Troublemakers are on the same page when it comes to rules. They don’t want to be bound by them. Of course, Not all troublemakers have the same degree of power. This post deals mainly with corporations. Corporations not wanting to be bound by rules may mean that they don’t want certain specific rules. Or it may mean that they want specific rules. Or it may mean that they don’t want any rules. But the bottom line is that they want total freedom to do whatever they want, regardless the trouble that it may cause for others, and they don’t intend to let rules in any way stand in their way. And that’s how capitalists – and that doesn’t mean absolutely every capitalist – in the neoliberal era we’re in roll. Capitalists have lots of freedom and power and the people have little freedom and power.
I found it interesting the way the Star carried two articles, together on it’s front page (Saturday, October 19, 2013), revealing that lopsided state of affairs so well. As I find often when I check to see whether there’s a convenient (for blogging purposes, which the Star wouldn’t support) online copy of an article that I see in their hard copy, I couldn’t find the one by Les Whittington and Bruce Campion-Smith titled “PM touts ‘biggest deal our country has ever made’.” The other article I’m talking about is by Diana Zlomislic and is titled “It’s a secret.” To keep us from communicating with each other about these things, the Star changed the title of the article online. The subject of Diana’s article is Big Pharma’s legal poison and our law and order government’s shielding of Big Pharma from repercussions for it’s negligence causing death and grief.
The other article, by Whittington and Campion-Smith deals with the usual free trade deal-making, behind closed doors, that corporatist political leaders enjoy doing. Which is fitting. The problem at the core of Zlomislic’s article is caused by the very free trade deal-making that Whittington and Campion-Smith here report on. Free trade deals have zilch, or almost zilch, to do with free trade. But the phrase ‘free trade’, the capitalists figured out long ago, sounds good. The people are supposed to imagine, if they’re willing to fool themselves (as they often are), that the the ‘free’ applies to them. Their businesses – run by their fellow citizens – are free and so they are free. They are free to live in a society that is free because it freely trades with other nations. Except that the freedom isn’t universal and the actual trade, as understood by regular people, doesn’t require the kind of power and freedom corporations give themselves. Free trade went on before we had the kind of free trade deals they ink today. The benefits from today’s free trade deals, in fact, go to a minority and it comes at the expense of the majority. Diana’s article gives us one example of how that’s so. Free trade deals are simply corporate charters of rights. They do not have anything to do with people’s wants and needs and everything to do with corporations wants and needs and how those can be extended and protected, no matter how that is done and no matter the consequences. And when the people try to have something to say about the free trade deals, and their contents, they get dismissed as out of touch and their proposed remedies ‘trade restrictive’ or ‘trade barriers’. – And since I yap about that a lot in my blog, and to others in person, I’m a yappy trade barrier.
It does occur to me that alongside the Star’s rat-like gatekeepers – those too free people scurrying around in various departments hindering, in any (small and large) way they can, the people whose political views are different than and opposite to their’s – may rub shoulders occasionally with others (white gatekeepers?) who find ways to aid the people and tweak the noses of elites and their tools. You have to wonder, and there’s no way to know, about the way those two articles, both dealing with powerful, uncaring special interests and their freedom to benefit at the expense of others, could appear together like that on the front page of a corporate-owned daily when it might help people like myself to argue against the unwarranted freedom enjoyed by corporations and the rich. The freedom enjoyed by powerful special interests goes hand in hand with secrecy, employed by the corporations who want to manage the blowback caused by their destructive behavior, allowed by their political partners who themselves employ secrecy in order to continue with their work of extending and protecting anti-people corporate power. Of course, The politicians call that sort of behavior ‘accountability’ and ‘transparency’.
An excerpt from Diana’s article follows, followed by an excerpt from Les and Bruce’s article:
Bruce McKenzie would like to know how a controversial acne drug suspected of killing his healthy teenage daughter this year has, in Health Canada’s words, “benefits” that “continue to outweigh the risks.”
But the report that could explain how the federal agency arrived at this conclusion is a secret. It’s one of more than 150 classified safety reviews completed by Health Canada this year alone.
“Safety information should not be confidential,” said Barbara Mintzes, an assistant professor with the Therapeutics Initiative, a research centre at the University of British Columbia that conducts systematic reviews of new drugs.
When finalized in about 18 months, the sweeping agreement will unlock the EU’s market of 500 million consumers to Canadian exporters, while for the first time giving Europe’s corporate giants the right to bid on local infrastructure projects in Toronto and other Canadian cities…
It will be months before Canadians even get to see the detailed text of the trade pact to judge for themselves. But already it is apparent there will be a price to pay for closer trade ties with Europe.
Harper admitted consumers may in time end up paying more for prescription drugs as a result of Ottawa’s agreement to Europe’s demand to provide additional patent protection on pharmaceuticals…
“It’s a corporate power grab,” said Scott Sinclair, senior research fellow at the Ottawa-based Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “It’s just to enhance the power of foreign investors on both sides of the Atlantic.” He said this is unnecessary since Canadian courts fully protect the rights of foreign businesses and investors.”
You can find a lack of balance in regard to individual articles and in a paper generally. With the Star, at least among those who write about politics and politicians, most of the writers are rightwing. The remainder are, if not radically leftwing, certainly okay with social democracy and it’s main features, namely social safety nets, equality (fair taxation, genuine legal checks on what corporations and bosses can do, protection for unions and the right to freely associate and for workers to collectively bargain with employers), a positive sort of nationalism (in which policies are meant to work for ‘all’ citizens and foreign policy does not involve making an enemy of other peoples) and governments that don’t do deficit terrorism but instead pursue full employment policies and sane regulation of corporations and the financial industry. My previous post, dealing with free trade, criticized the Star for it’s unbalanced reportage on free trade. It’s a well-deserved accusation.
I wouldn’t say that there’s more balance presented on the subject of CETA in this edition of the Star. There’s just more coverage of the deal. Only Thomas Walkom points out the egregious negatives in this pact, although Tim Harper, a rightwinger, does take issue with the secretiveness of the government in negotiating it. (I’ll post some excerpts from those articles below.) But don’t you just love Harper’s attitude? The way he disdains the Canadian people? I’m talking about the majority who were not allowed to look at and think about the rules being designed to impact their daily lives. Anyway, Harper wants to tell us, now that CETA is making the news (more), that very few Canadians are opposed to CETA when he’s made every effort to not discuss it with them. Hmm. The capitalists’ model is: ‘dominate, dictate and take’. The capitalists’ motto is: ‘Take what you get, whether you like it or not and even if it hurts you’. Our prime minister is certainly a capitalist.
CETA is bad. But just wait until the Trans Pacific Partnership lands. Imagine corporations having the power to kick whole families off of the internet for small violations of ‘their’ rules. And what happens when those violations are accidental? Oh well, All the good things that capitalists, through advertizers, tell us they want to give us and we should want are only meant for a minority of well off folks anyway. They just don’t mention that.
In the pre-dawn darkness of Ottawa, page after page of pro-free trade documentation dropped onto the desks of bleary-eyed journalists, a blitz of propaganda in both official languages that had kept government printers churning all night…
“This is not just a good deal, it is an excellent deal,” Harper said.
These two men might be right. But no one can say that definitively right now, certainly not those of us led by the nose through the morning paper avalanche, the government statements in the House of Commons or the tributes from the so-called “stakeholders” who sang the praises of market access from shrimp to pigs…
This was an agreement in principle, but there was no fine print…
But one had to wonder about the other “stakeholders,” the unsuspecting Canadian voters, who had this massive deal dumped on them in their laps even as the Conservative claimed these negotiations were the most “transparent and inclusive in Canada’s history.”
You might get an argument on that one on the iconic Queen streetcar.
I typed ‘Time Harper’ into the Toronto Star’s search engine and got ‘zero results’. Maybe Tim feels similarly about his paper, in regard to secrecy and transparency, even if he doesn’t say so in his paper. I also typed in ‘Chantal Hebért’ and got the same ‘zero results’. I was able to find Tim’s article, with a slightly different title. And I was able to find Chantal’s article, again, with a slightly different title.
This tentative Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) – if it is finalized – will secure Harper’s place in the history books…
It is a rare policy initiative whose scope justifies claiming credit for it from the political grave but this – like the initial Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the U.S. in the case of former prime minister Brian Mulroney – is one of them…
Trudeau’s father sought to lessen Canada’s economic dependence on the U.S. by aggressively pursuing alternative markets such as Europe as early as the 1970s. In sharp contrast with 1988, when the NDP had to share the anti-FTA vote with the Liberals, the New Democrats could – if they reject CETA – be the main receptacle for the votes of those who oppose it…
But the 1988 NDP could afford to ignore Quebec’s strong pro-free trade current. Today the province has become central to its fortunes.
“A deal that’s not really about trade” by Thomas Walkom
…CETA – like the North American Free Trade Agreement before it – is really concerned with investment, regulation and standards.
With some exceptions, it would give investors on either side the right to demand compensation from any government action that interferes with private profit.
How this would work in practice remains unclear. But it should be noted that a similar provision in NAFTA has been used successfully by U.S. companies to strike down Canadian laws.
Oddly enough, similar attempts by Canadian companies operating in the U.S. have never been successful.
Second, as with NAFTA, there will be unambiguous losers from this deal. The Canada-U.S. free trade arrangement wiped out entire industries in this country, ranging from furniture-making to light manufacturing – all in the midst of a gruelling recession.
The negative effects of CETA promise to be far less sweeping, since there is not much of the Canadian manufacturing industry left to destroy…
In its propaganda, Ottawa insists that the deal gives Canadians preferential access to to the massive EU market. And, for the time being, this is true. Cars deemed Canadian-made, for instance, will be able to enter the EU more easily than autos made in the U.S. But this state of affairs won’t last long. Washington is already in talks with the EU for its own free trade deal. Indeed, it seems Europe’s chief reason for pursuing a deal with Canada was to get in shape for negotiating the real prize: an arrangement with the U.S.