October 10, 2013 archive

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On The Table

Sell outs?  Nope, bought and paid for.


“An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.”- Simon Cameron (1799-1889)

Saving us from ourselves

The great neoliberal dream-

Will China’s Gambit to Undermine the Trans-Pacific Partnership Succeed?

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Thursday, October 10, 2013

While eyes in the US have remained focused on the budget cliffhanger in Washington, in Bali, two sets of meetings were taking place. The first was the latest set of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. The US, led by John Kerry (Obama was supposed to make an appearance but the budget drama kept him away) met with representatives of the 12 nations it is pressing to agree to this deliberately mis-branded “trade deal”. The reason the label is misleading is that trade is already substantially liberalized; the real point of the TPP and its cousin, the pending EU-US trade agreement, is to weaken the power of nations to regulate, which will allow multinationals to lead a race to the bottom on product and environmental safety.

he second meeting in Bali this week was for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). And the two intersected in intriguing ways. Remember, the terms of the TPP are shrouded in secrecy that is utterly inconsistent with the notion of democratic rule. Draft chapters have not been released. In the US, the US Trade Representative has given briefings on the general terms of the pact’s chapters, but as anyone who has worked on contracts or legislation, reading the detailed terms is critical to understanding an agreement, and those are being kept firmly secret.

Not only has the US been pushing remarkably hard on the secrecy front, it’s being remarkably aggressive on timing. It got a commitment from the prospective signatories in Bali for the pact to be finalized by year end, when a State Department briefing immediately afterward met with skeptical questions (if you have time, you really should read the session in full. The obstinacy and disingenuousness of the State Department mouthpiece is way too obvious).

In fairness, the Forbes article points out that one set of issues that was seen as a major stumbling block for Japan, that of five types of agricultural products it wanted held out of the deal, may not be such a problem after all because the Japanese Prime Minister Abe, who talked up the deal this week, looks to be able to play the sellout of domestic farmers so as to disadvantage an LDP rival.

However, the US has been ruffling the potential signatories.

And the State Department Q&A also indicated that Indonesia, which was also hosting the APEC leaders’ meeting, had the US trying to upstage that session.

Now bruised official egos are likely not enough in and of themselves to derail a trade deal. But the Asian nations are also playing a careful balancing act between the current hegemon, the US, and its presumed successor, at least in the region, if not globally, China. Now remember, the whole point of the TPP is that it is an “everybody but China” deal. So what did China do at the APEC summit when Obama was detained in Washington? Step up its efforts to undermine the TPP.

It’s not clear that China’s efforts to throw sand in the TPP gears will work. But the year end timetable looks like a bizarre Administration fantasy (why push for an empty commitment to a deadline that clearly can’t be met?). And the parallel ASEAN trade talks could give countries that wanted to drag their feet on the TPP an excuse to do so (note that one country being reluctant is likely to be insufficient to derail the deal, but two or three could change the equation. Reporters in the State Department briefing were making comparisons to the failed Doha round).

A final factor that could work against the TPP is a continuation of a destabilizing budget battle. As we’ll discuss in our accompanying post today, there was progress of sorts Wednesday, in at least the two sides have agreed to talk. But they aren’t even at the stage of discussing terms, beyond a vague idea of putting the debt ceiling on hold while the two parties work out a bigger budget deal, with deficit cutting measures included. The problem is given the failure to reach a Grand Bargain Great Betrayal last year, I don’t see why there is any reason to believe a six week delay will pave the way for a deal coming together, given the increased hostility between the two camps and the hard core Republican right insisting on throwing Obamacare into the talks. The longer Washington is in disarray, the weaker its position in pushing for a trade deal. As we’ve said before, that may be the one silver lining of the damaging Federal shutdown.

(Yves is running a fundraiser and while things are going well she would certainly appreciate a token of your support.  ek)


11ty Dimensional Chess

Don’t worry, I got this.

Obama’s Credibility Problem

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Wednesday October 9, 2013 10:38 am

During health care reform, instead of saying he actively opposed the public option and direct drug price negotiations because he cut a deal with the drug lobby, Obama tried to pretend these were in fact big concessions to Republicans. This ended up causing Obama to waste months trying to get any Republicans on board to make this excuse work. When no Republicans agreed to go along Obama ended up look like a terrible negotiator for still giving up “big concessions” – without getting any votes.

When the Bush tax cut deal was reached, Obama again thought it would be clever to needlessly “fold” and only accept an tax on incomes over $400,000. In reality what Obama has always wanted most was a grand bargain. If he fought harder and got a full repeal on the Bush tax cuts for the rich, there would probably be nothing for congressional Democrats to get from a grand bargain. That would have ended up being a long term “lose” from Obama’s perspective. So he chose to look weak and leave some revenue on the table. That way there could be something he could “get” from Republican in his next grand bargain push.

During the last debt ceiling fight Obama thought a fake crisis would cause all sides to agree to a grand bargain so Obama pretended to be weak. He invited this Republican hostage taking tactic by saying he was open to negotiations. Now Republicans think he is weak on the debt ceiling, instead of realizing he was just trying to play everyone the last time.

After watching Obama constantly feigning weakness to do things to justify pursuing policies he know his Democratic base would oppose, I find it funny that no one in Washington ever knows when Obama is being sincere. So when Obama finally actually takes a firm position Republicans don’t trust him. Rep. Paul Ryan straight up said, “no one believes that.”

You know, human nature hasn’t changed much in 2,500 years.

There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself he took a great breath and sang out, “Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!”

The villagers came running up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away. But when they arrived at the top of the hill, they found no wolf. The boy laughed at the sight of their angry faces.

“Don’t cry ‘wolf’, shepherd boy,” said the villagers, “when there’s no wolf!” They went grumbling back down the hill.

Later, the boy sang out again, “Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!” To his naughty delight, he watched the villagers run up the hill to help him drive the wolf away.

When the villagers saw no wolf they sternly said, “Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don’t cry ‘wolf’ when there is NO wolf!”

But the boy just grinned and watched them go grumbling down the hill once more.

Later, he saw a REAL wolf prowling about his flock. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as he could, “Wolf! Wolf!”

But the villagers thought he was trying to fool them again, and so they didn’t come.

At sunset, everyone wondered why the shepherd boy hadn’t returned to the village with their sheep. They went up the hill to find the boy. They found him weeping.

“There really was a wolf here! The flock has scattered! I cried out, “Wolf!” Why didn’t you come?”

An old man tried to comfort the boy as they walked back to the village.

“We’ll help you look for the lost sheep in the morning,” he said, putting his arm around the youth, “Nobody believes a liar…even when he is telling the truth!”

On This Day In History October 10

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 10 is the 283rd day of the year (284th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 82 days remaining until the end of the year.

On October 10, 1935, George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess premieres on Broadway.

Porgy and Bess is an opera, first performed in 1935, with music by George Gershwin, libretto by DuBose Heyward, and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. It was based on DuBose Heyward’s novel Porgy and the play of the same name which he co-wrote with his wife Dorothy Heyward. All three works deal with African American life in the fictitious Catfish Row (based on the real-life Rainbow Row) in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1920s.

Originally conceived by Gershwin as an “American folk opera”, Porgy and Bess premiered in New York in the fall of 1935 and featured an entire cast of classically trained African-American singers-a daring and visionary artistic choice at the time. Gershwin chose African American Eva Jessye as the choral director for the opera. Incorporating a wealth of blues and jazz idioms into the classical art form of opera, Gershwin considered it his finest work.

The work was not widely accepted in the United States as a legitimate opera until 1976, when the Houston Grand Opera production of Gershwin’s complete score established it as an artistic triumph. Nine years later the Metropolitan Opera gave their first performance of the work. This production was also broadcast as part of the ongoing Saturday afternoon live Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts. The work is now considered part of the standard operatic repertoire and is regularly performed internationally. Despite this success, the opera has been controversial; some critics from the outset have considered it a racist portrayal of African Americans.

Summertime” is by far the best-known piece from the work, and countless interpretations of this and other individual numbers have also been recorded and performed. The second best-known number is “It Ain’t Necessarily So“. The opera is admired for Gershwin’s innovative synthesis of European orchestral techniques with American jazz and folk music idioms.

Porgy and Bess tells the story of Porgy, a disabled black beggar living in the slums of Charleston, South Carolina. It deals with his attempts to rescue Bess from the clutches of Crown, her violent and possessive lover, and Sportin’ Life, the drug dealer. Where the earlier novel and stage-play differ, the opera generally follows the stage-play.

The Porgy and Bess original cast recording was included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress, National Recording Registry in 2003. The board selects songs on an annual basis that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

On July 14, 1993, the United States Postal Service recognized the opera’s cultural significance by issuing a commemorative 29-cent postage stamp, and in 2001 Porgy and Bess was proclaimed the official opera of the State of South Carolina.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning


Late Night Karaoke

2013 Senior League Division Series: Pirates @ Cardinals Game 5

So this is going to be tight, Just like last year’s Cards run.  To be fair I’m going to post my ‘Bad Beard’ Phineas and Ferb video.

Either the Pirates or the Cards start golfing tonight, on Monday St. Louis eeked out a win to send it back to Busch Stadium on a 2 RBI Dinger.  That’s the price you pay for leadoff walks.

Adam Wainwright (19 – 9, 2.94 ERA R) will be going against Gerrit Cole (10 – 7, 3.22 R) for all the marbles (I’ll explain that metaphor someday) and we shall see.