08/05/2015 archive

Dispatches From Hellpeckerville- From Here On

It has just occurred to me that I can slow down now. I’ve spent the past five weeks waiting for the other shoe to drop when possibly there is no there is no other shoe. Or, if there is it might be a long time coming so I might as well gear down a little. I don’t have to spend my nights with one ear open, I’m not on duty the moment I awake, I have time now. It doesn’t feel real, and it sure doesn’t feel quite “right” but I do, I have time. Time to read, time to draw, but most of all time to spend with my kids. Things are settling down now.

The little guy is still spending more time than I’d like on the computer, but me getting back into art may be inspiring him a little. I came downstairs one day last week to find him painting animation cells on page protectors. That’s something he hasn’t done for months. Can the clay be far behind? I hope not, but I’m not going to push, he’s coming along, and that’s good enough. He’s talking to me too, and that is very cool.

Baboo has been as resilient as a kid could be. Yes, he took it hard, he was Mom’s boy, but he also watched what she went through, how she got lost. I know I couldn’t have gotten by the last few weeks without him. He does devil the living shit out of his brother at least once a day, you know, just so I have something to remind me that I’m the Mom around here, but what else are kids for?

Dad can mostly play his music and not cry now. Okay, sometimes he still cries, but not all the time. Some days I still get weepy, and I imagine that’ll happen from time to time. Me and Dad both got weepy on his birthday last week, but there’s good things happening too. I can make him steak now, Mom couldn’t chew it, and he didn’t like eating it in front of her. Spicy foods that he loves, I’m making him lots of stuff like that. I upgraded his teevee box and package, we never did that before because the remote already baffled Mom. It’s little things that in no way can make up for her loss, but maybe are a small comfort.

We all seem to be settling into a new routine, and so far so good. I know it won’t be all smooth sailing, I have kids, and Dad is 80 years old. But the heavy pall feels like it’s lifting. I believe so, anyway.

Doom de Doom Doom

Don’t look now, but the TPP just hit a major snag

by David Dayen, Salon

Tuesday, Aug 4, 2015 05:58 AM EST

Since the passage of fast-track authority, the biggest obstacle to more corporate-written international trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has not been unions or environmentalists or public health advocates. It’s been the calendar. And jostling by TPP member countries over domestic priorities may have just created such a calendar problem that we will not see a deal completed by the end of the Obama presidency.

Ministerial meetings in Maui last week were supposed to end in an agreement between the 12 nations negotiating TPP. But those talks broke up on Friday without a breakthrough. Officials played down the differences, claiming that anywhere from 90 to 98 percent of the details have been finalized. But the outstanding issues involve the basic building blocks of a trade agreement – specifically, what industries get tariff elimination and unfettered market access, and which remain protected.

For example, the U.S. wants to protect profits for the pharmaceutical industry by increasing exclusivity times for prescription drugs, including lucrative biologics that often cost tens of thousands of dollars per treatment. Generic drug manufacturers would not be able to make cheaper knock-off versions for 12 years, a much longer exclusivity period than the current standard in TPP partners like Australia, Chile and New Zealand. Those countries have rejected intellectual property barriers posted for the benefit of large drug companies.

Other stumbling blocks concern major industries. For example, the U.S. won’t open up its sugar trade. Japan wants to limit access to its rice markets. New Zealand is seeking lower tariffs for the Canadian dairy market. Japanese carmakers want to continue to source auto parts from non-TPP countries like Thailand, but Mexico and Canada want that supply chain to end.

Japan’s economic minister said talks should resume in late August, but other media outlets claimed they wouldn’t until November. The discrepancy can be explained by news out of Ottawa this weekend: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called elections for October 19, and with important implications in TPP for Canadian dairy farms and beloved state-run enterprises like the CBC and Canada Post (both of which may have to be privatized under the agreement), he would not want to ignite controversy by signing a major trade deal in the middle of the campaign. The chance of August negotiations is made more remote by polls showing the Canadian electorate ready for a change.

If TPP talks don’t restart until November, the timeline slides into elections in the U.S., exactly what President Obama had been trying to avoid. Under fast-track rules, the government must publish the complete text of any trade agreement 60 days before signing. So even completion of TPP in November – and there’s no guarantee of that – would mean that signing wouldn’t take place until next January. And after that, there are reporting requirements that must take place before the White House can introduce the bill in Congress, which could mean another delay of at least 90 days. At that point, Congress has 90 session days to act on the implementing legislation.

So you’re talking about a series of TPP votes in Congress right in the middle of both the presidential race and Congressional primaries, a distasteful scenario for members who don’t want to draw an angry challenger because of their trade vote.

The White House would have been thrilled to get TPP done in the dead of winter, preferably over the holidays while everyone was consumed with tree-trimming and shopping. But that’s not going to happen now, which could lead the U.S. to shut down TPP completion until after the 2016 elections. And when you’re dealing with 12 countries, it’s hard to find a sweet spot for a trade deal you can’t sell at home and would rather hide from the public. Australia must hold elections by January 2017. New Zealand will vote in the fall of 2017. And there are local and regional elections throughout this time.

(E)xtending the clock adds a bit of unpredictability into a process with a heretofore more predictable ending. What if a change in leadership in Canada causes them to bolt from the agreement? What if Hillary Clinton, worried by the Sanders juggernaut, makes a public vow to stop TPP? What if labor succeeds in picking off a couple Congress members who voted for fast track? What if Australia or New Zealand walk away over the pressure to change their pharmaceutical rules or the controversial investor-state dispute settlement process?

A lot can happen over the next several months, or potentially years. And the loss of momentum for TPP could rebound to the other trade agreements the Administration wants to finish, like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the U.S. and Europe, or the massive 51-nation Trade in Services Agreement.

This is what happens when world leaders try to make deals they know their populations will detest. Apparently the last threads of democracy remaining are strong enough that, sooner or later, these same leaders must stand before their people and defend gutting regulations, selling out their sovereignty and benefiting multinational corporations instead of the public. It’s apparently hard to find a good time to do that.

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.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

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

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Katrina vanden Heuvel: The Coming Debate and a Trump in the House of Cards

A debate that promises to defy the needs-and common sense-of most Americans.

This Thursday, Republicans will stage their first presidential debate, with Fox News picking the top 10 of the 17 announced candidates on the basis of their standing in the polls. By today’s count, Donald Trump, the current poll leader, will stand center stage, flanked by Jeb Bush and Scott Walker and then the other seven arrayed in order of their poll numbers. Donald Trump’s notoriety may just garner Fox News the biggest primary debate audience ever.

Nervous Republican officials can take some solace that the debate is moderated by three Fox News stalwarts. They are unlikely to dwell on the irresistible questions raised by the absurdities that Republican candidates have offered up in the last months. Fox News anchors will no doubt try to get candidates to vent their venom on Hillary Clinton and President Obama rather than on each other. Candidates will have one minute to answer questions, time only for expressing an attitude, not a policy. [..]

The pundits will watch the debate like fans at a NASCAR race, waiting for the smash-ups. But the real news for Republicans isn’t who survives the fray. The real news is how divorced their consensus is from the needs of the country and common sense of most Americans.

Nusrat Choudhury: The Government Is Watching #BlackLivesMatter, And It’s Not Okay

According to documents recently obtained by The Intercept in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the government is surveilling the #BlackLivesMatter movement. [..]

The problem with this is obvious. Modern protest movements speak, associate, and organize through social media. Their tweets, blogs, protests, marches, and die-ins are the trumpets by which they call for reform and social justice. Government monitoring of activists’ protests – simply because these activists dissent and without any evidence of wrongdoing – threatens to discourage them from speaking, associating, and expressing as is their right under the First Amendment. Surveillance of #BlackLivesMatter protests also opens the door to racial profiling because the movement is Black-led.

Throughout our country’s history, the federal government has used the fear of threats – real or perceived – to conduct surveillance on domestic groups and people who look or act different. Civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activists in the 1960’s and 1970’s, American Muslim civil rights leaders and academics post-9/11, and the FBI’s recent, expansive racial, religious, and ethnic mapping program are a handful of examples.

Amanda Marcotte: 6 Things to Say to Your Conservative Relatives Who Buy Into Anti-Planned Parenthood Propaganda

Some tips on how to respond to some of the most common arguments.

Last month, a group with the name Center for Medical Progress started releasing videos claiming that Planned Parenthood is illegally selling fetal tissue. Anti-choicers are always floating ridiculous conspiracy theories about Planned Parenthood, and unsurprisingly, these videos turned out to be a pile of lies. Despite this, Senate Republicans had a symbolic grandstanding “defund Planned Parenthood” bill and some are calling to shut the government down if Democrats don’t cave into demands to destroy the national chain of women’s health centers.

Because of this, many conservatives – some of them our own relatives – are now spouting a bunch of false talking points about the supposed evils of Planned Parenthood. Here are some tips on how to respond to some of the most common arguments that are floating around. [..]

These conservative talking points are easy to debunk, but it’s also important not to get so much in the weeds that you forget the larger point: The assault on Planned  Parenthood is not about the videos at all, but a larger war on women being waged by conservatives. It’s all tied up in conservative efforts to push abstinence-only education, to fight Obamacare’s contraception coverage, to shut down abortion and family planning clinics, and even to halt IUD programs that are known to reduce teen pregnancy. The videos are just a pretense. The real goal is to make it harder for women-especially low-income women – to have happy, healthy sex lives.

Jaon Walsh: The GOP crack-up continues: The raging civil war over the disgusting “cuckservative” slur

Combining racism and misogyny, the insult lets Donald Trump backers claim other Republicans aren’t real men

“Cuckservative,” you see, is short for a cuckolded conservative. It’s not about a Republican whose wife is cheating on him, but one whose country is being taken away from him, and who’s too cowardly to do anything about it.

OK, that’s gross and sexist enough already, but there’s more. It apparently comes from a kind of pornography known as “cuck,” in which a white husband, either in shame or lust, watches his wife be taken by a black man. Lewis explains it this way: “A cuckservative is, therefore, a race traitor.”

This is not merely a new way to shout “RINO.” It’s a call to make the GOP an explicitly racist party, devoted to the defense of whites. It’s no accident it’s taken off in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign launch/performance art, where he attacked illegal Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals.”

Rachel Rye Butler: Why the Voting Rights Act Matters for Environmentalists

Why environmental activists are joining the call to restore the Voting Rights Act and give equal voice to all in American democracy.

Many people who care about climate change understand the corrupting influence of big money in politics, and rightfully sound the alarm when elected officials who are supposed to represent their constituents instead protect corporate profits. This is especially true when it comes to big political spenders and climate polluters like the Koch Brothers and the fossil fuel companies like Shell.

However, voter suppression and disenfranchisement are not as commonly talked about in the environmental community. This despite the fact that denying the right to vote strips people of access to a cornerstone of our democracy and a way to have their interests represented in decisions that impact them-including issues of climate and environmental health.

It’s high time we make those connections.

Amy B. Dean: Washington has failed to enforce labor rights. Can cities step in?

With cities raising minimum wages and passing paid sick leave, communities must make sure employers comply with the law

In the past year Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle have all scheduled minimum wage increases, to rates ranging from $12.25 to $15.00. At least 18 cities and four states now have passed paid sick leave laws. San Francisco also passed the Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights, which will guarantee employees fair notice of their schedules for shifts.

All these measures create important improvements for working families. But how can these newly won rights be protected?

The federal government is unlikely to help. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has fewer than 1,500 investigators for America’s 135 million-person workforce – about one for every 96,000 workers. And state-level labor departments aren’t faring much better.

With this in mind, some local leaders have turned to a surprisingly simple solution: enlisting community members to help monitor and enforce new protections.

The Breakfast Club (Whatever Will Be)

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.

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This Day in History

Actress Marilyn Monroe dies; Cornerstone laid for the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal; ‘American Bandstand’ debuts on network TV; Actors Richard Burton and Alec Guinness die.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.

Carl Sagan

On This Day In History August 5

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.

Click on images to enlarge

August 5 is the 217th day of the year (218th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 148 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1957, American Bandstand goes national

Television, rock and roll and teenagers. In the late 1950s, when television and rock and roll were new and when the biggest generation in American history was just about to enter its teens, it took a bit of originality to see the potential power in this now-obvious combination. The man who saw that potential more clearly than any other was a 26-year-old native of upstate New York named Dick Clark, who transformed himself and a local Philadelphia television program into two of the most culturally significant forces of the early rock-and-roll era. His iconic show, American Bandstand, began broadcasting nationally on this day in 1957, beaming images of clean-cut, average teenagers dancing to the not-so-clean-cut Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” to 67 ABC affiliates across the nation.

The show that evolved into American Bandstand began on Philadephia’s WFIL-TV in 1952, a few years before the popular ascension of rock and roll. Hosted by local radio personality Bob Horn, the original Bandstand nevertheless established much of the basic format of its later incarnation. In the first year after Dick Clark took over as host in the summer of 1956, Bandstand remained a popular local hit, but it took Clark’s ambition to help it break out. When the ABC television network polled its affiliates in 1957 for suggestions to fill its 3:30 p.m. time slot, Clark pushed hard for Bandstand, which network executives picked up and scheduled for an August 5, 1957 premiere.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Smokin’)


Oh, Faux

You are a never ending source of amusement.

This week’s guests-

Thursday is of course Jon Stewart’s last episode as host.

Did you know Jon smokes?  Hope that doesn’t ruin it for you.  It’s one of the things that he and Denis Leary share.  Denis is the guest Jon invites because they are buds on and off camera.  He may pitch something but it’s just an excuse.  This will probably be one of Jon’s worst and most sentimental interviews ever.

Trevor is keeping the production team including the writers, but Jon is leaving the building.

Do you know I was a Boy Scout?

I was horrible.  The Troop that was school based was not so bad, the Troop that was Church based was virulently homophobic and homoerotic at the same time.

I didn’t leave because I was threatened sexually, I just couldn’t stand the constant bullying.  Not me, others.  There are things I will not tolerate.

Tonightly the topic is Toy Guns.  The panel is Mike Yard (who’s wiki warnings have been removed I note.  About damn time, he’s only the head writer for a major Cable network show.), Lennon Parham, and Jessica St. Clair.

Amy Schumer got a web exclusive extended interview! That and the real news below.