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The Battle Over the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Fast-Track Gets Hot

by Dean Baker

President Obama must be having trouble getting the votes for fast-track authority since the administration is now pulling out all the stops to push the deal. This has included a press call where he apparently got testy over the charge by critics that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a secret trade deal.

Obama insisted the deal is not secret, but googling "TPP" will not get you a copy of the text. Apparently President Obama is using a different definition of "secret" than the ordinary English usage.

But that wasn't the only fun in the last week. The administration got 13 former Democratic governors to sign a letter boasting about the jobs generated by the growth of exports. The letter noted that exports had added "$760 billion to our economy between 2009 and 2014 -- one-third of our total growth." It neglected to mention that imports had grown even faster, diverting $890 billion in demand away from the domestic economy to foreign economies.

Contrary to what the governors were claiming in their letter, trade was a net negative to the tune of more than $130 billion over this five-year period. Instead of adding jobs, the growing trade deficit was drag on growth, slowing job creation and putting downward pressure on wages. The growth in the trade deficit over this period has the same impact on the economy as if people pulled $130 billion out of their paychecks each year and stuffed it under their mattress.


Hillary Clinton updates her logo to support same-sex marriage

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton changed her avatar on her Twitter and Facebook pages on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court will hear historic arguments in cases that could make same-sex marriage the law of the land.

The justices will indicate where they stand in the dispute over whether states can continue defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, or whether the Constitution gives gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.


Bernie Sanders on Gay Marriage: ‘Time for Supreme Court to Catch Up to the American People’

WASHINGTON, April 28 – As the Supreme Court today took up cases on gay marriage, Sen. Bernie Sanders said gay Americans in all states deserve the right to wed.

“Of course all citizens deserve equal rights,” Sanders said. “It’s time for the Supreme Court to catch up to the American people and legalize gay marriage.”

Vermont was a pioneer in enacting laws giving gay couples legal recognition, beginning with a history-making statute in 2000 permitting civil unions and the nation’s first marriage law passed without a court order in 2009. Gay marriage is now legal in 36 states.

Justices also agreed to decide by the end of their term this June whether states that do not permit same-sex weddings must recognize couples legally married in other states.


Streets Of Poison: The Toxic Legacy Of Louisiana


For the most carefree place on earth, New Orleans also seems to be a place of almost fathomless human misery. Even before Hurricane Katrina upended almost every institution of the city except for its gaudy tourist economy, the combination of poverty, disease, corruption, environmental catastrophe and urban neglect were as much of a tradition in the place as cornet music and vomiting college juniors. Even the best intentions seem often to end up in horrific tragedy.

Several decades ago, the city was trying to give poor people housing options besides the city's overcrowded public housing projects. So they built a couple of new neighborhoods in the Ninth Ward. It seemed like a good idea at the time for the people who moved into the new houses, or sent their kids to the new elementary school. The problems came later when people began to sicken and die.

Davis, whose family was one of the first to move into the community, said she experienced a normal childhood in Press Park. She remembers shooting marbles and playing Double Dutch while her mother spent hours in her garden, tending vegetables to feed her 13 children. But there was something wrong with the land, she said. There was something in the soil that seemed to be making everyone sick. What the city and HANO failed to tell the residents and what the School Board failed to tell the families of Moton Elementary School is that just a few feet below the grass was 20 feet of compacted industrial waste riddled with 49 cancer-causing chemicals.

You know what's coming, right? Endless stonewalling from the city. Lawsuits. Terribly ill plaintiffs. Furious judges.

Ramsey blasted the city for lying to the residents and doing "virtually nothing to address the fact that there are citizens of this city, in particular, children, the most vulnerable of the population, living on a toxic waste dump," Ramsey wrote. "It was not the plaintiffs who developed low-income housing and a school on a former landfill. (They) were given the promise of the American dream of homeownership wrapped in a poisonous box."

And then, after almost everyone's forgotten the case entirely, a settlement is reached. And, dammit, if there wasn't one more joker in the deck.

Nothing would give her back her health, Davis said, but maybe she could use part of her settlement to start a foundation for poor people struggling with cancer. Maybe she could spend her remaining years traveling the world, trying to make up for the time she lost hooked to machines in various emergency rooms, undergoing countless surgeries and spending hundreds of hours in bed, immobilized with pain. Maybe she could finally forgive, now that it seemed those responsible were trying to make things right. And with those thoughts in her head, Davis said she opened her envelope and looked at the figure: $4,843.15. That works out to $138.37 for each year she lived on a toxic dump. And the worst part, Davis said, is that the money came from a handful of insurance companies that represented the housing authority more than two decades ago. The city and its agencies continue to deny responsibility and refuse to pay the residents.

The history of the site is truly amazing. It was such a vast dump that fires burned in it literally for months. When it became overrun by various bugs and critters, the city dumped gallons in pesticides on top of the poisons already in the ground. In 1969, this was where New Orleans decided to build its new neighborhoods.



For the GOP, ‘one man, one vote’ becomes ‘one billionaire, one ballot’

By Dana Milbank

The Republican presidential candidates are set to crucify each other on crosses of gold.

GOP leaders exulted a few years ago when the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and other decisions invited the rich to pour unlimited sums into political campaigns — and they are, by the billions of dollars.

But the Law of Unintended Consequences frequently rules the practice of politics, and it has once again. Republican candidates are hauling in so much money that the flood of cash has washed away the Darwinian system of natural selection that previously allowed parties to pick their nominees.

In the past, there was a money primary: If candidates polled poorly, their fundraising would dry up and they’d have to drop out of the race. But such market principles no longer apply, because a large number of inviable candidates are artificially subsidized — kept in the race by a beneficent billionaire, or even a friendly multimillionaire or two. With no easy way to push weak candidates from the race, Republicans are being hoist by their own gilded petard.

My Post colleagues Matea Gold and Ed O’Keefe reported Monday that no fewer than 15 White House hopefuls are being assisted by outside groups typically formed as “super PACs” and run by the candidate’s allies. For the first time in the modern political era, political operatives say it’s possible the eventual nominee need not win in either Iowa or New Hampshire.



Explicit photo outs North Dakota lawmaker, retaliation claimed

A North Dakota lawmaker who sent an explicit photo of himself to another man says the exchange being made public is retaliation for a recent vote against expanding gay rights.

State Rep. Randy Boehning, a 52-year-old Republican legislator from Fargo, says a Capitol employee told him a fellow lawmaker vowed to out him as gay if he continued to vote against bills granting gays legal protections against discrimination.

Boehning refused to identify at this point who he believes is behind the purported political payback for his vote against Senate Bill 2279, the third such bill defeated in the past six years by North Dakota legislators.

The exchange came to light when Dustin Smith, a 21-year-old Bismarck man with no known connections to the Capitol, contacted The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead earlier this month, saying he recognized Boehning from a gay dating smartphone app called Grindr. Chatting under the user name Top Man!, Boehning sent Smith sexually suggestive messages and, in the early morning hours of March 12, an unsolicited photo of his penis, according to exchanges reviewed by The Forum.

"How can you discriminate against the person you're trying to pick up?" Smith said in a recent interview.



Tuesday Toon Roundup 4: The Rest






Tuesday Toon Roundup 3: Politics





Tuesday Toon Roundup 2: Rights argued

Tuesday Toon Roundup 1: Police and Riots

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