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Friday, January 20, 2017

America, we hardly knew ye

by digby

The last official pic by Presidential photographer Pete Souza

Our official government bio of our new president:

In case you forgot:

Hillary Clinton: 227 electoral votes; 65,845,063 (48.03%)
Donald J. Trump: 304 electoral votes; 62,980,160 (45.94%)


Shorthand for American carnage

by digby

In case you missed the speech, this will give you the basic gist:

During his speech in Washington D.C., now President Donald Trump quoted an unusual villain. Prior to capping the speech with his signature, "And, yes, we will make America great again!" the President quoted a line from Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy finale: The Dark Knight Rises.

As you can see in the video below, President Trump promised to give America back to the people, saying "We're giving it back to you, the people."

In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane freed prisoners in Gotham City and stood atop a car to address the citizens, saying, "And we give it back to you, the people."

The uncanny parallel can be seen in the video below.

The Torture President

by digby

Today is Inauguration Day. And Donald J. Trump is going to be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. I never dreamed — or hallucinated — that I would type those words, but here we are. We are about to go on a wild ride unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before.

President Trump is already flouting virtually every previous norm, rule and custom against corruption and nepotism. His understanding of and relationship to the rest of the world is shallow and ill-considered. We will find out whether our institutions are strong enough to withstand the American democratic system making such a terrible mistake. The stakes could not be higher.

One of the great misconceptions about Donald Trump throughout the presidential campaign was the mistaken idea that because he said kind words about Vladimir Putin and insisted he had been against the Iraq invasion that he was an old-school isolationist. For some reason these people ignored the fact that Trump’s stated philosophy of life is very consistent and very explicit:

Get even. When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades. I really mean it. I really mean it. You’ve got to hit people hard and it’s not so much for that person; it’s that other people watch.

He believes in demonstrating power against people who “disrespect” him personally and who, in his mind, disrespect the United States. Over many years he has said that he believes the rest of the world is laughing at us and he is determined to make them stop.

On Thursday, The Huffington Post reported that Trump had very much wanted to stage a major military parade for his inauguration, something that has always been associated with counties like North Korea, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the Soviet Union. The brass apparently told him that tanks and missile launchers would destroy the streets because they’re too heavy. So he had to settle for a full military flyover, which hasn’t been done since Harry Truman was inaugurated. He told The Washington Post yesterday that he planned to hold them in the future, however:

We’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military. That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.

He is rather childlike in many respects, so watching things that go boom undoubtedly excites him. But other countries have done this to prove their military superiority and that’s surely what Trump thinks is necessary as well. He truly does not understand that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the United States has the mightiest military on Earth. Indeed, a decision by the U.S. that it needs to “show” this would probably be seen as a sign of insecurity and weakness, if it weren’t for the fact that everyone can see that the country is now being led by the American version of Kim Jong-un.

With all the hubbub around the inauguration, a lot of things that would normally call for scrutiny and discussion are falling through the cracks. A story in The New York Times about newly released documents from the George W. Bush administration’s torture program is one of them; that’s unfortunate. After all, our new president isn’t just a man who believes waterboarding is a regrettable necessity. He’s a big fan as he has said:

They asked me, What do you think about waterboarding, Mr. Trump? I said I love it. I love it, I think it’s great. And I said the only thing is, we should make it much tougher than waterboarding, and if you don’t think it works folks, you’re wrong.

There is no evidence that “it works.” In fact, all the scholarship says the opposite. Torture is counterproductive. Trump was told this by his incoming secretary of defense, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, and he was surprised to hear it. But he didn’t change his mind.

Trump has, of course, promised from the very beginning that he planned to bring back torture. He has said he wants to do “much worse” than waterboarding, even implying at one point that he believes the U.S. should “chop off heads” in order to fight fire with fire.

As one might expect, it’s not just a matter of trying to obtain information. There’s no need for “ticking bombs” to justify using it. Trump has said he wants to use torture as punishment:

It works. And if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway for what they do to us.

The outgoing administration of Barack Obama had insisted on keeping the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the use of torture during the Bush years under wraps. Even the release of the summary was fraught with controversy. The reasons for refusal are unclear but it’s reasonable to assume Obama officials believed it would implicate certain government employees and officials in war crimes, and would also serve as useful propaganda for ISIS.

Civil libertarians generally do not find this rationale to be acceptable. The lack of punishment and accountability for the torture program removed the taboo against it. Now we have a new president who unapologetically promises to revive it and revitalize it with tactics that are even more cruel and inhumane.

Yesterday, according to The New York Times, a federal judge ordered the report to be preserved and placed in the hands of the judiciary by Feb. 10 for safekeeping. There is apparently some suspicion that this report may be destroyed in the same way those videotapes of CIA torture sessions were destroyed. If it happens now, the perpetrator will be in contempt of court.

Most people involved in this issue are fearful that Trump will destroy the report anyway but I have my doubts. Indeed, I think there’s a chance he’ll release it publicly. This would not be because he believes in transparency or thinks the torturers and officials who ordered the practice should be punished. I expect he would want them celebrated by their countrymen as heroes.

After all, Trump wants to parade tanks and missiles through the streets of our cities. He wants to demonstrate American military prowess to prove to the world that he’s the toughest leader of the richest, most powerful nation on Earth. But nothing says “tough guy” like openly celebrating torture. We should be careful what we wish for.
The reviews are in

by digby

There is a gap between those who think that Trump is fit for the presidency, in mind and character, and those who don't. That gap is damn near unbridgeable.  
To my ears, Trump's address was nasty and borderline un-American --- for all it's talk of patriotism and "America First." 
My favorite part of the address was its brevity.

Bill Moyers? Michael Moore?

Nope. Jay Nordlinger, columnist for The National Review.

The American Carnage Speech

by digby

It's done.

"Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans and people of the world, thank you.

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people.

Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come. We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.

Every four years we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power.

And we are grateful to President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition.

They have been magnificent.

Thank you.

Today's ceremony, however, has a very special meaning because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.

For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have bore the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

That all changes starting right here and right now, because this moment is your moment.

It belongs to you.

It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America.

This is your day.

This is your celebration.

And this, the United States of America, is your country.

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.

January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.

The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves.

These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists.

Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation.

An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.

And the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

We are one nation, and their pain is our pain.

Their dreams are our dreams, and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny.

The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.

For many decades we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

We've defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own. And we've spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.

We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.

The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world. But that is the past, and now we are looking only to the future.

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.

From this day forward, it's going to be only America first, America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down.

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

We will bring back our jobs.

We will bring back our borders.

We will bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams.

We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation.

We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.

We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example.

We will shine for everyone to follow.

We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.

When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.

The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.

Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.

We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.

A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights and heal our divisions. It's time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.

We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms and we all salute the same great American flag.

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator.

So to all Americans in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.

Together we will make America strong again, we will make America wealthy again, we will make America proud again, we will make America safe again.

And, yes, together we will make America great again.

Thank you.

God bless you.

And God bless America."


Politicians and dictators and the guys with the dough

by Tom Sullivan

Ukrainian S-300P launchers during the Independence Day parade in Kiev, Ukraine in 2008. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

As world meets Trump today, Eugene Robinson hears echoes of the past:

I feel as though I’ve seen this movie before. This reminds me of the Nixon years, when the “silent majority” felt itself assailed by the counterculture of hippies, minorities and uppity women. This time, though, the Trump loyalists are a clear minority; he lost the popular vote, and his approval rating is shockingly low for a new president. And the counterculture is now the mainstream: Some of those marching against Trump this weekend haven’t taken to the streets since the days of Vietnam.
Republicans celebrate their victory today, such as it is. Democrats lost the White House in 2016, but so did they. Trump defeated the entire GOP and now has it prostrating itself before him. Robinson elaborates:
Trump has no fixed ideology. Once a Democrat, he commandeered the Republican Party the way a bank robber might hijack the nearest car to make his getaway. The GOP is Trump’s vehicle, not his cause, and there is a chance that some of his policies — perhaps even in health care — will give more heartburn to conservatives than to progressives.
To be determined, of course. "Admit it, you have no idea what a Trump administration will actually be like," Robinson writes. "[N]one of us knows what is going to happen," Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) tells Politico.

The online teaser for Paul Krugman's New York Times column this morning reads, "The new president will be corrupt and crazy, but he’ll also be incompetent." Krugman writes about Trump's team:
So the typical Trump nominee, in everything from economics to diplomacy to national security, is ethically challenged, ignorant about the area of policy he or she is supposed to manage and deeply incurious. Some, like Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s choice as national security adviser, are even as addicted as their boss to internet conspiracy theories. This isn’t a team that will compensate for the commander in chief’s weaknesses; on the contrary, it’s a team that will amplify them.
Not to worry, because strong, eh? Trump wanted missile launchers and tanks coming down Pennsylvania Avenue for his inaugural parade so he could show the world how great his military is:
During the preparation for Friday’s transfer-of-power, a member of Trump’s transition team floated the idea of including tanks and missile launchers in the inaugural parade, a source involved in inaugural planning told The Huffington Post. “They were legit thinking Red Square/North Korea-style parade,” the source said, referring to massive military parades in Moscow and Pyongyang, typically seen as an aggressive display of muscle-flexing.
Planners shot down that idea as not structurally sound:
“I could absolutely see structural support being a reason [not to use tanks],” a Department of Defense official said. “D.C. is built on a swamp to begin with.”
But of course, as a master builder, Trump knew that. He'll get military flyovers instead.

And the vampire squid is back in business in Washington (as if it ever left). As Steve Benen wrote, "[I]t’s almost hard to believe how many Goldman Sachs veterans he’s adding to his administration’s team." Benen notes ironically, "About a year ago, Edward Snowden characterized the 2016 presidential election as 'a choice between Donald Trump and Goldman Sachs.' Oops."

In a display of a different kind of strength, many of my friends are headed to Washington today, not for the inauguration but for the Women's March on Washington tomorrow. A little Todd to send them off. Todd works whenever I need my spirits lifted:

Underneath it all we are here together

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The owners are back in charge

by digby

When Bush and Cheney seized office under dubious circumstances, the Villagers all crowed that the "grown-ups" were back in charge.

Well, the grown-ups screwed the pooch. Now the owners are taking personal control:

“My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee. I have decided to stop taking offense,” she wrote, “at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment." --- Betsy DeVos

It is not a new idea. The first Chief Justice of the United States John Jay said it from the beginning:

Those who own the country ought to govern it.

I sure hope all those angry Real Americans knew what they were doing.


A "blank pardon"

by digby

Yes, she's dumb, but she swims in the same fever swamp as millions of other Trump voters:
Speaking with “Trending Today USA” host Rusty Humphries yesterday, former Republican congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann declared that Hillary Clinton should be in jail and said she “would not be surprised” if President Obama issues a “blank pardon” for Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Clinton before leaving office on Friday. 
Bachmann objected to Obama’s commutation of the sentence of Chelsea Manning, whom she referred to as Bradley Manning, and claimed that Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state “most likely” caused “America’s most vital secrets” to be “intercepted” and “released to the world.” 
“We had the worst intelligence failures ever in the history of the United States under Barack Obama,” she said, “by Bradley Manning, by Edward Snowden and by none other than our secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who because of her selfishness in having an unsecured server set up in her home had America’s most vital secrets intercepted, most likely, by our enemies and released to the world. Barack Obama should be ashamed, Bradley Manning should be in jail and Hillary Clinton, in my opinion, should be there with him.” 
“I would look for a pardon coming for Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and the Clinton Foundation before noon on Friday,” she said, noting that people not charged with crimes can be “pre-pardoned.” 
“I would not be surprised if we don’t see Barack Obama issue a blank pardon for anything Bill, Hillary, Chelsea or the Clinton Foundation has done,” she said.

Just so you know going in --- all the emerging information about Trump's corruption is going to be met with the inane response that Crooked Hillary was worse, with veiled threats to throw her in jail or worse.

Smell test

by digby

I'm guessing that if you like the rancid smell of self-tanner and AquaNet you'll love the smell of Trump-scented candles:
There are Donald Trump-shaped cookie cutters, “Drain the swamp” sweatshirts and candles meant to smell like the new president – a combination of “all of the classiest smells,” according to the product’s description. Keep searching among the Trump-inspired flasks, paperweights and peppermints and you’ll find coffee mugs that say “Build that wall” and a penny stamped with “Trump” selling for $2.75.

Online shops, street vendors and high-end boutiques around town said they spent weeks preparing for Friday’s inauguration with equal parts sincerity and snark in hopes of cashing in on fans and foes of the next president.

At Chocolate Moose, a novelty gift shop a half-mile from the White House, shelves were lined with Trump whoopee cushions and chocolate miniatures of the Capitol. The Trump mask, a Halloween favorite, was back in stock.

“Up to now, absolutely, it’s been all about the gag stuff,” said Michele Cosby, the store’s owner.

The best-selling item? Toilet paper emblazoned with Trump’s face. “We sold cases upon cases of it,” Cosby said. “And at $12 a roll, it wasn’t cheap.” (But, she added, she stopped selling the popular item once Trump became president-elect: “We didn’t want to cross the line.”)

At the Great Republic, which had inauguration pop-up shops at the St. Regis and Mandarin Oriental hotels in Washington, revelers could pick up pens made of wood from the White House and hand-painted with portraits of Trump for $1,950 each.

Over in Georgetown, local jeweler Ann Hand had sold nearly 1,000 inaugural pins bearing Trump’s name and a slew of pavé stones. She was also selling inaugural cuff links, charm bracelets and a limited number of mother-of-pearl pins with Swarovski crystals for $250.
“It’s been a very tough inaugural to buy for,” said Warlick, who began selling inauguration-related items in 1981. “Usually we only do pro-presidential items, but this time we also have ‘resistance products’ because people are so divided.”...

Meanwhile, the official inauguration shop funded by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, was selling sweatshirts bearing the inaugural seal ($55), Trump koozies ($20 for six) and red cap ornaments that say “Make America Great Again,” complete with 24-karat gold accents ($99).

But on Washington streets, vendors said they just hadn’t seen as much demand this year for president-related mugs, T-shirts, shot glasses and key chains as they as they did ahead of previous inaugurations. In a town where 91 percent of residents voted for Clinton, they said it has been difficult to sell Trump-related merchandise.

“We’re all dealing with the same dilemma: What quantity of shirts do we get?” said a vendor with a booth at Connecticut Avenue and K Street NW who declined to give his name. “. . . We cannot afford to get stuck with all this Trump stuff. People in Washington resent that fact that we even carry these shirts.”

Warlick said he expects to sell inauguration-related items through May. For now, a line of Michelle Obama merchandise continues to outsell both his Trump and Clinton inaugural lines.

“Sales have been nowhere near what they were with Clinton and Obama,” Warlick said, adding that he expects to sell about one-third the Trump merchandise as he did for Obama back in 2009. “Obama’s first inaugural was – to use Trump’s own words – yuge.”

There was a time when Trump would have been excited about how much money he was going to make selling his Trump branded merch. Now he's selling the President of the United States brand which is worth so much more...

A Trump Era Survival Guide

by Dennis Hartley

In anticipation of what may be in store for us, here are links to the resources likely to be more crucial than ever. Bookmark this post!

ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom

American Civil Liberties Union

Amnesty International

Center for Democracy and Technology

Committee to Protect Journalists

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Human Rights Watch


League of Women Voters

Planned Parenthood


Michael Flynn isn't the only crazy one on the inside

by digby

Here's a little tid-bit I hadn't heard before about Trump and Giuliani's little October Surprise. We knew that old Rudy had gone on TV bragging about how they had "something up their sleeves" and talking about all his friends in the FBI. I hadn't heard about this interview with Breitbart on November 4th with the notorious former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince talking about how he was wired in with the NYPD on the same story.

Anyway, this is interesting:

Prince claimed to have sources within the Weiner investigation who were illegally leaking information to him. In Prince’s case, the sources were within NYPD, and the information he relayed from them to Breitbart News on November 4th—when it was not yet known that Comey, the next day, would reveal the “new” Clinton emails to be duplicates—turned out to be almost entirely false. The full extent of Prince’s lies on November 4th, all of which were Trump campaign disinformation delivered by an adviser and major donor to the campaign, are too numerous and spectacular to list here. Two brief quotes from Breitbart’s interview with Prince should suffice:

Prince claimed he had insider knowledge of the investigation that could help explain why FBI Director James Comey had to announce he was reopening the investigation into Clinton’s email server last week....”[NYPD] found a lot of other really damning criminal information [on Weiner’s computer], including money laundering, including the fact that Hillary went to this sex island with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Bill Clinton went there more than twenty times. Hillary Clinton went there at least six times,” he said. “The amount of garbage that they found in these emails, of criminal activity by Hillary, by her immediate circle, and even by other Democratic members of Congress, was so disgusting they gave it to the FBI, and they said, ‘We’re going to go public with this if you don’t reopen the investigation and you don’t do the right thing with timely indictments,’” Prince explained. “I believe—I know, and this is from a very well-placed source of mine at One Police Plaza in New York—the NYPD wanted to do a press conference announcing the warrants and the additional arrests they were making in this investigation, and they’ve gotten huge pushback, to the point of coercion, from the Justice Department.”
“So NYPD first gets that computer. They see how disgusting it is. They keep a copy of everything, and they pass a copy on to the FBI, which finally pushes the FBI off their chairs, making Comey reopen that investigation, which was indicated in the letter last week. The point being, NYPD has all the information, and they will pursue justice within their rights if the FBI doesn’t. There is all kinds of criminal culpability through all the emails they’ve seen of that 650,000, including money laundering, underage sex, pay-for-play, and, of course, plenty of proof of inappropriate handling, sending/receiving of classified information, up to Special Access Programs....The point being, fortunately, it’s not just the FBI; five different offices are in the hunt for justice, but the NYPD has it as well....From what I understand, up to the commissioner or at least the chief level in NYPD, they wanted to have a press conference, and DOJ, Washington people, political appointees have been exerting all kinds of undue pressure on them to back down....This kind of evil, this kind of true dirt on Hillary Clinton—look, you don’t have to make any judgments. Just release the emails. Just dump them. Let them out there. Let people see the light of truth.”
All of this is bullshit, needless to say.

People are saying that fear of this is what made Comey make his big announcement. That makes no sense. His big announcement is what hurled this otherwise inane fever swamp story into the stratosphere.  And he wasn't born yesterday. He certainly knew what the effect would be.

But this is another interesting little factoid that one would hope the FBI Inspector general would look into in his investigation.

By the way, Jeremy Scahill revealed this week that Prince has been an unofficial adviser to the Trump transition.

A former senior U.S. official who has advised the Trump transition told The Intercept that Prince has been advising the team on matters related to intelligence and defense, including weighing in on candidates for the Defense and State departments. The official asked not to be identified because of a transition policy prohibiting discussion of confidential deliberations.

On election night, Prince’s latest wife, Stacy DeLuke, posted pictures from inside Trump’s campaign headquarters as Donald Trump and Mike Pence watched the returns come in, including a close shot of Pence and Trump with their families. “We know some people who worked closely with [Trump] on his campaign,” DeLuke wrote. “Waiting for the numbers to come in last night. It was well worth the wait!!!! #PresidentTrump2016.” Prince’s sister, billionaire Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary and Prince (and his mother) gave large sums of money to a Trump Super PAC.

In July, Prince told Trump’s senior adviser and white supremacist Steve Bannon, at the time head of Breitbart News, that the Trump administration should recreate a version of the Phoenix Program, the CIA assassination ring that operated during the Vietnam War, to fight ISIS. Such a program, Prince said, could kill or capture “the funders of Islamic terror and that would even be the wealthy radical Islamist billionaires funding it from the Middle East, and any of the other illicit activities they’re in.”

Prince also said that Trump would be the best force to confront “Islamic fascism.” “As for the world looking to the United States for leadership, unfortunately, I think they’re going to have to wait till January and hope Mr. Trump is elected because, clearly, our generals don’t have a stomach for a fight,” Prince said. “Our president doesn’t have a stomach for a fight and the terrorists, the fascists, are winning.”

He's obviously very much on the inside. Great.

Ready on Day 1?

by digby

The man who promised to run the country like he ran his businesses, including the four bankruptcies, has had the most disastrous transition in history. Most of his people have not been properly vetted or passed FBI background checks. His cabinet appointees are a mess. His staff is inexperienced, corrupt and extreme.

So what's going to happen in the short run? A DC hand explains:

On the other hand, this is scary. Who ARE these people?

At 12:01 p.m. Friday, Donald Trump’s aides will deploy a team of temporary political appointees into federal agencies to begin laying the groundwork for the president-elect’s agenda while his nominees await Senate confirmation, sources familiar with the plan told POLITICO.

While the transition team has been building the so-called beachhead teams for months, they are taking on outsize importance because few of Trump’s nominees will be confirmed by the time he’s sworn in.

Trump’s transition has instructed members of the beachhead teams to skip the inauguration and be at their desks the moment he is sworn in, sources close to the transition said.

Trump transition spokeswoman Jessica Ditto disputed that beachhead members were given instructions that would require them to miss the inauguration.

"We have approximately 520 individuals on the beachhead teams and they have worked with the agencies to go in any time after 12:01 [p.m.] on Friday — each team has worked out their own timing," she said in an email. "These individuals are honored to help the Trump Administration on Day 1 and are ready to serve our country."

Beachhead members will get badges just like any other federal employee and begin to take over the agencies, said Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, which advises incoming administrations on transitions. The goal is to ensure a smooth transfer of power not just at the White House, but at crucial federal agencies as well.

“The beachhead team is a newish structure, built by the [Mitt] Romney transition,” Stier said. “The basic concept is a recognition that incoming administrations do not have the full confirmed team in place. How do you put people in to keep the agencies running?”

Reed Cordish, whom Trump recently tapped as his assistant for intragovernmental and technology initiatives, organized the agency beachhead teams — whose size varies agency to agency, anywhere from a few people to a dozen. However, the size of these teams has grown exponentially in the past two weeks, with Republicans around town emailing each other congratulatory notes about making it into these coveted slots.

Landing on a beachhead team may translate into a job at that agency, at least for the first four months or so of the new administration until a secretary can get confirmed and officially put together his or her team. “It means that you’re almost guaranteed a job if you want one in that department,” said a GOP strategist close to the transition.

Trump’s team has long worried that career federal workers and President Barack Obama’s political appointees will seek to undermine the president-elect’s agenda. The transition sees the beachhead teams, named after the line of defense that the military constructs as it lands in enemy territory, as a check on existing agency officials.

The transition team has also instructed the teams to begin collecting information and laying organizational groundwork so that Trump’s secretaries and undersecretaries can hit the ground running once they’re confirmed.

In addition, Trump’s team has identified a few dozen Obama political appointees who have been asked to stay on after Friday to help with the transition, sources said.

For example, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday that Trump’s team said U.S. attorneys and U.S. marshals can stay past Friday.

As is customary when a new president enters the White House, all political appointees must submit resignation letters that take effect at noon on Inauguration Day. Many Obama administration officials had not heard until recently whether they would be asked to stay.

One Obama administration official said some people who have been asked to stick around are on the fence because they’ve already begun to line up jobs outside the government.

This feels like a coup.

Pardon politics

by digby

Please pardon Don Siegelman, Mr President

On Wednesday President Obama issued a whole bunch of pardons and commutations, with one granted to Chelsea Manning, the former Army private convicted of leaking classified documents, including evidence of an alleged heinous war crime in Iraq.

It is a controversial commutation, as I’m sure Obama expected, with Republican leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan wringing their hands and expressing their horror that this sends a message that “treachery” will be rewarded. (No word yet on whether they are are equally horrified by the confirmation that five separate agencies are currently investigating whether the campaign of our new president may have colluded with a foreign government.)

Obama addressed these concerns in his final press conference later on Wednesday, pointing out that Manning had already spent years in prison and received a disproportionate sentence compared to others accused of a similar crime. It’s hard to imagine that anyone will look at the Manning case, which includes torture allegations and suicide attempts and see someone who “got away with it.” Commuting her sentence was the decent and humane thing to do.

Indeed, Brian Beutler makes a convincing case in this week’s New Republic that Obama should do something similar, for different reasons, for Edward Snowden — who should not be used as currency in the weird relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Ryan is not the only right-winger having a hissy fit over Manning’s commutation. Sean Spicer, Trump’s new press secretary, unctuously proclaimed that the president-elect was “troubled” by it while The Wall Street Journal dove headfirst into the gutter with this odious screed headlined “Politically Correct Clemency: Obama springs gender celebrity Chelsea Manning from prison.”

All these conservatives have apparently forgotten that the most notorious presidential pardons in recent history all came from Republicans pardoning one another. First, of course, was the preemptive pardon of Richard Nixon by Gerald Ford, previously his handpicked vice president. (Ford remains the only president in history never elected to national office by voters.)

You can understand why Republicans would prefer to forget that one — especially now. The second was George H.W. Bush’s Christmas Eve pardons of six high-level members of the Ronald Reagan administration, including the former secretary of state and the former head of the CIA’s clandestine services, over their crimes in the Iran contra affair. Talk about sending a “troubling message.”

Republicans defended those pardons to the hilt as presidential plenary powers and then turned around and launched a major criminal investigation of Bill Clinton’s pardon of financier Marc Rich in 2000. On Wednesday Politico reported that newly released memos about the case reveal that the prosecutor (and current director of the FBI), James Comey, said he was “enthusiastic” about taking it. That isn’t surprising considering that Comey had been the legal counsel for the Republican-led Senate Whitewater committee and had prosecuted Rich in he first place. Comey moved on before the probe was finished but it went on for more than four years, cost millions of dollars and ultimately came to nothing, just as previous Clinton investigations had done.

One only hopes that Comey and the attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions don’t decide to repeat history with any of President Barack Obama’s commutations. There are a lot of them. When the White House announced the latest names, including Manning, it released the following chart:

These are impressive numbers, particularly since there had been a lot of consternation during the first few years of his administration about his reluctance to use the pardon power to right some of the excesses of the criminal justice system. He has obviously made up for lost time and good for him.

There is one miscarriage of justice that Obama has not taken up, however, at least as of this writing that has a lot of people scratching their heads. That would be the case of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, a Democrat who was the victim of an egregious political witch hunt during the Karl Rove era. He remains in prison to this day. (The free-don.us website has outlined the whole sordid tale of his persecution.)

Jeffrey Toobin argued for Siegelman’s pardon a couple of years ago in The New Yorker. Basically, he said the case was about a single campaign contribution. Siegelman served as governor from 1999 through 2003. Siegelman had run on a platform that promised to create a state lottery to help pay for education and got a question on the ballot. A health care executive named Richard Scrushy donated $500,000 to fund the lottery campaign, which eventually lost. During the course of that campaign Siegelman had reappointed Scrushy to a state board. Despite the fact that Scrushy had served in that position through three previous administrations, this appointment was portrayed by federal prosecutors as payback for Scrushy’s contribution to the lottery campaign. After much courtroom drama, Siegelman was sentenced to seven years in prison.

This was a political prosecution. You’ll recall that the Justice Department of George W. Bush was rife with politics, culminating in an ugly scandal in which the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, was forced to resign after it was revealed that he had fired prosecutors for refusing to investigate and indict Democratic politicians at the direction of Republican officials. As Toobin explained, there was evidence that President Bush’s consigliere, Karl Rove, had promised Alabama Republicans a DOJ investigation of Siegelman — and by all accounts he delivered one.

Considering the ethical train wreck that is about to overwhelm the White House, it is absurd that Siegelman remains incarcerated. He never should have been imprisoned in the first place and he deserves to be freed. President Obama should pardon him or commute his sentence before Sessions, a member of the same GOP Alabama cabal that put Siegelman away in the first place, takes the reins at the Justice Department.


Rick Perry: energy czar

by Tom Sullivan

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

Among the political right's weaponry are such diverse elements as fear, surprise and ruthless othering. They love their othering. So much so that wingnuts were throwing down the commie card decades after proclaiming St. Ronald of Reagan had slain the Evil Empire and won the Cold War. During one of the recent political conventions (can't find a link), Rachel Maddow was on an MSNBC panel with Pat Buchanan when Buchanan made some "socialist" or what-have-you remark about her. Maddow grinned, eyes wide like it was the highlight of her career. Pat Buchanan is red-baiting me!

President Barack Obama, the Kenyan-atheist-Muslim-socialist-usurper, leaves office tomorrow perhaps the most othered political figure in wingnut lore. Remember when "Obama's czars" was the othering du jour over which the right wing got hot and bothered? Yeah, neither do they.

Ah, but I was so much older then.

But it all came back yesterday when I "red" about Gov. Rick Perry tackling the plum assignment he thought he'd lucked into in the Donald Trump administration. From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.

In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.
Don't laugh. Perry's future boss, the man who tomorrow will have with his short finger on the nuclear trigger, is just as clueless as Governor Goodhair.
Mr. Perry, who once called for the elimination of the Energy Department, will begin the confirmation process Thursday with a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee. If approved by the Senate, he will take over from a secretary, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Before Mr. Moniz, the job belonged to Steven Chu, a physicist who won a Nobel Prize.
Rick Perry: energy czar.

Perry joins a short parade of the unqualified auditioning on Capitol Hill this week for Trump's newest reality show. Betsy DeVos: education czar. Tom Price: Health and Human Services czar. Scott Pruitt: environment czar. Yet there is precious little conservative alarmism about Trump's czars. Isn't that strange?

That's probably just because so few of Trump's czars have cleared vetting yet. Bloomberg:
Politico's Michael Crowley has a nice piece explaining the missing National Security Council staffers, and the dangers that could cause if there's an early crisis. Hundreds of briefing papers have been created by Obama's NSC and sent to Team Trump, but the New York Times reports that no one knows if they've been reviewed.


And the same is true in department after department. Not to mention agencies without anyone at all nominated by the president-elect.

Overall, out of 690 positions requiring Senate confirmation tracked by the Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service, Trump has come up with only 28 people so far.
Good thing Trump has postponed any crises until Monday.

Charlie Pierce observes:
Remember, this is the administration that, in a break with tradition, is demanding that career diplomats leave their posts promptly when the Lincoln Bible bursts into flame beneath Trump's hand on Friday. There are going to be an awful lot of phones ringing unanswered by Friday afternoon.

Unless, of course, they've all been outsourced to Lubyanka Square.
Post-inauguration Washington will be like that scene in Die Hard with a Vengeance when the candy-stealing kid says, "All the cops are into something. It's Christmas! You could steal City Hall." Almost as if that was the plan.

World Party:
We're setting sail to the place on the map
From which no one has ever returned
Drawn by the promise of the joker and the fool
By the light of the crosses that burned
Drawn by the promise of the women and the lace
And the gold and the cotton and pearls
It's the place where they keep all the darkness you need
You sail away from the light of the world on this trip, baby
You will pay tomorrow
You're gonna pay tomorrow
You will pay tomorrow

Oh, oh, oh
Save me, save me from tomorrow
I don't want to sail with this ship of fools, no, no
Oh, save me, save me from tomorrow
I don't want to sail with this ship of fools, no, no
I want to run and hide right now

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Trump voters are in town

by digby

How politically correct of him not to use the "N" word:

I don't mean to alarm you but ...

by digby

I think the New York Times is trying to get our attention about something important:

Seems like something we should be concerned about but what do I know?


New info on Trump's Russian money connection

by digby

So, it's been confirmed that even while FBI Director James Comey was blathering on about Hillary Clinton's "recklessness" five years earlier by having a private email server which was never hacked and contained no information that did anything but show how boring government work actually is, he knew this was going on as he spoke:

The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump, two people familiar with the matter said.

The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence, the sources said.

Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said.

Trump addresses Russia accusations, business dealings in post-election press conference
President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday delivered his first press conference since the November presidential election. Trump addressed his relationship with Russia and how he will handle his business once taking office.

The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the inquiry.

On Jan. 6, the director of national intelligence released a declassified report that concluded Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an influence campaign to “undermine faith in the U.S. democratic process,” damage Hillary Clinton’s election prospects and bolster Trump’s. The campaign included the hacking of top Democrats’ emails and fake news distributed by Russian sources.

The president-elect, who will be inaugurated Friday, has said he believes Russia was involved with the hacking, and he has called allegations that he or his associates were involved a “political witch hunt” and a “complete and total fabrication.”

Trump has yet to say whether FBI Director James Comey will be retained. The rest of Trump’s newly appointed intelligence and law enforcement chiefs will inherit the investigation, whose outcome could create national and international fallout.

Trump's presidential transition team did not respond to a request for comment about the inquiry.

There's more here.

I don't know if any of the charges are true. But it does appear that there have been suspicions for some time that the Russian government was helping Trump and his own behavior has fed into that suspicion. Certainly, soft and gentle way he is dealing with the sanctions issue and his loose talk about NATO, along with the boundless positivity toward Putin himself as a great leader, seem odd for a man who is usually all about "toughness" and personal competitiveness. The whole thing is strange and while I have no idea what the depth of Trump's personal involvement in all this might be, it's certainly worthy of investigation and it should be done by a special prosecutor. Trump's IC leaders obviously cannot be trusted and James Comey should be banned from any involvement.

It's early days so who knows where this will go. Maybe there's a reasonable explanation for all this. If Russia hacked the presidential campaign, that's a big deal but it's also not entirely surprising. What would be a shocker is if it turns out that Trump's campaign was involved somehow. It appears there is some evidence out there that it was. This is uncharted territory.


2017 gun violence statistics

by digby


Tactical methods for tricking the president

by digby

This is what it's come to. The Republicans are trying to figure out how to trick the imbecile who will be living in the White House into doing what they need him to do. But it's not easy because he's an undisciplined pathological liar.

From National Review:

After Rand Paul announced he had spoken with Trump, who agreed with him about making repeal and replace simultaneous, one congressional staffer suggested at a Capitol Hill meeting on health care that his boss could call Trump and get him to say the opposite. After Trump’s news conference last week, several members and staffers suggested (independently) that Trump must mean that repeal and replace should take effect simultaneously, rather than that they should be enacted simultaneously, in which case congressional Republicans were already on the same page as Trump. (And of course, that could very well be what Trump meant.) After Trump’s Washington Post interview this past Sunday, the conservative health-care universe, including some people on Trump’s own team, quickly concluded that the separate administration plan he described was entirely a figment of Trump’s imagination.

If you read that whole article you'll see that the Republicans in congress are trying to use a Machiavellian strategy to repeal Obamacare. They really, really want to do it. I'm not even sure they know why anymore. It's the Holy Grail.

But that paragraph suggests that Trump's stupidity may be what stops it. He is without any fundamental beliefs other than doing and saying anything to make the sale and when it comes to governing he doesn't know what "the sale" is or who he's selling it to. So he's entirely unpredictable. But that means there's a chance that he'll screw his own people for reasons that have nothing to do with the policy which he doesn't understand at all.

We have a puerile fool for president and a Republican Party that's at peak crazy. Pray for them to metaphorically shoot each other in the foot. For the time being, that's the best we can hope for, at least until enough of the population wakes up* and puts them out of office.

*And that means mobilization. Lot's of things for citizens to do to make that happen. Read all about it.

"The Donald" and "the Mooch"

by digby

I wrote about  "adviser and public liaison to government agencies and businesses" Anthony "the Mooch" Scaramucci for Salon today:

A long time ago in an alternate universe far, far away, I wrote a Salon column about how the Republican Party was in trouble because rich gadflies had decided to get personally involved in electoral strategy and that could only spell their doom. These were foolish wealthy donors for the most part, people who believed the size of their bank accounts meant they were renaissance geniuses who can do anything.

Needless to say my prophesy didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. One of those gadflies is going to be inaugurated president of the United States in two days. And it turns out that the central focus of my long-ago column has been named a top adviser to that new president.

His name is Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci, and he could be a character out of an Elmore Leonard novel. In fact, in my 2014 article I wrote, “the man’s hijinks make Donald Trump look like a prince by comparison.” (I didn’t know the extent of Trump’s high jinks at the time.) Scaramucci has a big mouth and a big wallet and he has been ostentatiously rubbing elbows with the political elite for quite some time.

Scaramucci made a ton of money in hedge funds and, like his new boss, he loves to show off his wealth as a reality-TV star. In 2009, he starred in a show called “Untold Wealth: The Rise of the Super Rich.” (Like Trump, Saddam Hussein and Louis XIV, his taste runs toward gold and mirrors.) He has been a regular on CNBC, offering himself up as an expert on all things financial and has cultivated many friends in high places.

But Scaramucci has particularly concentrated on politics, hosting a sort of mini-Davos called SkyBridge Alternatives Conference (or SALT for short) named after his hedge fund. He invites sports and entertainment stars to rub shoulders with major officials, politicos and wealthy master of the universe types in Las Vegas for a little networking and a lot of partying. According to Ken Vogel, who wrote about this conclave for Politico, Scaramucci was seen as “a validator who can steer major Wall Street money to hedge funds and super PACs alike.” The Mooch is a liaison, a middleman, a matchmaker.

He is also self-aggrandizing and has a reputation for indiscretion, spilling campaign finance secrets on Twitter and posting on Facebook backstage pictures of luminaries at the 2012 GOP convention. He made a particularly egregious gaffe by alerting a reporter to a closed-door fundraiser where Karl Rove was recorded telling fellow Republicans they needed to “sink” Todd Akin, the Senate candidate of “legitimate rape” fame. (That flap seems almost quaint in the age of Trump.)

Vogel quoted a conservative Wall Streeter characterizing Scaramucci as someone with the profile of Sheldon Adelson but without the bank account:

“Do people take him seriously? I think they do because of his image and his brand, more so than because of his political giving. The only thing similar between his politics and his business, including SALT, is that it’s all about him.”

It’s easy to see why Trump would be impressed. Scaramucci is an obnoxious, crude, indiscreet, wealthy egomaniac. What’s not to like? Naturally Trump has hired him as his “adviser and public liaison to government agencies and businesses.”

This week Scaramucci is attending the actual conclave in Davos rather than his home-grown imitation, reassuring all the big-money players that Trump isn’t really going to do anything that will displease them. According to The Wall Street Journal, Scaramucci told that gathering:

“If you guys get a little bit upset about the tweeting or some of the things that [Trump is] saying, I want to put your mind at ease. Directionally, this is a super-compassionate man. He’s not necessarily communicating in a way that the people in this community would love, but he is communicating very, very effectively to a very large group of the population in Europe and in the United States that are feeling a common struggle right now that maybe many of us here in this room do not feel.”

He also reportedly said that Trump is “one of the last great hopes for globalism” but it’s broken and only he can fix it. He used China as an example, explaining that Trump doesn’t want a trade war but expects “symmetry” and therefore demands that China “reach now towards us and allow us to create this symmetry because the path to globalism for the world is through the American worker and the American middle class.”

I’m sure the rest of the world thinks that sounds perfectly fair and will happily sublimate the needs of their own people because Donald Trump says so. After all, Scaramucci vouches for his good intentions, assuring everyone that Trump is “the least racist person” Scaramucci has ever met.

But even more interesting than the Mooch’s PR outreach to the global masters of the universe is his personal dealmaking on the eve of the inauguration and his ascension to an important post in the White House. In the middle of Trump’s monumental Russian scandal, Bloomberg reported yesterday that Scaramucci openly admits that he “discussed possible joint investments in a meeting in Davos with the head of a Russian sovereign wealth fund that the U.S. sanctioned in 2015.”

He also gave interviews to Russian media outlets, expressing the opinion that the sanctions haven’t worked because Russians get mad at those who inflict them.

Since he is notoriously indiscreet, Scaramucci also blurted out that he’d been working for months on the deal. (Remember, this wealth fund has been under U.S. government sanctions since 2015.) He told Bloomberg that he would have to determine whether he can continue to work this deal from the White House, what with ethics rules and all.

Luckily, Scaramucci happens to have sold his own hedge fund — this week — so it should all be fine. That is, unless some stodgy old ethics lawyer thinks it might be inappropriate for a liaison from the White House to arrange private business deals with Russian businesses to benefit who knows whom or if you believe that when the U.S. imposes sanctions on a foreign country for violations of international law they should be honored by American businessmen who are about to become White House advisers. But if all of that is no problem, then the Mooch should be in the clear.
Hope you guessed his name

by digby

What could go wrong?
President-elect Donald J. Trump made his first visit to Washington on Tuesday in more than a month, appearing at a dinner where he predicted “record” crowds at his inauguration and praised the Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders who plan to protect it from protesters. 
In the stream-of-consciousness style he employed at his campaign rallies, Mr. Trump said, “I saw the Bikers for Trump — boy, they had a scene today. I don’t know if I would want to ride one of those, but they do like me. That’s like additional security with those guys, and they’re rough. And they get on that Harley, usually Harley, made right here in America.”
Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul to waste

And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game ...


No-way: Betsy DeVos faces a tough crowd

by Tom Sullivan

Newsweek sums up why Democrats are acutely suspicious of Betsy DeVos, daughter-in-law of billionaire Richard DeVos, the co-founder of Amway, and Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary:

Liberals have been acutely suspicious of DeVos. They view her and her husband, Amway heir Dick DeVos, as right-wing activists masquerading as education reformers and philanthropists. Indeed, members of the DeVos family have donated to conservative causes, including anti-LGBTQ initiatives, and have profited in investments in educational companies. She has also been portrayed as both a profiteer and religious zealot, with Lily Eskelsen García of the National Education Association, for example, calling her “dangerously unqualified.” That sentiment has been echoed by many of the nation’s largest teachers unions.
At her confirmation hearing yesterday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, DeVos faced biting questions from Democrats about her qualifications. Crooks and Liars has a clip of Sen. Al Franken's questioning. "Stewart Smalley" was noticeably absent:

At one point, her answers showed she did not understand the difference between proficiency and growth when evaluating student's performance on standardized tests.

Growth is the measure of how much a student learns year-to-year compared to his or her peers. Proficiency is the attainment of specific objective benchmarks, usually determined via standardized testing. There's a huge difference between the two, and the debate is one that heavily influences public education policy.

Franken let DeVos know he wasn't impressed, chiding, "It surprises me that you don't know this issue."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts made it plain that DeVos had no personal experience with managing anything like a "trillion-dollar student loan bank." Nor had she nor any of her children ever applied for a federal student loan. DeVos would not commit to enforcing against private educational institutions rules in place for protect against waste, fraud and abuse.

Warren later remarked:

“Tonight at her confirmation hearing, I asked Betsy DeVos a straight forward set of questions about her education experience and commitment to protecting students cheated by for-profit colleges,” Warren said in a message posted to her Facebook page. “If Betsy DeVos can’t commit to using the Department of Education’s many tools and resources to protect students from fraud, I don’t see how she can be the Secretary of Education.”
Freshman Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire asked how DeVos would protect students with disabilities (like Hassan's) from being denied an adequate education as required by law if they attend a voucher school. Earlier, Sen. Tim Kaine asked whether all schools receiving taxpayer funding should have to meet have to meet the requirements of special education law. DeVos answered, " “I think that is a matter better left to the states.” So Hassan came back to that with regard to private and voucher schools. Would DeVos enforce the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) that protects children's rights?
“Were you unaware that it is federal law?” Hassan asked.

“I may have confused it,” DeVos said.

“I'm concerned that you seem so unfamiliar with it,” Hassan said, adding that some private school voucher programs supported by DeVos aren’t honoring students’ rights under IDEA.

DeVos said that if confirmed, she’ll be sensitive to the needs of students under the law.

“It is not about sensitivity,” Hassan said. “It is ensuring that every child has equal access to a high-quality education. The reality is the vouchers that you support do not always come out that way. That is why it is something we need to continue to explore.”

Dana Goldstein observed at Slate that while DeVos did a fair job of presenting herself as a moderate, "she revealed herself to be either underprepared for the job or stiffly wedded to an ideological, market-oriented vision of education policy."

Rachel Tabachnick's 2011 profile of DeVos' “dominion theology” makes the ideology behind “Biblical Capitalism” sound more like that of a cult.

Perhaps the weirdest exchange yesterday came in an exchange with Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Murphy asked, “Do you think guns have any place in or around schools?

DeVos said that is decision “best left to locales and states to decide.”

When Murphy asked her again, DeVos said, “I will refer back to Senator Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming … I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”
Lyins and tigers and bears.