Thursday, June 30, 2005
CAFTA Vote in Senate Could Be Today!
Senate Panel Narrowly Endorses CAFTA
By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jun 29, 5:08 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Senate supporters of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, a market-opening deal with six Latin American nations, predicted victory Wednesday after it was endorsed by a crucial committee.
President Bush and his top trade officials have lobbied hard for CAFTA, but it has drawn tenacious opposition from lawmakers who believe their states would be hurt.
A Senate vote could come as early as Thursday.
The greater hurdle will come when the House takes up the measure next month. House Democrats who object to what they say are weak labor rights provisions in the agreement will be joined in opposition by Republicans with ties to groups, most notably the sugar industry, that contend they will be hurt by CAFTA.
Earlier Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee gave its approval on a voice vote to the agreement signed a year ago with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
"Step by step, we're making good progress and building momentum for its successful passage," said U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman, who has led the effort to sway undecided lawmakers.
He picked up a key vote Wednesday when Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., a Finance Committee member, announced his support after receiving a pledge from Portman of increased spending to protect Central American workers and farmers.
Portman, in a letter to Bingaman, said the administration was committed to spending $160 million over four years to promote labor and environmental laws, as well as $150 million over five years to help subsistence farmers in three Central American countries who might be displaced by an increase in U.S. agriculture imports.
The Bush administration has so far succeeded in enacting free trade agreements with Singapore, Chile, Australia and Morocco, but the CAFTA deal has been far more difficult, mainly because of near-united Democratic opposition. Democrats say provisions on labor rights are weak and will lead to a continuation of abuses such as child labor and crackdowns on organized labor.
They also say trade deals, such as the 1994 accord with Mexico and Canada, have exacerbated the U.S. trade deficit and the flight of U.S. jobs overseas.
Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who has led the opposition in the House, predicted that in the Senate "CAFTA will pass with the lowest margin of any trade agreement in the modern era. With the real fight in the House, the deal is anything but done."
CAFTA would end trade barriers now encountered by U.S. goods in the six countries, which already enjoy open access to the U.S. market. It also would clarify investment rules, strengthen protections for intellectual property and, according to supporters, solidify economic and democratic stability in a region that has been wracked by civil wars in the recent past.
"There is a geopolitical component to CAFTA," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. Some fragile democracies in Central America, he said, "are teetering on the edge of continuing to support the United States."
Portman and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns have also been meeting this week with lawmakers from sugar-growing states and representatives of the sugar industry in an attempt to mollify their fears that increased imports from CAFTA countries, while small, would open the way for a foreign onslaught on the industry.
Two senators who had previously criticized the agreement, Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said Wednesday the administration concessions to protect the industry were enough to win their votes. Those included a pilot program to determine whether a sugar-based ethanol initiative is feasible.
Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., whose state is a big sugar beet grower, said Wednesday he voted against the agreement in the Finance Committee because attempts to broker a deal with the industry had not succeeded. He chided the administration for not moving sooner to find a solution.
The top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Max Baucus of sugar beet-growing Montana, opposes CAFTA, breaking with his usual support of trade agreements.
In addition to saying that the agreement was bad for the sugar industry, he criticized the administration for not consulting more with Congress and for rejecting a proposal to help U.S. service industry workers who lose their jobs because of foreign competition.
"They appear to want to win by the thinnest of margins," Baucus said.
On the Net:
U.S. Trade Representative: http://www.ustr.gov/
CAFTA: More Federal Government Dishonesty!
AP: U.S. Blocked Release of CAFTA Reports
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer Wed Jun 29, 9:13 AM ET
WASHINGTON - The Labor Department kept secret for more than a year government studies that supported Democratic opponents of the Bush administration's new Central American trade deal, internal documents show.
The studies, paid for by the department, concluded that several countries the administration wants to be granted free-trade status have poor working conditions and fail to protect workers' rights. The agency dismissed the conclusions as inaccurate and biased, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
"In practice, labor laws on the books in Central America are not sufficient to deter employers from violations, as actual sanctions for violations of the law are weak or nonexistent," the contractor, the International Labor Rights Fund, wrote in one of the reports.
The studies' conclusions contrast with the administration's arguments that Central American countries have made enough progress on such issues to warrant a free-trade deal with the United States.
The administration and its congressional supporters argue that the elimination of trade barriers for U.S. products would open new Central American markets for U.S. farmers and manufacturers. Critics argue the trade agreement would allow serious labor violations to continue in Central America.
Hoping to lure enough Democratic votes to win passages, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman earlier this month promised to spend money and arrange an international conference to ensure "the best agreement ever negotiated by the United States on labor rights."
But behind the scenes, the administration began as early as spring 2004 to block the reports' public release.
The Labor Department instructed its contractor to remove the reports from its Web site, ordered it to retrieve paper copies before they became public, banned release of new information from the reports, and even told the contractor it couldn't discuss the studies with outsiders.
The Labor Department has now worked out a deal with the contractor that will allow the labor rights group to release the country-by-country final reports — provided there's no mention of the agency or federal funding. At the same time, the administration began a pre-emptive campaign to undercut the study's conclusions.
Used as talking points by trade-pact supporters, a Labor Department document accuses the contractor of writing a report filled with "unsubstantiated" statements and "biased attacks, not the facts."
The contractor's deputy director, Bama Athreya, blamed U.S. Trade Representative officials for circulating the document and citing passages that won't be included in the final versions of the reports.
One lawmaker said he was shocked that a federal agency charged with protecting the rights of Americans workers would go to such lengths to block the public from seeing its own contractor's concerns before Congress votes on the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
"You would think if any agency in our government would care about this, it would be the Labor Department," Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said.
Dorgan said he would use the contractor findings in an attempt to defeat the agreement, known as CAFTA.
Dirk Fillpot, spokesman for the Labor Department's Bureau of International Labor Affairs, said the agency and an independent evaluator concluded the contractor "failed to meet the academic rigor expected to fulfill its contract" and the relationship was terminated June 10.
The competitively bid contract totaled $937,000, but Fillpot said $250,000 will be refunded to the Treasury.
Rep. Kevin Brady, who supports the trade agreement, said he is familiar with drafts of the reports and believes they will be "widely dismissed as a fraud." He accused the contractor of producing "a propaganda piece" and concealing "its rabid anti-CAFTA bias."
Athreya, the contractor official, has testified in Congress against the agreement.
The documents show the studies came within a whisker of widespread release in March 2004, when the labor-rights group posted them briefly on its Internet site.
The Labor Department quickly and successfully demanded the reports be removed on grounds they weren't approved by the agency. Officials also demanded the group retrieve a limited number of paper copies that were distributed at a hearing of a Latin American human rights body.
Shortly after that incident, Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., began a yearlong effort to pry the studies from the department through a Freedom of Information Act request. The department rejected his request until two months ago, when Levin received — and released — early drafts of the reports.
The Trade Representative's spokesman, Richard Mills, said trade officials referred to the Labor Department's critical document after receiving inquiries about the studies.
"From our perspective, nothing has changed. It's a great agreement that will improve labor conditions in Central America," Mills said.
On the net:
Read related documents at http://wid.ap.org/documents/cafta/index.html
International Labor Rights Fund: http://www.laborrights.org/
Department of Labor: http://www.dol.gov/
Capitol Hill Is Responding on Eminent Domain
Pols Seek to Tighten Eminent Domain Rules
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Supreme Court to Tackle Property Rights
WASHINGTON — Reaction continues to reverberate on Capitol Hill in response to the Supreme Court's ruling that local governments may take private property for private economic development that could benefit the community as a whole.
Lawmakers are considering a new legislative effort to curb some of the effects of that decision.
In a ruling handed down last week, the high court decided that Susette Kelo's home could be seized by the state of Connecticut under the 5th Amendment's "takings clause," which allows the government to seize any private property if it's for "public use" and the landowner receives "fair compensation."
Historically, the government has used that power, commonly referred to as "eminent domain," to acquire land for things like railroads, highways and public hospitals.
But the city of New London wants Kelo's home and a handful of others for a riverfront shopping center and condominiums.
Similar projects are happening in other places, too. The city of St. Louis, Mo., is trying to force 79-year-old Reba Thompson out of her family home to make way for a $40 million shopping center.
In the case decided last week, Kelo argued these business projects don't amount to "public use," but the high court in an opinion authored by Justice John Paul Stevens (search) disagreed, finding the goal of "economic development" can justify these seizures.
"For people that believe in private property, this is a nightmare," said George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley.
Four members of the U.S. Supreme Court said the ruling flies in the face of "basic limitations on government power," and the ruling outraged private landowners, prompting cries for legislation to protect them. On Monday, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, obliged.
"This power to seize homes, small businesses, and other private property should be reserved only for true public uses. Most importantly, the power of eminent domain should not be used simply to further private economic development," Cornyn said in introducing legislation.
The high court did acknowledge that states are welcome to set tougher standards for government takings than the baseline in the Constitution, emphasizing that "nothing in our opinion precludes any state from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power."
Cornyn's bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., does attempt to encourage states to pass comparable laws if they haven't already done so. A similar bill was introduced in the House on Tuesday by Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont.
But Turley and others question whether Cornyn's bill, purporting to change the federal law, will really do any good.
"The vast majority of these cases involve local and state officials. They're not federal questions, and Congress cannot restrict the use of eminent domain on a local level," he said.
Midweek Update on CAFTA
Celebrate the Fourth by Helping to Preserve American Independence!
Your help is urgently needed to convince a majority in the House of Representatives to vote NO on CAFTA.
Here is the situation:
* Today (June 29) the Senate Finance Committee voted to send the CAFTA agreement to the full Senate for a vote. The Senate is expected to vote in favor of CAFTA yet this week. However, the House is not expected to vote on CAFTA until after Congress reconvenes on July 11th. The House vote is expected to be very close.
* So, based on time left to work and the expected closeness of the vote, please focus your STOP CAFTA! efforts on your representative.
* Republican party leaders and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) are trying to mislead congressman into thinking CAFTA has no impact on U.S. independence. In fact, the Office of the USTR has very recently released a CAFTA Policy Brief, "CAFTA Does Not Undermine U.S. Sovereignty." (PDF)
* However, the truth is that CAFTA would seriously undermine U.S. sovereignty. STOPCAFTA.com has just posted a new analysis of the CAFTA agreement, "CAFTA's Threats to U.S. Independence," with five important ways that CAFTA threatens U.S. independence based on direct quotes from the CAFTA agreement.
Please help preserve American independence by:
* Confronting your congressman and/or his staff with the "CAFTA's Threats to U.S. Independence" document and challenging him or his staff to read the agreement, especially the passages quoted in the "CAFTA's Threats" document. Tell him that you are strongly opposed to CAFTA based on its serious threats to American independence, and that you would very much appreciate his help in upholding our nation's independence by voting NO on CAFTA. A new online letter to Congress against CAFTA based on the "CAFTA's Threats" document is now available.
* Mobilizing your networks of influence immediately to multiply your efforts to convince your congressman to vote NO on CAFTA. Forward this email alert to inspire them to help.
* You should also contact state legislators, businessmen, professionals, and local government officials. Passage of CAFTA would negatively impact them all.
This truly is the best chance in a long time for demolishing a key building block in the globalists' house of world order, and thereby building momentum for our long-term campaign to preserve our country's precious independence!
"We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States...."
- Declaration of Independence, 1776
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Delicious Irony - If It Works
WHAT COMES AROUND GOES AROUND
June 29, 2005
Last week's Kelo vs. New London, Connecticut decision in which the Supreme Court decided it was just fine and dandy for the government to steal your property was supported by Justice David Souter. Four days later the CEO of a pro-liberty organization decided he wanted to build a hotel.
The hotel he wants to build will be at 34 Cilley Hill Road in Weare, New Hampshire. He faxed the paperwork to the town to get the ball rolling. Who lives at that address? Yup...you guessed it...United States Supreme Court Associate Justice David Hackett Souter. So is this all a joke?
Nope...the group who wants to take Souter's house intends to get the investors together to build the hotel. Since the hotel will surely generate many more taxpayer dollars than Souter is paying, it therefore meets the requirements of the Supreme Court majority, including Souter, in deciding that "public use" is the same thing as being in the economic interest of the public.
So, will Souter fight the attempt to take his house under the eminent domain provision? Surely if he practices what he preaches, he will gladly hand over his property to the local government in exchange for whatever price they decide. All for the public good, you know.
Oh..and the name they've decided on for the hotel? It's going to be called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" and will feature the "Just Desserts Café." Good one!
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Eminent Domain Injustice
I have now written to both my state senators and our 4th District representative in Congress to propose a Property Rights Restoration Act of 2005. It is true that Kelo leaves states the option of restricting the use of eminent domain to its Constitutional use. Unfortunately, too many of those in power in state and local governments are already in the back pockets of wealthies, including well-connected developers. So in this writer's judgment, this opening leaves too much to chance. It is a legitimate function of the Federal Government to protect private property rights. Let us see the Feds do something right for a change.
I expect, however, that with the grass roots anger this decision has aroused--from its obvious reverse Robin Hood aspect of the moral equivalent of stealing from the less-well-off to give to the wealthy and well-connected, that we can expect renewed attacks on Second Amendment rights whose ultimate sources are this society's various power elites.
Questions (to anyone who wishes to email me a private email@example.com): would you take up a firearm in an effort to prevent your private property from being forcibly taken? Would you join others in a community effort to do so? Would you then voluntarily lay down your firearm when the feds' guns are trained on you, interested in preserving your life and possibly to become a political prisoner but having proven your point for all who care to see that our present system is no less based on the threat of deadly force than any other governmental system that has ever existed on this planet?
Eminent Injustice in New London
June 27, 2005
I reached Mike Cristofaro on Thursday afternoon, a few hours after the Supreme Court ruled that local governments can seize people’s property by eminent domain and turn it over to private developers. The court’s 5-4 decision was a defeat for seven New London, Conn., property owners, who have resisted the city’s plan to demolish their homes to make way for offices, upscale condos, and a waterfront hotel. Mike’s 79-year-old father, Pasquale Cristofaro, is one of those homeowners, and I wondered how he had taken the news.
“I haven’t told my father yet,” Mike said. “I don’t know what to say. You want to help me break it to him?”
I first met the Cristofaros in July 2001. The homeowners' lawsuit against the city was going to trial, and I'd come to New London to talk to some of the plaintiffs and see their homes in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood for myself. As Mike and I walked to his parents’ home on Goshen Street, he recalled how they had learned that the city intended to force them from their property. On the day before Thanksgiving, a sheriff’s deputy had shown up at their front door with condemnation papers, and ordered them to be out by March. The news came as such a shock that Mike’s mother Margerita began having heart palpitations and had to be taken to the hospital. (She passed away in 2003).
For 27 years, Pasquale had been a loyal city employee. But no one from the New London Development Corp. -- the agency charged with transforming the area into a fashionable complement to the big research headquarters Pfizer was building nearby -- ever came to talk with the Cristofaros about the city’s interest in their property. No one from City Hall asked the elderly couple if there was anything that might make a relocation less traumatic. Like the other homeowners, they were told just one thing: Sell now, or be forced out.
“These people don’t have no respect,” Pasquale, who immigrated from Italy in 1962, told me that day. “You supposed to go like gentlemen -- make me a price, ask me a Yes or No. I love this house. I pay my bill, I pay the tax. And now they say I should get out? It’s not right. It’s not right.”
No, it’s not right. But five Supreme Court justices have just said it’s constitutional.
In effect, the majority in Kelo v. New London held that the words “public use” in the Fifth Amendment -- “nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation” -- can mean wholly private use, so long as the government expects it to yield some incidental public benefit -- more tax revenue, new jobs, “maybe even aesthetic pleasure,” as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in a dissent joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Would your town’s tax base grow if your home were bulldozed and replaced with a parking garage? If so, it may not be your home for long.
As a result of this evisceration of the Public Use Clause, “the specter of condemnation hangs over all property," the dissenters warn. "Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.”
In truth, though, it isn't *all* property that is at risk. If "public use" now means the government can evict a property owner so that a new owner can use the land to make more money, it is clear who will suffer most. "The fallout from this decision will not be random," O'Connor wrote sadly. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. . . . The government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more."
In a separate dissent, Thomas made the same point: "These losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities . . . the least politically powerful." Fifty years of eminent domain statistics drive home the fact that families uprooted by eminent domain tend to be nonwhite and/or nonwealthy. No wonder urban renewal came to known bitterly as "Negro removal."
"These five justices," Mike Cristofaro told me, "I hope someone looks at their property and says, 'You know, we could put that land to better use -- why don't we get the town to take it from them by eminent domain.' Then maybe they would understand what they're putting my father through."
That won't happen. It isn't the high and mighty on whom avaricious governments and developers prey. Justices John Paul Stevens, Steven Breyer, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Anthony Kennedy are responsible for this execrable decision, which shreds what little was left of the principle that a man's home is his castle. But they'll never have to live with its consequences.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Last Chance to Stop CAFTA Rapidly Approaching!!
This Is Your Chance to Score a Major Victory for American Independence by Stopping CAFTA!
Email Alert from STOPCAFTA.com, June 24, 2005
The administration is pushing for a vote on CAFTA by the Senate as early as next week, expecting to get a vote of approval that would put pressure on the House to approve CAFTA soon after it reconvenes the week of July 11th. Please activate your circle of influence now. This really is our best chance in a long time to set back the globalists' plans to destroy our nation's independence and our personal freedom under the Constitution. This is a battle for freedom that we can win!
This Is It!
Bush Sends CAFTA to Congress (The clock for an up-or-down vote has started!)
The situation is this:
* The Bush administration's game plan for creating an EU-type FTAA hinges on congressional approval of CAFTA.
* Since establishment of the FTAA would spell the end of U.S. independence and constitutional protections of our God-given rights, CAFTA must be defeated.
* The administration is pushing for a vote on CAFTA by the Senate as early as next week, expecting to get a vote of approval that would put pressure on the House to approve CAFTA soon after it reconvenes the week of July 11th.
* The pro-CAFTA forces are competing for "our" votes, so we have to compete for "their" votes while working to stiffen resistance among "our" votes. The pro-CAFTA forces are offering whatever it takes to pressure wavering congressmen into supporting CAFTA. But we can win if we work seriously to build some new constituent pressure.
* Since the pro- and anti-CAFTA votes in Congress are fairly evenly divided, how each and every senator and representative votes is critical.
* Your success in winning over your congressmen to vote NO on CAFTA, or in convincing your congressmen to remain in the anti-CAFTA camp, could be decisive for defeating CAFTA and delivering a major defeat to the globalist forces behind the administration's phony "free-trade" agenda.
The key to convincing your senators and representative to vote NO on CAFTA is to persuade others in your circle of influence to join you in contacting your senators and representative in vigorous opposition to CAFTA. Although both senators and representatives should be contacted, focus your most strenuous efforts on your representative. The House vote promises to be a cliffhanger.
How you can help:
* Activate immediately those in your circle of influence who will contact Congress in opposition to CAFTA based on your say so. You can offer them a link to our STOP CAFTA! website (STOPCAFTA.com) and our online letter to Congress against CAFTA.
* Use the following tools to persuade the remainder of your circle of influence to contact Congress: Our STOP CAFTA! website (STOPCAFTA.com); Will Grigg's hard-hitting, five-minute, STOP CAFTA! video clip; Will Grigg's article, "CAFTA: Exporting American Jobs and Industry"; and our online letter to Congress against CAFTA.
* Emphasize that we cannot be satisfied with mere routine contacts with Congress -- we're talking about sufficient pressure to ensure a NO vote!
* As time and resources permit, write letters to the editor (use Will Grigg's CAFTA article for talking points) encouraging readers to contact their congressmen in opposition to CAFTA and arrange for airing our 30-second STOP CAFTA! radio ads (downloadable under "Resources" on STOPCAFTA.com).
Please activate your circle of influence now!
This really is our best chance in a long time to set back the globalists' plans to destroy our nation's independence and our personal freedom under the Constitution.
This is a battle for freedom that we can win!
Eminent Domain Again
Boortz, from today's Neal's Nooze (or whatever he calls it):
Friday -- June 24, 2005
THE END OF PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS
I cannot remember being more dismayed at a court ruling, and this includes the occasional ruling against me when I was practicing law. What ruling? Just in case you don't already know, the United States Supreme Court yesterday issued a ruling that goes a long way toward destroying private property rights in this country. [full text of ruling]
Background. The Fifth Amendment to our Constitution restricts the government's right of eminent domain. It does not, as I heard so many commentators say yesterday, grant a right of eminent domain, it restricts it. The right of eminent domain was assumed as a basic part of English Common Law. The Fifth Amendment merely said that government could not exercise this right for a public use without paying for it. The exact working is "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."
For hundreds of years the term "public use" was interpreted to mean use for something like a school, library, police or fire station, power transmission lines, roads, bridges or some other facility owned and operated by government for the benefit of the general population. As politicians became more and more impressed with their own power they started to expand this definition of public use.
The new theory is that increasing the property taxes paid on a parcel of property is a public use. Increasing the number of people who can be employed by a business located on a particular piece of property can also be a public use. This would mean that government would be free to seize private property if it can be handed to a developer who will redevelop the property so as to increase the property taxes paid or the number of people employed. This is the theory that was validated by the Supreme Court yesterday in its ruling approving just such a private property seizure in New London, Connecticut. As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said in her dissent, this decision renders virtually all private property vulnerable to government confiscation.
Bottom line: If you own property, and the government wants that property --- you're screwed. You now own your private property only at the pleasure of government; and that means that you own your property, be it your home, your business or a piece of investment real estate only at the pleasure of the local controlling politicians.
Let me give you a few real-life examples of just how politicians can now use this Supreme Court decision. In considering these examples, please remember one of the first rules of politics: There is absolutely no limit whatsoever to a politician's desire for more tax money to spend.
First let's consider our lovely Southern Belle producer Belinda. Belinda and her husband recently purchased a tract of land behind her new home. That tract of land contains one rather small and old house plus some empty acreage. Belinda will rent the home for just enough to cover her debt service and property taxes on the new purchase ... maybe. Now, here comes a developer. He wants Belinda's land because he can build at least three, maybe four new homes on that property. Belinda says no. She likes not having houses abutting her back yard and appreciates the investment value of the land she has purchased. So .. the developer wanders off to the Capitol to talk to some politicians. He tells them that he can increase the property being paid on that tract of land tenfold if he could just get in there and build some houses, but the owners just won't sell the property to him. Under this Supreme court ruling the city can just seize the property from Belinda and hand it over to the developer to build those homes. Belinda has no way to stop this action. The city will have to pay Belinda "just compensation," but that compensation will never match what Belinda might have earned by selling the property herself. Besides ... she didn't want to sell in the first place. It was her property, and she wanted to keep it. Now it can be taken ... just like that.
Another example. This time we'll use me. About two years ago I brought a building lot in the Northeast Georgia mountains. It's a lot in a mountain resort community. Before I bought the lot I made sure that there were no covenants or regulations that would require me to build a home on that lot before I was ready to do so. At present it is not my intention to build a home. I bought the lot as an investment. Now, since there is no home as of yet the property taxes are rather low. Along comes a developer. He wants to build a home on my lot. I tell him the lot is not for sale. He waltzes off to the local county commission to complain. He wants to build a house, I won't sell him the land. If he could build the house the property taxes would jump on that parcel of land. The county commission then sends me a letter telling me that if I don't sell my land to that developer to build that home they are going to seize the land and turn it over. Thanks to the Supreme Court, I'm screwed.
Now take the situation in New London. This is the case the court was considering. The targeted neighborhood is populated by middle class residents. The homes are old, but very well kept. One couple now slated to have their property seized is in their 80's. They celebrated their wedding in that home. They raised their children in that home. They held their 50th wedding anniversary party in that home. Now they're going to lose that home because a developer wants the property to build a hotel, some office buildings and a work out center. This is America. This shouldn't happen in America. That couple shouldn't be kicked out of their home just because a new development would pay more in property taxes.
There are also small businesses located on this tract of land. They're history. The big boys are in town, and the big boys can use eminent domain to get your property.
No society ostensibly based on economic liberty can survive unless that society recognizes the right to property. The right to property has been all but crippled by this decision from the Supreme Court. That right is now subject to the whims of politicians and developers.
I'm not through ranting. Read on.
Considering this ruling, how likely are you to invest in real estate at this point? If you saw a tract of land that was placed squarely in the path of growth, would you buy that property in hopes that you could later sell it for a substantial profit? I wouldn't. I wouldn't be interesting in investing in that property because I know that when it came time to sell, the potential purchaser would lowball me on the price. I would never get a true market value based on the highest and best use of that property. And why not? Because the developer wanting that property would simply tell me that if I didn't accept his lowball offer he would just go to the local government and start the eminent domain process. This ruling also means that virtually every piece of raw land out there has decreased in value. The threat of eminent domain for private economic development has severely damaged in most cases, and destroyed in many others, the American dream of investing in real estate.
Another element of the New London case. These middle class homes and small businesses were located on a waterfront. Everybody knows that middle class people and small businesses have no right to live on prime waterfront property. This property should be reserved for expensive homes and for big businesses with powerful political connections .. businesses like Pfizer Pharmaceutical company. Pfizer will be one of the beneficiaries of the New London seizures. This hideous Supreme Court ruling is going to result in a disgusting orgy of wealthy developers and politically powerful business interests using their political connections to ride roughshod over the property rights of poor and middle class property owners. I doubt seriously that you'll ever hear of some politician invoking eminent domain to seize property from a wealthy individual or business to make way for a low income housing project.
There's another element I want to add to this rant. I believe this Supreme Court decision to be a victory for the dark side in the war against individualism. Sadly, sometimes I think that I'm the only one out there who realizes that this war is being fought ... the only one on the side of individuality, that is. How in the world can leftist icon Ted Kennedy make say that "we are engaged in a war against individuality" without at least a few people in the media asking him what in the world he's talking about?
The concept of individuality is a very troublesome one for liberals. Recognizing the concept of the individual brings with it a whole lot of baggage that liberals don't want to carry around. When you acknowledge the existence of the individual you then have to recognize that the individual has rights. Among those rights would be the right to property. Liberals aren't friendly with the idea of property rights. They're fond of chanting such absurdities as "human rights, not property rights." Well, truthfully speaking; property has no rights. People have the right to property .. and those rights have been severely damaged.
Now ... is there a bright side? Is there anything good in the ruling? Yes, there is, and this is where you come in. Even though the Supremes approved these government confiscations of private property, the five justices who voted with the majority did say that they didn't like it. They encouraged local jurisdictions to pass laws severely restricting these seizures. There are eight states in the nation where the use of eminent domain for private development is all but prohibited by law. Those states are Washington, Montana, Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas, Maine, South Carolina and Florida. If your state is not on this list, it's time for a little political activism. Start the movement now. Let your legislators know that you want your private property rights restored, and that your decisions on election day will be governed by their willingness to act to preserve your rights.
The Supreme Court decision is a horrible blow to private property rights. Whether or not it is a death-blow will be up to you.
What can you do? Visit Institute For Justice & the Castle Coalition. There is also a blog that focuses on eminent domain issues.
Friday, June 24, 2005
Another Really Horrible Supreme Court Decision!
High court OKs personal property seizures
Majority: Local officials know how best to help cities
Thursday, June 23, 2005; Posted: 10:50 a.m. EDT (14:50 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- -- The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses -- even against their will -- for private economic development.
It was a decision fraught with huge implications for a country with many areas, particularly the rapidly growing urban and suburban areas, facing countervailing pressures of development and property ownership rights.
The 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.
As a result, cities have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes to generate tax revenue.
Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.
"The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but by no means limited to -- new jobs and increased tax revenue," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.
He was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.
At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use."
Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Connecticut, filed suit after city officials announced plans to raze their homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices.
New London officials countered that the private development plans served a public purpose of boosting economic growth that outweighed the homeowners' property rights, even if the area wasn't blighted.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a key swing vote on many cases before the court, issued a stinging dissent. She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.
The lower courts had been divided on the issue, with many allowing a taking only if it eliminates blight.
"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," O'Connor wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."
She was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
A Week of Links: Agenda 21, Real ID, Skinner Box, CAFTA, More
Newcomer Nancy Levant offers a stark look at life in America according to Sustainable Development (Agenda 21).
Another item from Nancy Levant, showing how Real ID and the Patriot Act will undermine what is left of individual liberty in America if real Americans do not get up off their duffs and do something while it is still possible in principle to criticize the government without being arrested and thrown in jail.
Newcomer Phillip Collins discusses the encroaching police state in light of B.F. Skinner's well-funded "technology of behavior," well-funded, that is, by the Human Ecology Fund assembled in 1955 by the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, controlled by the CIA to pursue the behavioral sciences for the purposes of learning more about how to control human beings.
Ron Paul on the United Nations. Don't reform it, because it is an illegitimate organization anyway. Get the U.S. out; then get rid of it--permanently!
The Bush Administration is still pushing for CAFTA! (For this one the link didn't work, so here is the complete article courtesy of Joan Masters. Sue me.)
For CAFTA, Party Pressure and Pork
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 22, 2005; D01
Earlier this month, at a closed-door meeting of Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) was blunt: Any Democrat who votes for the Central American Free Trade Agreement will allow an embattled Republican to squirm off the hook and vote no. A vote for CAFTA, she said, was a vote to keep the GOP in the majority.
It was a speech that was tough enough to make the party's free-traders cringe, said Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), but both parties are treating the coming showdown over CAFTA like a political donnybrook. Democratic leaders are leaning hard on members to keep defections to a tiny minority, while the Bush administration considers major concessions on sugar crop subsidies and China trade.
If those don't work, administration officials may have to resort to old-fashioned political pork. "With the Democrats almost united, we have to deal with the most protectionist Republicans in Congress, and that means [dealing with] textiles, sugar and whoever else comes along," said one U.S. trade official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations are ongoing. "If you take 170 Democrats off the playing field, it means we're going to have to cut some deals."
"An awful lot is stake here, and control of Congress is the grand prize," said Moran, one of only five Democrats who have publicly pledged to vote for the treaty. "The stakes are very, very high."
From an economic standpoint, the Central American Free Trade Agreement appears to be a relatively minor treaty. The accord would extend NAFTA-like trading preferences to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, six countries whose combined economies -- at $85 billion in 2003 -- are smaller than the Czech Republic's.
But with a growing backlash against free trade, the treaty has grown in political importance. Republican Rep. Bob Inglis, whose upstate South Carolina district includes much of the nation's decimated textile industry, said he has received more than 1,000 inquiries on CAFTA, making it the hottest issue since he returned to Congress this year.
In past trade agreements, dozens of Democrats have joined Republican majorities to help secure passage. But this time, as few as 10 may vote for it. That means Republicans from hard-hit districts representing textile mills, machine-tool manufacturers and sugar growers will have to vote yes if President Bush is to avoid a major political defeat.
"What's different is how much this has become a party-line issue for the Democrats, which has really raised the pressure on Republicans," said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.).
Administration officials had hoped to win passage of the treaty before Congress's July 4 recess, but they acknowledge they do not have the votes -- yet. Indeed, Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) said between 20 and 23 House Republicans are solidly against the treaty.
But the White House is working hard to chip away at the opposition on both sides of the aisle. On June 15, in a letter to 14 members of the House Democratic Hispanic Caucus, Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez tried to answer concerns over the enforcement of labor laws in the CAFTA countries, offering "a long-term, sustained commitment to labor capacity-building" in Central America as well as an international donors conference before the end of July to win aid to the countries' labor ministries and labor courts.
A U.S. trade official, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations are ongoing, said the White House has secured $20 million to beef up enforcement of labor and environmental laws in the CAFTA countries.
Sugar-state lawmakers late last week presented the White House with a series of demands drafted by the sugar industry to assuage concerns that the treaty would undermine the U.S. system of sugar price supports. They include government purchases of surplus U.S. sugar to make up for new imports from Central America and assurances that sugar will be excluded from future trade deals.
And yesterday, Bush invited 14 wavering House members to the White House to listen to their demands. Inglis told Bush he could vote for the treaty only if a separate, binding agreement is reached with each of the signatories to ensure that cheap Chinese textiles could not be brought into Central America, then shipped duty-free to the United States. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio) said Bush is unlikely to win him over, but he wanted to hear how far the White House is willing to go to force China to float its currency.
Such overtures have some leading Democrats convinced CAFTA will ultimately pass, perhaps by a single vote. Rep. Charles B. Rangel (N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade, said he has not been swayed by a personal visit from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and an audience with the president. But, he said, others probably will be.
"I always had thought it would be impossible to pass this thing because of the hemorrhaging of Republican votes," he said, "but that was before I saw what they were doing to get Democratic votes. If there's no limit to what they'll pay, they've got to win."
So far, trade officials concede such talks have yielded only limited results. After one conversation with Bush and three with Gutierrez, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) said he has been won over.
"I am interested in doing the right thing, not in making one political party look bad," Cuellar said. "We cannot politicize this type of agreement."
But Democratic leaders aren't about to bend. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.) said the White House cannot cut development assistance to Latin America and allow congressional Republicans to pass anti-immigrant measures, such as the recent clampdown on driver's license issuances, then come to Latino lawmakers promising aid in exchange for their votes.
"I make of it all to be hollow promises, too little, too late and, to be honest with you, incredibly offensive," he said.
A glance back at CAFTA's precursor, NAFTA:
NAFTA documents can be found via several sites listed here:
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 8:12 AM
Subject: NAFTA --- PREAMBLE AND OBJECTIVES
NAFTA --- PREAMBLE AND OBJECTIVES IN ATTACHMENT
PREAMBLE promotes SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT ( as does AGENDA 21 and the EARTH CHARTER.)
OBJECTIVES --( 1) ( f ) establish a FRAMEWORK for FURTHER TRILATERAL, REGIONAL and MULTILATERAL COOPERATION to EXPAND and ENHANCE the BENEFITS OF THIS AGREEMENT.
( 2) The Parties shall interpret and apply the provisions of this Agreement in the light of its objectives set out in paragraph 1 AND IN ACCORDANCE WITH APPLICABLE RULES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW.
OUR UNITED STATES ECONOMY IS GOVERNED BY INTERNATIONAL LAW THRU TRADE.
Jane Lesko, Idaho Eagle Forum
Download Attachment: -NAFTA -- PREAMBLE AND OBJECTIVES .pdf
(Not really a despised PDF file, lol.)
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Boston Globe Columnist Calls for Ending Government Control Over Schools
Separating School and State
By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist
June 12, 2005
THREE RECENT dispatches from the education battlefront:
* Kansans have been debating how the development of
life on earth should be taught in public schools --
as the unintended result of random evolution or as
the complex product of an evolution shaped by intelligent
design. The board of education is to decide this summer
whether the science standards should be changed. Kansas
is just one of 19 states in which the Darwinism vs.
Intelligent Design contest is being fought. Emotions
have been running high, as they often do when the state
takes sides in a clash of fundamental values and beliefs.
* In Massachusetts, a father named David Parker found
himself in a war with his local school board when he
objected to a kindergarten “diversity" curriculum that
depicted gay and lesbian couples raising children.
Parker, a Christian opposed to same-sex marriage, showed
up at Estabrook elementary school in Lexington to request
that he or his wife be notified -- in keeping with
state law -- when homosexual themes were going to be
brought up in their 6-year-old's class. School officials
wouldn't agree to do so and “urged" Parker to leave.
When he didn't, they had him arrested.
* Luke Whitson, a 10-year-old at the Karns Elementary
School in Knoxville, Tenn., liked reading the Bible
with his friends during recess. But when a parent complained,
the public school's principal “demanded that they stop
their activity at once, put their Bibles away, and
. . . cease bringing their Bibles to school." That
language is from a lawsuit Luke's parents have filed
in federal court, where they are asking a judge to
rule that school officials cannot prohibit religious
expression during a student's free time.
Once there was a solid consensus about how public schools
should be run. In 1911, the Encyclopedia Britannica
could assert that “the great mass of the American people
are in entire agreement as to the principles which
should control public education." But as these battles
and countless others make clear, that day is past.
From issues of sexuality and religion to the broad
themes of US history and politics, public opinion is
fractured. Secular parents square off against believers,
supporters of homosexual marriage against traditionalists,
those stressing “safe sex" against those who emphasize
abstinence. Each wants its views reflected in the classroom.
No longer is there a common understanding of the mission
of public education. To the extent that one camp's
vision prevails, parents in the opposing camp are embittered.
And there is no prospect that this will change -- not
as long as the government remains in charge of educating
Which is why it's time to put an end to government
control of the schools.
There is nothing indispensable about a state role in
education. Parents don't expect the government to provide
their children's food or clothing or medical care;
there is no reason why it must provide their schooling.
An educated citizenry is a vital public good, of course.
But like most such goods, a competitive and responsive
private sector can do a much better job of supplying
it than the public sector can.
Imagine how diverse and lively American education would
be if it were liberated from government control. There
would be schools of every description -- just as there
are restaurants, websites, and clothing styles of every
description. Parents who wanted their children to be
taught Darwinian evolution unsullied by leaps of faith
about an Intelligent Designer would be able to choose
schools in which religious notions would play no role.
Those who wanted their children to see God's hand in
the miraculous tapestry of life all around them would
send them to schools in which faith played a prominent
Rather than fight over whether reading should be taught
with Phonics or Whole Language, parents who felt strongly
either way could choose a school that shared their
outlook. Those who wanted their kids to learn in single-sex
classes would send them to schools organized on that
model; other parents would be free to pick schools
in which boys and girls learned together. Some schools
would reflect a Christian or Jewish or Muslim philosophy;
others would be quite secular. In some, athletics would
have a high priority; in others, there might be an
emphasis on music, language, technology, or art. And
no doubt many parents would stick with schools that
resembled the ones their children attend now.
With separation of school and state, the education
battles would come to a peaceful end. Robust competition
and innovation would dramatically lower costs. Teachers,
released from their one-size-fits-all straitjacket,
would be happier in their chosen profession. Children
would be happier, too -- and, perhaps best of all,
better-educated to boot.
Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.
MARSHALL FRITZ'S PUBLISHED RESPONSE. Cool, huh?
Government Involvement Hurts Schools
Boston Globe June 14, 2005
BRAVO TO JEFF Jacoby for getting to the root of our
education woes: government involvement.
It is gratifying irony that the first major columnist
to call for ending compulsory attendance, compulsory
financing, and compulsory content in the public schools
should be from that very Commonwealth where Horace
Mann set the course that has led to today's mess.
Government doesn't run, compel, or finance Sunday school.
In a free country, the same should be true for Monday
Alliance for the Separation of School & State
More on Transportation: Merely Monitoring or Preparing for Control?
READY FOR THE CONGESTION TAX COLLECTOR?
By Jon Christian Ryter
June 14, 2005
During the Bush-41 years, the United States, England, Japan, Belgium, Germany, and Ireland embarked on an experimental vehicle tracking system designed for the 21st century. It was called the Intelligent Vehicle-Highway System or IV/HS. Ostensibly, it was designed to "lighten" traffic on heavily-used, smog-polluted roadways by assessing congestion taxes on the vehicles on the stressed roadways in order to "spread the traffic out" so that it moved faster with less pollutants spewing into the atmosphere during peak driving hours.
In reality, the purpose of IV/HS was to be able to control a population that Bill Clinton described in 1995 as, "...too highly mobile" by monitoring where that traffic was and, if necessary, by denying offending vehicles access to specific roads—or preventing residents of one State from traveling into another state without special "passes" or without paying a levy to do so. Because before any population can be controlled, government must know where that population is at any specific time. IV/HS was a theory that would have fit well in George Orwell's 1984 if the British New Worlder had entitled his book 1991 instead. Orwell only missed it by seven years.
It should be noted that IV/HS predated the Clinton Administration. George H.W. Bush initiated IV/HS in the United States with the Intermodel Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 at a cost of $151 billion over six years. Over $660 million of those dollars were earmarked for experimentation in IV/HS. Additional funds were set aside for building automated toll booths on private toll roads.
In April, 1992 Bush-41 issued an Executive Order on the privatization of state and local infrastructure assets built wholly or in part with federal money. (These assets, by definition, were roads, tunnels and bridges.) An interesting incentive—one that never made it into the evening news—appears in the EO. The Office of Management and Budget [OMB] "...had insisted that the federal government be repaid its past grants in the event the infrastructure was sold. The Executive Order does away with this disincentive. State and local governments will be able to keep the majority of the proceeds from privatization The Executive Order goes a long way towards removing any remaining blocks to action along the lines envisioned by ISTEA." (This document, interestingly, was found in the Clinton White House Health Care Interdepartmental Working Group; Working Paper #1, Box 1748; National Archive.) (Whatever Happened To America; Jon Christian Ryter © 2000; pg. 414)
What is most interesting is that IV/HS—like the national identity card that I warned was coming (in precisely the manner it showed up) in Whatever Happened To America—originated in Europe. Both are in use in Europe and Asia. The prototype from which the Diebold Institute cast its American model was borrowed from the pilot program in England where the experimental road system had already been installed in the heavily traveled M25 beltway around London. M25 was selected not only because of the amount of traffic on the roadway, but because the terrain was ideally suited for the constant measurement of speed—and the monitoring of specific vehicles.
The UK Department of Transportation was so pleased with the initial results, they expanded IV/HS into the arterials (A-roads) of London itself. The UK system, according to the Diebold Institute reports, had a dual purpose. First, TrafficMaster—as it became known—monitors traffic and electronically assesses speeding tickets, levied against the owner of the vehicle regardless who is driving it. Second, TrafficMaster serves as an electronic toll collector (just as electronic scanners on the Dulles Greenway around Washington, DC scan stickers on the windshields of cars and charge the toll to the vehicle owners' credit cards). Third, the electronic system can also be used to regulate assess to specific roadways by denying access to those roads at access ramps and road junctions during peak travel time, or denying access to those who fail to purchase a special "congestion travel time" pass—a congestion tax, if you will. In other words, during peak drive time, just as some freeways use HOV lanes (high occupancy vehicles lanes) to cut down on the number of vehicles on the road during those times, IV/HS can deny access to any vehicles without a "congestion" sticker on its windshield.
That was the proposal offered by London's mayor Kenneth Livingstone to a mayoral group from some of the world's largest cities that met at the Cable Car Museum in San Francisco on Friday, June 3 for the UN World Environment Day Conference where attendees discussed the impact fossil fuel smog has on global warming. Mayor Livingstone told the world mayors that Londoners—himself included—now pay a "congestion fee" to not only drive the M25 beltway, but to drive in central London. The daily fee is a Euro equivalent to US $9.
The $9 "voluntary" tax has forced thousand of Londoners out of their cars and into the now overcrowded city buses and subways to escape what blue collar workers feel is unjust tax that penalizes only the poor.
In San Francisco, commuters and tourists pay $3 to cross the Bay Bridge and $5 to cross the Golden Gate Bridge to enter into the city. However, commuters who live in the populous suburbs south of the city can enter downtown San Francisco free since they don't cross either bridge. However, even in ultra liberal, environmentalist-friendly San Francisco, Livingstone's tax message was not greeted with enthusiasm by the downtown merchants association who argued that a congestion tax will discourage shoppers who don't work in the city to pay what would amount to a "shoppers tax" for the privilege of fighting traffic and fighting for a parking space to shop. And, the merchants' associations argued, it will also discourage new retailers and other businesses from relocating into the city. "It would be a pricing mechanism that drives businesses out of downtown areas, " argued John Grubb of the Bay Area Council. "And," he added, "it would be a disincentive for businesses already downtown."
While American politicians will worry about the potential repercussions in the voting booth in liberal California where taxpayers are tired of footing the bill for everything and everyone, Livingstone gambled and won. He imposed the tax in London in 2003 and stood for reelection, and won, in 2004. Congestion pricing in London targets an eight-square mile area of central London that includes its financial and entertainment districts between 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Britishers who plan to be in London must buy daily, weekly, or annual passes—and register their car's license plate numbers. A network of 800 cameras within the congestion zone photograph the license plates of every vehicle that passes it. Motorists who are not in the "registered" database for that day are fined.
In the United States, such a plan could be implemented easily since most major metro areas have already begun installed hundreds of "traffic" cameras at key intersections to boost for sagging revenues in municipal treasuries. Add to that the fact that the license plates on every American vehicle since 1992 can be tracked by global positioning satellites [GPS], and you have a system that would allow American "congestion controllers" to do everything the British system can do—and more. If Uncle Sam wanted, the government could actually write a physical ticket and, by GPs, let a meter maid deliver the ticket to you at the next red light you stop at. Of course, the profitability of congestion pricing comes from levying fines electronically and mailing the "summons" to your home. No human hands are involved in the process—except to arrest you if you fail to pay the ticket.
The most sinister aspect of IV/HS in the United States is the ability of the US government to covertly track any vehicle wearing a license plate stamped after 1992. The honing device, an electronic image stamped on the license plate when it was made, was to be a temporary tracking device until all vehicles on America's highways, byways and city streets, are equipped either with GPS or have some type of GPS chip installed somewhere unobtrusive under the hood of the car as a "non-theft devise." The electronic honing device was developed under a $20 million research grant during the Bush-41 years. (Whatever Happened To America; Jon Christian Ryter © 2000; pg. 415).
The electronic license plates scheme was global in nature. In the United States, the program was called HELP (Heavy Electronic License Plate). In Europe, the program was called LLAMD (London, Lyons, Amsterdam, Munich and Dublin) and is part of the international Drive System. In Japan the system was called VICS (Vehicle Information and Communications System). (ibid, pg. 415). People tracking will be a global effort, with all of the governments of the world sharing America's GPS network to monitor the movement of traffic and people.
Congestion taxing and the use of GPS to monitor the density of traffic on this nation's—or the world's—beltway systems in order to reduce traffic and smog around the world's largest metro centers has one question that begs an answer. For now, that question can remain unanswered. Why would the Clinton Administration jeopardize the national security of the United States in order to make GPS tracking available to the private sector to monitor the whereabouts of civilian vehicles on the roadways of America—or for that matter, allow the governments of all the nations of the world do the same in their nation...or use our GPS system to track us? GPS was so top secret that, according to former Bush-41 senior Pentagon advisor Henry Sokolski, the US government denied its existence—even to its allies—for over ten years.
What happened between Jan. 20, 1993 when Bill Clinton took office and March 29, 1996 when Clinton granted civilian access to 24 GPS satellites to the world? I find it hard to believe that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel cars justified the need to use GPS to regulate traffic on congested roadways around the world. It is more likely that the governments of the world suddenly had an empirical need to monitor a population that is too highly mobile. Oops...I just answered the question.
© 2005 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights Reserved
Order Jon Ryter's book "Whatever Happened to America?"
Jon Christian Ryter is the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter with the Parkersburg, WV Sentinel. He authored a syndicated newspaper column, Answers From The Bible, from the mid-1970s until 1985. Answers From The Bible was read weekly in many suburban markets in the United States.
Today, Jon is an advertising executive with the Washington Times. His website, www.jonchristianryter.com has helped him establish a network of mid-to senior-level Washington insiders who now provide him with a steady stream of material for use both in his books and in the investigative reports that are found on his website.
Monday, June 13, 2005
Two on NAFTA, CAFTA, and Rising Opposition
First NAFTA, now CAFTA: two nafkas
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Contributing Writer
June 11, 2005—These acronyms always remind me of the Yiddish word, nafke, i.e., a prostitute from the Aramaic nafka, meaning the same thing, the oldest profession. Why the harsh comparison? Because both NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) represent the prostitution of American jobs, laws and the Constitution, plus Mexican and Central American labor rights, farms and livelihoods. All brought to us by multi-national corporations and their procurers in the administration.
In the words of Lori M. Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, "CAFTA's text is 90 percent identical to NAFTA, and the other 10 percent of CAFTA is worse. Yet NAFTA has an 11-year old record of failure. During the NAFTA era, the U.S. lost millions of manufacturing jobs, real median wages flattened, farm trade volumes increase but commodity prices and farm income plummeted, and a small trade surplus turned into a big deficit with NAFTA nations, which now contributes significantly to the $637 billion deficit threatening future US economic growth and the dollar's stability.
"Meanwhile many in Mexico also lost out; some 1.5 million campesino farmers lost their farms and livelihoods, real median wages in Mexico dropped 20 percent since NAFTA and food prices jumped. Hunger in Mexico increased, as has the number of people pushed to make the dangerous journey to the United States to seek work here. Thus, Latino groups, including the League of United Latin American Citizens, the nation's largest Hispanic membership organization, the Central American Resource Center, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and the Salvadoran American National Network all oppose CAFTA, call it anti-Latino and exclusionary."
CAFTA adds six Central American nations (Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua) to the original NAFTA. And it also expands the power of foreign corporations to put their profit interests above the people's interest in the U.S. and the six Latin nations. Olé!
As Wallach observes, "Since the signing of CAFTA one year ago, opposition has swelled [to it] through the United States. Rural, labor, environment, immigrants' rights and faith-based groups have elevated the debate over the expansion of NAFTA through CAFTA into a referendum on the future of U.S. trade policy. Forcing members of Congress to take sides on whether the future US policy will benefit the middle class, create jobs and promote accountability and fairness, or continue with a reckless status quo narrowly benefiting large multinational corporations."
See, what makes CAFTA even a worse nafka than NAFTA is that it will give foreign multinationals greater legal rights than we citizens have in our own country. It will actually allow these corporations to overrule our laws, whether they are national, state, or local, whenever US law happens to knock heads with their profit plans. CAFTA will go so far as usurping the constitutional authority of the US by transferring jurisdiction over these corporate and state battles out of our judicial system into "supranational, corporate-friendly, global-trade tribunals which operate in secrecy and are even authorized to overrule US Supreme Court decisions," according to Jim Hightower, editor of Hightower Lowdown, Vo. 7., No. 6, June 2005. Sounds like Kafka, too, n'est pas? It is, more than surreal.
Hightower reports, "Methanex, a Canadian company that makes a component of a gasoline additive that has been banned in California, has taken the California ban to a NAFTA tribunal. Methanex is demanding that it be awarded nearly a billion dollars for its loss of business due to the ban. Under NAFTA's rules, the State of California has no standing and cannot take any part in the case. It must rely on federal lawyers to defend the state regulation."
Even if Methenex doesn't collect its full tab, NAFTA has raised corporations to the level of nationhood, all equal to the US government. What's more, the US taxpayer has already been screwed out of $3 million to deal with this case. Some price this nafka comes with.
But to return to CAFTA's deadly twist, it "broadens the corporate reach dramatically," as Hightower reports. "Under NAFTA, a US corporation cannot file a case with these tribunals against our own national, state, or local laws. But CAFTA rips a multibillion-dollar loophole into that prohibition. It would allow the foreign subsidiaries of US corporations to file such cases against state or local government actions here at home. Unlike smaller businesses, global corporations have subsidiaries everywhere, so this gives them a right that our hometown companies don't have. Phillip Morris, for example, could use a Central American subsidiary to challenge US tobacco laws in a CAFTA tribunal."
So, CAFTA, so highly touted by Bush procurers, will use trade policy to feed the lascivious appetites of global gluttons. Bush, in 2003, began the attack going after state procurement policies for services, vehicles, office spaces, uniforms, legal advice and computers. Wrapped in bureaucratic language, the letter asked governors to help the US of A "in voluntary commitment . . . to be covered under the government procurement provisions of new [trade] agreements." It assured governors this was everyday stuff, and that their agreement "would not require [their] state to change its current government procurement practices."
Thus spoke the wolf, batting his eyes. And the Little Red-Riding Hood governors bought it, in 28 states, although New Hampshire woke up and withdrew itself from the deal. What the other governors did not realize was that they'd signed on the dotted line, subjecting their states to purchasing policies and international rules that were not even yet written—corruption incarnate. When the CAFTA rules finally were written—in stone—Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch sent a memo to state legislators and attorneys general—a group that hadn't formerly been notified or consulted—by Bush or their governors. The memo opened eyes to the fact that the White House lied to the governors. "Chapter 9, Article 9–2," as Hightower reports, for sure requires any state that signed must make its purchasing program go lockstep with CAFTA's. Frankly, the word nafka might be too high-toned for these gutter-level gangsters.
Those states that signed, among other things, can't give preference to local companies or even made-in-the-USA products. They can't say no to spending their tax dollars on firms moving a state's jobs offshore. Can you believe that?
Requirements to use recycled materials, mercury-free food, energy from renewable sources, went out the window, too, along with consumer-safety labeling.
Signatory states can't ban corporate suppliers from contracts because of lousy human rights, labor or environmental practices, as well child labor and sweatshop practices.
Such states can't demand fair or living wages for workers and/or for unions to receive fair treatment. I mean, we have returned to the stone ages here. Free marketers are prostituting the laws, labor and rights of North Americans and South Americans.
Similarly, human rights are a no-go for these tarts, even from countries actively suppressing workers' and citizens' right or who are ruled by brutal dictators. God bless America, and those governors running off the cliff to sign, without reading the fine print. And if those states don't live down to those non-principles, CAFTA can use its constitutional powers to cut off state funding or force a state to live with the tribunal's ruling. Is this what anybody, other than dedicated morons or hard-core fascists, voted for in America?
There is no due process here on how their tax bucks are spent. It's all up to an unelected foreign trade group invented by and for global piglets. It is giving away the store without a shot fired, presenting a bill, holding a hearing, public discussion, nada . . . just handing it all over to the global swill, thanks to George Bush and his procurers.
Fortunately, nine of the 28 airhead governors who signed up for CAFTA have rescinded. They either read the fine print or their grassroot political groups or legislative leaders whipped them into shape.
Anybody Outraged Yet?
CAFTA is a minefield, with many deadly bombs buried in its thick brush of text. Yet, have you heard any major network or newspaper cry out? I have heard George Bush's best patriotic voice on radio in sound bites from speeches telling us what a boon this is to America, Central America and Freedom. Oh yeah, at least kiss us before you screw us. The speeches are his idea of foreplay.
But I have also heard about the massive public demonstrations over CAFTA. Once again, from Lori M. Wallach: "In El Salvador, 250,000 citizens joined large protests. Prolonged protests against CAFTA in Guatemala resulted in the military breaching the civil war peace accords and firing on protestors, killing at least two civilians. While the elite in Central America push the deal, associations representing the public interest—18 separate Central American labor federations, indigenous peoples groups and health groups—oppose CAFTA. More than 160 civil society groups in Central America have signed declarations opposing CAFTA. Their message has been clear: CAFTA will increase political and social instability in our region." How's that for a vote of non-confidence?
As Hightower points out, Articles 9 and 10 and also 11 could use some digging into by our media bright lights. Eleven says, "that if a local government function in the US or the other six nations is in competition with private firms that provide such service, the government must allow all corporations—specifically including foreign corporations—to bid on privatizing that public service. . . . This is a rather important story with huge ramifications for local governments and democratic sovereignty. . . ." I'd say that's a giant story, New York Times, NBC, L.A. Times, CBS, ABC, CNN, and Washington Post! Anyone want to take it on?
Hightower, in his humble four-page newsletter, adds that Article 11.8 is "another explosion of democratic control, for it allows the secretive trade tribunals to render judgment on whether any particular government regulation in the service sector is 'necessary.' Requirements to protect the privacy of our personal information, for example, could be subject to challenge by foreign corporations under this proviso, allowing a CAFTA tribunal to decide if such a requirement is necessary, regardless of the fact that We the People had already decided through our legislative process that it is necessary."
So, in essence, these multi-national corporations and their secret tribunals could be handed the power to override our laws, and to challenge, for instance, "such democratically decided policies as our national law banning tobacco ads targeted to children, our state laws establishing renewable energy goals, or our local zoning laws to restrict the size and location of big-box stores." How about when you want to sleep with your mate, go to the bathroom, or how many kids you want to have? This is beyond La Puta Grande, the mother of all nafkas. This is Global Big Brother calling the shots on your life. Welcome to the future, if that's what you want it to be.
See, W and his corporate nafkas are pushing and seducing Congress with all their might and favors to rubberstamp CAFTA. But the people in Latin America, as stated, are already in the streets. "Free trade" is a bitter pill for them to swallow. When they wake up from its drugging effects they know they'll find corporate bordellos exploiting, expropriating and dominating them, mostly behind the masks of US-based corporations. CAFTA is a powder keg waiting for a match every place but here, where July 4th is coming and everybody could really whiz up some fantastic fireworks. In fact, let's take the party to Washington, the Capitol and the White House. But keep in mind, as Bush spoke of democratic rights in Guatemala, the army opened fire, killing two and wounding nine.
Yet, more than a thousand pissed demonstrators surrounded the capitol building in Honduras when they got word that their congress was rushing through ratification of CAFTA. Bam, the legislators took off like rats. One of the protestors said, "We tossed them out, and then we went into the chambers ourselves. Then we constituted ourselves as the congress of true representatives of the Honduran people, and voted to scrap congress's ratification." Viva la revolucion!
In Costa Rica the president says that he won't even turn in the pact for ratification until a citizen's panel reviews it. Viva Costa Rica! And they don't even have an Army. The president disbanded it years ago to use the monies for education. You have 99 percent literacy there. Is there some connect?
Meanwhile back in D.C., El Brilliante, nuestro Presidente, lacks the votes to ram CAFTA where the sun doesn't shine, or that would have been a fait accompli. Even though he signed it May 2004, he's been sitting on it and can pick his opportune moment to submit it to Congress, like at three in the morning. But even his bevy of nafkas doesn't want to bend for this baby. And even the nafka Dems are shy. And the southern belles, as well, are getting enough heat to cool them off.
But remember eternal vigilance, my friends, is the price of democracy. Don't count on D.C.'s grand bordello to stay legit, while spinners, lobbyists and the Bushies are out in fall farce and force, puckering their lips, lifting knees to groins, twisting arms into victory. You've seen it in Florida three times. Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country. Believe it, and send the NAFTA, the CAFTA, and the nafkas packing. I hear Guantanamo may be available soon for new residents. How about it? What a hell of an Independence Day celebration that would make.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer residing in Nuevo York, where nearly 40 percent of the people are Hispanic or Latino and can tell you personally why they left their beloved homelands.
Patrick J. Buchanan
Populism & nationalism vs. globalism
Posted: June 13, 2005
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2005 Creators Syndicate Inc.
With their raucous "No!" votes on the new constitution, France and Holland have voted against the New Europe.
Seizing on the French-Dutch rejection, the British Labor Party has postponed a referendum, thus saving Tony Blair. For the near certainty of British rejection would have forced Blair's resignation. Now, Poland and other nations are putting off their referendums.
The new constitution is dead. New Europe has been rejected by the people in whose name it is being advanced. Repudiated, as well, were the political elites who campaigned for that constitution. But though Brussels is unloved and Jacques Chirac has lost France, this was no vote of affection for or confidence in Bush's America.
This was a nationalist-populist protest demanding that France be France and Holland be Holland, and to blazes with the world. It was a vote against the free-trade globalism of George Bush and the Reagan-Thatcher economic model the European Left decries as "savage capitalism."
It was a victory of the Old Right that would restore the sovereignty of France and retain the national independence and unique and separate identity of the French people and culture. It was a vote against both Islamic immigration and Turkey's membership in the European Union.
Turkey's quest to enter Europe appears dead, as the likely leaders of France and Germany, a year from now – Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel – oppose its application. Where Turkey – a nation of 70 million, estranged from its old NATO ally, America, and shut out of Europe – goes from here is a great question. Tehran, Moscow and Beijing would seem to be the probable next stops.
This was also a victory for French socialists and communists who are demanding retention of the 35-hour work week and the cradle-to-grave security they believe to be the great achievement of the Left.
But this Right-Left backlash against globalization and integration of Europe cannot save Europe. For the de-Christianized European Union does not contain a single nation where the birth rate is sufficient to replace the population. Europe has begun to die. In 20 nations, the native-born population has begun to shrink. The cohort of workers entering the labor force is not large enough to maintain the welfare benefits, pensions and health care for retirees and elderly.
The French and Dutch voted for a contradiction – to preserve all the social welfare benefits they have, but to oppose the free-market reforms and immigration that alone can ensure economic growth and a steady resupply of new workers and taxpayers to preserve them. The crisis of Europe – inexorable economic decline and the early death of the indigenous European peoples – is unresolved by the massive protest vote of Left and Right. This was a cry in the wilderness.
Following the French-Dutch vote, it is not only the eastern expansion of the European Union that has been cast into doubt, but the survival of the European Union itself.
With growth in the major nations of Western Europe trailing that of the United States, France, Germany and Italy have repeatedly breached the fiscal guidelines set down by the European Monetary Union. These call for budget deficits of no more than 3 percent of GDP for nations that adopt the euro. France and Germany, the privileged pair, have been given a pass. But Italy is now being called to book, as its national debt now exceeds its Gross Domestic Product.
Cabinet ministers from Italy's Northern Alliance, fed up with the discipline imposed by the European Central Bank and a currency that has appreciated dramatically against the dollar, are calling for abandonment of the euro and restoration of the Italian lira.
This could trigger a financial crisis like the Asian crisis of 1997, when Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and South Korea devalued and went into de facto default on their foreign debts.
Understandably, the political leadership of any nation in a prolonged slump will wish to retain control of monetary as well as fiscal policy. Some 58 percent of all Germans are said to seek a return to the deutschmark. Unless Europe finds a solution to its economic stagnation – and France and Holland rejected the free-market, free-trade solution – the euro could be the next to go, and the European Union could follow it to the graveyard.
The hiding that French and Dutch voters have given Europe's elites, who aspired to superpower status and used America as their foil, is delightful to observe. But Bush Republicans and neocons reveling in the humiliation of Schroeder and Chirac should take note.
In the rout and humiliation of a European establishment that is committed to open borders and free-trade globalism by a Left-Right coalition, they may be staring at their own future. For that same Left-Right coalition is forming in the United States – against free-trade globalism, CAFTA, open-borders, amnesty for illegal aliens, Social Security reform and American empire.
Populism and nationalism have declared war on globalism.
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Patrick J. Buchanan was twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the Reform Party’s candidate in 2000. He is also a founder and editor of the new magazine, The American Conservative. Now a political analyst for MSNBC and a syndicated columnist, he served three presidents in the White House, was a founding panelist of three national television shows, and is the author of seven books.