Posted in Rants on October 5th, 2015 by Ed

Video of angry Air France employees, perhaps as many as 3000, getting rowdy outside of the company headquarters to the point that two executives had their clothes nearly ripped from their bodies were popular on cable news and around the Internet on Monday. Nobody appeared to be seriously hurt, and news reports made no mention of anyone requiring medical treatment. Tailoring, on the other hand, appears to be necessary for some of those involved.

I wish we saw more of this in the U.S. I really do. I have no desire to see anyone injured. I do, however, have a strong desire to see people react to the slow dismantling of their middle class existence with human emotions – anger, maybe – that are perfectly natural under the circumstances. I'd like it if people didn't take everything done to them in the name of quarterly earnings lying down, or like dead-eyed cattle following the ass in front of them into the slaughterhouse. I think it would be nice if the people who make these decisions had to pause, even for just a moment, to wonder if they're going to be mauled by a crowd of people they've just decided to fuck, and thereby decide to be maybe just a bit less draconian in their decision-making as a result.

It's not that rowdy behavior like this accomplishes anything substantive; it's that this is how this is supposed to work. People should get mad when they get screwed. They should get mad at the people who screwed them, especially if it was done to increase their already substantial compensation even further. This is what bothers me about American labor. Everyone from the unions to the media to the workforce itself approaches these economic upheavals with listless resignation. "Well, we did the best we could" counts as fiery labor rhetoric now. It's probably your fault, the rest of society says to the newly unemployed. The laid off have been convinced that they're powerless – and they're not wrong now – and whatever anger they have is re-routed by the media and their social betters. They get mad, but they get mad at the Mexicans or affirmative action or liberals or "banks" (read: Jews) or ivory tower academics. Even worse, their emotions are redirected toward things that explicitly have nothing at all to do with their situation or economics (Kim Davis, someone a-comin' for their guns, unisex bathrooms at a college they can neither afford nor get into, War on Christmas). They just know that their mad, and like any angry person they look for something to be angry toward. Leading them there isn't rocket science.

In other countries there are still competing messages. They have the same Murdoch journalists telling them to be angry at immigrants or the gays or Big Government. But they also have union leaders and other figures in their lives telling them that The Company is screwing them and The Boss is not their friend but rather someone who will fleece them at every opportunity for no reason more nefarious than that is exactly how this system works. Call me a crackpot or a sadist, but I think our nation and our economic system would be a lot healthier if the CEO class endured the occasional smashed windshield. That is preferable, at least to me, to a reality in which the working class of this country hero-worship the same group of people who are forever kicking the rungs out of their economic ladder.


Posted in Rants on September 30th, 2015 by Ed

Over a decade ago I sat in a lecture hall and listened to a visiting scholar of English history talk about the end of Roman rule in Britain and the remarkable – it may be fair to say incomprehensible – speed and comprehensiveness with which a previously undistinguished group of people called the Saxons became the cultural hegemon of what is today the United Kingdom. As this is a topic about which I knew (and know) next to nothing I was an easy mark; impressing me was like sinking a half-inch putt. I'm forever indebted to that person whose name I have completely forgotten, though, for giving me one of my favorite examples / metaphors / anecdotes for explaining what is wrong, and I mean what is really, fundamentally wrong, with the way people in the United States view politics and their rights as citizens today: the Churl.

Aside from being the root of names like Charles and its Germanic cousin Carl, we know "churl" as the root of the regrettably rare adjective "churlish," or "rude in a surly, mean spirited way." This seems unnecessary until you realize that rudeness does not automatically imply the latter part, and in fact a good deal of rudeness is cloaked in politeness or ignorance. But I digress. The word "churl" as a noun is still used by some English speakers of a more antiquated bent to refer to a mean spirited person. Its archaic meaning, though, is for a person of low class. Specifically, in early Saxon England the churls were the lowest class of free people, which is to say they were not nobles nor royalty nor clergy, but nor were they serfs. They were essentially peasants; poor, but with the social and practical advantage of not being bound to a manor as serfs were. They were, in words used by the Mystery Lecturer that I will never forget, "possessing the freedom of the upper classes but without the economic means to take advantage of it." They could go wherever they wanted to and do whatever pleased them, in other words, if only they had any money. Alas, they didn't. So all that freedom was for naught, except inasmuch as it permitted them to look at serfs as their inferiors.

This is such a perfect analogy for the state in which the majority – and I do mean the overwhelming majority – of Americans find themselves today that I can hardly believe I was lucky enough to stumble across it. The great masses of Americans cling so desperately to their own imagined versions of things like freedom of religion and right to bear arms because those are the only freedoms they can claim without deceiving themselves to have. If those are taken away they would be forced to recognize how truly un-free in any useful sense they are. If people are unable to find work that pays a sufficient amount to cover life's necessities and to live in a manner and place of their choosing, then all of their many intangible rights and freedoms guaranteed by law provide only a superficial – important, but superficial nonetheless – freedom. We are free, in short, to do whatever we can afford, which, in the majority of cases, is to say "Not much."

A few weeks ago I posted about one of the last major manufacturers – Mitsubishi Motors – in the area closing operations in Central Illinois. Last week the colossus of the non-Chicago part of the Illinois economy, Caterpillar, announced that it is laying off 10,000 workers. Ten thousand. The vast majority of those figure to be in Peoria, Caterpillar's already cripplingly depressed, moribund, and crumbling home base. Without going deep into the intricacies of local politics, Caterpillar, along with a few hospitals and one small university, is the only place one can work in this city and hope to make what has traditionally been considered middle class income. In Peoria one is either unemployed, in the low wage service industry, paid to care for the large, old, dying population, or working for Cat and its associated suppliers. There is nothing else here. The people laid off by Cat are not going to find comparable jobs here. Their choices will be to stay here and accept a job hovering precariously above the minimum wage, probably serving food, stocking store shelves, or manning a cash register, or to move to a state devoid of labor laws and accept manufacturing work at a vastly lower wage.

If those were my options, I would be working overtime mentally to conceive of some way I could define myself as free too. Without implying that the government owes everyone a job of their choosing in the exact location of their choosing, it's fair to say that if you can't find work that pays enough to live a life that gives you real choices and options then you are free only in the sense that you are not imprisoned (although there will be plenty of that as well) and nobody can tell you how many Jesus fish and Rush Limbaugh bumper stickers you can put on your car, nor how many expensive guns you can hoard in your meager home that you struggle to afford. Americans obsess over those largely symbolic freedoms, the threats to which exist only in their own imaginations, because even though we dare not admit it we understand that many of us lack anything better. Like denials of alcoholism are often directly proportional to the probability that one is indeed an alcoholic, the extent to which any people are truly free when they go to such comical excesses with such regularity to declare how free they are is to be evaluated with skepticism. By silent consensus this country has chosen "Fake it 'til you make it" as a coping mechanism in the face of stagnant or declining incomes and a constantly shrinking selection of choices and opportunities beyond at-will, low paid employment at The Company's pleasure. We have a country in which you can buy as many guns as you want but can't count on having a job beyond the end of business today. We can refuse to bake cakes for gay people but we can't decide where and how we want to live. Freedoms are not all created equal, and we content ourselves with the ones that do us the least good.


Posted in Rants on September 27th, 2015 by Ed

A nondescript meeting room in the United States Capitol. September, 2015.


John Boehner: "Guys we've been through this a few times already, remember? And remember how it always backfires and we end up looking worse because people like Obama and we kinda come off as a bunch of assholes?"

RR: "….Yeah, but we should do it anyway! BARGLE BARGLE BARGLE!"

JB: "Alright. Look. What is it you hope to accomplish with this?"


JB: "OK well the problem is, a government shutdown doesn't really shut down the government, because we have to make a million exceptions to keep running all the parts of the government that it turns out people kind of like. And nothing about gutting PP is ever going to get past the Democrats in the Senate, or Obama. You have probably noticed that like, he doesn't really give a shit anymore. So what is this going to accomplish?"


JB: "The most extreme third of the Republican base will applaud your courage, everyone else will think you're like a child who holds his breath every time he doesn't get what he wants. Turns out that isn't exactly electoral gold."


JB: "Large majorities of Americans support birth control and abortion. Even most of the ones who talk about how horrible and immoral abortion is secretly hope it stays legal just in case their 15 year old daughter in private school gets knocked up."


JB: "I agree guys, I'm against Planned Parenthood too. But the shutdown is just a game of chicken, and every time we play it we lose. You know exactly what's gonna happen. We're gonna get to the moment of truth and have to choose between burning our own country to the ground or caving and looking like a bunch of pussies. That's the exact opposite of what you said you want to accomplish."


JB: "Look I'm just pointing out that we've tried this several times and it never works. We can't do this over and over and expect a different result. Let's try something that hasn't already failed a couple times."

RR: *silence, throat clearing*


JB: *grabs temples*


How many times do you think you could tolerate having that conversation? I have no love for John Boehner, who has proven himself over the years to be little more than a stuffed suit and a partisan hack. However, compared to the current House Republican caucus he looks like Alexander Hamilton. He may not be bright and he may be as inspiring as a county board meeting, but it became pretty clear since 2010 that he was one of only a handful of adults in the room when the GOP caucus met. You can only stand in front of a roomful of people who are supposed to represent the highest elected body of the self-declared greatest nation on Earth and explain that, no, you can't do (insert Tea Party agenda item) because it's completely goddamn insane so many times before you'd step back and ask yourself, "What exactly is my motivation to keep doing this?" At some point, arguing with an ideologue becomes indistinguishable from arguing with a four year old. You speak the same language, but no amount of repetition is going to convince them that, no, we can't have ice cream and chicken fingers for dinner and Iron Man cannot live in the basement.


Posted in Rants on September 24th, 2015 by Ed

I want to go on record, if you have yet to figure it out, that I am very pro-Pope Francis. No, I'm not a Catholic. Yes, I find many of the teachings of the Catholic Church to be antiquated and needlessly obstinate. Yes, the Catholic Church as an organization, without indicting every last one of its followers, has proven itself repeatedly to be a corrupt institution with a Circle-the-Wagons mentality that would be the envy of any suburban police department. My view on it is, the church is always going to have a Pope. Why not be glad that there is a Pope who is right about a lot of things in addition to the things that the Pope – any Pope, by virtue of being the spiritual and practical head of Roman Catholicism – is going to be wrong about?

It doesn't take long for any positive statement about Francis to prompt some rocket scientist to point out that he is anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, and anti-contraception. Is it supposed to be useful to point out that the Pope – the leader of the Roman Catholic church – believes these things? The only less useful contribution to the discussion would involve an image of a peeing Calvin. Thanks for stopping by to remind us that the Pope is not in favor of abortion. Without your Sherlock-level sleuthing skills I have no idea how anyone would have figured out that the prelate of Roman Catholicism believes the basic doctrines of the Catholic Church for two millenniums*.

Given the reality that any Catholic Pope is going to support those teachings, why not take some satisfaction in the elevation to a position of power, visibility, and authority of someone who reminds the billion Catholics on the planet that anti-abortion and anti-gay does not summarize the entirety of Catholic doctrine and the teachings of Jesus? If anything, it is remarkable (and commendable) how little Francis has talked about these things and how often he has reminded his followers that they comprise only a small part of the belief system of Catholicism as defined by the scriptures and the teachings of the church over time. Hell, he hasn't even been half-bad about the church's major and long-running problem with sheltering child abusers.

It is so "sophomore year of college" to go around reminding everyone that the Pope isn't cool with abortion and think that this has somehow been an intelligent thing to say, a useful contribution to the discourse. No shit. Absent single-handed power to redefine Catholic doctrine (which, since the institution is as political as any other of its size and scope, he does not have) I'm not sure what he is expected to do about that even if he disagrees. Which he of course does not, being a Catholic. If you can't look at this guy's two years in power and the near-constant attention he has drawn to global income inequality, the staggering lack of compassion for the poor and socially disadvantaged, the constant recourse to war and violence by the most powerful nations on the planet, and the narrow-minded obsession of American religions with penis and vagina related issues at the expense of all others and recognize it as a net positive, I don't know what to tell you. You might be a lost cause.

*I looked it up, it's correct. I swear.


Posted in Rants on September 20th, 2015 by Ed

Carly Fiorina has risen from the Kids' Table debate to #2 in the polls behind Trump. It's not surprising that two successful businesspeople would top the list for a party that practically worships business prowess. Well they're two businesspeople, anyway. As the raging Marxists over at Fortune point out, Carly Fiorina was pretty much shit as the CEO of HP and in the decade since her firing nobody in the corporate world has touched her with a ten-foot pole. Trump, as everyone with the ability to read knows, has done literally nothing except inherit a large sum of money from his father and manipulate the U.S. bankruptcy code to his advantage. This raises a pertinent question about the Republican electorate: If they want to vote for businesspeople, can't they at least find one who wasn't a complete failure?

God knows there are plenty of stridently conservative people who have done very well in the business world. As terrible as they were as candidates, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain were at least successful at not running businesses they led into the ground. This time around they seem content to gravitate toward candidates who seem more like actors playing – overplaying, actually – the role of Greedy Businessman. The average Republican thinks Trump is a business mogul or Fiorina is some badass CEO star because they act like a really rich corporate titan acts in movies aimed at morons. I suppose if they play the character convincingly enough, old white nativist reactionaries won't look to closely at what they've actually done in the business world. Which, to emphasize, is nothing.

It's scary enough that conservatives now equate success in private industry with overall brilliance; as if making a great deal of money trading stocks or running a trucking company or being born to someone wealthy proves that one can be a good (insert public office here). Now they're willing to overlook the success part and endow anyone who wears the costume and accessories of a Business Type and acts like a sociopath with the skills necessary to lead the country. This should work out well.


Posted in Rants on September 14th, 2015 by Ed

Some truly staggering data here about the total amount of student loan debt outstanding in the U.S.; more specifically, the growth thereof in the last 14 years. Brookings provides the data.

Look carefully at those figures. The "leading" school in debt outstanding grew from $2.2 million to $35.5 million in just over a decade. I wonder if starting salaries have grown by a factor of seventeen since 2000? Total student debt in that time period has quadrupled. Mean wages have too, right?

The numbers are alarming enough, but if you really need to lose sleep look at where all the money is going. The top 12 schools are, with the exception of crushingly expensive Ivy League bastion NYU, for-profit or non-profit in name only (Nova SE is an open enrollment joke school that is barely accredited, and we all know Liberty University is, uh, rather a thinly veiled moneymaking scheme for the homeschooled crowd). And that raises the question: Who in the name of god is taking out this much money for such demonstrably worthless degrees? The average online degree holding graduate (the 2% of enrollees who actually graduate) is earning $21,000. $21,000! You could make that at Burger King without a high school diploma. We know that for-profits unfairly target susceptible, vulnerable populations like the poor, unemployed adults, and discharged veterans. But we're talking about loans here – money that inevitably has to be paid back. People are taking on debt to get something that is worth less than nothing.

Can that many people really be that gullible? I realize large numbers of Americans are extremely gullible, but we're also notoriously tight-fisted when it comes to education. Unless you're a government employee who is guaranteed a move up the pay scale by acquiring a Master's Degree – any MA, from any school – I do not understand how anyone can talk themselves into going deep into debt for a degree that advertises during Maury Povich. I'm guessing that there are very few "traditional" college students in this boom. There is not, contrary to what brick-and-mortar colleges fear, a ton of kids fresh out of high school enrolling in these diploma mills. It has to be composed primarily of adults with stagnant wages rolling the dice, even in the face of overwhelming statistical evidence to the contrary, on coming out on the other end with greater earning potential.

At some point the dynamic in this market shifts from predatory lending – and there has been plenty of that – to something a sentient consumer recognizes as a scam. Expecting something from a for-profit degree is close to being on par with expecting a fair game of three card monte in a back alley at this point.


Posted in Rants on September 14th, 2015 by Ed

Here is a story about Sterling Heights, MI residents opposing the building of a mosque in their neighborhood. There is a picture of people protesting on the roadside with the story. But let's be honest for a moment: do you really need to see it?

I think you know exactly what you're going to see. It's going to be a bunch of dumb looking, shabbily dressed white trash with faces that look like they're sucking on lemons. Their haircuts and facial hair will be 20 years out of date. Their shirts will feature motorcycles (or in this case, a semi truck) or jingoistic symbols. Their signs will be poorly scrawled with a marker on Walmart posterboard. They will look like the people you moved out of your hometown to get far, far away from. They are the people who call in to AM talk radio shows and fill local newspaper comment sections with incoherent bile. And you'll see the picture and think, "Yep. Saw that coming."


As a good liberal I know I am not supposed to hate these people. I am supposed to feel bad for them, as they are often poor, given few opportunities and shoddy educations, and actively encouraged to lash out at anyone different than themselves by the political and economic elites who ream them six ways from Sunday their entire lives. But here's the thing: I hate these people. Go ahead, take away my membership card. I won't appeal.

To people on the coasts and in the Beltway, these "salt of the Earth" / "Blue Collar" types are convenient pawns. Elites do everything humanly possible to avoid having to live near these miserable excuses for human beings, but when it fits their narrative they are more than happy to wax poetic about the virtues of the plebeians that a fictional character described perfectly as "racecar-loving wide loads." That isn't fooling anyone, though. The disgust is so thinly veiled that it would take an act of willful ignorance not to see it. And you know what? I don't blame them. These old, illiterate, racist, hate-filled people disgust the wealthy Republican candidates who pander to them, and they disgust me too. I'm embracing it.

A lot of progressives believe in engaging people like the ones pictured here in some kind of dialogue, as though they can be appealed to on a rational level to give up their deeply ingrained prejudices and hatreds. Why? What is the point of trying to reason with unreasonable people? Nothing they believe is based on reason, rationality, facts, or evidence. It would make no difference, for example, to politely explain that if the city council denied permission to build some scam artist's megachurch they would be squirting blood from their eyes in rage. The "evidence" that supports their beliefs – mosques as repositories of weapons and terrorists – are nothing more than a recitation of their subconscious insecurities and fears. Do you think explaining that to them will matter? I don't. They don't deserve any of your time or energy. The only thing they deserve is derision.

Call it classism, snobbery, or whatever you want. In my view the best thing to do is ignore them and let time, the law, and social change steamroll them into irrelevance. Just go to court, win the right to build the thing, and forget that any of these people exist. One of the reasons they're so freaked out these days is that they are getting outnumbered and a lot of them are nearing death. Let's use that to our advantage and save everyone the frustration and wasted effort involved in trying to deal with them like adults.


Posted in Rants on September 8th, 2015 by Ed

In my 36 years I have seen some ridiculous things. I've seen Battlefield:Earth. I've seen adult human beings dump ice on their heads in honor of a motor-neuron disorder. I've seen Carrot Top live (I was 16, come on). I've seen three black lesbians karaoke "Dam That River" by Alice in Chains. I've seen a Chicago Transit Authority bus driver freestyle-A cappella a song about a woman who broke his heart in a bar. I've seen people wait in a three hour queue to eat at Olive Garden. And I deal regularly with 19 year old American college students. So I've seen some shit that left me scratching my head.

This Kim Davis / Hitlerjugend rally, though, might take the cake.

If this wasn't intended to be self-parody, they've accidentally discovered the art form and perfected it the way Henning Brand discovered phosphorus in 1669 while trying to distill gold from his urine by boiling it. They played "Eye of the Tiger." They really did. At least Survivor gets a royalty check out of this. Did I mention I saw Survivor play "Taste of Oak Lawn" in 1995, presumably for beer instead of money? It was dignified compared to this.

The thing that bothers me is that it's so painfully obvious what she's doing here. It's a pattern and she's merely the latest one. Take some kind of nonsensical stand against The Homos. Wave the Bible around a lot. Say incoherent things about the First Amendment. Become a national pariah to most but a martyr-hero to a select group off of whom you will live like a well-hidden parasite for the rest of your days. Book deals. The right wing lecture circuit. Paid appearances at every Christian Right event from here until the end of time. And of course, the inevitable GoFundMe. That worked out pretty well for the no-gays pizza parlor in Indiana. How long do you think it would have taken them to make $844,000 selling shitty pizza in the middle of a cornfield? Took about three days to raise that amount on social media.

This is the new white trash, pearl clutching version of winning the lottery. Sometimes I wonder if I should just announce some day that I refuse to teach gay students, wait about a week for the publicity to build, throw up a GoFundMe, and then tell everyone I was trolling all along after I get the first quarter-million bucks. Why not? This is a cynical, crass game. There is nothing principled about this, no more so than faking a slip-and-fall injury in a Walmart and trying to cash in on the lawsuit. Rather than being disgusted or, god help you, impressed by this spectacle I wish everyone could see it for exactly what it is: an audition.


Posted in Rants on September 7th, 2015 by Ed

Veteran readers will find this first part familiar, but it is not without a certain irony that Americans bear the insults of our cousins in Europe. God knows there is plenty to insult and plenty of valid reasons to look at the United States with a mixture of disgust and condescension. Our society is violent beyond what Europeans can imagine outside of a civil war, and we have ridiculous levels of poverty despite our extensive wealth. Our social problems regarding race are embarrassing and heartbreaking. It's remarkably easy for a European to look at us and say, "There go the ignorant Americans again, shooting each other because they're afraid of anyone who's different." It's a fair point.

The irony, as I see it, comes from Europeans' overestimation of how well they deal with these same issues. Sure, income inequality is less severe and gun violence is only a fraction of what Americans live with. But when it comes to looking down their noses at us because of the way we fumble issues like race and immigration…maybe look in the mirror, friends. When the chips are down, there is a lot of evidence that Europeans really, really don't like immigrants. Especially immigrants who may be different than white Christian Europe's modal citizen. Especially if they're dark skinned and look as though they might worship a different god.

In reality the nations of the EU have handled the Syrian refugee flows pretty well, certainly compared to the pitiful response of the wealthier nations of the Middle East who have done nearly nothing. At the same time we see plenty of evidence that the old nationalist / xenophobic fears are not far beneath the surface. A shocking new poll shows that more than half of UK voters now favor leaving the EU solely over fears of immigration – and we're not talking about Polish Plumbers here. Further, while every EU nation has extended a welcome helping hand to the migrants initially, after only a trickle (and a few days) have been admitted there are already familiar hints that humanitarianism goes only so far. Well-placed leaks suggest that, "Austria and Germany warned they can't keep up with the influx of refugees and said (border agencies) must begin to slow the pace." That translates to, "When the media attention fades, close the gate."

America deals with a porous border that is crossed by hundreds of thousands of migrants each year. In most cases the migration is economic in nature: Mexicans and Central Americans want to come here to earn more in exchange for working like horses. Syrians, Afghans, and Iraqis are fleeing for their actual lives (although in the areas of Mexico most badly affected by the drug war, the same could likely be said). Contrary to what Republicans claim, our society chugs along just fine with our large amount of immigration; I would argue it actually makes us stronger. Would 200,000 immigrants, mostly families with children, really bring continental Europe to a grinding halt? I'm no expert but that seems highly unlikely. What seems far more likely is that they would melt into the 10-15 countries into which they could be admitted, joining the same underclass that people like them occupy throughout the western world.


Posted in Rants on September 1st, 2015 by Ed

This weekend I did something I rarely do – something most Americans rarely do. I interacted with human beings above my social status. I am bad at it. Look surprised.

Every so often I end up in such situations and although you could accuse me with justification of being hyper-sensitive to it, I am always struck by the differences in the narratives people of different backgrounds unfold in conversation. It's a useful reminder, on the off chance that you need one, about how class and privilege still dominate every aspect of our society. Maybe it's just me – I'm a storyteller in social situations, and maybe that encourages others to respond in kind. But they're hardly the same stories.

When you hang around Ivy League people, it is immediately apparent that they interact almost exclusively with other Ivy League people (and why wouldn't they?) in their professional, if not personal, lives. You can listen to a Harvard person talk about their entire family and every person they've ever considered a friend without hearing about 1) anyone who isn't almost cartoonishly well off financially, although since it is normal to Them they would not consider it as such, or 2) anyone in a profession that isn't some variation of the all-encompassing Business. Nobody is a middle school teacher. Nobody is a dentist. Nobody is in Human Resources. It may be called a variety of nebulous things – Consulting, Marketing, Business, Development, etc. – but inevitably it entails making vast amounts of money to jet around the world doing nothing anyone can identify as work based on qualifications divorced from any skill set. Everybody lives in New York or San Francisco or LA or, if they're really slumming it, maybe Boston before they move to France or London or Hong Kong because Business and do any other parts of the world even exist? If so, why?

You know what we could really use? More think pieces about how wealthy elites inside the exclusionary circle of expensive prep schools, Ivy League universities, and Mystery Business are so f'n bored with being rich and successful.

After you listen to them talk about their lives and their friends for a while you won't be able to stop thinking about how they clearly don't know anyone like you and you clearly don't know anyone like them. My friends went to cheap public universities and do the kind of things that rich people deem useful enough to keep around – mainly babysitting their children for 18 years, providing them with healthcare, and incarcerating one another until they feel safe. Their friends do Business and apparently hopscotch from expensive city to expensive city around the globe, which doesn't count as vacation but don't worry they take plenty of those too and apparently vacations last several months? Who can say, really. It's all a mystery.

There are exceptions. Magazine pieces can always tout a handful of college dropouts who became Big Successes. Every hayseed university has its list of Famous Alumni who got rich in some appropriately salt of the earth manner. But that merely encourages the delusion of class mobility that Americans cling to like a life raft. For 99% of us, what we think of as "success" would probably make actually successful people double over in laughter. It sucks, but you might as well try to stop the tides. All you need to know is that yes, there is a club. And you're not in it. You just happen to meet a few of its members here and there. If sociologically analyzing their conversation doesn't interest you, just make a game out of counting how many boats are referenced per anecdote.