Saturday, September 21, 2013

TPP (The Terrible Plutocratic Plan) in the News

From William Rivers Pitt, TPP in the USA Is Why We Occupy, Truthout:

"The trade pact known as the Trans Pacific Partnership is wending its way to existence with the express approval and muscular push of the Obama administration. This has been happening for a while now, and almost entirely in secret, because if people knew what it entailed, they might, you know, Occupy.

Let's see...TPP favors banks over people, companies over workplace safety and the environment, coal and oil over alternative energy sources, major agribusinesses over local farmers and local produce, the absolute end of "Buy American," as well as the end of laws protecting even the most anemic minimum wage, product safety...and here's the best part: if corporations feel like governments are encroaching on corporate power and "rights" in these matters, they can sue those governments in specially-created tribunals. NAFTA has similar tribunals that have levied hundreds of millions of dollars in fines; under TPP, the rights of corporations to sue for "damages" is massively expanded.

TPP is the point of why Occupy came to exist in the first place, the distilled essence. If this deal happens, it will be the final triumph of the legal fiction known as "corporate personhood," the fraud that gives your 14th Amendment rights to a faceless, unassailable company with billions in assets and the will to use them in our already-septic political system. With this "trade" pact, they will be able to stretch those rights globally, nationally, regionally, locally, and literally right down your throat.
It sounds like a bad Batman plot. It isn't. The president thinks it's a fine idea.


While you still can."

From an OpEd by David Brodwin in US News and World Report:

"Many provisions of TPP have little to do with trade per se. They simply promote the interests of powerful global industry groups and use legal and political mechanisms to limit true competition in the market place. For example:
  • Provisions of SOPA, the so-called "Stop Online Piracy Act" which was rejected last year by Congress. SOPA would give a competitive advantage to the film industry and other content-creators while restricting innovation on the internet.
  • Provisions that would extend patent protection on pharmaceuticals while restricting governments from negotiating lower prices.
  • Provisions that would privilege major banks and financial institutions over credit unions and the emerging sector of public banks.
  • Provisions that would disadvantage organic farmers and others who adopt safer and more environmentally-sound agricultural practices.
  • Provisions that would extend the dominance of coal and oil and hinder alternative energy producers, by blocking regulations and limiting deployment of smart grid and other infrastructure.

An OpEd from Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club and James Hoffa, president of International Brotherhood of Teamsters- calling for fair trade not free trade.

Please call your elected officials today and say "No Fast Track for TPP"! Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202 224-3121. Tell President Obama what you think of his attempt to push this through Congress without debate- 202 456-1111. Sign the petition-

Most Americans now see what a bad deal NAFTA was for American workers- A May 2012 Angus Reid Public Opinion poll found that U.S. respondents who believe that the country should “renegotiate” or “leave” NAFTA outnumbered by nearly 4-to-1 those that say the U.S. should “continue to be a member” of NAFTA (53% vs.15%). Support for the “leave” or “renegotiate”positions dominated among Republicans, Independents and Democrats alike. 

TPP is NAFTA on steroids. Public opposition has stopped 15 bad trade deals in the past. We can stop this one too. Keep Faith!

Our Sept 17 Action at Congressman Gibson's Kingston, NY office
TPP Opposition Growing and What You Can Do
TPP the Global Monsanto Protection Act

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rally to Tell Congressman Gibson- No Fast Track for TPP!

We had a great rally in front of Congressman Gibson's Kingston office today. About 40 people from all over the Hudson Valley came to register their opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The TPP has been negotiated by multinationals secretly for over three years and it threatens our jobs, food safety, environment, sovereignty and our very democracy. Read more:

Thank you to all who came from near and far! Thanks too to Dutchess County Legislator, Joel Tyner for his interactive rap which was very entertaining!

We have stopped bad treaties before and if we can stop Fast Track for TPP, we can stop this one too. Call your elected representatives (Capitol Switchboard- 202 224-3121) and say "No Fast Track for TPP!" If you haven't yet, send your email to to receive updates.

A copy of the letter signed by 40 at the rally and delivered to the Congressman's office is below.

Ulster County MoveOn Council
New Paltz Women in Black
PO Box 955
New Paltz, NY 12561

September 17, 2013

Representative Chris Gibson
Congressman of the 19th District of New York
721 Broadway
Kingston, NY 12401

Dear Congressman Gibson:

Subject: No Fast Track for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Many of your constituents are upset to hear some of the details that have been leaked about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The fact that 600 "advisers" from multinational corporations and financial institutions have been meeting behind closed doors for over three years to negotiate this treaty already casts serious doubts on what is being proposed in our names.

We find it interesting that the former trade adviser for the US, Ron Kirk, said if the American people knew what was in this treaty they would rise up in opposition and it would never pass. We agree. Here is brief summary of the parts we find most egregious.
  • The TPP would set up foreign tribunals to challenge national, state and local government laws that corporations say would hurt their future profits. Already under NAFTA and WTO, such lawsuits are increasing. The US has lost 95% of them. This could result in a huge transfer of taxpayer money to corporations already experiencing record profits, but even worse, it would have a chilling effect on any government's ability to pass laws for the environment, public health and public safety. Unbelievably, the "judges" in these tribunals would be corporate attorneys and their decisions final. This is a description of corporate tyranny.
  • Under the TPP,  there would be a mad rush to off-shore millions more American jobs to countries where labor is most exploited and environmental regulations the laxest, accelerating a global race to the bottom in wages, benefits and working conditions and worsening climate change.
  • The TPP would "harmonize" food safety standards.
    "That means all countries that sign on to the agreement would be required to abide by the lowest common denominator standards of all participating governments. So, for instance, if Vietnam were to allow for higher residues of veterinary antibiotics in seafood than the U.S. allows and Vietnam and the U.S. both sign on to the TPP as trade partners, the U.S. could be forced to lower its standards to allow for imports of seafood from Vietnam or face a lawsuit by the seafood exporter for depriving the company of future sales of its products in the U.S."
  • The costs of medicine will increase under TPP as patents are extended for big pharmaceutical companies and there are fewer generics.
  • Internet freedom under TPP. "would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and hinder peoples' abilities to innovate".
  • The TPP would undo the already too weak regulations of Wall Street setting us up for more and even worse financial crashes.
  • TPP would ban "Buy American" procurement policies.
The Obama administration is pushing for the Fast Track of TPP, which would only allow Congress to make an up or down vote without requiring an airing of the provisions of TPP through public hearings, or allowing Congress to make any amendments. It is the responsibility of Congress to review and amend treaties. We ask that you not cede this power to the Executive Branch, which we see as a clear violation of separation of powers and antithetical to the spirit of our Constitution. We are asking you to pledge NO to the Fast Tracking of TPP.

We find it shocking that few in Congress have even been able to read the text of the TPP. Rep Alan Grayson was allowed to and he said it is "a punch in the face to the middle class" and added he was not able to even talk about what is in it!

We support Fair Trade that raises standards and protects American workers, the environment, public health and public safety. We ask you to stand up for democracy, for US sovereignty and for your constituents and reject the Fast Tracking of a secret deal that benefits the 1% at the expense of people and the planet.

Thank you.
Signed by 40 attending today's rally 

and here is a photo gallery of other No TPP events. On the second anniversary of OWS, stopping the fast track of TPP was front and center!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Syria: Six Alternatives to Military Strikes

Please join Women in Black tomorrow for another vigil to say NO to a War on Syria - from 12:30-1:30PM in front of Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz. We have some signs, or bring your own. 

Unlike Afghanistan and Iraq- the American people are with us on this one. Left and right are rising up to say no to military strike that could ignite the entire Middle East.  Our representative Chris Gibson is against an attack, but he is asking constituents if they agree- Give him a call and tell him to stay strong saying no to war - 845 514-2322.

"Any attack on Syria would burn down Israel," said Iran's military chief of staff . Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel would "respond with great force" to any such attack. This is a recipe for WWIII.

Additionally, there are many questions about who actually used the chemical weapons. As I posted before, one reporter was told by rebels that they had accidentally set them off, not realizing what the weapons were. There are also reports that Kerry's testimony is at odds with the intelligence community. 

Kerry says the opposition is growing in moderation, but intelligent analysts say that the al Qaeda Nusra Front is better organized, armed  and trained and growing in influence. And then there is the fact that members of the Nusra Front were captured  in Turkey with 4.5 pounds of sarin gas in their apartments.

Here is an article from Jack Smith about why we should not "attack a seventh Muslim country since 2001" and another good one, "It's Not War, so Stop Saying That" by William Rivers Pitts. Sign the Avaaz petition 

There will inevitably be a political solution in Syria with all sides sitting down to talk. Why not start there, instead of killing more innocents in a display of military might and fomenting more anti-American hatred in the Muslim world? Women in Black has always stood for the force of law- not the law of force. Alternatives to killing below.

 Syria: Six Alternatives to Military Strikes

Many of the legal and diplomatic processes that led to peace in other times of conflict haven't even been tried yet in Syria.
Syria Peace Talks Ticket
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's approval of military force in Syria makes military strikes against that country more likely. But key questions remain unanswered. Will military strikes help ordinary Syrians or harm them? Will more violence deter the use of chemical weapons and other war crimes in Syria and elsewhere, or exacerbate the problem? Have all other possibilities been exhausted, or are there peaceful solutions that haven't been tried?
A quick review of the options suggests there are at least six strategies that could hold wrongdoers to account, deter war crimes of all sorts, and build peace.
These strategies are based on an idea little discussed but deeply practical for our war-weary country and world. Instead of launching an assault on Syria, the United States could lead a "coalition of the willing" in rebuilding the tattered foundation of international law. This would lay the groundwork for peace, not only in Syria, but in all the lawless regions of the world. And it could do so without adding to civilian casualties, further destabilizing the Middle East, breaking the budget of the United States, and requiring yet more sacrifices by those who serve in the armed forces.
For several reasons, this is the right time to turn to the rule of law. Why? First, this conflict does not lend itself to the cheap story used to whip up pro-war sentiment: the notion that military strikes will help the "good guys" in the opposition defeat the "bad guys" in the regime. The armed opposition in Syria includes many we don't want to support—especially those associated with Al Qaeda and other extremist groups. And the United States, too, has things to answer for—among other things its faulty claims about weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to war in Iraq, the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and civilian casualties of U.S. drone attacks in countries including Pakistan and Yemen.
So building a case for war based on U.S. heroics in support of valiant upstarts against an evil despot just doesn't work. Our real choice is this: contribute to lawless violence or turn to the rule of law and civility.
What would we do if we were to choose peace and the rule of law? Here are six approaches that would help build justice and peace in Syria and elsewhere.
1. Bring those guilty of atrocities to justice. With the backing of the U.N. Security Council, those responsible for the chemical weapons attacks and other war crimes should be brought to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for justice, whether they are part of the Syrian regime or members of opposition forces. "The use of chemical weapons by anyone is a war crime, and international law requires international enforcement," policy analyst Phyllis Bennis wrote in an email. "No one country, not even the most powerful, has the right to act as unilateral cop."
The United States should strengthen the ability of the ICC to hold war criminals accountable by signing on and ratifying the statute that created the court in 1998.
Even before bringing Assad and his allies to the ICC, Frank Jannuzi of Amnesty International told YES!, it's possible to punish these individuals with travel restrictions and targeted economic sanctions.

2. Call for a United Nations embargo on arms, military supplies, and logistical support for both Damascus and opposition forces. Stopping the flow of weapons from around the world into Syria is another important step toward peace. But it will involve complex diplomacy that has not yet been attempted. As Bennis writes, "Russia must stop and must push Iran to stop arming and funding the Syrian regime."
But Russia and Iran are not the only culprits. Bennis continues: "The U.S. must stop and must push Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan and others to stop arming and funding the opposition, including the extremist elements." How can we exert pressure on those regimes? "That won't be easy," says Bennis.
But we and the Russians do have leverage. For example, she says, Washington could tell the Saudis and Qataris that we will cancel all existing weapons contracts with them if they don't stop arming the opposition.
3. The U.N. Security Council should hold an international peace conference involving not only the Syrian government and opposition parties, but their backers from outside the country and those affected by the flow of refugees and arms.
Non-state actors with an influence on the conflict should also be included, says a statement by the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker group. This should include Hezbollah, the Arab League, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, they say.
Negotiators should aim for an immediate ceasefire, for the access needed to get humanitarian aid where it's needed, and for an end to the conflict. This is a tried-and-true solution that resolved the wars in Southeast Asia through the Paris Conference on Cambodia, and in the Balkans through the Dayton Peace Agreement.
4. Offer aid and support to the nonviolent movements within Syria, or, at least, don't undermine them. A resurgence in Syria's broad-based nonviolent movement for change that started in March 2011 is still a source of hope, according to Stephen Zunes, chair of Middle Eastern studies at the University of San Francisco.
The opposition's turn from nonviolence to armed struggle resulted in higher civilian casualties, reduced defections from the Assad's forces, and contributed to the rise of anti-democratic elements within the opposition, Zunes says.
He goes on to explain that nonviolent movements have a much better chance of building an inclusive democratic government.
"Military intervention would demoralize and disempower those remaining in the nonviolent resistance who are daily risking their lives for their freedom," Zunes says, "while encouraging armed elements who—with their vanguard mentality, martial values, and strict military hierarchy—are far less interested in freedom and justice."
5. Provide the humanitarian aid desperately needed by the millions of displaced people. Humanitarian organizations are currently able to provide services within Syria only with great difficulty; the United Nations Security Council should insist that Damascus allow them access.
And the international community, not just the countries housing the refugees, should cover the costs of caring for the displaced inside and outside the country. Yes, it's expensive. But a military strike would cost much more, as would the long-term costs society would incur from neglecting traumatized refugees.
6. Force the hand of Russia and China in the Security Council. Many people believe that Russia and China have vetoed efforts in the United Nations to condemn the Syrian regime or to impose sanctions on it. But all these governments have done, so far, is threaten to veto.
Jannuzi says that the other 11 members of the Security Council should take the issue to a vote and force Russia and China to actually exercise their veto power.
"That would at least give the rest of the international community the opportunity to say 'If that's your position, then what are you for?'" Jannuzi says. This would at least help to clarify the positions of these countries, an important step toward peace.

Why the rule of law?

By applying the rule of law through existing international institutions, we can work to isolate the wrongdoers on all sides of the conflict in Syria from their bases of support around the world. We can support those in Syria working for peaceful change and offer humanitarian assistance. And we will move beyond the limitations of responding to lawbreaking with violence.
There's another benefit, too, of relying on the rule of law. Doing so would strengthen the institutions, like the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, designed to settle conflict without violence. That would mean we'd have more effective options available when future despots threaten to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity.
To follow this path with credibility, though, the United States must itself live within the rule of law. That means, at the very least, refraining from launching into a war that violates international law. Only when a country is attacked, or when it has the support of a Security Council resolution, is a military assault on another country permitted.
It might seem naïve to press for peace in a world where there is so much violence. But the belief that a few bombing missions and a quick exit could make a positive difference is in fact the naïve view. And Americans—traumatized, exhausted, and impoverished by war—have no stomach for the protracted military conflict with uncertain aims that is the more likely outcome.
International law—fairly applied, patiently negotiated, with tough sanctions, and help for refugees—is in fact the most practical way to peace and justice for the people of Syria and beyond.
Sarah van Gelder new

Sarah van Gelder wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practice actions. Sarah is executive editor of YES!
James Trimarco contributed reporting for this article.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

No War with Syria Protest

Thank you to all who joined New Paltz Women in Black yesterday to say NO to a War with Syria. We were a part of demonstrations that took place all across the country and in the world to say no to another war of aggression in the Middle East.

It looks like domestic and world protests are having an effect. Obama announced in the Rose Garden yesterday, he is now seeking Congressional approval for military intervention. As he spoke, reporters said the chants of "No War with Syria" could be heard from protestors in front of the White House. Thanks to for being out in force and raising the call for protests nationwide. If we do strike, there will be protest the following day, 4 to 6 PM in front of the Stop N Shop Plaza on Main St in New Paltz, organized by the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter.

To add to number 1 in "11 Reasons Why We Should Not Attack Syria" - we do not know who was responsible for the gas attacks - here is a link that says rebel forces told an AP reporter that they received the chemical weapons from Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia and didn't even know what they had until an accident unleashed the poison gas and killed some of their own.

Multiple US officials have said the intelligence linking Assad to the chemical weapons attack is "not a slam dunk", referring to CIA Director George Tenet in 2002 describing the intelligence that Iraq had  WMDs as a "slam dunk" which of course was totally wrong. Let's not repeat history.

Please sign the petition here- that begins- "We urge you to show real leadership in protecting the people of Syria with a more creative, effective, and prudent approach than military action.  Galvanize world leaders to demand a multilateral cease-fire."

And here is an article in the NY Times 8/31- "Experts Fear US Plan to Striker Syria Overlooks Risks.