Obama Plans to Put Foreign Companies Above the Law

Zach Carter has a must-read new article up at Huffington Post on leaked documents from trade negotiations that have been posted at the website Public Citizen. You should read his entire article, pronto, but here is the money quote:

The newly leaked document is one of the most controversial of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. It addresses a broad sweep of regulations governing international investment and reveals the Obama administration’s advocacy for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.

Under the agreement currently being advocated by the Obama administration, American corporations would continue to be subject to domestic laws and regulations on the environment, banking and other issues. But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings.

[Courtesy Waren Celli, click for larger image]

This is an active effort to undermine US laws and make certain US laws subordinate to non-US tribunal that sits outside any democratic process. President Obama took an oath to uphold the land. I’d like to throw this out to readers. As much as trade agreements (which were approved by Congress) have sometimes run into friction with existing laws, this move by Obama looks to be a far more radical effort to increase the power of multinational companies. And US companies would argue for, and likely eventually get, similar breaks, assuring a legal/regulatory race to the bottom (if you think what we have is bad now, do not underestimate how much worse it could get).

Let’s set aside the fact that no current Congress will stand in the way of a pro-business measure. I’d like readers to tell me whether they think this initiative is an impeachable offense. Does this sort of effort to gut US laws rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors“?

Update: The use of the “I’ word has led some readers to argue (basically) “What are you talking about? This is just a negotiation.” True, but it is also revealing how little we expect of Congress and how much its standing has fallen. This idea should be so far outside the pale that both the substance as well as the process would, in another era, have elicited a serious pushback from Congress. But of course, in that other era, a cagey politician like Obama would never have gone this far either. We seem to be living the Frederick Douglass quote:

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.

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  1. Jeff

    Yes, it does.

    But then all 3 branches have risen to that now.

    Time for the people to govern?

    1. just me

      Right. So the trick is to get it tried by a jury of 12 regular American people. Can’t do that with impeachment, so can a regular lawsuit be filed?

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        What are the odds that the Judge and Jury in RC Pennsylvania are “fixed” to utter the “not guilty” verdict? Same as Louisiana. RC “Old Europe” in the New World.

    2. J.D.Gragg

      “Obama Plans to Put Foreign Companies Above the Law” ……..News but really nothing new about this idiot. His ignorance of business and economics is only surpassed by his flagrant disrespect for laws, regulations and the Constitution!

        1. Chuck

          I don’t think anybody would argue that W was an awful president. However that does not mean that the obama presidency has not been a disaster and a continuation of the policies of W. The biggest difference is that obama is a slicker salesperson/whore.

          1. Westcoastliberal

            You’re right, he gives a good speech and that’s what got him elected, but that’s where it ends. With Obama it’s all about PR; I really don’t think he either understands some of these bills or he just really could care less. I mean, he dealt away the Public Option even before the so-called “healthcare debate” began.
            He’s slicker than slick-Willy himself, but I’ll not be voting for him again. America is in a tail-spin right now.

  2. Dan Kervick

    Of course it’s not. It’s a trade pact negotiation. The trade pact only becomes effective if Congress itself approves it. Congress makes the laws and has the authority to alter the laws it has made. If Congress wants make certain laws binding on US corporations but not international corporations, it can do so. If a President wants to propose that Congress enact such a pact, he can do so.

    If we don’t want Congress to pass such a pact, we need to agitate against it. Start by writing your members of Congress and saying no.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I may be parsing words, but I said initiative, which refers to its unpassed-as-of-yet state. The controversy over this negotiation is long-standing, (look, if Clinton covering up his little dalliance with Monica was at least a misdemeanor, just the unusual refusal to answer repeated demands for documents by Congress ought to qualify, even before you get to the substance of the proposals).

      And it looks like the negotiations are also being used as a Trojan horse for what ought to be separate statutory actions:

      This prompted further criticism from the academic group that free-trade agreement negotiations, notorious for their secrecy, are “the wrong standard for assessing the legitimacy of the TPP intellectual property chapter negotiations. This is because the IP chapter in the TPP, like ACTA, is not a trade agreement. It does not adjust tariffs and quotas—it sets new international limits on domestic regulation, regardless of whether such regulation discriminates against, or even affects, trade.”[42] The group further reiterated its claim that the secretive process is antithetical to the ideals of democracy, and is “no way to engender trust and faith in international law making with such a broad impact.”[42] One critic pointed out that despite’s Kirk’s claim of transparency in the process, public-interest stakeholders have been completely excluded.[43] Another accused Kirk of sidestepping the issue of transparency, and pointed out that transparency is less about the degree of public input, and more about “the flow of information the other way—information about the workings of government being visible to the people it is supposed to represent.”


      1. Dan Kervick

        I’m not saying its a good initiative, Yves, just that there is nothing impeachable about it. Yes, treaty negotiations and trade pact negotiations often take place in secrecy. But for the pact to become effective, it would have to be submitted to Congress for approval, at which time there will be a wide-open hullabaloo and public debate about it.

        The author of the piece seems to be suggesting that Obama is readying some sort of unilateral presidential suspension or override of US law. But it seems to me that they are just negotiating a treaty – which is one of the President’s constitutional prerogatives. And treaties only become law with Congressional approval. It’s not unusual for an administration to negotiate treaties whose passage would require changes to existing US law, is it? Just negotiating the treaty doesn’t put it into effect.

        People have a right to be pissed at Obama for being such a damned Republican and advocating multinational-friendly and anti-environment treaties that break his promises. But being a pro-corporate Republican is not impeachable. Nor is negotiating treaties in secret before submitting them to Congress.

        1. Nathanael

          In the case of ACTA, Obama has been claiming that he can implement it *without* Congressional approval.

          Yes, it’s impeachable. But then so was the election theft committed by Scalia, Thomas, and three other Republican Supreme Court members in 2000. And they’re still pretending to be judges.

          There isn’t going to be any impeachment, largely because getting 67 votes in the Senate for anything controversial is impossible. Andrew Johnson was guilty as sin, he was impeached, and he managed to evade the 2/3 conviction vote in the Senate.

          The bar for conviction of impeachment is too high; it’s an error made by the framers of the Constitution. It’s one of several problems with our current governmental system which are contributing to its oncoming collapse (within 20 years, if I had to guess).

          1. Jeff

            If Congress needs to approve it, they will.

            Surely you have seen Bohner and Canter smirking when they say that Republicans have reached common ground with Democrats on trade agreements.

            Both sides can easily agree when it comes to sc*rwing the American people.

          2. John M

            Late summer, the Democrats were beginning to develop a spine and go after the Felonous Five (or at least the three with blatant conflicts of interest mandating recusal). Then something happened to stop it: 9/11.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      Of course this is an impeachable offense, one of many. It is unconstitutional on its face — overtly subverting established law, purposefully and brazenly. So what if the kleptocracy’s congress has not yet rubber-stamped this coup. Is there any doubt that it will?

      Neither this rogue POTUS nor Congress nor the Supine Court has any authority to do this. Worse is the manner in which this coup against democracy is being waged, by establishing facts on the ground to force its passage thru the sausage grinder.

      Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Wyden, who chairs a subcommittee on international trade, said that his office was locked out of information about a trade pact in the works known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The deal, which involves eight other Pacific nations, includes broad details on government contracting terms that would ban “Buy American” preferences for U.S. manufacturers, and intellectual property standards that would increase prescription drug prices abroad. Those positions have drawn criticism from American labor unions, domestic manufacturers and international public health advocates.

      But while the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative shares draft negotiation documents on the Trans-Pacific deal with the governments of other nations and American corporate executives who serve on advisory boards, it withholds them from the American public and most nonprofit groups — forcing many public health advocates, for instance, to learn about the deals through illegal leaks or informal channels.

      “The majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations — like Halliburton, Chevron, PhRMA, Comcast and the Motion Picture Association of America — are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement,” said Wyden.


      1. rotter

        I would agree with doug tempura on one point – you shouldnt get too agitated about impeachment. My reasons are different than dougs, though. “the system” is captured. dont expect it to work for you. the comment about congress being able to make treaties and the president being able to sign them is all obvious and true. it should also be obvious that if they want to make an unconstitutional treaty (and sign it) they can do that too, and theres nothing you or i can do about – within the context of thier captured system, which works for them, and not for us. you might as well donate some money to the “hope and change” campaign.

        1. rotter

          Meant to say to you, that i agree with kervick on one point LOLO…a goofy technical point that changes the whole comment. carry on…..

      2. LeonovaBalletRusse

        How close is this to GWBush’s “Security and Prosperity Partnership” pact among the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, without Congressional approval (or input)? Pushing this for Bushie were Rice, Gonzales, and Chertoff.

      3. enouf

        Reminds me *exactly* of the Dick Cheney Energy Policy meetings with the Global CCCP Cartel.

        I’m so sick-n-friggin tired of this “secrecy” bullshit;



        p.s. Can WeThePeople invoke Robert’s Rules of Order?
        (just learning about it .. all over again i guess, heh).

    3. rotter

      Dont presume to preach your little silly civics lesson to anyone. Our gvernment dosent even espond to federal court orders,(until it gets one it wants) so dont make snotty patronizing comments about writing a letter to mr. jones in washington. Most of us are all grown up here(i wont vouch for “stripes”)

    4. J.D.Gragg

      Obama by-passes Congress at every opprtunity. And so he appoints yet his 35th czar that ONLY answers to him! OMG ~ Obama Must Go!

  3. Craig Jenkins

    This is blatantly unconstitutional. Placing foreign corporations operating in the US above US law and, presumably, beyond the reach of Congress in its capacity to regulate under the Commerce Clause may not be an impeachable offense, but it should give us pause about Obama’s reelection. And I supported Obama’s election.

    1. chris m

      “Placing foreign corporations operating in the US above US law and, presumably, beyond the reach of Congress in its capacity to regulate under the Commerce Clause …”

      This is a genuinely terrible idea on Obama’s part,however any agreement containing such provisions would not place foreign corporations beyond Congress’s regulatory reach under the commerce power. This is because such measures, whether enacted by treaty or congressional-executive agreements are federal law and as federal law can always be altered or reversed by any future Congress.

      1. Walter Wit Man

        But they are giving their power away, at least temporarily. While the power is given away the bad actors are “above U.S. law.”

        It will be hard to alter in the future because politicians will hide behind the foreign regulatory body decisions and claim they are powerless to pass new legislation because of the poopy heads in the other party.

    2. LeonovaBalletRusse

      This also permits “Transnational Corporations” to be “based” in the U.S. for advantage while screwing U.S. citizens and Treasury every which way.

      1. enouf

        Right — and they already are — all the TBTF, all the Global Behemoth Corps are already *foreigners*, and they owe allegiance to *no nation* whatsoever.

        This TPP thing is just another *nail* in the coffin of Race To The Bottom as Yves properly pointed out – same thing as outlawing and disbanding Labor/Service Unions, which, if they weren’t assaulted and were allowed to exist/proliferate/prosper (excluding internal corruption) tends to Raise All Boats for *All* businesses in their respective localities and their workforces’ wages and benefits.

        Outsourcing via Insourcing (caused from mass DisEmployment) is just another nutjob “Right to Work” state assinine meme for the mindless masses to wave their flags at.

        Just one example;
        Global Thug “A” will be allowed to Frack favorably (Prime locations, Tax Breaks, Environmental Law endarounds, Destroy Farm/Drinking/Irrigation Aquifers) .. and then supposed US-based Thug “B” (really just another Global Thug with Grand Cayman and Swiss Tax havens/shelters) will cry FOUL! ..and then lobby for Legislation that’ll be equivalent to Repealing Glass-Steagall, passing of the CommFutModAct (Gramm-Leach-Bliley)… oh the joy!

        This is all so so Unconstitutional .. i can barely not swear!


        1. enouf

          It’s like this; (from their playbook)

          You shoot a cannon into your own fishing boat and notice all others around you are still afloat while you sink, so you start firing your cannons at all of them — because why should they be allowed to stay afloat and continue to fish?

          or (the simplified version)

          You cause/create a problem that doesn’t exist, and then proceed to offer solutions by eating your own face off while blaming them for your incessant self-cannibalism


          1. enouf

            Oh .. to follow up on the Boat/Cannon analogy — the Ones who fired their Cannon into their own boat *know* that they are really in just a sick sort of “Truman Show” ..with Mansions, Villas, Yachts, and Strings of Poloponies awaiting them just beyond the mirrored curtain.


    3. bhikshuni

      As if that is all…watch as Citizens United protects the foreign corporation’s further corruption and cannibalization of state and treasure, but sheild their transfer of debt burdens to the public via the Fed.

      With 401Ks being gambled away…how many presidential elections (red or blue won) until the end of the race to completely sell off the people’s social security deposits?

  4. Richard M Nixon

    I have some small experience in this field. As my good friend Gerry Ford once said, “an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers to be at a given moment in history.” It could be a rampant penis; it could be an administration routinely operating beyond or above the law, although impeachment on that basis appears to have fallen out of favor since my day. Reagan, the two Bushes and Mr. Obama all make me look like a piker.

    This isn’t a satisfactory answer, I know, but it’s true. Impeachment is an intrinsically political process and for the time being, and the foreseeable future, the politics are such that no President will be impeached for actions such as you describe or for the many other obviously criminal excesses of the current and previous administrations.

    To paraphrase the great Louisiana governor Ed Edwards, the only way a President can get impeached these days is to get caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.

      1. Richard M Nixon

        Yes, only not even that cut and dried. A judge at least has a book of law that he follows or not; with impeachment, it’s entirely a matter of what outrages the Members of the House, whose sensibilities are ravaged by privilege and pique.

  5. wunsacon

    We already have the WTO. Is that wrong? If not, then please explain what’s “impeachable” about yet-another international court?

    Incidentally, the HuffPo article mentions the dolphin-tuna and clove cigarette cases, which I briefly read about earlier. I sought out opposing viewpoints. Whereas I used to be angry over those outcomes, now I’m not so sure.



    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The difference strikes me as considerable, but I’d like experts to weigh in. As much as WTO in theory also impinges on US domestic regulation, my sense is in practice is it doesn’t save for some isolated cases. The focus of WTO is on unfair trade practices: anti-dumping, tariffs, and product restrictions that can be characterized as discriminating against foreign producers.

      This new tribunal looks to have a much bigger ambit. I’ve not parsed the language in the leaked document, but the intent of the tribunal looks to be to allow foreign companies to go to the tribunal in a far broader array of activities than those that relate to market access and get US law put aside as far as they are concerned.

      While WTO may look like a precedent, I’d argue that this new scheme looks to be so broad ranging that its difference in degree is a difference is kind. This does not look like having to cede US sovereignity on some very narrow cases, this looks like a much broader based incursion. BuzzFlash was also pretty wound up, see:


      Look, when we go through the litany of Obama outrages – undeclared wars, signature strikes, Holder saying he can kill any suspected terrorist – every one makes the causes of action in the Clinton, even the Nixon, impeachment look pale. But Bush (who also did plenty of heinous stuff) did a great job of selling the idea that threats to security justified gutting civil liberties. This is on a different front, it looks to involve a considerable ceding of sovereignity, with no threat to warrant it (unlike the states of Europe, who face a do or die question with the Euro exercise). But we as a nation seem to be anesthetized as far as these aggressive moves to curtail our rights and our legal/Constitutional protections are concerned.

      1. Up the Ante

        It’s the next step in a WTO-type conspiracy to remove barriers to looting.

        The WTO is alarming in itself, and they’re coming ’round.

      2. Nathanael

        One problem lies in the fact that Congress, which is supposed to be the most powerful branch, and is supposed to throw its weight around, has quietly abdicated power. This leaves criminal Supreme Court justices competing with criminal Presidents for power. (In the end the criminal Presidents are going to win.)

        The power-abdication by Congress is probably partly because Congress has been broken to the point of total non-functioning by the bogus 60-vote rules in the Senate. Though the bicameral system already hamstrings Congress.

      3. LeonovaBalletRusse

        Well, maybe this is the “perfection” of the WTO for absolute tyranny by HRR IV.

      4. LucyLulu

        I don’t know if it meets the criteria of being an “impeachable” offense or not, but I find it breathtaking that Obama would be willing to make a concession like this. Surprised, I’m not so sure about. I’d be even more aghast if this got Congressional approval, “pro-business” or not. I would think even the most free-market spouting conservatives would be unwilling to cross the line to sell off our country’s absolute sovereignty, but perhaps I’m being naive.

    2. Walter Wit Man

      This professor makes a nice succinct argument for why the WTO is unconstitutional and unfair. nas.ucdavis.edu/Forbes/WTO%20Nullifies%20Constitution.pdf

  6. K Ackermann

    I want to know who would drive such legislation? It seems implausible that Obama would subborn the US simply on a whim.

  7. stripes

    Obama is a certified goldmember of the Big Club….the U.N./New World Order. So were both Bushes and the Clinton’s. I find it interesting that the media never talks about his mother Stanley Ann Dunham’s connection to the Ford Foundation and how Obama and Geithners friendship is tied in with that. They are all in the commie cabal. They have no loyalty whatsoever to this country or any country. They are loyal to an ideology that flies in the face of freedom and independence. It is going to take some real American patriots to restore this nation to what it is supposed to be. Free and Independent.

      1. enouf

        Communal Kleptocrats you F’n **tard — All Socialized, but amongst themselves; it’s known as a Cartel — and it’s not nice to call people names! Ad hominems never foster/promote true spirited debate.

        and FWIW, the Global Financial Terr’ists *are* known as the CCCP (Corporate Commie Capitalist Pigs)


        p.s. and my apologies on my usage of ad hominem

    1. enouf

      .. They have no loyalty whatsoever to this country or any country. ..

      I have been trying to get this point across (for what seems like years now) — nice to know some are *getting it*

      They owe allegiance to No One, No Nation, No Creator, No Source .. nothing but their psychopathic delusional ideologies..because they *think* they are gods


  8. Doug Terpstra

    This appears to be another battle in the campaign toward a new world odor — one that stinks to high heaven. The series of clearly predictable bubbles, each worse than the last, the global financial crisis, the debauchment of the dollar, GATT, WTO, the IMF, World Bank, multiple SHAFTA scams, 911, the escalating Global War on Terra—all of it— has Shock Doctrine formula written all over it, all geared toward a one world government and global plantation economy. No foil hat required.

    Celli’s cartoon captures it. Geithner: “I blew everyone”

  9. Doug Terpstra

    Impeachable offense? Get in line:

    – Cover-up of hundreds of war crimes under Cheney-Bush regime
    – Violation of the Geneva Conventions, including rendition kidnapping
    – Illegal wiretapping, spying on American citizens
    – The war on Libya
    – Mass drone murders in countries not at war with US (Pakistan, Yemen, Uganda, Somalia, Congo, Sudan, the Central African Republic — and more we don’t yet know about).
    – Conducting cyber war on Iran
    – Aiding and abetting terrorism in Syria
    – Assassination, murder, of US citizens without trial
    – Suspension of habeas corpus, illegal, indefinite detention of citizens and foreign nationals
    – The maintenance of Gitmo
    – Continued use of signing statements to circumvent legitimate law
    – Granting IMF special drawing rights
    – Health Racket Bailout mandates
    – Complicity in Honduran coup
    – The NDAA
    – Gun-running to Mexican drug cartels, operation “Fast and Furious”
    – Misleading Congress and the American People and Systematically Undermining Efforts to Address Global Climate Change.

  10. Peter Dorman

    Maybe someone can clarify this for me. Is the text of the TPP proposal different from the text that has kept popping up in treaty language since the MAI? Every time this language gets defeated, it seems to show up again in the next treaty draft. Are we talking about the same thing here, or have the Obama trade people introduced something new?

    1. enouf

      I can’t clarify .. but just to say;
      Just draw on the parallels with what we’ve seen with SOPA, then PIPA, and finally (for now) CISPA!

      the first two failed, got repackaged/renamed and crammed down our throats .. and when even that doesn’t work, there are OmniBus Bills and Lame Duck sessions and votes held for hours and hours in the dead of night. Get ‘er Done!


  11. C

    Well, the Presidential Oath of office is:

    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    Which is taken verbatim from the U.S. Constitution (hence the need to do it twice for Obama). So in that respect it may depend upon how it is handled.

    Article 6 of the constitution spells out the fact that the constitution and relevant treaties shall be the highest law of the land. More specifically in paragraph 2:

    “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

    So the question would be whether this form of binding is a valid treaty under the constitution or not. In a narrow literal sense yes the president with 2/3 of the Senate can do so but whether they have the power to sign a treaty which may compel the U.S. to void parts of the constitution (if, say rights of free press were somehow in conflict with an international IP regieme) is a different question.

    There is some precedent in that the U.S. is already part of NAFTA and the WTO both of which can impose penalties for violations of their agreements and which do allow foreign bodies to sue. Both have led to a regulatory race to the bottom already. The question IMHO would probably turn on whether the structure of this agreement was somehow different from those either in scope or purpose.

    One crucial difference, at least from the reporting, is that both the WTO and NAFTA impose an equality requirement. As I understand it one can appeal on the grounds that the U.S. is unfairly targeting foreign companies with higher requirements on the assumption we are protecting our own.

    This, by contrast, seems to assume that we have a duty not to our own but to others first and to protect them.

    Legal or not this is scary and I think far worse than an illicit cigar. But given that Mitt Romney is on record as urging its swift passage I don’t see the R’s making any case about this.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      The EuroReich is in the details: NAFTA was to give Spain Rentier-ownership of the complex mega-toll-highway from Mexico, via Laredo TX, unto hub at KC, unto Detroit, unto Montreal. This fact was covered by several on YouTube, including revolt against this in Texas. Spain! the original Colonial Rentier and Resource Extraction Power in the New World. Hand in hand with this scheme was the opening of the sluice gates from Mexico to the U.S., creating the “giant sucking sound” we were warned about.

    2. enouf

      Well … according to this retired NJ State Superior Court Judge (whom i don’t generally like to quote, but i bet he has the correct knowledge when he says;)

      “… Everyone who works for the government swears to uphold the Constitution. ..”

      and if such is the case, they ALL need to be impeached, shackled and wearing orange jump suits and isolated in cold dark damp concrete and steel cages.


      BTW, the entire article is a decent read — the site/podcasts aren’t half-bad either – so far as i can tell.

      (the greatest power of the Universe)

  12. psychohistorian

    The velvet glove is coming off the iron fist.

    When the coming crash strips Americans of all their “invested” wealth, they will sign any promise of a “business” led path to mythical growth. They control the media and message…..and the voting machines.

    We live in a world orchestrated by the global inherited rich. You cannot change the channel. You have to change the class based, inheritance and accumulated wealth funded social structure to something more humanistic.

    It shouldn’t be hard to do better.

  13. just me

    More than 26,000 comments on Zach Carter’s HuffPo article now. I don’t see anything else even close to that.

    1. JTFaraday

      Wow. 28,882 and counting. Of course, the handful I skimmed were all about voting (D or R, no less).

      1. Jeff

        They won’t wake up until they are crushed to the ground.

        Take a look around at the people who have already been crushed—they are broken and hopeless.

        They are no threat to the elite.

        That’s the America that is coming soon. 310 million broken serfs.

  14. rotter

    “But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings.”

    Ive believed for a long time now that much of the “offshoring’ that was done, would have to be reversed. Physics is physics and china is 6000 miles from here, no matter what kind of scummy politics and economics are put into play. The goal is to destroy the middle class and break whatever (puny) resistance
    Old school organized labor might be able to mount-before physically returning. This can be done by backhanded
    treaties and juggling language. Why should wal street grifters care where the front office of some front company is located, as long as they can expolit it? Or the workers desparate for a paycheck who are now used to taking whatever crumbs fall to them?

  15. stuhlmann

    “Let’s set aside the fact that no current Congress will stand in the way of a pro-business measure.”

    I don’t think you appreciate how zenophobic conservatives in Congress are. Can you imagine tea party conservatives supporting anything that puts foreign or international law above US law? For that matter can you imagine tea party conservatives supporting anything that Obama supports?

  16. Conscience of a Conservative

    That’s the great irony here. On many issues Bush W, had a better record than Obama yet the media and the left assailed Bush to no end and has been relatively mute when criticizing Obama. This article is no surprise as Obama in several forums has indicicate a higher regard for international laws and bodies than U.S. ones.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Well, Bush was “clearing brush” don’t forget. Obama’s path was cleared.

  17. Fiver

    Perhaps a little perspective.The process of corporate globalization has been spearheaded by the US wing the entire way – the assumption was, and is, that US-based global corporations would thrive in any conceivable contest, not least because of the sheer power at their disposal: reserve currency, substantial control of all important international financial, trade, technical, scientific and others bodies, and in many instances, a healthy head start.

    And it HAS been wildly successful for Corporate America over the decades, and later European-based, and Japanese, and Chinese, and Brazilian, and…. I rather expect that those other nations’s slices of the global elite view it the same way. They may, in fact, see these treaty proposals as an at long-last US willingness to place some degree of its sovereignty at risk given it violates international law on a routine basis.

    What I’m driving at is that the US globalists remain by far the most powerful arm That is of course why the entire policy response in the US is pivotal. No effort to throw off globalization can succeed without the full participation of the US public. It was always the case that the crisis had to end where it started. This is something the US people are going to have to take on whether they want to or not. We cannot have private mega-corporations essentially determining all important aspects of society.

  18. JCC

    Chapter 11 of NAFTA essentially does the same thing, private hearings over disputes without public attendance, taxpayers responsible for loss of profits/revenue, etc. This is yet another extension of the principle that Business is more important than Democracy, money more valuable than people.

    What’s new?

    1. Nathanael

      In practice, when Canadian or Mexican companies violate NAFTA, the US beats up on them; when the US practices protectionism for US companies, blatantly and dramatically ignoring NAFTA for their benefit, and Canada and Mexico try to complain, the US says “What the hell you gonna do, boy?”.

      These treaties are basically bullying schemes which are invariably selectively enforced. They aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. It’s all about who’s put in charge of “enforcing” them (selectively). Pay attention to the men behind the curtain.

  19. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

    It baffles me that anyone would even consider the negotiation of a treaty an impeachable offense. For it is clearly within the enumerated powers of the Presidency specified in the US Constitution. And if the Senate was to ratify such a treaty that sacrificed a good deal of US sovereignty I suspect it would be found “constitutional” by the current membership of the SCOTUS. After all, the law is the law, right?

    Simply put: Is globalization an impeachable offense?

    Recall earlier pieces on this blog re: the TRILEMMA? The latter consists of three pieces: 1) representative democracy; 2) national/popular sovereignty; and 3) economic integration [aka GLOBALIZATION]. It posits that any two may be compatible but that all three coexisting are an impossibility. Clearly the third would necessitate that the first and the second be subordinated to the imperatives of globalization. The public be damned!

    And as a previous comment has already pointed out, the US – the Washington Consensus – has been in the vanguard of the globalists since 1945. And as another suggested, the “economic nationalists”, aka TEA PARTY, amongst US will likely accuse OBAMA of treason. But how would they react if Mitt Romney negotiated the very same treaty? Indeed, if “Willard the Rat” did so it would be good for business and those unemployed Americans who found employment as a result wouldn’t give a shit about the consequences for their fellow Americans who became unemployed as a result. Or would they? Hasn’t this been the case for the better part of the past 50 years? Workers in auto transplant multinationals – TOYOTA, HONDA, NISSAN, KIA, etc. know which side their bread is buttered on. And how many other Americans now have jobs directly related to the global economy?

    I would even go so far as to posit that this particular treaty predates the Obama administration and will not be ratified/enacted into law before November 2012. But regardless of who wins this beauty contest, most Republicans and Democrats subscribe to the “Washington Consensus”. And so do many other Americans. CONTINUITY is the rule in American politics regardless of which political party controls the government.

    The hole is STRUCTURAL because it is CULTURAL. And until the latter changes the hole will just keep getting deeper. We have equated “democracy and liberty” with mindless consumption or been so thoroughly indoctrinated as not to know the difference. Consumption is priceless. For everything else there’s MASTERCARD – even democracy!

    Until we are willing to rethink the US Constitution and everything else deemed “sacred” in this country NOTHING will change. Has anyone ever considered how antiquated the US Constitution really is? Next to the Bible, there is nothing more sacred – other than consumption [general welfare] – to most Americans regardless of whether they have ever bothered to read it or not, yet alone consider whether it has outlasted its usefulness as a governing document much like the Bible. But when does the SACRED become PROFANE? And once deemed profane, does one consider the amendment process provided in the US Constitution as the way to revise it or is that process beyond redemption in the current political context? If the former, then buy a good pair of walking shoes. If the latter, then what would you replace it with? But either way, we have to stop digging deeper into the current hole before we can start digging another one.

    Thinking outside the box is imperative.

    1. Aquifer


      Good post – but i would take exception to your last line. Methinks that has been our problem for some time – we keep digging holes. Better to stop digging (or fracking) altogether and start building …..

    2. enouf

      ApologiesI can’t resist (just seems to apropos);
      I used to use these as my taglines/sig at the bottom of each post i made (when i was in techie forums) back since atleast 2005!

      But i probably came up with this little ditty in ~2004 or 2003

      I am a consumer, I’ll buy anything
      I am a sheep, I am cattle, I follow the herd
      I am ignorant, a dumbass, and I am a bozo…
      I am the epitome of the ‘rank and file’
      I am your next door neighbor
      I am 95% of American Consumers
      I will consume you

      Love (the greatest force in the Universe)

  20. Aquifer

    Have to agree that whether or not this is “impeachable” is a bit of a moot point – the duopoly will not impeach one of its own for furthering the cause of the its financiers.

    But wait, you say, aren’t the financiers the domestic corps that are being disadvantaged? I would suggest that the description of these provisions as a domestic v foreign issue is a bit disingenuous. Once you understand that this really amounts to a big, as in transnational, business v small, as in mom and pop purely domestic, business issue, it is quite clear that this is just another step in the process that has been ongoing for decades.

    I stopped voting Dem for Pres. in ’96 – Cliton’s NAFTA and WTO support put it all on the table. When Big Labor marched in Seattle then supported Free Trader Gore, i was rather disgusted …

    For at least the last 20 years we have had alternatives to the duopoly and have failed to choose them – this is what we got and it will do no good to bitch unless we are prepared to make better choices and actually do so …

    1. Nathanael

      The key reason to vote for Gore was that he actually cared about the environment, about stopping global warming. For me, that outweighed any amount of other sins, given the catastrophes which global warming is going to unleash on us.

      Obama doesn’t care about stopping global warming and witters on about “clean coal”, which doesn’t exist. So.

      For me Gore was the last worthwhile Democratic Presidential candidate, and it was because of personal environmental views which the rest of the Democratic powerbrokers do NOT share with him. Sigh.

  21. the suez canaille

    Agreed, under a regime like ours that has pissed away its last drips of legitimacy, impeachment would be just as much of a joke as judicial review or advice and consent, or federal law. Nothing wrong with international tribunals – those are the closest thing to a functioning government we’ve got. The problem with current trade tribunals is that they short-circuit any semblance of pluralistic international oversight or public participation by avoiding relationship with ECOSOC. If trade bodies came into relation with ECOSOC, NGOs and elected governments worldwide would have a say, and transparency would comply with Article 19, a binding law that the US flouts at home. So it’s a UN Charter issue. The UN Charter is also binding law in the US, so here at home it has about the same weight as the constitution and all that other old-time castoff shit. The difference is, the UN Charter has a pressure group, the outside world, while nobody important gives a shit about domestic law. So we could search for sympathetic elites in our kleptocracy but it’s almost certainly a waste of time. We need to huddle with our foreign pen pals. Nothing can stop corporate trade predation but concerted diplomacy (e.g. through UNCTAD) and internationalism from below.

  22. Phil

    The points you make are good and you are indeed describing an infamy, but I find it hard to get past the brutally poor taste of the cartoon to finish the article. AFAICT it adds nothing to the post; I wish you had omitted it.

    1. Aquifer

      That’s probably true – fails to convey the right image – obviously the victim must have consented, after all, look at what she is wearing ….

    2. JTFaraday

      Yes, and the real crime is that “xtrevilism” is spelled wrong.

      (Sorry to be pedantic).

        1. JTFaraday

          I would say printing it out on the Citibank 4-color MMT-ink jet printer was printing it wrong, yes.

          Which reminds me– where’s Robert Rubin?!!!

  23. Hugh

    We live in a kleptocracy. This feels like about the millionth time I have repeated this. You may think it is the millionth time I have said it. But the essence is that kleptocracies loot. They do not “obey” the law or demand that others do unless such obedience facilitates their looting.

    It is just bitter irony for those who can still remember that this is being presided over by our Constitutional Scholar in Chief. The rule of law is dead. Its ghost is conjured up, like some cheap parlor trick, only when the fake fortune tellers want to shake more money out of the grieving rubes. This is the world in which we live. It is the world that Obama, Romney, and all of our policy elites are seeking to entrench and extend.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      And so, “We must suffer them all again” as Auden averred in “September 1, 1939?”

    2. JTFaraday

      Constitutional law is a large field with many sub-specialties. Obama’s is in race and the constitution, which centers on the equal protection clause.

      I think if you decontextualize and extend the principles of the equal protection clause by analogy to the international arena, then you start to think that the US has no more obvious right to national self determination than did the defeated south after the civil war, (or at any time since).

      1. Nathanael

        Obama’s understanding of the equal protection clause is rather self-serving, allowing as it does for imprisonments and executions without trial on the personal order of the President alone. Race and the Constitution? Well, these imprisonments and executions are based on ETHNIC PROFILING.

        Constitutional lawyer my ass.

        1. JTFaraday

          Well, so is his take on the right to national self determination. When he wants to drone bomb somebody in the name of the US (or whoever), he goes right ahead and does it.

          I think we’ve already established that the neoliberal “nomenklatura”– to borrow a term from one of our right wing visitors– selectively deploys such rationalizations of power in a self serving manner, (which is why they are rationalizations and not true principles).

  24. Enraged

    As soon as I read that Mitt Robme was pushing as hard as he could for that trade agreement, I knew everything I needed to know…

    1. tawal

      So foreign subsidiaries of US companies can now obfuscate US environmental laws. Goodbye National parks, etc.

  25. Tom

    The overwhelming influence of great private monopolies in both legislatures and courts cannot continue if we are to maintain popular government. If we fail to regulate grants of public powers properly, invasion of private rights by those powers will be our proper and certain reward.

  26. bluntobj

    “If we fail to regulate grants of public powers properly, invasion of private rights by those powers will be our proper and certain reward.”

    The granting of competitive advantage through government should not be the subject of regulation, but should carry a firm “GOVERNMENT SHALL NOT” prefix. Regulation is by definition an adjustment of degree, and that adjustment may be modified at any time.

    This is why regulation is a terrible thing, because it can be changed to suit the largest political donors and elite power classes.

    If you want to solve problems, firm “SHALL NOTS” written into a constitution or other cultural supporting document are the most effective methods of control.

    Last, influence of private monopolies is only effective when the government itself has the ability to grant that competitive advantage. Indeed, it was the early US government that started many of the monopolies on their way to power as politicians speculated financially and influenced the results of that speculation by grants of competitive advantage and power, and removing such.

    1. LucyLulu

      “Last, influence of private monopolies is only effective when the government itself has the ability to grant that competitive advantage.”

      Baloney. Monopolies have a competitive advantage that exists whether government endorses it or not.

      Government, and regulation, are not BAD just because they can be manipulated to achieve bad outcomes. The same could be said for our military defense, domestic law enforcement, and tax system, would you propose we eliminate all those as well?. If they can be used to achieve bad results, they can also be used to achieve desired results as well….. guaranteeing the equal protection of our lives, liberties, and ability to pursue happiness (‘pursuit of property’ in original drafts, revised by PR committee to make better copy).

      It boggles my mind how anybody who lived through the financial crisis of 2008 could advocate less regulation. I agree however that governments CAN and DO grant certain entities competitive advantages. A prime example is the deference shown to high income earners in the tax system. While small corporations can do little to escape paying their marginal tax rate of 35%, the multinational corporations are paying an effective rate of 12%. Personal income taxes are being manipulated the same way, where the wealthy have access to tax avoidance strategies the rest of Americans don’t.

      1. Nathanael

        Indeed, you are right. Monopolies don’t need the help of government to do their dirty work.

        In fact, it’s rather the other way around. Monopoly powers are what you use to turn yourself *into* a government, if you want to rule. Monopolies are actual competitors to the government, trying to squeeze it out.

      2. Nathanael

        It was the brilliant Jefferson who personally replaced “life, liberty, and property” with “life, liberty,and the pursuit of happiness”.

        As far as I can tell, he recognized through his philosophical studies that the concept of “property” itself is ill-defined and highly disputable, and so not the sort of thing you should make an “unalienable right”. Franklin agreed with him, saying that property was a “creature of society”.

  27. rps

    US Citizens hold the greatest power. Greater than any president, corporation, or congress. That power resides in our wallets. Collectively, we can refuse to purchase goods from corporations whether they are foreign or domestic. Stop buying goods made by children, by slave labor,and by unfair business practices that promote the demise of democracy in the USA. Collectively we can Target a company such as Walmart and never set foot in their again.

    Every item that we purchase made in the dictatorships of inhumane and anti-environment corporations is a vote of Yes. Yes, I support institutional corporate policies through gratutious consumerism that promotes harm and enslavement of humanity. So I can have instantaneous gratification listening to an ipod, buying clothes made by foreign companies that are built on 19th and 20th century business models of the “triangle shirtwaist factories.” All for what? To fill our closets, garages, and storage units with CRAP to fill the empty voids of living.

    Simply, our unified voice of NO to uncontrolled consumerism begins with keeping the wallet and pursed closed. Voting at the polls became quaint and outdated the day Bush won the election via the Supreme Court. Next, Bush replaced the phrase “US Citizen” with “Consumers.”

    Vote with your wallet, and vote often!, shut tight against corporatism.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Not likely. Mass America cannot resist “shopping price” to abet their greed, their “lust of the eyes” for “more.” Pig Nation.

      1. Nathanael

        That’s what they said about the “hopelessly bourgeois-minded peasants of Russia” before the Russian Revolution, and about the hopelessly religious and monarchical people of France before the French Revolution.

        History teaches me that the people’s minds change when the elite prevents them from satisfying the lower rungs on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. A smart elite keeps the people fed, clothed, housed, with plenty of entertainment, and then keeps them busy — _Brave New World_ might actually be implementable.

        Our elite is not nearly that smart and is NOT doing that — they seem to enjoy making people suffer. The _1984_ system of social control through general abuse and shouting will always fail catastrophically in the sense that the elite will be overthrown by the people (Possibly to be replaced by another awful elite, though.)

        1. F. Beard

          Our elite is not nearly that smart and is NOT doing that Nathanael

          Because they are trapped by ideology

          — they seem to enjoy making people suffer. Nathanael

          into blaming the victims.

          But once the percentage of victims rises too high then the victims realize they can’t ALL be to blame.

          1. Nathanael

            Wise words. I believe you are correct.

            Blaming the victims is a very self-serving ideology, of course, so it is attractive to the elite.

            A member of the elite has to be intellectually honest, willing to recognize that he may be at fault, to avoid this attractive ideology.

      2. different clue

        Well . . . if one out of a thousand Americans CAN resist “lowest price” and so forth, that might inspire others to join. At least that one out of a thousand will have the personal walk-the-talk credibility when discussing this approach. Maybe we can whittle it down to one-out-of-a hundred Americans willing to inject some political targetting into their getting-and-spending behavior.

        Every dollar is a bullet on the field of economic combat.

  28. Me

    A few wonderful parts I came across:


    In regards to corporate “social responsibility” (?), the language is vague and comical, “Each Party should encourage…enterprises operating within its territory or subject to its jurisdiction to VOLUNTARILY (my emphasis) incorporate internationally recognized standards of corporate social responsibility in their internal policies…These principles address issues such as labour, the environment, human rights, community relations and anti-corruption.”

    Just wonderful, ain’t it? We can expect corporations in the countries signing this agreement to VOLUNTARILY agree to corporate social responsibility standards worldwide. US companies will be expected to operate in countries like Chile, Vietnam and Peru in accordance with international (and local) corporate social responsibility norms. Ha! Jokes on the workers of these countries I guess. Not only do standards in regards to the environment, labor, human rights, community relations and corruption not exist, the parties don’t even have to pay no mind to them if they see fit.

    Regarding those wonderful trade tribunals that we have seen in deals like NAFTA and CAFTA, all information should be public. However, “The Tribunal shall make appropriate arrangements to protect the information from disclosure which may include closing the hearing for the duration of any discussion of protected information”.

    Is this not saying that some information will be public but information that the tribunal deems “private” will not be? So, as usual, we are supposed to just trust these rat bastards? What control do we the people have over them, since their decisions will impact us? The deal seems to say that redacted documents will be submitted, with the “secret” (I am guessing incriminating and unpopular) facts and information taken out.

    On so called “national treatment” (basically, you can’t treat foreign corporations any different than domestic corporations), “Each Party shall accord to investors of another Party treatment no less favorable than that it accords, in like circumstances, to its own investors with respect to the establishment, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments in its territory”.

    What a relief! I gotta say, I am just overcome with joy that foreign corporations will enjoy the same freedoms of domestic corporations. In this Citizen United world, we are in for a treat.

    This is my favorate of all though. Transfers, “Each Party shall permit all transfers relating to a covered investment to be made freely and without delay into and out of its territory. Such transfers include: (a) contributions to capital. (b) profits, dividends, interest, capital gains, royalty payments, management fees, and technical assistance and other fees…a Party may prevent or delay a transfer to equitable, non-discriminatory, and good faith application of its laws relating to (a) bankruptcy, insolvency, or the protection of the rights of CREDITORS; (b) issuing, trading, or dealing in securities, futures, options or derivatives”

    So, this will further deregulate finance, trade and free up capital movements within these countries (but of course not labor), it will allow financial parasites to more easily move money in and out of countries. The countries reserve the right to step in, maybe to stop the capital or financial flows or put in place some capital controls (which they never will), but it is assumed that otherwise we will have a wonderful libertarian playland.

    This country is toast. Sorry, but this neoliberal mindset is rotten to the core and nothing will change the minds of those in power. Doesn’t matter who wins in November. The country is done. The only difference is the speed of the collapse. The Republicans’ policies will lead to a quicker collapse, the Democrats a more gradual decline. Neither are willing, or able, to reverse course. I’d say people like Obama are worse however. With him, he gives speeches at times backing polices that are the direct opposite of agreements like this, he does it for show and votes. He attacks groups that will benefit from agreements like this, but works behind the scenes night and day to cement their power and wealth at the expense of everyone else. At least with the Republicans their intentions are pretty obvious. There is something far worse about someone like Obama, who knows full well how misleading, destructive and dishonest he and others in the Democratic Party are yet he pushes forward with this horrible wreck.

    To hell with him and anyone on the left who calls this robbery “progressive”. Nothing progressive about this. Same old neoclassical theft. Same old class war. I wonder if the unions here will work with the “free trade” unions they worked with in decades past (nice little CIA puppets) in Latin America to push this through. Maybe they will oppose it and really get militant. They’ll send a strongly worded letter to Obama…then go door to door to get him re-elected. Like I said, toast.

    1. Nathanael

      I’m not sure this country is toast, per se. I think the current governmental system is actively self-destructing.

      What happens after it destroys itself? Perhaps something which will bring this country back from the ashes?

      1. different clue

        Perhaps “the” country will break up into separate little countries, some more viable and livable than others. Which post-America countries would be “like” Hungary and Poland and the Baltic States? Which post-America countries would be “like” Ukraine and Moldova and the Central Asiastans? Perhaps people should start moving to various parts of “America” based on what they think its successor countries would be like, and which type of successor country would be more to their taste.

        As to Obama, he’s just a “DLC Clintonite Democrat”. That will become clear in the fullness of time.

  29. robnume

    As a paralegal who has specialized in U.S. Constitutional issues, I have often asked of our presidents – since Nixon’s regime – upon taking the oath to “defend and uphold” our constitution, which of the world’s many constitutional governments have you sworn to defend and uphold? ‘Cuz it sure ain’t the U.S. Constitution. Almost every constitutional legal issues granted certiorari by SCOTUS are truly “political” in nature. “A People’s History of the U.S. Supreme Court” by Peter Irons, with a wonderful forward written by the late, great Howard Zinn, is a must-read for anyone who cares about the interpretation(s), implementation(s) and construction of this lands highest court.

  30. Fiver

    US-spawned financial/corporate globalization has been an unmitigated disaster for peoples everywhere, having subsumed its host’s national political processes right out in the open. A “fringe” of us, left, right and “environmental” (I’m “left/environmental”) identified this evolving beast as the clear enemy well before its “principles” were introduced to the public in the form of entities like the Tri-Lateral Commission, created to provide the “liberal” lipstick on the purely corporate pig. International institutes for every conceivable purpose mushroomed to provide an endless testament to the achievements of global “progress” and “development” while “local” needs, aspirations, values, etc., at any level of jurisdiction (for a large majority including sovereign) would be subject to relentless attack until compliance with multinational corporations’ plans was obtained.

    This form of global organization will destroy us. Its logic is dynamic instability generating ever-larger concentrations of supranational, private power – power which will, absent a decisive challenge, and soon, be wholly unaccountable. Combined with the manic pursuit via technology of pure power for its own sake, convinced that we indeed be children of Gods with a universe to conquer, this can only end in some signal Pandoric catastrophe, or a nightmare world where corporations’ rules are the only rules – and anyone who cannot add “value” is on his/her own – period. Any fuss and there’s a drone with “your” name on it.

    Which is why I find the position of so many US/UK commentators on the left/humanistic side of the spectrum so completely dissonant in their thinking re Europe, advocating massive spending, etc. that in THIS global framework can only serve to empower the beast while further weakening sovereigns which alone have the organizational structure that could counter. The “lesser evil” strikes yet again.

    How I hope Greece pulls the plug.

  31. juandos

    Zach Carter has a must-read new article up at Huffington Post …“…


    Dan Rather has some leaked memos…

  32. tar, etc.

    This is going to be a pivotal moment framed by the Douglass quote you ended with:

    “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”

    We have had a long series of impeachable outrages and no justice under the law. But the prior acts in no way justify accepting yet another. Inherent in Constitutional government is the idea that legitimate governance is one that represents its people. “Its” people are now international corporations, and the world must decide if people serve an unelected group of bankers and corporations, or if they control their own destiny through representative government.

    It is impeachable because in secret they conspire to defeat constitutional government. Corporations are legal entities subordinate to people and the nations that represent their interests. Banks likewise should be utilities for public use. Speech and legislation cannot be bought and still have legitimacy. The whole thing is upside down and it is past time for the American people to demand an end to our government being used against us. This news (not ON the news, of course) should start a grassroots firestorm.

    1. tar, etc.

      This really isn’t a trade agreement; it’s a sovereignty grab. Traditionally “trade” was between two sovereign peoples for their mutual benefit. This is about taking sovereignty for the benefit of middlemen who have crowned themselves.

    2. tar, etc.

      Also, the only reason the public is discussing this is because some whistleblower – at great risk to themselves – gave us a look at what was going on in secret. Otherwise, this would have been kept under wraps until all the right contributions were made and then announced in a bipartisan kabuki about getting the economy moving again. No way our for-sale Congress would turn this down.

  33. Coyote57

    I believe the problem we have with Obama is that he is an extremely weak and timid president combined with the fact that he can not/does not oversee the foxes he has invited into the hen house.

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