The TPP is called “NAFTA on steroids” for good reason. It threatens to ship even more jobs to countries like Vietnam, where workers earn poverty wages and are forbidden from unionizing; where some of my best friends lost their lives. It would deregulate big business even further, endangering our communities and our environment. It would allow big pharmaceuticals to drive up the prices of life saving medications. And by fast tracking the TPP, big corporations are stopping our democratically-elected lawmakers from even making changes to the deal. I want to be clear about this: Not only do TPP’s corporate backers have the gall to write and push this terrible trade deal, they want to do it behind closed doors, without even letting members of Congress read it.
U.S. lawmakers are quietly advancing legislation that would penalize international participation in the growing movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction (BDS) Israel for human rights abuses against Palestinians. With little notice, anti-BDS directives were injected into the “Fast Track” legislation that passed the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday night, despitebroad opposition to the bill, which gives the administration of President Barack Obama authority to ram though so-called “free trade” deals. An amendment, included in the bill and sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), stipulates that, as a principle of trade negotiations, the U.S. should put pressure on other countries not to engage in BDS against Israel of any kind, including refusal to do business with settlements.
The stock market is rigged. When I started making that claim years ago — and provided solid evidence — people scoffed. Some called it a conspiracy theory, tinfoil hats and that sort of stuff. Most people just ignored me. But that’s not happening anymore. The dirty secret is out. With stock prices rushing far ahead of economic reality over the last six or so years, more experts in the financial markets are coming to the same conclusion — even if they don’t fully understand how it’s being rigged or the consequences. Ed Yardeni, a longtime Wall Street guru who isn’t one of the clowns of the bunch, said flat out last week that the market was being propped up. “These markets are all rigged, and I don’t say that critically. I just say that factually,” he asserted on CNBC.
Over 110 farm, food and consumer groups urged members of Congress in aletter today to oppose trade promotion authority or “fast track” legislation that would pave the way for trade agreements detrimental to farmers, ranchers and food systems, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A fast track bill, expected to be introduced this week, would allow the President to negotiate two mega trade deals in secret, and present a final version to Congress for a simple up or down vote—depriving Congress of its right to amend the finalized agreement. The groups expressed concern that pending trade deals would primarily benefit agribusiness corporations and not address the key challenges facing farmers and rural communities.
This is no plea for pity for corporate kingpins like Walmart and McDonald’s inundated by workers’ demands for living wages. Raises would, of course, cost these billion-dollar corporations something. More costly, though, is the price paid by minimum-wage workers who have not received a raise in six years. Even more dear is what these workers have paid for their campaign to get raises. Managers have harassed, threatened and fired them. Despite all that, low-wage workers will return to picket lines and demonstrations Wednesday in a National Day of Action in the fight for $15 an hour. The date is 4 – 15. These are workers who live paycheck to paycheck, barely able to pay their bills, and certainly unable to cope with an emergency.
I started working as a reporter at the Financial Times soon after the financial crisis began and at the height of the so-called “War on Terror”. I was a young, ambitious reporter assigned to one of the world’s most respected broadsheets, ready to speak the truth. I learnt soon enough that this was not the place to do it. Maybe I should have guessed. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, I had had a partial awakening. As the war drums sounded in 2003, I learnt that the United States and the United Kingdom, despite now pushing for a war with him, had, in the 1980s, been supporting Saddam Hussein. The man we were presenting as the devil incarnate had only years earlier been our buddy. Soon after, I saw that my government thought nothing of rewriting intelligence to trick its own citizens into a totally illegal war.
Yesterday was the deadline for countries to sign up as founding members of the China-backed Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). It will go down in history as marking a significant defeat for the global foreign policy and strategic objectives of United States imperialism. Against strenuous opposition from Washington, more than 40 countries have now indicated they want to be part of the AIIB. Major European powers including Britain, France and Germany, as well as Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands, are on board. Almost all countries in the South East Asian region, which count China as their major trading partner, have also signed up. India is also a signatory, together with Taiwan. The most significant blow against the US was struck by Britain, its chief European ally, which announced its decision to join on March 12. It opened the floodgates for others to follow, including two key US allies in the Asia-Pacific—Australia and South Korea. Japan is also reported to be considering joining, possibly as early as June.
A network of pipelines [is] required to connect the rigs to the mainland for the transportation of oil and gas resources and in some cases, waste products. The pipelines disrupt the sea bottom ecosystems, physical and structural integrity of the sea bottom, and water flow patterns. As the pipelines travel through the estuaries and on land, their transportation routes are heavily damaged. The physical and structural disruption of the environment becomes even greater. Marshlands and wetlands are disrupted and begin to erode and the coastline moves inland. The offshore and coastal areas will be forever damaged and destroyed.
Let’s get one thing straight to begin with. Trade is good. We do it all the time. Trade has been pretty much part of recorded human history and evidence reveals prehistorical trade routes in many parts of the world. It becomes a little bit trickier when we look at large-scale international trade agreements. The question as to whether foreign trade promotes peace and development or destructive conflict has been debated for a long time. One of the most current controversies on free trade agreements evolves around the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The history of free trade agreements, the secrecy around TPP, and the leaked information of the actual agreement suggest tremendous potential for social conflict if implemented. Described by its promoters as a “next-generation model for addressing both new and traditional trade and investment issues, supporting the creation and retention of jobs and promoting economic development in our countries,” TPP is already facing broad resistance.
The TPP-Free Trade USA push goes back even further, however, to at least 2010. That’s when Obama put Jeff Immelt, the CEO of the giant U.S. global corporation, General Electric, in charge of a special Presidential Committee tasked with coming up with recommending future USA trade initiatives. TPP was one of them. But before acting on Immelt’s 2010 recommendations, Obama had to first wrap up the loose ends of the several bilateral free trade agreements still on the table between the USA, South Korea, Colombia, Panama and other countries. Then there was the 2012 presidential elections. Obama and Democrats knew trying to push the TPP through before would risk their re-election chances. So they waited. Then came the November 2014 midterm Congressional elections.
More developers and investors are racing to build increasingly lavish homes on spec. Built on prime lots with master suites larger than most homes and spas and entertainment spaces comparable with those in hotels, many of these homes are also attempting to break new price records. Real-estate agents say the surge reflects an ultraluxury housing market that is at an all-time high, fed in part by overseas buyers and house hunters looking to invest in trophy properties. “These are people who are going to buy these homes to park money,” says Jeff Hyland, of Beverly Hills-based Hilton & Hyland. Mr. Hadid declines to say what he’s spending on the home, but says the listing price will likely be in the $200 million range when the house is completed next year.
In recent months, progressives have been voicing their opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And they might try and make an example out of Sen. Ron Wyden over it, even though he’s been a reliable ally for years. The free trade agreement, which would involve 12 Asia-Pacific countries—including the U.S. along with countries like Mexico, Japan and Canada—could account for 40 percent of global GDP and one-third of all world trade. Progressive groups say that the deal is no good: it could ship more jobs overseas, undercut environmental and labor standards, and increase Internet censorship. The deal’s future may rest with Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, and his support for the partnership has some progressives thinking about going after one of their own in their fight against the deal.
The biggest “aha” for me after reading Edward E. Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism is the extent to which financial speculation is baked into the American economy. From Baptist I learned that 185 years ago, the acquisition of slaves, like any other property, could be financed by mortgages; that bonds were sold to investors based on the value of those mortgages; and, that securities based on enslaved human beings produced a “slave asset bubble” not unlike that produced by the rampant speculation in home mortgage derivatives that helped cause the financial crisis of 2008. In his elegant Atlantic magazine article, The Case for Reparations, Ta-Nehisi Coates works backwards from recent experiences in Chicago to the history that Baptist describes. I cannot recommend this article highly enough, because, as Coates and many others are deeply aware, it is impossible to make a case for reparations without bearing witness to our own shared history.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) on Thursday accused the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) of “baffling” Democrats “with bullshit” in an effort to advance President Obama’s trade agenda. Pocan’s remarks, which were triggered by a debate over whether the U.S. enjoys a trade surplus with free-trade partners, mark the latest escalation in a fight between liberals and the White House office over President Obama’s trade agenda. Obama is requesting that Congress approve “fast-track” legislation that would make it easier to negotiate trade deals, and his team is negotiating two new trade agreements. He’s getting some cooperation from an otherwise antagonistic GOP on Capitol Hill but is running into opposition from the left.
The trial of the century—a long-awaited determination of the damage perpetrated by Wall Street institutions in the financial crisis—began Monday in New York. But it’s only happening because one bank—unlike Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup, and Bank of America—refused to settle out of court. The Japanese firm Nomura stands accused of lying to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about the quality of mortgages pooled into securities during the housing bubble. The case will finally reveal hard data on just how much money Nomura, and the rest of the industry, made through fraud. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, sued 18 of the biggest banks in the world in 2011.