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Commentary :: International
Free Trade Agreement TTIP Endangers Democracy
02 Sep 2014
Investor courts of arbitration create exclusive special rights for foreign corporations. They could demand unlimited compensation when they see profits narrowed by democratic decisions. Stopping the TTIP is central for preserving sovereignty, environmental justice and publiic sector jobs!

By Christoph Bautz

[This article published August 22, 2014 is translated from the German on the Internet, Christoph Bautz is a biologist, political scientist and co-founder of Campact and demands the immediate scrapping of negotiations on the TTIP with the US.]

Free trade between partners sounds commendable. Standardizing car signals and rearview mirrors is a good thing. Far more is involved in the TTIP, the investment- and trade agreement with the US. The themes should set off alarm bells for all social democrats. Investor courts of arbitration create an exclusive special right for foreign corporations. They could demand unlimited compensation when they see profits narrowed by democratic decisions. The lawsuits will be decided by economic lawyers who change roles as prosecutors, defendants and judges, not by independent courts. These lawyers are not bound by the German Basic Law with the social obligation of property. In a lawsuit, the Swedish energy conglomerate Vattenfall wants 3.7 billion Euros from taxpayers for the nuclear exit.


Privatization: Local communities and federal states are threatened most severely. Public services come under intensified privatization pressure. In the public awarding of contracts, investors can sue, bring their own workers and demand equal treatment with public providers.

Standards: Standards in consumer protection will not be lowered, we are assured. However higher standards for imports are avoided when standards are mutually acknowledged. This can also occur after the agreement is signed. Even if hormone beef is first excluded in the agreement, it could be subsequently accepted on the market through “regulatory cooperation.”

Democracy: TTIP reduces the possibilities of politics: financial markets, climate change, big data, genetic- and nano-technology. New risks require new rules to protect citizens.

However new rules are potential trade barriers. Therefore TTIP would strongly aggravate a policy improving social standards, consumer rights, data protection and pollution control. There should be no way back after the maximum in deregulation and privatization is reached. The democratic sovereign is dethroned or stripped of power; the balance between corporate interests and the public interest is shifted. In short, TTIP is an “attack on legislation sovereignty, an incursion in sovereignty and an assault on parliamentary democracy,” Heribert Prantl said in the Sueddeutschen Zeitung newspaper.

Many of our democratic rights were gained by social democracy through hard struggle. TTIP would sell them for a song. The EU Commission calculates that the TTIP could bring an additional growth of 0.048 percent per year – with far-reaching liberalization that grinds down nearly all “trade barriers.” Whether TTIP becomes reality will depend on the SPD. The agreement will never see the light of day without the approval of the SPD delegates in the Bundestag, the Euro parliament and the federal states in the Bundesrat governed by the SPD.


Very soon an oath will be taken. In the fall, the EU Commission will present the completely negotiated CETA agreement with Canada. It makes possible “TTIP through the backdoor.” Corporations only need to open an affiliate company in Canada to sue European states for missed profits. Corporate justice mistrusted by many social democrats would come about with CETA – entirely without the TTIP.

More than 620,000 citizens signed the Campact Appeal against the TTIP. 150,000 actively participated in an EU consultation on the corporate right to sue. The EU Commission is no longer describing this criticism as an “attack and organized assault on the commission.” In the past, the German government described investor courts of arbitration in CETA and TTIP as unnecessary. Nevertheless they are an important part of the commission strategy. CETA and TTIP endanger democracy. They help a few corporations, not the economy altogether and not all of us. Therefore social democracy and all citizens must do their utmost to scrap the negotiations.


By Ursula Storost

[This article published August 14, 2014 is translated abridged from the German on the Internet,]

My children should have it better. This wish was often fulfilled in postwar Germany. However the times of social ascent are long past. German society becomes a descent society – and even education does not protect from that descent.

On December 31, 1996 German chancellor Helmut Kohl in his New Year speech tried to get the German people in the right mood:

“The social state must be rebuilt so it can be preserved and financed in the long run. Its services must benefit the truly needy.”

What Kohl announced because of economic problems represented a radical turn in German social policy. Rebuilding the welfare state meant cuts of state services, new standards for reasonable work and personal responsibility for old age pension schemes. Nothing was as Germans were accustomed in the first decades after the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, said the economist and sociologist Dr. Oliver Nachtwey of the University of Trier.

“Those were decades of exorbitant economic growth. There will never be such an economic growth again. In that era, there were immense increases in real wages. The real wages of all employees tripled between 1959 and 1989.”

Moreover, Oliver Nachtwey explains, persons in the older Germany from worker families or the small-scale employee milieu had chances of ascent. They could undergo further training and get ahead in society.

“My own family is an example of that. My grandfather was a factory worker in a lamp factory in the Ruhr valley. My father became an engineer through evening classes. As the third child in this series, I graduated from the university and later was awarded a doctorate.”

At the same time the sociologist born in 1975 is also a child of the descent society as he says:

“My father had an unlimited employer-employee relation. I am a modern academic working my way from one chain contract to another.”

Education is not a guarantee any more for social ascent or even for permanently belonging to the middle class, Oliver Nachtwey says.

“Different bottlenecks appear. For example, the number of doctoral candidates has doubled in the last years at the universities but not the number of stable employee positions where people get to the top. That is also true in many other lines of work.”


Since the 1990s German society was robustly rebuilt. An ideological turn changed politics. Less state and fewer public provisions were desired. That meant privatization of many areas of public service and reduction of social benefits.

“Businesses were rebuilt and became oriented more and more in shareholder value or stock prices. An enormous pressure on employer-employee relations developed from that shareholder value orientation. Businesses were glad to employ workers for the short term and be rid of them. They wanted more flexible employment and paid less for those jobs.”

From 1993 real wages began to fall, the economic sociologist Oliver Nachtweg reported. The wage rate fell since the beginning of the 1980s, the share of employee income in the national economy and the entire wealth of a country.

“The wage rate on average rose up to 1982. The wage level, this share of employees in the national income, fell after 1982 when Helmut Kohl came into office. Therefore we can say about the share of wealth since 1982 that we are in a society where employees have lagged behind in their share of wealth since 1982. Poverty has also risen again since the 1990s and there is a downward pressure.”

But there was and is hardly resistance from below, says Dr. Philipp Staab from the Hamburg Institute for Social Research.

“People are obviously kept on a short leash. There are contracts limited in time. Employees work in businesses that are not friendly toward works councils. This does not always promote engagement to improve one’s situation.”


The sociologist has focused on power and rule in the service world. Persons responsible for cleaning, nursing and security who have no lobby fill the so-called service proletariat.

“Goods are constantly arranged when we go to the supermarkets. But do we really see these people? I don’t think so. They are mainly occupied with reproducing what we are accustomed to – neatness and order.”

This simple restoration of normality makes it hard to build occupational pride and something like a class consciousness, says the sociologist Friederike Bahl. The collaborator at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research has analyzed the life models and consciousness of these people.

“We still have 39 percent of employees in simple industrial work despite the much bemoaned loss of members organized in unions. The share in simple service work is 18 percent.”

Shared struggle is bitterly necessary, Friederike Bahl insists. These people stand at the lower end of the income ladder despite hard work, often up to 50 hours a week. “This means going home with around a thousand Euros monthly.”


Simple se4rvice providers are not the only ones in precarious working conditions. In large firms, short-time workers slave away alongside the regular staff, says the sociologist Oliver Nachtwey. In a large automobile plant, he witnessed the model working conditions for permanently employed colleagues…

The sociologist Thomas Marshal emphasizes social citizenship, a concept put into action in Germany up to the 1970s. It means all citizens regardless of their class have equal civil, political and social rights. “This social citizenship that makes possible integration has successively eroded since the 1990s. Important elements of this citizenship were dismantled, reduced and redesigned.”


The gulf between the permanently employed workers of a business and the precarious grows, not only the gulf between poor and rich. On what side one is on and in what strata one belongs is nowadays no longer only a question of education, says Dr. Nicole Mayer-Ahuja, sociology professor at the University of Hamburg.

“One acquires ever higher education. But what is achieved at the end in job security, income level and so on is not comparable with what the last generation acquired on an inferior foundation of education. I believe this is really a great change where hopes of advancement were disappointed and much uncertainty has spread.”

Seen statistically more than normal working conditions have declined since the 1980s. The norms inherent in normal work have also been relativized, the social economist says.

“Many younger persons no longer expect they will spend their working life in one enterprise. Many employees in the younger generation say they do not even want that. In my opinion, people are taken in a little by the flexibilization utopias propagated in the 1980s when people said flexibility is good for everyone.”

So the economy has to draw its clientele from employees, persons who can react flexibly… Flexible and creative is a label for modern work that seems attractive for many young people. A more and more individualized society arises in which people blame unemployment and inse3cure jobs on their personal failure, not on the system. This aggravates solidarity in all western European societies.

“Hopefully we will enter a situation where those who fall by the wayside will gain a common consciousness from their situation in southern Europe and in Germany and actually develop and put into action potential resistance,” the socio-economist Nicole Mayer-Ahuja said.


By Annette Sawatzki

[This blog article published on August 18, 2014 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Maude Barlow is shocked. The Canadian winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize has seen the leaked text of CETA and says: “It removes what is left in democratic government.” Deeply worried she urges Europe to reject the agreement.

People in Europe have had enough of the secretiveness and of being hostages in the hands of businesses.

The Canadian woman speaks out of bitter experience. 20 years ago Canada, the US and Mexico signed the North American Free Trade agreement NAFTA. CETA will have negative consequences for Europe as NAFTA has negative consequences for Canadians, warns Maude Barlow known worldwide for her commitment to the basic right of water.

Because public provisions, consumer rights, safe food and protection of their natural resources are important to Europeans, they should look long, hard and critically at CETA. For Canada, the effects of NAFTA were dramatic. The greatest danger comes from investor-state arbitration courts. Canada has lived for 20 years with a similar parallel legal system and can testify to the deeply undemocratic nature of this privilege for businesses. Canada’s freshwater supplies are directly affected.


The NAFTA agreement – just like CETA – gives corporations the possibility of suing states before private arbitration courts for compensation when laws cut into their profits. Canada was repeatedly the target of such blackmailing. After Canada prohibited trade with PCBs, an American firm was granted eight million dollars of tax funds as compensation. The Canadian firm Lone Pine Resources shifted its headquarters to the US to sue against a fracking prohibition in the Canadian province of Quebec. The claim was 250 million dollars. The pharmaceutical corporation Eli Lilly even wants 500 million dollars from the Canadian state because its Supreme Court annulled two patents after the compounds were demonstrably ineffective.


With CETA, Europe is threatened with lawsuits from US corporations in connection with the EU-US agreement TTIP. Engaged for decades with international trade agreements, Barlow knows their traps and warns:

As soon as Europeans sign CETA, US firms will make their demands through Canadian subsidiaries in Europe.

The number of corporations that could use this backdoor is significant. US firms control over half of the Canadian economy including corporate giants like Exxon, Chevron and Monsanto that own large Canadian subsidiaries.


“The CETA negotiations were carried out screened from all democratic process,” Barlow criticizes. Signing CETA and TTIP would be a massive threat.

TTIP and CETA stand for a misguided development model – in a world of increasing injustices, cancelled public services and the mining of natural resources. These agreements remove what is still left of democratic government and have almost nothing to do with removing unreasonable trade barriers.

For years Maude Barlow (b. 1947) has been chairperson of the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest civil rights organization and is co-founder of the environmental movement Blue Planet Project that seeks to protect drinking water from the threats of commerce and privatization. She is a council person in the World Future Council and member of the board of directors of the International Forum on Globalization. Previously she advised former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and was active in resistance against the ultimately unsuccessful Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) that also gave mammoth corporations new privileges over states and the population. In 2005 she was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award) for her engagement for the basic right to water.


The English text of the CETA trade agreement was quickly compiled on August 1, 2014 so it could be conveyed on August 5 to the German government and the other 27 EU governments and the Canadian government for any objections. Then the agreement will be officially presented on September 25, 2014 by the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barraso during an EU-Canada summit in Ottawa. This text does not contain a table of contents and must still be legally edited and translated in the EU languages. What is most explosive in this technical jargon was summarized in the leaked text of 519 pages and its legal English is hard to read. (Source:


The abundance of trade agreements brings many volunteers or globalization critics to ask regarding the TTIP: Why shouldn’t we worry or panic about everything? The TTIP and the TPP (Transpacific Partnership agreement) pursued simultaneously on the Pacific side by the US are not merely continuations of the past reactionary liberalization of world trade. The TTIP is a very dangerous quantum leap.

While there are many FTAs, the proposed TTIP has a uniquely enormous weight and formulates a clear claim to a leading role in the world economy. The old metropolises US and Europe want to stabilize their massive but dwindling influence with the TTIP and TPP and make their dominance incontestable. This will dangerously increase conflicts in worldwide economic relations.

TTIP is an “economic NATO.” Its global leadership appears in the declarations of the EU Commission and not only in the rhetorical flourishes of Hilary Clinton. EU trade commissioner De Gucht declared openly: “We will use TTIP to speed up rules and standards that could be a foundation for future international agreements. The common transatlantic leadership position in the development of global norms and standards should be protected.” (Source: Das Blaettchen)
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Sports fan lobbyist fights NFL blackouts, taxpayer-funded stadiums, and Comcast
02 Sep 2014
Click on image for a larger version

Sports blackout.png
Since 1973, the National Football League has prevented local TV stations from broadcasting games when tickets aren’t sold out—and Federal Communications Commission rules enable this decidedly fan-unfriendly policy. The rules are finally close to being overturned, and if they are you can thank David Goodfriend.

Founder of the Sports Fans Coalition, Goodfriend is an attorney and lobbyist with years of experience in government and private industry. He was a Clinton Administration official, a Congressional staffer, legal advisor at the FCC, and executive at Dish Network. The Sports Fans Coalition teamed with four consumer advocacy organizations in 2011 to petition the FCC to stop supporting the NFL’s blackout regime.

In practice, the FCC rules primarily benefit the NFL because the nation’s other major sports leagues don’t punish fans by keeping games off local TV when they aren’t sold out. The NFL has resorted to astroturfing to make it seem as though the general public supports blackouts, and dismissed opposition from fans as being incited by cable and satellite companies. NFL attorney Gerard Waldron (who also lobbies for broadcasters on other matters) disparaged Goodfriend’s motivations, telling Ars that the Sports Fans Coalition “has received funding from Dish, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon,” and that Goodfriend “has close and longtime ties to Dish as their former in-house lobbyist and now is an outside consultant.”

“It’s beyond politics”

Most of that is true, Goodfriend acknowledges, but that doesn’t mean fans aren’t on his side. Fans have written to his organization “in their own words and oftentimes in their own hand why they hated blackouts so much,” Goodfriend told Ars in a phone interview. “We had a disabled veteran, an elderly woman, people who say ‘these blackouts don’t inspire me to go to the games because I can’t go to the games.’”

Fans also wrote to the FCC in support of the Sports Fans Coalition petition to end blackout rules. The FCC itself voted 5-0 last December for a preliminary proposal to get rid of the rules.

Further Reading

Only cable and satellite companies want to overturn blackout rule, NFL claims.

“It’s beyond politics,” Goodfriend said. “It’s something that a progressive consumer advocate can support and it’s something a conservative deregulatory person can support.” The FCC has three Democrats and two Republicans, often casting 3-2 votes on controversial matters, but was unanimous in taking the first major step toward ending its support of blackouts. The FCC has been taking public comments before making a final decision. Goodfriend hopes for a vote next month.

Ending NFL blackouts isn’t the only fight Goodfriend and the Sports Fans Coalition are taking on. The group, which includes former Bush administration official and Republican strategist Brad Blakeman, also lobbies against taxpayer-financed stadiums and filed a petition to deny the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger. The group accuses Comcast and TWC, which own regional sports networks throughout the country, of using their market power to charge unreasonable prices for sports programming and of withholding sports content from rival pay-TV providers when they don’t pay up. Many Los Angeles Dodgers fans can’t watch games this year because TV providers refused to pay what they say are outrageous fees demanded by TWC.

Goodfriend’s coalition—which has a $96,000 budget—used to receive funding from Verizon and Time Warner Cable, but no longer does, he said. Goodfriend declined to say why those companies stopped funding his group, but said they originally gave money “because big media companies don’t like being pushed around by sports leagues either.” But over time, cable companies have increasingly become content owners, with Comcast’s 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal increasing antitrust concerns.

Contrary to Waldron’s statement, Goodfriend said his sports fan group never received funding from Dish itself. But Dish is part of the American Television Alliance, which contributed to the coalition this year, and Goodfriend still lobbies for Dish and other clients in his private practice.

The Sports Fans Alliance’s biggest corporate funder is Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Goodfriend said. Publicly financed stadiums are often paid for in part by rental car taxes, he explained. This was one of the first issues the coalition tackled after it was founded in 2009.

Fighting for fans—and for Dish Network

Goodfriend—a Green Bay Packers fan—was at Dish between 2001 and 2009, serving in several positions including vice president of law and public policy. Today, Goodfriend lobbies for Dish on net neutrality, reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, and against the Comcast/TWC merger. His time as a Dish employee helped shape his sports-related lobbying.

“That’s where I learned how screwed up the whole sports media system really is,” he told Ars. “At Dish we generally were really tough negotiators with everybody but when it involved the sports leagues we just said, ‘ok.’ I thought that was really odd. I actually brought some ideas to the company about ways to sue sports leagues and they said, ‘we’d love to do this but they’re too strong. They’ll kill us.’ That’s a very unusual thing to hear at Dish Network where they usually will sue anybody for any reason. That was my first education into how skewed the market is when it comes to sports.”

Goodfriend started the sports fan lobby group because “there’s a tremendous amount of government intervention and support for sports written into federal law and state law, but there was no real consumer advocacy group for fans. Ralph Nader had started the League of Fans a while ago but that was sort of an all-purpose place for fans to complain, it wasn’t just centered on public policy.”

Professional sports leagues enjoy a number of exemptions from antitrust law and have frequently convinced local governments to hand over taxpayer money to finance new stadiums. While this may appear to be a separate issue from TV blackouts, Goodfriend sees them as feeding into each other. Fans (and non-fans) pay for the stadium construction, and then pay exorbitant amounts of money to attend games. The teams have little pressure to lower ticket prices because government-sanctioned blackout rules sometimes force fans to choose between buying a ticket or not seeing the game at all, Goodfriend said.

“Cincinnati is a great example,” he said. “They had to float municipal bonds, they’re having trouble paying the financing on those bonds, so schools are suffering while the taxpayers of Ohio are paying to subsidize a stadium for the NFL. Oh and by the way a couple of years ago 75 percent of all home games at Cincinnati were blacked out. Let me get this straight: [Say] I’m from Cincinnati. I supported this team my whole life. My taxpayer dollars go to support the stadium, and what do I get in return, I can’t watch the game on TV. Oh and I want to go, but wait a minute, the ticket prices just went up and I’m unemployed so I can’t afford it.”

Who actually benefits from blackouts?

The FCC’s 40-year-old blackout rules prevent cable and satellite companies from importing game broadcasts from distant stations to show in local areas. Blackouts have become less frequent, with only two last season, in part because new NFL rules let teams set lower thresholds for determining whether a game is “sold out.” The NFL claims its blackout policy is fan-friendly because it helps the league keep games on free broadcast TV and tempers the need to raise ticket prices, notions that Goodfriend scoffs at.

“If the NFL cared so much about selling out stadiums they’d lower their damn ticket prices,” he said. “That’s what airlines do. When’s the last time you flew on an empty airplane? If an airplane isn’t selling out they lower the price to fill up the plane because they don’t make money on the seats.”

Nine economists told the FCC in a filing that “There is no evidence that the current blackout practices of the NFL have a significant effect on attendance, revenues, profits and the allocation of television rights between over-the-air and MVPDs [multi-channel video programming distributors] broadcasters.”

Blackouts harm local businesses, particularly bars and restaurants that would show the games to attract customers, Goodfriend argued. “Blackouts are just a really anti-consumer power play by the league,” Goodfriend said. “Local broadcasters don’t like them, local businesses don’t like them, and fans sure don’t like them.”

The NFL itself is a tax-exempt nonprofit, though all of its teams (except the nonprofit Packers) must pay taxes. In all, the league makes more than $9 billion a year, more than any other US sports league.

Goodfriend says the NFL keeps games on broadcast TV not out of the goodness of the league’s heart, but because the large viewership of broadcast TV helps sell ads.

“As long as Budweiser, Pepsi and General Motors, and other big consumer brands pay top dollar to advertise on NFL games, and as long as people still use broadcast, that dynamic is not going to change,” he said.

The NFL has shifted a fair number of games to pay-TV, demonstrating that the league isn’t avoiding cable when it can get a good enough deal. Monday Night Football is on ESPN, and Thursday night games are on the NFL Network.

“They’re doing that [moving games to cable] anyway,” Goodfriend said. “They did that with the sports blackout rule in existence. The notion that they’re going to walk away from millions of dollars in broadcast advertising revenue just to sell a few thousand more tickets is laughable.”

Ticket shenanigans alleged

In one filing this year, the Sports Fans Coalition and other groups opposed to blackout rules accused the NFL of pressuring broadcasters to buy unsold tickets to avoid blackouts.

“The commission should investigate whether its licensees owned by or affiliated with Fox, NBC, ABC, and CBS purchased blocks of game tickets in order to avoid local blackouts during the 2013 season, and whether such purchases were made at the behest of the NFL,” they wrote.

The groups didn’t offer any specific proof. Goodfriend attributed the information to “an executive with a lot of experience in the sports industry.” Waldron declined to comment on this charge, but the NFL did not deny it. In a later filing, the NFL said, “If [the Sports Fans Coalition’s] real agenda were to look out for fans, as opposed to representing the interests of MVPDs, SFC would be cheering the reduction in blackouts. Instead, it expresses disapproval of clubs’ and local businesses’ efforts to avoid blackouts by purchasing blocks of tickets for certain games in the 2013 season, as well as the NFL’s ability to adjust the deadline to sell out games.”

Goodfriend views that as a “tacit admission.” An FCC spokesperson told Ars that the commission “can’t confirm or deny or comment on any investigations,” adding that “there has not been [a] finding issued.”

“That terrifies the billionaires”

For all the controversy over blackouts, eradicating the FCC rules might not change much. The Copyright Act of 1976 may provide legal cover for blackouts. Even without rules enabling blackouts, the NFL could insist that pay-TV providers honor blackouts when negotiating private contracts. But this would open the NFL to something it doesn’t want, Goodfriend said: a free market.

“The pay-TV companies might say, ‘ok, well we really want the NFL Network so we’ll give you what you want. Or they might say, ‘what will you give me? How about you reduce the fee you charge us?’ That’s called a market. That’s how markets work. There is negotiation, there is bargaining, there is leverage.”

Goodfriend occasionally takes on a conspiratorial tone. “Our website was hacked recently. I’m not going to surmise who would want to hack our website,” he said.

He sees the NFL as “a puppeteer sitting way up high,” pulling the strings while broadcasters, pay-TV companies, merchandisers and distributors fight among each other. In this view, ending the blackout rules would be the first crack in the NFL’s armor—even if the league is able to preserve blackouts through private contracts.

“What’s really going on here is the NFL is terrified that someone is going to pull back the curtain and reveal all these public subsidies to the point where the public says, ‘no more,’” Goodfriend said. “‘We’re no longer going to subsidize your stadiums, your taxes, your business, we’re just not going to subsidize it anymore.’ That terrifies the billionaires.”