“Free Trade” Is Today’s Imperialism by the 1 Percent

 

Building alternatives to free trade must become an essential component of a more progressive US foreign policy.

Opposition to “free” trade is clearly growing — both the progressive and the corporate elements of the Democratic Party are now critical of agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Less clear are the alternatives to free trade that might emerge. As progressives continue to build power inside and outside of the Democratic Party, we must clarify our understanding of the international political economy, and imagine and begin to build real alternatives to free trade. Building these alternatives must become an essential component of a more progressive US foreign policy.

The conventional wisdom says that if you oppose free trade, you must support protectionism or economic nationalism. This is misleading. There is no such thing as “free” trade. People create all of the systems that govern our political economy. These systems inevitably favor certain human activities over others, and we can design them to act any way that we want. The important question is: For whom are trade policies “free”? Put another way: Who do trade policies favor?

Debunking “Free” Trade

“Free” trade is free only for capital owners: the plutocratic few who own and control multinational corporations. When countries enter into free trade agreements, the governments of both countries effectively agree that their laws will not favor businesses from their country over businesses from any other countries. The main way that free trade does this is by attempting to reduce all tariffs to as close to 0 percent as possible, to eliminate import quotas that countries can use to limit the amount and types of goods imported from specified countries, and to discourage countries from more directly subsidizing their own businesses.

Far from promoting freedom for everyone, “free” trade empowers multinationals from the global North to control the world political economy in two important ways. First, free trade facilitates global North multinationals to maintain the unequal trade they established with the global South during colonialism. This increases inequalities of power and wealth between global North and global South. Second, free trade empowers global North multinationals to plan the world economy alongside global South multinationals, the junior partners of the global North multinationals, and to pit working-class people in the global North and global South against one another.

Thus, free trade is the modern form that imperialism takes. Throughout US history, the US government has used military force to expand free trade throughout the world. For more than a century, US-backed military coups and US-backed military dictatorships have led to partnerships between the US government, US multinationals and local elites across the globe that are built around creating trade that concentrates wealth for multinationals. This remains a core source of violence in the world with many implications. Today, for instance, Central American refugees at the southern US border are criminalized for fleeing a history of US military coups and intervention in Central America and the neoliberal trade policies that US multinationals and local elites created in their aftermath…

Source: “Free Trade” Is Today’s Imperialism by the 1 Percent

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Ontario’s new climate change plan gets a failing grade – Environmental Defence

Sarah Buchanan
Program Manager, Clean Economy

Dec 03, 2018

Ontario’s climate change plan has finally arrived. But does the plan have what it takes to do Ontario’s fair share to reduce carbon pollution?Source: Ontario’s new climate change plan gets a failing grade – Environmental Defence

It’s Too Late for Trump’s Wall

As we watch the congregation of desperate people at the southern U.S. border, and the crisis generated by Trump’s shutdown of the federal government, we have come to support the creation of a wall, an impenetrable barrier against those who should not cross it. Unfortunately, it is too late – much too late. The wall should have been created two hundred years ago. If such a wall had existed in 1846, President Polk and his expansionist supporters could not have orchestrated an aggressive war against Mexico, one which resulted in the loss of almost half of all Mexican territory.

The existence of such a wall also would have prevented U.S. banana, sugar and tobacco companies from overrunning Nicaragua in the late 19th century, which led to people being displaced from their land and exploited for their labor. When the popular Nicaraguan President José Santos Zelaya promoted democratic reforms in 1909, he was overthrown at the insistence of U.S. corporations. The U.S. sent Marines to aid in the coup, and afterwards continued to occupy Nicaragua for the two decades. Even after its military withdrew, the U.S. didn’t give up control of Nicaragua, but empowered a brutal dictator — with the understanding that he would use his rule to support U.S. business interests.

In the absence of a wall, the people of El Salvador experienced a similar fate. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Salvadoran landholding aristocracy dominated the country, while maintaining close ties with the United States. Things changed in 1931, when a member of the Salvadorian Labor Party — Arturo Araujo — was elected president. He ran on a platform of providing for the people’s basic needs and restoring land to the poor who had been largely forced off it. Araujo held the office for less than a year before being overthrown by the elite-controlled Salvadorian army, with the U.S. standing ready to provide needed military support. In the repression that followed tens of thousands of Salvadorians were murdered, disproportionately indigenous people. The U.S. formally recognized a ruthless authoritarian as the president of El Salvador shortly thereafter.

Due to the absence of such a wall, prospects for a decent life for people in Honduras dwindled by the early 20th century as U.S. banana companies acquired enormous tracts of land in the county. The U.S. repeatedly dispatched military forces to the country to protect U.S. investments there and repress fruit workers’ efforts to unionize. And imagine what the lives of people in Guatemala could be like today if the popular president promoting a more just an equitable society, Jacobo Árbenz, had not been overthrown by a U.S.-backed coup in 1954 at the behest of the U.S.-based United Fruit Company. Guatemala was ruled afterwards by a series of U.S.-backed, repressive dictators.

In the second half of the 20th century people in Central America and Mexico challenged increasing poverty, worker exploitation and government repression and struggled for democracy and social justice. The United States government supported the ruthless regimes in the region with military support and training. There were over 250,000 fatalities by 1989 as a result of these conflicts – primarily in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua – and countless traumatized families saw their hopes for a better life vanish.

Then the implementation of NAFTA and CAFTA both intensified worker exploitation, the collapse of small farms, impoverishment, and environmental destruction. While all this represents a “good deal” for U.S. corporations and investors, whose interests are paraded as the “national interests,” in truth such “deals” constitute crimes against humanity.

The poverty, violence, and despair in Central America is, then, not an inherent condition, but rather the disastrous consequence of U.S.-policy that single-mindedly focused on the interests of powerful corporations and elites, both in the past and now. Throughout the region, the use of the U.S. government has sought to protect business interests at any cost. It has operated without concern for the integrity of Mexican and Central American national borders or the “homeland security” of the masses of people who live there. From the vantage point of the people there, they have been, and continue to be, the victims of U.S.-sponsored “murderers and thieves.”

Tragically, people desperate to flee the resultant impoverishment, exploitation and violence routinely find racism, imprisonment, and heartbreak waiting for them at the U.S. border. These folks, many travelling as families, are scapegoated for the declining quality of life and growing economic marginalization of people in the United States. Many in the U.S. are unaware of the oppressive and destructive policies their government has employed in Mexico and Central America (and for that matter, of similar U.S. practices throughout the world.)

Today, Mexico and Central America would be far better places if the U.S. had been constrained by a wall on its border back in 1846. Today what is needed is the type of barrier featured in the Harry Potter series, a platform 9¾. This barrier would be selective in who could pass, permitting all asylum seekers and others seeking a better life to cross uninhibited, while remaining impermeable to further U.S. military and covert intervention. People living south of the U.S., desperate to cross the border, should be treated with dignity and respect, and the people in their countries should have the unimpeded right to pursue the democracy, justice, and equality they have so long struggled for.

Source: It’s Too Late for Trump’s Wall

How the media’s vacuous, sexist and false reporting on Elizabeth Warren proves they work for Trump’s agenda

For all Donald Trump’s ranting and railing against the media, they are and always have been Trump’s most valuable asset, boosting his signal exponentially — largely on his terms —…

He’s a pathological liar and a lifelong racist, with a plethora of dangerous psychological symptoms. But when Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced her potential 2020 candidacy, much of the mainstream media eagerly let Trump set the narrative, recycling his racist taunts and questioning Warren’s grasp of reality — an over-the-top example of how well they serve his needs.

Trump is hardly alone. The media has persistently benefited conservatives in a similar fashion. The general press ethos of symmetrical “fairness” is vulnerable to asymmetrical exploitation and attack, as is liberal culture more generally. Witness the decades of bad-faith attacks on climate science promoted by the fossil fuel industry which has known about its own culpability at least since the 1970s.

On “Meet the Press” last weekend, Chuck Todd of all people said he wasn’t going to play the “both sides” game about the science of climate change — a sharp reversal from decades of their usual practice, as seen just a month earlier, of giving “equal time” to ideological industry shills. This comes three decades late, compared to James Hansen’s 1988 warning to Congress, and more than five decades late, compared to the first warnings to President John F. Kennedy in February 1961. But better late than never, right?

But that was just one show and just one issue — though the future of humanity hangs in the balance. With the 2020 presidential campaign just getting started, and Democrats taking over the House, the media’s “both sides” obsession — making absurd, baseless policies seem the equal of serious proposals — is a tremendous boon to the GOP. You could even call it their ace-in-the-hole. As, Bill Kristol, a lifelong beneficiary of this false balance logic, put it recently:

As a non-Democrat, I’m struck by how much the media seem obsessed by possible rifts among Democrats, narrow lines they’ll have to walk, stray utterances of their backbenchers, etc., than by the rather more massive fact that we have a president and administration in total meltdown.

Indeed, this vastly understates the media’s false balance response to Warren’s 2020 campaign announcement — an event that served to highlight just about everything wrong with our contemporary media system: its vacuousness, sexism, racism, classism, short attention span, lack of historical awareness and more.

Warren released a powerful announcement video combining her own personal story with the economic devastation of the American middle class, a terrain where she’s been fighting for decades.

“After my older brothers joined the military, and I was just a kid, my daddy had a heart attack and couldn’t work. My mom found a minimum-wage job at Sears and that job saved our house and our family,” Warren narrates over family pictures, a story that sounds like a fairytale today: “My daddy ended up as a janitor, but he raised a daughter who got to be a public school teacher, a law professor and a senator. We got a real opportunity to build something.”

Then Warren turns to the reality she’s struggled to understand, explain and fight against for decades now. “Working families today face a lot tougher path than my family did,” she says, as a chart traces the declining middle-class share of U.S. income, from the late 1960s to now, “and families of color face a path that is steeper and rockier, a path that is made even harder by the impact of generations of discrimination,” she says, as another chart shows how the wealth gap between black and white families has only grown wider over the past 30 years.

A lot of people saw that video for themselves, but not that many heard it analyzed, echoed and discussed — treated with the seriousness and respect it deserved, whether one agrees with Warren or not. As former Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook tweeted the next day:

“Without intervention or some counter movement, the savvy press are going to do a number on us in 2020,” media critic and NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen added, retweeting Mook. (Even though I don’t believe the “media only covers insult” statement is true.)…

Source: How the media’s vacuous, sexist and false reporting on Elizabeth Warren proves they work for Trump’s agenda

Seymour M. Hersh · The Killing of Osama bin Laden

Would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live?

 

…This spring I contacted Durrani and told him in detail what I had learned about the bin Laden assault from American sources: that bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006; that Kayani and Pasha knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false…

Source: Seymour M. Hersh · The Killing of Osama bin Laden

If Everything Is So ‘Wunderbar’ in Germany, Why Are the Voters So Unhappy?

The country’s two-tier economy that Merkel championed is creating more economic misery. When she leaves, will a “German Trump” be next?

How do you say, “dead woman walking” in German? Today, the answer to that question is “Angela Merkel” after the German leader announced that she would be seeking neither re-election as chancellor in 2021, nor re-election as head of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party later this year in December.

… But there’s another side to this story. However highly regarded, Chancellor Merkel has repeatedly led governments, coalition or otherwise, which championed the neoliberal dismantling of the country’s “social market economy,” especially in services. Her government also pushed and prodded the rest of the EU in a comparable direction. In Germany specifically, the end result has been the growth of a two-tiered economy, which has heightened economic insecurity, created declining living standards for much of the population, and exacerbated inequality. In other words, too little “social,” too much “market.”

Source: If Everything Is So ‘Wunderbar’ in Germany, Why Are the Voters So Unhappy?

Climate of Class Rule:  Common(s)er Revolt or Common Ruin

Extreme weather and its collateral damage are only tips of the melting iceberg, semi-metaphorically speaking. The real climatological shit hits the eco-exterminist fan when we can’t grow enough food, find enough water, and keep ourselves cool enough to survive – and when global warming combines with collapsing social and technical infrastructure to bring pandemics that  wipe out much of an increasingly thirsty, under-nourished, and over-heated human race…

Source: Climate of Class Rule:  Common(s)er Revolt or Common Ruin

What the rich need now is hate, sweet hate

Humberto DaSilva

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In 2008 the Westworld economy crashed because for Wall Street moral hazard had become a board game. After blowing the biggest bubble ever enticing the guileless with mortgages they couldn’t afford, stockbrokers sliced these loans into derivatives that sold like packaged bologna to guileless pension funds, RRSPs, mutual funds, and 401Ks. European banks bought this toilet paper

Source: What the rich need now is hate, sweet hate

 

The Slaves Rebel

You might not know it, but there is a major revolt happening right now in the United States.. The only way to end slavery is to stop being a slave. Hundreds of men and women in prisons in some 17 states are refusing to carry out prison labor, conducting hunger strikes or boycotting for-profit commissaries in an effort to abolish the last redoubt of legalized slavery in America. The strikers are demanding to be paid the minimum wage, the right to vote, decent living conditions, educational and vocational training and an end to the death penalty and life imprisonment.

Source: The Slaves Rebel