04/22/2015 archive

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville- I Used To

Next month my little family is going to a wedding. My nephew Adam is getting married, and we’re all excited and happy to be going. An invitation that includes our kids? Oh, yes! I even got a new dress for the occasion. It is gorgeous, and I know just the kind of earrings I want to wear with it. I could make them, in fact, I used to. I used to make and sell them. Why don’t I do that anymore? What the hell happened to me?

Complete Capitulation on Trade Promotion Authority

With people like Rachel Maddow predicting tight passage of Trade Promotion Authority in the House and an easy victory in the Senate, we’d better hope she’s wrong.

Gaius Publius has a devastating takedown of the Wyden-Hatch-Ryan Fast Track Bill over at Yves Smith’s place based on an analysis by Lori Wallach at Public Citizen.  This is the merest summary of the points.

What’s Wrong with Wyden-Hatch-Ryan’s Fast Track Bill – The Specifics

Gaius Publius, Naked Capitalism

Posted on April 22, 2015

When we first reported on the introduction of Fast Track legislation – the bill that makes it possible for Obama and corporate Congress men and women to pass TPP, the next NAFTA-style “trade” agreement, by neutering Congress’ role in the process – we said that the new bill was being analyzed.

That analysis is done, and the results are in. This version of Fast Track is worse than the last version, a bill which failed to pass Congress in 2014. Here are the specifics (pdf) via Lori Wallach at Public Citizen, the go-to person for “trade” analysis. I’m going to focus on the main problems so you’re not overwhelmed with detail. Your take-aways:

  • What was bad in the prior agreement is worse, despite Wyden’s intervention.
  • Every attempt in the bill to make TPP conform to mandated worker, environmental and currency protections is unenforceable.

Note that the bill failed to attract a single Democratic co-sponsor in the House. This is not a bipartisan bill; it’s a Wyden-plus-Republicans bill, at least so far.

Click through in the first paragraph to see the extent of the declared opposition in Congress. There is considerable undeclared opposition as well, hidden in the “not sure” statements of members, especially Republicans.

Now some of what’s wrong. (For a side-by-side comparison of this Fast Track bill with the failed last one, click here; it’s enlightening. Hardly anything changed.)

  • Fast Track Grants “Trade Authority” to the Next President As Well
  • The Bill Makes Congress’ Declared “Negotiating Objectives” Unenforceable
  • (E)ven if the currency manipulation requirements were enforceable (and they’re not), that enforcement would change nothing
  • Improved Transparency with Hatch-Wyden-Ryan Fast Track? The Opposite
  • What About the New “Human Rights” Negotiating Objective?… Again, unenforceable is the feature, not the bug.
  • The “Exit Ramp” from Fast Track? Worse Than the Exit Ramp in the Last Fast Track
  • What Is “Free Trade” Really? Unrestricted Capital Flow

This “free market” stuff has been with us for centuries in the West, and it’s always about capital and the rights of capital to be free of government. Guess whom that benefits? If you said “capitalists and the politicians who serve them,” you’d be right. You can’t have a predatory Industrial Revolution without that kind of “philosophy” in place as a cover story.

Needless to say, the cover story is still in place. Welcome to the world of TPP.

Some further trenchant paragraphs-

The treaty is toxic in its language. Members of Congress can only read it in “reading rooms” without taking notes. If staff can see it at all, they have to have appropriate security clearances – because the treaty is being classified as a national security document. When Obama lobbied members of Congress recently about passing Fast Track and TPP, he threatened them that if they talked about what they heard in the meeting, they’d be charged with a crime.

In that atmosphere, and with treaty language that toxic, why would any administration allow copies to float through the halls of Congress? There are 435 House members and 100 senators. Let’s say each has two staff members who would be assigned to read this treaty. You’re now looking at between 535 and over 1000 copies on Capitol Hill. You’d have to assume that one of those copies goes to the press, and then, for Obama, it’s game over.

Bottom line on transparency – isn’t going to happen. If Obama wanted transparency, we wouldn’t be looking to Wikileaks for our only copies.

Proponents of the Wyden-negotiated “exit ramp” – by which the Fast Track process can be ended – ensures that there’s way for Congress to take back its power. Not only is that not true, but it’s a “feature” of this Fast Track bill that’s even worse than the 1988 Fast Track bill.

So the new exit ramp requires approval by the appropriate Senate and House committees and passage on the floor of both chambers – all of this only after the treaty was signed by all parties, thus requiring that negotiations be reopened on a signed-by-all-parties treaty. What are the odds of that?

By contrast the 1988 Fast Track bill provided a less stringent “exit” from Fast Track via a simple vote of the relevant committees only, and before the treaty was signed. Wyden sold himself for this? It was apparently the sticking point for him.

And some video-

Obama to Get “Fast Track” for Trade Pacts

“A Corporate Trojan Horse”: Critics Decry Secretive TPP Trade Deal as a Threat to Democracy

If you want constructive action here it is- call your Senators and Representative and promise them that if they support this disastrous abandonment of United States Democracy to the naked greed and corruption of Bilionaire Oligarchs and Foreign Corporations you will not only vote against them in the next General Election, whoever their opponent is, you will also do your very best to make sure they lose in the Primary to a strong candidate with the priorities of the public interest as their core value.

And mean it.

Lesser of two evils?  What could possibly be more evil?  And don’t bother Supreme Courting me- TPP sets up a secret Star Chamber of Corporate Jurisprudence that makes the Supremes obsolete and ineffectual.

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

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Today’s GOP is out of sync with Cuban Americans

“I probably have six Cuban grandmothers, and ten Cuban mothers,” joked then-Florida governor Jeb Bush at the Cuban Liberty Council’s annual dinner 10 years ago, where he was the guest of honor. “You can always count on me to do what I can to make sure that the cause of a free Cuba is front and center in Washington.”

This was in 2004, not long after the first millennials became eligible to vote. Back then, the “cause of a free Cuba,” as Bush described it, was clear to the Cuban American community: No lifting of the embargo. No normalizing of relations. No reconciliation.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that after stepping back onto the political stage so many years later, Bush’s position on Cuba has changed not at all. “We’re not a step closer to freedom in Cuba because of the steps the president is taking,” he said last week. Nor should it be of note that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a Cuban American who grew up in the Florida Republican establishment during the 2000s, would declare soon after announcing his own campaign that he planned to “reverse every single one of the decisions [the president] has made” with regard to Cuba.

Nothing has changed, except for one thing: the Cuban American community itself. The political ground has shifted radically in the past decade, something neither Bush nor Rubio seem to have noticed.

Zoë Carpenter: In 1970, Environmentalism Was Poised to ‘Bring Us All Together.’ What Happened?

Louisiana is not a place that usually inspires hope for the environment. Nearly a century of oil and gas activity has cut the state’s swamps and bayous into vanishing ribbons. Hundreds of millions of gallons of oil have been spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. Underground caverns hollowed out by petrochemical companies are collapsing and creating sinkholes, some swallowing entire communities. Industry has fouled state politics, too, such that elected leaders reward corporations with $1.8 billion a year in subsidies and tax breaks, while starving healthcare, education, and other public services.

Several months ago I had a surprising conversation with a Louisianan named Mike Schaff. He identifies himself as a Tea Party Republican, and won’t call himself an environmentalist, but he’s angry enough about what petrochemical companies have done to the land he loves that he joined a coalition called the Green Army, which is mounting localized challenges to the dominance of the industry in the state. “Our state is kind of looking the other way, saying that’s the cost of doing business in Louisiana,” he told me. “We say ‘bullshit’ to that. It doesn’t need to happen.”

he American people, the journalist Gene Marine argued in The Nation in 1970 (pdf), “are waiting for someone to notice that ecology is an issue that brings us all together.”

Lucy Siegle: The cold truth about our thirst for bottled water

The exploitation of a precious natural resource by multinational companies is degrading the environment. Consumers shouldn’t fall for it

Thanks to consumer culture it’s entirely possible to give the Earth a surreptitious kicking on a daily basis. So using face scrubs full of plastic microbeads or disposable wipes just make you look like you’re time efficient and keen to exfoliate (no mention that you’re irreversibly polluting the ocean).

Perhaps the most egregious of all these behaviours is our ongoing commitment to bottled water.

There’s an obvious idiocy here. In the UK our hydration needs can be met from a source that is rigorously tested by the Drinking Water Inspectorate and operates in a supremely low-carbon way (the common carriage of water mains is comparatively efficient and uses little energy). You call it a tap, or a faucet, and it’s one of those shiny things that augments the kitchen sink. Try it. You might like it.

I fear I’m fighting a losing battle. The multinationals invested in bottled water represent some of the biggest companies on earth. We’re sitting ducks. When the market for sugar-sweetened carbonated soft drinks began to decline in the late 1990s giants such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo knew their future lay in flogging water.

Katie McDonough: Women lose out – again: Why the Senate’s human trafficking compromise is nothing to celebrate

Senate leadership announced a deal to advance the anti-trafficking bill. Once again, women became bargaining chips

Senate leadership announced Tuesday that a deal had been reached over the anti-abortion language in an otherwise bipartisan anti-human trafficking bill. The agreement means that the measure will advance, and clears the way for a long delayed confirmation vote on attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the vote on Lynch in order to force action on the Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act after a dispute over a provision that would have expanded the Hyde Amendment stalled the process. Minority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that the compromise “rejects the expansion of the Hyde language… where it didn’t apply before,” according to a report from U.S. News & World Report. [..]

While disagreement over the Hyde language – an amendment would have prohibited a victims compensation fund from being used for abortions, the first time Hyde would have applied to non-taxpayer revenue – clouded the bill’s prospects, many victims’ advocates had other issues with the bill and urged Congress to do better.

Kate D’Adamo, national policy advocate at the Urban Justice Center’s Sex Workers Project, told Emily Crockett at RH Reality Check that while she supports the provisions of the measure establishing a federal advisory council made up of trafficking survivors and expanding a federal victims support initiative, these positive elements are stuck in a “rotten apple” of a bill.

Amanda Marcotte: [10 egregious myths the religious perpetuate about atheists, debunked ]

Nonbelievers do not lack a basic moral code — despite what the likes of David Brooks might have you believe

In a regular poll conducted by political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell on American political attitudes, atheists recently lost their spot as as the most disliked group in America to the Tea Party. Still, number two is simply way too high in the unpopularity rankings for a group of people who just happen to spend Sunday mornings in bed instead of in church. Polling data shows that nearly half of Americans would disapprove if their child married an atheist and nearly 40 percent of Americans don’t see atheists as sharing their vision of American society, numbers that outstripped similar prejudices toward Muslims and African Americans.

Of course, the real reason atheists are so hated has little to do with jealousy for all their free time, but largely because most Americans are better acquainted with myths than with the realities of atheists’ lives. Unfortunately, atheists often have these myths tossed in their faces, usually by believers who would rather talk about what they heard atheists are like rather than uncomfortable subjects such as the lack of proof for any gods.

These myths do more than hurt atheists. They also harm the basic religious freedoms of all Americans, regardless of their beliefs. Religious freedom and tolerance don’t mean much if they can’t be expanded to include those without religion. With that in mind, here’s 10 of the ugliest myths about atheists, debunked:

Jessica Valenti: Republicans who limit what medical students can learn doom us to stupid doctors

Some legislators want to keep women from having abortions by prohibiting anyone from teaching doctors how to perform one

Most people expect their physicians to be smart – skillful, schooled and, perhaps above all else, knowledgable. So it’s somewhat baffling (and entirely infuriating) that some Republicans want to keep important medical knowledge from soon-to-be doctors.

A North Carolina bill introduced this month would prevent state medical school departments from allowing employees to perform abortions or to “supervise the performance of an abortion”. Essentially, the bill’s sponsors and supporters wants to make teaching how to perform an abortion – a safe, legal and necessary medical procedure – illegal. As The New Republic’s Jamil Smith wrote, if passed, the bill would “produce less intelligent doctors.”

But the more a doctor knows and learns, the more people they can help throughout her career – and no one would choose a doctor who bragged about skipping class. Bills like this must be defeated – and every medical student in the country with a obstetrical and gynecological (OBGYN) focus should be taught how to perform abortions.

The Breakfast Club (Earth Day)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo Winter_solstice.gif

This Day in History

Richard Nixon dies, Elian Gonzalez seized by federal agents, Oklahoma land rush begins.

Zombie Lies – Environmental Edition

ou know what, why am I getting excited and bothering? This was never about facts to begin with. But what is new, is that it’s not even about pandering to voters any more. Even half of Republicans now want this issue dealt with.

Well good luck, because the zombie lies aren’t for the voters. They’re for the donors who make their money killing the planet. The question is not why today’s politicians suck more than ever. It’s who they’re sucking more than ever.

The Koch brothers are in the oil business and they’re pledging almost a billion dollars in this election. For that kind of money, Cruz and Bush and the rest of them will say anything. It’s what their fellow prostitutes in the sex industry call the girlfriend experience.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

As crude a weapon as the cave man’s club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life-a fabric on the one hand delicate and destructible, on the other miraculously tough and resilient, and capable of striking back in unexpected ways.

Rachel Carson, The Silent Spring.

On This Day In History April 22

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.

April 22 is the 112th day of the year (113th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 253 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1978, The Blues Brothers make their world premiere on Saturday Night Live.

It was Marshall Checker, of the legendary Checker brothers, who first discovered them in the gritty blues clubs of Chicago’s South Side in 1969 and handed them their big break nine years later with an introduction to music-industry heavyweight and host of television’s Rock Concert, Don Kirshner. Actually, none of that is true, but it’s the story that Saturday Night Live’s Paul Shaffer told on April 22, 1978 as he announced the worldwide television debut of that night’s musical guest, the Blues Brothers-the not-quite-real, not-quite-fake musical creation of SNL cast members Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.


The genesis of the Blues Brothers was a January 17, 1976, Saturday Night Live sketch. In it, “Howard Shore and his All-Bee Band” play the Slim Harpo song “I’m a King Bee”, with Belushi singing and Aykroyd playing harmonica, dressed in the bee costumes they wore for the “Killer Bees” sketch.

Following tapings of SNL, it was popular among cast members and the weekly hosts to attend Aykroyd’s Holland Tunnel Blues bar, which he had rented not long after joining the cast. Dan and John filled a jukebox with songs from many different artists such as Sam and Dave and punk band The Viletones. John bought an amplifier and they kept some musical instruments there for anyone who wanted to jam. It was here that Dan and Ron Gwynne wrote and developed the original story which Dan turned into the initial story draft of the Blues Brothers movie, better known as the “tome” because it contained so many pages.

It was also at the bar that Aykroyd introduced Belushi to the blues. An interest soon became a fascination and it was not long before the two began singing with local blues bands. Jokingly, SNL band leader Howard Shore suggested they call themselves “The Blues Brothers.” In an April 1988 interview in the Chicago Sun-Times, Aykroyd said the Blues Brothers act borrowed from Sam & Dave and others: “Well, obviously the duo thing and the dancing, but the hats came from John Lee Hooker. The suits came from the concept that when you were a jazz player in the 40’s, 50’s 60’s, to look straight, you had to wear a suit.”

The band was also modeled in part on Aykroyd’s experience with the Downchild Blues Band, one of the first professional blues bands in Canada, with whom Aykroyd continues to play on occasion. Aykroyd first encountered the band in the early 1970s, at or around the time of his attendance at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada and where his initial interest in the blues developed through attending and occasionally performing at Ottawa’s Le Hibou Coffee House.

The Daily/Nightly Show (New Normal)

Sony Hacks


Jessica Williams

Next week’s guests-

We now know Jon’s last show will be August 6th.  David Letterman will be departing a scant month from now on May 20th.  It is unknown when Stephen will take over, it will depend in part on how quickly they can remake the set.  The same considerations apply to how quickly Trevor Noah will be taking over from Jon.  Comedy Central has said that they don’t intend to change the format that much (as opposed to Larry who’s had to build pretty much everything from scratch) so it may be quicker than you think or it may not.

Jeff Garlin will be on to promote Repeat After Me, a hidden camera show produced by Ellen DeGeneres that premiered February 17th.

The real news below.