Open Thread: It’d Be Funny, If the Rest of Us Didn’t Have to Live with the Results…

gop suicide hotline pett

(Joel Pett via

Mr. Charles P. Pierce, at Esquire, QFT (Quoted for Truth):

… Who looks after shitkickers like you?

In his magisterial biography of Huey Long, which I would advise everyone to read before this presidential election gets completely out of hand, T. Harry Williams explains the thinking behind the long game that the Kingfish saw himself playing as the Great Depression played out… The energy behind the two men is as similar as the parallel is inexact.

Huey Long actually did come from the ranks of the poor and dispossessed that he later enriched himself by championing. He relentlessly vilified the economic and social elite, first in Louisiana and then in the entire country. He, Trump, on the other hand, was a child of that elite, and he had never departed from it, except in his public persona, which is where we find him now. A huge portion of the Republican electorate—and, sadly, a not-insignificant portion of the American people—wants a strongman, the more vulgar the better. Huey Long came by his vulgarity naturally. He, Trump has had to work at it, buying bad taste by the bucketful with his millions and coming to embody it the same way the Kingfish did. I am one of you, they both said, you poorly educated suckers. Look how common and vulgar I am… In the Republican party in the year of our Lord 2016, He, Trump is simply the man of the historical moment.

And why shouldn’t he be? For the past 30 years, the country has been told that its government is a strange, alien beast with little or no connection to the lives of the people of the country. At the same time, a series of political developments—most notably, a couple of dreadful Supreme Court decisions—has validated that argument by blocking the basic avenues of self-government with great barricades of unaccountable cash. At the same time, the country was encouraged by politicians of both parties to look at the political process as a television show. And now we’re surprised that a guy who made his living at the latter has become successful at promoting the former?…
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Friday Morning Open Thread: Legacy

Mr. Charles P. Pierce, “Lee Atwater’s Legacy”:

… It was the father of the Southern Strategy, longtime South Carolinian political boss Harry Dent, along with Atwater, who invented the South Carolina Republican presidential primary in 1980. Shrewdly, they both saw the centers of conservative power moving south and west, away from establishment WASP-ish Republicans like George H.W. Bush. At the same time, they’d noticed how blue-collar white Democrats in the industrial north had flocked to the campaigns of segregationist idol George Wallace, first in 1968 and then again in 1972, until Wallace was shot and nearly killed in a Maryland shopping center. They both felt demographic and political tides that were gathering themselves behind a new vision for the Party of Lincoln. At the time, Dent was working for the Bush campaign and, in South Carolina, Atwater had signed on with Reagan. At this point, the Republican race was still up for grabs. Reagan had lost in Iowa to Bush, and his win in New Hampshire was not a significant enough victory in the rapidly transforming Republican party. So Dent set up the South Carolina primary both as a breakthrough and a firewall for the Bush campaign. Meanwhile, Atwater was honing his chops that year by leaking a rumor that former Texas Governor John Connally was trying to buy black votes. And that was how the South Carolina Republican primary was born—in carefully calculating realpolitik and in dirty tricks…

What Atwater did was more than inject into Republican politics a modern form of strategic viciousness. With it, he injected an entirely new form of strategic unreality. From that has come the party’s inability to recognize or acknowledge the empirical. By creating an entirely new Dukakis in which his voters could believe, Atwater showed them how to build the bubble and to armor it against reality. The combination of strategic viciousness and strategic unreality has come full flower this year. We have Donald Trump, who is one ring of the circus all to himself, calling his opponents liars and Mexicans rapists, and threatening to sue Ted Cruz, who responds by telling Trump to bring it on, and that he, Cruz, would be happy to depose Trump in discovery personally. And Marco Rubio is telling people that the United States is at the edge of the abyss and that only he can restore it to its former glory. What seemed crude and nasty in 1980 has become sleek and edgeless and as common as milk now…

As we gird up for the Nevada/South Carolina events, what’s on the agenda for the day?

Worst Person of the Week: L. Brooks Patterson

Patterson is officially Oakland County Executive, aka Head Honcho for Life, of Oakland, Michigan — those cities (Pontiac) and suburbs that did very well off “white flight” from Detroit. L. Brooks’ latest, per the Washington Post:

Even as authorities are still advising residents in Flint, Mich., not to drink or bathe in city’s tap water, leaving thousands to rely on bottled water to survive, some of the state’s prominent political voices think Flint’s water crisis may be exaggerated.

Foremost among them is Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson (R), who voiced skepticism about the severity of the crisis during an appearance before the Detroit Economic Club luncheon Tuesday, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“I don’t think we should say or use words anymore like Flint’s been poisoned,” Patterson told reporters, according to Fox affiliate WJBK. “Because I don’t think that’s accurate.”…

Despite what many see as definitive evidence of a crisis, Patterson told the station he changed his mind after hearing a radio interview with Bill Ballenger, a well-known Republican political analyst, former state lawmaker and Flint resident, who said he was offering “the other side” of the story…

In the interview cited by Patterson, Ballenger said his own blood tests hadn’t revealed elevated levels of lead and he wondered whether the crisis was a hoax, according to the Free Press. He argued that the crisis was instead perpetuated by politicians and members of the media “with an ax to grind.”…

Insert your own grim jokes about how hard it would be to identify signs of lead poisoning — “reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior,” per WHO — in a lifelong Republican political analyst.

Patterson has a long history of “inflammatory” (racist) public comments. Read more

Baby, You Can’t Drive My Car

On Wednesday the White House announced that it wants to spend $4B on “research and infrastructure improvements” for driverless cars. They’re promoting it as a driver (so to speak) for “innovation” and a public safety measure: “[Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox] estimated that as many as 25,000 deaths could have been avoided last year if driverless technology had been in widespread use.”

Yeah for innovation and safety! But do you know where else $4 billion would help create innovation and save lives—not to mention, save the climate? Mass transit.

Driving sucks, and dealing with other drivers sucks more, so I really do kinda want a driverless car. (Although I want a robot butler more.) But, do you know who REALLY wants a driverless car? The trucking industry, which is growing as online commerce grows, and whose goal is, “to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the role of the human.”

There go 1.5 million trucking jobs.

Oh, and the Wired article says they will “platoon”:

Trucks could platoon: one leading the way, with others in a line copying its every move, separated by as little as 30 feet. Having one driver lead seven trucks means significant savings on labor and fuel efficiency, says David Carlisle, chairman of the board of auto industry consultancy Carlisle & Company. Even if you still need a human in each as a backup, all the vehicles benefit from reduced wind resistance, like a Tour de France cyclist team.

I feel safer already! (The ongoing militarization of our language and culture is perhaps a topic for another time.)

Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon) or E5 shinkansen train at a mainline railway station in japan

Seriously, I’m all for R&D and infrastructure and even business/government partnerships but why driverless cars for industry instead of supertrainz for you and me? We were in Japan last year and every form of transportation was amazing in exactly the ways you’ve heard: clean, convenient, fast, quiet, and exquisitely, precisely, on time. The 200+ mph Shikansen bullet trains look like snakes and are like a ride—whee!—into the future, even if you don’t happen to pass the 3x-football-field-sized Solar Ark.

Plus, the trains and train stations were all abundantly staffed with people who actually seemed to want to help a tourist.

Amazing what a country can accomplish when it decides to invest in infrastructure for people instead of a perpetual war machine or corporate bailouts.

And is there anyone who thinks that a parallel road system for driverless trucks wouldn’t cannibalize resources from the roads that actual hoomans drive? I picture us all wheezing along like bumpkins from pothole to pothole to occasional sinkhole while our Robot Truck Overlords whiz past us on pristine asphalt.

Then again, maybe this guy can help.

Sunday Morning Open Thread: Second Time, Even Bigger Farce

Maybe it’s just that I have a miserable cold, but it really does feel like the entire Republican party is trying to re-litigate Iran-contra — not to mention Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” and all the rest of the Reaganauts’ creepy, eliminationist policies at home and abroad. I’m too old to fight all these battles a second time, dammit!

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Saturday At the Movies Excellent Read: “I Watched Michael Bay’s Benghazi Movie at Cowboys Stadium With 30,000 Pissed-Off Patriots”

Christopher Hooks, “a journalist based in Austin”, reports for Gawker:

“Why didn’t we bomb the shit out of them?” a man asked me. “Why aren’t we bombing the shit out of ‘em? Give me a B-52 and I’ll go over there right now.” It was a chilly night in Texas, but his mind was more than 6,000 miles away, in Libya. He and I and some 30,000 other people had come to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas—home of the Dallas Cowboys—for the outsized world premiere of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.

The 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi means many things to many people. It is, at its most basic level, an actual human tragedy, one of an uncountable number this country has been party to in the last fifteen years. Lives were lost, and they might have been saved, and it’s hard to say why, or what good it did. It is also a meme, a punchline, and a political cudgel. For the people who care most about it, Benghazi is less shorthand for a historical episode than a concept, an abstract descriptor of a feeling shared by an uncountable number of people in this country that the nation’s leaders are traitors, by way of incompetence or malice or both.

But on Tuesday, people lined up by the thousands to see Benghazi begin a new life as something else entirely: an entertainment product. Michael Bay, the auteur who brought you Pearl Harbor and Pain & Gain, had brought the premiere to the stadium’s 180-foot-long high definition video board, with an enormous on-field stage and red carpet below. The audience filled most of the north half of the stadium. There was complimentary popcorn, one bag per ticket… Read more

Tuesday Evening Open Thread: Entertaining Ourselves to Death

Donald Trump is the harbinger of our political future. From the Hollywood Reporter:

Showtime is investing in the 2016 election. The cable network is partnering with Bloomberg Politics on a new weekly series, appropriately titled The Circus, which will air from January through November.

“Americans are captivated by the 2016 presidential election, and a real-time political series of this nature has never been done before,” said Showtime Networks president David Nevins. “People don’t want to wait a year to see how and why things played out and the impact they had. Everything today is immediate, so there’s no better time to change the way American politics are covered. Mark [Halperin] and John [Heilemann] are the preeminent chroniclers of the presidential scene with their deeply influential books, and I’m thrilled that, along with Mark McKinnon, they will bring their years of expertise and the pedigree of Bloomberg Politics to Showtime in a truly dynamic and innovative way with The Circus.”…

From Showtime’s advertising:

THE CIRCUS will follow multiple individual stories and key characters from the campaigns and capture their unique perspectives in weekly half-hour shows between January and November. With intimate, behind-the-scenes access, cameras will offer viewers a look at what the public rarely sees and explore the high human drama inherent in the pursuit of the Oval Office…

Under the leadership of the Game Change guys and “No Labels” McKinnon. It’ll be a yooooge, very classy, no-limits game-changing series — bigly.

Apart from despairing for the future, what’s on the agenda for the evening?