Faryn Balyncd's Journal
Member since: Wed Nov 23, 2005, 08:15 AM
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In today's email, from Robert Cruickshank, Democracy for America:
. . . The fight to stop the bill that would fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership is about to reach its climax -- and with your help, we can win a stunning victory.
On Friday the Senate passed the Fast Track bill. It was a close and disappointing vote, but based on the cloture votes that preceded it, the outcome was not a surprise.
Here's what we also know: our best chance to stop the TPP has always been in the House.
Your activism has made a big difference. Right now, the Fast Track bill doesn't have the votes to pass in the House. Republicans can't pass it on their own. So John Boehner is hoping Democrats will bail him out and give him the votes he needs to pass this bill and limit Congress's ability to amend the TPP. Democrats are reluctant to vote for it -- they know this is a bad bill, and they also know that the Democratic base is strongly opposed to Fast Track and the TPP.
That's why now is the time to flood the House with calls from Democracy for America members like you and tell our representatives to stop Fast Track for the TPP. Can you call your Representative right now?
YES, I will call my Representative right now and tell them: Don't destroy American jobs. Vote against Fast Track for the TPP.
. . . . . .
Even if you live in a district represented by a Republican, we need you to pick up the phone and make the call. Representatives from both parties are on the fence regarding the Fast Track bill.
You stood with Elizabeth Warren when she took on the White House to stop the nomination of investment banker Antonio Weiss to an important Treasury Department post. We can win another victory against the big corporations -- but only if DFA members like you take action.
There is simply no excuse for any Representative who votes for Fast Track. Like a vote for the Iraq War or statements of support for the Social Security-cutting Bowles-Simpson plan, a vote for Fast Track and the TPP will never be forgotten and will haunt members of Congress for years to come.
The White House and the big corporations are pulling out all the stops to lobby the House to pass the Fast Track bill. There's no time to lose. Can you pick up the phone and give your Representative a call today?
Thank you for standing with DFA, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders against Fast Track and the TPP.
Robert Cruickshank, Senior Campaign Manager
Democracy for America
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Tue May 26, 2015, 04:12 PM (2 replies)
From the "We Thought We'd Heard It All" Department, (a report on the latest "2015 National Trade Estimate Report on FOREIGN TRADE BARRIERS, United States Trade Representative"):
USTR Michael Froman
In the more than 400 page long report, U.S. negotiators openly acknowledge goals that are odds with the Obama administration’s repeated assurances that TPP will not undermine the ability of pact members to regulate in the public interest.
. . . . In its report, the USTR also targets privacy regulations: A landmark Malaysian law that prevents companies from harvesting personal data without the individual’s consent is a trade barrier. As are policies in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and British Columbia that require personal information in the custody of public officials to be stored and accessed only in Canada. . . .“As Canadians, we should be concerned,” says Sujata Dey, trade campaigner at the Council of Canadians, a progressive advocacy group. “Those rules are there to protect privacy.”
Other barriers include the expansion of a public health agency in New Zealand that subsidizes medicine at public hospitals into “areas of funding that were previously unregulated, including medical devices,” Japan's "burdensome restrictions" on products that carry "health claims," and enhanced Mexican inspections of U.S. peach, nectarine and apricot exports in order to “control the oriental fruit moth and other pests.”
Speaking at Nike headquarters earlier this month, President Obama called the TPP "the most progressive trade deal in history." The appeal to liberals comes as the White House seeks to win support for so-called fast track legislation. The bill would prevent Congress from amending the version of the deal hammered out by negotiators and is considered a prerequisite for the trade pact’s success.
So, supposing a U.S. state erects a "trade barrier" in the form of a law outlawing the sale of personal data, and negatively impacts a transnational corporation's anticipated profits. . . .
What's amount of compensation from the taxpayers will an exempt from judicial appeal ISDR tribunal be inclined to award for this restriction on "trade"?
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Wed May 20, 2015, 09:03 PM (3 replies)
Want to repeal democratic regulation of the environment, health & safety regulations, labor law, financial regulations, etc, but think it's too much of a stretch (even post-Citizens United) to get bills that (openly and directly) advocate repealing these laws through Congress, the states, and local governments, or that some pesky court might actually rule in favor of the people?
Here's the ticket:
Do an end run around the whole dang process:
(1) First, propose a "regulatory takings" legal concept that presumes corporations have the legal right to anticipated profits from anything they might want to do, and demand that any democratic government that passes any law that reduces these anticipated profits pay the corporation for "losses". (Sure beats making money the old-fashioned way: coming up with "better mousetraps" is work!)
(2) If the courts don't give you every last thing you want via the "takings" philosophy, then proceed to Step 2: Bundle all the individual de-regulations into one package.
(3) Label the package a "trade agreement", & negotiate it with foreign nations.
(4) Get your pals appointed "trade" negotiators.
(5) Make sure the negotiations are categorized as "classified".
(6) Get Congress to cede, in advance, their authority to do anything beyond 2 options: Either rubber-stamp the "trade agreement", or reject the entire bill, in which case get your pals in the media to label them as "obstructing progress" because they are "impractical", "emoprog" "purists" who "want everything". including "ponies". . . . . . Get your pals in the media to say that since it's a "trade" agreement, it needs the same deference to the executive branch as do negotiations about Iranian nuclear deals, and not the open debate and amendment powers which Congress has when debating changes in environment law, financial regulations, health and safety regulations, labor law. . . (Pretty slick, eh?)
(7) If any pesky Congress people want access to the particulars of negotiations before they cede their authority, make sure the language is complex and opaque so that the actual impact is difficult to assess without detailed study and consultation with experts, so, whatever you do, DON'T give them, or let them make, copies. Moreover, DON'T let them take notes. Take away their cameras or cell phones. Threaten them with national security violations if they discuss actual details with the public or press.
And here's some extra bonuses:
(1) Throw in expansion/extension of intellectual property monopoly terms. (Those Asian generic manufacturers need to busy themselves with outsourced manufacturing of BRAND-NAME drugs, not actually COMPETING with us! . . . And getting rid of Fair Use can do to the internet what getting rid of the Fairness Doctrine did to those pesky "liberal" commentators!)
(2) And, how about this: Finance it with automatic cuts to Medicare!
(3) And, just in case some pesky courts decide to interfere, establish an extrajudicial system immune from judicial review. Call them "Investor-State Dispute Resolution" tribunals. make their decisions exempt from appeal to any court, by virtue of entering to agreement with foreign governments.
Now, how's that for a slick package?
Who says we can't have it all?
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Mon May 18, 2015, 06:09 AM (58 replies)
"The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act, sponsored by Rep. David Reichert (R-Wash.), would rely on $700 million in reduced Medicare spending in 2024 to pay for healthcare coverage and other benefits for workers who lose coverage because of any agreements negotiated under fast-track trade authority sought by President Barack Obama. . . . The $700 million in savings would be achieved by increasing Medicare cuts that were part of the sequester by 0.25% in 2024". . . .
“Apparently using Medicare as a piggy bank to pay for everything under the sun has become the new legislative norm for Congress,” Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said in a statement to National Journal. “Rather than balancing priorities or considering a penny of new revenue, congressional leaders are proposing to once again funnel Medicare resources into unrelated programs and fixes—this time it’s the trade adjustment assistance program.” . . . .
"The full House and Senate have not yet approved the bills, but it suggests that lawmakers are getting increasingly comfortable with using future Medicare sequestration to fund Medicare and non-Medicare programs". . . .
So, Congress is preparing to loot Medicare not just for this one program, TAA, but as standard operating procedure. I think that qualifies as “throwing Medicare under the bus.”
(As if we need another reason to reject the TPP, and to reject the Fast Tracking of whatever pact whoever happens to be President - for the next 6 years - chooses to propose, the costs of which will similarly trigger automatic looting of Medicare.)
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Sun May 17, 2015, 10:27 AM (16 replies)
Worker fired for disabling GPS app that tracked her 24 hours a day
A Central California woman claims she was fired after uninstalling an app that her employer required her to run constantly on her company issued iPhone—an app that tracked her every move 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Plaintiff Myrna Arias, a former Bakersfield sales executive for money transfer service Intermex, claims in a state court lawsuit that her boss, John Stubits, fired her shortly after she uninstalled the job-management Xora app that she and her colleagues were required to use. . . . Arias' boss "scolded" her for uninstalling the app shortly after being required to use it, according to the suit. . . .
. . . .
(Some stories are beyond unbelievable):
Would some corporate types might feel not being able to track their employees 24 hours a day might deprive them of their projected profits?
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Mon May 11, 2015, 09:50 PM (3 replies)
That is, when they wrote, in the Bill of Rights:
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
... did they really mean to say:
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. . . . . .EXCEPT IN THE CASE OF "TRADE" DEALS, in which case not only shall all federal laws (including those pertaining to health, safety, labor, environmental, and labeling) previously passed by Congress that now conflicts with the "trade" deal shall be overridden by the terms of the "trade" deal, but any law or regulation by any state, local government, or previously legal action by the people, which conflicts with the "trade" deal shall be immediately overridden by the terms of the "trade" deal.
Moreover, if the "trade" deal shall be submitted submitted to the Congress of these United States under "Fast Track", then the members of the Congress shall vote on the entire "trade" bill, including provisions which effect patent law, copyright law, labor law, environmental law, health law, safety law, and product labeling, up or down, without amendment, and without delay."
? ? ?
Is that what Madison had in mind?
Did the Framers anticipate the establishment of a process in which all manner of Congressional, state, and local legislation in diverse areas of law could be simultaneously overridden by bundling into an agreement made between the executive brand and foreign entities, and expedited by limiting the power of Congress to voting up or down on the bundled agreement with no power to modify or amend?
Did they envision a Monsanto Provision invalidating state and local laws, including food safety and food labeling, on the basis of a "trade" deal arranged by negotiators who viewed state and local food safety and/or food labeling laws a "trade" barrier?
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Sun May 10, 2015, 01:38 PM (18 replies)
Last week, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown sent a letter to President Obama asking him to release the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Democracy for America members and progressive army of organizations and activists immediately joined them, with more than 200,000 Americans signing on in support. Now Rep. Donna Edwards, a progressive champion from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party who is running in a key U.S. Senate race in Maryland, is taking a stand as well. Please add your name to Rep. Edwards's petition to the president today and help our coalition deliver more than 250,000 signatures to the White House.
-- Robert Cruickshank, Democracy for America
In today's email from Rep. Donna Edwards:
A bill introduced in the Senate would give the President "fast track" trade authority to push through a disastrous trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which will ship American jobs overseas with little to no public debate.
I've seen enough of these "free trade" deals to know how this goes.
As was the case with NAFTA, giant, multinational corporations wrote the bill with their best interests in mind, and now want to sell the public pipe dreams of jobs and economic growth that never materialize.
Now members of Congress are being asked to give away our power to review and fix this deal -- even though the American people aren't even allowed to see the text of the TPP. You have the right to read this deal before your elected officials vote on fast tracking it.
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown wrote a letter to President Obama asking the White House to release the full text of the TPP to the public. Now I'm standing with them. Will you join us?
Add your name and ask President Obama to release the full text of the TPP.
We've seen this story before. "Free trade" deals promise to grow our economy and create jobs that end up making big corporations richer. Instead, American jobs disappear.
Even worse, the TPP was written in secret, away from the eyes of the public and Congress. Corporate lobbyists were in the room. You and I weren't.
I know a bad deal for workers when I see it. That's why I've fought to stop these job-killing agreements every time they come up in Congress.
I'm going to fight tooth and nail to stop the TPP, but I need your help. If progressives stand up and show we are willing to fight for American workers, we can stop this anti-worker bill in its tracks. The first step: release the full text of the TPP so everyone in America can see the truth about this bad deal.
Join me, Elizabeth Warren, and Sherrod Brown: Ask President Obama to make the full text of the TPP public.
Thanks for standing with us.
Congresswoman and candidate for U.S. Senate
Thank you, Rep. (and future Senator) Edwards!
Posted by Faryn Balyncd | Sat May 9, 2015, 02:00 PM (2 replies)
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)