10/24/2014

The Rude Pundit's Chicken Soup for the Ebola'd Soul

The Rude Pundit's gotta admit it: when he walked outside his place in the New York City area this morning, he was kind of pissed that it wasn't a raging hellscape of bleeding-eyed zombies and streets full of corpses. He felt like he was promised at least that. Not even an overturned car or garbage can fire, and that ain't atypical around this neighborhood. Nothing. Just parting clouds, man, and the sun coming through for the first time in a few days.

The subways are crowded. The streets are crowded. The restaurants are crowded. There's not even extra surgical mask-wearing going on.

Life is always a battle, you know, between the existential dread that, someday, something is gonna do you in and the affirming effort of not allowing that to define what you do every day.

All around the country, we're being watched up here, even more closely than usual. There's a good number of craven conservatives who desperately want us to freak out. They want us to panic. They hope we panic. They're begging us to. They want to puncture what they see as our pretension, that "we're better than you" image that we have when, in reality, every place has it. But because, unlike Texas, we're pretty liberal, the conservative ghouls want us to suffer, as if to prove us wrong about caring about people different than us.

So, sure, a doctor who treated patients in Guinea came home to the city. And, yes, he has Ebola. And, yes, he rode the trains and went bowling, probably had sex with his girlfriend, even. If you are someone who wants a travel ban on people from West Africa, are you saying that we should have just left him in Guinea, that we should leave Americans there?

Within 12 hours of this news, we got word that Nina Pham, the nurse who got Ebola treating the first Ebola patient in Dallas, is leaving the hospital, just fine. And by April, we could start having mass vaccinations of populations who are at risk for Ebola. Medicine and science. Who would have thought.

The Rude Pundit had a conversation today with a friend who lives in the South. She badly wants to leave, wants to move up here, to the Northeast. "You know what it is?" she said. "I just can't stand the Jesus crap anymore."

"I know," the Rude Pundit responded. "And it's like it's gotten worse in the last few years."

You could have heard her nodding through the phone. "It definitely has. You can't go anywhere without someone pushing Jesus at you. And they expect everyone to think the way they do."

He spoke to another friend sub-Mason-Dixon and that one told the Rude Pundit, "I got so pissed off at my dentist's office. In the waiting room, they were playing Christian music. I shouldn't have to hear that shit. I told the dentist, 'You know I can't come here anymore.' He knew and understood, but the women working the front, they were just confused that I didn't like it."

They're not homogenous down there. There's a lot of people in the South just like the Rude Pundit's friends. And we're not homogenous up here. We are filthy with religion, too.

But here's the difference, the reason that we're not freaking out. Our lawmakers, for the most part, know that science, not Jesus, shows us we shouldn't freak out. The people, for the most part, think that, too (and, besides, it's a helluva lot easier to go about your daily routine than change it up). So the pressure will be on us to panic. People who profit from such things will attempt to assure that it does. And maybe you will be able to wipe the smirk off our smug faces as we board our windows after another half dozen cases.

Until then, the Rude Pundit's got plans that involve being in crowded spaces. He'll be fine. It's the weekend and the sun is out at last.

10/23/2014

The Human Ebola Bomb Fantasies of Marc Thiessen

This is what Washington Post columnist and torture advocate Marc Thiessen has to have pictured: A swarthy Middle-Eastern man, with full-on, untreated Ebola, which means he's shitting and vomiting all over the place, bleeding from several orifices, staggering unnoticed into a crowded area, maybe a mall, and detonating a suicide vest, spraying bits of his body and fluids all over everyone who didn't die from the actual explosion, a kind of biological bomb, thus giving Ebola to perhaps dozens of people.

Every once in a while, you can read the most fucked-up shit in what is ostensibly mainstream media, shit that envisions the darkest scenarios or describes the most horrific crimes, like there's an editor whose sole job is to troll the internet for nightmare fuel and send it to the writers. "Hey, Thiessen," he'd say, "which do want: human Ebola bomb or Muslim sex dungeon for donkeys or Vladimir Putin's baby-eating?"

For in his latest "column" (if by "column," you mean, "playground of dementia built by a particularly savage masturbator"), Thiessen is all about making us wonder "What if?" as in, "What if the terrorists weaponized Ebola?" As he explains, "[T]he Ebola infection is raging right now in parts of Africa where Islamist extremists could have easy access."

And it ain't just suicide-infecting that Thiessen is talking about: "Terrorists could collect samples of infected body fluids, and then place them on doorknobs, handrails or airplane tray tables, allowing Ebola to spread quietly before officials even realize that a biological attack has taken place." That's right: some enterprising young terrorist could find Ebola patients, tap some of their blood or diarrhea or snot or something, maybe jack off a few lucky, unsuspecting Ebola dudes, perhaps "fill up a few Zip-Loc bags" with Ebola spooge, as Salon's Simon Maloy says in his Thiessen takedown, and then swab it on subway seats or vegetables or something. Then...profit?

Let's put aside that even if you popped an Ebola patient like a pimple, you'd have to get the fluids into an open cut or a mouth or eyes to even have a shot at sickening someone. Let's put aside the chances of someone getting Ebola from touching an infected doorknob are incredibly low. Let's put aside that the Ebola in the Zip-Loc would have to be used within a couple of hours of defrosting for it to survive on the surface of a restaurant's fork.

Instead, let's focus on how quickly Thiessen's column went from ludicrously over-the-top to completely useless bullshit. For, perhaps, when he was writing it this weekend, Thiessen felt free to say, "[I]f our health-care system was unable to handle a single Ebola patient, imagine what would happen if 50, 100 or more Ebola patients started showing up at U.S. hospitals." Now we know that our health care system handled it. Quite well, in fact. And with screening underway at all airports that West Africans can fly into, unless that Ebola-filled terrorist is gonna risk an ocean voyage, it's gonna be pretty tough to get into the United States without a hospital visit if you're sick.

But, hey, as the start of Thiessen's new fantasy dystopian novel, an Ebola man-bomb is pretty good. In reality? Let's be real.

10/22/2014

Sorry, Poor Americans, But You're on Your Own

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a man who looks like a deflating yoga ball, really, really doesn't want to talk about the minimum wage. He didn't want to do a thing about it last year when he vetoed a bill to raise the minimum wage, which the voters of New Jersey ended up hiking anyway by a landslide vote of 61% to 39%. He doesn't want to now.

This is not just an assumption. Here's what Christie said yesterday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: "I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I really am. I don’t think there’s a mother or a father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized.’ Is that what parents aspire to for our children? They aspire to a greater, growing America where their children have the ability to make much more money and have much greater success than they have and that’s not about a higher minimum wage."

Now, let's put aside how utterly and completely wrong Christie is about who is making the minimum wage. 50% of its earners are adults 25 or older, so chances are Dad, or, more likely, Mom is sitting at the table, explaining to the kids why rich people listen to other rich people talk about how tired they are of hearing about the minimum wage,

This is our nation, the great, wealthy country where everyone can be anything as long as they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Of course, it'd help if people had boots.

'Cause see, as splendiferous and magnificent as the United States is, we can't even assure that poor people will have water. As the poorest people in Detroit learned (and, by the way, that "poorest" is 38% of the population), you can live in the 21st-century and your water can be shut off if you don't pay, like it was for 27,000 people in the last year, and the United Nations can come in, like it's just another Third World hellhole, and report about how truly fucked up that is. That report, by the way, kicks the nation right in its withering balls: "We were deeply disturbed to observe the indignity people have faced and continue to live with in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and in a city that was a symbol of America’s prosperity."

While the city said it has now turned the water back on, we still have to wrestle with the fact that it happened. "[T]he sad situation in Detroit also raises serious questions about what a citizen of a developed country—a country that not only believes itself to be the ideal model for liberal democracies around the world, but also regularly exports its way of life via commerce, capital, and sometimes military might—can expect of its government," as David Graham puts it in The Atlantic.

"Who the fuck are we?" is a question we ought to constantly be asking. What is our responsibility to each other? At what point do we simply cease to be a nation and become just an archipelago of individuals floating in a miasma of our selfishness and greed?

Which brings us back to Chris Christie, still slowly deflating, and his disdain for any talk about the minimum wage. In January, the rate will go up 13 cents in New Jersey, to $8.38 an hour. That's because voters passed a constitutional amendment that said the minimum wage must be tied to the cost of living. Every year it will go up because that's just fucking humane (even if the wage is still too low).

In other words, the minimum wage should be hung around Christie's neck, a millstone that drags his presidential aspirations down to the ground. Christie pretty much said, "Yeah, fuck the poor." But, really, is it that different than what the nation as a whole is saying when you hear about the takers and free stuff and anything else that exists just to keep people alive?

10/21/2014

David Brooks: "Ebola Crisis" Fear Is Totally Understandable Because David Brooks Understands It

In today's episode of David Brooks Explains Everything For You in the Most Elitist, Pandering, Smug Way Possible While Pretending to Be One of the Proles is all about the "Ebola crisis." If you're talking about west Africa, well, yeah, it is a crisis. If you're talking about the United States, it ain't a crisis. It's a minor annoyance combined with hysterical screaming, like a particularly hairy spider that wanders into the tween girl slumber party. Mom can come into the room, tell everyone to calm the fuck down, and get rid of the goddamn spider. Now who wants hot chocolate? ("Get out of my room, Mom. We're watching Shailene Woodley in something or other.")

But, hell, if a New York Times columnist says it's a crisis, motherfuckers, let's just go with it.

Why does Brooks think we've gone bugfuck insane about Ebola? Because we're so isolated. No, really. Let's kick out the dime store anthropology: "In the first place, we’re living in a segmented society. Over the past few decades we’ve seen a pervasive increase in the gaps between different social classes. People are much less likely to marry across social class, or to join a club and befriend people across social class.That means there are many more people who feel completely alienated from the leadership class of this country, whether it’s the political, cultural or scientific leadership. They don’t know people in authority. They perceive a vast status gap between themselves and people in authority." The Rude Pundit knows what you're going to say, but, like an ejaculation you want to be especially explosive, deny yourself the immediate pleasure.

There's other stuff that's making us lose our collective minds when it comes to the big, bad nipple bleeder: "[Y]ou get the rise of the anti-vaccine parents, who simply distrust the cloud of experts telling them that vaccines are safe for their children. You get the rise of the anti-science folks, who distrust the realm of far-off studies and prefer anecdotes from friends to data about populations." No, not yet. Put a clothespin on it.

"Second, you’ve got a large group of people who are bone-deep suspicious of globalization, what it does to their jobs and their communities," Brooks tells us. "Third, you’ve got the culture of instant news. It’s a weird phenomenon of the media age that, except in extreme circumstances, it is a lot scarier to follow an event on TV than it is to actually be there covering it. When you’re watching on TV, you only see the death and mayhem." Okay, now you can let it spray.

Who the fuck made the nation this way? Who the fuck spent the better part of the last few decades in a concerted effort to divide us so we could be conquered? Who the fuck spread mistrust of science like it was a badge of honor to be stupid? Who the fuck exploited globalization to the extent that our factories moved across the border and overseas? Who the fuck invented the media that exists only to scare people into isolation and suspicion? Yeah, fuckin' David Brooks and all the fuckin' people who are supposedly on his side of the political street. (We'll leave out the anti-vaccine nuts. They're from Park Slope or Mars or somewhere.)

It's like Brooks has a wooden paddle with Reagan's face carved into it, and he just loves lining people up to spank their bare asses, leaving Reagan-shaped welts on their skin.

We are isolated. We are misinformed. We are ill-educated. And that's thanks to conservative policies and Fox "news." Conservatives believe in getting people to disengage from the civic square; they want the populace to huddle in their houses, with their guns, and watch madmen and madwomen blather on about the things they should fear. Jesus, all the evidence you need is found in the passage of voter i.d. laws. They exist just to ensure that very few people take part in our "democracy." Or we could throw in the utter refusal of Republicans to get money out of politics, thus causing those with more money to have more speech.

Brooks starts to conclude, "The Ebola crisis has aroused its own flavor of fear. It’s not the heart-pounding fear you might feel if you were running away from a bear or some distinct threat. It’s a sour, existential fear. It’s a fear you feel when the whole environment seems hostile, when the things that are supposed to keep you safe, like national borders and national authorities, seem porous and ineffective, when some menace is hard to understand." And then he offers, "In these circumstances, skepticism about authority turns into corrosive cynicism." So mission accomplished, right?

Fuck Ebola. We should fear rich dandies who attempt to theorize their way out of their own complicity in making us afraid.

10/20/2014

GOP: We're Not Scientists Except When We Are

Problem:
Republicans are glad to tell you that either the evidence is inconclusive or that they are too dumb to understand the science when it comes to climate change, so they think it's wrong to act like it's a crisis and refuse to do anything to slow or halt it. However, they will go bugnuts crazy and try to cause panic when it comes to the science around the spread of Ebola, even when they have it wrong.

Hypothesis:
Playing to the craven cowardice and blunt ignorance of the general public, Republicans are happy to act like scientists and are using Ebola as a wedge issue for this year's elections with no regard to the facts (also known as "acting like Republicans").

Evidence:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on why we shouldn't do anything about climate change: "I'm not a scientist. I'm interested in protecting Kentucky's economy."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on why we should take strict measures to prevent the spread of Ebola: ""I'm not an expert on this, but it strikes me that it would be a good idea to discontinue flights into the United States from that part of the world." (A day before he had said, "I think we ought to listen to what the CDC thinks they need either in terms of financing or certainly they'll decide the procedures for travel and all the rest. I think we need to follow the advice of the experts who know how to fight scourges like this.")

Speaker of the House John Boehner on why he is against President Obama on policies to slow climate change: "Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change."

Speaker of the House John Boehner on action to halt Ebola: "A temporary ban on travel to the United States from countries afflicted with the virus is something that the president should absolutely consider along with any other appropriate actions as doubts about the security of our air travel systems grow."

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on why he doesn't want to say how much human activity contributes to climate change: "I’d leave it to the scientists to decide how much, what it means, and what the consequences are...Let the scientists debate and figure that out."

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on why we should act preemptively to stop Ebola's spread: "It's pretty clear they refused to take common sense steps and call for the ban of these flights...That's been something I've been calling on for quite some time now. This is just common sense. Why in the world wouldn't we do this?"

Representative Paul Ryan on whether humans cause climate change: "I don't know the answer to that question. I don't think science does, either."

Representative Paul Ryan on how we should react to Ebola: "We’re learning a lot about how it’s spread but the question is ‘How can a person just jump on a plane and get here without a quarantine period of 21 days, which I believe is recommended."

This list could continue with Senators Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, with Governors Rick Perry and Rick Scott, with more members of the GOP House caucus than you could care to count.

Conclusion:
More people in the United States are scared about Ebola than climate change when climate change affects everyone and Ebola affects, at most, a handful of Americans. Republicans pretend not to know science, but they are unafraid of spreading lies and pretending to know it when it suits their purposes, even if it ultimately causes more harm than good.

They call for no action on climate change because they plead ignorance; meanwhile, they call for specific action on Ebola, as if they have expertise. When it comes to fear mongering for votes, they are more than willing to put on their costume lab coats despite, for the most part, their distinct lack of medical degrees.

And the majority of Americans buy into it and lose their shit when Ebola will never cause them to do so.

10/17/2014

Your State Sucks: Tennessee Sucks Because Its Anti-Choicers Are Liars and Assholes

The Rude Pundit has great love for Tennessee. No, really. He goes there just about every year for the Bonnaroo Music Festival. It's truly beautiful, especially this time of year. He lived in Knoxville for a few years and had no problem heading out into the dirt poor towns to do some work. On a personal level, he liked just about every low-forehead, banjo-strumming, hard-drinking or meth-tweaking, uneducated bumpkin he met, from amazing alcoholic bluegrass musicians to strung-out, toothless strippers, from twitchy snake-handling tongue-speakers to racist pukes.

Of course, that's only one part of the population. The rest are not exotic stereotypes, just regular people living regular lives. Frankly, they freaked out the Rude Pundit more than the Inbred Jeds and Janes because the stereotypes wear their crazy like Olympic medals. It's the ones who appear to be nice sane, primarily middle-class and white, who will seek to fuck you over in the most subversive, filthy way possible.

And that's what Amendment 1 is: it's a way to shatter the balance of powers between the legislative and judicial branches when it comes to abortion rights in Tennessee. It's a way to control women by using the shit-colored patina of voting power to do it. See, what Amendment 1 does is simple: it says that only the legislature can make or change abortion laws. No fucking state judge can overturn what the legislature passes. It's probably not constitutional (as in the big Constitution, not the junior ones that every state changes on a fucking whim when, for instance, the queers are makin' people feel uncomfortable). But it'll fuck with women's lives for a good bit until the Supreme Court hopefully says, "Um, no." And while the aforementioned inbreds might be for it, it's the regular people who are driving this as some great and mighty quest to right what they see as a wrong.

See, in 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court struck down abortion restrictions, so the state became an oasis of sanity about the right to choose, so much so that women in the pathetic situations in Mississippi, Alabama, and other states come to Tennessee to get abortions. Now, you may say, "Well, that's better than getting illegal, harmful abortions." And you would be a fucking heathen who doesn't love the babies. Don't you love the babies, asshole? Tennessee is now an "abortion destination" on the abortion tour of Uhmerka. Tennessee wants to be known for whiskey, music, football, and cousin-fucking. Why spoil it?

Now, you might also say, "Well, shit, why doesn't Tennessee just do what every other stupid-ass state does and pass more regulations. Throw that shit against the wall and see what sticks?" Well, the judges in Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist said that Tennessee's constitution has a greater right to privacy than even the U.S. Constitution. And back in 2000, the dissenting judge said, in essence, "If you wanna fuck with the rights of women, you gotta amend the constitution or else these bastards around me are just gonna overturn shit again."

So here we are. The Yes on 1 people tell everyone that they are just after sensible regulations and, even though the amendment says the legislatures can make laws regarding abortion in cases of rape, incest, and life-in-danger, no way no how will they do it. Trust 'em with your reproductive rights, ladies, 'cause they're godly people. Over 80 churches so far have given over $50,000 to the "Yes" forces. (Yes, dear conservative, Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups are giving shit-tons of money to oppose Amendment 1.)

The position of the No on 1 side comes down to "Do you think we're fucking idiots? Of course, you deranged sons and daughter of bitches are going to pass every extreme regulation you can short of an outright ban, including all the shit that the court got rid of plus all the other bullshit rules." Right now, Tennessee provides funding for women in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. You can bet that'll be gone the day after Amendment 1 is ratified because "I ain't payin' fer no 'bortion."

Of course, the Yessers say they don't want "unelected state judges" making decisions. Where does that end, though? Why not pass something that says only the legislature can make decisions about business regulations or environmental laws or civil rights? How is the wisdom of Cletus Pigfucker who got elected to the legislature from the town of Analrape somehow more valid than the rulings of people who went to law school? (Note: to make your brain explode, check out Amendment 2, also on the ballot.)

This is a goddamned game with women's bodies and lives as the prize. We argue over who is going to win when we shouldn't even be playing in the first place.

10/16/2014

Your State Sucks: Tennessee Sucks Because It Hopes to Own Women's Bodies

The word "retarded" is generally banned from polite discourse. It is a loaded term, one that upsets a number of people. It carries with it cultural weight, and, used for certain populations, it degrades those who need protecting. However, the Rude Pundit has gone through his mighty vocabulary to come up with another word for Amendment 1, a constitutional amendment that's up for vote in November in Tennessee. And, well, the only thing that seems to work, because everyone knows what you mean when you say it, whether you want to admit that or not, is "retarded."

Read it for yourself: "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother."

This is retarded. It is fucking retarded. It was written by fucking retards to appeal to fucking retards because the first retards want to make sure the second retards stay retarded and vote for them, retardedly.

Amendment 1 says the state owns women bodies, purely and simply, and it destroys the balance of power in the state to do it. But don't take the Rude Pundit's word for it. Listen to every major newspaper in the state:

The Nashville Tennesseean: "[I]f you were to vote yes, you would, indeed, be doing much: First, by setting the legislative branch of government above the judiciary, and second by enshrining (through the second sentence of the amendment) the ability of state lawmakers to exceed the limits on Roe v. Wade thus far allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court...the second sentence of the amendment clearly signals they intend to ban abortion even in cases involving rape, incest and when pregnancy or childbirth endangers the life of the mother."

The Memphis Commercial-Appeal: "In the bigger picture, Amendment 1 is not only about abortion. We agree with opponents of the proposal that at a fundamental level it also is about who makes a woman’s health decisions — the woman herself, or state lawmakers who too often are guided by partisan and ideological motives. Those motives sometimes have no respect for a person’s privacy. Women should have the right to make private, personal decisions about their health."

The Knoxville News-Sentinel: "The first sentence would remove a woman’s right to make decisions about her pregnancy. Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, the courts have consistently ruled that a woman has the overriding interest in the course of her pregnancy until the fetus is viable. If Amendment 1 passes, the state Legislature could pass laws that dictate any or all decisions a woman might make, from the moment of conception onward."

The ChattanoogaTimes Free-Press:"Decisions about contraception and abortion — like decisions about Viagra and fertility treatments — should be made by a man or woman in consultation with their faith, their family and their doctors."

These are not from the crazy-ass liberal media. The Tennessean endorsed Mitt Romney for president in 2012. The Times Free-Press endorsed Gary Johnson in 2012 and John McCain in 2008.

But cruel fucks will be cruel fucks. And they will manipulate people who are so deranged by religion and poverty that they only have GodJesus to comfort them, so they don't wanna piss him off. The lives of women in Tennessee, in all those cities, are in the hands of the, well, see the first paragraph.

More on this tomorrow.