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Nederlog

April 27, 2015
Crisis: Death of the U.S., Shell falsifies, Black Radicals, Power(less), Obama & TPP
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton
















Sections
Introduction

1. The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Death of the
     Republic

2. Shell lobbied to undermine EU renewables targets,
     documents reveal

3.
Rise of the New Black Radicals
4. Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless
5. Bill Black: Obama & TPP – Every One That Doeth Evil
     Hateth the Light



Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, April 27, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an excellent article by Ellen Brown; item 2 is about how Royal Dutch Shell + Barosso furthered the interests of Shell much rather than those of the EU;
item 3 is about an article of Chris Hedges on "new black radicals"; item 4 is
about an article by Robert Reich on American feelings of powerlessness; and
item 5 is about a fine article by Bill Black on Obama and the TPP.


1. The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Death of the Republic 

The first item today is an article by Ellen Brown (<- Wikipedia) on Truthdig, but originally on Ellen Brown's Web of Debt:

This starts as follows:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.

— Article IV, Section 4, US Constitution

A republican form of government is one in which power resides in elected officials representing the citizens, and government leaders exercise power according to the rule of law. In The Federalist Papers, James Madison defined a republic as “a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people . . . .”

On April 22, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement that would override our republican form of government and hand judicial and legislative authority to a foreign three-person panel of corporate lawyers.

The secretive TPP is an agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries that affects 40% of global markets. Fast-track authority could now go to the full Senate for a vote as early as next week. Fast-track means Congress will be prohibited from amending the trade deal, which will be put to a simple up or down majority vote. Negotiating the TPP in secret and fast-tracking it through Congress is considered necessary to secure its passage, since if the public had time to review its onerous provisions, opposition would mount and defeat it.

Maybe you should read this again... (but yes, all of it is quite true to the best of my knowledge).

Here is the first part of Ellen Brown's main argument that the TPP (and the TTIP) will be the death of the American Republic:

Abdicating the Judicial Function to Corporate Lawyers

James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers:

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. . . . “Were the power of judging joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judgethe legislator. . . .” would then be

And that, from what we now know of the TPP’s secret provisions, will be its dire effect.

The most controversial provision of the TPP is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) section, which strengthens existing ISDS procedures. ISDS first appeared in a bilateral trade agreement in 1959. According to The Economist, ISDS gives foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever the government passes a law to do things that hurt corporate profits — such things as discouraging smoking, protecting the environment or preventing a nuclear catastrophe.

Arbitrators are paid $600-700 an hour, giving them little incentive to dismiss cases; and the secretive nature of the arbitration process and the lack of any requirement to consider precedent gives wide scope for creative judgments.

To date, the highest ISDS award has been for $2.3 billion to Occidental Oil Company against the government of Ecuador over its termination of an oil-concession contract, this although the termination was apparently legal. Still in arbitration is a demand by Vattenfall, a Swedish utility that operates two nuclear plants in Germany, for compensation of €3.7 billion ($4.7 billion) under the ISDS clause of a treaty on energy investments, after the German government decided to shut down its nuclear power industry following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.

Under the TPP, however, even larger judgments can be anticipated, since the sort of “investment” it protects includes not just “the commitment of capital or other resources” but “the expectation of gain or profit.” That means the rights of corporations in other countries extend not just to their factories and other “capital” but to the profits they expect to receive there.

For more on the "capitalization of profit" a.k.a. the expectation of gain or profit
I refer you to yesterday's "
The TPP: Toward Absolutist Capitalism".

Incidentally, the TTP and the TTIP not only mean the death of the American Republic, as a democracy, as a somewhat fair system, as a nation ruled by its own laws, and as a place where poor people are protected, but the effective death of every republic in the treaty (because their own laws and decisions all will be subject to the TPP), which means in the case of the TTIP also the death of the European Union - which will probably disappear as little as the U.S. will, but will be another region that is totally owned by the big corporations, and totally milked for profit. (And damn the 90%!)

Here is the second
part of Ellen Brown's main argument that the TPP (and the TTIP) will be the death of the American Republic:

Abdicating the Legislative Function to Multinational Corporations

Just the threat of this sort of massive damage award could be enough to block prospective legislation. But the TPP goes further and takes on the legislative function directly, by forbidding specific forms of regulation.

Public Citizen observes that the TPP would provide big banks with a backdoor means of watering down efforts to re-regulate Wall Street, after deregulation triggered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression:

The TPP would forbid countries from banning particularly risky financial products, such as the toxic derivatives that led to the $183 billion government bailout of AIG. It would prohibit policies to prevent banks from becoming “too big to fail,” and threaten the use of “firewalls” to prevent banks that keep our savings accounts from taking hedge-fund-style bets.

The TPP would also restrict capital controls, an essential policy tool to counter destabilizing flows of speculative money. . . . And the deal would prohibit taxes on Wall Street speculation, such as the proposed Robin Hood Tax that would generate billions of dollars’ worth of revenue for social, health, or environmental causes.
(...)
The TPP would empower not just foreign manufacturers but foreign financial firms to attack financial policies in foreign tribunals, demanding taxpayer compensation for regulations that they claim frustrate their expectations and inhibit their profits.

Note again that this also means the end of all national laws - all decisions by all parliaments and all national ministers - of any kind that might limit the expectations of profits of the multi-national corporations (for if it does, they can go to a secret court ran by their very own corporate lawyers, that will convict - without appeal, in secret - everyone of the inhabitants of the convicted country to pay (in taxes) what they claimed they might have lost).

Here is the third part of Ellen Brown's main argument that the TPP (and the TTIP) will be the death of the American Republic:

Preempting Government Sovereignty

What is the justification for this encroachment on the sovereign rights of government?
(...)
Something else besides attracting investment money and encouraging foreign trade seems to be going on. The TPP would destroy our republican form of government under the rule of law, by elevating the rights of investors – also called the rights of “capital” – above the rights of the citizens.

That means that TPP is blatantly unconstitutional. But as Joe Firestone observes, neo-liberalism and corporate contributions seem to have blinded the deal’s proponents so much that they cannot see they are selling out the sovereignty of the United States to foreign and multinational corporations.

I agree with everything Ellen Brown said, except for the very last part: I think they know very well what they are doing, but since they will make millions or billions they just do not care.

And this is an excellent article, in which there is considerably more: You really should read all of it. Finally, here are 5 links, the first to Ellen Brown's web, which I added, and the others from the end of the article:

For more information and to get involved, visit:

Web of Debt

Flush the TPP

The Citizens Trade Campaign

Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

Eyes on Trade


2. Shell lobbied to undermine EU renewables targets, documents reveal

The next item is an article by Arthur Neslen on The Guardian:

This starts as follows (and is here mainly because of the previous item plus the fact that Royal Dutch Shell is Dutch, and so am I):

Shell successfully lobbied to undermine European renewable energy targets ahead of a key agreement on emissions cuts reached in October last year, newly released documents reveal.

At the time of the deal European commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, said: “This package is very good news for our fight against climate change.” Adding: “No player in the world is as ambitious as the EU.”

But it now appears that a key part of the agreement – which was championed by the UK government – was proposed by a Shell lobbyist as early as October 2011.
(...)
Now documents released to the Guardian under freedom of information laws show that as far back as October 2011, Shell had begun lobbying the Barroso, who was succeeded by Jean-Claude Juncker last November, to scrap the bloc’s existing formula for linking carbon-cutting goals with binding renewable energy laws.

So Barroso spoke like a sick and corrupted liar. I am not amazed at all, to put it as neutrally as I can.

And incidentally, the elites that control the EU are much in favor of the TPIP, that will be even worse than the TPP.

There is considerably more under the last dotted link.

3. Rise of the New Black Radicals

The next item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

The almost daily murders of young black men and women by police in the United States—a crisis undiminished by the protests of groups such as Black Lives Matter and by the empty rhetoric of black political elites—have given birth to a new young black militant.

This militant, rising off the bloody streets of cities such as Ferguson, Mo., understands that the beast is not simply white supremacy, chronic poverty and the many faces of racism but the destructive energy of corporate capitalism. This militant has given up on electoral politics, the courts and legislative reform, loathes the corporate press and rejects established black leaders such as Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Michael Eric Dyson. This militant believes it is only in the streets and in acts of civil disobedience that change is possible. And given the refusal of the corporate state to address the mounting suffering of the poor and working poor, draconian state repression and indiscriminate use of lethal state violence against unarmed people of color, I think the new black radical is right. It will be a long, hot and violent summer.

Hm. I agree that it isn't pleasant to be black and poor in the present United States, and I agree that there are many unpunished "murders of young black men and women by police in the United States", but I also recall the Black Panther Party (<- Wikipedia), which was active from 1966-1982, and identified itself as "anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, anti-imperialist, marxist-leninist, revolutionary socialist and anti-racist" (quoted from Wikipedia). I'd say that they mostly failed in their objectives, for quite a number of reasons, and quite a few fine black young men and women lost their lives.

Then there is this:
Corporate power, which knows what is coming, has put in place sophisticated systems of control that include militarized police, elaborate propaganda campaigns that seek to make us fearful and therefore passive, wholesale surveillance of every citizen and a court system that has stripped legal protection from the poor and any who dissent. The masses are to be kept in bondage. But the masses, especially the young, understand the game. There is a word for what is bubbling up from below—revolution. It can’t begin soon enough.
I disagree. And I do not disagree because I am against "revolution" (my parents and grandparents were marxist revolutionaries, some - such as both of my parents - for more than 40 years) but because making a successful revolution is far from easy, and much depends on the right circumstances, the right ideas, considerable relevant knowledge, and the right kind of organization. And as far as I can see the circumstances aren't there (yet), and the ideas, the knowledge and the degree of organization do not amount to much or anything.

But OK - I am not black and not American, and you may disagree. The rest of the four pages the article takes consists of Chris Hedges' notes on interviews he had with black men and women. It didn't change what I just said.


4. Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless

The next item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:

A security guard recently told me he didn’t know how much he’d be earning from week to week because his firm kept changing his schedule and his pay. “They just don’t care,” he said.

A traveler I met in the Dallas Fort-Worth Airport last week said she’d been there eight hours but the airline responsible for her trip wouldn’t help her find another flight leaving that evening. “They don’t give a hoot,” she said.

Someone I met in North Carolina a few weeks ago told me he had stopped voting because elected officials don’t respond to what average people like him think or want. “They don’t listen,” he said.

What connects these dots? As I travel around America, I’m struck by how utterly powerless most people feel.

I have plenty of the same experiences, indeed for more than thirtyfive years, which also suggests it is not just the present circumstances.

(As an aside: My experiences are fairly well explained in "ME in Amsterdam", but this is in Dutch: I have lived for three years next to a completely crazy terrorist thug who attacked me and tried to murder me: nobody did anything for three years; I have lived above an illegal coffeeshop that was operated by illegal drugsdealers, who had gotten personal permission of Amsterdam's mayor to deal drugs, and who threatened to murder me and almost killed me by gassing me; I have been removed - while seriously ill - from the University of Amsterdam on the extremely offensive grounds that I was "a fascist" and "a terrorist" because I asked critical questions as an invited speaker, and much, much more, though these are the three highlights - and every time I discovered I was completely alone: No one cared, no one helped, no one did anything for me. And those who threatened to murder me were protected by the Amsterdam police, as were the scum that dealt in soft and hard drugs and murder threats. Incidentally: Nothing of
"ME in Amsterdam" was ever contradicted by anyone. And quite a few lawyers also refused to act for me, on the ground that my complaints were "too political". And thus your life, your chances, and your character are systematically denied and destroyed...)

Here is some more that Reich says:

Eighty percent of Americans are served by just one Internet Service Provider – usually Comcast, AT&T, or Time-Warner.

The biggest banks have become far bigger. In 1990, the five biggest held just 10 percent of all banking assets. Now they hold almost 45 percent.

Giant health insurers are larger; the giant hospital chains, far bigger; the most powerful digital platforms (Amazon, Facebook, Google), gigantic.

All this means less consumer choice, which translates into less power.

Our complaints go nowhere. Often we can’t even find a real person to complain to. Automated telephone menus go on interminably.

Yes indeed - and your letters and e-mails also are not answered, not answered, not answered, and again not answered: You are treated as a sub-human without any rights.

(Aside: My many letters and e-mails to the Amsterdam city-government who personally permitted the dealers in soft and hard drugs to deal their drugs and their murder-threats were never answered; the Amsterdam police even refused to take any complaint by me after the dealers - who already had threatened to murder me, against which I also was not allowed to make any complaint - were arrested with 2 kiloos of heroin and 1 kilo of cocain (I suppose by a very young cop who didn't understand the real rules by which Amsterdam plays) etc. etc.)

Here is Reich's explanation for his title:

Our economy and society depend on most people feeling the system is working for them. 

But a growing sense of powerlessness in all aspects of our lives – as workers, consumers, and voters – is convincing most people the system is working only for those at the top.
Well... yes and no: Yes, there are such "feelings", and yes, there are very many who feel "a growing sense of powerlessness in all aspects of [their] lives".

But it is not just "feelings" or "senses":

It is a fact that most of the powers ordinary people had in the sixties and seventies have almost entirely disappeared; it is a fact that many of the rights people have are so much hollowed out that they cannot be exercised anymore; and it is a fact that the majority of the American people has to work more and earns less.


5 Bill Black: Obama & TPP – Every One That Doeth Evil Hateth the Light

The last item today is an article by Yves Smith (the introduction) and Bill Black (<- Wikipedia) on Naked Capitalism:

First, there is this from Yves Smith's introduction, which addresses Obama's lies that the TTP "can be read by Congressmen":

And finally, for the Administration to insinuate that the TPP will result in greater transparency is dubious, given that it’s made it well-nigh impossible for anyone in Congress to do a proper review of the text. While the US Trade Representative technically allows access, in practice, that right is empty. The Congressman himself must read the text; no sending staffers or bringing experts allowed, and only staffers from the committees with direct oversight of trade bills (the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee) are allowed to join their bosses. The USTR insists that the Congressman specify what chapter he wants to review in advance. The USTR then insists that the negotiator of those chapters be present. Since those negotiators travel, it usually takes three or four weeks to find a convenient time.

No note-taking is allowed.
Besides, if the Congressmen manages to get something, and remembers it, he
is not allowed to discuss it with anyone else, for that would endanger "National Security". Says Obama.

Here is Bill Black's argument on how Obama is eagerly and very dishonestly serving the corporate rich at the cost of everyone else, and also at the cost of - willfully - destroying the Republic he was elected to serve:

Similarly, the even more conservative Frédéric Bastiat famously warned:

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

TPP is the legal system designed to authorize plunder with impunity. Economists are the priests that glorifies the CEOs’ plunder. When you allow CEOs’ lobbyists to secretly draft a deal and then make it impossible through “fast track” for the public or our representatives to vote down even the most despicable of these acts of CEO plunder you make it certain that the law will bring plunder rather than “free trade.”

There are five aspects of Obama’s deal that are indefensible and will cause immense damage to the base and the public at large – and Obama’s efforts to smear critics of these indefensible provisions adds a sixth aspect that cries out for rejection. It is indefensible to:

  1. Draft the deal in secret from the public – through classifying the TPP drafts as purported “national security” information. There was, and is, zero basis for classifying the drafts.
  2. Allow CEOs’ lobbyists to secretly draft provisions of the deal.
  3. “Fast track” the bill, making it impossible to remove even the worst plundering through the lobbyists’ language.
  4. Give away U.S. and other nations’ sovereignty to a kangaroo (non) court dominated by lawyers for CEOs.
  5. Allow these kangaroo non-courts to destroy vital regulations and bankrupt nations at the behest of the worst corporate CEO plunderers – exposing the world to even more frequent and severe financial crises. 
I have explained these last two points in more detail in the past. These provisions of TPP are so bad that they are depraved – and we have abundant, terrible, and global experience under past, more limited Faux Trade deals with the same provisions to know that the word “depraved” is the appropriate description.
Quite so! And here is some more on the letter of Senators Warren and Brown,
and the sick and incredible decision to classify the drafts of the TPP as "national security secrets":

In essence, Warren and Brown have invoked scripture.

John 3:20-21 King James Version (KJV)

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Obama did not simply allow lobbyists to largely draft TPP in secret – he classified their drafts – treating them as national security secrets. This would be downright funny if it were not so wicked. It is most certainly revealing about the fact that Obama and the lobbyists knew that the drafts were so outrageous in their substance that Obama had to take preposterous steps to safeguard them from honest experts.
But the TPP may pass - unread, uncriticised, unamended, and as "a national security secret" - through Congress real soon...
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