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Nederlog

April 24, 2015
Crisis: "Counter-terrorists", Petraeus, Mega-Merger fails, Warren, 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















Prev- crisis  -Next

Sections
Introduction

1. Counterterrorism Conference Kicks Out Intercept
     Journalist

2. Gen. Petraeus: Too Big to Jail
3. 
'Spectacularly Good News for Consumers' as
     Comcast/Time-Warner Mega-Merger Fails

4. You Can't Read This
5. TPP Would Destroy State, County and Local Government
     Power


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, April 24, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Ryan Gallagher who explains he got banned from (not admitted to) a big "counter terrorism" conference; item 2 is the latest on (former) general David Petraeus, who got a fine and some probation for doing things others might have gotten several decades in prison for; item 3 is some good news (rare in the crisis series): a mega-merger fails (but they will try again, no doubt); item 4 is about a brief article by Elizabeth Warren on the great dangers of the TPP; and item 5
is also about the TPP, but from Washington's Blog.

1. Counterterrorism Conference Kicks Out Intercept Journalist   

The first item today is an article by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:
LONDON — “We’re not banning you, we’re just not allowing you access,” Mike Oldknow, the security chief, told me Wednesday, when I showed up to attend one of the world’s largest annual counterterrorism events.
Was Mr Oldknow talking a Neo-fascist Newspeak? I don't know, but he did ban Ryan Gallagher while assuring him he was not. What Mr Oldknow (who only implements rules he did not invent) banned (or: "banned" or - at least - "not allowed access to") Ryan Gallagher from is the following:
The event, the Counter Terror Expo, is held in a large conference hall in Kensington (pictured above) on the west side of London. Hundreds of companies and government officials come together there every year to discuss the latest developments in the broad field of national security.
(...)
The event, supported by the U.K. government, regularly attracts big multinational defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics. It is also attended by many smaller, lower-profile companies offering up a variety of controversial covert surveillance tools, biometric technologies, drones and other security equipment.
I say. These - "Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics" - are the corporations that make billions defending the U.S. from "terrorists" by what they themselves seem to agree to is "counter terrorism". (And as I have pointed out several times - see e.g. "On 'The Logic of Moral Discourse'" - our "freedom fighters" are "terrorists" for our opponents, while their "freedom fighters" are our "terrrorists".)

There is more in the article, including a somewhat humorous exchange between Mr. Onslow and Ryan Gallagher, for which you have to click the above dotted link.

This is the ending - and no: Ryan Gallagher was not admitted:

The incident felt symptomatic of the excessive secrecy plaguing the counterterrorism industry, which is worth tens of billions of dollars every year but operates almost entirely in the shadows. The only thing that seems to truly terrorize the industry is the prospect of transparency and public accountability.

Welcomed with open arms are the journalists who write puff pieces about the latest counterterror technology for defense industry magazines. But veer too far from that script, expose the industry to some proper scrutiny, and you can expect to be kicked out the door.

2. Gen. Petraeus: Too Big to Jail

The next item is an article by Ray McGovern on Consortium News:

This starts as follows (and there is more on Petraeus in Nederlogs of 2012, e.g.
on November 18 and 19):

The leniency shown former CIA Director (and retired General) David Petraeus by the Justice Department in sparing him prison time for the serious crimes that he has committed puts him in the same preferential, immune-from-incarceration category as those running the financial institutions of Wall Street, where, incidentally, Petraeus now makes millions. By contrast, “lesser” folks – and particularly the brave men and women who disclose government crimes – get to serve time, even decades, in jail.

What was Petraeus accused of? The following:

“17. During his tenure as Commander of ISAF in Afghanistan, defendant DAVID HOWELL PETRAEUS maintained bound, five-by-eight-inch notebooks that contained his daily schedule and classified and unclassified notes he took during official meetings, conferences, and briefings. … A total of eight such books (hereinafter the “Black Books”) encompassed the period of defendant DAVID HOWELL PETRAEUS’S ISAF [Afghanistan] command and collectively contained classified information regarding the identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions, quotes and deliberative discussions from high-level National Security Council meetings, and defendant DAVID HOWELL PETRAEUS’s discussions with the President of the United States of America. [emphasis added]

“18. The Black Books contained national defense information, including Top Secret//SCI and code word information.”

And he gave these "Black Books" to his mistress Paula Broadwell on August 28, 2011 and retrieved them three days later (giving Broadwell plenty of time to photocopy them, though I do not know whether she did).

And then he lied about this on October 26, 2011, for then he asserted the following to two FBI agents:

"PETRAEUS stated that (a) he had never provided any classified information to his biographer, and (b) he had never facilitated the provision of classified information to his biographer. These statements were false. Defendant DAVID HOWELL PETRAEUS then and there knew that he previously shared the Black Books with his biographer.” [emphasis added]

Some might guess that Petraeus would have to go to jail, but no:

The Justice Department let David Petraeus cop a plea after requiring him to admit that he had shared with his biographer/mistress eight black notebooks containing highly classified information and then lied about it to FBI investigators.

He did get a fine (of $100.000, which is peanuts compared to the money he is making, plus "two years probation", which probably doesn't mean a thing) and that was it. For him.

There is considerably more in the article, that is good. And yes, there are now (at least) two kinds of people in the present United States: ordinary people, to whom the laws are applied; and very rich men and their top servants, to whom the laws are generally not applied, or only very mildly: their corporations are too big to fail, and their leaders - also former ones, like Petraeus - are too big to jail.

3.'Spectacularly Good News for Consumers' as Comcast/Time-Warner Mega-Merger Fails

The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Despite a ferocious lobbying effort to get federal approval for a deal since last year, cable giant Comcast is planning to drop its highly-contested bid to merge with its largest competitor Time-Warner, reports Bloomberg news on Thursday.

According to Bloomberg:

Comcast Corp. is planning to walk away from its proposed $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc., people with knowledge of the matter said, after regulators planned to oppose the deal.

Comcast is planning to make a final decision on its plans Thursday, and an announcement on the deal’s fate may come as soon as Friday, said one of the people, who asked not to be named discussing private information.

This week, U.S. Federal Communications Commission staff joined lawyers at the Justice Department in opposing the planned transaction. FCC officials told the two biggest U.S. cable companies on Wednesday that they are leaning toward concluding the merger doesn’t help consumers, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

Opponents of the merger, including consumer advocates and media watchdogs, immediately welcomed the news.

I say. This is good news. Here is - from several that are quoted - Senator Bernie Sanders:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who stressed his opposition to the deal since it was first announced last year, welcomed what appeared like a defeat for the cable giant.

"The report that Comcast is backing away from its bid to take over Time Warner Cable is good news for American consumers," Sanders said. "The level of media consolidation in America already is unacceptable and it would have been extremely dangerous for one company to control 57 percent of the broadband Internet market, 30 percent of the cable market and dominate 19 of the 20 largest U.S metropolitan areas."

Yes, indeed. But I also should add that this will not be the last attempt to try to arrive at a mega-corporation that controls most of the U.S. internet.

4You Can't Read This

The next item is an article by Elizabeth Warren on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Have you seen what’s in the new TPP trade deal?

Most likely, you haven’t – and don’t bother trying to Google it. The government doesn’t want you to read this massive new trade agreement. It’s top secret.

Why? Here’s the real answer people have given me: “We can’t make this deal public because if the American people saw what was in it, they would be opposed to it.”

If the American people would be opposed to a trade agreement if they saw it, then that agreement should not become the law of the United States.

Let’s send a loud message to our trade officials: No vote on a fast-track for trade agreements until the American people can see what’s in this TPP deal. Sign this petition right now to make the TPP agreement public.

I indeed didn't Google it, and the TPP (<- Wikipedia) is top secret, but I did give "TPP trade deal" to Duckduckgo (which I generally prefer), and it does return quite a few quite interesting results (that I feel rather sure about Google will show as well - and see the last link).

But otherwise Elizabeth Warren is quite right. Here is some more:
For more than two years now, giant corporations have had an enormous amount of access to see the parts of the deal that might affect them and to give their views as negotiations progressed. But the doors stayed locked for the regular people whose jobs are on the line. If most of the trade deal is good for the American economy, but there’s a provision hidden in the fine print that could help multinational corporations ship American jobs overseas or allow for watering down of environmental or labor rules, fast track would mean that Congress couldn’t write an amendment to fix it. It’s all or nothing.

Before we sign on to rush through a deal like that – no amendments, no delays, no ability to block a bad bill – the American people should get to see what’s in it. 

Sherrod Brown has been leading this fight, and he points out that TPP isn’t classified military intelligence – it’s a trade agreement among 12 countries that control 40% of the world’s economy. A trade agreement that affects jobs, environmental regulations, and whether workers around the globe are treated humanely. It might even affect the new financial rules we put in place after the 2008 crisis. This trade agreement doesn’t matter to just the biggest corporations – it matters to all of us.
Indeed it does - and in case you doubt this, you can check out TPP on Wikipedia, which does list some of the criticisms; you can do a web search on the TPP, and very probably will find a reasonable amount about it; or you can check out today's last item:

5. TPP Would Destroy State, County and Local Government Power

The last item today is an article by Washington's Blog on his blog:

This starts as follows:

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would take sovereignty away from the American government … and hand it to a bunch of giant corporations, many of them foreign.

It would also take sovereignty away from state, county and local governments …

The attorney general of the State of New York explains:

[TPP’s sovereignty-stripping provisions are] particularly worrisome to those of us in states, such as New York, with robust laws that protect the public welfare — laws that could be undermined by the TPP and its dispute settlement provision.

To put this in real terms, consider a foreign corporation, located in a country that has signed on to TPP, and which has an investment interest in the Indian Point nuclear power facility in New York’s Westchester County. Under TPP, that corporate investor could seek damages from the United States, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars or more, for actions by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Westchester County Board of Legislators or even the local Village Board that lead to a delay in the relicensing or an increase in the operating costs of the facility.

The very threat of having to face such a suit in the uncharted waters of an international tribunal could have a chilling effect on government policymakers and regulators.

Or consider the work my office has done to enforce the state of New York’s laws against wage theft, predatory lending and consumer fraud. Under TPP, certain foreign targets of enforcement actions, unable to prevail in domestic courts, could take their cases to TPP’s dispute resolution tribunals. Unbound by an established body of law or precedent, the tribunals would be able to simply sidestep domestic courts. And decisions by these tribunals cannot be appealed.

Quite so - and here is the ending of the attorney general's article (not on Washington's Blog):

The beneficiaries here would be a discrete group of multinational business interests that should be entitled to treatment no better and no different than any other plaintiff receives in the trial and appellate courts of this country. The separate and unaccountable system of justice that TPP would create poses a major risk to critical statutes and policy decisions that protect our citizens — and it has no place in a nation committed to equal justice under law.

Precisely. But these are the kind of "laws" that Barack Obama wants to push through Congress without them being read, discussed or amended...

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