“Leaving New Haven, we are leaving New Haven…”

Last week, Levi Johnston, on The View, the ladies around him, male stripper at worst hen’s party ever: “Are you still running for mayor? Republican or Democrat? Conservative? Have you ever voted?” Silence. “I haven’t even started campaigning yet.” “Is it true you were going to do it as a reality TV show?” Silence.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck introduces the next segment, on cancer. She’s off to have her tiny episcopalian breasts mammogrammed. She brings along a black crew member, whose bazongas are too big for the machine.

In a Newark bar, ESPN is talking of a footballer paralysed from the neck down. His coach: “He’s going to be hearing a lot of negatives, so today we’re giving him positives…” “In other news the Cowboys have been penalised for excessive celebration.”

Meghan McCain is on The Rachel Maddow Show. She’s just interviewed Christopher Hayes from The Nation, who looks even more like a lesbian graduate student than Maddow does. McCain jeune fille drawls on about Christine O’Donnell: oh, like, she’s a nut job, none of my friends like her. She and Maddow snicker together. How did one of the nation’s leading liberal commentators come to think it would be a good idea to laugh at a suburban candidate, with a grandee Republican airhead? Explains much.

“Dave Thomas changed the image of fast food, by serving it hot off the grill in a clean and comfortable setting, all part of Dave’s founding principle of service…”

Trudy, an SEIU member, part of the campaign to unionise Sodexo, the giant services company that staffs sports stadiums, a voice of gravel and phlegm: ‘I’ve shown years and years of loyalty, be good to get some back.” Neither plaintive nor self-pitying, she explains the sort of work she does. “Well we gotta unload the VIBs first then I work at the Clippers…” I keep having to ask her to stop and explain, she’s so immersed in the job. It’s a community of sorts, whole families work there. No matter how long or for how many years, they’re part-time, without benefits, subject to an attendance policy that penalises being late by three or four minutes, as an ever-ready pretext for dismissal. Trudy’s been hospitalised for pneumonia and a stroke. She has no doctor. She can’t afford prescriptions. She splits medications with someone who can.

On CNN, an identikit Republican fembot, who claims to represent the Tea Party, gives her take on the ‘no establishment clause for religion’ of the first amendment: “Well, you know, secularism is a religion, music’s a religion to some people, why pick on Christianity?” Amazingly she is not instantly drowned out by laughter.

“Did Rand Paul while in college force a handcuffed naked woman to kneel before an idol he called ‘Aqua Buddha?'” a TV ad for the Kentucky Senate race asks. “Why does he worship false images?” Yes, because that is the most worrying thing about that event. The woman later comes forth to say it’s fine, it was just college.

Half a day’s news cycle is taken up with revelations that one of California gubernatorial Democratic candidate Jerry Brown’s staff called opponent Meg Whitman “a wh-re”. Not in a speech, not publicly, but in a private campaign meeting caught on tape. The state, the 15th largest economy in the world, is broke. It has been for three years. The least-liked man in California politics? Arnold Schwarzenegger, greeted as some sort of avatar at the time of his election, before shedding his Terminator skin to reveal a European-style centrist.

In The Bottoms, Columbus, Ohio, Norman Rockwell houses with orange foreclosure notices on the doors. A tumbledown bungalow has a new sign: ‘Mike’s Place’. “Is that a bar?” “Yeah, local bar. But they had a lot of problems with prostitution so they closed it down and changed it.” Says Trudy:

“He used to work at GM. Then at Sodexo. Then he hurt himself. Now he can’t even afford clothes. Can’t shop at the thrift stores. Has to go to the charity bin.

“His niece has a job at a United Dairy Farmers store but it’s dangerous because of the robberies.

“See that house — they took two crack heads and a dead body out of that house three months ago.”

Mentioned during the Illinois Senate debate: the Jesus Name Apostolic Church Smarties Programme.

“Man-up.” “Get your man-pants on.” Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell to their male opponents, launching a thousand cultural studies dissertations.

Mark Kirk, Illinois GOP candidate: “I would have voted for [supreme court judge] Eleanor Kagan, but Sonia Sotomayor would be too … forward leaning for me.”

‘Forward leaning’, like MSNBC. The liberal network has adopted the oft-used conservative criticism as its proud slogan, despite the fact it is blatheringly meaningless.

Joan Rivers on Fashion Police: “Jennifer Aniston, oh her skirts are way too short it’s like she’s saying ‘I could have dinner and a pap smear at the same time’. She’s got to do better movies. In the last one that dog was begging to die.”

Taxi-driver in Newark: Ex-Circuit City electronics store manager. In Seattle, ex Boeing engineer. In Orlando, ex-building contractor.

Billboard for anti-suicide campaign in Indiana: ‘Tomorrow will be better’.

Colorado GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck on homosexuality: “You can choose who your partner is. I think that birth has an influence, like alcoholism and some other things… But I think that, basically, you have a choice.”

Civic voting campaign: Remember, even if you’re not satisfied with the process, the important thing is to participate.

Down to the market briefly in Seattle, Pike’s place, to see the first ever Starbucks, opened in 1971. Now it looks like every other Starbucks. It would be crushingly disappointing if it did not.

Supporters of Rand Paul stomp on the head of a protestor from MoveOn, giving her concussion. Later, the man identified as doing the stomping appears on TV to demand an apology from the woman.

Sherry, in the Newark Airport Days Inn. She’s from St Louis. It’s her birthday; she keeps getting calls from friends and greetings on Facebook, which she keeps open on her Droid. She organised eight people to come to New York with her, but they bailed one by one for cost and other reasons. She has a sty on her left eye, which she seems mildly self-conscious of. A plate of eggs, bread and fried potatoes, and another of French toast in syrup. Carbs carbs carbs, you get brain fog just looking at ’em. Working as a nursing assistant, studying to be an IC nurse. Her health insurance has covered the diagnosis of her sty as non-malign, but not its removal. “I even had to make a co-payment,” she says — ie: pay part from their own pocket –“for the diagnosis.” Her insurance will not allow her to be treated at the hospital where she works.

Bob Herbert in the New York Times: American cities have century-old sewage systems. What’s going on. Americans should have water systems that are the envy of the world. Even a liberal columnist, talking offhand, cannot discuss issues without having to resort to exceptionalism. Yes, we’re going to have the best damn sewage in the world.

At street number 103 and a half, Trudy shows me the door her best friend opened when he died: “He yelled out to stop a robbery, they shot him in the leg and he bled to death.” There are bullet holes still in the wood, a dent in the metal door.

What one thing could happen that would improve your life?

“That would be health insurance…

“It would have to be health insurance…

“I would need health insurance…”

USA Today headline: ‘Bridge over canyon triumph of American know-how’.

“Providence is next, next Providence, Providence in two minutes…”

Peter Fray

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