Quick Read: Devin Nunes and the Memo … and More

GRIPES, GRUMBLES, GRUDGES--The Thursday rundown: Devin Nunes has made a name for himself by carrying water for the right wing, even when he has to resort to logic that is, to put it mildly, illogic. His latest exploit as chair of the House Intelligence Committee is the release of a memo that purports to expose FBI wrongdoing. The best response comes from Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo.  who writes in The GOP and Big Lie Politics, 

"The biggest impact of the Nunes Memo – and the accompanying wave of propaganda – is that conventional news and commentary is incapable of handling willful lying in the public sphere. This is a pattern we’ve seen again and again. It’s one of the hallmarks of this political age. It’s worth saying it again: conventional media is not equipped to deal with willful lying in the public sphere." 

Marshall is quite correct. We have merely to consider the series of press secretaries who have made overt lying into a profession worthy of 1930s dictatorships. Nunes has been trying to build a name for himself by joining in. Where are the headlines on the front pages of the major American newspapers saying "President Lies Again." It  should be the major story on a daily basis.


Pro Football's Fallen Ratings 

Everyone from CityWatch to the president have commented on the fact that NFL football has suffered falling TV ratings. Some have blamed it on a saturated market, although there is no NFL football on Tuesday afternoons or Wednesday midnight as yet. Others blame it on patriotic fans being angered because Colin Kaepernick chose to take a knee rather than stand at attention during the playing of the national anthem. 

May I offer a rather different take. Pro football is boring. It's dull as dishwater unless you care who wins. Howard Cosell actually got to the heart of it many years ago, when he mused on-air how the league, through its draft policy, had created wall to wall mediocrity. In practice, the result is that every team has some weakness. For whatever reason, that weakness is often on the offensive line. 

And then came the Super Bowl, which was actually interesting. Of course that was probably true mostly for those who were rooting against New England. But that was most of us. Anyway, we saw an Eagles team which did show some offensive line play. It helped that New England couldn't seem to make a downfield tackle during the first half. 

There used to be a saying that on any given day, any team in the NFL could beat any other NFL team. I guess this was one of those given days, if only in the sense that journeyman quarterbacks seem to come through in the Super Bowl more often than should be expected. By the way, did anyone else read those titles as "Super Bowl Lee?" That's the way the Roman numeral LII looks to me.


Whatever happened to Wonkette? Sexism leads to a major recession 

Back at the dawn of blogging (2004 to be exact), there was a site called Wonkette. The term wonk is an Ivy League-ish word for a studious student. We gradually learned that Wonkette was founded and edited by Ana Marie Cox. She had a propensity for political analysis along with the use of a particularly stark term for anal sex. It turns out that Cox followed up on her brief term at Wonkette by working for numerous prestigious publications such as Time, The Daily Beast, and GQ magazine. This week, the New Republic online site is running a collection of essays called Capital Offenses which includes the comments of eight female authors including the original Wonkette, who argues that the punishment some male harassers have received does fit their crimes. It's worth a read. 

One of the more telling essays is by Monica Potts and is titled She Called It. It's the story of a female head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission who, starting in 1996, began warning about the dangers of something called over-the-counter derivatives. She was first ignored, then attacked, by the male dominated economics establishment. These derivatives led to the economic catastrophe that began in 2008. 

"But when Born started to push for new rules, a quartet of powerful economists—Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, Alan Greenspan, and Arthur Levitt, all of whom were in charge of much more powerful entities—dismissed her concerns. Levitt didn’t know Born, but he did know the other three men, who helped shape Levitt’s opinion of her. “I was told that she was irascible, difficult, stubborn, unreasonable,” Levitt said in a Frontline documentary in 2009." 


Currency Devaluation 

Donald Trump has devalued the word beautiful. Maybe it's the intonation, or maybe it's just knowing the source, but in this Trumpen world where everything is described as a superlative, the use of the word 'beautiful' has been demeaned. 

Oh, and he wants a parade. A big military parade. One pundit mused that Trump may next decide to wear a uniform with epaulets. Banana meet republic.


A Neighborhood Council story 

As I've mentioned before, the city has taken up the question of how much money to dole out to neighborhood councils. The councils range in size from 3500 people up to around thirty times that number. The problem (if it is a problem) is that every council gets exactly the same appropriation. They spend it on office expenses and by giving it away to public aid organizations (the so-called Neighborhood Purpose Grants). They also spend your tax dollars on events such as fairs and parades. 

The much awaited Working Group on Funding Equity finally met last week. I would have attended more of the meeting except for the fact that the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment somehow lost my name when they were supplying the parking list to City Hall. Oh well. I eventually parked on South Main, just a few feet from where tough cop Nick Nolte bought a hot dog in the nearly forgotten film Mulholland Falls

Here's what I heard when I finally got indoors: The panelists were obsessed with defending the rights of neighborhood councils to spend the public's money late in the fiscal year. Apparently somebody once complained about some council arguing that they had to use it or lose it as their money and the year came to an end. Other members of the working group were concerned that some councils have to pay out of their own budgets for translators whereas other councils are not in need of translators. Finally, some were concerned that a few councils get free office space and therefore have lots of money left to spend. 

Hardly anybody got to the core argument. The money appropriated to neighborhood councils was originally intended so that they could buy office equipment and hire a stenographer or rent an office as they saw fit. In other words, they could spend the money to advance their purpose as representatives of the people. There is nothing in the City Charter that appoints neighborhood councils to be granting agencies whose purpose is to dole out money to nonprofit organizations. But now we have the neighborhood purpose grants (NPGs) which do just that. 

Nobody thought to say that if you are giving out NPGs, then you are demonstrating that you have enough money to fulfill all your operational needs.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net)