Late Night Open Thread: It Would Be Funnier If the Punchline Didn’t Involve Nuclear Weapons

A fine pigbladdering of a most deserving pig, by David Roth, for Deadspin“This Is All Donald Trump Has Left”:

This is more or less what Trump has always thought the news should be like: people with microphones clamoring for his opinion and asking him about himself. For decades the man has dreamed of reporters calling out “please, sir, what’s the latest on your personal feuds” or “sir, how did you achieve this amazing success?” while he delivers flirty winking answers. That this is not the way it goes now that he’s president clearly causes him great frustration. Watch these pissy helicopter-adjacent scrums and you may see a lumpy pink dope bellowing “we’re looking into that very strongly” in response to questions he transparently can’t answer and dispensing whatever thudding speculative idiocy he thinks will get him to the next question. Other people will see what Trump sees. The important thing for him is that the microphones are still pointed in the right direction.

The culture has been inching further and further into Trump’s gilded funhouse for years now, and you surely do not need me to tell you that it fucking sucks in there. But we are, by now, all the way in. Trump is nearly as ubiquitous in the culture as he has always believed he should be; the one deeply held belief that has been evident throughout his whole faithless disgrace of a life is people should be talking about Donald Trump more, on television, and he has just about seen that part through. All Trump wants, all he has ever wanted, is to be able to keep doing and taking and saying whatever he wants whenever he wants. He ran for president for this reason and this reason only.

His politics, to the extent that they’ve ever been legible, have always been off-the-rack big city tabloid bullshit—crudely racist exterminate the brutes/back the blue authoritarianism in the background and ruthless petty rich person squabbling in the front. His actions since becoming president have been those of a dim, cruel child playacting at being powerful—giving orders without quite knowing what they mean or how they might be carried out, taunting enemies, beating up the people he can afford to beat up without having to be called to account for it, lying as needed or just for yuks. He hasn’t changed a thing since graduating from punchline to president. It’s been clear for decades that Trump was both an asshole and a dummy; this is now a problem not just for the odd unlucky cocktail waitress and his staff of cheesy apparatchiks but literally every person on earth…

Trump won’t stop. He won’t stop because he’s never told the truth in his life and because this is all he has and all he has ever had. He wakes up every day to the mess he’s made and says and does whatever he must, at whatever cost, to get through the day. Like many in his generation, Trump has mistaken the end of his life for the end of the world. He can’t imagine, let alone care about, what will be left after he is gone, if only because no one who matters to him will be around for it. His politics, such as they exist, boil down to this: he is trying to hold on, and will spend the rest of his life trying not to be found out. Every day is like this now. He could do this forever—he talks often about serving for longer than one more term—but that’s mostly because he has so much invested in never stopping. He is over-leveraged as always; he can only ever do more…



Mothers’ Milk of Politics Open Thread: Yes, All Our Donations Helped!

… “What Democrats’ money allowed them to do is expand the battlefield beyond the handful of most vulnerable Republican seats,” said David Wasserman, House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Report, a political handicapping website.

As of October, Democratic candidates had outraised their Republican opponents in 53 of the 73 most competitive congressional races, including 20 districts that Trump won by double digits in 2016, according to a Washington Post analysis. Twenty-two contests became competitive after Democrats began heavily fundraising.

Joyce Abrams, 80, has donated this election through ActBlue, an online fundraising platform. Often, she said, it was in response to a solicitation from a Democratic candidate trying to cross a fundraising threshold, giving as little as $5 just to show her support.

“In some cases, I’m really doing token giving. . . . Sometimes, it’s very important that there are numbers of people donating, as much as the amount,” said Abrams, a registered Democrat in southern Oregon…

The ‘green wave’ was less an act of nature than the result of careful planning on the part of Democrats.

Even before the primary season, Democratic strategists worked to prepare candidates for moments of national attention, and on how to capi­tal­ize on them.

To assist in the effort, an “expansion” team of five Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee strategists tasked with widening the midterm map for the party crisscrossed the country, helping the campaigns quickly respond when a fundraising opportunity arose…

ActBlue and other groups have allowed donors to give on impulse — when they are angry with the president, frustrated by Congress or hopeful about a candidate’s ad message.

“They read a Trump tweet, they see a video and they get really upset. They’re sitting there, and have 15 minutes before their next meeting. How does their intention turn into productive action in that short period of time?” said Ethan Todras-Whitehill, executive director and co-founder of Swing Left, which has raised $10 million for battleground House districts this cycle…

“Every Democratic candidate in the country has been looking for a moment this year . . . to tap into that national small-dollar fundraising army that exists for Democrats,” said Tyler Jones, a general consultant for Cunningham’s campaign. “When we started to see an influx of fundraising, it made us all look at each other and say, ‘We can do this.’ ”



Proud to Be A Democrat Open Thread: Stacey Abrams Has A Bright Political Future

Even if Kemp and his fellow Rethugs somehow manage to suppress or steal enough votes to contest her win on Tuesday, no question that Ms. Abrams will go far.

Bim Adewunmi reports for Buzzfeed:

With just over two weeks until Election Day, Stacey Abrams’ voice was raspier than normal as she delivered her well-honed speech to a crowd gathered at Theze Bonez, a ribs restaurant run by a military vet in Powder Springs, Georgia.

“I apologize for my voice,” she started off. “We have been traveling the state of Georgia and my voice is somewhere between Spalding County and Worth County.”

Over the course of an October weekend, Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate gave tweaked versions of a stump speech that she has polished to a gleam over the last few months. Among her stops were the city of Dalton in Whitfield County, aka “the carpet capital of the world,” which has a big Latino population, and Rome, Floyd County, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Abrams, the former Georgia House minority leader noted for working across the aisle, has visited all 159 state counties, meeting a demographically mixed cross section of Georgia’s 10.5 million citizens. The day before she spoke in Powder Springs, she was on a whistle-stop tour in five different counties. In her speeches, she hits the same important beats she believes will get her into the governor’s mansion after the election — including the importance of early voting.

Abrams is a rare thing for her state, and for the US in general. If she wins, she will be the first black woman governor in the history of this country — but she’s adamant that’s not reason enough to vote for her. “I don’t want you to vote for me because I’m black, or because I’m a woman,” she repeated all weekend, at stops that included a church, a barbershop, a jazz club, and the meeting hall of the local chapter of the electrical workers union. “I want you to vote for me because I’m better.” Cheers and applause met her, and that line, every single time. But Abrams’ speeches don’t start or end there.
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Saturday Morning Open Thread

Whatever happens, by this time next week, we’ll know.

Peter Hamby, at Vanity Fair, points out that at this point time, even the professionals don’t know — “Sorry, Pundits, But You Have No Clue What Will Happen on Tuesday”:

Every piece of evidence we have about voting behavior during the Trump presidency—special elections in various corners of the country, public and internal polls, early voting data in key states—indicates that we are heading for a midterm election with explosively high turnout. University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who studies voting patterns, estimated recently that almost 50 percent of eligible voters could cast ballots this year, a turnout level not seen in a midterm election in 50 years. Trump, in his way, is loudly trying to juice Republican turnout in red-leaning Senate races by demagoguing the threat of illegal border crossings, which happen to be at their lowest point in decades.

Enthusiasm in this election, though, is mostly fueled by Democrats. Aside from college-educated white women, much of the Democratic coalition in 2018 is comprised of voters—young people, African-Americans, and Hispanics—who don’t typically show up in midterm elections. And the main thing to remember about high-turnout elections, especially ones that bring non-traditional voters into the mix, is that strange things can happen. House seats once thought to be safe are suddenly in jeopardy, like Republican Steve King’s solidly red seat in Iowa now appears to be…

…[S]ince Trump took office, polls have consistently underestimated Democratic performance. “The polls in governor’s races, those special congressional elections, in the Alabama Senate race—on average they underestimated Democrats,” said Harry Enten, the CNN analyst, formerly of Nate Silver’s poll-and-data-driven site, FiveThirtyEight. “The error statewide in Virginia in 2017 was greater than the average error in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin in 2016.” But why? Northam’s pollster, Geoff Garin, said his biggest lesson from the Virginia election last year is that new voters are storming the gates in the Trump era and throwing turnout models out the window. Pollsters who aren’t accounting for the shifting electorate—a wave of new voters who haven’t been previously reached—could be making a risky mistake. “I think some polls are not reflecting the ways in which electorates are likely to expand,” Garin said. “Turnout in Virginia grew by nearly 17 percent from 2013 and 2017, with roughly 374,000 more voters. In our voter-file analysis, 30 percent of the people who voted in 2017 had not voted in either the 2009 or 2013 governor’s races, which indicates people were dropping out and moving away as well as dropping into the electorate.”…

Enten put it another way. “Response rates are trash and they are trash among young people,” he said. Pollsters are more transparent about these shortcomings than pundits, who have a nasty habit of taking individual polls, even crappy ones, and using them to make sweeping claims about the election. “Polls, at least in this day in age, are about as accurate as they had been in the last 30-40 years,” Enten said. “But as long as we recognize the potential pitfalls of polling and recognize they are just tools, then we will be better off.”…

You know who knows the precise composition of this year’s electorate? No one. Electorates mutate every two years. They get older, they get younger, they get browner, they get whiter, they get smaller, they get bigger. They respond to new candidates and shifting issue sets. Using past turnout patterns can be useful when modeling a universe of voters, but the polls cannot tell us with certainty what will happen on Election Day anymore. In a volatile environment where Trump has saturated every inch of our cultural fabric with politics, who the hell knows what’s going to happen? Maybe Democrats might actually win the Senate. Maybe Republicans will keep the House. Maybe Trump’s nativist final push will actually yield big returns just where he needs them. Or maybe not! Just let people vote. The only currency to cling to in the post-Trump era is that all bets are off…



Late Night Pulped Friction: Whitey Bulger (Probably) Died As He Had Lived

The parenthetical in the title is because the first breathless news reports out of Bulger’s home town said that the corpse was ‘so badly beaten as to be unrecognizable’ — exactly the suspiciously B-movie detail that *would* finish a novelization of Whitey’s career. But the sordid truth seems to be that the old man was killed by a professional thug from the Massachusetts sticks, apparently in the hope that one more murder would bump up his own status among the other lifers.

And just as Bulger survived to be a very old man by playing various law enforcement agencies for a bunch of grubby bureaucrats equally torn between envy of their targets and burning hatred for their interbureau rivals, the circumstances of his death have left many questions that will bedevil the FBI and the US Bureau of Prisons.

The Boston Globe, no suprise, is going all out on Bulger’s life and death. (If it weren’t for the Red Sox victory parade, Whitey would probably have had the entire front page to himself.) And who could blame them, given such material?

James “Whitey” Bulger’s life played out like any number of the violent Hollywood movies it spawned, reflecting a Boston that is no more, when bookmakers and gangsters peopled the taverns of the city’s working-class neighborhoods; when the locals wouldn’t dream of turning in the neighborhood hoodlum; when gangland murders were commonplace; and when the FBI was so hellbent on taking out the Mafia that it helped gangsters like Mr. Bulger kill rivals and rise to the top of the Boston underworld.

Mr. Bulger, one of America’s most manipulative criminals who eluded prosecution for decades because he was protected by corrupt FBI agents, was killed Tuesday in a federal prison in West Virginia. He was 89 and was serving two life sentences for 11 murders.

Mr. Bulger was charismatic and vicious, well-read and heartless. He persuaded a Jesuit priest to serve as his parole sponsor, torched the Brookline birthplace of John F. Kennedy during antibusing strife, kept house with two women in different locations at the same time, and routinely took naps immediately after shooting people in the head. He loved animals, crying over a puppy being put down, yet secretly buried at least six of his victims, denying their loved ones the bodies…

In his teens, James Bulger ran away with the circus, and when he returned home he took up with a much older woman who was a stripper in a traveling burlesque show. The stripper scandalized Mr. Bulger’s mother by sending him postcards from the road.

Mr. Bulger’s propensity for rule-breaking graduated to crime. He was a tailgater — stealing off the backs of trucks that took goods from the freighters on the South Boston waterfront.

In a neighborhood where hardly anyone had a car, he had one. When he wasn’t driving around town with his Jayne Mansfield-lookalike girlfriend Jacquie McAuliffe, Mr. Bulger often scouted for opportunities — not necessarily for crime, but to buff his credentials as a hoodlum with a heart of gold.
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Late Night Happy Thoughts Open Thread


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Thursday Morning Open Thread: Delicate Shifts

Today’s Doodle honors the life and legacy of Tyrus Wong (born Wong Gen Yeo) the Chinese-American artist responsible for some of the best-known images in American popular culture. Drawing inspiration from Chinese artists of the Song Dynasty, Wong applied his unique vision to paintings, prints, and even the Walt Disney film Bambi.

For more info behind the Doodle, please visit here.

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Josh Marshall, at TPM — “Everything Shows a GOP Resurgence Except for the Evidence”:

As I explained earlier this week, I’m watching every headline, poll number and shred of information I can find about this election because the stakes are so damn high. I don’t need to argue or make a case about why it’s the most important midterm or election of our lifetimes. It is. No hyperbole. This is it. And I would be lying to you if I told you I didn’t feel angst and apprehension as I read this stuff. It does all feel different. The climate feels different. And yet I go back to the numbers. And this shift does not seem born out by any data I’m actually seeing. And I’m seeing close to all of it…

I’m not here to unskew the polls for you. The Senate map has shifted significantly against the Democrats over the last month. There are also worrisome nuggets of information. President Trump’s personal numbers have popped up. The latest NBC poll showed Republicans closing the enthusiasm gap with Democrats. Each of these give me pause and make me wonder whether they’re leading indicators of some shift. But when I look at all the numbers combined, there’s just no evidence for this shift which is dominating the media narrative.

The best baseline I think in terms of is the generic ballot poll. That’s been highly consist, between 8 and 9 points for the last two months.

If you think a Democratic takeover of the House is critical to the country’s future, I’m not here to tell you, don’t worry, everything’s going to be fine. That’s not how I feel. But I will say that almost all the evidence that we have is that we’re looking at a high probability of a Democratic takeover of the House and that things look pretty similar to what they’ve looked like for the last six months. The numbers don’t bear this media narrative…

I will say that part of the current moment reminds me of the Virginia Governor’s race a year ago. Now-Governor Ralph Northam was the favorite in that now-fairly-blue state. But in the closing weeks and days the uber-establishment GOP Ed Gillespie went full Trump with a series of hard, racist ads about MS-13 and feral “illegals” looking to overrun the state. There were some polls showing a tightening of the race. Democrats, or at least people chattering in the media and on twitter, started getting demoralized and grousing that Northam was blowing it, that Democrats had blown it by not nominating the more progressive Tom Perriello. Most chilling, it seemed like going full Trump racial incitement might be working.

In the event, Northam won and won big, by a larger margin than the polls suggested.

I’m not predicting this. But I am keeping it in mind…