The State of the Current GOP

A series of headlines:





The Company He Keeps

Look who Ted Cruz has recruited as his economic advisor:

If it’s true that a man can be judged by the company he keeps, what are we to make of the appointment of former Sen. Phil Gramm as economic advisor to the Presidential campaign of Ted Cruz?

Cruz made the appointment Friday, when he collected Gramm’s endorsement of his quest for the Presidency.

As Micheal Hiltzik points out in his coverage of this — what’s the word?– curious appointment, Gramm is exactly whom you’d choose if one global financial meltdown just wasn’t delicious enough:

Gramm left a long record as a dedicated financial deregulator on Capitol Hill, with much of his effort aimed at freeing up trading in derivatives. That’s why he’s often identified as one of the godfathers of the 2008 financial crisis, which was spurred in part by banks’ imprudent trading and investing in these extremely complex financial instruments.


Gramm himself is undeterred by his own disastrous record, and clearly Cruz is equally unbothered.  That would be why both men are ignoring Gramm’s last appearance as a campaign surrogate:

Gramm’s previous stint as a Presidential campaign advisor ended inauspiciously. That was in 2008, when he served as co-chairman of John McCain’s Presidential run.

Gramm’s most notable moment in that position came on July 10, 2008, when he dismissed the developing economic crisis as “a mental recession” in an interview–and video–released by the conservative Washington Times. “We’ve never been more dominant,” he said. “We’ve never had more natural advantages than we have today. We’ve sort of become a nation of whiners.” McCain immediately disavowed the remarks, and a few days later Gramm stepped down as his campaign co-chairman.

I’m assuming that Ted Cruz does actually hope to become president, and thus makes his choices in the belief that they will advance him to that end.  So I can only see two possible interpretations for this exhuming of one of the most egregious poster children for GOP economic failure.

One is that this is what epistemic closure looks like when it’s at home.  It takes a hermetic seal between you and reality to think the “nation of whiners” trope is a winner this year (or ever, really, but especially now).

The other is that this is just trolling, or rather yet one more instance of believing an action is simply good in itself, transcendently so, if it pisses liberals off.  Which lands Cruz — and the GOP — in exactly the same place as option one: doubling down on the crazy for reasons extremely clear only to those with the correct implants in their upper left second molar.

All of which is to say that I remain firm in my belief that the entity identifying itself as Senator Cruz is in fact one of these guys.

“Where are we going?”

“Galt’s Gulch”


“Real soon!”

Image:  J. W. M. Turner, Sunrise With Sea Monsters, 1845

It’s Who They Are


So while I was away from the computer today, the Republicans apparently decided to say fuck it, and are doing the legislative equivalent of YOLO. They’ve pulled down their pants down in public, are rubbing feces all over themselves, and doing a Burning Man tribal dance in front of the entire nation and world:

Senate Republican leaders, trying to slam shut any prospects for an election-year Supreme Court confirmation, said on Tuesday they would not even meet with President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, urged the president to reconsider even submitting a name.

At the same time, Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans issued a letter unanimously rejecting any confirmation hearings.

The actions of Senate Republican leaders and the committee of jurisdiction sent a clear signal to President Obama and wavering Republicans that their ranks would not crack. It also thrust the Senate into unprecedented territory; Senators meet with high-court nominees as matters of courtesy and cordiality, but even that tradition has been rejected.

Instead, Republican leaders vowed they would not even consider Mr. Obama’s nominee regardless of his or her qualifications.

And you can forget about recess appointments:

Senate Republicans aren’t going to take any chances that President Barack Obama might try to appoint a Supreme Court nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia while they’re not looking.

Obama has the constitutional right to “fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session” in what’s known as a recess appointment. It’s a controversial maneuver designed to bypass the Senate confirmation process, but Obama previously used it in 2012 to install long-delayed members of the National Labor Relations Board.

But Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Monday that he doesn’t expect the Senate to recess at all for the remainder of the year.

“I’d say it’s safe to say we’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure the president doesn’t issue any recess appointments,” Cornyn said.

There have been some, Kevin Drum, for example, who think that this has a lot to do with Robert Bork. This is the same excuse that is charitably rolled out by people who always seem to be blinded by the venality of the modern GOP. The Bork confirmation is blamed for the problems with all judicial nominations. It’s blamed for the loss of bipartisanship in general. Every time these claims are trotted out, they are also a sideways attack on Ted Kennedy, but it is worth remembering what precisely Ted Kennedy said about Robert Bork:

Mr. Bork should also be rejected by the Senate because he stands for an extremist view of the Constitution and the role of the Supreme Court that would have placed him outside the mainstream of American constitutional jurisprudence in the 1960s, let alone the 1980s. He opposed the Public Accommodations Civil Rights Act of 1964. He opposed the one-man one-vote decision of the Supreme Court the same year. He has said that the First Amendment applies only to political speech, not literature or works of art or scientific expression.

Under the twin pressures of academic rejection and the prospect of Senate rejection, Mr. Bork subsequently retracted the most neanderthal of these views on civil rights and the first amendment. But his mind-set is no less ominous today.

Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.

Save the segregated lunch counter (and that’s only because it is a bridge too far even for our media, but not too far- google Trump + Muslim +Ban), everything Kennedy said about Bork is now enshrined within the mainstream of conservative thought and written in to the platforms of the GOP in many states for all to see. So no, this isn’t about Bork. This is merely the next logical step in the progression of a sociopathic party.

Drum’s fault is that he is a kind and decent man. I am not, and coupled with the fact that I was inside the belly of the beast for a long while, and I know how they think and act. I am unburdened by the blinders of good will, and have an easy formula for how I decide why and what the GOP is going to do in every situation. Merely imagine the dumbest, most venal, and most cynical self-serving immediate choice, add in a heap of racism and a little bit of Jesus, and you have whatever the Republicans will propose.

They aren’t just doing this because they can, they are doing it because they are scared, and they are afraid, and they are losing, and they know it. They are doing this because they hate Obama. This is the same kind of impotent rage they had towards Clinton, who just whipped them every single time and smiled all the way through it, but this time it is worse because Obama is a black man and the country has changed. They are losing the demographic war, so all they have is the courts and the hope that their jury-rigged voting process can keep things in place just a little bit longer. They are doing this because they know they are weak going into the 2016 election, and have convinced themselves that if they all stand together, the American people aren’t going to be able to pick out Kirk in Illinois or Toomey in PA or Johnson in Wisconsin or Portman in Ohio or Ayotte in NH and so on.

Just as serial killers ramp up the frequency and violence as their condition progresses, so do the sociopaths in Congress. It wasn’t too long ago we were all shocked at someone yelling “You lie” during the State of the Union, but here we are. They are weak and they are desperate and things are only going to get worse. It’s up to us to stop them.

Peak wingnut was a lie.

Aux Armes, Citoyenes!

It’s just being reported that the GOP caucus in the US Senate has decided that Presidenting while Democrat and/or Black is not to be allowed to happen.

That is — the majority party in The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body™ has decided that it will not entertain any piece of President Obama’s nomination for the still dead Scalia’s Supreme Court seat.  Zip, zero, nada, nothing:  no hearing, no vote, no respect for whatever jurist Obama chooses; for Obama himself, obviously; for the office of the President, clearly; and ultimately for the Constitution so many of those prating thugs assert they hold above all else.

To which my response is:


Thank you.

You couldn’t have done a greater service to the Democratic Party’s hopes in November, and thus to the country.

It’s hard usually, as readers of this blog know, to cut through the noise of political blather and the insistent demands of daily life.  But this is one of those moments when stakes and character become clear — enough, I deeply hope, to move the dial in November. Most simply, if there were any enthusiasm gap between the parties, it’s going, going, gone now.

We have two jobs:  for one, elect the Democrat, whoever that may be, to the Presidency.  I’m more a Hillary person than a Bernie one, but I’ll pound the hills of New Hampshire for either one this coming fall, every damn chance I get.

The other:  these embarrassments as Senators must go:  Kirk, Johnson, Toomey, Portman, Ayotte.  The Florida open seat, and as distant hopes, McCain and Burr too.  I’ll be up in New Hampshire (as I may have mentioned a sentence or two ago), pounding the hills for Governor Hassan, every damn chance I get.  If you can get to a race that’s in the balance, do so.  If you can’t, do whatever else you can.

One last thought: I didn’t think that anything the GOP could do — especially an act as predictable as this — would do more than deepen my weary sense of “they are who we thought they were.” But this feels like a last straw. I’m just done with allowing any framing of this as “just politics” or what have you. I and a majority of my fellow citizens voted President Obama into office twice. The disrespect to him is something he can handle (better than I ever would). But it’s the delegitimizing of my vote, my choice, my place in American democracy that has just gotta stop. The current Republican Party has to be destroyed, root and branch. They are blight on policy, and a boil on the body politic. Time for them to go.

A Bad Week for the “Business of Education”

Last week was a bad one for the “Education Should Be a Business” crowd.

First, a Success Academy charter school teacher was caught on film harshly criticizing and publicly humiliating a first grader. She literally tore the girl’s classwork into pieces and flung them aside!

Success Academy, of course, is claiming that the incident was an exception, both for this teacher and the network in general. However, there’s plenty of testimony that it isn’t. “If you’ve made them cry, you’ve succeeded in getting your point across,” is how one former assistant principal characterized the Success Academy culture; and she also noted that, “embarrassing or belittling children for work seen as slipshod was a regular occurrence, and in some cases encouraged by network leaders.”

Success Academy is a not-for-profit organization that many have accused of operating way too much like a for-profit one, with enormous salaries for top execs, and too many ties to the for-profit sector.

Then there’s Simon Newman, the president of Mount Saint Mary’s College in Maryland. He’s a former financial executive and current psychopath who appears to have gotten his job despite having zero educational experience. Here’s the advice he gave about underperforming freshman at a closed faculty meeting:

“This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies. But you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.”

After this was leaked and published in the student paper, he then fired the tenured faculty member overseeing that paper. (Later reinstated.)

I hope and expect Newman’s days at MSMC are numbered—I mean who other than Mommie Dearest would send their kid to a school run by this guy?–but I’m guessing he’ll leave with a fine severance package and a satisfying sense of victimization.

Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish


Antonin Scalia is dead, and the world is a better place. He was a wretch of a human being, and I don’t even want to pretend I am anything less than giddy at his passing. If there is a hell, may he rot for eternity next to Andrew Breitbart, and may he be taunted for eternity by the ghosts of the people he helped sentence to death.

“There is no basis in text, tradition, or even in contemporary practice (if that were enough), for finding in the Constitution a right to demand judicial consideration of newly discovered evidence of innocence brought forward after conviction.”

“My concern is that in making life easier for ourselves we not appear to make it harder for the lower federal courts, imposing upon them the burden of regularly analyzing newly-discovered-evidence-of-innocence claims in capital cases (in which event such federal claims, it can confidently be predicted, will become routine and even repetitive).” – Antonin Scalia)

He was a horrible human being who seemed to almost take joy in handing down rulings that punished those already under the boot. He was racist:

“There are – there are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to ­­ to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less­-advanced school, a less – a slower-track school where they do well.

“One of – one of the briefs pointed out that – that most of the – most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re – that they’re being pushed ahead in – in classes that are too ­­ too fast for them.”

He was a homophobe:

The Supreme Court’s decisions protecting gay rights were not rooted in the Constitution, and their logic could as easily apply to child molesters, Justice Antonin Scalia told a room filled with first-year law students at Georgetown University on Monday.

“What minorities deserve protection?” he asked. “What? It’s up to me to identify deserving minorities?”

He said those decisions should generally be made by the democratic process rather than by judges.

He also allowed that the First Amendment protects political and religious minorities but suggested that there was no principled way for courts to make further distinctions based on the text of the Constitution. “What about pederasts?” he asked. “What about child abusers?”

“This is a deserving minority,” he said sarcastically. “Nobody loves them.”

In my recollection, his only positive attributes were occasional support for the 1st and 4th amendment. But he was a horrible person, whatever his intellect, and it is worth noting that the VERY LAST thing Scalia was planning to do was to go on a hunting trip today, no doubt a canned hunt, to kill defenseless animals for sports.

In his death, he will do us one final favor- to further demonstrate how phony originalism is, as right-wing Constitution fetishists spend the next couple weeks just flat out making shit up on how a Supreme Court Justice is appointed, as they attempt to come up with a way to deny Obama the right to appoint a justice this year.

Fuck him.

What the Hell is Wrong with these People?


This is just straight up fucked up:

Carly Fiorina has been accused of “ambushing” a group of children, after she ushered pre-schoolers, who were on a field trip to a botanical garden, into an anti-abortion rally in Des Moines.
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On Wednesday, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive embarked on a day of campaigning across Iowa, in an attempt to boost her ailing presidential campaign.

The alleged ambush occurred when Fiorina hosted a “right to life” forum at the Greater Des Moines botanical garden. Entering the rally, before a crowd of about 60 people, she directed around 15 young children towards a makeshift stage.

The problem, one parent said, was that the children’s parents had not given Fiorina permission to have their children sit with her – in front of a huge banner bearing the image of an unborn foetus – while she talked about harvesting organs from aborted babies.

“The kids went there to see the plants,” said Chris Beck, the father of four-year-old Chatham, one of the children Fiorina appeared with. “She ambushed my son’s field trip.”

Is that even legal?