American Values

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
What do we stand for? As a country, as global citizens, as human beings, we must ask ourselves this question.

Do we stand for hypocrisy, fear, judgment, xenophobia, hatred, misogyny, and oligarchy?

Or do we stand for openness, tolerance, understanding, pluralism, love, freedom, and democracy?

We cannot "make America great" by moving backwards.

We cannot defend ourselves by picking on society's most vulnerable members.

We cannot make our country safer by banning an entire religion or region (while omitting any country we have business dealings in).

We cannot achieve the American Dream by making sure that immigrants and refugees cannot attain it, or even a semblance of it.

We cannot "drain the swamp" by appointing those with the longest histories of malfeasance.

We cannot improve education by dismantling or privatizing it.

We cannot save the environment by appointing climate change deniers, approving pipelines, and "terminating" the Environmental Protection Agency.

We cannot protect workers' rights by trusting to capitalism and the "free market" to solve the inequality and injustice they inevitably create.

We cannot self-select our own truths from a menu of "alternative facts."

We cannot fight terrorism by perpetrating it.

We cannot help ourselves by hurting others.

We can, and must, use this dark time to band together in solidarity. To realize the values that truly matter. To emerge stronger and more capable on the other side.

Our lives, and those of our fellow human beings, really do depend on it.
Yesterday afternoon, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in Washington v. Trump, (17-35105), considering whether to stay a temporary injunction halting the President's controversial executive order curtailing immigration from seven countries known to harbor substantial terrorist threats to our nation.

Plaintiffs, the states of Washington and Minnesota, contended that the order is unlawful and "unconstitutional" because it leaves their university students in limbo, separates families within their borders, and is allegedly in violation of the Establishment Clause; the federal government countered that the states do not have standing to sue on behalf of either their citizens or foreign nationals, and also that no irreparable harm will result from the issuance of a stay. However, in light of the importance of our immigration policy to ensuring our national security, the aspects of the case the DOJ declined to mention may turn out to be the most vital.


No Mention of Reynolds Endangers National Security


Throughout the hearing, the panel repeatedly questioned Justice Department lawyer August Flentje about potential limitations of judicial review of the imperiled order. At one point, when he briefly invoked the reservation of power to the President and the difficulty of assessing the validity of a critical security decision, presiding judge Michelle Friedland asked outright: "Are you arguing, then, that the President's decision in that regard is unreviewable?" (12:51-12:56). Flentje agreed after a long pause, but immediately reverted to the question of standing and entirely ignored the sensitive nature of our ongoing fight against international terror. This choice could cost the government heavily in subsequent phases of this case, as Flentje effectively waived any privilege the U.S. could otherwise claim during discovery.


Under United States v. Reynolds, 345 U.S. 1 (1953), the federal government retains the privilege - and the obligation - to protect the public's safety by withholding documents containing classified or confidential material, such as military intelligence relating to the activities of extremist groups within the affected nations. The primacy of the privilege is exemplified in the text of Reynolds itself - "Where there is a strong showing of necessity, the claim of privilege should not be lightly accepted, but even the most compelling necessity cannot overcome the claim of privilege if the court is ultimately satisfied that military secrets are at stake" - and specific invocations of its protections have always been treated deferentially by the courts. As the Supreme Court wrote per Justice Field in the wake of the Civil War, "It may be stated as a general principle that public policy forbids the maintenance of any suit in a court of justice the trial of which would inevitably lead to the disclosure of matters which the law itself regards as confidential and respecting which it will not allow the confidence to be violated." Totten v. United States, 92 U.S. 105, 107 (1875). One hundred and twenty-six years later, the D.C. Circuit recognized the validity of this "privilege and prerogative of the Executive," writing further that courts cannot "compel a breach in the security which that branch is charged to protect." National Council of Resistance of Iran v. Dep't of State, 21 F.3d. 192 (2001), see Global Relief Foundation v. O'Neill, 315 F.3d 748 (7th Cir. 2002) and People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran v. Dep't of State, 327 F.3d 1238 (D.C. Cir. 2003). In Jabara v. Kelly, it was similarly concluded that "[i]n the case of claims of military or state secrets' privilege, however, the superiority of well-informed advocacy becomes less justifiable in view of the substantial risk of unauthorized disclosure of privileged information." 75 F.R.D. 475 (E.D.Mich. 1977). As the Fourth Circuit recognized in 1972, "The courts, of course, are ill-equipped to become sufficiently steeped in foreign intelligence matters to serve effectively in the review of secrecy classifications in that area." United States v. Marchetti, 466 F.2d 1309, 1318, cert. denied at 409 U.S. 1063 (1972), see also Black v. United States, 62 F.3d 1115 (8th Cir. 1995), Fitzgerald v. Penthouse Int'l, Ltd., 776 F.2d 1236 (4th Cir. 1985). The court in Heine v. Raus espoused an expansive view of the privilege, holding that "if the two interests cannot be reconciled, the interest of the individual litigant must give way to the government's privilege against disclosure of its secrets of state." 399 F.2d 785, 791 (4th Cir., 1968). See Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. v. Colby, 509 F.2d 1362 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 421 U.S. 992 (1975), Cresmer v. United States, 9 F.R.D. 203 (1949) and Zuckerbraun v. General Dynamics Corp., 935 F.2d 544 (2nd Cir. 1991). Lastly, in Halkin v. Helms, the D.C. Circuit acknowledged the heightened importance of the privilege in the modern era:


"It requires little reflection to understand that the business of foreign intelligence gathering in this age of computer technology is more akin to the construction of a mosaic than to the management of a cloak and dagger affair. Thousands of bits and pieces of seemingly innocuous information can be analyzed and fitted into place to reveal with startling clarity how the unseen whole must operate." 598 F.2d 1, at 8 (1978).


In this case, however, the DOJ opted not to assert the rights contained in Reynolds, and therefore may be compelled to disclose any relevant intelligence during discovery or risk the automatic loss of this lawsuit. Either alternative could place the government at a disadvantage when promulgating new immigration regulations and severely jeopardize our collective security in the interim.


The Dormant Naturalization Clause


Additionally, even though Flentje emphasized Washington's lack of standing in the instant suit, he did not challenge its attempt to interfere with U.S. foreign policy. The Constitution explicitly reserves the power "To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization" to the federal government in Article I, Section 8, an assignment of authority which plainly indicates that only the United States can control its rules pertaining to immigration. This is made clear in Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160 (1941), in which the respondent unconstitutionally attempted to curb migration from the Midwest by penalizing those aiding indigent travelers, and in State v. Steamship "Constitution," 42 Cal. 578 (1872), in which a California statute that sought to deny admission to international immigrants was struck down as infringing on the sole right of the U.S. government to regulate entry to this nation.


It is a long-standing principle that certain rights enumerated as belonging to the federal government in the Constitution cannot be usurped by the several states. Our national jurisprudence concerning the Dormant Commerce Clause best illustrates this. In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, the Supreme Court declared: "The [Commerce] Clause, in Justice Stone's own phrasing, 'by its own force' prohibits certain state actions that interfere with interstate commerce. South Carolina State Highway Dept. v. Barnwell Brothers, Inc., 303 U.S. 177, 185 (1938)." 504 U.S. 298 (1992), see also Tyler Pipe Industries v. Washington State Dept. of Revenue, 438 U.S. 232 (1987), Nat'l Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Ill., 386 U.S. 753 (1967), Toomer v. Witsell, 334 U. S. 385 (1948). In this case, Washington contends that it sues on its own behalf and to protect its own interests; however, it is still unlawfully arrogating the functions of the United States government under Brimmer v. Rebman, where it was held that "a burden imposed by a State upon interstate commerce is not to be sustained simply because the statute imposing it applies alike to all the people of the States, including the people of the State enacting such statute." 138 U. S. 78 (1891). So long as a state possesses the intent to appropriate the plenary powers of the federal authorities, "that legislative effort is clearly impermissible under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution." Philadelphia v. New Jersey, 437 U. S. 618 (1978); Leloup v. Port of Mobile, 127 U. S. 640, 648 (1888); Kassel v. Consolidated Freightways Corp. of Del., 450 U. S. 662 (1981); Foster-Fountain Packing Co. v. Haydel, 278 U. S. 1, 10 (1928). Finally, as the Court once asserted per Chief Justice Marshall:


"It has been observed that the powers remaining with the states may be so exercised as to come in conflict with those vested in Congress. When this happens, that which is not supreme must yield to that which is supreme. This great and universal truth is inseparable from the nature of things, and the Constitution has applied it to the often interfering powers of the general and state governments, as a vital principle of perpetual operation. It results necessarily from this principle that the... power of the states must have some limits. It cannot reach and restrain the action of the national government within its proper sphere." Brown v. Maryland, 12 Wheat. 419 (1827).


Conclusion


A decision in this case is expected by the end of the week, and the lawsuit will proceed regardless of whether the emergency stay is granted or denied. However, the hearing yesterday provided us with a revealing glimpse of both the Justice Department's contentions and the important concepts left unmentioned - which could effectively shape the future of this litigation over the next weeks.

A New Tariff in Town? Not a Bad Idea

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Recently, opponents of President Trump's plan to construct a wall along the Mexican border and finance its construction with a protective tariff on Mexican imports have voiced a concern that this tariff will lead to increases in the prices of automobiles, groceries, and many other necessary goods. However, in their haste to criticize these proposals, they have overlooked several facts that make both the wall and the import tax a national imperative.

First, the argument that tariffs will raise the cost of living in America is based on the specious assumption that our manufacturing and agricultural requirements will continue to be outsourced at the same rate after these plans go into effect. This exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose and practical impact of protectionist measures. Clearly, the border tax is designed not to penalize U.S. consumers but to reverse the rapid attrition of the national labor market. Furthermore, the slowing of international trade may actually reduce the cost of many food items, since domestic farmers will easily be able to meet our consumers' needs and American purchasers will no longer have to compete with Chinese and Mexican wholesalers willing to buy up U.S.-grown grain at exorbitant rates. The return of well-paying manufacturing jobs will also increase the availability of basic necessities by restoring employment to pre-NAFTA levels and creating real career paths for Americans currently stuck in the service sector due to the paucity of domestic jobs. For all of these reasons, the imposition of protective tariffs will boost the national economy.

Additionally, those criticizing these plans on the grounds that they are allegedly inimical to our democratic ideals are ignoring one of our most important national values: self-reliance and the willingness to prioritize our common interests over the convenience of luxury imports. Leading up to the American Revolution, our ancestors were prepared to sacrifice their own comfort as consumers in order to further the cause of our independence by boycotting British-made goods and products subject to arbitrary taxation. Nearly two and a half centuries later, it is hard to believe that our citizens have not inherited their devotion along with their achievements; that during the short period of economic transition that will follow the implementation of these proposals, we will not gladly invest in our collective prosperity and accept any temporary inconveniences caused by the preservation of American jobs.
The change has happened slowly, but its effects are visible everywhere. The economic rebound our country is supposedly experiencing no longer carries with it the promise of prosperity for anyone willing to work; prices of everyday items are rising as salaries remain stagnant; upward mobility is severely limited by the scarcity of jobs; and the very existence of the middle class is threatened. Last night's 20/20 broadcast "My Reality: A Hidden America" examined the growing problem of income disparity by following the lives of several working-class individuals and families, and posited that a $12 or $15 minimum wage would help solve these problems. However, though this may temporarily ameliorate the desperate conditions faced by many workers, it does nothing to address the underlying flaws in our national policy that allowed this climate to develop.

Two interlinked forces have shaped the modern economy to the greatest degree. Untrammeled consolidation and collusion between corporations has artificially raised the cost of living and reduced the number of available positions; while injurious trade deals such as NAFTA have outsourced the remaining opportunities to foreign factories and rendered the traditional image of middle-class careers - manufacturing jobs paying enough for employees to purchase a home and support a family - obsolescent.

The reduction in the number of open jobs affects employees in two ways. Firstly, it lowers salaries outright by increasing the number of willing candidates for even the least desirable positions, and denying applicants the opportunity to work for a rival company that was either transferred overseas, acquired entirely, or driven out of business by these national trends of monopolization and outright exodus. Secondly, in the absence of free competition, the emerging conglomerate has almost complete control over the prices of its products, decreasing the purchasing power of already meager wages.

While these conditions exist, statutory increases in the minimum wage will fail to materially better our current predicament. First, drastic inflation will quickly ensue as noncompetitive industries remain the same, but the prices consumers will pay for their products rise; second, small enterprises with modest profits bear most of the burden but only receive a disproportionately small amount of the additional commerce produced by workers' augmented earnings; third, as long as tariffs on imports from Asia remain relatively low and trade with Mexico remains free, far more jobs will be created south of the border for $3.88 a day than here at home for $15 an hour. If our antitrust laws are enforced and protective tariffs are established, natural competition will raise wages and lower prices until our past prosperity begins to reemerge; but artificial salary hikes create as many problems as they solve.

Bayer Beware - Monsanto Merger Moves Ahead

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Just yesterday, stockholders in the Monsanto Company approved a proposed merger with German chemical and medical behemoth Bayer, which has agreed to pay $66 billion dollars for the notorious agricultural empire.

The shareholders were correct: this buyout is definitely in the best interests of Monsanto. For years, the usurious limited-use license known as the MT/SA, which all growers of its seeds must sign, prohibits farmers from saving and replanting seed on their own property, a condition justified by a vague avouchment that "Monsanto Technologies are protected by U.S patent law." Even though the use of this provision has continued unchecked, it entirely ignores the luculent language of 35 U.S.C. §163. This statute provides that patents on asexually reproduced plants - a classification which clearly encompasses the synthetic breeds produced by Monsanto, such as a cross between corn and bacteria that could never sexually occur - secure "the right to exclude others from asexually reproducing the plant, and from using, offering for sale, or selling the plant so reproduced," but do not in any way curtail the traditional practice of saving seed. However, even though the deceptive implications contained in Monsanto's unconscionable contract have been the very foundation of the company's continued prosperity, it is nearly inevitable that this routine, positive fraud will be extinguished at some point.

Bayer, therefore, may have gotten more than it bargained for. Its complete acquisition of Monsanto cements its assumption of the rights and the duties contained in the MT/SA, as well as the responsibility for the Agreement's inherent defects. As the Restatement (Second) of Contracts states in §336(2):

"The right of an assignee is subject to any defense or claim of the obligor which accrues before the obligor receives notification of the assignment."


By taking on Monsanto's contracts with thousands of American farmers, it may have hoped to reap the revenues of its purchase's unlawful conduct; but will be liable for the vague and specious claims contained in these documents, and is independently answerable for all similar assertions made in contracts after the deal closes.

However, neither of these corporations will face the real consequences of Monsanto's actions or this buyout. It is U.S. farmers and consumers who will be most heavily impacted. This new, consolidated company would possess unprecedented control over both genetically engineered seed and the pesticides and weedkillers these plants have been fabricated to withstand. This heightened oligopoly will precipitate an artificial rise in the price of these agricultural commodities, costs that many small growers simply cannot afford when added to the prices of seed that must be repurchased every year. Either these farmers will be forced to sell their land, hastening the decline of the free agricultural market even further, or these new expenses will necessarily be passed on through the supply chain to the American consumer. Products we all use every day - from breakfast cereal to blue jeans - will rise in price as a result of this monopolistic merger.

The U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the several states still possess the authority to challenge this merger as an unreasonable and impermissible restraint of trade. It is imperative that they do so, to protect truly free competition and preserve the possibility of small farming.

Scott Pruitt's EPA: Don't Forget Our Rights

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

On Wednesday, Trump transition team officials announced that E. Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General and longtime ringleader of corporate and state resistance to the Clean Power Plan, will be named Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. As an affected citizen troubled by this appointment, I decided to directly ask the nominee some of my lingering questions about his policies.


Dear Mr. Pruitt,


This letter is probably not going to have any impact on the policy of the Environmental Protection Agency for the next four years. It's not going to save any lives that thousands of pages of scientific studies and legal arguments couldn't protect. I know it's not going to change your mind. But it's all I can do.


I was a supporter of President-elect Trump during the campaign, and the events of the past weeks largely validated my faith in his promises, but the laissez-faire environmental policy you have long espoused has me concerned, quite frankly. Your past positions in the ongoing lawsuits over the Clean Power Plan show great solicitude for the pecuniary cost of the EPA's regulation of the energy sector; but the plenary constitutional powers of the United States government and the human cost of inaction, though harder to quantify, must not be forgotten in the quest to revitalize the economy.


What is the paramount vision the agency under your direction will promote? For decades now, we have compared ourselves to the Chinese, envied their GDP and their rapid rise while watching from our slow, nearly imperceptible decline. But is the image of prosperity really the photograph of throngs waiting for a streetlight to change, just their eyes visible, their countenances concealed by surgical masks? Is the symbol of economic rejuvenation truly the footage of a cargo ship puffing blindly ahead in the space between the ocean of tainted green below and the sea of miasmic gray above, struggling to find the vague red glow of a safety beacon? Will these images be of our sidewalks, our ports, our lives? That choice is entirely in your hands, now. How much do you estimate the gold disc of sun to be worth, and what benefit compensates the citizens of Beijing who can no longer see it in the sky overhead? How many cents is each act of respiration valued at, and how much would a man suddenly unable to breathe give to have the privilege restored for just an instant? How many dollars does each individual's stake in our common atmosphere - the right to suspire freely and to enjoy a clear sky, a prerogative Justice Brandeis once called "an easement of light and air" - represent? These are your decisions to make. This is the arithmetic of the air, just as much as any costs of implementation can be.


Those regulatory effectuation expenses incurred can be assailed as unreasonably burdensome, or they can more simply be acknowledged as the cost of living. The government of a free nation is bound to respect the rights of natural and juristic persons within its borders against adscititious, unjustifiable regulation. But it does not have to do so at the price of the health, safety and lives of its citizens. It does not have to do so by relinquishing its sovereign authority to regulate interstate commerce and the airspace over which it retains sole control.


The exclusive authority of Congress over commerce between the several states is unambiguously set forth in Article 1, Section 8. The issue of environmental protection may be a comparatively new incarnation of the same conflict among the levels of our government that the Constitution was written and ratified to resolve, but it cannot be exempted from the univocal wording meant to cover all interstate commerce. The establishment of federal control over navigable waterways resulted from the recognition of a river's inconstancy, the impossibility of imposing political borders on the formless flow of fluid. See Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1, Transportation Co. v. Chicago, 99 U.S. 635, Pennsylvania v. Wheeling Bridge Co., 18 How. 421, Yesler v. Washington Harbor Line Commissioners, 146 U.S. 646, and Gibson v. United States, 166 U.S. 269 ("Although the title to the shore and submerged soil is in the various states and individual owners under them, it is always subject to the servitude in respect of navigation created in favor of the federal government by the Constitution"). As was said further in Gilman v. Philadelphia, 3 Wall. 713:


"The power to regulate commerce comprehends the control... of all the navigable waters of the United States which are accessible from a state other than those in which they lie. For this purpose, they are the public property of the nation, and subject to all the requisite legislation by Congress. This necessarily includes the power to keep them open and free from any obstructions to their navigation, interposed by the states or otherwise; to remove such obstructions when they exist, and to provide, by such sanctions as they may deem proper, against the occurrence of the evil and for the punishment of offenders."


The federal government is vested with the same control over United States airspace for much the same reasons. The notion that each state can set and enforce its own emissions standards - without materially affecting the air quality of another state and the health and safety of its residents - is clearly as chimerical as any supposition that the states' riparian policies are not inevitably interlinked. As the Supreme Court noted per Justice Ginsburg in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, 134 S.Ct. 1584 (2013):


"Some pollutants stay within upwind States' borders, the wind carries others to downwind States, and some subset of that group drifts to States without air quality problems. 'The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.' The Holy Bible, John 3:8 (King James Version). In crafting a solution to the problem of interstate air pollution, regulators must account for the vagaries of the wind." See also Alaska Dept. of Environmental Conservation v. EPA, 540 U.S. 461 (2004), 49 U.S.C. §40103.


The constitutional assignment to Congress of the regulation of interstate commerce thus ineluctably vests the United States government with undivided control over air and water. We cannot allow this fundamental framework to be subverted due to policy disagreements or concerns of economic expediency. The principal objections to the Clean Power Plan are the fiscal impact of its implementation, and the heightened impact felt by states with an economy centered on the production of oil and natural gas; but this cost of our constitutional system cannot be permitted to take precedence over the Constitution itself. As President Andrew Jackson famously proclaimed during the Nullification Crisis in South Carolina in 1832:


"If the unequal operation of a law makes it unconstitutional and if all laws of that description may be abrogated by any State for that cause, then, indeed, is the federal Constitution unworthy of the slightest effort for its preservation. We have hitherto relied on it as the perpetual bond of our Union. We have received it as the work of the assembled wisdom of the nation... We have looked to it with sacred awe as the palladium of our liberties, and with all the solemnities of religion have pledged to each other our lives and fortunes here, and our hopes of happiness hereafter, in its defense and support... Were we mistaken, my countrymen, in attaching this importance to the Constitution of our country?"


The contentious nature of the Clean Power Plan litigation has been replaced now by your delicate responsibility of ensuring our citizens' safety - the land and our lives are in the balance of every cost-benefit analysis the Agency will conduct under your leadership. I ask you Jackson's enduring question now in the hope that the overriding authority over our natural resources granted to the federal government by the Constitution will not be misused or eroded during your tenure.

Respectfully yours,
Kate Brisack

"Federal Fumbles" 2016: The Report Has Arrived

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
It's officially a new political tradition. Yesterday, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) released an entirely new edition of his incisive, accessible report "Federal Fumbles," which spotlights instances of government waste at taxpayer's expense. The inaugural volume brought to light a profligate program in which Syrian rebels were trained at a cost of $4 million per rebel; a grant provided by the National Endowment for the Arts which subsidized silent performances of Shakespeare plays; a study on Russian tobacco use by the National Institutes of Health; several drug purchases in which different federal agencies were charged wildly disparate rates for the same medications; and 96 other examples of our nation's feckless and injurious financial practices. This year's report is equally informative and engaging, exposing $247 billion dollars' worth of unnecessary spending:

FumblesFinal.jpg

If we educate ourselves on the way our taxpayer dollars are being used and the ways in which further waste can be prevented, we can make a difference; and Senator Lankford, by highlighting even a few of the countless poor choices resulting in our $19 trillion-dollar debt, is taking an important step in the right direction.


PR Mississippi Protest

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Those of us who respect human rights should refuse to "unite behind" fascism and fear. Those of us who believe in the sanctity of the environment should decline to accept a climate change denier as our leader. Those who uphold the rights of women should never support a rapist and misogynist as president. Those who believe in the brotherhood of mankind should disown someone whose power rests on racism and resentment.

That awful Wednesday morning, waking up to the realization that the system (not the people) had elected a dangerous demagogue as president, a few of us at Ole Miss decided to protest. Standing there, in the cold, holding signs reaffirming that "Black Lives Matter," that "Love Still Trumps Hate," and that we were "In Solidarity with the Muslim Community" (I added one reading, "Get Your Laws Off My Body -- Pro Woman, Pro Choice"), made me feel that the struggle continued. Through protest and principle, we shall overcome.

#NotMyPresident

Say No to TPP at the Polls

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
UPDATE: It's nearly been a year since we first launched our "Say No to TPP" initiative on PlanetGreen, and voters have indeed made the security of American jobs a priority in this election. The people have spoken -- Donald Trump is now officially our next President-elect, and it's high time we all put aside the vitriolic rhetoric of the past months and rally around our nation's new opportunity for renewed international prominence and economic regenesis. Thank you all for reading our varied perspectives on the election.

The election is rapidly approaching, and the race is still closer than anyone expected. In these final days both candidates are stating their concluding reasons why they are better suited for the presidency than their adversaries: Hillary Clinton stresses her foreign policy shrewdness and her opponent's volatility, while Donald Trump returns to his core messages of bringing back our jobs and strengthening our national economy.

The vital issue of trade has proved to be a priority for voters this election cycle, and for good reason. Past deals such as NAFTA continue to fuel both the exodus of American manufacturing and the influx of immigrants from Mexico, and these disastrous effects do impact our daily lives - by hindering true economic recovery, by diminishing our international status, and by flooding our store shelves with imported products posing risks to our health and safety.

These threats to our persons and our collective prosperity are real, but not only has the Obama administration has refused to acknowledge the failure of NAFTA, it has proposed an even larger-scale repetition of that mistake, commonly known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This would allow unlimited free trade with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, and leave open the possibility that China or Russia could potentially join the agreement in future years. An incomplete sampling of the TPP's unconscionable provisions:

→ A mandatory arbitration system would be instituted, in which foreign companies could challenge U.S. laws without ever setting foot in United States courts. The adjudicatory panel, known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system, would be composed of corporate lawyers who would rotate between the roles of practitioner and judge. However, even though alien businesses could remotely strike down our statutes, the government would have to resort to a foreign judiciary to enforce the few regulatory safeguards in the agreement.
→ Pharmaceutical companies holding United States patents would be given longer terms of monopoly than provided for anywhere in our patent law. This would artificially raise the prices of many lifesaving medications and obstruct free competition by prohibiting the production of generic alternatives.
→ The United States would lose its sovereignty, supplanted by the foreign rule of the ISDS, and citizens would lose many rights guaranteed them by our national legislation: the Wagner Act, fracking regulations, food safety measures, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and even the Sherman and Clayton Acts are in danger. Adding insult to injury, taxpayers could be forced to compensate extrinsic businesses for profit "losses" engendered by these essential measures.
→ Private Internet service providers would not only be allowed to monitor users' activities, they would be granted the authority to remove consumers' content and cut off web access without any semblance of due process.

Even though Hillary Clinton was forced by Bernie Sanders' supporters to rescind her support for these measures, she initially backed the TPP, and her running mate Tim Kaine has since stated that both are "flexible" on trade issues; and Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe has corroborated that she will not abide by her promise if elected. Donald Trump, however, has consistently opposed both TPP and NAFTA and pledged to restore fair international trade standards if elected. The election will decide this crucial controversy, and with it the future of our declining cities; the safety of the food on our tables; our right to national sovereignty; the personal security promised us by the Fourth Amendment; and the economic liberties of the free market.

That's why it's imperative that we can't support a candidate that may have halfheartedly promised fair trade, but has repeatedly wavered on that vow and whose record distinctly demonstrates the duplicity of her assurance. In two days, we will decide our fiscal future for decades ahead - and we must have the courage to reject the deleterious provisions of the TPP and stand up for national self-determination.

That's why I, for one, am not ashamed to say that I'm putting my eggs in the "basket of deplorables" this year.

How Are We Even Having this Conversation?

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
And how many more times will I be asking myself this question over the next days?

Tomorrow's presidential election presents a host of conundrums. Voting for a third-party candidate that represents one's moral principles, like Green Party candidate Jill Stein, is an attractive option... and one that those of us in deep-red states like Mississippi have the advantage of taking. However, especially in the swing states, there are reasons to consider voting for a candidate who, however flawed she may be, does not have a history of sexual assault... who has paid taxes within the past decade... who has not based her entire campaign on racist and xenophobic rhetoric, demonizing entire races, religions and ethnicities... who does not threaten to "rough up" those who peacefully protest her policies... who has not threatened to deny the right of women to control their own bodies... who at least makes a pretense, however specious, of encouraging unity rather than fostering hate.

Voting for a misogynistic, racist, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, violent, regressive-minded "billionaire" should not even be on the table.

Yet, these near-incredible conversations are taking place.

In public policy class last week, my fellow students debated the logistics of breaking apart families with the soon-to-be-created "deportation force" (suggesting sticking "anchor babies" in foster care or orphanages while deporting their criminal parents). Discussions with Trump supporters are no less mindblowing: allegations that Clinton favors "open borders" and is thrilled by late-term abortions (which, by the way, have been outlawed except in the case of the mothers' life sine Roe v. Wade) abound.

Don't get me wrong: Hillary does have many deeply troubling positions on a number of issues, from Palestine to the minimum wage to free health care to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

But the solution is not to vote for Trump (or his TPP-touting, funerals-for-fetuses running mate, Mike Pence).

The Republican Party, in the words of its nominee, is "not sending their best" to run for president. "They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs." (Viz. Trump's defense of noted trafficker Joseph Weichselbaum.) "They're bringing crime." (Viz. the only candidate with two court dates -- for fraud and child rape -- set for after the election.) "They're rapists."

But let us forbear from putting everyone in the basket of deplorables just yet: "And some" of Trump's supporters, "I assume, are good people."

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.