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.

Panera Democrats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is our main left-wing party.

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

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

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

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

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

This ain’t no You Pick Two, cracka.

Stick a fork in the Nork Dork

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doing something right for a change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winner: Reality

One has to wonder how some of these names are even possible, how, as they say these days, any of this can be a thing: the former Bruce Jenner, inevitably known to Willie Brown’s street people as “a trans-Jenner!”; Rachel Dolezal, the impressively white (and very White) leader of Spokane’s black Community, which one might expect to exist, or which one might not, but which one certainly wouldn’t expect to see under the leadership of the most powerfully Germanoslavic-looking woman ever to culturally appropriate a cobbled-together West African nom de guerre, a spray-on-tan, and whitey dreads: to wit, a trans-Rachel; an intractably histrionic bull dyke with the most impossibly bad fashion sense enrapturing tens of millions of fools of her own making with impossibly ridiculous driveling nonsense, and doing so under (and very much in) the name of Degeneres, E.

More newsworthy things have happened in Spokane since its founding, but to judge from the trans-racially trans-Rachel shit, the city has finally come to the end of a slow news century. It’s been written that there are many lawyers named Lauren or Lawrence and many dentists named Denise or Dennis. I have no idea whether this is actually the case, since I recall that it was written by David Brooks; meet me at the Applebee’s salad bar, where we shall all be eatin’ good in the deracinated neighborhood. Is any of this real? Is there some surreal cosmic force driving the appearance of these uncanny characters in the public sphere? Are they crisis actors in some elaborately staged hoax? Is someone making all this shit up?

We live in awfully strange times. Many my age, give or take, look back wistfully on the nineties as a simpler, less confusing, more carefree time. Our nineties weren’t gay, but Barney the Dinosaur sure was. For the life of me, I cannot remember where I was when I heard that Kurt Cobain had died, or if I even knew who the hell Cobain was before the lake took him. I do remember where I was when I learned that Tim Russert, unbeknownst to both of us, had bequeathed his own tongue-tied failson on NBC: the Post Exchange at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. #TheMoreYouKnow, bitches. I remember where I was for quite a few things. Few of them, as it happens, were Seinfeld episodes. Maybe it was just my young age, but at the time I found Seinfeld incomprehensibly dry. When I watch bits of the reruns these days, I realize that I underappreciated the show in my childhood and consequently what a total embarrassment Jerry Seinfeld’s standup career is.

Seriously bad shit was going down in the world back then, and some of it was even going down in the United States, but the middle-class Americans who spoke on behalf of all normies were supposedly sheltered from it, not living in Waco and all, and so were able to enjoy nightly half-hour meta-jokes about profoundly frivolous New Yorkers with absolutely no work ethic, ironically played by actors with the powerful work ethics needed to show up consistently for high-volume network television productions, and ones in which they didn’t just play themselves like that sloppy failson bastard Charlie Sheen. Grab a beer and relive with me these glory days, back when Michael Richards had yet to turn from a harmless weirdo with the strongest play ethic on the Eastern Seaboard into an orator of racial screeds fit for the San Diego Trolley, or don’t; beer is too damn expensive for my downwardly mobile ass.

I lived through the nineties, and I did so as lucidly as anyone could have at my age. I remember watching the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings on live daytime television while I was preparing to go on some weekend camping bullshit in Foothill Park. All I could really tell at the time was that the grown-ups found it transfixingly seedy for reasons that probably didn’t reflect too kindly on their maturity; I had yet to be trained in sexual harassment by the VA’s Thomas-approved training video with the dirtbag black Alistair Cooke cutting in every few minutes for a fireside chat. That shit reached me at a level that I understood. Maybe, like Britney Spears, I was not that innocent. Maybe I was an old soul or some shit, too jaded for a project as unserious as Seinfeld. I don’t know. With all my soul, however, This I Believe (TM):

Joey Buttafuoco is living poetry.

More seniors by the sea: spank you for your service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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