Tuesday, August 1, 2017



I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with the term “bonehead absurdity” as an apt description of the asinine statements I nominate each month for the infamous Bonehead Absurdity Award. ”Bonehead” suggests a foolish or stupid person who, possibly without thinking, blurts out an absurdity--a slip of the tongue, if you will. Looking back over nearly four years of bonehead absurdities, it is clear to me, and a number of Phronesis readers, that the absurd utterances I select do not represent momentary lapses of judgment; On the contrary, they provide a window into the character, values, and beliefs of the speakers. The utterances demonstrate ignorance, to be sure, but more importantly they reveal deceit, hate, mendacity, moral corruption, empathy deprivation, and, in many cases, depravity-- some of the speakers are downright evil to the core.

I have not been alone among Phronesis readers thinking that “Bonehead Absurdity” didn’t capture the essence of the shameful utterances. Loyal reader Jim Dubbs responded recently that the speakers defy definition in the extent of their stupidity or, of what he considers worse, "their willful and cynical exploitation of the baser instincts, fears, ignorance and gullibility of so much of the US population." I'd like to think an exploitation purpose motivated their absurd comments, but my sense is they reveal a deeper truth.  I think they really speak volumes about what's in their hearts and souls. These people simply can't help themselves.  A new name for the monthly award is thus called for.

No single term aptly conveys the disgraceful utterances I highlight each month. Perhaps one that comes closest is ignominious, meaning deserving of public disgrace or shame (at least from the thinking public). In recognition of the ignominious nature of the nominated absurdities, I will henceforth call the award the Ignominious Absurdity of the Month, or IGGY for short. Let all future IGGY winners will live on in Phronesis infamy.

1. Rick Wiles of TruNews. By now, you’ve heard that some Republicans have pointed the finger at liberals for the Alexandria shooting. Well, one religious right pastor took it to another level. He called for Democrats and their supporters to be rounded up en masse.

You may recall that in 2014, Rick Wiles called for a military coup against Obama. And yet, ever since Trump took office, he has warned that any opposition to Trump amounts to sedition. Hours after the Alexandria shooting, Wiles took his new line to its logical extreme—calling for a real-life version of Order 66. Listen to the whole thing here, or catch the highlights via Right Wing Watch.

Wiles claimed the shooting was the latest product of an attempt by the deep state—or, as he calls it, “the dark state”—to push Trump out. He accused the deep state and its allies on both sides of the aisle of “whipping up sedition” against Trump. To Wiles’ mind, there is only one solution—the Democrats must be branded as “a violent, seditious political movement” and disbanded.

Co-host Ed Szall asked if the “agitators in the media” should go as well. Wiles’response?

“I think they should be rounded up. It’s getting out of control. This was an attempted mass assassination today. Are we going to wait another month or two, until 30 or 40 members of Congress are mowed down? Are we going to wait until a Democrat socialist progressive commits an act of violence against Republicans?”

He then railed about Democratic attacks on Trump supporters both during and after the campaign—forgetting about the numerous acts of violence at Trump rallies, as well as the ugly and outright criminal trolling by alt-right thugs on Twitter.

But facts didn’t matter to Wiles. He claimed that the Democrats are trying to start an American version of the French Revolution. For that reason, he believes it’s time for the hammer to come down—now.

“Rachel Maddow ought to be taken off the air right now. MSNBC should be shut down. The Democratic Party should be disbanded as a violent, socialist seditious organization. It is NOT the party of Harry Truman. It’s certainly not the party of Thomas Jefferson. This is a seditious group. These are violent revolutionaries."

Wow. He’s openly calling for a real-life version of “Revenge of the Sith.” This is fascism, plain and simple.

2. GOP Sen. Ted Cruz. Cruz dismissed Washington's Russia "obsession" as the "Democratic talking point du jour." Now, some of you might view the idea of allowing a hostile foreign government to undermine the will of the American people as a problem, but Cruz isn't one of them. He told MSNBC's Kasie Hunt that President Obama is the real problem.

Cruz: “I think that we have had eight years of Barack Obama showing nothing but appeasement         towards Russia –
Hunt: “President Trump is not appeasing Russia?”
Cruz: “Actually if you look on substance [but instead of talking Trump substance right here, Cruz immediately pivots back to Obama], part of the irony of this media obsession with Russia, is that the Obama administration began with Hillary Clinton bringing a big red reset button to Russia, saying they were going to reset the relationship with Russia...”

What Clinton didn't do was say, hey, if you hand me the next election, we'll give you a pass on everything, including any invasions of other sovereign nations and/or interference in their democratically held elections—which is exactly what team Trump did when they changed the GOP platform last summer to deprive Ukraine of U.S. assistance in opposing Russia's invasion and annexing of Crimea. In fact, it was a Cruz delegate's proposal to "provide lethal defensive weapons" to Ukraine that Trump officials iced during that platform debate.

But in Tuesday's interview, Cruz attacked the Obama administration for doing "nothing" to punish Russian aggression (except, of course, imposing sanctions in 2014 and repeatedly expanding them).

After Cruz impugned Obama for not doing enough, MSNBC’s Hunt tried to turn back to Trump one more time, since technically he is the president now. ...

Hunt: “President Trump is trying to water down a sanctions bill you voted for.”
Cruz ignored her entirely and kept talking Obama, then praised Trump's new posture toward Russia.

“I'm glad the Trump administration is returning to a common sense defense of our allies against our adversaries and -- substance matters. Policy matters. I think standing up using all of the tools we have to constrain Putin's and Russia's aggression is a good thing to do. And I think one of the real problems with the Obama-Hillary Clinton foreign policy is that it facilitated Russian aggression and I'm glad we're not doing that anymore.”

Exit Cruz, who never once addressed Trump's constant praise for Putin, Trump’s complete failure to hold Putin accountable for his intrusion into our 2016 election, or team Trump's explicit efforts to stall a new Russia sanctions bill the Senate approved 98-2 several weeks ago.

Will Republicans ever stop blaming Obama for, well, everything?  Can't you just hear them in 2100 when rising sea levels have engulfed much of coastlines of the U.S?  Damn that Obama!

3. President Donald Trump. At rallies, speeches, and on twitter, Trump has boasted that he has signed more legislation—42 as of mid-July--than any American president in history and claimed further that he had bested them all in turning those bills into law.

“We’ve signed more bills—and I’m talking about through the legislature—than any president ever,” Trump said at a “Made in America” event at the White House. “For a while Harry Truman had us. And now, I think we have everybody.”

In fact as he approached six months in office on the 20th Mr. Trump is slightly behind the law-making pace for the last six presidents, who as a group signed an average of 43 bills during the same period. And an analysis of the bills Trump signed shows that about half were minor and inconsequential, passed by Congress with little debate. In fact, Trump was below average on both the number and substance of the bills passed. Jimmie Carter signed 70 bills during his first six months.

This is the Trump we’ve come to know: a practitioner of historical amnesia who constantly plays loose with facts. On the other hand, maybe we should be giddy that Trump hasn’t signed more substantial legislation, like on tax cuts for the rich, the inhuman GOP plan to repeal and replace the ACA, and more reversals of Obama regulations.

4. Vice President Mike Pence. Pence recently sent the political punditry world on fire when he addressed the National Governors Association and made the outrageous and fictitious claim that the Republican healthcare bill “strengthened and secured Medicaid,” saying:

“Let me be clear: The Senate health-care bill strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society.”

In fact, the Republican bill would slash nearly $1 trillion and devastate Medicaid funding and the citizens, mostly children, elderly and the disabled who rely on it: The results, according to independent analyses, would be major reductions in federal spending on Medicaid over time. States would be left deciding whether to raise more money to make up the difference, or to cut back on medical coverage for people using the program. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the changes would lead to a reduction in spending on Medicaid of more than $800 billion over a decade.

During the same speech, he offered up another lie to the audience, claiming 60,000 disabled citizens in Ohio are on waiting lists for health care. Ohio Governor John Kasich’s spokesperson immediately responded calling Pence’s claim "false" and "fake news."

Pence has a long history of telling whoppers, including that “smoking doesn’t kill,” (a government large “enough to go after smokers is big enough to go after you”), global warming is a myth, George Washington was a Republican, and Donald Trump never broke his promise to release his taxes. His current boss aside, you’d be hard-pressed to name another politician who so openly and freely spews one lie after another. The GOP fish is indeed rotting from the head.

5. Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel. Mandel, who has been busy running for the same Senate seat in Ohio for more than six years now, has decided to throw his lot in with the absolute worst right-wing scum living in America today. Mike Cernovich is a conservative cult figure who is most infamous for pushing "Pizzagate," the breathtakingly psychotic conspiracy theory that a Washington, D.C. pizzeria housed a child sex ring frequented by top Democrats.

It was enough to make flat-earthers look sane, but the fact that Pizzagate was of course a total lie hasn’t stopped Cernovich. In his latest bugout, he claims that the Anti-Defamation League, a century-old organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, has targeted him for murder. Yep, you read that right. The ADL, you see, just released a report naming 36 leading purveyors of hate from both the “alt-right” and the closely linked "alt-lite," a movement that purports to eschew the overt white supremacy of the "alt-right” but yet somehow manages to be just as hateful toward women, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, and blacks.

That prompted Cernovich to tweet that the ADL has created a "Hit List of Political Opponents, Inciting Terrorism," which in turn inspired Mandel to rush to the defense of Cernovich and Jack Posobiec, another hate-peddler highlighted by the ADL. Astoundingly, Mandel declared:

"Sad to see @ADL_National become a partisan witch hunt group targeting people for political beliefs. I stand with @Cernovich & @JackPosobiec."

Not only that, when called on it, Mandel's campaign stood by the tweet and shamelessly used his own family's suffering to issue a further attack on the ADL:

"As the grandson of Holocaust survivors and as a Marine who defended our freedom, Treasurer Mandel believes the ADL is dead wrong for creating hit lists on American citizens. Of all organizations, the ADL should know that making target lists of people based on their political beliefs is a dangerous practice and slippery slope."

This is as disgusting as it is terrifying. The GOP's top Senate candidate in a major race is siding with an insane conspiracy theorist and engaging in a baseless, histrionic assault against the leading organization devoted to protecting Jews from the very kinds of hatred that Cernovich and his ilk promote. This only further cements Mandel as the very worst that Republicans have to offer.

6. AG Jeff Sessions. Oh how righteous Jeff Sessions was, as a longtime member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, when he repeatedly would asked Justice Department nominees to pledge their independence from the president. It was the Sessions litmus test for confirmation. In Sally Yates’ confirmation hearing, he made it clear that the Justice Department should push back if the president ever issues an “improper” directive, warning “You have to watch out because people will be asking you to do things, and you need to say no.”

At his own confirmation hearing, he said “the office of the attorney general is not a normal political office. He or she cannot be a mere rubber stamp.”

Now, in stark contrast to the emphasis he has placed for years on the independence of the Justice Department, Sessions is missing few opportunities to pledge his subordinacy to President Trump. He now says he wants to charge ahead in enacting policy priorities “under Trump’s direction.” (Astonishingly, this is apparently not enough fealty for the paranoid Donald.)  Stay tuned.

What a hypocrite! Sessions and most of his fellow Republicans are taking hypocrisy to a new historical extreme. Whether one contrasts the relish they” investigated” the Benghazi affair, or how they went after Hillary’s emails, with their current soft-peddling of the far more significant Russian connection, or how they went for the Obama’s juggler for nearly everything he did while giving a pass to President Trump’s numerous, unprecedented transgressions, their setting a new low for double standards.

Blatant hypocrisy is indeed shameful and hence worthy of IGGY consideration.

7. Blake Farenthold (R-Tx). Leave it a South Texan o suggest an “Aaron-Burr-style” duel be used to settle disagreement over health care with “female” senators.

“If it were a guy from South Texas,” Mr. Farenthold told a Texas radio station, “I might have asked him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr style.”

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), an opponent of the current GOP healthcare plan, and a target of Farenthold’s wrath, responded “I’ve been in the Senate for 20 years. I have never ever had anyone suggest a duel as a way to solve a dispute.”

The astonished Collins should be honored Farenthold didn’t suggest the Guillotine, which would be par for the civility course in our governing institutions these days.

And the winner is . . .

Jeff Sessions.  The recent noxious expressions of support for the embattled Attorney General are shameful.  The man is a hate-filled, two-faced, deceitful, racist who is an embarrassment to everything our country stands for.  That so many Republicans have rallied to his defense speaks volumes on the contemporary state of GOP. Sessions is indeed a worthy recipient of the first IGGY award.


  1. I like the new name. The IGGY Award will be hotly contested in the coming months, but AG Jeff Sessions has set a high (low?) bar. Unfortunately, the Mooch wasn't around long enough to showcase his particular chops.

  2. As absurd and stupid as they appear, I still maintain that there is a cynical, calculated exploitative purpose behind most of these gentlemen's ignominious statements. I don't know anything about Wiles or Mandel, but the others fit the mold. In any case, while Sessions is always a good IGGY candidate, Farenthold's Burr/Hamilton-like duel suggestion is my choice. I mean, c'mon, a duel? That's hard to beat. I can see a remake of "High Noon," and in deference to Marx, as a farce, of course.

    1. Hard to argue with your logic here even though I picked Cruz. I could see an SNL skit in this, with members of the Hamilton cast!

  3. I agree with Charles about the new name. IGGY is catchy!
    You have so many worthy candidates this month. Most months, any one of these would win hands down. However, there is one that stands out more to me then AG Sessions and that is Ted Cruz. Ted steadfastly refuses to say anything bad about Trump or comment on his latest twitter tantrum because he is afraid of Trump voters and some big donors. He stays quiet despite Trump accusing his father of participating in the assassination of JFK, despite a tweet of his wife showing her as ugly compared to Melania, and despite accusing him of illegally stealing the Iowa caucuses. In light of the way Trump attacked him and his family, it's astonishing the cowardice he displays about criticizing him. Everything is either "no comment" or it's Obama's fault.


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