Offering asides, recommended links, blogworthy quotations, and more, In Brief is the Northwest Progressive Institute's microblog of world, national, and local politics.

Quotation

The only thing weaker than sweatshop-king Nike’s empty promises is the White House’s willingness to hype them as a victory in its push for a trade deal that will make it easier for other huge corporations to ship more U.S. jobs overseas, sell tainted food products in our supermarkets, and challenge our laws in foreign tribunals.

— DFA’s Charles Chamberlain: White House promises on TPP as empty as Nike’s commitment to American jobs (via The Hill).

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Quotation

It would be foolish for financial institutions to get into a head-to-head with Senator Warren… It’s exactly what she wants, and it’s a debate you can’t win.

— Tony Fratto, a former Treasury official who is now a partner at the public-affairs consulting firm Hamilton Place Strategies, speaking to Bloomberg Markets (Why Elizabeth Warren makes Wall Street tremble).

Recommended Link

Renewed grassroots push begins in the plains to block Keystone XL

The New York Times reports on the organizing being done in South Dakota to stop TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline from being built.

Quotation

Few provincial elections can transfix a country. This one did in part because of the dramatic fashion in which age-old assumptions about Alberta were proven to be grossly outdated. Political scientists and party strategists will be picking over the entrails of this vote for some time. Among other things, they will be trying to determine the precise point at which the political landscape in Alberta began to shift, imperilling the seemingly invincible 44-year-old Progressive Conservative Party dynasty.

An NDP victory changes everything Canadians think about Alberta (Gary Mason, writing for Canada’s newspaper of record, The Globe and Mail)

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Makers of unhealthy, processed food starting to change their ways

The New York Times recaps a string of developments that are poised to have a big impact on what’s in the food in Americans eat, beginning with Panera Bread’s decision to embrace the mantra “less is more” by eliminating artificial preservatives, flavor enhancers, and other junk ingredients from its recipes.

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Activist registers CarlyFiorina.org, posts thirty-thousand frowny faces to represent workers she laid off

Now this is brilliant: An unnamed activist managed to get his or her hands on carlyfiorina.org – a pretty valuable domain name that the former Hewlett-Packard executive somehow failed to register – and decided to post 30,000 frowny faces. Each signifies a worker that Fiorina laid off while at HP. At the bottom, the website notes that Fiorina’s only regret is that she didn’t lay off the workers faster.

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Will Rachel Notley lead an NDP breakthrough in Alberta?

Less than twenty-four hours remain until voters in Canada’s fourth-largest province head to the polls to vote in this month’s snap election. Polls show that the NDP – the most progressive of Canada’s major political parties active at the federal and provincial levels – with a surprisingly strong lead in many areas of Alberta. If the NDP does as well as the current polling indicates it will, it just might form the province’s next government.

Aside

First U.S. helicopters arrive in Kathmandu to help with Nepal quake relief and recovery

A few days ago, after seeing a BBC story that explained Nepal’s desperate need for helicopters, we posted a short editorial here urging the Obama administration to start sending aircraft and aircrew to the disaster-stricken nation, which is recovering from a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake and aftershocks.

And thankfully, that’s just what the administration is doing.

The Air Force and Marines are working in tandem to bring U.S. air support to Nepal. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transports were able to get into Kathmandu’s congested and quake-damaged airport after a delay, allowing Marines to start unloading UH-1 Iroquois helicopters. (The UH-1, more popularly known as the Huey, is a battle-tested chopper that saw extensive service in Vietnam.)

Their logistical prowess was witnessed by a group of Chinese troops, who took pictures and appeared to be impressed. The Huey, which is a light helicopter, can get in and out of places other choppers can’t, so it is a good choice for this mission.

Not long after, a squadron of V-22 Ospreys showed up. The Osprey is an impressive tiltrotor aircraft with versatile capabilities, including the ability to take off and land vertically. Ospreys are operated both by the Air Force and by the Marine Corps.

Nepal is pretty mountainous country, which makes operating helicopters there challenging, but adapting to unusual and difficult conditions is what our soldiers, sailors, and aircrew train for, after all.

Hopefully, these aircraft will be followed by more. Nepal’s need is great, and the country’s disaster recovery efforts could certainly benefit from our airpower.

Quotation

The “anti-capitalists” won’t take their message to the places the economic elite actually live in comfort. The workers they claim to stand for will have to stand for transit delays and traffic jams.

— Jon Talton: About that ‘anti-capitalist’ march

Aside

Nepal has a serious shortage of helicopters – so why don’t we send some of ours?

According to the BBC, one of the biggest issues hampering Nepal in its efforts to recover from last week’s massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake is a shortage of helicopters. The impoverished, landlocked country doesn’t have many choppers of its own, and with many roads out of services and rural villages completely destroyed, the country has an acute need for more air power.

China is supposedly going to send help, but why isn’t the United States stepping in? We have more helicopters than the rest of the world put together.

Every branch of our military operates helicopters: the Army, the Navy, the Marines, the Coast Guard, and the Air Force.

We even have the ability to transport significant numbers of rotary-wing aircraft in our fixed-wing aircraft. That’s how advanced our military logistics are.

We should put our air power to work helping Nepal in their time of need.

When the Philippines were hit by a typhoon last year, U.S. military helicopters made a huge difference, airlifting supplies into hard-to-reach areas.

Nepal may be harder for us to get equipment to than the Philippines, but that’s no excuse. India is unlikely to have a problem allowing its airspace to be used for access to Nepal, and we have forces already deployed in the Asia-Pacific region that could be put to work with disaster relief and recovery.

How about it, President Obama?

Chat Transcript

New York Times reporters analyze Bernie Sanders’s presidential kickoff announcement

PATRICK HEALY: It’s easy to see Senator Sanders appealing to the left in natural ways, as Howard Dean and Barack Obama did in opposing the Iraq war. And today, there is a great deal of progressive energy among Democratic primary voters who are looking for a leader. Many of them are glad Obama is president, but you can tell they are looking for a powerful and unfiltered voice on progressive issues.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Absolutely. I think the word “lead” was among the more significant of his.

PATRICK HEALY: I agree. He also used the M word toward the end — “movement.” Progressives see so many causes to unite and march around. That energy is real.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I think that’s exactly right.

Read the complete edit of Maggie and Pat’s conversation at the New York Times.

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Recommended Link

American-Nepalese team pulls teenager out of the rubble five days after massive quake

To say that Nepal has had a rough week would be the understatement of the year. But even amid all of the death, destruction, and chaos that has afflicted the country, there are stories of survival – none more dramatic than that of fifteen-year old hotel worker Pemba Tamang, who was rescued from the rubble by a joint American-Nepalese team five days after the quake.

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Bernie Sanders to launch presidential campaign

Senator Bernie Sanders is on the verge of confirming that he will seek the Democratic nomination for President, Vermont Public Radio is reporting. Sanders has previously talked about running in order to ensure that Hillary Clinton does not go unchallenged for the nomination.

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Quotation

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts [of one] group but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the US to third world dictatorships like China and others plunged tens of millions of good hard working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

— Baltimore Orioles COO John Angelos, defending the peaceful protests that have taken place since the killing of Freddie Gray (via Deadspin).

Aside

Right wing upset about Pope Francis’ planned call to action on climate crisis

The New York Times is once again giving conservative Catholic voices based in the United States a platform with which to attack Pope Francis.

The Holy Father is said to be preparing to issue an encyclical this summer which will tackle the topic of the climate crisis, and include a call for humanity to take action to lower air, water, and soil pollution. The right wing hilariously wants to stop the pontiff from putting the Catholic Church on record as supportive of the global effort to bring pollution levels down. The right wing Heartland Institute, which does the bidding of the oil industry, is even planning a protest at the Vatican.

Whatever happened to conservatives’ respect for church authority?

Quotation

We are all just here for a time – whether in this building or even on this earth. But the values we hold dear will live on long after we have left this stage. Our responsibility, while we are here, is to breathe life into them; to imbue them with the strength of our convictions and the weight of our efforts.

— New Attorney General Loretta Lynch delivers remarks at swearing in by Vice President Joe Biden (via the Department of Justice)

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Hideously expensive F-35 fighter jet runs into yet more problems

Auditors working on behalf of the United States Congress have concluded that engines made for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program are so unreliable that production of jets is likely to be slowed, Bloomberg reports. The hideously expensive program, which has repeatedly ballooned in cost, has been described even by leaders within the Pentagon as a money pit. Each F-35 costs close to or north of hundred million dollars to make, while the total cost of the program is said to be around $1.5 trillion – that’s trillion, with a t.

Video Clip

Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL, 9th district) joins Thom Hartmann to discuss fast-track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. As Congress prepares to consider a bill giving him fast track powers – President Obama is now pushing the TPP hard – calling it a bridge to the future. But is it a bridge to the future, or just another grab-bag for the world’s multinational corporations?

Read More »

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Aside

Matt Stoller: America’s old social contract unraveled with onset of Great Recession

The following is a tweetstorm (set of tweets) posted last night by writer and activist Matt Stoller that we found compelling. It has eight parts:

  1. The 2006-2012 foreclosures signaled the end one social contract and the beginning of a period of deep political and economic instability.
  2. The crash of the housing market radically altered the wealth and power distribution mechanisms for the American political order.
  3. Since the 1930s, housing operated as a proxy for wealth and stability, while allowing the banking system to serve as a channel…
  4. …through which the Federal Reserve could manage the economy.
  5. As financial asset growth replaced wage growth, housing became a leverage point masking the deterioration of our financial status.
  6. The housing crash, far from a simple downturn in one sector of the economy, represents the collapse of this entire apparatus.
  7. It snapped the spine of a political system that had connected elites with everyone else, through the monetary channel.
  8. The result is increasing political chaos, rising authoritarian structures, and social unrest.

Good observations, Matt!

Video Clip

Must-watch video: President Obama brings down the house at 2015 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The President’s best zingers were aimed at the Koch Brothers and the 2016 crop of Republican presidential candidates.

Video Clip

Saturday Night Live repertory player Cecily Strong was the featured comedian at this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, speaking after President Obama. She spared no one with her standup routine.