09/30/2015 archive

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville- Not This Again

This will be short tonight. There’s a reason I never say things like: what else could go wrong? or: it can’t get any worse! Because I’m a firm believer that the moment you say such a thing, it bites you in the ass. So I never even think it, yet it happens anyway. My kid is star student again next month. Me and Cleetus have to go into his classroom and “do something” with his class. Well…shit.

We nailed it last year. We really did, it went as well as I could have hoped, but my anxiety leading up to the big day knew no bounds. And I actually had a pretty good idea for that day, and was feeling pretty good, having just started to experience some good days from the botox. Now? I got nothing. No idea what I’m gonna do with these fifth graders, and it is killing me.

I have a general anxiety about going into schools just anyway. Even for good things, I get a mild “being sent to the principal’s office” vibe going. Now having to prepare an activity and submit it to his teacher…argh! It’s not like I can go all Bartleby on them and say I prefer not to, I have to come up with something. I’m trying to wrack my brain, but it’s throwing up blocks. I say: Come on, you’ve entertained kids, stop and think. But then no, it’s all: yes, but those were girls and their moms didn’t care if you wanted to make jewelry or make-up.

I’m just sitting here filled with dread. Every time I think about it my mind races and I start to panic. Why? Why now? WTF, man? I never even asked what else could go wrong! I know better!

Tick Tock

U.S. dairy fears holding up TPP deal, source says

By Victoria Guida, Politico

09/30/15 10:00 AM EDT

A fear by U.S. dairy producers of competition from New Zealand is proving to be among the final challenges to wrapping up the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, Pro Trade’s Doug Palmer reports from Atlanta.

After four days of negotiations there, trade ministers are scheduled to arrive today to try to resolve the toughest issues. Several snags remain, including the U.S. dairy industry demand that any reductions in U.S. trade barriers be offset with a nearly equal opportunity to sell U.S. cheese, butter, powder and other dairy products to other countries in the proposed 12-nation pact.

“The United States is the blocker at the moment because they’re not making a decent offer,” Robert Pettit, a trade specialist at Dairy Australia, told POLITICO. Because the United States is holding back, so are Canada and Japan, he said.

A government-appointed New Zealand industry representative spread the blame more broadly among all the participants in the dairy talks. “In my view, the level of ambition right across the talks on dairy is not high enough,” said Mike Petersen, New Zealand’s special agricultural trade envoy. Petersen reports that New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser, who is in New York for United Nation meetings, is mulling whether it’s worth his time to fly to Atlanta.

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told POLITICO in Atlanta Tuesday evening that there had been progress in talks on automotive rules-of-origin since the last ministerial two months ago in Maui, where Mexico and Canada were unpleasantly surprised by the terms of a deal worked out by Japan and the United States.

“Yes, there’s been some progress,” Guajardo said, echoing remarks from Japan’s TPP minister Akira Amari to reporters on Tuesday. “Right now, we’re going to find whether’s [there is] enough progress,”” he said just before a meeting with Mexican negotiators.

The difficult slate of issues still left to resolve in areas like autos and intellectual property protections for biologics prompted speculation the TPP talks could be extended until Friday, despite USTR’s current plans to wrap up on Thursday with a closing press conference. But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, in a floor statement Tuesday, said the United States shouldn’t be in a hurry to close the negotiations “if it means getting a less-than-optimal result for our country.”

“If the administration and our negotiating partners do conclude an agreement this week, they can be sure that I will examine it very carefully to ensure it meets these standards,” Hatch said, referring to market access, intellectual property and other priorities laid out in the trade promotion authority law passed by Congress this summer. “And, as I have stated many times before, if the agreement falls short, I will not support it. And, I don’t think I’ll be alone on that.”

Who Needs Balanced Trade? Who Needs Balanced Budgets?

By Joe Firestone, Corrente

Posted on September 30, 2015

It is now the end of September … and there are enough difficulties in the way of completion mentioned by Politico today to suggest that completion before the end of October is highly unlikely, and probably also another forlorn hope for those favoring the TPP. That Michael Froman, the STR, is now talking in public as if the Administration cares more about getting the TPP right than getting it done soon suggests that the expectations of our trade negotiators for quick completion of the TPP negotiations are now scaled down considerably.

So, let’s say the Administration did get this done by October 31, 2015. If one then adds the minimum 4.5 months to get the agreement ratified, then, one is looking at the final vote about March 15, 2016, right in the middle of the primary season, both for presidential candidates and for both Houses of Congress. A controversial vote at that time is poison for office holders wanting to win office again. It is poison for Republican candidates for President and for Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. No one is going to want to take an unpopular vote in favor of the TPP and take the thunder from the right and the left about the various issues surrounding the treaty.

The votes for the TPA were very difficult for both Houses of Congress, and Democratic Congressmen who voted for it have come under heavy fire. These Congressmen and some Republicans who ignored the TPP sovereignty issues raised by some of the more conservative Republicans will get challenged in the primaries for their TPA vote.

Will they then vote for the TPP in the middle of their campaigns and then, even if they win their primary, face opposition from the other Party in the fall making their vote on trade a political issue aligning them with the multinationals against the American people? I’m afraid I don’t see that happening.

Instead, I see the President being told by the leadership of both Houses that if he submits the TPP to Congress on a schedule to get a vote for it in March or April of next year, then the TPP will be voted down. I see Hillary Clinton telling him not to force that vote then, or she will be forced to publicly oppose it, and to use her influence to defeat it for fear of compromising her own chances to win the Democratic Party nomination. I also see a wholesale rebellion among Democratic Congressmen against their lame duck President who is trying to build his legacy by making them take a poison pill ruining their re-election chances, and I don’t think the President will be able to get near the number of Democratic votes for the TPP, that he was able to get for the TPA, in June. I then see the President trying to make a deal with the leadership in both Houses to get a vote during the lame duck after the election.

But whether that happens or not will depend on the results of the election and the extent to which there is a reaction against the corporate establishment expressed in them. If there is, then I doubt that the trade deals will be back for some time to come. If there is not, then there will be another fight during the lame duck to do everything possible to stop the TPP.

But, regardless, of the exact scenario in the coming months, the TPP is coming up for Congressional consideration, and when it does, it will be the most intense struggle between neoliberal forces in both parties, and anti-corporate forces among both progressives and conservatives, we’ve seen yet. In addition, there will be more new developments such as the ones here and here, about the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), perhaps the most dangerous of the three major current trade agreements in negotiation, which will impact perspectives on the TPP in Congress, and the eventual fate of all three agreements.

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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Amanda Marcotte: The GOP’s Great Mammogram Farce Of 2015

The word of the day: “Mammogram.”

Over and over during the farce that was supposed to be a hearing on Planned Parenthood, Republican representatives attacked Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards because her organization does not provide mammograms as part of its core set of services. (They do sometimes pair with organizations for programs that offer them to low-income women.) Over and over again, the fact that Planned Parenthood doesn’t offer mammograms was held out as some kind of proof that the organization doesn’t provide women’s health care. Apparently, Republicans are under the impression that women are Barbie dolls, with big breasts and nothing between our legs but a flat surface.

Breasts are a part of women’s bodies, so to the uninformed, the idea that Planned Parenthood doesn’t perform this particular kind of women’s health care might sound like a profound gotcha, indeed. But in reality, there’s no reason for them to have mammogram machines on premises. Most gynecologists don’t do them on premises, but refer women out to another location for a mammogram, because mammogram facilities are accredited by the American College of Radiology. I did a quick search in my area and found that nearly all available mammogram facilities were radiology centers or hospitals.

Vanessa Williamson: Trump’s ‘Populist’ Tax Plan Is Nothing But A Bush-Era Giveaway To The Rich

We’ve been here before. A frontrunner for the Republican nomination announces a tax plan, which is immediately lauded as “populist” but is actually a massive and unpaid-for tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. Earlier this month, it was Jeb Bush. This week, it is Donald Trump, who seems to have taken Jeb Bush’s plan, given every number a haircut, and submitted it as his own work. So much for being the anti-Establishment candidate.

Put simply, Trump’s plan offers an immense tax cut for the rich, a small tax cut for everyone else, and a multi-trillion dollar hole in the budget. It is as standard-issue Republican fare as the last major Republican tax cut, under George W. Bush, with the same money-for-nothing promises.

Trump’s plan is being promoted as all about closing loopholes. And it does. But the revenue increased from closing loopholes is far outweighed by the revenue lost by lowering tax rates. That’s the fundamental problem with his plan, and why it ends up being a huge boon to high earners.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Listen to the pope, not the armchair warriors

In his historic visit to the United States, Pope Francis spoke frequently about the importance of peace and of negotiation and cooperation. His words clashed with a U.S. presidential debate marked by the bellicose postures of candidates in both parties. Francis speaks from a religious, not a political, frame, but ironically, he may have a greater grasp on American public opinion than many of those seeking to lead this country.

Francis opened his visit by praising President Obama for “efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation,” clearly a reference to the opening to Cuba and the nuclear weapons deal with Iran. In his address to Congress, he emphasized the importance of “dialogue and peace,” of being “truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world.” He called for an end to the arms trade, driven, he argued, simply by “money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.” At the United Nations, Francis decried war as “the negation of all rights,” calling on leaders to “work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.”

Zoë Carpenter: [John Boehner’s Downfall Had Nothing to Do With His Position on Abortion]

Let’s get one thing clear about John Boehner: His problem was not that his position on abortion was too liberal.

Boehner’s resignation as Speaker of the House and from his congressional seat, which he announced to his Republican colleagues on Friday morning, is intimately tangled up in the squabble over federal funding for Planned Parenthood-though Boehner has clashed with the conservative wing of his caucus repeatedly since the Tea Party takeover that brought him to power in 2010. Buoyed by a series of undercover videos taken by anti-abortion activists, conservative members of the GOP have been pressing Boehner to tie a measure stripping funds from the healthcare organization into a must-pass budget bill. […]

 By resigning, Boehner appears to have succeeded in kicking the shutdown can down the road. The Washington Post reports that the Freedom Caucus, which is made up by the most conservative members of the GOP in the House, has agreed to support a short-term funding bill that does not affect funding for Planned Parenthood. But the issue will probably come up in a few months when Congress is again tasked with passing a spending bill. By that time the GOP will have installed a new Speaker, one that hard-liners hope will be more sympathetic to their tactical choices. Practically, it’s hard to imagine how the next leader could surpass Boehner’s legacy in seeking to restrict choice, though surely they’ll try.

Michelle Chen: In America, the Poorer You Are, the Poorer Your Children Will Be

When people talk about “balancing work and family,” they’re usually talking more about the workplace than what’s going on at home. Now we’re starting to get data on what the workaday life looks like from a kid’s eye view, and it doesn’t look good.

When debating the issue of work-life balance, arguments over unlimited vacation and employment discrimination center around women’s barriers to opportunity-the perennial glass ceiling that Anne Marie Slaughter and Sheryl Sandberg rage at when lamenting not “having it all.” For working-class folks crushed by on-call schedules or poverty wages, it’s often hard to find any life outside work, let alone to balance work and family lives. But centering the conversation not on career ambition but the life course of a family helps put the false dichotomy of work vs. life in perspective.

Katha Politt: Illegal Abortion Is Dangerous, Birth Control Works, and Other Inconvenient Truths for Pro-Lifers

Ross Douthat, the New York Times columnist and anti-choice conservative Catholic, has responded at some length on his blog (parts one and two) to my postelection column, in which I posed some pointed questions for pro-lifers. My format gives me much less space, but I’m going to try to take up his major points here. Then we can move on, which most of you have probably already done. [..]

 I myself do not believe that poverty is the only reason most low-income women who have abortions choose to do so. Middle-class and wealthy women have abortions, too. Having a child affects every aspect of a woman’s life, not just her pocketbook: her prospects, her relationships, her family, her dreams and ambitions, her physical and psychological well-being. We should get rid of poverty to make people’s lives better, not to justify more forced births. We should ban job discrimination against pregnant women and mothers, too-something abortion opponents rarely discuss. Low-income women are much more likely to have unplanned pregnancies, though, and that is something we can fix. We should provide birth control to all-not as a grudging trade-off against abortion rights, but to give girls and women more freedom to shape their lives.

I wish I felt Douthat cared about that freedom.

On the web, I’ll reply to Douthat’s other arguments, including that legal abortion and birth control aren’t prerequisites for women’s equality. Irish feminists beg to differ.

The Breakfast Club (Cats in the Cradle)

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

Nuremberg tribunal convicts top Nazi leaders of war crimes; Berlin Airlift ends; James Meredith registers at Ole Miss; Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’ premieres; Actor James Dean killed in a car crash.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Until one has loved an animal a part of one's soul remains unawakened.

Anatole France

On This Day In History September 30

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.

September 30 is the 273rd day of the year (274th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 92 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1791, The Magic Flute, Die Zauberflote, an opera in two acts composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to a German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder, premiered in Vienna at the Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden. Mozart conducted and Schikaneder played Papageno, while the role of the Queen of the Night was sung by Mozart’s sister-in-law Josepha Hofer. This was Mozart’s last opera.

The Daily Late Nightly Show (The Reviews are In)

The New Kid

So, mixed.  I thought it was better than expected, though I didn’t expect much.  As one of the reviewers said it’s hard to base a judgement on 20 minutes of material.  The best bit as far as I’m concerned was Jordan Klepper’s and not just because he’s white.

New correspondent Roy Wood Jr. is pretty funny too.

And your first web exclusive content from Hasan Minaj-

Unfortunately they’ve changed to the same crappy Web Design Larry Wilmore uses.  Pro tip guys, White on Black only works on Gamer, SciFi, and Goth sites.  Basically, I hate it.  I’ll have more complaints later.

Trevor’s guest tonight is Whitney Wolfe.

This week’s guests-

The New Continuity

Yeah, I’m a sucker for dick jokes.

Frankly, since Colbert came on, Larry has been getting funnier and funnier and his show more and more like Daily Show Classic.  Trevor, if you’re worried about the competition look no farther than Columbus Circle.

Tonightly Bill Nye and Michelle Buteau will be talking about The Waters of Mars.  For the panel we will be adding Ricky Velez

The Dancing Man

All Michelle all the time, Mindy Kaling got totally bumped.  What’s funny about Michelle’s windows joke is not that you have to have clearance to open them at the White House, it’s that none of them open at all.  Nuclear Biological Chemical secure, not to mention the thicker than it looks bullet proof glass.

We have a government that projects the illusion of openness while being hermetically sealed by bubbles within bubbles in Washington D.C.  No Fresh Air or Sunlight needed, thank you very much.

Stephen’s guests tonight are Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, and Dominic Wilcox

This week’s guests-

I really meant to post this the other day but I was running long.