Authoritarianism and Democracy
I love President Obama. Not in the sense that one would love a lover, but because I like his personality, refreshing amount of honesty, and his decisions have been mostly ones I could support. If I can criticize him it's not for lack of trying. If he can't roll back the Security-Military-Police State single-handedly that is a three fingered thing. I've been frightened of where our country was going for a long time. I was afraid when he was elected in 2008 that his Presidency would be an interregnum between truly vile people. George Walker Bush and his administration were truly vile people and I'm afraid the Cons have transmogrified the GOP from a party that had reformers and progressives in it to a truly vile party.
Authoritarianism and the President
Obama still thinks these trade agreements are a good thing. He thought Afghanistan was our "Good War" and while he had criticisms of our Spy State, he seems to think we can keep the spy state and our civil liberties too. As long as there is a legal process then blowing people away without even a warrant for their arrest is okay with him. He wasn't "allowed" to close Guantanamo, so he didn't. All of the things he's wrong on I think he's sincerely, and consistently, wrong on. So I don't like making it personal about him. He's been wrong about what he's been wrong on from the beginning. And where he seems to have changed it was, maybe, because his original position came to seem to him to have been unreasonable. I sincerely believe that the "powers that be" took him aside on his inauguration night and read him a riots act on what he can and can't do. Since then I've watched people working for him defy him, such as the Drug Enforcement Agency. Others, like Eric Holder, were good choices on some issues, but not so good in other realms
Authoritarianism amplifies problems
Authoritarianism is the reification of authority. It is the support of people and policies, laws and violence, purely on the say-so of authorities. An authority originally was an author, but authorities are also the people who interpret what is written and rule in the name of their power to author decisions. When Bush said "I'm the decider" he was referring to his power to grant or deny life or death, torture or personal destruction; with the stroke of a pen. That is authority. Deifying authorities and persons gives us authorities. When people accept the word of someone over even the written word or their own reason -- that is authoritarianism. And sadly we Democrats suffer from authoritarianism too. We tacitly accept unacceptable things, use pretzel logic to ratify awful decisions and go along with what turn out to be the 'private, separate interest' of scoundrels, instead of holding soundly to our own principles and reason. Obama is great, but he has authoritarian followers and he too sometimes tells us "trust me I know, I'm the authority on this." And it's on us when we buy it. Nobody is perfect. Not even me. [that was an attempt at humor]
Support TPP or else!
Authoritarian people amplify the problems associated with hierarchy and the abuse of power. And they turn good ideas into bad ones. TPP is an example.
I've heard people lately tell me that if I question TPP I'm being played by the Right Wing. These are the same people who tell me that Snowden is evil because he's a libertarian and ignore the evidence we have of abuses of police and spy power. Anyway, I explained my reasons for questioning TPP in two past posts. My Previous blog on the Trans Pacific Partnership:
- I just found this article in Politico and it seems to cover the subject better than I can (not being able to read the draft):
- Great Position Paper to Read:
- Alternet Article:
- Paul Krugman/Washington Times:
Obama criticized Elizabeth Warren a few weeks ago. He and his administration have been focusing on the "straw argument" on Free Trade:
"The administration’s main analytical defense of the trade deal came earlier this month, in a report from the Council of Economic Advisers. Strangely, however, the report didn’t actually analyze the Pacific trade pact. Instead, it was a paean to the virtues of free trade, which was irrelevant to the question at hand." [Krugman Article]
And it is irrelevant to the questions we have! And we have more questions. Do we really need to turn 'intellectual property' into a lifetime sinecure? Krugman notes:
"On intellectual property: patents and copyrights are how we reward innovation. But do we need to increase those rewards at consumers’ expense? Big Pharma and Hollywood think so, but you can also see why, for example, Doctors Without Borders is worried that the deal would make medicines unaffordable in developing countries. That’s a serious concern, and it’s one that the pact’s supporters haven’t addressed in any satisfying way." [Krugman Article]
Krugman refers to the ISDS provisions. Krugman refers to the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions:
"On dispute settlement: a leaked draft chapter shows that the deal would create a system under which multinational corporations could sue governments over alleged violations of the agreement, and have the cases judged by partially privatized tribunals. Critics like Senator Elizabeth Warren warn that this could compromise the independence of U.S. domestic policy — that these tribunals could, for example, be used to attack and undermine financial reform." [Krugman Article]
I already noted, that while we hear the earlier draft has been moderated, the articles at the ISDS website still advertise the ISDS as described in the leaks. Obama went so far as to criticize Warren telling us that the ISDS was now going to protect labor and that the TPP wouldn't have all those flaws we've been talking about. But as everyone has noted, he talks about Free Trade as if the alternative to this TPP would be high tariffs and trade wars. Which ignores the untrustworthy elements of the monopolistic attitude embodied in TPP for Investors. And worse, even more than what I described in my previous blog, as Alternet notes:
"The office puts out an annual report on “foreign trade barriers” around the world, going country by country to list complaints the U.S. government has about their laws with respect to commerce. If you read the 2015 report, you'll quickly see that many of the complaints are about laws designed to promote environment, labor, and anti-monopolistic practices – and relate only vaguely to the larger issue of trade and tariffs. The complaints seem more focused around opposing regulations that restrict the rights of multi-national corporations and their investors." [alternet:elizabeth-warren-right-about-tpp]
So essentially our suspicion that the TPP is mostly about putting a leash on US, is probably right!
If the "Pro-TPP" folks want my support they have to do better than play the authoritarian card
"Instead of addressing real concerns, however, the Obama administration has been dismissive, trying to portray skeptics as uninformed hacks who don’t understand the virtues of trade. But they’re not: the skeptics have on balance been more right than wrong about issues like dispute settlement, and the only really hackish economics I’ve seen in this debate is coming from supporters of the trade pact." [http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/22/opinion/paul-krugman-trade-and-trust.html?_r=0]
This is more a review than an effort to write a case for opposing TPP. I have grave doubts on these two subjects particularly and grave doubts that any of the promises made by the President and the Trade Authority are **in fact** true. And those doubts are amplified by the comments of Authoritarian supporters of the the TPP and the President's comments.
"So-called “cleared advisors” like me are prohibited from sharing publicly the criticisms we’ve lodged about specific proposals and approaches. The government has created a perfect Catch 22: The law prohibits us from talking about the specifics of what we’ve seen, allowing the president to criticize us for not being specific. Instead of simply admitting that he disagrees with me—and with many other cleared advisors—about the merits of the TPP, the president instead pretends that our specific, pointed criticisms don’t exist." [Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/05/tpp-elizabeth-warren-labor-118068.html#ixzz3bA91RVDS]
And he concludes:
"Congress should refuse to pass fast track trade negotiating authority until the partnership between the branches, and the trust of the American people is restored. That will require a lot of fence mending and disclosure of exactly what the TPP will do. That begins by sharing the final text of the TPP with those of us who won’t simply rubber-stamp it. [Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/05/tpp-elizabeth-warren-labor-118068.html#ixzz3bAA6hNF0]