Hot Air: Big Talk Goes To The Big House

I’ll be recording this week’s Big Talk this afternoon at the WFHB studios. My guest will be Emma Johnson, one of the founders of Kite Line. A “kite” in prison lingo is a message. It can be a slip of paper or a whisper, and it’s often passed through many hands or ears until it gets to the intended receiver. Kite LIne is a weekly radio program on WFHB dealing with prisoner issues, both inside and out. First question I’ll ask Emma: “Why should we care about prisoners?” I hope to learn a lot. Tune in Thursday at 5:00pm when, it is to be hoped, you might learn some little thing about this holy land’s prison state.

The Old Roundhouse At Stateville Prison Outside Joliet, Illinois

Politics

A couple of book quotes that reflect upon our current political state:

1) Last year, plenty o’folks hollered about the tyranny of party politics, as if elections can be won and policies implemented simply by having some charismatic or “straight-talking” soapboxer fill a few arenas during election season…, hey, wait a minute…, that’s wtf happened isn’t it?

Yeah, that’s wtf happened. Still, I don’t see President Gag’s election and his establishment of a Reich as a historic touchstone marking the end of organizational politics. If the sane among us are going to beat the Warthog-in-Chief come 2020, we’ll have to work like a well-oiled machine. In other words, a Party.

Massachussetts congressbeing Tip O’Neill was the dictionary definition of a party pol. The old Speaker of the House was a blustery, back-slapping, deal-cutting, insider’s insider who’d go toe to toe with the Republican opposition during the day and then knock back a few pops with those same rivals until late into the night.

Friendly Rivals: Ronald Reagan (L) & O’Neill

The Republican Party began to change back in the 1970s with the influx of the well-organized fundamentalist Christian Taliban. The Democratic Party followed suit the next decade, transforming itself inversely. The rise of the likes of Gary Hart and then Bill Clinton heralded the Dems’ new method of selecting Mr. Right. They didn’t come up through the ranks, doing grunt work, stuffing envelopes, and sweating in telephone boiler rooms. No, they depended on so-called new technologies and innovative strategies for their ascensions.

O’Neill mourned the passing of the old breed and was skeptical that the new now had the answers. He said:

… [M]any never came through the organization, never rang a doorbell in their life, never were a precinct worker, never stayed late at the polls, never brought people to an election, weren’t brought up in the realm of party discipline.

— as quoted in David Broder’s Changing of the Guard: Power and Leadership in America

2) Speaking of that Republican flyover population, so many of whom constituted something Dick Nixon called the “Silent Majority” and would come to be the money tree that Roger Ailes and his Fox News outfit shook with vigor, as far back as the 1970s viewed the mainstream media with loathing. Here’s an example of their propensity to kill the messenger. In his book, Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right, Dominic Sandbrook recalls the tale of Evel Knievel, the motorcycle daredevil. Sandbrook calls him, “the bourbon-swilling, cane-twirling darling of the southern and western white working classes.” He writes of Knievel’s bigger-than-big, much anticipated televised leap over the Snake River Canyon in his rocket-powered bike, the Skycycle. It turned out to be a glorious flop. Sandbrook writes:

In the event, the Skycycle failed even to make it off the ramp properly, and as the chastened Knievel was whisked away in a limousine, the crowd turned ugly, smashing the televison crews’ equipment, gutting the concession stands, and setting cars on fire.

From Knievel To Trump: A Straight Line

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