasonable for them, in their immediate and explicit capacity as my employers, to confront me with intrusive questions about my living situation during work hours. That is completely out of line, and anyone who’s thinking seriously about any of this shit knows it.

No amount of general cordiality excuses it. Sure, I’m cool chatting about other things that sometimes have something to do with my life off the farm. If they tell us that they sold out their entire supply at a market, does that mean that I’m in order or the least bit in my right mind to ask them how much they owe on their mortgages? Good God.

I do not feel like being the only party to that relationship with any fucking tact. And I’m not there to teach anyone how to properly respect the homeless or what it means to be homeless or some shit, even if they’d like to learn. There are others they can turn to for that. A horrifyingly large number of them live within a fifteen-minute drive. Certainly my situation is weird, but do I sound like I drove five hundred fucking miles to be jawboned about it by authority figures at a job where my hourly earnings are maxing out at maybe $5.50?

Nothing good will come of discussing any of this in their company. That would be like walking through a wasp-infested blackberry thicket to fish quarters out of Pot-o-Shit Friend’s housewarming gift. If they’ve got any goddamn sense of what anything costs they know full well that no one in their employ is making a meaningful living working for them. Really, I have only financial disincentives to be working for them, or to be most anywhere else in the Willamette Valley, but I’m willing to deal with that and turn a blind eye to all the low-key dodgy shit they do as long as the work conditions are good. Too many damn questions is a case of bad work conditions. At that point, it isn’t just that they’re employing some ten-year-old to sort berries at two dollars an hour under the table. Bogus but not my personal concern I can tolerate. Being questioned about sensitive situations that no one present will do jack shit to fix, I can’t.

Now I’ve got my dad asking me whether I’m sure that I wouldn’t jeopardize my job by asking for a draw against my end-of-season paycheck. Of course they end up hiring people from lineages of overly scrupulous pushovers. If they fire me for asking for a payout roughly in accordance with Oregon wage and hour regulations I can fucking sue them. I’d be floored if they retaliated against me for that, but this is yet another thing that shouldn’t be crossing anyone’s mind as the remotest possibility.

As I keep saying in spite of all the bullshit, this is overall a great place to work because the bullshit is pretty limited and quickly comes to a definitive end. Few enough Americans want these jobs, and probably not hella Mexicans at $.45 a pound, either, that they’re chronically shortstaffed, and I don’t envy them for that. At the same time, it gets awfully tiresome to watch another small business, and a fairly decently run one at that, descend into the land of fucking make-believe. Capital and labor are not best friends, although pretending that they are may do much to explain why the pay grades and compliance with child labor laws are so optional around here.

And this stuff is even worse in context. Everything that I’ve witnessed is the tip of the iceberg for small business owners being fucktarded laws unto themselves. It’s impossible to be observant and informed in these situations and not lose practically all trust in small business to properly regulate itself, or just behave halfway normally. All the self-help literature advises applicants that behaving anything like this around employers is a great way to lose a job and not get another one. I hate to be in-your-face about the leverage I have over the In-Laws, and I’m pretty sure that I succeed in being tactful about it, but I’d be gone, baby, gone if I didn’t have it, and not just for an early weekend of existential dread and fresh seafood in Newport.

It’s Codependency Day all summer long, and sure enough, this ship keeps righting itself (*Leon Bridges, calling down from the bridge* Y’all fools got another ship?), but it is striking just what a ringing indictment of capitalism, even at its smallest and most accountable fractals, this mess is. This is not legitimately about country-ass values: picking a hundred times my fair share of a top-producing state’s blueberries is a rural folkway; asking one’s employees dipshit questions about where they’re staying out of idle curiosity is not. Lose me with that crap. The lion’s share of everything that gets said publicly about running a business or living in the country has to be arrant bullshit, so I’ll be damned to be the only one living in the real world here while King Friday runs payroll on my white ass, and trolley? Cracka you clownin’, ain’t been an operating interurban this side of Chicago since Truman’s time, white boy.

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Back to blu, uh, uh, uh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cuck and Nancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midnight in the Garden of Food and Devil

Americans are being killed and sickened by contaminated lettuce again. Take a moment to think this over and consider what it means, not only to have this happening anywhere for any reason but to have it happening in what is widely regarded as the wealthiest and certainly the most powerful country on earth. Again, we aren’t hearing about hospitalizations and deaths from fecal coliform bacteria on meat, which has the guts near the good stuff and also a lot of stuff that oughtn’t be eaten but is; this is romaine. Field greens are supposed to be entirely segregated from the nasty.

We should be asking pointed questions about this scandal. For one, who shit on the lettuce? This last contaminated crop, like prior bad batches, was grown domestically, around Yuma. There was no foreign chain of custody for US food safety officials to have any difficulty tracing to the port of entry; this is on us. In another public safety win for the Department of Homeland Security, the shitleaf went through Border Patrol interior checkpoints on its way to market, but those jackbooted thugs are looking for a different leafy green, the maddening reefer, which, come to think of it, is now objectively safer to consume than lettuce. Hell, for that matter, cocaine is probably the most antiseptic substance on the money supply. #TheMoreYouKnow, baby.

Again, someone got shit on the lettuce, and no one in government stopped it at any point until unwitting customers had already started getting dangerously sick. By the time that happened, the potentially contaminated lot under recall advisory was huge. Officials were basically out shrugging and telling the public, eh, don’t eat romaine, then, I guess. It turned out that pretty much the entire romaine crop on the US market at the time had been grown around Yuma and that there weren’t many growers in the business. This was an industrial-scale agricultural concern that had befouled the fresh food supply. If your filthy uncle cooks dinner without washing his hands, your family might get sick. This was one of those deals where Uncle Shit works somewhere upstream in the cutting or boxing of fresh lettuce for the national market, but no one can tell where until there’s an outbreak to trace.

Romaine can be grown in a greenhouse or high tunnel anywhere in the country year round, but for some reason the entire winter crop is grown in one of the driest, most Aral Sea-ass agribusiness shitholes in the land. That reason is Mexicans. We divert their treaty water for our own uses, but then we’re all like, don’t mope around, now, amigo, we’ve got work here. I’m not kidding when I say that the location of these plantations is determined by the wetback supply, not the water supply. Sure, Yuma has deep dirt and a lot of sun, too, but it’s the last goddamn thing upstream of Mexico on a river that Las Vegas, Phoenix, Wickenburg, and Southern California are all jockeying to suck so dry that it never reaches the sea.

This is why we ask why the fuck anyone is growing lettuce there, when it’s a bullshit crop that can be grown on the kitchen windowsill at home if it’s that important. If the Mexicans stopped showing up to cut it, we’d get to hear the latest White Whine from farm country about how food is rotting in the fields again and also we’re being racist, but let’s be real here: there’s nothing racist about granting low-class Mexicans the same license as low-class Americans to go on welfare, and if romaine rots in the field, that means it can’t travel thousands of miles to rot in your fridge. How sad.

The American Gothic waste-not-want-not ethic is a myth. I actually believe in it, but no one in agribusiness or food processing does; everyone in the industry who whines about how the racist government-provoked wetback shortage is causing food to rot in the fields would gladly open a tank valve and pour milk into the river to goose disappointing commodity prices. These are not honorable people, as proven by their custom of importing crews of foreign field hands with no civic stake in the country to spend fifty to sixty hours a week stooped over making the same three or four cuts again and again and again. Gee, could that be why the work is so awful? Could it possibly be that a few thousand people are worked like donkeys in a salt mine for minimum wage to cut a crop that any fool could grow on a shelf in her apartment, without all the stooping?

Before you assume that there’s an applicable minimum wage just because the owners say there’s one, remember that these companies are using international labor arbitrage to hire desperate foreigners with limited English skills, including many who are present in the United States without work authorization. It would take a fucking ethnographic field study to ascertain the actual prevailing wages because the entire business is run by politically manipulative liars. It’s insane to believe a word out of anyone’s mouth from the crew bosses on up, unless it’s about how they knowingly hire illegals, because that’s something they definitely do all the time.

Nor will I bury the hatchet about how offensive, scandalous, and plainly evil it is for planters and their PR flacks to brag about how having destitute fifty-year-old diabetics with 40% of normal hand and wrist function bend down and whack the base of a lettuce stalk with a machete ten thousand times a week is a humanitarian and cultural exchange program. If the Mexicans all decide they wanna go play video games instead, I won’t blame them; that isn’t a life well examined or well spent, but it’ll be good for us, the assholes who expect them to keep showing up and wrecking their bodies cutting our lettuce for a pittance.

And if they keep having fewer and fewer babies to replace the aging farm workforce, again, we deserve it. It’s really interesting how this celebrated Mexican devotion to hard work and family which we celebrate at management’s encouragement is exactly what management wants to keep payroll expenses down. They obviously don’t want childless thicky tricks on birth control, already an East LA thing, to start being a Mexican thing in Mexico, too. It’s none of their damn business, of course, but that never stopped them.

The Chicana lady I have in mind washes her hands because she’s clean and wholesome. I’m not saying we need whores to start cutting our lettuce, but, geez, I’d say we need better handwashing protocols one way or another. Not getting one’s unwashed wiping hand all over the lettuce is kind of like not rawdogging a bunch of different strangers of visibly dubious health and hygiene: it’s basic, commonsense sanitation, but sometimes it’s too much to ask. Hookers are usually really fastidious about condom use, but we’re getting our field greens from crews that include the equivalent of crazy amateur bar skanks, in addition to ones whose instinctive standards of cleanliness are higher than the dangerously excessive demands of their jobs permit them to maintain. This is how we end up with people popping a squat and leaving gifts for their fellow laborers in the vineyard to unexpectedly encounter, or alternately skipping meals until after quitting time to suppress the urge to shit.

No sane and ethical society would tolerate any of this whatsoever. It’s entirely unacceptable and unnecessary. Absolutely nothing about it is inherent to farm work; it’s exclusively the result of hiring a few thousand unenfranchised foreign peasants to spend sixty hours a week doing work that a few hundred thousand or million Americans should be doing for an hour or two a week. The field greens industry invests jack shit in research and development for employee ergonomics for the same reason that it doesn’t provide portapotties within a manageable walk of the field: because it has this disposable foreign peasant workforce at its command.

That’s a workforce that can’t disappear from the United States fast enough. No, I’m not demanding another Operation Wetback. As I said above, video games are a reasonable alternative, at least for those not personally wasting their lives playing them. Besides, importing the Frenchies to do grunt work in New England and Upstate New York was a crackerized clusterfuck in its own right, and not just on account of Paul LePage. The point is that the class clashes between the poor and the higher classes are bad enough when everyone speaks the same language, so anyone trying to dual-track a foreign proletarian vulgate in alongside what everyone with a lick of honesty recognizes as the Lingua Franca has bad motives and is setting the entire society up for trouble. The whole Franco-Anglo thing in Canada seems to have gotten a lot less stupid and vicious as Canada has gotten its shit together and started solving its social problems. This societal advancement is much less forthcoming in Mexico; hence, among other phenomena, Central American refugees who don’t seek resettlement in a country better-governed than their own where they already speak the language, instead risking their lives crossing it to get to a much more alien land where they can more reasonably expect to survive.

Let’s get real: would anyone expect an acculturated, enfranchised, lower-middle-class American workforce operating in a well-regulated industrial regime to have the same difficulty abiding by professional standards of cleanliness? Americans are getting sick and literally dying (*Robert Dziekanski, overhearing the talk of Kwesi Millington’s home and native land* #MeToo, Biggie; you’re literally killing me) because what turn out to be critical food safety protocols are being left to harried foreign peasants working in ragingly lawless environments. These are not environments in which employees feel comfortable taking the time to properly wash their hands. Followup news items on the shitleaf have mentioned that it isn’t a problem anymore because the entire romaine industry has relocated to the Salinas Valley for the summer. Great, the place where they put an unimaginably shoddy-looking portable shitter on a trailer behind a school bus; I can’t imagine what would go wrong with a food safety regime being run in that physical context.

These are not the inscrutable mysteries of the salad field. This shit is Upton Sinclair for vegetarians. It’s the equivalent of a peddler’s cart full of unrefrigerated chicken meat that was dressed with a rusty steak knife. Businesses are allowed to sell this shit, which includes actual shit, because we don’t have laws around here. It’s a miracle that these outbreaks of foodborne illness don’t happen more often.

Please, to the fucking table.

Cholleycod

To my relief, my greatest apprehension about traveling through Boston was not realized. My fear–and you really shouldn’t be surprised if you’ve been paying attention; this isn’t a particularly novel insight–my fear concerned the dismaying possibility that at some point in the course of my interline connection between Logan and South Station I’d be forced to get Charlie off. CHAHLEE!

But enough about working at CBS. Shit, guys, the T kicks ass. Boston isn’t like Atlantic City, where it’s something like a mile from the train station to the Boardwalk or several blocks from the bus station. In Boston you can take the train right to the fucking beach. It can’t be more than about half again as far from the Wonderland terminus to the beachfront gazebos as it is trackside from the Sacramento Amtrak depot, and it’s a beautiful trip on one of America’s most fly as shit rides. The Suffolk Downs station is immediately across the street from a Bayfront marsh, and you know what Teddy always told Mary Jo: the mash, that’s pat of the sea, too. Don’t look at me like that; I’m not the one whose permanent senior US Senator got drunk enough to Ride the Ducks. Yeah, yeah, I know: the Harris lady. But at least we don’t have an entire family devoted to that crap for three generations running.

I never expected to find such low-key chill-as-fuck neighborhoods so close to the airport on such an excellent rapid transit line. Now that I’ve been there, I can’t wait to get back to Sacramento and once again watch RT catastrophically fuck everybody’s shit up. Run Can Car consists all day every day and it’ll still be a next to useless shit show. I checked, and my voter registration was approved, so I lives there, and I is in fact coming back in shortly, but as I keep saying, my plants deserve better than that. The navel orange trees on the Capitol grounds aren’t the only Brazilian thing about that, uh, City of God.

It’s hard to believe that I didn’t miss Boston’s city parts of town in the six hours between landing and rolling out for Schenectady, scratch that, Rensselaer because Metro-North got FUBAR from treefall and the combined Lake Shore Limited reached Cleveland at about two in the afternoon. It’s certainly true that the regional affluenza is wicked out of control wicked north. Prior to this week, I’d been to Boston twice that I could remember, excluding a round trip through Logan on the way to and from Lake Winnipesaukee, which I just needed three tries and the internet to relearn how to fucking spell, at the age of three and a half. That was the week of the Challenger disaster, or, as I explained it, the thing where the space shuttle blowed up and all the people falled off.

It’s too bad that wasn’t a Harvard mission. For such a stupid and arrogant crew they sure keep enough retainers around who care about the O Rings and the deicing protocols. The main thing I remember from Harvard and awah feyah surrounding city, other than the jackasses the admissions department sent to talk to my group who were so unprofessional and flippant that I refused to apply, was that I couldn’t quite put a finger on what was wrong with it all but it all just seemed kind of fucked up. In retrospect, I realize that I probably felt that way because it was super fucked up. The traffic and the street system (it ain’t a grid) were definitely fucked up, to the extent that I ended up on the wrong side of the Charles River because I missed a turnoff sign by fifty feet, and the drivers were total assholes. I was timid enough to believe my dad on an earlier trip, when I was in my early teens, that we’d waste the whole trip waiting on trains if we took the T; it wasn’t until I finally went on my own this week that I confirmed that the worst streets covered up the best rapid transit.

If I tried, I’m sure I’d be able to find assholes around there who complain that Uber is too slow and expensive. After all, Brookline is overflowing with these shitheads, who aren’t quite moneyed enough to have their driver fetch the car but are close enough to be quietly resentful that, like Moses, they will never quite make it to that promised land, tantalizingly near though it is, a thing they can see and do not cease trying desperately to reach but can never properly take into their possession. Matthew Stewart, the author of the Atlantic article in the link, is descended from a dipshit who inherited enough oil money to buy a Bentley and some club memberships and, registered social version of Cousin Gigolo that he was, blew it on exactly that. Steve Almond, the smarmy fuck who went to one of the high schools that I might have attended on a different timeline, lives in Arlington, and his celebrated Palo Alto schools appear in Stewart’s article as the top eleven public elementary schools in all of California. We’re dealing here with a hardcore elite stupid enough to give a shit about bridge and the Social Register and a class of not-quite-arrived arrivistes so desperate to join them that, cash-strapped slumdogs with a cool half mil in equity in newly renovated Brookline houses that they are, go online to try to hire part-time governesses for their brats.

I swear, these fucking asswipes need to be sentenced to Fresno.

Cities where over half of the adult population holds graduate degrees are not normal. Neither is asking the clerk at the bodega why the same bottle of wine is cheaper at Whole Foods. That’s another thing that Harvard men and women do. Whenever I think of the utterly appalling expectation that the rest of us defer to these self-important idiots as our social, intellectual, and moral betters, William Buckley’s fantasy about being governed by the first hundred names in the Boston telephone directory is a point well taken. To paraphrase Winston Smith, the proles around there look well-adjusted enough to maybe save the bourgeoisie from itself, because like hell will Harvard’s bumper crops of psychiatrists and arm-cutters do anything so thoughtful for their own people. No, seriously, if I had kids I’d rather leave them under the supervision of the baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants I saw around Logan than with most of the people I knew in college, and anyone who insists that I’m anti-intellectual for saying so is a goddamn fool. I despise these gobshites BECAUSE I have a life of the mind.

America’s meritocratic winners would have us all assume that, just as they insist, what they’re doing is ordered to the enforcement of the labor theory of value; like, Atul Gawande has critical, hard-to-replace medical skills that an airport ramper does not, and that’s why their kids are all investment bankers. There are all kinds of ways to fall short of one’s potential as a productive member of society, but it gets awfully tiresome to listen to these assholes reflexively dignify their socioeconomic peers no matter how useless or destructive their work objectively is and without objection keep up the pretension that white-shoe law and marketing are worthy, important lines of work in ways that making sure the bags are loaded onto the plane so that it doesn’t crash and keeping the plane from being backed into another plane are not.

Then these assholes complain to one another about the tile guy not showing up right when they needed him there to renovate their kitchens, and how that meant they had to eat Thai takeout for a month. With that attitude on the customer end and jobs that serve no legitimate social purpose, why the fuck should the tile guy show up at all? Of course he’s in it for the money, and he was probably booked solid doing the same pointless work for other insufferable yuppies, but why the hell shouldn’t he be walking around Barnstable stuffing his face with chowder all day instead? I eat an awful lot of Thai food for a white boy without an apartment, and you don’t hear me complaining about too much green curry.

We might be able to understand this situation without NPR, but that wouldn’t induce enough vomiting. What did Werman and his twerpkin have to bitch about while I was on my way to the airport to fly to Boston the other day? Why, another fucking complaint about how Americans don’t want to take seasonal food service jobs in tourist towns on Cape Cod. It isn’t Groundhog Day because the feds won’t admit Jamaicans on demand to fill barista jobs; it’s Groundhog Day because this same goddamn horseshit about how Americans are shitty employees and this inconveniences rich restaurant-goers is on the fucking state radio again. Brahmins had to wait in line because there weren’t enough Jamaicans, mon, and barring the national door to lawful temporary entry by nonimmigrant noble savage kitchen jockeys is not cool, mon.

The restaurant that this radio-enabled whine-one-one call profiled is called, I shit ye not, Hot Chocolate Sparrow, and it’s owned by, again, Scout’s Honor, a Perry Sparrow. NPR devoted nationally syndicated airtime to a complaint about how it takes longer to get hot chocolate in a fancy restaurant on Cape Cod than at, I dunno, a Cumberland Farms in Schuylerville. Here’s another idea: go the grocery store and buy some Swiss Miss, say hi to Anthony if he’s working, and SHUT THE FUCK UP.

You’d think that, America being a free-market country and all, Mr. Sparrow and fellow birds of his feather could address their labor shortage by, say, paying twelve months’ wages for three or four months’ work and maybe providing decent free housing as well. Instead we get to listen to fucking Jonathan Livingston Seagull complain about how he spent the entire season waiting on the government to approve his Jamaicans, on the premise that we’ll grant the dude the minimal judgment needed to competently run a small business. I don’t care about the moral value or lack thereof of overpaying Cape Cod’s food service line workers, and it’s certainly no game in which I have skin since I’m planning to spend another summer making less than minimum wage for farm work with dignity, mostly, but either their timely labor is worth a market premium or it isn’t, and given the general market conditions in that part of the country, I’m guessing that it’s worth more to the owners than the swing shift at a Lake George Stewart’s in February.

And I’m the last person to tell the help that it needs to be more enthusiastic about serving yuppies for minimum wage. I disappear from the blueberry gig when the dignity flies the coop and don’t return until it sounds like the bullshit has attenuated, and that’s a job that actually is time-critical in the sense that the fruit will rot, not make-believe time-sensitive in a waah the weather is getting le cold and I wanna go to Florida way. Even so, my bosses don’t berate me about how much trouble they have finding and keeping help, and I haven’t found them berating the public about this shameful state of affairs on its (sic) national radio network. If Perry Mason Birdman can’t make the job tolerable enough to keep Americans on duty in spite of the shit wages he pays, that’s on him, and probably on his customers on a pretty regular basis. Remember, this is the set that summers on the Cape. Maybe the free-market rate to get Americans or already work-authorized foreigners to put up with these assholes for a summer is roughly what an Amtrak conductor would make with overtime in a year. Given that they’re obviously dealing with worse shit at work than I do at the same time of year, I can’t begrudge them whatever they’re making. As I said, I don’t get lectured at work, both because I don’t tolerate managerial horseshit on piece rate and also because my bosses are generally pretty decent about that stuff, get off their bullshit pretty quickly if they have been back up on it, and obviously mean well. Being in the back of the house doesn’t hurt, either. My fellow Sacramentans may not treat my plants decently, but my plants treat me great.

Come to think of it, getting Charlie off must pay better than any of this, although I’m sure Cousin Gigolo would find a way to lowball his own rate until it doesn’t.

State of the Unction: goobernatorial edition

The California gubernatorial primary debate on Tuesday night was mentally exhausting. If the candidates meant to wear their audience down to nothing in a war of attrition by means of bullshit, I guess they succeeded. At least they did with me, that is. The scary possibility is that there are actually constituencies for the garbage they’re flogging, and in the state that elected Kamala Harris to the United States Senate, that’s uncomfortably likely.

I listened to most of this dismaying spectacle on the radio, on the radio, Lord have mercy on us in this nightmare that Van and Fats utterly failed to stop. I don’t know whether the visual cues would have helped or hurt, or what either of these words even means anymore, and I’m not about to dial that shit up to see. To licentiously paraphrase Meat Loaf and his freak-ass songsmith Jay What’s-His-Name, I think it is (this is already a dumpster fire, so why not), two out of six not being really bad ain’t bad. If you insist on feeling sad for Argentina instead, realize that it’s probably at a higher state of civic and socioeconomic development than California right now. The Not Deplorable, as we might call them, were John Chiang and Delaine Eastin.

This is, however, all relative, as Mainers say when they’re dating. Chiang waded into the same swamp of crude language and thinking about the great virtuous strength of diversity that Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa so ostentatiously inhabit, and Eastin, by my assessment the best speaker of the entire lot, used her podium as a bully pulpit to decry adultery, as notoriously practiced by our old boys Gavin and Antonio. Then again, if an occasional sub-Brenda Jorett-level scolding about the most ridiculously unenforceable morals clause is the worst we’ll have to endure from our next governor, we’ll be in pretty good shape. I mean, just look at the fucking alternatives, including ones we’ve already suffered.

I mention from time to time the unfortunate truth that the Republicans are not the absolute worst political party. Not Tuesday night’s crop: for the life of me I could not fucking tell the two of them apart, Travis Allen and John Cox droning on in the same generically Midwestern accent and cadence to express the same wretchedly tired talking points about small government and personal responsibility in the same belligerently self-righteous speaking style. I tried, again and again, but I couldn’t distinguish them for a minute straight. Maybe it is because they are white. They both sounded like perpetually aggrieved faux-middle-class rich guys worth a good ten times more than they let on with an hour or two of talk radio five days a week, probably funded by some gross medley of mail-order dialysis supply companies and two-bit goldbug scams.

One of them, I forgot which within ten seconds if I even tracked it in the first place, barked that the obvious alternative to the high-speed rail debacle is $59 fares on Southwest. This stupid fuckhead didn’t mention that these fares come with conditions, often including 14-day advance purchase and by the way we’re all sold out, and then announced that Southwest would be expanding its extreme transfarency under his governorship to a new airport that he’d be building in the Central Valley. Maybe he believed this, or maybe not; I couldn’t tell. What I could tell was that it was absolute bullshit: Southwest doesn’t even fly to Fresno (I’ve checked), and that fool will not be building a new commercial airport. Nice El Toro “Great Park” you’ve got there. Nice John Wayne, too; shame if Harrison Ford buzzed some 737s there and then told air traffic control that he was the schmuck who did it.

These weren’t the only two with vocal oddities. I wasn’t sure at the time that I’d be able to tell Gavin Newsom apart from Jerry Brown in a voice lineup. On second thought, I guess it would be a matter of gauging just how much gravel is rattling around back there. Chiang’s delivery came across as surprisingly meek and foreign-accented, but otherwise normal enough. Villaraigosa, true to form, sounded as greasy as he looks and tied several of his sentences into retarded knots that could be untangled only in context. Eastin had the sheer delivery style needed to read the drive-time news on NPR, but not the head trauma. This is an unreasonable thing to ask, but imagine Mary Louise Kelly, but not a dork.

Okay, this is insane: I just looked Radio MLK up, and damned if she isn’t a certifiable MILF. This is every bit as crazy as the time I discovered that Marco Werman doesn’t look like a total twink.

If this is the slate we deserve, we’re a bad people. We should have had some inkling of this for a decade or two, to be generous and nostalgic about what we possibly were at our historic best. The two overall strongest candidates, Newson and Villaraigosa, are notorious greasies. The only way either of the Republican shitheads has a chance of winning the general election in November is if they both somehow beat an evenly divided Democratic field in the jungle primary with support barely worthy of Ross Perot in a good year. Newsom has supposedly pulled ahead of the Democratic pack, and whichever Republican asshat pulled ahead with the funding is supposedly well ahead of the other assshat, something that I really don’t care to look up again because not only are they both all-around bigoted pieces of shit, they’re also of questionable enough mental character that I’d hesitate to trust either of them to water my plants.

This assumes a counterfactual California in which I have a place to live with room for some plants. It’s useful to scale up this exercise in the California that might have been and perhaps once was to include everyone who got run out of the state by skyrocketing costs of living and trashed job markets over the past thirty years. If any of us are sitting around scratching our heads about how and why the electorate became so distorted in recent memory, and the politics so dysfunctional, this should help explain some shit.

To licentiously paraphrase Sir Robert Peel, the policy is the public, and the public is the policy. The difference, of course, is that we’re the ones paying the Highway Patrol overtime to roust the homeless from the Capitol Mall at nightfall and also to facilitate Sworn Coffee Hour all summer at the Truckee Starbucks. We also have an uncontrollably metastasizing force of rentacops, an often marginally employable and out-of-shape group drawn from that half of the working class that can be hired to run off and, if need be, kill the other half of the working class. (Get back to me about Chippies being working-class when they no longer own motorboats.)

The public we’ve got is, as the candidates so annoyingly reminded us, diverse; it is our strength. They’re straw-manning most of the electorate if they’re trying to imply that anyone considers it an ideal for the Mexican to hate the Chinaman, the Chinaman to hate the Negro, the Negro to hate the Mexican, the Irishman to hate everyone, and the Italian to be WASP enough for the West. Fit the Indian into this wherever you fucking please, cross your feathers and dot your whatevers.

There are hardcore racial bigots in California, including ones noted for their service in the Trump White House, but they’re a minority. They’re nowhere near numerous, organized, or aggressive enough to determine the state’s politics unless the Democrats all shit the bed of one accord. Many of the bigots who lived here into the eighties moved way the hell north and east sometime in the nineties; Mark Fuhrman, for one, is up in Idaho on the Whitey Rez now. What’s left behind is a bitter rump, surprisingly affluent, by the way, chronically sore about how many fucking wetbacks there are polluting the state whose menial labor they themselves have absolutely no interest in undertaking, and equally sore about how they can’t live on the beach without sharing their state with a permanent majority of shitlibs. Idaho has beaches, too, but they aren’t in Orange County. Every belligerently whiny shit like Stephen Miller can afford to buy a shack in Mountain Home to serve as his domicile for voting purposes, and maybe save some money on car registration; as it happens, Southwest does fly to Boise, although not to Bakersfield.

This crew is a fucking disgrace. I am not here to concede it any legitimacy. That said, the center-left deliberately misremembers the turnover of California’s population circa 1989-2000 as the Expulsion of the Deplorables, a righteous crowd-sourced reverse Ferdinand and Isabella deal that finally made the Golden State safe for the swarthy. This just ain’t so. White bigotry is not in fact an inverse function of income and net worth. This is provably untrue. There are bigots among the white middle and lower classes, but the Americans who were effectively run out of the state starting around 1990 by an overheating housing market and a faltering job market were in no way all bigots, and they were not all white. There is no way this group didn’t include large numbers of blacks and significant numbers of Chicanos. I wouldn’t be surprised if it included significant numbers of active enrolled members of Indian nations. This diaspora was not a mashup of Roseanne Barr, Archie Bunker, the Beverly Hillbillies, and the Scandinavians habitually ridiculed by Garrison Keillor. My parents and I were part of it. It followed a large hippie exodus that started by the mid-seventies. Only a fool would underestimate how crunchy and bleeding-heart the California diaspora has been.

In the absence of these millions of onetime Californians, overwhelmingly driven away by excessive housing costs, it has become dogma in the Democratic Party to imply, if not outright state, that the importation of Latin Americans as their replacements is hella woke. This line of thinking is advanced by dipshits whose soft bigotry prevents them from even guessing how many African-Americans were driven back east in the midst of this same demographic turnover for the same reasons, so of course they have a soft spot for noble savages of variable English proficiency and generally foreign nationality. Everyone in California politics wants to exploit Latinos as an ethnic client base; the Democrats demand their loyalty to whatever weak-ass half-measure market-mediated excuse for social democracy they’re flogging, and the Republicans unctuously ask the top decile or quartile to defect to the right as hardy immigrant entrepreneurs forever grateful to the United States for giving them the opportunity to show how much more employable they are than the native stock. The only reason this year’s Republican gubernatorial candidates don’t do this is that they’re too deeply bigoted to seek any overt association with the non-Asian minorities. This is a garbage process driven by garbage thinking.

None of the four Democratic candidates at the debate Tuesday night took a stand against neoliberalism. Eastin came reasonably close, but she went at it very obliquely and vaguely. Bernie Sanders was a strong second-place finisher in 2016, so this is not just a function of everyone to the left of center in California loving the shit out of the neoliberal order. I was receptive to Republican counterattacks on neoliberalism, but I didn’t hear any, and both of the Republicans sounded like they’d capture and work to death slaves if they were allowed to do so. One of them, John Cox, I think, bragged about how he’d voted for Gary Johnson because he’d disbelieved Trump’s claims of conservatism, i.e., because Trump had shown enthusiasm on the campaign trail for the interests of the working class. Villaraigosa kept spitting out the same brain-dead talking point about how he supports the gig economy and sharing economy of the future. Dude must have been too busy holding a full-time salaried position as the Mayor of Los Angeles to do sub-minimum-wage piece work for Mechanical Turk.

No one who shills for horseshit scams like Uber is actually supporting himself as an Uber driver. Ben Sasse’s bragging about how he goes back to Nebraska and drives for Uber to meet his constituents and get to know their innovative economy is as believable as any other millionaire insisting that his brat is learning the value of hard work and self-reliance by running a lemonade stand in the front yard. The point here is that these assholes are allowed to make up just about anything about their politics, political history, and political theory without anyone interviewing them calling bullshit on assertions that are flagrantly false and out of line.

The debate had the unfortunate appearance of a classic ethnic divide-and-conquer scam. Again, the only reason the Republicans didn’t wallow in this particular fray was that they were too bigoted to even try to pander to the nonwhites. They left this to a Democratic slate made up of an Asian accountant nerd, a female teacher nerd, a greasy Latino influence-peddler who was brought up as assimilated into Anglo culture as any of us, and a slightly less greasy old-line Money Whitey. Strangle me, Schneiderman.

When Villaraigosa spoke of how he’d had to learn Spanish as a teen to facilitate his activism, he was for real; against the odds, that clown’s native language is English. His entire shtick is basically how do you do, fellow Latins. This has some really fucked up implications for Anglo-Latino communal relations, especially as envisioned by our political leaders. Can you imagine how LA’s Westside Jews would react if some guy showed up talking to them in broken Yiddish? They’d probably look at him like he had two heads. If Benjamin Netanyahu came by and lectured them in Hebrew, someone would probably pipe up and tell him, oh, for God’s sake, drop the act, you’re from Philadelphia. It isn’t that there’s anything inherently bad about Hebrew, or Yiddish, or Spanish. The point is that none of these is the Lingua Franca. That’s English, and everyone fucking knows it. Encouraging Latinos not to learn it seems awfully ulterior.

Since we’re already discussing the Jews, for better and worse, let’s compare them to the Asians, specifically the Chinese, who are also a group proficient in shanda fur die goyim stunts. I’m not trying to dog on John Chiang here; he seems all right, to the extent that anyone from his grotesque party can be expected to be all right. That he didn’t sound like he had economically recoverable deposits of facial oil was character enough in a race against Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa, and second-best in a field of six is respectable unless all present are absolute garbage. But let’s not pretend that the overseas Chinese haven’t been bringing some ugly attitudes to California and exacerbating severe social problems that might well attenuate in their absence. It isn’t the Tingirideses who are demanding that the bums all be redlined out of Irvine, although this is English, so yes, that’s the plural. It’s the Money Chinee who are doing that.

And I don’t give a shit if I offend or scandalize them. What’s happening in Irvine, an overwhelmingly Asian city these days, is that they’re acting as an aggressive ethnic and class bloc, drawn disproportionately from immigrants, to keep poor Americans out of a city where they have an inalienable civil right to seek settlement as birthright US citizens. These same ghouls would be demanding that the government round up all the peasants and repatriate them to whatever internal provincial shithole birthed them if they were still living in the old country. Instead, they’re in my country, doing everything they can to dispossess my countrymen for being poor. This is wrong.

Again, this isn’t about John Chiang as their coethnic. Demanding that he do something about a group of racist bourgeois supremacists who raise hell whenever the county proposes siting a homeless shelter in their city would be like some random Chinaman demand that I do something about Harvey Weinstein as my fellow Jew. It isn’t that that motherfucker couldn’t be cause for anti-Semitism, or that I’m not Jewish enough to catch the blowback, but anecdotally, I find that full-blooded Jews are more cognizant of what a shit he is than gentiles, and I certainly have nothing to do with that freak. But the idea that any of us owes respect to a constituency that is acting like an ethnic colonist mob in our country is offensive and absurd. This is the same spirit of colonial aggression that gets overseas Chinese firebombed by the angry ethnic Malays they’ve dispossessed.

And for the love of God, let’s shut the fuck up, now and forevermore, about model minorities. This shit has nothing to do with ethnic comity. What’s actually happening here is that Latin American peasants are being imported as generalist scabs and educated Asians as specialist scabs. I don’t need a hive of clannish bourgeois supremacist shitheads who are scheming to take over entire city governments at the expense of vulnerable Americans to stick around in the interest of cultural exchange; bitch I can make my own hot and sour soup from scratch.

No, I am not a racial bigot. I’m complaining about specific social problems resulting from specific campaigns of bad faith by specific, and often local, constituencies. These include many of California’s premium crackers. Praising Mexicans for fixing us tacos and working harder than Americans is just fucking vile, and I dare say that Cesar Chavez would have been every bit as disgusted as I am by this condescending cultivation of pet scabs.

Are we really going to spend another 150 years as a state serially importing the most desperate and grasping people we can find from the four corners of the earth to serve as scab blocs and then denouncing whoever the hell is still around as a native stock, of whatever ethnic and racial background, for criticizing the resulting social problems and quite reasonably blaming them on interlopers with no civic virtue and a distorted, hostile, exclusive sense of community? If past is prologue, oh hell yes we will. Or maybe we’ll get another forty-year hiatus during which a government actually serving its constituents’ interests stops Stanford and Crocker from importing every surplus Chinese peasant their agents can find.

I have yet to find a proposal to restore California to a state of broad middle-class stability without any hint of nativism, and I don’t see why enfranchised constituents from long-established families and communities shouldn’t be higher priorities for elected officials than insular groups of immigrants who do what they can not to integrate into American society. When push comes to shove, most of this horseshit about multiculturalism and diversity is really just a scam to keep all the different servants around, orchestrated by influential affluent people who do everything they can to shelter and segregate themselves from the foreign hordes they so ostentatiously welcome into the state and the country. Like hell are these fools socializing with kitchen workers in Chinatown or farmworkers in Mecca.

There’s enough constant churn in the California electorate to keep this scam viable. For every normal, integrated, acculturated middle-class family with useful skills that is driven out of the state, a roughly equal number of Mexican peasants and H1B code slaves will be brought in to run the joint, along with a useless-as-all-hell domestic hipster or two to pretend to be employed, employable, and engaged in the work of American cultural continuity. Delaine Eastin’s campaign as the one credible gubernatorial candidate out of six whose public comments are affirmatively intelligent and thoughtful is frankly a higher grade of statewide politics than we could have expected of California, given who keeps showing up to try to hijack it. Thomas Jefferson Cares. That isn’t a sentence; that’s a gubernatorial candidate. The Republicans running this year are too decadent to try to stop hipsters from moving into Midtown Sacramento to be closer to the grilled cheese festival; they’re too entangled with the Mexican day laborer-intersectional construction industry to lift a finger to that scam.

This is why I insist on voting here. I’ll be damned if these shits will drive me out of the electorate of the state where I spent the first ten years of my life. My prospective neighbors in Midtown may not deserve so much civic resolution, but my plants damn well do. Say what you will about California having shitty fiscal stewardship, but never forget that my tax dollars are paying for a top-notch free arboretum, no fence, no wall. Among other things, of course, including the fucking Highway Patrol. But remember this, too: there is no natural law dictating that horticulture worthy of Brazil around the capitol is contingent upon Brazilian socioeconomics throughout the state, and if there is, we can use positive law to repeal it.

I’m not entirely sure that that made sense, but it was far too intelligent for statewide office in California.