… It was the kind of crowd that would have made the Fool Killer lower his club, shake his head and walk away, frustrated by the magnitude of the opportunity.
Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff
Here’s one for the Fool Killer. I saw an ad on TV last night, at about two in the morning, one of those sales pitches for a product that will definitely change your life, so please for the love of Christ call right this minute, we’ve got a bank of lonely operators standing by. It was a purported super-flashlight, powerful enough, in its unique strobe light mode, to pummel muggers and home invaders into a state of dazzled and disoriented helplessness. It could light up the whole front of your house, everything standing out in high relief with crisp shadows, at a distance of what looked to be about 200 yards. This flashlight was so powerful that if you pointed it at the sky, some alien astronomer would recoil from his eyepiece three billion years from now. Not only that, but you could submerge it in water, even boiling water (albeit to a prescribed limit of 212 degrees, the lowest setting), freeze it in a block of ice, even drive over it with a Humvee. Just try that with another flashlight, Jack.
I was reminded of the pitch made by the Monty Python crew for a business suit made out of a new wonder-fabric. You could get mud on it. You could get oil on it. You could smear it with red wine and greasy food.**
** But that’ll ruin it.
Neil Young, having seen something similar, wrote a song called Piece of Crap, which goes like this:
Saw it on the tube
Bought it on the phone
Now you’re home alone
It’s a piece of crap
So, nothing new about the nocturnal hawking of doodads you’ll get in the mail, but that isn’t what grabbed me. It was their twist on the mandatory generous offer to buy one and get a second one free – the additional item was yours for absolutely nothing, “just pay separate fee”. Not even the old “shipping and handling” dodge, no, just pay separate fee. No bones about it. It’s all yours, gratis, you insomniac infomercial-watching rube, all you have to do to get your free flashlight is pay for it.
There’s a certain beauty, a purity, to that kind of grift, don’t you think? (So what’s the grift? asks one. The grift is that there is no grift, comes the answer.) I dunno, maybe this technique pre-dates the installation of Der Donald in the White House, but doesn’t it seem perfectly consonant with the new normal in the Age of Trump? The carnival barkers can barely be bothered to come up with a scam anymore. They just put up signs that say “Come Over Here to be Fleeced, Please, as I Very Much Wish to Fleece You”. As the crowd stampedes, the guy with the club shakes his head.
It isn’t quite that bad in the Senate today, but nearly. As I write this, it’s not yet certain that their heinous “tax reform” package has the votes to pass, but the Republicans are hell-bent, and I wouldn’t bet against them. They’ve been trotting out the usual lies to sell the old scam, in a decidedly half-hearted way, invoking the magic Laffer curve and claiming that it’s actually a middle class tax break, and not modern history’s largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, but you can tell they don’t really expect anybody to buy it. Just last night, a second non-partisan assessment affirmed what the Congressional Budget Office had already concluded, that the “reform” will add maybe a trillion bucks to the national debt, maybe more, purely for the benefit of the wealthy paymasters who fund the elections of all those spineless, boot-licking Senators. That set them back on their heels a bit, but they’re forging ahead.
I haven’t even bothered to check the latest news to find out what sort of new bullshit camouflage they’ve coopered up for their festering tax bill, but what does it matter? They might just as well give it up and do like the flashlight hucksters do, perhaps by naming it the “J.D. Rockefeller Gilded Age Revival Act” or something.
And, oh yeah, they’re tossing in a gutting of Obamacare too. Those most likely to be left high and dry, the ones who compose a disproportionate share of the rock-steady Trumpian base, cheer at how their hero is draining the swamp and screwing the elites. The club drops.
As part of my new resolve to stop paying undivided attention to the high crimes and misdemeanors to the south, I tuned into CBC last night to watch The National. I haven’t done that for a while. What a relief – there was the same soothing sense of continuity that you get when you jump back into The Young and the Restless after giving it a break for a couple of years. Nicky was still into the booze and the pills, Victor Newman was still doing his impression of Erwin Rommel, the cosmetics were still being churned out at Jabot, and the Conservatives were pretending to be shocked, shocked, that the Finance Minister had dumped some stock out of his portfolio at the same time everybody else did, on the basis of the “inside information” he alone possessed about upcoming changes to the tax code – well, him alone, and the rest of Canada, since the proposed changes had been an election promise. Still – shocking, Mr. Speaker. They were snorting and heckling to the point that the Speaker, bless his heart, tossed one of them out.
Praise be. Here at home, we still have to manufacture bogus little scandals, there being no real ones. Blessed business as usual! Nothing that could even begin to distract the Fool Killer from his transfixed fascination with the goings-on down there in ‘Murica.
May it always be so.
I really want one of those flashlights.