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Nederlog

March 20, 2015
Crisis:  US vs Germany, New American Order, GOP, WW 3, TPP
  "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. US Threatened Germany Over Snowden, Vice Chancellor
     Says

2. The New American Order
3. The Republican Budget Plan Will Devastate American
     Families

4.
Why We’re Drifting Towards World War 3
5. Joseph Stiglitz on the Trans-Pacific Partnership: "This Is
     A Big Deal"


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, March 20, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Glenn Greenwald on the U.S. threats to Germany to move them not to offer any asylum to Edward Snowden; item 2 is about Tom Engelhardt's seeing "A New American Order" emerge (and I think he is mostly right); item 3 is about Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Republican Budget Plan; item 4 is about Washington's Blog that
contains considerable amounts of evidence that WW 3 may be arriving soon; and
item 5 is about
a quite readable article about the TPP.

Also, this got uploaded a bit earlier than is usual.

1. US Threatened Germany Over Snowden, Vice Chancellor Says 

The first item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel (...) said this week in Homburg that the U.S. government threatened to cease sharing intelligence with Germany if Berlin offered asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden or otherwise arranged for him to travel to that country. “They told us they would stop notifying us of plots and other intelligence matters,” Gabriel said.

The vice chancellor delivered a speech in which he praised the journalists who worked on the Snowden archive, and then lamented the fact that Snowden was forced to seek refuge in “Vladimir Putin’s autocratic Russia” because no other nation was willing and able to protect him from threats of imprisonment by the U.S. government (I was present at the event to receive an award). That prompted an audience member to interrupt his speech and yell out: “Why don’t you bring him to Germany, then?”

After which the audience member got the quoted answer. But note that the Vice Chancellor is Sigmar Gabriel (<- Wikipedia) and not Merkel, and he also is an social democrat, and not a Christian democrat (both parties govern in Germany). Also, if you read the Wikipedia article, then you will find Gabriel has some more opinions that might count as "radical" in the U.S.

But the Vice Chancellor's answer is interesting, and Glenn Greenwald has more:

Afterward, however, when I pressed the vice chancellor (who is also head of the Social Democratic Party, as well as the country’s economy and energy minister) as to why the German government could not and would not offer Snowden asylum — which, under international law, negates the asylee’s status as a fugitive — he told me that the U.S. government had aggressively threatened the Germans that if they did so, they would be “cut off” from all intelligence sharing. That would mean, if the threat were carried out, that the Americans would literally allow the German population to remain vulnerable to a brewing attack discovered by the Americans by withholding that information from their government.

This means - I would infer - that the Americans were willing to let tens of millions of Germans be "vulnerable to a brewing attack discovered by the Americans", simply for offering Edward Snowden asylum. That seems quite crazy to me, morally speaking. [1]

There is more in the article, about Great Britain, and how its High Court was denied documents by the CIA, but this I leave to your interests.

But I do have two more points.

First, here is Glenn Greenwald's conclusion (who does not know whether Sigmar Gabriel told the truth, and neither do I nor most people):

Nonetheless, one of two things is true: 1) the U.S. actually threatened Germany that it would refrain from notifying them of terrorist plots against German citizens and thus deliberately leave them vulnerable to violent attacks, or 2) some combination of high officials from the U.S. and/or German governments are invoking such fictitious threats in order to manipulate and scare the German public into believing that asylum for Snowden will endanger their lives.

Yes, indeed. I also do not know which alternative is true, and I agree neither alternative is moral or good.

Second, speaking for myself, I think Edward Snowden is safer in Russia than he would be in Germany. Of course, I do not know what Snowden really wants. But
it seems to me that the probability that he will get snatched in Germany by the CIA is considerably greater than that he will get snatched in Russia, and the same holds for other European countries (and South-American ones). [2]

2. The New American Order

The next item is an article by Tom Engelhardt, that I found on Truthdig, but that originally appeared on TomDispatch:

This starts as follows:

Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so.

Let me make my case, however minimally, based on five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging: political campaigns and elections; the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and the demobilization of “we the people.”

The article takes 4 pages. I will not even attempt to summarize them here, except by repeating the above "five areas" in which Tom Engelhardt sees "at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging":
  • political campaigns and elections;
  • the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state;
  • the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance;
  • the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and
  • the demobilization of “we the people."
Also, I do mostly agree (though I miss - for one thing - the radical deterioration of the mass media: this is quite important, for if people mostly do not know something they will also do nothing about it - and see item 5).

Having left this effectively to your interests (I think it is interesting) I will quote one bit from the end, after the five areas have been treated by Tom Engelhardt, and split that up in two parts:
In the meantime, let me be as clear as I can be about something that seems murky indeed: this period doesn’t represent a version, no matter how perverse or extreme, of politics as usual; nor is the 2016 campaign an election as usual; nor are we experiencing Washington as usual.  Put together our 1% elections, the privatization of our government, the de-legitimization of Congress and the presidency, as well as the empowerment of the national security state and the U.S. military, and add in the demobilization of the American public (in the name of protecting us from terrorism), and you have something like a new ballgame.
Yes, I agree - and as I said there are other areas (such as the mass media) that also are quite different from what they were 15 or more years ago. Next there is this:

While significant planning has been involved in all of this, there may be no ruling pattern or design.  Much of it may be happening in a purely seat-of-the-pants fashion.  In response, there has been no urge to officially declare that something new is afoot, let alone convene a new constitutional convention.  Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state.

Out of the chaos of this prolonged moment and inside the shell of the old system, a new culture, a new kind of politics, a new kind of governance is being born right before our eyes. Call it what you want. But call it something. Stop pretending it’s not happening.

Actually, while I agree some is "happening in a purely seat-of-the-pants fashion", I do not know whether this has "no ruling pattern or design": for
some of it also seems pretty well orchestrated. [3]

Also, I do have a name for the "
new kind of governance" that "is being born right before our eyes". I quote:

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."
-- American Heritage Dictionary 

I agree we are not quite there yet, but I do see "the merging of state and business leadership", expressed by the facts that (1) there is a revolving door  (since 15 years at the very least!) between the government and - especially but not only - Goldman Sachs, and (2) the fact that the Minister of Justice, Eric Holder, refuses to prosecute the bank managers because their banks "are too big to fail" (which is complete baloney, and especially from a minister of justice).

And I also clearly do see belligerent nationalism in the U.S. As to there being "
a dictatorship of the extreme right": no, not quite or not yet - but see the series that Chris Hedges did with Sheldon Wolin, on inverted totalitarianism, that starts here.

3. The Republican Budget Plan Will Devastate American Families 

The next item is an article by Sen. Bernie Sanders on Truthdig (and originally on Sanders' website):

This is from briefly after the beginning:

As I examine the budget brought forth by the Republicans in the House and here in the Senate, this is how I see their analysis of the problems facing our country.

At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, the Republicans apparently believe that the richest people in America need to be made even richer. It is apparently not good enough that 99 percent of all new income today is going to the top 1 percent. That’s apparently not enough. It is not good enough that the top one-tenth of one percent today own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.  Clearly, in Republican eyes, the wealthy and the powerful need more help. Not only should they not be asked to pay more in taxes, the Republicans believe that we should cut tax rates for millionaires and billionaires.   

It is not good enough that corporate America is enjoying record breaking profits, and that the CEOs of large corporations earn some 290 times more than what their average employees make.

It is apparently not good enough that since 1985 the top one-tenth of 1 percent has seen a more then $8 trillion increase in its wealth than what they would have had if wealth inequality had stayed at the same level that it was in 1985.  An $8 trillion increase in the wealth of the top one-tenth of 1 percent!  Apparently, that is not enough.
(....)
At a time when we have over 45 million Americans living in poverty – more than almost any time in the modern history of this country, my Republican colleagues think we should increase that number by cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit, affordable housing, and Medicaid.  At a time when almost 20 percent of our children live in poverty, by far the highest childhood poverty rate of any major country on earth, my Republican colleagues think that maybe we should raise the childhood poverty rate a bit higher by cutting childcare, Head Start, the Child Tax Credit and nutrition assistance for hungry kids.

Yes, indeed. There is considerably more under the last dotted link.

4. Why We’re Drifting Towards World War 3 

The next item is an article by Washington's Blog on his site:

This is a fairly long article that contains many warnings, from politically quite different persons also, that the West is drifting towards World War 3. Here are a few big investors:

Former Goldman Sachs technical analyst Charles Nenner – who has made some big accurate calls, and counts major hedge funds, banks, brokerage houses, and high net worth individuals as clients – says there will be “a major war”, which will drive the Dow to 5,000.

Veteran investor adviser James Dines forecast a war as epochal as World Wars I and II, starting in the Middle East.

Armstrong wrote pieces recently entitled, “Why We will Go to War with Russia“, and another one saying, “Prepare for World War III“.

There is a lot more under the last dotted link.

5. Joseph Stiglitz on the Trans-Pacific Partnership: "This Is A Big Deal"

The last item today is an article by Alexandros Orpphanides that I found on truth-out:

This starts as follows:
Trade agreements are about more than business—they’re about who has final say in the way people around the world live, what they eat, how much they are paid, what medicines they can buy and whether they have jobs. Such agreements shape economic policies that impact billions of people. The discussions surrounding these agreements are far too important to done in secret. But that’s precisely how the Obama administration is trying to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Yes, precisely. And here is an outline of proponents and critics (with one correction by me):

Proponents of the TPP argue that the agreement will encourage global economic integration, increase US competitiveness in a “dynamic Asia region” and stimulate political reform leading to more “open” markets. All this, they claim, will result in better jobs, wages and products.

Critics of the agreement say it amounts to the promulgation of corporate globalization and neoliberalization and have likened it to “NAFTA on steroids.” In a recent interview in Salon, Noam Chomsky described the TPP’s aims as to “maximize profit and domination and to set the working people of the world in competition with one another, to lower wages and increase insecurity, ... [and] to protect at the same time ... the top wealth sector.”

In spite of its significance, the mainstream media has provided little coverage of the TPP. “It’s one of those issues that is deliberately obscured by its proponents," Dan Cantor, National Director of the Working Families Party, says. "When people get a clear explanation, it's like a lightbulb goes off in their head.”

Well... it is a bit of an aside but the mainstream media do not bring the news anymore but rather present propaganda with bits of selected news, and also - as was said quite correctly in the beginning - the TPP is basically a secret, about which nobody, not even members of Congress (!!), is allowed to say anything informative based on knowledge of the TPP.

Indeed, there is this
:
A fundamental component surrounding the TPP debate is the process by which the Obama administration is trying to have it approved called fast tracking, a procedure for Congressional approval of international trade treaties. Unlike the standard procedure to pass a bill, by which members of Congress debate and deliberate on specific provisions, fast tracking allows Congress to vote “up” or “down” on the trade agreement without making any amendments or opening any of the specific provisions.
(...)
“It’s much worse than a blank check about trade," Stiglitz said, "because the trade agreement has provisions that would affect a whole set of regulations that would affect the environment, worker safety, consumer safety and even the economy." TPP "would not only become the law of the land, but every other law would have to adapt to it ... and our Congress would have given up all authority in those areas.
There is considerably more in the article.
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Notes

[1] And this is so regardless of what you think about Edward Snowden: It simply is immoral to endanger tens of millions simply to try to get one man.

[2] I repeat this is just my assessment, that is mostly based on the fact that Russia is less amenable to CIA operations than almost any other country.

[3] I simply do not know, but I certainly do not exclude "conspiracy theories", and especially not given that there is extremely much money involved.
Also, since there clearly are hidden conspiracies, some conspiracy theories may be right, but yes: the problem with any conspiracy theory is especially finding good evidence. (And if it exists, it is very probably hidden and kept secret.)


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