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Nederlog

November 24, 2015
Crisis: Terror vs Gun Deaths, France Unfrees Itself, Pfizer Scam, World War (?)
 "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. A Paris Every Day
2. France Goes to War on Civil Liberties
3.  Sanders Slams Merger of Drug Giants Pfizer and Allergan as Disaster for America
4. Five Prerequisites for War Against ISIS

Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, November 24, 2015.


This is a crisis blog. There are four items with four dotted links: Item 1 considers an article on Democracy Now! in which it is explained that while 130 persons were killed in France in the Paris attacks, every day 100 persons are killed in the USA by gun violence (summing to over 400,000 killings since 9/11); item 2 considers a very good article on Mother Jones, in which it is - finally - explained what the French government has done in response to the Paris attacks; item 3 is less about Sanders than about another enormous scam Pfizer is trying on the USA; and item 4 is about an article by Robert Reich that seems to presuppose unstated knowledge, and that states mostly wishful thinking (in my opinion).

1. A Paris Every Day 

The first item today is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
While 130 people died in the Paris attacks, an average of 100 Americans are killed in gun violence every day, prompting many to question whether "another Paris is taking place in America this very day."
In fact, this is all I am going to quote from the article, although that is interesting. Here are two questions about the quotation that some might ask:
  • Is it fair?
  • Why doesn't anyone do anything about the number of American deaths?
But first a statistic, that I've used before (and I am sorry it is a bit faint):



The above says that there have been over 400,000 Americans killed by guns since 9/11, while there were 3,300 Americans killed by terrorism, which is a ratio of killed by terrorists : killed by gun violence = 3,300 : 400,000 = 0.008 = 8 : 1000.

Put the other way around: In the US for every
125 persons that are killed by gun violence since 9/11 about 1 person got killed by terrorists in the same period.

As to the two questions I posed:

First, is it fair? This depends on your standards for what fair comparisons are. You  might say: Yes, it is fair, because deaths are deaths, and there are 125 times as many killed by gun violence as are killed by terrorism in the United States. Or you might say: It is not fair, because being all killed at one time, in one place, by terrorists, differs from being killed one by one, in different places, often by family members, and it also gets far more attention.

Second, why doesn't anyone do anything? Well, it is not quite true no one does anything: One the one hand, there is the NRA, that wants to sell even more guns to Americans, because they think that is an individual right (which does not exist at all in Europe); on the other hand, there are quite a few civil rights groups that try to impose various limits on guns sold to American individuals.

I merely outlined two opinions.

2. France Goes to War on Civil Liberties

The second item today is by Josh Harkinson on Truthdig:

This starts as follows, and is a fine article that I recommend. It also gives a clear voew of a comparison between the USA and France (though I have left out the USA in this review - you can find it in the article):

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, many in France have said they finally understand what things were like for Americans just after September 11, 2001. The attacks have emboldened France's conservatives and pushed liberal and moderate factions rightward. On Friday, the French parliament voted to extend a nationwide state of emergency for another three months, granting authorities broad powers to limit civil liberties in the name of combating terrorism. The French public overwhelmingly supports the move.

I say. Well... all I can say is that I am much against limiting "civil liberties in the name of combating terrorism", and that I think this may be the beginning of a police state in France.

Here is part of my reason for the last judgement:

(..) France has embraced and even surpassed some of America's most draconian responses to terror. In the name of security, the French public has been more willing than Americans ever were to let their government spy on citizens, conduct warrantless raids, and restrict rights of free speech and assembly.

This simply means - in my view - that "the French public" has been duped by propaganda as much as the American public, and have allowed that a very few in the government have taken away many of their rights and liberties (and "their" refers to over 67 million French men, women and children).

The only reason why the majority of the French consents to this - as far as I can see - is that they are mistaken about whom the French police and military can and will protect: They believe they will be, and don't realize that the French government simply cannot protect 67 million French "from terrorism"; and in fact mostly cares for protecting itself, which indeed it also can do.

Also, I cannot say I am very amazed, especially not after nearly 15 years of "War on Terror" that only strengthened the terrorists, while much of how it was rendered in the media was not factual but propaganda.

Anyway - here is a review of the things that have changed in France after the events in Paris:

France: A day after the Paris attacks, President Francois Hollande declared a temporary "state of emergency, " invoking a law enacted in 1955 in response to a colonial uprising in Algeria. Among other things, the decree lets French authorities conduct warrantless searches—there have been more than 400 since the attacks. On Friday, lawmakers voted to extend the state of emergency and expand certain powers. Police officers, for instance, may now copy data from any electronic device discovered during a raid related to terrorism.

Earlier this year, France dramatically expanded its online surveillance in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack. In May, parliament passed a law critics have dubbed the "French Patriot Act." It allows the police to intercept and monitor electronic communications from private citizens, and it compels internet providers to install "black boxes" that will use algorithms to search for and report suspicious online activity.

I only observe that these are all liberties taken by the French goverment from their 67 million inhabitants, and that if Europe is going to develop into a police state this is precisely what one expects is necessary for such a development.

France: Using powers of search and seizure granted under Hollande's state of emergency, the French police had as of Thursday arrested and detained 63 people and placed another 118 under house arrest. On Friday, France's parliament voted to expand these powers to let authorities place under house arrest anyone they have "serious reasons" to believe "constitutes a serious threat" to public order. Authorities can use electronic ankle bracelets and such to make sure arrestees stay put.

I do not know what the French mean by "serious reasons" or by "a serious threat" to public order". Also, I am against imposing punishments (house arrest or ankle bracelets) without a judicial conviction (that also are tested periodically).

France: The state of emergency law authorizes the government to "control the press" by placing restrictions on everything from radio broadcasts to movies and plays. Just after the Paris attacks, the French police prevented journalists from interviewing witnesses. In the following days, France's Interior Ministry asked social media networks such as Twitter to censor photographs of the killings and to remove keywords and posts it deemed to be pro-ISIS.

I am completely against controlling the press: In the end, that is the only source of possibly truthful information, beyond one's personal resources, that do not go far.

France: The declared state of emergency allows French authorities to close any public meeting place, including public theaters. The expanded powers approved on Friday permit police to dissolve groups or associations they believe participate in, facilitate, or incite acts that are a threat to public order. Members of these groups can be placed under house arrest.

I am against "the rights" of the authorities "to close any public meeting place" and against extended powers of the police to maintain "public order".

France: France lacks the United States' massive infrastructure of intelligence agencies and overseas military bases. As far as anyone knows, it has not used torture, engaged in renditions, or operated a terrorist detention facility abroad.

Well, that is a relief.

France: Though Hollande described the Paris attacks as "an act of war," he has stopped short of invoking NATO Article 5.

Here is Article 5 of the Nato (the first part):

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area..

This is the romantically crazy article that seems inspired by Alexandre Dumas's "The Three Musketeers": "One for all, all for one!" - which we can see, in cases like this, may move one very weak and very impopular president to induce all of the NATO to war.

Francois Hollande didn't do it, which is good, but that seems to me to be about the only good decision he made in response to the attacks in Paris.

In brief: I completely disagree with what France's government has done, except for the very last fact, that means that - so far - they have not involved other European nations.

But it seems the French population mostly supports loosing their rights and liberties. Well, it merely took something like a 100 years to get these rights and liberties, so why not throw them away after a 130 persons were murdered?

3.Sanders Slams Merger of Drug Giants Pfizer and Allergan as Disaster for America

The third item today is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has slammed the just-announced corporate merger of giant drug makers Pfizer and Allergan, urging the Obama administration to use its authority to block a deal that would raise prices for the public while evading billions in federal taxes.   

This is not here because of Bernie Sanders, but because of the degenerate schema Pfizer and Allergan are engaged on: Pfizer - anyway extremely rich because of all the expensive drugs they sell - and as American as anything American, now also wants to avoid paying any taxes in America, and therefore wants to be taken over by a smaller Irish company, which will make it Irish, which will lessen their tax payments.

Here is the schema explained:

“The Pfizer-Allergan merger would be a disaster for American consumers who already pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” Sanders said, in a statement issued by his U.S. Senate office. It also would "allow another major American corporation to hide its profits overseas.”

The deal, announced Monday, would enable the two companies, whose combined market value would be $330 billion, to evade new Treasury Department rules designed to stop companies from renouncing their American citizenship, thereby ending their federal tax obligations, by moving their corporate headquarters offshore.

In this case, the U.S.-based Pfizer, whose history of making major breakthrough drugs dates back to the Civil War, would operate under the supervision of the slightly smaller Allergan, based in Ireland.

And this is on Obama's (declared) position (but he declared many things that he did not mean), and a statement on what Pfizer held back last year:

President Obama has repeatedly called such overseas mergers and tax-evasion tactics “unpatriotic.” The Treasury Department just passed new rules intended to stop U.S. corporations from buying foreign firms as a way to evade taxes. In this deal, however, Ireland-based Allergan is buying Pfizer, even though Pfizer is the larger company. That gambit allows it to evade the new Treasury rules.

The New York Times reported that Pfizer “kept $74 billion in earnings offshore last year to avoid” paying U.S. corporate taxes.

Note this is a little less than a quarter of what Pfizer and Allergan are supposed to be worth together, and a little less than a half of what Pfizer is supposed to be worth: The interests involved are not precisely small.
4. Five Prerequisites for War Against ISIS

The last item today is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:

We appear to be moving ever closer toward a world war against the Islamic State.

No sane person welcomes war. Yet if we do go to war against ISIS we must keep a watchful eye on 5 things:

1. The burden of fighting the war must be widely shared among
    Americans.  (...)
2. We must not sacrifice our civil liberties. (...)
3. We must minimize the deaths of innocent civilians abroad. (...)
4. We must not tolerate anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States.
    (...)
5. The war must be paid for with higher taxes on the rich. (...)
In fact, I have contracted rather a lot, for I have deleted all the explanatory texts that are under each of Reich's points. Here is Reich's ending:

The war should be paid for the way we used to pay for wars – with higher taxes, especially on the wealthy.

As we move toward war against ISIS, we must be vigilant – to fairly allocate the burdens of who’s called on to fight the war, to protect civil liberties, to protect innocent civilians abroad, to avoid hate and bigotry, and to fairly distribute the cost of paying for war.

These aren’t just worthy aims. They are also the foundations of our nation’s strength.
First about my own two thoughts when I read this article: (1) what does Robert Reich know that I do not know, seeing he seems rather confident there will be (I quote) "a world war"? And (2) why does he propose such wishful thinking ideas, that are almost surely falsified as soon as there is a real world war?

As to (1): I really don't know, but I do know that Reich knows the Clintons since ca. 1990, and also knows quite a few other powerful Americans. And all I can make of it is that he seems to know something I do not know, that makes him think war - in the shape of "a world war" - is rather likely.

As to (2): I think I can quite confidently assure anyone that if there is a real war (with American, French and English boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria, say) that the burden of fighting the war will not be widely shared (the fighting will be mostly done by the professional American army); that the American civil liberties will be mostly ditched; that "innocent civilians" living in the territory of Isis will not be considered "innocent"; that there will be a lot more anti-Muslim bigotry; and that I consider it very unlikely that the rich will pay any higher taxes for any purpose, including "a world war".

So indeed I am rather disappointed with Robert Reich. But as I said: It seems likely that he knows something that I do not know.

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