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, Saturday, October 31: Speaker of the Tea House

If anything unfortunate (as in “fatal”) were to happen to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, the man who would become the 45th President of the United States is a man beholden to some of the most extreme conservative radicals in recent American history. This past Thursday, Republicans in the United States House of Representatives chose as its 54th Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for Vice President in the 2012 elections. The American people rejected both him and his running mate, Willard “The Mitt” Romney, a venture capitalist who made millions by buying corporations, restructuring or selling off their parts, then extorting the banks who lent them money into refinancing their debts under threat of taking all the company’s cash and paying it out as bonuses to his investment partners. You know, the rags-to-riches American dream. (Actually, his father was already a millionaire, and Romney never wanted for anything growing up.) Speaker Ryan should best be remembered (if he’s to be remembered at all) as a hard-line devotee of Ayn Rand, a hypocritical selfish woman who championed an unworkable philosophy of “Objectivism” which wrongly divided the world into “takers and makers” and which proposed the incredibly simplistic and fantastical idea that all government programs are evil, that altruism was a terrible concept, and that rich people should be left alone by the government because they are the true job creators without whom civilization would perish. Thanks to our altruism, she was able to collect Social Security from an evil government, apparently because, like Paul Ryan, his mother, and millions of other Americans, she didn’t make enough money to not need it to survive. But I digress.

Paul Ryan is provably a humongous hypocrite. He rails against “big government” (a phrase that only has meaning to people who can’t explain what it really means), yet his family has been dependent on government for his entire life. Their construction business has relied on government contracts. He has spent his entire career as a government employee of one kind or another. He favors cutting or eliminating programs that help the poor, but he married a woman who inherited millions. He thinks his mother was solely responsible for her own success after his father died (Paul was able to go to college only because of the Social Security benefits his family received upon his death), yet she had to take a government-run bus, driving on government-built roads, to attend a government-run institution of higher learning. This is the aspect of our partly-Socialist society that Conservative Libertarians (such as Ryan and Senator Rand Paul) refuse to see when they talk about getting government out of our lives. People who talk about our government not following the Constitution should remember that it specifically tasks Congress with maintaining postal roads (which are just about all of them), so they should be 100% behind spending on infrastructure. But they aren’t.

Remember how we all thought Ryan was too conservative to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency? What makes Ryan a dangerous choice to be Speaker is that despite his extreme conservatism, the people responsible for his being Speaker think he’s too liberal. The House Freedom Caucus (as they call themselves) believe that this country can only be saved from the horrible rightward direction it has been turning by becoming even more conservative. That’s right. They actually think the United States is not conservative enough. And who are these people in the House Freedom Caucus? There’s about 40 of them, but no one is absolutely sure because some Members of Congress refuse to admit their own membership in the caucus. They’re dangerous because they aren’t just the type who say if they can’t get their way, they’ll take their ball and go home. They’re the type who say if they don’t get their own way, they’ll buy the stadium, bulldoze it to the ground, and replace it with a nuclear waste dump site. And they want Speaker Ryan to stake out a conservative position on every issue and then unflinchingly stick to it. But they won’t compromise.

And that is why they are such a danger to the American People. They refuse to compromise, and governing is all about compromise. Neither ideological side is going to get everything they want, but these people refuse to accept that fact. Personally, I feel the worst thing a country could do to its citizens would be to govern from a Conservative perspective, and I know that’s not just me and the vast majority of people reading these words. They seem to think that Conservatism is all about “freedom”. It’s nothing of the sort. Conservatism, at its root, is about Selfishness. If Conservatism were truly about freedom, then why aren’t Conservatives in the vanguard fighting for the right of women to make their own reproductive choices? Why aren’t Conservatives standing up for black citizens who routinely get harassed and sometimes killed by the police for no other reason than the color of their skin? Why aren’t conservatives fighting to expand government assistance programs that help people enjoy more of what this great country has to offer? Because they don’t believe in “freedom” for everyone at all. They only believe in freedom for people who think like they do. But I state the obvious.

Finally, on an unrelated topic, watch the student in the red and yellow hat visible just over Bernie Sanders’ left shoulder. He seems totally disinterested in what Bernie is saying right up until he hears Bernie mention ending the federal ban on weed.

“Oh, shit” indeed. I had the same reaction when I heard we now have Speaker Paul Ryan. 🙂

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Speaker Ryan’s future disastrous turn as Speaker, Bernie’s great plan to end the federal ban on weed (or his not-so-great idea that the states should decide the issue), funny hats or anything else you wish to discuss. I won’t bother you. And Happy Halloween.