Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball: Capitalism is dead, but we still dance with the corpse By Joe Bageant

6 July, 2010 — Joe Bageant

Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico — As an Anglo European white guy from a very long line of white guys, I want to thank all the brown, black, yellow and red people for a marvelous three-century joy ride. During the past 300 years of the industrial age, as Europeans, and later as Americans, we have managed to consume infinitely more than we ever produced, thanks to colonialism, crooked deals with despotic potentates and good old gunboats and grapeshot. Yes, we have lived, and still live, extravagant lifestyles far above the rest of you. And so, my sincere thanks to all of you folks around the world working in sweatshops, or living on two bucks a day, even though you sit on vast oil deposits. And to those outside my window here in Mexico this morning, the two guys pruning the retired gringo’s hedges with what look like pocket knives, I say, keep up the good work. It’s the world’s cheap labor guys like you — the black, brown and yellow folks who take it up the shorts — who make capitalism look like it actually works. So keep on humping. Remember: We’ve got predator drones.

After twelve generations of lavish living at the expense of the rest of the world, it is understandable that citizens of the so-called developed countries have come to consider it quite normal. In fact, Americans expect it to become plusher in the future, increasingly chocked with techno gadgetry, whiz bang processed foodstuffs, automobiles, entertainments, inordinately large living spaces — forever.

We’ve had plenty of encouragement, especially in recent times. Before our hyper monetized economy metastasized, things such as housing values went through the sky, and the cost of basics, food etc. went through the basement floor, compared to the rest of the world. The game got so cheap and fast that relative fundamental value went right out the window and hasn’t been seen since. For example, it would be very difficult to make Americans understand that a loaf of bread or a dozen eggs have more inherent value than an iPhone. Yet, at ground zero of human species economics, where the only currency is the calorie, that is still true.

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Live from Planet Norte: Totalitarian democracy and the politics of plunder By Joe Bageant

27 June, 2010 — Joe Bageant, Winchester, Virginia

Starting with the Homeland Security probe at Washington’s Reagan Airport, arrival back in the United States resembles an alien abduction to a planet of bright lights, strange beings and incomprehensible behavior. The featureless mysophobic landscape of DC’s Virginia suburbs seems to indicate that homogenuity and sterility are the native religions. Especially after spending eight months in Mexico’s pungent atmosphere of funky, sensual open air markets, rotting vegetation, smoking street food grills, sweat, agave nectar and ghost orchids.

The uniformity on Planet Norte is striking. Each person is a unit, installed in life support boxes in the suburbs and cities; all are fed, clothed by the same closed-loop corporate industrial system. Everywhere you look, inhabitants are plugged in at the brainstem to screens downloading their state approved daily consciousness updates. iPods, Blackberries, notebook computers, monitors in cubicles, and the ubiquitous TV screens in lobbies, bars, waiting rooms, even in taxicabs, mentally knead the public brain and condition its reactions to non-Americaness. Which may be defined as anything that does not come from of Washington, DC, Microsoft or Wal-Mart.

For such a big country, the “American experience” is extremely narrow and provincial, leaving its people with approximately the same comprehension of the outside world as an oyster bed. Yet there is that relentless busyness of Nortenians. That sort of constant movement that indicates all parties are busy-busy-busy, but offers no clue as to just what they are busy at.

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Joe Bageant: Lost on the Fearless Plain

12 May, 2010 — Joe Bageant

Big Brother’s got that ju-ju, Gaia’s got the blues — hologram, carry me home


Ajijic, Mexico — I’ve spent most of this week watching American television and movies. I leave the TV on all night long. I toss and turn with my bad back, and bad lungs, catch a rerun episode of Two and a Half Men, or CSI, and conk out again. Then I awaken to the U.S. morning talk shows. It’s a grueling regimen, only for the strong. Or the lonely. For periodic relief, I switch to Mexican television (be patient, I really am going somewhere with this). Mexican TV is not one iota better than US television, but is veeerrry heavy on the booty. More than heavy. Astronomical. Think all-but-bare tits and ass close-ups every fifteen seconds, straight through commercials, dramas, comedy shows, history shows, and even the news where possible. Every show but the bullfights and that old nun who comes on at ten PM, who invariably drives me back to the U.S. channels.

Ahhhh … Safely in the American national illusion, where all the world’s a shopping expedition. Or a terrorist threat. No matter, as long as it is colorful and wiggles on the theater state’s 400 million screens. Plug in and be lit up by the American Hologram.

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Joe Bageant: There ain’t no escape from collapse

22 April, 2010 — Joe Bageant

In response to a letter from a reader (Joe, why did you crap out on us?), you wrote: ‘Places like Ecuador, northern California — all sorts of places — creating little spots of sustainability as best as possible.’

Since the US is the nexus of all the fraud, empire, control, and will thus be the center of the pain in the upcoming financial collapse (AND contains a huge percentage of ‘useless eaters’, i.e. superfluous workers) have you given any thought as to where the best places/countries in the world will be to ‘hang out’ while the Collective Madness and Economic Collapse take over?



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Joe Bageant: Joe, why did you crap out on us?

15 April, 2010 — Joe Bageant

Did everything get so hopeless you just gave up? I liked your fighting spirit here, in 2004, and feel when you’ve got a voice, as you have, we’d appreciate hearing it as a call to arms instead of an old man’s complaints. I can say this without being ageist, I’m probably older than you.

So get out of my way and Katy bar the door! I for one am taking to the streets, joining every damned faggot commie tree hugging protest march that comes rattling the pike. I don’t care if these are the last days of the empire of the locusts. I don’t care if the entire jackal nation is at our very throats. Let whatever history remains record that some of us went down with a fight, and that perhaps a few of us indeed became ‘sages with transfigured faces’.

The economy stinks, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done — that in itself is an indictment of our economic policy.

The environment is trashed. Even more work to be done here.

In the meantime the jackals are winning.

Just some thoughts.




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Cantina Tolteca — pissing away them Kokopelli blues (or) Visions of el rio — Live from the cantina of no return By Joe Bageant

22 March, 2010 — Joe Bageant

Jalisco, Mexico – Cantina Tolteca is one of those manly Mexican watering holes, where you piss up against a tile barroom wall while ordering the next round from a passing barmaid. With a beer and three shots of mescal in your sails, and the jukebox playing La Paloma, a man feels about as free and unselfconscious here as he ever likely to in this world. Which is what men’s bars are for to begin with.

Aside from a couple of putas (and one puto) who roll in after 9 PM, few women and almost no gringos come into the Tolteca. They pass by the Tolteca’s plate glass window, the gringo men in their new L.L. Bean Indiana Jones canvas hats, the Mexican mamas with trays of pastries for sale, the gringas in their long tourist shop skirts. Sometimes they glance briefly into the glass, which for them is a mirror, and then keep on walking. Watching them from inside the dim bar is rather like watching a brightly lit aquarium with countless odd fish floating by.

Occasionally a cop pauses in the doorway, silhouetted against the outside glare. But “the cop ain’t gonna do nothing,” says a tall sixty-something gringo named Larry. “Not unless you get inna fight. And if you don’t have sense enough to apologize and get the hell out of here immediately, he’ll probably arrest you.

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Joe Bageant: From Wall Street to Skank Street

16 March, 2010 — Joe Bageant

Poking the frog at Gunther’s Garage

If you have the balls to stand up to Gunther Gatlin, and pay in cash, you just might manage to get him to do his job, which is fixing cars. Gunther’s Garage is jammed in between an unpainted shotgun shack and a weedy vacant lot on a skanky little side street in Winchester, Virginia. The place is really an illegal junkyard, but slips through the city code masquerading as a garage.

Patronizing Gunther’s is not for wallflowers, gays, feminists or Yankees. You do not go there unless you don’t mind being insulted. Gunther has a habit of greeting customers with remarks such as: ‘So what the hell is your problem?’ Once he addressed a gay guy as ‘Twinkles.’ Sometimes he will just stand there, grease all over his Hawaiian shirt, pulling on his suspenders, and with a poignant pause, ask what a customer thinks is wrong with the vehicle. He listens thoughtfully, eyes toward the ground, then looks up and says, ‘Well that’s the dumbest goddamned thing I ever heard.’

Gunther can make you feel like crawling away through the crack under the garage door, or make you feel like popping him in his unshaven jaw. However, one thing Gunther will not do is cheat or overcharge you. Another thing he will not do is let a vehicle fail state inspection. Just about any vehicle that can be pushed into the garage’s oily littered gloom will roll out the other side bearing the great state of Virginia’s stamp of road worthiness. As the owner of an ancient rotted out, Toyota truck with bald tires, Gunther’s got my business for life.

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Joe Bageant: Moon Over Gringo Gulch

4 March, 2010 — Joe Bageant

In God we can only trust, but in hashish rests assurance

Poolside in Ajijic, Mexico. The heavy red faced guy in the khaki Bermudas and powder blue polo shirt is telling the seventyish woman, the one with her breasts hauled up and strapped down into a boob loaf, that he ditched his oxygen tank for this party. Which was damned thoughtful of him, since the sight of such things only reminds us geezers and geezerettes what a geriatric camp Ajijic’s ‘Gringo Gulch’ really is. (Still, my COPD was killing me and I wished I had not thrown away my own oxy tank in a fit of stubborn refusal.)

Ajijic is one of those sunny roosting places south of the horse latitudes preferred by aging Americans who’ve put away a few bucks, and Canadians whose government still stands behind its national retirement plan, for the time being at least. They come here in winter, from Buffalo, Scranton and Calgary, Ontario and Ohio, to roast aching bones, drink among others who can remember Sonny and Cher’s first hit record, and, as is the case particularly with the Canadians, to smoke pot. An American never quite gets over the sight of half a dozen retired middle class seventy year olds in puffy white velcro strap tennis shoes, nonchalantly passing a fat bomber.

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Round Midnight  — tortillas and the corporate state By Joe Bageant

24 February, 2010 — joebageant.com

Ajijic, Mexico – Near midnight and I am making tortillas on an iron skillet over a gas flame. Some three thousand miles to the north, my wife and dog nestle in sleep in the wake of a 34-inch snowstorm, while the dogs of Ajijic are barking at the witching hour and roosters crow all too early for the dawn. Yet here I am awake and patting out tortillas, haunted by the empire that I have called home most of my life.

I like to think that, for the most part, I no longer live up there in the U.S., but southward of its ticking social, political and economic bombs. Because the US debt bomb has not yet gone off, Social Security still exists, and the occasional royalty check or book advance still comes in, allowing me to remain here. And so long as America’s perverse commodities economy keeps stumbling along and making lifelike noises, so long as the American people accept permanent debt subjugation — I can drink, think and burn tortillas. Believe me, I take no smugness in this irony.

There is a terrible science fiction-like awe in the autonomous American economic monolith, in the way that it provides for us, feeds on us and keeps us as its both its lavish pets and slaves. The commodity economy long ago enslaved Americans and other “developed” capitalist societies, especially Americans. The most profound slavery must be that in which the slaves can conceive of no other possible or better world than their bondage. Inescapable, global, all permeating, the commodities economy rules so thoroughly most cannot imagine any other possible kind of economy.


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Joe Bageant: Once more for the record

22 February, 2010 — Joe Bageant

An update on The Annotated Obama
Obviously Barack Obama has wiped his ass on his campaign promises. That’s yesterday’s news. Americans demand jazzy new and ever more shocking ‘news’ daily, or else they fall asleep before their TV sets face down in their sausage pizzas from Brooklyn to Beaumont (or their fat free vegan lentil soup, as the case may be on the West Coast). Which means that if the accelerating economic collapse is sure to drown out such mundane stuff as the Constitution, surveillance, international kidnapping and star chamber military tribunals. Add to that such roaring distractions as the emerging new Weimar American dollar and Tiger Woods’ tearful apology for having more side action than any one man is entitled to, Obama may yet come through relatively unscathed. If he keeps up the charm and waits long enough, the public will give him a pass for lying like a whore at a police station during his campaign. But some things are so important they need to be restated and hammered on for as long as possible, lest we wake up to find a fascist state hammering on us. (Right now it just bitch slaps us around daily).

So briefly, one more time for the record:

End the war in Iraq: His plan appears to be turning down the burner, but not ending the war. At the same time, he has turned it up in Afghanistan.

End kidnapping and torture: His administration, through CIA director Leon Panetta, has declared that the right to kidnap (extraordinary rendition) will continue. Obama did ban waterboarding, as promised, but sanctions force feeding and other excruciating techniques banned under the Geneva Convention.

Restore American domestic and foreign policy to U.S. Constitutional ideals: Obama has adopted military commissions (to prosecute terrorism cases in which no legitimate convictions can be made). This is the highest possible violation our Constitutional ideal. Obama also flaunts the principle of habeas corpus, which he once called ‘the essence of who we are.’ Secret prisons continue to surface.

Restore citizen privacy: Instead, the Obama Justice Department has reinforced the Bush Administration’s surveillance practices through a claim of claim of ‘sovereign immunity,’ granting his administration the right to do so.

Close Guantanamo: Obviously, the lights are still on down there, because we are still getting the bill.”

Joe Bageant: MP3 file of Joe on the Jeff Farias Show

9 February, 2010 — Joe Bageant


When it comes to being interviewed, one of my very favorite radio hosts is Jeff Farias. Most liberal radio interviewers get caught up in the Empire’s media noise, and become part of the self-referential circle jerk of facts and figures and mainstream media citations that pass for news and information in this country. Apparently talking like two human beings is a big no-no these days (unless it’s pointless talk radio jibber-jabber, or emotional outraged call-in stuff, which seems to be permissible, if one adheres to the demographic slicing and dicing conducted by those of the Empire’s commissars called marketers). But talking to Jeff is like sitting in the back yard with a cold drink and just chatting about the state of things. Kind of free form, and relaxed. Laughing is permitted. Real homey. We need more shows like his.

Click here for MP3 audio file, download or stream.

In art and labor,

Joe Bageant

Joe Bageant interviewed by Ian Masters, KPFK

27 January, 2010 — Joe Bageant

On Sunday, Jan 24, I was a guest on Ian Masters’ Background Briefing radio show, KPFK, Los Angeles. Ian’s show is noted for its hard authoritative analysis by America’s leading political pundits and experts. Being neither, naturally I shotgunned my way through the interview as best I could. Listeners did not seem to mind. It’s downloadable as an MP3 file at

Joe Bageant Interview

The segment runs from 18:30 to 38:30 on the little slider do-jiggy on the media player.

— Joe Bageant

Joe Bageant: Taking Tea with the Lizards

10 January, 2010 — Joe Bageant

Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico — The Republican Party will beat the living piss out of anybody for a buck. The Democrats will fly the flag of FDR, even as they pirate the public coffers on behalf of Wall Street. Don’t think the American people have not noticed these things. After thirty years of pistol whipping and emptying of their wallets, they’ve started to figure out there just may be a public robbery underway, with both parties as accomplices.

And so Americans at both ends of the political spectrum are finally wising up to the need for a third party. Even if it is a third party within their own party, which is no third party at all, of course. However, for Americans it’s all about branding, what you call a thing, that’s important. Call a six-ounce block of corn sugar with sunflower seeds and raisins stuck on the outside an ‘Organic Energy Bar’ and by god, you have natural food right there on the 7-Eleven shelf. What a thing is called is how a nation a people carefully bred for consumption will see it, thanks to that advertising arm of American capitalism called the news media

Presently surfacing from the frothing drek we call our political system is a thing called the Tea Party. Whether advertised as such or not, the Tea Party is viewed by millions as an emerging third party, or the functional equivalent of one. In some dark recess of the American consciousness — hard to tell which one because it’s all darkness and recession — millions have figured out that nobody is getting what they want or need from Congress, except the corporations that own Congress. Actually, dedicated voters on the far right are getting exactly what they have voted for — a police state — but do not recognize it yet. No matter. Millions are unhappy and one way or another, think a third party, or the threat of one at least, offers a solution. And how could you go wrong with a brand evoking hallowed images from Ms. Jenkins fourth grade history class of the Boston Tea Party?

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The Devil and Mr. Obama By Joe Bageant

8 December, 2009 — Joe Bageant

Barack promised change — and sure enough, things changed for the worse

(Note: Patrick Ward, associate editor of the UK’s Socialist Review asked Joe to write a piece for the party publication. This is the unabridged text of Joe’s submission.)

bageant-3.jpgWell lookee here! An invite from my limey comrades to recap Barack Obama’s first year in office. Well comrades, I can do this thing two ways. I can simply state that the great mocha hope turned out to be a Trojan horse for Wall Street and the Pentagon. Or I can lay in an all-night stock of tequila, limes and reefer and puke up the entire miserable tale like some 5,000 word tequila purged Congolese stomach worm. I have chosen to do the latter.

As you may know, Obama’s public approval ratings are taking a beating. Millions of his former cult members have awakened with a splitting hangover to find their pockets turned inside out and eviction notices on the doors of their 4,000 square foot subprime mortgaged cardboard fuck boxes. Many who voted for Obama out of disgust for the Bush regime are now listening to the Republicans again on their car radios as they drive around looking for a suitable place to hide their vehicles from the repo man. Don’t construe this as support for the GOP. It’s just the standard ping ponging of disappointment and disgust that comes after the honeymoon is over with any administration. Most Americans’ party affiliations are the same as they were when Bush was elected. After all, Obama did not get elected on a landslide by any means; he got 51% of the vote.

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Joe Bageant: Buddy, can you spare me a lek?

21 November, 2009 — Joe Bageant.com

Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico

People often comment on the intelligence and insight, the humor and sincerity, of the letters Ken and I receive on joebageant.com. And they say that the readers write as if we have known each other all our lives. I respond that yes, we have, but just did not know each other’s names. And that many of us have been pretty much invisible and voiceless except to each other. And that, yes, my friends out there are indeed intelligent and clear eyed citizens. The American populace is often underestimated.

The fact is that America’s finest minds and souls have no voice in this chilling new corporate state that has evolved. And if we are not allowed a voice, if our monolithic system ignores us, pretends we do not exist, then for all practical purposes we do not exist. Therefore it does not have to offer us political candidates representing our views or change laws to reflect them. Nevertheless, we are out there — millions of us.

One of my biggest regrets regarding this site is that the success of Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War increased the volume of email to the point where I cannot answer it all like I used to do. I do however, read every one, and answer as many as is feasible these days.

This morning’s mailbox was the usual wonderful variety of letters, mostly responding to the current post, ‘Shoot the fat guys, hang the smokers.’ Many offered heartfelt smoking cessation advice, all of it from personal experience, honest and eminently more sensible than anything I’ve read elsewhere.

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The Iron Cheer of Empire: No free tortillas in the Workhouse Republic By Joe Bageant

29 October, 2009 — joebageant.com

ajijic3Ajijic, Mexico: Every afternoon when I knock off from writing, after I suck down a Modelo beer and take an hour nap, I step out onto the 400-year-old cobbled street, with its hap-scatter string of vendors lining both sides. All sorts of vendors — vegetable vendors, vendors of tacos, chicharrones, chenille bedspreads and plucked chickens, cigarros, soft drinks, sopa and suet. Merchants whose business address consists of a tiny one room aboratto or a card table in front of their casita.

Tourists seldom venture over to this working class neighborhood on Calle Zaragoza, and the neighborhood merchants’ customers are their neighbors. Their goods are the common fare of daily family life in Mexico. Today, at a table less than two blocks away, I purchased a dozen brown eggs, with the idea of making huevos rancheros. The purchase took three quarters of an hour, and included stumbling but cheerful half English/half Spanish conversations with the six vendors between my casita and the table of Gabriel, the old egg and cheese vendor with an artificial leg and wizened smile who assures me that rooster fertilized eggs make a man go all night. “I am too old to care about that,” I half say, mostly in that gesturing rudimentary sign language understood everywhere.

“Hawwww” he chortles and says something in Spanish I cannot understand. An English speaking bystander, a teenager with a backward baseball cap and dressed in “L.A. sag,” translates: “He says his pendejo is as hard as his plastic leg. You still alive! You never too old!”

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LONGVIEW: Deer Hunting With Jesus

Much has been said about white working-class voters. But those who’ve been doing all the talking are pollsters and political operatives. As part of our Long View series, ANP traveled to rural Virginia to talk to someone who’s lived the life and knows from personal experience what those voters are thinking — author Joe Bageant. His highly-acclaimed recent book, Deer Hunting With Jesus, was lauded by one reviewer as a “raging, hilarious, and profane love song to the great American redneck.” In addition to being that, it’s also one of the most prescient pieces of analysis about American politics and culture in this election year (2008).


more about “LONGVIEW: Deer Hunting With Jesus“, posted with vodpod

Joe Bageant: Obama’s Fight for Reform

26 August, 2009 — Joe Bageant

Lay off the footwork and throw a punch!

Almost a year after the Great Giddy Swarming of the Obamians last November, some of the revelers are waking up with one booger of a hangover. And they are asking themselves, ‘What were we thinking when we had that tenth drink of Democratic Party Kool-Aid?’ It was a clear cut case of seduction and date rape. The spike in the drink was, of course, hope. Poor pathetic American liberals. Forever doomed to be naive freshmen at the senior beer bash.

We try to take comfort in that we won’t have to listen to or look at John McCain or Sarah Palin for four years, except in the American Legion Magazine and in Palin’s case, as a centerfold in the next issue of Middle Aged Skin. OK, we really are grateful. But could the pathetic McCain-Palin clown act possibly have created much more havoc than what we are seeing?

Case in point: I got up this morning to the headline: ‘Social Security Checks to Shrink.’ Surely this makes a slew of Generation Xers cackle with glee. But some of us are trying to stay drunk on that check until our date with a heart attack or one of those death panels the Republicans are yammering about. Since January I’ve been telling my wife we could expect Social Security to start shrinking. Ever the concerned citizen, she replies ‘Can’t you find another jag to get on? Eight months for god sake!’

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Joe Bageant: How much freedom can one man stand?

22 August, 2009 — Joe Bageant

Not much more, dear hearts, not much more

Freedom comes in many forms in America, and new forms are constantly being created. The latest has been freedom from basic financial security. The weakened economy has given corporatists an excuse to, as they say, ‘let workers go.’ Which sounds as if companies are granting employees some sort of freedom: ‘Go on George, twenty years on the job is long enough, so git outta here. Have yourself a ball!’

By that measure, there have never been a more free people. Now benevolently relieved of their job responsibilities, millions are free to do almost anything they choose, go fishing — or take up the banjo. At the moment 14 million Americans have been granted freedom, with another three or four million expected to be pardoned before the economy ‘levels out,’ meaning more people will lose their jobs, but at a slower rate. Of those 14 million liberated souls, six million are so free they can even take the family on a year-long round the world trip, if they so choose. They need no longer report in at the (un)employment office because their benefits have expired. One little suggestion for their trip abroad: visit the guy in Asia who now has your job. With a little effort, I’m sure you can get over the barbed wire topped steel mesh fence enclosing the factory’s ‘attached employee housing compound’ in Sichuan Province.

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The Entertainment Value of Snuffing Grandma — A nation of children roots for the Mafia

Every day I get letters asking me to weigh in on the health care fracas. As if a redneck writer armed with a keyboard, a pack of smokes and all the misinformation and vitriol available on the Internet could contribute anything to the crap storm already in progress. Besides that, my unreasoned but noisy take on this issue is often about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit. None of which has ever stopped me from making a fool of myself in the past. So here goes.

There ain’t any healthcare debate going on, Bubba. What is going on are mob negotiations about insurance, and which mob gets the biggest chunk of the dough, be it our taxpayer dough or the geet that isn’t in ole Jim’s impoverished purse. The hoo-ha is about the insurance racket, not the delivery of health care to human beings. It’s simply another form of extorting the people regarding a fundamental need — health.

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