7/22/2014

A Lynching in Staten Island


That screenshot shows two New York City cops trying to convince the corpse of Eric Garner that he's not dead. Garner, 43 and black, died after being put in a chokehold by the police for not allowing them to arrest him for, as the NYPD says, selling cigarettes illegally. That is, he was selling individual cigarettes for 50 cents each from untaxed boxes, and he needed to be stopped.

No, really. That's why the police were confronting him in the first place, according to the cops involved. They could have written him a ticket. Instead, he was tackled and handcuffed by a group of cops who thought Garner, obese with asthma, was lying when he said, repeatedly, "I can't breathe." One officer was kneeling on Garner's head on the sidewalk as he tried to breathe. So he died and the white officers kept leaning in to talk to him to tell him to get up. Being dead, he could not obey the officers' commands. It's shocking they didn't arrest his body.

As more than one editorial writer has pointed out, Garner was not a threat, was unarmed, was not doing anything violent - people on the scene claim he had just broken up a fight, and was, at most, committing a petty crime. When he was on the ground, he received no medical attention, no CPR, no dosage of asthma drugs, nothing. It's still unknown if he was killed by a heart attack, asthma, or strangulation.

What is known is that Garner had been arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes before. What is known is that Garner had once handwritten a lawsuit claiming that he had been strip searched on the street. What is known is that the cop who put the chokehold on Garner, Daniel Pantaleo, had two civil rights lawsuits filed against him. One of them, where Pantaleo and another cop strip searched two Staten Island men in public, led to a $30,000 payout. Another case is about unlawful arrest and is ongoing. In both cases, Pantaleo submitted reports that were sketchy at best. Now, he's had his gun and badge taken away and he's on unpaid leave, as are the EMTs who arrived on the scene, took Garner's pulse, and did nothing else, which more than likely means he was dead already and there was nothing they could do.

By the way, chokeholds are prohibited by the NYPD. That's probably why the police report does not mention one. The report also says that Garner did not seem to be in distress, so "I can't breathe" must be something that cops hear all the time.

Garner's crime was a misdemeanor. His greater crime was his unwillingness to submit to the authority of the NYPD, who, seeing their authority questioned, had to destroy the questioner for fear of losing their terrorizing position. What other reason is there for what they did? What other reason is there for pulling down the pants of young men and groping their genitals and probing their asses in full view of everyone? What other reason is there other than a desire to assert power over those who, due to race and class, have little if no means to counter that power?

By resisting the police, Garner was resisting the status quo, Garner was resisting history, he was resisting the identity that had been foisted on him by the white establishment. Now, quite unwillingly, he is another martyr to the racist assertion of police power, joining the ranks of Eleanor Bumpurs, Amadou Diallo,  Sean Bell, and too many others to list. Of course, with the power of the police in New York City and around the country growing exponentially, despite all the talk of reform that will no doubt continue in the wake of Garner's lynching, we will be here again.

Unless we are willing to confront our law enforcement history, the abuse of civil rights by the police, and the policies that encourage it, yes, assuredly, we will be.

7/21/2014

Thomas Friedman Wants You To Be Happy With Your Scraps

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is like your uncle who phones you up and tells you about this awesome new thing he's found called Netflix. "You can see whole TV series, one episode after another. I tell you, it's gonna change the way people watch television," he excitedly informs you. Now, perhaps Friedman thinks he's writing to an audience of those uncles, aunts, and various people in the "old, sweet, but kind of dumb" demographic, but when he says, as he does in his "column" on Sunday, that the lodging website Airbnb succeeds "a platform of 'trust' — where everyone could not only see everyone else’s identity but also rate them as good, bad or indifferent hosts or guests. This meant everyone using the system would pretty quickly develop a relevant 'reputation' visible to everyone else in the system," the first thing the Rude Pundit thought was "So you mean Yelp. Or Angie's List. Or the comments on Amazon products. Or every website selling shit under the sun."

Or, if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty of the history of the Interwebs, it was eBay that pretty much pioneered and popularized this whole "you're only as good as your comments and ratings" platform.

The rest of Friedman's examination of Airbnb is representative of a fuckin' awesome shift in the economic tide of the 21st century can be summarized thusly: Let us say, and why not, that you're getting fucked in the ass. Now, while getting fucked in the ass, you start to jack off because, let's face it, that prostate action is hot, but you can't finish before the dude is done fucking your ass. So the next time you're getting fucked in the ass by the kind of lover who won't give you a reacharound, who won't blow you or handy you in return, you try again to jack it to orgasm. And you get so close, but then, damnit, he's done, where's the towel? Sure, you can masturbate on your own, but that's got it's pleasures, but it's more of a hobby than an act done during sex with a partner or partners. You know that it should all be mutual, that your pleasure should be part of the whole act of fucking. But you choose shitty, selfish partners who don't care if you get off. Finally, sweet Jesus, you do it. You blow a load while getting fucked and it feels so awesome that you're ready to get fucked in the ass again and again.

For Friedman, the global economy is doing the fucking and Airbnb is allowing you to do the jacking off, but you're supposed to pretend that your little ejaculation is enough to change the world.

Oh, dear uncles and aunts, Airbnb is a website where you can go to rent rooms or apartments or homes or yurts for when you're on vacation. It's supposed to give you a more authentic experience of a place than a hotel or a bed and breakfast, although a good many bed and breakfast inns do use Airbnb (as has the Rude Pundit). Friedman interviewed one of the founders of the website, Brian Chesky, about what Friedman calls "the sharing economy," which is people using their homes or, in the case of Uber, their cars to make a living.

Friedman, using Chesky's words, romanticizes this whole concept. Quoting Chesky, Friedman writes, "There used to be a romanticism about ownership, because it meant you were free, you were empowered...I think now, for the younger generation, ownership is viewed as a burden. Young people will only want to own what they want responsibility for. And a lot of people my age don’t want responsibility for a car and a house and to have a lot of stuff everywhere. What I want to own is my reputation, because in this hyperconnected world, reputation will give you access to all kinds of things now."

In other words, you get to own nothing, says the very, very rich man to the very rich writer. Because, see, you used to be able to own your reputation and also be able to afford shit to own. You should be satisfied with a compliment online, a little bit of money from renting out part of your home because you can't find a job that pays you enough to just own, and the scraps of the world.

But for Friedman, this is the future, where he sees megacorporations yielding to hyperconnected small enterprises where people get to never stop working: "This will be a struggle between the 20th-century economy and the 21st’s. The 20th-century economy was powered by big corporations that standardized everything because they never really knew their customers, argued Chesky." Yes, giant consolidated corporations that have spent huge amounts of time and money accruing political power will no doubt be overthrown by a couple with a cute room that overlooks the beach. But at least you don't have to tip those now-unemployed bellhops, concierges, and waitstaff.

Airbnb and Uber are charming blips that will either die gruesomely or become part of the machine that they supposedly are attempting to confront. Ask anyone. Ask Microsoft. Ask Google. Ask Facebook. Every time we try to change American capitalistic paradigms, those paradigms just absorb and transform them into the same entities that ever were. And Chesky will get richer while you clean the semen stains from your sheets.

(Note: All of this ignores the smarmy little introduction that Friedman opens with, which says, more or less, "There's lots of bad shit going on in the world. But I wanna talk about how cool Airbnb is.")

7/18/2014

What's Happening in Gaza: A Savage and Obviously Anti-Semitic Blog Post


According to the UN's Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of the end of the brief cease-fire by Israel to allow Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to get food (which caused a run on banks and grocery stores) and medical attention, just prior to the start of a ground invasion:

"An estimated 57,900 children who have experienced death, injury or loss of home over the past ten days require direct and specialized psychosocial support."

"The total number of people in need of shelter assistance due to destruction of or damage to their homes is estimated to be 96,400 individuals."

"50% of sewage pumping and treatment centres are no longer available."

"More than 30,000 people in Al Junaina and Al Salam area remain without water for the past seven days as result of damage to the main pipeline."

"In total, 84 schools have been affected by shelling due to their close proximity to targeted sites and are in need of repairs."

This is not to mention the 23,000 who need food assistance, the destruction of farms, the damage to hospitals, and the damage to the water pumping system in the entire Gaza Strip.  At least 250 Palestinians are dead and nearly 2000 are injured, 70% of whom are civilians, so, you know, take that as your moral compass allows it.

Yeah, Hamas shouldn't be launching missiles into Israel. And, yeah, Israel has responded with the disproportionate force of an elephant stomping a frog. If it was Netanyahu's goal to create another generation of Palestinian insurgents, well, that child's room up there probably tells you that it's mission accomplished.

(Was that too harsh? Was it anti-Semitic to say what the United Nations says? Oh, gee, sorry if your pro-Israel sensibilities were offended by a simple listing of the effects of Israel's actions. You can pull the Rude Pundit from the Gaza beat.)

7/17/2014

On the Immigrant Children: No, We're Not Really Better Than This

Here on the left, we like to think that because we believe in the better angels of humanity, that people aren't as vile as they so often seem. We can find peace, we like to think, in places where there will never be peace. Or we think we can find compromise with people who would rather plunge off a cliff than take our hand. "We are better than that," we say, referring to how people behave in certain situations, thinking that their initial reactions will not be borne out by their further actions.

It is the foolish net that we trap ourselves in time and again when the truth of the matter is that, as a nation, not on an individual basis, but as a conglomerate of the whole, no, we are not better than that. At best, we are exactly what we are.

Charles Blow, in today's New York Times, writes about "The fight over how to process and care for masses of children from Central America who have crossed into this country." He details some of the responses, from outright hostility to farce, like when Republican congressional candidate Adam Klansman...sorry, Kwasman protested a busload of kids heading to the Oracle, Arizona YMCA for camp because he thought they were filthy immigrants.

Blow Laments, "This is not the best face of a great nation. This is the underside of a great stone, which when lifted sends creepy things slithering in all directions. We are better than this. We are more compassionate than this. We are more honorable than this."

To which one can only say, "Have you met us lately?"

Now, the Rude Pundit admires the hell out of Blow and generally agrees with him. But this kind of wistful belief in the intrinsic good of Americans is simply not reality. Reality reveals that we're assholes (again, as a whole, not on an individual basis, although, you know...), that any good we stumblefuck into doing is accomplished only after much turmoil. The belief that, as a counter-protester in Oracle said, "We are better than that" is as much a myth for the left as the belief on the right that we can return to some kind of utopian past that never existed.

Obviously, anti-immigrant movements in the United States are not new. They go back at least to when those fuckin' Irish wanted to come here and fuck up our nice and totally not Indian nation. "But," you might respond passionately, "these are children. Children, goddamnit." Ah, yes, and that's why the fuckery of the anti-immigrationists has become even more intense. They can't just be child refugees who are fleeing horrific violence in order to avoid being killed, forced into gangs, or die from extreme poverty.

No, they must be secret drug criminals sent here to destroy our nation or they are disease-ridden creatures ready to bring Ebola to Texas. They must be wide-eyed invaders, here to establish a beachhead that will open the shores for the even more insidious influx of their, gasp, parents. They are political pawns of Democrats who want to push an amnesty bill through Congress, even though Congress won't do jack shit on immigration, so Democrats are tweeting, tweeting, motherfuckers, for undocumented children to come rushing through the border so they can grow up and vote Democratic, just like all those Cubans in Florida back in 1980, oh, right, they vote Republican, too, it's why we have Marco Rubio, but, hey, it must be evil Obama wanting to prove a point about his imperial power. Or some such shit.

Either way, there's hordes of mostly white people willing to bodily block buses carrying these kids and teens. There's people claiming that Jesus hisself would demand it. "It’s a gross mischaracterization of Christianity to apply it to tolerating the mass lawlessness, death and damages involved in illegal immigration," said one guy named Who the Fuck Cares. The fat ass Minutemen have declared "Operation Normandy" to stop the invaders (although someone should point out that if they're the guys on the shore firing at Tom Hanks on the beach, that makes them...oh, fuck it, don't tell 'em).

Yes, yes, there will be acts of kindness, no doubt, no doubt. Many are occurring right now. Many believe that we need to follow the law on how we treat kids from Central American countries and give them a hearing to see if they need asylum.

The Rude Pundit wishes we were better than we are. But we're not. In fact, chances are that we're far, far worse than that. We are now in the midst of one more moral test. Frankly, if this ends without a call for all the kids to be lined up and shot, it would be a fuckin' miracle and we can call it a wash.

7/16/2014

Kansas Is Trying to Regain Sanity, But Rick Santorum Wants It to Stay Crazy

Earlier this week, former Senator and losing GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum was the main speaker at two reelection rallies for Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. Considering the various ways you can read their last names, it sounds as if everyone was coated with feces-laden effluvia by the end. Brownback is in a tight race with Democrat Paul Davis, who was just endorsed by over 100 current and former GOP officials.

The "moderate" Republicans all said, pretty much, that they were for Davis because "that asshole Brownback is fuckin' crazy, man. Him and his band of loony cockknobs in the legislature." See, Brownback, with the help of a mega-right-wing surge in the state legislature, passed huge income tax cuts two years ago that primarily benefit the wealthy and it's gutted his state's budget rather than, as Brownback promised, creating tons of jobs and letting everyone live 24/7 in golden farm houses with free pussy and dick just for the asking.

In Wichita, Santorum spoke at a movie theater after a benefit showing of Knute Rockne: All American. The 1940 film has fuck-all to do with Kansas and everyone pretty much dies in it, but it features the terrible acting of Ronald Reagan and was the flick that gave him his "Gipper" nickname. So, yeah, Reagan, motherfuckers, Reagan. Brownback is like Reagan, see, in that Reagan only ever cut taxes, except when Reagan was raising them. Fuck you, fuckin' facts.

Santorum's speech was the kind of overwrought nonsense that'd make Nicholas Cage tell the man to calm that shit down. Nothing less than "the future of the free world is at stake" in deciding who will lead the 34th most populous state and 32nd best economy in the nation, said Santorum. "Sam is a descendant of the American Revolution," he continued. "This man loves this country and cherishes the principles and believes those principles can work, not just in Kansas, but can work to help rebirth a great civilization in America."

And Davis? That swine believes in the principles of the French Revolution, which Santorum didn't really define, but, look, it's got the word "French," so, yeah, fuck the frogs and their belief in liberty and equality.

Then shit got weird. Santorum compared the election to The Lord of the Rings. No, he really did. He said, "The other side is like the Eye of Mordor. That eye that’s constantly searching. That eye does not have an eyelid. It doesn’t sleep, it doesn’t stop. It’s constantly searching to try to oppress and defeat." Now, the Rude Pundit fell asleep during all three of the films and, no, he never read the books (and, no, he's never going to read them so don't tell he absolutely has to), but he's pretty sure that makes Brownback a hobbit.

In a speech the day before, at a car dealership in Olathe, Santorum had declared that Brownback "takes on the dragons. He is the warrior." And, again, a hobbit. Seriously, Nicholas Cage was watching this and thinking he is a master of subtlety.

Meanwhile, Brownback has made cuts to education at all levels since his budget was passed in 2012 because he ain't raising no goddamn taxes. Meanwhile, the state has had a $338 million shortfall in projected revenue, which will lead to more cuts. Meanwhile, the Kansas Supreme Court, back in March, said that the state needed to stop dicking over poor school districts, which is going to cost more money, money the state doesn't have, and, fuck you, Sam Brownback ain't gonna raise taxes because Reagan and the American Revolution and Mordor and Knute Rockne.

They should have watched the goddamn Wizard of Oz at the Wichita rally to learn that even if you think the tornado is gonna take you to a magical land of witches and castles and Munchkins, all it really does is wreck Kansas.

7/15/2014

Yeah, It's Pretty Much Time to Panic Over Climate Change (Miami Edition)

Last Friday, the Guardian featured a long article by science reporter Robin McKie. The title is pretty much a succinct summary of the entire piece: "Miami, the great world city, is drowning while the powers that be look away." Writing after a visit to Miami, McKie says that, due to rising oceans, "Tidal surges are turned into walls of seawater that batter Miami Beach's west coast and sweep into the resort's storm drains, reversing the flow of water that normally comes down from the streets above. Instead seawater floods up into the gutters of Alton Road, the first main thoroughfare on the western side of Miami Beach, and pours into the street. Then the water surges across the rest of the island."

He lays on the apocalyptic adjectives, calling it "calamitous" and "worthy of the Old Testament." He quotes local professors and scientists on how fucked Miami will be when the inevitable occurs (including a Fukushima-like event possible at Turkey Creek nuclear power plant), and he points out that most of Florida's major political voices are climate change denialists. It's a grim, shit-yourself, panicky article.

Miami Beach resident and Time magazine correspondent Michael Grunwald absolutely is in the "Yes, climate change is real" camp. But his response to McKie is curious, calling it "yellow climate journalism" and an overwrought bunch of hysteria. Yet here's his own description of what occurs, with regularity, in Miami Beach: "[I]t’s hard to see how some modest sunny-day flooding in my neighborhood at high tide justifies" McKie's warnings.

Now, the Rude Pundit is a former resident of both Florida and Louisiana. He's used to living in low, low land. He's used to floods occurring after storms. But during high tide on a nice day? Is that not seriously scary shit? Sure, sure, one can adjust to anything, but if you don't realize that "once-a-month ankle-deep water" is desperately wrong and deserving of immediate and serious responses, you're kind of deluding yourself.

Also attacking McKie and supporting Grunwald is Discover's Keith Kloor, who dismisses McKie as "hyperbolic" and "shouty." He rightly points out efforts being made already on protecting the area from the effects of climate change, citing a meeting of "the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact" where "several hundred officials and concerned citizens gathered in Fort Lauderdale (at just a few feet above sea level) to debate and plan for the inevitable rising of the sea." Very calm. Very rational.

Except that a month after that May meeting, on July 1, Miami-Dade County's Sea Level Rise Task Force released a report that said, in so many words, "Yeah, it's time to shit ourselves, panic, clean off, and do something now."

The Task Force, which studied the issue for five years after being put together by the County Commission, lays it out pretty starkly: Sea level rise is happening because of warming oceans and melting ice. "It is a measurable, trackable, inevitable reality. Without innovative adaptive capital planning it will threaten trillions of dollars of the region's built environment, our future water supply, our unique natural resources, our agricultural soils, and our basic economy."

Yeah, we're way beyond poo-pooing the occasional high tide flooding your streets with ankle deep water (which the Rude Pundit still can't get his head around as being something you rationally accept). Maybe we need a few more climate change writers like McKie to get shouty before the water reaches your knees, your groin, your chest...

7/14/2014

We Love the Country More Than You: Why Jonah Goldberg Can Suck On His Own Poll (Corrected, Big Time)

This past Friday, bored while waiting around for someone at a pretty empty bar, the Rude Pundit got into a brief Twitter slap fight with conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg, who you might know as "Oh, that motherfucker?" The Rude Pundit was responding to a piece Goldberg had written that cited a Pew poll where, as Goldberg put it, "A majority (60 percent) of 'solid liberals' said they don’t often feel proud to be an American."

However, that's not exactly true. Close, but not exact. The Pew poll says that 40% of those solid liberals "often feel proud to be American." It does not say that the other 60%, as a block, said they don't. But 60 is a higher number than 40, so kudos, Jonah Goldberg, on the basic math skills.

Now, it'd be easy at this point to argue the obvious point: that you can like and even love your country without feeling particularly proud at any moment, just as a parent can love a child who is a blow job-offering meth whore. Just because you're not proud of your child's meth addiction and whoring, just because you want your child to get help to get off the meth, for fuck's sake, it doesn't mean you don't love your child. And you can make the case pretty clearly that America sucked off a whole bunch of skeevy johns back in the Bush era and that Republicans wanna keep the country on its scabby knees, in the filthy alley, cranked up from nuts to eyeballs.

Of course, Goldberg doesn't offer that. He says, "You wouldn’t think, five years into the Obama presidency, that so many liberal Americans wouldn’t like America." Then he gets into a whole bullshit thing about how Hillary Clinton's anger at the Hobby Lobby case means she isn't fond of the nation and that Barack Obama doesn't think that the United States is the most exceptionalist nation in the history of nations. Goldberg defines "exceptionalism" as "a complex concept describing the uniqueness of the American founding and American character." If you're rolling your eyes and thinking, "Oh, go fuck yourself, Jonah," you're the problem.

Do you get it? If you don't love America the way that Jonah Goldberg and other conservatives love America then you don't love America, liberal traitor scum.

Or we could look at another number from the same poll. 82% of solid liberals say that "Compassion and helping other are my core values." Only 65% of "solid conservatives" say that. So if the Rude Pundit was using this useless-to-the-point-of-nonsense data to make some great and grand bullshit point, he'd crap out a column saying that, obviously, from the Pew poll, liberals are far more compassionate than conservatives, who hate humanity in larger numbers. (The sad part there is how many conservatives would proudly agree.)

Or how about this number, from another Pew poll: only 33% of Republicans believe that the United States "stands above" other countries. Or maybe this one from Reason: only 16% of millennials identify themselves as Republicans. That's half as many as call themselves Democrats. Quite possibly, they feel that way because Republicans oppose nearly every fucking thing they believe in but act like braying assholes about the country.

You wanna throw poll numbers around? Then let's play. Because, Jonah, it'll bite you on the ass every time. Right now, someone is thinking of poll numbers that'll dick over the Rude Pundit's argument. Ain't punditing fun?

The Rude Pundit is sick of arguing that liberals love this country more than conservatives ever could. He's been doing it ever since at least the Reagan era, when the word "liberal" became demonized. He's sick of editorials like one in The Week last Friday by Damon Linker, a man whose headshot makes him look, truly, like a dick tip.

In "How Liberalism Became an Intolerant Dogma," Linker attempts to conflate "libertarianism" and "liberalism," two words that admittedly sound close, like "Dutch" and "douche," but have very little in common. (Unless you're buying a douche in the Netherlands. Anyways...) It pretty much invalidates everything Linker has to say since you could make the case that libertarians have more in common with Rand Paul than Bernie Sanders.

But he offers this as proof of what bastards liberals are: "On a range of issues, liberals seem not only increasingly incapable of comprehending how or why someone would affirm a more traditional vision of the human good, but inclined to relegate dissenters to the category of moral monsters who deserve to be excommunicated from civilized life — and sometimes coerced into compliance by the government." The Rude Pundit bets that you could read that exact line back in the 1950s about interracial marriage. Is it "intolerant" to say that a corporation owner can't refuse to hire people married to people of other races? What if that belief is based on a "more traditional vision of human good" or whatever fucked up phrase you wanna use to justify your bigotry?

Linker doesn't seem to understand what "intolerance" is. Most liberals would say, "Fine, groovy, worship whatever ghost king you want. Just don't force me to do the same." Why is it only the Left that is asked, time and again, to tolerate the intolerable?

If liberals aren't "proud" and are "dogmatic," maybe because, at the end of the day, there's only so much shit you can eat in the name of compromise. And when you've been forced to go back to the shit pot for refills while conservatives merely pick at their first plate, you might be understandably pissed.

(Correction: Deep, deep apologies to Jeffrey Goldberg. Because that was just dumb. Kind of hilarious, but dumb.)

Late Post Today

Trying to recover from an evening drowning the sorrows of Argentinean friends.  So enjoy the Rude Pundit on this morning's Stephanie Miller Show:

Back later with more humid rudeness.