Tag Archive: WTO


An Open Letter to Vanilla Ice

Dear Mr. Ice,

I recall lines from your magnum opus, Ice Ice Baby, that go as follows:

If there was a problem /

Yo, I’ll solve it. . .

I don’t recall you doing much for social justice after such an impassioned battle cry, but never one to doubt your intentions or nobility, I assume your lack of solving the world’s problems is the result of a mere communication and planning error.  I’m assuming no one gave you a list.  So Mr. Ice, here is a list of problems for you to solve.

(1) Please get us out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya (without letting Qaddafi win).

(2) Please fix unemployment and create jobs, and eradicate global and domestic poverty.

(3) Please fix our two-party, corporate-funded, winner-take-all anti-democratic ‘democracy.’

(4) Please reverse ecological damage, climate change, and other important components of our ecological crisis.

(5) Please eliminate sexism, homophobia, racism, classism, and ethnic and religious conflict and hatred.

(6) Please establish economic democracy as well as political.

(7) Please save our social programs.  And expand them, so they actually work well.

(8) Please keep Huckabee (or any other Republican) from ever getting elected again.  Last election, Chuck Norris promoted Huckabee, and if Chuck Norris is against democracy, freedom, equality and welfare, consequently puppies, smiling children, rainbows, and flowers, then you’re our only hope (given Bruce Lee is dead, and Charlie Sheen is on tour).

(9) While you’re at it, please keep most Democrats from getting elected, too.  Not all. . . but most of them can go.

(10) I would like no more Ingrid Michaelson or Kimya Dawson songs.  Could you duct-tape them to Rebecca Black’s songwriters for Friday, along with Justin Bieber, and send them into the sun?

(11)  Please help M. Night Shyamalan write more movies like The Sixth Sense and less like Signs.

(12) I would like unlimited Dutch Brothers free coffee.  It isn’t selfish because I would share them.

(13) Please Free Weezy.  Oh, wait, he’s already free? YOU WORK FAST!!

(14) And finally, please end the American Empire, WTO, IMF, and World Bank so other countries can have democracy, too.

I appreciate your cooperation, Mr. Ice, and may many an epic poem be penned in your honor for saving civilization.

Yours Truly,

Me

Apparently, in supporting Wall Street over Main Street, the capitalists over the working class and citizenry, in health care, job policy, economic regulation (or lack thereof), consumer protections, and unpopular overseas conflicts, the Obama Administration apparently decided that it had not yet chosen enough plays from the Bush Administration playbook.

Democracy Now! reports:

Clinton: US “Deeply Concerned” about Venezuela

Clinton’s visit to Brazil came as part of her first visit to Latin America as Secretary of State. It comes one week after Latin American and Caribbean nations agreed to form a new regional body excluding the United States and Canada as an alternative to the Organization of American States. At a news conference, Clinton criticized the Venezuelan government.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We are deeply concerned about the behavior of the Venezuelan government, which we think is unproductive with respect to its relations with certain neighbors, which we believe is limiting slowly, but surely, the freedoms within Venezuela, therefore adversely impacting the Venezuelan people. And we would hope that there could be a new start on the part of the Venezuelan leadership to restore full democracy, to restore freedom of the press, to restore private property, and return to a free market economy. We wish Venezuela were looking more to its south and looking at Brazil and looking at Chile.”

So, I guess if you have to  defend the American Empire, you. . . uh, pick a fight with Venezuela?  Really?  Now, regarding issues such as the closure of oppositional press and attempts to delimit terms, I won’t say much. . . however, given that the majority of closed press have been closed due to expired licenses (a policy that we would uphold ourselves), and a number of oppositional press supported the 2002 coup attempt (which, if there was an attempted coup in America, there is no doubt we would shut down presses that supported it), and that the limitation of terms is, at least in one sense, arguably undemocratic, given that it restricts the population’s ability to vote for a popular president past a certain point, I don’t think her critique is totally valid (not so say that I would not change some things in Venezuelan policy).

However, let me make a few further points.  First, democracy and capitalism are polar opposites.  First of all, economic democracy, a key socialist principle, would render all corporations employee self managed, in a democratic a nonhierarchical manner.  To the extend that this is not the case in Venezuela, I disagree with Venezuelan policy on the matter. . .but is it the opposite of the case under capitalism, because private ownership of the tools and resources that go into production, exploitation, and the inequality and power that come from them can only be protected if the workers who actually produce the goods that form our world have no democratic say over them.  True economic democracy would allow each worker to see their true importance in the workplace, gain greater knowledge over their work processes, and render them powerful enough to get their fair share of the revenue they’ve produced.  Economic democracy would be better for all workers, and have a number of economic benefits, but would be less profitable for the ruling class.  But none of that under capitalism.

Political democracy is hindered by capitalism, too.  Certainly, the USSR was not a political democracy, and neither was China.  These were mistakes–just as it is a mistake to give economic power to any bureaucratic and hierarchical body, be it corporations or an undemocratic ‘state’ over and above the people.  In fact, convincing arguments have been made to see the USSR and the like as ‘state capitalist’ rather than ‘socialist’ because the people owned no means of production, but a hierarchical body owned and determined it.  That being said, ‘democracy’ in capitalist countries is capitalism in name only.  Because the state is organized in a hierarchical manner as all capitalist institutions, our ‘democratic’ government is actually very unresponsive to the will of the people.  Furthermore, there are ‘checks and balances’ against the popular will by design, such as (1) a president who is not directly elected, (2) a supreme court, seated effectively ‘for life’, and not elected by the people, and (3) the senate, giving states power over the country in disproportion to their populations.  Finally, in that the capitalist class, collectively, holds the means of production hostage from the public will, it commands the majority of social means, and whoever holds the social means controls the ends as well.  Consequentially, the American government must appease capitalists as constraints on any action they take.

An illustration: say Doctors Without Borders builds a hospital next to a village on a hill, and builds a bridge to connect the hill to the village.  The hospital is free for all, so it seems as though everyone has equal access, but Ronald Reagan builds a locked gate on the end of the bridge.  Consequentially, Reagan, who has the only key, controls access to the bridge, and thus to the hospital.  While the policy of the hospital looks officially as though everyone has equal access, Reagan in fact has complete control over whether or not someone can get to said hospital.  What looks like freedom is, in fact, nothing like it.  What is the difference, then, if instead of a locked gate blocking access to the hospital, the hospital charges fees?  And if not everyone can pay?  Whoever has ownership of any corporation or institution has the ability to restrict access to its products and services, and thus, has leverage over anyone who needs them.  Since America is a ‘free market’ country, corporations own the majority of the means of production, and so is the provider of jobs for citizens and some direct income for the state.  Since the state needs income through taxation and these corporations, because it owns no means of production itself, it has to hinge its policies not on what is best for citizens and workers, but what keeps corporations happy.  In addition to funding campaigns, they control jobs and, through which, the means for government to operate.  Capitalism controls political democracy, and keeps means from the people.

In other words, capitalism is an enemy to political AND economic democracy, and here Clinton shows her bias, the same bias present in her husband’s role in NAFTA and the WTO.  Clinton should do her homework. . . you cannot support but a ‘free market economy’ AND democracy at the same time.

Historic Trade Bill Introduced

The Democratic Socialists of America sent me an e-News email that I think is important enough to share.  I will quote the first three paragraphs, and then share why I think it is important.

There has been an incredibly important trade bill introduced–

It’s called the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act. Introduced in Congress on June 4,  its prime sponsors are Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine). There are currently 58 co-sponsors of the bill in the House and four in the Senate. The bill’s numbers are HR 6180 and S 3083. Write them down and don’t lose them! Put them up on your refrigerator with a magnet, on your bulletin board, under your coffee cup or in your computer—wherever you put important political information that you will need again. Because this bill is a keeper.

The act would require the government to review its trade agreements, and it provides a process for renegotiating them, too. The bill also outlines principles that should be used in renegotiating those trade agreements–something that  is consistent with the precepts of DSA’s   Renegotiate NAFTA Project and which was described in the most recent issue of Democratic Left.
The bill is vigorously supported by major unions, environmental and other fair trade organizations. Said Bruce Raynor, President of UNITE HERE, “This bill breaks new ground on the enforcement of labor rights, environmental protection, food and product safety, procurement, safeguards against surges of imports, trade remedies against unfair trade practices and the ability for countries to regulate foreign investment.”
This was sent from Frank Llewellyn, National Director of the DSA, and the rest can be found here- http://community.icontact.com/p/democratic_socialists_of_america/newsletters/democratic_socialists_of_america/posts/5213048991778894381.
Why is this important?
In 1974, Richard Nixon introduced the concept of a fast track on trade, a procedure that would require Congress to vote on a trade agreement and all its changes it imposes on U.S. law, no amendments permitted, within 60 to 90 days of the president’s submission of the agreement and its legislation.  Debate on the bill is limited to 24 hours.  Trade bills are hundreds of pages, filled with clauses, subclauses, etc., ad nauseum, full of specialized trade terminology, and in 60 to 90 days it is barely even possible, with a full staff and advisors, to read all of it–even most of it.  Nixon proposed a council of private sector trade advisory groups to facilitate the process–hardly a disinterested group.  How does this affect procedures?  Let’s take the example of the Uruguay Round negotiations of the GATT, which created the WTO.
“During the . . . Uruguay Round negotiations, the advisory committees were composed of over eight hundred business executives and consultants (with limited labor representation), five representatives from the few environmental groups that were supportive or neutral on NAFTA, and no consumer rights or health representatives . . . [and] meetings of the advisory groups are closed to the public, with representatives required to obtain a security clearance from the government after a background check” (Nader, “GATT, NAFTA, and the Subversion of the Democratic Process,” from Mander and Goldsmith’s “The Case Against the Global Economy” p. 101).
Once trade agreements pass, attempts to figure out what, exactly, was passed face at least a few obstacles.  First, when George H.W. Bush promoted the NAFTA bill, he spoke positively, but the text was only made available to the American people in an unofficial version a month after his public appearance.  The 752 page official version was made available at a price of $41, and only after Bush Sr. left office in ’93.  Second, only those with an expansive knowledge of trade terminology can decipher exactly what the implications of the bill will be.  Third, in many countries (who are expected to pass these bills into their own legislation), the GATT text never became available, or became translated months after its passing.
A provision of the WTO rules, passed by the American government, is that WTO rules and restrictions are now fully enforcible, and governments must conform all laws, present and future, to the WTO.  Trade agreements, in other words, subvert even the constitution, and every law we have.  Combined with the fast track, trade rules are something to be debated more rigorously, considered more thoughtfully, and regulated more harshly than any other potential laws.  Beyond this, the fast track needs to be slowed down.
In the mean time, the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act is monumentally important, and in light of the history of International Capital’s consolidation of power and subversion of democracy, I urge anyone who reads this to talk to their congressmen and congresswomen, and forward the news to support this act to anyone concerned for the future.
In solidarity,
The Practical Utopian