While Weasels Gnaw Our Flesh

Just a quick hit to remind everyone that while the criminal investigation of Trump and co. widens, they’re still pissing on us at every opportunity, and calling it rain.

So how’s this: it’s going to be legal again/stay OK for profit-making higher ed to rip off their students/protect the banksters:

The U.S. Department of Education is hitting pause on two of the Obama administration’s primary rules aimed at reining in for-profit colleges.

Department officials said they will block a rule, set to take effect next month, that clarifies how student borrowers can have their loans forgiven if they were defrauded or misled by their college. The plan was first reported by Inside Higher Ed Wednesday.

The Trump administration will pursue a do-over of the rule-making process that produced that regulation, known as borrower defense to repayment, as well as the gainful-employment rule. The latter holds vocational programs at all institutions and all programs at for-profits accountable when they produce graduates with burdensome student loan debt.

Given that college debt is one of the most iron-clad ways to crush upward mobility, this is another move by Trump and the grotesque DeVos to ensure that the current class structure in the United States remains intact.

Putting this in the long view:  the GI Bill, followed by the prioritization of public higher education in the 60s by leaders like Governor Pat Brown of California and Governor George Romney of Michigan, put first class advanced education and training within reach of an unprecedented amount of Americans.  The retreat from that ideal led by (mostly but not exclusively) Republican state governments, beginning with Reagan in California and then in the White House, have incrementally narrowed that opportunity.  Now, the combinatio of cost and constraints on access meant that the debt involved makes higher education as much or more a burden as it is the engine of a better life.

Today’s Republican party is just fine with that.  DeVos is not an outlier; this isn’t on Trump, or only on him.  The idea that higher ed (or education in general) is a business in which students are the product on whom to make a profit is utterly destructive of either a democratic ideal or any plausible concept of social justice.  And it is the core tenet of today’s radical conservatives calling themselves members of the Party of Lincoln.

One last thought:  I had dinner last week with a Democratic Party senior statesman.  He told me that in his view we’ve made the mistake of thinking better policies are argument enough for elections.  They’re not; we surely know that now, right?

Instead we have to convey something more, the framework in which specific good policies can work.  DeVos’ current obscenity gives us a hint as to what that might be. Republicans throw obstacles in the way of Americans making better lives.  Democrats are — and we should say so as loud as we can — the party of opportunity.

At least that’s my take.  I know it’s hardly original.  But whatever the particular frame you may favor, I think one of our biggest needs right now is to find a way to both describe and be (ever more) the party that can lay claim to affirmative allegiance, and not just the true fact that we are better than the other side.  Your feeling?

(Oh — and happy Father’s Day, all.  This thread should be open enough to tell us your plans, completed or still in prospect, for the day.  Mine? Pick up one of the rib-eyes on sale at Whole Paycheck today, and smoke it in the Weber egg.)

Image: Winslow Homer, The Country School 1871

Open Thread: Mike “Spiro” Pence Fancies His Chances

It was generally believed, back in the day, that the GOP forced Spiro Agnew on Nixon because anybody looking to impeach Tricky Dick would hesitate at the thought of installing a notorious old-school machine pol as his replacement. Turned out, of course, that Spiro got busted for simple envelopes-stuffed-with-cash graft before that could happen… so the GOP chose Gerry Ford, a grinning nonentity with a reputation for probity based on the fact he was too dumb to get away with anything, as Agnew’s replacement.

Mike “Dense”, as second-in-line to the Asterisk-in-Chief, was supposed to combine the recoil-in-horror social policies of Agnew with the ventriloquist-dummy reliability of Ford. Nobody wants to see a man who takes so much pride in his retrograde social opinions in the Oval Office; but if it should happen, the Repubs are sure he’ll be happy to sign whatever garbage the Freedumb Caucus or the Koch / Mercer / Thiel think tanks drop on his desk.

The tricky bit is that the people pulling Trump’s strings are a lot smarter than your average Repub backroom schemer. I rate the chances of Putin not having some kompromat on Mr. Mike as approximately as high as my chances of winning a medal in the next Olympics. Even if Pence were actually burdened with political ethics — how long has he been a Republican? — Lord Smallglove’s reverse-Midas gift for befouling anyone that approaches him too closely is not a factor in his favor. From the CNN article above:

A senior administration adviser acknowledged there have been weeks of hand-wringing behind closed doors among members of Pence’s team, and an acceptance that the questions about Russia and the Trump campaign were not disappearing. Pence has been under fire for not knowing a number of things that happened during the transition — which he led as chairman.

A number of Pence advisers and staff worked out of Trump Tower during the transition — and are now worried about being dragged into legal issues…

Read more

Later Night Gleeful Grifters Open Thread: Newt Gingrich Has A Book to Sell

Sure, that’s how normal people think, but the Ambitious Albino Amphibian is still out there, chugging away, peddling his GOP-patented brand of toxic filth. Some wee-hour nostalgia for those of us who remember the 1990s…

Newt’s also trying to sell himself to Trump (or some upper-level Trump staffer who can give him a platform) as a Very Special Advisor, c.f. Dan Drezner’s “The worst Walter Lippmann impersonation ever“. Not a job you’d think anyone would be rushing to apply for, but then, the competition for Worst Repub Pundit is so intense these days! — it’s as though forty years of wingnut billionaires pouring money into college programs and veal-pen “think tanks” had created an oversupply of vicious little piranhas in almost-human form. The old pros just have to hustle that much harder to stand out amid the noise and churn…

Read more

Open Thread: Texas Repubs Discover They’re the Marks

You know the old saw, If you look around the poker table and can’t tell who the mark is, it’s you ?

Texas Republicans are turning Texas blue, and they’ve picked an incredibly awkward moment to do so.

Awkward for Republicans, that is, and conservatism more generally. The electoral implications are obvious; If President Trump hadn’t won Texas, he would have lost the Electoral College. Beyond that, though, Texas Republicans were — until quite recently — the gold standard of conservative governance in the 21st century United States.

During the period now known as the “Texas Miracle,” the state was the most powerful proof of concept that conservatives had. As the second-largest state in the country, in terms of both size and population, it was a reasonable proxy for a socially, racially, and economically heterogeneous nation. Perhaps, more importantly, the state’s outsized economic growth and diversification since the beginning of the millennium, in particular, was not just notable but meaningful. Texas created jobs in every income quartile, and almost every industry; outcomes weren’t ideal, but they were improving…

But then 2014 happened. Perry decided to retire, and Dewhurst was unseated in the Republican primary by the current incumbent, Dan Patrick. Since then, Texas’ newly elected leaders have struggled to govern — and the blistering margins Republicans posted in 2014 point to the reason why. After 20 years in power, Texas Republicans had no real need to compete in the general election. The real contest was for the Republican nomination.

As a result, Texas ended up with some true buffoons in high office. Among the officials elected in 2014 was, for example, Attorney General Ken Paxton. Six months after he was sworn in as the state’s top law enforcement official, he was charged with three felonies. One of them was related to a violation that he had already admitted to, of a law he had voted to create years earlier as a member of the Texas legislature.

Making matters worse is that competent Republicans leaders are either in thrall to the party’s oddly entitled grassroots activists, like Gov. Greg Abbott, or trying to fly below their radar, like Land Commissioner George P. Bush…

Today’s Republicans are essentially parasites on the body politic, and it seems like they may be due to discover the disadvantage of the parasitic livestyle: If you bleed the host too much too fast, either they’ll find a way to expel you, or you’ll die right along with your victim. Here’s hoping Texas is able to fight back hard enough to make it the first option!

Thursday Evening Open Thread: New Repub Protective Euphemism!

Republican Rep. David Schweikert said in a radio interview Thursday that President Donald Trump might lack the language discipline to avoid giving the appearance of interfering in an investigation.

Schweikert said Trump may not have learned the discipline because he’s not from the “political class.” Schweikert made the comments on NPR’s “Morning Edition” during a discussion about possible obstruction of justice by Trump in the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s influence in the 2016 election…

So, Trump isn’t very adept at lying, which is the natural ‘language discipline’ of the GOP… just as a newly-weaned puppy lacks the bladder discipline not to piddle on the rug.

And the way GOP standards for their Dear Leader keep sinking, “didn’t piddle on the rug in the Oval Office” is gonna be next month’s behavioral gold star, isn’t it?

Apart from [facepalm]-ing, what’s on the agenda for the evening?


Here’s something 98 out of 100 U.S. Senators agree on: Donald Trump shouldn’t be able to unilaterally lift sanctions on Russia. Via Bloomberg:

The U.S. Senate voted to increase sanctions on Russia, and give Congress the power to review any attempt by President Donald Trump to unilaterally lift them, a rebuke of the president’s suggestions that the U.S. improve relations with the country.

It’s almost like they don’t trust him not to be weirdly solicitous of Putin or something…

And Grass is Green and Sky is Blue

They just now figured this out?

…the warped topography of Trumplandia.

It’s a reputation-savaging place. Ask Rod Rosenstein for sure. Herbert McMaster, too. Also James Mattis. Sean Spicer. Reince Priebus. Rex Tillerson. Dan Coats. All have been under pressure, undercut or contradicted. They’ve been asked to pledge their fidelity to — even proclaim their adoration for — a man who adores only himself.

Here’s hoping he takes down the entire GOP as he sinks to that’s magical 27%. FSM willing.