Thursday, November 29, 2012

Legal Creation of Race

The Legal Creation of Race in America

When examining history, it seems that a narrative has evolved over time that slavery somehow just happened in the United States due to the need for cheap labor and that Africans were chosen because they could do that labor the best. While this is true, it is far from the full reality of the situation. Like slavery, race took time to be created and accepted by the population and like slavery; race had to be created from a legal framework. For this, we need look no further than colonial Virginia.

It must be acknowledged that there was and still is some debate over whether or not the Africans that came to Virginia in 1619 were slaves or that they slowly, but surely transitioned to slavery. Yet, despite this, there is still evidence that in the mid-1600s, laws were being made to create race.

Interestingly enough, slavery was not originally sought after in colonial Virginia as, “in spite of its seeming superiority, [it] was actually not as advantageous as indentured labor during the first half of the century" [1] due to the high morality of Virginia immigrants. Such morality created a situation where there would be no advantage in owning a person for their entire lives rather than a few years, “especially since a slave cost roughly twice as much as an indentured servant.” [2] Though, this ‘morality’ was in reality due to economics as up until the 1640s, the main crop for Barbados and Virginia was tobacco. However, Barbados made a switch to cotton and then finally sugar in the early 1640s. This discouraged white indentured servants from going to Barbados as “sugar production required such strenuous labor that men would not willingly undertake it.” [3] Thus, colonial Virginia was given an influx of indentured servants.

Virginia’s transition to slave labor was slow as even though it became more advantageous to own slaves rather than have indentured servants in 1660, in that year the Virginian assembly allowed Dutch slave ships exemption from local duties, however, in that same year the Navigation Acts were passed, resulting in Virginia not implementing slavery as fast as this created a situation which would decrease the number of slaves that could be imported. It also did not help that Virginia was now in competition with sugar planters in the Barbados over this smaller supply of slaves.

The concept of race, originally, was essentially nonexistent as while blacks were identified as Negroes, it “was a national rather than racial designation” and “the early records identify the nationality of all non-Englishmen.” [4] The social structure was much more based on class rather than race. White and black servants would often socialize with one another [5], seeing themselves as being in the same situation and being oppressed by the system.

Yet, even this was soon found problematic. The first recorded punishment for interracial relations was in 1630 in Virginia when Hugh Davis was sentenced to be whipped for “defiling his body in lying with a Negress.” [6] (While there has yet to be evidence that Davis was white, the language used by the Virginia Assembly implies as such.) This notes that society was quickly changing in its attitudes towards race and interracial relations. Virginia was established in 1607 and within about 20 years social relations had changed so vastly that blacks and whites were not allowed to have romantic relations.

Soon laws were being passed which would further groundwork to later separate and create race. The first such law appeared in the early 1640s where “the courts clearly recognized property in men and women and their unborn progeny." [7] This is quite revealing as it shows that there was already the creation of a legal basis for what would later become full-fledged slavery in the 19th century where in that time it was assumed that the children of slaves would be slaves. However, it also denotes a difference as the above-mentioned law was all encompassing, it didn’t matter which of your parents was a slave, if you were born to slaves, you were considered a slave whereas in later years the inheritance of slave status was purely matrilineal.

The law soon changed to this matrilineal status in 1662. Due to planters worrying about servant uprisings, suspected cooperation among servants and slaves, as well as “the growing problem of controlling the sexual activity of female servants" [8] the Virginia Assembly passed a law declaring “that the children of enslaved women should follow the condition of their mother" [9] thus creating a situation where the institution of slavery could continue unabated and that the owners would consistently have a source of labor upon which to draw.

The differentiation was fully made between black and white servants began with the case of John Punch. In 1640 the Virginia General Court handed down a ruling to three servants, two white, one black, who had attempted to escape. While the servitude sentences of the two whites were lengthened, John Punch was sentenced to “serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural life here or elsewhere.” This was soon followed by a case where a black runaway was caught, yet the length of their sentence was not increased “presumably because he was already serving for life." [10] Thus, this separation of the races began and with it the meaning of who was black and who was white and what exactly that meant.

Yet, the establishment of slavery also meant the establishment of a different set of rules and regulations regarding slaves. The only disadvantage to owning a slave was the fact that they had no incentive to work, whereas the indentured servant’s incentive came from the fact that they would eventually receive their freedom. In order to get slaves to work, in the first years some masters offered slaves the chance to earn their freedom by working hard or giving them land to grow their own crops. [11] However, this defeats the very purpose of slavery and with it, its advantages. Thus, slave owners had to realize that the slaves had to be punished much harsher than the servants. In 1669 the Virginia Assembly passed a law which stated in part that “if any slave resist his master and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die, that his death shall not be [viewed as a] felony, but the master be acquitted from molestation." [12] In other words, if a slave master accidentally kills his slave, he will not be charged with a crime as the slave is considered property rather than a human being. The law even went so far as to ensure that “the public would compensate the master for the loss of slaves thus killed." [13] In doing this, the Assembly ensured that Virginian society would fully accept slavery.

The differences between black and white also had an interesting effect on black women and reveals further that the legal system created race, however in this case it didn’t have to do with relations between black and white servants but rather with taxes. In 1643, African women were categorized as “tithables” (individuals who performed taxable labor) in Virginia revealing that African women were seen as “field laborers with a productive capacity equivalent to that of men." [14] In regarding African women as “tithables,” the Virginia Assembly showed that they viewed African and white women differently, with African women being viewed solely as laborers and on the same level as men.

One must note that the separation of black and white women served the interests of the ruling white patriarchy. By separating the two groups and treating one group as a man, the patriarchy was able to give the white woman a feeling of superiority by giving her someone to look down up and feel above. In regarding the African women as a man, the patriarchal system was able to force African women into a situation where they lost their femininity and to be in a much more able position to control black women.

At the exact same time this law was passed, a law further condemning interracial relations was passed with the Virginia Assembly stating that “if any Christian shall commit fornication with a negro man or woman, [he] or [she] so offending shall pay double the fines imposed by the former act." [15] This was done to discourage interracial relations, but also had a disproportionate effect on white women, who, due to “the growing emphasis on bastardy in which the birth of a child constituted ‘proof’ of sexual misconduct,”[16] could be easily prosecuted were they found with a mixed race child.

Among all of this it must be acknowledged that racial tensions grew as Virginia’s transition to slavery became fully realized. The shift from indentured and free to slave labor resulted in the unemployment of many whites; however, those in power were able to allow poor whites to have a sense of superiority against slaves and other non-whites. This was done mainly to dissuade poor whites from realizing that it wasn’t the slave, but rather those in the planter class, that had put them in such a miserable situation and thus rebelling against the current social order.

When looking at the historical record, one can see that at the time Virginians began to purchase black slaves in large quantities, “they were also buying Indians” and that constantly seeing Indians with slaves created a situation where “it was easy for Virginians to extend to blacks some of the bad feelings they harbored towards Indians.”[17] This may have possibly been caused by the fact that once one begins to see the two groups together and soon associates immediately one with the other.

 The Virginia Assembly, through passing legislation, “deliberately did what it could to foster the contempt of whites for blacks and Indians.” In 1680 the Assembly passed legislation that meted out a punishment of 30 lashes on any black or Indian that fought a white servant. “This was a particularly effective provision in that it allowed servants to bully slave without fear of relation, this placing them psychologically on a par with masters." [18] Such laws were crucial to keeping the current social order in which the planter class was dominant. By having the servant classes disassociate in every way with the African and Native American slaves, the planter class crushed any chance of worker solidarity and relied on the old divide and conquers strategy to maintain their position in society. It also furthered the acceptance of slavery to be the norm as now the white underclass would be in support of slavery as they would see Africans as deserving of slavery.

The creation of race in America was not one that was suddenly thought up, but rather a slow process of social engineering that was extremely beneficial to some while excruciatingly painful for others. At the heart of the matter lies the need for a labor source to work the fields, but to do it in such a manner where it could be deemed acceptable and would be in the control of the planter class, thus the legal route was taken to create differences, inferences, and meanings that were solely dependent upon one’s skin color.


[1] Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia, (New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1975), pg 297
[2] Morgan, pg 297
[3] Morgan, 298
[4] Lerone Bennett Jr., The Shaping of Black America (Chicago, Illinois: Johnson Publishing Company, 1975), pg 18
[5] Bennett Jr., pg 19
[6] Kevin Mumford, “After Hugh: Statutory Race Segregation in Colonial America, 1630-1725,” The American Journal of Legal History 43 (July 1999): 280
[7] Morgan, pg 297
[8] Kathleen M. Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (The University of North Carolina Press, 1996) pg 195
[9] Brown, pgs 195-196
[10] Winthrop D. Jordan, “Modern Tensions and the Origins of American Slavery,” The Journal of Southern History 28 (February 1962): 23-24
[11] Morgan, pg 311
[12] Morgan, pg 312
[13] Morgan, pg 313
[14] Brown, pg 118
[15] Brown, pg 196
[16] Brown, pg 196
[17] Morgan, pg 330
[18] Morgan, pg 331

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why So Secretive?

Why So Secretive? The Trans-Pacific Partnership as Global Corporate Coup

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

See the final part of the TPP series here

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the most secretive and “least transparent” trade negotiations in history.

Luckily for the populations and societies that will be affected by the agreement, there are public research organizations and alternative media outlets campaigning against it – and they’ve even released several leaks of draft agreement chapters. From these leaks, which are not covered by mainstream corporate-controlled news outlets, we are able to get a better understanding of what the Trans-Pacific Partnership actually encompasses.

For example, public interest groups have been warning that the TPP could result in millions of lost jobs. As a letter from Congress to United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk stated, the TPP “will create binding policies on future Congresses in numerous areas,” including “those related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.”

In other words, as promised, the TPP goes far beyond “trade.”

Dubbed by many as “NAFTA on steroids” and a “corporate coup,” only two of the TPP’s 26 chapters actually have anything to do with trade. Most of it grants far-reaching new rights and privileges to corporations, specifically related to intellectual property rights (copyright and patent laws), as well as constraints on government regulations.

The leaked documents revealed that the Obama administration “intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations,” as Obama and Kirk have emerged as strong advocates “for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.”

In other words, the already ineffective and mostly toothless environmental, financial, and labor regulations that exist are unacceptable to the Obama administration and the 600 corporations aligned with the TPP who are giving him his orders.

The agreement stipulates that foreign corporations operating in the United States would no longer be subject to domestic U.S. laws regarding protections for the environment, finance or labor rights, and could appeal to an “international tribunal” which would be given the power to overrule American law and impose sanctions on the U.S. for violating the new “rights” of corporations.

The “international tribunal” that would dictate the laws of the countries would be staffed by corporate lawyers acting as “judges,” thus ensuring that cases taken before them have a “fair and balanced” hearing – fairly balanced in favor of corporate rights above anything else.

A public interest coalition known as Citizens Trade Campaign published a draft of the TPP chapter on “investment” revealing information about the “international tribunal” which would allow corporations to directly sue governments that have barriers to “potential profits.”

Arthur Stamoulis, the executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, explained that the draft texts “clearly contain proposals designed to give transnational corporations special rights that go far beyond those possessed by domestic businesses and American citizens… A proposal that could have such broad effects on environmental, consumer safety and other public interest regulations deserves public scrutiny and debate. It shouldn’t be crafted behind closed doors.”

Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, a public interest organization, undertook an analysis of the leaked document on investment and explained that the international corporate tribunal would allow corporations to overturn national laws and regulations or demand enormous sums in compensation, with the tribunal “empowered to order payment of unlimited government Treasury funds to foreign investors over TPP claims.”

Even under NAFTA, over $350 million has been paid by NAFTA-aligned governments to corporations for “barriers” to investment “rights,” including toxic waste dumps, logging rules, as well as bans on various toxic chemicals.

Because let’s be clear: for corporations, such regulations and concerns over health, safety and environmental issues are perceived solely as “barriers” to investment and profit. Thus their “government” would sue the foreign government on behalf of the corporation, on the premise that such regulations led to potential lost profits, for which the corporation should be compensated.

The TPP allows the corporations to directly sue the government in question. All of the TPP member countries, except for Australia, have agreed to adhere to the jurisdiction of this international tribunal, an unelected, anti-democratic and corporate-staffed kangaroo-court with legal authority over at least ten nations and their populations.

Further, TPP countries have not agreed on a set of obligations for corporations to meet in relation to health, labor or environmental standards, and thus a door is opened for corporations to obtain even more rights and privileges to plunder and exploit. Where corporate rights are extended, human and democratic rights are dismantled.

One of the most important areas in which the TPP has a profound effect is in relation to intellectual property rights, or copyright and patent laws. Corporations have been strong advocates of expanding intellectual property rights, namely, their intellectual property rights.

Pharmaceutical corporations are major proponents of these rights and are likely to be among the major beneficiaries of the intellectual property chapter of the TPP. The pharmaceutical industry ensured that strong patent rules were included in the 1995 World Trade Organization agreement, but ultimately felt that those rules did not go far enough.

Dean Baker, writing in the Guardian, explained that stronger patent rules establish “a government-granted monopoly, often as long as 14 years, that prohibits generic competitors from entering a market based on another company’s test results that show a drug to be safe and effective.” Baker noted that such laws are actually “the opposite of free trade” since they “involve increased government intervention in the market” and “restrict competition and lead to higher prices for consumers.”

Essentially, what this means is that in poor countries where more people need access to life-saving drugs, and at cheaper cost, it would be impossible for companies or governments to manufacture and sell cheaper generic brands of successful drugs held by multinational corporate patents. Such an agreement would hand over a monopoly of price-controls to these corporations, allowing them to set the prices as they deem fit, thus making the drugs incredibly expensive and often inaccessible to the people who need them most.

As U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman correctly noted, “In many parts of the world, access to generic drugs means the difference between life and death.”

The TPP is expected to increase such corporate patent rights more than any other agreement in history. Generic drug manufacturers in countries like Vietnam and Malaysia would suffer. So would sales of larger generics manufacturers in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, which supply low-cost drugs to much of the world.

While the United States has given up the right to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical corporations (hence the exorbitant price for drugs purchased in the U.S.), countries like New Zealand and even Canada to a lesser extent negotiate drug prices in order to keep the costs down for consumers. The TPP will grant new negotiating privileges to corporations, allowing them to appeal decisions by governments to challenge the high cost of drugs or to go with cheap alternatives. Referring to these changes, the U.S. manager of Doctors Without Borders’ Access to Medicines Campaign stated, “Bush was better than Obama on this.”

But that’s not all the TPP threatens: Internet freedom is also a major target.

The Council of Canadians and OpenMedia, major campaigners for Internet freedom, have warned that the TPP would “criminalize some everyday uses of the Internet,” including music downloads as well as the combining of different media works. OpenMedia warned that the TPP would “force service providers to collect and hand over your private data without privacy safeguards, and give media conglomerates more power to send you fines in the mail, remove online content – including entire websites – and even terminate your access to the Internet.”

Also advanced under the TPP chapter on intellectual property rights, new laws would have to be put in place by governments to regulate Internet usage. OpenMedia further warned that, from the leaked documents on intellectual property rights, “there can be heavy fines for average citizens online,” adding: “you could be fined for clicking on a link, people could be knocked off the Internet and web sites could be locked off.”

The TPP, warned OpenMedia founder Steve Anderson, “will limit innovation and free expression.” Under the TPP, there is no distinction between commercial and non-commercial copyright infringement. Thus, users who download music for personal use would face the same penalties as those who sell pirated music for profit.

Information that is created or shared on social networking sites could have Internet users fined, have their computers seized, their Internet usage terminated, or even get them a jail sentence. The TPP imposes a “three strikes” system for copyright infringement, where three violations would result in the termination of a household’s Internet access.

So, why all the secrecy? Corporate and political decision-makers study public opinion very closely; they know how to manipulate the public based upon what the majority think and believe. When it comes to “free trade” agreements, public opinion has forced negotiators into the darkness of back-room deals and unaccountable secrecy precisely because populations are so overwhelmingly against such agreements.

An opinion poll from 2011 revealed that the American public has – just over the previous few years – moved from “broad opposition” to “overwhelming opposition” toward NAFTA-style trade deals.

A major NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll from September of 2010 revealed that “the impact of trade and outsourcing is one of the only issues on which Americans of different classes, occupations and political persuasions agree,” with 86% saying that outsourcing jobs by U.S. companies to poor countries was “a top cause of our economic woes,” with 69% thinking that “free trade agreements between the United States and other countries cost the U.S. jobs.” Only 17% of Americans in 2010 felt that “free trade agreements” benefit the U.S., compared to 28% in 2007.

Because public opinion is strongly – and increasingly – against “free trade agreements,” secrecy is required in order to prevent the public from even knowing about, let alone actively opposing, agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And this, as U.S. Trade Representative Kirk explained, is a very “practical” reason for all the secrecy.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: This is What Corporate Governance Looks Like

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Posted at Andrew Gavin Marshall and Occupy

In 2008, the United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab announced the U.S. entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks as "a pathway to broader Asia-Pacific regional economic integration." Originating in 2005 as a "Strategic Economic Partnership" between a few select Pacific countries, the TPP has, as of October 2012, expanded to include 11 nations in total: the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia, with the possibility of several more joining in the future.

What makes the TPP unique is not simply the fact that it may be the largest "free trade agreement" ever negotiated, nor even the fact that only two of its roughly 26 articles actually deal with "trade," but that it is also the most secretive trade negotiations in history, with no public oversight, input, or consultations.

Since the Obama administration came to power in January of 2009, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has become a quiet priority for the U.S., which overtook the leadership role in the "trade agreement" talks. In 2010, when Malaysia joined the TPP, the Wall Street Journal suggested that the "free-trade pact" could "serve as a counterweight to China's economic influence," with Japan and the Philippines both expressing interest in joining the talks.

In the meantime, the Obama administration and other participating nations have been consulting and negotiating not only with each other, but with roughly 600 corporations involved. The TPP is accelerating the most dangerous free market policies of previous U.S. administrations, bestowing unprecedented powers and privileges upon Trans-National Corporations (TNCs) while dismantling regulations and laws without any democratic oversight or input.

This three-part investigative series examines the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a legally binding trade agreement for advancing transnational corporate tyranny and dismantling domestic democratic accountability.

I. Trade Representatives: The Global Corporate Lobby

Who negotiates trade agreements? The answer is simple: trade representatives. The term "trade representative" is essentially another way of saying "corporate lobbyist."

To prove this point, it would be useful to quickly glance over the biographies of the important U.S. Trade Representatives (USTR) since the George H.W. Bush administration, when USTR Carla A. Hills was lead negotiator for NAFTA and the WTO.

Embedded within the U.S. foreign policy establishment, Hills had a long career in government and was the USTR from 1989 to 1993, after which she established and became CEO of Hills & Company, an international consulting firm with a focus on global trade and investment for clients such as the Coca-Cola Company, Procter & Gamble, American International Group (AIG), Novartis, Bechtel, Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Inter-American Development Bank, Pfizer and Chevron.
A few accolades: Hills is a member of the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, Gilead Sciences, and is on international advisory boards for Rolls Royce, the Coca-Cola Company and JPMorgan Chase. She is also a member of the Trilateral Commission, the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Following Hill, from 1993 to 1997, the U.S. Trade Representative was Michael Kantor, who now advises corporate clients as a partner in the law firm Mayer-Brown. A member of the board of CBRE (a real estate services company), Kantor also serves on the advisory boards of ING USA and Fleishman-Hillard, a public relations firm.

Next in line, from 1997 to 2001 the USTR was Charlene Barshefsky, who is now on the boards of American Express, the Estée Lauder Company and Intel; like Hill, she is a member of both the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations.

The USTR from 2001 to 2005 was Robert Zoellick, who afterwards served as Deputy Secretary of State, Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs from 2006 to 2007, and President of the World Bank from 2007 to 2012. Following Zoellick, from 2005 to 2006, the USTR was Rob Portman, a U.S. Senator who was a possible running mate for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

And only after him did Susan Schwab, the USTR from 2006 to 2009, commit the U.S. to joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Schwab has since joined the boards of FedEx, Caterpillar and Boeing. Based on the evidence of her and her predecessors' tenures, it is safe to say there has been a significant interchange between "trade representatives" and "corporate representatives" — to the point where it is almost impossible to distinguish the them apart.

Now let's get even more caught up to speed on appointed "government officials" so we can know exactly what we're talking about.

In 2008, as Obama was campaigning for president, he stated, "I have done more to take on lobbyists than any other candidate in this race. I don't take a dime of their money, and when I am president, they won't find a job in my White House."

Within a week of becoming president, Obama changed his mind and his "transition team" (responsible for selecting the Obama cabinet) became co-chaired by John Podesta, co-founder with his brother Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group, a major Washington lobbying firm.

Podesta was Bill Clinton's former chief of staff and, as co-chair of Obama's transition team, he declared his team was implementing "rules that are the strictest, the most far-reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history." A top lobbyist whose firm has represented such clients ranging from Wal-Mart, BP and Lockheed Martin to the Egyptian military dictatorship, Podesta appeared the ideal figure to implement Obama's "strict" rules against hiring corporate lobbyists, right?

A little further background: the Podesta Group counts among its recent lobbying successes the stalling of a Senate bill which was calling on Egypt "to curtail human rights abuses." The Group's website also boasts that it "challenged" Wall Street reform after "one of the world's largest banking firms came to the Podesta Group seeking help with their opposition" to proposed regulations for banks.

Thus, it should come as little surprise that part of the "strictest" and most "far-reaching ethics rules" announced by John Podesta in relation to lobbying was that no official could be appointed to the Obama administration if s/he had been an active lobbyist within the previous two years. Luckily for Ron Kirk, Obama's U.S. Trade Representative, these "strict" rules only applied to the Washington D.C. area; and since Kirk was a corporate lobbyist in Austin, Texas, for the investment bank Merrill Lynch (before it was taken over by Bank of America in 2008), the "far-reaching ethics" promised by Podesta didn't reach Kirk.

Kirk's main priority since becoming USTR has been the Trans-Pacific Partnership, worked on in secret for nearly four years with several other countries and 600 corporations. President Obama has called it "a next-generation trade agreement" and a "model" for future agreements.
But not everyone agrees.

In May of 2012, more than 30 legal scholars from nations that will be affected by the TPP signed a letter addressed to USTR Kirk expressing their "profound concern and disappointment at the lack of public participation, transparency and open government processes in the negotiation" of the TPP.
In late June of 2012, more than 130 members of Congress followed this up with a letter that they signed and sent to Kirk urging transparency in TPP negotiations, and an inclusion of Congressional consultations, stating: "We are troubled that important policy decisions are being made without full input from Congress."

In his not-to-worry response, Kirk reassured the public: "I believe … that we have very faithfully operated within the spirit of the Obama administration to have the most engaged and transparent process as we possibly could."

Meanwhile, the TPP has received strong endorsements from large transnational corporations and their official lobbies, such as Thomas Donohue, the CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who told the Financial Times that, "[t]his must be an agreement with high standards. These standards will set the bar on regulatory coherence, investment and intellectual property."

Part of these "high standards," according to a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation group (APEC), are "deep commitments that go beyond tariff reduction and pass existing World Trade Organization standards." In other words, it goes far beyond "trade." This was confirmed by Iwan Azis, the head of the Asian Development Bank's regional integration office, who stated that the TPP was intended to deal with "behind the border" issues, typically decided by domestic policy, and "which go beyond the normal scope of trade agreements" including issues of labor, environmental and intellectual property standards.

Azis commented: "As a concept, this is definitely something big… This is so comprehensive, it is like a Grade A agreement." The TPP is designed "to be a structure on to which other nations, including possibly South Korea, and eventually even China, could be bolted."

At the 2011 APEC summit, Chinese president Hu Jintao stated: "China supports the goal of the regional integration of the Asia-Pacific economy, using the East Asian free trade zone, full economic partnerships in Asia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership as foundations."

The aim of the TPP appears to be in establishing a core "trade bloc" in order "to create a gravitational force that would bring others in," according to Karan Bhatia, the Vice-President for international law at General Electric and a former deputy U.S. trade representative. Ultimately, this objective includes bringing both Japan and China into the fold.

In May of 2012, Kirk stated that he "would love nothing more" than to have China join the TPP, following the more immediate additions of Mexico, Canada, and Japan. And in November of 2011, President Obama spoke to the Australian parliament, explaining: "I have directed my national security team to make our presence and missions in the Asia Pacific a top priority… The United States is a Pacific power and we are here to stay."

One observer and critic has noted that the TPP has the potential to become a new "global trade agreement." Charlene Barshefsky, the USTR from 1997 to 2001, wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal in October of 2012 in which she strongly endorsed the TPP as a "crucial opportunity" to overcome "barriers to innovation." Referring to the TPP as the "most important trade negotiation of the past decade," Barshefsky wrote that it "will set the terms of trade for many years in the world's most economically dynamic region."

Gary Horlick, who is rated one of the world's top international trade lawyers with a long career representing major U.S. and global multinational corporations, and more than 20 countries in international trade negotiations and disputes – and who was the first Chairman of the World Trade Organization's Permanent Group of Experts on subsidies – commented on the TPP: "This is the least transparent trade negotiation I have ever seen." As part of this "transparency," participants in the negotiations had to sign a memorandum of understanding which forbids them from releasing any "negotiating documents until four years after a deal is done or abandoned."

What Horlick referred to as the "least transparent trade negotiations" he had ever seen, Kirk referred to as "the most engaged and transparent process" possible. Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that Kirk has access to the draft document and observes and participates in the negotiations, unlike the representative bodies of governments or their populations.

So let's call this what it is: a transnational corporate coup over the democratic process and public accountability.

Kirk explained that "there's a practical reason" for all the secrecy in the negotiations over the TPP: "for our ability both to preserve negotiating strength and to encourage our partners to be willing to put issues on the table they may not otherwise, that we have to preserve some measure of discretion and confidentiality."

Indeed, this is "practical." After all, as he explained, if the talks were not done in secret, the public would be aware of what was being discussed, and if the public knew what was being planned, they would oppose it.

So secrecy is necessary in order to make the agreement as undemocratic and unaccountable as possible, to ensure that corporations get what they want while the public remains in the dark. Deceptive and saturated with disdain for democracy, certainly, but "practical" nevertheless.

Part II of Marshall's investigative series on the Trans-Pacific Partnership will appear Wednesday.

Gilad Sharon Invokes Genocide

Just yesterday Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon, penned an op-ed in JPost entitled A Decisive Conclusion Is Necessary in which he discussed the ongoing clash between Gazan militants and Israel.

The article is quite disturbing, with Sharon claiming that no Gazans are innocent and he even goes so far as to invoke genocide saying:

The desire to prevent harm to innocent civilians in Gaza will ultimately lead to harming the truly innocent: the residents of southern Israel. The residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.


There is no justification for the State of Gaza being able to shoot at our towns with impunity. We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.

There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire.

Were this to happen, the images from Gaza might be unpleasant – but victory would be swift, and the lives of our soldiers and civilians spared. [1] (emphasis added)

Sharon ignores the fact that there are Gazans who were and have been born in and since 2006 and as such could not have voted for Hamas. By stating that the "truly innocent" are those civilians in southern Israel, Sharon shows his racism by arguing that an Israeli life is worth more than a Palestinian one. The only way one could hold such beliefs is by thinking that an Israeli is innately superior than a Palestinian, the very definition of racism.

By saying that Gaza needs to be "flattened" and  envoking the imagery of when the US dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Sharon is arguably arguing for the utter destruction of Gaza, possibly arguing for genocide. A commenter noted this, stating that UN Resolution 260, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states that directly inciting genocide is a crime.

Indeed, this is true. UN Resolution 260 does in fact state that genocide includes " Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part"  (which is what Sharon is arguing for) and that "Direct and public incitement to commit genocide" is a punishable offense. While some may argue that Sharon is a private citizen, the resolution also states that anyone who is found inciting genocide (or any other acts found in Article 3) "shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals." [2] (emphasis added) Thus, Gilad Sharon's op-ed is punishable under international law.

Gilad Sharon wants nothing more than to see the genocide of the Gazan people.


1: Gilad Sharon, "A Decisive Conclusion Is Necessary," Jerusalem Post, November 11, 2012 (

2: Fordham University, UN Resolution 260,

Friday, November 16, 2012

Israel, Palestine: Who Truly Suffers?

I would like to talk about the current conflict that is going on between Israel and militant Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip. We need to end the mindless chanting and fights on social media and realize that neither group is a monolith, that there are innocent people who are being killed. 

I don’t support one side or the other, instead I think that we need to take a step back and examine the situation in terms of who benefits from the continued violence and struggle in Gaza. The fact of the matter is that the strategy of Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza, such as Islamic Jihad, launching rockets into Israel has not succeeded, nor has Israel's strategy of halting the violence by engaging in bombings and invasions in Gaza, yet neither has changed strategy at all. Thus, the reality of the situation is that the current strategy on both respective sides is producing the results that each side wants.

I see that the radical Islamist groups benefit as this violence will only create a deeper hatred of Israel for many Gazans and for those who have had family members killed they may very well join Hamas or such other groups as to seek revenge. The right-wing Netanyahu government benefits as it makes them look strong on defense and they can say that only Netanyahu is the one who can fully protect Israel. In both cases we see a situation where both groups exist, survive, and thrive off of the violence that is going on and continuing destruction to the detriment of Palestinians and Israelis.

There are those who argue that Israel is the victim and the Gazans are the aggressors or vice versa, however, I must ask: Why are we arguing such trivial things when 11-month old children [1] and innocent people [2] are being killed? Who one labels the aggressor or the victim does not change the fact that the real victims in this tragedy are the people of Israel and Gaza who have done nothing to deserve the terror that they find themselves under.

At the heart of the matter, the conflict is not between the Israeli people and Gazans, but rather it is between a small minority on both sides that has its interests in taking advantage of situations of fear and desperation to shore up support for themselves. Like in many conflicts over history, the problems, violence, and destruction are caused not by problems between the people, but problems between the governments or ruling bodies.  

The true victims of the situation are the Israelis, especially those living near Gaza, who are terrified by the rocket fire and the civilian Palestinians in Gaza who are not doing any of the fighting; the group that I worry most for are the Israeli and Palestinian children. The ignorance and selfishness of their respective governments are causing a rift between them and thus the search for peace between the two peoples will continue.


1: Max Fisher, “The story behind the photo: Journalist’s 11-month-old son killed in Gaza strikes,” Washington Post, November 15, 2012 (

2: “Three Israelis dead as violence rages,” video, November 15, 2012,

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Is The Syrian Opposition Falling Apart?

Recently it has been reported that there are some ‘problems’ within the Syrian opposition as the United States attempts to restructure the opposition as way to provide the rebels with more aid. It seems that there is much infighting going on that may be tearing the Syrian opposition apart.

On October 30th, Josh Rubin at Foreign Policy wrote in his blog that Syrian opposition was to “convene in Qatar next week to form a new leadership body to subsume the opposition Syrian National Council, which is widely viewed as ineffective, consumed by infighting, and little respected on the ground.” [1] This push for reform seems to be coming completely from the United States as a Turkish daily, Today’s Zaman, reported that

Dr.Radwan Ziadeh, the executive director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said that “no county around the world can impose a leader on the Syrian opposition” and went on to say that the initiative to form an opposition “belongs to Syrians only.” [2]

While it may seem that Dr. Ziadeh is concerned about the overall movement, in reality, the Syrian National Council is currently at odds with the restructuring process as they are worried about losing influence in the new organization. The opposition is to be recreated in the form of the Syrian National Initiative which is to include fighters, political groups, and local councils, in which the SNC’s “influence would be diluted significantly.” Yet, Washington is pushing for the new group as many have noted that “opposition disarray has held back more robust foreign involvement behind the opposition in its fight to topple Assad.” [3] Thus, this reformation of the rebels is nothing more than an attempt to go and work towards the overall goal of taking Assad out of the picture.

Interestingly enough, the US representative to this meeting is US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, who “has been dealing with various opposition groups and weighing in on the composition of the new council;” [4] despite this, however, Ford has had a history of being involved with organizing violent groups. According to Michel Chossudovsky, from January to October 2011, Ford “played a central role in laying the groundwork within Syria as well as establishing contacts with opposition groups” and in Iraq he

 was U.S. representative in January 2004 to the Shiite city of Najaf in Iraq. Najaf was the stronghold of the Mahdi army. A few months later he was appointed “Number Two Man” (Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs), at the US embassy in Baghdad at the outset of John Negroponte’s tenure as US Ambassador to Iraq (June 2004- April 2005). Ford subsequently served under Negroponte’s successor Zalmay Khalilzad prior to his appointment as Ambassador to Algeria in 2006.

Robert S. Ford’s mandate as “Number Two” (Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs) under the helm of Ambassador John Negroponte was to coordinate out of the US embassy, the covert support to death squads and paramilitary groups in Iraq with a view to fomenting sectarian violence and weakening the resistance movement. [5] (emphasis added)

Thus, one must be suspect that the same man who has had experience organizing death squads in Iraq would be sent over to aid the Syrian opposition in their restructuring.

While Ford may be good at creating violent groups, it may not mean a thing if the Syrians themselves cannot get along to carry out the US agenda. The Star Ledger reported on October 4th that “Sharp disagreements arose Sunday on the first day of a Syrian opposition conference meant to forge a more cohesive leadership” and that the SNC dismissed the optimism of Raid Seif, whose plan for changing the opposition involves creating a new leadership group of about 50 members, with more influence from military commanders and local leaders. SNC chief Abdelbaset Sieda stated that
he and others in the SNC no longer trust promises of international support that are linked to restructuring of the opposition.
"We faced this situation before, when we formed the SNC (last year)," he told The Associated Press. "There were promises like that, but the international community in fact did not give us the support needed for the SNC to do its job." [6]
Currently, whether or not the SNC will accept the Seif’s plan is currently unknown. It seems that the Syrian opposition may very well be fracturing at the seams and that Washington’s hopes to decimate Syria could potentially collapse.


1: Josh Rogin, “Obama administration works to launch new Syrian opposition council,” Foreign Policy, October 30, 2012 (

2: Today’s Zaman, Syrian opposition reacts to US attempt to form an alternative opposition, October 31, 2012 (

3: Star Ledger, Divided Syrian opposition faces feuds over leaders, November 3, 2012 (

4: Foreign Policy, October 30, 2012

5: Michel Chossudovsky, “The Salvador Option For Syria: US-NATO Sponsored Death Squads Integrate Opposition Forces,” Global Research, May 28, 2012 ( 

6: Star Ledger, Divisions emerge at Syria opposition conference, November 4, 2012 (

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Evil is Evil: Don't Vote for Evil

Update: Hurricane Sandy has done a number of my town and I have currently been without power for a week and thus am unable to do much research or writing, In light of this, I hope to be back online soon, but in the meanwhle will cross-post articles.

Evil is Evil: Don't Vote for Evil
By: Paul Craig Roberts


Back during the George W. Bush neocon regime, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela in his UN speech summed up George W. Bush for the world. I am quoting Chavez from memory, not verbatim. "Yesterday standing at this same podium was Satan himself, speaking as if he owned the world. You can still smell the sulfur."Chavez is one of the American right-wing's favorite bogyman, because Chavez helps the people instead of bleeding them for the rich, which is Washington's way. While Washington has driven all but the one percent into the ground, Chavez has cut poverty in half, doubled university enrollment, and provided health care and old age pensions to millions of Venezuelans for the first time.

Little wonder he was elected to a third term as president despite the many millions of dollars Washington poured into the election campaign of Chavez's opponent.

While Washington and the EU preach neoliberalism–the supremacy of capital over labor–South American politicians who reject Washington's way are being elected and reelected in Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Bolivia.

It was the Ecuadoran government, not Washington, that had the moral integrity to grant political asylum to WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. The only time Washington grants asylum is when it can be used to embarrass an opponent.

In contrast to the leadership that is emerging in South America as more governments there reject the traditional hegemony of Washington, the US political elite, whether Republican or Democrat, are aligned with the rich against the American people.

The Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, has promised to cut taxes on the rich, taxes which are already rock bottom, to block any regulation of the gangsters in the financial arena, and to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

Privatizing Social Security and Medicare means to divert the people's tax dollars to the profits of private corporations. In Republican hands, privatization means only one thing: to cut the people's  benefits and to use the people's tax dollars to increase the profits in the private sector. Romney's policy is just another policy that sacrifices the people to the one percent.

Unfortunately, the Democrats, if a lessor evil, are still an evil. There is no reason to vote for the reelection of a president who codified into law the Bush regime's destruction of the US Constitution, who went one step further and asserted the power to murder US citizens without due process of law, and who has done nothing to stop the exploitation of the American people by the one percent.

As Gerald Celente says in the Autumn Issue of the Trends Journal, when confronted with the choice between two evils, you don't vote for the lessor evil. You boycott the election and do not vote. "Lesser or greater, evil is evil."

If Americans had any sense, no one would vote in the November election. Whoever wins the November election, it will be a defeat for  the American people.

An Obama or Romney win stands in stark contract with Chavez's win. Here is how Lula da Silva, the popular former president of Brazil summed it up: "Chavez's victory is a victory for all the peoples of Latin America. It is another blow against imperialism." Washington, making full use of the almighty dollar, was unable to buy the Venezuelan election.

How will a Romney or Obama win be summed up? The answer will be in terms of which candidate is best for Israel's interest; which is best for Wall Street's interest, which is best for agribusiness; which is most likely to attack Iran; which is most likely to subject economic and war protesters to indefinite detention as domestic extremists; which is most likely to screw the American people in order to benefit the ruling oligarchy.

The only people who will benefit from the election of either Romney or Obama are those associated with the private oligarchies that rule America.

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US  Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. His latest book, Wirtschaft am Abgrund (Economies In Collapse) has just been published in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. A Chinese language edition is forthcoming in Beijing, China.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Global Banking ‘Super-Entity’ Drug Cartel

The Global Banking ‘Super-Entity’ Drug Cartel: The “Free Market” of Finance Capital 

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall


HSBC bankers testifying before U.S. Senate on laundering billions in drug money (photo courtesy of The Economist, 21 July 2012)

This essay is the product of research undertaken for the first volume of The People’s Book Project. Please donate to help the first volume come to completion: a study of the institutions, ideas, and individuals of power and resistance in a snap-shot of the world today, looking at the global economic crisis, war and empire, repression and the global spread of anti-austerity and resistance movements.

I would like to introduce you, the reader, to some realities of our global banking system, resting on the rhetoric of free markets, but functioning, in actuality, as a global cartel, a “super-entity” in which the world’s major banks all own each other and own the controlling shares in the world’s largest multinational corporations, influence governments and policy with politicians in their back pockets, routinely engaging in fraud and bribery, and launder hundreds of billions of dollars in drug money, not to mention arms dealing and terrorist financing. These are the “too big to fail” and “too big to jail” banks, the centre of our global economy, what we call a “free market,” implying that the global banks – and corporations – have “free reign” to do anything they please, engage in blatantly criminal activities, steal trillions in wealth which is hidden offshore, and never get more than a slap on the wrist. This is the real “free market,” a highly profitable global banking cartel, functioning as a worldwide financial Mafia.

Scientific Research Proves the Existence of a Global Financial “Super-Entity”

In October of 2011, New Scientist reported that a scientific study on the global financial system was undertaken by three complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. The conclusion of the study revealed what many theorists and observers have noted for years, decades, and indeed, even centuries: “An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.” As one of the researchers stated, “Reality is so complex, we must move away from dogma, whether it’s conspiracy theories or free-market… Our analysis is reality-based.” Using a database which listed 37 million companies and investors worldwide, the researchers studied all 43,060 trans-national corporations (TNCs), including the share ownerships linking them.[1]

The mapping of ‘power’ was through the construction of a model showing which companies controlled which other companies through shareholdings. The web of ownership revealed a core of 1,318 companies with ties to two or more other companies. This ‘core’ was found to own roughly 80% of global revenues for the entire set of 43,000 TNCs. And then came what the researchers referred to as the “super-entity” of 147 tightly-knit companies, which all own each other, and collectively own 40% of the total wealth in the entire network. One of the researchers noted, “In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network.” This network poses a huge risk to the global economy, as, “If one [company] suffers distress… this propagates.” The study was undertaken with a data set established prior to the economic crisis, thus, as the financial crisis forced some banks to die (Lehman Bros.) and others to merge, the “super-entity” would now be even more connected, concentrated, and problematic for the economy.[2]