Nel's New Day

June 13, 2015

TPP, McKinney – Updates

My sincerest apologies to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Last week, I accused her of caving into voting for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Instead she might be the reason that it failed–thus far. As usual, she provides great leadership for her caucus while House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), can’t, according to Rachel Maddow, lead a hungry puppy to a hamburger.

pelosi

On the House floor before the vote, Pelosi said, “You cannot separate commerce and environment” in reference to the trade agreement allowing corporations to sue governments that “interfere” with their business—even if the government wants carbon reduction goals and other environmental legislation. She referenced Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) amendment that would “ensure that trade agreements do not require changes to U.S. law or obligate the United States with respect to global warming or climate change.”

The option to fast-track the TPP passed by two votes more than needed, 219-211, but fast-track can’t move forward without the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) that provides inadequate assistance to workers who would lose jobs or be injured by the TPP bill. That bill failed by a 302-126 vote. The GOP has called for a re-vote on Tuesday, but if it fails again, the option may die. If the entire package doesn’t pass, the bill goes to a joint conference committee to resolve differences between the House and the Senate. Each chamber will have to again vote on the compromise bill. Opposition to the TPP is increasing with a coalition of more than 2,000 groups opposed to Fast Track and the TPP—including women’s rights, labor, LGBT, environmental, civil rights, senior citizen’s groups and more—redoubling its efforts for next week’s fight.

A chief argument from proponents of the TPP is that it isn’t actually secret—although every legislator who has read it states that the document is classified. Ryan, however, finally admitted just how secret the TPP is. During his House Rules testimony, he said, “It’s declassified and made public once it’s agreed to.” He actually meant that the TPP would be declassified after Congress agrees to the fast-track option, but the fast-track up-or-down vote with no amendments and a pass by a majority of 51 in the Senate provides little oversight. The next two agreements being negotiated, TiSA and TTIP, are not even available to members of Congress who must go to a secret room to read the TPP.

Another big chunk of news last week came after twelve law enforcement officials went to a swimming pool because of a report from 911 about a fight. Eric Casebolt, the police officer supervising the other 11 police officers, resigned after videos of his brutalizing a teenage-girl in a bikini and his drawing his gun on other teenagers in bathing suits went viral.

Fox network dived into the pool fight by defending the police officer and denigrating all the black teens at the party, despite the fact that many of them lived near the pool and had passes to get in. One of the chief witnesses on Fox, cheered on by Sean Hannity, was Sean Toon, who claimed that “the police did nothing wrong” and that there were no racial overtones in the incident.

McKinney whte woman 2Further examination of videos taken on the day show that Toon and his wife, Shannon Barber Toon, most likely started the confrontation. Barber Toon was with the two women who called the teens “black f*ckers” and other slurs before initiating a physical attack on a 19-year-old girl. Grace Stone, a 14-year-old white McKinney resident, heard Toon say, “You should go back to the Section 8 [public] housing where you’re from because you don’t belong in our neighborhood.” Stone does live in the neighborhood.

When Toon was 18, he and friends abused and murdered animals housed in a rival high school’s agriculture center. A teacher in the program said, “Cows and pigs were cut and bruised, apparently beaten with wooden boards. And baby turkeys were slain, their limbs torn apart. It was brutal. There’s no way to describe it. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Toon was fined $300 and sentenced to 285 days in jail. The same year he was charged with “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon” and made a plea deal for 75 days in jail.

Tracey-Carver Allbritton, a woman involved in the attacks on the teens who started punching the top of the girl’s head while shouting racial slurs, was found through a Facebook profile linking her to the incident. She worked for a contractor with the Bank of America, that conducted an investigation to see if she was a bank employee. Allbritton’s employer, CoreLogic Inc, has provided financial and home loan information services to Bank of America since 2011, when it settled a $335 million lawsuit for racially discriminating against Blacks and Latinos in home mortgage lending. She is now on administrative leave.

In another fallout from the pool problem in McKinney, Karen Fitzgibbons, a fourth-grade teacher in Lubbock (TX) has been relieved of her duties after she posted this reaction to Casebolt’s resignation on Facebook:

“This makes me ANGRY! This officer should not have to resign. I’m going to just go ahead and say it…the blacks are the ones causing the problems and this ‘racial tension.’ I guess that’s what happens when you flunk out of school and have no education. I’m sure their parents are just as guilty for not knowing what their kids were doing; or knew it and didn’t care. I’m almost to the point of wanting them all segregated on one side of town so they can hurt each other and leave the innocent people alone. Maybe the 50s and 60s were really on to something. Now, let the bashing of my true and honest opinion begin…GO! #imnotreacist #imsickofthemcausingtrouble #itwasagatedcommunity”

Fox also invited Kisa Jackson to appear on the network after she blamed parents for the problems and justified Casebolt’s actions in a video. “It’s about, again, the parents, and teaching our children to respect authority figures.” She told host Fox host Steve Doocy that the parents needed to “take ownership” of their children’s actions. Omitted from the segment was the problem that police in Baton Rouge (LA) had in arresting Jackson’s son, Jalen Mills, after he punched a woman in the mouth. Investigators issued a felony arrest warrant for Mills, a defensive back on the Louisiana State University football team, after he failed to show up for a scheduled appointment and didn’t return phone calls. He was initially charged with second-degree battery and suspended from the team, but the charges were later reduced to a misdemeanor because prosecutors could not prove the woman suffered “permanent disfigurement or unconsciousness.”

That’s it: one temporary success and one vindication after Fox went quiet about the McKinney pool party.

June 9, 2015

June Pot-pourri

Best news of the week: The gun-friendly Supreme Court may understand that enough is enough. In refusing to hear the case Jackson v. City and County of San Francisco, the Supremes have let stand a lower-court ruling that gun owners are required to keep their guns “well-regulated” by locking them up. Still standing is a 2007 San Francisco regulation requiring all guns to be locked up, disabled, and/or controlled by a trigger lock when stored in a home. The two dissenting justices are Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. A gun in the home increases the likelihood of gun related deaths, including accidental deaths, and injuries and death to children. The lower-court ruling came from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which covers my beloved state of Oregon.

Speaking fees from the GOP president: While conservatives rant about the “Clinton Cash scandal” when Hillary Clinton donates her speaking fees to charity, they ignore George W. Bush, who has been given $100,000 to $175,000 for over 200 paid speeches, putting the money into his personal account as he continues to “replenish the ol’ coffers,” according to Bush. The “coffers” are up to about $15 million dollars. One of these speeches was at the 2014 International Bowl Expo where Bush explained that “bowling is fun.” He also raked in $100,000 at a fundraiser in McKinney (TX) for a homeless shelter.

mckinney2Speaking of McKinney: Witnesses have given another side to the pool fight story in McKinney (TX) about unruly black kids who didn’t belong at the pool party. The problems started when a white couple came up to the kids—who lived in the area—and used racial slurs (“black f*ckers”), insulted them (“go back to your Section 8 housing”), and slapped the teenage girl who hosted the party after she tried to defend a 14-year-old white girl who was also at the party. The couple then called police, claiming that black kids were fighting. Eric Casebolt, now resigned from the force, shouted at the young black girl kneeling on the ground, “Get on the ground.” He immediately grabbed her hair and pushed her face down into the grass before putting his knee on her back.  On a Daily Show segment, Jessica Williams pointed out that there has been progress because “a cop pulled a gun on a group of black kids and nobody is dead.” That segment is here. Casebolt, who also pulled his gun on unarmed teens in bathing suits, was “2008 Officer of the Year.”

President Obama’s invasion of Texas: Texas citizens have received over $11 million in FEMA funds after the most recent severe flooding. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who couldn’t support aid for Sandy victims because of the “pork” and “wasteful spending” in the Disaster Relief Act of 2013, demanded money for his own state. The “pork” in the 2013 bill was to “replenish FEMA’s disaster relief fund, which funds relief from future disasters.” Other “pork” came from bribes to red state Republicans—including Texas—to pass the bill over their filibuster. Texas and Oklahoma have had over one-fourth of FEMA’s declared disasters in the past six years, Texas at 75 and Oklahoma at 45. Former Gov. Rick “I hate the federal government” Perry said after fire devastated much of his state, “It is not only the obligation of the federal government, but its responsibility under law to help its citizens in times of emergency.”

Two sides of Ted Cruz:

“This [Disaster Relief Act of 2013] bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington–an addiction to spending money we do not have.”—2013

“Democrats and Republicans in the congressional delegation will stand as one in support of the federal government meeting its statutory obligations to provide the relief to help the Texans who are hurting.”—2015

Cruz isn’t alone in his hypocrisy. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) voted against emergency aid to Hurricane Sandy victims when he was a U.S. representative, arguing that he didn’t “think Arkansas needs to bail out the Northeast.” The Northeast bailed out Arkansas last July when Cotton got FEMA funds for his state after severe flooding. Every Colorado Republican in the House voted against post-Sandy relief before they wanted emergency funding for Colorado in September 2013.

Shocker of the week: President George W. Bush’s Iraq policy was wrong, according to his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He told the British newspaper The Times, that the plans to replace Saddam Hussein’s regime with democracy were unworkable and that he had serious concerns from the first time he heard about the idea. [After the article was published, Rumsfeld denied that he had criticized Bush or that his statements contradicted his previous positions about the Iraq War.]

Loss of the judiciary in Kansas: After Gov. Sam Brownback destroyed Kansas’ economy, he signed a bill to obliterate the state’s judiciary if is rules against a law that he likes. He went into a snit after the state supreme court ruled that the inequality between school funding for rich and poor districts was unconstitutional. The justices ordered the disparity fixed, and the legislature stripped the supreme court of its authority to appoint local chief judges and set district court budgets. Brownback and the legislature have threatened the supreme court with recall elections, splitting the court into two sections, lowering the retirement age, and creating partisan elections. If the supreme court strikes down these laws, it  loses its funding.

The week’s oddity: A ruling is imminent on the lawsuit from Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, founder of AIG, who is suing the U.S. government because it saved his company from financial ruin. He claims that the government seized his assets illegally and wants to be paid the original value of the company. Before the bailout, he was forced out of the company because he used off-the-books schemes to fake profitability and paid a $15 million fine for the crime while AIG paid $1.6 billion in penalties. James Millstein, the Treasury official who oversaw AIG’s restructuring, said about AIG:

“The AIG which came begging to the Fed’s doorstep was the AIG that Hank Greenberg built. Its capital structure was opaque, it was heavily dependent on short-term funding, with a highly leveraged financial products subsidiary that had been organized to evade effective regulatory oversight. [Greenberg] ran the parent company like a hedge fund with a triple A rating.”

AIG had gone to other lenders before, in a last resort, it went to the federal government. It would receive $85 billion for an 80 percent stake in the company and the option of additional lending. The U.S. Treasury took AIG’s offer. Greenberg’s lawyer is David Boies, whose career includes getting George W. Bush appointed to president for his first term and saving marriage equality in California. Judge Thomas Wheeler is a George W. Bush appointee. A Greenberg win could undo the entire financial bailout, possibly forcing every bailed-out bank, no matter how successful, into receivership. Greenberg just wants $40 billion.

GOP problem with losing “Obamacare”: With the Supreme Court judgment on King v. Burwell, everyone is getting nervous, especially the GOP legislators who can’t figure out what to do if the Supremes do what the GOP wants. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) wrote:

“Six million people risk losing their health care subsidies, yet @POTUS continues to deny that Obamacare is bad for the American people.”

The lawsuit to do away with subsidies in states that use the federal exchanges is funded by a conservative organization, promoted by conservative think tanks and conservative law professors, and backed by many top Republicans including several of Thune’s GOP colleagues. The minority of lower court judges siding with the plaintiffs are all Republicans. Only Republican-appointed justices are expected to vote for the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court, and the majority of the justices are Republicans. The lead attorney for the plaintiffs boasted that he does not plan to “lose any Republican-appointed judges’ votes” when his argument was being considered by a lower court. The Republicans are most likely more nervous after a poll shows that 55 percent of the respondents don’t want the subsidies taken away by the Supreme Court.

“News” that people can’t trust: Journalism is expensive which is why newspapers publish information that corporations send them. CNN plans to sell air time to corporations for in-house programs that look and feel like news but actually present the corporate PR goals and narrative. The new CNN advertorial program will be called “Courageous.” Corporations will be willing to pay for programming on “Courageous” in order to trade on the perception—from some—about CNN‘s “trustworthiness” and unwillingness to “blur the lines.”

Owned by Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting, CNN already published 18 “original series” last year, 17 of them sponsored by a corporation. CNN’s in-house studio will produce “news-like content on behalf of advertisers” to reflect marketers’ growing desire for articles and videos that feel like editorial work. “Courageous” will highlight “news,” such as the building of a manufacturing plant or a philanthropic effort, according to Otto Bell, the lead of the studio and former creative director at OgilvyEntertainment. Dan Riess, executive vice president of integrated marketing and branded content at Turner, said, “This isn’t about confusing editorial with advertising. This is about telling advertisers’ stories.” Oh, sure.

[Note: Nobody pays me for writing this blog. It’s just my perception of the world!]

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