My guest is progressive political activist, the PEN. Welcome back, PEN.
Joan Brunwasser: You've been very active in getting the word out about the fast-tracking of the Trans Pacific Partnership. You and I have talked about it a lot lately*. For those readers not yet familiar with the TPP, what is it, why is it so bad and what's so urgent?
PEN: The only reason we know it's so bad is that there are leaked documents which have surfaced about what they are planning. The worst of it is that they are proposing a new maxim of international law, which would define as "indirect expropriations" any national law intended to protect the environment, labor, privacy, etc. It represents, for example, a new corporate RIGHT to pollute and the power to collect damages from anyone who resists, on the logic that corporations are entitled to profit from polluting the environment and to collect damages as their estimated lost profits if prevented from doing so. And that's just the start of the horrible stuff they are trying to pack into this thing. No wonder they are doing everything to keep it all the most extreme secret, and to fast track it without any real scrutiny.
JB: Yikes! What have you been doing and how's that going?
PEN: Of course there are many groups fired up about this. For our part, our own participants just through our own action pages have already generated upwards of 20,000 protest messages altogether, EACH going to at least their own three members of Congress. And we are also cc'ing the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways And Means Committee, which they are also trying to bypass even with their deceptive fast track proposal. And it is clear that all of these protests are having an impact, at least it is slowing them down.
But we also have some unique capabilities that we have brought on line expressly for this fight. The latest addition to this is our new People Lobby congressional call logging interface. There are many people who are motivated to actually call their members of Congress on the phone about policy questions. What this new resource empowers you to do is make a public record of what the congressional aides you speak to are saying, to cut through all the puff about where they actually stand and whether or not we, the people, can count on their vote, and to demand that they vote in our interest. Just like the name says, the intent is to make the voice of the people a real lobbying force for the first time.
JB: Explain exactly how this works. Give us an example, please.
PEN: OK, let's say you call their offices now and they give you some bogus runaround, and you hang up and you say to yourself, "Wow, I wish I could tell someone else about this." Now you can. You make notes of what happened in the call in the new People Lobby interface, which has tabs for each of your own members of Congress, and it gets posted blog comment style for everyone else in your own district to see. In this way, we can very quickly document who is just blowing hot air at us, and even who doesn't even bother to answer the phone at all.