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Nederlog

May 15, 2015
Crisis: Warren vs Obama, "Freedom Act", Economy, Fast Track, Merkel
  "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















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Sections
Introduction

1.
Sen. Warren’s Critique of the Trans-Pacific Partnership
     Puts Prickly Obama on Defense

2. Critics: USA Freedom Act Will Codify Government Data
     Collection

3.
Ten Ideas to Save the Economy #3: Expand Social
     Security

4.
Reversing Grassroots Win, US Senate Approves Fast
     Track Trade Measure

5. 
Betrayal and Betrayers: Merkel's Risky Silence in the NSA
     Scandal


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, May 15, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Obama's lies and attacks on the personal character of Democratic senators in order to help the fascist TPP and TTIP; item 2 is about the "Freedom Act" which
will not give freedom but impose unfreedom on nearly everyone; item 3 is about a Robert Reich article; item 4 is about the Senate being for fast tracking the most awful laws - the TTP and TTIP - that ever may be made into laws (by 2 to 1 also); and item 5 is about an article that reflects on Merkel's silence about the
gigantic amounts of spying the NSA does inside Germany.


1. Sen. Warren’s Critique of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Puts Prickly Obama on Defense

The first item today is an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s unyielding criticism of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade treaty has driven President Obama into uncharacteristic contortions as he defends what he alleges to be “the most progressive trade deal in history”—a deal that contains certain elements he won’t allow the public to see.

Some members of Congress are remarkably limited in their ability to access and interpret the bill. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who acknowledged that he has yet to read every page of the deal, told NPR: “I bet that none of my colleagues have read the entire document. I would bet that most of them haven’t even spent a couple hours looking at it.”

This is one way of putting it: "uncharacteristic contortions" (?!) of a secretive, lying president who now tries to sell his most awful piece of secret degenerate corporate shit, as if it were “the most progressive trade deal in history” - while in fact, to the best of my knowledge, it is the most awful, most conservative, most pro-corporate "trade" deal ever.

And here I refer to both the TTP and the TTIP - and no: they are less about "trade" than about giving away the rights a nation has to secret courts, manned by corporate lawyers, without any appeal. And all in secret.

Here is a part of an interview Plum Line had with Senator WarrenL

PLUM LINE: Is it theoretically possible to write ISDS in a way that precludes it from overriding regulation?

WARREN: It doesn’t directly tell countries to repeal regulations. It imposes a financial penalty, which has caused countries to change their regulations…[ISDS mechanisms] never had the authority to override regulations. What they had was the authority to impose a monetary penalty directly against the government and its taxpayers. That’s the point at which governments have backed up and said, “we can’t afford this, we’ll just change the law.”

PLUM LINE: You can’t envision even in theory a way to structure ISDS that would assuage your concerns?

WARREN: Once a group of independent arbiters, whose decisions cannot be appealed, can issue a money judgment of any size, then the ISDS problem arises….Here’s what you could do. If corporations had to go through the same procedures that anyone else has to go through to get the trade deal enforced, then the problem wouldn’t exist.

Precisely.

Obama has repeatedly shot back that Warren’s criticisms are “ad hominem attacks and misinformation that stirs up the base but ultimately doesn’t serve them well.”

A week ago Obama once again jabbed at Warren saying she is “absolutely wrong” to say the deal could potentially allow participating countries to get around Dodd-Frank regulations.

“Think about the logic of that, right?” Obama told Yahoo News. “The notion that I had this massive fight with Wall Street to make sure that we don’t repeat what happened in 2007, 2008. And then I sign a provision that would unravel it? I’d have to be pretty stupid.”

Obama has also shrugged of[f] Warren’s claims that the ISDS procedures would weaken financial regulation laws as “bunk.”

Lord, what a degenerate dishonest lying fraud! These are extremely dishonest attempts to assassinate the character of Senator Warren, while his only argument that is quoted is a massive lie from start to finish:

He did not have "a massive fight" with Wall Street: Wall Street bankers abound in his government, and Wall Street bankers were given all the leeways to settle the crisis so that the banks and their managers could profit enormously, at the cost of everybody else.

With blessings of Obama. And defended by Eric Holder, who refused to prosecute any of them.

2. Critics: USA Freedom Act Will Codify Government Data Collection

The next item today is an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig: This starts as follows:
Legislative critics of the USA Freedom Act, which was celebrated by privacy advocates as it passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday, say the law will merely adjust and codify the government’s practice of bulk telephone data collection, rather than end it.
Yes, indeed. The alternative was even worse, but this was a choice out of two
evils. Here is Justin Amash, who explains it well:

“We’re taking something that was not permitted under regular section 215 … and now we’re creating a whole apparatus to provide for it,” Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said on Tuesday night during a House Rules Committee proceeding.

“The language does limit the amount of bulk collection, it doesn’t end bulk collection,” Rep. Amash said, arguing that the problematic “specific selection term” allows for “very large data collection, potentially in the hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even millions.”

In a statement posted to Facebook ahead of the vote, Rep. Amash said the legislation “falls woefully short of reining in the mass collection of Americans’ data, and it takes us a step in the wrong direction by specifically authorizing such collection in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.”

Quite so.

3.
Ten Ideas to Save the Economy #3: Expand Social Security

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

America is on the cusp of a retirement crisis. Millions of Americans are already in danger of not being able to maintain their standard of living in retirement, and the problem is getting worse.

You hear a lot about how corporations are struggling to make good on their pension promises, and how Social Security won’t be there for you in retirement.

Baloney on both counts.

Corporations are awash in money, and they could afford to provide their hourly workers with pensions when they retire. Years ago, they routinely provided “defined benefit” pensions – a fixed amount every month after retirement.

Nowadays most workers are lucky if their company matches what they’re able to put away. The typical firm does no more than offer a 401-K plan that depends entirely on worker savings.

I do not know enough to say how this was engineered, though I do know George Carlin saw this long ago. Here is a quote I first put up on May 18, 2012:

And now they're coming for your social security money. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all from you, sooner or later. Cause they own this fucking place. It's a big club and you ain't in it. You and I are not in the big club. By the way it is the same club that used to beat you over the head all day long when they tell you what to believe. All day long beating you over the head in their media, telling you what to believe, and what to think, and what to buy. The table is tilted, folks. The game is rigged. And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. Good honest hard working people, white collar, blue collar, it doesn't matter what color shirt you have on, good honest hard working people continue - these are people of modest means - continue to elect these rich cocksuckers who don't give a fuck about them. They don't give a fuck about you; they don't give a fuck about you: they don't care about you. At all. At all. At all. And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. That's what the owners count on: The fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white an d blue dick that's being jammed into their assholes every day. Because the owners of this country know the truth. It's called "The American Dream", cause you have to be asleep to believe it

So I am not so certain Reich is correct the rich will not get most of the social security money and most of the pension money. I agree that is a major shame, but then again most Americans still do seem to believe in "The American Dream".

And while I agree with Reich's argument, I do not think his final statement makes much sense:

If wealthy Americans pay their fair share, we can make sure tomorrow’s seniors get the Social Security they truly need.
For while I accept wealthy Americans ought to pay their fair share and don't,
the reason that social security and pensions are being hollowed out does not have much to do with the fact that the rich don't contribute.

But as I said, I do not know how the rich did it, though it probably is again some aspect of deregulation i.e. discarding all the laws that protected the poor and the middle class.

4.
Reversing Grassroots Win, US Senate Approves Fast Track Trade Measure
The next item is an article by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Progressives reacted with dismay as the U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a motion to begin debate on the Fast Track authority President Barack Obama needs to advance controversial trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The measure passed 65-33.

Senate Democrats blocked the first attempt to proceed on the trade legislation on Tuesday, but backtracked in the wake of further negotiations—and intense pressure from the White House.

(...)

With Thursday's vote, Fast Track has cleared a major procedural hurdle. 

Now, according to The Hill, "[t]he chamber is expected to vote on amendments to the package Tuesday, a process that could extend into June depending on how many proposals Democrats want to consider on the floor."

I have left out the names of the 15 Democrats (on the spot marked "(...)").
My main reason is not so much that I don't feel they betrayed their duties, but that even if they had all voted differently the - very degenerate - Fast Track would still have been approved.

Here is the position of the Friends of the Earth:

Many have said that approving Fast Track is akin to rubber-stamping the corporate-friendly TPP. With that in mind, environmental, public health, and digital rights groups criticized Thursday's Senate vote.

"By voting away their authority to set trade negotiating objectives, the majority of our Senators chose corporate polluters over the American people," said Friends of the Earth climate and energy program director Benjamin Schreiber. "These trade deals would harm the environment, allow corporations to roll back government laws on fossil fuel exports and impede future action by Congress to protect the planet from climate disruption. A vote for Fast Track is a vote for climate disaster and an attack on our clean air and water."

Quite so.

5. Betrayal and Betrayers: Merkel's Risky Silence in the NSA Scandal

The final item today is an article by Klaus Brinkbäumer on Spiegel On Line:

This has the following subtitle (in bold in the original):

While Chancellor Angela Merkel remains tight-lipped about the German intelligence scandal, her second-in-command is casting her in an increasingly unflattering light by opening up.

Incidentally: Her second-in-command is from the SPD and not from Angela Merkel's own party. This starts as follows:

The world of politics abounds with tales of secrets and betrayals, of collective silence and the indiscretion of individuals. Tales of trust and mistrust. The shadowy world of espionage is no different -- its secrets and betrayals legendary. But Sigmar Gabriel's treachery stands out nonetheless. The German vice chancellor recently announced that Angela Merkel had twice assured him that the NSA and Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), had never spied on German companies.

In fact, in 2008 the Americans began reneging on agreements and going too far -- much too far. They spied on aviation giant Airbus, among others. In August 2013, Angela Merkel had her then Chief of Staff Ronald Pofalla announce that the NSA was doing "nothing that damaged German interests." In fact, the Chancellery knew better. But Merkel refrained from taking action, opting instead to navigate her way through the situation by saying nothing. Nearly two years ago, after the information leaked by Edward Snowden first surfaced, she said she didn't really know what it was all about. The message she's been conveying ever since is that it's all terribly technical and not all that important, really.

Indeed Sigmar Gabriel is Merkel's second-in-command. Also, I would say that the worlds of politics and the world of espionage are different, and the main reason is that spies are normally acting in secret, and politicians are normally not acting in secret. But this is a minor point.

Secondly, and much more important, I'd argue that Merkel does seem to betray her oath of office. And this is mentioned by Brinkbäumer:

When Merkel assumed office in 2005, she took an oath vowing to protect the German people from harm. It's her job to protect German companies and the public when US secret services act as though Germany is not a sovereign nation.

And indeed that is the reason why her pretended naivity - " Nearly two years ago, after the information leaked by Edward Snowden first surfaced, she said she didn't really know what it was all about. The message she's been conveying ever since is that it's all terribly technical and not all that important, really." - is both dishonest and in contradiction with her oath of office. Besides, Chancellor Merkel is a real scientist: Surely she can manage to understand the intricacies of spying (and she certainly has: it is not that difficult, in principle, for a smart woman, as indeed she is).

Here is a brief summary of how the NSA's spying became a great problem in Germany:

The NSA scandal first morphed into a BND intelligence scandal and eventually into a German government scandal. The biggest scandal of our times. A US intelligence agency, thrown into panic by the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gathered every last scrap of data it could, presumably (if this qualifier is even necessary at the point), breaking American, German and international law in the process, conducting itself like a secret society inside an open one. This breach of law was justified as being in the interests of security.

But the data gathered included Skype chats, e-mails, the contacts and much more of businesses, politicians, EU institutions and civil servants who weren't even suspected of anything and who were in no position to guard against the onslaught of XKeyscore, Prism and various other surveillance weapons employed by the NSA.

Let me briefly outline what I agree and disagree with. I agree the present scandal has the marks of being (at least: in Germany) "the biggest scandal of our times". But I disagree the NSA was in "panic": Congress was, but the NSA simply used that panic to enormously extend its secret powers. They did - not "presumably": factually and legally, and indeed also morally and politically - break "American, German and international law in the process". Quite intentionally, also.

And the NSA did this not because of "terrorism" (always a pretext, especially in politics) but because they wanted all the information it could get, because knowledge is power, and knowing everything - including all German trade secrets they could lay their hands on - implies absolute power.

Here is a summary of Brinkbäumer's position:

With the economy, research, communications and archives now completely digitized, the NSA's spying activities, carried out with the help of the BND and the failure of the German government, amount to an attack on our freedom, our values and our way of life.
Yes. And this "attack on our freedom, our values and our way of life" is orchestrated by Obama, implemented by the NSA, and kept secret by
Chancellor Merkel.

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