October 24, 2015
Crisis: TTIP & Environment, Protests, Snowden, Germany, Obama Explained
"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


TTIP: EU negotiators appear to break environmental
     pledge in leaked draft

2. Our right to protest should be sacrosanct. Unforgivably,
     it’s being betrayed

3. "Everybody is a Suspect": European Rights Chief on
     Edward Snowden's Call for Global Privacy Treaty

Populist, Pernicious and Perilous : Germany's Growing
     Hate Problem

Debunking Attacks on Sanders That Depict Obama as
     Lefty Failure, Not Neoliberal Success


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, October 24, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the TTIP, and shows European politicians are as bad (and probably as corrupt) as the American ones (with a few exceptions); item 2 is about the right to protest, that is more and more endangered in these "anti-terrorist" times (which is precisely what was to be expected); item 3 is about a European Rights Chief whom I do not trust, just like I deeply distrust the European Convention on Human Rights, that is no such thing; item 4 is  about Germany's problems with (mostly) right-wingers who object to refugees (but the article doesn't give much
hope); and item 5 is about debunking Sanders and about the achievements of Obama (who was a successful neoconservative, but no liberal or progressive: these were merely handy lies to get elected).

1. TTIP: EU negotiators appear to break environmental pledge in leaked draft  

The first item today is by Arthur Neslen on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The EU appears to have broken a promise to reinforce environmental protections in a leaked draft negotiating text submitted in the latest round of TTIP talks in Miami.

In January, the bloc promised to safeguard green laws, defend international standards and protect the EU’s right to set high levels of environmental protection, in a haggle with the US over terms for a free trade deal.

But a confidential text seen by the Guardian and filed in the sustainable development chapter of negotiations earlier this week contains only vaguely phrased and non-binding commitments to environmental safeguards.

No obligations to ratify international environmental conventions are proposed, and ways of enforcing goals on biodiversity, chemicals and the illegal wildlife trade are similarly absent.

The document does recognise a “right of each party to determine its sustainable development policies and priorities”. But lawyers say this will have far weaker standing than provisions allowing investors to sue states that pass laws breaching legitimate expectations of profit.

I say. O, how very very amazed I am that European politicians broke their promises! In a secret deal they should not be making in the first place!

Well... let me try to explain something.

In fact, I have not voted since 1971, because by then I had decided nearly all Dutch politicians I knew - left, right and center - were careerist liars, who almost all only thought of their own financial interests, and who all could lie themselves blue in the face while looking extremely honest.

I have not changed that position in 44 years, and I would like to recommend it to others: Politicians nearly always are your enemies; they are very skilled at lying; they are - for the most part - only interested in their own financial advantages (while lying they are interested in you: no they are not); and they are nearly all cheats, frauds, and moral degenerates - and they are so, and much more than other people, because they get paid very well for lying and cheating,
and indeed that is much of their political job: Misleading the public about what
politicians really do and really want.

And here is one example, from very many more:

Last year, more than a million people across Europe signed a petition calling for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks to be scrapped. Their concern was that multinationals could use the treaty’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions to sue authorities in private tribunals, not bound by legal precedent.

In one famous case, Lone Pine launched an unresolved $250m suit against the state of Quebec after it introduced a fracking moratorium, using ISDS provisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

US officials maintain that few such cases are ever likely to be brought under the TTIP, which could wipe away tariffs in the world’s largest ever free trade deal.

However, environmental cases accounted for 60% of the 127 ISDS cases already brought against EU countries under bilateral trade agreements in the last two decades, according to Friends of the Earth Europe. Europe’s taxpayers paid out at least $3.5bn to private investors as a result.

Of course. So once again: Politicians are your enemy. They lie. They delude. They cheat. They are nearly all only interested in advancing themselves, and to do so try to convince you that they are advancing you. They are not. They lie. They get money from lobbyists. And they are a very small group, with a very  disproportionate amount of power, which is also the one thing most politicians are most interested in. [1]

Here is one illustration:

“This new leak illustrates that the European commission is not serious about protecting essential safeguards for citizens and the environment in the context of the TTIP talks,” she told the Guardian. “Powerful corporate polluters are likely to get VIP treatment under it, while the only chapter that could bring strong language to protect essential regulations to build a sustainable future is weak and unenforceable.”

To start with: TTIP, like the TTP, is still secret and classified, which means that officially no one who is most concerned is allowed to read a letter from it (what we know of it we owe to Wikileaks), which is done because if they were well-
known most would see these are in fact corporate fascist attempts to get to rule the world from the boardrooms of private corporations rather than by national
governments or parliaments. [2]

And second, the reason the TTIP and the TTP are secret are - especially - that so very many politicians betrayed their voters for money, and not only in the USA, but also in Europe (where e.g. the Dutch Christian-Democrats started to talk just like the Republicans by 2007 or so, and also used the same tricks).

Indeed, with the TTIP being secret, the European politicians did just the opposite of what they said to their voters:

An EU promise that TTIP would “support our climate targets, for example by promoting trade and investment in green goods and services” has already been thrown into doubt by the leak of a draft energy chapter last May. In it, Europe’s negotiators pushed for “a legally binding commitment in the TTIP guaranteeing the free export of crude oil and gas resources”.

There is no real concern for "green energy", voters rights, democracy or national governments: All the European politicians are saving are the business opportunities of their (secret) big backers, and the rest they regard - it seems, in spite of their pledges - as mere baloney.

But as I said: You cannot trust politicians. (I wish it were different, but this is the case, and it may well kill Europe, and make it a secondary USA, with an even poorer population, except of course for the bankers and the politicians.)

2. Our right to protest should be sacrosanct. Unforgivably, it’s being betrayed

The next item is by Owen Jones on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Lisa McKenzie was prosecuted because somebody else put a sticker on a window. Let that sink in for a minute. Was the prosecution successful? No, because the British criminal system has thankfully not become a masterpiece of Orwellian satire, but the fact she was arrested in the first place – let alone ended up in a court – should frighten you, whatever your political persuasions. Our ancestors fought for our rights and freedoms, and at incalculable personal cost, too: it is an unforgivable betrayal to allow them to be chipped away.
First, who is Lisa McKenzie? She works at the London School of Economics as an academic; is a member of Class War, which is an anarchist group; and was protesting about the London housing crisis.

Second, what was her crime? She wasn't guilty of any crime, but she was arrested because "a fellow activist" - it is said - placed a sticker on a flat (!),
and the police knew who she was, and accused her of "Joint Enterprise"
(normally used against criminal gangs) with the - supposed - "fellow activist".

Here is some more by Owen Jones:

The circumstances of McKenzie’s farcical prosecution should alarm us. She was allegedly singled out by the police after they profiled her at a protest meeting. She was also prosecuted with a charge normally reserved for drug dealers and gangsters.

If only cases like this were one-offs. China’s dictatorship is now being feted by a government busily handing over British assets to it, while simultaneously calling the main opposition party a threat to national security and unpatriotic. A survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre was “brutally manhandled”, as observers claimed, after trying to protest yesterday against China’s dictatorship, and then his home was raided by police. His wife has said they were left “traumatised” by the experience, claiming that “the police here in the UK are now doing the same things as in China”.

I don't think Mrs Jiang (as she is called: see the last link) is right that the English police are "now doing the same things as in China", but that doesn't mean they did well.

There is this:

There’s the use of kettling, containing protesters for hours at a time, described by the UN Special Rapporteur on rights to freedom of assembly and association as “detrimental to the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly due to its indiscriminate and disproportionate number”. There’s the mass arrest of protesters and then the imposition of bail conditions banning them from attending peaceful demonstrations (...)

And last there is this:

The police are supposed to facilitate peaceful protest – it is a basic democratic right and freedom after all – but brutal tactics are often employed.
The treatment of Lisa McKenzie is so absurd it is tempting to turn it into one big joke. It isn’t. It’s about the basic democratic freedoms that our ancestors were compelled to fight for being fatally undermined. It is sinister, and to fail to speak out about it – whatever your personal beliefs – is a betrayal.

I agree with Owen Jones.

3. "Everybody is a Suspect": European Rights Chief on Edward Snowden's Call for Global Privacy Treaty

The next article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:

Last month, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald and other privacy activists launched a new campaign to establish global privacy standards. The proposed International Treaty on the Right to Privacy, Protection Against Improper Surveillance and Protection of Whistleblowers would require states to ban mass data collection and implement public oversight of national security programs. It would also require states to offer asylum to whistleblowers. It’s been dubbed the "Snowden Treaty." We discuss the state of mass surveillance with Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Nils Muižnieks. He is the commissioner for human rights for the Council of Europe. Last month, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald and other privacy activists launched a new campaign to establish global privacy standards. The proposed International Treaty on the Right to Privacy, Protection Against Improper Surveillance and Protection of Whistleblowers would require states to ban mass data collection and implement public oversight of national security programs. It would also require states to offer asylum to whistleblowers. It’s been dubbed the, quote, "Snowden Treaty." Snowden spoke about the need for the treaty via teleconference from Russia at the September launch.

I am much for the Snowden Treaty, as it is called, and deservedly.

Then again, I am rather doubtful about a speaker for the Council of Europe, (<- Wikipedia) which is a European institution that is behind the European Court of Human Rights, that enforces the European "Convention of Human Rights", that is no such thing at all:

The convention that goes by this name signed away all laws protecting ordinary citizens against espionage and surveillance by their governments, which is in gross contradiction with the Universal Declararion of Human Rights. (This is quite clearly explained by me on July 18, last.)

Also, Mr Muiznieks declared himself "agnostic" on the question whether Edward Snowden "is a patriot or a traitor", which I think is cowardly: You don't need to agree with him to be able to say quite clearly that he is not a traitor. But Mr Muiznieks is very probably very well-paid, as a European bureaucrat.

Here is the last bit I shall quote of him:

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Edward Snowden. What do you think has to happen around mass surveillance?

NILS MUIŽNIEKS: Well, we have a very negative trend now in Europe, where a number of countries are moving from targeted surveillance to untargeted surveillance, and this is quite dangerous. This means that everybody is a suspect. What we need is we need strict rules on authorization of surveillance measures. We need to outlaw certain—the use of certain technologies, which catch a—which cast a very wide net and grab communications of everybody in an area, everybody communicating with a certain person who might be suspected of terrorist activities. But we need to beef up democratic oversight of security services. We need intrusive parliamentary committees. We need judicial authorization. We need—we need to be assured that the security services aren’t doing what they can, but that they are operating within the framework of the rule of law. And we need to provide remedies, effective remedies, to those who have been done wrong, who have been unjustly surveilled and had their privacy invaded.

That sounds radical, but I read it as:

Mass surveillance is quite OK, as long as the Council of Europe agrees - and that will agree to anything, for the European "Convention of Human Rights" is no such thing, but is the excuse of secret services to go on spying on everybody. (It is thus used by the GCHQ.)

Instead, I say: Mass surveillance (<- Wikipedia) must be completely forbidden, and all communications by internet should be strongly encrypted.

But surely, the Council of Europe sees it quite differently.

4. Populist, Pernicious and Perilous : Germany's Growing Hate Problem

The next article is by Spiegel Staff (12 journalists in all) on Spiegel International On Line:
This comes with a bold subtitle, that I shall start with:
Even as Germany has welcomed its refugees, another, uglier side has been festering with the return of the anti-Muslim Pegida movement. The threat posed by the far-right has the potential to spiral out of control. 
I think that is correct: Anti-Muslims often belong to the far-right, also in Germany.

There is also a foreword, as follows:

Even as an image of a Germany taking great pains to welcome hundreds of thousands of refugees has bolstered the country's image abroad, it has also been accompanied by a wave of hatred that cannot be played down. At the center of this second, disturbing narrative is Patriots against the Islamization of the West, or Pegida, a xenophobic grassroots movement that has manifested itself with demonstrations each Monday mostly in Dresden in the east, but also in other parts of Germany. But Pegida is only one part of a much larger problem, as the following feature from the new issue of SPIEGEL illustrates.

The problem - as I see it - is that the majority of the Pegida supporters belong to the less intelligent half of Germany: Their IQs get to a 100 but not higher; their education is low; and they have little real knowledge and many prejudices.

But they also belong to the mostly silent majority, and there is the real problem: it is not a small minority that is opposed to refugees. I do not know whether it is a majority, but it is certainly is a sizable amount of Germans, and indeed mostly the poorer and less educated ones.

As Spiegel On Line puts it:
Germany has a hate problem -- one that is growing.
"You're as big of an asshole as that idiot Ralf Stegner," a certain Birgit M. recently wrote in a letter to Thomas Kutschaty, justice minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It was a referrence to the deputy party leader of state chapter of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), who recently said the organizers of the weekly Pegida marches in Dresden and elsewhere should be investigated by intelligence services. "You should all be put in a sack and have a hammer taken to you," Birgit M. wrote in her tirade.
Actually, I take this both more and less seriously as Spiegel On Line does:

Less seriously, because the Dutch, at least, have been told by their academics and their students, for some 25-30 years (!!), that "everybody knows that truth does not exist" and "everybody knows that everybody" - you, Einstein and Hitler, for example - "is of equal value", and those tendencies were not limited to Holland (though probably worse in Holland than elsewhere, because at the same time the Dutch universities were supposed to belong to the students, which was  a unique position in the world, from 1971-1995).

Also, I take this mode of grossly abusing language as more serious, mostly because I have seen an enormous democratization with the arrival of popular computers and the internet, which means that in general the standards of language and of thinking have become much more common, much more popular, and much more crude: It now is at most a slight problem if one or a hundred anonymous non-brights mail someone that he or she "is a crazy stinking piece of human shit - die, die, die!"

Indeed, Spiegel On Line sees something similar:
Germany these days, it seems, is a place where people feel entirely uninhibited about expressing their hatred and xenophobia. Images from around the country show a level of brutalization that hasn't been witnessed for some time, and attest to primitive instincts long believed to have been relegated to the past in Germany. The examples are as myriad as they are shocking, and include the bloody attack in Cologne as well as the mock gallows for Angela Merkel and her deputy Sigmar Gabriel carried by a demonstrator at a Pegida rally in Dresden on Oct. 12.
But with this difference: I see the same "democratization of communication" everywhere. It is not limited to Germany, and indeed also not limited to the
far right or to protests against foreigners, refugees etc.

If you take a position these days, and that position is not popular, you seriously risk being grossly scolded by quite a few anonymous folks who think it is self-evident that you are a sorry ass-hole who should be warned and may be threatened, and that they have the - anonymous (!) - right to threaten and scold you as they please, for you will never know their names or addresses.

And no, you cannot argue with them: Argueing = scolding, argueing = threatening for them, and as they well may be people with IQs of 85 or so, and a computer,  they probably do not and will never understand what real rational argumentation is.

There is also this:
There have been more than twice as many attacks on refugee hostels during the first nine months of this year as in the whole of 2014. The rising tide of hatred is now reaching the politicians many hold responsible for the perceived chaos besetting Germany. The national headquarters of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Berlin fields thousands of hate mails every week. As the architect of the "we can do it" policy of allowing masses of refugees into the country, Chancellor Merkel is their primary target.
Well... Merkel has an East-German background, which probably makes her considerably more sympathetic to refugees than people who were born and
raised in West Germany. But it also seems she overestimated either the
Germans or her grip on them via propaganda.

Then there is this:

When it comes to dealing with radicals, society needs an inner compass. It has to decide how indifferent to politics it can afford to be and how far voter turnout can fall -- it reached a record low in Sunday's mayoral elections in Cologne. In short, it has to decide how much room for manoeuver it is willing to grant far-right firebrands.
I am sorry, but to seriously say that "society needs an inner compass" is to say nothing. Either it has one in the activities and principles of the legal and political people (and this will not yield just one compass) or it is utter nonsense. Then
again, this shows the problem is serious.
There is rather a lot more about Germany, none of which leads to strong or easy conclusions, and it ends as follows:
Psychologist Andreas Zick also urges politicians to take a tougher line on far-right populists. "We need to see racist violence in Germany for what it is," he says. "A form of terrorism."
O Lord! I am also a psychologist, but this is an example of why I can't take psychologists seriously (with a few exceptions): Surely, to say that "racist violence" is "a form of terrorism" is not to speak as a psychologist, but as
a - very ordinary - politician, for ordinary politicians have been saying everyone either is a terrorist or may be a terrorist since 9/11/01, and have handed over all personal privacy to the secret services, as if that is a solution.

This is just cheap and easy sloganizing, that will not solve the problem, and may make it more serious.

5. Debunking Attacks on Sanders That Depict Obama as Lefty Failure, Not Neoliberal Success

The last article is by Yves Smith on Truth-out (and originally on Naked Capitalism):

This starts as follows:

A sign that the progressive cause is moving out of the wilderness and starting to rattle The Powers That Be is that the messaging apparatus is starting to attempt to demonize Sanders as a hopeless cause. That means he's moved from the "first they ignore you" phase in Gandhi's classic trajectory of activism to somewhere between the "then they ridicule you, then they fight you" phases.

Yes, I think that is fair. Here is some more (and Jeff W. is a reader who disagrees with the summary he gave, rightly so):

As Jeff W summarized it: "Bernie Sanders will fail because Barack Obama failed."

This is utterly ludicrous because Obama did not fail. He was always a neoliberal, pro-status quo candidate who artfully presented himself when campaigning as being well to the left of where he actually sat. He used his early opposition to Iraq and his short tenure in the Senate, where he was absent from a remarkably high proportion of votes, to play on deep antipathy to Bush. But as readers know, he's for the most part continued Bush policies with slightly improved optics.

Yes, indeed. And nearly everything from "Change!" to "Yes, we can!" was mere propaganda, and were complete lies from Obama's point of view, that always was neoliberal (or neoconservative, as I like to say), indeed from before he was elected.

There is also this - and Robert Rubin (<- Wikipedia) is one of the mega-rich bankers who started the deregulations because these were so advantageous for himself and his bank:

But anyone who knew Obama's history would recognize that he was a made man of the powerful Rubin wing of the Democratic party, which a colleague who is deeply knowledgeable about bank regulatory politics has long called the Rubino syndicate. But even if you had not made that much study of Obama, the key tell came before the election, when Obama whipped for the TARP, which insiders say was critical to its passage. And right after the election, the "save the incumbents" trajectory of financial services policy was made crystal clear with Obama's choice of New York Fed president Timothy Geithner to head the Treasury Department.

Here is Yves Smith in 2010:

But incoming president Obama failed to act. Whether he failed to see the opportunity, didn't understand it, or was simply not interested is moot. Rather than bring vested banking interests to heel, the Obama administration instead chose to reconstitute, as much as possible, the very same industry whose reckless pursuit of profit had thrown the world economy off the cliff.

As Yves Smith suggests herself in the next passage, in fact Obama saw the opportunity very well, but chose to neglect it (and there is considerably more
on his failings in the original):

With the benefit of hindsight, treating Obama as perhaps having "failed to see the opportunity" was too charitable.

This is a quotation from another post by her from 2012, which is interesting about the Third Way (<- Wikipedia):

A remarkable speech by Robert Fitch puts Obama's early career in a new perspective that explains the man we see now in the Oval Office: one who pretends to befriend ordinary people but sells them out again and again to wealthy, powerful interests - the banks, big Pharma and health insurers, and lately, the fracking-industrial complex.
Fitch gave his eye-opening speech before an unlikely audience at an unlikely time: the Harlem Tenants Association in November 2008, hard on the heels of Obama's electrifying presidential win. The first part contains his prescient prediction: that Obama's Third Way stance, that we all need to put our differences aside and get along, was tantamount to advocating the interests of the wealthy, since they seldom give anything to the have-nots without a fight.

Precisely! Here is the summary judgement of Yves Smith on Obama:

In other words, any time anyone tries to present Obama as having failed to implement a "liberal" agenda because the right was too powerful is either an apologist or ignorant. Obama has achieved precisely what he intended to achieve, which was to implement center-right economic policies with tepid social justice measures to divert attention from how he was serving the interests of the 1% and even more so, the 0.1%.

Yes, indeed (and Yves Smith has decades of experience working for banks).


[1] Incidentally, I do not say all politicians always lie, nor do I say that all politicians always must lie. But to get a majority of normally honest politicians, something else than modern party politics is necessary.

[2] You need not agree with me, but in the end my argument that the TTIP is a corporate fascist plan only depends on suitable and realistic definitions of "fascism" and "corporate" - and in fact the argument I have in mind goes back to the twenties and thirties. This is from the American Heritage Dictionary:
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."
And "business leadership" = "the managers of - especially - multinational corporations". And I'd say in the USA currently and since 2001 at the latest,
"business leadership" and "the state" are virtually identical (what with the revolving door between - especially - banks and government), while clearly "Amertican Exceptionalism" is a species of "belligerent nationalism".

To fit in the TTIP more is required, but then that more is systematically denied to the hundreds of millions whose rights will be shortstruck by it. But then that is one proof something is very sick about it.

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