June 11, 2015 archive

Nails in the Coffin

We can only hope.

(note- I am quoting only the most inside the Beltway sources, they are impeccably attributed, and I have more than one.- ek)

Could liberals bring down Obama’s big trade agenda?

By Greg Sargent, Washington Post

June 11 at 1:24 PM

The latest: Dem Rep. Sander Levin – the ranking Democrat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, and a well-respected lawmaker on trade and labor issues – plans to vote No on a key measure related to trade, a spokesperson for Levin confirms to me. That could prove to be a serious blow.

Levin will vote No on so-called Trade Adjustment Assistance, a measure that would give aid to workers displaced by trade, his spokesman, Caroline Behringer, tells me. “Mr. Levin plans to vote No on TAA,” she emails.

This suggests that the strategy that liberal Democrats and labor unions have employed to kill Fast Track may be working. As I reported the other day, a bloc of liberal House Dems, allied with unions, have been working to turn House Democrats against TAA, as a back-door way to bring down Fast Track, and with it, the whole deal. The administration says it needs Fast Track to seal the final agreement.

To pass Fast Track – which has already passed the Senate – House GOP leaders would need around 20, and possibly more, pro-TPP House Dems to vote Yes, depending on how many Republicans vote No. If TAA doesn’t pass first, those Dems might find it too politically difficult to vote for Fast Track, killing it that way. Or, for complex procedural reasons, if TAA fails, House GOP leaders might not end up moving Fast Track at all.

Only arond 50-100 Republicans are expected to vote for TAA – it is assistance for workers – so it would have to pass with overwhelming Democratic support. That’s why liberals opposed to Fast Track and TPP are urging House Dems to oppose it.

And so, liberal Dems had initially argued that TAA – which they would generally support, since it helps workers – must be opposed because it is funded with Medicaid cuts. But Nancy Pelosi – who is trying to salvage TAA – negotiated a new, uncontroversial pay-for for TAA with the GOP leadership.

Just today, several labor unions – the AFL-CIO and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters – circulated letters to House Democrats, urging a No vote on TAA, on the grounds that it doesn’t extend assistance to public employees.

Dems threaten to sink Obama trade agenda

By Jake Sherman, John Bresnahan and Lauren French, Politico

6/11/15 2:29 PM EDT

The uncertainty surrounding the TAA and fast track votes are becoming a serious problem for Obama. If TAA fails, the House will not take up Trade Promotion Authority, the key legislation that would give Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Under that scenario both sides would have to regroup and figure out a way forward – or else the 12-nation trade deal could fall apart.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), normally a close ally of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), has been a vocal opponent of TAA, while raising other objections about the package. DeLauro and the Congressional Progressive Caucus are using the TAA issue as a wedge to sink fast track. And these progressives, who have been in favor of TAA for years, may end up killing the program, along with the rest of Obama’s trade agenda.

It’s not only Democrats who have issues. The conservative House Freedom Caucus, led by Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, is exploring whether they have the votes to block a procedural “rule” vote Thursday afternoon. The conservatives are upset that GOP leaders are “bending over backward to appease 20 Democrats but refusing to work with 40 Republicans,” one Freedom Caucus member said, referring to a list of demands from the right. If the group succeeds – it’s unclear whether it has the votes to stop the rule vote – it would stop the process in its tracks.

Much of the discontent is from the president’s party. The anger stems from an earlier bipartisan decision to use Medicare savings to fund TAA. Boehner abandoned that plan – at Pelosi’s behest – but she then asked for changes to the procedure by which the bill comes to the floor. Boehner agreed to that, as well.

But liberals like DeLauro are still opposed, and the president’s top emissaries have been unable to assuage concerns.

Because they can’t.  TPP is a treasonous (with more than two witnesses) sellout of the basic foundations of United States democracy and must.  be.  stopped.  Contact your so-called “Representatives”.

Stop Profits Over Public Health. Stop Fast Track

The House of Representative will most likely begin consideration of the Trade Promotion Authority, aka Fast Track, which would give the president a blank check to negotiate so-called “free trade” agreements.

The House will begin voting on trade legislation on Thursday, setting up a high-stakes vote Friday on a critical bill to give President Obama fast-track powers.

The complicated new process, laid out by GOP leadership late Wednesday night, is designed to address objections from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about how the trade package would be structured on the floor.

On Thursday, the House will first take up a trade preferences bill that includes new offsets to pay for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a related bill that provides aid to workers displaced by trade deals. Those new pay-fors, negotiated by Pelosi and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), would come from increased tax enforcement rather than through cuts to Medicare, which were part of the Senate-passed TAA bill.

The major problem with the TAA “fix” is that it doesn’t fix this:


Today, Wednesday 10 June 2015, WikiLeaks publishes the Healthcare Annex to the secret draft “Transparency” Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), along with each country’s negotiating position. The Healthcare Annex seeks to regulate state schemes for medicines and medical devices. It forces healthcare authorities to give big pharmaceutical companies more information about national decisions on public access to medicine, and grants corporations greater powers to challenge decisions they perceive as harmful to their interests.

Expert policy analysis, published by WikiLeaks today, shows that the Annex appears to be designed to cripple New Zealand’s strong public healthcare programme and to inhibit the adoption of similar programmes in developing countries. The Annex will also tie the hands of the US Congress in its ability to pursue reforms of the Medicare programme.

The draft is restricted from release for four years after the passage of the TPP into law.

The TPP is the world’s largest economic trade agreement that will, if it comes into force, encompass more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. Despite the wide-ranging effects on the global population, the TPP and the two other mega-agreements that make up the “Great Treaty”, (the TiSA and the TTIP), which all together cover two-thirds of global GDP, are currently being negotiated in secrecy. The Obama administration is trying to gain “Fast-Track” approval for all three from the US House of Representatives as early as tomorrow, having already obtained such approval from the Senate.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks publisher, said:

   It is a mistake to think of the TPP as a single treaty. In reality there are three conjoined mega-agreements, the TiSA, the TPP and the TTIP, all of which strategically assemble into a grand unified treaty, partitioning the world into the west versus the rest. This “Great Treaty” is descibed by the Pentagon as the economic core to the US military’s “Asia Pivot”. The architects are aiming no lower than the arc of history. The Great Treaty is taking shape in complete secrecy, because along with its undebated geostrategic ambitions it locks into place an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism for which there is little public support.

Director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program, Peter Maybarduk, and

John Sifton, advocacy director, Human Rights Watch expressed their concerns about TPP’s provisions increasing corporate controls over public health.

As the Obama administration praises the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), backlash continues to grow against the deal. WikiLeaks has just published another section of the secret text – this one about public healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry. Newly revealed details of the draft show the TPP would give major pharmaceutical companies more power over public access to medicine, and weaken public healthcare programs. The leaked draft also suggests the TPP would prevent Congress from passing reforms to lower drug costs. One of the practices that would be allowed is known as “Evergreening.” It lets drug companies extend the life of a patent by slightly modifying their product and then getting a new patent

The TPP will raise the costs of healthcare globally:

The TPP section requires countries to share decisions about pricing and regulation of drugs with pharmaceutical manufacturers, provide opportunity for comment on those decisions and create a process through which those decisions can be reviewed at the request of affected companies.

According to an analysis of the leaked document by Jane Kelsey (pdf), a law professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, these rules are enough to expose national health authorities to legal challenges under TPP’s investor-state dispute settlement process, or ISDS. ISDS empowers companies to challenge countries’ domestic laws before a tribunal of international judges if they believe the laws unfairly limit investment. The tribunals have the power to impose significant fines on countries if their laws are found responsible for the investment hardship in question. While pharmaceutical companies could not challenge national health programs’ policies through ISDS, their grievances would be eligible for ISDS if the companies claimed the policies hindered investment.

The clause removed from a leaked 2011 draft promises pharmaceutical companies the right to charge “competitive market-derived prices,” according to New York Times reporting on the TPP section released by Wikileaks. [..]

Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines project, attributed the change to the “unanimous opposition” of non-U.S. TPP negotiating partners, and to U.S. groups like AARP and the labor union American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Maybarduk and other advocates argue that despite the lack of explicit price requirements in the new draft, the other TPP pharmaceutical and medical device transparency provisions still expose government drug purchasing programs to new legal challenges from pharmaceutical companies.

“The language previously was a little more specifically designed to attack the reimbursement rates” of government drug insurance programs, Maybarduk told The Huffington Post. “Now it is more about process rather than outcomes,” but the intent to undermine government drug price negotiation remains the same.

In an earlier statement (pdf), Maybarduk expressed concern that the rules would “limit Congress’ ability to enact policy reforms that would reduce prescription drug costs for Americans — and might even open to challenge aspects of our health care system today.” companies to challenge countries’ domestic laws before a tribunal of international judges if they believe the laws unfairly limit investment. The tribunals have the power to impose significant fines on countries if their laws are found responsible for the investment hardship in question. While pharmaceutical companies could not challenge national health programs’ policies through ISDS, their grievances would be eligible for ISDS if the companies claimed the policies hindered investment. [..]

But Maybarduk worries that USTR’s assurance notwithstanding, the language of the deal is broad enough to leave open the possibility of challenges to current Medicare policy.

The likelihood that TPP would preclude future Medicare policies is even greater, Maybarduk said. He is concerned that enabling Medicare to negotiate bulk drug prices would not be allowed under TPP. Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program, is currently prohibited from negotiating drug prices, but many health policy experts have touted it as a way to lower costs for Medicare and its beneficiaries.

Read the TPP Transparency for Healthcare Annex here

Read the Analysis by Dr Deborah Gleeson (Australia) on TPP Transparency for Healthcare Annex here

Read the Analysis by Professor Jane Kelsey (New Zealand) on TPP Transparency for Healthcare Annex here

There is still tome to stop this. This is the current House whip list. Call you representative and give them a piece of your mind. NOW!  


The Breakfast Club (A Nobel Doesn’t Cure Stupid)

You realize of course that we could never be friends.

Why not?

What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.

That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.

No you don’t.

Yes I do.

No you don’t.

Yes I do.

You only think you do.

You say I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?

No, what I’m saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.

They do not.

Do too.

They do not.

Do too.

How do you know?

Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.

So, you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?

No. You pretty much want to nail ’em too.

What if THEY don’t want to have sex with YOU?

Doesn’t matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.

Well, I guess we’re not going to be friends then.

I guess not.

That’s too bad. You were the only person I knew in New York.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgUmm… what about this is so hard to understand?  Women are people (said in his best Chuck Heston impersonation)!  I don’t get this delusion of a great divide.  The differences between the sexes are 99% cultural and to all you all who claim that this or that bit of psychological mumbo-jumbo points to any other conclusion I say you have not adequately controlled for bias, which is pervasive from birth to death.

And, just as women are not controlled by their stereotypes, men also.  We’re not all slaves to our sexual desires.  Doesn’t mean we don’t have them, only that it’s perfectly possible to have a professional relationship, even a friendship, with a person with whom you wish you were more intimate.  Indeed the body of anecdotal evidence of men wanting to get out of the “friend zone” is vast.

But what about unattractive people?  Don’t you want to “nail ’em too”?  No.  Doesn’t mean I can’t work with them or develop a friendship (unless, of course, the reason they’re unattractive is that they’re a jerk).

How… Vulcan.  I have my moments.  Every decade or so I get besotted with someone who is completely unsuitable if not borderline psychopathic.  I confide this to protest my normality on the spectrum of fictional humanity.

I met her today in the maze. Her name is Billie. She’s of simple folk, fair and true.

You mean she’s stupid?

Do not mock a love-smitten mouse.

For the most part though I keep my eyes up (actually I rarely look at people directly because my eyesight is so bad) and I don’t care what you are provided you fit into my secret hidden agenda.

Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?

The same thing we do every night, Pinky – try to take over the world!

Nobel Laureate Resigns Post After Derogatory Comments About Female Scientists

By DAN BILEFSKY, The New York Times

JUNE 11, 2015

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” Mr. Hunt told an audience at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea on Monday. “Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.”

“I did mean the part about having trouble with girls,” he told the BBC. “I have fallen in love with people in the lab and people in the lab have fallen in love with me and it’s very disruptive to the science because it’s terribly important that in a lab people are on a level playing field.”

He elaborated on his comments that women are prone to cry when confronted with criticism. “It’s terribly important that you can criticize people’s ideas without criticizing them and if they burst into tears, it means that you tend to hold back from getting at the absolute truth,” he said. “Science is about nothing but getting at the truth and anything that gets in the way of that diminishes, in my experience, the science.”

Mr. Hunt’s comments reflected the larger debate about the challenges facing women in science, with research suggesting they are forced to grapple with widespread sexism and gender bias. Referring to Mr. Hunt’s remarks, an article in The Independent newspaper in Britain noted: “With lab rats like him, is it any wonder there’s a shortage of women in science?”

A Yale study published in 2012 showed that science professors at American universities widely regarded female undergraduates as less competent than male students with the same skills and accomplishments.

The result, the report found, was that professors were less prone to mentor female students, or to offer them a job. Presented with two imaginary applicants with identical accomplishments and qualifications, they were more likely to choose the man, and if the woman was chosen, she was offered a salary that, on average, was $4,000 lower than her male counterpart. The study concluded that rather than being the product of willful discrimination, the bias was probably an outgrowth of subconscious cultural influences.

Mr. Hunt is not the first high-profile figure to face criticism over comments about women in science. In 2006, Lawrence H. Summers resigned as president of Harvard University following a difficult tenure and some poorly received remarks, including his suggestion in a speech that “intrinsic aptitude” could explain the relative dearth of women excelling in science and mathematics.

Other Nobel winners have faced a backlash for ill-judged comments about women, including the novelist V.S. Naipaul, who explained in 2011 that he regarded female writers as inferior. “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not,” he was quoted as saying by the Guardian, adding that he thought the work is “unequal to me.”

Science Oriented Video

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Science News and Blogs

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History June 11

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.

Click on image to enlarge

June 11 is the 162nd day of the year (163rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 203 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress selects Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert R. Livingston of New York to draft a declaration of independence.

Knowing Jefferson’s prowess with a pen, Adams urged him to author the first draft of the document, which was then carefully revised by Adams and Franklin before being given to Congress for review on June 28.

The revolutionary treatise began with reverberating prose:

Draft and adoption

While political maneuvering was setting the stage for an official declaration of independence, a document explaining the decision was being written. On June 11, 1776, Congress appointed a “Committee of Five”, consisting of John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut, to draft a declaration. Because the committee left no minutes, there is some uncertainty about how the drafting process proceeded-accounts written many years later by Jefferson and Adams, although frequently cited, are contradictory and not entirely reliable. What is certain is that the committee, after discussing the general outline that the document should follow, decided that Jefferson would write the first draft. Considering Congress’s busy schedule, Jefferson probably had limited time for writing over the next seventeen days, and likely wrote the draft quickly. He then consulted the others, made some changes, and then produced another copy incorporating these alterations. The committee presented this copy to the Congress on June 28, 1776. The title of the document was “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled.” Congress ordered that the draft “lie on the table”.

On Monday, July 1, having tabled the draft of the declaration, Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, with Benjamin Harrison of Virginia presiding, and resumed debate on Lee’s resolution of independence. John Dickinson made one last effort to delay the decision, arguing that Congress should not declare independence without first securing a foreign alliance and finalizing the Articles of Confederation.[64] John Adams gave a speech in reply to Dickinson, restating the case for an immediate declaration.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Politically Correct)



The Hills Are Alive, With The Sound Of Anschluss

This week’s guests-

I’ve expressed some reprehensible sentiments, offensive opinions, and hurtful statements.

And I meant every last one of them.

I regret nothing.  The good.  The bad.  It’s all the same.

Colin Quinn thinks Jerry Seinfeld is a thin skinned asshole.

Colin Quinn rebukes Jerry Seinfeld’s P.C. police theory – much to the disappointment of “Fox & Friends”

by Scott Eric Kaufman, Salon

Wednesday, Jun 10, 2015 01:35 PM EST

Quinn disputed Seinfeld’s theory that this “creepy PC thing” is a new phenomenon, telling co-host Brian Kilmeade that “it’s been out there since the ’90s.” He added that the same thing happens at comedy clubs, when a comedian says a particular “buzzword” and the audience loudly inhales.

There have always been “a million different [buzzwords] depending on where you are,” he said.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck tried to compel Quinn to admit that the problem of political correctness is getting worse, but he wouldn’t take the bait. “Do you feel that you’re being more and more restricted in your art, your profession, and what you do, and your freedom?”

“No,” he replied. “The whole point of being a comedian is that you’re not supposed to – we don’t listen to the crowd. We need the crowd, but what’s more insulting than someone who panders to the crowd? That’s the worst thing you can be in comedy, somebody who comes out and says, ‘Hey! I want to make everybody happy!’ That’s not our job. Our job is to make people unhappy.”

Steve Doocy continued to press the Fox News narrative of PC ascension, asking Quinn “what has changed? It used to be people could take a joke, but now it’s like people have no sense of humor.”

“Look,” Quinn said, “people still have a sense of humor, but it depends on where you’re coming from. You can’t just [throw your hands in the air] and say, ‘it’s just jokes,’ because it’s not a free pass.”

“Were we better then or now?” Kilmeade finally asked.

“There’s no ‘better,'” Quinn replied. “Now, people are trying to regulate humanity, and there’s good and bad there. It’s not like things were great then, either.”

The real news below.