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Did the Government Offer a Contract to New Balance in Exchange for TPP Support?

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Trade & Tarrifs by Alice Salles Comments are off

Did the Government Offer a Contract to New Balance in Exchange for TPP Support?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Government has a way of selling incredibly bad economic deals by calling them free trade agreements. Haven’t you noticed?

ShoesThe Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a trade agreement between Pacific Rim countries, including the United States, that hopes to “promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in our countries; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor and environmental protections.” But according to information released by WikiLeaks, only five of TPP’s 29 sections deal with trade.

At the time, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange claimed that many of the other sections dealt with Internet regulations, which includes details on what specific type of information Internet service providers will be required to collect once TPP is enacted.

To former congressman Ron Paul, TPP is dangerous because of the several items listed in its sections that benefit special interest groups. Instead of opening up the market, Paul argues, TPP would boost “world government,” meaning that international nations would unite for all the wrong reasons, such as spying on its citizens. Opening up the trade among individuals in different parts of the globe, Paul explains, has little to do with the effort.

To folks at Tech Dirt, TPP has always been bad, mostly because of the issues mentioned previously. But as reports claiming the US government has allegedly pressured a shoe company to back TPP in exchange for exclusive contracts hit the news, we learn that power players behind the TPP might be just as corrupt as the politicians under fire in South America over one of Brazil’s largest embezzlement schemes in recent history.

According to New Balance, an American footwear company from Boston, Massachusetts, the US government allegedly promised the shoe company would get a “big government contract” if the company stood by TPP.

Unfortunately for New Balance, the deal never came through.

According to the Boston Globe story, It wasn’t until 2015 that New Balance chose to stop criticizing the deal. Until then, the company resisted supporting the pact for years. If what New Balance now alleges is true, executives only chose to change their tune after the Department of Defense claimed it would consider choosing New Balance for a contract to outfit recruits.

So far, New Balance hasn’t received any official contract proposal, and New Balance now say Pentagon officials are intentionally delaying the purchase.

While the US government claims that the contract problem is not associated with TPP in any way, the company is now renewing its battle against the TPP. For all the wrong reasons.

According to Tech Dirt, New Balance claims that while most of the uniform purchased for the military is made in the United States, sneakers are the exception. With that in mind, New Balance decided to offer its products to the government, hoping to obtain a contract. That’s when a representative for the current administration “more or less” asked New Balance to accept a compromise version of the trade deal in exchange for a pledge of help in pressuring the Department of Defense to expedite the government’s purchase of American-made shoes.

According to the Defense Department, New Balance didn’t get the contract because its sneakers aren’t durable or inexpensive enough. Regardless of what the government alleges, Tech Dirt claims, the idea that the government may have offered the company deal if it sided with its trade deal is “highly questionable.”

US Gov’t Targets Public Employees With ‘Whistleblower-Like’ Characteristics

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

US Gov’t Targets Public Employees With ‘Whistleblower-Like’ Characteristics

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The United States government may be looking for the “next Chelsea Manning,” a report from The Guardian argues.

ManningAccording to documents obtained by the UK newspaper, disgruntled employees, egomaniacs, and the office “door mat” are all potential whistleblowers under the ever watchful eyes of the US government.

In what many call a witch-hunt, the US government is allegedly placing all public employees under surveillance in order to spot individuals with characteristics that match Chelsea Manning’s profile. According to the government’s own standards, individuals with motives of greed, too much ego, or who experience financial difficulties may become whistleblowers. Employees who are “disgruntled,” or who appear to have “an ideology,” or a “divided loyalty” are also potential risks to the government.

According to Manning’s article, even employees with “any family/personal issues” should be closely watched for potential problems.

As Manning pointed out, anybody holding a security clearance may, at some point, be labeled as a potential threat if officials are trained to single out individuals by looking for the characteristics listed above.

The 31-page document reviewed by The Guardian was originally obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request placed by Chelsea Manning, the former United States Army soldier-turned whistleblower who became famous for leaking information on the US government’s actions in Iraq.

A video leaked by Manning and released by WikiLeaks in 2010 shows two American helicopters firing on a group of ten men, including two Reuters employees who had ben photographing an American Humvee under attack. The footage also shows helicopters firing at a van that had stopped to help the victims of the previous attack. Children inside the van were injured while their father was killed.

Months after Manning was arrested over violations of the Espionage Act, the National Insider Threat Task Force was created, and officials involved with the agency were given the task of deterring threats to national security by anyone “who misuses or betrays, wittingly or unwittingly, his or her authorized access to any US Government resource.” According to Manning, this gives the task force broad powers, resulting in “total surveillance.”

The 2011 “Insider Threat” program that followed Manning’s arrest, or what many call “modern-day McCarthyism,” also teaches officers to spy employees presenting what they believe to be deviations of sexual orientation and gender identity, characteristics that match the government’s profile of Manning.

As the country watches in horror what is now unfolding in Brussels after the deadly terrorist attack that killed over 30 innocent civilians, this report gets buried by the news cycle. With both Republican and Democrat candidates competing to show the county who’s the toughest on foreign policy, liberty advocates like former congressman Ron Paul argue that the American voter will be much more likely to urge government to do more after the Brussels attack, putting both of our safety and liberty in jeopardy.

Under a hawkish administration whose plans include expanding our presence in the Middle East, programs like the “Insider Threat” will be the norm. But can increased surveillance bring us safety?

History shows that the answer is no.

Report: U.S. Losing Freedom of the Press

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Each year the respected international organization Reporters Without Borders issues a World Press Freedom of the PressFreedom Index that explores and ranks freedom of the press in the countries of the world. According to the organization, the Index reflects “the degree of freedom that journalists, news organizations and netizens enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom.”

In this year’s report the United States is ranked a sad 49th out of 180 countries. This is the second-lowest ranking for the U.S. since the rankings began in 2002. (The lowest was in 2006, when the U.S. was ranked 53rd). Ranking immediately ahead of the U.S. are Malta, Niger, Burkino Faso, El Salvador, Tonga, Chile and Botswana.

Americans accustomed to the U.S.’s reputation as the bastion of a constitutionally protected free press may be surprised by the rankings. Reporters Without Borders cites incidents it considered in its rankings, including:

  • The U.S. government’s years-long effort to force two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal sources for his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration.
  • The U.S. continued war against WikiLeaks and similar whistleblower organizations and individuals like Edward Snowden. 
  • The arrests of at least 15 journalists covering the police protests in Ferguson, Missouri. 

Journalists definitely feel a chill in post-9/11 America. As the Liberator Online reported last year, the PEN American Center, an organization of professional writers whose membership includes some of America’s most distinguished writers, surveyed its members and found:

“73% of writers have never been as worried about privacy rights and freedom of the press as they are today. Writers are self-censoring their work and their online activity due to their fears that commenting on, researching, or writing about certain issues will cause them harm. The fear of surveillance — and doubt over the way in which the government intends to use the data it gathers — has prompted PEN writers to change their behavior in numerous ways that curtail their freedom of expression and restrict the free flow of information.”

It’s not just the U.S. facing such problems. Press freedom is in decline around the world, says Reporters Without Borders. They say it is “incontestable” that “there was a drastic decline in [worldwide] freedom of information in 2014. Two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed for the 2015 World Press Freedom Index performed less well than in the previous year. …

Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents. … All warring parties without exception waged a fearsome information war. The media, used for propaganda purposes or starved of information, became strategic targets and were attacked, or even silenced.”

Best Libertarian Science Fiction/Fantasy of the Year Announced

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Cory Doctorow's Homeland

Want some great libertarian-oriented reading? The Libertarian Futurist Society has some new recommendations for you.

For more than three decades, the Libertarian Futurist Society has given its coveted annual Prometheus Awards, which celebrate outstanding current and classic works of science fiction and fantasy that stress the importance of liberty as the foundation for civilization, peace, prosperity, progress and justice.

This year’s Best Novel Award was a tie: Homeland by Cory Doctorow and Nexus by Ramez Naam.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Cory Doctorow has generously allowed readers to download Homeland — and some of his other works — for free here.

Homeland, the sequel to Doctorow’s 2009 Prometheus winner Little Brother, follows the continuing adventures of a government-brutalized young leader of a movement of tech-savvy hackers — who must decide whether to release an incendiary Wikileaks-style exposé of massive government abuse and corruption as part of a struggle against the invasive national-security state.

This is Doctorow’s third Prometheus Award for Best Novel. He won last year for his Pirate Cinema. All three are young-adult novels with strong libertarian themes.

Nexus by Ramez Naam is described as “a gripping exploration of politics and new extremes of both freedom and tyranny in a near future where emerging technology opens up unprecedented possibilities for mind control or personal liberation and interpersonal connection.”

The other finalists:

* A Few Good Men by Sarah Hoyt
* Crux by Ramez Naam (sequel to his Best Novel-winning Nexus)
* Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

The Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) winner is Falling Free, a 1988 novel by Lois McMaster Bujold that explores free will and self-ownership by considering the legal and ethical implications of human genetic engineering.

The other 2014 Hall of Fame finalists: “As Easy as A.B.C.,” a 1912 short story by Rudyard Kipling; “Sam Hall,” a 1953 short story by Poul Anderson; “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” a 1965 short story by Harlan Ellison; and Courtship Rite, a 1982 novel by Donald M. Kingsbury.

In a separate awards ceremony, four-time-Prometheus Award-winning author Vernor Vinge will receive a Special Prometheus Lifetime Achievement Award.

Author-filksinger Leslie Fish — according to Prometheus “perhaps the most popular filk song writer of the past three decades and one who often includes pro-freedom themes in her songs” — will receive a Special Prometheus Award in 2014 for the combination of her 2013 libertarian-themed novella “Tower of Horses” and her related filk song, “The Horsetamer’s Daughter.” (No, that’s not a misspelling. Filk songs are songs created from within science fiction and fantasy fandom, usually dealing with related subject matter.)

The Prometheus Award will be presented in a ceremony during the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention, to be held in London, England August 14-18, 2014.

For further great libertarian fiction reading recommendations, see the list of past Prometheus Award winners and nominees.