10/19/2018

Jamal Khashoggi, Drone Missiles, and Us

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi, from what we know so far, is a goddamned nightmare. Lured to the Saudi embassy in Turkey, he was captured and tortured, brutally, by psychopaths under the direction of the leader of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince (and, you know, fuck you if in this day and age you're still getting to lead a country because some inbred jizzed you out) Mohammed bin Salman.

His fingers were cut off with a bone saw while he was awake. Think about that for a second or two. Put aside that he was a writer and that the message was clear that his ability to type was being taken away. Think for a moment about knowing your fingers are being removed. Think about that pain and the awareness that, even if you live, everything in your life just got fucked up. And then they injected him with something, perhaps sedating him, perhaps just paralyzing him, before beheading him and slicing him to pieces with the bone saw for easy transportation.

The idea that we would want to sell weapons to a country led by someone who could order such a thing on anyone, let alone someone who was a permanent resident of the United States, is abominable beyond comprehension (as are most of weapons sales). The idea that anyone would justify not condemning the murder and the murderers because they don't want to miss out on the chance to sell those murderers weapons is unspeakable. Yet here we are.

But what if Khashoggi hadn't been butchered by savages with a bone saw? What if, instead, Saudi Arabia had used missiles fired by drone aircraft to destroy a building that held Khashoggi? The use of drone missile and other airstrikes has rained death upon civilians for years. Both the Saudis and the United States have done and continue to do this in Syria, in Yemen, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere. And let's not be naive that it was always unintentional.

While civilian deaths are called "mistakes" and occasionally (if rarely)  apologized for, any outrage over them is quickly forgotten as casualties of war. Presidential adviser and the guy you totally pictured when you read "Bartleby the Scrivener" in college,  Jared Kushner, has told Trump that he thinks the outcry now will blow over, just like it did when the Saudis bombed a schoolbus in Yemen. And he's right in one respect. Most people don't think twice when someone is killed by drone missile because we're told the dead are evil or adjacent to evil. Or "oops, our bad."

I'm not trying to take away from the horror of this killing. And I'm not merely trying to say the pedantic, if true, "Well, the United States does some brutal shit, too." What I'm trying to say is that it's not that big a leap from the United States using a missile attack to take out a propagandist for ISIS or al-Qaeda to sending men to dissect a writer a prince doesn't like.

Of course, another way to see this is that bin Salman didn't give a shit about anything other than punishing a heretic as a message to anyone who might dare criticize him and his "progressive" regime. It's not even outside the realm of possibility that Kushner or Trump just winked at this as a plan. Jesus, just last night our goddamn miserable son of a bitch of a president praised Rep. Greg Gianforte for body slamming a journalist, a crime for which he pleaded guilty.

And, as part of a cover-up to defend bin Salman, who is getting ready to pin this on a rogue intelligence official who let an interrogation go bad, Republicans are starting to discredit Khashoggi by intimating that he had ties to terrorist groups (or groups that some see as terrorist). That assertion has already made its way into conservative asshole media, and if this trial balloon floats, Trump will go whole hog and his idiot hordes will accept it as gospel.

If that happens, then any opponents of Trump and his owners (the Russians, the Saudis, the screaming ghost of Roy Cohn, who knows who else anymore) are absolutely in danger. They will concoct a story that appeases any qualms of those who are on Trump's side.

It'd be so simple: "That CNN reporter in Iraq was just in the wrong place at the wrong time when our drone missile was taking out a cell of 10...no, 20...no, 30 terrorists. And what was she doing there at the time anyways?"

10/18/2018

Rude Storytelling Tonight in NYC

Hey, NYCers and NJites, I'm doing some storytelling tonight at the Red Room at KGB Bar with some great comedians and tellers of tales.

Come on out. We'll drink, we'll bitch, we may even laugh and cry.

10/16/2018

Trump Goes to See Hurricane Michael's Wreckage, Deny Climate Change

Our goddamn president, a highway garbage bag filled with live rats, took his hostage-wife down to Florida and Georgia to survey the catastrophic damage left behind by Hurricane Michael, a storm that moved incredibly quickly and grew in strength incredibly quickly before slamming into the Florida panhandle like a runaway dump truck.

Its strength and speed boggled and amazed Donald Trump, something he felt compelled to mention at every fucking stop on his little disaster tour. "You know, this hurricane happened very quickly," he said at a briefing in Macon, Georgia.  "In fact, it was a storm.  Nobody thought it was a big deal, and then all of a sudden, it started and then became a Category 4.  It happened very quickly."

Yes, imagine. What could make it develop so fast? If only there were, I don't know, science-type persons who searched for cause thingies. Oh, wait, we totally have scientists who can explain this because that's what the fuck scientists do. See, the water was warmer than usual for this time of year due to climate change and that caused the rapid intensification of the storm. The good news? "A warmer climate makes rapid intensification more likely." Nah. There's no good news unless "Oh, thank god, we'll all be dead soon" is good news to you.

Of course, for our goddamn president, climate change is merely part of the ephemeral circle of life, man. When he was asked if he thought climate change was a hoax, he bebopped, "No, there’s something there.  There’s no question.  There is something there — man-made or not.  I mean, there’s something there.  And it’s going to go, and it’s going to go back and forth.  But there is something there." Seriously, that's some "This is the way the world ends" shit right there.

And then Trump had to reveal that someone had told him something that he now will repeat on an endless loop: "They say the worst hurricanes were 50 years ago, if you can believe it.  In fact, the one that they say was worse — so two or three worse — one was in 1890s, and one was exactly 50 years ago.  The winds were 200 miles an hour.  So who knows?  But that’s what the — that’s what the numbers are."

Three things:
1. Exactly 50 years ago was 1968, one of the mildest hurricane seasons ever. Yes, Hurricane Gladys did some damage, but nothing massive and mostly in Cuba.
2. No hurricane with 200 mph winds ever hit the United States.
3. Yes, there were some bad storms in the 1890s. And the damage was worse because it was the fucking 1890s. But Trump mentioned the Naughty Nineties a couple more times, and I promise you it will be repeated like a record skipping in his brain for the rest of time. (Look up "records skipping," kids.)

Several reporters referred to his 60 Minutes interview where Bumblefuck the Clown President blamed reports about human activities contributing to the warming of the earth on sinister-ass scientists. He said to Lesley Stahl, "You'd have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda." Climate change deniers use this line all the time: scientists have agendas, they're greedy for that sweet, sweet grant money, and more. Putting aside the outrageous bullshittery there, who has more money on the line here? A couple hundred professors and researchers? Or the entire fucking fossil fuel industry? It's not that Trump doesn't know this. It's that his yahoo brigade doesn't seem to understand it.

(Side note: Any time Trump says you need to prove something to him, the immediate follow-up should be, "Fine, show me your fuckin' taxes and prove you're a billionaire and not a liar and criminal, Thievin' Donald.")

Look, as usual, Trump said a bunch of stupid shit while staring dumbly at everything in Florida and Georgia. "Nobody has seen anything like this," he claimed, when a lot of people have seen things like this. When the governor of Georgia mentioned the damage to the peanut crop there, some combination of neurons and jabbering hamsters in Trump's idiot skull clicked and he said, really, "Jimmy Carter, peanut farmer, and a nice man.  He is a nice man.  Met him on numerous occasions.  And if you think about it, that’s what he did, right?  Peanuts.  So it’s great." No one had fucking brought up Jimmy Carter.

That's all painful and hilarious and hilariously painful and painfully hilarious. But the real issue here is for people who plan on living past the next couple of decades. One of the key issues for the midterm election is if we're going to stop Trump from degrading the environment further. Nothing can be done to reverse things unless Democrats have far more power than just the House. But the House can stop funding for all kinds of shit, like coal subsidies and the like.

This is your choice, young voters and millennials. There are things that are never gonna go back to the way they were. We've fucked it up permanently. But it doesn't have to get more fucked.

Right now, think of the earth as a man who has lost a few fingers doing stupid shit to himself, like, I dunno, skateboarding over a crocodile pit or something. If that man stops skateboarding over a crocodile pit, he'll get to keep the rest of his fingers and not risk losing a limb or his head. Your vote will decide his fate.

And if you don't vote, President Thunderdumb will cheer on that skater until the crocs tear him apart.

(Note: Please don't skateboard over a crocodile pit. A snake pit, fine.)

10/15/2018

A Survivor of Sexual Violence Talks About Why She's Voting This November

Shortly after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed for the Supreme Court, I got a tweet from a young woman I know personally but hadn't heard from in a while. She shared with me that she had been a victim of rape and assault (something I didn't know about her before) and that the Kavanaugh hearings, and especially the treatment of Christine Blasey Ford, had stirred up all the trauma she still dealt with. I asked if she would be willing to write something about what she's been feeling. That's the piece below. Just a heads up: it is a long read, but it's well worth it.

She wants to remain anonymous (and some details are changed or obscured to keep it that way), but she is very real. And her very real perspective is that Republicans screwed up big time in pushing Kavanaugh. The writer here wants to put the GOP on notice that women are done with this shit, and she wants November to be a reckoning on what men, especially conservative men, have put women through these last couple of years.

I'll shut up now and turn it over to her
:

A few years ago, I found myself walking into a fancy gala thrown by my college. Most of my peers would be there; I walked in, seemingly feeling confident in a pretty dress, anticipating seeing my boss and my coworkers. Truthfully, the only reason I went was because I had never gotten an invite to this gala, and I wanted to experience it just once (I’d heard that the food is pretty amazing). I found my coworkers and greeted them, but my eyes would wander around the room and around the balcony with an intensity I had never had. I had a classic case of denial, which I had gone back and forth with for months. I found my eventual seat, but then I wandered into the bathroom, crying and hoping I wouldn’t be noticed, or that this would just end soon. I knew just leaving would seem odd, so I decided to stay, despite the fact the person who sexually assaulted me was attending this gala.

Later that evening, I had composed myself, but I still watched the room with the same intensity. I had casual conversations, and I felt like I was permanently set on “flight” mode; finally, someone noticed my unease and offered to talk to me. I started crying. But I didn't reveal why I was watching or looking or even specifically what was wrong. My boss came over and said she wanted all of my coworkers and me to take a photo together. If there was ever a time I wanted to run out the door, it was that moment.

And then, there he was, upon my boss’s request for us to all take a photo together; I found myself within feet of the person who violated me. I was close to just telling her our coworker had emotionally abused me and sexually assaulted me just a few months ago. But there were too many people, and he was within earshot.

I told my boss I didn't want to be in the photo and tried to quietly escape, but she was insistent: she loved all of us, and I had to be in the photo. I found the very opposite side of the crowd, as far from him as I could be, and forced a half-assed smile across my face.

 While this photo was being taken, I thought to myself, “If I ever came forward with this assault, this picture would be used against me.” People would wonder what kind of stupid woman takes a photo with her sexual assailant in it. Why didn't she just, as they say, say, "no" and stick to it? Immediately after the photo, I found myself feeling violated.

Nobody, at that point, knew I had been sexually assaulted.

I am a little bit of a veteran on this topic; that is not something I find easy to deal with and I'm not remotely over any of this. I've gone as far to say to people I have a trauma resume.

At age 13-14, I was stalked online by a boy who told me he would hunt me down, marry me, and beat me on the weekends. That is only some of the fucked up shit he told me. I had to entirely cut myself off from the world. I had to cut off my emails, any and all accounts, because he would find me and pretend he was somebody else. He would find my email and send me pornographic images, and he repeatedly threatened me.

 For a year and a half, I had limited access to the outside world aside from going to school, a place he was absent from because it was cyber-stalking and I had figured out he was from a different state. I had been connected with him from an internet forum a friend of mine made. My parents found out about this because they noticed I was acting oddly. They saw the messages and called the police. The police said it "wasn't a big deal.” They hadn't even really looked at the evidence I gave them, which was numerous emails and chat messages showing what he was saying and doing. I know this because I gave them these materials where he said his supposed name, and I told them his name was in those messages. But they said they didn't know if it was his real name, so they couldn't act upon it. As a kid, I let this go quietly into the night; I hadn’t realized the gravity of their words and their inaction.

I was graceful. I didn't talk about it for probably five years because how the fuck do you talk about that? Who the fuck do you talk about that to? I mean, yes, a therapist, but, I mean real people. At 14, maybe 15 (this went on for over a year, almost two years), how many people your age are there who can possibly understand what it is to be stalked?

Statistically, after one victimization (such as stalking or sexual assault), you are more likely to experience a victimization or sexual crime in the future. I have experienced sexual violence twice. Once raped, once assaulted. Both times were clear-cut situations that could not be misconstrued.

When I was 14, I thought that was the worst of men I would see. I thought it couldn't get any worse. I thought my stalker was something special, some kind of special demon hell-spawn that was limited to his mother's basement and his dial-up internet connection as he traumatized girls (I knew another girl who he had done this to). I really thought maybe I’d seen the worst of men. Apparently not.

My first assailant, the man I tried to avoid at the gala, was a successful college student who did cutting-edge research in a field of science, who had seen a Title IX presentation on sexual harassment a combined 40 times at this job where I was his co-worker. This is where we met and subsequently dated.

He invited me to an empty house when his parents and siblings went away to an amusement park. He began wanting to do things I had seen in pornographic images. I said no. I cried. I begged. I explained I was stalked and had issues with these things; he told me I was letting him take the fall for what someone else had done. I was gaslighted, manipulated, and pressured in an unfamiliar house with all the lights off and cornered on a bed. He continued anyway. I feared this would escalate to rape since he began bringing up sex and kept putting his arms around me against my will. I left that house feeling as violated as I had felt the day I talked to the police. I decided to wash away my evidence. His father is a cop who would use his power against me. He would not idly stand by as a crazy woman accused his son of sexual assault.

A few months after the gala, I told the co-workers who had been there, asking them for advice. There was a terrifying proposition I had learned about: the school was running a campaign against littering, and several students’ faces would be plastered on posters throughout the school. My assailant volunteered, and his photo was taken. I wanted to know what school employee I should approach if his picture was about to be hung all over my campus’s walls. I had planned on countering this by posting sexual assault awareness stickers on his face on all of the posters if I came forward and I was ignored, but luckily the campaign never printed the posters.

My assailant is now a high school teacher.

There is a reason I am telling these stories. I’ll get there.

I recovered from the assault, only to be raped by a different man a couple years later. Much like before, I was manipulated, gaslighted, and pressured while dating this man. He cried because I wouldn't have sex with him. He threatened me, too. He told me I was abnormal because we hadn’t had sex. Still, I said to stop. I whined in pain and quite literally felt myself separating from reality after I had told him to stop enough times that I soon realized it was useless.

I won’t be going into any more details.

This man-child was a well-liked student at my college. I had met him through an extracurricular event I volunteered for at my school. Everyone I spoke to seemed to genuinely enjoy his presence. I asked everyone I knew if they knew who he was and what they thought of him. One person went as far as to call him a "sweetheart.” I won’t name him, as I am hoping he becomes irrelevant to the world for the rest of his life, and he is a person I genuinely fear.

The things these stories have in common is that they act as a rebuttal for every idiotic suggestion made in the last week about or toward Christine Blasey Ford.

Why didn't she report it?

Well, I did once. The cops couldn't be bothered to actually look through evidence in detail because it wasn't a "big deal,” and they didn’t think he should have to register as a sex offender because he was a “young dumb kid.” They thought I should just talk to him and tell him to stop. Yes, these are things I was really told. Because of their inaction, he continued to harass me long after their “investigation,” fully knowing the police had investigated him. (I had informed him in an attempt to get him to stop.)

Why didn't she say no?

Well, I did. It didn't matter. In any situation.

Why didn’t she tell anyone?

It was five years before I spoke about being stalked to anyone. I spoke about the latter experiences much sooner because, you know, experience and all with sexual crimes, and after I was stalked I learned more about them.

Why didn't she tell her parents?

My parents only know I was stalked, and that’s only because they saw something and the cops were called. I would have otherwise not told them. Nobody in my immediate family knows about the other two experiences, at least in detail, and I have never admitted something occurred even as they have tried to unravel my sudden sexual assault activism.

Why doesn't she remember the date?

I don't remember the dates of any of these events. I figured out the approximate date, but I didn't exactly mark "Sexual Assault Anniversary" on my calendar. I also cannot remember anything that happened the rest of the day.

Why are you so scared of them if it was so long ago?

It doesn’t matter it happened 20 years ago or 5 years ago. I still fear the last assailant the most. I always will.

We can sit here and comb through every horrible statement made by Republican senators until I die at my computer (or, I guess, maybe get assaulted again). As I watched Brett Kavanaugh cry and blither at his hearing, I saw my rapist crying and I saw his same manipulation tactics. I heard his words in Kavanaugh's. I had a relapse in symptoms. I started freaking out when I went to locations where I had been with my rapist that I visit almost daily because it's on my commute to school. I started having nightmares again.

It all came flooding back because of the constant questions I found myself answering in my head for Christine Ford because of old white men and Susan Collins. And my responses are nothing special: I echo the responses of many sexual assault victims who are sitting silently with their traumas haunting them daily, or at least every time we nominate another sexual assailant to a high position in politics.

Speaking of the senator from Maine, Susan Collins reminded me of how, when I told friends of mine about my assaults, they asked me when I would get over it. Some people even told me they didn't want to be my friend any longer due to the severity of my trauma.

Susan Collins reminded me of why my assailants are wandering around without consequence.

Susan Collins reminded me of why the cops didn't think my stalking was at all serious. She later stated that Ford was assaulted but not by Kavanaugh. I have never known who my stalker is (there's no certainty the stalker gave me his real name) and that is a terrifying reality. I do not walk around claiming some man was my stalker willy-nilly. I may never know who he is or what he looks like or where he lives.

But I also have two situations where I know who they are, and for Susan Collins to think these two situations are the same is offensive to every survivor out there. Their faces and their voices are burned into my memory and are perhaps the most haunting aspect of these events; I could not forget it if I tried.

Susan Collins standing up there praising Kavanaugh is no different than when I told people what these men did to me and they refused to believe it because he's a "nice guy.” I argued with people. I cut people from my life. All because they refused to think someone can be different behind a closed door.

I woke up the Friday morning after hearing Kavanaugh and Ford feeling nauseous and defeated. I went to bed that night seething with rage.

All I have learned is when you have evidence, it's not enough. Not a big deal. When you tell friends, it's not enough. He's a nice guy. They could be lying because they're friends with the victim or assailant. Maybe they don't remember being told or don't want to come forward. When you even do a rape kit, it's not enough. You might have said yes. There is always some counter argument, unless you are wearing a camera. So unless walls become sentient and can soon testify, it is near impossible to have real corroborating evidence. And even then, it might have just been a normal night for the four walls where this took place, so they might not remember it.

To add insult to injury, the two assailants would not think they did anything wrong and would deny my accounts. (The stalker actually emailed me and apologized five years later, which is a weird as shit way to apologize considering he stalked me and still had one of my emails a half-decade later; I did not accept his apologies.)

And don’t mistake my anger for hatred of men. I do not hate men. I hate the rape culture they have fostered. Both of the men who committed these sexual crimes identified as Democrats and even sometimes called themselves feminists. There is a very real issue with men thinking sexual crimes are limited to dark alleys and the full intention of raping someone, instead of realizing the world does not fucking revolve around them when a woman says no.

I hate that Republicans have decided to turn #MeToo into #NotHim and blatantly deny the existence of this culture. Men on both sides of the political aisle are responsible for the collective trauma of women, but there is a big difference between an assailant resigning in disgrace, such as Al Franken, and another getting elected as president or serving on the highest court in the land.

I am coming forward with my traumatic stories in all of my anonymous "glory" - for the lack of a better word - because I am still seething with rage. I am tired of every idiot with a mouth and half of a brain giving me an opinion on what sexual assault is like and when it doesn't matter anymore.

Republicans, by disparaging Christine Ford, you have disparaged all sexual assault survivors. You have forced us to answer to society once again. We went to work and heard people talking about Kavanaugh. We went to the doctor and saw Ford crying on the waiting room television. We sat at family dinners and listened to opinions of people we know and love and realized we could never reveal what happened to us to them. And please, don't tell me about the falsely accused, because a false accusation is rare.

The investigation of Kavanaugh was a sham, and all of the horribly insulting things you said to survivors who were strong enough to come out in record numbers will not be forgotten. My faith in the system has never been lower; in fact, my faith is nonexistent. You have disparaged us for the last time.

I am pissed. I am coming forward. And I will not soon forget the circus you have put us through. Although I've stopped short of detailing these events publicly, I am getting more vocal, trying to tell people what sexual assault is really like.

Let's just hope one of us activists reaches your daughters and granddaughters before a predator does, senators, since they're the only women you care about anyway.

Republicans, I will vote for, campaign for, and donate to your future Democratic opponent with the same level of rage I felt when America told me my trauma wasn't as important as a man's reputation.

And please, don't you forget it. I won’t.

10/12/2018

"It Was a Big Solving": That Kanye Visit to Trump Was Even Weirder and Stupider Than You Heard

Yeah, there's a lot of fucked up shit going on. A chunk of the Florida panhandle was wiped out, along with flooding and other destruction along Hurricane Michael's path. The Trump administration's jovial cruelty towards immigrant children continues with no one held accountable. And, speaking of lack of accountability, the murder of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi hasn't caused even a ripple in Trump's love fest with Saudi Arabia.

But it's Friday, and you already understand that, while all the above and so much more were going on, Trump found time in his busy schedule of TV viewing, shitting out Big Macs while tweeting, and golfing to squeeze in a meeting with rapper, clothing designer, and professional whiner Kanye West, along with former football player and convicted felon Jim Brown. And while you may have heard about Kanye saying weird shit like "Trump is on his hero’s journey right now. And he might not have expected to have a crazy motherfucker like Kanye West run up and support," you missed the discussion of North Korea.

Yes. North Korea.

Here you go, straight from the White House. You paid for this motherfuckin' transcript. You may as well enjoy it. You could title it "Dumb Motherfuckers in DC":

"MR. BROWN: And I like North Korea.

THE PRESIDENT: I like North Korea too.

MR. BROWN: (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Yeah. Well, he’s — turned out to be good. Dialogue. We had a little dialogue. And Secretary of State just came back — Mike. He just came back from North Korea. We had very good meetings, and we’ll meet again. But we’re doing good. No more nuclear testing. No more missiles going up. No more nothing. And it’s — that was headed to war. That was headed to war.

MR. BROWN: Yeah. I mean, it was — to me, it seemed like that.

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. It was so close. We spoke — I spoke to President Obama. I will tell you, that was headed to war. And now it’s going to be — I believe it’s going to work out very well.

MR. WEST: You stopped the war —

THE PRESIDENT: We really stopped the war. Saved millions of lives. You know, Seoul has 30 million people. You don’t realize how big. Thirty million people who are right near the border; 30 miles off the border. Millions of people would have been killed. And I will say, Chairman Kim has been really good. Really good. And we’ve made a lot of progress.

That’s nice that you say that, because that’s a big — that’s a big thing. These folks were covering — they were covering North Korea not — I think not very promisingly. And there were a lot of problems. President Obama said that was his biggest problem. And I don’t say anything is solved —

MR. WEST: You, day one, solved one of the biggest problems.

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.

MR. WEST: We solved one of the biggest problems.

THE PRESIDENT: It was a big solving. And not solved yet, but I think we’re along — I think we’re on the way."

Between that insanity and Jared Kushner seeming more uncomfortable than he had ever been in his entire, pasty-white life, America was, for just a moment, great again.


10/10/2018

They Will Want to Kill Us

Sometimes my Clark Kent life and my Rude Pundit life overlap, and so yesterday I found myself moderating a talk (by someone else) about Where We Are as a Nation. You know, Our Current Political Situation and all that. The talk itself had been dire, from a colleague who was a moderate politically (and may have been a Republican years ago), and offered a gloomy outlook for the future of the country.

During the question and answer part, people wanted to find explanations and excuses for Where We Are. One audience member offered that she felt like there was too much extremism on both sides and that these extremes were pushing things to a crisis. I interjected, "Well, let's be clear about what's considered extreme. On the right, you've got actual Nazis and white supremacists who are committing violence. On the left, what they call 'extreme' are politicians who want the same programs that most of the countries in the world have, like health care and free college." 

Another audience member argued with me, saying that I was demonizing the right and contributing to the deep divisions in this country. "Let me clarify," I told this older professor. "I'm saying that on the right there are actual terrorists. People who murder for their beliefs. We readily call them 'extreme.' But the media and conservatives portray people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as extremists, as if that's the balance. There are left-wing extremists, violent revolutionaries, ecoterrorists, and more. That's who should be the counter-balance with right-wing extremists, not Bernie Sanders." I might have also said something like "And 'Antifa' is short for 'anti-fascist.'" 

I was not very good at moderating.

One of the things the right has always excelled at is portraying anyone even slightly left of center, hell, slightly left of hard right, as an extremist. Wanna see that in action? Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat, had an A- rating from the National Rifle Association (motto: "Shoot first and don't ask questions later"), one of only four Democrats in the Senate given such a glowing, pro-gun grade. But Tester decided to vote against Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. He had already voted against Neil Gorsuch but still maintained his A-. Tester was very clear that he was opposing Kavanaugh for various reasons that had nothing to do with guns. But the NRA decided today to drop him to a D grade because "Contrary to what Jon Tester says in Montana, he has supported the gun control agenda of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer by voting in favor of gun control in Washington, DC," according to some numbnuts.

That happened yesterday. Up until then, Jon Tester was seen as a 2nd Amendment-supporting Democrat. He even voted against closing the background check loophole. With one vote, though, not unlike another vote on a Supreme Court nominee, he became what is now defined as radical.

I've been complaining about this false equivalence for years now. "Oh, Republicans are putting children into concentration camps but Democrats want people to have health care" is basically the range of our political discussion. However, Donald Trump has picked up on a post-Tea Party rage at any hint of liberalism and has turned it into an attack that is very Roy Cohn (and Joe McCarthy) in making Democrats into an actual enemy of the nation.

Here he is last night at one of his Nuremberg rallies, this time for the poor suckers in Iowa: "They want to destroy everything...in their lust for power, the Democrats have become totally unhinged. They've done, they've gone, crazy, They've gone crazy...the Democrats have become too extreme and they've become frankly too dangerous to govern. They've gone wacko...you don't give matches to an arsonist and you don't give power to an angry left-wing mob and that's what the Democrats are...if Democrats take control, they will try to reverse our amazing progress and plunge our country into gridlock. Frankly, into poverty. Ultimately, into chaos...They want to turn America, these Democrats and that's what they want, into a giant sanctuary for criminal aliens and the MS 13 killers...Democrat immigration policies aren't just wrong. They're lethal."  It should be pointed out here that most of Trump's attacks on Democrats are racist dog whistles, but the dogs respond. They respond.

That's dangerous stuff. The president of the United States is saying that large number of Americans are a threat to his supporters. "Democrats are the party of crime," he repeats.  Now you can say that that's off-the-cuff, playing-to-the-crowd, or whatever you want to call Trump's free association of words and phrases that we politely call a "speech." 

But in USA Today, well, today, whether he wrote it or not (and he didn't write it), Trump has an op-ed, decidedly not improvised, where he lies outright about a Democratic-supported Medicare-for-all plan. And then he goes off, "The truth is that the centrist Democratic Party is dead. The new Democrats are radical socialists who want to model America’s economy after Venezuela. If Democrats win control of Congress this November, we will come dangerously closer to socialism in America." 

It should be pointed out here that Fred Trump made his fortune by taking advantage of government-backed loans with artificially low interest rates. But we don't call that "socialism" for some reason.

Then he launched into an attack on his fantasy version of the Democratic policies: "Today’s Democratic Party is for open-borders socialism. This radical agenda would destroy American prosperity. Under its vision, costs will spiral out of control. Taxes will skyrocket. And Democrats will seek to slash budgets for seniors’ Medicare, Social Security and defense."

For the record, "open-borders socialism" is a nonsense phrase. The Democratic approach to immigration better described as "Be a little less dickish." As for Medicare and Social Security, Republican budgets put forth by Paul Ryan and others specifically cut... you know what? It doesn't matter. Because we're not dealing with reality. We are dealing with the description of moderate to center-left policies as "radical."

If the person who you believe has been anointed by God to lead the country (and the MAGA hordes do think this of Trump) tells you that a bunch of radicals are going to destroy the country, steal your money, and kill your Mama, then that person is saying that the radicals must be stopped by any means necessary.

Trump is talking a good game by saying that people should vote. But what happens if Democrats take over the House and, long shot, sure, the Senate? Then voting failed and the radicals got into office, the ones who are going to let in the Hottentots to spear Granny. 

The transformation of Donald Trump from illegitimate president to full-on authoritarian is frighteningly organic at this point. It is the direction he's been heading, the power he craves. He dictates what is acceptable. If any minor deviation from Trump-approved beliefs is a radical threat, then that threat must be stopped by his followers. If they can't do it through the ballot box, they will want to do it in other ways. 

They will want to kill us. Whether or not they will make the leap from desire to action, I don't know. But the very idea that I don't know is scary because while I always assumed the right held hateful thoughts about the left, I never entertained the possibility of them going full Serbia on us. That's not true now. And I just don't see it in Trump and his quislings in Congress and the administration to calm the hordes. 

If they don't win, they have been told we will harm them. We're just the extremists trying to stop their march to a wealthy, white future. They will want to kill us. Trump and the politicians who support him have fanned that little ember of hatred into a flame. As we go through these next truly dangerous months, I don't know if it will become an inferno. But I fear it will.

10/09/2018

UN Climate Report: Mother Nature Is About to Fuck Us Raw

Mother Nature is fuckin' pissed, ya'll. She's done playing around. You don't wanna do shit about climate change? Then she's breaking out the big dildo, the thick hard rubber one, like 10 inches long, the thickness of a longshoreman's wrist, fuckin' spikes all along the shaft, and she's gonna fuck the shit out of our asses without lubing that thing up. You can be scared to death or you can pretend you like the pain, but, goddamn, you are gonna be sore and torn when she's done.

Why is Mother Nature gonna get brutal on our tender sphincters? Because we had warning on top of warning about climate change. Decades of it. We had years of motherfuckin' studies and motherfuckin' science telling us to stop being such dicks about carbon emissions and to do something, some goddamn thing, to slow the wreckage of our stupid human hubris. We had Al fuckin' Gore lay it all out for us. Did we listen? No. So we get deservedly reamed.

Oh, is that too much? You read the New York Times article and feel like you get it? Fuck you. You don't get shit. Read the actual report and you'll shit yourself in fear, and then, when you're done shitting yourself, you'll shit yourself again because there's the next page and the next until you are in a pile of fear-induced shit, and that's where we all should be now.

Check out this list of things that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said they have "high" or "very high confidence" about (most of this is with an average global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees. At 2 degrees, shit gets even worse):

- Increasing warming amplifies the exposure of small islands, low-lying coastal areas and deltas to the risks associated with sea level rise for many human and ecological systems, including increased saltwater intrusion, flooding and damage to infrastructure;

- Populations at disproportionately higher risk of adverse consequences of global warming of 1.5°C and beyond include disadvantaged and vulnerable populations, some indigenous peoples, and local communities dependent on agricultural or coastal livelihoods;

- Urban heat islands often amplify the impacts of heatwaves in cities...Risks from some vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, are projected to increase with warming from 1.5°C to 2°C, including potential shifts in their geographic range;

- Exposure to multiple and compound climate-related risks increases between 1.5°C and 2°C of global warming, with greater proportions of people both so exposed and susceptible to poverty in Africa and Asia.

You got that? You think the refugee crisis is bad now? Fuckin' wait until 50 million people need to live somewhere with food and water. Fuckin' wait until India is too hot to live. It'll make every other crisis seem like a piddling trickle. And wars over resources will be goddamned inevitable.

And we're not talking the 22nd century here. We're talking in 20-30 years. Fuck, that fucks up my plan of "die before climate change gets really bad."

The worst part about the report is that if we do something now, now, now, we have a chance to slow it or even reverse it. But that means we need politicians who aren't going to be absolute dumb shits and say in response to this report, "I can give you reports that are fabulous and I can give you reports that aren’t so good."

That means we're fucked. And Mother Nature is geared up and ready for fucking. And we deserve it, man. We really just deserve it.

10/08/2018

Columbus Day for the Conquered: Native Women Opposed to Kavanaugh Swayed Murkowski

One of the few pleasant surprises to come out of the extraordinary fuckery of the "battle" over Brett Kavanaugh (if by "battle," you mean, "a pre-determined outcome where everyone pretended the fix wasn't in, especially Susan fucking Collins") was when Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, actually voted against Kavanaugh. And one major reason for Murkowski opposing her own party was the plea from Native women survivors of sexual assault and violence.

"Alaska Native women continue to suffer the highest rate of forcible sexual assault and have reported rates of domestic violence up to 10 times higher than in the rest of the United States," according to the Indian Law Resource Center. And some of these women showed up in DC to lobby Murkowski, who, to her credit, met with many of them over the course of the week. 

But the pressure on Murkowski ran deep in the Alaskan Native community, whose support was at least partially responsible for her electoral victories in 2010 (especially) and 2016. 

In an open letter to Murkowski, Natalie Landreth, a senior attorney with the Native American Rights Fund in Alaska, reminded the Senator, "This is the same community who had wristbands with your name on them so they could remember how to spell it when they had to write it in," referring to Murkowski's 2010 run as an independent candidate. As Melissa Merrick-Brady, a Native American survivor of sexual assault, wrote, "It pains me to think that our country’s leadership might allow such a figure to ascend to the highest judicial office in this land, allowing him to opine on whether I should be protected from violence." One of Merrick-Brady's senators in North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp, did vote against Kavanaugh.

The Bering Sea Elders Group issued a statement saying, in part, "Violence against our Native women and children in Alaska is not part of our culture, but is unfortunately an epidemic in Alaska...A person’s actions, beliefs, and ways of being show you who they are, and it is our way to know a person, their actions, their beliefs, and their way of being before elevating them to an important position in the community."

It wasn't just issues of sexual violence that drove the Native groups in Alaska to lobby Murkowski. Kavanaugh had issued decisions that opposed tribal sovereignty on a host of issues. The BSEG, for instance, continued their statement, saying that Kavanaugh "has demonstrated he does not understand the inherent status, rights, and roles of federally recognized Tribes and puts at risk the 229 federally
recognized Tribes in Alaska."

Kavanaugh was opposed by the Alaska Federation of Natives because of his view of the Indian Commerce Clause. He was opposed by the Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska because of concerns about voting rights and tribal control of rivers. He was opposed by the the Republican governor and the Democratic (and Tlingit) lieutenant governor of Alaska because of fears of the Supreme Court gutting the Affordable Care Act and the Indian Child Welfare Act. That last fear is closer to reality since a district court struck down the law that said that Indian children without parents should be placed within their tribe.

But the movement in DC was led by Native women, who protested outside Murkowski's office and the office of Alaska's other senator, Dan Sullivan. The protesters there were arrested by Capitol police (although Sullivan denies calling them), and Sullivan proudly voted for Kavanaugh.

Murkowski, though, listened, and in her heartfelt speech from the Senate floor, she recognized the treatment of Native women in her state: "The levels of sexual assault that we see within our Native American and our Alaska Native communities, the rates are incredibly devastating. It is not something that we say we’ll get to tomorrow. We’ve heard those voices. We’ve heard those voices, and I hope that we have all learned something, that we owe it to the victims of sexual assault to do more and to do better and to do it now with them." She listened. For once. She listened to Native voices.

10/04/2018

False Accusations of Rape Usually End Up Being Proven False

In May, two men, VanDyke Perry and Gregory Counts, got out of prison after 26 years. They had been convicted of rape, sodomy, and kidnapping, and they were exonerated after new DNA evidence excluded them and after the woman accusing them recanted her story. It should be a textbook case for conservatives who want to argue that young men are at risk for their well-being because they might be accused of sexual assaults or rapes they didn't commit.

The right clings to this notion that the 5% of reported rape cases that end up being classified, for various reasons, as false are an epidemic. As New York Times conservative columnist Bret Stephens scrawled today, "Falsely accusing a person of sexual assault is nearly as despicable as sexual assault itself. It inflicts psychic, familial, reputational and professional harms that can last a lifetime. This is nothing to sneer at." To be fair, when you're falsely accused of something, you aren't beaten and penetrated, but, you know, other than that, sure, Bret, sure.

But, see, the story of Perry and Counts doesn't fit into whatever anti-woman narrative the right is trying to construct. The two African American men were arrested in 1991 when they were 21 and 19. So a pair of young black men from a poor area of Queens, New York, during the height of the panic over crack addiction didn't really stand much of a chance against a legal system that was more than willing to railroad them. In fact, "investigators had no physical evidence. Semen recovered from the woman did not match the two accused men. The prosecution’s case relied heavily on her testimony, which was inconsistent." This was overzealous prosecution to the extreme.

Yes, what happened to the two men was awful, a tragedy on many levels.  Yet you know what really happens almost every time when a man is falsely accused of rape or assault? An investigation happens and he's cleared. It's stressful, sure, but it's over. And you know what else happens? Lemme give you a short list from the last few months.

- In August, a woman in Montgomery, Alabama, was charged with filing a false police report after she had accused a man of rape.

- In June, a female college student in Connecticut was sentenced to a year in prison for a false rape allegation against two young men.

- In May, police in Waco, Texas, declined to prosecute a woman who had falsely accused an officer of raping her. A body cam on the officer showed that it hadn't happened, but the woman hadn't filed any official report, so she wasn't charged.

Going to police with a false accusation is a crime. And you can go to prison for that crime. That seems to be a pretty big disincentive to anyone who might think about committing that crime.

Also, the fact that most of the false cases are proven false is a pretty big incentive for someone who is falsely accused to want as full an investigation as possible.

Enough already. Enough with the attacks on Christine Blasey Ford. Enough with the bizarre citing of To Kill a Mockingbird by Republicans, as if Brett Kavanaugh is comparable to a black man in the South in the 1930s. Enough with the white man grievance parade. Enough with the painting of women with the broad brush of hysteria. Enough with the failure of empathy and compassion.

Just enough already.

10/03/2018

"A Man's Life" Counts More Than a Woman's Trauma

You know what's shocking? How it isn't that shocking that, in a rally that was ostensibly for some repugnant Republican, President Donald Trump mocked Christine Blasey Ford's testimony about Brett Kavanaugh attempting to rape her. That's just fucking depressing, like when you hear about a mass shooting and if it's less than 10 people, you mostly just think, "Ah, fuck it. It's not that bad." Once you've danced your body around before a crowd to make fun of a disabled man, you may as well just do whatever the fuck you want.

I don't think any of us would be surprised if Trump decided to act out Kavanaugh exposing himself to Deborah Ramirez. "What did he do?" he'd ask the cheering audience. "He dropped his pants and hung brains for a couple of seconds. Frankly, that woman should have been grateful she got the chance to see his perfect, incredible penis."

What Trump did say last night was cruelly fascinating in its insulting tone. He restated Ford's testimony in the most degrading way possible: "'I had one beer right. I had one beer. Well you know there was one there.' Oh good. 'How did you get home?' 'I don't remember.' 'How did you get there?' 'All remember where is the place. I don't remember how many years ago was it. I don't know. I don't know what neighborhood was it and I don't know where's the house.'" He used a slightly higher pitched voice to indicate he was being Ford.

Then he said, like a brain-damaged actor spouting lines from an imagined David Mamet play, "A man's life is in tatters. A man's life is shattered," he mourned. And there you go. "A man's life" was fucked up by some crazy cunt. "A man's life" is that so valuable that others must be silenced and discarded. That's essentially what Trump was implying.

Trump went on to offer a short performance of a poor, deprived, innocent man talking to his sainted mother about what those evil bitches did to him. Again changing his pitch, I guess to sound younger, as a son, he implored, "'I did great in school. I've worked so hard. Mom, I'm so pleased to tell you. I just got a fantastic job with IBM. I just got a fantastic job with General Motors. I just got. I'm so proud, Mom. A terrible thing just happened. A person who I've never met said that I did things that were horrible and they're firing me from my job, Mom. I don't know what to do. Mom, what do I do? What do I do, Mom? What do I do? Mom?'"

Seriously, this was like a pathetic audition for Hell's community theatre production of Fatal Attraction, The Musical.

It was also of a piece with what Trump said earlier in the day. "My whole life I've heard, 'you're innocent until proven guilty,' but now you're guilty until proven innocent. That's a very, very difficult standard," he told reporters. "It's a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of." First off, studies show that, at most, 10% of all rape allegations turn out to be false after investigation (and that means there was no conviction, so no one is "guilty" of rape). And other studies say that perhaps 65% of all sexual assaults are never reported. So for every University of Virginia-like falsehood, there are a whole bunch of unreported rapes and other attacks.

Plus, you know what I never did as a young man or as a not-young one now? I never fucking walked down the street wondering if I was going to be raped. I never fucking walked into a park wondering if I was going to get raped. I never fucking looked for my car in a parking lot wondering if I was going to get raped. I never fucking had trouble opening my front door with groceries in my hands while wondering if I was going to get raped. I never fucking went to an empty building on the weekend at my school wondering if I was going to get raped. I never fucking rode an elevator or walked down a stairway wondering if I was going to get raped. I never fucking went to a party or a bar wondering if I was going to get raped. I never fucking hung out with my friends and acquaintances wondering if one of them was going to rape me. I never fucking took a drink from someone wondering if it was going to knock me out so they could rape me. I never fucking got up in the morning and had a 100 times during the day where I wondered if I was going to be raped.

So I know very clearly who is and who isn't living in a scary time, and it sure as fuck ain't young men.

Perhaps even more gut-churning than Trump's own bullying of a sexual assault victim was the idiot horde's reactions to it. Again, it's shocking that, really, it's not that shocking. When Trump started his "I don't know" riff, so many in the crowd at the 8400 seat arena in Southaven, Mississippi, were on his side, and a whole lot of the credulous rubes started hee-hawing in delight, their yahoo yawps and grunts urging him on, their pounded clapping serving as his tribal rhythm, making him dance more enthusiastically for their adoration. What a bunch of goddamned animals, hooting their approval of the denigration of a woman who Trump himself said was credible. At this point, Trump has gone so low, so depraved, that he could select a MAGA hat-wearing child to finger his asshole through every rally speech and families would be tearing each other to shreds for their little ones to be chosen for the honor.

Of course, mostly, this was about Trump himself, as he gave away a moment later at the rally: "I've had many false accusations. I've had it all. I've had so many. And when I say it didn't happen nobody believes me." Well, the problem is that too many people believe him. Not enough people believe the women whose traumas he feels so free to knock down.

10/01/2018

15 Years of This Here Blog: Join Up for More Rudeness, Including Audio Fun

So here's the thing: Last year, after well over a decade of writing for free at this joint (except for begging for money every couple of years for a new computer and whiskey, sweet mother's milk of whiskey), I started a Patreon page where monthly donors get new shit either every week or every month, depending on the donation level. It's a little looser there, with funny stories and pop culture stuff. Still a good deal of politics, but not exclusively.

In the last couple of months, I did a dive into the QAnon Reddit page, wrote about the undocumented immigrant neighbor of mine who helped stop crime on my block, reviewed Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman, and posted audio stories about when I was involved in protests against South Africa and that time I was assaulted by performance artist Karen Finley. In other words, it's a lot of fun, it's freewheeling, and it's cheap as fuck.

How cheap? For $1 a month you get 1 audio post and 1 exclusive blog post (meaning I'm not putting it on the Rude Pundit blog) each month.

For $3 a month, you get weekly stuff, sometimes even more than weekly, including 2 audio posts. Like, for instance, I'm posting daily this week for Patreon as I tell some stories from the last 15 years of sweaty, stanky bloggery. It's "A History of Rudeness."

And my podcast, Another Goddamn Podcast, will be starting up again next week. If you donate at the $5 a month level, you get exclusive extended interviews, along with all the other shit. Already, donors have heard more from Molly Jong-Fast, Jo Miller, and Joe Harris than if you just got it through your iTunes store or Stitcher.

If you donate $10 a month, then I'll get you some tickets when the next Rude Pundit show happens (and it might be happening sooner than you think, like in the next year).

For all the loyal and disloyal readers of the blog, I'm still posting there, wild and free and naked as it ever was. Enjoy it and pass it along. Hate it and threaten to murder me. The internet is the id unleashed and unhinged, and I am happy to let mine wander with abandon.

But if the Patreon gets up high enough with the monthly donations, I want to be able to pay people to write some stuff and produce some stuff. Hell, I'd just like to pay someone to edit the podcast other than me. And maybe travel to some places to do recordings at rallies and events. I got plans, in other words. Oh, and, yeah, whiskey and weed and maybe one or two other sinful things will be purchased.

So come on along and join the nearly 200 people who have gotten on the bonus rudeness train. If you join now, you can have instant access to the dozens of posts already there. That's at least a full night of me and you, all alone, on your lap and in your ears.

(By the way, if you wanna just toss a couple of bucks in the guitar case, you can still donate right here or over on that "Donate" button on the side.)

Brett Kavanaugh Would Likely Not Survive an Interview With Your HR Department

Last Thursday, as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh bellowed and sucked down water and snuffled like a coke fiend with too many nose hairs, I asked the good people of Twitter a simple question. "Just curious: What would HR at your company or work say about all this? Would they let you hire Kavanaugh?" I wondered. And, if this completely biased sample of responses is any indication, Judge Kavanaugh would not get the job.

A sampling (with some minor editing for clarity):

"I say this as a management-side employment attorney: HR would say, 'We can’t say for certain that he did those things, but in the last interview he acted crazy. Out of control. Unable to answer questions in an appropriate manner. We obviously can’t hire him.'"

"I am in HR. If someone came in for a job interview and ranted and raved like that, not only would he not be hired, he’d be escorted out by security."

"This made me laugh thinking of the interviews I used to do. Angry, belligerent, won't give straight answers, lies about everything--no way would I even consider hiring this guy. Lawsuit waiting to happen."

"I was in HR all my life. I would never hire someone that can’t control his temper or was emotional in front of me no matter what his resume or background check revealed."

"Sadly, my former workplace did hire a guy just like this, despite being openly rude to the women on the hiring committee. It took 3 years and his aggression putting contracts in jeopardy for them to get rid of him."

"My boss hired a guy like this once (although I can’t imagine he acted this way in the interview). My advice to co-workers: 'Just stand back far enough so you don’t get splattered with blood when he shoots himself in the foot.' He was there 3 weeks."

If Kavanaugh had been on trial, his Emile Zola act might have been compelling, even defiant. And all the conservative spoogebuckets who have gone to the barricades for Kavanaugh, pounding their fists and declaring innocent-until-proven-guilty is dead? They might have a point.

But the motherfucker wasn't on trial. He was sitting before the hiring committee for his new job where standards are a whole lot looser. And, yeah, sometimes at the job interview, you get asked about uncomfortable shit, and if you act like a frothing dickhead about blow all over the joint, there's a good chance you won't get the job.

That's because companies and other organizations (like universities) are worried that you will be a problem. Your resume can be a glowing, glorious monument to your awesomeness, but if you send up any signals that one day you might cause grief for your employers or, even worse, cause a lawsuit, you are done. It might not be fair, but that's the way it is.

I know this not just from the collected wisdom of Twitter jockeys. I know it because I've been on both sides of the interview process. I've talked to dozens upon dozens of candidates for positions from administrative assistant to provost of my college. One candidate for a pretty big job was a total jerk to everyone, acting as if arrogance was going to be seen as charming or some such shit. No fuckin' way.

And I've been the asshole. I was once up for a job that, early on in a two-day interview, I decided I didn't want. So my attitude was "ahh, fuck it." When the dean of this podunk Pennsylvania college said to me, "You're from the south. You'll come cheap," if I had wanted the the position, I'd've laughed at the entirely improper thing and said something self-effacing.

But I didn't give a fuck what she or anyone else thought of me. So I said in my worst Jethro Clampett accent, "That's right, Dean. I teach a class. You gimme a chicken. I teach another one. Gimme some beans." And then I went on until my pantry was full. The appalled look on the Dean's face told me that we were done here.

On another job interview, for one I wanted, a dean asked me why I wanted to leave the place where I was working. That's actually an inappropriate question when it comes to public colleges. I could have gotten all high dudgeon about it and huffed, "None of your business. I like beer!" But I sucked it up and answered the goddamn question. Because, as I said, I wanted the fuckin' job.

Look, obviously, a seat on the Supreme Court isn't the same as 2nd desk humper in the third row of gray cubicles. But if you're not worth hiring for that cubicle, you are a far fucking way from being worthy of the a lifetime appointment deciding life and death issues for everyone in the country.

And that's not even getting into the whole sexual predator side of things with Kavanaugh.