The Widdershins

Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

If you are reading this, it means we have made it to Friday once again. I’m writing this early Thursday morning since I am attending a wedding this weekend. It is a road trip wedding to a city where no one, namely the bride, groom, parents, grandparents, friends, and most importantly, your dutiful correspondent, has any connection. Pretty much like going to Ft. Lauderdale to experience Disney World because someone thought that would be fun. So go figure.

Since the news changes every fifteen minutes, taking a stab at a particular subject is like Powerball – you can’t win if you don’t play. Here’s my entry for your consideration on this fine Friday.

How many times have you heard some chattering moron, with an air of arrogance and all-knowing cocksureness, say “Yes, the President is unconventional in his approach to leadership, but he seems to be a transactional leader?”

If you are a student of leadership, to hear someone mutter such drivel is slightly more annoying than chewing a mouthful of aluminum foil. Here’s why. At its base, transactional leadership is grounded in Maslow’s hierarchy. Transactionalism is about meting out reward and punishment. Without getting too scientific, forward-thinking higher intellect of mission, belief, morality, and strategically planning for the future play no part in transactional leadership.

Probably you have known a transactional leader. How can you tell? He or she was a terrible boss or manager. Everything was related to immediate results. Most likely, these people treated you shabbily. Often you were quickly reminded, “You can be replaced. There are others just waiting for your job. Do as I say or someone else will be cashing your check.”

People who engage in transationalism have a punitive nature. Perhaps they would even blow up insurance markets to spite people.

Here’s the real rub – transactionalism only works when there are people picking up what you are laying down. It only works when people are buying what you are selling. It only works in a controlled environment. Most importantly, it is not built to last. At best, it is temporal. At worst, it is a gossamer sham.

Why is this important? Let’s take foreign relations for instance. We have spent well over a Trillion Dollars to convince the Arab world we have good motives after our adventurism. That is until the Saudis decided they wanted to purchase better weapons with which to kill their enemies, both foreign and domestic. Virtually overnight, we switched our foreign policy from even-handedness to loving Sunnis something fierce even though Isis is the same theocratic form of Wahhabism.

As Americans we are rarely exposed to the realities of life abroad. Most of the world live in a transactional existence. Bribes are a cost of doing business. Yesterday doesn’t matter and tomorrow may not come meaning only today counts. Courtesy of the ambulatory orange phlegm, we join the roster of countries where values are assessed and have a price.

Anecdotally, my experience with transactional leaders is very straightforward. Transactional leaders never succeed in the long-term. Take any measurement – employee satisfaction, economic performance, shareholder value, new product rollouts – tranactionalism never succeeds long-term.

Literally, transactional leadership is, “I’m the boss of you,” — a misconception we need to remedy with an ample dose of impeachment.

What’s on your mind today?

 

Happy Monday all! Our blithering idiot of a Presnit is off making an *ss of himself over yonder in those parts out there which are not ‘Murca. We’re so very proud, aren’t we?

While the Mango Meerkat bobbles along brainlessly, shedding havoc and treason like orange lint from his head, perhaps it’s now time for the media to admit something we always knew at TW: that the President is supposed to be…well, boring.

Our Hillary is inspiring, brilliant and and amazing, and would have been a great President – perhaps the greatest since FDR. What she isn’t, is a relentless tweeter of nonsense, a boundless gaffe machine, a man who loses his way on a one-way street. She also isn’t in Putin’s pocket, surrounded by sycophants, white supremacists and Children of the Corn. Despite decades of media creating faux scandals around Hillary, Our Girl has only ever been guilty of having a cheating husband, and a private email server.

But the headlines with Drumpf! The eyes, oh, the eyes on their shows and their newsprint and their podcasts and their Twitter accounts! They made so much money in the run-up to the election…so very, very much money. This is a great article from November 14, 2016 on how the media enabled and empowered him to rise.

In 1968 Roger Ailes, the future boss of Fox News, had a problem: how to get Richard Nixon on television without it being controlled and filtered by what he felt was a hostile media.

His solution was to create his own staged Nixon TV specials and offer them to TV stations. Forty-eight years later, CNN was effectively doing the same for Trump – free of charge.

The enthusiasm for Trump at CNN was simple: ratings. Jeff Zucker, the boss of CNN, is also the man who employed him to present The Apprentice when he worked at NBC.

Zucker, perhaps more than anyone else, turned Trump into a TV star.

Nope, there’s nothing to see here! These are not the droids you’re looking for.

And then they make this point:

The need for headlines that bring clicks and stories that get shared has changed everything. Dull, balanced articles (like this one) don’t provoke fury, laughter or much in the way of emotion.

Trump was simply more entertaining and generating more passion. In a news environment moving from a world of subscriptions and long-term appointments-to-view to the vagaries of clicks, friends’ recommendations and Facebook news streams, that makes him a winner.

I do disagree with that last sentence. The Donald has never been a winner. He managed to lose almost a billion dollars on casinos, which are basically like cash registers that are always full. He’s clearly an awful deal maker – so far he hasn’t done a single thing he’s said he was going to do. The arms deal with the Saudis, I’m sure, will turn out to be a disaster, just like the health care bill, “tax reform,” renegotiating NAFTA, and countless other campaign promises I don’t need to elaborate on here.

The media has a great deal of self-examination to do. It’s developed a clear preference for candidates who perpetually campaign and entertain; unfortunately, as we’ve seen, this type of candidate is singularly unsuited to governing. A yelling, lying, treasonous Cheeto in a bad wig does not have the gravitas, intelligence and temperament to do the hardest job in the world. This should have been the message the teevee and print media gave us. But instead, they equivalated this creature’s malfeasance and genuine danger to the Republic, with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while SOS…even though this was neither against the law, nor unprecedented, nor a threat to national security in itself. (It did give the Republicans a chance to investigate a Clinton, though – something they much prefer to the odious task of doing the people’s business.)

As the media continues to awaken, let’s hope that looking at Drumpf with a more objective eye will lead the media to start looking at themselves. Some are already doing so.

This is an open thread.

May 19, 2092

It has finally happened. The last Trump supporter has died on the banks of the Licking River in the sleepy hamlet of Urethra Hollow, Kentucky. While he had long ago forgotten his name, town folk affectionately referred to him as Trumpameatus Johnson – TeeMeatus to his friends. TeeMeatus held the record for over 3 million interviews about his undying support of the 45th President. Mr. Johnson’s longevity is ironic given the relatively short tenure of the President who, next to William Henry Harrison at 31 days, served the shortest tenure.  

While the details will vary, I have little doubt some enterprising reporter will still be scouring the landscape for Trumpanzee supporters 75 years from now. The story will be the same as it is now, the support never wavered in the least.

Besides the fact that it bugs the crap out of me, why bring it up?  First, all the polling on this issue is worthless. The entire premise is wrong. As a pollster, you can’t ask someone, “Since you were stupid when you voted, do you now regret being stupid?” No one answers that question in the affirmative. There is great social desirability in seeing oneself as better than knuckle-draggingly ignorant.

The other reason I mention it is to introduce “motivated ignorance” – it is a real thing. It’s a process described as, “Avoiding facts inconvenient to our worldview isn’t just some passive, unconscious habit we engage in. We do it because we find these facts to be genuinely unpleasant.”

The studies conclude, “People on the left and right are motivated to avoid hearing from the other side for some of the same reasons: the anticipation of cognitive dissonance and the undermining of a fundamental need for a shared reality with other people.” This shared reality is tribal in nature and translates to a shared transactional truth.

This is true for about 60% of the people. It is true for both those on the right and left. It is just the way our brains work. Before you burn me at the stake for equivalency heresy, let me point out, as does the article, you can engage in confirmation bias and still be right. Better said, “You can feel like you are right before you have confirmed your righteousness with science.”

One reason I wanted to write about this was it seemed safe since it is impossible to stay ahead of the hourly “Breaking News” alerts on the latest Dolt-mania. The other reason was the death of Roger Ailes.

Roger Ailes was a loathsome creature. He terrorized not just the workplace for his atavistic hedonism, but he threatened the families and children of his perceived enemies.

Ailes did more to alienate, stagnate, and denigrate our political culture than any other individual in the last 75 years. He knew how to frighten, how to anger, and how to indict through innuendo left dangling for want of context. He had a talent and an appetite for destruction.

Ailes created a laboratory for “motivated ignorance” at Fox.  He perfected an atmosphere of what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin called, “inverted totalitarianism”:

Antidemocracy, executive predominance, and elite rule are basic elements of inverted totalitarianism. Antidemocracy does not take the form of overt attacks upon the idea of government by the people. Instead, politically it means conditioning an electorate to being aroused for a brief spell, controlling its attention span, and then encouraging distraction or apathy. Citizens are encouraged to distrust their government and politicians; to concentrate upon their own interests; to begrudge their taxes; and to exchange active involvement for symbolic gratifications of patriotism, collective self-righteousness, and military prowess. Above all, depoliticization is promoted through society’s being enveloped in an atmosphere of collective fear and of individual powerlessness: fear of terrorists, loss of jobs, the uncertainties of pension plans, soaring health costs, and rising educational expenses.

We are living through a period of inverted totalitarianism. We can be certain those who labor under motivated ignorance will not know or even care what it is called. People like Ailes who profited from it, would never admit it. There are a couple of bright sides.  One: The philosophy surrounding this negativity is one of destruction. Like all forms of destruction it cannibalizes itself — eventually there is nothing left upon which for it to feed.

The other bright side: Ailes is off the battlefield as a contagion of motivated ignorance. Living through the Trumpian mess he bequeathed us is our retribution.  Coming out better on the other side is our legacy.

 

On a completely unrelated note, I wanted to remind everyone that “lie” is part of Joe Lieberman’s name. Here’s a short clip of him explaining himself:

 

What’s on your mind today?

 

One hundred thirteen days and the sun still peeked over the eastern horizon this morning. The way things are going, I’m not betting on where, or if, the sun will set.  Writing about current events during the Ides of Orange is like playing Jinga in a windstorm. Not the best idea.

It truly is impossible to try to summarize the news. Therefore, I’m not even going to try. What I am going to do is marry up my behavioral psychology and legal viewpoints to provide a wild guess on where we find ourselves on the 113th day.

First, a disclaimer: I am not going to opine or even guess about Dolt 45’s mental health.  I’m not qualified. What I can do is give you an idea of his behavioral patterns and why he does some of the things he does.

With that said, for recollection, you can go here for Crazy, Stupid, Hate and here for 604,800. The Orangutan makes this stuff so easy. To summarize, he gets every ounce of his self-esteem from the way others perceive him. He is emotionally fragile. Stress enhances that fragility. We are seeing all of these patterns play out.

Next, we need to disabuse ourselves of a few things. The sanctified Office of the Presidency means very little to Dolt 45. It is merely a means to an end. Where any normal human would be awestruck at the otherworldly honor of serving, the ambulatory Cremesicle deems himself entitled to the office.

What Dolt 45 holds dear is money. It is the measuring stick of his self-worth. It is his Superman’s cape. It is his reason for being.

Guys from the home office doing a grab and grin with their franchisee…

If you accept these jumping off points, the rest of this post will be easy to swallow. The Dolt is nervous about having his “fortune and things” taken from him. For the longest time, I have been convinced RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) would play a part in Dolt’s downfall.

It seems certified good guy, Sen. Ron Wyden is of a similar mind. Sen. Wyden has put a hold on a Treasury nominee until certain documents from the Treasury’s financial crimes unit are produced. Follow the money. In a related event, grand jury subpoenas have issued to associates of Michael Flynn for financial records.

This, to at least my way of looking at things, gives a pretty big incentive to fire Comey. Remember, Dolt and his quislings are political neophytes who have no more insight than the last drunk at the end of the bar.

A few words about Comey:  Zealots clad in self-righteousness have committed more injustices than all the despots in history. Comey is, and has always been, a self-righteous arsonist moonlighting as a firefighter.

Nate Silver has done some amazing work and the last installment was published last week. It is definitive. Comey cost Hillary the election. There is no other way to parse the numbers. In a biting indictment of the media, Nate asks a simple question, “Why is the media in denial about it?”

Another point is this: The Comey letter, after duplicate emails were parsed out, was about 12 emails – none of them new and 10 of them were from auto-syncing. That is the legacy of the self-righteous Jim Comey, but I digress.

Now that we know the financial motivation of Dolt 45 to protect his assets, why did he write the letter? It was a strange letter wasn’t it? All the language about Comey telling the Dolt on three occasions he was not a target of any investigation. All the talking heads have talked themselves into a lather about it. Here’s my answer.

Enter Don McGahn. The guy is White House Counsel. A few words about Mr. McGahn: He graduated from either a non-rated law school or the 143rd rated law school in the U.S. since through some mitosis process his law school split into two. Here’s another data point: McGahn was Tom DeLay’s ethics attorney. One final data point: McGahn also defended DeLay in some nasty business regarding Russian oil tycoons making illegal contributions. Ring a bell?

So Don McGahn is one to watch throughout these coming weeks. My bet, he’s not too bright, but for what he lacks in intelligence, he makes up in sleaze. So why would Dolt 45 put that strange language into the Comey termination letter?

To a legal mind like McGahn, he was building a defense to obstruction of justice, i.e., you can’t have intent to obstruct if you know you aren’t under investigation. It’s dumb, but it is the only plausible explanation from a legal standpoint. One clue: When you see Don McGahn’s name in any article look for a whole lot of stupid to follow.

That brings me full circle with all the actors. Dolt 45 made such a horrendous mistake by firing Comey and then lying about it. He’s torpedoed his press office. He’s torpedoed his own credibility. And his most achingly stupid move is crossing Comey. Remember, Comey is the guy whose reputation was built in a hospital room over the pained and protesting body of John Ashcroft by getting in the face of Alberto Gonzales and Andy Card.  Now who do you think leaked that little vignette?

There are no good guys here. There are only degrees of bad. Dolt 45 will resign. It won’t be dramatic. The incentive will be keeping his money. He has no shame so that is not even an inkling of a consideration. He knows he will be able to command headlines for the rest of his miserable life just like Nixon did. A good person to ask about that might be Henry Kissinger – oh yeah, didn’t he visit the White House this week?

So put on your orange-tinted glasses and watch Dr. Evil talk about his life.  Does he remind you of anyone?

What’s on your mind today?

 

C_Fw_1KUQAENCNe.jpg-large

As I have written many times, often writing posts in the Trump-age feels like an exercise in futility because by the time they are posted they are already out of date. I fear this post will be the same… so we must stay on top of latest news via the comments!

What we know: FBI Director James Comey has been fired by Donald Trump, his Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, with Rosenstein writing the explanation. (Rosenstein had previously been viewed as an honest man. He was confirmed just a few weeks ago to the Justice Deparment with a 94-6 vote in the Senate. But as Philippe Reines pointed out, if Rosenstein was an honest man he would have answered Trump and Sessions’ demand that Comey be fired with: “No, I refuse.” Instead, he wrote his own epitaph as a coward.) The administrations explanation for firing Comey is: it’s Hillary’s fault. Also, her e-mails.

I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.

It is not the function of the director to make such an announcement. At most, the director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors. The director now defends his decision by asserting that he believed Attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict. But the FBI director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department.

This is, of course, laughable on its face and no one can take this explanation seriously except maybe Fox News, which suddenly shows great concern for how Comey treated poor Hillary Clinton. Even Roger Stone (!) expressed regret: “What Comey did to Hillary was disgraceful. I’m glad Trump fired him over it,” he said to Alex Pfeiffer. We know, of course, the firing had nothing to do with Clinton. It is about the FBI’s investigation of Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 Presidential election.

Comey

James Comey has been an enigma for a long time. His press conference announcing that his agency would not recommend charges against Clinton over use of a private e-mail server, while blasting her in such a public manner, seemed inexplicable. Some stories later suggested Comey wanted to reveal information about Russian interference in our election in the summer of 2016, but was stopped by Obama. Then Comey refused to sign on to other agencies’ announcement of this info in the Fall of 2016 because it was too close to the election and he didn’t wish to interfere. But his Letter just days before the election, announcing discovery of new e-mails on the computer of Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin’s husband, did precisely what he claimed earlier he didn’t wish to do: he changed the outcome of an election. What a bizarre story arc for a man who once rushed to the hospital bed of Attorney General John Ashcroft to stop the Bush/Cheney administration from spying on Americans. None of it made sense. Until last week when Comey testified before the Senate. Finally the fog lifted.

I could see two doors and they were both actions. One was labeled speak, the other was labeled conceal. Because here’s how I thought about it, I’m not trying to talk you into this, but I want you to know my thinking. Having repeatedly told this Congress, we are done and there’s nothing there, there’s no case there, there’s no case there, to restart in a hugely significant way, potentially finding the emails that would reflect on her intent from the beginning and not speak about it would require an active concealment, in my view.

And so I stared at speak and conceal. Speak would be really bad. There’s an election in 11 days, Lordy, that would be really bad. Concealing in my view would be catastrophic, not just to the FBI, but well beyond. And honestly, as between really bad and catastrophic, I said to my team we got to walk into the world of really bad.

In the end, this long term public servant fell for the oldest tragic flaw, the one Greeks wrote plays about: Hubris. Comey just thinks of himself as the last honest man in America. Our own Prolix has written a few times that Comey isn’t corrupt, he is Righteous and his own belief in his Righteousness is where things can get murky. It’s true that his Righteousness is why I think ultimately he could have been trusted with the FBI investigation into Trump/Russia. But his zealotry came with unintended – even by him – consequences: the election of Donald Trump as President. In an honest desire to be seen as non-partisan Comey managed to ruin the reputation of his favorite agency. With his fear of being taken to task by Republicans, who would smear him and the FBI if he did not tell them about the Abedin e-mails, Comey compromised himself as an honest broker of truth. He misassigned the concepts of “bad” and “catastrophic.” He thought not telling Congress about the e-mails would be catastrophic. In fact, not telling Republicans and becoming the target of their wrath would have been bad. Affecting the outcome of a Presidential election was catastrophic.

-Joy Reid Sally Yates comment

(There were also the grave issues that in his testimony to the Senate Comey gave inaccurate information about Abedin’s e-mails, falsely claiming “tens and thousands” of messages had been sent by her to her husband’s computer. It took 6 days, and prodding from ProPublica and Washington Post, for the FBI to issue a correction. The same day Comey was fired. Trump had his bodyguard Keith Schiller deliver the firing letter to the FBI headquarters, but they didn’t realize Comey was not in the office. Comey was delivering a speech and learned he was fired when the news popped up on the screen behind him.)

-COmey fired Petri

This brings us to the present. What does Comey’s firing mean in the larger scheme of things? Many Clinton aides have expressed concern, not joy, at the developments. That Clinton aides, who dislike Comey as much as anyone, are concerned about the firing speaks volumes about the Clinton candidacy and the people who supported her. We are more concerned about the Republic than petty revenge. Because what does Comey’s firing mean for the Russia/Trump investigation and the future of the Republic? It is impossible to know just yet. Some high profile Republicans, like Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins, have lined up behind Trump. Collins told Judy Woodruff: “Well, the president didn’t fire the entire FBI.” Graham said: “I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well.” This is worrisome because it shows a continued support for the insupportable Trump, his administration and his policies. The good news is that some others Republicans have expressed concerns. (And not just the Nixon Library tweeting an objection to people calling Trump’s behavior “Nixonian.”)

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 11.32.44 PM

John McCain tweeted that “Removal of Director Comey only confirms need for select cmte to investigate #Russia’s interference in 2016 election.” Tea Partier Justin Amash tweeted: “My staff and I are reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia. The second paragraph of this letter is bizarre.” Republican Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, who heads the Senate investigation into Trump/Russia, wrote:

I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination. I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee. In my interactions with the Director and with the Bureau under his leadership, he and the FBI have always been straightforward with our Committee.  Director Comey has been more forthcoming with information than any FBI Director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intelligence committees. His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and the nation.

Other notable Republicans who have expressed concern about Comey’s firing are James Lankford of Oklahoma, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, and Senate Judiciary Committee member Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

I think we are at a cross-roads. What happens next is what history books will say about all of us. Will the firing of Comey bring about Trump’s downfall? Or will Republicans close ranks and save him, kill the investigation… and damn us all to a banana republic?

-History joke

Okay, okay, I know we have been stewing like ceviche in the citrusy juices of the imPOTUS Tangelo for 106 days now, but the allusion to 101 Dalmatians was just too good. If only the birthing of my new googling machine had cooperated, I could have used the title last week.  

The head fake to 101 Dalmatians does serve a purpose though. Taken individually, pups are adorable, even two or three at a time is manageable, but 101 all at once is a herd of pooping madness. It’s like the sophisticated engineering of a single locust, but multiply that evolutionary design by millions and suddenly we are breaking out the Old Testament for gardening tips.

My point is this – no matter if you are an American who sees the daily onslaught of issues as adorable Dalmatians or plagues of pestilence, something alarming is happening in the country.

As disconcerting as yesterday was, with one-sixth of the economy and perhaps 24 million gleefully sentenced to Republican indifference in order to provide the largest historical wealth transfer from the poorest to the richest, it isn’t yet benedictory.

Likewise, it doesn’t even worry me that the poor souls who voted for Dolt 45 are doggedly clinging to him like dung-beetles to an elephant with acute diarrhea.

And not even the extinction level event of me linking to something George Will writes causes my alarm bells to chirp.  Yesterday while describing one of the Trumpanzee’s many disabilities, Will wrote, “[T]he problem isn’t that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.”

What bothers me most was paraded in full view of the world on Tuesday. It is the reason we were denied the most qualified President in history. We were denied not because of hacking or Putin or Wikileaks or gerrymandering or voter suppression or not going to effing Wisconsin enough.  We were denied our rightful President because we have allowed aberrant behavior to be normalized. Not just normalizing Dolt 45’s behavior, but normalizing the wholesale disregard for shared values and expectations.

Notice in GOP Crazyland, Breitbart is larger than Fox in terms of creating a narrative…

That’s how we are punching the clock in our little piece of history. For the past thirty years there has been unparalleled asymmetric polarization. The Right has gotten more philosophically turgid while the Left has stayed philosophically consistent. When the intellectually lazy say, “Both sides do it,” tell them there are library ranges straining under the weight of sociological studies proving they are stupid and should be castrated to improve the gene pool. Both sides don’t do it. It is the Right that has gone off the page in any diagram of philosophical leaning.

To service and empower this time-reversing way-back machine, an epistemic closed loop has extinguished fact and replaced it with tribal truisms.  Tribal truism is a simple construct: Does whatever is said or heard help my tribe or hurt my tribe? If whatever is said hurts my tribe, I ignore it, deny it, or engage in “whataboutism”. I neutralize whatever hurts my tribe since it can’t be true.

For instance, Paul Ryan didn’t want to hear what the independent Congressional Budget Office had to say about the AHCA so he ignored it, called a vote before the CBO score, and for good measure, the Michelin Man doppelganger, Newt Gingrich, called for the abolishment of the CBO altogether. Protect the tribe!

Used to be the press enforced the rules by shaming offending politicians. Not anymore. There is no longer shame on the Right. When you get to the outer reaches of the philosophical spectrum, there is no longer the gravity of shame.

As DYB has so eloquently pointed out, access journalism has rendered the First Amendment a toothless lap dog. When I see Glenn Thrush, Maggie Haberman, Frick Halperin, Frack Heilemann, or “rock hard abs and Employment Whack-a-Mole” Andrew Sullivan, I’m reminded the only appreciable talent these people have is balancing both pen and paper in one hand while they are otherwise engaged on the business end of a journalistic glory hole.

Even birds are skeptical…

So what does all this have to do with Tuesday’s hearing with the almighty King of the Fibbies? Simple. Comey made a decision to violate DoJ procedure and write his misleading October 28th letter because there were no consequences. The bad consequences for him would have come from complying with the rules and not writing the letter.

The cost/benefit analysis was clear: He would be hounded unmercifully by the Fox/Breitbart/Drudge/Limbaugh/Hannity/PeeWeeHerman infotainment complex if he didn’t write the letter no matter if Hillary won or lost. There were only upsides to feeding the shameless nutjobs of the far, far Right. There were no concomitant upsides from adhering to the shared values and expectations.

Contrary to Comey’s statement, at no point in the criminal justice process, beyond basic fairness, is the reputation of the investigator of any consequence. Comey knew the Democrats would play according to the rules, but he knew the Republicans would not. In reality his contrived self-serving dilemma of “reveal versus conceal” should have been “violate and copulate” since he broke established procedure in order to f*ck the country in order to please himself.

Good government, efficacious policy, and the republic itself is under attack, we will be lucky if it is only 101 predations.

A case of the “bigly sads”…

If you’ve noticed, I’ve purposefully kept the links to a bare minimum today in order to emphasize one superb Vox article:  Donald Trump and the Rise of Tribal Epistemology by David Roberts. It is a few weeks old, but it is a wonderful synopsis of a very complicated web of problems. If you read nothing else today, take the time or bookmark it. It is truly exceptional.

One last thing – thanks to Fredster, DYB, and GAgal for covering during my technological convalescence. I appreciate them.

What are you thinking about today?

Christiane Amanpour interviews Hillary Clinton. | CNN/David Holloway

Another week… another Twitter meltdown at the Clintons. Last week Chelsea was in the crosshairs, on Tuesday it was back to Hillary Clinton. And it’s all the usual suspects who returned into the arena.

Earlier in the day Clinton spoke to Christiane Amanpour in a town-hall interview at the Women For Women International, an organization that helps women in war-torn countries. Amanpour asked Clinton about the 2016 election and Clinton responded:

I take absolute personal responsibility. I was the candidate, I was the person who was on the ballot. I am very aware of the challenges, the problems, the short falls that we had. […] I have been in a lot of campaigns and I’m very proud of the campaign we ran. and I am very proud of the staff and the volunteers. It wasn’t a perfect campaign — there’s no such thing — but I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28th and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me and got scared off and the evidence for that intervening event is I think compelling, persuasive and so we overcame a lot in the campaign. We overcame an enormous barrage of negativity, or false equivalence, of so much else, and as Nate Silver … concluded, if the election had been on October 27, I would be your president. [ …] Did we make mistakes? Yes. [But] The reason I believe we lost was because of events of the last 10 days.

This is where the hyenas descended. Today it was Glenn Thrush’s turn to lead the pack. There were many messages from him over the course of several hours. One tweet read: “Hillary takeaways 1) Loathes Trump 2) blames Comey/Putin 3) the ‘real’ Hillary-funny, hard-edged, unguarded 4) blames everyone but self.”

Thrush’s Times colleague and mentor Maggie Haberman tweeted many messages of personal support for Thrush and critiques of Clinton. At one point Haberman actually said to Greg Sargent of The Plum Line, who posted an article in which he argued the fault  for the loss was not entirely Clinton’s, that one of her – Haberman’s – objections to Clinton’s statement, and the reason she doesn’t believe her, is that the order of Clinton’s statement was all wrong. Haberman argued that if Clinton ended her argument with contrition, it would have made all the difference. Am I the only who thinks this is one of the most preposterous things I’ve ever heard?

Then later in the day Bill Maher told Jake Tapper that he doesn’t understand why Hillary just won’t go away already.

Chris Cillizza also participated in this feeding frenzy, but I won’t even bother you with his nonsense.

To my surprise a number of journalists came to Clinton’s defense. More importantly, a number of them specifically criticized Thrush and Haberman, some times by addressing them directly, for the behavior.

Chris Hayes of MSNBC responded to Thrush: “I find this obsession with Clinton taking full responsibility for her loss from ostensibly “objective” observers really weird.” (To which Thrush answered without any irony: “I don’t care if she takes responsibility.”)

Mark Murray of NBC initially blasted Clinton, but then seemed to change his mind and posted a series of tweets showing poling data: “Just look at the national polls: Pre-Comey, she was up 5-6pts, Post-Comey, 3pts. From outside MOE to inside it.” Perhaps Murray was convinced by actual…data. Data doesn’t lie.

Because of data, Nate Silver has been one of the strongest voices in the “blame Hillary” debate: “We’ll have a piece out on this tomorrow. Issue is that some of the competing explanations for Clinton’s loss implicate the media’s judgment… / Did they jump the gun on Comey letter? Drop the ball on Russia? Cover email too much? Not fact-check Trump enough? / What were ethics of Wikileaks coverage? What role did Clinton’s gender play? Tough questions! Easier to say Clinton durg her own grave.”

Michael Cohen (no, not that one) of Boston Globe: “Genuinely fascinating that so many NYT reporters are so focused on Hillary Clinton’s self-flaggelation / I mean it’s never true that a single candidate is personally responsible for losing a presidential campaign. It’s a confluence of factors / So it’s mystifying how many reporters are adamant that Clinton must take personal responsibility for her loss… / did reporters insist that Romney take personal responsibility for losing? McCain? Gore? The media obsession w/HRC’s self-flaggelation is such an obvious case of diverting responsibility I can’t think of another explanation. / I mean it’s ok to say “we made some mistakes in how we covered the 2016 campaign.” None of [us] are perfect; pencils, erasers etc / and every time reporter tweets “it’s Hillary’s fault” it only serves to highlight how obvious this effort at diverting responsibility is.”

I was stunned when even Bernie Bro with serious case of Clinton Derangement Syndrome Matthew Yglesias of Vox wrote in response to Matt Viser of Boston Globe (Viser: “Clinton in one breath: “I take absolute personal responsibility.” Clinton in the next: “I would have won if not for Comey and Wikileaks.”). Yglesias’ response: “Despite the valiant efforts of many in the press these are not really contradictory statements. / To take responsibility for something is an ethical stance not a causal analysis. / When Harry Truman said “the buck stops here” he was not saying that all events in American life were under his total personal control.”

There is a “mean girls” quality to Thrush/Haberman/Cillizza/Barro/etc. attacks on Hillary (and Chelsea) Clinton. One person starts, the others jump in, sharks sensing blood. Or the last person standing in dodge-ball. The same names come up time and again. But I was encouraged to see several people – especially surprised by Yglesias – break with the pack and directly argue with them. Is this change temporary? Or a new awareness on the parts of some reporters that perhaps, maybe, just possibly they are not infallible?

But… back to Thrush and Haberman. On Tue they published a piece in the Times about Ivanka Trump, who has a book out, which she is not supposed to promote. Former Fortune publisher and current digital director of Columbia Law School Pamela Kruger tweeted at Haberman: “Ivanka gave this in depth interview just as her new book comes out. The book she isn’t promoting.” Haberman, who often reveals herself in spontaneous responses to others, fired back: “We were doing a profile and we went to them.” Kruger retorted: “Timing worked out pretty well for her.”

When I say Haberman often reveals herself in spontaneous tweets, the following may be one of the most revealing messages Haberman ever sent. After stories came out about in-fighting between Bannon and Kushner, Breitbart wrote an article attacking Kushner’s staff. To which Haberman tweeted: “Do folks there seriously believe hitting the president’s family, even by extension, is going to help their access?” I think this message needs to be framed because it reveals everything about not just Haberman specifically, but reporters generally who survive on the need for access.

I also ran into this tweet from Thrush that really made me cringe: “Anyone who thinks [Trump] is ‘incoherent’ has it exactly wrong. Every speech is 100% coherent. Every speech is 100% about Trump.” This message that Trump is a genius is something Haberman has stated in the past as well. A few months ago I followed her arguing with NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen. Rosen wrote that the idea that Trump is some sort of media genius is nonsense. Haberman responded that she’s been following Trump for many years and he is, in fact, a master manipulator of the media. I recall responding that just because Trump manages to masterfully manipulate her, doesn’t mean he is a master at manipulation.

Eric Boehlert summed up the day’s events fairly well: “for those keeping score, NYT reporters who typed up Ivanka puff piece today, spent the afternoon trolling Hillary on Twitter /



 but the newsroom gets very very mad when anyone threatens to cancel subscriptions.
 / 



keep in mind, same day WH press secretary Refuses To Take Any Press Questions, reporters spent afternoon attacking private citizen.”

Joy Reid

As I was finishing this post, I ran into an astonishing piece in WaPo by Dave Weigel. It shows how somebody in the media can take a single statement, misrepresent it, and create a tornado of attacks. In this case, no surprisingly, it was a statement by Hillary Clinton to Amanpour that was misrepresented by Phil Elliott of Time – creating a storm of attacks on Clinton.

Trump may be the first president whose plunge to 40 percent approval was marked by stories about the voters who still loved him. And Clinton may be the only politician who can talk about the need for rural broadband — at this point, an almost banal priority of rural politicians — and be accused of snobbery.

For a final laugh, see this from the NY Times, trying to explain Trump’s comments about Andrew Jackson:

C-2IOOHXkAEVpit

And then this:

Chelsea Handler


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