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:

enter promo code to honor george washington

Today is Presidents’ Day in These United States. Well, sorta kinda. In some of These United States, it’s President’s Day. It’s an apostrophe thing. But there are some states that do away with the apostrophe altogether, in which case it’s Presidents Day.

But a lot of These United States don’t hold with lumping all those presidents together; they’re more exclusive. In a lot of places, the day is all about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, both of who were born in February. So those states call this holiday Washington-Lincoln’s Birthday. Or, in some places, Washington and Lincoln Day. In Alabama, they dump Lincoln and substitute Jefferson, so they’re celebrating George Washington/Thomas Jefferson Birthday. And in Arkansas it’s both George Washington’s Birthday AND Daisy Gatson Bates Day (and if you don’t know who Daisy Gatson Bates is, I recommend Wikipedia).

george-washington

Originally, of course, this was just George Washington’s Birthday — and there are still four states (including the one where I’m currently parked) that have stuck with the original version. And that’s why in Iowa today, we’re celebrating the birthday of the First President of…fuck, wait.

Okay, it’s not actually his birthday. George was born on February 22, 1732. A century and a half later, in 1879, Congress decided we needed to honor the first president, so they decided to make his birthday a federal holiday. Folks working in the federal government could take the day off to — well, it’s not exactly clear what they were expected to do on George’s birthday, but not going to work was a big part of it. Also, to honor our first president, many shops closed their doors and conducted no commercial business.

At any rate, that’s why we’re celebrating George Washington’s birthday…fuck, wait.

washington-birthday

Okay, turns out George Washington was officially born on February 11, 1731 — not on February 22, 1732. The problem was George was born in Virginia, and Virginia was part of the British Empire, and the British Empire was still using the Julian calendar because the British Empire wasn’t a Catholic empire and even though the Catholic countries of the world had switched to the better Gregorian calendar in 1582, the British Empire wasn’t about to give in to calendar fashion because, dammit, it was the British Empire, don’t you know. Then in 1752 they decided there wasn’t anything terribly wrong with the Gregorian calendar, so they adopted it and George Washington’s birthday went from February 11, 1731 to February 22, 1732.

And that’s why every February 22nd, we celebrate…fuck, wait.

Okay. In 1951 this guy named Harold Stonebridge Fischer formed something he called the President’s Day National Committee. His plan was to create a holiday to celebrate ALL the presidents, not just one. He wanted the holiday to be celebrated on March 4, because that was the traditional date on which new presidents were inaugurated (not George Washington, of course, because he was the very first president and we were basically just faking everything back then, hoping it would all work out somehow). Fischer pimped that proposal for something like twenty years with absolutely no success whatsoever. But some Congressional folks liked the notion of fucking around with federal holidays, and in 1971 they passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act essentially said ‘Hey America, we don’t really care what day Washington was born on, or when World War One ended, or what day y’all have been celebrating Memorial Day, and does anybody even know why we’ve been doing Columbus Day on the 12th day of October, seriously? So we’re just moving those holidays to a Monday, so we can all have a long weekend. You can thank us later.’ Granted, some of those holidays have been re-shifted back to their original dates, because we’re still just basically faking it, hoping it will all work out somehow.

georgewashiong-sale-02-21-2013

Anyway, that is why we celebrate the first president — or some of the presidents — or all of the presidents — or some of the presidents and maybe some folks who weren’t president at all — on the third Monday of February. And that’s why all the mattress stores and shoe emporiums are slashing prices. At least that’s what we’re doing now. Who the hell knows what’s going to happen now that Comrade Trump has parked his ass in the Oval Office, and Republicans run both houses of Congress.

That business of faking it and hoping? It still applies. But hey, at least some folks get a three-day weekend. So there’s that.

the logan act (with optional pirate stuff)

Right, there goes Michael T. Flynn, out the back door of the Trump White House. Now that we’re finished applauding his resignation, folks are wondering about a couple of things. First, can he be prosecuted under the Logan Act? And second, should he be prosecuted.

There are, of course, problems. At least three problems. The first is the Logan Act is of questionable constitutionality. It’s never been really tested in court; nobody has ever been prosecuted for violating the Logan Act. Not even George Logan, after whom the law was named. The second problem is more political. The recently appointed Attorney General of These United States is Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who is undoubtedly tickled pink that the Logan Act is of questionable constitutionality. It gives Sessions the perfect opportunity to practice looking severe without having to actually do anything. The third problem is this: just what the fuck IS the Logan Act, and what was it intended to do?

The Logan Act is a perfect example of how history, which can be singularly cool, has a reputation for being mind-numbingly dull. I mean, we’re talking revolutions and piracy on the high seas — and that’s some seriously exciting shit, right there. But reading the Logan Act — well, it’s not long enough to actually put you to sleep, but it’ll make your mind wander. Anyway, here’s the history.

Not actually a French ship attacking a US merchant, but c'mon -- it's pirate stuff.

Not actually a French ship attacking a U.S. merchant vessel, but c’mon — it’s pirate stuff.

We (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘These United States’) had us a revolution. I’m assuming you already know this. A few years later, France had its own revolution. France had been pretty helpful to our revolution and they quite understandably expected the new U.S. to give them a reach-around. We didn’t — at least not to their satisfaction. So France got pissy and authorized French ships to plunder American merchant ships. President John Adams sent some envoys to France to straighten out the mess. The French listened to their arguments, then politely told the envoys “S’il vous plaît, uriner une corde.” Or words to that effect. The envoys returned to the U.S., reported they’d failed miserably, then went to a bar and made rude remarks about the French (I’m not entirely sure about that last bit with the bar and rude remarks, but it’s what I would have done if the French had told me to go piss up a rope).

Enter Dr. George Logan, a Philadelphia Quaker. Logan decided he couldn’t screw things up any worse, so he sailed to France, chatted with Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and the good folks of the French Directory — and hey, bingo, the French changed their minds and stopped the plundering. Yay, sounding of trumpets, release of doves, everybody wins, right?

Dr. George Logan, Quaker and Freelance Diplomat.

Dr. George Logan, Quaker and Freelance Diplomat.

Right. Except for the politicians back in the U.S. who weren’t happy with civilians conducting unauthorized negotiations with foreign governments. Which is perfectly understandable. I mean, George Logan might have done a fine job, but the next guy might get us in a war. So they passed the Logan Act to prevent that sort of thing from happening again.

It’s easy to see why nobody has been prosecuted under the Logan Act. Back in the late 1700s, civilians could get away with pulling shit like that. Today, that’s not going to happen. Ain’t no Quaker going to show up on Pakistan’s doorstep (even if Pakistan had a doorstep, which it doesn’t) and negotiate a nuclear arms deal. And if General Michael Flynn had been an ordinary citizen, nobody in the Russian embassy would have paid any attention to him when he discussed the sanctions imposed on Russia by President Obama.

But that’s exactly why the Logan Act could be used in this case — because General Michael Flynn was NOT an ordinary citizen. He was an advisor to the President-Elect. He was expected to become President Trump’s National Security Advisor. He had influence and power, and even though he had no authority from the sitting POTUS, he had presumptive authority from the President-Elect.

Assuming Flynn actually did discuss lifting Obama’s sanctions on Russia (and since the transcripts of Flynn’s calls haven’t been made public, we can’t know that for certain), then he was a nominal civilian with enough influence to effectively undermine an action taken by the President of These United States. That’s a big fucking deal, and it’s exactly the sort of thing the Logan Act should be used to deter.

It’s absolutely worth testing the constitutionality of the Logan Act in this case. But somehow, I doubt the pixie-eared Attorney General will do that.

muslims and taco bowls

I knew it was going to be bad. I didn’t know it would be this bad this soon. I knew Comrade Trump had no real grasp on the concept of governance, but I didn’t know he was entirely ignorant of how government worked. I knew he wasn’t prepared for the job, but I didn’t know he’d make no effort to learn.

Trump apparently believes issuing a presidential executive order works the same basic way as ordering a taco bowl. You say “I want a taco bowl” and somebody gives you a taco bowl. You say “I want a ban on Muslims” and somebody gives you a ban on Muslims. Easy peasy. Right?

Easy as ordering a taco bowl.

Easy as ordering a taco bowl.

Nope. Ordering a taco bowl is easy; getting a taco bowl that’s safe to eat is complex. Somebody has to grow the lettuce and the tomatoes and the beans, somebody has to pick those vegetables and legumes, and somebody has get them to market. Somebody has to make the tortilla shell, somebody has to make the cheese. Somebody has to gather all those makings together, and somebody has to put it all together so somebody can bring it to your table. And throughout that whole process, there’s somebody monitoring it all to make sure that all the ingredients are healthy, and that they’re properly handled and prepared so that you don’t end up in the bathroom puking your guts out. It’s a massive, complex process, making a taco bowl.

Trump said “I want a ban on Muslims” and somebody gave him a ban on Muslims. In this case, it was two somebodies: Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. These guys wrote the executive order, and served it to Comrade Trump, who signed it.

Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon -- should not be allowed in the kitchen.

Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon — should not be allowed in the kitchen.

You know, when you make your first taco bowl to be served to the public, you have to let your supervisor look at it before it makes its way to the customer’s table. The same is true when crafting an executive order. You’re supposed to let other folks look at it and make sure it’s correct before you foist it on the unsuspecting public. For example, if you write an executive order pertaining to homeland security, you’re supposed to let the folks at the Department of Homeland Security get a peek at it before it’s released. It’s not just a matter of good manners to do that; it’s also how you insure the customer doesn’t end up in the bathroom puking his guts out.

Trump, Bannon, and Miller didn’t bother. The Secretary of Homeland Security learned about the executive order when he saw it announced on television. Seriously. On television.

Not only did they fail to ask for the advice of the Department of Homeland Security, they also failed to check with the Justice Department,. And the State Department, and the Department of Defense, and the National Security Counsel. They didn’t even show the order to the Office of Legal Counsel, which has always reviewed executive orders before they were released. Hell, these people didn’t even prepare the two agencies that would be implementing the order — the heads of the Customs and Border Protection agency and the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services were given a telephone briefing while Comrade Trump was signing the order.

Let me just recap this. These three bozos — Trump, Bannon, and Miller — put together and issued a presidential order having global implications with less care and supervision than the guy working part-time in the kitchen of your local Taco Bell. It’s no wonder a big chunk of the world has found itself in the bathroom, puking its guts out.

corrupt as fuck, don’t care who knows it

You almost have to be impressed by the audacity of it. It’s a shameful thing to say, but you sort of expect a few several many a significant number of politicians to be, well, corrupt. It’s a given, right? They have power and we all know what power does, right (spoiler — it corrupts).

But Jeebus on a nickel, what Congressional Republicans did last night? Completely and totally fucking shameless. They gathered together in a conference and voted to rip the balls right off the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. Wait, it’s worse than that. They did it in secret. Wait, still worse than that. They did it on a Federal holiday.

When was the last time Congressional Republicans voluntarily went to work on a Federal holiday?

Republicans gather to vote on new ethics rules.

Republicans gather to vote on new ethics rules.

Okay — some boring but necessary history. Back on January 30, 1798 (that’s right, we’re talking the end of the 18th century here), Congress was in the process of impeaching a guy named William Blount (who’d borrowed heavily to invest in land along the Mississippi River, and when it looked like France might gain control of Louisiana and thereby control the mouth of the river, tried to make a deal with Britain to seize both Florida and Louisiana in order to keep the French out and allow Blount to sell his river land for a buttload of coin). During the impeachment process, while the House was in session, a guy named Roger Griswold (who belonged to the Federalist party) was trying to get the attention of another guy, Matthew Lyon (who was a Democratic-Republican — and yes, that was an actual political party back then). Lyon was deliberately ignoring Griswold, who got pissed off and called Lyon a ‘scoundrel’. That was considered a profanity back then. Lyon responded by spitting tobacco juice on Griswold.

William Blount (Democratic-Republican, Tennessee), corrupt as fuck; did not get impeached.

William Blount (Democratic-Republican, Tennessee), corrupt as fuck; got away with it.

These two guys continued to fuss at each other for a couple more weeks, then Griswold went apeshit (which, it turns out, is NOT a legal defense) and attacked Lyon with his cane (gentlemen routinely carried canes back then — go figure). Lyon retreated to a fireplace, seized a pair of tongs, and the two went at it. They had to be tackled and separated by other members of Congress.

Griswold versus Lyon, Congressional Death Match of 1798.

Griswold versus Lyon, Congressional Death Match of 1798.

Congress decided they shouldn’t have to put up with that sort of shit happening at work, so they formed the House Committee on Ethics. The committee would be responsible for investigating and punishing breaches of ethics and decorum by House members. The new Ethics Committee looked into the fuss between Lyon and Griswold and they came to a decision — which basically was this: Don’t pull that sort of shit again, especially while Congress is in session. In other words, they did bupkes.

And that, not surprisingly, set the precedence for a LOT of decisions by the House Committee on Ethics. When you put members of Congress in charge of policing the behavior of members of Congress, you end up with a LOT of Don’t pull that sort of shit again decisions. Which is why, in 2008, after a couple hundred years of bupkes, Congressional Democrats led an effort to create the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent, non-partisan entity tasked with investigating allegations of misconduct against members of the House of Representatives and/or their staff.

That sounds great, doesn’t it. But the OCE was pretty limited in what it could do. There were limits on how long they could investigate (about three months at most) and they didn’t have any subpoena power. At the end of their investigation, the OCE turned in a report to the House Committee on Ethics. Yeah, that’s the same committee that’s mostly done bupkes for two centuries — but the OCE was also required to make their report public, which put more pressure on the HCE to actually DO something. And the OCE could, if necessary, refer allegations of criminal conduct to prosecutors.

Which is probably why House Republicans wanted rip off the OCE’s balls (tiny as they were). Here’s what the Republicans did (and remember, they did this in secret on a holiday). First, they changed the name of the agency. Now it’ll be the Office of Congressional Complaint Review. What were once ‘ethics investigations’ are now just ‘complaints’. They also removed OCE’s power to investigate anonymous tips, and they’ve prevented the OCE from referring ‘complaints’ of criminality to prosecutors. Oh, and that public report? The one that might embarrass Congress into action? That’s history.

The jackass who sponsored this legislative turd is Republican Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. He claims it will improve the due process rights for the House members who find themselves under investigation. This is the only time in modern history a Republican has shown any concern about anybody’s due process rights.

Bob Goodlatte (Republican, Virginia)

Bob Goodlatte (Republican, Virginia)

What amazes me — and probably shouldn’t — is how open they were about this. Yeah, they met in secret on a holiday, but after de-balling the OCE, they actually announced it. Basically, this is a proclamation that Republicans under a Trump administration intend to Make Corruption Great Again.

Trump would probably want to put a portrait of William Blount on the new twenty-dollar bill. If he knew who William Blount was. And I’m positive he doesn’t. By the end of the first Trump term, I fully expect the motto of the United States will switch from E Pluribus Unum to “I Got Mine, Jack.” Or, if you prefer it in Russian, Я получил мое, домкрат.

Editorial Note: In case you’re wondering what happened to William Blount, the guy who started all this, the House voted to impeach him. However; the Senate refused to convict him, and Blount returned to Tennessee. There he worked to fuck over the Cherokee natives who were losing their land to settlers. After he was accused of working to fuck over the Cherokee natives, Blount sued his accuser for libel. The suit was dismissed by a Judge Campbell. Blount managed to get elected to the Tennessee State Senate, at which point he worked to impeach Judge Campbell. The Tennessee House voted to impeach the judge, but the Senate refused to convict him.

Ethics is some tricky shit.