|December 11, 2013
By Joan Brunwasser
It’s the most outrageous attempted corporate power grab yet.Suppose some foreign transnational corporation wanted to come into your country and start fracking or they wanted to unilaterally rewrite your labor laws, you would be forced to submit to that.This sounds like the kind of hysterical hyperbole that right wingers are so fond of trafficking in.This is what is actually being pushed in secret. It’s like NAFTA on steroids.
My guest today is political activist, the PEN. Welcome back to OpEdNews, PEN.
JB: Usually, I wait at least a little while before returning to interview someone. But there are compelling reasons for another interview right now. What can you tell us about what you’re currently working on?
PEN: There are many people who even now have never heard of a proposal for a trade agreement called The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). And there is a reason for that, which is that it is being negotiated in the most extreme possible secrecy. That alone ought to raise red flags and start alarm bells loudly ringing. We had heard nothing about it ourselves until our own participants started emailing us asking when we were going to do an action page on it. Over the years, the people on our distribution list have self-assembled into what we believe are the most informed and mobilized progressive activists in the country, and we can always trust them to keep us on our toes.
JB: So, fill us in, please. Our readers would love to know as much as possible about this far-reaching treaty proposal.
PEN: Quite simply, it is the most outrageous attempted corporate power grab yet. Suppose some foreign transnational corporation wanted to come into your country and start fracking. Under this proposed deal, there is nothing you could do about it. Suppose they wanted to unilaterally rewrite your labor laws, you would be forced to submit to that. This sounds like the kind of hysterical hyperbole that right wingers are so fond of trafficking in, but this is what is actually being pushed in secret. It’s like NAFTA on steroids.
JB: It does sound incredible, PEN. Who’s behind this and why is it even being considered?
PEN: You’d better brace yourself. The big pressure is coming from the White House itself.
JB: Are you joking? Why? This sounds like a really terrible idea.
PEN: President Obama has been urging (demanding?) that the deal be done by literally the end of the month, while members of Congress have been ordered not to disclose any of the proposals, and many have complained they can’t get access to them even if they wanted to. Now, it would be one thing if someone were disclosing our bottom line trade negotiation position. But they are forbidding anyone from even talking about proposals put ON the table for other nations to consider. This stuff is for the eyes of mega-corporations and their lobbyists only. But what we do know from leaked and often heavily redacted documents is truly horrifying. Alot of our people are asking themselves, “Who is that guy in the White House and what has he done with President Obama?”
JB: Sad. And scary. Why the secrecy and why the huge rush? Just that alone is enough to make me suspicious.
PEN: Well, the answer is contained in your own natural reaction to hearing about some of these proposals. And that reaction is almost universal. And we are just starting to talk about the obnoxious things in their initiative: crippling of internet freedom, a broad expansion of corporate property rights. I hesitate to use an expression like “up in arms,” but clearly they knew we would be just as upset as we are if we knew what they were up to.
JB: Has the legislation been crafted, once again, by lobbyists representing Big Business?
PEN: Yes, of course, that’s it. It’s pretty much a Christmas gift list of everything your average billionaire fascist would want in his billion stockings. And yet, the reason it has not already happened behind our backs is apparently that no other country in the world is willing to go along with it. That’s right, folks, the biggest thing protecting the American people right now are foreign leaders, who actually feel they have some accountability to their own people. It just boggles the mind.
JB: How fortuitous. At least someone is looking out for their constituents. Even if the someones reside outside our borders. On the home front, I understand that even conscientious members of Congress can’t do much about this. The fast track provision means that they have to vote up or down on the bill in its entirety. And it’s long and complicated. Who will even have time to read the whole thing, let alone figure out all its ramifications? And all that by the end of the year? Yikes!
PEN: The good news is that we have time to mobilize. Clearly it’s not going to happen before the end of the year, with no other countries on board. But just to protect ourselves we need to ensure that this deal is not given fast track treatment. So our current action is to demand that Congress assert its constitutional duty to regulate trade, and to allow no such fast track treatment.
JB: Where is Congress in all this? And what about the press?
PEN: Actually, we are off to a great start. Many members of Congress have already signed letters demanding that they have a say in this on our behalf. There are even some Republicans, who we agree with about absolutely nothing else, who get this. As far as the press goes, the various progressive blogs have been blowing the trumpet and publishing whatever leaked documents we have been able to obtain. But not surprisingly, the corporate “mainstream” media is playing asleep at the switch.
JB: It’s not usually a problem getting the word out in the progressive blogosphere. But that’s not enough. I’m worried that there are too many members of Congress whose bosses are not their constituencies, but rather their corporate masters.
PEN: That’s all the more reason why we need to speak out strongly and not be complacent. They’ve been slowed down, but they will never stop pushing, and we can never stop pushing back.
JB: Agreed; I think it’s called eternal vigilance. So, I understand you have a petition for people to sign. That’s a good start. Got any good articles for people to read to understand more about the dangers of this agreement?
PEN: What good activist would ever not have a petition ready to go? This one specifically calls for Congress to reject fast track treatment for this, and we’re off to a good start with over 5,000 submissions already.
Also, on this same action page are links to reference articles for all the important points made, so people can just follow the links and get up to speed on this issue quick, fast and in a hurry. But above all, remember to actually submit the action page itself, because just being knowledgeable does not change policy, only acting on this knowledge does.
JB: Sounds good. Anything you’d like to add before we wrap this up?
PEN: We the people have had some great victories recently because we have been speaking out.
JB: Hear, hear!
PEN: We stopped a new quagmire in Syria. We stopped the totalitarian blockade of federal judges by putting some spine into the Senate Democrats. All people need to do is stop giving our politicians a pass for self-partisan reasons, to demand that they actually represent us and not just have the right party designation letter after their names, and people power can become an instant reality.
JB: Thanks for talking with me once again and for spearheading this campaign to block the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). And thank goodness the politicians in other countries have more sense than ours here seem to.
PEN: Our job is to make sure they get it. Let’s do our job.
JB: Okay, PEN. We’re on it!
Stop The Trans Pacific Partnership Action Page:
Submitters Website: http://www.opednews.com/author/author79.html
Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of transparency and the ability to accurately check and authenticate the vote cast, these systems can alter election results and therefore are simply antithetical to democratic principles and functioning. Since the pivotal 2004 Presidential election, Joan has come to see the connection between a broken election system, a dysfunctional, corporate media and a total lack of campaign finance reform. This has led her to enlarge the parameters of her writing to include interviews with whistle-blowers and articulate others who give a view quite different from that presented by the mainstream media. She also turns the spotlight on activists and ordinary folks who are striving to make a difference, to clean up and improve their corner of the world. By focusing on these intrepid individuals, she gives hope and inspiration to those who might otherwise be turned off and alienated. She also interviews people in the arts in all their variations – authors, journalists, filmmakers, actors, playwrights, and artists. Why? The bottom line: without art and inspiration, we lose one of the best parts of ourselves. And we’re all in this together. If Joan can keep even one of her fellow citizens going another day, she considers her job well done. Joan has been Election Integrity Editor for OpEdNews since December, 2005. Her articles also appear at Huffington Post, RepublicMedia.TV and Scoop.co.nz
Archive for the ‘TPP’ Category
December 11, 2013
By Electronic Frontier Foundation
Despite the U.S. Trade Representative’s concerted efforts to push through a deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) will not be completed by the self-imposed deadline of the end of this year. That announcement, made in Singapore today at a closed press conference, is welcome: the U.S. Trade Representative’s accelerated timeline has served as yet another means of restricting transparency,
Despite the U.S. Trade Representative’s concerted efforts to push through a deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) will not be completed by the self-imposed deadline of the end of this year. That announcement, made in Singapore today at a closed press conference, is welcome: the U.S. Trade Representative’s accelerated timeline has served as yet another means of restricting transparency, and a key pressure point in its campaign to get the U.S. Congress to abdicate its oversight role by granting “fast track authority.” If you’re in the U.S., you cancontact your legislators and tell them to oppose that effort.
The closed press conference itself was representative of the needless secrecy surrounding the negotiation of this agreement. While the TPP ministers laid out the new timeline and opened the floor to questions, public interest groups were limited to the lobby of the building–not even allowed to stand in the back of the room and watch.
Of course, the announcement also comes just days after a leaked document showed major rifts in the positions of different countries and highlighted a number of substantive proposals where the United States has failed to secure international support for its stances. The TPP ministers announced “substantial progress” in the agreement, but no firm explanation of how the situation had changed since the release of those documents.
Without such an explanation, the public continues to rely on leaks to get important information about the agreement. And while they have been very helpful, leaks are no substitute for transparency. With both this most recent and earlier disclosures–such as the WikiLeaks publication last month of an entire draft proposal for the chapter titled “Intellectual Property”–the public gets just a snapshot, which may be out of date and incomplete.
There is one surefire way for negotiating countries to eliminate these leaks. They could simply release these documents, which are, after all, being negotiated in the public’s name. Instead, the public has gotten glances only through the efforts of whistleblowers and groups like WikiLeaks. Even absent substantive complaints about the text–which are many–the completely opaque negotiation process is enough to strip the agreement of its legitimacy.
For the U.S. Trade Representative to ask for fast track authority against that backdrop is audacious, and for Congress to even consider it is irresponsible. Even without public text, the pushback against this agreement has been overwhelming. In just the past week we’ve seenChilean legislators demanding their government provide more transparency to negotiations, Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz raise 12 “grave risks” presented by the leaked chapter, and even the Holy See take a stance against the policy-laundering associated with opaque multinational agreements.
Efforts to rush the agreement to completion despite those complaints are misguided at best, so it’s a good thing that those efforts have stalled for the time being. But any reprieve is likely to be short, and in the new year negotiators are likely to ramp up the pressure.
The U.S. Trade Representative has been negotiating as if it already had fast track authority; our best hope in the U.S. of getting some oversight for this agreement is to ensure it doesn’t get it.Contact your legislators today and tell them: no fast track authority for shady backroom deals.
Reprinted from eff.org/deeplinks
Submitters Website: http://www.eff.org
A protest against the TPP. (photo: Acronym TV)
By Charles Pierce, Esquire
09 December 13
ikiLeaks and The Huffington Post have raised all kinds of unshirted hell this morning by publishing a trove of documents relating to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the gigantic new trade agreement which was negotiated largely in secret — unless, of course, you were a CEO or a lobbyist who worked for one — and which the administration is seeking to “fast-track” through Congress so as to avoid the kind of public scrutiny to which deals like this rarely stand up. OK, that last part’s me, but you get the point.
One of the most controversial provisions in the talks includes new corporate empowerment language insisted upon by the U.S. government, which would allow foreign companies to challenge laws or regulations in a privately run international court. Under World Trade Organization treaties, this political power to contest government law is reserved for sovereign nations. The U.S. has endorsed some corporate political powers in prior trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the scope of what laws can be challenged appears to be much broader in TPP negotiations.
The documents say pretty much what you’d expect them to say — that the provisions of the TPP grant multinational corporations vast new powers and that, among these, are virtual veto-powers over local environmental and labor laws, and that the agreement is a virtual Christmas tree on which corporations have hung all of their fondest individual wishes regarding future profiteering. (The drug companies seem particularly hopeful, which is to say incredibly greedy.) Large financial institutions seem happy, too.
The U.S. is also facing major resistance on bank regulation standards. The Obama administration is seeking to curtail the use of “capital controls” by foreign governments. These can include an extremely broad variety of financial tools, from restricting lending in overheated markets to denying mass international outflows of currency during a financial panic. The loss of these tools would dramatically limit the ability of governments to prevent and stem banking crises.
(Let us pause right here to acknowledge that any counter-argument based on what a schmuck you think Julian Assange is will be ruled out of order as immaterial and irrelevant to the matter at hand. Thank you.)
The TPP, which will materially affect the lives , in one way or another, of every American who works for a living, has been criminally undercovered in the United States media — and I include the blog in this, as well — while it has been negotiated in secrecy among a corporate class beyond the reach of democratic accountability, and a corporate class that most people around the world have no earthly reason to trust any more. The administration inexcusably is trying to short-circuit debate on what would be a massive reconfiguration of the relationship between the American government and the universe of international business and finance, which latter is acting in this matter very much the way a state would if it were negotiating a treaty — or, say, the terms of a surrender, not that I’m negative on the whole business or anything. The lack of any kind of accountability, let alone transparency — in which I include the media, and in which I definitely include this blog — on something of this magnitude seems so, well, transparently, unAmerican that it almost beggars argument. And if there is no official accountability, then, thank god, there is going to be unofficial accountability and renegade transparency, and that’s just tough. I don’t want to hear official blatherings about “outdated” documents. I want to know what deals my government is cutting with people from whom I, at this point, wouldn’t buy an apple.
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 9, 2013
LONDON – December 9 – On 13 November 2013 WikiLeaks released the draft text of the crucial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) Intellectual Property chapter during the lead-up to a TPP chief negotiators’ meeting in Salt Lake City on 19-24 November 2013. Today, 9 December 2013, WikiLeaks has released two more secret TPP documents that show the state of negotiations as the twelve TPP countries began supposedly final negotiations at a trade ministers’ meeting in Singapore this week.
One document describes deep divisions between the United States and other nations, and “great pressure” being exerted by the US negotiators to move other nations to their position. The other document lists, country-by-country, the many areas of disagreement remaining. It covers intellectual property and thirteen other chapters of the draft agreement. This suggests that the TPP negotiations can only be concluded if the Asia-Pacific countries back down on key national interest issues, otherwise the treaty will fail altogether.
See the first TPP release from WikiLeaks: https://wikileaks.org/tpp/
Last week, WikiLeaks released a single chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Surprisingly, prior to November 13, the TPP was at the top of zero major news pages. Unsurprisingly, it is now the number one trending topic in so many of our sources of dedicated journalism. The sexiness of a WikiLeaks exclusive, as well as the inherent mystique of its Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange, lends the story an acceptable credibility in the mainstream that negates its otherwise difficult subject material. The difficulty being that the TPP is not sexy material to write about.
The leaked document is but one of twenty-nine chapters and is ninety-five pages long. The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is still in the drafting phase, but this version has been verified to August of this year. The Partnership itself involves twelve countries in the Asia-Pacific region and it has been active since 2008, with the intent of codifying laws that will benefit…a good deal of folks at the ominous end of ellipses.
Frankly, at this stage there isn’t enough in the leaked document for us to run screaming to the fed with torches and pitchforks, so those who compare TPP to SOPA and PIPA are prematurely barking up the wrong wrongdoing tree. But there is certainly enough for us to assault President Obama with questions, especially when the cornerstone of his campaign was transparency in government. The fact that TPP has been so secret for so long bespeaks an opaqueness that is nothing short of a democratic betrayal.
What is So Bad about the TPP?
The countries that compose the Trans-Pacific Partnership are as follows: the United States of America, Japan, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Canada and Mexico. Together these countries account for approximately one-third of global trade and constitute 40 percent of the global GDP. This is a significant chunk of the world economy and, should TPP succeed, it will be the largest free trade agreement on the books.
It is natural to expect that any leaked document from this partnership would involve trade. Currently, that is not the case. It is also natural to wonder why the general populace has not been privy to the full document, and why Obama is seeking to “Fast Track” it. The answers to these questions are as follows:
- The leaked chapter concerns Intellectual Property Rights (e.g. patents, creative use and copyright laws).
- The general populace has not been allowed to read the full text but over 600 lobbyists and representatives of multi-national corporations have. There are even portions of the Agreement that are off-limits to Congress, which dovetails with the fact that…
- Fast Tracking prohibits Congress from amending or filibustering a bill.
The only way to get a full understanding of the danger TPP poses to the intellectual and creative commons is to read the leaked document itself. You can do that by heading to the WikiLeaks press release page and downloading the PDF directly. There is a lot to mull over.
But there are some salient points that I will touch upon below.
First of all, the Intellectual Property chapter puts greater restrictions on copyright laws than current progressive international standards. To put this in perspective, much of the chapter seems to take its cues from the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA has taken some criticism, specifically that it is a 1998 law that affects the internet and is already out of date. By comparison, New Zealand’s copyright law was written in 2008 with the intent of improving on the shortcomings of the DMCA. Similarly, Australia’s TPM law (Technological Protection Measures) was crafted with an eye to the US digital locks provisions, which have also been criticized. Under TPP, both New Zealand and Australia’s laws would be overridden, rolled back to DMCA standards.
With TPP, internet users are facing a backward and potentially dangerous legal wrangle. One of the provisions in the IP chapter regulates temporary copies. These are copies that are made as part of a routine computer function, but under TPP even temporary reproductions of copyrighted works without copyright holders’ authorization will be considered infringement. The Electronic Frontier Foundation deems this “criminalization of non-commercial file sharing” and will affect how users share and create content online.
Copyright terms will also be extended. Today the copyright term protection for an author is their life plus fifty years. That will be expanded to their life plus seventy years. In the case of corporate owned works, such as Mickey Mouse, the copyright will extend between ninety-five years after publication or 120 years after creation.
Copyright terms seem completely sensible, but we have to remember that these terms are extended past a creator’s life not to protect the integrity of an artistic work but to allow entities to retain ownership and profit from the work as long as possible. Extensions are made in increments and, if TPP is successful, it paves the way for future amendments, denying creative access to future generations of not one but twelve countries.
The guiding hand of American (corporate) interest is evident throughout the IP chapter. When Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile and Malaysia proposed a principles article, Article QQ.A.9, “to prevent the abuse of intellectual property rights by rights holders or the resort to practices which unreasonably restrain trade or adversely affect the international transfer of technology,” it was opposed by the U.S. and Japan. But why would the U.S. or Japan strike a measure to prevent anti-competitive practices?
How Does TPP Affect Medical Patents, or Who’s Actually Writing This Thing?
If TPP is truly expected to “liberalize” the economies of the Pacific, it makes sense that Nike, General Motors, Pfizer and Walmart would want to see the specifics. The economy means business and business means jobs. This is despite the fact that the Kauffman Foundation produced a report in August of 2013 that posits startups, not big corporations, are key drivers of job creation throughout the U.S.
But TPP has skated under the public’s radar for most of its existence. Not only are small businesses excluded, the average citizen is too. As noted by Nation of Change, over 600 corporate interests were invited to the TPP table, but not consumer groups, labor groups, civil rights groups, patient health groups or “[g]roups that advocate for the interests of pretty much anything that isn’t about corporate profits.”
That penultimate group however, patient health, is the most valid. To have left it in the same clueless penumbra as the rest illustrates an especially damning aspect to the TPP Agreement, one whose consequences are genuinely life threatening.
Intellectual Property Rights extend to pharmaceutical patents and surgical procedures. This includes medicine but it also includes how it is administered. If enacted, TPP would increase the protections of existing monopolies and create new drug monopolies that would reduce developing countries’ access to generic pharmaceuticals. This would be achieved by setting ownership controls over drug data and usage, limiting the ability to challenge unjustified patents and by extending the terms of those patents.
Stricter intellectual property protection will limit biomedical innovation, which has already been observed by Doctors Without Borders. The DWB reports that developing countries have experienced difficulties protecting public health while also complying with the current Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Flexible patent systems are essential to biomedical research, but IP protection has been shown to raise or maintain high prices on medicine and limit access to treatment. In Jordan, five years after implementing the “TRIPS plus” measures in the U.S.-Jordan FTA, the price of medicine rose 20 percent. The same thing happened in Guatemala when the CAFTA was enacted.
The generic drug industry has been a powerful tool in lowering the cost of medicine. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has spent the last thirteen years researching the patent barriers, prices and availability of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and made a concerted effort to increase access to ART in developing countries. They have found that in the last ten years generic competition has reduced the cost of antiretrovirals by 99 percent.
Today, 80 percent of ART used in developing countries are generics. The measures set forth in the leaked IP would expand protections on pharmaceutical monopolies and make approvals for generics more difficult to obtain.
The United States is in fact pushing for even more restrictive measures than the current standards of the World Trade Organization. Whereas the WTO makes exceptions for patents that cover “diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods for the treatment of humans or animals,” the U.S. intends to “make patents available” for those methods “exclud[ed] from patentability.” This is but one tweak made by the United States Trade Representative to existing trade law, and but one glimpse into the minds of the USTR.
Here’s another. The head of pharmaceutical policy for the USTR was once Ralph Ives, who is now the Executive VP for Global Strategy & Analysis of AdvaMed, a trade association for medical device manufacturers. Ives is one of several individuals recognized as “cleared advisors” to the USTR. These advisors include representatives from Medtronic, Johnson and Johnson, North Coast Medical, Airmed Biotech and others. Together they have created a policy that, according to Knowledge Ecology International, “is bad for access to knowledge, bad for access to medicine, and profoundly bad for innovation.”
Strengthening Our Democracy
When President Barack Obama first took office, he issued a memorandum to all executive federal agencies on the change his administration would bring to Washington. He opened it with this promise:
“We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”
The current administration has been anything but open, anything but transparent. In the last four years six government employees and two contractors have been prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act for leaking classified information to the press. The president of “change” has been targeting truth tellers with a law almost a century old. Edward Snowden, the most recent “traitor” or “conspirator,” fled halfway around the world to escape a government that increasingly seeks to eliminate, not educate, its constituency.
Writing to Michael Froman, Obama’s nominee for head of the USTR, Senator Elizabeth Warren offered this cogent argument for releasing the full TPP document:
“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.”
Julian Assange, writing on his website, issued this warning to the citizens of the Trans-Pacific Partnership: “If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.” At this stage it is difficult to argue against such portentous language. We do not have the means. We do not have the full document to dispute it, we do not have federal representatives who believe it is our business to have it.
Well, what is the business of the American people? Is it business, or is it keeping our mouths shut and our eyes closed and our ears covered? Thankfully, though with no thanks to this “transparent” government, we don’t have the excuse of blindness anymore. We will hear plenty of excuses, but it is now our turn to say something.
For more articles by Pierce Nahigyan, check out the author’s Article Archive.
December 7, 2013
By Timothy Gatto
I’m just making suggestions, asking questions and informing my fellow Americans on issues they should be aware of. I believe that most Americans are afraid to question authority and those that are not are lulled into a false sense of security by the mainstream media. Still there are many Americans that are justifiably as outraged as I am by the behavior of our government.
M1A1 Battle Tank by Department of Defense
I spent almost 21 years in the military so it should be no surprise when I tell you that I still spend a lot of time thinking about it. What is surprising however, is that I generally have a negative view of the military, from the time I spent in it, and all that has happened since I left. It is really hard for me to adequately express my opinions about the military to people that have never served in the military and it is just as difficult to express my views to someone that did serve.
Why would I want to write about it then? It is probably because the military has been such a large part of my life, and because it is an exceptional reflection of our nation’s dysfunctional political system and also our morally bankrupt foreign policy. I would like to start by examining the American people’s view of the military.
When I enlisted in January 1968, one day after the Tet Offensive began, I was seventeen and the nation was in turmoil. The Vietnam War was in full swing and the country was becoming more divided by the day. I was fully aware of the danger I was putting myself into, but I felt at the time that if I didn’t enlist, I would have been drafted and I would have ended up in Vietnam as an infantryman. I thought that by enlisting, I could avoid the prospect of being a ground-pounder in the jungle. I also wanted the GI Bill so that I could attend college if I survived my enlistment. I’m still here… I guess it worked.
While I didn’t experience a tour of duty in Southeast Asia (I went to Korea three times), I didn’t escape the effects of the war. The Army was not the most socially acceptable occupation during the late sixties and early 70′s. Many of my friends either got drafted or were in the streets protesting the war. Many of those that returned from the war were among the most politically radical. It was difficult to find anyone without an opinion. The worst part of that for me, was that those who supported the war (in my opinion) were usually right wing ideologues that didn’t have a clue as to what was really happening. Many people that were opposed to the war wanted nothing to do with me.
I was OK with that, mainly because I was also against US policy in Vietnam. The people who understood me best were my fellow soldiers. Still, even in the army, problems existed. There was a huge disconnect between the younger soldiers who were usually either draftee’s or on their first enlistment and, for the most part, against the war. The older, career soldiers that were NCO’s and field grade Officers, were for the war. The army was a microcosm of the society at large. This made life difficult for everyone. Just as in the society we were spawned from, the young people and the older people were at odds.
For many soldiers, returning to civilian life after a tour of duty in Vietnam was exceedingly difficult. The usual tour of duty in Vietnam was thirteen months. The experience of being in the jungle or out on some firebase, hours away from any large military installations, and then suddenly, almost as if by magic, being transported back to the US and mustered out of the military. Within 24 to 48 hours, they walked through their front door. It was surreal.
Compounding this transition was the reality of going through it alone because most soldiers didn’t arrive and leave with a unit. There were no “band of brothers” as portrayed in World War II. Every soldier had his DERO’s date (Date Estimated Return from Overseas). A soldier arrived in Vietnam individually and left individually. How they processed that… was up to them.
The result of the thirteen month “combat tour”, was that it usually took a solid month to train a green soldier and when a soldier got close to his DEROS date (or “got short”), they were loath to take any chances. This, along with a mid-tour leave which was usually thirty days, gave commanders 10 months of time to use a soldier. It was also hard to give a man a reason to defeat the enemy. Performing well in combat and gaining victories that did not result in the war’s end and a great homecoming. It was a thirteen month tour, whether or not battles were won or lost. This was not the best method of fighting a war. Being there “for the duration” was a thing of the past.
Homecoming wasn’t exactly a hero’s welcome either. I remember hitch-hiking from Fort Lewis to the Seattle-Tacoma airport on a fine Summer day in 1970. Someone leaned out of a car window and threw a half full beer can at me and then, getting struck in the head to the words “baby-killer” and having my khaki shirt covered in beer and blood. I’m sure I didn’t experience anything unique for that period.
People were also very suspicious of Vietnam vets. The anti-war movement rhetoric and news reports of atrocities from places like My Lai didn’t elevate veterans to celebrity status. This was one reason why many Vietnam era veterans didn’t talk much about the war they had suffered through. Most Americans didn’t want to hear about their experiences and if a vet insisted on sharing what he went through, the welcome mat was nowhere to be seen.
This isn’t the case today. Now people go out of their way to shake the hand of a returning Vet and thank them for their service. “I support out troops” and “Army Mom (or Dad)” stickers grace the bumpers of SUV’s. Yellow ribbons are everywhere… on everything. What has changed? Why are today’s Vets being adored while Vietnam’s Vets were vilified? What has changed and who are the hero worshipers?
One thing I find disturbing is this “Wounded Warrior Program”. Why do we have celebrities asking American taxpayers to send $19.00 a month to this project that is providing assistance to Veterans to recover from physical and psychological wounds? Why are these celebrities asking us to pay at all? I’m not complaining about to helping them, but the fact is, they should already be receiving help. The government sent these people into harm’s way and it should be the government that supplies care for their wounds. What I find outrageous is that these Veterans have to ask for anything! If the government can’t or won’t provide for the people they have asked to sacrifice for the nation, they should never again put them in harm’s way!
First of all, one of the reasons why our Veterans are once again heroes is because there are very few people in the United States with any “skin in the game”, so to speak. In the years during the Vietnam War, almost everyone had or knew, someone participating. Sons were being drafted and everyone had a lottery number dancing around in their heads. Everyone couldn’t just soil their boxers like Ted Nugent …and get a deferment. Dick Cheney had hemorrhoids, but everyone didn’t get so lucky. There were only so many potential Army Dads and Moms with a Senate or Congressional seat. It was cold in Canada and Sweden, and to be there without a guaranteed income could make for some mighty cold winters.
Today, some of the same people that protested the “imperialism” that America practiced in Vietnam now have “I support our troops” bumper stickers. It is quite possible that the person that threw that beer can at me outside of Seattle is now thanking veterans “for their service”. Do I sound bitter? You’re damn right I am! I’m also disgusted and revolted. Where are all of the people that ”couldn’t live with the war on their conscience” during Vietnam? I could go on, but I won’t. I’ve already said enough. The people I’m talking about know who they are and if they don’t… if amnesia has fully engulfed them, no amount of shame will reach them anyway.
Still, after watching history unfold in my lifetime, and my knowledge of the military, I have come to some conclusions about how we as a nation could rectify some of the harm that American Presidents, Congress critters and foreign policy “experts” as well as some military people have wrought. Maybe rectify is the wrong word. Maybe I should use the word “prevent”.
These are some basic policy changes that could be made to prevent illegal and unnecessary wars:
1. State clear objectives for any military action. We are involved in a war in Afghanistan that has objectives that have changed so many times that most people have no idea why we ever sent troops there in the first place! So far we have claimed to be fighting the people that conducted the attack on 9/11, to bring equality to their women and to give them democracy. The war in Iraq was more of the same. We bomb Yemen and unleash drones with very little justification. We find our nation, supporting in Syria, the same groups we are fighting in Afghanistan. We bombed Libya, the most advanced nation in North Africa, back to the stone-age in order to bring them “democracy”. Now we have a nation of warlord fiefdoms controlled by radical fundamentalists. The same thing is happening in Iraq with the body count rising every day.
2. Unless directly attacked, make it mandatory for any military action to be approved by Congress. It should also be a requirement that no information that could result in military action be kept from the American people. There is nothing more sacrosanct as human life, whether it is an American or foreign life. It is wrong to take lives from people based on secrets. Doing this is barbaric and against all International Law. We invaded Iraq based on lies, a violation of International Law, in fact it was aggression as defined by the Nuremberg trials, yet there were no charges against anyone ever filed. This was a war crime of the greatest magnitude.
3. If the United States enters into an armed conflict with any nation, a declaration of War must be declared. Police actions, preventative military actions, regime change are illegal and a ruse in order to enable a state of war to exist without actually declaring a state of war.
4. In order to maintain a large standing Army, Selective Service must be authorized. We can no longer use the economically disadvantaged to fight this nation’s armed conflicts. Unless everyone shares this nation’s military burden equally, there will be a disproportionate number of poor people that will fight in our military. The wealthiest among us, the same people that now make up a majority of our elected representatives, cannot be exempt from seeing their sons and daughters participate in wars that are justified by these same representatives. The reason for this is self evident. Legislators would think twice because they would have “skin in the game”.
5. “Whistle Blowers”. When an enlisted person see’s war crimes or observes plans to commit war crimes, people must understand that the “Chain of Command” will not suffice to rectify the situation. Bringing information about illegal actions by higher ranking individuals, will never see the light of day… up the chain. The Army protects its own. The military does not embrace those that question authority.Exposing war crimes by telling your superiors about your findings will not be appreciated. Understand that in a combat zone, they have your life in their hands. There are people wasting away in cells. There are Bradley Manning’s everywhere, but their stories haven’t been told.
6. Disabled Veterans. Soldiers that have suffered disabilities from fighting for people that watch the action on a TV screen or a computer monitor or even a Drone viewer with a joystick, apply for benefits in order to help them make their way through life, and face a bureaucratic nightmare. It is easier to bury someone or replace a damaged tank than it is to help a damaged soldier. The government doesn’t mind risking a soldiers life, but it is not that interested in restoring that same soldier so that he or she can resume a semblance of a “normal life”. Six to eight months is the waiting time a veteran must endure before their case is evaluated. Once in review, that soldier faces a mountain of paperwork and medical evaluations by doctors employed by the Veterans Administration. Many veterans must employ a lawyer in order to get “a fair shake” from the VA. The government is loath to provide assistance to veterans. The money spent on a veteran could repair a missile launcher.
7. Drone Attacks. The use of drones launching “Hellfire Missiles” in nations we are not at war with, is an act of aggression and violates International Law. It doesn’t matter who the “high value target” is. Killing people that have been put on a list is assassination. People in Yemen and Pakistan have been ruthlessly attacked and murdered by unseen drones that they never see coming. The President of the United State acting as “Commander in Chief” is the one that authorizes the execution of certain human beings. Now we understand that American citizens are not exempt from an attack they never saw coming. Anwar Al-Alaki died in a desert in Yemen. His crime? He was disillusioned with his government’s policy of indiscriminately killing Muslims. He was a journalist and was writing the truth for the wrong side. His punishment? Death from the sky. As if this wasn’t bad enough, his young sixteen year old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki , who lived in Denver and was searching for his father’s remains in Yemen, was the victim of a military “mistake” as the Commander in Chief explained it. This is Cenk Uygur (The Young Turks), and explains what happened:
What have we become? What is our government capable of doing? This must end.
8. The United States pivoting to Asia. What exactly does that mean? Why are we “pivoting to Asia”? What are we pivoting anyway? Are we bringing the mighty US military machine to the East? What are our intentions and objectives? The American people blindly accept this shift in policy without question. Why is this so? Are Americans so cowed that they dare not question the Empire? Are the legions of America’s war machine now going back to Asia to finish the job they started in Vietnam? We are developing ties to Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, Australia and the Philippines. We are insisting that the Japanese re-arm in violation of their Constitution that we helped to write after World war II. What is the purpose and objective in this? Are we there to intimidate China, a nation that holds three Trillion dollars of US debt? Why is the public quiet? Where is the mainstream media? Why aren’t they asking probing questions? (Maybe because they are controlled by the same corporations that control the government).
9. Guantanamo. The President insists that we close the detention facilities there. He doesn’t want to release the people there, he just wants to move them to the US. The Congress and the military are opposed to this. They don’t want them to have the rights afforded to Americans like charges being brought and their right to a lawyer and the right of a trial by jury. Where is the “Commander in Chief” that has the power to execute those he deems dangerous and a threat to America like the sixteen year old kid from Denver? With power like that, why can’t he issue an executive order to shut the place down and bring these dangerous people that have been held in limbo for almost a decade so that they can be charged and given the right to defend themselves?
He won’t because aside from all this President’s bluster, most of the prisoners have no real evidence against them, and would probably be freed.
10. The NSA and The First Amendment. This must be included in this article because of the significance of it. What Edward Snowden has revealed so far is that virtually every phone call, every text sent, everything said online on Facebook and other media sites , every tweet and every blog, along with every cell phone conversation is recorded and saved by the NSA. The President said that we need this to protect Americans from the “terrorists” that are everywhere. He also claimed that the government doesn’t listen to your conversations or read you blog posts or your comments on Facebook. He revealed that calls to and from places outside of the United States may be looked at because the laws of the US no longer apply. He says that the courts decide what information may be looked at as long as there is a warrant. The real question here is how stupid does he think the American people are? The fact is that there is no way in hell that they could ascertain whether information about Americans was looked at or not. If you become “a person of interest”, I can assure you that they can pull up every conversation, article, blog entry, Facebook comment or tweet going back years. Still the American people remain docile and dormant in the face of the greatest surveillance state the World has ever known.
I’m just making suggestions, asking questions and informing my fellow Americans on issues they should be aware of. I believe that most Americans are afraid to question authority and those that are not are lulled into a false sense of security by the mainstream media. Still there are many Americans that are justifiably as outraged as I am by the behavior of our government. Many of the facts presented here must be addressed. In reality, they will be addressed at some time, and it will be resolved by war, execution, dictatorship or the destruction of our nation for violating International Law. and basic human rights.
Discarded by America; The Magna Charta, The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights (Posse Comitaitus by The John Warner Defense Act), NSA violations, Assassination without due process, conducting war without the consent of Congress, internment camps including camps in Afghanistan and in the Balkans at Camp Bondsteel, and other violations of the Constitution and basic human rights along with violations of International Law. This is a short list, there are other violations.
As a former member of the military for a long period of my life, it pains me to write this. The truth is that as an American, it is my duty to inform the people of my country. In fact, at this present time, the government is meeting with some of the nations of Asia to perfect and implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that will basically destroy much of our sovereignty. The Administration is trying to “fast-track” this bill by presenting the bill to Congress and demanding an up or down vote even though the TPP was written in secret and most of our vacant-minded Congress have not even read it. The treaty was exposed byWikileaks, and I advise all Americans to read it.
” Negotiated just as the worldwide democracy uprising threatens to reign in corporate interests, the agreement will limit governments’ ability to write banking regulations, energy policy, food safety standards and even government purchasing decisions. It will allow corporations and investors to sue governments for lost profits if the governments try to make and enforce environmental, labor and other laws. “ (Dave Johnson, Campaign for America’s Future)
The question is this: When will my fellow Americans wake up and smell the deceit and corruption of Congress, The President and the Supreme Court? We all have a stake in these issues. There is so much more I could write about and I will, but I tried to stay on the military in this article. There will be another. We are all in an precarious situation and I feel that we all should be aware of what is happening as well as what is at stake. I thank you for reading this.
Submitters Website: http://liberalpro.blogspot.com
Former Chairman of the Liberal Party of America, Tim is a retired Army Sergeant. He currently lives in South Carolina. A regular contributor to OpEdNews, he is the author of Kimchee Days (or Stoned Cold Warriors). Tim’s political book, “From Complicity to Contempt” and “Kimchee Days” can be purchased at most online booksellers. Tim Gatto is considering running for the US Senate and is working on a political history of the American security state. He has been writing politically since 2001.
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 5, 2013
CONTACT: Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA)
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167
WASHINGTON – December 5 – NPR reports: “Income Inequality Is The ‘Challenge Of Our Time,’ Obama Says.”
LORI WALLACH, via Joseph Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org,@pcgtw
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. The group recently posted the pieces “Study: ‘Trade’ Deal Would Mean a Pay Cut for 90 Percent of U.S. Workers” and “A Fast Track to Greater Inequality?” which states: “While Obama denounces inequality, the Obama administration is rushing to conclude talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping commercial pact with 11 Pacific Rim countries that implicates everything from the cost of our medicines to the safety of our food. The TPP also threatens to further widen the gap between rich and poor, as emphasized by economist Nancy Folbre in a New York Timespiece … by perpetuating the inequality-spurring history of unfair trade deals spelled out below.” There’s a congressional teleconference on TPP this morning.
Protests and other actions by fast food workers are expected in 100 cities in the U.S. today.
ARUN GUPTA, email@example.com, @arunindy
Co-founder of the Occupied Wall Street Journal and the Indypendent, Gupta wrote the piece “Fight For 15 Confidential” for In These Times and, for the Guardian, “The Story Behind America’s Fast Food Worker Uprising” which states: “The top ten employers in fast food alone account for 2.3 million U.S. jobs. Add in discount retailers, drug stores, clerking and material moving, and the number of workers in poverty-wage jobs soars to the tens of millions. The growth of part-time low-wage jobs has become a battering ram against the last citadels of unionism in heavy industry and the public sector, crushing wages, benefits, and workplace rights. That’s led organized labor to make a stand with organizing drives such as OUR Walmart, Domestic Workers United, Warehouse Workers for Justice and the fast-food worker campaign commonly known as ‘Fight for 15.’ …
Gupta said today: “Led by the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union, Fight for 15 is pushing for $15-an-hour pay and the right to unionize free of management retaliation. Workers in the campaign enthusiastically support these goals, but many question if SEIU’s legal and media-focused strategy will achieve those goals, and say the campaign should organize a low-wage workers movement at the shop and city level.”
A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.
The Japanese economy minister involved in talks with the U.S. and other countries on a Pacific Rim trade pact has been hospitalized for tests, just as the negotiations approach a year-end deadline.
Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Amari, who is in charge of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic recovery and reform program, is expected to be in hospital for three to four days. He didn’t know the nature of the tests.
“I think he can handle things from the hospital and I don’t think it will have any impact,” Suga said. “Once the test results come out there may be further discussion,” he said.
Amari has so many responsibilities that he sometimes jokes his titles won’t all fit on his business card. Apart from heading Japan’s negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, he is the minister of Economic Reform and Revitalization and also Minister of Total Reform of Social Security and Tax.
He faces the challenge, along with Japan’s trade minister Toshimitsu Motegi, of reconciling strong opposition from politically influential agricultural and health industry lobbies with the ambitious requirements of the Pacific trade pact in opening markets and setting rigorous standards for protection of intellectual property.
Amari met with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman over the weekend seeking to iron out differences over contentious trade issues such as Japan’s steep tariffs on rice and other farm products.
After the meeting, Amari told reporters the talks were “very tough and had not resulted in agreement. We will continue negotiating,” the Nihon Keizai Shimbun and other newspapers reported.
The 12 nations involved in the trade talks are to meet Dec 7-10 in Singapore, aiming at reaching an initial agreement.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
November 27, 2013
By Ellen Brown
Global food control has nearly been achieved, by reducing seed diversity with GMO (genetically modified) seeds that are distributed by only a few transnational corporations. But this agenda has been implemented at grave cost to our health; and if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) passes, control over not just our food but our health, our environment and our financial system will be in the hands of transnational corporations.
GMO and Human Genetics by Seattle Organic Restaurants
“Control oil and you control nations,” said US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s. ”Control food and you control the people.”
Global food control has nearly been achieved, by reducing seed diversity with GMO (genetically modified) seeds that are distributed by only a few transnational corporations. But this agenda has been implemented at grave cost to our health; and if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) passes, control over not just our food but our health, our environment and our financial system will be in the hands of transnational corporations.
Profits Before Populations
According to an Acres USA interview of plant pathologist Don Huber, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, two modified traits account for practically all of the genetically modified crops grown in the world today. One involves insect resistance. The other, more disturbing modification involves insensitivity to glyphosate-based herbicides (plant-killing chemicals). Often known as Roundup after the best-selling Monsanto product of that name, glyphosate poisons everything in its path except plants genetically modified to resist it.
Glyphosate-based herbicides are now the most commonly used herbicides in the world. Glyphosate is an essential partner to the GMOs that are the principal business of the burgeoning biotech industry. Glyphosate is a “broad-spectrum” herbicide that destroys indiscriminately, not by killing unwanted plants directly but by tying up access to critical nutrients.
Because of the insidious way in which it works, it has been sold as a relatively benign replacement for the devastating earlier dioxin-based herbicides. But a barrage of experimental data has now shown glyphosate and the GMO foods incorporating it to pose serious dangers to health. Compounding the risk is the toxicity of “inert” ingredients used to make glyphosate more potent. Researchers have found, for example, that the surfactant POEA can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. But these risks have been conveniently ignored.
The widespread use of GMO foods and glyphosate herbicides helps explain the anomaly that the US spends over twice as much per capita on healthcare as the average developed country, yet it is rated far down the scale of the world’s healthiest populations. The World Health Organization has ranked the US LAST out of 17 developed nations for overall health.
Sixty to seventy percent of the foods in US supermarkets are now genetically modified. By contrast, in at least 26 other countries–including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico and Russia–GMOs are totally or partially banned; and significant restrictions on GMOs exist in about sixty other countries.
A ban on GMO and glyphosate use might go far toward improving the health of Americans. But the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a global trade agreement for which the Obama Administration has sought Fast Track status, would block that sort of cause-focused approach to the healthcare crisis.
Roundup’s Insidious Effects
Roundup-resistant crops escape being killed by glyphosate, but they do not avoid absorbing it into their tissues. Herbicide-tolerant crops have substantially higher levels of herbicide residues than other crops. In fact, many countries have had to increase their legally allowable levels–by up to 50 times–in order to accommodate the introduction of GM crops. In the European Union, residues in food are set to rise 100-150 times if a new proposal by Monsanto is approved. Meanwhile, herbicide-tolerant “super-weeds” have adapted to the chemical, requiring even more toxic doses and new toxic chemicals to kill the plant.
Human enzymes are affected by glyphosate just as plant enzymes are: the chemical blocks the uptake of manganese and other essential minerals. Without those minerals, we cannot properly metabolize our food. That helps explain the rampant epidemic of obesity in the United States. People eat and eat in an attempt to acquire the nutrients that are simply not available in their food.
“Glyphosate’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology . . . . Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. “
More than 40 diseases have been linked to glyphosate use, and more keep appearing. In September 2013, the National University of Rio Cuarto, Argentina, published research finding that glyphosate enhances the growth of fungi that produce aflatoxin B1, one of the most carcinogenic of substances. A doctor from Chaco, Argentina, told Associated Press, “We’ve gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects and illnesses seldom seen before.” Fungi growths have increased significantly in US corn crops.
Glyphosate has also done serious damage to the environment. According to an October 2012 report by the Institute of Science in Society:
“Agribusiness claims that glyphosate and glyphosate-tolerant crops will improve crop yields, increase farmers’ profits and benefit the environment by reducing pesticide use. Exactly the opposite is the case. . . . [T]he evidence indicates that glyphosate herbicides and glyphosate-tolerant crops have had wide-ranging detrimental effects, including glyphosate resistant super weeds, virulent plant (and new livestock) pathogens, reduced crop health and yield, harm to off-target species from insects to amphibians and livestock, as well as reduced soil fertility.”
Politics Trumps Science
In light of these adverse findings, why have Washington and the European Commission continued to endorse glyphosate as safe? Critics point to lax regulations, heavy influence from corporate lobbyists, and a political agenda that has more to do with power and control than protecting the health of the people.
In the ground-breaking 2007 book Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, William Engdahl states that global food control and depopulation became US strategic policy under Rockefeller protégé Henry Kissinger. Along with oil geopolitics, they were to be the new “solution” to the threats to US global power and continued US access to cheap raw materials from the developing world. In line with that agenda, the government has shown extreme partisanship in favor of the biotech agribusiness industry, opting for a system in which the industry “voluntarily” polices itself. Bio-engineered foods are treated as “natural food additives,” not needing any special testing.
Jeffrey M. Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, confirms that US Food and Drug Administration policy allows biotech companies to determine if their own foods are safe. Submission of data is completely voluntary. He concludes:
“In the critical arena of food safety research, the biotech industry is without accountability, standards, or peer-review. They’ve got bad science down to a science.”
Whether or not depopulation is an intentional part of the agenda, widespread use of GMO and glyphosate is having that result. The endocrine-disrupting properties of glyphosate have been linked to infertility, miscarriage, birth defects and arrested sexual development. In Russian experiments, animals fed GM soy were sterile by the third generation. Vast amounts of farmland soil are also being systematically ruined by the killing of beneficial microorganisms that allow plant roots to uptake soil nutrients.
In Gary Null’s eye-opening documentary Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMOs, Dr. Bruce Lipton warns, “We are leading the world into the sixth mass extinction of life on this planet. . . . Human behavior is undermining the web of life.”
The TPP and International Corporate Control
As the devastating conclusions of these and other researchers awaken people globally to the dangers of Roundup and GMO foods, transnational corporations are working feverishly with the Obama administration to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that would strip governments of the power to regulate transnational corporate activities. Negotiations have been kept secret from Congress but not from corporate advisors, 600 of whom have been consulted and know the details. According to Barbara Chicherio in Nation of Change:
“The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has the potential to become the biggest regional Free Trade Agreement in history. . . .
The chief agricultural negotiator for the US is the former Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddique. If ratified the TPP would impose punishing regulations that give multinational corporations unprecedented right to demand taxpayer compensation for policies that corporations deem a barrier to their profits.
. . . They are carefully crafting the TPP to insure that citizens of the involved countries have no control over food safety, what they will be eating, where it is grown, the conditions under which food is grown and the use of herbicides and pesticides.”
Food safety is only one of many rights and protections liable to fall to this super-weapon of international corporate control. In an April 2013 interview on The Real News Network, Kevin Zeese called the TPP “NAFTA on steroids” and “a global corporate coup.” He warned:
“No matter what issue you care about–whether its wages, jobs, protecting the environment . . . this issue is going to adversely affect it . . . .
If a country takes a step to try to regulate the financial industry or set up a public bank to represent the public interest, it can be sued . . . .”
Return to Nature: Not Too Late
There is a safer, saner, more earth-friendly way to feed nations. While Monsanto and US regulators are forcing GM crops on American families, Russian families are showing what can be done with permaculture methods on simple garden plots. In 2011, 40% of Russia’s food was grown on dachas (cottage gardens or allotments). Dacha gardens produced over 80% of the country’s fruit and berries, over 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of the potatoes and nearly 50% of the nation’s milk, much of it consumed raw. According to Vladimir Megre, author of the best-selling Ringing Cedars Series:
“Essentially, what Russian gardeners do is demonstrate that gardeners can
feed the world — and you do not need any GMOs, industrial farms, or any other technological gimmicks to guarantee everybody’s got enough food to eat. Bear in mind that Russia only has 110 days of growing season per year — so in the US, for example, gardeners’ output could be substantially greater. Today, however, the area taken up by lawns in the US is two times greater than that of Russia’s gardens — and it produces nothing but a multi-billion-dollar lawn care industry.”
In the US, only about 0.6 percent of the total agricultural area is devoted to organic farming. This area needs to be vastly expanded if we are to avoid “the sixth mass extinction.” But first, we need to urge our representatives to stop Fast Track, vote no on the TPP, and pursue a global phase-out of glyphosate-based herbicides and GMO foods. Our health, our finances and our environment are at stake.
Ellen Brown is an attorney, president of the Public Banking Institute, and author of 12 books, including WEB OF DEBT and its newly-released sequel, THE PUBLIC BANK SOLUTION. Her websites arehttp://WebofDebt.com, http://PublicBankSolution.com, and http://PublicBankingInstitute.org.
Over the past two decades, communities across the world have been working to build more just, sustainable and locally based alternatives to the global corporate economy. As a result, pro-local initiatives have grown by leaps and bounds, including farmers markets, food cooperatives,“buy local” and “move your money” campaigns, small business alliances, and local renewable energy projects. However,“free“ trade treaties are a mortal threat to local economies worldwide. Like trade treaties before them, the TPP and TTIP facilitate a race to the bottom that favors large, mobile corporations at the expense of local producers, small businesses, and workers. What’s more, these treaties subordinate local democracy to corporate interests, and hamstring the ability of communities to shift direction toward more prosperous local economies. To continue the inspiring success of their movements, localists need to join the global resistance against these treaties.
Ever since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was proposed more than 20 years ago, critics have warned about the negative implications of “free” trade treaties and other efforts to deregulate global trade and investment. Today, after two decades of deregulation, the impacts are exactly as feared: endemic unemployment and economic ‘precarity’, massive social dislocation in the global North and South, a widening gap between rich and poor, financial instability, growing hunger and food insecurity, and the weakening of public interest laws meant to protect people and the environment. Meanwhile, global corporations and big banks have grown larger and ever more powerful.
Thanks to “free” trade treaties, corporations have become unfettered and less rooted to place: in a global “race to the bottom” they can move wherever wages and benefits are low, and where tax rules and social and environmental laws are weak. This race imposes a downward pressure on wages, and compels every level of government to reduce sorely needed taxes and protective regulations, or risk losing businesses and jobs. As footloose corporations and speculative capital move from one place to another in search of profit, they leave behind shattered communities, economic insecurity, gutted regulations, and forced bankruptcy.
At the time of its ratification, proponents of NAFTA promised that it would stimulate job creation and economic prosperity. Two decades later, the treaty has become notorious for its disastrous effects on both sides of the Mexican-US border. For instance, Public Citizen has found that nearly 5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the US alone since NAFTA and the WTO took effect, with over 60,000 facilities closing down or moving elsewhere. During the same period, NAFTA uprooted millions of Mexican farmers who were unable to compete with imports of heavily-subsidized US corn dumped into their local markets. An estimated 2 million Mexican smallholders have been forced out of farming altogethersince NAFTA’s inception. And contrary to the claims of NAFTA’s proponents, new jobs have not materialized to replace the destroyed livelihoods.
“NAFTA on steroids”
Despite all the evidence, policymakers continue to promote further corporate deregulation via trade treaties. The latest and most far-reaching treaties include the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, also known as TAFTA). The scale of these new treaties is truly massive: the TPP includes the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, while the TTIP is being negotiated by the US and EU countries. The countries negotiating the TPP account for roughly forty percent of global GDP, leading some critics to call the treaty “NAFTA on steroids”. Together, the TPP and TTIP would create “free trade” zones encompassing the vast majority of global trade.
Negotiations for both treaties have been held behind closed doors, with the public left to depend on leaked documents for information about what is being proposed. Literally hundreds of corporate ‘trade advisors’, on the other hand, have had seats at the negotiating tables from the beginning.
A continuing threat to local livelihoods and food security
Governments often have good reasons to regulate the flow of goods and capital across their borders: they can aim to heighten food security, promote economic stability, protect resources and the environment, or nurture their local economies. But when global trade is deregulated through the elimination of import tariffs and other “barriers to trade”, governments lose this vital tool.
Though tariffs are already quite low between the US and the EU, negotiations for the TPP aim to eliminate tariffs on literally thousands of commodities, including agricultural products. Liberalizing agricultural trade has always been a contentious issue, with governments trying to promote the interests of their own producers. New Zealand, for instance, is hoping to gain market access to US dairy markets, a possibility opposed by US producers. Similarly, the US, New Zealand and Australia are pushing for greater access to Japan’s agricultural markets, and the elimination of key tariff protections for staples such as rice and barley. If agricultural trade liberalization goes forward, millions of small producers in Japan and other TPP countries would face the same fate as the Mexican smallholders displaced by NAFTA. Furthermore, the flood of cheap imports likely to follow liberalization would heighten dependence on imports for basic necessities, compromising food security and self-sufficiency, and increasing vulnerability to the food crises that have become more and more common in the era of globalization.
Corporate protectionism and the assault on democracy
As important as the issue of trade liberalization is, the TPP and TTIP are not primarily about trade. Instead, both treaties will likely push regulatory changes that promote corporate interests at the expense of democratically enacted laws. In short, the treaties represent an astonishing assault on democracy and national sovereignty, threatening not only existing public-interest laws, but the ability of governments to pass such laws in the future.
The treaties give corporations sweeping rights and protections in such areas as intellectual property rights, food labeling and safety standards, environmental regulations, public health laws, rules on the use of toxic chemicals, patents on critical medicines, government procurement, energy, access to labor markets, internet freedom, and banking and finance. Both treaties seek to achieve “regulatory coherence” or “harmonization” – euphemisms for reducing high national or local regulations to much lower corporate-friendly standards.
What’s worse, leaked documents suggest that both treaties are likely to contain so-called “investor-state dispute resolutions” that would give corporations still more leverage over elected governments, including the ability to sue against environmental, labor, health, and other public interest regulations that might limit their“expected future profits” (a controversial provision taken from NAFTA’s investment chapter). To date, there have been over 500 investor-state disputes in which corporations – or states at the behest of corporations – have sued against national laws, often in markedly undemocratic, international tribunals. Recent examples includePhilip Morris v. Uruguay and Australia, in which the US tobacco giant is suing Australia and Uruguay in an attempt to overturn laws mandating anti-smoking labels on cigarette packages, and Lone Pine v. Canada, in which a US energy corporation is attempting to overturn a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) imposed by the province of Quebec.
In sum, global “free trade” is profoundly subversive to democracy. Trade liberalization, part and parcel of corporate globalization, has narrowed the policy options available to sovereign democracies, and helped to further concentrate corporate power.
Handcuffing pro-local policies
Trade watchdog groups have warned that the TPP and TTIP could constrict local and national governments’ ability to protect and promote their local economies – a fact that should inspire localists around the world to join the movement against these treaties.
For instance, a recent Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)report notes that Malaysia currently “prohibits foreign investment in supermarkets, fostering the development of locally owned grocery stores”. Several chapters in the TPP could directly challenge this law and open the way for Wal-Mart or other transnational supermarket chains to put locally-owned stores out of business. Study after study have shown that these big-box corporate behemoths are an “economic cancer” on our communities.
The TPP and TTIP could also include provisions that prevent local and national governments from instituting pro-local procurement programs, such as local purchasing preferences that favor sustainable and locally grown foods (e.g. Farm to School programs in the US). According to IATP trade expert, Karen Hansen-Kuhn: “Both the U.S. and EU have criticized ‘localization barriers to trade’. The EU, in particular, has been insistent on the inclusion of procurement commitments in TTIP at all levels of government, for all goods, and in all sectors…”
In fact, certain free trade regimes already restrict pro-local procurement programs, requiring governments to treat foreign companies the same as local ones. For instance, the WTO’s “national treatment” rules restrict governments from favoring local suppliers over non-local companies in public contracts. Says Hansen-Kuhn, “for public programs to favor the use of sustainably produced local foods in school lunch programs, or to require a certain percentage be sourced from local, small-scale farmers, could be deemed to unfairly discriminate against foreign suppliers.” In a recent example, the WTO has ruled against a cutting-edge policy in Ontario, Canada designed to strengthen the local clean energy economy and create jobs in the province.
Local governments around the world have started implementing local procurement policies for many of the same reasons consumers support “buy local” campaigns. Buying from local farmers can help preserve dwindling farmland, promote local food security and re-link urban and rural economies. Government “buy local” policies are also important tools for community economic development: re-circulating taxpayer money in the community can help revitalize local economies, stimulate job creation, and build community wealth that’s anchored in place. That’s smart policy in an economic context dominated by footloose corporations whose comings and goings can devastate local livelihoods and uproot whole communities. It also offers one powerful way for communities to flex their local democratic muscles, reclaim their right to community self-determination, and take back their economies from distant corporations. It’s no wonder that corporate interests seek to use the TPP and TTIP to prevent governments from implementing such pro-local policies.
Act locally, resist globally
Over the past two decades, communities across the world have been working to build more just, sustainable and locally based alternatives to the global corporate economy. As a result, pro-local initiatives have grown by leaps and bounds, including farmers markets, CSAs, local food cooperatives, “buy local” and “move your money” campaigns, small business alliances, local finance, and community renewable energy projects. However, free trade treaties are a mortal threat to local economies worldwide. Like trade treaties before them, the TPP and TTIP facilitate a race to the bottom that favors large, mobile corporations at the expense of local producers, small businesses and workers. What’s more, these treaties subordinate local democracy to corporate interests, and hamstring the ability of communities to shift direction toward more prosperous local economies. To continue the inspiring success of their movements, localists need to join the global resistance against these treaties.
TPP chief negotiators will meet in Salt Lake City, USA, on November 19th through the 24th (click here for local actions). The next full round of TPP meetings will be held in Singapore from December 7th-9th. Negotiators could reach an agreement as soon as the end of 2013. Before the TPP can be implemented, it will not only need to be signed by the negotiators, but in most countries it will need to be ratified by another branch of government. In the US, for example, Congress will need to ratify the treaty once it is signed. But President Obama, one of the TPP’s biggest advocates, is pushing to ‘fast track’ the process by which it would be ratified, limiting Congress to a simple yes-or-no vote rather than allowing for extended debate.
There’s still time for the public – which has so far been kept in the dark about the implications of the treaty – to make its voice heard.
For more information about the TPP and ways to get involved, go to:Expose the TPP
The TTIP negotiations just got underway in 2013. It’s unclear how fast negotiations are moving, but the stakes are high. To learn more and stay informed, go to: Public Citizen Global Trade Watch or Corporate Europe Observatory
Brian Emerson is project coordinator for the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) where he has coordinated alternative development and localization initiatives, and developed ISEC’s education-for-action projects in India and the US. His expertise is in the area of new policies, strategies and institutions for fostering more just, democratic, and sustainable local economies worldwide.