Open Thread – Making America “Hate” Again – Trump, Cruz Aftermath

Never thought I’d see the Hate and Division I am seeing in our Nation lately. Many things are to blame, especially the two GOP candidates mentioned. But also a lot of the blame goes to the Media. Instead of doing their job of seeking truth, they are seeking ratings which bring them money in advertising dollars. Investigative reporting is almost non-existent! And whipping the racism and anger of the people will leave a big toll in our near future.

The infestation of hate speech, egoism and greed will be hard to erase. And much of that is evident in our Federal and State Governments. A lot funded by the very rich and big corporations pushing money at these politicians to push their own agenda. An agenda that is horrible for the people of this Nation.

This coming year your Vote will be very important, more than ever before. If you don’t Vote or Vote for the wrong people we all live with the consequences and I will warn you, You Won’t Like it!

Congress has a Budget Deal. What’s it all about?

This was Boehner’s last Hurrah as the House Speaker and member. Boehner and Senate Leader McConnell huddled to try to get a Budget passed. Here’s what they had to deal with:

From the NYTimes: Budget Deal Isn’t Boehner’s ‘Grand Bargain’ but Gets Job Done

The agreement, negotiated in secret by top congressional and White House aides, is a recognition by Mr. Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, that they were staring into a fiscal and political abyss.

With just days remaining before the Treasury Department estimated it would run short of cash to pay the federal government’s obligations, the two leaders of the House and Senate majorities had no clear path toward raising the federal debt limit. Many House Republicans and some in the Senate refuse to vote for any increase in federal borrowing power no matter the dire circumstances. Support for a debt-limit increase has become a sure ticket to a primary challenge from the right for many of them.

But Mr. McConnell has repeatedly promised no default. And he and Mr. Boehner, with their ties to high-ranking allies in the business and financial worlds, knew that failure to head off a threat to the government’s creditworthiness could boomerang badly on Republicans just one year from Election Day.

So the Right Wing of the Republican Party was fighting this deal the whole time. But the Very Right Wing was going against the Business and Financial “world” so McConnell and Boehner knew that this RW thinking would hurt the Republican Party.

So what’s in the Budget? Lets take a look….

From Yahoo News: White House, Congress reach tentative budget deal

Under the plan, the higher borrowing authority would be in effect until March 2017.

In addition, 58 million barrels of oil from U.S. emergency reserves held at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would be sold over six years, starting in fiscal 2018, to help pay for the additional spending over two years, according to a copy of the bill posted to a congressional website.

If successful, the agreement would mark a final act for Boehner to clear some politically divisive legislation as Ryan takes over as speaker – assuming the Wisconsin lawmaker gets a majority of the House votes in an election set for Thursday that would win him the top job.

Central to the pact is the easing of across-the-board budget caps which would allow an additional $80 billion in spending over two years, split evenly between military and domestic programs. About $50 billion in added spending would come in fiscal 2016, which started on Oct. 1, and $30 billion would be added to the fiscal 2017 budget.

“The bipartisan budget package unveiled last night represents real progress for hard-working families across the country,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

Boehner said he was “clearing the deck” before Ryan takes over but here’s what Ryan had to say about it from the above linked article:

Republican Representative Paul Ryan, who is expected to be elected to the top House job of speaker on Thursday, replacing the retiring Boehner, told reporters he was reserving judgment on the agreement until he reviewed its details.

And in a nod to rebellious fellow Republicans who are clamoring for changes in the way the Republican-controlled House is run, Ryan added, “I think this process stinks,” hinting that “under new management” work will get done well before deadlines.

What do you think?

The Poisoning of Animas River

First a little history on the Animas River. Wikipedia:

Animas River is a 126-mile-long (203 km)[1] river in the western United States, a tributary of the San Juan River, part of the Colorado River System.

The river’s free-flowing status ended when the Animas-La Plata Water Project was completed in 2015. The project pumps water over a low pass to fill a reservoir, Lake Nighthorse, in Ridges Basin to satisfy Southern Ute tribal water rights claims associated with the Colorado Ute Settlement Act amendments of 2000.[2]

It is a tributary which means it flows into other rivers, eventually into the Colorado River which Wiki describes as: The Colorado River is one of the principal rivers of the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico (the other being the Rio Grande). The 1,450-mile (2,330 km) Colorado River drains an expansive, arid watershed that encompasses parts of seven U.S. and two Mexican states.

Here’s how the Animas River became poisoned and how far reaching the effects are…..

From the Denver Post, Aug. 9, 2015:

Three million gallons of water containing mining waste has poured into the Animas River since Wednesday, and it is still unclear what the environmental and health impact of the spill, caused by the Environmental Protection Agency, will be.

Water collected at sampling stations along Cement Creek and the upper Animas found higher-than-normal levels of arsenic and other heavy metals, Deborah McKean, an EPA toxicologist, said in a Sunday conference call with the media.

But the levels are dropping as the plume drifts farther down the river and is diluted. “Those concentrations increase for a few hours and then decrease again by the next sampling period,” she said. “Those numbers are high and they are scary because they seem so high. However, risk associated with exposure to a chemical is a matter of how much of the chemical you are exposed to.”

It remains unclear if the spill poses health risks to humans and aquatic life.

On Sunday, La Plata County and Durango both declared a state of emergency as a result of the spill, which originated at a mine near Silverton.

“This action has been taken due to the serious nature of the incident and to convey the grave concerns that local elected officials have to ensure that all appropriate levels of state and federal resources are brought to bear to assist our community not only in actively managing this tragic incident but also to recover from it,” La Plata County Manager Joe Kerby said in a release.

On Sunday, the EPA posted reports on its website including sample data taken from the river at different locations that detail how much metal is in the water. Tom Dea, vice president for TZA Water Engineers in Lakewood, reviewed those reports for The Denver Post. [more at link]

The effects of this toxic spill: From CNN:

‘A major, major problem’

“This is a major, major problem,” said Jonathan Freedman, a toxicologist at the University of Louisville, who until recently worked as an investigator at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

Typically it takes years or even decades for health problems from metals to develop.

Spokespersons for the EPA did not respond to emails Monday regarding the levels.

The mayor of Durango, Colorado, said experts from the agency were “noncommittal” about the health effects of the contamination during a community meeting Sunday night.

“There was no good discussion of what these levels mean, and that’s what’s frustrating. I’m a fairly smart guy, and I walked away without having answers,” said Dean Brookie. “It wasn’t a great confidence builder.”

According to the EPA, Wednesday’s spill caused a spike in these metal concentrations, but levels “began to return to pre-event conditions” by Thursday.

However, according to the EPA’s own data, there were still very high levels of metals on Thursday. A lead sample was more than 300 times higher than the EPA acceptable level, for example, and an arsenic sample tested 26 times the acceptable level.

EPA spokespersons did not respond to emails Monday asking how many residents rely on the Animas River for their drinking water and how many farms use the water for irrigation.

Cadmium is a particular concern for crops, Costa said, as it’s readily absorbed.

“Of all the toxic metals, it goes into plants like crazy,” he said.

[more]

We must contact our Congress people, both State and Federal, to strengthen the EPA and the laws to not allow dumping poisons into our rivers, streams, farm land and there needs to be more control over the Corporations that use these poisons. We are killing ourselves and our Planet!

TAA, TPP, TTIP, Fast Track – Trade Agreements Explained

First we’ll break down the acronyms and explain what these Trade Agreements are all about. The first two, TAA and TPP are causing a lot of contention in Congress right now along with the term “Fast Track”. Hope this post will help you understand what is going on in Congress right now and why it is so important.

TAA: Trade Adjustment Assistance

From Wikipedia:

Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) is a federal program of the United States government to act as a way to reduce the damaging impact of imports felt by certain sectors of the U.S. economy. The current structure features four components of Trade Adjustment Assistance: for Workers, Firms, Farmers, and Communities. Each Cabinet level Department was tasked with a different sector of the overall Trade Adjustment Assistance program. The program for workers is the largest, and administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. The program for Farmers is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Firms and Communities programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Trade Adjustment Assistance consists of four programs authorized under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 and defined further under the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. § 2341 et seq) (Trade Act). The original idea for a trade compensation program goes back to 1939.[1] Later, it was proposed by President John F. Kennedy as part of the total package to open up free trade. President Kennedy said: “When considerations of national policy make it desirable to avoid higher tariffs, those injured by that competition should not be required to bear the full brunt of the impact. Rather, the burden of economic adjustment should be borne in part by the Federal Government.”[2] More at link

TPP: Trans-Pacific Partnership

From Wikipedia:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed regional regulatory and investment treaty. As of 2014, twelve countries throughout the Asia Pacific region have participated in negotiations on the TPP: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.

The proposed agreement began in 2005 as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP or P4). Participating countries set the goal of wrapping up negotiations in 2012, but contentious issues such as agriculture, intellectual property, and services and investments have caused negotiations to continue into the present,[7] with the last round meeting in Ottawa from 3–12 July 2014.[8][9] Implementation of the TPP is one of the primary goals of the trade agenda of the Obama administration in the United States of America.

On 12 November 2011, the nine Trans-Pacific Partnership countries announced that the TPP intended to “enhance trade and investment among the TPP partner countries, to promote innovation, economic growth and development, and to support the creation and retention of jobs.”[10] Although the text of the treaty has not been made public, Wikileaks has published several leaked documents since 2013. A number of global health professionals, internet freedom activists, environmentalists, organised labour, advocacy groups, and elected officials have criticised and protested against the treaty, in large part because of the secrecy of negotiations, the agreement’s expansive scope, and controversial clauses in drafts leaked to the public.[11][12][13][14][15] More at link.

TTIP: Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

From Wikipedia

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States. Proponents say the agreement would result in multilateral economic growth,[1] while critics say it would increase corporate power and make it more difficult for governments to regulate markets for public benefit.[2][3] The American government considers the TTIP a companion agreement to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.[4] After a proposed draft was leaked in March 2014,[5] the European Commission launched a public consultation on a limited set of clauses and in January 2015 published parts of an overview.[6]

An agreement is not expected to be finalized before 2016.[7] More at link

FAST TRACK TRADE AGREEMENT:

From Wikipedia:

The fast track negotiating authority for trade agreements is the authority of the President of the United States to negotiate international agreements that Congress can approve or disapprove but cannot amend or filibuster. Also called trade promotion authority (TPA) since 2002, fast track negotiating authority is a temporary and controversial power granted to the President by Congress. The authority was in effect from 1975 to 1994, pursuant to the Trade Act of 1974, and from 2002 to 2007 by the Trade Act of 2002. Although it expired for new agreements on July 1, 2007, it continued to apply to agreements already under negotiation until they were eventually passed into law in 2011. In 2012, the Obama administration began seeking renewal of the authority. More at link

So far Congress has voted not to pass the TAA and TPP but the TPP is going to be reintroduced combined with “Fast Track”. Here’s more info on that from “Storm Clouds Gathering”

There is much wrong with the TPP and other Trade Agreements that will hurt the U.S. and it’s workers that we will discuss here. And Fast Tracking this, without debate and discussion, is a very bad idea.