Ted Cruz: I do not like him here or there. I do not like him anywhere!

Sen. Ted Cruz (O-Canada) took over the Senate floor for 21 hours yesterday in a protest against Obamacare. If I can figure this out, he was filibustering the Senate to halt a vote on a House bill he promoted.

Anyway, if you didn’t stay up all night to watch the waste of time, here’s the highlight:

OK. Let’s ignore the obvious. Ted Cruz harps on and on about how much he hates Obamacare, right? So he reads a story about a grouch who hates something he’s never tried. And when he tries it?

HE LOVES IT!!!!!!!

Isn’t it ironic? Don’t cha think? I’m just waiting for Alanis Morissette to pop into the picture.

But here’s what really pops my buttons.

If you’re going to read a children’s classic, START FROM THE BEGINNING!!!!!!!!!

Who doesn’t know in their sleep that the first words of “Green Eggs and Ham” are:

I am Sam.

But does the junior senator from Teabaggia begin there? No!! He begins with:

Sam I am.

What is his malfunction? No wonder his girls don’t want him to read it to them. He doesn’t do it right!!

It’s like starting “A Tale of Two Cities” at:

It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness.

Which, in this case, is exactly what it was.

The Senate and the surveillance status quo

Now that the world’s attention is focused on the massive surveillance apparatus of the NSA, what’s Congress going to do to get to the heart of the matter?

Nothing, of course:

A recent briefing by senior intelligence officials on surveillance programs failed to attract even half of the Senate, showing the lack of enthusiasm in Congress for learning about classified security programs.

Many senators elected to leave Washington early Thursday afternoon instead of attending a briefing with James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and other officials.

The Senate held its last vote of the week a little after noon on Thursday, and many lawmakers were eager to take advantage of the short day and head back to their home states for Father’s Day weekend.

Only 47 of 100 senators attended the 2:30 briefing, leaving dozens of chairs in the secure meeting room empty as Clapper, Alexander and other senior officials told lawmakers about classified programs to monitor millions of telephone calls and broad swaths of Internet activity.

So more than half the Senate has decided this scandal is no biggie. OK, folks. Nothing to see here.

Show me the money! (The Tea Bagger edition)

Apparently, there was big news in Washington Thursday:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a leading conservative voice in the Senate, will resign his seat in January to become the next president of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, a sudden move with far-reaching implications.

“It’s been an honor to serve the people of South Carolina in the United States Senate for the past eight years, but now it’s time for me to pass the torch to someone else and take on a new role in the fight for America’s future,” DeMint said in a statement Thursday morning. …

The coverage implies that this is significant because it essentially removes the leading Tea Bagger from Congress and puts him in a think tank that will have a major influence on how conservative political policies are formed and carried out.

OK, that sounds ominous. DeMint is somewhat responsible for people like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio getting elected to the Senate, and he wants more Pauls and Rubios in Congress.

But forgive me if I think there’s something more basic here that merits closer attention. I checked out DeMint’s Senate financial disclosure form online:

demintThat’s from 2010. Notice something interesting here? The chart shows the average net worth of a U.S. senator. This chart includes DeMint’s net worth. You don’t see anything on DeMint in this chart, right? That’s because DeMint is poor by Senate standards. His financial record is reflected here, but it’s so close to zero, it doesn’t even register on the chart.

Want to see who the richest people in the Senate were in 2010?

richestThese people are America’s 1%. Some of them are America’s 0.1%. DeMint ranks 98th in terms of wealth in the Senate. In layman’s terms, he’s at the bottom of the 99% bucket. Buried in the Washington Post story linked to above is the fact that this is all about looking to cash in and join the 1%.

According to a Washington Post analysis of congressional wealth, DeMint is among the poorest members of Congress. His estimated wealth in 2010 was $40,501. He could stand to receive a significant bump in pay in his new position. Feulner’s total 2010 compensation package from Heritage was more than $1 million, tax records show.

Ed Feulner was the head of the Heritage Foundation. DeMint is taking his job. That’s not just “a significant bump.” DeMint hopes to enter Scrooge McDuck territory here.


But why would DeMint choose to do this now? Well, another Tea Bagger found a financial windfall this week, and I’ll bet this had DeMint ready to dive off his financial cliff:

From its formation in 2004, it always seemed more than a bit incongruous that the tea party political group FreedomWorks chose as its chairman one of the erstwhile top power players from the halls of Congress.

Nothing Dick Armey did in eight years changed that perception, including the way he exited Washington-based FreedomWorks — with an $8 million payout, according to the Associated Press, the kind of platinum parachute available only to the canniest and coziest of the capital’s inside players.

As one liberal on Twitter taunted those who would contribute to the purportedly grass-roots organization: “You should totally raid Junior’s college fund to donate money to @FreedomWorks because its leaders need new Jags.”

So Jim DeMint is leading the Tea Party from Congress, actually getting people elected (and contributing to the congressional stalemate by upping the quotient of crazy from the right) and gets no financial gain out of the deal. Meanwhile, Dick Armey, the guy who’s telling us that the Tea Party is a group of patriotic Americans concerned about the rise of socialism in America and aren’t being led by anyone, actually heads another group of fire-breathing Tea Baggers, quits on bad terms and gets $8 million when he walks away.

Don’t you think that must have really pissed DeMint off?

And here are the conditions Armey imposed in his departure:

As I resign from all board positions and duties, please see below a list of dispositions on outstanding issues: I expect to be fully compensated through the expiration date (December 31, 2012) of my current consulting contract with FreedomWorks. Henceforth FreedomWorks shall be prohibited from using my name, image, or signature in any way or for any purpose without my written permission or in the event of my death, without my heirs written permission.

Effective immediately I expect that Freedom Works shall remove my name, image, and signature from all its letters, print media, postings, web sites, videos, testimonials, endorsements, fund raising materials, and social media, including but not limited to Facebook and Twitter. I expect to receive via email at [redacted] by the close of business, December 4, 2012, all user names, passwords, security questions, and security answers for all accounts, web sites and social media, including but not limited to Facebook and Twitter, created in my name.

Effective immediately FreedomWorks is prohibited from using my booklet or any updated versions of my booklet “Hitting the Ground Running” without my written permission which I innovated while still in congress and trusted to Max Pappas to update for new member orientation. I request that FreedomWorks deliver the copy of my official congressional portrait to my home in Texas.

This has to be the greatest, “Screw you. Give me my money and make sure no one knows I had anything to do with you.”

Jim DeMint reads this and asks, “Why am I here in the Senate scrimping on pennies?”

It’s very simple. When something like this happens in Washington, and people say how shocking and unexpected it is, just follow the money, and everything makes perfect sense.

The women in the Senate

Before I forget, Democrat Elizabeth Warren won her Senate race in Massachusetts.

This Molly Erdman parody announcement now reaches new levels of greatness:

President Obama had nominated Warren to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse. But Wall Street opposed her saying she was too aggressive in pursuing regulation, and Senate Republicans rejected her nomination. So she ran for Senate. And now, she’s going to be in their faces and on their cases for the next six years.

Meanwhile, a record was broken as of Tuesday’s election. There will be 20 women in the U.S. Senate, up from 17. That’s, of course, still too small a number, but I remember “back in the day” when having one woman in the Senate was an oddity.

Click here to go to a Washington Post photo gallery to see them all.

Legitimate rape: a Republican explains it all to you

Republican Rep. Todd Akin is running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri. He’s anti-abortion. Extremely anti-abortion. But he took it to a whole new level of crazy when he was asked for his view on abortion in the case of rape.

First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

When I read this, I thought, “This can’t be right. No elected official can be THAT STUPID!” So, let’s go to the videotape:

OK, so he’s THAT STUPID.

The female body can shut that thing down? A legitimate rape? And when you see the whole segment without the edit, you have to ask: What the hell is he talking about? Why is he talking about Sept. 11 and people in wheelchairs? What does Ollie North (OLLIE NORTH FOR GOD’S SAKE) and Iraq have to do with anything? When did that nest of rabid squirrels get into his head and start chewing on his brain?

And according to the polls he was leading in the race last week!

This is where you really have to blame the citizens who put him in office, and the people of Missouri, obviously under the influence of Tea Baggers, should be ashamed of themselves. How did they elect this guy to anything more than Village Idiot?

Now he says he misspoke.

Look, if you got your subject/verb agreement wrong in a sentence, that’s when you misspoke. When you say a raped woman can get her body to shut down so she can’t get pregnant, that’s not misspeaking. That’s mental derangement.

Whatever it is, I’m against it

We hear a lot of talk from a certain party on the right about the need to cut or limit the minimum wage. So of course, anyone willing to cut it, knows what it is (from TPM):

Missouri Democrats are pouncing on a moment from Friday’s radio debate between the three Republican candidates for Senate, who are seeking to oppose vulnerable Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. None of them could correctly answer a question about the minimum wage: Namely, what is the current minimum wage?

The correct answer is $7.25 per hour, though local CBS radio host Charlie Brennan did not provide that number until after all the candidates had responded.

They were, however, all able to answer the other part of the question — whether they would increase it — with a firm no.

There is an irresponsible intellectual dishonesty here. If you’re going to increase, limit or cut a program that affects the pocketbooks of millions of people, you really have to know what it is you’re cutting, limiting, or increasing. These guys act like Groucho Marks in “Horse Feathers” is their main campaign consultant.

The lynch mob mentality

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had people cheering Texas executions at a political debate, and an execution of a possibly innocent man in Georgia.

Of course, actual murderers have been executed. But between 1970 and 2011, 139 people convicted of murder and placed on death row have been exonerated in the U.S. That number, however, doesn’t include people like Cameron Willingham in Texas and Troy Davis in Georgia who were executed even though there were significant questions as to whether they ever committed the crimes they were put to death for. The idea of “reasonable doubt” should override any execution. But it doesn’t.

But the execution of the innocent is nothing new. Here’s a southern execution from the 1940s:

He was 14 yrs. 6mos. and 5 days old — and the youngest person executed in the United States in the 20th Century

George Junius Stinney, Jr.,

[b. 1929 – d. 1944]

In a South Carolina prison sixty-six years ago, guards walked a 14-year-old boy, bible tucked under his arm, to the electric chair. At 5′ 1″ and 95 pounds, the straps didn’t fit, and an electrode was too big for his leg.

The switch was pulled and the adult sized death mask fell from George Stinney’s face. Tears streamed from his eyes. Witnesses recoiled in horror as they watched the youngest person executed in the United States in the past century die.

Now, a community activist is fighting to clear Stinney’s name, saying the young boy couldn’t have killed two girls. George Frierson, a school board member and textile inspector, believes Stinney’s confession was coerced, and that his execution was just another injustice blacks suffered in Southern courtrooms in the first half of the 1900s. …

… Stinney was accused of killing two white girls, 11 year old Betty June Binnicker and 8 year old
Mary Emma Thames, by beating them with a railroad spike then dragging their bodies to a ditch near Acolu, about five miles from Manning in central South Carolina. The girls were found a day after they disappeared following a massive manhunt. Stinney was arrested a few hours later, white men in suits taking him away. Because of the risk of a lynching, Stinney was kept at a jail 50 miles away in Columbia.

Stinney’s father, who had helped look for the girls, was fired immediately and ordered to leave his home and the sawmill where he worked. His family was told to leave town prior to the trial to avoid further retribution. An atmosphere of lynch mob hysteria hung over the courthouse. Without family visits, the 14 year old had to endure the trial and death alone.

Frierson hasn’t been able to get the case out of his head since, carrying around a thick binder of old newspaper stories and documents, including an account from an execution witness.

The sheriff at the time said Stinney admitted to the killings, but there is only his word — no written record of the confession has been found. A lawyer helping Frierson with the case figures threats of mob violence and not being able to see his parents rattled the seventh-grader.

Attorney Steve McKenzie said he has even heard one account that says detectives offered the boy ice cream once they were done.

This wasn’t an isolated case of a questionable execution in the South in the 1940s. We haven’t even gotten into lynch mobs from the 1890s to the 1960s that didn’t even bother with the formality of a trial. For example:

On September 8, 1908, William Sullivan led a lynch mob which murdered a black man named Nelse Patton. Mr. Patton had been accused of killing a white woman. William Sullivan was quoted a day later as saying, “I led the mob which lynched Nelse Patton, and I’m proud of it. I directed every movement of the mob and I did everything I could to see that he was lynched.”

So, who was William Sullivan?

SULLIVAN, William Van Amberg, a Representative and a Senator from Mississippi; born near Winona, Montgomery County, Miss., December 18, 1857; attended the common schools in Panola County and the University of Mississippi at Oxford; graduated from Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn., in 1875; admitted to the bar in 1875 and commenced practice in Austin, Tunica County; moved to Oxford, Lafayette County, Miss., in 1877; member of the board of city aldermen; elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-fifth Congress and served from March 4, 1897, to May 31, 1898, when he resigned, having been appointed Senator; appointed and subsequently elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Edward C. Walthall and served from May 31, 1898, to March 3, 1901; not a candidate for reelection; retired from active business and resided in Washington, D.C.; died in Oxford, Miss., March 21, 1918; interment in St. Peter’s Cemetery.

Here’s a former U.S. senator who admits to murder on the front page of the New York Times in 1908. And gets away with it.

In America, 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites were lynched between 1882 and 1968. A lot of those people weren’t murderers. They were murder victims. The days of the lynch mobs may be over, but when “respectable” people cheer for executions on national TV, we know that the attitude of the lynch mob is still with us.

Room at the top?

The House passed the debt ceiling bill early yesterday evening. The Senate is supposed to vote on it today. If nothing goes wrong, the country won’t default. (You never know what will happen with Rand Paul in the Senate.)

The deal has lots of flaws. Paul Krugman explains it all to you.

… The deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.

Oh, and Mitt Romney hit a low point in his campaign:

After a week of attacks from left and right alike over his failure to take a position on the latest round of Republican debt ceiling proposals, Mitt Romney has made up his mind on the final deal: he’s against it.

“As president, my plan would have produced a budget that was cut, capped and balanced – not one that opens the door to higher taxes and puts defense cuts on the table,” he said in a statement. “President Obama’s leadership failure has pushed the economy to the brink at the eleventh hour and 59th minute. While I appreciate the extraordinarily difficult situation President Obama’s lack of leadership has placed Republican Members of Congress in, I personally cannot support this deal.”

Talk about pandering to the extremes of his party.