The Widdershins

Posts Tagged ‘FBI

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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writing posts in the Trump-age feels like an exercise in futility because by the time they are posted they are already out of date.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.”)

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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

Comey

James Comey is the strangest, most mysterious man in the known universe. And boy, does he have a poker face. What is his deal? What is his game? Officially people in the world of politics still vouch for his integrity. But the rest of us mortals can probably say: “Comey, I hate you. I love you. I hate you. I love you. I hate you. I like you. I’m not sure. I hate you. Huh?”

Most citizens probably never gave Comey much thought until his press conference announcing FBI would not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton for using a private e-mail server, although Clinton was very very naughty. The bizarre “She broke rules but we won’t prosecute” announcement brought out angry responses from Republicans and grudging gratitude from Democrats. When Comey was called to explain his actions before Congress, Democrats shielded him. Then the tables flipped when 12 days before the election Comey sent The Letter, making Republicans dance with joyful glee and sending Democrats into apoplectic fits of rage. There is no doubt that The Letter swung the election to Trump. Through all this Comey was investigating Trump’s connections to Russia. FBI started their investigation at the end of July. (July 27th is when Trump called on Russia to hack Clinton’s e-mails, but rumors of Trump’s relationship to Putin were already swirling. See Robby Mook/Jake Tapper clip below.) How in the world does the head of the FBI throw one candidate’s candidacy into chaos while knowing that the other candidate may be colluding with a foreign power to manipulate the election? These actions are inexplicable. And through it all Comey’s Mona Lisa smile is infuriating.

Now again Comey, with Trump installed in the White House, has unleashed the wrath of the Republicans and weary excitement from Democrats in Congress. Democrats need him. Republicans and Trump need him to shut up. If you’re keeping score, Comey has pissed off Republicans more often than Democrats. But he also handed Republicans the ultimate gift: The Presidency of the United States. What is his deal? What is his game? Will we ever actually know? Or will his motives and actions forever be the source of speculation? What will history books say about James Comey?

Of the people within Trump’s administration who seem likely to go down hard are Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Roger Stone. (Davis Nunes says he’s never heard of Page and Stone… make of that what you will… )  CNN put together a handy guide to Stone’s public comments regarding his connections to Assange, WikiHacks and Guccifer 2.0. These are great for when Stone says he didn’t know anything about anything. The timeline spans from August 10, 2016 (“Stone tells a local Republican Party group in Florida “I’ve actually communicated with Julian Assange”) to March 20, 2017 (“It’s only fair that I have a chance to respond 2 any smears or half truths about alleged “Collusion with Russians” from 2day’s Intel Hearing.”) I hope Stone starts prepping himself for a stone cold cot.

Alfa Bank

One of the sources of concern to Trump and Co. is Alfa Bank. The second largest private bank in Russia it came to some people’s attention when it was caught trying to communicate with a Trump server. The original story on the bank’s strange behavior came to light before the election, but the story was dismissed by almost the entire media. NY Times infamously dismissed it on October 31, 2016 with the following headline: “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.” And with that, the media’s interest in the Trump/Putin connection died. The only person who followed up on it was a Republican writer Louise Mensch. She reported days later (late evening of November 7, to be exact) that the FBI had a FISA warrant to examine communications between Trump’s campaign and a Russian bank. Mensch claims the NY Times (Erich Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers wrote the article) knew about the FISA warrant. And that they even interviewed then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid about it. But threw out the entire Reid interview and buried the FBI/FISA detail. She continues to question Lichtblau on twitter about why he did these things and he largely ignores her. Meanwhile Alfa Bank is now claiming they have been hacked and are suing one of the analysts who examined their suspicious communications with Trump organization.

The information on Trump’s connections to Russia were discussed in public as early as July 24, 2016 by Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager. On CNN’s State of the Union, on the first day of Democratic convention, Mook told Jake Tapper there were great concerns regarding potential Trump campaign collusion with Russia, stolen DNC e-mails published via WikiLeaks, and RNC’s watering down of Republican platform on Russia/Ukraine. These are now all vital parts of FBI’s investigation that could sink Trump and will most certainly sink many of the key players of his campaign. The media did not investigate this story until it was too late. (Notice also the chyrons on the Mook/Tapper video. An intellectually dishonest representation of the e-mails being published by WikiLeaks.) The media dedicated all of their resources to the Clinton e-mails. They dedicated no resources to potential collusion between Trump and Russia. This will always be one of the great journalistic disasters of all time. Perhaps greater than their failure to vet the Iraq War (NY Times again.)

Trump

Which brings me to Donald Trump himself. I won’t use any of the big words like sociopathic or narcissistic. I think he’s just a man who has never in his entire life had to deal with consequences for any bad behavior. Rich white man. If he did anything wrong, he got a gold star from daddy and lawyers took care of the fallout. He said and did as he pleased. No blowback on anything his entire life. 70 years of this. Imagine what this complete lack of accountability and self-awareness can do to a human brain. He goes bankrupt 7 times? Meh, someone will take care of the fallout and get him more loans. Wife isn’t pleasing anymore? Meh, someone will take care of the divorce and settlement. Being sued for racial discrimination? Meh, someone will take care of the settlement. This is a man who has thrown money at his problems and the problems went away for 70 years. He behaved during his campaign the way he has behaved his entire 70 years on Earth. Badly. Rude, arrogant, mean, vicious, malicious. Said everything that came into his head. And the crowds adored him. Think about what a crowd of 10,000 people chanting “Lock her up!” can do to your brain. Adoration. Say and do anything you like – and TV gives you hours of non-critical coverage. The crowds go crazy. Your approval ratings go through the roof. Your opponents, seasoned politicians all, go down in flames. And you don’t even have to do anything different! It just happens. For a man who has spent his entire life with zero accountability runs his campaign the same way – and he is rewarded with the Presidency of the USA. Think what that does to your brain. Everything he has ever done and said has been vindicated. He does not recognize that things are different now. His brain can’t process this information. Incapable of self-awareness or awareness of others. For 70 years he has done as he pleased, said as he pleased. And an army of Yes-Men have enabled and encouraged his delusions for 70 years. But it is different now. He is stunned that his inauguration crowd isn’t as big as his predecessor’s! (A Black Man!)

“No, it’s just not possible. Fake news! The Black Man wire-tapped me! Obviously. Why do I have to retract this? I don’t have to do anything I don’t want. I want to golf. Why can’t I golf? I said I want to golf! This is my resort! This is my home away from gilded home in NYC! I’ll do what I want! I’m President! I won! I did everything the way I always do! And I won! People love me! They all voted for me! All voted for me! Because I’m President! Those who didn’t vote for me have no right to exist! Deep state is out to get me! How else to explain that these things I said are being held against me? I always say what I want! Why are you ganging up on me?! I’m not a puppet! Tillerson will go to Russia! Because I said so! Because I won! This is a conspiracy to destroy me! You can’t tell me what I can and can’t say about Putin! You don’t like Putin? Too bad! I love Putin! I’ll say what I want! I won! I’m President! And you are nothing.”

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I will finish on a completely different note. It is a story of love, regret and perseverance.

Through all the madness music has been a great source of solace to me. (Classical music and opera generally, but then…) Here is my favorite performer Madonna, in a “pirate” recording of her classic song “True Blue” at Barclay Center in Brooklyn on September 19, 2015, as part of her “Rebel Heart Tour.” Two nights earlier Madonna celebrated 30 years since her Madison Square Garden debut with a concert at MSG. (Amy Schumer was Madonna’s opening act at the NY shows in 2015, that’s why Madonna gives Schumer a shout-out in the clip below. At that tour way back in 1985, “The Like A Virgin Tour,” her opening act were the Beastie Boys.)

“True Blue” was written in thL. Cohene mid 1980’s by Madonna as a declaration of love for her then-husband Sean Penn. He was in the audience at MSG two nights earlier and there is private video of him watching Madonna singing the song. At Barclay’s (one of the two times I watched this show), Madonna told the story that after the MSG anniversary concert she received a letter from Penn. In it he wrote that watching her perform that night, after so many years and everything they’d each been through, he really appreciated everything she had accomplished and he acknowledged he was a fool to not have recognized her talents when they were married. “Thirty years!” Madonna screamed to the audience. “Thirty years I’ve been waiting for those words! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is marriage and why I will never get married again.”

Last time she sang “True Blue” live was in 1987, just as her marriage to Penn was falling apart.

-Trump Chuckie

On March 4th, The Thing in the White House sent out a bunch of angry tweets blasting the previous President for wiretapping Isengard Trump Tower. “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Then 30 mins later: “How long has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” When asked to clarify this insanity, The Thing’s minions really could do nothing but heee and hawww. The Thing read it somewhere, they said. NY Times! Louise Mensch! BBC! Naturally once reporters dug deeper, they found that NO, none of those reports talked Trump Obamaabout wiretapping. Mensch broke the story on her right-wing blog HeatStreet on November 7th about the FISA warrant, but all she said was that a FISC court granted permission to “examine the activities of ‘U.S. persons’ in Donald Trump’s campaign with ties to Russia.” In question was a mysterious communication between two Russian banks and a server in Trump Tower. (David Corn of Mother Jones broke the story of the two banks and Trump Tower, but all media dismissed it as a bizarre conspiracy theory a couple of weeks earlier.) In the follow-up reports to Mensch’s story, BBC and the failing NY Times confirmed a FISA warrant, but nobody mentioned wiretaps… except Breitbart and then The Thing in its Tweets. Ahhhhh, the plot thickens. Where did Breitbart get the information about wiretaps at Trump Tower and did The Thing just leak top secret information in a series of Tweets? Sure seems that way. Will anybody hold him accountable? LOL.

There are fleeing moments when it feels like Lady Lindsey Graham and Hero John McCain might hold The Thing accountable for the numerous impeachable offenses it has committed. Earlier today Graham tweeted: “An attack on one political party should be considered an attack on all. We must push back on Russian election interference at home & abroad.” That sounds great! However it should also be noted that Graham had lunch with The Thing earlier in the day.

“Great lunch meeting with ‪@POTUS today. President Trump is strongly committed to rebuilding our military which is music to my ears. (1/3)

President Trump is in deal-making mode and I hope Congress is like-minded. (2/3)”

“How good was the meeting with ‪@POTUS?

I gave him my NEW cell phone number.”

Somebody responded: “1-800-DOOR-MAT?” And then “You, sir, are a profile in courage.”

And that, folks, is Lindsey Graham summarized in a handful of tweets. We have to get used to the notion that no, Graham and McCain won’t hold The Thing accountable for anything until they’ve gotten what they want from him: tax cuts for the rich, bigger military, gutting ACA, etc. etc. etc. Then maybe, possibly, once that’s all done, they’ll throw The Thing overboard.

Speaking of handing out cell numbers, can anybody afford a new cell phone after Republicans pass Trumpcare? Jason Chaffetz, the man who investigated Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s e-mails to death, and who doesn’t think there is any reason to look into Trump’s connections to Russia, went on CNN to start selling Trumpcare to America.

Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice. And so, maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest it in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions for themselves.

This is, of course, patently absurd. An iPhone unsubsidized by a phone company might cover one month’s premium for a single person. How many iPhones does Chaffetz think people buy? Of course, Chaffetz himself doesn’t have to buy his own phone. He gets one from work. His cell bill gets covered too. “How much does an iPhone cost” is the new “How much is a gallon of milk?” and Chaffetz doesn’t know  the cost of either.

Medicaire

Overall Trumpcare is going to gut poor people into oblivion. It gives tax breaks to the rich, provides insurance companies with tax deductions on CEO salaries, will raise costs of premium, reinstate caps, gut preexisting conditions. Millions of people will lose their insurance. Many of them were Trump voters. Sadly many of them were not. But they will suffer also.

Why do Republicans hate poor people? It’s a question that has been asked often and there are many answers. As it came up again in the current Trumpcare discussion, I was reminded of a scene in E.M. Forster’s great novel “Howards End.” In the 1910 novel ForsterForster explored 3 groups of people from 3 different classes: the extremely wealthy and conservative Wilcoxes, upper middle class but liberal Schlegels, and poor but aspiring for something bigger Basts. The Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, try to help poor Leonard Bast, but their well-meaning interventions in his life, as well as not-well meaning interventions from the Wilcoxes, prove disastrous. He loses his job as a clerk in an insurance company after following bad advice from patriarch Henry Wilcox. When the impetuous Helen (played by Helena Bonham Carter in the magnificent film, with Emma Thompson as Margaret) tries to make her case for helping the poor to the condescending 1%-er Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins in the film), the following exchange takes place. Written in 1910, “Howards End”is still relevant in 2017.

From Chapter 22

He [Henry Wilcox] raised his finger. “Now, a word of advice.”

“I require no more advice.” [said Helen]

“A word of advice. Don’t take up that sentimental attitude over the poor. See that she doesn’t, Margaret. The poor are poor, and one’s sorry for them, but there it is. As civilisation moves forward, the shoe is bound to pinch in places, and it’s absurd to pretend that any one is responsible personally. Neither you, nor I, nor my informant, nor the man who informed him, nor the directors of the Porphyrion, are to blame for this clerk’s loss of salary. It’s just the shoe pinching–no one can help it; and it might easily have been worse.”

Helen quivered with indignation.

“By all means subscribe to charities–subscribe to them largely– but don’t get carried away by absurd schemes of Social Reform. I see a good deal behind the scenes, and you can take it from me that there is no Social Question–except for a few journalists who try to get a living out of the phrase. There are just rich and poor, as there always have been and always will be. Point me out a time when men have been equal–”

“I didn’t say–”

“Point me out a time when desire for equality has made them happier. No, no. You can’t. There always have been rich and poor. I’m no fatalist. Heaven forbid! But our civilisation is moulded by great impersonal forces” (his voice grew complacent; it always did when he eliminated the personal), “and there always will be rich and poor. You can’t deny it” (and now it was a respectful voice)–“and you can’t deny that, in spite of all, the tendency of civilisation has on the whole been upward.”

“Owing to God, I suppose,” flashed Helen.

He stared at her.

“You grab the dollars. God does the rest.”

It was no good instructing the girl if she was going to talk about God in that neurotic modern way. Fraternal to the last, he left her for the quieter company of Mrs. Munt.

[…]

“Don’t ever discuss political economy with Henry,” advised her sister. “It’ll only end in a cry.”

“But he must be one of those men who have reconciled science with religion,” said Helen slowly. “I don’t like those men. They are scientific themselves, and talk of the survival of the fittest, and cut down the salaries of their clerks, and stunt the independence of all who may menace their comfort, but yet they believe that somehow good–it is always that sloppy ‘somehow’ will be the outcome, and that in some mystical way the Mr. Basts of the future will benefit because the Mr. Brits of today are in pain.”

Howards End

Also, in brief: Richard Steele, the British spy who wrote the infamous “pee pee” dossier, has resurfaced. While American Senators want to hear him testify about what he knows.

WikiLeaks is dumping top secret CIA documents.

And contrary to earlier denials that he’s never met the Russian Ambassador (a man nobody has ever met), a newly unearthed article in the Wall Street Journal from last April says that Trump met with the Russian Ambassador and greeted him warmly.

What’s on your mind Widdershins? This is an open thread.

If you have been under a rock since last Friday, here are a few stories to catch you up.  Try this one and this one with ten questions and answers about the email story.

This was a conversation overheard last Friday at the corner of Pennsylvania and 10th outside the Hoover Building in Washington, D.C.  One guy was an old fellow and the other was James Comey.diogenes-2

Comey:  Hey old feller – you okay?

Old Guy:  Why yes young man.

Comey:  That’s a mighty fine-looking lantern you have there.

Old Guy:  I’ve had it for years.

Comey:  What are you doing this fine day?

Old Guy:  I’m looking for an honest man.

Comey:  Look no further.  I am the honest man you have been seeking.  In fact, I am the most honest of all men.

Old Guy:  How do you measure your honesty?

Comey:  On occasion, everyone has said I am a man of integrity and a servant of the people.  Being the most honest of all men, I believe I can declare I’m above all others.

Old Guy:  I must continue my journey since any honest man would not declare their honesty above all others since self-exultation is living in dishonesty.

comey-raising-his-hand

Of course, the old guy was Diogenes searching the world for an honest man.  Sadly, James Comey is not the first man and won’t be the last to confuse his high self-regard with self-righteousness.  And once that level of self-righteousness is reached, it is but a short hike to where the rules no longer apply.

Comey has firmly taken up residence in the world of “the rules apply to thee, but not to me.”  His failure to follow established Department of Justice guidelines is what the law calls res ipsa loquitur – the thing speaks for itself.

It has just been reported a couple of hours ago, when Comey was faced with a decision on whether or not to release definitive proof of Russian hacking and thereby meddling in the U.S. election, Comey unbelievably said, “It is too close to the election.”

Too close to the election weeks ago to associate the FBI with a report on Russian hacking, but just eleven days from the election, the violation of DOJ protocol was justified when some emails were discovered that “might or might not be pertinent” to the Clinton private server investigation.

In Comey’s self-righteous mind, he, or someone, was justified to sit on these emails for a month and announce their existence before even a warrant was sought to examine them.comey-spotlight

Comey’s delusional hubris is excused by a couple of logical leaps that wouldn’t even work on a schoolyard playground.  The first is to say, “Hillary brought this on herself.”  This type of sophistry is based in some preordained orchestration of life meaning Hillary is responsible for the misjudgment, malfeasance, and misfeasance of everyone who might cross her life’s path.  Hillary is not responsible for Comey’s failure to follow DOJ procedures.

The other line of Republican defense is, “Democrats have said Comey is a good public servant with integrity.”  Just because someone has integrity and a fine record as a public servant does not mean they are immune from making bad mistakes and exhibiting abysmal judgment.  Both things are not mutually exclusive. 

It will most likely be impossible to ever prove Comey’s real intent in releasing that vacuous letter last Friday, but there are a few things we do know:

  1. Comey knew his letter was so vapid and meaningless; he did an internal memo to the FBI to assuage various warring internal factions.
  2. Comey violated FBI procedures last July by his press conference, his release of investigation notes, and investigation materials. Bending to Republican pressure was proof he is vulnerable to “working the ref” psychology.
  3. Anonymous sources say that Comey fears leaks from disgruntled conservative FBI agents who wanted to indict Hillary this summer. If Comey can’t stop leaks from inside his own house, he needs to move on.  If there are factions of disgruntled FBI agents who want someone indicted for political motivations, they need to be unearthed, shamed, and banned.
  4. The lament that “Comey was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t,” is unmitigated horse crap. Here’s what Comey did do, he decided between his own self-congratulatory reputation and the national election.  Comey chose his deluded self-interest at the cost of the national election.  He chose the coward’s course.  He should be treated accordingly.
  5. The pattern of outrageous Republican behavior is paying dividends. To drag civil servants before the Congress and excoriate them in the public eye is to chasten all civil servants.  The fear of impeachment and investigation chills a civil servant – even a civil servant with a ten-year term like Comey.  This episode has whetted the appetite for more of this behavior.
  6. Comey knows if Hillary is elected she can’t fire him.  Comey has made peace with congressional Republicans who now love him for giving Trump a shot.  It is a win/win for him and he’s gambling with the house’s money since it is our election that is at stake.  Whatever reputation Comey had should now be indexed to Joe McCarthy in the history books.

hillary-presidential

It was never going to be easy for Hillary to win the presidency.  First, she’s a woman.  Second, her last name is Clinton.  Third, well, there is no third.  The hatred and vehemence directed toward Hillary would have silenced any normal human.  Hillary’s perseverance, courage, strength, and stick-withedness are truly super-human.  She will weather this.  She expected this or something like it.  She’s better than all those who are trying to stop her.

One last thought – permission to “hate on Hillary” was made socially acceptable in 1993 when it became almost mandatory for good Republicans to despise her.  And what was her great sin of transgression?  Wanting to make sure poor people and children could see a doctor when they were sick.  It is from that act of benevolent kindness she has suffered a lifetime of animosity and antagonism.  I don’t know if the Methodist Church has saints, but Hillary surely qualifies.

What’s on your mind today?

 

Good morning! Fighting through last week’s sadness will be no mean feat. It will take persistence to escape being taken hostage by the maudlin teams of glibly morose cable emcees. Hillary Clinton

It shouldn’t be too difficult to find those sites where the argument of the day is one side or the other in the raceguncivilrightsprivilegepoliticalimpolitic debate. Ratings come before understanding and there is neither separation nor confusion in the hierarchy between the two.

Being a one-stop shop here at the Widdershin Mart, I thought I’d leave it to others to delve into those indecipherable issues. I wanted to share something more definite and infinitely more quantifiable.

Last week FBI Director James Comey proved himself with quite a principled performance before the Chaffetz House Oversight and Overreach Committee. The most significant charge leveled at Hillary was that she is no technogeek. After two years of investigation, Director Comey pronounced Mrs. Clinton unfit for service on an IT help desk.

As I watched the nearly five hours of testimony, I had the feeling of déjà vu all over again. I felt I had been there before – that we’ve all been there before. And we have. So with the help of the Googling machine, I did a little research to see how much it cost for this experiential familiarity.

So I started, there were investigations into Nannygate, Travelgate, Filegate, Whitewater, Rose Law Firm, Vince Foster, Special Prosecutors, Benghazi Committees, and now the FBI email probe. Congressional Republicans actually took 140 hours of sworn testimony on the urgent question of whether the Clintons had misused the White House Christmas card list. That really happened. Best I can tell, these are the costs:

  • The FBI email probe of Hillary looks to clock in at about $20 Million for the FBI alone. There is really no good estimate of State Department or other agency costs.

So all told, conservatively, our government has spent somewhere between $110 and $120 Million on Clinton investigations. Outside of Bill lying about a blowjob, Hillary has been charged with nothing, nada, nil, not a whit of wrongdoing.

What’s more – this political talking point of the “system being rigged” is so inconceivably far-fetched and improbable it should come with a roll of heavy-duty aluminum foil suitable for designer hats.

In the inimitable words of Sol Wachtler, former chief judge of New York State, “You can indict a ham sandwich.” In fact, Judge Wachtler, himself, was later indicted and spent fifteen months at taxpayer’s expense in federal prison.  Like most successful and quotable attorneys, Wachtler was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and eventually got his law license reinstated. Ham sandwich indeed.

Multicolored coatIf any of these prosecutors or investigators had believed for one moment during these $100 Million worth of investigations that Hillary was indictable, she would have been indicted.  Celebrity hunting is the sport of the ambitious and it’s always open season – no limit. If there had been a whiff of smoke, you better believe that $100 Million would have bought a roaring fire.

You can be sure you will use this tidbit from the Widdershin One Stop during this political season. File it away for future use.

What’s on your mind today?

 

Take the rest of the week off.  What a week!  I mean really – what dyspepsia of the news gods has produced this amalgam of dysfunction?

Sunday was the epitome of insider cat fighting.  You had the Majority Leader of the Senate calling his fellow “stater” a demagogue and in the most granular way violating the Kentucky motto of, “United we stand, divided we fall.”  Well, both McTurtle and Randall busted their arses by falling and failing on Sunday.Rand and Mitch one day ago

McTurtle overestimated his ability to run out the clock in the Senate by refusing to take up the Patriot Act sooner; thereby, opening himself to scathing criticism.  Randall, Ron’s son, demonstrated just how close to the tree the nut can fall.  Shamelessly, Randall turned the Senate into a backdrop for his latest shameless campaign shakedown of the “black helicopter, cannabis crowd” for contributions with a television ad declaring “when government illegally collected our phone records, Rand Paul took a stand, defended our rights, and stopped them.”

Young Randall’s shenanigans guaranteed he was in the crosshairs of the Republican death squads.  The acid pen of Jennifer Rubin summed it up quite nicely:

[T]he incident should remind Americans, and Republicans specifically, how dangerous and irresponsible the junior Kentucky senator can be — and how poorly suited is his temperament for the job as president of the United States. His persistent attacks on the motives of his fellow Americans and penchant for moral preening don’t sit well when coming from President Obama; they will not be any more tolerable coming from Rand Paul.

What is clear is that Paul has chosen to be an inflammatory acolyte of his father, not a serious presidential contender. And it raises anew the question why Kentucky has only one senator who can work constructively and responsibly.

Another event Sunday caught my attention.  I admit, I’m a glutton for punishment when it comes to watching the Sunday gab fests, particularly Faux News Sunday.  It is pretty much getting the inside scoop on the enemy’s thinking while increasing my decidedly lazy heart rate.  Last Sunday was a treat.

brit humeNeera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress, was a guest on the panel and she absolutely schooled that “boil on the butt of a bullfrog”, Brit Hume.  Hume was doing his best to be “fair and balanced in his defense of possible pedophilia” in light of the revelations about Dennis Hastert.  Yes, you read that right – Hume was trying his best to take the edge off of Hastert’s alleged wrongdoing by shifting the focus to the “unwarranted activities” of government investigators.  Never mind the undeniable illegal financial transactions of Hastert or his lying to officials – it had to be someone else’s fault since Hastert is such a good guy, as if alleged pedophiles wear flashing lights or something.

Monday brought us quite the event with someone bursting on the scene with a new-found freedom and finding his voice for something he always wanted to do.  I’m not talking about Caitlyn Jenner, I’m talking about Lindsey Graham announcing, in his best southern snark, that he too would be a “contendah faur President of these United States.” Lindsey Graham

Emboldened after kissing his sister and unable to get through even twenty minutes without dishing snark at Hillary, he opined “he had more military experience than any other candidate in the race” – as if serving in the JAG Corps of the National Guard was a precursor to planning the D-Day invasion.

Tuesday brought us wall-to-wall coverage of FIFA and its many problems.  It has so many problems you’d think it was Illinois and New York politicians running the show.  Sepp Blatter, son of Gall and the father of the diminutive, Tiny, announced his resignation from the international bribery and Ponzi scheme.  Having been just reelected last Friday and resigning on Tuesday, people were convinced Sepp was just an “overactive Blatter”.

planeTuesday also brought us news that every major city now has an FBI counter-terrorist group as well as the FBI having a private domestic air force.  While the counter-terrorism efforts are not surprising, an air force of 115 planes equipped with high-tech cameras, and in some circumstances, technology capable of tracking thousands of cell phones.  These super-snooping Cessnas were tracked orbiting major cities and rural areas in more than 100 flights in 11 states beginning in late April and running through May.  Expect young Randall to insert himself on the end of an FBI runway in the near future.

Of course, the biblical rains hitting Texas have been big news for the past week or so.  What I have found interesting is the lack of coverage on a front that we have all come to expect these days from the religious “ain’t nothing” right.  I have yet to hear one single, solitary television minister proclaim that the Texas rains are “the product of the sinning and sinful ways of Texas”.  Not the case when it was Hurricane Sandy, which we all know was because of the rampant sinning of MTV’s “Jersey Shore.”

Another interesting bit of hypocrisy is that the Canadian-Cuban senator, Ted Cruz, who so derided the aid to the northeast during Sandy, was front and center wondering why the Kenyan-born, Islamic President was dithering on rebuilding Texas.  Logical consistency is so overrated among the top-tier of world-class demagogues.

There’s such mishegas and it is only Wednesday.  Take the conversation in any direction you might like.  Enjoy the craziness.

 

 

 

What do Baltimore, Muskogee, Josh Duggar, the Family Research Council, Ferguson, and Waco have in common?  Is it the lack of oxygen in the vacuum of moral superiority?  Is it the total detachment from reality that can only be borne from ignorance combined with an extraordinary talent for ignoring the world?  Is it the world as described by the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, “I know a lot of people without brains who do an awful lot of talking?”  Or is it, as you suspect, all of the above?

Suffice it to say, the road to absolute moral clarity is one paved with hypocrisy.  Allow me to digress and explain.Baltimore

After the unrest in Baltimore, blame was being apportioned in heaping helpings by the increasingly righteous Right.  For example, John Nolte, of Breitbart.com wrote, “Baltimore is what happens when you replace the two-parent family with a welfare check and union-run public schools.” Or Laura Ingraham, the talk-show host, “No fathers, no male role models, no discipline, no jobs, no values equals no sense of right and wrong.”  Or Rich Lowry, the editor of the National Review, “Baltimore is a Great Society city that bought fully into the big-government vision of the 1960s, and the bitter fruit has been corruption, violence, and despair.  This is a failure exclusively of Democrats.”

Or from The Wall Street Journal, never shy about trafficking in baseless blame on its editorial page:

Let’s not forget who has run Baltimore and Maryland for nearly all of the last 40 years. The men and women in charge have been Democrats, and their governing ideas are ‘progressive.’ This model, with its reliance on government and public unions, has dominated urban America as once-vibrant cities such as Baltimore became shells of their former selves.

But what about rock-ribbed communities governed by the pure hearts, virtuous minds, and never idle hands of conservatives?  That is the question asked by Thomas Edsall in a wonderful essay well-worth the read.  Mr. Edsall compared Baltimore and Muskogee, where the Okies “don’t smoke Marijuana, don’t take trips on LSD, and don’t burn their draft cards.”  It seems as though, times they are a’changin’.

As Edsall points out:

Today Muskogee, Okla., a city of 38,863, has nine drug treatment centers and a court specifically devoted to drug offenders.  A search for “methamphetamine arrest” on the website of the Muskogee Phoenix, the local newspaper, produces 316 hits.

Comparing both cities, the violent crime rate has fallen over the past decade, just as it has nationwide, although the 22.3 percent drop in Baltimore is four times as large as the 5.6 percent decline in Muskogee.

On an even larger comparative scale, the highest rates of white teenage pregnancy in the 30 states with available data are all in the reddest of red states. While the national white teenage pregnancy rate in 2010 was 38 per 1,000, white rates were at least 10 points higher in nine states: Oklahoma (59), West Virginia (64), Arkansas (63), South Carolina (51), Alabama (49), Mississippi (55), Tennessee (51), Kentucky (59) and Louisiana (51).

Josh Duggar and FRCThese mysterious things are called facts and you never hear them when blame is being preached or sin is being apportioned.  Such factual heresy brings me to Josh Duggar and the Family Research Council.  Duggar was the Executive Director at the FRC before that “awful, dreadful episode of teenage exuberance” came to light before a judge got around to ordering the police records destroyed.  Neither Duggar nor the Family Research Council has ever shown a whit of reticence when it comes to apportioning the ills of the world upon anyone not sharing their world view.

In this case Mr. Duggar, as a juvenile of 15 or 16, he sexually abused a series of girls and was never charged.  In fact, his egotistically fertile father and mother kept the crime a secret as self-described “good God-fearing parents” because who would ever want to air the family’s dirty laundry.  To the best of my knowledge, suborning criminal prosecution is not a biblical commandment — it is a crime, but under the Duggar crime-o-meter, only a crime for those whose morality falls outside the contortion of the fun house mirror of self-delusion.

And then we have Ferguson and Waco – one a community where an unarmed, young black man is gunned down in the street and the other where nine were killed and eighteen wounded in the parking lot of a “breastaurant”.  In Waco there were at least 153 OMG (Organized Motorcycle Gang) members taken into custody in what looked to be a relaxed atmosphere of extreme tolerance and good humor on the part of the local police.  In Ferguson, demonstrators were met with armored personnel carriers and swat teams in full Fallujah-wear.Waco

What struck me as noteworthy is how easily the word “thug” tripped off the tongue of those describing Ferguson.  Inexplicably, thug was never once used to describe the Bandido or the Cossack gang members even though the FBI describes the groups as “criminal enterprises involved in running drugs and guns”.  Obviously, a thug is not a thug when any other name is available for white, gun-running, motorcycle-riding drug dealers.

My reason for exhaustively detailing these examples of hypocrisy is that too often we “libruls” accept all the smears being thrown our way.  Whether it be from a desensitivity to being blamed for the world’s ills or plain old liberal guilt, for the last thirty-five years we have rarely taken the time to question those who fling such accusations.  It is time that changed.

In the long run it’s a fool who persists in trying to adapt the world to his philosophical whim and circumstance.  The future belongs to those leaders who reasonably adapt themselves to a world with an ever-changing course – that is an inheritance we need to pay forward.

Here’s hoping your Wednesday is a good one and please take the conversation in any direction you may desire.

 

 

 


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Our 2016 Ticket!

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