Free Trade Agreements are Unconstitutional

I was impressed by Margot Ford McMillen’s piece, “Dems Buckle on Fast-Track” [8/1/15 TPP]. It leads to a further legal question: Are any of these so-called Free Trade deals even Constitutional? Here’s my take on the question:

The US Constitution states that it is Congress (alone) that adopts our national laws. Only the President can veto a bill, but his veto can be overridden by Congress. The Constitution defines (only) two ways a US law can be overturned: (1) Congress can repeal the law. (2) The judiciary can invalidate the law on grounds of unconstitutionality. The Constitution does not provide that any outside or foreign body can overrule US laws adopted by Congress.

All these so-called Free Trade Agreements (NAFTA, CAFTA, Trans-Pacific Partnership, etc.) purport to give a corporate-controlled Free Trade Tribunal (judged by three rotating corporate lawyers) the extraordinary power to entertain corporate complaints directly against the US government, and, bypassing courts of law, to impose damage awards (to compensate corporate investors’ alleged loss of “expected future profits”), and worst of all, to annul US laws passed by Congress as being in “restraint of trade.”

Already, WTO-based tribunals have twice decided trade disputes against the US, supposedly overturning US laws previously adopted by Congress (1) requiring country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) of meat products sold in the US, and (2) requiring fishermen employing drag nets to use dolphin-free nets, thus saving thousands of dolphin's lives. Since when do investors’ “expected future profits” outweigh American citizens’ right to know what they are eating and where it comes from? And where does any outside, foreign entity acquire the power to overturn laws previously passed by the US Congress?

That’s not all. A French corporation is suing Egypt for raising the minimum wage and Big Tobacco is suing Australia and Uruguay for adopting laws limiting tobacco smoking in public places (e.g. restaurants, public transportation). Elsewhere, they are preparing attacks on legislation to protect the environment. Whatever one’s position on the merits of each case, the inconvenient truth is that the Tribunal dispute settlement process in every one of these Free Trade agreements is an illegal violation of the US Constitution.

Is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) practically the only person in Washington to notice and speak out on this? She offered legislation to exempt the US from the investor-state dispute settlement process on the grounds of its illegality. But she was soundly outvoted. Does anyone in the White House or Congress read the US Constitution these days, or stop to think what it means for Constitutional democracy?

Anthony Piel
Sharon, Conn.
(Piel is former director and general legal counsel of World Health Organization)

Confederates Flagging

In the 8/1/15 TPP Dave Zirin, Bill Johnston, Will Durst and Jesse Jackson all had good, rational comments about the Confederate flag and the flaming controversy surrounding it. In the two small towns where I go to shop, I’ve seen several pickup trucks with large flapping Confederate flags stuck on the back.

I’ve lived in the South all of my 83 years and have known many types of people. I feel that the upstarts who are acting out like that are not altogether displaying a snotty show of racial “hatred” — but mostly it is to gain attention and show off to fellow rednecks. So it becomes a challenge to go one better and stick on two flags to sashay around where the most people can see them.

This latest rash of racial posturing and the asinine drama of juvenile foolishness appears to be a cathartic wave of American life at its most ridiculous. In all the years since the Civil Rights Act it has been like a festering boil and has lately been excised; all the pus is running out. The stinking, toxic attitudes of racial fear and desperation are no longer hidden under the surface.

There is solid, obvious proof in this 21st Century that all races contain many good, brilliant people as well as some not-so-evolved dysfunctionals. So we have seen extreme stupefying shock to some individuals who have so long enjoyed the counterfeit self-esteem that racial supremacy provides.

We were fortunate in electing a very brilliant, highly educated man as our Commander in Chief. Because he is black/white, he is precisely a man for all Americans — as US leadership has never been before. However, he inadvertently served as another scalpel — helping to open up the boil.

Hopefully the next administration will be as boldly able to carry on the tremendous task of fending off the chaos and obstructive devices of Republican radicalism. Too many conservative congressmen have swallowed the $ bait of rogue industries — and turned the party away from rational, honest governing skills.

Who knows what the outcome will be in 2016? Maybe Donald Trump will serve as the pricker to pierce the Republican schizoid canker and drain out the B.S. so they might return to a legitimate political body some day. Obviously it won’t happen overnight so don’t hold your breath.

Helen McKinney
Sapphire, N.C.

R’s Sabotage Iran Deal

Re: “Iran deal gives Dems opening (if they’ll seize it),” by Simon Maloy [8/15/15 TPP]. From the very first day of Obama’s presidency, the GOP became obsessed with the goal of making sure that he would be a one-term president.

Since their dream has vanished, they are now consoling themselves by trying to sabotage his diplomatic achievement with Iran. To them, he is the “appeaser.” (How dare he work for peace, when by the alchemy of war, the blood of the many poor can turn into gold for the few rich?)

I only wish our government could reinstate the draft. Then, when kids from rich families return home from our interminable wars in body bags, or blind, or legless, or emotionally crippled, will their parents insist on peace.

Then, and only then, will we be free of war.

David Quintero
Monrovia, Calif.

Go Bernie

Joan Walsh, editor at large at Salon, reacted too early to mainstream media’s “exaggeration” of Bernie Sanders’ popularity, described as a strategy to “undermine the Clinton campaign”, [“MSM’s Bernie Sanders Trap”, 8/1/15 TPP].

Walsh relegates socialism to a quaint past in the same way many Christians attend church but don’t actually “believe.” It is belief, after all, in our socialist roadways, bridges, schools and universities, public services, social safety net, and the jobs created, that once provided the foundation for a middle class in the US. Losing faith resulted in a generation of bi-partisan public divestment, deregulation, privatization, and austerity that Bernie Sanders has been vociferously condemning for decades.

The unreported Thousand Pound Gorilla that emboldens far-right presidential candidates and milquetoast left-wing pragmatists is the 70% of eligible voters that have been abstaining in every election since the 1970s. For this vast majority, the 2016 election is just another billion dollar celebrity sideshow. Mark Twain observed that sincerity is the key to politics. “Once you learn to fake that, you’ve got it made.”

Every significant progressive advancement in the US began at the grassroots from contentious and polarizing debate spreading the language of change that media cannot ignore. We saw this in the 2014 election when states with progressive ballot measures had the highest voter turnout in the nation. In my rural community, like many others, initiatives to raise the minimum wage and ban GMOs increased turnout sufficient to elect our first non-right wing, all-female city council. Restoring some social, economic, environmental and political balance in our individual communities provides elected representatives motivation to legislate for working people. It’s what can make the difference between universal health care and an Affordable Care Act; subsidizing oil or a green economy.

Progressive ballot measures offer clarity on where candidates stand, they inspire the voter participation needed to eventually end the corrupt campaign financing behind Washington D.C.’s corporate collusion, political family dynasties and continuing support for anti-democratic foreign coups and despots, wars for oil, radical Wall Street deregulation, job exports, offshore tax havens, bailouts for elites, austerity and domestic surveillance for everyone else.

Give ’em Hell Bernie!

George Clark
Eureka, Calif.

Consider Martin O’Malley

For many Democrats, Hillary’s politics are too embedded with Wall Street, while Bernie seems too independent to be electable. I recently discovered the candidate whose progressive politics are coupled with a proven ability to govern. Maryland's former Gov. Martin O’Malley, also former mayor of Baltimore, has the managerial experience and technical vision to apply information technology to make governmental decisions based on knowledge. He applied the same mapping technology we use when finding a route through traffic, to identify where Baltimore's worst crime was, and he allocated increased resources to those neighborhoods to fight the city's crime problems.

With knowledge-based decision-making and O’Malley's managerial savvy, Baltimore's violent crime reduced by 41%. As governor, he applied the similar methods to reduce Maryland’s unemployment and increase jobs faster than its neighboring states that had cut their budgets for necessary services. He promotes a new way of managing to get things done, moving from innovation-limiting hierarchy to collaborative consensus-building.

O’Malley’s top goals are to reverse the causes of climate change by supporting clean, renewable power sources; to limit the influence of unaccountable big money in our political system; and to reduce the disparity of wealth and opportunity with affordable education, fair taxation, big-bank regulation and resistance to trade deals that threaten our environmental, labor, and health protections.

Americans are tired of seeing clowns run around the circus car when we need a President who knows how to work effectively for the shared concern of our survival on this planet. Details at martinomalley.com.

Bruce Joffe
Piedmont, Calif.

What Good Is Patriotism?

Joe Conason's article about the Charleston massacre of African Americans in their church in Charleston [8/1/15 TPP] seems to me to be focused more on the "virtue" of patriotism than on the horrific crime perpetrated by a sociopath. Samuel Johnson called "patriotism" the last refuge of a scoundrel, Edward Abbey said we must always be ready to defend the country against its government, my American Heritage Dictionary defines patriotism as "love of country.” Amy Goodman in the same TPP quotes Frederick Douglass speaking to a group of abolitionists: "What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” The June-July edition of The Catholic Worker, in a review of Christian Appy's latest book "The Vietnam War And Our National Identity”, writes that the Vietnam War saw the US bomb more of this tiny nation than we did of Germany and Japan in all of WWII, and I'll throw in a quote by Dorothy Day, who called our system of government (i.e. capitalism) "This filthy, rotten system." So I write to ask Conason what in the name of God impresses him with the "virtue" of patriotism? How many American flags have to be burned before Joe is roused from his slumber and realizes that the country symbolized by the stars and stripes has disappeared years ago?

Bernard J. Berg
Easton, Pa.

From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2015


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