Totally fictional fiction: Anniversary Coffee Date

By the end of the afternoon he was about ready to strangle the barista. She would not shut up. “HI! WELCOME IN!” “THANK YOU!” “HI EVERYONE! WELCOME IN!” Sometimes it was bearable. Other times, it was piercing. He’d finally tune out the background noise, itself an awful atonal asynchronous jumble of blenders being turned on and off, chair legs scraping on the floor, cash registers and ovens beeping, abrupt shifts in conversational tones from across the lobby, order announcements, scoops being plunged into the ice chest, and the horrible mix of punk, scat jazz, and emo crossover country they’d somehow patched together from the instantly identifiable playlists corporate approves for the stores companywide, and there it was again. “HI! WELCOME IN!”

He kept banging his head on the chandelier above his table when he stood up to stretch his legs. This lady’s greetings and farewells were worse.

He started consciously noticing and listening for subtleties of accent and cadence after he moved back to California, sounds to reassure him in his dysfunction and neediness that he was finally home. The way this chick spoke seemed off, for a white girl in NorCal. At first he took her accent for Midwestern. After an hour or two of her unpredictable but reliable onslaughts, he reclassified it as Lower Brahmin Northeastern. NPR. He had no idea where she’d been raised, of course, and he knew plenty of lifelong Californians who sounded like they’d picked up their accents out of state, even overseas. This barista had obviously not learned her hello-and-goodbye shtick in the community. It came from corporate. “WELCOME IN” was one of the tics he could date not to a vague time range but to the aftermath of a specific, jarring episode. It had appeared out of nowhere in the days after a different barista, also a white woman, also speaking with a cadence and intonation that belonged on NPR and only on NPR, had the Philadelphia Police arrest a group of black men for asking to use the restroom in her store. Her reasoning was that they should have bought something first.

She called the managers of outside, as some describe the police. She was already the manager of inside. Calling up the chain of command was her duty, as she saw it.

The Philadelphian was why this other chick, in wine country, was now, years later, bellowing welcomes and farewells over the muzak every minute or two. The Philadelphian was why the new protocol was to specify the directionality of a word that had been understood since before the days of what anyone would be pedantic enough to call English as a reference to movement into a space, not out.

Surely the company psychologists are aware of this, he thought. We see you entering our space. We are on guard for invaders.

Why have we been doing this for twenty years, he wondered. He wasn’t even forty. More than the second half of his life to date had passed under this surreal post-traumatic national culture, this regime of paranoia and fnords. Even after the horrific ongoing reaction to the marginally less horrific, long-finished attacks had calmed into something that felt comfortingly survivable, the country remained by any reasonable standard insane. Civilians were still walking around thanking random soldiers they’d never met for their service. He occasionally had veterans ask him if he’d been in the service, to his surprise and honor, or spontaneously open up with stories about their own deployments along canals full of shit in Vietnam. In a bad week it might be a naval deployment. How on earth he displayed a military bearing sufficient to make veterans think he was a comrade in arms was beyond him. It helped that he’d never thanked a soul for taking up arms.

“You’d be stinky for the next week!” “We all thought our gunny sarge was ancient!” The guy who told him this was sitting across from him on a bus, easily ninety by that point, miraculously still fit enough to hop on and off the bus without assistance and present enough to tell the old war stories from the European theater. “How old do you think he was?” “Oh, he was probably 35!” They’d somehow both made it to 21st-Century Reno.

Service, everybody was again careful to call it, something more often praised than performed. The ones who made it home alive were grateful. Nobody talked about the ones who weren’t. To be aware of them, one had to talk to soldiers, or talk to people who talked to soldiers. Quite a few guys made it home with little to say about Bataan. Whoever “we” were, white or yellow or brown or dead in Port Chicago, we were fighting an alliance of arrogant nuts that time, two grasping, arrogant, overextended empires in the habit of alienating the locals in their colonies with racist diatribes and massacres, plus a thundering drama queen who in a better governed Italy might have been prime minister for an August. This time, “we” were the ones who thought Afghanistan worth conquering. We were the ones who took up with torture-prone Uzbek satraps against a nation of the fiercest, most skilled guerrilla fighters on earth, on their own home territory. Then “we” toppled our old Sunni Arab buddy in Iraq, sending him to the gallows at the hands of “our” new “allies” at a time when “we” were increasingly tempted to launch first strikes on Persia.

Fuck, he thought, this is sure a society that likes to play away games.

He forgot why he was in there in the first place. “We” were “reopening” after “quarantine,” in this instance meaning that it was finally legal to dine in again. Not being able to sit down in a coffeeshop and just dwell had been horrible. More unprocessed trauma, he thought. More repressed pain in a country that couldn’t recognize itself as a whole if it tried. Everything here was a synecdoche for everything else. “We” were not “quarantining” on the kill floors to feed well-to-do hypochondriac shut-ins whenever they summoned a delivery serf to fetch them a package of factory-dressed meat. Everybody was not in fact staying home. He could never cope with the feeling of national dissociation he got from listening to trendsetters construe America to be California to be America and neither to include Manteca.

There’s everybody, and then there’s the help. Was he crazy to be alarmed by the appearance of bullies trying to operate a complicated, dangerous machine while denying the very existence of its most crucial components? Over half a million had died before their time in the midst of this national delusion about “quarantine,” with hundreds more joining them every day, the news kept saying. His parents trusted the news more than he wished, in ways he found made them more paranoid about ordinary Americans and more trusting of predatory officials. The previous fall, he’d bought a ticket back east to visit his parents the week New York State exempted California from its interstate quarantine order, painfully conscious of the half year they’d spent upsetting him over the phone with politics they’d picked up from homicidal liars on TV, mostly New Yorkers. He felt a wave of relief every time he managed to puncture their cocoon. This was harder to accomplish virtually. As much as he hated being so aware of this, on top of everything else, he was thankful to remain so oriented in the real world, and no less proud to have made it nearly a year and a half without going on Zoom.

This coffeeshop was closerr to the real world than his own apartment or, God forbid what He always allowed, his own head. America, too, was corporate. Its energy, too, was off. By God’s grace, he could at least observe it firsthand in the flesh, not just hear about it on television from hysterics whose understading of the world came from television. At long last Americans living in all but the most neurotic corners had been given back their dispensation to live their lives in public. He spent the afternoon seizing it.

The noise seized him back. He gave up on his halfhearted reading agenda and tried to do some journaling in real time. He knew there was meaning to tease out of the barista’s deafening greetings. He bogged down trying. Staff outbusts punctuating background noise were all he could hear or think. He was stuck in the tunnel of welcoming.

He looked at airfares back east. He scrolled his feeds on alt, trying to break through ennui and confusion. Nobody was posting anything that captured his interest, just as he expected for an Indian Summer Saturday afternoon. He left for church. He was mentally and spiritually dulled to the liturgies from start to finish, but at least some moral and aesthetic thought had gone into them, and he appreciated it. There were worse things to repeat all afternoon.

Four mornings later he landed in Buffalo. He spent the balance of the week eating goat curry takeout by the falls and riding an incomprehensible bus system past Love Canal and Polish cemeteries in black ghettos and the square where riot cops cracked an old man’s skull open in front of a live TV crew, at a volume that came through for the folks back home. He was happy to be back in the water for a week or two, ultimately closer to three, away from the boasts of serial Gavin Newsom voters about how little time they were spending in the shower.

Manhattan, strangled to death by public health regulations according to refugees freshly arrived in Florida, was more chaotic than he remembered it from the eve of the plague, suffering from degraded public accommodations but not to an extent that hadn’t been looming on the horizon for decades. The subway worked better than he expected when he went to the Battery on an Amtrak layover. The ferry terminals at the Battery and St. George were both close to immaculate. The grime on the ferries was unremarkable for New York. That was the perverse wisdom of the toxic putzes who kept worming their way into high office in New York City. They insisted on misgoverning the one city in their state that could not be killed. It never occurred to them to try to ruin Buffalo.

The American derangement washed back over him when he got a coffee for his joyride on the ferry. The franchisees were ethnic, Indian or Pakistani, as far as he could guess. They spoke with a half-Mideastern, half-Outer Borough diction as authentically New York as badly-dressed Jews rushing through Penn Station. One of the younger guys manning the Dunkin shoved an order at a customer with a shout of “Stay safe.”

From what, he wondered. He knew, but he wondered. The same guy exchanged safety wishes over the counter with two other employees before he got his coffee and headed into the terminal. He escaped the pleasantries. These fuckers know it’s a fool’s errand talking like that to reserved out-of-towners, he thought, and just as well. He’d read a bit about the Spuyten Duyvil derailment and the crash of the Andrew Barberi. Two at the throttle and at least one of them awake, seemed to be the moral of those stories. When he recalled the LIRR shooting months later, he assumed he’d forgotten about it because taking the train was still safer than driving and he didn’t usually perceive threats to life or limb from weird loners walking around all pissed off about shit.

There were eyes everywhere in both terminals. A black private security guard ran a bomb-sniffing dog over his suitcase on his way into the Battery terminal; in St. George, it was two Italian cops in khakis, probably Port Authority but not worth trying to tell. Two security guards all but rushe him into the elevator on the Battery when he tried to take the escalator. Baggage. Nobody was going to get injured by it.

Eyes.

His trip went fine in spite of them, off without any additional hitches. He made it downtown and back to midtown on the train without incident, barely even delays. Might he see somebody tonight? It was a month after the floods, two before the government gas exercises, and another few until the attacks. The goddamn government.

He’d come in a good season.

The Barberi pushed out, past the single looming needle that replaced the pair of looming towers, making one out of two, past Ellis Island, past the dock cranes of Bayonne, past the Statue of Liberty. A city might be overrun with the worst Irishmen and Italians, the worst Pollacks, even the worst Jews, and despite it all it might still be home to a big French broad who’s always got a light. As the mayor said that garish bright fall, we harbor all kinds. His police agreed.

Few understood them.

Dammit, he thought. Understanding. Jesus came to understand things at Gethsemane, and look what that got him. An entire generation had now been born, the oldest and most precocious of them fully raised, under the guidance of hopelessly idiotic paranoiacs. In a parallel timeline, he might have become a paranoid idiot, not a paranoid visionary, silently trying to understand.

It’s a horrible country, he realized, but it ain’t bad. From this expanse of the Bay, the Brooklyn side, midway between the hipsters, the yuppies, and the cops, a fellow might mistake her for a Jersey girl.

Welcome the hell in.

Fauci and the fuzz

The Rotterdam curfew riots were good. There’s no need to pussyfoot around the ethical nuances of when, how, and why one is allowed to protest during a global pandemic or the associated “lockdown” and “quarantine”–moron this language in a bit–when the cops are seizing their latest official excuse to get out of line. It’s quite straightforward. The government issued an outrageous order, and the public angrily, forcefully, proudly resisted its execution, out in the street. Out in the street, indeed. They reacted proportionally and appropriately. When the Dutch government declares bedtime and orders its citizens back to quarters, the proper response is to go Electric Avenue on Europe’s strappingest ethnic street gang.

The left makes a significant mistake when it reacts squeamishly to such assertions by the aggrieved governed against an abusive government. The police are hopeless to deescalate disputes over outrageous diktats that they are personally doing their violent best to enforce at the moment. The Arab Street might not have gone home if the cops had stood down and let them hold the street, but they most likely would have dispersed into manageable, peaceable groups. All they wanted to do was hang out at night in peace. People who are allowed to do so pretty quickly stop marching into intersections and throwing projectiles at cops. They think, huh, it could be me on that tram, trying to go clubbing downtown, while some other asshole throws rotten eggs at the windshield.

The cops know this. This is why they escalate.

The ethnic nature of the Rotterdam riots makes some uncomfortable. Restive darkies call the social project of Postwar Europe into question. This is especially true for dutiful bourgeois liberals who think in terms of ethnic and partisan stereotypes. They hate not to think of the savages as noble. Stipulating the occasional violence of nonwhites might play into the hands of the alt-right or something. It couldn’t just be, even in a particular instance, a group of constituents hitting back because they’re sick of being mistreated by their shitty government.

What’s that? It’s bedtime? New phone who dis.

Certainly the question of what brown can do for you–You’re up? Still? At this late hour?–is by now a hoary one, one dating houelle becq into the pest. Are there problems with the politics of De Joof? Okay, maybe, but why the hell do we care? Their objection in Rotterdam was to a mercifully somewhat inept attempt by their government to apply a version of the same lockdowns that had already mass-traumatized the populations of Spain, France, and Italy, some of the same countries that had also achieved world-leading reported fatality rates from The Dread Ailment. This shoudn’t be objectionable. Maybe some of the rioters had Islamic establishmentarian politics or excessive lust for the local wenches. So? That wasn’t why they were out. They were out because they were sick of the fucking cops.

It’s the same thing with the Yellow Vests. Many in the bourgeois center-left are uncomfortable with the rude mass mobilization of center-right car culture normies over gas taxes. Personally, I dislike the premise of their stance, but let’s be real. Their grievances are legitimate. The French government really has been hosing them for living outside the big cities. They aren’t out objecting to proposals for improved bus or train service; one of their bitter complaints is that the only decent transit service is in Paris and a few other cities where they couldn’t afford to live. Their complaint is that instead of services, they get fees. The complaints of the Not Exactly Much who are Not Exactly Dutch were based in decades-old grievances about the government taking advantage of them and sending cops after them to keep them in line. Either or both of these factions could easily find common cause with any number of garden-variety elements of the European hard left.

Huh. The G-7 or G-20 or G-6 or whatever they’re calling it these days surely isn’t directing any of its security services to diffuse any such social synergies at the first sign. They would never do that. Even Mr. Grayling, the smart one, has but three eyes. This, strategia della tensione, do you call it? It’s delicious. The closest thing we have to it on Mars is probably a clam linguine of some sort, but you do realize, we must import our ingredients.

The Democratic base doesn’t care for any such alliances anyway. Their beloved Intelligence Community never sanctons anything of the sort. It’s too Trumpian, poaching a fraction of the hardhats because the rest of the field has absolutely no industrial policy, not just a half-cocked one with no details beyond Reopen Our Beautiful Mines. Protests getting out of hand might alienate swing voters, causing the retention of an incumbent whose idea of policing is maybe, or maybe not, somewhat worse than that of the hand-picked dirty cops forced through the nomination process to oppose him. I’ve personally heard this kind of thing. Protesting too raucously just because the thugs on the Buffalo riot squad audibly cracked Martin Gugino’s skull open in a live-televised pavement check might cost Biden the support of swing voters who, uh, must think that’s an acceptable thing for the police to do and also consider not voting for Republicans, this in a country whose national consensus for a time was that the Third Precinct Stationhouse was no angel.

This idea that we can and should just vote our way out of whatever the government is doing to us is a funny one. It’s come to be closely associated with the Blue No Matter Who freakshow. There’s no need to convince me that there are Republicans who are better than Lori Lightfoot and Eric Garcetti. These bars are low. The Republicans who carry on about this high civic Boy Scout Handbook piety are mostly #NeverTrump rear-guard losers. John Bolton proudly enjoys waiting in line at his polling place to cast his ballot. He says it like a guy who never has to wait in line for anything else.

There are officials who understand languages other than raw power. The problem is with those who don’t, for example, in San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Aurora, Ferguson, Minneapolis, Kenosha, Chicago, Austin, Louisvlle, Atlanta, Washington, and Philadelphia. One of these cities after another is governed by Democrats. To fix this mess with Democrats, we’d have to find different Democrats. But that would upset swing voters or moderates or developers or something.

When the prissy booj object to unauthorized protests or riots, they do so on account of at least two obvious blind spots. One is an intense discomfort, even humiliation, before unmistakable proof of the rottenness of their governments and officials. “Joe Biden is a decent guy at heart.” This should be a deeply embarrassing thing to say. Ironically, the other obvious reason for their prissiness is much less embarrassing and cringe precisely because it’s so nakedly, crassly self-interested. They’re big on Marquess of Queensberry Schoolhouse Rock bullshit, and so furious with the Donald for shitting on the floor at their neverending party of politics, because it works for them. For them, it delivers the goods. It’s no coincidence that Rachel Maddow is so popular with people who own their primary residences free and clear.

Why wouldn’t electoral politics work? We own a house. We have home equity. Yeah, champ, that’s the problem. It’s a Ponzi scheme, a gigantic pump-and-dump racket. It’s the most blatantly zero-sum rentier shakedown. Go ask “liberals” in Redwood City or Novato how they feel about Project Roomkey motel contracts.

It hits different when the system doesn’t give you shit. I’m relatively fortunate, as the dispossessed go, but it isn’t the least bit lost on me that I’m fortunate largely by proxy, through my parents. This is just how Obama and Congress wanted it. The adult dependent provision of the ACA was no goof. They knew what they were doing.

On some level, that is. Some of them are stone-cold naturals and also blithering fucking idiots. There’s an alarming amount of reptilian quasi-thinking inside the Beltway, on the part of people who know exactly what works to keep the whole ship listing along just seaworthily enough to keep them employed but unable to articulate a coherent political theory for why the hell that is. Yeah, you’re all making work for yourselves and your marginally employable cronies designing and administering a system that would start actually working if the lot of you were banished to the cane fields. No, to public assistance; I respect people who cut sugarcane too much to inflict useless eaters on them.

These are people who will do nothing good until they are made to feel pain. Mind you, their pain thresholds are hilariously low, e.g., not being reelected, or being told off at restaurants for their atrocious “public service.” They rarely get the pain they deserve. Bolton the Baltimore Walrus is probably less miserable than he looks. Remember, he’s a psychopath, not a normal person. People like him spend their time whining about, say, how total strangers are spoiling their Voting Experience by demanding and returning absentee ballots because that’s the closest thing they face to hardship. Trump is yelling again? Hey, pal, nobody’s making you watch that or professional wrestling or whatever other trashy programming would upset you.

In the context of the extreme hardship, pain, and early death the ghouls in charge of our governments inflict on their constituents, shutting down a freeway or an airport or a railyard with a protest occupation would be downright genteel. Considering the alternatives, which so many already suffer, there’s nothing wrong with some light rioting now and then.

This may sound like armchair edgelord agitation, and I guess it is. I’m too cowardly to take part in any of these festivities in person. Is a virtual riot a thing? A socially distanced riot?

That isn’t any more pathetic than the language and tactics our officials actually use in their desperate efforts to co-opt protest movements. The displays of this deranged, arguably psychotic thought process were on embarrassing display last summer, during the Black Lives Matter protests, with officials giving express dispensation to protesters but only protesters to gather in large groups. But they weren’t mouthing their platitudes about peaceful, responsible protest because they supported the protests. They pulled that shit because they were afraid of the movement. The last thing they want is the rabble they represent compelling their representation.

They wanted everybody milling about on the square downtown, during daylight and only daylight hours, kneeling with the chief and the brass. They wanted the protesters to feel emotionally invested with the cops who would beat and gas their comrades later that night. They wanted the protesters to think of their obvious adversaries–you know, the ones whose brother in arms provoked that round of protests in the first place by choking George Floyd to death with his knee–as allies.

The psychology behind the kneeling ceremonies is troubling. It’s baffling to honor a martyr to police murder by joining cops in a ceremonial reenactment of his murderer’s physical stance. I’m not sure that’s what the cops or the elected officials theoretcally (at times even de facto) commanding them were thinking, though. I hesitate to assume that they WERE thinking. I’m sure they remembered kneeling for the National Anthem as the Kaepernick Thing. Every police department is always downstream of every other police department’s worst cultural touchstones, so once one agency got the idea, others had to follow. An agency can’t just ignore the cool new cop thing.

The Floyd protests caught officials off-guard. They were a holy shit moment. What, we can’t just let a cop choke a guy to death anymore? Chauvin can’t get away with it just because Pantaleo did? Oh. The public reaction was a consequence of too little work and too much TV, some said. We were supposed to Netflix and Chill through “lockdown,” not CNN and Heat Up. Officials came up with the protest safety protocols and the civic justifications for them on the fly. I don’t think they were trying to subjugate the family by sanctioning protests but not funerals, or the religious by sanctioning protests but not services. They were cobbling their shit together on the fly. In many cases, it took their cops a single night to prove their own contempt for the public health protocols they’d been commissioned to enforce, when they gassed whole neighborhoods or even pulled protesters’ masks down to blast them in the face with pepper spray from a foot away. Was it a good idea, from a public health perspective, to further overload the jails with protesters there was little or no ground to arrest in the first place? Of course not. That’s why the cops did it.

****

There were protests against “lockdown,” too, but no good Brahmin dared support them. Besides, many of them were the work of antisocial extremists. Wine moms barging into Trader Joe’s to yell at the nearest cart jockeys about their right to shop unmolested and undressed had as much to do with civil liberties as shitting on the floor at Tim Hortons. That’s a style of protest, too. Like any protest, it loses its magic when they mayor issues a permit and guidelines.

Few jurisdictions in the United States had genuine lockdowns. Most Americans were never ordered or even advised to go into real quarantine. Otherwise, “quarantine” and “lockdown” were misleading synonyms for a raft of very poorly drafted and explained shelter-in-place orders, i.e., the usual horny-for-rules nerds, hypochondriacs, avoidants, paranoiacs, and other poorly adjusted characters cowering behind closed doors in obedience of the fnords. We were allowed out of the house, mostly. It was just that we weren’t sure we were. The way we (“we”) were using publc health language was shockingly hyperbolic. Describing a work-from-home lifestyle revolving around ordering in from restaurants and fleeing to the Hamptons on impulse as “lockdown” or “quarantine” was a bit like referring to incoherent assault threats from a schizophrenic across the street as Manzanar.

A huge number of Americans bobbed through these extreme but exaggerated disruptions of public life in a state of chronic psychological trauma. This was the case in a number of European countries, too. The pot-banging and clapping ceremonies at shift change by the hospitals, the balcony singalongs, all the talk about “cottagecore” and what “we” were doing to get through “lockdown” and “quarantine,” and the rest of the cult shit drove a whole lot of people truly mad. In ways, it would have been better if it had made more people go openly crazy, instead of the chronic, low-grade zombie reactions that were most common and obvious. The combination of gross linguistic exaggerations and muted, avoidant behavioral patterns was bizarre and unsettling. Then there was all the deranged make-believe shit: “virtual happy hour,” “Zoom reunion,” Sober Scotch Hour with Rob Ford, etc.

The distortions of language seem deliberate. It’s easy for trendsetters–influencers–to propagate linguistic tics by example and repetition. Some of the antics to emerge during the pandemic were just fucking suspect. No way in hell would nurses working with hypercontagious ICU patients during a respiratory pandemic have the time, energy, or, ideally, the bad judgment to stage linedancing routines in the hallways.

We were being gaslit. This wasn’t a case of I’m myself and you are too. This shit really was used to attack all of us. What really happened to Tiffany Dover? Beats me, but I know I don’t have as much trust in the caliber of management that runs hospital nursing pools as I did before these weird-ass fainting and dancing spells, and I had little trust in the first place.

What the fuck are we supposed to think of Anthony Fauci, if we really think about him? Eyy, I make-a da spikey protein! Well? That wasn’t as cringe as the poem Scott Simon read about him, and it wasn’t dishonest. Fauci was the guy who fucked up the response to AIDS for Ronald Reagan. There’s something really off about his combative turned amicable relationship with Larry Kramer. He’s a sworn liar. Let’s play around with the herd immunity threshold. Let’s focus-group that shit to see what it takes to get everybody to take the new mRNA vaccines, which are going to save everybody’s life because oops there’s a new variant they don’t seem to cover.

No shit ordinary people will react to this bullshit and dissembling and lying and manipulation by veering into woo-woo.

I don’t believe a word of Fauci’s internal e-mail admitting that masks don’t work. It’s common sense not to want random strangers breathing and coughing and sneezing whatever the hell they’ve got in their lungs all over me. It’s common courtesy of me not to pass it forward if they wheeze their skanky shit on me. #Values #PassDaKine.

For others, it’s common sense that masks cause extreme carbon dioxide buildups, don’t work, traumatize children, ad nauseam. I just try to set the example that they’re a viable, perfectly bearable way to maybe keep myself and those around me healthier than we’d otherwise be. For Tony, Joe, Rachel, and the gang, they’re some kind of marshmallow test hazing ritual or something. Covid-19 is not the only virulent pathogen whose transmission masks can inhibit. Setting aside all the weirdness surrounding the vaccines and assuming they all work as advertised, Covid-19 vaccines do not prevent the contraction of transmission of influenzas.

This shit isn’t about public health. It’s about ritual purity versus impurity. It’s about piety versus impiety, obedience versus disobedience. What were my sources for hesitating to get the vaccine? Not that honking Italian son of a bitch. I’ll say that much. Crowning a serial liar with a long history of bad research decisions, notably including gain-of-function projects that alarmed many of his colleagues, as the world king of infectious disease makes many highly reasonable people want to do their own fucking research before doing anything he advises. That asshole reacted to the cruise ship disasters in Yokohama and Sydney by berating Americans not to cancel their cruise reservations.

Maybe he’s wrong about masks after all. If he isn’t, he was.

You read that right. I can’t believe I had to write it. I can’t believe it makes sense.

****

Anybody from the nominally educated centrist to center-left top quartile or so of American society faces intense pressure not to question this narrative. They have jobs on the line, or places to stay, or assistance from wealthier relatives. This does much to explain why there has been so little pushback on the public health narrative from the left and so much from the right. We face the same pressures for saying anything neutral or positive or nuanced about Trump, here in Bougiekistan.

I reacted differently. The moment I heard official lies and discrepancies, I took them as existential threats. I wouldn’t trust anybody I witnessed behaving so dishonestly and recklessly in a bad part of Rancho Cordova, either. Nobody gets between me and my survival mechanisms. I don’t allow it. I’m not taking medical orders from homicidal serial liars.

My hypervigilance immediately cued me in to the big drivers of infection. I took the initiative to stop going to Mass a week before the last one indoors. For months after outdoor Masses resumed, I not only wore a mask (as strictly mandated and universally followed) but also stayed silent during the communal prayers. I remembered the horror stories from that Lutheran choir in the North Sound.

But churches were obviously only a middling vector. The American authorities put their thumbs up their asses and basically did nothng while infections spread like wildfire through prisons, nursing homes, farmworker shacks, slaughterhouses, and every other 100% predictably ultra-high-risk congregate setting that had been in dire need of regulatory enforcement for decades over extreme threats to human health and life. Like, come on, you can’t seriously be telling me the bus downtown is too dangerous for me to take just for the hell of it but San Quentin is safe for occupancy. That’s insane.

The same state government that presided over a catastrophic outbreak in San Quentin couldn’t guarantee a seat on the next bus to Santa Rosa because Golden Gate Transit was enforcing a strict 20% capacity limit. Yeah, that’s something they’ve always cared about at CDCR, percent of capacity.

The anecdotes to similar effects are endless. Our lives were upended for over a year, for reasons that have yet to be credibly explained, with mediocre public health outcomes.

This is the case in Europe, too, as we’ve discussed above. Mark Rutte had riots on his hands because he insisted on imposing the same heavyhanded, statistically ineffective measures that had fucked up life in several other esteemed members of the European Union. It was odder for him to make the decision than the heads of government he copied. Rutte is reasonably down-to-earth for a politician. He lacks the theatrics of Italy’s rotating cast of premiers (which frankly should have kept rotating over the past year), the grand narcissism of Emmanuel Macron, the seedy corruption of Spain’s elected officials and minor royalty, or the raucous buffoonery of BoJo and his cabinet.

He still decided that he had to deploy cops at bedtime, in the interest of stopping Covid. The way these fuckers think, I swear, is that they won’t be able to spot the virus on patrol at night because it’s too dark. They’re morons and busybodies. Will people slip into one another’s houses without government permission because they want to smoke dope or have sex? Sure. They’ll also need to leave for work during curfew hours.

Cops are too fucking dull to tell the difference. I’m serious. Ordering them to enforce curfews only makes them dumber.

Riots, by contrast, sharpen their intellects a tiny bit. Riots send a message: you aren’t in control just because you say you are; you’re our public servants, not our babysitters; we set our own bedtimes.

One of the neat things about the Rotterdam curfew riots is that they were explicitly about the curfew. American liberals and leftists felt compelled to sublimate their disaffection with the business closures and constant warnings and lectures and channel it into anger over police murders of black constituents. They had to pretend that they were exercising the one specific dispensation they had as good kids and good liberals to leave the house and freely associate with their neighbors.

They had to pretend that Anthony Fauci isn’t a cop.

He’s a fucking cop. He isn’t even the kind of cop who’ll defuse a street fight or talk down the disturbed or give a stranded motorist a roadside jump. He’s an asshole who lectures and threatens and lies to the general public for a living. He gets paid to goad us to act as scolds and stool pigeons while the government employing him stands back in the face of millions of preventable deaths. Yeah, I know, we don’t care about deaths that aren’t from Covid. He’s what would happen if Joseph DeAngelo kept the anthrax next to the roast.

We could have had Sacco and Vanzetti integrate the police instead.

At the corner of suck my cock and fuck you too pal

Being the disorganized anxious-avoidant dipshit I am who knows as much about psychiatry as a keen observer would expect, I ran out of lamotrigine on a trip back east and had to get my prescription transferred from California to New York. There’s no Safeway here, which, oops, but there is Walgreens, so I got to spend $68 for would have cost me about $20.

They couldn’t even make it nice.

That was after all the discounts. I had to pay $20 to get it for $47.99. They’re probably trying to shave another penny or two off their rewards rebates, but they’re definitely trying to bamboozle customers who aren’t in the habit of rounding up to the nearest dollar in the presence of sleazy retailers. The $20 was to join the prescription discount club. You have to pay for prescription coupons at Walgreens. Membership is good for a year, so I can now get all the lamotrigine I want for a 150% markup until next June, unless they raise the discounted subtotal again.

The online coupons I was finding for Walgreens were horrifying. The cheapest was something like $150. I asked the pharmacist about the rack rate. $389. Bitch the fuck? It wasn’t her fault, of course, but dear fucking God. It has to be awful to complete pharmacy school and then discover how many of the job openings are with the same sleazy passive-aggressive shakedown behemoth. It has to be annoying, to say the least, to be professionally trained to spot and intercept drugs with potentially fatal interactions and be forced to tell customers that because they don’t have the proper coupon and their insurance is out-of-network they’ll be paying $400 for a bottle the size of a shot glass half full of universally available generic antidepressant tablets the size of Grape Nuts. Is it under $20 at Price Chopper, with that other coupon? Yes. Is it $389 here at the MSRP? Yes. Why? Fuck me, man; I only work here.

In a country with the rule of law, it would be possible for any customer getting Shanghaied like that to have government auditors collect and return $369 in change the next business day, along with the change due every other customer for every other gross overcharge. Real Heads of Depression recognized it as the 25, and everybody recognizes lamotrigine as definitely not an artisanal antidepressant ground, mixed, measured, and packaged by hand by Ye Olde Village Compounding Apothecary. This shit isn’t Charlie Smithgall walking into the garden with a mortar, a pestle, and a pair of scissors to custom-cut an order of St. John’s Wort. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t charge $389 for that, either.

None of this has shit to do with the free market or supply and demand or economies of scale. It’s extortion. The real retail break-even point for lamotrigine 25 mg 240 count is probably under $10. That should be enough to cover what it costs to manufacture, ship, stock, and dispense the pills. If it isn’t, Walgreens would do fine running the pharmacy as a loss leader for the rest of the store, to get the goobers in for the markups. The cost of getting that shit from the factory floor to the patient’s hands is not $1.62 a fucking tablet. Break me off a piece of something weaker, Stossel; I’m already hallucinating.

This bullshit has yielded Canada much tourism. Drug prices, eh. It’s like how my parents had to drive an hour and a half to Plattsburgh instead of 45 minutes to Queensbury for their Rona shots, and had to go to the old SAC base four times, because their Honorable Governor’s high orations about public health and how much he cared, did not extend to making it feasible to get the damn vaccine. I’m a low-grade paranoiac who keeps up with fellow travelers, and yes, there have been irregularities with these vaccines, and by God do the overwrought incentives raise questions, but when I got over my paranoia last month, I’d waited long enough to walk in for the J&J one-and-done at the Aviation Mall and walk out less than an hour later. They have brined me now alhamdulillah; alhumdulillah I am brined in full. Plattsburgh was so popular nobody went there anymore. That’s why the putz is noisily offering a SUNY/CUNY tuition lottery in a desperate effort to shoot all the kids. Business is down.

Greetings from the Hellstate. Montreal is always worth a visit, and many wouldn’t go unless they had to run errands, but that’s the problem. Who the fuck wants to take a bus to Montreal just to go to some random pharmacy? It’s no accident that our Canadian vice president graduated from Westmount. Neither of our dogshit major parties, if we even conceive of any others, have space under the big tent for a Francopopulist who figures ya hon hon hon have to represent Trois-Rivieres but sure, we can fund a friend’s Metro trip, too, but why the fuck wouldn’t you base the whole system on pneumatic tires, are you a goddamn Toronto limey bastard.

It’s so different now anyway. It’s so much worse. Canada is currently indisposed, to us a(ll), at least. It wishes not to catch sick, and we’d be inconsiderate not to show full trust, confidence, and deference before the demands of a couple of greasy nepotists like Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford when they insist that they’re just trying to keep their constituents healthy and alive. It’s a disappointingly American story, one reminiscent of Cuomo and any number of shitbags in and around the White House. Thank God Canada hasn’t vomited its own Anthony Fauci into a position of supreme epidemiological authority. Of course, Canadians can always borrow Tony, same as they can listen to NPR, watch NBC over the air if they’re close enough, and go shopping in New Hampshire lol jk sucka.

NAFTA Schengen is even farther away than it was. The only way to come close to enjoying it now is to know where to shimmy up against the cliff to evade the sensors and know you shit in dumpsters a few times, just not exactly how many. That’s what happens when you’ve done all the drugs, just like Keith Richards, except you always took the generic versions.

I repot, you de shite. What’s especially shitty about this for me is that, absent the still-indefinite closure of the land border and my parents’ screwiness about driving places when they live in a municipality with absolutely no public transit, we’d pretty reliably be able to drive to Montreal in under three hours and get hella drugs hella cheap. In October 2015 I got an ENT PA to scoop some special fall colors out of my ears. After he spent under ten minutes examining and rotorootering my ear canals, he got one of The Doctors to write me prescriptions for oral ciprofloxacin and Ciprodex ear drops. The Ciprodex came in the same style of itty-bitty bottle used for food coloring. It isn’t particularly complicated shit: same antibiotic as the tablets, cipro, plus dexamethasone, a common steroid, in normal saline. Yeah, it has to be medical-grade, not a thimble out of the Dead Sea, but it doesn’t fucking take CERN to produce that shit.

It cost $231. I’m not kidding. It was definitely well over $200. My dad was, quite reasonably, taken aback. I went online and found a forum where a Canadian pharmacist reported having it in stock for a retail price of about $30.

The loony is more or less worth something, but never by that much. We’re getting scammed. We’re all getting shaken down.

The germane question here isn’t anything about how enterprising and innovative America’s pharmaceutical companies are, leading the world in the development of new drugs; they either get the government to pay for that shit, throw a bit of their own money here and there at Boomer Dick Pills, or don’t do R&D at all. No, the germane question is the cost of toothpaste. Toothpaste, like prescription pharmaceuticals, is manufactured under strict quality control. Industrial chemists make sure it’s to spec. If we feel like being way too fucking generous and assuming that the suspension of a long proven, widely used antibiotic and steroid require quality control costs a hundredfold greater per cc than toothpaste, Cirprodex would cost, like, $5 a bottle. AIM sells for a buck a tube at Fred Meyer.

We don’t need to be exact here; leave that for the chemists. All the math we need for this STEM project, for making good minds GRRRREAT!, is this problem, using examples from the community: Compare and contrast Mr. Charles with Ming. In this problem, Mr. Charles is a normal-size housecat I met in a B&B in the Shenandoah, while Ming is the adult tiger Antoine Yates kept in the ghetto (in the ghetto), with family buckets of KFC and also an alligator.

Cat people. Many such cases!

I was probably too generous with the $5 estimate. I don’t give a shit. I took statistics in college becuase everybody would have made me even more self-loathing than usual if I’d dropped out. Whatever. The problem with this country, and others, too, but definitely the God-blessed US of A, is that our ability to work with orders of magnitude is fucked. It doesn’t work. In a vague conceptual way, Americans understand that Bill Gates has a higher net worth than a dentist. What they don’t get is, okay, look: Assuming Bill Gates is worth an even million, your dentist is worth a plate of spaghett at Denny’s. Depending on circumstances, that might include an iced tea, dessert (why?), or even the tip, as a special treat. Your dentist isn’t going out for dinner at Cattlemens in this scenario without a HELOC.

America’s Dumber Is Always Open. For real, using the same ratios, Bill Gates the bare millionaire would make it impossible for a successful dentist to take the wife (or husband!) and kids out to lunch without getting in hock to Donald Trump’s lenders. (Ronald Reagan went for free.)

Raise the fucking marginal rates, of course. The same people who don’t grok the dire significance of not dispossessing thugs like Gates, Musk, Bezos, and Buffett into mere multimillionaires–yes, Sir Warren gets the haircut, too–often don’t understand just how astoundingly widely the possibly nonfictional R&D costs borne by pharmaceutical companies are distributed once a drug is in production. Lamotrigine isn’t artisanally hand-pressed by Keebler Elves. It pours off the production lines like wheat down a combine harvester’s spout into a hopper. Yeah, they pay a lot of people a lot of money to keep the operation running smoothly, with fewer recalls for fatal side effects in theory than in practice, but that’s because they churn out absolute shitloads of drugs. Yeah, a 757 costs more than my Civic. It’s because I’m not clown-carring a manifest of 200 from O’Hare to LAX in four hours.

What if United loses money flying my fat ass across the country? Good. Century Boulevard! We LOVE it! Actually, some of us don’t so much. Beyond the incomprehension of scale, there’s a deeper principle of trying not to get cucked and suck cock for The Brands when they sustain operating losses on some transactions. They’re what we call too big to fail, and they’re called that for a reason. They do not just kind of oopsy-doopsy lose money and not get it back. That only happens when they’re looted down to the nuts and bolts. But that’s okay, too. That’s why we have a government. They need their constituent services. The grand or so I lost on United and American stock after 9/11 so they could float new offerings and then charge me thirty a bag at check-in wasn’t enough.

Drug prices make airfares look comprehensible. The system is based on the assumption that nobody actually pays the full price because everybody has insurance or a coupon or something. Okay, so why the fuck is that the list price? I’m prudent to demand to know exactly what the pills will cost me if I cut the bullshit and just pay upfront. For one thing, Kaiser was out of network, just as I expected. For $20 or $36 or whatever at Safeway, I don’t mind. It’s different at a pharmacy that offers what amounts to a $321 convenience fee. That’s the difference I would have had to pay just to pay for it and leave. To get it for *only* $68 I had to wait nervously while the pharmacist and a tech punched God and they alone knew what into a computer terminal.

Only a tiny number of unlucky customers, chosen arbitrarily, get to pay full freight while everybody else gets a steep discount. Cool, Walgreens is the Menands Police Department. Real normal, honest, ethical way to run a business here, chief.

What’s so insane about this shit, not just evil, is that the more the customer pays, the less work the other parties to the transaction have to do. The discounts go only to those who put up with transaction delays for gratuitous bookkeeping or somehow joined one of the specific health insurance programs contractually permitted to enter into billing disputes with the specific pharmacy filling the prescription.

Nobody who doesn’t get paid to deal with that shit should have to deal with it. Entire workforces are trained to consider it normal and appropriate to dump pointless administrative burdens onto their customers on behalf of their employers and then act like they’re doing their customers favors by typing some hocus pocus into a computer for a discount code. Any grocery store doing this would go out of business. Price Chopper doesn’t offer five-pound sacks of potatoes for a hundred dollars but let customers wait around nervously at the register for a discount of 30-95%.

It rules that so many Americans resent the poor for getting free medical care or prescriptions in the Obamaphone tradition instead of just demanding free shit for themselves, too. They already scheme for free shit; fuck around with the mortgage interest deduction and find out. What they don’t like is being forced to admit that they get free shit–they work hard to live in a neighborhood with good schools and Kwesi Millington for Sheriff, you see–or sharing social services wth the poor. Medicaid you get for being a lazy freeloader, but Medicare, now that you earn.

Fuck off. If Medcaid sounds good, demand it as a public option. Demand admission. Demand it for everybody, right here, right now. Bang on the door at HHS: I lives here; can I come in? If enough people join the chorus, the answer becomes yes. The drug benefit needs to stop being this copay and that deductible and start just being drugs. Like, time out, boss, this shit’s been on the formulary forever, five spot and a receipt if I pay cash, but I have my number, so I’m getting it for free. You assholes can talk to the government about it; I’ve already paid.

Dat R&D tho. We can’t be disincentivizing innovation. Otherwise our pharmacorps will stop hiring research scientists and turn into stock buyback operations. What on earth would happen if Amerca stopped believing in hard work?

Buddy that ship’s been sailing for decades, centuries if there’s a free slip in Charleston. A mighty ocean is our national self-esteem. It isn’t seaworthy, but it’s out there.

That fucking putz

Andrew Cuomo is in the news again, for the first time in an hour, grandstanding about how you should get out and see people, do things, recall the governor. Oh. Maybe not that last part, if we muster the impertinence to ask him.

Cuomo is #NotMyGovernor. I live in California. It disgusts me that he is my parents’ governor. We’ve been over this before, and I’ve been more than over him. His current exhortations to get out and stop being reclusive and avoidant is basically gaslighting. It’s hard to be sure he’s forward-thinking enough to deliberately gaslight, given all the awful shit he impulsively blurts out in the moment. He’s manipulative as all hell, but he’s a creature of chaos.

His chaos evokes Donald Trump’s, but as usual, I’m pretty sure it’s worse, and he is, too. The Donald shows little interest in bossing the little people around. It always bears repeating that Trump upsets the Brahmin chattering classes and their PMC subalterns because he openly, plainly beefs with revered political scumbags who are, by sacred tradition, accustomed to the due deference of their seniority and station. Trump had the nerve to directly insubordinate himself to them in full public view. He had the nerve to openly relish it. Jen Psaki is obviously a catty, manipulative asshole in private–she all but openly is in public–but she gets a pass for observing Beltway etiquette.

Cuomo is a man of terrible manners. He enjoys permanent dispensation to act like that because he’s to the governorship born. He has the good savvy to grease all the right wheels, of course. A gruff but relatively decent governor’s son like Jerry Brown wouldn’t get far by openly telling bad actors to get fucked and airing their /John Fogerty B Side I’m definitely not being blackmailed voice/ dirty laundry. New York politics have an unwashed crass transactionality worthy of Chicago. This is true of the city and the state. Upstate New York is swamped by Downstate and New York City, and Downstate would be have trouble holding its own against the city if the state line were drawn at the far edges of Ulster and Dutchess. But really, the whole state is like that. Rochester and Green Island pull the same shit. Menands uses Interstate 787 as a tax-farming platform to extort fines out of motorists for bogus moving violations, just like Steilacoom and Roy. (Ferguson’s entire government is a gang of highway robbers.) One end of the town has one dipshit with a plow crew responsible for clearing driveways after storms; the other end has a different crew of dipshits.

It goes back to Hamilton. Cuomo got ahead and stayed ahead by giving the hustlers their daily greasing. Rivers Casino is Schenectady’s economy now because it generates GDP, which is a useless made-up proxy but we don’t care about that. It “creates” “jobs.” There’s better work to be done that would actually make Schenectady a better place to live, but again, we aren’t here to care about backwards shit like that. We’re here to lure tourists in from downstate or crossstate or Connecticut or, on the Justin Time schedule, Canada. The communities sending Schenectady its tourists will in turn squeeze some share of the Capital District’s traveling Schenctards. It’s the same three-card monte the good old boys (and girls!) run at the local scale through gentrification projects. Churn the circular canal and skim off the top.

As usual, the brunt of the workload gets dumped onto untermenschen: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, J-1 Slavs, prisoners, deplorables. That’s what happens when nine-to-fives refuse to work. I can’t blame them. The incentives suck. I can barely afford to do farm work myself. It’s the same case for many Mexicans, just worse. I’m backstopped against debt. For people without kids, the classes of debt the poor take on are worse than living in a car or couchsurfing. I say this having slept in my car more times than I can count. Once the poor get into debt, it immediately becomes viable as a Why Not Both. America’s nine-to-fives are painfully aware of this. It’s buried pain, but they feel it. It chills their bones.

That’s why Applebee’s is “hiring.” Whom? The last thing our aggrieved shortstaffed employers will do is admit that they’re trying to pay and treat their people better instead of worse. NPR keeps airing Both Sides segments for employers to complain that they can’t compete with the government’s welfare compensation packages. If the producers need to drop one of the sides for some more tranny talk (not Chartock, and not Car Talk), they’ll gladly drop the voice of labor. Marketplace, bizarrely, is one of the shows that doesn’t. *Smoothly greasy Kai Ryssdal voice* This–is Mao Hour.

This bullshit about economic incentives and disincentives and nudge your slimy Beltway ass into the Tidal Basin, or rather nudges, is a great example of what these assholes try to do for a living instead of anything a reasonable person would classify as work.

They’re the ones who shitted up the stimmy. Trump came to them with a straightforward proposal to give a whole bunch of people a big check, but their marginally employable loser relatives and cronies needed policy analyst jobs instead of the allowances and childhood bedrooms they’d otherwise get from their parents, so they fine-tuned it into a means-tested kludge. The Oaf of Office instinctively recognizes that ordinary Americans fucking hate that shit, all of it. Every dysfunctional system that makes Americans suicidal is run like that: the IRS as a consequence of the tax schemes it’s mandated to enforce, the welfare bureaucracy, education, health insurance, grants for everything under the sun.

Trump knows it’s popular to just have the government give everybody some money. His opponents don’t care. Straightforward government checks any dumbass can understand don’t make the West Wing crowd feel important. They don’t make them feel needed and valued for their expertise. Busybody nerds can’t stand universal free programs.

Cuomo suffers from a tragically monumental ego. It’s insatiable. He’s governor, following in his father’s footsteps but forever in his shadow. Nepotism is not the root of Cuomo’s problem, as Jerry Brown has shown throughout his career. He needs to be in charge. That’s his idea of leadership. Many politicians approach their love of power with a measure of subtlety. They love power, but they also take pride in being of service. Cuomo’s thing is histrionic heroics. He needs to save the day. He saves the day by bossing the lesser orders around. Stay home. Okay, now go out. Go home. Okay, now go out again. Give your quarantine form to the National Guard at the airport for permission to enter the state. Guardsmen may meet your train at Penn Station, but only if it’s Amtrak, and probably only if it’s long-distance. Don’t think about the inconsistency of not intercepting almost any other incoming traffic or the civil liberties implications or the disturbing questions of what the hell happened at the nursing homes.

The Governor cares. The rest of the state would be better off if he didn’t.

Cuomo’s goal isn’t to be a steadying hand. It’s to be a grand hand. He leads and his people listen. He’s Qaddafi minus the fun comstumes. He presided over one of the most horrific Covid-19 death tolls in the world, then got the networks to cover his grandiose news conferences (he has a brother at one, after all) and threw the state’s weight around with intrusive, manipulative public health theater shows like the Excelsior Pass.

He isn’t there to safeguard his constituents. He’s there to pretend. If he’s too high on his own supply to tell the difference, does it even matter?

Cuomo’s constituents won’t take the state back from him, or can’t. Maybe they enjoy the leash. Surely a few do–New York City has become even more of a reservoir of unfortunate perversions than it was prior to Giuliani–but most probably either benefit from the crookedness or feel powerless to bring it to a halt. Many of those who might try have fled to Florida or the Poconos. Replacing them with gentrifiers and immigrants or porque no los dos has mediocre civic effects, as any project would if most of its members couldn’t vote and the ones who could have shit for economic politics. The Chapo left-liberal types seem to punch above their demographic and political weight. Not every cultural phenomenon is a political or demographic phenomenon.

Mind you, I’m spitballing this part wetter than most of the rest of it; take it with salt to distaste. For whatever it’s worth, I don’t think the role of property ownership in voting patterns and turnout is adequately appreciated in American politics in general, and more voters in New York City own property than the average American imagines. The rest of the state is much closer to the national average.

Cuomo is a more naked scold than most about his prerogative to treat his office as a control room full of dials he can turn at will to dictate public opinion and behavior. It’s Hamilton by way of Bernays by way of Giuliani and his worst cops, as interpreted by the guy who tried to honor his father’s legacy by saying “nigger wops” in front of Alan Chartock. The old Hamiltonian model was awful, but to its credit, its main purpose was to tell the grunts what to do and how miserably little they’d be paid to do it. Over the years, more and more busybodies and scolds folded their shit into the mix. It’s probably no coincidence that New York is one of the great centers of global advertising. The skim keeps many in country houses, too comfortable and sheltered to repudiate Cornelius Vanderbilt and his legacy–why, hello, Mr. Cooper–for being abusive and privileged enough to get his wife committed to an asylum for refusing to leave Staten Island. More than a few of the rich are manipulative enough to consider bogus commitment proceedings in family disputes a good thing.

The putz wants us to go traveling again. Excuse me, who the fuck asked you for an opinion, pops? That right there is the piece of shit who scared me out of visiting my parents for months after the case counts dropped to my satisfaction with that abusive interstate quarantine order and the Guard deployments. I don’t hate or resent him as much for now pumping up a wave of rebound travel, but he still fucking disgusts me for doing that. Travel this summer is going to be awful. My experience flying east the other week sure was. Burbank and National were fine, and Santa Rosa was manageable, but Charlotte was slammed and LAX was just fucking awful. Our masters are ginning up extra rebound travel on top of what we’re naturally (or unnaturally?) facing so we can spend fifteen minutes in line at Hudson News to drop eight bucks on a barely edible sandwich from the poor man’s Pret-a-Manger.

They knew something like that would happen. Every supply line and workforce needed to run the tourist hospitality sector got rekt for a year, and now they want to just turn everything back on, like water heated precisely to 120 F out of a waterfall shower in one of their lofts. Ain’t happening, pal.

What they’re really doing is playing mind games with the proles, as ever, and insider-trading both sides of a market crash and rebound. They know when to place their positions. They know when to get in, when to get out, and where to spent the loot. If a crowded hub terminal in one of the busiest airports in the country has a single overwhelmed newsstand with garbage for food as its sole concession during the redeye rush, they’ll do what they always do: fly private. If the traveling public suffers for trying to reunite with loved ones in the thick of a substantially engineered travel rush, we’ll still be excellent profit centers.

I, for one, can’t wait to hear the next good news out of Rivers Casino once we’re done hearing the current good news out of Amazon’s new warehouse in Schodack.

Fulfillment center. Christ.

Doctoring the stats, if we may

We live in noisy, acrimonious times, bombarded by denunciations of the kids these days for being disgraces to their parents. The barbs the Baby Boom caught were more or less for being insolent, i.e., too mature. The ones Millennials catch are even worse. Go read about that recrimination and religitation and general upset somewhere else, say, in any of the hundreds of passages where it’s already been beaten to death like Nigel St. Nigel’s dinner steak in these pages alone.

Occasionally an absolutely standout statistic pops over the transom and brings this bullshit into the stark relief it so desperately needs but so rarely gets, spotlighting the unlikelihood that tens of millions of extra Westerners under forty independently but simultaneously developed the same set of dysfunctional habits, made the same bad choices, and ended up with the same disappointing accomplishments and bleak prospects. From time to time—more like day or few, for those who aren’t numbed by the cultural onslaught—a snapshot pops up to prove, and I mean prove, that what’s happening is not just entire youth cohorts of current, erstwhile, and aspiring hikikomori freely choosing to make ruins of their own lives.

Tonight’s snapshot, for me, was a graph of the annual number of medical graduates in the postwar United States. The line rises steadily through around 1980. Then it falls into an undulating plateau for the next three decades, before rising more steadily again over the past decade, to the present day.

Did the national population do that? Of course not. It didn’t drop some years or decades and rise in others. It kept growing. Say, the turn of the eighties didn’t feature any other pivots from stewardship into schemes to sneak into other people’s houses and gorge on their seed corn at their kitchen tables, did it? Surely that wasn’t a period of constant strikes and lockouts in an effort to hold the line on the worst of the yuppies.

Metric after metric stagnated or reversed in the seventies and early eighties. It’s chart after chart after chart. It turns out they decided to stop training yuppies into doctors, too. It’s odd. It’s surprising. Aren’t the doctors all yuppies?

Yeah. That’s gotta be why. It’s artificial scarcity. When the unions attempt to enforce a third artificially scarce day of each air traffic controller’s work, they’re lazy freeloaders. When the medical schools and professional associations allow the training of new physicians and surgeons to detach from population growth in an aging country on course to start really aging a generation into the future, that’s, uh, markets something. It couldn’t be professional collusion. It’s not like Adam Smith snickered about how it’s impossible to put any two of any type in the same cafe at the same time and not immediately get them to hatch a conspiracy to fix prices.

The civic implications of Adam Smith complaining not just about every possible sort of tradesman being a born price-fixer but also about landlords are important, eternal vigilance as the price of freedom and all that shit. If that priggish gasbag was Mao by way of the Marquis of Queensberry, maybe the business of business really is monkey business and the landlords really are parasites. Smith happily granted that tradesmen are mere cheats. This might be worth keeping in mind when our elected officials and think tank sinecurists open their pieholes to spend time as the economics faculty.

As fellow tradesmen (and women!), certain members of the b College of Esteemed Barber-Surgeons might wish to do likewise for their own financial gain. They might wish to establish themselves as a strictly select fraternity.

Midwives and midwifery enthusiasts have things to say on this topic.

We risk veering into woo. Is natural childbirth any better than natural root canal or natural orthopedics? I don’t have any she-crunchies in my circles to impress at the moment; none of the bitches in that fight are mine. So let’s flip the question. If obstetrics is such a good idea, why have we spent forty years trying to have less of it? Patch my damn cunt right now, Adams! Be of cervix!

This is an entirely serious question. If a stagnating pool of physicians serving a growing population moves out of general or internal medicine and into OB/GYN for the pay (say, due to student debt), there will be a different mix of ill effects on national health, in this case through the neglect of routine checkups and preventative care, and there probably still won’t be enough obstetricians.

Did the raw ability of American medical schools to train new doctors falter for decades in the midst of breathtaking medical and pharmaceutical breakthroughs? I don’t particularly think so. That isn’t a deal where they just dump all the lab instructors into fulltime R&D. These are complementary parts of the system. They have synergies.

That’s a ridiculous answer for why medical school graduations plateaued alongside surges in the yuppie population. It’s more sensible to explain it by pointing out that recruiters for high-frequency trading shops spent years telling undergraduate math whizzes they were too smart for medical school. Don’t waste your career listening to geezers cough; come help us exploit our microsecond advantage over the other bastards by writing algorithms for the direct line we have from the NASDAQ floor to our new server farm in Hoboken.

These are gentlemen’s pastimes. It’s the kind of parasitic legerdemain that would tempt any ruined aristocrat who’s otherwise prone to club his fellow to death because he was budgeting tonight’s winnings for the latest round of last-ditch payments on his ample household debt. Granted, there are workarounds. For example, parliamentary immunity as a refuge from debtor’s prison is an exercise of classic Burkean conservatism.

It helps to know people to get into medical school these days, too. For veterinary school it’s just about a necessity. Mom and Dad are vets, they both know a bunch of other vets, and whaddaya know, precious Madison seizes the opportunity to shadow one of their colleagues and then gush about it on her improbably successful application for veterinary school. Honorably and lucratively, the family tradition endures.

In the Old World, this professional arrangement would generally be called a hereditary guild. Here, in the land of the free and the home of the brave new one, it’s called—well, shucks, it’s called nothing. We’re one of the most obnoxiously, inexhaustably talkative peoples on God’s green earth, and we somehow don’t have the language to describe the hardening tendency of children, in this case the children of the upper middle class, to take up their parents’ lines of work, to the exclusion of young people from other, less fortunate families.

Counterintuitively, it’s because Americans believe so deeply in the power of language. This is why we lack the language to talk about shit the English, the crew of our mothership and the namesake of our common tongue, traditionally classify with a single syllable. Over here, we’re pretending it isn’t odd that the children of veterinarians have such a preternatural inability to regress to the professional mean of not being veterinarians. They get prodded and hazed through the same test hell as any of their class peers, but kum-on, they aren’t all that competitive. They are not all so smart and capable.

Problem is, our Brahmins today get really touchy about what to do with the family dimwits. Maybe it’s their fault if they won’t study hard enough, but that’s beside the point. The dim their families will have with them always. The intense pressure to succeed doesn’t help, either. Some of their cognitive deficiencies—like, where if you talked to them just to talk to them without thinking about their excellence as striver brats you might walk away thinking they aren’t too fucking bright—arise from the pressure to turn them into Scantron idiot-savants. I was transiently dumber for putting up with that shit. You would be, too.

As Dan Quayle supposedly said, not to have a mind is being very wasteful; how true that is. Palo Alto’s teen suicide victims present, or absent, with scholastic aptitude such that they’d have to go to Atlanta to pass their tests. Youth suicide clusters in affluent communities may well in fact skew test scores and college acceptance letters upwards; I don’t care whether they’re crass enough to think of this, because I am, and I consider it a legitimate, relevant consideration.

All they’d do in Atlanta is grab a damn eraser. Encouragingly, it’s the same approach the proctors took on the Operation Varsity Blues show. Hey, champ, I know a guy in Houston. We’re seriously talking about saving people’s lives here.

*****

I’m shitposting, but I am not kidding. Colleges drive teenagers to suicide, and many more to self-harm, by playing around with the admissions dials to goose their cut of the vig. Then they wonder, oh no, our students have mental health problems. How did that happen? This stance conveniently opens up a slot in the trough for every grifting oddball with a PsyD to devise “solutions” that don’t force their employers to solve a goddamn thing. Our colleges retain an awful lot of in-house solicitors and regulatory specialists per capita for institutions that deal with customers they’re destabilizing to the verge of suicide by commending them to the mental health care of psychologists they employ.

Sociopathic multinational corporations that pull this company town shit on their employees in the interest of “wellness” at least pay them a little something for their trouble. The college model is to charge fees for healthcare upfront, along with tuition, and then delay or deny requests to apply the same fees, by this point on deposit at interest and declarable as liquidity on applications for corporate lines of credit, towards bills for the mental healthcare of outside providers who do not have prima facie conflicts of interest.

This shit is just too fucking obvious to give the benefit of the doubt. Rob Ford needed, like, a week of heat from the press to be like, yeah, I guess I can only prove that I smoked crack, but I’m pretty sure I was also drunk to the point of incapacitation, because that seems like the reason why I’d smoke crack. Dude’s Rock.

I am not here to humor anyone who runs a fucking chartered and accredited bachelor’s or graduate program and insists that isn’t a conflict of interest because it’s complicated and I don’t understand. No, asshole, I’m not a moron. I fucking understand. The arrangement for student mental health services at these schools is tangled but easy enough to describe and explain.

The schools are the immediate payors, the patients are their students, and the clinicians are their employees. The patients, usually via their much more solvent parents, have parallel customer relationships with the payor, as tuition-paying students and de facto policyholders enrolled in a group health coverage plan providing routine outpatient care in campus clinics closed to the general public.

Here’s where it gets sick. The clinicians have the specific, exclusive responsibility of treating mental health outpatients who almost always present with specific complaints against the clinicians’ employer, which is also the patients’ insurance carrier and provider network for psychological care whenever classes are in session and they happen to be on campus.

These are distraught teenagers and early twenty-somethings telling psychologists, all but explictly: Your employer is why I’m sick. Your employer is why I’m cutting myself and thinking of suicide. You work for my college. Our college is emotionally ruining me.

This is a mental healthcare system where the patient has an adversarial relationship with the counselor’s employer, EVERY SINGLE TIME. On rare occasions a patient’s difficulties may not have a provable relationship to the school, one of those situations that’s totally unlikely but plausible enough for Coast to Coast. Okay, I’m not saying I was on meth, but I’m not saying the alien didn’t stick a probe up my butt to download my soul, but I’m definitely saying the way I treat my patients is exactly the way I would if they weren’t telling me I’m working for the same organization that makes them want to kill themselves.

*****

At the institutional level, nobody at these schools can do a thing without debasing themselves to some combination of sophistry and carnival barking. That’s an American story if ever there was one. The combination of self-seriousness and power may be the most ruinous thing about this system. It seems not too conducive to peace of mind to bully teenagers already passing through a drawn-out, incoherently justified liminal period that their future wellbeing in everything from earning capacity to professional advancement to marriage and childrearing depends on their successfully walking a gauntlet of power-mad boors, scolds, busybodies, snitches, and lunatics.

Yes, the individual authority figure is allowed to be a mix-and-match; yes, it’s payable upfront; yes, usurers are standing by with installment plans. Call now.

I swear to God, it’s enough of a rite of passage to get the kids into the payroll workforce. The rest of this shit is just fucking insane.

I once had dinner in the same room as John Yoo for a symposium about Lincoln and Taney and why that did or did not make it okay for the intelligence services to subject detainees they’d gotten for bounties to mock executions. You know, the usual. We were treated to the usual high platitudes about robust debate and intellectual diversity and my balls, which were feeling better than they would have in Homan Square. The idea was that we’d be incurious not to give a fair hearing to a scholar of such stature just because we disagreed with his positions.

Whipped little bitch that I still so often am, I fell for this shit. A fair hearing of that asshole’s heinous and yet boring arguments would be to scream at him to shut up and promise to call 911 the next time he comes into sight. That reaction would rise vaguely towards the level of street justice. A pampered asshat like John Yoo would be horrified. People like him flip their shit at the thought of being heckled. They consider it censorship to be denied salaried academic posts and honoraria just because everything they have to say outrages their paying audiences.

This is the usual grievance about cancel culture: some bigshot pissed the wrong people off in exactly the way he knew not to do when he was on one platform, and how he must suffer the humiliation of having to take his large, established audience to a different, comparably prominent platform whenever he feels like it. The same assholes who are so fed up with liberal snowflakes throw a fit whenever one of them is belatedly denied ongoing payment to say absolutely any rotten thing that comes to mind on Fox News. They get outraged at the possibility of a marginal loss in viewership just because one of them barked a vile racist diatribe through a mouth too wine-soaked to form normal consonants.

To make it even more pathetic, they’re all bitter about their relegation to Fox News or some other platform of similar cultural dominance because a fair society would reward their talents with an appointment to Harvard. Yeah, Harvard doesn’t want me, either, doofus. Harvard does not encompass all possible atrocities just because it’s atrocious.

On the other hand, Boalt Hall made space for Philadelphia Eichmann.

This is the point where I start feeling like I’m fucking hallucinating. I’m just some schmuck who does more or less his fair share of the country’s farm work and publishes huge amounts of weird samizdat, some of which a few strangers enjoy reading. I’m over here chronicling the surreal from time to time, and I feel like a huge disappointment for not doing something more worthwhile. Meanwhile, the surreal who give me themselves as posting fodder do circle jerks for a living. They give each other accolades for publishing “legal scholarship” that would get them fired from the average newsroom for incompetence and serious ethical lapses. They get strivers to prove their own genius for a chance to pay for lectures about how it’s constitutional to commit the kinds of war crimes that got all those guys hanged in Nuremberg. It takes excellent grades and stratospheric LSAT scores to get into John Yoo’s lectures, plus a small fortune in tuition and fees.

Academic grades are barely credible without any of these freaks. They have the same problems with fraud, corruption, and chain of custody as subprime mortgages exhibited in the crash of 2008. The very premise of this system is that it can use printouts of some spreadsheet calculations derived from summary reviews of academic performance to classify alumni as anything from heroically hardworking geniuses to lazy retards, often based on coursework whose only copies existed for all of a day or two. To continue the unnerving hallucinatory feeling, the reason grades and grade point averages are taken so seriously is that the assholes relying on them are too lazy to review applicants’ portfolios. The standardized tests serve the same purpose.

The only thing we know about sexual quid pro quo in academia is that it’s underreported. I guarantee it. Sucking or fucking the right person to change some letters and numbers for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of future earnings is exactly what happens when the stakes are as high as they are now.

Most of this perversion and dissolution is only circumstantially provable. There’s conclusive, thoroughly documented evidence of the parallel ideological extortion that pervades academia and institutions associated with it. Freedom means the latitude to treat Alan Dershowitz like any other jerk with vile politics. It tells us what we need to know about the extent of intellectual freedom that it’s beyond the pale for so many professors and reporters to repay the foultempered immorality of such characters with anything but graciousness and patience. It isn’t mercy or magnanimity to put reactionary shithead lawyers on TV. It’s enabling. It’s collusion.

The assholes could always just grab soapboxes and serve as models of pluck and independence for the young people they rue have turned into whiny, easily offended conformists. They hate the idea. It would be an ego hit. I don’t usually look at my site stats these days. None of these emotionally volatile freaks would be able to resist. None of them can bear to be denied Harvard’s imprimatur, or to be quiet on any platform within their reach about the injury they sustain by being so denied.

*****

The simple explanation for their ill cheer is that they’re courtiers. They’re as bitter and resentful as any other chorus of petty little bitches about being barred from the courts of true power, those stuck kissing noble ass in Avignon for a living always pining for Versailles, where they’ll finally show the world that they’ve arrived.

Bruh, they feed you, right? And of course they do. Courtiers and whatever else they are as well—priests, scholars, jesters, counselors—are fed by the sweat of other brows. It’s one of the draws of the gig. They just have to concoct or perpetuate whatever story it takes to convince the peasants that they shouldn’t have to pitch in on the chores.

What makes these already miserable “conservative” crybabies go from the tragically insatiable to the farcical is their confusion of prestige with power. Sure, maybe critical race theory or whatever on earth is the matter with Larry and the Lady Mathematicians is obnoxious. That doesn’t mean it’s relevant. The people who actually run the Ivies and the United States are happy enough to toss some more feed into the vealpen on demand while those with the real wealth, power, and privilege either do their own whining about how marginalized they are or simply ignore the spectacle.

Our dean of humanities Dr. Summers plays both roles, getting rich and powerful and also splashing around in the mudpit of academic feuds. The litmus test of power, however, is simple. Whoever is getting rich is who matters. That’s the finbros and Tommy Tuberville before it’s anyone maxing out at $30k complaining about representation or free shit from the sponsors to fill out the team.

*****

The more or less reasonable assumption about the applicant pools and student bodies of prestigious universities—the Ivies, the Hidden Ivies, the flagship state schools—is they’re drawn from elite families, ones corresponding at least to the aristocracy or the medieval court clergy. This is intuitive, except it isn’t entirely the case. Harvard wouldn’t make its applicants grovel like peasants if it didn’t regard them as peasants. It esteems a few of them as true nobles; the remainder it regards as mere peasants with disposable assets.

Making these losers do a song and dance is entertainment for profit. It confirms the Good Schools as good schools, ones worth slashing throats and paying fortunes to attend. It reinforces the national and transnational class structures.

Once the higher strata of the peasantry matriculate, their mental health becomes important, because if it decides to go on sabbatical again the kids might do something to make their schools look bad, like drop out. The embarrassment of a high dropout rate comes with a significant loss of tuition and fee revenue, which also makes a school look bad.

There’s no fence bounding the prison. It’s still prison psychiatry.

To quote Zachary Karabell’s awfully unfortunate phrasing, what’s college for? It’s for itself. That’s the thing. It isn’t to prepare students for the professional world or cultivate in them the life of the mind or any of that shit. It’s an expensive crowdsourced matchmaking service, after a fashion, although Grove City is the only college to be honest about this pupose, and hence somewhat coherent. At other colleges the matchmaking role is mostly incidental; the same striving assholes might just as easily meet each other in prep school or grad school or even some yuppie bar in the big city, being yuppies.

The faculties do not govern themselves. Professors can be profoundly disturbed, but one thing they are not inclined to do is elevate the most parasitic flimflammers from among themselves to serve as their chiefs. The quality of administrator drops noticeably from department chair to college president. The central administrators are so much more expensive and so much worse. The principle is that it costs more to get more; quality of personnel demands quantity of funds.

Everything about this is happy horseshit. It’d be cheaper to elevate a sitting professor for a year or two instead of mounting national searches for the best of all candidates, and the candidates would be better. But that’s not the point. The point is to semi-randomly reward suckups for their sycophancy and corruption. Our college presidents couldn’t possibly be pulled from a grab bag of obnoxious, arrogant mediocrities for awards of salaries multiples of what any of the professors they govern earn and also free mansions. Surely they’re intellectuals of great distinction.

The true extent of academic self-government is the department. In some universities it may be an internal academic division, a “college” or “school” or whatever. /Most philosophical Jeffrey and the Jailbait Enjoyers salon voice/ Karabell, I don’t care what it’s for. What’s “college?” Yeah, okay, but wood does dat godda do wit pussy?

It has much to do, of course, just not in coherent or scrutable ways. HQ and the assholes who call their shots—the boards of trustees, the boosters, individual alumni who live to throw their money and weight around—tend not to interfere directly in departmental operations for a number of reasons, all of them better than nothing but none of them reputable. They want their precious schools to look good, and a reputation for sleazy bigshots intruding into departmental affairs is bad. They don’t want tenured faculty getting hostile, and if the vulgarians push the envelope the eggheads most assuredly will. These moneyball shysters are in it to make bank and move bank, not to get berated back off the academic quad by professors who are both avowedly and by consensus more educated, making a scene only to defend the ethical and intellectual high ground.

Besides, the departments have nothing of value to seize in the first place. They’re loss leaders for the big grift. It’s the vealpen again. No need to close the gate; just toss some feed in over the rail. They’ll gladly lie down and chew.

This is why the big cheeses keep the humanities departments around. This is why they don’t pare down the 100-level chemistry courses to excuse the morons who enroll for the distribution requirements and to have the TA’s turn on their Bunsen burners and do their math. They need to pretend that everybody who graduates is educated. Chad Kroeger is educated enough to admit he’s uneducated. That’s too educated.

Okay, he’s singing about high school. Is it the same notorious retard factory in Alberta that it is down here? It’s no pride of th’ American side, to judge from the bitter complaints of its being a volume-discounted version of college with marginally worse academic and occupational results. Nobody who comments on this shit has the intellectual curiosity to go after the deeper, real problems when it’s so easy to whine about low returns on investment. The rest of us get the discourse they deserve.

*****

If college’s intellectual mission is the formation of intellectually curious critical thinkers, a critical thinker would think college graduates would stand out for that, not for being insecure social climbers who get upset whenever somebody disses one of their cults at lunch. If the goal is to produce well-rounded physicians–hold up, because if that’s what we’re doing, we need to start by redesigning medical school.

It must feel too much like vo-tech to think about reclassifying medical training as a strictly professional course of study, such as the law still is in the crustier corners of Vermont. Medicine needs to be a profession of the Renaissance Man (and Woman!), not a grubby trade in which the barber-neurosurgeon is expected to know more about where and how to cut the brain than he does about the classics, butt enough about the Castro, or than she does about walking into her ex-boyfriend’s kitchen and yelling at him while he calls 911 from upstairs because she just woke him up from a nap. Understand, we cannot have the general public accusing The Doctors of exactly the obsessive narrow intelligence that’s drilled into them over the course of their medical training. This would decrease the public’s confidence in, as doctors do not call it but those who seek to marry doctors do, the medical field.

The popular understanding of this shit is all wrong. Everything I publish in these pages is the liberal arts. This right here is the real deal. You can say, well now, it’s nothing but gonzo shitposting, and fine. What I’m saying is still this: Whenever I barf forth another 2,500-12,500 words about Kwesi Millington or whatever the hell to polerize a friend, I’m objectively engaging in the liberal arts. There is no strict professional or technical purpose to this stuff.

There are strict professional and technical purposes to medical education. That’s why we’re all made to pretend that our doctors have to be Jonas Salk and also Marcus Aurelius. Look, I can hardly give my dentist a clear field of view when he starts talking to me about how much he loved “those trees with the pretty bark” (eucalyptus, I determined) on the first trip of his life to California because there was a clinical conference in, like, Altadena. I don’t need him to learn additional topics of conversation; that’s for his personal life, not my already full mouth.

Mind you, I’m just being too smart for school again. I’m not entirely joking, either. One of the purposes of the broad education of medical doctors, and Dr. Puliafito has indeed given a broad or two an education, is to encourage the public to think, patiently, as it were, of polymath brilliance as a proxy for the sharp clinical knowledge and acumen the same doctors may or may not possess.

What the fuck does that have to do with anything? I’m not over here telling Dennis Geyer where to cut, or what to cut, other than out the antics on the bridge, because young man I do not like the sound of that. Do we need or want our surgeons writing crap like that? No. We might wish for them to write post-op notes based on actual reviews of systems, but we can’t have a thing that nice, either. The professional standards are surprisingly mythical. Please insert my usual review of systems.

Medicine is a profession in which Dan Crenshaw’s eyes are equally reactive and dilated. The only way to face consequences for writing notes of that quality is to do so in a practice that maintains its own internal standards. The Mayo Clinic will probably shitcan anyone it catches doing that. The average hospital group? Lol wut, sure. Basically, you can do whatever until you get fired or sued, and if you get into either sort of trouble, you can find somewhere else to work. Drylabbing is okay as long as nobody gets maimed or killed, and the med-surg nurses are there to handle the med part.

My usual, please.

There might be less in the way of funds to slush if the normies start wondering what the fuck doctors know. Out in the streets a lot of Americans are bitter about medical mistakes and the incompetents who make them, but the main point is to overwhelm them by bamboozling nine-to-fives who vote. Dr. Oz is a doctor, you see.

Yeah, no shit. I’ll go to a different cardiac surgeon if I need one because he only practices part-time and the rest of them are somebody else. Does that mean he knows anything about probiotics or superfoods that can’t be learned from a list of ingredients? Does he know anything about exercise that any rando who gets out for a walk doesn’t also know? Of course not. He’s some freak on TV who eats an ounce of raw walnuts for lunch. He’ll be telling me what to eat just as soon as I’ll listen to some performatively folksy dipshit from the Farm Bureau tell me the parish hall coffee in his thermos is good enough for a breakfast at daybreak under the old oak out front of the barn when you’ve got twelve hours of silage to cut. Okay, then, you drink it, you twerp.

That’s the other thing: A whole lot of Heartland Leaders are teachers, not farmers. (I’m leaving the lawyers aside because they’re too numerous to be interesting.) Ben’s Ass—now goodness, can somebody teach me how to spell?—was a college president. Both of his parents were high school teachers. Lyndon Johnson and Chuck Grassley went to normal school. Denny taught in one.

Take that one to the mat. We all wrestle with these things, if we’re so unfortunate. The mere instructor goes to Minnesota for being homosexual; the true rancher goes there to BE homosexual.

The folksy wonders strutting around Washington and its many outposts around the world with their obnoxious method acting projects are eggheads. They’re thousands of times more likely than the average American to have Ivy League pedigrees. So much school, so little refinement. What the hell was the point of sending them? Brett Kavanaugh did not need to enroll to learn about beer.

Are we still to imagine college refines its alumni? Are we still to imagine it has a culturing effect? They matriculate as crass boors, and they graduate as crass boors. As Tom Lehrer might say, it’s a sewer like the rest of life, just costlier.

Rich people love having the merely affluent extrapolate and project their own fussy aesthetics and habits to the very top. They want the upper middle class to imagine that the overclass is not crawling with what Michael O. Church called uncultured barbarians. They want the PMC to continue to take Donald Trump for a poor man’s idea of a rich man, not simply a rich asshole. Between their sheer wealth and their forsaking of the noblesse oblige their ancestors learned the slightly hard way in the Depression, a rich person with coarse tastes today faces few obstacles to acting like Donald Trump. The press earnestly celebrates the vile antics of the rich. We love our celebrities, don’t we, folks. The authorities do little to temper their worst impulses. The matriarchs and patriarchs who were around for the lessons of the Depression in real time are too frail, feebleminded, or dead to meaningfully object. Who was that negro? Why, he was Kofi Annan, Mrs. Astor. Well, now, surely his parents were not foolish enough to name him Coffee.

The hardcore rich do whatever the fuck they please whenever the fuck they please. Sometimes they actually, sincerely try to be reputable and modest. We hear very little from or about these cases. The infamous hard workers among the rich work, or hold acting roles showcasing their own work ethics, almost exclusively to gather and hoard more wealth and power.

During the Great Compression they had to restrain themselves or be restrained. They had to negotiate with unions and submit to regulators. They love their current restoration to the powers of gods on earth. They have always consideed these powers their birthright. It smarted to have their worst wants denied for several decades on account of government intrusion into their affairs and the omnipresent threat of swift mob violence for overreach. They’re gratified to again be given tacit blessings to set quotas in ways forcing their employees to wear adult diapers. They approve of the prerogative Donald Trump used on television to ritually humiliate “apprentices” by breathing the words of ruin upon them like Zeus. They consider this a good model for the economy and for their own lives.

Yes, this includes #resist #WithHer #NeverTrump scolds. As always, it’s about substance, not style.

*****

As we mentioned above, medicine is a grubby, tiring way to try to make a fortune, and one requiring high intelligence. Some families are practically medical castes of their own. There are, for example, many Drs. Gupta. Judy Dench once got the sads on As Time Goes By and had to see a Mr. Percival, a Norman French cunt. To judge from the compensation packages, American doctors push their children High French and Original Brahmin children into medicine for the money. Prestige is the other obvious factor.

To be quite blunt, medical doctors and their class peers do not have a 70% or 90% lock or however much of it is they hog on young adult children capable of completing medical training and serving capably as doctors. Come on. Too many of their kids are too dull or soft or, inflammatory though it is to admit this away from the academic vealpen, traumatized to get through medical school and a residency the way these programs are run.

In the USA today (lol), these rounds of hazing are all too clearly a series of forced marches into a crooked, cruel system that doesn’t work. On an alarming number of floors, it’s acceptable for doctoring to fall somewhere between an acting gig and cosplay. The Village People were not in fact a cop and a logger and whatever. A medical license is worth its printstock as evidence of fitness for a physician who drops acid to make rounds “fun” or a surgeon who scrubs in too drunk to maintain normal gross motor function when he gropes his scrubs nurse with a breast pocket full of sharps.

It’s hard to imagine the quality of available medical staff not plummeting as word gets out about incidents of that nature. It’s more than a few assholes; it’s all the enablers among their colleagues turning a blind eye to flagrant unfitness for duty that could get patients killed, plus the openly homicidal executives and shareholders, plus the ethical impunity for consorting with cheerleader bimbos hawking the latest patent medicines on the junket circuit.

The prevailing ethics and standards of care in American medicine today are, if anything, higher than they should be given how notoriously riddled it is with profiteers, quacks, drylabbers, and other trash who have no business anywhere near it. It’s a powerful strange attractor for bad actors that is incidentally also a powerful strange attractor for good actors.

Where’s the tipping point? I think we’re right around it, but I couldn’t say for sure which side. Ask Malcolm Gladwell. Are Nickelback the dumbest Canadians? They sing popular songs about life, death, relationships found and lost and maybe found again, the sociology of small towns, luck good and bad, high school, sex in the shower, and the criminal justice system. Gladwell is famous for writing about how if you play a lot of hockey, there’s a good chance you’ll get good at hockey.

By God my stories about how if you spend 1,000 hours learning about horses at a government sleepaway school you’ll have no idea how to calm down a Pollack are better than that.

*****

The answers are so straightforward and yet so daunting. Train more doctors instead of whatever the hell we’re doing to miseducate our smart people instead. Nationalize the big pharmacorps, which profiteer on government research all the time as it is. Investigate the shit out of anyone trying to trade dinners and swag and a little something-something under my blouse for prescription sales, on both sides of the agreement; that setup is a way for our already quite well-compensated physicians and surgeons to charge their hookers to company expense accounts. Break up the for-profit hospital groups. Yank their nonprofit status on grounds of fraud. Establish more and better government clinics.

Medicare for All or Medicaid for All or Tricare for All would be a good adjunct.

Or an army of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed idealists could try to join it and reform it from the inside. It’s admirable, until it turns into a sellout fiasco like Teach for America or the law for most anybody. It’s the usual shit about systems and their inertia and peer pressure from colleagues and the kids’ classmates and all the rest of it. It’s a fucking mess, rather like the mainstream culture of this decadent, decrepit land.

Besides, you won’t need to call Toni Morrison to babysit your toddler while you become a neurosurgeon. There aren’t any openings. Help is not wanted.

Protest peacefully! Express your frustration, but please not your anger! Wear your masks! Get a permit! Be home by bedtime! Stay off the freeway!

Minnesota is getting riot season going early this year, huh. No, ja, Pekka, don’tcha know, da colored folks aren’t too happy abaout naouw. And ya thought da ethnic trouble was bad enough between your kind and the high-class krauts!

Gee, one wonders why. The same secondary megalopolis where a beat cop is on trial for murdering a black man over a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill just had another beat cop shoot another black man to death because he was driving on an expired car registration with an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror and an active arrest warrant. The police woman in the latest case mistakenly drew her taser, according to her chief. Did any of them learn anything from Johannes Mehserle? If so, what?

The authorities didn’t give their dispensation and blessing for the Black Lives Matter protests last year just to gaslight their constituents. It was whatthefuckular, for sure, having mayors and governors and health officials give their constituents an extraordinary hall pass in the thick of nearly universal orders to shelter in place, but for real, that’s what they always fucking do. The only difference that time was the ongoing outbreak of a virulent respiratory contagion. The provenance of and official reactions to the Dread Ailment have been questionable, to say the least, but most reasonable Americans knew better to taxi the nightclub circuit mutually freebreathing on total strangers all night under the circumstances.

This raises a question: Is there a difference between mixing unmasked with strangers indoors in a probably futile effort to bone one of them and mixing outdoors, mostly masked, in street demonstrations pushing back on the police for asserting their prerogative to strangle citizens to death at will? Geez, Ole, I know some a ya are priddy dense, but da ya fucken think?

The civil authorities knew they had an uprising on their hands. Dr. King’s beloved white moderates love to blame the upset on people staying home, being out of work, and watching too much TV, which, goodness, I can’t imagine there were any official incentives or demands or ubiquitous fnords encouraging such idleness, and it’s conceivable that unusual, unexpected free time makes it easier for the public to follow national news of, say, two Buffalo riot cops cracking an old activist’s skull open in front of local news crews for calmly walking up to their formation with a peace offering and the entire riot squad resigning when their colleagues faced criticism and minimal professional discipline for committing an aggravated battery that National Guardsmen in formation behind them narrowly prevented from turning into voluntary manslaughter by being the first ones with the decency to provide first aid and call an ambulance. Maybe these are policing practices that ought to have captured closer attention from more Americans in their earlier, sometimes less violent manifestations, back when we theoretically all had work. Yes: Buffalo riot police did nearly murder an old man for approaching them in a spirit of serenity and peace; yes, the Denver Police did shoot out a man’s eye in an attack that was either the result of terrible trigger discipline with riot control weapons or, all too likely, a reprisal attack on a random civilian for breaking a curfew on his way back from work; yes, Salt Lake City cops did shove a barely ambulatory old man to the ground for being in their way on the periphery of a protest; yes, the security services brutalized Christopher David when he calmly approached them to ask them if they gave a damn about their oaths of office; yes, riot police in Walnut Creek and San Diego made explicit murder threats over loudspeakers; yes, a Houston cop deliberately trampled a woman with his horse; yes, Pennsylvania State Police kettled and pepper-sprayed protesters on an embankment for briefly occupying the Vine Street Expressway, in the same city where Joey Baloney beat the shit out of protesters just because he was pissed off and felt like serving America a spicy wooder ice.

It was truly the Spirit of 76, American cops going hardcore Redcoat on their own constituents for challenging their samurai privilege to whack anyone who disobeys their arbitrary, contradictory orders, gives them mouth, or in any other petty way displeases them. It’s hard to believe, for example, that Bill DeBlasio has the NYPD under his civilian control. Likewise Lori Lightfoot, Ted Wheeler, and possibly the grandiose, Ceausescuan Eric Garcetti, although that sociopathic creep looks like he quite enjoys the classic folkways of the LAPD.

The United States turned out to be full of derelict, plausibly blackmailed or threatened with assassination, who would not or could not control their own cops. The whole country was suddenly suffering from a bad case of pigs mad.

As always, these shitheads did their thing. They tried to coopt the protests. They, those elected to answer petitions from the public, told the public how to petition. We admire your passion. We welcome your peaceful protests. We want you to make your voices heard. No, you are not allowed to riot. No, you are not allowed to loot. No, you are not allowed to be on the streets after dark. It’s bedtime, serf. Return to quarters at once.

That’s why they expressed their approval of protests. That’s why they declared protests an essential activity. They wanted to assemble a controlled opposition to divert and diffuse the public’s raw leverage: same shit as ever, just this time with a respiratory pandemic on the loose, as constantly reiterated through lecture series, human interest trend pieces, and fnordforce deployments.

What these morons figured was that if the protesters validated their permission to assemble for the narrow purpose of telling them to control their goddamn cops, they’d be in for a penny, in for a pound in the face of their every other overbearing diktat. That’s what they expect their constituents to do in the midst of escalating stochastic police attacks. They expect scared, angry constituents to subordinate their own anger to the feelings of Jacob Frey.

Yeah, that’ll fucking happen. “We know you’re scaed and upset–” Yeah, no shit, boss. You gonna do something about it, or do we have to shut down the freeways? Oh, YOU’RE the one who’s deciding to barricade freeway exits, raise the drawbridges, and retreat into your home behind multiple lines of riot cops, like a mad queen? Get fucked, bitch.

“Rioting and looting won’t accomplish anything. Please, express your anger, but–” Oh. Is that so? It immediately gets officials’ panties into a twist. It makes them visibly uncomfortable. It throws them off balance. Is that nothing?

Huh. Maybe these horny-for-rules scolds and the paranoid propertied constituents they always prioritize over anyone vulnerable don’t want to face genuine, credible pressure from their inferiors. Maybe they don’t like actual leverage from below. It sure seems like they get hella squirmy whenever they’re cornered. They sure seem to hear but not listen. It’s the same problem their cops have with private citizens. It’s exactly the objection the same elected officials have to direct actions that violate their instructions. Oh no, they strayed off the parade route!

The peasants are coloring outside the lines. Ousside, but such a long wait for the government cash. How bow dah. Let’s give the LAPD three billion this year, though.

We’re all bad babies indeed. We’re so insolent. They tell us how to express our feelings, and we insist on expressing them as we see fit. We just won’t listen. The subject can have a little peaceful protest, as a treat, but just a little.

It’s striking. Officials who never do shit to bring grocery stores into food deserts or public services in general into the ghettos suddenly go on edge whenever a mob smashes the windows at the Speeday, overturns the hot dog rollers, and for some reason leaves most of the pastries in place–in fairness, Kajieme Powell didn’t much care for them, either, it seems–because a cop just murdered one of their neighbors during a traffic stop and the chief described it as a tragic accident. Our upset public officials, the same ones who refuse to disciplne their police forces and instead deploy them like occupying armies whenever there’s an outburst of unrest over an act of violence on the part of their colleagues, insist that rioting and looting, the same direct actions that so palpably unnerve them, are senseless and useless.

As Melissa Ann Shepard always said, oh, come on, sweetie, you don’t have to step out on me and get your coffee in the breakfast line when I’ve already made us a pot. They don’t actually want us petitioning for the redress of our grievances. They don’t want their constituents getting so uppity. It’s inconvenient. It’s disruptive. If it doesn’t stop, it will force them to do something about their rotten, violent, seditious cops. Their sermons about the proper, effective way to protest are a pile of bullshit, and by now the people they claim to represent know it.

*Most civic Roger Schafer midnight munchies voice* I didn’t do shit to the Speedway! I was cutting food costs!

They know what they’re doing

The scholarly literature shows that increases in interest rates cause increases in suicide rates among farmers in India. Interest rates on farm loans are a big dial the authorities can turn to optimize the number of Indian farmers killing themselves out of pure despair.

Everything’s a Dril tweet, just darker. The published peer-reviewed literature has shown for decades that farmer suicides in India track what they’re forced to repay on loans. Again, this is just the published literature, excluding the huge body of high-grade classified research. There’s a reason why Graham Spanier washed up into one of the proliferating Beltway spook shops when the Penn State Board of Trustees got fed up with him for having been on watch for decades of child rape under the auspices of their flagship athletic program. He’s merely one of the best.

The deep state knows the same things about American farmers. Suicide is a notorious taboo in farm and ranch country. Every fool on the range knows financial desperation is what drives suicide rates in the Dakotas to some of the highest in the country. The security services have to know the same things, just with more detail as to why and, crucially, how.

A classic normcore mistake is to assume good motives meeting bad execution whenever things go awry. There’s no need to execute them when they do the job themselves. *Smug headtapping meme*. NAFTA has been not been good nigh these three decades for the places where Americans can still theoretically afford to live. Come the fuck on. Trashing thousands of functioning communities and hastily building ring upon ring of new construction in metastatic megalopolitan cryptoagglomerations freshly flooded with wave after wave of capital domestic and foreign has been, if you can believe it, bad for many ordinary Americans. This is exactly what the ruling class expected all along. This is exactly what they wanted. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were never privately like, gee, shucks, didn’t see that coming.

We disrupted some folks. We moved cheese on some folks.

This is a ruling class that would know, say, how to mismanage a contagious disease outbreak to calibrated ill effect. That is indeed what they’ve done. They knew good and goddamned well what would happen in the event of the indefinite shutdown of huge swathes of the economy coinciding with doctors’ orders for the whole nation to stay home until further notice. They knew what would happen if advisories to minimize physical contact with strangers were misleadingly framed as orders not to leave the house on pain of criminal indictment. They knew what would happen if they deployed language such as “social distancing” and “virtual festival” or declined to offer alternatives to the muddled popularization of “lockdown” and “quarantine” to describe a Groundhog Day lifestyle of living as a nation of shut-ins on official orders–waited on by roustabout servants on call to venture as proxies into the real world, allowing Brahmins of that certain traditional financial standing to maintain and display ritual purity at Dalit expense–or encouraged the further euphemism of performative hypochondriac neurosis as “cottagecore.”

They knew, in short, what would happen if they indefinitely suspended normal life. They aren’t the least bit surprised to observe big jumps in depression, anxiety, domestic abuse, overeating, heavy drinking, and suicidality. After all, they’ve spent decades practicing on sacrifice zones, to strategically minimal fanfare. They’ve spent decades destroying disfavored parts of the domestic imperial periphery by limiting the same public services and cultivating the same destructive habits in the natives. They were barring the bathroom door even to customers in the ghetto (in the ghetto) for decades before they suddenly shut down countless public bathrooms in rich parts of town on public health grounds. They did the same thing with access to electrical outlets. Mirroring the sudden but lasting unavailability of bulk nonperishables in grocery stores on public health grounds, the sacrifice zones are longstanding food deserts. Their residents were suffering en masse from untreated medical and psychiatric illnesses decades before the affluent insured were suddenly offered “telehealth” appointments in lieu of five-minute physical exams.

Empire comes home.

They knew what would happen if they bullied and shamed ordinary Americans for daring to leave the house, let alone to visit loved ones. We’re doing virtual visits now. They knew what would happen if they suddenly popularized an obscure, glitch-prone teleconference program as the indispensable alternative to actually fucking visiting other people. They knew they’d end up with a population even more sedentary, lethargic, and out of shape than before by dictating insructions to stay home but by all means get out for exercise but for the love of God STAY HOME, in many places closing the parks for weeks or months on the spurious grounds that they would spread contagion.

The schizoid messaging provoked schizoid ideation. No fucking shit. Broadcasting muddled, contradictory messages in the midst of provable gaslighting campaigns will do that. Anthony and the gang lied about the efficacy of masks for weeks before caving to public pressure. That motherfucker told people to get out on cruise ships! He bragged on the record, in the New York Times no less, about lying to the public about expected herd immunity thresholds in an effort to calibrate messaging for maximum vaccination compliance. That’s just the way for officials to do to inspire confidence in new, barely tested vaccines when they work for the same government that did the Tuskegee Experiments, the Pruitt-Igoe chemical weapons tests, and nuclear weapons tests in the Desert Southwest. The US Government serially runs tests on uninformed, nonconsenting subjects, as our ancestors were called in Merry Old England. Not to worry, though: NPR helpfully informs us that racism is why vaccination rates are lower in nonwhite and poor neighborhoods than in rich white ones. Surely it hasn’t a thing to do with mass distrust of the medical authorities, an awfully unreasonable worldview were it to arise.

Check it out, guys. New dial. This one says “vaccine.”

The authorities know what they’ll accomplish with systematic wokescolding. They know it better, more intimately, in more granular detail, than you or me, or at least me. This is where it gets really weird. Everything gets warped through a looking glass beyond the one warping our perceptions of life and health in the time of neither. We hear much more about sex and race than we do about class. One wonders which of these three makes the puppeteers at the networks squirm.

NPR platforms a growing team of black personalities who speak in an accent from the uncanny valley of the Not Quite White. It’s very disconcerting. Loading that particular weirdness on top of the already advanced weirdness of the House Voice as a generalized, panracial affectation by way of speaking about and on behalf of America’s oppressed minorities is, all of it put together, just overwhelming. It’s disturbing to think about anyone taking any of it seriously. Totebag Nation is a painfully earnest people. Maybe we should think about something else instead.

Maybe we should go enjoy something not pertaining to the trendsetters of our great land and what they do with their disposable income. KQED claims to have beaten its pledge goals. It advertises the URL’s of its advertisers’ dedicated webpages for KQED listeners. We’re crowdsourcing work for the Audit Bureau of Circulation now. God bless and keep America.

When I listen to NPR’s proliferating racemongerers and actually think about what they are and what they’re doing, on top of the auditory assaults of such characters as the terminally schoolmarmish Mary Louise Kelly and the animatronic spook Michele Kelemen, I can’t help but notice that ain’t none a them choppin’ cotton. It’s naughty to entertain thots of the House Negress, but what else are these characters? They cook and plate this hearty hoppin John; I merely report on the delicious dish, for the audience to decide. The readership can have a little watermelon discourse, as a treat. The retard can have a little pecan pie: food to eat.

Ah, that’s right. We don’t talk about bad deeds around here. Bill Clinton wokely had Ricky Ray killed before dessert. Son of a bitch passed the goddamn Marshmallow Test. Absolute Legend. I’m just an uppity loser who actually works with crops so far not including cotton. Who am I to question the rectitude or judgment of some interchangeable black lady who talks in the same weird-ass cadence and diction as every other interchangeable she-robot on NPR?

Many of the he-robots speak likewise. Guy Raz is going full Brokeback Mountain on John Ruetten as we speak. Lazarus, do you copy?

Today, on how I built this tent in my pants–eh, never mind. That wasn’t going anywhere good. It wasn’t going anywhere at all, honestly. I wonder what Mark Fuhrman thought about the Westside Jews. He probably just griped about Steph being a fucking split tail in front of that shiksa and her camcorder.

Send me some picture postcards already, you stupid South Sound cracker.

Harbor or no harbor, it’s always fun to brame a fellow for talking his white ass out of that gig. That probably sounds as braindead as I felt writing it, but Fat Cracka don’t mind.

The authorities knew what to expect from cooping the country’s disposable income up in front of screens and berating the normies not to dare seek out unmediated interactions outside their own households. They knew they’d end up with a nation of hypochrondriac paranoiacs reflexively shunning independent businesses in favor of the handful of multinational behemoths always advertising online and on TV. They knew they’d scare people into driving everywhere and getting everything they don’t order in through curbside delivery or drive-in lanes. It’s so fucking dystopian to go past In-N-Out or Chick-fil-A in reasonably navigable traffic and see the drive-through line spilling out into the fucking street. Food banks are drive-through now. It’s unfuckingbelievable.

Who wants this bullshit where everything has to be prepackaged in plastic for single use and served through a car window because we’ll all kill our grandmothers by sitting down in a restaurant lobby and briefly touching a soda dispenser: independent restaurateurs, or the Darden Group? Any of the big restaurant groups can shut down indefiitely, wait for the small fry to die by mass attrition, and recapitalize overnight. The independents cannot.

Big business is fully aware of this. Uber and Lyft are fully aware of their opportunity to kneecap mass transit systems. Instacart and the supermarket chains are fully aware of their opportunity to bust drivers’ unions with a flood of 1099 scabs. It’s the same public-private partnership as ever. Mussolini had a name for it, the same name hysterical liberals (sic) throw at Donald Trump every time he mouths off like a freak about some meaningless distraction.

Disengage from this matrix. Do your own thinking. Mouth off at them in the privacy of your car whenever the talking heads say something obnoxiously divisive or are just being assholes again. It works for me.

Better, turn that shit off and get on the bus. In this house we observe the Wesleyan Traditions. In your house you might as well, too.

Up the Hershey Highway again

If Jimmy Carter had nominated Rachel Levine for a cabinet office, Joe Biden would have spent the month fuming, verbatim, about “the trannies.” I don’t see why he isn’t talking like that in private this month, assuming he’s verbal (and that’s assuming a lot!) That’s exactly the crudity of thought that got Levine nominated in the first place.”C’mon, man, I’ve got a Negress, a bunch a’ other broads, a faggot, and a transvestite! Gimme a break, Jack!”

There’s no political strategy to Levine’s nomination. There’s a narrow technical argument to be made that it shores up the support or enthusiasm of cultural liberals, but that’s a risky strategy. Trans rights are politically fraught, to say the least, in case anyone was puzzled by the spate of mishaps at “gender reveal” parties (#TeshTips: The noun, possibly mentioned in the Bible, is “revelation”), and voters who find ladyboy idpol inspiring are all Blue No Matter Who cult freaks. “How can we alienate the most swing voters by pandering to the narrowest, most marginal, most controversial part of our coalition?” It’s certainly a question Democrats ask, and yes, I wish I meant that sarcastically.

Biden, or Harris, nominated Levine for even coarser, seedier reasons. It’s an inept, offensive gambit to keep the coalition’s unruly leftists in line. Geez Louise, Jack, we gotcha your he-she, Mack! Voting against the presidency responsible for this nightmare would be bigotry. Huh. Am I allowed to be bigoted against a person because I’ve personally met shit and had a bad personal experience with shit? What I’m saying is, I refused to darken that freak’s exam room a second time back when she was still Richard. I have higher priorities than what the nomination to high federal office of the worst physician who has ever examined me means for trans rights or representation in government. That’s a case of whoa, she should NOT be in medicine, and she needs to be banished down out of medicine, not up into a position of official authority over it.

We hear a great deal these days about “qualifications,” always in a bogus credentialist sense meant to subvert the plain, expressly narrow constitutional qualifications for office. Rachel Levine is old enough and American enough for an assistant cabinet post. So am I, and I’m more fit. I’d consider the office a burden requiring me to live up to great, solemn duties of public trust. Levine is trying to get herself Peter Principled, and I know she never meant to have one, up out of an equivalent state-level position in which she got hundreds of medically fragile constituents killed just last calendar year. What assholes who bitch about the “qualified” versus the “unqualified” mean by the former is 1) having jumped through professional hoops, in a manner prioritizing outcome over process if there’s any conflict between the two, and 2) being politically agreeable. The honorable thing for them to do would be to focus on political agreeability, which is their actual aim, and shut up about “qualifications” as a synonum for fitness for office, since they’d never tolerate a callous freak like Levine if they actually cared about fitness. I don’t expect them to do anything of the sort, of course. They’re thoroughly dishonorable.

What I don’t entirely understand is why Tom Wolf, who seems overly idealistic but sensible, ever elevated that freakish dipshit to appointed statewide office. For all I know it may have been blackmail. Damned if I can say blackmail of whom, but hot diggity, Denny, we can take the plausibility of this one straight to the mat, way down low. Is #FOOTBALL also heterosexual, like wrestling? I ran cross country in high school, back when I still lived in Pennsylvania. The first mile was always easier.

#WeAre! #TooSoon! Wolf was probably just being a bleeding heart. It’s also all too plausible that he was prevailed upon to remove Levine from full-time clinical duties at Hershey. There’s always a benefit to removing a case of that extremity from medical practice. Elevation to a directorship of public health is a terrible way to do it, but it doesn’t eliminate what Mainers call the relative benefits. Instead of practicing medicine all the time, she was practicing medicine some of the time, or maybe just instructing unfortunate medical students, and spending the rest of the time either fucking off for a living or telling other doctors what to do.

In a more functional society, public office would have served Levine, and crucially the public, as a veal pen. Fatten up, moo a little bit, just don’t wander out here and bother us while we’re trying to work. Instead she meddled catastrophically in the Covid response and got constituent’s her mother’s age killed en masse in nursing homes. Did she leave her mother in the home? Hell no. She got Mom the hell out of that dump to save her life.

But that’s just one bad officer holding one office in one state out of fifty and one commonwealth out of four. Between the states and the territories, there were dozens of people the Biden Administration could have chosen over Levine from exactly the equivalent offices. There were hundreds upon hundreds of state cabinet officers they could have chosen.

Levine was Wolf’s problem. She’s not a problem I’d want to have, but I haven’t voted in Pennsylvania in over a decade. Now she’s up for confirmation to a federal cabinet office. Goddammit she is my problem after all. Son of a bitch. Why in all hell did they have to No Peter Priciple her into HHS?

Oh yeah. Shit. They have to keep the voters they’re ratfucking in line to reward them for committing serial abuse. Don’t dwell on how we’re betraying you every bit as badly as you feared when you voted for us; think about the diversity of our cabinet, trannies and all.

I don’t think it’ll work. It’s a perfect setup for a whopping Bradley Effect in 2022 and 2024. Levine is arguably the most fucked up person they could have elevated out of an organization that has also recently harbored Our Lord Joseph, His Servants Gerald and Graham, a child psychiatrist who was caught with child pornography on his office computer as part of his unapproved “study,” and another psychiatrist who got his card yanked by the medical board for marrying his patient. Don’t worry; the only one who summarily fired was the Boer spook, and he promptly washed up on the shores of the Beltway.

Seriously, nobody’s gonna fucking vote for that shit if they keep refusing to deliver. Levine will be either irrelevant or notorious. They expect to bully and shame us all into keeping both Democratic caucuses in the majority and Kamala Harris in the White House. Let’s face it: Biden isn’t even the president now lmao. He’s the titular president, and he pipes up with suggestions from time to time. Harris can obviously run circles around that skull full of cream of wheat. Of course, they’re gonna all be like, hey, look! A faggot! A tranny! A colored gal! I paraphrase. Ordinary voters will be disgusted that they all had to be dragged out of the uncanny valley. NPR caters to the hardly overpowering faction of well-to-do voters who can stand to listen to woke idpol shit. It catches some downwardly mobile ascribed bougies and some social climbers, too, but if the economy doesn’t turn around come the midterms–and I mean the whole real economy, including everything involving money, like healthcare and schooling–they’ll lose the last of their patience and help hose the Democratic Party off the Hill.

Joe Biden is a bigoted asshole who decided to start bringing freaks and phonies into his orbit for use as tokens, in the disgraceful hope of distracting the public from his rotten misgovernment. He’d still be fuming about forced bussing if that were still where he saw the clout. It’s considered unfit for polite company these days, so he doesn’t. It’s off-brand for a man of “empathy” and “decency,” i.e., still what he believes as a reactive thug who challenges other men to fistfights for asking him policy questions and feels up their wives. He still says the same kind of shit on hot mics that he was saying on the Senate Floor before I was born, just sometimes with less coherence.

He isn’t plainspoken; he’s a foultempered bigot, always on the lookout for a chance to punch down. He’s still racist as hell. That’s how he got to spend eight years as the lieutenant for a fellow white supremacist, the man whose office he now holds, if he’s able to hold anything for ten seconds. Joe Biden is Richard Nixon, but less gracious, less liberal, and less intelligent.

That’s the fucking thing. All a politician has to do to convince our retarded Washington press corps that he’s “working-class” is use some shit-tier folksy syntax. Those are supposed to be some of the keenest political minds in a country of over three hundred million, and all it takes to hoodwink them is to very crudely play against type. Tricky Dick, who was painfully aware of his own modest blue-collar upbringing, made a point of speaking in full, coherent, grammatically correct sentences. LBJ, the Texas-bred graduate of a normal school, took the same approach. Sonny Bush, a legacy Yalie and legacy president from the summering set, headfaked a nation of goobers with strings of downhome gibberish: food on your family, power to power the power of the generating plants, other shit the scrambled likes of which he definitively did not say in private. Trump, too, was less lucid in public than in private, although it takes true oratorical skill, including mental organization, to say some of the outrageous things he said and loop back onto topic from ridiculous streams of consciousness. Our presidents have been good Toastmasters, crummy Toastmasters, great Toastmasters, horrible Toastmasters. Woodrow Wilson’s PhD was neither from MIT nor from a crummy college. Yes, Virginia, there were racists in New Jersey back then, too.

Biden is granted “working-class” and “blue-collar” street cred for making utterances ranging from the rude to the abusive to the belligerent in a moderately rough Mid-Atlantic accent. It works because he does it for other worse-than-useless mandarins. It isn’t for the working class; it’s for affluent and rich twerps who have never socialized with anyone from the working class. Some of the most urbane people I’ve ever known come from genuinely working-class upbringings. One of them is the son of a Pittsburgh steelworker. Inweaved in the Extensive, whose parents owned “a goddamn steel mill” (a different one, I’d hope), had the son of a shop steward for the mail carrier’s local in Scranton editing his term papers. This wasn’t the smart leading the dumb so much as the exasperated brilliant trying to teach the intelligent to write English as well as they spoke it.

Any of them are enough to convince me that Funny Uncle Joe’s shtick is lame. He’s a salesman’s son who’s spent his career trying to convince idiots that he’s somehow not a lawyer by using obnoxiously meaningless sales talk sprinkled with half-coherent legalese. He was never blue-collar, and his father was never blue-collar. It’s some bullshit his handlers helped him make up, same as the “decency” and “empathy” of a dotard too senile to reliably walk in the right direction for twenty yards who was going to “hit the ground running” upon his inauguration.

None of this horseshit points to anything he’s ever actually done, other than being buddies with some Amtrak conductors. He’s a total phony.

We’re entirely right to resent First State Skull Pudding and everyone around him with a passion. They’re fully qualified for public office. So is the morbidly obese Plymouth-Whitemarsh community trust retard I once met, the one who told me about how he’d chat up the teenyboppers guarding the pool at his apartment complex: “So I go up to them, and I say, hey, sweetheart. What’s your name? Where do you live?” We’re absolutely right to resent anyone who confuses qualification for office with fitness as a way to buffalo ideological opponents out of the way. That retard wasn’t fit to be undersecretary of health, either. To his credit, though, he never tried to practice medicine.

Yes, Rachel Levine is qualified for cabinet appointment. She’s a US citizen of constitutionally sufficient age who has not been adjudicated liable to ask the lifeguard where she lives. Actually, that’s exactly how clumsy Levine was when he examined me. By the way, she looked worse as a man. You /sagest Dril voice/ do not gotta hand it to Kenneth Fitzhugh for murdering his wife, or for being normal, but you do for looking all right. Charles Cullen was never sexy enough for an Indiana license, either.

Again, that does not mean Levine has any business anywhere near public office. Do they even fucking vet these assholes? Gee, let’s check with her last employer and, well, shucks, that isn’t what we were hoping to find. Instead, Jen Psaki is up there smugly noting that Janet Yellen is a woman, not a crook. For God’s sake Stephanie Lazarus is a Jewess, too, but I don’t think many of us would be complaining about her conflicts of interest if she were appointed director of the National Endowment for the Arts. Also she’s killed fewer people.

That’s the quality of leadership that gets coughed up in our meritocracy. No, not Steph; it’s a miracle she didn’t make RHD in time to investigate herself. And not the creepy silver foxes or the fat retard, either. I mean the rest of them. They’re awful. Meritocracy that slow guy’s ass, and mine, too. They do not merit our respect. They merit our scorn and fury.

Messing with Texas

Yankee shitlibs refuse to confront the ugly truth that the gross misgovernment of the South mainly harms Southerners, most especially poor Southerners. It’s probablly because they’re racists. This evil country has been building common cause between Confederate brutes and Union appeasers since Appomattox. Charles Sumner got his insolent white ass caned on the Senate floor for refusing to accommodate his fellow cuntrymen, a misspelling he would wholeheartedly agree is not one. Some of speak more deeply in the Vulgate than others, some of the time. The good old classists–goodness, classicists–of the Good Old South were, as Sumner provocatively pointed out, Daniel Holtzclaw, just prissier. That was enough for Preston Brooks, Southern Gentleman, to forcibly get Charlie off his political bullshit. #CHAHLEE!

True Song of the South: I had the pleasure and honor, in my troubled youth, of briefly getting to know Mr. Charles and his owners. Mr. Charles was a nice pussy. They lived in a bed and breakfast outside Luray. Good folks, of all breeds. Mr. Charles was far from the worst Southern Ginger. Any of you fools read about the characters who founded this nation? My parents were taking me to a summer camp between Harrisonburg and New Market. Mr. Charles had his shit way more together than my modal peer or chaperone at camp. That outfit put the loco into the parentis indeed.

These days I’m much less troubled on my trips to Virginny, new, old, and dead. I’m talking about trips where I do shit like break down in tears in an easily bent-out-of-shape Marylander’s arms when we see each other for the first time in fifteen years and she asks me how I’m doing. “I keep thinking I see her.” All alma sane, y’all, is, some of us are less fucked up than we used to be. Take courage! Take comfort! In a world when so many things regress, some nerds advance!

Huh. We’re recycling our #content again. But ask: How much is there that is new under the harsh Texas sun? The ugliest members of the gentry are still grievously torturing their socioeconomic, and hence racial, inferiors. It remains the official policy. The scions of old-line Jeffersonian families do it because it’s what their families have always done. Canadian immigrants and other arrivistes in the Jacksonian mold do it because it’s what the Jeffersonian master class has done since time immemorial. We’re examining here the examples the American Adams of their diseased culture set in their own lives, not the ideals they proclaimed. That’s some perverse phrasing I used, but it’s not like we just started deploying seedy political accusations of treason and incest.

To plunge into the truly odd, our recently departed Oaf of Office, a man of publicly avowed incestuous interest in his own daughter, is consistently accused only of treason, which there is absolutely no evidence he ever committed. Did he get entanged in foreign rivalries, against the sage advice of our wiser framers and in the immediately recognizable fashion of every predecessor holding his office in his lifetime, as well as that of multiple framers of the United States Constitution? You betcha. Was whatever he thought he was trying to accomplish in the Russia and the Ukraine treasonous? Good God, y’all. “Woody Allen adopted that girl? Okay, but he’s Julius Rosenberg.” Come again? Dafuq?

The Russia obsession is the psychotic political equivalent of Ella Emhoff’s style of dress. That bird of prey goth bullshit is itself an updated version of the extant tradition of dressing up in starched shirts and neckties as a sign of one’s transcendence of physical labor. We’re encouraged to believe she does that to shock the bourgeoisie. Huh uh; homegirl is doing that to BE the bourgeoisie. The smartly dressed black bum on the San Diego Trolley who told his Goodwill muumuu-class white girlfriend “I can’t afford to go to the bank no more” dressed respectably because he couldn’t afford to go to the social capital bank no more neither.

John Regan would probably argue this is why we maintain monarchies. I take a different stance. This is why we mock monarchies. This is why we mercilessly mock all who butt in with aristocratic or monarchical pretensions. Go back to Canada and take that fancy-pants imperial condescension with you. “Oh. Which Canadian?” Yeah, that’s the fucking problem. We’ve got one in the fucking White House and still have one in the Senate. I’m afraid we can identify Regan as one of the good ones because he fled for Canada, not from it. They can’t all be Chad Kroeger or the Mentionable Justin. If I was them, would I let me in, like they did Dziekanski? I’d like to think so, but honestly, I’m interested in the backchannels–ironically by surf and turf, not sky–more than I am tempted.

Many of us, then, are stuck here. Do I sound like the kind of Cancunt who gets into Congress? Guadalajara? Oh no. Volaris is the Greyhound Airborne. Let’s see if there’s some room on the business standby list for Houston. Well shit, in that case maybe there’s a couple cops waiting for me back home, at the airport.

Bitch you could fly to Calgary instead, eh?

Rafael Edward’s Mexican Adventure is, in strictly technical terms, a distraction from the catastrophic failure of ERCOT and many of Texas’s municipal water supplies under the onslaught of a cold snap that was accurately forecast days in advance. That said, it’s of a piece with Ted Cruz’s decision to fuck off to Mexico during a statewide crisis, blame his minor daughters for making him abandon his constituents, and telling a press scrum at the Cancun Airport that he was flying home to roll up his sleeves and work on the grid. Cruz wore a Lone Star Flag mask for his airport press conference. He literally, bodily justified himself from behind the cover of his state’s flag.

Don’t mess with what now? Who dat living on the Gulf of Mexico and vacationing down at a different part of it to get out of the cold? Cruz’s block got priority grid service at a time when his constituents were on the verge of dying of thirst, dozens of them as a preliminary estimate had already died of exposure or carbon monoxide poisoning, and he and his family had fled out of country, not just out of town.

Everything they say happens to political cultures and supply lines in communist countries just happened in Texas, on an even worse extreme and grander scale. Indigent Texans are lining up for bottled water at drive-through delivery points. Will Rogers thought it was absurd that America went to the poor house in the automobile. That’s how we, as a country, are going to the soup kitchen and the open call for fucking water rations. It’s an astoundingy dystopian work of science fiction, and the citizens of a hypermilitarized police state, the subjects of the sole remaining global imperial superpower, are living in it. That’s our real life.

Fuck off about bitch-ass Russia. That joint at least seems to more or less work. The Gulag was a chronic atrocity, nothing to dismiss or justify, but it was never the fault or immediate business of the United States. It was a Soviet atrocity. Americans were right to denounce it in its day. But the United States is currently operating its own Gulag archipelago. It’s committing many of the same atrocities against its own prisoners, many of whom it incarcerates for political reasons. This is what America is doing to its own people today, as I write and you read. Our prisons deny their inmates food or serve them food that is unwholesome and barely edible. They deny their inmates clean facilities and clean water. This week, Texas prisons have been denying their inmates water, period, denying them heat, and even denying them blankets.

It’s controversial to say that the United States is a nation founded and run on genocide. Maybe we should think about something less unpleasant, something less recent. Mercy, O’Hara.

Mercy, Mr. Charles.

Most politicians, even the psychopaths, are keenly aware of how important it is to show empathy. The psychopaths among them at least try to mimic empathy to an extent that they figure will fool the rubes. This is exactly why there’s such a concerted campaign to praise Joe Biden for his “empathy” and “decency,” and Kamala Harris for her “warmth.” It’s a sickening effort to rehabilitate two armchair thugs who have devoted their careers to doing evil and continue, to this day, to deliberately do evil. The point of this campaign is to gaslight genuine liberals who voted for Biden and Harris in ambivalent but desperate hope that they’d be better than Trump. This same jumble of bullshit and lies is also good for writing the story of American politics from scratch on the blank slate of the low-information voter’s mind and reassuring illiberal propertied Wilson-Deukmejian Republicans who believe in life without parole much more than life with it that they’re in fact good bleeding-heart liberals.

The message is Message I Care. Poppy Bush was a psychopath pandering to the worst angels of the American electorate’s nature, but geez, they make a federal case out of it if you’re walking around the shanty in Kennybunkport in your plaid PJ’s at three in the afternoon just because you’ve got a case of the sniffles, so geez, Argentina, go cry for that papist collaborator fellow Bergoglio instead or something, and let me know how pork bellies are doing on the Exchange before I’m all out of rinds.

The point of this shtick is to bamboozle the public. They’re eager to minimize the cohort of dissidents openly wondering why that goody-two-shoes piece of shit spends so much time Downeast and never goes riding with Teddy. The gambit worked with the Bushes because their elders and family retainers teach them from birth the need to maintain the false front of noblesse oblige. The false modesty of WASP shabby chic is a way to avoid rubbing it in for the losers. They won’t vote for you if you flaunt it too much, kid. Behave yourself. Keep the guillotine memes directed at someone else, some idiot and fool who doesn’t know what’s best for him.

Ted Cruz’s message is What, Me Care? Message I Don’t lol sucka. The free press is eternally vigilant, always on the lookout for an easy dunk. The public enjoys an easy dunk and is increasingly furious with its officials. A savvy, refined politician knows this. The Bushes all try to act like they care. It isn’t just an old money thing, either: Marco Rubio and John Kasich try to show some fucking modesty, too.

Cruz is too arrogant to try to show any fellow feeling with his constituents. He’s too shameless. He doesn’t have it in himself even to make an insincere show of gratitude for having a lavishly compensated six-year contract for a position of public trust ostensibly requiring part-time hours but subject to no meaningful attendance or performance standards. He doesn’t have it in him to act like he’s got a good gig and is lucky to have it. He shows no interest even in pretending to want to repay the trust the public has placed in him. He flew back early from Cancun because he got caught. He put his name on the fucking upgrade standby list.

Cruz won’t resign for being so self-serving and irresponsible in the face of an arguably unprecedented crisis, the way the asshole mayor of Colorado City did after lashing out at his constituents on Facebook with a tirade about how he and the rest of the government didn’t own them a damn thing. That guy was a two-bit local yokel, used to doing whatever bad deeds he felt moved to do in obscurity, slithering around in the muddy dark. He must have been taken aback to get pushback for blaming his constituents when they begged for help during the infrastructural crisis of their lives. Cruz is used to the limelight and the savagery that comes with it. He’s used to being not just hated but one of the most hated members of the Senate. His colleagues can’t stand him or Mitch McConnell. By some accounts they have more patience with McConnell.

Scumbags whose understanding of communism is members of the Nomenklatura fleeing to their dachas on the Black Sea while ordinary Russians living in shabby housing estates wait in bread lines all day are here to tell us all about how their tropical vacations in the thick of a deadly breakdown of civiliation were perhaps ill-advised in hindsight, but privatized utilities issuing $200k household electric bills because they felt like market-surging the costs of energy they just barely delivered, when they delivered it at all, onto their ratepayers. This is capitalism, bitch. This is the free market. This is what we must defend against imperial interference from our own federal government, no matter the hardship.

ERCOT’s executives have been quick to accept blame–not all, but some–for their failures. They must be horrified by how badly they got caught off guard. It’s an unfortunate name, ERCOT. Watch your gonsonants; you good gadge a gase of id. The truly embarrassing part is the R. It stands for reliability.

Oops.

There’s a reason for their relative accountability. Independent system operators are run by people with extensive, granular technical knowledge. They’re forced to work in the real world, and deeply so. ISO’s attract people who take intense pride in their work. They literally keep the lights on. They’re embarrassed when they don’t. In episodes as dire as what just ravaged Texas, they’re powerfully alarmed.

Rick Perry is able to mouth off about the honor of enduring hardship for the sake of the continued independence of an electrical grid that just catastrophically failed because he suffers little hardship from the failure of public utilities and he socializes exclusively with peers who suffer little hardship. The cognitive dissonance doesn’t register with him because he casually, instinctively dehumanizes fellow Texans who do not live on properties with industrial-grade home generators. It helps to think they deserve hardship for being losers, and therefore of low character, but people of his class, even people I’ve known who are merely upper middle class and have a chip on their shoulder about somehow living in precarity and having to fight to kill what they eat, fundamentally conceive of “people” or “Americans” or “New Yorkers” or whatever else they find resonant as themselves and their class peers. “My Uber tonight was a sweetheart!”, that kind of thing. If she lives in her car and parks for the night at the hopelessly overcrowded rest area on the hill above Vallejo, she won’t breathe a word about it.

Rick Perry is a few stations up the line from there. He doesn’t understand what it’s like to live in a normal house. When his ilk arrogantly issue grandiose pronouncements about “Texas” or “Texans,” they’re pontificating about nothing of the sort. It’s Trolley Time with Uncle Fred. Everybody in Thailand has a servant. They need the servant to drive the family elephant. It’s awful when the family elephant has to go to the vet and they have to cross Bangkok on the elephant bus to their jobs as their servants’ servants

I’m fuller of shit than the elephant’s ass right now: the servants are not part of “everybody.” Duh. They’re excluded. They’re the underclass the law binds but does not protect, bound to their due station to serve the overclass which the law protects but does not bind. It’s no coincidence that rich, cosmopolitan parts of the United States are hardening into caste societies, in ways that overlap with race but in no way entirely map onto it. It’s no coincidence that famously liberal Santa Monica is ever more infested with property owners who foam at the mouth with fascist rage, good Democrats who privately concede that Stephen Miller has some good points but they don’t want him clamping down too hard on the beaner supply lines that keep them in gardeners and maids.

When Rick Perry blusters on behalf of “Texans,” he excludes the vast majority of every major Texas city, with the possible but unlikely exception of Fort Worth. That’s the most generous possible description. He’s actually excluding damn near the whole fucking state. The simultaneous, nearly statewide failure of electrical, water, and natural gas supply lines during and on account of an extreme cold snap is an entirely different beast from differences of regulatory philosophy or practical day-to-day engagement between the state and federal governments. The Texas state government allowed electric and gas utilities to decline to weatherize their key facilities in the interest of short-term investor profits. This was the regulatory regime AFTER a similar but milder cold snap in 2011 caused widespread power failures.

Working stiffs will not stand for this shit, in the name of Texas or in the name of anything else. The mythical hardscrabble pioneer stock the likes of Rick Perry claims to represent in fact exist. In parts of the state they’re prevalent. They’re mythical in the sense that their hardiness and prevalence is somewhat exaggerated for lyrical effect. If they supported the separation of the ERCOT grid from neighboring megagrids, it was to make it easier for the people running the system on the ground to keep it affordable and reliable. That kind of thinking isn’t just belligerently ideological. The continental-scale cascading failures precipitating the 2003 Northeast Blackout were a consequence of ill-designed and ill-managed interconnectivity on a continental scale. That blackout was truly nightmarish. My parents and I were lucky enough to be visiting family and friends in Oregon when the grid failed and to have booked ourselves on a return flight that arrived after the grid was back online in our part of Pennsylvania. If ERCOT were tied into any of the megagrids in the same haphazard, brittle fashion as the regional ISO’s are tied into one another within the megagrids, the results could be calamitous.

The North American electrical grid is designed, constructed, and operated for shit. ERCOT is not uniquely dysfunctional. The current (heh) blackouts were exacerbated by inadequate interties to neighboring ISO’s. In this instance, ERCOT’s unusual regionalization and operational separation from neighboring systems inhibited its capacity to import power from outside and then distributed it internally. In the event of a big sectoral blackout on the scale of 2003, ERCOT’s independence might well keep most of Texas fully powered.

Again, this shit isn’t about Texas. Exploitative bad actors in public office and corporate marketing departments want to make it about Texas. They want to make it about their lies about renewables failing during the blackouts to distract from the failures of deliberately unwinterized fossil fuel infrastructure. It’s about calculated disinvestment in already vulnerable and poorly maintained public utilities.

In a word, it’s about looting. Vulture investors get corrupt governments to give them the license to loot. They encourage them to gouge ratepayers, strip company assets, effectively embezzle capital on hand, and make a shambles of what they’ve been chartered to run. Texas is one of the states whose governments they’ve most thoroughly corrupted, and hence one whose citizens they’ve most thoroughly beggared. It isn’t because Texas is Republican. They pull the same shit in Democratic states. I’m due to pay PG&E $150 this week. I have no control over the stewardship of my utility payments. I have no control over how much of it goes to infrastructural improvements versus administrative costs versus embezzlement. About a third of it is going to Sonoma Clean Power. Do I have any goddamn way to direct that cut, or to know what the hell they’re doing with it? Of course not. It’s probably more transparent than PG&E, but for all I know it may be a huge pile of bullshit, and if it is, that’s a low-priority agenda item on the civic triage chart.

Yeah, we’ve got a lot of smug Californians–PG&E ratepayers, no less–shrieking about the absolute awfulness of Trump and the Republican Party and the states they win, rather than taking the beam from their own eye. Greg Abbott would probably find a way to make PG&E even worse, but that’s no excuse for blaming ordinary Texans. For the love of God cut that shit out. They don’t deserve to suffer because they vote Republican. They don’t deserve to suffer because their states voted Republican.

The demographic breakdown of the latter might skew darker and poorer than Mark West, but I can’t White see how.

Covid and me, but enough about Covid

Some overly earnest Marin ditz went on Forum to warn Krasny and the whole crew (failspawn represent) that, while the Rona lockdowns may be provoking mental health problems in our children and suicide and so forth and so on, “they will never be able to live with themselves,” I think it was, with the knowledge that they may have killed their family elders because they just had to return prematurely to their brick-and-mortar schools. I don’t know for a fact that she was from Marin, but she was totally from Marin, in the same way that little Sierra will definitely feel intense permanent guilt for the statistical possibility that she will hypothetically kill Grandma at a time when the entire general public is also liable to accidentally kill Grandma if we insist on being so selfish as to send her back to a socially engaging institutional environment that has historically kept her from being acutely suicidal on a daily basis.

This comment offers much too consider,,, about Hellth. Our children will, by that scold’s reckoning, definitively and inexorably feel lifelong guilt for harm that they will subjunctively cause by a combination of unknowable, uncontrollable variables and random chance. We need to spare them this inevitable possible psychic harm for their inevitable possible reckless child and adolescent behaviors.

Forum is a forum for many, not just one, to air their morning Perspectives. Mine is that Michael Krasny was too unbiased before that piece of work and would have done better, civically if not conversationally, to cut her off midsentence and change the subject. This is why I have parasocial relationships with the characters who are actually at the controls. Michael State gets paid to monitor his one o’clock rebroadcast of Shitty Arts and Lectures. Am I dropping a check in that collection plate? Not as long as Amazon is! Sure, there’s value in respecting other people’s opinions, in listening respectfully and all that shit, but these are curated conversations, discreetly but to good effects knowable only to those who go to the back of the house to watch the sausage being made in real time. They have producers at the phones to screen out (or, in Rush Limbaugh’s case, screen in) the real nutter butters and abrasives. The producers must have thought that woman had a reasonable Perspective.

The guilt she was promising our troubled young for not hermetically sealing themselves off from the world is conditioned. It’s the result of neurotic, obsessively micromanaging adult authority figures putting chronic pressure on the children in their lives to conform to unreasonable strictures. This pressure commonly crosses the threshold of emotional abuse. Telling children that they’re risking their grandparents’ lives by visiting friends is alarming and distressing. Adults should have an utterly compelling, easily explained reason to dare say such a thing to a child, or even about a child. Otherwise they would never get over the guilt of having distressed the least of these. Right? I heard it on me State Radio.

Different State, alas. Good morning, it’s whine o’clock.

It’s a Brahmin Thing. Why else would I listen to it? That’s quite a way to disappoint Mom and Dad. Traditionally, we pulled it off by not getting into Swarthmore and having to settle for a safety school, maybe one of the Claremonts. These days we’re doing it by killing Grandma. They always wanted us to stay in school. Now they need us to stay out of school. It seems like a reach to accuse us of such things, even as seniors, not mere freshmen.

Oh Lord I’m using words in sentences again, and I’m using them wrong. We’ve been over it before. There is, in fact, an appropriate way to use “reach” and “safety” in a sentence. That sentence is this: “It would have been a good idea for Robert Sanchez to reach for the emergency brake in the interest of passenger and crew safety.” Please. Do you imagine for a second that any of these assholes send their children to good schools? I don’t hear about them filling out applications for Ryerson or Trinity Western!

*Terminal Robert Dziekanski Voice* Must you always write these stories for the shock value? Hey, these are morbid cultural contexts, but they’re about chains of causation that can be traced. They are not prophecies of our young surely experiencing lifelong guilt and grief for possibly theoretically killing their elders with the plague. They’re manslaughter stories, not stories of some poor harried kid getting blamed for a death that may or may not have occurred and may or may not have been the poor young person’s fault. Like, maybe I’ll write some Stephanie Lazarus-series noir, or maybe I’ll write some stories about a cop feeling sad for being on the same bus as a guy who got shot that night.

Fuck. I just heard her on the rebroadcast. Ditz was from Oakland. “No child will ever get over the trauma of knowing that they….” possibly were responsible for possible deaths in their families. As I said above, it’s conditioned guilt. It assumes the most tragic possible means to the worst possible end, in this case in the confidently predicted subjunctve likely fact that the kids will possibly kill their statistically future dead family elders.

“I know it’s hard….” Yeah, social deprivation to the point of suicidality? You don’t say! That sounds like it might be a hardship! It sounds like something a society might want to limit by reintegrating children and adolescents with their peers! We have a growing body of evidence showing pervasive, acute, severe mental illness arising in minors during prolonged social isolation, in a correlation too strong for the isolation not to be causative–let’s be blunt: this is where common sense becomes science–but we can’t send the kids back to school, because if we let them interact with classmates they will statistically murder their grandparents and then feel bad about it.

Most Americans will agree that suicidality is usually a sign of an unsound mind. Many will say it always is. Most of the same Americans will also insist that suicide is a choice. It’s a choice made of free will with an unsound mind. This is horseshit normcore that persists mainly because it goes unchallenged. If the only reason people want to kill themselves is because they’re crazy, it’s illogical to expect them to mindset their own way back to mental health. This isn’t just a case of the down in the dumps. Come the fuck on. If we’re barring the door against assisted suicide for the lucid terminally ill, we’re out of our own minds to expect the acutely agitated to muster the clarity of mind to step back from the ledge as a matter of mindset discipline. We’ve already established that they’re incapable of exercising personal responsibility because they’re insane. Yes, the suicidal should have a better mindset and should try to cultivate one, but they fucking can’t. That’s why they’re suicidal. Sweet Christ on the Cross.

Ah, right, that’s capital punishment. That’s the good stuff we support, as a Christian Nation, doing to our prisoners what the Romans did to Jesus. This isn’t just an American problem; Constantine was pretty pre-American, a guy who would have been all like, dafuq is America, could you cut out the prophetic shit for five minutes. Christian support for the death penalty is an embarrassing example of what happens when a movement of oppressed imperial subjects is elevated into the religion of the imperial oppressors. Hence the paradox of functionally post-Christian countries in Europe abolishing the death penalty, recognizing that if it was a bad thing to do to Jesus it’s plainly a bad thing to do, while the world’s leading extant empire extols executions as godly, as an empire would if it had originally been confederated from colonies whose economies revolved around the discipline of chattel slaves with extra ad hoc Stations of the Cross.

What other passably mainstream strains of political thot blessed this new country? This part’s fun, too. The two other competing strains that stand out are crooks who had goons squat on waterfalls until they could have piss-poor workmen build factories (lately fictionalized for celebration in song) and tyrannical religious busybodies.

All we have to do to build ourselves a nightmare society is pick out some of the worst aspects of each of these models from the buffet of American civics. That there’s a plateful. It does something to explain why we have a woman calling in to a radio show all bent out of shape about how children are bringing upon themselves a lifetime of earthly damnation upon themselves for accidentally infecting their elders with a deadly contagion–as Yaakov Smirnoff says, conscience examines YOU!–in a country with some of the world’s most lavishly funded, overstaffed, ill-disciplined police forces and governments catering to heinous corporate shakedowns.

With any self-reflection as a society we’d be breathing down the necks of our prison, social services, and regulatory agencies to do absolutely everything in their power to stop the spread with voluntary measures individuals would be eager to take, like better occupational and residential conditions, and only THEN trying to figure out how much life-threatening emotional distress our children should sustain to keep their relatives alive. The positive test rates at San Quentin were through the fucking roof. What did we expect, though? Our prisons are crowded and unsanitary. They provide woefully deficient healthcare. No shit they’re incubators.

Empire always comes home, unless it crashes for the night with its mistress in El Cerrito.

These aren’t the only reasons why we’re blaming children for individually infecting and killing their families. To understand it, we must understand the culturing of narcissism via the self-esteem movement and its offshoots. Spare the lasch, spoil the mind. YOU are special. YOU can do anything. YOU can change the world. /Yaakov Smirnoff Voice/ In Post-Soviet America, anyone can do YOU!

Killing Granny would make for quite a change, huh.

What’s odd about this fixation on the child self in these circumstances is that the rest of the country is trying to kill her, too. Rona wants the Honored Citizenry dead. We are all its vessels; it, our master. Junior isn’t the only suspect in this case. There are other actors, JonBenet. Sweet baby girl there are other actors.

Many are grown-ups.

I ain’t sayin they act the part. Ever looked at our governments?

Grown-ass American adults are clueless about first-mover advantages and disadvantages. The children of overbearing helicopter parents are hopeless to reeducate themselves. The luckier ones may start the process in earnest sometime in adolescence; the unlucky never do. Not all fruit of the flying tiger can successfully launch.

The first-mover advantage for neurotics trying to protect their sick or, worse, hypochondriac loved ones is modest to nonexistent. Affluent families with living space to spare are detectably endangered by infected visitors; poor families living in crowded congregate homes are so endangered by immunocompromised working adults that secondhand exposure to school transmission is a distraction from the real threats. There are strong negative feedbacks at play in both cases, too: the affluent can afford better, prompter medical care than the poor can hope to get for free, while poor children enjoy potentially lifesaving health benefits, for themselves and others, from free school meals.

Did I ever mention that Americans’ holistic thinking is shit?

Imaginary first-mover advantages in a cultural milieu of generalized communal narcissism explain many of the stupidest things about mainstream bougie America. There is no perceptible first-mover advantage in the real world to buying an electric car: it’ll be more expensive and suffer from glitches that will be worked out in later, more affordable models. The main first-mover advantages to taking the train instead of driving are less crowded, possibly less delayed trains and avoiding parking and traffic in crowded neighborhoods. A minor one is a greater proportional effect on ridership and farebox revenue, assuming the planning and funding bodies weight these metrics heavily enough for them to make an appreciable difference. Saving the world by not driving is not a first-mover advantage. Get the fuck outta here. It may be helpful for an individual to get into the habit of using transit or biking or walking or whatever, but tens of thousands of your neighbors will be driving over the hill to Tahoe once the storms clear for a day or two regardless of your decision to /New Day Brian Watt Voice/ stop miss riding on BART and get your approval-seeking East Bay ass on BARTTTT. Take the kids out for a day trip. Shit, man; main thing they’re fucking up are the headways. It’s still a sweet-ass ride.

This is how carbon offsets were ever able to find a market. It takes an awfully selective self-esteem to believe that flying to Bali or Cozumel or whatever (it isn’t JUST Americans, mate) does not change the world for the worse but paying a third party to pay a fourth party to pay a fifth to not let a sixth poach a jungle for timber and also the palm oil we need for our “carbon-neutral” biodiesel or whatever feed stock we need for “carbon-neutral” jet fuel will save the world, one individual act of powerfully world-changing virtue at a time.

For the record, I’m still against dawn charters to Cilacap, but hoo boy is there some Anglosphere imperial proxy violence behind the penal archipelago of Nusakambangan, and the individual voter has a rather piss-ass first-mover advantage voting for Gough Whitlam. Her Majesty votes too, you see, through Her Security Services. #StillWithHer. Okay, #NotInScotland, ya dense cunt.

So, yeah, United Fruit–I mean, Chiquita! Ole!–Shit, Sven, they sell that in Hibbing, too, don’tcha know, and only da wurst grocers ever barred da Finns from da store–is a company worth not patronizing, same as whatever we’re calling Standard Oil these days, but your high virtue-signaling is not why. My understanding about my great-grandparents in East Kansas is that this isn’t why they kept gardens. Hey, Swanson, ya need some tomatoes? Well now what’s that got to do with the immorality of driving to the supermarket in Topeka? Can’t see why you’d be looking to save anything but the gas, or maybe your tires, but yours always have more tread than ours.

Shucks. None of this makes any sense.

It warps people’s mind to constantly tell them that they have the power as individuals to change the world. One way or another, it goes to their heads. Some become crudely grandiose. Others turn neurotic, anxious, and self-loathing, convinced that they’ll never measure up to expectations.

This is why the same communities that vomit forth so many condescending know-it-all collegiate (but rarely collegial!) professionals had full-blown epidemics of mental illness on the eve of the shutdowns, as they started their crash course in performative social isolation. It’s rough on everybody exposed to it, but it has an especially powerful warping effect on the young, who are particularly impressionable and dependent on older authority figures for their prosperity, if not their survival.

*****

Believe it. It’s bad. A few years ago my youth minister friend in Maryland met one-on-one with the teens he was mentoring in Howard County and asked them, entirely open-ended, if they thought there was anything they thought they weren’t discussing in their classes and needed to start incorporating. Every one of them immediately said mental health. These kids were living deep enough in the liminal geography between the relative normality of Baltimore and the overpowering abnormality of Washington to have to process additional unwelcome weirdness, including constant ambient exposure to NSA employees, but the pressure to excel was nothing that would have been out of place in Greenwich or Palo Alto.

The subordinate naturally read their superiors better than their superiors read them. This is germane to the downmarket strata of the Trump coalition, among other things the overbearing parents of my friend’s teen mentees are disinclined to consider. I’d say this less confidently if he’d had these conversations in Loudoun or Prince William or some shit of that nature, still not exactly good but on the other hand not situations indicating that the rest of the capital metroplex must immediately be culturally partitioned into Baltimore and the residually Southern parts of Alexandria. There’s something bad happening out past the Patapsco, hun. What the hell’s going on there, hun.

It’s White People, Randol, and I’m afraid that includes PG. How’s that for insight?

You think I’m just shitposting. Huge swathes of Metropolitan Washington (we already have a DMV here in California, tyvm, and the one in Ukiah isn’t half bad) are overloaded with courtiers. Tom Fucking Friedman is basically a courtier for God knows whom above him, the spooks who own the families who own the newspapers or whatever. Jeff Bezos is not in fact a nerd, but he’s some kind of CIA asset; it came in as a help when he decided to buy the Langley Ledger.

The gist of it is, nobody around there below the top stratum, the one that can just be glimpsed from down here on a clear day, lives with anything like freedom of thought. The adults all have to censor any politically incorrect thoughts they harbor. Fuck, Nancy Pelosi toes the same dogshit stupid line because it helps her grift the PMC normies. It’s The Prosperity Gospel, by Lin-Manuel Miranda. They all act like if they stop believing and parroting the unhinged prevailing community understanding of how the world works the world will stop turning and they’ll float away into the void.

Shit, I dunno, maybe you could drop out and get mom and dad to cash your disappointing ass out to Havre de Grace. It’s cheaper than GMU!

As we discussed above, Baltimore is a sphere of its own, but its cultural hinterlands are strangely delineated, like they’ve been gerrymandered: York County is part of Baltimore, but they have to share their airport with Washington. Dredge that in a bowl of Old Bay seasoning and smoke it. As cities go, though, Baltimore is pretty normal. It has its horseshit gentrification, but not to an impressive extreme. It’s a fractal of real communities, rooted in purpose and place, not a summoning swamp for the spirit orbs of a continent’s worth of ghouls.

It’s similar to the Virginian parts of NoVa that way. There’s somewhat less deranged insularity in the politically integrated parts of NoVa, like outer Loudoun, because they’re settled by newcomers with somewhat stronger ties to the real world back home. They’re less of a scrum of social climbers desperate not to alienate some two-bit authority figure or snitch and lose their meal ticket.

As Colby Cosh would say, that’s the part of Toronto that works for a living. It’s a geographical and cultural fringe, fading bit by bit from the imperial center into the near perpihery. The shift is starker to the northeast, where the imperial blob smears up against Baltimore and is brought to a definitive stop. That’s what happens around a city with a working deepwater port, a working railhead, and a working base of heavy industry. There are naturally more people around who can explain what the hell their jobs are. This has salutary effects.

Washington is exactly the deracinated seat of imperial power where officials would issue plague decrees and then get upset with the subjects in public for disobeying them. DC is connected in a sort of node-and-synapse network to an archipelago of equivalently deracinated and sheltered outposts of the imperial center. Pete Buttigieg cares more about K Street than the poor neighborhoods of South Bend. The Beltway teems with mandarins who are aware of San Francisco and Manhattan but clueless about Winchester and the Eastern Shore.

The official shit-flipping at Trump for butting into Covid policy and making a mess of it was never really about competence or reverence for science; it was a retaliatory attack on the bridge-and-tunnel oaf for one-upping the career credentialed on their own turf. It was frankly harmless to blather nonsense about using orthoscopic probes to blast UV light up everyone’s blood vessels when the supreme priest of American medicine orchestrated a campaign of lies about the efficacy of masks and then admitted on the record to lying about herd immunity thresholds to manipulate public opinion on vaccines.

It isn’t Trump’s fans who set the gold standard for medical gullibility here. They didn’t take his bullshit about UV blood disinfection seriously. They were aware that at least some of his public health commentary was entertainment, not advice. They also recognized that he was surrounded by hostile liars engaging him in a pissing match over their superior credentials. They could see through Anthony Fauci, the imperious figurehead who lied about masks through a weeks-long Chernobyl moment provoked by a looming failure of the supply chain (the most charitable explanation) and later tried to play it cute by reassuring America’s children that an imaginary out-of-shape fat old guy was immune to Covid-19. Trump didn’t demand reverence in the midst of his worst performances.

*****

The skeleton key to this mess isn’t reason versus superstition. It’s obedient fealty to credentialed authority figures versus resentment and defiance.

It goes back to the Puritans and the Cavaliers. Two of the major factions still battling for the soul of America were well defined and understood in Britain at the time of first colonial settlement in North America. In parallel with the agitation of the latter-day Cavaliers–a name we might say fits a bit too squarely in the horse’s mouth–and often in tandem with it is a very old-school peasant revolt, in this case against the clerisy. Proles aren’t crazy about the petty aristocratic aims of the provincial bourgeois elements leading the revolt against the Covid restrictions, but the booj are reliable allies in this fight.

An emotionally untethered, grandstanding provincial businesswoman like Lauren Boebert would have less public trust and confidence back home if she weren’t lashing out at enemies she and her poorer, less propertied, less capitalized neighbors have in common. The antics of showboats in small business have limited currency in the provinces. Word gets around if the owners do wrong by their help, and many do. When Beltway swamp critters with terminal degrees start yelling at them for not following doctors’ orders, the coalition alignments shift into something closer to what Our President (Nothing But Respect) calls the rural versus ural.

This shit is about motives, not facts. It’s about process, not outcome. Few antimask zealots would object to sneezing into an elbow as a courtesy to others. Yeah, you cover your fucking mouth when you sneeze or cough. No shit. Don’t be an asshole. The core reason why antimask woowoo has a following is that it’s a dramatic adverse reaction to imperious authority figures who never actually gave a damn about them in the first place. The American medical system is a disaster zone. The provincial know it’s bad. Opposition to the ACA is especially rational and coherent in states whose governments refused to expand Medicaid: another unfunded mandate with burdensome paperwork, thrust down from on high by hostile gods.

There’s simply no getting a critical mass of voters to believe that the same governments crookedly allowing medicine to degenerate into a racketeering cartel Shanghaiing patients and their families into debt bondage at random for quack treatments and drylabbed chart printouts, causing countless deaths and ruining countless surviving victims, is suddenly consumed with deep concern about the wellbeing of ordinary Americans in the face of a new plague. They didn’t give a shit about Vioxx or opioids or the extreme occupational stresses and bad medical care driving workaday Americans to use painkillers or Flint or the tobacco industry’s deadly fraud, but put rich city slickers at risk of a respiratory disease they’re probably healthy enough to weather because other rich city slickers won’t stop traveling overseas to disease hot spots, and suddenly everybody needs to do their part to stop the spread. Suddenly everybody needs to bear the pain. The same city slickers won’t give up their country houses–their refuges–or their on-demand delivery services, but they’re happy to bar the restaurant door to country folk who’ve always done their own grocery shopping, leaving the owners and employees to twist in the wind.

*****

Normie centrists are hopeless to get into the heads of their Rona truther enemies because they’re smugly clueless about the cultural context actually driving the shrillest opposition to their cherished Science. The shutdown orders are a triggering event for the provincial right wing, not a self-contained set of grievances. The metropolitan neoliberal center has, in fact, looted and pillaged many of their communities for profit. The natives have reasons to be up in arms.

These grievances are not secrets. The town goes to hell when they shut the mill down. Yank a tenth or a quarter of the local jobs, including many of the best-paid, and no shit there’s trouble. Occupational conditions and prospects going to hell do much to explain the severity of the opioid epidemic, property and violent crime, housing precarity and homelessness, hunger, and infrastructural decrepitude out in the provinces. In thousands of American communities one factory, one mine, or a cluster of facilitites in a specific industry were the socioeconomic linchpins. Removing them predictably caused ruin.

The provincial dispossessed are in no mood to forgive and forget. Why would they? They’re able to read the ruling class in the imperial center better than their rulers can read them, and they know imperial hostility when they see it. They’ve watched the credentialed centrist wrecking crew stand back and point at them and laugh and sneer while their world, already smaller and more stifling than anything the masters and administrators of this empire can imagine suffering in their own lives, comes crashing down.

Elite demagogues and grifters exploit precarious provincials. Absolute wackjobs like Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene move in to bear their standard. What else did the political establishment expect? It refused to represent ordinary Americans; it was too busy robbing them blind. Power abhors a vacuum. They shouldn’t be so whiny about unsavories seizing territory they abandoned in a spirit of open disgust.

They can’t help it, though. They’re too privileged.

*****

The left behind, as they’re known in the Christian press, expect nothng good for themselves from that distant puritanical overclass. This is true across the board: working-class normies, combative local notable Cavaliers pursuing beefs with rival Puritan elites for social control (again, Boebert is a restaurateur), cynical System D hustlers, dropouts of all sorts, the schizoid elements of the welfare underclass. Many such cases!

What’s weirder to them is the apparent extent of the Brahmins’ self-destructiveness on account of Covid. Scandals that find hypocritical officials retiring from their daily health scoldings to mask-free sit-down dinners at fancy restaurants or departure areas for forbidden flights en route to forbidden reunions with their kin–in meatspace, not the eerie ether–are obnoxious but relatable. They show officials to be humanly shitty. Michael Moore lied about not owning stocks, Al Gore flies between his gigantic mansions on private jets, Bill Bennett is a degenerate high-roller, J. Denny Dundiddly, which is both a full sentence and a title of dishonor: These guys are disreputable, but they aren’t WEIRD. They indulge in comprehensible human vices, not performative mental illnesses.

The horrors of the Republican Party today would be sitting ducks for a functioning left-wing party. The true base for the worst hard-right wackjobs is provincial upmarket, not hillbillies crawling around their travel trailers looking for loose change to pay for some heat. We like Uncle Bernie! The rural underclasses aren’t looking to cast their lot with a collection of moralizing hustlers and perverts, let alone with stuffy high church twits like William of Values. It’s a mischaracterization to blame Alabama’s white poor for elevating a mall-cruising piece of gentry trash to the state supreme court and then to the US Senate, or poor Illinoisans or Iowans for sending Coach to Congress. Much of the vote for these seedy characters is always local elites, people whose British counterparts certainly would certainly be above using a scrupulously heterosexual sport of rolling around on the floor and groping other young men as a program of hazing and grooming.

All the same, none of this perversion is a form of alienation from humanity. It’s of the flesh, not just the spirit. It’s nothing like the newly fashionable Brahmin gnosticism for hypochondriacs. They’re shut-ins because they are desperate to mortify the flesh to save it. This is why they have retreated into a reclusive domestic life revolving around contactless deliveries and computer-mediated interactions of pure spirit. They dare not fuck. They dare not even hug.

It does, in fact, rhyme. Stay home if you sicke; come over if you thicke. People out in the provinces notice that postmodern sexual dysfunction is more advanced in the hip cities than it is downhome. The idea of being monogamous because an affair will transmit a deadly respiratory virus to multiple third parties doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense to them as medical advice. They see it as another manifestation of cosmopolitan neurosis. The taint of ritual impurity could come from sex outside one’s pod, or it could come from kids playing outside their pods, or it could come from visiting friends and family in the normal course of normal, healthy relationships, again outside the pod.

No, if I’d meant friends with benefits, I wouldn’t have said family. We don’t use our acronyms the same way here in Bar Harbor, pal. We protect each other against stranger danger by staying home.

We might say that reclusive neurosis is the new Maine Thing for the smart set. People in the rest of the country peer into the SuperZIPs and feel uneasy at how the adults are behaving and how they’e raising their kids. Another cohort of dysfunctional overachievers is about to drop, looking to save the world but really to rule it, or at least to get rich trying. The kids are gonna turn out like shit if they keep being warned that they’ll kill their grandparents with a hug and have to interact with all but members of their own households over screens. It won’t do them any good to live life by videoconference. Big crops of sexually clueless and dysfunctional porn addicts are cumming. Yeah, breeders in American Dork–goodness, I mean American Fork–watch porn, too, because somebody around there has to be driving the Utard consumption stats through the roof, but there’s no reason a person who reads the sports section of the Deseret News every day can’t play some pickup hoops.

*****

The truly fatal mistake the cosmopolitan health scolds make is to meddle yet again, and more disruptively than ever within living memory, in the family lives of people who never wanted a thing to do with their strictures. The feeling in the imperial periphery is that it’s okay for the elites to fuck their own children up with terrible upbringings but they had better not mess with kids whose parents are trying to raise them right and teach them some social skills.

The grievance that the family is under attack is valid. The specifics can be pretty muddleheaded. The LGBT righs movement is at most an oblique attack on the family by way of an important assertion of individual rights against mob attacks and busybodies. Sex education in general, e.g., teaching adolescents about proper condom use and how the hell adult bodies work, is certainly not: venereal disease and the accidental bearing of unsupportable children make family life worse, not better.

These particulars serve as distractions from the very real economic attacks on the family from without. Everybody who’s upset with liberals for corrupting their children with instruction in fornication and godlessness agrees that children are expensive and that it’s a problem. The potential for misdirection is huge, and the right wing takes full cynical advantage of it. This doesn’t negate the proven fact that avowedly center-left Democrats in the neoliberal wrecking crew have spent the last several decades seeing to it that college is a prohibitively expensive necessity for employment. It doesn’t negate what they’ve done to the quality of medical care or what they’ve done to turn life into a fruitless bureaucratic maze.

Family can survive these onslaughts. Individual members may perish, life expectancies may plummet, but a cohesive family may yet muddle through and come out on the other side into God knows what but at least into something. This probably sounds like some kind of Guideposts-ass Chestertonian primer, but it’s absolutely true. The dispersion of my own family all over the country has had disruptive effects on me. It’s given me reason to travel and see some glorious places I would otherwise miss, so I’m not trying to call whine-one-one here, but the socioeconomically disruptive effects of having a dispersed family are worth keeping in mind.

Telling total strangers to uproot themselves and move to the city because there are no jobs left at home–gee, wonder who took them?–is heartless. For the upper and upper middle classes, the uprooting may be a traditional intramural hazing ritual, bad news but very local news. When they put the same pressure on outside communities they’ve dispossessed for profit, it’s an act of war. Trashing the economy trashes the family, and trashing the family trashes the economy. The mutual feedbacks are plain as day. Any fool can see them.

It raises questions about why the elite mainstream is hellbent on doing things that weaken families, communities, and local economies. It makes their antinatalism sound suspect: they’re idiots to neurotically avoid having chidlren of their own, but why in all hell do they have a problem with US for having children?

The precedents for the same elites conspiring to destroy poor and middling communities are countless. It’s perfectly reasonable to suspect that any given campaign they’re running in neighborhoods not at parity with their own is an outside attack. It’s exactly what they always do.

Do they possibly have good reasons for wanting the children of their socioeconomic inferiors to grow up without interacting with loved ones in the flesh? This lockdown shit has been going on for almost a year, with no projected end date. The US government has a long history of chemical and biological experimentation on unwitting citizens. It has a long history of poisoning and killing citizens with chemical and radiological materials, in ways that routinely involved immunosuppression.

Out on the streets and Facebook, the new town square, conspiracy theories circulate about the Rona being programmed with a kill switch that the government will flip once it’s achieved the cull quota. To middle-class normies it sounds batshit crazy, but if it’s science fiction, it isn’t fictional by much. The capacity of the gain-of-function creeps at Fort Detrick to breed strengthened and attenuated strains, in effect contagions and wild vaccines, is without a fucking doubt there. Anthony Fauci is by his own shameless admission a serial liar. Americans who’ve been on the wrong side of American medicine are right to distrust that asshole. We all should. Top infectious disease expert my fat white college-educated ass.

If family is all we have, we should visit our families. If friends are all we have, we should visit our friends. Should these visits be physical? Sure. Why not. The rest of the community is breathing the plague on us, too, forcing “us” to hole up inside like we’re in the path of a hurricane. Should these visits be sexual? It depends on how many of you are Mainers.

Geez, that was gross, Terry. I mean, Jerry, or Larry. For real, though. Every fractal of this thing is broken. It’s up to each of us to repair our little pieces of it. We can start by not traumatizing our children with tall tales about how they’re murdering their grandparents. No, you’re just a kid, not Governor Cuomo.