The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 6, 2016: Stumbling Bloc

When catching up on recent political issues yesterday (after having been focused a bit too much on that goddamned Bundy clan and their terrorist cohorts), I ran across this piece on ThinkProgress about the House “Freedom” Caucus. One of my first thoughts while reading it was “the term  ‘Freedom’ has absolutely no connection with the group’s raison d’etre“; after reading it, I grokked that ‘raison’ – reason – didn’t enter into the equation either. An excerpt:

[House Speaker Paul] Ryan spoke about the divisions in the Republican Party at a policy forum hosted by Heritage Action in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, pointing to groups within the party which demand things that are unachievable and refuse to work across the aisle in any way.
“When voices in the conservative movement demand things that they know we can’t achieve with a Democrat in the White House, all that does is depress our base and in turn help Democrats stay in the White House,” Ryan said. “We can’t do that anymore.”

Just a few hours later, four members of the roughly 40-person House Freedom Caucus, a faction of hardline Republicans, said that they will not work with the president and that realism and compromise will cause Republicans to lose elections.

Freedom Caucus member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) directly addressed Ryan’s comments, saying that the measures the Speaker thinks are “unachievable” are actually just practical, “small things.”

“On the omnibus, the big spending legislation that happened at the end of last calendar year, our group went to leadership and we asked for a couple small things,” he said. “We said do something on this pro-life issue — after all we have this organization that gets your tax dollars and does all kinds of disgusting things. We said it doesn’t have to be defunded completely, but let’s just do something that’s going to protect the sanctity of life.”

According to a Roll Call piece from September 10th, 2015:

“The House Freedom Caucus has spoken.
On Thursday, the conservative HFC took their seventh official position: They will oppose any spending bill that doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood.

“Given the appalling revelations surrounding Planned Parenthood, we cannot in good moral conscience vote to send taxpayer money to this organization while still fulfilling our duty to represent our constituents. We must therefore oppose any spending measure that contains funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Apparently Rep. Jordan and his group are unaware – or willfully ignorant – of the fact that every investigation into the alleged “disgusting things” Planned Parenthood has been wrongfully accused of have found absolutely no evidence to back up those allegations. FFS, even Texas, after exonerating PP, is now prosecuting the criminals who produced the doctored video “proof” that Planned Parenthood was ‘selling baby parts for fun and profit.’ We all know that Texas HATES Planned Parenthood, so one would think that the turn of events there would give the Caucus pause. But, again, ‘reason’ doesn’t seem to enter into the collective mind of the Freedumb Caucus. But I digress…

The ThinkProgress excerpt continues:

“Another “small thing” Jordan pointed to was a request that legislation to reject Syrian refugees be tucked inside the must-pass omnibus spending measure. The bill would have temporarily halted Obama’s plan to bring roughly 10,000 refugees to the United States because of the persistent threats they face in Syria…
…Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) also implied Wednesday that he is not willing to compromise with others in his party, let alone with Democrats. He said that while he knows he has to be realistic with his expectations, “when you have the will of the people and their voice behind you, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.”

I love the way these (in reality) extreme policy shifts are described as “small things.” And it’s particularly ironic that what the House Freedom Caucus considers to be “small things”, which Speaker Ryan called “unrealistic”, are the same things that the current Republican Presidential candidates are running their campaigns on: overturning Roe v Wade, immigration – along with their favorite hopeless cause, repealing Obamacare. Yes, they’re still wasting time trying to overturn Obamacare, now for the 63rd time. I guess that the Repubican’s motto is “if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying and the hell with real governing.”

Pew Research has an interesting piece from October of 2015 on Congress’s “Freedom Caucus.” Here’s a snippet that I found insightful:

“…the Freedom Caucus does not officially disclose who belongs to it (aside from its nine founding members)[**], though various unofficial lists have circulated. Membership is by invitation only, and meetings are not public.”
What most distinguishes the Freedom Caucus from other House Republicans has been their willingness to defy the wishes of leadership…and to band together with like-minded Republicans who threaten to block any temporary measure to fund the government that didn’t also defund Planned Parenthood.”

**Congressman Matt Salmon (R-AZ) issued a “press release” on January 26th, 2015, announcing the formation of the House Freedom Caucus and its mission statement:

“The House Freedom Caucus gives a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them. We support open, accountable and limited government, the Constitution and the rule of law, and policies that promote the liberty, safety and prosperity of all Americans.
The HFC’s founding members are Rep. Scott Garrett, Rep. Jim Jordan, Rep. John Fleming, Rep. Matt Salmon, Rep. Justin Amash, Rep. Raúl Labrador, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, Rep. Ron DeSantis and Rep. Mark Meadows.”

Along with another 30-odd (very odd!) hard-right Republicans who joined the HFC, after John Boehner decided to give up the position (I suspect mainly so that he could just go home and get drunk,) this small bloc of ultra-conservatives nearly derailed their own party’s contest for the House Speakership by issuing a list of demands questions for Speaker hopefuls. A couple of their “questions” include:

“Would you ensure that the House-passed appropriations bill do not contain funding for Planned Parenthood, unconstitutional amnesty, the Iran deal, and Obamacare?”

~ and ~

“Would you commit to impeach IRS commissioner John Koskisen and pressure the Senate to take it up?”

So they also still believe that the IRS was unfairly targeting conservative groups, despite investigations showing that both religious-right AND non-religious left tax-exempt organizations were audited by the IRS? Paul Ryan is right, they DO need to be “realistic.”

This “freedumb” caucus apparently has zero interest in actual freedom, or governing, or anything beyond their own pseudo-christian-induced tunnel vision. And they’re more than happy to not only fuck with their own party, they’re delighted to fuck with the entire country. As many parents have said to erring children, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

This is our daily Open Thread–have at it!

The Watering Hole, Tuesday December 8, 2015 – Environmental News and Food Politics

Maybe it is just me, but these climate summits have been happening for a while yet very little seems to be accomplished. Mr. Peadbody’s coal trains still chugging past former West Virginia mountaintops. Climate summits seem a lot like Earth Day. Feel good for a little while, but there will be no sense of urgency until the officials at the meetings sit around the tables knee deep in water. Climate deniers, while in a vast minority in the scientific community, rule the roost in political circles, where money sets the agenda. A part of me thinks that Republican/Libertarian support of marijuana law changes in the various states is a cultural shift away from ‘religion is the opiate of the people’ to ‘cannabis is the opiate of the people’.

Read on, if you dare.  


The Watering Hole; Thursday March 12 2015; Elections Have Consequences

The Congressional election in November 2014 was, in effect, a massive Republican landslide that gave the GOP a numerical majority in the Senate and expanded their majority in the House. The only virtue is that the Senate is controlled only by a simple majority and NOT by a filibuster-proof majority which would imply deadly consequences.

Here in Colorado, the liberal-progressive Senator Mark Udall (son of last century’s Arizona liberal-progressive Rep. Morris Udall) was defeated by a relatively unknown former Colorado (4th district, rural/eastern Colorado) Congressman, Cory (not Chauncy) Gardner. Gardner was a typical right wing candidate. He was anti-abortion and pro- “personhood”; he voted 50 times in the House to repeal the ACA; he supported the proposed secession by five rural Colorado Counties along with their goal of forming a 51st state that would be free of left wing politics; he was financially supported by the Tea Party and was at one time designated the tenth most conservative Republican in the House. Gardner managed to defeat Udall in the 2014 mid-term, an election which saw low voter turnout both nationwide as well as in Colorado — where the voter turnout was the lowest in 70 years.

The Senate reconvened in January, and ever since I’ve been following its (predicted) inaction, and in the process have communicated with my new Senator on issues which deeply concern me, all via appropriate petitions issued by groups to whom I pay special attention. I do this for two reasons: (1) to add one more voice to said issues, and (2) to see what response, if any, I might get from Senator Gardner.

Following are text excerpts from four Gardner replies [all highlights and underlines my own], each sent via (staff-generated) email, on issues concerning wildlife protection (specifically wolves), land preservation (specifically via the Antiquities Act), the Netanyahu-Iran issue, and the Cotton ‘open letter’ to the Iranian government. Note that Gardner’s right wing political philosophy as well as his presumed legislative priorities are clearly evident and in plain view for all to see and read.

February 13 2015; Subject: Wolf Protection

“Colorado has been blessed with great natural beauty and an abundance of wildlife, including occasional populations of wolves. Wolves are rarely found in Colorado and according to the Division of Wildlife, these animals are most likely to be seen in the western part of the state.

“While avoiding extinction is important, it is also necessary to take into account agricultural losses that may impact working families as a result of predatory wolves in residential areas. At present, no legislation concerning wolves has been brought to the Senate floor for a vote in the 114th Congress.”  [According to Defenders of Wildlife, “Recently, two bills were introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to strip wolves in four states, including Wyoming, of any protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).” It’s on its way, i.o.w.]

March 9 2015; Subject: Antiquities Act

“On January 21, 2015, Senator Mike Crapo introduced S. 228, the National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act. This legislation would limit the President’s ability to designate national monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906 and make any such designation subject to Congressional approval. Additionally, S. 228 would require the state in which the monument is to be located to pass legislation authorizing the monument. This legislation has been referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, on which I sit.

“The Antiquities Act has been used in Colorado to protect and preserve some historically significant places. Still, I am extremely skeptical of unilateral action by the President and believe that the American people deserve to be involved in determining what landmarks are most in need of protection.”

March 9 2015; Subject: Netanyahu and Iran

“On January 21, 2015, Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner (R-OH) invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on March 3, 2015. I attended the speech with many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I am a strong supporter of Israel. Israel is one of our strongest friends and allies, and our only democratic ally in an extremely volatile area of the world. As Israel faces continued threats from hostile nations, such as Iran, it is imperative that the United States support Israel in its right to self-defense and preservation.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized the threat that a nuclear Iran would pose to Israel and America, and made it clear that any deal that gives the Iranian regime a path to nuclear weapons is unacceptable. His clear-headed analysis of Iran as the world’s leading sponsor of terror dedicated to the destruction of Israel and America provides crucial context for ongoing negotiations. The United States must make the safety and security of our ally Israel a top priority of our foreign policy. We cannot allow the tentacles of terror the appearance of an opportunity to do harm to America and its allies.”

March 11 2015; Iran, and Cotton’s letter:

“(. . .) The leaders of Iran’s regime, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, need to know that no deal with the United States will be considered permanent without the approval of the Congress which is why I joined 46 other United States Senators in signing an open letter to the leaders of Iran regarding negotiations with the United States about their nuclear program. . . . The American people, through their representatives in Congress, will reject any deal that does not completely eliminate the threat of a nuclear Iran.

“I believe that Iran cannot be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and additional action may be required to stop the progression of its nuclear program. On January 27, 2015, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced S. 269, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015. I am a cosponsor of this legislation . . . It is imperative that we do everything we can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and from becoming nuclear-capable. We must also continue to provide all the support we can toward Israel. Standing by Israel is one of my top priorities in Congress.”

I’m sure I could write a series of multi-page rants on each of the topics listed above, and in the process point out the fallacies implicit that are invariably supported (even cheered) by the far right fascist movement in America. I’ll save those rants for another day, however, and simply restate here the thesis which should be of common knowledge: Elections do, indeed, have consequences. And when the far right political movement gains legislative control, the consequences quickly become SERIOUS. The far right political movement is, of course, the Reagan-inspired GOP that has today become concerned ONLY with acquisition of money and power, and in result cares NOTHING about the environment, about wildlife, about land preservation, even about historically-established international protocol.  it’s the political movement that invariably sees war and combat as the ONLY solution to international disagreement, even as it leaves no stone unturned in its attempts to discredit or destroy the entire of its constitutionally loyal and “We the people” -oriented opposition. Oh, and if I read Gardner correctly, even Israel is of higher priority than (most of) Amurka. Right?

As Herr Gardner has so effectively illustrated, he is indeed one of ‘them’ and will undoubtedly work fervently — and, when the moment demands, seditiously — to thwart anything that is people- or environment-oriented, while at the same time he’ll surely work tirelessly to further enrich the already rich by any and all means possible, including yet another needless war. And “standing by Israel,” of course.


The Watering Hole, Wednesday: Hump Day, November 19, 2014

Welcome to deregulation  2.0. Republicans are giddy at the prospects of controlling both houses of Congress. Only one thing is certain, come January 2015: Congressional gridlock will be a thing of the past. Staffers and aids will be working overtime this Christmas season, drafting bills to deregulate everything from the workplace to how many peanuts must go into a jar of peanut butter.

That makes this next bit of news even more alarming. Yet, as serious as this is, it has gotten no mention in the mainstream media. So, once again, we at The Zoo bring you this exclusive.

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. (Amendment XIII to the Constitution of the United States of America)

Thanks to three-strikes laws and drug laws falling disproportionately on the poor and minorities, the for-profit prison industry thrives on slave labor. [note: since this post was wrintten on Sunday, this story broke about prison labor in California.] But come January, there will be a seismic shift, as the Republican-led Congress moves to rid the nation of all laws that enforce the 13th Amendment. Not only will owning a slave no longer be a criminal offense, Republicans plan on stripping the jurisdiction of the federal courts to hear cases where someone claims a violation of constitutional rights under the 13th Amendment.

The move is expected to be hearalded as a major blow to terrorism. “They hate us for our freedoms” President Bush observed. By deregulating slavery, terrorists will no longer have a reason to hate us.


The Watering Hole, Monday, October 6, 2014: No Nukes for You!

As usual, I found the topic for today’s thread while researching something else: in this case, looking for info on the time frame when Bush wouldn’t let the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) finish its inspection for WMDs in Iraq, just prior to our heedless and headstrong invasion. I never finished that research, as I was distracted by more timely news.

The first IAEA link that came up was, surprisingly, from a Chinese news site, from which I learned that the IAEA is sending a team to Iran shortly for talks on Iran’s progress in meeting certain deadlines regarding its nuclear program. In addition, the National Journal says “The IAEA has sought information on the “potential military dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program, in particular information about Iran’s extensive research and development of a nuclear explosive device.”

From the Chinese site,

“Iran and the IAEA agreed to implement five practical measures including the cooperation of resolving two points of Iran’s nuclear program related to the alleged nuclear weapon plan, so- called possible military dimensions (PMD) to Iran’s nuclear plan by deadline Aug. 25 in order to provide greater transparency of Tehran’s nuclear program.However, the IAEA said Iran missed the deadline in implementing three measures, and two measures related to PMD issues have yet to be implemented so far.”

Then in an article from Arutz Sheva, Israel National News, the headline shouts “353 US Reps to Kerry: Iran ‘Stonewalling’ on Nuke Detonator”, followed by the opening line, “Stunning bipartisan congressional letter focuses on Iran’s ‘refusal to fully cooperate’ with IAEA over Parchin.”   Hmmm, well, here’s the letter, which I didn’t find particularly “stunning.” The article continues:

“The Congressional Letter’s signatories included almost all of both parties’ leaderships, and was greatly aided by Republican Congressman Peter J. Roskam (R-IL-06) of Illinois, a stalwart, and tireless, advocate of Israel as a vital strategic asset of the United States.”

“This Congressional warning follows a similar warning from Israel Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who issued a statement last week that emphasized that “credible sources” alleged that “internal neutron sources such as uranium were used in nuclear implosion tests at [Iran’s] Parchin.”

I also found this ^^ article interesting as it includes a diagram of a “neutron initiator” by the infamous AQ Khan – KHAAAAAAANN!  (Sorry, I had to.)

Okay, Congress and Israel, don’t get all freaked out and start shouting “mushroom cloud.” Remember the last time that we had “credible sources” about possible nukes, purportedly in Iraq, and went off half-cocked and half-assed? As Donald Rumsfeld (spit) so insultingly told under-provisioned U.S. troops to their faces, “…you go to war with the army you have—not the army you might want or wish to have…” How many thousands of American and coalition troops died, how many maimed, how many innocent Iraqis were killed? How much of their “sovereign nation” did we destroy? Seriously, do you macho politicians ever remember history, because you seem quite willing to repeat it.

Moving along…again from, blogger Batya Medad writes about the following news:

“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Israel Radio late Thursday that he had agreed to an American framework proposal whereby Israel would negotiate peace with the Palestinians on the basis of the ’67 cease-fire lines with territorial swaps. (Jerusalem Post)”

Ms. Medad then writes:

“American policy is American policy. They promote what they think is good for the United States of America, and they want the support of what they perceive as “moderate Arab states.” The fact that such a phrase is an oxymoron has nothing to do with anything. Let the USA do whatever it wants. My complaints are against the Israeli Government, Binyamin Bibi Netanyahu’s government coalition.

Israel is supposedly an independent country and has been since the 1949 Armistice, which ended the active fighting between the newly established State of Israeli[sic] and the surrounding Arab countries, which had attacked it.

Although the State of Israel has been victorious in all of the wars against us by our Arab enemies, we have had successive governments that beg the United States for support and friendship. Bibi’s acquiescence to American demands is just the latest in a long series of bad policy steps over the decades.”

Oh, my, where do I start with this bit?

How about, if it weren’t for the U.S. and its allies, the State of Israel would not exist?

Or, AIPAC is the biggest and probably most powerful lobby in the United States?

Or, how much money and military equipment and assistance has the U.S. given to Israel throughout its existence?

Or, didn’t you guys actually start some of those “wars against us by our Arab enemies”?

Or, Israel doesn’t “beg the United States for support and friendship”, it demands it unconditionally and unswervingly, then spits in our faces. And when we politely ask that Israel restrain itself a tad when they’re violating the conditions of the 1967 agreement by bombing their neighbors and taking their neighbors’ land, Israel considers it an affront to their sovereignty. Bite me, Israel, you can stop taking our money and assistance, we can certainly use a few extra billion dollars right here.

As to Israel’s worry over the possibility of Iran hiding the development of a nuclear weapon, all I can say is, how big is Israel’s nuclear stockpile that Israel denies exists?

Okay, rant over…for now.

This is our daily open thread – don’t mind me, feel free to discuss whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, HumpDay, June 4, 2014: Breaking Gnus: Obama to Offer New Prisoner Bargain With the Taliban

Tweeter calls in another Zoo Exclusive

Tweeter calls in another Zoo Exclusive


With polititians and pundits heating up over the prisoner exhange that saw the release of 5 Taliban leaders in exhange for one American Soldier, President Obama is taking a bold step by conducting further discussions aimed towards the release of the remaining 149 or so prisoners still held in Guantanamo. Early reports by annonymous sources indicate that the President is on the verge of making yet another deal with the Taliban.

According to low-level interns in the White House document shredding room, Obama has struck a hard bargain with the renegade Taliban government: for every Republican Senator they agree to take, Obama will release 2 prisoners held at Guantanamo; should the Taliban accept all of the Republican Senators, the remaining prisoners will be exchanged on a one-for-one basis with Republican members of the House of Representatives.

Republicans expressed immediate outrage. “If an American Soldier is worth 5 Taliban, a Senator should be worth at least 10!” one eexclaimed. On the other side of the aisle, a Democratic aide observed “It’s about time we got rid of those terrorists once and for all. They’ve caused more damage to the United States than all the prisoners in Guantanamo put together.”

Senator McCain reportedly commented, “I’ve been a prisoner of war, and I can tell you it is pure hell. Whatever I can do to relieve the suffering of those poor men, I’ll do it.” After an aide whispered in his ear, the Senator continued, “But I’ll be damned if I let this President, or any other President, for that matter, negotiate with Congress, I mean, Terrorists!” His aide then quickly whisked McCain out of the room.

Calls to the White House were met with the standard “The White House can neither confirm nor deny these reports.”


The Watering Hole, Monday, February 17th, 2014: Pick an Issue?

I’m sure that I’m not the only one among us Critters and Zoosters who received this email survey from Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) asking, “What should Congress focus on in 2014?”

Which issue matters most to you in 2014?

__Keeping Our Promise to Seniors by Protecting Social Security & Medicare

__Strengthening Our Manufacturing Economy

__Raising the Minimum Wage

__Protecting Women’s Health and Freedom

__Tax Reform That Rewards Hard Work

__Working to Lower Healthcare Costs

__Supporting Small Business Startups

__Investing in Innovation, Science, Research and Technology


I went with “Other”, more or less:

While most of the above are important issues in my view (“Protecting Women’s Health and Freedom” and “Investing in Innovation, Science, Research and Technology” in particular), I believe that the single most important issue that impacts the future of this country is EDUCATION. We need children who are taught critical thinking, in order to have the ‘Innovation, Science, Research and Technology’ in which to invest. Stressing the basics in: reading (especially reading comprehension); spelling (because words are spelt the way they are for good reason); vocabulary (because words mean what they mean due to their evolution through history); math skills; and the basics in the sciences and technologies, are all paramount. Investing in the future means investing in schools, teachers, and (most importantly) young citizens’ minds.

Really, with all of the problems that our country faces, there are so many important issues to be addressed that it’s impossible to say which is MOST important. And some issues which I would have thought were important are not even on the list, i.e, gun control, environmental issues (climate change, fossil fuel pollution of several sorts, etc.), our failing infrastructure…(sigh) I could go on, but you get the idea.

How would you respond to Senator Baldwin’s survey?

This is our daily open thread–you can answer the survey if you wish, or talk about whatever you want!