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Nederlog

October 8, 2015
Crisis: Hospital *2, VW's fraud, Cameron's lies, Clinton's lies, TTIP Opposition
 "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. 
Why Is the U.S. Refusing an Independent Investigation If
     Its Hospital Airstrike Was an “Accident”?

2. Head of VW in US will tell Congress he knew of emissions
     rigging in early 2014

3. Cameron isn’t colonising the centre. That’s fraudulent
     spin

4. Flipping on TPP, Hillary Clinton Proves Chameleon-Like on
     Corporate Trade

5. Enough. Even War Has Rules.
6. Millions Voice Opposition to 'Corporate Power Grab' Trade
     Deals


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, October 8, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald on the US bombing of a hospital in Afghanistan; item 2 is about the head of VW in the US who admitted he knew something 1 1/2 years ago; item 3 is about Cameron's totally false pretension to speak for a center, while he is very rightwing; item 4 is about Hilary Clinton's lie that now she is opposed to the TPP (until elected, just as Obama did); item 5 is by the head of Doctors Without Borders whose hospital was bombed by the US: she wants an independent investigation and is quite right; and item 6 is about no less than 3 million European signatures agains the TTIP, which is a bit of Good News.

1. Why Is the U.S. Refusing an Independent Investigation If Its Hospital Airstrike Was an “Accident”?

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

This starts as follows:
In Geneva this morning, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) demanded a formal, independent investigation into the U.S. airstrike on its hospital in Kunduz. The group’s international president, Dr. Joanne Liu (...), specified that the inquiry should be convened pursuant to war crime-investigating procedures established by the Geneva Conventions and conducted by The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission. “Even war has rules,” Liu said. “This was just not an attack on our hospital. It was an attack on the Geneva Conventions. This cannot be tolerated.”
Yes, indeed: Quite so - and see item 5. Then there is this:
Liu emphasized that the need for an “independent, impartial investigation is now particularly compelling given what she called “the inconsistency in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened over the recent days.” On Monday, we documented the multiple conflicting accounts offered in the first three days by the U.S. military and its media allies, but the story continued to change even further after that. As The Guardian’s headline yesterday noted, the U.S. admission that its own personnel called in the airstrike — not Afghan forces as it claimed the day before — meant that “U.S. alters story for fourth time in four days.” All of this led Liu to state the obvious today: “We cannot rely on internal military investigations by the U.S., NATO and Afghan forces.”
Precisely: “U.S. alters story for fourth time in four days” is quite correct. Also, completely apart from that: The US did the bombing and is a definite party to what seems a war crime. Therefore, the investigations by the U.S. - whether military or otherwise - cannot be relied upon, just as the word of a murderer in court cannot be relied upon.
An independent, impartial investigation into what happened here should be something everyone can immediately agree is necessary. But at its daily press briefing on Monday, the U.S. State Department, through its spokesperson Mark Toner, insisted that no such independent investigation was needed on the ground that the U.S. government is already investigating itself and everyone knows how trustworthy and reliable this process is:
Yes, of course: "An independent, impartial investigation into what happened here should be something everyone can immediately agree is necessary." But not according to US professional liar Mark Toner, who insists that the murderers themselves or their professional colleagues are quite capable of proving their innocence, and anybody else should stay out.

The interview with this professional liar is quite amazing, and follows in the original, but I leave that to your interests.

Here is Glenn Greenwald's conclusion:

But they are not apparently so certain that they desire an independent, impartial investigation into what actually happened here. The facially ludicrous announcement by the State Department that the Pentagon will investigate itself produced almost no domestic outrage. A religious-like belief in American exceptionalism and tribal superiority is potent indeed, and easily overrides evidence or facts. It blissfully renders the need for investigations obsolete. In their minds, knowing that it was Americans who did this suffices to know what happened, at least on the level of motive: It could not possibly be the case that there was any intentionality here at all. As McCain said, it’s only the Bad People — not Americans — who do such things deliberately.
Yes, indeed - which means that very stupid and totally false propaganda "blissfully renders the need for" independent, objective, impartial investigations obsolete", all because the Americans insist they are "exceptional" and beyond reproach.

2. Head of VW in US will tell Congress he knew of emissions rigging in early 2014

The next article today is by Jana Kasperkevic on The Guardian:
To start with, this item is in the crisis series mainly because (1) this is an enormous fraud with considerable consequences for the climate, and (2) I think it is fairly obvious this enormous fraud was initiated by the top of Volkswagen, and not by some lowly engineers, as Volkswagen itself has claimed.

And yes, the Volkswagen top (in the US) did know, for the article starts thus:
Michael Horn, president and CEO of Volkswagen (VW) Group of America, will confirm he knew of the company’s emission rigging issues as early as spring 2014, according to a statement released ahead of a congressional inquiry on Thursday.

In prepared remarks before what looks set to be an intense public hearing, Horn will apologize once again for VW’s use of software to “defeat the regular emissions testing regime”.

“In the spring of 2014 … I was told that there was a possible emissions non-compliance that could be remedied,” he will tell the House committee on energy and commerce before questioning begins.

“I was informed that EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] regulations included various penalties for non-compliance with the emissions standards and that the agencies can conduct engineering tests which could include ‘defeat device’ testing or analysis. I was also informed that the company engineers would work with the agencies to resolve the issue.”

Note that I cannot take Horn's statements - e.g. "there was a possible emissions non-compliance that could be remedied" - as literal or accurate, but it is interesting that he thinks he cannot wriggle out by claiming he didn't know anything, and it is all the work of some lowly engineers (which is the story of the German top of Volkswagern, so far).

Here is some more, that does seem factually correct:

VW use of emission-rigging software came to light on 18 September when the EPA ordered the company to recall almost 500,000 US cars fitted with the software. According to the EPA, since 2008, the software allowed the cars to cheat emissions tests while producing up to 40 times more pollution than allowed.

The scandal was first discovered in spring 2014 by John German, an automotive engineer who checked the car’s emissions on real roads instead of in the lab. German told the Guardian that he provided VW with a copy of his findings.

For these seem to be the facts: Volkswagen put software in its cars that falsify tests, and that its tests produced faulty outcomes was also known by the spring of 2014, that is 1 1/2 years ago.

Here is a non-Volkswagen statement on what Volkswagen did:

“VW manufactured and installed software in the electronic control module of these vehicles that sensed when the vehicle was being tested for compliance with EPA emissions standards,” Christopher Grundler, director of the EPA’s office of transportation and air quality, will testify on Thursday according to his prepared remarks. “Put simply, these cars contain software that turns off or significantly reduces the effectiveness of emissions controls when driving normally, and turns them on when the car is undergoing an emissions test.”
More to follow, undoubtedly.

3. Cameron isn’t colonising the centre. That’s fraudulent spin

The next article today is by Seumas Milne on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Where once Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson were the sultans of spin, David Cameron and George Osborne have now seized their crowns. At the Conservative conference in Manchester – a city that boasts not a single Tory MP or councillor – the prime minister and chancellor spun themselves into the political stratosphere.

This is a world of positioning and posturing unbound. Liberated from the Liberal Democrats, the Tories have reinvented themselves as “progressives” and champions of “working people”, crusaders for “social justice” against the “scourge of poverty”. In their most surreal flights of fancy, they even boast of being what until last month no Labour leader for a generation would have dreamed of claiming to be: the “workers’ party”. Their media retinue are dazzled by the cleverness of it all. Imagine, posing as your opponents, who could have ever imagined such a thing?

I agree with Seumas Milne:

Put on one side for a moment where this fabled centre ground is in fact to be found. In media and political class orthodoxy, it’s located somewhere between the main parties, anchored in an elite conception of regulated capitalism and social liberalism. If it were judged by the mid-point of public opinion, on the other hand, it would include support for public ownership and high taxes on the rich, as well as tougher immigration controls.

This means - I think - that the "media and political class orthodoxy" are both - quite intentionally, also - wholly false and quite misleading. And while it is
obvious that all political parties lie, are biased and partial, the fargoing complicity of most of the mainstream media is new and quite frightening.

This is the playbook pioneered by Tony Blair, whom Cameron and Osborne revere. The difference is that when Blair and Gordon Brown promised light-touch regulation and low taxes on the rich, they meant it, and stuck to it. But when Cameron and Osborne wax lyrical about protecting working people, it’s strictly for the cameras.

I did not know this, but it does at least seem quite plausible that Tony Blair is revered by Cameron and Osborne: He showed how far lying, misleading, and posturing can bring political liars and posturers like Blair, who always was a Tory-lite and never a socialist or a credible leftist.

Besides, as regards "the honesty" of Blair and Brown: They were - more or less - honest about their Tory-lite plans to further enrich the rich. But Seumas Milne is quite right that all Tory posturing about helping "the working people" are merely manipulative lies meant to cover the opposite.

There is also this:

“You head back to the 1980s”, the chancellor told Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party on Monday. But that is exactly what his own government is doing. Cutting public services and benefits, passing anti-union laws, selling off social housing and overseeing vast privatisations: it’s like an action replay of the Thatcher years.

Indeed: Cameron is merely doing again what Thatcher was doing, but he can do with more lies than Thatcher, because the press has been mostly taken over by
Murdoch and a few others.

Finally, there is this:

If you look at what they’re doing, rather than what they’re saying, the Tories aren’t occupying the centre at all, however defined. They’re clearly moving to the right. The fact that they feel it necessary to give that a sort of social-democratic veneer reflects a recognition that their own social base is fragile. Cameron won the election, after all, with the votes of less than a quarter of the electorate.

I agree, and note the parallel between Obama and Cameron: They say one thing, to get the votes, and do the opposite things, to satisfy their financial backers.

The dangerous thing is that with a population of which at most half has an IQ over 100, and with a press that seems mostly bought to simply render the lies of the leaders in an attractive fashion to the public, this can continue for a very long time.

4. Flipping on TPP, Hillary Clinton Proves Chameleon-Like on Corporate Trade

The next article today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Indicating that support for the pro-corporate TransPacific Partnership (TPP) may already be a political third rail in the lead-up to the 2016 election, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Wednesday broke with the Obama White House, flipping her position to join Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressives in saying she does not support the 12-nation "trade" deal.

"As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it," Clinton told PBS News' Judy Woodruff. "I don't believe it's going to meet the high bar I have set. I've been trying to learn as much as I can about the agreement, but I'm worried."

I say.

Well... first, this is worth a congratulation to Bernie Sanders, for without his candidacy as president and his considerable popularity, Hillary Clinton would not have reversed her position.

And second, her position is as credible as Obama's positions were in 2008, before being elected: Any lie goes as long as it increases the chances of election, for once president he will do as he please and only "look forward".

Here is some background:

Clinton had previously hedged on the TPP, a deal that she backed as Secretary of State and championed in her book, Hard Choices. Her main rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.)—who has made opposition to the deal a centerpiece of his campaign and worked against its advancement in the Senate—said in June he was "offended by Mrs. Clinton’s silence on trade and urged her to share her real views with voters."

Since then, the progressive outcry against the TPP and other corporate-friendly trade deals has only grown louder.

Yes. There is also this:

Whether Clinton's newly minted opposition will stick is another story.

Unlike Sanders' long-standing and consistent opposition to so-called "free trade" deals, NBC political correspondent Mark Murray says Clinton's reverse-course on TPP may not only be a "smart move" for the frontrunner, but also fits a pattern from establishment Democrats.

"In the 2008 Democratic primaries," Murray writes, "both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton railed against NAFTA and free trade accords. But after winning the Democratic nomination, Obama warmed up to free trade—and he's now made this TPP trade accord a chief goal in his final months in the White House."
And that is precisely repeated here: Obama and Clinton say anything to make them elected, and then do whatever pleases their big backers, which is generally the opposite of what they said.

5. Enough. Even War Has Rules.

The next article today is by Joanne Liu (<- Wikipedia) on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The following remarks were delivered by Dr. Joanne Liu, MSF International President, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 — just five days after the U.S. military bombing of an MSF hospital in the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan killed twenty-two people—including health providers, adult patients, and children—and wounded dozens of others.

On Saturday morning, MSF patients and staff killed in Kunduz joined the countless number of people who have been killed around the world in conflict zones and referred to as ‘collateral damage’ or as an ‘inevitable consequence of war’. International humanitarian law is not about ‘mistakes’. It is about intention, facts and why.

The US attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz was the biggest loss of life for our organisation in an airstrike. Tens of thousands of people in Kunduz can no longer receive medical care now when they need it most. Today we say: enough.  Even war has rules.   

In Kunduz our patients burned in their beds. MSF doctors, nurses and other staff were killed as they worked. Our colleagues had to operate on each other. One of our doctors died on an improvised operating table - an office desk - while his colleagues tried to save his life.

Today we pay tribute to those who died in this abhorrent attack. And we pay tribute to those MSF staff who, while watching their colleagues die and with their hospital still on fire, carried on treating the wounded.

This was not just an attack on our hospital - it was an attack on the Geneva Conventions. This cannot be tolerated. These Conventions govern the rules of war and were established to protect civilians in conflicts - including patients, medical workers and facilities. They bring some humanity into what is otherwise an inhumane situation.

Quite so - and (if you care) compare this with the US professional liar Mark Toner's words (in the article in item 1).

The Geneva Conventions are not just an abstract legal framework - they are the difference between life and death for medical teams on the frontline. They are what allow patients to access our health facilities safely and what allows us to provide healthcare without being targeted.

It is precisely because attacking hospitals in war zones is prohibited that we expected to be protected. And yet, ten patients including 3 children, and 12 MSF staff were killed in the aerial raids.

The facts and circumstances of this attack must be investigated independently and impartially, particularly given the inconsistencies in the US and Afghan accounts of what happened over recent days. We cannot rely on only internal military investigations by the US, NATO and Afghan forces.

Precisely, and as I pointed out in item 1, what is absolutely needed is an independent, objective, impartial investigation, very much rather than
the bullshit Mark Toner proposed, which will only whitewash the Americans.

Here is the last paragraph from the article:

Today we are fighting back for the respect of the Geneva Conventions. As doctors, we are fighting back for the sake of our patients. We need you, as members of the public, to stand with us to insist that even wars have rules.

I agree.

6. Millions Voice Opposition to 'Corporate Power Grab' Trade Deals

The last article today is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Organizers of a citizens' initiative on Wednesday delivered a petition with over three million signatures to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels in their continuing bid to stop trade deals they say pose a threat to democracy and boon to corporate interests.

They say the number of signatures—over 3.2 million at the time of publication—is proof of the vast public opposition to the trade deals in question: the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and United States.

"By signing this petition, an unprecedented three million people from countries across Europe have made it clear that they reject these dangerous Trojan horse treaties which benefit big corporations at the expense of people," stated Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe.

I say. I did not know this, but this is a bit of Good News. Here is some more:

Their petition, which has the support of over 500 European organizations, states:

We want to prevent TTIP and CETA because they include several critical issues such as investor-state dispute settlement and rules on regulatory cooperation that pose a threat to democracy and the rule of law. We want to prevent lowering of standards concerning employment, social, environmental, privacy and consumers and the deregulation of public services (such as water) and cultural assets from being deregulated in non-transparent negotiations. The ECI supports an alternative trade and investment policy in the EU.

Yes, indeed, and with two additions.

First, the TTIP is secret. There are no decent democratic laws that are prepared in secret and/or kept secret: Each and every democratic law must be publicly known, in full detail also, and must be publicly and rationally discussed before it is voted on, and especially laws like the TTIP.

Second, it seems - to me at least - as if an important aim of the TTIP is to bring American inferior standards - in health care, in payments for ordinary people, in trade unions, in free days, and in much more - to Europe, which will loose very much if that happens.

This again is quite good:

"Three million people demanding an end to the TTIP negotiations shows that the EU does not have the public mandate to continue this deal," the organization's director, Nick Dearden, adds. "People across Europe are standing up to protect our labour rights, our environmental standards and vital public services, like the [National Health Service], from TTIP. Everything that we know about this secretive trade deal shows that it is very little about trade and very much about enshrining a massive corporate power grab."

Quite so.

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