Kasich, you uppity bitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Down on the Motherfucking Farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What damn bus, Willis?

The PBS NewsHour recently ran a piece about a kitchen gardening program for preschoolers in none other than the sweet home of Kirk Siegler’s Latinos who actually identify as Hispanics and by the way the bus system shuts down at 5:00 pm. When I heard the teaser for the segment at the beginning of the broadcast, I assumed that the town in question was some hella remote washed-up dump of twenty-five or fifty thousand on the High Plains or doped-up mill town in Kentucky the width of its hollow. That is, a place small enough for a physically fit person without a tight schedule to manageably navigate by foot. It never crossed my mind that a city the size of Pueblo would have such a shitty bus system. Based just on its population and geography it should easily be able to support service until eight or nine in the evening, and all day on Saturdays and Sundays if the local authorities give a shit. A city as poor as Pueblo should have an especially easy time keeping ridership high enough to justify the system. What else are the pobrecitos gonna do? Hump forty pounds of shit a piece back across town from Walmart?

Instead, Pueblo has a transit system that easily vies for worst in class, as well as an obesity rate high enough to alarm the public health types and a barrio without a supermarket. One of the guys the NewsHour interviewed pointed out a Dollar General and described it as the main shopping spot in the neighborhood because there’s no longer a grocery store on the East Side. Again, this is in a city of 110,000. We aren’t talking about the east side of Holdrege or Limon or fucking Nicodemus not having its own King Soopers. We’re talking about a entire heavily populated sector of a middling city not having a supermarket. Taking a look at Google Maps, I can tell that dude wasn’t exaggerating by much. I’m finding a taqueria, an Asian market, and, a couple of miles away, on the other end of the Lower East Side, something called Mea’s Edibles. That’s it. Google-fu exposes the opportunity to go grocery shopping at a taqueria.

That’s a genuine food desert. It must be inconvenient for older women living in the Badlands to haul carts full of groceries from the Reading Terminal Market onto the 61 bus, and it’s a shame that their neighborhoods don’t have decent grocery stores, but at least they’ve got SEPTA. At least they’ve got a comprehensive, basically adequate city bus system to get them to and from better neighborhoods so they aren’t stuck buying overpriced shit from some ramshackle corner store. Other shit can go wrong in Philadelphia, and there are some real war zone neighborhoods where it reliably will, but at least they don’t have to worry about the bus system closing down for the evening right around when the farmer’s market does.

We have in this country no telling how many government programs to arrange, subsidize, and guarantee business loans, waive property taxes for allegedly crucial businesses, and so forth, and yet no one at any level of government with jurisdiction over Pueblo has figured out how to get their thumbs out of their asses and structure some arrangement to backstop the operations of an established grocer in what would be, practically, a captive market of thousands of residents. The half billion plus that Sacramento dropped on that fucking downtown arena would pay for the effectively perpetual operations of City Market in the City Part of Town. That episode was about a kid getting a damn job already. A supermarket would bring in local jobs. Besides, a grocery store will inevitably have revenue if it doesn’t just give all the food away for free, so any government subsidy would be only partial.

Of course, I’m missing the key points here. The Lower East Side isn’t the kind of neighborhood where City Hall takes constituents’ grievances seriously. It’s the kind of neighborhood where City Hall seizes and bulldozes pobrecitos’ precious homes to make way for the new ballpark. I’ve seen that movie before, in York. *Ed Weinstock Voice, narrating the local traditions (TM)* Rootin’ for the Revs, because we live here, too. No, more like Ed Whinestock, am I right.

It’s urban renewal, bitch. It isn’t vitalized if the poor are the ones walking around the hood with vital signs. The Supreme Court has ruled that it’s lawful for the redevelopment authority to seize your house so that some mobbed-up sleazeball can cobble together the space for a downtown casino, whether or not anyone actually has the funding and the coordination to actually build it. The real process isn’t the formal one in which some retired school janitor whose rowhouse is needed for the new arena gets dogpiled by the developers and its pet city council in court, but the openly equity-optional political process, in which the neighborhoods with the money, the voter turnout, and the overall juice to clearly articulate their promise to seriously fuck shit up for anyone who messes with their neighborhood. These loudmouths are the font of recall elections, and City Hall knows it.

Pueblo theoretically could have decent bus service. Instead it has a program to impress toddlers into child agricultural labor so that they can have some lunch. I’m mainly being descriptive here. I’m not trying to wax all OMG think of the welfare of the precious children or suggest that the little ones are working on a chain gang, but it was striking to watch children who have barely figured out how to walk being taught to pick corn because otherwise they won’t have a decent thing to eat.

Getting them into gardening early isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but then again, I didn’t really learn my way around a grapevine until I was in my twenties, and I know what the fuck I’m doing on farms. I have no fucking idea if the gardening education will keep the kiddos from getting fat. Crunchy moralists in the Palo Alto public school system feeding us creamy peanut butter on celery sticks didn’t stop me from filling out at any number of ages, since I licked the sweet stuff out of the crack (as he, she, and shit said), threw the celery in the trash when the authority figures weren’t looking because I didn’t need to discover anew that it tasted like shit, and ate, like, half a dozen mini Kit-Kats tonight after a triple helping of tofu and eggplant curries for dinner. The only thing I’m blaming the Palo Alto schools for here is the fucking celery, not because I’m now fat, but because assholes who pretended to understand nutrition tried to make me eat one of the world’s shittiest vegetables. I’m fat because of the Kit-Kats and the Tsingtao, among other tasties. That, and I tend to be Extremely Online and have recently been living under a family dynamic not so conducive to exercise.

What the hell is early childhood intervention worth, then? Probably jack shit. I mean, we don’t want our brats looking like little One Child Policy Chinamen, so it makes sense to see if they can’t handle some exericse and stomach some vegetables, but there’s nothing wrong with a cracker telling Jamie Oliver to pound sand and take his healthier-than-thou act back to the Home Cunties. Gee, did I just write something in error? I think nut! The Pueblo thing, though, is frankly kind of sad. The funding is there to staff up an operation to hold children below any possible age of moral responsibility by the hand through a bunch of gardening exercises but not to staff up a damn neighborhood grocery, and that’s pathetic. That’s a blatant sign of a dysfunctional, unresponsive, unaccountable government. The school district having its act together on early childhood education doesn’t excuse the rest of the city and county government for being a dumpster fire. They’re failing grievously on public transportation, urban planning, economic development, and who knows what all else.

These kids will graduate, or drop out, into the jurisdiction of governments that won’t do jack shit for them as constituents. They’re getting the early childhood enrichment, but then what? I graduated from a prep school and then from a college that keeps injuring its neck from looking down its nose, and I’m recurrently in some state of homelessness and poor job prospects. Agree however earnestly you like with Melania Trump about the children being our future, but try for a moment to think through what’s so fucking impossible about providing a similar level of services to the grown-ass adults, our present.

Then again, if the local government is funding Head Start stoop labor studies for kids who aren’t exactly mature enough to stand up straight instead of its bus system, we’re probably dealing with a crippling scarcity mentality. And in this case it is a mentality. Four levels of government and the dozens of agencies operating within them don’t all run out of crosstown bus money and seed money for some neighborhood grocery stores. It isn’t like, gee, looks like I need to sleep in my car because I just spent $500 on airport parking, but maybe I can go up to Donner Pass and get a hike out of the deal. Not a damn chance. If the City of Pueblo is insolvent, it isn’t stuck with a $2,500 limit on its credit card plus whatever it can get month to month from mom and dad. Why do you suppose we have Congressmen?

My bad; that’s so the Democratic Congressional leadership can insist on paying Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen into the stone age. Grit is what it takes to turn a country into grit. Values: Pass It On.

What we’re looking at in Pueblo is a perfectly soluble government funding shortfall entrenched by a chronically insoluble political problem. The money is damn well there; it’s just that those who need it don’t have the political organization and muscle to name it and claim it. The NewsHour touched on the extreme dysfunction involved but didn’t look closely at it. NPR, of course, did ever so much worse by dispatching Kirk Siegler to discover Latinos who are actually Hispanics because, being Hispanics, they really believe in hard work and let’s not think about what happened to the steel mill.

At least if I go up to Addison and get called a white motherfucker, it’s because a very other brother by a very other mother wants to get me on the train for free. That isn’t racism; it’s state-subsidized small business. I hate ripping off transit agencies that run trains all night every night, but I’d sooner fly the W for Free Fare for Whitey than for a home on the range transit agency that isn’t even worth ripping off. Rahmbo and the gang milk the hell out of Chicago, but that’s because Chicago is healthy enough to be milked.

It’s time to get Blagojevich out on furlough for the swing shift.

Total eclipse of the head

Working over the summer in an area that will be under totality and keeping an ear on the radio, with and (preferentially) without Annnnnngellllllla Kelllllnnnnerrrrrr, has given me as much advance notice as anyone on the mess that’s expected to descend on Oregon this weekend for the eclipse. It sounded like a huge clusterfuck was on the way north, so I got out of Dodge on Thursday and started south. As I left the area, there had already been a couple of horrible rural traffic jams around Prineville, but every time I’ve checked Google Maps traffic since, the area looks pretty clear, so maybe the hippie importation into the Ochoco National Forest is mostly complete. KLCC had some ranch owner and real estate magnate on to brag about how his redneck values of self-reliance and grit forced him to do business with hippies in order to make ends meet in tight times, hence his inviting the organizers of upcountry Burning Man onto his property, which is miles from the nearest street address. Dude probably ain’t as strapped for cash as he makes himself out to be, but as Greg Gianforte would say, bullshitting city slickers about such things is the Montana Way.

On my way south, I stopped in Bend, a badly underrated city, as it fell under the pall of smoke from a huge wildfire west of Sisters. I had a panoramic view of the smoke coming across on Highway 20 and then got to savor the flavor for 150 miles. Hours after I left Bend, this jumped a containment line and prompted the closure of Highway 242, the windy mountain cutoff between Sisters and McKenzie Bridge. This is frankly a minor example of the shit I’ve been fearing. An active fire season is always possible in Oregon, and we’ve been having one this year. The more I think about it, the more relieved I am that 242 got closed days before the eclipse: a mass evacuation of flatlanders from the path of an oncoming fire in such rugged terrain along such a windy road would very likely have gotten people killed, quite possibly by the hundreds. Dozens of mostly local residents were killed earlier this year in Portugal when a forest fire that they were trying to flee burned over the road that they were trying to use as an evacuation road and trapped them in their cars, and that was in much more prosaic, normal circumstances that Oregon is expecting for the eclipse.

One of the reasons why I left was that I was worried about a mass-casualty fire scene even worse than that. I’m still a bit worried, but less so, since the traffic jams aren’t as bad as I was expecting. The northbound traffic I saw on my way south was heavy but orderly and not jammed up, and the timing of the eclipse, on the Monday morning of what many tourists will be able to make into a three-day weekend, should limit the rush the day and night before. The Monday afternoon exodus is still expected to be a zoo, though, and I’m glad to avoid that. I’d only get in the damn way. Nor did I relish the idea of sticking around an area where the last two rooms I could find, at a property that I often book for sixty or seventy dollars a night, were going for $1,399, plus generous taxes and fees.

I’m still trying to plan a trip to see the eclipse, but wicked inland, probably in Idaho. Napoleon Dynamite Country shouldn’t attract as many freaks and idiots as the Left Coast. Maybe I’m naive, but no matter how embarrassingly crunchy Western Montana is, it doesn’t have the sheer population to disgorge into Rexburg and Idaho Falls that California has available for John Day. Sensible Mormons seem like a good idea in times like these, and the Wasatch Front has many such cases. Better to have them colonize the eclipse path than the hippie swarm. They tend to bathe.

It isn’t just a matter of avoiding potentially contagious Anglo-Saxonisms such as the itch, the twitch, the mange, and the grunge. The dirty motherfuckers who choose to harbor such wonders (and the traveling ones are moneyed enough that it indeed is a fucking choice) are, as they say in activist communities, intersectional with the carriers of woo-woo. From what I’m hearing, a total eclipse is really worth watching, but I’d rather watch it with Mormon breeders who stockpile canned goods in a bunker than with healing crystals assholes. All the New Age bullshit is about to flood interior Oregon from Ashland and Nevada City and Santa Cruz, in an almost biblical sense, and I’ve had enough of that crap already. If you haven’t been exposed to it, you probably have no idea how fucking obnoxious it all is. The ideas that these losers have about the eclipse have to be UFC heavyweight wrestler fucking dropkicked that dumb bitch I did insane. I get the gist of it and can tell at a glance that it’s all retarded, so I really don’t need the details.

I don’t need another helping of the wholegrain vegan pancakes, either. Mixing whole wheat flour, olive oil, baking soda, oatmeal, and water into a batter (sic, and adequately sickening) might seem like a great idea to someone who also believes in “neurolinguistic programming” (Major Bones: “You realize, all that means is learning how to talk! Oh my God!”) and scatters affirmations that “EVERY DAY, IN EVERY WAY, I AM GETTING RICHER” around the house while snacking on rotten lettuce all afternoon. The Family Shrew earned her epithet in part by being a pushy bitch about how such a lifestyle would be edifying for me, too, and really for everyone. I have never figured out whether the nasty salad mix snacks (without dressing, because that woman knows how to wander out of her fucking mind) were entirely a health cult discipline or had something to do with her and Joe Dirtbag not being able to afford groceries at times when my dad had been giving them tens of thousands of dollars.

So, no, I do not want to go watch some special lunar shit with this crowd. It sounds miserable. It’s bad enough that I can’t reschedule it for a year not featuring a secular high in socioeconomic inequality in the OECD and an allegedly liberal Neo-Victorian IFL Science bourgeoisie that wants to tell the poor how to live and is successfully turning Donald Trump into the Millennium’s William Jennings Bryan as well as its FDR. There was a big-ass eclipse in 1888, too, during the Gilded Age. Back then all the fashionable moral people were open eugenicists who expected their breakfast cereals to double as laxatives and triple as masturbation suppressors. That’s where science got J. H. Kellogg. One fucking loves it. Everyone who wanted a cut of his money for research had to pretend that he wasn’t batshit insane for going to the zoo to watch chimpanzees shit and taking notes. #GorillaMindset. Grant writers today have to pretend that Uber isn’t a mashup of COINTELPRO, Dr. Mengele from the psychology department, and 38 Special Vinny from the taxicab racket, that there isn’t anything wrong with Elon Musk for wanting to colonize Mars and run a maglev pneumatic tube from New York to Washington at a time when no level of government in the United States has the wherewithal to fund a third heavy rail bore under the Hudson into Penn Station, and that Ashton Kutcher and Nicholas Jesus D. Kristof are international authorities on forced brothel labor, coextensive and coterminous with all sex work because they say so.

Shit, white boy. I haven’t even gotten to all the flak that the poor take for being fat. The eclipse is sure to be another excuse for people who expose entire communities to measles because Jenny McCarthy says vaccines are giving their brats autism to accuse churchgoing Christians of superstition. Okay, some cool shit is happening with the sun and the moon, but it doesn’t give some asshole who dicks around on the NASA website grounds to make fun of snake-handling holy rollers for being ignorant and backwards (they know a thing or two about animals, after all), and it doesn’t give some other asshole the dispensation to swirl a fucking amethyst crystal in front of my third eye. I say this as someone who took the plunge and went through with RCIA in order to avoid taking the literal plunge into the bathtub of a wacko cradle Catholic turned hardline Missouri Synod Lutheran/straight-up John Knox Presby hellfire preacher who wanted to summarily baptize me at a soiree that he was hosting.

I’m wary of zealots because I’ve gotten mixed up with a few. There are only two words that I need repeat about my institutional experience with Dickinson College: GO DIPLOMATS! Seriously, I’ve considered actually donating to Gettysburg and F&M just to spite the development office shitheads and the cult horde that they indoctrinate. It’d probably be a five spot, but I’d make damn sure that it’s enough to get my name on a published donor list. The eclipse already has the IFL Science community preening about its own superiority to uneducated religious ignoramuses who don’t fucking love science, so, yes, I’d rather go to Idaho Falls and see if any of the LDS MILF’s made some extra Jello salad. Remember: more sister wives means more recipes.

It also occurs to me that maybe Mormon eclipse-watchers in flyover country are Safety Bear enough not to start wildfires by driving on the grass. John Waters is full of shit about America being able to take in more people because there’s so much space, but there is something to be said for getting into a relatively unpopulated part of the country on a weekend when the populated part where I’ve been working is going to have a wildebeest stampede of flatlanders into climatic and vegetation regimes that they dangerously fail to understand.

There’s definitely something to be said for being rational about this stuff, to doing some real planning and trying to steer clear of those who don’t. The Boy Scouts taught me about more than just Chesterfield. Much of what we did there was retarded, but not all of it was. The BSA isn’t exactly an organization of heteronormative neurotypicality, so Our Lord Joseph’s Servant Gerald applying the DENNIS Method to one’s Heartland under its auspices shouldn’t come as a total surprise, but it did teach us some extremely useful things about gun and knife safety and wilderness survival when it wasn’t handing out merit badges like candy to anyone who spent a week at camp weaving dumbass kit baskets. In retrospect, I side with the kid who got frustrated and threw his basket into the campfire. Those who aren’t into arson can learn much from the BSA about how not to accidentally start fires. It isn’t a good place to send Jim DiMaggio or Sexy Male Code Enforcement Officer Lynn Rader for training (God, not another DENNIS Method), but the worst boys I encountered through it were average bullies or whiny little twerps, not psychopaths.

It’s true that none of my recurring memes are bad by BSA standards. It’s true that what’s most grievously missing from its camps are the camp whores. That sounds like an American Pie sequel, but prostitution would actually cut down on the juvenile bullshit, and it’s a lot more realistic than amateur hour with Mrs. Robinson. These boys aren’t about to get it on with Stacy’s Mom; I was one of them, and I know that we did not got it going on.

It’s a weird damn organization, Rex Tillerson being one of the exceptions that proves the rule, but as I said, it managed to teach some of us some good shit, and the people I’m trying to avoid in Oregon this weekend include ones who never got the personal hygiene merit badge. That’s the one you get by coming out of the bath not smelling like shit. Left-liberals can have a moral sense of purity, too, bitch. People who smell bad after they bathe offend mine, and they overlap significantly with idiots who start fires by driving on dry grass, smoke being another source of offensive impurity, but you know what they say: haters gonna haidt.

Apology tour

First Daughter-in-Law, then Daughter-in-Law’s Husband (because we can’t come up with a retarded acronym if we don’t first come up with a retarded full designation), and now Mother-in-Law have all approached me to apologize for MiL’s lecture and berry tasting last week. DiLH seems to be by far the most cynical member of the owning family, so his apology had an implicit WTF Mom air about it. DiL is exceptionally matter-of-fact and professional when young children aren’t around, and so was her apology to me over the phone.

MiL’s apology was, not at all surprisingly, a rather more shambling, roundabout, half contrite, half self-exculpatory effort. Many people, I suppose, would have been offended, but Mother-in-Law, consistent with OPB and KLCC broadcasting standards, likes to think out loud (TM) (fam, some of y’all have no idea how bizarre Oregon is), and I never expect her thoughts to be the most clearheaded and functional. I’ve never detected anything deeply or abidingly malicious or manipulative about her; like her relatives, she seems to be a fundamentally decent person. To understand this, it’s important to set aside the sub-minimum-wage shit and the piece rate lowballing; these people are all quite morally grounded in spite of their ongoing exposure to some really fucking sketchy intersecting business, social, and religious cultures. A twenty-five-cent tip is intrinsically pretty WTF, which is why it is dem shine George coin, but we’re hopelessly to understand this situation by looking at it intrinsically. From an extrinsic perspective, i.e., with some context, dem shine George coin is the result of some valid, if disappointing, math. It’s the bottom line, a bottom line that I promptly regifted at Starbucks. I told a middle-aged Denny’s host about it later that night, and I don’t think it really registered with him that I was not joking and do in fact work at a place where that kind of thing happens and is normal.

Mother-in-Law is a hot mess, but this afternoon she was a mostly functional, thoughtful, non-projectile, borderline-calm hot mess, and in my book that’s enough. (It may not be a book that you’d ever want to read, but that’s your business. BTW, how’re y’all enjoying Dubai Porta Potty?) From most people, an apology like that would bewilder and annoy me, but from MiL, anything shy of a full Manchego Fuck Yourself is low-salt enough for me. The idea that anything about her tirade last week was excusable or reasonable is problematic, but Mother-in-Law recognizing that it was not something to do again and approaching me to apologize for it in a fashion that only she can pull off means that she isn’t currently yelling at anyone, and that’s the real goal there. DiL and, I infer, DiLH had a Come to Jesus talk or two with her about her lecture series and other, off-the-cuff comments that the staff might find off-putting, and she’d clearly gotten the message, so I didn’t mind that her way of expressing contrition and understanding would have been fucking nuts coming from anyone else.

The self-exculpatory part of MiL’s apology was an explanation that she had directed the tirade at the new pickers, not at me, and that she’d been frustrated with the low quality of the fruit and didn’t know how else to address her objections and teach the pickers how to improve their work. I suggested that she and the other owners give us more guidance while we’re out in the field, i.e., more orientation and training. I can’t remember how I phrased it, but she seemed really receptive and eager to avoid repeats of the forcible berry tasting, especially ones that alienated me. I didn’t mind that she was misinterpreting my objections to her lecture (I don’t like watching anyone being mistreated by management, period) or that she might relapse at some point. Life is a journey, a highway, we might say, and Mother-in-Law was willing to embark on it. In that context, I was not about to do anything that I thought might humiliate her. Wow Much martyrs Such penitent Many kyrie Where sandal Omg santiago de compostela Very confesh.

If life is in fact a highway, we might call this a journey on the Hershey Highway. As a former Hersheypark employee, I’ve inevitably been asked if I’ve been on the Hershey Highway. I can’t screen such losers out of my life entirely, and yes, some of them really are losers. Advisably or not, I’ve usually answered that straight with some story about actual roads that I’ve driven to Hershey, including the 28th Division Highway. I’m sure that was a better experience than serving in the goddamn 28th Division. So is the berry farm. MiL overdoing the command-and-control shit was a problem, but she’s simmered down again.

I don’t want to write a fucking treatise on forgiveness. Forgiveness. Even if, even if. I’d rather write Doge memes that are probably crappier than I think they are on the amount of sleep that I’ve been getting. At least I know that I’ve heard dumber than that by a long shot from colleagues, even today, so I’m not rooting around at the bottom of the barrel yet. Even with the Ditzney Princess done for the season, I picked a really good day to bring a new runner’s radio to work today. “Let It Be” never sounded so good, let alone with such poor reception. Thanks, Freddy.

In fairness, no one got quite as unrelentingly grating as “Fortunately/Unfortunately.” 35 is presumably too old to be working for nowhere close to minimum wage around a frank child who sings a one-line song about a rainbow dragon or some shit for fifteen minutes straight, but I’ve worked with worse. Hell, I’ve worked with worse than the Ditzney Princess. There are guys in the ginger-intersectional non-White community in McMinnville who make Mixups in my Mind’s story about the rotisserie chicken fight sound like Pope Francis saying compline and Psychotarp’s blogging sound like a Victor Davis Hanson essay series. There’s a threshold beyond which sexual and scatological vulgarity stops being titillating, witty, entertaining, or in any other way interesting, and these likely as not recently felonious losers from Newberg and what our one crew boss called Mack (WTF?) leave it in the dust. There’s some bad, bad shit in this industry. The In-Laws don’t come close to plumbing its depths.

Don’t believe that over-the-top evangelical piety is good for nothing. It keeps the Mack Attack shitheads off my current crew, and that’s above rubies. I can still come over here after hours to swear and curse and sputter. That’s the thing: I may sound like one of the great American crudities in these pages, but I’m pretty fucking diplomatic and nonconfrontational in meatspace. *Most Neo-Victorian Voice* Yats! Yats! Fuck the EU! Yats! *Cable over; burn upon reading, or if you need some fireplace kindling.*

I have standards. They aren’t very high standards, but not working with out-of-control Chads who show no common manners all the live-long day is one. The Ditzney Princess, of course, was another example of low standards. I assume that “new pickers” was at least in part a euphemism for her, but as I’ve speculated before, harshing a family brat’s mellow might have been a ready source of disharmony at reunions.

That said, it’s moot now as a day-to-day personnel consideration. MiL has gotten a grip, and the Ditzney Princess has retired to a summer schedule that, by her own description, is devoted mainly to hanging out and not at all to anything useful to society. Funyuns continue to outsell Responsibilityuns. Daughter-in-Law told us today that she’d like to have us pick on Monday but that we may take the midweek off on account of the heat, so we might as well do something fun. One of the pickers said that hanging out on the couch would be fun. Some would call this youthful innocence; I call it the blather of a damn fool, but I wasn’t in the mood to kill a hopeful young man’s vibe. If funemployment is in the cards for him, he’ll learn soon enough.

Some of these kids don’t know how good they’ve got it. We’re living the dream. I am, at least. When push comes to shove and there’s no acute bullshit going down, we’re getting paid to do the work that “everyone” “knows” Americans won’t do. We don’t have anyone like Joe Dirtbag around to get in our way, not pay us, bring shitheads and nutty fuckers onto the property to get further in the way, and act out his personality disorders. The Mack Attack is confined to Mack. Kurt Ballman gets paid much more to deal with James “Mack the Pipe” Mack than we get paid for not dealing with him, but in any interpersonal sense, the joke’s on him for being the one who has to figure out that some oppositional-defiant wigger was wandering around the East End of Cincinnati brandishing a different length of pipe. As one does. Seriously, that motherfucker could have ended up on one of my crews in the bad parts of the valley. Twenty-dollar blowjobs from majorly thick bitches are far from the worst thing going down in Over-the-Rhine and/or Sweet Home.

Heh. I said “going down.” Giggity. I’ve also recently been in the Safeway in Stayton. Definitely not giggity. There were exceptions, but some exceptions prove the rule. There really are things that are wrong with flyover country, and one gets the feeling sometimes that it isn’t just poverty. Sam Dotson and Julia Pearson are no skinnier, but, well, look at them, and then go to Safeway. There’s a community bulletin board in the hallway near the bathrooms, and some redneck kid of ten or eleven was hiring himself out for help doing anything so that he could earn money for a dirt bike. Love too have legally unemployable minors operate power equipment on my property for cash under the table. This was in Safeway, so it wasn’t full Deliverance. I don’t set foot in Grocery Outlet these days. I have reasons. It’s never the Muppets from Gross Out’s commercials that die in an apartment fire in Northeast Portland because some Chad with a temper problem had to douse his off-again, on-again girlfriend’s couch with gasoline and set it on fire.

I drove by the state prisons just east of Salem later that evening. Safeway is a good place for cheap Chinese takeout. It’s also an excellent regular pilgrimage site for anyone who doesn’t want his entire life to turn into a Nickelback musical. I don’t want to go poor-shaming here, but there really is something wrong with Stayton. I’ve spent a fair amount of time around working-class neighborhoods in Northeast Salem, and they just don’t have that gee, maybe you shouldn’t be getting your kid a dirt bike if you’re so damn broke vibe. The built environment there is horrific, but Fat Sammy, never one to be out of place at a Chinese takeout joint, would fit in at the Safeway at Lancaster and Silverton.

I seek out ambient exposure to people who aren’t totally self-defeating losers, so I notice these things. If you want to be quality, surround yourself with quality. By the way, I am not shaming Sam Dotson for being fat; I’m meming him for being fat. I’m a bit of a thicky myself. There are some thick, thick Nordic bitches and Nordic-influenced fellow-travelers around Seattle, too, but they have a certain je ne sais quoi that makes them definitively not losers. Plus-sized or not, you might as well go Bigfoot hunting if you expect to find anyone of the sort in Stayton.

There’s some bleak shit out here in the provinces. Well, fuck, what do I mean, “here?” I’m writing this in West Salem. Far be it from me not to get out of Dodge the minute I’m done with work. That’s the only reason I stop in most of these country-ass dumps: fruitboy stuff. Canning is work, too, but if I’m cleaning up after rednecks in Deliverance country, I do that after driven away from their roadside constellations of Keystone and Red Bull cans. I doesn’t lives here, Mr. O’Rourke. Someone else can come in instead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stick a fork in the Nork Dork

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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