No Whip Can Tame the Real Herd

Like most of us with an Internet connection, $8 of monthly disposable income and an interest in politics, I started watching the latest season of House of Cards on Netflix this weekend. If you haven’t watched it, the broad outline is that Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is the constantly scheming House Whip and Claire (Robin Wright) is his perhaps even more cold blooded and calculating wife, and together both of them leave a trail of deception, betrayal and general chaos as they advance their shared agenda. It’s clear that House of Cards is fiction when you realize that Frank is supposed to be a Southern Democrat from a mostly white district with a safe enough seat that he doesn’t need to worry too much about his re-election campaign.

Without giving away spoilers, perhaps the most unreal aspect of this piece of fiction, other than Frank’s electoral status, is the notion that the House Whip has power over his caucus. The centerpiece of Frank’s office is a whip count board that has color-coded magnetic pieces representing each member of his caucus. If Kevin McCarthy’s version of this board isn’t already in storage, can you imagine the layer of dust that has collected on each of his member’s names?

In a world where a functioning party has factions amenable to compromises that are brokered by party leadership, being the Majority Whip can be a seat of power and an interesting job. But what’s the point of being the Republican whip in the current Congress? I imagine it has all the job satisfaction of being the manager of the worst chain restaurant in the country, except that even a Red Lobster manager can comp a dessert. The Republican Whip is just a impotent spectator to Boehner’s excuse making, Cantor’s comically transparent scheming, and Ted Cruz’ Bieber-like hold over a bunch of white middle-aged dimwits.

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65 replies
  1. 1
    Ivan X says:

    Without wanting to give away any spoilers, I enjoy House of Cards, but midway through the first season it transformed itself from reality-based fiction that purported to give you an insider’s view into how the sausage might get made into just a TV show that’s certainly entertaining, but no more believable than anything else on TV. It had more potency when you were watching and imagining that some version of what you’re seeing might be what really happens. As it stands now, it’s good highbrow trash, and a quality diversion, but nothing more.

  2. 2
    Elizabelle says:

    But what’s the point of being the Republican whip in the current Congress? I imagine it has all the job satisfaction of being the manager of the worst chain restaurant in the country, except that even a Red Lobster manager can comp a dessert.

    Why I read Balloon Juice. Well done, mistermix.

  3. 3
    c u n d gulag says:

    Cantor is Iago.
    An Iago who doesn’t want to be Speaker – because what kind of a loser, besides Boehner, would want the job of trying to herd that gang of rabid ADD uber-Christian wolverines?

  4. 4
    Ash Can says:

    I envision McCarthy as someone whose phone calls are never returned, who spends plenty of time waiting for people who never show, and who gets lots of office doors closed in his face.

  5. 5
    Poopyman says:

    @c u n d gulag:

    rabid ADD uber-Christian wolverines

    Adolescent Discipline Deficit?

  6. 6
    Poopyman says:

    @Poopyman: Apologies to adolescents I’ve certainly slandered there.

  7. 7
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    I’m almost finished with the second season and I’ve actually come to the conclusion that, aside from pure entertainment value, which it has, this show is pretty much a right-wing vision of the country made into a drama.

    Somewhere in the first few episodes one of the reporters is explaining how “the media” twists the truth, by explaining that George H.W. Bush displaying that he had never seen a supermarket scanner before was a liberal media invention, which is a popular Republican conspiracy myth but it’s not true, there are videos of him looking amazed and saying “This is for checkout?? as he runs a milk carton back and forth across it.

    More generally though the portrayal of Democratic politician Frank Underwood and his wife Claire is modeled on nothing so closely as the fever dreams of the right in imagining politicians at the very top offing people left and right, like poor old Vince Foster.

    Now you could make the argument “Hey just look at New Jersey” as proof that politics really is as corrupt as this show portrays it, or Nixon’s entire career, for that matter. But no one is accusing Christie of actually murdering people, and certainly not as casually and frequently as Frank Underwood. That does however match fairly closely the worst conspiracies of the right about Hillary, that sort of thing is a staple of their fantasy world.

    Even the less melodramatic and more nuts and bolts workings of Congress and the White House have people nobly striving to save the country and our grandchildren by taking on the horror of “entitlements”, cutting them, of course, and those are the Democrats. The Republicans they’re fighting want to do away with them entirely. While that may closely match the centrist wing of the Democratic party, it’s not the only position that there is and isn’t nearly so universally worshipped as the show portrays.

    “Liberal” Hollywood has always seemed to me pretty much as liberal as the rest of the corporate media, that is, almost entirely not.

  8. 8
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Ivan X: When the guy actually started barking in around episode five I had difficulty continuing to watch.

  9. 9
    mb says:

    perhaps the most unreal aspect of this piece of fiction

    What I couldn’t tolerate was Spacey’s execrable, fake southern accent. Made it through a couple of episodes of season 1 but I just can’t handle bad southern accents — and most fake southern accents are bad.

  10. 10
    the Conster says:

    I watched the first 3 episodes and didn’t like anybody and hoped they all ended up dead in a fire. And this from someone who enjoyed the characters in Breaking Bad.

  11. 11
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    By the way I know the show is modeled on one in the UK in which the same sort of murders happen, but I still think that the fact that the producers were interested in it and the specific way they overlaid it on US politics, plus with all the other things I mentioned, it just looks to me like how a right wing Republican sees the world, made into video. The original in the UK might also be from some Tory conspiracy theorist, but I haven’t seen it so I don’t know.

  12. 12
    zzyzx says:

    @the Conster: I don’t understand how anyone enjoyed the characters in Breaking Bad. I finally gave up on that show midway through Season 2. I’m sure it’s a masterpiece but I can only watch 10 minutes at a time before rooting for a bomb to blow up most of New Mexico.

  13. 13
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim: I think that “House of Cards” lacks the satirical bite of the British show on which it was based. That said, it still has entertainment value and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  14. 14
    rikyrah says:

    @c u n d gulag:
    You are right. Cantor is totally Iago, but he knows that the moment he knocks Orange Julius out of the Speakership, that the perception of his power will diminish instantly.

  15. 15
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:

    @mb:

    Justified has the best Southern accents, fake or real, on TV. Except for Duck Dynasty, I guess. I meant drama shows.

  16. 16
    WereBear says:

    @pamelabrown53: I think that “House of Cards” lacks the satirical bite of the British show on which it was based.

    Lacks is right. It totally does not come over as a satire, and I keep feeling that it should.

  17. 17
    Samuel Lockhart says:

    Just want to point out that Frank is a Democrat. Much of his power is obtained by co-opting and subverting the progressive agenda.

  18. 18
    JPL says:

    OMG, I’m losing brain cells listening to Marsha Blackburn. Someone provided her with meaningless numbers and she’s proud of her meaningless numbers.

  19. 19
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @pamelabrown53: No I agree. This is just the first time I saw anyone here discussing it in terms of how it matches with reality and had been thinking along those lines just this morning.

    I ran across this from Weigel by the way, after I wrote the above:

    The problem is Underwood’s enemies don’t seem to understand politics. The new vice president establishes his power by pushing an entitlement reform amendment through the Republican-controlled Senate—Social Security retirement age raised to 68. This will give the Democratic administration “a win.” […]

    But they wouldn’t. In our reality, one that also includes Rachel Maddow and Ashleigh Banfield, entitlement reform is popular only with people who take lunch with Pete Peterson

    Yep.

    Entertainment is fine, but anyone praising the show for “skewering” or shedding light on DC politics is off base, they’re getting the politics too badly wrong to be skewering anything.

  20. 20
    Bmaccnm says:

    I know this isn’t an official open thread, but I am sitting in an airport in Haiti after a month of working in a remote health center without any information about the outside world. I learned alot about the world here in Haiti, about institutional racism and violence and the horrible legacy of both. But what happened while I was gone? What important things must I catch up on since January 8, 2014? Thanks, Bmaccnm

  21. 21
    SFAW says:

    @c u n d gulag:

    Cantor is Iago.

    I’m sorry, but all I could think of, after reading that, was Boehner saying “Hey, where are the white women at?” to Louie Gohmert et al.

    FSM will smite me for that, I’m sure.

  22. 22
    c u n d gulag says:

    @JPL:
    Why do you torture yourself, watching Disco-dancin’ Davey’s Yak Emporium?

    Why not just drink rubbing alcohol, and end your misery?

    Here – I’ll let you have one of my half-finished bottles.
    I’m only 1/2 suicidal.
    MOST days….

  23. 23
    c u n d gulag says:

    @SFAW:
    No.
    The FSM monster will laugh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    It’s his 1/2 brother, Squid-Ink SM, that might look to smite you.

  24. 24
    SFAW says:

    @Bmaccnm:

    But what happened while I was gone? What important things must I catch up on since January 8, 2014?

    1) Kardashians something something something
    2) Republicans outraged over some made-up issue
    3) Peyton Manning’s legacy in doubt after throwing/blowing the Super Bowl
    4) President McCain on Sunday news shows
    5) “Terrorist Ted” Cruz ruling the House Rethugs
    6) World did not end, despite best efforts of Rethuglican Party. Clips at 11
    7) Al Gore is still fat

    On a more serious note: welcome back, I’m sure Haiti was not a ton of fun. You’re a better person than I for going there.

  25. 25
    gf120581 says:

    Huh, this is the first time I’ve ever read something sympathetic to that dimwit McCarthy. Personally, I have nothing but scorn for him. I understand how hard it is to control the mental asylum that is the House GOP caucus, but McCarthy is just awful. He couldn’t get 218 GOP votes for a resolution supporting National Hug a Puppy Day.

    I imagine Tom DeLay watching him in action and taking out his frustration by punching holes in the wall.

  26. 26
    SFAW says:

    @c u n d gulag:
    Better to be squid-ink in Hell, than get served with a nice Alfredo in Heaven?

  27. 27
    JPL says:

    @SFAW: this. I might add that the President is still black.

    bmaccmn, Please tell us more about your time in Haiti when you have the opportunity.

  28. 28
    SFAW says:

    @gf120581:

    He couldn’t get 218 GOP votes for a resolution supporting National Hug a Puppy Day.

    Not completely his fault. This is the modern-day GOTP, after all.

    Now, National Kick-a-Puppy Day, you’d get 232, no whipping required.

  29. 29
    Chris says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    Oh, liberal Hollywood is a total myth. Hollywood’s only bias is towards making money. Since its audience is global, it can’t pander exclusively to the conservative half of America, which is why conservatives in their binary world mistake it for liberal. But at the end of the day it’s no more liberal than, as you say, the rest of the corporate media.

  30. 30
    SFAW says:

    @JPL:
    Thanks, I knew I was forgetting something.

    Is he still a commie-fascist-bocialist Kenyan Mooslim usurper, too?

  31. 31
    Draylon Hogg says:

    Haven’t seen this version so I don’t know how true it is to the original. In the UK the parliamentary party system in the House of Commons is extremely rigid and any MP whether Labour, Tory or Lib Dem who defies a three line whip and fails to walk into the right lobby on hearing the Division Bell can kiss any chance of a front bench career goodbye.

  32. 32
    sherparick says:

    It is one of the problems of translating “House of Cards” from the U.K.s’ parliamentary system, where the parliamentary parties really can “whip” their back benchers to the U.S. House. Not that there has not been figures in the House that have managed to inspire fear (Tom Delay, Sam Rayburn, Joe Cannon, and Tom Reed being perhaps the best examples). The Democrats are more tightly organized because Nancy Pelosi can turn on and off a lot of fund raising access for her members, and even members in safe districts want to fund raise, even if just to spread their influence. With all the right-wing billionaires (Koch brothers, Adelson, Mellons-Scaife, etc.) flushing money into various right-wing slush funds, the majority of Boehner’s caucus is more interested in showing “their true Conservative bona fides.” For an example of this look at the Georgia Republican Senate primary.

  33. 33
    Ivan X says:

    @zzyzx: I’m totally with you, except I only made it the first one and a half episodes before coming to the same conclusion. I had this creeping sense of “I don’t like any of these people now, and I am only going to like them less.” I felt like there must be something wrong with me for seeing it that way since everyone loved it so much, but in the end I didn’t want to watch a show entirely dedicated to ugliness.

  34. 34
    Ivan X says:

    @WereBear: I agree. For better or worse (probably worse), I don’t think it wants to be satire. In particular, the score and cinematography set a tone that is much too somber for it to register that way.

  35. 35
    c u n d gulag says:

    @SFAW:
    I prefer my pasta, “Diablo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-)

  36. 36
    dr. luba says:

    I suspect that this is as accurate a portrayal of politics as 1) most police shows are an accurate portrayal of policing and 2) most medical shows are an accurate portrayal of medicine.

  37. 37
    Chris says:

    @Ivan X:

    Oh good, it’s not jusy me. Yeah, I have zero interest in Breaking Bad, for exactly that reason. House Of Cards I might get around to someday, being a politics junkie.

  38. 38
    gene108 says:

    @Draylon Hogg:

    Haven’t seen this version so I don’t know how true it is to the original. In the UK the parliamentary party system in the House of Commons is extremely rigid and any MP whether Labour, Tory or Lib Dem who defies a three line whip and fails to walk into the right lobby on hearing the Division Bell can kiss any chance of a front bench career goodbye.

    My general understanding of Parliamentary systems of government is the political Party you belong to has a lot more control over you than it is here. I don’t think you can contest a seat without the backing of a Party unlike here, so the Party is needed to be able to contest.

    Even though we have two parties, because we have a winner take all system, you can end up with Independents like Bernie Sanders or Joe Lieberman after he lost the CT Dem primary or the lady Senator from Alaska (can’t think of the name at the moment), who lost a primary but won a three way general election.

  39. 39
    sdhays says:

    I saw the UK version years ago; in the Parliamentary context where the Whip’s job is keep the majority behind the Prime Minister, the idea that it’s a powerful position makes sense. Controlling individual members means controlling the governing majority which literally means running the government. A Whip in the US House can’t possibly have the same clout; the Speaker of the House doesn’t have that kind of clout. There just aren’t the same goodies and leverage available, or even the same stakes. The stakes for nothing happening in the US system are lower than in the UK system as well (dissatisfied members of the majority can bring down the government if so inclined).

    Without having seen the US version but based on what I’ve read, I’m inclined to believe that it suffers from the fact that the US political system has power diffused in fundamentally different ways from the UK system that the writers didn’t bother to really consider before mapping out the plot. In the US, someone with Urquhart’s kind of leverage and power would almost automatically NOT be a politician; that way they wouldn’t be pigeon-holed and could have their hands in all of the pots. Or, perhaps, a former politician lobbyist. All of the access, none of the public responsibility or attention. A true power-broker between the powerful and the politicians. Everyone just sees him as a lobbyist and doesn’t quite realize how powerful he is and wants to be.

    Of course, that would be fiction too, because in reality, these kinds of people are greedy enough but far too lazy to be that ambitious.

  40. 40
    IowaOldLady says:

    In my experience, you don’t want to watch a show about something you know a lot about. Whenever a show is set in academia, I wind up yelling at the TV about how tenure works or the funding sources for TAs. Exciting stuff like that.

  41. 41
    geg6 says:

    @Ivan X:

    Yup, me too. I keep saying I should try it again since it seems to get such universal praise, but I just hated all of them so much and I couldn’t think how it could go in any other direction than the most horrible and ugly one possible, I just didn’t want to subject myself to that. It’s like when I dvr’d “The World According to Dick Cheney.” It sat on my list for months before I just deleted it. Because why would I want to subject myself to that? I find that the older I get, the less I want to indulge in my masochistic side.

  42. 42
    Ivan X says:

    @IowaOldLady: I think you nailed it. I can’t watch anything involving tech at all, and invariably I curse whenever someone is using a computer in some other kind of show.

  43. 43
    Draylon Hogg says:

    @gene108: You’re right. Plus the UK would fit into most US states with ease so our party system doesn’t face the issue of forming coalitions of interests on a continental scale. What to me is a long trip to a different part of British is many Americans normal drive to a nice restaurant.

  44. 44
    Comrade Mary says:

    @Ivan X: I started watching Breaking Bad when it was first broadcast, then stopped after 2 episodes for no particular reason. I didn’t hate it — it just didn’t make me want to remember to watch it week after week.

    When I started it over again a couple of years ago, I did get involved, and I found the first few episodes of season one really hard to take because of the way Walter White seemed to reluctantly accept what his new career required. But I kept going and found that for me, it was an incredibly worthwhile show. YMMV, of course.

    But after finally catching up with The Wire, I’d have to place that ahead of BB, and both WELL ahead of House of Cards USA! USA! USA! I watched episode 1 with Le Guy on Friday and we were both less than impressed, although the WTF moment was indeed a WTF moment, and I binged the rest of the show yesterday afternoon until 3 AM because I promised to binge so he wouldn’t have to. (I give the BEST Valentine’s Day gifts, guys!)

    There’s some more WTF (episode 11, but fall asleep and you’ll miss it), but the series as a whole managed to be both twisted and dreary, and way the fuck under-lit, which seems to be an American visual trope these days. Ugh.

  45. 45
    Citizen_X says:

    @Bmaccnm:

    I learned alot about the world here in Haiti, about institutional racism and violence and the horrible legacy of both. But what happened while I was gone?

    Well, a lot of what happened was institutional racism and violence and the horrible legacy of both. You know, another month in America. :{

  46. 46
    Kay says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    Even the less melodramatic and more nuts and bolts workings of Congress and the White House have people nobly striving to save the country and our grandchildren by taking on the horror of “entitlements”, cutting them, of course, and those are the Democrats. The Republicans they’re fighting want to do away with them entirely. While that may closely match the centrist wing of the Democratic party, it’s not the only position that there is and isn’t nearly so universally worshipped as the show portrays.

    You’re not alone. My daughter thought the show was Right-leaning, and she’s not especially political. She told me “you won’t like it”, which made me laugh because now I would be ON NOTICE and looking for bias :)

    I haven’t watched it and based on her (and your) sense of the overall message of the thing, I think I’ll skip it. My outrage meter is pegged high enough.

  47. 47
    different-church-lady says:

    …$8 of monthly disposable income…

    Well, that counts me out.

  48. 48
    WereBear says:

    @IowaOldLady: In my experience, you don’t want to watch a show about something you know a lot about.

    Exactly. Even when they know better, the demands of visual storytelling, timed dramatic moments, and the watcher’s attention span all conspire to simplify and consolidate.

    Fiction books are usually more accurate because of the different medium; it enhances the book to have accuracy. Heck, I grew up reading Arthur Hailey, whose sole raison d’être was to tell people about industries they knew little about.

  49. 49
    WereBear says:

    I just started watching Breaking Bad via Netflix, and I adore it, but black-humored moral topography is just my cup of tea. I realize it is not everyone’s.

    Also just started rationing my recently discovered Jack Taylor series, Sam Spade in Ireland, it seems.

  50. 50
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    The original in the UK might also be from some Tory conspiracy theorist, but I haven’t seen it so I don’t know.

    The British series is based on a series of novels written by a retired Tory MP, someone fairly close to Thatcher, IIRC. He burned a lot of bridges with his book, and even more with the TV series. I read the books after watching the first series, so I can’t say what I would have thought of them if I hadn’t been totally sucked in by Ian Richardson’s performance as FU. I watched the first couple episodes of the American version, but I couldn’t get past Spacey, who totally lacked the both the charm and the menace of Richardson. IMHO, YMMV, ETC

  51. 51
    Ernest Pikeman says:

    The only thing the writers did was to replace “Republican” nameplates in our reality to “Democrat” tags in the universe of F. U. Standard operating procedure, to not get accused of “bias” by the howler monkeys – like Sorkin having one of his characters suddenly adopt a right-wing viewpoint on a single issue for an episode or two. Just like their universe’s version of Internet technology is something akin to ours, but not quite the same (better than Star Trek giant consoles, but only in degrees).

    If our universe Republicans had managed to elect another have-a-beer-with doofus in 2008, F. U.’s universe might be pretty close.

  52. 52
    Comrade Mary says:

    @WereBear:

    Heck, I grew up reading Arthur Hailey, whose sole raison d’être was to tell people about industries they knew little about.

    My writer of choice in my teens was Judith Krantz for the same reason. Whether or not she was accurate, I THOUGHT I was learning a lot about the modelling world, how to create and manage a luxury store, how to film tv commercials, and so on.

  53. 53
    Ruckus says:

    @zzyzx:
    This. Although I just changed the show instead of thinking bombing anything. I’ve seen more than enough of the drug culture to be interested. Like the rest of us I live with bad politics so a show about really bad politicians doesn’t do anything for me. I want them out of power, not in my face.

  54. 54
    WaterGirl says:

    @Bmaccnm: Here are links to the BJ january & february archives:

    http://www.balloon-juice.com/2014/01/

    http://www.balloon-juice.com/2014/02/

    Doing a quick scan of threads:
    Cole hurt his knee, but it’s recovering nicely.
    Chris Christie scandals blew up in NJ, he is likely toast as presidential candidate.
    Republicans are still pigs.
    ACA (Obamacare) enrollments moving along nicely.
    Obama’s State of the Union was energized & he will do what he can with executive orders because republicans suck.
    Pete Seeger died.
    Steve escaped from John Cole, but safely returned.
    Senator Reid saved the day against republicans and some democrats who were trying to derail the good work with Iran.
    ABL’s beloved Nate Dogg went to the rainbow bridge.
    Lots of talk about increasing minimum wage.
    Climate change is real, and we are living with the results with a crazy winter.
    Lots of cat threads and pet pics.

    And that’s just the last 3 days of January. Check out the BJ links above.

  55. 55
    Elizabelle says:

    @Bmaccnm:

    Welcome back.

    Are you a medical professional? How did you get your Haiti gig? All ears.

    Good on you.

  56. 56
    Chris says:

    @sdhays:

    In the US, someone with Urquhart’s kind of leverage and power would almost automatically NOT be a politician; that way they wouldn’t be pigeon-holed and could have their hands in all of the pots. Or, perhaps, a former politician lobbyist. All of the access, none of the public responsibility or attention. A true power-broker between the powerful and the politicians. Everyone just sees him as a lobbyist and doesn’t quite realize how powerful he is and wants to be.

    Sounds like the American version is something that hasn’t been nearly as powerful in recent decades – the boss of a political machine. Like Tweed in New York or Pendergast in Kansas City. Someone who may or may not be an elected official but whose real strength is in being the professional politician who controls the party machinery that handles the elections, the contributions, etc.

    Nowadays machines aren’t what they used to be, so yeah, some lobbyist would probably be the closest equivalent.

  57. 57
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    I’ve watched both seasons beginning to end. It suffers from many of the criticisms listed in this thread, particularly the center right framing on legislation. The murders are over the top, starting with the dog in episode 1. The nonsense with the white hat hacker so integral to the second season is just plain embarrassing to the plot. There are a lot of plot twists started and then abandoned only a few episodes later. And, of course, hardly anything like what happens in House of Cards would ever happen in reality, like the VP stepping down to run for Governor of Pennsylvania.

    I probably would have quit watching early on had it not been for the awesome casting of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.

    With all it’s terrible flaws, I find it more watchable than the shit shows that create an alternative reality of high minded progressive ascension coupled with fancy fast and clever banter.

  58. 58
    monkeyfister says:

    Personally, I think that Trudeau’s “Alpha House” on Amazon Prime is FAR more accurate Political Fiction (albeit a comedy). Hell– it’s more believable than “House Of Cards,” too. I watched 1/2 of HoC Season 1 before waving it off as utterly un-engaging, unbelievable crap. Good cast– shitty writing.

  59. 59
    sdhays says:

    @Chris: Actually, after thinking about it for awhile, the true story of Dick Cheney is probably the best angle for an American version. Dabbler in politics, but not exactly a spot-light grabber. Deep insider in the Party and Washington, DC; moves in powerful private circles, and trusted to choose the Party’s VP candidate then “somehow” gets chosen himself. Once the election is stolen and his Party is in power, he runs the Executive Branch from the VP’s office while the President thinks he’s running things. Ruthless, bloodthirsty, vengeful, power-mad.

    If you merge that with some LBJ qualities and the ability to remain civil on the Senate floor to people you intend to crush you have the American version of Francis Urquhart.

    And that’s probably why we won’t see something actually somewhat realistic; it strikes WAY too close to home for comfort…

  60. 60
    Citizen Alan says:

    @IowaOldLady:

    In my experience, you don’t want to watch a show about something you know a lot about. Whenever a show is set in academia, I wind up yelling at the TV about how tenure works or the funding sources for TAs. Exciting stuff like that.

    True. i cannot watch shows about lawyers. Not any of them. Since passing the bar, I have literally never seen a single episode of a show about lawyers without at least on character doing something for which he could be sanctioned or disbarred.

  61. 61
    Joel says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader: Yes, House of Cards is way better than anything Sorkin ever made, I’ll agree with that. I still found it pretty disappointing (despite Spacey’s scenery-chewing, and Wright’s breakout performance). I’ll give them credit, though, if it weren’t for House of Cards and Arrested Development (two decent, but generally disappointing shows), we never would have subscribed to Netflix and seen Orange is the New Black.

    In terms of “realistic” shows, nothing tops Enlightened for me, which was sadly overlooked and recently canceled.

  62. 62
    Bmaccnm says:

    @WaterGirl: Thanks for the links and the update. Plus ca change, and all of that. I am at the second of three airports today, having some trouble reintegrating into this world.

  63. 63
    Bmaccnm says:

    @Elizabelle: I have > 25 years experience as both a nurse-midwife and a high risk OB nurse. Unfortunately, these skills are sorely needed in much of the world, as more than 500,000 women die of childbirth every year. I was in Haiti teaching OB nursing skills in a health center where there are 8 nurses and 1 MD serving 250,000 people. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, more from a personal and political standpoint than a professional one. As I said before, being in Haiti requires one to confront institutional and structural violence and racism, as does standing in an airport and watching CNN coverage of the Michael Dunn verdict.
    This work has taken me to some amazing places- the Bolivian Altiplano, the Maya Mountains of Guatemala, Masaiiland in Kenya, Somalia (I believe I talked a bit about that one), South Sudan last year. It’s an way to exchange useful information and technology for an incredibly intimate look at another culture. I have caught babies in all of those places, and watched women and babies die in many of them. One of the most powerful experiences in my lifetime was being present while a 20 year old woman died of renal failure from pre-eclampsia, here on Planet Earth, in the twenty-fucking-first century, while her family gathered around her bed singing “How Great Thou Art” in multipart harmony. While I was cursing God for his infinite fickleness.
    I could go on for a bit, but I am crying a bit too much for this JFK departure lounge, so I’ll stop. But don’t think you have to be a medical or midwifery person to do work like this. If you know about engineering, how to clean water, ESPECIALLY how to create a small business in the 21st century, there is a place for you. Be sure to bring a bug net, because malaria is no fun.
    I apologize for babbling. There is probably a way to determine my e-mail from my comments. I don’t have those skills as part of my set. But I’d be glad to give you more information if you want it.

  64. 64
    LaurelhurstLiberal says:

    Have you watched the British version? The protagonist isn’t quite so hammy, but he’s quite Shakespearean in his self-aware maliciousness. I love the little soliloquies he delivers into the camera. I find both shows are a lot more fun if you imagine them as historical dramas from the 25th century — giving 21st Century politics the Game of Thrones treatment.

  65. 65
    Nate Dawg says:

    To the do-gooder who asked what happened, besides Chris Christie scandal blowing up, Michael Sam came out as gay causing a bunch of NFL execs to anonymously bitch to the media, and a few more confident men to show their true colors and come to his support (John Elway, Deion Sanders, Dale Hansen).

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