May 21, 2016

Crisis: TTIP=neofascism, Brazil, Pentagon, Stingrays
Sections                                                                     crisis index

The Dangers of Free Trade Agreements: TTIP’s Threat
     to Europe’s Elderly

2. Watch: First Interview With Brazil’s President Dilma
     Rousseff Since the Senate’s Impeachment Vote

3. Pentagon Official Once Told Morley Safer That Reporters
     Who Believe the Government Are “Stupid”

4. Power Loves the Dark

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, May 21, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about the enormous dangers the TTIP embodies not just for Europe's elderly, but for all of Europe: If adopted, it will destroy the present Europe; item 2 is about an interview Glenn Greenwald had with Dilma Rousseff (Brazil's president, now impeached); item 3 is about American journalism and the American government; and item 4 is about stingrays and the uncontrolled massive spying the American police does on the American population.

And this is "an ordinary Nederlog", in the sense that the potentially quite serious crisis with my stopping modem that I reported yesterday, has been completely resolved: A contact broke down, and has been replaced, and everything works as before.

I am quite glad, and the crisis series will go on, but probably a bit less from June 10 onwards, since I am then writing 3 years on it, and did so nearly every day. (I am still concerned, but want to write more about other subjects as well, and my writings will not stop the crisis.) More later (and this also depends on my health, and as my eyes have been growing considerably less painful since January, this may allow me to write more about philosophy, again).

1. The Dangers of Free Trade Agreements: TTIP’s Threat to Europe’s Elderly

The first item is b
y Michael Hudson (<-Wikipedia) on Counterpunch:
From the beginning:

The reason why the U.S. discussion of health care for the elderly is so relevant for Europeans is that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that President Barack Obama pushed on German Chancellor Angela Merkel two weeks ago. It poses a far-reaching threat to European policies.

The agreement has been drawn up in secret, and has only been available to Congressmen in a special room as a read-only copy. Not even Congressional staff have been permitted to see the details. The reason is that the terms of the TTIP are so awful that it could never be approved by voters. That is why the lobbyists for banks, insurance companies, drug companies, oil and gas companies and other special interests that wrote the law are trying to bypass democratic government and going directly to Brussels – and in the United States to the Executive Branch of government.

The aim of the TTIP is to replace the application of national laws with special courts of referees nominated by the special interests. This includes the organization of health care. Last week Britain’s main labor union, Unite, warned that the TTIP would mean that the National Health Service would have to be wound down and privatized.
Yes, indeed - as I have been telling you from the beginning. Also, the above is comparatively friendly, although the phrase
The aim of the TTIP is to replace the application of national laws with special courts of referees nominated by the special interests.
should be threatening enough for those who are interested in equal rights for all, instead of the "neoliberal" = neofascist rights for the rich and no rights for the rest.

And yes: I think this is by far the most frightening fascistic danger [1] I have seen in my life, and meanwhile I start thinking that those who want to avoid this word - "neofascistic" - when seeing that
The aim of the TTIP is to replace the application of national laws with special courts of referees nominated by the special interests.
are either very naive or not quite honest.

Here is some more explaining what the TTIP is about:

Taking all powers from elected governments, from national parliaments, and from national laws and judiciaries, this is what the TTIP, written in secret by lawyers of the multi-national corporations, who are also often going to be judges in secret courts, whose secret judgements will disenfranchise all of a nation's inhabitants' votes, all the parliamentary decisions, all the national laws, and all the nation's judges, and all for simply approving limits on the greed for profit of the multi-national corporations, is about:

A recent British article lays out the problem:

A salient goal of TTIP is to shadow the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system (ISDS), an instrument of public international law granting firms the right to raise an action in a tribunal on the basis that a state’s policies have harmed their commercial interests. … The economist Max Otte has called ISDS ‘a complete disempowerment of politics’. The tribunals are confidential, as is usual in arbitration. Negotiations over ISDS within TTIP are also secret, the aim being to get the ink dry on the agreement before it can provoke opposition by being made public. …

As the Economist put it, ‘if you wanted to convince the public that international trade agreements are a way to let multinational companies get rich at the expense of ordinary people, this is what you would do.’
Once again: This is fascism without Hitler or Mussolini. It will be introduced in a semi-legal way, by "laws" that were not read because they were denied to be read and denied to be discussed by the parliamentarians whose unthinking and unknowing approval they did get, under the sickening bullshit propaganda label this is supposed to be "good for free trade".

Here is the last quote I will give from this article, namely from the "Summary":

European sponsors of U.S.-style neoliberalism pose a threat of transforming European politics, and with it the structure of economies and society. Enormous sums of money are being spent on public relations, and to support politicians willing to shepherd corporate monopoly power against that of democratic government and voters. The most serious threat to European health care and care for the aging population in general isequal rights for all pressure from U.S. firms and diplomats to ram through the TTIP.

It is much more than a free trade agreement. Its “investor dispute” mechanism threatens to disenfranchise governments. The intent is to block them from protecting Europe’s economy, population and basic social philosophy that has developed over the past century of social democracy.

Yes indeed: It is a neofascistic American attack on the European rights, the European laws, the European nations, the European civilization that have so far prevented Europe from going the way of Texas and Kansas. It is sick. It is degenerate. It is neofascistic.

But because of the destruction of the free press and the incredible increase in bullshit, propaganda and lies it may well transform Europe into the playground of the neofascistic American multi-national corporations and banks. It will totally destroy Europe as I have known it for 66 years, and all I can say is that I am very glad I was born in 1950 and not later, and that I am very glad I have no children. [2]

Watch: First Interview With Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff Since the Senate’s Impeachment Vote

The second item is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Last Thursday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was suspended from the presidency when the Senate voted, 55-22, to try her on the impeachment charges, approved by the lower house, involving alleged budgetary maneuvers (“pedaladas”) designed to obscure the size of public debt. Although she nominally remains the president and continues to reside in Brasília’s presidential palace, her duties are being carried out by her vice president, Michel Temer — now “interim” President Temer — and the right-wing, corruption-tainted, all-white-male cabinet he has assembled (due to Brazil’s coalition politics, Temer is from a different party than Rousseff). Rousseff’s suspension will last up to 180 days as her Senate impeachment trial takes place, at which point she will either be acquitted or (as is widely expected) convicted and permanently removed from her office.

On Tuesday, I spoke to President Rousseff in the presidential palace for her first interview since being suspended. The 22-minute interview, conducted in Portuguese with English subtitles, is below. Rather than subdued, resigned, and defeated, Rousseff — who was imprisoned and tortured for three years in the 1970s by the U.S.-supported military dictatorship that ruled the country for 21 years — is more combative, defiant, and resolute than ever.

This is from the introduction to the interview that Glenn Greenwald made with Dilma Rousseff (<- Wikipedia). I should say that I don't have enough Portugese to follow Brazilian sources, and that I am living far from Brazil.

I think something very dirty is happening there, but there is a lot I do not know. Glenn Greenwald, in contrast, has lived a long time in Brazil and speaks fluent Portugese.

First, here is a little - also from the introduction - about the man who succeeded Roussef as president:

Since he has taken power, Temer has exacerbated the fears of those who regard impeachment as an attack on democracy or even a coup. Unlike Rousseff, he is personally implicated in corruption scandals. He was just fined for election-law violations and faces an eight-year ban on running for any office (including the one into which he was just installed). Polls show only 2 percent of Brazilians would support him in an actual election, while close to 60 percent want him impeached.

This is one of the many reasons that make me think something very dirty is happening in Brazil. Then again, for more you must click the above dotted link,
and read the interview.

It is interesting and recommended, and also is not the last word on the still ongoing events in Brazil, where the right seems to have taken power by accusing the president of corruption, and then giving the power to one of its most corrupt and most degenerate rightist members.

3. Pentagon Official Once Told Morley Safer That Reporters Who Believe the Government Are “Stupid”

The third item is
by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept:
The story that follows was caused by the death on May 19 of Morley Safer (<- Wikipedia), who was 84, and who had been a prominent U.S./Canadian journalist for 60 years.

The following happened in 1966 - 50 years ago, this year - and these are Safer's words from 1966. Also, the man the story is about, Arthur Sylvester, does not have a Wikipedia lemma, but was
Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs (<-Wikipedia):

There had been some annoying moments in previous weeks that had directly involved Sylvester’s own office. In the first B-52 raids, Pentagon releases were in direct contradiction to what had actually happened on the ground in Viet Nam.

There was general opening banter, which Sylvester quickly brushed aside. He seemed anxious to take a stand — to say something that would jar us. He said:

“I can’t understand how you fellows can write what you do while American boys are dying out here,” he began. Then he went on to the effect that American correspondents had a patriotic duty to disseminate only information that made the United States look good.

A network television correspondent said, “Surely, Arthur, you don’t expect the American press to be the handmaidens of government.”

“That’s exactly what I expect,” came the reply.

An agency man raised the problem that had preoccupied Ambassador Maxwell Taylor and [U.S. spokesman] Barry Zorthian — about the credibility of American officials. Responded the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs:

“Look, if you think any American official is going to tell you the truth, then you’re stupid. Did you hear that? — stupid.”

One of the most respected of all the newsmen in Vietnam — a veteran of World War II, the Indochina War and Korea — suggested that Sylvester was being deliberately provocative. Sylvester replied:

“Look, I don’t even have to talk to you people. I know how to deal with you through your editors and publishers back in the States.”

At this point, the Hon. Arthur Sylvester put his thumbs in his ears, bulged his eyes, stuck out his tongue and wiggled his fingers.

I say. I think Sylvester was being stupid himself, although what he said was how the U.S. government wanted the wars it initiated to be reported by American journalists: As faithful propagandists who only told the stories the American government approved of.

Then again, the U.S. government mostly did get from American journalists what it wanted to hear, and indeed did so more and more as time progressed:

But in the 50 years since, from essentially everything the Nixon administration said about Vietnam, to the Reagan administration’s claims justifying the invasion of Grenada, to the George H.W. Bush administration justifying the Gulf War because Iraqi forces were massed on the border of Saudi Arabia, to the Clinton administration’s wild exaggerations about Serbian violence in Kosovo, to essentially everything the Bush administration said about Iraq, to Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denying the National Security Agency gathers data on millions of Americans, most of the U.S. media
has been, as Sylvester put it, “stupid.”

Time and again, members of the Washington press corps have credulously accepted officials’ lies and misinformation and passed them on to their readers as the truth. Their real-time skepticism is almost nonexistent. And they keep doing it.

Yes, indeed - and at present it is far more doubtful (what with "embedded reporters" in a fully professional army) that ordinary American journalists tell the truth about what American soldiers do in the countries they fight in than it was in the Vietnam area, when journalists were not "embedded" and the army was not professional.
4. Power Loves the Dark

The fourth and last item of today i
s by Matthew Harwood and Jay Stanley on TomDispatch:
This starts as follows:
Can’t you see the writing on the touchscreen? A techno-utopia is upon us. We’ve gone from smartphones at the turn of the twenty-first century to smart fridges and smart cars. The revolutionary changes to our everyday life will no doubt keep barreling along. By 2018, so predicts Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company, more than three million employees will work for “robo-bosses” and soon enough we -- or at least the wealthiest among us -- will be shopping in fully automated supermarkets and sleeping in robotic hotels.
Yes. I should say that "We" does not cover me, although I have a personal computer since 1987 (29 years): I don't have a smartphone and refuse to buy one; I don't have a smart fridge and refuse to buy one; I don't have a car and will never own one.

Also, the Gartner information is probably colored by Gartner's own interests - but yes: Much more secret spying by many more secret spies does seem to be the future's trend (all in complete contradiction with the Fourth Amendment  (<-Wikipedia), but who cares?!).

And in fact, the article is mostly about the use of stingrays, which are secret
spying instruments
that the American police now seems to use as one of its favorite instruments to find out things about American people in general (without any warrant whatsoever, while refusing to admit the use of a stingray in court):

After the use of Stingrays was first reported in 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other activist groups attempted to find out more about how the technology was being used, only to quickly run into heavy resistance from police departments nationwide. Served with “open-records requests” under Freedom of Information Act-like state laws, they almost uniformly resisted disclosing information about the devices and their uses. In doing so, they regularly cited nondisclosure agreements they had signed with the Harris Corporation, maker of the Stingray, and with the FBI, prohibiting them from telling anyone (including other government outfits) about how -- or even that -- they use the devices.
Precisely - so indeed you have police officers who now refuse to give judges any information in court, in fact on the ground that ... they signed a deal with
the Harris Corporation that is supposed to prohibit them telling anyone

There is considerably more in the article, and I have written before in the crisis series on stingrays: It seems a grossly illegal means to uphold "the law", which seems to be now used as a matter of course by the American police and the FBI.


[1] I am now getting a bit sick of repeating this over and again, but OK - here is the argument once again (as simple and short as I can make it).

First, "fascism" is mostly adequately defined by the American Heritage Dictionary. Second, here is that definition, followed by an explanation that was lifted from March 25, 2016 (which accounts for Cruz):

Fascism a. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism. b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government. 2. Oppressive, dictatorial control.

Also, I think "we" already have most of that in the USA: centralized authority (though not yet a dictator: wait for Cruz or Trump); stringent socioeconomic
controls (by the Federal Express and the International Monetary Fund); suppresion of the opposition to censorship (e.g. of Bernie Sanders on the main
media); and belligerent nationalism (plus exceptionalism) are there, though indeed it may grow a lot worse (and will, with president Trump or president Cruz).

The reason that the TTIP (etc.) is fascistic is that is is a project of the lawyers for the multinational corporations, that is explicitly designed to take all powers
of national states, national governments, national parliaments and national judiciaries, and give these to the TTIPs "courts", where the lawyers of the multi-
national corporations will decide whether this or that or any other multi-national
did not get the profits they expected, and if not, will convict all the inhabi- tants of the nations whose powers they have completely destroyed, to pay the multi-national corporations hundreds of milions or several billions from their taxes to restore the full projected profitabilities of the multi-national corporations.

The "trials" will be mostly in secret; the TTIP is still mostly unknown (but what I say about it is correct and is known); no one else but multi-national corpora- tions may appear in these "courts" (no states, no politicians, no private persons, no trade unions); and there are no appeals possible to the decisions of these "courts".

You may not be inclined to call this "fascism", but if so, I consider it likely that
you know little about politics.

[2] You don't need to agree, but this is what I think. Also, if others think differently, all I can say is that those others very probably don't know shit about politics. (And if you have read the list in the last link, you are not ignorant. If you have not, I tend to think you are, especially if you are over 30: Every intelligent person should be interested in politics, and anybody intererested in politics should have read most of these classics. If you haven't but are writing about it anyway and publishing it, I tend to think you are probably a fraud, who is writing to enrich himself or herself.)

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