What Countries Does The U.S. Have Free Trade Agreements With?

As we try to examine what we can about the TPP trade agreement, it is good to be aware of what other trade deals the U.S.  has.  The U.S. has two other “bloc” trade agreements.  According to the Department of Commerce website, the U.S. has the following free trade agreements:

The U.S. has two main “bloc” trade agreements:

  • NAFTA: Canada & Mexico
  • DR-CAFTA: Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, & Nicaragua

In addition, the U.S. has one-to-one free trade agreements with the following countries:

Bernie Sanders Discusses Free College Education

Sam Seder

High School is free. Could college also be free? Is college free in some European countries? How would you pay for it?

Recently, Vermont Senator and presidential contender Bernie Sanders talked to CNN about free, universal college education and how he would fund it.

What is the Wall Street Sales Tax?

According to againstausterity.org:

“…Wall Street speculators pay no tax on their share of a yearly turnover of over $5 quadrillion (5,000 trillion dollars) in stocks, bonds and derivatives.  A 1% tax on this turnover, equally divided between the federal and state governments, largely solves the budget deficit at all levels of government.  It also discourages the most dangerous forms of speculation, especially derivatives speculation, and helps to level the playing field between financial services – which are now in effect subsidized because they are not taxed – and the tangible, physical production of manufactured goods on which our economic survival depends.”

In the video, they say the word “troglodytic.”  What does troglodytic mean?

Troglodytic means of, about, or relating to a troglodyte.   A troglodyte was a prehistoric cave-dweller, or “a person of degraded, primitive, or brutal character,” according to dictionary.com.

(Updated article)


TPP Fast-Track Authority Approved By The Senate


In an unusual coalition between President Obama and Senate Republicans, sweeping legislation to strengthen the Presidents’ administration’s authority in global trade talks – called “fast-track authority” – moved towards Senate passage Thursday after a contentious debate.

The vote was not on the actual TPP trade agreement, but rather “fast-track authority” for it.

The TPP trade agreement has been called “secretive” and even “unconstitutional” by some critics.

Thursday’s vote kept alive Obama’s efforts to secure the broad trade deal by advancing legislation that would give him expanded authority to complete the accord.

“Fast-track” legislation would allow the President to make trade deals that Congress could either support or reject but not amend or change.

Previous presidents have had similar authority for agreements such as NAFTA. Administration officials argue that Japan and other Pacific-region countries in the current round of TPP talks will be unwilling to present offers for the deal if they know lawmakers can seek more concessions.

The 62-38 vote, just two more than the 60 needed, came from a strong group of Republicans and a group of roughly a dozen Democrats who “changed sides” for the vote.

A decisive “thumbs-up” came from Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington after she and a few others seized the moment as leverage to demand a vote next month on legislation to renew the Export-Import Bank.

“It was a nice victory. We’re going to continue and finish up the bill this week,” said Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, apparently basking in the glory.

He is – ironically – Obama’s most important Senate ally on the trade bill, according to the Associated Press.

The Senate passage clears the way for a fierce struggle in the House, according to the AP.  The fate of “fast-track” in the House remains a tossup because Obama faces entrenched opposition from his own party, according to The Washington Post.

The president was up late Wednesday night placing telephone calls to lawmakers, and he spoke with Cantwell again shortly before the vote.

“…(T)he real political divide is over the value of international trade agreements themselves, and the result has been a blurring of traditional political lines,” writes the Associated Press.

Supporters say such agreements benefit the American economy by lowering barriers overseas and expanding markets for U.S. services and goods.  Labor unions and Democratic allies in Congress argue the deals cost jobs at home and send them to nations with lax environmental and safety standards and low wages.

The trade measure is one of three major bills pending in the Senate, and lawmakers will have a weeklong Memorial Day recess at week’s end.

The measure for fast-track authority received just enough Democratic support to keep it moving, following a last-ditch lobbying effort by Obama and his top advisers. The fate of the legislation, also known as trade promotion authority, hung in the balance for more than 30 minutes during the vote, writes The Washington Post.

The AFL-CIO labor union denounced the vote as “shameful” in a graphic that featured the names and photos of each of the 13 Democratic senators who voted for the bill. The AFL-CIO is clear on its position against the agreement.

Senator Bernie Sanders – a Democratic candidate for President who is running against Hillary Clinton for that party’s nomination – hammered the Senate for siding with corporations while harming American workers.

Sanders said:

“If this disastrous trade agreement is approved, it will throw Americans out of work while companies continue moving operations and good-paying jobs to low-wage countries overseas.

“Bad trade deals like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership are a major reason for the collapse of the American middle class and the increase in wealth and income inequality in the United States…”

Sanders also said, “We must defeat fast track and develop a new policy on trade,” writes Politicususa.

Hillary Clinton has been indifferent on her position on the trade agreement.

Jeb Bush, who is presumably the Republican frontrunner in the race for president, supports the trade deal.  He wrote in April “I haven’t changed in my view even though Hillary Clinton has. It is time to move forward as even recent Democratic presidents have recognized — and Sec. Clinton shouldn’t stand in the way for political gain.”

The unions fighting Obama on trade were hoping for much more from Clinton.

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka told Politico last month that Clinton coming out forcefully against the fast-track authority would “put some wind in her sails” with organized labor that is still furious at her husband for NAFTA.

When asked by Politico in April where Clinton would differ from Obama on trade policy, and what she would do differently from what Obama is proposing, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill did not respond directly to the question.

“She has laid out the bar that needs to be met, to protect American workers, raise wages, and create more good jobs at home,” said Merrill.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who’s trying to start up a candidacy on Clinton’s left, is against the trade deal, as he and his aides have eagerly pointed out, writes Politico.

Oddly, there is a Republican presidential candidate who does not support the trade deal:  Mike Huckabee.

Bayoubuzz writes:

“Huckabee believes that the United States has been losing its’ economic base for years and that the supposed free trade deals we have entered into in the past have not been fair to this country. In his announcement speech, Huckabee said he will focus on average working Americans who ‘don’t feel like anybody understands or knows who they are, much less cares what’s happening to them.'”

(Updated article)



MSNBC Hardball: Obama Says Elizabeth Warren Is Wrong On TPP


On Tuesday afternoon three weeks ago – April 21st – MSNBC led a roundtable discussion with President Barack Obama that primarily concerned his administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

This interview got a lot of attention among liberal pundits, many of whom feel that Massachusetts Senator Warren (D) was right and the deal could lead to the export of jobs and lowering of wages.

During Obama’s two terms in office, the U.S. has experienced slow, steady economic growth and economic indicators are up. Is it appropriate to risk a downturn or negative impact on the economy?

In the MSNBC Hardball interview, the host gave the president a platform to fire back against criticism the plan has been getting from opponents like Senator Warren.  In it, the president said she was “wrong.”

Could There Be Debt-Free College Under President Hillary Clinton?

According to MarketWatch, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager alluded to the idea of students going debt-free if Hillary becomes U.S. President.

Making college more affordable is part of Clinton’s plan to boost quality of life for ordinary Americans, Robby Mook, “Hillary for America” campaign manager, told CNBC.

He was responding to a question about which age demographic will be the toughest for Clinton to lure.

“What voters are looking for in this election is someone who is going to be a champion for everyday people,” Mook said Wednesday. “For young people, that’s debt-free college, that is finding that job after you graduate.”

Though the Clinton campaign has yet to officially endorse a plan that would let students graduate from school without loans, the fact that the words “debt-free college” came out of Mook’s mouth is seen as a victory for progressives. Over the past few months, a collective of liberals has been working to push the idea into mainstream Democratic circles, according to Bloomberg.

Mook’s comments come just weeks after a group of congressional Democrats introduced a resolution calling for a way for students to attend public colleges and universities debt-free.

That proposal could be made possible through a combination of increasing federal aid to states and students as well as reducing the cost of college, according to a white paper co-authored by left-leaning think tank Demos and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.  That group has spearheaded the debt-free college campaign, writes MarketWatch.


America’s Longest-Serving Innocent Prisoner Receives $1 Million For 39 Years In Jail

An Ohio man who spent 39 years in prison for a murder that he did not commit will receive more than $1 million in compensation from the state of Ohio for his wrongful imprisonment, states The Telegraph.

Ricky Jackson, who was only saved from execution by a paperwork error, served the longest known sentence of any American who was subsequently found to have been wrongfully convicted.

“Wow, wow, wow, that’s fantastic, man,” Mr Jackson, 58, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper when he was told that he would receive the million-dollar payment following an order from the Ohio court of claims.

“This is going to mean so much.”

Jackson was 19 when he and two friends were sentenced to death row in 1975 for the murder of Harold Franks, a money order salesman, near a corner store in Cleveland.

He and the two brothers were convicted on the basis of the testimony of a 13-year-old boy who said that he witnessed the killing of Franks.

The boy, Eddie Vernon, was on a school bus a block away with other children at the time.

He later recanted his account as an adult.   However, no other witnesses placed him at the scene at the time of the murder and there was no other evidence linking him to the killing, states The Telegraph.  He was originally sentenced to die, but appeals and mistakes in the paperwork delayed the process.

The Pope Offers Free Haircuts To Homeless People

Sources claim that along with Catholic mass and words from the pope, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome will also soon be offering haircuts and shaves for the homeless.

Starting in mid-February, barbers in Rome will offer volunteer snipping services for those without permanent shelter every Monday. That’s the day in Italy where barbers and hairdressers close shop.

The move comes as the Vatican has almost finished installing showers and toilets for the homeless among the towering colonnades that wrap around St. Peter’s Square. A dozen other churches throughout Rome have followed after the Vatican announced the move.

The program will rely heavily on donated razors, scissors, and other equipment, much of which has already been given to the Holy See.

Pope Francis’s Almoner Konrad Krajewski, the Vatican’s point person on giving to the poor, was inspired to launch the initiatives after a homeless man named Franco initially declined to have dinner with him.

Franco explained it was because he smelled and had no where to get clean. “Here no one starves to death,” he told Krajewski. “You can find a sandwich every day. But there is no place to use the toilet and wash.”

Secular Talk

Is Fox News Hypocritical?

Fox News Radio pundit Todd Starnes said on his commentary that he is offended by President Obama’s plan to tax the top 1 percent of earners to help make tuition-free community college available to students who maintain over a 2.5 GPA, because real Americans “work their way through school” and think it is “shameful to ask for a handout.”

Starnes claimed that taxpayer-funded community college is unconstitutional, and the expense doesn’t include “all of the free condoms, cellphones, and medicinal marijuana bongs.”

Many right-wing pundits will claim things are unconstitutional if they don’t agree with them, but are fine with other things that are really unconstitutional.

Secular Talk


Terror Blowback? French Police Make Arrests In Regards To Speech

TYT Network

Controversial French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala has been detained by police for a Facebook comment appearing to back Paris gunman Amedy Coulibaly.

His is one of dozens of cases opened by authorities in a crackdown on speech on the side of Islamic terrorism.

Shouldn’t free speech go both ways?