The Watering Hole, 1/11/17: Making America Great Again, Part 1

In reviewing the latest draft bill to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood, cut taxes for the top 1%, shift Medicaid expenses to the States and privatize Medicare, this author came across a provision that has, as yet, to receive any attention from the mainstream media.

The bill calls for mandatory sterilization of all children born in the United States. However, parents can avoid having their children sterilized by paying a fee that reflects the costs to society for raising that child. The fee is based on the parents’ socio-economic status, and ranges from $0.00 to over $400,000.

Low income and minority parents pay the fees at the upper end, because research conclusively establishes it costs society more to raise their children. They tend to rely on Medicaid for medical expenses; food stamps to feed their children; their children attend public schools and more frequently are incarcerated. On the other hand, affluent parents’ children attend private schools, have health insurance, and have lower incarceration rates.

Since this is pushed through in a budget reconciliation bill, it cannot be filibustered. Sources close to Trump indicate he will sign the bill the minute it hits his desk.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, 02/03/2016: New ObamaCare Law Takes Effect in 2016

A little known provision of the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare as it is more popularly called, took effect on January 1, 2016. This provision puts breastmilk under the auspices of the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA, working under a total media blackout, rolled out the implementation of this aspect of ObamaCare earlier this month.

Under the newly implemented provisions of ObamaCare, all mothers who indicate they plan to nurse their newborns must register with the federal government. Following registration, they are required to submit samples of their breastmilk for testing on a weekly basis. Their milk will be tested for drugs, alcohol and the presence of garlic.

A positive test for illicit drugs will result in a warrant for the mother’s arrest. A positive test for alcohol will result in a referral to child protective services. If the mother’s breastmilk tests positive for the presence of garlic, a government breastmilk taste tester will be assigned to visit the mother and taste-test her milk. The mother will not be allowed to use a breast pump or otherwise express her milk for the breastmilk taste tester as exposing the breastmilk to air affects its taste.

Mothers whose milk tastes positive for garlic will be issued a warning. Subsequent violations will result in a court-order enjoining them from breast feeding until at least two successive garlic-free tests. Refusal to submit to the taste-test is punishable with a $500 fine and a ban on nursing until consent to submit to the taste test is granted.

Government records regarding the implementation of this aspect of ObamaCare remain sealed. It is impossible to tell how many nursing mothers have been arrested or have had their newborns taken away by child protective services as a result of this new law.

Likewise, the government is silent as to how often it has sent out its breastmilk taste testers. However, a spokesperson for the FDA, who spoke on condition of anonymity, assured that the taste testers have all undergone a rigorous 6-month training program to learn proper suckling techniques as well as to distinguish between the presence of garlic as compared to onion or other herbs or spices in breastmilk.

This is our OPEN THREAD. Feel free to comment on this, or any other outrage you can think of.

 

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, January1, 2016: I’m Briseadh na Faire, and I’m running for President, Part VII

I’m Briseadh na Faire, and I’m running for President. Here are a few of my positions on issues important to the American People today. Between now and November 2016, I will post additional policy and platform statements.

Today’s topic du jour: State of the Union – yeah, right.

I know, I know. By the time you read this, Obama will have given his last State of the Union Address as President of the United States, blah, blah, blah. He will have put a positive spin on all things Obama, all things black, all things from Kenya. And Fox “News” will have unleashed a barrage showing exactly how incompetent and impotent the Reign of Obama has been, replete with quotes from every Republican candidate from Palin to Trump. (FYI, Palin has never, I repeat never stopped running for President of these here United States.)

The penultimate question is, and always will be: “are you better off now than you were before Obama became President?”

The only possible answer is a resounding “NO!!!”

Before Obama became President, we had hope. Hope for change. Hope for a future better than that of our parents. Now, as we approach the end of his eight-year reign as our supreme leader, we are that much older, that much wiser.

We’re still at war in the middle east – only the name of our enemy has changed from Saddam and Al Qaeda and the Taliban to ISIS or ISIL and Al Qaeda and the Taliban. We’re fighting in Syria now, and Iran is still an open question. Iraq? Forget it. It’s a lost cause. As is Afghanistan. Maybe the oil pipeline is safe, but for sure their heroin production is hitting all-time highs (no pun intended).

Ok, so how about here at home? You feel the boost in the economy from the bazillions in bailout money given to the same banksters that robbed us? Neither did I. Nor anyone else making less than, say, a million a year.

Let’s face it, the only thing we got from eight years of Obama was ObamaCare. Republicans can’t repeal it. The Supreme Court didn’t overturn it. We’re stuck with it. It’s a massive gift to the insurance industry, which wrote much of it. But is it Universal Health Care? No. Medicare for all? No. Just another way for insurance companies to skim their profits off of our health care dollars without improving our health care at all. I know, Republicans created this Boogey Monster of “Government Death Panels” and all. But the reality is that private health insurance companies do that every day, every time they deny a claim, deny a treatment recommended by your doctor, to maximize their profits.

Don’t get me wrong. Obama has done some good.  He refused to prosecute Bush and company for war crimes and crimes against humanity. God knows he had enough evidence in the public record to convict at least some of the previous administration. But by not prosecuting his predecessors he let the whole world know that the United States of America will act with impunity when it comes to invading countries under false pretexts for the sole purpose of changing their government; that we will torture people with impunity; that we will kidnap people, and hold them in prison forever, without charges, without due process, because we are, above all things, a Nation of Laws, a Nation of Freedom, a Nation of Liberty. Which is why, of course, terrorists hate us.

So, come 2016, vote Briseadh na Faire for President. I’m the only candidate for President who knows what’s best for America; the only candidate who acknowledges up front that I will break each and every one of my campaign promises, and, when I do, you won’t be disappointed!

I’m Briseadh na Faire, and I approve this message.

[BriseadhNaFaireforPresidentisnotaffiliatedwithanyPolitcalActionCommitteenorhas receivedtheendorcementofTPZoonoranyotherindividualbusinessnonprofitorganizationorgod.]

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 10th, 2014: Mitch Makes Plans

Today I’m just going to throw a few topics out here, good, bad, or meh

A few excerpts from yesterday’s Washington Post article by Lori Montgomery and Robert Costa, headlined (rather lengthily) “GOP crafts narrow agenda for new Congress, seeking unity, Democratic votes”:

“Within hours of solidifying their control of Congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John A. Boehner were quietly laying plans for a series of quick votes in January aimed at erasing their obstructionist image ahead of the 2016 elections.

Considering the previous unfortunate efforts of the Republican Party to slap a different varnish on their tarnished image, I can only cringe wondering what kind of Mr. Clean Magic Eraser(tm) “quick votes” these two have in mind. What would they deregulate first? IOW, what will be the Rs’ first BS “repeal this job killer” meme in 2015? And are Boehner and McConnell, while “seeking unity”, keeping an eye on their own far-right-flank tea-nut gallery? Megalomaniac Senator Ted Cruz (R-PlanetTexas) is not one to allow the limelight to stray far from him, and is already making obstructionist noises. Boehner and McConnell are fools – yes, I could stop right there, but – if they think that Cruz is going to bow to their so-called “leadership.”

“First up: Action on long-stalled bills with bipartisan support, including measures to repeal an unpopular tax on medical devices and approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Whoa, tortoise, whoa! [gets out baseball bat, “I said WHOA!”] Why you sly bastards! First, Boehner and McConnell know damn well that repealing the medical devices tax, however unpopular it may or may not be, will undermine one of the sources for funding the PPACA, aka Obamacare. Boehner has been shown by FactCheck.org to have been lying about the negative effect that the Medical Device Tax would have on jobs. Repealing the Medical Device Tax is just one way that the Republicans would start to unravel the PPACA without actually repealing the act itself.

Now let’s get to “approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.” It seems that everyone, except the few people/companies who stand to gain from the construction of the pipeline, is against that. This is definitely an example of the incredibly ballsy, obviously and provably false claims that the project would be a “job creator.” Temporary American jobs, yes; a few (50 or so) permanent American jobs, yes; but nowhere near the thousands that the pipeline’s proponents would have us believe. There are so many good arguments against the Keystone XL, it’s truly amazing that any politician is still promoting it; unless, of course, well-funded interests are funding them.

There’s loads more from the WaPo article, but there’s also more information in the New Republic’s article called “This is How the New GOP Senate will try to Dismantle Obamacare”, by Jonathan Cohn.

So far everything points to the Rs major obsession for the past several years – if they can’t repeal the ACA, they’ll just kill it with a thousand cuts.

This is our daily open thread – talk about whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, July 23, 2104: BREAKING GNUS: OBAMA CAVES AGAIN!

Tweeter calls in another Zoo Exclusive

Tweeter calls in another Zoo Exclusive

Ok, we get it. Republicans voted some 50+ times to undo ObamaCare. Major Corporations insisted Obama give them extra time to implement ObamaCare and he caved to their wishes. Now, Republicans, led by none other than Mr. Orange Himself, John Boehner, are suing Obama for caving in to their constituents.

And – shock – Obama caves once more! We here at The Zoo learned that President Obama and John Boehner have stipulated to an agreement that will be filed in Court shortly, and fully enforceable, whereby Obama will rescind his granting of additional time for Big Businesses to fully enforce ObamaCare.

Ironically, this means that Boehner’s suit will succeed, and the Republican donors who asked for more time to implement ObamaCare will lose, and have to incur costs for implementing ObamaCare right before the 2014 elections.

D’OH PEN
THREAD

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Breaking Gnus: Supreme Court Allows For-Profit Corporations the Right to Impose Their Religious Beliefs on Workers.

Dateline 9/26/14: The Zoo’s “Way-Foreward Machine” brings us the news from 6 months hence. It all began with a simple question:

“Your reasoning would permit” Congress to force corporations to pay for abortions, Kennedy told Verrilli.

And with that, the door for Corporations to dictate health care was swung wide open. Ironically, the Affordable Health Care Act, or ObamaCare as it was more popularly known, did not force Corporations to pay for abortions – just offer health insurance that would cover such procedures.

But, with the Supreme Court paving the way, every employer soon jumped on the bandwagon. Within months, the health insurance landscape was in ruins as corporation after corporation, small business after small business, began demanding that they dictate their employees health insurance based on the religious beliefs of the board of directors or individual business owner, as the case may be.

Faced with literally millions of demands for differning coverages based on the ideosyncracies of the religions of millions of business owners, the Insurance Industry simply gave up. No company could write policies that covered enough people to be economically viable. Company after company simply stopped writing health insurance.

Now, 6 months later, the only health insurance in the United States is Medicare. Yes, even the companies that underwrote Congress’ health insurance stopped.

So, on the eve of the 2014 mid-term elections, Congress must face the polital piper. Religious Freedom protected individual, for-profit corporations from providing health care. But the Government must act in a manner that neither promotes one religion over another, nor any religion over no religion. Will Congress step up to the task of seeing that every American has a right to health care? Or will we have to elect new representatives that will?

OPEN THREAD
OPEN DISCUSSION

(P.S. The “Way Foreward Machine” is only capable of showing one of may possible futures. The actual future may be different than the one depicted here. Indeed, by publishing the Way Foreward Machine’s prediction, the future may have already been altered.

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 18th, 2013: Profit Contest to Photo Contest

Even though most of the people who need Obamacare have not yet taken advantage of it, other interests are poised to board the Obamacare money train. The Wall Street Journal’s Howard Gold is encouraging investment in the health care industry. A few snippets:

“This diverse sector, which includes red-hot biotechnology, Big Pharma, medical device makers, hospitals, health insurers, and other services, is profiting from structural shifts far beyond the changes brought in by the Affordable Care Act…In fact, health care stocks may have entered a new secular bull market, which is why you should take some profits on cyclicals and other market-sensitive stocks and reinvest the money into this group.”

“We’re clearly in a favorable environment,” said Andy Acker, manager of Janus Global Life Sciences fund since 2007. “I think this is a question of when this gets resolved, not if,” Acker said. “Millions of people will sign up for health care.”

In an earlier (March 2013) article from conservative moneynews.com, entitled “How Companies are Cashing in on Obamacare”, author Michael Kling wrote:

“Although its critics say Obamacare will increase business costs, some companies are cashing in on the healthcare reform law…CNNMoney reviewed six companies that might reap huge benefits from Obamacare.

Take, for instance, Health Recovery Solutions, a New York City-based start-up that helps hospitals avoid Medicare penalties for readmitting patients. To decrease preventable return visits by Medicare patients, Obamacare levies high cuts to Medicare reimbursements to hospitals that have a certain percentage of these return visits.

Health Recovery Solutions furnishes tablets full of educational videos and information patients can use to care for themselves. Using the tablet, patients send information, such as medications they are taking, to the hospital care team for review.

Eligible, another start-up, takes care of the complex wiring insurers need to quickly answer customer questions about coverage and eligibility, one of the many Obamacare requirements.

GoHealth offers an online tool that enables people to compare health care insurance plans. Consumers can use the platform to enroll in plans or just compare plans before contacting an insurance broker.

QuantiaMD offers a website where doctors can offer presentations, hold private discussions with each other and hold virtual consultations. Pharmaceutical and insurance companies and hospitals sponsor the content on the site.

Obamacare limits the proportion of premium revenue insurers can spend on salaries, overhead and marketing. That’s where Connecture comes in. The Brookfield, Wisc., company provides software that helps insurance companies cut costs through automation. It also helps states with technology needed to create insurance exchanges, another Obamacare requirement.

Another company getting involved with the state exchanges is hCentive, which has built a platform the exchanges can use.

Many of the companies saw their sales jump after the elections. Healthcare companies were not sure Obamacare would be enacted, and state officials were not sure they would still be required to create exchanges by this October…“Many states were waiting to decide to set up their own exchanges — they kept thinking maybe this wouldn’t happen,” Sanjay Singh, an hCentive partner, told CNNMoney.

“they kept thinking maybe this wouldn’t happen” No, they kept HOPING this wouldn’t happen. Because despite their hatred of all things Obama-related, despite all of the conservative hyperbole about “job-killing”, “bankrupting businesses”, “the end of freedom as we know it”, “it’s socialist Obama’s anti-capitalism agenda”, etc., ad nauseum; and despite the 40+ failed efforts by Congressional Republicans to kill Obamacare, every single one of those nay-sayers HAD to realize, deep down, that Obamacare is a boon to the private, capitalistic, for-profit healthcare “industry.” (spit!)

Okay, since you were all good enough to put up with the above drivel, here’s your justly-deserved palate-cleanser…

It’s that time of year again: the National Geographic Photo Contest is open, but only ’til the end of November. I know quite a few of our Critters and Zoosters who should submit a few entries! Here’s last year’s “Nature” category winner, photographed by Ashley Vincent:
busaba-indochinese-tiger_62797_600x450
Here’s two ways to view some or all of the current entries: The Atlantic picked 39 of the photos, and you can just scroll through them. Note that you can also switch from 1024 pixels to 1280 (I chose 1280.) Or you can go directly to the National Geographic 2013 Photo Contest webpage, where there are links to the photos entered to date, as well as links to 2012 winners and other photo galleries. Here’s one of the 2013 entries, by Sam Morris:

Photo Copyright Sam Morris, 2013 National Geographic Photo Contest entry

Photo Copyright Sam Morris, 2013 National Geographic Photo Contest entry

This is our daily open thread, what do you have to say today?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 19, 2013: And Single Payer is Bad Because…?

It all started, at least this most recent episode of right wing nuttery did, at the so-called “Values Voter Summit” convened earlier this month in Washington, DC. For those unfamiliar with the Values Voter Summit (and if you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard of it), it’s a gathering, put together by several right-wing organizations who feel they know how best to raise your children and hosted by Family Research Council head Tony Perkins (who can understandably be confused with the knife-wielding maniac in Hitchcock’s “Psycho”), of a bunch of very frightened people listening to a collection of very ill-informed speakers fabricating the dangers of a world where conservative values are given the treatment they deserve and crumpled up, set on fire, and dumped into the deepest part of the ocean, never to be heard from again. I wish! Sadly, because stupid people outnumber intelligent people in this country, Continue reading

IS IT WORTH IT?

I wonder what these folks would say, if Republicans succeed and ObamaCare is delayed or repealed, if you ask them, is it worth it?

From the Mariposa County Sierra Sun Times:

Yosemite closure plan
October 3, 2013

TO: Board Of Supervisors
FROM: Rick Benson, County Administrative Officer
SUBJECT: Discussion, direction and possible actions in response to the closure of Yosemite National Park.
On October 1, 2013 the Federal government ordered the shut down of all nonessential operations due to Congress not authorizing expenditures beyond that date. Currently there is a stalemate in Congress regarding funding measures and it is unknown how long the government “shut down” will continue. In the category of nonessential expenditures are all National Parks, including Yosemite.

Since Yosemite is closed it is anticipated that there will be nearly a complete loss of tourist visitation to the area. This will result in drastic if not total reduction in transient occupancy tax (TOT) revenues. If Yosemite were to be shut down for the entire month of October the revenue loss to the General Fund is expected to be between $800,000 and $1 million. Closure beyond October will result in similar loss of revenue to the County.

Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 5, 2013: This Week In Right Wing Nuttery

The Right Wing’s detachment from Reality would be hilarious if it weren’t so dangerous to America. After all, some of these people inexplicably are elected Members of Congress or government, and others inexplicably are influential in the Conservative movement, even if they deny it. I’m baffled as to why anyone, including these people, would think their viewpoints merit attention.

First there’s self-appointed Tea Party Darling and Canadian-born gadfly Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz. Senator Cruz Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, October 2, 2013: BLAME IT ON FRANCE!

Guess what day it is!  Come on! You can say it!  SAY IT!!!

Guess what day it is! Come on! You can say it! Say it!!!

Government Shutdown, Day Two.

Republicans now blaming shutdown on France.

If not for France, we wouldn’t have the Statue of Liberty.

If not for the Statue of Liberty, we would not have the poem:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

If not for the poem, we would not have the wretched refuse, the tired, poor, huddled, homeless masses.

If not for the wretched refuse, the tired, poor, huddled, homeless masses, we would not have ObamaCare.

If not for ObamaCare, we would not have to shut down the government.

It’s all France’s fault.

OPEN THREAD.
POST NOW, BEFORE THE INTERNET CLOSES.

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 30th, 2013: “UBUNTU”

I know that Wayne posted this on yesterday’s Sunday Roast, but it bears another look – especially in light of the myriad inhumane arguments, diatribes, and lies rising to a cacophonic crescendo over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” Just look at so many of the self-serving and ignorant comments on Think Progress’s various threads about the ACA. It’s getting to the point where I think I’d rather live in a more simple society where greed and selfishness are not idealized.
ubuntu

These children put the childish “adults” running/ruining our country to shame. It seems that those who supposedly revere our founding fathers have forgotten one of the earliest ideals of this once-great country, as depicted in the Great Seal of the United States:
Great Seal of the United States

“E Pluribus Unum”: “Out of many, one.”

“Ubuntu”: “I am because we are.” Even those children understand the basic concept of what a workable society should be, and are living it. Why the fuck can’t we?

This is our daily open thread. I’m totally disgusted – how about you?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 28, 2013: There Are No Death Panels In The ACA

Yesterday, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (who was actually born Cow Blitzer) tormented his viewers by hosting retiring Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann for a discussion on The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare” by its supporters and “the end of Civilization as we know it” by its detractors. During the conversation (it wasn’t really an “interview” because she pretty much evaded answering just about every single question Blitzer put to her), Bachmann brought up the myth that the ACA has “death panels” in it. And while she also brought up a great number of other lies (I only noticed Blitzer pushing back on one of them, to which she said she would send him the proof; yeah, right), I want to focus on just the one about the death panels. They don’t exist.

Many people Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 21, 2013: Pru Too Big, Too

The Financial Stability Oversight Council, a US Treasury Dept agency created with the passage of Dodd-Frank, has designated insurance giant Prudential Financial as “too big too fail,” a move that forces the third non-banking institution so designated to undergo additional oversight and stress testing to avoid the kind of financial crisis we endured before. The Pru joins American International Group (better known as AIG) and General Electric Capital Corporation (better known as GE Capital) as non-banks to earn the distinction, and it’s one they don’t want. The FSOC “determined that material financial distress at this company — if it were to occur — could pose a threat to US financial stability,” but they stressed that there were no signs of trouble at the moment. The Prudential said in a statement that it is “reviewing the rationale for the determination and our options.” The rationale, I’m sure, has to do with the fact that Prudential has over a trillion dollars in assets worldwide. If they were to engage in extremely risky behavior they could bring about global financial ruin. They should be scrutinized more closely.

Better yet, they should be broken up into smaller companies that can’t be bring down the entire global financial markets should they fail. “Too big to fail” is the same as “too big to exist.” No person and no corporation (they are not the same thing) should ever be so big and financially powerful that they could bring down the world economy should they stumble. That is not a sound financial footing. I’m neither an economist nor a person educated in the field of Economics, but I can promise you this: No economy can work if the money within it doesn’t circulate. If all the money is in the hands of too few people, then it stands to reason there isn’t enough leftover for everyone else to use. Hoarding more money than you’ll ever need to use in your lifetime is not just selfish, it’s actually harmful to everyone else. In order for society to function, people need to have money to spend to get the things done that they need done. For example, I’ve got a gutter that needs to be repaired. Money’s a little tight right now so I can’t get it done. If I could, the gutter repair company would not only fix my broken gutter (which could save me money down the road form damages caused by the broken gutter), but they could take the money I pay them and use it not only to pay their workers, but also to pay for the materials they used to fix my gutter. Their workers, in turn, would take their paychecks and go to the store to buy groceries, and the companies from which they bought their supplies to fix my gutter would use their money in a similar way. And the money would move from one business to the next, into the hands of the workers, who in turn would circulate the money around getting the things done that they need done. None of us are getting rich off the one or two transactions we have with that money, but we’re all getting what we need. That doesn’t happen when rich people sit on money they don’t need. (And, no, their investment into more stocks does not help the economy nearly as much.) What good is having more than you need? How do you benefit from excessive selfishness? And why do we treat the philosophy of Selfishness as something positive?

To paraphrase Aaron Sorkin, the Republican Party has been so busy trying to keep their jobs that they forgot to do their jobs. The Tea Party faction (a project of the Koch Brothers and their ilk) has got the semi-normal members of the party so frightened of losing their jobs that they cave in out of fear of being primaried out of Congress. The result is forty-one pathetic attempts to defund Obamacare. I keep hearing them say how Obamacare is “destroying” the country, yet I never once gear exactly how this is happening. No one ever truthfully explains how the law is harming our nation. What I do hear is example after example of how conservative business owners are trying to get around Obamacare by cutting employees’ hours so they won’t have so many full-time workers who are eligible for health insurance. In other words, because some people will be selfish, everyone has to suffer. Instead of denouncing the greedy business owners, conservatives have held them up as examples of what could go wrong with healthcare reform. “Obamacare is bad because greedy, selfish people like me can take advantage of it and my workers.” Maybe the law needs to be strengthened, not repealed.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about Prudential, the Koch Brothers, your greedy, selfish Republican relatives or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole – Saturday, November 24, 2012: To Petition the Government

If you asked the average American to name the rights granted by the First Amendment, I’m sure most would easily name Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion first and second (though they are, technically, the second and the first), and they could probably even name Freedom of the Press as one of them. I’m sure some people would think they end there, but I’m sure most people could be coaxed to name one more, that one most likely being Freedom to Peaceably Assemble. But the one I’m sure most people would forget about, entirely if not simply as being part of another amendment, is the right to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances. One could, if one wanted to engage in an argument about semantics, claim that this is not so much a separate right as it is a part of the right to peaceably assemble. Note the exact wording of the amendment, which “textualists” like Justice Antonin Scalia(*) would do:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Notice that it begins by stating that “Congress shall make no law…” about religion OR abridging speech OR the press OR peaceably assembling AND petitioning the government for a redress of grievances. So, if you want to be technical, it doesn’t say that you have the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances if you are not doing so as part of a peaceable assembly. It says that you have the right to peaceably assemble AND, while you’re gathering with your friends (new and old), to petition the government for that redress of grievances. Does this mean you can stand on a street corner by yourself with a protest sign? I can imagine Justice Scalia saying “No, and only an idiot like you would think so.” What if the assembly is a virtual one, not conducted in any real space, but consisting of several people “assembled” on a website? Would that be supported by the First Amendment? Well, whether or not Justice Scalia thinks it would be (after all, how could the framers have envisioned computers and the internet?), the White House believes so, and they have a website where you can create your own petition. And many people are exercising that right, though it appears that many of them are confused about a number of things.

At present, there are 235 active petitions on the website. There is a time limit to gathering signatures or else the site would never load. “If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.” The answers you get may not be entirely satisfying. For example, in response to two petitions (“Save the Postal Service” and “Preserve Six Day Mail Delivery”), the government offered this generic, uninspired response. The USPS is indeed suffering some tough financial times these days, but the primary reason for that is one never mentioned in the government response: The USPS is being forced (by the GOP) to set aside money to pay for retirement packages going 75 years into the future. That means that they must literally fund retirements for people who haven’t even been born yet! I know they think the unborn have rights, but this is ridiculous. In a petition to “Re-establish and maintain the separation between investment banks and commercial banks,” the government gave this response. Many people blame the repeal of Glass-Steagall for the financial meltdown, but it was the other parts of the bill that President Clinton signed into law that did the real damage, and that was the ban on regulating derivatives trading. The White House reply seemed to acknowledge and address this. There are several petitions about Israel, including some saying we should unconditionally support them and some saying we should completely cut off their foreign aid.

But the truly astonishing thing is the number and variety of petitions for states to secede from the union (or for certain parts of states to secede from their states.) I’m not sure if these people understand that the White House does not have the authority to grant these states secession (nor would it, nor did it), nor or they the ones you should be petitioning. These are the kinds of things about which one should be addressing the Congress, as they would have to ultimately approve any state leaving the union. (There’s even a petition to strip the citizenship of all persons who signed petitions to secede.) Some of these petitions are rather light on reasons why secession should be granted. Many of them were, apparently, created on the same day, and probably by the same people. They have the same odd wording in their title (“Peacefully grant the state of ________ to withdraw from the United States and create its own NEW government”) and they start with a quote from the Declaration of Independence.

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Hardly any of them go on to declare the causes which compel them to the separation. There’s even a petition from someone in North Carolina declaring that his state will NOT secede from the Union.

Amazingly enough a petition calling for the impeachment of Barack Obama got over 37,000 signatures. Here is the text of that petition:

We request that Obama be impeached for the following reasons.

We request that Barack Obama be impeached for the following reasons.

1. He proclaimed war in libya without getting congress approval first. Article I, Section 8- Only congress can approve to start war.

2. Obamacare is unconstitutional. Forcing US citizens to get health insurance whether they want it or not.

3. Obama disrespects our Constitution calling it flawed and trying to change it even after taking this oath:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States,

and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

4. Appointing agency “czars” without Senate approval.

I think I can answer a few of these charges. First of all, President Obama didn’t declare war in Libya, and not one single American troop was lost in the successful overthrow of that country’s government. In fact, that’s what the right wing was complaining about with Obama’s “leading from behind” strategy. Second, Obamacare is constitutional and had been declared so long before this petition was created on November 11. Third, it is not disrespectful to point out that our Constitution does have flaws, and as long as the President is using the Constitutionally-approved means of changing it, he’s not violating his oath of office. And fourth, he has not appointed anyone without Senate approval to a position that the Congress said requires Senate approval. The Constitution grants the Congress the power to decide which offices require their advice and consent and which don’t. This petition was clearly started by sore losers who failed to understand the lesson of Election Night. I’ll make it simple for them: 332-206 – you lost!

It’s fascinating to go through the petitions and see which ones contradict some other ones and which ones are almost identical to others. It’s also revealing to see how illiterate some of our fellow citizens are. But it’s frightening to see just how ignorant many of them are, too.

[(*)On a funny side note, the spell checker in my Google browser did not recognize the name “Scalia” as a properly-spelled word. I think that’s good, especially considering that he was a Justice before there was an internet. But what’s even funnier is the one suggestion they had for what they thought it should have been: Scaliness.]

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss this subject or any other, including the scaliness of our Supreme Court.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 Post-Debate Detox

Happy Hump Day!

Ok, The Presidential Debates, Round Two, is now history.

Who won?

Obamny?

Rombama?

The President certainly brought his A game this time, and closed on a slam-dunk with bringing up Romney’s 47% remark behind closed doors.

The moderator did a credible job of moving things along, but could have been better in cutting Romney off after the TV monitor showed his time was up, then not allowing Obama a chance to rebut.

Romney’s Etch-a-Sketch was in full play…again…in this author’s perspective.

What do you think? Think the President regained his Mo-Jo? Think Romney will continue to add to his momentum? Think Fox News will go apoplectic over Mitt telling the President, basically, to not interrupt Romney’s interruption, that he’ll get his turn?

OPEN THREAD.

GO FOR IT.

MAKE MY DEI.

THE Watering Hole, Wednesday, 7/11/12: The New Republican Conspiracy

Tweeter scoops the Mainstream Media yet again.

REPUBLICANS PLAN TO PRIVATIZE THE COURTS

According to Tweeter, The Zoo’s investigative journalist par excellance, a vast Right-Wing Conspiracy is planning an unprecedented assault on the federal judiciary:privatization.

Under their plan all Federal Courts, except for the Supreme Court, will be held privately. There is, however, a raging debate as to whether they will be owned by one or more individuals or a Corporation. A few billionaires are insisting that private ownership is the only way to truly have an independent judiciary, while others extoll the advantages to a publically traded judicial corporation.

“Imagine the thrill of holding stock in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals” one anonymous insider told Tweeter. “Decisions that once were, well, not very interesting for the common folk, suddenly take on a whole new light when the value of your investment is at stake. With publically traded courts, everyone can invest in the judiciary. This takes jurisprudence out of the Court Room and puts it into the Board Room, where it belongs.”

Tweeter contacted a Constitutional Law Scholar for further background on this controversial plan to give ownership of the judicial branch to the public. The scholar, who chose to remain annonymous, said:

Article III of the Constitution states:

“The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.”

This means every court below the Supreme Court is a creation of Congress, by statute. So, if Congress wants to privatize the federal judiciary, that will likely pass a constitutional challenge. Let’s face it, if Congress wanted to do away with the federal court system in its entirety, it could do so, as long as it kept the Supreme Court. Come to think of it, if Congress wanted to get rid of the Supreme Court, it probably could – after all, if it got rid of the Supreme Court, there would be no court to say what it did was unconstitutional.

The fact that no one has heard of this conspiracy is proof of its existence, as well as proof of the effectiveness of the security measures it has taken, until now, to keep this plan secret. In fact, this is supposed to be so secret, it won’t even be mentioned at the Republican Party Convention. But according to Tweeter’s sources, this conspiracy gained immense traction these past few weeks, in reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare.

We here at The Zoo will keep you, are dear readers, informed of any new developments.

THIS IS OUR OPEN THREAD
ANYTHING YOU POST CAN, AND WILL, BE HELD AGAINST YOU

The Watering Hole – Saturday, June 30, 2012 – GOP Is Acting Out, Again

Pity the poor Republicans. They ranted and raved since the day President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law and swore it was an unconstitutional power grab by the already-bloated federal government, and that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry each other. Oh, and that abortion you wanted? Sorry, but they have about eleven hundred reasons why you shouldn’t plan on going through with it. At least, not today. But Obamacare is unconstitutional! Well, funny thing, our nation’s ultimate authority on what is and isn’t constitutional determined that, yes, indeed, Obamacare is constitutional. (Here’s a way to see the decision itself, as well as a neat word cloud of the decision.) It appears the only thing the law got wrong was on threatening states with losing their Medicaid if they didn’t comply, or something like that. Oh, and the administration’s legal rationale for why the PPACA was constitutional was wrong, too. But Chief Justice of the United States (that’s his actual title, BTW. Did you – well, all but one of you – know that? ;)) John Roberts found a way around that and said something could be collected as a tax and not under the authority of the Commerce Clause. I don’t know, I’m not trained in understanding all this legalese. All I know is that the Roberts Court just handed the Republicans a major ass-whoopin’, and they’re going all nuts saying they won’t implement the law (even though they have to), and we still think it’s unconstitutional, so we’ll just nullify it (Hello, Civil War II). And now they’re going to take a break from bashing voting citizens who are gay and/or have vaginas and repeal the entire law! Of course that’s just theater because we know perfectly well a repeal won’t pass the Democratic Senate, so why do it? I’ll tell you why. Because the Republican Party is hell-bent and determined to prove to you that government just doesn’t work, and they’ll achieve that by doing the worst possible job they can.

So, what else is on your mind? You can tell us. We’re complete strangers that you’ll probably never meet in your life. What could possibly go wrong? 😉

This is our daily open thread — comment on anything you want!

The Watering Hole, Thursday, June 28th, 2012: Decisions, Decisions

On this, the day on which the Supreme Court is supposed to announce their decision regarding the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), I offer first a few articles from Wednesday’s Washington Post:

In the first article, John Boehner issues a typical lugubrious pronoucement, and Eric Cantor chimes in, too:

“We’ve made it pretty clear and I’ll make it clear one more time: If the court does not strike down the entire law, the House will move to repeal what’s left of it,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters Wednesday morning. “‘Obamacare’ is driving up the cost of health care and making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) added that the health law “was a mistake. We would like to see the kind of health care that will allow patients to make decisions, not bureaucrats here in Washington.”
[Yes, the kind of health care that will allow patients to make decisions, like whether they should get that needed prescription, or buy food. Patients, not bureaucrats, can make their own decisions unless the patient is a pregnant woman.]

“As we know, this bill has also presented big problems for our employers,” Cantor added. “Small businessmen and women are having a difficult time keeping the lights on, much less hiring new people. ‘Obamacare’ just makes it more difficult because it makes it more expensive for these business people to create jobs.”

[Then what was keeping those business people from creating jobs in the Bush years, before “Obamacare”?]

As I commented on an excellent article at our local online newspaper, the Southeast-Brewster Patch, “And does Speaker Boehner not see that the two are connected? Does he have any explanation as to WHY healthcare costs continue to rise? Do the Republicans who want to repeal the PPACA – and yes, some say “repeal and replace” – have any concrete solutions to the rising healthcare costs?”

Perhaps some of my questions were answered by this paragraph in the same WP article:

“Beyond their general comments, neither Boehner nor Cantor provided specifics on their path forward, waiting until the court rules before spelling out any further plans. But Republican aides have said in recent weeks that the House is unlikely to vote on any significant health-care-related legislation before the November elections — other than efforts to repeal the entire law if the high court doesn’t — preferring instead to keep focused on more overt attempts to boost job creation, strip away federal regulations and renew various tax cuts.”

[De-regulation, and tax cuts for the corporations – yeah, how’d that work out for Bush? Sigh]

I’ll leave you with two more articles from WP, one infuriating, one informative.

Possibly by the time you finish reading this post, the SCROTUS/SCREWEDUS (thanks, RUC) will have announced their decision. Hopefully, we won’t have to see a repeat of this:

Justice Antonin Scalia

UPDATE: The SCOTUS has decided that the Individual Mandate is Constitutional, read the text of the decision here.

This is our daily open thread — have at it!