Monday, October 12, 2015

Slave Trafficking, TPP & the 2016 Presidential Contest


This could be someone you know and love (source). How aggressively should your presidential candidate work to prevent it?

by Gaius Publius

As many readers know, I'm a fan of what the game of Go calls a "strong move" — very aggressive play when the position is favorable. The position against TPP, the argument against, is beyond favorable, and the position against Malaysia, one of the world's worst participants in the traffic in slaves, is unassailable. In addition, for the 2016 race, progressives have three candidates who have announced their opposition.

In this presidential season, I think progressives have been handed a wonderful opportunity to make a "strong move" against both TPP and slave trafficking — but only if they're willing to take it.

In this piece, I want to look at the slave trade and Malaysia, then at TPP, both pre-vote and post-vote, and last at what a truly committed Democratic candidate might say in one of the coming debates. (To jump to that speech, scroll to the bottom or click here.)

"Human Trafficking" Means the Slave Trade in All Its Forms

The term "human trafficking" is accurate, but almost a white-wash in that it washes off the ears with little penetration of its meaning. Human trafficking is best called "slave trading." What are slaves? Humans used as animals, as things for any purpose, including, but not only:
That list is just a subset. Any Jack Reacher–villain method by which a human, including a child, can be kept powerless for the purpose of abuse is encompassed by the term slave trading. From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on the ban against exploitation of humans:
Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal, manipulation or implantation of organs;
The "trader" makes his or her money capturing or selling slaves, the way Nestlé, say, makes money "capturing" water from the people of the Pacific Northwest, then selling it back to the people who own it in the first place. Water is a product to profit from. Slaves are a product to profit from. How can we improve the bottom line by improving the "throughput," these profiteers ask?

Imagine your child treated this way, as a profit center and "throughput." Now imagine your anger against it. Now hold that thought as you consider Malaysia and TPP. Malaysia is a nation in which slave trading is a major industry.

In 2014, the State Department Gave Malaysia an "F" for its Extensive Human Trafficking

Back in 2014, before Fast Track and TPP were part of the national discussion, the nation of Malaysia received an "F" from the U.S. State Department (technically, they assigned Malaysia "Tier 3" status) for its extremely lax enforcement of laws against trading in slaves.

The Guardian (my emphasis):
US penalises Malaysia for shameful human trafficking record

Continued failure to curb traffickers prompts US to downgrade Malaysia in its annual Trafficking in Persons report

The US has downgraded Malaysia to the lowest ranking in its annual human trafficking report, relegating the southeast Asian nation to the same category as Zimbabwe, North Korea and Saudi Arabia. The move could result in economic sanctions and loss of development aid.

Malaysia's relegation to tier 3 in the US state department's Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report – published on Friday – indicates that the country has categorically failed to comply with the most basic international requirements to prevent trafficking and protect victims within its borders.

Human rights activists in Malaysia and abroad welcomed the downgrade as proof of the government's lax law enforcement, and lack of political will, in the face of continued NGO and media reports on trafficking and slavery.

"Malaysia is not serious about curbing human trafficking at all," said Aegile Fernandez, director of Tenaganita, a local charity that works directly with trafficking victims.

"The order of the day is profits and corruption. Malaysia protects businesses, employers and agents [not victims] – it is easier to arrest, detain, charge and deport the migrant workers so that you protect employers and businesses."

According to this year's TiP report – which ranks 188 nations according to their willingness and efforts to combat trafficking, and is considered the benchmark index for global anti-trafficking commitments – trafficking victims are thought to comprise the vast majority of Malaysia's estimated 2 million illegal migrant labourers, who are sent to work in the agriculture, construction, sex, textile or domestic labour industries.
Just read the bolded parts again. The government of Malaysia, our TPP partner, is a major participant in the market for slaves. According to our own State Department.

But that was then, before the push to "fast track" trade deals that the most corrupt members of both political parties wanted to give to their richest benefactors. Here's what's happened since.

"Senior Political Staff" in the State Department Recertified Malaysia as Fit for TPP

The State Department issued the above report in 2014. In 2015 Obama and the wealth-serving members of both political parties wanted to pass Fast Track, a law that would make it much more difficult for Congress to reject any "trade" deal, or any deal labeled a trade deal for the next three to six years. One obstacle to passing Fast Track was congressional opposition to the slave trade in Malaysia, one of our TPP "partners."

The pro-TPP forces in and out of government desperately wanted to keep Malaysia in the deal, for a variety of reasons. So "senior political staff" in the State Department conveniently amended the department's 2014 decision.

Reuters (my emphasis):
Special Report: State Department watered down human trafficking report

In the weeks leading up to a critical annual U.S. report on human trafficking that publicly shames the world’s worst offenders, human rights experts at the State Department concluded that trafficking conditions hadn’t improved in Malaysia and Cuba. And in China, they found, things had grown worse.

The State Department’s senior political staff saw it differently — and they prevailed.

A Reuters examination, based on interviews with more than a dozen sources in Washington and foreign capitals, shows that the government office set up to independently grade global efforts to fight human trafficking was repeatedly overruled by senior American diplomats and pressured into inflating assessments of 14 strategically important countries in this year’s Trafficking in Persons report.

In all, analysts in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons - or J/TIP, as it’s known within the U.S. government — disagreed with U.S. diplomatic bureaus on ratings for 17 countries, the sources said.

The analysts, who are specialists in assessing efforts to combat modern slavery - such as the illegal trade in humans for forced labor or prostitution - won only three of those disputes, the worst ratio in the 15-year history of the unit, according to the sources.

As a result, not only Malaysia, Cuba and China, but countries such as India, Uzbekistan and Mexico, wound up with better grades than the State Department’s human-rights experts wanted to give them, the sources said. (Graphic looking at some of the key decisions here:
Note that the experts in the State Dept. didn't re-evaluate the data. The political forces at State overruled those experts, for reasons you can easily guess. In the case of Malaysia, Reuters says this:
The Malaysian upgrade, which was highly criticized by human rights groups, could smooth the way for an ambitious proposed U.S.-led free-trade deal [TPP] with the Southeast Asian nation and 11 other countries.
Reuters certainly knows how to put two and two together. Will our Democratic political candidates do the same?

Which Presidential Candidate Will Stand Strongest Against TPP & Human Trafficking in Malaysia?

Which brings us to TPP and this political season. One of the big issues for progressives is to elect the most progressive president we can find. Another is to defeat TPP in Congress. A third — have you thought of this? — is to neuter TPP even if it passes Congress and Obama signs it.

After all, TPP is just an "executive agreement." It's not a "treaty" as the Constitution understand the term. It's not ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, but simply signed by the president, often with a concurring vote of Congress. (A Status of Forces Agreement, for example, is "[t]ypically established by executive agreement.") Even our actual treaties, such as the Geneva Convention's prohibition against torture, are often simply ignored. Do we stop fighting a bad deal simply because it was signed? Or do we keep fighting? And what do we expect in that regard from our best candidates?

These three problems — how to elect the most progressive president, how to stop TPP from being passed by Congress, how to prevent TPP from taking effect if it is approved by Congress — come conveniently together in this presidential season, and in particular, in the upcoming. presidential debates.

This is another of my imagined progressive-candidate speeches, laid out as talking points in the candidate's voice. Imagine the horror that millions of human slaves in Malaysia go through every day. Imagine your child as one of them. Then imagine your reaction to a presidential candidate who says this, out loud, in front of millions of TV viewers:
The moderator has asked each of us our views on TPP. Here's what I say to the American people:
  • I know that most Americans, including 87% of Republicans, opposed giving Fast Track authority to the president. I know that almost every labor leader in the country is opposed to TPP, knowing that it would do to jobs what NAFTA did to jobs ... and do a whole lot worse besides, such as putting life-saving cancer drug prices out of reach of most people who need them.
  • Therefore, if TPP passes and I'm elected president, I will:

        1. Explore every avenue for "unsigning" — or at the very least, renegotiating — this agreement. Remember, by design this is not a "treaty," but an "executive agreement". Executive agreements, such as agreements to maintain troops in foreign countries, have been changed unilaterally in the past.

        2. Make sure that every side agreement that offers protections to labor and the environment is aggressively enforced against all signing countries. I repeat ... aggressively enforced. Every single one of them. If a signing country is forced out of TPP because they violate these side agreements, so be it.

        These assurances regarding labor and the environment may have been meant cosmetically in the past, but not under my administration. I repeat, if a nation is forced out of TPP because of labor or environmental violations, they will be gone and I will be glad to see them go. The less force TPP has, the better, in my view and in the view of the American people.

        3. Finally — and I take this most seriously — there is strong evidence that the country of Malaysia is a major and deliberate participant in the horrifying practice of human trafficking. I mean horrifying in its most literal sense. Our own State Department, in 2014, certified Malaysia as a participant in the global market for slaves — sexual slaves, workforce slaves, humans who are imprisoned so their organs can be harvested. Men, women, and children.

        One source says, about this report, and I'm quoting here: "trafficking victims are thought to comprise the vast majority of Malaysia's estimated 2 million illegal migrant labourers, who are sent to work in the agriculture, construction, sex, textile or domestic labour industries." This is beyond immoral. It is monstrous. And it must be stopped.

        The U.S. State Department said as much in a report on human trafficking in June of 2014. Yet in late July of 2015, the State Department reversed itself and removed Malaysia from the list of "Tier 3" human traffickers, the worst offenders.

        This allowed Malaysia to remain in the negotiations for TPP. If I am your president, on day one I will order the State Department to immediately review that decision, with an eye to immediately reversing that decision and driving Malaysia from the TPP until it genuinely ... not cosmetically, but genuinely ... changes its laws and cracks down on this most monstrous of practices ... the trafficking in slaves, humans treated like animals, as things to be used.
  • Further, I challenge every candidate on this stage, most of whom oppose the TPP, to take these same aggressive stands. If we are strongly opposed to TPP and what it will do to jobs and the American economy — and especially if we are opposed to the slave trade in Malaysia — we must opposed it, not just before it passes, but after it passes, if indeed it does pass.
Consider again our three goals:
  • Elect the most progressive president we can find.
  • Defeat TPP in Congress.
  • Prevent it from taking effect if Congress does pass it.
Now imagine someone you love as a victim of human trafficking in Malaysia.

If you are on board with all three goals — and share the revulsion any human would feel toward a business model that treats humans as things — how would you feel about the presidential candidate who gave the speech above?

But there's more to this "strong move." How would our current trading "partners" feel about TPP if they heard this speech given, ahead of the congressional vote?


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At 4:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corporatism MUST have slave workers. Look at the Saudi "employer" who cut off the arm of his involuntary servant.

TPP & TTIP are but the latest efforts to ensure that US citizens surrender their rights for a mess of pottage and a life of indentured servitude. As more jobs are lost to globalization, we'll see more actions like Urban Outfitters' recent push for unpaid workers "just because we need the help", and the sheeple will flock to their shepherds. They will worry later -AFTER the work is done- why they didn't get paid, and will line up again the next time the call is issued.

Since that alleged liberal Obama is pushing hard for this, the American people have no champion (except Bernie Sanders). Global corporatist slavery will make the Holocaust look like a picnic.

At 7:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Germany became servile to fascist militarism in the name of nationalistic machismo, thereby enslaving the designated untermensch and POWs, working some to death while simply eradicating those who were of no commercial use, so too can us/US voters who have yet to stand up for anybody's rights, even their own, as codified in our founding documents, treaties and laws.

Indeed, as the Germans actually demanded their own enslavement to their condition (remember women lining up to be impregnated by model arian soldiers in order to provide generations of cannon fodder?), American evil imbeciles seem on that same vector. How else can one understand the re-elections of reagan, cheney and the bushbaby as well as obamanation (Clinton gets a pass since his profuse evil occurred mostly in his second term)? Even relentless proof of evil does not interfere with our electorate ratifying such evil. One sect of our sanctified money's party now does not even feel the need to disguise their evil... and the other sect bothers less and less to do so.

Yes, Bernie should vow to utterly repudiate TPP (and TTIP, should that precede his inauguration). But will he? And if he does so vow, will the electorate shun him?

If some German candidate in '36 had vowed to repudiate the Nuremburg laws, would he have been shunned? Of course. When a society is inured to such evils, they wouldn't hesitate to shun someone who advocates good.

Take americans and guns, islam, nonwhite races, the poor, torture, wars, oil...
Focus our evil on those we've been taught to hate (muslims, Putin, gays, women, blacks, the poor, the sick...) and we're in. Collateral damage is irrelevant. We just don't give a crap. Elections prove this.

A candidate who vows to do good for everyone and not do evil towards anyone will surely be shunned by almost all. From our desire to kill every single muslim to our desire to take everyone who is "too expensive to help" and just let them die... our elections regularly, without exception, prove our allegiance with these evils.

The next election will see an executive whore that loves this evil... but more important, it will validate another 535 congresswhores who love money and scorn (the correct categories of) humans.

At 7:40 AM, Blogger Tony Wikrent said...

What I would like to hear from the next POTUS: "We are immediately abandoning TPP and all other trade deals, and serving notice that we intend to withdraw from the WTO and GATT. This does not mean we are against trade - just the kind of trade these organizations and treaties have promoted in which the actual national development of a country's economy is sidetracked into a cheap-labor producer of export goods. Note carefully what we intend to replace that failed model with: We are calling on all nations to join with us in negotiating a new world trade system aimed at facilitating and encouraging the $100 trillion in new investments needed to build a new world economy based on clean energy, free of fossil fuels. $100 trillion is what scientists and engineers have calculated is needed for humanity to meet the challenge of climate change. That $100 trillion is needed to build hundreds of thousands of wind turbines, hundreds of millions of rooftop solar arrays, a variety of other clean energy sources, such as thermal and tide, new manufacturing facilities for extremely high mileage vehicles to replace the world's entire fleet of current, low mileage vehicles, a vast program of upgrading buildings with the best energy efficiency technology, and a massive expansion of highly efficient urban mass transit systems in cities all around the world. We already have the technology needed to do all these things, and eliminate the threat of climate change. We already have the technology to build a bright new future for our children and grand children free of pollution, free of hunger, free of despair, free of fear. But to build this future we must reform the world's monetary and financial systems from the current mad scramble for high velocity trading and short term profits, to a steady, long-term application of money and credit for the $100 trillion in new goods and services needed to build a new future for the entire human race."


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