Friday, November 29, 2013

The US mainstream media regularly disparages "conspiracy theorists" as though all crimes are committed by idividuals. Here is proof positive that if you DON'T believe in conspiracy theories you are inviting victimization by all manner of conspirators.

Three More NYC Contractors Found Guilty in Massive CityTime Scandal to Modernize Payroll System

Three computer consultants were found guilty on Friday of multiple charges for defrauding New York City of millions of dollars in the largest corruption case in city history. Private consultants were found guilty of siphoning tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks from the scandal-ridden $700 million CityTime payroll project. Last year, the project’s main contractor, SAIC, was forced to repay the city $500 million as part of a deferred prosecution agreement. Meanwhile, a top SAIC official is poised to become the next Secretary of the Air Force. The Senate is expected to soon hold a confirmation vote for Deborah Lee James who was in charge of “corporate responsibility” at SAIC at the time of the CityTime scandal. We get an update on the story from Democracy Now! co-host Juan González, who originally broke the story in the New York Daily News.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It seems that the criminal big banks that brought on "The Great Recession" by creating the housing bubble [by means of mortgage fraud followed by selling as triple-A securities "collaterized debt obligations" (CDOs) consisting of doomed mortgages] are now initiating another bubble by buying up forclosed houses, renting them out, and then creating rent-payment CDOs that will profit them without fear of loss because if and when this bubble bursts it will be the people who buy these new CDOs who will be the losers.

The Empire Strikes Back
How Wall Street Has Turned Housing Into a Dangerous Get-Rich-Quick Scheme -- Again
Posted by Laura Gottesdiener at 7:44am, November 26, 2013.

You can hardly turn on the television or open a newspaper without hearing about the nation’s impressive, much celebrated housing recovery. Home prices are rising! New construction has started! The crisis is over! Yet beneath the fanfare, a whole new get-rich-quick scheme is brewing.

Over the last year and a half, Wall Street hedge funds and private equity firms have quietly amassed an unprecedented rental empire, snapping up Queen Anne Victorians in Atlanta, brick-faced bungalows in Chicago, Spanish revivals in Phoenix. In total, these deep-pocketed investors have bought more than 200,000 cheap, mostly foreclosed houses in cities hardest hit by the economic meltdown.

Wall Street’s foreclosure crisis, which began in late 2007 and forced more than 10 million people from their homes, has created a paradoxical problem. Millions of evicted Americans need a safe place to live, even as millions of vacant, bank-owned houses are blighting neighborhoods and spurring a rise in crime. Lucky for us, Wall Street has devised a solution: It’s going to rent these foreclosed houses back to us. In the process, it’s devised a new form of securitization that could cause this whole plan to blow up -- again.

Since the buying frenzy began, no company has picked up more houses than the Blackstone Group, the largest private equity firm in the world. Using a subsidiary company, Invitation Homes, Blackstone has grabbed houses at foreclosure auctions, through local brokers, and in bulk purchases directly from banks the same way a regular person might stock up on toilet paper from Costco.

In one move, it bought 1,400 houses in Atlanta in a single day. As of November, Blackstone had spent $7.5 billion to buy 40,000 mostly foreclosed houses across the country. That’s a spending rate of $100 million a week since October 2012. It recently announced plans to take the business international, beginning in foreclosure-ravaged Spain.

Few outside the finance industry have heard of Blackstone. Yet today, it’s the largest owner of single-family rental homes in the nation -- and of a whole lot of other things, too. It owns part or all of the Hilton Hotel chain, Southern Cross Healthcare, Houghton Mifflin publishing house, the Weather Channel, Sea World, the arts and crafts chain Michael’s, Orangina, and dozens of other companies.

Blackstone manages more than $210 billion in assets, according to its 2012 Securities and Exchange Commission annual filing. It’s also a public company with a list of institutional owners that reads like a who’s who of companies recently implicated in lawsuits over the mortgage crisis, including Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, UBS, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and of course JP Morgan Chase, which just settled a lawsuit with the Department of Justice over its risky and often illegal mortgage practices, agreeing to pay an unprecedented $13 billion fine.

In other words, if Blackstone makes money by capitalizing on the housing crisis, all these other Wall Street banks -- generally regarded as the main culprits in creating the conditions that led to the foreclosure crisis in the first place -- make money too.

An All-Cash Goliath

In neighborhoods across the country, many residents didn’t have to know what Blackstone was to realize that things were going seriously wrong.

Last year, Mark Alston, a real estate broker in Los Angeles, began noticing something strange happening. Home prices were rising. And they were rising fast -- up 20% between October 2012 and the same month this year. In a normal market, rising home prices would mean increased demand from homebuyers. But here was the unnerving thing: the homeownership rate was dropping, the first sign for Alston that the market was somehow out of whack.

The second sign was the buyers themselves.

About 5% of Blackstone's properties, approximately 2,000 houses, are located in the Charlotte metro area. Of those, just under 1,000 (pictured above) are in Mecklenberg County, the city's center. (Map by Anthony Giancatarino, research by Symone New.)

“I went two years without selling to a black family, and that wasn’t for lack of trying,” says Alston, whose business is concentrated in inner-city neighborhoods where the majority of residents are African American and Hispanic. Instead, all his buyers -- every last one of them -- were besuited businessmen. And weirder yet, they were all paying in cash.

Between 2005 and 2009, the mortgage crisis, fueled by racially discriminatory lending practices, destroyed 53% of African American wealth and 66% of Hispanic wealth, figures that stagger the imagination. As a result, it’s safe to say that few blacks or Hispanics today are buying homes outright, in cash. Blackstone, on the other hand, doesn’t have a problem fronting the money, given its $3.6 billion credit line arranged by Deutsche Bank. This money has allowed it to outbid families who have to secure traditional financing. It’s also paved the way for the company to purchase a lot of homes very quickly, shocking local markets and driving prices up in a way that pushes even more families out of the game.

“You can’t compete with a company that’s betting on speculative future value when they’re playing with cash,” says Alston. “It’s almost like they planned this.”

In hindsight, it’s clear that the Great Recession fueled a terrific wealth and asset transfer away from ordinary Americans and to financial institutions. During that crisis, Americans lost trillions of dollars of household wealth when housing prices crashed, while banks seized about five million homes. But what’s just beginning to emerge is how, as in the recession years, the recovery itself continues to drive the process of transferring wealth and power from the bottom to the top.

From 2009-2012, the top 1% of Americans captured 95% of income gains. Now, as the housing market rebounds, billions of dollars in recovered housing wealth are flowing straight to Wall Street instead of to families and communities. Since spring 2012, just at the time when Blackstone began buying foreclosed homes in bulk, an estimated $88 billion of housing wealth accumulation has gone straight to banks or institutional investors as a result of their residential property holdings, according to an analysis by TomDispatch. And it’s a number that’s likely to just keep growing.

“Institutional investors are siphoning the wealth and the ability for wealth accumulation out of underserved communities,” says Henry Wade, founder of the Arizona Association of Real Estate Brokers.

But buying homes cheap and then waiting for them to appreciate in value isn’t the only way Blackstone is making money on this deal. It wants your rental payment, too.

Securitizing Rentals

Wall Street’s rental empire is entirely new. The single-family rental industry used to be the bailiwick of small-time mom-and-pop operations. But what makes this moment unprecedented is the financial alchemy that Blackstone added. In November, after many months of hype, Blackstone released history’s first rated bond backed by securitized rental payments. And once investors tripped over themselves in a rush to get it, Blackstone’s competitors announced that they, too, would develop similar securities as soon as possible.

Depending on whom you ask, the idea of bundling rental payments and selling them off to investors is either a natural evolution of the finance industry or a fire-breathing chimera.
“This is a new frontier,” comments Ted Weinstein, a consultant in the real-estate-owned homes industry for 30 years. “It’s something I never really would have dreamt of.”
However, to anyone who went through the 2008 mortgage-backed-security crisis, this new territory will sound strangely familiar.

"It's just like a residential mortgage-backed security," said one hedge-fund investor whose company does business with Blackstone. When asked why the public should expect these securities to be safe, given the fact that risky mortgage-backed securities caused the 2008 collapse, he responded, “Trust me.”

For Blackstone, at least, the logic is simple. The company wants money upfront to purchase more cheap, foreclosed homes before prices rise. So it’s joined forces with JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, and Deutsche Bank to bundle the rental payments of 3,207 single-family houses and sell this bond to investors with mortgages on the underlying houses offered as collateral. This is, of course, just a test case for what could become a whole new industry of rental-backed securities.

Many major Wall Street banks are involved in the deal, according to a copy of the private pitch documents Blackstone sent to potential investors on October 31st, which was reviewed by TomDispatch. Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, and Credit Suisse are helping market the bond. Wells Fargo is the certificate administrator. Midland Loan Services, a subsidiary of PNC Bank, is the loan servicer. (By the way, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and PNC Bank are all members of another clique: the list of banks foreclosing on the most families in 2013.)

According to interviews with economists, industry insiders, and housing activists, people are more or less holding their collective breath, hoping that what looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck won’t crash the economy the same way the last flock of ducks did.

“You kind of just hope they know what they’re doing,” says Dean Baker, an economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “That they have provisions for turnover and vacancies. But have they done that? Have they taken the appropriate care? I certainly wouldn’t count on it.” The cash flow analysis in the documents sent to investors assumes that 95% of these homes will be rented at all times, at an average monthly rent of $1,312. It’s an occupancy rate that real estate professionals describe as ambitious.

There’s one significant way, however, in which this kind of security differs from its mortgage-backed counterpart. When banks repossess mortgaged homes as collateral, there is at least the assumption (often incorrect due to botched or falsified paperwork from the banks) that the homeowner has, indeed, defaulted on her mortgage. In this case, however, if a single home-rental bond blows up, thousands of families could be evicted, whether or not they ever missed a single rental payment.

“We could well end up in that situation where you get a lot of people getting evicted... not because the tenants have fallen behind but because the landlords have fallen behind,” says Baker.

Bugs in Blackstone’s Housing Dreams

Whether these new securities are safe may boil down to the simple question of whether Blackstone proves to be a good property manager. Decent management practices will ensure high occupancy rates, predictable turnover, and increased investor confidence. Bad management will create complaints, investigations, and vacancies, all of which will increase the likelihood that Blackstone won’t have the cash flow to pay investors back.

If you ask CaDonna Porter, a tenant in one of Blackstone's Invitation Homes properties in a suburb outside Atlanta, property management is exactly the skill that Blackstone lacks. “If I could shorten my lease -- I signed a two-year lease -- I definitely would,” says Porter.

The cockroaches and fat water bugs were the first problem in the Invitation Homes rental that she and her children moved into in September. Porter repeatedly filed online maintenance requests that were canceled without anyone coming to investigate the infestation. She called the company’s repairs hotline. No one answered.

The second problem arrived in an email with the subject line marked “URGENT.” Invitation Homes had failed to withdraw part of Porter’s November payment from her bank account, prompting the company to demand that she deliver the remaining payment in person, via certified funds, by five p.m. the following day or incur “the additional legal fee of $200 and dispossessory,” according to email correspondences reviewed by TomDispatch.

Porter took off from work to deliver the money order in person, only to receive an email saying that the payment had been rejected because it didn’t include the $200 late fee and an additional $75 insufficient funds fee. What followed were a maddening string of emails that recall the fraught and often fraudulent interactions between homeowners and mortgage-servicing companies. Invitation Homes repeatedly threatened to file for eviction unless Porter paid various penalty fees. She repeatedly asked the company to simply accept her month’s payment and leave her alone.

“I felt really harassed. I felt it was very unjust,” says Porter. She ultimately wrote that she would seek legal counsel, which caused Invitation Homes to immediately agree to accept the payment as “a one-time courtesy.”

Porter is still frustrated by the experience -- and by the continued presence of the cockroaches. (“I put in another request today about the bugs, which will probably be canceled again.”)

A recent Huffington Post investigation and dozens of online reviews written by Invitation Homes tenants echo Porter’s frustrations. Many said maintenance requests went unanswered, while others complained that their spiffed-up houses actually had underlying structural issues.

There’s also at least one documented case of Blackstone moving into murkier legal territory. This fall, the Orlando, Florida, branch of Invitation Homes appeared to mail forged eviction notices to a homeowner named Francisco Molina, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Delivered in letter-sized manila envelopes, the fake notices claimed that an eviction had been filed against Molina in court, although the city confirmed otherwise. The kicker is that Invitation Homes didn’t even have the right to evict Molina, legally or otherwise. Blackstone’s purchase of the house had been reversed months earlier, but the company had lost track of that information.

The Great Recession of 2016?

These anecdotal stories about Invitation Homes being quick to evict tenants may prove to be the trend rather than the exception, given Blackstone’s underlying business model. Securitizing rental payments creates an intense pressure on the company to ensure that the monthly checks keep flowing. For renters, that may mean you either pay on the first of the month every month, or you’re out.

Although Blackstone has issued only one rental-payment security so far, it already seems to be putting this strict protocol into place. In Charlotte, North Carolina, for example, the company has filed eviction proceedings against a full 10% of its renters, according to a report by the Charlotte Observer.

 About 9% of Blackstone’s properties, approximately 3,600 houses, are located in the Phoenix metro area. Most are in low- to middle-income neighborhoods. (Map by Anthony Giancatarino, research by Jose Taveras.)

Forty thousand homes add up to only a small percentage of the total national housing stock. Yet in the cities Blackstone has targeted most aggressively, the concentration of its properties is staggering. In Phoenix, Arizona, some neighborhoods have at least one, if not two or three, Blackstone-owned homes on just about every block.

This inundation has some concerned that the private equity giant, perhaps in conjunction with other institutional investors, will exercise undue influence over regional markets, pushing up rental prices because of a lack of competition. The biggest concern among many ordinary Americans, however, should be that, not too many years from now, this whole rental empire and its hot new class of securities might fail, sending the economy into an all-too-familiar tailspin.

“You’re allowing Wall Street to control a significant sector of single-family housing,” said Michael Donley, a resident of Chicago who has been investigating Blackstone’s rapidly expanding presence in his neighborhood. “But is it sustainable?” he wondered. “It could all collapse in 2016, and you’ll be worse off than in 2008.”

Laura Gottesdiener is a journalist and the author of A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home, published in August by Zuccotti Park Press. She is an editor for Waging Nonviolence and has written for Rolling StoneMs., Playboy, the Huffington Post, and other publications. She lived and worked in the People’s Kitchen during the occupation of Zuccotti Park. This is her second TomDispatch piece.

[Note: Special thanks to Symone New and Jose Taveras for conducting the difficult research to locate Blackstone-owned properties. Special thanks also to Anthony Giancatarino for turning this data into beautiful maps.]

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Ann Jones’s They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story.
Copyright 2013 Laura Gottesdiener

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Harvey Wasserman knows what he is talking about. Particularly, the fuel rods in a shaky above ground storage tub that must be kept under water or else the protective tubes would spontaneously catch fire releasing the contained radioisotopes into that atmosphere. And this is sure to happen when the next strong earthquake strikes near by. The company TEPCO has no experts. And being a company they are more interested in making money than protecting against disaster. Wasserman argues that the world's top experts should now take over this critical problem. But there seems to be barriers to even getting the UN involved, while the news media, ignorant of the problem play it down. I, like Wasserman, love Japan but like him I would not go back there now.

Best of the Web: News and Analysis
Original Here

Harvey Wasserman: Risky Operation at Fukushima Demands World Action

Published on Nov 19, 2013

Laura Flanders' show streams at 
This week, the operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant began the process to remove 400 tons of highly irradiated spent fuel, Nuclear researcher Harvey Wasserman talks about the risks involved and need for world intervention. Distributed by

Monday, November 25, 2013

The mainstream media (the propaganda arm of a corrupt government) does not tell you things like this. People are homeless because the too-big-to-jail big banks stole their homes by mortgage fraud, middle-class American jobs have been off shored, and Republican idiots on Congress recenty caused the government to weaken the economy by furloughing most its employees.

More Than 600,000 Americans Are Homeless On Any Given Night


CREDIT: Wikimedia

More than 600,000 Americans are homeless on a given night, according to the latest government data, which conducts a count on a specific night in January every year. Nearly a quarter are children and a third were living in unsheltered places like parks, cars, or abandoned buildings.

The number of people who are chronically homeless, or who have been continuously homeless for more than one year or experienced at least four episodes over the last three, is over 100,000, and two-thirds go unsheltered. There were more than 57,000 homeless veterans.

The good news is that the government says the numbers have been declining overall. Homelessness declined by 4 percent compared to last year and by 9 percent since the beginning of the recession in 2007. Chronic homelessness has dropped by 25 percent since 2007 and homelessness among veterans went down by 24 percent.
Blogger's Note: Never believe anything the U.S. government or its "prestitute" media tells you. They rig everything.
But they aren’t declining everywhere, and some states actually saw huge increases. Five states — California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and Texas — account for more than half of the country’s homeless population, and of those three saw some of the largest upticks. Homelessness rose by 11.3 percent in New York, by 8.7 percent in Massachusetts, and by 4.5 percent in California over 2012. Other states had far larger jumps, such as a 33.1 percent increase in South Carolina and 26 percent increase in Maine. Overall, 20 states saw their rates go up compared to last year. Since 2007, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, and Washington, DC have seen increases of more than 20 percent.

Other indicators have also shown increases. The number of homeless students reached all-time high last year of more than a million, or 2 percent of the student population. The number of homeless children in Massachusetts also just hit a record high.

And a host of evidence shows that it is increasingly dangerous to be homeless. Violence against those without shelter is on the rise and news stories of homeless people who are killed for no reason have been piling up.

The progress that has been made in reducing homelessness could also stall if severe budget cuts continue. The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that the automatic cuts known as sequestration will remove more than 100,000 homeless and formerly homeless people from programs. These programs have had little wiggle room to absorb the cuts without making reductions, which has led to dramatic, immediate pull backs. One small example is Triumph Treatment Services in Yakima, WA, a program many homeless people turn to in order to get back on their feet, which had to reduce its beds from 68 to 50 through June and will have to cut about two beds every month next year. Sequestration is also cutting housing vouchers to help low-income people afford rent, which means that people who are in shelters or transitional programs will be shut out of the assistance they need to get their own apartments. Even more will be denied assistance next year if sequestration continues.

Yet there are plenty of programs that have been shown to be effective at helping the homeless. Creating more shelter to help house them is much cheaper than leaving people on the streets. Some places are giving homeless people lockers for their possessions, which could help with safety and other issues they face. A truly innovative program in San Francisco offers a day-long fair where homeless people can get all of the services they need in one place without hassle or the need to find transportation to a multitude of places. Yet the things that are proven to reduce homelessness require investment at a time when budgets are being slashed.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Paul Craig Roberts: "China is going to let the dollar decline further in value." "This blow to the dollar in addition to the blows delivered by jobs offshoring and the uncovered bets in the gambling casino created by financial deregulation means that the US economy as we knew it is coming to an end." Translation: When the dollar ceases to be the world's reserve currency, your dollars may buy as little as half as much as they buy now.

The Dying Dollar — Paul Craig Roberts

November 22, 2013 | Original Here                                             Go here to sign up to receive email notice of this news letter

The Dying Dollar
Federal Reserve and Wall Street Assassinate US Dollar

Since 2006, the US dollar has experienced a one-quarter to one-third drop in value to the Chinese yuan, depending on the choice of base.  

Now China is going to let the dollar decline further in value.  China also says it is considering undermining the petrodollar by pricing oil futures on the Shanghai Futures Exchange in yuan. This on top of the growing avoidance of the dollar to settle trade imbalances means that the dollar’s role as reserve currency is coming to an end, which means the termination of the US as financial bully and financial imperialist.  This blow to the dollar in addition to the blows delivered by jobs offshoring and the uncovered bets in the gambling casino created by financial deregulation means that the US economy as we knew it is coming to an end.

The US economy is already in shambles, with bond and stock markets propped up by massive and historically unprecedented Fed money printing pouring liquidity into financial asset prices.  This month at the IMF annual conference, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said that to achieve full employment in the US economy would require negative real interest rates.  Negative real interest rates could only be achieved by eliminating cash, moving to digital money that can only be kept in banks, and penalizing people for saving.

The future is developing precisely as I have been predicting.

As the dollar enters its death throes, the lawless Federal Reserve and the Wall Street criminals will increase their shorting of gold in the paper futures market, thereby driving the remnants of the West’s gold into Asian hands.

PBOC Says No Longer in China’s Interest to Increase Reserves
By Bloomberg News – Nov 20, 2013

The People’s Bank of China said the country does not benefit any more from increases in its foreign-currency holdings, adding to signs policymakers will rein in dollar purchases that limit the yuan’s appreciation.

“It’s no longer in China’s favor to accumulate foreign-exchange reserves,” Yi Gang, a deputy governor at the central bank, said in a speech organized by China Economists 50 Forum at Tsinghua University yesterday. The monetary authority will “basically” end normal intervention in the currency market and broaden the yuan’s daily trading range, Governor Zhou Xiaochuan wrote in an article in a guidebook explaining reforms outlined last week following a Communist Party meeting.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bill Black (my favorite economist and white-collar criminologist): "President Obama has continued and made worse the effort of President Bush to betray our nation, our democracy, and our people through the secret draft Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement — a plan which would destroy jobs, free bankers from oversight, block access to medicine, and more."

Plutocrats Plan to Dominate the Planet: But the People of Chile Are Fighting for All of Us

Chileans can push for opposition to a secretive, multi-national trade agreement that throws open the floodgates to global corporate domination.

Corporate CEOs view government and democracy as their gravest threats and are constantly seeking to discredit and hamstring both.  CEOs are particularly eager to discredit, destroy, or capture regulation and they have enlisted enormous support in both major U.S. parties and many of the world’s dominant parties for these efforts.  President Obama has continued and made worse the effort of President Bush to betray our nation, our democracy, and our people through the secret draft Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement — a plan which would destroy jobs, free bankers from oversight, block access to medicine, and more. This massive new trade agreement between the U.S. and countries including Chile would cover 40 percent of the global economy.

While there is no realistic chance of convincing Obama to repudiate the TPP, there is a chance that the people of Chile will save our democracy and our national sovereignty. Chile’s national election will occur on November 17, 2013 and it is widely expected to return former President Michelle Bachelet to power. If that happens, this politician who also happens to be a pediatrician who has treated Chagas disease (more on that shortly) could help deliver a body blow to this noxious plan.

A bit of background: The U.S. has taken a disgraceful position in the TPP negotiations in which it sides with corporate interests rather than the victims of a terrible parasitical infection called Chagas disease that is epidemic in much of Latin America and a serious problem in the U.S. as well.  Chagas is wreaking havoc in Chile, which is one of the countries negotiating TPP. The failure of Chile under its current conservative party’s control (and the failure of Peru and Mexico) to stand up to the U.S. and expose and block its effort to stand in the way of vital treatment for victims of Chagas disease represents a national disgrace by the heads of state of the U.S., Chile, Peru, and Mexico.

Progressives should urge Bachelet, should she be elected President, to make the full drafts of TPP public immediately.  She should also demand that the draft TPP be scrapped and fundamentally changed to build democracy and national sovereignty and to control the multinational corporations rather than allow them and their plutocrat panels to dominate and denigrate democracy and national sovereignty.     

The CEOs' audacious assault on national sovereignty, the rule of law, and democracy through TPP will effectively remove the possibility of defeating them through democratic means. The CEOs have had to mount their assualt secretly, for the peoples of the world would reject the their demands by an overwhelming margin if they knew what they were up to. But for groups like Public Citizen and WikiLeaks, we would have woken up to a fait accompli and had no democratic recourse.

WikiLeaks revealed part of the draft, secret TPP text on November 13, 2013.  It deals with Intellectual Property (IP).  WikiLeaks explained the TPP process.

“Since the beginning of the TPP negotiations, the process of drafting and negotiating the treaty's chapters has been shrouded in an unprecedented level of secrecy. Access to drafts of the TPP chapters is shielded from the general public. Members of the US Congress are only able to view selected portions of treaty-related documents in highly restrictive conditions and under strict supervision. It has been previously revealed that only three individuals in each TPP nation have access to the full text of the agreement, while 600 'trade advisers' - lobbyists guarding the interests of large US corporations such as Chevron, Halliburton, Monsanto and Walmart - are granted privileged access to crucial sections of the treaty text.”

The TPP negotiations are currently at a critical stage. The Obama administration is preparing to fast-track the TPP treaty in a manner that will prevent the US Congress from discussing or amending any parts of the treaty. Numerous TPP heads of state and senior government figures, including President Obama, have declared their intention to sign and ratify the TPP before the end of 2013.”

So far I've only discussed one obscene example of the Obama administration’s positions on TPP, but broader analyses of why TPP betrays our democracy and national sovereignty have been done well by others, particularly Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach.  I applaud her efforts and thank her for providing me with source materials.

The partial draft of the TPP agreement on IP and health contains this provision.

 “Article QQ.A.5: {Understandings Regarding Certain Public Health Measures7}

The Parties have reached the following understandings regarding this Chapter:

The obligations of this Chapter do not and should not prevent a Party from taking measures to protect public health by promoting access to medicines for all, in particular concerning cases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, [US oppose: chagas] and other epidemics as well as circumstances of extreme urgency or national emergency. Accordingly, while reiterating their commitment to this Chapter, the Parties affirm that this Chapter can and should be interpreted and implemented in a manner supportive of each Party's right to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all.”

The “US oppose[s]” adding “Chagas” to this list of exceptions. In reality, vigorous efforts to reduce Chagas (there is no vaccine) should be a high priority for the U.S. and Latin America (Mexico, Chile, and Peru are also parties to the TPP negotiations).  The U.S., however, is insisting on excluding Chagas disease from the list of “epidemics” for which a nation may “protect public health by promoting access to medicines for all.”  This kind of “understanding” clause is designed to provide guidance on the correct interpretation of TPP.  It appears that the current state of the TPP draft is that the other nations included Chagas but it was excluded from this clause due to the sole opposition of the U.S.  The provision of “access to medicines for all” is particularly vital in the case of Chagas disease because early drug treatments of infected newborns are extremely effective in eliminating the disease in newborns who were infected maternally.

The combination of indifference to the victims of Chagas disease and depravity of trying to prevent governments making available low or no-cost medicines to the victims – an action that will lead to many more victims (including tens of thousands of American victims) is so obscene that it brings to mind what lawyers consider the most perfect and deserved legal insult.

Richard Kluger quotes this passage from Plessy (the Supreme Court decision that upheld racial segregation as consistent with “equal protection of the laws”) in his book Simple Justice (1976):

“We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.”

Kluger then comments:

“Of all the words ever written in assessment of the Plessy opinion, none have been more withering than those ... [of] Yale law professor Charles L. Black, Jr., who [said that in] ... the two sentences... ‘The curves of callousness and stupidity intersect at their respective maxima.’”

The Obama administration’s effort to block governments from providing medicine to the victims of Chagas disease represents the intersection of callousness and stupidity at their respective maxima.  The heads of state of Chile, Mexico, and Peru have disgraced their office by failing to denounce the U.S. position on Chagas, to make public the TPP documents, and to withdraw from the treaty negotiations.

Obama has caused the TPP to violate every standard he has endorsed as president, including secret lobbying.  There is no limit on the political contributions that corporations can make to influence TPP policy or disclosure of their lobbying positions.  The TPP is bankrolled” by the world’s most powerful corporate interests.  TPP policies are not made by the American people, but they are also not made by our elected representatives in Congress. Obama’s “fast track” process for adopting TPP is designed to eliminate normal congressional powers.  Obama knows TPP is indefensible and that Americans would vote against it.  He is desperate to avoid any open, democratic debate between the people of America and the corporations, most of them foreign, that TPP seeks to make our unelected, all-powerful rulers.

This is why President Bachelet could do the world a priceless service by immediately making public the entire travesty that is TPP.

 .                                                                                                                                                                                            .
William Black is the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He spent years working on regulatory policy and fraud prevention as executive director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention, litigation director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and deputy director of the National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement, among other positions.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Did you know that the cost of keeping US soldiers in Afghanistan is $1.3 to $2.1 million per soldier? Or that it cost US taxpayers $50 million to kill one Taliban soldier? Or that the cost of the Afghan and Iraq wars is at least $6 trillion (twice the entire Social Security trust fund), thus explaining the explosion of the US public debt?

What Is The Real Agenda Of The American Police State? — Paul Craig Roberts

November 13, 2013 | Original Here                                             Go here to sign up to receive email notice of this news letter

What Is The Real Agenda Of The American Police State?

Paul Craig Roberts

In my last column I emphasized that it was important for American citizens to demand to know what the real agendas are behind the wars of choice by the Bush and Obama regimes. These are major long term wars each lasting two to three times as long as World War II.

Forbes reports that one million US soldiers have been injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

RT reports that the cost of keeping each US soldier in Afghanistan has risen from $1.3 million per soldier to $2.1 million per soldier.

Matthew J. Nasuti reports in the Kabul Press that it cost US taxpayers $50 million to kill one Taliban soldier. That means it cost $1 billion to kill 20 Taliban fighters. This is a war that can be won only at the cost of the total bankruptcy of the United States.

Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes have estimated that the current out-of-pocket and already incurred future costs of the Afghan and Iraq wars is at least $6 trillion.

In other words, it is the cost of these two wars that explain the explosion of the US public debt and the economic and political problems associated with this large debt.

What has America gained in return for $6 trillion and one million injured soldiers, many very severely?

In Iraq there is now an Islamist Shia regime allied with Iran in place of a secular Sunni regime that was an enemy of Iran, one as dictatorial as the other, presiding over war ruins, ongoing violence as high as during the attempted US occupation, and extraordinary birth defects from the toxic substances associated with the US invasion and occupation.

In Afghanistan there is an undefeated and apparently undefeatable Taliban and a revived drug trade that is flooding the Western world with drugs.

The icing on these Bush and Obama “successes” are demands from around the world that Americans and former British PM Tony Blair be held accountable for their war crimes. Certainly, Washington’s reputation has plummeted as a result of these two wars. No governments anywhere are any longer sufficiently gullible as to believe anything that Washington says.

These are huge costs for wars for which we have no explanation.

The Bush/Obama regimes have come up with various cover stories: a “war on terror,”
“we have to kill them over there before they come over here,” “weapons of mass destruction,” revenge for 9/11, Osama bin Laden (who died of his illnesses in December 2001 as was widely reported at the time).

None of these explanations are viable. Neither the Taliban nor Saddam Hussein were engaged in terrorism in the US. As the weapons inspectors informed the Bush regime, there were no WMD in Iraq. Invading Muslim countries and slaughtering civilians is more likely to create terrorists than to suppress them. According to the official story, the 9/11 hijackers and Osama bin Laden were Saudi Arabians, not Afghans or Iraqis. Yet it wasn’t Saudi Arabia that was invaded.

Democracy and accountable government simply does not exist when the executive branch can take a country to wars in behalf of secret agendas operating behind cover stories that are transparent lies.

It is just as important to ask these same questions about the agenda of the US police state. Why have Bush and Obama removed the protection of law as a shield of the people and turned law into a weapon in the hands of the executive branch? How are Americans made safer by the overthrow of their civil liberties? Indefinite detention and execution without due process of law are the hallmarks of the tyrannical state. They are terrorism, not a protection against terrorism. Why is every communication of every American and apparently the communications of most other people in the world, including Washington’s most trusted European allies, subject to being intercepted and stored in a gigantic police state database? How does this protect Americans from terrorists?

Why is it necessary for Washington to attack the freedom of the press and speech, to run roughshod over the legislation that protects whistleblowers such as Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, to criminalize dissent and protests, and to threaten journalists such as Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald, and Fox News reporter James Rosen?

How does keeping citizens ignorant of their government’s crimes make citizens safe from terrorists?

These persecutions of truth-tellers have nothing whatsoever to do with “national security” and “keeping Americans safe from terrorists.” The only purpose of these persecutions is to protect the executive branch from having its crimes revealed. Some of Washington’s crimes are so horrendous that the International Criminal Court would issue a death sentence if those guilty could be brought to trial. A government that will destroy the constitutional protections of free speech and a free press in order to prevent its criminal actions from being disclosed is a tyrannical government.

One hesitates to ask these questions and to make even the most obvious remarks out of fear not only of being put on a watch list and framed on some charge or the other, but also out of fear that such questions might provoke a false flag attack that could be used to justify the police state that has been put in place.

Perhaps that was what the Boston Marathon Bombing was. Evidence of the two brothers’ guilt has taken backseat to the government’s claims. There is nothing new about government frame-ups of patsies. What is new and unprecedented is the lockdown of Boston and its suburbs, the appearance of 10,000 heavily armed troops and tanks to patrol the streets and search without warrants the homes of citizens, all in the name of protecting the public from one wounded 19 year old kid.

Not only has nothing like this ever before happened in the US, but also it could not have been organized on the spur of the moment. It had to have been already in place waiting for the event. This was a trial run for what is to come.

Unaware Americans, especially gullible “law and order conservatives,” have no idea about the militarization of even their local police. I have watched local police forces train at gun clubs. The police are taught to shoot first not once but many times, to protect their lives first at all costs, and not to risk their lives by asking questions. This is why the 13-year old kid with the toy rifle was shot to pieces. Questioning would have revealed that it was a toy gun, but questioning the “suspect” might have endangered the precious police who are trained to take no risks whatsoever.

The police operate according to Obama’s presidential kill power: murder first then create a case against the victim.

In other words, dear American citizen, you life is worth nothing, but the police whom you pay, are not only unaccountable but also their lives are invaluable. If you get killed in their line of duty, it is no big deal. But don’t you injure a police goon thug in an act of self-defense. I mean, who do you think you are, some kind of mythical free American with rights?

Further reading:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

LORI WALLACH: "The bottom line of all of this is we need a new procedure to replace fast track that gives the public the role and Congress the role to make sure what will be binding, permanent, global laws do not undermine either our democratic process of making policies at home—that we need—or that lock us into retrograde policies that the current 600 corporate trade advisers are writing to impose on us."

TPP Exposed: WikiLeaks Publishes Secret Trade Text to Rewrite Copyright Laws, Limit Internet Freedom

WikiLeaks has published the secret text to part of the biggest U.S. trade deal in history, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). For the past several years, the United States and 12 Pacific Rim nations have been negotiating behind closed doors on the sweeping agreement. A 95-page draft of a TPP chapter released by WikiLeaks on Wednesday details agreements relating to patents, copyright, trademarks and industrial design — showing their wide-reaching implications for Internet services, civil liberties, publishing rights and medicine accessibility. Critics say the deal could rewrite U.S. laws on intellectual property rights, product safety and environmental regulations, while backers say it will help create jobs and boost the economy. President Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman reportedly wish to finalize the TPP by the end of the year and are pushing Congress to expedite legislation that grants the president something called "fast-track authority." However, this week some 151 House Democrats and 23 Republicans wrote letters to the administration saying they are unwilling to give the president free rein to "diplomatically legislate." We host a debate on the TPP between Bill Watson, a trade policy analyst at the Cato Institute, and Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Extracts: "With the atmosphere of threat created by 9/11, the final destruction of the protective features of law was quickly achieved in the name of making us safe from terrorists. The fact that we are no longer safe from our own government did not register. This is how liberty was lost, and America with it." "Remember, the FBI has stated publicly that it has no evidence that Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11..." "Still today insouciant Americans sport [yellow ribbons] on their cars unaware that what they are supporting are the murder of foreign women, children and village elders, the death and physical and mental maiming of American soldiers, and the worldwide destruction of the reputation of the United States..."

How America Was Lost — Paul Craig Roberts

November 7, 2013 | Original Here                                             Go here to sign up to receive email notice of this news letter

How America Was Lost

Paul Craig Roberts

“No legal issue arises when the United States responds to a challenge to its power, position, and prestige.” Dean Acheson , 1962, speaking to the American Society of International Law.

Dean Acheson declared 51 years ago that power, position, and prestige are the ingredients of national security and that national security trumps law. In the United States democracy takes a back seat to “national security,” a prerogative of the executive branch of government.

National security is where the executive branch hides its crimes against law, both domestic and international, its crimes against the Constitution, its crimes against innocent citizens both at home and abroad, and its secret agendas that it knows that the American public would never support.

“National security” is the cloak that the executive branch uses to make certain that the US government is unaccountable.

Without accountable government there is no civil liberty and no democracy except for the sham voting that existed in the Soviet Union and now exists in the US.

There have been periods in US history, such as President Lincoln’s war to prevent secession, World War I, and World War II, when accountable government was impaired. These were short episodes of the Constitution’s violation, and the Constitution was reinstated in the aftermath of the wars. However, since the Clinton regime, the accountability of government has been declining for more than two decades, longer than the three wars combined.

In law there is the concept of adverse possession, popularly known as “squatters’ rights.” A non-owner who succeeds in occupying a piece of property or some one else’s right for a certain time without being evicted enjoys the ownership title conveyed to him. The reasoning is that by not defending his rights, the owner showed his disinterest and in effect gave his rights away.

Americans have not defended their rights conveyed by the US Constitution for the duration of the terms of three presidents. The Clinton regime was not held accountable for its illegal attack on Serbia. The Bush regime was not held accountable for its illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Obama regime was not held accountable for its renewed attack on Afghanistan and its illegal attacks on Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen, and by its proxies on Syria.

We also have other strictly illegal and unconstitutional acts of government for which the government has not been held accountable. The Bush regimes’ acts of torture, indefinite detention, and warrantless spying, and the Obama regime’s acts of indefinite detention, warrantless spying, and murder of US citizens without due process. As the Obama regime lies through its teeth, we have no way of knowing whether torture is still practiced.

If these numerous criminal acts of the US government spread over the terms of three presidents pass into history as unchallenged events, the US government will have acquired squatters’ rights in lawlessness. The US Constitution will be, as President George W. Bush is reported to have declared, “a scrap of paper.”

Lawlessness is the hallmark of tyranny enforced by the police state. In a police state law is not a protector of rights but a weapon in the hands of government. [see Roberts & Stratton, The Tyranny of Good Intentions] The accused has no recourse to the accusation, which does not require evidence presented to a court. The accused is guilty by accusation alone and can be shot in the back of the head, as under Stalin, or blown up by a drone missile, as under Obama.

As a person aware of the long struggle against the tyrannical state, I have been amazed and disheartened by the acceptance not only by the insouciant American public, but also by law schools, bar associations, media, Congress and the Supreme Court of the executive branch’s claim to be above both law and the US Constitution.

As Lawrence Stratton and I show in our book about how the law was lost, liberals and conservatives chasing after their favorite devils, such as child abusers and drug pushers, and prosecutors, judges, and police devoted to conviction and not to justice, have gradually eroded over time the concept of law as a protection of the innocent. With the atmosphere of threat created by 9/11, the final destruction of the protective features of law was quickly achieved in the name of making us safe from terrorists.

The fact that we are no longer safe from our own government did not register.

This is how liberty was lost, and America with it.

Can liberty be regained? Probably not, but there is a chance if Americans have the necessary strength of character. The chance comes from the now known fact that the neoconservative Bush/Cheney regime took America and its puppet states to war in Afghanistan and Iraq entirely on the basis of lies. As all evidence proves, these wars were not the results of mistaken intelligence. They were the products of intentional lies.

The weapons inspectors told the Bush regime that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Despite this known fact, the Bush regime sent Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN with fabricated evidence to convince the world that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” and was a threat to the world. Even if such weapons had existed in Iraq, many countries have them, including the US and Israel, and the presence of weapons does not under the Nuremberg Laws justify unprovoked aggression against the possessor. Under the Nuremberg Laws, unprovoked military aggression is a war crime, not the possession of weapons that many countries have. The war crime was committed by the US and its “coalition of the willing,” not by Saddam Hussein.

As for the invasion of Afghanistan, we know from the last video of Osama bin Laden in October 2001, attested by experts to be the last appearance of a man dying of renal failure and other diseases, that he declared that he had no responsibility for 9/11 and that Americans should look to their own government. We know as a reported fact that the Afghan Taliban offered to turn over Osama bin Laden to Washington if the Bush regime would provide the evidence that indicated bin Laden was responsible. The Bush regime refused to hand over the (non-existent) evidence and, with support of the corrupt and cowardly Congress and the presstitute media, attacked Afghanistan without any legal justification. Remember, the FBI has stated publicly that it has no evidence that Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11 and that that is why the crimes for which the FBI wanted bin Laden did not include responsibility for the 9/11 attack.

The war propaganda campaign was well prepared. Yellow ribbon decals were handed out for cars proclaiming “support the troops.” In other words, anyone who raises the obvious questions is not supporting the troops. Still today insouciant Americans sport these decals on their cars unaware that what they are supporting are the murder of foreign women, children and village elders, the death and physical and mental maiming of American soldiers, and the worldwide destruction of the reputation of the United States, with America’s main rival, China, now calling for a “de-Americanized world.”

A country with a population as insouciant as Americans is a country in which the government can do as it pleases.

Now that we have complete proof that the criminal Bush regime took our country to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq solely on the basis of intentional lies, how can the legal institutions, the courts, the American people possibly tolerate the Obama regime’s ignoring of the obvious crimes? How can America simply accept Obama’s statement that we mustn’t look back, only move ahead? If the US government, which has committed the worst crimes of our generation, cannot be held accountable and punished, how can federal, state, and local courts fill up American prisons with people who smoked pot and with people who did not sufficiently grovel before the police state.

Doubtless, the Obama regime, should it obey the law and prosecute the Bush regime’s crimes, would have to worry about being prosecuted for its own crimes, which are just as terrible. Nevertheless, I believe that the Obama regime could survive if it put all the blame on the Bush regime, prosecuted the Bush criminals, and desisted from the illegal actions that it currently supports. This would save the Constitution and US civil liberty, but it would require the White House to take the risk that by enforcing US law, US law might be enforced against its own illegal and unconstitutional acts by a succeeding regime.

The Bush/Cheney/John Yoo neoconservative regime having got rid of US law, no doubt the Obama regime thinks it is best to leave the situation as it is, rid of law.

Without accountability, America is finished. Not only will Americans live in a police state with no civil liberties, but the rest of the world is already looking at America with a jaundiced eye. The US is being reconstituted as an authoritarian state. All it takes is one failure of accountability for the police state to become entrenched, and we have had numerous failures of accountability. Does anyone really believe that some future government is going to make restitution to persecuted truth-tellers, such as Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowdon, as was done for Japanese Americans?

Now that we know for a certain fact that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were based on propaganda and lies, Congress and the world media should demand to know what was the real secret agenda. What are the real reasons for which Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded?

No truthful explanation for these wars exists.

Paul O’Neill, the Bush regime’s first Treasury Secretary, is on public record stating that at the very first cabinet meeting, long prior to 9/11, the agenda was a US attack on Iraq.

In other words, the Bush regime’s attack on Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11.

What was the Bush regime’s secret agenda, kept secret by the Obama regime, that required an illegal, war criminal, attack on a sovereign country, an action for which officials of Hitler’s government were executed? What is the real purpose of Washington’s wars?

It is totally and completely obvious that the wars have nothing to do with protecting Americans from terrorism. If anything, the wars stir up and create terrorists. The wars create hatred of America that never previously existed. Despite this, America is free of terrorists attacks except for the ones orchestrated by the FBI. What the fabricated “terror threat” has done is to create a thorough-going domestic police state that is unaccountable.

Americans need to understand that they have lost their country. The rest of the world needs to recognize that Washington is not merely the most complete police state since Stalinism, but also a threat to the entire world. The hubris and arrogance of Washington, combined with Washington’s huge supply of weapons of mass destruction, make Washington the greatest threat that has ever existed to all life on the planet. Washington is the enemy of all humanity.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

On my last Sunday's post you listened to Bill Moyers interview two savvy economists on the horrors of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated in private to enable big business to pick our pockets even more than they are now. Well, today's post treats the "monstrous assault on democracy" that is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). George Monbiot: "Wake up, people we're being shafted."

This transatlantic trade deal is a full-frontal assault on democracy
Brussels has kept quiet about a treaty that would let rapacious companies subvert our laws, rights and national sovereignty

The Guardian,

David Cameron with Barack Obama at a state dinner in Cameron's honour in 2012 at the White House.
Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Remember that referendum about whether we should create a single market with the United States? You know, the one that asked whether corporations should have the power to strike down our laws? No, I don't either. Mind you, I spent 10 minutes looking for my watch the other day before I realised I was wearing it. Forgetting about the referendum is another sign of ageing. Because there must have been one, mustn't there? After all that agonising over whether or not we should stay in the European Union, the government wouldn't cede our sovereignty to some shadowy, undemocratic body without consulting us. Would it?

The purpose of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is to remove the regulatory differences between the US and European nations. I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago. But I left out the most important issue: the remarkable ability it would grant big business to sue the living daylights out of governments which try to defend their citizens. It would allow a secretive panel of corporate lawyers to overrule the will of parliament and destroy our legal protections. Yet the defenders of our sovereignty say nothing.

The mechanism through which this is achieved is known as investor-state dispute settlement. It's already being used in many parts of the world to kill regulations protecting people and the living planet.

The Australian government, after massive debates in and out of parliament, decided that cigarettes should be sold in plain packets, marked only with shocking health warnings. The decision was validated by the Australian supreme court. But, using a trade agreement Australia struck with Hong Kong, the tobacco company Philip Morris has asked an offshore tribunal to award it a vast sum in compensation for the loss of what it calls its intellectual property.

During its financial crisis, and in response to public anger over rocketing charges, Argentina imposed a freeze on people's energy and water bills (does this sound familiar?). It was sued by the international utility companies whose vast bills had prompted the government to act. For this and other such crimes, it has been forced to pay out over a billion dollars in compensation. In El Salvador, local communities managed at great cost (three campaigners were murdered) to persuade the government to refuse permission for a vast gold mine which threatened to contaminate their water supplies. A victory for democracy? Not for long, perhaps. The Canadian company which sought to dig the mine is now suing El Salvador for $315m – for the loss of its anticipated future profits.

In Canada, the courts revoked two patents owned by the American drugs firm Eli Lilly, on the grounds that the company had not produced enough evidence that they had the beneficial effects it claimed. Eli Lilly is now suing the Canadian government for $500m, and demanding that Canada's patent laws are changed.

These companies (along with hundreds of others) are using the investor-state dispute rules embedded in trade treaties signed by the countries they are suing. The rules are enforced by panels which have none of the safeguards we expect in our own courts. The hearings are held in secret. The judges are corporate lawyers, many of whom work for companies of the kind whose cases they hear. Citizens and communities affected by their decisions have no legal standing. There is no right of appeal on the merits of the case. Yet they can overthrow the sovereignty of parliaments and the rulings of supreme courts.

You don't believe it? Here's what one of the judges on these tribunals says about his work. "When I wake up at night and think about arbitration, it never ceases to amaze me that sovereign states have agreed to investment arbitration at all ... Three private individuals are entrusted with the power to review, without any restriction or appeal procedure, all actions of the government, all decisions of the courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from parliament."

There are no corresponding rights for citizens. We can't use these tribunals to demand better protections from corporate greed. As the Democracy Centre says, this is "a privatised justice system for global corporations".

Even if these suits don't succeed, they can exert a powerful chilling effect on legislation. One Canadian government official, speaking about the rules introduced by the North American Free Trade Agreement, remarked: "I've seen the letters from the New York and DC law firms coming up to the Canadian government on virtually every new environmental regulation and proposition in the last five years. They involved dry-cleaning chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, patent law. Virtually all of the new initiatives were targeted and most of them never saw the light of day." Democracy, as a meaningful proposition, is impossible under these circumstances.

This is the system to which we will be subject if the transatlantic treaty goes ahead. The US and the European commission, both of which have been captured by the corporations they are supposed to regulate, are pressing for investor-state dispute resolution to be included in the agreement.

The commission justifies this policy by claiming that domestic courts don't offer corporations sufficient protection because they "might be biased or lack independence". Which courts is it talking about? Those of the US? Its own member states? It doesn't say. In fact it fails to produce a single concrete example demonstrating the need for a new, extrajudicial system. It is precisely because our courts are generally not biased or lacking independence that the corporations want to bypass them. The EC seeks to replace open, accountable, sovereign courts with a closed, corrupt system riddled with conflicts of interest and arbitrary powers.

Investor-state rules could be used to smash any attempt to save the NHS from corporate control, to re-regulate the banks, to curb the greed of the energy companies, to renationalise the railways, to leave fossil fuels in the ground. These rules shut down democratic alternatives. They outlaw leftwing politics.

This is why there has been no attempt by the UK government to inform us about this monstrous assault on democracy, let alone consult us. This is why the Conservatives who huff and puff about sovereignty are silent. Wake up, people we're being shafted.

Twitter: @georgemonbiot. A fully referenced version of this article can be found at