Robert Reich: How can TransCanada sue the US for denying it the right to build a pipeline through our country?

TransCanada, the giant Canadian energy corporation headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, is suing the U.S. government for more than $15 billion for denying the company’s permit to build the Keystone XL Pipeline.

How, you may ask, can a foreign country sue the U.S. for making a domestic decision to protect the environment?

Because of a provision inside the North American Free Trade Act allowing Canadian and Mexican companies to take action against the U.S. if any of our regulations causes those companies to lose potential profits.

Neither I nor anyone else who was present when NAFTA was negotiated recalls how this provision was slipped into the deal.

But a much larger version of it appears in the pending Trans Pacific Partnership – representing nearly 40 percent of the global economy — allowing companies from any of the nations that sign on to the TPP to sue governments if health, safety, environmental, or other regulations result in lost profits.

Yet another reason why the TPP is a great deal for global corporations but a terrible deal for Americans and the citizens of other Pacific-rim countries.

What do you think?

Source: Robert Reich Newsletter: The Kurds’ best friend in Congress, and more…

Money begets money: For many lawmakers, salary is secondary

Year after year, data shows that Congress is a millionaire’s club. That’s true even though members make “only” $174,000 a year, largely because many of them are wealthy before they’re elected. In fact, salary isn’t the top source of income for a large group of these lawmakers: Their pay is outstripped by the interest and capital gains they collect on their bank accounts, mutual funds and other financial holdings.

In other words, they’re not earning most of their money; their money is making money.

The average American hasn’t had much experience with that. In 2014, the money made by the money of at least 160 members of the 114th Congress — more than one-third — was greater than the total income of the median American household ($53,657). At least 174 made more money from their money than the median household in their own district made overall. And 68 made more money this way than by drawing a congressional paycheck. (We excluded income from property rentals in our analysis.)

Click here to read the full article

Reps. Israel and McDermott step off the fundraising circuit

Two lawmakers, Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott (Wash.) and Steve Israel (N.Y.), announced their retirements this week, joining a parade of members of their party who will exit the House in 2017. In an interview with the New York Times, Israel indicated that the current campaign finance system, with its never-ending fundraising demands, had an impact on his decision. “I don’t think I can spend another day in another call room making another call begging …read more


Fourth quarter flurry, or how to assess the presidential filings

As the election year begins and we await the presidential and super PAC filings due Jan. 31, it’s a good time to look…backward. Major hauls for the fourth quarter of 2015 are being reported by some candidates to conclude a year that started slowly for them and saw much funding going to super PACs backing the many White House hopefuls. But how do the totals compare to those of previous cycles? Presidential candidates have brought in $10 million or more in contributions during the final three …read more.

Arming the Kurds: Rising House Dem finds common cause with major BGR client

As Kurdish Peshmerga forces battle to push back the Islamic State in Iraq, Kurdish political forces face a fight in Washington. Their combatants need heavy weapons the U.S. can’t give them directly — not yet, anyway. While it’s far too early to tell whether any congressional proponent can become a sort of Charlie Wilson for the Kurds, it’s clear from federal records that the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) agents in … read more


Carson asks fifth-graders ‘Who’s the worst student?’

A humorous anecdote backfired on Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Thursday.

Here’s how the interaction with the crowd in the school’s gymnasium played out:

“As a fifth-grade student, I was a horrible student. Anybody here in fifth grade?,” Carson said.

A large group of students all seated together in the bleachers raised their hands.

“Who’s the worst student? Now …” Carson said with a chuckle, pausing for laughs from the crowd, then the finger-pointing.

Carson went on: “Well, let me tell you, if you had asked that question in my classroom, there would have been no doubt.”

When asked how he felt, Seth said, “I was laughing,” adding that he would vote for Carson if he could. A Carson volunteer immediately found the student in the audience to give him a pat on the back and a copy of Carson’s book, “You Have a Brain.”

Campaign staff also arranged a quick personal meeting for Seth with Carson backstage before leaving Cedar Rapids.

“You’re going to be a neurosurgeon, OK?” Carson told Seth.

Seth’s teacher and others in the crowd who knew him said he’s not the worst student in his class, but actually is well liked and “a class jokester.”

His mother said she assumes that’s why he was classmates pointed at him.

“Personally I know he’s not the worst,” said Blackford, who works as a guidance secretary at a public middle school nearby.

She said the family has watched the “Gifted Hands” movie about Carson’s life story and Carson has spoken at their church, where her husband is a pastor. She added she’s an undecided vote and the interaction would not prevent her from supporting Carson.

The Cedar Rapids event was part of three public campaign stops Carson made in Iowa on Thursday.

Source: Carson asks fifth-graders ‘Who’s the worst student?’

Water donations run dry in Flint, no action from Governor Snyder 

Stephainie Gosk, NBC News correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the people of Flint have been relying on scarce water donations to replace their toxic water supply as Governor Rick Snyder has increased the amount he’s talking about the crisis without taking any actual short-term action for the people of Flint who are without options.

Source: Water donations run dry in Flint, no action from Governor Snyder | MSNBC

Flint Water Fund | United Way of Genesee County

The United Way of Genesee County has set up this fund for the purchase of filters, bottled water, and prevention efforts. 

100% of the fund is used for these projects and no Administrative Fee is assessed.

The UWGC has sourced more than 11,000 filters systems and 5,000 replacement filters, ongoing sources of bottled water to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and also supports a dedicated driver for daily distribution.

Thank you!

Source: Flint Water Fund | United Way of Genesee County

Here’s how to help Flint during its water crisis, state of emergency

LANSING – A contaminated drinking water crisis continues in Flint, less than 60 miles from Michigan’s capital city, and it has led to an unprecedented need for help.The situation has been so dire in the Flint Community Schools that only bottled water is used in school buildings for drinking and cooking meals.


Drinking fountains remain shut off, and it’s unclear when they’ll be turned on. Schools, homes, warming centers, soup kitchens and churches are just some places that need clean bottled water or cash donations to purchase water.”When you’re living it, you kind of get used to it,” said Mike Loll, a school district maintenance supervisor, when asked about being limited to bottled water. “Some people just hearing about this are kind of panicking.”


Bottled water is at such a premium in Flint because of lead problems in the city’s water distribution system. Flint began using water from the Flint River while under a state-appointed emergency manager, leading to a spike in lead levels among Flint children. Lead can cause irreversible brain damage and has been linked to behavioral problems.

The state helped Flint switch to Lake Huron water in October, but controversy and health concerns remain, as does damage that the corrosive river water caused in the community’s water distribution system. In addition to the need for bottled water, civic leaders in Flint expect long-term needs related to assisting young victims of lead poisoning.

For a list of agencies trying to help: Here’s how to help Flint during its water crisis, state of emergency


The slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.


Getting Low Income Students to College

Posted: 08 Jan 2016 05:44 AM PST

The issue was raised again last summer in Hechinger’s in a story that in turn called back to a book from 2014, so this is not a new issue. But as Benjamin L. Castleman and Lindsay C. Page noted inSummer Melt

, we don’t just have a problem getting low-income students to aspire to college or apply to college– we have a problem getting them to show up once they’re in.

Back in August, Meredith Kolodner wrote the piece “Why are low income students not showing up to college, even though they have been accepted?

” but August is not the time to think about the problem because by August, it’s too late.

Students are applying. Students are being accepted. And then, Castleman and Page report, 40% of the accepted students just don’t show up at campus in the fall.

This is a problem.

Kolodner reports that financial issues are…

Go here for the rest of the blog post: CURMUDGUCATION

Is There REALLY An Internet ‘Loophole’ For Gun Sales?

From mikethegunguy:

Now that the President has moved the issue of an internet ‘loophole’ for gun sales onto the front burner, perhaps it’s time to really figure out what and whether such a loophole actually exists.  As of this morning we have, as usual, John Lott talking for Gun Nation and telling us there is no loophole; on the other hand, The Trace claims there is an internet ‘loophole’ if you live in one of the 32 states that does not regulate private sales. But in fact, of the 18 states that require background checks for private gun transfers, only 8 states mandate background checks for every type of gun; the other 10 states allow for unregulated transfers of long guns which, the last time I pulled out one of my Colt H-BARs, looks like a pretty lethal weapon to me.

bomber              Actually, the ability to use the internet for legal, in-state gun transactions is more an issue of the extent to which the internet and websites like Armslist allow sellers to reach a much wider potential audience than would be the case if we were back in the pre-digital age when selling any personally-owned item was usually done by running a print ad in the local classified news. My state happens to regulate private sales, but there are no private sale regulations in four of the six contiguous states that border the state in which I live.

The reason that I would check the listings in these other states is that… (click on the source link below for the rest of this blog post)

Source: Is There An Internet ‘Loophole’ For Gun Sales?

All I Really Need to Know I (Should Have) Learned in Kindergarten | (EduShyster blog repost)

Are no excuses charter schools setting kids up to struggle later by pushing academic skills too hard, too soon? 

By Emily Kaplan

The very youngest children at the charter school at which I taught all start their nine-hour school day in the same way: by reciting the school “creed.”

I AM A…SCHOLAR,” the two hundred children chant. The principal weaves among the tables, making sure that the children “track” her by turning their heads in accordance with her movement. One child lets out a giggle. He is immediately sent to the Silent Area.

Read more here: All I Really Need to Know I (Should Have) Learned in Kindergarten | EduShyster

Why Did Bill O’Reilly Call For Comprehensive Background Checks?

From mikethegunguy…

Did I really hear what I thought I heard Bill O’Reilly say after Obama announced his agenda for additional controls on guns? So I waited until Fox posted O’Reilly’s remarks from his Wednesday night show and here is exactly what he said: “The NRA and the gun owners should be reasonable. The FBI should background check anyone buying a firearm in America. That just makes sense. If you are paranoid and believe the government is stockpiling information so they can come to your house and take your guns — that’s your problem, your problem.”

Source: Why Did Bill O’Reilly Call For Comprehensive Background Checks?