Archive for the ‘Attacks on Civil Liberties’ Category

tisa-big

Email from Trade for People and Planet Team:

Dear Corporate Greed Resisters,

The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is currently being negotiated among 50 countries with the objective of expanding on the existing General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

While President Trump has had a lot to say about the TPP and NAFTA, he has not offered public comment on TiSA, which thus far has major provisions to deregulate and privatize the international service economy, including the financial industry and big data.

Deborah James, Director of International Programs for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has clearly outlined Trump’s likely incentives to continue with TiSA negotiations. She reminds us that Trump is not against corporate-driven trade agreements. So you can bet that corporations are actively lobbying in Washington for deregulation and privatization, which Trump and his cabinet are actively seeking to implement domestically. Finally, TiSA is focused on services and not necessarily manufacturing, meaning that opposition from manufacturing workers may be lower as the agreement is focused on the service economy.

Here is where things gets scary. Team TiSA – a consortium of multinational financial, logistics, and big data corporations – are looking to set severe limits on how governments can regulate economies domestically while providing strict investor rights provisions. Deborah James outlined ten aspects of TiSA that have been accepted by all parties or are under negotiations that could have significant consequences:

  1. Companies are expanding the category of “services” in order to make it all-encompassing so that the agreement could apply as broadly within the economy as possible.
  2. Offshoring and outsourcing of jobs and downward pressure on wages could greatly accelerate as TiSA would lock in labor, tax, and regulatory arbitrage.
  3. Not only would TiSA promote offshoring of jobs, but it would also greatly expand domestic “inshoring.” Foreign contractors (say from Japan) would be able to bring in workers (say from Philippines) to conduct work inside a consumer country (say the United States) on terms well below the minimum local pay and standards.
  4. The TiSA does not include a labor chapter, and in fact the draft texts only mention labor rights once.
  5. Preventing governments at the national, state, and even municipal levels from supporting local business and local employment.
  6. The principle of “technological neutrality which TiSA negotiators take as a given would have immeasurable job impacts particularly with regard to the “gig” economy. So if a country opened its market to passenger transport services, it could not apply new and different rules to Uber than to traditional taxicabs.
  7. Job loss as a result of privatization would increase as publicly owned utilities would have to compete under the same rules as private companies, reducing the benefits of public ownership, resulting in the elimination of jobs that inevitably follows privatization.
  8. The financial services text of the TiSA is the closest thing imaginable to a guarantee of another job-killing financial crisis. If the draft texts were accepted, the TiSA would constrain governments from implementing most of the regulations that are recognized, both domestically and internationally, as essential to prevent another global financial crisis.
  9. Workers would have to shoulder even more of the tax burden as corporate tax evasions would accelerate.
  10. The TiSA could potentially be used as the basis of a foreign company’s claim against the United States.

For more details on each point, read Deborah James’s entire article here.

The jury is still out on what the actual contents of the agreement will be under the new administration. However, we do know that the TiSA has been and continues to be a notably secretive agreement with no transparency or public participation. Check out this article by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to learn about their proposals to create inclusive and transparent trade negotiations.

We also know that Congress gave the presidency Fast Track authority under Obama, and this authority has been inherited by President Trump. According to Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach, this means that “Congress has empowered Trump to unilaterally launch NAFTA renegotiations or create bilateral deals with Mexico and Canada; determine the contents, sign and enter into deals before Congress gets a vote; and then write implementing legislation and force congressional consideration in 90 days with amendments forbidden and Senate supermajority rules suspended.” This applies to TiSA as well and is why we were so adamant about pressuring Congress to reject Fast Track in the first place.

Please take a minute and resend this email to 2-5 people. The people need to know what is behind TiSA!

Join our weekly National People’s Agenda Call next Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 9pm EST/ 6pm PST. We need to work together to stop TiSA from passing and to fight the consolidation of the global deregulatory and privatizing machine.

Click here to register for the call.

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mass-psychology-of-fascism

The Mass Psychology of Fascism

By Wilhelm Reich (1933)

Free PDF:  Mass Psychology of Fascism

Book Review

In the the recent US election, Donald Trump successfully used false right wing populism to lure working people to vote against their own economic interests – as did Adolf Hitler during the 1930s. Writing in 1933, Reich foreshadows the present failure of the left to engage the working class. He also predicts the steady creep of western democracy towards greater authoritarianism and the recent rise of the populist New Right (via the Tea Party, Patriot and Alt-Right movement).

Why the Working Class Votes Against Their Own Economic Interest

Reich is the first major sociologist to offer a convincing analysis of the allure of fascism and reactionary politics for low income workers. Ever since the Reagan era, progressives have struggled to understand why blue collar workers are so easily persuaded to vote for politicians who go on to worsen the basic conditions of their lives. Reich pins the blame on authoritarian family structures most working people grow up in.

According to Reich, the strong allure of reactionary politics – and overt fascism – is based in mankind’s 6,000 year history of rigid patriarchal, authoritarian and hierarchical social organization.

He devotes a large portion of his book to the concept of sexual repression and the political, religious and economic institutions that deny women and adolescents full expression of their sexuality. These institutions support authoritarian family structures that enforce sexual repression. For millennia, this authoritarian control was exerted through political and religious mandates under which women literally became the property of men.

He contrasts modern society with early matriarchal societies in which children were free to “play doctor” with each other and both men and women were free to have sex with any other willing adults. These societies dealt with the potential for sexual excess or exploitation via self-regulation and group pressure. As Reich and many anthropologists have noted, murder, war, rape, prostitution and slavery were extremely rare in these societies.

Although women are no longer regarded as property in industrialized society, both women and adolescents continue to be denied full enjoyment of their sexuality under male-controlled political, economic and religious institutions.

Why the Working Class Craves Authority

As Reich convincingly argues, it’s not just women who suffer the adverse psychological effects of these structures. Being raised in excessively authoritarian family, educational and religious structures denies both men and women any experience of the natural capacity of self-regulation. Deeply fearful, anxious, guilty and confused about their perplexing inner drives, they have no confidence in their ability to conduct their lives without an external authority to guide and compel them.

The reactionary right knows exactly how to appeal to these unconscious fears and anxieties. First by creating even more rigid and authoritarian structures (eg outright bans on sex education, premarital sex, abortion, birth control and gay rights). These provide immediate (though temporary) relief by limiting choice. Secondly by promoting racist ideology that projects unhappiness and perceived loss of freedom away from ourselves onto an external “enemy) – Jews, Muslims, socialists, immigrants, terrorists, Hispanics, blacks, feminists, liberals, intellectuals and, increasingly, baby boomers.

Why Americans Don’t Vote

In the US only half of eligible adults register and a little over fifty percent of registered voters actually vote. Reich argues that it’s typical in highly authoritarian “democracies” for the passive, non-voting population to constitute the majority. He’s highly critical of the left for attempting to engage this demographic by addressing their appalling economic conditions – a strategy he insists is doomed to failure.

What the left needs to grasp, in his view, is that this politically inactive majority are too caught up in their own internal struggles to think in terms of their economic needs. To put it crudely, status-related needs, such as getting laid, fast cars and flat screen TVs will always be a much higher priority than wages or working conditions.

Instead of educating low income workers about economic and political injustice, Reich argues that leftists should directly address the emotional baggage the working poor carry from authoritarian family and school experiences. He proposes the best way to do this is through politically enlightened social reform activities, particularly directed towards youth and women.

Immigrants for Sale

Directed by Axel Caballero (2012)

Film Review

Immigrants For Sale is a documentary about the $5 billion a year private detention industry. Corrections Corporation of America, The Geo Group, and the Management and Training Corporation run over 200 facilities across the US, a total of 150,000 bed spaces. Because these facilities are paid by the number of beds they fill, they have absolutely no incentive to speed up the legal process that might lead to detainees’ release. As one facility auctioneer puts it, thanks to harsh immigration laws and skyrocketing refugee numbers, there’s an “endless supply of product.”

The film closely examines the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right wing corporate lobby group founded by the Koch brothers, in writing anti-immigrant legislation adopted by various states and championing the construction of new private detention facilities. In most cases, state legislators with cozy relationships with ALEC and industry lobbyists impose these monstrosities on local communities against their wishes.

The filmmakers interview detainees’ families, immigrant rights groups and even former correctional officers who describe scandalous human rights violations by CCA et al, as well as their failure to provide nutritional food or adequate medical care or toilet facilities.

As a psychiatrist I was most appalled by the negligent and abusive treatment of mentally ill detainees. Because these facilities earn $197 a night to house detainees, they have no motivation to identify detainees with mental illness and transfer them to more appropriate treatment facilities. Detainees have no legal right to legal representation and often their families have no idea where they are. Both make their situation even more precarious. One mentally ill detainee featured in the film was beaten (one beating required hospitalization) and humiliated by corrections officers for three years before his mother secured his release.

Fortunately there is growing grassroots resistance to the private detention industry. One community successfully blocked – through sustained protest activity – the construction of a new detention facility. Another, Littlewood Texas, has been bankrupted by their decision to help bankroll a private detention facility. It remains vacant and unsold to this day.

trump

On Wednesday morning November 9, 2016, the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) published a personal message to president-elect on their website. It urges him “reconsider and change course” on certain campaign promises, going on to list some of the most troubling promises Trump has made:

  • Promising to force 11 million undocumented immigrants from the country.
  • Promising to ban Muslims from entering the country and heavily surveilling the ones who reside here.
  • Promising to punish women who have abortions.
  • Promising to reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture.
  • Promising to revise the nation’s libel laws, restricting freedom of expression.

It goes on to warn Trump he will have to face the ACLU if he presses forward and tries to make good on promises they view as unconstitutional:

If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step. Our staff of litigators and activists in every state, thousands of volunteers and millions of card-carrying members and supporters are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.

Read more: ACLU Announces Massive Legal Action Against Donald Trump

photo credit: AndrewDallos Donald Trump arriving at NBC tonight for Jimmy Fallon via photopin (license)

prison strike

Prisoners across the United States are calling for a nationwide prisoner work stoppage against prison slavery on September 9th, 2016.

Their goal is to begin an action to shut down prisons, which are totally dependent on inmate labor, across the country. According to US Uncut, US prisoners are paid from 0 to 45 cents an hour for contract work for highly profitable corporations such as Whole Foods, Walmart, McDonald’s, Victoria’s Secret, BP and AT&T.

September 9th is the 45th anniversary of the 1971 uprising in which prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York’s most notorious state prison.

Non-violent protests, work stoppages, hunger strikes and other refusals to participate in prison routines have greatly increased in recent years. The 2010 Georgia prison strike, the massive rolling California hunger strikes, the Free Alabama Movement’s 2014 work stoppage, have drawn the most attention. There have also been large hunger strikes at Ohio State Penitentiary, Menard Correctional in Illinois, Red Onion in Virginia and elsewhere. The growing resistance movement includes inmates at immigrant detention centers, women’s prisons and juvenile facilities.

The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), created by the International Workers of the World (IWW), functions as a liaison to support prisoners in organizing and forging links between prisons and with fellow workers on the outside. IWOC, the only union representing prisoners, currently has 800 members.

As reported in the Nation, barriers to organizing prisoners are high. Most prisons deny inmates access to email, which makes communications between prisons difficult. Even within prisons, wardens block most prisoners’ union meetings. In 1977 the Supreme Court ruled prisoners have no First Amendment right to assemble if a warden feels a gathering threatens prison security.

In early 2015, the Free Alabama Movement published Let the Crops Rot in the Fields, laying out a new strategy –specifically tackling economic incentive – for ending mass incarceration. By refusing to work, prisoners directly attack the corporate profit motive underpinning mass incarceration. The IWOC has been sending copies of “Let the Crops Rot in the Fields” to prisoners all over the US.

According to the Nation article, the IWW were also instrumental in launching union drives at fast food restaurants in the early 2000s and the campaign for a $15 minimum wage.

For more information on IWOC and to help support the Sept 9 strike visit the IWOC Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/incarceratedworkers/

ebayphoto credit: ebay

According to the BBC , France’s highest administrative court has suspended a ban on full-body “burkini” swimsuits that was imposed in a Villeneuve-Loubet on the Mediterranean coast.

The court found the ban “seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms.”

The ruling could likely set a precedent for up to 30 other towns with similar bans.

Read more here

Street Life: Faces Uncovered

By Neal Karski, George Min, Tyler Dubiak and Scott Hilburn (2016)

Film Review

Street Life is a portrait of the Chicago’s homeless population. It begins by demolishing the myth that homelessness is a lifestyle choice. In addition to a wealth of statistics, the documentary includes interviews with homeless Chicagoans, social service workers, homeless advocates and random passersby. I found it intriguing that none of the women interviewed blamed the homeless for their predicament – while more than half the men did.

On any given night 750,000 Americans are homeless, and yearly 25-35 million spend some nights on the streets or in shelters. Worldwide 100 million people have no housing at all while one billion have grossly inadequate housing. Last year, over a million American children were homeless at some point.

In examining the causes of chronic homelessness, filmmakers identified the following breakdown (in Chicago):

  • 48% suffer from chronic drug or alcohol addiction
  • 32% are mentally ill
  • 25% are victims of domestic violence
  • 15% are unemployed veterans
  • 4% have HIV or AIDS

Because the homeless make huge demands on the public health system, it costs taxpayers far less to pay for their housing than to leave them on the street. After starting a Permanent Supportive Housing program two years ago, Illinois lawmakers reduced emergency room visits by 40%, nursing home days by 975%, inpatient days by 83% and psychiatric services by 66%.