Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- George Monbiot discusses how another corporate investment agreement - this time one between Europe and the U.S. patterned after CETA - will transfer yet more power from people and their elected governments to corporate elites:
The purpose of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is to remove the regulatory differences between the US and European nations. I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago. But I left out the most important issue: the remarkable ability it would grant big business to sue the living daylights out of governments which try to defend their citizens. It would allow a secretive panel of corporate lawyers to overrule the will of parliament and destroy our legal protections. Yet the defenders of our sovereignty say nothing.
You don't believe it? Here's what one of the judges on these tribunals says about his work. "When I wake up at night and think about arbitration, it never ceases to amaze me that sovereign states have agreed to investment arbitration at all ... Three private individuals are entrusted with the power to review, without any restriction or appeal procedure, all actions of the government, all decisions of the courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from parliament."

There are no corresponding rights for citizens. We can't use these tribunals to demand better protections from corporate greed. As the Democracy Centre says, this is "a privatised justice system for global corporations".

Even if these suits don't succeed, they can exert a powerful chilling effect on legislation. One Canadian government official, speaking about the rules introduced by the North American Free Trade Agreement, remarked: "I've seen the letters from the New York and DC law firms coming up to the Canadian government on virtually every new environmental regulation and proposition in the last five years. They involved dry-cleaning chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, patent law. Virtually all of the new initiatives were targeted and most of them never saw the light of day." Democracy, as a meaningful proposition, is impossible under these circumstances.
- Don Lenihan comments on the importance of honesty and transparency in government. But since that would require massive changes of policy and political fortune when it comes to corporate dominance of politics (to say nothing of climate change, the Senate and other issues), I'm not optimistic we can expect much from our current ruling class - particularly when it's successfully rigged the tax system in its favour.

- So instead, we can expect plenty more dishonest attacks on anybody trying to build a fairer and more representative society. On that front, Robyn Benson highlights the Cons' attacks on public service workers, while Josh Eidelson points out some all-too-typical employer intimidation and "re-education" tactics.

- Finally, Mark Rank counters the right-wing effort to demonize the poor by observing that upwards of 80% of Americans will face poverty or other related forms of income insecurity at some point in their lives. And the push toward ever more precarious employment only figures to boost that number in the long run.

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