Friday, June 12, 2015

The TPP Tango

For want of a fig leaf, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-.01%) had to find another way to cover herself.  So she took to the House floor on Friday afternoon to announce a trial separation from Barack. She really still loves the guy, really wanted to find a way to Yes, but then all of a sudden he was going way too fast for her. It has nothing to do with that slobbery kiss a few years ago in the wake of her advice to "embrace the suck" -- when all she'd really meant was that Democrats should join with the GOP in cutting struggling people off their long-term unemployment benefits to get a budget passed. Awwwkward, yet oh so titillating.

The real awkward moment came on Thursday night, when he showed up, armed security entourage and beer in tow, at her charity insider baseball game, expecting her to fast-track all the way home on the TPP without even touching first base -- which in a functioning democracy, would include the release of its actual contents to the public. He didn't even call first, the cad.

Not to be suspicious of Pelosi's virtue or, god forbid, ethics, but let's be perfectly honest here. She is really hot to consummate the corporate coups disguised as trade deals. But she has simply been unable to catch a privacy break. (also look at her uncivil bringing-up-the rear treatment by Obama at the game, above) Not only were members of her own caucus publicly dissing her for whipping pro-TPP votes behind their backs on a fevered daily basis, but her own constituents back home in San Francisco were beginning to act up. Hanging up on their calls wasn't working. They just began showing up at her office in person, showing all the telltale signs of discontent and opprobrium:

Nancy Pelosi presumably wants to stay in Congress well past her sell-by date. Therefore, after bragging about what a great speaker and leader she's been all these years (regardless of her refusal to impeach war criminal George W. Bush when she had the chance) she regretfully took out her little jar of harmless designer sand and sprinkled it all over Obama's fast-track luge run of dreams. But she and Barack both see this for what it is: a theatrical attempt to retain an outward appearance of democracy and propriety. They and their pals in Congress will be back at their orgy of greed again as early as next week. They just need to  provide a slightly larger fig leaf than the weak, separate, cynical Trade Adjustment bribe proffered by the GOP to grease the skids for TPA (fast track). Even paltry displaced worker assistance was voted down by the Dems, partly because it involved robbing Medicare recipients to pay for worker re-training. As   Pelosi hinted, restoration of Medicare funds and horsetrading with Republicans over some infrastructure spending might be just the ticket for a smoother trip to TPP paradise for the oligarchs.

The fix is still in. Fig leaves are a dime a bribed dozen, so therefore we progressives must not rest on our laurels. Today's temporary victory is by no means the "stinging defeat" for a cruelly spurned president that the corporate press is making it out to be. A New York Times news analysis* by Jennifer Steinhauer, for example, makes the TPP all about personalities instead of about the actual corporate power-grabs contained therein. To Steinhauer, we have ourselves a breach of etiquette problem instead of a corruption problem.  It was neither fear of the electorate nor a new-found moral compass, but the same old Beltway "dysfunction" that caused Democrats to "abandon their president", she says.
After years of Republican derision of President Obama’s fiscal agenda, which they frequently describe as socialism, in the end it was the president’s own Democratic Party that deprived him of what would have been the largest economic policy victory of his second term.
The stunning defeat was the culmination of years of political dysfunction in Washington, with a twist.
Where do you even begin? Instead of ordinary citizens both here and abroad temporarily dodging the cruel neoliberal bullet (hollow point, because once TPP enters the body politic, it explodes into a thousand little bomblets ripping apart the whole fabric of democracy) we have a multimillionaire politician being stabbed in the back by a twisting Democratic knife.  It's all about Obama -- a true hollow man for the ages.
After decades of watching presidents secure trade agreements from South Korea to Mexico, even in the face of opposition from their base, Democrats have broadly come to the conclusion that such agreements exacerbate income inequality. They refused to come out in sufficient numbers to help Mr. Obama bring a broad agreement over the line.
Steinhauer insinuates that only bitch-slapping Democrats have come to the "conclusion" that trade deals exacerbate income inequality. She doesn't bother to research whether or not this is true. She cares only about the spurned hollow man.
Mr. Obama’s struggle also reflected a longstanding policy of the administration of maintaining a cool distance from Capitol Hill, enraging members of both parties. He delegated most of the arm-twisting to his unpopular trade representative, Michael Froman, thus allowing a populist figure, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, to take up much of the oxygen on the debate. She railed against trade deals on television during the period when the White House was trying to seduce those on the fence.
Can there be a mainstream article mentioning Elizabeth Warren without taking the obligatory dig at her? In this episode, we envision Warren greedily sucking up all the oxygen as she "rails" (like a banshee) to torture poor Barry. Slanted journalism like this is how public opinion gets manufactured to side with plutocratic interests. This is the journalism of what Tariq Ali aptly calls "the extreme center."

Steinhauer snarkily and falsely and centristically concludes,
As they return to their home districts for the weekend, Democrats will now have the distinct pleasure of experiencing what Republicans have undergone for the last few years — a narrative of their party in disarray and divided.
Huh? With all but 39 House Democrats "spurning" lover boy, the party is hardly divided. It is, however, beginning to lean ever so slightly and gingerly to the left.

The Times editors chose wisely when they assigned Jennifer Steinhauer to concoct her Beltway-centric TPP confection. Before her current gig covering Congress, she covered Hollywood. She is also the author of a new recipe book about how to recreate such toxic junk food classics as Twinkies and Sno-balls in your own kitchen.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

She gushes, "For Americans of a certain age, memory lane is paved with Ho-Hos."

Just like the paving stones of Pennsylvania Avenue, K Street and Capitol Hill.

Blue Dogs, Devil Dogs, Horn Dogs, Corn Dogs, All-American stadium Hot Dogs -- it's one big happy cash party for all the greed-junkies who are slow-dancing the TPP and trampling the rest of us underfoot in the process.

 Wall Street didn't even blink in the wake of the "stinging defeat." Maybe because Friday's vote is in reality a teasing butterfly floating for more bribery dollars?

*Update, 6/13: Sorry to mix metaphors from the above post, but since publication last night, New York Times reporter and Obama publicist Peter Baker horned in on Jennifer Steinhauer's piece in order to bat cleanup, relegating her to second banana in the byline department. Baker rewrote the lede, spinning the narrative in a way most favorable to Obama. His overwrought pathos begins:
  He made it personal. He appealed to their loyalty. He asked them to give him what every modern president has had. He argued the facts, disputed the politics, quarreled over the history and at times lashed out at those who still refused to stand with him.
This makes Obama seem like a hero-martyr rather than the hapless knifing victim portrayed by Steinhauer. Baker goes on to repeat the White House excuse that Friday's vote was just another one of those procedural snafus, and that Obama is actually victorious. The vote was belittled as "a nasty little issue" by one of the political operatives in Baker's part of the news analysis. The White House is also quoted as finding Nancy Pelosi "oddly in a mystery zone" -- which, I suppose, is a politically correct way of saying that she's senile. Before voting against all aspects of the trade package, Pelosi is described by Baker as having been "uncharacteristically shaken" and "vague." Baker all but called for an assisted living ambulette for this woman. You almost feel sorry for her.

Key word: almost. Maybe Jennifer Steinhauer can whip up a batch of Devil Dogs and bring them over to Pelosi as she engages in yet another secretive frenzy of weekend whip counting. The vagueness is a big act. It's how these people flirt and seduce one another.


Jay–Ottawa said...

As Karen shows us repeatedly, that great well of news, the New York Times, is often tainted with rubbish and junk, if not irreversibly poisoned. The lack of anything better in big dailies keeps forcing us back to the Gray Lady’s suspect well. Forget about alerting editors to the problems. Big money, which keeps the operation going, likes it the way it is. So, for every bucket drawn, be sure to add an equal measure of skepticism. Best not to imbibe too much anyway; skepticism is not a perfect screen against propaganda. The best corrective might be more time spent with the blog roll to our right.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I think it is significant that not one of the articles on the TPP today in the Times allowed for comments from the readers who seem to be generally better informed than the staff writers. The only article that did any justice to the vote was Justin Wolfers who reported that Wall Street didn't seem to notice. He put it down to the TPP not being a big deal but he did do us all a service by bringing the point up.

The fact is, we have heard the TPP is dead in the water more than once. The multinationals who have invested millions if not billions in lobbyists and lawyers to see this treaty passed are not going to just shrug their shoulders and walk away. They are going to fall back and regroup. They may think that if they just let the fervor die down that they can slip it in at a later date. Remember the American public's attention span is that of a gnat. What they don't want to happen is for the treaty to see the light of day. And I would wager, neither will the likes of Nancy Pelosi as Karen so aptly pointed out.

It is important that we demand to see the document and Congress demand that we see the document. Otherwise, it will be back . . . maybe under a different name or under a different president . . but it will be back. Those who thought they were going to slip this through are patient and diabolical . . . They might not have even expected it to pass this time around . . . but they will not be overly discouraged. They are in it for the long game and we need to be in it for the long game too.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Nice article by Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism on the TPP and Australia's participation in the deal.

Bill said...

I'm glad Karen at least has a sense of humor! I laughed out loud (at breakfast, no less) at the wonderful depiction of Steinhaur at the very end. Dogs! Certain age! Why don't you just say "old"? Is there something to hide there?

Karen Garcia said...


Our best hope is solidarity with citizen-activists in all the other signatory countries. The longer this plays out, the better for us. The more time WikiLeaks will have to release more documents, the better for us.

My congressional rep, Chris Gibson, sent me an email announcing he had voted against all the trade bills on Friday. He thinks it's a job-destroying travesty and especially harmful to small farmers in upstate New York. Did I mention that he is a Republican? He has been rated the most liberal Republican in Congress, which of course puts him well to the left of Obama and the rest of the New Democrat Cartel.


The blog roll to our right is the most valuable part of this site, in my opinion. I am constantly adding to it -- most recently have included Down With Tyranny, whose Gaius Publius has been doing excellent work on the TPP. If anyone has suggestions for further additions, please send them to me.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks Bill. If we didn't laugh, we'd cry, and that is no fun. If you have to die you might as well go down chortling as well as rattling.

dean said...

Suggested blog:

Jim Hightower

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Dean, duly added. I read one of Hightower's books but forgot that he also has an excellent blog.

Ste-vo said...

Is not really that impressed with Justin Wolfers, I do think that I, not a Ph.D trained economist, could have written that article. But I am impressed with his Shared Earning/Shared Parenting relationship and the fact that his daughter is named Matilda. And I know he is writing for a newspaper, which I believe they say is written for a sixth-grade reading level. But really, a little more punditry would have been appropriate, don't you think? And I see that Jack Dorsey is back at Twitter, beard and all, so all is well with the world. And I also did something this AM that I have not done since 2008. I made a contribution, to Bernie Sanders and shared it on my Facebook Status update so all of my 214 friends will know. Donate to Bernie Sanders. Do it. Now. The last time I did that was for BHO - before he became Mr. President Peace Prize. I fell for him: hook, line and sinker, lock, stock and two smoking barrels and cried when he and Michelle danced at their inagural ball. I did.

annenigma said...


How about adding Ralph Nader's blog. He still has a lot of good things to say.

Karen Garcia said...

Right, Anne. Just added to da roll. Keep the suggestions coming, readers!

Meredith NYC said... today's Krugman blog re TPP/Davos commented: "I hope that as the TPP tango plays out, PK will evolve from his lukewarmth and get as hot under the collar about this corporate coup as the rest of us hippies."

Right, but I’m thinking pk will remain cool. That is his trademark now. Let other liberals get hot under the collar, then show how he contrasts with them, even as he keeps pushing for more govt spending to show how liberal he is. His post today is revealing of his basic attitude.

This was my comment, put in a reply to yours.

Ignorant hippies! Very cute. But it is such a far fetched, bizarre phrase to describe how opponents of Stiglitz and Warren might view them. You impute such a put down insult the anti-Warrens. I wonder why you thought that up.

I think it is a way of saying, I, Krugman, am not like Stiglitz and Warren. not an ignorant hippie. I separate myself from them in various liberal ideas. I am a realist. So I don’t oppose TPP too strongly. They go too far in their prescriptions for better economic equality.
I am more a part of the establishment, even though I want more govt spending. I am not austere, but I am " with it," sophisticated and one of the ‘influentials’. Krugman knows how the global economy works.

What words would he use to describe how the conservatives think of Sen. Sanders? Ignorant hippie is mild

Meredith NYC said...

Hero martyr...that's the expression Obama puts on giving speeches now. A fighter for his cause, serious, determined, truth teller.

NYT has run 2 op ed contributor pieces on TPP that I can recall, and with comments, 90 pct against, But I can’t recall any columnists delving into TPP. They are avoiding one of the biggest issues, unless I missed it.

At least Nocera is today, at last, actually writing on something related to the destruction of economic equality, re unions and Gov Walker. After writing on every other topic over time. The business columnist is just not that into it.

Karen Garcia said...


I was goading Krugman, knowing full well that he'll stay lukewarm. But give him credit, at least he is not denying that he is lukewarm. "I am tepid, hear me whine, glass half full, all the time" is his anthem. As I have suggested before, I think he'd be even more honest if he renamed his blog "Conscience of a Neoliberal." He is more establishment than liberal. Bernie Sanders is a liberal.

Also my comment to K was an indirect dig at Obama, who also "evolved" re gay marriage once it was entirely safe to do so. I suspect that if Sanders wins the nomination, you will see PK veer left faster than you say think tank appointment and stipend. Of course, I am a dreamer.

Meredith NYC said...

Your post has the most rec’s on K’s blog ---80, which is a lot for the blog. My reply to you hasn’t been published yet, many hours later, so I sent again. Ha!

Absolutely rename his blog conscience of a
neo liberal. Other liberal bloggers/pundits don’t bother with titles proclaiming their conscience.

Another TPP commenter brought up 19th century colonialism—Clive of India, etc. I said, yes, now we see American citizen colonials, a system updated to 2015 and sold by mass media in a democracy.

The thing is, Krugman doesn’t bother to explain to his readers why he doesn’t think TPP is really so bad, even though he blogs a few X/day, 7 days/week. A few phrases once in a while.

And Krugman won the Nobel Prize for analyzing the effects of free trade and globalization! But his readers are kept in the dark. How many will complain?

When the candidate debates start, Krugman will be forced to deal with Sanders’ policies. How’s he going to play it?

Jay–Ottawa said...

This yarn, attributed to Abraham Lincoln, has more than one form and may be apocryphal. Still, it’s worth dwelling on its good sense once in a while.

"Some men are like the stump the old farmer had in his field - too hard to uproot, too knotty to split, and too wet and soggy to burn." [Lincoln’s] neighbors asked him what he did about it. "Well, now, boys," he answered, "I just plowed around it."

Pearl said...

The Sunday Times’ Snowden Story is Journalism at its Worst — and Filled with Falsehoods by @ggreenwald

A very disturbing report. I hope you can access it as my sending articles is not
including the lighter colored words to pull it up. But you can find it with the information given. More of what Karen is exposing in other areas and part of the larger ugly picture.

Patricia M. said...

Thank you, Pearl. I agree. Here's the link. Along with two others. All three of a piece. They are out to "get" Putin and to use and "get" Snowden. All disturbing.

Meredith NYC said...

Thanks Pearl for informative Greenwald article. Too bad he agrees with the rw Supreme Court that big money buying our elections is free speech protected by the constitution.

Meredith NYC said...

Jennifer Steinhauer covered Hollywood, and now covers Washington and writes recipe books?
Patrick Healy was a theater critic and now covers politics. Frank Bruni was restaurant reviewer and now has his op ed page column.

Healy's op ed piece today combines his theater/political expertise so entertainingly! Says the underdog Bernie Sanders should take heart b/c the underdog Bwy show won the Tony award. And it featured gay characters, and public opinion on gay rights has evolved, so maybe it will on Sanders' policies, who knows?

This is supposed to be clever, and heartening for Bernie fans, but maybe it's also condescending and trivializing, or something?

He makes wrong comparisons that Truman was an underdog in 48, like Sanders, and also compares to McCarthy in 68.

I wondered, are the Tony awards controlled by big money and will they dictate what future shows are created? Like our big money Hillary donors will strongly influence how laws are written and which are passed?

I hope the Times columnists and reporters are studying up on policy in their spare time, since when the Sanders/Hillary debates start, they may have to make some actual policy comparisons and analyze what they mean for the country. Can they do it?

annenigma said...

Since it has come up twice recently, it might be helpful to link to the article that Glenn Greenwald wrote so we can understand his rationale and make our own judgment.

'What the Supreme Court Got Right'

Pearl said...

Wonderful response to Maureen's article about Obama, Karen. Although she may not recognize the reasons for his "failures" she had the courage to list his numerous descretions. Of course we have the usual people blaming the Repugs for his inability to move forward because they do not understand the true mission. as I
stated in a previous comment I made, this deliberate is set up in order to allow him to do nothing and give others the blame.
But,I think some of what she says will hit home. Of course it will then take x number of years for the truth to sift through the minds of reporters and voters which always results in seeing too late the mistakes that were made which keep on being repeated. This of course is the description of insanity which is what is actually going on.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Faulting Glenn Greenwald for siding with the Court’s majority in Citizens United v. FEC strikes me as uninformed as, or as perverse as, blaming Ralph Nader for Al Gore’s “defeat” in 2000. Some liberals still don’t get it; other liberals don’t want to get it.

Reading Greenwald’s old brief in Salon once again––h/t Anne for the link––was an instructive review from a master on the import of the First Amendment.

One of the takeaway points among many laid out by Greenwald is that CU did not open the gate to a corporate buyout of the electoral process. Corporate ownership of the government was already in place by 2010, when CU reached the High Court.

Even if CU had been decided in favor of the Federal Election Commission, corporate lawyers would have continued their exploration for loopholes to move their money past campaign finance laws.

CU was not the cause of the electoral catastrophe, which Greenwald deeply deplores. CU is more of an official monument to corporate dominance raised well after the fact.

The First Amendment is not the right tool for removing big money from elections. And, as Greenwald explains, the decision for CU saved the all-important absolutism of the First Amendment. The inside baseball is that CU was more of a threat to the First Amendment than to the integrity of elections. At least on this occasion, the First Amendment was not whittled back to support “a good outcome.”

Greenwald says it all so much better. His unexpected defense of the Court in this decision is not long or complex and well worth the read. My following Greenwald from Solon to the Guardian to the Intercept has proven so much more rewarding than spending time with MSM writers who are less gifted––and less free.

Meredith NYC said...

Jay.....thank you for your educational post. I wonder why the many other democracies who have elections financed with public funds, with strict limits on any private donations, and mandated free media time for all candidates, do not see their freedom of speech compromised? I guess they don't value freedom like Americans do. While the US has to sell off it's legislators and leaders to the highest bidder, in order to fulfill the constitution and guard against ' big govt intrusion'? Is that how it goes then?

Nader blamed for Gore's defeat?? Nothing to do with this. In countries with multi parties they have run offs with 2nd rounds so a 3rd party or 4th party isn't a 'spoiler'. Voters pick their 1st choice to express their true opinion in the 1st round, then pick from the top 2 winners.

This is more democratic since it enables free expression of voter preferences, after they are exposed to a wide range of views on their media---despite not being snowed under by years of privately financed campaign ads that in the US needs billionaire check writing.

America has the most ads, the longest campaigns, but the narrowest range of political options and solution offered to voters, say experts. That's just how the big money likes it. That's why we're still fighting for truly universal h/c, to name just 1 big difference between us and the rest of the 1st world.

Valerie said...

Bill Black has an excellent analysis of the TPP not being dead.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Proportional representation, short campaigns and public funding are wonderful ideas. I agree, Greenwald agrees. Most of the people who acknowledge the problems you listed also agree and want better outcomes on the matter.

How best to neutralize big money within the bounds of our Constitution is the question. It is not enough to keep reciting the list of problems and casting about for a bumper sticker solution. In his Salon piece, which does demand a close reading, Greenwald argues rather convincingly that undercutting the FIrst Amendment for the sake of a good outcome on this issue is the legally incorrect way and a very dangerous way to bar corporate money from the election process.

You may disagree, but in light of Greenwald's defense of his view it would be unfair to imply in the future that he's in bed with corporate money on this issue. He just might be a much better ally for liberty, equality and justice than anyone covering the same beat at the NY Times.