Sunday, March 1, 2015

People on the Right AND Left are Giving Me a Fright!

... do you want to be a part of the problem or do you want to be a part of the solution because the fact is we can see with our own eyes today’s Europe is not having much success with yesterday’s failed direct democracy nation states thing? ...

I have got to tell you, both people on the right AND people on the left are really starting to give me a fright. The actions on the right point toward the desire for a re-do on the U.S. Constitution so they can do a re-write based on 50 sovereign Christian nation states and the actions on the left point toward the desire for a re-do on the U.S. Constitution so they can do a re-write based on a Direct Democracy.

Frankly, I am quite comfortable with the system as it was devised by our Founding Fathers. It is unfortunate the citizenry has fallen down on the job as of late, primarily re ignorance and/or pique, but that is more easily rectified than the abject disasters the aforementioned desires would surely be. 

The only real question is – do you want to be a part of the problem or do you want to be a part of the solution because the fact is we can see with our own eyes today’s Europe is not having much success with yesterday’s failed direct democracy nation state thing.

Not much raises this fear for me as of late as the superficial discussion going on around the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP) – and I say superficial because I have yet to see any of the anti-TPP crowd, often times a tad more to the left on the political spectrum than I am, bring any evidence to the table. To the contrary, I just see them running around with their hair on fire espousing 20th Century trade talking points -- talking points that have apparently, in the 21st Century, replaced the need for researching facts and forming an opinion based on said facts.
Take for example, my wonderful Senator from Massachusetts … Senator Elizabeth Warren … and the opinion piece she recently published in the Washington Post.

(Senator Warren is in italic and I am in bold,  non italic. The original is here.)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership clause everyone should oppose

By Elizabeth Warren February 25

Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, represents Massachusetts in the Senate.

The United States is in the final stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive free-trade agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries. Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?

^^^ Is the question who will benefit from TPP or is the question, what is the probability of the success of President Obama’s vision?

(Now, of course, that would require knowing what the President’s vision is but I have yet to see context included in any anti-TPP writings or infotainment clips.)

One strong hint is buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft.

^^^ Please note, Senator Warren is no longer claiming TPP negotiations are secret and if you listen very carefully I believe you will hear some of the talking heads backing off of that one, too – I do believe I have even heard Ed Shultz begin to soften that attack line.

The provision, an increasingly common feature of trade agreements, is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS. The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.

^^^ Where’s the evidence? I expect a Senator of the United States, if he or she is going to charge that the President of the United States is undermining U.S. sovereignty, to provide evidence to back up that charge.

ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.

^^^ Potential? Imagine? That’s divination.

If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?

^^^ Could lead to? Would not employ independent judges? That’s more divination.

If the tilt toward giant corporations wasn’t clear enough, consider who would get to use this special court: only international investors, which are, by and large, big corporations. So if a Vietnamese company with U.S. operations wanted to challenge an increase in the U.S. minimum wage, it could use ISDS. But if an American labor union believed Vietnam was allowing Vietnamese companies to pay slave wages in violation of trade commitments, the union would have to make its case in the Vietnamese courts.

^^^ Where is the evidence that Viet Nam could not only challenge an increase in the U.S. minimum wage but that it would actually violate the agreement (the one that is not completed yet)?

Why create these rigged, pseudo-courts at all? What’s so wrong with the U.S. judicial system? Nothing, actually. But after World War II, some investors worried about plunking down their money in developing countries, where the legal systems were not as dependable. They were concerned that a corporation might build a plant one day only to watch a dictator confiscate it the next. To encourage foreign investment in countries with weak legal systems, the United States and other nations began to include ISDS in trade agreements.

^^^ Where are the evidence-based examples of processes and outcomes that make these entities of arbitration pseudo-courts?

Those justifications don’t make sense anymore, if they ever did. Countries in the TPP are hardly emerging economies with weak legal systems. Australia and Japan have well-developed, well-respected legal systems, and multinational corporations navigate those systems every day, but ISDS would preempt their courts too. And to the extent there are countries that are riskier politically, market competition can solve the problem. Countries that respect property rights and the rule of law — such as the United States — should be more competitive, and if a company wants to invest in a country with a weak legal system, then it should buy political-risk insurance.

^^^ Any nation is subject to devolving – We just need to look in the mirror to see the United States devolving rapidly, for example. 

Also, a clear demonstration of lack of knowledge re the President’s vision.

The use of ISDS is on the rise around the globe. From 1959 to 2002, there were fewer than 100 ISDS claims worldwide. But in 2012 alone, there were 58 cases. Recent cases include a French company that sued Egypt because Egypt raised its minimum wage, a Swedish company that sued Germany because Germany decided to phase out nuclear power after Japan’s Fukushima disaster, and a Dutch company that sued the Czech Republic because the Czechs didn’t bail out a bank that the company partially owned. U.S. corporations have also gotten in on the action: Philip Morris is trying to use ISDS to stop Uruguay from implementing new tobacco regulations intended to cut smoking rates.

^^^ What were the outcomes? Anyone can sue for any reason but without outcomes provided one cannot assess the pros and cons of the examples noted.

ISDS advocates point out that, so far, this process hasn’t harmed the United States. And our negotiators, who refuse to share the text of the TPP publicly, assure us that it will include a bigger, better version of ISDS that will protect our ability to regulate in the public interest. But with the number of ISDS cases exploding and more and more multinational corporations headquartered abroad, it is only a matter of time before such a challenge does serious damage here. Replacing the U.S. legal system with a complex and unnecessary alternative — on the assumption that nothing could possibly go wrong — seems like a really bad idea.

^^^ Why would anyone expect negotiators to share negotiations publicly? We do not live in a direct Democracy we live in a Representative Democracy where we elect people to take our thoughts into consideration, to represent us and to make decisions on our behalf.

And, by the way, “seems like a really bad idea.” -- seems – is not a strong argument.

This isn’t a partisan issue. Conservatives who believe in U.S. sovereignty should be outraged that ISDS would shift power from American courts, whose authority is derived from our Constitution, to unaccountable international tribunals. Libertarians should be offended that ISDS effectively would offer a free taxpayer subsidy to countries with weak legal systems. And progressives should oppose ISDS because it would allow big multinationals to weaken labor and environmental rules.
Giving foreign corporations special rights to challenge our laws outside of our legal system would be a bad deal. If a final TPP agreement includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement, the only winners will be multinational corporations.

^^^ I see no references to one reliable source on this topic, so where does the information to be found in this opinionated piece come from? And who will benefit from it? A question that needs to be asked of the writer, as well.

The good news is the White House made the decision to respond to the opinion piece on the White House blog and make it easier for the Senator and other concerned citizens to focus on her specific concerns, as noted in her opinion piece, utilizing the information she and anyone else has access to via the source: here.

Here is a snippet of that response. Perhaps it will entice you to go to read here.

Not for nothing but, the Office of Trade's website provides pertinent, informative links on it's front page, a reading room, and public servants ~ including but most certainly not limited to ~ 30-plus key officials, advisory committees, participating agencies and five members from each House who, by statute, serve as official advisers. We need to give them the courtesy of informing ourselves and asking informed questions if we are going to charge them with being complicit in working with the President of the United States to screw over the American worker and surrender U.S. sovereignty!

Here's just a small sample of what might be found if one looks:

G., aka Partisan Democrat