Posts Tagged ‘nafta’

The People Against America

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This documentary traces the rise of the “white rights” movement that elected Donald Trump. This movement, of mainly white blue collar males, promotes the distorted image of white people as a disenfranchised minority. According to the filmmakers, it has its roots in Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. By heavily emphasizing “states rights,” Goldwater successfully exploited the anxieties of Southerners over forced integration by the federal government. It would be the first time Southern states had voted Republican since the Civil War.

Nixon’s Southern Strategy

In 1968, the Nixon campaign built on Goldwater’s success by implementing a formal “southern strategy.” By reaching out to the “silent majority,” and emphasizing law and order in the face of race riots and anti-war protests, his campaign sought to win the votes of northern blue collar voters. In subsequent elections, Democratic Party strategists would seek to win back blue collar voters by recruiting two conservative governors to run for president (Carter and Clinton).

As the Watergate scandal undermined all Americans’ confidence in government, corporate oligarchs would build on growing anti-government sentiment by massively funding right wing think tanks, lobbying and conservative talk radio. This, in turn would lay the groundwork for Reagan’s 1980 massive deregulation and tax and public service cuts.

Corporate Giveaways By Clinton and Obama

When Clinton was elected in 1992, he quickly surpassed Reagan’s record of corporate giveaways, with his total deregulation of Wall Street, his Three Strikes and Omnibus Crime Bill (leading to mass incarceration of minorities) and his creation of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These free trade treaties resulted in the wholesale export of rust belt industries to Mexico and China, effectively ending any incentive for working class males to vote Democratic.

Obama, elected on the back of the 2008 financial collapse, would prove even more pro-corporate than Clinton or Bush. Instead of prosecuting the banks who caused the 2008 economic crash, he granted them massive bailouts, while ignoring the plight of millions of homeowners who lost their homes when these banks foreclosed on them. He also significantly increasing mass surveillance and aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers. He also effectively repealed posse comitatus* and habeus corpus.**

The Rise of Occupy and the Tea Party

Obama’s pro-corporate policies led to the rise of both left wing (Occupy Wall Street) and right wing (Tea Party) popular movements. The latter received major corporate backing (largely from the Koch brothers), enabling Tea Party Republicans to shift the blame for the loss of good paying industrial jobs from Wall Street to minorities, immigrants and women.

Is the US Moving to the Right?

For me, the highlight of the documentary is  commentary by former Black Panther Party president Elaine Brown, the only activist featured. Brown, who is highly critical of the left’s failure to acknowledge the problems of poor white people, is the only commentator to dispute that the US is “moving to the right.” She points out that prior Republican campaigns used coded language (such as “state rights,” “law and order”) to target racist fears of blue collar whites. Trump, in contrast, openly caters to these sentiments. Brown reports that some blacks welcome the end of political hypocrisy and greater openness about the pervasiveness of white racism.

She believes this new openness offers a good opportunity to build a genuine multiracial working class movement. She gives the example of successful collaboration in Chicago between black activists and the Young Patriots (a white separatist group) against corrupt landlords.


*The Posse Comitatus Act, enacted in 1878, prohibited the use of federal troops to enforce domestic policies within the US.

**The right of Habeus Corpus, guaranteed under Article I of the Constitution and the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, prevents government from illegal detaining US citizens without charging them.

 

Crude Harvest: Selling Mexico’s Oil

Al Jazeera (2017)

Crude Harvest is about a controversial law Mexico has enacted that puts its publicly owned oil industry up for sale to foreign corporations. The law also grants foreign oil companies the right to override the wishes of Mexican farmers if oil is discovered on their land.

Following a massive popular uprising, Mexico nationalized their oil industry in 1938. It’s the last nationally owned oil company to be opened to foreign investment. US oil economies are extremely excited as Mexico is an extremely corrupt country that makes no effort to regulate oil production. They will be allowed to pollute Mexican water and air as much as they like without consequences.

The documentary goes on to reveal how NAFTA has systemically “raped” the Mexican economy and forced the government to sell their oil industry to pay off Wall Street debt. By flooding the Mexican market with cheap (subsidized) American food, the US has wiped out most small Mexican farmers and ranchers and turned many small indigenous villages into ghost towns. Left with no way to support themselves, these former farmers can only survive by turning to organized crime or illegally entering the US.

Once that their lands are to be turned over to foreign oil companies, yet more farmers will lose their livelihood. Meanwhile Mexican debt will only increase as the government loses oil profits that currently comprise 40% of government revenue.

 

Lies Wars and Empire

By Michael Parenti (2007)

In this presentation, Michael Parenti focuses on the science of media manipulation and mass indoctrination. He makes his most important point at the end: mass indoctrination never works perfectly. Spontaneous skepticism tends to be a natural outcome of a steady diet of media propaganda. I suspect this healthy skepticism is a major reason why Trump’s attacks on the corporate media have been so popular – and why counterattacks by US intelligence and the mainstream media have been so savage.

Trump is the highest profile politician to ever publicly challenge the official version of 9-11, the job-killing effects of free trade treaties such as TPP and NAFTA, the threats to democratic process posed by investing power in a private central bank (the Federal Reserve) and the long term safety of America’s multiple vaccination regime in children.

Parenti begins with an explanation why, in most cases, peoples’ beliefs are totally impervious to facts. He reminds us that our perceptions are shaped by a number of factors beyond our control, particularly income, status, background assumptions and disinformation.

He maintains that what passes for objectivity in the mainstream media is really conformity of bias – nearly always in favor of corporate capitalism and the status quo. Owing to this emphasis on conformity, expressing a dissenting viewpoint viewed as a radical activity, mainly because it helps expose and expands the boundaries of permissible debate. Because the corporate media only allows an extremely narrow range of debate, you will never see a open discussion of evidence implicating the government in 9-11 or  the JFK, Robert Kennedy or Martin Luther King assassinations.

This lecture examines numerous world events deliberately censored or distorted by the corporate media:

  • The war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic (who died under suspicious circumstances in prison in 2006).
  • The stolen 2004 election (in which election fraud in Ohio, New Mexico, Florida and Arizona wrongly awarded the electoral vote to Bush).*
  • The repeated claim that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 – the Afghan government requested assistance from the Soviets to restore order in the face of a major CIA destablization campaign.
  • Saddam Hussein’s 40-year role as a CIA asset in the coup overthrowing Iraqi prime minister Abd al-Karim Qasim and declaring war on Iran.

*See Stolen Elections

The Heist: Who Stole the American Dream and How We Can Get It Back

Directed by Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher (2012)

Film Review

The Heist traces the banking regulations Roosevelt enacted during the Great Depression – with the goal of preventing future economic cataclysms – and the systematic dismantling of this regulation that commenced in 1971. The documentary credits this deliberate attack on the financial regulatory system for the 2008 meltdown, the decimation of American unions, the total control of federal government by Wall Street corporations, and the most unequal economic system in the world.

The filmmakers date this orchestrated attack on US financial regulation to the Powell Memo,* which the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable seized on to launch twelve right wing pro-business think tanks (including the CATO Institute, the American Enterprise Institutes and the Heritage Foundation). Funded by six families, these foundations were created with the deliberate aim of capturing business schools and the media with fundamentalist free market ideology. They proceeded to lobby all levels of government for tax cuts on the rich, as well as financing focus groups and psychologists to develop propaganda persuading blue collar workers to vote against their own interests.

In 1980, they succeeded in convincing large numbers of blue collar Democrats to vote for Reagan. In addition to implementing tax cuts for the rich that created the largest federal deficit in US history, Reagan also repealed the Fairness Doctrine,** opening the door to a radio talk show market 90% dominated by right wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh.

Guided by the Powell Memo, right wing Democrat Bill Clinton repealed the Glass Steagall Act,***, deregulated derivatives trading, gutted the Federal Communication Commission’s authority to regulate media monopolies, and sped up the outsourcing of US jobs through the enactment of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (which created the World Trade Organization).

Obama would prove even more pro-business than Clinton, with his refusal to prosecute the banskters he bailed out, his appointment of GE CEO Jeffrey Imelt (a notorious job outsourcer) to head the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, his promotion of the myth that Social Security is insolvent, his deregulation of private pensions, and his support for the Transpacific Partnership (TPP).

The film features great clips from Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Paul Craig Roberts and Ross Perot (speaking out against NAFTA during his 1992 presidential campaign).


* The Powell Memo was a memorandum Lewis Powell prepared at the request of the Chamber of Commerce. It remained secret until after his appointment to the Supreme Court. The Powell Memo

** The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, requiring the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was—in the Commission’s view—honest, equitable, and balanced.

***The GlassSteagall Act, passed by Congress in 1933, protected customers’ deposits by prohibiting commercial banks from engaging in investments. It was enacted as an emergency response to the failure of nearly 5,000 banks during the Great Depression.

 

 

Zapatista: A Big Noise Film

Benjamin Eichert, Richard Rowley, Stale Sandberg (1999)

Film Review

Zapatista is about the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) uprising in Chiapas on Jan 1, 1994. This was the day the North American Free Trade Treaty (NAFTA) took effect between the US, Canada and Mexico. As a condition of NAFTA, Mexico’s PRI government abolished the ejidos (sections of land farmed communally with state support) established in the 1917 revolution. As large numbers of indigenous people were driven off their land for US oil drilling and cattle ranches, they lost their ability to provide for themselves and their families.

Chiapas is a province rich in resources, such a petroleum, coffee, hydroelectric power and uranium. Yet most of this wealth goes to US corporations and a few local elites. Prior to the 1994 uprising, the poor of Chiapas had no access to clean water, electricity or medical care. Seventy-five percent of the population met international criteria for chronic hunger.

The EZLN seized two cities on January 1 1994, San Cristobel de la Casas and Ocozingo, and delivered heir revolutionary proclamation. The occupation lasted two days before 12,000 Mexican troops, equipped with US bombers and attack planes drove them back into the jungle. Initially the Mexican army pursued them, intending to wipe out the Zapatista leadership. After a few weeks, they recognized the immense popular support the EZLN enjoyed and agreed to a ceasefire.

In February 1995, as a condition of a $47.5 billion US bailout, the Mexican government broke the ceasefire to launch a reign of terror they called the “Great Offensive.” Faced with the sudden onslaught of thousands of troops, trucks, thousands of civilians were forced to flee into the mountains.

This offensive was ultimately unsuccessful, in part due to strong support the Zapatistas received from human rights organizations and the international press. Through their initial spokesperson Subcommandante Marcos, they made a concerted effort to spread the message of “Zapatismo” to other peoples oppressed by multinational corporations and neoliberalism.

The purpose of the EZLN uprising, according to Marcos, wasn’t to take over the Mexican government but to “create a space where people can decide how they want to live their lives.”

The EZLN is elected out of the communities that support them. Women comprise one-half of the general command and one-third of the armed force. Their weapons serve a purely defensive function and haven’t been fired since February 1994.

 

The Zapatista Uprising: 20 Years Later

The second film mainly concerns the San Cristobel journalist who helped the Zapatistas get their story out to the world. As of 2013, 60,000 families lived under self-government in EZLN-controlled territory. In addition to establishing schools and clinics for the first time, the Zapatistas also run production units, supply centers and transport systems.

Follow current Zapistista news at their blog

The Conspiracy Theory Conspiracy

Directed by Adam Green (2015)

Film Review

The Conspiracy Theory Conspiracy is about the US government psychological operations strategy of dismissing critics of government crimes as mentally unbalanced “conspiracy theorists.”

The documentary consists mainly of clips of corporate media pundits denouncing journalists, historians and social media activists who question the government’s official version of events. I haven’t watched the major TV networks in years and was shocked at some of the extremely bizarre denunciations – labeling dissident Americans as schizophrenic, mentally ill anarchists who drive people to violence and make life more miserable for everyone else.

Maintaining that the CIA has “weaponized” the term “conspiracy theory,” the film traces the origin of this psychological operation to a 1967 CIA memo to field agents dealing with CIA assets in the mainstream media. Filmmakers quote specific recommendations in the memo for techniques journalists should use to discredit scholars who were questioning the official version of the JFK assassination.

The film goes on to explain Operation Mockingbird, divulged during the Church Committee hearings in the mid-seventies, and Carl Bernstein’s 1977 expose (“The CIA and the Media”) in the Rolling Stone. Both sources thoroughly document the CIA’s history of paying editors, journalists and publishers across the media spectrum to publish government propaganda.

The filmmakers also feature excellent commentary by Abby Martin, Alex Jones, Charlie Sheen, George Carlin, Rosie O’Donnell, Jesse Ventura and Ed Asner challenging the government campaign to shut down all dissent by dismissing it as “conspiracy theory.”

The only weakness of the documentary is its failure to address the government strategy of “false sponsorship.” This is where government trolls invent extremely bizarre and contradictory “conspiracy theories” to compete with more credible critiques based on scientific or journalistic investigation. New World Order* “false sponsor” scenarios that incorporate antisemitic or apocalyptic narratives, talk about Wall Street plans to impose a socialist or communist world government, or accuse wealthy elites of being reptiles, demons and/or space aliens are examples of disinformation deliberately planted by intelligence trolls.

Over the past decade, the 9-11 Truth movement has also been heavily infiltrated by government agents disseminating extremely bizarre false sponsor scenarios.


*The strongest neoliberal “new world order” advocates (Bill Clinton, Bush senior, Bush junior and Henry Kissinger) never define exactly what they mean beyond vague notions of world peace through greater global cooperation. In the film, former congressman Ron Paul gives the clearest explanation of what neoliberals mean by “new world order” by linking it to the loss of national sovereignty through pro-corporate free trade treaties such as NAFTA, the WTO and TPP.

Diversidad: A Road Trip to Reconstruct Dinner

Solutionary Pictures (2010)

Film Review

Diversidad tells the story of a 35-day bicycle trip the Sierra Youth Coalition took from Vancouver to Tijuana in 2003. Their goal was to visit West Coast rural farming communities as a prelude to their participation in the 2003 anti-WTO protest in Cancun Mexico.

The goal of the fifth ministerial round of WTO negotiations was to resolve a dispute between developed and developing countries over agricultural trade. North American and Europe hoped to use the WTO to force developing countries to drop all trade barriers that were blocking US and EU agrobusinesses from dumping cheap food on agricultural nations. By 2003, NAFTA*, the precursor to the WTO, had allowed US agrobusiness to put two million Mexican farmers out of work by flooding their markets with cheap corn.

Building Alternatives to the Corporate Economy

The most surprising aspect of the cycle trip was the discovery of a vast network of rural communities and urban neighborhoods that are busily creating an alternative to the capitalist economic system by consciously decreasing consumption, changing consumption choices and building strong local economies

In Olympia, Washington, for example, they discover that Evergreen State College is training students in organic agriculture techniques, as well as new economic models, such as Community Supported Agriculture, to increase access to cheap, locally produced organic foods. In 2003 Thurston County (where Olympia is located) already held a national record as the country with the most CSAs.**

In Oakland, they stay with an African American group which had started a large organic garden in the Oakland ghetto. Likewise in Watts, they stay with the “Seed Lady,” an African American woman who got a scholarship to study organic farming in Cuba. After learning how to grow organic food in containers on concrete, as they do in Havana, she returned to engage her neighborhood in launching the Watts Garden Club.

This is in stark contrast to what the fifteen cyclists discover in Salinas, where they meet with Hispanic farm workers and and discover the corporate farms they work on have lost all their topsoil. Because the remaining soil has been destroyed through mismanagement, it no longer supports crop growth without heavy application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Cancun WTO Negotiations Collapse

Diversidad ends with dramatic footage of the anti-WTO protests in Cancun, attended by farmers from all over the world. The protest would attract global media attention after one of the Korean farmers mounted the heavy iron fence barricading the protest area and killed himself with a knife.

Buoyed by the ferocity of the protests outside, the third world WTO delegates refused to cave in, as they had in 1999. (See This is What Democracy Looks Like)

Why TPP Was Negotiated in Secret

By 2010 when Diversidad was released, the industrialized world had given up on the WTO as a vehicle for consolidating profits for their multinational corporations. However, unbeknownst to the filmmakers, Obama was already negotiating a new pro-corporate trade treaty called the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) to replace the WTO.

TPP negotiations were conducted in  secret to circumvent the massive popular opposition that repeatedly shut down WTO negotiations. However thanks to Wikileaks, which leaked portions of the secret TPP text over a period years, TPP is highly unlikely to be ratified owing to massive popular opposition to TPP in all 12 partner countries.*** (See Rock Against the TPP)


*The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States, creating a trilateral rules-based trade bloc in North America.

**Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is an alternative, locally based economic model of agriculture and food distribution in which consumers advance purchase a share in a farmer’s crop and receive regular distributions of fresh fruits and vegetables in season. (See Top 10 Reasons to Join a CSA)

***Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton officially oppose TPP.