Manufacturing surplus citizens

This essay at Counterpunch (h/t Naked Capitalism daily links) makes a fairly strong and chilling case that the US, UK, and Saudi governments and powerful non-state actors directing them deliberately orchestrate both terrorism and high-volume drug trafficking against civilian populations, including their own constituents. It concisely surveys a number of blatant Anglo-American and Saudi atrocities in Vietnam, the Los Angeles ghetto, death-squad Latin America, and Yemen, all places where the governments in question have been caught behaving heinously. A similar case that jumps out at me, and which I’ve discussed a number of times before, is the FBI’s bizarre failure to stop the Tsarnaev brothers from bombing the Boston Marathon, an exceptionally suspicious dereliction of duty.

A lot of really ugly shit concerning Western military and intelligence services and their allies (overwhelmingly sic) has been swept under the rug, and I’m willing to follow parts of the rabbit hole even deeper than Aidan O’Brien leads us. What initially caught my attention about the US opioid crisis wasn’t the emergence of the crisis itself but the appearance that powerful, meddlesome outsiders with axes to grind were stirring up a moral panic about yet another marginalized community. I strongly suspected early on that the actual prevalence of opioid abuse and overdoses was being exaggerated to such extremes that the crisis verged on being a hoax. Some of the media where I was hearing about this supposed epidemic were ones that obviously had no compunction about serially smearing the vulnerable, even entire communities, in the interest of telling a good story and then cashing out in full. The spectacle had tinges of the hysteria over sex offenders, and the United States already had a long, seedy, even tragic history of moral panics over drugs.

At the risk of sounding all Jill Stein autism vaccine healing crystals cuckoo and maybe accusations that I’m from Tiburon, I should mention that I believe in a strong element of magic appertaining to certain lines of evidence and argument based on the position and motives of those making the case. Come to think of it, that’s pretty fucking nuanced and this-worldly for Marin, but whatever; my actual native city has gotten all kinds of fucked up since I moved away. What I mean by magic isn’t what anyone who’s interested in selling you magical shiznit has in mind. What I mean, for example, is that the motives of a private citizen ruing the drug devastation of her hometown are so dramatically different from the motives of a sensationalist news outlet from out of town and the breathless mercenary reporters it dispatches to cover the story that keeping the facts straight isn’t enough to avoid the grotesque distortion of the resulting message once it passes into the hands of outsiders with ulterior motives. Put more bluntly, no one at the eleven o’clock news actually gives a shit about druggies in McDowell County. It’s fundamentally different when someone who genuinely cares about an affected community voices anguish and concern, but that’s not what we’ve got with a lot of the coverage. Instead, we hear city slickers who look down on and distrust and despise Appalachians intoning about the seriousness of a drug abuse crisis in Appalachia. There’s no way in hell that most of the out-of-town journalists and commentators on this beat actually want what’s best for these communities. To them, Appalachians are just disposable pawns in whatever culture war is being orchestrated above their pay grade, but surely Jim Webb will agree that Appalachians have always been ones to take on the belligerent dirty work for the lowlanders.

It’s not just Appalachians, of course. They’re just some of the most conveniently reviled communities currently under popular examination for substance abuse. Of course the trailer trash are all on hillbilly heroin. In the eighties, of course the hood rats were all on crack. In many American communities, especially to points west, of course the white trash is just a bunch of tweakers. Or was, in any event. Used in a vaguely prudent fashion, meth is a drug conducive to getting one’s ass to work, but that assumes that there’s work. Perhaps the streets know something that the official employment statistics do not.

What we haven’t heard recently, at least not from mainstream sources, is bitching about immigrants being up to their eyeballs in the damned drugs. The Gilded Age featured a moral panic about sexually predatory Chinamen and opium. Reefer madness attributed the suspiciously Latin marijuana to Mexicans, also presumed sexual deviants. These gentlemen, we were told, put a white bitch at risk. A hundred-odd years later, the Chinese are a premier model minority and the Mexicans make such dutiful gardeners. We have to turn to the streets to hear anything about Mexicans drinking and driving, insurance optional. Stories to this effect from coherent sources are all over the internet, but they’re never in the news. Why? The Cathedral is masterful at communal smear campaigns, so why are Mexican drunks who come off work dog-tired and crash their uninsured vehicles into locals and their rigs justified in news reports, when there are any, as kind of just having forgotten their driver’s licenses at home? It doesn’t take a license to refrain from driving drunk and fatigued.

The point here isn’t to justify preferentially smearing a certain foreign outgroup. It’s to reiterate that poor white boys and girls are already being smeared wholesale as unemployable junkies (who were until recently unemployable tweakers), and to ask what the hell gives for the campesinos. The whole thing gives off a powerful aura of Friendship Ended With Mr. Cracker Now Mr. Beaner Is My Best Friend. It’s coming from the Cathedral and from management, so we’d all be tragic fools to assume that anyone promoting these memes of hardworking, dutiful immigrants and drugged-to-hell wastrel Americans will ever restore friendship with the forsaken.

My sense of magic in rhetoric was inchoate for a long time, and it may still be, but one thing I can say is that the almost liturgical repetition of stories about workshy, softened, drug-abusing American proles is a fnord and an effort to fulfill an ugly managerial-class prophecy. The workshy part has been constant for decades, whether or not there’s been an acute moral panic over some low-class drug. The Mexicans, we’re told, are here to do the jobs that we won’t. In point of fact, many of these jobs involve a dirty old school bus full of a peasant underclass towing a porta potty out to the job site for ten hours of stoop labor, so it isn’t just that it sucks to cut lettuce. Most of these jobs, portajohn on a trailer or not, are not advertised. As a seasonal commercial blueberry picker, I’m struck by how many packages of blueberries I’ve seen labeled for cities where I’m all but certain, because I’ve searched the regional job boards during the growing season, that there are no help wanted ads for blueberry pickers. One package that I saw recently was labeled for a ranch in King City. I’d seen ads (translated into English, no less) for blueberry pickers in Santa Barbara County, but I’d had no idea that there were any commercial blueberry growers operating in Salinas County. I did know that King City was where the police chief had been leading a criminal ring that stole cars from gray-market field hands. Extrapolating working conditions in the local fields is reasonable. *Downmarket Wesley Willis voice* GET ON THE BUS!

Accusing white Americans of pandemic levels of hard drug abuse dovetails beautifully with what farm country management wants, which is NOT old-stock Americans, of any race, really, working as field hands. In the Northern shorthand, this is generally expressed as white farm workers. In parts of the South, black farm workers from American lineages as old as any of mine bear the brunt of the discrimination. In parts of the South where the poors can’t help but #RaceTogether, management panda-bears the shit out of the local help. The problem with both of our kinds is that we got uppity, whereas the Messicans know their place. The last part applies to just about every state in the Union. The Mexicans are just better workers, though it’s funny that they keep showing up here flat out of civil rights. It makes sense that peasants who have spent their entire lives busting ass in the fields (and often don’t mind being sloppy as hell) work faster than people from middle-class backgrounds who started doing farm work as teens or adults, but that doesn’t explain why so many farm jobs are made needlessly awful and not advertised.

A related stance I’ve repeatedly encountered from growers, which makes me think that a Mugabe/Castro/Chavez expropriation isn’t necessarily such a bad idea, is condescension for daring to show up looking for farm work as a mainstream honky without an ag degree. They don’t say it, but I can read it. It doesn’t matter what these planters think about nonwhites; their attitudes towards fellow white people who are noncompliant with their specific conception of country life are proof positive of Klan-level bigotry. It’s worth jack shit if they’ve got a Portuguese guy and a Japanese guy and a Sikh and a Mexican mixing it up with the Dutchmen in the Farm Bureau local; they still act like I’m an interloper in their cartel for trying to see if they’ve got work that doesn’t totally suck. Instead of a 100% Anglo-Saxon planter class that rigs labor, land, and commodity markets and prejudicially throws its deficient fellow citizens onto the Darwinian trash heap, we’ve got a multiracial planter class that rigs labor, land, and commodity markets and prejudicially throws its deficient fellow citizens onto the Darwinian trash heap. O beautiful for spacious!

Thank God, this isn’t the entire farm ownership class, but it’s a frighteningly large chunk. The political reaction of this class is totally fucking insane. This reminds me, so I might as well pass it on (TM), like other Values (TM): a quick look around Fresno demonstrates that the Kardashians are some of the least problematic Armenians. #TheMoreYouKnow. One of the things that’s so crazymaking about this whole mess is that the owner class, high on its own work ethic, disavows the existence of a class problem in flyover country while simultaneously making it tacitly but unmistakably clear that I’m subverting their class by being a non-wigger white boy in search of menial farm work.

This shit is worse than street people with free fare cards heading uptown to intercept incoming Cubs fans by yelling, “Any of you white motherfuckers want a free ride?” It’s a hell of a lot more racist, for sure (“black motherfuckers” would be equally consistent with the prevailing community standards), and I get really annoyed with shady fuckers who want to sell me discount fare media, so I’m not here to put in a good word for the turnstile hustlers anymore than I’m here to praise the Dunkin’ Doorman.

On second thought, maybe I should be out to praise the low-functioning. We’ve got plenty of the high-functioning running our farms and our other big businesses, and look how that keeps turning out. Oh no, we aren’t racist; we just hate other white people for being lazy, soft, and feckless. H-1B coders with diplomas from fly-by-night for-profit coding schools are totally more competent than Cal Tech-trained American computer scientists. We’ve never had anyone chop his arm off with a meat cleaver because we sped up the slaughterhouse line to the point that Somali refugees are the only way we don’t end up with 400% annual turnover by hiring the most desperate slumdogs who just snuck up here from Oaxaca.

All of this is where we’ve already ended up. The people who run this joint have deliberately given immigrants more hope than they’ve given the natives, and hence less motivation to abuse drugs, but even some of the immigrants are seeing that it’s a damned raw deal. The black working class has gone from a pariah part of the drugs community in the eighties to the downmarket native constituency that one dare not criticize, probably because the Hillbots still expect black voters to do something for them and never notice that they’re being used. The Fuck Whitey chapter of the platform sure isn’t getting them anywhere, but that isn’t the only truckload of bullshit that they’ve brought down on their own heads. Go figure that it’s coming from the same first lady who enjoyed the services of penal house slaves of a certain non-Caucasian persuasion.

I’ve gotten into some anguished spots over my own difficulty finding work, but God knows how many millions of Americans have had it worse and are also being told in even starker and more explicit terms that they are obsolete and to be replaced. No wonder we’ve got an abundance of white folk who are hella into bad dope sets. What the fuck else would anyone expect? The enterprise and the optimism of methamphetamine? I can’t say that I wouldn’t be shooting black tar myself if my prospects crashed down through several circles of hell.

None of this just happened. None of it. It’s more like they scaled up the Tuskegee Experiment by a factor of several thousand, with the drug availability as a surprisingly minor component. They know damn well why we’re sick and dying. They know because they orchestrated the whole diabolical thing.

Winner: Reality

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

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

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

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

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

Joey Buttafuoco is living poetry.

More seniors by the sea: spank you for your service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The beatings will continue until workforce health improves

This is why I (sometimes) still listen to NPR. I exclude Scott Simon from any deliberate boycott, of course, because Chicago Senpai don’t do House Voice, and I guess I could exclude Robin Young as well for reasons having less to do with #SPORTS. *Devin Yamanaka transmission incoming* What’s going on, Ed. *Radio disquiet* Hey there, Devin, here’s a bitch over in Maine who sounds normal but is actually insane.

If that sounded odd, you haven’t listened to enough drivetime Cap Radio. Nor am I the one whose boss got all riled up over D. Money and Smoothie, mythical niggas from wicked south who don’t have anything to do with their kids. Mary Mayhew, Maine’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services, plays the good cop to Paul LePage’s crazy cop. It may be embarrassing that Maine is governed by your crazy racist uncle, but ultimately, likely in a matter of years, not decades, the political expression of LePage’s salty Canuck geezer act is naturally self-limiting and self-correcting. There’s a constituency for his loosely wound bigotry, but it’s too small to win statewide elections on its own. Even George Wallace at his most avowedly racist delivered the goods to his constituents, largely irrespective of race. Paul LePage didn’t get to where he is without the holistic political sense to successfully navigate an unhealthy political ecosystem that was failing to do right by ordinary Mainers, a credible appearance of empathy for their grievances, and some ability to articulate how he’d redress them. He was already governor when he made the comment about D. Money and Smoothie hitting the road after getting your daughter into trouble, so he had some political capital available to burn.

And in any but the unhealthiest political ecosystems, that’s the kind of language that inspires voters to keep an eye out for promising challengers. It alienates voters who expect the governor to behave with some dignity and tact in public. It alienates voters who don’t like being lectured about social morality (not as a euphemism, because it’s ultimately about much more than just sex) by a disinhibited old coot who watches too much Fox and Friends and acts like he has a real problem with interracial marriage, too. Many Mainers, especially younger ones, have black friends, either Somalis or scions of the old stock from points south, or else are black themselves; they might not take kindly to a governor who crudely dogwhistles smears about an entire race in a fashion worthy of a right-wing chain letter. If anything, Somali-American voters might be more sympathetic to LePage’s comments, insofar as they construe these as targeted criticism of specific Community pathologies that they, too, find objectionable; the bitter experiences that many Somali immigrants have had with old-line African-Americans were a key motivation for their initial enthusiasm to #RaceTogether in the Great White North instead. Voter disapproval of LePage needn’t be so nuanced, though: his beef with D. Money and Smoothie is enough to worry a decent swath of voters, possibly enough to swing elections, that he’s going senile, is too needlessly combative and wound-up to function adequately in high office, or is just a fucking idiot.

Mary Mayhew, by contrast, is smooth and clean. Too much so, in fact. She’s far, far more dangerous than LePage. LePage is too low-functioning to keep his true feelings close to the vest. If he’s got a bee in his bonnet about something, he pipes up about it in whatever crude, goofy manner springs most immediately to his mind. He can pretty much be read at face value. LePage is the one who impulsively mouths off with ideas that are unambiguously meanspirited or just plain nuts. Mayhew is the one who sticks to painstakingly scripted talking points and delivers them with scrupulous ritual civility. This doesn’t mean that her ideas are any less nutty or evil than LePage’s, or any different at all. What it means is that inattentive observers, including voters, read her at face value and fall for another snowjob, just as they do with any other slick, urbane bullshitter.

This wasn’t the first time that Here and Now had left me with an aftertaste of why the fuck was that shithead just given a national interview slot on the radio. They did worse in the same hour of the same episode when Robin Young interviewed a cheap faculty provocateuse (we strive to be gender-sensitive, yes?) who got all up in Richard Spencer’s face at their gym about what a Nazi piece of shit he was and so on and so forth, ultimately resulting in management yanking his card. The good professor had previously gotten into it with management over a “Puck Trump” cap that she had worn with, she admitted, an ambiguously printed capital P. In that segment, I discovered that it’s okay to say “spic” on the radio but not “nigger,” specifically in the context of, “I want you to be raped by a spic or a nigger.” No, I’m not going to link to that, not because it’s hateful but because the Here and Now homepage is a mess and I really fucking don’t feel like looking any more of that shit up. If you were looking for a way to demonize someone who also gets rape threats from Pakistani security service goons, that’s it right there.

These were segments that I just happened to hear on my way in and out of Safeway for a culturally appropriational Chinese fressfest. And that’s not even the worst that NPR/PRI/PRX/Public Fuck Me Arse has to offer. I don’t know how or why Marco Werman always sounds like such a simpering prick, but he does. Young and Hobson are pretty damn down-to-earth for Boston Brahmin types, no matter how much hot air hasn’t been let out of their guests. Marketplace has better aesthetics, in a weirdly overcaffeinated way, but they’re all fronting for the kinds of rich moneybags and slicked-up, condescending mercenary white shoe boiler room salesmen most Americans wouldn’t hesitate to throw into the sea. The TED Radio Hour with Guy Raz is its own circle of hell.

NPR is run by people who seem constitutionally unable to grasp that, just because some sleazy, overly coached fraud has something devious to say, they don’t have a duty to journalistic ethics or the public trust to give her a national platform to say it. The Spencer horseshit is a case in point. Richard Spencer is nothing more than a preppy douche from North Dallas who, we might say, dicks around with Nazi cosplay because it makes his Little Richard feel mightier. You know, I could use a good penis mightier, Trebek. Spencer became famous for yelling sieg heil shit and getting an arm stiffy over Trump in a hotel ballroom, then stayed famous for making (mostly) less inflammatory comments, getting sucker-punched by antifa at a rally, and now for being bothered by a crazy bitch with an ax to grind at his gym.

Why the fuck is this loser in the news, again? He isn’t running for public office. He holds no elected or appointed office at any level of government. Civically, he doesn’t even rise to the level of a nutter who shows up every Tuesday night to reciprocally talk over the mayor and the city council about the fluoride conspiracy. Spencer is really just the beneficiary of some weird kind of dark political magic inadvertently practiced by journalists who can’t resist juicy targets, do the real work or even thought necessary to discern what’s newsworthy, or assess threats to save their own lives. Trump, who got wall-to-wall coverage of his campaign speeches from supposedly hostile news outlets including CNN, is another beneficiary, but he was running for the presidency. Spencer is the equivalent of a nobody who occasionally gets into bar fights. He might make the local police blotter, but that’s it. NPR has successfully taken an inconsequential dipshit who was drifting around in grad school and reified him as a serious civic and political leader.

We’re told that this is because journalists want us to hear both sides. Gee, that’s nice. I’m sure radio producers have absolutely no discretion or limits on airtime that they can use to choose losers by not inviting them into the discourse. We don’t hear very much about single-payer health insurance from national news outlets, NPR or otherwise, a curious silence about a policy that enjoys the consistent support of a majority of the American electorate and is increasingly being demanded, loudly and explicitly, at town hall meetings with the elected. Or should I say, the Elect? They certainly seem to go through life with that level of self-esteem, after all. They may not be Dutch, but they’re very much. I’m sure I’d have a harder time getting anyone at Here and Now to hear out a detailed proposal for a revamped public housing program and exactly how I plan to keep the whole thing from turning into the Robert Taylor Homes than that shrill, openly crazy bitch from Georgetown had getting on the air for nothing more than having gotten into a three-way with Richard Spencer and the management at their gym over her feels about Spencer’s having taken Himmler as his spirit animal.

None of these people can do true objectivity, nor do they want to, because it would make them sound like wet noodles, so they do false objectivity. This craven, disingenuous stance does much to explain the long-term decline of public trust in the mainstream news media since the mid-twentieth century: there’s nothing crazy about distrusting organizations that exert powerful influences on public opinion on the basis of biases that they swear up and down they in no way whatsoever possess.

By far the loudest grievances about media bias come from the right wing, in no small part because the authoritarian right is crawling with masterful, relentless grievance whores. Some of these grievances are pure assertions coasting on inertia and repetition since the 1980’s, when there was something approximating a systemic leftwing bias in the mainstream media, at least relative to the prevailing political coalitions in Congress and in a number of statehouses. Challenging supply-side economics and the death penalty in the time of Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson was a leftward push on the national discourse that could, alternately, be rebuked from the right as suspect elite obstruction of the duly enacted will of the majority or backed up from the left as actual leadership. Given that the factions opposite mine in this discourse show no compunction about arguing through the most idiotic and provably false assertions, I see no reason to present a detailed counterargument right now for why I believe that the mainstream media going into the early nineties showed something closer to true leadership and courage in the face of out-of-control majoritarian sentiment and the demagogues whipping these sentiments up than agitprop worthy of Pravda.

In the early 1990’s, something changed. I was a tween to early teen at the time, so my perceptions weren’t as keen as they are now, and I haven’t looked through the contemporary archives much, but I distinctly recall a number of ugly reactionary trends appearing in what had previously been regarded as reputable outlets in leftist and centrist circles starting in the early nineties, and the rot has mainly intensified since then. Formerly sober outlets piled onto the bandwagon with salacious, hysterical coverage of the threat of sex offenders in the aftermath of the Megan Kanka murder and did practically nothing to debunk the crazy talking points that ended up conflating serially murderous pedophiles with public urinators and statutory rapists of sexually mature older teenagers. Dateline NBC degenerated from a reputable but still engaging investigative news program into what South Park so aptly ridiculed as informative murder porn, and then into a form of outright pornography that collaborated with a metastasizing carceral state to publicly humiliate losers who had been foolish enough to get catfished by Chris Hansen and his chatroom creep squad. Towards the end of the decade, NPR fired Bob Edwards, a class act, fairly solid journalist, and perfectly popular host who had a truly exceptional radio voice, replacing him with the proliferating pool of barely distinguishable borgs who definitively established the disturbing house voice that prevails at NPR to this day. This move successfully killed two birds with one stone, namely, ethics and aesthetics. As far as I’ve been able to tell (I’ve yet to see a satisfactory explanation for why the hell NPR shitcanned Edwards, let alone an admission ex cathedra), this was a personal part of NPR’s simultaneous campaign to solicit ever more corporate gray and dark money while also, but of course, whining ever more gratingly to its listeners that the fund drives would continue to interrupt the programming they hfad tuned in to hear until they coughed up the damn cash.

By now, we live in truly fucking awful times for mainstream reporting. It’s pretty much been getting worse for my entire lifetime, and I see precious few signs of improvement. The withering complaints that leftists in particular level against the NYT and WaPo are on point: these papers of record, respectively, for my country’s de facto commercial capital and its de jure political capital have been behaving more and more execrably over the course of my adult life. I’m disappointed with the censoriousness with which many leftist elements have carried on about Ross Douthat, but Tom Friedman is a bumptious charlatan, Ruth Marcus is a less talented and more vicious print version of Brenda Jorett who beclowned herself by defending Sam Brownback’s honor in the face of juvenile trash talk on Twitter from Overland Park, there’s a lot of intersectional bad faith and bad writing floating around the syndicated columnist pool in general, and Bret Stephens, from everything I’ve heard, sounds like a shameless bullshitter and a lunatic. One of the few charitable things I’m willing to say about this shitty pool is that David Brooks has some weird redeeming aesthetic value, and that I don’t care if others think he’s an annoying piece of shit because I think he’s a charming piece of shit.

It’s appalling to listen to people running interference for all this horseshit by rebuking newspaper readers as censorious for canceling their subscriptions (Bret Stephens was a popular last straw), as if the reading public has a civic duty to pay against its will for the upkeep of pitiful hacks who produce nothing but endlessly accumulating piles of court propaganda and personal sexual fantasy, much of it aesthetically worthless. Maureen, g’day m’lady; also, Jesus Kristof what up cracka. If it were literally horseshit, you might be able to find someone to cart it off to the shroom crew in Kennett Square, and if you did, you’d get paid by the ton. This kind, you pay for instead, and if you’re a landless Millennial like me, ain’t no use for any of that in the garden that you don’t have.

Commercial print news and public broadcasting have been turned into little more than findom scams on their audiences. It’s shameful, to the extent that those running the scams are capable of feeling shame, and I’d no sooner put money on that than I’d put money on the damn ponies or the NPR pledge drives. This is a bit off-topic (isn’t it all?), but there’s a bronze pig statue in the Reading Terminal Market called Philbert, situated atop a big plexiglass lock box, and customers can feed coins and bills into Philbert’s mouth and, if they’re attentive, watch the money (the coins especially) immediately fly out his ass into the collection plate. Okay, not off-topic, just off-color. Really, though, Philbert would be a fundraising model for NPR, since he welcomes the money and the cash, but he does so graciously. Also the money supposedly goes to projects better stewarded than NPR, the idea being something like at-risk youth in the Badlands getting some garden space, some seeds, and some mentorship instead of another yuppie in Fairmount getting another fucking tote bag.

Is that all you get for your money? Mama Leone, pray for us. At least bless us with soup, if not with sense. I hardly ever set foot in Market of Choice but, yes, I spend too damn much time in Market of Choice. Still, I count my blessings that I grew up around this crowd and didn’t end up on the Spectrum. I don’t know much about vaccines, a type of biology, but I do know that an hour of Marco Werman a day is enough to catch autism, and the kids are hopeless if they’re around the tote bags, too. You may be thinking, shit, this all sounds kind of autistic, so all I can say is, look, I’m really not that autistic. Like, I’ve got other cultural references at my disposal that I don’t find embarrassing. Believe me, I’ve known some strange rangers who do not. I’m not particularly like this when I leave the computer; many other such cases that I personally know or have credibly heard of roll in the deep with this shit all life long.

Again, one of the disturbing things here is that Here and Now is some of NPR’s better programming, so if it’s that bad, the whole joint must be fucked. Hell, even Marco Werman looks normal in pictures, so I don’t know what the hell is wrong with him. No, come to think of it (you heard it here first, not five seconds after I did), that twit may be some kind of low-functioning dipshit, the brownnosing class dork to Paul LePage’s racist uncle. I can’t recall getting the bad feeling that he was running a serious con on his audience. It was always pretty much just the dork from the multicultural club giving another school assembly presentation that went on too long. As I said above, two segments in the same half of the same Here and Now episode maxed out my bullshit meter the other day. That isn’t just some dipshit neighbor kid who always wants you to come over and listen to his collection of weird-ass international folk music and Skype with some guy he somehow knows in Lahore or Nairobi or God knows how the fuck he pulls any of this off when he doesn’t have any friends in his own school. As much of a public twit as he is, The World has never blindsided me with anything close to a crazy bitch using “spic” and “N-word” in the course of bragging about how she got all up in the face of some cosplay Nazi at the gym. I still don’t want to listen to a simpering dork talk to some Anglophile grandmother in Delhi about how nice it is to have a cup of tea when the monsoons haven’t quite yet arrived, and there’s probably more than a bit of subliminal neoliberal programming mixed into the programming (many such channels!), but there really is something to be said for programs that don’t give off that Gathering Fall of Rome feeling.

Some of the most dangerous people we could encounter are ones who come across as perfectly normal and engaged but who are, upon any examination, in some crucial way batshit crazy or depraved, because we’ll inevitably end up taking them at face value and getting screwed over for our gullibility. This is something that doesn’t get repeated nearly enough in the Anglo-American world today, or for that matter in much of the West. All sorts of noxious bullshit gets repeated to no end, but not that. These are the sorts of thieves and killers who will end up breaching our defenses.

Mary Mayhew, the Maine health poobah from some distance above, is perfectly designed to breach our defenses. Actually, I should put on the Gillespiean leather jacket and clarify who’s us, Kemo Sabe: formally educated people of the sort of liberal to centrist persuasions who have been successfully conditioned to believe that the Cathedral is looking out not only for them, but for everyone. Many less educated people are too street-smart to believe such a thing for a hot second; for their trouble, they get ridiculed for putting credence in conspiracy theories that do not involve elaborate Kremlin conspiracies that conflict with everything that has been soberly observed of the Kremlin under Putin. The elites, they’re all just Russian to judgment.

That was terrible, but so was the amount of sleep I got last night, so it shall stand. It’s eerie and a bit frightening to realize the extent to which trust in versus distrust towards authority figures and their institutions codes for class. With a very few caveats, it’s reasonable to say that it’s considered low-class to distrust religious leaders, law enforcement officials, social workers, teachers, school administrators, doctors, dentists, news media, and landlords. To the extent that religious piety or fervor is still coded as low-class, it’s due to a combination of delayed observation of cultural trends (the highbrow right wing has been having a shit fit about the decline in church attendance among the lower classes, but this bitching circulates mostly within the Buckley and Buddies community) and the success with which middle- and upper-class godbotherers catfish as discount salty crackers. The dentistry thing is striking, too, in a really scandalous way. Dentistry in the United States isn’t a profession; it’s a caste. It’s hard to refute arguments that dentists assume themselves put on this earth to make a shit ton of money by specializing in dental diseases of the rich and another shit ton by flipping their practices to other dentists (the last part I heard straight from a dentist’s daughter). Personally, I feel mostly goodwill towards the individual dentists I’ve known, but I’ve had consistent dental care my whole life, as well as several years of orthodontic work in my teens, and I’m well aware that a widening swath of the American public can’t afford routine checkups and prophylactic work. The ongoing involvement of dental associations in extreme to-hell-with-your-mouth reactionary politics is a national scandal, and when a profession that requires fishing around in other people’s mouths full-time degenerates into such a hostile, corrupt racket, it’s hard to imagine what sector of the economy is immune from equal corruption.

The lower classes have wildly different experiences with authority figures than the middle and upper classes. Their encounters are much more often adverse. I can speak to this based on nothing more than my dealings with my landlords in Eureka, whose systemic mistreatment of their tenants and rental applicants was barely known among local homeowners but notorious among renters. It isn’t a delusion if they really are out to get you. Okay, it is a delusion if Psychotarp construes it to include Methodist-Catholic conspiracies including antisemitic arson, but even then there may be some truth mixed up with the crazy. In many cases, the condescension, hostility, and even paranoia of authority figures dealing with the poor has to be seen to be believed.

The middle and upper classes shield themselves from this mistreatment so thoroughly that they can hardly imagine it exists. It’s unfortunate, then, but not surprising that the affluent have converged on a bipartisan worldview that aggressively defends authority figures from all challenges of legitimacy. They’re just trying to get everyone else to help them vote their own interests. One of the most diabolical things I’ve ever seen is the creation of a false appearance of division within the top ten or twenty percent. Of course the broad overclass wants the rest of us to think that it’s fighting internally over obnoxious wedge issues: yelling about sex and abortion, yelling about guns, constantly relitigating the Scopes Monkey Trial, ad nauseam. The overclass may even want to believe this about itself rather than face its own uncanny class solidarity. It’s relevant that Dave Ramsey dresses worse than the flophouse downtowner I saw on the San Diego Trolley who told his girlfriend, “I can’t afford to go to the bank no more.” The flophouse fellow was a genuinely indigent man with a sense of dignity that he asserted by dressing as well as he could; Ramsey is a moneybags with the false modesty of a man who can’t afford to check Goodwill for hand-me-down Reyn Spooner shirts. Hence all these alleged religious, aesthetic, and cultural divisions among an upper class that, even from its nominal left, refuses to really call out Paul Ryan or Ted Cruz for orchestrating attacks on the commonweal, let alone call out landlords for putting rental applicants under duress to pretend that they’re engaged to be married in the hope of securing apartments. A left wing (LOL) that won’t defend its own sworn principles can’t be expected to defend fair housing law, either.

Again, so fucking much of this is really about class and nothing but class. It’s almost impossible to exaggerate. Let’s use this class gloss, then, and ignore all others as red herrings. Mary Mayhew’s manner of speech codes overpoweringly as upper-middle-class. The lower classes find it ridiculous and pointless to talk like that, a decent swath of the truly secure upper classes have too much self-respect to debase themselves in such a fashion, and the middle-middle has ways to make a living that don’t require turning into a talking points robot. Paul LePage’s manner of speech codes strongly as lower- to lower-middle-class, although it’s harder to pin down to a specific caste because he’s harder to pin down, too. LePage was a French-Canadian runaway who learned English late in his adolescence, in the midst of a period of homelessness and itinerant living that he entered to protect himself from an abusive home environment. Right there I can tell that he has more in common with me than Mayhew does, no matter how divergent our upbringings and socioeconomic backgrounds. LePage managed to achieve upward mobility over the course of a chaotically fluid life, and his career has had him liaising (mostly successfully, it appears) with people from all over the place socioeconomically, so it stands to reason that his speech is all over the place, too. He flies by the seat of his pants, just as he has his whole life. As embarrassing as the D Money and Smoothie incident may have been, he was really just extemporaneously articulating concerns about sociological pathologies of the lower classes that he, unlike the Kennybunkport set, was willing to examine and think over.

Wikipedia tells me that he also called out their associate Shifty and later said, “Let me tell you something: black people come up the highway and they kill Mainers. You ought to look into that. You make me so sick.” We might say that LePage has a heart of some darkness, or, as George Wallace put it, his heart is as black as anyone’s here. All the same, I’m not convinced, just on the basis of his public comments, that he’s a committed bigot. It may just be that he’s always done everything on the fly (coming from a background like his, that’s the only way to get by) and has an impolitic way of discussing his efforts to interdict criminal elements from Dorchester. As I mentioned above, these comments probably play better in the Somali community in Lewiston than we’ll ever hear in the mainstream press. Like Somali immigrants, he integrated into Anglo Maine from an alien community with an alien tongue. You might as well wait for a blizzard on Waikiki as wait for the mainstream media to even consider the possibility that there’s some unexpected intersectionality here, or to report on the well-established mutual antagonism between African-Americans and Americans from Africa in other parts of the country.

Excluding politics, the likeliest way for LePage to outearn Mayhew would have been for him to maintain seniority in a union shop and for her to teach at a private school, as a woman of a certain class who is able to take such a financially déclassé but socially prestigious position thanks to family money. LePage is one hell of an outlier in terms of his drive, the runaway son of a mill hand who learned English, finished school, and cofounded his own small business. Any number of people might work their way up from skid row with a union card in a functioning mill town, but LePage’s story is exceptional, and unlike so many bootstrap stories, it really seems to be a function more of hard work than of luck.

When I was thinking about Mayhew, I had a vague feeling that I knew her from somewhere, but it was only when I recast her as a (nonunion) private school teacher that it hit me, hard: I knew her from Lancaster Country Day School. Not her specifically, but women on the faculty who were dead ringers for her: the same voice, the same accent, the same subtly affected style of speech. LePage is too seat-of-the-pants to put up an affectation; the stuff he says may be goofy or coarse, but it comes from the heart. Mayhew, we might say, speaks from a transplanted heart. It’s striking how fucking timid some of these scions of the upper middle class are, how afraid they are of having their own opinions or feelings or observations, how readily they take refuge in the hive mind. I knew a bunch of them at Country Day, and another, bigger bunch at Dickinson. The men don’t show any more courage than the women; they just express it a bit differently, creating a shitty sexual dimorphism in khaki and pastel. These people are interchangeable units who can be plugged straight into any corporate propaganda machine. Some of them are pleasant individually, but as a collective they paint a hellscape.

Mayhew is another of these cyborgs programmed with intersectionally neoliberal/Tea Party talking points that she most civilly regurgitates on the radio with absolutely no consideration of whether they make any fucking sense. If she’d gone up on stage at a Country Day school assembly during my time there and said any of that shit, somewhere between a third and half of the student body would have looked at her, like, cracka dafuq. That’s how she would have been received at a prep school that catered to a large constituency of dutiful generational social climbers and did a good job of managing the makeup of the student body so that never harbored enough students with behavioral problems to form a Lord of the Flies quorum. (Individual losers with modest behavioral problems were fine.) At most public schools, I have to assume that the reception would be even worse. Mayhew got a straight-faced reception at WBUR because WBUR is staffed by people who have been trained to keep a straight face before sleazy, ridiculous bullshitters who ought to provoke unabashed snickering whenever they open their mouths. Their idea of balance is to have LaDonna Pavetti on with actual statistics at her command showing that disability beneficiaries commonly return to the workforce once they have recovered enough to hold down jobs, then phone Mary Mayhew for a rebuttal that’s nothing but talking points about nudge theory and the dignity of work (which, as we’ll see shortly, that bitch is not qualified to discuss). It’s like Opposing Viewpoints about nursing: “I’m relieved that Charles Cullen isn’t practicing it any more” vs. “A proposal for expanded hospice nursing on medical/surgical units, by Charles Cullen, RN, RIP Bitch.”

There’s a certain amount that a person has to be paid, monetarily or in kind and usually consistently, to inspire loyalty to this horseshit. I can’t exactly what this threshold of corruption is, and as with many matters involving individual preference, your mileage may vary ($2,000 in campaign cash for Kamala Harris, reputedly a bag of groceries for Spiro Agnew), but I know that I ain’t hardly touched dem shine ricebowl and that there’s no unringing the woke bell for me at this point. Like Paul LePage, I’ve seen some heavy shit, and I ain’t about to unsee it. I know people who are corruptible for fairly small amounts, but no one has even tried to corrupt me by the hour, so I might as well reiterate that if you’re going to run a racket that is enabled by paying people off, you gotta fucking pay a guy off. My adult social life has revolved around watching a vulgarity of disingenuous WASP’s and fellow travelers try to run a mesh of glorified mob rackets while still maintaining their degraded yet overly precious sense of WASP propriety and parsimony, a squeamishness which makes it impossible for them to deliver the goods to key players that any sensible mobster would keep happy, and now it starts to look like the whole damn thing is starting to implode. It’s actually metastable and starting to shift and creak in the wind? Gee, one doesn’t say.

As the Last Psychiatrist always liked to say, if you’re reading it, it’s for you. The Here and Now interview with Mary Mayhew was probably just a psyop on Bougie, because NPR (duh) but also because that’s who will listen in good cheer to a hellish downeaster version of Brenda Jorett lecture America about “pathways” to the “dignity” of work. Mick Mulvaney’s tirades about how “we need you to come back to work” at least sound sort of normal. Who the fuck talks about “pathways to independence?” What we’ve got here is a mashup of a TED Talk, an I Fucking Love Science article, Romney/Ryan blather about “takers,” and an undergraduate botching the quasiplagiarism of Malcolm Gladwell at daybreak the morning the paper is due, and this shit is being dignified with a one-on-one interview on nationally syndicated news radio. The whole thing was a John 3:16 sermon on the Protestant work ethic minus the poetry. The neoliberals ruin everything they touch, but we knew that already. At least Peru’s Maoists will agree that there’s only one acceptable Path, although they’ll surely insist that Mayhew’s is too dark, and even they had the self-respect not to call it a fucking “pathway” or talk about incentivizing it with anything shy of honest infantry.

That bitch doesn’t know a goddamn thing about the dignity of work. Someone like Paul LePage who actually outfought the streets might have a legitimate point to make about the payoff of hard work, but Mayhew is so full of shit, you might as well go ahead and write her the Movantik prescription right now. We’ve got a rapidly dwindling pool of adults in this country whose interactions with the workplace have involved consistent dignity and a rapidly growing pool who have encountered deep humiliation and degradation, often with nothing to show for it after being chewed up by dead-end application processes under the direction of hiring managers who have shit for manners. Dignity? Bitch please. And the compulsory work regime that Mayhew is trying to impose is exactly the thing that will degrade work environments for EVERYONE, not just for the workshy, and strip them of what dignity they still have. No one who has a lick of business being in management or ownership wants to train and supervise an unwilling workforce of marginally employable headcase and gimps; the only people who want anything to do with that are psychopaths and sadists, walking horror shows who progressively drive away their own good employees.

For someone whose diction is so clear and deliberate, Mayhew’s thinking is godawfully muddled. She actually said, verbatim, “work is the solution to poverty.” The fuck? Money is the solution to poverty. Gifts or payments in kind can work, too. If the state meets the material needs of its needy, it has met their material needs. This should be self-explanatory. Whether or not they’d be somehow happier or more existentially satisfied or purposeful if they had jobs is a separate matter, tangential at best. A lot of the beneficiaries in question are acutely sick or injured and unable to function normally in the workplace, so there’s that, too. Sure, there are some malingerers and frauds on the disability rolls, but there’s also Psychotarp, and that fucker is crazy. Who in hell would want to hire him? There are people in this world who are too crazy to shovel gravel into potholes; Mixups in my Mind, whom I personally know, is one. I know from personal experience that ministering to the neighborhood nutters gets in the way of running a business, or anything else that one was planning to do, for that matter, like take two minutes to burn some paper trash in a wood stove.

Mixups and Psychotarp are too disturbed for their own families. If we have the compunction not to be a society of psychopaths, we’ll recognize that people of their psychological condition are inevitably going to run at a financial loss and will have to be chargeable to the state in some fashion for their own welfare, if not for the protection of public safety as well. It’s perfectly conceivable that Mary Mayhew fundamentally does not understand what it’s like to deal with disturbed people or what it takes to provide for the disturbed. Regardless of her clinical background, I have personally dealt with two acquaintances who are stone nuts, and I do not take kindly to some partisan zealot dumping people who would be better off in state hospitals or nursing homes into a workplace or onto the streets, in either of which they’ll cause nothing but grief for the rest of us.

This idea that income should somehow inevitably be associated with dignity is bizarre. Do I sound like I go armpit-deep into recycling bins in pursuit of my own dignity? Did I drop it down there? No. I do it for the money, like any sensible person would. The State of Oregon pays me damn well for my labor, but the cash kiosks at BottleDrop don’t spit out dignity vouchers. God, that sounds like something that the right wing would earnestly propose. It probably has already. There isn’t any particular dignity in accepting handouts from my parents, either, but I’m not the kind of petty dumbass who doesn’t appreciate the help staying afloat and living decently. Why, then, is a woman with a steady, benefited job running a state HHS department given a platform to lord it over the precariat with boasts implying that she has dignity and we don’t? It’s snacktime, sweetheart, and today’s snack is a hearty wedge of Manchego Fuck Yourself.

I know, I know, it so often is. This isn’t the first time that Here and Now has gone poorie-punching. As with the Mayhew segment, their primary target is noncompliant yuppies, actual or inferred, but if that’s their stance towards the college-educated, it’s wise to assume that their stance towards mere high school graduates, let alone dropouts, is even more hostile. They’re telling the rest of us how to live, and frankly they expect us to bend over and lube up. They only act refined and thoughtful. I can tell the difference between dignity and purpose (going for a hike) and money (rummaging through trash cans again), but their guests can’t. Oregon has excellent hiking and excellent canning; get you a state that can do both. And the state government isn’t full of officials who use ugly social controls like nudge theory to police up the poors. Instead the legislature is like, forget your nickel a bottle, ’cause you’re getting a dime now. One of my reasons for maintaining California voter registration is to incrementally retrieve California’s government from its increasingly third-world standards of accountability to the public. I’m not saying that I necessarily have a prayer, just that I’m keeping the dream alive, in large part because I work in a neighboring state whose government isn’t a row of burning dumpsters.

Anyone who gives it some thought could flip the script on a cheap poor-shaming bullshitter like Mary Mayhew. It’s pretty simple: why are you sitting up there in the state government telling workaday people how to live their lives? Why are you up there telling people down here on the ground that they aren’t sick or injured? Bernie Sanders flips the same script as a matter of course, although usually against bigger, juicier targets. The rest of his caucus doesn’t because it believes in garbage like nudge theory, too. Why would the Democratic establishment call Mayhew out when there’s hardly any daylight between them? If anything, they believe in an even more elaborate battery of meritocratic punishments and rewards that systematically brutalize the poor.

The failure of journalistic competence in the Mayhew interview was epic. Mayhew was allowed to get away unchallenged with an assertion that “we have thousands of job openings.” That’s nice, but it’s distracting and barely relevant. Any alert, self-respecting interviewer would have asked her what sorts of jobs these are. They could be part-time gigs at Hannaford for the purpose of calling in the slacker and last-in-first-out pools when one of the lifers has a medical appointment. Worse, the Maine job market contains several hundred thousand positions, either full or vacant, so there could easily be thousands of openings at a time due to nothing more than retirements and normal turnover, even in a slack job market. Mayhew succeeded in finding an interviewer who was either unable or unwilling to ask followup questions based on quick mental arithmetic informed by a rough estimate of Maine’s population. It’s impressive to discover that radio hosts who seem perfectly well put together are so fucking incompetent and lax when push comes to shove.

Job retraining, which Mayhew also promoted, is a perfectly sensible idea if it’s done right, but she isn’t up to that job. Cool, here are a dozen guys who can’t really use their arms because they got repetitive stress injuries pulling green chain, and here’s a job opening in skull base surgery. Mayhew is clearly arrogant enough not to notice these details. It isn’t really that difficult to train PhD’s to compete for special education slots; all it takes, as they say, is the right nudge.

Then there were Mayhew’s comments about using Medicaid work requirements to encourage volunteerism, which also went totally unchallenged. I found these powerfully offensive and devious. I understand that it’s considered boorish, even inconceivable, to criticize volunteerism or argue that there should be less of it, not more, but I’ve seen too many loudmouthed, longwinded shitheads abuse voluntary organizations as platforms to indulge their own grandiosity, and too many schnorrers in positions of power and ownership abuse volunteerism for reserve labor pools that they conveniently don’t have to pay for their for-profit work, to shut up and keep the stiff upper lip when right-wing con artists pipe up about the virtues of voluntary organizations as replacements for competent government services.

That entire realm is shot through with serious boundary problems, as I can attest from horrifying personal experience. The particular form of volunteering that Mayhew advocates, a public-private partnership using the coercive power of the state to drive its beneficiaries into volunteer positions with private and religious organizations, will inevitably attract predatory do-gooders like moths to a lamp. I’ve rarely run into a proposal whose outcome I can predict with such confidence. This arrangement will bring the worst, most predatory busybodies to the yard and reward them, both financially and morally, for their meddlesome, condescending grandiosity. Some of the organizations who will line up at Mama Sugar’s tit are already patently criminal enterprises: the Salvation Army, for example, is accused by its clients of routinely running the homeless out of its shelters for minor infractions, barring them for thirty-day periods, and selling the personal property that they leave behind in its thrift stores, and its call-me-major grandiosity is legendary.

Shit, Rogers, the automobile is a better poor house than that. Its an absolute goddamned disgrace that the Democratic Party not only compulsively fields candidates who can’t relate or get through to the legion victims of these predatory businesses (Hillary Clinton) but also actively sandbags and sabotages the few who can and will (Bernie Sanders). It would be scandalous enough for one of a country’s two major political parties to regularly front Hall and Oates Effect rich bitches to run interference for obscenely rich scolds, authoritarian busybodies, and fellow-traveling predators, but the United States has both of its major parties pushing an agenda that seeks to drive the vulnerable into poverty and the poor into what can reasonably described only as forms of slavery. The Democratic Party is overrun with puffed-up, overeducated creeps who believe in nudge theory every bit as passionately as Mary Mayhew does; their disputes with her, if they even have any, are over inconsequential aesthetic differences or which particular pool of losers is to be driven to slaughter first. Neither of these factions has any moral center to defend. One of the Democrats’ great wanking fantasies this year is that Joel Ossoff (ed.: Oops, Jon; gimme that Ephesians 3:20, baby) will blaze the path to a new majority coalition held together by educated suburban professionals, relegating the Republican Party to a rump of country cracker-ass deplorables. This is yet another reason why I’ve come to despise the party that I rejoined just last year as a registered voter: at the institutional level, it is not only deeply evil, but also strategically and tactically inept beyond belief. Just because I regularly vote for its candidates and consider its main opposition even worse doesn’t mean that I don’t want to destroy it and see what emerges from its ruins.

NPR acts on a fierce institutional affinity for the Democratic Party, so of course it gives moralizing bourgeois-supremacist shitheads like Mary Mayhew a judgment-free zone on its nationally syndicated programs. Homegirl ain’t looking to loot ricebowls for hungry fuckers who could use some damn rice. Neither is that crazy bitch from Georgetown who is too bashful to utter “raped by a nigger” on the radio but not too bashful to spit out “raped by a spic.” If that kind of unnewsworthy garbage is fit for a family radio show, every fucking word I’ve published in these pages is fit for the internet.

M’honky, you’re most welcome.

The bear ate my homework

It should be axiomatic by now that the grand Russia conspiracy theory is a clumsy psyop against the American public, but this is the Democratic Party in the time of the Clintons, so should hasn’t got a thing to do with any of it. The Clintons have never been ones to accept responsibility for things that they can blame on someone else, and they’re getting worse with age. At the same time, they’re entrenching themselves as pillars of the political establishment, where before they were McDreamy the Lace Curtain Trailer Arkie and his rather frighteningly icy shrew of a perennially scorned wife. A hundred million dollars plus of baksheesh plus whatever hits the Clintons did or did not order on their political opponents can do that for a power couple, and we know that they’re capable of politically strategic homicide because Bill didn’t give their political opponent Ricky Ray Rector the opportunity to have dessert.

The Russia thing is pure Clintonworld agitprop. Shattered reports that the Clinton team settled on the Kremlin scapegoating campaign within 24 hours of the Queen’s loss to the Donald. The public bearbaiting certainly hit a fever pitch out of nowhere in a hurry after the election, and the Cathedral hasn’t piped down about it since. Mencius Moldbug is a bit eccentric and maybe goofy, but he seems spot on about the existence of an elaborate insiders’ conspiracy under the auspices of self-dealing institutions and the direction of a malign clerisy. This conspiratorial explanation makes a hell of a lot more sense than the coincidental alignment of a fiercely independent press with the entire Clinton agenda, kooky geopolitical grievances and all. Contra Moldbug, perhaps, this conspiracy may be less a megalomaniacal social engineering project than a function of the Clinton machine’s Ephesians 3:20 disbursements of cash, exposure, and collateral contracts to its legions of camp followers, allowing C. S. Lewis’s robber barons to rape us a bit more softly than his moral busybodies would, or perhaps to kill us not quite as softly as he did with his song. That was wrong, but so is Hillary Clinton being the successful fugeetive from justice and Danbury that Lauryn Hill was not.

You only thought this story was going to get better. Of course it didn’t; it’s still about Billary, and their Infernoesque concentric hell on earth of sycophants, mercenaries, and similar trash is still all about Russia. The Russia conspiracy theory isn’t even fun. The US government using secret bases around Roswell to house its very illegal aliens? That’s fun. Hitting Century Boulevard with the Inglewood mental health community for a conversation about planes that may not actually be on approach to LAX because, well, do we really know that, now? That’s definitely fun. The Russia thing? That’s just tiresome. It’s a constant, self-serious lecture about breaches of propriety from the lying mouths of people who actually have none themselves and are cravenly smearing an agreed-upon scapegoat as a distraction from their own monumental political incompetence. People who are actually crazy can be great entertainment, but the bearbaiters are really just lying sacks of shit who won’t stop bothering us with their endlessly repetitive, ever more mindnumbing lies.

Even if they start to believe their own bullshit, they still lack the polish of the properly crazy. They’re aren’t wandering around a light rail station yelling about dirty-ass motherfuckers who can’t wipe their own asses; they aren’t that novel, or that eloquent. Or so honest, but that much should go without saying. That’s a true story, regardless of whether homegirl is lucid enough to correctly identify the motherfuckers in question or the dates, times, places, or forms of their filth. Her other story, about niggas and prison, was also true, if mangled. I didn’t catch all the details of that one, except to ascertain that they were all over the place, but as the internet autists have taken to saying, there are many such cases.

The Russia stuff didn’t happen. Most of it is as nonfictional as Harry Potter. That’s another story that Democrats have come to enjoy far too enthusiastically, too, less as an opportunity for finite literary escapism than as a biography of what their own lives should be and would be if it weren’t for, oh, Donny Pisspotter and the Kremlin School of Wizardry. Russia didn’t hack US voting systems. Russia didn’t unleash targeted mind control operations against US citizens to compel them to vote for a man they otherwise would have abhorred. Russian agents and assets did cultivate business and political relationships with US counterparts, some of these relationships being unseemly, but so do the agents and assets of every other fucking country on the face of the earth that has more sovereign wherewithal than Somalia or Yemen. Not to put too fine a point on it, Russia dindu nuffin. Big Bear Man dindu nundat, comrade.

The omissions from the Russia conspiracy theory are damning. It’s nothing but shamelessly selective outrage. Michael Flynn may be something of a crook who wheels and deals with foreign unsavories, but there would be nothing unusual about that for a retired flag officer in the US armed forces, or a serving flag officer for that matter. Regardless of what else is objectionable about him, he didn’t set a precedent for dubious foreign entanglements on the part of the officer corps in the time of Fat Leonard. Where do these fuckers live? Mars? Shit, the entire US military is formally entangled with unsavory foreign governments, some of them blatantly hostile to the United States. We’ve got our national panties in a bunch over rumors and feverish inferences that a salty dog general was party to a handful of backchannel communications with Kremlin counterparts in the course of helping set up an administrative apparatus for a first-time president-elect from scratch, and meanwhile we give Saudi Arabia a pass for allowing no less than its midlevel officials to fund and orchestrate 9/11. This is because Saudi is our ally. That’s what allies do for each other: hire suicidal psychopaths to hijack one another’s commercial aircraft and fly them into office buildings on weekday mornings for maximum casualties. Duh. Note, too, that the smearing of Flynn as an international crook worthy of the Logan Act is coming from partisans of–who else?–the Clintons, lately of the Foundation and the Global Initiative, formerly of the Lincoln Bedroom. What crooked foreign government have those two not conspired to gladhand for bribes?

Hostile governments, by contrast, promptly cable the FBI when they have surveilled a US resident associating with known radicals back in the, back in the USSR and have reason to believe that he may be planning bad acts on US soil. The Tsarnaev clusterfuck sure makes the FSB look more concerned than the FBI about public safety in the United States. Put yourself in the shoes of a mythical FSB agent who wishes the United States and its residents harm. You just watched some shithead with a Green Card come back to Mother Russia and yuk it up with a bunch of beards whom you’ve had under surveillance for being involved in a religiously inspired conspiracy to commit secessionist political violence against your country. If you let the shithead go back to the United States unmolested, he’ll be in place to take out his rage on his adopted land and people. If you alert the US authorities, they may decide to yank his Green Card and send him back to Russia, his country of origin, where he’ll become your problem until he finds some other country to take him in. If he doesn’t find a third country to bother, this will turn him into a permanent liability for Russia.

Do you tell the Americans about the Conclave of the Caucasians? Of course not. You let the shithead take his Green Card back to the United States whenever he gets bored with his communion with his old crowd and revert to being a threat to the US’s public safety, not Russia’s. Unless you care about the safety of Americans, that is, and can’t abide the thought of knowingly allowing a religious thug to hatch plots in his birth country and then abuse his immigration privileges to threaten the life and limb of his neighbors in his adopted country. In that case, you alert the G-Men to the Caucus of the Caucasus and encourage them to keep an eye on the creep.

No, I’m not kidding. The FSB, the KGB’s direct successor, was a more credible protector of US public safety in this case than the FBI. The FSB is the agency that took Tamerlan Tsarnaev seriously and sounded the alarm. Of all the Muslims the FBI has surveilled, often without cause, and of all the Muslims its informants have baited and goaded into half-cocked terrorist plots (“Hey man, wanna do some jihad?”  “I dunno, I think I’d rather play some more GTA, but if you really want, yeah, I guess we can do some jihad.”), why the hell couldn’t it put a surveillance team on Tsarnaev, keep an eye on his contacts, tap his phones, and figure out that he was building a fucking bomb and planning to use it? How the fuck is this the one bomb plotter they managed to miss after they were specifically and directly warned about him by a foreign intelligence service? Even if they suspected that the FSB had gotten a false positive, they could have quietly kept an eye on him, just to see if anything was up. They could have checked with local police agencies around Boston to see if they had any intelligence on him. Dude had all the peaceable nature and ethnic goodwill of a young Mark Wahlberg, the Russians were rattled enough about him to reach out, and he’s the one bad motherfucker the combined forces of the FBI and the sworn Southie Irish could neither catch doing bomb stuff nor take down in a meathead’s honeypot? Ooh, I’m getting a raging clue! I think I’m gonna shoot clue goo all over Uncle Joe!

Ah, Maahky Maahk. The basteahd put a guy’s eye oot in a bah fight, but now he’s up theah on the silvah screen, playing a steyahff seahgeant.

Of course these assholes would rather turn the rumor mill against Russia than blame the FBI for getting three people killed and dozens of others liberated of their legs by dropping the ball on a thug the FSB had specifically told them to monitor. Look at how they’re suddenly rehabilitating Jim Comey, all because that oaf fired him and then ran his mouth again.

John Kerry didn’t act anything like this after he lost his own run for the presidency. I wasn’t gung-ho enough to knock on doors for more than a few minutes, but I was gung-ho enough to help man the Kerry-Edwards table at the fairgrounds in a two-thirds Republican county and field rhetorical questions from hostile ammosexuals. When Long Face lost, he was enough of a statesman and a class act to accept defeat graciously and honorably, without running around stirring up a moral panic against a foreign folk devil. There’s been nothing like 2016 (and now 2017, because we’re a wicked people deserving of our punishment, or else horribly unlucky) to bring into contrast just how classy that Masshole was, as a contender and then as a loser. He coulda been one, Brando. Okay, maybe he couldn’ta. He was a weak candidate and a terrible communicator going up against a deceptively skilled communicator who was backed by the mother of all political war machines, but he didn’t make an ass of himself when his Quixotic run flopped in the end.

The grievances about bad processes back then were credible, or at least plausible, mostly having to do with Republican electoral skulduggery, which had a blatant precedent in Florida in 2000. Hence my beloved bumper sticker with a solid blue map of Florida and the caption, “Electile Dysfunction.” I knew conservatives who quite enjoyed it, too. But that was under the leadership of a failed presidential candidate who had some fucking scruples and self-respect and respect for the electorate that had declined to elect him. It wasn’t a simpler time, but it was, at least in this narrow respect, a much less disgusting one.

What we’re hearing now amounts to omg MedvedKekKek1488 called me a cunt and posted some Pepe memes over on Reddit. We’re hearing shock and outrage that the Kremlin hired some internet trolls (which the Pentagon would never do) and bought some PR in US news outlets (which the Pentagon would never do). I couldn’t even get anyone to call me a faggot when I jumped into a raging flame war over Donald Trump on the KMTR Facebook page and noted that Kwesi Millington for President would have been an improvement over that thread (“As they say, he’s electrifying”), so I’m not sure how ubiquitous this Russian troll army was, especially relative to the total numbers of the creepy sockpuppets who keep getting caught using DoD IP addresses to threadjack alternative blogs with utterly retarded drivel.

The Russia thing presumes that voters en masse disregarded everything that they were able to personally observe about their own circumstances and the condition of their lives and everything that they could discern about the candidates for the presidency from countless sources, formal and informal alike, because they had been brainwashed by a almost amateurish Kremlin international mind control operation. The brainwashing aspect of this conspiracy theory is mostly projection; it takes a brainwasher to hallucinate a brainwasher, and the mainstream media constitute most of the ministry of information of Brain Washington. I’m with Sarah Palin on this much: it is in fact a lamestream media, although in the strict sense of the term, the mainstream media are PC Principal-juiced to the lame, dumb ass of TIMMMEHHH, and that’s why they’re dangerous. Objectively, the horseshit about Russia should be too lame to go anywhere, but it’s been propagated among the intelligentsia and wannabe intelligentsia with incredible success.

As someone who has watched otherwise engaged, critically thinking loved ones fall for this horseshit just because it bears the imprimatur of Serious News Organizations and act like I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid for not putting credence in it, I resent this propaganda campaign more deeply than I can describe. Everyone responsible for it should be ashamed to hell, but I know better than to think that that crowd is capable of healthy emotional feedback; it wouldn’t be able to turn its tricks at work if it were. Think “trick” more as in “Tricky Dick” and less as in “thicky trick.” To paraphrase no less than Peace at the Center himself, people have, uh, uh, uh, whores, but some have better classes of whores and don’t glorify it on public television and so forth and so on.

It stands to reason that the Harry Potter set would project credence before the most ridiculous alt-factual propaganda onto its opposition and accuse the latter’s voters of rolling in the deep in a political fantasia. People who cast themselves in their own meritocratic wizard fan fiction wouldn’t be ones to credit a television oaf’s downmarket voters with any rational reason for derailing the ambitions of their yuppie queen. Again, this is not a fun kind of crazy like smashed in his knees with a two-by-four, smashed in his knees with a sledge HAMMER! That’s fun–from a distance, at which God may not be watching us, but at which I most certainly am keeping an eye on the poor man’s Peter Gabriel, as one does who treasures his own kneecaps. You, too, could have a speed train, but not at Market East, cracka. The Harry Potter stuff is just a bunch of self-important assholes who are obsessed with overrated children’s literature because they have yet to mature to Tom Wolfe and show no signs of doing so in this lifetime. Meanwhile they’re pointing and sneering at factory workers, miners, truckers, and farmers, accusing them of being out-of-touch juvenile losers for holding down real jobs.

If the 2016 election had been decided on the conscious, explicit basis of how voters felt about a Democratic Party whose most catered-to constituencies form their politics and their aspirations around bumptious fantasy fiction (including their beloved alt-presidential Bartlett bullshit, too), Trump would have clobbered the bejeezus out of Clinton in a 400-vote electoral sweep that would have spared him the need to indulge in Kobach-compliant White Whines about how Democratic electoral fraud was the only reason he lost the national popular vote. It’s a testament to the graciousness, pragmatism, and openmindedness of the American electorate that anything close to a national plurality of voters was willing to vote for a ticket burdened by all the shitty cultural baggage of the credentialed high end of the Democratic Party. It ain’t me, lawd, it ain’t me that did any of that, but it was quite a few others.

Hillary is the unlucky convict who managed to get shot, gassed, electrocuted, and hanged for the same crime, except that she did it to herself. The same thing is true of the Democratic Party for slashing and burning a path to put that cackling shitbeast on the top of its ticket and then dredging up an unctuous, swish neoliberal obscurity (who conveniently evoked thoughts of sexual weirdness, even among staunch Democrats) to run for veep, on the bizarre electoral logic that he’d bring enough of a home field advantage to carry Virginia. As I think it over, I’m almost certain that Hillary would have won the general election if she had chosen Bernie Sanders as her running mate. As her lieutenant, Bernie would have brought a huge (yuge!) amount of energy and credibility to Hillary’s campaign, enough to easily flip the rust belt in her favor. As a recently ratfucked surrogate trying to reunite the Democratic Party against an opponent whose sworn platform dovetailed significantly with his own, he had no such credibility. Plenty of voters who still admired him didn’t believe what he was saying about the party and the candidates it was now running in the aftermath of his defeat.

The reason Hillary didn’t choose Bernie as her running mate is the same reason why her campaign and the DNC ratfucked him: they all despised and distrusted him and did not want him in a position of influence. Their revealed preference was blatant and a lot cruder than they probably thought it looked. They were sheepdogging us, and enough of us knew it and resented it to sink her campaign in the end.

For a party that swore it needed all the solidarity it could get from points to the left, the Democrats have expended an awful lot of energy smearing Stein voters for ratfucking them. As if we give a shit. Do I really sound like I care that Jill Stein’s other voters were a bunch of anti-vaxxers and healing crystals dipshits? No, that isn’t quite right. Do I sound like I care that butthurt Democrats believe Stein’s constituency to be crunchy energy-field morons who cause measles outbreaks in Pacific Palisades because of some nonsense that they read about iatrogenic autism in Goop? Of course not. I’m not that fucking petty. The rest of her constituency could have been a total freak show and I still would have been, yes, #WithHer. As it happens, I don’t believe these broad-brush smears any more than I believe  broad-brush smears of Trump voters as a bunch of knuckledragging, hopelessly nostalgic bigots. Besides, as proud as I am to have contributed to a 5.5% county-level vote for Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka, their national vote totals sucked. Sure, they were third-party dark horses, but even for an obscure third-party ticket they performed weakly.

There’s a strain of Democratic apologist that figures that, well, now, that’s a rather grandiose stance for a California voter to take towards a state-level race that Hillary Clinton didn’t have a chance of losing. Under this condescending gloss, it was acceptable for me to waste my ballot voting for a couple of hopeless fruitcakes because it was going to be canceled out by my mature fellow citizens, i.e., it didn’t make a difference. It did for getting the Green Party over 5% in Humboldt County, bitch, and as someone who likes the idea of a political movement that is on the left but not the fucking Democrats, I can stand by that vote. But what would I have done had I voted in a state that was up for grabs?

I probably would have voted for Trump.

Yes, you read that right. I can’t say so for sure, since I’d been seriously considering voting for California to MAGA, too, but it would have been a factor for me. “How can you POSSIBLY vote for that man?” rhetoric SHOULD backfire. Any candidate whose pitches boil down to a demand that all educated people show their cultural solidarity and intellectual self-respect by voting for her is morally bankrupt and politically weak. These are both things that a great many voters thought about Hillary in the first place, so the sheepdogging frenzy complemented quite nicely their fears of an overbearing, hostile clerisy taking over the Democratic Party against the wishes of its voters.

Republicans and independents had similar but starker reasons to be distrustful, insofar as they didn’t reluctantly regard Hillary as the closest thing to a Republican running in the general election. I have a Republican friend in suburban Philadelphia who voted for Clinton because he was horrified by Trump. Shortly after the convention, he told me, “My only hope at this point is that the Republican Party can rescind Trump’s nomination.” After the general election, he said, “I voted for Hillary and immediately felt bad afterwards.” I felt bad that this fellow, one of the most upstanding people I’ve ever known, couldn’t find anyone running for president to vote for who didn’t immediately fill him with a sense of regret and disquiet, but I can’t object to his discernment that he had to vote for what he considered the lesser of two evils, even a lesser evil whom he found appalling in her own right. Millions of American voters found themselves in a similar position last fall. Some find themselves there at every election. This friend of mine seems more willing to work within the two-party system than I am, or than many other voters are, for that matter, certainly including the tens of millions who are eligible but don’t turn out. Good God, Y’all/Absolutely Nothing is a popular third option, although not one that I can personally countenance supporting.

The friend I just described comes from exactly the constituency that Ed Rendell has said the Democratic Party can and should tap to balance out its losses in the rust belt. Think about that: a sleazy but frankly popular former mayor of Philadelphia and governor of Pennsylvania wants his party to assemble a new coalition from people who feel either no affiliation with his party or a traditional affiliation with its opposition and who feel like shit for having reluctantly voted for its headliner candidate. Can you see now how this party keeps losing elections?

I wonder whether Bernie Sanders isn’t just delineating the extent of the rot in order to have an irrefutable case ready when he finally sets up a third party, loosely resembling the early Republicans, as the new political home for the entire downmarket left and center. He’ll piss off a bunch of bougie Democrats if he turns out to have been on a surveying mission all along, but he’s already pissed them off; much of the hardcore Hillary wing is already apoplectic about what he’s done to their party (i.e., win back constituencies that FDR would have been horrified to accidentally alienate).

This is what Lambert Strether calls deploying the blame cannons. Clintonworld is itching to go full Bull Connor and the fire hose on a critical mass of its own base, which it also insists it needs to win over in order to take back Congress and a large minority of state governments. It’s message is basically, hell yes, we’re on your side, how can you possibly say otherwise, you miserable bastards. Whether the goal is really to win us back or punish us is hard to say, and beyond a certain point–say, the Bern Unit fielding Democratic candidates who aren’t greasy shitbirds–it becomes irrelevant. This is why Tom Perez is trying to ride Bernie’s coattails to something other than centrist welfare press obscurity. Shit. Shit. Shit. This is really impressive. The victorious faction is trying to draft up the hill behind the guy it just defeated. Wow Much pyrrhic Such bizarre None gracious Many hubristic Omg victor caldera Very confuse.

#TeshTips: Look up the second last part in full quotation marks. I was surprised to discover that there wasn’t just one of him. But at least I know when I’ve been watching too much television.

The Clinton team’s smears of swing voters are legendary by now, but they still bear recapitulation just to reiterate what an object lesson in political disaster the whole damn campaign was. There was the basket of deplorables fuckup, which was enough on its own to tip half a dozen states into the shitter. This comment was a gaffe in the truest sense, an indiscreet, politically incorrect confession of unspeakable personal feeling. Voters heard this and immediately knew that it was consistent with what they had feared about her ill will towards them. Clinton’s campaign, the sloppy, unfocused mess that it was, was unable to even start the damage repair that would have been necessary to recover from this scandal, and remember, at its head was a woman who valued repeat visits to Hamilton over first-time visits to Wisconsin.

It’s a major county in Ohio, too, you know. Or maybe you don’t. Clinton was famously touted as a policy wonk who had a masterful command of granular details about everything, for what good that did her in counties that she all but explicitly smeared as dens of reactionary hillbillies. This is another thing that’s alienating about all the wonks and avowedly educated poseurs who couldn’t imagine how Trump ever won the damn thing. They looked down on anyone whose gut feeling or anecdotal evidence said that Trump had a good chance of going the distance as an unqualified barstool bullshitter, in contrast to professionals like Nate Silver, who measure shit. Yeah, their own. The entire Democratic establishment amounts to grown children going, okay, is that a little poopy, or a big poopy, or maybe a medium-sized poopy, and meanwhile they somehow don’t notice that the baby hasn’t been fed or changed all day and the house is on fire. I fail to see what’s wrong with taking schadenfreude in the discovery that overeducated quants can be paid and celebrated for dissing observant, engaged private citizens as lunatics for arguing that the dark horse has a real chance and then, on election night, come away looking like idiots and sore losers. Baby, it’s three am, I must be ornery. That isn’t the only good feel I got on election night, but it is not one that I’m embarrassed to admit having indulged. Remember, that dork Silver still gets paid to look like an upstaged fool. Me, I ain’t never touched dem shine ricebowl; dat kine, it ain’t mine.

What’s worth looking at in a bit more detail is how badly Hillary misjudged the national mood with her yuppie feminist shtick. This turned out to be a monumental screwup. It wasn’t that the country was fundamentally unready for a female president. An environment of systemic misogyny wouldn’t have let Clinton anywhere close to the presidency, and the Clinton campaign made it impossible to isolate the variable of womanly leadership in general from the variables of I swear to God I hate that bitch and by the way that’s a crime family. A key Clinton strategy to was to conflate all of this and shame reluctant voters for not being ready to elect a woman to the presidency. The campaign explicitly ran on this theme with its famous #WithHer rhetoric, and it almost ran with the even more entitled “It’s Her Turn.” As I’ve said before, when that’s the kind of arrogant language that cooler heads have to veto, a campaign is fucked from the start. It’s like starting a golf game from a sand trap while hip-deep in a water hazard.

And it wasn’t just the arrogance or the entitlement. Hillary and her crew were mouthing off with this feminist shit in a time of enduring mass male unemployment, educational underachievement, incarceration, disenfranchisement, unhappy bachelorhood, involuntary celibacy, and general malaise. (Hey, Jimmeh.) If the campaign had actually paid attention to granular data, it would have understood the gist of this situation perfectly well and made an effort, as Bernie and Donald both did, to propose real solutions to the grievances of marginalized men. There wasn’t even any need to explicitly appeal to a sense of men’s welfare; speaking frankly and sincerely about the plight of marginalized working and unemployed people would have been enough.

Instead, Hillary lashed out at the alt-right, a movement that was oriented in large part towards explicit solutions for aggrieved men. This was part of a well-established pattern on the Clinton machine’s part of dealing with dissastisfied constituencies by telling them to quit their bitching, suck it up, and vote for Clinton. It successfully pissed off voters from across the political spectrum. Anyone familiar with the alt-right would have recognized that it was taking seriously some very serious objections that American (nay, Western) men had to the way they were being treated, men who had been left in the gutter by decades of hostile neoliberal policy. Instead of telling disadvantaged men and their loved ones what she was offering them, Hillary went up on stage with a script and bitched about Pepe. In other comments, she or her close surrogates complained to no end about BernieBros, basement dwellers, chicks who were on Bernie’s side only because they were trying to hook up with his misogynist bro followers, and other backwards reactionary elements that any good Maoist outfit would also denounce.

The really stupid thing about this strategy was the assumption that it would alienate only unemployed and menially employed white males. Cue endless carping about the white working class, if you can stomach more of it. This campaign could not fucking imagine that its smears of white working people would be taken personally by working people of other races or that its smears of marginalized, adrift men would be taken personally by those men’s loved ones or, for that matter, that its smears of entire American communities would be taken personally by anyone in a position to swing the election. Oh hai, Ohio.

Stunningly, Hillary and her campaign could not appreciate the optics of running a former first lady with a notorious lech of a husband as the human vanguard of careerist feminism. They couldn’t imagine that this would possibly look bad. In their world, you see, career women were respected, and Hillary was a career woman, not an obscure Ivy League lawyer and commodities inside trader who shrewdly married one of her country’s most preternaturally talented politicians. They were too myopic to appreciate the first two thirds of their candidate’s biography. They had a few million true believers in their orbit who believed this nonsense about Hillary being a model of womanly independence rather than a craven influence-peddler who had parlayed her cockhound husband’s juice into a carpetbag position in the US Senate. (*Very Tom Lehrer Voice* I’m from Massachusetts, and we feel a certain sense of superiority over the other states because Massachusetts is the only state with three senators.) Being unable or unwilling to recognize how sparse these true believers were nationally, they inevitably were also ignorant of how far out of the mainstream their politics were and of how widely despised they were as yuppie scum.

Here they were running a notorious feminazi harpy who had somehow been the one woman to stand by her man while her man stood fully erect for that woman, Miss Lewinsky. The calculating insincerity of it all shone through. Tens of millions of American women would have divorced his sleazy lying two-timing ass. Tens of millions more would have put up with it in some fashion because he was providing for the family or was a good lay or a fun companion but wouldn’t have done so for the purpose of setting themselves up in spousal political careers or cashing out for nine figures’ worth of FIRE sector and sovereign wealth fund baksheesh. Hillary wasn’t just involved in a possible marriage of convenience to a manslut; both she and her husband were tied up with every vile, murderous, explicitly misogynistic government with the money to pay them off. And here this bitch had the nerve to lecture every feminist and woke male ally in the country to vote for her for the sake of women’s empowerment, even though she had possibly the worst feminist praxis of any public figure in her country.

This was a flagrantly bogus campaign by a notoriously insincere and inflammatory politician infamous for despising her own fellow citizens but also ordering them to vote for her. The notion that Hillary Clinton is a crazy bitch didn’t come out of nowhere, and it is not an opinion of male privilege. Where the hell did any of these people get the idea that women never hate other women? Never mind; there are entire textbooks devoted to such bollocks, and their authors, unlike yours truly, get paid to write that shit. Chelsea Clinton is now among them, because mass-casualty crashes of the Staten Island Ferry never kill any of the New Yorkers who could use one. But really, Staten Island always was for the white (-ish; to wit, Snooki and the Situation) scapegoats that an urban overclass so cherishes when it’s too chickenshit to speak ill of losers in the South Bronx. #RaceTogether.

Did it piss off the men, too? Duh. In a sense, the Clinton campaign was a wholesale shit test which she narrowly failed. The Big Dog has too many other options at his disposal to keep passing the Big Bitch’s shit tests (probably one reason why he read embarrassingly treacly neoliberal drivel about “the conversation” of his marriage at the Democratic National Convention). He isn’t the only man who’s driven into the arms of whores by such behavior (many such cases!), but he has more money to accomplish this than most (few such cases!). He’s also the one who famously socialized the maintenance costs of That Woman through the White House internship program and the existing socioeconomic structures of the medical field in Los Angeles. (More #TeshTips: If you’re doing well in it, not just good, that ain’t what you call it, and the kinds of doctors you’ll take into your marriage bed with that kind of language aren’t generally the kinds who are worth having.) This is a fellow who has, uh, uh, uh, whores, and we all glorified on public television his heterosexuality. No, I’m no saying that Lewinsky was a hooker; she was way too crazy and had shit for boundaries. But hey, it was an expensive unconsummated relationship for the taxpaying American public but a free series of blowjobs (and some gross stuff, according to the Smoking Gun) for the leader of the free world and shit.

That said, not all shit tests are designed to be passed. Hillary has a reputation for cursing Secret Service agents into the curtains, and those guys aren’t wimps. As in Alaska, the women are men, too. It’s not like she’s just picking on some shlemazel pool. She hurls abuse, and reputedly vases, at her ultra-alpha husband, and once the outburst has died down, he rolls his eyes and rolls into the sack with whoever is tickling much more than just his fancy at the moment. She hurls much more inexplicable abuse, totally without justification, at the most dutiful hoteps and shanty Irish and Mormon soldiers of the law in the land, and they start the mental notes for their memoirs from behind the curtains; they might as well get some kind of deferred payout for their trouble, too. She smears entire demographic swathes of voters as losers and then turns around and demands their votes on the basis that she’s running against a vulgar nut who hates women, unable to imagine that a number of other women might find the oaf more fun and less creepy than they find her. As Madeleine Albright will aver, there’s a special place in hell for them, notwithstanding the possibility that hell can include a public sphere of recurrent Hillary Clinton, Your Fleek Abuela, complemented with occasional lectures from Your Rabbi, Madeleine Albright. Voters start to believe that their suspicions have been confirmed, namely, that Hillary Clinton is verily one crazy bitch.

Vladimir Putin is personally responsible for all of this.

Conspiratorial thoughts on the Flint water crisis

#PureMichigan has to be the most grotesquely scandalous marketing slogan I’ve seen in my adult life. That’s how I feel about it as an outsider who, excluding an hour driving through White Pigeon and Sturgis for the sole purpose of a token visit so that I could say I’d been there and a couple of trips through the Detroit Airport, has meaningfully visited Michigan exactly once on a trip lasting not quite a week. I’ve got family and friends there now, so if their water supplies were being willfully poisoned by their governments, I’d want their officials to be jailed without bail and threatened, at least, with the Kwame Kilpatrick treatment.

I can also imagine easily enough how I’d feel if California (remember, I lives here; can I come in?) carried on with such a bald-faced lie of a slogan while refusing to deal with a public health and safety crisis of that magnitude. The San Francisco water supply–Hetch Hetchy, Pulgas Water Temple, and all–wouldn’t be able to compensate for a Flint-grade water poisoning disaster in, say, the Gateway Cities. Scandals like that taint entire states. They taint entire nations. California has some ongoing contamination-derived public health scandals, none of which has made the news in the same dramatic fashion as Flint. I’ve followed these when I’ve heard about them in the news, but they don’t make the news often, and I can’t say exactly why. Outrage fatigue is probably a factor. Postindustrial Michigan also exerts a mythic attraction over a certain swath of reporters and disaster pornographers (not mutually exclusive) that extantly industrial California does not. The Michael Moore factor, a century-plus of Big Three mother ship history, and Wow Much Musix certainly do more for the mythic allure of Michigan than Toto has ever done by coming out of the San Fernando Valley at a time when the Valley, too, had operational car assembly lines. My Civic was assembled in Waterloo: the city in Ontario, not the smash Abba hit. You may know even less about the Ontario music scene than I do as a consequence of having read too damn much about Jian Ghomeshi.

Still, the Flint water crisis has not been exaggerated. If anything, it has been chronically underplayed in the mainstream US press, which has spent most of the duration of the crisis jumping distractedly to other, mostly less consequential, stories, frankly with all the attention span of a coked-up Donald Trump. So it’s worth asking what in the freshly toxic hell is really going on in Flint. The expense and the logistics of replacing the contaminated pipework and replumbing the system into the Detroit Water Works, which supplied it until Rick Snyder’s emergency municipal manager infamously screwed the pooch with the river water, would be significant but in no way prohibitive for the federal government. We’re able to bomb the shit out of Syria, funnel God knows how much materiel to Saudi Arabia for its national pulverization campaign against Yemen, and keep sticking our national dick into every other Middle Eastern hornet’s nest, but we can’t fix a life-threateningly bad public water supply for one of our own cities of about a hundred thousand residents. This is unbelievably obscene.

There have been a number of comments at Naked Capitalism about how Barack Obama could have mobilized the US Army Corps of Engineers to fix the Flint water system but oddly, or not (as they say over there), didn’t. The dereliction of duty by the Michigan state government towards Flint is legendary, and now the formerly insurgent mayor, Karen Weaver, appears to be running interference for agencies that are refusing to fix her city’s water works at a time when they’re conspiring to foreclose on residents for unpaid water bills. Selling people a poisonous product and then stealing their houses when they refuse to pay for it is an exceptionally depraved and brazen business practice. In better regulated businesses it would get a company sued into liquidation and its owners and operators criminally prosecuted for fraud.

There are no intrinsic benefits to chronically poisoning the water works in a city of a hundred thousand, riling up its citizens by extorting them with bills for the infrastructure that they refuse to fix, and leaving them and their children with a horrifying variety of short- and long-term health problems. That’s nothing but a fiscal, social, and civic crisis. There may, however, be long-term extrinsic merits.

To understand these, we need to think like psychopaths.

First, urban Southeastern Michigan contains a number of distressed real estate markets. Some of these, including much of Detroit, are severely distressed. Capital very much likes to buy low and sell high, and Detroit is a great place to buy low. So far Downtown, Midtown, and a very small handful of other neighborhoods have been successfully converted into something straddling the margins between Potemkin Villages, permanent white elephant exposition grounds (e..g, a dumbass downtown People Mover running in a useless loop around the urban core of a metro area whose only coordinated regional bus service is a single line operated into Canada by a Canadian local government), and organically functioning neighborhoods. A shitload of public and private money has been funneled to politically connected contractors for vanity projects, and the city continues to implode because its police can’t reliably respond to emergency calls within an hour and store their evidence and case records in falling-down mold traps.

There’s money to be made from these disasters. It may not be honest money, but as future Texan Kwame Kilpatrick would have agreed, it’s money. Coordinating an official failure to repair the most notoriously toxic water system in the United States would be a great way to tank the local housing market and buy the bottom. It may really just be a convoluted shorting strategy. I have no way to know any of this, and I haven’t heard any gossip to this effect, but it’s completely plausible. Another comment that I saw at Naked Capitalism noted that no billionaire has stepped up to buy Flint a new water system. It’s hard not to see why not: billionaires live to use their money as leverage over the rest of us. We drink the Kool-Aid if we think otherwise. Modesty and frugality aren’t why they take their grandchildren out to Dairy Queen only once a month (what up, Warren); it’s pathological stinginess by way of catfishing the public. At least the Omaha fuckhead mostly plays investor roulette with railroads and shit instead of dicking around with school systems for megalomaniacal shits and giggles. Betsy DeVos isn’t actually worse than Bill and Melinda Gates here; she’s just more reviled by the hip set. Oh, and profit: they have the morality of a cancer.

What would any of these bottomfeeders do with the ruins of Flint? Hell if I know. They’ll think of something. No. They’ve already thought of something. It will in no way serve any conceivable public interest, but that’s not the point.

It’s occurred to me that the Flint water crisis may be part of a more coordinated depopulation scheme, but if it is, it’s an awfully poorly thought-out and inefficient one. Then again, we (sic) have learned nothing from our national vegetable gardens at Walter Reed and so forth, which make some rashes and leadheaded behavioral problems look like a summer walk in the park with Jian Ghomeshi and Lucy DeCoutere. Uh, how did that slip in there? The captain wanted to fuck his brains out (her words, not mine), but at least the good soldier (his words, not mine or hers) had some left as a consequence of not having been an actual soldier. Canada is next door to Michigan, for what good it might do anyone; we can ascertain by now that it isn’t pure, either.

Is the Flint disaster a scheme to impose mass infertility, either clinical or contraceptive? Maybe. We’re already dealing with official behavior that would have been unfathomably scandalous up until the day it came to pass, so the notion of a eugenic angle isn’t so much worse as it is novel. That can’t be the kind of environment that makes people confident for the future of their children. Let’s remember that our most famous baby boom, for what good it’s doing us today, took place in a time of great national confidence. For that matter, the Mormon breeders in the Napoleonic Mountain West live in their own geographical and temporal bubbles of good feeling, even if they derive some of their confidence from scams like Jamberry. Heh, I just said “confidence.” The actual effects of the Flint water crisis on local fertility will surely include the medical, social services, and criminal justice costs for a rising generation of impulsive retards, but again, we didn’t think through the costs of maintaining a bunch of national vegetable gardens before sending our youth off to our unjustifiable wars, either.

“We.” There’s an old Russian novel by that title, if I’m not mistaken.

Yeah, I was spitballing there, but I don’t think it was as crazy as it sounded. We’ve got an awful lot of dumbass policy, and it’s implemented by an awful lot of grandiose incompetents. These aren’t ones to consider the looming medical costs of a preventable generation of special needs children. Or, if they do, they’ve given their cronies in the medical industry the insider information and contracts that they’ll need to profit from the misery.

The bottled water industry is certainly profiting from this disaster. I wouldn’t count it out as a corrupting influence until it proves itself innocent. Then again, I profit greatly from the bottled water industry myself, not as a consumer or as a producer but as a redeemer. Chaka Can Chaka Can.

It’s bleeding obvious that multiple levels of officials are trying to destroy Flint. It’s just that it may be even more sordid than we can prove right now. If Kwame Kilpatrick atones by manning a chow line for the Army Corps when it shows up to finally replace the damn pipes, that’ll be more than Rick Snyder has ever done for their state. As things stand today, the fucker’s chargeable to you and me, just like the young, shall we say, leaders a couple hours upstate. You may not have pronounced that correctly, but I did.

Do I sound bad for making fun of kids who are getting leaded unto enduring behavioral and developmental problems? Well fuck me, I’m not the one using public policy to cause their inevitable conception and rearing. And I never advertised that I was any more tasteful than their current water supply. Most of you are still coming around here for Dubai Porta Potty. Then again, that involves being bodily shit on for a single weekend. We’re longhaulers on this side of the pond. If you don’t believe me, believe Pot-o-Shit Friend.

I have no idea why I think this, but it’s almost as if we’re part of the Third World.

“Wellness” may actually be a thing, but if it is, the United States hasn’t any at all

When I was on the train from Denver to Chicago a few months ago (the day after Inauguration Day, in fact), I overheard a gentlemen tell his associates, “Niggas be on rent control. Niggas be thinking they ill.” As the white cop from Sanford and Son would surely say, gosh, I hope they feel better; maybe they should see a doctor if they still feel ill in a day or two. By the way, I didn’t mean to be sarcastic about the guy on the train; he seemed very much a gentleman, although if he construed the niggas in question to be exclusively Community members, I know enough San Franciscans to assure him that he’s very much mistaken. Native San Franciscan O. J. Simpson has no cause to complain that the rent is too damn high (and Nevada has many such cases), but many of those who moved to his city in the aftermath of his departure do, and as we’ve discussed in these pages before, the City is becoming a less and less hospitable community for the Community.

That was all coherent, regardless of whether it looked it. If you want something incoherent, look at American health policy. That isn’t just sic; it’s literally, powerfully ill. If there’s any subtle coherence to it, it’s a thoroughly evil coherence buried in the thicket of evasion and bad faith and lies that is crucial to convince the non-psychopathic majority of those active in national politics, as elected officials, activists, formal observers, and voters alike, to go along with any of the evil shit. The federal sausagemaking process doesn’t allow leaders with evil designs to get anywhere by professing their intention to throw the poor, the sick, and the otherwise vulnerable into the lion pit for moral edification and profit; that’s too crude and obvious not to rile up a silent majority of decent Americans and sandbag the entire campaign.

Unfortunately, Congress is full of creeps who are too smart and devious to do anything that clumsy. To a scandalous extent, we’re represented by crafty operators who know how to establish what the CIA likes to call plausible deniability. Of course these creeps would use a CIA-derived intellectual framework and operating system in their official work; they’re high-functioning psychopaths whose main offices are inside the same Beltway as Langley. Certainly the prospect of Dennis Hastert crossing paths with the blackmail squads at Langley or, to evoke Washington’s most famously fabulous blackmailer, the J. Edgar Hoover Building is, to rectify that odious CIA term, plausibly undeniable. Put me in, Coach! I’m ready to play! *AS HE SAID.* Nah, given that that sorry old has-been couldn’t even wheel himself into FMC Rochester without bumping into the curb, it’s hard to imagine that he’s joined the Juice in our country’s venerable tradition of coaching the boys in baseball on the yard.

And no, I can’t imagine why anyone would ever think of wrestling as somehow being gay.

That was quite gross, but again, we’re talking about Washington. The train where I learned about the niggas who be thinking they ill on account of their rent control went through Yorkville, allowing me to feel a few minutes of snickering superiority over the Accidental Speaker, what with his court-ordered cool change in that Mayo Clinic satellite campus and my being at liberty on a bitchin’ ride. Why take part in the Bureau of Prison’s shabby socialism when you can take part in Amtrak’s fine-ass socialism? Why be governed by the iron fist of the law when you can ride that iron horse? Of course, any of this is better than a tropical getaway to Iron Prison. *Very Andrew Chan voice* I’ve got a hole in me now…. Indonesia is an ally. Why in hell? Maybe it has something to do with statecraft in the Hastert-as-puppet tradition. They (construe as you like) have been blackmailing our politicians for decades. Harry Truman complained pointedly in his private letters about the deep state using sexual gossip as leverage over elected officials, and the monumental blackmail record of that fruit in the dress at the FBI is infamous to anyone familiar with any but the most sanitized histories of the federal government.

Some of it is surely more prosaic than that. Simple bribery–trapping flies with honey and all that–can be awfully effective. Kamala Harris is reputed to have sold her official services to crooks in the FIRE sector for $2,000; Spiro Agnew was ridiculed in his own time as the first politician who could be bribed with a bag of groceries. There is much slush sloshing around Washington, and it sloshes into many funds. A frank mercenary presumably has fewer potential downsides and needs less handling than a blackmail case with a kiddie-diddling history. It’s one thing to be a den of crooks, but when someone like Hastert comes along for the ride, the organization hosting him turns into a den of crooks who are also perverts. Congress may be able to withstand its own reputation for fraud, but does it really want to look like Penn State? WE ARE!

No, Pizzagate isn’t that crazy. The precedents are there, and let’s be honest, John Podesta looks way the hell creepier than J. Denny Dundiddly ever did.

Regardless of what exactly is driving federal healthcare policy, it’s ugly and evil, just as the resulting federal policy is. It’s absolutely scandalous that any political party would take pride in a wasteful, half-assed regulatory capture kludge like Obamacare, especially a party that also takes pride in being its country’s left wing. The AHCA, the Republican House’s repeal and replacement bill, is even worse. It’s bad enough that the House Republican Caucus may have actually overplayed its hand this time. Its members were already getting booed and shouted down at town hall meetings by their own constituents, and now they’re responsible for a monstrosity whose express purpose is the replacement of a lesser monstrosity that, in spite of all its siloing of the electorate and its unfunded individual mandate and its giveaways to vile crooks who have all the moral scruples of organ harvesters on Communist Chinese killing fields, at least got a good chunk of the uninsured population onto health insurance plans under a tightened regulatory regime that finally forced insurers to honor their own policies and stop cherry-picking their risk pools. The House has now passed legislation to replace it with a horror show encouraging insurers to penalize their policyholders, who are quite often functionally indigent, with draconian penalties for lapsed coverage and deny coverage on the basis of a horrifically expansive list of preexisting conditions, threatening people with lifetime ruin for seeking exactly the timely medical care that saves themselves and those insuring them significant long-term expenses by forcibly deputizing clinicians as informants.

The potential threat to public health here should be obvious, since such a hostile, punitive regime will inevitably discourage the sick from seeking treatment for contagious diseases. The sight of this new dystopian frontier being opened by a party of belligerent shitbaggers is awesome, in roughly the sense of watching a Komodo Dragon stalk and pounce on a water buffalo. We’re watching hideous creatures satisfy their hunger in real time; that’s all. The Democrats behind the ACA were, amazingly, C. S. Lewis’s robber barons; the Republicans behind the AHCA are Lewis’s moral busybodies, although they’re also rampaging robber barons. It was wrong of me to be so harshly moralizing towards our dragon friends above: as literal cold-blooded reptiles, they really don’t eat all that much, no matter how dramatic their feasts. The Democrats are mixed up with their own rogues’ gallery of corporate crooks, but they don’t give safe harbor to anyone like Mo Brooks, who has opined that those who lead good lives don’t come down with preexisting conditions, or even anyone quite as intractable as Paul Ryan at combatively operating a free-market fog machine to give the entire party cover for its current ass-raping.

The Republicans have the advantage of pushing this agenda from a position of consistency, in contrast to the cognitive dissonance that Democrats face when they sell out their own base and get called on it. The Democrats are at least a tiny bit chastised by the knowledge that their own base is demanding universal single-payer coverage, generally in the form of Medicare for all, ever more loudly and cohesively. When they get told off at their town hall meetings, it’s by exactly the constituencies that their party mythology celebrates as worthy and valued: modest working men and women (lately expressed as “working families,” presumably on the chance that child labor laws really aren’t that important), the disabled, the indigent, widows and orphans, those living on “fixed incomes” (as with our working families above, on the apparent theory that an income cannot be fixed at a very comfortably high level), the vulnerable and mistreated in general. The Democratic leadership has notoriously been currying favor with credentialed professionals at the expense of workaday voters and trying to hammer them together with narrow identitarian constituencies and underclass client bases (think downmarket immigrants and welfare types) into a ramshackle coalition that’s barely viable enough to win elections pending the glorious mass die-off of the future dead white males, but even the neoliberal Democrats spearheading this agenda are quietly embarrassed, as they should be, to be involved in this mass ratfuck. They know that they’re throwing decent people under the bus. They know that they’re engaging in an epic campaign of treachery against honorable constituencies that were crucial in the electoral and legislative victories of Democrats going back to FDR at the national level and at least Al Smith at the state level. They aren’t quite insane enough not to realize what hypocritical shitwads they’ve become; maybe close, with their Harry Potter and Josiah Bartlett fantasies, but not quite. The shame, embarrassment, and guilt that they quietly feel on account of their treachery and hypocrisy makes them less effective at governing than their Republican opponents, but they’ve turned the Democratic Party into a beast that’s hardly any less worthy of destruction than the GOP, and that takes some doing.

That there’s a constituency for psychopathic public policy like the AHCA at all is disturbing, but the Democrats bear at least as much blame for indirectly empowering this constituency than the Republicans bear for directly leading and representing it. It’s a noisy, belligerent minority that believes any of the worst Republican talking points sincerely enough to want to get its fellow citizens sickened and killed by turning them into law. The Democratic Party is the one that refused to give the silent majority of decent Americans a credible alternative because it was too busy selling out to big donors and the talented tenth. They lose to structural Robert William Pickton not because the American public demands healthcare by Sick Willie, but because they fucking suck. They tell struggling voters to trust them because they keep Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in leadership positions, and then they publicly make fun of the same voters for being bigots when they don’t vote as instructed.

If they had any principles at all, they’d marginalize their own crooks and sleazeballs for fear of causing scandal before the electorate and causing the election of deranged reactionary bigots. There is a frightening sadistic streak in the American public, as witnessed by our rather slowly dwindling support for capital punishment, which until recently was the stance of a consistent majority of Americans, but the Democrats won’t even tolerate anyone within their ranks who advances a pocketbook platform compelling enough to convince law-and-order authoritarians and reactionaries to put aside their differences on criminal justice and vote for the reliable delivery of the goods. This isn’t rocket science; it’s how the screeching segregationist George Wallace won a supermajority of the black vote for the Alabama governorship against a staunch integrationist Republican with a libertarian streak. That, and he was known in well-connected circles for sincerely respecting the black people in his own personal and professional life. Convincing voters through back channels that their public ugliness is all for show is the last thing today’s establishment Democrats can be expected to do. I have one degree of separation from Nancy Pelosi, and that degree of separation, who was party to a regional roundtable policy meeting including her, told me that she seemed totally insincere and uninterested in anything that the group was discussing. One of the matters under discussion was mental health care, so, yeah, we’re in really fucking good hands there and it absolutely is not just Pelosi’s hands wandering into our pockets.

The Democratic Party has set its own social agenda back decades by indulging in this bullshit. We can’t know for sure what would have happened to the death penalty abolition movement starting in the mid-seventies had the party not started catering to yuppies, and it certainly ran some tone-deaf, gaffe-prone idealists in its later upstanding days, but it’s telling that the Democrats progressively entrenched their reputation for not caring about the interests of anyone but the very rich, the intelligentsia, and the very poor starting no later than the Reagan Administration, and that the main interlude in the midst of this reputation collapse, the Clinton Administration, featured constant triangulation, hard rightward moves on social and economic policy that were rarely offset by moves to the left, and a renowned aura of scandal. By some accounts, Monica Lewinsky and her mostly blue dress saved Social Security from Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. Kenneth Starr as white knight for the social safety net is a pretty appalling thought, but we all go to war with the dork army we have, not the handsome jock that our loyal dork fights to depose from his palace. And of course, Ricky Ray Rector’s thoughts on the Big Dog, if any, may have been different from ours; they presumably weren’t ones that a man would want to contemplate over dessert.

If we must go to war by other means with the Democratic Party we have, God help us. The profound lack of principle and courage shines through. It can’t help the party electorally. On some level, voters must respect its opponents just for having the balls to stand for something, even something evil. The expectation that the Democrats will provide jack shit for representation and constituent services complements their moral spinelessness nicely. Elections are won by building coalitions, and the Democrats suck ass at building coalitions, so here we all are.

But the GOP’s talking points about health policy don’t have the same reptilian appeal that its talking points about punishing criminals do. They can’t credibly argue that, had they been in full power, they would have fried Jeffrey Dahmer before his yardboy got the chance to do in the iron age what they would have done in the electric age. Verily I say unto you, serve man, and ye shall be served. They can’t credibly argue that they’re out to get psychopaths like Charles Manson so that he doesn’t get to grow old at taxpayer expense. (The hilarious thing about that fucker is that he was set afire by his fellow not for being a remorseless thug, but for dissing the Hare Krishnas.) With healthcare, they can’t help but betray their intention to kill your child in an act of cosmic punishment for getting cancer. Or your spouse, or your mother. There go all the sincere religious conservatives. For a party that counts on supermajority support from religious breeders who adopt special-needs children, the AHCA is one dumb move. We’re already watching this stunt backfire in the town hall meetings.

Maybe I feel a touch of schadenfreude watching this dumpster fire, but mainly I feel a sense of relief at the increasing likelihood that the Republican Party is joining the Democratic Party in shooting itself in the foot. It’s about time.

There are two viable paths for healthcare in the United States to take. The less viable one is to revert to an independent, perhaps even underground, patchwork of solo-practice doctors, nurses, social workers, and whoever else has the wherewithal to set up shop as some sort of medic, with or without training. This is already the reality in some ghetto neighborhoods whose residents are afraid of arrest by warrant troll squads from their police departments if they seek care in nearby hospitals. A less dystopian version of this is the country doctor who accepts payment in cash on the barrel head, a chicken, a bushel of pickles, porch repairs, or God knows what else country folk are theoretically able to provide as payment that would possibly be of use to the doc. This Norman Rockwell-ass piece of fiction for submission to Country (the magazine of pornographic nostalgia, not the geography) might work for hangnails and limb fractures, but it doesn’t explain what will happen when some poor bastard tries to pay an oncology team with the last haggard old cow left in their backyard for their child’s leukemia treatment. Anyone who isn’t an idiot knows that it’ll be either charity care or chaos.

So if we’re to avoid a horror show in which the poor and middling must either limit themselves to primitive primary care or pin their hopes on the inscrutably arbitrary whims of medical GoFundMe campaigns and hospital charity care (as with kitchen gunshot removal in the ghetto, already an existing lifestyle in many US communities), we’re left with the second option: single-payer care or some close variant of it. As I’ve mentioned a number of times before, single-payer has enjoyed consistent majority public support for decades, although this is in no way reflected by the negligible level of support that it enjoys in Washington and in the mainstream media. The goal of universal single-payer care is to expand Medicare, an extremely popular existing program, from the elderly to the entire population. It’s a hell of a lot more straightforward and less distressing than dealing with private insurance companies and the “Marketplace” that so enchants the small class of bureaucrats and think tankers who make a living talking about such insipid, Kafkaesque bullshit.

Finally doing on Capitol Hill what Tommy Douglas did in Saskatchewan most of a lifetime ago is rabidly opposed from the right in the name of liberty (or, in the case of the thoughtlessly ignorant, freedom and liberty). It doesn’t help that the United States has an exceptionally well organized and funded lobby of Christian dominionists who define liberty in the most grotesquely Orwellian fashion imaginable, truly as slavery to their doctrines or the next thing to it, but they have no trouble making common cause in this particular campaign with free marketeers, secular starve-the-beast agitators, and corporate propagandists.

The pertinent question to ask, then, is how the campaign to protect hospitals and health insurance carriers from all duty to patients, policyholders, and the public is possibly consistent with the big three inalienable rights that the US Constitution explicitly declared sacrosanct: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s considered worthy in patriotic circles to be familiar enough with these three inalienable rights to recite them from memory, so let’s look at what it would take to uphold them concretely in our healthcare policy.

Life: easily lost as a consequence of untreated disease.

Liberty: impossible in any meaningful sense for a person who has been thrown into crushing lifelong debt by medical bills that were assessed using secret chargemasters, retail cost markups worthy of a supermarket in Venezuela, discharge scheduling tricks, and bad-faith network-shopping.

The pursuit of happiness: impossible for a person who is sick, injured, or disabled and unable to get treatment.

What I’ve just proposed would give Congress’s self-declared constitutional conservatives mass aneurysms. Try to imagine Paul Ryan not talking over me if I argued for this program on behalf of the general welfare, which the Constitution also charters the US government to promote. Now try to imagine the Speaker taking the floor to argue that the same limited government dictated by the Constitution forbids congressional appropriations and protected sales franchises for pharmaceutical manufacturers. You might as well imagine that you live among Harry Potter and his wizard friends. Shit, the Democratic Party’s educated base already does that. Fuck. It’s a fun joke, but I forgot that it isn’t just a joke. As Firehat said, The West Wing is what Lenin had in mind when he said that the intellectuals are not society’s brains, but its shit.

The Democrats aren’t unable to completely flip the script on the Republicans over health policy, as I just did over five minutes in a fucking Starbucks (one of the few bougie status platforms that I am not embarrassed to share with the shitheads); they’re unwilling to flip the script. It’s their script, too, you see. Does the market fetish sound like it possibly came from the grassroots? Does anyone normal use “marketplace” in conversation? I guess I might use it to say that I stopped listening to Marketplace so often after that salty Texan who talked about being able to tell who was swimming nekkid when the tide went out retired from his regular chitchat position opposite Kai Ryssdal. I remember vividly where I was that day: driving through Fallon an hour or so before sunset on my way to Reno and whatever pile of filth awaited me in Oregon.

The Democrats don’t talk like the rest of us. The Republicans sometimes do. What a fucking disaster. We’ve got hundreds, no, thousands of people on Capitol Hill who should be on public assistance. Shit, they’re already drawing public salaries even when they pull a Chaffetz and wheel into the chamber on a knee chair a few hours post-op to vote to throw peons who need knee surgery into the gutter, to fend for themselves like good upstanding Americans. Why should I or some loser who plays video games all day in his secret place or some single mother on food stamps be ridiculed as charity cases and not that smarmy, goofy son of a bitch from Los Gatos?

Put them on welfare and that Section Eight. Give them a thicky trick, for all I care. From where we’re starting, we can hardly do a thing but save money by putting these fuckheads on the regular dole.

On the sunny side, though (hey there, Chesterfield!), we’re looking at a Democratic Congressional majority starting in 2019 the way things have been going this year. Maybe, if we don’t become totally derelict in the meantime, it won’t be a shitty one this time around.