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

 Democracynow.org / topics / TPP

Wikileaks / TPP Investment Chapter

 

TPP: Text on Copyright and IP Leaked

The Trans-Pacific Partnership continues to spook a growing number of people, and today Wikileaks dumped a ton of fuel on the fire by publishing the chapter of the TPP that covers copyright and intellectual property rights.  In addition to the Wikileaks bombshell, 151 house Democrats sent a letter to the President today, declaring their opposition to “fast track” trade negotiation authority on TPP.

Here are resources with further details.

WikiLeaks: Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)

Public Citizen: Leaked Documents Reveal Obama Administration Push for Internet Freedom Limits, Terms That Raise Drug Prices in Closed-Door Trade Talks
.

DeLauro, Miller Lead 151 House Dems Telling President They Will Not Support Outdated Fast Track for Trans-Pacific Partnership

Knowledge Ecology International: KEI analysis of Wikileaks leak of TPP IPR text, from August 30, 2013

————

Last but not least, here’s a video on why all this business about the TPP should be important to you. (Discussion on TPP begins at 13:27, after drone warfare segment)

The Top Secret Trade Deal You Need to Know About / MOYERS & COMPANY Oct. 30, 2013

Trade Agreements Still Rolling

Negotiations on both the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) continue to roll along, despite the federal government being shut down.  Too bad; our current, truly epic storm surge of political bull crap could really use a silver lining.  I’ve posted below a few more resources on these trade agreements for you that help explain just how potentially harmful they could be to everyone’s rights and livelihoods.

If you were aware of the dangers of SOPA, or feel copyright law is important to your business, you should be paying attention to these trade deals as much as any other developments in U.S. law.

TPP: Corporate Power Tool of the 1%

PublicCitizen / Eyes on Trade

Democracy Now! Video: “A Corporate Trojan Horse”: Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact, Would Rewrite Swath of U.S. Laws

TPP and Telecom News

(NOTE: Originally published June 20, 2013, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013.  The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)

If you’re interested in the big picture of copyright and IP policy, and wish to know a little bit about the political sausage-grinding that will likely have an impact on the graphic arts industry, not to mention the U.S. economy and citizen’s rights, here are a few items you might want to dig into:

Why Should I Care About the TPP? (Video by PublicKnowledge.org)

There’s additional background information on Public Knowledge’s TPP page.  If you watched the video or are already aware of MPAA’s and RIAA’s support for SOPA/PIPA and now TPP, then you’re probably not very comfortable with the Graphic Artists Guild’s support for them through their front group, the Copyright Alliance.  While the Guild is very quiet about its membership in the Alliance, please note how the Guild’s logo is prominently displayed on the Copyright Alliance Members’ page.

In addition to the TPP continuing to roll along, there have been two noteworthy events in the past several days;

Michael Froman is Confirmed by Senate as the New USTR (U.S. Trade Representative)

(Huffington Post, June 20, 2013.)  Michael Froman, President Obama’s pick for USTR, will be overseeing negotiations on TPP and upcoming trade deals between the U.S. and Europe.  He was overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate, with all Republican senators voting yes, and only 4 Democrats voting no.  However, the dissenters Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI) Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), have some serious concerns about the current lack of transparency in trade negotiations and Froman’s lack of support for more public disclosure.

Confirmation Hearings for Thomas Wheeler, Nominee for FCC Chairman

I spent a couple hours watching C-SPAN’s coverage of the Senate confirmation hearing for nominee Thomas Wheeler on Tuesday. (C-SPAN Videos- Part IPart II)  While he appeared thoughtful and sympathetic to concerns across a wide spectrum of political viewpoints, (something all nominees have a tendency to do) I have more homework to do on him, since there will be some very large questions concerning copyright, net neutrality, corporate mergers, and god-knows what else coming before him as chair of the FCC.  His background as a lobbyist, investor, and corporate telecom executive has raised some eyebrows; see the New York Times editorial of May 08, 2013-  An Industry Man for the FCC.