Sunday, April 19, 2015

Maybe Jebbo's just afraid people will realize HE'S in a persistent vegetative state and want to pull the plug on HIM


Jimmy Margulies (click to enlarge)

by Ken

In case you missed the news, Friday in New Hampshire Jeb Bush once again stood by his shameful pandering in the case of poor Terry Schiavo, torturing both the comatose victim lying in a "persistent vegetative state" and the family that was trying to deal with their loss. It was, of course, all so the sniveling turd could score a few political points with people too stupid and meddlesome to understand that their place, ethically as well as legally, was to mind their own fucking business.

And the jack-booted jackass managed to introduce yet a new layer of imbecility to his "position": a demand that anyone hoping to collect Medicare benefits be required to declare some sort of end-of-life care intention.

It is, of course, an utterly desirable thing that all of us make legally clear our wishes in such matters. I'm grateful, for example, that my mother made her wishes in the matter absolutely clear to me both orally and in a living will, and when the time came, her stated wish to have no extraordinary measures taken to prolong her life provided invaluable guidance to her doctors and other care providers. But do we really want an ethics-free bastard like Jebbo forcing people to satisfy him in order to receive Medicare benefits?

Here's the Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe reporting from Manchester:
"I don’t think I would have changed anything," he said in response to a questioner during a "Politics and Eggs" breakfast here Friday. "I stayed within the constitutional responsibilities or authority that I had. We changed the law first and then a year later it was ruled unconstitutional and then basically didn't have the ability to do anything. The federal government then intervened and that was ruled unconstitutional. So, she starved to death."

Diagnosed as in a persistent vegetative state, Schiavo, 41, died in April 2005 after a 15-year battle over her husband Michael's decision to remove her feeding tube. Her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, fought to keep her alive, a move that prompted Bush, the Florida legislature and Congress to pass laws intervening on their behalf. The legal process stretched from Florida courts to the federal judicial system, but her feeding tube was ultimately ordered removed.

In hindsight, Bush said Friday that he wished that Schiavo had signed an advance directive, or legal document outlining how she would have wanted her end-of-life care managed.

"The family could have sorted this out rather than hearsay be the driver of this," he said. "That would have been better. I think if we're going to mandate anything from government, it might be that if you're going to take Medicare that you also sign up for an advanced directive where you talk about this before you're so disabled that then there's fights amongst the family. I know for a fact that the Schindlers were more than happy to take over the care of this child. And I supported that."
Except, of course, that it was none of the Schindlers' fucking business either, Jebbo. How is that you still don't know that for a fact, you lying imbecile turd?
He added that the Schiavo affair "was one of the most difficult things I had to go through, it broke my heart that we weren't successful of sustaining this person's life, so she could be loved by her mom and dad. But the courts decided otherwise and I was respectful of that."
Yeah, really respectful, you torture-mongering whore.

Ed notes that "Bush's suggestion to require Medicare recipients to sign off on end-of-life care is likely to revive a fight that occurred at the height of debate over the Affordable Care Act."
Early versions of the legislation included a proposal to reimburse doctors for talking with Medicare patients about advanced directives and end-of-life care. But that proposal was widely criticized and incorrectly characterized by GOP critics of the law, most famously Sarah Palin, who used a Facebook post to label the proposal the establishment of a "death panel."
It's funny how, back when the country was beset by lying right-wing psychopaths screeching about death panels, I don't recall hearing Jebbo speaking up about the importance of end-of-life planning. For that matter, I don't recall hearing a lot of political reporters say straight out that brain-dead opportunists like Princess Sarah Palin were plainly and simply "incorrectly characterizing" as "death panels" the legal provisions envisioned for the ACA calling for end-of-life discussions between patients and doctors. ("Incorrectly characterizing," of course, is a fancy way of saying "lying their stinking guts out.")

Sunday Classics snapshots: Glinka's "Russlan" Overture packs a way more pungent wallop than you'd guess from "Mom"


"The Father of Russian Music": Mikhail Glinka (1804-1867)

GLINKA: Ruslan and Ludmila: Overture

Kirov Orchestra (St. Petersburg), Valery Gergiev, cond. Philips, recorded February 1995

New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, cond. Columbia-CBS-Sony, recorded Oct. 14, 1963

Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Alessandro Siciliani, cond. CSO Showcase, recorded February 2001

Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Fritz Reiner, cond. RCA-BMG, recorded Mar. 14, 1959

by Ken

As I've mentioned occasionally in my occasional TV Watch reports, I occasionally try to watch Mom. And each a time I get a jolt when I hear the rousing strains of Glinka's Rusland and Ludmila Overture -- at least the couple of bars' worth that are all we get, for cheap 'n' cheesy effect. Whereas the piece itself is one of the glories of musical civilization, uniquely rousing but also soaring.

This week I got farther than usual into the episode, with that fine actress Allison Janney (who plays, you know, Mom) finally getting an opportunity to do something other than make herself look foolish, with the current plotline that has her sinking toward rock bottom in her pills and booze abuse. (Whether she has actually hit rock bottom remains to be seen. Or whether she in fact has a rock bottom.)

It happens too that the Ruslan Overture is one of the pieces I thought of when I was thinking recently about music that, as best I recall, we've never heard in Sunday Classics asI plan for the shutdown. So let's consider today's snapshot a gap-plugger -- and a perennial delight.

The opera it introduces is a delight too, but such a genre-bending farrago of story-telling modes -- fairy tale, heroic epic, romance -- that it makes almost impossible demands on the resources, not least of the imaginative kind, of an opera company.


Read more »

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The Nightmare That Is Steven King (R-IA)


Novelist Stephen King had some fun with 3 of the GOP contenders on Twitter yesterday. For most Americans, Paul, Cruz or Rubio would indeed be a horror story-- along with the entire Republican Party agenda. But for immigrants there's another Steven King-- the Iowa extremist-- who is much more of a horror story... and for many of them, an existential horror story at that. Thursday the Iowa King was on the John Fredericks Show on Virginia radio. King claims, disingenuously, that Obama is importing "illegals" to stack the voting rolls. "To put it simply," he told the right-wing, racist host, "the President is importing millions of illegal aliens who when they arrive here he thinks, and he’s right, they are undocumented Democrats, and so the next phase of this is to document these Democrats so they can vote."
King likened the executive action on immigration to President Franklin Roosevelt’s plan to add seats to the Supreme Court in the 1930s when the court was challenging New Deal legislation.

“This is the President of the United States trying to stack the electorate with millions of people, lawlessly bringing them into the United States of America and giving them a presence here, and thinking and realizing that the longer you can keep them here the less likely it is that they will go home,” added King.

King called the Democratic Party “the beneficiaries” of the action. King said many undocumented immigrants “don’t understand the law” because “they come from lawless counties.

“And they will see Barack Obama and his party are the beneficiaries, that they are the beneficiaries of his lawlessness. They don’t understand the law, they come from lawless countries. So they’re not at all likely to defend our Constitution or the rule of law. They take an oath to it when they are, when they are naturalized, and I speak at those services as often as I can.”

King said Obama’s action would create a “massive electorate” that votes for Democrats the same way the 1964 Civil Rights Act made African-Americans vote for Democrats.

“It erodes the politics of this country, the respect for the rule of law, and it creates this massive electorate that will likely vote in large numbers for Barack Obama and his party, just like African Americans have done so after Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which by the way took the majority of Republicans in the House and Senate to make sure that that passed.”

Sean McElwee: "If everybody in this country voted,” the economist John Kenneth Galbraith said, “the Democrats would be in for the next 100 years.” There is strong evidence to support his claim. A 2007 study by Jan Leighley and Jonathan Nagler found that nonvoters are more economically liberal than voters, preferring government health insurance, easier union organizing and more federal spending on schools. Nonvoters preferred Barack Obama to Mitt Romney by 59 percent to 24 percent, while likely voters were split 47 percent for each, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center poll. Nonvoters are far less likely to identify as Republican, and voters tend to be more opposed to redistribution than nonvoters."
[C]an turnout be swayed? Evidence suggests so. A study of 170 countries by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance found that electoral structures dramatically affect turnout. Measures such as no-excuse absentee voting, expansive early voting and Election Day registration have increased turnout. But in the United States, research suggests that the more black people in a county-- a group that tends to vote for Democrats-- the fewer early voting sites there are.

Regardless, a simple get-out-the-vote strategy is not enough. In a 2005 seminal study, political scientist Adam Berinsky found that reforms that make it easier for registered voters to cast ballots increase the socioeconomic bias of the electorate. Get-out-the-vote campaigns increase turnout only among individuals with already high propensity to vote. While these voters may still be liberal, electoral reform is needed to increase registration among nonvoters, particularly the poor. In 2012 only 52.7 percent of those with income below $10,000 were registered to vote, compared with 83.5 percent of those earning more than $150,000, according to U.S. census data. In order to address the gap in voting between those in the top and bottom income brackets, electoral reforms must affect registration.

...Progressives can also improve their electoral prospects with better information. First, there is the evidence from the Kaiser Family Foundation that Americans are least likely to know that reforms they support are included in the Affordable Care Act and most likely to know that reforms they oppose are included. “If the public had perfect understanding of the elements that we examined,” a group of researchers wrote in 2012, “the proportion of Americans who favor the bill might increase from the current level of 32 percent to 70 percent.” In another recent study, Fowler and Michele Margolis exposed participants (through fake op-eds) to simple facts about Republican and Democratic policy platforms on social and economic issues such as the earned income tax credit, minimum wage, abortion and same-sex marriage. “When uninformed citizens receive political information, they systematically shift their political preferences away from the Republican Party and toward the Democrats,” the researchers said.

Changing the composition of the electorate is the easiest way to shift policy to the left. As John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira point out, what they call the “emerging democratic majority” has always existed but just hasn’t voted. Instead, Democrats should mobilize the marginalized progressive majority. There was a time when progressives saw voting rights as essential to their strategy. In 1992, California Gov. Jerry Brown told Bill Clinton that his campaign would have Brown’s “full endorsement” if Clinton supported a $100 cap on political contributions, a ban on PACs, universal registration, same-day registration and an Election Day holiday. As Joan Didion points out in “Political Fictions,” Clinton did not receive Brown’s endorsement because at the time the more centrist Democratic Leadership Council’s strategy was to “jettison those voters who no longer turned out and target those who did.”

That strategy limits the liberalism of the Democratic Party because those who less consistently turn out tend to be more liberal than those who do. In addition, it alienates low-income people, further depressing turnout and creating a self-reinforcing cycle of people becoming increasingly alienated from established politicians and increasingly unlikely to vote. Democratic politicians are wary of policies to boost turnout because of its anti-incumbent effect and the possibility of progressive challengers.

Now with Democrats on the defensive across the country, conservatives fighting full franchise and progressives realizing the limits of hero leftism, there may be an effort to mobilize the marginalized progressive majority. If they are persuaded to weigh in at the ballot box, they can sway the agenda that Democratic leaders support. As a truly great progressive, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, once said to his progressive base, “I agree with you. Now make me do it.”

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tennessee pulls back from the nuttiness of designating the Bible as the state's official book


Daryl Cagle, (click to enlarge)

by Ken

So it appears that Tennessee will not, after all, designate the Bible as the state's official book. On Wednesday, the state House voted 55-38 to do just that. But as Dave Boucher reported Thursday evening for The Tennessean:
The Bible will not become the official book of Tennessee this year.

Bolstered by opposition from Republican leadership, the Senate voted 22-9 to send the Bible to committee, effectively killing the bill a day after it was adopted by the House.

"This isn't the time or place now in the full Senate floor to delve into that. We really need to look into it in committee," Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said about two hours before the vote.

Gov. Bill Haslam and Attorney General Herbert Slatery oppose the bill; Slatery recently announced he thinks the bill violates the state and federal constitutions.

Norris led the effort to kill the bill in the Senate. He asked for the bill to be sent back to the Senate Judiciary Committee to address the Slatery opinion. The Senate agreed, supporting Norris and effectively killing the bill for the year.

"I sure hope it won't pass. I think it'll be a dark day for Tennessee if it does," Norris said Wednesday.

"All I know is that I hear Satan snickering. He loves this kind of mischief. You just dumb the good book down far enough to make it whatever it takes to make it a state symbol, and you're on your way to where he wants you."

Bill sponsor Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, and other supporters argue the bill highlights the economic and historical impact of the Bible in Tennessee. The House passed the bill by a 55-38 vote Wednesday after two hours of debate over the course of two days.

"The Bible has great historical and cultural significance in the state of Tennessee," Southerland said Wednesday, at times getting emotional on the Senate floor.
On Wednesday, after the large-majority House vote in favor of the bill, the outcome didn't look nearly so sensible. To their credit, though, a host of red-blooded Tennessee conservatives got the issue right. Like the state's lieutenant governor, Ron Ramsey.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, has been outspoken in his belief that the bill belittles the Bible by placing it next to state symbols. After the vote, Ramsey heralded the decision to send the bill back to committee.

"I am a Christian, but I am also a constitutionalist and a conservative. It would be fiscally irresponsible to put the state in a position to have to spend tax dollars defending a largely symbolic piece of legislation," Ramsey said in a statement.

"We don't need to put the Bible beside salamanders, tulip poplars and 'Rocky Top' in the Tennessee Blue Book to appreciate its importance to our state."
The reference to fiscal irresponsibility is interesting, and brings me to the case made by The Frisky's Robyn Pennacchia, who wrote after the state House passage on Wednesday:
The Senate will vote on it today, and then it will go to the governor, and then if it’s passed people will sue and if it’s not we’ll have to hear about how Christians are oppressed even in the Bible Belt. I will probably have to write another goddamned blog post about it.

As much as I want to make this about the separation of church and state–and it most definitely is, even the TN state attorney general agrees with me there–there are a few things about this vote that actually bothered me more. In particular, this line from the New York Times article on the subject [actually an AP report -- Ed.].
While supporters acknowledged the likelihood of a lawsuit if the bill becomes law, some said it would be worth the expense.
Really? With 17 percent of your population living below the poverty line, this is what you think is fine to spend money on, Tennessee? Seriously? You’re one of the ten poorest states in the country, and you’re going to spend your people’s tax money on some stupid and purely symbolic gesture that people in your state will most likely only be reminded of during pub trivia?

To boot, not to be petty, but Tennessee is like, number 11 in terms of taker states. They take in far more federal tax dollars than they put out. We’re giving them money, and they are cool with spending theirs on–I don’t know, trying to make Jewish people feel unwelcome or something? You know, given how much Republican lawmakers go on and on about their fears that poor people are secretly purchasing filet mignon with their $29 a week food stamp budget, you’d think they’d oppose measures like this which barely serve any purpose other than to court lawsuits.

That’s not entirely true though. I’m going to say a pretty large part of it is also bread and circuses. These people are basically just distracting the poor white Christians in their state by going “Look at how special we think you are! You just go and ignore the fact that we have the sixth highest unemployment rate in the country, OK? Just think about how nice you’d feel if the government gave a ringing endorsement of your personal choice of religion, and about how all the mean atheists want to take that away from you! They don’t want you to be special! Look here, don’t look there!”

Notice that the other two states who have tried to advance such measures–and failed–were Mississippi and Louisiana. Both of which, I’m sorry, have a lot more important things to attend to than trying to test the boundaries of the separation of church and state with a vote on what the state book is going to be. You know, there is that saying about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Mercifully, the Tennessee Senate similarly put a stop to the madness, at least for this year. But that doesn't mean this phony-baloney issue is going to go away, and everything Robyn says here is assuredly to the point. Let's hope she doesn't have to keep saying it.

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As the hustling Hucksterbee makes more candidate-like noises, we ponder: What makes Minister Mike run?


"Everywhere I go," says Minister Mike, "people tell me they hope I run." Like this guy? Has the Hucksterbee perhaps been spending too much time on the "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" circuit?

by Ken

Yesterday former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced that he will announce his decision whether to run for president in 2016 on May 5. Already, though, our radio fanatic Jack, who keeps us up to date on doings at the intersection between radio and politics, was passing along word that Minister Mike, now a perennial GOP presidential wannabe, was making noises like a 2016 GOP presidential wannabe.

First there was this Inside Radio report:
Huckabee Ends Radio Commentaries

Posted: Thursday, April 16, 2015

As he considers a potential presidential run, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will end his daily radio commentaries, effective May 1. “The Huckabee Report,” which currently airs on more than 500 stations, will be available in podcast form to subscribers.

The three-times-daily commentaries were picked up by WYM Media Management in January, after Huckabee ended a six-year relationship with Westwood One. Syndicated talker and Fox News Channel contributor Mike Gallagher will replace Huckabee, starting May 4. Huckabee earlier announced he’s leaving Fox News Channel, ending his six year-old television show.

Huckabee said Wednesday morning that his daily commentaries would no longer be broadcast and hinted he was getting closer to deciding whether to make a second run for the White House. "I've had biting and tough commentary about some of the more absurd ways in which Washington defied common sense and busted our family budgets as well as in which their naive and so called smart diplomacy caused us to lose our friends' trust and gain nothing but the ridicule of our enemies," Huckabee said. “But, as I move closer to the decision to do more than talk about these concerns and do something about them, I will bring the broadcast version to a close.”

Huckabee will distribute his commentaries online as part Huckabee Exclusive, a subscription-based portal that offers daily podcasts, weekly videos and a news summary of the big stories of the week with Huckabee’s take on them.
Then there was this perspective from radio maven Tom Taylor:
Sounding like a 2016 candidate, Mike Huckabee launches a subscription site and drops his daily radio commentary

Radio’s been pretty good to the former Arkansas governor, ever since a local station helped him through college as he worked as a DJ. Nearly a year and a half ago, he ended his three-hour daily talk show with Cumulus, but kept up his thrice-daily commentaries through WYM Media and WYD Media Ad Sales (December 17 NOW). The latest from Arkansas Online is that Huckabee’s leaving the short-form business at the end of this month, and that WYM will replace him with Mike Gallagher’s “Gallagher Online,” starting May 4. Huckabee says “Everywhere I go, people tell me they hope I run [for president], but they miss the television show and would miss my being on radio, if my candidacy caused it to cease as well.” He says “that’s why I have launched the Huckabee Exclusive,” costing $7.95 a month or about $60 a year. That keeps him from running afoul of the FCC’s equal time rule for broadcasting – and gives him a new revenue stream. He reportedly felt that his 2008 Presidential run was hampered by a lack of funds. Meanwhile, Huckabee’s about to be a radio station owner. The March 16 NOW had the story about Huckabee buying stations through the new Bluff City Radio group, in which Mike’s a minority partner. Bluff City’s buying AC “K-Train” KTRN (104.5) in Pine Bluff, plus construction permits for three new FMs.
At the mention of that $7.95-a-month "Hucksterbee Exclusive," Jack asks: "What kind of nuts are going to pay for that?"

A fair question, but I take it back a step and ask, what kind of nuts think the Hucksterbee has a shot at the 2016 GOP presidential nomination? Or, for that matter, most of the other GOP nutters making candidate-like noises for 2016 -- in the grand tradition of the Band of Nutters who comprised the never-to-be-forgotten (however-hard-we-may-try) 2012 GOP presidential field?

It puts me in mind of this recent Borowitz Report:

LOUISVILLE (The Borowitz Report)—With an official announcement on his campaign Web site, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) has joined a crowded field of people who will never be elected President in their lifetimes.

While Paul and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are the only officially announced Republican candidates with a zero-per-cent chance of ever winning the Presidency, a burgeoning roster of totally pointless candidacies is waiting in the wings.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and neurosurgeon Ben Carson are just a few of the men thought to be considering squandering time and money pursuing an office that they will never occupy in a billion years.

On the Democratic side, only former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has stepped forward as someone who could only be elected to the White House in an alternate universe.

Minutes after his announcement, aides to Senator Paul said that they believed that he would emerge as the top choice of voters who are determined to waste their votes in 2016.

“There’s no one out there who has a more remote chance of being elected, unless Trump decides to run,” one aide said.
Well, I'm here to say that Minister Mike has every bit as remote a chance as the Rand Man. No, I'm going to say remoter. And he's someone who might at some point be talked to by other, less remotely chanced GOP candidates, since the Rand Man with his crypto-libertarian views has access to a slice of the GOP voter base that the other candidates don't. At this point does anyone really believe that Minister Mike can bring any significant amount of support from his supposed evangelical base to the dance?

But I guess for all these nutters who crawl out of the woodwork to preen as GOP presidential wannabes -- yes, even for The Donald -- there's the upside of a kind of national attention they can't get any other way, which might at some point lead to other opportunities, without any real downside, unless you count the possibility of making a disastrous fool of your candidatorial self. But then, how big a price did one of 2012's most celebrated GOP candidate fails, then Texas Gov. Rick Perry, suffer? After all, is he not pretending to be a serious 2016 candidate, and are there not media hucksters on call to explain to us why it could really happen?

Meanwhile, all those commentating gigs Minister Mike is having to separate himself from in anticipation of another run, would he have had those if he hadn't invented himself as a presidential couldbe? So maybe it's not so much politics per se as politics-as-bizniz?

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James Surowiecki wonders about the failure to rein in out-of-control CEO pay, and reaches a conclusion that may surprise you


"[T]he failure of say-on-pay suggests that shareholders and boards genuinely believe that outsized C.E.O. remuneration holds the key to corporate success."
-- James Surowiecki, in "Why C.E.O. Pay Reform Failed"

by Ken

Remember, not so long ago, when the issue of outlandish, and ever outlandisher, executive pay was a burning issue, or at least an issue, in the land? What ever happened to all that outrage? In his latest New Yorker "Financial Page" column (April 20), James Surowiecki looks at the question Why C.E.O. Pay Reform Failed."

Our James begins by pointing out that now, in the heart of corporate shareholder meeting season,
American companies will engage in a quaint ritual: the shareholder meeting. Investors will have a chance to vent about performance and to offer resolutions on corporate policy. Many will also get to do something relatively novel: cast an advisory vote on the pay packages of C.E.O.s and other top executives. This power, known as “say-on-pay,” became law in 2010, as part of the Dodd-Frank bill. In the wake of the financial crisis, which amplified anger about exorbitant C.E.O. salaries, reformers looking for ways to rein in the practice seized on say-on-pay, which the United Kingdom adopted in 2002. The hope was that the practice would, as Barack Obama once put it, help in “restoring common sense to executive pay.”
"Say-on-pay," James notes, "is the latest in a series of reforms that, in the past couple of decades, have tried to change the mores of the executive suite.
For most of the twentieth century, directors were paid largely in cash. Now, so that their interests will be aligned with those of shareholders, much of their pay is in stock. Boards of directors were once populated by corporate insiders, family members, and cronies of the C.E.O. Today, boards have many more independent directors, and C.E.O.s typically have less influence over how boards run. And S.E.C. reforms since the early nineteen-nineties have forced companies to be transparent about executive compensation.

These reforms were all well-intentioned. But their effect on the general level of C.E.O. salaries has been approximately zero. Executive compensation dipped during the financial crisis, but it has risen briskly since, and is now higher than it’s ever been. Median C.E.O. pay among companies in the S. & P. 500 was $10.5 million in 2013; total compensation is up more than seven hundred per cent since the late seventies. There’s little doubt that the data for 2014, once compiled, will show that C.E.O. compensation has risen yet again. And shareholders, it turns out, rather than balking at big pay packages, approve most of them by margins that would satisfy your average tinpot dictator. Last year, all but two per cent of compensation packages got majority approval, and seventy-four per cent of them received more than ninety per cent approval.


"Simply put," James says, "they targeted the wrong things."
People are justifiably indignant about cronyism and corruption in the executive suite, but these aren’t the main reasons that C.E.O. pay has soared. If they were, leaving salary decisions up to independent directors or shareholders would have made a greater difference. As it is, studies find that when companies hire outside C.E.O.s—people who have no relationship with the board—they get paid more than inside hires and more than their predecessors, too. Four years of say-on-pay have shown us that ordinary shareholders are pretty much as generous as boards are. And even companies with a single controlling shareholder, who ought to be able to dictate terms, don’t seem to pay their C.E.O.s any less than other companies.
Are you getting this? The people directly affected by crazy CEO salaries, surprisingly independent corporate boards and of course the shareholders themselves, are A-OK with the salaries they're shelling out to supposedly star CEOs. Why? Because, says James, "Just about everyone involved now assumes that talent is rarer than ever, and that only outsize rewards can lure suitable candidates and insure stellar performance." And it doesn't seem to matter that "evidence for these propositions is sketchy at best."

James turns to Southwestern Law School corporate-law professor Michael Dorff, author of the new book Indispensable and Other Myths.
Dorff told me that, with large, established companies, “it’s very hard to show that picking one well-qualified C.E.O. over another has a major impact on corporate performance.” Indeed, a major study by the economists Xavier Gabaix and Augustin Landier, who happen to believe that current compensation levels are economically efficient, found that if the company with the two-hundred-and-fiftieth-most-talented C.E.O. suddenly managed to hire the most talented C.E.O. its value would increase by a mere 0.016 per cent.


Professor Dorff tosses another disclaimer into the issue of rightful CEO compensation: "that performance pay is overrated."
For a start, it’s often tied to things that C.E.O.s have very limited control over, like stock price. Furthermore, as he put it, “performance pay works great for mechanical tasks like soldering a circuit but works poorly for tasks that are deeply analytic or creative.” After all, paying someone ten million dollars isn’t going to make that person more creative or smarter. One recent study, by Philippe Jacquart and J. Scott Armstrong, puts it bluntly: “Higher pay fails to promote better performance.”

"So," says James, "the situation is a strange one."
The evidence suggests that paying a C.E.O. less won’t dent the bottom line, and can even boost it. Yet the failure of say-on-pay suggests that shareholders and boards genuinely believe that outsized C.E.O. remuneration holds the key to corporate success.
Lurking here, James suggests, may be "the powerful mystique" of a smattering of "truly transformative C.E.O.s" like Apple's Steve Jobs. "But, more fundamentally," he says, "there’s little economic pressure to change: big as the amounts involved are, they tend to be dwarfed by today’s corporate profits." (The emphasis here is mine.)
Big companies now have such gargantuan market caps that a small increase in performance is worth billions. So whether or not the people who sit on compensation committees can accurately predict C.E.O. performance—Dorff argues that they can’t—they’re happy to spend an extra five or ten million dollars in order to get the person they want. That means C.E.O. pay is likely to keep going in only one direction: up.
Call it Christmas in April.

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2016 Congressional Races-- The State Of Play


A new Cook rating of House seats portends another DCCC failure coming up in 2016 despite the best possible climate for Democratic candidates for House seats. Cook calls 211 seats "solid Republican" while only 169 seats are solidly Democratic. Caveat, Cook is a generally poor source for accurate, timely information. Example: Cook calls CA-25 "solid Republican" despite its being represented by an extremist freshman, Steve Knight, and despite the fact that as of this year CA-25 has, for the first time, a Democratic Party voter edge. Cook also awards Ileana Ros Lehtinen a solid Republican seat (FL-27) despite Obama's 53-47% win over Romney in the demographically shfting district. Cook's analysis mislabels numerous districts from Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Virginia to New York and New Jersey.

Cook lists 19 Democratic seats and 36 Republican-held seats as the most likely to flip. Here's the list of vulnerable Democratic seats:
NE-02- Brad Ashford (Blue Dog)
FL-18 [Patrick Murphy, not running]
AZ-01- Ann Kirkpatrick (New Dem)
CA-07- Ami Bera (New Dem)
CA-52- Scott Peters (New Dem)
FL-02- Gwen Graham (Blue Dog)
MN-08- Rick Nolan
AZ-09- Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog)
CA-16- Jim Costa (Blue Dog)
CA-24 [Lois Capps, not running]
CA-26 Julia Brownley
CA-36- Raul Ruiz
CT-05- Elizabeth Esty (New Dem)
IA-02- Dave Loebsack
MD-06- John Delaney (New Dem)
MN-07- Collin Peterson (Blue Dog)
NY-04- Kathleen Rice (New Dem)
NY-18- Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem)
NY-25- Louise Slaughter
Please note that of the 19 vulnerable Democratic seats, only 3 are held by Democrats who reliably vote for progressive ideas and values: Louise Slaughter, Dave Loebsack and Rick Nolan. The rest are a rancid collection of ConservaDems, almost all of whom have joined the Blue Dogs and/or the New Dems. All of them will be hysterical as November 2016 approaches and Democratic voters sniff their putrid records and opt not to vote in their races. These 16 are the "Boehner boys" who are always giving the GOP license to call their reactionary agenda "bipartisan." Many of the 16 will be high up on the DCCC's priority list. Contribute to the DCCC and you are contributing to the reelection campaigns of fake Dems who virtually always vote with the GOP when it matters, like Sean Patrick Maloney, Jim Costa, Kyrsten Sinema, Gwen Graham, Brad Ashford, Scott Peters...

If you want to contribute to progressives running for Congress, forget the DCCC. You can contribute on this Blue America page instead.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

An eighth-grader can't wear an incendiary T-shirt like this in a class photo, can she?


Apparently she can't in Owensville, Ohio, where her school principal ordered the T-shirt Photoshopped out. (Sophie, the student in question, supplied this photo of herself holding the T-shirt to the website Women You Should Know.)

by Ken

Just this afternoon in my previous post I was reduced to spluttering in the face of the continued misunderstanding emanating from the Vatican, which doesn't quite get that female people are people just like male people are. Of course the Vatican isn't alone. The Vatican motto enshrined by Pope John Paul II and Pope Cardinal Ratguts, and apparently now tolerated by Pope Francis, is "Them Bitches Be Hos." They're okay to cook and clean, and of course to bear children, for which purpose it's even okay to have s*x with them. But otherwise, they're just accessories.

In case you were wondering why it matters that an organization as influential as the Catholic Church champions the mental deformity that produces this bullshit, we have a case in point this week coming out of Ohio. For once, thank goodness, it's not a case of rape or other violence perpetrated against a woman. But it's pretty appalling nonetheless, not least for being perpetrated by a school.

Since I was extremely un-confident about an embedded version of this clip loading, I'll suggest that you watch it onsite.

A picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words, but sometimes it's what's not in the picture that sends the words flying. As with the eighth-grade photo from Clermont Northeastern Middle School in Owensville, Ohio, in which the principal had a T-shirt with the word "FEMINIST" worn by a student in the front row Photoshopped out, apparently because it might cause controversy -- or even "upset" some people.

Here's Ian Millhiser reporting the story for ThinkProgress:
An eighth grade student at Clermont Northeastern Middle School in Batavia, Ohio wore a black T-shirt on class photo day which included the word “FEMINIST” written across the shirt in white letters. Yet, while the shirt does not violate any school rule and the student has worn it to classes before, the school chose to doctor her class photo to remove the word.

According to the site Women You Should Know, which identifies the student as “Sophie,” Sophie asked principal Kendra Young why the word “FEMINIST” was removed from her shirt in the class photo that was distributed to students, and was told that “the photographer called me and brought it to my attention and I made the decision to black it out because some people might find it offensive.”

Principal Young has reportedly apologized to Sophie for doctoring her shirt, and Young also offered to provide Sophie with an unaltered copy of the class picture. According to a local news report, however, the doctored photo is displayed within the school.

And here's a more detailed account provided by the student's mother, Christine, to the website Women You Should Know:
A couple of weeks ago Sophie wore a t-shirt to school that she had made that said “FEMINIST.” She wore the shirt all day without any issues. It also happened to be the day the 8th grade class pictures were taken.

On Monday, the pictures were handed out to the students and Sophie sees the photo and notices that the word FEMINIST had been blacked out on her shirt. Sophie went to the school principal, Mrs. Young, to find out why this happened. Mrs. Young said, “the photographer called me and brought it to my attention and I made the decision to black it out because some people might find it offensive.”

A friend of Sophie’s called me and I went to the school. Mrs. Young walked out and wouldn’t talk to me about what had happened. I have emailed her twice and she has yet to contact me at all.

Sophie was not violating dress code, she was not inappropriately dressed. Being a feminist is not a bad thing. She should be allowed to express herself.

She just wants everyone to be treated equally. That’s it. The end. She thinks everyone should be treated kindly and with love and that we should all have the same rights. Merriam Webster’s definition of feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal opportunities. Most people, especially in this area, seem to think feminism and misandry go hand and hand and that’s a common misconception. You can still love men and be a feminist. You can still be a homemaker and be a feminist. That’s where we are with this. We just want equality.

I am completely dumbfounded by the situation. I’m upset that the principal won’t speak to me or return my emails regarding the situation. I would think she would want our involvement. I’m just shocked by how the entire thing is being handled.
Wednesday afternoon, the same blogpost reports Christine provided this update:
I actually had a meeting with Mrs. Young (the one who blacked out the shirt) today. She apologized to me profusely, of course, after the local news station called her this morning! She asked me if we were good? I told her she needed to apologize to Sophie and ask her that question. She seemed dumbfounded by that. So she called Sophie down to the office. She apologized to Sophie and asked “What do you want from this?” Sophie replied, “I want everyone to realize that we NEED feminism. I want you to have someone come into the school and educate everyone about feminism. I want us to go to the news station together and show the people that we are working together the make this school and our community and better place for everyone. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.” I was so proud of her. She never once said I want a public apology or anything like that. She just wants to give to others. She is such a great kid.
Surely of all people a school principal, charged with educating the students under her oversight, should understand that if there are people who are violently upset by the mere word "feminism," then the one person whose problem it isn't is the student wearing the T-shirt. It's certainly the problem of any such people who would have made a stink about it, but the solution is for them to get over it -- or go the hell back where they came from, which can't possibly be the U.S.A. And I guess it's a problem for the school and for society insofar as we allow censorship merely to coddle their diseased sensibilities and deformed understanding of how our country is designed to work.

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The Vatican calls an early end to -- but doesn't abandon -- the old regime's inquisition into American nuns


NYT caption: "Pope Francis met with a delegation from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious at the Vatican on Thursday. Pool photo by L'Osservatore Romano"

"Women are not capable, in the Vatican's mind, of governing others or even themselves. Is it any wonder so many nuns have left the orders or avoided joining them? Who wants to be bullied?"
-- Garry Wills, writing in NYRB in 2012

by Ken

As of now, it looks as if you can choose your spin on the Vatican's sudden wrapping up, two years ahead of schedule, of its inquisition into the bad behavior of American nuns, which most rational observers was the only organized part of the Catholic Church that could be seen pursuing Jesus's mission under the increasingly medieval papacies of Pope Francis's predecessors, the monstrous John Paul II and the even more monstrous Pope Cardinal Ratguts.

It seems clear that the present pope wanted the matter put to rest, and it's perfectly plausible that if the inquisition, pushed elements of the unspeakably vile scum that had accumulated power under the authority of John Paul II and Ratguts, had proceeded to term under the regime of a pope in the same mold -- some of whom, like the unspeakable Cardinal Raymond Burke, have in fact been purged by Pope Francis -- the results would have been worse, that those people would have known how to really put those uppity bitches in their place.

As it is, however, it looks to me as if the reactionaries have gotten an awful lot of what they were crusading for, and the uppity bitches have indeed been put in their place.


Laurie Goodstein's report, headlined "Vatican Ends Battle With U.S. Catholic Nuns' Group," sees sweetness and light emanating from Pope Francis's happy-days Vatican.
The Vatican has abruptly ended its takeover of the main leadership group of American nuns two years earlier than expected, allowing Pope Francis to put to rest a confrontation started by his predecessor that created an uproar among American Catholics who had rallied to the sisters’ defense.

Anticipating a visit by Francis to the United States in the fall, the Vatican and the American bishops were eager to resolve an episode that was seen by many Catholics as a vexing and unjust inquisition of the sisters who ran the church’s schools, hospitals and charities.

Under the previous pope, Benedict XVI, the Vatican’s doctrinal office had appointed three bishops in 2012 to overhaul the nuns’ group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, out of concerns that it had hosted speakers and published materials that strayed from Catholic doctrine on such matters as the all-male priesthood, birth control and sexuality, and the centrality of Jesus to the faith.

But Francis has shown in his two-year papacy that he is less interested in having the church police doctrinal boundaries than in demonstrating mercy and love for the poor and vulnerable — the very work that most of the women’s religious orders under investigation have long been engaged in.

Ending the standoff with the nuns is one of several course corrections that Francis has set in motion. He has also worked on reforming the Vatican Curia, the Vatican’s central administration, instituting tighter oversight of Vatican finances, and has created a commission to deal with sexual abuse by clergy members.

He has made no changes in doctrine — on Wednesday, he reiterated the church’s teaching that marriage can be only between a man and a woman — but Catholics worldwide say he has done much to make the church’s tone more welcoming.

On Thursday, that included calling an unexpected meeting with four of the leaders of the Leadership Conference. The four women were photographed in his office and said afterward in a statement that they were “deeply heartened” by Francis’ “expression of appreciation” for the lives and ministry of Catholic sisters.

“He met with them himself for almost an hour, and that’s an extravagant amount of papal time,” said Eileen Burke-Sullivan, a theologian and consultant for women’s religious orders and vice provost for mission and ministry at Creighton University, a Jesuit school in Omaha. “It’s about as close to an apology, I would think, as the Catholic Church is officially going to render.”

Francis has never talked explicitly in public about the imbroglio with American nuns. But he has spoken about creating “broader opportunities” for women in the church, and the value of nuns and priests in religious orders. He is a member of the Jesuit order.
A clear signal that the Vatican under Francis was taking a more conciliatory approach to American sisters came in December with the announcement of the conclusion of another, separate investigation of American women’s orders, which was known as an apostolic visitation. That process involved sending questionnaires to 350 religious communities and teams of “visitors” to 90 of them, asking about everything from their prayer practices to living arrangements.

Both of these investigations of American women’s religious orders began at the urging of American and some foreign prelates who accused the sisters of disobeying the bishops and departing from Catholic doctrine. It set off protests by Catholic laypeople across the country, who signed petitions and sent letters to the Vatican in defense of the sisters. . . .


Cathy Lynn Grossman's report, headlined "Pope Francis to keep Vatican reins tight on U.S. nuns," begins:
The honeymoon between progressive Catholics in the USA and Pope Francis -- cheered for his humble ways and dedication to the poor -- may have ended Monday when he "reaffirmed" last year's stinging rebuke of most U.S. nuns.

Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group of religious order leaders who represent 57,000 American nuns and sisters, were told Pope Francis supports the Vatican takeover of the LCWR initiated by Pope Benedict XVI last year.

A controversial report issued last spring by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) ripped into the sisters for allegedly spending more energy on social justice causes than on promoting church doctrine and for espousing "radical feminism."

In June, Archbishop James Peter Sartain, archbishop of Seattle, and two other bishops were assigned to revamp the group's structure and programming. Although the sisters called the original CDF report a "scandal" based on "misconceptions," their members voted in August to prayerfully participate in the Vatican-run governing structure while maintaining what they called "mission integrity."

Monday, the nuns' top leaders and Sartain met with Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, head of the CDF, in Rome. Muller told them that while the pope "expressed his gratitude" for their contributions to "schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor," Francis also "reaffirmed" the Vatican takeover.

Muller told the sisters their job is to promote "cooperation" with local bishops and bishops' conferences, according to Religion News Service.

After Monday's meeting, the LCWR issued a statement calling their conversation "open and frank." . . .


Because this is one of the eye-poppingest smackdowns of the Ratguts regime. I wrote a couple of posts about it in May 2012 (most recently this one), heavily under the influence of a remarkable New York Review of Books blogpost by Garry Wills, later published in the NYRB of June 7, 2012, "Bullying the Nuns," which I had reposted here, in which, as I wrote, Wills "stood up for American nuns under attack by the Vatican (its dirty work done by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' designated pit bull, Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain)."

The Wills piece, I recalled, began:
The Vatican has issued a harsh statement claiming that American nuns do not follow their bishops' thinking. That statement is profoundly true. Thank God, they don't. Nuns have always had a different set of priorities from that of bishops. The bishops are interested in power. The nuns are interested in the powerless. Nuns have preserved Gospel values while bishops have been perverting them. The priests drive their own new cars, while nuns ride the bus (always in pairs). The priests specialize in arrogance, the nuns in humility.
As I wrote, "I reread the piece when I plucked the [June 7 NYRB] out of the mailbox, and it seems to me if anything more remarkable than it did orignally, and as always with Garry Wills, it defies -- no, positively mocks at -- the impulse to compress. It includes, among many other things, a stunning tribute to his seventh-grade teacher -- 'Sister John Joseph when I met her, but she recovered her real name after the [Second Vatican] Council, and as Anne O’Connor congratulated me on anything I wrote,' having 'kept in touch with me for all the years until her death in 1996."

If, as it appears, the Vatican has knuckled under to the troglodytes, and returned to the John Paul II-Ratguts attitude toward women, "Them Bitches Be Hos," it might help them begin to develop a glimmering of the appropriate sense of shame to reread Wills's tribute to his old teacher.
Anne O'Connor was just the kind of nun the Vatican is now intent on punishing. She had been a social worker before she became a nun, work that she loved and went back to several times as a Dominican. She was quick to shed the old habit (which was designed to disguise the fact that there was a woman somewhere in that voluminous disguising of hair, breasts, and hips), and quick to take back her own name. After she took on several high offices in her order, she became the mother provincial of the California branch of the Dominican order during the 1960s, coping with the changes of that volatile era on her college campuses.

Now the Vatican says that nuns are too interested in "the social Gospel" (which is the Gospel), when they should be more interested in Gospel teachings about abortion and contraception (which do not exist). Nuns were quick to respond to the AIDS crisis, and to the spiritual needs of gay people-- which earned them an earlier rebuke from Rome. They were active in the civil rights movement. They ran soup kitchens.
"This," I wrote, "is vintage Garry Wills, reminding us seemingly offhandedly that what the bishops are denouncing as 'the social Gospel' is in fact the Gospel, whereas the things that now obsess the Church fathers and their bully-bishops, like abortion and contraception, have never had any place in the actual Gospel." Small wonder, then, that the Vatican, as Wills wrote --
stripped the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, representing most American nuns, of its powers of self-government, maintaining that its members have made statements that "disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals." Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle has taken control of the Conference, writing new laws for it, supplanting its leadership, and banning "political" activity (which is what Rome calls social work). Women are not capable, in the Vatican's mind, of governing others or even themselves. Is it any wonder so many nuns have left the orders or avoided joining them? Who wants to be bullied?
I hope American Catholics, and American Catholic women in particular, are paying close attention.

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Fast Track Introduced into Senate & House; Wyden Proud of His Role


More true than you know; China wins big if TPP passes (source)

by Gaius Publius

What we anticipated has occurred. Fast Track, the necessary precursor to the TPP (next-NAFTA) "trade" agreement, has been introduced into the Senate and the House. They're calling it the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan bill, and well they should. ("Ryan" is Paul Ryan, by the way.)

Bottom lines first:
  • Wyden should lose his job over this, and may.
  • All of Obama's "good guy" cred is falling fast. Anyone who "gets" TPP knows he's cashing out or selling out. (Polite talk is that he believes his own BS.)
  • The battle is on, starting in the Senate.
  • The bill will have a very tough time in the House, thanks to progressives and Republicans both working to defeat it.
Scan the headings below for sections you want to explore further. This is still being analyzed.

The News

From the House announcement page (Paul Ryan "speaking"):
Hatch, Wyden and Ryan Introduce Trade Promotion Authority Legislation

Finance, Ways and Means Leaders Deliver Bill Needed to Achieve High-Quality Trade Deals that Open Markets, Benefit American Workers and Job Creators

WASHINGTON — Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) today introduced bipartisan, bicameral Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation that establishes concrete rules for international trade negotiations to help the United States deliver strong, high-standard trade agreements that will boost American exports and create new economic opportunities and better jobs for American workers, manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs.

The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015) outlines 21st century congressional negotiating objectives that any administration— Republican or Democratic—must follow when entering into and conducting trade talks with foreign countries while also increasing transparency by requiring that Congress have access to important information surrounding pending trade deals and that the public receive detailed updates and see the full details of trade agreements well before they are signed. When the trade agreement meets the United States’ objectives and Congress is sufficiently consulted, the legislation allows for trade deals to be submitted to Congress for an up-or-down vote, an incentive for negotiating nations to put their best offer forward for any deal. At the same time, the bill creates a new mechanism to withdraw TPA procedures and hold the administration accountable should it fail to meet the requirements of TPA. ...

TPA-2015 creates a stronger, more effective framework for Congress to partner with an administration in the pursuit of trade agreements that meets the demands of the 21st century global economy—a framework that ensures Congress has a strong voice in negotiations.

The bill establishes new trade-negotiating objectives that reflect today’s economic challenges, including measures to combat currency manipulation, and eliminate barriers to innovation and digital trade, among others. Updated provisions address government involvement in cyber theft, protect trade secrets and the negotiating objectives continue to call for trade agreements to provide a high standard of intellectual property protection. The bill also updates [unenforceable] provisions to promote human rights, and strengthen labor and environment protection, to reflect America’s most recent trade accords.

Furthermore, TPA-2015 modifies TPA procedures to enhance accountability of the Executive Branch and further strengthen congressional oversight and creates a new mechanism for the removal of expedited procedures for a trade agreement if, in the judgment of either the House or Senate, that agreement does not meet the requirements of TPA.

The TPA bill comes as the two of the most ambitious trade negotiations in the nation’s history —the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP)—are underway to further tear down trade barriers to American goods and services. According to data from the World Bank, together these two trade agreements would further open markets encompassing nearly 1.3 billion customers and approximately 60 percent of global gross domestic product.

TPA expired in 2007 and is needed for the United States to successfully conclude these negotiations.

A summary the bill can be found here, section-by-section summary of bill here and a copy of the bill text can be found here.
Hope you skimmed, though there's some telling stuff in it. Now you know.

The Response

Lori Wallach, the go-to person on TPP, responds:
The trade authority bill introduced today would revive the controversial Fast Track procedures to which nearly all U.S. House of Representatives Democrats and a sizable bloc of House Republicans already have announced opposition. Most of the text of this bill replicates word-for-word the text of the 2014 Fast Track bill, which itself replicated much of the 2002 Fast Track bill. Public Citizen calls on Congress to again oppose the outdated, anti-democratic Fast Track authority as a first step to replacing decades of “trade” policy that has led to the loss of millions of middle-class jobs and the rollback of critical public interest safeguards.

In the past 21 years, Fast Track authority has been authorized only once by Congress – from 2002 to 2007. In 1998, the U.S. House of Representatives voted down Fast Track for President Bill Clinton, with 71 GOP members joining 171 House Democrats. ...

Instead of establishing a new “exit ramp [from Fast Track rules],” the bill literally replicates the same impossible conditions from past Fast Track bills that make the “procedural disapproval” mechanism to remove an agreement from Fast Track unusable. A resolution to do so [exit Fast Track] must be approved by both the Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means committees and then be passed by both chambers within 60 days.
What about Wyden's bragged-about modifications?
The bill’s only new feature in this respect is a new “consultation and compliance” procedure that would only be usable after an agreement was already signed and entered into, at which point changes to the pact could be made only if all other negotiating parties agreed to reopen negotiations and then agreed to the changes (likely after extracting further concessions from the United States). That process would require approval by 60 Senators to take a pact off of Fast Track consideration, even though a simple majority “no” vote in the Senate would have the same effect on an agreement. In contrast, the 1988 Fast Track empowered either the House Ways and Means or the Senate Finance committees to vote by simple majority to remove a pact from Fast Track consideration, with no additional floor votes required. And, such a disapproval action was authorized before a president could sign and enter into a trade agreement.
And what about that Wyden bragging?

Wyden Brags About His Role

In a letter to supporters, Wyden proudly wrote:
This new TPA framework means that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will represent a real opportunity for workers in Oregon and around the country.
This may, or will, come back to bite him. Oregon has a struggling wood-products industry. And:
To that end, I helped secure critical [unenforceable] protections for labor rights, the environment, and fundamental human rights as part of the TPA .... On balance this agreement represents trade done right for workers and businesses here in Oregon and all across America.
Keep that in mind, Mr. Wyden. If it bites you, it came from your words. The list of those noticing is not small.

What Are the Odds of Passage?

They seem "long." Wallach:
Today’s bill faces long odds for approval. Members of Congress who supported past trade initiatives have been angered by the extreme secrecy of TPP negotiations and the administration’s refusal to include currency disciplines in the pact.
I was part of a conversation recently that included several members of Congress on this topic. The Democratic opposition is strong and strongly felt. And the Republican opposition seems to be growing. Alan Grayson, in an interview conducted in January and broadcast in February, concurred (jump to 41:20 for the TPP comments).

I count the odds as long as well, but this issue is big for both sides, meaning there are major dollars at stake. Assume circumstances could change much as we move forward.

Mark Pocan — One of Many Opposed

Mark Pocan is one of many who opposed Fast Track. His office release the following (my emphasis):
Pocan Opposes Fast-Track Trade Promotion Authority Plan

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) today issued the following statement on the Trade Promotion Authority proposal introduced by U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI):

“This Trade Promotion Authority Bill repeats the trade mistakes of the past and fails to provide critical protections for American workers, the environment, and our overall economy.

“The Hatch-Wyden proposal puts the paychecks of hardworking Americans on the line. Over the last three decades, in large part because of bad trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA, Americans have worked harder than ever for less. In fact, hundreds of thousands of jobs – factory jobs, middle-class jobs – in states across the country were lost. Anyone who does not see the connection between our economy and the failed trade agreements of the past will remain on the wrong side of the future. We cannot let history repeat itself by pushing a Trade Promotion Authority bill which paves the road for an agreement which undermines American sovereignty and puts our workers’ wages and jobs at risk.

“If passed, Fast-Track would ram through trade agreements, negotiated in secret, through Congress without giving Members of Congress sufficient time to debate and limits Congress’ ability to make amendments. Essentially, this Fast-Track proposal provides carte blanche to the President and the U.S. Trade Representative on trade matters, while tying Congress’ hands.

“With still too many questions left unanswered and a history of broken trade promises, Congress should not give away its constitutional authority to the President – regardless of party. I urge my colleagues to oppose this trade promotion legislation because it does not do enough to protect American workers, our environment, and our economy.”
Pocan is one of many. Note that "regardless of party" part. The resistance is bipartisan, and the reasons on the Republican side are many. Please lobby your Congress people; then be hopeful. More coming.


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Wisconsin Is In Play-- But No One Has Told The DCCC


Republicans are afraid that unless their nominee wins a couple of blue states, they're doomed to another painful Electoral College defeat. New Jersey voters have made it clear that there's no way their governor, Chris Christie, will get their votes. Most New Jersey voters say he's unfit to be president. Christie says even if he loses New Jersey's 14 electoral votes, he can still pick up New Hampshire (4 votes) and Pennsylvania (20 votes). Pennsylvania shares a lot of media coverage with much of New Jersey and Christie says that's why he will win the state. Except the New Jersey consumers of that media-- or nearly 70% of them-- say he shouldn't be president. The last time Pennsylvania gave its 20 electoral votes to a Republican was 7 elections ago-- 1988-- despite floods of baseless Republican optimism every four years.

It's been even longer since Wisconsin awarded its electoral votes (10) to a Republican. The last time was Reagan's 49-state 1988 reelection sweep. But Governor Scott Walker, Republicans crow, will change that. A new poll from Marquette Law School indicates that Walker would be far from a shoo-in. In fact, if the election were held today, Hillary Clinton would beat him 52-40%. Walker's job approval rating has slipped from 49% in October 2014 to 41% now. It appears that 2016 is not going to be a good year for Wisconsin Republicans. Russ Feingold is leading right-wing nut Rom Johnson 54-38%. Feingold's favorability rating is 47% and Johnson's is 32% and, by way of comparison, the other incumbent, Tammy Baldwin, has a 36% favorable rating.
Voters’ views of the direction of the state have taken a downturn since October. Fifty-three percent say that the state is now on the wrong track while 43 percent say the state is headed in the right direction. In October, 51 percent of registered voters said the state was headed in the right direction while 44 percent said it was on the wrong track.

Voters also see the state’s employment situation as turning down compared to other states, with 52 percent saying that Wisconsin is lagging behind other states in job creation, 34 percent saying that the state is doing about the same as other states and 8 percent saying that the state is creating jobs faster than other states. In October, 42 percent said the state was lagging, 38 percent said about the same and 13 percent said Wisconsin was creating jobs faster.

Opinion about the state’s budget situation has also turned more negative, with 38 percent saying the budget picture is worse than several years ago, 25 percent saying it is about the same and 33 percent saying it is better now. In October, 27 percent said the budget was worse, 23 percent about the same and 44 percent saying it was better than a few years ago.

Voters are opposed to a number of cuts proposed by the Walker budget. Seventy-eight percent oppose cutting $127 million from the K-12 public school budget, while 18 percent support the proposal. Seventy percent oppose cutting $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System budget; 26 percent support this.

Sixty percent oppose making the Natural Resources Board an advisory-only board, while 30 percent support that change.

...Voters were asked their view of the recently passed “right to work” legislation, with a question that provided two arguments frequently made by supporters of the legislation and two arguments frequently made by opponents. The order of supporting and opposing arguments was randomized, so that about half of respondents heard the supporting arguments first and about half heard the opposing arguments first. The question text was:

Recently the state adopted a “right to work” law that says workers in private companies cannot be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Supporters say the law will increase workers’ options to work where they wish and make Wisconsin more attractive for business. Opponents say the law will weaken unions and drive down pay scales for everyone. Do you support or oppose this new law?

Forty-four percent say they support the law while 50 percent say they oppose it, with 5 percent saying they don’t know.

Thirty-four percent of registered voters say that they would like to see Walker run for president while 62 percent would not like him to run. In October 2014, 26 percent wanted him to run and 68 percent did not.  Among those who consider themselves either Republicans or independents leaning toward the Republican Party, 66 percent support a Walker presidential bid, with 29 percent opposed; in October 2014 just 44 percent favored a run with 48 percent opposed.

Asked whether any governor can run for president and still handle his or her duties as governor, 67 percent think that a governor cannot, with 29 percent saying that a governor can do both. Among Republicans and independents who lean Republican, 48 percent think a governor can do both and 48 percent say a governor cannot.

Clinton leads five potential Republican opponents in hypothetical 2016 matchups among registered voters. Clinton leads Paul 49-41, leads Bush 49-38, leads Walker 52-40, leads Rubio 50-38 and leads Cruz 52-36.
The DNC is looking for a big Hillary Clinton win in 2016 and the DSCC is looking for a big Feingold win. The DCCC? Crickets. Wisconsin has two overwhelmingly blue districts-- Pocan's WI-02 (Madison, D-17) and Moore's WI-04 (Milwaukee, D+23)-- one Republican district that partisan-- Sensenbrenner's WI-04 (R+13). And then there are 5 more swingy districts, Paul Ryan's (R+3), Ron Kind's (D+5), Glenn Grothman's (R+5), Sean Duffy's (R+2) and Reid Ribble's (R+2). Is the DCCC going to take advantage of Hillary and Feingold at the top of the ticket to take back a  couple of House seats? Not a chance! They've recruited no Wisconsin candidates and offered no support to any would-be candidates. Neither Steve Israel nor his puppet Ben Ray Luján has the slightest interest in or understanding of Wisconsin. Expect... nothing from the DCCC.

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