Man vs Beer

The first beer I ever had was Budweiser. It’s amazing I ever drank beer again. It wasn’t the first booze I had – that was champagne on New Years Eve 1989, as befits Vanderbilt Man. Then when I started college, there was Bacardi silver (usually dumped in a Dr Pepper) and Asti Spumante (thanks to a new girlfriend in an Anne of Green Gables phase). But the first beer I remember having was on my birthday in 1991. I was turning 19. And it. Was. Disgusting.

Twenty-six years on, I have learned that apparently Budweiser does this on purpose. Whole hops, not pellets like many brewers use. Exacting quality control. “Beechwood aged.” As Pete Brown says, they are making this on purpose because they think this is what a quality beer tastes like. Which is truly a shame. By summer, my preferred alcoholic libation was vodka and Coca-Cola. By my senior year of college, it was the gin martini, served in quantity while watching Moonlighting reruns after class. I would drink Miller Lite if required, but any sort of cocktail was always preferable. Sometime in there I first made an effort at scotch and soda at some sorority function, and it was smoky and intriguing and I put that in the back of my head for later.

When I got to grad school, it was the age of red things. Red Dog was the official beer of the Vanderbilt Graduate Department of Political Science. We got through tons of it. I don’t know how. It’s not like it was good, but Gerst (the closest thing to a local microbrew in Nashville) was too expensive to obtain in quantity and Red Dog was…not. If we were boozing it up, my go-to was Jack Daniels Amber Lager while that was a thing – or better yet a Manhattan, the cocktail that Tracy J. said made me look like I didn’t have to prove anything. And that carried me right up to the end of my days in Nashville.

By the time I got to DC, I was part of a larger Internet community with a strong Boston contingent. So it became Sam Adams for a while. I’d even had the Samuel Adams Triple Bock once back at Vandy (one of the world’s finest syrupy beers) but I still spent the majority of my alcohol time with cocktails of one sort of another. I even have a copy of Paul Harrington’s Cocktail which I believe is worth about ten times what I paid for it. Maker’s Mark Manhattans, the “Drink Without A Name,” the occasional attempt at a Tom Collins, maybe a black and tan once in a while. And then, in a way, the dam was breached at the Vintage Virginia wine festival in 1999 when I had a nice dry amber cider that wasn’t sickly sweet and brought a nice punch without being leveling.

But then the 4Ps happened.

The loved and lamented Ireland’s Four Provinces, in Cleveland Park, Washington DC, was where almost everything important in our lives happened between January 2000 and June 2004. Birthdays were celebrated, co-workers were saluted in departure, new beaux were examined for faults, pipes were smoked and pints were drunk. And our Irishman swore to us that the 4Ps pulled the finest pint he’d had outside Ireland. I’d had Guinness before, of course, but this was the age before the rocket widget – bottled Guinness usually meant Extra Stout, not the creamy black perfection in the signature glass. 125 calories per 12 ounces, less than Coca-Cola. 4.2% ABV, comparable to an American light lager, which meant you wouldn’t die on those nights when you had ten or twelve in eight hours. It was smooth, it was flavorful, it was delightful. And because Washington DC had more Irish bars than the Bible has Psalms, it was available pretty much everywhere we ever drank, from the 4Ps to Nanny O’Brien’s to Fado to Mackey’s to the Four Courts.

Then I came West. There was still Guinness, but I found myself also drinking cocktails in a way I hadn’t in years. What with San Francisco being one of the world’s great centers of mixology, I found myself on a regular rotation through Bourbon & Branch, Local Edition, Clock Bar, House of Shields, Rickhouse, the Comstock Saloon…and that was just fine by me. Hawaii? Gimme a Mai Tai. Tokyo? That Scotch-and-matcha thing will do fine thank you. London? What’s the best you can do for whiskey? Drink it? Fine, Laphroaig. Schnapps in Salzburg. Elderflower gin in New York City. Anything at all at Trader Sam in Disneyland. And then, last January, I caned it pretty hard for the entire month before coming to the conclusion that it might be time to throttle down for a minute. And so for the entire month of February, it was only beer. And for some reason, I just never went back to the cocktails again. Not to say I never had one, but given the choice, for almost a full year now, when the menu comes out I’m looking down the list for whatever is the most local porter or stout or brown ale.

Okay, yes I’m late to the party on “craft beer,” but for good reason: somehow, all the craft beer scene in California (especially up North) is overwhelmingly focused on India Pale Ale, usually with as many hops as they can cram into it. Not to deny the efficacy of Cascade hops, but IPAs are showing up with IBU counts that are more suggestive of Scoville Unit counts on chili sauces with names like “Satan’s Shit.” It’s stunt brewing, and if you don’t want the most bitter thing you can gag down, you may have to go outside the Bay Area to find something that suits. And that’s entirely plausible. Last trip to Yosemite yielded “Sugar Pine Porter” from a local brewer. Down around Monterrey there’s a place doing cask-conditioned ales that show up at my favorite bar in San Jose. Last trip to Disneyland yielded a smoked imperial porter.

Or you could go to Birmingham, which is rapidly emerging as not only a remarkable food town but a legitimate beer town. I stayed at the Aloft in Homewood and drank at their bar, with four beers on tap. Every one of them was brewed within a 75 mile radius and not one of them was an IPA. The Vanillaphant vanilla porter from Avondale Brewing Company is a beer that would have changed my outlook on beer completely had it shown up twenty-five years earlier. Good People, Trim Tab, Cahaba Brewing…Birmingham has become a place to go drink beer, in a way that was inconceivable when Red Mountain Red Ale became its first local brew since before Prohibition.

Locally, though, the easiest thing to do is to stop at the nearby brewpub which fills a growler for $13 full of their brown ale or oatmeal stout (or, at the holidays, with something I just call Pie Beer – which, hold the applause, is a beer that tastes like pie). Or there are at least two or three bars I can think off right offhand with at least 20 or 30 beers on tap – one in Sunnyvale and two in San Jose. Which means that at any given time, without having to rely on the bartender’s ability to pull a proper Guinness, I have two or three things I can go for. And those have become the only bars I frequent, if you can even call it “frequent” at this point.

But something else happened this past year. One of the co-presidents of the San Francisco Vanderbilt Club is a big wheel at Lagunitas, the excellent Petaluma craft brewer, and among the many treats he brought to the Vandy-Stanford baseball tailgate was their fractional IPA. He also tipped me off to the Down Low, a beer they brewed originally for the Utah market, which is a perfectly functional craft beer that comes in at a slick 3.8% ABV. Not unlike Even Keel, the session IPA from Ballast Point down in San Diego. Later this year, we wound up in London, where I was greatly enjoying London Pride – and where I wound up buying books by Pete Brown, who apparently has written more about beer and the pub and drinking culture than anyone in Britain the last decade or so. And that’s where I found out that beer over 5% ABV was, until the last twenty-five years or so, almost unheard of in the UK. Indeed, for most of the 20th century, mild and bitter and the like were between 3.5 and 4.5% ABV and Stella Artois, at 5.2%, was considered a perilously strong “premium lager.”

And that rang a bell. Because at 4.2% ABV, Guinness was something you could have four or five of in an evening without ever losing your mind or feeling the worse for wear in the morning (in fairness, fifteen years on, that figure might be “two or three” instead). Meanwhile, an Imperial Porter at 9.9% is probably asking too much. Victory at Sea is a remarkable brew, but it’s also a swift ticket to a hangover if you have more than 20 oz of it in a single evening. That’s two and a half pints of Guinness for every pint of the Vic. Which was the other great discovery in London: bars routinely serve pints and half-pints. Not everything is meant to be consumed 20 ounces at a time. And there are plenty of times when a 10-ounce pull is just right – especially when you’re sampling the menu at my favorite place in San Jose for only $3.50 a half.

Here’s the thing: back when I was younger, the pipe and the whiskey-on-the-rocks got me tagged as looking like somebody’s grandpa. But the genuine mode of old-man-drink in the land of our ancestors is the pint or two, slowly staggered over the course of the entire evening. If you can feel the incapacitation, you’re already doing it wrong. At most, there should be a sort of unwinding, a relaxation, ironically the same peace-of-mind civilizing effect I once attributed to coffee in the morning fifteen years ago. If you want to go out and knock down eight pints, God bless you, but I’m not keeping up anymore. I’ll be over yonder in the comfy chair, with something dark in one hand and a Kindle in the other, relaxed in the dim light and reading my way away. Of which.

Here’s the thing…

…there were way too many people during the election saying “it’s all hype, it’s all talk, it’s all red meat for the base, he won’t actually do these things, there won’t be a wall, there won’t be a ban, you’re making a big deal out of nothing, you’re feeding the fear, you’re taking him literally but not seriously when you have to take him seriously but not literally.”


Wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s generally safe to assume that people mean what they say and say what they mean. So stop looking shocked. If you voted for Trump, you voted for this: travel ban, lost health insurance, Nazis in the NSC, the whole son of a bitch. That’s on you. Forever. If you don’t like it, you better start doing everything you can, every day, right now, to make things right. Because right now, to be a Republican is to assent to this.

And if you were one of those people saying there’s no difference between Trump and Clinton: go on and kill yourself. You’re too fucking stupid to live.

As then, so now

“Something was different last year, and if I had to put a finger on it, I’d say it’s when we all collectively realized that there may not be a happy ending.  Stupid keeps winning, ignorance keeps winning, racism and bigotry keep bubbling up even as we get traction on gay marriage, the climate keeps changing, the drought goes on, Congress gets more worthless and the media that covers it gets even more so, sports becomes ever more rigged and gimmicked and sports media gets ever more shrill and predictable, and the tech boom shoots money out of a firehose at complete assholes while everyone else tries to scrape by in a world where a suburban 3-bedroom townhouse can cost a million dollars.”

two years ago today

I kind of wish I hadn’t been that prescient, but there you go. One week in and I’ve already had to take one mental health day. I haven’t made it through a five-day workweek since mid-December.

“So I guess that’s why I haven’t been blogging. I don’t particularly want to engage with the world right now.  I want to punch out, take refuge in a fireplace on TV with the Christmas tree still up and my sweetie snuggled up nearby. Or in a quiet dark dive bar where I’m the youngest person around by at least ten years. Or in a dell near Weathertop a few days out of Bree with Black Riders no more than a day behind. Or in Las Vegas, or Tahoe, or Japan. Sometimes you just need an escape.”

Replace Vegas and Japan with, say, Greenock. Or Galway. Or hell, even Pismo Beach or Morro Bay. Or anywhere that has cold beaches and the sun setting into the sea. As it is, we still haven’t gotten the tree down…and once we do, there are a couple of battery-powered copper wires of LED lights that I can use for creating that ambiance in a pinch. 

But right now, it’s about just being able to pretend that the world isn’t coming to an end until I’m ready and able to help prevent it.

signed, sealed, delivered

He had my job.

All through high school, I had enough interest in politics and news and current events that I decided I was going to be a Senator and then President. And since I would turn 36 in 2008, I would be just in time to be the young exciting Democratic President that would sweep the nation and roll into the White House.

Funny story…

Did we get everything we hoped for? Not in the least. Mostly because of an implacable opposition determined to reject everything, eight years of scorched earth that I hope the Democrats are willing to replicate to save what we did get done. If not for record-setting use of the filibuster and complete destruction of norms, we have the first Democratic-appointed majority on the Supreme Court in decades, we have a public option for health insurance if not outright single-payer, Guantanamo Bay is closed, and the stimulus package in 2009 is considerably larger and maybe the money makes it all the way to everyone who needs it. Instead, we get what we have, which isn’t bad – twenty million more people insured, Iran’s nuclear program curtailed, some genuine movements on turning the tide of environmental degradation. You know, all the stuff Trump swears he’s going to reverse.

That’s why election week felt like a death in the family. Your world is changed, for the worse, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Today, though, the last day – this is the time for the cliche about “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Even if we weren’t able to reverse the slide that eight years of Republican neo-confederacy put us in, we arrested it for eight years, and that might be enough to save us eventually. We might don’t all make it, but if we fight for those who can’t, we might just get away with this one.

The 21st century was supposed to be the future. No more Cold War. The excitement of the Internet. A big bold bright future ahead. And then that didn’t happen, because too many people have too much to gain – and too much to feel good about – by keeping us back in the mud when we should be reaching for the stars. But at least for eight years out of those first twenty, we had a literate President, a smart President, a guy who could rub two words together without hurting himself. A President with dignity, a President with a wonderful family, a President who conducted his business with honestly and decency and did the best he could with the hand he was dealt.

You always knew the first black President would have to be twice as good to accomplish half as much. Fortunately for our nation, he was.

Thanks, Obama.

Closing Time

Here’s the thing: you would never, EVER offer to let someone wager against you on the flip of a coin that for heads you’d win $100 and for tails they’d blow your brains out, and then offer as your defense on tails “well I didn’t think it could actually happen.” And yet, come Friday, that’s what happens. After that? Through the looking glass.

There are a million places to see what the hell is happening so I won’t delve into it. Going on the internet these days is tough anyway, as there is one nano-millimeter between staying reasonably informed and driving oneself into a frenzy of terrified hysterics. The urge is to escape, to hide, to deny reality. After all, They got to this point through fifteen years of denying reality, why shouldn’t we indulge ourselves now? And the trick is that age-old Demotivations poster: No One Raindrop Thinks Itself Responsible For The Flood. One person who believes Obama’s birth certificate is fake is merely a delusional fossil. Fifty million of them can deliver the White House to that one person.

If I had to guess, that’s how the Baby Boomers’ final revenge will go. They won’t take responsibility for this, any more than they have for anything ever. The 1980s are back, and the 21st Century adaptation of the 80s doctrine of I Got Mine Fuck You is Silly Con Valley’s gift to the world. (Peter Thiel is already supposedly scouting out a gubernatorial run in 2018, and boy do we have to tool up for that, because for a gay vampire gazillionaire to buy his way into the Arnold seat is not at all unthinkable. Fortunately we know that already, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have to stake that bastard through the heart.) And in the end, they’ll somehow disclaim any responsibility for it, as if the demographics aren’t the biggest predictor of who went for Trump. Sing all you want about hippies and the 60s, the Reagan-Bush-Trump path was paved by the baby boomers and it’s led us right to where we are now.

So now we wait, and fight, and hope against hope that the Old Ones will be dead enough by 2020 to let us get someone else in before the damage is too badly done. But they never took the blame for Bush, and they won’t take the blame for Trump, and they’ll be let off the hook as if whatever the next four years of bullshit brings all happened immediately the day Cory Booker or Kamala Harris or Tim Kaine or God knows who puts their hand on the Bible, just like it did for Obama. 

Immunity from the consequences of your actions. That’s the very definition of a charmed life, and it’s the mission of the GOP in 2017.

What are you prepared to do?

Flashback, part 81 of n

January 9, 2007 dawned early for me. We had spent most of December in full-on crazy-person mode trying to load the cans for shipping so that we wouldn’t be killed the first week back from our week off between Christmas and New Year’s. So we actually had a glide path to the opening of MacWorld San Francisco. And my wife was in Vegas on the eve of CES for something I don’t even remember. It was just me waking up beside my laptop as Suggs did his Afternoon Tea show on Virgin Radio UK.

I got to the office about two hours before the keynote, both to get good parking and to make sure we could squat the Skybox. Whenever there was a big keynote, they took all the tables out of Caffe Macs on main campus and just set up chairs, and not particularly comfy ones too. But there was a fixed padded half-booth all the way at the back to one side, and it was the habit of my team to get there early and squat it for as long as it took to ensure we would be comfy for whatever was to come.

What we got was the 21st century answer to the Mother of All Demos. In 1968, Doug Englebart had shown off the mouse, windowed computing, videoconferencing – everything that went with the modern personal computer, and twenty-five years before it really hit the mainstream. On 9 January 2007, Steve Jobs – and you could tell from the outset that he knew it, too – introduced the world to the future of truly personal computing: a multitouch UI, persistent cellular connectivity, maps and browsers and email in your pocket, multimedia entertainment, your new camera and your new iPod and your new pager and cellphone. He said “someday every phone will work like this,” and he was not exaggerating in the least.

Ten years on, no one’s phone has put that kind of dent in the universe. Things have improved incrementally – there’s cut and paste now, and LTE kicks the shit out of EDGE, and the battery life is finally acceptable in the iPhone SE after years of struggle, and there’s voice-activated assistants like Siri and real GPS and some car integration – but no product anywhere has reshaped not only its market but the world like the iPhone. No iPhone? No Instagram. No Snapchat. No Uber. Twitter and Facebook and social media in general look very different. The entire concept of phone applications was slapdash at best in 2006 – the dream was to get a SonyEricsson K790 and somehow get the Google Maps Java applet kinda sorta working on its tiny QVGA screen. Internet access on the phone meant WAP decks, or if you were very lucky, finding some European site to get programs that would run on your super-bulky Nokia 6620 with EDGE and no wi-fi. 

Not a glorified two-way pager like the Blackberry. Not a thin hapless slab of overpriced sex appeal like the MOTO RAZR. This was the everything phone. This was more than a dent in the universe. This transformed everything.

In a way, it was fine when I left Apple, even though I now tend to think of it as one of the biggest mistakes of my life. Should have sought out something else internal, should have sought some kind of accommodation, shouldn’t have just quit and gone back to IT. But if I’m honest with myself, I was already there for the greatest moment in the company’s history. And it’s the sort of thing I’ll be telling my friends’ grandchildren about someday. I was there the day Apple changed the world.


ETA: vice John Gruber, the phone in my pocket while this announcement was happening was almost certainly my SonyEricsson Z520. Dismissed in some quarters as a “ladies phone”, it offered class-10 GPRS which was almost as fast as EDGE, the best UI on the market (at the time), Bluetooth, speakerphone, easy integration with iSync (remember iSync??) and a good selection of downloadable third-party themes (I remember mostly going between a Celtic FC theme and some sort of animated thing), not to mention the not-inconsiderable advantage of going almost four days between charges. That, plus the loop antenna so it wouldn’t snag AND the size that let it fit in my change pocket AND the fact it was unlocked, made it my daily driver until the iPhone arrived – even over half a dozen other phones with assorted combinations of better camera or better screen or better battery or whatever. SonyEricsson was the cutting edge…until Apple showed up.

Flashback, part 80 of n

I’m not sure which of these is my very first memory. It’s difficult to date them. I remember riding up a road that I am pretty sure was US 11, on the way to see my grandfather. And I remember him alive in a recliner in those old apartments on Purdue in Oak Ridge, everything brown in my memory. He died a couple of days after I turned 2, and I have no memory of the funeral or anything like that – just that one day he was there and then, some time later, he wasn’t.

Competing for that as my oldest memory is rain. Rain at night, audible through red curtains in the dark of my parents’ bedroom. For whatever reason, I had in my mind that it only ever rained at night. And that it rained every night. I had to be under three years old for that, but I can remember it, and I can remember remembering it, if that makes sense. From a young age, I remember knowing I used to think that.

I say all this because I see the children of friends and I wonder how much they remember about days gone by. I wonder if they remember a mysterious figure from California who breezes in out of nowhere – or did, once or twice, long ago. I wonder if they remember being flopped like a burrito on my chest, or if they remember being dressed up like a little baseball at a Vanderbilt tailgate.

I wish some of my memories were more tangible. I wish I had some more of the sort of memories I wanted.

Secession by other means

Let’s be honest, 2009 is when the Cold Civil War really turned hot. A Democratic Congress and a BLACK PRESIDENT sent the modern Confederate GOP around the bend. This was THE END OF THE WORLD and had to be resisted at all costs, which they did. Scorched earth all the way, in a way the Democrats chose not to do to George W. Bush despite losing with more votes for their candidate than he got. (A lesson I hope the Democrats will go to school on this time.)

But where it really became possible was in the tortured logic of the Supreme Court when John Roberts decided that individual states were free to opt out of the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act. And so they did. GOP-controlled states decided that they would simply not participate in any meaningful way in the biggest expansion of health care access since Medicare.  That was, in effect, secession by other means. Through tortured logic, “states rights” and the malice – willful or otherwise – of the Chief Justice, they cut themselves off just so they wouldn’t have to be part of “Obamacare.”

There’s a lesson here, and that is: a surprising amount of stuff still depends on the states and is only “federal” inasmuch as Uncle Sam provides a financial carrot to encourage things. Stuff like education funding, stuff like highway funds – the only reason the drinking age is 21 nationally is because Congress made that a condition of getting interstate money back in the 1980s. If a state wanted to get on its high horse and reject the temptations of the federal sugar tit, they could cut the drinking age to 12 and there’s nothing in law to prevent it.

Thing is, you’re starting to see this go the other way. California raised the smoking age to 21 (which they are legally able to do) and legalized weed (jury’s out, even if you consider the irony there). California already has stricter air-quality standards than the EPA because the California Air Resource Board predates the EPA. And California’s gun control laws are already tighter than anywhere else in America bar perhaps Massachusetts, to the point where most gun makers have a separate line item on the website for “CA Compliant” merchandise. Even that Federal money stick goes the other way. Republicans are threatening to cut federal money for “sanctuary cities” and San Francisco has already told them to go shit in a hat. Covered California isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and there’s very little to prevent it being sustained locally even if the ACA bites the dust nationally, not least because Jerry Brown has never been averse to raising taxes to pay for goods and services. Judging by the GDP of the state – top ten in the world – it doesn’t seem to be hurting much.

In 2014, California sent more money to the Feds in taxes than it got back, to the tune of over $3500 for every man, woman and child in the Golden State. If Ferret Top wants to cut taxes, California will be happy to keep that money for itself, and will do just fine spending on itself. We’ll be happy to show you what happens when “states rights” becomes a race to the top instead of the bottom. We are California. We’re where the future comes from.

Looking Forward

Consider this:

• A baseline safety net so that small employers are spared the expenses of health care and retirement savings, possibly even replacing the minimum wage with a guaranteed minimum income

• Intercity high speed rail, interurban light rail and municipal streetcars anywhere the bones exist to support them

• The dollar coin replacing the bill, and just round everything up to the nearest nickel (and let the round-up difference feed the safety net above)

• Promotion and relegation in college football now that conferences are meaningless

• Rugby sevens is a thing

• Vocational education comes with an AA degree and is as respectable and remunerated as entry-level work straight out of college

And most importantly:

• The three political parties in this country are properly labelled and proportionally separated, so that Great Society Democrats, New Labour and the Confederates can be handled appropriately rather than shoehorned into two parties that result in distortion of actual political belief and disproportionate advantage for a ethnically and regionally homogeneous rump faction


This may all sound insane, but it’s all a logical response to the direction of the 21st century. Fifteen years ago, it was apparent – or should have been – that the combination of global free trade and information technology was going to radically reshape the way our economy works. And it’s not unlike what happened in the 1930s at a time of global depression and economic and political upheaval – we went from being a predominately agrarian society to a predominantly industrial one. At the time, it took a lot of government intervention to smooth the transition and a lot of money, because when that shift first happened in the Gilded Age a lot of people got stinking rich and a hell of a lot more got used as factory cannon fodder.

Consider the “gig economy” which everyone is so fond of – the techie types, especially the ones who don’t work at the tip of the spear, think it’s great that you can have all this flexibility and autonomy and work-when-you-want and…you can’t make a living at it. Ask your Uber driver. Hell, Uber is openly pitching this as “your side hustle” because so many people have failed at making a living wage doing it. Gig economy, contracting (1099 or otherwise), part-time, whatever: there’s a whole lot of work out there that does not fall under the traditional 9-to-5 Monday-to-Friday concept, even before you take into account that it’s 8-5 on paper and you’re realistically going to have to do some more on nights and weekends in a lot of places.

And yet, people still need to be able to make a living. How the hell do you go about that?

There are several projects kicking around concerning the provision of a minimum guaranteed income: that some entity, probably the highest level of government, will provide you a cash income of a certain amount, gratis. No strings attached. Spend it on what you want. When you stop flapping your jaw with the “HURRRR DURRRRR FREE GOVERNMENT HANDOUT” Fox News hillbilly dumb fuck yammering and actually think about it, this is kind of earth-shattering. Put this down in place of housing assistance, in place of food stamps, in place of WIC and TANF and an alphabet-soup of other welfare-type programs. 

For the 48 contiguous US states, last year’s threshold for the poverty line for a family of 3 was $20,160. Assuming you work a 40 hour week EVERY week, with no vacation, that means that to support a family of 3, you need to make $9.70 an hour. For the record, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. That’s what is known in this establishment as Bad Arithmetic.


If you get $100 a week from Uncle Sam – that’s it, that’s all it takes – then you can take that minimum wage job, but you’re still over the poverty line. Make it $150 a week and you might even be able to take Christmas Day off or get sick for a minute. Or take some other job that needs doing but never seems to pay like it should, whether it’s teaching or volunteer work in the community or what have you.

Now, get rid of Obamacare and all the chaos that goes with trying to make a shitty privatized health system somehow cover everyone. Instead, Medicare. The end. Everyone goes on Medicare the moment you’re born, and that’s an end of that. It’s already been well established that most every government insurance program – Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VA, whatever – has lower administrative overhead and in turn lower costs than private insurance. That sets the baseline – if you want to purchase private insurance beyond that, feel free, as most Medicare patients have some kind of gap insurance for the rest of it, no problem.

But see, this is the thing we’ve done: we’ve taken the burden off your archetypal small business owner to cover the insurance costs of employees. No more part time, no more fretting over people who work more than 30 hours or trying to keep them below a point where you have to provide their insurance. That’s over, that’s done, it’s not your responsibility anymore. Will taxes go up to accommodate this? Possibly, but since your overhead is going down, it probably comes out in the wash. But here’s the point to all this: if your health insurance is not tied to your job, and if everyone – everyone AT ALL – is getting some sort of foundation income, it means that you CAN take whatever “gig economy” jobs are out there without starving to death. It means you can start your own business and not worry that you won’t have food on the table for a year or will be guaranteed to go bankrupt if you get sick. And it’s been destigmatized – no one is on welfare. No one is on Medicaid. Everybody, everybody from the bum on the corner drinking a Coke to Mark Zuckerberg and Donald Trump, gets the same foundation income and the same foundation health care.

More to the point – if you fix this foundation income nationally, you’ve suddenly created an economic stimulus program for the poorest parts of the country. If the federal minimum wage is the same everywhere and everyone gets the same foundation income, where is that money going to go further: San Francisco or Birmingham? Just like that, you’ve incentivized people to consider somewhere that isn’t a megalopolis, because your cash will go further no matter what you’re doing. And in a world of remote work – where you could be doing anything from sitting in a call center to using a VR headset and drones and robots to be a mall cop – there’s no reason you can’t do your job at Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara, California from your comfortable cubicle in Knoxville, Tennessee – where there’s no state income tax.

The point of all this is: the nature of work in America has changed. The coal mines aren’t coming back. Labor intensive manufacturing isn’t coming back. The half-wits and slack-jawed yokels howling MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN are ironically arguing for an era when the US had peak participation in labor unions and the highest rates of personal income tax on record (but we can stop pretending that “economic anxiety” is anything but a euphemism) but one where there was precious little automation and no ability to ship things from around the world. If the textile mills could move from New England to the South, they were always going to move on to Central America and inevitably Southeast Asia, and for the same reasons. As we move increasingly toward the point where “work from home” is so ubiquitous as to be a girl-group euphemism (and a hit single), we have to start thinking about what that work looks like and how we cross the bridge without throwing people off it.

But here’s the thing: the time to start thinking about that was in 2000. And instead of crossing the bridge to the 21st century, we decided that it was okay if a jug-eared hayseed with fewer votes was handed the controls, and then spent years shitting ourselves in panic, and then – when we got a grown-up in charge again – enough people decided that adult reasoning was The Other Side and were against it no matter what. So you can basically draw a straight line from Florida 2000 to the reality-show charlatan that will be sworn into office in two weeks. And the 21st century is on the far side of that line. And there’s no telling whether America will ever be able to cross it.