Faryn Balyncd's Journal
Member since: Wed Nov 23, 2005, 08:15 AM
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And defeating Fast Track would be equivalent to defeating a dozen or more Comcast-Time Warner deals, with implications for:
(1) worldwide generic drug availability and affordability,
(2) worldwide intellectual property monopolies,
(3) control of the internet,
(4) the continued ability of local governments, states, Congress, and federal agencies to carry out their constitutional duties to promote the general welfare regarding the environment, labor, health, and safety,
(5) the liability of taxpayers for legal fees and judgements in sovereign Investor-State-Dispute-Resolution tribunals,
(6) the adverse consequences related to every "trade" deal proposed by whoever happens to be president for the next 6 years, which would be fast tracked by the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan Fast Track bill
So, we've won a big one.
Let's win the monster. (It will be the biggest, & most difficult battle of the year in both the Senate and the House, but we've got an excellent team willing to fight, and the support of the solid majority of American voters.)
Let's keep our morale. Win or lose, keeping our morale, and fiercely defending American values against the corporatists, will increase the odds of victory, and will, regardless of outcome, cement the knowledge of the solid majority of Americans of exactly who is on their side fighting for them to win.
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Sun Apr 26, 2015, 12:23 AM (4 replies)
The Trans-Pacific Partnership: An Alliance of Money Over Guns
By Matthew Cooper 4/24/15
A policewoman removes a man protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership as U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman testifies before a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
. . . the TPP promises to be one of Washington’s most contentious fights during this Congress. But in an unusual way. Most business interests, Republicans and the Obama administration back the agreement, while virtually all of organized labor, most Democrats and environmental groups oppose it. The arguments about whether the pact is a job destroyer or a job creator echo the debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) forged by the U.S., Canada and Mexico in the 1990s —an argument that continues decades after it passed.
But the TPP is a much bigger deal not only because it has the potential to rewrite American rules about labor and environmental standards, intellectual property rights and other important aspects of the American economy, but also because the countries involved make it nothing short of a major international economic alliance. . .
. . . .the treaty has not been made public, although draft sections have been leaked. But the goal has been to remove regulatory obstacles to trade. For instance, a leaked chapter appears to show that the agreement would give greater patent protection to pharmaceutical manufacturers, perhaps at the expense of consumers. The specifics of what it would do to, say, lower barriers for financial services or insurance or auto companies remain unclear, but they will be significant. The various components of the agreement will touch on everything from food safety to cybersecurity.
Opponents of the agreement have decried the secrecy involved in its formation, but the Obama administration has likened it to any treaty negotiation that requires privacy until final wording is agreed upon. The deal is different from other trade agreements in that it doesn’t pertain to tariff rates. And it doesn’t have a mechanism for dealing with so-called currency manipulation—a major issue in the U.S.-China relationship. It’s more about what’s called “harmonizing” other aspects of international trade. . . .
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Fri Apr 24, 2015, 05:22 PM (0 replies)
...Corporate Dream List of environmental, labor, financial, safety, and labeling de-regulation, nor to expand intellectual property monopolies.
It was designed so that agreements actually pertaining to reducing tariffs, duties, and other limited, trade-related issues could be negotiated, and the negotiated trade agreement voted on without amendment.
It was NOT designed to provide an expedited, no-amendment, limited-debate path to over-ride environmental, labor, financial, health and safety laws, and regulatory authority by federal, state, and local governmental entities, all in one fell swoop.
And it certainly was not designed to implement wide ranging revisions of federal, state, and local laws whose enforcement would be handed over to essentially sovereign "Investor-State Dispute resolution" tribunals whose decisions can not appealed to the courts.
The history of the role of Congress, and the history of Fast Track, is relevant:
The Trade Act of 1974 established a Fast Track process in which legislative changes in existing law which were required to bring the US into compliance with a negotiated trade agreement would be handled with an expedited process in which no amendments were allowed.
The initial negotiations under the GATT, including the Kennedy Round (the 6th session of GATT negotiations) were conducted prior to a Fast Track process, under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962:
Under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, Congress granted the President authority for five years to enter into agreements that negotiated the reduction or elimination of tariffs. The act also expanded Congress’s role in the negotiating process by requiring the President to submit for Congressional review a copy of each concluded agreement and a presidential statement explaining why the agreement was necessary.
It allowed the President to conclude the GATT Kennedy Round (1963-1967), the last round in which tariff reduction was the primary focus of trade negotiations. . . . .Along with a number of tariff reduction agreements, which were covered by the congressional trade agreements authority, the GATT member countries reached agreements in the Kennedy Round in two areas related to nontariff barriers (NTBs), that is, laws and rules other than tariffs that are used to restrict imports. The first was a customs valuation agreement that would have required the United States to eliminate the American Selling Price method of pricing goods at the border. The second was an anti-dumping agreement that would have required changes in U.S. anti-dumping practices.
It was thus in the context of a world in which the "non-tariff barriers" requiring changes in US law were 2 specific clearly trade related issues (customs valuation and anti-dumping regulations) that the Fast Track process was enacted enacted in the Trade Act of 1974. As these non-tariff issues required changes is US law to bring laws into compliance with the agreement, and the issue of changing US law relating to non-tariff issues had not been clarified in the act authorizing the Kennedy Round (the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, in which Congress granted the President authority, for 5 years, to enter into agreements that negotiated the reduction or elimination of tariffs) the Trade Act of 1974 initiated a Fast Track process whereby changes in existing law needed to bring the US into compliance would be handled in an expedited manner (Fast Track) with no amendment.
The 1974 Fast Track process was subsequently extended through 1994, at which time it lapsed until 2002, when it was re-authorized until 2007.
But what is designated a "Trade Agreement" in 2015 bears little resemblance to the Trade Agreements for which the "Fast Track" process was designed 1n 1974:
In 1974, Congress judged it appropriate to authorize the president to negotiate tariff reduction and a limited number of non-tariff issues that were nevertheless strictly trade related, and have the subsequent agreement voted on expeditiously with limited debate and no amendments.
For Congress in 2015 to be asked to re-enact a no-amendment "Fast Track" process, but apply an agreement which overrides wide-ranging non-trade areas of law (including but not limited to environmental, labor, financial, intellectual property, health & safety), negotiated with corporate input and in unprecedented secrecy, is an entirely different matter.
We are in a different world in 2015.
Corporate lawyers certainly understand that each of these individual changes to environmental, or labor, or intellectual property, or other law would be extremely difficult to get through Congress, and would rightly generate intense debate, and that it is far easier to make these changes part of a "trade" agreement that Congress cannot amend, but have only the option of rejecting the entire package.
The evolution of "trade" agreements to be all-encompassing vehicles for changing non-trade related law was certainly not anticipated when the Fast Track process was created in 1974.
A "no-amendment" up-or-down-only requirement which was designed for, and might have make sense in 1974 for tariff reduction (and for other non-tariff but strictly trade associated negotiations/agreements), when applied to 21st century negotiations which overturn environmental, labor, financial, intellectual property, health and safety law and regulations at the federal, sate, and local level, becomes (rather than a method of lowering "trade" barriers) a vehicle for corporate undermining of democratic process.
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Thu Apr 23, 2015, 03:01 PM (25 replies)
Have you seen what’s in the new TPP trade deal?
Most likely, you haven’t – and don’t bother trying to Google it. The government doesn’t want you to read this massive new trade agreement. It’s top secret.
Why? Here’s the real answer people have given me: “We can’t make this deal public because if the American people saw what was in it, they would be opposed to it.”
If the American people would be opposed to a trade agreement if they saw it, then that agreement should not become the law of the United States.
Let’s send a loud message to our trade officials: No vote on a fast-track for trade agreements until the American people can see what’s in this TPP deal. Sign this petition right now to make the TPP agreement public.
The Administration says I’m wrong – that there’s nothing to worry about. They say the deal is nearly done, and they are making a lot of promises about how the deal will affect workers, the environment, and human rights. Promises – but people like you can’t see the actual deal.
For more than two years now, giant corporations have had an enormous amount of access to see the parts of the deal that might affect them and to give their views as negotiations progressed. But the doors stayed locked for the regular people whose jobs are on the line.
If most of the trade deal is good for the American economy, but there’s a provision hidden in the fine print that could help multinational corporations ship American jobs overseas or allow for watering down of environmental or labor rules, fast track would mean that Congress couldn’t write an amendment to fix it. It’s all or nothing.
Before we sign on to rush through a deal like that – no amendments, no delays, no ability to block a bad bill – the American people should get to see what’s in it.
Sherrod Brown has been leading this fight, and he points out that TPP isn’t classified military intelligence – it’s a trade agreement among 12 countries that control 40% of the world’s economy. A trade agreement that affects jobs, environmental regulations, and whether workers around the globe are treated humanely. It might even affect the new financial rules we put in place after the 2008 crisis. This trade agreement doesn’t matter to just the biggest corporations – it matters to all of us.
When giant corporations get to see the details and the American people don’t, we all lose. Let’s level the playing field: No vote on fast-tracking trade until the public can read the TPP deal.
We’ve all seen the tricks and traps that corporations hide in the fine print of contracts. We’ve all seen the provisions they slip into legislation to rig the game in their favor. Now just imagine what they have done working behind closed doors with TPP.
We can’t keep the American people in the dark.
Thank you for being a part of this,
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Wed Apr 22, 2015, 06:21 PM (13 replies)
Recently we have been hearing questions along the line of "Why can't we trust President Obama" to negotiate a good deal with regard to the TPP? After all, we trust him to negotiate nuclear treaties"
Let's look at that question.
The Hatch Fast Track, Trade Promotion Authority, bill is neither about "Trusting President Obama", nor is it just about the TPP:
The Fast Track bill would allow WHOEVER is president for next 6 years to eliminate amendments on EVERY proposed "trade" agreement they choose to propose, and to do so through a process which markedly reduces the leverage Congress has by:
1. Eliminating Congress's ability to amend,
2. Eliminating Congress's ability to threaten filibuster if a satisfactory consensus cannot be reached,
3. While (1) and (2) weaken the ability of a Congressional minority to bargain, the ability of a future majority is also weakened by the requirement that a future proposed "trade" agreement cannot be removed from the Fast Track process without a SUPERMAJORITY.
4. And, by eliminating the possibility of amendment it facilitates the passage of bad or questionable chapters, by subjecting our representatives to the duress of not being able to vote down a bad or questionable provision except by defeating the entire agreement. (which is, after all, the entire point, to make it more politically difficult for Congress to impact the process.)
Weakening the power of Congress is particularly inappropriate given the evolving ability of "trade" agreements to be a vehicle for bypassing all manner of regulations by every level of government (including, but not limited to environmental, labor, intellectual property, health and safety, labeling and other federal, state, and local governmental entities) by means of the establishment of extra-judicial Investor-State-Dispute-Resolution tribunals which are essentially sovereign as their decisions cannot be appealed to any court, even the Supreme Court.
This is NOT just about the TPP (or the TTIP, or any other proposal currently under negotiation).
This is NOT just about trusting President Obama.
It is NOT even about "trade".
What it is about is dis-empowering Congress.
It is about establishing a method to bypass democratic regulation of corporate power.
Weakening the power of elected representatives to impact agreements that can overturn established federal, state, and local law in environmental, labor, intellectual property, health and safety, and overturn judicial appeal, all in one fell swoop, is not good policy in a democracy even with the best executive.
For Congress to surrender such power to, not only our current executive, but to whoever may happen to be president in the future, would not bode well for the future of democratic governance.
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Tue Apr 21, 2015, 07:31 PM (125 replies)
So officers drag a man, heard screaming and obviously weakened on video, to the van, subsequently stop the van "to put more restraints on"" the man, who is subsequently found to be both unable to talk or breathe, and who subsequently undergoes surgery not only for vertebral fracture which had resulted in spinal injury, but for an injured larynx, and the Police Commissioner issues a statement that there is "no evidence of any use of excessive force at this point", describing the injury as "“a very tragic injury to his spinal cord", and for some reason finding no reason to mention the laryngeal injury, as if the laryngeal injury is not relevant to the issue of how his neck was broken.
Does anyone want to bet that the acts of "placing additional restraints" on the suspect in the stopped van is not on videotape?
Freddie Gray died Sunday, a week after Baltimore city police arrested him. A charging document obtained Monday by the Baltimore Sun said Gray “fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence.” . . . . .
Video of the arrest played by police at a news conference Monday did not show how Gray suffered his injury, which Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez described as “a very tragic injury to his spinal cord, which resulted in his death,” citing the preliminary results of an autopsy. . . “What we don’t know, and what we need to get to, is how that injury occurred,” Rodriguez said. He noted that “when Mr. Gray was put in that van, he could talk, he was upset, and when he was taken out of that van, he could not talk and he could not breathe.”
Rodriguez added that police had “no evidence” of any use of excessive force at this point, including from the preliminary results of the autopsy.
A man hospitalized following a videotaped encounter with Baltimore police remains in a medically-induced coma. According to the Baltimore Sun, family members say Freddie Gray underwent surgery on an injured back and larynx. The incident happened Sunday morning as officers tried to stop Gray in the 1600 block of North Avenue, but it is unclear how the 27-year-old became injured. Police are releasing a detailed timeline of their encounter with Gray, who they say took off running when they tried to stop him in an area with a history of drug dealing and violence. The timeline says Gray was arrested one minute later and placed in a transport wagon, but police say that van was stopped to put more restraints on Gray. Officers say video evidence shows he was conscious and speaking at the time. About 30 minutes after that, paramedics were called to the Western District station to take Gray to Shock Trauma.
A man injured after being arrested by the Baltimore police died today, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Freddie Gray had to undergo a double surgery on three broken vertebrae and an injured voice box on Tuesday, after he was released by the police. He died today after days of remaining in a coma.
Here is footage up to Gray being placed in the van:
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Tue Apr 21, 2015, 04:11 PM (33 replies)
Don't Let TPP Gut State Laws
The partnership's potential to undermine state laws should concern Congress.
By Eric T. Schneiderman, New York State Attorney General
April 19, 2015
State laws and regulators are increasingly important as gridlock in Washington makes broad federal action on important issues an increasingly rare event. From environmental protection to civil rights to the minimum wage, the action is at the state level. Ironically, one thing that may get done soon in Washington is a trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has the potential to undermine a wide range of state and local laws.
One provision of TPP would create an entirely separate system of justice: special tribunals to hear and decide claims by foreign investors that their corporate interests are being harmed by a nation that is part of the agreement. This Investor-State Dispute Settlement provision would allow large multinational corporations to sue a signatory country for actions taken by its federal, state or local elected or appointed officials that the foreign corporation claims hurt its bottom line. . . This should give pause to all members of Congress, who will soon be asked to vote on fast-track negotiating authority to close the agreement. But it is particularly worrisome to those of us in states, such as New York, with robust laws that protect the public welfare — laws that could be undermined by the TPP and its dispute settlement provision.
To put this in real terms, consider a foreign corporation, located in a country that has signed on to TPP, and which has an investment interest in the Indian Point nuclear power facility in New York’s Westchester County. Under TPP, that corporate investor could seek damages from the United States, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars or more, for actions by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Westchester Country Board of Legislators or even the local Village Board that lead to a delay in the relicensing or an increase in the operating costs of the facility. . . The very threat of having to face such a suit in the uncharted waters of an international tribunal could have a chilling effect on government policymakers and regulators.
Or consider the work my office has done to enforce the state of New York’s laws against wage theft, predatory lending and consumer fraud. Under TPP, certain foreign targets of enforcement actions, unable to prevail in domestic courts, could take their cases to TPP’s dispute resolution tribunals. Unbound by an established body of law or precedent, the tribunals would be able to simply sidestep domestic courts. And decisions by these tribunals cannot be appealed. . . . . . . . The beneficiaries here would be a discrete group of multinational business interests that should be entitled to treatment no better and no different than any other plaintiff receives in the trial and appellate courts of this country. The separate and unaccountable system of justice that TPP would create poses a major risk to critical statutes and policy decisions that protect our citizens — and it has no place in a nation committed to equal justice under law.
Eric T. Schneiderman is the 65th attorney general of New York state.
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Mon Apr 20, 2015, 07:34 PM (12 replies)
The only people not hit by the drop in oil price are the CEOs running the companies
Bloomberg – Oil’s plunge has forced the world’s biggest energy producers to lay off workers and stall projects. Their chief executive officers have so far proved immune. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s biggest oil company, paid CEO Ben Van Beurden a total of $32.2 million last year, almost three times the amount his predecessor Peter Voser earned in 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence. At BP Plc, where shareholders will vote on compensation at the annual general meeting on Thursday, CEO Bob Dudley’s total pay rose 4.9 percent to $15.4 million.
“The only people not hit by the drop in oil price are the CEOs running the companies,” said Gregory Elders, a London-based analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “BP may face irate shareholders again over climbing executive pay during its annual meeting this week.” Shell’s net income has dropped in nine of the past 12 quarters and BP’s has fallen in six. Oil’s 50 percent decline in the past year has forced industrywide cutbacks and thousands of job losses, including at Shell and BP. The global industry may lose 50,000 to 100,000 jobs in the next six months, oil-services company Weatherford International Plc said Tuesday.
“The workers are paying a heavy price for the greed of those at the top,” said Tommy Campbell, a regional officer with the U.K.’s Unite trade union, which represents 8,000 North Sea workers. “It’s morally reprehensible.” Pensions & Investment Research Consultants, which advises institutional shareholders and issues proxy vote recommendations, advised shareholders to reject Dudley’s pay at the April 16 meeting in London. His increase exceeds the company’s performance over the past five years, Pirc’s press officer Andrew Whiley said.
BP’s shares have declined in four of the past five years after an explosion at the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 resulted in the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, forcing the company to pay billions of dollars in fines. Shell’s have dropped in two of the past three years and are down 5 percent in 2015 in London trading. “CEO renumeration is far outstripping shareholder returns,” Whiley said by phone. “There’s a growing concern about renumeration and that’s something that boards can’t ignore.”
“Actually, capitalism works pretty well–until it doesn’t. Capitalism in this country is going to fail if there’s not a significant, substantial number of people who believe that capitalism works for them and people are beginning to doubt around the world and in this country whether capitalism works for them.”
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Sun Apr 19, 2015, 08:02 AM (10 replies)
CWA: Secret Fast Track Process and Legislation Shows Disdain for U.S. Workers, Communities
Apr 16, 2015
Washington, D.C. – The Communications Workers of America (CWA) issued the following statement on the introduction of "fast track," also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), in the U.S. Senate:
The "Fast Track," or TPA, legislation introduced today, and in fact, the entire process surrounding its inception, continues the lack of transparency and disdain for U.S. workers and communities that has been the hallmark of the past five years of negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). . . . . . . If this Fast Track bill were to be approved, Senators and Representatives would be agreeing to rubber stamp not only the TPP, which has been negotiated in almost total secrecy, but any other trade deal proposed over the next few years. President Obama has had Fast Track authority for the Colombia, Panama and Korea trade deals. This proposed legislation provides Fast Track for the next president.
"We need to put the brakes on Fast Track or Trade Promotion Authority. Just like the TPP itself, there has been no transparency around TPA. We've had the start of a Senate hearing even before a bill was finalized and introduced. Now, that legislation is headed to mark up and a floor vote in just days. TPA pretends to be about trade, but in reality it is about protecting corporate profits above all else and defining our national security in terms of giving away our jobs, depressing our wages and then rewarding the responsible multinational corporations, often U.S. based, with guaranteed profits in the nations where they invest," said CWA President Larry Cohen.
The proposed Fast Track bill FAILS ALL THE TESTS that Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said were critical: Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), transparency, action to combat currency manipulation, real enforcement of environmental and worker standards, and procedures to enable Congress "to right the ship if trade negotiators get off course," as Wyden put it. Since this legislation requires a supermajority, or 60 votes, for the Senate to remove the TPP or any subsequent deal from Fast Track consideration, this provision is virtually meaningless. . . . . The U.S. is the only nation among the 12 TPP countries that requires elected representatives to give up their constitutional responsibility to review and amend major trade deals through a Fast Track process. We call on Congress to reject this flawed legislation.
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Fri Apr 17, 2015, 02:12 PM (0 replies)
Hatch Bill Would Revive Controversial 2002 Fast Track Mechanism That Faces Broad Congressional, Public Opposition
Today’s Proposal Replicates Language of Failed 2014 Bill, Would Expand Same Broken Trade Model That Has Led to $912 Bllion Trade Deficit, Loss of Millions of Manufacturing Jobs, Attacks on Public Interest Policies
April 16, 2016
The trade authority bill introduced today would revive the controversial Fast Track procedures to which
nearly all U.S. House of Representatives,Democrats and a sizable block of House Republicans, already have announced opposition. Most of the text of this bill replicates word for word the text of the 2014 Fast Track bill, which itself replicated much of the 2002 Fast Track bill. Public Citizen calls on Congress to again oppose the outdated, anti-democratic Fast Track authority as a first step to replacing decades of “trade” policy that has led to the loss of millions of middle-class jobs and the rollback of critical public interest safeguards.
In the past 21 years, Fast Track authority has been authorized only once by Congress – from 2002 to
2007. In 1998, the U.S. House of Representatives voted down Fast Track for President Bill Clinton,
with 71 GOP members joining 171 House Democrats. Today’s bill explicitly grandfathers in Fast Track coverage for the almost-completed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and would extend Fast Track procedures for three to six years. The bill would delegate away Congress’ constitutional trade authority, even after the Obama administration dismissed bipartisan and bicameral demands that the TPP include enforceable currency manipulation disciplines. The trade authority proposal does not require negotiators to actually meet Congress’ negotiating objectives in order to obtain the Fast Track privileges, making the bill’s negotiating objectives entirely unenforceable.“Congress is being asked to delegate away its constitutional trade authority over the TPP, even after the administration ignored bicameral, bipartisan demands about the agreement’s terms, and then also grant blank-check authority to whomever may be the next president for any agreements he or she may pursue,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Rather than putting Congress in the driver’s seat on trade, this bill is just the same old Fast Track that puts Congress in the trunk in handcuffs. I expect that Congress will say no to it.”
Instead of establishing a new “exit ramp,” the bill literally replicates the same impossible conditions
from past Fast Track bills that make the “procedural disapproval” mechanism to remove an agreement from Fast Track unusable. A resolution to do so must be approved by both the Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means committees and then be passed by both chambers within 60 days. The bill’s only new feature in this respect is a new “consultation and compliance” procedure that would only be usable after an agreement was already signed and entered into, at which point changes to the pact could be made only if all other negotiating parties agreed to reopen negotiations and then agreed to the changes (likely after extracting further concessions from the United States). That process would require approval by 60 Senators to take a pact off of Fast Track consideration, even though a simple majority “no” vote in the Senate would have the same effect on an agreement. In contrast, the 1988 Fast Track empowered either the House Ways and Means or the Senate Finance committees to vote by simple majority to remove a pact from Fast Track consideration, with no additional floor votes required. And, such a disapproval action was authorized beforea president could sign and enter into a trade agreement.“Chairman Hatch said he would never accept changes that make it possible for Congress to remove Fast Track from an agreement that does not measure up, and he got his way,” said Wallach.
“What is being advertised as a new safeguard is not an exit from Fast Track’s confiscation of Congress’ policymaking prerogatives, but new curtains hung over the same brick wall.”
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Fri Apr 17, 2015, 11:16 AM (3 replies)