We Are in the Midst of Defeating the Largest Corporate Trade Agreement in History
These are times of great secrecy and misinformation. Government and corporations hide their actions to avoid public disapproval and accountability. Courageous truth-tellers are persecuted for exposing the deep corruption. We depend on whistleblowers to expose the lies and shine light on information that is hidden from the public so we can understand what is happening around us. We need to know the truth in order to participate in the great debates that shape our futures.
This week, we learned that a brave whistleblower gave the text of the full intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to Wikileaks. This text was released to the public on Wednesday and has spurred quite a stir as we discover that our concerns about the TPP are justified. We learned that the United States stands out in bullying other countries on behalf of multinational corporations and that the TPP will provide extraordinary patent protections and internet restrictions designed to further enrich the wealthy while the race to the bottom accelerates.
A confluence of events this week has weakened the chances of the TPP’s survival. On Tuesday night, there were light brigade actions in 13 cities from coast to coast. And three letters signed by 180 members of the House of Representatives were submitted in opposition to the President’s request for Fast Track, an authority that would allow him to negotiate and sign the TPP before it would go to Congress for limited debate and only an up-or-down vote. Two letters were signed by Democrats, another by Republicans. Three-quarters of Democrats oppose Fast Track and one-third of Democrats on the committee responsible for Fast Track oppose it as currently constituted. The former US Trade Representative said in 2012 that to complete the TPP “We’ve go to have it.” Now, Congress will not consider Fast Track until the do-nothing election year of 2014, if even then.
Opposition to the TPP continues to build. Next week, negotiators will be in Salt Lake City, UT and actions are being planned to protest those meetings. Communities are starting to pass resolutions saying that they will not obey if the TPP changes laws in a way that harms them. You can learn more about this on an open training call on November 20. A global day of protest against toxic trade agreements is being organized for December 3. And that same day, two members of the Australian Parliament will submit a request that the text of the TPP be made public.
We are in a historic moment of people vs. the corporations. We are in the midst of defeating the largest trade agreement in history. We can defeat the TPP if we keep working together in a movement of movements. That success will be a huge win for the people over corporate power. Join the effort.
As we write this, Jeremy Hammond, the young man who hacked into the private security firm StratFor’s emails is facing his sentencing hearing and up to ten years in jail. While we hope the best for Hammond, we are not confident that his judge, Loretta Preska, can even be fair. She refused Hammond bail, even though he is not a flight risk, and refused to recuse herself, even though her lawyer-husband’s email was part of the StratFor documents Hammond disclosed. The appearance of justice in this case is already lost.
Chris Hedges calls Hammond “one of the nation’s most important political prisoners.” The information he released to Wikileaks and other media outlets revealed the cooperation between private and government security agencies and methods used to stifle dissent, including monitoring the Occupy movement, as well as their strategies for defeating movements. Hedges used information leaked by Hammond in his case against President Obama over the section of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that allows indefinite detention of Americans using a vague definition “terrorist.”
Whistleblowers face serious retaliation in the United States as we have seen with Hammond, Chelsea Manning, Barret Brown, Aaron Schwarz, Thomas Drake, Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Jesselyn Radack, Julian Assange, John Kiriakou, Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras. They are feared by the power structure because the truth destroys corrupt power. We must support them because as Hedges reminds us, without them, there will be no free press – indeed, we will not be free peoples. We view whistleblowers as heroes despite the government and corporate media doing their best to convince us of the opposite. They take great risks without the expectation of a reward. Whistleblowing is an act of conscience. And, as we can see by the growing list of these heroes, Wikileaks is right when it says “courage is contagious.”
There are many ways to blow the whistle. For some, like S. Brian Willson, it involves speaking out about the things one has witnessed. Willson served in the Vietnam War and since then has dedicated himself to peace and building a sustainable society. On Veteran’s Day, Willson wrote about a new campaign by the Pentagon to glorify the Vietnam War and hide its atrocities. He said, “It is a shame that the public seems unwilling to grasp that virtually all our military adventures are lawless, imperial barbarisms, violently robbing others of their freedom and autonomy enabling the US people to continue living in fantastic opulence justified by a sense of exceptionalism while we callously outsource the consequential pain and suffering inflicted on innocent others and the sacred earth.” Willson is one of many vets we work with who comes out of war to spend a lifetime working for peace by telling the truth of what he saw. Some of our colleagues are currently in Palestine on a Peace Team trip.
Efforts to hide the truth about the true cost and crimes of war continue. In December the Veterans Administration stopped publishing data on the number of newly-injured service members, probably because that number is now more than one million. The military may also be hiding the murder of ten men in Afghanistan by Green Berets. The US Government has refused to cooperate with an investigation. The soldiers could be charged with war crimes. Either way, the soldiers are likely to be suffering as a result of their actions as Daniel Somers, a young soldier who committed suicide earlier this year described. Somers’ became a whistleblower in his death as his suicide note described how he was forced to participate in “war crimes, crimes against humanity” and to behave “like a sociopath.”
Some go to great lengths to expose true dangers to the health and safety of Americans. Tom Weis of Climate Crisis Solutions has biked thousands of miles to bring attention to the oil and gas pipelines that pollute our land and water. He recently completed a journey to the White House to deliver petition signatures against the Keystone XL Pipeline. And this week, riders begin a 230-mile journey by horseback to call attention to the pipeline owned by Enbridge – this is their third long journey on horseback.
It seems that we are hearing almost daily now of oil and gas pipeline eruptions, train car derailments and contamination of aquifers. A report was just released that details the dismal performance of TransCanada, the corporation in charge of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Some industry whistleblowers have come forward, but more are needed.
Some other facts that need to be brought into the light of day for public debate involve the problem of mass incarceration in the United States. The ACLU just issued a report on the more than 3,200 nonviolent offenders who are serving life sentences for minor crimes. Their stories will upset you. And this report compares incarceration rates in the US to those of Germany and the Netherlands where they focus on re-socialization and rehabilitation rather than simply punishment. It might help the US to catch up with these nations if we took the profit out of the prison industry.
An important case to watch this week in the Supreme Court involves Unite Here Local 355 and may result in restrictions on the tactics that unions use to organize workers. The power structure fears organized workers fighting for their rights. In Austin, Texas, construction workers recently won wage and safety protections and a similar campaign is going on in New York. This year on Black Friday, workers at Walmart and Target all across the nation will go on strike and they are asking for community support for their right to a living wage.
Community support is also needed to save our Postal Service from privatization and austerity measures. The new president of the American Postal Worker Union, Mark Dimondstein, is calling for a “Grand Alliance” of community members and workers. He said this week that “Anything that stands for the public good — public libraries, public education, public utilities, public transportation and public postal services — is under severe attack, as are public workers and our unions.” David Morris warns that time might be running out.
In Portland, OR, members of the community called “Postal Protectors” have been persistent in their efforts to secure a meeting with the district manager of the main post office to discuss the privatization of postal jobs. This week they brought over a thousand petition signatures. Instead of a meeting, they were knocked around by the police and arrested. Protesters in Berkeley occupied their Post Office for 33 days before police removed them. In a grotesque display of legal corruption, Senator Diane Feinstein and her husband will make hundreds of millions selling off the public asset of postal buildings.
While the richest get wealthier, austerity is in the air for the rest of us. The President continues to surround himself with Wall Street bankers and data shows that billionaires doubled their fortunes over the past four years as the rest of us face a future of financial insecurity. Congress is talking about cuts to Social Security, which currently provides poverty-level incomes, instead of a simple solution that would raise the Social Security tax on the rich and enable an expansion of benefits. And public-employee retirees in Detroit are still fighting to preserve their pensions from being looted. Mark Brenner exposes the scam behind pension theft in LaborNotes.
We live in a time of crisis, but also in a time of opportunity. Robert Jensen tells us that we must face reality and he writes, “If today, everywhere on the planet, everyone made a commitment to the research and organizing necessary to ramp down the demands that the human project places on ecosystems, we could possibly create a plan for a sustainable human presence on the planet, with a dramatic reduction in consumption and a gradual reduction of population.”
Knowledge is essential for popular power. In fact, it is access to knowledge and accurate information that will aid our liberation from this ruthless plutocracy. Even former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski agrees, although he does so as a warning to his fellow elites. In a recent speech, he described the “accelerating social change driven by ‘instant mass communications such as radio, television and the Internet.’”
Brzezinski warns his fellow members of the power structure that there is a “rise in worldwide populist activism;” that this “persistent and highly motivated populist resistance . . . has proven to be increasingly difficult to suppress” and that as a result of this “universal awakening of mass political consciousness” they cannot exert “external control” over the masses.
The elites recognize the power of an awakened and informed people; now it is up to us to embrace our own power. Movements are working in solidarity to defeat the corporate global coup of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We can build on that victory to stop austerity and transform the nation to one that puts the people and planet before profits. Every day we see that more people are embracing their power and joining the popular resistance so feared by the elites. People are making our own history; setting the world on a new course. Much work is needed to begin the world anew, each must do what they can. Join us.
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This article is produced by PopularResistance.org in conjunction with AlterNet. It is based on PopularResistance.org’s weekly newsletter reviewing the activities of the resistance movement.Sign up for the daily news digest of Popular Resistance, here.
Kevin Zeese, JD and Margaret Flowers, MD are participants in PopularResistance.org; they co-direct It’s Our Economy and co-host Clearing the FOG . Their twitters are @KBZeese and MFlowers8.