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Nederlog

June 17, 2015
Crisis: American Elections, Sanders, TPP & Constitution, Multinationals, TPP again
  "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.
America’s Electoral Farce
2.
Many Are Shocked by the Size of the Crowds Bernie
     Sanders Is Drawing

3. Gaius Publius: ISDS Provisions in TPP Violate Article III of
     the U.S. Constitution
 
4.
Capitalism and the TPP: A Kinder, Gentler Totalitarianism
5. Warning to US Readers: 2nd TPP Sneak Attack Coming
     This Tuesday!



This is a Nederlog of Wednesday June 17, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article of Chris Hedges that I mostly disagree with; item 2 is about Bernie Sanders, who drew quite a lot of people; item 3 is an article that makes it
plausible that the TPP violates the U.S. Constitution; item 4 is about the kind
of world the multinational corporations are trying to impose on everyone; and
item 5 is a warning that there may be another attempt to fast track the TPP coming Tuesday.

1. America’s Electoral Farce
The first item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

I intend to devote no more time to the upcoming presidential elections than walking to my local polling station on Election Day, voting for a third-party candidate, most likely the Green Party candidate, and going home. Any further energy invested in these elections, including championing Bernie Sanders’ ill-advised decision to validate the Democratic Party by becoming one of its presidential candidates, is a waste of time.

I say. That seems to me quite senseless. First, voting for the Green Party will make no difference to its candidate not being elected. You may not like this - I don't, and although I don't know how much I would agree with them, I do think there are considerably fewer political parties in the U.S. than there should be, for a really living democracy - but those are the facts. Second, I think it utter nonsense not to vote for Bernie Sanders because he is running as a Democrat: The issue is not about validating or not validating the Democratic Party; the issue is what he proposes to do if he were elected.

Here is part of the next paragraph:

Every action we take now must be directed at ripping down the structures of the corporate state. This means refusing to co-operate. It means joining or building radical mass movements. (...) It means, in large and small ways, acts of open rebellion. It means always having as the primary objective the disrupting and overthrowing of corporate power. It means not playing the game. 

Well...yes and no. I agree with Chris Hedges that the corporate state is a great evil.

But "Every action we take now must etc."? And "
acts of open rebellion"?
And "
not playing the game"?

The first phrase is an obvious exaggeration; the second phrase implicitly denies that hidden rebellion, at least now, may be more productive (especially in "
building radical mass movements"); while the third phrase does not discuss
that those called on probably have two or three jobs or large debts, and also
does not discuss the chances that they will be successful, which I think are prettty small. [1]

Then there is this about Bernie Sanders:

The voices of those who matter will not be heard in these elections. (...)  We are assured that we live in a functioning democracy. We are promised that our voice will count. And even Sanders will tell you no different. If he stepped forward and spoke the truth, especially about the Democratic Party, he would be banned from the debates, vilified and crushed by the Democratic establishment, stripped of his Senate committee chairmanships and tossed into the political wilderness to which Ralph Nader has been exiled. Sanders, unfortunately, lacks Nader’s moral fortitude. He will, when it is all done, push his followers into the vampire-like embrace of Hillary Clinton. He is a Pied Piper leading a line of children or rats—take your pick—into political oblivion. 
It so happens that I like both Sanders and Nader.

Clearly, Sanders is much more political than Nader, which means that he probably is not as honest as Nader is, but then Sanders is a senator since a long time; is active in American politics on a high level (as a senator); and is not "exiled" "
into the political wilderness". [2]

Also, while Chris Hedges is free not to vote and free to vote on a candidate he and I know will never win the presidency, I don't think it is fair to describe Sanders as "
a Pied Piper leading a line of children or rats—take your pick—into political oblivion":

Sanders believes he makes a chance to become president, and he tries hard. He very well may loose, and in that case he probably will support the Democratic candidate who wins, but what else should he do? Support the Republican candidate?

And no: Bernie Sanders may fail to become the Democratic presidential candidate, and if he wins that, then he may fail to become the president, but he is not leading people "into a political oblivion": Nearly every ordinary voter is in
a political oblivion, quite regardless of Sanders, simply because he or she is not really heard by nearly all politicians.

I will select some more, but most selections will be texts that Chris Hedges quotes from others. First, there is this:

Curtis White in “The Middle Mind” argued that most Americans are on some level aware of the brutality and injustice used to maintain the grotesque excesses of their consumer society and the heartlessness of empire. White posited that most Americans do not care. They do not want to see what is done in their name. And the systems of mass media cater to this desire for ignorance.
I agree with White, although "not caring" is a complicated process made up
of desiring not to see, know or investigate;
desiring not to make moral choices (but instead financial one, where one always looses least or wins most); desiring a carefully protected ignorance about many questionable things and actions; and much looking away, while also most voters are neither well educated, nor have they been trained to think rationally, and besides, very many simply do not know many things they should have known, and are anyway not really intelligent.

Next, there is this by Chris Hedges:
The replacement of history with myth, the use of mass surveillance and the Espionage Act to shut down any investigation into the centers of power, the collapse of journalism, the deformation of education into a vocational program for the corporate state, along with mindless forms of entertainment and spectacle, create obedient subjects that demand their own enslavement.
Yes indeed - but then you want these great masses of "obedient subjects" to rebel in "every" act they do?! That doesn't sound very coherent.

Then there is this quotation:
“To be a man of the modern West,” Pfaff wrote, “is to belong to a culture of incomparable originality and power; it is also to be implicated in incomparable crimes.”
No, I disagree. I do "belong to a culture of incomparable originality and power", though not all originality is good, and much of the power is abused, but I firmly
reject that I or my family - parents and grandparents - is "
implicated in incomparable crimes": They were all born poor; they were all pretty intelligent,
and they all protested against capitalism, exploitation and unfairness, and they
also were all punished severely (my father survived 3 years and 9 months as a
political prisoner in a German concentration camp, where his father, also a political prisoner, was murdered).

Finally, there is this quotation from Camus:

“The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding,” wrote Albert Camus in “The Plague.” “On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however, isn’t the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.”
Hm. There are at least five other major powers for evil: stupidity, egoism, indifference (negligence), dishonesty and unfairness.

But then again, while I think Camus was less mistaken than Sartre, I don't think he is very interesting, and besides:
evil - whatever that is, precisely - does certainly not "always come of ignorance", for quite a lot of evil is done quite intentionally, for personal profit or advancement, while evil is also, at least here, not defined by Camus.

I think the capacity of doing or suffering
evil has a lot to do with the human capacity for being harmed or hurt, and to suffer pain, starvation or persecution, but what was and was not considered evil also has varied a lot (and many define it in political or religious terms).

Anyway... I still like Chris Hedges, but I certainly don't agree with this article.

2. Many Are Shocked by the Size of the Crowds Bernie Sanders Is Drawing  

The next item is an article by Michael Arria on AlterNet:
This is a brief article, and it is mainly here because I like Sanders (without agreeing on everything with him, which is not necessary to like a person) and
because of the previous article. It begins thus:

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has drawn huge crowds recently. He packed Drake University's auditorium, drew 1,000 people in New Hampshire, and the attendance was estimated at 5,000 at a stop in Minnesota.

Sanders has indicated that the numbers have surprised him. He told NPR that he's, "Stunned. Stunned. I mean I had to fight my way to get into the room. Standing room only. Minneapolis was literally beyond belief."

I say - and I do so because of two major differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders: Clinton is very well known, much more so than Sanders, who also has been mostly kept out of being admitted to the mass media, and Clinton has lots of money, while Sanders has little money.

And while it is true that Clinton scored 44% in a New Hampshire poll, which she won, it is also true that Sanders was second and scored 32%. And there still is
a year to go to the presidential elections.

3. Gaius Publius: ISDS Provisions in TPP Violate Article III of the U.S. Constitution

The next item is an article by Gaius Publius that I found on Naked Capitalism, but that originated on Down With Tyranny:

This starts as follows:

There’s a growing recognition within the legal community that the ISDS provisions of treaties like NAFTA, TPP, many trade agreements already signed and almost all agreements going forward … may well be unconstitutional. That is, they violate protections offered to citizens by important articles of the Constitution — for example, Article III, which establishes the judicial branch of the U.S. government, assigns its powers and establishes the right of trial by jury (my emphasis, obviously):

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;—to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;—to Controversies between two or more States;—between a State and Citizens of another State;—between Citizens of different States;—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

(...)

Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

I recommend taking a moment to read the above. It’s from our founding document, and it’s pretty clear.

In fact, I cut out a paragraph (indicated by (...)) but I agree with the argument. That argument is presented in considerable detail in the article, which I leave to your interests, except for one quote, which is by a rather prominent constitutional
lawyer, Alan Morrison (and the bolding is by Gaius Publius):

None of these [previously discussed court] decisions resolves the constitutionality of the TPP ISDS arbitration procedures, but their collective reasoning falls heavily on the side of unconstitutionality, based on four factors that apply to the TPP tribunals: (1) they deal with questions of law, that judges normally decide, not questions of fact, that could go to juries or arbitrators; (2) the arbitrators are not federal officers, construing and applying federal law, but are private parties, none of whom has to be an American citizen; (3) the consent of the United States is general and not case specific and, where the challenge is to a state or local law, the state or locality never consents at all, but had the decision to arbitrate mandated by Congress, thereby raising federalism concerns; and (4) there is no judicial review of the merits of what the arbitrators decide, especially whether the TPP had been violated at all.

That seems to me a valid argument. There is a lot more in the article, which is recommended.

4. Capitalism and the TPP: A Kinder, Gentler Totalitarianism

The next item is by Dennis Weiser on Truth-Out:

This is from near the beginning:

(...) consider two questions:

1. How can any campaign finance reform possibly be effective until we dismantle all multinational corporations, perform the gene-splicing that will permanently remove the tendency toward monopoly and contamination from the organizational DNA inherent in all organized commerce?

2. How can we expect to dismantle all multinational corporations unless we get all electronic media advertising (especially cable and network television, radio and print media) money out of political campaigning?

The answer to both questions is the same: We can't. The Corporate Advertising-Marketing-&-Lobbying Fog Machine has bamboozled the American people into misguidedly blaming government alone for our problems instead of recognizing the complete fusion of corporate power and government decision- making (this, by the way, is the definition of fascism according to Benito Mussolini, who presumably knew what fascism was). Corporate strategy now dominates our government and dictates all government policy.

Yes, I mostly disagree - and I note that this seems to be the third American who applies the same definition of "fascism" as Mussolini and I did, already in 2012. One of the other two is Ray McGovern, which I liked, but I am also aware that
this diagnosis is not very popular, which seems to be mostly due to some of the
felt properties of the term "fascism", even though there is now - after 35 years of work by the American conservatives, and incredible amounts of deregulation - a (nearly) "
complete fusion of corporate power and government decision-making".

Should one rather use "corporatism"? Simply because "fascism" is for most people a very negative term? And how about surveillance of everyone in order that a very few - completely anonymous government employees, or equally anonymous employees of a few big corporations - may know absolutely everything about you?

I'll leave those questions to you. The rest of the article is a decent outline of some of the lies of the multinational corporations that I will leave to your interests.

But I will quote two more bits of it. The first is a quotation of Mark Weisbrot:
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a very special trade agreement. It is so special that our government officials who are negotiating it want to keep it completely secret from us. It's like a special Christmas present so they want it to be a surprise! And to make sure it's a surprise, they won't even let a single member of Congress see what they are negotiating. However, hundreds of corporations have been given access to the draft text.

That is mostly correct, except that a few members of Congress - less than 10 according to Robert Reich - have tried to read some of it (but they are not allowed to take notes, and are not allowed to discuss what they read with others).

And the article ends as follows:

Clearly, if we want to change this imbalance between the opulent clout of corporate advertising and lobbying "dark money" and the sheep-like impotence of the American people, ordinary citizens will have to organize themselves in local communities all across the country and mobilize to dismantle all multinational corporations, which are preying on the people and rapidly demolishing every trace of public good.

This seems to me mostly wishful thinking: Given "the sheep-like impotence of the American people" it seems there will be few "ordinary citizens" who are willing to organize themselves, while dismantling "all multinational corporations" requires something like a major revolution first.

It seems more realistic to say that many more ordinary citizens should organize,
and that they should organize to realize some positive ends they agree on, such as "Money Out Of Politics", "A Higher Minimal Wage", or "Much Cheaper And Much Better Education".

5. Warning to US Readers: 2nd TPP Sneak Attack Coming This Tuesday!

The last item for today is an article by Don Quijones on Raging Bull-Shit:
This starts as follows:

The global corporatocracy’s final pus(c)h to ram the TPP, TTIP and TiSA into existence is far from over. It looks like its agents (including many of your elected representatives) are going to try to pass a new bill this Tuesday, less than a week after the U.S. Congress refused to grant the White House fast track authotity, warns U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions:

It appears there will be another attempt by Tuesday to force through new executive powers for President Obama. A vote for TAA next week is a vote to send fast-track to the President’s desk and to grant him these broad new executive authorities. If that happens, it will empower the President to form a Pacific Union encompassing 40 percent of the world’s economy and 12 nations—each with one equal vote. Once the union is formed, foreign bureaucrats will be required to meet regularly to write the Commission’s rules, regulations, and directives—impacting Americans’ jobs, wages, and sovereignty.
There is more in the article, that is recommended.

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Notes

[1] Chris Hedges also does not mention nor discuss the eventual punishments imposed on people who engage in "acts of open rebellion" or "not playing the game".

[2] Clearly, I trust Sanders (more than not) and perhaps I should also say that the politics he does is probably beyond me, for - as I have seen in several videos - he is forced to listen to lots of fools and liars, and to treat them politely.

I could do that for some time, but probably not year after year after year.

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