Thursday, May 3, 2018

APRIL 2018 IGNOMINIOUS ABSURDITY AWARD: THE IGGY

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1. Devin Nunes. The Trump era has brought forth a multitude of ignominities. We seem to jump from crisis to crisis. In his first year in office, President Trump has visited numerous horrors on Americans as well as citizens throughout the world.

So, what does Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Select Intelligence Committee, consider to be one of the most serious hazards facing America? Well, of course, it's late night television comedy, and specifically Stephen Colbert. Nunes was interviewed on Fox News by their resident Financial Distortion Anchor, Neil Cavuto. The segment had nothing to do with the economy, but it did get to the bottom of the frightening assault on America by radical satirists. It began with this probing exchange:

Cavuto: "You mention that the media doesn't present a fair case of [Trump/Russia]. Maybe the indication of that is that you've recently become the butt of late night comic jokes. Particularly Stephen Colbert was up on Capitol Hill. I think making you the butt of some jokes. What did you think of that? Did Colbert make any effort to talk to you?"

Nunes: "Well, I think that this is the danger that we have in this country. The left controls not only the universities in this country, but they also control Hollywood in this country, and the mainstream media. So, conservatives in this country are under attack and I think this is a great example of it."

Exactly. Stephen Colbert absolutely is "the danger" that America faces. And kudos to Cavuto for bringing up this looming peril. Where else but on Fox News could this travesty be exposed? Nunes points out that the reason the nation is undergoing such unprecedented turmoil is that leftists have seized control of the most powerful institutions in the country -- universities and Hollywood -- and are using them to enslave the minds of decent citizens. However, he doesn't explain why these scurrilous lefties allowed Republicans to control the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the White House.

Also unexplained is how the special counsel, Robert Mueller, managed to get (so far) 19 indictments and five guilty pleas connected to his investigation of Trump's unsavory connections to Russia. But rest assured, somehow it's the fault of universities, Hollywood, and Colbert. And Nunes isn't taking it lying down. He doesn't intend to be the butt of anyone's joke, no matter how much he deserves it. In fact, he likes it:

Nunes: "So I hope they continue to do it. Because on the one hand you'll see the left and the media running out there saying 'OMG, this is the end of the world. The Russians attacked our democracy. And we have evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.' However, they can't show it. They have no proof [...] they resort to going to their friends in Hollywood to make fun of people and attack people who are trying to get to the truth. I enjoy the attacks. If they want to continue to attack me, that's fine."

Well, we certainly wouldn't want to disappoint him, would we? Although it's puzzling that he says he enjoys it while simultaneously complaining that it's an unfair attack and a danger to the country. Is he an unpatriotic masochist?

Nunes' remarks were rife with allegations as to the identity of the real colluders -- naturally, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. And when Cavuto asked him about allegations that he was "doing the President's bidding," he curiously replied "I don't know." Then quickly stammering to add "I mean, we don't get any orders from the White House." Which makes perfect sense. They are probably coming from Mar-A-Lago, where the President spends most of his time.

Nunes went on to praise his committee's work and insisted that he "follows the facts where they lead." So long as they lead to Clinton and the Democrats. He refused to allow his Democratic committee colleagues to call witnesses. And he wouldn't hold White House witnesses accountable when they refused to answer questions. Nunes falsely claimed that 'no one would know ... that Fusion GPS was paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party' but for his efforts. In fact, it was reported by the (fake?) media long before he ever got around to it. No surprise his committee subsequently ended its investigation of a possible connection between the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in our election.

Once again, Fox News uncovers the atrocities in Washington that are neglected by the "mainstream" media (which, for some reason doesn't include Fox News). And heroes like Devin Nunes are permitted time to inform the American people about what is really going on in this gawd-awful country. With journalism like this we will hopefully soon be rid of fake reporters like Colbert who are working tirelessly to destroy America.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

PATERNO, THE MOVIE

By Charles Snow


PATERNO PACINO
AL PACINO AS JOE PATERNO


Recently I watched Paterno, HBO’s made-for-TV movie. I couldn’t tell for certain from the previews what this movie was going to be about. Would it focus on the child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State caused by Jerry Sandusky, Paterno’s long-time assistant coach? Would it be about Paterno the fallen hero, a legendary football coach being brought down by the Sandusky scandal and Penn State’s handling of it? Or, perhaps, would it be a standard biopic of Paterno the man – his childhood experiences, five-decade leadership of the Penn State football program, and his many accomplishments as an individual? Remember, also, I was a faculty member at Penn State during much of this period, so I could not approach the movie with any pretense of objectivity.

As movies go, I did not find Paterno to be riveting drama. In fact, I did not think the movie was emotional or moving at all. Al Pacino did a good job of imitating Paterno’s gruff voice and limping gait, but the other performances were as average as one would expect from a TV movie. The Sandusky scandal had all the makings of a very interesting movie – if a screenwriter unleashed his or her imagination and created a fictional movie using the real characters and context.

Paterno was an icon: great football coach, Catholic churchgoer, fundraising chairman of the campaign to expand the Penn State library, possible Republican gubernatorial candidate after retirement, and much more. Sandusky was a great defensive coach who many credited for Penn State’s two national football championships. He also started the Second Mile, a charitable organization that helped more than 10,000 underprivileged kids (and also served as his conduit for finding boys to groom).

The local District Attorney who decided not to press charges against Sandusky in one particular incident mysteriously disappeared and has not been heard from since. Penn State’s Board of Trustees fired Paterno without bothering to follow the norms and practices of due process. Three top Penn State administrators may or may not have covered up portions of this mess (the court decided they did not and convicted them of the lesser charge of child endangerment). And, all of this behavior occurred over a period of many years in a small Pennsylvania town where virtually everybody bleeds Blue and White.

The movie I saw seemed to be Paterno the ‘conflicted man’, apparently unaware of Sandusky’s criminal behavior until he is confronted with it by Sandusky’s indictment and, later, in some stiff and awkward conversations with his family members. If this was the movie’s intent, then it should have been tightly focused on the various conflicts that Paterno wrestled with: his own failings in helping a child in need, his relationship with Sandusky, and his role as an ambassador of Penn State University. Pacino could have portrayed the pained and struggling Paterno with the emotions needed to make this a movie truly worth watching.

PATERNO
PATERNO AND SANDUSKY









Sunday, April 1, 2018

MARCH 2018 IGNOMINIOUS ABUSRDITY OF THE MONTH: THE IGGY



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1. White House Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. It’s about time to list Sanders as an IGGY candidate. Multiple lying certainly constitutes ignominious behavior. Her latest whopper involves confirming the story she told after Trump’s total fabrication of why he fired James Comey.

While Trump forced Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to write him a cover excuse for dropping Comey on the incredible premise that Trump was upset over Comey being too mean to Hillary Clinton, Sanders attempted to post-justify the firing with another idea: that Comey was simply bad at his job.

MS. SANDERS: The President, over the last several months, lost confidence in Director Comey.  The DOJ lost confidence in Director Comey.  Bipartisan members of Congress made it clear that they had lost confidence in Director Comey.  And most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.

The idea that the FBI “rank and file” was anti-Comey and happy about his dismissal was one that Sanders returned to again and again.

When asked why she was so confident the rank and file within the Bureau lost faith in the FBI director, when an inside special agent previously wrote that “the vast majority of the Bureau is in favor of Director Comey . . .the real losers here are 20,000 front-line people in the organization because they lost the only guy working here in the past 15 years who actually cared about them,” Sanders offered this response:

“Well, I can speak to my own personal experience.  I’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the President’s decision.  And I think that we may have to agree to disagree.  I’m sure that there are some people that are disappointed, but I certainly heard from a large number of individuals — and that’s just myself — and I don’t even know that many people in the FBI.”

But now thousands of FBI memos from that period have been released, and Lawfare has detailed their contents. The truth is that agents at all levels were shocked and upset by Comey’s firing, and that Sarah Huckabee Sanders was pushing an enormous lie—which is the one thing about this affair that’s not shocking.

“Countless” is obviously Sarah Sanders’ term for “zero.” Because that’s how many FBI agents seemed to be in agreement with the decision as indicated by the recently released emails.

Since the Comey firing, Trump has been engaged in an ongoing effort to demean and degrade the FBI for the sole purpose of protecting himself from the continuing revelations being uncovered in the Russia investigation. And Sarah Sanders has continued to do what she’s done every day on the job—lie her ass off.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

TRUMP BLOWBACK GROWS: PROGRESSIVE UPDATE

pROGRESSIVE IV

By Ronald T. Fox

In my previous post on overcoming Trump Fatigue, I argued that the multiple horrors of Trumpism have awakened American progressives, who are energizing a wide array or movements on the left. The movements, while not radically progressive, are pervasively so, as political scientists Lara Putnam and Theda Skocpol have shown. They’re more bottom up than top down and more face-to-face than virtual. The movements may not be a harbinger of transformative progressive change, but for now they are certainly shaking up American politics.

Progressive activism has reshaped our national dialogue on such issues as immigration, climate change, woman’s rights, the rule of law, and gun control. Its greatest success so far, however, has been in flipping Republican seats in oft-ignored state and local elections.

To document the many ways millions of angry Americans are successfully fighting back against Trumpism, I will henceforth periodically report on progressive political victories springing up around the United States. Heaven knows we get enough Trumpism bad news; good news needs to be noted, if for nothing else then to assuage some of our Trump Fatigue. Let this be the first installment of the Phronesis “Progressive Grassroots Update.”

Saturday, March 3, 2018

FEBRUARY 2018 IGNOMINIOUS ABSURDITY AWARD: THE IGGY

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1. Devin Nunes (R-Ca). We are still struggling to understand why, specifically, California-based Rep. Devin Nunes has wagered his entire career and future place in the history books on a collaborative effort with the White House to shut down the investigation of Russia's espionage and intelligence efforts against the United States during the 2016 presidential elections.

It cannot seemingly be explained as an attempt to get Trump off the hook for, for example, the Trump Tower meeting we now know about between his top campaign staff and/or family and agents who represented themselves as being "part of" the Russian government's support for Trump's campaign. There would be no reason for Nunes to insert himself in that, at least not to the extent of himself inviting obstruction of justice charges. But he persists, and persists some more, and doubles down.

Listen to him sputter on the Sean Hannity Screaming-Shouty Hour, spouting things about his latest "memo" that even Glenn Beck's chalkboard would find too humiliating to put up with. The man isn't just chewing the scenery, he's dousing it in an expensive vinaigrette first.

“There's clear evidence of collusion—that the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign colluded with the Russians,” Nunes said, using his appearance on prime time’s top-rated cable-news show to decry the supposed “crickets from the media” about the biggest political story of the past week.

What planet is Nunes living on? Somehow Nunes conveniently forgot that law enforcement had been alerted about possible Russian interference well before the Stele revelations. This is what landed Trump's new (and old) campaign buddies on the counterintelligence radar. The Democratic Party (in addition to, lest we forget, a passel of Trump's fellow Republicans) hired a firm to do opposition research on Trump. The opposition research included the efforts of a well-regarded British ex-spy with the sort of worldwide contacts you would expect a British ex-spy to have; it turned up such a trove of information about shady Trump ties that the researchers felt obliged to contact the FBI about what they had learned, for fear that Trump was, at the least, a potential blackmail target.

Perhaps the Hannity audience enjoys watching the Nunes circus, but to the rest of us it looks like a clown lighting himself on fire and daring us all to watch. Nunes repeatedly told Hannity that his memo had turned the tables on Democrats, saying “the counterintelligence investigation should have been opened up against the Hillary campaign when they got ahold of the dossier.” He added: “I just go by the old rule: Whatever they accuse you of doing, they’re actually doing,” Nunes said.

Nunes is quite wedded to this concept that the real crime here is not that anyone on the Trump campaign team, or transition team, or within the White House did anything wrong, but that Democrats found out. He is all-in on the notion that, after going to law enforcement with the information they had learned about Trump's potential Russian ties, not just the investigators, but the Hillary Clinton campaign itself, ought to have been treated as enemies of the state.

This is, lest we forget, batshit. It's utterly insane. It is beyond the realm of rational speech as we know it, and then some. And there's no way to interpret a sitting congressman saying these things other than as an attempt to throw a flash-bang grenade into the discourse and duck out the back before anyone notices.

There is no rational reason for Devin Nunes to be climbing so far out on this limb for the likes of bragging, bleating nobody Carter Page. There is no rational reason for Nunes to go to these rhetorical lengths to shutter an investigation into money laundering by people Trump claims to have barely known. Congress critters are deeply selfish and self-absorbed people, and do not readily torpedo their own careers for the sake of random consultants and advisers. Nunes is a piece of work.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

JANUARY 2018 IGNOMINIOUS ABSURDITY AWARD: THE IGGY

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1.  Trump spokesperson Kellyann Conway.  Conway continues to be a factory for a mind-boggling combination of ridiculous nonsense and terrifying nonsense. Donald Trump’s leading non-Ivanka woman continues to assail the media for harping on her reference to blatant lies as “alternative facts”—gosh, why would that draw notice, especially when it’s such a perfect statement of how your boss plans to govern? Conway launched into a rant about how media figures who criticized Trump should be fired:

“Not one network person has been let go. Not one silly political analyst and pundit who talked smack all day long about Donald Trump has been let go. They are on panels every Sunday. They’re on cable news every day.”

Yeah, funny, being critical of a political candidate—even of the president—is not a firing offense in a country with a free press. Which the United States still technically is, though apparently not for long if the Trump team gets their way. Conway and the rest of the fabricators really think people should be fired for having insulted the man in the tackily gilded tower. She went on:

“Who’s the first editorial -- the first blogger that will be left out that embarrassed his or her outlet? We know all their names. I’m too polite to call them by name. But they know who they are, and they’re all wondering, will I be the first to go? The election was three months ago. None of them have been let go.”

There are lots of reasons to fire lots of cable pundits, but pointing out what Donald Trump is? Not one of them. Then maybe, just maybe, Conway realized she’d gone a little too far and tried to sound righteous. All of this, by the way, is part of one epic rant, not responses to a series of different questions:

“And yet we deal with him every single day. We turn the other cheek. If you are part of team Trump, you walk around with these gaping, seeping wounds every single day, and that's fine. I believe in a full and fair press.  I’m here every Sunday morning. I haven't slept in a month. I believe in a full and fair press.”

Notice she doesn’t say she believes in a free press, but a “full and fair” one, whatever that means. Fair to Trump, as Trump sees it? But mostly, here’s a statement that requires more than the world’s tiniest violin. We need the world’s tiniest symphony playing a requiem for poor Kellyanne and her gaping, seeping wounds and lack of sleep.

The amount of whining and weakness here is astonishing. If you are part of team Trump, you are participating in keeping people out of the country on the basis of their religion (and failure to come from a country where Donald Trump does business), you are working to strip health insurance from tens of millions of people, you are supporting a sick tax scam, you are pushing white supremacy and misogyny and bigotry … but let’s talk about your gaping, seeping wounds from some cable pundits saying mean things about your boss, in an election in which CNN specifically hired pro-Trump pundits to wax adulatory about everything he said and did.

This is pathetic. Except that the threat to the country that this mindset represents can’t be underestimated.

Monday, January 22, 2018

OVERCOMING TRUMP FATIGUE

TRUMP FATIGUE II


By Ronald T. Fox

Are you tired of being bombarded with news about Donald Trump? About his half-truths, lies, fabrications, and contradictions, his well-documented bigotry, greed, name-calling, intimidation and vindictiveness, his hypocrisy, bullying, misogyny,  xenophobia, and disrespect for our allies and blustering threats to our enemies? What about his narcissism, boasting, false claims and blame avoidance, or his fox-in-the-hen-house administrative appointments? How about his cuts in social programs, deregulating, and looting of the nation to enhance the wealth of his one-percenter friends? Does Trump’s utter contempt for our Constitution and principles of democracy, including speech, press and religious freedom, make you want to vomit? Are you sick of all the media attention he attracts—his every utterance treated as “breaking news” (often at the expense of more important issues)? Are you terrified by what this visibly mentally disturbed man might do at home and abroad?

Has all this become overwhelming? If it has, then you could be suffering from Trump Fatigue.