“Sticks and stones can break my bones, it always will be true.

So when your momma’s dead and gone, I’ll sing this lullaby for you.

What becomes of little boys who never comb their hair?

They’re lined up all around the block, on the nickel over there.

And if you chew tobacco, and wish upon a star,

Well you’ll find out where the scarecrows sit,

They look just like punchlines between the cars.

I know a place where a royal flush can never beat a pair,

And even Thomas Jefferson is on the nickel over there…”

Tom Waits, “On the Nickel”

My friend drove me to the homeless shelter in her BMW Z4 convertible. She had told me I could stay with her as long as I wanted, but I had made up my mind after Hollywood and Venice Beach to experience the other side of Los Angeles. She thought I was nuts, but had still offered me a ride. The streets were lined with rough-looking people. Filthy jackets, wild eyes, dirt-caked skin, wispy hair sticking out in all directions. White, black, Hispanic, Asian.

The place was called The Midnight Mission, and stood on South San Pedro Street, smack in the middle of a fifty-four block district called Central City East, or as the world knows it: Skid Row. In the late 1800s this section of L.A. used to be the last stop on a train route that ran the whole country, so every vagrant, transient, run-away and trainhopper wound up here. The current population is about 20,000, about half which are estimated to be homeless. Local hospitals reportedly often dump poor mental patients here to fend for themselves when they can no longer pay their medical bills, so the area also has a disproportionate number of people who are obviously mentally ill.[i]

The incongruity of Chantel’s sleek sports car and the poverty-ravaged streets was almost surreal. I was concerned that anybody working at the mission would immediately turn me away if they saw me clambering out of a shiny BMW driven by a beautiful woman, so I asked my friend to pull over a few blocks from our destination.

“Make sure you call me if you need anything,” she said, with an expression of concern, and drove off.

I had grown a five-O’clock shadow and worn my scruffiest clothes: ripped jeans, a stained shirt, hoping that I could pass for a homeless person. The fact that I actually was a homeless person oddly never crossed my mind.

It was a little past eight. I walked up to the entrance and found the gates locked. A group of black guys were loitering nearby, so I asked them if the mission was closed.

“Yeah man,” one of them said. “Closed for the night. You’re outta luck.”

The first and most important thing to know about homeless shelters in America, I soon learned, is that they almost always close before night falls. There is a strict schedule. Early in, early out. You line up to get a bed at six, and they usually close the doors around eight. If you are not get inside by then, you will be sleeping on the streets.

I shrugged and walked down 5th Street, wondering if I would be passing the night on the bare pavement. It would not be the first time. I had spent nights on the sleeping on streets before, in China, Cuba, Sweden. It would be the first time, however, to have so much company. Hobos with dark faces and blackened fingernails sat with their backs to the stained brick buildings looking at the ground, avoiding eye contact. A woman pushed a jangling shopping cart past me, full of useless-looking trinkets. A trio of shifty-eyed characters (dealers?) in puffed out jackets lurked on a street corner.

According to Tom Waits, America’s patron saint of the down-and-out (a musical legend who is known to put strings on dumpsters and play them like a harp), 5th Street was known to the L.A. homeless for decades as “The Nickel,” and he even wrote a song about it that he called it a “hobo’s lullaby.” The song was written back in 1980, and it looked like the situation had not changed a whit in the thirty years since.

After a few blocks I came to another shelter called the Union Rescue Mission. Fortunately this one still had its doors open, and I was able to slink inside. I walked up the steps and slipped past the unoccupied front desk. It looked like the place was already nearly full. Around a hundred small folding cots had been laid out inside, end to end and side by side, and they were covered with sprawling indigents. I found an unoccupied bed and laid my sleeping bag across it, hoping I was not taking it from someone else who really needed it.

The National Law Centre on Homelessness and Poverty determined in the pre-recession year of 2007 that around three and a half million people in America were homeless, and estimates conducted by the National Alliance to End Homelessness in early 2009 indicated that another million and a half were expected to flood the streets over the next two years.[ii] The city of Los Angeles is widely recognized as the homeless capital of the United States, and has anywhere between 50,000 and 70,000 people (depending which source you want to quote) living on the street on any given night.

I sat down and surveyed the landscape of prostrate forms. Arms dangled over the sides of the narrow cots and feet jutted from their ends. An emaciated figure with his back to me moaned and tossed. An obese man with an unhealthy-looking purplish countenance hobbled past me to visit the bathroom. I tried to strike up a quiet conversation with a man lying awake next to me, but he did not seemed up for talking. So I lay down and opened up a book to read. It was amazing to me that so many of them were asleep at such an early hour. They knew something, however, that I did not. Before I had read five pages, the mission workers killed the lights and plunged us all into darkness. That is the way is works in American homeless shelters: in bed and asleep by nine, if not earlier.

The lights came on the following morning, bright and unbidden, at five O’clock sharp. Men walked between the beds rousing us and sent us outside while they cleaned up the room.

I wandered in the gated courtyard outside, mingling with the bleary eyed crowd.

“Don’t they feed us around here?” I asked a wrinkled old man wrapped in a long, filthy coat. Shallow wrinkles framed his features, and thin gray hair clung limply to the sides of his head.

“Gotta wait til six,” he rasped. “First they clean up, then they open the kitchen.”

“What do we get?”

“Well… some fruit and cereal, usually. Sometimes a muffin.”

“Any chance of finding a shower?”

“Did you miss the evening shower?”

“I guess I did.”

“Then, sorry man, you’re gonna hafta wait til the evening.” He looked at me with a quizzical expression. “You’re new here, ain’t ya?”

“Yeah, I’m actually from Canada.”

“Canada?! Shit man, you’re a long way from home.”

“Aw, we all a long way from home,” the thin black hobo sitting next to him observed glumly in a deep voice. “I thought you all didn’t have no homeless folks up there.”

“Oh, we got ‘em, all right,” I declared.

“Gotta be damn rough on them streets when winter comes,” said the first guy.

“It is,” I affirmed. “Sometimes people commit petty crimes just so they can get put in jail for the season.” I had once worked in a Canadian prison, but made sure to keep that to myself.

“That’s rough alright, sure enough,” the black guy quipped glumly.

“You all from L.A.?” I asked.

“Nah,” croaked the white guy, “I’m from Portland originally. Just kind of wound up here a couple months ago and haven’t been able to leave.”

“I was born and raised here,” said the other, with a tangible lack of pride.

A middle-aged Latino was pacing the courtyard with several canes draped on his arm, selling them to the people for a few bucks apiece.

“What’s that about?” I wondered aloud. “Why is he selling canes?”

They broke out laughing.

“Man, you really are from Canada, ain’t ya!” the black needled.

They explained that people with canes looked sicker, so they got privileged access to the front of the food line, and could grab the best grub. I watched as a scruffy twenty-year-old with long hair and a goatee bought one of the cane and practiced his stagger.

“Seems a little… I don’t know… messed up,” I commented.

“Yeah, it is,” responded the white guy. “Me and Max here, both of us served in Vietnam, and we gotta stand in line behind punks like that because we don’t wanna buy a fake fucking cane. Sometimes it really gets my goat.”

I had heard the famous statistic that something like a quarter to a third of all homeless men in the United States are war veterans. So I asked the guys if there were other veterans at the shelter.

“Hell yeah,” Max reported, scanning the crowd and subtly pointing out several nearby indigents scattered throughout the courtyard. “I’d say, what, forty… fifty percent of the people here have served in the forces.”

The other man, whose name I still did not know, nodded his head in agreement.

“Even got a few folks here that went over to Iraq,” Max continued. “Man they came back screwed up from that motherfucker! All stressed out and fucked up.”

“More than the guys from ‘Nam?” I asked.

“I’d say so, wouldn’t you Floyd?” Max asked his friend.

“Maybe,” Floyd mumbled noncommittally.

“Sure! Lots of people I’ve met talk about that weird-ass ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ they’re supposed to have caught,” Max said. “How they came back with their nerves all frayed, coughing and puking blood and all kinds of shit.”

A worker came out and announced that the people with disabilities and special needs could go inside to start eating. The guys with canes hobbled exaggeratedly inside, along with several obviously more legitimate cases. We waited for about fifteen minutes after that before the same employee came out again and told us that it was our turn.

We queued up outside the canteen and they counted heads as we came, letting only about twenty people in at a time. When my turn came I walked through the doors and was greeted by a heavily tattooed man behind a glass trolley. I picked up a plastic tray and he dolloped some oatmeal onto it with a serving spoon. I grabbed an orange and a bagel from some nearby baskets before making my way to a table.

Max came and set his tray across from me, and we set to work devouring the meal. It was pretty good fare, all in all. Hearty and filling. I peeled the orange and asked Max what he thought of the country’s new president, Barack Obama. Did he think that things would be getting better in America?

“Well, he damn sure can’t be no worse than the sorry-ass clown he replaced!” Max scoffed. “That dumbass motherfucker Bush couldn’t even read, man! They wrote all his speeches for him, and that fucking teleprompter was right in front of his illiterate ass, and he still fucked everything up!”

I told him I was optimistic about the possibilities of Obama’s administration.

“Yeah, he’s alright,” Max agreed. “And that wife of his is fine too! Damn!”

“Michelle?”

“Yeah!” He whistled in appreciation. “And smart! She’s even got a Harvard degree and shit!”

“Ah, Obama won’t last,” a man seated at the next table chimed in. He was a young, dark-skinned black in his early twenties, dressed in a loose jeans and a baggy T-shirt. “He’s too good, man! They’ll find a way to get rid of him.”

Max nodded. “You’re probably right,” he said.

“Just wait for it,” the kid growled. “They say Obama gets 300 death threat letters a day! And people with rifles are already getting arrested on their way to D.C. to snipe him! A couple days ago I watched this interview with an old Secret Service agent who said he had guarded every president since Eisenhower, and he was saying ‘we ain’t never seen no fucking shit like this!’”

“I bet,” I said, doubting that those had been the exact words.

A guy in the corner suddenly hollered something piercing and incoherent. Startled, I twisted in my seat to look. He was a thin and haggard white guy, probably in his mid-thirties, sitting alone at a table. His head was wobbling on his neck and his right arm, the one holding his fork, was twitching. As I watched him, he let out another cacophonous yell and slammed a fist on the table, causing his tray to clatter.

“Fuck,” the guy next to us whispered. “I gotta get the fuck outta here.”

I turned back to Max. “What’s that about?” I asked.

“I’ve never seen him before, but I’m guessing he’s strung out on meth,” he guessed, measuring the man with an experienced eye. “That’s what all those white junkies seem to be getting hooked on these days.”

“Yeah,” the other guy muttered uneasily. “Give me a roomful of crackheads any day. Those tweakers give me the fucking creeps.”

Crystal methamphetamine, or crank, is a synthetic upper that Harvard sociologist Patricia Case has called “the most American drug,” because it induces workers to work harder and stay focused, instead of other drugs like heroin or cocaine, which make users lethargic or scattered. It reportedly only costs around twenty-five dollars for one hit, about a quarter of a gram, and causes a huge high that lasts twelve hours. Compare crack cocaine, which is nearly forty times weaker, and only gives a twenty minute high. The length and clarity of the high means gives users boundless productive energy, permitting them to become an ideal employee, an indefatigable lover, an alert soldier, or whatever else the situation demands. Meth is therefore the quintessentially American narcotic, and is manufactured primarily by working-class whites to help them work longer hours in pursuit of the American dream.

Over the past few decades, meth use has evolved into a global epidemic which, according to the “U.N. World Drug Report,” boasted around twenty-six million addicts in 2006. And this plague had its genesis in small town America. The first illicit superlabs started in California and Oregon, and spread through travelling dealers like wildfire until it reached the entire nation. Between 1998 and 2002, for example, while corn and beef prices fell and the agricultural economy plunged, rural meth production and sales grew an estimated 1000%. By 2003, the Drug Enforcement Administration indicated that one in approximately every 500 Californians, Oregonians, Iowans, Wyomingans, and Hawaiians was undergoing rehab for meth addiction, and after that things started getting exponentially worse.[iii] The following year, 2,087 different meth labs were busted in Missouri, and obscure towns like Oelwein, Iowa started getting nicknames like “Methlehem.”

Addicts are called “tweakers” because coming down from a hit of crank is extremely stressful and therefore called “tweaking.” Usage of meth causes the spontaneous eruption of bleeding pores, shrinkage of internal organs, shut-downs of large areas of the brain, black and decayed teeth, bodily shaking, hyperthermia, muscle cramps, shortness of breath, insomnia, inability to orgasm, lack of appetite, intolerable depression, debilitating anxiety, memory loss, heart attacks, strokes, vivid delusions of insects crawling out of one’s skin, spontaneous acts of extreme violence, and according to Nick Reding, author of Methland: The Life and Death of an American Small Town, “an almost otherworldly, hallucinogenic dimension of evil.” [iv]

The American authorities were reporting in 2010 that the crank epidemic was dying out, and they may be right. On my trip, however, everywhere I went in the Midwest I ran into people with stories of meth “vampires,” who stalked around with mouthfuls of jagged teeth and pale, bleeding skin.

The best part about all this is that the American government effectively created the entire scourge. In the year 1944, methamphetamine was heralded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a panacea cure for nearly everything, on a par with Penicillin. Doctors across the nations prescribed it as a treatment for obesity, schizophrenia, alcoholism and thirty other common medical conditions. Throughout the Second World War, American, German and Japanese soldiers were all given methamphetamine to stay alert, and when they came back home many of them were hooked.[1] By the 1960s, about thirty million prescriptions of meth a year were being doled out by medical professionals to the American public under the brand names of Methedrine and Benzedrine.

Then the officials started to recognize the beast they had unleashed, and finally began to regulate the stuff at the beginning of the 1970s. This created incredibly lucrative careers for illegal meth dealers. An Iowa biker chick named Lori Kaye Arnold suddenly became a national drug kingpin, setting up a gigantic meth superlab on a horse farm in a town called Ottumwa, and almost single-handedly created industrialized meth production in the American heartland. Arnold raked in money hand over fist for nearly two decades, buying fourteen houses, a nightclub to launder the money, and even her own car dealership, just to have enough vehicles to drive the meth she produced around the country. Her crank was reportedly selling for $32,000 a pound in 1987, and every pound she produced was diluted into three or four more by a hierarchy of lesser dealers that cut it with bleach and laundry detergent before selling it to desperate addicts.

After that the Drug Enforcement Administration had a law enforcement crusader named Gene Haislip craft harsh new laws to turn the tide. In 1993 he pushed through legislation that banned the sale of prescription drugs containing ephedrine, the base well known to be used by illicit crank labs. This ill-fated law converted the rising swell of meth addiction in the United States into a churning flood, as lab workers deprived of ephedrine turned to unregulated cold-medications with pseudoephedrine as their new source. Pseudoephedrine turned out to create an even more potent drug at a far lower cost. Soon people in the most obscure small towns were able to manufacture meth by pouring the components in a coke bottle and attaching it to their bike rack as they cycled over bumpy roads.

The DEA thus inadvertently induced the rise of a new super-meth, and since the best source for the world’s most dangerous narcotic was now cold medicine, the American pharmaceutical industry’s most lucrative profit sector, those scrambling to regulate pseudoephedrine suddenly had to fight incredibly powerful corporate groups like the National Association of Retail Chains Stores—an anti-regulation lobby coincidentally abbreviated NARCS. Fighting the meth epidemic in America is now tantamount to fighting the entire pharmaceutical industry, an uphill battle to say the least.

We ate and watched the man sitting in the corner as he muttered gibberish and flailed about frenetically in his chair. I mentioned the famous Los Angeles conspiracy theory which said that the American government had trafficked and sold crack cocaine to poor blacks in the 1980s. Did they believe the story?

Both men said they did.

“That’s no conspiracy theory,” Max said between mouthfuls of oatmeal. “That’s straight-up fact. Ask anyone who was living here in the eighties.”

A Nicaraguan immigrant named Oscar Danilo Blandon, now referred to as “the Johnny Appleseed of crack,” was the biggest cocaine supplier to America in those days. After he was arrested in 1986, he claimed he had been selling the coke to raise money for the government to fund anti-government paramilitaries in Central America. The blow was delivered to “Freeway” Ricky Ross, L.A.’s top dealer in the golden age of coke, who cooked it into crack and supplied it to the two biggest gangs in L.A., the Crips and the Bloods, for distribution throughout the slums.

Ross got sent up for 100 years, while Blandón was in and out of jail in less than two, and then immediately hired by the American Drug Enforcement Agency as an advisor and allegedly paid a princely salary. Blandón is the only known foreigner not to be deported following conviction on drug trafficking charges in U.S. history.

The mind-blowing Iran-Contra scandal blew up the same year that Blandón was convicted. I say mind blowing because it implicated the highest levels of the “evil-battling” Reagan Administration in not only selling massive amounts of America’s most advanced weapons to Iran, a sworn arch-enemy of the United States ruled by the sinister Ayatollah Khomeini, but also exposed a vast network of U.S. armed and trained death squads that were massacring, mutilating and torturing thousands of civilians in Nicaragua.[v] The horrific atrocities were alleged to have been funded by the Iranian money, but investigations soon indicated that the extent of the operations in Nicaragua would have required far more cash. Then the Reagan administration publicly admitted that the CIA had been using known Latin American drug traffickers as contacts in the funding of government opposition in Nicaragua, and a flood of allegations followed.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist named Gary Webb did a controversial expose on the California crack epidemic in 1996, declaring that his investigations had uncovered high levels of government that were implicated in selling drugs to the slums. In 2004, Webb died of two gunshots to the head. The coroner ruled it a suicide, but conspiracy theorists have their own opinions.

Max and I headed back to the main room, where the workers had set up chairs and turned on a large television at the back of the room. Most of the people had disappeared, but a few were sitting there, watching the tube. The mission workers had turned on Fox News, and Bill O’Reilly was doing his mandatory excoriation of the Democratic Party.

O’Reilly, if you are fortunate enough to not know who he is, is an arrogant TV commentator who claims to represent the blue-collar values of America. He grew up in an affluent section of Westbury, Long Island and went to private schools his whole life. He is famous for shouting down anyone who tries to debate with him, and viciously denigrates all enemies of the Republican Party as a matter of course. He also wrote an intriguing book in 1998 entitled Those Who Trespass, about an arrogant TV commentator who moonlights as a serial killer, brutally murdering all those who stand in the way of his rise to power and fame. The book, in case you were wondering, is not intriguing because it is well written.[vi]

It seemed insane to me that a homeless shelter would be playing Fox News, probably the most homeless-unfriendly media source on the planet. I told Max that in Canada we did not consider Fox a legitimate news source.

“News?” he laughed. “This ain’t no news, man. This is propaganda, pure and fucking simple.”

“Then why do you watch it?”

“No choice,” he said. “It’s the only station they play here.”

I was amazed. Fox News prowled the ruins of its own catastrophe.

“You ever read 1984?” Max suddenly asked me.

“Um, yeah,” I responded, perhaps unjustifiably taken aback by his knowledge of my favourite book.

“Well, welcome to Oceania!”

A couchsurfing lawyer in San Francisco lent me an apartment on Russian Hill, one of the wealthiest locations in the city. She was working on a high-profile corporate defence case in Santa Cruz and would not be using her apartment, she said. So she had just met me for a quick coffee on her way out the door and given me the key.

I stayed there for ten days, working on a book I was writing about Latin America.

Russian Hill is for the obscenely rich, and overflows with posh coffee shops where you can sit and watch girl after affluent girl dressed in identical black tights walk past the window with identical rolled up yoga mats under their arms. I tried writing in the cafés, but found my concentration drawn away by the eye candy, so I moved to the library. If you ever want to go somewhere you will not be distracted by good-looking people, the best place in any developed country is almost always the public library.

So every day I walked through the Tenderloin district to the nearest branch.  The Tenderloin is Frisco’s version of Skid Row, and the name is reportedly an analogy to the genitalia of the many prostitutes that live there. The legendary hard-drinking, trigger-happy madame Tessie Wall used to live here in the early twentieth century, and they say the sex industry she founded there still lives on.

I have no way to confirm that, however, as I was never approached by a hooker. Homeless veterans, on the other hand, seemed to spring from every street corner. One particularly memorable encounter involved a short guy with a brushcut who started walking beside me and told me that he had been done anti-drug operations as a U.S. marine in Honduras. So saying, he lifted up his shirt and showed me the massive wound where he claimed to have taken a load of buckshot in the ribs.

Christ. It seemed like everybody on the streets in the United States had fought for the country. Then again, you never knew who was for real and who was faking. When you grow up in a nation like America you do not need to go overseas to score bullet wounds.

My very first visit to the library, I got in the elevator to go up to the reading floor and was joined by a very tall and very pale woman with a black trench coat, shaved head, and two enormous chipmunk bulges jutting out of her cheeks. She smiled at me as she moved to tower over me and metal glinted in her mouth. I asked her if she had piercings. She just looked at me and, without saying a word, opened her maw to unleash two giant hooked metal fangs the size of thumbs. They must have been attached to something somewhere in there, because she proceeded to wiggle them around the edge of her mouth, pointing them up, down and to the side, before sucking them back into her puffy cheeks.

The elevator doors opened, and she cast me a mischievous glare as she strode out, as if daring me to follow her. And that pretty much set the tone for the rest of my time in the public library.

Of course, San Francisco is famous for weird shit like that. While I was there, the entertainment district was having elections to choose a regional supervisor. A drag queen named Anna Conda was running for the position and reportedly had sizeable support. Later on in my trip, an American woman—whose name I have pledged to never reveal—told me that she once met the famous singer Chris Isaac in San Francisco, and had a fling. The fun times promptly ended, however, when he came into the bedroom with a loaded gun and told her he wanted to stick it in her vagina for kicks.

Walking back to the apartment the day I met the chipmunk-vampire, I was approached by a wretched-looking black man who was hawking newspapers on the curb. It was a local paper called the “Street Sheet,” written by homeless people, and a way they made money to survive.

“Please sir,” he pleaded with watery eyes. “It’s only a dollar. If you give me anything, I would appreciate it… I’m been out in the wind and rain all day, and I’m tired and wet and hungry…”

I took a copy and gave him a twenty.

As I leafed through it, I learned that San Francisco’s wheelchair sales had recently skyrocketed. Finding that a strange statistic, I read on, learning that the mayor, a multi-millionaire named Gavin Newsom, had recently passed a “sit/lie law” prohibiting homeless people to rest on the streets. The desperate indigents, now forced to stand all day, had taken to buying wheelchairs as a way of getting off their feet and being allowed the luxury of sleep. The local government was apparently considering adding another, even more draconian “stand/stroll law” to get rid of the rest of the poor who did not know what was good for them. Of course, the mayor declared, such a law would only be applied to people who were obviously homeless, and no harassment of important people would be tolerated. Jail time of up to thirty days was threatened to impoverished citizens found strolling in the wrong neighbourhoods.

It’s always good to see public officials pushing to eliminate poverty from their constituencies, I mused. Too bad the only way they can figure out to do it is running the poor out of town…


[1] Ernst-Günther Schenck, who was Hitler’s physician during the war, told the press in a 1985 interview with the Chicago Tribune that the Führer had demanded meth injections on a regular basis. This has led to speculation that the Parkinson’s-like shaking and extreme anger of his final years was a result of meth addiction. The use of meth literally burns out the neurotransmitters responsible for the feeling of joy and elation through overstimulation, until the user is only able to experience constant, unmitigated rage.


[i] The practice of hospitals dumping homeless in Skid Row in Los Angeles is well documented. Michael Moore’s “Sicko” has a section discussing it with homeless shelter workers and showing footage of a cab dumping confused elderly on the street outside The Midnight Mission, and observes that the very day Moore was shooting there the county hospital run by the University of Southern California tossed a woman with broken ribs, a fractured collarbone and unhealed stiches in her head on the curb to fend for herself. Here is a link to that five minute clip (provided it stays up on youtube by the time this is published): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXP66Sstl4A.

[ii] Statistics on homeless numbers in America come from this source: http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/How_Many.html. According to the 2011 “State of Homelessness in America” report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, between 2008 and 2009, homelessness increased across the entire country in varying levels, and the state of Mississippi was the worst, with a 260% jump over the course of that single year. (Source:  http://www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/3668)

[iii] Data on meth addiction comes from the Drug Enforcement Administration. Here is the factsheet: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/meth/map/textonly.html

[iv] Quotation from Nick Reding’s Methland: The Life and Death of an American Small Town (p. 43).

[v] For more info on America’s intervention in Nicaragua, see Appendix III at the end of this writing.

[vi] Bill O’Reilly’s affluent upbringing was reported by his own mother in the Washington Post, contradicting his previous claims that he grew up poor and struggled tooth and nail for most of his life. O’Reilly also constantly claims that he is not a Republican (and therefore not a biased commentator), in spite of the fact that he has been outed as a registered Republican voter for decades. For an extensive treatment of Bill O’Reilly, check out Minnesota Senator Al Franken’s aptly titled book Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. A whole chapter is dedicated to him there.

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