Sep 9, 2016

Crisis: Obama, TPP, Mass Surveillance, Libertarians, Exit Wilderness
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Obama Promises Lame-Duck TPP Push Despite Uproar
     Over Pro-Corporate Provisions

2. Leading Economists Oppose TPP Provision Giving
     Corporations Upper Hand in Investor-State Disputes

3. Mass Aerial Surveillance Is a Growing Orwellian
     Concern in the United States

4. Thom Hartmann Delivers a Brutal and Painfully
     Accurate Takedown of the Libertarian Party

5. Fall of the Wild

This is a Nederlog of Friday, September 9, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Obama's attempts to force the neofascist TPP through Congress come what may, while item 2 is a good article about how extremely dangerous the TPP is; item 3 is about the fact that every U.S. citizen is now traced, tracked, saved and sourced, in the deepest secret, by his computers, his cellphones, all the items he did install in his house that connect to the internet, and outside his house by cameras, by drones and by his cellphone, all of which enormously increases the powers of the very few that make up the government; item 4 is about a takedown of libertarians that I like but that also seems a bit simpleminded; and item 5 is about the radical declines in wilderness in the world and led me to the formulation that the environmental situation is as awful as it was in 1971 (when I started following it), except that now there are twice as many people as there were then.

Also, I like to draw your attention to a previous Nederlog, called Rewriting my site, that is indeed about that, or more precisely: About a resized graphical background that is necessary since I have now a normal sized squarish monitor. [0] This will take quite a lot of work, which I will continue after having finished the present crisis item. (It will probably be done before the end of September. I do not yet know when, but I will say so in Nederlog if it is finished.) And here is the link to Rewriting my site, that shows how much I have corrected up till today or yesterday.

1. Obama Promises Lame-Duck TPP Push Despite Uproar Over Pro-Corporate Provisions

The first item today is by Zaid Jilani on The Intercept:
  • Obama Promises Lame-Duck TPP Push Despite Uproar Over Pro-Corporate Provisions
This starts as follows:

A provision that would let foreign corporations challenge new American laws and regulations has become the latest flashpoint in the battle over the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, even as President Obama on Tuesday said he will renew his push for its passage in the lame-duck session of Congress.

“We’re in a political season now and it’s always difficult to get things done,” Obama said at a town hall meeting in Laos. “So after the election, I think people can refocus attention on why this is so important.” He sounded confident: “I believe that we’ll get it done.”

I have dealt a whole lot with the TPP etc. so I will start this by referring you back to yesterday, when there was an excellent article on the TPP and the TTIP and the TISA and the CETA: I think they are all attempts to introduce corporate neo-fascism.

Also, by now I think that the reason very few dare to call it this is that most are politcally correct, and do not dare to use negatively loaded words. Well, my grandfather was murdered by the Nazis; my father survived more than 3 years and 9 months as a "political terrorist" in Nazi concentration camps, and
I will call things as they appear to me, and the TPP, the TTIP, the TISA and the CETA all appear as variants of the same plan to me: To introduce neofascism in a "legal" way, by deceiving or buying a few hundreds of politicians, because it could not be introduced in a political way.

So you ought to start this by (re-)reading yesterday's "Here They Come Again" and then turn to the following:

The latest salvo from opponents of the deal came in the form of a letter to Congress signed by hundreds of law professors and economists – including Laurence Tribe, who taught Obama at Harvard – protesting the inclusion of “Investor State Dispute Settlement” (ISDS) provisions in the TPP agreement.

The ISDS provisions would empower corporations who object to U.S. laws and regulations that cut into their profits to sue the United States before an international arbitration panel. The signatories to the letter write that this “system undermines the important roles of our domestic and democratic institutions, threatens domestic sovereignty, and weakens the rule of law.”

Yes, except that I'd say that the ISDSs will destroy "the important roles of our domestic and democratic institutions" (it's a parallel system of "law" that
makes everything a settlement between the lawyers of the multi-national corporations and the lawyers of states, that has no appeal, is not a proper court, it mostly secret, and can condemn all of the nation's taxpayers for approving laws that diminished the expected profits of multi- national corporations), and I'd add that it doesn't "threaten" but seeks to completely destroy "domestic sovereignty" and "the rule of law", for the sovereignty is handed to the CEOs of multi-national corporations, and the rule of law is totally bypassed, denied and destroyed.

But not according to the divine Obama, who certainly will not say how much he will get if he succeeds in pushing through the neofascistic TPP:

The Obama administration has pushed back at critics of the ISDS provisions, saying that it is a routine system that exists in thousands of other international agreements, including 50 that the United States is currently a party to.

But that routine system has undermined domestic laws in some countries.

Buzzfeed’s Chris Hamby recently reviewed dozens of ISDS rulings, documenting how corporations used these international arbitration panels to avoid the reach of domestic courts.

Yes, indeed. Here is a link that reviews one of Chris Hamby's reports, more or less appropriately called "The Court That Rules the World" (the title is good, but I prefer "Court" for the ISDS is not a serious proper legal court).

And here is a very small indication of the enormous riches the rich are going to get if the ISDSs have replaced the ordinary and real legal laws:

As The Intercept has previously reported, banks and other financial institutions would be able to use TPP provisions to sue over virtually any change in financial regulations affecting future profits in an extra-judicial tribunal.

The United States has not yet lost an ISDS case, but is facing a major claim from TransCanada. The company is using arbitration under NAFTA to seek $15 billion after the Obama Administration decided not to approve its Keystone XL Pipeline project.

And that is how any multi-national corporation may react to any deal that has been voted down by any parliament:

Present the whole deal again to the ISDS; insist that it was turned down because the deal made the profits too small; insist that the ISDS exists to take care no multi-national needs to accept any diminuition in its profits; and if indeed the profits are less than expected, the ISDS will accept the claim, and condemn all taxpayers to pay billions, in damages, in non-paid profits, in lawyers' incomes and in costs.

That is how it will go, because that is how it has gone: The multi-national corporations have a "law" that transcends all national laws, all parliamentary approved laws, all democratic laws, and the only thing they need to do is to
prove that their projected profits are diminished by some parliaments' laws.

It is neofascism pure and simple.
And here is more to prove it is:

2. Leading Economists Oppose TPP Provision Giving Corporations Upper Hand in Investor-State Disputes

second item is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaik on Democracy Now!:
  • Leading Economists Oppose TPP Provision Giving Corporations Upper Hand in Investor-State Disputes

This has the following introduction:

As the Obama administration begins a new push to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership, known as the TPP, more than 200 of the country’s leading economists and legal scholars have written a letter urging Congress to reject the 12-nation trade pact, citing its controversial investor-state dispute settlement. Critics say the so-called ISDS regime creates a parallel legal system granting multinational corporations undue power. We speak with Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. "This is an agreement so repugnant that members of Congress do not want to vote for it," says Lori Wallach.

Two small corrections, to start with:

First, the ISDS regime does not so much create "a parallel legal system": it creates a completely new "legal" system that is for and by the CEOs of multi-national corporations, who thereby can force whole populations to pay for the profits their parliaments voted against, by rescheduling the voted down plans again to an ISDS, that will only check whether it is right it lost some profits, and that will side with the multi-nationals if indeed it has.

And second, I hope "members of Congress do not want to vote for it", but I know it is very easy to buy the majority of 700 persons, who anyway are being lobbied by - I think - ten lobbyists per member. Since I have a very low confidence in the moral decency of most members of Congress, I think this is the way the TPP will be pushed through.

Bur here is Lori Wallach:

LORI WALLACH: Elizabeth Warren and over 200 of our leading—our nation’s leading economics and law professors made a very compelling argument. With the—were the TPP to go into place, literally thousands of multinational corporations would be newly empowered to be able to sue the U.S. government, in front of panels of three corporate attorneys, who could order the government to pay unlimited sums, including for those corporations’ expected future profits, paid by us taxpayers, and all the corporations would have to do is convince those lawyers that some U.S. federal, state, local law, regulation, court ruling, government action undermines the new rights and privileges that the TPP would grant them. And there is no appeal from these panels; these lawyers decide. And there’s no limit on how much they can order taxpayers to pay.
So that is the answer to President Obama. Nine thousand multinational corporations that newly could attack our laws, raid our treasury, undermine our health and safety.

And again: This is pure, complete, total, intentional neofascism:

A "court" that can upset and turn back all democratically agreed laws; a "court" that has no appeals; a "court" that allows no parties for it except lawyers for corporations and lawyers for governments; a "court" that can attack each and any parliamentary agreed, democratically agreed, law; a "court" that can do so simply on the ground that these parlia- mentary and democratically agreed laws diminish the projected profits of multi-national corporations; a "court" that is manned by lawyers from the multi-national corporations; a "court" that uses as its only rule the question whether the projected profits have lessened, is not a real court but is a neofascistic institution that is expressly designed to destroy the rule of law, the rule of  democracy, the rule of parliaments, and the rule of governments.

But this is what the noble Obama wants. (I wonder how much he will be paid if he succeeds pushing this through.)

Here is a last bit:

LORI WALLACH: And Professor Tribe was one of the eminent signatories of this letter. And he was—he was joined by other very prominent legal scholars in basically saying—many of them, by the way, including the economics professors, who are supporters of free trade—and they’re all saying, whatever you think of trade, the fact that the TPP includes this outrageous system that would empower multinational corporations to skirt our domestic law system, second-guess even our Supreme Court, raid our treasury, over policies that our courts, our Congress have said are totally fine, this alone makes the TPP unacceptable, whatever else you think about the other arguments made in its favor.
And this letter follows up on a letter last year, with fewer bigwigs signed onto it, but just the same, a letter that had a lot of law professors saying, "Listen, we are against the ISDS. Take it out of the TPP, so we don’t have a problem with your agreement." And, of course, the president, as you’ll recall, was extremely dismissive and scornful about that letter, said, "They’re making stuff up, and they’re absolutely wrong," and so left this horrible corporate regime in the agreement. It’s at the heart of the agreement. It is the key in the agreement. And now all these professors are against.

Well, Obama is a liar. The law professors are completely correct. But I am
afraid the outcome will depend on how much a majority in Congress is going to get (some 350 persons maximally have to be somehow bought, I think) so I am not optimistic.

This is a recommended article.

3. Mass Aerial Surveillance Is a Growing Orwellian Concern in the United States

The third
item is by Thor Benson on Truthdig:
  • Mass Aerial Surveillance Is a Growing Orwellian Concern in the United States

This starts as follows:

Cameras at intersections and in public parks have become commonplace, but are you aware that a plane flying overhead could be tracking your every move?

According to a Bloomberg Businessweek report in August, the city of Baltimore has been conducting surveillance over parts of the city with megapixel cameras attached to Cessna airplanes since at least January. This news comes after activists expressed concerns that mysterious Cessnas were seen flying above Black Lives Matter protests in 2015.

FBI spy planes, equipped not just with cameras but with cellphone surveillance devices as well, have become a new phenomenon in the United States. While the agency says the planes are not designed for mass surveillance, that claim is getting shakier by the day, especially in light of evidence of what’s happening in places like Baltimore.

Yes, indeed. As far as I am concerned, the Fourth Amendment (<- Wikipedia) was illegally cast aside in 2001, and since then all secret services and all police departments in the USA got essentially a free hand in doing everything to get total control about the total population of the USA by knowing absolutely everything about anyone, which they do by spying on computers, spying on cellphones, and if you go outside your own house, by tracking your cellphone and by following you from the air.

Here is how it happens, all in spite of the Constitution:

“Newer, more powerful surveillance equipment is constantly being developed for the military and intelligence services, and as old technology is replaced, it tends to find its way into domestic law enforcement arsenals,” explained Adam Bates, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice. Three years ago, records show that the federal government’s ARGUS system—video surveillance developed by the U.S. military—was “capable of seeing details as small as six inches from 20,000 feet and [keeping] entire cities under constant surveillance.” One can only imagine what technological advances have been made in the meantime.

Theoretically, the government could equip planes or drones with thermal cameras or radar devices that can see what’s happening inside buildings. That would raise more serious Fourth Amendment concerns.

Sorry, but the Fourth Amendment has been totally shredded - illegally! - by the American governments since Bush Jr. It has been totally shredded because its application would forbid the secret services and the police of knowing absolutely everything about you, and because a government that knows absolutely everything about each of its inhabitants is all powerful in a way no government ever has been before.

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

These types of operations go beyond George Orwell’s worst nightmare.

“We’re not just talking about a [closed-circuit TV] camera on a street corner that can snap your picture passing by,” said Bates. “We’re talking about the ability of the government to identify and track you everywhere you go in public, potentially for days or weeks on end.”

To the best of my knowledge the present US government is capable of following absolutely everyone absolutely anywhere in everything they do all their lives, and they are doing this now in selected cases, and soon will be abled to do it on more and more cases.

This is a recommended article.

4. Thom Hartmann Delivers a Brutal and Painfully Accurate Takedown of the Libertarian Party

The fourth item is by Alexandra Rosenmann on AlterNet:
  • Thom Hartmann Delivers a Brutal and Painfully Accurate Takedown of the Libertarian Party for the Ages

This is from the beginning (and I should say that the above linked original contains several video links):

But do libertarians and progressives really see eye to eye on the big issues, as Johnson would like Bernie Sanders supporters to think?

According to Thom Hartmann, not at all. 

"The Libertarian Party was started basically as a scam, as a front group for big business in the United States and very wealthy people," Hartmann begins, "and, you know, big business doesn't care if gay people get married, they don't care if people smoke pot. They'll give you the social issues, but... the bottom line for the Libertarian Party on every issue—whether it's Medicare, Social Security, public roads...—[is] let's privatize [them or]... do away [with them]."

Hartmann gives some examples of where billionaire libertarians would say, "Let's privatize all the public roads, let's do away with public libraries, let's take any kind of function the government can do for the public good" and make it work for selfish reasons. "The idea is, there is no such thing as the public good; there's only the good for us billionaires, and so if we can't figure out a way to make a buck out of something, then then we shouldn't do it," Hartmann says.

I agree with the fourth paragraph, but I don't know about the third. The reason I don't know about the third paragraph is basically that the Libertarian Party (<- Wikipedia) was founded in 1971, but there were libertarian ideas long before that foundation, and while I tend to agree that libertarians are confused in ways I am not, they may have been - to some extent - honest.

But then again, I agree with Hartmann that libertarians are fundamentally confused about the public/private distinctions, and also about the relative qualities of human beings (for they seem to think that the more money a person has, the more human he is, and the less money a person has the less human he is - although I am willing to agree that I may formulate it more sharply than libertarians are willing to admit, in public [1]), and also about the fundamental meanings of being human, being free and being civilized.

Then again, hardly any libertarians have any realistic appreciation of the qualities of human beings, the public/private distinctions, and of being human, being free and being civilized (they tend to reduce all these questions to one very simple one: how much money does X have, and basically seem to believe that the more money a person has, the more human he is), and I merely point that out here and now and leave it there.

Here is the last bit I'll quote from this article:

Hartmann then claimed the libertarians were simply setting up a straw man and knocking it over:

"You can dress it up in fancy language all day long and say, 'Hey, you know, I'm responsible for all of this, everything I've accomplished, it's mine, my body,' but the reality is you wouldn't be here if it wasn't for public roads or public schools or public education or making sure that your food is safe and your drugs aren't killing you and things like that... all the things libertarians oppose."

Yes, at least in the sense that most arguments I have read by libertarians were extremely poor, and essentially came down to "what doesn't improve my personal power to profit and do as I please doesn't count for me  - or is government terrorism". And most libertarians are against government because it limits their freedoms to do as they please.

Then again, I am willing to agree that there are better arguments for some kinds of libertarianism, but I also insist that these better arguments are mostly limited to a few intellectuals (and in the end also are not convincing).

5. Fall of the Wild

The fifth and last item today is by Lauren McCauley

  • Fall of the Wild

This starts as follows:

Wilderness, though remote by nature, is not immune to the ravages of humanity. In fact, according to a new study in the journal Current Biology, the world's wild places are undergoing "catastrophic decline" and could be facing elimination within decades if monumental policy shifts are not implemented.

"If we don't act soon, there will only be tiny remnants of wilderness around the planet, and this is a disaster for conservation, for climate change, and for some of the most vulnerable human communities on the planet," warned lead author Dr. James Watson, of the University of Queensland in Australia and the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York. "We have a duty to act for our children and their children."

Watson and his team mapped wilderness areas around the globe, which were defined as "biologically and ecologically intact landscapes free of any significant human disturbance," and then compared that to one produced by the same methods in the early 1990s.

The amount of wilderness loss in those two decades was "staggering," according to co-author Dr. Oscar Venter of the University of Northern British Colombia.

The study reported total losses of 3.3 million km² since the 1990s, particularly in South America, which experienced 29.6 percent loss, and Africa, with 14 percent. The world currently has a total of 30.1 million km² of remaining wilderness, which is primarily located in North America, North Asia, North Africa, and Australia.

Overall, the researchers found that rapid development had wiped out roughly 10 percent of wilderness over the past 20 years—a pace that, researchers say, spells disaster for these pristine ecosystems if no changes in policy are made.

This is the only bit I quote from this article, and my main reason to do so is that (i) I think there simply are too many human beings for the available resources, and (ii) I also think this is the main reason the present economic
system is bound for destruction.

In fact, I think so since 1971. All I add now - 45 years later - is that I think the situation is at least as bad as it was in 1971, except that there are twice more human beings as there were then. (And they nearly all want to live at least as well as Americans in the 1970ies.)

This is a recommended article.


[0] Incidentally: I do want to keep my sites to look reasonable on the monitors (and computers and OSs) that I use, and I am trying to do so for
the new monitor I have, but I gave up (by 2012) trying to please everyone:

I do take care it works well on Firefox, on Ubuntu, on a normal sized squarish monitor, but I will not check anymore how my site is displayed on other monitors, other OSs and other screens: Too much work for my health. (I guess it works on most systems, since it is html that ought to work the same everywhere, but I lack the health to check and repair.)

[1] I think that my formulation is correct, and I like to point out to you that, if so, I am the least human Dutchman, because I absolutely never succeeded in getting even the minimum legal income in Holland (in spite of having one of the best M.A.s and one of the best B.A.s and being ill for 37 years now, which is also not acknowledged bureaucratically).

This must be intentional for former communists got helped in all manner of ways, whereas my ill person was helped in none - but I agree I criticized, while they admired the system they and I are living in.

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