The 14th Anniversary of the Rude Pundit: Give Me Money (Last Plea)

One question I've gotten from a couple of people this year is "Why the hell did you start blogging?" The answer is simple: Because back in 2003, there was shit that just wasn't getting said, and it was up to all of us to say it.

And the follow-up is usually "Why continue blogging?" The answer is simple: Because of some fucked-up compulsion I can't control. And, even more so, because the rude readers are awesome, as they have been for the last 14 years. Some of you have been with this profane corner of Left Blogsylvania since the beginning, and some of you have jumped on the rude train only recently.

So on this, the 14th anniversary of this joint, thanks for the compliments, insults, arguments, and agreements. No, I still don't give a shit in that I don't need the ego boost or any such bullshit. If I ever start posting or retweeting love messages, someone punch me in the face. But it's damn nice to know you're out there.

And you've been damn kind this year for my biennial fundraiser. You've joined up on Patreon, which you can do starting for a single buck a month, and you'll get some extra bonus subscriber-only rudeness. You've given outright on PayPal (which you can still do - see that button over there? Or click right here).

While I'll still bug you occasionally about Patreon, especially once I get the podcast up and running and start producing more videos (thanks to your donations), I won't be hounding you for cash for at least another couple of years.

But I've got a fresh stock of whiskey (again, thanks to your donations), enough to make it through the inevitable impeachment/resignation/coup, and more material than any lone, obscene blogger can handle. Let's keep going, dancing into the conflagration together.


Almost the End of the Biennial Anniversary Fundraiser and Wordy Title Generator: Help Start a Rude Podcast

Tomorrow is R-Day, the 14th anniversary of this blog. So, like I do every couple of years, I'm throwing myself a money party.

I'm asking for donations or subscriptions so I can expand the Empire of the Rude to include a new podcast and some videos, as well as another trip to sunny L.A. from not-as-sunny NYC to get filthy as you want me to be on Stephanie Miller's Happy Hour. The last one was an obscene journey into porn, the one before that an even more obscene journey into my family history. A third one will probably require a fire hose to cool it down.

You can go the Patreon route with monthly donations and get extra rudeness in your life with bonus blog posts and other stuff.

Or you can just drop some change at PayPal by hitting that button over there on the side or clicking here.

Either way, thanks to everyone who donated so far. You have helped to make another couple of years of mind-altered, scatological political commentary possible.

Oh, and I'm taking questions from readers (and you don't need to contribute to ask).

Like Jaime D., who wants to know, "What's your favorite post of all time?" Well, Jaime, my posts are like children. I generally like the more recent ones, but I can look back on the older ones and say, "Those didn't age too badly." But, push comes to shove, I'm gonna go all the way back to 2004, right after George W. Bush won re-election, and say that this one set the tone for much of what came after.

Sasha Y., who swears she's not a Russian bot, asks, "Fuck, marry, kill? Bush, Obama, Trump?" I think by law I can't say that I'd like to kill any living president. But I think I can say, "Fuck Bush, marry Obama."

Feel free to throw other questions at me. (And toss some coins in the hat, too.)

The Deep Denial of Trump Supporters: Puerto Rico Edition

Imagine, if you will, President Donald Trump as a giant, bloated, orange sow and his idiot hordes of supporters as a litter of inbred piglets, each with their own deformity and damage, all kinds of shades of orange, each just a hungry, squeaking pig baby, all fighting with each other, shoving and climbing over one another, desperately trying to get to the Trump sow's engorged teats, so rich with the sweet, white milk of intense contempt and abject hatred, and when one idiot piglet furiously suckles from the Trump sow's nipple, another thinks the first piglet is becoming too favored, so it bites and pushes until the first mutant piglet unlatches and the angrier piglet can shove the Trump sow teat into his mouth, thrilled as the warm malignancy of Trump's milk pours into him, not realizing or even caring that what they drink is poisoned, that it is getting into their piglet systems and turning them into irrational, tiny beasts who believe that their squeals need to be heard above everyone else's.

Meanwhile, the Trump sow sighs deeply, satisfied in the knowledge that his poison is spreading.

We see it time and again, the way that Trump's voters will ignore whatever reality is right in their faces, whatever facts are present, in order to justify, defend, and believe something that Trump says. Try telling them that the Trump administration is deliberately sabotaging the Affordable Care Act and they'll scream that Obamacare is in a death spiral or a disaster or some such shit. Hell, you can bet that they believe Trump that the ACA repeal didn't happen because a senator was in the hospital despite the clear, indisputable fact that no senator was in the hospital. How else do you get the rubes to buy the snake oil from your wagon if you don't get them to believe that massive tax cuts for the wealthy will help them, not you?

My favorite recent version of the sputtering, delusional denial of Trump supporters is that Trump isn't fucking up the response to devastation in Puerto Rico. In fact, fuck you, you hater, for even implying that.

It's all over Twitter:

Right-wing commentators are pissed off that Trump's not getting credit for doing the least he could do:

By the way, that 10,000 number that Trump piglets keep tossing around is the number of National Guard members that were already stationed on the island. (More have arrived, yes, but they've been using that number since the day after the hurricane.)

Some Trump piglets are pissed off at Rihanna:

And I mean really pissed off at Rihanna:

And neo-Nazis are pissed, too:

And some piglets just suckle without shame:

Meanwhile, in what we might consider "reality," Trump had to be shamed into lifting the Jones Act, which will allow ships to more quickly deliver aid. He keeps lying about the federal response and the "reviews" he's getting and even the size of Hurricane Maria. And people who are on the ground there or, you know, have eyes are seeing Trump's failure to expedite aid as racist and cruel. And the general who was appointed by President Bush (you know, a Republican) to clean up his fuck-ups after Hurricane Katrina is saying that this is some bullshit right here. And the aid that has arrived hasn't been able to be distributed because, hell, I guess someone forgot to send some fucking trucks or something.

What the piglets count on is that the Trump sow will never run out of poisoned milk. It looks like it never will.


The Rude Pundit's Biennial Anniversary Fundraiser Continues: 14 Years Older Now

Just a couple of more days of online panhandling, and then the fundraiser disappears for at least another two years (except for the Patreon subscribers, who get the extras starting this weekend).

It's been almost 14 years since I started this little postage stamp of bloggery. Back then, the political blogosphere was the Wild West, and I was the town drunk who occasional sobered up enough to win a shootout. We were younger then, in those heady days of Autumn 2003, full of cynical optimism and the belief that we could change the world, like all youngsters do. We wanted to express ourselves and yawp our barbaric yawps for all to hear. There wasn't even Twitter. Nor Facebook. It was like the virtual version of New Orleans in the 1970s, sleazy and deranged and so half-mad from ambition that we just wanted to play music in the streets, not caring who heard us, who we annoyed, who we charmed.

Now so many of us have gone legit or gone by the wayside, whether it's Ezra Klein and Jill Filipovic, who I knew at the begining of their blossoming careers, or the dearly departed Steve Gilliard and Bartcop, who raged hard and bright, or the disappeared Billmon and the done-with-this-shit Pam Spaulding.

And then there are the stalwarts, still here, still independent, still standing, like Digby and Atrios.

And me, motherfuckers, me.

So here's the deal: Punch that button that says, "PayPal" on the side or click here.

I'm gonna use the funds for the usual stash of whiskey, weed, maybe a little Molly for special occasions, and for a trip to Los Angeles to do an encore appearance on Stephanie Miller's Happy Hour podcast. I'm also gonna get a good microphone, a faster computer, and some software to make a kickass podcast and some cool videos. Let's expand the Empire of the Rude.

Make it happen

Jeff Sessions, Let Me School You About Colleges and Free Speech

Dear Jeff Sessions,

Yesterday, you gave a speech at Georgetown University, which I gather was some kind of punishment for misbehaving freshmen or something. The subject was freedom of speech, which, in light of your boss's call for the firing of professional football players who use their speech freely, is disingenuous at best and crass exploitation at worst.

Let's be clear what this was about: it was about the freedom of speech of conservatives who are being protested on college campuses. And, yeah, I happen to believe that people should be heard, even horrible people (like, you know, you and everyone in your sickeningly perverse party). In fact, let shitty humans keep talking. It's like watching a confused, angry moose fuck a log. You wanna tell it to stop, that it's gotta hurt and it's just embarrassing. But somehow, you can't look away because the moose just wants to bust a moose nut at all costs.

But lemme put on my professor hat here to tell you this: You and every goddamn whiny conservative who is suddenly so very concerned about the First Amendment can go suck all the donkey dicks you can fit into your elastic, lying mouths. Bitch, there are something like 4000 colleges and universities around the United States. The incredibly limited number of incidents you cite, while somewhat troubling (if you look at the facts, not your hyperbolic flatulence), are a drop in an ocean of campuses.

Most schools are filled with students who just don't give a fuck about this kind of shit. They just wanna go to their classes, maybe have some fun, and get their degrees. Hell, man, on my campus, someone wrote, "Trump" in chalk on the sidewalk during the 2016 campaign and no one ran to a safe room. Everyone just walked over it until it faded away. It's not that they're not engaged or politically aware or any of that. It's that shit rolls off them until it starts raining shit too heavily.

And as far as safe spaces and trigger warnings? What's wrong with telling students in a class, "Hey, we're gonna deal with some heavy stuff. Just wanna give you a heads up"? What's wrong with having places on campus where marginalized students can go and be heard?

And free speech? Hell, Jeff, the incompetent grifter who is Secretary of Education just fucking told rape victims on college campuses their speech didn't matter. If you wanna do some good for college students, deal with the harassment and physical violence that students face.

As for you, Jeff, and your faux high-minded crapfest of a speech (really, dude, the words "Martin Luther King" should never leave your shitheel mouth)? Oh, I could point out the myriad ways your examples are utterly wrong. The story you tell about students arrested at a Michigan college for "handing out copies of the United States Constitution"? They weren't arrested for handing out the Constitution. They were arrested and jailed for violating Kellogg Community College's bullshit policy restricting when and where any kind of free speech can occur. But that fucks up the narrative of loyal patriots being repressed, doesn't it?

Or you said, "at Boise State University in Idaho, the Student Code of Conduct prohibits '[c]onduct that a reasonable person would find offensive.'" And you leave it there. Except the Student Code of Conduct is pretty fuckin' clear what it means if you put in the full phrase. The school prohibits "Conduct that a reasonable person would find offensive such as lewd, indecent, obscene, or profane actions." In fact, BSU (heh) worked with both the conservative Idaho Freedom Foundation and the ACLU on crafting its speech code. Hey, I'm making a lewd and obscene gesture right now at your little monkey face, Jeff. Yeah, sit and rotate on that, you jibbering, repressed leprechaun.

Instead, how about we look at what Senator Jeff Sessions had to say about the First Amendment back in the day? You weren't so interested in protecting radical left-wing speech because you had a bee in your saggy bonnet over flag-burning for years. In 2000, during a debate over money in politics, you cited William Rehnquist, who said, "At best, burning a flag is a grunt or a roar" and then said, "The First Amendment is about intelligent debate, argument, concern over policy issues--not whether or not you have a 'grunt' or a 'roar' in burning a flag. I don't believe that was ever intended to be covered by the Constitution."

Yet you ask in your speech yesterday, "Who decides what is offensive and what is acceptable?" Well, I guess you fucking decided when it came to flag-burning. And, of course, to people laughing at your Lucky Charms ass.

That's because, really, underneath the hollow and dull rhetoric, underneath the grand pronouncements of the primacy of speech, underneath the obsequious invocations of civil rights protests and the forced disparagement of the KKK, there is a disdain for speech that appalls you.

You showed it quite clearly when you prevented dissenters from attending the lecture. You said it quite clearly when you thought you were making your big point, that the university "is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogeneous thought, a shelter for fragile egos."

No, it's not. There are excesses, sure, and those should be dealt with. But, mostly, it's a place for the pursuit of truth. The problem is that truth now doesn't include the entirety of conservative belief.

What you really want, Jeff Sessions, is a safe space for the spread of your lies.

Closed-mouth kisses,
The Rude Pundit


The Rude Pundit's 14th Anniversary Fundraiser Continues

Friday marks 14 years of rudeness, which is a large chunk of all of our lives, but especially mine. And every couple of years, I like to ask for a dollar or a shekel or whatever currency you have in order to replenish the whiskey and weed stock and get some new equipment, like a fancy new computer. Is it as important as rebuilding Puerto Rico? Nah. But it's a mitzvah to value the work you love to read.

Besides, I'm also gonna use your donations for microphones and software to produce a bangin' podcast (god, my soul died a little writing that phrase, but, truly, I have some cool ideas for it). And some videos. And even another trip to Los Angeles to be on Stephanie Miller's Happy Hour podcast, where she gets me good and drunk and talkin' dirty and revealin' secrets.

So you can hit that PayPal button over there on the right. Or you can just click here. I show you mine almost every day. You can show me yours.

As I do every anniversary and fundraiser, I open the floor for questions from rude readers (and I'm still accepting them - you don't even have to give any money).

Karen V. wants to know the answer to the same question I always get: "Why don't you allow comments on your blog?" And I'll give the glib answer first: Have you read the comments elsewhere? The bigger answer is that I don't wanna have to monitor that shit. But you can wander over to the mighty Book of Face and join the Rude Pundit page where the dialogue is free and nasty.

Andrew R. asks, "Who do you think will last longer in his job, Speaker Ryan or Trump?" Paul Ryan is the kind of vermin that is almost impossible to get rid of, like roaches or Dudebros. But I do think that Ryan is not long for his speakership because Democrats will likely win back the House in November 2018. However, I give better than even odds that Trump is gone before that and not bad odds that he's gone long before. So I'll say, "Fuck Trump."

Send more. Send money. Send love. Once this is over, the fundraiser disappears for at least another two years.

Donald Trump: The Unaccountable Man

Blithering bag of scorched foreskins and U.S. president Donald Trump was asked this morning by a reporter, "How much money do you think Puerto Rico needs?" Trump had barely spoken about the desperate situation in the U.S. territory and the danger to the safety and lives of over 3 million Americans, many of whom have family on the mainland. But, goddamnit, he was ready to throw down some knowledge about what islands are.

"This is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. And it's a big ocean; it's a very big ocean," Trump exclaimed, as if he had just discovered the Atlantic. Later, in a press conference with the prime minister of Spain (who Trump kept calling "President"), he used his children's encyclopedia knowledge even more: "This isn't like Florida where we can go up the spine; this isn't like Texas where we go right down the middle and we distribute. This is a thing called the Atlantic Ocean; this is tough stuff." He added, "It's the most difficult job because it's on the island, it's on an island in the middle of the ocean. It's out in the ocean. You can't just drive your trucks there from other states."

Donald Trump seems like the kind of rich asshole who everyone has always told is brilliant no matter what vile, idiotic, obvious, and/or worthless shit dribbles down from his tiny brain and is ejected by his hideous mouth. "I think I should own multiple casinos that will compete with each other in a small area" is greeted with the same enthusiastic brown-nosing that "Damn, that bitch is hot. I could totally bang her" is. No one has ever looked into his blank, emotionless eyes and said, "You motherfucking moron, you're completely and utterly wrong. Get the fuck out of here." So, of course, he can proclaim the definition of "island" and be told that he's really onto something there.

This tangerine Golem has lived his entire life without any accountability. He was always the boss's son or the boss at his business. One thing that's always bugged the shit out of me that received very little attention during the 2016 election is that Trump never took his company public. He never put up stock for sale, which would have been the easiest way to get an infusion of cash. But Trump didn't do that, so he was never even accountable to a board or stockholders or the SEC. He only had to tell his children and lackeys what to do and pretend that he was worth far more than he was.

I asked financial wizard and economics writer Barry Ritholtz about this recently, about why he thinks Trump never offered stock in the Trump Corporation, and he offered a straightforward answer:

"1. His companies were never that valuable
2. REITs [Real Estate Investment Trusts] for real estate (apartments, malls, offices) usually require expert managers for things like taxes, maintenance, low vacancy rates, etc.
3. He was always a dicey credit risk.
4. Not paying your bills is not an acceptable business model."

I'd add one more thing to it. Shareholders demand to know the truth about the business. Trump traffics in bullshit, shenanigans, and fraud, and he has made so many desperate, shady deals that there is no way it could stand up to any kind of scrutiny. He's about to find out how right he was if Robert Mueller's investigation finally unleashes the firestorm that we hope will engulf Trump and his entire perverse administration.

Back to Puerto Rico, of course Trump made it about him because of course he did. With Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy by his side, Trump glowed about the "tremendous reviews" he thinks he's gotten for how he's dealt with the crisis. Earlier, before a meeting with the members of the House Ways and Means Committee, he bragged that "we've gotten A-pluses on Texas and on Florida, and we will also on Puerto Rico." And the mayor of San Juan and Puerto Rico's governor have been very "generous" in their praise of Trump, according to Trump.

He also offered this assessment of the Americans in Puerto Rico: "These are great people -- wonderful people. They're hardy people." Ah, a hardy people, ready to work your fields and build your houses, facing down the malevolent forces of nature with nary a blink. Damn, the colonial mindset is always there.

But while Trump is promising all the help in the world, which is no different than promising that his shitty steaks were delicious or that his shitty real estate deals were the pinnacle of capitalism, chances are that the White House won't formally ask for disaster funding for Puerto Rico for several weeks.

Out here in real America, in the cities where the majority of us live, we are begging for accountability for this dolt, this chintzy clown from a bankrupt circus, with his threadbare costume, his fading makeup, and his sad act so very predictable that we don't need to see how it ends. For fuck's sake, get the hook.


The Rude Pundit's Biennial Fundraiser Continues: 14 Years in the Political Coal Mine

Yep, the end of this week marks 14 years of this here blog. You could go through the archives and see a rogue's gallery of motherfuckers and dickholes, some of whom you may have blocked from your Trump-addled memory.

Remember the sneer and scowl Scott McClellan, Sean Spicer's slightly more evolved predecessor?

Remember corpulent rage whisperer Richard Perle, who, with now-loved-by-liberals-with-short-memories David Frum, helped convince Americans to shit themselves over Iraq and terrorism?

Remember poor Harriet Miers, who was nominated for the Supreme Court because she was buds with W. Bush?

Through it all, this here writer has been striving to offer the finest shit-faced commentary in the blogiverse. But now I'm aching to expand to other domains.

So every two years, I do a fundraiser because, well, shit, mostly I do this for free (you see any ads?). But here are some goals for this year's donations (beyond more whiskey and weed):

- Get the right microphones and shit to make a decent-sounding podcast (yeah, another goddamned podcast, but this one'll be less douchey than most)

- Produce more videos. I wanna try to put out something once a month

- Go back to Los Angeles to do an encore of Stephanie Miller's Happy Hour podcast, where you'll get to hear me talking filthy and honestly to one of my favorite humans. Just need the scratch for the plane ticket.

While you should absolutely donate to Puerto Rico or Mexico first, if you've got some spare rubles lying around, you can hit that PayPal button over there on the side to donate (it even takes credit cards) or you can click right here.

Big thanks to everyone who's given so far from sea to shining sea and in amounts small and large.

The President and Puerto Rico: Dividing Us When We Should Come Together

I know that I should be writing about President Trump's belligerent, oafish attacks on National Football League players who take a knee during the National Anthem. I know I should point out that Colin Kaepernick and others aren't protesting the flag or the dumb, boring National Anthem, but that they are protesting police brutality and the murder of unarmed African Americans by cops. I know I should call Trump all kinds of names and make nasty references to body parts.

But, instead, when it comes to Trump, it's more important to point out that, since last Wednesday, the President of the United States has not tweeted about Puerto Rico, the American territory that was devastated by Hurricane Maria last week and Hurricane Irma before. It's more important to point out that the White House website offers no information on Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, also wrecked by storms, since a readout of a phone call with their governors from last Thursday. At a point where a real president would be uniting us behind Americans whose lives have been destroyed, Trump has chosen to divide us between people who give a shit about the goddamn American flag and people who do not.

So I'm sorry that I'm not railing on that red meat topic. Instead, I'm thinking about the families of a hell of a lot of my students. I'm thinking about the millions of loved ones of the estimated over 5 million Puerto Ricans who live in the United States mainland.

I'm thinking about how:

- About 80% of the lines that bring electricity to cities and towns were decimated by the storms, on top of the fact that all the local power lines are down. The power grid will likely need to be rebuilt from scratch. The heat index in San Juan right now is 100 degrees. 91 plus the humidity. With not even a fan. And no water pumping stations on line. Which means you can't flush a toilet. Or get a drink. Imagine for a second being without electricity for months, as people without generators will be. Imagine being without every modern convenience and more than a few necessities.

- Maria "wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value in Puerto Rico." It took out dairy barns, chicken coops, and plantations. It destroyed the roads where food is transported with debris and landslides.

- The Guajataca dam still is at risk of breaking, flooding an area where 70,000 live. Meanwhile, the streets of the cities in Puerto Rico are still flooded, days after the storm.

- Fuel is in short supply. People line up for hours to get anything for cars or generators.

- Hospitals can't guarantee that they can take in more patients, let alone take care of the ones who are there. Hospitals lack enough electricity and running water, even with generators helping.

Fox "news" personality Geraldo Rivera is from Puerto Rico, and he was able to get to the island to see how his family was doing. His assessment is stark, especially for, well, Fox: "Only an approach like the Marshall Plan that resurrected Europe in the wake of World War II can save this place known as La Isla del Encanto, the island of enchantment. Bring in the aircraft carriers; import thousands of generators. Recruit linemen from around the United States to rally to the cause of their fellow U.S. citizens. The need is dire."

A massive effort will need to be undertaken, and, to be fair, FEMA is there and helping, as much as it can. But there are very few places for planes to land, and the Navy could send a hospital ship to help. Mostly, the level of devastation is too huge to grapple with. And we're talking a population roughly seven times that of New Orleans during Katrina. Right now, the White House is talking about getting a disaster aid request to Congress in the next couple of weeks. Enough time for a whole lot of people to die. Enough time for a humanitarian crisis to overtake any efforts going on now.

Trump's refusal to discuss Puerto Rico at all this weekend while he was freely disparaging the NFL and John McCain and, of course, playing golf come across as distressingly apathetic and unsurprisingly racist. And, frankly, the media is aiding and abetting this apathy by concentrating on his bullshit tweets (it'd be one thing if CNN was using Trump's hissy fit to discuss police tactics, but, no, it's just "Trump mad. You mad, too?"). This morning, NPR didn't even mention Puerto Rico in its news round-up. The New York Times had a brief mention of an article on the bottom of the front page.

Maria would be Trump's Katrina, except very few people seem to give a damn.


The Rude Pundit's Biennial Anniversary Fundraiser: Your Chance to Give Me Money

Through most of Bush, all of Obama, and now plowing down the road until the end of history with Trump, this here blog has been going strong for nearly 14 years. Next year is the big anniversary of the first time I thought, "Blogging? Shit, any monkey can do that."

And through it all, the orgasmic good, the ferociously bad, and the obscenely ugly, Rude Readers have been there by the thousands, gluttons for punishment, coming here for a rhetorical purge so they can face the world a little less burdened.

Here's the deal: Every couple of years (because I'm not NPR), I wanna update the computer, try out a couple of projects (like a podcast and more video), and restock the whiskey cabinet. I might even pay another visit to Miss Stephanie Miller out in L.A. if you guys give the scratch for a plane ticket.

So I do a fundraiser. Every year, Rude Readers come through with donations big and small.

If you wanna donate this year, if you got some spare cash, you can do it the usual way, through PayPal.

Just pound that button over there on the right or click right here. Hell, I even take credit cards.

Republicans' Fake Concern for Fetuses: Flint Edition

So here we are, once again, looking at Republican policies that result in deaths and damage. We already knew that the disastrous decision to switch the water source for Flint, Michigan, which was done by emergency managers appointed by Republican governor Rick Snyder in order to save money, led to elevated lead in the water, elevated lead in the kids, and undrinkable, unusable water. Hell, we know now that a handful of people died of Legionnaire's disease because of bacterial contamination in the water, too.

Now we get the gut-churning news that the water caused the pregnancy rate to plunge and fetal deaths to skyrocket in Flint during the 18 months the contaminated water was running through the faucets and fountains there. That's not hyperbole. That's from a report by Kansas University researchers, which saw a 12% drop in the pregnancy rate and a 58% rise in the fetal death rate, a number the scientists called "horrifyingly large."

Need a graphic representation of this? Here ya go:

The top line is the fertility rate in 15 other cities in Michigan, which is fairly consistent. The line that takes a dive is Flint. (Also of note: In general, the fertility rate in Michigan improved once the Affordable Care Act was passed.)

That's as clear evidence as you could ask that Republicans' concern about fetuses stops once abortion politics are taken out of the equation. And let's not deny the racist implications here of making a majority African American community essentially guinea pigs in a budget-cutting experiment. We used to say that conservatives only care about children before they are born. But the truth of the matter is that they only care about fetuses when they can use that "care" to whip up their ignorant base.

There is something I keep coming back to whenever I read or hear about Flint, something I wrote back in January 2016: "Michigan has a $700 million surplus in its state budget. It would have cost perhaps $100 a day to put phosphates into the water when the supply was first switched to prevent the water from corroding the pipes" and leaching lead into the water. It was foreseeable and preventable. An ounce of prevention, man, just the tiniest bit. I wonder how much funding was spent on things like the militarization of the police instead of making people's homes safe at a fundamental level.

The authors of the study conclude, "Our results suggest that a more lax regulatory environment in the context of drinking water may have substantial unforeseen effects on maternal and infant health, including large reductions in the number of births." They call for greater spending on the EPA and more regulations to protect essential things like, you know, water.

Which just makes me realize how deeply screwed we are from womb to grave right now.


The Rude Pundit's Biennial Money Grab Fundraiser: 14 Years of Bloggery

Yes, yes, yes, next week marks 14 years since I first put pot smoke-stained fingers to whiskey-sticky keyboard and barbarically yawped out the beginning of this here blog. It was a desperate time, with the worst president in history plunging us into a war based on lies before wrecking a strong economy that had been handed to him by a Democrat. Hmmm...

Fourteen years is about 830 in blogger years, and the scarred hellscape of this internet highway is littered with the remnants of blogs great and small that have come and gone. Some have moved on to greater success, some have passed away, some have just wandered off into the desert, driven mad, no doubt, by the snowballing barrage of fucknuttery that comes rolling our way.

But, goddamnit, this stubborn sumbitch is still here, through a book, a CD, two stage shows, and radio and TV appearances. With a brief pause to recalibrate in the wake of the election of the new worst president in history, this here Rude Pundit has been a constant companion to many of you. Let's keep riding along. And to those of you who have just recently joined in the convoy barreling through the American carnage, welcome aboard.

So, every couple of years, I ask for money, which you have always kindly, generously, amazingly donated. I'm not gonna lie. There's no noble cause here. I'm gonna buy a new computer, and I'm gonna restock the whiskey. Plus one or two other things:

If she'll have me (and I think she will), your donations will help me go back to Los Angeles to join Madam Stephanie Miller for another go round on her Happy Hour Podcast. The first two were utter, embarrassing, hilarious filth. Let's go again.

Oh, and I'm gonna start my own podcast. Yeah, fuck it. Everybody will have a podcast some day, so why the hell not. And, if I get enough, I'll do a few more videos.

Here's the deal: You can donate by clicking over there on that PayPal button on the right or right here. It even accepts credit cards.

And here's something new: I've started a Patreon page. Yeah, monthly subscribers will get extra bonus posts and stuff and it starts at just $1 a month. That's right. The cost of a cup of bodega coffee once a month will get you special, extra rude punditry. I've got a simple goal of 1000 subscribers, with that podcast and more video stuff as the result.

Oh, and, hell, I'll open this up for any questions. You don't have to donate to ask, just like you don't have to donate to read. I'll answer a couple over the next week of this fundraiser

But I'd sure appreciate whatever affordable, adequate love you can toss in the hat.

Back soon with more ravenous rudeness.

Republicans Admit the Whole Trumpcare Scam by Bribing Lisa Murkowski With More Obamacare

(Don't forget: The Rude Pundit's Biennial Fundraiser/Whiskey Support is happening now.)

Republicans are desperate to pass a bill they can claim repeals and replaces the Affordable Care Act. They have to do it because they said they'd do it, even though what they said all along is they would pass something better and any analysis by anyone not a GOP meat puppet shows that everything they've attempted to pass is far, far worse, so they're not really doing what they promised except at the crudest level.

But fuck that. Republicans just want to go around the country and crow that they did it, goddamnit, even if that means they have to stand on a stack of corpses to be heard. There's your image of the 2017 GOP: Mitch McConnell in the September 30 twilight, tortoise howling in victory atop the bodies of his dead and dying constituents, who would still vote for him.

Now, in an attempt to fist-fuck the Graham-Cassidy-other-assholes bill through the Senate, Republicans have decided to just say, "Fuck it" and flat out bribe Alaska's Lisa Murkowski. And what is the bribe? Alaska gets to keep Obamacare.

No, really. Here's a summary of the proposal: "Alaska (along with Hawaii) will continue to receive Obamacare’s premium tax credits while they are repealed for all other states. It appears this exemption will not affect Alaska receiving its state allotment under the new block grant in addition to the premium tax credits." On top of that, Alaska's Medicaid funding not only doesn't get cut; it gets more. The amendment to the bill "provides for an increased federal Medicaid matching rate (FMAP) for both Alaska and Hawaii."

In other words, Republicans are admitting that the only way they can get Senator Murkowski to vote for the bill is to make sure that Alaska doesn't have to deal with much of the bill, especially when it comes to funding. In otherer words, major portions of the bill are a fucking scam and the GOP is admitting that.

Hell, back in June, Murkoswki said as much. "Let’s just say that they do something that’s so Alaska-specific just to, quote, ‘get me.' Then you have a nationwide system that doesn’t work. That then comes crashing down and Alaska’s not able to kind of keep it together on its own." Now we get to see if Murkowski, who really fucking hates McConnell, has the courage of her own damn words.

There are so many lies bound up with this blatant buy-off. Like the lie of how they want states to be able to figure things out on their own. Well, can Ohio, Vermont, Nevada, and other Republican-led states, as well as the Democratic-led states, now say, "Hey, we want that same fuckin' deal as Alaska, man"?

Or how about the lie of how much they trust the states. Louisiana's other shitty senator, John Kennedy, wanted to ban states from setting up single-payer systems. Why? Because something, something, freedom, no doubt: "I don't think states should have the authority to take money from the American taxpayer and set up a single-payer system." And, in a stunning bit of parody, Kennedy said, "I think the only way we are going to solve the health care problem in America is through the private sector." Motherfucker, the private sector is the health care problem in America.

This whole effort is such a savage farce that you half expect it to end in an orgy in a pool of money where the Republicans fuck each other with rolled up wads of cash to the masturbatory delight of the Koch brothers while the Mercer family fondles each other in joy.


Graham-Cassidy Dicks Over So Many People (and Its Sponsors Are Liars)

There's a ton of insidious shit going down in the massive clusterfuck that is the effort to bring the Graham-Cassidy-and-the-rest's "Lynch Obamacare" bill to a vote in the Senate before September 30. Motherfuckers are just flat out lying about shit now in order to get support.

For instance, they insist that the bill protects people with pre-existing conditions. Here's co-sponsor and Louisiana Senator Bill "I Look Like a Creepy Panty-Sniffer" Cassidy on CNN this morning: "There's a specific provision that says that if a state applies for a waiver, it must ensure that those with pre-existing conditions have affordable and adequate coverage." But what the fuck is that? The bill doesn't define "affordable" or "adequate." And I have looked at the fuckin' bill itself. Funny thing: except for one time, the word "affordable" is used only to talk about the Affordable Care Act, which seems to have cornered the fucking market on affordability.

Where's that other usage? In the waivers section. What the bill has about states getting waivers from requirements for the block grants that will take the place of Medicaid is simple. On pre-existing conditions, the waiver applications have to say "how the State intends to maintain access to adequate and affordable health insurance coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions if such waiver is approved." You see the wide wiggle room there? States just need to say how they "intend" to "maintain access." That ain't a fucking requirement to do anything but say, "Yes, let me pave the road to Hell some more with my fucking intentions." It is not an ironclad assurance in the way Cassidy and Graham are promising it is, the lying shit-sacks.

So you might say, "Well, obviously, if a state doesn't do what it says it's going to do, its waiver can be taken away, right?" No, you fucking credulous dolt. Because, see, once the state gets the waiver approved for one year, it's considered approved for every year after that. Let's go to the bill: "If an application of a State submitted under this subsection is approved by the Administrator for a year, the application shall be deemed to be approved by the Administrator for that year and each subsequent year through December 31, 2026." In other words, Texas can write in its waiver application, "Oh, we totes intend to make sure the cancer patients get affordable, adequate coverage, scout's fuckin' honor, man," and then they don't have to do a goddamn thing because there's no mechanism to take away the waiver once it's given.

Oh, and the waivers are decided by the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Who appoints that person? Who the fuck do you think?

Another tit-punch in the bill is its blatant attack on anything to do with abortion (with the usual trio of exceptions). First, it says that any insurance that includes abortion coverage is not a "qualified plan," which means that several states, like California, Oregon, and New York, where abortion coverage is required, would have all of their plans immediately ineligible for tax credits to individuals and businesses.

On top of that, there's this groin kick in the middle of the bill: "no Federal funds provided from a program referred to in this subsection that is considered direct spending for any year may be made available to a State for payments to a prohibited entity, whether made directly to the prohibited entity or through a managed care organization under contract with the State." What is a "prohibited entity"? Any place that "is primarily engaged in family planning services, reproductive health, and related medical care; and...provides for abortions." So here is a back door way to slash spending on Planned Parenthood. Dream fulfilled, motherfuckers.

By the way, the bill mentions the word "abortion" 15 times. It uses "pregnancy" 8 times, most of them having to do with abortion. These fucknuts are obsessed.

When I originally started to write this post, I was intending to talk about how Graham-Cassidy-fuck-you dicks over states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA, how it was a calculated punishment for those who dared to be compassionate, how it was taking money away from liberal states like New York and California to give to the ones run by savages, like Texas.

But this isn't just an anti-blue state or anti-Obama bill. It's anti-human, as in "inhumane," as in "devoid of humanity." Which is the motto of the Republican Party.


The Short Bus to Armageddon: Trump at the U.N.

When do we get to stop being embarrassed, huh? Every time that President Donald Trump opens his lamprey mouth and shakes his semen-colored mane, it's like another shiv in the gut while we stand in the prison shower that is the United States in 2017.

"Which group of shit-sniffing baboons is he gonna talk to this time?" we wonder. Will it be the crazed conservative hawks, the ones whose savagery make Democratic hawks look like confused parakeets? Will it be his base, whose heads are evolving into the shape of a permanent dunce cap, the one-third of the American populace who pretend they want anarchy when, really, all they want are more guns and fewer dark-skinned people? Will it be the unsatiated capitalists, the ones who would monetize child rape if they thought they could squeeze a few more pennies out of the bloodied anuses of babies? And usually, it's all three, to varying degrees, with Trump a carnival barker yelling at the freaks and carnies to scoop up the spilled popcorn and toss it back in with the rest to sell again tomorrow.

At the United Nations today, Trump spoke stiffly and boorishly, his pinch-fingered hand gesticulating like he was jacking off his own micropenis. It was like some kind of dumb college prank, where you make the stupidest freshman get up at karaoke and sing the National Anthem instead of some damn Ed Sheeran song. Put a MAGA hat on that bitch, and you've got a Trump voter.

Whatever you think of the U.N., most of the leaders in that room are people who have dedicated their lives to the politics of their nation. Most of them are vastly educated, well-read, worldly, and, to varying degrees, smart enough to know a fucking idiot when they see one. So you had to imagine the reactions to Trump at the General Assembly ranged from horror to bemusement to calculating how easy it would be to roll this rube (looking at you, Saudi Arabia).

Did Trump brag about how great things are now that he's been president for all of 8 months? Fuck, yeah, you know he did. Actually, apparently, his presidency started even earlier: "The United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8th. The stock market is at an all-time high -- a record. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 16 years, and because of our regulatory and other reforms, we have more people working in the United States today than ever before. Companies are moving back, creating job growth the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time." Yes, I'm sure Hage Geingob, the president of Namibia, who has a PhD in international relations from the University of Leeds, really thought that Trump deserved the credit for this. (By the way, interestingly, Geingob came to the United States to start college at Temple University, in Philadelphia, in 1964 before transferring to Fordham University in New York City. Trump started at Fordham in 1964 before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.)

Were there lines that should have made any sentient world leader just crack up with sad laughter? You bet. "In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch," Trump had the gall to say as most of Central and South America, a good chunk of East Asia, and assorted islands from all over the world rolled their eyes so hard they saw their own brain pans.

Sure, but did he sound like a pathetic, low-level thug who wants everyone to think he's a made man? Aw, come on. That's his default mode. He warned, "We can no longer be taken advantage of, or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return." He threatened, "The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea." And, yeah he called Kim Jong-un "Rocket Man." In front of the U.N. It's like having your drunk aunt shake her bare titties at her nephew's graduation.

And, obviously, Trump talked as if no one else there has any idea how the world works. "If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph," he said in a line that's right out of his Captain America fanfic. He continued, "When decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength." Certainly, every country that has dealt with terrorism, which is a fuck-bunch of 'em, appreciated being told they should not be bystanders.

On it went, with shitting on the Iran deal (which is working, despite every feeble protest Trump makes), praise for Russia and Turkey, called out the "loser terrorists," and repeated a blatant lie: "Our country has achieved more against ISIS in the last eight months than it has in many, many years combined."

Yeah, it was like piss from heaven that all the golden showers lovers on his side could bathe themselves in. And everything you need to know about the speech, and everything that you believe about it, is contained in how you think about this: One of the first people to praise the speech was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who tweeted, "In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech."

Yes, it's so very brave to threaten to wipe out a desperate tiny country, to walk away from a peace deal, and to ignore the greatest threat to the planet, climate change, altogether. We're riding the short bus to Armageddon. And there are no stops ahead.


Fresh Health Care Fuckery: Your McCain Praise Was Probably Wasted

Ah, remember when Mighty Maverick John McCain was the mighty maverick hero last time there was a vote on a bullshit health care "reform" bill with his mighty mavericky thumbs-down? Remember the ejaculations of praise for this irascible cockhead doing something decent just to fuck with Donald Trump? Remember his slobber-coated speech where he said of the Senate, "Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order"? Remember how he insisted, "Let the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides. Then bring it to the floor for amendment and debate"?

Yeah, fuck all that noise. Now that the new spiked dildo of health care, the Graham-Cassidy-etc bill, is threatening to be rammed up the hemorrhoidal anus of the American people, with just about every fucking terrible thing as the last attempt intact, McCain said that he wanted to hear from Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona. Ducey had opposed the previous Trumpcare bill because it dicked over Arizonans on expanded Medicaid. Now Ducey has said he supports Graham-Cassidy-who-the-fuck-cares, even though the aforementioned dicking remains, and McCain has tweeted that he's still feeling cranky about the process but is "inclined" to support the bill.

And even if McCain ends up going thumbs-down again, fuck him for even contemplating an upraised thumb. Either you've got principles or you don't, motherfucker.

In all the time the GOP has had, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, since the election, since the failure of the "Fuck You, We Don't Care If You Die Bankrupt" bill in July, they have not made a case for repeal except "We said we'd do it." It's like a bunch of morons promising to light their farts if their favorite team wins a championship. The only people who wanna see that are other morons. Right now, we're down to 8.8% of Americans without health insurance, and a good number of those are because of the assholes in Republican states not expanding Medicaid.

Who does this bill help? It's faith-based legislation. Republicans say that Obamacare is making you suffer, so, if you're GOP-inclined, you believe it's making you suffer (even if it's paying for your chemo or psoriasis medication). And you have staked your entire political belief system on your investment in this bullshit. You'd rather die a miserable death than admit that you were always the mark for a bunch of low-rent Barnums. This way to the amazing egress, idiots. Grab a snipe on your way.

I wrote last week about the remarkable care I received in the UK for free. I was in the middle of the fourth largest city in the country, and every complaint I've heard about single-payer was rendered utterly and completely false.

Yet here we are, unable to even agree that tens of millions of people, including those with pre-existing conditions, who are now covered by the Affordable Care Act, deserve to be treated as human beings. What a stupid goddamned society we've built. It's repulsive. It's disgusting. It's immoral. And yet so many of our dumb fellow citizens think this is the way things ought to be.

The cruelest trick that capitalists ever played on Americans was making them believe they didn't need everyone else. Our fake rugged individualism will be our undoing.

And for those of us who do give a shit about our fellow Americans, it's once more to the phones to make Senators fear for their careers.


An American in the UK National Health Service

It had been a stressful few weeks, with far more than the usual amount of fuckery and frantic frenzy, and I arrived in Liverpool last Friday on a total of about 4 hours of sleep in two days. Walking around the Liverpool One area shortly after dropping off my bags, heading towards the Tesco to get some supplies, I realized that I was sweating like Nicholas Cage on a meth bender and my heart was racing like, well, the same. I felt a tightness in my chest, short of breath, needing to sit down, and I thought, "Well, fuck, this would fuck up the next week or so." When your Dad dies of a heart attack at 46, you take that shit seriously.

So I found a National Health Service walk-in clinic just around the corner from Tesco. It was in the same space as the NHS's sexual health office, which offered free morning after pills, among other things. I went in and there were maybe twenty people sitting there. I don't know how many needed sex-related attention and how many needed regular medical help. But a very nice receptionist took my name, date of birth, and phone number, and then she asked what was wrong. I described my condition without the mention of Nicholas Cage or meth, which could have confused the whole situation. She very nicely told me to take a seat and that triage would be with me shortly. The triage nurse, I learned, examines everyone to see who might need to get in sooner than others. Apparently, I was looking terrible enough to be bumped to the front of the line.

After a few moments, I was called back to see the nurse practitioner, Niamh (pronounced "Neeve" because, well, Irish names). I can honestly say that I've never been treated with as much care, patience, and good humor by a medical professional as I was by  Niamh. She asked permission every time she wanted to do anything, from take my blood pressure to listen to my pulse. Even as I kept insisting that I was probably just exhausted and whiny, she took everything about my condition incredibly seriously and assured me that I should just follow through with what she was recommending. "It won't cost you anything," she said more than once, as if understanding the anxiety that Americans have about health care spending. "Unless you're admitted to hospital." She laughed and joked, and we talked like we're human beings having a conversation, not a transaction.

Niamh asked me a few questions about health insurance in the United States and shook her head at it. "I'm afraid we're going to head to that kind of system," she exclaimed. She told me a story about when she and her family - husband and five children - visited New York City the previous year. Her youngest, a toddler, had gotten an ear infection, so they went to a walk-in clinic, just as I had come to this one. She told the receptionist that they would pay out of pocket for expenses because they would be reimbursed when they came home. "Now, they prescribed my little one a medicine," Niamh said, "one that I know is in that locked cupboard behind you. And I know that it costs about three pounds. Do you know how much they charged me in the states? $354." She laughed, as one can when they get the money back for outrageous expenses. I told her that her experience is pretty typical.

Apparently, the way the UK system works is that whoever is taking care of you stays with you until you are moved on to the next person. Niamh recommended that I go to the Royal Liverpool Hospital for blood tests. She called ahead to see if they could move me through quickly because she knew that I wanted to get back to what I was doing. And she insisted, gently, that I take an ambulance to the hospital, even as I said I could just take a cab and would be embarrassed by such a fuss. She thought I was foolish for saying that and said that she didn't want to have to worry about anything happening to me on the ride over. I relented when she said I wouldn't be wheeled out on a stretcher. Just a wheelchair.

The two EMTs were also kind and professional and chatty, utterly and completely concerned with my well-being. One of the EMTs, a woman named Phil, told me that she had just gotten into the Royal Coast Guard sea rescue training program. The other, a man named Jack, told me about his two teenage boys, one who loves history and one who was an IT guy. When we arrived at the hospital, they advocated for me to get treatment, even though my blood pressure had returned to earth and, really, I was feeling much better. Phil and Jack said their good-byes when a nurse took me (by now, I was on a wheeled stretcher) to check me in, sitting in the hallway outside the emergency room. I was placed next to another gurney with a grizzled old man there who said he was "Mike" and wanted me to fist-bump his scabby, fungal hand. I did because, fuck, why not.

People working there wanted to talk about New York and New Jersey. One attendant, an old guy named Mick who sounded like John Lennon, chatted me up about Bruce Springsteen and Jake Clemons. The nurse who did my ECG (my second of the afternoon) wanted to talk about The Sopranos and places she could visit from the show (looking at you, Holsten's Ice Cream).

Finally, I was brought to a curtained room in the ER where, after a bit, a doctor came in and took blood samples. The doctor examined me again and, even though she insisted I should stay for another two hours and await the lab results, she brought me forms where I could discharge myself, promising I would call to see if the tests showed anything. (Spoiler: They didn't. I was fine.) As I filled out the forms, I asked her and the attending doctor, who needed to witness, for restaurant recommendations, which they readily gave me.

I've sped up the last part here, but, from walking into the clinic to leaving the ER of the hospital, it was a total of four hours. And there was not a single person I met who seemed angry or beleaguered or disgusted by the system they worked in. Every one of them was simply devoted to making sure I was ok. No profit motive. No forms to fill out. No card to check. No in-network or out-of-network. No phone calls to beg for approval. I didn't pay a dime. That's how you treat a guest.

I was blown away. Obviously, I know it can't always work so smoothly and efficiently (and that there are rocky times ahead for the NHS), but, holy shit, there was something so sane and humane about the entire process that I felt a revulsion towards what we're put through in the United States just to try to not die, the degradation of putting a price tag on our health.

If we actually lived up to the ideals that we supposedly have as Americans, we'd look out for each other by making sure that no one has to have one's worth measured against what one can afford.

Fucking pass single-payer. Or stop fucking pretending that we're a society and just admit that the USA is a Darwinian dystopia.


Guest Posts on Life in Trump Country, Part 3: Florida Wants to Be Blue, But Can't Help But Be Red

(Today, I saw an anti-Brexit rally in Trafalgar Square with thousands of people cheering to stay in the EU. Meanwhile, in the United States, we're still bumblefucking our way through the Trumpocalypse. Here's a perspective on that from Paul in Florida. Note: He has chosen to use a lowercase "t" in "Trump.")

I've lived in Florida since my family moved to stay back in 1976. Dad just retired from the Navy,  and we moved close to where my mom's parents were. Since then, through college and into work and now into my 40s, the Sunshine State is all I can remember ever living in.

Some parts of Florida are relatively low-key about politics, or at least there's enough diversity among the people that you aren't drowned by the far right stuff. But it's there. You'll see the anti-abortion billboards in the smaller-populated counties up north, or along I-4 in the central corridor where a lot of evangelical and hard-right Protestant churches gathered during the 1980s population boom.

When trump started his campaign, there just seemed to be a shift in the mood. It may have been I grew more sensitive about it, but I started seeing more super-trucks driving around with the CBF whipping from the payloads. This was also when I noticed the bizarre exhaust pipes those trucks had, which issued black smoke and bad odors every time they revved out at a stoplight. I finally found out about Coal Rollers, which truckers had to waste money on to make their engines belch out more carbon shit all to piss off any hippie treehuggers in their midst. It's insane, and it explained the mindset of a trump voter so perfectly.

I did notice about five people on my Facebook pages - I follow them because of local activities - suddenly getting more open about their anti-Obama views. After November, one of them got so vulgar about it - posting the racist photos and memes floating out there - I finally had to defriend him. I hadn't had to do that in four years (I try to be respectful with the FB friends with differing political views, and engage when there's corrections or arguments to make, but I try to avoid the whole blocking thing).

Part of the problem of living in trump Country is having to live in a state that is of two minds about politics: the population leans Democratic overall, but terrible voter turnout - either from apathy or the twisted gerrymandering that's hampered Florida for decades - keeps the Republicans in power at the state level, and disproportionately powerful in Congress and elsewhere. The Blue sides are mostly in the urban centers - South Florida, Tampa, parts of Orlando, the college town of Gainesville - but the Red areas are spread all over, giving the GOP a geographic advantage over the populace.

As a result, the voters keep pushing for smaller classroom sizes and more schools, better election districts, more funding for environmental protections (especially our Everglades and other wetlands), and other progressive issues... while the elected officials keep ignoring the referendum mandates and push their tax cuts and land development pet projects.

On a personal level, I do what I can to tune out the wingnut stuff, and stay in touch with online channels of like-minded moderates and progressives. But nearly everybody I know like that doesn't live in Florida; I keep feeling like I'm the only one here in the state struggling to fight against the ignorance and grief. I know there are others who share my views and my current sorrows, but I can't see them. And it just gets so lonely.


Guest Posts on Life in Trump Country, Part 2: Idaho Is Owned by Republicans

(As I continue my search for a decent meal in London, I've turned the blog over to some red staters who are not fond of our president. It's for all of us who are sick of hearing about Trump voters who don't give a damn if Trump is boning Ivanka. Today's entry comes from Kent Jensen from way out in Idaho. He explains the "cognitive dissonance" that it takes to love Trump while being from that state.)

I live in the reddest state in the union. Others may claim this title, but they are poseurs. Idaho is not only run by Republicans; it’s owned lock stock and barrel by them. All state officers are Republicans. Republicans hold 84 percent of the seats in the state legislature. In every decision by Trump to kick the U.S. down to the bottom of the ladder, Idaho’s congressional delegation has been at the forefront. Pull us out of the Paris Climate Accords? Murray Energy-owned Senators Risch and Crapo were two of the signatories to the letter urging Trump to do so. Get rid of DACA? Governor Otter and our Attorney General were on board to sue the federal government over DACA. If Trump wants to strip millions of their health care, the boys from Idaho would help. Need to defend Trump’s Russian collusion? Call Senator Risch. In fact, I’m not sure that these political jellyfish would abandon Trump even if he were caught throwing the pee hookers off the Ritz-Carlton Hotel balcony.

Idaho has an anti-federal government stance that is an inch deep and a mile wide. Idahoans complain about the federal government, but this state would dry up and blow away without it. The Snake River plain is one of the richest agricultural sections in the entire United States, and its existence depends upon the BLM’s management of dams on the Snake River that provide irrigation water. Rural counties receive substantial payments from the federal government that help pay for county services and schools. Idaho forests have some of the best fishing and hunting grounds in the US, all maintained by the federal government. Yet Republicans believe that their very lifeblood is being wrung out of them by the government.

They support Trump’s anti-trade stands, yet Idaho’s three largest trading partners are China, Mexico and Canada. If Trump did away with NAFTA, Idaho’s agricultural exports would sink. Trump’s elimination of the Pacific Rim trade pact has already impacted Idaho’s beef producers. Yet, nary a discouraging word is heard about Trump.

Additionally, Idaho Republicans love Trump’s anti-immigration stance, even though undocumented workers and their DACA-eligible children have been the ones who have labored to keep the agricultural engine purring along.

Idaho’s Republican Party also believes that it is the moral barometer of the state. Nowhere is this evidenced more than among the Mormon religion, which is dominant in south-central, eastern, and southeastern Idaho. The Mormon religion claims to hold itself to an overarching moral standard. Yet Idaho’s Mormons gave wholehearted support to Trump. Many believe that Trump is doing Jesus’s work and that good Mormons cannot be Democrats. Since they worship authority (you’ll never find any student protests at BYU), Trump’s penchant for authoritarianism doesn’t even get a second thought, nor does Trump’s aversion to the truth.

Even though Nazis were evicted from northern Idaho by the SPLC, they’re back. The forests of northern Idaho are full of last dayers, preppers, militiamen, or whatever they call themselves now. They claim to be the vanguard of white nationalism.

So, with its latent racism, it’s kinship with authoritarianism, along with its blatant hypocrisy, Idaho is the perfect state for Trump. Don’t get me wrong; there are many good people who live here, which is why the Trump support puzzle is so hard to decipher. Cognitive dissonance is my explanation, and, even though it was not formulated here, its roots grow deep and strong in Idaho.

A few days ago a neighbor posted to Facebook a meme that stated he had voted for Trump and if that made us angry, it didn’t matter because he was going to vote for Trump again. He’s probably right, and if Trump is still around in 2020, Idaho will throw its support his way. It’s the Republican thing to do out here.


Guest Post on Life in Trump Country, Part 1: Arizona Is Like Hell

(Note: I'm out of the country for the week, taking some personal time, boss. In my absence, some great rude readers have written about life as a Trump hater in states that Trump won. Think of it as a necessary corrective to all those fucking New York Times stories about Trump voters sticking by their "man." Today's post is by Arizona resident Lauren E. Dillon)

Arizona is a lot like hell: the heat licks like flames, the air desiccates once-supple flesh, and sinners bloated with pride and privilege converge and bluster in incomprehensible callowness.

It’s at its worst in Scottsdale. These are not Rust Belt victims of modernization and downsizing. These are well-to-do white men stewing in their own juices of privilege and self-assuredness. They look upon a liberal woman like me, outspoken in my defense of brown skin, climate science, and equal rights, as deluded and below them.

They live sustained by their collective prejudices and unwavering in their Fox and Breitbart News-buoyed opinions. This is the land of Sheriff Joe with his tent city concentration camp, chain gangs, pink boxers, and Hispanic roundups. Often, they’ve served in his posse (yes, that’s what he named it), believing they’ve done their civic duty.

This is also the land of John McCain, once admired for his “maverick” qualities, now derided for defying their Orange Messiah. Whether he realizes it or not, McCain’s pulling a Lee Atwater, saving healthcare and attempting to cure Congress to make up for giving us Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber, hawking war after war, and spewing racial epithets and insensitive put-downs.

And then came Trump. In a land where the Old West attitude of openly carrying weapons and defying social norms is celebrated, a loudmouth racist who derides everyone but their white male selves, who scorns intellect and science in favor of nineteenth century business and societal attitudes, who makes no effort towards diplomacy or decency, was manna from Wal-Mart. Any bags who once attempted to plug their inner douche have let it gush unimpeded. And they are legion.

But we live here and must for the time being. We own a house, have a grandchild enrolled in school, work decent paying jobs. Do I hate Arizona? Sometimes. Often. But I see glimpses of hope amid hate. When The Scourge came to town to rewrite his Charlottesville response and tease of his eventual pardon of Racist Joe, my 12-year-old grandson and I stood in 107 degree heat, holding signs above our heads with thousands of others, all united knowing this country is better than an imbecilic man-baby and his puffed-up minions. Downtown Phoenix contains large swaths of blue, as does Flagstaff and Sedona and Tucson. The Resistance grows, sometimes beaten back by overzealous police, overreaching executive actions, and personal despondency. But it grows.

We won’t let Pussygrabber and the Conceited Motherfuckers win. Because the answer to that one campaign question? Everything. We have everything to lose.


Random Observations on This Fresh Wanton DACA Fuckery

1. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was practically giddy at the chance to sub for his cowardly Trumpmaster in this moment, and he was almost giggling when he read his pissy little statement that took a jackhammer to the ground underneath the feet of millions of people, many of them Americans (yeah, some of those Dreamers had kids). Like a malicious elf that just got done jacking off in the cookie cream, Sessions kept suppressing a smirk as he announced that President Tangerine Nightmare was rescinding the executive order that established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The words out of Sessions' whore mouth were calculated to incite the yahoos who make up Trump's devolved supporters. He called the Dreamers "800,000 mostly-adult illegal aliens," ignoring both that all DACA recipients were brought here at age 16 or younger and that "illegal aliens" is a phrase only assholes use now. So, of course, he said it even more.

Sessions somehow could dare to say, "Societies where the rule of law is subject to political whims and personal biases tend to become societies afflicted by corruption, poverty, and human suffering" while working for the man who pardoned Joe Arpaio, a poison who chewed up court orders and laws and shit them out, laughing and yowling and daring anyone to stop him from causing human suffering. That the ground beneath Sessions didn't open up and gnarled claws didn't skewer his scrotum and drag him to Hell is pretty much proof positive that there is no Satan.

2. President Trump's decision is the sort of disruptive, wanton fuckery that we can accurately call "evil." It will tear families apart. It will cruelly exile people to countries where they have nothing, no roots, no connection. It will end up damaging the economy as nearly a million people will no longer be paying taxes or Social Security. The only thing getting rid of DACA does is make racists feel good. That is it. That is solely it. There is no rational case to be made for punishing these law-abiding, education-oriented, hardworking Americans-in-all-but-papers. In fact, I'd fucking rather Trump had just said, "Yeah, too fuckin' many Mexicans. We need more whites." At least then, we'd cut through the bullshit justifications and maybe we'd get to see who Nazi salutes in agreement.

Trump's wretched statement on his decision once again says that undocumented immigrants are responsible for everything from your uncle losing his job because his factory closed to your uncle's opioid addiction. Or, as he put it, "lower wages and higher unemployment for American workers, substantial burdens on local schools and hospitals, the illicit entry of dangerous drugs and criminal cartels, and many billions of dollars a year in costs paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Yet few in Washington expressed any compassion for the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system." Again, facts are going to bite him on the ass on this, but, at this point, his ass probably no longer has any feeling because of how long he just sits around on it. For Trump and his idiot hordes, a Dreamer is no different than a cantaloupe-calved drug mule or dark-skinned rapist. Like I said, just skip the bullshit justifications and say you hate brown people.

3. Let's be honest here: There will almost certainly be no legislative fix unless and until Democrats take over the Congress. Ads are already being created to target squishy Republicans who even glance at passing the DREAM Act. A few stalwarts like John McCain and Lindsey Graham might say, "Fuck it" and try something. But the lunatics in the mad House won't go near it.

There is no superhero who's gonna swoop in and save the Dreamers. Already, the DACA page on the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services web page (which is pathetically still under the "Humanitarian" heading) informs us that "Individuals who have not submitted an application by Sept. 5, for an initial request under DACA may no longer apply. USCIS will reject all applications for initial requests received after Sept. 5." Yeah, the "transition" and "wind-down" that Trump talks about include the rejection of any Employment Authorization Documents for DACA recipients, so they won't be able to get jobs legally.

4. And let's not forget that the government has all the information it needs to find and deport DACA recipients. The Department of Homeland Security said today that it will give Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers that information, which includes, you know, admitting they're in the country without needed documentation and their address, if ICE requests it.

5. In January, Trump issued an executive order telling the IRS to find a way to not enforce fines for people who don't get health insurance, as required by the Affordable Care Act, a law passed by Congress and signed by the president, and that provision of the law was upheld by the Supreme Court. In other words, Trump believed that he could say how the law was enforced or, more directly, how resources in the executive branch are used for enforcement. When Obama announced DACA, he directed the Department of Homeland Security to concentrate deportation and immigration enforcement efforts on criminals, not people brought here as minors who were in school and without criminal records. It was prosecutorial discretion. In kind, what Trump wants to do with ACA fines is exactly what Obama did with DACA. It's something that law enforcement does all the time. It's something that states do all the fucking time. To call it "overreach" is to overreach on the definition of "overreach."

6. And while Obama probably wouldn't give a shit about this part (and he has finally spoken out), Sessions and Trump were, as usual, total dicks to the former president, constantly degrading his actions while bragging about Trump's "leadership" as "inspiring" or some such shit.

It's all part of the wanton fuckery at work here. The evil they do is merely for the sake of evil, merely to show they can do it, merely to punish the powerless. If we do nothing, if we don't vote them out in 2018, if we don't demand action, if we don't clog their streets and their courts with our voices and bodies, then they will move on to exerting more and more power.


A Poem for the Laborers

Grease & Salt
by Jeanann Verlee

I finish a small hot plate of grease & salt / & push
the scraped-clean plate across the counter

for someone else to scrub / this, I say I have paid for
but it doesn't fit / I see the hundred hands

it took to cultivate / the hands that milked the cow
(or built the machines that did) / the hands that harvested

the artichokes & spinach & shallots / the hands
that steamed & fried / the hands that mined

the salts (or maintained the machines that did) / the hands
that mixed the clay & the hands that baked them to ceramic

in a kiln / the hands that sliced & spiced the bread /
the hands that rolled fork & knife into napkin /

the scalded hands that pulled the dish from oven /
the hands that passed the plate to the hands that set it

before me / the hands that wring in hopes I have no
complaint & that if I do, I won't take to Yelp

with my grievances / the hands that whisk the emptied
plate from sight / the hands, too, that swipe my card

& the hands that process the accounts between /
the hands that wipe the counter, seats, floor, handles /

the hundred hands that work & ache & crack over this
one tiny indulgence I myself can't rightly afford /

& I remember my father’s hands, & my mother’s / &
too, the hands of the farmers & soldiers & steel

workers & brick layers in my bloodline / & my hands, too,
each scar & chip / each labor for paycheck or fury or love

& I praise & I praise & I praise / the work & the hands /
& I lick the salt from the corners of my oily mouth.


Impressions of Houston From Years Past

(A slight expansion on what I tweeted out last night)

When you grow up in south Louisiana, Houston was the place you went when you wanted to spend time in a city. It was more cosmopolitan and less urine-smelling than New Orleans. If New Orleans was for partying adults dragging their kids along, Houston was where the family could kick up its heels without going all the way to Orlando. We went to the beaches of Galveston many times, but Houston was where my young heart felt alive. Just some memories off the top of my head.

1. Astroworld as a kid, riding the Cyclone rollercoaster, followed by a visit to the Space Center with my Dad the year before he died. Dad, a Brooklyn-born Italian guy, embraced shit-kicker culture, fully immersing us in Willie and Waylon. He'd take Mom boot-scootin' at Gilley's even before the whole Urban Cowboy craze, and he loved discovering barbecue joints and divey little places around the town.

2. Seeing Nolan Ryan pitch a no-hitter in the Astrodome. I haven't been to a lot of major league ball games, but this was like every no-hitter: six innings of tedium followed by two innings of thrills followed by one inning of gasping and cheers on every pitch.

3. The breakdown of civilization at a Rush-headlined rock festival in the 'Dome. Ozzy was there, still on heroin. Bryan Adams, for some reason, played, as did .38 Special. I had gone only because a friend asked me to come along because no one else would. The weed smoke became a nearly impermeable curtain, the bathrooms flooded, and the stalls were taken up by filthy, fucking couples. By the end, the floor was slick with piss and puke, and I ended up sleeping in a friend's van in a parking lot after the show. Rush was pretty good though.

4. Alfred's with my family, searching for a taste of Jewish deli food far away from New York, always followed by shopping at the Galleria. Alfred's is gone, but his son opened Kahn's across the street. Now that's closed, too.

5. Coming to town to see a Simon and Garfunkel reunion show with two pals, only to have it canceled when Hurricane Alicia approached. We had rooms across from the Astrodome (which really was the center of much activity in town back then) and saw when the sign switched to "canceled." The hotel wanted to move us into room that overlooked the courtyard rather than the road to avoid broken glass. Instead, we checked out. Miserable about the whole experience, we drove home, only car on the road in most places, just ahead of the storm, which seemingly hit each town as we left it. The hotel's windows were blown out by Alicia.

6. Going to Astroworld with my first serious girlfriend. Staying the night at a hotel when she got sick from the rides. Or so we told her parents. Astroworld and the Astrodome are gone now, as was the girlfriend a long time ago.

7. Second row seats for Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, and Sammy Davis, Jr. in concert after dinner at Tony's with a limo taking us around. That was a night. I wasn't paying for any of it (who was is a much longer story), but I don't think I ever felt richer in my life.

8. The last time I was in Houston was in February 2011, also the last time I saw my mom alive. She had been there for weeks, awaiting a diagnosis for what we would finally be told was advanced T-cell lymphoma. I spent a weekend alone with her while she was staying at a hospital in the Texas Medical Center, overlooking Brays Bayou, which flooded this week. She also adored that city, and she went with my stepdad to a bunch of Astros games and meals at Pappasito's. She died in Houston a few days after I left, and her body was sent home.

Look, I'm not trying to idealize the place. Childhood and tourist memories don't often force you to confront the reality of a place. It's got its problems, and we're seeing them writ large now. But lots of good people live there. People who have made it a center for medical advancements. Artists who have pushed boundaries. Hell, NASA. And a whole bunch of Americans and non-Americans, hard-working people, a good majority of whom don't deserve what's happened (we'll carve out an exception for Nazis and pedophiles and other terrible people).

You have to choose where you donate your money unless you're Beyonce' or JJ Watt. I'm gonna donate to specific groups, like the Alley Theatre, a great institution that was devastated by Harvey. Think of what you love, like animals or arts, and find out how they were harmed by Harvey. They will need your help.

I've never lived there, but I've spent a lot of time in Houston. I hope it returns, as strong and contradictory as it ever was. And I hope there are lessons that are taken from this storm to lessen the impact of the next one.