Scams? On a Wednesday?!?? I know, I'm as unsettled by this turn of events as you are. While we've been separated by the cruel realities of our daily lives, grifters have grifted, con artists have conned, and fraud, schemes and rackets have run rampant. Meanwhile I have been pressing my nose to the grindstone, remaining one step ahead of the law, and staying busy and important in ways that are none of your beeswax. Also this newsletter turned one!
I began writing the first edition of This Week in Scams during the Kavanaugh hearings. Without getting into the emotions (dark) of witnessing the testimony, I remember being struck by the conceptual absurdity. The idea that there's a single essential truth of past events or moral character, and that partisan political theater is the best method of ascertaining what that truth is is… kind of a scam? Like, it's laughable and maddening and fundamentally unsound and also very much how things are done Around Here.
The newsletter was an exercise in distracting myself from bigger questions about the state of the world and my own existence; it was also an attempt to prove to myself something I'd long suspected despite very little evidence: If I could focus on anything for more than six minutes at a time, I might be able to turn out writing that other people would want to read.
Cool news: I was right ;)
I sent the first edition to 12 people, and now about a thousand of you read it each week (you're my favorite, though). I'm an egomaniac, so I'd sort of prefer that roughly one million sets of greedy eyeballs devoured each of my perfect lil emails, but still, I'll take it. TWIS has so thoroughly exceeded my expectations, mostly because you, the Scam Fam, have been such incredibly generous and kind readers. Thank you for sending encouraging notes, responses, tips, and that sweet, sweet gossip that hits me like a Schedule I substance. You're honestly the best, and I'm beyond grateful.
As you may have gathered when you started getting my dispatches on Sunday and the frequency of them slowed, the part time job I was working when I started this thing became full time in March. To make matters worse (for you, arguably better for me) I am currently pursuing a few other projects I suspect myself to be capable of despite very little evidence. I'll tell you more about them when I'm right. We'll never speak of them again if I'm wrong.
Don't worry, I'm going to continue writing this newsletter, but you probably won't hear from me every week. I assume you're used to that by now and can forgive it. I'm only mentioning it so I don't have to offer up an elaborate excuse or apology every time I return from a long absence, but as always, if you have a problem with any of this, you're welcome to report this newsletter I write for free to the authorities. It's almost old enough to be tried as an adult!
Now, onto the scamzzzzzz….
We got a whole invasion of the body snatchers situation on our hands in California! Are you an organ donor? I am, because I never turn down an opportunity to feel super smug, even/especially in death. It is a medical marvel that doctors know how to turn a virtually dead body into a life saving resource. It is another kind of marvel that they also know how to turn it into that sweet, sweet ca$hhhhh money.
As Melody Petersen of the L.A. Times details in her remarkable investigation, Bodies of Evidence, the tissue procurement industry is out here getting that lucrative skin and bone for, just, like, regular reasons:
Although the companies have emphasized organ transplants, in far more cases nationwide they harvested skin, bone, fat, ligaments and other tissues that are generally not used for life-threatening conditions. Those body parts fuel a booming industrial biotech market in which a half-teaspoon of ground-up human skin is priced at $434. That product is one of those used in cosmetic surgery to plump lips and posteriors, fill cellulite dimples and enhance penises. A single body can supply raw materials for products that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Fine! I was a white teenage girl from 1997 - 2004 so I understand that cellulite can ruin one's life. I'm not here to judge cosmetic use cases, even though I do find it a touch unsettling that laws that are supposed to help increase life-saving organ donations "have worked more to benefit the biotech companies selling products derived from human cadavers than to increase the supply of organs." A dead person doesn't need her skin anyway. Unless, that is, she died under suspicious circumstances and a coroner has not been able to examine her yet.
Which is an increasingly likely scenario because body brokers have set up shop inside of county morgues in California and the industry's lobbyists have written legislation that's passed in many states giving them the same (or better) access to bodies as medical examiners. The Times found "more than two dozen cases in which the procurements made it harder to determine the cause of death. In many of those cases, coroners were unable to conclude either why or how the person died… The deceased ranged from homeless people to members of wealthy families, although more were poor than rich. Most were middle-age or younger. One was a child."
Totally cool and not at all ghoulish. Really glad someone figured out how to monetize the most vulnerable and devastating of situations.
There is actually a simple solution here, which is to live forever. I recommend it!
Stay scammy and please don't die,
PS: Organ donation always makes me think of this scene from One Tree Hill, a show I watched religiously for years. One of my first acts as an iPhone owner back in 2010 was proving to someone in a bar that this plot development was NOT a figment of my imagination.
My Week in Consumption
My expectations for Dolemite Is My Name were low, and it blew me away! I found it surprisingly moving, and it's worth seeing for Wesley Snipes alone.
Believe it or not, The Deuce, the David Simon show about prostitution and porn and New York City where James Franco plays twins for no good reason, is still on (though not for much longer). I find it to be excellent DESPITE the double Franco and I'm glad it's back.
I really wish Alta Calidad was in my neighborhood.
"I did some research, and folks? Owning an island is a real red flag."