nunesghazi

In the constellation of Republican Fuckwittery, Devin Nunes has always been among the dimmest of stars. It’s not because he’s stupid, it’s — wait, let me rephrase that. It’s not just because he’s stupid, it’s also because until recently he’d never done anything worth anybody’s notice.

Nunes was your basic Republican Drone — anti-science, climate change denier, anti-choice, Koch Brothers addict, anti-tax, anti-Planned Parenthood, pro-Citizens United. Very pro-Citizens United. So pro, in fact, he supported the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act, which made it harder for the IRS to discover the names of donors to so-called “social welfare” nonprofit groups, which made it easier for funds from foreign sources (like, for example, Russia) to be used to covertly influence U.S. election politics.

But in 2015, that began to change. Based on his education (he has a B.S. in agricultural business and an M.S. in agriculture) and his extensive experience (he was appointed to be the California State Director for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development section) Nunes was selected to become the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

And lawdy, that boy has made a name for himself now. Let’s take a look at how Nunes has distinguished himself recently, shall we?

  • Served on Comrade Trump’s presidential transition team.
  • Announced the intelligence community had no evidence of contact between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign or the Trump transition team.
  • Rejected calls for him to subpoena Trump’s tax returns to determine if there were financial ties to Russia.
  • Rejected demands for a House select committee to conduct an investigation into the Trump-Russia connection, saying “There’s nothing there.”
  • Called Michael T. Flynn, Comrade Trump’s National Security Adviser “the best intelligence officer of his time.”
  • After Michael T. Flynn resigned due to lying about his ties to Russia, said the Intelligence Committee wouldn’t investigate Flynn’s ties to Russia because, “From everything that I can see, his conversations with the Russian ambassador — he was doing this country a favor, and he should be thanked for it.”
  • Defends Comrade Trump’s tweets about his ‘wires being tapped’ illegally by President Obama.
  • Michael Ellis, a lawyer who worked for Nunes on the intelligence committee, is hired by the White House counsel’s office to work on national security matters.
  • Admits there’s no evidence Obama illegally wiretapped Trump.
  • Says maybe there’s evidence Obama illegally wiretapped Trump.
  • Holds Intelligence Committee hearing at which FBI Director James Comey and Admiral Mike Rogers (Director of the National Security Agency, Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, and Chief of the Central Security Service) say Trump was not wiretapped.
  • Visits a source at the White House (wait, where is Michael Ellis working now?) who shows him a report stating the Obama administration may have accidentally captured communications between Russians and Trump and/or his associates.
  • Informs Comrade Trump about the report.
  • Announces the report to the news media at an impromptu press conference.
  • Remembers he’s the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and informs them of the report. Promises they’ll get to see the report.
  • Admits to everybody that the report stated the surveillance was legal and focused on Russian operatives, not Trump or Trump’s advisers, or the Trump transition team.
  • States he won’t reveal the name of his source, not even to other members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. (Wasn’t there somebody who worked for Nunes on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence who recently got a job at the White House?)
  • Fails to produce the report under question to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
  • Cancels a scheduled public hearing with James Clapper (former Director of National Intelligence), John Brennan (former C.I.A. director), and Sally Yates (recently fired Acting Attorney General, who warned the Trump administration about Michael T. Flynn, the also recently fired former National Security Adviser).
  • Tells reporters “Nothing has been canceled. Everything is moving forward.”
  • Tells reporters there’s no reason for him to recuse himself from the investigation.

Let’s face it, Nunes is a fuck-up. He’s unqualified to lead this investigation and he’s a fuck-up. He’s a partisan hack whose hackery is limited because he’s a fuck-up. He’s a fuck-up who was out of his league when he was the California State Director for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development section.

Wait, let’s let Brando have the last word on Devin Nunes:

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it ain’t hoo-ha

I have been unreasonably and uncharacteristically busy for the last couple of weeks. There’s been SO much to rant about and so little time for any serious (or semi-serious, or even farcical) ranting. As much as I’m capable of actually hating anything, I hate being too busy to have fun.

But I’m never too busy to read the news — and I have a very broad definition of news. Sometimes it includes Vanity Fair, and this morning I read an article by Graydon Carter entitled The Trump Presidency Is Already A Joke. Carter (who, by the way, has hair that’s as architectural as Trump’s, but where Trump’s hair is Escher-esque, Carter’s is more Frank Gehry) makes the fairly obvious argument that Comrade Trump is a cartoon figure rather than an earnest administrator, but at the end of the third paragraph he writes something astonishing.

The thing is, if Trump has made any sort of arrangement with the Russians—Kremlin, oligarchs, F.S.B., Mob, or any combination of the four—to drop the Obama-era sanctions in return for past favors, the hoo-ha surrounding his Russian connections now makes that almost impossible to deliver. Whatever support he has received from the Russians over the years presumably came with promises of a payback. If Trump can’t follow through on this, he might be in serious trouble.

Let me offer a different perspective on what ‘the thing is’. The thing is that if those sentences were written about anybody in political life OTHER than Trump, they would have been written as part of a political obituary. That’s what the thing is — that Comrade Trump, after just a couple of months in office, has so eroded the concept of integrity in government that a comment about the president’s possible collusion with a foreign power is relegated to the third paragraph.

Let’s just take a moment and unpack what Carter wrote.

…if Trump has made any sort of arrangement with the Russians—Kremlin, oligarchs, F.S.B., Mob, or any combination of the four…

Shorter version: if Trump committed treason with Russia.

…to drop the Obama-era sanctions in return for past favors…

S.V.: by accepting a bribe.

…the hoo-ha surrounding his Russian connections now makes that almost impossible to deliver.

Not so S.V.: The multiple investigations by Congress, the FBI, and the Treasury Department, coupled with the long-overdue increased scrutiny by news agencies have hosed Trump’s ability to follow through on his treasonable arrangement.

Whatever support he has received from the Russians over the years presumably came with promises of a payback.

S.V.: Putin expects to get his beak wet.

If Trump can’t follow through on this, he might be in serious trouble.

S.V.: Putin will cut a bitch.

Of course, it’s not just Trump who’ll be in serious trouble. And it’s not just his coterie of greedheads and fascist ideologues, who’ll be in serious trouble. These United States will be in serious trouble. Hell, These United States ARE in serious trouble. No matter what happens now, Putin wins. The very fact that this fuckwit occupies the Oval Office has compromised the integrity of the U.S. and undermined our confidence in democracy.

The most ridiculous facet of this tectonic mess is that it’s entirely possible — even probable — that Putin played Comrade Trump for a chump. It’s possible/probable Trump just saw collusion with Russia as a business arrangement that would give him an edge over his competitors, not as treason. It’s possible/probable that Trump fell victim to the old gambler’s adage: if you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you’re the sucker.

In the past, Trump has always been able to stroll away from a bad deal. When he fails, he declares bankruptcy or gets a loan from his family or enters an arrangement with some dodgy financier. You don’t get to walk away from Putin. I’m not saying Putin is Keyser Söze. He’s more like Keyser Söze’s younger brother. The respectable member of the Söze clan. Keyser Söze in a suit and tie. When he’s not riding bare-chested on a fucking horse.

Graydon Carter ends his article with this bit of bullshit:

Trump’s legacy and that of his family could end up in tatters. The self-lauded Trump brand may well wind up as toxic as the once self-lauded brand of another New York-Palm Beach family: the Madoffs.

Trump’s legacy. The only people who give a rat’s nasty ass about the Trump legacy are people named Trump.

I’m pleased the editor of Vanity Fair is already writing about the end of the Trump presidency. But I wish he wouldn’t minimize the scope and magnitude of Trump’s transgressions. Even if he was played for a chump, Donald Trump is still personally responsible for seriously degrading and corrupting the office of the President of These United States, and for casually pissing on the very idea of governance.

That ain’t hoo-ha.

a response to a friend suffering from ‘too much trump’ syndrome

A friend told me she was feeling discouraged. She said she was thinking about taking a break from social media — just a few days, maybe a week, maybe more. Why? Too much Trump. Too much Trump all the time. Too much Trump in too many aspects of her life. Health care? TMT. Immigration? TMT. Clean water, LGBT, equal pay, worker’s rights, renewable energy? Too much fucking Trump. She was having a really really hard time finding anything positive to focus on. The entire world was turning to shit right in front of her, and she just wanted to turn it all off.

I completely understand that sentiment, and wasn’t about to attempt to dissuade her. But I did want to offer some encouragement. “There’s a pink pussy hat on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London,” I told her. She said, “What?” I said, “The Victoria and Albert, the world’s largest museum of design and decorative art, they’ve just added a pink pussy hat in their collection.”

Which is true. They actually have. Take a look:

My friend is still going to take a short break from social media, but at least she said the fact of that hat on display made the future of the world seem less bleak.

Let’s face it, the pussy hat is a pretty unlikely symbol of resistance. But it’s one of the best examples of the intersection of fashion and politics. It’s also maybe the most organic example. The pink pussy hat concept grew out of a singular and highly unlikely confluence of ideas and events. We had Comrade Trump talking about grabbing women by the pussy. We had — and this still strikes me as astonishing and improbable — Trump as the President-Elect. We had women organizing a march, partly in protest of Trump’s treatment of women, but also to support a variety of causes and policies threatened by a Trump presidency. We had a date for that march. January 21st, the day after Trump would be sworn in as president. And we had Krista Suh, who lived in California, who was planning to attend the march in Washington, D.C.

“I wanted to do something more than just show up. And I realized as a California girl, I would be really cold in D.C. — it’s not tank-top weather year-round. So I thought maybe I could knit myself a hat.”

And she did. She knitted herself a hat out of pink yarn. And in a mocking salute to Trump, she gave it cat ears. Her friend, Jayna Zweiman, also made a pink pussy hat. So did another friend, Kat Coyle, who owned a yarn shop. Then Coyle created a pattern for the hat, and distributed it widely and freely on social media. Facebook, Ravelry, Instagram, Twitter — and hey, other folks shared the design and the idea. To use a sadly over-used phrase, it went viral.

Do you know how many women knit? Probably not. I don’t either. But it’s a LOT. Women made themselves hats to wear at the March for Women. Then what the hell, they started making them for others folks who planned to attend. A lot of women who couldn’t attend a local march began making pussy hats to support those could attend. There was suddenly a large, dedicated community of pussy hat knitters, making hats and giving them away. Some gave them for free, some in exchange for the cost of materials and shipping, some donated their hats to a cause they supported and those causes used the hats to raise much-needed funds. It was (and still is) a remarkable display of selflessness. Love and selflessness.

When they shared the design and pattern for the hat, Kuh and Zweiman asked knitters to do something else:

We’re asking that when you knit a hat, that you also include a note to the marcher. This creates a tangible way for the marchers to connect with the knitters who can’t attend.

Admittedly, the pink pussy hat is an imperfect symbol. Lots of folks have objected to it for one reason or another — and many of those objections are valid. But I’m not sure there IS a perfect symbol. The pussy hat has the advantage of being both highly visible and easily recognizable. I’m told the basic pattern is relatively quick and easy to make, but the design is also flexible, allowing the knitter to express her creativity. And if that’s not enough, it’s relatively inexpensive to make.

Think about that for a moment. Think about all those photographs you’ve seen of the Women’s March. Think about that ocean of pink hats. Then remember they were all made by individuals. These weren’t mass-produced by machines, and they aren’t the product of an astro-turf political machine like the Koch Brothers-sponsored tea party. Each pink pussy hat you see was made by hand as an act of love and resistance. That’s pretty staggering, isn’t it.

You know you’ve tapped into something pretty powerful when you can get aging white guys to wear a pink knit hat. The V&A Museum in London gets that. They have what they call the Rapid Response Collecting gallery, which is focused on contemporaneously examining how politics and popular culture manifest themselves in design and art. It would be hard to find a better example of a spontaneous, organic fashion response to political conditions than the phenomenon of the pink pussy hat.

As I’ve said before, I like the hat. I like that the hat stands for resistance to the Trump agenda. Even more, I like that it represents solidarity with lots of causes I believe in. And even more than that, I especially like my pussy hat. It was made by a woman I’ve known for years but never met — a woman I like and respect. I like knowing that she made it specifically for me.

Let’s face it. Pink is not my color. But I wear the hat anyway. I don’t wear it very often, mainly because the weather has been unseasonably warm — but when I put it on, it connects me to every other person who has worn or made a similar hat. That, I think, is incredibly cool.

I have no idea if this pink pussy hat business will last. I hope so. I hope the hat and what it stands for will be a bulwark against Too Much Trump Syndrome. I hope the passion and dedication (and yes, the sense of whimsy) that sparked the creation of the hat withstands the Trump onslaught. For my part, I plan to follow the suggestions included with my hat.

Steam iron inside out if needed.
Wear it and stand firm.
May it keep you safe and strong.
Love wins.

and he smiled

I didn’t watch Comrade Trump’s speech on Tuesday night. My Trump Tolerance Quotient, which has never been particularly high, was way too low to allow me to watch him speak live on television. I figured it would trigger some sort of unfortunate temporal lobe episode — and who needs that on a Tuesday?

But I consider myself to be a good citizen and a patriot, so I decided to watch the entire speech yesterday morning. The first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t really a speech. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. People have been practicing the art and craft of public speaking since the damned Greeks, so we know what a speech is. What Trump did on Tuesday night wasn’t public speaking. It was public reading.

Comrade Trump displays ability to read words aloud.

Comrade Trump displays ability to read words aloud.

It was embarrassing, really. For the most part, Trump just read sentence after sentence. Slowly. Like he was afraid he might leave out a word.

Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.

First off, this just isn’t something Comrade Trump would actually say. This is not the way he speaks. But we can ignore that, right? Because even badly delivered written speeches aren’t necessarily meant to be conversational. But just a few hours earlier this mendacious sumbitch was suggesting maybe those threats and that vandalism were ‘false flag’ attacks perpetrated by Jews in order to gain sympathy or make other folks look bad.

And then there was this:

Dying industries will come roaring back to life; heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need. Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve. Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and railways, gleaming across our very beautiful land. Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately stop, and our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.

Right. Also? Shoeless Joe Jackson will emerge from the cornfield to play catch with your dad, Joss Whedon will revive Firefly, fashion designers will start putting real pockets in women’s clothes, that recipe your auntie gave you for okra-jello salad will turn out to be really good, George R.R. Martin will finish whatever fucking Game of Thrones book he’s been working on for the last decade, Michele Obama will punch a Nazi, and the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team will finally get paid what they’re worth.

It was all pretty much standard issue bullshit. Until this moment:

We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of US Navy special operator Senior Chief William Ryan Owens. Ryan died as he lived, a warrior and a hero, battling against terrorism and securing our nation.

I resent this. I resent it, but I know that trotting out victims and widows for a public display of sentiment is, sadly, an established practice now. Every president since Reagan has done it (one more sin to lay at that motherfucker’s feet). But this was a singularly reprehensible moment for a lot of reasons.

First, let’s acknowledge the fact that Chief Owens didn’t die. He was killed. There’s a difference. Second, he was killed on a raid casually approved by Trump, who didn’t even bother to follow the raid in the situation room while it was taking place. Third, Trump tried to shift responsibility for the fuck-up to President Obama and to the generals instead of accepting that as Commander-in-Chief, he was ultimately responsible. In terms of accountability, it doesn’t matter if the raid succeeded in its goals or not. Not every mission is going to succeed. No battle plan survives intact after first contact with the enemy; that’s been accepted wisdom since the days of Field Marshall Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke.

But when things go ‘oh shit’ everybody who issues orders accepts responsibility for what happens to the people who attempt to follow those orders. Everybody. That’s just how it works. From the ground up, everybody who gives an order carries the weight of the poor sumbitch who follows the order.

But not Comrade Trump.

Then that reprehensible moment turned into something even more reprehensible. As the long moment of applause began to ebb, Trump said this:

Ryan is looking down right now. You know that. And he is very happy because I think he just broke a record.

And he looked at the widow — and smiled.

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This fucking guy who says he’ll do everything for the military, but refuses to take them seriously — he smiled. This fucking guy who’d spent much of the week dodging responsibility for his role in the raid in which Chief Owens was killed — he smiled. This fucking guy said, out loud and to Owens’ widow, that her dead husband was happy because of the amount of applause generated by his sacrifice.

He said that, and he fucking smiled.

I had to stop watching the speech.