by Guy Walker
I sung of Chaos and Eternal Night,
Taught by the heav’nly Muse to venture down
The dark descent, and up to reascend…”
John Milton, Paradise Lost
On these typical days in late Spring, before the sun burns the geraniums, before the squirrels bark at me for their morning ration of peanuts, before the school children run off with their huge backpacks and their quivering knees, I rub my eyes awake and sigh deeply, wishing my kitten was still alive. It rained a long violent storm last night, soaking the brittle hills, knocking off a songbird’s eggs into the garden, making the midnight couples feel extra cozy and romantic. A SWAT team invaded an old lady’s house during the thunder. A raccoon had babies, and tried to keep them warm under a large rosemary bush. An overweight businessman drove to a motel to see his mistress. And the sky cracked, pouring over all of Los Angeles. But the morning was a flirtish scenery of gold coruscating air, every flower petal on ecstasy, my regret of alcohol fading away because at least I had a garden. I walk out onto the patio in my Christmas underwear, drinking a lukewarm Americano, and I play my turns on a few different online chess games I’m playing on my smartphone. I scroll through my Facebook feed. I scroll through my Instagram feed. I sigh again, eat three slices of bacon and lick the dust from a Rolls Royce mirror, and I read through the World News and Today I Learned and the Ask Historian’s section on Reddit. Mad Max: Fury Road is opening. I wish I had hair like Bernie Sanders. But one story has caught my attention: the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is going to fuck everyone and everything . . . every cornflake-infested child will either become a beggar or a nihilist because of it.
I used to blame my alcoholism on my ex-girlfriend breaking up with me, then I blamed it on baby seals being mauled to a pulp in the Arctic, then I blamed it on hydraulic fracking poisoning our water supply, but now I blame it on the TPP. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the worst so-called free trade agreement in the history of mankind. It threatens every environmental, health, climate, and labor policy in the Pacific Rim, and therefore the world. This isn’t an opinion piece, it’s all fact.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed so-called free trade accord between the U.S. and eleven other Pacific Rim countries, encompassing 800 million people, about a third of world trade, and nearly forty percent of the global economy. It’s larger than NAFTA, larger than the WTO, and it wants to fuck everyone harder than all previous so-called trade agreements ever have. Most of the content of the agreement has been discussed behind closed doors, between more than 600 corporate adviser’s, from such decency as Boeing, Monsanto, Halliburton, and Lockheed Martin. Congress itself is more or less left in the dark on what exactly the TPP fully entails. For example, members of Congress are allowed to read one chapter at a time (there are twenty-nine chapters in total, only eight of which actually discuss trade, the others of which involve limitations regarding environmental and climate policy, food safety, financial regulation, or the ever-changing corporate power structure), of which they may not take notes, photos, or even talk afterwards about what they read. In contrast, in 2001 during one of several NAFTA expansions, the Bush administration published the full draft of the agreement on the government’s official websites. The Obama administration is pushing to “fast track” the measure, meaning very limited debate on the House floor.
The Nobel Prize winning economist, and former Chair of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, Joseph Stiglitz, is one of the most important opponents of the TPP. He was a champion of NAFTA, and has since denounced that it was ever a good idea in the first place. Regarding the TPP, he explains:
“Fundamental to America’s system of government is an impartial public judiciary, with legal standards built up over the decades, based on principles of transparency, precedent, and the opportunity to appeal unfavorable decisions. All of this is being set aside, as the new agreements call for private, non-transparent, and very expensive arbitration. Moreover, this arrangement is often rife with conflicts of interest; for example, arbitrators may be a “judge” in one case and an advocate in a related case.”
What Stiglitz is referring to is a section in the draft known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which allows corporations to directly sue governments—including the U.S. government—if a government’s regulatory laws limit a corporation’s profits. The example most often given is cigarette laws. If cigarette’s are labeled with a warning that they may kill you, Philip Morris or any other may take suit, with the claim that they lost future profits because of a country’s labeling laws. This “investor-state” system has already forced taxpayers to pay more than $440 million to corporations for various profit obstructions, including toxic bans, water and timber policies, and land-use laws. At the same time, more than $34 billion remains pending in corporate claims or suits in the U.S. alone. If this isn’t fucked up enough, in the secret tribunals where these lawsuits made by the corporations against the countries take place, typically three corporate attorneys act as judges and then may rotate in the next case as the prosecuting attorneys. Of all the praetorian fuckery that haunts this awful planet, a corporate-run justice system is the fetid leaking ulcer of fairness. The TPP is a more caliginous girning character than the Old Testament god . . . it doesn’t even have a face when it smites you for liking dolphins or wanting a glass of drinking water that won’t kill you.
Everyone knows that corporations are obviously people now, but they’re faceless demonic people with heavy constipated breath. Just this week, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, and the Royal Bank of Scotland, will pay more than $5 billion in a settlement for pleading guilty in a currency rigging scandal, but no actual person with a face and sociopathic tendencies will ever face a day in prison. Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive, was given a 74 percent raise to $20 million after he fucked everything up back in 2008. Just this week, the GOP blocked legislation presented by Senator Elizabeth Warren that would require public disclosure of the trade agreements before they get “fast track” status. You might ask yourself why anyone would want to block transparency of a trade agreement that promises jobs and money and stuff. But then you laugh with a nearly empty champagne glass in your hand, and remember that everyone on Capital Hill is 69ing with the banks and the corporations. The Intercept reported on this a little more articulately, exposing one of many revolving doors between business and policy:
“— Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, the assistant U.S. trade representative for agricultural affairs, recently lobbied for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade group for biotech companies. Lauritsen’s financial disclosure form shows she made $320,193 working to influence “state, federal and international governments” on biotech patent and intellectual property issues. She worked for BIO as an executive vice president through April of 2011, before joining the Trade Representative office.
— Christopher Wilson, the deputy chief of mission to the World Trade Organization, recently worked for C&M International, a trade consulting group, where he represented Chevron, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, British American Tobacco, General Electric, Apple and other corporate interests. Wilson’s financial disclosure shows he made $250,000 a year, in addition to an $80,000 bonus in 2013, before he joined the Obama administration. Wilson left C&M International in February of 2014 and later joined the Trade Representative’s office. C&M Internationalreportedly lobbied Malaysia, urging it to oppose tobacco regulations in Australia.
— Robert Holleyman, the deputy United States trade representative, previously worked as the president of the Business Software Alliance, a lobbying group that represents IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, Apple and other technology companies seeking to strengthen copyright law. Holleyman earned $1,141,228 at BSA before his appointment. Holleyman was nominated for his current position in February of last year.”
What the Trans-Pacific Partnership could do here for example—because Sharon Lauritsen and Christopher Wilson both worked for biotech companies—is actually restrict the government’s regulation of drug pricing, as well as create new rules that would inhibit generic lower-priced drugs from entering the market. Creating a monopoly essentially on an entire industry. Akin to when Texas banned the sale of Teslas. Here are some of the most fervent advocates of the free market actually killing the free market through a highjacking of the legal justice system. In his Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, David Hume writes, “public utility is the sole origin of justice.” Government, Hume argues, is not an agreed upon social contract, and by no means is built from an instinctual moral obligation to act on what is best for the people, but rather through force and submission it achieves its order. Why do the extremely rich and corrupt want even more of it, why they aren’t yet satisfied in their cold hell. If all values are derived from the passions rather than from reason, as Hume argues, than the despondent fuckery of collecting immeasurable wealth is an unadulterated passion for the 600 corporate executives in charge of the text of the TPP, almost as much so as taking selfies is for James Franco. Any virtue, as Hume argues, must be “useful or agreeable to the person himself or to others.” A painful sense of guilt or disapproval evokes a vice, and therefore an injustice. But Wall Street clearly doesn’t have a utilitarian sense of economy. Their definition of virtue is a violent skullfucking of the planet. We are turning the clock back towards a more feudal desperate time, a time before Napoleon, before the social contract was declared for the common good.
As everyone knows, Napoleon legalized divorce, established legal equality (forbidding legal privileges based on one’s birth), allowed one’s freedom of religion, abolished feudalism, and established the now very popular Napoleonic Code, finally repealing all royal law. But none of those customs or laws are actually worth anything. You can’t sell freedom of religion quite in the same way that you can sell fraudulent loans.
The only thing left of Napoleon’s legacy is his penis. It’s true, Napoleon’s penis still taunts us, above ground, behind the dark fog, on this terraqueous masterpiece of human tragedy. Nearly two-hundred years after his doctor cut it off during his autopsy and gave it to a priest in Corsica, and after it has passed through the hands of several purposeless human beings as the temporary owners of the now shriveled scab, the chewed-up jerky that tried to hump its way to an already meaningless victory, Napoleon’s penis lies isolated from the man’s achievements, it’s present owner fielding offers as high as a hundred thousand dollars. Through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we are returning to the feudal state, erecting the corporate advisers as the royal family. The once bold achievements of our leaders from the past—who paved the way for a democratic and free society—are dying. All that will remain are global trade agreements, orphans, dead whales, and Napoleon’s severed penis. And the sun will finally set.