Joe Firestone: Get Ready to Call ‘Em Out On the TPP!

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By Joe Firestone, Ph.D., Managing Director, CEO of the Knowledge Management Consortium International (KMCI), and Director of KMCI’s CKIM Certificate program. He taught political science as the graduate and undergraduate level and blogs regularly at Corrente, Firedoglake and New Economic Perspectives. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

So, on May 22, the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) (“Fast Track”) Bill passed the Senate 62 – 37, with 14 Democrats defecting to the pro-Fast TracK/Trade-Pacific Partnership (TPP) forces. However, all was not wine and roses for the Administration and Fast Track/TPP proponents in the Senate.

First, the pro-TPP forces sustained a temporary defeat on May 12, when the Senate would not approve debating Fast Track, introducing delay into the process. The problem was quickly fixed with agreements to consider and vote on related issues such as Trade Adjustment Assistance, forced child labor, and currency manipulation outside of Fast Track. But nevertheless the glitch was unanticipated, and looked bad for an Administration wanting clear sailing in the Senate for Fast Track.

Second, an amendment to Fast Track unexpectedly snuck through the Senate providing for banning or throwing out nations practicing human trafficking. This amendment is regarded as a “poison pill” that will prevent Malaysia from being included in the TPP, with unknown impact on other possible signators.

At a minimum, the Administration, if it is successful in getting Fast Track through the House, will want this amendment eliminated from the bill, making it necessary to either send Fast Track back to the Senate for further amendment bringing it into agreement with the House, or, alternatively, to go to a Conference committee of the two Houses of Congress, where the “poison pill” would be dissolved. Even if one of these alternatives is successful, the result will be harmful to the Administration in two ways.

First, will weaken the confidence of the TPP negotiating partners that the President can deliver approval of the final TPP agreement by the Congress. And, second, it will delay getting to a final up or down vote in the Congress which the Administration is anxious to get before the end of this calendar year.

Meanwhile, the action now moves to the House, where the Administration’s chances of passing Fast Track have always been more uncertain than they were in the Senate, and where John Boehner seems reluctant to schedule a vote without significant Democratic support, and also without increasing the likelihood that 40 – 45 tea party Republicans will drop their opposition to the bill in the face of vocal opposition from Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Matt Drudge, and tea party media phalanx more generally. There is widespread feeling that if Fast Track and TPP aren’t concluded by the end of the year, then it will be impossible to get Congress to vote on the TPP in an election year, though I wouldn’t discount the possibility that a lame duck Congress might give the lame duck President his fondest wish after the election.

So, this sets the House up as the venue for the most intense fight over Fast Track/TPP yet. It is in the House where the until now predominantly progressive legislative public opposition to the TPP could pick up the tea party conservative support needed to defeat the Administration’s proposals and any fig leaf compromises designed to dress them up cosmetically, without changing the reality of corporate dominated ISDS sovereignty over national governments. So, where do we go from here in fighting Fast Track/TPP in the House?

I’ll take up that question in a future post. Here, I want to recognize that even though opponents of Fast Track/TPP like myself have to give it all we’ve got to ensure that the House is the graveyard of both, we also must find the energy, time, and resources to plan what we ought to do if and when the House eliminates the poisoned pill and then we have another Fast Track round in the Senate.

Such a contingency plan must consider three likely alternative possibilities: that 1) the Senate attempts to pass a revised bill aligning itself with the House, 2) the Senate decides to pursue such an alignment through a Conference committee of both Houses to arrive at a common bill, and 3) the House just accepts the Senate version of Fast Track with its “poison pill.” Let’s look at the third possibility first.

If the House accepts the Senate version, then the President will have gotten his Fast Track, albeit with its poison pill, and then the opponents of the TPP will have a difficult time getting a “no” vote on that bill, in a Senate which passed Fast Track with 62 votes. On the other hand, the President may still have difficulties with such a Fast Track bill if its outcome is Malaysia’s defection from the TPP negotiations due to the human trafficking amendment, followed by the defection of other possible signators responding to the failure to successfully complete an agreement with that nation.

However, these possible consequences of passing Fast Track with the poison pill may not be as likely as the alternative that the President gives assurances to Malaysia that he will not enforce the human trafficking amendment. Malaysia is likely to think that such assurances aren’t good enough since the President can only keep such an informal agreement during his term in office. However, against that objection, the President can reply that if a Republican succeeds him, then they too, will be reluctant to enforce the amendment against Malaysia, and that if Hillary Clinton succeeds him, the likelihood, based on her political networks and previous support of “free trade” is that she, too will not enforce the prohibition against human trafficking either, though she may be not be able to stomach Malaysians trafficking in women and girls.

If such reasoning is still unconvincing to the Malaysians, then the Administration can point out to them that since the agreement is a Congressional-Executive Agreement rather than a treaty, there are legal grounds for Malaysia simply withdrawing, since the United States would never committed to a full-blown TPP treaty with it, if it believes that the US hasn’t held to the assurances the Administration may offer. So, the likely outcome of this scenario is that “the poison pill” may not be as poisonous as it appears, and that Malaysia will, in the end, have little trouble trying out the agreement in 2016, at least until it has a chance to evaluate how Obama and his successors treat the Menendez amendment.

So, in short, if the House passes the Senate bill without change, then the Administration may just take the bill as it is and run with it. In that case, the response of opponents must be continuous public protest and a variety of other efforts against the bill for the remainder of the Obama Administration. Such continuing pressure won’t make the Administration back off the agreement. It will still be the law of the land, but opponents can make its repeal a very potent 2016 campaign issue if they emphasize the sovereignty infringements enabled in it and the Congress’s betrayal of national, state, and local sovereignty and the public interest.

What if the Senate attempts to pass a revised Fast Track bill aligning itself with any changes in Fast Track made by the House?. This is probably less likely than other alternatives because when House and Senate bills differ, the leaders in each House normally prefer harmonizing the bills through using a Conference Committee staffed by representatives of both Houses. But, if the choice is made by Mitch McConnell to pass a revised Senate bill identical to what the House passes, then we can distinguish two situations.

First, if the House passes a bill removing the poison pill, then McConnell can try to pass a bill without it too. And second, if the House passes a revised Fast Track with the poison pill amendment, as well as some others, like a tough currency manipulation prohibition amendment, and/or an amendment eliminating or constraining the use of ISDS tribunals to trump national level legislation regarding the general welfare, then McConnell can try to pass that too on the theory that a weak Fast Track is better than no Fast Track at all.

In the first case, it is by no means clear that such a bill would pass, since the margin in favor of Fast Track may shrink somewhat if the poison pill is written out of it. Judging from the latest 62-37 vote in the Senate here are only three votes to spare before Fast Track would not be able to clear the 60 vote hurdle.

So, perhaps Fast Track would simply fail at this point, since there are more than a few vulnerable Democratic Senators in 2016 and 2018 who would be risking defeat if Fast Track becomes very unpopular. In addition, there are Republican Senators who voted for Fast Track the first time around, but who may become more wary of such a vote, if the struggle in the House produces a lot of tea party Republican opposition among whom there may be some who would take a pro-TPP vote by their Republican Senator as an opportunity to mount a primary campaign against their incumbent in 2016 or 2018. So, depending on how the House struggle goes it may be harder to get Fast Track through the Senate, the second time around than it was the first.

Opponents of the Fast Track bill can make it much more likely that any revision reaching the Senate dies there the second time around by mounting a ferocious period of protesting and more generalized popular resistance prior to second round Senate consideration. This effort needs to be organized enough and intense enough that the impression is conveyed to Senators that an anti-TPP movement that is intense enough to seek reprisals in the 2016 election and beyond against Senators who vote for the bill. Democratic Senators who are defecting from the Democratic majority, as well as the Republicans voting with the corporations must be persuaded that the best thing for them in 2016 is for Fast Track/TPP to just go away, and that this won’t be the result if they pass Fast Track, but only if they kill it.

Moving to the second case, if a weak Fast Track bill including some tough amendments is passed by the House, then it is doubtful that such a result would be useful to the President, and he might simply pull the plug on efforts to pass such a bill before It was brought up for a Senate vote. If that doesn’t happen, however, and such a bill passes, perhaps because some Senators decide to make a statement about free trade agreements, then that would probably lead to wholesale defections from the negotiating process and the death of the TPP.
Opponents of the TPP can facilitate this outcome, if they mount a strong public resistance campaign strengthening opposition in the House that either defeats Fast Track outright, or increases the number of poison pills in it, from one to three or four, making the bill very unpalatable to US TPP negotiating partners and to the White House

This brings us to the Conference Committee approach. Its outcome will very much depend on who the Conference selections in each House are. These, in turn, will depend on which factions in each House are wavering on Fast Track and need to be persuaded that their views are taken account of in a Conference result that makes them comfortable enough to allow them to vote for the compromise bill hammered out by the two houses.

Since the Senate has already passed a bill with the human trafficking poison pill, and the House is reputed to have much more opposition to Fast Track in both parties than the Senate has, I think it unlikely, that the House conferees will come to the negotiation with a harder position on the human trafficking amendment than the Senate took.

In addition, It is likely that currency manipulation prohibitions, environmental protection, pharmaceutical company, and ISDS-related constraints, regulations, and prohibitions will be favored much more intensely in the House than in the Senate, both because seriously negative impacts of TPP are likely to be felt much more intensely at local levels where Congresspeople must be focused than they are at State levels where the concerns of Senators are aggregated. So, for John Boehner to aggregate enough support for the TPP in his raucous caucus, he may have to conciliate those who feel they must have protection from their constituents in 2016 with other poison pill amendments.

This result may set up a situation in the Conference Committee where a middle position acceptable to both Houses would not be a Fast Track bill with just one poison pill, but one with at least two and perhaps three poison pills. Again, this result would cause the death of Fast Track/TPP for the present and also would take both the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) off the agenda for the immediate future.

Again, opponents of these national sovereignty, democracy-destroying, “trade” agreements can help to bring about that outcome by increasing the pressure on Representatives in the House and ultimately on the Senators by facing them with a movement. The movement can call out individual Congresspeople and Senators using appeals, frames, and arguments based on job destruction, labor market, environmental, and regulatory impacts of various kinds, political paralysis, budgetary and austerity impacts and others. All these will be effective in varying degrees based on the segments of the voting population being addressed.

But, in my view, appeals based on none of these will be as intensely felt or as widely accepted as those that emphasize TPP and other “trade” agreements undermining national, state, and local sovereignty and replacing it with Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)-based corporate rule. People can have different opinions about all the other issue areas related to the TPP, but except among a truly small number of people, the idea that corporations and the wealthy ought to establish hegemony over national governments backed by popular sovereignty is extraordinarily illegitimate and repellent.

If support for the TPP and other agreements, in light of the proposed powers to be conferred on the ISDS tribunals can be framed as disloyalty to the various nation states negotiating them, then the agreements can be defeated. A movement that can deliver that message, consistently and powerfully, can rout the politicians favoring the TPP, and still win the day. Let us make sure that such a movement takes wings in the coming weeks and sustains its effort for as long as it takes to end this latest threat to democracy.

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  1. washunate

    I’m all for opposing authoritarianism. And making fun of the people that advocate it.

    But I’m curious what is meant by 14 Democrats defecting in the introductory remarks? Firestone still seems to be operating under the premise that the Democrats are a better party than the GOP rather than a primary enabler of the assault on Constitutional governance and rule of law.

    From EESA to PPACA, from Ben Bernanke to fast track, from Manning to Snowden, from the drug war to the Iraq war, from testing to tax cuts for the rich, our system only exists as it does today because of the Democrats.

    For goodness sakes, it took a Republican from flyover country to filibuster the Patriot Act.

    1. oho

      ***our system only exists as it does today because of the Democrats.***

      thank you. someone for God’s, Zeus’, Richard Dawkin’s sake please stickie this comment on every ‘progressive’ website.

    2. Vatch

      I agree with you that the politicians in the Democratic Party have behaved deplorably. But the Republicans really are worse, which is easily supported by roll call 193 on May 22. 48 Republicans supported fast track, 2 opposed it, and 1 did not vote. 14 Democrats supported fast track, and 33 Democrats opposed it, as did the 2 independents. The numbers are clear: the Republicans are worse. That doesn’t change my preference for Third party candidates, though.

      1. Vatch

        For a separate demonstration that Republican politicians are worse that Democratic politicians, recall the vote on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. See:

        215 (96.4%) of 223 Republican Representatives voted for the resolution.
        82 (39.2%) of 209 Democratic Representatives voted for the resolution.
        6 (2.7%) of 223 Republican Representatives voted against the resolution.
        126 (~60.3%) of 209 Democratic Representatives voted against the resolution.
        The only Independent Representative (Sanders) voted against the resolution.

        58% of Democratic senators (29 of 50) voted for the resolution.
        42% of Democratic senators (21 of 50) voted against the resolution.
        Only 1 (2%) of 49 Republican senators voted against the resolution.
        The only independent senator (Jeffords) voted against the resolution

        1. Ned Ludd

          Democrats are against war only when their votes do not matter.

          In a historic vote, only 30 of 256 Democrats stood against $100 billion for more war. […]

          This created a situation where the White House and pro-war Democrats actually need a fair number of anti-war Democrats (whose votes seldom matter this much) to switch sides and vote with them. That is why this battle was so important for the anti-war movement.

          Many of the Democrats who flip-flopped had even pledged to never vote for war funding.

          Once again, here are the Democrats who turned their backs on their pledges to vote against this war funding:

          Yvette Clarke, Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, Jerry Costello, Barney Frank, Luis Gutierrez, Jay Inslee, Steve Kagen, Edward Markey, Doris Matsui, Jim McDermott, George Miller, Grace Napolitano, Richard Neal (MA), James Oberstar, Jan Schakowsky, Mike Thompson, Edolphus Towns, Nydia Velázquez, and Anthony Weiner.

        2. washunate

          So in other words, the resoluation would have failed without Democratic votes. And who exactly was it that chaired the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in the run-up to the Iraq war?

          And I’m sure the Democrats immediately and dramatically reduced national security spending once they controlled both the House and the Senate, right?

          1. AlanSmithee

            Well, in some alternate universe in which the Democratic Party isn’t the flipside of a corporate-owned coin, yeah, I’m sure they didn.

      2. washunate

        I’d say that’s a distinction without a difference. It’s one vote in one part of the government. The issue is the systemic activities across the government, whether talking corporate trade pacts specifically or public policy more generally.

        I’m really curious about your making a distinction between the two parties, yet also saying it doesn’t affect your support of third parties. Basically you are setting up a construct where the GOP is more evil in terms of their natural policy stances. For the sake of argument, let’s grant that.

        There is no link from that starting point to the conclusion that this makes the GOP worse than the Dems. It simply makes them complementary actors in the system (good cop/bad cop, protagonist/antagonist, etc.). If anything, when we are discussing morality, an actor doing what they believe is right even if it is seen as wrong by outsiders (the GOP) is actually better than an actor identifying something as being wrong and then doing it anyway (the Democrats).

        Let’s apply this to a specific issue. Let’s say for the sake of argument that the GOP is racist and thinks the rich should get special privileges. So they support a legal system that disproportionately targets low income and minority communities in ways it does not target the rich and powerful.

        Republicans alone are not powerful enough to implement this policy. It requires Democratic cooperation (indeed, it requires rather active and enthusiastic cooperation since our major cities are largely Democratic). Now on what basis can the Democrats support this same legal system? Either,

        1) the Democrats are also racist and also believe the rich should get special privileges, or
        2) the Democrats claim to be morally appalled at these beliefs yet implement the policies anyway

        How is option 1 worse than option 2?

        1. Vatch

          It’s possible to embarrass a Democratic politician into doing the right thing. It’s a lot harder to embarrass a Republican politician into doing the right thing, since they’re usually proud of doing the wrong thing.

          Recall my first sentence in this thread:

          I agree with you that the politicians in the Democratic Party have behaved deplorably.

          Also, I frequently encourage people to vote for Third party candidates, which is how I usually vote, when such a candidate is available.

          1. hunkerdown

            According to Gilens and Page, and not whatever Prussian theology they’re calling high-school civics these days, that only works when there are oligarchs who want what you want too. Otherwise, your probability of success is between 0 and 33%, not worth the drama and not worth the risk to morale.

            Playing a rigged game only serves to legitimize it. Why do you want to legitimize a rigged game?

            1. Vatch

              If you like the status quo, the best way to preserve it is to do nothing.

              Who says there aren’t a few oligarchs who oppose the TPP and fast track?

              1. hunkerdown

                If you don’t like the status quo, and your participation is required to preserve it, the best way to see it destroyed is to do nothing in its favor.

                Elites’ first duty is to preserve elitist society. Without that, they have no context in which to exist. If there are dissidents among the oligarchy, where are they, who are they, do their interests outweigh the rest of their class, and for how much can their interests be bought off? Some Senators can be bought for pork. Some can be bought for the price of a lottery ticket (“we’ll hold a floor vote on your bill”).

                1. Vatch

                  Where do you get the idea that participation is required to maintain the status quo?

                  Participation is required for change, and people with a lot of money already participate in politics a great deal more than the average person.

                  You’re recommending that people make it even easier for the rich and powerful to dominate the rest of us.

                  Of course many politicians can be bought by the rich, and some of those politicians will be up for sale no matter what. But many of them are up for sale primarily because people let them get away with it. People need to embarrass the politicians who are on the take, and that requires active participation in the system.

                  I posted this link in April:


                  The last time that more than 70% of eligible U.S. voters actually voted in a Presidential election was 1900. Congratulations! A lot of people are following your advice, and are refusing to participate in the rigged game. And that just allows the rigging of the game to continue and to become even more blatant…

            2. Nathanael

              Hunkerdown, there ARE oligarchs who want most of what you want. Quite a lot of them. Call them the “enlightened self-interest” oligarchs.

              They’re horrified to watch the other oligarchs march the planet to mass extinction with climate change, because their kids certainly won’t be rich if the ecosystem collapses. They’re horrified to watch their profitable businesses drying up because people have no money to buy their products (the ‘good oligarchs’ think like Henry Ford, pay people enough to buy a Ford). They’re horrified by the spy-on-everyone military-industrial-complex… because it’s bad for business. (Just ask the Google boys). And so on.



          2. washunate

            Okay, I gotcha. Yeah, I do definitely agree that shaming an individual, low-level Democratic member of Congress on a particular matter of small importance is easier than the similar feat of a Republican. My reaction would be that is irrelevant. If anything, the capacity to be embarrassed suggests a willfulness in the deception that is more morally reprehensible, not less so.

            And that’s only on the items of smaller import. On bigger stuff, actions that would actually change things, not even one Democrat can be embarrassed to do the right thing when it matters. To me, one of the most cinematically chilling moments of Fahrenheit 9/11, for example, is the footage showing Democratic members of the House challenging the Florida votes. And not one single Democratic Senator is willing to sponsor such an objection.


            1. different clue

              It appears there are a number of Tea Party type Republicans in the House who are against Fast Track, some because it is designed to hasten the destruction of American national and local sovereignty at every level and others because Obama wants it and therefor it must be bad.

              So when Joe Firestone says we have to create a movement to stop Fast Track, I would suggest such a movement already exists. Its name is Tea Party and its leading propagandists and agitators are Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, etc. If the “progressives” are really serious about killing Fast Track then the “progressives” will swallow their pride and work with the Limbauvian Beckists to get it killed.

              It might also be worth figuring out which of the Global Corporate Plantationist Democrats can be tortured or terrorised into voting against their beloved Fast Track and its Beloved Obama.

              Separately, it might be worth figuring out whether so much as even one member of the Congressional Black Caucus can be tortured or terrorised into voting against their beloved Obama and his beloved Fast Track. The “poison pill” might be further weaponised and turned into an “Apple of Discord”. How? By figuring out how to portray Black Caucus congressfolk as supporting slavery by supporting Obama and his pro-slavery Fast Track plans to either delete or un-enforce the poison pill. If the other-than-Black Caucus Democrats can be turned against Fast Track and filled with such hatred for the anti-American traitors within the D party who support Fast Track that they will vote for or support anything which degrades or destroys the interests of the Black Caucus members and their constituents in revenge for the Black Caucus traitors voting for Fast Track against America, then perhaps some of those Black Caucus traitors can be humiliated and tortured and terrorised out of voting for Fast Track, even though we all know they will always support Fast Track in their hearts.

      3. jrs

        What about that er President that’s been pushing this his whole term? Democrats are better?

    3. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      I’m not under any such illusion. The “defection” is from the 2/3 majority of Democrats in the Senate who voted against the TPP.

      1. washunate

        What does defection mean, though? What is its explanatory power here?

        What you are describing is the Democratic tactic for ages now. Split the individual votes so that important legislation can be passed (or blocked) while simultaneously maintaining plausible deniability for some (rotating) group of Democrats to claim to speak for the moral high ground.

        1. jrs

          No really good work has been linked to here on how most people don’t know about the TPP. Now whether if they did know they could change anything is another matter. But first things first. First they need to know.

          (I think this is a reply to another post – the one about the issue not being the public is stupid – they aren’t stupid but they are probably ignorant)

          1. Vatch

            “First they need to know [about the TPP and fast track].

            Yes! That’s crucial. NC readers need to tell their friends and relatives about the threat of fast track, TPP, TTIP, and ISDS. I know a lot of us are already doing this, but we all need to spread the word.

          2. washunate

            You might like this link (PDF warning). An example of specific polling data with a few years’ hindsight now that shows a massive disconnect between the general public and the leadership class. I’d say the public is pretty well informed.

            In general, do you think that free trade agreements between the United States and foreign countries have helped the United States, have hurt the United States, or have not made much of a difference either way?

            Helped: 17%
            Hurt: 53%

            I like this one, too:

            Is the recession over, are we still in a recession, or do you not have an opinion on this one way or the other?

            Yes, over: 19%
            No, not over: 70%


            1. Vatch

              Sure, people have general opinions about trade agreements and the recession, but how many of them know what “TPP”, “TTIP”, and “ISDS” stand for? How many have told their elected representatives that they know what those acronyms mean, and that they are paying attention to how those representatives vote?

              1. different clue

                Probably an ever rising number of Limbaugh’s listeners and Ingraham’s listeners and Beck’s listeners will learn all about it in the coming weeks and then months. They will tell the people they know. Etc.

      2. Ned Ludd

        Democrats “are willing to bravely support any progressive bill as long as there’s no chance it can pass”.

        The primary tactic in this game is Villain Rotation. They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it.

        Similarly, once enough rotating villains are in place (through backroom dealing) to pass legislation like TPA and TPP, the rest of the party can then cast their always-a-day-late-and-a-dollar-short progressive vote.

        1. washunate

          Well, looks like they got enough in line for the Patriot (sorry, Freedom) extension.

          These are the non-Republicans that voted against both cloture and passage:

          Bernie Sanders.

          That’s it. There is literally not a single elected Democrat in the Senate that actually opposes GWOT. As a reminder, the sponsor of the bill is that paragon of leftist thought, Jim Sensenbrenner.

  2. JTFaraday

    “Get ready to call ’em out on the TPP”

    “Again, opponents of these national sovereignty, democracy-destroying, “trade” agreements can help to bring about that outcome by increasing the pressure on Representatives in the House and ultimately on the Senators by facing them with a movement. The movement can call out individual Congresspeople and Senators using appeals, frames, and arguments based on job destruction, labor market, environmental, and regulatory impacts of various kinds, political paralysis, budgetary and austerity impacts and others. All these will be effective in varying degrees based on the segments of the voting population being addressed.”

    Should “we” collectively have done this by now?

    Yesterday I happened upon this post by Jay Rosen, on one topic where I think he gets things exactly right– people’s general lack of background information and context with which to understand complex issues and questions of policy, and the failure of journalists and writers (to say nothing of politicians who may not know themselves).

    Like the financial crisis, this looks to be another one of those things. I don’t mean to be defeatist. By all means, make your calls, etc and try to stymie the thing. But there is no “movement.”

    1. washunate

      That sounds like blame the victim to me. The issue is not that the public is stupid. The public knows they’re getting screwed. Rather, the issue is figuring out how to actually get politicians in office who will change things.

      In other words, an organizational challenge, not an information one. From media consolidation to bank bailouts, the public was not only well informed but also highly opinionated. It’s the intellectual class that seems to think these issues are complicated.

      1. hunkerdown

        The issue, or rather problem, are the false conceits that there must be a way of making a internal combustion engine emit milkshakes instead of poison gas, and that the system is “democratic”, therefore capable of producing any outcome desired by the popular will.

        Both of which are resoundingly debunked by a cursory look over the plumbing, so where’s the value or the human frailty responsible for continuing to pretend that the lever at the ballot box is hooked to anything useful? GOTVers are evnagelical nutjobs selling a broken system. Misery loves company….

      2. b stolte

        Please know that if TPP passes, things will not(never) change. In addition to greatly strengthening the corporate hand at our expense, TPP reportedly will allow an additional influx of future D voters from the endless population reservoirs of all those far eastern incubators.


      We opponents of these corporate coups disguised as ‘trade deals’ cannot rely on corporate media to convey the national sovereignty threat of the ISDS corporate ‘courts’. What I’ve seen of corporate ‘news’ coverage narrows our opposition to fears of more jobs being offshored. Of course, that is a legitimate concern, but the sovereignty issue is as, if not more, important.

      We have to use alternate media – Facebook, Twitter, emails, etc. – to help others understand how support for a corporate deal which will override U.S. laws about workers’ rights and safety as well as protection of the environment (a health issue as well) is treason because it betrays the Constitution in favor of corporate rule. See these and share them widely:

      President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership should be called the Treason Act – Syracuse Progressive |

      TPP: The Case for Treason

        1. Ned Ludd

          Danielle Mackey shares more unsettling details about ISDS.

          In the EU the system, investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), was until two years ago understood by only a few — but that changed when a Swedish nuclear energy company sued Germany for $4.7 billion for deciding to phase out nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. […]

          First, only investors may sue governments in ISDS tribunals; the reverse is not possible. (If Australia wanted to sue Phillip Morris for public health expenses due to smoking-related cancer, for instance, it wouldn’t be able to do so in ISDS courts.) “ISDS sets up a parallel judicial system available only to foreign corporations,” said John Hilary, the executive director of War on Want, a British anti-poverty organization. […]

          ISDS courts, unlike normal courts in most democracies worldwide, are for-profit institutions in which practicing lawyers and industry experts, not professional judges, sit as arbitrators. This means “for-profit arbitrators decide whether public policies implemented by democratically elected governments are right or wrong,” said Olivet.

          1. Synoia

            “SDS sets up a parallel judicial system available only to foreign corporations”

            Thus there will be only foreign corporations in the future.

            Every major US corporation would like to collect Government money where the US Government has legislated against their foibles.

            Suing for fun and profit.

      1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

        Yes, it’s happening. But it has to continue, whatever the immediate outcome on the TPP.

    3. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      There is, but it is admittedly small. That is how movements start. If things were different and it were large then TPP negotiations would have failed a long time ago.

    4. different clue

      The Tea Party is bringing such a movement into existence. So are the conservative media motormouths.
      If the “progressives” want to win this one, they will work with the Tea Partyists. If they don’t want to work with the Tea Partyists, that would reveal yet again that the “progressives” would rather lose beautifully. That would earn even more public contempt and hatred for the “progressives”. So the “progressives” have a choice to make about whether to respect and work with the Limbists and Beckists and so forth . . . or not.

  3. JTFaraday

    “But, in my view, appeals based on none of these will be as intensely felt or as widely accepted as those that emphasize TPP and other “trade” agreements undermining national, state, and local sovereignty and replacing it with Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)-based corporate rule. People can have different opinions about all the other issue areas related to the TPP, but except among a truly small number of people, the idea that corporations and the wealthy ought to establish hegemony over national governments backed by popular sovereignty is extraordinarily illegitimate and repellent.”

    Well, I think that way but I’m not so sure that everyone else thinks that way after decades of positively catering to large companies and financial interests on the part of local and national governments in the US (and elsewhere).

    If anything, TPP is a “logical” outgrowth of everything that came before. The full culmination of crony capitalist banana republic tendencies.

    1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      That’s true, but, of course, I’m talking about most of the people, the 99% who do not benefit from the takeover by the our plutocrats.

  4. Brooklin Bridge

    There is really only one sustainable argument against torture; it is morally repugnant. It grossly undermines the foundation of any enlightened civilization. Arguments about it’s effectiveness or lack thereof essentially give ground to proponents even though such arguments are sometimes necessary and often hard to avoid.

    By similar measure, if I’ve understood, Joe Firestone points out that the end run around national/local sovereignty and thus the harm to representative government is the central issue with the so called trade deals and thus with the only means – Fast Track – of getting them through congress, even this utterly corporate (and corrupt, not to mention contemptible) congress. Focus on that core issue, and it becomes that more difficult for an opponent to whisk magic double talk and obfuscation into the discussion.

    Agreed in principal, but the TPP and, as Yves puts it, it’s evil siblings have more facets than torture. The issue of the traffic of slaves is huge and it is easily understood by people who have not had any background due to silence in harmony on anything not establishment-pure from our corporate obsequious main stream media.

    The raw irony of a black president arguing that he wants to give Malasia the opportunity to restrict trafficking in human slaves by allowing the trafficking of slaves to remain in Fast Track authority seems to me to be too powerful not to use. And unlike the argument of effectiveness in the torture debate, traffic of humans for forced sex and labor is not a self undermining argument. It is a concrete, viserally understandable, example,of the stripping away of sovereignty and dignity from the people that would be part and parcel of such henious “trade” agreements and the despicable vehicle (fast track) that has to be used to do the dirty deeds.

    1. rusti

      And unlike the argument of effectiveness in the torture debate, traffic of humans for forced sex and labor is not a self undermining argument. It is a concrete, viserally understandable, example,of the stripping away of sovereignty and dignity from the people that would be part and parcel of such henious “trade” agreements and the despicable vehicle (fast track) that has to be used to do the dirty deeds.

      Well said. I contacted my state’s Senators and received a Generic Neoliberal buzzword blathering form letter from Patty Murray (D-WA) who voted Yes:

      As your United States Senator, one of my highest priorities is fighting for policies that create jobs and economic growth in Washington state. I believe that the federal government should be working to grow the economy from the middle out, not the top down, which is why I have been fighting to raise the minimum wage, expand access to paid sick leave to all workers, and make sure women earn equal pay for equal work.

      Pointing out the incredible hypocrisy of someone portending to be a champion for women’s rights enabling sex slavery is a very concrete example to use in a letter to the newspaper. She is up for election in 2016 and a Green Party candidate could tip the scales in an opponent’s favor.

  5. dday

    There’s another approach, which is the approach they’re actually going to try to do: pass fast track as is, and then pass a customs enforcement bill which retroactively changes the rules on fast track, amending the slavery measure by allowing for an exemption as long as the State Department brandishes a letter saying the country in question is making “concrete steps” toward managing the problem.

    This brings in a host of other issues, because the Senate version of that customs bill has a strong currency piece, and the House version may be unlikely to pass the Senate. But that’s the play.

    1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      Thanks, David. That alternative is one they could try. But it’s hard for me to see why that would be easier to do than sending the House version back to the Senate. It still allows the same Senators to make the same objections they did earlier, and also arguing that the President should not have any discretion when it comes to making exceptions for nations engaged in the slave trade.

      In any case, a move like this immediately makes it clear that “Fast-Track” can be amended whenever the President and Congress want to amend it. So, its existence can then become an election issue fueling progressive candidates, educating people about the proposed trade agreements and building opposition to the TPP itself. If “Fast-Track” passes then that “victory” can become more of a turning point in the fight against corporatism then its defeat would have been.

      1. hunkerdown

        “Could try”? Sorry, Joe. David’s “The approach they’re actually going to try to do” is stated intent on the record, not speculation. So, you’ve written an excellent piece of alt-historical analysis. But what about the play they actually chose?

        1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

          OK, Hunker. Say that report is accurate and they will try this:

          “The provision will be removed by House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) through a customs bill that will come to the floor after the fast-track bill, sources familiar with the planning told The Huffington Post.”

          This language suggests that the intent is to have the fast-track bill come to the floor first and then have the pro-TPP forces vote for it with the anti-human tracking language passed by the Senate. But will it come to the floor if the Leadership doesn’t have the votes to pass it?

          Here are some possibilities assuming they don’t want to try to pass a fast-track bill stripping out the language the President is against and instead want to try this maneuver:

          1) They know or think they don’t have the votes have to pass it as is;

          If that’s the situation, then they’ll wait until they can gather the votes jeopardizing the President’s schedule, while giving the opposition further time to get stronger;

          2) They think they may have the votes, but only if the anti-slavery language coming from the Senate is still in it;

          If that’s the state of play then they’ll pass it that way.

          But if everyone knows that if it passes that way, then Ryan and the Leadership will only remove the anti-slavery provision or water it down to make it meaningless through a customs enforcement bill, and they think the leadership may succeed in that, then why would the opponents vote for fast-track even if it contains the anti-slavery language?

          It’s true that removing the language the above way will be presented as “giving them cover”, but how much cover will it give representatives if an opponent can point out that they voted for slavery in the TPP through the customs enforcement bill? I doubt that will give law makers who think slavery is a moral issue for their constituents much of a feeling of comfort, and I don’t think it’s enough to get them to vote for fast-track in the face of vocal opposition shouting to the skies that they voted for the slave trade.

          1. hunkerdown

            Thanks for the response Joe.

            “But will it come to the floor if the Leadership doesn’t have the votes to pass it?” — Good point, if TPA doesn’t end up coming up for a vote in the House at all, we win this round, and making that prospect ugly is a good place for pressure right now.

            “then why would the opponents vote for fast-track even if it contains the anti-slavery language?” Well, what is a “promise of a vote” in the Senate? Wouldn’t that necessarily entail ruling out the filibuster? That bit of “ground cover” allows at least 9 Senators to vote for cloture on TPA (ka-ching!) and against the pro-slavery fix (which will pass with the exclusive efforts of, all together now, those darn Republicans), and look like stalwart heroes in the press while contributing to the result of selling us down the river. I grant it doesn’t do much for the House, but both houses have to ratify TPA, and I can’t really speak to the game in the House as well. I think, and correct me if I’m really wrong, but the House is pretty much its usual pig-pullin’ party, where votes are more or less bought by trading pork (and through job placement assistance and resume writing service on behalf of the Parties).

            I’m wary of the President’s schedule as a credible source of time pressure on TPA in general. TTIP is still in the oven, isn’t it? TPP is odious, but TTIP is of a similar kind and degree. We’d be signing on to roughly the same legal regime under either one, unless the rumors of TPP as a military alliance under the guise of “trayd” (which I hope we might add to the lexicon alongside “groaf” and “jawbs”) have real meat to them.

            1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

              One on the House is already done. May be here in due course.

  6. Oregoncharles

    “an anti-TPP movement that is intense enough to seek reprisals in the 2016 election and beyond against Senators who vote for the bill.”

    Which are already underway in Oregon, against Wyden and the three traitor Reps as well. For what it’s worth, I spent Saturday afternoon at a labor event, getting highly positive responses from 5 unions (granted, one was the Wobblies) for the plan to spoil the election for Wyden. They’re seriously ticked off – not a good situation for a Democrat. Wyden has actually created an opening to the unions for the Green Party, a big deal for us – and potentially for them.

    Since Republicans are also supporting Fast Track, it might make sense to create a working arrangement with the Libertarians – we go after Democrats, they go after Republicans. Assuming they’re opposed to this assault on national sovereignty. Does anyone know?

    1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      Whatever happens with fast-track, the Senate will surely get another crack at TPP. So, if we you can scare the crap out of Wyden and especially your reps with a great fuss over their fast-track results they may then followup with no votes on TPP letting it die in the Senate. It would be their only way to make things up to you and save their jobs.

    2. different clue

      Are there any Tea Party Republican Congressfolk in Oregon? Are there any Republican Congressfolk at all in Oregon? If so, do they have enough Tea People in their districts that they could be defeated if Beck/Limbaugh/Ingraham/etc. convince those Tea Voters to not vote FOR any Oregon Republican for Fast Track at the very least? If so, might those Tea People be worth working with?

      I doubt the Libertarians would oppose Fast Track. Libertarians are about the money, the whole money, and nothing but the money. They support Corporate and Upper Class privilege above everything. I just about betcha that Rand Paul supports Fast Track and voted for it. Based on his Libertarian pro-Upper-Class-privilege convictions. So I suspect the Libertarians would be utterly worthless in this battle. I suspect the Tea People would be a better source of strange fellow-travelers-of-convenience on this issue.

      If I lived in Oregon I would swallow my distaste for the Green Party and vote for a Greenie Senate-wannabe if there were no other way to vote against Wyden. Of course I would try to support a kamikaze opponent to Wyden in the Dem Primary first. An opponent who would oppose Wyden so viciously and filthily as to make Wyden unelectable even if Wyden won the nomination. Exterminating Wyden’s further presence in politics would be job one for me too if I lived in Oregon.

      One wonders if a Revenge Against Fast Track movement could become deep and broad and long-lasting enough to create and apply a Permanent Hate List of pro-Fast Track politicians who go into the private sector and organize vast and massive boycotts against whatever entities those ex-politicians go to work for until those entities fire those politicians. Such a Revenge Movement would seek to make Fast Track ex-politicians unemployable anywhere in the private sector anywhere within the United States. The goal would be to drive them into poverty or into exile or both, to make visible examples of them. . . . to destroy their lives in a very publicly visible way if possible. That might deter others from committing such treason. Nothing less than that would have any hope of deterring officeholders from supporting Free Trade Agreements. Only the sure knowledge that a Vengeance Movement can and will destroy their life for the rest of their life would have any hope of deterring them from supporting Free Trade.

  7. susan the other

    I’m seriously wondering how the absurd ISDS is going to prioritize the express conditions of the TPP: when we in the US are sued because we show a preference for expensive US Pharma products we will be sued in behalf of the high quality and cheaper trade partners; then when we import from the high quality cheaper foreign companies those companies and we as importers will be sued for damages for infringement of copyright. Lovely system they are proposing.

    1. tawal

      Yea my non GMO seed company is going to sue dot mil for letting the GMO seed companies bastardize my seed’s genes.

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