I'll just mention a few thoughts.
1.) I find it interesting that Jade Helm mania is overtaking the paranoid "red" states at the exact time the TPP is tying to be fast tracked through Congress. It seems to be that this is the real conspiracy.
I find it tragically comical that the usual suspects are fuming about UN black helicopters and Chinese military takeovers while the single greatest threat to U.S. independence and sovereignty is being rapidly pushed through Congress as quickly as possible with unprecedented secrecy and with bipartisan support (including Tea Party Republicans).
In fact, the Republican party, which has been tirelessly depicting Obama as a powerful dictator intent on seizing people's guns and imposing Sharia law on the Heartland, is desperate to vote him MORE power in the guise of "fast-track," giving him unilateral power to create U.S. law when it comes to trade. Is the Jade Helm paranoia an attempt to distract the Heartland rubes who really believe in the Republican/Democrat kayfabe from getting wise to the real game (enhancing corporate profits and worker immiseration)?
That could explain why the exercises are being held when they are. The timing is very interesting. Military exercises were taking place during September 11 making airborne responses impossible to the hijacked airliners, and the Boston bombings (which I find very suspicious) happened at the exact same time as Wall Street regulations were being gutted (again by both parties). How does that military saying go, 'Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.' As always, you need to be either a conspiracy theorist or a coincidence theorist.
And while I don't buy into the more lurid conspiracy theories, I don't find it at all "out there" to think that the military is taking steps to prepare for martial law and to put down domestic insurgencies on U.S. soil. In fact, you'd be an idiot not think that domestic insurgency is a real possibility given the events of the past few years, from secession attempts in places like California, Texas and Colorado to Cliven Bundy and his ilk. Martial Law was essentially declared after the Boston Bombing, after all, and the National Guard has been dispatched to Baltimore. Corporate America has been so effective at playing us against each other, and so brazen at buying our government, that they cannot be surprised at the fallout - a nation in the grip of insanity.
I've long suspected that all this paranoia is a distraction for the real and actual hollowing out of the state by corporate powers. Instead of a very real and easily verifiable subversion of U.S. law by the corporate state that our elected representatives actually support, people are up in arms about imaginary threats that are totally made up. I don't think these conspiracy theories came from nowhere; the CIA is vary good at destabilization, and not just against foreign nations.
2.) The threat to sovereignty is mainly state from the Investor State Dispute Settlement system. Again, much has been written by this, but it essentially enshrines a court above the rule of sovereign states to make legally binding decisions on those states. Corporations can sue governments for expected loss of profits from any attempts to regulate corporate activities in the name of worker or environmental protections, etc. The corporations will essentially pick their own judges for the "tribunals" and the judgments will be legally binding. Taxpayers will be forced to hand over millions of dollars to corporations for the temerity of writing laws that protect themselves.
It is, in a very real sense, an ACTUAL "new world order" and one-world government. And the enforcer is our own men and women in uniform (they just don't know that they are the bag men for capitalism). Unlike the lurid fantasies of one-world government or Sharia law, these things are 100% real and verifiable. But the Republicans supported by the rubes in the red states are almost all on board with this.
I've often said that a simple guide to modern U.S. politics is the following - the Republican party is now basically the John Birch Society, and the Democrats are now the "Goldwater" Republicans of the Eisenhower-Nixon era. If you look at the beliefs of the JBS, they are identical in every way to those espoused by the modern-day Republican party (including the extremism and paranoia). The sole exception is free trade agreements, which the JBS opposes as threats to U.S. sovereignty (which is actually correct). So there is conflict between the kooks and cranks corporate America unleashed to take over the GOP and the vested interests of the Chamber of Commerce. Like the sorcerer's apprentice, they unleashed something dark and evil from the black heart of America for their own nefarious purposes and now cannot control the results. How will this play out? Stay tuned...
3.) If you listen to the Congressional Dish episodes you will quickly realize what lies "free trade" and "Laissez-faire" actually are. This is no dismantling of rules to set us free, instead it is hundreds and hundreds of ultra-complex new rules and laws (which are secret from the public who will live under them), and the setting up of massive new bureaucracies to enforce them.
An example is the aforementioned tribunal system which has already led to a vast amount of lawsuits keeping corporate lawyers in their mansions, limousines, and private jets. Another is the drive to set up vast systems to monitor the entire Internet for any hints of copyright infringement which will be dealt with by the immediate removal of the offending content without any sort of adjudication besides a complicated and expensive appeals process (i.e. guilty until proven innocent).
A few other things that jumped out at me from Jen's summary:
- Rent controls will be illegal.
- Governments will be prohibited BY LAW from providing any services to its citizens that compete with private enterprises. Hey Libertarians, how does that sit with you? So much for "competition.' Jen uses the example of Chattanooga's community Internet service which is cheaper, faster, and more reliable than that of America's execrable Internet monopolies. Other cities are trying to follow suit. The TPP will make this illegal, along with any other attempts of citizens to provide things for themselves through collective do-it-yourself government action.
This proves what I've long said - the private sector knows they cannot compete with collectively proved government services in many areas, so they must always 1.) demonize government as lazy and incompetent, and if that fails - just make competition illegal - see the death of the "public option" in healthcare for an obvious example. Need to preserve the right to loot.
- Things like GMO corn will be forced down the throats of the signatories. Even labeling laws will be not permitted, which again goes against standard Neoliberal bromides about "consumers making free choices with perfect information..." They are actually trying to make sure that consumers can't even get the information to make a choice!
It's proof-positive of what David Graeber pointed out and what should be obvious - there is no such thing as "free trade," it's just rewriting trade laws to benefit a different set of stakeholders. And it's pretty sure those stakeholders aren't average citizens. Here's Dean Baker:
The problem with this sentence is that the TPP is not obviously, "a far-reaching agreement to tear down trade barriers." The barriers to trade in most cases are already low. The main focus of the TPP is putting in place a new regulatory structure, which is likely to be very business friendly. The most obvious evidence of the business friendly nature of this structure is that the TPP would establish an extra-judicial legal system for enforcing the agreement. This system can only be used by foreign investors to sue governments; it is not open to governments, workers, or communities to sue foreign investors.4.) From a longue durée history standpoint, this is fascinating. Scholars often use the Treaty of Westphalia to date the emergence of the modern idea of a sovereign state. And while the Investor State Dispute Settlement system is not new (it was rolled out in the late fifties and been gaining strength ever since), I wonder if we're seeing the "official" end of the nation state and rise of corporations as the most powerful entities that control our planet, money as the only governing principle, and ownership of wealth as the only legitimate source of power (rendering the state, and hence the opinions of the voters of those states, irrelevant).
The deal also does much to increase barriers in the form of stronger patent and copyright protection. These barriers will raise prices and reduce trade.
For these reasons, it is a major distortion of reality to describe the TPP as "a far-reaching agreement to tear down trade barriers." While the proponents of TPP may like to characterize the deal this way in order to appeal to the principle of "free trade," it is not an accurate description of the agreement.
Will future historians look at the TPP and similar free trade agreements as the end of the nation state in the same way the TOW was its birth? How can the nation-state even be said to be sovereign any more if corporate entities can write the laws, sue for any law that hurts their profits (and extract tribute from taxpayers) and hide their money offshore beyond the reach of governments? Clearly we are in a "new" political situation, one that is post-democratic and not being acknowledged. We are emerging into what I've called the "Neo-feudalist" world order, and trade agreements are to that what documents like the Magna Carta and the U.S. Constitution were to the now begone era of popular democracy.
Many of the so-called "ultra-rightist" movements are actually reactions against the loss of control citizens have over their own governments and the ability to write their own laws. A great example is this BBC article about the French "Neo-reactionaries:"
"So after deconstruction, and then derision, we are now in the phase of destruction. It is what I call the three Ds," he says.5.) The economics priesthood is engaging in a full-court press to sell the next round of "free trade" to the masses, and in my opinion nothing exposes the entire profession as just a shill for wealthy interests than this. Probably the most risible is the article by Gregory Mankiw, the Republicans' go-to economic adviser. Mankiw was the economic adviser the the presidential candidate who believed that half of Americans were useless eaters. Mankiw's argument is that "all economists agree" that Adam Smith decisively proved that "free trade is always good" and that only the miserable rabble disagrees because they are stupid and deluded idiots. Really, I'm not kidding:
But isn't "destruction" putting it a bit strongly? After all, France is still standing tall among the nations. Just about.
"Not at all. The sovereignty of the nation has disappeared. The state no longer has the power to revive the economy, or to defend our borders. The state is powerless.There are parts of France which feel like a different continent today. There are neighbourhoods which are completely Muslim - in their appearance, in their shops, in their tradition.And at the same time we have the constant process of Americanisation. Our budget is controlled by Brussels. We have no currency. Our army has to follow Washington's orders. That is what I mean by destruction."
The issue at hand is whether Congress will give President Obama “fast track” authority to negotiate a trade deal with our trading partners in the Pacific. The bill is favored by some congressional leaders of both parties, including Senator Orrin G. Hatch, the Republican chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Ron Wyden, the committee’s ranking Democrat, and Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Among economists, the issue is a no-brainer. Last month, I signed an open letter to John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. I was joined by 13 other economists who have led the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, a post I held from 2003 to 2005. The group spanned every administration from Gerald Ford’s to Barack Obama’s.
Economists are famous for disagreeing with one another, and indeed, seminars in economics departments are known for their vociferous debate. But economists reach near unanimity on some topics, including international trade. The economic argument for free trade dates back to Adam Smith, the 18th-century author of “The Wealth of Nations” and the grandfather of modern economics....
If economists are so sure about the benefits of free trade, why are the public and their elected representatives often skeptical? ...Mr. Caplan argues that voters are worse than ignorant about the principles of good policy. Ignorance would be random and might average out in a large population. Instead of being merely ignorant, voters hold on to mistaken beliefs....The first is an anti-foreign bias. ...The second is an anti-market bias....The third is a make-work bias....It's a "no-brainer" stupid!
Even a first-year student at Mankiw's employer Harvard University can see that this is a clear argument from authority, one of the most basic and simplistic logical fallacies. All Nazis also agreed that Hitler was a great leader and that the Jews were a serious problem. All Communist intellectuals in the 1940's agreed that Communism was great.
And note that while Mankiw gives the standard lecture about eighteenth century economics in the twenty-first century, he never once mentions anything about the Investor State Dispute Settlement System, why the laws are being conducted in absolute secrecy, why it is being pushed so quickly through Congress, the vast new bureaucracies it creates, the removal of private sector competition and consumer protection laws, the forcing of GMO's on signatories, in other words, anything about the actual bill itself!
Not to be outdone, Tyler Cowen (of the Koch-funded Mercatus Center) actually made the case that America needs to pass the TPP for the good of Vietnam. Once again, I'm not kidding:
In a word, Vietnam. Vietnam has about ninety million people and a relatively low per capita income, below by 2k by some measures. It liberalized tariffs a good deal upon WTO accession, but since then has done some backsliding. It has large numbers of state-owned enterprises, and its policies toward such enterprises could use more transparency and predictability, as indeed TPP would bring. Most generally, Vietnam is not today a free country. Bringing Vietnam into TPP would further ensure their attachment to a broadly liberal global trading order. TPP also would bring free(r) labor unions to Vietnam.Of course, economists in their cosseted ivory towers in Cambridge, New York and Georgetown don't see what the rest of us see in Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore and St. Louis (and Youngstown, and Camden and Schenectady and Cleveland and...): a hollowed out nation of shuttered factories rusting in the rain, crumbling infrastructure, homelessness, drug abuse, rampant crime, poverty and unemployment, boarded up malls and storefronts, overcrowded prisons, broke governments, and police forces that are practically an occupying army (as David Simon pointed out). Not to mention much of the American working class are are now demoralized debt serfs on the verge of homelessness working harder and harder every day for less and less. And it all began with deindustrialization and globalization under the banner of "free trade."
So forgive us if we're a little "skeptical" of the benefits of "free trade." Sorry, Vietnam,