How does one ensure their voice is heard and represented in government? What are the barriers in place which prevent the government from acting in the best interests of its people? How do we overcome these barriers? How do we achieve democracy? How do we hold our politicians accountable? How do we know what they are doing behind closed doors? Whose voices and interests are really represented in government? What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Corruption aside, an ideal government is made up of representatives elected by public vote and a court system with justices appointed by the President (in the US) and approved by elected representatives.
In the United States, the outline of the above system is still in place. The mechanics however, have been greatly co-opted and inverted. How have they been co-opted? We still have public elections, don’t we? Those elections aren’t rigged, are they? The public can still pick the candidate whom it feels will best represent them in office, can’t they? So how has the system been co-opted?
Monetary influence in government is one answer, but it goes far deeper than that; and the co-option is clever to the point where the extent of it is barely realized even by those who just want money out of politics. The co-option and inversion extend to those who control the Mass Media; A communications system, controlled by 5 major multinational corporations, which theoretically is supposed to keep the public informed about their country and the general world in which they live.
Have you ever heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership? If your answer is “no” or “very little;” this communications system is failing in its theoretical mission.
In actuality, the purpose the media primarily serves is one of reasserting the main interests of those with real power in government. Secondly, it is to restrict the narrative of public discourse to one preferred by those with real influence in government. Thirdly, as it is the means through which the public hears about their choices for people to elect, it ensures only those people with the ability to raise the proper multitudes of funding can afford promotion on these communication networks.
Aside from the heads of the Mass Media itself, who hold plenty of vested interest in the current system, one can also look to the fossil fuel industry executives; or the conservative masterminds behind groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC); or the CEOs of banks like JPMorgan Chase, or Bank of America, or Citibank, or Goldman Sachs; or the CEOs of the pharmaceutical industry; or the heads of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple; or the CEOs of weapons manufacturers like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and General Electric; or the CEOs of the Prison Industrial Complex. The list of behind-the-scenes players (and their lobbyists) goes on forever. These are the same players involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and with it they want to expand their influence.
We have public elections. They are not rigged (in the traditional sense) and the voter is never forced to vote for any candidate. The beauty is how these things aren’t needed with the current co-option and inversion.
What we do have is far more clever, manipulated, subtle and as described before, the power in the United States’ democracy is far more spread out and resides in the hands of individuals far less in the public eye. The individuals being discussed here are those who have the money to fund the election campaigns of candidates they feel will represent their best interests after a public election to government office. They are the ones who can keep pumping money into government after elections to ensure the candidates they just helped get elected continue to legislate properly. Finally, they are the ones who can publicly and relentlessly shame a politician for not supporting their interests; by bringing out the dirt they have acquired on the individual.
The elections may be public but the politicians themselves are chosen carefully and then marketed. Thus we are given the illusion of choice as those with real power never really lose hold of the reins of our democracy. With the Trans-Pacific Partnership they may be able to sidestep even this.
There is a curious element to the above which probably seems hopeless and impossible to overcome: In order for the above described democratic inversion to exist those with real power need to use a public electoral system to maintain their control as their control is based on the illusion of public choice. Even more curious is how under this inversion, should the public be self-organized around the important issues which actually threaten those at the top, the inversion can easily be undone.
We’re not at that point yet though; and might be about to get a whole lot worse…
Enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
This is a deal being negotiated in complete secret and has been in development for around a decade now. Those with access to and influence in its negotiations flaunt it as a “free trade” agreement. This is deceptive though as only 5 of its total 29 chapters have anything to do with trade.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is actually a massive corporate power grab which involves a great many of the countries bordering the Pacific Rim. Those it will not involve, initially, are being provided for as the TPP will include a “docking” agreement to allow for others to join later. Any country involved in the deal will be obligated to follow a set of economic and legal rules which further benefit a handful of corporations. Even without the TPP these involved corporations are already the most influential in the US government and the rest of the world. If passed the TPP will affect 40% of the global economy.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a complete secret certainly from the public, but also a complete secret from the United States congressional representatives who will eventually be voting on it. It’s hard to get more undemocratic than that.
Possibly the most difficult part of explaining the Trans-Pacific Partnership is conveying the idea that it’s real, and not a giant conspiracy theory…
The TPP can only be described as a Global Corporate Coup.
The “Neo-Liberal Model”
The idea of a Global Corporate Coup is eccentric to say the least. It sounds like extreme left-wing propaganda, truth be told. Nevertheless, the TPP can also be categorized under something else called the “neo-liberal model.” This is something which has been underway for several decades. It is also an idea which is somewhat unknown to US citizens. In fact, in the US it doesn’t have a name because the US doesn’t recognize that it exists (neither the media, nor politicians ever discuss it). In America the “neo-liberal model” is just thought of as being pro-business. And what’s wrong with business, right? It’s good for the economy! It creates jobs! You can’t go wrong! Nevertheless, this “model” is something which is a recognized agenda in just about every other effected part of the world.
How does it work…
Basically, corporations (the big fat cats, not small-businesses like “mom and pops”) attack the only two institutions that have any possibility of counter-balancing their power: unions and government.
It’s effect on unions is to reduce the number of them, reduce the cost of labor, increase productivity and globalize.
The attack on the government is very obvious, especially in the US: Decrease taxes on the wealthy, decrease social spending, deregulate environment, deregulate trade, deregulate labor and deregulate politics (i.e. citizens united, etc). You also privatize government jobs.
How bad is US economic inequality? How bad is our poverty rate? Where do you think these two symptoms come from?
The neo-liberal model is promoted by saying: if you help us in our attack on unions and government our profits will increase, investment will increase, jobs will increase, wages will increase, our quality of life will increase, we’ll have a trade surplus and we’ll go hand-in-hand into the sunset.
What’s really happened: We have an economic crisis, we have an environmental crisis, and we have a political crisis. It all stems from this neo-liberal model, long underway, which is essentially a corporate power grab.
(Harris) <--This is an end-note to a video link at the bottom.
NAFTA, on steroids
As established, The TPP is not the first of its kind. Rather it’s just the next step in the “neo-liberal model.” Furthermore, it is being based on another corporate power grab; one called the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In fact the TPP has been nicknamed “NAFTA, on steroids.”
Under NAFTA national sovereignty was blurred. How?
Under NAFTA companies cannot sue their own governments in international investor-state dispute resolution tribunals. In English, this means a company cannot sue its own government for violating rules established in an international trade agreement. There are ways around this though… Offshoring.
Example: The Canadian company Lone Pine (headquartered in Alberta, Canada) wanted to frack in Canada but was not allowed to because of a Canadian moratorium against fracking. As such they wanted to sue the Canadian government for an investor-state dispute resolution. You can’t sue your own government under international trade agreement rules, though… so, what did they do? Simple; they used the offshore corporate haven in Delaware (that’s the US) where they were incorporated and thus claimed to be a United States company; easy enough.
Lone Pine’s notice of intent: “Lone Pine is suing under NAFTA for the arbitrary, capricious, and illegal revocation of the enterprise’s valuable Right to Mine for oil and gas underneath the St. Lawrence River by the Government of Quebec without due process…” (Soloman)
Note how they actually sued for their “Right to Mine.” Apparently, they can do that using trade agreement rules. A similar instance happened when another company wanted to use toxic chemicals which had been banned in Canada. They sued under NAFTA rules in the same investor-state dispute resolution tribunal… and won. They were in turn awarded settlement money, allowed to use their toxic chemicals and they were actually issued an apology from the Canadian government as well. Doleck full talk at Columbia
Multinational corporations use the flimsy rules in place for incorporating in different countries. They then turn around and say they are a corporation from that country and can then sue whatever government they need to. Mind you, there is no limit to the number of countries a corporation can be incorporated in (this is how they become multinational, with no allegiance to any country at all).
These law suits do not take place in the traditional court system of any country either. They take place in international tribunals where they appear in front of arbitration boards where the rules of trade agreements are adhered to more than the laws of any country. One such arbitration board is called the ICSID. Countries which sign on to use these arbitration boards to settle disputes get to appoint judges to the board. The US, for example, is a big country so they can appoint a lot of judges. 7 of the 8 judges they appointed to ICSID are corporate lawyers who specialized in representing corporations in disputes against governments. The other judge is a trade lobbyist who works for an international business organization that specializes in a lot of things for these trade agreements.
As can be expected, based on the the way these arbitration boards are set up and what set of rules they follow; Corporations invariably win all the time. In fact, hundreds of millions of dollars have been awarded to corporations and there have been over 200 cases heard by ICSID. Of those only two have been open to the public.
Understand; the idea of a free-trade agreement is to expand as much trade as possible to maximize profit. The idea of the investment chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is to encourage as much foreign investment as possible.
Some things offered in the chapter are a “guarantee to a minimum standard of treatment,” and “fair and equitable treatment.” These are both extremely vaguely worded provisions included in NAFTA and other trade agreements as well. These and other provisions essentially function as standstills on regulations. Any new law or policy, such as a regulation to the natural gas industry, can be claimed to violate the predictable regulatory environment of an investor. Basically, an investor expects certain profits from wherever they have put money in speculation. Any new law or policy which negatively influences their speculation will violate the predictable regulatory environment of their speculation. They can then sue for this infringement.
Thus when an investor claims this standard has been violated they are then offered this investor-state dispute. They are then able to sue the government in a private tribunal which follows the rules of the trade agreement (under whose rules they are suing) for unlimited cash compensation. Investors have claimed this time and time again; and they have won.
Now the obvious question: how could any country be forced into this position? What about their national sovereignty? You can’t just walk in and use some flimsy rule to claim you’ve lost money at the expense of government’s laws. That’s ridiculous! True; but national sovereignty is overruled once the country has signed a law into the books which infringes on their sovereignty. When a country signs a trade agreement chances are there is something in that agreement which will infringe on their sovereignty. The next question is: how does it get voted into law? That answer comes later. Here’s a hint though: fast-track (making things even more undemocratic).
NAFTA on Mexico and jobs
TPP is being called “NAFTA, on steroids” so now it’s time to discuss NAFTA a little bit. NAFTA is a trade agreement which includes, Canada, the United States and Mexico. NAFTA was sold to the American people as a way of fixing cross-border problems with Mexico. They said it was something that would stabilize the economy on both sides of the border; in addition to the flow of immigrants. Watch a debate on NAFTA between Al Gore (in favor of NAFTA) and Ross Perot (opposed to NAFTA).
NAFTA, in fact, did nothing but exacerbate the problems mentioned above. For starters keep in mind Mexico’s economy was one based, in large part, on farming. As a result of NAFTA, imported corn became cheaper than Mexican corn putting Mexican farmers out of business. It made subsidized agriculture, and subsidized tortillas (so people could eat), illegal in Mexico. Farms collapsed and you had tons of people with nowhere to go. Some went to the cities, some to the Maquiladora region, some to produce goods to ship across the border. Many though came to the US to work as undocumented workers.
“Between 1985 and 1989 approximately 80,000 immigrants came to the US from Mexico annually. Between 1990 and 1994 approximately 260,000 immigrants came across annually. Between 1995 to 1999 400,000 came across annually. Then grew to 485,000.”
(Side note: if you want to fix the problems with immigration from Mexico to the US you don’t institute band-aid immigration reforms in the United States. You help Mexico’s economy as NAFTA devastated it. Undocumented workers don’t come to America because of the prosperity or for the “wonderful country” it is. Undocumented workers come to America to send money home to their families because their economy was destroyed by a trade deal our politicians encouraged. Also note; the border became militarized after NAFTA because more cross-border issues were expected.)
NAFTA cost the US 700,000 jobs.
Jobs, the TPP and Globalization
Let’s discuss minimum wages now. The US minimum wage is $58/day; in Malaysia (who is in TPP) it is $8.70/day; in China (not in TPP, yet): $4.59/day. Vietnam though takes the cake with $2.23/day. Vietnam is one of the most important countries in the TPP partially because, they are the low wage alternative to China. That’s right, exploitation is such a hobby for these corporate fat cats there is actually a “low wage alternative” to $4.59/day, China; which is $2.23/day, Vietnam.
(For quick perspective: In China there is an assemblage plant for Apple products called Foxconn where the workers labored under such horrible conditions and such horrific pay they actually started committing suicide rather than continue working. Foxconn would not have this though. Did Foxconn improve conditions? Did Foxconn give them better pay? No. Foxconn instead placed suicide nets around the exterior of the building to catch workers attempting suicide to keep them alive and then get them back to work.)
(The corporations involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership think the workers at Foxconn are paid too much and would prefer the wages given to the workers exploited in Vietnam.)
Why is Vietnam so low? In Vietnam, workers have no labor rights and no right to form independent unions. There are restrictions on strikes as well. Vietnam’s communist party code allows for strikes but imposes strict and cumbersome conditions that must first be met; effectively nullifying the strike. This is the case even if you are in a state workers’ union (a workers’ union tied to the communist party there). This was reported by Human Rights Watch.
In Vietnam, goods are produced by child and forced labor, especially in the Apparel export industry (the largest export sector in Vietnam; second largest exporter to the United States after China). If you are trying to form an independent union in Vietnam expect to be jailed, sent to the education camps, harassed and more. It is one of the worst places in the world to try and organize independent unions.
Through TPP Vietnam will be used to export our jobs to and reduce our wages.
Another country entering the TPP is Japan; a highly industrialized country. In our trade deficit from ’09 to 2012, Japan increased. This meant 130,000 US jobs were lost.
A study was done to forecast what would happen when the TPP goes into effect. It looked at what the impact of reduced tariffs was and what currency manipulation will do… (Japan is manipulating its currency). Ultimately, the impact will be 91,500 jobs lost just in the auto and auto parts industry alone. This was discovered by way of observing how the value of the Japanese yen has decreased by 30% in the last 8 months. As such in the last 8 months goods we export to Japan were 30% more expensive and goods they export to the US were 30% cheaper. This change in price is incentive for corporations to change where they create jobs to produce their goods. The fact that this overseas job creation means a loss of jobs for workers in one country is secondary to corporate profits.
Back to the neo-liberal model; we produce more but pay less. We’ve had a clear decline in union representation. This is a direct result of corporate attacks and globalization. The difference between the wages we earn now and the wages we would have earned if jobs and wages increased with productivity since the 70′s, is more than $500/week=$2500/worker (avg).
That extra 500 has gone towards profits. Since the 70′s is when we’ve seen union membership drop, it’s also when we see the US go from a surplus in trade to a country with a deficit (we became a debtor). There was a major deficit especially following NAFTA as well. From 1999-2010 there was a change in US multi-national corp jobs as multinationals reduced US employment by 1,000,000 and increased employment in controlled foreign affiliates by 3,000,000.
Entering China into the World Trade Organization (WTO) cost the US 2.7 million jobs (net).
TPP will exacerbate our economic crisis, our democracy crisis, investor-state disputes will undermine everything we’ve worked for in labor, in environment, in health, in safety, and in the effectiveness of our democracy.
People are opposing TPP all around the world.
(Also note: In the 2008 financial crash one of the reasons it was felt so globally was because of restrictions which had been imposed on Capital Controls through Free Trade agreement Globalization. To explain briefly Capital Controls are measures in place which regulate the flow of currencies across borders from one country to another. One of the reasons China was not hit as hard by the 2008 crash was because of the Capital Controls they had in place. Now with regards to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the author of the book In Defense of Globalization joined with a great deal of other economists who were originally in favor of free trade to speak out against the lax rules on Capital Controls in the TPP. This means the author who “wrote the book” on globalization, along with many other economists, spoke out against certain elements of the globalization involved in TPP).
Overview of TPP itself
Who has access to the text of TPP? The corporations do, of course. How many of them though? All of the over 600 corporate advisors who can benefit from it for certain. Some of those include Pfizer, Monsanto, National Coal Council, Halliburton, Chevron, GE, etc. Who doesn’t have access? The Sierra Club and other environmental groups are kept in the dark. The Obama administration does have access to the text as the Obama administration is pushing for it.
Does congress have access to the text? They will be voting on it so they should have access, right? No. Only one congressman has managed to gain access to the text, and that’s because he made a stink about it: Representative Alan Greyson. The problem is he was not allowed to take notes about it, he was given a limited amount of time to read it, and he couldn’t say anything about it besides “this is a punch in the face to the middle class.” Other congressman have no access and recently starting showing their discontent. Also read this.
And check this:
Obviously the public has no access either.
Which countries are involved in the TPP: the United States, Australia, Brunai, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Japan wants to join, if they have not already by the time this blog was written, and The United States wants China to be involved as well.
What’s in the TPP?
Earlier it was discussed how the TPP and other Trade Agreements are really just corporate power grabs. Corporations use free-trade agreements as back-door mechanisms to make sure they can get these things approved. When corporations realize they have lost in local, state, and federal governments they turn to trade agreements to get those things through.
“TPP is a trojan horse for non-traditional polices, many of which are rejected in state legislatures, and in congress.” – Alisa Simmons
“What I see is a bunch of non-trade stuff, specific to public services, the corporations want to take over. Of the 29 chapters only 5 actually deal with trade matters.” – Alisa Simmons
The only traditional trade things in TPP are market access for foods, customs, trade expropriation, capacity building, and trade revenue subsidies. Other topics discussed in the “non-trade” chapters of TPP are things like government procurement, investment, services, financial services, intellectual property, visas, temporary movement of natural persons (which sounds like immigration in a trade agreement), regulatory coherence, competition policy, labor, supply chains, the environment, transparency…
From a different perspective, as this is being poised as a trade deal (and 24 of its 29 chapters don’t deal with trade), the TPP can actually be viewed as a trade agreement made up primarily of earmarks to destroy the public sector, democracy and 40% of the global economy.
“On top of all the things we know aren’t really about trade there are 3 mystery chapters they wont tell anyone about. They wont even tell us the titles of it. They wont list them anywhere!” – Alisa Simmons
There’s also an Intellectual property chapter in TPP which impacts medicines and is also a backdoor method to get parts of SOPA passed and destroy internet freedom.
In TPP there are provisions to give greater property rights to foreign firms and put limits on financial regulations. There are also provisions which would ban “Buy American” and “Buy Local.” On top of that the food we eat will be impacted as well. Most US food that’s imported doesn’t meet standards already. About 1% of the food that comes in actually gets inspected. We currently get food from countries which we know have really bad histories when it comes to exporting their food. Vietnam has one of the worst records for food safety and all of a sudden we’re about to get a whole bunch of shellfish in from Vietnam, that food is going to be coming into a system that is already under-regulated.
Chilling effects of TPP and Trade Agreement lawsuits
Earlier the idea of investor-state disputes was discussed. Arbitration boards and the use of the offshoring was discussed and how corporations become multinational through flimsy requirements for incorporation. To get a little more in-depth these investor-state disputes take corporations and raise them to the level of actual countries. How does it do so? Well, a person can’t sue for lost profits or lost potential profits. Corporations can under trade agreement rules. Furthermore, when a corporation sues a country for the profits they lost because they can’t do something they take our tax dollars to fund their profit because they don’t want to abide by that country’s laws.
“Around the world over $3.5 billion in taxes globally have been given to corporations who don’t want to obey health laws, and environmental laws primarily.” – Alisa Simmons
Remember the US-based/Canadian-based company which sued Canada for a moratorium that infringed on their “Right to Mine” in a Quebec town. Under NAFTA it’s established this can happen again and again. Once you open this up to many other countries around the world however, the implications of lawsuits are frightening.
The same impact would be seen from GMO labeling. In many states there are growing movements to label foods. Eventually, one of them will pass a bill and labels will start appearing in stores. Logically, most people will not choose the GMO food if the two options are sitting next to each other and the price difference is not large. This will likely result in a lawsuit from Monsanto. True, in some of these lawsuits the plaintiff would win and in some they would lose, but it would also have a chilling effect:
If these governments realize they will be sued for passing said bills they may become reluctant to pass a bill even if the public wants it because they don’t want to hurt the economy.
Expansion of exports of Natural gas
The first 5 mins of this talk center around the threats of fracking under NAFTA and TPP.
After hearing so much about investor-state disputes it’s logical to assume any discussion of Natural Gas exports and the TPP would have to deal with corporate retaliation against bans and moratoriums on fracking. Though that is something to consider, the issue here is actually with the Department of Energy’s requirement to do a Public Interest Determination prior to any exportation of natural gas.
What is a Public Interest determination? This is a process where the Department of Energy must weight the economic and environmental impacts of natural gas exports. Furthermore, it is really critical to being able to build and deliver energy policy. Regardless of how effective the procedure is (as they have approved of the first export terminal), having the process is important.
“Consistent with the free-trade model (which is deregulation), US law states that this whole process of doing a Public Interest Determination (just an analysis to look at the implications of natural gas exports) is waived for any country with which the United States has signed a free-trade agreement that calls for something called ‘multinational treatment for trade and gas.’ We understand the TPP includes this.” – Ivana Soloman
As such exports are automatically deemed in the public interest and it becomes illegal to condition, deny or delay any permit requirement. This is even more important when discussing TPP because Japan is the largest natural gas importer in the world. Ultimately, this could create enormous strain for more exports as there are also plans to build a great deal more export terminals across the United States.
Even from a non-legal perspective, consider the implications of the greenhouse effects from this and the ramifications of pipelines from this (which could leak).
We can end the AIDS pandemic in the next 30 years:
“If we get a cohort of people who are HIV positive onto particular medications, it will be almost impossible for them to spread the virus, and if they can’t spread the virus, then eventually we bend all curves. Deaths go down and so do new infections. In about 30 years if we get enough people onto these medications we can actually see AIDS as something like Polio. There will be a couple thousand cases around the world of people living with AIDS but we will have more than enough money to provide treatment to them and there will be no new infections.” The cover of The Economist (June 2011) provides proof of this. – Jennifer Flynn
The above is true but it’s dependent on one key issue which is threatened under TPP; The availability of generic medications which cost significantly less than patented medications.
“Getting medications to developing countries is an issue dependent entirely on price. We have medications that can treat AIDS and people don’t have access to them just because of the price. You may have heard other reasons like ‘people don’t know how to adhere to them’ or ‘there are supply issues in some countries.’ Don’t believe this. The driver is price.” – Jennifer Flynn
Let’s compare the prices shall we…
AIDS medications first-line treatment started out over $10,000 per patient per year. Through generic competition, over the span of a decade, that price dropped by 99% to an estimated $140 per patient per year. Second-line treatments are more than two times the cost of first-line treatment. The lowest price for a third-line regiment is $2000, as compared to $140 on the first-line treatment. When looking at the newest medicine the price is about 14 times the primer.
For a detailed explanation of what “first/second/third-line treatments” are check this link. Basically, a second-line treatment is a treatment which comes out when the first-line treatment has failed. Accordingly, third-lines come out when the second-line has failed. Furthermore, as they are new drugs coming out when the previous version failed it makes sense that the newer version will cost more money. More research goes in, a higher price comes out.
Developing and poorer nations depend on generic medications. Many major international treatment providers rely on quality, affordable generic medications. Lower prices are not as profitable, though. Enter patents and other intellectual property barriers to keep medical prices high.
What is a patent?
Essentially it’s government-inferred monopoly on a drug and they currently last 20 years. This means the price remains high and out of the hands of poor people for 20 years. One example of a generic drug is Acetaminophen, the cheaper generic version of Tylenol (the only difference is the name).
(Quick point: The United States has a long history of limiting access and keeping affordable medicines out of the hands of poor people. Think about how the privatized insurance system of the United States has worked thus far. If you can’t afford healthcare you’re screwed. Can’t afford a life-saving operation? You’re stuck with medical debt (that is if you are even granted the procedure). Mind you 62% of all bankruptcies in America are due to medical debt. Furthermore, America is the only developed nation in the world where the concept of medical debt even exists,. All other developed nations have some form of Universal Healthcare. If you are poor in America you don’t have good healthcare if you even pay for it in the first place. Also note, “Obamacare” or the Affordable Care Act is NOT Universal Healthcare AT ALL.)
We hear about the importance of intellectual property. We hear about the importance of protecting the pharmaceutical industries in their ability to continue developing medications. We hear about their need to make enough profit so as to continue to research and develop new types of medications which save lives. These are lies. Most new drugs are actually made by the government or universities; those entities are just bad at marketing so big pharma is given them instead to get them to the masses.
The TPP has provisions to seriously restrict generic competitions. Even scarier the TPP is being billed as a model for future trade agreements and is being negotiated with developed and developing countries. It also sets up standards which could be applied to other developing countries. The policies when taken together represent the most restrictive ever seen in a trade agreement and it’s horrible for access to medicine.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership rolls back internationally agreed upon public health safeguards already enshrined in multilateral agreements in the current standard of the Truth Agreement; and numerous other standards agreed upon by the US and by other negotiating countries.
One example of a rollback is in regards to pre-grant oppositions, which is any challenge by a third party to a patent before it’s been awarded. Second-line regiments are about twice as expensive as first-line regiments for HIV drugs. Prices for them have come down due to competition which has been secured through measures like pre-grant opposition. All countries have patent laws and patent systems and they have flexibility to apply that law as suited to their national context. Pre-grant opposition is extremely important to public health as in some cases fighting a patent is essential to supply the poor with affordable medications.
TPP will deny people the right to oppose patents before they are granted. Meaning, if you’re in a country and you need access to a medicine and you find out that country is about to issue a patent, you can’t go and protest the government. You can’t sue or make a case.
Currently, patents can last up to 20 years before the trial stage is done and medications become available for generic competition. Through a process in the TPP though called “ever greening” a small change to a drug can give a company the right to ask for another 20 year patent. With loopholes and clever uses of language like these you could end up having an 80 year patent on a drug.
The TPP would also make clinical trial data (discovered during the duration of the patent) corporate property for 12 years automatically, and that data itself would receive a patent. This is called Data Exclusivity. The TPP would also let drug companies sue government agencies that set reimbursement rates for public health programs if drug companies don’t like them.
Summary and What To Do
Now that we’ve explored all of these above issues (which are devastating in themselves) it’s important to realize this is just what we know from the small amount of the Trans-Pacific Partnership which has been leaked; and what we know from observing the effects of other trade agreements and international policies. Again the TPP is a 29 chapter-long trade agreement where only 5 of them actually deal with trade.
Now, how could the Trans-Pacific Partnership be stopped. You call you representatives and demand they vote “no” on “fast-track.” Why fast-track and not tell them to vote “no” on the TPP itself? Telling them to vote “no” on fast-track would be like throwing a wrench into the system.
Fast-Track is a method of passing a bill which is used when a bill would have no chance at passing were it sent to congress normally. Fast-Track gives members of congress 90 days to read over a bill and then has them vote “yes” or “no” on the bill. As they vote they are *not allowed* to edit ANY of the text within the bill AT ALL. Keep in mind this means they would be blindly voting on this bill with no prior knowledge of its contents as it has been negotiated in complete secrecy from them. If you thought the secrecy surrounding the bill made this undemocratic, fast-track makes it even less democratic.
President Obama, some other leaders of 11 or so countries and 600 corporate representatives have spent the last 8 years negotiating this bill in secret.
Should pressure be placed on congress by the public to vote “No” on Fast-Track the Trans-Pacific Partnership would then be sent through Congress and Congress would have the opportunity to adjust the bill to their liking. After they adjust the bill to their liking those adjustments would then have to be approved by every other country involved. After 11 years of negotiations it’s doubtful any new changes would be approved.
Also note, NAFTA was passed via fast-track and it’s not just a one time thing. If fast track is approved by Congress any bill which is then voted on can be passed through congress via fast-track. NAFTA was passed by fast-track, but fast-track remained in effect for at least 5 years, and the way bills were voted on under fast-track did not change. Note, not all legislation passed while fast-track is in effect is voted on with the fast-track rules. Some bills are voted on normally while fast-track is in effect, it’s just not used in those cases.
Click here to see the report on the Trans-Pacific Partnership by DemocracyNow!
Click the following links to learn more:
DemocracyNow! covers TPP a second time. (full transcript included)
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Source talks for information discussed in the content of the blog:
Alex Beauchamp, Food and Water Watch
Full TPP talk by hunter (Note: scroll to the end of this talk for one last speaker whose information I couldn’t fit into this blog. It is discussion on trade agreement influence in South America.)
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Who wants to load up on some guns, bring your friends, march on the capital and overthrow the United States government? I think it sounds like a grand idea and I’ll buy the ammo!
Actually I think it’s a really stupid idea but apparently a lot of people seem ready to do it. See this article from RTTNews.com which contains a study also referenced in Salon.com which says Nearly a third of Americans think armed revolution might be necessary.
This study was conducted shortly after the recent push for Gun Control (or as I prefer to call it, “gun regulation”)
“Overall, fifty percent of registered voters, including 73 percent of Democrats, support new gun control laws, while 39 percent, including 65 percent of Republicans, are opposed to new laws.”
“The poll found that just 18 percent of Democrats think an armed revolution may be necessary, compared to 44 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of independents.”
The numbers are upsetting because they indicate where the priorities of a third of this country lie. Some seem ready to overthrow what is currently in place and start anew. We also seem to think we’d be successful which is funny in itself.
Nearly a third of our country’s voters think we may need an armed revolution. Put in perspective, this study was done back in May when the “threat” of gun control was at peak media hype and we were saturated with propaganda about the dangers of, or our 2nd-Amendment right to have, guns. The gun lobby was never so patriotic. Nevertheless, if those people have since calmed down you wonder if they are still ready to embark on a 2nd-Amendment shopping spree. It’s important to stock up before the government cracks down and takes away a brand-new purchase.
Let’s face the facts though, we need to be prepared to fight back with both defensive and offensive measures to find freedom in revolution. It’s the only natural and sensible course of action at this point. As such guns are forever our protectors. Guns make us feel safe. Guns are our only defense against fascism. Without our guns we would be no where. Guns make us whole.
“This is my rifle. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. Before God I swear this creed: my rifle and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of our enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.”
Oh… excuse me. I got so carried away with my devotion, appreciation, and obedience to my guns (and my right to bear arms) that I remembered a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. You know the one where the drafted soldiers pledge their love for their guns, as instructed by their drill sergeant before going to sleep? The national obsession with guns to save our country really reminds me of that scene sometimes…
For some the entire system is faulty at its core and a new one must be created in order for any progress to be made. Others still see some good in what currently exists (and what was originally created) but that it’s run astray. I’ll offer the idea that blaming theoretical systems is an evasion of the real issue. Furthermore, no matter what theoretical system is in place it is the people in power and more importantly the public which resides in the country who are most responsible for the direction of the country. Do I think the US government represents the public any longer? No. It only got to this point though because the public believed what it was told and rarely questioned with masses.
As far as theoretical systems, I’m not sure how much I like the conceptual basis for the American economic system (capitalism). This however, is not something which can be addressed overnight. Regardless, when our priorities revolve around protecting our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, to the point where nearly a third of the country thinks armed revolution might be necessary… Well, I get skeptical of our ability to accomplish anything even in the short-term.
Do I think our personal liberties are being threatened? Very much so. The 1st Amendment right to free speech has been very much in jeopardy as can be viewed easily through the many arrests at peaceful protests over the past two years, certainly, and probably much farther back for other arbitrary and flexible reasons. The 4th Amendment has been crushed as we have learned of domestic spying in the recent NSA scandal and the documents Edward Snowden leaked, but also from this “Supreme Court Erodes 4th Amendment Protections- Eases Ability For Police To Enter Your Home Without Warrant.” The 5th Amendment has been infringed a bit as well as we learn from this article.
It’s curious though how the one Amendment not yet infringed upon is the 2nd Amendment. Even in the last Gun Control/Regulation debate the issue in the bill was background checks. Something which only would have impeded some people’s ability to get a gun. Furthermore, the legislation (had it been passed) would never have taken away any guns; if you owned a gun it would have been “grandfathered” in.
There are corruptions in the current law which may have unjustly taken away someone’s right to a gun once a background check was run. Depending on the nature of the background check it’s entirely possible someone serving time for a marijuana sentence may not have been allowed a gun. Nevertheless, I can understand the importance of background checks in the regulation and distribution of guns. It’s not an issue of restricting people. It’s an issue of making sure someone with a history of mental illness, for example, has (at least) a great deal more trouble getting a gun. Also note: it’s cheaper and easier to buy a gun in the United States than it is to receive treatment for mental health problems.
This is another reason the obsession with our guns, and some people’s desire to just take down the whole system with revolution is unnerving. Many people jumped to the conclusion narrated by media propaganda which stated “OUR GUNS WERE GOING TO BE TAKEN AWAY!!” That was never even a concern if you’d known what the bill said. So… that means that our armed-revolution-hungry people obsessed with clutching their guns when they sleep… didn’t read.
Not only did they not read the contents of the bill but they also played right into the hands of the gun lobby as gun sales skyrocketed under the propagandized threat of the government “taking our guns away.”
Yet I still need to ask why the need for guns is so high in our priorities anyway. For the past few months I’ve seen protesting occur in Turkey and Brazil. Egypt as well but that’s far more complex and nuanced. All of those protests have called for an end to government corruption, and true democracy, and unless I’m mistaken those protesters didn’t use guns. Those protests have also faced far more government oppression than anything we’ve seen in America; still our guns are what we get upset over.
It’s very disconcerting.
Also, clutch your guns and dream of “taking back the government” with armed revolution all you want. Just keep it a fantasy… The reality is any real revolution of that sort would be quashed within a week by the military if the threat to government was legit. By the way, the time frame of a week was generous. There is no way household artillery could stand up to the weaponry of the US armed forces. Is it worth mentioning the fact that there would be no escape considering the number of surveillance drones likely to be deployed in such a situation (in addition to the NSA’s surveillance)? Why not go one step further and say those drones might be weaponized. But yeah, sure… enjoy the fantasy…
Should I ask why we don’t just organize around what we need and then pressure the government with the support we’ve built through organizing for a cause. A common response to that might be “But organizing and pressuring government is useless. They won’t listen. They don’t care.” Well it’s true, they don’t, but they do care about their country having a strong economy, and protests and economic boycotts do a lot to send a message that the public is pissed off. Oh yeah, you don’t only protest against the government… You protest their corporate masters as well.
The idea that the government would serve the people of their own accord, is absurd. In the face of public pressure though, things can be accomplished. Case and point was the recent fight in Texas against an anti-abortion bill. A fight to stall a bill which would have closed 90% of the abortion clinics in Texas.
Senator Wendy Davis filibustered the Texas Senate for I believe 11 hours before she was stopped by the GOP. Then her fellow democrats stalled a vote on the bill until about 11:45. They were running out of steam and then an exasperated Democratic Senator Leticia van de Putte put it plainly:
“At what point must a female senator raise her hand, or her voice, to be recognized over her male colleagues?”
Once she said this the public gallery erupted in cheers which prevented a vote for another 15 minutes at which point no vote could be taken as it was after midnight. This didn’t stop the Senate Republicans from trying to fake the passage of the vote. Thanks to social media, and livestream coverage, the senate killed the bill as the global public and 20,000 livestream viewers witnessed and would have contested the cheated bill had it been accepted into law. Then on July 1st the Texas Senate tried to pass it again. Governor Rick Perry was determined this time but as protesters flooded the building, and appeared in the thousands outside it, the bill was recessed after about half an hour and the next session was scheduled for July 9th.
Public support accomplishes a lot when it’s organized and determined.
Now that I’ve just laid out the importance of social media in Texas I can also use the same story to exhibit the power of social media, and why there have been efforts to control the internet as a whole. Simply put; the public can affect legislation, and has a new source of information not produced by special interests to use, to achieve progressive outcomes.
Now lets watch Aaron Swartz’s talk on how he helped stop SOPA by way of organizing public support around an important issue (it wasn’t just Google and Facebook and other sites going dark which stopped the bill; that spin just made the big monopolies look good in the face of “big government” SOPA):
Highlighting those above examples it seems obvious the things a well-organized public can accomplish?
It’s funny to even say this next thing with the amount that lobbyists writing legislation, but government is the only thing keeping corporations in check; even in the most minimal sense.
If not for government, corporate interests would have free reign to do anything they wanted; and they could do a LOT more. They would have already started exploiting the resources of federally protected national parks. If not for government, fracking would already be poisoning the water in New York. If not for government there would be no sewer or public sanitation. If not for government the clean water, clear air, and clean drinking water acts would have been done away with long ago in the interests of corporate profits and cheaper waste disposal. If not for government there would be no social security or it would already have been privatized. If not for government the shitty educational system in this country would be even worse.
Let’s have some examples, shall we:
First we have this article which discusses potential plans for National Parks to begin corporate licensing agreements for the exploitation of the parks. Guess what currently protects National Parks, at least to some degree, from being totally mowed over and destroyed by corporate interests seeking profits from these beautiful and untapped resources? Government. Granted a corporation may find loopholes in the laws to do things, or they may lobby government excessively for their favor. They still need to deal with government first if they want to do anything.
An easy case and point of that pesky governmental hurdle can be illustrated with what recently happened during the government shutdown. The EPA is a government agency. The shutdown took a lot of field workers off staff, if not all. Did this mean that oil companies had to stop drilling because the EPA wasn’t watching them? Did this mean the oil companies were good little polluters and stopped their drilling and activity in some of the most beautiful exhibitions of nature on the planet?
Hate the government all you want; that shutdown gave a huge free pass to a great many things which might normally have been a little more difficult.
Or how about we look at what recently happened to a Mayan pyramid in Belize when a company needed more bricks to build a road. I don’t know how bricks are made but it’s certainly cheaper to just gut a long-standing artifact displaying the remnants of what used to be a thriving culture. No, screw it. They needed to build a road to ensure modern business could flourish, and they needed to do it cheaply and with the use of a bulldozer. (Note: The article, from May 2013, says charges may be filed)
This is all irrelevant though, keep clutching our guns and prepare for the only option left: We need to fight back and defend the homeland from our fascist “big government” overlords! Any thoughts on how to create a new government when that moment comes? Like it or not there’s a lot this corrupted system gives us that we take for granted.
This article contains a long list of things which are provided to the public by the government. The article is actually addressing people (Tea Partiers, specifically) who complained about taxes. Regardless, the article is a very good list of things which the government provides for the public. A list which is a real wake-up call. Do I agree with everything it says? No. Do I think some of the benefits it puts forward are no longer there? Certainly. Overall however, the list is a very good breakdown of things which people who live in developed countries take for granted.
So, all things considered what are we going to base the new system on if we just anticipate the inevitable and prepare with nothing more than artillery? What framework? Would we just regain control of what we currently have and make it more efficient? Would we create an entirely new system? Completely abandon even the good parts of what is currently in place? Mind you, America is a developed nation so to completely abandon what we currently have would likely hurt a lot of people. This is especially the case if we completely abandoned what we currently have with absolutely no alternative structure in mind. With no alternative in mind there would be even more poverty. Whatever is now left of Social Security wouldn’t even be there and our seniors and disabled people would be on their own. Say goodbye to food stamps. I can’t even imagine the child poverty rate…
Now for what we’ve ignored for decades… Where was this gun rights anger when education was being cut? Why hasn’t this gun rights anger been put into creating a National Healthcare system? Where is the anger when it comes to the need to drown the wealthy in taxes so the public has money for needed social services? Where is the equal outcry for jobs, or for infrastructure repair, or for an end to endless war, or for income equality, or for the Voting Rights Act? No. The first thing people panic over is whether or not we’ll be able to have and keep our guns.
With regards to taxes, back during the 50′s and 60′s the economy and educational system of this country were quite efficient. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself benefitted from these things too. Why was that? I think FDR’s New Deal legislation taxed the wealthy 90% of their income, no? FDR also instituted Social Security, which is now being threatened with privatization. How did FDR manage to do all of these things though. It wasn’t on his own. There was something called public support for public services which he was answering to. People were organized.
Now to address another lesser thought-of element. The US army generally does have a code they run by; what about private mercenary armies though? They are undoubtedly smaller than the US army but they have a different code they operate under: Corporate profit. They answer to the groups who are currently corrupting a government that’s supposed to be run by the people. They step in when the US army finishes or when a corporation needs something; or when there needs to be a covert government operation.
Check out an article discussing the US troops in Afghanistan who have been replaced by an outsourced army.
Or check out this article about private paramilitaries who guard Wisconsin mining sights from protesters.
With no government, corporations can do whatever they want and will have mercenary armies to help further their interests. There are a lot of mercenary armies.
Now let’s reflect on representative government and just how we view our elected representatives. First off, they should never be referred to as “leaders.” They shouldn’t be given this title because that puts them in a position superior to their constituents. Forgive me for sounding like an “anarchist” but I don’t really think elected officials are superior to those who elected them. I just think they are people, whom a bunch of other people have decided can be trusted, to fulfill a logistical convenience (i.e. government). Meaning, a large group of people think elected officials have enough sense in their heads to work within a body, consisting of individuals sent by other corresponding bunches of people, to decide how the country should conduct itself.
They are not leaders. Calling a congressman, or a senator, or a mayor, or a governor, or a president, or anyone else a leader is anointing them with a default status of superiority. They are not superior; at all. They are people; just like any of their constituents. They are corruptible; just like any of their constituents. They are manipulable; just like any of their constituents. They are impressionable; just like any of their constituents. They need money to live and eat; just like any of their constituents.
The only way elected members of government really differ from their constituents is the amount of time which they have to devote to how their country should be run. Their constituents have jobs. Their constituents are likely interested in particular issues which government will have to consider but they have many other responsibilities as well to address.
Individuals elected to government do not have those other responsibilities (outside of taking care of their families and eating). Elected individuals therefore have a lot more time on their hands to carry out some tasks which can be extremely demanding:
Knowing about what goes on in their country; in the foreign affairs of their country; understanding the evolving and changing public opinions and consciousness of their country; knowing the inner workings of the government of their country. Oh, they also need to spend a lot of time fundraising because of the necessity to promote themselves so the masses think they are worth a vote.
As people though, elected individuals are really no different from their constituents in most ways. They may be better public speakers… Statistics show; people who strive to be in elected office are actually more corruptible than others as well. This makes sense, you have to be a special kind of crazy to think you have what it takes to be in a specific body which controls a country and dictates the laws which govern the public. Either you are special kind of crazy… or you have spent a lot of time working to become fluent in the issues and you really have innovative ideas to the point where you are confident enough to say “I should be there because I know what’s best for everyone else! I’m serious!”
Thus, to me, the idea of having elected “leaders” is kind of eccentric in itself. Elected representatives to carry out the will of the public? Yes. Elected “leaders” to run the country? No.
So who runs the country then and who is being represented by elected individuals? Well, the people who live in the country and vote for an individual during an election. But if they are voting for other people to represent them in government office, where the government is theoretically run, how is the electorate supposed to run the country from where they are… a position lacking of any recognized power? By organizing to create public support and pressure around issues.
Generally, when an individual runs for public office they have only three goals in mind. To get elected, to get re-elected, and to remain elected once in office. Past this point they are supposedly just doing their best with what they have at hand. The problem is: how do they get re-elected if the public is not self-organized around issues and interested in government? How do they get their name in the public eye if they want to get elected and try and make a difference (as many probably do when they start)? If the public is not self-organized and knowledgeable on the issues it seems the individual striving for elected office will need money to make sure the public knows who he/she is. Where will the money come from? Well, at this point in, at least the United States, big businesses, banks, and corporations. The only problem is, once they take money from those entities, they become beholden in the favor game. Rest assured, the favor will be repaid by laws passed which benefit those who paid for the political campaigns. Usually, laws which are passed favoring those entities do not favor the public very much at all.
There is a way to counteract the monied influence though… the public must organize and become knowledgeable about the issues and the politicians, and then pressure the elected individuals to act in their interests. Ultimately, whether there is money in the electoral cycle or not it is a public vote which will decide who gets elected. The playing field of politicians is just far more legitimate when there is no monied influence.
Therefore, I feel the idea of voting is just a gratuity done towards the system to serve a logistical convenience. The problem comes when the public votes for a candidate and actually trusts them to act in their favor. The politician should never be trusted by default. If the public doesn’t care enough to organize around the issues that matter to them, why should a politician either?
“Organize, Agitate, Educate, Must be our war cry” – Susan B. Anthony
Don’t scream about guns if you can’t fix your problems in a more sensible and creative way.
Also, stop watching the fucking TV.
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Stay Informed. Get Involved. Be Active.
NEW YORK, 17 September — Six students were arrested this evening in a brutal, unprovoked police attack on a peaceful protest by City University of New York students and faculty against CUNY’s appointment of former CIA chief ex-General David Petraeus. Students were punched, slammed against vehicles and against the pavement by police captains and officers, after the NYPD forced them off the pavement and into the street. The demonstration was called by the Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY.
“As students were chanting ‘War Criminal Petraeus Out of CUNY Now,’ I was shocked to see several police officers grab and brutalize one of the demonstrators,” said City College student Yexenia Vanegas. “This was completely unprovoked, as demonstrators made clear that they were there to defend our university in a peaceful protest.” The attack occurred in front of CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College, where Petraeus has been appointed to teach a class on public policy.
“Protesters were marching in a circle on the sidewalk and chanting, but the police forced them into the street and then charged. One of the most brutal things I saw was that five police officers slammed a Queens College student face down to the pavement across the street from Macaulay, put their knees on his back, and he was then repeatedly kneed in the back,” said Hunter student Michael Brian. The student was one of those pointed out by “white shirt” officers, then seized and brutalized. A Latina woman student was heaved through the air and slammed to the ground.
The arrested students were released Wednesday evening, and although they have sustained injuries and missed classes, they still resolved to carry on the campaign. All defenders of students’ basic right to protest are urged to support them in their protest of Petraeus’s classes, next Monday September 23.
A broad range of CUNY students, faculty and staff members have been carrying out a campaign of “protest and exposure” against the Board of Trustees’ appointment of Petraeus, whose documented actions as Iraq/Afghanistan war commander and CIA chief include drone attacks upon civilians, and the creation of torture centers and death squads. When Petraeus was setting up special police commandos, the “dirty tactics” that were used included the use of white phosphorus, a chemical weapon, against the population in Fallujah. “Petraeus’ man” Col. James Steele, who organized death squads in Central America, had been brought to the area to organize death squads there.
With the NYPD being sent to brutalize and arrest CUNY students on behalf of a certified war criminal, organizers state that this blatant use of police brutality against peaceful protesters will not intimidate or deter those who expose the truth about the actions of David “Death Squad” Petraeus and oppose attempts to turn the City University into “a war college.”
Stay Informed. Get Involved. Be Active.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
50 years ago on August 28th, 1963 estimates of 250,000 people attended the rally and march on Washington, D.C. where Dr. King delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech. Both his speech and the march have become staples in American history and the civil rights movement of the era.
On Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 an anniversary rally was held to honor the occasion and to reflect on our nation’s history. President Obama spoke on the 28th as well; likely as a symbol of the institutional progress America has made since the historic day 50 years ago.
While the event on the 28th marked the anniversary of the original march in 1963, another march and rally took place on Saturday, August 24th, calling for organization, mobilization, and action. This was the more important day of the two. Mainly because this event highlighted the reality of present-day America. Truth be told there was an obnoxious, but not surprising, political motive behind this march: To vote for the Democrats in the coming election. This element of political posturing likely induced an eye-roll or two but no one at the march was misled about the institutional digression which has taken place since 50 years ago.
Issues discussed at this rally included Voting Rights (in light of the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn the Voting Rights Act of 1965), Trayvon’s Law, the Prison Industrial Complex (also sometimes referred to as “The New Jim Crow”), ALEC (or the American Legislative Exchange Council) which was influential in getting Florida’s Stand Your Ground law passed, the need to raise the minimum wage… and much much more.
Let’s address the above issues quickly. First, the overturn of the Voting Rights Act. Have a look at the “literacy” test Louisiana gave black voters in the 1960s. Things like that were ruled unconstitutional due to the Voting Rights Act. Before the Voting Rights Act was passed people may have had to recite the preamble to the US Constitution from memory to vote. It reads as follows:
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
While the above is certainly a notable literary passage it’s hard to see how memorizing it would be crucial to your ability to vote on the issues of the day; or for candidates who would vote on the issues. Nevertheless, for some in North Carolina, it was required prior to the VRA of 1965. The most recent instances of voter suppression in North Carolina (which were also discussed at their weekly event, Moral Mondays) include the removal of one week of early voting and the end of Sunday voting. Sunday voting is a serious attack on blacks and other minorities because very often church groups in those communities organize people to vote on Sundays after church. There was also a poll tax placed on students in North Carolina. If a student wants to vote in a district by their school which is not the same district as their parents, the parents will have to pay $2,500.
Learn about Trayvon’s Law which calls for an end to racial profiling, a repeal of stand your ground-type laws, law enforcement accountability through effective police oversight, improving training and best practices for community watch groups, and mandating law enforcement data collection on homicide cases involving people of color.
The Prison Industrial Complex was addressed as well…
The United States houses 5% of the world’s total population. It also houses 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. Put in perspective there are around 7 billion people on the planet now; of those 7 billion about 8.8 million are incarcerated worldwide; of those 7 billion worldwide 300 million reside in the United States; of those 300 million in the United States 2.2 million are incarcerated. Of those 2.2 million about 70% are minorities and people of color. Put in perspective there are more black men now in prison, or under the watch of the criminal justice system, than there were enslaved in 1850. The Prison Industrial Complex has grown to the point it has due to the profits which can be made from it. Yes. You can actually buy stock in the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and watch your money grow as more prisons are built, more people are incarcerated and more production is derived from prisons and its prisoners.
“The New Jim Crow” primarily refers to the mass incarceration of people of color; and Latinos to a lesser degree. The drug war is another component of The New Jim Crow. For marijuana alone there are 800,000 people in prison. This is more about race than anything else though. Statistically, more whites in suburban areas do drugs than blacks or Latinos in urban areas. The drug war though is international so the Prison Industrial Complex (mass incarceration) is the largest domestic component of The New Jim Crow. Poverty is also included in The New Jim Crow.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was another issue at the march…
The existence of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law (pushed by ALEC) has made people more aware of ALEC. It is important though to understand the influence of ALEC, in general. ALEC is a non-profit organization where corporate members and legislators come together as equals, and members of ALEC, to debate on policy. Public and private members vote separately on policy after joint debate. As ALEC facilitates policy manipulation and no laws are actually passed, debated or adopted during this process; there is no lobbying which takes place.
“Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law. ALEC describes itself as a “unique,” “unparalleled” and “unmatched” organization.” (Source)
Following is a list of some of ALEC’s work:
Electricity Freedom Act
Resolution in Support of the Keystone XL Pipeline
Voter ID Act
Arizona’s SB 1070 Immigration Law: “No Sanctuary for Illegal Immigrants Act”
Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act
Intrastate Coal and Use Act
Stand Your Ground
The original march in 1963 drew about 250,000 people. The march on the 24th drew the same number if not slightly more. Furthermore, the diversity in terms of age, race and gender was remarkable. There is no question that a call to action has been recognized to address inequalities and injustices which have now spread to a very diverse swath of the American public. Important to note is how socially, there has been progress over the past 50 years in how the different sects of the public in America live together and relate to one another. Unfortunately, from an institutional standpoint those who originally found themselves fighting for civil rights back in 1963 have been subjected to increased prejudice since then.
Nevertheless the march on August 24th was very inspiring and the number of people in attendance certainly rivaled the original march 50 years ago.
Here is a reaction to the crowd from activist Lisa Fithian.
Here is a very positive reaction to the march from an attendee referring to herself as Queen Mother. In this clip, to say the least she is overjoyed but she is also very motivated to work to bring the youth together as she mentions the upcoming Million Youth March, in Harlem.
Another protester was asked this to comment on the institutional digression. In this clip the protester discusses primarily the cuts made to education and the resulting integration of schools.
To expand briefly over the past 2 years, in New York, 20 schools have been closed in primarily underprivileged areas. Philadelphia has been subjected to this as well as Chicago which closed 49 of the recommended 54 schools this year. The students belonging to those schools then get sent to another building where two schools are co-located. When this happens those students end up having to readjust to a new social environment while they are getting their educations. Not only this but the teachers as well have to adjust to a larger student body who is also adjusting to a new group of classmates. The only thing that really doesn’t readjust is the space provided for education after co-location.
Usually the justification for closing the schools is a lack of resources, a deficit, or poor student performance. At the same time though Chicago found the money to build a multimillion dollar sports complex the same year as the closings. Also, in general this country spends 10′s of thousands of dollars to pay for prison inmates, for example. Far less money is put towards educational systems which could keep said kids out of trouble and out of prison (and we’ve established the Prison Industrial Complex houses mostly Black and Latinos, who are most affected by school closures). Also, a failure to tax the wealthy will often result in a deficit. When you have a deficit and don’t fund education properly you very often end up with poor student performance as they are not given the resources they need. All together it makes for a very convincing argument that education is just not working and there is legitimate reason to close schools and invest in privatized education. “The kids just aren’t learning!”
Needless to say a call to action had been recognized and the crowds proved it. Watch footage of a march led by the NAACP.
Read a summary of the march here…
Dr. King’s legacy was one of non-violence. It was not a legacy of non-violence because King did not believe in standing up for oneself (the entire civil rights movement was about standing up for yourself). It was a legacy of non-violence because at the time no matter how much black people were beaten, if there was even the slightest retaliation, the retaliation would be what made the news. Today, we look back and see the virtues of non-violent civil disobedience as a sign of love, and a peaceful redress of grievances. Back then it was much more strategic.
To honor Dr. King’s legacy the NYC Light Brigade went down to D.C. to take part in the march on the 24th but also to remember the civil rights leader, in their own way, the night before. In addition to attending in support of the anniversary the Light Brigade had a slightly different message to show. The absurdity of what they ended up dealing with highlighted even more of the institutional digression which has taken place throughout America for everyone.
The NYC Light Brigade joined the Light Brigade Maryland and the Veterans for Peace by the Lincoln Memorial. While both Light Brigade groups proceeded to the steps of the Lincoln memorial for a light show; the Veterans had speak-outs of a sensibly anti-war nature… but there was another element to them…
Veteran Tarak speaks and compares President Obama to Dr. King.
Next a woman addressed the group and read a poem.
Following the speak-outs as the Veterans proceeded to the Vietnam memorial the Light Brigades were already putting on their light shows…
Following the display at the Lincoln Memorial the Veterans and the Light Brigades made their way to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. All they wanted to do was spell the phrase “We Have A Dream.” They were not allowed and as such speak-outs were held to voice discontent.
They did eventually get into the memorial though…
Here is an account from Athena of the NYC Light Brigade:
“After we were told by an assault rifle-armed park officer that we were not allowed into the MLK memorial with our letter panels, we realized that taking any shots of our Light Brigade messages in front of the MLK statue would be next to impossible. But we did not just go away. Rather we stood, with our message all lined up in our allotted space: the 3′ wide sidewalk between the water and the monument grounds. Martin Luther King was in fact behind us, but good luck getting back far enough to get any sort of all-encompassing shot. All we needed was to stand a few feet into ‘monument grounds’ to get the shot we needed: Our letters spelling out I HAVE A DREAM and Martin Luther King solemnly looking out over them. There we persisted, trying any calm tactic we could think of: singing ‘We Shall Overcome’, trying to level with the guard (“come on man, just one picture”), individuals going up and talking to him one-on-one.”
Watch a scene from the confrontation with the US Park Service.
It’s worth noting how the harassment the NYC Light Brigade received at the MLK Memorial may have been related to this anti-protest bill.
The next stop was the White House…
Read an account from Light Brigade member Marilu:
“In the van on our way to the next location, I mentioned how much you can get away with if you are saying that you are making a video, a movie, or a commercial when it has nothing to do with anything relevant, and are even allowed to go into private areas. When we arrived at the White House, we were told that we were allowed to stand on the street; if on the sidewalk, then we had to keep moving; and to not lean on the fence. It was nighttime, and not many people were around the already unlit White House. As we noticed a group of drunk tourists leaning on the fence without being disturbed, we approached the sidewalk and started to assemble for the picture… ‘What are you guys doing?” one of the policemen asked as he approached us. “We are Art students!!’ I instinctively yelled out, loudly, so that everyone could hear and maybe follow… ‘it’s a thesis project (minding our ages), we brought helpers, been working on it for a while, thanks!’ The policeman responded ‘Oh!, heh, OK!… As long as y’all are not protesting or anythin’ like that! heheh.’”
“I could not believe, how, in front of the President’s abode itself, the security was letting us do what we peacefully intended to do in front of the statue of MLK Jr. because we said we were art students. In front of a statue of Dr. King though, we were not allowed to assemble and take pictures like tourists would; they knew we were protesters and activists, not drunk tourists, or art students making their thesis project, or filming a commercial… so we were harassed.”
“What school are y’all from???” The other guard came up to ask defiantly. “Pratt!, in Brooklyn” I yelled, thinking of how one of the people in our group (Athena) had just told me she went to Pratt and majored in painting. “We came all the way here!”
“So the policemen stood there and watched us take the picture in the sidewalk, with the drunk tourists helping us to hold up the letters as we engaged the small crowd to help us. Some of the younger ‘helpers’ started asking me what we were really doing; and as I started explaining the message and that they were helping the Light brigade with their messaging, they would fill up with pride and smile with their letters.”
The first message the Light Brigade displayed was the following…
The second one they displayed was done so that they could make the following for when Barack Obama would speak on Wednesday at the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
That photo was included in a twitter storm for “#IHaveADrone” which went into action as President Obama was speaking on the 28th.
Here are some tweets:
#IHaveADrone that one day all the children of the world will be able to join hands and not be blown up by flying killer robots.
You know what is more disrespectful than #ihaveadrone ? Having Clinton on stage who’s welfare reform destroyed POC.
Obama bemoans shrinking economic pie. Cut #drones from budget and save billions. #IHaveADrone
Khaled Z (@der_bluthund)
The Secret Drone War (BBC Documentaries):
Khaled Z (@der_bluthund)
#IHaveADrone Obama, claims that drone strikes are precise and only target terrorists. But 98% of those killed by drone strikes are civilians
Remi Kanazi (@Remroum)
Obama: Because of civil rights movement society changed. Because of me: Wars expanded, spying increased & corporations thrived. #IHaveADrone
Peaceful Terra-ist (@CyMadD0x)
“One who condones evils is just as guilty as the one who perpetrates it.” -MLK. Obama is the perpetrator & condones it #IHaveADrone
Peaceful Terra-ist (@CyMadD0x)
A nation that continues yr after yr to spend more $ on military defense than on social uplift is approaching spiritual doom. #IHaveADrone
MLK 2013: Focus on the task at hand not on the past. From #IHaveADream to #IHaveaDrone is NOT acceptable. #RiseUp
K. Flowers (@Katherine34481)
What would Dr. King say about the murder of Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki? K. Flowers (@Katherine34481)
The #IHaveaDream of Martin Luther King to #IHaveaDrone Obama! Return the Nobel Peace Prize pic.twitter.com/swA4ANgtMd
The idea behind this twitter storm, and the juxtaposed photo above, was to critique President Obama for speaking to honor a civil rights leader who stood for peace; all while he carries out what is essentially a global assassination campaign, involving lots of collateral damage and violations of international airspace.
The only thing left to post is Dr. King’s most underrated, most unknown (and possibly his best) speech; which also critiques the country which still has the same war mongering mentality it did during Vietnam.
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A few days ago Egypt’s military raided the pro-Morsi sit-downs in Rabaa and other parts of Egypt. The raids turned bloody and the death toll has been estimated at around 700. Many more were wounded, and many children were killed as well. As such the primary media narrative is logically focused around the brutality of the Egyptian military. This narrative makes perfect sense, there was a massacre at their hands.
There is another element to this however which has not been touched on. Simply put the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda have ties to one another. It’s important to stress that I cannot confirm the extent of these ties. If the Muslim Brotherhood considers itself Al-Qaeda, or if Al-Qaeda merely support the Muslim Brotherhood is not something I have extensive information on. However the fact remains there is a connection and one which cannot be ignored.
To illustrate this connection the first thing to do is show the Al-Qaeda flag. Back in 2012 there were protests at the US embassy in Egypt against a film’s depiction of the Islamic prophet Mohammed.
In the above photo note the black flack (top, left-of-center) which displays a white circle and white Arabic lettering. That is an Al-Qaeda flag.
At this demonstration at the US embassy the American flag eventually was taken down and replaced with an Al-Qaeda flag:
Having established what the Al-Qaeda flag looks like let’s turn to the protests in Egypt…
The following photo is from pro-Morsi protests by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Note the black flag being displayed on the left.
Now to make the connection between the two groups even stronger, note the next photo:
The above flag has a different design but I believe it is an Al-Qaeda flag as well. Note also the photos of Morsi.
Having established a connection, however large or small, between the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda it seems there may have been more of a reason for what the military did. Understand this is in no way meant to excuse the severity of what the military did. Massacring 700 people, children included, is not to be excused no matter who the group protesting is; especially when the extent of connection between the two groups is not certain.
Nevertheless, questions to ask ourselves:
How close is the connection between the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda?
Was there Al-Qaeda recruitment going on during the pro-Morsi/anti-coup protests?
Though the leader of Al-Qaeda is reported to have condemned ex-President Morsi for abandoning Jihad (to satisfy the United States) how connected was ex-President Morsi with Al-Qaeda?
Finally, is the established connection to Al-Qaeda another potential reason for why President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were ousted?
Now to discuss another element of the recent massacre. Taken maybe a week or so after the protests to have Morsi reinstated began; we see a helicopter dispersing flyers over the pro-Morsi camp:
The flyers are warning of an eventual raid and telling the protesters to disperse. As we know the protesters did not disperse. The reason for showing this last photo is to illustrate the fact that the military did not just spontaneously massacre the protests. I want to stress whether or not there was a warning, it does not excuse the brutality of the police and military.
My exposure to all of this has been through social media. I can’t even imagine what those in Egypt are now having to deal with. Even people I know in Egypt who supported the ouster of Morsi have felt sickened and disgraced by the actions of the military. There is never an excuse for actions which produced the charred bodies or severed limbs that I saw in photos. The worst I’ve seen was one of a person holding someone’s brain in their hand.
The military has committed horrific acts. At the same time though as there were children killed during the massacres, and the pro-Morsi rallies were warned of what was coming (as we can see from the photo with the helicopter), I do not think we can only blame the military for the deaths of children. The people of Egypt are not new to military brutality, it would seem likely some could have speculated on the severity of the coming raids after receiving the military’s warning.
Following the military’s actions the Muslim Brotherhood called for a “Friday of anger” march to denounce the military for its aggression. The military, having declared martial law after the raids, said they were prepared to use violence again. It remains to be seen what will happen and how things will unfold in Egypt. The revolution may be far from over…
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On August 8th, 2013 a rally and march took place to demand accountability for NYPD officer Richard Haste’s shooting and killing of the unarmed, 18-year-old, Ramarley Graham in his apartment in The Bronx.
Before going any further it’s important to show the surveillance footage from the night Graham was killed.
(Note: The above footage is from WPIX News. Skip to the 0:38 second mark to find the surveillance footage.)
In the footage you see Ramarley Graham walk casually to his apartment, he turns his head briefly for whatever reason prior to entering the apartment and then goes in. Shortly after he disappears from the camera into his apartment we see two police officers rush to the door. A police officer then attempts to kick the locked door in. He is not successful. An important point to note (which is mentioned in the video): there was no warrant to enter the residence.
The rally for the slain teen began outside The Bronx District Attorney’s office where a press conference had been held earlier that day in response to the court proceedings the day before; where it was decided the case would not be heard. Graham was killed in February of 2012. Back in May of 2013 the “Bronx DA’s office erroneously instructed members of the grand jury that they did not have to consider if Officer Richard Haste’s colleagues informed him that 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was armed.” The Judge complied with the District Attorney. (To learn more about the legal battle read here.)
At the August 8th press conference Councilman Jumaane Williams spoke about the injustice of the court proceedings. Ramarley Graham was killed in the bathroom as he was allegedly trying to flush a bag of weed down the toilet. He was killed in front of his grandmother and his 7-year-old brother. The shooting officer, Richard Haste, defended his actions by claiming he thought Graham had a gun.
The rally and march took place not only because yet another black youth had been killed by the NYPD, but also because the case was thrown out due to a technicality preventing an indictment.
The rally began outside the District Attorney’s office in The Bronx.
After some speak-outs in front of the District Attorney’s office the march took off.
The march proceeded from The Bronx over the 145 Street Bridge into Harlem.
(Note: Due to an archiving error my footage was not stored for a certain period during this march. Hence the lack of footage up to this point. However as my feed was still transmitting the folks at www.livestream.com/OccupyEarth (@MacDaill) had it archived.
Marching into Harlem from the 145 St Bridge:
Once in Harlem the march headed to the 32nd precinct.
Upon arriving at the 32nd precinct Ramarley’s father, Frank Graham, delivered a very impassioned and heartfelt speak out.
Following the time in front of the precinct the march continued to the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building for final speak outs, some songs, and some prayer.
About 20 minutes into the linked footage is when the group arrives at the office building chanting against racist police with a fantastic rhythm that really energized the march.
The march and rally were very moving on their own. Seeing Mr. Graham consistently repeat to new groups of bystanders why the march was taking place (as we moved through the street) was even more powerful. Not only was it powerful, it was fantastic outreach from a broken man who wanted nothing more than to see justice served to Richard Haste, the NYPD officer who killed his 18-year-old boy. Each speak-out was unique and each was also clear as to what had happened. It’s hard not to sympathize with a father who has lost his child for no reason. Even harder when he lost his child at the hands of a police officer who entered a private residence with no warrant, and then as well when the courts turned their backs on him as they found they could not indict.
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On July 29th the third national day of Fast Food strikes took place to demand “15 and a union.” The current pay for Fast Food employees is $7.25 and they currently have no union to fight on their behalf to get better wages or benefits.
The first walk out took place in Washington Heights where a few days prior, during a heatwave, the employees were forced to keep working after a worker passed out from heat exhaustion and a malfunctioning air conditioner.
Watch the protest outside said McDonald’s.
The first protest began at around 10 am. The second protest began around noon, in The Bronx, at a McDonald’s by Yankee Stadium.
As part of the demonstration, after rallying in front of the McDonald’s the protest marched to its front door to deliver a letter to the management.
The next rally and march began in Union Square at 2:45pm. After about 20 minutes the rally marched to the nearby McDonald’s and had speak outs there.
Following the rally the workers marched to the offices of 32BJ. Watch a short interview with a McDonald’s worker as we marched to 32BJ.
As usual the talking heads on TV had their chances to add their 2 cents about the strikes. Here is the Daily Show’s rebuttal.
Important to note is how these protests are spreading. On July 29th there were participating groups in Kansas City, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee. The first time the protests occurred they took place in New York City alone. This time, in addition to Fast Food there were also walk-outs from retail giants such as Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret. This fight is about 15 and a union for Fast Food workers, however it also addresses the larger issue of “You can’t survive on $7.25.” Meaning, the minimum wage in this country is not enough to live on. Truth be told even members of congress have admitted you need to make about $40,000 per year in order to not live in poverty. Furthermore, $40,000 per year would actually require a higher wage than $15 an hour. Nevertheless, you start with what you think you can achieve and then keep fighting for more.
There is no question that $15 an hour would certainly do a great deal of good for whose who currently only earn $7.25 an hour. When that $15 is combined with a union to fight for benefits… it’s a step in the right direction for sure.
On a personal note I have documented Fast Food protests 3 times. Two of those times though I heard a very strange comment. The idea that in order to pay the workers $15 it would only require a small increase in the price of the food for consumers. This is something I do not support. Yes, if you are going to pay the workers more one way to cover the cost is to raise the price. However, this could also contribute to inflation. Instead, why don’t we keep the price of the food the same and make the CEOs of these companies pay their employees more using the money they’ve made in profits?
The embedded clip from The Daily Show above reports a figure showing McDonald’s making $5.5 billion in profits alone last year. Other fast food chains can probably boast similar numbers of wealth. As such, to raise the price of a meal so you can pay your workers more is really just placing more of the burden back onto the people who are already hurting from a bad economy.
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The trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning has concluded. Now all that awaits is his sentencing. He pleaded guilty to counts which would have given him 20 years in prison. He was found “Not Guilty” of the most severe charge of “Aiding the Enemy” which carried a life sentence with no parole. Of the 21 other crimes he was charged he was found guilty of 19. He faces a maximum of 136 years (minus 3 years for time served).
Some call him a whistle-blower; some see him as an army private who stepped out of line and is now being rightfully penalized for insubordination.
The best way to answer this question is to look into exactly what he released.
The below video is titled Collateral Murder. Within the United States; this video is probably the most well known thing which Manning released. Be sure to watch through the end to see rescuers get gunned down in addition to the initial targets. These are war crimes.
Of the above video, “An internal U.S. military investigation concluded that the incident was consistent with the military’s ‘Rules of Engagement.’” (Source article is referenced later)
That video as well as hundreds of thousands of other documents were released to the public by Manning via Wikileaks. (A website which had actually earned a good degree of respect from rest of the journalism community, when it published documents exposing the crimes of Swiss Bankers and the corruption of foreign governments.)
Quoting Wikipedia’s article on the Reception of Wikileaks “The organisation has won a number of awards, including The Economist’s New Media Award in 2008 at the Index on Censorship Awards and Amnesty International’s UK Media Award in 2009. In 2010, the New York Daily News listed WikiLeaks first among websites “that could totally change the news”, and Julian Assange received the Sam Adams Award and was named the Readers’ Choice for TIME’s Person of the Year in 2010. The UK Information Commissioner has stated that “WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered citizen”. In its first days, an Internet petition calling for the cessation of extrajudicial intimidation of WikiLeaks attracted over six hundred thousand signatures. Supporters of WikiLeaks in the media and academia have commended it for exposing state and corporate secrets, increasing transparency, supporting freedom of the press, and enhancing democratic discourse while challenging powerful institutions.”
That praise was awarded when Wikileaks exposed the malevolent actions of international governments and corporations. When Wikileaks released the Bradley Manning trove, they were no longer the “good guys.” Which brings us to where we are now and Bradley Manning’s trial.
Only days before the pre-trial was set to begin a massive rally and march took place in Ft. Meade, Maryland outside the base where the trial would take place.
Watch footage of the rally before the march.
The following footage is of the march after the rally.
A rally took place after the march as well. In this clip Daniel Ellsburg, who leaked the Pentagon papers (drastically affecting public opinion about the war in Vietnam), speaks in support of Bradley Manning.
On July 27th, two months later (and about 3 days before trial ended), as there had been limited news coverage of what was a very significant event in American history, demonstrations took place around the country to inform the public. In New York, Strawberry Fields was the location of choice.
To begin the event in Strawberry Fields organizers set out a collection of folders. Each folder contained a news article which discussed one of the cables which Bradley Manning released.
(Note: The folders in the above photos contained articles which are still publicly accessible via internet search).
Watch an interview with one of the organizers as she elaborates more on the makeshift files.
Street theater was later performed in Columbus Circle to give perspective on who Bradley Manning was.
An interview afterward elaborated on how the street theater was created, and many more things.
3 days later a verdict was reached in Pfc. Manning’s trial. He was found Not Guilty of Aiding the Enemy and 2 more charges, out of the total 21. He was however found guilty of 19 charges which together would carry a maximum sentence of 136 years in prison. For a list of the charges and the verdict see this link on journalist Alexa O’Brien’s website (follow her on twitter @carwinb).
For a more descriptive version of the list of the charges follow this link.
For a comical analysis of the verdict in the Bradley Manning trial check out this clip from the Colbert Report.
Once again it’s important to understand the extent of the information which Manning leaked:
His leak gave great insight into what exactly the United States government is really up to behind closed doors. Some may argue that the things he released are things which need to happen and which every government does. Fine, does this mean the public should not be aware of these things though and should not have the right to decide whether or not they approve of these dealings (as their tax dollars are the source of revenue)? Check out this article.
The above article has a short elaboration on each of the following topics:
“There is an official policy to ignore torture in Iraq.”
“U.S. officials were told to cover up evidence of child abuse by contractors in Afghanistan.”
“Guantanamo prison has held mostly innocent people and low-level operatives.”
“There is an official tally of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“U.S. Military officials withheld information about the indiscriminate killing of Reuters journalists and innocent Iraqi civilians.” (This relates to the first video in this post which shows a pilot gunning down Iraqis from an Apache helicopter)
“The State Department backed corporate opposition to a Haitian minimum wage law.”
“The U.S. Government had long been faking its public support for Tunisian President Ben Ali.”
(The release of this information contributed to the public’s ousting of their President).
“Known Egyptian torturers received training from the FBI in Quantico, Virginia.”
(Also released of Egypt were President Hosni Mubarak’s views of democracy and freedom.)
“The State Department authorized the theft of the UN Secretary General’s DNA.”
“The Japanese and U.S. Governments had been warned about the seismic threat at Fukushima.”
“The Obama Administration allowed Yemen’s President to cover up a secret U.S. drone bombing campaign.”
(Note to the reader: My last blog post goes into more detail on the U.S. drone bombing campaign and much more.)
A rarely mentioned connection:
One of the above quotes explains how Bradley Manning’s leak contributed in the Tunisian Revolution. This in-turn (combined with the documents leaked pertaining to Egypt) contributed to the Egyptian revolution and the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s reign (something which had been approved to last to the end of his life as was revealed via Manning’s leak).
The Egyptian revolution, and the Tahrir Square occupation, contributed greatly to the start of the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States. See the original call from the Canadian magazine Adbusters.org:
“America needs its own Tahrir acampada now more than ever. Can we get 20,000 people to flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, a democratic assembly and occupy Wall Street for a few months?”
The Occupy movement in the US went on to change the national conversation from a discussion manufactured by corporate interests to a narrative of economic inequality, corporate influence in government, and financial sector misdeeds. Ironically, this also helped Obama win a second election as the Democratic party used the language of Occupy for their own political gains.
Thus, by law of transit-property (filled with tons of irony!), Bradley Manning’s leak actually helped President Barack Obama’s reelection. Understand, I don’t like Obama but many others do and now you have Manning to thank for Mitt Romney’s defeat! Actually, so does Obama! As such, he should pardon Manning accordingly…
It’s just good business… the favor game !
Jokes aside Bill Maher recently had an excellent discussion on Real Time about what Bradley Manning exposed and whether or not the leak was the right thing to do:
For another discussion, check out the following clip from CNN where Glenn Greenwald and Jeffrey Toobin discuss leaks and whistle-blowers from Bradley Manning, to Edward Snowden, to Daniel Ellsburg:
In the above videos there is a certain aspect of trial which is not being addressed. It is an issue which only really hits close to home if you are someone who has served in the military, or understand how military procedure works. By this I mean the “chain of command.” More specifically, the freedom to speak against wrongs or to “step out of line” and do what is individually thought of as the “right thing.”
When it comes to carrying out a mission in the field, there is likely some autonomy in assessing situations. When it comes to handling sensitive information however, there is absolutely none. You do as you are told and that’s all there is to it. Daniel Ellsburg did not serve in the military when he released the Pentagon papers. Edward Snowden worked as a contractor for the NSA before his leak. Bradley Manning was actually a soldier. Soldiers are considered to follow a different structure than government employees or contractors. There is no room for error when you are a soldier.
For this reason some have immediately dismissed any kind of sympathy for Bradley Manning as opposed to Snowden. Even still the greatest irony of Bradley Manning, as said in the above videos; the documents he released were not of the highest level sensitivity (compared to Daniel Ellsburg who released documents of very high-level security clearance). Nevertheless solely because of his position Pfc. Manning has received a great deal more disdain than Ellsburg ever did. Also, the media’s portrayal of any left-of-center issue has drastically changed since the time when the Pentagon Papers were released.
Personally, I see Manning as a brave whistle-blower. I’m not at all surprised about the torture he’s endured or how his trial has proceeded though. After understanding what his leaks reflected of US policy I would say his treatment makes sense (he was tortured). As such it would certainly be in Snowden’s best interests to never step foot in America again.
Enough digression. Watch this panel from April 5th for a discussion on the implications of the Bradley Manning trial and the message it sends to others who might consider whistle-blowing.
“I prefer a painful truth over any blissful fantasy,” Manning wrote in an online chat. Minutes later he added: “I think I’ve been traumatized too much by reality, to care about consequences of shattering the fantasy.” And he also wrote: “I want people to see the truth … regardless of who they are … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”
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Run to the corner and hide, there is no hope we are all in grave danger. Trust the news!
Go ahead huddle in the corner, bite your fingernails, turn pale and shiver. Make sure you are curled into a fetal position. You’ll be less exposed to the elements, and therefore, safer.
Actually, no, recent information has come to light that the NSA has been snooping on American citizens in the interest of keeping us safe. This being the case there is no need for the fetal position. It’s okay, you can come out now! The government has got you covered! There is certainly no way they are taking advantage of the fact that they have such access. I mean they have oversight… right?
There is fortunately an outcry over what has been revealed and a conversation created which is excellent. A conversation unfortunately then turned into the dead-end argument of “Do we want to be kept safe or not?” and then turned into a hide-and-seek report-back of “Where is Edward Snowden now?” The proper discussion to have is actually “How much oversight do those with surveillance access have as they carry out their duties?” No matter what, the conversation of our approach and handling of the “threat of terrorism” is an important one to have. The country doesn’t always react in such a productive manner though. Our reaction to the Boston Bombing was one such example.
Maybe two months ago I was on the train in New York and it had to stop for about 10 minutes in the station because of a “suspicious package.” I know the train was stopped for this reason because the conductor walked through the car 5 minutes into the stop and asked “Has anyone seen a bag that does not belong to them?”
I’ll guess and say this probably happened to a few other people who might have not thought anything of it at all. They also evacuated the Port Authority bus terminal because of a “suspicious package” that apparently looked like a “box of grenades.” I feel like we are drastically overreacting to the potential for terrorism.
While I do not aim to dismiss what happened there at all; we need to reevaluate our reaction to the Boston bombing. It was horrible, and having connection with the Boston marathon I was shaken by the news on a personal level. Understand I do not think we live in a utopian society where there is never any legitimate threat of terrorism. What I do think is we were scared by the news, at first, and then by the following hype. (This hype includes the mainstream media’s sensationalized coverage of the bombing’s aftermath; but also of the people trying to explain exactly what happened that day despite their never having been to Boston once.) News coverage, the inevitable conspiracy theories, and the heightened security state pumped down our throats all fit into the category of “hype surrounding the Boston Marathon.”
To build the hype were many comparisons between the Boston bombing and 9/11.
Anyone who compares the two without any sense of humor really needs to step back a bit. How many people died or were injured on 9/11 and its aftermath? How many died or were injured in the Boston bombings? There is no point in even referencing figures in this case because we all know the casualties from 9/11 were exponentially worse. People are still facing respiratory problems, depression, insomnia, and many other things just for having worked in the area or for helping with rescue efforts after 9/11. I still see ads about this 12 years later on the subway. How many people present at the Boston bombing can claim those same ailments?
Our reaction to the Boston Bombing was exacerbated by the war on terror. Case and point: the below photos of the scene in Times Square maybe 2 hours after the Bombing had occurred:
Let’s remind ourselves of the location of the bombing that day: Boston
Let’s recognize exactly where the police and news crews are in the above photos: Times Square, New York.
Why did they need to assemble so many officers in Times Square, the most heavily fortified and surveyed place in New York, for something that happened in Boston? Why did there need to be a news crew present? (FYI I did ask the news crew if they were there for the Boston Bombing and they replied “yes.”). Doesn’t the news have better things to do than cover the Boston Bombing from Times Square, in New York? (Keep that question rhetorical )
There were also helicopters hovering above New York for the rest of the day into the night.
New York essentially went to Code Red terror alert for something drastically smaller than the attacks on 9/11, in a location 200 miles away. Considering New York’s exposure and experiences with terrorist attacks 12 years prior on 9/11 it seems to me we overreacted just a bit. The country didn’t suddenly become vulnerable over night to the forces of terror, and evil, plotting to destroy “the very principles of freedom and democracy we cherish.”
It was a great opportunity for media sensationalism though.
The NYPD discussed the need to ramp up security as well. In fact, this article from The Daily News was entitled “‘We’re going to have more visibility and less privacy’: Mayor Bloomberg admits soon NYPD surveillance cameras will be on nearly every corner and in the air.” By the way, that article and the Mayor are saying they will be adding more surveillance to what is already in place.
What is in place already? Have a look!
This is a CBS news report on the largest surveillance center in the nation already in operation in New York (a news report from before the Boston bombing). If you watch until the end of the news report you find the reason for the report is to ask for more funding to get more surveillance equipment. Do they really need that much surveillance as it is? Do we really have such a deep-seated mistrust of our neighbors, and the world, that we need to have a Panopticon in New York City for the police to watch over the very citizens paying taxes to keep the system running (in the off-chance they find something worth chasing after)? Can we really afford to put so much effort into surveillance and the war on terror (to “keep us safe”) when doing so has prevented the proper resources from being put towards prosecuting the financial crimes which led to the 2008 crash?
And just to throw it out there can we really put all this money into surveillance and the War on Terror at the expense of other things such as “the inevitable” closing of 20 public schools two years in a row in New York? Or 50 public schools in one year in Chicago?
Realize, the state has no problem asking for money to watch its people and “keep them safe;” but balks at the idea of using the money for better education and complains about the deficit, or poor student performance as an excuse. It also balks at the idea of prosecuting the financial crimes of bankers who very likely are profiting in some way from the War on Terror. Had more money gone towards education it’s very likely student performance would improve. A more educated population would likely know what is necessary to “keep themselves safe” without spending millions (?) to watch themselves. Finally, if we prosecuted financial crimes which led to the 2008 crash we would have seen repercussions for the bankers. So far there has been no accountability for the bankers and they actually became more powerful. Furthermore, they are still giving out bad loans. I, for one, am expecting some deja vu sooner or later…
We’ve been at war now for 12 years.
Even after 9/11 we were never up against an enemy with even near the same military capacity as the United States. Nevertheless we leveled two very small countries: One of which for essentially no reason (besides assuring oil wasn’t traded in Euros), the other because there were some terrorist cells there (nothing though with even close to the pervasiveness portrayed by the media). That was the first 8 years under President George W. Bush. Then came the Obama Presidency and the (expanded upon) drone program which has killed countless civilians overseas. See this article from Scientific American for information on US drone strikes in Pakistan alone. In the article is a link to an infographic on the extents of the drone program (roughly 3100 non-high profile targets killed and the number may have risen since then).
The above article and infographic, though accurate, were nonetheless cold, statistical and not terribly insightful as far as anything past an illustration that the United States is killing people needlessly. Not particularly moving. How about viewing this from another perspective? That of a Yemeni man, who had the benefit of an American education, speaking on the horrors of drone strikes against his village and the seething anger towards America which these strikes are cultivating…
The village the man came from actually had a decent opinion of America because of that man’s sharing his positive experiences of America with them. One drone strike and now the village hates us…
Based on that man’s testimony, and the stats on casualties in Pakistan alone, we have an idea of how much danger the country is in from the forces of terror and evil. There is certainly anger towards the United States in the world; some of which we may have created ourselves. Are we in as much danger as the media and government officials have described? My opinion: no. Well, at least nothing we’re not harvesting ourselves, ironically.
Watch this clip from The Real News as they discuss how former government officials say the US’s foreign policy is making US less safe:
There has been a great deal of propaganda to justify the above mentioned foreign efforts to “keep us safe” or to misdirect our attention from them. As a result there was little reaction to the procedural response of the authorities to the Boston Bombing. It’s worth asking why (after the bombing) the FBI got a chance to flex their muscles in, and shut down, Watertown in search of the bomber on the run. Yes, let’s repeat that. Actually, why not just quote wikipedia: “On the scene were the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Guard, the Boston and Watertown Police departments and the Massachusetts State Police. The show of force was the first major field test of the interagency task forces created in the wake of the September 11 attacks.” All this to search for one person.
Does that sound excessive to anyone else? I’m no expert on the tactics and procedures involved in, and required for, a manhunt. However, when you are only looking for one person wouldn’t a small team of police officers (not the military) accompanied by a police dog be sufficient to find one person? Even just from speaking in the defense of the Boston PD; one would think their officers are more than capable of finding one dude on the run. One dude on the run mind you, who wasn’t being given safe haven by anyone, anywhere. It would have been very hard to find one Bostonian who didn’t want this person in handcuffs and willing to help the Police in their search. Still… sending in the FBI, the military, a few other agencies and then declaring curfews makes perfect sense? Yes, okay fine, they found the bomber quicker because they didn’t have to navigate pedestrian or vehicle traffic… I suppose I can see how that justifies the tactics and procedures carried out… sarcasm…
May as well also show the video of a home being raided as police hunted for this one person.
About a minute-and-a-half in is when the fun begins. (There have been debates of whether or not this and other instances like it were violations of our 4th Amendment protection from illegal searches.)
Later the bomber on the run was captured and the media showed Boston in celebration from the terror of this one person. Was anyone shaken by the use of federal muscle though? If no one was bothered by the extent federal muscle used, I might say the terrorists won in Boston.
Now we’ve analyzed the state’s response to terrorism, let’s look at a more reasonable approach; courtesy of the Illuminator and some activists in New York:
Two different events were held as bookends to the week following the Boston Bombing. The first event was a projection of slides onto the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York with the word “Love” glowing below the building. This event took place at night on the same day as the Boston Bombing.
The slides read “Brooklyn Loves Boston,” “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” And a few more choice phrases.
Does it sound idealistic and naive to have shown these slides on the night of such a shocking event? Well this is what one of the organizers had to say about it:
A few days later as Watertown was put on lockdown and the manhunt to catch the single bomber on the run was being carried out the Illuminator shined again. This time it was in Manhattan and in the neighborhood, Chelsea.
Check out some of their projections:
As people came by I asked what they thought of the projections, the message behind them, and the comparison to how the media went about the Boston Bombing.
First were two women from Australia.
Second was a random passerby from the neighborhood.
The message here is to talk about the issues and not rush to conclusions. To think before we draw our guns, and go invading another place on the basis of fighting terrorism (which is like fighting a human emotion) or “spreading democracy” (which we never end up doing).
The war on terror has been going on since the 9/11 attacks, and many of those who supported it at first are probably starting to think that it may be starting to drag on a bit. We’ve pulled out of Iraq, but we’re still at war in other countries, in April we deployed troops to Jordan hinting at involvement in Syria, and many troops (in general) probably want to come home by now. When is it slated to end. Well, not anytime soon… “A spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified…the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today – atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted. Welcome to America’s Thirty Years War.”
And where will this “thirty-years war” be fought? Well, at home and abroad; supporting and defending the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic (to quote the United States Uniformed Services oath of office). Except as recent documents have exposed the majority of the threat is now… apparently… at home. At home and amongst the citizenry of the nation as the documents which Edward Snowden leaked have revealed. The defense for this “surveillance for domestic threats” has been that it will stop terrorism or help make connections to find terrorists. However, this article from beforeitsnews.com explains how most US Surveillance is actually not aimed at terrorists.
From the above referenced article, “Websites aimed at attracting traffic do their best to get noticed, paying to tailor their content to the real or perceived requirements of search engines such as Google. Terrorists have no such ambitions. They prefer to lurk in the dark recesses of the Undernet.”
An official from the Netherlands security service commented, “People who radicalise under the influence of jihadist websites often go through a number of stages…Their virtual activities increasingly shift to the invisible Web, their security awareness increases and their activities become more conspiratorial.”
With this in mind it seems important to question the current narrative being supplied by the media. Should our concern be the unanswerable, and loaded, question of: “Should we fight terrorism?” Or rather: “Who is providing the necessary oversight over the NSA as they carry out their surveillance, and is it effective in checking the power of those with access?” Expanding on that “What or who is keeping those with access to this information from using it in a malicious or abusive manner?” “Could those with access to this info be selling it to third parties?” Speaking of third parties why is the government contracting out the data to private companies (Snowden worked for Booze Allen analyzing data)? Shouldn’t they analyze the information themselves? Also, based on the above information in the article from beforeitsnews.com. Is the NSA even looking in the right places to stop terrorism?
Read this article for a quick synopsis of what Edward Snowden released. A program called PRISM was one thing which Edward Snowden leaked. For a visual representation of what exactly PRISM was check out these slides.
Now to be fair there has been a great deal of hype, as usual, surrounding what was leaked. This hype has led to paranoia, which has also led to some exaggerations (if that’s even possible) with regards to what Snowden revealed.
Read Fact and Fiction in the NSA Surveillance Scandal for more info.
Now remembering I said earlier the US was surveying its own people to keep its own people safe. Well the buck doesn’t stop there. We also like snooping on foreign officials too!
New NSA leaks show how US is bugging its European allies. Well that should help trade negotiations blossom!
That as well as 5 more points are discussed in this article.
As a result of the war on terror surveillance has found a specific target amongst Muslim groups. There is another group though which is not discussed at all though “the proliferation of white supremacist groups. This movement not only openly espouses racist and xenophobic goals, but has also effectively executed the most savage attacks on innocent Americans during this past year.” Is the definition of terrorism specific to acts committed by Muslims only?
Finally it’s time to address the biggest question which should be addressed in the whole NSA scandal. It’s not a question of keeping us safe. Rather it’s a question of the oversight the NSA is getting. Even President Obama has said “We’ve got congressional oversight and judicial oversight,”
Maybe but it doesn’t seem like it: “the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which was created in 1979 to oversee Department of Justice requests for surveillance warrants against foreign agents suspected of espionage or terrorism in the United States. But the FISC has declined just 11 of the more than 33,900 surveillance requests made by the government in 33 years, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. That’s a rate of .03 percent, which raises questions about just how much judicial oversight is actually being provided.” (See source)
Granted 33 years is a long time but still, when just 11 out of 33,900 requests get declined, I’d love to know what those 11 requests were for.
It’s important for me to stress that I do not think we live on a utopian planet. There are people who want to hurt others and I do want to see those people stopped. Example, the United States in hinting at involvement in the Syrian civil war. Am I happy to know that Syria is dealing with a civil war? No. Would I support United States’ involvement in Syria should we go to help them find peace amidst a civil war, and actually help bring about democracy there? Yes, I certainly would support a humanitarian effort like that. That’s not the intention though. US involvement is based on aiding the lesser of two geopolitical evils there. Our involvement in Iraq under George H. W. Bush which included our initial, more friendly relationship, with Saddam Hussein was the same circumstance. As was our initial support for the Taliban. Therefore, based on our track record, I’m against involvement there and think we should focus on the problems at home instead.
Another scary bit of current events is the recent break out of 500 Al-Quaeda members from Abu-Ghraib. Do I worry about where these Al-Quaeda members may go now? Yes. Am I concerned they may organize to attack us again using the hatred of America that has come as a result of our drone strikes? Yes. Do I think more drone strikes would be the solution to this concern? No. Drone strikes have caused far more damage than good. The concept of “fighting terror” with drone strikes is not working but instead is actually terrorism, in itself, to the innocent civilian victims of the strikes. It’s time for a new solution…
If what has caused so much hatred of America across the world is our foreign policy of intervention with much collateral damage where we are not wanted (something which pre-dates 9/11 by the way) and imperialism; the solution to the problem is not more of the same. I feel some risks need to be taken and maybe we shouldn’t keep sending troops across the globe, combined with an enhanced “security state” at home, and more drone strikes abroad. There must be another way of addressing the hatred the world feels towards us than by using the same tactics which also help to pad the pockets of military contractors like Boeing, General Electric, Lockheed Martin and others.
Ironically, I believe Dwight D. Eisenhower (something of a proponent of the military industrial complex) said it best:
“Preventive war was an invention of Hitler. Frankly, I would not even listen to anyone seriously that came and talked about such a thing.”
The War on Terror, drone strikes, and the NSA surveillance are examples of measures taken to carry out a preventative war which the tax payer is funding.
So the next time you see this, remember:
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On Thursday July 11, demonstrations against police brutality were held in Union Square. One demonstration was held to call attention to brutality at the hands of the NYPD, and other police forces. The other to highlight the brutality of the military-police in Brazil. Both protest groups had their own identities but worked in coalition with one another as well; to highlight the problems of police brutality around the world.
The following footage is of the demonstration more targeted at the NYPD.
Watch the protest centered largely around NYPD brutality. At the 22:30 mark a woman begins a very informed rant on the surveillance state, the militarization of the police, and the growing infringements on our civil liberties.
The footage below is of the demonstration bringing attention to military-police brutality in Brazil.
Watch a video of the speak out explaining the reason for the street performance in support of victims of police brutality in Brazil.
The above photo is the climax of the action explained, and then performed, in the below video.
Here is a video of the street performance. Demonstrators lay on the ground and cover themselves in black garbage bags. This was done in memory of those whom the Brazilian military-police has killed over the course of Brazilian protests. The memorial was carried out in this fashion to illustrate the Brazilian military-police’s practice of covering dead bodies with the same such bags.
Once the protesters had laid on the ground under the bags for 1 minute of silence, they rose and proceeded to read of the names of some of those killed at the hands of military-police.
Following the demonstration and reading of names a man spoke to the crowd about Brazilian foreign policy in Haiti. He said that Brazil was sending military forces to Haiti for 2 reasons:
The first reason: To look more aggressive in an attempt to earn their way on the UN Security Council, which apparently only allows the most aggressive countries, entry.
The second reason: To train the soldiers for Brazilian policing.
Important aspects to note of both the NYPD and the Brazilian police are how the NYPD is considered a para-military organization; Brazilian police are considered a military-police. Realize how neither the NYPD nor Brazil have a police force which can be classified in a way which does not equate them with a military force in some way. Neither force can be simply called: police.
The next questions to ask with this in mind then is the following:
What are the qualifications of a para-military police force?
What are the qualifications of a military-police force?
Especially in New York; do we need a police force which is classified as such?
Also important thing to bring to attention is the protests which happened throughout brazil on July 11th (which this event was in solidarity with). The protests on this day, as I understand it were of a different nature from the protests which sparked from the proposed fare hike. The protests of July 11 were much more union-oriented and not as multi-dimensional as the protests from just a month ago.
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