Of Freedom and Guns


I have had several weeks to sit with the raging debate about gun safety, control, freedom, armed guards, and assault rifles.   I happen to believe that much of the problem is relatively simple, that 80% of the problem can be solved with a 20% solution. Specifically, controlling access to guns (background checks and closing loopholes), and eliminating the “rights” to high capacity ammo clips and assault-style rifles (a partial ban).  There is enough good data to support this partial remedy.   The other 20% of the problem is more complex – the obvious need for better mental health services, which have sustained drastic cuts for decades, and a look at our American “gun culture”.   We should implement the first part of the remedy without waiting for all the answers to the second part.  Reduce easy access to dangerous weapons and outlaw those that have no use other than to spray bullets wantonly.

Beyond this current policy debate, I have been mulling the deeper issue for me.  That is, the idea of freedom being equated with carrying guns.  That feels oddly upside down, as if we are so steeped in our own narrow cultural view that we can’t see the bigger picture of what freedom means. 

We can see throughout the world that cultures living with gun violence as an everyday problem are the least free, whether they are suffering through a war or not.  I remember as a young woman spending time in Guatemala to learn Spanish, and getting used to the guards on every corner in military dress with rifles slung across their backs or held in their hands.  I felt claustrophobically constrained.  What might set them off? What if there was a gunfight?  What if I did something wrong?  They were all men.  I was a single American woman.  What might they be able to coerce me to do, anytime, anywhere?  Guns around me did not make me feel free.  They made me feel trapped and unsafe.  Packing my own shapely pink pistol would clearly have been useless, not that I would have wanted to.

The proliferation of guns does not make us free, it imprisons us.  It causes us to live with fear and impending danger.  As a woman, I also see it as a tool of abuse and coercion.  Who is to say he is there to protect me?  Violence occurs most often in the home, among friends, even among the troops.  No-one who carries a gun in a civilized society is my friend – I cannot afford to see them that way.  We are not a militarized society, living in a state of war, and such protection is not what I need.  It takes me back to what I imagine as our primitive past, and I want the freedom and choice to NOT live that way.

The conversation is trying to happen in the media about the fact that young white men are the greatest abusers of guns.  The sputtering and timid conversation about this would be loud and clanging if data showed that men of any minority were packing more than white men.  And what if women were the biggest gun abusers? What if women had reached a level of intolerance regarding men’s abuse of them and their bodies, as one faceboook meme has suggested, and decided to keep the men of the U.S. in line by carrying assault weapons?   All of this makes my stomach turn.  Violence begets violence.  Guns are never an answer, they are a symptom of the disease of violence.

Samuel Hendel said; “The fact, in short, is that freedom, to be meaningful in an organized society must consist of an amalgam of hierarchy of freedoms and restraints.”  This is how it works to allow guns in a country not at war.  Guns get allowed, and restraints keep them controlled.  My freedom from the prevalence of guns is of vital importance to me.  It is not trumped by your paranoia about an impending government take-over of the states.  I will fight for my freedom with the tools of a civilized society – rules and laws.   You can live in a state of gun-toting fear.  I refuse to do so.

Integrity or Extremism: Congressional District 1’s Critical Decision in 2012

The splitting of the GOP in the past 4 years between the old-school fiscal conservatives who are apparently hunkered down quietly waiting for the fury to pass, and the Tea Party extremists who want to drown government in a bathtub as long as they “get theirs”, has come home to rural Northern California. Established and entrenched Republican representatives in this area have at least worked to bring us Federal and state assistance in the past, as an understood part of their jobs. National politics has not been a major concern to many here, and our concerns have revolved around balancing economic growth with preserving the beauty of the area, and continuing to create productive and sustaining jobs.

Not so anymore. This is most apparent in the Congressional District 1 special election for the only seat the entire NE of California gets in the House of Representatives. The redrawn District lines are in effect this election, and have brought in another huge swath of beautiful and conservative rural areas, and a few additional small cities. In this climate, the GOP did some backroom strategizing so that Wally Herger’s retirement would open the way for a hand-picked choice. The choice of preference for the new GOP was Doug LaMalfa, a state Senator and former rice farmer in Butte County, and apparently an extremist.

Doug LaMalfa is a classic case of the newly extreme and very hypocritical wing of the former Grand Old Party. Calling himself a rice farmer, he has in fact been taking federal farm subsidies to NOT farm for at least seven years, possibly much more. Although California ranks tenth out of 50 states receiving outdated and expensive farm subsidies, fully 91% of California farms receive none of this cash. The top 10% of California farms received 73% of the total subsidies, nearly $6 billion dollars over 17 years. The LaMalfa farms are on this list of “welfare farms”. All of this information is public. (ewg.org)

Farm subsidies were established many years ago in order to wean farmers off price supports and help them become self-sufficient, to be able to play in the freer commodity market. One can argue that this never should have happened, but it was a compassionate way to help real farmers adapt to change. Today, these huge cash outlays are an example of poorly managed entrenched interests. They were extended, thanks to the farm lobby whose members had gotten used to cash for nothing, rather than let to expire. Now they are simply freebies given to a few lucky ex-farmers, pulled directly from our taxes. Rural moochers, as it were. For some reason, the GOP establishment thought Doug LaMalfa, one of the rural 10% beneficiaries of this largesse, was their best choice for a candidate. The party of the free market, voting against raising taxes on anything or providing assistance to the poor or unfortunate, wants to make a Representative out of someone taking these ever-dwindling taxes for simply not farming. This is deeply cynical.

Doug LaMalfa has shown himself to belong to the social extremists in Congress. He is supporting the roll-back of civil rights for women, has taken several pledges to never raise taxes for any reason (negating the ability of any kind of negotiation or compromise, the meat and potatoes of politics), and injects his personal religion into government. This is not the kind of representative we need for California.

The Democratic challenger, Jim Reed, has shown himself to be a diligent and thoughtful candidate with integrity. He has been endorsed by a long list of Democrats and by a number of moderate Republicans as well. He supports tax reform to help small business and reduce the deficit. He is for a careful ending of the Afghan war and incremental reductions in military spending. Jim wants to help protect our clean air and water, protect gun ownership rights, and bring jobs back into District 1. He opposes pledges such as those Doug LaMalfa has signed, and wants to protect social security and healthcare for us all.

I have full confidence that Jim Reed understands what working families in this District need. The choice could not be more clear this year, and as a national representative it is vital that we choose a Representative who will make us proud. This Congress will have critical decisions to make on our budget deficit and the fiscal cliff, on climate change actions, civil rights for all, and the military. Please make a responsible choice for this position and vote for Jim.

Vote YES on 37: The “Right-to-Know GMO Initiative”

This November, Californians will have the opportunity to vote on the “Right-to-Know GMO” initiative, requiring all food products to indicate on their labels if any of the ingredients are genetically modified (GMOs) and to prohibit them from being labeled as “natural.”Since even healthy, natural ingredients are now commonly part of labels on processed foods, this seems like a mild requirement. It is even milder when you consider that more than 40 countries, including nearly all of Europe, already require GMO labeling. Since GMO products are not tested for human consumption at all in the U.S., this seems like the very least that should be required of them.Shocking as it is, the FDA’s mandate makes it entirely toothless in its regulation and oversight of GMO products. As described by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCSUSA)
“… the FDA oversees genetically modified foods under a largely voluntary consultation program in which companies decide whether or not to consult on safety matters and what data, if any, to submit.  The agency does not subject engineered foods to the rigorous safety reviews required for substances considered food additives. The end of a consultation is marked, not by an FDA approval but by the agency’s statement that the company has found the engineered crop to be as safe as non-engineered versions and that the agency has no further questions.” (www.ucsusa.org)Over 90 percent of the U.S. public wants to see GMO foods labeled, according to recent poll, and it is hard to imagine there would be great opposition to this, but there is. (abcnews.go.com)  Opposition to this measure is outspending pro-37 activities by nine to one. Topping the list with more than $4 million dollar contributions to date each are Monsanto and DuPont.Thanks to the additional millions being spent by PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and GE Mills, who own some of your favorite “natural” food products, such as Naked Juice, Honest Tea, Odwalla, Silk, Santa Cruz Organics, Cascadian Farms and more, you yourself could be contributing money to unknowingly defeat 37.Monsanto is the “owner” of most GMO food on the market today, embroiled in hundreds of patent suits and spending lavishly on lobbyists to keep the lid on research about and restrictions on GMO products.Only a few studies have been completed on the effects of GMO ingredient food on lab animals, and in those cases, multiple risks were found. These include fertility problems, allergic reactions, small or no offspring, immune reactions, liver problems and high mortality. In the only human test done, similar health risks were found. GMO foods are products where the “DNA was artificially altered using genes from viruses, bacteria or other plants and animals.”  This is social engineering on a global scale with little to no information on the short- or long-term effects of such dangerous gene manipulation. For more on the GMO food dangers, see www.naturalnews.com.In addition, the environmental impacts could be consequential. In a conservative description by the UCSUSA “… genetically modified crops pose a number of potential risks; engineered crops themselves could become weeds; crops might serve as conduits through which new genes move to wild plants, which could then become weeds; crops engineered to produce viruses could facilitate the creation of new, more virulent or more widely spread viruses; plants engineered to express potentially toxic substances could present risks to other organisms like birds or deer (or beneficial insects); crops may have effects that ripple through an ecosystem in ways that are difficult to predict; and the crops might threaten centers of crop diversity.”

We are already seeing the developing of superbugs, naturally adapted to bypass the Monsanto pesticide immunity engineered into many of these plants. The ultimate ecological consequences could be massive.

Today, this issue is finally getting wide coverage, including in the New York Times, which has an entire section devoted to GMO foods and issues around them in their Times Topics section.

Educate yourself, your kids and your neighbors and stand up for transparency about what goes into our foods.

Vote Yes on 37 this Nov. 6. It is the first step in the fight for transparency about healthy, natural food for our future.

Heidi Hall is an environmental professional. She lives in Grass Valley See also www.compassionandchange.com for more opinions on politics and the environment.

The Deep Ingratitude of Today’s GOP: Romney/Ryan

The Romney/Ryan ticket is now set, and those who are paying attention are devouring all the data they can find about the Tea Party darling now attached to the cipher that is Romney. As the chosen ones to represent the current GOP, these two are the epitome of the great ingratitude to what America has been, and how they have become successful. If by successful, we mean powerful and rich.

Romney’s attitude of entitlement regarding his company, his salary even when not working, his government-grant grabbing when overseeing the SLC Olympics, his non-payment of taxes, and his desire to reign over people he clearly doesn’t understand or care about, has been fully parsed.  It doesn’t seem to have turned off very many people.  If by very many, we understand his low 40-something approval rating to still mean tens of thousands of voting people.  The addition of Ryan as the GOP  VP candidate tops off a ticket being symbolized by a man replete with unearned, unexamined and unproductive wealth with a man whose claim to fame is his plan to balance our budget by clawing back what services are left for the elderly, the poor, the disadvantaged, the other-than-white, and women as an entire group.  He is also all about getting government oversight off the backs of mega-corporations, directing it to the business of regulating women’s bodies, and providing additional help to those very same corporations.

Their approach to life, that “they built it on their own” is a myopic and ungrateful slap in the face of their families, their communities and the governments who supported, encouraged and rewarded their work.  Their inherited money, and in Ryan’s case his government provided social security, loans, health care and actual employment, gave them the start they each needed to be productive.  Ryan’s productivity is questionable, if we count the bills he actually passed in his 13 years in Congress (2) and Romney’s is purely self-serving, creating no wealth or jobs or safety net for anyone but himself.  And today they both enjoy government provided pensions and health care, both much richer and complete than those offered the little people, the American majority. 

I have yet to hear either one of these “self-made” men express one single word of gratitude for the government that supports them and their families, or helped them get started.  Not one word of appreciation for the clean water they drink and jet ski on, the clean air they breathe without thought and the uncontaminated land they build their houses and businesses on.  And yet, it was the American government that established laws to protect their right to own land, their right to have clean water and air to sustain them, and a gorgeous country to travel through and vacation in. These same laws are those they want to gut, clearly not even making a connection between the “theirs” that they “got” and how it was kept beautiful for them. 

If the GOP wants to reign over a contaminated country enslaved to short-term financial gain, completely blind to the happiness and health they have from living in a clean, beautiful, regulated and protected country, and to the benefits they get from a safe infrastructure and available healthcare, I can’t stop their strange desires.  I almost want to wish them success…..if only I could keep them in the  close borders and boundaries of the kind of culture and country they would create along with those who elected them.  A region of rich, white, traditional men without creativity or joy and the struggling masses who serve them; a region of polluted waterways and toxic land and unbreathable air that would of course affect them all; a land where the very sick would die on the streets and the churches would turn their heads.  A country of shiny things supported by an economy of constant desire and an everlasting power struggle between companies for the most profits and religions for the most power. Let them have it.  This would be a vision of Dante’s hell, where desires are never filled, souls are never sated, and the total lack of gratitude would engender a people of constant dissatisfaction, self-pity, fear and greed.

Without gratitude and humility, there is no appreciation for the good and recognition of the bad; no true honesty or happiness, no fulfillment. 

If this extreme GOP ticket wants to be taken seriously by anyone with one thimbleful of compassion and care for others, they will need to find it in their cold and ungrateful hearts to acknowledge their families, their communities, their government and their country, for all they have done to contribute to their “individual” success.  But I suppose that is doubtful, because such acknowledgment would require a true understanding about why our regulations and laws, our safety nets and oversight agencies, our not-for-profit policies and programs are a beautiful and beneficial part of America.

The Myth of Agenda 21


The United Nations (UN) has intrigued me since I was a child.  The idea of one big institution working beyond country boundaries to bring health, equality, justice and happiness to the entire world just floated my idealistic boat.  In high school, I participated in the Model UN program where, as a representative of the unheard of island Republic of Seychelles, I brokered an agreement with Russia …whose representative then became my first boyfriend.  Although the boyfriend lasted as long as high school, the thrill of working across country and cultural lines for a common set of humane goals has never left me.

As an undergraduate and graduate student I was fortunate enough to follow my interest in international relations at top schools, and worked as a summer intern at the UN before I graduated.  Although I learned to understand the drawbacks of trying to promote justice and peace through such a large entity, I have never lost faith in the underlying mission of the UN or in most of the people who go to work there for the best of reasons. For those who have never actually read it, the UN Charter begins like this:


  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,


  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.

Peace, tolerance, rights.  What is not to like about this?  In this uniquely bizarre election cycle, and in the throes of the ultra right-wing rise of the Tea Party, the UN has become one of the most unlikely targets of the neo-cons. In truth, the biggest concern raised regularly and justifiably by third world nations over the years has been the undue influence of first world countries (like the U.S.) over important decisions regarding human rights. In other words, the US gets its way more of the time than other countries do…..a tilt that benefits us and ought to make the jingoistic Tea Partiers happy.


I have tried to ignore the tin-foil hat conspiracy ravings about Agenda 21, thinking this would go away.  It has not.  Recently, the Law of the Sea Treaty – one of the most beneficial treaties ever to have been agreed to by an unlikely group of countries – came under strong attack by people who, frankly, probably hadn’t even read a summary of its purpose.  In both cases, the anti-“globalists” pretend that the globe is not interconnected in natural ways beyond our control, and then argue against perceived threats that aren’t even relevant.   In arguments against globalism and for the free market, they completely bypass how multinational trade is a direct effect of their “free” market, reined in only by domestic regulations and international agreements. The origins of this vast sea of complete misinformation is a mystery to me, as is what the UN-haters really want to achieve. 

Agenda 21 is a VOLUNTARY international agreement that promotes sustainability on an international, national and local level.  Cities can voluntarily adopt Agenda 21 principles, and today half of all cities in the world who do are in the U.S.  Since it is not a treaty, there are no regulations and nothing is enforced.  Sustainability means what it means – here is one useful definition:  everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment;  sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations. It is not a code word for a whole panoply of bizarre political and military dominance wet-dreams. Those who suspect it is should be looking more closely at their own personal need to create dark fantasy’s in the world at large.

Here are the things Agenda 21 promotes:

* combating poverty, especially for developing countries, changing consumption patterns, promoting health, achieving a more sustainable population and sustainable settlement in decision making;.

*  conserving and managing resources, such as atmospheric protection, combating deforestation, protecting fragile environments, conservation of biological diversity (biodiversity), control of pollution and management of biotechnology and radioactive wastes;

*  strengthening the roles of children and youth, women, NGOs, local authorities, business and workers and strengthening the role of indigenous peoples, their community and farmers; and

* implementing [programs that include] science, technology transfer, education, international institutions and financial mechanisms.

In other words, it promotes the role of the family in society, the protection and the environment and control of pollution, the promotion of healthy lifestyles and combatting poverty.  You can’t get much more apple pie-momma-american than that.

Read it yourself here:  http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21/res_agenda21_00.shtml.

California Moves to Regulate, Not Ban, Fracking

Last night in Sacramento, California the Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) held its last of seven “listening sessions” in California to take comments on its proposal to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”.   Before the comment session, California Food and Water Watch and the Clean Water Action put together a well-organized a rally outside of CalEPA,  ensuring that a solid crowd of about 100 people would be there to respond to DOGGR.  By the time the session was underway, the Auditorium was nearly full with about 200 people.  Commenters had 2 minutes each and almost 30 people made comments.

If the other six sessions were like the one last night, and if the DOGGR and the Department of Natural Resources were responsive to their audience, it would be a slam dunk that fracking would be heavily regulated if not banned outright in California.   A stream of well-informed people representing Clean Water Action, Food and Water Watch, the Environmental Working Group, the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and localities affected by fracking plans expressed concern about a slew of known problems with fracking.  These included:  unhealthy and greenhouse gas-producing air emissions;  inconsistency in the strict regulation of many fracking chemicals above ground versus their complete lack of regulation for underground injection; the existence of carcinogens in fracking chemicals; lack of back-up plans for failing wells; lack of trust funds for clean-up; lack of trust-worthiness of the industry; the problems with re-injection of fracking waste water; and the backwards focus on ever more dinosaur fuels rather than alternative fuels.   

Three commenters represented the California Industrial Petroleum Association, the Western States Petroleum Association and a law practice called for regulation based on “hard science”.

A group of people from Culver City, a city located over 10% of a 1000 acre shale deposit in L.A. County where wells are already planned to be drilled, spoke out forcefully against allowing any fracking near such huge population centers.

It did not go unnoticed that this discussion of hydraulic fracturing,  which uses massive amounts of pressurized water to break up the underground rock and shale, came the same day that Governor Brown announced his plan to build two massive tunnels for water transport under the Delta and to the thirsty growers and builders in Central and Southern California.  The last thing the State needs is a new water user, especially one needing thousands and tens of thousands of gallons at a time.

Most disheartening was the high-level but slick and relatively tone-deaf panel of  “listeners” for DOGGR, made up of  Tim Kustic,  State Oil and Gas Supervisor;  Ed Wilson, Asst. Dir. of Communications at the Department of Conservation (DOC);  Jason Marshall, Chief Dep. Director, DOC, and the newly appointed Director of DOC, Mark Nechodom. By all appearances,  Dir. Nechodom was brought on to speed up the movement to regulate and permit fracking throughout California.  Mr. Kustic gave a technical presentation, focused entirely on how well fracking works.  No discussion of well-known health effects, or admission of ignorance regarding the kinds of risks currently being taken without oversight was offered.  The bottom line message was that fracking has taken place in California for 50 years, and nothing bad has happened, so it is likely to be safe.  DOGGR later had to admit that there is NO baseline data upon which to make this claim, and that in fact they do not know  where the active fracking wells are.

Pressed to answer this writer’s question regarding the willingness of DOGGR and DOC to recommend a ban on fracking to the Governor if their research showed it couldn’t be done safely,  Mr. Marshall indicated that legislation required them to come up with regulations, but that they could make such a recommendation. However, without a coordinated and loud opposition to fracking, a proposed ban is highly unlikely to be supported by this regulatory agency.

DOGGR is taking written comments indefinitely at www.conservation.ca.gov.

 To sign a petition asking Governor Brown to outright ban fracking in California outright, go to http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/ban_fracking_ca/

Sign a petition to ban fracking altogether http://action.foodandwaterwatch.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6125&track=hp-051811-actioncenter.

Global Corporations Gone Wild. The Trans-Pacific Partnership “Free Trade” Agreement and Why It Must Be Stopped

A Free Trade World

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement currently under negotiation by the U.S. and 11 other countries is being conducted in unprecedented secrecy, and we have to ask why. This so-called “free trade” agreement consists of 26 chapters, none of which have been released to the Congress or public and only two of which deal with free trade. However, 600 corporations from 12 countries are involved in crafting the text and reaching agreements on a set of issues that would make it possible for corporations to overrule sovereign government laws. It is only thanks to leaked documents that we are becoming aware of this today. I am not kidding.

Twenty four chapters of the TPP cover the following items:
– special exemptions for big pharmaceuticals to keep AIDS drug costs profitable
– new investor safeguards to ease offshoring of jobs
– ban buying local or buy national movements (buy American)
– agreement to limit and/or undo regulations on;
— financial services 
— land use
— food safety
— natural resources
— energy
— tobacco
— SOPA like limits to internet freedom
— healthcare….and others

Countries currently part of the TPP include the U.S., Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Brunei. In 2011, arm-twisting resulted in Japan’s inclusion despite great Japanese objections.  Most recently Mexico and Canada have been included.

This agreement has no expiration date and is open to other countries joining as desired. It would effectively create a parallel global, corporate-controlled, regulatory body.

As with other recent trade agreements, this will result in a race to the bottom with regard to environmental safeguards and the human health and safety of workers, in addition to moving jobs to the cheapest possible location.  We have worked a half a century in this country to establish good regulations regarding worker safety and to keep pollution from making our air unbreathable and our water relatively clean.  In one fell swooop, this agreement will give the Shells and GMs and Monsantos rights that will neuter our regulations, because they might impede the “future profits” of these life-killing institutions.

The environmental issues at stake are huge.  The Pacific Rim includes Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, and multiple endangered species.  Our own environment in the U.S. is also at stake, since the treaty allows for weakening of any signatory country’s environmental laws.

The TPP will set up corporate tribunals, similar to those created under NAFTA, under which corporate entities could challenge government regulations of other countries over actions that undermine future profits. So, if an oil company in Brunei finds our environmental restrictions impeding their ability to profit, they would sue the US under TPP and the system is set up to rule in the corporations’ favor. If you think this is impossible, see the NAFTA rulings that have already gone this direction.

Supporters will say that we need this agreement to remain competitive, to be able to increase trade with the member countries. Don’t buy it. The U.S. already has tariff-free pacts with most of the TPP countries.

In addition, the agreement has been conducted without input or review from the public and and entities most likely to be impacted, including the Congressional Committee established to be part of such trade agreements. Even the World Trade Organization releases draft agreements; this complete secrecy is unprecedented. In fact, the TPP text indicates that the final agreement would not be made public until 4 years after it is established.  If this sounds insane, it is.

In March 68 House Democrats and 1 Republican sent a letter to President Obama to ask him to reconsider agreement to the banning of Buy American clause in the TPP, but no objections were made to the treaty as a whole. In January, 4 Democratic Senators requested more information pertaining to the internet-restricting provisions, again timidly challenging only one portion of this massive give-away.  However, Congressional concern about this agreement has been nearly absent, as has media coverage.  This year’s “silly season” of the Presidential race is dominating the media, and important issues like the TPP aren’t getting attention, but they should.

The Nation, the Vancouver Sun, and Huffington Post have published a scant few articles, and the group Public Citizen has mounted a sorely needed campaign to get attention to TPP.  US Trade Representative Ron Kirk is in charge of the effort and the website makes many unsubstantiated claims about public input and the negotiations.  Sen. Ron Wyden, Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness has been denied access to the agreement drafts.

Negotiations for the TPP started under Bush. President Obama temporarily halted them for review, but they were restarted the same year and have continued moving forward like a freight train with no viable opposition to stop them.

Free trade is about easing international obstacles to moving goods and services across country borders so that we can all have access to global goods at reasonable prices.  To claim that free trade needs to be about dismantling environmental controls, human health and wage standards, and enforcement mechanisms is egomaniacal lunacy, and yet this is the direction we are heading, first with parts of NAFTA and now with the bulk of the TPP.  Not true? Then release the draft chapters so we can see the draft agreement, and allow for public input.

What can you do?

Get and stay informed: what is public can be found at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, and kudos to Lori Wallach, Peter Rothberg, Zach Carter for trying to pull the alarm on this issue. Dates to watch include Sept. 6-15, Round 14 of the negotiations in Leesburg, VA

Sign the petitions: at the Public Citizen website here.  And the White House site here.   Call and write your Senators, Representatives, and the White House, asking for updates and requesting that USTR Kirk release the texts.  Mostly, this information needs to be shared so we know what is going on in our own country, and in our names. 

We might need a little outrage on this issue, if we can spare it.