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Nederlog

November 7, 2015
Crisis: TPP Disaster, Kunduz, Dead Magna Charta, Mega-Rich, Reality Check
"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.
'Worse Than We Thought': TPP A Total Corporate Power
     Grab Nightmare

2. Day Before Deadly Bombing, U.S. Official Asked if Any
     Taliban Were “Holed Up” At MSF Hospital

3. Seven Major Takeaways From the U.K.’s Proposed
     Surveillance Rules

4.
The Mega-Rich Families Who Own Our Politicians
5. Reality Check


Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Friday, November 6, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the TPP, that is widely agreed to be even worse than most opponents thought; item 2 is about the bombing of MSF-hospitals (and I take it that was intentional); item 3 is about Theresa May's and David Cameron's attempt to completely destroy the Magna Charta (after precisely 800 years); item 4 is about the fact that 358 mega-rich American families fund American politicians with millions of dollars; and item 5 is about Reich on the sanity of the Republican presidential candidates.

1. 'Worse Than We Thought': TPP A Total Corporate Power Grab Nightmare

The first item today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

"Worse than anything we could've imagined."

"An act of climate denial."

"Giveaway to big agribusiness."

"A death warrant for the open Internet."

"Worst nightmare."

"A disaster."

As expert analysis of the long-shrouded, newly publicized TransPacific Partnership (TPP) final text continued to roll out on Thursday, consensus formed around one fundamental assessment of the 12-nation pact: It's worse than we thought.

I say. But I must add that I am not very amazed myself.

Clearly, the TPP - kept secret by that fine, outstanding, progressive, democratic president Obama - was going to be very bad, very anti-democratic, very pro corporate riches, and indeed also would commit climate dcenial, destroy the open internet, and give billions to agribusiness.

Also clearly, the TTIP, that will bring Europe under the fine leadership of the multi-national corporations, and that will quickly destroy most or all of the advances Europe made on the USA as regards workers rights, incomes, and benefits, and also will quickly destroy democratic government, will be even worse.

But both may well be "de-mo-cra-tic-al-ly" adopted by the various parliaments that are involved, for most of the politicians who are parliamentarians walk on the leash of secret and non-secret subsidies from the rich. And this is THE chance in the last 100 years to kill democracy, and to impose the rule of the few very rich on everyone, for the benefit of the few.

There is also this:

"From leaks, we knew quite a bit about the agreement, but in chapter after chapter the final text is worse than we expected with the demands of the 500 official U.S. trade advisers representing corporate interests satisfied to the detriment of the public interest," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.
(...)
On issues ranging from climate change to food safety, from open Internet to access to medicines, the TPP "is a disaster," declared Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now.

"Now that we’ve seen the full text, it turns out the job-killing TPP is worse than anything we could’ve imagined," added Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America. "This agreement would push down wages, flood our nation with unsafe imported food, raise the price of life-saving medicine, all the while trading with countries where gays and single mothers can be stoned to death."

As I said, I am less amazed. Then again, I have been reading about and around politics for over 50 years now, and also, in part because my parents were real and intelligent communists for 45 years, which I gave up in 1970, I have never voted since 1971, because I had decided that almost everyone I could vote for was, to the best of my understanding, a careerist liar, while the few others were mostly blind idealists. (And I still think so, in Holland.)

Next, there is this:

Major climate action groups, including 350.org and the Sierra Club, were quick to point out that the text was notable as much for what it didn't say as what for what it did. "The TPP is an act of climate denial," said 350 policy director Jason Kowalski on Thursday. "While the text is full of handouts to the fossil fuel industry, it doesn’t mention the words climate change once."

What it does do, however, is give "fossil fuel companies the extraordinary ability to sue local governments that try and keep fossil fuels in the ground," Kowalski continued. "If a province puts a moratorium on fracking, corporations can sue; if a community tries to stop a coal mine, corporations can overrule them. In short, these rules undermine countries’ ability to do what scientists say is the single most important thing we can do to combat the climate crisis: keep fossil fuels in the ground."

That is, according to the rich lawyers, who work for the mega-rich multi-
national corporations, and who were totally free to write the TTP to destroy democratic government, there is no "climate change", and it doesn't even deserve to be mentioned - but all democratic policies that do involve climate change will be broken down because they upset the - estimated, projected, or
real - profits of the very rich.

Indeed, according to Food & Water Watch, the final text released Thursday indicates that under a TPP regime, "agribusiness and biotech seed companies can now more easily use trade rules to challenge countries that ban GMO imports, test for GMO contamination, do not promptly approve new GMO crops or even require GMO labeling."

Everyone will be forced to no labeling of GMO foods, so that nobody may know
the - very profitable - shit he or she eats.

There is also this:

"If U.S. Congress signs this agreement despite its blatant corruption, they'll be signing a death warrant for the open Internet and putting the future of free speech in peril," stated Evan Greer, Fight for the Future (FFTF) campaign director.

Well... to the best of my knowledge the TTP has been approved, and if it hasn't the Republican Congress will approve it: It spells heaven for the rich multi-national corporations, and it will destroy democratic government, and that
is what the present-day Republicans are fanatically for (and see item 5).

Here is the last quotation, on Canada:

Citing concerns about how the deal would impact human rights, health, employment, environment, and democracy, the Council of Canadians on Thursday demanded a full public consultation—including an independent human rights, economic, and environmental review of the document—before Trudeau goes any further. The group expressed particular concern over investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, which allow corporations to sue states for lost profits, asking that they be excised from the deal.

Note that Obama has already phoned with Trudeau, and no doubt has explained how the Canadians must approve this mortal death-blow to their democratic government.

We will find out what the Canadians will do. Meanwhile, this is a fine article (considered as journalism, not for what it reports) and it deserves full reading.


2. Day Before Deadly Bombing, U.S. Official Asked if Any Taliban Were “Holed Up” At MSF Hospital

The next item is by Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept:
This starts as follows, and it continues the earlier news about the bombing by
American military forces of MSF hospitals in Afghanistan and Yemen (also reported here and here in Nederlog):

report released today by the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (Médicins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) alleges that a U.S. gunship killed doctors and medical staff as they fled from a burning hospital targeted in a deadly October 3 aerial bombardment in Kunduz, Afghanistan. In addition to documenting the havoc wreaked by the attack, the report also claims that just a day before the bombing, an unnamed U.S. government official in Washington, D.C. had contacted the organization asking whether any Taliban fighters were “holed up” at the Kunduz hospital facility.

In a speech given in Kabul announcing the release of the report, Christopher Stokes, general director of MSF, said that the organization has yet to receive any explanation for the attack from the U.S. military. In light of the evidence that has now been compiled by the organization, “a mistake is quite hard to understand and believe at this stage,” Stokes added.

The main reason it is "quite hard" to believe that the American bombardment of the MSF's hospital was "a mistake" is simply that the American army was very
well and for a long time informed about the precise location and function of the hospital.

In fact, there is this:

As documented in the report, on September 29, less than a week before the deadly bombing, MSF staff reaffirmed their GPS coordinates in communications with the U.S. Army, Department of Defense and Afghan government officials, all of whom provided either written or verbal acknowledgement of the location information. As fighting in Kunduz intensified around that time, culminating in a humiliating temporary takeover of the city by Taliban forces, a U.S. government official in Washington, D.C. contacted MSF on October 2 inquiring about the safety of its staff and asking whether there were any Taliban “holed up” at the Kunduz hospital or at any of their other facilities.

The next day, at roughly 2 a.m. local time, “MSF international staff members sleeping in the administrative building were woken up by the sound of the first explosions,” as an AC-130 gunship opened fire on the hospital compound. Over the next hour at least 30 MSF staff and patients were killed.
I conclude from the evidence given that the MSF hospital was attacked on purpose by the American army because it took care of non-American wounded.

And while that conclusion might be undermined by a decent and objective investigation of how and why 30 or more staff and patients of the hospital were killed, the American army refuses any such investigation (and 76 countries agreed they are right (?!)).

3. Seven Major Takeaways From the U.K.’s Proposed Surveillance Rules

The next article is by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

The British government on Wednesday published a proposed new law to reform and dramatically expand surveillance powers in the United Kingdom. The 190-page Investigatory Powers Bill is thick with detail and it will probably take weeks and months of analysis until its full ramifications are understood. In the meantime, I’ve read through the bill and noted down a few key aspects of the proposed powers that stood out to me — including unprecedented new data retention measures, a loophole that allows spies to monitor journalists and their sources, powers enabling the government to conduct large-scale hacking operations, and more.

As I have said yesterday, in my opinion this is a fascist law, that seeks to make Great Britain a Toryist fascist state, where the government knows everything about anyone, and can arrest anyone it doesn't like, also with "legal assurances" that those arrests will remain unknown to anyone (just as under the Gestapo's "Nacht und Nebel" disappearances under Nazism) an also will not be discussed by anyone.

There is this on the honesty of Theresa May:

In the days prior to the publication of the Investigatory Powers Bill, the British government’s Home Secretary Theresa May claimed that the law would not be “giving new powers to go through people’s browsing history.” However, the text of the bill makes clear that this is precisely what the government is trying to do.

She lied, and lied, and lied, but indeed her end is an enormous increase in governmental powers.

And there is this:

As far as I am aware, no other Western democracy has implemented a nationwide data retention regime that encompasses all citizens’ annual web browsing habits. The British government says the data will only be looked at to determine, for example, “whether someone [has] accessed a communications website [or] an illegal website.” But there are only limited safeguards in place to ensure these conditions are not breached by overzealous authorities. Police will be able to access the records without any judicial approval; a person’s website browsing records can be obtained after a “designated senior officer” grants an authorization.

Well, one possible reason is that no "democracy" is a democracy if a few thousand governmental or private individuals can - in secret also - request the complete browsing history of everyone. Sorry: that is only possible in a mock "democracy" where the government has all the powers, and the population has no choice but doing what they are told, while being plundered of all their private data, plans, ideas and values by a few - totally anonymous - supermen and superwomen from the government.

And there is this:

The bill includes a clause that seeks to criminalize any “unauthorized disclosure” by telecommunications employees of any details about government surveillance. The clause appears designed to stifle leaks and deter whistleblowers. A breach of this section of the proposed law would result in a 12-month jail term and a fine.

So the government declares it can spy into anything any of their inhabitants may think, say or write, basically because it is unencrypted - and it says anyone who
reveals anything about government surveillance (theft of private data of anyone and everyone) goes to jail for at least a year.

I am sorry, but as I said yesterday:

After precisely 800 years the Magna Charta (<- Wikipedia) that was first reached in England, was completely destroyed (if these horrors become "laws") by the English government, led by Theresa May and David Cameron, because that is out for far bigger powers than any English government ever had, and than are compatible with any genuinely democratic government.

4. The Mega-Rich Families Who Own Our Politicians 

The next article is by Jim Hightower on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:
Bizarrely, the Supreme Court decreed in its 2010 Citizens United ruling that money is a form of "free speech." Thus, declared the learned justices, people and corporations are henceforth allowed to spend unlimited sums of their money to "speak" in election campaigns. But wait -- if political speech is measured by money then by definition speech is not free. It can be bought, thereby giving the most speech to the few with the most money. That's plutocracy, not democracy.
Yes indeed, although I do not think that the Supreme Court acted "bizarrely": They acted (in majority) as I would expect any corrupt court would act, that wanted to hand power to the few rich rather than to the many.

And indeed the easily foreseeable also happened:

Sure enough, in the first six months of this presidential election cycle, more than half of the record-setting $300 million given to the various candidates came from only 358 mega-rich families and the corporations they control. The top 158 of them totaled $176 million in political spending, meaning that, on average, each one of them bought more than a million dollars' worth of "free" speech.

Nearly all of their money is backing Republican presidential hopefuls who promise: (1) to cut taxes on the rich; (2) cut regulations that protect us from corporate pollution and other abuses of the common good; and (3) to cut Social Security, food stamps and other safety-net programs that we un-rich people need. The great majority of Americans adamantly oppose all of those cuts -- but none of us has a million bucks to buy an equivalent amount of political "free" speech.

As I just said: Simply because all of that was very easy to foresee, I conclude that this is also what the majority of the Supreme Court wanted to see happen. And indeed they got it: A mere 358 billionaires and millionaires now control
political spending in the USA, indeed on the explicit ground that their money =
votes.

As Jim Hightower says:

The Supreme Court's malevolent Citizens United decision has produced an insidious platinum class of mega-donors and corporate super PACs, each pumping $500,000, $5 million, $50 million -- or even more -- into campaigns. These elites are not silent donors, but boisterous, very special interests who are playing in the new, Court-created political money game for their own gain. Having paid to play, they feel entitled to tell candidates what to say and do, what to support and oppose. A Jeb Bush insider confirms that mega-donors have this attitude: "Donors consider a contribution like, 'Well, wait, I just invested in you. Now I need to have my say; you need to answer to me.'"

Yes, of course - and let us not forget that the Democrats play the same game, and that, while I suppose it is true that the billionaires in majority supported the
Republicans, they also in the past, and probably now, invested in the Democrats in order to phone them in case they are elected.


5. Reality Check

The final article today is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

The other night I phoned a former Republican member of Congress with whom I’d worked in the 1990s on various pieces of legislation. I consider him a friend. I wanted his take on the Republican candidates because I felt I needed a reality check. Was I becoming excessively crotchety and partisan, or are these people really as weird as they seem? We got right into it:

Me: “So what do really you think of these candidates?”

Him: “You want my unvarnished opinion?”

Me: "Please. That’s why I called.”

Him: “They’re all nuts.”

Me: “Seriously. What do you really think of them?”

Him: “I just told you. They’re bonkers. Bizarre. They’re like a Star Wars bar room.”

There is more in the article, which is recommended, but this is sufficient, and
indeed is Reich's opinion, and having seen some more of the Republican presidential candidates I agree.

More specifically, I agree on three points:

  • all of the Republican candidates lie, and do so very well, and nearly always, on nearly everything;
  • none of the Republican candidates has a serious program, and none can be taken seriously to vote for (as one could - a long time ago, but it is true -  once honestly vote from conservative principles for Eisenhower);
  • I agree that at least two Republican candidates - Trump and Carson - do not seem mentally healthy: Trump seems constantly angry and almost
    completely bereft of reason, and Carson just seems plain mad (including the total crap he talks about pyramids and the climate: that is not sane).
The only good thing about the Republican candidates is that it seems very unlikely anyone of them will be elected - though I agree that if any of them would be elected, it also will be a disaster.

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