Business

Morbid Curiosity

P.T. Barnum could not have imagined a more salacious character to feature on his marquee posters. Donald Trump doesn’t even need make up; the orange skin, discoloration around the eyes and the bright yellow hair already give him a naturally clownish appearance. The act itself is grotesque. The elephant man, himself, would struggle to cause such revulsion. But, any apprehension by circus-goers, would fail to overcome the irresistible urge to see, once and for all, if the lion will eat the lion tamer.

The 45th President of the United States is the greatest show on earth, and the mainstream media are cashing in day-in and day-out. The Don Lemons, the Rachel Maddows, the Sean Hannities and the Tucker Calrsons climb on their fiber-optic high horses nightly to deliver their inflammatory monologues and preside over faux-opposition panels while behind the big top, animals are whipped and starved in their cages. The business of empire continues unabated while the people are transfixed by the loudmouth on the pulpit. The real actions and persistent policies of the American government are completely ignored.

MAGA hats and border walls make for riveting campaign rallies in the poorly educatednooks and crannies of this nation. Promises to “bring back jobs” and restore America to shining beauty are nothing but empty rhetoric designed to maintain the pretense of a popular base; to keep the illusion of democracy alive and give the voices of political analysts that flavor of sincerity. Underneath the pomposity and vulgarity of the Piñata Don extravaganza, hides an increasingly worried contingent of powerful corporate interests trying to salvage a global investment trade regime, which has been slipping away over the last decade.

The Best Laid Plans

When the Berlin Wall came down in the late eighties, Western investment bankers, lawyers and assorted capitalist enterprises went to work on the world with a blowtorch and a pair of pliers. Decades of slogging through the slow, and – in their eyes – ineffective protocols of the Bern Convention and WIPO, spurred corporate American giants like Pfizer, IBM, Dupont among others to change the focus of world trade from goods and services to intellectual property rights, setting their sights on the ongoing GATT negotiations.

They attacked the Uruguay round of talks, led by Pfizer CEO, Edmund Pratt, and managed to introduce IP into proceedings with the Basic Framework document. Though only a modest gain, it marked a significant victory for American multinationals, most of which relied heavily on investment in research and development to drive growth.

Out of the ashes of GATT, that drew to a close after Uruguay, emerged the WTO. What followed was a deluge of bilateral and multilateral trade deals largely benefiting Western corporations, and a tiny clique of lawyers, who cornered the market on writing, executing and arbitrating any disputes arising from these deals.

Hundreds of trade deals would be signed over the following ten to fifteen years. Riding the post-cold war propaganda wave of MTV, blue jeans and Michael Jordan, the U.S. hooked country after country on onerous agreements, which stipulated private companies could sue sovereign governments over internal legislations or other national developments, which might infringe on their investments and patent protection rackets. According to a study published in 2012 co-authored by Corporate Europe Observatory and the Transnational Institute, the number of investment arbitration cases ballooned from 38 to 450 between 1996 and 2011.

Over the last several years, many countries have either reneged on existing deals or have simply refused to renew their relationship with Western corporate entities. African nations extricated themselves from these agreements altogether, terminating existing ones and issuing a moratorium on signing new ones. Meanwhile, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela withdrew from the World Bank’s body, that administers trade disputes, the ICSID. Even Australia, a fellow Western nation, decided it would no longer include investor-state dispute provisions in its trade agreements.

The legal fees and the punitive judgments arising from the lawsuits pursued by corporations against sovereign countries can threaten the vital social services of many developing countries. Cases like Plama Consortium vs Bulgaria and Fraport vs The Philippines highlight the risk these legal fights pose to the sued nations’ populations. In the first lawsuit, although Bulgaria was awarded US$7m in legal fees, it remained on the hook for US$6.25m – which could have covered the salaries of over 1,700 nurses during a healthcare crisis, which was affecting the country at the time. The Philippines, was forced to spend US$58m to defend against two cases involving one plaintiff.

UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) found that legal and arbitration costs average US$8m. Adding insult to injury, “tribunals most frequently [require] parties to share tribunal and administrative costs equally and absorb their own legal fees”, which means that sovereign nations lose even when they win.

Coliseum Politics

This secret tug of war between profit-driven behemoths and foreign national interests, which has been unfolding over the last few years never makes it to the nightly news in America. As usual, people are only fed narratives which will serve to sway public opinion, that will justify the necessary measures – whether the soft stick of economic sanctions or the outright use of Apaches and Cruise missiles.

The story lines are always simple and geared towards the common denominator. Even if Americans were so frivolous as to get behind the bombing of Brazil for better prices on tin for General Electric, it’s probably easier to make up a narrative of evil doers and bad hombres.

Lurking behind the “free trade” infrastructure is the other arm of the hegemonic beast, expressed alternatively as the drug war in Latin America or Western-funded terrorism in oil-rich Middle East. These are points of entry for the muscle when Western diplomats and arbitration lawyers fail to get their point across.

Donald Trump’s job is to signal to the world, on behalf of Western corporate interests, that the trade regime is not going as they wish and that all bets are off until the world gets back in line. In the meantime, the military-industrial complex is sharpening its knives and waiting for the go-ahead. The trade-dealer in Chief already has his marching orders.

Miami Soccer Stadium
I don’t want any interruptions from anyone in the public… We’ve done this day in and day out for a very long time in the City of Miami… We do not need assistance with running this meeting.Keon Hardemon (District 5) - Commissioner & Chairman
Miami Soccer Stadium
MIAMI, FL – July 18: Joe Carollo, Commissioner for District 3, banters with City Commission Chairman, Keon Hardemon, just before the special hearing on the Beckham-Malreese Stadium proposal begins at City Hall in Miami, Florida on July 18, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.
Miami Soccer Stadium
MIAMI, FL – July 18: Swing vote-holder, Commissioner Ken Russell, answers some of the press’ questions prior to the special hearing on the Beckham-Malreese Stadium proposal at City Hall in Miami, Florida on July 18, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

 

We are circumventing our own statutes, our own laws… Let the real owners of the land decide… We are going against our own charter. That’s why people don’t trust us.Manolo Reyes (District 4) - Commissioner
Miami Soccer Stadium
MIAMI, FL – July 18: The Mas-Beckham team huddle together during the special hearing on the Beckham-Malreese Stadium proposal at City Hall in Miami, Florida on July 18, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.
Miami Soccer Stadium
MIAMI, FL – July 18: District 4 Commissioner, Manolo Reyes, states his opposition to the process underlying the Beckham-Malreese Stadium proposal at City Hall in Miami, Florida on July 18, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

 

For the purposes of the questions that were posed, the way the commission is proceeding at this time is perfectly legal. I wanted to remind the commission that in 2014 there was a resolution passed that we wanted MLS soccer, David Beckham to be the group that led this charge… It’s legal.Victoria Mendez - City Attorney
Miami Soccer Stadium
MIAMI, FL – July 18: Mayor of Miami, Francis X. Suarez, follows the proceedings during the special hearing for the Beckham-Malreese Stadium proposal at City Hall in Miami, Florida on July 18, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.
Miami Soccer Stadium
MIAMI, FL – July 18: Richard Perez, Holland & Knight partner, representing the Beckham interests stands smiling at the podium during the Beckham-Malreese Stadium proposal at City Hall in Miami, Florida on July 18, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

 

This impromptu proposed ballot language is deceiving and is calculated to elicit a particular response. But, I also think it’s out of order… I have not seen this. We were not contacted about this. We were not asked questions by Commissioner Reyes’ office.Francis X. Suarez - Mayor
Miami Soccer Stadium
MIAMI, FL – July 18: A First-T supporter looks on skeptically during the special hearing for the Beckham-Malreese Stadium proposal, while a stadium supporter sits anxiously behind him at City Hall in Miami, Florida on July 18, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.
Miami Soccer Stadium
MIAMI, FL – July 18: Francis X. Suarez, Mayor of Miami, disputes a proposed language change resolution before the City Commission at the special hearing for the Beckham-Malreese Stadium proposal at City Hall in Miami, Florida on July 18, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

 

We are extremely confident that the remediation costs on this particular site, including the park and including the lease premises will be substantially less than $35 million. Richard Perez - Holland & Knight partner
Miami Soccer Stadium
MIAMI, FL – July 18: Miami Mayor, Francis X. Suarez and City Manager, Emilio T. Gonzalez, confer privately just prior to the start of the special hearing for the Beckham-Malreese Stadium proposal at City Hall in Miami, Florida on July 18, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.
Miami Soccer Stadium
MIAMI, FL – July 18: Stadium proposal partner, Jorge Mas Jr., stares forward defiantly during the special hearing at City Hall in Miami, Florida on July 18, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

 

We would adopt reaching a living wage on a scalable basis, starting at $11 dollars over four years to get to the $15 dollars.Jorge Mas
Miami Soccer Stadium
MIAMI, FL – July 18: A member of the Mas-Beckham entourage follows the proceedings attentively during the special hearing on the Beckham-Malreese Stadium proposal at City Hall in Miami, Florida on July 18, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.
Miami Soccer Stadium
MIAMI, FL – July 18: The Mas-Beckham team consult with each other during the special hearing on the Beckham-Malreese Stadium proposal at City Hall in Miami, Florida on July 18, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

 

I know that you say that it is legal. But, is it ethical?Manolo Reyes (District 4) - Commissioner
Miami Soccer Stadium
MIAMI, FL – July 18: Jorge Mas Jr., Beckham’s partner in the stadium venture, assumes a pleading posture during the special hearing for the Beckham-Malreese Stadium proposal at City Hall in Miami, Florida on July 18, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.
Miami Soccer Stadium
MIAMI, FL – July 18: A stadium deal supporter sits through the special hearing for the Beckham-Malreese Stadium proposal at City Hall in Miami, Florida on July 18, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

Emerge

eMerge Americas is a technological innovation conference that takes place in Miami, and bills itself as the “premiere technology event connecting Latin America, North America and Europe”, but should not be confused with the almost identically named political organization Emerge America, whose mission is to further the careers of Democratic women in government.

eMerge Americas was created by the Technology Foundation of the Americas, a non-profit organization founded by Manny Medina, whose company, Terremark, built the NAP facility in downtown Miami, one of the most important IXPs in the world. Medina sold Terremark in 2011 and became a full-time technology advocate, leading the conversation about transforming Miami into a global tech hub.

According to a 2014 piece from the Miami Herald, “The plan for eMerge Americas is that major information technology companies will showcase solutions in the areas of cloud computing, cyber security, big data, mobile applications, and social networking to leaders in the technology sector in the Americas.”

GENEVA, CH – JUNE 8: Sophia, Hanson Robotics Ltd. speaking at the AI for GOOD Global Summit, ITU, Geneva, Switzerland, 7 – 9 June, 2017. PHOTO CREDIT: ITU &copy ITU/R.Farrell

The first eMerge America conference in April of 2015 turned out to be a success. The five-thousand plus attendance surpassed the expectation of the organizers, despite this number being quite modest compared to any number of similar events in San Francisco every year, which can draw tens of thousands of people. Nevertheless, the focus of eMerge Americas to engage the Latin American tech sector is undoubtedly promising, and a natural fit for South Florida.

This year will be the third iteration of the burgeoning tech convention, and will feature some notable guests, like keynote speaker Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico and famous Twitter foil of current U.S. president, Donald Trump. Sophia, the AI robot created by Hanson Robotics, will also make an appearance.

The 2018 eMerge Americas conference will be held in Miami Beach’s revamped Convention Center on Monday, April 23 through Tuesday, April 24. For tickets and more information, visit the conference’s website.

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