January 17, 2019

Crisis: Three Articles On Brexit, The Pentagon´s Many Lies, Sleepwalking Into Catastrophe


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 17, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, January 17, 2019. 

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than three years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from January 17, 2019:
1. British Democracy Nears Meltdown as Parliament Deadlocks Over
2. Britain Races Toward a Cliff. Time to Slow Down.

3. “A Fight for the Soul of Britain”: May Goes Down in Historic Defeat

4. Bases, Bases, Everywhere … Except in Pentagon’s Report

5. Even Davos Elite Warns Humanity Is 'Sleepwalking Into Catastrophe'
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. British Democracy Nears Meltdown as Parliament Deadlocks Over Brexit

This article is by Robert Mackey on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

To say that the United Kingdom’s system of democratic governance is showing signs of strain, the day after Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed deal to exit the European Union was rejected by Parliament in an unprecedented landslide, would be a considerable understatement.

That’s because the massive vote against May’s compromise Brexit plan — by a coalition of members of Parliament who want a more radical break from the EU and those who want to remain closer to, or even inside, the trading bloc — reveals that something far closer to a systemic meltdown is already in progress.

The core of the problem is that the country’s representative democracy, in which decisions are traditionally taken by a government acting on behalf of a majority of Parliament’s members, was thrown into crisis in 2016, when the public voted in a referendum to withdraw from the EU, despite the fact that most legislators, including May herself, had argued against a British exit. It didn’t help that the pro-Brexit campaign succeeded in large part because of exaggerations and outright lies about how painless a divorce from the EU would be.

The prime minister has also ignored the fact that, as pro-EU voters continue to point out, the vote in favor of Brexit was a narrow one — the measure passed by a 52-48 margin.

Yes indeed. I think this is all quite correct.

Perhaps I should add that I am also somewhat amazed by the mess the Brits are making out of this, and I lived briefly in England, but long ago, indeed before it entered the European Union, but then I also should say that since Thatcher came to power in 1979, Great Britain has steadily grown much worse (also thanks to the very awful Blair), at least for those who are not rich conservatives.

Then again, the previous paragraph states some my personal values. Here is more from the article:

While she has steadfastly refused to say that she thinks Brexit is actually a good idea, May has committed her government to carrying out what she describes as the will of the people to leave the EU, but also worked to limit the inevitable economic damage of cutting ties with her nation’s leading trade partners.

But now that May’s compromise deal with the EU has been rejected by 230 votes, and there appears to be no majority in Parliament for any other version of Brexit, the political system seems to have arrived at an impasse, just 10 weeks before the country’s membership in the union expires on March 29.

Yes indeed. Besides, Brexit was introduced by the former conservative PM, David Cameron, because he felt sure he would win a referendum about it, but he lost by 48 against 52% of the voters.

Here is some more:

Before the Brexit referendum introduced an element of direct democracy into the parliamentary system, a prime minister who lost a vote on the central issue of her government by even one vote, let alone 230, would have been expected to resign or call a general election. The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has attempted to force May to step down by calling for a vote of no confidence in her government on Wednesday, but she is widely expected to win the vote and remain in office, since even her staunchest opponents in the Conservative Party, and her Ulster unionist allies, fear a Corbyn-led government more than they hate May.

Yes, this is also quite correct. And I am writing this very early on January 17, so I can add that Corbyn lost yesterday´s vote, as predicted by Mackey.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Still, if no other solution is found to the impasse, a new referendum could offer a way out for the deadlocked Parliament. Although a result different from that of 2016 is far from certain, recent calculations by the pollster Peter Kellner suggest that the country gets more pro-EU with each passing day.

I believe this is correct (and Kellner´s reasons seem to be based on the facts of dying older people, who were 2 to 1 for Brexit, and incoming new young voters, who seem to be in majority against Brexit.) There is considerably more in this article, which is recommended.

2. Britain Races Toward a Cliff. Time to Slow Down.

This article is by The Editorial Board of The New York Times. It starts as follows:
If there’s an upside to the crushing defeat of Prime Minister Theresa May’s laboriously negotiated plan for withdrawing from the European Union, it is that staring in the face of an exit without a deal 10 weeks from now may finally compel British lawmakers to accept reality.

That was far from evident in the immediate aftermath of the 432-to-202 vote in Parliament on Tuesday. Though it was the worst drubbing a British government had suffered in modern times and a dangerous step toward the cliff’s edge, the vote was cheered by many sides — by hard-core Brexiteers who would sever ties to the Continent at any cost; by “remainers” for whom any glitch in the Brexit process keeps alive the hope of staying in the union or at least softening the terms of a divorce; by Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, who wants to oust Mrs. May so he can come to power.

Mr. Corbyn’s ambitions, at least, were dashed for the moment when many of the politicians from Mrs. May’s camp who defied her on Tuesday came to her support on Wednesday, opting to keep her in office rather than risk an election in which they had no acceptable alternative candidate.
Yes indeed. (As an aside: I also first converted this to pure text, since I am a complete opponent of the fact that in the present NYT there is ten times - 10 times!! - more utterly unreadable Javascript than there is text.)

Here are some backgrounds:
The 27 other members of the European Union have been united in insisting that the withdrawal agreement negotiated with Mrs. May’s government over 17 months be viewed as a final deal. Among other provisions, that nearly-600-page agreement set a transition period lasting through 2021 to make a trade deal and included a “backstop” that would ensure that no matter what else was decided in that period, the border between the Republic of Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland would remain open.
I have read this before, in several other articles, so to that extent it is correct. I must add that I do not think the problems about ¨the British province of Northern Ireland¨ are fundamental, but that is just what I think.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
If the votes of this week make at least that much clear, British politicians may at last begin confronting the real options they face. These includes trying to forge a consensus position on a new Brexit deal and hoping the Europeans will consider it; or opting for a new referendum, which is favored by politicians who believe that enough of the public has reconsidered Brexit to scrap the idea; or accepting Mrs. May’s deal.
This is more or less correct. My own tastes are for a new referendum, but this is basically because I am for democracy, and because I have seen too many lies and too much incompetence of British (and other) politicians. This is a recommended article.

3. “A Fight for the Soul of Britain”: May Goes Down in Historic Defeat

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was crushed Tuesday in the biggest defeat for a sitting British government in modern history. After months of build-up, May’s plan for withdrawing Britain from the European Union was voted down 432 to 202, fomenting political uncertainty about the future of Britain, as well as May’s leadership. On Wednesday, Parliament will vote on a no-confidence motion in May’s government. We speak with Paul Mason, New Statesman contributing writer, author and filmmaker. His latest piece for the New Statesman is titled “To avoid a disastrous failure, Labour must now have the courage to fight for Remain.”

Quite so, and I can add that May has won the no-confidence motion yesterday. Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: The U.K. is scheduled to leave the European Union in 10 weeks, but the rejection of the Brexit deal leaves ambiguity about what will happen next. Shortly after Tuesday’s vote, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed Parliament, calling for a vote of no confidence today in Theresa May’s government.

JEREMY CORBYN: The result of tonight’s vote is the greatest defeat for a government since the 1920s in this House. This is a catastrophic defeat for this government. After two years of failed negotiations, the House of Commons has delivered its verdict on her Brexit deal. And that verdict is absolutely decisive. … I, therefore, Mr. Speaker, inform you I have now tabled a motion of no confidence in this government. And I’m pleased—I am pleased that motion will be debated tomorrow, so this House can give its verdict on the sheer incompetence of this government and pass that motion of no confidence in the government.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Tuesday. Today, Labour Leader Corbyn said he misspoke when he called the vote the largest defeat since the 1920s, saying, in fact, it’s the largest defeat in the U.K.’s democratic history.

Parliament is currently debating Corbyn’s no-confidence motion and will vote at 2 p.m. Eastern time today.

As I said, Corbyn lost the vote, it seems because the sitting parliamentarians rather have an incompetent conservative government rather than any Labour government.

Here is more:

PAUL MASON: Well, Amy, just let me just put this into context for American viewers. Imagine Trump said, “Let’s leave NAFTA.” OK, the right of American politics would applaud. But if you said, “Well, we’re leaving NAFTA, but we’re following NAFTA’s rules, so Canada and Mexico will get to determine America’s trade policy,” there would be uproar on both sides of your House of Representatives.

And that’s effectively what happened last night in British politics. The far right of the Tory Party and all the other progressive parties combined together to defeat May. So, 230 out of a 650 Parliament, that was the margin. And it leaves her not only facing the worst defeat a government has ever faced, but this is the only piece of legislation her government was elected to do. It is a one-trick pony, and the trick just failed.

Yes, I agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

PAUL MASON: The way it goes now is that if Corbyn were able to win a vote of no confidence against Theresa May, there would have to be a general election. Now, that’s something that’s not only, you know, politically unpalatable to the right and, of course, the corporate elite here in Britain, but this crisis we’re living through here in Britain, with Brexit, is the endpoint of a 40-year period of neoliberal economics. It’s become very focused, as it has in your country, on xenophobia, white nationalism, free trade. All these themes are there. And basically, the corporate elite cannot afford to see this Tory government fall, when the only alternative is the most radical and most left-wing Labour Party we’ve ever had. And so, that’s why you’ve got this complete stasis and paralysis in British politics.

Yes, this seems correct. There is considerably more in the article, that is strongly recommended.

4. Bases, Bases, Everywhere … Except in Pentagon’s Report

This article is by Nick Turse on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
Within hours of President Trump’s announcement of a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, equipment at that base was already being inventoried for removal. And just like that, arguably the most important American garrison in Syria was (maybe) being struck from the Pentagon’s books — except, as it happens, al-Tanf was never actually on the Pentagon’s books. Opened in 2015 and, until recently, home to hundreds of U.S. troops, it was one of the many military bases that exist somewhere between light and shadow, an acknowledged foreign outpost that somehow never actually made it onto the Pentagon’s official inventory of bases.

Officially, the Department of Defense maintains 4,775 “sites,” spread across all 50 states, eight U.S. territories, and 45 foreign countries. A total of 514 of these outposts are located overseas, according to the Pentagon’s worldwide property portfolio. Just to start down a long list, these include bases on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, as well as in Peru and Portugal, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. But the most recent version of that portfolio, issued in early 2018 and known as the Base Structure Report (BSR), doesn’t include any mention of al-Tanf. Or, for that matter, any other base in Syria. Or Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or Niger. Or Tunisia. Or Cameroon. Or Somalia. Or any number of locales where such military outposts are known to exist and even, unlike in Syria, to be expanding.
Yes, all of this seems correct to me, but then again I know nothing about the number of bases that the Pentagon simply does not list although they exist. Then again, I am sure they exist, at least in Syria, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan.

Here is more from the article:
According to David Vine, author of “Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World,” there could be hundreds of similar off-the-books bases around the world. “The missing sites are a reflection of the lack of transparency involved in the system of what I still estimate to be around 800 U.S. bases outside the 50 states and Washington, D.C., that have been encircling the globe since World War II,” says Vine, who is also a founding member of the recently established Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition, a group of military analysts from across the ideological spectrum who advocate shrinking the U.S. military’s global “footprint.”
I take this as support of the previously quoted two paragraphs. And incidentally, if your response is that the Pentagon is supposed to figure in a democracy, my reply is that, so far as the Pentagon is concerned that is not the case, as can be illustrated by the fact that while the Pentagon takes more than 50% of the American tax dollars, it has not even been properly audited for more than twenty years.

Back to the article:
Such off-the-books bases are off the books for a reason. The Pentagon doesn’t want to talk about them. “I spoke to the press officer who is responsible for the Base Structure Report and she has nothing to add and no one available to discuss further at this time,” Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Baldanza told TomDispatch when asked about the Defense Department’s many mystery bases.

“Undocumented bases are immune to oversight by the public and often even Congress,” Vine explains. “Bases are a physical manifestation of U.S. foreign and military policy, so off-the-books bases mean the military and executive branch are deciding such policy without public debate, frequently spending hundreds of millions or billions of dollars and potentially getting the U.S. involved in wars and conflicts about which most of the country knows nothing.”
Quite so, and I especially agree wih the second quoted paragraph.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition notes that the United States possesses up to 95 percent of the world’s foreign military bases, while countries like France, Russia, and the United Kingdom have perhaps 10-20 foreign outposts each. China has just one.

The Department of Defense even boasts that its “locations” include 164 countries. Put another way, it has a military presence of some sort in approximately 84 percent of the nations on this planet (..)
Precisely. Also, all of the quotations I reproduced are from the beginning of this article, that is strongly recommended, and in which there is a lot more.

5. Even Davos Elite Warns Humanity Is 'Sleepwalking Into Catastrophe'

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Ahead of the World Economic Forum's (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland next week—which convenes the world's wealthiest and most powerful for a summit that's been called both the "money Oscars" and a "threat to democracy"—the group published a report declaring, "Of all risks, it is in relation to the environment that the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe."

While WEF has made a habit of recognizing the threat posed by the human-made climate crisis in its Global Risks reports—for which it has garnered some praise—author and activist Naomi Klein was quick to challenge the narrative presented in the latest edition (pdf), pointing out that many of the polices pushed by the very people invited to the exclusive event have driven the global crisis.

"Sleepwalking? Nah. The policies of global deregulation, privatization, unending consumption, and growth-worship that you advanced so aggressively in order to construct the Davos Class marched us here," she tweeted. "Pretty sure your eyes were wide open."

Yes, I agree with Naomi Klein about this. Here is one more bit:

Responding in a statement, Marco Lambertini, director general of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International, said: "Recognition of the dangers posed by climate change and biodiversity loss is not enough. The science is clear: we need to see urgent and unprecedented action now."

"The consequences of not changing course are enormous not just for nature, but for humans. We depend on nature much more than nature depends on us," Lambertini added. "Global political and business leaders know that they have a major role to play in safeguarding the future of economies, businesses, and the natural resources we depend on."

Yes. And this is a recommended article.

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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