Daily Archive: 11/08/2013

Nov 08 2013

TPP Moves Toward Fast Track in the Senate

Late last month in the midst of the media obsession over the failure of a web site, the Senate Finance Committee called on congress to pass fast-track legislation aimed at smoothing the passage of any future trade deals that would include the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Panel Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said during a trade hearing that they are working on crafting trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation and are expecting the Obama administration to work with them toward gaining its approval in Congress.

Baucus said it is time to “pass TPA and do it soon.”

He noted that President Obama has asked Congress to craft legislation and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman is encouraging lawmakers to move forward so “it’s time for us to do our part, introduce a bill and do it quickly.” [..]

The hearing’s witnesses placed a high level of importance on completing TPA because it they argued that it will strengthen the negotiating hand of U.S. trade officials who are working on the U.S.-European Union trade deal as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP is a 12-nation Asia-Pacific trade agreement that Obama and Froman, along with many of the other negotiators, are aiming to complete by the end of the year.

What does “fast track” mean? I think Charles Pierce summarized it nicely

Sometime very soon, the Congress is likely to pass — with limited, if any debate and no amendments possible — a massive trade deal that was negotiated in secret, and the terms of which remain largely secret, and which, if the past is any kind of prologue, will drop a thousand-pound stink bomb on American jobs.

Debate (theoretically) cannot ever end on Mel Watt and his middling level federal job.

Debate cannot even begin on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Check the umpire because somebody’s screwing us.

The umpire is President Barack Obama and his merry band of corporate thieves.

Time is getting short. Take Action Now. Write your congress members. Tell them to stop this undemocratic process. Sign the petition to stop back room deals for the 1%.

Nov 08 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: The Mutilated Economy

Five years and eleven months have now passed since the U.S. economy entered recession. Officially, that recession ended in the middle of 2009, but nobody would argue that we’ve had anything like a full recovery. Official unemployment remains high, and it would be much higher if so many people hadn’t dropped out of the labor force. Long-term unemployment – the number of people who have been out of work for six months or more – is four times what it was before the recession. [..]

The bitter irony, then, is that it turns out that by failing to address unemployment, we have, in fact, been sacrificing the future, too. What passes these days for sound policy is in fact a form of economic self-mutilation, which will cripple America for many years to come. Or so say researchers from the Federal Reserve, and I’m sorry to say that I believe them.

New York Times Editorial Board: Judge Scheindlin’s Case

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit erred badly last week when it stayed the remedies ordered by Judge Shira Scheindlin of Federal District Court to correct the civil rights violations associated with New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy, including an independent monitor to review police practices. It also unjustly damaged Judge Scheindlin’s reputation when it removed her from the case.

A motion filed on Wednesday by Judge Scheindlin’s lawyers seeks to have her removal vacated. The motion offers a strong argument that the three-judge panel moved with unseemly haste, acted on a skewed reading of the evidence and violated a court rule that gives judges accused of misconduct the opportunity to defend themselves. The appeals panel said Judge Scheindlin violated a rule requiring judges to avoid the appearance of impropriety and improperly used the assignment process that led her to preside over three stop-and-frisk cases.

Jared Bernstein and Dean Baker: Taking Aim at the Wrong Deficit

ASK most people in this city what the most important step is to increasing economic growth and job creation, and they’ll reply, “Reduce the budget deficit!”

They’re wrong. So-called austerity measures – lowering budget deficits while the economy is still weak – have been shown both here and in Europe to be precisely the wrong medicine. But they could be on to something important if they popped the word “trade” into that sentence.

Simply put, lowering the budget deficit right now leads to slower growth. But reducing the trade deficit would have the opposite effect. Not only that, but by increasing growth and getting more people back to work in higher-than-average value-added jobs, a lower trade deficit would itself help to reduce the budget deficit.

Robert Kuttner: Fruits of Republican Folly

The Republicans badly damaged themselves with their contrived government shutdown and debt crisis, but it remains for the Democrats to drive home their advantage. Will they?

Based on the cost to the Republican brand and the pressure from corporate elites not to harm the economy, the days of shutdowns and games with the debt are probably over for the foreseeable future. If the Tea Party faction tries to repeat these maneuvers, House Speaker John Boehner would likely permit a free vote again, and enough Republicans would vote with Democrats to keep the government open.

The Republicans seem hopelessly split between a Tea Party faction that relishes governing crises and a more mannered corporate faction that kills government softly. But the GOP is still one party when it comes to destroying government as a constructive force in the economy and society.

Tom Hayden: Bill de Blasio: Harbinger of a New Populist Left in America

Strong stances on inequality and policing underpin the New York mayor’s win. If he holds true, he can shift the national debate

The overwhelming support of New York City voters for Bill de Blasio is the latest sign of the shift towards a new populist left in America. De Blasio owes his unexpected tailwind to campaigning on issues considered by insiders to be too polarizing for winning politics.

One is De Blasio’s promise to redress the “tale of two cities” inequalities among New Yorkers, an issue forced into mainstream discourse by the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement – not by New York Democrats aligned with Wall Street. The other is De Blasio’s pledge to sharply curb police stop-and-frisk policies directed against young people of color – aggressive tactics favored by a majority of white voters and overwhelmingly criticized by African Americans, Latinos and Asian-American voters.

Despite its Democratic voter majority, New York in recent decades has been the political stronghold of the plutocratic Mayor Michael Bloomberg and, before him, the abrasive law-and-order Mayor Rudolph Giuliani – both Republicans with national, even global, reach. Democrats have lacked a progressive voice on the national stage of American politics often provided by the New York mayor’s office – until now.

Bob Dreyfuss: Losing Friends, Influencing No One, and Alienating the Middle East

Put in context, the simultaneous raids in Libya and Somalia last month, targeting an alleged al-Qaeda fugitive and an alleged kingpin of the al-Shabab Islamist movement, were less a sign of America’s awesome might than two minor exceptions that proved an emerging rule: namely, that the power, prestige, and influence of the United States in the broader Middle East and its ability to shape events there is in a death spiral.

Twelve years after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban and a decade after the misguided invasion of Iraq-both designed to consolidate and expand America’s regional clout by removing adversaries-Washington’s actual standing in country after country, including its chief allies in the region, has never been weaker. Though President Obama can order raids virtually anywhere using Special Operations forces, and though he can strike willy-nilly in targeted killing actions by calling in the Predator and Reaper drones, he has become the Rodney Dangerfield of the Middle East. Not only does no one there respect the United States, but no one really fears it, either-and increasingly, no one pays it any mind at all.

Nov 08 2013

On This Day In History November 8

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 8 is the 312th day of the year (313th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 53 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1793 the Louvre opens as a public museum. After more than two centuries as a royal palace, the Louvre is opened as a public museum in Paris by the French revolutionary government. Today, the Louvre’s collection is one of the richest in the world, with artwork and artifacts representative of 11,000 years of human civilization and culture.

The Musée du Louvre or officially Grand Louvre – in English the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world’s largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. It is a central landmark of Paris and located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement (district). Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square metres (652,300 square feet).

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are still visible. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of antique sculpture. In 1692, the building was occupied by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, which in 1699 held the first of a series of salons. The Académie

remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum, to display the nation’s masterpieces.

The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being confiscated church and royal property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The size of the collection increased under Napoleon when the museum was renamed the Musée Napoleon. After his defeat at Waterloo, many works seized by Napoleon’s armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings have grown steadily through donations and gifts since the Third Republic, except during the two World Wars. As of 2008, the collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.

Nov 08 2013

Genetically Modified Organisms Part II

Monsanto Wins Again: Voters Reject Washington GMO Labeling Initiative

By Mike Ludwig, Truthout

Thursday, 07 November 2013 13:27

Voters in Washington on Tuesday rejected Initiative 522, a ballot measure to label groceries containing genetically engineered ingredients that was leading in the polls for weeks before big biotech and processed food companies injected millions of dollars into the campaign, including more than $7 million in allegedly illegal donations from a trade group that concealed its corporate donors.

Some mail-in votes still need to be counted, and the Yes on 522 group had yet to concede as of Thursday morning, but Washington state officials reported that 54 percent of voters opposed Initiative 522 and 45.9 percent supported labeling. The No on 522 campaign had already claimed victory.



The campaign was the most expensive in the state’s history, drawing national attention and millions of dollars in out-of-state campaign cash. The No on 522 campaign raised an unprecedented $22 million, largely from big biotech firms and junk food companies. The Yes on 522 raised almost $8 million from GMO opponents and natural foods and products companies.

The Grocery Manufacturers of America donated $11 million from its member companies to No on 522 and was sued by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in October for concealing donors. The trade group then voluntarily revealed that members such as Pepsico ($2.4 million), Coca-Cola ($1.5 million) and Nestle ($1.5 million) gave hefty donations to defeat the labeling initiative.

The trade group began planning for the campaign about a year ago after it joined Monsanto and other labeling opponents in raising a whopping $46 million to defeat a similar GMO labeling initiative in California last year. At the time, the Grocery Manufacturers Association directed its employees to “scope out a funding mechanism to address the GMO issue . . . while better shielding individual companies from attack for providing funding,” according to evidence cited in the attorney general’s complaint.

With its record-breaking war chest, the No on 522 campaign beat back labeling proponents in the polls with flashy mailers and ad blitzes on radio and television. Labeling, opponents argued, would raise food prices, confuse consumers and hurt farmers. The campaign looked a lot like the “no” campaign in California and shared many of the same corporate donors, including biotech companies such as Monsanto, which spent $8 million in California and more than $5 million in Washington.



Despite victories for labeling opponents in Washington and California, a number of polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support GMO labeling. Most recently, a New York Times poll in July showed that 93 percent of American voters support labeling food with GMO ingredients.

Monsanto Calls Out the Dogs in St. Louis: New Anger, Old Crimes Point to Reparations

By Don Fitz, Barbara Chicherio and William Smith, Truthout

Thursday, 07 November 2013 09:03

The days of Monsanto greeting protesters at its World Headquarters (MWH) with balloons and pitchers of water are over. When 500 to 700 showed up for the October 12, 2013, March Against Monsanto (MAM), scores of police from half a dozen municipalities were there, several with dogs.

Also gone were police attempts to micromanage demonstrators. During a previous demonstration, police told picketers to stand on the pavement and not on Monsanto’s grass. At the next event, cops said that the pavement was too close to traffic and ordered people to stand on the grass. October 12 was noticeable by the absence of police commands concerning where to stand. At first, they seemed to have given up on controlling the increasingly large crowd.



In some ways, the protest at the MWH was similar to others involving 2 million people around the world. Food was the big issue of the day. People were outraged at Monsanto’s reckless pursuit of putting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into food with unknown effects for consumers, especially children. They unleashed their anger at the company’s attempts to manipulate the world food supply. At its attacks on farmers. At the havoc that GMOs wreak on wildlife. And at the company’s complicity with land grabs for planting GMO monocultures in Latin America, Asia and Africa.



But the St. Louis event differed from other actions around the world. Because Monsanto originated in St. Louis, many nearby areas continue to be contaminated from its chemical past. These include East St. Louis, Illinois; Carter Carburetor in north St. Louis; and the Times Beach incinerator site, which burned dioxin (and probably Monsanto’s PCBs) in the 1990s.



St. Louis is not waiting with baited breath for Monsanto to do the right thing. Exactly the opposite occurred in its official response to actions of October 12: “While we respect that people can have different points of view, we hope that St. Louisans know Monsanto people for their role in the community and know the Monsanto company for its commitment to St. Louis.” This weak response highlights that Monsanto has a crumbling global image because its lies of ending world poverty, selling safe products and using environmentally sound practices are no longer believed.



Cries for reparations will not bring joy to Monsanto. As opposition expands beyond objecting to its crimes and includes demands for compensation to all of its victims, demonstrators may see fewer Monsanto balloons with happy faces and more police dogs.

Nov 08 2013

Genetically Modified Organisms

Millions Against Monsanto: Five Lessons From the Battle Against GMOs

By Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association, Truthout

Monday, 04 November 2013 09:25

There are arguably more important issues facing us today than the battle against Frankenfoods. The climate crisis and corporate control over the government and media come to mind. But the rapidly growing anti-GMO Movement illustrates the powerful synergy that can develop from the combined use of social media, marketplace pressure and political action. Recent developments in this sector indicate that out-of-control corporations, media, politicians and the proverbial “one percent” can be outsmarted and outmaneuvered. And quite possibly defeated.

In the wake of high-stakes multi-million dollar GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California in 2012, and Washington State in 2013, an army of organic food and natural health activists have put Corporate America and the political elite on the defensive. We’ve demonstrated that aggressive populist issue-framing; unconventional “inside-outside” coalition-building; marketplace pressure; and online list-building, mobilization and fundraising – strategically channeled into local and state-based political action – can begin to even up the odds between David and Goliath.

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Forty percent of consumers believe that unlabeled genetically engineered foods and crops are unsafe. Another 40 percent are unsure. These numbers terrify large supermarket chains, biotech companies and food corporations. So does the notion that states such as Washington, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont will soon require mandatory labeling of GMOs – which will likely drive these controversial foods and crops off the market, just as labeling laws have already done in Europe.



One of the most important accomplishments of the right-to-know, anti-GMO movement has been to unite the advocacy and fundraising efforts of non-profit groups and health and green-minded for-profit businesses. After 20 years of often operating on shoestring budgets, activist groups (the “outsiders”) are now increasingly joining hands with a number of profitable organic/green/Fair Trade businesses (the “insiders”). This inside-outside strategy has managed to raise a not insignificant war chest of almost $20 million to support the state GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California and Washington in 2012 and 2013, while simultaneously pressuring major brands, such as Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and Chipotle, to embrace GMO labeling.



One important consequence of marketplace pressure and boycotts is their potential to gradually divide our opponents. In the case of the anti-GMO movement, we’ve begun to drive a wedge between the biotech/industrial agriculture corporations, and their erstwhile allies, food manufacturers and supermarket chains. In the wake of the California GMO labeling ballot initiative (Proposition 37), the Organic Consumers Association and our allies launched a nationwide boycott of Traitor Brands, the organic and natural brands whose parent corporations spent $20 million, along with the biotech industry’s $30 million, to defeat Prop 37.



Over the past 12 months groups like the Organic Consumers Association, Mercola.com, Food Democracy Now, Natural News, Alliance for Natural Health, Center for Food Safety, Just Label It, Environmental Working Group, Cornucopia, Friends of the Earth, CREDO, and MoveOn have been able to send out anti-GMO or pro-labeling messages to literally millions of consumers and voters on a regular basis, generating thousands of grassroots volunteers, organizing thousands of local events and protests, and raising over $20 million, mainly in small donations. The anti-GMO movement may not have the deep pockets or the advertising and PR clout of the biotech and Big Food lobby when it comes to the corporate media, but we are rapidly developing our own mass media on the Internet and Facebook.



The anti-GMO movement, like other social change movements, has learned the hard way that corporations and the wealthy elite control not only the mass media, but the federal government, Supreme Court, and regulatory agencies such as the FDA, USDA, and EPA. After decades of sending petitions and lobbying the White House, Congress and the FDA, to no avail, it has become clear that the political elite, including President Obama, care more about their wealthy campaign contributors than they do about their constituents, including the 93 percent who, according to a recent New York Times poll, support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

As a consequence the anti-GMO movement has moved its focus away from the unfavorable terrain of Washington D.C., and instead turned its attention to marketplace pressure, and state, county and local political campaigns, especially ballot initiatives.



Win or lose in Washington State on November 5, the anti-GMO Movement has evolved into a savvy army of grassroots activists who are committed to the ongoing battle to reclaim our food and farming systems, part of a larger battle to transform the entire political and economic system.