Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Infuriating news roundup

This bothers me.

A critical document from President Barack Obama's free trade negotiations with eight Pacific nations was leaked online early Wednesday morning, revealing that the administration intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations, contradicting prior promises.

The leaked document has been posted on the website of Public Citizen, a long-time critic of the administration's trade objectives. The new leak follows substantial controversy surrounding the secrecy of the talks, in which some members of Congress have complained they are not being given the same access to trade documents that corporate officials receive.

"The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of [trade] negotiations," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch in a written statement.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has been so incensed by the lack of access as to introduce legislation requiring further disclosure. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has gone so far as to leak a separate document from the talks on his website. Other Senators are considering writing a letter to Ron Kirk, the top trade negotiator under Obama, demanding more disclosure.

Wasn't Ron Kirk just speaking to Texas Democrats last week? Doubt he mentioned this.

So if it's the union's rapid response, and not just their long-planned strategy as I have suspected, then this doesn't actually bother me all that much. (Actually it doesn't bother me much either way but I'm sure it bothers some Democrats.)

The AFL-CIO has told Washington Whispers it will redeploy funds away from political candidates smack dab in the middle of election season, the latest sign that the largest federation of unions in the country could be becoming increasingly disillusioned with President Obama.

The federation says the shift has been in the works for months, and had nothing to do with the president's failure to show in Wisconsin last week, where labor unions led a failed recall election of Governor Scott Walker.

"We wanted to start investing our funds in our own infrastructure and advocacy," AFL-CIO spokesman Josh Goldstein told Whispers. "There will be less contributions to candidates," including President Obama.

While there were "a lot of different opinions" about whether Obama should have gone to Wisconsin, according to Goldstein, "this is not a slight at the president."

The AFL-CIO has been at odds with the president before Wisconsin on issues such as the public health insurance option and renewing the Bush tax cuts.

The union leaders aren't happy about the Democratic national convention being held in a non-union town. Charlotte, and the Tar Heel state in general, have a few other simmering issues. Here in Houston last week, several union leaders were, and probably are still feuding with each other -- and other Democrats -- after a handful of their lackeys on the SDEC got turned out of office.

(I say 'lackeys' because, by my observation over several years, their membership on the SDEC served as nothing but a resume' embellishment for upward mobility in their respective unions. They were mostly furniture when it came to the SDEC's work.)

Labor in the United States and most certainly in Texas is at low tide and going lower. They need an entirely new paradigm, and a new generation of leaders to implement it. Update: Locally again, Houston janitors represented by the SEIU have gotten expressions of support from Mayor Annise Parker and statehouse candidate Gene Wu...

Houston has posted strong growth number in many sectors for several quarters. The mega-corporations that are housed in downtown Houston are again making record profits. So what do the cleaning companies offer the custodians and janitors who take care of downtown get? A ten cents per hour increase per year. That's right, they can buy an extra pack of gum each day, assuming they work 14 or more hours that day. 

ABC news ( ) reported that these workers make on average $9,000 a year.  I was floored when I read that. That's $3,000 below the US poverty level for an individual; and $10,000 below the poverty level for a family of three. No one ever said it would be easy, but it shouldn't be this hard. I'm not saying that people should be rich as janitors, but people who do an honest day's work should at least be able to take care of their own basic survival.

Mayor Parker has released a statement (  But, I don't see much of anyone else taking a stand with the Janitors. 

All Democrats should be rallying around SEIU's efforts. Post about it on Facebook; Tweet it; and post it on your blogs.  Send SEIU Local 1 (Houston) an email showing your support; better yet send them a small contribution so they can help out the families of workers who have already been blocked from returning to work after going on strike.

A good first step would be for labor to identify their allies in local and statehouse races and work to get those people elected in order to try to protect their public pensions, among other things. A challenger who can defeat this piece of shit in 2013 would be a great place to start.

Speaking of pieces of shit...

This infuriates some people, but I'm not one of them.

One of the many decapitated heads that appeared on "Game of Thrones" last season was a prop likeness of former President George W. Bush, its creators revealed in a DVD commentary.

In the tenth episode of the first season, Sansa Stark looks at several heads on spikes. One belongs to her father, Ned, and another to the former United States president.

Show creators pointed out their use of Bush's image, but said they weren't making a political statement. (Someone using the name SidIncoginto on Reddit pointed out Bush's inclusion, and io9, which picked up on the oddity, has video.)

"The last head on the left is George Bush," says David Benioff, one of the show's co-creators, in the DVD commentary.

"George Bush's head appears in a couple beheading scenes," adds co-creator D.B. Weiss.
"It's not a choice, it's not a political statement," explains Benioff. "It's just, we had to use what heads we had around."

Speaking of heads, some conservative ones are definitely exploding.

Update: I smell wussy.

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