who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. Nearly Two Years After Snowden, Congress Poised to Do
Something — Just
2. Sen. Bernie Sanders Gears Up
to Launch 2016
Top Court Gives Julian Assange the Chance to
Appeal Arrest Order
4. Opposition Amassing to 'Outdated and
5. The 23 Count Indictment
of the TPP
This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, April 29,
is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links:
Item 1 is about the three proposed bills
about the NSA that are before Congress (and I cite some of
Frank Church); item 2 is about the Good News that
Bernie Sanders decided to run in the presidential primaries (as a
Democrat); item 3 is about a decision by Sweden's
Supreme Court to allow Assange to appeal
against his arrest order; item 4 is about a letter
by over 2000 civil society groups to Congress that pleads to stop fast
tracking the TPP; and item 5 is a list of 23
arguments why the TPP should not be accepted, plus a sixth dotted link
to a very good argument about the TPP
and TPIP by Yves Smith.
Two Years After Snowden, Congress Poised to Do
Something — Just
item today is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
I say. It seems to me
that this compromise bill will simply allow the NSA to continue
as it has done since 2007 (and before, but around 2007 they really
started collecting everyone's private information), with extremely
little real difference. And the supposedly
Members of Congress
appear ready to use a rare moment of leverage over the NSA to place
modest limits on only one of the many mass surveillance programs
exposed by Edward Snowden.
Freedom Act of 2015, a long-awaited compromise bill negotiated by
House and Senate Judiciary Committee members, was unveiled Tuesday. The
bill calls for the bulk
collection of Americans’ phone records by the National Security Agency to be replaced with a
more selective approach in which the agency would collect from
communications companies only records that match certain terms. The
bill also requires more disclosure — and a public advocate — for the
secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
But nearly two years
after Snowden gave the public a rare and extensive view into the U.S.
surveillance state, Congress is doing nothing to limit NSA programs
ostensibly targeted at foreigners that nonetheless collect vast amounts
of American communications, nor to limit the agency’s mass surveillance
of non-American communications. The limited reforms in the new bill
affect only the one program explicitly aimed at Americans.
"more selective approach in which the
agency would collect from communications companies only records that
match certain terms"
Fourth Amendment to the American Constitution:
right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place
to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
For the terms are not
specified; the NSA has no proper oversight; and "records that
match "certain terms"" merely affirms that the Fourth Amendment's
security "against unreasonable searches and seizures" is totally
gone: You have no privacy, and anything you do or say on the internet
will be recorded and stored.
Amendment to the US Constitution
Here are the other two proposed bills:
The new bill is
also expected to garner considerably more support than two outlier
proposals. One, by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, would renew
the PATRIOT Act as is. Another, sponsored by Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc.,
and Thomas Massie, R-Ky., is called the Surveillance
State Repeal Act and would completely repeal both the PATRIOT Act
and the FISA Amendments Act, which the NSA cites as legal authority for
the “Prism” and “upstream” programs that “incidentally” collect untold
amounts of domestic content. A
group of whistleblowers endorsed that bill yesterday.
I wrote about the
Surveillance State Repeal Act yesterday,
and I agreed with the whistleblowers. It also seems the only
bill that is morally decent and respects the Fourth Amendment.
As to the - sickeningly styled - "USA
Freedom Act of 2015":
The new bill has
the political virtue of splitting the differences between Republican
and Democratic elites, even as it leaves out in the cold a nascent
alliance of libertarian-leading Republicans, anti-surveillance liberals
and privacy activists who wanted more. It accepts — without any public
evidence — the claim that the intelligentce community needs access to
domestic phone records. Judiciary committee members were quoted in the Washington
Post saying the bill “would ensure the NSA maintains an
ability to obtain the data it needs to detect terrorist plots.”
This is not a
"Freedom Act", but a somewhat disguised slavery act:
A state in which the secret services of the state "needs access to domestic phone records" on the incredible scale this
has been happening since 2007 - everyone is treated as a criminal who has no
right to any privacy - is not a democracy but is an authoritarian
Besides, there are no limits of any kind on spying on anyone
who is not American, which incidentally also means that the NSA
will continue to spy on every American, but indirectly,
namely simply by letting the GCHQ do most of its American
spying while the NSA does nearly all the English spying, and
then they swap data, "and no law of any kind has been broken, for our
secret services did not spy on our inhabitants".
I suppose that will be the immediate future: more
spying on everyone, which happens also not "to detect terrorist plots” (the NSA did not
detect any terrorist plot) but to find and then repress anyone
with ideas and values that the government of the U.S. does not like, as
Church (<- Wikipedia) warned in 1975 (quoted from Wikipedia):
Now, that is
necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at
enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that
capability at any time could be turned around on the American people,
and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to
monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't
matter. There would be no place to hide.
It has happened:
the U.S. has crossed the bridge, and these the days the
capacities for making a total tyranny are far worse and far
more powerful than Church could foresee in 1975, and are turned
against "the American people" by
If this government ever
became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the
technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the
government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be
no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine
together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it
was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the
capability of this technology.
I don't want to see this
country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to
make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency
and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law
and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss.
That is the abyss from which there is no return.
their governments, quite on purpose, to guarantee that governing elite
and the financial elite rule supreme and forever.
2. Sen. Bernie Sanders Gears Up to Launch 2016
item is an article by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig:
This starts as
It’s on, as of
Thursday: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is slated to announce that he’s
throwing in to join the roster of candidates for the 2016 election.
He’ll be running as a Democrat.
Excellent - for
Bernie Sanders is one of the few senators who talk and write sense. The
article also quotes the Washington Post as follows:
Sanders shares many of
the same political stances as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a
darling of liberals who has repeatedly said she is not running for
president. That means Sanders may end up serving as the most prominent
voice for the left wing of the party — particularly voters who are
suspicious of Clinton and her close ties to Wall Street.
Sanders’s backers said
they hope he can serve as a proxy for Warren’s disappointed drafters,
helping to animate small-dollar Democratic donors with his brash
persona and speeches condemning the “billionaire class.”
[...] Sanders chose to
run in the Democratic primary due to his interest in participating in
the party’s primary debates, according to confidants. If he ran as an
independent, he would not be able to engage with the national
Democratic infrastructure or act as a direct foil to Clinton in the
early primaries and caucuses.
Yes, indeed. And I
think he acted wisely when he chose to run in the Democratic primary,
were it only because that way he can confront Hillary Clinton directly.
Senator Sanders may
not win the primary nor the presidency (which I think would be a major
pity, but I am a realist) but at least he is the first
candidate I can believe in - and he may make considerable
problems for Hillary Clinton, who is simply one of the banks' many
presidential candidates at present.
Top Court Gives Julian Assange the Chance to Appeal Arrest Order
item is another article by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
This sounds at least a
bit odd in two respects: First, Assange is described as a "WikiLeaks figure", and second it is stated that it is unclear whether
this "represents a shift in Assange's fortunes".
Sweden’s Supreme Court
has given WikiLeaks figure Julian Assange the green light to appeal
allegations of sexual assault stemming from two incidents that
allegedly took place in the town of Enköping and in Stockholm in
The claims, about which
Assange has maintained his innocence, introduced the potential threat
of extradition to Sweden and the U.S. that compelled him to seek asylum
in Ecuador’s embassy in London nearly three years ago. Whether or not
this latest development represents a shift in Assange’s fortunes
remains to be seen.
For clearly, whether one likes Assange or not, he is not merely
"a "WikiLeaks figure""
and also, while I agree that the case is far from finished,
this is at least a small gain for Assange.
Here is a quotation from Al Jazeera America in the article:
As I said, the case
Even if Sweden drops the
investigation, he faces arrest by British police for jumping bail
granted while the British courts considered the European arrest warrant
issued by Sweden.
“The Supreme Court grants
leave to appeal in the matter regarding the arrest,” the court said in
statement, which provided no date for when the appeal will be heard.
4. Opposition Amassing to 'Outdated and
The next item is an article
by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Yes. In case you think
that saying that Obama's many deceptions about the TPP are "simply inappropriate" is simply inappropriate , read
on: Here is a quotation of the joint letter:
With dissent fermenting
on both sides of the political aisle, more than 2,000 civil society
groups are urging Congress to reject Fast Track trade authority,
warning that the legislation would pave the way for approval of the
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the 12-nation proposal they say
"replicates and expands on the most damaging provisions of past U.S.
letter (pdf), signed by 2,009 labor, environmental, family farm,
consumer, faith, Internet freedom, and other groups, describes Fast
Track authority—which would empower President Barack Obama to negotiate
trade deals that could not be amended or filibustered in Congress—as
"simply inappropriate given the scope of the pending agreements."
After decades of
massive trade deficits, devastating job loss, downward pressure on
Americans' wages, attacks on environmental and health laws and floods
of unsafe imported food under our past trade agreements, America must
chart a new course on trade policy. To accomplish this, a new form of
trade authority is needed that ensures that Congress and the public
play a much more meaningful role in determining the contents of U.S.
Fast Track is an
abrogation of not only Congress' constitutional authority, but of its
responsibility to the American people.
Indeed. The article also
says some Republican may vote "no" to the bill, and adds that Democrats
are more divided. There is also this:
The AFL-CIO, for
example, on Tuesday indicated
that how candidates position themselves on Fast Track and the TPP will
serve as a litmus test for the 2016 elections.
Here is a
quote from the President of the United States:
As Ben Wikler, Washington
director for MoveOn.org, said in a press
release (pdf) Monday, "This is a basic, threshold question for
Democrats: Will they stand with Elizabeth Warren and the public? Or
will they vote against the people that, at least in the past, elected
them to office?"
I think it is
entirely appropriate for folks to have strong views, and trade deals
have always been controversial. It's part of, you know, American
politics. And so I don’t mind people saying, you know what, we’re
not getting enough of this or we’re not getting enough of that, I'd
like to see more of this, I'd like to see less of that. And I've met
with all of the opponents and my team has met with all the opponents,
and I'm willing to continue to engage and debate, and there will be a
broad, open debate about this issue. But when people start suggesting
that these are secret deals, that there’s some hidden agenda, I have to
remind them of who I am and what I've been doing for the last six and a
half years and—and ask them maybe to—to keep things a little bit in
I say?! These secret
trade deals, that you yourself elevated to "national security" status,
are not secret?! He has "met with all of the opponents"?! And "there will be a broad, open debate about this
issue"?! With 8 minutes
maximal per member, and no amendments possible at all?! My goodness!!
What a liar is the president of the U.S.!
You disagree? You may, but do read the next item:
5. The 23 Count Indictment of the TPP
item today is an article by Joe Firestone (a Ph.D. in political
science, who taught political science to graduates and undergraduates)
on Naked Capitalism:
This is a fine piece
listing 23 reasons to vote against the TPP. 22 out of 23 each end with "it would still be sufficient to vote to kill
it!" I will leave the 23
reasons to your interests, but here is part of the Conclusion:
The governing functions
of the TPP regime would not be exercised with the consent of the
governed. The combination of the vague definition of “investment,” the
ISDS criminogenic tribunals, and the elevation of the principle of
“expectation of profits” above the principles of “public purpose,”
“consent of the governed,” and “separation of powers,” is tantamount to
the overthrow of democracy, preserving its form in national level
elections, but emptying its elections of meaningful content in
mandating change and conferring legitimacy on national authorities.
And, further, the ISDS
tribunals if in operation, would not exercise just powers, but only
illegitimate power derived from the TPP agreement itself, negotiated in
secret, passed without benefit of open debate based on the secret text
of the TPP, and intended to remain secret for years after the TPP is
signed. That makes TPP decision making, performed without the consent
of the governed, tyranny, and makes those who want to pass the TPP
guilty of conspiracy to create tyrannical rule of the few over the
people of the United States and other TPP member nations.
Right now, those who want
to pass Fast Track Authority and the TPP, in the face of the 23
reasons, recorded in the 23 stanzas, for killing these things, any one
of which is reason enough to vote to kill them, apparently number the
President of the United States, most of the corporate media, a majority
of the Senate, though perhaps not a majority of its Democratic members,
a large number of Representatives in the House, mostly Republican, but
including some Democrats, who may or may not reach a majority of the
House with the help of a full court press corporate and
billionaire-funded media campaign that we will see intensify in the
coming days and weeks. So, these are the forces arrayed against
democracy and for tyranny. These are the forces in back of the attempt
of the elite to engineer a bloodless coup, that they hope will replace
national popular sovereignty with globalizing corporate rule.
I agree, also with
the last paragraph, that ends thus:
So, these are the forces
arrayed against democracy and for tyranny. These are the forces in back
of the attempt of the elite to engineer a bloodless coup, that they
hope will replace national popular sovereignty with globalizing
The reason to quote
it again is that it seems more likely than not - to me, at least - that "the forces arrayed against democracy and for tyranny" will win. This is a most
unwelcome conclusion (for me, at least) but it is realistic -
and no, I do not counsel giving up: one has to continue
to fight against tyranny and fascism, also if they have most of the
power and most of the money (and much of the government, most of
Congress, and most of the press and TV on their side).
To end today's
Nederlog, here is another link to a very good article on Naked Capitalism about the TPP and the
TTIP. This is by Yves Smith, and is from March 2, last, when I missed
This is a rather long
but very good article, from which I will just quote one bit
by Elizabeth Warren, who explains one of her criticisms of the TPP and
TTIP (and the ISDS are the mostly secret corporate "courts"
so very, very much):
ISDS would allow foreign
companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge
payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court.
Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic
chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and
environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic
chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a
U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and
go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won,
the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration
panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even
billions — of dollars in damages.
If that seems shocking,
buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it
wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate
lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one
day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an
arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between
corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or
attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule
against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?
If the tilt toward giant
corporations wasn’t clear enough, consider who would get to use this
special court: only international investors, which are, by and large,
big corporations. So if a Vietnamese company with U.S. operations
wanted to challenge an increase in the U.S. minimum wage, it could use
ISDS. But if an American labor union believed Vietnam was allowing
Vietnamese companies to pay slave wages in violation of trade
commitments, the union would have to make its case in the Vietnamese
These words may be
compared to the lies of Obama (see here). And
article is much recommended.
 Namely because those
who have nothing to say because they are flat out wrong of flat out
stupid usually do manage to blurt out that any opposition to
their ideas is "simply inappropriate" (after which they refuse
to argue and want to switch the topic of conversation: you are