Nothing matters any more

We are not a nation of laws, if we ever were. We are a rogue state, a banana republic, and we always have been…we’ve been held together with a tissue of cherished myths about Democracy and the Republic and Service and Citizenship, when the truth is that those values are unenforced, and the real rule is that the rich can get away with anything they want.

We’ve also been watching the gradual replacement of “liberty and the pursuit of happiness” with the Libertarian myth of “I got mine, so fuck you.” I can’t even console myself with the old gloss of American idealism anymore when naked capitalism has become the raison d’etre of the state.

So how about them senate hearings on the Trump adminstration, hey? Perfect examples of the failures of our government. We sort of lied to ourselves and said before that maybe the electoral college would save us, that it’s whole purpose was to prevent unqualified demagogues from taking power. We sure fooled ourselves with that one — the purpose of the electoral college is to perpetuate the power of the obscenely wealthy and comfortable elites. And now we have a series of hearings on Trump nominees, all carried out in the vain illusion that they will act to block incompetents and corrupt cronies of the head of state from getting their hands on the tools of state. Do you believe it?

Jeff Sessions is a racist buffoon. The senate will judge him next week. I predict that he will be approved, not because he actually reassured us all that he is a good man, but because the rubber stamp is poised and ready.

Right now we get the spectacle of Betsy DeVos being alternatively praised/massaged by Republican ideologues, and subjected to critical questioning by the powerless minority party.

DeVos is a bigot who profited off the Amway pyramid scheme.

Both the DeVoses and the Princes have been key supporters of Focus on the Family, which was founded by the influential evangelical leader James Dobson. In a 2002 radio broadcast, Dobson called on parents in some states to to pull their kids out of public schools, calling the curriculum “godless and immoral” and suggesting that Christian teachers should also leave public schools: “I couldn’t be in an organization that’s supporting that kind of anti-Christian nonsense.” Dobson also has distributed a set of history lessons that argue that “separating Christianity from government is virtually impossible and would result in unthinkable damage to the nation and its people.” The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation gave $275,000 to Focus on the Family from 1999 to 2001 but hasn’t donated since; it gave an additional $35,760 to the group’s Michigan and DC affiliates from 2001 to 2010. The Prince Foundation donated $5.2 million to Focus on the Family and $275,000 to its Michigan affiliate from 2001 to 2014. (It also gave $6.1 million to the Family Research Council, which has fought against same-sex marriage and anti-bullying programs—and is listed as an “anti-LGBT hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FRC used to be a division of Focus on the Family before it became an independent nonprofit, with Dobson serving on its board, in 1992.)

She will demolish public education to promote racial inequities.

Yet, for all of the Obama administration’s education policy failures, the DeVos appointment has the potential to be catastrophic. It represents a clear and present danger to the wellbeing of scores of students of color who have been most heavily impacted by privatization and the gutting of multicultural education. Nationwide, African-American, Latino, and Native-American students continue to have the lowest graduation and college-going rates. They are less likely to be taught by well-qualified teachers and more likely to be in schools where college counselors are either absent or saddled with too many students. Indeed, some urban schools of color have more school police than college counselors. And because many students of color don’t have equitable access to college prep curricula in the humanities and STEM disciplines, they have higher attrition rates when they go to college.

She is criminally incompetent and unsuited to the post.

As nearly as I can tell, the nominees for the president-elect’s Cabinet fall into several different categories. There are the people you’d pretty much expect from any Republican administration. (James Mattis, Stephen Flynn, Ryan Zinke). There are the people who understand the mission of their departments and have spent their lives undermining it. (Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Rick Perry at Energy, Andrew Puzder at Labor). And there are the people who are fundamentally clueless about the general nature of public service. (Rex Tillerson at State.) On Tuesday night, DeVos demonstrated that she is that rarest of Trump administration fauna: Someone who fits capably into all three categories.

She and her family and the Amway gozillions they control have been a bottomless reservoir for the dark money that is the engine behind a dozen different conservative fetish objects, from right-to-work laws, to gutting campaign finance regulations, to injecting splinter Protestantism into every part of the political commons. So she’s pretty much what you’d expect from any Republican administration. She understands the mission of the Department of Education and truly dislikes it. And, as was graphically demonstrated even in the truncated questioning Tuesday night, she doesn’t know enough about education policy to feed to your guppies.

Do any of you believe for one minute that her nomination will be stopped by anyone in our government? Not I. She has demonstrated her talent for kleptocracy in Michigan already, she is an ill-gained billionaire, she intends to promote ignorance, and she has all the petty bigotries of the capitalist ruling class, so of course she will sail through and get a choice spot in which to loot the educational system and be a cheerleader for theocracy.

All that stuff about separation of church and state and an informed citizenry and responsible representative government from the founding fathers (who are deified by the Republican party) was a smokescreen to cover a wealthy power grab. I can’t believe it any more. Many thanks to the Republicans and Trump for at least stripping the pretense and exposing the naked truth.

I fear my own views on the American government. When a nation works so hard to lose all the confidence of its people, upheaval is not far off.


  1. says

    I’m afraid that the current crop of oligarchs are just the beginning. Basically, after the Trump administration, any rich asshole who wants something cooler than a lamborghini, is going to be looking to be a mayor, governor, or president. So they can get the kowtowing and respect they deserve!

  2. davidc1 says

    She wants guns in schools because of bears .America you are very unlucky with the people you end up with .
    And i thought we had it bad in dear old GB .

  3. Dunc says

    Basically, after the Trump administration, any rich asshole who wants something cooler than a lamborghini, is going to be looking to be a mayor, governor, or president.

    Why would they want to be a mayor, governor, or president, when they could simply buy one? Rich people have staff so they don’t have to do the work themselves. Next you’ll be saying they’ll start doing their own cooking and cleaning…

    So they can get the kowtowing and respect they deserve!

    Rich people already get more respect than politicians, just for existing. Politicians are only marginally more respected than real estate agents and used car dealers.

  4. raven says

    Study: US is an oligarchy, not a democracy – BBC News –
    Apr 17, 2014 – So concludes a recent study by Princeton University Prof Martin Gilens … “American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by …

    PZ is stating the already known.
    We aren’t much of a democracy!!!
    Studies show that what the people want is rarely what they get.
    Studies show what the ultra-rich oligarchies want, they almost always get.
    We are run by oligarchies.

  5. raven says

    DeVos is part of the right wingtnut movement to destroy public education.
    Hmmm, I missed where destroying public education was a main campaign theme.
    I’ve also missed where most of the American people want to destroy public education.
    It’s that Fake Democracy thing again.

    Oddly enough, America was Made Great by…public education!!!
    Most of us, including myself, were educated in the public system up to and including college.
    The GOP has a habit of fixing things that aren’t broke.

    The nice thing about destroying public education is that you won’t notice anything for a while. Until today’s 5 year olds turn 18. And can’t fill out a job application because they are nearly illiterate.
    We can’t run a complicated HI-Tech society without an educated population.

  6. whywhywhy says

    #6, raven
    Destroying public education was assumed along with the racist meme’s and retweets by Drumpf. Public education became the enemy once desegregation was enforced. The alt-right uses ideas like bringing back prayer and vouchers for school choice as ways of continuing racism and segregation. These tribal calls are now so ingrained that no one has to even say public education is bad but simply allude to white supremacy.

    Also, this merges nicely with the destruction of unions and is even more sweet since 43% of union households voted Drumpf.

  7. raven says

    The mask is off. The smoke and mirrors are gone.
    We aren’t much of a democracy any more.
    Time to move on.
    Work on your survival plans instead.
    One doesn’t live under Fascism, one only hopes to survive it.

    FWIW, DeVos probably can’t do much to destroy public education, no matter how evil she is.
    1. The constitution explicitly delegates education to the states.
    Roughly half of all state budgets are….education.
    2. The federal money is only 8% of the education budget.
    Since state budgets are stretched beyond the breaking point, that 8% is important but at the end of the day, it is only 8%.
    3. This money is directed by laws such as the No Child Left Behind and others.
    She can’t arbitrarily direct that money away or cancel those laws.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    Marcus Ranum @ # 1: … after the Trump administration, any rich asshole who wants something cooler than a lamborghini, is going to be looking to be a mayor, governor, or president.


    Once again, Florida started the (toxic) trend – New York & California continue to play catch-up!

  9. brett says

    The Senate Democrats can at least force the Republicans to break the filibuster and vote on her with a narrow majority, but that’s about it. Truly an appalling candidate for the Education post.

  10. magistramarla says

    I just said to my husband this morning that every time that he’s close to a goal that would make things better for us, the goalposts get moved. Now that he is just a few years away from retirement, Social Security and Medicare, we have to worry about much of what we’ve been counting on being delayed or yanked away altogether. It does seem to be a government plan to keep the peons working until they fall over dead on the job.

  11. vucodlak says

    I’ve never understood why “nation of laws” was supposed to be at all comforting.

    The laws are made by the rich and powerful to serve the rich and powerful. The rich and powerful are above said laws, except occasionally in cases where A.) a rich and powerful person has screwed over people who are even richer and more powerful, B.) the rich and powerful have decided to make an example of one of their own, usually for siding with the proles, or C.) the rich and powerful have decided to sacrifice a scapegoat to appease the proles.

    Any laws that protect the proles exist solely to keep an orderly society, for the benefit of the rich and powerful. The rich and powerful have learned the lessons of the past, and they know they have to throw a few crumbs to their lessers, lest a few (not enough, never nearly enough) of the rich and powerful will end up with their heads on pikes.

    I think what we’re beginning to see now is that a large proportion of the rich and powerful have begun to believe their own propaganda. They not only believe they deserve their stolen wealth, they believe that they are so untouchably great that they are immune to any consequences of their oppression. There are always a few that believe their own lies, but the system the powers that be have crafted can absorb a few loudmouth fools. Now though, we’ve reached a tipping point, in which the fools have taken control, and believe themselves immune to the inevitable backlash.

    They’re wrong, and eventually there will be a bloody reckoning. Of course, millions of innocents will suffer and die for every deserving scumbag who is separated from their head, but that’s always been the way of things. And when the dust settles, we’ll all be right back where we started. Assuming, of course, that the oligarchs don’t render the earth completely uninhabitable (for humans).

    So, yes, we are a nation of laws. It’s just that those laws have never, ever had anything to do with justice.

  12. Sastra says

    I read somewhere that Trump’s nominees are likely to be confirmed at least in part because the politicians are worried about possible replacements being even worse. I suppose that’s possible. As bad as every candidate is, they’re not necessarily the bottom of the barrel. It’s a deep barrel.

    But who would or could conceivably be worse than DeVos? I’ve no idea. Maybe someone like Ken Ham?

  13. Holms says

    The vaunted ‘checks and balances’ were overcome by tribalism and cronyism many years ago.

  14. blf says

    Sastra@18, If there is any truth to that, my first reaction is it shows remarkably shallow thinking, even for a Congresslime: There’s nothing(?) that says any nominee has to approved, but as far as I know, unapproved nominees are not allowed to serve. Hence, in principle, the various departments and agencies and whatnots could continue to run, operated and staffed mostly by the non-political staff, who are presumably competent — the main thing Congresslime has to do is what it is so good at doing, Nothing. (Of course there would be problems and end-runarounds and dirty tricks and all the other shite politicians and lawyers and teh trum-prat likes to pull, so this isn’t a “solution”!)

  15. unclefrogy says

    well I think they are in favor of H-2A and H-2B programs of importing labor from other countries, at lower wages of course, when they can’t find people to do it at those lower wages.
    problem solved!
    uncle frogy

  16. wzrd1 says

    @18, that’s a really old trick too. There were youtube videos about how to play that trick out.
    Got a position in NYC for an IT type? Advertise in hog farmer’s gazette, out in the central US farmland.
    When you get no calls, claim that you can’t fill the position and need an H1B visa worker.
    Then, write off the training that you perform in-house.

  17. emergence says

    Once again, I’m wondering what my state is going to be able to do to resist this. I can’t really see Trumpism becoming dominant in California fairly. I’m worried about the potential clashes between the Trump regime and our state government.

  18. magistramarla says

    emergence @ 21
    I keep wondering the same thing. I’m so hoping that the west coast states band together to resist. California is my great hope that at least one state government will remain sane and preserve some of what the US is supposed to be like.
    I keep thinking that marijuana legalization will be the last straw that makes the citizens in states like California, Washington and Colorado say “Hell, no! We’re not going to bend to your backward laws after we’ve progressed so far!”
    I’m hoping that booming economies in those dark blue states will be able to withstand the denial of federal funds.
    I wish that I was still living in California!

  19. wzrd1 says

    @22, I’ve long adhered to the position of being a dick.

    So, when the freedumb types go on and on about states rights on something slightly sane, I reinforce them, as it’s really commonsense and a lobbyist’s dream bill trying to be forced through.
    When a state attempts to use its rights and they object, be it marijuana or not long before, magazine capacity limitations, I simply ask, “Whateverinhell happened to states rights”? Do they only exist when *you* agree? I failed to realize that we’re an Imperial state and that you are the Emperor!
    Oh, wait, you’re not.
    They lose the room. Even without the sarcasm, merely the citation of the comments.

  20. Marissa van Eck says

    The US lost any sense of accountability when Ford pardoned Nixon. This has been going on since before Disco died; it’s just taken us this long to get to the point where the 50+-year-long coup the Theonomists have been planning was ripe for springing.

    I was born in ’85. I never had a chance. No one in my generation does, and no one in the one after it does.

  21. says

    @#15, Sastra

    I read somewhere that Trump’s nominees are likely to be confirmed at least in part because the politicians are worried about possible replacements being even worse. I suppose that’s possible.

    It certainly sounds like the kind of excuse Democrats make. They are very, very good at coming up with plausible-sounding excuses for why they won’t do their jobs and just have to give in to Republicans. They have a characteristic frowny face they make when they announce they’ve just passed [insert-horrible-right-of-center-policy-here] despite having said they would resist.

    I suspect that promises have been made and not-legally-considered-a-bribes have changed hands. Trump may be flouting our laws on emoluments, but those laws are ludicrously specific to the point of being useless. If the laws on theft were equivalently designed, you would not be able to charge someone with thievery unless they were not only caught red-handed picking up your things inside your house but also happened to be wearing a black mask and carrying a bag marked “SWAG”.

    There are no actual briefcases full of cash being handed over to politicians in midnight transactions. Instead, the politician’s spouse, or sibling, or offspring, is employed in a highly-paid position with few duties and lots of perks. There’s even a certain Congress member whose spouse is a highly-paid consultant in the industry regulated by that Congress member’s committee, who has been moderately famous within that industry for years for advising clients to undertake certain business which, at the time the advice is given, looks insane, but which later turns out — just by coincidence, or at least there is no paper trail to prove otherwise — to take advantage of things the committee is planning to recommend to Congress which alter the industry, and ends up being worth millions, which is the order of magnitude of the compensation the spouse receives. This is not a crime, and I am not naming any names because even suggesting that there is anything shady in this practice would probably be considered libel.

    @#24, Marissa van Eck

    The US lost any sense of accountability when Ford pardoned Nixon.

    Pretty true, but the situation has actively been made worse by Obama. He’s a very well-spoken fellow, who is very good at seeming as though he is trustworthy (like Bill Clinton, in fact), but look at the things he has done:

    – At a time when over 90% of the country wanted the banks prosecuted for committing fraud, and Obama’s party held Congress as well as the presidency, he refused to instruct his prosecutors to do so. To this day, only one person has been prosecuted for the various things which led up to the 2008 meltdown, a single CEO who was back out of prison in time to vote in 2012. In effect, this was saying “you don’t even have to be a member of the government, just rich, and get away with fraud”.
    – He refused to have the Bush administration even investigated for war crimes. (If he had, the 2016 race would have looked very, very different — but it would have been embarrassing for Hillary Clinton and other pro-war Democrats.) The message here was “it doesn’t matter if our government blatantly kills thousands or even millions through fraudulent means, we will not hold them to account”.
    – His administration argued (apparently successfully, because nobody has challenged the assertion) that the 2001 AUMF against terrorism (which is not the Iraq AUMF) permits the president to declare a foreign government an enemy and immediately go to war without the approval of Congress.
    – He let Chelsea Manning sit in prison for a term longer than the total amount served by all the people who went to prison for having actually committed the crimes Manning revealed. (There were only 3, and none of them were sentenced to more than 3 years.) The message is “you will be punished for being ethical in the face of corruption within the machine”.

    That’s why I’m not really all that impressed with PZ’s sudden attack of dudgeon. Hillary Clinton was in favor of all of this, and he describes her as “basically okay, but a little too conservative for my tastes”. If that’s the way you react to massive, long-term abrogation of the duty of government to dispense justice, then I don’t see why you care about Trump’s various violations.

  22. digitalcanary says

    @10 (and generally)
    I feel we will be lucky if all “we” (you Americans) end up with is the Republic of Gilead, vs a broader “we” facing far worse. And that we up North can provide a safe haven for some.

    Also, the Man in the High Castle was supposed to be an alternate history dystopia, not a prophetic one, right?

  23. wzrd1 says

    @digitalcanary, I’ve long been considering retiring to New Zealand.
    Buy a bit of land, raise sheep.