Two new anti-democracy developments to nip in the bud

Below are excerpts from six articles describing two upcoming national and international initiatives that could further undermine our already shaky ability to exercise informed self-governance.

The first anti-democracy initiative is the apparent readiness of the head of the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to set aside the FCC’s existing anti-monopoly regulation forbidding one company from owning multiple media outlets in one community. Suspending or canceling this rule would open the door for local media monopolies run by folks like Rupert Murdoch (who owns Fox News and much else in the US) and domestic versions of Silvio Berlusconi (who used his Italian media monopoly to become prime minister of Italy).

The second anti-democracy initiative is the secret negotiation of a corporate-friendly Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPP) – the so-called “NAFTA of the Pacific” – that could potentially give transnational corporations power to override domestic laws on the environment, workplace and consumer safety, investment, intellectual property, the internet, local purchasing preferences, health care and other public interest policies. The TPP public comment process is a sham since all the public has available are older leaked excerpts, while the current draft is in the hands of corporate negotiators. Even the US Congress doesn’t have the full document. A reward has been posted for someone to leak the full current draft text through Wikileaks.

In circumstances like these, my focus on promoting public wisdom processes can seem like remodeling the kitchen while termites are in the process of eating away the whole foundation. But these are not competing strategies. Our future survival and thrival require rebuilding and (r)evolutionizing democracy at ALL levels.

We cannot navigate the future successfully without generating greater collective wisdom on a routine basis. But we need the mechanics of politics and government to be functional, so that there is a vehicle to steer with our collective wisdom.

We must nip in the bud efforts that increase the capacity of special interests to manipulate our information systems and our democratic powers.

It has often been remarked that “eternal vigilance” is required to protect our “General Welfare” from the corrosive incursions of special interests with virtually unlimited sources of money.

Over and over, grassroots organizations and ordinary people have engaged this challenge with the always renewable resources of our caring, understanding, will, collaboration and, perhaps most important of all, out-of-the-box creativity. We get a chance to do it once again…

Coheartedly,
Tom

Contact FCC commissioners about the monopoly rule:
http://www.fcc.gov/contact-us
Contact Senators about the TPP and FCC (the Senate must approve the TPP):
http://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_contact_senators.htm
Contact Representatives about the TPP and FCC:
http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

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ARTICLES ABOUT THE FCC MONOPOLY-RULE CHANGE (excerpts)

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http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13051-obamas-fcc-set-to-give-rupert-murdoch…

Obama’s FCC Set to Give Rupert Murdoch a Media Monopoly
Thursday, 29 November 2012
By Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks

Unsatisfied with his media empire in the UK and Australia and his several media holdings in the United States like The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and Fox News, Rupert Murdoch wants more. He wants a media monopoly.

Murdoch is currently jockeying to buy the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, which just so happen to be the largest newspapers in the nation’s second and third largest cities. That will add to his current media empire in the United States, which includes the most watched cable news network in the nation, Fox so-called News, and the most circulated newspaper in the nation, The Wall Street Journal. The only thing standing in Murdoch’s way of full-spectrum media domination in America are Federal Communication Commission rules that forbid one company from owning both a newspaper and a television station in one community. Murdoch already owns local television stations in both Chicago and Los Angeles.

But according to sources within the FCC, Chairman Julius Genachowski is quietly planning to scrap those rules….

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http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/276-74/14878-former-fcc-commissioner-…

Former FCC Commissioner: Big Media Dumbs Down Democracy
By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company
05 December 12

This week, we’re focusing on the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to relax the rules that prevent one company from owning radio stations, television stations and newspapers all in the same city – a move activists say would hurt diversity and be a boon for the Rupert Murdochs of the world.

It’s déjà vu for Michael Copps, who served on the commission from 2001-2011 and was acting chairman from January to June 2009 – a tenure marked by his concern for diversity and opposition to media consolidation. Copps is now the senior advisor for media and democracy reform at Common Cause. He stopped by our office Monday to share his concerns about the FCC’s latest proposal…..

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http://www.media-alliance.org/article.php?id=2198
Media Monopoly is Bad News for Americans
by Tracy Rosenberg, Media Alliance

….New proposed rules relax media cross-ownership rules (again) paving the way for more media concentration and polishing the path for the Rupert Murdochs of the world to buy up everything that’s left….

Tell the Democratic commissioners they need to fight this….
Mignon Clyburn – (202) 418-2100
Jessica Rosenworcel – (202) 418-2400

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ARTICLES ABOUT THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP (excerpts)

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/27/pacific-free-trade-deal
The Pacific free trade deal that’s anything but free
The draft TPP deal may grant new patent privileges and restrict net freedom, but it’s secret – unless you’re a multinational CEO
By Dean Baker
Monday 27 August 2012

….In reality, the deal has almost nothing to do with trade: actual trade barriers between these countries are already very low. The TPP is an effort to use the holy grail of free trade to impose conditions and override domestic laws in a way that would be almost impossible if the proposed measures had to go through the normal legislative process….

At this point, it’s not really possible to discuss the merits of the TPP since the governments are keeping the proposed text a secret from the public. Only the negotiators themselves and a select group of corporate partners have access to the actual document. The top executives at General Electric, Goldman Sachs, and Pfizer probably all have drafts of the relevant sections of the TPP. However, the members of the relevant congressional committees have not yet been told what is being negotiated. A few items that have been leaked give us some insight as to the direction of this pact….

The rules it creates would override domestic laws on the environment, workplace safety, and investment. Of course, it’s not really possible to talk about the details because there are no publicly available drafts.

[see the article for more details]

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http://www.alternet.org/world/dragging-secretive-trade-talks-light-activists-…
Dragging Secretive Trade Talks Into the Light: Activists Expose Slow-Motion Corporate Coup
By Lori Wallach, Yes Magazine
December 5, 2012
(original article is full of reference links)

…..The TPP would also ban existing and future “Buy Local” and “Buy American” procurement policies. These are rules that direct federal and state governments to reinvest our tax dollars to create American jobs by buying domestically made cars, steel, food, and more, and by giving contracts to local construction firms or call centers firms.

The TPP also would expose to attack green and sweat-free procurement rules that specify that only recycled paper, non-old-growth wood products, renewable-source energy, or products made under fair labor standards can be purchased with government funds. Under these terms, democracies would no longer be able to decide that we want to invest our tax dollars to create jobs at home or to create markets for green energy or morally produced goods. Instead, the TPP would require our governments to send our money offshore and spend it with firms trashing human rights and the environment.

The TPP would limit financial regulation by forbidding bans on risky derivatives and other dangerous financial products, as well as the use of capital controls to counter wild surges of speculative investments in and out of countries, which destabilize the global economy. The massive financial firms that caused the financial crisis could use these terms to roll back the new financial regulations implemented in the U.S. and around the world.

As far as health care goes, the TPP would grant new monopoly privileges to Big Pharma that would jack up medicine prices and cut consumers’ access to life-saving medicines in the developing countries involved in the TPP. There is a proposal to allow pharmaceutical firms to challenge the pricing decisions of cost-saving drug formularies, which are used by developing countries and, increasingly, by the United States, to bargain for better prices with drug firms.

One chapter would even attack Internet freedom by imposing through the backdoor damaging aspects of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which citizen activism derailed in the U.S. Congress.

– – – – –

http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/trade-policies/tpp-potential-trade-policy-pr…
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement: NAFTA for the Pacific Rim?

Here are some of the questions yet to be answered:

• Labor rights: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA [Free Trade Agreement] include labor standards based on International Labor Organization conventions, and if included, how will they be enforced?
• Investment Provisions: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA include so-called “investor-state” provisions that allow individual corporations to challenge environmental, consumer and other public interest policies as barriers to trade?
• Public Procurement: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA respect nations’ and communities’ right to set purchasing preferences that keep taxpayer dollars re-circulating in local economies?
• Access to Medicines: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA allow governments to produce and/or obtain affordable, generic medications for sick people?
• Agriculture: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA allow countries to ensure that farmers and farm workers are fairly compensated, while also preventing the agricultural dumping that has forced so many family farmers off their land?

If labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, faith, immigrant rights, human rights and other social justice advocates don’t force Trans-Pacific FTA negotiations into the public light, the answers to these questions aren’t likely to be ones we’ll be happy with.

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