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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Trans Pacific Patnership… or Another Attempt to Stifle Freedom and Kill the Economy

 To start with, you’ll have to forgive me, since I’m just learning about this. I’ve been hearing some noise in the podcasts I’ve listened to, and seen a few things on Twitter and other Social Media Sites, but haven’t really looked into it until now. This is a scary piece of legislation on several fronts. The main reason is because it’s being handled in secret. I’m someone who is on the internet all the time, and I’ve only recently been hearing about it, and apparently it was first floated in 2010. This is something that is extremely important to anyone that creates content or uses the internet. I’ll be looking at the information that is available, and talking about that here.

What the Fuck are You Talking about? We already have free trade agreements with everyone don’t we?

 Actually, no we don’t. It may seem like we have tariff-free trade agreements with all the other industrialized countries, but we actually only have agreements with about 20 countries, according to the US Trade Department. The United States has entered into agreements with these countries that eliminate tariffs, in an effort to encourage U.S. exports.  
So what is a tariff? According to Merriam-Webster online: A tariff is a tax on goods coming into or leaving a country. So why is it bad that the government wants to lower taxes? Because in this instance, it isn’t lowering taxes on you, but other countries. Doesn’t that mean products are cheaper? Sure it does, and that means that these other countries can send us more stuff and our stores can sell it much cheaper. Okay so why is this a bad thing? Would you just get to the point, already?

The reason that these agreements are bad is because the U.S. was at one time the largest manufacturing and textiles exporter in the world. Now we have transitioned to a service or server economy, which means we have stopped producing goods, for the most part. This is a problem for several reasons, the biggest being that if you don’t produce goods, you become more and more dependent on those that do produce goods. So while it’s awesome that we can get dvd players, and cars, and computers relatively cheap, it’s much less cool if our partners suddenly decide that they can cripple us by not giving us cheap shit. But, wait, wait, wait, hold on...  If they can give us cheap shit, what are we giving them? A lot of money. Also a shitty economy. Because when your entire economy depends on exporting your goods, you don't have much left for personal use, which drives up the prices on those products because of the law of supply and demand. Also, when you are an export economy, you are only producing certain things, which means the other stuff is being imported and most likely from a non-FTA country, so the prices on those goods are higher. 

The Trans Pacific Partnership ... or How the Internet Was Lost

The Trans Pacific Partnership is a new Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, Canada, Japan and Taiwan. It is a treaty that is going to open up production and workforce trade between the member nations. It will help relax the tariffs on incoming and outgoing products. It will place major restrictions on content on the internet. It will... wait, what? Go back to that last part for a minute. This is one of the most restrictive and secretive treaties I have ever seen. Even members of Congress being briefed on it, cannot bring a pen or paper into the meetings. They can't make amendments or comments on it. It's called fast tracking, and is a horrible idea, especially when you look at Article Four, Section 1, which according to the Electronic Freedom Foundation, based on leaked drafts, reads thusly:
                                   1. Each Party shall provide that authors, performers, and producers of 
                                       phonograms*8* have the right*9* to authorize or prohibit all 
                                       reproductions of their works, performances, and phonograms,
                                       *10* in any manner or form, permanent or temporary (including 
                                       temporary storage in electronic form).
This means that it is illegal to look at copyrighted material without the copyright owner's permission, because of the way the internet works. When you look at a webpage your computer automatically makes a copy of that page on you computer in a folder called Temporary Internet Files. There is no exception for Fair Use, no discrimination for legal uses, such as parody. This is the DMCA without all the restrictions for common sense. There are many things wrong with this agreement, but for content creators on the Internet, this is the worst, because the partner nations don't need your permission to file suit against the country where the infraction took place. The fact that it happened is enough to bring action, whether or not the creator has a problem with the usage.

Well Certainly That's A Bit Ridiculous... or Ability Doesn't Equate Action

Okay, so the Treaty says that this can happen, but why would it? I can foresee many reasons this could happen. The main reason is that the Internet, in and of itself, is a ravening beast that got out of the government's control. It's the virus that was created in a lab and escaped because some idiot went to get a sandwich, and now it has affected the entire world. We now have a means to communicate and organize, globally in under a minute. This section exists for the sole purpose of restricting knowledge, and keep the population ignorant. It is to keep us from sharing ideas, even though that was the original intention of the Internet. DARPA created this mass means of communication so that they could keep abreast of developments across the country instantly, and now that the common people have that same capability, it's a threat to the Governments of the world. One just has to look at the Arab Spring and Occupy movements to see just how dangerous it is for people to be able to reach out instantly and bring other people into the fold. The entire Arab Spring and Tahrir Square riots were organized and carried out over Twitter. They overthrew a dictatorial and tyrannical regime with 140 characters at a time. Occupy was able to communicate police presences and locations over Twitter and Facebook to avoid arrest for those that didn't want to be arrested. 
If you think it's ridiculous, ask yourself if you thought the Patriot Act would be used to setup massive spying on U.S. citizens, just in case there might be terrorist ties. Ask yourself if you thought the U.S. President would ever use an Unmanned Drone to kill a U.S. Citizen, extra-judicially. Once something is enacted is it very hard to get rid of it, even when it has outlived its usefulness. One only needs to look at the ridiculous laws on the books that were made to make a point, and then later used in court, because someone figured out they could actually use that ridiculous law to prosecute someone they don't like.

My Thoughts

This is a dangerous piece of legislation, and it's a bad deal all around. It is exclusionary on the local, state, national and even international level. It is a method of excluding certain countries, most notably China and Russia, to isolate their influence in the region. The issue of Free Trade is bad for both our economy and the other nations' economies, because our entire infrastructure is built on taxes. Tariffs are good for local production because we need industry, and need to know how to build and produce. We cannot rely on products from other countries, because what happens when that country stops production due to natural disaster, political upheaval, or just because they don't like our policies somewhere in the world. We need tariffs, because it encourages local production by limiting the amount of foreign products in the market. One only need look at Detroit to see the impact of Globalization and Free Trade. A lot of Detroit's problems are the fault of American Manufacturers' inability to adapt to changing technology and mindsets about the environment and the economy, but it was helped along largely because of NAFTA and CAFTA, allowing cheaper parts to flood the U.S. market. I'm not saying that NAFTA and CAFTA and SHAFTA were the only factors, but they certainly didn't help matters. Instead of sending our jobs and services overseas maybe we should be spending money here, to encourage growth and production. Then we can help other countries do the same. 

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