Category Archives: Opinion/Editorial

Beyond Free Trade


“I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws, or crafts its advanced treatises, if I can write its economics textbooks.” So said one of the greatest textbook writers of them all, Paul Samuelson.

The TPP and Our Moral Bottomline


The following originally appeared on

Say good-bye to our Constitutional rights and liberties, our right to make laws under which all Americans must live, and the hard-won environmental regulatory scheme crafted over the last 40 years. Say good-bye to everything that made America tolerable and livable through the work of the generations since our rebellion against that tyrant, King George III, himself.

Say hello to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the TPP, crafted in secrecy from the American people and most of their government, but not from our economic masters. It is just so much easier and quicker to destroy sustainable systems than to create them. Under the TPP, an alleged trade agreement, we finally see the death of the nation-state and the recognition of the multi-national corporation as the new and dominant institution on the world stage. Government of, by, and for the people, will go the way of feudal lords and barons, only to be replaced by the rule of the corporate culture–whatever it takes to make the most short term profit; with the planet’s premature death as collateral damage. The dissolution has an inevitability that’s like entropy in natural systems.

Under the TPP, and with the purchase of our government through the Citizens United ruling, the trans-national uber-elite claim the “right” to plunder and poison the planet at an even faster rate than the world’s burgeoning population alone would do if we had responsive governments working on solutions to slow the process. After the TPP passes the Senate ratification hurdle, the Supreme Court will no longer remain Supreme, and Congressional law will no longer apply to foreign corporations doing business in the USA.

Such a challenge has rarely faced the American people. War, the American people know well, and they will only put up with so much of it. However, in this world of sound bites and media control, opposing the TPP seems almost useless. Yet, I cannot help but rebel against the TPP, in defiance of the unsurmontable odds, and am hard-pressed to give a rational explanation.

I usually cite my college-age nieces as a major reason I struggle against these forces, no matter how quixotic the effort seems. Chris Hedges cites an heroic, impoverished woman in Camden, NJ, or his own young children. These “reasons” which we give to those who ask, “Why” are mostly rationalizations. Yes, I love my nieces and my mind turns toward them with each looming long term disaster. Mr. Hedges, I’m sure, deeply loves his children, is committed to giving them the best possible future, and empathizes with and admires his friend in Camden. But we, along with the many OEN members and other pro-people activists, would be in this struggle even if we had no familial connections to future generations. And we have chosen our heroes because they embody our ideals, not our ideals because we have come across people with these qualities.

When I was in my late 20s, I carried a ballot petition endless miles of neighborhood streets and explained issues to hundreds of people for an environmentalist candidate who pledged to prevent our power company from opening a nuclear plant. The local area had natural boundaries which prevented people from evacuating fast enough in the event of an emergency, so the proposed plant had more opposition than normal. I was, and am, opposed to all nuclear power. The neophyte candidate I backed was relatively apolitical before his concerns about the environment moved him to run for office. The person who recruited him, a Democratic Socialist older and wiser than I, told me that the candidate was a person of integrity and would remain responsive to his constituents and reliably passionate about the environment. So for weeks, after work and on weekends, I went out campaigning. When he won, he asked me what sort of position I thought myself qualified to hold since he owed me something for my hard work. I had a secure, okay job and no political ambitions. I told him the truth: all I wanted was for him to be the best state legislator he could, and work hard to do what he felt was right. He seemed confused about why I would put in so much energy for a simple promise, and protested that he owed me something. Perhaps he thought I was holding out to cash in for some future, big favor.

It’s still almost impossible for me to explain why I dedicate huge swaths of my life working to “make things better”–especially since I’ve realized that human nature, being what it is, means that no gains are permanent, and the battle will last as long as humankind exists. Often there are other activities I enjoy more. It’s not like I think there’s some being in the sky with an abacus tallying up my deeds for reward or punishment. Or that I expect to see dramatic results. Sometimes, like now, I expect nothing immediate from helping fan the embers of awareness, but the sense that it will make it easier later on for others to restart the fire.

Maybe one is born this way, like being able to carry a tune. What I couldn’t explain to the newly elected legislator, and what I don’t need to explain to you, fellow OENer, is how much I crave a world where injustices are the exception, not the rule. With all the built-in tragedies of the human condition, it feels like a no-brainer to join with others to tilt the table in the direction of minimizing what pain we can, including our disconnect from the natural world. I do not know how to convey to someone who does not instinctively feel the same, that my dream come true, my impossible winning multi-millions lottery ticket, would be to wake up knowing that each of us humans, in whatever he/she may doing, is oriented toward making things work out well for as many as possible for as long as possible.

Again, like most OENers, I am more aware than the average person of the machinations of the most powerful few. I read I.F. Stone’s Weekly in my teens and kept on paying attention since. I have a pretty good idea of what drives that most in of “in groups.” We may have to live in their nightmarish world order, but on this site we are not interested in the amenities of their Caribbean estates. Here we see the endless hours they spend scheming to retain more wealth than can be spent in 100 lifetimes, scheming to obtain the power to destroy responsive government and to make the world’s billions feel helpless and miserable, all while hastening the end of life on the planet. Welcome home to OEN, people who say to all their destruction, “What the heck kind of aspirations are those? Where’s the up side?” I don’t think we could stop ourselves from opposing the TPP if we tried.

China Is Invading America’s Backyard


China Is Making A Big Splash In America’s Backyard

The country’s growing footprint and influence in the Western hemisphere, an area once thought to be America’s backyard, is becoming impossible to ignore.Two months after a sweep through Eastern Europe, and only a week after his government pledged billions in assistance to the European Union, China‘s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is throwing his country’s economic weight around again, this time in Latin America.

A Tale of Two Democracies


The following is an excerpt from

What It Is Like to Vote in the United States Compared to France?

America is an outlier in the world of democracies when it comes to the structure and conduct of elections . Thomas E. Mann

How It All Happened

I recently voted in the French primary and runoff presidential races and just voted in the first and second rounds of France’s legislative elections. I have been voting in France’s elections since 1990. I have also faithfully voted in every presidential election in the United States, since 1972, as well as most federal legislative, state and local ones since that time, all the way down to the local school board level! Needless to say, I take my right to vote very, very seriously and look upon it as an anchor that helps ground civil society, at least societies that have a tradition of universal suffrage.

How is this possible? Well, it is because I am a member of that rarified population of world citizens who are dual nationals, carrying two passports. So, I have the truly unique perspective to compare the voting systems of two countries that take great pride in their sense of democracy and the processes of civil life. On the west side of the Atlantic, the United States, with its founders, freedom fighters, revolution and constitution; and on the opposite shores France with some of the greatest political and philosophical minds to ever put plume to paper, its revolution and Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. And can we not forget that is was France that gave the Statue of Liberty to the United States? Or that it was France, more than any other country that gave active support to the aforementioned freedom fighters and revolution. There is a common bond of ideals that these two countries have shared for over 200 years.

I most recently lived and worked in the United States 2001-2010 and went there from France, where I lived from 1997-2001. I have the bragging rights of being one of the passengers on that United Airlines flight that was the first one to reenter American airspace after September 11th, Paris to JFK on September 15th. And to complete the scenario, I lived in China 1990-1997 and moved back to Beijing in 2010, from the United States! Thus, I have the bizarre baseline of comparing these two proud democracies to a country that has a very different historical perspective on the meaning of freedom and suffrage. But China will have to wait for another time. And the fact that I left the United States in 1980 (I lived and worked in Africa and the Arab World 1980-1990), as Reagan was being elected (I campaigned hard for John Anderson!), and came back in 2001 to a radically transformed American society and economy, a country I could hardly recognize, was a shocking and sobering experience. Alas, that will have to wait for another article again.

What I have learned over the years of voting in France and the United States is that these two great republics have almost diametrically opposed visions of what the democratic process means, what it has to offer and how much it can truly represent the voices and desires of their peoples.

God Bless America’s Corruption

It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything . Joseph Stalin

For as long as American history has been written, voting corruption is a staple topic and is benignly accepted as part and parcel of the process, especially at the local and state level. Tammany Hall, the Chicago Machine, Texas heavyweights, good ol’ boy politicians in the South and many other big city and state party operations have filled books about how elections are rigged and stolen. Americans love to engage in prideful one-upmanship with their neighboring states’ citizens about how much “mo’ better” one state is than the other for political corruption and rigged elections. Get a New Yorker, a Texan and an Illinoisan in a room together over a few beers and they’ll be arm wrestling and breast beating in no time that their state is the most corrupt!

Stolen elections and local and state corruption are as much a part of America’s political DNA as apple pie and Budweiser! And like torture is spun as “harsh interrogation techniques,” and thousands of dead and maimed children, women and elderly as “collateral damage,” political corruption in America’s most hallowed of democracy’s inalienable rights is simply called “irregularities.” How quaint”

Who can forget the 50,000 ballots that magically turned up in Chicago precincts, to assure that John F. Kennedy took Illinois, its electoral votes and the presidential election from Richard Nixon? Or Robert Caro’s majestic account in ”Means of Ascent,” about how Lyndon Johnson used every dirty trick in the books to beat “Mr. Texas”, Coke Stevenson, in his bid for a U.S. Senate seat (Coke was stealing votes too, he just go out stolen by LBJ!). These two crooked elections help change the course of American history and depending on your point of view, for better or for worse.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Country needs to focus on creating jobs domestically


The following article is from the Columbia Tribune.

If corporations are indeed people as the Supreme Court recently ruled, one would think they would be more patriotic. As the American economy continues to muddle along in a jobless, slow-growth “recovery,” it is clear a decadeslong series of trends has quietly stilted the world’s greatest productive engine. Employment growth remains stubbornly resistant to stimulus, cash for clunkers or tax cuts for the 1 percent.

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