January 8, 2016

Crisis: TPP, War Crimes, Snyder, US Billionaires, Corrupt Empires, My Site(s) - 1
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The New Normal Under TPP
American War Crimes: Candidates Compete to Promise
     the Most Torture and Slaughter

Arrest of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Urged After
     Contaminated-Water Scandal Implicates Top Staffers

Impunity in the Billionaire Class and the National Security

5. Empires (Like the U.S.) Fall When Corruption Becomes

6. On my site(s) - 1

This is a Nederlog of Friday, January 8, 2016.

This is a crisis blog with 6 items and 5 dotted links. Item 1 is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! and charts how the new TPP (and TTIP and TiSA and CETA) will work out by looking at what is possible now under Clinton's NAFTA; item 2 is about the tortures and slaughters proposed by the GOP presidential candidates to their electorates (who much like it); item 3 is about the poisoning governor Snyder; item 4 is about how the laws ceased to operate in the USA for the very rich; item 5 is by Washington's Blog and notes how extremely corrupt the USA has grown over the last 35 years, and threatens this will collapse the USA (as it did many other empires), while item 6 is not a crisis item and is about my site, and is the first item of a series.

1. The New Normal Under TPP

The first article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
On Wednesday, TransCanada Corporation filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court alleging President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline exceeded his power under the U.S. Constitution. TransCanada also filed legal action under the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, claiming the pipeline permit denial was "arbitrary and unjustified." It’s seeking $15 billion as part of its NAFTA claim. TransCanada’s lawsuit comes just days before President Obama’s final State of the Union address, where he’s anticipated to tout his controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, deal. The secretive trade pact between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations could govern up to 40 percent of the world’s economy. After TransCanada announced its lawsuit on Wednesday, the group Friends of the Earth released a statement saying, "This is why Friends of the Earth opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements, which allow companies and investors to challenge sovereign government decisions to protect public health and the environment." For more, we’re joined by Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
I wrote the day before yesterday about this, and wrote many previous times about the TTP and its mates, the TTIP, the TiSA and the CETA, all of which are secret trade-pacts not even your parliamentarians are allowed to make notes on or discuss, if they can read them at all, and which have as their end to take away the powers of a country's courts, the powers of a country's govern- ment, and the powers of a country's parliament, to give all these powers to an ISDS-"court", manned by lawyers from the major corporations, that are going to decide how many billions a country's population has to pay to multi-national corporations whose plans they voted down.

Here is an example of how this goes:

LORI WALLACH: So, this is a question a lot of folks asked me yesterday: "Well, wait a minute, this is supposed to"—everyone who’s read the newspaper. "This is a $3 billion pipeline. How the heck can they be asking for $15 billion from us taxpayers?" And the answer is, under the outrageous investor-state system, not only can a foreign corporation get all these special rights—go around our courts, go around our laws and demand compensation—but they don’t just get money for what they’ve spent on a project, they get to get compensated for expected future profits. Yep, they are calculating—and the brief goes through this—what they think they would have made in the future for the lifetime of the pipeline had it been allowed. And that’s what we taxpayers are supposed to give them, because we had a democratic decision of our government that their commercial project wasn’t in the national interest. That’s the $15 billion.
And that is also plain unadulterated fascism of the rich against the poor. You may doubt this, but given the definition of fascism that I use, clearly the TTP, the TTIP, the TiSA and the CETA are plainly illegal plans to give almost all powers a country had - its legal powers, its governmental powers, its parliamentary powers - to the multi-national corporations.

The definition of fascism that I use is simply one that is given by the  American Heritage Dictionary:
"fascism" is defined as "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."
This describes both Mussolini's and Hitler's systems, though indeed more might have been added. It also described - very well indeed - the societies that will result from adopting the TPP, TTIP, TiSA and CETA, each of which are secret, even for parliamentarians, so that no one can read them (for which reason one must turn to Wikileaks, were parts have been published), and that simply because each of them is completely FOR a fascist system as has been just defined: The business leadership will determine all; the people will determine nought.

We aren't quite there yet, but that is what I see coming - and its arrival has been prepared for 35 years, though I grant it was mostly furthered without having the word "fascism" in mind, and probably also without the concept:

The rich simply wanted more power, more money and less taxes; they generally like rightist views much better than leftist views; most also are nationalistic; and they generally love the merging of state and business leaderships, knowing this will be advantageous to them.

Then again, if you give the rich what they want, or do not oppose them in what they take, then socially that is the result: A fascist system as defined above.

There is a lot more in the article, that is recommended reading.

2.  American War Crimes: Candidates Compete to Promise the Most Torture and Slaughter

The second item is by Rebecca Gordon on Truthdig and originally on TomDispatch:
Here are two selections from it. The first is this:
For seven years his [Obama's - MM] administration has done everything except help the country “take responsibility” for torture and other war crimes. It looked the other way when it comes to holding accountable those who set up and ran the CIA’s large-scale torture operations at its “black sites” around the world. It never brought charges against those who ordered torture at Guantánamo. It prosecuted no one, above all not the top officials of the Bush administration.
Precisely - and this is one of the reasons I much dislike Obama: He is more like a more rational, much better speaking, much more clever version of Bush Jr. than he is either like the presidential candidate he promised to be ("Change!", "Change!", "Change!", "Yes, we can!"), nearly all of which turned out to be lies, or indeed like a decently democratic president, for such a one works for the people rather than for the multi-national corporations and the big banks, like Obama does.

And the second is this:

Now, in the endless run-up to the 2016 presidential elections, we’ve been treated to some pretty strange gladiatorial extravaganzas, with more to come in 2016. In these peculiarly American spectacles, Republican candidates hurl themselves at one another in a frenzied effort to be seen as the candidate most likely to ignore the president’s wan hope and instead “do it again in the future.” As a result, they are promising to commit a whole range of crimes, from torture to the slaughter of civilians, for which the leaders of some nations would find themselves hauled into international court as war criminals. But “war criminal” is a label reserved purely for people we loathe, not for us. To paraphrase former President Richard Nixon, if the United States does it, it’s not a crime.
Yes, but it is also true that (1) "they are promising to commit a whole range of crimes, from torture to the slaughter of civilians" to their electorates, and (2) the majority of their electorates seems to consist of the most stupid, the most ignorant or the most prejudiced Americans, who indeed grow very enthusiastic for crimes like torture and slaughter, provided the victims are non-Americans.

It is also true that the second point makes it unlikely a Republican will become the next president, but then again I am - alas! - not certain this will be the outcome, since (among other things) no less than 60% of all Americans believe in the literal truth of Noah's Ark story.

We will know considerably more by the end of the year.

3. Arrest of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Urged After Contaminated-Water Scandal Implicates Top Staffers

The third item is by Sarah Lazare on Truthdig but originally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows (and here is a link to an earlier article on the poisonous Snyder):

Calls for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s ouster—and arrest—are growing after internal emails showed that his high-level staffers were aware of lead poisoning in Flint’s public water supply six months before the administration declared a state of emergency.

According to the newly-released emails, which were obtained by NBC News, Snyder’s chief of staff at the time, Dennis Muchmore, wrote to an unnamed high-level health department staffer: “I’m frustrated by the water issue in Flint.”

“These folks are scared and worried about the health impacts and they are basically getting blown off by us (as a state we’re just not sympathizing with their plight),” Muchmore wrote in the email, according to journalists Stephanie Gosk, Kevin Monahan, Tim Sandler and Hannah Rappleye.

“I really don’t think people are getting the benefit of the doubt,” wrote Muchmore. “Now they are concerned and rightfully so about the lead level studies they are receiving.”

I say! But indeed Muchmore was quite right - and the lead levels indeed were quite poisonous, especially for young children.

There is also this:

Following the resignation of Michigan’s top environmental official, as well as sustained community demands, the Department of Justice announced this week it is launching an investigation into the water crisis.

Many hold Snyder directly culpable for the emergency itself, and note his role in the Detroit water crisis.

There is more in the article, which is recommended, including a quote by Michael Moore (<- Wikipedia), who was born in Flint and who tries to get Snyder in prison for "corruption and assault". (I think Moore is right and I hope he succeeds.)

4. Impunity in the Billionaire Class and the National Security State

The fourth item is by Tom Engelhardt on Common Dreams but originally on TomDispatch:

This starts as follows:
What a scam! Noam Scheiber and Patricia Cohen described it this way in a front-page New York Times report on how a small group of incredibly wealthy Americans funded their way into another tax universe: “Operating largely out of public view -- in tax court, through arcane legislative provisions and in private negotiations with the Internal Revenue Service -- the wealthy have used their influence to steadily whittle away at the government’s ability to tax them. The effect has been to create a kind of private tax system, catering to only several thousand Americans.”
This is quite right, and another reason why I choose to speak of fascism or neo- fascism: There is no democracy left if the rich can damn well do as they please, get by with paying percentually less tax than the poor and the middle class, and have more than enough money to buy almost everyone.

Here is some more:

Yes, you read that correctly: tiny numbers of Americans live on a different tax planet from the rest of us.  They’ve paid for the privilege, of course, and increasingly for the political class that oversees how our country runs.  They've insulated themselves in a largely tax-free zone that ensures their “equality” before the law (such as it is) and your deepening inequality before the same -- and before them.  Their actions have garnered them the ultimate in impunity. In this election season in a country of more than 300 million people, for instance, a mere 158 families (and the companies they control) are putting their (largely tax-free) dollars where our mouths once were. By October, they had provided almost half the money thus far raised by presidential candidates in a move meant to ensure that American democracy becomes their system, their creature. (“Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago.”)
There is more in the original, that is recommended reading.

5. Empires (Like the U.S.) Fall When Corruption Becomes Rampant

The fifth item is by Washington's Blog on his site:

This starts as follows, and in fact continues How Corrupt Is the American Government? that I reviewed on January 6:

Widespread corruption destroys empires.

By way of example, corruption was one of the main causes of the collapse of the Roman Empire:

The Praetorian Guard—the emperor’s personal bodyguards—assassinated and installed new sovereigns at will, and once even auctioned the spot off to the highest bidder [and see this]. The political rot also extended to the Roman Senate, which failed to temper the excesses of the emperors due to its own widespread corruption and incompetence. As the situation worsened, civic pride waned and many Roman citizens lost trust in their leadership.

This is followed by a list of other empires that went down because of corruption. Indeed there is this quote (also in the article):
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
   -- Lord Acton
And there is this:

As we’ve exhaustively documented, corruption is rampant in the the U.S. today.

In addition, widespread corruption leads to runaway inequality. Specifically, one of the biggest causes of runaway inequality is that the big banks are manipulating every market, and committing massive crimes.  Fraud disproportionately benefits the big banks, makes boom-bust cycles more severe, and otherwise harms the economy … all of which increase inequality and warp the market. These actions artificially redistribute wealth from honest, hard-working people to a handful of crooks.  And corrupt government officials have aided and abetted this.

Runaway inequality – in turn – leads to the fall of empires … through unrest or revolution.

There is more in the original, that is recommended reading.

6. On my site(s) - 1

This sixth and last item is not a crisis item and is about my site(s).

The plan is to make more items like the present one in the present year, which will hopefully force me to update the whole site - that is over 500 MB  - and publish some about its status. This is the first item of the projected series.

A. Status: I have two sites, that are both meant to be identical in contents. One is in Holland, and is here. It was started late in 1996. In 1996, the providers were real hackers (programmers) and the site was very good, but around 2000 the site was bought by KPN ("Dutch" Telecom, for a large part in the hands of Mexican's richtest man Carlos Slim) since when "the help" one gets was truly atrocious (especially between 2002 and 2009), while one gets absolutely nothing for free, including statistics. I have none and xs4all supplies none to folks like me. The reason I don't swich to another Dutch provider is that these are as bad.

The other is in Denmark and was started in 2004. It is here. This one is a lot better than the Dutch one. I had statistics all the time, except that at present I can't get them anymore for a reason that I still do not understand, and which has to be clarified soon. But apart from that (and I do not yet know the reason why I can't get statistics now) their help was always good, clear and fast.

In either case, the site is over 500 MB and has six main subjects, each of which comes with several directories and many files: Philosophy, ME (the disease I have since 1.1.1979), Logic, Computing, ME in Amsterdam, and Nederlog.

I take it the first four need no explication. (Philosophy is by far the largest on the site, next to Nederlog, and consists of mostly book length texts by 28 classical philosophers with my equally long comments, plus my Philosophical Dictionary, that is still under development.)

ME in Amsterdam is about the intentional total destruction of my health by (then) mayor Ed van Thijn, who consistently, like almost all his Amsterdam bureaucrats, protected the illegal drugsdealers he had given his personal permission to deal illegal drugs from the bottom floor of the house where I lived. I take it he did this for money: If he got 1 in every 1000 cents that were turned over in merely the soft drugs that have been sold from Holland he meanwhile got 250 million Euros, all judged by the parliamentary Van Traa Report of 1997. (But Van Traa was mysteriously killed in 1997, and since then no Dutch politician, and no Dutch judge has said anything about the enormous drugscorruption that started under Van Thijn.)

Nederlog started in 2004, then as Nedernieuws, and in Dutch, and consists of mostly small pieces written on the day of publication in which I write about anything that interests me. Lately - since 2013, although I started the crisis series in 2008 - this is mostly about the crisis (which started in 2008 and still continues).

By now - mostly because I wrote (mostly) daily in Nederlog since 2009, the Nederlog section is the largest on my site.  Also it is the most popular.

B. Updates and numbers: I am on Linux (much rather than on Windows or Mac) and I decided that I wished to know - approximately - the number of words that is on my site, which I can find out (per directory) through using the wc utility, where "wc" abbreviates "word count".

To be sure, this is not precise, especially because html (<- Wikipedia) consists of ordinary text, that humans can read, together with html-tags that indicate how the text is to be formatted, but it gives somewhat better information than mere file length.

Here are the results for the completed years of Nederlog:

Wordcounts for the Nederlog directories:

2015: 1687710
2014: 1955373
2013: 1357688
2012: 1141367
2011: 1455587
2010: 1200443
2009: 1318339
2008: 1032839
2007:   319904
2006:   241578
2005:   141976
2004:   268908
Sum: 12,121,712

I suppose about 1/5th of this is html, but this still means I wrote about 10 million words in Nederlog so far.

It also is the plan to re-upload all the directories of Nederlog, but I do not know whether I will find the time today, and will let you know tomorrow.


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