Did you notice the two rabid skunks President Obama unleashed at the State of the Union picnic?These trade agreements are a nightmare for Americans, but apparently they're not interesting enough for our news media to discuss. Of course, there is no controversy over this kind of thing for ordinary Americans - I doubt you will find less than 80% agreement that we should be making it harder, not easier, to export American jobs. Unfortunately, the balance is pretty much the reverse on Capitol Hill.
Creating American jobs! Rebuilding American manufacturing! Boosting American exports! Promoting innovation! Ensuring strong health and environmental protections! Completing an 11-nation NAFTA-style "free trade" agreement (FTA) called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - aka NAFTA with Vietnam? Launch of "free trade" negotiations with Europe long-demanded by multinational corporations to eliminate vital consumer protections - the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA)?
Two of these things are not like the others. Indeed, TPP and TAFTA would gut many of the most worthy goals included in Obama's SOTU address if the American public and Congress let them come to fruition.
On things like reproductive rights and medical insurance and even Social Security, the media likes to pretend we are "a divided nation" and it's all just too controversial, but even most Republicans don't dissent from the liberal view on these issues - 80% of Americans do not want Social Security or Medicare cuts, and most want a better medical insurance system than what we have now. Single-payer would have been an easy sell if anyone had bothered to discuss it, but our leaders went out of their way (and yes, I definitely mean Obama, the point man on all of this), to make sure that didn't happen. Even abortion is far less controversial than we're led to believe, with 70% of the public saying they don't want Roe v. Wade overturned.
Where all of the issues are concerned, from reproductive rights to the Citizens United decision to voter registration to jobs to climate change, we can argue some about which is the biggest, most important issue, but it has to be understood that none of that matters as long as we don't have democracy. The public has been pretty clear about what it wants, and the Hill has been pretty clear that it doesn't care what we want. If we can't figure out how to turn back into a democracy, this train is going to run right over us.
Chris Hedges on human trafficking and Profiting From Human Misery: "The for-profit prisons and their lobbyists in Washington and state capitals have successfully blocked immigration reform, have prevented a challenge to our draconian drug laws and are pushing through tougher detention policies. Locking up more and more human beings is the bedrock of the industry's profits. These corporations are the engines behind the explosion of our prison system. They are the reason we have spent $300 billion on new prisons since 1980. They are also the reason serious reform is impossible." It's about corporate profits, not justice, and very definitely not about public safety.
The Second-Mortgage Shell Game: "A year later, it's clear that the settlement hasn't worked as planned. Banks have dragged their feet in modifying first mortgages, much less agreeing to forgive part of the principal on homes that are underwater. In fact, the deal contained a few flaws. It has allowed banks to push homeowners into short sales, an alternative to foreclosure whereby the distressed homeowner sells the property for less than the debt that is owed. Not all short sales are bad - some homeowners are happy to walk away with the debt cleared - but as a matter of social policy, the program has failed to keep people in their homes. A lesser-known but equally grave problem is that banks have been given a backdoor mechanism to continue foreclosures at the same pace as before." (via)
You notice you haven't heard anything about south-of-the-border gulags? Tomgram: Greg Grandin, Why Latin America Didn't Join Washington's Counterterrorism Posse: "Lula stalled for years on the initiative, but it seems that the State Department didn't realize he was doing so until April 2008, when one of its diplomats wrote a memo calling Brazil's supposed interest in reforming its legal code to suit Washington a 'smokescreen.' The Brazilian government, another Wikileaked cable complained, was afraid that a more expansive definition of terrorism would be used to target 'members of what they consider to be legitimate social movements fighting for a more just society.' Apparently, there was no way to 'write an anti-terrorism legislation that excludes the actions' of Lula's left-wing social base." Ironic, isn't it? Remember "South America, where life is cheap"? Apparently it's worth more there than it is in the "free world".
"Tom Friedman Explains The Problem With The Economy" - I hear it's something to do with "uncertainty".
Digby: "Finally, the press corps steps up and demands transparency from the administration." You have to click on this one, and you'll still think it's The Onion.
Stuart Zechman really tore into the ideological centrism in Michael Scherer's "objective" article on Obama's State of the Union address.
This is a teaser for Rachel Maddow's Iraq war special based on Hubris. It's well worth watching that video for the background on what makes it so timely. The actual special - a horrible flashback - is here. But at least it was on the TV, all at once, where people would see it.
A pop quiz from Glenn Greenwald: Guess the speaker.
Jonathan Schwarz recalls the funniest thing Jonathan Chait ever wrote. (And here I'd forgotten that I'd even commented on that one, way back when.)
I took this poll but I declare it a push poll - those aren't the choices.
The foodie comment
The fashionista approach
The Sun: "Topless protesters 'celebrate' Pope's resignation in Paris"
But more seriously, if you can stand Facebook, there's this: "When Singer Sinead O'Connor tore a picture of the Pope on SNL, Americans were never told why.....In Ireland, they knew." A horror story then, but all the more chilling as you realize what's going on in "the free world" today. This is the image you should have in your mind when you hear right-wing pundits talk about relying on "charity".
"How one man's lies almost destroyed the comics industry [...] Though Wertham claimed his evidence came from thousands of case studies, it turns out that he was lying. A new investigation of Wertham's papers by University of Illinois information studies professor Carol Tilley has revealed that the psychologist fabricated, exaggerated, and selectively edited his data to bolster his argument that comics caused antisocial behavior. Here is what Tilley discovered, and why it still matters today."
John Scalzi has decided to serialize his upcoming novel, The Human Division, in DRM-free e-format before the print edition comes out.
Louis C.K. with some American history. ("This might just be the best use of a Jay Leno appearance I've ever seen.")