by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 30th 2015 9:03pm
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 23rd 2015 3:55pm
from the well-that-sucks dept
And, effectively, that means this is a done deal. As bizarre as it sounds, Republicans in Congress (with the help of a small group of Democrats) have given up their own Constitutional powers to regulate international commerce, and handed it to the President of an opposing party, while the majority of Democrats fought to keep their own President (and the next President...) from having such powers.
In the end, this means that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is pretty much a done deal. Negotiators have more or less said that it's ready to go, but thanks to having fast track, our own Congress will not be able to call out any of the problems in the agreement -- or ask for any changes. It can only vote thumbs up or thumbs down on the agreement. And that means that the very dangerous corporate giveaways on intellectual property laws -- locking us into extended copyrights, weakening the ability to make and sell cheap drugs -- and corporate sovereignty provisions -- allowing companies to sue for taxpayer funds over "lost profits" due to regulatory changes, is about to expand massively.
At this point, about the only way I can see that the TPP doesn't make it across the finish line is if there's a huge public outcry, making it totally toxic to Congress, but that seems like a very big long shot. So, thanks, Congress, for selling out the American public to a few big corporations today. It's going to do real harm, and you'll pretend you didn't realize that down the road. What a sham.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 18th 2015 10:37am
from the this-is-ridiculous dept
The original plan was then to pull another procedural trick to re-vote for TAA on Tuesday of this week, but after realizing they simply didn't have the votes, that vote was pushed off until at least July 30th. However, supporters of the big trade deals apparently huddled yesterday and finally came up with a plan B: they would separate out the TAA and TPA but with a promise from Republicans that they would come back together later, and the President more or less said he wouldn't sign the TPA unless TAA came with it.
Either way, this plan B has now gone into effect and narrowly succeeded in the House with a 218 to 208 vote, meaning that even though we thought this was done in the Senate, the fight now returns there. The Democratic Senators who voted for the combined package originally now need to see if they trust everyone to also support TAA if they vote for TPA.
Yes, it's a confusing mess -- but basically this fight now goes back to the Senate with a pretty good chance that there will be enough votes to give the President fast track authority. There are some questions on that front, but it's close enough that someone is likely to cave. And then it appears we're right back to the fight over the TAA. If it's true that the President really won't accept TPA without TAA, the House still needs to pass TAA and that wasn't possible as of Tuesday. This is a procedural move that moves the process forward, but it's still not a done deal that the trade agreements will happen. Of course, there is the risk that the President will go back on his word and because he's so desperate to get the TPP agreement approved, that he'll accept the TPA without the TAA... and that will truly screw over his own party while helping Republicans massively, since they hate the TAA program. The question, really, is how badly the President wants that trade agreement. Is he willing to screw over his own party to make it happen?
In short: this fight isn't over yet, and for now it goes back to the Senate... but it will probably also return to the House before long, and may involve the President. And, so, we wait...
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 17th 2015 2:46pm
As TPP Supporters Whine About Failure Of Fast Track, Why Is No One Suggesting Increased Transparency?
from the time-to-get-it-right dept
Meanwhile, the NY Times presents the argument that with the failure of fast track, and very likely TPP with it, it could greatly diminish the US's influence in Asia. This argument has been made for a long time, and it's... questionable at best. The article dutifully quotes the "40% of the global economy" line that supporters of the TPP throw out every other hour or so, but that's really overstating the impact of the TPP. Still, there is a legitimate argument that stronger trade relations between the US and these Asian countries is good for the global economy. But -- and this is the important part that isn't mentioned -- you don't need the TPP to do that.
Furthermore, this ignores the real reasons why the TPP failed. Rather than being about further opening up trading relations, the USTR ramped up the process that has been popular among lobbyists over the past couple of decades: using supposedly "free trade" deals to sneak in all sorts of regulatory schemes that will strongly pressure countries (including the US) to either change laws in certain ways, or block changing laws in other ways. That is, rather than free trade, these deals are actually the opposite. They're backdoor protectionism in the name of lobbyist-driven regulation.
And here's the thing that's amazing. In all of this, no one is talking about how to actually fix this. Pelosi talks about getting a "better deal" for the American middle class. And, sure, that would be great. But the real problem here is that these trade agreements became the playthings of giant corporate lobbyists, rather than democratically driven ideas.
If the TPP and other agreements like TTIP and TISA are really so vital to America's interests, and the interests of the "global economy," then let's have the negotiations and the debate out in public. Other international bodies, like WIPO, have long allowed such negotiations to happen publicly. It may not be how the USTR and its counterparts have negotiated such agreements in the past, but there's no reason they can't change now. Rather than continuing down this path of loading a ton of crap on the TPP tree, just to force through a few simpler free trading principles, why not conduct the negotiations openly, so that the public in all of those countries know what's going on and can see the reasoning behind these deals?
The only reason not to do this is to argue that the public is simply too dumb to understand why these deals are supposedly so important. And if that's your argument, then you're arguing against democracy. If the USTR believes it's representing democracy, then, at the very least, it should lead the way in saying that these trade negotiations will be conducted publicly and in a much more transparent way.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 16th 2015 2:43pm
from the still-waiting dept
There is no deal in place, and the House knows it, so it's not even going to try the vote. There was a procedural move to basically delay things through the end of July, so that it could come back, but it does seem clear that the President had no plan B, and really thought that House Democrats -- who have been squawking for months over this -- would eventually come around to back his position.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, while they're publicly blaming the Democrats for this, they're punishing dissenters in the ranks who threatened some of the procedural shenanigans. And, at the same time, it appears that they're trying to craft a new plan that would separate fast track from the TAA and still move forward with fast track by itself, but that creates a whole host of other problems -- the biggest one being that those who voted against TAA in order to block fast track obviously know what's going on -- and this new move would likely be met with enough resistance to stop it as well.
Everyone agrees that fast track authority for the TPP (and those other trade agreements) is not necessarily dead, but it is on significant life support.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 12th 2015 11:21am
from the down-it-goes dept
The whole setup was somewhat confusing, because that official 302 to 126 vote was against Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a program for helping workers whose jobs are displaced by trade. Such a program is usually supported by Democrats, but was rejected here in order to block Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which was bundled with TAA on the Senate side. The later "show vote" for TPA is meaningless, because it would now need to go back to the Senate for a new vote, and the Senate won't approve TPA without TAA. And, of course, all of this is needed for the USTR and Obama to get the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) approved. And, if you're confused by the fact that TAA, TPA and TPP all sound sorta similar, don't worry: that's all on purpose to confuse the hell out of you and most of the rest of the public.
Rest assured, however, that what happened today was the House of Representatives pumping the brakes on trade agreements like the TPP, after months of really heavy pressure from the White House, which had really ramped up in the past few weeks and days. This is a big blow to the USTR's program. It doesn't mean the House won't eventually get there, but it's not going to be an easy path, and this certainly could put agreements like the TPP (and TTIP and TISA) at risk.
Fri, Jun 12th 2015 3:28am
House Votes To Change Law Due To Trade Agreement, While Insisting That Trade Agreements Don't Change Laws
from the do-they-even-understand dept
The bill's prompting and passage came after the World Trade Organisation ruled in favor of Canadian farmers, who sued claiming it was "discriminatory" and thus in violation of Free Trade Agreements. The problem? Cattle bought from abroad would have to be segregated from domestic cattle, increasing costs and making imports less desirable.
With Fast Track coming up for a vote -- perhaps even today -- it's curious to see this snippet in the Associated Press report on the vote by the Speaker of the House:
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said after the vote that the last thing American farmers need "is for Congress to sit idly by as international bureaucrats seek to punish them through retaliatory trade policies that could devastate agriculture as well as other industries."That is, of course, the same John Boehner that has been encouraging the President to get more support for Fast Track, in order to pass more of these "Free Trade" deals that impose more international bureaucrats and will almost certainly lead to more disputes that "require" Congress to "not sit idly by."
Meanwhile, remember what President Obama said at the Nike Plant just a few weeks ago:
[TPP] critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation -- food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations. They're making this stuff up. (Applause.) This is just not true. No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.Less than one month on, and we have exactly what he claimed 'is not true' happening. A trade agreement forcing a law change, and having what some would claim is an impact on food safety. And it's happening a day or so before the House is voting to create even more such situations while claiming that it won't do this. Do they not even recognize what it is they're voting on?
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 11th 2015 3:28pm
from the let's-do-this-once-again dept
While this is great news, I'm somewhat surprised and disappointed that the margin of victory here was lower than a nearly identical amendment last year (which was approved 293 to 123. It's possible that some of last year's votes were in protest to the falling apart of the USA Freedom Act a year ago -- whereas since it passed this year, some felt it was okay to shift their vote here. Still, in many ways, this has the potential to be a much bigger deal and much more important than the USA Freedom Act, because those backdoor searches are a huge problem.
Of course, it's still a long way from making it into law. As we saw last year, this amendment was quietly dropped later in the year, as part of the giant "CRomnibus bill" that the government needed to pass. Still, we can hope that Congress finally recognizes how important this is.
by Karl Bode
Thu, Jun 11th 2015 8:18am
from the Obamacare-for-the-Internet dept
Of course the House isn't just trying to shame the FCC, they're hoping to gut the agency's budget and totally erode its authority as well. There's only so many ways they can accomplish this, almost all of which (outside of a 2016 party shift) end in failure. The latest attempt is via language buried in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill for fiscal 2016. According to a House news release, the bill not only strips away FCC funding, but it will prohibit the FCC from enforcing the rules (which technically take effect this Friday) until the flood of ISP lawsuits have been settled:
"The bill contains $315 million for the FCC – a cut of $25 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $73 million below the request. The legislation prohibits the FCC from implementing net neutrality until certain court cases are resolved, requires newly proposed regulations to be made publicly available for 21 days before the Commission votes on them, and prohibits the FCC from regulating rates for either wireline or wireless Internet service."Obviously these lawsuits could go on for several years, and well into the term of a new Administration, one many House members hope would then strike the rules from the books. Of course much like the never-ending hearings shaming the FCC, this is largely a partisan patty cake show pony, since it won't be signed by the President. Still, it's very sweet of the House to be so incredibly worried about consumers and the health of the Internet that they'll work tirelessly to protect ISPs' god-given right to abuse the lack of last mile broadband competition.
It remains a shame that the House hasn't yet realized yet that while they're trying desperately to frame net neutrality as a partisan issue, Republicans and Democrats alike overwhelmingly support the concept of net neutrality. So while neutrality opponents in the House may think they're agitating the base by attacking the FCC for standing up to ISPs, all they're really doing is advertising the fact that they're in the back pocket of a broadband industry data shows most consumers absolutely loathe. That's a position that will, one way or another, be coming home to roost down the road.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 10th 2015 9:35am
Congress Resolves To Create Stronger Copyright Laws In Honor Of Famous DJ Who Won First 'Remix' Grammy
from the missing-the-point-by-a-wide-wide-margin dept
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—One might argue that when she says "fair protection under copyright laws" she means stronger fair use protections enabling people like Knuckles to more easily remix the works of others into wonderful new works, without needing permission or licenses -- but that seems... unlikely. Either way, it seems fairly bizarre that you'd use someone who revolutionized an entire area of music through remixing others' works in new and creative ways as an example for the need for "copyright protection."(1) applauds the contributions made by the House music genre and artists such as Frankie Knuckles to the culture of the United States;
(2) supports the designation of a national day of recognition for Chicago House music pioneer Frankie Knuckles;
(3) recommits itself to ensuring that musical artists such as Frankie Knuckles receive fair protection under the copyright laws of the United States;
(4) endeavors to support the protection of House music artists’ content globally; and
(5) directs the Clerk of the House of Representatives to transmit enrolled copies of this resolution to Frankie Knuckles, or his assignee.