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Nederlog

May 8, 2016

Crisis: Poverty, Obama, TTIP, BBC
Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Being a Poor Child in the U.S. Is Worse Than in Slovakia
     or Turkey

2. How Obama ‘Legalized’ the War on Terror
3. TTIP: We Were Right All Along
4.
BBC Lies and Statistics
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, May 8, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about a UNICEF study that points out that while the USA is the richest nation, many of the positions it takes are far less good than its status as the richest nation would make one expect, and would allow; item 2 is about how Obama "legalized" (not the same as: legalized) the war on terror (and the near divination of the criminal mega-rich Wall Street bankers); item 3 is about a long and good article about the TTIP (which is neofascistic, and was crafted for the exclusive benefit of the rich); and item 4 is about an article that shows that the BBC indeed these days lies (which they did not do - as Orwell tells us in his "Collected Journalism" etc. - in WW II).

1. Being a Poor Child in the U.S. Is Worse Than in Slovakia or Turkey

The first item is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:
A new study published by UNICEF places the United States at 18 out of 41 among the world’s wealthiest countries in terms of the well-being of their impoverished children.
In fact, there are a lot more of similar statistics, that generally have the form: "The USA is the first in total wealth, but the 18th, 42nd, 54th etc. etc." on quite fundamental statistics - education, mathematical knowledge, linguistic knowledge, literary knowledge  etc. etc. - that do not directly relate to the gigantic profits, the enormous tax evasions, and the multi-million yearly incomes of the rich and the very rich.

And the brief summary indeed normally has the form: The very few very rich have extra-ordinary pleasant lives in the USA, but the very many non-rich and poor live less pleasant, and sometimes - health costs, for example - consider- ably worse lives than any of their European equivalents in incomes.

Indeed, it shows to me that Ayn Rand's message to the very rich has arrived very well: "Be egoistic! Be greedy! Let others starve so that you may grow richer and richer! People who are your financial inferiors are your inferiors! They are loosers! They are degenerates! Only the rich are real people!" [1]

Was I exaggerating? I think not much, for all of these enormous inequalities could have been easily undone without the very rich growing markedly less rich. But they did not want to loose any money they could gain: Monetary profit is their God and their measure of everything and everyone.

Here is some more:

For context, the U.S. ranks No. 1 in total wealth.

The study took a comprehensive approach, comparing the gap between children at the very bottom to those in the middle across a range of criteria – including household income, educational achievement and self-reported health and life satisfaction. The central question was this: How far do countries let those at the very bottom fall?

In the United States, the answer seems to be distressingly far.

On income inequality, the U.S. ranked No. 30, coming in behind countries like Turkey, Estonia and Slovakia. Driving the gap is the fact that one in five American children lives in poverty – a figure among the worst in the world. On education, the U.S. fared better at No. 10, with a relatively small achievement gap between those at the bottom and those at the middle, but plunged to No. 21 on life satisfaction – coming in well behind even recession-plagued countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal.

I say. These numbers are slightly different than those I knew before (from earlier years), when on education the US scored 18th (I think) but they are generally like them.

And the overall explanation is the same:

Huge financial inequalities, with a few getting nearly all profits, and the big majority getting hardly anything. Also, all of this seems to have been planned since over 40 years now: See the Powell-memorandum.

Finally, the following is quoted from the report rather than the article:

It shouldn't be surprising that Scandinavian countries dominated the overall rankings, with Denmark at the top and Finland, Norway and Switzerland all tied for second. These countries have made massive investments in a social safety net that ensures those at the bottom have opportunities to get ahead. Those same investments in the U.S. have stagnated.

Buried deep in the voluminous report is this sentence: "Growing up in unequal, harsh social environments may pose a barrier for children to a healthy, happy, and productive life."

The biggest mistake I made in my life is that in the 1970ies I lived and worked very happily and very healthily in Norway, but I believe the lies of the degenerates of - especially - Dutch Labour, that enticed me to leave Norway and study in the University of Amsterdam, where my life was thoroughly and intentionally ruined because I believed and believe in truth and in science. [2]

But more of this later. As to the last quoted sentence: The "may" is a lie. It clearly should be: does. That is:
"Growing up in unequal, harsh social environments" DOES "pose a barrier for children to a healthy, happy, and productive life."

2. How Obama ‘Legalized’ the War on Terror

The second item is b
y Michael Brenner on Consortiumnews:
This starts with a summary that I will quote:
Among the troubling legacies of Barack Obama’s presidency is his consolidation of the dubious legal principles that George W. Bush cobbled together to justify the Global War on Terror, explains Michael Brenner.
It seems to me more serious, indeed in part in view of the fact that Obama is a lawyer: he consolidated the illegal principles Bush Jr used, and he did so to continue the American presence in the Middle East, and continue the war there.

Next, this is from the beginning:

President Barack Obama’s uneasy encounters with the law in devising numerous innovative means to prosecute the “War on Terror” are treated exhaustively in Charlie Savage’s much discussed book, Power Wars. This compendious volume is destined to be a landmark in the writing of the period’s history.

It also should be seen as a marker of its times as it at once explains how Obama sought legal grounds by which to justify methods that skirt the Constitution and takes at face value the assertions of those who claim to have done a conscientious analysis of the laws and the Constitution without prejudice.

I haven't read "Power Wars", but I don't really think that "Obama sought legal grounds by which to justify methods that skirt the Constitution".

To the extent that I know (which is limited, like almost everyone else's knowledge of events and thoughts in the White House) he simply sought
any somewhat plausibly sounding ground to get around much of the Bill of Rights, and he could do so simply because most people are not lawyers.

Obama is a lawyer, and I think he knew the following very well:

Most reviewers of the Savage account accept the validity of its underlying premise. As David Luban writes in The New York Review of Books: The lawyer’s “domain is the arcane network of laws that constrain the president as he wages” the War on Terror. “If the president’s lawyers tell him that a policy is illegal, he will have a hard time carrying it out.”

This is what we Americans would like to believe. But is it true? The record suggests otherwise. One must strain mightily to find instances where the White House did not do what it wanted to do – or, where the President felt compelled to override a contrary interpretation by his lawyers in order to act as he was inclined.

Yes indeed: In general "the White House" simply does "what it wanted to do".

The reasons for this are that most men are not lawyers; that the White House
anyway has a lot of authority; and that an appeal to "the dangers of terrorism", even if it is wholly false, convinces many of what follows such an appeal, however rotten it is when looked at objectively, honestly, fairly and with a legally schooled brain (which seldomly happens, these days).

There is this on the Patriot Act:

The place of the Patriot Act in these lawyerly discourses is of central importance. Time after time, the debate turns on the question of whether the provisions of the Act are applicable to a particular place or action. There was a strong tendency, glossed over by Savage, to take the Patriot Act to be tantamount to a Constitutional Amendment – or, at least, some sort of Basic Law superior in legal standing to all other statutes.

Of course, there are no legitimate grounds for doing so. Indeed, several provisions of the Act are of dubious Constitutionality. They have not been fully adjudicated because two successive administrations have fought tooth-and-nail to deny plaintiffs access to the courts, usually with the acquiescence of a supine judiciary.

The invocation of “state secrets,” especially in regard to rendition and torture, has been one of the preferred stratagems for doing so – in direct contradiction of solemn pledges given by candidate Obama in 2008.

For me many "provisions of the [Patriot] Act are of dubious" or plainly false  "Constitutionality" - and while I am not a lawyer, I do know a great amount
of logic and philosophy (and also think these are better ways to tackle these
texts than a merely lawyerly merely devious mind).

Indeed, there is also this, which is quite correct:

There are inalienable rights as ensconced in the Constitution. They are not eligible to be treated as commodities for haggling among the CIA Director, the Attorney General and the man in the Oval Office and his political operatives. We contravened that principle in 1942 to our everlasting shame – or so we thought afterwards. Exactly 60 years later, we went down that same road of infamy.
In case you don't know about 1942: This was the internment of people of Japanese descent (mostly American citizens) in the United States (<-Wikipedia) merely on that ground (which was anti-constitutional).

And then there is this, that also is quite correct in my opinion:
Yet more egregious was the Obama-Holder arbitrary amendment of the Constitution in pronouncing that the country’s biggest banks could escape both criminal and civil prosecution because punishment for their illegal actions might do serious harm to the economy. The two men, in effect, unilaterally and without any process other than their own political calculus placed an asterisk after the Constitutional stipulations regarding “equal protection of the laws.”
Precisely - and therefore and thereby they grossly and unconstitutionally broke their own oaths on the Constitution.

The article ends on the following appraisal of Obama:

Reviewing the voluminous record, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that, for all the prolix lawyerly discussion, the Obama people reached the same conclusions as did John Yoo and David Addington in the Bush administration: the President could do pretty much as he pleased.
(...)
Obama legitimized and thereby institutionalized the illegalities of the “war on terror.” That is his legacy.
(...)
As William Pitt warned us: “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human liberty. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”
And besides: he gave the richest bankers total freedom to plunder trillions from the rest of the Americans, and he betrayed almost all the promises of "Change!", "Change!", "Change!" that got him elected.

But this is a recommended article, with considerably more than I quoted.

3. TTIP: We Were Right All Along

The third item is
by Thomas Fazi on Naked Capitalism and originally on Social Europe:

From near the beginning:

The European Commission has always argued that the agreement is aimed at ‘help[ing] people and businesses large and small, by opening up the US to EU firms; helping cut red tape that firms face when exporting; and setting new rules to make it easier and fairer to export, import and invest overseas’. Furthermore, it contends that the TTIP, will ‘kick-start’ the EU economy by ‘generating jobs and growth across the EU’ and ‘cutting prices when we shop and offering us more choice’.

These assertions have been strongly challenged by European (and American) civil society organisations, which have maintained that the proposed agreement is not primarily intended to reduce the few remaining tariffs between the world economy’s two biggest trading blocs, but that ‘its central objective is to dismantle and/or harmonise regulations in areas such as agriculture, food safety, product and technical standards, financial services, the protection of intellectual property rights, and government procurement’. Since the EU-US negotiations are notably taking place behind closed doors, though, civil society organisations have had little to back their claims in terms of hard evidence (though the European Commission agreed last year to publish a long list of documents, the most important TTIP documents remain secret), and have had to rely mostly on historical precedents (the well documented nefarious social, economic and environmental effects of previous trade agreements, such as NAFTA), leaked documents relating to the other major trade deal being negotiated by the US, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), signed on 4 February 2016, and, well, good sense.

I will mostly abstain from comment in this item, but I think it should be added that intended "trade laws" that are very much kept secret (indeed in a ludicrous and demeaning way) are for that reason alone extremely suspicuous, and should also, for that reason alone, be thrown from the table by parliaments: They should not approve or consider or pass intended laws they have not extensively read and discussed.

Here is what made the difference - and since this is quite important (for Europeans at least) you should (if European) read all of it:

Until now, that is. On May 1, Greenpeace Netherlands released 243 pages of leaked secret TTIP negotiation texts, which offer an unprecedented glimpse into the far-reaching implications that the agreement would have for climate, environment and public health – and, crucially, prove that civil society organisations were right all along. According to Greenpeace, the documents raise four aspects of serious concern from an environmental and consumer protection perspective:

  • Long-standing environmental protections appear to be dropped. None of the documents received by Greenpeace refer to the General Exceptions, a 70-year-old rule enshrined in the GATT agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that allows nations to regulate trade ‘to protect human, animal and plant life or health’ or for ‘the conservation of exhaustible natural resources’. The omission of this regulation suggests both sides are creating a regime that places profit ahead of human, animal and plant life and health.
  • Climate protection will be harder under TTIP. There is no reference in the texts to the need to keep global temperature increase under 1.5 degrees, as stressed in the Paris climate agreement. Even worse, the scope for mitigation measures is limited by provisions of the chapters on ‘Regulatory cooperation’ or ‘Market access for industrial goods’. As an example, these proposals would rule out regulating the import of CO2-intensive fuels such as oil from tar sands.
  • The end of the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle, enshrined in the EU Treaty, is not mentioned in the chapter on ‘Regulatory cooperation’, nor in any other of the obtained 12 chapters. On the other hand, the US demand for a ‘risk-based’ approach that aims to manage hazardous substances rather than avoid them, finds its way into various chapters. This approach undermines the ability of regulators to take preventive measures, for example regarding controversial substances like hormone disrupting chemicals.
  • Opening the door for corporate takeover. While the proposals threaten environmental and consumer protection, big business gets what it wants. Opportunities to participate in decision-making are granted to corporations to intervene at the earliest stages of the decision-making process. While civil society has had little access to the negotiations, there are many instances where the papers show that industry has been granted a privileged voice in important decisions. The leaked documents indicate that the EU has not been open about the high degree of industry influence. The EU’s recent public report has only one minor mention of industry input, whereas the leaked documents repeatedly talk about the need for further consultations with industry and explicitly mention how industry input has been collected. Yet, Cecilia Malmström, the European Commissioner for Trade, had the nerve to respond to the leak by stating that ‘the EU industry does not have greater access to EU negotiating positions than other stakeholders. We take into account submissions by industry, but exactly the same applies to submissions by trade unions, consumer groups or health or environmental organisations – all of which are represented in the advisory group that regularly meets our negotiating team’ (my emphasis). This is the same person that stated, when asked how she could continue her persistent promotion of the TTIP in the face of such massive public opposition, replied: ‘I do not take my mandate from the European people’.

As to the last point: Fundamentally, both the TTP and the TTIP are corporate takeovers of the most important functions of the state. And I call this for what it is: A neofascistic plan drawn up by the lawyers of the very rich to give them all the relevant powers in any economy that signs either into law.

Also, its very extreme secrecy shows its extreme rottenness. Ms Malmström's sick and degenerate lies show this, and as she does "not take my mandate from the European people" I say: Non-elected supremos in the European Union are neofascists, and with such degenerates at the helm, the European Union seems most like the conscious preparation of a neofascistic Europe, where only the very rich, the politicians, and their bureaucrats count as real people.

Indeed, as Joseph Stiglitz said (see below): The TTIP is

‘an attempt to increase the power of corporations to control economies and societies’,

and as such it is fascistic or neo-fascistic, and even if I were the only remaining European with a father, a mother, and a grandfather in the resistance against the Nazis, and with a father and grandfather arrested and convicted as "political terrorist" by Dutch fascistic collaborating judges, and with a father who is only one of 2 (two) Dutch communists who were knighted after the war, I say it and say it again:

The TTIP is a neofascistic attempt by the rich to control everything and everyone in any society that accepts this neofascistic utter rot.

And here is Stiglitz:

The bottom line is that the TTIP cannot be ‘improved’. As Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has stated, it is little more than ‘an attempt to increase the power of corporations to control economies and societies’ – and for this reason should be, quite simply, thrown into the dustbin of history. This is not an impossible feat. Recent events – in October 2015 more than 150,000 marched in Berlin against the proposed trade deal and tens of thousands last month in Hannover – show that TTIP has become a strongly contentious issue. 45 per cent of Germans opposed it in 2015, compared to 25 per cent in February 2014; recent polls are even more negative (see also here). A broad range of social forces have declared their hostility to the treaty, including trade unions, NGOs, consumers associations, among others. A large and increasing number of local authorities claim to be ‘outside TTIP’. In September 2015, 54 per cent of French people lived in ‘outside the TTIP’ zones.

Furthermore, even government support for the deal is faltering. US presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump all expressed concerns about the deal. In Europe, a growing number of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) – which, according to the EU, would be the main beneficiaries of TTIP – are joining coalitions opposed to TTIP and raising concerns, in Germany, Austria or the UK, that an agreement would discriminate against SMEs. Public resistance has been successful in slowing down the negotiating process, and the latest leak might very well prove to be the TTIP’s coup de grâce. Thus, let’s seize the day and bury this deal forever – and may that be the beginning of a wider counter-offensive against the self-serving elite that has taken our continent hostage.

I very much hope that the TTIP will die and dusappear forever, but I warn you that the European Union seems full of - unelected! - neofascists who are deeply committed to it, as are all American lawyers who drew up this horror of horrors.

Also, rest assured that they will do anything to make the TTIP into law: It will be all power to the richest, it will make Europe like Texas or Kansas - and it will make the rich and their corrupt lying politicians very much richer, at the costs of the rights and the incomes of everybody else.

Again, this is a recommended article.

4. BBC Lies and Statistics

The fourth and last item for today is
by Craig Murray (<- Wikipedia)

This starts as follows:

Here are the basic facts from Thursday’s plethora of UK elections, limited to those affecting the relative Labour and Conservative Vote

English Council Elections
Labour 1,291 councillors Conservative 828 Councillors

London Mayoral Election First Preferences
Labour 45.2% Conservative 35.0%

Labour also won the three other mayoral elections in Bristol, Liverpool and Salford

Scottish Parliament elections
Labour 22.6% Conservative 22.0%

Welsh Assembly Election Votes
Labour 34.7% Conservative 21.1%

And yet the BBC ran a claim all day that the “projected” national vote share was Labour 31%, Conservative 30%.

This simply cannot be true. Labour won the London mayoral election by over 200,000 votes. They were 130,000 ahead in Wales. Taking all the elections except the English local council seat elections, Labour were 360,000 votes and approximately 6% ahead of the Tories.
Yes, indeed. And what did the BBC mean by ""projected""? Imagined? Knowingly false but stated as true?

Here is Craig Murray's conclusion:

I can say for certain is that the BBC 31/30 figure is a despicable and quite deliberate lie. The BBC has become a caricature of a state propaganda machine.
Yes, indeed. I do not know whether the BBC is "a state propaganda machine" nor indeed whether it is "a caricature" of that, but they surely lie and propagandize, and they certainly should not. [3]

--------------------------
Notes
[1] To be sure: The quoted statements are mine, not Ayn Rand's, but for what I have read of her, they are all true, even if she did not make them.

[2] Anyone from Dutch Labour is welcome to attack me in court:

I have been asking now since 1988 for any help or any monetary restitution of 4 years of terror from the illegal and murderous narko-nazis that the Amsterdam neofascists had given permission to deal in illegal drugs from the bottom floor in the house where I lived, and 28 years of fruitless asking and pain and tiredness does lead me to the conclusion that the sadists and neofascists of Dutch Labour are just that (and probably also extremely rich, in thoroughly illegal ways).

Also, and not by the way: I have been styled "a dirty fascist" for 12 years on end by the stalinists from the ASVA, who are all now rich or partially rich neo-conservatives, and who were then merely quasi-marxists and evident sadists.

I know, for my parents and grandparents were real communists, unlike all the stalinist assholes from the ASVA.

[3] Here are two reasons why Craig Murray's statements sometimes are more radical than mine: He is a former English ambassador and knows a lot more about English politics than I do, and acted bravely as an ambassador, and was fired for his protesting torture in Uzbekistan, since when he got radicalized. My own statements are merely those of a social liberal leftist intellectual who has been a radical all his life, and was raised by two radicals.

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