from August 26, 2018
This is a
Nederlog of Sunday,
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.
moment and since more than two years
problems with the company that is
supposed to take care that my site is visible 
and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and
I shall continue.
2. Crisis Files
five crisis files
that are mostly well worth reading:
A. Selections from August 26, 2018:
1. Trump’s War on the Justice System Threatens to Erode Trust
in the Law
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:
2. The Devil in Steve Bannon
3. James Risen: Reality Winner’s Sentence Is One of the Worst
Miscarriages of Justice in
4. Just How Dangerous Is Amazon's Facial Recognition Program?
5. Sanders Tax Would Make Corporations Fund 100% of Public
Their Low-Paid Workers Receive
War on the Justice System Threatens to Erode Trust in the Law
This article is by
Michael Shear and Katie Benner on The New York Times. It starts as
It is a
once-unimaginable scenario: Sometime soon in an American courtroom, a
criminal defense lawyer may argue that the prosecution of an MS-13 gang
member is a politically motivated “witch hunt” built around a witness
who has “flipped” and taken what the lawyer calls a plea deal of
will be quoting the president of the United States.
is potentially the gravest danger of President Trump’s sustained verbal
assault on the country’s justice system, legal experts say. In his
attempt at self-defense amid the swirl of legal cases and
investigations involving himself, his aides and his associates, Mr.
Trump is directly undermining the people and processes that are the
foundation of the nation’s administration of justice.
result is a president at war with the law.
I agree more or less and have two remarks. First, I am
probably less impressed with the opinions of ¨legal experts¨
writers of this article, and second I think Trump indeed is ¨at war
with the law¨ and also was ¨at war with the law¨ long before he was president.
Here is some more:
president’s public judgments about the country’s top law enforcement
agencies revolve largely around how their actions affect him personally
— a vision that would recast the traditionally independent justice
system as a guardian of the president and an attack dog against his
Yes indeed. Here is more:
most remarkable moment came when Mr. Trump attacked the very notion
that prosecutors should try to “flip” witnesses by reaching plea
agreements. In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” the president
questioned that tool, which has long been considered lawful and
essential for prosecutions.
have had many friends involved in this stuff,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s
called flipping, and it almost ought to be illegal.”
prosecutors and defense lawyers said the president’s embrace of that
notion — spread broadly by his bully pulpit and given a measure of
validity by the office he holds — is likely to undermine trust in the
justice system and weaken the government’s ability to win in court.
long will it take before a federal criminal defendant claims in court
in front of a jury that the president of the United States rejects the
legitimacy of cooperating witnesses and so too should jurors?” said
Christopher Hunter, a former F.B.I. agent and prosecutor. “If only one
juror agrees, a dangerous criminal could walk free.”
agree more or less but - again - I am less impressed with
experts¨ (?!) than the NYT appears to be.
Here is the ending of this article.
while the president has so far stopped short of firing Mr. Sessions or
halting the inquiries that seem to be drawing nearer to him, his
threats to “get involved” have only grown.
matter when this all ends, Trump will have caused long-lasting damage
to the ability of the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to execute on
its mission,” Mr. Hunter said. “He is sacrificing our public safety and
national security on the altar of his own ego.”
Yes. And this is a recommended article.
Devil in Steve Bannon
This article is by
Frank Bruni on The New York Times. It has a subtitle:
filmmaker Errol Morris has a new documentary — and candid remarks —
about Donald Trump’s dyspeptic strategist.
I selected this and quoted the
subtitle mostly because of Errol Morris,
because I like him and wrote about him before in Nederlog. The article
starts as follows:
I think this is
interesting (and even may try to see it if it ever plays in Amsterdam),
and do so mostly because I believe Steve Bannon is both an
man and massively wrong and mistaken.
from the White House, Steve Bannon won’t fade away. Not just yet.
in France, finding uncommon cause with Marine Le Pen. He’s in Italy,
cheering for an amateurish, fraudulent strain of populism there. He’s
in Hungary, whispering sweet nothings to Viktor Orban.
he’s in a Quonset hut in Boston, holding forth to the Oscar-winning
documentarian Errol Morris.
Morris’s new movie, “American
Dharma,” is essentially one long, transfixing interview with Bannon, a
key force in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and an intellectual
godfather of Trumpism.
Here is some from the interview Bruni had with Morris:
I also had the feeling, watching him in
the movie, and I’ve had this feeling watching him elsewhere, that he’s
a creature of extraordinary vanity, and you were giving him a
microphone. Is that fair?
think that is more than fair.
Is Steve Bannon an earnest ideologue or is
he a cynical and grandiose opportunist?
the big question. And everybody, including myself, wants a pie graph.
They want to be able to say what percentage is ideologue, what
percentage is snake-oil salesman. And I’m not sure I can answer the
question. We all know that being an effective salesman is coming to
believe in what you’re selling. You know, I like to think that the
human capacity for credulity is unlimited, unfettered. But the human
capacity for self-deception — the ultimate self-credulity — is also
unfettered, unlimited. I look at him and I think to myself: You can’t
really believe this stuff. And yet, for all intents and purposes, he
Yes indeed: I suppose this is all quite
also quite important, for I think Morris is right that ¨the human capacity for credulity is
unlimited, unfettered¨ and
also right that ¨the human
capacity for self-deception (..) is also unfettered, unlimited¨.
Then again, I probably would have added that
intelligence, knowledge, and honesty do make a difference (in a
relatively small minority).
Here is more:
Which stuff do you find it hardest to
believe he believes?
find it hardest to believe that he thinks that Donald Trump is an
honest man. I find it hard to believe that he thinks that Donald Trump
is enabling populist programs. How is this tax cut or the attempt to
roll back capital gains taxes — how does that benefit the people? Is
allowing all kinds of industrial pollution populism? I could go on and
Yes indeed - and clearly, if Bannon is at least a bit
smart, then he does not believe that ¨Donald Trump is an honest man¨, because he can read Trump´s
extra-ordinarily many lies documented e.g. in The
New York Times.
Also, Morris thinks Bannon is both smart and
well read. He is obviously smart. But when you examine the philosophy,
it’s just — calling it incoherent or inchoate is too kind. It’s just a
mess: a mess of stuff from here, from there, a little bit of the
Crusades, a little bit of Thucydides
there, some crazy, Catholic, right-wing theology. Add a dash of movies.
I am willing to believe this because it is Morris who
says so, who also had many hours of interviews with Bannon. And
is right that the overall vision of Bannon seems to be ¨just a mess¨. I
will not try to explain this, for one thing because I do not
Bannon at all.
Here is the last bit that I quote from this interview:
I agree with Morris, and
add that ¨the old world¨ disappeared in 2001 when surveillance of
effectively everybody on effectively everything by both the secret
services and big internet corporations, such as Facebook, Google,
Microsoft and Apple started.
You really think it’s ending the world as
we know it?
will tell. But the world seems in pretty ragged shape at the moment.
question is: How resilient is our democracy? Was de Tocqueville right
that we would just disappear into silos of self-congratulation and
self-interest, or can we hope for something better?
This gives the very few who head the government and these
vastly more powers (of knowledge about everyone and anyone)
the KGB and the Gestapo had. And this is a strongly
Risen: Reality Winner’s Sentence Is One of the Worst Miscarriages of
Justice in Recent History
article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the
whistleblower Reality Winner was handed the longest sentence ever
imposed in federal court for leaking government information to the
media Thursday. She is the first person to be sentenced under the
Espionage Act since President Trump took office. Winner was arrested by
FBI agents at her home in Augusta,
Georgia, on June 3, 2017, two days before The Intercept published an
exposé revealing Russian military intelligence conducted a cyberattack
on at least one U.S. voting software company just days before the U.S.
presidential election. The exposé was based on a classified NSA report from May 5, 2017, that shows that the
agency is convinced the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence
Directorate, or GRU, was responsible for
interfering in the 2016 presidential election. For more, we speak with
Kevin Gosztola, managing editor of Shadowproof Press, and James Risen,
The Intercept’s senior national security correspondent and former New
York Times reporter.
I reproduce the
introductions to the interviews of Democracy Now! because I like them
and also because my readers can see what there is in the interviews and
what I skipped. In the present case, I skip most and limit myself to
Here is the first:
I more or less agree
Risen, although he and I disagree about the extent of the
by ¨Russian intelligence¨. In fact, while I agree that the Russians
some hacking, indeed as the Americans did, the greatest leak I
heard about is Cambridge Analytica (that since changed its name), which
is English/American, and got the personal profiles of some 80 million
Jim, you, too, were in the
courtroom yesterday. Can you respond to the sentence that Reality
RISEN: I think it was
outrageous. I think what has been done by the Trump administration to
Reality is just terrible, and it’s one of the worst miscarriages of
justice I’ve seen in a long time. What Reality Winner did was a public
service. The disclosure of the document in this, that The Intercept
provided a really important wake-up call to the American people that
the Russian—that Russian intelligence was hacking into the election
systems of states. And the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a report
earlier this year, wrote that the Homeland Security Department had
failed to adequately warn state election officials about the Russian
hacking threat, and said, in their—in the Senate report, it said it was
only because of press disclosures that state officials began to be
alerted to the Russian threat, cyberthreat, which shows that even
Congress recognizes that what Reality Winner did was a public service.
But this is an aside. Here is more Risen:
RISEN: Well, first of all,
Donald Trump is a psycho and shouldn’t be president. He’s crazy. And so
he tweets in the middle of the night about stuff he knows nothing
about, every day. So you have to discount this because of that.
But he is correct
that there is a double standard. It’s just not a double standard with
Hillary Clinton. The double standard is that low-level people in the
intelligence community are the ones who are prosecuted, and not
high-level people. If you look at the—the real double standard here is
between the way the Justice Department dealt with someone like David
Petraeus, who was the CIA
director, who leaked lots of
information to his former mistress and then was never sent to jail and
was given probation, and the way that they’ve—this draconian sentence
against Reality Winner, which is an absurd double standard. That’s the
real double standard.
this. And this is a recommended article in which there is considerably
How Dangerous Is Amazon's Facial Recognition Program?
This article is by
Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
I think this an
interesting and long interview, indeed like many of Scheer´s articles,
and I am glad Truthdig provided the text because this takes 1/4
of the time (for me) than to listen to the audio, and because it allows
me to quote
and review some bits.
In May, the Congressional
Black Caucus penned
a letter to Amazon expressing its concern about the potential
unintended consequences of the company’s new facial recognition
software, ReKognition. “It is quite clear that communities of color are
more aggressively policed than white communities,” the letter read.
“This status quo results in an oversampling of data which, once used as
an input to an analytical framework leveraging artificial intelligence,
could negatively impact outcomes in those oversampled communities.”
Just how much danger does the
online behemoth’s new technology pose? To answer this question,
Truthdig’s Robert Scheer sat down with American Civil Liberties Union
attorney Jacob Snow to discuss the close partnership between private
enterprise and the surveillance state
Here is the first bit (by Scheer):
“We’re in an environment
where immigrants are being targeted and harmed, and where people of
color are being targeted and are being persecuted,” says Snow in the
latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.” “And the idea that facial
recognition could become widespread as a tool of law enforcement is
going to have disproportionate impacts on people of color, on political
protesters and also on immigrants. And once that infrastructure is
built, once face surveillance is widespread in society, the damage to
those communities can’t be undone.”
What was once the
military-industrial complex has rapidly transformed into a
military-industrial information complex, with data flowing seamlessly
between intelligence agencies and even local police departments. Yet
despite our society’s slow descent into Orwellian dystopia, Snow
remains cautiously optimistic.
This is a fair summary, and I
agree with Scheer´s extension of ¨the
while I am
also certainly less optimistic than Jacob Snow is, basically
think (i) all privacy of ordinary persons has completely disappeared,
and (ii) this gives far too much power to the very few who head
governments (and command secret services) and the very few who head big
Here is more by Snow:
Jacob Snow: (..) Our work with respect to Amazon and facial
recognition began when we saw that Amazon was marketing its facial
recognition technology, which is called Rekognition, with a k,
to law enforcement. And they were doing that in a way that indicated
that they were encouraging law enforcement to use facial recognition as
a tool of mass surveillance. So, they were telling law enforcement to
use it to identify persons of interest in a crowd, or to identify
individuals who would move around the city, to track faces across
cameras, to use facial recognition in real time on the public. And that
application of facial recognition was really concerning to us.
And so, we loaded a
set of publicly available, 25,000 arrest photos, and we put that into
recognition, and then we searched in that set for members of Congress,
all current members of Congress. And the results that we found were
pretty striking, and really concerning. Twenty-eight current members of
Congress matched with an arrest photo.
I take this for granted and add that
this means that twenty-eight of the current members of Congress were
identified with different persons than they really are.
Here is more:
RS: So, if I could push you a little bit, this
is the tip of a larger iceberg threatening our civil liberties, at
least from my point of view. Because the assumption is that private
corporations should be free to do what they do, if it’s convenient to
their customers that they know everything about us, what we eat, what
we read, our conversations–that’s in the private sector, and the U.S.
Constitution, the Bill of Rights, was designed to protect us from
So let me ask you,
what are the constitutional implications of ostensibly private
companies that have huge government contracts? We see that even with
the NSA with Booz Allen and so forth. Could you sort of reflect on that?
JS: (..) But getting back to the question of
how the government and private industry are collaborating in this way
that’s concerning, you know, we’re seeing a lot of, a groundswell of
opposition from the public and from members of Congress, looking at the
interaction between platforms like Amazon and Microsoft and Google and
I agree completely with Scheer (and I
insist that neither the secret services nor Facebook. Google etc.
should be legally allowed to steal this information from computer
users). And I agree less with Snow, basically because I do not
that ¨opposition from the public and from members
of Congress¨ will be very effective (and I have over
2000 files in Nederlog since 2013 which support me). Then again, I hope
I am mistaken, but fear I am not.
Here is more:
agree - and this is also (again) why I think all
surveillance should be
a great lot less than it is now, and should be bound by effective laws.
Then again, I also think that the laws that have been introduced (also
those in Europe) are bad, and do not at all provide what I desire.
JS: (..) And
actually, as you point out again, Chief Justice Roberts wrote the
opinion in that case. And he wrote something that I think is really
relevant to the discussion around facial recognition. He wrote, “A
person does not surrender all Fourth Amendment protection by venturing
into the public sphere. To the contrary, what one seeks to preserve as
private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be
constitutionally protected.” And you can’t leave the house without your
face. And you move into the public sphere, and facial recognition
really threatens to eliminate the ability for people to move around in
public and go about their daily lives, whether they are attending a
religious service, going to a medical clinic, associating with friends,
going to a political protest–all of those things are subject to
surveillance if the government can use facial recognition without
Here is the last bit that I quote from this long and interesting
- and besides, I am quite sure that George Orwell
would be most
horrified by the present means of surveillance, and indeed
so am I, for
the simple reason that this puts far
And in fact, there’s a big battle, will Google go into China and
cooperate with that government now, and that means tailoring, I
suppose, searches, and maybe handing over information. I mean, this is
a–these companies are multinational, they operate throughout the world,
so in a way, this battle you’re having here with Amazon over facial
recognition, this is a battle that you’re really fighting for the
entire world. Because if this, you know, you can do it here in the land
of the free, in the U.S., then what’s to stop any dictator anywhere in
the world saying, hey, I now have the ability, I can monitor where
you’ve been, who you’ve been with, every crowd, every meeting, every
restaurant–I got you nailed, you better shut up. And then you get into
this dark world that 1984 and Brave New World described of, basically, self-censorship,
and being deluded into thinking you’re free when you’re not free at
too much power in far too few hands. And this is a strongly
Tax Would Make Corporations Fund 100% of Public Assistance Their
Low-Paid Workers Receive
article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Amazon CEO and
world's richest man Jeff Bezos makes
more money in ten seconds than his company's median employee makes
in an entire year, and thousands
of Amazon workers are paid such low wages that they are forced to
rely on food stamps, Medicaid, and other forms of government assistance
Declaring that this ever-growing
gulf between the obscene wealth of top executives and the poverty
wages of workers—which is hardly
unique to Amazon—is morally unacceptable, Sen. Bernie Sanders
on Friday that he will introduce legislation next month that would
impose "a 100 percent tax on large employers equal to the amount of
federal benefits received by their low-wage workers" in an effort to
pressure corporate giants into paying a living wage.
Under the new legislation,
"if an Amazon worker receives $300 in food stamps, Amazon would be
taxed $300," the Vermont senator's office noted in a press
release. The tax would apply to all companies with 500 or more
"While Mr. Bezos is worth
$155 billion and while his wealth has increased $260 million every
single day this year, he continues to pay many Amazon employees wages
that are so low that they are forced to depend on taxpayer-funded
programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing just to
get by," Sanders said in a statement on Friday.
"While Mr. Bezos is the
most egregious example, the Walton family of Walmart and many other
billionaire-owned large and profitable companies also enrich themselves
off taxpayer assistance while paying their workers poverty-level
wages," Sanders added. "That is why I am introducing legislation in
September to demand that Mr. Bezos and other billionaires get off
welfare and start paying their workers a living wage."
This is in fact a
somewhat longer quotation than I usually provide, but it is here
because it is both quite adequate and I agree with it,
although I also
think it is most unlikely that Sanders´ proposed new tax will
Here is how Bezos
steals - indirectly - from the taxes to increase his $155 billions of
According to public
data obtained by the non-profit New Food Economy (NFE) and The
Intercept, as many as one in three Amazon workers in Arizona—one
of the few states that responded to NFE's public records requests—rely
on food stamps to survive.
The situation is similar at
massive companies like Walmart
and McDonald's, where many employees aren't paid enough to survive
without government assistance. All the while, the Walton family and
McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook continue to get exponentially
I completely agree.
Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
"It is beyond absurd that
you would make more money in ten seconds than the median employee of
Amazon makes in an entire year," Sanders concluded. "I don't believe
that ordinary Americans should be subsidizing the wealthiest person in
the world because you pay your employees inadequate wages."
Yes - but then again
this is why I am a socialist: (1) because under capitalism-as-is there
are far too large differences in personal wealth and in
personal power, and (2) because I do not think
these huge differences can be significantly reduced in a
system. For more, I point to my Crisis: On Socialism. And this a recommended article.