Category Archives: Politics

Headline of the day: Political pragmatism. . .


Or a move to keep that revolving door well-lubricated?

From the Intercept:

Samantha Power to Receive Prize From Henry Kissinger, Whom She Once Harshly Criticized 

The former human rights activist used to have harsh words for Kissinger’s blood-soaked legacy, but now she’s a top Obama administration official.

Is German politics is turning into a pie fight?


The latest pastry pasting, via euronews:

German MP suffers ‘cake attack’ over refugee stance

Program notes:

A German MP was hit in the face with a chocolate cake on Saturday, apparently in protest at her stance on refugees.

Sahra Wagenknecht was targeted at a congress of her far-left Die Linke Party in the city of Magdeburg.

She was sitting in the front row during the opening speech when a young man stopped in front of her and threw the chocolate cream cake in her face, before shouting what sounded like slogans. A self-styled ‘anti-fascist’ group said it was behind the attack.

Details from Reuters:

A prominent member of Germany’s far-left Linke party was hit in the face with a chocolate cream pie on Saturday in an attack claimed by a self-styled “anti-fascist” group protesting her stance on refugees.

Sahra Wagenknecht, who has advocated putting a limit on the number of refugees Germany should accept, is the second German politician to be attacked with a dessert this year over her position on asylum seekers.

Beatrix von Storch of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party suffered a similar fate last month.

[For more on the Beatrix von Storch incident, see our earlier postesnl.]

More from Deutsche Welle:

Members of the antifascist group “Torte für Menschenfeinde” or “Cake for Misanthropists” took responsibility for the attack. They accused Wagenknecht of translating public anger into political demands and of assuming an anti-refugee stance, similar to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The leftist politician has been criticized for saying she didn’t think that all refugees could come to Germany and for anti-migrant comments after migrants sexually harassed and robbed hundreds of women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

>snip<

“Die Linke” chief Riexinger and his deputy Dietmar Barsch condemned the assault, saying violence had no place in debate. “That was not an attack on Sahra, it was an attack on us all,” leftist member Katja Kipping told dpa news agency. Wagenknecht was against racism, discrimination and the government’s proposed changes in the asylum law, Kipping added.

The cake attack “is neither leftist, nor is it antifascist, it is anti-social, it is sneaky, it is dumb,” the party’s deputy Dietmar Bartsch said in his concluding remarks on Saturday’s cake-throwing incident.

There’s a certain irony in her anti-immigrant stance, or perhaps a touch of that old Oedipal thing.

From the Guardian, reporting on her posing as artist Frida Kahlo for a photo shoot [emphasis added]:

Wagenknecht, who was born in the eastern town of Jena in 1969 to an art distributor mother and an Iranian father whom she never knew, posed as the artist for the women’s magazine Gala looking alluring in a colourful gown – a wreath of flowers in her pinned-up hair – as well as with a short crop, a pair of scissors in her hand, in a play on Kahlo’s Self Portrait with Cropped Hair.

Having spent months considering whether to accept Gala’s invitation, partly because she does not consider herself to be photogenic, the politician told the magazine she had “discovered various sides of myself” during the photoshoot, in which she paid tribute to her heroine, who died in 1954 and was a member of Mexico’s communist party and a one-time lover of Leon Trotsky.

Wagenknecht, who is the partner of the former SPD politician turned Linke party head Oskar Lafontaine, began her political career when she joined the East German communist party, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), in 1989. Although once considered controversial in the party because of her SED links, she was already established as the pin-up of Germany’s far left, and often compared – not least because of the women’s trademark tight buns – to Rosa Luxemburg, the founder of Germany’s communist party who was murdered for her beliefs in 1919.

There’s a video of the shoot from Thomas Rusch here.

Finally, we offer our prediction of the future of German politics, via the Little Racals:

Obama leads global drive to gut the commons


Nations participating in the Trade in Services Agreement. Via Wikipedia.

Nations participating in the Trade in Services Agreement. Via Wikipedia.

Barack Obama isn’t a liberal, isn’t a liberal politician like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who called for the creation of public institutions to help lift the nation out of economic misery.

No Barack Obama is a neoliberal, an heir to the tradition embraced as national policy by Bill Clinton, who pushed ruthlessly for elimination of public assistance programs created under Roosevelt and replacing them with privately owned counterparts.

And now the Obama administration is pushing for the end of a host of public institutions on a global scale, with everything from post offices [and the postal banks embraced in some nations], hospitals, and more up for privatization.

And with either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the White House, that agenda is certain to roll forward.

What proof do we offer for our claims?

Consider the Trade in Services Agreement [TiSA], now in final stages of negotiations by representatives of 23 nations, including the European Union.

From Vice News:

WikiLeaks has released a thousands of documents that critics of free trade said shows how officials negotiating the Trade in Services Agreement, or TiSA, could force privatization on public institutions around the world.

The most surprising revelations in the WikiLeaks documents released this week involve state-owned enterprises, or SOEs — government-owned corporations that often operate like private businesses but pursue public goals, experts said.

The United States Postal Service might be considered a SOE. The service has a monopoly on snail mail. But it also competes against private companies by selling money orders, retail merchandise and express deliveries. When the postal service needs more money, it raises the price of stamps and other products or, when times are desperate, goes hat in hand to Congress.

WikiLeaks and others claim that negotiators from the United States and 22 other countries want to erode SOEs to clear the way for multinational corporations to take over their functions. TiSA would seek to lower trade barriers for finance, telecommunications and other service industries. It would cover around 75 percent of the world’s $44 trillion services market, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.

Here’s the Wikileaks announcement, and the link to the documents:

WikiLeaks releases new secret documents from the huge Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) which is being negotiated by the US, EU and 22 other countries that account for 2/3rds of global GDP.

This release includes a previously unknown annex to the TiSA core chapter on “State Owned Enterprises” (SOEs), which imposes unprecedented restrictions on SOEs and will force majority owned SOEs to operate like private sector businesses. This corporatisation of public services – to nearly the same extent as demanded by the recently signed TPP – is a next step to privatisation of SOEs on the neoliberal agenda behind the “Big Three” (TTIP,TiSA,TPP).

Other documents in todays release cover updated versions of annexes to TiSA core chapters that were published by WikiLeaks in previous releases; these updates show the advances in the confidential negotiations between the TiSA parties on the issues of Domestic Regulation, New Provisions, Transparency, Electronic Commerce, Financial Services, Telecommunication Services, Professional Services and the Movement of Natural Persons. WikiLeaks is also publishing expert analyses on some of these documents.

The annexes on Domestic Regulation, Transparency and New Provisions have further advanced towards the “deregulation” objectives of big corporations entering overseas markets. Local regulations like store size restrictions or hours of operations are considered an obstacle to achieve “operating efficiencies” of large-scale retailing, disregarding their public benefit that foster livable neighbors and reasonable hours of work for employees. The TiSA provisions in their current form will establish a wide range of new grounds for domestic regulations to be challenged by corporations – even those without a local presence in that country.

Wikileaks offers a sobering analysis

Along with the documents Wikileaks posted are analyses of each of the documents. Professor Jane Kelsey, of University of Auckland’s Faculty of Law provided the analysis on State Owned Enterprises [SOEs] provisions, and the document is sobering:

On 6 October 2015 the US proposed an Annex on SOEs for the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) – two days after the 12 parties to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), including the US, concluded their negotiations. The TPPA contains a unique Chapter 17 that imposes unprecedented restrictions on SOEs and gives the parties to the TPPA rights to demand information on other parties’ SOEs and to challenge aspects of their operations.

When the TPPA negotiations began in 2010 the US made it clear that it required a chapter on SOEs. The goal was always to create precedent-setting rules that could target China, although the US also had other countries’ SOEs in its sights – the state-managed Vietnamese economy, various countries’ sovereign wealth funds, and once Japan joined, Japan Post’s banking, insurance and delivery services. All the other countries were reluctant to concede the need for such a chapter and the talks went around in circles for several years. Eventually the US had its way.

The US proposal for TISA adopts and adapts key parts of the TPPA chapter that force majority owned SOEs to operate like private sector businesses. The most extreme, complicated and potentially unworkable provisions in the TPPA relating to state support are not included – yet. But there is an extraordinary power for a single TISA party to require the development of those rules if another TISA country, or a country seeking to join TISA, has too many large SOEs. China is the real target of the US’s ‘disciplines’ on SOEs in both TISA and the TPPA, along with any other countries that have a strong presence of state companies in their economy. As President Obama said of the TPPA in October 2015, these agreements are about the US making the rules for the global economy in the 21st century, not China, in ways that ‘reflect America’s values.’

Included in the analysis was this summary:

A snapshot of the TISA annex

  • The TISA Annex is modelled on the US-driven chapter on State-owned Enterprises (SOEs) in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), concluded on 4 October 2015.
  • An SOE must operate like a private business, using purely commercial considerations when it buys and sells services or when it buys goods if it is a services SOE.
  • The SOE doesn’t have to apply purely commercial considerations where it has a public mandate to deliver a service, but it still can’t give preferences to local services and suppliers.
  • Any administrative body that regulates an SOE must exercise its regulatory discretion impartially in relation to all the entities it regulates.
  • If one TISA party thinks that 30 of the largest 100 companies in another TISA member is an SOE, or its SOEs contribute 30% of that country’s overall GDP, it can demand the TISA parties develop further rules that ‘aim to ensure’ it does not provide ‘non-commercial assistance’ (financial support or through goods and services) that cause ‘adverse effects’ to ‘another Party’s interests’. That rule would not apply to domestic services supplied by an SOE, but would apply to its activities that provide services across the border, which are commonly intertwined.
  • The same obligation would be triggered if a country with that proportion of SOEs (such as China or India) wanted to join TISA.
  • In addition to the general transparency obligations in TISA a government must provide specific information requested about a SOE (although this does not go as far as the requirements in TPPA).

Cui bono? Who are the beneficiaries?

Hint: It’s ain’t the workers and it isn’t the poor.

Among the avid supporters of TiSA is an outfit called the Coalition of Service Industries [CSI]. Here’s how they describe TiSA:

The Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) is the most promising opportunity in two decades to improve and expand trade in services. Initiated by the United States and Australia, the TISA is currently being negotiated in Geneva, Switzerland with 50 participants that represent 70 percent of the world’s trade in services.

As of July 2015, participants in the TISA include Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, the European Union*, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States.

The last major services agreement, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) was established by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. Since then, the world has evolved dramatically from the result of technological advances, changing business practices, and deeper global integration. The TISA can establish new market access commitments and universal rules that reflect 21st century trade.

And what is the Coalition of Service Industries?

Click on their Members page and here’s what you discover:

BLOG CSI

DiFi loses fight over digital backdoor demands


From Reuters:

After a rampage that left 14 people dead in San Bernardino, key U.S. lawmakers pledged to seek a law requiring technology companies to give law enforcement agencies a “back door” to encrypted communications and electronic devices, such as the iPhone used by one of the shooters.

Now, only months later, much of the support is gone, and the push for legislation dead, according to sources in congressional offices, the administration and the tech sector.

Draft legislation that Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Intelligence Committee, had circulated weeks ago likely will not be introduced this year and, even if it were, would stand no chance of advancing, the sources said.

Key among the problems was the lack of White House support for legislation in spite of a high-profile court showdown between the Justice Department and Apple Inc over the suspect iPhone, according to Congressional and Obama Administration officials and outside observers.

Someone was very happy:

BLOG Snowden

Headline of the day II: Call to legalize spousal abuse


From the Express Tribune in Karachi, the national Council of Islamic Ideology offers its own proposed national “women protection bill, ” a response to the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill 2015 [PDF] adopted in Punjab, which bars “any offence committed against a woman including abetment of an offence, domestic violence, emotional, psychological and verbal abuse, economic abuse, stalking or a cybercrime.” The CII is an advisory body providing nonbinding recommendations to the natuional legislature:

CII proposes husbands be allowed to ‘lightly beat’ defying wives

The council has proposed that a husband should be allowed to ‘lightly’ beat his wife if she defies his commands and refuses to dress up as per his desires; turns down demand of intercourse without any religious excuse or does not take bath after intercourse or menstrual periods.

Chart of the day: Swing voters, keys to the vote


BLOG Swingers

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, which reports:

The swing voters are an unusually hard bloc to handicap, because the 2016 election is different from any other in recent times.

One survey in battlegrounds Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Ohio finds that swing voters are 21 percent of the electorate and voted for different parties in the last two elections, 2012 and 2014.

They largely call themselves independents (84 percent), have less college education than the broader electorate and include fewer African-Americans, the same percentage of Latinos and fewer liberals, according to the poll for the Progressive Policy Institute, a moderate Democratic-leaning research group. They are mostly concerned about the economy, and are more concerned with growth than fairness.

The Empire Files: A call for a new political force


In 2013 Kshama Sawant became the first socialist elected to the Seattle City Council, winning reelection two years later.

And as the presidential election draws ever nearer and Hillary Clinton’s grasp on the nomination grows tighter, Sawant staked out her position in an essay for Jacobin posted Tuesday:

The racist, right-wing ideas given new life through Donald Trump’s campaign represent a serious threat to social progress in America. But the mainstream liberal strategy to stop Trump by rallying behind Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street–sponsored candidacy is only throwing fuel on the right-populist fire.

Despite Trump’s dubious distinction as the most unpopular major party nominee in history, Clinton’s neoliberal record has helped make her the second-most unpopular (likely) nominee ever — and polls show her lead over Trump narrowing.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders consistently polls extremely well against Trump. Why, then, has the Democratic establishment so fiercely and undemocratically backed Clinton if their goal is to defeat Trump?

In this era of global capitalist crisis, rising inequality, and naked corporate corruption, we can only undercut right-wing populism by building solidarity around an unambiguously pro-worker, anti-establishment movement.

Sawant, who holds a doctorate in economics, actively supports the movement calling on Bernie Sanders to run as an independent candidate should Clinton in the Democratic Party nomination [see their petition here], and in this, the latest edition of The Empire Files, host Abby Martin sits down with Sawant to discuss the petition and the need to forge an ongoing alliance to the two-party duopoly.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Fighting Hillary is How Progressives Win — Kshama Sawant

Program notes:

As the flailing Hillary Clinton camp steps-up its attacks on Bernie Sanders, her poll numbers continue to drop—and for the first time, have her losing to Donald Trump in a general election.

On the cusp of the Democratic Party Convention, millions of Sanders’ supporters are wondering what to do other than vote for a ‘lesser of two evils.’

To gain some insight, Abby Martin interviews Kshama Sawant, an open socialist who just won re-election to Seattle’s city council—who also ran an insurgent campaign against the party establishment—about her advice to the Sanders’ movement, and how struggles like the Fight for 15 can keep advancing regardless of the presidency.