February 24, 2016

Crisis: Guantánamo*2, Voting Machines, TTIP, Age of Authoritarianism
Sections                                                                     crisis index    

1. Obama’s Plan to Close Guantánamo Would Establish
     Indefinite Detention on U.S. Soil

Without Ending Immoral and Illegal Detention, Obama’s
     Gitmo Plan Is Just Empty Talk

Could the 2016 Election Be Stolen with Help from
     Electronic Voting Machines?

4. Trade Officials Promised Exxon That U.S.-EU Pact Would
     Erase Environmental ‘Obstacles’ Worldwide

5. The Age of Authoritarianism: Government of the
     Politicians, by the Military, for the Corporations

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, February 24, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 and item 2 are both about Obama's plan "to close Guantánamo", which is more of a lie than the truth; item 3 is about the question whether elections in the USA can be stolen electronically: yes, they can; item 4 is about the TTIP: European officials told Exxon not to worry, for as soon as the TTIP is "law" they will get all the profits and all the services they desire; and item 5 is about the Age of Authori- tarianism that has arrived in the USA (check the article if you think differently).

1. Obama’s Plan to Close Guantánamo Would Establish Indefinite Detention on U.S. Soil

This first item is by Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

SAYING THAT THE PRISON at Guantánamo Bay “undermines our standing in the world,” President Barack Obama today announced a detailed plan to close the facility, 14 years after it was first inaugurated by President George W. Bush. Among other measures, the plan calls for a number of Guantánamo prisoners to be transferred into permanent custody in the United States. This component of the government’s plan has alarmed many legal experts, who say that it would create a dangerous precedent for indefinite detention without trial in the United States.

“The infamy of Guantánamo has never been its physical location but the legal regime of indefinite detention without charge that underpins it,” said Omar Shakir, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “The administration’s proposal contains a number of measures that we have long advocated. But importing indefinite detention to the United States is not a plan to ‘close Guantánamo.’ It’s a plan to move Guantánamo to another ZIP code."

Precisely. Also - since both my father and my grandfather were locked up in Nazi concentration camps as "political terrorists" because they resisted the Nazis, I have been watching this rather closely from the beginning - if Obama had ever really wanted to close Guantánamo, he could have done it in 2009. He did not, and I gave up on him, also in 2009. Well... I think I was right in 2009, and given what Obama has wrought since, I am certain I am right now.

Here is what Obama is really doing, behind his usual propaganda phrases:

Obama’s plan for closing the prison also preserves the Bush-era practice of trying prisoners under military commissions rather than through civilian courts. Such commissions have been widely criticized as unconstitutional, as well as ineffective at securing convictions.

In a particularly cruel irony, prisoners who were tortured during their detention are unable to obtain due process because the evidence against them was legally tainted by their abuse.
Yes, indeed. And they simply should not be in prison without a decent and legal accusation of what they are supposed to have misdone.

Besides, there is also this, which I think is part of his plan:
Making indefinite detention without charge an accepted practice in the United States could also open the door to more radical legal measures in the future.

Precisely - such as locking up any American citizen with opinions that differ from the government indefinitely and without legal grounds.

The next item has some more on the same subject:

2. Without Ending Immoral and Illegal Detention, Obama’s Gitmo Plan Is Just Empty Talk

The second item is by
Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

This is a fine article from which I will quote just one bit because it is quite adequate:

“Without ending arbitrary indefinite detention, there is no end to the ‘misguided experiment’ that is Guantánamo Bay,” said Aisha Maniar, organizer of the London Guantánamo Campaign, citing the president’s own remarks on the prison.

“Instead,” Maniar continued, “Barack Obama has offered Congress a politically expedient plan that will help to protect his historic legacy as a president who tried. Coming at a key point in this year’s presidential campaign, and anticipating ‘a fair amount of opposition in Congress,’ the plan offers politicians on both sides a talking point to appear tough on terrorism and national security issues, while eschewing real threats.”

“The plan offers no viable solution to ending what Guantánamo represents, any more than it offers either freedom or justice for remaining prisoners,” Maniar added. “This plan demonstrates what the Guantánamo prisoners have always been: not dangerous men, but the ultimate pawns in the power games of others.”

Precisely. There is more in the article, that is recommended.

3. Could the 2016 Election Be Stolen with Help from Electronic Voting Machines?

The third item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

In fact, I start this question with my own answer: Of course they can! Whether they will be is another question, and the interviewee has some reasonable evidence that some U.S. elections were stolen.

And this starts as follows

Harvey Wasserman of Columbus, Ohio, has been a vocal critic of electronic voting machines. He co-wrote the book, "What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election." His upcoming book is titled "The Strip & Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft." We talk to him about his concerns for the upcoming presidential race.

Here is Harvey Wasserman:

And this year, about 80 percent of the vote nationally will be cast on electronic voting machines. There is no verifiability. In six key swing states—Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Arizona—you have Republican governors and Republican secretaries of state, and no method of verifying the electronic vote count. At midnight or whenever it is on election night, those two guys can go in there with an IT person and flip the outcome of an electronically counted vote within about 60 seconds. So all this millions and millions of dollars, people out campaigning and so on, can be negated by an electronic vote flip late at night on election night, and there is no way to verify what’s happened.
I agree. It seems the only somewhat realistic "verification" is comparing the outcomes of polls with the results of the elections: If the elections are considerably different, this is evidence that there may have been an elecronic vote flip - but a more direct verification of electronic voting seems impossible.

Finally here is Harvey Wasserman again:

AMY GOODMAN: How does e-voting, electronic voting, work? And who controls the controls on it?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Well, that’s the key. The electronic voting machines are owned by private corporations, which are Republican in orientation, generally. And the courts have ruled that the source code on these electronic voting machines is proprietary. So, even the governments that buy or lease these machines have no access to a final verification process.
Yes, indeed - and falsifying the outcome also is very easy and can be done very quickly, in computing principle, so to speak.

There is considerably more in the original, which is recommended.

4. Trade Officials Promised Exxon That U.S.-EU Pact Would Erase Environmental ‘Obstacles’ Worldwide

The fourth item is by Lauren McCauley at Truthdig and originally at Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Newly released documents show that, in back-room talks, European officials assured ExxonMobil that the pending US-EU trade agreement would force the removal of regulatory “obstacles” worldwide, thus opening up even more countries to exploitation by the fossil fuel empire.

Heavily redacted documents pertaining to an October 2013 meeting, obtained by The Guardian and reported on Tuesday, reveal that then-trade commissioner Karel de Gucht met with two officials from ExxonMobil’s EU and U.S. divisions to address the benefits of the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

I say: Of course!! Karel de Gucht knows; Karel de Gucht defends the interests of the rich as well as he can; and this includes - it seems - also giving assurances that as soon as the TTIP has become law, this will be used to grind down all European laws that would oppose "the expected profits" from the big oil corporations.

Here is some of the evidence:

A briefing paper summarizing the key points of meeting reportedly stated: “TTIP is perhaps more relevant as setting a precedent vis-a-vis third countries than governing trade and investment bilaterally…We think that this third country element is in the interest of the energy sector, and especially globally active companies like Shell or Exxonmobil. After all, companies like Shell or Exxonmobil face the same trade barriers when doing business in Africa, in Russia or in South America.”

In fact, this amounted to the following assurance by Karel de Gucht:

Or, as Guardian reporter Arthur Neslen phrased it, the commission effectively told the oil giant “that once the trade deal was in place, other countries outside it would be progressively forced to adopt the same measures, making it easier for companies such as ExxonMobil to expand into their markets.”

For every country that has laws that protect its inhabitants from the many awful consequences of totally uninhibited profit maximalizations by the big corporations can be put in front of an ISDS, as soon as the TTIP will become "law", that will force the inhabitants to pay hundreds of millions or billions to the big corporations for maintaining their profits:

Their national decisions went against the expected profits of the big corporations, and therefore will be a crime, and all inhabitants have to pay, according to TTIP, whose "courts of settlement" are transnational and not open to any party but big corporations, and also know no appeal, while much of the "courts'" proceedings also will be secret.

Here is the background:

“What the Commission calls barriers to trade are in fact the safeguards that keep toxic pesticides out of our food or dangerous pollutants out of the air we breathe,” said Greenpeace TTIP campaigner Susan Jehoram Cohen on Monday. The negotiators, Cohen added, “want to weaken these safeguards to maximize corporate profits, whatever the costs for society and the environment."

Precisely. And the costs will be enormous, not only financially, but also legally:

The TTIP is the end of democracy, the end of national government, the end of a national judiciary, and the end of effective parliamentary rule.

For all of these make the profits of the international corporations smaller, and that will be a major crime according to TTIP, punishabe by hundreds of millions
or billions of dollars, to be paid by the inhabitants of any nation that did anything that displeases the TTIP and the richest exploiters.

5. The Age of Authoritarianism: Government of the Politicians, by the Military, for the Corporations

The fifth item is by John Whitehead on Washington's Blog and originally on the Rutherford Institute:

This starts as follows (after a quotation by Howard Zinn):

America is at a crossroads.

History may show that from this point forward, we will have left behind any semblance of constitutional government and entered into a militaristic state where all citizens are suspects and security trumps freedom.

Certainly, this is a time when government officials operate off their own inscrutable, self-serving playbook with little in the way of checks and balances, while American citizens are subjected to all manner of indignities and violations with little hope of defending themselves.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age—the age of authoritarianism. Even with its constantly shifting terrain, this topsy-turvy travesty of law and government has become America’s new normal.

Yes, I think this is correct, and the Age of Authoritarianism also can be dated, quite precisely also, namely as starting with 9/11 or with the Patriot Act, that was introduced the month after it, and that gave enormous powers to the American government.

This is a fine article, and I will only take some quotations from it. You are recommended to read all of it.

Here is Rutherford's (who is a lawyer) description of the present "legal situation" in the USA:

Shadow Government: America’s next president will inherit more than a bitterly divided nation teetering on the brink of financial catastrophe when he or she assumes office. He or she will also inherit a shadow government, one that is fully operational and staffed by unelected officials who are, in essence, running the country. Referred to as the Deep State, this shadow government is comprised of unelected government bureaucrats, corporations, contractors, paper-pushers, and button-pushers who are actually calling the shots behind the scenes right now.

Law Enforcement: By and large the term “law enforcement” encompasses all agents within a militarized police state, including the military, local police, and the various agencies such as the Secret Service, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. Having been given the green light to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts, America’s law enforcement officials, no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace but now extensions of the military, are part of an elite ruling class dependent on keeping the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens. In the latest move to insulate police from charges of misconduct, Virginia lawmakers are considering legislation to keep police officers’ names secret, ostensibly creating secret police forces.

As to the "shadow government": See the fine article "How the Powers That Be Maintain the "Deep State": An Interview With Mike Lofgren" of February 22, last.

As to the "law enforcement": See the crisis index.

As to the enormous powers and the enormous knowledge the secret services now have about everyone:

By tapping into your phone lines and cell phone communications, the government knows what you say. By uploading all of your emails, opening your mail, and reading your Facebook posts and text messages, the government knows what you write. By monitoring your movements with the use of license plate readers, surveillance cameras and other tracking devices, the government knows where you go. By churning through all of the detritus of your life—what you read, where you go, what you say—the government can predict what you will do. By mapping the synapses in your brain, scientists—and in turn, the government—will soon know what you remember. And by accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc.

As I have said before, quite a few times also: All of this - the shadow government, the militarized police force, and the given freedoms to secretly spy on everyone and get everything, totally regardless of any legal restraint or order, that are currently and since 15 years in force - sounds to me like the very deliberate and planned construction of a neo-fascist American state, that will only work for the very rich, and that knows everything about anyone, and will be able to "make disappear" - into "Night and Fog", indeed - anyone who gets known as a critic of that system, simply by arresting them and keeping them in indefinite detention, without any trial, for the rest of his or her life. [1]

There is also this:

That brings me to the final and most important factor in bringing about America’s shift into authoritarianism: “we the people.” We are the government. Thus, if the government has become a tyrannical agency, it is because we have allowed it to happen, either through our inaction or our blind trust.

Yes, indeed - and this makes me rather afraid of the future, for it seems to me that most ordinary men and women still have no adequate ideas about how much already has been done the last 15 years to make the USA an authoritarian
state that only works for the interests of the big international corporations.

But we will see what happens.


[1] Of course also with any family member, friend or lawyer being expressly forbidden "by court order" to say anything to anyone, for this also is already happening now.

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