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“The Left Is So Wrong On Trade”: Playing A 78 rpm Record In The Age Of Digital Downloads

The left’s success in denying President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership is ugly to behold. The case put forth by a showboating Sen. Elizabeth Warren — that Obama cannot be trusted to make a deal in the interests of American workers — is almost worse than wrong. It is irrelevant.

The Senate Democrats who turned on Obama are playing a 78 rpm record in the age of digital downloads.

Did you hear their ally, AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka, the day after the Senate vote? He denounced TPP for being “patterned after CAFTA and NAFTA.” That’s not so, but never mind.

There’s this skip on the vinyl record that the North American Free Trade Agreement destroyed American manufacturing. To see how wrong that is, simply walk through any Walmart or Target and look for all those “made in Mexico” labels. You won’t find many. But you’ll see “made in China” everywhere.

Many of the jobs that did go to Mexico would have otherwise left for low-wage Asian countries. Even Mexico lost manufacturing work to China.

And what can you say about the close-to-insane obsession with CAFTA? The partners in the 2005 Central American Free Trade Agreement — five mostly impoverished Central American countries plus the Dominican Republic — had a combined economy equal to that of New Haven, Connecticut.

(By the way, less than 10 percent of the AFL-CIO’s membership is now in manufacturing.)

It’s undeniable that American manufacturing workers have suffered terrible job losses. We could never compete with pennies-an-hour wages. Those low-skilled jobs are not coming back. But we have other things to sell in the global marketplace.

In Washington state, for example, exports of everything from apples to airplanes have soared 40 percent over four years, to total nearly $91 billion in 2014, according to The Seattle Times. About 2 in 5 jobs there are now tied to trade.

Small wonder that Sen. Ron Wyden, a liberal Democrat from neighboring Oregon, has strongly supported fast-track authority.

Some liberals oddly complain that American efforts to strengthen intellectual property laws in trade deals protect the profits of U.S. entertainment and tech companies. What’s wrong with that? Should the fruits of America’s creativity (that’s labor, too) be open to plundering and piracy?

One of TPP’s main goals is to help the higher-wage partners compete with China. (The 12 countries taking part include the likes of Japan, Australia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and New Zealand.) In any case, Congress would get to vote the finished product up or down, so it isn’t as if the public wouldn’t get a say.

But then we have Warren stating with a straight face that handing negotiating authority to Obama would “give Republicans the very tool they need to dismantle Dodd-Frank.”

Huh? Obama swatted down the remark as wild, hypothetical speculation, noting he engaged in a “massive” fight with Wall Street to get the reforms passed. “And then I sign a provision that would unravel it?” he told political writer Matt Bai.

“This is not a partisan issue,” Warren insisted. Yes, in a twisted way, the hard left’s fixation over big corporations has joined the right’s determination to undermine Obama at every pass.

Trade agreements have a thousand moving parts. The U.S. can’t negotiate with the other countries if various domestic interests are pouncing on the details. That’s why every president has been given fast-track authority over the past 80 years or so.

Except Obama.

It sure is hard to be an intelligent leader in this country.


By: Froma Harrop, Loeb Award Finalist for Economic Commentary in 2004 and 2011, Scripps Howard Award Finalist for Commentary in 2010; The National Memo, May 14, 2015

May 15, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Fast Track Authority, Trans Pacific Partnership | , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Hardline Except For “Lucrative Investments”: Mitt Romney Profiting Off Chinese Surveillance

In a Wall Street Journal oped last month, Mitt Romney laid out “how I’ll respond to a China’s rising power” and criticized the Obama administration’s handling of relations with Beijing. Romney warns of a China as a regional hegemon:

The character of the Chinese government — one that marries aspects of the free market with suppression of political and personal freedom — would become a widespread and disquieting norm.

In the op-ed, the former Massachusetts governor also criticized Obama for failing to press Beijing on human rights and intellectual property violations.

While Romney is quick to criticize Beijing and the White House’s management of U.S.-China relations, an examination of the GOP frontrunner’s investments with Bain Capital — a company he co-founded and once led — suggest he has profited from Chinese surveillance of its own citizenry and from companies that have engaged in intellectual property theft.

The New York Times revealed yesterday that a Bain-run fund in which a Romney family blind trust had holdings purchased Uniview Technologies in December, a Chinese company that claims to be the biggest supplier of surveillance cameras to the Chinese government. Uniview produces “infrared antiriot” cameras and software that allow police to share images in real time and provided technology for an emergency command center in Tibet that “provides a solid foundation for the maintenance of social stability and the protection of people’s peaceful life,” according to Uniview’s Web site.

Human rights advocates say that the rapidly growing number of surveillance cameras in Chinese cities are used to intimidate political and religious activists. “There are video cameras all over our monastery, and their only purpose is to make us feel fear,” Loksag, a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Gansu Province told the Times. He said the cameras helped the authorities identify and detain nearly 200 monks who participated in a protest at his monastery in 2008.

Romney has said he has no role in Bain’s operations but a financial disclosure form filed last August showed that his wife, Ann Romney, held a $100,000 to $250,000 investment in the Bain Capital Asia Fund that purchased Uniview.

In his Wall Street Journal op-ed, Romney wrote, “In the economic arena, we must directly counter abusive Chinese practices in the areas of trade, intellectual property, and currency valuation.”

But Romney’s apparent hypocrisy between his hardline positions on China and his lucrative investment portfolio is on show once again with Bain Capital’s investment in Chinese YouTube competitor Youku. CBS Marketwatch co-founder Bill Bishop writes on his blog, Sinocism, that Romney’s talk of pressing Beijing to better enforce intellectual property rights is in direct contradiction with Bain Capital’s early investment in Youku, a “pirate’s den of copyright infringement” in the site’s early days. A Bain Capital VP now sits on the board of Youku and Youku has reportedly cracked down on copyright violating content. Its newly acquired partner, Tudou, still hosts a variety of pirated and copyright infringing videos.

But if Romney profited from Bain’s ties to Youku and Uniview Technologies, it’s worth examining how the GOP frontrunner’s tough-talk on China can happily coexist with Bain’s investments in companies that have constructed business models around Chinese human rights abuses and intellectual property theft.


By: Eli Clifton, Think Progress, March 16, 2012

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Proposed “Anti-piracy” Legislation Dangerous And Unconstitutional

The proposed “anti-piracy” legislation is dangerous and unconstitutional. Congress is contemplating two bills that proponents insist will shut down “rogue foreign websites” bent on wholesale intellectual property infringement. In reality, these bills won’t do much to curb online piracy. What they will do is balkanize the Internet, undermine Internet security, and introduce a new, unconstitutional scheme of speech regulation.

Both the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), would empower the attorney general to create a blacklist of sites to be blocked by Internet service providers, search engines, payment providers, and advertising networks. In other words, U.S. citizens would have access to an Internet that looks distinctly different from the one seen by residents of, say, Japan or Australia.

Leading constitutional scholars have explained why this blunderbuss approach won’t pass muster under the First Amendment. Leading Internet engineers oppose the legislation because it will undermine international efforts to shore up online security—efforts the U.S. government has actively supported. A broad coalition of human rights groups has also come out against the legislation, well aware of the contradictory message it sends about online censorship.

We’ve seen where this can lead: Over the past year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been obtaining court orders authorizing the seizure of domain names. The seizures are supposed to be directed at infringing sites, but perfectly legal sites have been caught in the net. And when those legal sites have tried to get their property back, they’ve been met with delays and obfuscation. For example, when the founder of a popular music blog tried to follow the government’s bewildering procedure for retrieving his domain names, the government abused the process, seeking secret extensions and declining to cooperate with the blogger to get the matter resolved. Finally, the government dropped the case, with no apologies.

But it gets worse: Private actors can also get in on the act. If an intellectual property rightsholder thinks a site is “promoting” infringement, that party can go to court to seek an order forcing payment processors and ad services to choke off financial support to the site.

The payment providers won’t be able to fine-tune their response so that only infringing sites are affected, which means an entire business could be under assault. Moreover, there are vigilante provisions that can easily be read to grant immunity for cutting off a site if there is “credible evidence” that the site promotes infringement.

For over a decade, we’ve had a system in place that gives rightsholders effective tools for fighting online infringement, while creating space for online innovation, economic growth, and creativity. These bills would rewrite the rules and give government and big content providers new powers to regulate the Internet, with little regard for the collateral damage it would cause.

SOPA and PIPA have sparked an explosion of opposition, including Democratic and Republican lawmakers, progressive and conservative public interest groups, technology companies and investors, constitutional scholars, and human rights groups (who know a plan for censorship when they see one). It’s been called a “geek lobby,” but you don’t need to be a geek to see that this legislation is a profoundly bad idea.


By: Corynne McSherry, Published in U. S. News and World Report, December 21, 2011

December 22, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Constitution | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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