December 28, 2014
Crisis: The Economy + ACLU + Secret Treaties + Bill Maher
  "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


1. Recovery or recession? Five issues that will make or
     break the economy in 2015
ACLU Calls Out NSA's Christmas Eve Document Dump
Don Quijones: How the Trade in Services Agreement Lets
    Big Brother Go Global
4. Bill Maher


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, December 28, 2014. It is a crisis log, indeed the second weekly one, but it is also almost the end of the year, and therefore I decided to provide some more general items, and to conclude with four videos by Bill Maher, none long, but all quite clear, and indeed from several years.

There are 4 items and 7 dotted links: Item 1 is a survey of some general economic and political tendencies; item 2 is on the ACLU's response to the NSA's forced release of (heavily redacted) documents; item 3 is on the three trade pacts that are being prepared in utter secrecy, that will effect the lives and chances of hundreds of millions; and item 4 is a choice of four short videos by Bill Maher, because I like him, and because he is one of the few who says the things he says, at least in public and on TV.
1. Recovery or recession? Five issues that will make or break the economy in 2015

The first item today is a reflection about what the economy will bring in 2015. This is by Larry Elliott and Angela Monaghan, on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The world economy enters 2015 at a fork in the road. One track leads to the self-sustaining vigorous recovery that policy makers have sought in vain ever since the financial crisis erupted in 2007. Lower oil prices get consumers spending and businesses investing. Memories of the biggest recession since the 1930s are finally banished. The rest of the world starts to look like a revitalised US.

The other track leads back towards recession. Problems that have been stored up since 2008-09 can be contained no longer. A financial crisis erupts in the emerging markets. China has a hard landing. Greece sparks off a fresh phase to the eurozone’s struggle for survival. Deflation sets in. The rest of the world starts to look like Japan. Here, then, are five issues that will define a make-or-break year.

OK - though I strongly suspect the second alternative is vastly more probable than the first, simply because nothing has been done to tame the factors that started the last crisis, and notably not a rise in income for the 90%, who do not have high incomes, but from whom most of the money must come, nor any way to limit the infinite greed of the banks' managers.

Besides, it seems to me that both might be true: on the one hand, a recovery for the few rich, mostly because of a rise in the money made from shares, and a continued depression for the many poor, simply because they do not have enough money.

The five issues that are discussed in the rest of the article are these, and these are just the titles of the issues, each of which gets some discussion:

Russia and the Ukraine

You can read them (and I certainly don't agree with everything), but I suppose your general impression will be like mine: It tries to be more positive than seems justified, especially in view of the fact that nothing has been done to tame the banks' greed, and in fact several things were done to make them profit even more.

2. ACLU Calls Out NSA's Christmas Eve Document Dump

The next item is an article by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The American Civil Liberties Union on Friday accused the National Security Agency of using the holiday as cover to "minimize the impact" of its Christmas Eve document dump, which showed—amidst heavy redaction—that the agency's mass surveillance program targeting U.S. citizens went on for more than 10 years and was rife with both human error and technical mistakes.

"I certainly think the NSA would prefer to have the documents released right ahead of the holidays in order to have less public attention on what they contain," Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney at the ACLU’s national security project, told the Guardian.

Toomey told the paper that the documents, made up of annual and quarterly reports filed since 2001 and released in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by the ACLU, "really vindicate some of the things [Edward] Snowden said when he first described the NSA surveillance in terms of the ability of analysts to conduct queries—without authorization—of raw internet traffic."

Posted to the NSA's website at 1:30 pm on Christmas Eve, the internal report reveals a large number of compliance violations, including examples of data on Americans being e-mailed to unauthorized recipients, stored in unsecured computers and retained after it was supposed to be destroyed, according to reporting by Bloomberg.

Yes, indeed: Basically, the American government tries to mislead you, and if it can't, it releases what it is forced to release on such moments as are least likely to ignite any interest.

There is more under the last dotted link.

3. Don Quijones: How the Trade in Services Agreement Lets Big Brother Go Global

The third item is an article by Don Quijones on Naked Capitalism, that originally appeared on Wolf Street:

This starts as follows:

Much has been written, at least in the alternative media, about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), two multilateral trade treaties being negotiated between the representatives of dozens of national governments and armies of corporate lawyers and lobbyists (on which you can read more here, here and here). However, much less is known about the decidedly more secretive Trade in Services Act (TiSA), which involves more countries than either of the other two.

At least until now, that is. Thanks to a leaked document jointly published by the Associated Whistleblowing Press and Filtrala, the potential ramifications of the treaty being hashed out behind hermetically sealed doors in Geneva are finally seeping out into the public arena.

If signed, the treaty would affect all services ranging from electronic transactions and data flow, to veterinary and architecture services. It would almost certainly open the floodgates to the final wave of privatization of public services, including the provision of healthcare, education and water. Meanwhile, already privatized companies would be prevented from a re-transfer to the public sector by a so-called barring “ratchet clause” – even if the privatization failed.

More worrisome still, the proposal stipulates that no participating state can stop the use, storage and exchange of personal data relating to their territorial base. Here’s more from Rosa Pavanelli, general secretary of Public Services International (PSI):

The leaked documents confirm our worst fears that TiSA is being used to further the interests of some of the largest corporations on earth (…) Negotiation of unrestricted data movement, internet neutrality and how electronic signatures can be used strike at the heart of individuals’ rights. Governments must come clean about what they are negotiating in these secret trade deals.

Fat chance of that, especially in light of the fact that the text is designed to be almost impossible to repeal, and is to be “considered confidential” for five years after being signed. What that effectively means is that the U.S. approach to data protection (read: virtually non-existent) could very soon become the norm across 50 countries spanning the breadth and depth of the industrial world.

There is considerably more under the last dotted link, and it is all good, though it will not make you happy, that is, unless you are rich and greedy.

4. Bill Maher

I like Bill Maher: he is smart, informed and funny. This does not mean that I agree with him on everything, but if you need that to conclude that someone is smart, informed and funny, you probably are none of these things, and certainly
not smart or informed (which indeed few are, I am very sorry to say).

Here are some videos, taken from many more, and some going back quite a few years, that show he has been saying many things I regard as basically true, indeed also with some allowances for his putting forward these things in funny monologues:

Anyway... I can't make it much easier to try to make people understand many things are not what they seem to the average viewers of TV.


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