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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Stuff I read today: October 18, 2016

I have what passes for an education in this day and time, but I am not deceived by it.

-Flannery O'Connor

- 21 days remain until the dead rise and demand ballots. On Tuesdays, I catch up on politics, economics and public policy.

-  “The first global computer network emerged thanks to capitalists behaving like cooperative socialists, not socialists behaving like competitive capitalists.”  Here is a  fascinating, and short, history of how the Soviet Union muffed its chance to make over the world.

Now, the article concludes, the Soviet ghosts are having their own back. American’s screaming about how #DamnObama gave away the Internet will seize upon this as proof of their demand to Make the Internets Great Again, even as they clamor for the sort of nationalist, social-control ring fencing that makes the demand impossible to realize.

...But in an interview with Sean Illing published on Wednesday on Vox, the 62-year-old talk radio mainstay conceded that the “dark forces” unleashed by Trump’s candidacy had a lot to do with his departure.

“Well, it made it a lot easier,” [Charlie] Sykes said. “You basically feel the world kind of shifting under your feet and you look around and say, OK, I’m a conservative talk radio host in a world in which the conservative media is basically setting itself on fire. Do I really want to still be part of this?”

The midday host on WTMJ radio in Milwaukee, Sykes was a leading voice in the #NeverTrump movement, which culminated in Ted Cruz’ victory over Trump in the Wisconsin primary. But now Sykes is questioning the support his more traditional brand of conservatism has from listeners.

In the Vox interview, Sykes admitted being surprised by Trump’s rise, something he thought unthinkable a year ago, even though conservative talk radio for years has been voicing many of the same views that have mobilized Trump’s base.

Illing noted, “Conservative media has been flirting with these darker forces for decades. Trump is the culmination of something, not the beginning.”

Sykes’ response: “If you and I had this conversation a year ago, I would’ve disagreed with you vigorously. I would’ve said, ‘There you go again with the darker forces garbage.’ Conservatives have been accused of this for years. But obviously there’s some truth to what you’ve just said.”

And he conceded his complicity in the conservative movement’s embrace of those darker forces.

“I’m different than Rush Limbaugh, but there’s no question that we got caught up in certain word salad, certain narratives that perhaps we did not fully understand how they were playing among our base"...

- In the Twitterverse, Buck Sexton says, “It's not confidence inspiring to complain that you lost a competition because it was rigged before you've actually lost it.”

- American conservatives have been getting schooled for years on how to turn word meanings inside out by pollster Luntz. A blogger argues Luntz’s GMOs have now escaped the lab:

‘Racist’ is the new queer. The same daring, transgressional psychology that, for gay people, converted an insult into a durable token of identity may persuade a mass of people who otherwise would not have challenged the social taboo surrounding racism to accept the epithet with defiant equanimity or even to embrace it. The assertion that Trump’s supporters are all racists has, I think, become partially self-fulfilling. In and of itself, that will make America’s already deeply ugly racial politics uglier. It will help justify the further pathologization of the emerging white underclass while doing nothing at all to help communities of color except, conveniently for some, to set the groups at one another’s throats so they cannot make common cause. It will become yet another excuse for beneficiaries of economic stratification to blame its victims. Things were bad before this election. They are worse now, and we should be very careful about how we carry this experience forward. These are frightening times.

- Esquire’s Charlie Pierce mutes his usual, highly entertaining and Menckenesque braying for a thoughtful consideration of which candidate he supports for president, and concludes:

I also think that electing the first woman president to follow the two terms of the first African-American president would be an altogether remarkable event and that it's the best argument against the notion that electing HRC would be a demonstration of the status quo.

It’s a telling point. The only variation among the ever-lengthening string of old white guys the Grand Old Party has come up with over the last 150 years is that they just keep getting wealthier and more negative and exclusionary in their visions for us, the ones they seek to govern.

- A week ago, Governor Pat McCrory sounded the two-note siren of his campaign: throngs of Negroes casting fraudulent ballots, and “unvented” Syrian pretend-refugees (on the latter point, consider the libertarian Niskanen Institute’s analysis here).

The McCrory party’s armory of ideas, The Civitas Institute, has been waving that bloody shirt for weeks. Donald Trump has been working that nerve for months. Never mind that it’s not true.

It’s even less likely than catching a welfare recipient flunking a drugs test.

-Chris Christie says the candidate whose presidential transition team he leads is out of control, but the GOP’s Casper Gutman remains proud of his own work for the cause. Never mind he seems to have condemned it as irrelevant with his own mouth.

More and more, the prospect of the Trumps going to Washington is looking like a high-concept reboot of Green Acres. Mike Pence will play Sam Drucker; and Rudy Giuliani, the hatchet-faced railroad hatchetman, Homer Bedloe.

Playing against type, Ted Cruz will bring his smarmy insincerity to the comic stylings of Mr Haney. Arnold the Pig? What’s say, the greedy fracker Ken Hamm?

- The Bank of England’s bloggers are launching new, much shorter, microposts, in a foretelling of the central bank’s post-Brexit level of influence.

- The Hedgehog review considers America’s inexplicable romance with 12-Stepism. We embrace it because the only thing about it that works is self-exculpation.

- Do you have friends who rail against Facebook for not following their view that freedom of speech means never seeing anything annoying? Noah Smith has some ideas.

- Science Friday remains a bastion of fact. It is worth bookmarking for that reason.

- In a democracy, among the most frightening phrases known to the common man is: “The [ __________] is in session.”

It’s worth remembering, the day after the 2008 Republican candidate for president said he and his Senate colleagues are going to whittle the Supreme Court down to a nub, one death at a time, that the Court- 216 days without a full bench, and counting- is in session.

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