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Saturday, August 28, 2004

Life's Rich, Bageant 

Just because it's been a while and we were starting to get lonesome without him, two scoops of the redneck-Buddhist-socialist writer we admire most, Joe Bageant:

Bageant the First, a doleful song of love gone sour, dedicated to the 37th-best healthcare system in the world (as ranked by the WHO):
Anyway, with this older crowd of karaoksters from America's busted-up laboring lumpen, you can count on least one version of "Good Hearted Woman" or a rendition of "Coal Miner's Daughter," performed with little skill but a lot of beery heart and feeling. And when it comes to heart and feeling, the best in town is a woman named Dottie. Dot is 59 years old, weighs almost 300 pounds and sings Patsy Cline nearly as well as Patsy sang Patsy. Dot can sing "Crazy" and any other Patsy song ever recorded and a few that went unrecorded. Dot knows Patsy's unrecorded songs because she knew Patsy personally, as did lots of other people still living in Winchester . . . .

By the time my people hit 60 they look like a bunch of hypertensive red faced toads in a phlegm coughing contest. Fact is, we are even unhealthier than we look. Doctors tell us that we have blood in our cholesterol and the cops tell us there is alcohol in that blood. True to our class, Dottie is disabled by heart trouble, diabetes and several other diseases. Her blood pressure is so high the doctor at first thought the pressure device was broken. Insurance costs her as much as rent. Her old man makes $8.00 an hour washing cars at a dealership, and if everything goes just right they have about $55 a week for groceries, gas and everything else. But if an extra expense as small as $30 comes in, they compensate by not filling one of Dot's prescriptions---or two or three of them---in which case she gets sicker and sicker until they can afford the copay to refill the prescriptions again. At 59, these repeated lapses into vessel popping high blood pressure and diabetic surges pretty much guarantee that she won't collect Social Security for long after she reaches 63. If she reaches 63. One of these days it will truly be over when the fat lady sings . . . .

Yet the local Social Security administrators, cold Southern Calvinist hardasses who treat federal dollars as if they were entirely their own---being responsible with the taxpayers' money---have said repeatedly that Dot is capable of fulltime work. To which Dot once replied, "Work? Lady, I cain't walk nor half see. I cain't even get enough breath to sing a song. What the hell kinda work you think I can do? Be a tire stop in a parkin' lot?" Not one to be cowed by mere human misery, the administrator had Dot bawling her eyes out before she left that office. In fact, Dottie cries all the time now. Even so, she will sing one, maybe two songs tonight. Then she will get down off the stage with the aid of her cane and be helped into a car and be driven home.

Although my people seem to step on their own dicks (I couldn't think of a female metaphor) every time they get near polling place, it is not entirely because we are drunken inbreds, although it is a contributing factor. The truth is that Dottie would vote for any candidate, black, white, crippled blind or crazy, that she thought would actually help her. I know because I have asked her if she would vote for a president who wanted a nationalized health care program?" "Vote for him? I'd go down on him!" Voter approval doesn't get much stronger than that . . . .

I often think the culture wars are just more educated liberal silliness, cocktail chat that never touches the heart of the problem---which is that gutless soft liberals refuse to cross class lines and meet their suffering brothers and sisters face to face right here on this earth. The Republicans did a great job of this in grassroots organizing, and they were selling bullshit and a screwjob. Imagine what an honest populist effort might do.
And Bageant the Second, in which Joe, on his way to an unmarked black helipad, drives directly over the National Morlock Preserve:
Beneath the sandwich and cigarette wrappers on the floor of my truck, beneath this road and down hundreds of feet within the earth gleams a city planned for the Apocalypse. A complete underground city with apartments and dormitories, cafeterias, a hospital, its own transit system, a battery powered subway. It has TV communication, streets and sidewalks, a water purification system, power plant and general office buildings. A small lake fed by fresh underground springs dreams in its artificial lighting. That's what former government workers who have served inside Mount Weather have said. Others say it is no fancier than your average Army base to be found anywhere in the world, but with a lake. Ever since the Eisenhower administration, this has been the designated place where the important people in government will go in a nuclear emergency or national disaster. Mount Weather is the hub of a nerve center of about 100 other Federal Relocation Centers, which guarantee that the really big players in the game escape even the worst disasters they create with their asses intact. In every likelihood, this "undisclosed location" sheltered Dick Cheney during 911. Employees say it did. To be in charge of the nation from the bowels of this bizarre monument to the Cold War thinking would give far saner people than Cheney Doctor Strangelovian delusions. So we can only speculate what a congenitally paranoid old reptile like Cheney must have experienced. He must have had quite a time keeping that reflexive gloved hand in his lap. Throw in the fact that most of the hired help down there in the hidden city are born-again fundamentalist Christian pod people, (mainly because that's about all we have around here) and I don't know about you, but I cannot think of a stranger damned place on this earth.

Mount Weather has always been controversial. Back in 1975 Senator John Tunney complained that Mount Weather held dossiers on more than 100,000 Americans and that huge "bubble domed" computer banks were compiling data on virtually all Americans. He felt Mount Weather was "out of control." We will never know if it was. After two Senate hearings were successfully stonewalled by Mount Weather officials, the inquiry died. At that time Mount Weather's "survivor list" had 6,500 names on it. Understandably, just who made it onto the list was a hot item of Capitol Hill gossip and a grisly status symbol of sorts. Chief Justice Earl Warren is said to have been hacked off because, although he made the survivor's list, his wife did not.

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