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Memorial Day Thoughts

Photo by Paul Deaton

Photo by Paul Deaton

We rightly turn our thoughts and our thanks to those who fought and the many who died in America’s wars. Sadly, we often find out long after a conflict is over that the reason we went to war in the first place was somewhat flimsy at best.

When we ask our often times young men and women to potentially die for their country there should be two very bottom line criteria:   1) that we have exhausted all other means to achieve our goals; and
2) that those who survive will be taken care of properly.

America is once again discussing the events that led us into invading Iraq. This is good. We need open and civil discussions on the march to war so that we do not make such mistakes again. As a nation, the subject of what led us into our various wars must always be open for discussion. With hindsight most of us agree that many of the recent wars have been unnecessary. Vietnam, the Gulf War, the invasion of Iraq should be studied thoroughly to avoid making such mistakes again.

The lives of our soldiers are precious. If we ask them to potentially die, there must be good reason and only after all other channels have been used.

Our soldiers are members of families, sons or daughters, fathers and mothers. Let us resolve to ask for their sacrifice only when necessary.

For those who beat the drum for a war with Iran, will you sacrifice your father or mother? Your sister or brother? Your son or daughter? Yourself? Or would you prefer peaceful settlement be worked on before one of your family members is sent to war?

As we get set to elect new leaders, this is one question that every candidate should answer.

Have a peaceful holiday.

Sunday Funday – Indy 500 Edition

rushing home to do the quiz

rushing home to do the quiz

The Indy 500 may be the ultimate analogy for America these days. A bunch of guys driving round and round in a circle getting no place to see who can do it the fastest. All while a quarter of a million fans watch enraptured. Somewhat like a day in Washington, DC.

Were you paying attention last week? Lots of stuff happened.

1) Once again President Obama hit a nerve with an executive order this week. Obama issued an EO regulating what surplus items?

2) There are now 20 countries in the world that have legalized gay marriage. What is the most recent one?

3) She would like this all behind her as quickly as possible. Who is leading the call to have her emails released?

4) California has had what new disaster to deal with this past week?

5) Waco, Texas was the site of a major riot last weekend. Who were the participants?

6) Takata is a behind the scenes supplier of auto parts that we seldom hear of. They have been much in the news lately, however. Why?

7) Iowa is joining all 50 states in a lawsuit against phony charities that have been scamming donors in what particular area of charity?

8) Loretta Lynch starts big. On Wednesday, 5 of the world’s largest banks were fined for crimes concerning what financial chicanery?

9) What young Cuban man, who was briefly in the United Staes 16 years ago, has expressed interest in returning for a visit?

10) What city voted to raise the minimum wage in that city to $15/hour by 2020?

11) Fox News(?) announced they will use what method to cull the herd of presidential candidates for the debates they sponsor?

12) As many as 5000 people participated in demonstrations outside what company’s Oak Brook, Illinois HQ calling for a $15/hour wage?

13) Speaking in Iowa, what Republican presidential candidate said he would authorize torture in interrogation?

14) In another brilliant move, the Iowa House passed a bill last week to legalize what?

15) May 25th, 1787 in Philadelphia marked the beginning of what historical gathering?

16) Got $725 million? Then you could buy America’s biggest ranch that was put up for sale in what US state this week?

17) What notable retired last week?

18) The scion of what large notorious family made headlines this week in relation to child molestation charges?

19) Late Friday night, did the US Senate pass or not pass fast track negotiating authority for the President?

20) The nation’s largest food retailer surprised many when it called on its suppliers to do what this week?

Have a safe and sane holiday.

1) military hardware

2) Ireland by popular vote Friday

3) Hillary Clinton

4) a major oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast

5) biker gangs

6) They are the major supplier of air safety bag systems for cars. There has been huge recalls on their systems.

7) cancer charities

8) manipulating the value of world currencies

9) Elion Gonzalez

10) Los Angeles

11) the top 10 from an average of the 5 most recent opinion polls

12) McDonald’s

13) Rick Perry (surprised it wasn’t Jeb?)

14) fireworks

15) the Constitutional Convention

16) Texas of course

17) David Letterman

18) the Duggars

19) it passed (boo)

20) called on meat suppliers to use less antibiotics and allow more roaming area for their animals.

The cancer charities that were cited as a scam were: Cancer Fund of America, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services and The Breast Cancer Society (source: http://www.radioiowa.com/2015/05/19/iowa-part-of-national-lawsuit-against-phony-cancer-charities/)

Letter From NCEL Re: Fast Track Authority

Even though the boat may have sailed in the US senate, there still may be time to help stop it in the House. The following press release and letter were sent by the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators including Iowa State Representatives Charles Isenhart, Marti Anderson, John Forbes, Bruce Hunter, Jerry Kearns, Dan Kelly, Charles McConkey, Art Staed and State Senator William Dotzler.

National Caucus of Environmental Legislators

National Caucus of Environmental Legislators 218 D Street SE, 1st Fl., ­ Washington, DC 20003

CONTACT:
Representative Charles Isenhart:​ (563) 599­8839, charles.isenhart@legis.iowa.gov
Senator Virginia Lyons:​ (802) 828­3616, vlyons@leg.state.vt.us
Representative Denise Provost:​ (617) 872­8805, Denise.Provost@mahouse.gov

STATE LEGISLATORS FROM ACROSS NATION SIGN LETTER URGING CONGRESS
REJECT FAST TRACK TRADE PROMOTION AUTHORITY

Bipartisan group of 110 state legislators from 41 states oppose Fast Track bill; raise concerns about secret trade negotiations, private investor remedies that threaten progressive state environmental and energy policies

State legislators from across the country have sent a​ ​letter​ to Congressional leadership and Senate and House members urging a “no” vote on the Trade Promotion Authority legislation as voted out of committee. The letter (below) was circulated by Iowa State Representative Charles Isenhart and Vermont State Senator Virginia Lyons, both of whom are members of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) and environmental leaders in their states and nationally. The letter was signed by 110 legislators from 41 states.

“Congress has a unique opportunity to protect our democracy, environment, and workers by rejecting fast track authority. Free trade negotiations go beyond tariffs and include policies that can threaten state environmental regulations,” said Lyons, who serves on the Vermont
Legislature’s Joint Energy Committee and is Co­Chair of the state’s Commission on International Trade and State Sovereignty.

“Emerging local renewable energy and other businesses lose when large multinational organizations determine rules of trade and rules of regulation ­ all behind closed doors,” Lyons stated. “So­-called ‘fast track’ authority limits Congressional oversight over a process that lacks transparency and threatens the fabric of our democratic system of state sovereignty. ”

Rep. Charles Isenhart echoed these concerns. “Trade agreements are negotiated in secrecy and state legislators are not at the table,” he said. “While virtually every investor group is well represented among the USTR’s more than 600 ‘citizen’ advisors, almost no legislators are. Yet these agreements can put at risk important state initiatives including clean energy policies and advanced biofuel incentives.”

Isenhart is the Ranking Member of the Iowa House Environmental Protection Committee and also serves on the Economic Growth Committee and Ways and Means Committee. He added, “Changes in the current Trade Promotion Authority legislation fall far short of fixing fundamental flaws in both the negotiation process and the agreements themselves, including the system of private justice that sidesteps our courts and gives foreign investors greater authority over policy than elected officials. Whatever the promises of the current administration, there are no guarantees that future administrations will follow through on the commitments of this one. In other words – as state legislators, we have no say, we can’t see, and we reap what others sow.”

Among the signers of the letter was Massachusetts State Representative Denise Provost, who spoke to negotiators of the Trans­Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) during the 9th​​ round of negotiations in New York City in April.

“As an elected official, I am particularly concerned about provisions in these agreements that subordinate our domestic legal systems to Investor State Dispute Settlement tribunals, which betrays constitutional principles, and represents the worst kind of corporate domination,” Provost said.

The legislators’ letter raises concerns not only about the pending Trade Promotion Authority legislation but also about likely provisions in the TTIP, the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) with the potential not only to undermine existing state environmental laws and regulations but also to chill future state policies inconsistent with the terms of these agreements. All would be covered by the speeded­up review and approval process known as Fast Track.

Letter Re: Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track)

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner, Senate Democratic Leader Reid, and House Democratic Leader Pelosi:

As elected members of our state legislatures from across the United States, we write to urge you to reject the “Fast Track” version of trade promotion authority legislation as currently drafted and instead support a new process that is transparent, democratic, and accountable.

In July, we wrote to the Senate Finance Committee with suggested changes to the Fast Track legislation as introduced. We stated then, and reiterate now, the need for a new trade authority to provide significant and substantive opportunities for Congress to hold executive branch negotiators accountable. We remain eager to work with you to develop a process that can achieve the level of review and oversight intended by the U.S. Constitution. We believe such oversight to be absolutely necessary for modern international agreements with the breadth and reach of a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Agreement (TTIP).

The lack of transparency – indeed, extreme secrecy – of the trade negotiation process, coupled with the failure of negotiators to meaningfully consult on the far-reaching impact of these agreements on state and local laws, even when binding on our states, is of grave concern to us. As state legislators, we are not at the table. Of the more than 600 cleared advisors to the U.S. Trade Representative, two state legislators have been invited to participate. Thus, we depend on Congress to create a new mechanism that provides for Congress to conduct the in-depth review and oversight these powerful international agreements require. When Congress abdicates much of its authority, as it does in the Fast Track process, our democracy suffers.

Moreover, requirements for “regulatory coherence” and “minimum standard of treatment” provisions included in these trade agreements, and the investor-state system of private justice that can be invoked by investors to challenge federal, state and local laws and regulations, threatens the U.S. system of federalism enshrined in our Constitution. Our federalist system reserves significant authority to state legislators to regulate to ensure a level playing field for workers and businesses and to implement meaningful human rights, labor and environmental standards – authority that is threatened by these trade pact provisions.

The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) procedures included in recent and pending trade agreements, including the recently leaked TPP investment chapter, are of particular concern. ISDS allows foreign investors the right to sue governments directly in offshore private investment tribunals, bypassing the courts or allowing a “second bite” if the investors do not like the results of domestic court decisions. Although the investor-state tribunal has no power to directly nullify U.S. federal, state, and local laws, in practice, when a country loses to an investor, it will change the offending law, or pay damages, or both. Moreover, a country need not even lose an ISDS case for the chilling effect of a case merely being threatened or filed to impact its future policy making deliberations.

Indeed, in our own experience as state legislators, we have directly experienced that chilling effect. It is not uncommon for investors and foreign governments alike to seek to chill non-discriminatory state legislative action on matters of public health, safety and welfare, with threats of legal challenges based on international trade agreements. State legislative examples we are aware of include electronic waste producer responsibility laws, regulation of water extraction, tax haven restrictions, GMO labeling, and regulation of toxics in consumer products. Current ISDS litigation includes many challenges to environmental regulation, including oversight of hydraulic fracturing and mining.

State legislators have a longstanding and clear position opposing investor-state dispute settlement clauses in trade agreements, memorialized in the policy of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which represents all 50 states and the District of Columbia: “…NCSL will not support any BIT or FTA that provides for investor/state dispute resolution. NCSL firmly believes that when a state adopts a nondiscriminatory law or regulation intended to serve a public purpose, it shall not constitute a violation of an investment agreement or treaty, even if the change in the legal environment thwarts the foreign investors’ previous expectations.” [Readopted August 2013: http://www.ncsl.org/ncsl-in-dc/task-forces/policieslabor-and-economic-development.aspx#trade ]

The undersigned state legislators strongly endorse this position, and urge you in your oversight capacity to remove any investor-state dispute settlement clause from inclusion in the TPP, TTIP or other international trade or investment agreement that may be negotiated in the future.

Many of the undersigned legislators serve on the environment and natural resources committees of our legislatures and have leadership roles advancing environmental protections in our states. We are deeply concerned about public reports of potential provisions in both the TPP and TTIP agreements that would undermine these protections, including provisions on or related to investment and energy exports. With respect to TTIP, we are troubled by reports that the European Union is seeking binding provisions that would facilitate expanded exports of both liquefied natural gas and crude oil. With respect to the TPP, we are very concerned that the U.S. Department of Energy would lose its ability to even review whether exports of natural gas are in the interest of the public, should that agreement include national treatment for trade in gas.

The trade negotiation process is deeply flawed, and it appears to be resulting in deeply flawed trade agreements, namely the TPP and TTIP. Congress has the ultimate responsibility to oversee these agreements and put a stop to overreaching provisions that usurp the legitimate, non-discriminatory exercise of legislative authority to protect the public health and welfare. The pending Fast Track/Trade Promotion Authority legislation undermines this Congressional responsibility. We urge you to reject this approach and instead engage in robust, transparent and inclusive oversight of both the negotiation process and the agreements themselves.

(unable to reproduce signatures due to technical difficulties)

Monsanto Preps For TPP – By Moving Overseas?

tpp threatens food safety

Considering the way that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has set up the Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS process the only logical step for corporations who claim to be frustrated by US laws is to move their corporate headquarters out of the United States. Then they can be in a position to sue the United States to overturn laws and regulations that they feel get in their way. The corporation also gets the benefit of tax laws for corporation headquartered overseas.

This is a new corporate process called inversion. Currently the incentive for a corporation to invert itself, that is to move their corporate headquarters out of the country they primarily do business in, the United States, to a country where they have much lesser interests is to take advantage of loopholes in the US tax laws. Burger King bought itself a whole lot of bad publicity and nasty headlines when they bought Canadian doughnut maker Tim Horton’s with the express purpose of moving their HQ to Canada to avoid US taxes.

Burger King felt they could weather the bad publicity because America has the attention span of a gnat. The move is in process and based on media coverage Burger King bet correctly. Their move is no longer covered and it is business as usual while avoiding US taxes.

Walgreen’s announced they were going to invert their structure but called off the move in the face of some blisteringly bad publicity.

Now Monsanto, like Burger King and Walgreen’s, is making an offer to buy the much smaller Swiss based agribusiness Syngenta. Should the takeover take place then Monsanto has made no bones about moving their HQ from St. Louis to Switzerland to save up to $500 million per year in taxes. They have no loyalty to the country that gave them the means to grow.

Now along with the tax savings, Monsanto will be able to take their complaints about US laws and regulations to an ISDS arbitration board. Since treaties can supersede US laws, this may put corporations in a great position to attack laws and regulations that they have claimed over the years to be detrimental. We saw a small example of that just last week when the WTO ruled that the US can no longer require country of origin labeling for meat. Plan for many more disputes like tis from TPP and its Atlantic twin, the TTIP.

By the way, this should remind folks that corporations are not people despite what 5 members of the Supreme Court ruled. There is no loyalty to the US. With TPP corporations may finally have the tool they have always wanted to control US laws to their liking.

commondreams.org discusses Monsanto’s maneuver, noting the corporate “win-win” that Monsanto will reap:

Earlier this month, Monsanto made an initial offer to purchase the Swiss-based Syngenta. The deal, if completed, would allow Monsanto to move its headquarters from outside St. Louis to Switzerland, thereby reducing U.S. corporate tax payments. According to financial analysts at the investment firm Piper Jaffray, Monsanto would gain – and U.S. taxpayers would lose – about $500 million per year in tax revenues.

Monsanto, in fact, can attribute much of its growth over the last decade to past trade deals. Most other countries around the world, including key markets in the European Union, have taken a more precautionary approach to genetically engineered crops than in the U.S. – both in approvals for agricultural production, and in requiring clear labeling for consumers. In collaboration with the U.S. Trade Representative, Monsanto and the agrichemical industry have aggressively used trade rules in bilateral agreements as well as at the World Trade Organization (successfully challenging Europe’s biotech regulatory regime) to try to strike down higher-standard public health and environmental requirements for GE foods in other countries.

There seems to be no limit to the lengths to which the Obama administration will go to support Monsanto and the biotech industry. Earlier this month, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack accused the European Union of undermining efforts to address global hunger, because of a new EU proposal to allow its member countries greater power in regulating GE crops. Vilsack threatened that the EU’s decision raises “serious issues” about the future of TTIP, and officials in Washington have threatened another WTO challenge. The EU’s regulatory approach is troubling to Vilsack and Monsanto because their collective goal is to eliminate what they call sub-federal regulations. In the case of Europe, it is country-level regulations. In the U.S., it is state-level mandatory GMO labeling laws.

Both TPP and TTIP include intellectual property rules that protect Monsanto’s patented GE crops. They also include special corporate rights provisions, known as investor-state rules. These provisions would grant corporations legal rights to potentially challenge new laws, like state-level labeling of genetically engineered foods, that inhibit investors’ expectations.

Don’t forget, Iowa’s senators, Grassley and Ernst, are 100% behind these trade deals.

Sunday Funday – Work In The Yard Edition

Republican candidates for president

Republican candidates for president

This is that small window in Iowa when it is not snowing nor is it 90+ degrees. The humidity hasn’t quite reached steam room level yet and the bugs haven’t yet reached their adulthood appetite for fresh blood. In short that space of time when you can mow, preen, prune, dig, plant and remove a winter’s worth of crap without being bundled to the hilt or eaten alive. Enjoy this brief period. It shall not last. There won’t be another such period until raking time in the fall.

The news just keeps coming fast ’n’ furious.

1) “Sure I would have invaded Iraq” (paraphrased) said what candidate for president when asked “If you knew then what you know now..?”

2) Aftershocks, some as high as 7.3, continue to rock what earthquake ravaged nation?

3) Seems like Pope Francis makes someone mad every week. Whose wrath did he incur this week when he announced a treaty with “the state of Palestine?”

4) Which country was declared Ebola free last week after 42 days without a new case of ebola?

5) Meanwhile the Pope seems to have picked up what famous fan who said he may return to Catholicism after meeting the Pope?

6) May 17, 1792 is a significant day in financial news. That day, merchants and brokers meeting on Wall Street established what?

7) May 17, 1954, the SCOTUS hands down a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board declaring ‘separate but equal’ unconstitutional. Who argued the case for the winning side?

8) What small town in Iowa was hit by a tornado last Sunday?

9) In a surprising survey on religious affiliation in America released by the Pew Research Center, Christianity lost nearly 8% while what group gained nearly 7%?

10) Long a target of GOP cuts, what transportation sector did House Republicans vote to cut just days after a fatal accident?

11) In a surprise to almost everyone, the Obama Administration gave consent to allow what company to begin exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic?

12) Memorial Day weekend will see the grand opening of a museum that will honor what late movie star from Winterset, Iowa?

13) Which Republican presidential candidate ruffled some Iowa political feathers when he announced he would skip what event this summer?

14) North Korea’s defense minister was executed by firing squad last week. What was his fatal offense?

15) The group looking to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with a woman has chosen the proposed replacement. Who is she?

16) Justice, finally. A work of art by what master, looted from a Jewish owner by the Nazis,was returned to the family of the original owner Friday?

17) Many progressives in Wisconsin welcomed the news that what former senator would run once more for his former seat?

18) The Pentagon (your tax dollars) paid teams from what sport up to $5.4 million for pre-game salutes to ‘local heroes’?

19) What notorious ambassador said Friday he would not seek the Republican nomination for President?

20) Which Republican presidential candidate called for ending the ACA and replacing it with care managed by an Apple watch app?

Some folks see shade trees. I see leaves to rake in the fall.

Answers:

1) Jeb Bush. Remember last week he said he’d seek out W for advice on the Middle East

2) Nepal

3) Israel

4) Liberia

5) Raul Castro, president of Cuba

6) The New York Stock Exchange

7) future SC Justice Thurgood Marsall

8) Lake City

9) the unaffiliated

10) Amtrak

11) Shell

12) John Wayne (born in Winterset as Marion Morrison)

13) Jeb Bush

14) dozing off during meetings. A sure cure for sleep apnea

15) Harriet Tubman

16) Matisse

17) Russ Feingold

18) NFL football

19) John Bolton

20) Jeb Bush – Jeb should be looking for an advisor after this week.

Verizon Buys AOL; Net Neutrality Loses

al franken on net neutrality

Remember how you felt 30 or so years ago when you could finally afford cable TV and you felt like you were getting out from under the grip of corporate media? Now you could see news without the corporate filter! Now you could get entertainment with little censorship!

Remember how you felt 15 or so years ago when you got that internet connection and you felt like this time you could get news and entertainment not filtered by corporations. Giant media had long since taken over most of the cable outlets and once more controlled the news and entertainment. This time you felt like there was no way corporations could choke the internet. There was a concept called net neutrality that gave equal access to all providers. No one would screw that up.

Sadly the forces of money and control have their sights set on net neutrality. They want to do for the internet what they have done for cable television – make it a place safe for corporate policies.

While those favoring net neutrality won a battle in the war to end net neutrality last winter, this was only a battle. The ruling issued by the FCC was surprising to many and a victory. However, for those who want to control the internet just as they control newspapers, radio, TV and magazines in this country, this merely signaled a time to change strategies.

One strategy includes buying politicians who will introduce laws to stop the FCC. Another strategy is using the court system. Yet another little talked about strategy is to buy up the opposition.

Last week anti-net neutrality leader Verizon bought out AOL. In the mix, Verizon gets to take control of net neutrality crusader Huffington Post which is owned by AOL. Neat huh?

Over at the Nation magazine, Leslie Savan gives us a heads up on what such a takeover may mean for the future of news on the internet and net neutrality:

But there hasn’t been nearly as much talk about what this means for the content—you know, the journalism. When a telecom giant at the center of every poli-techno controversy, from net neutrality to NSA spying, owns and is expected to invest millions in one of the world’s most-read news sites, what happens to editorial independence?

Verizon, after all, has its own dedicated page at HuffPost, much of which covers the telecom’s ongoing effort to strangle net neutrality. (Both HuffPost and AOL have been outspoken champions for keeping the web’s playing field level.) And even though the FCC has ruled in favor of the regulations for now, corporate lobbying continues. “Verizon and other major telecom companies have plans to challenge the regs,” Clark Mindock writes at Open Secrets, “But whether or not AOL changes its stance on net neutrality, the fact is that the biggest opponent of net neutrality rules is about to acquire one of the biggest proponents.… And AOL’s D.C. money presence is a drop in the bucket compared to Verizon’s.”

And how free would HuffPost be in the future to report on Verizon’s and other telecom’s involvement in government surveillance of Americans’ phone records? Or on Verizon’s support of the rightwing, Koch-backed policy-maker, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)? Just days before the Verizon/AOL deal was announced, HuffPost ran a post headlined: “Telecom Sleaze: ALEC and Its Communication’s Funders—AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Comcast and Time Warner Cable.” I’m just guessing, but that could be the last time we see HuffPost casually refer to Verizon as “sleaze.”

Since the days of Reagan we have seen media consolidated to the point where it is nearly useless for getting information. While something like 7 or 8 giant media corporations have taken control of what Americans get for information, the internet has been the one voice that stands alone as a place to seek alternative voices. Taking over the internet is huge for corporations, both in terms of money and control of information. So while we celebrated a victory, corporations just hunkered down for the long haul of the war.

Call Your Congressman On TPP

tpp

In case you had not heard, there was a momentary euphoric feeling on Tuesday when the fast track authority couldn’t pass the muster of a super-majority now demanded for anything to happen in the senate. However after who knows what happened – the cynical among us would say a quick infusion of “corporate campaign donations” – the senate saw the error of its ways and once more voted to have a vote to once more hand over its power to some president, any president.The power in this case is to approve trade agreements.

This makes a mockery of the concept of checks and balances. There is still one check in the system and that is the House of Representatives. Even with all the money, gerrymandering, voter suppression and electronic chicanery that is rampant in our voting system, House members still may respond to an uprising of their citizens on issues. This is a time when an uprising is called for. Your phone or cell phone is your tool. Your mission is to call your local representative and let them know that so-called fast track authority for trade agreements is no longer acceptable. Here are the numbers for Iowa’s representatives:

1st district Rod Blum 202-225-2911

2nd district Dave Loebsack 202-225-6576

3rd district David Young 202-225-5476

4th district Steve King 202-225-4426

This is the part in the movie where the irate citizens storm the walls of the guarded fortress of those in control. The oppressed citizenry have had enough. We can’t let them take away democracy under the guise of free trade. But rather than storming the walls, start storming the phone lines and let your representatives know that fast track authority and the TPP are undemocratic.

Just in case you have forgotten or never knew why the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership is potentially so bad for the United States, here is a small refresher. First, for an agreement that will have a reach into darn near every household in the US there is an amazing amount of secrecy. Only members of congress, or their staff with proper clearances are allowed to see the document as it stands now. They get only an hour to look at it and can do so after being stripped of any type of recording device including a pen or pencil – remember you can write notes on your hands.

Wikileaks has leaked a few passages of the TPP document. The passage that attracted the most interest by far is the ISDS or Investor-State Dispute Settlement passage. Briefly, if a corporation feels that some law or regulation imposed by a member state will impede on its profit the corporation can bring suit before the ISDS. As spelled out here by Elizabeth Warren:

ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.

If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?

If the tilt toward giant corporations wasn’t clear enough, consider who would get to use this special court: only international investors, which are, by and large, big corporations. So if a Vietnamese company with U.S. operations wanted to challenge an increase in the U.S. minimum wage, it could use ISDS. But if an American labor union believed Vietnam was allowing Vietnamese companies to pay slave wages in violation of trade commitments, the union would have to make its case in the Vietnamese courts.

At a minimum, America needs a full and open hearing in both houses of congress on the TPP. Democracy demands that government must operate in the open. Considering the impact the TPP will have we would be fools to expect less.

There is a lot on the TPP on the internet right now. Thank goodness the internet is still neutral. If it had been handed over to corporations, finding anti-TPP articles may have been hard. Here are a is one good article that shows some of the potential effects.

A short but very good article by Joseph Stiglitz plays TPP to its ultimate conclusion.

some of the new Australian cigarette package images

some of the Australian cigarette package images

Above are some of the Australian cigarette packages that Phillip Morris is trying to make the Australian government pull through trade treaty action similar to ISDS.

Old-Fashioned Democrats Emerging?

Hillary Clinton came out strong for a path to citizenship and fixing the immigration mess on Cinco de Mayo. She has previously put out strong positions for women, on greatly lessening income inequality and money in politics.

Bernie Sanders introduced a bill in the Senate to break up the mega-banks that have grown out of the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. As he did he reminded us that:

No single financial institution should be so large that its failure would cause catastrophic risk to millions of Americans or to our nation’s economic well-being. No single financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure would send the world economy into crisis. If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist and that is the bottom line.

Bernie on the economy

Martin O’Malley staked out positions in liberal territory early on, even though he has not officially declared his candidacy yet. You can check his positions here.
Martin_omalley_2008

Is this reality? After years of Democrats running like lukewarm Republicans, we are getting Democrats talking as if they are Democrats. This is a trend we hope continues up to election day and beyond. It may be Sanders’ entrance into the race, or it may be that Democratic leaders finally realize that Republican ideas are failed ideas.

Democratic debates will be debates on real issues talking about real solutions for real people.

But don’t forget.  America not only needs a Democratic president that will face issues – as Barack Obama has done – America also needs a Democratic congress to put those concepts into reality.

Sunday Funday – Mother’s Day Edition

Mother Jones one of America's great mothers

Mother Jones one of America’s great mothers

What can be said about mothers that hasn’t been said before? Pretty much each and every one of us has or had one. If your mother is still alive, treasure her. If she has passed on, here’s hoping you have fond memories. If you never knew your real mother, we hope there was someone who fulfilled that role and deserves your love.

Lots of news again this week! Here we go:

1) Once again there were presidential candidate announcements. What 3 people announced their candidacy during the week?

2) 70 years ago last Friday the world celebrated the end to what?

3) Somebody had a baby! At least someone so famous that it was world wide news. So who had the baby?

4) In Nebraska, a woman filed a lawsuit in federal district court against what group of people?

5) After getting a super sweetheart deal from Iowa, fertilizer manufacturer Orascom caused major concern when it laid off Iowa workers and tried to replace them with workers from where?

6) The first permanent English settlement was established in North America on May 14,1607. Do you remember the name of the settlement?

7) Energy companies in Alberta province in Canada (home of the Athabasca oil fields) braced for major changes after what liberal party swept elections Tuesday?

8) Which presidential candidate called for “nothing less than a full and equal path to citizenship” for Latinos at a campaign stop in Nevada?

9) Which presidential candidate submitted a bill to break up the “too big to fail” banks?

10) Jade Helm 15, ostensibly a military war exercise, is believed by some Texans to be an excuse to do what to Texas?

11) What part does Walmart play in the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy stories?

12) From late April, but recently reported. A man in Jacksonville, Florida was surprised and a bit put out when the local Bank of America refused to cash his check for how much money?

13) A bill greatly tightening what power of government to take land passed the Iowa senate this week?

14) Senate democrats and House Republicans in Iowa said they may have a compromise worked out for what major budget sticking point?

15) A Florida man and woman have been convicted of having public sex on a beach may be sentenced for up to how long in prison?

16) This man did deflate his balls claims the NFL. Who?

17) Despite poll predictions of a deadlocked electorate, voters in Britain gave a clear majority to what party?

18) Pres. Obama gave a major speech pushing the Trans Pacific Partnership at what company Friday?

19) One sidelight of the British election: Which party won all but a couple of seats from Scotland?

20) At a small fundraiser this week Jeb Bush surprised many by saying that on the Middle East “If you want to know who I listen to for advice, it’s him.” Who was he speaking of?

BTW it is Mother’s Day and therefore time for our annual Mother’s Day tornado outbreak. Stay safe, all.

Answers:

1) Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and Carly Fiorina

2) Victory over Europe in WWII

3) Prince William and Kate

4) homosexuals. She wants a judge to decide if homosexuality is a sin

5) Texas

6) Jamestown, Va.

7) the NDP ( New Democratic Party)

8) Hillary Clinton

9) Bernie Sanders

10) put Texas under martial law by the Obama administration.

11) Empty Walmarts would be used as prisons

12) $368 billion. http://moron.com/florida-man-attempts-to-cash-368-billion-check/

13) eminent domain

14) school funding. Pink slips went out to nearly 1,000 Iowa teachers last week

15) 15 years

16) Tom Brady

17) Conservatives

18) Nike

19) The Scottish Nationalist Party

20) His brother George W. – yep, that George W.

There is still time to reach agreements to help all Iowans

All workers deserve a living wage

All workers deserve a living wage

Posted on May 4, 2015 by admin note this was written Monday. So good it needed to be posted
Tom Courtney, State Senator, Burlington

http://iowalabornews.com/?p=9679

It’s a sad day in Iowa when a lobbyist claiming to represent small businesses had these responses[“Small business dodged bad bills this session,” April 28] when modest reforms approved by the Iowa Senate are killed by the Iowa House:

* Dishonest employers are still able to cheat Iowa workers out of $600 million a year in wages? HOORAY!
* 181,000 Iowans were denied a modest increase in their rock bottom wages? YEAH!
* Iowa workers can still be forced to accept high-fee debit cards instead of a full paycheck for their work? YIPPEE!

This celebration of backroom efforts to keep Iowa wages so low that full-time workers need public assistance to survive is premature.

The session is not over and there is still time to reach agreements that will help all Iowans — workers, business owners and other taxpayers — recover from the national recession.

Editor’s note: A couple of my pet peeves: two other issues not addressed here under the labor banner that continue to fester year after year:

1) the plight of the contract worker. These are folks that work in a real limbo between “real” jobs and unemployment. Their work is sporadic, they work for a company in between them and the ultimate employer, most likely they do not qualify for any benefits and they get very low wages.

2) Restaurant workers, especially wait staff. I don’t know about you, but I see no reason why it should be up to me to pay the wait staff. Isn’t that their employers duty? Nor should the staff be subjected to some of the crap that is directed their way just to get a tip.

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