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Emulating Gabriel Heatter

By Jerry Waxman

Gabriel Heatter

 

Author’s Note-This was supposed to be a column about the monthly meeting of the Sierra Club and its program. It developed into something else and I was powerless to stop it.

*Look for the silver lining, whene’er a cloud appears in the blue
Remember somewhere the sun is shining, and so the right thing to do is make it shine for you

 

If you’re of a certain age (at least 65 and over) you remember what radio was like in the 1940’s and 1950’s before commercial television took hold. Every network and some local radio stations had their commentators as well as general programming. Gabriel Heatter started in radio in its infancy on WOR in New York after spending some time in the Hearst organization as a reporter. In 1934 WOR became the flagship station for the new Mutual Broadcasting network and Heatter was there for the Bruno Hauptmann trial. Hauptmann was convicted of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby. Back in those days Heatter’s two main rivals for air time were Walter Winchell and Edward R. Murrow, so he was hot stuff. In 1939 he gave Alcoholics Anonymous its first national exposure and he was always looking for true and uplifting stories to broadcast. In 1942 when the US was not doing well against Japan in the Pacific the news came in that our naval forces had sunk a Japanese destroyer. Heatter started his program that evening with the iconic phrase “There’s good news tonight” a phrase he would use for the rest of his broadcasting career. It became an instant hit with audiences and Heatter spent the rest of his career making lemonade out of the sour lemons in the news feeds.

Mutual in those days was more than creative; it was eclectic in the fact that much of the programming was experimental. Ken Nordine had some outrageous stuff interspersed with Heatter, Bob and Ray, Orson Welles’s Harry Lime, Gangbusters, The Shadow and science fiction programming just to name a few. I used to listen to it on Philadelphia’s Mutual affiliate WIP and it was heaven to do my homework while listening to it. Heatter could always find the silver lining in the news, and he was so emotional that he would actually cry on the air if the news really affected him. The only other commentator I ever heard openly weep on the air was Paul Harvey on the death of Sen. Joe McCarthy. Yes, I heard that one, live too in 1957.

I’m actually wondering why I’m almost 400 words into this column and I haven’t even approached my subject yet. Well, I guess that’s because Heatter had the right attitude. He had a 30 year career of always looking on the bright side, so let’s give it a try.

The Sierra Club in Orlando meets every third Wednesday in the bucolic setting of Leu Gardens at 7:00 PM. The topic for the evening was a presentation on the pitfalls of the current Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations for which the Obama Administration is seeking “Fast Track” trade promotion authority, a device which the Nixon administration introduced in 1972 as a way to circumvent barriers to unrestricted free trade between certain countries. Fast track limits debate time in both houses of congress and does not allow for amendments or real investigation of documents. Most treaties, and the TPP is a treaty, must pass by a 2/3 majority in the Senate after long, exhausting debate. Fast tracking allows for 50% plus one for passage in both houses. Since the TPP is composed of twenty seven chapters, only five of which deal with actual trade, it is virtually impossible for the senate to debate the merits in the time given. Since I’ve written previous articles on the subject I need not remind everyone about the perils that we taxpayers face if this country signs on to the treaty. Those articles are readily available on my blog, producer1.wordpress.com or in the archives at West Orlando News Online. They contain complete videos of the meetings I attended and they are also available to anyone on my YouTube channel. They speak volumes more than I could write. Links to the Sierra Club meeting can be found here, here, here and here.

So, what’s the good news that happened at the meeting? Well, …..lots of it. First of all, we received word that a judge in Nebraska ruled that Nebraska’s law allowing for the Keystone XL Pipeline was unconstitutional. This is a temporary situation, however, but it allows more time for demonstrations by the Sierra Club and its allies to be put into action. There are several protests planned very shortly.

Secondly, the protests and anti TPP actions over the last year that I’ve been involved are having their desired effect. A year ago no one, including myself, knew what the TPP was. Since then, there has been a growing awareness on the part of the public and certain elected officials that the TPP and especially the ability to fast track it is a bad deal, a very bad deal. While the mainstream, corporately owned press chooses to bury any articles the alternative media has come alive. Articles are constantly appearing in the more progressive blogs including the Huffington Post. Bill Moyers at PBS has done programming on the TPP, and bloggers from all over, including my friend, Shannyn Moore, the conscience of Alaska, continue to write about it. Ed Schultz on MSNBC constantly rails against it. Opposition in the House of Representatives is still short of defeating the fast track, however, Harry Reid is not introducing the legislation to the Senate, which means that if it does come to the floor it will probably have to wait until after the 2014 elections. That buys a lot more time to get more people involved. What it all really means is that we’re starting to turn things around.

More good news that has happened recently, the Affordable Care Act is picking up steam and it appears that record numbers are in the future. It also appears that the heavily financed opposition ads are not making their impact. Chris Christie is finally being exposed for the fraud he really is. Mexico has just banned GMO corn. And this just in: President Obama will not include “Chained CPI” in the budget. On the local Orlando front Rick Scott’s appointed Board of Education got a virtual black eye when it voted for Common Core adoption in the face of organized and rabid community opposition, which will not go away, the city’s double dealing with Tinker Field was exposed and something good could happen from that. These little victories are huge when you consider the forces that have conspired against the average person, yet we need to still be on guard. Fast track, TPP, Keystone XL Pipeline, GMO, Common Core and school privatization and the city commission’s insatiable desire to displace the residents of Parramore will return, perhaps in more evolved and more virulent forms. We can’t sit back and rest on our laurels, for these little victories are only the beginning of a long struggle. Gabriel Heatter’s famous broadcast took place on May 2, 1942, less than one month after the famous Doolittle raid on Tokyo and a full month before the US Navy’s victory at the Battle of Midway and six months before our victory on Guadalcanal. The tide was turning, yet there were three more years left in the war. Heatter was upbeat; I hope I can be too. In case you haven’t guessed, I grew up with old time radio……….and I miss it; The Goldbergs, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Burns and Allen, The Romance of Helen Trent, Lorenzo Jones, Inner Sanctum, Tales of Suspense, The Shadow, Little Orphan Annie, Bobby Benson and the B Bar B Ranch, The Lone Ranger……….etc………..etc………..etc.

 

A heart, full of joy and gladness, will always banish sadness and strife. So always look for the silver lining, and try to find the sunny side of life.

 

*Look For The Silver Lining by Jerome Kern, Buddy Desylva and Jerry Nowak

Oh, What A Tangled Web…..

By Jerry Waxman

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“Things are not always as they seem…”

Back in April of 2011 I wrote an article called “Watch The Sound Of My Voice (Never Mind What My Hands Are Doing)” in which I alluded to our current president as the best Three Card Monte man or Pea in the Walnut Shell man I’ve ever seen. Why? Because he has the ability to make you believe him. He is a consummate con artist which is not necessarily a bad thing in the right circumstances. Unfortunately, he has never used his prestidigitation abilities to benefit most of us who trusted him and voted for him. Since that time I have not seen any reason to change that assessment. Sure, he has some solid accomplishments under his belt but it feels more like the bait and switch tactics of unscrupulous retailers; you go to buy the advertised product only to find that it is not available but a substitute can be found that won’t match the better quality or lower price of the desired product. Sure, we’ve got health care, but not anything near what we should have or want, and we’ve got something resembling banking reform, which somehow made the banks richer while we got poorer. Sure, we got a stimulus, which worked for some but not for others and was not nearly enough. The fact that he’s allowed Arne Duncan to continue to destroy public education under the guise of “reform” is a crime, but that’s for another article.

To understand this rant let’s go back to the 2008 campaign season. During their frequent debates Barack Obama never let the chance go by to get his claws into Hillary Clinton by mocking President Clinton’s embrace of NAFTA, saying he would not approach trade deals that way. He also took the opportunity to belittle Hillary’s stance on the Iraq War. This was all very calculated as it was strictly to get the support of those progressive Democrats who might have otherwise supported her. He also made a few gaffes that provided insight into his character, especially his God, Guns and Gays speech in rural Pennsylvania and his allusion to Ronald Reagan as a “Transformational President”. But wait! Were they really gaffes, or were they really cold, calculated subliminal hints? His speech in Pennsylvania, which created a big media uproar did not hurt him with the Democrats, and the Alabama/Mississippi sections of Pennsylvania would never vote for him anyway. He also alluded to Ronald Reagan in a positive way. Anytime a Democrat says anything positive about Ronald Reagan you know there has to be an ulterior motive. It was to assure the old Reagan Democrat crowd that they could trust him, and also to assure those independents on the fence that he wasn’t a big city liberal. He also kneecapped Hillary again by adding that Bill was not a transformational figure like Reagan, conveniently forgetting that Bill brought the corporate world into democratic politics in a way that no one before did, and from which candidate Obama benefitted greatly, conveniently forgetting that it was Bill Clinton who implemented NAFTA, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, giving us Fox News and spreading Rush Limbaugh’s influence as well as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 which overturned Glass-Steagall and opened the way for the destruction of our economy and the middle class. Hold these thoughts in mind as I wend my way to the main theme of this essay-President Obama’s embrace of the Trans Pacific Partnership aka the TPP. I’ve written about the TPP several times so I won’t go into its history so much except for historical context. The negotiations actually began during GWB’s second term, but something that big was going to have to transcend administrations the same way that NAFTA did. Clinton did sign the agreement but the negotiations were all done under the previous Bush administration, which tried to fast track it and failed. It took two years to bring about congressional debate which nearly failed. Vice President Al Gore had to cast the deciding vote in the Senate in order for NAFTA to succeed. And NAFTA definitely succeeded in diminishing us as the foremost exporter nation in the world. It was and still is a terrible deal for the average American.

We have a history of terrible trade deals dating back to the Russian Wheat Deal of 1972, also known as the Great Grain Robbery. Basically what happened was that Russia had a failed wheat crop and had to go to the open market to purchase wheat. We had surplus wheat through our policies of buying up extra wheat production from farmers in order to keep prices stable. We sold them about 440 million bushels at very reduced prices, which benefitted grain suppliers but caused prices to skyrocket and the taxpayers paid the subsidies for years to come. The GAO called it an extremely mishandled transaction that cost us dearly. In our trade deals with Japan we have always allowed them to export to us but our exports to them have been severely limited. The Nixon administration introduced Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) which gave the President the ability to negotiate trade deals with strictly an up or down vote in Congress and no debate time or amendment proposals. Congress went along with it because Nixon was trying to open up China and he could not appear weak to the authoritarian Chinese. Basically, Congress gave up its constitutionally mandated authority to approve trade negotiations. The time limit for the TPA expired and has to be renewed, which the administration is eagerly trying to do. Why is a president who is supposedly all for openness and accountability, who as a campaign promise said he would not be involved in this kind of charade, trying so hard to fast track a bad deal for 98% of Americans under such a cloak of secrecy? Haven’t our experiences with NAFTA and CAFTA taught him any lessons? Think hard. Some of the answers will boggle your mind because things are not exactly as they seem. Read MacBeth and Othello again, or for the first time and be aware that even though you know what’s going on, the affected characters don’t, yet Shakespeare handles it perfectly.

President Obama owes Wall Street and many of these transnational conglomerates big time, and everything he’s done over the last five years has been to benefit them with their tacit approval no matter what they say publicly. He’s been aided in this by certain blue dog democrats in congress like Sen. Max Baucus. Yes, the same Max Baucus who not only killed the public option but gave us the prostituted law that the opposition calls “Obamacare”.  Baucus is the point man for the Democrats on TPA and TPP hearings, so that doesn’t bode well. When I posed the question to my sources as to why Harry Reid did not get rid of Baucus as committee chair and replace him with a more progressive senator I was told not to go there, but given no reasons. Hint…”we don’t to wind up like Manning and Snowden and neither do you.” So, understand that Wall Street is looking at the gazillions of dollars to be made at our expense and the administration is going to help them make it. That’s one hell of a payback. It’s also a main reason why Larry Summers, a Wall Street insider who was complicit in the crashing of the economy, was considered for the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve.

People in the know are figuring that at this time fast track will pass the Senate. It sounds strange but too many Democrats are also beholden to the banks also. Even if it comes down to Joe Biden having to cast a tie breaking vote he’s not going to vote against his own administration. The best chance we peons have of defeating fast track is, strangely enough, in the House of Representatives, where clearly John Boehner has no control over the most radical elements of his party. It’s a perfect chance for the progressives to get together with the tea party types and kill it forever. If fast tracking fails there is no way that it will be revived for the scrutiny it will have to be subjected to. It is incumbent upon everyone, regardless of party affiliation, to call on their representatives to defeat the fast track.

On Friday, September 27 there was an Anti TPP rally at the Communication Workers of America Hall Local 3108 in Orlando sponsored in part by the CWA, Central Florida Sierra Club, AFL-CIO Central Labor and the Orlando Light Brigade. Speakers included CWA member and event organizer James Howe who spoke on the history of the labor movement and its social relevance, Lorraine Tuliano, former president of CLC, who reminded all why we don’t need another NAFTA, Jeannie Economos of the Farmworkers of America who spoke of the dangers to American food producers and farmworkers that is represented by the TPP. Other speakers included Phyllis Hancock, head of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, who spoke about how low wages negatively impact minorities, Marjorie Holt, from the Central Florida Sierra Club, who voiced the club’s concerns over the disregard of environmental protections that will happen if the TPP is passed. Yours truly also spoke to the effect that reduced wages would have on the small business community. I was followed by Roger Harris of the AFL-CIO and Steve Wisniewski, President of Local 3108. Both men reiterated labors concerns. The main speaker of the evening was Alisa Simmons of Public Citizen and Global Watch. Simmons has been traveling the country talking to different groups as well as lobbying politicians on Capitol Hill. Her remarks were both enlightening and chilling and she stressed the need for immediate mobilization and action from the grass roots.

The more we learn about the TPP the more dangerous it becomes and we only know a small percentage of what is in these documents. The secrecy behind these talks is as tight as the Manhattan Project. Why? It doesn’t stand to reason that our trusted leaders would sell us down the river for little or no gain, or does it? Nobody wants to give away trade secrets, especially the guy who claims he’s got nothing up his sleeve. Next week there is an unscheduled session in Bali which will be attended by the president’s hand picked point man, Michael Froman, whose sole function is to get our participation passed by Congress. That’s a far cry from a candidate who frowned upon NAFTA and excoriated the banks among other broken campaign promises. So, considering all the factors who can we trust? I’m not sure I have faith in our leadership to do right by us anymore. It especially hurts when you genuinely like a man like our President. Once that faith and trust has been lost it is virtually impossible to regain it. Being the man we voted for would be a good start because the man we have is part of the bait and switch.

The real quote by Plato is:   “Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.”  It appears as a dialog between Phaedrus and Socrates in “The Phaedrus”. Abraham Lincoln said it too in slightly different words. It’s time for this con to end.

It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature

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Its Alive, Its Alive!!!It’s Alive!! It’s Alive!!!!!!

By Jerry Waxman

Science does have its drawbacks. One of them is how we view scientists themselves. For several generations, because of science fiction stories, comic books and popular movies there is a perception out there of the “Mad Scientist” such as The Invisible Man, or Captain Marvel’s evil Dr. Sivana, or whatever evil scientists is working for Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon, or any one of hundreds of misguided souls in fiction. We have to admit it is fun watching good vs. evil play out. One of the best sci-fi movies in the 50’s, Them!, dealt with giant ants that were exposed to atomic radiation as a result of atomic testing in the American Southwest. Since the scientists working on the Manhattan Project were only dealing with the immediate needs of WWII, there was no research dealing with the long term effects of radiation. Let’s face it though, there’s nothing mad about science. To deny that technology as a result of scientific research has benefitted us beyond even our founding fathers’ expectations is willful ignorance beyond belief, or just plain stupid.

Scientists by their very nature are looking for ways to improve our lives by coming up with labor saving devices or life saving medications since Ben Franklin experimented with lightning and Isaac Newton and Galileo explained their theories of gravity and the universe, or Louis Pasteur defying the medical wisdom of his day. Scientists do not start out to do evil. How they end up doing so has more to do with human nature than science. Science is only a tool to be used. Unfortunately it has also been usurped by the greed factor in human nature, and it is the one thing about humans that has not changed in the thousands of years we’ve been on the planet.

When John Francis Queeny founded Monsanto in 1901 doing harm was the farthest thing from his mind. He had been in the pharmaceutical industry for three decades and his father in law, Emmanuel Mendes de Monsanto, was a wealthy investor in the Caribbean sugar industry. The result of his first product was the sugar substitute, saccharine. Over the years Monsanto went through a metamorphosis dealing in industrial chemicals, but also pesticides like DDT, which when introduced was looked at as a miracle for farmers. It took generations for the long term harmful effects of DDT to show up resulting in the pesticide being banned in the USA in 1972.

Over the years Monsanto, as a result of both mergers and acquisitions grew and changed its product lines, again, not with evil in mind, and there were some definite winners- L-dopa, a new process for acetic acid, Astroturf and light emitting diodes. There were also those that did as much damage as they did good, Agent Orange being one such product. The analogy about The Manhattan Project is apropos because Charles Allen Thomas, President of Monsanto from 1951-1960, and Chairman of the Board from 1960-1965 was asked by Gen. Leslie Groves to co-direct the project with Robert Oppenheimer. Thomas refused, however he did conduct research on the project from his Monsanto laboratory and did contribute to the making of the atomic bomb. It took several years before the law of unintended consequences caught up with atomic research and the arguments about its good vs. bad are still going on. So it is with Monsanto.

During the decade of the 80’s the Monsanto started selling off its chemical and pharmaceutical businesses and got into biotech research, which had a different business model developed by Genentech. Under this model the biotech company invests heavily in research and development in order to attain biological patents on its products. The investments are recouped through rigid monitoring and enforcement of those who use the patented product. Monsanto elevated this to an art form, especially when you consider that the company either owns or controls most of the crop seed production in the world, and it has been patenting its GMO seeds now for over twenty years. It also produces the herbicide Roundup, which allows farmers to grow more crops in the same space. This is where the current controversy begins.

As a company that does agricultural R&D it has every right to come up with new products which benefit farmers and by extension, us. We, in fact encourage such endeavor. If that research, however, has not looked at the long term effects of product use then that’s a mistake that has to be corrected. It seems, just as in The Manhattan Project, that too many companies, in order to maximize profits, rush products to market without fully testing or disclosing the harmful effects of their products. There’s a reason why the pharmaceutical industry has to disclose lots of information in their advertising about the risks of taking their drugs. There’s no such restriction on Monsanto or any of the food brands that use their GMO seed products. Why? Because Monsanto lobbies very heavily to keep it that way. Monsanto also has the clout to keep reports detrimental to their claims from being published. It doesn’t make sense that all of these food companies who have to label their ingredients with percentages of fats, salt sugar and other things that consumers need to know aren’t willing to add a statement about GMO content in their labeling. It seems that when you’re playing around with nature and creating in essence Frankenfood we should have some say in the matter of whether we should be buying it or not. It should be our choice. Otherwise it creates suspicion and distrust and we don’t need any more of that than we already have.

UnruhDr. Lynn Unruh lecturing on GMO foods

On Saturday, June 8 the First Unitarian Church of Orlando, sponsored by the Florida School of Holistic Living and the Homegrown Local Food Cooperative and the church’s Green Team hosted a lecture, Genetically Modified Foods: From Frankenfoods to Frankenpeople? The lecturer was given by Dr. Lynn Unruh, PhD, a professor of Health Management and Informatics at UCF. Dr. Unruh is also a registered nurse. Through film and a slide presentation, Dr. Unruh discussed the extent of genetically modified food in the American diet, and what is thought to be a risk to human health and future food production. She also discussed policies to curb the presence of genetically modified organisms in our food, such as legislating mandatory labeling of GMO in the state of Florida as well as elsewhere. After discussing the types of plants that have been genetically modified Dr. Unruh held up supermarket products that contain these plants. She also discussed how all the research that supports Monsanto’s position is funded by groups, such as the Hoover Institute that are sympathetic to them. Opposing research is either blocked or ignored by both regulating agencies and food manufacturers. Dr. Unruh then presented a video that interviewed scientists, doctors and farmers who believe that GMO products are a likely contributor to human or animal illnesses.The far reaching effects of Monsanto’s products are also believed to have contributed to crop failures in certain kinds of cotton which bankrupted many farmers, especially in India, and caused many of them to commit suicide. There is also some evidence with many of the chemicals used in Roundup, which are getting into the food supply and into the ground water. This could cause huge environmental problems in the future, and no official agency appears to be involved in figuring things out. The group was especially interested in the campaign for mandatory labeling One of the groups mentioned was Food and Water Watch Here’s the link to their website.

 

On the consumer end it’s just not that easy to buy non GMO food at your local supermarket. Here’s a partial list of the brands that are regularly using Monsanto products: Aunt Jemima, Aurora Foods, Banquet, Best Foods, Betty Crocker, Bisquick, Cadbury, Campbells, Capri Sun, Carnation, Chef Boyardee, CocaCola, ConAgra, Delicious Brand Cookies, Duncan Hines, Famous Amos, Frito Lay, General Mills, Green Giant, Healthy Choice, Heinz, Hellman’s Hershey’s Nestle, Holsum, Hormel, Hungry Jack, Hunt’s, Interstate Bakeries, Jiffy, K.C. Masterpiece, Keebler/Flowers Industries, Kellogg’s, Kid Cuisine, Knorr, Kool Aid, Kraft/Phillip Morris, Lean Cuisine, Lipton, Loma Linda, Marie Callender, Minute Maid, Morningstar, Mrs. Butterworth, Nabisco, Nature Valley, Ocean Spray, Ore-Ida, Orville Redenbacher , Pasta-Roni, Pepperidge Farms, Pepsi, Pillsbury, Pop Secret, Post Cereals, Power Bar Brand, Prego, Pringles, Procter & Gamble, Quaker, Ragu, Rice-a-Roni, Smart Ones, Stauffers, Schweppes, Tombstone Pizza, Tostinos, Uncle Ben’s, Unilever, V-8.

 

 It is especially disturbing since Unilever is not an American owned company but it owns iconic Brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Breyer’s, Lipton, Hellman’s, Ragu, Knorr, Klondike, Good Humor and Promise among others. These are just the products that have been in the spotlight. Who knows what other brands are involved. Supermarkets are also selling their own brands, and yet we don’t know who is supplying them. What’s worse is that the cooking oils on the shelves, especially those made from soybeans, are not represented on this list, but the owners of those brands, Con Agra Procter & Gamble and others  are. The J.M. Smucker company does not appear on the list yet some of their brands do including Pillsbury and Hungry Jack. Crisco is also a Smucker brand. The bottle of Crisco oil in our pantry says that it was made 100% from soybeans. According to Wikipedia, Smucker was a heavy contributor in 2012 to a $46 million dollar political campaign known as “The Coalition Against The Costly Food Labeling Proposition, sponsored by Farmers and Food Producers”. So, what’s up with that? If it’s Smucker’s isn’t it supposed to be good? How do we know if we don’t know what’s in it?

Are we talking evil here? No, we’re not. We’re talking corporate mindset, which protects overhead, inventory and profits over people. Even if they’re wrong in their thinking they’ll protect their profits first, and let’s face it, they buy the best legislators they can for insurance. The law of unintended consequences will produce adverse results in due time. Remember that scene in The Bridge over the River Kwai where Alec Guinness has his “Oh My God, What Have I Done” moment? Perhaps it will happen in corporate America. After all, Victor Frankenstein didn’t intend to create a killer.

“You Have Been Granted A Rare Privilege”

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By Jerry Waxman

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“You don’t tug on Superman’s cape
You don’t spit into the wind
You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger
And you don’t mess around with HIM”

 

Secretary:  “The directors of the Thatcher Memorial Library have asked me again to remind you Mr. Thompson,”

Reporter:  “Yes, but……”

Secretary:  “of the conditions under which you may inspect certain portions of Mr. Thatcher’s unabridged memoirs.”

Reporter:  “I know, but…….”

Secretary:  (into phone) “I’ll bring him right in. Under no circumstances are direct quotations from his manuscript to be used by you.”

Reporter:  “I’m just looking for one…….”

Secretary:  Mr. Thompson, you will be required to leave this room at 12:30 promptly. You will confine yourself, it is our understanding, to the chapters in Mr. Thatcher’s manuscript regarding Mr. Kane.

This little scene from Citizen Kane, largely overlooked, is a frightening reminder of the power that certain people have to restrict information from being put out to the general population. Information that can be vitally important yet reveal secrets that can be embarrassing.

On Saturday, May 18 Floridians Against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, along with Central Florida AFL-CIO and the Communication Workers of America held a forum to discuss the negative impact that the TPP would have across the region as well as the rest of the country and it’s not pretty. In my last article on the TPP, The Enemy Beneath, These dangers were well spelled out along with some compelling videos of speakers at the last gathering in Tampa. I need not repeat them here since the several speakers did an excellent job of representing their positions.

Lorraine Tuliano, head of Central Florida’s Central Labor Council for the AFL-CIO explained how the middle class and working families are affected by these “Investor State” trade deals. Marjorie Holt of the Sierra Club spoke about the effect that “Fracking” and other procedures would have on our fragile environment. Steve Wisniewski, President of CWA Local 3108 spoke about the lowering of standards that the TPP would allow for. Activists Jim Howe and Cherie Faircloth presented a statement from Public Citizen Global Trade Watch stating how harmful the TPP is as it is shaping up. Tim Murray of Organize now was a featured speaker admonishing the assembled group to become active because our elected officials need to hear from us constantly.

Special guest speaker of the evening was Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida’s 9th district, who is one of but a handful of legislators that are aware of the TPP and its potential damage as well as the Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. He spoke off the cuff without notes for about twenty minutes in a very relaxed erudite manner about what is happening with these FTAs and what he and others are doing about it. That little scene at the Thatcher Memorial Library is a grim reminder of what he had to go through after several attempts were made by other members of Congress including Sen. Jeff Merkley to see documents referring to the TPP and were denied access. Grayson was successful in getting permission to see exactly one document in his office in early June with the provision that no one on his staff can be there and that he can’t take any notes and he only has a limited time in which to view the document. Obviously these people don’t know who they are dealing with. He is a fierce debater and doesn’t suffer fools at all. This was not the “Don’t get sick” bombastic Alan Grayson. This was the scholarly, surgical Alan Grayson that completely eviscerated conservative pundit P.J. O’Rourke nationally on Bill Maher’s Real Time.. He can also dust it up with the best of them. At a health care rally several years ago I witnessed him go head to head with a Tea Party activist who wisely chose not to duke it out physically. Good thing too because besides being deceptively tall he has an enormous reach that most heavyweight boxers would love to have. Here’s the complete video of his anti TPP speech. After the speeches there was a question and answer period where several of the topics discussed were more fully covered.

The sixteenth round of talks is underway in Lima, Peru going on from May 15 through May 24. It is too late to do anything about the current talks; however there will be more talks in the future. At the moment Japan is negotiating to join and my sources (who for the moment must remain unnamed) tell me that too many unions are leaning towards accepting the TPP. There are some political benefits to be had in the short term, so they are sacrificing the American worker and America’s loss of sovereignty for some selfish gains. That’s unconscionable.

 

The Sequester Could End Today

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By Jerry Waxman

“You never let a good crisis go to waste.”……..Rahm Emmanuel

 

I have to admit a grudging respect for Rahm Emmanuel’s thought processes, even though I think he’s wrong most of the time. When he’s right he’s dead on and that quote from him says it all when it comes to the Sequester. The one time the President should have been taking his advice where he could act immediately he hasn’t done so. For months now the FBI has been warning of budget cuts that could seriously hamper its effectiveness as well as the effectiveness of local law enforcement. All it would take is for the Justice Department to declare “That’s it! It’s over! We’ve gone over budget on Boston and we can’t go any further. As of 4:15 PM April 19, all investigations are hereby closed until further notice.” The President could then declare a national emergency and force congress to repeal sequestration “or else!” While they are at it they should also pass a few background check laws before they go home.

This is not an original idea. In 1969 George Lucas had the opportunity to make an obscure movie titled THX-1138, starring Robert Duvall based on Lucas’s original story. Set in the future, the story deals with a totalitarian society where drug abuse was NOT taking drugs. By the movie’s end THX 1138 escapes to the real outside world not because he is smarter, faster or more expert in any way, but because the system computers declared that they have gone over budget and that all pursuit must stop. That’s budgetthink alright and unfortunately it’s sequesterthink as well. As my paean to George Orwell I think I’ve created two new words.

Think of it. A known terrorist is now on the loose in the Boston area and he’s known to be armed and dangerous. Where will he strike next? As I switch news channels to see who is coming up with the latest disinformation I think to myself, “Imagine the possibilities.” The problem is that our Attorney General can’t even prosecute a banker properly and our President has yet to exhibit real executive leadership, so this scenario will have to remain a figment of my imagination.

On the other hand, if he sequestered the congress during a national emergency they might also pass his budget including Social Security chained CPI and Medicare cuts, just for spite. Be afraid either of his actions or his inactions. Either way we’re screwed

“Imagination is more valuable than knowledge”…….Albert Einstein

THE ENEMY BENEATH

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By Jerry Waxman

Periscope

 

Ship’s Captain: “Bring her around hard aport 220 with a hard rudder amidships”

Bosun:              “What’s that, Captain?”

Ship’s Captain: “MAKE A LEFT! MAKE A LEFT!

 

U-Boat Captain “Hmmm…He brought her around hard aport 220 with a hard rudder amidships.”

1st mate:            “ Vas, Herr Hauptmann?”

U-Boat Captain: “HE MADE A LEFT! HE MADE A LEFT!”

With apologies to Charlie Manna’s War at Sea from his best-selling comedy album Manna Overboard.

 

The late Charlie Manna’s War at Sea routine was a send up of the classic WWII movie, The Enemy Below in which an American Destroyer captain and a German U-Boat captain play a cat and mouse game with each other, anticipating each other’s every move and countering each other’s offensives. It was a taut, tense drama with a not fully satisfying ending. Manna’s routine was very funny, but nothing is funny about the newest threat to our country which is traveling well below our radar, and we only know about it because of a few well isolated pings on our Sonar. We everyday Americans are at sea cruising while the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), running as silently as possible, has us in its periscope sights and the eleven or twelve member wolf pack is ready to draw blood.

To fully understand what’s happening we have to go back about twenty years ago to the early 1990’s when the Bush 41 administration had finalized NAFTA talks and was trying to “fast track” the agreement into action. NAFTA was a free trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada which was supposed to promote more and better trade between the three countries as well as open up more jobs. Most of us don’t read these things because they are voluminous beyond our attention spans and filled with words beyond our comprehension, but rest assured that giant corporations have more to do with the formation of these agreements than governments do and these corporations will do anything they can to create and protect their perceived future profits under these FTA agreements. We the people don’t really matter to them. Bush 41 wasn’t able to fast track the agreement before time ran out and Bill Clinton came into office. Clinton, the ultimate corporate Democrat had to renegotiate the agreement to assure some worker protections, which ultimately led to its passage. Clinton signed the document on Jan. 1, 1994. Clinton was quoted as saying. “NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time”

So did Prohibition, at the time. The trouble is that when you research these things from other that a human nature perspective Murphy’s Law kicks in full force and something bad is bound to happen. In the almost twenty years since the enactment of NAFTA American jobs have yet to make any kind of impact, Mexico’s farm communities have been devastated and Canada isn’t so happy with it either. The only people it has benefitted are the actual corporations who are doing the trading. In fact, it’s even worse than that. Buried somewhere in these agreements are regulations that supersede actual laws of the countries involved. In other words if something a corporate entity does is considered to be illegal by a country or a state it can be overruled by the terms of the agreement. The agreement allows for NAFTA to pick its own arbiters, usually corporate lawyers to determine the outcome, even over and above a Supreme Court ruling. One case in point is The Canadian Parliament banning the use of MMT, a gasoline additive in 1997. Ethyl Corp., based in Virginia, notified the government of Canada of its intent to sue under NAFTA’s Investment chapter. Ridiculous, right? Nope! The Corporate lawyer NAFTA panel rejected Canada’s argument and a year later Canada was compelled to reverse its decision on MMT and to add insult to injury Canada also had to pay out $13 million in fines and corporate profit losses. In 2012 Canada was again in the gunsights of the Eli Lilly Company because of Canada’s restrictions on granting medical patents to Lilly. Lilly filed for $100million in  the NAFTA investor court. So far, over $365,000,000 has been paid out on submitted claims and there are 19 other actions under review worth 14 billion dollars. The worst part of this is that this has nothing to do with trade issues; this has to do with environmental and public health issues.

I remember discussing NAFTA with my son’s friend, Morgan who was an AFL-CIO organizer in South Florida back in the mid Nineties. At the time I was not against NAFTA because I believed that Clinton was sincere about how NAFTA would work. Morgan took the opposite view and said that it’s the worst thing that could happen to American labor. I pointed out the worker protection clauses that Clinton had inserted, and Morgan just said “that’s just never going to happen. It’s a ruse.” As it turns out Morgan was right. NAFTA is an unmitigated disaster unless you are the corporations doing the business, and there’s nothing that our government can or will do about it.

“If at first you don’t succeed”

So, what do you do when you see NAFTA is not working out? That’s easy. You expand it to include Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic making it more dangerous that before, after all, why shouldn’t some of our Latin American and Caribbean friends feel our pain as well. This was the work of the neocons in 2005 in the Bush 43 administration. There was a lot of contention in congress over CAFTA and it was only ratified by one vote in the House of Representatives. Again workers lost protection and American jobs were sent overseas. Environmental and health concerns were overlooked and the corporations made a fortune. Combining that with the Bush Tax Cuts we were screwed again.

“Try, try again.”

Not satisfied with enriching their corporate friends and damaging the average taxpayer more than ever, the Bush 43 people entered into talks to create a Pacific Basin partnership originally encompassing nine countries, including The United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The US entered the negotiations in March of 2008 which places it during the Bush 43 administration. Since that time other countries have expressed interest including Canada, Mexico, Taiwan, The Philippines, Japan, Colombia, Laos and Costa Rica. The US is aggressively pushing South Korea to join. Since the original meeting back in 2004 there have been 16 rounds of talks, the last one taking place in Singapore back in March 4-16th of this year. A seventeenth round is scheduled from May 15-24 in Lima, Peru.

Having experienced the difficulties in both NAFTA and CAFTA the US participation in these talks has gone covert. No one talks about it. There is almost a 100% blackout of information in the corporately controlled news media, and what information is available has been gotten through leaks and whistleblowers, and you know what happens with whistleblowers. There is no transparency in these negotiations and from what we can ascertain only 2 chapters of the agreement actually have something to do with trade itself. Much of it has to do with intellectual property, and a lot of it has to do with circumventing labor, environmental and public health issues. What we do know is that the Obama Administration has embraced the TPP and is doing what it can to fast track it. On April 15, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Japan and gave a speech at Tokyo Tech waxing eloquently about the advantages of the TPP. Activist Cherie Faircloth, a contributor to WONO actually called the White House and got through to Robert Spitzer, Senior Trade Policy Advisor with the USDA. In her conversation with Spitzer, he admitted that there were too few corporate agricultural advisors in Florida and he was looking for more. Her article appeared on Feb. 26, 2013.

Back in Early March a group of activists attended an anti TPP rally in the Ybor city section of Tampa. You can find the links to the videos Here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. The message is pretty clear. We’re in Submarine Alley and all those torpedoes are set to fire on us. Since we know about it we can do something about it. Even though many politicians will deny that they have knowledge of it there are some who are aware of it including Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. Action needs to be taken in the congress to not allow the fast track and to ultimately defeat the US participation in the TPP. You can get more involved by researching the TPP and going to Public Citizen. Org. Maybe we can avoid the torpedoes. Just watch out for the minefields.