Thursday, April 4, 2013


In May, 600 representatives of multinational corporations will converge in Lima for the 17th round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has been called The Mother of all Free Trade Agreements. Since 2008, industry representatives have been secretly discussing this lucrative trade agreement that will be binding on all nations that sign. Currently believed to include about a dozen nations, it is designed to be a multilateral agreement that an unlimited number of countries can eventually be bound to by unelected "representatives."

All we know of TPP is through leaked documents. These indicate that under the agreement, nations can be sued by individual corporations in a kangaroo court of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Thus, for instance, nations with universal health care can be held hostage to drug corporations that will effectively dictate prices, much as they do today in the US under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. Intellectual property rights will be further strengthened, specifically allowing internet providers to cut off service for alleged copyright violations. Recently leaked documents indicate that the agreement would ban buy-local provisions in legislation and prevent regulation of risky financial schemes that nearly destroyed the world economy in 2008 and whose consequences have yet to be fully felt. It would also further undermine national sovereignty by banning currency controls developing nations use to prevent capital flight by speculators.

Not even Senate Trade Subcommittee Chair Ron Wyden has been allowed access to official negotiation documents.  If that is not enough to send alarm bells ringing, then Americans have forgotten the meaning of national sovereignty. Given that this threat to national self-determination would likely run into problems in the Senate, the Obama administration is seeking fast track authority to approve the secret agreement. Thus, instead of transparency the process of approval of TPP would take place without congressional oversight, eliminating the best chance Americans have to influence the debate.

Free trade agreements have been championed by Democrats and Republicans alike as the key to opening up export markets and producing jobs in manufacturing, but the promise has not lived up to the hype. The reason is that all free trade agreements are designed to benefit the multinational corporations that back them, regardless of the cost to workers, consumers and ultimately, taxpayers. We have seen that trading national sovereignty to regulate trade for the illusory benefits of “free trade” has not created jobs in the US, but in China and nations where workers are treated even more poorly. The result has been falling wages in the US for jobs that are increasingly scarce, thanks to competition in the labor market with workers willing to sell their labor for what amount to slave wages.

Under current rules governing the WTO, if a nation complains of “unfair” laws or trade practices that limit in any way the ability of corporations to conduct trade in that nation, the corporation can ask the government in which it is incorporated to file a complaint. The dispute is decided by an unelected three member panel representing the interests of multinational corporations that profit by subverting the ability of a nation to enact laws to protect consumers, workers and the environment. Under the FPP, corporations would no longer have to file complaints through a government, making nations increasingly irrelevant in a world economy controlled by corporate CEOs in their own self-interest.

As one example of the power of the WTO under current agreements, it recently ruled that a US law protecting consumers by requiring country of origin labeling was an “unfair” restriction on the right of foreign corporations to dump their potentially tainted agricultural goods on an unsuspecting US market. Even if these foods are safe, American consumers lose the right to know if they are buying American.

Imagine how much worse it would be if deep-pocketed corporations could demand that the US and Pacific Rim nations that sign on to TPP can force these governments to face judgment by a small panel of hand-picked lawyers representing their interests. We cannot allow this naked power grab to succeed.

Most Americans do not want to be dictated to by multinational corporations that have no allegiance to any nation or its people. The TPP is the next step in corporate control of the US and world economies supported by a majority of US politicians who never met a free trade agreement they didn’t like. The only way that we can fight it is to do what we should have done when Democratic President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress gave away our sovereignty to the WTO: demand transparency and that our elected representatives do what we elected them to do. That means putting the interests of the American people over the profits of multinational corporations that pay for their election campaigns.

We cannot allow an unelected international body to rule on the legality of US laws designed to protect consumers, workers and the environment. The WTO exists only to maximize profits to corporations that are shipping our jobs overseas.   Please contact your members of Congress. Let them know that you want them to fight to drag this monster out of the dark and into the light where it can be killed.



an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed.
Sociology a radical and pervasive change in society and the social structureespecially one made suddenly and often accompanied by violence. Compare social evolution.
a sudden, complete or marked change in something.

As media attention to Occupy dwindles to a faint echo in the background, many people are asking themselves what happened and whether the dream of revolutionary change it inspired can still be realized. Finding the answer requires us to thoroughly and unflinchingly critique its successes and failures in light of historical precedents provided by previous efforts to effect radical change. 

You say you want a Revolution? Well you know, we all want to change the world.

Many of the lessons learned in the 60s in the struggle for the rights of women, Blacks and the Peoples of the United States and other nations were nicely summarized in the Beatles’ classic song Revolution. Ironically, the song was not calling for political revolution but suggested that individual transformation was enough to change the world. Sadly, that has proven not to be the case. Once the immediate crisis of the Vietnam war passed, the urgency of the need for individual and national soul searching seemed to pass with it. We are now paying the price for having not demanding democracy at the time, when so many had seen through the lie and so many had died to expose it.

You say you got a real solution. Well, you know, we'd all love to see the plan.

Efforts to unify to fight an oppressive system that is crushing the life out of the middle class, destroying American society and perverting the American dream into a nightmare from which many U.S. citizens have yet to awaken will not succeed without a comprehensive strategy. The most fundamental flaw in the Occupy movement was the stubborn insistence of the leaders of this "leaderless" movement that having a specific agenda would be counter to the spirit of Occupy.

You ask me for a contribution. Well, you know, we're all doing what we can.


The Occupy movement has been largely led by youth who for the most part have little or no understanding of the lessons to be learned from revolutionary movements from the 1920s to the 1960s. Many of us who had lived through the last such effort in the 1960s tried to be heard but were ignored by those who each had their own agendas but no plan to realize them. The movement was doomed from the start by the essential split between those who understand that societal change is a process and those who naively expected that somehow they could unify the 99% and transform American society by demanding it, while simultaneously calling for abandonment of the electoral process.

This rigid mindset is as fruitless as that of American society in general, the majority of whose members are so deluded by their own assumptions about what is "politically possible" that they can't see the need for revolutionary change. The problem is not so much the dysfunctional political process itself as it is blind adherence to a failed approach that assumes that only by working within the existing political power structure can the people of the United States acquire the power to change it.

Party loyalists believe that despite an increasingly uphill battle to elect candidates who will put their interests over those of the 1%, somehow they will make progress if they just work harder for the politicians now in office who got there in the current system. They have no higher aspiration than to elect more candidates from their own party in the blind hope that somehow they will do the right thing if they have a large enough majority, despite the fact that both parties have come to put re-election of its members over all other interests. The primary reason that Congress has about a ten percent approval rating is that its members are beholden to their corporate backers and the rich. That guarantees ineffective reform of campaign finance at best, until we can make a candidate's stance on the issue the deciding factor in congressional elections around the country.

The debate about whether Occupy supporters should be reformers or revolutionaries missed the point that both are required to create fundamental change that will stand the test of time. In a society whose dominant response to Occupy ranged from apathy to ridicule to violent reprisal, revolution will first require constitutional reformation of the electoral process, which in itself would require a revolutionary change in political consciousness. This can only happen if voices are encouraged to emerge from the anarchy of Occupy which can compellingly articulate the values that bind Occupiers to the rest of the 99% and the need to unite behind an effective strategy of political reform with the goal of creating a revolutionary change in the US government.

Loyalty to the Democratic and Republican Parties is a major reason for resistance to change. As long as party stalwarts continue to treat politics as a war between conservatives and liberals, they cannot achieve the consensus necessary to force their representatives to respond to the demand to work together to serve the interests of the 99% and not those of corporations and the rich. When the terms conservative and liberal are used in their traditional meanings, it is clear that neither major party can be said to be truly either, since neither tradition has historically held corporate power over government to be a fundamental value. While the Republican Party may have abandoned this principle long ago, Democrats have to do more that pay lip service to checking corporate power to regain the trust liberals used to invest in their party. As long as they assume that winning elections depends on putting corporate interests over those of people, they will not serve those who elected them but those who paid for their campaigns.

In its effort to distance itself from a corrupt political system, Occupy missed a crucial opportunity to marry libertarian support for Occupy with liberal ideals that could have served as the basis of building the mass political movement with the potential to Take Back America for the People. We cannot afford to miss such opportunities to forge links between the self-identified Left and Right if we are serious about wanting revolutionary change.

You say you'll change the constitution. Well, you know, we all want to change your head.

When Adbusters proposed the idea of Occupy they suggested that the movement focus on campaign finance reform through constitutional change and the curbing the power of the banksters. This sensible idea was almost universally ignored by those who responded to the call to Occupy America in favor of an amorphous form of protest billed as direct democracy, where any idea supported by a general assembly was afforded equal weight to any other. 

It is obvious that both of the major political Parties have become so dependent on campaign funding by corporations and the rich that the only way to alter or abolish the corporate monopoly on political power is to demand that politicians of all parties and independents support a constitutional amendment that would end the of ability of the wealthy and powerful to buy the loyalty of candidates for Congress. This is the essence of the Pledge to Amend campaign, which aims to make support for such an amendment a litmus test in all congressional elections by 2014. Until Occupy or its successor can find unify around this core issue that is at the root of all the others on its agenda, it will continue to be dismissed as a protest  rather than a call for a peaceful democratic revolution. 

The revolutionary movement in the 60s was unified by opposition to a war that personally affected every member of the generation then coming of age. When the US government called for war this time, a small proportion of American youth would bear the burden for all of us. This encouraged Americans suffering the consequences of an economy wracked by corporate excess to put aside concerns about the wars to focus on surviving the resulting economic calamity. In the process, those who were seduced into the idea that by fighting a “war” on terror they were serving the interests of freedom were also largely forgotten.

Had Occupy heeded the lessons of the Vietnam protesters they would have put more emphasis on the fact that all wars in the modern age are fought for corporate Empire, tying the issue of another unpopular war with the economic and social costs of living in a nation whose government is one of, by and for corporations. Had Occupy focused on the connection between corporate power over the US government and war, lack of access to health care, the destruction of the environment and the economic crisis bringing the US to its knees, it would have gained rather than lost momentum in its first year. If individuals and groups working on all these issues come to recognize the purpose in rallying behind the issue of constitutional reform, Occupy can yet realize its potential.

But when you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out.

Occupy has failed so far because the anarchists and black bloc demanded that their goals of instant gratification and the use of property destruction be accorded the same or more respect as the ideas of those who they disparaged as reformers rather than revolutionaries. This was the same split that fractured Students for a Democratic Society, which was for a time co-opted by self-styled leaders who demanded that others follow their dictates. A modern parallel is the stubborn insistence of well-established groups and associations of groups such as Move to Amend that only by following the strategy of the few who claim to speak for the movement can we realize our mutual goal of constitutional change. 

In suppressing dissident voices in the amendment movement they claim to lead, a small number of self-proclaimed leaders have missed the opportunity to play a part in influencing the Occupy movement. They failed to realize that eventually, those who endorsed their efforts would realize that the “leaders” did not necessarily speak for them because their goal was to build a network of followers who would not question their decisions on strategy and tactics. They not only failed to learn the lessons of Vietnam but did not grasp the opportunity to ride the wave of Occupy in rejecting the simple notion that no individual, group or association should be allowed to co-opt a revolutionary movement.

The answer to the question "can Occupy succeed?" is a resounding yes, but only if those who refuse defeat can stop demanding that others follow their strategy, listen to each other and develop a plan that the movement can rally around. First and foremost, we must refuse to accept that violence against people or property can ever achieve their goals, as the frustrated revolutionaries who gave in to violence in the Vietnam era learned to their everlasting regret. Violence was met by overwhelming violence by the government they sought to overturn. As we have seen, the threat of state violence to crush nonviolent resistance to a system that serves only the interests of those in power is just as real today.

The first American Revolution was born in violence because the colonists had no choice. In this era, the fact that the struggle must take place in occupied territory demands that we avoid violence. In order to assure that those who fought and died for the ideal of freedom did not do so in vain, we must also realize that radical change must begin from within the system if we are to replace it with one in which liberty and justice for all is a reality and not just an empty promise.

Don't you know it's going to be all right....

The American Revolution could not have succeeded in defeating the forces of British fascism in the 1700s if the colonists had not realized that their common enemy was an unholy alliance of corporate and state power. When a critical minority convinced a doubting majority of the necessity of overthrowing the government, Americans recognized that they had to put aside their differences in order to defeat the might of an Empire built on the idea that a privileged elite had the divine right to rule them.

The dream of democracy was born when the Enlightenment for the first time awakened people to the idea that they could create a government of, by and for the People. Because Americans were willing to talk to each other they were able to develop the consensus needed to stage a successful revolution. It was in putting the interests of all over individual interests  that the American character was defined. If we can return to that ideal, we can still realize the dream of democracy and assure that the last, best hope for Mankind does not perish from the Earth.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


I swore I was not going to write about the gun debate that has followed the latest mass murder. It seemed an exercise in futility. Trying to convince people that they are wrong on gun control is like trying to influence their views on abortion. Attitudes and opinions are fixed on the issue. There is little chance that one more opinion will change them. Recently, the conversation took an interesting turn, one that is new to the ongoing debate on gun control. The idea that we have to have personal weapons to fight our own government went from being a fringe idea to a mainstream argument, defended by conservatives and many pro-second amendment liberals.

It has been obvious to every thinking American for some time that something is terribly wrong with our current government. If we could agree in what that was we might be able to fight it without resort to guns. The nation is nearly evenly divided between those who fear a socialist takeover and those who believe that the problem is growing corporate dominance of government to the extent that it is leading to fascism, if it has not already arrived. If we do not come to a common understanding of what has gone wrong with the US system of government, it is likely that the incidence of political violence will continue to increase until we are subject to a violent crackdown by the very police state that so many of us fear.

The argument that America is being taken over by socialists is laughable on its face. With the social safety net under attack and a bailout of the medical insurance industry being passed off as “near-universal health care,” nothing could be further from the truth. Funneling taxpayer dollars to corporations that ship jobs overseas, those that profit from denying needed health care and those that manufacture weapons for insanely expensive wars for corporate Empire is in fact a form of corporate welfare serving the interests of the rich over those of the American taxpayer. That is worth fighting a revolution over, but one that can only succeed if it is done so through nonviolent, democratic action. That is impossible if we cannot come to a consensus on how democracy works and how best to achieve it.

It is easy to define democracy. The word translates literally as “government of the People.” That means government of, by and for the People. Not some people, but all people in the United States. If we cannot achieve consensus on what is best for all the people, we cannot create a government of the People. Instead, those who wield power over the government will continue to divide us until they ultimately conquer us. Those calling for revolution understand that it is our inalienable right and responsibility to resist a government that has become tyrannical. A government that is not for the People but for corporations and the wealthy individuals that control it cannot be said to be democratic.

Who then is the tyrant who dares challenge democracy in the US and the world? Many claim it is President Obama. On one side the radical Right argues that he intends to impose a socialist government that will dictate to the People. On the Left, the claim is made that there is no difference between Obama and George Bush in the arena of foreign policy and that he has been far too willing to sacrifice the interests of the People for the corporate interest that in fact wields control over both parties by virtue of controlling the corporate media and thereby the nature of political discourse. In fact, the blame lies squarely with a Congress that has abdicated its authority to an imperial Presidency, regardless of who is the figurehead in the White House in matters of war and peace. 

If we truly want a democratic revolution, the Left and Right must first agree on goals, lest the US become another failed state, at best degenerating into a power struggle between the leaders of the revolution but far more likely to result in the consolidation of power by those who control the police state. As the response to Occupy has shown, these are the powerful banking and oil industries that colluded with agents of the police state in infiltrating and undermining this popular movement. The only way to overcome the power of those who control the levers of government is to united around the idea that together we can create a government of, by and for the People only by ending the power of corporations and the rich to choose who we have to pick from to represent us in Congress. 

There is evidence that there will be a mass movement to hold candidates for Congress accountable to the People by making them declare whether they will support a constitutional amendment to ban corporate campaign expenditures and limit individual donations to influence the outcome of elections. There is a parallel movement to accomplish the same by legislative changes to address corruption of government by monied interests, though many doubt that such an effort can succeed. Even if it does succeed in the short run, there is always the risk that a future Congress can be corrupted by the influence of the rich and powerful, while a constitutional amendment will ensure that future Congresses will not be able to hand the US government back to corporate interests.

Those who argue that we cannot reform government by working with politicians are missing the point: If we make support for a constitutional amendment the litmus test for candidates for Congress, we can and will elect a Congress that will put the interests of the People over those of the corporate interests that currently control it. This is the first step to electing a Congress that will work for peace through cutting the strings of those who manipulate US policy to wage endless war for corporate Empire while subjugating a population that is becoming increasingly aware of the threat this poses to its own freedom. 

If we keep in mind that 80% of both self-identified conservatives and liberals are opposed to Citizens United, citizens can unite to take back America for the People. The Pledge to Amend campaign is the way to join the Left and Right in the common cause of finally achieving democracy in America and the world. If we succeed the last, best hope for Mankind shall not perish from the Earth. Recent history has shown that democracy cannot be imposed at the point of a gun. If we come to understand that, there is yet hope that we can create it through the will of the People, using the democratic process that is at the heart of the freedoms for which so many have died.