5/28/2015

Other Things That Are "Cool" If You're Not Forced to Do Them (Scott Walker Edition)

The conservative media is all upset because, they claim, everyone is just simply misquoting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. While on Dana Loesch's radio show (motto: "Who the fuck let Dana Loesch on my Pep Boys waiting room radio?"), Walker was talking about "gotcha" media moments when, unprompted, he veered into abortion laws:

"I'll give you an example. I'm pro-life, I've passed pro-life legislation. We defunded Planned Parenthood, we signed a law that requires an ultrasound. Which, the thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea. Most people I talk to, whether they're pro-life or not, I find people all the time who'll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids' ultrasound and how excited they are, so that's a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, you know we still have their first ultrasound picture. It's just a cool thing out there. We just knew if we signed that law, if we provided the information, that more people if they saw that unborn child would, would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child."

That's the full quote. Now, Politico and other places went with "Scott Walker says forced ultrasounds are 'cool.'" That's obviously not what he was saying, as Glenn Beck's Blazing Ass huffed and puffed.

And they're right. Walker wasn't saying that the law itself was cool. However, what Walker was really saying is far more sinister. Or fucking dumb. It's hard to tell with Walker, a man who looks like he's just spread peanut butter on his balls and sat down in the puppy pen. The future Republican presidential candidate was actually saying, "Ultrasounds are cool. Why wouldn't everyone want one, even if the state is forcing you to do it?"

Actually, there are a lot of things that are cool when you volunteer to do them that aren't all that cool when it's against your will. For example:

1. Sex with someone you just met.

2. Sewing clothes and selling them.

3. Taking drugs with other people around.

4. Growing fruits and vegetables. Harvesting them.

5. Having children.

It's all about context. Not context for whatever bullshit Walker is spouting about, but context for every new cruelty Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans want to inflict on women who want to have an abortion.

5/27/2015

Times Writer Is Stupid, Says Democrats Have Gone Too Far Left

Oh, listen, dear, sweet American children. Come and gather close to the Rude Pundit while he explains a little recent history that, like so much of our history, is being revised by conservatives like mad Stalinists scrubbing Soviet classroom lessons of any mention of Trotsky. The latest, but certainly not the last, salvo is an op-ed in the New York Times by Peter Wehner, whose bio may as well read, "Republican ballsack washer." He was in the Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II administrations, becoming one of W's speechwriters. He also advised Mitt Romney's doomed 2012 presidential campaign. So he has tasted the testes of many a powerful Republican who wanted to dip their nutbuckets in Wehner's well.

Wehner's column (if by "column," you mean, "a list of bullshit talking points you'll hear every goddamned Fox 'news' commentator parrot for the next 18 months") posits that the problem of political stasis in the United States isn't that the Republican Party has been taken over by the deranged, the cruel, and the ignorant. No, sir: "[I]n the last two decades the Democratic Party has moved substantially further to the left than the Republican Party has shifted to the right." And Wehner uses the presidency of Bill Clinton to demonstrate his point.

Kids, you may think of Bill Clinton as that creepy old dude who once got a blow job in the Oval Office and who Republicans despised so much that they tried to get him booted out of office. You might have heard that Clinton was a wild and woolly liberal who jizzed all over the nation when he wasn't snorting coke off the bouncy titties of Daisy Mae or some other trailer park maiden. But did you know that Clinton was actually a "centrist Democrat" who "governed as one as well"? That's what Wehner tells us. He's correct, but he's totally rewriting not just the history of Republicans now, but Republicans then, who wanted the Clintons both exiled for their fantasy crimes.

Wehner gets to these conclusions through lies and obfuscation or, you know, the GOP way: "One of the crowning legislative achievements under Mr. Clinton was welfare reform. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, loosened welfare-to-work requirements. Mr. Obama is more liberal than Mr. Clinton was on gay rights, religious liberties, abortion rights, drug legalization and climate change." And on the economy, "Mr. Clinton lowered the capital-gains tax rate; Mr. Obama has proposed raising it. Mr. Clinton cut spending and produced a surplus. Under Mr. Obama, spending and the deficit reached record levels."

Does the Rude Pundit have to go through all of this? Does he have to explain that times change in two decades? Does he have to say that Al Gore, Clinton's Vice President, was Mr. Climate Change? Does he need to explain that one of the reasons that Clinton went further right was because he was chastened by the defeat of his health care reform proposal, which had far more government control over the market than the Affordable Care Act does and was thus more "liberal," that Democrats were routed in 1994 and Clinton decided that the only way to get anything done was to give in on some Republican ideas? That any Democrat on a national level who dared to appear liberal was going to be tarred with Jimmy Carter and then feathered with Walter Mondale so many Democrats tried to be tough bastards to the poor and disenfranchised?

Or maybe, just maybe, it's important to note that when Bill Clinton cut the capital gains tax rate in 1997, it was part of a negotiation with Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, the leaders of a Republican Congress. And one of the things that Republicans compromised on was a reduction in military spending, a definite liberal goal in the post-Soviet era. Oh, and the deal also established the Children's Health Insurance Program, which brought health care to five million children, paid for by the government. And many conservatives hated the budget deal, tax cuts and all, precisely because it spent some money and didn't cut taxes enough.

Clinton was working with Republicans who were willing to bargain. It wasn't perfect by any stretch, and even Bill Clinton says some of what he did was too conservative, like mandatory sentencing. Gingrich and Lott may have been motherfuckers, but they were motherfuckers who wanted to legislate. Rich people got to keep money and kids got insurance. That's the way this shit is supposed to work.

Instead of recognizing that, Wehner is happy to just shit on Obama and call it insight: "The Democratic Party, then, has moved steadily to the left since the Clinton presidency. In fact, since his re-election, Mr. Obama’s inner progressive has been liberated...Other examples are his executive action granting temporary legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, his claim that gay marriage is a constitutional right, and his veto of legislation authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline." Which is fine, if you ignore all the very un-liberal things Obama has done when it comes to drones and surveillance, and if you ignore all the things Obama has done that Republicans used to support, like the Dream Act and the Massachusetts model of health insurance, that they abandoned as they veered into nutsy conservative-ville.

As for Clinton, Wehner says, "Mr. Clinton acted on a lesson Democrats learned the hard way, and moved his party more to the center on fiscal policy, welfare, crime, the culture and foreign policy." And that's totally true if you ignore all the liberal shit that Clinton did.

Of course, it might have been more fair to compare Democrats not named Clinton or Obama, since the vicissitudes of the presidency are different than those of a member of Congress or a governor. That 1997 budget deal? Yeah, three-quarters of the Democrats in the House, led by Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, were against it. It passed primarily with Republican votes.

But, no, really, go on about how Democrats have become more liberal.

That is the lesson for today. History will fuck up your nice little propagandistic statement every time.

5/26/2015

Conservative Silence on Ireland Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage (Updated)

After Ireland voted by a feckin' landslide to legalize same-sex marriage, the Rude Pundit thought, "Huh. Now that a nation that eats Eucharist wafers and shits family has said that they don't give a damn if two men marry, I wonder what our doyennes of morality will have to say." And, for the most part, the response is...not a goddamn thing.

If anyone was going to stroke out over it, you'd think that Bill Donahue of the Catholic League - hell, Bill Donahue is the Catholic League - would be everywhere condemning the living fuck out of the Irish. Except he hasn't. That corn kernel-toothed motherfucker can't wait to send out his press releases of the damned on anything slightly Catholicish. Charlie Hebdo artist leaving his job? Donahue is practically dancing on the graves of Renald Luzier's dead colleagues. Today, Marco Rubio said some fucking thing and Donahue was praising the shit out of it. The Irish referendum was last Friday. Oh, angry old bastard, where is your rage?

It's really kind of remarkable how much the right is just ignoring the vote so far. Maybe they're regrouping? Trying to figure out how to wrestle with this without offending the large number of religious people who did vote "Yes"? Perhaps they don't want to go down the rabbit hole of Irish anger at the Catholic church for, you know, fucking children and abusing women?

On Shakey the Deaf Clown's Masturbatorium of Hate, Rush Limbaugh said not a word today, even though he regularly uses his bully pulpit to bully people over LGBT rights. The blog Redstate, led by Jesus's sandal huffer, Erick "Erick" Erickson, has not peeped a peep. Other than some Twitter hate, and saying there's hate on Twitter is like saying, "We breathe air," the nets and waves are blissfully free of attacks, not even a good "oh, they were drunk when they voted" bit of stereotyping.

Of course, it's not totally silent. The National Organization for Marriage (motto: "One man, one woman, like God intended except for all the polygamy in the Bible") said, "This is a reflection on the increasingly secularized nature of Ireland, together with the utter abandonment of principle by every political party in the nation, all of whom endorsed the referendum. This, combined with intense harassment of any group or individual who spoke out in opposition to the referendum, made it difficult for opponents." You know, when groups that harass LGBT people complain about harassment, you gotta almost laugh at the lack of self-reflection.

And the Vatican weighed in today, with Cardinal Pietro Parolin exclaiming, "I believe that we are talking here not just about a defeat for Christian principles but also about a defeat for humanity." A bit drama queeny, but pretty much what you'd expect for a church that's grappling with its outdated beliefs in a world that, more and more, tells it to go fuck itself. That's a sin, by the way.

Surely, this silence will not last. Surely, the hate machine will churn out its incoherent blatherings as a kind of crude response, the cavemen telling the evolved humans how much God hates them for walking upright.

Update: Rude reader Greg M. pointed out that the National Review has yet to chime in about the Irish marriage vote, with not even a word from their array of angry bloggery practitioners.

5/25/2015

A Poem for Memorial Day

The War After the War
by Debora Greger

for Greg Greger

I

Where were the neighbors? Out of town?
In my pajamas, I sat at my father’s feet
in front of their squat, myopic television,
the first in our neighborhood.

On a screen the size of a salad plate,
toy airplanes droned over quilted fields.
Bouquets of jellyfish fell: parachutes abloom,
gray toy soldiers drifting together, drifting apart—

the way families do, but I didn’t know that yet.
I was six or seven. The tv was an aquarium:
steely fish fell from the belly of a plane,
then burst into flame when they hit bottom.

A dollhouse surrendered a wall, the way such houses do.
Furniture hung onto wallpaper for dear life.
Down in the crumble of what had been a street,
women tore brick from brick, filling a baby carriage.


II

What was my young father,
just a few years back from that war,
looking for? The farm boy from Nebraska
he’d been before he’d seen Dachau?

Next door, my brother and sister fought
the Battle of Bedtime, bath by bath.
Next door, in the living room,
a two-tone cowboy lay where he fell,
too bowlegged to stand. Where was his horse?
And the Indian who’d come apart at the waist—
where were his legs to be found?
A fireman, licorice-red from helmet to boot,

a coil of white rope slung over his arm
like a mint Lifesaver, tried to help.
A few inches of ladder crawled under a cushion,
looking for crumbs. Between the sag of couch

and the slump of rocker, past a pickle-green soldier,
a plastic foxhole, cocoa brown, dug itself
into the rug of no man’s land
and waited to trip my mother.


III

Am I the oldest one here? In the theater,
the air of expectation soured by mouse and mold—
in the dark, a constellation of postage stamps:
the screens of cell phones glow.

And then we were in Algiers, we were in Marseille.
On foot, we fell in behind a ragged file
of North African infantry. Farther north
than they’d ever been, we trudged

straight into the arms of the enemy:
winter, 1944. Why did the French want to live in France,
the youngest wondered while they hid,
waiting capture by the cold.

They relieved a dead German soldier
of greatcoat and boots. Village by muddy village,
they stole, shadow to shadow, trying to last
until the Americans arrived—

as if, just out of range of the lens,
the open trucks of my father’s unit
would rumble over the rutted horizon.
Good with a rifle, a farsighted farm boy

made company clerk because he’d learned to type
in high school—how young he would look,
not half my age, and no one to tell him
he’ll survive those months in Europe,

he’ll be spared the Pacific by Hiroshima.
Fifty years from then, one evening,
from the drawer where he kept
the tv remote, next to his flint-knapping tools,

he’d take out a small gray notebook
and show his eldest daughter
how, in pencil, in tiny hurried script,
he kept the names of those who died around him.

5/22/2015

Things That Are Even Creepier Now That We Know Josh Duggar Molested Minors

How many times do we have to go through this before we understand that the entire industry built around supposedly good Christian families who condemn the rest of us is like a balsa wood dildo? You can enjoy the pleasure for a little while, but that fucker is gonna snap off inside you. Now we have Joshua Duggar, eldest son of Jim Bob Duggar, part of the now-canceled 19 Kids and Counting clan on TLC, which used to stand for "The Learning Channel," but now pretty much means "Totally Lying Criminals." In a joke that is barely worth writing, it was InTouch magazine that discovered that Duggar fondled kids when he was a teenager. We don't know the ages of the girls whose breasts and genitals he fingered, but we know it wasn't consensual. And we know that the Duggar family hid it for at least a year.

Josh Duggar was the executive director of the nutzoid evangelical Family Research Council's Action division, which meant that he was out there in public, meeting politicians and speaking against allowing same-sex couples to marry, among other issues.

Of course, one of the things that such revelations force us to do is to place Duggar's life in another context (see early Bill Cosby routines and writings for how that works). And it makes a lot of what he did creepy - no, creepier - than hell.

1. The Twitter hashtag "#theyfeelpain," which Duggar promoted to lobby for an anti-abortion bill:


2. This quote, which puts a frightening spin on the past:


3. The name of the event "ProLifeCon," which seems more appropriate than ever since Josh Duggar spoke multiple times.

4. This tweet, which begins with what now seems like a reason to call the cops:


5. Let's just face it: Going through Duggar's bizarrely still-available Twitter feed is a parade of horrors, from the "He is risen" proclamations to "Got milk?" to "Once God shows us His will -- we must obey Him instantly and fully! #TotalSurrender."

The point here is not merely schadenfreude for the fall of another family values hypocrite. Christ, we could build bridges with all their bones at this point.

No, the reason this is relevant to our political discourse is because of how many craven politicians and anti-women, anti-LGBT groups hitched their wagons to the Duggars' star. "These people are a real family," we're told. "This is who you should want to be." It's always a lie because it has to be. But so many people believe the lie or weave its web so that it appears to be real. Yet webs can always be destroyed by plucking one strand.

The FRC (motto: "A safe haven for criminals and closet cases") issued a tentative statement that was careful not to condemn Duggar, who had made the FRC a shit-ton of cash: "Today Josh Duggar made the decision to resign his position as a result of previously unknown information becoming public concerning events that occurred during his teenage years." And there's the defense: Oh, he was a dumb, horny teenager.

And, hey, at least he didn't want to marry a dude.

5/21/2015

In Brief: Louisiana's Rape Problem Is Also a Cop Problem

"You performed oral sex on him the night before. So the thing is this: What motive would he have to put a date rape drug in your drink?"

That's what East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office Sgt. Jacques Jackson told Lyndsi Lambert. Lambert had asked the police officer why he didn't take a urine sample or do a toxicology test on her blood to determine whether or not she had been drugged the night she said she was raped. The New Orleans Times-Picayune is publishing a series of stories by Diana Samuels about Lambert's case, and it will make you feel skeevy.

That quote up top from Jackson is from a recording Lambert made of her October 15, 2014 interaction with the cop when she was following up to see what he was doing to arrest the man she accused of rape. Unlike other fucked-up things Jackson said while initially interviewing Lambert at Woman's Hospital of Baton Rouge on September 26, this is not Lambert relating what Jackson said. It's Jackson. It's a cop telling a possible rape victim that she couldn't have been raped. You can hear the recording at the newspaper's website.

Lambert angrily tells Jackson that she gave him a motive in their first meeting: "She said she had told the [alleged rapist] after the one time they had sexual intercourse, about a week and a half before the alleged rape, that the sex wasn't good."

On the recording, Jackson argues, "You didn't tell me that." The report that Jackson filed on the case on September 27 reads, "She indicated that a possible motive...was because he was upset that she told him that he was not good in bed."

Let's put aside whether or not the rape took place. Ask yourself: Should Lambert have been treated like this? Should she have been accused, as she was, of lying because she had exchanged sexy texts with the man? Should it have taken five months to test her blood for potential drugs that would have impaired Lambert? And, really, what the fuck is wrong with Louisiana?

As columnist Jarvis DeBerry points out, to say that this was a case of police doing their jobs in the course of an investigation is bullshit at best, insidious at worst: "If police routinely did their jobs, we wouldn't have seen the story last year about five New Orleans police officers who failed to even write reports for 86 percent of the almost 1,300 sexual assault or child-abuse calls they were assigned.

Lambert says that, in the hospital that first day, she broke down crying while talking to Jackson. "Are you done? Can we move on?" she says Jackson asked her. Obviously, that's what the cops around Baton Rouge want to do.

Check out the series so far. Tomorrow, Samuels writes about how arrests for rapes have declined in East Baton Rouge parish. It wouldn't be wrong to wonder if it's because women know how they'll be treated by the cops.

5/20/2015

The Deeply Subversive Genius of David Letterman

If you weren't around or weren't old enough to watch David Letterman's Late Night on NBC in the 1980s, there's a good chance that you have no idea why people are genuinely mournful over Letterman's departure tonight from the airwaves after 33 years in late night broadcasting. You don't know what it means when people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, even, talk wistfully about the Guy Under the Seats, Larry "Bud" Melman, Bookmobile Lady, Pea Boy, the Velcro Suit, the Alka-Seltzer Suit, and so very much more. If you want to understand why Jay Leno was a thing, watch his early appearances on Late Night. Prior to YouTube, we traded these moments on VHS tapes and watched them over and over.

Many of the encomiums to Letterman emphasize how he nearly single-handedly radically transformed comedy, popular culture, and television itself. But what was more important to my younger self was that, in his ironic yet sincere, smug yet self-deprecating way, Letterman was subverting the Reagan era itself, and, goddamn, that was a rush.

See, what we were sold at the beginning of the presidency of Ronald Reagan was that the older generation, the "Greatest Generation" (if you ignore all that racism, sexism, and homophobia), had all the answers. The nation had indulged itself by electing allegedly squishy liberal Jimmy Carter and we were all supposed to believe Carter's presidency was a long, national nightmare, a dragon that was vanquished by the rise of Reagan and the return of hegemonic patriarchal power.

"Your culture is worthless," the Reaganites told the youth of the nation. "You need to go back to the wholesome times of old." This is not hyperbole. Many books and articles were written that specifically degraded the rising Generation X's power over pop culture and social ideology. "Listen to the old men who know better," we were told, even as MTV, hip-hop, hell, even Madonna, with her connections to queer culture, told us otherwise. What David Letterman did was to step into a void and say, "Yeah, screw those old guys."

For me, the moment I knew that Letterman was on my wavelength happened during Letterman's brief stint as a morning talk show host. If I'm recalling it right, Letterman was sitting at his desk, talking, when a mannequin fell from above and onto the desk, like a dead man had just dropped from above. It was startling, hilarious, and completely out of place. I remember thinking, "Oh, the old people sitting at home watching this are gonna be confused." And that was it.

The stunts on Late Night were Letterman's way of calling "bullshit" on the old paradigms of television, of pop culture itself. "This is dumb, right?" he was saying (sometimes actually saying). "So let's do dumb stuff." But that dumb stuff was a specific critique of the way in which the older generation revered their rigid formats and identities. You couldn't call Letterman's stunts "stupid" because he already did. But, damn, wasn't it funny? And wasn't that reason enough to drop things off of 5-story building? That bit, which morphed into crushing things under a steamroller or in a hydraulic press, showed us that things don't need a reason or logic. Against the divisive gender, racial, and class roles the Reagan administration presented, against the rising religious right, which was attacking music, film, and TV with a renewed vigor that hearkened to the 1950s, Letterman tossed two six-packs, light beer and regular beer, as a reenactment of Galileo's experiments with gravity, off that building.

But the thing that I thought was most fascinating was Letterman's celebration of not just the average American, but of the weirdness of America. "Stupid Pet Tricks" and "Stupid Human Tricks" were more than gimmicks. They were honestly, forthrightly celebratory of the things people do to occupy their time. Letterman's devotion to the quotidian was always on display. He began hosting the annual champion grocery bagger for a showdown with him, since he had bagged groceries as a teenager. Of course, the first thing you thought was "There's a grocery bagging championship?" And then you got into the competition. If you were weaned on Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, and Johnny Carson, that was an incredible thing for a TV host to do: to get in the trenches in a serious, not jokey, way with everyday people.

This extended even more to the guests he would bring on with regularity. The misanthropic comic book writer Harvey Pekar appeared numerous times just to be taunted by Letterman into poetic heights of rage. The bizarro stand-up comic Brother Theodore was also a regular, with Letterman pushing him to the edge with a nearly villainous antagonism. This isn't even to get into Andy Kaufman; he and Letterman used each other to create media firestorms long before Jimmy Kimmel ever made a viral video that turned out to be fake. Regular Larry "Bud" Melman was like a character out of Glengarry Glen Ross forced to do pitches on a street corner.

Even more to the point, Letterman was not above screwing with his corporate masters. While you might know him for needling CBS and Les Moonves, watch Letterman try to deliver a fruit basket to GE headquarters when that company bought NBC. Imagine a good-natured Michael Moore nearly getting beaten by a pissed-off security guard. It said everything you could want about the soulless center of capitalism. (Pekar would make Letterman cringe in an appearance attacking GE shortly after.)

And it can't go without saying that in those early years Letterman's head writer was Merrill Markoe and that having a female head writer was an extraordinary, embarrassing rarity then (and it hasn't changed a whole lot since then). Markoe helped invent Letterman's schtick: "What we were also consciously aware of was a dislike for the standard kind of closed-club superficial show business demeanor that had dominated the entertainment of the generation before us," she said recently about Late Night. "So what you might say we did was open the door and invite the rest of the world in."

Writing this, I keep remembering things that I loved from early Letterman: "Small Town News," Jay Leno's appearances where Dave would start each sit-down with "What's your beef?", musical performances from bands like X to annual appearances by Darlene Love to sing, "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)," cameras on monkeys and dogs, the 360 degree episode, the episode where Letterman broadcast from home because he was waiting for the cable company to show up, the times when Letterman honestly disliked a guest and didn't care if they knew it.

The best show to compare Late Night with is All in the Family. Norman Lear's sitcom came in and blew away the stale 1960s format, saying that mainstream comedy could be socially-relevant while murdering The Beverly Hillbillies and the like. It was a revolutionary show that had effects on everything that came after it in television and pop culture. And it forced viewers to confront those in power with greater suspicion.

In its absurdist way, Late Night showed us that we don't need to abide by the old ways of doing things, that the act of dropping a beautifully decorated wedding cake off a building just to see what happens is its own kind of subversion. Letterman would become more specifically political later in his CBS show, but to those of us who were feeling broken by the cultural and social oppressiveness of the Reagan era and didn't have access to the music scene in L.A. or the performance art scene in New York City, Letterman was sticking it to the man for us.