Gentrifying Tacky Sac: not bad if you can stomach the corruption and iniquity

A few months ago, I lit into the Capital Area Development Authority, or CADA, for redlining a significant portion of Midtown Sacramento to exclude poor and middling tenants. What I find particularly objectionable about this redlining is that it is done as a matter of deliberate government policy, since CADA is a joint powers authority chartered by the Sacramento municipal and California state governments, and that there seems not to have been any pushback from local activists or the courts.

CADA administers a huge amount of residential property to the east and south of the Capitol, enough to unilaterally set housing policy on a number of blocks. Some of the conditions that it sets for tenants are draconian, among them, open lines of credit with on-time payment histories, high credit scores, stable, long-term tenancies with landlords who are not friends are relatives, and absolutely no negative references from past landlords. These conditions are objectively discriminatory against poor applicants, who are often forced to rely on makeshift living arrangements with friends or relatives, unable to pay bills on time because they simply lack the money, and preyed upon and retaliated against by systematically criminal slumlords. The question is not whether discrimination against the poor is taking place here, but whether or not it is morally and legally acceptable.

There’s another question that really muddies the waters: is discrimination against the poor practical? Having spent quite a bit of time in Midtown and Downtown over the past few months, I have no doubt that CADA has done a lot to clean Midtown up. Midtown doesn’t have anything like the hordes of shambling homeless mentally ill, patina of grime, and trails of trash that one finds on the K Street light rail mall, or, as it’s lovingly called by its marketeers in the (posh) drinking industry, “The Kay.” The 16th Street light rail station has a bit of that dysfunction going on, but it’s safe to assume that CADA’s redevelopment activities, some of them only a block to the north, have brought some degree of improvement to the station by increasing the sheer number of non-derelict passengers using the station at off-peak hours. If this is the case, it has to have marginally improved the quality of life for the disproportionately poor passengers who change trains there. (16th Street is the last station leaving downtown before the Gold and Blue Lines split, the former east towards the dodgy neighborhoods of Rancho Cordova, the latter south towards the much scarier ghetto sector of inland South Sacramento.)

CADA’s territory in Midtown is more or less free of the malt liquor bottle shops, intractable pants-on-the-ground al fresco alcoholics, undermedicated long-term outpatients, and criminal underclass elements that plague many parts of Sacramento and its suburbs. These things have been driven out by clean and orderly businesses and the sort of clean and orderly people who patronize them, who are also the sort of people one is not scared to encounter on the streets late at night. I’ve come to the conclusion that, questions of equity aside, CADA is clearly doing something right.

This still leaves troubling questions of civics. I would have much weaker objections to a private developer applying such conditions to prospective tenants at a luxury apartment complex that was built entirely on the free market, i.e., completely without eminent domain, weaselly tax-break inducements, or other government favors. (These conditions are met disgustingly less often than developers would like us to believe). At a high enough level, any residual objections I might have to the abuse of credit rating inquiries or other background investigations would be moot anyway, since serious high-rollers in real estate consider cash on the barrel head the offering that covers a multitude of sins, a most fitting sacrifice of first fruits.

The problem is that draconian tenancy conditions are applied most heavily against those who can least manage to meet them. Many rental markets are monopolies or oligopolies controlled by slumlord thieves who steal tenants’ security deposits as a matter of course. In these markets, the idea of tenants of limited means being able to exercise a right of free association to find better landlords or some sort of roommate arrangement sounds like a cruel joke. On the whole, American housing law is de jure equitable but de facto a dual system of high and low justice.

The proper role of government intervention in such a market is to enforce equity standards on landlords, many of whom are easily shown to be in willful and material violation of federal racketeering law. As a matter of equity at law, government agencies have absolutely no business helping unethical and often criminal landlords and banks entrench themselves as private tyrants by allowing them to help redline the poor out of apartment complexes that are tantamount to public housing.

One of the great intellectual frauds of agencies like CADA is their false promotion as civic and community organizations. CADA is more accurately described as a regulatory capture apparatus operating at the behest of neighborhood business interests. A huge amount of what passes for community civics in the United States is in fact business marketing strategy enforced through government policy. This is classic regulatory capture. What business owners want in these cases is to flood the neighborhood with their target demographic. Sure enough, CADA’s rental conditions are perfectly designed to flood Midtown Sacramento with yuppies and their disposable incomes.

This is a point that cannot be made clearly enough: the purpose of CADA’s draconian rental conditions is NOT to ensure that its tenants are orderly, peaceable, acceptable risks to their landlord, and capable of improving community life through their presence; it is to ensure that they’re moneyed enough to patronize the local yuppie joints at a suitable price point. These conditions are patently not designed just to screen out risky applicants who have trashed previous rental units, worked crack territories on Hella South Stockton, held meth bake sales in Rancho Cordova, or had regular 3 am bruiser sessions with their live-in lovers and the Sheriff’s Department’s night watch. They are also designed to screen out perfectly peaceable and civic-minded applicants who brew their own Sanka at home and eat pork and beans out of a can instead of dropping thirty dollars a day on lattes and Thai food. Some of these people are exactly the types whose eyes are good to have on the street. Do we want maternal 7-Eleven clerks and home health aides from the trailer parks and the ghettos moving into the neighborhood to keep their eyes on the streets? As a matter of civics, we do. As a matter of economics, it probably depends on whether they’ll buy their pork and beans at the Midtown Safeway or trek out to the Rancho Cordova Grocery Outlet, but the answer is: No, they’re poors.

And no, this is not being done so that these mother hens will continue to grace their old neighborhoods with their wisdom and supervision. Any self-described progressive who says otherwise is concern-trolling the Sacramento banlieue with suggestions that the crabs all work to keep each other safely within the barrel. If anyone in charge of policy at CADA gives a shit about Rancho Cordova, I’m Mother Teresa.

It isn’t about high civics; it’s about marketing through government policy, a much crasser proposition. Many elements in the business community do their level best to elide the difference between civics and business, but it’s a real and serious one. CADA’s class-based redlining is effective policy, but it is not equitable or ethically sound policy. Don’t think for a split second that they’re the same thing.

On the great and glorious skeeviness of “Lean In” and Sheryl Sandberg

It’s even worse than I had realized:

Joining “the community” was just a click away. In fact, the community was already uploaded and ready to receive them; all they had to do was hit the “Lean In Today” button on their computer screen . . . and, oh yeah, join Facebook. (There is no entry into Lean In’s Emerald e-Kingdom except through the Facebook portal; Sandberg has kept her message of liberation confined within her own corporate brand.)

Thomas enumerated the “three things” that Lean In offered. (In the Lean In Community, there are invariably three things required to achieve your aims.) First, Thomas instructed, “Come like us on Facebook” (and, for extra credit, post your own inspirational graphic on Lean In’s Facebook “photo gallery” and “tag your friends, tell them why you’re leaning in!”). Second, watch Lean In’s online “education” videos, twenty-minute lectures from “experts” (business school professors, management consultants, and a public speaking coach) with titles like “Power and Influence” and “Own the Room.” Third, create a “Lean In Circle” with eight to ten similarly aspirational young women. The circles, Lean In literature stresses, are to promote “peer mentorship” only—not to deliver aid and counsel from experienced female elders who might actually help them advance.

The author, Susan Faludi, later mentions that Sandberg’s career was propelled by very targeted and effective university-president-to-student mentorship from Larry Summers. Those of you who follow idiotic political “scandals” will recall that Summers was drummed out of the Harvard presidency a few years ago for being a rank misogynist, as proven by his impolitic comments about women not being naturals at advanced mathematics. The buried lede in the Summers sexism scandal was that he was by most accounts a rank abrasive in general. If I wanted to hang out with his kind, I’d track down the prep school headmaster who shoved me up against a wall in a crowded hallway and screamed at me from a foot away for uttering something along the lines of “that’s fucking crazy.” These guys bear more than a passing resemblance to each other. I don’t care to keep the company of either of them.

There’s an unseemly and disturbing cult aura surrounding Sandberg. The language that she uses in “Lean In” programming is too meaningless and slick, and her you-go-girl followers are a bit too fawning for sane society. As it turns out, like high court functionary, like boy-king:

On Mark Zuckerberg’s birthday, the women at the company were instructed to wear T-shirts displaying his photo, like groupies.

Kate Losse, the former Facebook employee who recounted this birthday stunt, ascribed it to rampant workplace sexism: “It was like Mad Men, but real and happening in the current moment, as if in repudiation of fifty years of social progress.” It was also, I’d add, a repudiation of other important lessons of the mid-Twentieth Century, such as those of Synanon and Rajneeshpuram. Synanon’s founder and tyrant, a marriage-wrecking compulsory vasectomy enthusiast by the name of Chuck Diederich, presided over a compound in West Marin County where he used a pirate radio station to berate his followers to “get your balls clipped,” terrorized neighboring landowners, and corrupted the sheriff’s department to the extent that the county grand jury received an extended audience with the California attorney general and the incumbent sheriff was voted out of office in favor of a previously obscure San Anselmo police captain (i.e., East Marin outsider, over the hill from Synanon’s cohort of reserve sheriff’s deputies) who promised to clean house.  The Rajneeshees spent the early 1980’s vigorously attempting to subvert local governments and poison the townies in Wasco County, Oregon. Sure, Zuckerberg isn’t that bad, or at least he’s a different kind of bad, but only a megalomaniac orchestrates that sort of self-aggrandizing birthday party stunt. His is the sort of behavior that should be nipped in the bud, because if it isn’t, it may reach a point meriting attention from the state police.

Given that Sandberg reports to a smirking, self-important boy wonder who never quite looks like he completed puberty, apparently has quite vulgar taste in office art, and enjoys being worshiped, one might not expect her to keep particularly upright company at her side gig. Indeed: 

Sandberg’s mantra has become the feminist rallying cry of the moment, praised by notable figures such as Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Marlo Thomas, and Nation columnist Katha Pollitt. A Time magazine cover story hails Sandberg for “embarking on the most ambitious mission to reboot feminism and reframe discussions of gender since the launch of Ms. magazine in 1971.” Pretty good for somebody who, “as of two and a half years ago,” as Sandberg confessed on her book tour, “had never said the word woman aloud. Because that’s not how you get ahead in the world.”

The lovefest continues on LeanIn.org’s “Meet the Community” page, where tribute is paid by Sandberg’s high-powered network of celebrities, corporate executives, and media moguls (many media moguls), among them Oprah Winfrey, New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, Newsweek and Daily Beast editor in chief Tina Brown, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, Cosmopolitan editor in chief Joanna Coles, former Good Morning America coanchor Willow Bay, former first lady Laura Bush (and both of her daughters), former California first lady and TV host Maria Shriver, U.S. senators Barbara Boxer and Elizabeth Warren, Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust, Dun & Bradstreet CEO Sara Mathew, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Coca-Cola marketing executive Wendy Clark, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, supermodel Tyra Banks, and actor (and Avon “Global Ambassador”) Reese Witherspoon.

Steinem’s feminism, as it happens, did not interfere with her shacking up with Mort Zuckerman, who has the most fascinating highbrow New York accent I’ve ever heard. Fonda is a second-generation movie star who polarized her country by going on a bizarre wartime mission to North Vietnam, quite arguably for nothing more than the publicity and the morality-whoring. Winfrey is a bottomfeeding charlatan who feigns histrionics for a living. Huffington is notorious for abusing unpaid staff writers at her for-profit publication, some of whom have begun suing for back wages. Boxer is a mediocrity at best who looks decent mainly because her most prominent colleagues in the California Congressional delegation, Feinstein and Pelosi, are morally hideous. Mayer is the girl you hated in high school for brownnosing all the teachers, being haughty because she maintained a 4.5 GPA, and talking shit about classmates for the lulz and the feeling of superiority.

What I find most worrisome is that Warren, one of the few sincere and credible populists in Congress, is also cradling this tar baby. The list is otherwise studded with exactly the sorts of oddities and sleazy operators one would expect, people who stand to lose much less esteem among the attentive for their involvement in this scam than does Warren.

And a scam is exactly what it is. By her own description, Sandberg scrupulously avoided saying anything about women until a few years ago. Then, as a high-powered corporate executive in her early forties, she suddenly started giving a shit about all this feminist empowerment stuff, as if after a career of being mixed up with Larry Summers and Mark Zuckerberg she was overcome with concern for other women and what she could do for them. One of my first suggestions would be to not offer them a chance to jump through hoops for an unpaid internship at a foundation run by a dot-com executive in support of her self-help racket. This isn’t about helping women, unless “women” is defined to mean Sheryl Sandberg and her cronies. It’s seedy marketeering sleaze. They would much more like to serve man. (Because, as Stalin put it, “of course it’s a fucking cookbook!”) 

Another way to look at it is as a sort of affinity fraud. Bernie Madoff didn’t swindle prominent New York Jews to make David Duke or Al Sharpton proud; he swindled them because he was one, and being one he knew their values, worldview, and cultural touchstones. Being a member of the same local ethnic and religious community also helped him build his victims’ trust, much like the guy who faked his own death in a staged plane crash in Alabama had done when he moved from Indianapolis to Atlanta to yuk it up about aviation with guys flying the big metal at the Delta crew base, then take their money in a pyramid scheme for pilots and run. If it doesn’t take one to know one, it takes one to dupe one. Sheryl Sandberg and her cronies are successful women, so they’re perfect marketeers for campaigns targeting less successful but aspiring women. By contrast, I wouldn’t succeed as a marketeer to teh wymmynz because I have the male perspective, and I’d have a hard time sealing deals with Madoff’s old crowd as a three-quarters goy son of a Staten Islander. 

These affinity frauds are all about exploiting and destroying the social capital built up by other people in high-trust communities. Why women as an overarching nebulous collective would be anything but a rock-bottom-low-trust community is inexplicable under any sort of logic, but it’s widely held to be the case. Meanwhile, it’s regarded as marginal and crazed (correctly so, I’d say) to make equivalent comments declaring a universal male solidarity bonding all men everywhere. This double standard has been established by little more than the sheer repetition of crude tautologies about differences between the sexes. Bizarrely, the activists advancing these tautologies simultaneously pride themselves on being sexual equalists. Whether they believe their own bullshit (about sexual equality, female superiority, or both) is debatable, but the language and imagery that they use certainly tend not to be conducive to introspection and sanity.

What they’re running on the public is a massive, often coordinated advertising campaign: in other words, a psychological operation, which is exactly what most modern advertising is. Whether it’s better for these psychological operators to be craven and sentient or to go fully native and truly believe the stuff is a matter of personal preference, dictated by whether one prefers to be manipulated by the consciously evil or by those who are simply out of their goddamn minds.

The end result of this process, however it operates, is that many women who would unabashedly describe specific female relatives or acquaintances as crazy bitches are convinced to place their complete trust in the judgment and morals of women utterly strange to them, specifically because they’re women and they’ve been declared leaders. Sure, my sister steals my sterling and china to feed her meth habit whenever she visits, then we catch her and she guilt-trips us about feeding her children and promises to get clean, but I totally trust this Sandberg lady because she says such nice things about empowering women. The key, of course, is that these thoughts are had subconsciously and separately; otherwise they’d be too ridiculous to grok. 

As Faludi shows, much of the “Lean In” programming is devoted to eliding class divisions by focusing on a meretricious sense of cross-class female solidarity. Here she understates her case, just as she does in only tangentially mentioning Arianna Huffington as a “Lean In” supporter without discussing her being a moneyed woman mooching off of unpaid labor to run her for-profit publication. Sheryl Sandberg is a very wealthy and well-connected corporate executive working in an era of extreme income inequality, diminished social mobility, and a ruined job market. She advanced substantially on the basis of her collegiate relationship with a future Treasury Secretary. Sandberg’s biography, as opposed to the self-help pap she’s marketing, is one of class solidarity with other members of the overclass, not one of gender solidarity with other women. Her example is relevant to men at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and to a lesser extent at somewhat less well-connected universities; it is irrelevant to women at College of the Redwoods or SUNY-New Paltz, let alone women with GED’s working as home health aides in Southie. If you’re wondering why Harvard women don’t hang out in Lowell, Faludi has an explanation: 

In 1834, America’s first industrial wage earners, the “mill girls” of Lowell, Massachusetts, embarked on their own campaign for women’s advancement in the workplace. They didn’t “lean in,” though. When their male overseers in the nation’s first large-scale planned industrial city cut their already paltry wages by 15 to 20 percent, the textile workers declared a “turn-out,” one of the nation’s earliest industrial strikes. That first effort failed, but its participants did not concede defeat. The Lowell women would stage another turn-out two years later, create the first union of working women in American history, lead a fight for the ten-hour work day, and conceive of an increasingly radical vision that took aim both at corporate power and the patriarchal oppression of women. Their bruising early encounter with American industry fueled a nascent feminist outlook that would ultimately find full expression in the first wave of the American women’s movement. 

The Lowell factory owners had recruited “respectable” Yankee farmers’ daughters from the New England countryside, figuring that respectable would translate into docile. They figured wrong. The forces of industrialization had propelled young women out of the home, breaking the fetters binding them to the patriarchal family, unleashing the women into urban areas with few social controls, and permitting them to begin thinking of themselves as public citizens. The combination of newly gained independence and increasingly penurious, exploitative conditions proved combustible—and the factory owners’ reduction in pay turned out to be the match that lit the tinder. Soon after they heard the news, the “mill girls”—proclaiming that they “remain in possession of our unquestionable rights”—shut down their looms and walked out.

 Farmers’ daughters working in factories: they must have been poors, no? Indeed: 

The Lowell turn-out was a communal endeavor, built on intense bonds of sisterhood forged around the clock: by day on the factory floor, where the women worked in pairs, with the more experienced female worker training and looking out for the newcomer, and by night in the company boarding houses, where they shared cramped quarters, often two to a bed, and embroiled themselves in late-night discussions about philosophy, music, literature, and, increasingly, social and economic injustice. As Dublin observed of the web of “mutual dependence” that prevailed in the Lowell mill workforce, the strike was “made possible because women had come to form a ‘community’ of operatives in the mill, rather than simply a group of individual workers.” An actual community, that is—not an online like-a-thon. Tellingly, the strike began when a mill agent, hoping to nip agitation in the bud, fired one of the more voluble factory workers whom he regarded as the ringleader. The other women immediately walked out in protest over her expulsion. The petition they signed and circulated concluded: “Resolved, That none of us will go back, unless they receive us all as one.” 

Yup. Icky poors working shit jobs and doing the community organizing thing because they had no alternative. These are the kind of people who obediently go home to the ass ends of Boston after finishing their shifts at Harvard Yard. One does not associate freely and equally with such people as a Harvard woman. And all this community stuff is le hard. It takes too much time away from Candy Crush Saga. 

The result is a nation whose women can’t make it to the Grange meeting either because they’re too busy being socially-climbing careerists or because the meeting conflicts with Oprah. I know, I’m indulging in sentimental agrarian populist fantasy, and that most of my friends would have to ask me what the hell is a grange, but the same thing goes for men who are too busy watching SportsCenter and UFC pay-per-view to get to union meetings or bowling clubs.

The issue here isn’t sex, but class. Get rid of all chauvinism in these downmarket organizations, and the overclass will still be discomfited. Sheryl Sandberg and company don’t want any of us hanging out at the union hall. They want us to mind our own business, not the community’s. They certainly don’t want anyone getting the idea that they’re winning at a rigged game. 

News you can abuse from the New York Times

Annoyed New York Times readers are asking why the Gray Lady recently deigned to publish an advice piece on avoiding interpersonal and legal troubles with one’s household staff. I can answer this:

1) A paper must cater to the demographic that actually buys the obscenely overpriced, and roundly obscene, items that it advertises, instead of just staring in amazement that such things exist. The Times’ gleaming new office building across from the Port Authority ain’t paying for itself, now.

You probably are not part of that demographic. When I’m cooking my own quesadillas and potato-onion stirfries in a housekeeping motel in Springfield, Oregon, I most certainly am not.

2) It is excellent click bait and a good business practice to regularly troll the poors.

My main topic tonight, however, is this week’s book review of a new Malthusian work, Countdown, arguing that the world population is overshooting its carrying capacity and nearing a crash.

I definitely find some of the alleged threats in question quite concerning, in particular the brittleness of modern crop monocultures (the Ug99 wheat stem rust is partially contained so far, but it’s no joke) and the depletion of the world’s fisheries. It’s worth noting that that’s why Somalia has so many pirates these days. Somalia has gone a generation without a coast guard. As a result, it has practically no fishery left, foreign trawlers having effectively strip-mined it in the absence of any functioning sovereign government, but as Captain Philips could tell you, it is a nation (if that) lately renowned for its fishers of men. Notice, too, that Iceland, settled by Vikings, does not have pirates or an extremist sectarian militia but does have a coast guard that opens live fire on poaching vessels within its territorial waters. These things are related.

The author, Alan Weisman, starts with a buzzkill for those who love them some Biblical living. According to the review, “Because of agricultural irrigation, the Jordan River is now a ‘fetid ditch’; pilgrims who attempt to bathe at the spot where Jesus is said to have been baptized will develop a rash and, if they swallow the water, will most likely vomit.”

Actually, Ecclesiastes was right: there’s nothing new under the sun, at least not in Holocene times. Check out this foreign army commander bitching to Elisha’s messenger in 2 Kings 5:12 about the skankiness of the Jordan, presumably not knowing its coming longue durée: “‘Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?’ So he turned and went off in a rage.”

Dude eventually listened to the obscurantists, took his dip, and was cured. These days, the Jordan will more likely give a man leprosy, but it isn’t so much different as merely worse: thousands of years ago, rational people were scared to swim in that shit.

That said, things can get really unstable as they’re scaled up. A few tens of thousands of people watering their riverside farms from the same glorified creek may be sustainable. Several million people trying to water major cities and industrial monocultures from the same glorified creek is not sustainable at all.

The inevitable result is war. What, all sides swear that they’re holy peoples living in the Holy Land? Tough titty: they’ve still got war. In fact, they’ve got even more of it, since they’re not just desperate for resources but also inflamed by sectarian passions, the two aspects of their anger feeding one another.

As an institution, it’s good for a lot more than Edwin Starr ever wanted to contemplate. The Nazi expansion into Eastern Europe was about the glory of the Deutsche Volk, but it was also about the oil fields of Ploiesti. Hitler was a megalomaniac, but he wasn’t a total fool. Japan had an even starker motivation for its invasions of Korea (coal) and Indochina (oil, lumber, rubber): it was a heavily populated archipelago devoid of many important natural resources and, starting in 1941, under American embargo at a time when the US was the world’s top oil producer.

In a moral sense, though, Starr was right. War is a travesty. One has to be a bit dense or a lot immoral and atavistic not to recognize this. (These are great traits for government “service,” by the way.) A huge portion of the restiveness in the world can be straightforwardly explained by blatant resource shortages in times of growing population. It’s a total buzzkill for the nationalist and the End Times aficionado (similar personality types, and often the very same people, no?) but it’s true. Surely there must be an alternative to this madness.

There is. Brace yourselves.

Japan.

[T]he fertility rate is so low–1.4 children per female–that the population has been declining since 2006. This might make Japan something of a best-case situation, but an aging population means there are too many senior citizens, and not enough young people to take care of them. Already Japan has a shortage of geriatric nurses. Weisman visits Nagoya Science Park, where Japan’s oldest scientific firm has built RIBA II, a robotic white bear designed to carry elderly people around the house. It has large, widely-spaced black eyes, cute little ears and a painted smile.

“I will do my best,” says the bear, as it approaches a man who is lying on a hospital bed. “I will carry you as though you were a princess.”

RIBA II slides one paw under the patient’s knees, the other beneath his back. The robot cradles the man in its arms. It carries the man across the room, and lowers him tenderly into a wheelchair.

“I’m finished,” announces RIBA II, and it’s hard not to wonder whether the robot speaks for us all.

That bear won’t be finished with me until it can respond to my follow-up command: “Fuck you. Bring me a White Russian.”

Even if you’re familiar with Hello Kitty, you’ve probably been mercifully ignorant of Fukuppy. No more. He (she? it? ooh, goody: “indeterminate gender”) is like the Maytag Man, but actually a smiling Humpty-Dumpty with angel’s wings. Don’t blame me; I’m not the one using that imagery to market refrigeration equipment.

Why do I get the vague sense that there’s something off about modern Japan’s zeitgeist that isn’t all about raw demographics? Hello Kitty, Fukuppy, girls’ shopping getaways to Vegas, the hikikomori and the dame-ren, virtual girlfriends, a popular magazine imploring young people to start having sex again, a robotic bear that promises to carry old geezers like princesses: this isn’t just a skilled nursing shortage. If the papers aren’t reporting about how similar demographic changes play out in, say, Russia, it’s probably because the results aren’t weird enough. Babushka hoeing her cabbage patch again while her grandkids shoot smack behind a disused asbestos factory, or shut-ins who only leave the house to go on “honeymoons” with pixellated “girlfriends” while bedridden grandpa is romanced by ElderBear: which would you rather read?

There is, however, a bit of good news about Japan’s demographic profile. Rod Serling would approve.

Around the Web: The Last Psychiatrist

This blog is absolutely brilliant.

On the subliminal messages behind Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In rubbish: 

Sheryl Sandberg is the future ex-COO of Facebook, and while that sounds like enough of a resume to speak on women in the workplace, note that her advice on how to get ahead appears in Time Magazine.  Oh, you thought that Sandberg’s book is news worthy in itself, how could you not do a story on this magnificence?  No, this is a setup, the Time Magazine demo is never going to be COO of anything, as evidenced by the fact that they read Time Magazine.  Much more importantly, they are not raising daughters who are going to be COO of anything.  So why is this here?

The first level breakdown is that this is what Time readers want, they want a warm glow and to be reassured that the reason they’re stuck living in Central Time is sexism.  This demo likes to see a smart, pretty woman succeed in a man’s world, as long as “pretty” isn’t too pretty but “wearing a great outfit” and that man’s world isn’t overly manly, like IBM or General Dynamics, yawn, but an aspirational, Aeron chair “creative” place that doesn’t involve calculus or yelling, somewhere they suspect they could have worked had it not been for sexism and biological clocks.  We all know Pinterest is for idiots.  Hence Facebook.

The author then analyzes a staged photograph in Lean In of women at a workplace meeting:

My personal vote for Lean In valedictorian is the woman at the bottom left, I don’t know her life or her medication history but she has the diagnostic sign of her cuff pulled up over her wrist in what I call “the borderline sleeve,” that girl will have endlessly whipsawing emotions and a lot of enthusiastic ideas that will ultimately result in a something borrowed/something blue.  Hope her future ex enjoys drama, he’s in for seven years of it.

You’re going to try and counter that this is a staged publicity photo, but my rum makes me fearless against your rebuttals.  During my two months of radio silence I’ve been writing a book of/on pornography, so I know it when I see it, and I see it.  Main thing to observe about this girl-girl feature: all the chicks are white.

Back up, wildman, the easy criticism to make is that there are no blacks in the picture, which is why you made it.  Everyone knows that the presence of blacks in such pics is staged, yet we still notice it, still want it.  Why?   Even though we roll our eyes if a black woman is artificially included in the pic, why are we still satisfied by her presence, or uncomfortable her absence?  Because we have no power to change the underlying reality.  “Better than nothing.”

This is a porno of a white woman’s workplace, no room for blacks in this fantasy, they don’t watch The Bachelor.  Don’t confuse aspirational with desirable, Halle Berry is ass-slappingly hot, no one wants to be her.  “If I worked at a female-friendly place like Facebook,” says anyone masturbating to this picture,  “I’d totally have time to get my nails done.”

No, the insightful criticism isn’t that they didn’t artificially include a black woman, it is that they artificially excluded Asian women– that this photo could only be made by activelydenying a reality: among women, Asian women are proportionally overrepresented in successful positions, especially tech jobs, especially Silicon Valley, and yes, Apple Maps, India is in Asia.  Putting this shot together is like staging an NBA publicity photo without any neck tattoos or handguns.   “What?”  When I was in my 3rd year of medical school and we all had to select our tax bracket, the Asian women went into surgery, ophthalmology, or the last two years of a PhD program, you know where the borderline sleeves went?  Pediatrics, which I think is technically sublimation but I’m no psychiatrist.  The logic was straightforward: they wanted  kids, and, unlike surgery, pediatrics offered future doctor-moms a bit of flexibility, while the Asian women apparently didn’t worry about working late because their kids would be at violin till 9:30.

This porno, for the Time et al demographic, cannot allow this bit of reality to be shown, because the moment you see Padmakshi or “Megan” at the table it is too real,  it undermines the entire sexism thesis and suggests that something else may be going on, it’s like watching an awesome gangbang and suddenly noticing all the empty Oxycontin bottles and that they’re speaking Serbian.  “That just makes it hotter!”  I just logged your ip address.  This doesn’t mean Asian women don’t experience sexual discrimination, it means that when an Asian woman succeeds, the other women in the office don’t get to experience sexual discrimination, so they’re left only with sexual harassment.  Read it a couple of times, it’ll make sense and you won’t like it.

On Salon’s Hipsters-on-food-stamps troll job:

While the idea of a Metafilter post-doc receiving food stamps AND telling me they’re entitled to it makes my eyes go Sauronic, it’s that rage that requires some examination.  Why rage?  Why not just roll my eyes and go back to drinking rum and soldering op amps?  What is the social importance of my rage?

Society is nothing more than individual psychology multiplied by too many to count.  If narcissism is what drives this society, then only narcissism will explain it.

So start with an interesting hypothetical: does everybody need to work anymore?  I understand work from an ethical/character perspective, this is not here my point.  Since we no longer need e.g. manufacturing jobs– cheaper elsewhere or with robots– since those labor costs have evaporated, could that surplus go towards paying people simply to stay out of trouble?  Is there a natural economic equilibrium price where, say, a U Chicago grad can do no economically productive work at all but still be paid to use Instagram?  Let me be explicit: my question is not should we do this, my question is that since this is precisely what’s happening already, is it sustainable?  What is the cost?  I don’t have to run the numbers, someone already has: it’s $150/mo for a college grads, i.e. the price of food stamps.  Other correct responses would be $700/mo for “some high school” (SSI) or $1500/mo for “previous work experience” (unemployment).  I would have accepted $2000/mo for “minorities” (jail) for partial credit.

The comment threads are a blast, too:

Rome understood the Christian Problem (leeching / dependency creation) more intuitively than any civilisation since, with the possible exception of cannibals.

“Whenever a cannibal is on the brink of starvation, the Lord, in his infinite mercy, sends him a fat missionary.” (Oscar Wilde)

A close encounter with a black hole of church/state derp

Some collisions of civic and religious forms of asshattery are just that powerful. Many approach the fray, but few who enter it ever leave. The stupid, it sucks. Literally. It’s a black hole. Abandon all brain ye who enter here.

Amazingly, this stuff is almost mainstream. Speakers who spout this kind of garbage at official events under the auspices of the Republican Party, one of the two major US political parties, are not banned from future events on grounds of moral turpitude, mental defect, or general embarrassment. They’re hardly even marginalized, except in rare cases of exceedingly clumsy language, as Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin can attest. The real sin for which the GOP’s kingmakers tried to bully Akin into falling on his sword wasn’t misogyny, but undue candor. Basically, dude fucked up the talking points pretty severely. It takes a special person to make Claire McCaskill, mediocrity of Blue Dog mediocrities, look like a beacon of principle. Todd Akin, authority on women who probably wanted it because they didn’t psychosomatically shut off their wombs while being raped, had what it took for Claire McCaskill to point at his train wreck of a platform and shut that whole thing down.

I totally heard a bird of Akin’s feather squawk at the nation on “Christian” radio this afternoon. He was a bit subtler than Akin, after a fashion. Akin was foolish enough to accuse women, a majority electoral demographic with above-average turnout rates, of being a bunch of tarts who enjoy the illegitimate kind of rape. Today’s speaker, whom I’ll introduce in due time, had the good sense to go after illegal immigrants, a constituency that by definition is disenfranchised. A cohort of foreigners working in a country under dodgy circumstances after having evaded normal immigration channels rarely has its host country’s sympathy. It’s the kind of demographic that a savvy asshat scapegoats if he doesn’t want to get beaten in his next electoral campaign by a charisma-challenged triangulator.

But what I heard on the radio today wasn’t just any screed against illegal immigration; it was a screed against illegal immigration in the name of Holy Scripture. Pretty brazen stuff.

Usually, when I get vulgar ideas in my head, I try not to justify them with scriptural references. If I muse about Tijuana’s de minimis regulatory approach to massage parlors and its huge potential client base, it isn’t because I learned about any of that from the Book of Leviticus. (Leviticus is merely an exhaustive list of licentious suggestions framed as prohibitions). Rather, it’s because I am, in Disraeli’s parlance, ape and angel, or, as Robin Thicke would have it, an animal.

In other words, a TJ massage parlor isn’t religion, but business. Similarly, immigration policy isn’t religion, but civics, although business interests certainly like to infest the debate, the better to concern-troll it. Business, civics, religion: these are nonoverlapping magisteria.

Not on the Bott Radio Network, they aren’t. I tuned in while I was on the road between Fresno and Merced this afternoon, just in time to hear some dude with a thoroughly neutral accent and affect calmly but sanctimoniously intone about illegal immigration and the Bible. Hoo boy.

I had no idea who this guy was, but I was transfixed. The biblethumping was exquisite. Defenders of illegal immigration, he told us (I paraphrase), often cite scriptural references to being a friend to the foreigner. What they don’t realize is that that there are three Hebrew words for foreigner, two of them referring to foreigners who have permission, and this scriptural reference in Leviticus refers to foreigners with permission, not those without permission. This was why Moses made a special effort to lead the Israelites around a kingdom that was blocking their way to the Promised Land, so that they wouldn’t illegally stray into its territory. (Forgive us our trespasses? Eh, never mind. And maybe the detour had something to do with not getting massacred? Again, never mind.) Furthermore, calls for amnesty ignore the Apostle Peter’s exhortation to submit to civil authority, which includes immigration authorities. Besides, if we provide amnesty to all illegal immigrants, how is that fair to the illegal immigrants who are waiting in line to be legalized under the current process? (Huh? He actually said something like that.) Now, people can have different opinions about illegal immigration (passive-aggressive-smarmy much?), but they shouldn’t use the Bible to defend the amnesty bill currently before the Congress. It just isn’t in there. It isn’t biblical.

It wasn’t until the end of this ridiculous authoritarian pastiche that I heard who was behind it: “I’m Kris Kobach, and this has been Kobach’s Commentaries.” The crazy had just gone into overdrive. I’d heard of Kobach before, usually in reference to his being an extremist Republican kook, and here he was carrying on about illegal immigration and the unfairness of amnesty on an aggressively “Christian” “family” radio station in the name of the Word of God.

Notice that he concern-trolled illegal immigrants who had allegedly found their way into some regularization process (despite having entered and worked in the United States illegally) and were waiting their turn in line, because WAAAAHHHH FAIRNESS. I was baffled by whom exactly he was trying to describe, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the story was some kind of hard-right nativist myth.

To be clear, Kris Kobach does not give a damn about the welfare of illegal immigrants for the duration of their presence in the United States. He is a professional immigration policy troll who has worked in multiple states to litigate against policies benefiting illegal immigrants and to draft legislation to hound them out by any means necessary. He has also been involved in Voter ID campaigns, again on grounds of “fairness,” the fairness including vile arguments that if one can’t buy Sudafed without a government ID, one shouldn’t be able to vote without one. The obvious purpose of Voter ID laws is to disenfranchise the poor, i.e., mainly blacks, because they vote heavily Democratic.

Kobach has the evil, classic right-wing conception of fairness as a zero-sum commodity that is cheapened if someone else somewhere got more of it than you got or got it more promptly. By his reasoning, if all the prisoners are released in a mass pardon, this is unfair to the old lifers, and the lifers should be seething with resentment that the younguns got more time off than they did. If the 3:45 train is delayed by mechanical problems and its passengers are transferred to the 4:45 train, they should all be angry and resentful that they had to spend an extra hour in the depot because TEH FAIRNESS. If the layabouts who showed up in the vineyard an hour before sundown are paid the same amount for their work as the diligent squares who showed up at daybreak, the squares should be resentful–hey, that’s not what Jesus said, now, is it? Yeah, we’re Christians, so let’s ignore that buzzkill, what’s-his-name….

Basically, if there’s any kind of dysfunctional or cruel policy that finally gets fixed, but only after one has spent years trying to navigate the former, broken system, one should be angry at anyone who didn’t have to put up with just as much grief for just as long. If you were waiting in a checkout line at Safeway for half an hour only to see people in a nearby line get through in ten minutes because the backup cashier finally arrived, maybe you should go deck the backup cashier and hurl eggs and canned goods at his customers, you know, just as a matter of equity. That would even things out for you and everyone else who got in line before the backup cashier arrived, right? It might be a good idea to brandish a can in front of the lead cashier, too, in case she calls all available associates to checkout and lets some lucky bastard get through in five minutes.

That, folks, is hardline Republican policy in a nutshell: everyone will be reduced to the most degraded level of existence that I, resentful shit, have ever had to endure. Kris Kobach has words of encouragement for the whole barrel full of crabs.

Oh, and he’s the sitting Kansas Secretary of State. What’s the matter with Kansas, indeed. Once the spiritual home and nerve center of grange socialism, and now this. It’s a long way down.

By the way, I have very serious, visceral objections to current immigration policy in the United States. It’s a systemically corrupt clusterfuck, one that keeps many immigrants perennially in limbo, under constant threat of detention, deportation and separation from their families, and allows unethical employers (especially farmers) to run their recruitment and personnel operations as criminal cartel rackets. It badly needs to be reformed. The problem is that people like Kris Kobach will happily trash civil society in the process if they’re given free rein.

Good God, y’all.

Around the Web: Harvest moon over Uranus

Why? Because it’s Friday. My workweek this week happens to start (and hopefully not also end) on Saturday, a circumstance that would totally blow the minds of drive-time radio hosts across the land. Nevertheless, for everybody else, it’s Friday, one of the great days of Lenten fasting at the opposite time of the year, or so we’re instructed, but statistically a day to puke in gutters from Manayunk to the Gaslamp Quarter just like we did last week. Let’s get vulgar.

1. Books are good. Books are edifying. Books encourage us to slow down, focus, develop an attention span longer than that inculcated by lolcat videos, hone our intellects, and increase our funds of knowledge. Books like Boris the Shitting Buffalo.

The same author also maintains a blog, and Good Lord of the High Plains Hunt, the man is shrill. By his reckoning, picking crops commercially apparently isn’t enough to offset the great deficit of manliness that I incur by not being totally head-up about gubbyment taking my money to give food stamps to freeloaders, like the freeloaders who worked alongside me in a bee-infested blueberry patch earlier this month. I and my SNAP-addled colleagues all failed Aaron Clarey’s great manosphere political shit test, although it probably stood to reason for the two women in our group.

As it happens, I heard about Clarey through:

2. Roosh, a STEM dropout who makes a living, or pretends to make a living, by writing about his sex life, or maybe his imagined sex life, crowd-sourcing the sexual attractiveness of random women by posting their photographs on Twitter, deploying sexual slurs against ideological adversaries, and defending crashing long-term at his dad’s place when he isn’t traveling the world bedding its hotties.

A couple of fine self-serious chaps, I say.

3. More proof that any attempt to describe Charles Carreon will fall short of the glory of Charles Carreon:

In a 30-minute phone interview with Ars on Wednesday, Carreon lamented that, as a result of this entire sordid affair, his professional reputation has been damaged—or as he calls it, “rapeutated.” In fact, Carreon has a colorful website at Rapeutation.com that includes an elaborate chart with a new, long, and extensive list of all the so-called “rapeutationists,” including yours truly and two more Ars staffers. If you’d like to see a picture of Carreon’s critics—including an Ars Technica writer—spewing fecal matter out of their mouths, that too can be accommodated.

Quoth the avowed Buddhist:

“It’s an insoluble problem,” he continued. “It’s is not remediable. As long as you keep punching ‘Charles Carreon’ into Google, there’s just more stories about this nonsense. How can anyone get their message through? I’ve written hundreds of works. You can’t find them. Is that helpful? No. Now it’s difficult for prospective clients to see that I’m a relatively erudite person. Since then, some Amazon reviews of my books have, in bad faith, been given one star—I don’t sell many books anymore. Now it’s highly unlikely that anyone would say that Charles Carreon is a pretty bright guy.”

In the third person, no less. Carreon’s Buddhism isn’t compelling him to let go of his desires by making a concerted effort to pay the judgment already secured against him by his rapeutationists, but realize that he’s from Arizona (because, pursuant to his poetry, you don’t mess with the man from Tucson) by way of Ashland, Oregon, a city whose religious syncretism has never been the self-effacing kind. (Don’t ask me for details. I’ll be up all night if you do.)

4. Quick! Find the most efficient way to aggregate all manosphere tropes in a single essay!

4A. Miley Cyrus as symptom and cause of third-wave feminism.

Alternate explanation: Miley Cyrus, daughter of Billy Ray “Achy Breaky Heart” Cyrus, as vector of second-generation suck.

4B. Our boy Roosh again, in his capacity as patron of the preceding Return of Kings doubleheader:

Women and homosexuals are prohibited from commenting here. They will be immediately banned.

Oh yeah, a no homo manstuff pledge. This guy is as manly as Ted Haggard. And if his demeanor is any indication, he would have us believe that kings, he being among them, are effete, condescending, endlessly intoning about stupid hobbyhorses, and hyperlecherous misogynists.

Come to think of it, it’s served the Kennedy family well enough. God save the King from his flying, driving and skiing habits, or not.

Why Roe v. Wade isn’t nearly as relevant as you’d like if you’re a grating ideological drone

Titles like that are why I don’t cater to ideologues, except to troll them. One side swears that the least regulation of women’s access to abortion throughout their pregnancies is the work of the bastard love child of Anthony Comstock and Jack the Ripper, the other side swears that women’s lawful recourse to abortion as individuals under the post-Roe regime is tantamount to the gas chambers of Birkenau (often with helpful illustrations of the Nazi genocide infrastructure), and the silent majority has another pint of Franzia, since any other response would be futile. 

How does one even try to reconcile competing, irreconcilable policy interests? How can the self-determination of women facing unwanted pregnancies be squared with the welfare of the babies they are carrying or the demographic health of society? Maybe by attaching felony penalties to Godwin’s Law (everything else is already a federal felony, after all). If nothing else, we can remember that even in times of darkest derp, demographic statistics abide, although maybe not so much in the debate about abortion itself, because that frothy milkshake brings all the braying nuts to the yard.

To wit, from a Nazi-allusion-free article not about abortion at the Demo Memo: 

Baby Bust Update: 8% Birth Decline

 
According to preliminary estimates for 2012, the baby bust continues but the decline is slowing. The nation’s 2012 fertility rate was 63.0 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, the lowest on record and 9.4 percent below the 2007 high of 69.5. The fertility rate of women under age 30 is at a record low, but the rate among women aged 30 to 34 climbed slightly between 2011 and 2012 as those who had been postponing childbearing played catchup.

Overall, 3,952,937 babies were born in 2012. This was 8.4 percent below the 4,316,233 born in the peak birth year of 2007. So far, the Great Recession baby bust is not as deep as the 10.7 percent Great Depression bust, and it’s not likely to reach that level because the decline is slowing. For some perspective, keep in mind that the decline in births from the peak year of the baby boom in 1957 to the trough year of the baby bust (Generation X) in 1973 was a much larger 27 percent.

Did you notice that? It was subtle. In the course of not yelling about misogynistic sex scolds or murdered babies, Cheryl Russell mentioned that dreadful watershed year of 1973. That was the year in which American women started killing their own flesh and blood en masse with the government’s blessing and disposing of it as medical waste, except for the part about their finally starting the next year to carry more babies to term after nearly a generation of deliberate barrenness. 

It appears that what Roe really did as a policy (in contrast to its excellent service as a lodestone for acrimonious derp unto ages of ages) was to regularize a common medical procedure that had proven impossible to eliminate, even with criminal penalties. There aren’t reliable records of abortions in most states for several decades prior to Roe because no prudent physician would have documented a procedure that could have subjected him and his patient to felony prosecution. As birth records from 1957 show, sex was invented at some point prior to 1973, and for purposes of demographic analysis, it’s reasonable to assume that a constant, and very high, percentage of women of childbearing age was sexually active. That’s why Russell used data on live births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44.

These are rough bounds, but they’re accurate enough for demographic purposes. In demographic terms, the celibate minority of adults is static, mere background noise obstructing the thumpy signal of the rumpy-pumpy. The clerical celibates (sic?), of course, are especially noisy. The vulgar truth is that you and me, baby, ain’t nothing but mammals, although personally, I prefer Nature documentaries, and I find bears to have the most dignified and heartwarming mating practices this side of the quaking aspen. 

That paragraph was kind of gross. So is pretty much the entire debate on abortion in the United States since 1973. It takes a special kind of person to insist that late third-trimester abortions present no ethical or existential concerns and are totally cool. It takes a really special kind of person to march down the National Mall with a sign showing a photograph of a fetus next to one of Dachau. Centrists do not enjoy hanging out with such people. Bring out the grrrrrrlll power wimminz in shoddy crew cuts and Randall Terry with a gas chamber picture, and the substantial portion of the silent majority that doesn’t have a prurient interest in the macabre spectacle, the people who should be asserting themselves as policy stakeholders, shrink into the woodwork at warp speed. 

To a great extent, this four-decade abortion shouting match is a major front in the war between K-strategic libertines and r-strategic authoritarians for the demographic soul of the nation. Neither of these factions should be given a voice as stakeholders in the childbearing decisions of individuals. Granting legitimacy to either faction as an arbiter of individuals’ reproductive decisions is collectivist madness.

Both sides have developed a habit of becoming insufferable concern trolls. The barren libertine left concern-trolls women who genuinely want to raise families on the basis that they aren’t devoting enough time and energy to the stuff of feminist liberation. The authoritarian breeder right concern-trolls poor, defenseless babies, and at its shrillest extremes unimplanted embryos, with no thought to the gruesomeness of the alternative means of population control that eventually will assert themselves: consistently some combination of war, disease and famine. (If they think American women’s attitudes towards their infants in utero are amoral, they should consider a famine afflicting a burgeoning population. A failed wheat crop never cares.)

Neither extreme really wants competent individuals to make their own free, informed decisions, because have it all/children are annoying and le hard/baby murder!/invading proliferative Muslim hordes. Do it in the name of Carrie Bradshaw, or do it in the name of Charles Martel, but whatever you do, don’t make your own decision; make ours. 

The Eagle wept. 

Oh hell yes, Philadelphians being racist, corrupt and belligerent again

Of course this happened in Philadelphia. It’s a derpfest: an immigrant from Uganda running a dive bar and getting behind on his taxes, yuppies moving into the neighborhood and then expressing shock, shock! that there’s a dive bar in their part of West Philadelphia, probably some selective law and code enforcement, and accusations of racism.

No party to this mess is holy. Just look at who they are: Noel “I want to pay my taxes if I have the money” Karasanyi; a bunch of whiny SWPL agitators who colonized Karasanyi’s neighborhood on the bizarre expectation that, being in West Philadelphia, it would be clean and orderly; the Philadelphia Police, Streets, Licenses and Inspections, and Revenue Departments; the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and its investigative arm in the State Police. The Karasanyi bar empire is a tar baby; all who touch it will be licking sticky off their fingers for years to come, and it will be just as pretty a sight as the New 3rd World Lounge. This is high quality, multilevel sleaze in one of America’s most delightfully vulgar cities.

My guess is that racism is only one of two major components to this donnybrook. The race of Karasanyi’s clientele must put the white neighbors on edge, but they’d be awfully sore about the local Irish bruisers if they had instead colonized White Kensington and found themselves trying to abate their dive bars. I know some raunchy Irish girls from the Northeast, and believe me, they are NOT bashful about pissing in the streets. It’s just one of those things that seems reasonable and expedient at the time, kind of like decking one’s boyfriend because he was being a lying cheating douchebag again. These things are a lot more reliable than access to toilets in Philadelphia’s rundown neighborhoods, but let’s not dwell on structural contributors to the filth. It’s obviously less gross when bougies do that kind of thing in Old City and Manayunk. For they, and as a consequence their favorite clubs, have lots of money, a solvent much more universal than urine.

This Karasanyi/Spruce Hill Association spat isn’t just about racial fears and animosities. It’s also about abatement of the poors. The Spruce Hill activists bought into a very depressed and dilapidated housing market in a very poor neighborhood, knowing full well that their new property was in the midst of a miles-wide swath of decay and dysfunction stretching into the suburbs (Karasanyi’s current hometown, Yeadon, is pretty crappy itself), and now they’re sore that Karasanyi’s dive bars are getting in the way of their efforts to inflate their real estate prices. If anyone in that part of the roaring forties had adverse possession of the neighborhood, it was Karasanyi and his clients. They were there first. The Johnny-come-lately SWPL aren’t happy about this, but colonists never are happy when there are natives squatting on their land.

Here’s why I say that this spat isn’t just about race. Some family friends who lived in East Falls at the time were involved in a prolonged effort to abate their own local nuisance bar, the Four Horsemen. As far as I know, every party to the fight over the Four Horsemen was white, except for Michael Nutter. Nutter was drawn in because he was then the city councilor representing East Falls. Ed Rendell and Arlen Specter were drawn in as powerful politicians who happened to live just up the hill, in a much nicer part of East Falls. All three of them came down on the Four Horsemen and demanded that its owner clean house so that its customers weren’t spilling out at 2:30 am, yelling obscenities at the top of their lungs, leaving trash all over the neighborhood, kicking in the windows of strangers’ cars because they were mad at their girlfriends, that kind of thing. Nutter, Rendell, Specter and the PLCB couldn’t do anything about Lunchbox, the dimwitted neighbor kid who stumbled into cars all the time when he played football in the streets, but they were able to scare some sense into the Four Horsemen, and into its protectors in the Philadelphia Police Department’s 39th District.

Kind of. Your activist friends never had as much fun with “intersectionality” as the 39th District did when its notoriously crooked cops were hired to moonlight at a bar named after four of their former colleagues who had been drummed out of the department for official corruption and brutality. The real Four Horsemen were some of the PPD’s worst. These guys were so bad that they went to prison for police misconduct, and were subsequently honored with their very own dive bar.

One of the police commanders who was assigned to the 39th District in the midst of this mess, a Captain Glenn, tried to nip the snitching against the Four Horsemen in the bud by using a Neighborhood Watch volunteer contact information sheet to call one of our family friends at home and harass him for bringing state authorities into the fray. It seems that Captain Glenn wasn’t so much in the pocket of the Four Horsemen as he was annoyed by the barrage of correspondence from and meetings with people more powerful than he over a nuisance bar. So he got this friend of ours on the phone and menacingly told him, “I’m getting heat from above, and I do not like getting heat from above.”

Our friend put the Captain in his place: “You listen to me: I’m a lieutenant in the United States Army, and you DO NOT talk to a lieutenant in the United States Army that way!” The commanding officer of one of the city’s dirtiest police districts was reduced to gibberish by a guy he was trying to intimidate over the phone. Philadelphia is a city of piss and vinegar.

Vinegar in its citizens’ blood.

Piss in its subway concourses.

More gringos who won’t do farm work unless they’re told where there’s farm work

I’ve got mail:

Andrew,

We will let you know within two days whether or not we can use you.  We’ve had an overwhelming response.  Thank you for your interest.

This “overwhelming response” was to a help wanted ad, in English, for grape pickers in San Luis Obispo County. The ad was posted less than 72 hours ago.

I’m sure that by the Farm Bureau’s reckoning, no individuals authorized to work in the United States applied for this position. While I was driving to San Luis Obispo yesterday to interview for another job, I listened to a broadcast by an outfit called Family Radio on which the Executive Director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, Ryan Jacobsen, intoned about how Fresno County’s farmers just can’t find enough native-born help to get all their field work done. Of course they can’t; they never advertise for it.

If these gigs in San Luis Obispo fall completely through, I’m of a mind to go back to Fresno, track Jacobsen down, and tell him, “Hey, I heard you say on the radio that you’re shorthanded. Are you hiring about now?” I’m mostly kidding about this, but not entirely. It’s usually Tea Party cranks who passive-aggressively apply for farm jobs, and if I were a farm manager, I wouldn’t be enthusiastic about hiring a crew of underqualified, out-of-shape ideological blowhards who enjoy wearing tricorner hats. On the other hand, I’m not a self-appointed latter-day Patrick Henry, but a humble farmhand with several seasons’ experience with wine grapes, and I dare say I’m not the only such gringo.

My pseudoapologies for humblebragging.

I keep harping on the dearth of farm help wanted ads only because Farm Bureau officials and their elected representatives (apparently not my elected representatives) keep harping on the shortage of farmhands. I could have given materially the same speech that Jacobsen gave about farm labor “shortages” and immigration “reform” yesterday. There’s a certain comforting Kabuki ritualization to it, an unctuousness that is weirdly majestic in its predictability and brazen repetition of tiresome bullshit. As a Catholic, I appreciate liturgies.

What I start to wonder is whether Jacobsen and his colleagues actually, sincerely believe their own bullshit. I doubt that Dianne Feinstein does in her capacity as their lackey; I’d be surprised if any sincerity on her part outlived Harvey Milk by a decade and a half. Jacobsen gave off a very different vibe; for what the distinction is worth, he seemed not to be an indecent man, but a decent man making indecent arguments. The labor shortage has become rote learning in the San Joaquin Valley farm country by this point. It takes a lot of effort to unlearn the indoctrination, and a lot of courage to publicly repudiate it.

Some people go deep enough into the bullshit holding tank to stop noticing the fumes. They don’t notice that the fumes are making them loopy. It happened to members of the US intelligence community (sic) in the 1950′s. Recently declassified papers show high-ranking intelligence officials using the same crude redbaiting language in private correspondence that they used in public statements. They weren’t throwing red meat to the goobers and then retiring to snicker about how they had pulled a fast one on the Bircher freaks. They actually believed their own factually challenged Comintern hysteria. I have no reason to believe that Ryan Jacobsen is nuts, but I also have no reason to believe that he’s using any kind of critical thinking about the farm labor supply in his home county. That’s the kind of thing that would aggravate the neighbors, if nothing else, and I figure that, as a Farm Bureau officer, he’s politically savvy enough not to play around with anything that looks like a third rail.

Because there are never enough gringos to get the farm work done. Except when there are too many of us.

Another White Whine from apple country

Here’s an excellent example of West Coast planters whining about how it’s so terribly impossible to hire a good picking crew these days. It’s that classic outtake from the Gospels, the Parable of the Many Apples and the Few Pickers. Quoth the Wall Street Journal’s Joel Millman:

PASCO, Wash.—Washington state is enjoying the second-biggest apple crop in its history, but farmers warn they may have to leave up to one-quarter of their bounty to rot, because there aren’t enough pickers.

“I’m down 40% from the labor I need,” said Steve Nunley, manager of a 3,000-acre apple orchard for Pride Packing Co. in Wapato, Wash. Mr. Nunley said he has 200 pickers right now, but needs close to 400. He has increased pay to $24 for every 1,000-pound bin of Gala apples they pick, compared with $18 last year. Even so, he expects to have to let tons of fruit fall unpicked this season.

That works out to $48 a ton, or 2.4 cents per pound, up from a whopping 1.8 cents. For comparison, the minimum piece rate that I was paid as a blueberry picker last week was 40 cents per pound. Last Saturday, I and at least two other pickers were given a ten-cent bonus for the day because we were picking fruit of such consistently high-quality that it barely had to be sorted. Blueberries are more expensive than apples at retail, but certainly not by a factor of sixteen.

In many orchards (the exceptions being those that have been planted with dwarf trees), these single-digit piece rates are what pickers receive for maneuvering sacks weighing dozens of pounds down ladders propped up haphazardly against trees under dappled lighting. It’s inherently dangerous work. Blueberry harvests simply do not pose remotely similar risks of repetitive stress injuries, sprains, bone fractures, or death.

It stands to reason, then, that the labor pool takes dishwashing jobs if it can’t get a premium for piece rate jobs that hopefully won’t make them throw out their backs or get concussions when they fall off ladders:

In a standoff, growers say they can’t afford to raise wages further, and workers decline to work for what they’re being offered.

“We could lose 25% [of the crop]. Or it could be much worse,” said Jeff Rippon, farm manager of Chiawana Orchards in Yakima, Wash. Mr. Rippon’s 300 acres have enough apples on them to yield nearly 10 million pounds of fruit, if he had enough hands to bring them in. He said he needs about 150 full-time pickers to get the crop in, but right now has only 60.

“Pickers pull up, they ask what you’re paying. If they like what you’re offering, they stay. If they don’t, they’re gone,” said manager Martin Estrada of Monkey Ridge Ranch, a huge apple plantation on the Snake River.

Do tell, Mrs. O’Hara. Say, how are you managing with all the Reconstruction they’re doing these days? I must say, that General Sherman is quite a character!

It’s the curse of hiring freemen. If they don’t like an underpaid job that may get them dead or crippled under a pile of apples, they may end up taking other jobs, leaving the poor crew boss to futilely painting another “se buscan trabajadores” sign on a piece of scrap plywood. Free association is such a buzzkill when it’s the help that does the free associating. Maybe there are alternatives:

The state faced similar labor shortages last year, when growers persuaded Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire to declare a labor emergency, which allowed farms to hire prisoners to bring in the harvest. For example, about a hundred convicts from a minimum-security facility fanned out among orchards in the Wenatchee Valley. But growers aren’t currently seeking to hire prisoners, who pick far fewer apples a day than immigrant laborers do.

Or maybe not. In the Old South, if I’m not mistaken, one of the polite terms for this part of the workforce was “recalcitrant slaves.” (The impolite terms were utterly evil.) Much effort and manpower was devoted to intimidating and punishing these slackers and saboteurs, often with heinous brute force. Today, the prison population in the United States is disproportionately comprised of the descendants of these slaves. Think of it: the State of Washington deploying black small-time offenders from Seattle and Tacoma into white-owned apple plantations at a fraction of minimum wage, not in 1880 or 1950, but in 2011. What’s more, this was authorized by a Democratic governor who was widely regarded as substantially left of center. It’s barely conceivable that these crews were not blacker than the overall population of Washington State. It’s no joke that we haven’t moved as far beyond slavery and Jim Crow as decent Americans would wish.

Apparently the Wall Street Journal likes to bury its ledes:

Farm operators elsewhere in the U.S. have said they face shortages of workers, sometimes because of new state immigration laws that have driven pickers from fields and groves. Some academic researchers say it is hard to quantify an actual labor shortage in U.S. agriculture, in part because there is so little evidence of a decline in production.

Philip L. Martin of the University of California, Davis, said overall U.S. production of fruits and vegetables has remained stable in recent years. Moreover, he said, farm-labor wages have remained flat or even declined. “You would think that wages would go up” if workers were in short supply, he explained.

Yeah, I would think so, too.

I’d also think that Craigslist would be plastered with help-wanted ads for fruit and vegetable pickers. I certainly wish it were. As it is, I can count the number of current ads for pickers on the Willamette Valley boards on my middle finger. It’s a job picking squash at minimum wage that I quit mid-shift on the first day because the manners of the crew bosses verged on what I would expect of Arkansas prison trusties. I expected it to be worse than the blueberry job, but not that much worse. There are worse jobs yet in agriculture, to be sure, but at heart I really do not care to be a moral relativist.

Finally, let’s have a couple of brief words from labor:

United Farm Workers organizer Jorge Antonio Valenzuela, who represents pickers in the Northwest, said “there is no shortage” at farms that pay “correctly.”

….Not far away, outside a church in Pasco, a migrant from Mexico’s Michoacán state, 47-year-old José Carranza, said he planned to skip the fruit harvest this year. Mr. Carranza believes he can do better in construction work, which is picking up.

“Growers offer $20 per bin around here,” he said. “It’s just not enough.”

What? What about the $28 per bin–$28 an hour for the hotshot pickers–that all the growers were offering several paragraphs above? And what about the one bin per hour that the hotshots are supposedly able to pick? Management said it was so.

Whom are we to believe: the growers, who told a reporter about the generous raises they were offering, or this Carranza fellow, what with his sour grapes about the pay being shit? My guess is that Carranza is getting old and worn-out from having picked too many apples in his day, so if the growers are lucky I’ll be generous and split the difference for an average rate of $24 per bin. Honestly, that’s a wildly liberal guess. And this is for a line of work that, pursued as a full-time, permanent career, shortens life expectancies by over a decade.

There is a LOT of bullshit in this business. It’s endless. This article was published last year, in 2012, but the same complaints are made year after year, about crop after crop. It’s a perennial bitchfest about how there’s no one to pick all the crops and that it is therefore of utmost importance to admit even more foreign peasants until this nonexistent labor shortage is no more, the welfare of these peasants and of the communities where they work be damned.

That’s one gnarly old bush that overwinters just fine.

I picked crops under the hot sun all day this Labor Day. What did you do this Labor Day? Do work!

Actually, it depends on your definitions of “all day” and “hot sun.” I overslept my alarm by nearly an hour and a half and called it quits in time to go hiking on one of the woodlots above Corvallis, and as humid as it was, Philadelphia it ain’t. But even though my poundage for the day was off by nearly half from Saturday, the bees having been all up in my fruit, I managed to bring in about 33.25 pounds more blueberries today than did any of the useless eaters who keep plastering my Facebook feed with pictures from Orlando and Sea Isle City. One of these people is mortally embarrassed that I’ve become a poor who does stoop labor, since his friends should all be doing prestigious things that reflect well on him for associating with individuals of fine breeding. He’s always pestering his fellow yuppies to buy his life insurance products, the fine chap.

I could become an earnestly sanctimonious prick about these things, and there’d be some equity in the proposition (all too much, really), but instead, I’ll note that I’m really lucky to have found another paid job less than two months after my last paid job descended into a fugue of lumpenproletarian officiousness and treachery. This fugue started my first day on the job; fun times in wine country. My current job on the blueberry farm is the polar opposite. It’s a contender for the best job I’ve ever had, the farm manager is a contender for the best boss I’ve ever had, and I have not had to deal with any asshats. None. It’s like I was sucked through a wormhole into a Jeffersonian utopia that would make even old Tom himself think he’d been taken on a gnarly acid trip.

It’s worth briefly noting how Thomas Jefferson’s labor theories compared to his labor practices. My current employer is Jefferson’s ideal made manifest, the kind of family-run, community-oriented operation that would make Alexander Hamilton of a mind to bulldoze the joint and deed the property over to industrialists. Jefferson’s actual managerial practices, of course, involved regimentation and centralization of a sort not too different from what Alexander Hamilton advised, but in the form of a brutal system of race-based slavery, enforced with a campaign of threats and beatings that Jefferson oversaw with a zeal that privately alarmed his friends. This nightmare he bequeathed to his country as a major part of its patrimony. We still haven’t gotten completely over it. Perhaps we never will.

On the West Coast, the most prolific offshoot of this plantation sociology is something that I call Mexican Jim Crow, since I don’t think any more restrained moniker adequately conveys its iniquity. Honestly, I’m surprised and somewhat relieved that relations between Mexicans and Gringos in Western farming districts aren’t much worse than they are. The racism underpinning this arrangement isn’t official, but in some places it might as well be. I find it worrisome that there’s a greater language barrier between the planter and peasant classes on the West Coast than there usually was between planters and slaves in the Antebellum South, since Southerners spoke mutually intelligible dialects of English in most places. A couple of months ago I found myself in the midst of an unwieldy workplace donnybrook that would have either been preventable or easily nipped in the bud had everyone present spoken a common language. In extreme cases, this language barrier results in de facto impunity for workplace sexual assaults committed by field managers against line employees. It is a very bad state of affairs.

The planter class wants to keep things this way. I don’t know what the dynamics are like at the county level, but at the state level in California (and probably other states) and at the national level the planters have a stranglehold on the major farming trade groups. That’s why the Farm Bureau always has a bee in its bonnet about immigration reform. It’s amazing to see major growers go on the record in newspaper and trade journal articles about how they’re 40% short on pickers for time-critical harvests, are running months late on pruning jobs that are considered industry-standard, etc., and then see not a word from the same growers on help wanted websites or on roadsides near their farms. One of the growers who’s engaged in this monkey business has several hundred acres of blueberries half an hour north of where I’m currently staying. There’s no way the farm labor contractors in their regions are running help wanted ads to take up the slack, either. Few of them are running ads at all. Believe me, I’ve checked. The growers and contractors who do run ads usually run them on state unemployment office job boards (Washington State’s is particularly laden), probably because the only Gringos who check these sites are ones who were told to do so by their case workers or probation officers. That way, the planters end up getting a lukewarm response from slackers and dregs who didn’t want farm jobs in the first place, and once these Gringos all wash out they can tell the authorities that they really, really need their Mexicans. One farm in Washington went a step further by flying a new crew in from Thailand and firing its entire existing crew of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, many of them career employees. Unless the initial ruling was reversed on appeal, this company remains in fairly hot water with the authorities over this stunt.

As far as I can tell, the much-bemoaned shortage of farm workers is mainly a shortage of two specific kinds of farm workers: at the lowest level, meek, servile, disposable, easily intimidated grunts, and, at the higher skill levels, those who can be hired by word of mouth through some foreman’s cousin’s barber’s nephew five miles past the end of the blacktop in outermost Michoacan. With Mexico’s economy improving while its birthrate plummets, even in poor rural areas, it should come as no surprise that it’s getting harder to staff farms entirely through the intimidation of illegal immigrant roustabouts and six degrees of whoever happens to currently be on staff.

As a farm worker, I heartily approve of this turn of events. Expect to hear more White Whines about it from a planter near you in coming years.

Erik Loomis has more on these topics. Does he ever. Ralph Durst and his cousin weren’t just planters; they were psychopaths.

One final social control before I go to bed: Tomorrow is the day after Labor Day, so no more white clothes for the rest of the season. You wouldn’t want to be the gauche fool who wears white into the fall. This is a fitting social convention, especially for anyone in the business of making or selling clothes in any of the many colors that are not white. On the other hand, join me in the blueberry patch and they won’t be white for long.

Racial murder and dereliction of duty by the press

A collegiate baseball player from Australia by the name of Christopher Lane was recently murdered by three black teenagers in Duncan, Oklahoma. One of these teens, James Edwards, Jr., had previously posted violent, racist language on his Twitter account. According to police, Lane was jogging near his girlfriend’s house in Duncan when Edwards and two accomplices, Michael Jones and Chancey Luna, followed him out of their house and shot him in the back. Edwards and Luna have been charged as adults with first-degree murder, and Jones, their getaway driver, has been charged as an accessory after the fact.

The racial angle to Lane’s murder has become extremely inflammatory, and the police and the media have been slow to face it. Jones has been identified in police and media reports as white. In a strange sense, this is at once true and false; he’s apparently mostly white and part black. Luna and Edwards are indisputably black, and Edwards is fairly dark-skinned. Questions about the precise race of any of these young men, however, are red herrings. Edwards proudly cast his lot with the black underclass, and Luna and Jones joined him in the racially motivated murder of an innocent white man who happened to be in their neighborhood. They were three racists who tried to assuage their festering boredom and grievance by shooting an innocent stranger in the back because he was white and within range. This was by all appearances a racial crime. Even had they somehow brought a dead ringer for John Denver into their gang and used him as an accomplice, the crime would still be a racially motivated murder of a total innocent in cold blood.

There appears to have been at least an incipient campaign by police and media outlets to sanitize the racial angle of this murder.  Early on, at least two Duncan police officials fastidiously described the murder as “random.” According to a commentator at Chateau Heartiste, the CNN website aggressively censored users’ comments about the racial angle of the murder and the subsequent coverup:

I was following the story yesterday on the CNN website. The comments section was going crazy. I’d never seen anything like it. Literally every thirty seconds there were fifty or sixty new comments posted. This went on for hours. And I’d say 90% were SERIOUSLY pissed off white people questioning why CNN hadn’t posted pictures of the perps, why they hadn’t mentioned race, why Obama hadn’t gone on TV to discuss the case, pointing out that these three boys “could be Obama’s sons”, etc. The moderators couldn’t keep up with deleting all the “crime think”. The comment count would go up to 19,000. Then it would be down to 18.000. Then back up to 19.000. And on and on. It was quite a site to behold. The funny thing is that, by the time they’re done, all the comments that will be left will be those calling for more gun control laws. The comments section will have been scrubbed as clean of any mention of race as the original article. Reminds me of the Ministry of Truth in 1984. Anything conflicting with the narrative just ceases to exist.

CNN has since extensively edited its main article about the Lane murder to include discussion of the racial angle. I assume that pressure from readers and scoops from competing independent bloggers persuaded CNN’s editors to provide more honest and thorough coverage. They must have been embarrassed and, more importantly, worried about their company’s viability when they realized that they were losing credibility and their audience to marginal outlets that they normally wouldn’t even conceive of as their competitors. If I’m correct about this, it means that American journalism is healthy, resilient and competitive enough to force even craven and cowardly outlets with huge market shares and ulterior motives to behave responsibly.

Sometimes, that is. CNN is still prone to rampant journalistic corruption and dishonesty. The trouble doesn’t take root when news organizations try to execute blatant snow jobs on major news stories; it takes root when they execute subtle snow jobs on relatively minor stories. In other words, most of the time.

And who are these marginal players that scoop big outlets like CNN? You probably don’t want to know. CNN can be disingenuous and slippery, but it has the decency–the responsibility, really–not to aggressively traffic slurs about “orcs,” “pavement apes,” “uruk-hais,” and “mudsharking.” I assume that Chateau Heartiste is not operating at the lower bound of this kind of racial incitement, either; it is only incidentally a racist site, not a dedicated white supremacist organ like Stormfront. Even so, it is all too reminiscent of Radio Mille Collines on the eve of the Rwandan genocide; it’s much closer to Georges Riggiu than to George Wallace, who merely demanded that the races live separately, and did so with much more restrained public language.

If the rabid peanut galleries on these sites are just loners masturbating to revenge fantasies in their parents’ basements, perhaps no harm will come of the inflammatory language. My concern is that some of them weapons, military training, sympathetic military or police contacts, and the physical fitness and organizational acumen to act on their hatred. It is not safe to assume that they’re all a bunch of goosestepping potbellied clowns like the most ridiculous “citizen militias” of the 1990’s. We forget at our peril that Timothy McVeigh ran in those circles, too.

If this racist constituency can’t get honest, responsible news about racial violence from mainstream outlets, it will turn to abettors of communal bloodletting. Mainstream news organizations absolutely need to reestablish their credibility and reclaim their audiences from marginal provocateurs who encourage their peanut gallery proxies to call for genocide.

Your weekly multimedia derp: Fox News shills for a talentless bottomfeeding trustafarian “musician” from La Jolla by way of concern-trolling the poor taxpayer

There are stupid press-generated scandals that leave me with some residual hope that the United States is capable of self-government. Then there’s the other kind of stupid press-generated scandal, the kind convincing me that my country is utterly and irredeemably fucked as a polity and that our only really sensible course of action is to go tailgating in front of the international arrivals hall at Lindbergh Field, so that we might offer our Chinese receivers the culturally typical refreshments of beer and hot dogs when they arrive to sort out our affairs.

Oh, and barbecued fresh lobster. We’ll see shortly just how crucial the lobster is, God help us all. But first, let’s meet the principals.

For the prosecution, Brett Baier. I knew his type back when I was a Boy Scout. BSA is a great organization for those young men (I was once in your shoes) who enjoy watching sniveling, sanctimonious, pompous twits melt down in public like late-stage Nicolae Ceaucescus because some little brat with Tourette Syndrome was running around, heaven forbid, a church complex yelling at his peers to “give me back my fucking pencil!” (a stuffed animal pencil with eyes, which they had inevitably stolen), thus defiling the auxiliary facilities of God’s holy place, or because a troop went on stage during a District lock-in and glorified the use of illegal drugs by performing an a Capella rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Casey Jones.”I witnessed both incidents, and I can easily imagine Brett Baier taking his place astride the barricades of Scouting history and yelling “STOP!” I can also imagine him whining at the rest of us to stop baiting our sister troop’s premier subnormal to jump out of a tent and serenade us with the week’s camp anthem, “Stay on the Sunny Side of Life.” The most memorable verse: “Chesterfield! Chesterfield who? Chesterfield my leg, so I slapped him! Awwwwww!”

Don’t even try to make sense of any of this. Just understand that it is exactly the sort of environment in which officious blowhards like Brett Baier flourish when they can’t secure lucrative gigs bugging all of America about wedge issues. Also realize that your boys are probably better off in a whorehouse; they’ll come across less sexual perversion, for one thing.

For the defense, Jason Greenslate, aka RattLife.” Basically, RattLife is just another two-bit bougie loser with a shitty garage band trying to impress his peers by being vulgar and badass and loudly averring, “Bitch, I’m transgressive!” Think of him as a sort of cash-flow-negative American Mick Jagger, but without the inflammatory racial shtick, because at heart, dude seems awfully milquetoast for a serious game of hardball with the big boys and girls. Nor is he the kind of badass who moves to the Southeast Side to handle accounts receivable for an honest-to-God crack den; that wouldn’t be his style of gnarly, and the consensus is that his parents paid for his Escalade, meaning that he doesn’t have to hustle for “dem shine rim.”

The class and racial aspects of RattLife’s shtick are confusing and incoherent. By numerous accounts, he’s from a moneyed family, and in most respects he and his boys have a very derivative, and very white, surfer-punk act. They’d fit in in Huntington Beach. In a sentence, they are why you hate La Jolla. On the other hand, the Cadillac Escalade, which RattLife has adopted as one of his props, has also become a vehicle synonymous with some of the coarsest black entertainers active today, the vehicle to which his business partners would probably be aspiring if he were, as I suggested, running product in Logan Heights instead of being a candy-ass north shore poseur. Basically, he’s doing a cross-cultural mix-and-match of various oversold consumer products in the hope of convincing the impressionable that he’s a trendsetter. His tastes (sic) have what some activists like to call “intersectionality,” although it’s more apt to think of them as a collage of the socially destabilizing vulgarities of two antagonistic cultures made manifest in the persona of one pathetic man.

The lynch pin for this ridiculous shtick, not surprisingly, is a promise of sex. Maybe sex in fact comes to those who adopt the RattLife, or maybe it doesn’t, but he’d certainly like his followers to think that he and his bros are certified pussy magnets. RattLife’s conception of sexuality is too shallow and derivative to merit comment, except to note that it surely has a disproportionate effect on the haplessly undersexed. One way to not end up a marginally employable loser who makes a public ass of himself in pursuit of skanks is 1) to learn and practice a trade and 2) to hire hookers when one’s amateur friends aren’t in the mood. Notice that this approach to life hasn’t stopped Germany and Switzerland from kicking America’s ass in legal harlotry and precision machining. Or maybe both of these trades are just bourgeois structures of oppression blocking the lumpenproletarian vanguard in its pursuit of Fall-of-Rome dissipation and leech socialism. That makes as much sense as anything about Jason Greenslate’s adult life.

If you’re thinking that I’m giving the guy too hard a time for being a dime-a-dozen make-believe badass, take a look at what he just did to make national news. He is no longer a local nuisance. He is no longer merely San Diego’s bro abatement problem. RattLife submitted to Brett Baier’s concern-trolling on behalf of YOUR HARD-EARNED TAX DOLLARS. He sulked and smirked through round after round of Baier’s moral puffery, bedecked in sunglasses indoors like a downmarket Bono. He gleefully led a camera crew through an upscale supermarket where he bought fresh seafood with his EBT card. He invited the camera crew to a party where he and his bros barbecued and cracked open a fresh lobster that he had bought with YOUR TAX DOLLARS. He invited the cameras into a concert where his band sang a defiant anthem about fucking stealing shit, and that kind of thing. He did it all for make benefit glorious nation of get off my lawn.

That, and for the publicity. Dare I ask, cui bono? The piece was obviously reactionary agitprop of the lowest order, but was it also product placement? I like to imagine the negotiations between RattLife and the Fox account executive sounding like one of the wiretapped Blagojevich phone calls, because that would frankly be several steps up, morally and intellectually, from the corrosive mind rot that they contrived to air.

Some good came of this fiasco as it diffused away from the original broadcast and its Bircher/Klan-grade target audience. Chateau Heartiste’s essay on RattLife was thoroughly jaded but quite thoughtful, and a couple of the comments below it put the Fox piece into a disturbing context. First, from Joe Sixpack (spelling of all excerpts is in the original):

I live in San Diego and have worked in La Jolla for the last 8 years. I’ve lived in La Jolla and train at La Jolla shores about 3x per week. While I do not know this guy, I am very familiar with the Jason Greenslate phenomenon,

Southern California is simply infested with them.

They are the flatbillers you see on your way to work, you in your car heading off for another day of bringing home the bacon. While they are the crew passing you in their lifted F350 headed out to the desert with their dirtbikes on board.

They are the giggling sorostitutes, valet parking their new white BMW curbside, their wardrobe costing in the thousands, lined up to pay a doorman $50 for a handstamp and the honor of stepping into a nightclub where men will buy them $15 drinks.

They are the unemployed hipsters, adorned in $200 scarves, $1000 manpurses and $3000 Macbooks sitting at coffeeshops 8 hours a day “looking for work” before meeting up with their friends (who’ve they’ve known since kindergarten, as they all still live at home) at a tapas bar.

Such people are legion in Southern California, where the cost of living is like kryponite save for the trustfunders, the Boomerang Kids and the STEM H1N1s. Occasionally a 1st generation wealth builders will be spotted in the wild, dodging high taxes and burdensome regulations while slowly trolling Home Depot parking lots for illegals who will work for cash only.

Jason Greenslate and his ilk drive nice cars, yet live at home and/or are funded entirely by wealthy relatives. Word is that Jason’s parents made their fortune in the gym industry, although I cannot verify that.

Their social network is often of similar caliber, and there is no shame whatsoever in living at home. Often parents (who are BFFs with their kids) allow them total freedom to bring girls over, smoke and drink at home as they’d “rather have them do that stuff at home than some random party”.

The entire culture down here has turned upside down. It is truly La-La Land. Where hypergamy is just a way of life and hard-working Betas are seen as boring, predictable and useless (except to fund the pensions of the plethora of government retirees and keep the EBT cards of guys like Jason fully funded).

Hot chicks down here? Yes. But only those that can afford to live here. Which means, to a large degree, Daddy’s girls, trophy wives, married/kept women and entitled college princesses.

Game in Man Diego must be rock solid and well-calibrated.

You have been warned.

He adds a follow-up:

In laying out my long diatribe, I forgot to reiterate the point which is the commonality between the Southern California Flatbiller, the Sorostitute and the Hipster, as well as Trustifarians like Mr. Jason Greenslate and his fellow brahs.

In short, none of them can so much as wipe their own asses if Mommmy and Daddy don’t buy them toilet paper.

Try as I may, try as I might, I struggle to think of anything less Alpha than that. That 24/7 gnawing, deep-seated knowlege that you are a full-grown man still drawing an allowance from your parents.

(Prob is, most girls today simply do not care what the source of the cashflow is, whether that be dealin’, pimpin’ scammin’ or trustfundin’. Ironically, the man who puts in 80 hours a week working is seen as boring and “works too much”).

A SHTF financial and sexual market correction would go a long way toward waking people from their current hypnotic trance.

Next, from Prof:

I’ve seen more middle-class versions of this. I strongly suspect that he’s got affluent if not rich parents, and they bought the car and probably send a check each month. His exit strategy is inheritance — that’s why he’s got great self-confidence, *nothing he does now matters*.

Chateau Heartiste being a manosphere establishment, the article also elicited comments like this one, from Carlos Danger:

I bet he gets hot as hell poon. He’s a rich surfer bum. Good looking, very fit, and easy going and fun. Chicks dig this stuff as long as pregnancy isn’t involved. There were guys I knew in college who came from rich families and got welfare because they could. They also pulled quality poon.

These comments were mixed in with conspiratorial racist speculation that Fox News ran this story to deflect attention from the disproportionate number of black recipients who use food stamps to support their profligate breeding habits and comments about Jewish control of the media. And that’s exactly the problem with stories like this. They bring all the Storm Front nutters to the yard. The producers who run that sort of inflammatory tripe full well know it, but they run it anyway because it’s lucrative. There is no civic core to preserve in these cases; there is only the early precursors to communal violence, a horde of ignorami being spoon-fed baldfaced agitprop and happily swallowing it. Jason Greenslate is a self-dealing cretin, and Brett Baier is also a self-dealing cretin; the rest of us are victims of their joint attack on the commonweal. I hope I’m wrong, but people who take that kind of cherry-picked, inflammatory rubbish at face value seem beyond hope as worthwhile contributors to civic life.

We might as well go curbside and get the grills going before our technocratic overlords land from Beijing. Y’all bring the beer and weenies, Jason will bring the lobster, brah, and I’ll bring some of the bong-quality vacuum-packed halibut that my uncle’s buddy brings down from Alaska every fall.

Actually, never mind that; he gets that stuff for work-trade on the free market. What a buzzkill.

Little House of Horrors on the Prairie

For once, I relay a sick tale that might be about Dennis Rader but in fact is not. Rather, it is about:

a picture of the costs and risks of isolation that never made it into the book series: A baby brother who died at 9 months. A miserable year working and living in an Iowa tavern. A pair of innkeepers who murdered guests and buried them out back. Another pioneer couple who boarded with them during the Long Winter whose attitudes were far more whining than stoic.

Oh beautiful, for specious skies, for amber waves of historical revisionism, for purple prose, volume upon volume of it, above the goober-planted plain. I think I’ll continue to let other people read the Little House on the Prairie series and report back. I never had high expectations for it, but neither did I have any idea that it was so widely regarded, in extreme cases even by publishers, as hackneyed, propagandistic dreck. The back story, though, is quite the maudlin treasury of Randian tropes. Rule of thumb; if it’s derogatory and it’s been said about libertarians, it was probably both lived and said by Laura Ingalls Wilder, her daughter, and her daughter’s lawyer. Read it and smirk.

The Snowden Reset

Edward Snowden seems to have successfully hit official Washington’s Achilles’ Heel. The political and public responses to his disclosures are still in flux, so I’m hesitant to speak with any confidence as things currently stand, but the pushback against the surveillance state seems to be at or near critical mass.

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), one of the most prominent members of California’s Congressional delegation, has publicly said that Snowden committed crimes with his disclosures but should be pardoned because he is a whistleblower who exposed wholesale subversion of the Fourth Amendment and that he should be answering questions about the surveillance state at home, not abroad. McClintock seemed to imply that he would like Snowden to testify before Congress. As I alluded to, the response to this scandal is growing by the week, so Snowden is conceivably on the verge of simultaneously being under federal criminal indictment for leaking state secrets and under Congressional subpoena to testify about the same state secrets as a whistleblower, not a defendant. This could easily put the Department of Justice in effective, or even official, contempt of Congress for obstructing the sworn testimony of a subpoeanaed witness.

If more members of Congress join McClintock, Justin Amash, Ron Wyden and company in demanding answers, and if the answers that they demand include sworn testimony from Snowden, my guess is that Eric Holder will be a couple of wrong moves away from impeachment. Prior to Snowden’s indictment, much of the Republican Caucus was steaming mad at Holder over the “Fast and Furious” gun-running debacle, and a smaller (and certainly less organized and vocal) contingent of populists from both parties was disgusted with him for failing to prosecute bank executives for fraud in the subprime mortgage meltdown. If Holder continues to vindictively keep Snowden in exile (he almost certainly will) at a time when Congress has called Snowden to testify in person (by no means assured, but likely enough given the rapidly shifting Congressional response to the NSA scandal), the vendetta against Snowden could be Holder’s last major project as Attorney General and an ignominious capstone capstone to his legacy. I’d be highly surprised if Holder manages to talk his way out of that sticky wicket.

On a brief sidenote, I’d say that Tom McClintock is now bar none the strongest prospective challenger to either Barbara Boxer or Dianne Feinstein. California’s Republican primary voters have taken to nominating nobodies to challenge their state’s entrenched US Senators, and much of the state’s Republican establishment at all levels is buffoonish and bloodthirsty. Boxer and Feinstein (especially Feinstein) are authoritarian nightmares, but they have on their side inertia and a hapless opposition; McClintock is in a strong, and probably unique, position to singlehandedly destroy these advantages if he chooses to run for the US Senate.

Snowden’s supporters in Congress amount to a dissident faction trying to subvert the Politburo. The official response from the State Department, the Attorney General’s Office and the White House has been a clusterfuck. The sputtering rage at an exiled dissident has become so extreme and pervasive that the Washington press corps, normally prone to flatter the subjects of its coverage in exchange for access, is barely trying to spin the official response into anything rational. These high officials and spokespeople insulted, in succession, the sovereignty of Hong Kong (for allowing Snowden to lawfully enter and leave its territory in accordance with Chinese immigration law), China (mostly for unrelated geopolitical grievances that were irrelevant on account of Beijing’s delegation of political control in Hong Kong to the territory’s British-style parliamentary government), Ecuador (for offering Snowden asylum), Bolivia (again, for offering asylum, and additionally by grounding the country’s presidential plane to search for Snowden as President Evo Morales returned from official business in Moscow), several Western European countries (by intimidating them into closing their airspace to Snowden), and most recently Russia.

Washington’s belligerence towards Moscow has been especially foolish. The State Department effectively made Snowden stateless by revoking his passport while he was holed up in the Sheremetyevo Airport international transit zone. Moviegoers may remember Tom Hanks in a similar predicament. State decided to reenact Airport, but in another country’s airport. Then various shrill officials took it upon themselves to publicly berate the Kremlin, one of Washington’s most celebrated adversaries, for not deporting a US citizen from a transit zone specificially set up for foreigners who did not intend to clear Russian immigration, for allowing that US citizen to hold a press conference in the transit zone and providing incidental logistical support to escort members of the press through passport control, for even thinking about granting this fugitive dissident asylum, and finally for granting him temporary asylum. Washington is now in the embarrassing position of having an American citizen and political fugitive freely and lawfully living in Russia without a valid US passport but with a valid Russian residency document under the odd name of “Snouden Edvard Dzhozef.” Washington could easily have avoided this embarrassment. It took a month of shrilly berating the very nationalistic government of a major military power, adversary, and oil and gas exporter to get Mother Russia to finally embrace the young man. One does not simply end up with Russian documents.

Notice, too, how calm Vladimir Putin has remained throughout the mess. Jay Carney yelling at a KGB Zen master was never auspicious, and indeed it has been fruitless. Putin was reticent in his public comments, initially calling Snowden a patriot, then describing the tar baby that the Snowden incident had become with a classic Putinism about shearing a pig (“a lot of squealing but little hair”), and keeping mum when, all but certainly on his explicit approval, Snowden was granted temporary asylum. Putin is continuing to let Washington officials do the talking about the White House’s cancellation of one-on-one talks that he was scheduled to have with Barack Obama next month, talks that have admittedly been canceled in part to punish Putin for granting Snowden asylum.

This is nuts. My country’s highest officials are acting like toddlers. For the last two months, they’ve been picking fights with any foreign government that dares cross them by showing or even considering showing mercy to a whistleblower whom they want to jail for exposing unconstitutional wholesale domestic spying. They’re cavalierly destroying goodwill with any country that thwarts their effort to persecute one of their own citizens for embarrassing them and trying to hold them accountable for secret subversion of the Constitution.

Comparisons to the Brezhnev-era USSR are appropriate. Snowden was a refusenik for a month, and the reason he is no longer one is that a moderately autocratic regime centered around a neotsarist personality cult gave him asylum at a time when he was stranded in one of its airports, forsaken by his own government.

We have a balance of powers again. This can’t be the “reset” of relations that Hillary Clinton and Sergei Lavrov sought. Russia is again welcoming American dissidents, much as the Soviet Union welcomed unemployed laborers and disaffected black activists in the 1930s. Angry US officials demand that Russia hand over a political fugitive, Russian officials calmly refuse, and the US officials build up an even stronger head of steam. We’re approaching the point at which Obama bangs a shoe on the podium while Putin quietly smirks and, if he says anything about the outburst, says something unimaginably crude and yet eloquent.

Ed Snowden isn’t exactly a loose cannon, either. Washington picked the most sympathetic whistleblower imaginable to target with its unprecedented campaign of smearing and intimidation. Snowden hasn’t been silenced like Bradley Manning, and he isn’t eccentric like Julian Assange. He’s as normal as they come, and the public knows it. The public also knows that his critics are overwhelmingly a bunch of amoral Beltway careerist freaks.

This huge mess may get resolved a lot more quickly and thoroughly than I had feared.