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During the fight against NAFTA and every trade deal ever created, we like to say, “We’re not against ‘free trade,’ but we want ‘fair trade.'” It’s true, too, but there are good reasons why our government will never negotiate a fair trade treaty.

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The current unfair trade proposal is the “Trans Pacific Partnership” — TPP

It’s fairly easy to see why a certain amount of confusion would be generated. Xenophobia, a paranoid fear of people in other countries, characterizes a lot of our campaigns. Xenophobia disguises itself as patriotism. Racism isn’t far behind it.

It’s confusing because we characterize the people negotiating the treaties as misguided rather than malevolent. It’s hard to believe that big corporations could be as rotten and crazy mean as they really are.

It’s confusing because some of our not-so-bad political leaders support these rotten trade deals. NAFTA could never have been passed without President Bill Clinton, and good old President Obama is currently pushing hard for TPP.

THE TRADE SITUATION IS ACTUALLY QUITE CLEAR

A fair treaty would be one that gives decent treatment to the workers in all the signing countries. But all of the trade treaties so far have been negotiated in secret by a few political representatives from the different countries and an absolute horde of corporate lobbyists.

Corporations don’t want fair treatment for workers. It would cost them money. Corporations don’t want to preserve the environment. It would cost them money. NAFTA, TPP, and all the treaties in between were bad news for workers and for the environment. Corporations have virtually all of the money, way more than enough to buy out the political representatives, up to and including the President.

CORPORATIONS MUST CUT EXPENSES ON WAGES AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Globalization (I call it “gobblelization”) today is characterized by intense competition between major capitalist countries. One of the main purposes of the TPP, mentioned often by President Obama, is to give U.S. corporations advantages over the growing Chinese economy. The companies compete primarily by holding down labor costs and not spending any money on environmental protection.

As long as we live under a system dominated by big corporations, as ours is now, every trade deal will be bad for workers and the environment. There is not and there will not be a “fair trade” deal!

–Gene Lantz

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The whole point of this blog is to help people work out our strategies for a better world. In any battle against any enemy, it’s wise to try to figure out how things look from their point of view.

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Suppose you were a wealthy capitalist intent on hanging on to your vast wealth and adding to it.What problems would you see and how would you over come them?

Here are some problems for big capital:

  • Other nations are under-selling our products and pushing us out of markets
  • Some of the under-developed countries are slipping out from under our domination
  • Environmentalists are gaining the initiative in proposals that might cost us money
  • Another financial crisis would really undermine people’s confidence in us
  • More and more, people seem eager to organize, and they are finding new ways to do it
  • There’s a growing level of activism among the people
  • The internet has improve communications among individual people & groups
  • There is a trend toward growing international solidarity
  • A number of our secret methods are being exposed to the people
  • There’s a real danger that our political system could be reformed

Whatever shall we rich people do?

Our biggest problem, new since the 1970s, is that other industrial nations are competing with us more and more successfully. More of our “free trade” agreements would put us in a better competitive position. Also, they would help us tighten the screws on the underdeveloped world. We can spare no resources to make sure that these bills get through Congress.

Print money

Being able to print money and make sure it stays in our own hands is a big help. The people are starting to catch on, but so far they haven’t figured out anything they can do about it. Most of them still think that some of the wealth is going to trickle down to them, and we have to do everything we can to keep them thinking that way.

Stop the unions

Unionization is not compatible with good business practices. We have to keep up the pressure on all political and legal entities under our control to discredit and ruin American unions before they cause us some real damage!

Tame the internet

We have to extend our grip over the internet. “Net neutrality” has to be overcome with a strong campaign claiming that it’s un-American. Maybe we can get some of our religious spokespersons to come out against it.

Invade, baby, invade!

The only sure thing that works when our underdeveloped markets begin to rebel against us is invasion. We overcame a lot of the domestic opposition to our wars by switching to a professional army with maximum use of substitute soldiers and deadly machinery, but more and more propaganda is needed to convince the people to allow us to continue. We already have troops on extended missions in three countries, but there will likely be need for more in the near future.

Control information

We can continue beating the environmentalists with our control over the information sources. We can continue characterizing them as kooks and malcontents as long as we keep the “high ground” with our purchased army of intellectuals and professional spin doctors. Even at that, it may be necessary before long to take the gloves off and start some serious repression.

Divide and conquer

Our biggest domestic problem is the minorities. They won’t stay sidelined and they won’t remain isolated. Isolating them and discrediting them is our best defense, only we need a lot more of it. Our efforts to undermine democracy have only had modest success, and a backlash is already underway. Unfettered police and military forces may be needed.

–Gene Lantz

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The Communications Workers of America is doing what unions almost never do — studying the actual mechanics of American capitalism and figuring out how to fight it! They are distributing and studying a book by Les Leopold of the Labor Institute.

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Leopold, Les: Runaway Inequality. An Activists Guide to Economic Justice, Labor Institute Press, New York, 2015. (click for a review)

The foreword by CWA President Chris Shelton urges all union members to read the book. Shelton is also quite specific in recommending an electoral strategy: “…we need to build our own, independent, anti-corporate, pro-union, political organizations! Wall Street has two parties. We need one of our own.”

He recommends the Working Families Party, (click here) which already exists in 10 states. Could this be the labor party that American progressives have been begging for since forever?

The fact that one of America’s largest, best distributed geographically, and most vibrantly active unions is putting this body of information out is significant. It’s also a timely prescription for the national illness. The negative images of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are moving people away from the traditional two-pronged capitalist political system while the hopes aroused by the Bernie campaign are still not settled on a program and course of action.

It’s the Economy

Most of the book consists of graphs and explanations of the wealth gap and income gap that have become deep chasms since around 1980. Most of us have seen some of this striking data before, but nowhere is it presented so thoroughly and connected so well to an underlying cause. Around 1980, when Reagan was elected, America’s ruling elite adopted an extreme anti-worker and pro-corporate program that included deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthy, service cuts for the poor, and attacks on unions and democracy in general.

We have all felt parts of this ugly program firsthand, but Leopold’s book connects the parts into a whole, then begins an optimistic discussion on what we can do about it.

Let’s Get Behind It!

One could make an intellectual discussion about the better or worse aspects of Leopold’s book, but doing so would be frittering away an opportunity that the Communications Workers are giving us. Here’s a chance to join in an educational process that can give immediate direction to the progressive movement. We can’t afford to miss it!

–Gene Lantz

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Do you have a lot of confidence in the law and justice?

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I recently wrote that there are a lot of psychos in corporations. I didn’t mention the ones in government.

Texans have their sense of justice eroded away almost every time they read a newspaper. They just found out, for example, that a Dallas judge ruled that the state’s Attorney General, chief law enforcer Ken Paxton, can’t wiggle out of facing his three felony indictments. He is expected to face judgement on the fraud and swindling charges against him. Click here.

Paxton’s government job seems to be waging war against every kind of justice that comes from federal sources. He recently lost his Supreme Court suit against women’s health care. Click here. He joined in a lawsuit against U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Earl Walker because Walker had tried to subpoena records from Exxon. The issue was global warming.

Paxton doesn’t have to worry much about state criminal laws, because they are reviewed by the Texas Supreme Court. All their judges are elected, all are Republicans, and it’s hard to remember when they ruled against a corporation or in favor of an individual.

Paxton is probably inspired by our last governor, who still isn’t in jail for having used his power to remove an attorney with a criminal suit against him. Or there’s the Texas Congressman who re-rigged all the congressional districts and never spent a day in jail.

Where I live in Dallas, District Attorneys are supposed to stand for justice. But there are more exonerated former prisoners from here than from anywhere. The current officeholder isn’t holding office quite a bit of the time because she goes in and out of a mental hospital. Dallasites would kind of like to see her removed and there have been some public calls for it, but some of us are reluctant. If she doesn’t step down pretty soon, the Governor, a paragon of Republican virtue, will appoint her replacement.

That could be a lot worse!

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The “Trans Pacific Partnership” is next in a long list of so-called “free trade” bills awaiting Congressional approval. The others were passed during the Clinton and Bush Administrations, and President Obama is hoping to get this one passed in the last session of 2016. It’s a “lame duck” session in which many congresspersons don’t feel as responsible toward the people who watch them but don’t pay them off.

Earlier, President Obama was able to get “fast track” legislation to grease the wheels so that the TPP could slide through without serious discussion or public scrutiny. Unions and environmentalists are dead set against any more of these bills because they mean lost jobs, lower wages & benefits, and more pollution. There’s a good reason for that.

Corporations Run The Process

Unions and environmentalists have no participation in creating the secret treaties. There are representatives, special trade envoys, from the governments involved — but there are also hundreds of corporate lobbyists in the process! Mighty transnational corporations write these things for their own benefit.

What do the big corporations want? They want low wages & benefits and the right to pollute. They want a free hand to do anything they want and make as much money as can be made.  So far, that’s what they have gotten. That’s what the TPP offers them. What does it offer us?

It Isn’t Trade, and It Isn’t Free

What is misnamed “free trade” sets up a separate legal system that overrides the democratic rules of each country involved. That system issues licenses to steal to the corporations who created it. The system guarantees corporate profits, even when the corporation breaks our state or federal laws.

They call it “globalization.” I call it “gobblelization.”

–Gene Lantz

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Book Review

Billionaires Are Pulling America’s Strings

Mayer, Jane: Dark Money. The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. Doubleday, New York, 2016.

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There’s a great quote at the beginning of this best-selling book:

“We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” –Louis Brandeis

This wonderful book solves a number of contemporary mysteries:

  • If Americans are better educated and better informed than ever, why have our political ideas lurched toward ignorance?
  • If we understand economics better than ever, why is wealth disparity so awful?
  • How can our commentators and professors afford to say patently ridiculous things without losing their livelihood?
  • If we all have to live on this planet, why are we polluting so much?

The answer is dark money. A carefully crafted network of billionaires has bought off politicians, economists, professors, and commentators and turned them into ventriloquists’ dummies who repeat and repeat and repeat the things that billionaires want said. They have gone beyond buying a few columnists and professors. They own think tanks, newspapers, information networks, Radio & TV networks, professors and entire faculties, individual politicians and entire state legislatures. Their effect on the federal government is substantial.

Their contributions to this underhanded scheme are more or less legal and even tax deductible!

The main architect of this secret and underhanded network is named Charles Koch. Many years ago, he took up his father’s interest in right wing organizations such as the John Birch Society. As the years passed, Koch and his billionaire co-conspirators became better and better at influencing legislation and public opinion. It’s all detailed in Jane Mayer’s book.

Although most of their maneuvers result directly in more money for themselves, the perpetrators generally claim to be ideologically motivated. The book’s author, in my opinion, gives them too much credit in this direction. She usually refers to them as “arch conservatives” or “libertarians.”

I wouldn’t characterize them so generously. If Benito Mussolini was correct when he defined “fascism” as simply “corporatism,” then “fascists” is the more accurate description of Koch and his cronies. Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels would be proud of them!

In that regard, they are not completely in step with the entire ruling class of America, which has so far not elected to rule through fascism. They still rely on the Republican and Democratic parties to keep our limited democracy working for them. The Koch network operates primarily through the Republican Party, but not completely. They maintain their independence and their “corporatism” fascist goals. It would be interesting to see if they completely try to take over the Republican Party, as seems to be their goal, or if they try to establish a formidable fascist party.

Whichever way they go, a united and well informed progressive movement is the solution to the threat they raise. This book goes a long way toward that solution.

–Gene Lantz

Movie Review, Josh Fox, “How to Let Go of the World and Love All The Things Climate Can’t Change!”

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Dallas pickets Exxon at least once a year

Slowly, the environmentalists are winning the argument over global warming. We usually call the other side “climate denyers,” but the real argument is with the extractive industries, especially oil. We’re arguing with multi-billionaire oil men who stand to lose a lot of money if the world ever adopts a sane policy on carbon emissions.

Those oil men are buying professional liars — college professors, scientists, politicians, policy wonks — and even paying to buy the appearance of a grass-roots pro-pollution movement. That’s what we’re up against.

Josh Fox once did a pretty good dramatic movie “Gasland,” with an environmental theme behind the love story. This time, he’s out with a documentary starring himself. One might think it’s rehashing Al Gore’s excellent documentary of a few years ago. I think it was named “An Inconvenient Truth,” and it was quite effective. The new movie is different.

Fox takes a much more personal approach. He films himself going around the world to look at some of the worst aspects of global warming. He also takes a positive approach in showing some of the efforts to fight back. He dances around and celebrates the good stuff, but doesn’t try to pretend that this war is already won.

On the downside, the movie is too long. There are three good probable reasons:

  • Environmentalists are in love with statistics and facts, and they can’t stop telling them even when everybody has left.
  • Always be suspicious when a movie’s producer, director, and star are the same guy. They just can’t edit out anything they’ve filmed, especially if their own image is in it!
  • There’s just an awful lot to say about a truly critical, horrendous, world crisis!

Where are the workers?

Working people don’t want to suffocate any more than anybody else, but most of the folks leading the environmental movement are middle-class, college educated, and fairly affluent. The union movement, to its eternal credit, is working hard to grow a “blue (collar) / green (grass)” alliance. Where I live, the Communications Workers are strongest on environmental issues.

Not all unions are eager to join the environmental movement. Not all non-union workers are, either. If someone is afraid of losing their job over pollution controls, they’ll generally take jobs over clean air any day of the week. It’s a matter of feeding the family in the here and now. No amount of yelling at them will change their minds.

The people we need to focus on and yell at are the bosses in the extractive industries.

–Gene Lantz