Friday, February 28, 2014

TPP Officials Still Getting Bank Bonuses

Not surprising... but this is to be expected with trade deals negotiated in secret by the rich for the rich. Lee Fang:
Officials tapped by the Obama administration to lead the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations have received multimillion dollar bonuses from CitiGroup and Bank of America, financial disclosures obtained by Republic Report show.

Stefan Selig, a Bank of America investment banker nominated to become the Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce, received more than $9 million in bonus pay as he was nominated to join the administration in November. The bonus pay came in addition to the $5.1 million in incentive pay awarded to Selig last year.

Michael Froman, the current U.S. Trade Representative, received over $4 million as part of multiple exit payments when he left CitiGroup to join the Obama administration. Froman told Senate Finance Committee members last summer that he donated approximately 75 percent of the $2.25 million bonus he received for his work in 2008 to charity. CitiGroup also gave Froman a $2 million payment in connection to his holdings in two investment funds, which was awarded “in recognition of [Froman's] service to Citi in various capacities since 1999.”

Many large corporations with a strong incentive to influence public policy award bonuses and other incentive pay to executives if they take jobs within the government. CitiGroup, for instance, provides an executive contract that awards additional retirement pay upon leaving to take a “full time high level position with the U.S. government or regulatory body.” Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, the Blackstone Group, Fannie Mae, Northern Trust, and Northrop Grumman are among the other firms that offer financial rewards upon retirement for government service.

Froman joined the administration in 2009. Selig is currently awaiting Senate confirmation before he can take his post, which collaborates with the trade officials to support the TPP.
Thankfully the momentum on the TPP seems to have stalled at least for a moment, with Reid and Pelosi both publicly putting the break on Fast track. Make no mistake, the administration won't give up pushing this deal, but it may not happen until next year with a new congress.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bible Sized Tax Code

Via atrios
On the NPR I heard Dave Camp, the dude with the latest Republican plan to cut taxes for rich people, say this:
[the tax code] is now 10 times the size of the Bible, with none of the good news.
Obviously the tax code is far to complex, which screws over non rich people the most. But the tax code being 10 times the size of the bible... that is something we should care about.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Colonialism Explains the World

Here is a map of all the countries that Great Britain never invaded: (via various people on twitter)



Friday, February 21, 2014

(Short Term) Victory On Social Security

Obama caves (for now) in his 5 year long quest to cut Social Security:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House says President Barack Obama's upcoming budget proposal will not include his past offer to accept lowered cost-of-living increases in Social Security and other benefit programs. Those had been a central component of his long-term debt-reduction strategy.

Officials said Thursday that those potential reductions in spending, included in last year's Obama budget, had been designed to initiate negotiations with Republicans over how to reduce future deficits and the nation's debt. But Republicans never accepted Obama's calls for higher tax revenue to go along with the cuts.

One official said the offer would remain on the table in the event of new budget talks but that it would not be part of the president's formal spending blueprint for fiscal 2015.
Well done to all of us who fought hard to against this. We don't get many wins but he put a ton of weight behind efforts to do this so it's a big deal that he's backing off, if only for now.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Obama Admin Selling the TPP Using His Broken Pledge to Renegotiate NAFTA

This could not be more insulting:
"As a candidate for president, then-Senator Obama said he would renegotiate NAFTA, put labor and environmental standards at the core of trade agreements and make those standards enforceable like any commercial commitment," Froman said at CAP. “That’s exactly what we’re doing in TPP."
So to state the obvious, that is not what they are doing with the TPP. From what we know (which isn't much, since the agreement has been negotiated in secret with corporate lobbyists), the labor standards will be non-existent or non-enforceable. You know why I know this? Because the *entire point* of these agreements is avoid meaning labor and environmental standards in the United States.

But mainly, this is such a fuck you to go back to Obama's obviously bullshit NAFTA pledge and use that as an excuse to pass an agreement worse than NAFTA. Fuck all these people.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

Go back and listen to this whole album if you can. It's too fucking good:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Who Likes Chris Christie More *After* His Scandals?

This backs up atrios' long held view that "things that (in the teabagger mind) piss off liberals" is the way to the heart of any hardcore conservative. Pareene:
Here’s some good news for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie! His support in national polls is way, way up among an important constituency: People who love assholes. Obviously, not a lot of voters self-identify as “people who love assholes,” but pollsters have a special technical term for this small but terribly influential demographic group. They call them “core Republicans.”

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows that Gov. Christie is now viewed less favorably by all voters, and even by Republican voters, than he was just a few short months ago, dropping from 41 percent positive feelings among all voters last June to 22 percent positive feelings last month. But every cloud of scandal has a silver lining:
While the poll showed a drop in the positive feelings toward New Jersey Gov. Christie overall and a drop in positive feelings even among Republicans, Mr. Christie’s numbers actually improved among more strongly partisan Core Republicans. Among Core Republicans, only 32% had positive feelings about Mr. Christie in October. In January, that number climbed to 42%.
I honestly love this. The conservative ID is one of the most fascinating things in human history.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Train of Thought Lounge: Prelude to Snow Storm Edition

With 8-12 inches of snow coming our way in the next two days, here is a soul-warming deep house mixtape by Arjuna Deep labelist Lane 8.

Enjoy.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The NFL Will have its first Openly Gay Player This Fall

Michael Sam, the SEC defensive player of the year. The story of how he told his teammates (who knew all year and didn't give a shit) is probably the most powerful element in this whole thing:
Coaches at the University of Missouri divided players into small groups at a preseason football practice last year for a team-building exercise. One by one, players were asked to talk about themselves — where they grew up, why they chose Missouri and what others might not know about them.

As Michael Sam, a defensive lineman, began to speak, he balled up a piece of paper in his hands. “I’m gay,” he said. With that, Mr. Sam set himself on a path to become the first publicly gay player in the National Football League.

“I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out,” Mr. Sam said Sunday in an interview with The New York Times, the first time he had spoken publicly about his sexual orientation.
For another interesting behind the scenes look on how this transpired, this outsports article is amazing.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Carbonated Beverage for Every Occupied Palestinian!

In case you, didn't hear, Scarlet Johansson recently got into trouble for being an ambassador for Oxfam (actual human rights organization), while shilling for Sodastream (company that has a factory in occupied territory in the west bank). Anyway, Matt Bors is probably my favorite political cartoonist, and he just knocked this one out of the park:

Check out the rest of his site for more awesomeness if you aren't familiar with his work.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Let's Starve Poor People

Good job, Republicans, Democrats and President Obama!
After nearly two years of stasis and bickering, the House of Representatives passed a nearly $1 trillion farm bill on Wednesday with a bipartisan majority.

The final vote was 251-166, with only 63 Republicans registering their disapproval.

A majority of Democrats, however, voted against the bill, primarily due to the roughly $8 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps. Yet even this cut is considerably smaller than the $39 billion Republicans in the House initially wanted to see shaved from the program.

“This bill will make hunger worse in America, not better,” said Democratic Rep. James McGovern, the leader of the House Democrats’ push to avoid cuts to food stamps. “If this bill passes, thousands and thousands of low-income Americans will see their already meager food benefit shrink.”

The bill is nevertheless fully expected to pass in the Senate later this week, and White House spokesperson Jay Carney is on-record saying that if it maintains its current form, President Obama will sign it into law.
You spend your whole presidency focused on cutting the budget and this is what you get. Starvation!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Need More Guns

I mean hate girl scout cookies too but this is a bit extreme: (via Digby)
A California man was taken into custody over the weekend after he allegedly pulled a gun on a young Girl Scout who was selling cookies.

A press release from the Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner’s office that the father of the girl, who is a minor, contacted authorities after he saw 59-year-old John Dodrill point the gun at his daughter while she was selling cookies door-to-door on Sunday.
I was joking over the weekend that it's probably easier to buy a gun than it is to put money in my online sportsbook account. We obsessively regulate and criminalize the dumbest shit on earth (who can get married, gambling, immigration violations, marijuana) and basically live in a Randian paradise for stuff that really matters (guns, labor law, banking law, etc). It's all just so fucking absurd. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Another reason to be happy the Broncos lost

John Elway on why he's a Republican:
I don’t believe in safety nets. Obviously, we’ve got to have some kind of safety nets. But I think my philosophy is when given the opportunity to go take advantage of that, I think that’s when you get the best out of people.
The NFL pays no taxes, is a government granted monopoly and as David Sirota points out, teams receive 900 million dollars in subsidies every year. Fuck him.