How to Identify a “Shithole” Country

If you look around your country and see a lot of these, that would be one clue. But there are others.

It’s important in national and international affairs that the terms of statecraft be precisely defined. When making policy and alliances, the parties must at all times be rigorously clear about what is meant by such labels as “nuclear power,” “developing country,” and the like. Now, a new term of art just introduced by the President of the United States, “shithole country,” begs a proper definition. Let us fix that for ya. Here is how you tell whether a country qualifies for the new designation.

Exhibit One — Airports. If you have an airport, named for one of your most popular presidents, located just outside your largest city, in which earlier this month:

Then you might be living in one of those countries the President was talking about.

This “cascading series of issues” (the words of the authority that runs the airport) occurred, of course, at John F Kennedy Airport, described as New York City’s “primary airport” and “the busiest international air passenger gateway to North America.

Exhibit Two — Train Stations. Penn Station is to railroad travel what JFK is to air travel.  It is the main intercity railroad station in New York City, and the busiest passenger transportation hub in the Western Hemisphere, handling 600,000 passengers a day. It is located underneath  Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan, where railroads can reach it only through tunnels. In the same week that JFK was experiencing its “cascading issues,” Penn Station was described by Bloomberg BusinessWeek as “The Most Awful Transit Center in America,” which “Could Get Unimaginably Worse.”

Penn Station has been overcrowded, overused and deteriorating for decades. The first major program proposed to renovate it was offered in the 1990s, failed to get government support. Since then, traffic has doubled and every proposal to tackle the problem has died of neglect. The latest was torpedoed by none other than Donald Trump.

The two tunnels that cross under the Hudson River — that connect Penn Station with everything and everyone in the eastern US south of New York — were built while the Wright Brothers were building their first airplane factory, over 100 years ago. When the tunnels were flooded by Hurricane Sandy, the salt and chemicals deposited began eating even faster into the ancient cement and masonry that, should it fail, would shut down a major chunk of the US economy and introduce the Hudson River into midtown Manhattan. Not only is nothing being down about it, there are no plans to do anything about it.

Last spring a sewage pipe broke in Penn Station, flooding one of the crowded concourses with raw sewage. Making it, of course, a literal shithole.

Devin Leonard, who wrote the Bloomberg BusinessWeek article, concluded:

Penn Station is a debacle reaching across time. Its past is a slow-motion disaster of inaction and canceled reforms, its present an ongoing disgrace. And its future could be truly catastrophic, in the form of a tunnel failure that pinches shut one of the most vital economic arteries in America.

I’ll have to get back to you on Exhibits Three through 320 — bridges, highways, the electric grid, water pollution, soil depletion, ocean dead zones, garbage, declining life expectancy — but you get the idea. When the Donald created this new category by which nations are to be assessed, only the Stable Genius knew that America would turn out, once again, to be Number One.

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11 Responses to How to Identify a “Shithole” Country

  1. ‘Murica! #1! Don’t be jealous! Everyone loves the post-apocalypse militia porn novels about EMP’s somehow enabling us to return to a Constitutional Republic ( those talking about usually have no clue of each word or the two together ), merely need to look at the guaranteed infrastructure collapse of the electrical grid instead of engaging in mental gymnastics about North Korea or terrorists. I guess it isn’t as concise of a plot structure.

  2. Eric says:

    Brilliant post!

  3. SomeoneInAsia says:

    There is at present a giant shithole in the core of the galaxy of all human affairs, you know. This shithole is known otherwise as resource depletion, and all of us around the world — except perhaps for those who have chosen to live completely off the grid, or were never held in bondage to it in the first place — are now caught in its gravitational pull. Before long we shall all pass the event horizon and enter the singularity of a pre-industrial way of life — most of us not too well-prepared for this. Then America will no longer have to worry about being the only shithole country around; she’ll have plenty of company.

    I happen to work as a private tutor and just yesterday two of my ex-students contacted me to thank me for helping them pass their English. Now they can look forward to a higher education and a brilliant career and… you know the rest. Or can they? No? Really, no? Gee, that sucks, right? But what can I tell them? What can I do? Strictly speaking, to work as a tutor at all would already amount to lying to my students by pretending to them that if they study hard and get good grades a great future lies ahead for them. But if I stop working as a tutor, I’m going to go flat broke.

    Maybe if I win the lottery or some similar miracle occurs, then I can give up all my work and emigrate to an ecovillage. There’s just one problem: I have a family here, including my sweet mother. I can’t bring them all with me, and I don’t think it would be nice of me either to care only for my own a$$ and leave all of them behind. Shall I try to persuade them by explaining everything to them? They’d think I’ve got all my screws loose.

    To my left, a rock. To my right, a hard place. Ahead, a giant shithole. Can’t go backwards — that would amount to turning the clock back.

    What have ***I*** done to deserve all this, O Heaven?

    • colinc says:

      Referencing SIA’s last line… “What have ***I*** done to deserve all this, O Heaven?

      The glib answer is, “You’re deserving for the same reason as all the rest of us. YOU were born!” Of course, this is not “germane” to the article, my apologies, but it does exemplify and embody the conditions in which we all find ourselves. That being, Damned if we do [whatever] and damned if we don’t.” It should also “lay waste” to any concept of, or belief in, the nonsense of justice or karma. In other words, simultaneously we all deserve the cataclysm, which is accelerating towards us, AND none of us deserve it. How can it be otherwise?

      Not a single person, ever, asked to be born, let alone stipulate the conditions into which that birthing happened. None of us, or our parents, even truly chose how we were “educated”[/indoctrinated]. Yet, the decisions we have each made throughout our lives, based on our education, “up-bringing” and experiences, have led to where each of us is now. As you clearly noted, between a rock and a hard place.

      This also relates to a couple of comments from a previous article which regurgitated C. Dilworth’s inane proclamation of “Too smart for our own good.” I beg anyone and everyone to, please, define what he, or anyone else, means by “too smart” AND for whose “own good.” From my “experiences” and observations, MOST of the “human” species can’t even aspire to be labeled “moronic” or even “idiotic.”

  4. Liz says:

    Guess where I’m sitting as I read this? My morning routine, you know. Infrastructure is on my mind as the extreme cold last week burst one of my pipes and I haven’t had a chance to fix it yet. A week or so of this is survivable – I keep spare water in the house. But the leak also knocked out an electrical circuit and I’m dancing at the edge of waste issues and food spoilage. Now multiply that times 1,000, or 10,000…

  5. Brutus says:

    Well done! Funny how one thoughtless remark circles around to bite 45 in the ass. Not so funny how decades of inaction and incompetence as all levels of government have developed into a major infrastructure crisis still unfolding, just like climate change. Meanwhile, Elon Musk wants to build premium infrastructure (beyond first class) that allows elite travelers to bypass mass transit in favor of pamper pods or some such.

  6. Karl Kolchak says:

    Exhibit 321–the U.S. Navy is so riddled with corruption in its Pacific Fleet that dozens of admirals and hundreds of senior officers are under investigation–with several being indicted already–for either taking bribes or covering up for others who were taking bribes. Meanwhile, its ships keep crashing into one another and other ships at sea, and just today it sent out a bogus warning of a missile attack on Hawaii.

    Additionally, the Pentagon procurement system is riddled with fraud top to bottom as it spends countless billions on new state-of-the-art ships that get stuck in the Panama Canal and fighter jets that are far more of a hazard to their own pilots than they are to the enemy.

  7. BC_EE says:

    “…and the greatly needed funds for the military.”

    Now there is mass insanity encapsulated. Can’t find any money to rebuild critical civilian infrastructure, but they can find an extra $80 billion or so lying in the couch cushions for the military.

    (facetious)Maybe JFK and Penn Station should re-brand itself as anti-terrorist mass transportation safety zones and get a lobbyist or 20.

  8. JungleJim says:

    These Are The World’s Real ‘Shitholes’… I truly do look forward to all your posts. Thanks.

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