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.