Humor, Politics, pop culture

JARED KUSHNER’S CLOSED-SESSION MEETING WITH SENATE INTELLIGENCE

Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the president, has stated, after his closed-session meeting with Senate intelligence staffers, “I did not collude with Russia.”


Photo source: Bravo via Jezebel


Do you remember when you were a little kid, and you did something wrong (broke a fancy glass; accidentally deleted a work file off your parents’ computer; failed a math test) and you had the rest of the afternoon to figure out a good-enough lie to tell to your parents when they got home?

And when they got home, you totally blew the secret because you told the lie in its shiny, well-packaged entirety before your parents even had a chance to discover what you had accidentally done. “And that’s why I failed that test,” you said, vibrating with your lie.

Your parents gave you a long, measured look before calling you on your shit. And even as you were telling it, you knew that they wouldn’t buy it. The truth is weird and messy and doesn’t make sense. Lies, especially lies that you’ve had enough time to concoct, are too clean.

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Politics

BETSY DEVOS CONFIRMED AS SECRETARY OF EDUCATION

Vice President Mike Pence cast a historic tie-breaking vote in the Senate today to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. The count passed 51-50, with only Republican support. 48 Democrats and two Republicans (Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine) voted against DeVos.

It’s worth noting that the two Republicans who voted against DeVos were both from rural states, areas that would not benefit from DeVos’ heavy emphasis on “school choice”. For a really great understanding of education, I’ll link the New York Times’ “The Daily” podcast—the episode today centered around DeVos, with commentary from NYT education reporter Dana Goldstein. Very informative and quick.

Betsy DeVos isn’t new to the education scene. She’s a prominent philanthropist from Michigan who is a strong advocate for “school choice.” That means promoting charter schools and voucher-funded private schools as alternatives to public schools. On a personal level, she or her children never attended public schools nor took student loans. But to just dismiss her as entirely ignorant of education is not technically correct.

Something that “The Daily” touched upon was DeVos’ “school choice” policy. It would divert more federal funds from public schools to charter schools and voucher-funded private schools (a government voucher which uses public funds to be used as tuition for private schools). An issue, and one that is reflected in the “no” votes from Republican Senators Murkowski and Collins, is that some (particularly rural) areas do not have multiple schools from which to choose from. They might only have the one, traditional public school. So when funds are taken from public schools and funneled into these alternatives, that affects people who don’t have a choice in what school their kids can reasonably attend.

DeVos’ lack of familiarity with the particular policies of the public school system is what rubbed so many people the wrong way. She would not give a definite answer as to whether or not schools receiving federal funding should be held to meet a certain standard. She was unclear about the Individuals With Disabilities Education Law, which was a federal law that required students with disabilities receive an education specifically tailored to their needs. She, in an attempt to pivot, said that it would be up to the states to decide—(it’s already been decided; and it’s a federal law)—which Tim Kaine did not like.

DeVos is also a controversial choice because she did not complete her ethics review before the beginning of her confirmation hearing. Ethics reviews aim to eliminate or resolve any potential conflicts of interest, something particularly relevant to DeVos, who is a billionaire with multiple business holdings and investments. According to The Hill, DeVos maintained her interest in her and her husband’s investment group—one of the investments they made was in a company that claimed to have helped thousands of children with ADHD.

Pence’s tiebreaking vote is the first of its kind, with the Republicans unable to keep their narrow majority (they possess 52 of the 100 Senate seats) after the two aforementioned Republican senators voted against DeVos. According to the Washington Post, this is the first time a Vice President—who is the President of the United States Senate, something I learned from Veep and confirmed just now—has used his official power as tiebreaker to confirm a Cabinet nominee. It is also the first time in nine years (since Dick Cheney) that a VP has cast any sort of tiebreaking vote.

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Politics

BRINGING DOWN THE HAMMER, SENATE-STYLE: PAUL RYAN TRIES TO PUNISH DEMOCRATS FOR JUNE SIT-IN

Ryan and fellow Republicans are trying to introduce a package of rules that will stop lawmakers from live-streaming from the floor, proving that the government is A) well into the 21st century and B) petty AF.

House Speaker and resident DILF Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is introducing a rules package that would penalize lawmakers for recording photo and video from the floor. A finalized version of the package will be voted on on Jan. 4. Shockingly, it’s not in response to Senator selfies or unflattering photos of frenemy lawmakers.

Actually, the package (hold for giggles) is in response to Democratic lawmakers who organized a sit-in after the Republican majority refused to bring a gun-control bill to the floor in the wake of the Orlando massacre at Pulse nightclub. Yeah, that gun-control bill, the one that would broaden background checks and prevent those on the no-fly list from buying guns. In response, angered and hurt, the Democrats organized a sit-in, which spanned 25 hours.

The Republican-controlled House called a recess during the sit-in and cut access to C-SPAN, which is in general super-boring but in this case provided coverage of the sit-in. Access is typically cut when the House is not in session, which is true in the case of a sit-in, but due to the nature of the sit-in, it seems the camera should’ve been kept on. In response, Democrats pulled out their iPhones and began live-streaming the sit-in, using apps like Facebook Live and Periscope. Angered and embarrassed, apparently the House Republicans have been trying to figure out how to make sure nothing like this happens again.

Enter Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker who is often hailed as the savior of the GOP. Part of the package (again, such a funny word) will give Ryan the personal authority to punish and fine individual lawmakers for breaking the rules. Previously, it was up to the House to punish lawmakers, in Article 1 of the Constitution, which has been interpreted to mean that sanctions are passed after being approved by the entire House with a floor vote. The sanctions for using photo or video would be a $500 fine for the first time, and $2,500 for each subsequent violation, taken out of the lawmaker’s pay.

Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the move “a power grab” by the GOP. Pelosi was previously the House Speaker from 2007 to 2011 when the Democrats held the majority, the first woman to hold the position.

The move could be ruled as potentially unconstitutional. Reinterpreting Article 1 to circumvent a full-House vote would give Ryan the individual power to pass sanctions. So if the Republican majority passes this package, that would be mucho ironic, since Republicans are the ones who are always against interpretation of the Constitution and are very pro to-the-letter (re same-sex marriage, women’s rights, abortion, etc.).

Ryan said that the package will “help ensure that order and decorum are preserved in the House of Representatives so lawmakers can do the people’s work.”

But here’s where things get a little sticky. Yes, the House has the right to pass sanctions on an individual lawmaker—when they have broken the law. And yes, House rules prohibit the use of photo or video on the floor (funnily enough, my house has the same rules). However, lawmakers are beholden not to the House, but to their constituents. So if they protest the failure of passage (to even discuss) a gun-control bill, in the wake of the largest U.S. mass shooting, they are protesting on behalf of their constituents.

Those constituents (i.e. you, me, and everyone) have the legal right to know what our elected officials are doing with our vote. Transparency in the government is often a fraught issue, but the fact is that those Democratic lawmakers were attempting to hold their Republican counterparts accountable even after official coverage was revoked.

So Democrats are stuck in between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they brought transparency to an issue that was being stifled, one that had incredible support outside the cosseted world of the government. On the other hand, they disregarded a prohibition. And equally, the Republicans are in a difficult spot: to discipline lawmakers who broke the rules, but dealing with the issue of transparency.

It seems to be a contradiction: transparency that breaks the rules. Do you follow the rules? Or do you follow what you believe to be right? I mean, we’re not talking about some serial killer who “believes” it’s right to make a necklace out of fingers. We’re talking about lawmakers who are trying to honor their constituents in the face of what they believed to be oppression.

And if Hamilton: An American Musical has taught us anything, it’s that “the Constitution’s a mess…it’s full of contradictions,” but “so is independence.” (I also quoted Hamilton in my “Early American Literature Until 1860” final essay; I did okay in that class).

I was personally bereaved and displeased that the gun-control bill was not passed. After the senseless massacre at Pulse, it seemed, to me, like a no-brainer. However, the Republican-held House blocked the bill from reaching the floor, where it would have been voted on. Obama was pissed, I was pissed, the nation was pissed. So in response, the Democrats reacted. It may not have been right, but it came from a place of righteous anger.

I am for greater transparency if I feel that my elected officials are not honoring the wishes of their constituents. That, too, seems like a no-brainer.

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Source: Twitter// I deleted and re-uploaded this screenshot because that Tweet got more likes. 

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