Monthly Archives: January 2014

Trade treaty secrecy raises questions

Letter by Nathaniel Smith, Daily Local News, 1/24/14

“Trans-Pacific Partnership” sounds sort of benign; aren’t partnerships good?

If it’s benign, why is Congress being pressured to assign it to a “fast track” that would shut down discussion and any improvements by Congress itself?

Corporations and a dozen governments (US, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, and five in Asia) have been working on this “partnership” plan for years, with lots of business input; but even Congress hasn’t seen much of the text, and the public even less.

A Freedom of Information request was rebuffed with the answer that contents of the treaty are national security information. If a trade treaty falls under national security, what doesn’t?

This is an issue on which Americans of all political persuasions can agree: the public should know what’s going on, and Congress should vet trade deals, listen to public opinion, and act in our interest.

Some possible downsides of this “partnership” are:

1) It would hand corporations (including energy, pharmaceutical, and tobacco multinationals) the power to evade national public health and environmental protections.

2) Some of the leaked provisions, like extending corporate music and movie copyrights to almost a century and permitting drug companies to prolong patents by switching the medium (e.g., from capsule to tablet) serve corporations but not people. (No, corporations are not people!)

3) How is allowing companies to patent surgical procedures, life forms and seeds beneficial to humanity? It would probably just raise prices and profits.

4) Would the deal really improve the US balance of payments with selected Asian countries or would it go the way of the 2011 free trade agreement with South Korea, in whose first year US exports to there dropped and imports from there increased, increasing our trade deficit by an estimated $5.8 billion and costing 40,000 US jobs?

5) Would TPP allow other countries to serve as conduits for additional Chinese goods to flow into our markets and cost us further employment?

Congress is not popular right now, and with good reason. Our representatives in DC should start spending less time raising money and more time doing their homework and serving the people’s interests.

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Filed under Nathaniel Smith, Trade

Whose Academic Freedom Are We Talking About? An Analysis (14 January 2014)

by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses

Part I – An Inevitable Controversy

The controversy that broke out over the American Studies Association’s December 2013 vote to adopt an academic boycott of Israel was inevitable.The ASA’s academic boycott is a just a part of a much larger effort – the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement – which has been growing worldwide over the last decade. In fact the movement’s progress in the United States has been relatively slow, but this is changing, and the ASA controversy is an indicator of this shift. That being the case, the reaction on the part of Zionist supporters of Israel in and out of academia came as no surprise.

On 5 January 2014 the New York Times reprinted a piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education more or less summarizing the reaction to the ASA move. It noted that “the presidents of more than 80 United States colleges have condemned the vote.” In addition five of these institutions of higher learning “have withdrawn from ASA membership.” The Chronicle piece concludes that the ASA has become “a pariah of the United States higher-education establishment.”

That is a rather premature judgment. There are roughly 4,500 colleges and universities in the U.S. Being condemned by the administrations (which is not the same as the faculties and student bodies) of 80 represents condemnation by less than 2 percent. Over one hundred institutions of higher learning have ASA membership. Losing five is again a small percentage. All of this hardly makes the ASA a “pariah.”  

There are also other ways of judging the impact of the ASA action. If one goal of the ASA boycott move is to stimulate debate about Israeli behavior and policies within a society (the U.S.) that has long been dominated by Israeli propaganda, then the move is certainly a success. It has brought to the surface many statements and charges that demonstrate just how decontextualized attempts to defend Israeli behavior are. If insightful counterarguments are spread about because of the ASA resolution, then the “pariah” has done quite well….

continue reading at To the Point Analyses

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Filed under Lawrence Davidson, Palestine & Israel

Thanks to George Bush, Talks With Iran Make Sense

by John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening, 01/10/2014

Addicted to the Fruit of a Poisoned Tree

US military history from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan is too often a combination of destructive stumbling around followed by an effort to sustain and project forward the notion of US power and exceptionalism. To forge another narrative is very difficult.

There’s the blind rush to war to put in its place some faction halfway around the world that has not played ball with US leaders. Next, there’s the moment military leaders realize they must fend off a local opposition they had not anticipated. Finally, there’s the inevitable condition of weariness over the killing, dying and destruction, leading to a withdrawal once that can be managed in a face-saving manner that sustains the delusion that the whole enterprise was honorable.

I made two trips to Iraq, one in December 2003, and another the following month, January 2004. Both entailed hair-raising 12-hour back-and-forth dashes across the Anbar desert in a large SUV sometimes doing 110 MPH from Amman, Jordan, to Baghdad. This was at the moment US military commanders realized, shock and awe aside, its invasion/occupation had flushed out a formidable resistance movement.

In December 2003, I visited Falluja with two Iraqis and another American in a blue Opal with a cracked windshield. We were going to link up my American colleague with his son at a forward base in Falluja. It was quite an adventure finding the base. In the process I learned that Falluja — contrary to the identity it now has in the US as a famous battle — was a lake resort known for its delicious kabob restaurants. Our Iraqi guide was a bit of a comedian and insisted that we would end the day with a visit to a famous kabob restaurant in downtown Falluja.

“Uhh, is that wise?” I asked. The guide who was a professor of cinema at a Baghdad university winked at me but kept up the joke for the more anxious American father in the front seat.

“No problem! They are delicious. You will love the kabobs of Falluja.”

My second visit to Baghdad was with David Goodman, a documentary filmmaker. …

continue reading at This Can’t Be Happening

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Filed under Iraq, John Grant

What does the Tea Party actually do?


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by | January 25, 2014 · 9:07 am