Tag Archives: congress

On The Brink

What a time for Congress to be impotent.

The outcome of the war in Ukraine will have enormous consequences for global democracy, and requires unflagging support that MAGA Republicans oppose. The war just launched by Hamas against Israel threatens to strengthen Netanyahu, a corrupt, anti-democratic autocrat embraced by Trump who has caused immense damage to Israel’s reputation, both at home and abroad, and to further destabilize one of the world’s most dangerous areas. Climate change is accelerating, while MAGA Republicans continue to deny its reality. The gap between the rich and the rest is accurately characterized as a new and massively unfair Gilded Age. American lifespans are declining…The list goes on.

And the Republicans in Congress are clowns, utterly unable to rise to any occasion, or to make even the most feeble efforts to do their jobs. The GOP has picked a very unfortunate time to disintegrate ala the Whigs.

As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has observed, McCarthy’s downfall is another symptom of the same underlying pathologies: a cultish GOP in thrall to a would-be autocrat, anti-majoritarian structural impediments, a surge in right-wing extremism, and White resentments and grievances channeled into a burn-it-all-down fever.

 Unfortunately, McCarthy’s ouster.doesn’t change those underlying systemic problems. Republicans in the House are deeply divided between an outdated and unrealistic Right wing and a full-blown lunatic Right. The two candidates who’ve emerged as frontrunners in the contest to succeed McCarthy would be unacceptable in any rational legislative body. (Jim Jordan is so unhinged that one Democratic strategist has been quoted for the observation that elevating him would give Democrats 14 additional House seats. Steve Scalise is best known for his claim to be “David Duke without the baggage.”)

All this would be bad enough in a saner, more peaceful world. Now, it’s terrifying–sort of like being stuck in place with a broken leg while watching an avalanche descending on you . 

Jennifer Rubin recently summed up where we are, and she echoed my own feelings: 

After Hamas is defeated, there will be a reckoning in Israel to match anything we have ever seen. Evidence of warnings to the Israeli government about insufficient deterrence, recriminations about putting a racist ideologue in the Defense Ministry post and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s misguided assault on democracy will all be reviewed. Careers will end. History will convict many of grotesque negligence.

Here in the United States, I have less patience than usual (which is often none) for inane right-wing rhetoric in the United States. No, there were no humanitarian funds released to Iran that might have put money in the mullahs’ pockets to be spent on Hamas. No, the Biden administration did not invite any of this. Republicans used to denounce the urge to “blame America first” for monstrous evil perpetrated by others. No more.

This should, but likely will not, inject some sobriety into the Republican Party, which has held up U.S. military promotions and confirmations and State Department postings; brought the House to a state of collapse under the weight of MAGA hysteria; carried water for Russia (an ally of Iran); and generally reminded us that adults are needed in government.

Voters need to wise up: We cannot tolerate the return to power of the egregiously unfit four-times indicted former president (who gleefully spread around intelligence information) nor allow MAGA nihilists to hold the country hostage. The stakes here and around the world are far too grave.

And those stakes are “around the world.” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began the largest war in Europe since World War II. Meanwhile, China has become more bellicose toward Taiwan, India is experiencing an eruption of virulent nationalism, and Israel has formed the most extreme government in its history. Populism is growing in otherwise democratic countries like France and Spain.

If the chaos caused in large measure by the “stop the world, I want to get off” Republcans in Congress ends up adding fuel to a meltdown of civilization and stability across the globe, if the wars that keep breaking out engulf us in another worldwide conflict, a significant cause will be the fact that far too many Americans have reverted to an unthinking and reflexive tribalism while they wallow in an utter lack of interest in –or desire for–adult governance.

The only bright spot in any of this is the fact that we have a seasoned, wise and statesmanlike President at the helm, and not the preceding ignoramus.



The New Partisanship

When emerging information about President Richard Nixon’s misconduct became too plentiful to deny, a group of Republican Senators famously visited him in the White House and told him his time was up. They put the welfare of the country above the consequences for their political party.

To say that times have changed would be the understatement of the year….

I thought about that visit to Nixon when I came across a report that Jamie Raskin had called for a congressional investigation of Jared Kushner. 

Raskin, of course, is a Democrat, and Kushner a Republican, so it is easy to see this as political gamesmanship–but that dismissal would ignore some highly relevant facts: Raskin is a first-class human being and brilliant constitutional lawyer, for one, and his request for an investigation was not only based on considerable evidence of wrongdoing, it served to underline the politics motivating the GOP’s pursuit of charges against Hunter Biden.

Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, urged the committee’s chairman, James Comer, to “compel Jared Kushner to comply with document requests he has ignored and defied for over a year.” Those requests came in 2022 from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform when Democratic representatives were using the committee to investigate the very real “appearance of a quid pro quo for your foreign policy work during the Trump Administration.” The billions (with a “B”) that Kushner’s investment firm, Affinity Partners, has received from various Gulf monarchies, as well as the $2 billion (with a “B”!) he got from Saudi Arabia is orders of magnitude more than what Comer’s unsubstantiated claims against Hunter Biden are.

Comer immediately dismissed Raskin’s request as an effort to distract from the Committee’s effort to prove that President Biden was involved in his son’s shady business deals–an effort that has so far turned up evidence only that Biden loved his son. For that matter, the Committee hasn’t been able to provide any evidence that Hunter –Biden’s surviving son who seems like a sad and none-too-ethical character–has done anything worse than playing on his family name and failing to pay a couple of years’ taxes.

There is, however, a lot of suggestive evidence of corruption on the part of Jared Kushner. And Kushner–unlike Hunter Biden– was part of what passed for government during the Trump Administration. Indeed, he was a top adviser to the president of the United States (a fact that terrified me at the time, and continues to be difficult to get one’s head around.)

After subpoenas and the full power of his committee, Comer has not been able to produce any evidence that Hunter Biden did anything wrong. In fact, the only evidence Comer has provided seems to prove that then-Vice President Joe Biden, with all of his responsibilities, was trying very hard to be a supportive father to his son.

The linked post points out thatJared Kushner’s top-secret clearance was obtained over the strenuous objections of two White House security specialists who worried about his “dubious connections” with foreign money. Kushner’s current Affinity Partner fund appears to be an entirely Saudi investment fund  with clients who are “99% non-United States persons.’”

If there was any credible evidence to suggest that Hunter Biden–a private citizen– committed crimes and that Joe Biden participated or enabled that activity, Americans absolutely should know about it. Given the time and effort Republicans have put into their search for such evidence, however, it’s pretty clear that there is nothing there.  Raskin’s call for an investigation of Kushner serves to make a point: this Congress is not basing its investigative efforts on legitimate concerns about government corruption. Instead, the Republicans who currently (barely) control the House are engaged in politcal vendettas unrelated to actual misbehavior.

We’ve come a long way from the time a Republican delegation consisting of Barry Goldwater, House Minority Leader John Rhodes and Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott  told Richard Nixon that he faced impeachment, conviction and removal from office over the Watergate scandal. 

It’s no wonder so many Americans don’t know what–or who– to believe. A significant number of public officials cheerfully substitute propaganda for information and self-serving pronouncements for truthful ones. Today’s GOP is split between the shameless and amoral wanna-be’s who are pandering to the MAGA cult and those who know better, but are too spineless to publicly dissent.

I really don’t care whether Congress investigates the Trump clan, a/k/a the real crime family. I do care–a lot–about the fact that far too many people continue to vote for politicians whose sole fidelity is to their partisan advantage–facts, evidence and truth be damned….



Idiocy And Its Consequences

Most of us know people who ignore what is happening in Washington, D.C., or in their own state’s capitols. During my teaching years, I had several students who simply failed to connect the activities of policymakers to their own lives–governance seemed remote, almost irrelevant, especially when they were overwhelmed with efforts to balance school, jobs and families.

The extent of that civic apathy, alongside the ongoing culture war, goes a long way toward explaining why we have a Congress filled with clowns, self-important ignoramuses and assorted lunatics intent upon preventing, rather than producing, governance and policy.

Government gridlock matters, whether the apathetic crowd understands that or not. The most recent evidence is the downgrading of long-term American debt by Fitch Ratings, one of the three major independent credit rating agencies. Fitch downgraded the nation’s long-term debt from AAA, the highest tier, to AA+ — only the second time in U.S. history that the country’s debt has been downgraded. The first followed a cut by S&P Global Ratings in 2011, prompted by a fight between House Republicans and President Obama over raising the federal borrowing limit. Fitch cited a similar standoff this spring, when House Republicans again refused to raise the debt ceiling for several months.

The agency explained that “The repeated debt limit political standoffs and last-minute resolutions have eroded confidence in fiscal management.” Although it also listed America’s growing debt burden, the agency made it clear that the fact of the debt wasn’t the issue: it was the “erosion of governance” that had created doubts about the nation’s ability to cope with that debt. Fitch highlighted the GOP’s tax cuts, at a time when fiscal prudence called for increasing, rather than decreasing, tax receipts.

 In their announcement of the downgrade, Fitch analysts cited  “erosion of governance” compared to peers that “over the last two decades that has manifested in repeated debt limit standoffs and last-minute resolutions.”

In other words, as The New York Times observed, the downgrade was yet another sign that those knowledgable about the economy are increasingly worried about the effects of America’s political chaos–and especially about the recurring brinkmanship over the debt limit that is becoming entrenched in Washington–despite the fact that the U.S. economy is currently robust.

The immediate consequence of the Fitch downgrade was a sell-off on Wall Street, where retirement funds and stocks held by many of those apathetic citizens took a bath. And as ABC News reported, when government struggles to address debt issues, triggering such a downgrade, consumers face higher interest rates for loans–  higher costs for borrowing for everything from credit cards to mortgages to cars.

So here we are.

I have drawn two broad conclusions from the country’s current failures of self-government: one, the apathetic Americans who have failed to “connect the dots” between government dysfunction and their own daily lives have facilitated the election of people who are demonstrably  incapable of understanding the policy process. They have done so either by voting mechanically on the basis of partisan identification, or (frequently) by failing to vote at all. Two, far too many Americans cast their votes on the basis of cultural grievances, ignoring–or failing to understand–the actual responsibilities of the political offices to which they have elevated their chosen culture warriors.

For years, Democrats have complained about voters who–as they see it–fail to vote their own interests. What they mean by that is that such voters discount the pocketbook benefits they would receive from the enactment of Democratic policies. What that complaint ignores is the reality that, for most people, “interests” are not necessarily–or even predominantly–financial. The voters who return the Paul Gosars, Jim Jordans, Margery Taylor Green and their ilk to Congress are fighting social change and the perceived diminution of their privileged status as White Christians, males, heterosexuals, etc.

The problem for the rest of us–genuine Conservatives and moderates as well as progressive Democrats–is that this cohort has zero interest in governance and no ability to function as policymakers. Their sole interest is performative. They appear to be totally unaware of the consequences of those performances–one of which, as we’ve just seen, is to convince rating agencies that the United States government is incapable of dealing with the legitimate issues it faces. 

We can only hope that culture warriors and apathetic Americans–aided and abetted by extreme gerrymandering–don’t vote in 2024 to return the clowns to what has become a dysfunctional Congressional circus.

The Aliens Are Here

Sometimes, you have to laugh or you’ll cry….

Let me begin this post with some confessions: I love science fiction. I’ve read tons of it since I was a child. I’m a huge Star Trek fan, currently fixated on “Strange New Worlds.” My scientific knowledge is admittedly limited, but the odds have convinced me that humans cannot be alone in the universe–it’s really inconceivable that only one planet among billions has generated (semi) intelligent life.

But really, idiot Congress-critters!

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post had the story:

The aliens have landed. And they have a gavel!

That is as plausible a takeaway as any from this week’s House Oversight Committee hearing on unidentified anomalous phenomena, the curiosity formerly known as UFOs. The panel’s national security subcommittee brought in, as its star witness, one David Grusch, a former Defense Department intelligence official who now claims:

That there are “quite a number” of “nonhuman” space vehicles in the possession of the U.S. government.

That one “partially intact vehicle” was retrieved from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1933 by the United States, acting on a tip from Pope Pius XII.

That the aliens have engaged in “malevolent activity” and “malevolent events” on Earth that have harmed or killed humans.

That the U.S. government is also in possession of “dead pilots” from the spaceships.

That a private defense contractor is storing one of the alien ships, which have been as large as a football field.

That the vehicles might be coming “from a higher dimensional physical space that might be co-located right here.”

That the Roswell, N.M., alien landing was real, and the Air Force’s debunking of it was a “total hack job.”

And that the United States has engaged in a nearly century-long “sophisticated disinformation campaign” (apparently including murders to silence people) to hide the truth.

I’d tell you more, but then they would have to kill me.

I actually have a more plausible theory: there are aliens among us, and they are currently serving as Republican Right-wingers in the U.S. House of Representatives. (I mean, really, who thinks that Marjorie Taylor Green and the other loonies currently preventing anything remotely resembling governance are sentient members of the human race? Unlikely, I tell you!! They’re here to effectuate the paralysis of Earth’s governments–and they’re doing a pretty good job of it!)

Although the star witness in this hearing was unable to provide any evidence whatever to support his claims, Milbank noted that several Republicans on the panel greeted those claims with “total credulity, using them as just more evidence that the deep-state U.S. government is lying to the American people, covering up the truth and can never be trusted. Their anti-government vendetta has gone intergalactic.”

I’d almost like to believe that the U.S. has a government capable of pulling off a cover-up of this magnitude. Think about the thousands of people who would have had to be sworn to silence and the fact that their compliance would need to be closely monitored over decades…It’s a theory right up there with Robert N. Kennedy, Jr.’s insistence that the entire medical establishment must be “in on” the “truth” about those nefarious vaccines.

I love science fiction, but I’m getting pretty tired of following the clearly alien MAGA life-forms controlling today’s GOP.

Maybe I should just use my Space Laser to wipe them out…..

A Perfect Candidate For The Fact-Free Party

I haven’t commented on the increasingly bizarre stories that continue to emerge about George Santos, the Republican candidate who won a Congressional race in New York, and was later “outed” as a serial liar–or, as several articles like to label him, a “fabulist.”

Initially, I ignored the story. After all, the media was all over it and it was unlikely that anyone who follows political news would be unaware of it. But a recent recap in the New York Times yesterday– just before Santos was scheduled to be sworn in– made me realize that Santos is the candidate who really epitomizes the current state of the once Grand Old Party.

On the off-chance that readers are unaware of the extent of Santos’ fraudulent biography, I’ll share part of the Times’ very abbreviated description:

Mr. Santos has said that he grew up in a basement apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens. Until Wednesday, Mr. Santos’s campaign biography said that his mother, Fatima Devolder, worked her way up to become “the first female executive at a major financial institution.” He has also said that she was in the South Tower of the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that she died “a few years later.”

In fact, Ms. Devolder died in 2016, and a Brazilian community newspaper at the time described her as a cook. Mr. Santos’s friends and former roommates recalled her as a hardworking, friendly woman who spoke only Portuguese and made her living cleaning homes and selling food. None of those interviewed by The Times could recall any instance of her working in finance, and several chalked the story up to Mr. Santos’s tendency for mythmaking.

His apparent fabrications about his own life begin with his claims about his high school. He said he attended Horace Mann School, a prestigious private institution in the Bronx, and said he dropped out in 2006 before graduating and earning an equivalency diploma. A spokesman for Horace Mann said that the school had no record of his attending at all.

There is much, much more: his claim to be Jewish and a descendant of Holocaust survivors, an attendee of universities that have no record of his ever being a student, an employee of firms that never heard of him…it goes on. He is evidently still wanted by the police in Brazil, where he admitted to stealing checks from an elderly man.

The extent of his fabrications was uncovered by the Times after the election, which raises all sorts of questions about the failures of both opposition research and the media covering the race. (A tiny Long Island paper, The North Shore Leader, had raised timely questions about his claims, but was ignored.)

Whatever lessons we may want to draw from those failures is one thing. More to the point, what  the revelations really do is shine a bright and unforgiving light on the increasing disaster that is today’s GOP.

Kevin McCarthy has refused to comment on Santos’ deceptions, because he desperately needs the new Congressman’s vote for Speaker of the House–a vote he has thus far been unable to secure despite prostrating himself to the lunatic caucus. There’s a down-and-dirty fight for the position of Chair of the RNC–a fight featuring arguments over who has the most fidelity to Trump, and “serious “candidates like The Pillow Guy.

Santos’ campaign evidently focused heavily on his presumed (invented) bona fides–a perfect representation of the current Republican Party, which has abandoned even the pretense of policy advocacy in favor of a full-blown dependence upon identity politics.

I know that very few voters actually read the party platforms that have routinely been produced by the parties until now, but the significance of the Republicans’ refusal to even bother creating one is obvious. Today’s GOP relies for support on two groups: rich people who don’t want to pay taxes, and White Christian Nationalists frantic not to be “replaced” by Jews and/or people of color. Its subservience to both doesn’t need to be spelled out in a platform.

Really, when you think about it, Santos is a perfect representation of today’s GOP–a party devoted to the Big Lie(s) perpetrated by a more successful con man. Like Trump, Santos won an election by pretending to be something he isn’t–in Trump’s case, a successful businessman–and has evidently used campaign dollars to enrich himself.

It remains to be seen whether Congress will be stuck with this character for the entirety of his two-year term, or whether he’ll be forced out. Either way, I think it’s safe to say that the next two years will feature the inevitable implosion of the current iteration of the Republican Party.

Pass the popcorn.