Lovely Day (Rant, . . )

Artwork depicting roads, houses, and towns built upon a landscape pockmarked with overgrown, grass-covered craters. In the distance there is a meteor streaking across the sky.

New York Times Mentions Big Light in Sky. See ‘Fashion’ Section, p. 23.

(TPP Text Finally Made Public Yesterday; Nothing to See here, Folks.)

The attitude that politics doesn’t matter seems nearly universal sometimes. Big shrug from you, maybe? I won’t hold it against you. Scratching out a living is tougher than ever, and ignoring things that aren’t screaming in your face is simply a survival instinct. Also, part of the equation is that many powerful entities are quite happy to keep you disinterested, and are making sure of it by delivering an ever-increasing stream of useless information shamefully labeled “news” that helps foster this attitude that not a damned bit of it matters, that nothing ever changes, that it’s all just another 24-hour news cycle, that today is just the same as yesterday, and tomorrow will be exactly the same as today.

The New York Times has unfortunately gone over to the dark side, and mostly completed its transition from journalistic riches to rag by doing what most mainstream media outlets have done–  tell you little of substance about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) while very occasionally repeating some of the generic selling points coming from the major corporate interests that are behind it. They’re not completely lost, however, and did one good thing this past week– they published an excellent series of articles on Arbitration.

Arbitration Everywhere, 
Stacking the Deck of Justice (First of Three Articles)
Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Robert Gebeloff. New York Times. Oct. 31, 2015

. . . clauses buried in tens of millions of contracts have deprived Americans of one of their most fundamental constitutional rights: their day in court.

Having done this, it would be a beautiful and magical thing for the Times to connect the dots and follow up with an exposé on how THE TPP IS ALL ABOUT ARBITRATION ON A GLOBAL SCALE. Almost every article critical of the TPP expresses grave concern over the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS), which essentially gives corporate interests the ability to avoid U.S. courts by sending disputes to arbitration. Maybe there’s a series of full-spread articles just about to be published by the Times, that will help to make up for their many months of lousy / minimal coverage. That would be great.

On the other hand, if the New York Times decides to continue with their minimization of the TPP, I would suggest visiting Public Citizen, Naked Capitalism, or the Intercept to see what the Times is not telling you about that big light streaking across the sky.

Update 11-15-15

On Friday, the NYT very conveniently published yet another article demonstrating how they are promoting the TPP.  Obama Pushes New Pacific Trade Pact Ahead of Asia Trip. Peter Baker. Nov. 13, 2015

If you want to sell some rusty old wheezer of a used car or other lemon while camouflaging your article as “news,”  Peter Baker hits all the right notes–

  • Don’t mention the particulars of the thing itself. Just focus on what people are saying. (“I love the color!” says Debby. “Such a sweet set of wheels!” says Tony.)
  • Name as many distinguished, well known public figures who endorse the thing as you can.
  • Minimize arguments against by rephrasing. Convert “TPP will harm the environment and U.S. workers” into  “TPP won’t do enough good, . . .”
  • Keep critics anonymous, and label them as fringe. With one exception, however, of specifically naming critics that are guaranteed to have negative reputations with your audience. In this case, Donald Trump and Rand Paul. (Really, Peter? Of all the people and organizations critical of the TPP, you name these guys?)
  • If you absolutely must mention one or more key public figures who stand in opposition, or otherwise the game will be revealed, minimize them; name them only in passing, bury their names in the middle, and absolutely do not include any quotes or specific arguments they make. Yup, the main Democratic candidates for President, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, both oppose the TPP. End of statement. No quotes, no arguments, no explanation. Move along, folks, nothing more to see here.
  • Avoid at all costs bringing up the real criticisms that will get you in trouble. In this case, ARBITRATION via ISDS.
  • Repeatedly serve the Cream-O-Goop, pro-TPP talking points as often as you can throughout the article.


Well done, Peter Baker and the New York Times.





GAG’s Friends: Not So Earth Friendly

I haven’t bothered writing much about the Graphic Artists Guild this past year, mostly to preserve my peace of mind and save energy for more productive matters, but every now and then something comes to my attention that tempts me to write more about them. A recent news item posted by the Guild about Milt Glaser’s climate change message, “It’s not Warming, It’s Dying” finally caused a big enough spike on my irony-o-meter for me to go to the trouble, not to mention that with Earth Day being here the timing’s exactly right.

Milt’s work is great and I love it, but it kills me that the Guild can talk about climate while at the same time their Copyright Alliance friends are up to no good when it comes to the environment. In case you haven’t visited my previous posts or learned this elsewhere, the Copyright Alliance is a front group created largely by associates of former Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) and his lobbying firm, the Nickles Group LLC, that caters to the interests of a few corporate interests and not so much those of the individual creators as they frequently claim. Despite knowing this the Guild continues to support them and has sent them a fair amount of money. (Directly to the D.C. office of the Nickles Group, as a matter of fact.) Sen. Don Nickles is a staunch conservative and longtime opponent of organized labor, workplace safety regulation, affordable healthcare, equal rights, and he has supported ALEC and other conservative causes during and after his time in the U.S. Senate, making it not the least bit surprising that both he and the people around him have quite a track record on the environment.


The Copyright Alliance and the Nickles Group on the Environment

The Copyright Alliance has been advocating for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which has been widely denounced as a serious threat to laws protecting the environment both within the U.S. and around the world. This effort by the Alliance is part of a larger campaign by the MPAA and the other corporations it serves to get the TPP passed.

The Nickles Group Lobbies for Koch Industries. Other high profile fossil fuel clients of the Nickles Group: Anadarko Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, and National Oilwell Varco.

Don Nickles has been a vocal opponent of renewable energy, recently pushing for the elimination of tax credits for renewable energy producers.

Don Nickles was a board member of fracking giant Chesapeake Energy, which has not only polluted aquifers, but also screwed landowners with abusive pipeline contracts while doing it. Nickles resigned from the Chesapeake board in 2012, however, after being involved in CEO Aubrey McClendon’s troubles. It appears he’s still on Valero’s board of Directors.

Mitch McConnell’s new policy director is Hazen Marshall, a top aide to Don Nickles, and until taking the new position had been a lobbyist at the Nickles Group serving their oil and gas clients. If you heard about Sen. McConnell’s call for states to block President Obama’s initiatives on climate change, well then, you now know of one of the players behind the scenes who might have had a hand in formulating that bit of politicking.

The Nickles Group’s top client is the notorious patent troll Intellectual Ventures LLC, reported to be attacking the renewable energy industry. Intellectual Ventures has been harshly criticized for its modus operandi of threatening businesses with expensive lawsuits unless licenses to the patents owned by IV are purchased. Tech industry startups have been particularly hard hit by trolls; a past epidemic of poorly defined and very broadly written patents on items such as software code and other new technologies not sufficiently understood at the patent office has handed Intellectual Ventures and other trolls the opportunity to demand victims purchase licenses to dubious patents, or risk wasting millions on a legal fight even if they stand to win in court. This bloodsucking is now being done to companies in the renewable energy business with the help of the Nickles Group. Here’s the punch line- Cindi Tripodi, a key architect of the Copyright Alliance, is a founding partner of the Nickles Group and one of the lobbyists helping Intellectual Ventures do its damage to renewable energy.

So maybe now you’ll understand why I don’t take the people at the Graphic Artists Guild to be all that environmentally conscious. At some point I’ll probably also get worked up enough to write more about how they’re also not entirely credible when it comes to copyright and the economic interests of individual creators.

(P.S.- I must have done something right in a past life, because HBO just aired “Last Week Tonight” in which John Oliver did a marvelous job explaining patent trolls.   Must see!)



TPP: Free Trade, Free Cheese.

Illustration of a wedge of cheese set as bait in complicated trap-like machinery, with misty, shadowy sci-fi environment.

Here, have some cheese.

Don’t mind the stuff connected to it that you can’t quite see or don’t understand. Trust me, it’s safe. Think of the darkness as comforting. But if you just can’t help yourself and still feel a little apprehensive despite repeated assurances that it’s perfectly safe, and tasty, and safe, you can always learn a little bit more about it.

Public Citizen / Tradewatch

Robert Scott. Fast Track to Lost Jobs and Lower Wages. Huffington Post. April 12, 2015

George Zornick. Now Congress is Fast-Tracking the TPP Fast Track. Nation. April 16, 2015 / topics / TPP

Wikileaks / TPP Investment Chapter


FCC Votes on Regs, Thursday Feb. 26

The FCC is scheduled to vote on regulations for the internet this coming Thursday, and it’s expected that they will do the right thing and declare that Title II authority of the Telecommunications Act applies to internet services. To make sure the public and FCC commissioners know that many people care deeply about this, a large group of organizations such as Daily Kos, the Nation Magazine, Greenpeace, Reddit, and Credo Action  have organized a campaign to present messages via Jumbotron outside the FCC offices on Thursday.

For your amusement, here’s my submission.

Cartoon with caption: We Need Title II Because- On the INternet, Some People Really Don't Give a Rat's Ass That You're a Dog.

Net Neutrality- What’s the Problem?

Open and Competitive Markets, . . Yeah, Sure.


No need for a long essay, since there shouldn’t be any problem at all- anyone who hasn’t spent thirty years in a cave understands that the internet is an essential utility on the order of electricity and water, and not some optional service like pet grooming or astrology reading.  Yet in Washington, D.C., where all too often it’s impossible to reach agreement that water is wet, the FCC under chairman Thomas Wheeler is still bent on regulating the internet as an “information service,” rather than a “telecommunication service.”  This makes about as much sense as attempting to regulate nuclear reactors as if they were household appliances, using product safety laws to craft the regulations needed to keep stuff from melting down and going BOOM.  My preference, though, would be for the FCC to stop screwing around, and correct its 2002 ruling before any more damage is done.

Oh, that’s right, we’re talking about Washington; what was I thinking?  Anyhow, here’s my reading list for getting deeper into the weeds.


John Nichols.  Net Neutrality Will Be Saved Only If Citizens Raise an Outcry. The Nation.  April 24, 2014

Lee Fang. Former Comcast and Verizon Attorneys Now Manage the FCC and Are About to Kill the Internet. VICE.  April 25 2014

Marvin Ammori. The FCC’s New Net Neutrality Proposal Is Even Worse Than You Think.  SLATE.  April 24, 2014

Mike Masnick. How The FCC Plans Neuter The Net, Even As The FCC Insists Everyone’s Got It All Wrong.  Techdirt.  April 25th 2014

April Glaser and Corynne McSherry. FCC’s New Rules Could Threaten Net Neutrality.  Electronic Frontier Foundation.  April 24, 2014

Bartees Cox Jr. FCC To Allow Commercial Discrimination on the Internet. PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE.  April 23, 2014

Editorial Board. Creating a Two-Speed Internet. New York Times. APRIL 24, 2014


Now for Something Completely Different-


If you’re in a short-attention-span kinda mood, here’s a video that really nails the situation with our telecoms and the coming COMCAST / Time Warner merger- (contains explicit and entirely suitable language.)

And just in case you aren’t already supersaturated with bad news about telecoms and net neutrality, here are a few additional articles and resources:

Brendan Fischer.  “How ALEC Helps Big Telecom Change State Laws for Corporate Gain” Center for Media and Democracy. February 13, 2014

Michael J. Copps. “From the desk of a former FCC Commissioner”  Journalists need to generate a national discussion on the future of the internet.  Columbia Journalism Review.February 13, 2014

John Light.  “What’s the Right Path Forward on Net Neutrality?” Moyers & Company. February 4, 2014