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Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Sunday, October 04, 2015

Trump and Jeb! on guns

by digby

I take a backseat to no one when it comes to my loathing of Jeb Bush. He is the human manifestation of aristocratic rot as far as I'm concerned. But I have to admit that I think he got a bum rap on the "stuff happens" thing. Not that I don't believe he wants to just throw up his hands and say "whatever" to the problem of gun violence. That's the official Republican position. But his actual statement the other day was a little bit more complex than that. Here 's what he said:

"We're in a difficult time in our country and I don't think more government is necessarily the answer to this. I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else. It's very sad to see. But I resist the notion, and I had this challenge as governor—look, stuff happens. There's always a crisis. The impulse is always to do something and it's not necessarily the right thing to do."

He sounds like Poppy, the guy who told the press that his campaign strategy was "message: I care." In other words kind of a dope when it comes to retail politics. And I certainly disagree that when it comes to gun violence there is any hysterical rush to "do something." The opposite is true. Over and over again we do absolutely nothing. But what he said so clumsily is something I've said myself when it comes to passing terrorism laws --- the impulse in the aftermath of a crisis is to immediately "do something" and it's not necessarily the right thing to do. Like pulling the Patriot Act off the shelf and passing it without giving any thought to what it really meant. That's what he was saying, not that mass shootings are no biggie. And again, he's completely wrong that anyone's rushing to "do something" about gun violence in the wake of our weekly mass shooting. It's ridiculous. But he wasn't just shrugging his shoulders and saying "shit happens" when asked about the Oregon bloodbath.

Ugh, I hate defending the likes of Bush but honestly it's a very bad idea to encourage the press to engage in pile-ons that are based on erroneous assumptions about what someone said. Let's just say it tends to blow back on liberals more than anyone.

Meanwhile, here's Trump being a lot more, shall we say, open about what wingnuts really think.

“I have to say, no matter what you do, you’re gonna have problems.

“Because you have sick people. They happen to be intelligent. And, you know, they can be sick as hell and they’re geniuses in a certain way. They are going to be able to break the system.”

The New York real-estate billionaire, who boasts of possessing a concealed carry permit, said he did not see the need for increased firearms regulations after the mass shooting in Oregon.

He amplified the argument in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, saying: “The gun laws have nothing to do with this. This is mental illness.”

At a rally in suburban Nashville on Saturday, Trump mentioned his New York state handgun carry permit and added that anyone who attacked him would be “shocked”, because he would emulate Charles Bronson in the vigilante film Death Wish.

“I’m a very, very big second amendment person,” Trump said in Tennessee. “This is about self-defense, plain and simple.”

Trump reminisced about the Bronson-starring 1974 film and got people in the crowd to shout out the title in unison. In the movie, an affluent, liberal architect embarks on a vigilante mission after his wife is killed and his daughter raped.

“Today you can’t make that movie because it’s not politically correct,” Trump said.

Speaking to NBC, Trump said those US jurisdictions with “the strongest, the most stringent laws [on gun control] are in almost every case the worst places. It doesn’t seem to work.”

Instead, at both rally and in the interview, as on the day of the shooting, the Republican frontrunner blamed mental illness for such shootings as that at Umpqua Community College.

That's the kind of thing Republicans believe about guns --- that they will be Charles Bronson if someone threatens them with a gun. Or Wyatt Earp -- who, by the way, confiscated guns in Dodge City. It's just braindead nonsense.

And, by the way, Trump obviously doesn't get out much. Vigilante movies are as big as ever.


Sunday funnies

by digby

Hillary Clinton bar talk:

This is so right it hurts

by digby


Who is against whom?

by Tom Sullivan

Discontent is simmering out there. Donald Trump is one proof. Bernie Sanders is another. The New York Times' Patrick Healy looks at how discontent manifests itself among liberal-leaning voters:

Interviews with three dozen Democrats in key early states — a mix of undecided voters and Sanders and Clinton supporters — laid bare a sense of hopelessness that their leaders had answers to problems like income inequality and gun violence. It is frustration that Mr. Sanders, a senator from Vermont, and other progressive candidates are channeling and that Mrs. Clinton has addressed with increasing passion, as when she responded to Thursday’s massacre at an Oregon college by saying she was “just sick of this.”

Healy reports that similar insurgencies against party-blessed candidates have also popped up in Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Why? Because gun violence is not the only thing Democratic voters are sick of.

The disaffection among Democrats flows mainly from three sources, according to interviews with voters and strategists. Disappointment lingers with President Obama over the failure to break up big banks after the Great Recession and fight for single-payer health insurance, among other liberal causes. Fatigue with Mrs. Clinton’s controversies endures, as does distaste with her connections to the rich. And anger abounds at party leaders for not pursuing an ideologically pure, economically populist agenda.

Karen Bryant from New Boston, N.H. gets down to the kitchen-table aspect of the problem: “There’s just so much hopelessness about people having any real opportunity to just make a living, take care of their families, support themselves.”

David Atkins looks at the issue from a different angle for Political Animal. Voters once called "Middle American Rad­ic­als" are sick of the middle class "being disadvantaged by a focus on both the rich and the poor." Atkins writes:

I particularly remember a series of focus groups I conducted among undecided, infrequent minority voters who were almost universally angry with food stamp and welfare programs because they worked full-time jobs and made just a little too much to qualify for them. They were angry that friends and neighbors of theirs were able to get assistance from the government, and they themselves were being “punished” for working. These were still liberal-leaning voters who were not going to vote for Republicans anytime soon because of their racism and because they wanted those welfare programs to continue to exist in case they themselves lost their job—but it didn’t change their angry perception that American government, in their eyes, seemed to advantage both the rich and the poor at the expense of the middle class.

And, predictably, the effect tends to be even greater among more comfortable white voters, who often have an unrealistically romantic idea of what being unemployed and on welfare is really like.

If white voters need any primer on that, Rolling Stone provided an invaluable look at that in 2012. But they also have an unrealistically romantic idea of how politics works.

Atkins observes:

It’s an artifact of America’s peculiar winner-take-all political system that we only have two functional parties. Economically, this means that the conservative party works to align the middle class with the wealthy against the poor, while the liberal party works to align the poor and the middle class against the rich. But the middle class ideally wants to promote its own interests above all, and all too often it seems to them like no one is doing that.

Dissatisfaction with the political parties and the economic system form common ground. Sanders' disaffected masses and Trump's share many of the same complaints, just different subsets of scapegoats. The problem is, both groups of voters are still shopping for a new boss that won't be the same as the old boss. Obama was supposed to fill that role for Democrats when he took office in 2009. But when Obama effectively told supporters, "I got this," they let him. They left the political battlefield and went back to trying to get by. The lesson still hasn't sunk in. Unless it does, they'll do the same again with whomever the Democrats elect.

Sanders says we need a political revolution. He's right. It's not just an electoral revolution. It has to be a revolution in thinking about politics.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies

Sultans of shock, moguls of schlock, & masters of rock: A trio of docs

By Dennis Hartley

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon ***

Not that anyone asked (or gives a rat’s ass), but if pressed to name the Holy Trinity of influences on my work over the years as a radio personality, stand-up comic and writer, I would cite The Firesign Theatre, Monty Python and The National Lampoon (gee…can you tell that my formative years were the late 60s thru the mid-70s?). If there is one thing the Trinity has in common, it’s a strict adherence to the #1 rule of comedy: Nothing is Sacred. It’s no coincidence that the aforementioned flourished concurrently, in the early to mid-70s; if they were coming on the scene only now with original comic sensibilities intact, the P.C. police would have them all sitting on Death Row within a matter of hours.

Long before YouTube, we pawed through things called “humor magazines” for a laugh fix. They were made from trees, printed with ink, and purchased from comically tiny brick and mortar stores called “newsstands”. If I saw something really funny in the magazine that I had to share with my friends, I would have to literally share the magazine with my friends. Which is why I wasn’t surprised to learn that the publishers of The National Lampoon developed the following formula to determine readership: the number of subscribers, x 12 (the number of people an average subscriber shared their copy with).

This is one of the fun facts in Douglas Tirola’s breezy documentary, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon. After a perfunctory preface about roots in the venerable Harvard Lampoon, Tirola devotes most of his film profiling the magazine’s original gang of editors and writers, which included Doug Kenney, Henry Beard, P.J. O’Rourke, Michael O’Donoghue, Chris Miller, Tony Hendra, and (future screenwriter/film director) John Hughes. He does a nice job of tracing how the magazine’s subversive mashup of highbrow Ivy League irony and lowbrow frat boy vulgarity begat Saturday Night Live (many of that show’s first batch of writers and performers were recruited from Lampoon’s magazine, LPs and stage productions), which in turn begat Animal House; precipitating a paradigm shift in a generation’s comic id that resonates to this day. Whether that’s for better or worse depends on your sense of humor.

(Currently in limited release and available on VOD).

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films **1/2

In dissecting the “art” of cinema, one can very easily bang on all day about narrative construct, auteur theory, lighting, camera angles, tracking shots, meow meow, woof woof…but you know what “they” say: all that artifice and a dime will buy you a cup of coffee. Let’s get real for a moment. At the end of the day, it’s still show business. And business is all about making money…amirite, boychick? And movies are basically about make-believe, right? So bottom line, what we really need here is ideas, bubbeleh, ideas! Ideas that sell tickets, and put asses in seats! With that in mind, here’s a crystalline distillation of all film theory, from one of the interviewees in Mark Hartley’s uneven but generally engaging Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films: “[Producer Menahem Golan] would make shit up…and then we’d film it.” See? Simple!

Mr. Golan and his cousin, Yoram Globus were two movie nuts who grew up in their native Israel dreaming about one day moving to America and becoming Hollywood moguls (which they in fact ended up doing…sort of). Golan directed several films in the late 70s, including one genuine cult item that (depending on who you ask) occasionally threatens to unseat Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space as “Worst Movie of All Time”…the 1979 sci-fi disco musical, The Apple (oy!). Hartley’s film primarily focuses on Golan and Globus’ joint tenure as the honchos of Cannon Films from 1979 until 1989.

During that period, the pair gained a rep for crankin’ ‘em out fast and cheap; as someone in the film observes, “[the money] was all up there on the screen.” That doesn’t necessarily guarantee that what ended up on that screen was eminently watchable, but it was product. And apparently somebody was buying tickets, because they had a “golden period” once they perfected their formula (mostly involving profitable overseas sales).

One thing I had forgotten is that Cannon accidentally made some good films during that period: Love Streams, The Company of Wolves, Runaway Train, Otello, 52 Pick-Up, Street Smart, Tough Guys Don’t Dance, Barfly, Powaqqatsi, and A Cry in the Dark. But again, that’s a relative handful among hundreds like The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood, Hospital Massacre, Revenge of the Ninja, Bolero, Hercules, Sahara, Death Wish 3 and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Not to mention Cannon’s culpability in jumpstarting the careers of Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, and Jean-Claude Van Damme (j’accuse!).

While Cannon’s Golan-Globus era indeed makes for quite a “wild story”, it unfortunately morphs from “untold” into “retold one too many times” early on. About halfway through I began to tire of yet one more anecdote from a former associate that illustrates how flinty and eccentric the cousins were (we get it, already!). On the plus side, you can always elect to turn off your brain and revel in the guilty pleasure of all those campy film clips.

(Now available on Warner Home Video DVD)

The Jam: About the Young Idea ***1/2

When former British PM Margaret Thatcher died in 2013, Digby did a great post about how the populist backlash against Thatcherism provided fertile ground for the Agit Punk movement in the UK (I wrote a companion piece on Thatcherism’s likewise effect on film makers). One of the best bands of that era was The Jam. Formed in 1976, the three lads from Woking (guitarist/lead vocalist Paul Weller, bassist/vocalist Bruce Foxton, and drummer Rick Buckler) exploded onto the scene with their seminal album, In the City. The eponymous single became their signature tune and remains a punk pop anthem. While initially lumped in with contemporaries like The Sex Pistols and The Clash, the band was operating in a different sphere; specifically regarding their musical influences.

What set Weller and his bandmates apart was their open adulation of The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces and the Motown sound. At the time, this was heresy; as astutely pointed out in The Jam: About the Young Idea (a rockumentary that premiered on Showtime this week), you had to dismiss any music released prior to 1976, if you wished to retain your punk cred. In the film, Weller recalls having a conversation with Joe Strummer of The Clash, who told him (in effect) that all of Chuck Berry’s music was crap.  “Oh Joe…you don’t really mean that,” Weller replies rhetorically into the camera.

Also on hand are Foxton and Buckler, who still register palpable sadness while recalling their reaction to Weller’s unexpected announcement to them in 1982 (at the height of their greatest chart success) that he was quitting the band to pursue new musical avenues. Weller is philosophical; he argues it’s always best to go out on top (as Neil Young said, it’s better to burn out than fade away). Director Bob Smeaton (The Beatles Anthology) does a marvelous job telling the band’s story, sustaining a positive energy throughout by mixing in a generous helping of vintage performance clips. This is a must-see for fans.

(Playing this month on Showtime; check your local listings)

Peruse more reviews at Den of Cinema (my new website!)

--Dennis Hartley

Quote of the century

by digby

A friendly reminder as we talk about the Republican lying phenomenon:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

It helps to remember that as we try to sort things out in the post-modern conservative world.

h/t to @edgeoforever

How the "illegals" will ensure a Democratic victory

by digby

Politico features an inflammatory article about how undocumented immigrants will tip the election to the Democrats because they are counted in the census and therefore Democratic states which have higher numbers of undocumented immigrants will have more votes in the electoral college. It's very compelling stuff for the rubes and I'm sure they'll eat it up:

Using citizen-only population statistics, American University scholar Leonard Steinhorn projects California would lose five House seats and therefore five electoral votes. New York and Washington would lose one seat, and thus one electoral vote apiece. These three states, which have voted overwhelming for Democrats over the latest six presidential elections, would lose seven electoral votes altogether. The GOP’s path to victory, by contrast, depends on states that would lose a mere three electoral votes in total. Republican stronghold Texas would lose two House seats and therefore two electoral votes. Florida, which Republicans must win to reclaim the presidency, loses one seat and thus one electoral vote.

But that leaves the electoral math only half done. The 10 House seats taken away from these states would then need to be reallocated to states with relatively small numbers of noncitizens. The following ten states, the bulk of which lean Republican, would likely gain one House seat and thus one additional electoral vote: Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

Iowa has gone Democratic six out of the last seven times. Michigan and Pennsylvania have both gone comfortably Democratic in every election since 1992. But five states—Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma—all went by double-digit margins to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. And Romney carried North Carolina by two percent while losing nationally by nearly four percent, a large difference. Likewise, despite solidly beating 2008 GOP nominee John McCain by seven percent nationally, President Obama eked out a bare 0.3 percent win in the Tar Heel State. The current Ohio polls also look promising for the right GOP nominee, and no Republican has ever won the Presidency without carrying the Buckeye State. There is no plausible statistical path for the Republican Party’s nominee to win an electoral majority without these states.

Accordingly, for analytic purposes, three of the states that would gain electoral votes are Democratic. The remaining seven are fairly put in the GOP column. Combining the two halves of the citizen-only population reapportionment, states likely in the Democratic column suffer a net loss of four electoral votes. Conversely the must-win Republican leaning states total a net gain of four electoral votes. These are the four electoral votes statistically cast by noncitizens.

There's just one problem with this analysis. The electoral college also includes the two Senators from each state giving small states which represent far fewer actual humans whether undocumented or not "extra" electoral college votes by population. In other words, while California may benefit from having some undocumented workers in its census, Montana benefits from having some undocumented cows and horses.

Someone more ambitious than I am may want to crunch some numbers to see exactly how all that breaks out. I have no idea how this would compare if only human beings vs citizens living in America, without the 100 Senators included, determined the electoral math. Perhaps it would still end up benefitting the Republicans. But it seems a just a little dicey to create an entire thesis around the idea that the electoral college should only represent citizens when this existing imbalance is already baked into the cake.

Oh, and they do point out that this "unfair advantage" might just benefit Republicans because: Florida. Imagine that. I think it's fair to say that if anyone complained about that they would rabidly defend the census from anyone who dared to otherwise "divaaaahn the will of the constitution."



Stats for days

by digby

After President Obama challenged the media to produce charts showing the difference in deaths from terrorism vs firearms such charts have exploded all over the internet. There is this one:

And this one:

But it's this one that remains the most shocking one to me: More people have been killed in gun deaths since 1989 than in all of America's wars since 1776 combined. Does that make any sense at all?

"The ineptitude of failure theatre"

by digby

Politico reports:

House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz is planning to run for House speaker, taking on Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in what appears to be a long-shot bid to lead House Republicans, according to multiple sources.

The Utah Republican, first elected to Congress in 2008, is launching a campaign less than a week before the Oct. 8 leadership elections for the House GOP Conference. The date for a floor vote to pick the next speaker has not been set yet.

McCarthy (R-Calif.) is the overwhelming favorite to win, and it’s unclear how many votes Chaffetz can garner.

Chaffetz's office would not comment.

They say that Chaffetz made headlines this week when he stood by his friend Trey Gowdy. But those weren't the only headlines he made. it's been a busy week for Chaffetz. It was also revealed that the Secret Service sought to discredit him by releasing private information to the public, simply because he is a fierce critic of the agency, which validates every civil libertarian's fears of what police agencies are capable of.

But he really made headlines this week with his outrageous interrogation of Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards. It was so bad that one has to assume that he would not get even one Democratic vote for speaker. But even more problematic, it's unlikely that he would get the wingnut faction to vote for him. Remember, they thought the hearings were an abject failure because Chaffetz failed to send Richards crying from the room resulting in a voice vote to defund Planned Parenthood immediately. This is what one activist called "the ineptitude of failure theatre" (They have a slightly skewed view of how government actually works.)

So Chaffetz could perhaps get the support of the three or four civil libertarians because of the Secret Service flap. And maybe a couple of people will see his defense of Trey Gowdy as a sign of loyalty to the GOP cause. But other than that it's hard to see how Chaffetz had such a successful 15 minutes that he thinks it's time to go for the gold.

On the other hand, it is a sign of McCarthy's "ineptitude of failure theatre" that he even thinks there's an opening.

Get a load of this from wingnut central (via email):
Just as the House Republican leadership races slipped off the front pages and lead segments of the news and back behind the closed doors of Capitol Hill House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy put the race for Speaker – which he hopes to win – back in the public eye, and not in a way that benefits his campaign. 
A few days ago McCarthy appeared on Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News and Hannity hammered him with a list of House Republican failures, broken promises and outright betrayals. (While we don’t necessarily agree with all of Guy Benson’s analysis you can watch the video through this link to Townhall) 
McCarthy relies heavily on Speaker Boehner‘s philosophy that “we have to formulate a strategy to win before we can even start the battle” not recognizing that Democrats see the battle as the whole game, and so merely to fight is to gain a victory because it shows ideological commitment, forces the agenda, motivates the base, and makes the Party relevant. 
McCarthy understands none of this, and what’s more he is completely inept when forced to think on his feet. 
After being goaded by Hannity’s long list of failures McCarty finally comes forth with what he thinks is a “win.” 
He claims the select Benghazi committee drove Hillary Clinton's polling numbers down and that was a “win,” noting that nobody would have known about her email scandal "had we not fought." 
First of all if the Benghazi hearings are strictly political how could Kevin McCarthy be so dumb as to admit it? 
What's more, to claim a purely political motivation for the Benghazi committee’s creation and investigation is quite possibly the dumbest and most disrespectful thing a Republican “leader” could say about the multimillion dollar effort to get to the bottom of the events leading to and flowing from the death of four brave Americans; U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith and CIA contractors, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty. 
Not that we have any sympathy for Hillary Clinton – but if McCarthy’s statement is true then it is also truly frightening because it shows that establishment Republicans, like Kevin McCarthy, are happy to use the power of the government against their political opponents and engage in exactly the same kind of abuse of citizens that was perpetrated against conservatives by Lois Lerner and her enablers at the IRS. 
Second, what McCarthy said is demonstrably not true as regards the effect of the House Benghazi committee’s actions – which have been at best inconclusive and have treated Hillary Clinton and her associates, such as her Muslim Brotherhood influenced confidant Huma Abedin, with a kid glove deference no other witnesses would have received in similar circumstances. 
Judicial Watch, not the Benghazi committee, was the organization that has forced the most damning revelation about the Hillary Clinton’s email. The incontrovertible evidence that she used her private server to send and receive classified email – a felony violation to say nothing of a national security disaster – was generated by Judicial Watch and its relentless pursuit of its Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. 
It is the Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuits, not the Benghazi committee, that have provided the “drip, drip, drip” that Hillary Clinton complained are hurting her poll numbers. 
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Kevin McCarthy’s incoherent attempts to clean up the mess he created with his braggadocios response to Hannity’s goading was a political gift to Hillary Clinton that just keeps on giving.

Oh dear. A Fox "business" person tries to understand how government works

by digby

It's called The Intelligence Report ...

The Intelligence Report with Trish ReganFox Business Network 
Trish Regan: Joining me right now with a plan to stop government shutdowns from happening all together is Alan Grayson, Congressman from Florida, now running for U.S. Senate. Congressman, welcome. 
Rep. Alan M. Grayson: Thank you. Thank you very much.
TR: Tell me how this plan, this bill of yours, would work? 
AMG: The Shutdown the Shutdown Act, very simply, substitutes level funding for the plunge in funding that we’d be seeing the day after tomorrow [Oct. 1]. It says that whenever we have a gap in funding we simply continue with the existing funding level, instead of dropping down to zero. It’s just common sense. 
TR: Let me ask you, Congressman, though, isn't part of our democratic process the ability, giving our representatives to ability to act, to do what they think is right and, some would tell you, that these shutdowns, as miserable as they are, they're actually an important part of our political process. You want to take that away? 
AMG: I don't know anybody who feels that way. I’m not even sure you feel that way, as you're saying those words. That doesn't make any sense to me. 
TR: Oh I absolutely do. I mean, there are moments when you need to stand your ground. I mean nobody wants a shutdown, I give you that. Nobody wants that. But, if this is what it comes to, isn't that part of the democratic process? This is what it comes to? If you supersede that, what’s the alternative? 
AMG: The alternative is called constitutional government. And I invite everyone to familiarize themselves with it. The way we change funding levels in this country is very simple. The House passes a law. The Senate passes a law. Then the President either signs it, or we overcome his veto. That’s the way the Founding Fathers wanted it. The Founding Fathers didn't have shutdowns. Why should we? 
TR: What do you think the economic toll is of a shutdown? 
AMG: Well, we know what it is. The last time, the three-week shutdown (less than three weeks), ended up costing us the better part of 1% of our gross national product. It cost us well over $20 billion. We had export/import licenses that weren't issued. We had tax refunds that weren't sent. We had all sorts of economic chaos. And it served no purpose whatsoever.
TR: That said, Congressman, most people would point to the fact that that is all temporary, and while it’s painful in the here and now, as economist Steve Moore just said on this program the other day….
AMG: Well, cancer is temporary too, isn't it? 
TR: Congressman, eventually some of that pent-up demand that wasn't met during that time actually does get fulfilled. 
AMG: What pent-up demand? 
TR: And those licenses do get issued.
AMG: Not according to Standard & Poor's. 
TR: Anyway we're going to continue watching your bill. 
AMG: Standard & Poor’s disagrees with you.
TR: Good luck in your Senate race. Mark Serrano, Chris Hahn, still with me. Thank you, representative. 
AMG: Thank you. 


Truth is no longer an American value

by Tom Sullivan

As a kid, I watched Superman on TV in black and white fighting his never-ending battle for "Truth, Justice, and the American Way." All three have since fallen out of fashion. Carly the Fabulist's tales of Planned Parenthood reminded us just how far we have fallen. Her "willingness to unrepentantly and repeatedly" look into the camera and lie to our faces recalls Dick Cheney's talent for that, Digby reminded this week at Salon.

Digby references a post (in part about Mitt Romney) by Rick Perlstein that I want to revisit. While his books might bear pictures of presidents to please the marketers, Perlstein writes, he is much more interested in how "both the rank-and-file voters and the governing elites of a major American political party chose as their standardbearer a pathological liar. What does that reveal about them?"

Indeed. Direct-mail maven Richard Viguerie is one of his Perlstein's touchstones for seeing into the conservative mind. Perlstein's insights also come in part from examining the snake-oil ads in conservative publications such as Human Events and Townhall, as well as the more plebian Newsmax. My viewport is the conservative pass-it-on spams that land in my in-box. I collect them. I lost count somewhere around 200.

Perlstein contrasts the ubiquitous "get rich quick" appeals in these publications to one he noticed in the liberal The American Prospect for donations to help starving children in the Third World. I contrast them with the lack of appeals found in pass-it-on spam. They are lies, smears, distortions, propaganda — passed along dutifully by the parents who warned us about communist propaganda as kids:

Pass-it-on spams don’t ask people to write their congressman or senator. They don’t ask people to get involved in or contribute to a political campaign. Or even to make a simple phone call. No. Once you’ve had your daily dose of in-box outrage, conservative reader, all these propaganda pieces ask is that you “pass it on” to everyone you know. So now that you’re good and angry — and if you’re a Real American™ — you'll share it with all your friends so they’ll get and stay angry too.

That really is the point of Carly Fiorina's Planned Parenthood lie. It's not even a particularly original one, as Perlstein observed of Viguerie's efforts at Huffington Post a decade ago:

With a couple of hours' research I was able to find a mailer from an organization that was then one of his direct-mail clients that said "babies are being harvested and sold on the black market by Planned Parenthood."

Perlstein continued that thread of thought at The Baffler in 2012 (emphasis mine):

The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.

This has made the RNC "less the party of Goldwater, and more the party of Watergate," as Perlstein wrote. But the long march of lies in service to ideology has over time also served to "dissolve external reality" among extremists, as Larry Massett once said of New Agers. People marvel at how Donald Trump supporters can take his pitches for anything other than a mountebank's. Yet comforting lies are the junk food the extremist faithful have been conditioned over decades to prefer, like kids and sugary cereals. Truth? Truth is like eating your vegetables. As Larry Haake, the general registrar in Chesterfield County, Virginia, said of a deceptive Americans for Prosperity election mailer, "Most of their information is wrong. They know it's wrong and they don't care." If truth used to be an American value, it is no longer.

It reveals "a structure of thought," as Perlstein once put it that Stephen Colbert's faux-conservative parodied with "truthiness," that "quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true." For the Fiorinas, the Trumps and their followers reality is now as bendable as Dali's clocks. It bends according to the tribal affiliations of the person making the truth claims. "True facts" support their underlying ideology. These they open wide for. Garden-variety facts are suspect, and they clamp their mouths shut like toddlers to strained spinach.

Truthiness is not funny anymore.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Because you need this

by digby

It's Friday and you have never need this more:

Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom host Stephanie Arne spreading the “OTTER" joy of swimming with baby Asian Small Clawed Otters at Nurtured by Nature!

Ok, it's been such a bad week that I think you need another one:

Hysterical Huckleberry channels Donald Trump

by digby


In an interview Friday afternoon, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham tore into President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in the wake of Russia’s stepping up its role in the ongoing conflict in Syria – calling the former “incompetent” and the latter “delusional” with regard to the politics of the Middle East.

“Number one: Our biggest problem is that our commander in chief is incompetent, and our secretary of state is delusional, regarding the politics of the Mid-East, Putin, Iran, and just the entire situation over there,” said the South Carolina senator during an interview on the Fox News Radio show Kilmeade and Friends.

“Our president, quite frankly, is weak, he is indecisive, and what does it mean for America?” Graham went on. “With Assad being propped up by Russia and Iran, it means the war [in Syria] never ends.”

Graham said that Obama views Putin as a “Bush-type figure” who is going to get himself trapped in Syria, but said that Putin was actually making a “bold play.”

“The president believes that Putin’s kind of a dummy, he’s sort of a Bush-type figure that’s blundered his way into Syria and he’s gonna get in a spot where he can’t get out,” the senator continued. “Obama’s writing him off as sort of some kind of cowboy, and what Obama doesn’t understand is that Putin’s making a bold play, a smart play from the Russian point of view, but a nightmare for us.”

“What Barack Obama doesn’t understand is that he’s making the job of the next president exponentially harder,” said Graham. “He’s, in his own way, delusional about the way the world is working.”

Graham added that Russia and Iran are sending a message to Obama that he’s “weak.”
“At the end of the day, Russia and China have been given a pass by Obama, because they wanted a deal with Iran so badly – they had to have Russia and China’s support,” Graham said. “Here’s what Russia and Iran are saying to Obama: ‘You’re weak.’ They’re slapping him in the face – they have no respect for the man, they have no respect for the United States.”

It's all about us.

So, will Donald Trump or Lindsay Graham be the one to Make America Great Again? I'm thinking it's a toss up.


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