How “Citibank Budget” Push Foreshadows “Fast Track” For Trade Deals

It is worth examining how the process was rigged to push that budget deal through Congress over the weekend that contained Citibank-written derivative deregulation and all kinds of other goodies for the rich and powerful. That’s because the “cromnibus” formula will be formalized in the next big deal, in a process called “fast track.”

Congress passed the “cromnibus” (continuing resolution for omnibus budget) right at the deadline for another government shutdown. (After they extended the deadline, actually.) The budget contained a Citibank-written provision that undoes some Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulations. It authorizes a cut in many people’s pensions by up to 60 percent, severely cuts the IRS budget and its ability to collect taxes, dramatically expanded the ability of big money to influence elections, reduced the EPA’s authority, and included many other provisions that could not have passed in the light of day. This budget “deal” was pushed through Congress using a rigged process that kept representative democracy from stopping it.

What lessons can we learn from the way the “Citibank” provisions in the budget deal were pushed through? How do these lessons apply to the next big fight?

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That Judge Who “Ruled” Immigration Order Unconstitutional

Tuesday a federal judge “ruled” that President Obama’s executive actions on immigration are unconstitutional. He wasn’t ruling on a case, just issuing his opinion.

Judge Arthur J. Schwab of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania has a controversial history. TPM says he is “No Stranger To Controversy“.

Schwab was nominated by President George W. Bush. The Senate vote to confirm Schwab to be a U.S. District Judge was 92-0. Not a single Senate Democrat objected.

So the past actions of Democrats again come back to haunt them. Not doing their duty to carefully screen nominees they put into important positions, thereby letting ideologues and kooks like Schwab become judges.

It should be noted that Democratic senators already knew better. Bush was put into office by Supreme Court justices who were put on the bench with votes from Democratic senators.

Remember that scene in Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, when not one Democratic senator would join House members to object to seating Bush as President?

I suspect this is part of why people aren’t bothering to vote. Only 1/3 of potential voters bothered to vote in this year’s midterm elections — the lowest turnout since WWII. I think that things like this, over the years, have added up and made the Democratic Party irrelevant to many people’s lives. (Let me emphasize, that’s some Democrats, not all Democrats, there are great Democrats. That video clip has House Democrats begging Senate Democrats to stand up for electoral integrity. You should always show up and vote.)

Scariest Silly Right-Wing Propaganda Ever

My favorite scary but silly right-wing propaganda ever is still “Chevy Volt Runs Out Of Juice In Lincoln Tunnel.”

1) I say silly to contrast with deadly propaganda that tries to start wars, etc., or toxic conservative propaganda that tries to make people hate Muslims, blacks, Hispanic or poor or sick people, public schools, government, Europe (especially France), etc.

2) The Volt’s gas engine kicks in to charge the battery when it runs low — something that is hard to even notice. The car certainly didn’t stop in the tunnel or anything like that.

Second is the scare that “electric cars are a fire hazard.” As compared to cars that have big tanks full of gasoline!

Question: Why does conservative propaganda so often line up with things the generate profits for oil companies, Wall Street, or other billionaires?

The Thing In The Budget Bill That No One Supports But Won’t Be Taken Out

The budget bill called the “Cromnibus” (for Continuing Resolution and OMNIBUS budget bill) contains a provision that undoes an important part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulation bill. It would allow banks to gamble on derivatives using money from taxpayer-protected accounts. Citibank literally wrote the provision and paid someone to put it in the bill.

No one in the House or Senate will say who was paid to put it in the bill. No one will admit to putting it in the bill. No one will say that support this provision. But it will not be taken out of the bill.

OK this is not a rhetorical question, it is a question to broadcast. This was written word-for-word by Citibank, to benefit Citibank, putting the taxpayers at great risk. How can something like this be in a bill if no one put it in the bill and no one indicates support for it? How can we not get it taken out if no one will say they put it in and no one will say they support it?

Someone was obviously paid to put it in the bill. People are obviously being paid to keep it in the bill.

How FAR from the principles of democracy, transparency, accountability and everything the country, the Constitution and the Congress are supposed to stand for can we go here?

Please click here now to call your senators and tell them to stand up against this dangerous attempt to rig the rules for Wall Street – and against us.

Prosecute Or Pardon Bush, Bankers And Cops Who Kill

Are we a nation of laws or not? No one is held accountable for invading Iraq, bank fraud, shooting unarmed citizens or even torture. It’s time to restore the rule of law.

Everyone please, please watch this 4-minute segment from All In with Chris Hayes: Are really we a nation of laws?

In a New York Times op-ed, American Civil Liberties Union Director Anthony Romero called on President Obama to at least issue a pardon to Bush and Cheney and Bush administration officials for the crime of torture. In “Pardon Bush and Those Who Tortured,” Romero writes: “… it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal.”

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Trans-Pacific Trade Talks Resume With Almost No Media Coverage

Shouldn’t it be a trade violation to threaten to move someone’s job to another country? Shouldn’t we negotiate trade agreements that increase people’s wages on both sides of a trade border? These are the kinds of agreements we would make if We the People were negotiating trade agreements with representatives of the working people in other countries. Unfortunately that is not the kind of trade agreements that our current trade negotiation process produces.

The secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations resumed this week, this time in DC. TPP is a massive agreement that sets up new rules for over 40% of the global economy, It will have profound effects on our jobs, our standard of living now and in the future and our ability to make a living as a country. Oddly, though, as of Monday morning you have to read about it in Japan Times because few-to-no US media outlets are covering it. Japan Times: TPP talks get back underway in Washington,

Chief negotiators from 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative resumed negotiations in Washington after their leaders reaffirmed last month they will conclude an agreement as soon as possible.

Media Blackout

Here are a few stories about the media blackout of this important treaty — all in the non-corporate media:

Events This Week

In spite of the lack of American media coverage of this tremendously important agreement representatives of labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, Internet freedom, public health, faith, human rights and community organizations held a rally Monday outside the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. These organizations represent “stakeholders” from all countries that are denied a seat at the TPP negotiating table.

At the rally George Kohl, senior director of Communications Workers of America, said “We believe in trade. We are fighting against old trade policy that literally guarantees corporate profits at the expense of working families in all nations. In the weeks ahead, we will mobilize like never before against Fast Track authorizing legislation and the TPP, and for 21st century trade that gives workers’ rights, environmental issues and other concerns the same standing as corporate profits.”

Pics from the rally: (credits Roger Hickey, Arthur Stamoulis)

Wednesday at 11am the AFL-CIO is holding a TPP briefing on “What Negotiators Should Be Discussing Behind Closed Doors,” at their DC headquarters at 815 16th St, NW.

“While the Obama administration meets behind closed doors this week with representatives of the countries involved in negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the AFL-CIO will host a briefing outlining what the negotiators should be discussing. The briefing will highlight what must be included in the negotiations for it to truly work for working people and how the TPP will only gain labor’s support if it will create American jobs and promote high labor and environmental standards. The briefing follows a week of increased Congressional scrutiny on the negotiations and the involved countries’ history of labor abuses.”

Secret Negotiations

The negotiations are secret and the kids of people at that DC rally are not represented at the bargaining table. But corporate representatives have access to drafts of the treaty, and the negotiators typically come from and expect to go to lucrative corporate positions after the treaty is finalized — assuming they “play ball.”

While we do not know exactly what is being negotiated, we do know from leaks — and previous “NAFTA-style” trade agreements — tell us what to expect. Much of TPP is about “investor protections” and not trade at all. These provisions allow corporations to sue governments for doing things that infringe on profits — like laws and regulations protecting the environment, worker safety, consumers and the health of citizens. For example, under similar agreements already in effect tobacco companies are suing governments to block anti-smoking efforts that protect the health of citizens!

Members of Congress are very concerned about the transparency of the TPP negotiating process. On a call Monday Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and (rock star) Dan Kildee (D-MI) expressed their concerns about the secrecy of TPP as well as the failure to address currency manipulation in the agreement.

Senator Elizabeth Warren put her finger on the secrecy problem, saying, “Why are the trade talks secret? You’ll love this answer. Boy, the things you learn on Capitol Hill. I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me, ‘They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.'”

Currency Manipulation

Currency manipulation is a major trade problem. For example, we could restore up to 5.8 million American jobs, cut our trade deficit by $500 billion a year and increase our GDP by $720 billion just by addressing currency manipulation. (Click through for details.)

Congress is very concerned about this. Last year 60 Senators, a bipartisan majority, sent a letter to President Obama asking him to tell tell TPP negotiators to address currency manipulation. Also last year a majority (230) of members of the US House sent a bipartisan letter to the President saying they want him to tell TPP negotiators to address currency manipulation

60 Senators and 230 members of Congress want the negotiators to address currency manipulation– but TPP still does not address currency manipulation. What else do you need to know about the negotiating process, and respect for democracy and national sovereignty?

For more information about the TPP, visit these sites:

Expose the TPP.

Stop Fast Track.

Flush the TPP!

Stop TPP.

Sum of Us: Sign the petition to governments worldwide.

CWA’s TPP info, their Stop Fast Track petition and send this letter to Congress: Oppose Fast Track and the TPP

10 WAYS THE TPP WOULD HURT U.S. WORKING FAMILIES

Global Trade Watch

Eyes on Trade

Nationwide Fight for $15 Strikes Today In 190 Cities

There are strikes today in 190 cities with fast food workers demanding $15 an hour and the right to unionize. At the same time low-wage federal contract workers are demanding Presidential action to win $15 and a union.

People are striking in 190 cities demanding $15 an hour and the right to form a union. It’s not just fast-food workers striking today. Home care workers, convenience store cashiers, discount store clerks, airport cleaners and ramp workers and baggage handlers and skycaps and wheelchair attendants, Walmart associates, and federally-contracted service workers are all calling for $15 an hour and the right to form a union.

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Fascist Groove Thang

AlterNet has 21 Best ’80s Songs Railing Against the Horrible Reagan Era. They missed this:
Heaven 17 – (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang

Democrats are out of power
Across that great wide ocean
Reagan’s president elect
Fascist god in motion

Generals tell him what to do
Stop your good time dancing
Train their guns on me and you
Fascist thang advancing

Everybody move to prove the groove
Have you heard it on the news
About this fascist groove thang
Evil men with racist views

Spreading all across the land
Don’t just sit there on your ass
Unlock that funky chain dance
Brothers, sisters shoot your best
We don’t need this fascist groove thang

Brothers, sisters, we don’t need this fascist groove thang

History will repeat itself
Crisis point we’re near the hour
Counterforce will do no good
Hot you ass I feel your power

Hitler proves that funky stuff
Is not for you and me girl
Europe’s an unhappy land
They’ve had their fascist groove thang

Brothers, sisters, we don’t need this fascist groove thang

Democrats are out of power
Across that great wide ocean
Reagan’s president elect
Fascist god in motion

Generals tell him what to do
Stop your good time dancing
Train their guns on me and you
Fascist thang advancing

Brothers, sisters, we don’t need this fascist groove thang

Sisters, brothers lend a hand
Increase our population
Grab that groove thang by the throat
And throw it in the ocean

You’re real tonight you move my soul
Let’s cruise out of the dance war
Come out your house and dance your dance
Shake that fascist groove thang
(Shake it)

Is The Democratic Party Relevant Anymore?

Many Democrats examining what happened in the 2014 midterms are asking “what did the voters want?” But the right question is why did only 36.4 percent of potential voters bother to register and vote? Obviously Democrats did not give those voters a good enough reason to take the trouble. Is the Democratic Party relevant anymore?

“New Coke” Democrats

In 1985 Coca-Cola was the market leader, but Pepsi was gaining market share. Coca-Cola’s executives panicked and reformulated its flavor to taste like the more-sugary Pepsi. But Pepsi drinkers already drank Pepsi and Coca-Cola drinkers were left with no brand that they liked. If this sounds like an analogy to the Democratic Party consultants who keep urging Democratic candidates and politicians to be more like Republicans, that’s because it is.

Democrats were considered the majority party from the time of Roosevelt’s New Deal until the 1980s. All they had to do to win was to get a high enough voter turnout. Democratic operations were more about Get Out The Vote (GOTV) than giving people reasons to vote for Democrats instead of Republicans. They just assumed most people agreed with them – because most people agreed with them. But that time has passed.

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