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Nederlog

 April 22, 2016

Crisis: Climate, Guantánamo, TTIP, Press Freedom, Degenerate GCHQ
Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1.
Climate Deniers Get a Reality Check
2. What Really Stands in the Way of Closing Gitmo
3.
As Support Plummets, Is EU Moving Closer to Becoming
     'TTIP Free Zone'?

4.
Thanks to 'War on Whistleblowers,' US Ranks 41st on
     Press Freedom Index

5. 
'Staggering Reach' of UK Surveillance and 15-Year
     Coverup Revealed
 
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, April 22, 2016.


This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about climate scientists and the public; item 2 is about Guantánamo's history and is a good article by a specialist; item 3 is about European opposition to the TTIP, which is more extensive than I thought, but I remain pessimistic, because Europe also ceased being a real democracy, like the USA; item 4 is about press freedom in the USA: it is prettty bad, according to journalists who should know; and item 5 is about the staggering fascistic surveillance that the British state terrorists of the GCHQ does since at least 15 years, all without any justification (other than getting the means to terrorize anyone, in secret, of course).

This is a bit of a hasty Nederlog, because I also had to do some other things.

1. Climate Deniers Get a Reality Check

The first item is b
y Tim Radford on Truthdig and originally on Climate News Network:
This starts as follows:
In what should, in a rational world, have been an entirely unnecessary research project, US scientists have once again explored familiar ground and arrived at a familiar conclusion: 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening—and that it is caused by humans.

Since the governments of 195 nations have de facto already accepted this, and collectively vowed at the UN climate conference in Paris last December to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion and contain global warming if possible to a rise of 1.5°C, it might be expected that citizens would need no further convincing. But surveys shows that they do, and particularly in the US.

Yes (although I can't take that "vow" seriously, but that is another theme). As to the facts reported here: I am a scientist, though not of the climate, and (of course!) I agree with the 97%. [1]

Here is some more on the "unnecessary research project" (in a rational world, in which we definitely do not live):

The researchers base their conclusion on seven independent consensus studies already conducted by the co-authors. And it includes one in 2013, in which scientists surveyed more than 11,944 abstracts of scientific papers, and concluded—not for the first time—that most scientists agree that humans are changing the climate in which they so successfully evolved.

“The public has a very skewed idea
of how much disagreement there is
in the scientific community.”

Not only that: "The public" has very skewed ideas about science. Period.
To be sure: Not all, but then the term "the public" covers everyone (if adult), including scientists.

But most ordinary men, who either did not go to university or got a degree in a fluke subject (as is pretty common these days), simply do not understand methodology, statistics, and nearly all of mathematics, and most also do not know much about real science (physics, chemistry, biology).

This also is not a shame (though it is a pity), and certainly not if the firmly ignorant about science refrain from judging science. But they don't, and especially not in the USA:

But there has also been an apparently organised programme, for more than a decade, of outright denial and counter-claim.

Additionally, climate scientists have been the subject of condemnation and abuse not normally heaped upon academic researchers.

None of these factors has much altered the overall conclusion, in a programme of sustained international research launched in 1988: climate is changing, and human economic activity is making it happen.

Yes, but it is more serious, and the campaign against science is at least two decades old, at least as judged by Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" [2], where there were climate deniers in the later 90ies, who knew shit about science, but  who simply lied or made outrageous claims about their God.

I do not know how to deal with such politicians, except that - if I know they are not climate scientists - I think it is rationally correct to say to them that they talk like ignorant lying cheats, who deny solid science, in order to indulge their own crazy dreams, that may, if widely believed, destroy the earth.

But I know that would be impolite (although I think these non-scientific liars about the climate are liars and are far more impolite and far more dangerous than many other kinds of liars).

2. What Really Stands in the Way of Closing Gitmo

The second item is b
y Karen J. Greenberg (<- Wikipedia) on Truthdig, and originally on TomDispatch:

This starts as follows:

Can you believe it?  We’re in the last year of the presidency of the man who, on his first day in the Oval Office, swore that he would close Guantánamo, and yet it and everything it represents remains part of our all-American world. So many years later, you can still read news reports on the ongoing nightmares of that grim prison, ranging from detention without charge to hunger strikes and force feeding. Its name still echoes through the halls of Congress in bitter debate over what should or shouldn’t be done with it. It remains a global symbol of the worst America has to offer.

In case, despite the odds, it should be closed in this presidency, Donald Trump has already sworn to reopen it and “load it up with bad dudes,” while Ted Cruz has warned  against returning the naval base on which it’s located to the Cubans.  In short, that prison continues to haunt us like an evil spirit.

Yes, I can believe it. But I did have some help: I know far more about concentration camps than most (and Guantánamo is a concentration camp), and I do so because my father and his father were both locked up and convicted as - literally - "political terrorists" in German concentration camps in 1941. Their
crime? They resisted the Nazis. (My grandfather was murdered; my father survived more than 3 years and 9 months of 4 concentration camps.)

Then there was this "law" enacted - which I call a "law" (among other things) because I much doubt it is legal:

That same fall [of 2006 - MM], Congress passed the Military Commissions Act aimed at assuring that Guantánamo would be a site not only for offshore detention, but for offshore justice as well.  At some future point, Mohammed and the others were to be tried by the U.S. military in Cuba, not in American civilian courts in the U.S. For the first time, the military commissions, like the high value detainees, seemed to give Guantánamo definition (other than simply as a site of abuse, mistreatment, and injustice) and the possibility, in the context of the war on terror, of forward momentum. Those not released could now be tried. And yet by the end of the Bush years, only three prisoners, none of them HVDs, had been successfully convicted—fewer, in other words, than the five who died in custody there in those years.
Yes, though I should add that I am very much against "offshore justice"
by "the U.S. military": It does not seem like real justice to me, and besides
it gives
"the U.S. military" far too many powers they should not have (in any real democracy, to be sure).

Then there is this:

By the summer of his first year in office, Obama had announced that he would accept the distinctly un-American reality of indefinite detention and the military commissions as well, although in a new form still to be legislated by Congress. From then on, his presidency would remain eerily locked in the embrace of the Bush administration on Guantánamo and, promises or no, one thing was quickly clear: the president was not about to go out on a limb for the Gitmo detainees; he had other things to tend to (like a health-care proposal).
Indeed - which means Obama actively allowed U.S. concentration camps (for there are more, though these tend to be only known as "black sites"), and he also completely lost me: Somebody who does that, quite consciously also, is
not someone I could conceivably support or believe in. (For I know too much about concentration camps.)

Here is some - relatively - good news about Guantánamo:

Still, today there are “only” 80 remaining detainees, a third of the population in January 2009. Twenty-six of those have been cleared for release but are still awaiting transfer years later, while 44 continue to be held without charges in indefinite detention. Nine face actual charges before the military commissions.
This is indeed good news, simply because everyone who is locked up in Guantánamo is locked up in a concentration camp where they also get systematically mistreated and abused.

Here is part of the fascist techniques the USA used (and I am sorry, but that
is what they are):

To give themselves leeway in terms of prisoner interrogation and treatment, the administration refused to consider those held there as prisoners of war (POWs), for fear that methods of interrogation would be restricted by the Geneva Conventions. Instead, they coined a term, “enemy combatants,” to create a category beyond the bounds of legality. To this day, U.S. officials speak of the remaining detainees at Gitmo as neither “prisoners” nor POWs.
The last paragraph of the article is as follows, and seems the safest prediction about what is going to happen:
Still, all of us have to face another possibility: that the prison will not be closed in what’s left of the Obama years or in the presidency to follow; that this country will instead be left in the twilight zone of Gitmo and in a world where its values are the ones eternally associated with America; and that we will continue to be known as a nation willing to avoid justice, if not deny it outright.
My reasons to believe this is the most probable outcome are that (i) Obama had eight years to close Guantánamo and did not do it; that if (ii) Trump gets to be the next president of the USA all bets are off, but Guantánamo will remain open, and the same if (iii) Cruz is to be the next president; while (iv) Hillary Clinton, who is most probable person (now) to become president, is more hawkish than Obama.

3. As Support Plummets, Is EU Moving Closer to Becoming 'TTIP Free Zone'?

The third item is
by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Intercontinental opposition to the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) continues to grow, with a new poll out Thursday showing that support for the controversial deal has "plummeted" in Germany and the U.S. over the last two years.

The survey (pdf), conducted by YouGov for Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation, showed that only 17 percent of Germans believe the corporate-friendly trade agreement is a good thing, down from 55 percent in 2014. Likewise, in the United States, only 18 percent support the deal, compared to 53 percent two years ago—though nearly half of U.S. respondents said they did not know enough about the agreement to voice an opinion.

I say! For this is relatively good news (that occurs once in a fairly long while in these crisis files), that I also did not know. Also, a fall in support for the TTIP of around 28% in two years is a strong result, or that's at least my conclusion.

Here is a bit about what worried the Germans:

According to Ars Technica, "[t]here are three main areas driving public concern in Germany: fears about consumer protection, where 48 percent of those interviewed thought TTIP would have a negative effect; environmental standards (46 percent); and social standards—things like workers' rights—where 40 percent expressed concern."
And this is about what is being done by Obama and Merkel on the TTIP:

The agreement between the EU and the U.S., which would impact 800 million people, is at the top of the agenda for when Merkel and Obama meet, along with their respective trade ministers, at a German trade show on Sunday.

Politico said that meeting "is being billed as the 'last chance' to wrap up the deal before the White House changes hands." Trade ministers will gather in New York the following day to continue negotiations.

One of the very many extremely sickening facts about this bill, that when agreed to as law is the best and firmest and surest start for a thorougly fascistic [3] sytem, is that to the best of my knowledge the TTIP is still mostly secret, and is also to be voted on by the US Senate with extremely little time for discussion, which makes it certain that if it does get approved in the U.S.A, it does get approved on nonsensical grounds or on the basis of solid ignorance on the side of "the law-givers".

Then there is this:

"The fact that Obama is being brought in to try and curry favor for this controversial trade deal is testament to the enormous tide of public opinion standing in the way of TTIP," said Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden on Tuesday.   

"Millions of people across Europe have signed petitions against TTIP and hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to oppose it," he said. "Not even Obama's famous charisma is going to persuade people in Europe to sign away important legislations protecting public services, labor rights, consumer standards, and public services."

I have to say yes and no to this: Yes, it is good to know millions of Europeans have signed petitions against the TTIP and that the solid majority of the German electorate (about 75-80%) is against the TTIP; but no, while I agree this is good, it does not hearten me, for I know that in Europe, as in the USA, what "the electorate" thinks, in large majority also, is unimportant for the politicians, except to elect them.

Finally, this is the last bit I'll quote:

The European Commission has attempted to quell some of the public opposition by developing a supposed "alternative" to the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) legal system written into trade deals like the TTIP.

But its proposed "Investment Court System" is merely a "PR rebranding exercise," according to a report (pdf) released Wednesday by Friends of the Earth Europe, Transnational Institute, Corporate Europe Observatory, the Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung, and the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives.

Yes, it is "merely a "PR rebranding exercise"".

Also - knowing much more about fascism and politics than most - I am very firmly convinced that the ISDSs are the legal system of neo-fascism, for they are designed to block every move of any nation's government, any nation's judiciary, any nation's parliament, any nation's own laws that entails that the expected profits (!!) of multi-national corporations are less than the CEOs of these multinational corporations planned (!!).

These ISDSs will do so by convicting the nation's inhabitants to pay hundreds of millions or several billions to these multinational corporations from the taxes.

There are no appeals against these "courts". Only multinational corporations and governments are to be party to these courts: No one else - not the parliamentarians, not the trade unions, nor any of the inhabitants - will even be admitted to these "courts".

Here
is a reasonable definition of "fascism" 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."
Note that this generally comes about "through the merging of state and business leadership" - which has happened already in the United States, starting under Reagan and - especially - Clinton, when the leading people
from the banks started to work for the government inbetween periods of
working for the banks, and were able to determine almost everything so
that the banks and themselves profited
, indeed to the tune of trillions of
dollars, in 2008-2009.

But the fascism aimed at by the TTIP is even worse:

The nations, their governments, their parliaments, their laws, and their judges are all made inferiors to the multinational corporations, while the
nations have to pay the multinational corporations from the taxes of the nation in case any of their laws or decisions might harm any of the expected (!!) profits of the multinational corporations.

That is the stinking, gross and sadistic neo-fascist corporate insanity that Obama and the proponents of the TTIP in Europe want to impose on all of Europe - which may rapidly transform Europe into Texas or Kansas, or even worse.

4. Thanks to 'War on Whistleblowers,' US Ranks 41st on Press Freedom Index

The fourth item i
s by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The U.S. ranks 41st out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders/Reporters Sans Frontières' (RSF) 2016 press freedom index, largely due to the government's "war on whistleblowers," mass surveillance, and the lack of a shield law for journalists that guarantees their right not to reveal sources or other confidential information.

That's despite the fact that the U.S. actually moved higher in the rankings this year, advancing from its previous position at 49th in 2015. Its "relative improvement by comparison hides overall negative trends," the organization stated in a press release accompanying the report.

I say, for I did not know this. Also, I think it makes sense to add that I (very probably) trust the Reporters Without Borders and that I agree with the criterions they used (see below): the war on whistleblowers and the practice of surveillance are respectively an authoritarian and a fascist degeneracy [5], and I am strongly against both of them.

There is also this:

The group writes:

The main cause for concern for RSF continues to be the current administration’s obsessive control of information, which manifests itself through the war on whistleblowers and journalists’ sources, as well as the lack of government transparency, which reporters have continually criticized. The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined. Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA operative, was convicted solely on the basis of metadata in January 2015 of disclosing classified information to James Risen and is now serving a 3.5 year prison sentence.

[....] 

RSF's annual report measures the level of press freedom worldwide using the following indicators: pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, infrastructure, and abuses and acts of violence against journalists.

As I said, I agree with the criterions used.

5. 'Staggering Reach' of UK Surveillance and 15-Year Coverup Revealed

The fifth and last item is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Newly released documents reveal the "staggering extent" of the British government's mass surveillance of its citizens, ongoing since at least the 1990s, and its 15-year coverup of those operations.

The documents, acquired by the London-based watchdog group Privacy International, show that the UK's intelligence agencies—MI5, MI6, and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)—"routinely requisition personal data from potentially thousands of public and private organizations" under Section 94 of the 1984 Telecommunications Act.

That includes financial data; confidential health records; travel records; content of communications, including with lawyers, doctors, and ministers of Parliament; and personal online activity, such as petition signing, among other data. The documents also show that agencies continued to request information on scores of citizens despite privately acknowledging (pdf) that it is "unlikely to be of intelligence or security interest."

First, I am not amazed this started under the mass-murdering quasi-socialist multi-millionair Tony Blair: What a - Catholic - creep he is! Second, I think this about settles it: Great Britain's state terrorists have turned fascistic, for I do not have any other name for the above kind of spying on people who did not do any harm whatsoever, especially since they themselves say that what their spies stole is "unlikely to be of intelligence or security interest." (Also: I will withdraw the term as soon as the GCHQ is properly investigated by a proper parliament.)

Then there is this:

Privacy International obtained the documents as part of an ongoing case about the use of these so-called "Bulk Personal Datasets" and the 1984 law, which the group describes as "pre-internet legislation that was never intended to enable this level of intrusion in a digital age." A trial will take place later this summer at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which hears cases about surveillance and intelligence.

"The information revealed by this disclosure shows the staggering extent to which the intelligence agencies hoover up our data," said Millie Graham Wood, legal officer at Privacy International. "This can be anything from your private medical records, your correspondence with your doctor or lawyer, even what petitions you have signed, your financial data, and commercial activities."

Yes, indeed. What also strikes me is how little respect the GCHQ and the NSA have for the law:

On the one hand, these state terrorists spy on absolutely everyone any- where on the basis (in the USA) of rejecting the notion that the Fourth Amendment also applies to things written and send with a computer and not only to things written with a type-writer or with the hand, and send by paper mail, while they prosecute persons on the basis of extremely general "laws" of the 1780ies that do not and should not be applied to them.

Finally, there is this:

The documents also come as Parliament considers sweeping surveillance legislation known as the Investigatory Powers Bill, and often referred to by opponents as the "Snooper's Charter."

The government has argued that under the law, intelligence agencies would only conduct targeted searches of legally obtained records in national security investigations. However, as Wood explains, "the agencies themselves admit that the majority of data collected relates to individuals who are not a threat to national security or suspected of a crime. This highly sensitive information about us is vulnerable to attack from hackers, foreign governments, and criminals.

"The agencies have been doing this for 15 years in secret and are now quietly trying to put these powers on the statute book for the first time, in the Investigatory Powers Bill, which is currently being debated in Parliament," she said. "These documents reveal a lack of openness and transparency with the public about these staggering powers and a failure to subject them to effective Parliamentary scrutiny."

Put otherwise: Until now, the GCHQ has nearly always illegally collected information they had no right to, simply because nearly all of the very many petabytes of data they stole "relates to individuals who are not a threat to national security or suspected of a crime" (bolding added).

Now they want "to legalize" these extremely many thefts by the state's terrorists. If this get legalized, I will regard Great Britain as a neo-fascistic
state: In a proper democracy no one has the right to collect this kind of information on everyone, and no one should have that right. [4]

--------------------------
Notes
[1] Incidentally, while I agree with 97% of the climate scientists, and on their science, it does not follow that I need to agree with the ideas of environ-
mentalists. Indeed, I know that I do not or at least did not: I have heard quite
a number of proposals and ideas by environmentalists that I did not believe in.

Then again, much of this is over 30 years ago, and happened in the context of
"the University Parliament" that directed the University of Amsterdam in the 1980ies.

[2] Bill Maher (<- Wikipedia) is an American comedian whose ideas and values I tend to like (not always, but mostly). He did two long lasting programs
on TV or the cable: "Politically Incorrect", from 1993 till 2002, and "Real Time", from 2003 till now. I am referring to items of "Politically Correct" that I saw on Youtube.

[3] I do explain it: See here (a bit further on).

[4] Also not because of the lie that the government will protect you from terrorism: First, no governmen can give such an assurance, for there simply are not enough police and military men "to protect everybody", or even a sizable part of the population, if that were necessary; and secondly, terrorism since 2001 has killed fewer persons than cows have since the same year in Great Britain: See here. Also, the number of persons killed by terrorists in Great Britain in 15 years is 57; the number of persons murdered in Great Britain in the same 15 years is 15,162 (300 times as many).

[5] That is what I think: Secret services that collect everything they can get from anyone (and that is what is happening, already 15 years, thanks to Bush Jr) are engaging in and preparing the future of fascism. In a real democracy no one is surveilled, except as described under the Fourth Amendment. Under fascism (or state "socialism") everybody is surveilled, because everyone may object to the government.

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