Kasich, you uppity bitch

Pittsburgh has a fancy-ass airport express bus, the 28X, to get the fancy highlanders downtown and back in a hurry. The 28X sticks to the busway and the freeway and the mall perimeter and shit (okay, a bit of West Carson, too), in the interest of expediting the good bougie voters with their jobs and all between the islands of good stuff at an adequate altitude above the hardcore flyover country.

Muh fuckin Port Authority 24 Local, tho. What can I say? It came first this afternoon. Hey, that could be a working sociosexual allegory about the riders, too. The poors are certainly said to be less sexually dysfunctional. Giggity. But no kidding, Rogers, there’s some gritty, gritty shit awt there past Mawnt Warshington and the Inclines, dawn in the old mill tawns, and it seems our Buckeye boy Johnny K. didn’t stick arawnd to fix any of it.

When I got into teh dawntawn myself, I double-checked with Google-Fu, and sure enough, that fucker is from McKees Rocks. It’s inconceivable. I’ve seen much, much worse American neighborhoods; McKees Rocks looks poor and seedy but pretty socially functional, maybe even more than average. The bizarre part is that its most famous native son (I have no fucking idea who, if anyone, it’s contributed to our varieties of sportsball) is the Republican presidential candidate who carried Manhattan and only Manhattan. That’s like Sargent Shriver and William F. Buckley running for the presidency and winning only the bad parts of Cincinnati, pretty much just Scott Parlier, Mack the Pipe, and the $20 carside blow-and-go crowd.

I know, I know, that silver-spoon second-generation developer oaf from Queens with the flagship properties in Midtown Manhattan who won all the backwards constituencies in the general election because that crazy bitch smeared the lot of them as comprehensively immoral and implied that they’re all hot-bunking in the same basket.

John Boehner was brought up in even poorer circumstances in an equivalent inner suburb of Cincinnati. The GOP has a real thing about elevating guys who grew up closer to the railroad tracks than they’d have liked and now deplore and look down on their own hometowns. They must bring some bogus air of authenticity to the party’s ongoing campaign to loot the commonweal until it’s flat out of lootables. I’m all too familiar with the self-loathing Staten Islander thing, and I’ve now met that alumni council dipshit with the Hickenlooper-on-steroids Main Liner act and the chip on his shoulder for being from hick-ass Missouri (I’ll shit bricks if it turns out that he’s from Columbia or fucking St. Charles). I’ve basically learned how to deal with the occasional feeling of embarrassment before the normies on account of an early childhood in Palo Alto, and my very aggravating collegiate background has exposed me to plenty of insufferable assholes who use their own proud privilege to shit on anyone and everyone who doesn’t comply with their gross efforts at social control, so I don’t know what the fuck degree of extra latitude I’m expected to accord some toolbox who’s been salty for a decade or five about the petty slights that came from earning consistent six-figure incomes for years on end after an upbringing in a solidly middle-class part of New York City or Joplin, or alternately as Mr. McFeely’s son.

To my knowledge I’m the only party to this bullshit who regularly sleeps in his car. Then again, Palo Alto has to be a much better and likelier place to feel like shit for sleeping in a car as a fully employed and taxpaying member of society than Donner Pass is for doing so as a once again unemployed guy who’s planning to go for a hike after Weekend Edition Saturday. There’s a real failure of perspective here, and it starts to look willful. These shady mofos love them some class restratification and bigotry, with the proviso, of course, that only a bleeding-heart tax-and-spend commie leftist would ever wage class warfare. They don’t want to be on the hook for government services for the losers they or their recent ancestors left behind back home, losers who aren’t necessarily so utterly impoverished or unskilled or dysfunctional and who would tend to converge back on broad middle-class norms with assistance more modest than what the wealthy exurbs routinely demand of their public officials.

An upper middle class and national elite dominated by fifth-generation lawyers who are much because they are Dutch would expose the economic hard right wing to some glaring credibility problems. The hard right will look bad and lose a critical mass of voters if there were obviously no social mobility, and a generationally entrenched, ethnically denominated upper crust would drive home the obvious. (Don’t tell anyone that our current Second Great Depression is making the same point even more grotesquely and horrifically.)

That’s why the GOP enjoys regularly pipelining fresh ethnic talent up from the ranks of Expanding Whitey. What, do you still think we’re all swooping in here from the WASP nest? Why, here’s a wetback’s kid who worked at the family taco stand into his twenties, and here are some other NPR-ready members of Pueblo’s Hispanic Latino community who don’t look too closely at how they closed the mill down and also the bus system is fucking useless, and here’s a shanty kraut with a baker’s dozen of brothers and sisters, and from another few hundred miles up the river, czech it out, here’s a guy who climbed his way out of Hunky Hollow, the point being that every one of these enterprising ethnics believes in our private-sector job creators, and there’s no way that any of them enjoyed a stable home and neighborhood life growing up because dad was a union postal worker.

The great uncrackable nut in this bowl, of course, is America’s established local color, the ones insufficiently blessed by the rains back home. Or, as the drill instructors ask of the new arrivals at the Atlanta Police Academy, do they listen in the Motherland? The Republican Party keeps thinking up and then abandoning schemes to win over African-Americans, but with rare exceptions, the Community doesn’t bite. That’s what happens when partisan hacks use patently insincere and cheap talking points about self-reliance on the one constituency that has most reliably gotten a rough ride in their rodeo; it’s also the last constituency to turn down stable public-sector union jobs, because it knows from painful experience that the alternatives are straight out of hell.

All God’s other colorful people, not to mention everyone who automatically gets the Whitey Sign these days, are useful fodder the GOP’s classic #TCOT argument by anecdote. This includes African immigrants, who presumably become African-Americans while our ethnic rhetoric definitely slouches toward gibberish. No, I don’t mind accusations that I’m more bork than bite. Congress has never refused me the opportunity to rule. Ooh, we’d better airlift the judge to Lehigh Valley, because he just got BURNED.

I can’t blame John Kasich for wanting to move somewhere more prosperous than McKees Rocks or get away from neighbors who live vicariously through the Steelers instead of trying to actualize their own lives. It’s easy to see how an environment like that could get depressing, stifling, and limiting. This is a free country. There’s nothing inherently objectionable about moving somewhere else domestically, or expatriating, for those who feel driven to leave it because they love it. (Muh HRSDC shiznit, eh. *Headdesk* *St. Jean de Brebeuf voice* Oh, you think YOUR eyes hurt after reading all that? Ha!) The dispiriting fourth-turning truth of the matter is that the broad prosperity of postwar Pittsburgh, won at such cost by the unions, was what allowed so many people in the postwar generations to move out into the suburbs and turn into reactionary starve-the-beast nutjobs.

But what’s the problem with reminding Kasich of his own roots? He’d certainly remind me that I was a bougie Palo Alto boy if he caught me saying nice things about socialism and shit. Free market extremism wasn’t what gave Pittsburgh a middle class. Anyone who acts like that was the case is either a lying sack of shit or flaming nuts. Andrew Carnegie was a hideous thug who belatedly made concessions to the employees he deliberately kept in poverty only after they took on his subaltern Frick and their Pinkerton goon squads. A dear friend from Allison Park gave me a blunt assessment of Carnegie’s charitable motivations: late in his life he realized that he was going to hell and wanted to belatedly atone for his depredations in an effort to secure his own salvation. Getting his name plastered on a whole bunch of shit probably didn’t hurt; there are apparently those who get their jollies from such enterprises–say, the current Oaf of Office.

A sensible person has to wonder about someone who was raised on the Allegheny County waterfront in a household headed by a mailman and came away thinking that government and labor unions were the problem. Kasich’s complaints aren’t, like, geez, the city never filled the potholes on our street and that son of a bitch Hoffa was such a racketeering disgrace to the rank and file that I hope they buried him somewhere deep and far away. Having been raised in the stable prosperity nurtured under robust government and high union membership, he’s here to burn some shit down. It’s almost less disturbing if he’s just a garden-variety crook; imagine how sad it would be for a man raised in such an environment to actually believe that smallminded, ungrateful nonsense in the depths of his heart.

True story: I’ve seen Randian RWNJ Republicans brag about their “Pittsburgh Values.” This raises questions, including where in all hell they came up with such an idea. Pittsburgh and quite a few of the nearby older towns are solidly Democratic, anywhere from about 60-75%. There’s an outback of hardcore Republican strongholds surrounding the urban riverfront core and the other Democratic-leaning suburbs (including Castle Shannon, I recall); this outback extends hundreds of miles into the wooded void, practically to the edge of the Main Line and the outskirts of Scranton. But none of this exurban and rural swath is fucking Pittsburgh. “Hey, I’m in Chicago. Okay, I’m actually in Gary. But didn’t that sound nice?”

This is where we get into the realm of Republicans flat-out making shit up. John Boehner is proof of the great opportunity that is America. Look at him, raised by humble kraut barkeepers in a beyond-full house, and he made Speaker. That proves that anyone, with enough hard work and determination, can become the Speaker of the House.

Uh, no it fucking doesn’t. How many speakers does the House have at a time? Hint: the office is called “The Speaker of the House.” (I know, the whole lot of them can’t be induced to stop speaking.) What the hell does Boehner’s success mean even for his own siblings? That’s one position at the top of a national legislative body of only 435, plus some hanger-on delegates from the colonial territories. Not a whole lot of room for contenders there, Brando. Every individual Congressman represents a district of something like 680,000 (look it up for your fucking selves if the precision is that important to you; that’s why we have the internet until next Thursday). That still isn’t awfully many slots for America’s enterprising.

Pathetically, the same people who act like Boehner is a success story for having been so successful in politics, and Kasich too, I guess, if he’s extreme enough for their taste, also get up on their high horses about how the only appropriate venue for job creation is the private sector. They fucking venerate the “job creators” in so many words. What I have to wonder is, if the private sector is so majestic, why don’t they go look for some damn work in it? None of these assholes waxing obnoxious about job creator bullshit in Congress has worked exclusively in the private sector. I have, though. Their fellow travelers in the Randian think tanks and on the opinion pages aren’t a hell of a lot more free-marketed. What in the bloody hell would Megan McArdle have to offer in a competitive free market? Wingnut welfare has many such cases. What self-respecting person who has ever held down a proper summer job would take these useless, bumptious assholes seriously?

If these toolboxes think government is so awful, why do they keep competing for additional terms of paid government employment every two to six years? I’m not over here demanding the abolition of the private sector, and frankly neither is anyone else who isn’t absolutely ridiculous. The fucking Norks barely managed to destroy private enterprise for a few decades, and once the disappearance of their Soviet subsidies along with the dissolution of the USSR blew the shit into their fan, they mostly stopped trying. That’s what the world’s most belligerent and deranged extant totalitarian regime has achieved against the private sector. The infamous Slow Ghomeshi on the American private sector is fictional. To the very small extent that it exists in some greatly attenuated form, much of it is actually the doing of landlord rent extraction. What we hear about, though, is the chronic saltiness of pissant entrepreneurs who think they shouldn’t have to do basic bookkeeping and compliance work instead of getting however shady they damn well fancy come payday and tax time.

Could government be less burdensome and more helpful to small businesses and sole propietorships? Sure. The flip side is that assholes like Joe Dirtbag could start paying their damn sales taxes and stop making up crappy post hoc stories about why they didn’t pay up and shouldn’t have to do their part because reasons. That creep alone blew a good chunk of my goodwill towards the noisy beleaguered entrepreneur with his series of little tax-dodging stunts. I don’t try to buy shit off the books to dodge sales tax, so I don’t appreciate a deadbeat who also doesn’t pay me or anyone else who helps him run the farm cheating the city because reasons.

Let’s not stay so parochial, though. Here’s the Galaxy Brain take: robust government services like the Port Authority and a paid professional fire department can facilitate more private enterprise, not less, by maintaining a functional, reliable public infrastructure that anyone can use without a second thought. That seems to work for the Pittsburgh urban core. The Pittsburgh firefighters’ pension may still be underfunded, but at least the PFD doesn’t have its head up its ass about bringing new hires on board to cut back on the overtime, unlike, say, BART. Then again, BART vs. the Port Authority may well be a case of getting back what we pay in, for what it’s worth. Trolley time isn’t quite make-believe around here, but it’s pretty fucking unintuitive, and its delivery none too speedy.

I’m sure I could find plenty of #TCOT dipshits out in the North Hills and Butler County and shit who assume that the City of Pittsburgh has a private sector every bit as vigorous as Moscow had in the forties, but that’s because our national politics are insane. Our recent habits of stratification and sorting don’t fucking help. Hell, just look at our known Yinzer boy John moving up to Columbus and digging in. He’s got a case of the accent, but it’s too bad he doesn’t have a case of something other than the projectile ignorance of his own hometown’s history to go with it.

At least he won New York, New York. Not Brooklyn, Queens, or the Bronx, and God no, not Staten Island, but our boy from McKees Rocks cracked the cultural barrier of Radio Deluxe Country. That earnest socially climbing dork couldn’t even get a plurality in Allegheny County, and now that I’ve taken the bus through his old neighborhood with a dozen or so neighbors (Hello!), I can’t begin to convey what a glorious thing it is that he carried Manhattan and choked everywhere else. John Kasich is special just the way he is, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful fucking day.

 

Advertisements

Down on the Motherfucking Farm

Strangers often assume that I went to Stanford when they see my ballcap. It’s a fair point, but the cap was a gift. All I feel like saying about the details is that I have some family connections to their old school, not mine, and if these details seem so compelling, you’re free to figure them out for your own damn self. Legacy admission? It ain’t me, lawd, and sweet Jesus it ain’t me with that dang drawl of an acksayant after a chahldhood in El Cerrito and shit.

The colors happen to closely align with those of, you guessed it, *MY OLD SCHOOL*, whose swag I in fact would be ashamed to wear, because *GO DIPLOMATS!* For real, I’m routinely on the verge of buying F&M gear out of pocket just to hurt feelings. As they say on the SEPTA 61 bus, I ain’t gonna do any damage, but I’m gonna cut that bitch. I guess I’ve got an awfully fancy education for someone who’s voluntarily stepped onto the 61, but remember, education isn’t the same thing as intelligence, because it’s only with luck and usually some countermeasures that the two overlap.

The Stanford cap, then, doesn’t embarrass me precisely because I didn’t go there. It seems to be my one good cap these days, the only one that I haven’t stained and halfway worn out with excessive farm work and hiking, and it roughly matches my red sweater, which seems to be my only current sweater, period. Heh. Period. Red. Huh huh. Bunghole de Cornholio. Etc.

The Big Dick again Goes Hard. The manager of a diner outside Pittsburgh just asked me whether that was a Stanford hat. I wasn’t expecting anyone there to have a clue (ooh, did you just get one in the last paragraph? I did, too!). I didn’t catch all of what she told me after I confirmed her guess, but I’m thinking she was probably familiar with Stanford on account of the athletics. This is the school that admitted Chelsea Clinton but actually tries to fill its teams with reasonably literate, cultured, well-mannered youth, so that isn’t the worst reason to come across one’s interest. I don’t like to be the pretentious, arrogant asshole who goes around pronouncing others my intellectual inferiors; let’s just say that it doesn’t sidwell with me; but that smug, dimwitted, Arendt-abusing horse’s ass is my fucking intellectual inferior. Oh, yes, I’m sure she was admitted to her fine alma mater on sole and exclusive account of her academic and personal merit, and that I’m St. Thomas Aquinas.

There’s presumably a socioeconomic level above my parents’ at which legacy admissions start to leaven the matriculant pool, even at the Junior University. Far be it from me to disbelieve in the Steyer Shortcut, the Gates Go-Around (to go around the usual gates!), or the Clinton Cutoff. Hillary’s impertinent comment about how her buddy-old pal Mike Bloomberg is a real billionaire was actually obnoxiously pertinent to her gross worldview and to the no less gross corruption that it infused into her 2016 campaign. That’s a bad sign right there: looking back wistfully on 2008 as a time of Clintonian modesty. Most professional observers seem to think that the Clintons are worth mid to high eight figures, but they obviously punch well above their weight, due to the whole Clintonworld government-access thing (public service my fat white ass), so I consider it reasonable to assume low nine figures as a ballpark. I don’t know what the fuck the Trumps are worth, maybe more, maybe less, but they’ve got the presidency now, so regardless of how deep that clown crew is into debt, it’s golden for generations now, and for roughly the same reasons that the Clintons are.

The rich aren’t different from you and me and the Sanderses just because they have more money. That sounds nice, but it just isn’t so. Bernie and Jane have basically the same middle-class values as any number of doctors, nurses, cops, electricians, railroad engineers, and engineer engineers. A combination of thrift, decent luck in the housing market, and high earnings boosts plenty of people into a net worth in the low millions by retirement age. It’s harder for most people today than it was in the midcentury (thanks, guys!), but it still isn’t out of the question for young people who have high earnings and low debt, especially low student debt. (Of course, the relative percentages can still get bad enough to fuck a society up, and we’re already there.)

The Clintons were on track to top out as fairly run-of-the-mill yuppie shitheads, probably in the low millions, until that irresistibly charming little mischiefmaker with the infamously wandering schlong wormed his way into the presidency against an opposition divided between Giant Sucking Sound and Message I Care. That was when Billary was able to diversify from mercenary law, commodities speculation, and two-bit Arkie real estate cons into the good stuff. Wee Billy got the two of them into some legal debt towards the end of the administration by upsetting Gateside Downlow, J. Denny Dundiddly, Friar Dorkemada, and the whole crew with that little something-something with the plump Jewess, but that was perfectly easy and quick to overcome. They were the fucking Clintons. Retired from the White House, they were also freed from the meddlesome, sexually preoccupied oversight of their enemies in Congress, who incidentally cast aspersions on them for their seedier stunts, like their Lincoln Bedroom payola guesthouse deal.

The Clintons have successfully slashed and burned their way into a rarefied stratum in which the prevailing values get really warped and grotesque. Theirs have always been shit, even for the least reputable and most amoral swath of yuppies, but since their time in the White House, or at the latest a few months after their departure, they’ve been wealthy enough to amass riches halfway commensurate with their own avarice. Okay, half is probably a huge exaggeration, but I don’t feel like showing up out of nowhere with a word like “hundredthway.”

This is not a normal environment. The ambient levels of irresponsibility and unaccountability are stunning. Most financial millionaires have regular contact on a more or less equal basis with normal people from a fairly wide swath of the socioeconomic spectrum. They have no real choice in the matter, even it they’d like one: if they tried to buy their way out of this exposure to reality, they’d quickly go broke and ruin themselves. By somewhere around the Clintons’ level, the wealthy are able to permanently surround themselves with servants and sycophants, to bully or directly buy their way out of legal trouble, and generally secede from real life. Most financial millionaires would be aghast if they peeked inside.

A normal, healthy, sensible, well-balanced person would realize by somewhere in the mid-seven figures of net worth that that’s enough money to live securely and well, that more money might be helpful but that the existing foundation is rock solid and it’s worth giving some thanks. Billionaires, at least public ones, never seem content to enjoy their fucking money. They keep butting into our business. The DeVoses have their charter school hobbyhorse, while the Gateses lit a fire under everyone’s ass about Common Core. Hizzoner Michael Bloomberg couldn’t help himself when the poories upset him by drinking too much soda. Sheldon Adelson strives to be God. Tom Steyer has a compulsion to somehow unseat Donald Trump. Various obscenely rich shitheads like to get up on their high horses about bogus schemes like the flat tax.

What’s striking about Donald Trump in this context is his modesty. He didn’t claim a right to rule the rest of us on account of his wealth or credentials. He laid out a platform, incoherent and contradictory though it was, and encouraged Americans to give him a shot. When he did refer to his own wealth, it was often to admit that he knew the whole game was rigged because he’d worked it and watched it from the inside. If any rich jerk showed up on the political scene without an air of entitlement, it was Trump. This was refreshing.

Hillary Clinton sure as hell didn’t do that. Her entire campaign was premised on the assumption that everyone had a solemn duty to vote for her because she was the most qualified person in the race, how can you possibly not see that, and also a woman, you misogynistic prick. Between these pretensions and the Bernie ratfuck, she forfeited every possible residual bit of goodwill on the part of a huge-ass swath of the voters she needed to win the general election.

The class angle only made her look worse. She screwed over an opponent who was a normal guy with ambitions as normal as any presidential candidate’s and then made that crass comment about how her buddy Bloomberg was a real billionaire, in contrast to the poseur Trump. Okay, but what the fuck is that supposed to mean? I didn’t figure that Trump was a real billionaire myself, or that he necessarily had a positive net worth, but he looked less arrogant and more public-spirited than Hillary, who came with plenty of disreputable family baggage of her own. The possibility that a famous blowhard was bullshitting us about his wealth wasn’t going to cost him my vote under circumstances that included the grotesque corruption, rapacity, and spite of his main opponent.

The ruling class had obviously decided that Trump was a usurper; the bias was unmistakable. Watching him be accused of being worth less than he claimed, i.e., not totally loaded, just super loaded, didn’t help the bipartisan establishment’s case. For the same reasons, it was totally whatthefuckular to watch these stuck-up pieces of shit throw under the bus a normal guy with a normal wife who got along great with normal people and really appeared to feel a genuine respect for them, and then publicly suck up to this droning billionaire nutrition busybody whose shtick is basically to accuse poor people of being slovenly, ill-disciplined, and fat.

The kicker here, of course, was that Trump, uniquely among billionaires of whatever actual net worth, seemed to relish mixing it up with the little people and to maybe be sincere about having their best interests at heart. It’s hard not to wonder what the hell the Democrats thought they’d accomplish with this line of attack. “Oh, that rich piece of shit you deplorables are supporting from your basket? Yeah, well, he isn’t actually a stuck-up, out-of-touch rich guy; he just plays one on TV! Suckers!” That quite nicely complemented the Democratic stance that maybe he doesn’t hate the shit out of you and want you to all die, but we sure do.

This is the same crowd that acts like Americans still admire Warren Buffett and love him long-time for being a famous billionaire. What the fuck, y’all. Socialism is becoming more popular because the economy has been ruined by and at the direction of the very wealthy and an increasing number of us would rather leave less of the total wealth in the clammy hands of some miserly old cunt who takes his grandchildren out to Dairy Queen and acts like he doesn’t know the McDonald’s menu when NPR is along for the ride even though he claims to get his morning Egg McMuffin there every day. Yes, we and/or the government would spend Warren Buffett’s money better.

These rimjobbers are all like, oh, but he still lives in an old house in Omaha. Uh, yeah, BFD, homeys. Bully to that Congressman’s son for buying railroads and shit. Anybody working in the Union Pacific dispatch center is more admirable and useful than that, and Nebraska is also home to the Drought Monitor crew and Irakli Loladze. Who’s next up as an exemplar of heartland values? Sexy male code enforcement officer Lynn Rader? Our old boy Bill Thomas did all right for a fellow who never really left Wichita.

This is the kind of shit we get under leadership that can’t imagine anyone whose interests aren’t dominated by the doings of overhyped rich blowhards and the faint possibility of someday personally becoming filthy rich. Okay, let’s check in from New York on the part of the country where they still have morals and stuff and see what’s doing. Oh, cool, here’s some sermonizing geezer who owns BNSF and doesn’t treat his own children to lunch at Denny’s because he’d be expected to tip.

Stanford pulled the same shit with my Chinese-made hat. A guy passing me on a trail in Nevada City (yup, Wow Much Travels) called out, “Go Tree!” He assumed, reasonably enough, that it was my school as well as his. Yeah, well, Tree ain’t got the roots to support no American textile jobs. From my perspective, a cap is a cap as long as it doesn’t rep Dickinson (I am NOT doing free advertising for those shitheels), but that’s a funny situation for marketing swag for a school whose endowment is well into the tens of billions of dollars.

Will anyone at Stanford stand up to this and ask the development and licensing people, for the sake of decency and community, to have their marketing shiznit made in the USA? Not bloody likely. As Tom Friedman has told them at such tendentious anecdotal length, globalization is good for everyone who deserves good things and also inevitable and shit. It’s why olive farmers in the West Bank all own Lexuses. Every harvest is a December to Remember. Surely the cabbies who always have such interesting, and I do mean uninteresting, things to say to him wouldn’t tell Ami little fibs.

True MAGA, then, isn’t in buying some F&M swag off the shelf, but in hand-stitching and embroidering that shiznit all bespoke-like. Don’t count on my ever doing that, since I don’t have the best follow-through, but don’t count me entirely out, either. Firehat cross-stitched a Fuck Yo Titties doily, so there’s a precedent. Mine, I guess, is Fuck Yo College. I can’t afford to move back to Palo Alto on my own steam after what Stanford has done to the Mid-Peninsula, nay, the entire Bay Area, but I can afford some damn needles and thread, and God knows I’ve usually got the time.

Steamertown USA

All the little kids growing up on the skids say, hey, what’s wrong with him? My sleep patterns, mainly. On alternating nights I’ve been jarred awake by a Next-Gen 737 with surprisingly bad pressurization at 0500 Central and a conductor telling me that we were coming into Cleveland at 0525 Eastern. In the intervening night I slept, no joke, from about four in the afternoon until nine the next morning, with an eleven o’clock snack break for the remainder of a bag of chili lime cashews and some coffee. This is not normal, so what the hell do any of you expect of me?

Cleveland isn’t quite as fucked up as it should be, but it isn’t in great shape, either. It manufactured more stuff back when the fire department had to put out the river, so that much is a mixed blessing, but it’s since fallen into quite a bit of neoliberal marketeering horseshit: a casino in Terminal Tower, the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, a bus called the HealthLine. Meanwhile I couldn’t find a ticket vending machine in the light rail station by the Amtrak depot, which is out by not much more than a dumbass science museum and a wind turbine even though I was on the only train that comes through after, like, three in the morning (surely one must be lonely!). I ended up entering the station backwards and walking out through a gate that had been left open all night. What is this, a Prince number from “Twilight Zone: The Musical?” I’ve been on a shitload of mass transit systems, and I don’t think that would have been normal had I been normally awake.

The Amtrak schedules can’t help, and neither can the condition of the Amtrak depot, but the state of Ohio never seems interested in subsidizing additional service at less fucked up hours of the day. I don’t entirely get the state-level politics behind these decisions, e.g., why Michigan has kept up its Amtrak subsidies, but there’s probably a strong class, racial, and political fuckery angle here. As a body politic, the suburbanites really have it in for Cleveland and Cincinnati, where there be Negroes. Other sorts of po’ folk, too, and Democrats. I believe it was Parma that was for a time the largest city in the United States without a mass transit system. Cleveland and Cincinnati have really neat urban cores, definitely neater than Columbus, but the political and business interest in investing in them is spotty and flaky. Hence light rail stations that look like they were abandoned by a late-stage Polish politburo that didn’t think to turn off the lights. Hence, also, all the tourist trap gimcrackery.

This bullshit was a long time coming. The most exquisite description I’ve heard of Cleveland in the sixties, from my mom, was that the blacks on the East Side and the Slavs on the West Side periodically squared off in race riots while the Italians and the Jews looked on. I can’t help but admire the diaspora Joel/Fischer/Buttafuoco crowd for treating that as a spectator sport. My uncle really should have married an Italian girl. What’s wrong with the Italians complements what’s wrong with the Jews, which complements what’s wrong with the Italians in return, while the Jews and the Poles are too busy with their semi-Semitic bum fight to compliment one another. *Very Temple Clinger Suburban Pollack Voice* Whoop Whoop Compliment. Nah, I shouldn’t be so harsh on that spergy mofo: I’ve never gotten any indication that he understands Jews as a concept, and he’s unfiltered enough that if he did he’d surely have something ridiculous to say about them on Facebook.

Or about us, since I’m Jewish enough for Hitler, and my self-loathing Jew of an uncle with the Polish/Shanty Mick wife doubly so. She’s the one I’ve sometimes been tempted to tell that I’d seen her possible paternal relatives from Staten Island at Hersheypark, but I think they were Black Irish.

#RaceTogether, bitch. The Dirty Dog will be here to pick me up soon enough and I’m already Too Very Online, so until we convene again, full steam abreast!

Advent for assholes

Sure enough, Dickinson Fucking College got in on Giving Tuesday. That crew never misses an opportunity to forcibly board a bandwagon and chase the almighty dollar. I know about this because I’m on the junk mailing lists. That isn’t why I signed up. I meant to stay abreast of events that might be worth attending and in touch with cool people, not constantly pestered for alms that I’d sooner give the Dunkin’ Doorman and, when I do show up at alumni events, gang-dissed by the most condescending shitheads on earth. They’ve got plenty of people other than me in their donor pool whose affluence is matched only by their vanity, but to call them out of the woodwork they have to blast everyone with their happy horseshit, and all who wander into range walk away dirtied.

Mind you, the Dunkin’ Doorman is still a reliable pain in the ass and a low funding priority, but he compares well. The only way I’ve gotten mixed up with him is by going into the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street from the Atlantic City bus station, and that means that there are two or three fine styles of ride ready to whisk me the fuck out of there at all hours of the day and night, and an even finer style of ride out past the outlets and the convention center. Dickinson collects the very worst people on the Main Line in a remote municipality that might as well not have mass transit. As New Jerseyans go, the Dunkin’ Doorman is a big improvement over the two Italian asshats at our table at alumni weekend, including a guy who was method-acting Rudy Giuliani. Those pushy, condescending motherfuckers didn’t need three minutes to set my feelings about the Italians back a century and a quarter. Instead of belittling me for not being a gung-ho fuckjob about our alma mater and dubiously referring verbatim to Dickinson’s increased “diversity,” which they barely were not, they ought to be quietly and humbly grateful that their wop-ass ancestors weren’t sent back to Sicily, just as I’m grateful that my grandfather wasn’t sent back to Russia for being a kike.

Okay, to England. Cheerio, cunts!

The Dunkin’ Doorman has never thought less of me for being the only whitey in the shop; he thinks less of me because I’m a jerk who won’t buy him a coffee. We judge one another by the content of our character, and I do mean judge. God bless America. As I insist, he’s one annoying son of a bitch, and I don’t seem to be the only person who feels that way, but at least he doesn’t constantly hector me about how a college education that has already cost my parents something like $140 for every day that I was present on campus is worth even more. Haven’t they already coughed up enough for that shit? How are the returns on an endowment principle of over $400 million plus enough to tuition per full-fare student to buy a nice house somewhere sensible not enough to keep that fucking joint afloat? Like public broadcasting, these needy assholes just need to suckle at every possible tit. The Dunkin’ Doorman wouldn’t mind doing that himself, and muscling in on some nonconsensual kaffeeklatsch in the process, but he’s a loser trying to get by in the ghetto (in the ghetto), not a fabulously well endowed college with a rather affluent parent and alumni base.

The faculty, who actually worth a damn, aren’t all stacking mad cash from that gig, but Bill Durden was worth something like $7 million and a free mansion. The general problem here is that charitable organizations are allowed to pay their executives whole multiples of the maximum pay grades available to career civil servants and still maintain their tax-exempt status, no questions asked. The specific problem is that Bill Durden’s fair market value crashed to parity with the Dunkin’ Doorman’s by 2004 at the latest, and then he got involved in a criminal conspiracy involving the college police department and at least two of its very bad cops. Dickinson could have rotated up any number of career faculty members who wouldn’t have wasted our attention telling longwinded bullshit stories about our dear intersectional Founding Fathers and would have been more likely than Durden to promptly clean house at DPS. Instead they recruited an over-the-top Mr. Chips dipshit who evolved into an ever more bizarre caricature of himself. Instead of putting someone accountable in the job, they tolerated a president who obfuscated and lied his way out of a serious crisis that was one whistleblower complaint to outside investigators away from possibly getting him criminally indicted.

What do Durden’s smitten alumni say? Oh, I know you feel he shouldn’t have done that, but he really improved the college’s standing. How can we fire Holtzclaw? His stats are great. Jerry Sandusky: An Appreciation of the Winningest Coach in the Conference. Put me in; I’m ready to play! How can we remove Bill Clinton from office? He’s a liberal! (He damn well is not.)

The Durd’s followers don’t consider the Darlington/Sexton/Fazio clusterfuck a dealbreaker, if they’ve heard of it, because they’re followers in a full-blown cult. Their precious college has a higher calling that putting an immediate stop to criminal wilding on its private police force. It has a higher calling than disclosing the scope of its campus police powers and activities as dictated by federal law. Let’s not die on these piddling hills. Let’s be prestigious instead.

Hence the Giving Tuesday appeal from *MY OLD SCHOOL*. This is where we get into even deeper, more pervasive cult brainwashing. Our national observances of the seasons keep crashing through false floors into ever-deeper circles of hell. We’ve long had Thanksgiving as an observance of late fall, and we’ve longer had Christmas and New Year’s Day as observances of winter. So far, so good. Jesus in fact is not the reason for the season. That’s cheap reactionary authoritarian horseshit. If you want to find Christianity in these pages, scroll back through the archives to the cat stuff. I’m not here to spit out comprehensive apologetics in defense of Christian-occult syncretism, and frankly these pages suffer from a 1:1,312 ratio of cat stuff to Northside Juice and the Shady Blues memes, give or take some math, and some professional standards. From the start, Christmas celebrations incorporated hella pagan imagery and rituals. The old pagans were into some deep shit involving the natural world, and so were the early Christians and the ancient Israelites.

The commercialization of the holiday season isn’t just atrocious Christianity; it’s also atrocious paganism. It’s an utter deracination from everything true and profound and edifying, a stupefying, literally goddamned waste. It is carefully crafted to alienate us from ourselves, our communities, any spirituality that we might discern, and our past, an elaborate, unceasing Bernaysian mindfuck. One could write off the bulk of Rod Dreher’s commentary as the theocratic nonsense of the religiously preoccupied and still be completely convinced that he’s absolutely right about the Benedict Option. Anyone from any tradition that values wisdom or independence of mind cherishes refuges from this hideous onslaught. I’m able to tolerate the hopped-up Christmas schmaltz that they’re playing in this Starbucks only because I’ve gone borderline insensate and need a wifi connection.

This shit has nothing to do with Christ or Christianity and hardly a thing to do with winter as any halfway attentive and perceptive person experiences it. It’s marketing copy in a society whose marketing copy has gone haywire. It wasn’t long ago, well within the time that I’ve been old enough to appreciate these things, that Black Friday was an obscure bit of retail industry shorthand, a term that a person not directly involved with retail would have known. It crept into the loudmouth business media around the turn of the millennium, and then the marketeers decided that it was the ticket to goad reluctant consumers into Stakhanovite overdrive.

If retailers’ business models were so shitty that they operated in the red for eleven months of the year, it’s hard to see how that was their customers’ problem; maybe they should have sold stuff that was somehow worth buying instead. But it is our problem now; they’ve made it our problem. They’ve programmed us to respond like Pavlov’s dogs to discounts on the shit they’re hawking.

Black Friday was historically the first big revenue day because Americans had the basic reverence to spend Thanksgiving doing something other than trampling their neighbors in doorbuster frenzies. This disappointed the marketeers, so they started conditioning the most programmable of us to desecrate Thanksgiving Day itself by excusing ourselves from family dinners, if we even went in the first place, with the most rapaciously venal profanity. They conditioned us to spend one of our most treasured national feast days camping out in front of department stores, waiting on arbitrary opening hours and artificial scarcities that had been calibrated for maximum operant conditioning.

Thanksgiving had always been one of our civic jubilee Sabbaths, a day when Denny’s would be open, as America’s Diner Always Is, but Best Buy would not. As Black Friday celebrations were instituted with ratcheting aggression, Thanksgiving became yet another day that retail employees could no longer expect their bosses to allow them some rest. Compulsory Sabbath observance was a huge labor-left agenda item back in the day; that’s why there’s no Sunday mail delivery. The US Mail is worth delivering on some kind of prompt and regular basis, but instead of 365-day mail delivery, we have assholes shoving each other on Thanksgiving night to get to the last discount flatscreen TV.

We’d have to move into monasteries to get away from this profanation of our high holidays. It isn’t just Black Friday anymore. We started hearing about Cyber Monday, when sheltered dipshits with cushy office jobs spend company time buying Christmas presents instead of thinking about how they wouldn’t gross one red cent picking fruit piecerate if they spent the day diddling around on their phones (you’re welcome), and then the me-too fringe constituencies that were jealous of all the attention big business was hogging started muscling in with their own official marketing days. Now we have Small Business Saturday and Giving Tuesday. What, pray tell, about the other 363 (or 364!) days of the year that might be available to shop at small businesses or give to charity? Shut up and pay up, asshole.

Dickinson College certainly doesn’t mind using the other 363. If they think there’s some milk to be had, they’re yanking the udder. Far be it from them not to pull that titty, or to ask permission before reaching for mine. As I said, they wouldn’t be able to call forth all the vain shitheads to give alms if they were humble, modest, or considerate.

This sort of invective rubs quite a few people the wrong way. They react to it as the ranting of killjoys. Who am I to be the bitch to kill their vibe? Who died and made me king of anything? Shit, Bareilles is weird as fuck, but she’s better than any of the assholes getting the heavy rotation on easy listening/Top 40 radio this time of year. If you’re listening to it, it’s for you, and if you’re listening to that, you’re one of the programmable ones.

I seek to kill that vibe because it sucks, to cure what’s deep inside my nation, frightened of the cost of airfare to Nairobi. Toto memes have nothing on what passes for Christmas music these days for sheer Potemkin Village idiocy. Bear in mind that I’m not complaining about anyone trying to give thanks, to be still and observe and contemplate the winter so as to understand it more deeply, or for that matter to meet basic material needs; far from it. But the holidays have been perverted into a full month of avarice and ingratitude, an orgy of thoughtless greed. I’m tempted to call it parochial, but this spirit is far too narrow to give a moment’s thought to the needs of an entire parish. The schmaltzy shit they’re playing at Starbucks, and I don’t feel like investigating how many other chain stores, has nothing to do with any of the deep truths of the season, let alone of life in general; it’s muzak engineered to deaden the mind and condition what we used to call citizens to spend more money on consumer goods that they don’t need while their poor neighbors, who still exist even in a society as fabulously wealthy as the United States, go without and are further marginalized into an even more humiliating existence.

Maybe, just maybe, the poor wouldn’t have such a hard time of it if the affluent and, to be even bolder, the shitbirds in the marketing departments conceded that there is some virtue to fasting and being still. Don’t say that it will never happen, but do realize that it’s a tall order, one requiring the reassertion of a long-lost independence of mind and civic courage. Thomas Jefferson, for all his grotesque flaws, damn well hoped that we’d turn out better than this as a nation. That’s why I’m Extremely Online, vomiting forth the liberal arts that I had to steal the time to study when I was in college. Tom Wolfe, as channeled by Jojo and Hoyt, was right: there is no such thing, for we are all slaves. Except for that dork Gellin and anyone who thinks he’s Patton for just for fucking up a rogue Chippie’s face in a street fight. Funny thing: that little beef wasn’t written up as a police discipline problem, either. Wolfe has a keen finger on our arrhythmic pulse.

You’re probably going to have to find your own way this holiday season, just as I have, and for uncountable seasons to come. We’ve got a whole shitload of operant conditioning to deprogram. America has come to be a society that abhors independent thought, even in its universities. The church halls used to be the bigger problem here, but lately there’s been more civics holding religion accountable than there has been informing education or civics itself. If nothing else, we have another month of hellish music having nothing to do with things of God and little to do with things of wintertime to suffer. We might have better Christmas music, even Christian music, but the marketing departments wouldn’t approve. I’m convinced that Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” has saved Londoners and Seattleites from winter suicides. I know, a lot of good it did the drunkard herself, and it’s only a strong hunch, but this is America, so that’s the least bizarre thing you’re allowed to believe without evidence. Great bell section, tho. It isn’t natural law that keeps our honest music so obscure; it’s privately administered positive law. Not that Americans are raised to consider that corporations can exercise any sort of tyranny, mind you.

So all I can offer in closing, on this day that we learned of Garrison Keillor’s pianissimo firing for workplace perv (writers alma knock it off, am I right?), is to note that we once again have Roy Orbison singing for the horny, and to offer what Nicolae Ceausescu counseled in his farewell address to his people:

Step into Christmas before Christmas steps into you.

Death cult

The Democratic Party’s awesome corruption, contempt for its own voters, and dysfunction as an opposition might be amusing if the major party opposite it weren’t an absolute horror show. We, the people to which the elected are answerable, were denied a decent choice among the two viable presidential candidates last year.

For that reason alone I’m unmoved by all the apoplexy directed at third-party voters who refused to be sheepdogged. Clinton as the only bulwark against Trump was a fucking disgrace, and so, increasingly so as his administration unfolds, was Trump as the only bulwark against Clinton. I seriously considered voting for Trump before bunking down on the Stein Steamer for the last week or two, and I probably would have voted for him had I been registered in a swing state. A close Republican friend of mine voted for Gary Johnson in spite of the “What is Aleppo?” moment, which appalled him, because he believed that Trump was a usurper of the party’s leadership. Another Republican friend told me, “I voted for Clinton and immediately felt bad about it afterwards.” Both of these guys are lifelong Pennsylvanians, so it was other, more downmarket, sorts who got the Trump Train over the hill there. They both have politics that I’m sure would be harmful to the country if scaled up, but they’re true class acts, and I was especially offended by the prospect of the reluctant Clinton voter believing that he had no option but to support someone he abhorred because the only alternative looked even worse.

I don’t think it’s too much to demand that politicians offer us a positive reason to show up and vote for them. If voters individually conclude that the best thing they can do with their vote is to support the least of the evils, I’m fine with that, but I don’t take well to being ordered how to vote. Nope, that’s my decision to make as an individual, because the franchise is granted to the individual, as I’ve been arguing since 2004, when friends in the Newman Club were advancing what amounted to the collectivization of the franchise on behalf of the Catholic Church. I take my individual duty as a voter seriously and go into it as maturely and well-informed as I can; if other individual voters are frivolous or ignorant in their voting habits, that ain’t my damn problem. I don’t mind positive arguments on behalf of a candidate I despise and distrust, even Hillary, but barking at me how to vote? Fuck off, champ.

It’s surprising in retrospect that I caught such flak from establishment Democrats for withholding my vote from Abuela and none from Magaland, which was teeming with creepy authoritarians. I guess it was because I was an apostate from the Democratic Party cult (which I had never actually joined in the first place; I had compelling policy reasons to campaign for John Kerry). It’s easy to lose sight of what a recent development the incursion of cult authoritarians into the mainstream of the Democratic Party has been. Historically, the Democrats have been the undisciplined, disorganized, easy-come easy-go party, repeatedly floundering before the Republican war machine. Funny thing, though: when they tried to go full Churchill on every Republican beach last year, they fucking choked.

What is “Wisconsin?”

One of the morals here is that it’s really tricky to fight fire with fire. Voters figured the Democrats were out to burn them, too, and that if they wanted that they’d have taken a creepy firebug ex-lover in Spanaway. That’s barely on topic, but it’s more fun than anything you’ll hear from the centrists, and you’d be a brame fool to think otherwise. No, the Democratic Party is not, dare we say, sound. This prattle will end when it feels like ending, and it’s still going to show the perezidential faction to be a bunch of out-of-touch retards. *Shit. Shit. Shit.* Voters may trust a campaign that’s businesslike if has a decent conception of the public business (Sanders), but we don’t much care for a campaign that can’t take a joke, can’t make a joke, and treats us, the constituents it’s trying to win, as the joke. That’s why it’s generally a good thing when the candidate who goes on Ellen to do the nae-nae loses, and to resalt that beautiful wound, yes, Virginia, she fucking lost.

But to what? That’s the sick part. I was eager to give the Donald the benefit of the doubt, a chance to show that he was governing in the public interest. Maybe the honeymoon lasted longer than it should have, but it’s looking pretty bad now. Trump got over the top by appealing to distressed, disgruntled workaday voters with gushing talk of populist restraints on big business. By this standard alone, ignoring all the civil liberties and due process violations of his administration (especially on immigrants), he’s a failure. He was not elected to have some corporate shitbird at the FCC repeal net neutrality rules. That did not happen.

Steve Bannon, for all his faults, has been out for months, and with him his advocacy for a more cohesive core American society. The social fabric has been fraying so badly and for so long that someone had to step in and point the way towards its reinforcement. Bannon filled a void that the neoliberal corporatocracy deliberately created. Having the hubris to assume that such a vacuum is sustainable doesn’t make it so, and sure enough, it’s a vacuum no more. Natural law enforces itself in due course of time, and Bannon happened to be the instrument closest at hand when that time came.

But, again, he’s out, so positive law and military-industrial complex hubris are back. And Bannon led just one of several bickering factions within the Trump administration, the rest of them flagrantly venal. GOP establishment crooks were never going to do anything good for the country, and neither were a Stepford Wife like Ivanka, the inbred Don-Don and Eric duo, and the ridiculous Anthony Scaramucci in the family business and cronies faction. This is presumably why we keep business separate from family.

Then there’s Donald Trump’s own raging bigotry. The guy isn’t just foul; he actually looks insane.

Ronald Reagan dogwhistled to the worst elements of the Hard South by starting his 1980 campaign with a speech on states’ rights in Mississippi, the Clintons dogwhistled more subtly but also more destructively, and even Mocha Haole crudely played the good cop to the usual squad of bad cops in his efforts at Community policing, but no matter how vile they were, they had a strong appearance of self-control, of not entirely believing their own bullshit. They were deploying talking points to pander to evil but influential elements of the electorate, so there was at least a faint hope that they might be won over to less evil stances if the political winds shifted or towards discreet moderation if they were given some cover.

Trump, in stark contrast, is constantly fuming unfiltered about the craziest, most reprehensible chain e-mail urban legends and news-talk hoaxes. If he didn’t actually believe this shit, he wouldn’t carry on about it on a social media account that he personally operates. This is separate from his habit of dissing other celebrities and politicians. This is the shit everyone’s deranged, dubiously employable uncle does. Pandering to bigots is reprehensible, but it’s a rational response to bad incentives, so strong counterincentives can be used to limit it. This is different. The highest elected official in the land is constantly mouthing off with his schizoid delusions of persecution. The fucking President of the United States of America is acting like all the paranoid authoritarian assholes who go on Twitter to report leftist shitposters to the Secret Service account and post pictures of Jeff Sessions under the caption “Court is in Session.” (Wrong: he’s just the AG, dumbass; his own horrified colleagues shot down his bid for that federal judgeship.)

This is a crisis of leadership far worse than impulsive rudeness. It isn’t just bad manners. It isn’t just a breach of horseshit Sorkinian norms. It’s a genuine governing crisis. The chief executive of an imperial juggernaut of over three hundred million residents is showing overt signs of mental incompetency and incapacitation. Worse, the batshit insane behavior in question has been normalized, in large part because the president himself is allowed to engage in it without consequence. Congress has not brought articles of impeachment against him on the basis that he’s behaving rashly and belligerently towards innocent parties and blatantly out of his goddamn mind.

But why would it? Trump is the first Fox News president (as well as the first Extremely Online president), but his party, which controls Congress, loves it some Fox News. If they’re comfortable showing their hand so promiscuously, it’s probably because they’ve already normalized every noxious thought process and behavior in question and assume that their constituents consider it all equally normal.

Fume all you like about Trump, because the bottom line is that he’d be neutralized if he were presiding opposite a Democratic or hostile Republican Congress. If Congress actually took an adversarial stance towards him (as so longwindedly encouraged in so many of our nation’s founding documents) he’d be a mere nuisance, and he might well no longer be in office. Congress has the authority to remove the President, whose very title of office was chosen by the framers of the Constitution to convey its tenuousness. The president merely presides over the government from the executive branch; he does not reign or command. The framers hoped that Congress wouldn’t frivolously or lightly remove presidents from office, but they also made it explicit that they considered it a congressional duty to hold presidents accountable as coequal officials, not be subservient to their majesty. Congress obviously has the constitutional prerogative and duty to impeach and remove unfit presidents. If a critical mass of its members determine that the sitting President is unfit for office, they’re completely within their rights to haul his ass up to Capitol Hill and say, listen, dipshit, you do not get an entire term to act like a fucking shit-flinging paranoid schizophrenic in public, because that is not within the scope of your office.

As so often is the case, hardly anyone in power actually gives a shit about principles or norms. Trump’s bizarre outbursts have been so normalized on the right that they’re hardly even an embarrassment to his fellow Republicans. Let’s not kid ourselves: Clinton got impeached by Democrats for being an embarrassment and by Republicans (including our old boy J. Denny Dundiddly) for being a cheap and easy target, so if the GOP Congressional Caucus decides that his bullshit has gotten tiresome and off-brand for the party, they know where to find the levers to catapult his ass back to Mar-a-Lago.

The Republican Caucus tolerates Trump because he and his people cooperate with their grotesque, brazen agenda of nihilistic evil. That’s what the Republican Party has become. Formerly a party of stewards, it is now a party of murderers, rapists, slavers, kidnappers, and vandals. Reagan had a vindictively destructive side, especially vis-à-vis labor unions, and this was excruciatingly ironic and hypocritical for a former SAG president, but even at his worst, shitcanning PATCO en masse and standing back while private capital busted meatpackers’ unions across the Midwest, he was positively restrained and public-spirited compared to those who have come after him in his name.

It’s never the real pirates who hoist the Jolly Roger. We’ve mentioned net neutrality already. Ajit Pai and his crew are obviously out to help the trusts shake down the public for access to infrastructure that was funded and built by DARPA. The Republicans are the ones who tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a working replacement, endangering the lives of sick infants, special-needs patients, and every other medically vulnerable population that the Republican Party’s own sincerely pro-life constituency spends its own energy and treasure protecting to the best of its ability. It’s overwhelmingly Republican politicians who have sandbagged Medicaid expansion at the state level and tried to repeal it at the federal level.

It’s the GOP, inevitably, that is now trying to force through its fresh hell of a tax “reform” bill. Student interest will no longer be deductible, but private jet costs will. This is more nihilism. The Republicans are up on their burn down the ivory tower bullshit again. Anti-intellectualism generally comes from a place of nihilism, and this crew is really vicious about it. They aren’t looking to oversee federal grants to universities more closely; they’re looking to force an already grievously indebted alumni population even deeper into crushing student debt and indiscriminately cut off grant funding wherever they can out of spite.

There are a couple of huge problems here. First, the student debt: 44 million Americans carry student debt, a number eerily close to the 46 or so million who were reported as going without medical insurance during the Clinton Administration. If lenders are in trouble with this class of debt because it’s bad (they in fact are not, and it isn’t), why the hell isn’t it their problem for not having done due diligence? Unsecured loans to people with no apparent marketable skills and no personal assets based on unpredictable future earnings? It’s no wonder the lenders leaned on Congress, including Delaware charlatan Uncle Joe, to exclude student loans from federal bankruptcy protections. This way they get to skip the risk and skim the interest, which is usurious enough to cover a hell of a lot more delinquency than has hit the market so far.

More broadly, though, there’s the nihilism of trying to burn down the academy because it happens to harbor some people one finds annoying, antagonistic, and, supposedly, not adequately useful to society. If we’re looking for jawboning wankers who have no marketable skills, there’s no reason to go on a damn college tour when there’s a Metro Station and long-distance passenger rail and bus terminal a couple of blocks from the US Capitol. Do these assholes have any sense of irony?

Sure, there are wankers and bullshitters in academia. No shit, Sherlock. Anyone who pays attention to federal expenditures, though, knows that they’re marginal, mostly harmless, and kept afloat at a relatively inconsequential public expense. They could be working on the F-35 clusterfuck instead, or riding the maritime demolition derby circuit with the Seventh Fleet.

Must we actually throw the baby out with the bathwater by collectively punishing entire universities just to spite a few losers in humanities cul-de-sacs who are already regarded as embarrassing ne’er-do-wells by their more rigorous and accomplished peers? By Paul Ryan’s reckoning, we most certainly must. That pig-ignorant thieving piece of shit won’t be happy unless we, generally his intellectual superiors, are made to feel pain for no reason. Does that fucker have a science or math background? Does he know how to do long division?

A reasonable response of good faith to concerns about government waste would be to go up to Capitol Hill and hand out 7-Eleven applications. That’s where most of Congress would be working if they had gotten ahead in life by their own merits, assuming they hadn’t been fired years ago. The brightest bulbs don’t go into politics, certainly not in a political climate as ridiculous as ours today. The least we can demand of them is that they have the humility to recognize that they are setting law and policy for people who include their unambiguous intellectual superiors, both in government and out. That clown crew doesn’t have what it takes to work for the FAA or to do crop or climate science research at the University of Nebraska. The decent among them admit as much and act with a fitting modesty, but the last thing anyone can expect of the average congressman is decency and the modesty to go with it.

I’d say that we should send these assholes down into the Metro tunnels after hours to scrape the hair and dandruff and shit off the third rails for fire prevention, but I respect railroad maintenance of way crews too much to send a bunch of worse-than-useless jawboning shitbirds over to get in the way of people who work for a living. This is why we have public assistance: to marginalize those who will inevitably fuck everything up if they engage.

I’m just trying to do right by my great-grandfather here. The union allowed him to raise my grandmother and her siblings in a stable lower-middle-class existence because it shook the damn cash out of the Union Pacific’s pockets. If tamping iron accidents are going to be a tradition, then, they might as well stop happening to the front of the head of some poor bastard like Phineas Gage and start happening to critical parts of the back of the heads of, say, Sam Brownback and Kris Kobach.

Brandenburg, bitch. Tough shit if that got y’all sunflower salty.

What’s the matter with Kansas is the matter with a lot more than just Kansas. The government is the only reason the railroad ever did a thing to keep us safe. Besides, I’m not getting anyone hurt by playing Fantasy Industrial Accident, which is noticeably safer than real professional football. Holler back at me from Congress when Americans are no longer dying because they’re rationing their insulin to make ends meet.

“And we should mention that Google is an NPR sponsor”

Gee, should we, Ari? You don’t say!

NPR and PBS have this unbelievable pathological compulsion to avail themselves of all problematic funding streams. Direct federal funding–you know, because they’re federally chartered corporations and maybe the feds ought to put their money where their loud mouths are–is chronically obstructed by grandstanding shitheels in Congress who would rather nurse their pet moral panics for a living than take up a line of actual work or, hell, tend to the public business. Audience funding is an operational clusterfuck for the stations and an aesthetic and personal affront for the audience. Several times a year, we have to listen to whiny, passive-aggressive, neurotic, sanctimonious, and utterly uncalled-for lectures about how the vast majority of us are no-account free riders. Oh yeah? Fuck all y’all in that case; I can always scroll over to WCKM, which is the only station my mom’s car can reliably pick up most of the time, doesn’t explicitly insult its own listeners, and sometimes plays some bitchin’ tunes. Sure, it doesn’t offer the unintended fun of Meat E. Urologist Steve Maleski, but at least that part of the damn sky doesn’t have such an obnoxious, leering eye on me.

Ideally, the ultra-wealthy of this country might fill the gap because public broadcasting seems worthy and they have the capacity to fund it, but the sick, inescapable truth is that they’re stingy as all hell with their patronage because they can exercise more leverage over their host society that way. Warren Buffett (a Congressman’s son, let’s be clear, not actually the child of a meatpacker or a railroad brakeman or what have you, the way he’d like us to assume) doesn’t hoard his billions so that he might be magnanimous or discreet or public-spirited in his disbursement of them. It isn’t his place to be the change he wants to see in the world, unless that change is making his own grandchildren grovel for their periodic Dairy Queen treats; his place, rather, is to lecture society at large for being moral failures that oddly fail to constrain him and his kind. Say, that couldn’t have anything to do with billionaires having enough money to bribe officials dozens of times over, could it? Nah.

No, I’m not just quickie-ballparking the figures or pulling them out of my ass. For the hell of it (because it’s my own damn decision to directly research this shit, or not), I checked with NPR (coy about the bottom line) and Wikipedia (spergtastically specific), and sure enough, NPR has an endowment of about $258 million, much less than the $400-something million currently held by *MY OLD SCHOOL*. That works out to something like a year and a quarter worth of operational expenses. Billionaires consort with one another all the time and have staffs dedicated to organizing their charity (sic), so there’s no way they couldn’t find a way to split the bill and spare the rest of us the fucking quarterly radio lectures.

If that sounds expensive and wasteful, realize that Dickinson College uses its cool four hundred mil to miseducate Main Liner asshats who should be posted on corners right on the dividing line between Black Kensington and White Kensington, so that they might take full verbal abuse from both communities, including the Community and the drugs community. NPR, House Voice and neoliberal agitprop notwithstanding, is a huge national news broadcasting operation that does quite a bit of original reporting on a daily basis, some of it on the ground in rather unstable parts of the country and the world. From this perspective, it gets some real shit done on a shoestring. Sure, it could provide better coverage and be less corrupt, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a bunch of overseas news bureaus cost more than the township annual budget, some butthurt #TCOT asshole’s net worth, or whatever other bogus comparisons the starve-the-beast culture war shitheels in the GOP would like to use when they aren’t dumping another trillion here and trillion there into fruitless and deadly imperial military adventurism.

NPR and PBS can’t meet its budgeting needs just from federal funding reluctantly disbursed by an arbitrarily hostile Congress or by passing the hat to their newly reannoyed audiences, so they turn to multinational corporations to fill the gap. They never fucking listened to any of the perfectly sensible people who warned that they would sell off their own journalistic credibility by selling out to these thieving leviathans; their critics were all just catastrophizing Chicken Littles who refused to catch up with the times, which now, for reasons never properly explained, now required trusting the motives and ethics of shady corporate trusts that maintained full-time staffs of shamelessly mercenary “public relations” “professionals.” That is, in-house propagandists. On top of this, they had the gall to ever more needily guilt-trip the audience for alms, instead of considering the possibility that private citizens might be more enthusiastic about giving their discretionary income to organizations that didn’t sell out to ADM to produce the NewsHour.

The executives are foolish or arrogant enough (probably both) to assume that their customers wouldn’t possibly see through this admitted triple-dipping racket. It’s like a bum shaking a cup of loose change in front of the train station and then admitting that, yeah, I change into my begging clothes every evening after I get off work at my PR job for ExxonMobil, and by the way I’m on welfare, too, but you see, my boss and the clerks at the welfare office are mean to me, and all I’ve got to my name is a house that I own free and clear and a quarter million in savings. Nobody would give a fucking dime to such a schnorrer. Listeners and viewers do give to our esteemed public broadcasters, largely for shameful psychosocial reasons, but far from all of us do, as we’re berated several times a year in the free rider lecture series. Do I sound like I’m spending money that I might but don’t necessarily have on these triply freeloading shitbirds? Hell no.

As anyone with a lick of sense knows, the corporate money comes with enough strings attached to knit a damn sweater collection. The very fucking point of public broadcasting was that the public (that word again; hmm) would have the option to get its news and entertainment from outlets that were freed of the corrupting influences of corporate money. Yeah, that’s going just swell. For once we have an audience that is withholding its financial support on principle, not just because memberships are expensive, and the executives and almscriers and bagmen cannot imagine that the free riders are motivated by anything but crass stinginess.

If we’re feeling conspiratorial and psychoanalytic (hey, I just said “anal!”), we might conclude that they project their own vice onto the rest of us. The priests at one of the parishes that I regularly attend (homelessness, remember) take five seconds during the announcements at the end of mass to encourage us to contribute to the charity boxes at the exits. That always seems like a gracious reminder to do something worthwhile; we aren’t the most organized of the churchgoing, and God knows we aren’t the most punctual. With a stroke of seasonal bad luck, I might roll out and turn on the car radio just in time for an interminable group guilt screed about how important it is that we all give at least $60 a year or some shit.

Yeah, how about fuck the lot of you. Going to mass to get AWAY from the guilt is always a red flag, and not one about the one holy catholic and apostolic church. Leave it to NPR and PBS to pick out the most graceless, annoying, and dysfunctional traditions of the Judeo-Christian religions and blend them into a syncretism of earthly hell.

Are you paying for that? I’m not. Someone has to pay for it, but you don’t have to be that someone, either. As Ari Shapiro admitted, they’re already Google’s sugar baby. This brings us to the provocation for our current screed, yesterday’s All Tech Considered story from Toronto, a tentatively smart city. One might think that not promptly calling the police, an attorney, or the CBC’s HR department after being choked by Jian Ghomeshi wasn’t exactly smart, but that’s way too expanding galaxy brain for the likes of NPR. Google is building some shit on the waterfront, and listen to this, Brando, it’s gonna include some automated underground do-hickey to cart away the rubbish so that the beautiful people don’t have to look at the garbage.

Or the garbagemen, to wax conspiratorial again. These fuckers would never voluntarily go without a servant if they can order one up on demand (Uber), but they’re visibly uncomfortable with the continuing existence of servants (Uber again). This is why Techytown will be swarming with robotic buses, too. That trash train, though. One of the world’s premier internet technology companies is trying to build the city of the future, and one of its two or three proudest features will be a literal garbage subway. Imagine asking one of the guys who built the New York City subway system about that. Sure, we could do that, but why the fuck would we?

An old-school New Yorker can always kill two birds with one stone by throwing inconvenient items of trash into the tracks or leaving them on the train. We can be stationary or dynamic about these decisions, but someone else, almost certainly a union employee, is paid to clean that shit up now and then. They may be sore about how everyone’s always throwing a bunch of gawbage down heah, but they’re on the clock, and the MTA more or less comes through for them.

That isn’t the sort of New Yorker that Tory-era Toronto gets. Cool T’rana gets some asshole from the New York City mayor’s office to talk about how gross it is to have to look at properly bagged and canned trash on the street for a few hours once or twice a week and how that stuff should be out of sight and out of mind on a bespoke subway system parallel to the fiberoptic network. New York has always produced more than its share of trashies, neurotics, loudmouths, and others of dubious sociability, with dubious enough results, but the technocrats who have made careers trying to socially engineer the forced cleanup of their city are way worse. It’s like, man, I’m in the hospital with this awful cough and, oh my God, Cullen and Majors just showed up on the floor, no way is my heart up for anything that sexy. Yeah, you’d better get out, or you, too, might end up on the night shift (on the night shift).

Of course New York is rather dirty; what else is new; but can we at least not be meddlesome, sniveling dipshits about it? And why are we acting like a fucking trash tunnel is tech? Using a special hand-carved rock to pound acorns into flour is technology, too, but that isn’t why Google was founded. Did anyone on Sand Hill Road think they were funding a civil engineering firm? If Toronto wants a trash subway, why doesn’t it hire, like, CH2M Hill instead and cut out these assholes who inevitably end up fighting over the interior decoration of the private 767 that they garage at Moffett Field?

In a city as cold, snowy, and dark as Toronto, it makes sense to underground some shit. Canada has had underground malls for decades, so no one needs to convince the average Canuck. The retarded thing about Google is that it’s showing up with plans to mothball the garbage truck fleet and start running driverless buses around all day. This seems like a great opportunity to replicate the new Denver Airport’s custom automated baggage shredding system (which was quickly replaced with old-fashioned cart trains) and to spend millions of dollars finding novel ways to fuck up winter road maintenance.

Smart Toronto’s local critics are probably right that Google is actually scheming to use them as test subjects without their consent. That’s the industry standard, although, oddly enough, we hear little about the tech industry’s ethical problems on NPR. I can’t imagine why that is. But think about how fucked up NPR’s audience is to not have any interest in what might be worthwhile civil engineering projects until some dipshit ridiculously declares that they’re actually all about whizz-bang computer stuff. That’s just pathetic. Using the tenth generation of computerized pocket telephony to remotely oversee illegal jitney cabbies who have been lured into debt bondage worthy of sharecroppers under Jim Crow is the coolest thing ever, but making sure that the roads are plowed and repaved as needed or that there are working sewer and railroad systems is totally boring.

Colby Cosh was absolutely right: not nearly enough of us work with our hands for a living.

Russian to judgment

Uh, shit, that was uncalled for, but so is the endless Democratic Russia hysteria.

Look, I’ve been to Russia. I spent a full month staying with host families there, first in Moscow and then in St. Petersburg, in the summer of 2002. My personal feelings about Russia are complicated and ambivalent, but they’re personal. They have to do with stuff that has no bearing on Russia’s foreign policy and only accidentally anything to do with its domestic policy. I don’t feel like ruminating over the details, but my worst experience was a run-in with some bad cops, so I have no trouble believing that Russia has serious civil liberties shortcomings. I also walked by at a distance of ten or twenty yards while a guy was getting kicked repeatedly in the guts by two other men on a side street off the Nevsky Prospekt, in a part of St. Petersburg that I otherwise took to be exceptionally prosperous and orderly, and quite a few of the Russians I’ve met over the years, both in country and back in the US, back in the USSA, have had an unnerving nihilistic bearing. I also know full well that I came nowhere close to seeing the worst that Russia has to offer.

The point is that no one has to convince me that Russia can be fucked up. Mine own lying eyes have seen it. Truth be told, few things have made me prouder or more grateful to be an American than personally discovering and then reading further about what a social and political clusterfuck Russia is. In many crucial ways it is a deeply troubled and unhealthy society. I doubt any significant part of it has fully turned the corner in the past fifteen years, and by some measures it regressed greatly after I made it back home (notably, on racist and xenophobic violence). So I’m not averse to legitimate criticism of the old bear den.

Nothing about the moral panic over Russian interference in the 2016 US elections is legitimate or sane. It’s the batshit fucking insane raving of pig-ignorant political extremists. It’s rabies. These deranged shitbirds have poisoned the well so badly that I can hardly trust a bad word about the Kremlin from the BBC, an organization that would hopefully be in a position to hold the Kremlin to some account. NPR is a hopelessly lost cause. I thought things were getting sketchy after they fired Bob Edwards and ramped up the House Voice, but I couldn’t see anything this surreally crazy coming down the pike.

Every time Russia engages in some modest bit of statecraft or spycraft, it magically becomes the world’s premier force of fifth-column subversion and international mind control. It’s unbelievable that we’re hearing about this absolutely insane shit on NPR and not on Coast to Coast AM. The Kremlin hired a few hundred undercover PR flacks to propagandize and troll American voters on social media. It spent a couple hundred grand on Facebook ads. Big fucking deal. We just had an election season that cost multiple billions of dollars and produced a big drop in turnout from 2012, along with a huge undervote in the presidential race, which is usually the main attraction when it’s on the ballot. The Kremlin was an irrelevancy. It was spitting into the wind.

Besides, everything the Kremlin has been accused of doing is done on a much wider and more sustained basis by Western spooks, lobbyists, and fellow-traveling shady pieces of shit. We never hear the hysterical Russia horseshit broadened to criticize AIPAC, the Pentagon bot army, or the multinational corporate leviathans. These outfits are the ones responsible for the serious propaganda. It’s not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a start. The Kremlin hiring underemployed twentagers to engage Americans with their our hearts go out to the Ceausescu family, sad day for Nicolae English can’t hold a candle to this fog machine.

If we’re worried about their ads corrupting our citizens’ minds, uh, Citizens United, fuckwits. Pervasive, unrelenting advertisement campaigns orchestrated by Bernaysian master manipulators are fine as long as they’re being run out of the usual WASP nests (Madison Avenue, K Street, Langley, Silicon Valley) (and, yes, they’re cooler than they once were with the Irish and the Jews and so forth), but Katie bar the fucking door if someone shows up at a Moscow ad agency with a hundred grand to spend on English-language copy. When our old boys do it on a colossal scale, it’s mere advertising; when the damn Red Octobers do it on an almost bashfully modest scale, it’s high treason.

Now we’re hearing feverish calls for Russia Today to be registered and surveilled as a foreign lobbying organization. Gee, with a name like that, you don’t say that it has possible cultural or political ties to Russia. What’s so rich a Yank could barf about this is that RT is open about its presumable ties to the Kremlin (not much of a Union of Right Forces organ, to judge from its coverage), while CNN, the WaPo, and so forth fraudulently pretend not to be crawling with Anglo-American spies, junta-ready generals, ruling politicians, seedy party hacks, and similar trash.

This doesn’t even begin to touch the endless corporate interference, even in NPR and PBS, our federally chartered and funded public broadcasting syndicates. Julie Rovner reports for Kaiser Health News now; no way that’s run by a major for-profit health insurance company and hospital operator that might have a political or policy ax to grind. And no way are my insurance premiums somehow being pooled to fund this highbrow Intelligence for Your Life crap. The mainstream media in the US are little more than payola, product placement, and Pravda-grade regime bulletins these days. NPR and PBS manage to simultaneously suck up every bit of compromising corporate funding they can sniff out, tangle with bumptious, grandstanding Congressmen in annual government funding disputes, AND bother their viewers with grating, guilt-trippy calls for alms several times a year. The PBS NewsHour is brought to you by Tote Bag Nation, some passive-aggressive assholes in Congress, and BNSF: The Little Engine That Could Get Out of the Southwest Chief’s Way But Totally Won’t.

Then we’ve got the cool stories about blackmail, the famous Piss-Trump kompromat. Yeah, nothing reminiscent of the Hastert thing there, or possibly similar to Roy Moore’s political relationship to Alabama’s business elite. The same assholes who got blindsided, or so they say, by J. Denny Dundiddly and Gadsden Lovin’ are sure that the most unabashedly louche president anyone can remember is vulnerable to Kremlin blackmail because he was videotaped getting off while a couple of hookers peed on a hotel bed.

A couple of questions come to mind here. First, who the fuck is Christopher Steele? He sounds like the pen name of a third-rate potboiler spy novelist with a first-rate drinking problem. Does he exist? Did the guy playing him ever work for the clandestine services? Is he a mercenary crisis actor, or is he a glory-whoring fabulist? Nobody has produced the fucking pee tape. Nobody has even produced a forgery purporting to show King Bigly and the Honeypot Rent Harem defiling the sacred one-time marriage bed of his predecessor. Plenty of people have fabricated ridiculous stories to position themselves under the glow of much lesser glories. Maybe the bastard is who he says he is and did what he says he did, but we can’t exactly believe him or anyone associated with him. His supposed employers, Her Majesty’s Spying Limeys, are some of the most incorrigible liars and dissemblers on earth. They’re a bit on the ridiculous side, but the idea that they’d keep some washed-up Oxbridge decoder ring wannabe with an unsubstantiated story about a video showing some whores wetting a bed on their international A Team is strictly for public consumption. One way or another, they’re punking us with this fool.

The Democrats used to lose elections honorably. Nobody really had great hopes for Mondale or Dukakis. Gore was reluctant to challenge the results of a blatantly corrupt election in Florida, by some accounts because he’d been advised that being a sore loser who brought the Brooks Brothers Rioters into the disrepute that they deserved was not the way to secure a feeding spot at the retirement trough. My man Long Face acted like, well, I tried, but shucks. He failed me and a whole lot of other hopeful Democratic voters, but he didn’t dishonor us.

2016 was the first time that the Democrats dredged up a ridiculous foreign scapegoat for their failures. It figures that they did this after trying and failing to force the pack to eat a sickening helping of their dog food on behalf of their raging bitch of a candidate. It figures that they did this after their scandal-plagued disaster of a queen failed to follow up her party coronation with campaign stops in the Midwestern swing states everyone with a lick of sense knew she needed to win, managing to lose the Electoral College in spite of a national popular vote lead in the millions. The Clintons have always had a loose relationship with the truth, but under Bill this relationship was cordial enough. Under Hillary it’s frostier than a February dawn in Vladivostok. He was the irresistibly charming Arkie son of a bitch; she is the repulsively charmless ice queen who’s bitter towards her husband for being a chronic adulterer, bitter towards Mocha Haole for beating her the first time around (“that man,” as Bill is said to refer to him), bitter towards Bernie for nearly beating her even though her operatives tipped the scales, and bitter towards the Donald for having the unexpected amateur’s horse sense to actually pull off a victory as a first-time candidate for public office.

If anyone would blame Kremlin mind control for a political loss, it would be this grotesque hag and her sycophants. The disreputable response is a function of a disreputable candidate and campaign. These losers lose sorely because they’re sore losers. Their form is too disordered to permit normal functioning.

It can’t be that they fucked up an already weak and shitty campaign; it must have been long-distance Russian brainwashing. The voters who got Trump over the top can’t have had rational or coherent reasons for voting for him and against Clinton; they must have been feebleminded enough to fall for a mind control campaign run by junior political operatives engaged in nothing worse than rude internet chatter. America was already great; there’s no way a sensible American could have thought otherwise, no way that a savvy political outsider could have tapped into the formerly unexpressed grievances of an aggrieved public by hammering on a catchy four-word campaign slogan. Russians must have convinced them that the United States had some kind of unresolved class problem, just as the damn pink Soviets were the only reason why anyone thought the midcentury United States had a race or civil rights problem.

Surely it was the Russians who fabricated the sexual assault allegations against George Takei to interfere with his meme warfare, not anyone who was still personally upset with George Takei for having sexually assaulted him. If that horseshit can be proof positive that the victor didn’t legitimately win the presidential election, surely it can be reasonable doubt for a sexual assault case in the court of public opinion.

Joe McCarthy sincerely regarded the Soviet Union as a menace to his country, not to his party or his career. That’s the difference between honest paranoia and the sorest losers ever endlessly grinding a political ax. These shitheads don’t care who or what they destroy as long as they either come out on top or, barring that, find a way to take cheap revenge on their proliferating enemies.

Fuck the Democratic Party. It has to either be reclaimed by decent people or allowed to convulse its way to its belated death. I can’t stand popcorn, but if I can’t vote it back from its current eighth circle of hell land of make-believe, I’ll be glad to grab a cup of coffee and maybe some hash browns and pull up a chair.