(Catch up on Part I here)

OK, so what? It's not like I'm breaking new ground here in explaining that Gilded Age-style capitalism is a race to the bottom in terms of employee compensation. The important questions are: How long can this continue? and What can be done about it? Veteran readers know that I hate the latter question but we will take a stab at it regardless.

As for how long this stagnation or even decline in wages can continue, the answer depends on how deeply you believe that the kind of people who support Scott Walker from their decrepit apartments in dying rural towns barely clinging to life on a SSI- and eCig-based economy have internalized the ration of shit sold to them by conservative bag men for the last three decades. It is a system of values that convinces a person to put hyper-jingoistic bumper stickers on their rusted out 1987 Plymouth Voyager and declare that America is #1, a viewpoint espoused with complete confidence despite never having ventured beyond a fifty-mile radius of the place he was born save for one high school trip to the Big City (Joplin). It is a system of values intended to convince a person you are paying $9 per hour that he doesn't want the myriad things he can't afford – vacations (What kind of lazy grifter takes time off of work?), decent schools (Homeschoolin's where it's at! Teach 'em some TRUTH for once!), decent food (What are you, queer or somethin?), higher education (buncha liberal bullshit), or any kind of cultural stimulation of a variety more refined than semi-pro wrestling. Once a person has settled into this mindset to enjoy the greatest country on Earth from the vantage point of Dogpatch, Alabama, it's hard to have much an impact using facts or logic. If people need nothing more to be happy than beer, church, shitty American cars, and a ranch house in some backwater, they're going to work for $10 or $11 per hour for a long, long time before they can be convinced to agitate. Hell, at $10 per hour in Cleveland, MS you might even have excess income if your expectations have been sufficiently lowered. If you do, don't worry. The State Legislature will build a casino to take care of it.

Conservatives are always telling us that no one can help us, rather we must help ourselves. Ironically, they're right in this instance. As long as people accept shit compensation and shittier treatment from their employers, they will continue to receive it. You can lead a horse to water, but if that horse watches Fox News eight hours per day it's going to be equal parts dumb, misinformed, and delusional. It will also probably hate black horses, and don't even get it started on donkeys. But I digress. This economic swamp we've been thrashing around in since 1980 will not be improved so long as millions of Americans fight to keep it as is.

That leaves us with the second question, what to do about it. Unfortunately I am not convinced that anything short of slow, steady progress by increments can have an effect. If the implosion of 2009 had no effect on attitudes toward taxation, wages, and government intervention in the economy then I can't imagine what kind of cataclysmic economic event would be required to change minds. We are witnessing the death throes of a group of people who are accustomed to living in "Their Country" and are sliding into demographic irrelevance. In a rare note of optimism, I will say that there is some hope to be found in increments in the last few years – a living wage law here, an extension of healthcare benefits there. These changes are being fought tooth-and-claw every step of the way, of course, but if you launch enough bombers you can guarantee that at least a few will make it to London. They're baby steps, but they're steps. Some people know what's up.

In the meantime, though, things will probably get worse before they get better as more states like Michigan and Wisconsin are depopulated and the electorate becomes one dominated by old, white, rural dead-enders with nowhere to go, like some economic Operation Gladio (and nearly as riddled with fascists). The iron law of globalized capitalism is that someone will always do it for less, and the only way right-wing elected officials will be able to compensate for promises of economic growth that never materialize no matter how many tax cuts are gifted to the Job Creators is to cut until they hit bone. Once that happens and their current gray-haired base of political support has gone to the great Denny's in the sky, we might have a chance. For people my age and younger, however, the changes won't come soon enough and we might as well get used to the fact that we are part of an economic lost generation.


I don't watch a ton of TV and the majority of what I do watch consists of live sporting events. I do, however, have my DVR set for the Velocity Network series "Wheeler Dealers." The hosts have a reasonable amount of personality and good taste in finding older, more obscure vehicles to buy and work with (the apple green Lamborghini Urraco and Syrena, aka the "Polish Mini," are my favorite episodes) And what the hell, I like cars. It's much more entertaining than, say, watching a racist British asshole run half-million dollar cars around a track.

One side effect (foreshadowing!) of this viewing habit is exposure to commercials aimed at the target audience of Old White Guys with Some Money. In particular, in the past year there has been a tremendous marketing effort made by the pharmaceutical industry on behalf of something called "Low T." Watch an auto-related show on any network and you'll probably see four of these commercials in the average hour.

Low T (for Testosterone) has a list of symptoms that eerily mimic 1) aging and 2) being sedentary while doing it. Do you have less energy than you used to? Do you have less endurance for physical activity? Do you sometimes feel irritable or cranky? Has your muscle mass declined? Is your libido waning? And of course, there's the $64,000 question to which all advertising aimed at men over 40 can be reduced: Does your wang not work sometimes?

Looking at that list of symptoms you might be thinking they sound an awful lot like the symptoms of no longer being a teenager, of – gasp – aging. But you would be wrong, according to countless major pharmaceutical manufacturers. You have a medical condition in need of treatment! True, the human body naturally reduces its production of testosterone starting around age 30, but…if you ask your doctor to pump you full of it you'll feel young again! The downside is that you're substantially more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. You know, it's almost as if your body isn't supposed to be surging with teenage fratboy levels of sex hormones when your body is a half century old. Almost.

We're all accustomed to the phenomenon of the advertising-driven New Medical Condition rollout, and as always I'm sure actual hormone deficiency is a real medical problem for some people. As we have seen before with things like ADHD and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the effort here is not to fabricate a medical condition but to convince everyone on Earth that they have it. Check out the absolutely hilarious industry website to find out whether you have Low T (spoiler: you do) or should ask your doctor about it (spoiler: you should).

It's almost enough to make you wonder why almost every industrialized country on the planet except the United States has banned direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs. Heck, it's almost as if they want you to think you have something that only their drugs can fix.


(Part II of That's a Lot of Money to You People tomorrow)

Whenever people get caught on camera or tape saying really racist things, two responses by people who secretly fear that someday the racist things they say with regularity will end up on video are inevitable. One is some sort of half-assed argument about "free speech" indicating a basic but complete lack of understanding of the 1st Amendment. The second is something about how darn Sorry the speaker is. Golly, you could never comprehend the sorriness. It is beyond your experience.

Mark Zachary, 54, pulled his truck into the lot and went inside. Mr. Zachary was a member of the fraternity when he was a student at Oklahoma State University in the late 1970s, and he said he had asked the members if they needed help in moving. They declined his offer, he said.

“These guys messed up real bad, and I think they know they have,” Mr. Zachary said, adding that the house was barren and the students were quiet. “Everybody’s sick to their stomach. The guys that actually did the chanting, trust me, they feel worse than anybody in the country right now.”

Mr. Zachary is not wrong. Those students are indeed sick to their stomachs. They want nothing more than to turn back the clock and change things so that it never happened. They are riddled with guilt and despair.

Over the fact that they got caught, of course.

That is what everyone fails to grasp in situations like this. These young men are indeed devastated right now, because they're thinking about their own futures and how they may have ruined them. They're thinking about some potential future employer googling their name or seeing their Facebook page and realizing that maybe hiring the guy who was in the Klan Frat might not be the best person to represent the company.

But don't cry too hard for them. I'm sure they'll be fine, since 90% of them were going to end up working for their dads anyway.


I wish everyone up here in the Union states – especially the ones racing to emulate the political and economic policies that have made places like Mississippi and Alabama the gardens of Eden they are today – could be forced to read a little about what is happening to the components of the auto industry that have been fleeing southward for the last thirty years. The UAW is staking its future on being able to unionize southern manufacturing and parts facilities with little success so far and none appearing likely in the near future. That says more about Southern politics than about the contentedness of the people who were only recently so excited about all of them jorbs comin' down from the North. Some members of the new industrial workforce in Dixie aren't terribly happy now that they are starting to figure out that you can earn more at Taco Bell than in The Factory.

Cleveland, Mississippi is on the top ten list of shittiest places I've had the misfortune to see firsthand in this country. It's home to a parts factory making auto seats for Faurecia, a massive French company with 274 factories around the globe. You don't build a factory in Cleveland, MS because you want to take advantage of the skilled labor force or well-developed infrastructure. You build a factory in Cleveland, MS because some Governor named Buck or Sonny or Cooter told the State Legislature to give you $100 million in tax breaks and new highway construction and you want to pay your workers as little as the law will allow. Then you proceed to pay your workers as little as the law will allow while explaining to them that you're actually paying them quite a lot for the decrepit backwater in which they were unfortunate enough to be born and either unable or (unwisely) unwilling to leave.

Protesters say Faurecia employees make a top wage of $11.64 per hour, while contract workers make $7.73 an hour.

Company spokesman Tony Sapienza said that with overtime, the typical Faurecia employee makes more than the $27,000 a year that is the median wage around Cleveland. Wages are often low in the heavily impoverished Delta.

"We are very confident that we are offering a very competitive wage," Sapienza said.

In other words, $7.73 per hour ($16,000 per year at 40 hours) with no benefits is a lot of money for You People! And it should be noted that $8.03 is the estimated "living wage" in Cleveland. For one adult. With no dependents.

Much like handing a pedestrian in Mogadishu $100 would make him rich by the standards of his peers, the entire logic of moving industry southward is and always has been "We can pay these (hicks / colored people) next to nothing and they'll be thrilled with it!" And it has worked for a while. But even in Cleveland, MS people are starting to figure out that a factory job with a maximum hourly wage of $11 – with half the spots filled by contracted temp labor making a why-bother $7.73 per hour – isn't much of a step up from the $8 or $9 per hour that most fast food chains are paying these days. What did Mississippi really get for whatever ridiculous buffet of subsidies they slopped in a trough for Faurecia? A factory half-filled with people making under $30,000 per year and half-filled with temps making barely over the poverty line. Oh, and someone's nephew making $150,000 to run the place. Even Management salaries are subject to the local cost of living argument, otherwise he'd be making a half million.

Take a good, hard look, Wisconsin. This is your competition, and these are the "jobs" that people like Gov. Homonculus are promising to bring to (or retain in) your state. If only you'd stop being so greedy and agree to work for next to nothing, maybe Job Creators wouldn't be forced to take massive bribes from Southern governments to give your job to someone who will be thrilled to earn the Federal minimum wage.

At least for a while, anyway.


Last week the City of Cleveland announced that its official position is that 12 year old Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed by city police while holding a toy gun in a park, caused his own death through negligence by "failing to avoid injury." Since most of my friends feel the same way about law enforcement and institutionalized racism as I do, I've seen quite a bit of outrage over this response to lawsuits from the Rice family. There are some good reasons for it.

Rice was shot dead by a new Cleveland cop who didn't even wait for the car to stop before firing. It turned out that he had also been fired from a previous job on the suburban Independence, OH police force after some disturbing behavior on a firing range. Given how much a police officer has to do to get fired in this country, we might want to start asking why anyone would hire someone terminated previously for erratic behavior or poor performance (see also: Darren Wilson). But that's another post.

To their credit, the Cuyahoga County sheriff was brought in to do the investigation rather than allowing the Cleveland PD to do an internal whitewashing. And they appear to have done a creditable job. Notably they did not tell either officer involved that there was a video of the incident before taking their statements. Both officers reported that Rice was waving his fake gun around at a large group of people; on the video Rice is alone. So essentially the two CPD officers have already proven themselves to be liars, which kind of works against the city when it defends itself against the lawsuits.

Here is the thing about the outrage, though: it is premature at this point. The City has attorneys representing it and this is what lawyers get paid to do. They are an advocate for their client / employer, even when they are quite obviously balls guilty (legal term). People end up in courtrooms every day watching videos of themselves committing crimes and counting on a lawyer to defend them anyway. True, the city's lawyers probably could have come up with a better defense than "the kid we shot failed to avoid getting shot." Then again, if they were great lawyers I doubt they'd be working for the City of Cleveland.

Regardless of their legal strategy, the point is that the outrage is better reserved for the possibility that a judge and jury might actually buy that horseshit. The legal system is supposed to consider such arguments, use the judgment of all those involved to conclude something along the lines of "Well that's quite ridiculous," and reject them. Of course when the sacred word of the police is involved, juries composed of authoritarian-follower types tend to be, shall we say, less than skeptical.

I'm not saying that the justice system isn't going to screw this kid and his family six ways from Sunday while exonerating the guy that killed him. I am, however, certain that it hasn't happened yet and we might as well reserve our emotional energy for when it inevitably does. Right now all we have is a city that is flat broke (and thus probably has a strong incentive to avoid settling at any cost) mounting the best legal defense it could concoct, which in this case is not a very good one.


It must be at least eight months since the last time I've done Link Salad, which I generally consider to be a dereliction of blogging duties. Nonetheless, I have a critical mass of things that can't fill an entire post on their own. Since it's Friday and nobody wants to work anyway, I am honored to try to alleviate some portion of your boredom.

1. The Guardian has a video and story about people who have volunteered in earnest for a one way suicide mission to Mars. I'm sure some of the thousands of volunteers would qualify as Nuts by the vulgar definition and others are merely attracted to the idea of a spectacular, documented suicide. At least some of them, however, appear to be eccentric but generally Regular People who are willing to make a sacrifice for Science (and an inimitable experience). Maybe it says a lot about how dull most of our lives are here on Terra Firma that so many people would leap at the chance to die on Mars.

2. I was obsessed with Richard Scarry books as a child, so there were many levels on which I could enjoy this Tom the Dancing Bug comic of the author's "Busy Town" in the 21st Century.

3. I love a good photo series and I love some old Eastern Bloc cultural relics, so imagine my delight when I learned that a photographer named David Hylynski is publishing a series of 800 35mm photos he took wandering the streets of Warsaw, Moscow, and other cities in the dying days of the USSR. He made a particular effort to photograph shop windows; it's weird how much we as Americans conceptualize other societies by their habits as consumers. Behind the Curtain, though, they lacked the brand names we prefer to use as stand-ins for an actual understanding of other cultures.

4. For those of you who like aviation as much as I do, you may be interested to hear that Elvis's private jets are being auctioned as part of a makeover of Graceland. His plane "Lisa Marie" is the last remaining airworthy Convair 880 in existence. The airliner was a staggering commercial failure – only 65 were sold and Convair lost an unfathomable $175 million on the project – but it is an elegant design, emblematic of the first generation of passenger jets. While "Lisa Marie" will no doubt end up on display and not in the sky, kudos to the King and Graceland for preserving the aircraft.


Hard to believe it has been more than a decade since Chechen rebels took hundreds of Russians hostage in a Moscow theater. Displaying their legendary penchant for tact and patience, Russian special forces pumped the theater full of a gas, the contents of which remain mysterious to this day, developed by the FSB as a "knockout gas." It allowed Russian police to storm the theater and, uh, eliminate the terrorists with traditional Russian ruthlessness, but it happened to kill more than 130 hostages as well. Whoops.

What nobody knew that day – because Russian officials refused to offer any description of the contents of the secret gas for years – was that a major ingredient was fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate. High inhaled doses of such a strong drug were fatal for about 15% of the hostages. This was important because if medics and doctors had been told that the hostages had been incapacitated by an opiate drug, they could have saved lives by injecting them with something called an opioid antagonist. When this was finally reported it was the first time I heard of Naloxone.

Apparently Naloxone has become considerably more well known in the intervening years because many states have passed laws recently to relax rules about its administration. This is a result of increased pressure from the public, police, activists, and medical professionals to make Naloxone available for response to opioid overdoses. Briefly leaving aside the inconvenient reality that nobody cared about heroin addicts but now that white kids (and their parents) in the suburbs are ODing on prescription painkillers, it's hard to argue that this is not a good idea.

The problem, as usual, stems from the many glories of the free market and its infinite justice. The sole company in the United States that makes Naloxone noticed around 2008 that demand, driven by government purchases, was starting to soar. So of course they…oh, come on. Do I even need to finish the sentence? Suffice it to say that the drug, the price of which hovered around $3 per dose, became more expensive. By several hundred dollars.

As a generic, technically any manufacturer can start producing it. The problem is that every other drug company knows that at the drug's true price – somewhere closer to $5 per dose – it isn't worth it to invest in starting production. And they are unwilling to take the risk based on the hope that the current attempt at price gouging is sustainable. So the current company, Amphaster Pharmaceuticals, has a de facto monopoly. And oh boy, do they intend to milk it.

The idea of a single payer sends the average American into paroxysms of stroke-inducing rage. The idea of a single supplier, oddly enough, doesn't do the same even when accompanied by a healthy dose of price gouging. With state and local governments essentially at the mercy of the demands of one company for a drug it could hardly give away ten years ago, you'd think someone would be pointing out that the free market is not working as intended. Then you realize that this is in fact exactly how it is intended to work and any confusion disappears.


What we have thought for years has become painfully obvious – John "Orange Julius" Boehner has no real power and no control of his own caucus. Anecdotal evidence has suggested this in the past and now the hard numbers back it up. According to VoteView, there is a clear divide within the House GOP on the Homeland Security supplemental.


When the Speaker of the House gets elected by the smallest margin ever and then cannot deliver a three week budget extension through the House with a massive majority, it's safe to say that the spirit of Joe Cannon has not returned to Congress in a new host. That vote also demonstrates the increasingly frequent consequences of the Republican Party's incredible lurch to the right over the last two decades (also from VoteView).


It's worth noting, for the conspiratorial or anti-intellectual factions, that VoteView is the product of two of the most conservative people I've ever met in academia. Guys who make Glenn Beck look like Jane Fonda (who they both hate, because of course they do). The thing is, they also have a great deal of integrity and they're more interested in the accuracy of their analysis than making ideological points. Having been a colleague of one of them for a few years and being subject to every manner of Thanks Obama rant, I have to laugh every time his findings end up being used in stories on major news sites and someone in the comment section comes forth to remind us that Ivory Tower Librul Professors are not to be trusted.

In any case, we are rapidly approaching a reality in which House Republicans are too conservative even for…the House Republicans. They provide a nice counterweight to those communist Democrats who have barely moved ideologically in a century-plus.


Beyond any doubt the most irritating type of person to have in a classroom – not only as a teacher but also as a fellow student – is the one who turns everything he is wrong about into a philosophical question about the nature of truth. This is one of the oldest and lamest rhetorical tactics in the book. "It may seem like I'm demonstrably wrong, but who can really know anything? What is truth?" That kind of crap. It is, to paraphrase my favorite description of Newt Gingrich, the kind of thing that really stupid people think sounds smart. And one of the reasons you hear this kind of thing in a classroom is that young people tend to be overconfident and think that they are more charming, intelligent, and persuasive than they are.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that most people grow out of that around the time they start to drive, it looks like this is going to be Scott Walker's go-to strategy for dealing with criticism throughout his kamikaze run at the White House that we are just now beginning to endure with no end in sight. Does Barack Obama love America? How can anyone really know? How can anyone really know anything? I couldn't possibly say one way or the other without having spoken to Barack Obama about this directly.

Scott Walker: epistemological skeptic.

This kind of logic has always been the backbone of lowest common denominator populism (What do scientists really know? Isn't everything just a theory? Can't I be right even if everything I say is wrong?) and it has quickly become integral to the grand GOP strategy. Having gone all-in on anti-intellectualism and willful disregard for facts in the early W Bush years, they're certainly not going to start telling the rube army that ideology may not always trump facts at this point. The Republican Party is a coalition of smart people trying to sound dumb and dumb people trying to sound smart; Walker is a tool of the former and the archetype of the latter.

Personally I'd love to see Walker win the nomination from a practical perspective – he'd do about as well in a general election as Rick Santorum, in all likelihood. But from the more important perspective of my own mental well-being, I don't know if I can listen to this guy for 617 more days. I'd gladly risk a more electable Republican winning the nomination for the easy to digest, pallid blandness of a Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush. If not, anyone who wondered what it would happen if a hack local politician got thrust into a presidential election is going to get the chance to find out. We will watch the putative greatest nation on Earth ask itself if a guy who looks like, sounds like, and has the intellectual capacity of a career liquor commissioner in Racine should become so-called the leader of the free world. I don't worry about him winning; I worry about having to live through it.

This must be what it felt like to live through the Harding-Coolidge years.