07/01/2015 archive

The New Colonialism

“Civilized” countries will not stand for TPP, TTIP, TISA, Colonies will be forced to accept it

CETA Isn’t Dead, But Its Corporate Sovereignty Chapter Is Still A Huge, Unresolved Problem

by Glyn Moody, Tech Dirt

Wed, Jul 1st 2015

It’s been a while since we last wrote about CETA, the trade deal between Canada and the European Union. Back in March, we noted that the French Secretary of State for External Commerce, Matthias Fekl, said that France would not ratify CETA unless the corporate sovereignty, or investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), provisions were removed or replaced by something completely different. Of course, it’s hard not to be sceptical about these statements, since politicians like to grandstand, and are happy to change their positions every few months. But not, it seems, Matthias Fekl. According to a report on the French site Le Devoir (original in French), he’s still of the same opinion.

The EU Commissioner for trade, Cecilia Malmström, is well aware of the issues here — not least because 145,000 people told her in the ISDS consultation last year — and has presented a concept paper entitled “Investment in TTIP and beyond – the path for reform” (pdf). These are quite similar to proposals made by Fekl for the creation of a new European court to settle trade disputes.

Given that Malmström has admitted that the current ISDS is unsatisfactory, and that she is trying to come up with something better, it will be hard for her to include it in TAFTA/TTIP in its current form. But the US side has made it clear that it is not happy with dropping corporate sovereignty completely, which leads once more to the problem of time-scales, since a serious replacement for ISDS may not be available even for TTIP. It will be interesting to see how Malmström deals with this key issue for both CETA and TAFTA/TTIP.

Leaked: What’s in Obama’s trade deal

By Michael Grunwald, Politico


POLITICO has obtained a draft copy of TPP’s intellectual property chapter as it stood on May 11, at the start of the latest negotiating round in Guam.

(T)he draft chapter will provide ammunition for critics who have warned that TPP’s protections for pharmaceutical companies could dump trillions of dollars of additional health care costs on patients, businesses and governments around the Pacific Rim. The highly technical 90-page document, cluttered with objections from other TPP nations, shows that U.S. negotiators have fought aggressively and, at least until Guam, successfully on behalf of Big Pharma.

The draft text includes provisions that could make it extremely tough for generics to challenge brand-name pharmaceuticals abroad. Those provisions could also help block copycats from selling cheaper versions of the expensive cutting-edge drugs known as “biologics” inside the U.S., restricting treatment for American patients while jacking up Medicare and Medicaid costs for American taxpayers. “There’s very little distance between what Pharma wants and what the U.S. is demanding,” said Rohat Malpini, director of policy for Doctors Without Borders.

The draft chapter covers software, music and other intellectual property issues as well, but its most controversial language involves the rights of drug companies. The text reveals disputes between the U.S. (often with support from Japan) and its TPP partners over a variety of issues-what patents can cover, when and how long they can be extended, how long pharmaceutical companies can keep their clinical data private, and much more. On every issue, the U.S. sided with drug companies in favor of stricter intellectual property protections.

Some of the most contentious provisions involve “patent linkage,” which would prevent regulators in TPP nations from approving generic drugs whenever there are any unresolved patent issues. The TPP draft would make this linkage mandatory, which could help drug companies fend off generics just by claiming an infringement. The Obama administration often describes TPP as the most progressive free-trade deal in history, citing its compliance with the tough labor and environment protections enshrined in the so-called “May 10 Agreement” of 2007, which set a framework for several trade deals at the time. But mandatory linkage seems to be a departure from the May 10 pharmaceutical provisions.

advocates fear that generic manufacturers may not take on the risk and expense of litigation in smaller markets if TPP tilts the playing field against them. One generics manufacturer, Hospira, reportedly testified at a TPP forum in Melbourne, Australia, that it would not launch generics outside the U.S. in markets with linkage.

The opponents are also worried about the treaty’s effect on the U.S. market, because its draft language would extend mandatory patent linkage to biologics, the next big thing in the pharmaceutical world. Biologics can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for patients with illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis B and cancer, and the first knockoffs have not yet reached pharmacies. The critics say that extending linkage to biologics-which can have hundreds of patents-would help insulate them from competition forever.

“It would be a dramatic departure from U.S. law, and it would put a real crimp in the ability of less expensive drugs to get to market,” said K.J. Hertz, a lobbyist for AARP. “People are going to look at this very closely in Congress.”

Malpani of Doctors Without Borders said U.S. negotiators have basically functioned as drug lobbyists. The TPP countries have 40 percent of global economic output, and the deal is widely seen as establishing new benchmarks for some of the most complex areas of global business. Malpani fears it could set a precedent that crushes the generic drug industry under a mountain of regulation and litigation.

“We consider this the worst-ever agreement in terms of access to medicine,” he said. “It would create higher drug prices around the world-and in the U.S., too.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: There’s Finally Momentum Behind Paid Sick Leave

Last week, the Supreme Court upheld a core provision of the Affordable Care Act, quashing the Republican Party’s latest attempt to gut the law through the judicial system. At issue in the case, King v. Burwell, was the government’s ability to provide subsidies to help millions of working Americans purchase health insurance through the federal exchange. Yet, as too many middle-class families know, health insurance is only one of the costs associated with getting sick. For more than 40 million workers who currently lack paid sick leave, another pressing concern is how to afford taking time off.< [..]

To appreciate the momentum for paid sick leave, however, it’s necessary to understand how we got here. The recent passage of multiple laws in rapid succession belies a long struggle to get politicians to take up the cause, even within the ranks of the Democratic Party. Indeed, a closer examination reveals the anatomy of a legislative movement and demonstrates how grassroots pressure can turn what some considered a fringe issue into a political juggernaut.

Wendy R. Davis: Texas women got a reprieve from the state’s anti-abortion law. It might not last

Until I exhaled on Monday, I hadn’t realized that I had been holding my breath.

Like so many people, I spent part of my weekend tearing up as I looked at post after post on social media of committed, loving partners’ marriage photos with a renewed sense of hope that sometimes, “right” actually wins – but then there was the fitful sleep of Sunday night because, still pending before the US supreme court, was a case that would have meant the closure of almost all of Texas remaining reproductive health clinics.

The supreme court had to decide whether the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision to allow the full enforcement of HB2 – Texas’ sweeping anti-abortion law – could stand pending the final outcome of appeals in the case. If they sided with the lower court, it would have forced all but nine of the original 41 clinics in the state to close as of 1 July. With Monday’s stay of the circuit court’s ruling came reason to breath … if only for a little while.

But hundreds of thousands of Texas women await two more decisions in the case: whether the US supreme court will hear the appeal and, if it does, whether it will strike down the challenged provisions of HB2. Reading the supreme court’s majority opinion in the Obergefell same sex marriage case issued on Friday, I feel reason to hope: its findings, rooted in the concepts of equal protection and individual autonomy, ought to extend to reproductive rights as well.

Anna Lappé: The billion-dollar business to sell us crappy food

New report sheds light on the covert tactics used to shape public opinion about what we eat

At the turn of the last century, the father of public relations, Edward Bernays, launched the Celiac Project, whose medical professionals recommended bananas to benefit celiac disease sufferers. Those pitched on the sweet fruit’s miraculous properties didn’t know the project was actually created for the United Fruit Co., the largest trader of bananas in the world.

The creation of front groups – independent-sounding but industry-backed organizations – as a public relations strategy dates at least as far back as Bernays’ day. But a new report by Kari Hamerschlag, a senior program manager at the environmental nonprofit Friends of the Earth; Stacy Malkan, a co-founder of the food industry watchdog U.S. Right to Know; and me shows that such tactics are continuing with ever more scope and scale today.

Zoë Carpenter: The Next Tactic in the Right’s Fight Against Gay Marriage? ‘Religious Liberty’

As a jubilant crowd at the Supreme Court celebrated Friday’s 5-4 ruling that same-sex couples have a right to marry, moans of impotent fury emanated from conservatives in and out of the Court. “The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie,” Justice Antonin Scalia fumed in his dissenting opinion. In his own dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the Court should not worry about human dignity: “Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved,” he wrote. Justice Samuel Alito, also dissenting, fretted that homophobes now “will risk being labeled as bigots.”

Among the field of Republican presidential candidates, the responses ranged from outrage to resignation; none embraced the ruling. Some were quick to throw red meat to the conservative base, ignoring yet another thing the GOP supposedly learned after getting crushed in 2012. But a few of the more serious candidates, who have read the polls and know that aggressive opposition to gay marriage spells trouble in a general election, tried to shift the focus to one of the next issues in the marriage debate, which Nan Hunter explores in detail here-the attempt to frame discrimination as the exercise of “religious liberty.”

Michelle Chen: Shouldn’t Home Care Workers Earn a Living Wage?

Healthcare workers in Massachusetts got good news twice this past week. First, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and its insurance exchange rules-a system expected to add some 360,000 Massachusetts residents to the healthcare rolls. On Friday, about 35,000 workers who are providing disability and senior care through state programs got a major pay raise. Their new wage of $15 an hour puts Massachusetts personal-care assistants at the helm of the low-wage workers’ movement known as the Fight for 15.

George Gresham, president of the home care workers’ union, 1199 SEIU, said in the announcement of the deal, ‘”It is a moral imperative that all home care and healthcare workers receive $15 per hour, and Massachusetts is now a leader in this effort.”

The wage agreement was brokered over several months of talks between the union and Governor Charlie Baker’s administration, for a contract covering one of the country’s largest unionized home care workforces. The raise in the hourly base pay, set to increase from the current $13.38 to $15 by 2018, will cover a majority of the state’s home care workforce, who provide an array of household services, such as daily social support and medical assistance, to seniors and people with disabilities, and now heads for a union ratification vote.

Leslie Savan: In the Wake of Charleston, Fox News Is Perplexed on Just What the Confederate Flag and the N-Word Mean

It’s been quite a week for racist symbols. It took the murder of nine black churchgoers at the hands of a killer steeped in Confederate and apartheid logos and logic, but politicians have started removing rebel flags and other symbols of Dixie from places we’d thought they were nailed to (like Alabama’s capitol grounds, and South Carolina’s, where the Stars and Bars will need a two-thirds majority vote of both houses to come down).

There is even an “Et tu?” quality to the defenestration, since it has often been Republican politicians and corporations like Walmart who have suddenly realized that these symbols can be hurtful “to some.”

And the Charleston murders have galvanized a US president to publicly say the n-word to explain why not ever saying it in public does not magically end racism-anymore, he might have added, than electing a black president does.

The Failure of Neo Liberalism

As Greece Heads for Default, Voters Prepare to Vote in Pivotal Referendum on More Austerity

How Eurocrats, Greeks, Germans, and Eastern Europeans View the Greek Crisis

by Mandos, Ian Welsh

2015 June 28

The first group I’ll discuss isn’t really a “national” grouping at all, but rather a stratum of mostly continental Europeans who view themselves as first and foremost “Europeans” as in citizens of the European Union. I am going to dub them “EUians” from this point on. On the extreme end, I have met EUians who explicitly believe that European countries should abandon their national languages and just adopt a lingua franca (i.e., English). All in all, they believe that Europeans need to “grow up” and accept that the era of the culturally-defined nation state is “over” and that it is a monkey on the back of Europa herself.

In this worldview, it is only progress that national politics become increasingly devoid of content, and it is only necessary to build European-level democracy when the Europeans have finally, ironically, swallowed the medicine of their own mission civilisatrice. A case in point that is unfolding right now is the drama over refugees, specifically, how to settle them. Brussels had a perfectly reasonable and fair idea that refugees be allocated to countries in proportion to countries’ relative economic weight. This was met with absolute rejection, particularly by newer EU countries in Eastern Europe, who explicitly do not want even a small increase in the proportion of brown people who live there. Behind these countries hid some of the older, larger countries, whose national politics are already burdened by immigration-fatigue.

To EUians, this can only be confirmation that, at the national-political level, Europeans are only a hair’s breadth away from poking each other with sharp sticks in order to maintain ethnoreligious homogeneity. And they may be. But is it a sustainable solution to gradually dilute their democratic rights? To EUians, it is the only answer.

And that bring us to the inner cadre of EUians: the Eurocracy, the elite bureaucrats whose job it is to ^manage^ European economic and political convergence. One of the principal political functions of the Eurocracy is precisely to circumvent national politics. Eurocrats are to act as would-be philosopher-kings, coming up with reasonable solutions based on scientific principles. Oh, they’re human and can be corrupt and venal, but so can elected politicians. Whence the repeated referenda, and then adopting the Lisbon treaty anyway? Well, if the people say “no,” it’s not like the philosopher-kings are going to come up with a better answer-they already emitted the best answer! That’s why they’re Eurocrats.

(F)or EUians and Eurocrats, the bad signs started off very early – choosing ANEL over To Potami as a partner. Readers here probably think of To Potami as a Quisling, capitulationist part(y), but for the Eurocracy, an alliance with To Potami would have signalled that Syriza could be mollified ultimately through fudging an agreement and was not itself a dangerous populist party. But Syriza chose the spear-carrying nationalist Greeks instead.

So from their perspective, Syriza wanted to play populist politics on the open field of democracy and is reaping what it sowed. Europe does not, cannot, should not have room for a populist left, regardless of whether or not the policy proposed makes sense. European politics is about giving cover, and rational, professorial arguments embedded in a dangerous “democratic mandate” framework is just not on. Even this referendum, which the now apparently non-existent proposal might actually win, is a simply unacceptable exercise that, if repeated elsewhere, will destroy the European project, which is an inherent good that cannot survive the popular sovereignty of barbarian peoples.

This is sometimes an overlooked aspect of the discussion, but the views of Baltic and East European states do matter. Some of the Baltic states took very painful medicine recently, and not medicine that different in character from what Greece was being asked to take, but has either refused (under Syriza) or only fudged (under ND, etc). And a lot of these countries have populations that are already poorer than Greeks are now.

Now many of you will retort that these countries, instead of joining in solidarity with the creditors, should likewise have the higher ideological standards that Greeks seem to have. But from their perspective, they embraced austerity and social pain as a manner of slicing off their own forearm in order to escape from the bear that has it by the wrist. Yes, I’m talking about Russia. I know that a good number of readers here think of Russia and Vladimir Putin as a kind of last-stand resistor against “AngloZionist” world domination, but for these countries, what they want to know is how soon the West can bring them that sweet, sweet AngloZionism.

So in a sense, Greece’s apparent cozying up to Putin is in some ways a worse affront than its apparent sense of entitlement. Greece is playing with existential fire for these countries, instead of thanking its lucky stars that’s it’s under the AngloZionist umbrella and putting their grandmothers on ice floes of austerity in gratitude.

The Breakfast Club (Color Me)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

The Civil War Battle of Gettysburg begins; The first nuclear weapons test in peacetime; TR’s assault on San Juan Hill; Britain’s Princess Diana born; Hong Kong returned to China; Actor Marlon Brando dies.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.

Frederick Douglass

On This Day In History July 1

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

July 1 is the 182nd day of the year (183rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 183 days remaining until the end of the year. The end of this day marks the halfway point of a leap year. It also falls on the same day of the week as New Year’s Day in a leap year.

On this day in 1997, Hong Kong returned to China.

At midnight on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong reverts back to Chinese rule in a ceremony attended by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles of Wales, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. A few thousand Hong Kongers protested the turnover, which was otherwise celebratory and peaceful.

Hong Kong is one of two special administrative regions (SARs) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China’s south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour. With a land mass of 1,104 km2 (426 sq mi) and a population of seven million people, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Hong Kong’s population is 95 percent ethnic Chinese and 5 percent from other groups. Hong Kong’s Han Chinese majority originate mainly from the cities of Guangzhou and Taishan in the neighbouring Guangdong province.

Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after the First Opium War (1839-42). Originally confined to Hong Kong Island, the colony’s boundaries were extended in stages to the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories by 1898. It was occupied by Japan during the Pacific War, after which the British resumed control until 1997, when the PRC acquired sovereignty. The region espoused minimum government intervention under the ethos of positive non-interventionism during the colonial era. The time period greatly influenced the current culture of Hong Kong, often described as “East meets West”, and the educational system, which used to loosely follow the system in England until reforms implemented in 2009.

Under the principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong has a different political system from mainland China. Hong Kong’s independent judiciary functions under the common law framework. The Basic Law of Hong Kong, its constitutional document, which stipulates that Hong Kong shall have a “high degree of autonomy” in all matters except foreign relations and military defence, governs its political system. Although it has a burgeoning multi-party system, a small-circle electorate controls half of its legislature. An 800-person Election Committee selects the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, the head of government.

As one of the world’s leading international financial centres, Hong Kong has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade, and the currency, Hong Kong dollar, is the ninth most traded currency in the world. The lack of space caused demand for denser constructions, which developed the city to a centre for modern architecture and the world’s most vertical city. The dense space also led to a highly developed transportation network with public transport travelling rate exceeding 90 percent, the highest in the world. Hong Kong has numerous high international rankings in various aspects. For instance, its economic freedom, financial and economic competitiveness, quality of life, corruption perception, Human Development Index, etc., are all ranked highly.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Be Open to This)


Tonightly who knows?  We may be stuck on the Rainbow Ruling or we could talk about the fat petty dictator of New Jersey.  Our panelists are Alona Minkovski, Chris DiStefano, and Boy George.


Today is some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history

This week’s guests-

I was about to say that Jon Hamm was just another unemployed SAG member like Jon (Stewart) but as it turns out he does some voiceover work in Minions.

The real news below.

Women’s World Cup 2015: Semifinals

While I don’t think the U.S. Women’s Team looked quite as impressive as some people do they were certainly good enough to beat China who, as predicted, showed very little offensive spark indeed.  It was certainly Team USA’s best game of the Tournament so far.  The only score came 51 minutes in from Carli Lloyd, but the U.S. dominated shots on goal, 17 – 6, and possession time.

Tonight’s opponent, Germany, the Number One team in the world right now, looked incredibly vincible in their match against France.  They were only able to eke out a tie during regulation and extra time and scored their salvation goal with but 6 minutes to play.  Admittedly the French were much higher ranked than China, but winning on penalty kicks hardly cements Germany’s reputation.  You may hear a lot about their goal scoring prowess, well, 10 of those came in a devastating shutout of Ivory Coast. Likewise I’ve read some negative commentary that Hope Solo, the U.S. Keeper, has hardly been tested, yet her 11 saves are the most in the Tournament.

Against China, Team U.S. had to start substitutes for Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe who were carded in the match against Colombia.  Tonight they are back at full strength and it’s entirely possible that they could win against Germany and advance to the Final against Japan (defending champion) or England (Cinderella).

Results of the Quarterfinals

USA 1 China 0
Germany 1 (5) France 1 (4)
Japan 1 Australia 0
England 2 Canada 1

Game start is at 7 pm ET on Fox.