Posts Tagged ‘wto’

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 He also effectively repealed posse comitatus* and habeus corpus.**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.

 

Steal This Film – Trial Edition

League of Noble Peers (2006)

Film Review

Steal This Film is the prequel to TPB-AFK (see Pirate Bay, Wikileaks and the Swedish Pirate Party), the documentary about Sweden’s prosecution of the four Pirate Bay founders.

It goes much deeper into the ideological values behind Pirate Bay, whose activities its creators view as civil disobedience aimed against Swedish (and American) copyright laws.

The Pirate Bay (TPB) founders and their supporters (including members of the Swedish Pirate Party and the late Aaron Swartz – see The Mystery of Aaron Swartz’s Alleged Suicide) argue that the Motion Picture Association (MPAA), the powerful US lobby that forced Sweden to prosecute Pirate Bay, experienced minimal economic damage from Pirate Bay users sharing free copies of their films. In the their view, the main financial damage to the film industry, music industry and print and electronic stems from the Internet allowing millions of ordinary people to become creators of video, music and the written word. They feel that file sharing is one the best ways to fight archaic copyright laws, which limit creativity and control of information to a handful of elites for their own profit and political control.

They argue it’s virtually impossible to end file sharing owing to its extremely decentralized nature. Every time a big file sharing site like Knapster, Pirate Bay or Kim Dotcom’s Megaupload (see Kim Dotcom and America’s Diabolic Intellectual Property Laws) is shut down, thousands of new ones spring up to take their place.

The documentary also explores historical precedents going back thousands of years where ruling elites have sought to suppress information exchange and creativity. Following the invention of the printing press, France enacted strict censorship laws on printers, publishers and booksellers. This would lead to a dedicated publishing industry in bordering countries that made a fortune by smuggling banned titles to eager French readers.

They point out the MPAA also filed numerous court actions against the first video recorder and MP3 player manufacturers.

Although the Swedish government was extremely reluctant to take action against TPB (and violate Sweden’s guaranteed right to public access), the powerful MPAA put pressure on the US State Department. They, in turn, threatened Sweden with WTO sanctions for failing to uphold “intellectual property” rights. After the MPAA hired their own private investigator to locate TPB’s server and its four founders.

The film TPB-AFK (see link above) covers the trial, in which all four men were found guilty of “accessory to crime against copyright law.” They each served eight to nine months in jail – the last, Fredrik Neij, was released in 2015

Membership in Sweden’s Pirate Party swelled on the back of the TPB case. Countries all over the world have formed Pirate Party – in 2015 Iceland’s Pirate Party would win 16 seats in parliament. The first US Pirate Party was formed in Atlanta in 2006.

 

Eco Social Justice on the Global Frontlines

Vendana Shiva (2017)

The following is a compelling Earth Day presentation by Indian activist Vendana Shiva linking ecocide and genocide to the brutal “free market” drive to rob from nature and people to produce profit.  This wide ranging talk combines a unique perspective on the violent British colonization of both India and North America, the more recent role of major chemical and food companies (eg Dow, Dupont and Monsanto) in imposing free trade treaties such as GATT and the TPP, and the growing anti-corporate resistance movement in India and elsewhere.

Vendana begins by describing an agricultural conference she attended in 1987, at which the major chemical manufacturers laid out plans to increase their profits by introducing GMO seeds and lobbying for laws and treaties that would prohibit seed saving by farmers. She goes on to talk about Navdanya, the nonprofit organization she founded in 1984 to resist the so-called “Green Revolution” that imposed industrial farming on Indian farmers. In promoting seed saving and other traditional organic farming methods, Navdanya was influenced by Gandhi’s use of sustainable self-reliance as a weapon against colonialism.

At the 1987 conference, the chemical companies bragged the entire world would be growing GMO crops by 2000. Thanks to strong global citizens movements, this never happened. Ninety percent of the world’s food is GMO-free, thanks to wholesale rejection of this technology in Europe, Africa and Asia. Likewise only 30% of the world’s food production is industrialized.

Vendana maintains the primary purpose of industrial farming isn’t to produce food but to increase profit. Due to the massive energy input it requires, factory farming is an extremely inefficient method of food production. Traditional farms producing a diversity of crops will always provide more nutritional output than an industrial farm producing a single monoculture crop.

She blames the forced introduction of industrial farming for India’s high level of malnutrition – 1/4 of the general population and 1/2 of Indian children lack adequate nutrients in their diet.


*GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) was the international treaty that created the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 (under President Bill Clinto)n.

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.

 

 

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.

Seattle Madephoto credit: seattlemade.org

The creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995 would lead hundreds of US corporations to shut down their American factories and “offshore” them to third world countries with lower wages and fewer environmental regulations. This trend was most pronounced in the textile and clothing industry. Between 1900 and 2011, US employment in apparel manufacturing dropped by over 80% from 900,000 to 150,000 jobs.

Thanks to the largely grassroots relocalization movement, this trend seems to be reversing. According to economist and author Michael Shuman, rebuilding local economies devastated by trade deregulation is one of the most effective tools for dismantling corporate rule. For every dollar spent in a local business, 45 cents remains in the local economy – in contrast to 10 cents for every dollar spent in a corporate retail chain. (See 2010 Harvard Business Review)

America’s Burgeoning Sewn Goods Industry

While most local economy activism has focused on food production and banking, the last decade has also witnessed numerous attempts across the US to “reshore” sewn goods production. Efforts in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Portland have been the most successful. Consumer research suggests the most important driver behind this movement has been growing consumer demand for corporate transparency and accountability. A  2014 Nielson Survey reveals that 42% of consumers are “willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies committed to positive social and environmental impacts.”

Consumers are also increasingly concerned about the environmental profile of the textile and clothing industry, the world’s second most polluting industry (behind oil). Third world dying mills, which use 200 tons of water for one ton of fabric, cause serious contamination when they return the water to local rivers untreated.

They’re also really wary of a particularly environmentally destructive trend known as “fast fashion”. The latter produces cheap, poorly constructed clothing to be worn once or twice and discarded.

Seattle’s Experiment with Sewn Goods Manufacture

Seattle is the latest city to attempt to foster the development of a local sewn goods industry. In 2015, the Seattle Good Business Network (SGBN)* received a Duwamish River Opportunity Grant to investigate opportunities for expansion of sewn goods manufacture in Seattle.

Sewn Goods Case Studies by Rachel Beck and Molly Parkhan, the report of this investigation, is a fascinating read. I was particularly intrigued by their detailed descriptions of the origins thriving sewn goods industries in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Portland. The report finishes with some optimistic predictions and solid recommendations for the successful expansion of Seattle’s local sewn goods industry.


*Founded in 2010, SGBN is a “network of residents, local businesses and non profit and municipal organizations dedicated to building a vibrant and sustainable local economy based on shared environmental and community values.”

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.