Nel's New Day

February 20, 2014

Flush the TPP

When President Obama took office, dewy-eyed progressives believed that he might change the United States for the better. We supported his dreams and hoped of a better life. Some of his struggles during the past 5+ years have come from the racial prejudice against the black half of him. Another issue, however, is his conservative nature. As he channels presidents Eisenhower and Reagan, Democrats have started losing faith in him.

The latest opposition he faces is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement that is being negotiated in secret and that the president wants “fast-tracked” before anyone finds out what it contains. Michael Froman, the U.S. top trade official, is the latest person to push the TPP onto leaders of labor, environmental, consumer, and online progressive groups.

The first cautionary fact about the TPP is that Congressional GOP leaders and big business support the Asian trade pact. The liberal faction, is unified against the trade agreement. There’s a good reason that corporations like TPP: they wrote it.

“Fast-track” means speeded-up congressional action by barring amendments, something that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is ready to do. The GOP likes lower-priced imported goods and services, but progressives worry about the loss of U.S. manufacturing and service jobs. Free-trade agreements of the past, such as NAFTA, have destroyed living wages for workers in the U.S.

While supporters claim that the TPP eliminates tariffs and boosts economic growth, the agreement, like NAFTA, allows corporations—including those in the U.S.—to circumvent any regulations and laws. Courts and Congress have no control over corporate activities. Leaked documents show that an international tribunal would have the power to overrule individual country’s legal standards and impose economic penalties on them. Corporations can go to these tribunals to sue governments for compensation claiming that regulations such as tobacco, prescription drug and environment protections undermine their business interests.

Globalization is happening, according to Froman, and it will be shaped by U.S. values or by others. The values shaping the TPP are the corporate values, the same ones that have bought politicians across the country so that huge, wealthy companies can get only bigger and richer. Froman claimed that TPP would “put labor and environmental standards at the core of trade agreements and make those standards enforceable like any commercial commitment.” Yet he is unwilling to release any concrete information that would show how this happens. Only a very few, primarily corporate executives and lobbyists, have been privy to the TPP proposals.

Although Froman tried to shut down the opposition by saying that organized labor had more access to documents and briefings, one participant called that claim “just downright silly.” The person said, “We don’t have access to the text.”

Recently, Froman offered liberal nonprofit groups access to further briefings and documents in a Public Interest Trade Advisory Committee, information already available to hundreds of corporations. Business groups have long opposed the inclusion of nonprofit organizations because it might decrease their corporate interests. Almost four years ago, Fanwood Chemical Inc. president Jim DeLisi said:

“Exports are created by business, investments are created by business, and good, high-paying jobs are created by businesses. The key point of this whole system is to be sure that the [government] negotiators understand the needs of businesses.”

One meeting participant who requested anonymity said this regarding the Huffington Post article:

“You missed my favorite Froman quote that night when he told us that based on our logic that we should all go home and just throw away our computers and get rid of automation.”

Activist and author Noam Chomsky is very clear about his opposition to the TPP:

“It’s designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximize profit and domination, and to set the working people in the world in competition with one another so as to lower wages to increase insecurity.”

His objection stems from the fact that the TPP contains issues outside trade, imposing new intellectual property standards abroad and boosting corporate political power. The end result of the TPP is actually undermining freedom of trade; instead it supports investor rights.

This month tens of millions of members from 550 groups signed a letter asking legislators to vote against “fast-track” authority for the negotiation between the U.S. and eleven other Pacific Rim nations. Another 50 groups launched StopFastTrack.com to kill the agreement that they call “NAFTA on steroids.” This story, however, may be the most uncovered one in the United States. Until last week, there was almost nothing about the TPP on broadcast or cable news shows. Now the mainstream press is reporting on President Obama talking in vague terms about how this agreement will be good for the nation.

Transcripts of six months evening news shows ending on January 31, 2014, shows not one mention of the TPP on ABC, CBS, or NBC. On PBS Newshour, one guest argued that “the TPP would improve relations with Asian nations.” [visual]

tpp_coverage 1 During the same time, only The Ed Show routinely covered the TPP on evening cable news shows. CNN mentioned it once in the six months, and the Fox network totally ignored the trade agreement. [visual]

cabletppcoverage 2

Despite the lack of information until recently, enough voters know about the TPP to oppose it. Although Boehner and other congressional GOP leaders support the agreement, a majority of conservative voters are against fast-tracking the agreement by more than two to one. The poll results match earlier surveys showing a negative view of trade agreements. One of the main reasons for opposition to the TPP is that it will drive down wages for people in the U.S. while benefiting big corporations.

Leaders involved in negotiating and promoting the TPP have gotten big bonuses from big business for their government participation. Stefan Selig, a Bank of America investment banker nominated to become the undersecretary for international trade at the Department of Commerce, received more than $9 million in bonus pay as he was nominated to join the administration in November. The bonus pay came in addition to the $5.1 million in incentive pay awarded to Selig last year.

Froman received over $4 million as part of multiple exit payments when he left CitiGroup to join the Obama administration. Froman told Senate Finance Committee members last summer that he donated approximately 75 percent of the $2.25 million bonus he received for his work in 2008 to charity. CitiGroup also gave Froman a $2 million payment in connection to his holdings in two investment funds, which was awarded “in recognition of [Froman’s] service to Citi in various capacities since 1999.”

CitiGroup pays extra retirement pay for employees who take a “full time high level position with the U.S. government or regulatory body.” That bank isn’t alone: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, the Blackstone Group, Fannie Mae, Northern Trust and Northrop Grumman are among other firms offering financial rewards for government service after retirement.

https://openmedia.ca/blog/canadian-mps-push-transparency-trans-pacific-partnership  Negotiations for the TPP are scheduled in Singapore next week, and senior legislators from seven countries are asking for transparency in the agreement. Decision-makers from Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, and Peru are demanding that the draft text is openly published before any agreement is signed.

This is a 180-degree turn from the beginning of negotiations. Five years ago, negotiators agreed that the text would not be released until negotiations were completed and any documents other than the text would be concealed until four years after the agreement is signed or after the last round of negotiations if the agreement is not finished.

The GOP members of Congress have declared that they are through for the year after they raised the debt ceiling. They will take their $174,000 salary for their less than four months of work this year with their only achievement having promised to pay the country’s already-accrued debts. If that means they don’t pass the TPP, it might be worth the almost $100 million that taxpayers are paying them for causing gridlock.

January 9, 2014

Iran, TTP – Hope Congress Does Nothing

The 113th Congress is known for doing nothing, and I hope that they continue the trend. Right now there are two issues before Congress that can literally destroy the United States: a Senate bill could put us in war, and a House bill could give corporations 100 percent control of the country.

Issue #1: Iran

Up to 58 senators have signed onto S. 1881, the bill to immediately put new sanctions on Iran if they dare break the current agreement. Iran is willing to negotiate but promised to break off any agreement and destroy existing diplomatic gestures if the U.S. proposes new sanctions. Passing the bill could start another war in the Middle East, costing trillions more dollars.

The bill does state that sanctions would go into effect only if Iran either violates the interim agreement or cannot reach a deal. If that happens, however, the senate could then pass the sanctions rather than disturb the fragile communication between Iran and other world powers regarding Iran’s nuclear program. In fact, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) said that he has already has prepared a bill in case the nuclear talks with Iran fail.

Former ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and former ambassador to Israel, India, and the U.N., Thomas Pickering, have joined others in signing a letter explaining that the bill would question the country’s good faith. The letter states that the senate bill “will threaten the prospects for success in the current negotiations and thus present us and our friends with a stark choice — military action or living with a nuclear Iran.” It adds that attacking Iran would not keep it from developing nuclear weapons; instead if would likely give the Iranians justification to seek them.

Since the agreement on November 24, 2013, modest sanctions relief was exchanged for Iran’s reining in its nuclear program. After the bill was introduced, however, Iranian parliamentarians introduced a measure to enrich nearly weapon-grade uranium.

Secretary of State John Kerry said about the bill, “If we appear to be going off on our own tangent and do whatever we want we will potentially lose their support for the sanctions themselves because we don’t just enforce them by ourselves, we need their help,” referring the U.K, France, China, Russia, and Germany.

Sanctions in the bill include further reductions in Iran’s oil exports and new penalties on other industries, but it goes much farther. The bill insists on zero enrichment to prevent future sanctions, which is unattainable and goes far beyond any UN resolutions against Iran. In addition, the U.S. president would have no power to lift any sanctions. The president would also have no power to issue “cooperating country” waivers for countries reducing their Iranian oil imports unless they reduced oil imports by 30 percent in the first year and ended the imports in the second year, something that countries like China, South Korea, and India are unlikely to do.

The bill also pledges U.S. military support for an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program, meaning that Israel put the U.S. into war with another nation for any reason.

Threatening these sanctions while the U.S. is negotiating would strengthen Iranian hardliners. They lost the last election, but new sanctions could empower them to undercut the current diplomatic outreach and return them to political power.

The Senate needs a two-thirds majority, 67, to override the president’s veto. Johnson said that the bill will not go through his committee of jurisdiction. It will have to get to the floor some other way. If the Senate votes on an Iran sanctions bill in the coming weeks, don’t expect it to go through the regular committee process.  He’ll wait as long as Iran is negotiating.

Fewer than one-third of the senators were there to declare war in the early 2000s. Fortunately, Tim Johnson was one of them. He understands the danger of declaring war on Iran.

Issue #2: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

The mainstream media has almost no information on the TPP, partly because there as so many other issues and partly because the president wants to keep it secret to get it “fast-tracked”—passed through Congress with no debate and no notice. Twelve nations are negotiating the secretive, multi-national trade agreement that would restrict intellectual property laws and rewrite international rules on its enforcement. Freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and the ability to innovate would all be greatly restricted. Although only 12 countries are involved in the agreement, other countries would most likely be coerced into the “partnership” to maintain trade agreements with the TPP members.

TPP was started in 2008 by George W. Bush and continued by President Obama–who pledged in that same year to be transparent. In 2010, all involved nations signed a pledge to hide the deliberations from the public and keep any related documents secret until four years after the deal is done. Last year, the president’s trade rep, Ron Kirk, declared that secrecy was vital because the agreement would enrage people in the U.S. and keep Congress from rubber stamping it. Kirk has been replaced.

No one is 100 percent sure of exactly what the agreement says because no draft has been officially released; people are learning about it through leaked documents. Because all the negotiations occurred behind closed doors, it was not subject to any system of checks and balances.

We do know that domestic laws and policies would be forced to conform to the agreement. Congress could no longer make law if corporations disagree. The same thing would happen in other countries, requiring them to rewrite recent laws. U.S. entertainment and pharmaceutical industries would be benefited while Internet users and technology innovators would lose flexibility and exceptions.

The greatest benefit from TPP goes to corporations because they can more easily sue government, prevent regulation of GMOs, and keep people in impoverished countries from accessing life-saving medicines. Activities such as sourcing local food for schools, banning fracking, and labeling genetically engineered foods are at the top of the corporate hit list.

The House Ways and Means Committee has joined with the Senate Finance Committee to legislate the “trade-promotion authority” which provides an up-or-down vote in Congress. Thomas Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, described TPP as “the Chamber’s top trade priority before the Congress.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that the bill couldn’t pass without bipartisan support, a far reach from his usual partisan position.

People who consider TPP to be a benign trade agreement might want to consider the big tobacco company lawsuits against governments of Australia, Uruguay, and several African countries for violating trade agreements by limiting advertising and packaging cigarettes. British-American Tobacco complained that Australia’s anti-smoking regulations violate its trademark rights because the country requires cigarettes to be sold in drab packages.

Tobacco companies have sued and threatened to sue countries like Uruguay and Uganda, arguing that their tobacco rules unfairly restrict trade or hurt their investments. Namibia has not enforced tobacco regulations because it is not prepared to fight long and expensive legal battles against large companies.

Poorer, developing countries are particularly targeted by Big Tobacco, because governments don’t have the resources to fight back. Margaret Chan, director of the World Health Organization, said the trade suits are “deliberately designed to instill fear in countries wishing to introduce tough tobacco control measures.” Trade agreements and investment treaties are meant to make it easier for governments to do business internationally, not allow corporations to undermine legitimate public health regulations. Smoking-related illnesses kill nearly six million people a year across the planet, and almost 80 percent of the world’s smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.

This is just one example of environmental, public health, and civil rights laws that big business such as Halliburton, Chevron, and Monsanto might consider trade violations. These corporations are only three of the 600 companies plus some non-governmental groups that advise TPP trade negotiations.

The TTP can also:

  • offshore millions of American jobs by skirting regulations in other countries;
  • free the banksters from oversight by prohibint transaction taxes, restrict “firewall” reforms, and permit banks to regulate themselves;
  • ban “Buy America” policies needed to create green jobs and rebuild our economy;
  • decrease access to medicine and increase prices through monopolies;
  • eliminate regulations for food safety, calling them “illegal trade barriers”;
  • flood the U.S. with unsafe food and products;
  • allow unlimited fracking;
  • govern public services such as utilities, transportation, and education;
  • and empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards.

TPP is the end of U.S. sovereignty. Corporations will be making all the laws, and cases will be decided behind closed doors by three-person international tribunals of private attorneys hired by corporations.

Of course, if the Senate declares war against Iran and they use nuclear weapons against us, we might not have to worry about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

November 15, 2013

The Internet Makes a Difference

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:53 PM
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Ten years ago the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could probably have been passed into international law, quietly and in secret. A decade into the 21st century, however, information, varying in accuracy, pours across the world through wireless access. Although the mainstream media has had nothing to say about the TPP, Wikileaks has provided the text of the proposed agreement, and people are gathering in protest.

A letter from 180 members of the House from Tea Partier Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to progressive John Lewis (D-GA) oppose President Obama’s request for Fast Track, an authority which would let the president negotiate and sign the TPP before Congressional debate. Fast Track would allow Congress only an up-and-down vote.

Negotiators for TTP will meet in Salt Lake City (UT) next week, and protesters plan to be present. Communities are passing resolutions opposing the changes in law from TTP that harms them. December 3 will see a global day of protest against toxic trade agreements, and two members of the Australian Parliament will submit a request on that day to make the text of TPP public.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an agreement being negotiated behind closed doors by representatives of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, and Australia. It proposes to control “international obligations and enforcement mechanisms for copyright, trademark and patent law.” Until the Wikileaks made the document public, only 700 representatives of corporations–TTP’s author–had access to the text. No  governments would have been to read it until given an up-or-down vote, and the public has been permitted little or no input in the final version.

Scary content of TPP:

Restricted Internet use: “Authors, performers, and producers of phonograms have the right to authorize or prohibit all reproductions of their works, performances, and phonograms, in any manner or form, permanent or temporary (including temporary storage in electronic form).” Currently, computers use temporary copies to buffer videos, store cache files to ensure websites load quickly, etc. Anyone viewing a temporary version on the computer would most likely be liable to TPP infringement.

Limited access to medicine: Access to affordable medications would drastically shrink, while pharmaceutical companies would greatly profit if consumers were not able to buy competing low-cost companies’ medications. These measures have never been seen before in U.S. trade agreements. The proposals would control countries’ laws on patents and medical test data, extending pharmaceutical monopolies on cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS drugs especially in the Asia-Pacific region. TPP would also create more difficulty for additional generic drugs in the pharmaceutical markets.

Extended patent protections to surgical methods: Patent protections to surgical methods, currently allowed to be excluded under World Trade Organization framework, would be lengthened. TPP makes patent protections’ exceptions to only “surgical methods you can perform with your bare hands,” according to Burcu Kilic, legal counsel to Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program.

Longer copyright term protections: Currently copyright term protections are defined by individual countries but capped at the life of the author plus 50 years. TPP could force longer copyright terms to life of the author plus 70 years for individuals “and either 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation for corporate-owned works (such as Mickey Mouse).” Economists and law scholars believe that “the optimal length of copyright is at most seven years.”

The requirement for Internet Service Providers (ISP) to police copyright violations: An analysis stated:

“The TPP wants service providers to undertake the financial and administrative burdens of becoming copyright cops, serving a copyright maximalist agenda while disregarding the consequences for Internet freedom and innovation.”

Three-strike rules would require ISPs to terminate users’ Internet access after three allegations of copyright infringement; require ISPs to filter online communications for possible instance of copyright infringement; oblige ISPs to block websites that may be engaged in copyright infringement; and potentially force ISPs to reveal identities of alleged online copyright infringers to the entities that hold the copyrights in question.

Under the TPP, corporations would be in control; the agreement would supersede government laws and regulations. It has been described as “NAFTA on steroids,” referring to the trade agreement that gave oil and pharmaceutical companies control over Canadian regulations on offshore oil drilling, fracking, pesticides, drug patents and other issues.

Environmental regulations would be shredded while prices would skyrocket if the TPP were to become the law of the land. Although corporations claim that TPP is a trade agreement, that’s only a minor part. The rest of it includes “new investor safeguards to ease job offshoring and assert control over natural resources, and severely limit the regulation of financial services, land use, food safety, natural resources, energy, tobacco, healthcare and more,” according to Lori Wallach in The Nation. 

All countries would be forced to conform domestic laws and regulations to any TPP’s rules that are written by huge corporations. TPP even limits how governments spend tax dollars and prevents programs such as “Buy America” and other “Buy Local” movements. The TPP rules could be changed only if all countries agree, and it has no expiration date. Breaking any TPP rules could leave countries open to lawsuits before the organization’s tribunals. Under TPP corporations could sue governments.

NAFTA has already required governments to pay $350 million to corporations because of suits against toxic bans, land-use policies, forestry rules and more. Again, think of TPP as NAFTA on steroids. NAFTA and similar pacts has cost the United States more than 5 million jobs and led to the loss of more than 50,000 manufacturing plants. TPP would continue the bleeding of employment in this country.

TPP has proceeded in secret for the past five years. Public, press, and Congress have been prevented from knowing anything about its proceedings. Even Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), chair of the Senate committee with official jurisdiction over TPP, has been denied access to even U.S. proposals to the negotiations. But 700 corporate representatives serving as official U.S. trade advisers have full access to TPP texts and a special role in negotiations.

When challenged about the conflict with the Obama administration’s touted commitment to transparency, Trade Representative Kirk noted that after the release of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) text in 2001, that deal could not be completed. In other words, the official in charge of the TPP says the only way to complete the deal is to keep it secret from the people who would have to live with the results.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) pointed out in a letter to the White House:

“I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the administration’s policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States. I believe in transparency and democracy and I think the US Trade Representative should too.”

There’s much more wrong with TPP than its lack of transparency.

June 1, 2013

TPP Should Terrify Us

The March against Monsanto was huge last Saturday, despite the lack of press about it. And the Moral Monday marches in North Carolina against the extremist actions of far-right conservatives is growing, based on the number of ordinary middle-class people arrested for chanting and singing outside the House and Senate chambers.

The Forward Together Movement started their protests four weeks ago, and within that time over 150 people have been arrested for not dispersing. A tour has also stopped at 25 cities throughout the state to organize opposition to the outrageous legislative agenda. Their complaints are like those in the rest of the states: cuts to unemployment benefits, education spending and education programs; plans to use tax dollars to underwrite private-school education; rejection of federal Medicaid dollars for lower-income people’s health care; plans to expand sales taxes to pay for cuts to the state income taxes; and plans to reduce voting days and require voters to present ID when voting.

The Occupy encampments are coming back. Today Occupy Homecoming re-takes Liberty Plaza (aka Zuccotti Park). For other people who want information about protesting movements, a new website has been designed to connect and build on the current mass popular resistance.

PopularResistance.org provides daily movement news and resources about actions, events, and tools for community organizing. Its goal is to challenge the corporate control of our government, a corrupt economy, and U.S. militarism to put people’s needs and protection of the planet protection before corporate profits. Two examples are these Occucards on Corporate Media and Public Banking. The website shows a strategic framework and links to 200 tactics proven effective through solidarity among movements and weakening the power structure by involving people in the movement.

Building on the March against Monsanto, the first campaign from PopularResistance.org is to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This issue is being sold as a “trade” agreement, but it’s really a corporate grab on everything from Internet freedom to banking regulation, worker rights to health care, environmental protection and agriculture to consumer safety.

For three years, business interests such as Monsanto, Wal-Mart, Wall Street banks, pharmaceutical companies, Exxon-Mobil, BP, and nearly 600 other corporate advisors have secretly negotiated to draft the TPP. Because the key word here is “secretly,” the only information comes from leaked documents, but these are scary. Really scary. Even Congress doesn’t know anything about it.

From what people have discovered, the TPP is a very big deal. If the Senate and President Obama agree to TPP, it can override U.S. laws and regulations. NAFTA, China’s entry into the WTO, and other “trade” agreements have caused huge trade deficits while sending jobs, factories, and industries out of the country to give wealth to the top 1 percent of our population. In the 2000s we lost 50,000+ factories and at least 6 million jobs just to China. These agreements are nothing compared to TPP.

If the TPP is passed, it will be almost impossible to rescind. And it will tell Congress and state legislatures what laws and regulations that they can pass or enforce in areas such as patents and copyrights, government procurement, investment and land use, service-sector regulation, food and product safety, corporate competition, labor, and environmental standards. It will also limit government regulation of financial services.

TPP can cause prices, such as those for pharmaceuticals, to go sky high: tariffs and quotas can increase costs by 20 to 30 percent, and patent and copyright protection can raise prices by 2,000 or 20,000 percent above the free market price.

Even the just-signed Korea Free Trade agreement is already hurting our economy by increasing the trade deficit, increasing imports, and decreasing exports. One year into the agreement, U.S. goods exports to Korea have declined by 10 percent ($4.2 billion decrease) while the U.S. trade deficit with Korea has shot up 37 percent. That’s a loss of 12,000 jobs.

Good trade agreements can help the country. The bad trade deals that we’ve made have boosted the trade deficit, unemployment, income and wealth inequality, the loss of factories and industries, the hollowing-out of our middle class, and the domination of our politics by the large corporate interests. Our recent trade agreements have made winners out of Wall Street, the 1-percenters, and giant multinational corporations.

The good news is that protest movements are crossing the nation. Seattle became the seventh U.S. city in which low-paid workers walked out of McDonalds, Wendy’s, and other fast-food restaurants to demand a living wage of $15 per hour; Wal-Mart workers launched their first sustained strike and plan their June 7 Ride for Respect to the annual shareholders meeting; United Students against Sweatshops is organizing at 180 colleges to protest sweat shops, unfair wages, and industrial accidents. Even in Cambodia, thousands of women working in garment factories held a sit-down strike despite police wielding cattle-prod-like electric stun batons.

The Home Defenders League organized a protest last week that began at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. and ended up occupying the Department of Justice. Some spent the nights in tents. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the bankers are “too big to jail,” yet they continue to take homes from people in the United States, sometimes with no justification.  

The proposed TPP can stop laws to help the bottom 99 percent. For example, the Homeowners Bill of Rights passed in Minnesota because of activist pressure, but the TPP could erase this law and others. Banks and mortgage lenders could sue in trade tribunals for lost profits, where the judges will often be corporate lawyers on leave from their jobs.

The “banks too big to jail” will stay big if TPP goes into effect, and top officials can’t be prosecuted for causing disastrous financial losses. The TPP gives banks greater laxity to move money in and out of countries, stops regulation of banks, and allows casino-style high risk investments to continue. Wall Street will use the TPP to weaken the already weak financial regulation of the big banks.

School closings are crossing the nation, and these can be replaced by private corporate schools under TPP which opposes so-called “state-owned enterprises.”  The result is weakened public services such as health care in favor of for-profit corporate interests.

Corporations have filed 450 suits against 89 governments; these corporations have been paid $700 million, about 70 percent of this from challenges to natural resource and environmental policies. For example, if a country—or even a county as one in New Mexico recently did—the companies can sue for exorbitant lost profits. With TPP, environmentalists can’t protest the raping of the land.

More and more places across the country are voting against corporate personhood, for example, 76.6 percent of those in Los Angeles. That city joined 175 others calling for an end of the rule of money. The TPP can stop this opposition to corporate personhood.

With TPP, Monsanto and other corporations selling genetically engineered foods will be in control. Nobody can stop them. And TPP will force other countries to follow in its field testing and lack of labeling to identify GMOs.

People need to force the transparency of TPP negotiations. Last June, 130 members of Congress wrote to U.S. Trade Representative asking for this as well as requesting their consultation with Congressional members. More than 400 organizations have asked Congress to replace the “Fast Track” system that limits Congress’ (democracy’s) ability to get involved in the process, and to call for a new direction for TPP as well as other trade agreements.

TPP needs strong tests and irrevocable language about withdrawing from the agreement if it harms our economy, environment, smaller businesses, tax base, and/or our working people. All future trade deals, including TPP, must include clear and enforceable rules covering currency manipulation and other ways that countries game the system.

Since Citizens United, the misguided Supreme Court decision that declares “corporations are people, my friend,” to quote Mitt Romney, corporations have gone power-hungry crazy. A fine example of this is the incorporated Hobby Lobby Stores, which is fighting for an exemption from giving employees access to the morning-after pill. First, they argue that emergency contraception is abortion because it can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. The company also opposes coverage for some intrauterine devices.

Second, Hobby’s lawyers argue that the stores are a “a ministry.” They added that the constitutional right to freedom of religion is “not a purely personal right.” According to the lawyer, corporations can have religious beliefs.

The case is in front of eight judges in the 10th Circuit Court in Denver. But if Hobby waits for TPP, they can probably do anything they want.

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