Sunday, Feb 12, 2017

Crisis: On Bannon, On the TTP, Americans & Democracy, On the TISA, Ignorant Americans

Sections                                                                     crisis index

As Tensions Rise, Steve Bannon and ISIS Get Closer to Their
     Common Goal: Civilizational War

2. Trump is a Catastrophe, But So was the TPP
Americans Aren't as Attached to Democracy as You Might

4. TPP is Not Dead: It’s Now Called the Trade In Services

5. New Rule: Make America Learn Again

This is a Nederlog of Sun
day, February 12, 2017.

Summary: This file is a crisis log with 5 files and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is mostly about Steve Bannon on the basis of an article in The Intercept; item 2 is a very good article on the TPP (I recommend you download it); item 3 is an unsatisfactory item on the present state of American democracy; item 4 is a very good article on the TISA (and again I recommend you to download it); and item 5 is a brief video item by Bill Maher, who deplores the growths of stupidity and ignorance in the USA.
As for today (February 12, 2017): I have changed my site on February 1, 2017 to make it easier that it might be read, because it now happened for most of last year that both of my sites are not uploaded properly:

On it may be days, weeks or months behind to show the proper last date and the proper last files (in the last 4 years always on the date it was that day), and it was this morning correct for the first time in four days; on it may be shown as December 31, 2015 (and often was!!!) but was correct this morning; and indeed I am sick of being system- atically made unreadable and therefore changed the site to allow most readers to find it more easily.

For more explanations, see
here - and no: with two different sites in two different countries with two different providers, where this has been happening for a year (and not for over 20 and over 12 years before) now I'm absolutely certain that this happens and that it's not due to me.
1. As Tensions Rise, Steve Bannon and ISIS Get Closer to Their Common Goal: Civilizational War

The first item today is by Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

The Trump administration has taken sweeping, drastic measures that it says are necessary to protect Americans from the threat of terrorism, including its executive order halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. But the radical policies and beliefs of this administration could just as easily end up fueling the narratives of extremist groups fighting the United States. When Trump ran a campaign built on promises to destroy ISIS, how can one explain the fact that supporters of the group in Mosul were reportedly celebrating his Muslim ban?

The order was based on plainly dubious claims about national security, targeting for scrutiny some of the most heavily vetted visitors to the United States. But the tangible purpose it did serve, before being at least temporarily frozen by the courts, was to divide Americans from millions of people in the Muslim world by sending the latter a message of gratuitous insult and contempt — and emboldening the very extremist movements the order was ostensibly directed against.

I mostly agree. And there is this on Steve Bannon:

That kind of polarization may be exactly what some members of the White House want. High-ranking members of the current administration — most notably its chief strategist, Steve Bannon — have publicly espoused apocalyptic theories of history that center on a forthcoming clash between Western countries and the Muslim world, a conflict that many of them seem to perceive as both inevitable and desirable.

There are striking parallels between Bannon’s worldview and the perspective of terrorist groups like the Islamic State, which see the world divided in similarly binary terms — hence their reported enthusiasm for the executive order that Bannon helped author.

Again I mostly agree, although I don't think it was the agreement between Bannon and the Islamist terrorists on a radical binary division of the world that moved terrorist groups to "enthusiasm". I think they were moved to enthusiasm because they like war and because Bannon likes war.

There is considerably more in the article that I leave to your interests, but I will quote Bannon:

We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict … to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.

Well...I'd say that someone who is ready to give up all human civilization there was (back to and including the ancient Greeks) in order to fight ISIS sounds as if he is a complete madman.

To be sure, I have no knowledge whatsoever about Steve Bannon's psyche and therefore I have also no knowledge whatsoever to pronounce him insane. But I will hazard a guess: He probably is not mad, although he is very bad. [1]

2. Trump is a Catastrophe, But So was the TPP

The second item is by isabel Marlens on Common Dreams:

I think this is the best article on the TPP that I have read so far (and I read quite a lot about the TPP etc.). I strongly advice you to download this article, that starts as follows:

Since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, I’ve found myself talking for the first time with a lot of my 20-something friends about trade agreements.

My friends didn’t vote for Donald Trump. Most are from “liberal” parts of the US. They went to good schools for 12 years, worked hard, got good grades. Many went on to top colleges and universities, places like Stanford, Yale, NYU, UCLA.

And yet most of them know almost nothing about one of the most important issues facing the world today.

Why are so many young people – even those with the “best” educations – almost completely ignorant about a huge ongoing threat to human rights, democracy and the climate?
I think that the only answer to this question about the best educated "20-something"s
that makes sense, is that the most intelligent of the young adults are "
almost completely ignorant about a huge ongoing threat to human rights, democracy and the climate" simply because they heard little or nothing about it in their universities or colleges.

Here is some more:

This widespread ignorance about trade among young voters is deeply disturbing – not least because trade agreements, and their role in hollowing out the American middle-classes, arguably made Trump’s election possible. (At the same time, Trump, a billionaire who has benefited enormously from free trade, is only likely to make their situation worse.)

But what’s most disturbing is that the ignorance of my friends has been intentionally created: trade agreements are confusing and secret by design.
Yes indeed: It were the trade agreements - indeed ever since Bill Clinton signed NAFTA and did his best to deregulate all laws - that allowed the rich of the USA to transport their businesses from the USA to India and China, were the wages are very much lower, and the profits for the rich very much higher.

And indeed none of this had been possible without massive deregulations, that were started under Reagan, and continued and much strengthened by Bill Clinton, and then by Bush Jr. and then again by Obama: All were pro deregulations; all supported the rich; and indeed the rich paid the Clintons many millions for their very willing services.

The second paragraph is also quite correct, but first this.

For me "the trade agreements" are a major and systematic attempt to make the world neofascistic in the following sense:
Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
And the reason for the ignorance of the brightest young adults and indeed the ignorance of the majority is that this program to introduce neofascism - that is: the absolute rule of the few CEOs of the multi-national corporations - is that this whole program is "secret by design" and has been kept secret for a very long time because nearly all politicians - left, "left", center and right - consented (quite possibly because the rich have enough money to corrupt them) to the fact that a few extremely rich CEOs made a secret pact to destroy democracy, to destroy most laws, and to give almost all powers to the very few richest.

There is also this:

So for now, here are ten reasons that we should be glad the TPP is dead — the same ten things we should continue to watch out for — and resist — in the days ahead.
Unfortunately, in fact the TPP is not really dead yet, and besides there is the even worse TISA, that is the subject of item 4. And apart from that there also is the TTIP, that is also not dead. (The links are to Wikipedia. [2])

Then again, the points Isabel Marlens formulates (see below) hold against both:

1. Secrecy. Trade agreements are drafted in secret by specially appointed “trade officials” (experts on trade and corporate law, many of whom originally worked in private corporate law firms). Although more than 400 representatives of special interests and corporations in the US alone have a seat at the table, citizens and their elected officials do not. Because the provisions of these agreements can override both democratically derived national laws and international agreements (like climate agreements), this secrecy dangerously undermines democracy.
This is probably the worst feature: This neofascistic plan was draftedf in secret, kept secret for at least seven years, and did not include any citizens, any elected politicians or any trade union whatsoever, while the neofascistic plans of the TTP is to override all democratically derived national laws and almost all international agreements.

It is a dictatorship by the rich for the rich that is simply imposed on hundreds of millions of citizens who have nothing whatsoever to say about these complete overhauls of democracy and law: They were not allowed to be there, nor were their politicians, nor their trade unions.

Incidentally, I quoted the above in part: There is more in the original (that I strongly recommend you to download), and the same holds for all other points that I will quote, but always in part.
2. Investor State Dispute Settlement. Most trade agreements include a little thing called Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses. These give foreign corporations the right to sue any government whose laws or regulations –– such as those protecting the environment, food safety, workers’ rights or local businesses –– threaten future corporate profits.
In other words, the neofascists have it arranged, "in law", that the rich multi-national corporations can sue any government because its rules "threaten future corporate profits": Profits for the rich go before any other norm, whether moral, ethical, legal, or political.

And mind you: Multi-national corporations have often more money available than at least the smaller nations have.
3. Regulatory chill. There is no system of precedents for ISDS suits, so countries cannot know how a tribunal will decide based on past decisions. Nothing is transparent and there is no system of appeals.
In other words, the neofascists call their authoritarian decisions for the rich "laws", but their "legal regulations" are nor ordinary laws; their "court" is not an ordinary court; the decisions these tribunals take - that are manned by lawyers from the rich corporations -  cannot even be appealed. This is neofascistic utter authority of the rich for the rich.
4. Climate. On the other hand, trade agreements are making certain that this is the only kind of chill around. The TPP in particular was touted as somehow being “good for the climate.” This could not be more wrong. It might be enough to say that in over 5,000 pages the phrase ‘climate change’ was never mentioned, (..)
In other words, on the climate the neofascistic TPP (about which almost only lies were spread for the first five years or so of its secret negotiations) is like Trump: Everything that limits the maximum profits of the rich is either forbidden or declared not to the exist.
5. Labor in ‘rich’ countries. The loss of working class jobs in countries like the US is perhaps the most well-known negative outcome of trade agreements. Indeed, global GDP has steadily risen since 1980, but labor’s share of national income in most industrialized countries has steadily declined. The reason? Trade agreements have rigged it so that it is simply impossible for companies to “compete” if they manufacture their goods in countries with decent pay or adequate labor protections
In other words, the laborers in Europe and - especially, under Trump - in the USA are driven to suicide by chronic lack of money (and may get no money whatsoever in the USA, if Trump's plans are practiced). And the very many laborers have been steadily losing money to the few rich since 1980.
6. Labor in ‘poor’ countries. Does this mean that working class people in non- industrialized countries are doing great? NO! In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. The ways that bigger, richer countries use trade agreements to bully and exploit smaller, poor ones are fairly endless.
In other words, another part of the reasons that the rich transported their industries to the poor countries is that the poor countries pay very much less to the poor, who also are very much less protected by laws.
7. Regulatory harmonization. Sounds pretty, right? There’s just one problem; the landscape of harmonized regulations proposed in trade agreements doesn’t exactly create a regulatory standard of justice and sustainability around the world. Instead it promotes a global race to the bottom. For example, governments in the EU operate on something called the precautionary principle: this means that new chemicals and GMO foods cannot be sold until they are proven to be safe. In the US, they can be sold unless they have been proven to be harmful – which means that the US has approved over 400 chemicals, as well as numerous GMOs, that are illegal in Europe. In order to “ease trade,” the pending Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), between the U.S. and the European Union, would make them legal on both sides of the Atlantic, and economists say the rest of the world would have no choice but to follow suit or be left behind.
In other words, the neofascistic rich of the USA plan to destroy all better regulations and protections of the Europeans, and can do so by their neofascistic TTIP.
8. Privatization and outsourcing. We usually think that trade agreements are about goods shipped back and forth across the ocean, but in fact they also regulate services – including essential services, like water, power, waste management, public transportation, health care and education. For some time now, trade agreements have been “liberalizing” these sectors, which means systematically taking them from the hands of governments and passing them into the hands of private corporations (including foreign corporations.)
In other words, the neofascistic rich will appropriate all water, all power (gas, oil, electricity), all wastes, all public transports, all health care and all education, so that they can make maximal profits selling them as expensively as possible to the hundreds of millions they stole them from in secret, by the secret TTP, the secret TTIP or the secret TISA.
9. Countries handcuffed. To top it off, trade agreements include various ‘handcuff’ clauses that make them nearly impossible to get out of once they are signed.
In other words, the rich neofascists have arranged it in their secret rules that the rulles that enormously profit the few rich, that were signed in secret by a few of the corrupted politicians, cannot be undone and will last forever.
10. Good for a few rich corporations. So if workers and environments are only harmed in this borderless landscape of financial opportunity, who benefits? A few multinational corporations and global banks, of course!
In other words, the few neofascistic rich and they lawyers benefit enormously and everybody else gets completely screwed.

That is
neofascism for you, and because the neofascistic rich have arranged it - with the help of corrupted "democratic politicians" of most parties - that their authoritarian impositon of neofascism happens in secret, and happens by the rich for the rich, without any participation, consent or knowledge of the hundreds of millions they screw, I do not know how to stop it and can only hope that the world economy collapses before it is taken over totally by the few neofascistic rich.

3. Americans Aren't as Attached to Democracy as You Might Think

The third 
item is by Austin Sarat (<- Wikipedia) on AlterNet and originally on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

There is much to celebrate in the court decision against President Trump’s immigration ban. It was a stirring victory for the rule of law and reaffirmation of the independence of the judiciary. Yet America faces a serious problem which that decision did not address: the erosion of public faith in the rule of law and democratic governance.

Really now? I don't think that there was "much to celebrate" about the court decision or about "the rule of law" in the USA, and my reason is that the court decision was simply correct. I don't think it was "a stirring victory for the rule of law" nor that it was a "reaffirmation of the independence of the judiciary": These are exaggerations in my view.

Then again, Sarat is right - it seems - that there is an "erosion of public faith in the rule of law and democratic governance". Here are some of his numbers:

Only 53% of those surveyed said that they “trust judges more than President Trump to make the right decisions for the United States.” In this cross-section of Americans, 38% said they trusted Donald Trump more than our country’s judges. 9% were undecided.

In fact, slightly over half of the survey "trust judges more than President Trump", which I agree is not very good, but then again half of all Americans has an IQ of maximally 100, which makes their opinions hardly reliable.

Here is some more, this time about democracy:

When asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how “essential” it is for them “to live in a democracy,” 72% of Americans born before World War II check “10,” the highest value. But, the millennial generation (those born since 1980) “has grown much more indifferent.” Less than 1 in 3 hold a similar belief about the importance of democracy.

And, the New York Times reports that while 43% of older Americans thought it would be illegitimate for the military to take power if civilian government was incompetent, only 19% of millennials agreed.

Hm. First of all, if you are "born before World War II" you are at least 75 (or more).
I agree with them that democracy is very important, but then I should point out that
these old men and women grew up under Eisenhower, who was a Republican democrat, and who praised democracy; they were in their twenties in the 1960ies, which was - at the very least - a radical time (quite independently from the actual choices people made), that was quite unlike the fifties and what followed in the late 70ies; and these folks also probably did get a somewhat better education about civics and democracy.

And second, I think I can understand the people who are now at most in their middle thirties a bit better than Sarat, who is nearly 70 and teaches law and political science
as a professor, which does make him a specialist on democracy and law.

For what did these 20 and early 30 year olds learn about democracy and law in their education? I don't really know, but it seems to me that (i) most did not learn much about either, and also (ii) if all you learn about democracy are some general statements on its general goodness, without precise laws, without explanations and with very little backgrounds, it is probably rather easy and natural for many to conclude that if that is democracy, it isn't worth much.

I disagree with them, but I am in my middle sixties, a real intellectual, and someone
who read very much. And while I disagree as I am, I do not know what I would think
of "American democracy" if I had not studied philosophy but - say - biology, and were
30 at present, and had to judge
"American democracy" fairly naively, without much knowldge of law, history or politics. As I said, I don't know, but my guess is that I would not be much impressed.

This is from Austin Sarat's ending:

Schools, civic groups, and the media must to go back to fundamentals and explain what basic American political values entail and why they are desirable. Defenders of democracy and the rule of law must take their case to the American people and remind them of the Founders’  admonition that: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Really? What are "basic American political values"? I do not know. I can guess, but
that's just my personal guess. And in fact I think there are considerable differences
- e.g. between Republicans and Democrats - on what the
"basic American political values" are. The same applies to their desirability. And Sarat - who should know, as
a professor of law and political science - doesn't say so either.

Also, while I read and admired the Federalist Papers I don't understand Sarat's selection, neither in general, and especially not in the present context: Why be a democrat if the government must control itself? (In fact, James Madison does
provide better arguments in The Federalist No. 51, from which Sarat quotes, and indeed the next sentence there, which Sarat does not quote starts as follows: "A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government (..)

So I wasn't much enlightened
by this article.

4. TPP is Not Dead: It’s Now Called the Trade In Services Agreement

The fourth
item is by Peter Dolack on Counterpunch:
This is another very good article on the TPP and the TISA, but if you don't know much about either, and indeed also if you do, first read item 2.

This starts as follows:

One can hear the cry ringing through the boardrooms of capital: “Free trade is dead! Long live free trade!”

Think the ideas behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership or the so-called “free trade” regime are buried? Sadly, no. Definitely, no. Some of the countries involved in negotiating the TPP seeking to find ways to resurrect it in some new form — but that isn’t the most distressing news. What’s worse is the TPP remains alive in a new form with even worse rules. Meet the Trade In Services Agreement, even more secret than the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And more dangerous.

Actually, as I pointed out in item 2, there are three agreements that the rich seek to impose mostly in complete secret on large parts of the world: The TTP, the TTIP and the TISA. This is about the TISA:

The Trade In Services Agreement (TISA), currently being negotiated among 50 countries, if passed would prohibit regulations on the financial industry, eliminate laws to safeguard online or digital privacy, render illegal any “buy local” rules at any level of government, effectively dismantle any public advantages to be derived from state-owned enterprises and eliminate net neutrality.

No more regulations on "financial industry"; no more laws on digital privacy; no more buying local; no more state-owned enterprises; and the end of net neutrality: All neofascistic rules that serve the rich and only the rich, who want to impose the rules
that only serve them into "laws", and who do so in secret.

Here is more:

Earlier draft versions of TISA’s language would prohibit any restrictions on the size, expansion or entry of financial companies and a ban on new regulations, including a specific ban on any law that separates commercial and investment banking, such as the equivalent of the U.S. Glass-Steagall Act. It would also ban any restrictions on the transfer of any data collected, including across borders; place social security systems at risk of privatization or elimination; and put an end to Internet privacy and net neutrality. It hasn’t gotten any more acceptable.

No more rules on the size or expansions of "financial companies"; no more restrictions on the transfers of data; social security systems to be privatized or eliminated ("Starve, you poor losers!!!"); no more internet privacy: All neofascistic rules that serve the rich and only the rich - and note that these are all, once again, deregulations (<- an important link).

Many of TISA’s provisions are lifted from TPP, but some go beyond the latter’s already extreme proposals For example, not even the TPP contemplated the entire elimination of regulations of any kind against the financial industry. Article 14 of TISA’s annex on financial services, which had contained the most explicit language prohibiting regulation, has been removed, but Article 9 still contains language requiring no limitations beyond those applying to domestic financial firms. In other words, a smaller country would be required to allow a giant bank from a bigger country to take over its entire banking system.

The TISA involves "the entire elimination of regulations of any kind against the financial industry": The neofascist rich make much better profits without any regulation that might constrain the infinite greed of the very rich.

Here is the real import of the TTP, the TTIP and TISA:

The intention of “free trade” agreements is to elevate corporations to the level of governments. In reality, they raise corporations above the level of governments because only “investors” can sue; governments and people can’t. “Investors” can sue governments to overturn any law or regulation that they claim will hurt profits or even potential future profits. On top of this, a government ordinarily has to pay millions of dollars in costs even in the rare instances when they win one of these cases.

That is, the real point of all three neofascistic systems of new rules and deregulations is to "raise corporations above the level of governments because only “investors” can sue; governments and people can’t. “Investors” can sue governments to overturn any law or regulation that they claim will hurt profits or even potential future profits": This will enable the neofascist rich to rule everyone, and make the best profits for the neofascistic rich.

In other words:

Each “free trade” agreement has a key provision elevating corporations above governments that codifies the “equal treatment” of business interests in accordance with international law and enables corporations to sue over any regulation or other government act that violates “investor rights,” which means any regulation or law that might prevent the corporation from extracting the maximum possible profit.

That is: corporations can (boldings added) "sue over any regulation or other government act that (..) might prevent the corporation from extracting the maximum possible profit", for extracting the maximum profits of the rich is the only moral norm that the rich neofascists wish to understand.

And this is another very good article that I recommend you to download.

5. New Rule: Make America Learn Again

The fifth and
last item today is a brief video by Bill Maher. It takes 4 min and 57 sec:
It is here because Bill Maher explains his "falling in love with books, and ideas, and knowledge", simply because at 18 he went to a good college, and also because he says
"One of the saddest things about" the present USA "is that we don't want to see smart people in our lives anymore. Smart presidents? Can't have that. Scientists? What do they know? Newspaper editors? Liars! Fake news."

Yes, indeed. I will return to the last point later.

[1] What are my reasons?

First, I am definitely not by far as crazy as the author(s) of a fairly recent paper in the British Journal of Psychiatry that concluded (in 2010) that no less
than 78% of the British - 78 out of every 100: you read it well - is not sane, on the basis of the rules of the DSM-IV. (For more, see here.)

Second, I am very probably also not as crazy as the authors of the DSM-IV or 5. I do not know what is the percentage of the people they would call not sane, but it very probably is higher than my own estimate, were it only because in the DSM-IV there are over 400 distinct grounds to pronounce a person not sane, whereas in 1952 there were between 40 and 50.

What are my numbers? I'd say that between 1 and 10% get at least somewhat serious psychological problems at some time in their lives, which means that there is between 9 against 1 and 99 against 1 that an arbitrary person does not have
at least somewhat serious psychological problems.

So in fact I consider people sane until I have had good reasons that they are not, and while I had good reasons to hold that Trump is not sane (check out this letter of three psychiatrists to Obama if you haven't read it) I do not know of such reasons for anybody else in his cabinet. (Again, badness is not the same as madness.)

[2] I do often link to the Wikipedia, but I don't agree with parts of the articles on the TTP, TTIP and TISA, while I suspect these also have been edited by proponents. (But this is merely for your information.)

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