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Nederlog

October 11, 2015
Crisis: Financial Crash, TTIP Protests, Good Privacy Bill, Progressives, TPP criticized
 "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.
Risk of Global Financial Crash Has Increased, IMF Warns
2. Hundreds of Thousands March in Berlin Against TTIP
     Trade Deal

3. With New Privacy Bill, California Delivers 'Landmark Win
     for Digital Privacy'

4. Do the Democrats Offer a Progressive Choice for
     President?

5.
EFF: The Final Leaked TPP Text is All That We Feared

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, October 11, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an IMF warning that the chances on a crash have increased and the economy has been slowing down the last 5 years (!); item 2 is a bit of Good News: Possibly a quarter of a million people demonstrated in Germany against the TTIP; item 3 is another bit of Good News: California has a new privacy bill which seems good; item 4 is about what choices progressives have in the American presidential elections; and item 5 is about one part of one chapter of the TPP: there are no
good points in the TPP, according to the reviewer of the EFF.

There also are two prior files: The first is a brief file that commemorates that the
thousandth file in the crisis series (that runs since September 1, 2008) has been reached, while the next is the beginning of the sixth index file of crisis.

1. Risk of Global Financial Crash Has Increased, IMF Warns

The first item today is an article by Philip Inman on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The risk of a global financial crash has increased because a slowdown in China and decline in world trade are undermining the stability of highly indebted emerging economies, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Washington-based lender of last resort said the scale of borrowing by emerging market countries, whose debts are vulnerable to rising interest rates in the US, mean policymakers need to act quickly to shore up the financial system.

I say, though I am not amazed. Here are three types of risks the IMF distinguishes:

José Viñals, the IMF’s financial counsellor, said the threat of instability and recession hanging over economies including China, Brazil, Turkey and Malaysia was one of a “triad of risks” that could knock 3% off global GDP. The second, he said, was the legacy of debt and disharmony in Europe, while the third is centred on battered global markets that are more likely to transmit shocks rather than cushion the blow.

Speaking for myself, I regard China's slowdown and Europe's debts and disharmony as the most serious, but then I am a European (and one without
any trust in the European Union).

There is also this:

The warning follows a summer of turmoil in global markets triggered by China’s attempt to increase its flagging exports with a currency devaluation. The move sparked panic in stock markets, which tumbled around the world, as investors recognised for the first time the impact of China’s slowing economy.

Earlier this week, the IMF downgraded its forecast for global growth in 2015 to 3.1%, which would mark the weakest performance since the trough of the downturn in 2009.

The first paragraph is merely repetition, but the second seems quite serious to me, and the more so as the austerity that has been adopted since the crisis seems seriously mistaken to me, and indeed has not worked out for the 99% even if it did recently increase stock prices.

To end this article (in which there is considerably more) here is a quote from
José Viñals:

“Growth is slowing for the fifth year in a row, as the commodity super cycle and unprecedented credit booms have come to an end. This is of special relevance given the large share of emerging markets in the world economy, as well as the role that global markets play in transmitting shocks to other emerging markets and spillovers to advanced economies, featured in this summer’s financial turmoil.”

Which is to say that growth has been slowing almost continuously since the saving of the banks in 2008, and the imposition of austerity in 2009. It seems only in 2010 there was no "slowing of growth". I put this between quotation marks because it may be a euphemism: in texts about the economy quite often everything is defined as "growth", including radical shrinking, which then is called "negative growth".

Anyway...according to the IMF "growth has been slowing" from 2011-2015, even though the banks in the USA and Europe got money virtually for nothing, which is now supposed to be ending. It follows that the austerity measures that helped the
banks so much seem not to have helped most other sections of the economy.

2. Hundreds of Thousands March in Berlin Against TTIP Trade Deal

The next article today is by the Common Dreams staff on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Hundreds of thousands of people rallied on Saturday afternoon in the German capital against the massive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) accord being negotiated by the European Union and the United States. Critics say the trade deal will benefit large corporations at the expense of average Europeans.

Trade unions, environmental groups, NGOs and anti-globalization groups were among the organizers of the huge rally, which went from the main railway station in central Berlin to the national parliament.  Over 250,000 people turned out for the event - many more than the 50,000 to 100,000 expected, but Berlin police claimed the number was closer to their initial expectation of 100,000.

Many trains and more than 600 buses had been chartered to bring protesters to Berlin, who marched carrying signs that read "Stop TTIP" and "TTIP signals climactic shipwreck".

Marchers banged drums, blew whistles and held up posters reading "Stop TTIP" and "TTIP signals climactic shipwreck" and "Yes, we can – Stop TTIP." A group of protesters dragged a giant wooden trojan horse – a reference to the Trojan horse of Greek legend – to demonstrate how the trade deal is being sneaked into law by corporate lobbyists and EU officials through subterfuge.

I say. That is considerably better than I would have thought. (As to the Berlin police's estimates: In my youth I have been in very many demonstrations, and
while the organizers often overestimated, the police's "estimates" seemed always false. I take it the same is still the case.)

Here is some more on what moved the demonstrators:

"We are here because we do not want to leave the future to markets, but on the contrary to save democracy," said Michael Mueller, president of the ecological organization German Friends of Nature.

Over three million people who have signed an online petition calling on the European commission to abandon the deal.

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said the petition showed that the EU did not have a public mandate for the agreement: “Everything that we know about this secretive trade deal shows that it is very little about trade and very much about enshrining a massive corporate power-grab.”

I completely agree: It is about democracy (which will be destroyed by the TTIP, as will national governments be destroyed) while the TTIP is "a massive corporate power-grab".

3. With New Privacy Bill, California Delivers 'Landmark Win for Digital Privacy'

The next article today is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows, and is a bit of Good News, that is rare in these crisis logs:

In what privacy advocates are hailing as a landmark victory, California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a sweeping tech privacy bill which will require police in the state to obtain warrants for access to telecommunications data, including emails, text messages, GPS coordinates, and other digital information.

"This is a major win for privacy and for Californians. With so much of our information existing online, it's important that our communications are protected from government access to the strongest degree possible," said G.S. Hans, policy counsel and director for the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT).

The bill sailed through the state legislature earlier this year with the support of California's massive tech industry and its dogged civil liberties sector. Brown signed it into law Thursday.

I say: Good News. Here is some on the background:

Introduced as Senate Bill 178 by state Sens. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Joel Anderson (R-Alpine)—and officially called the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (CalECPA)—the new law extends existing privacy protections to user data stored on phones, computers, and remote servers. Police will also be required to get warrants before tracking or searching mobile devices.

According to the ACLU, the strength of CalECPA's provisions make it the most comprehensive tech privacy law in the country.

"This is a landmark win for digital privacy and all Californians," said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director at the ACLU of California. "We hope this is a model for the rest of the nation in protecting our digital privacy rights."

I quite agree, although it does seem to me that the Fourth Amendment does cover "user data stored on phones, computers, and remote servers".

My arguments are simple: (1) what used to be done on paper is now done on computers by most people (in the US and Europe), and (2) the argument that
since it can be grabbed it may be grabbed also holds for the paper mail (etc.):
(3) since it is extremely easy to open paper envelopes, though indeed it takes
a large (and impractical) amount of physical work to do so.

But in any case, in California the intents of the Fourth Amendment seem to be saved, although I do not know whether the NSA will follow the rules. (They will say they do, but that is mere propaganda.)

In fact, Senator Leno seems to have thought along the same lines as I do (which I do since 2005):
In crafting the legislation, Leno said it was time for digital information to get the same protections as other forms of communications.

"Tell me how a letter in your mailbox should have more protection than an e-mail in the cloud," Leno told the Sacramento Bee on Thursday. "It doesn't make sense."

But the bill's momentum did not come from the legislature alone. Months of pressure from public interest groups and consumer advocates helped push state leaders to prioritize updating privacy laws "so that they are in line with how people actually use technology today," said Dave Maass, investigative researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Finally, there is this:

As Brown signed the bill into law Thursday, Leno said, "For too long, California's digital privacy laws have been stuck in the Dark Ages, leaving our personal emails, text messages, photos and smartphones increasingly vulnerable to warrantless searches. That ends today."

It does not say or add "warrantless searches, also by the NSA", but it seems to
me these ought to be covered as well.

Finally, while this is quite good for Californians, it is quite important beyond California, because most computer firms are in California. For these can now
argue that they do follow the law, and it wouldn't be fair if the law in California,
which does express the intent of the Fourth Amendment, would be restricted only
to California.

4. Do the Democrats Offer a Progressive Choice for President?

The next article today is by Marjorie Cohn on Truth-out:
This starts as follows:

Although the 2016 presidential election is a year away, the media is abuzz with the candidates - the Republican and Democratic candidates, that is. When CBS's Stephen Colbert posed comedically with a collage of the 18 or so declared hopefuls, the Green Party's candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, was noticeably absent from his photo. Only outlets like Democracy Now!, PBS and RT News feature the good doctor.

What choices do progressives have?

I'd say that depends (i) on what you mean by "progressives", and (ii) it may vary in various progressives, but it is a fair question, especially because the American
system has just two big parties, that both are pro business and pro rich, except that the rates and the kinds of propaganda vary.

So let's assume we know (sufficiently well) what a progressive is, and take it from there:

Hillary Clinton leaves a lot to be desired. She does favor a woman's right to choose and has recently come out in support of marriage equality. Clinton supports comprehensive immigration reform but also backs stepped-up border enforcement. A former member of the board of Walmart, she is cozy with Wall Street and voted for the Patriot Act. Clinton has been called a "focus group Democrat," often accused of believing what polls and focus groups tell her she should believe.

On foreign policy issues, Clinton is a first-class hawk.
I agree, except for the assertion that she believes "what polls and focus groups tell her she should believe", for I am quite certain that she doesn't believe them beyond publicly saying what the majority in focus groups desire. What she really believes you have to infer from her decisions when elected. And I agree that is mostly far from what I would call progressive.

There is this on Joe Biden:
Joe Biden is contemplating whether to enter the race. He is more likable and more trusted than Clinton. But his positions on the issues are very similar to hers.
But (1) he has not yet declared he will run, and (2) if he runs, it will very probably be to help Clinton win the elections, by taking votes from Bernie
Sanders.

Which leads us to Sanders:

Meanwhile, Democratic Party candidate Bernie Sanders appears to be giving Clinton a run for her corporate money, so progressives may have a viable alternative to Clinton. But although Sanders' positions on economic inequality, jobs, education, climate change, immigration, marriage equality, women's right to choose, health care and surveillance (he voted against the Patriot Act) give us hope for serious change, Sanders' foreign policy strongly resembles that of the hawks in both major parties.
He is a progressive - I take it - on at least 9 fields. As to his foreign policy pronouncements (with which I tend to disagree myself):

First, one must realize that he has a Jewish background, which probably makes him more sympathetic to Israel than if this had been otherwise. Second, I take it Sanders is less interested in foreign policy, and thirdly, he may have used his hawkish positions to be somewhat palatable, although I do not know this.

But then there is this considerable difficulty for progressives (which I didn't know):
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein's domestic policies are nearly indistinguishable from Sanders'.
I say. As I said, I didn't know this, and must rely on Marjorie Cohn in this - but then what is there to choose between Sanders and Stein, if Sanders is a progressive on all fields that were mentioned, except for foreign policy, on
which he agrees with Stein?

As to what Stein does advocate (which I take it mostly coincides with Sanders' position):

Stein advocates a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law and human rights. She wants to "end the wars and drone attacks, cut military spending by at least 50 percent, and close the 700+ foreign military bases that are turning our republic into a bankrupt empire." And she seeks to "stop U.S. support and arms sales to human rights abusers, and lead on global nuclear disarmament."
I agree with this, but nothing of this will happen (apart from empty verbiage), except if a real leftist were to be elected as president.

So why support Stein? Marjorie Cohn says:

Stein has no chance of winning the election. So why do her positions matter? She is the declared candidate of the Green Party. If Stein's voice is included in the national debates, the other candidates will be publicly challenged and forced to respond on critical foreign policy issues.

I agree with this (though I would not vote for Stein, simply because she has no realistic chance of being elected), because a real democracy thrives a whole lot better with candidates from many parties, each of whom has a distinct view.

And indeed it seems Marjorie Cohn agrees, for she ends with a quotation from
John Adams (<-Wikipedia):

"There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution."
And it exists for a long time now...

5. EFF: The Final Leaked TPP Text is All That We Feared

The final article today is by Jeremy Malcolm of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation. I found it on Raging Bull-Shit, but it originates on the site of the EFF:

This starts as follows (and is the first file of what will probably be a fairly long series on the contents of the TPP):

Today’s release by Wikileaks of what is believed to be the current and essentially final version of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) confirms our worst fears about the agreement, and dashes the few hopes that we held out that its most onerous provisions wouldn’t survive to the end of the negotiations.
(...)
Also, our analysis here is limited to the copyright and Internet-related provisions of the chapter (...)
Mind that everything that follows is restricted to one chapter, and is in that chapter restricted to "the copyright and Internet-related provisions". Also,
the bolding in the quotations that follow are in the original.

First, there is this on what is effectively mere propaganda:

If you dig deeper, you’ll notice that all of the provisions that recognize the rights of the public are non-binding, whereas almost everything that benefits rightsholders is binding. That paragraph on the public domain, for example, used to be much stronger in the first leaked draft, with specific obligations to identify, preserve and promote access to public domain material. All of that has now been lost in favor of a feeble, feel-good platitude that imposes no concrete obligations on the TPP parties whatsoever.
Second, there is this on copyrights:
Perhaps the biggest overall defeat for users is the extension of the copyright term to life plus 70 years (QQ.G.6), despite a broad consensus that this makes no economic sense, and simply amounts to a transfer of wealth from users to large, rights-holding corporations.
The extension will make life more difficult for libraries and archives, for journalists, and for ordinary users seeking to make use of works from long-dead authors that rightfully belong in the public domain.
Well... I'd say that it makes a lot of extra profit for the big corporations, and therefore, according to them, makes economic sense. But this is a major setback, for it means that most of the valuable stuff that has been written the last 60 years or so will be available for free quoting only after 70 years (so in fact in some cases: 130 years after its publication), when most of its value, newness
and originality will be long outdated.

Third, there is this on damages:
On damages, the text (QQ.H.4) remains as bad as ever: rightsholders can submit “any legitimate measure of value” to a judicial authority for determination of damages, including the suggested retail price of infringing goods. Additionally, judges must have the power to order pre-established damages (at the rightsholder’s election), or additional damages, each of which may go beyond compensating the rightsholder for its actual loss, and thereby create a disproportionate chilling effect for users and innovators.
Again quite unfair (but very profitable for "rightsholders"). There is also this:
In some cases (QQ.H.7), the penalties for copyright infringement can even include jail time. Traditionally, this is because the infringer is operating a business of commercial piracy. But under the TPP, any act of willful copyright infringement on a commercial scale renders the infringer liable to criminal penalties, even if they were not carried out for financial gain, provided that they have a substantial prejudicial impact on the rightsholder.
And what is "a commercial scale"? And what is "a substantial prejudicial impact"? I have no idea, and I doubt the TPP will make this clear: It will be again up to the "rightsholders" (the big corporations, milking profits from long dead writers).

There is more in the article, but I close this review on the Good Points of the TPP:

Good Points?

Quite honestly there are no parts of this agreement that are positively good for users.
There are none. More specifically (and the underlining is also in the original):
If you look for provisions in the TPP that actually afford new benefits to users, rather than to large, rights-holding corporations, you will look in vain. The TPP is the archetype of an agreement that exists only for the benefit of the entitled, politically powerfully lobbyists who have pushed it through to completion over the last eight years.

There is nothing in here for users and innovators to support, and much for us to fear—the ratcheting up of the copyright term across the Pacific rim, the punitive sanctions for DRM circumvention, and the full frontal attack on hackers and journalists in the trade secrets provision, just to mention three. This latest leak has confirmed our greatest fears—and strengthened our resolve to kill this agreement for good once it reaches Congress.

So this was a first response on a part of one chapter. I very much hope it will be stopped, but I think the chances are low, for the profits for the big corporations are enormous, and they all fund Congressmen.

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