extortion

NATO on trade, in Europe and Asia, is doomed

stop TTIPgc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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stop TTIP

Originally published in RT on May 4, 2016

 


The President of the United States (POTUS) is desperate. Exhibit A: His Op-Ed defending the Asian face – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – of a wide-ranging, twin-headed NATO-on-trade “pivoting”.

The European face is of course the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

POTUS frames TPP – as well as TTIP – in terms of a benign expansion of US exports, and private (US) firms having “a fair shot at competing against state-owned enterprises.” “Fair”? Not really. Let’s see how the mechanism works, focusing on TPP’s European twin.

With impeccable timing, almost simultaneously to Obama’s Op-Ed, Greenpeace Netherlands leaked 248 pages of classified TTIP documents that were to be re-discussed last week by negotiators in New York. There have been no less than 13 rounds of TTIP negotiations so far, over nearly three years.

The documents – negotiated in total secrecy since 2013 – represent roughly two-thirds of the latest negotiating text. An array of detailed studies, like this one, had been warning about the state of play. The veil of secrecy ended up being the ultimate giveaway to TTIP’s toxicity. Before the Greenpeace Netherlands leak, EU elected representatives could only examine these documents under a police watch, in a secure room, without access to experts, and on top of it they could not discuss the content with anyone else.

I will crush you with my GMOs

Everything civil society across Europe – for at least three years – has been debating, and fearing, is confirmed; this is a sophisticated, toxic US-led corporate racket, a concerted assault across the spectrum, from the environment and animal welfare to labor rights and internet privacy. In a nutshell; it’s all about the US corporate galaxy pushing the EU to lower – or abase – a range of consumer protections.

Hardball, predictably, is the name of the game. Washington no less than threatened to block EU car exports to force the EU to buy genetically engineered fruits and vegetables. In my travels in France, Italy and Spain over the past two years, I confirmed this to be the ultimate nightmare expressed by practitioners of top-end artisanal agriculture.

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Protesters hold a placard with pictures depicting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama as they demonstrate against Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement ahead of Obama's visit in Hanover, Germany April 23, 2016. © Kai Pfaffenbach

TTIP-off? Greenpeace leaks confirm protesters weren't kicking up a fuss over nothing

Predictably, the lobbyist-infested European Commission (EC) fiercely defends TTIP, stressing it could benefit the EU’s economy by $150 billion a year, and raise car exports by 149 percent. Obviously don’t expect the EC to connect these “car exports” to a US-led GMO invasion of Europe.

At least some nations have finally woken up from their (corporate lobbyist-induced) slumber. The French Minister for Foreign Trade, Matthias Fekl, said negotiations over a “bad deal” should stop. He went straight to the point, blaming Washington’s intransigence; “There cannot be an agreement without France and much less against France.

Perennially ineffectual President Francois Hollande, for his part, has threatened to block the deal altogether. Three years ago Paris had already secured an exemption for the French film industry not to be gobbled up by Hollywood. Now it’s also about the crucial agriculture front. Hollande said he would never accept “the undermining of the essential principles of our agriculture, our culture, of mutual access to public markets.”

And what is the EC – leading the negotiations on behalf of the EU – doing? Pulling its predictable Trojan horse act; these are all “alarmist headlines” and “a storm in a teacup”. Puzzled EU citizens, en masse, may question if this is really the way for the EC – a bureaucratic Brussels behemoth – to supposedly defend the rights of EU consumers. Yet, infiltrated as it is by corporate lobbyism, the EC simply can’t protect the EU’s environmental and health standards, much more sophisticated than the US’s, from a corporate America bent on meddling with the content of EU laws all along the regulatory line.

I got an offer you can’t refuse

POTUS was heavily campaigning for TTIP last month in Germany. POTUS still hopes he may have a deal in the bag before he leaves office in January 2017. White House spokesman Josh Earnest has tried to put on a brave face, saying the leaks will not have a "material impact" on the negotiations. Wrong; they will – as they are mobilizing public opinion all across the EU.

David Cameron, in the UK, is also in a bind. He’s fiercely pro-TTIP. But Obama has already warned; this means Brexit is a no-no. Club Med nations, for their part, are leaning against. All 28 EU member nations – plus the European Parliament – would have to ratify TTIP if a deal is eventually reached.

TPP, for its part, has been negotiated. But it has not been approved by the US Congress (nor by Pacific nations). The approval process has gone nowhere. In fact it will be up to either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Trump arguably is oblivious to TPP’s details; but considering the deal is being heavily championed by Obama, Trump may go against it.

A case can be made that both TPP and TTIP vow to distort markets, in Europe and Asia; prop up (US) monopolies; transfer jobs to slave labor markets (in the case of parts of Asia); trample on intellectual property rights (in the case of the EU); facilitate tax evasion; and ultimately transfer more wealth from the many to the 0.00001 percent.

And this leads us to how Hillary Clinton – the Wall Street/US establishment candidate – views both TPP and TTIP. Well, she supported both NAFTA and CAFTA, approved under Bill Clinton in the 1990s. As Secretary of State, she lobbied for the Panama trade deal. And, crucially, she has always treated the TPP as the “gold standard”. No wonder; this is the trade arm of the “pivoting to Asia” she’s been so fond of – a Pacific trade deal that excludes China, which happens to be the top trade partner of most Asian nations.

Moreover, those by now famous Goldman Sachs speeches are increasingly being seen as payments for services rendered (and promised) by Hillary Clinton to the 0,0001 percent, who are, of course, in favor of global corporate America expansion.

Yet it ain’t over till the November ballot sings. Hillary now faces serious scrutiny by working class voters in the US. So no wonder, in another flip-flopping masterpiece, she’s now leaning towards describing herself as opposing both TPP and TTIP.

Still, TPP at least may be approved during the post-election ‘lame-duck’ session of the US Congress. As for TTIP, it’s now mired in Walking Dead zone. Talk about what it takes for the Obama administration to imprint its trade “legacy” in the history books; to keep blackmailing Europeans and Asians alike as if it was just a lowly Mob extortion racket.  


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

An Unfiltered Mind

trump gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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March 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation April 4, 2016


“He says what he really thinks.” That is the standard explanation for the astounding political rise of Donald J. Trump. Somehow the news media have missed the meaning of this: that the rest of political America refuses to say what it really thinks. Why is that and how can it be?

The simple answer: they’re afraid of how it will play on television. One error of the mouth and you’re politically crucified. You’re done. Taken out with the trash. Trump’s secret is that every error of his unfiltered mouth — and the hypothetical mind connected to it — emphasizes and celebrates his liberation from that fear. Trump is like the fabled Honey Badger of YouTube fame: he doesn’t give a shit. He just forges ahead through all the biting, stinging, snapping, yapping, odious, poisonous opposition in his dogged journey to the prize. As Trump might say: they love him and he loves them (for that).

The less simple answer is that America has become a matrix of rackets based on fraud, swindling, and extortion that can only support itself on lies, which form the armature that enables all the racketeering. That explains one of the central mysteries of Mr. Obama’s double term in the White House: why his Department of Justice never prosecuted (possibly never even dared to investigate) criminal misconduct in banking after the 2008 mortgage bond debacle. The Holy Trinity of Bank Fraud: Rubin, Geithner, and Summers paid him a call after election day and said, “Look here, fucker: one false move out of you in the direction of our friends doing ‘God’s work,’ and this whole house of cards comes fluttering down.” Hence, Obama appointed the trio to positions of authority and counsel, and the racketeering resumed without hindrance — to the greater affliction upon the common weal.

The issues at stake were apparently too abstruse for the public to grasp, so they just rolled with it clear to the statute of limitations and beyond. Of course, the trouble with operations based on lies is that sooner or later reality intrudes with all its implacable wrath and you get a mighty correction impossible to ignore. That is likely to be fate’s parting gift to Barack Obama. He will go out the way he came in: amidst financial maelstrom.

As only one example of the collateral damage to all this filtering of what’s real, note a consequence of zero interest rates (a swindle designed to prop up Too Big To Fail banks): ordinary people past their working years can’t earn any income from all the traditionally safe ways of doing this: savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and bonds. Due to my advanced age, I get vast and constant rafts of mailings from an outfit called AARP pretending to be the American Association of Retired Persons. (I don’t pretend to have any intention of retiring, by the way.) Not one of these incessant messages mentions the harm being done by zero interest rates to people of modest means beyond their earning years desperate to get by. If they happen to have, say, thirty-eight thousand dollars of savings, they can’t generate enough income off it to pay for their yearly ration of ibuprofen. That’s because AARP doesn’t represent the stakes of this group. AARP is an insurance racket. AARP is a charade designed for asset-stripping the hapless.

It’s most ironic, of course, that the perceived antidote to the pandemic of lying in America is this arguably crooked real estate developer and gambling casino tycoon Trump. The grand entrance of Trump, with his unfiltered mouth, into the political arena becomes a preliminary argument for sweeping away the accumulated sclerotic political baggage of four generations lucky enough to have lived in a world that briefly allowed fantasy to override the laws of physics and human nature. What we really ought to worry about is what follows in the foul wake of Trump, both in awful circumstance and the as-yet-unknown cast of characters who will have to grapple with it.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

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