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Nederlog

June 10, 2015
Crisis: Obama's Team, "Legal" System, Obama's Lawyers, Scheer, Nader, Reich, Snowden
  "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














Prev- crisis -Next

Sections
Introduction

1.
The Noble Post-White House Career Path of Obama’s Core
     Team

2. 
The obscure legal system that lets corporations sue
     countries

3. Obama lawyers asked secret court to ignore public
     court's decision on spying

4. Robert Scheer: Cyberwarfare Is ‘Where the Real Money
     Is’ (Part 1 of 3)

5Nader’s 10 Reasons That the TPP Is Not a ‘Progressive’
     Trade Agreement

6.  #9. MAKE POLLUTERS PAY US
7.  On Edward Snowden



This is a Nederlog of Wednesday June 10, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 7 items today: Item 1 is about a Glenn Greenwald article that shows how extremely corrupt Obama's government is, in terms of "revolving doors"; item 2 is about a long read on The Guardian on the - indeed -
intentionally obscure "legal" system that helps the big corporations to get even richer; item 3 is an update on Obama's desire to spy, spy and spy on everyone,
including the setting aside of judgments by the federal court; item 4 is about the first of three interviews with Robert Scheer on cyberwarfare; item 5 is about an excellent piece by Ralph Nader about the TPP; item 6 is about a fine article + video by Robert Reich; and item 7 is a brief bit about Edward Snowden, who
indeed is an extra-ordinary man. (This item would have been longer had there been fewer crisis items.)

1. The Noble Post-White House Career Path of Obama’s Core Team

The first item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
In fact, the article is mostly made up of pictures of sites that announce that yet another (and another, and another, and another) of Obama's core team got some very high millions per year paying job that will enable them to get very, very rich in a few years.

But it is quite convincing and worth seeing, especially for the very naive folks who still believe Obama is a Democratic president who meant and means well.

Here is a paragraph from Glenn Greenwald that illustrates very well what I started seeing myself in 2009: What Obama says is generally not what Obama does: He is a very good liar and an excellent deceiver:
As The Guardian noted, “when he took office, Obama signed an order that the White House said ‘closes the revolving door that allows government officials to move to and from private sector jobs in ways that give that sector undue influence over government.'” Moreover, “in the campaign before the 2008 election, Obama said: ‘I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over.’”
That was quite precisely 100% totally false, as you may find out paging through Glenn Greenwald's article (but yes, lies and propaganda did get Obama elected).

Here is the last paragraph:
The Obama revolving door has worked in the other way, too: so many early appointees came from Goldman Sachs that it was hard to keep track of them all. And, of course, the greatest enrichment of American political officials is reserved for those who are president or otherwise achieve full political celebrity. But the remarkably homogeneous post-White House career path of Obama’s top tier of aides and advisers is notable in all sorts of ways.
Yes, indeed. He was the chief of the corporate finance that under his administration enriched the corporations and their managers while destroying democracy. "Change! Change! Change! Yes, We Can - scam, defraud, steal and lie, lie, lie, and lie again."

2. The obscure legal system that lets corporations sue countries

The next item is an article by Claire Provost and Matt Kenard on The Guardian:

This is a so-called long read on The Guardian. I found it quite interesting, but one reason may be that, meanwhile, I know a fair amount (in so far as that is possible) about the TTP and TTIP, that propose the same quasi-legal mechanisms for big corporations to twist all governments' decisions that the big corporations claim might hurt any of their profits, and that makes each and any of the governments who signed such a treaty subject to the overruling of any of its democratic decisions of any kind simply because these democratic decisions might have hurt the (expectations of) profits of some foreign big corporation.

As I see it, this is the institution of a fascist "court", but you may disagree - although that seems a bit hard given the definition of the American Heritage Dictionary:

fascism is: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
For this is a supra-governmental new "legal" institution that very strongly favors the big corporations (and no one else, except lawyers) and makes their expectations of profit trump any human right, any rightfully taken governmental decision, simply on the ground that these decisions might hurt the expected profits of some foreign big corporation.

The decisions of these "courts" are secret; the laws themselves are secret for at least five years after they started functioning, the "courts'" decisions cannot be opposed or appealed to, nor are they subject to other courts; they are taken by lawyers who work for the corporations; and they involve billions and billions of dollars, also involving alleged "lost profits", and lesser "expected future profits", while the billions that must be paid, must be paid in the end by the ordinary taxpayers of the countries that loose their cases in these "courts".

But - of course - you may not believe this, for one thing because it all has been kept as secret as was possible. Well... here is one bit:

Most international investment treaties and free-trade deals grant foreign investors the right to activate this system, known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), if they want to challenge government decisions affecting their investments. In Europe, this system has become a sticking point in negotiations over the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal proposed between the European Union and the US, which would massively extend its scope and power and make it harder to challenge in the future. Both France and Germany have said that they want access to investor-state dispute settlement removed from the TTIP treaty currently under discussion.

Investors have used this system not only to sue for compensation for alleged expropriation of land and factories, but also over a huge range of government measures, including environmental and social regulations, which they say infringe on their rights. Multinationals have sued to recover money they have already invested, but also for alleged lost profits and “expected future profits”. The number of suits filed against countries at the ICSID is now around 500 – and that figure is growing at an average rate of one case a week. The sums awarded in damages are so vast that investment funds have taken notice: corporations’ claims against states are now seen as assets that can be invested in or used as leverage to secure multimillion-dollar loans. Increasingly, companies are using the threat of a lawsuit at the ICSID to exert pressure on governments not to challenge investors’ actions.

And here is another bit on how these mock "courts" work:

There are now thousands of international investment agreements and free-trade acts, signed by states, which give foreign companies access to the investor-state dispute system, if they decide to challenge government decisions. Disputes are typically heard by panels of three arbitrators; one selected by each side, and the third agreed upon by both parties. Rulings are made by majority vote, and decisions are final and binding. There is no appeals process – only an annulment option that can be used on very limited grounds. If states do not pay up after the decision, their assets are subject to seizure in almost every country in the world (the company can apply to local courts for an enforcement order).

There is a whole lot more in the article, which is recommended. (And this is the future that Obama wants so very much he even has passed a law that virtually guarantees these laws will be accepted without any amendment and with minimal discussion. Does his post-presidential pay depend on it?)

3. Obama lawyers asked secret court to ignore public court's decision on spying

The next item is an article by Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian, that highlights another of Obama's pro-corporate pro-surveillance feats:
This starts as follows:

The Obama administration has asked a secret surveillance court to ignore a federal court that found bulk surveillance illegal and to once again grant the National Security Agency the power to collect the phone records of millions of Americans for six months.

The legal request, filed nearly four hours after Barack Obama vowed to sign a new law banning precisely the bulk collection he asks the secret court to approve, also suggests that the administration may not necessarily comply with any potential court order demanding that the collection stop.

US officials confirmed last week that they would ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court – better known as the Fisa court, a panel that meets in secret as a step in the surveillance process and thus far has only ever had the government argue before it – to turn the domestic bulk collection spigot back on.

You read that well (boldings added): Obama

"has asked a secret surveillance court to ignore a federal court that found bulk surveillance illegal and to once again grant the National Security Agency the power to collect the phone records of millions of Americans".

It is true that the statement just quoted ends with "for six months" - but who can guarantee that if this is granted, the Obama government will after five months ask its secret court to extend all spying indefinitely, since then clearly the federal courts' decisions don't matter anymore, given the secret FISA courts secret decsions that trumped them?

There is considerably more under the last dotted link. But yes, as I predicted (and as William Binney predicted): The NSA will continue to collect anything and everything, by hook or by crook, legally or illegally, so far as they or the present government are concerned. The reason?

"Knowledge is power", and this information provides supreme power to the government's secret service.

4. Robert Scheer: Cyberwarfare Is ‘Where the Real Money Is’ (Part 1 of 3)

The next item is an article by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig:

This is another series of excellent interviews with Robert Scheer (the editor of Truthdig), accompanied by a fine video:

 

This starts as follows:

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to Reality Asserts Itself on The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.

In the book by Robert Scheer They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy, Robert Scheer writes, the main price paid by turning the war on terror into a war on the public’s right to know—a bipartisan crusade—is that it destroys the foundation of democracy—an informed public. The George W. Bush administration initiated this dangerous trend, and Barack Obama has expanded on that horrid legacy by cracking down on the press and prosecuting whistleblowers under the Espionage Act more than all previous U.S. presidents combined. The result is that our privacy, and hence our freedom, has been plundered with abandon. Our most private moments are now captured in exquisite detail by a newly emboldened surveillance state, resulting in a shutdown of democracy. But the game’s not over yet.

Yes, precisely. This also has an interesting start - or at least I think so:

JAY: So, for those of you that watch Reality Asserts Itself, before we kind of get into what our guest thinks, we usually talk about why our guest thinks what they think—in other words, what helped form the way they look at the world. And this segment, and also a little more of this series with Bob, is going to be quite biographical, ‘cause he’s lived somewhat of a legendary life. He’s one of the most important figures that came out of the left and out of progressive journalism.

And we’re kind of honored to have you here today. Thank you.

The reason I think so is that I agree with Paul Jay - and please also note that Robert Scheer (<- Wikipedia) meanwhile is 79, although he looks a great lot younger.

Then again, this first part is mostly about Scheer himself, which I liked, but am not going to reproduce in the crisis series. So from this part I will select just two bits, and the first is this:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti once said, keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.

I quote that because this is good advice (and I have seen quite a few, including good friends, who did not heed this advice or probably did not know it, and indeed got eventually quite lost [1]).

Robert Scheer had a rather special mother, who came from Russia, and who was there a member of the Jewish Socialist Bund, that was persecuted by the bolsheviks, which made her move to the U.S.A. in 1921. Scheer also says about his parents (as indeed I can do about mine):
But my mother—and this goes to formative experience—my mother and my father—well, I’ll tell you about—these were really working class people. Neither of my parents had graduated from high school in their own country. And yet they were what I can call working-class intellectuals.

This is mostly true of both of my parents as well, although my mother - whose parents were anarchists - succeeded in getting through three out of five years of Dutch highschool, during the crisis of the 1930ies. But she had to start working at 15, simply because there was no more money, just as my father started working at 14.

There is considerably more in the interview, but as I said: Most is not crisis material, and so I will not review it, though I liked reading it.

5. Nader’s 10 Reasons That the TPP Is Not a ‘Progressive’ Trade Agreement

The next item is an article by Ralph Nader that I found on Truthdig:
This is an excellent article, that starts as follows:

“We have an opportunity to set the most progressive trade agreement in our nation’s history,” it states on BarackObama.com, the website of the president’s “Organizing for Action” campaign.

One must seriously question what President Obama and his corporate allies believe to be the definition of “progressive” when it comes to this grandiose statement. History shows the very opposite of progress when it comes to these democratic sovereignty-shredding and job-exporting corporate-driven trade treaties—unless progress is referring to fulfilling the deepest wishes of runaway global corporations.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) set our country’s progress back through large job-draining trade deficits, downward pressure on wages, extending Big Pharma’s patent monopolies to raise consumers’ medicine prices, floods of unsafe imported food, and undermining or freezing consumer and environmental rules.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is formally described as a trade and foreign investment agreement between 12 nations—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. The White House is now pressuring Congress to Fast Track through the TPP. Fast Track authority, a Congressional procedure to limit time for debate and prohibit amendments to proposed legislation, has already passed in the Senate, although only after an unexpectedly rough ride.

And here is a summary of the points Nader makes (there is more text in the article):

1. “Fast Track is an abrogation of not only Congress’ constitutional authority, but of its responsibility to the American people. "

2.“The other two dozen chapters amount to a devilish ‘partnership’ for corporate protectionism. They create sweeping new ‘rights’ and escape hatches to protect multinational corporations from accountability to our governments… and to us.”

3. Fast Track prevents challenges to any issues about how America conducts business with the countries included in the TPP. Some of the countries in the TPP—Brunei, Malaysia, Mexico and Vietnam, for example—have terrible human and labor rights records. Those conditions attract big companies looking for serf labor and their accommodating governments.

4. Millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost due to NAFTA and WTO being railroaded through Congress. The TPP would only expand these offshoring incentives. (...) According to a report for the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), the TPP would result in wage cuts for all but the wealthiest Americans.

5. The American people have yet to see the full text of the TPP—it has been negotiated in secret and shown to members of Congress under demeaningly strict secrecy. We only know about some of its terms because of leaks. But Wall Street and industry operatives, who seek to benefit enormously from the TPP, do have access to the text. Why so selectively secretive? Supporters of the deal outright told Senator Elizabeth Warren, “[trade talks] have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.”

6. The TPP allows corporations to directly sue our country if federal, state or local laws, government actions or court rulings are claimed to violate new rights and privileges the TPP would grant to foreign firms. (...) These decisions then cannot be challenged in U.S. courts—and U.S. taxpayers will get stuck with the bill. So much for our precious sovereignty!

7. (..)

8. TPP will further weaken America’s regulatory watchdogs—we can’t use our own government to over-rule TPP tribunal decisions that over-rule our health, safety and economic protections as non-tariff trade barriers.

9. Prescription drug costs will increase.

10. The TPP could potentially undermine reforms of Wall Street and threaten U.S. financial stability by providing the institutions that caused the 2008-2009 financial crisis a path to circumvent U.S. regulations (...)

This is an article that I strongly recommend you to read.

6. #9. MAKE POLLUTERS PAY US

The next item is an article by Robert Reich on his site, in his series "Ten Ideas To Save The Economy". This is number 9: This ends as follows:

We can clean our environment and strengthen the economy if we (1) divest from carbon polluters, (2) make the polluters pay a price to pollute, and (3) then collect the money. 

Please see the accompanying video, and share.

And here is the video:



This will take only 3 minutes of your time, and the argument is both fine and clear.

Incidentally, here is one point I should make on the whole series of ten ideas that Robert Reich proposes: No, the above idea and most others are not compatible with the ways the economy is being run.

But then that is just the point: The economy can be changed, and indeed it must be changed, quite radically also, if it is to serve the interests of the 99% well, for as the economy is being run right now, and especially in the United States, Great Britain and Australia, it is being run almost exclusively in the interests of the 1% of the rich.

7. On Edward Snowden

Yesterday, I wrote that today "the crisis news will probably be about Edward Snowden, simply because it is then precisely two years since I learned his name".
I also said this would depend on what there is for today, and in fact it is too much.

Then again, here is the reference to the piece I wrote about Snowden precisely two years ago:
And I can say that I still agree to all of that (and I am very glad that Snowden never got arrested, at least so far).

Edward Snowden clearly is an extra-ordinary man, and has meanwhile caused quite a lot of changes, even though it also will need a lot more struggle to undo the surveillance of all or most, by some moral degenerates - I am not sorry: that is what they are - who work for the governments or indeed some rich corporation and who spy on everyone, simply because they can (for much of the spying the Americans do is done by private corporations, like Booz Allan Hamilton, that also employed Edward Snowden).
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Note

[1] Here I am thinking especially about a group of friends I had when I was 18-20, who introduced me to soft drugs (which I liked, but not to be stoned all day: I really wanted to study much more) and some of whom also got hooked a little later on hard drugs (which I never used), which killed at least one of them.

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