Sunday, September 16, 2018

SEPTEMBER 2018 IGNOMINIOUS ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH: THE IGGY


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NOTE: I’m posting this from Salzburg, Austria on the back end of a three-week vacation in Eastern Europe. Though I only had two weeks to search for September IGGY-worthy statements and actions before leaving the U.S., as you can see below I had little trouble finding a solid representative list.

1. Education Secretary Betty DeVos. DeVos floated a couple of plans this month that so stood out in their absurdity, even amongst her many foolish proposals, that she definitely deserves an IGGY nomination.

First, she is considering using a federal grant program to let schools buy guns and pay for firearms training for faculty and staff members. If DeVos had only a modicum of knowledge about education children, she’d know that study after study has equated more guns on campuses with more injuries and death, not to mention numerous research endeavors that stress how harmful a culture of fear is for the learning process.

Sadly, DeVos is not alone in her thinking; lawmakers in 14 states have proposed laws that would use taxpayer dollars to arm educators. I’d like to say unbelievable, but nothing is unbelievable anymore in the Trump age.

Were DeVos not such a tunnel-visioned, right-wing extremist, and was even modestly interested in real solutions to school shootings, she’d realize that violence prevention experts have recommended numerous more promising, and less contentious solutions than her hair-brained plan. These include prioritizing a general level of well-being and comfort students and teachers experience on campus, providing more mental health services, and implementing proven threat-assessment programs.

Her second ignominious idea centers on her plan to replace the Obama administration’s guidelines on campus sexual assault policy with a policy that seeks to protect rapists, abusers, and harassers on college campuses. Among other things, DeVos’s regulations would allow perpetrators to cross-examine survivors during mediation and have access to survivors’ evidence obtained during the investigation. They would also narrow the definition of sexual harassment.

It’s clear that DeVos’s new policy will have a devastating impact on survivors. Just a few months after DeVos rescinded the Obama-era guidance, some colleges simply stopped responding to reports of sexual violence at all.

Now, with new barriers to reporting, survivors could feel even more unsafe to come forward than before—and schools may not provide them with support and care if they do. With these new rules, DeVos is actively endangering and harming survivors while propping up their perpetrators. This ignominious policy must be stopped immediately.

2. Fox News. With 22 and counting, up to my June 16 departure for Eastern Europe, September has been a particularly rich month for mass shootings in America. There were five on Sept. 2 and three on Sept 9. When yet another mass shooting occurs, we can expect the idiot jackasses at Fox News and the National Rifle Association to once again to come up with some ridiculous explanation for why gun-riddled America keeps having these mass shootings despite such things being rare events indeed in every other nation not-currently-at-war.

In the last mass shooting before my departure, it was reported that both the shooter and victims were playing an electronic football simulation, so in the Fox News view it must be the blinky lights and loud noises that are making our citizens buy guns and murder people. Their message: keep the guns, regulate video games.

According to Fox’s Steve Hilton: “The top neuroscientists now can actually show that extended exposure to these video games, all the overstimulation that comes with the games, the loud noises and the colors and the bangs and all that, it literally rewires your brain and it makes it harder for children who are doing this to control their emotions. [...] For things like overuse of smartphones and games, we can step in and say 'This is not supposed to be how kids should be raised,' and we can do something about it.”

Curiously, video games are both available and obsessed-over worldwide, and the people of Japan, Europe, and other nations and regions do not seem to launch into American-style murder sprees. Perhaps Americans are genetically inferior. Perhaps Americans are simply more emotionally unstable than the citizens of all those other regions. Or perhaps it is the ready and widespread access to weapons of mass murder tossed into the hands of any American with a sweaty wad of cash to spend and laws that permit them to carry those mass murder weapons with them at all times just in case they find themselves, on any given day, impulsively wanting to murder someone who has displeased them.

No. It must be "smartphones." It must be the Pokemons, and the Candy Crushings, and the Final Fantasies causing both Americans who have and Americans who haven't played video games to purchase and carry guns for the explicit purpose of murdering people.

It could not possibly have anything to do with our national policy of speedily giving even Americans already known to be unstable or violent access to murder weapons. It could not possibly be the fault of gun manufacturers advertising their weapons as efficient means of murder, or of the National Rifle Association, a domestic terrorism group forever warning that black people or brown people or Muslim people or liberal people are hiding in your mailbox at this very moment, willing to kill you and your entire family if you do not buy not just one gun, but two or five or ten, and keep them at the ready at all times, waiting for that one mysterious twitch that signals your enemies are, at long last, preparing to strike.

It must be "smartphones," says the news network and their idiot hosts and idiot analysts. It cannot be the guns, because we need the guns. If we are truly to have freedom in this nation, we need the guns, and must get rid of the games and the smartphones and the outdoor concerts and the disagreeable newspapers and the feminists who are being too feminist and all the other things that angry up the blood and make the easily enraged white American male want to go on a killing spree. Most other countries must  have it wrong. They don't understand that being able to hold a cold, heavy gun in your hands and dream about who you would murder and why you might do it is the most important freedom to have. Ah, American exceptionalism.

3. Televangelist Pat Robertson. The righteous one spoke at a special prayer service at his Christian Broadcasting Network ordering Hurricane Florence not to harm any of his facilities and to turn back out to sea.

Hurricane Florence is currently a Category 4 storm that is expected to hit the eastern coast of the United States sometime later this week (9/10). In preparation, Robertson is declaring a “shield of protection” over his CBN network and Regent University and calling on God to intervene and turn the storm away from land.

Robertson claimed that when he first arrived in Virginia in 1961 to establish CBN, the region was threatened by Hurricane Esther, which he feared would destroy his fledgling network. As such, Robertson and his staff gathered in prayer and commanded the storm to shift course, which he claims miraculously happened because God stepped in to save CBN.

With another storm approaching, Robertson again gathered with CBN staff today to order Florence to veer away from land and produce no damage.

“I don’t want that thing to come in,” Robertson said. “I don’t want it to hurt Regent, I don’t want it to hurt CBN, I don’t want it to tear up the beautiful campus, I don’t want it to tear these trees down, I don’t want to see any damage, I don’t want a bunch of glass flowing, and I don’t want [damage] all over this area that is counting on us to pray for them.”

Robertson then commanded Florence, in the name of Jesus, to change its path away from land and to spin off into the Atlantic Ocean.

“We declare in the name of the Lord that you shall go no farther, you shall do no damage in this area,” he said. “We declare a shield of protection all over Tidewater and we declare a shield of protection over those innocent people in the path of this hurricane. In Jesus’ holy name, be out to sea!”

Robertson then assured those who had gathered in prayer that they will “live to mark this day” as the moment when their prayers guaranteed that “we are not going to let Hurricane Florence hurt us.”

Ah, finally a solution to the problem of climate change. Forget about reducing greenhouse gasses. Since weather patterns are reflections of God’s will, we must turn to God to spare us from the ravages of extreme storms and wildfires. Now we have a solution: just call Pat.

Well, Pat, how did your prayers work out with Hurricane Florence?

4. Lara Trump. The daughter-in-law of and senior adviser to President Trump, appeared on Bill Mitchell’s “YourVoice America” program on Sept. 9 where she declared that Trump is “a man ahead of his time” who will go down in history as “one of the greatest presidents this country has ever seen.”

Trump said that she and other members of the Trump family are “happy to take the slings and arrows” because they know that they are working “for the betterment of this country” and for a man whom history will regard as one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.

“I actually remind the president often that he is a man actually ahead of his time,” Lara Trump said. “Often times, great leaders, in their time, are not understood. Look at Winston Churchill, look at even Ronald Reagan … Abraham Lincoln, the list goes on.”

“The reality is that this president is the perfect president for right now,” she continued. “He is what this country needs, even though there are many people that cannot fully appreciate it. I always say that this is a president that is going to go down as one of the greatest presidents this country has ever seen.”

Acute delusional syndrome seems to run in the family. The greatest the world has ever seen? Right! In the end Trump will take his rightful place in presidential history, well below Harding, Fillmore, and Andrew Johnson, and in world history a tick above Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin.

5. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Numerous immigration judges blasted Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III for his remarks to dozens of new judges earlier in the month where he not only complained about immigration courts that show too much “sympathy” in decisions, but also claimed that immigration attorneys are “like water seeping through an earthen dam—to get around the plain words of the [Immigration and Nationality Act] to advance their clients’ interests.”

“We possess brains and hearts, not just one or the other,” said one former immigration judge and current immigration attorney, Jeffrey Chase. “Sessions is characterizing decisions he personally disagrees with as being based on sympathy alone, when in fact, those decisions were driven by sympathy but based on solid legal reasoning.” The frightening reality is that the attorney general has vast power over immigration courts, and as the latest occupant of that office, Sessions has made it his mission to have the courts and immigration policy match his nativist radicalism.

As attorney general, Sessions has taken steps to stomp asylum claims from those fleeing domestic violence that could send thousands back to their deaths. In addition to establishing a quota system for immigration judges, he helped implement the barbaric “zero tolerance” policy that kidnapped nearly 3,000 migrant children from the arms of parents, including asylum seekers.

In April, one former immigration judge called Sessions’s quota plan “an affront to judicial independence and the due process of law,” which was again echoed by other immigration judges following the speech to the new judges this week. “The reality is that it is a political statement which does not articulate a legal concept that judges are required to be aware of and follow,” said immigration judge Dana Marks. “It did appear to be a one-sided argument made by a prosecutor.”

This may be the one of the primary reasons, plenty of immigrant rights advocates have speculated, why Sessions continues to stay put in his job despite ongoing humiliation and other abuse from Donald Trump (not that anyone feels sorry for America’s most racist Keebler elf). His vast power gives him the chance to deport both undocumented immigrants with deep roots here and more recent asylum seekers who are fleeing danger in areas like Central America. In other words, he’ll have to be dragged out of the DOJ building by the ankles.

6.  National Security Adviser John R. Bolton.  Echoing words of warlords, despots and dictators, whose arguments have long been dismissed by the West, John Bolton declared the International Criminal Court "ineffective, unaccountable, and indeed outright dangerous," and threatened sanctions against the court's prosecutors and judges who pursued cases against Americans.  Bolton's speech was just the latest example of the Trump Administration's disdain for for global organizations.

Bolton's outburst trashes whatever is left of the international credibility of the U.S. as an advocate for international order, justice and the rule of law.  It sends a clear message to world leaders to ignore the court's authority.

Bolton's threat was not a stark departure from the past as Washington has always regarded the court warily, fearing that it would be used against American troops as a way to subvert Washington's foreign policy decisions.  While Congress never ratified the ICC treaty, Presidents Bush and Obama gave the court at least tacit approval.  Now, lip-service has ended.

With the U.S. involved in so many wars and military incursions abroad, and having abused and tortured prisoners, American hostility to being investigated for crimes against humanity is understandable. This, however, doesn't justify it, especially when the hostility comes from a country that boasts of its commitment to justice and the rule of law--and, one that hosts the United Nations.

The Trump administration has made great strides in making America great again; unfortunately it's a white nationalistic greatness that scorns international laws and organizations and finds comfort with despots, dictators, and strongmen.
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And the winner is . . .

Lara Trump’s comment is delusional, Robertson’ arrogant, Fox News’ pure idiocy, and Sessions’ action reflects his total lack of humanity, (like his boss), but DeVos’ actions are the epitome of ignominious. So, this month’s IGGY goes to Betty DeVos.


1 comment:

  1. Hard to beat DeVos, an Education Secretary who doesn't seem to believe in public education. But then, Trump promised that he would get only the best people. On the other hand, it was Kennedy and Johnson's "best and brightest" who managed to get us deeper and deeper into the tragedy of Viet Nam. So maybe the opposite approach, Trump's hiring of the dumb, dumber and dumbest is just what we need to keep the US out of such pointless wars? How fiendishly devious. Just an idle thought. (BTW, correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that the largest increase in the defense spending was the increase from the last Eisenhower defense budget and the Kennedy budget. Of course, this would contradict Trump's claim that he has provided more for the armed forces than anyone in US history.)

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