September 5, 2018

Crisis: Total Surveillance, Kavanaugh, Final Phase of USA, Trump on Woodward*2


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from September 5, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, September 5, 2018.

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 two 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 September 5, 2018:
1. Australia Wants to Take Government Surveillance to the Next Level
2. Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings Begin Despite Suppression of 100K

3. Chris Hedges: America Is Entering Its 'Final Phase'
4. Trump Lying about interview with Bob Woodward
5. The Most Disturbing Excerpts From Woodward's New Book on Trump
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. Australia Wants to Take Government Surveillance to the Next Level

This article is by Lizzie O'Shea on The New Yoxrk Times. It starts as follows:
A state’s capacity to spy on its citizens has grown exponentially in recent years as new technology has meant more aspects of our lives can be observed, recorded and analyzed than ever before. At the same time, much to the frustration of intelligence agencies around the world, so has the ability to keep digital information secret, thanks to encryption.
Yes indeed - and it is also well to know who will know everything about anyone, indeed also in the sense that they know more about you and your family and friends than any of you or your families and friends may ever know, and who these absolute supermen-who-know- everything- about-anyone may be.

Well... these total supermen will consist of two groups (or sub-groups of these): The actual government, of some thirty or so persons, and the secret services, who all are totally anonymous.

They will know everything about anyone, while anyone who does not belong to them will not know anythng whatsoever, other than the small part they remember doing themselves.

I think this is one of the most frightening political possibilities there is, on this earth: A government + secret services who know everything about anyone, while the rest does not know shit of what they know (and would be seriously transgressing the law if they did).

Here is more:

That’s why the main intelligence agencies of the Anglophone world are now hoping that Australia will lead the charge in developing ways to get decrypt information at will, and to tap into data that was previously kept secret. A proposed law, the draft of which was released last month by the cybersecurity minister, is an aggressive step in that direction.

We should all be worried, because it’s not just criminals or terrorists who use encryption, but every one of us. We use encryption to buy things online, manage our finances, and communicate personally and professionally. Hospitals, transportation systems and government agencies use encrypted data. Creating tools to weaken encrypted systems for one purpose weakens it for all purposes. If Australia succeeds in doing so, it could be your bank account or your medical records that are compromised in the end.

Well... yes, but I do need to make at least three additional remarks:

First, I am not so much worried that my bankaccount or medical records will be taken. For one thing, the secret services (in Holland) had a lot of time available trying to get them; the defense of the Dutch medical doctors, so far as I saw it, was an absolute ignorant mess; and I think my medical records probably have been taken.

Second, while I don't like this, it is not this that I am much worried about: it is the fact that the secret services and the governments (from absolutely everywhere, it seems, which shows you the force democratic notions have on these people) have been able to get absolutely everything from absolutely everyone from absolutely anywhere since 2001.

I think that truly enormous power is the most dangerous power there is on earth, for in fact this means that a couple of 10s of the dominant governments + their secret services should be able to rule or arrest everyone.

And third, while I know how to program, I am considerably less certain that Lizzie O'Shea does, and as yet I do not know how to get through encryptions except by breaking them, which may take a great amount of time.

Of course, this doesn't mean that the Australian government may not do something crazy like simply forbidding encryption on its territory (?!) for everyone but itself, but that I do not know either.

Back to the argument:

Australia, which has no bill of rights, is a logical place to test new strategies for collecting intelligence that can later be adopted elsewhere. Among other things, the proposed law would create a process for “designated communications providers” — defined so expansively that it covers any business hosting a website — to assist intelligence and law enforcement agencies to do almost anything to give them access to encrypted communications. For example, providers may have to build tools, install software or keep agencies up-to-date with developments. In essence, state agencies will be able to circumvent encryption, either with the cooperation of tech companies or by compulsion.

I take it this will mean mostly compulsion ("Our Government Needs To Protect YOUR Children And Therefore You Will Give Me The Encryption Keys Or Go To Jail For 25 Years"), but then again I don't know this either.

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

When Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 that the American and British spy agencies had tried to weaken encryption so that they could tap digital communications, cryptography scholars voiced their shock that these agencies would act “against the interests of the public.” “By weakening all our security so that they can listen in to the communications of our enemies,” they wrote, “they also weaken our security against our potential enemies.”

The same is true today. The Australian government is testing the limits of our democracy by seeking to empower the surveillance state, and what it learns will have implications globally.
I definitely would have put this stronger: "The Australian government is intentionally and completely destroying the limits of our democracy by seeking to empower the surveillance state". It is preparing absolute tyranny by its government plus its secret services. But this is a recommended article.

2. Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings Begin Despite Suppression of 100K Documents

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
Confirmation hearings begin for Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court. If he is confirmed, it would likely make the court the most conservative since the 1930s. Kavanaugh is 53 years old and could serve on the Supreme Court for decades to come. Critics warn his confirmation could lead to major rollbacks of civil rights, environmental regulations, gun control measures, voting rights and reproductive rights, including possibly overturning Roe v. Wade. We speak with Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Last week the committee released a damning report on Kavanaugh’s record on cases and issued a statement opposing Kavanaugh’s nomination. She will attend the Senate confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh this week.
Yes indeed, although I don't think this political problem is the most serious problem in his nomination.

Here is some more:
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Confirmation hearings begin today for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s pick to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court. If he is confirmed, it would likely make the court the most conservative since the 1930s. Kavanaugh is 53 years old and could serve on the Supreme Court for decades. Critics warn his confirmation would lead to major rollbacks of civil rights, labor protections, environmental regulations, gun control measures, voting rights and reproductive rights, including possibly the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Yes indeed. I have a possibly somewhat naive question, but why are Supreme Court Judges not judged periodically, say every 10 years, to see whether they acted as decent Supreme Court Judges?! (I really have no idea.)

Here is more:
SEN. DICK DURBIN: Assertion of executive privilege by the White House to take 100,000 documents and say the American people will not get a chance to see them, as they reflect on Kavanaugh’s background, is the first time in history. This denial of access to documents violates a rule that we thought was the tradition of the Senate under Senator Sessions and Senator Leahy, time and again, when it came to Obama nominees. They are suppressing these documents. If we’re lucky, we will see 6 percent—6 percent—of all of the documents that have been produced, or could be produced, to reflect on Kavanaugh’s true position on issues.
Yes precisely. And for me to nominate someone as a Supreme Court Judge, essentially on the basis of the fact that 100,000 documents are suppressed and cannot be evaluated is not a valid but a criminal nomination.

Here is some more:
KRISTEN CLARKE: So this is a most extraordinary position. Securing a lifetime seat on our nation’s highest court really requires that both the Senate and public exercise the highest level of vigilance in understanding who Brett Kavanaugh is, in understanding his record both on and off the court.
Quite so. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

KRISTEN CLARKE: This is total hypocrisy. There is a double standard in place. In the modern era, the Senate has insisted that we have full transparency when it comes to evaluating the records underlying Supreme Court nominees. And as you heard, Jeff Sessions, then senator, threatened to boycott Ms. Kagan’s nomination. And ultimately, every single document from Kagan’s tenure in the White House was turned over. There’s a gross double standard in place today.

In just an hour or so, the Senate will open hearings on Brett Kavanaugh despite the fact that millions of documents from his time in the White House, where he worked in both the White House Counsel’s Office and as secretary, working shoulder to shoulder with President Bush—none of these materials have been turned over.
As far as we know, this is the first time a president or a White House has ever invoked executive privilege in this era—in this way. And we have to remember, this is the Trump White House invoking the privilege for documents from the Bush era, from a period that predates him by over a decade. Bush himself has said, “I authorize these documents to be disclosed. I want this review process to be guided by the principle of transparency.” But as we’ve seen throughout the Trump administration, their rule is to operate in secrecy and to keep information away from the American public.
Yes indeed, and this is a recommended article. 
3. Chris Hedges: America Is Entering Its 'Final Phase'

This article is by Ilana Novick on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

“If any of you came here this evening with the idea of hearing how well we’re all doing in America these days, you want to leave now.” So began Bradley Graham, owner of Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., introducing Chris Hedges during a recent talk and book-signing event.

Hedges, a veteran journalist and Truthdig columnist, spent much of his early career as a foreign correspondent but in recent years has turned his incisive eye toward the United States. His new book, “America: The Farewell Tour,” details a nation destroying itself through an array of ills: xenophobia, the opioid epidemic, economic inequality and the rise of the far right, among them.

Yes, indeed. Also, the main reasons why I am reviewing this article are that I like Chris Hedges because he is a good writer with a fine mind, with whom I often agree, and also because I think that someone with decades of experience in collapsing states must have something to say on the present state of collapsing America - for I think it is, if only because 60% of the present Americans are hardly capable of coughing up $400 for anything that may have gone wrong in their lives. (And no, while I almost certainly am the poorest Dutchman of the last 50 years, I am not in the extremely poor position of 60% of all Americans.)

So here is more:

“Civilizations, over the past 6,000 years, have a habit of eventually squandering their futures through acts of colossal stupidity and hubris. We are not an exception. We are entering this final phase of civilization,” Hedges writes of America. At his Aug. 22 book talk in Washington, he described the reporting process that led him to this conclusion and discussed interviewing Americans in every region as he traveled the country to write the book.

Yes, I agree, though I should add that I neither read the book nor saw the video that the present article introduces.

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

Hedges spoke to workers in an Indiana town who voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary and then backed Trump in the general election because they remembered Bill Clinton’s support of NAFTA, which took away their union jobs. They are among millions living in towns decimated by decades of globalization.

He also described his interviews with Americans whose families and towns were wrecked by opioid addiction, and told of being around a bonfire with members of the alt-right, a gathering where he and his research assistant felt so unsafe they eventually fled.

Yes. I have seen neither the book nor the video this article introduces, but, given the general qualities of Chris Hedges, I am sure I can recommend them, as I can this article.

4. Trump Lying about interview with Bob Woodward

This article is by Matthew Chapman on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

With the release of Bob Woodward's new book, "Fear: Trump in the White House," President Donald Trump is not pleased. And he is raging that Woodward did not even bother to consult him.

"It’s just another bad book. He’s had a lot of credibility problems," Trump said of the former Watergate reporter in an exclusive interview with the right-wing Daily Caller. "It’s just nasty stuff. I never spoke to him. Maybe I wasn’t given messages that he called."

As a matter of fact, Trump did speak to Woodward, in a lengthy interview in April that was posted to YouTube.

Yes indeed. And how a president can forget "a lengthy interview" with one of the most prominent of American journalists within 4 months of its occurrence is somewhat of a problem to me, unless of course I assume the president is (also) loosing his memory.

Anyway. Here is some from that completely forgotten interview:

Interestingly enough, Trump did not appear to believe Woodward had any "credibility problems" during their discussion. Indeed, Trump, lavished him with praise, saying that "I think you've always been fair," and that even though he was expecting it to be a "negative book," he genially quipped that he was "50 percent used to that."

I say. Here is more on what appears to be Trump's Number One Rule:

However, such a change of heart is not out of character for Trump, who notoriously excises people from his good graces at the slightest perception of disloyalty. He is openly longing to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions for failing to quash the Russia investigation, even though Sessions has in every other respect done Trump's bidding to the letter.

That is, all of Trump's menials do not need to do anything good for America or some part of it; they may all lie and deceive as they please, but the one rule that they should never break is that they ought to be absolutely loyal to Trump, indeed also if they know he is lying or talking bullshit or deceiving his voters.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, which is mostly about his deep appreciation for his loyalists:

Woodward's book alleges, among other things, that Trump privately called
Sessions "mentally retarded" and "a dumb Southerner," and the late Sen. John McCain "a coward," that he wanted to bomb North Korea and assassinate Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, that his aides stole his papers "to protect the country," and that he continually frustrated his own lawyers while trying to prep for a possible interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the Russia investigation. The book is slated to be released next week.

Yes. And this is a recommended article, as is the next one, which is a slightly sharper take:
5. The Most Disturbing Excerpts From Woodward's New Book on Trump

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It has a subtitle:
"This is one of the most disturbing accounts of what is going on in the White House that we've seen yet. If one-tenth of it is accurate, we are, in a very real sense, in the midst of a national emergency."
Yes, and there are three good reasons (at least) for the above conclusion: (i) the way Trump demeans and denigrates his ministers (which is all evidence that he is a seriously disturbed megalomaniac); (ii) the ways in which his ministers react to their demeanings and denigrations; and (iii) the fact that Trump tries to nominate a super-conservative justice to the Supreme Court, while keeping secret no less than 100,000 pages of information (that were written while Bush Jr. was president).

This article starts as follows:

Legendary Watergate journalist Bob Woodward has a book coming out next month that details the first year and a half of Donald Trump's presidency, and excerpts published by the Washington Post and CNN on Tuesday depict a White House in the midst of a "nervous breakdown," sparked by a man who top aides have referred to as "an idiot," a "fucking moron," a "professional liar," and "a goddamn dumbbell" who has the understanding of "a fifth- or sixth-grader."
These are examples of item (ii) I mentioned above.

Here is more about Trump:
According to the Post—where Woodward has worked as a reporter and editor for decades—the "thrust" of Fear: Trump in the White House "mostly focuses on substantive decisions and internal disagreements, including tensions with North Korea as well as the future of U.S. policy in Afghanistan."

But these substantive decisions and disagreements often produced startling moments in which the president revealed his total ignorance and lack of fitness for office.

I certainly will not say "No" to that last diagnosis, and here is Chief of Staff John Kelly, who knows Trump quite well:

"He's an idiot. It's pointless to try to convince him of anything," White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly complained during a small group meeting. "He's gone off the rails. We're in Crazytown. I don't even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I've ever had."

Again, I shall not disagree with a man who know Trump as well as Kelly. Here is more:

"Don't testify. It's either that or an orange jumpsuit."

Despite Trump's reported insistence that he would be "a real good witness" in an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the president's former lawyer John Dowd—who resigned in March—firmly believed that Trump would commit perjury if he talked to Mueller.

According to Woodward, Dowd explained to Mueller in January that he did not want the president to do an interview because he didn't want to "sit there and let him look like an idiot."

The president's attorney also worried that if a transcript of the interview leaked, as it inevitably would, people would say, "I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?"

Dowd later pleaded with Trump directly: "Don't testify. It's either that or an orange jumpsuit."

That is, in brief: The (former) president's attorney insisted the president would have to go to jail if he testified (!!).

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

"An administrative coup d'etat"

Reportedly alarmed by Trump's volatile combination of ignorance and impulsiveness, Woodward reports that top White House aides devised a strategy of stealing documents from the president's desk so he wouldn't see or sign them.

In Woodward's account, last spring former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn swiped "a letter off Trump's desk" the president planned to sign that would have withdrawn the U.S. from a trade agreement with South Korea.

Cohn later told an associate that Trump never noticed the letter was missing.

And this is to say that his (former) aides stole documents from the president's desk to prevent that he would sign them.

Well... Woodward's book is probably going to be pretty sensational, 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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