from February 28, 2018.
This is a
Nederlog of Wednesday,
This is a crisis
log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:
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.
Section 2. Crisis Files
are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
Selections from February 28, 2018
are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Jared Kushner’s Security Clearance Downgraded
2. Xi Jinping Dreams of World Power for Himself and China
Can the United States Search Data Overseas?
4. Will Supreme Court Side with Koch Brothers in Their War
5. Refugee Asylum Seekers Can Be Jailed Indefinitely Without
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:
Kushner’s Security Clearance Downgraded
This article is by Michael D. Shear and Katie Rogers on The New York
Times. It starts as follows:
Jared Kushner, the
president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has been stripped of his
top-secret security clearance after months of delays in completing his
background check, and will now be limited in his ability to view highly
classified information, a White House official and another person
familiar with Mr. Kushner’s situation said on Tuesday.
clearance was reduced to the level of secret and his official portfolio
inside the West Wing, especially with regard to his globe-trotting
foreign affairs work on behalf of President Trump, is expected to be
sharply reduced, as well, the people said.
Then again, I don't disagree. In fact, I don't know what
Trump's family is doing in the White House, for they certainly
elected there, and the only proof of competence they have is
that they are the daughters, sons or son in law of Trump.
And no, I
do not think anyone of them is competent beyond being direct
the Very Genius - his (His?) words - who now is president of the USA.
this in The NYT:
beginning of the Trump administration, both Mr. Kushner, 37, and his
wife, Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, 36, have enjoyed a
special status within the White House as both family members and
assistants to the president. But the complicated finances surrounding
Mr. Kushner’s family’s vast real estate empire and his qualifications
for the foreign policy responsibilities given to him by his
father-in-law invited scrutiny from the start.
to me to be far too friendly to Jared and Ivanka Kushner. More
precisely, I know they are the president's son in law and
daughter, but where
are their qualifications for having the
posts and the
responsibilies they did have? I do not see any, of any
The decision to reduce his access to classified information
was made after John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, announced
plans to overhaul the security clearance process at the White House
after the resignation of
Rob Porter, Mr. Trump’s staff secretary, amid allegations of
spousal abuse. The change in Mr. Kushner’s clearance was first
reported by Politico.
All of this seems correct, although I should add that
Trump has been president for over a year now, and - to the best of my
knowledge - his son in law and daughter got large responsibilities
(without the least qualifications) nearly from the very start of his
Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Possibly so, and it also
seems to be the case that the president of the USA can - more or less -
nominate whoever he wants in most positions, but my question remains: Where
are the qualifications
of Trump's children to do whatever he
commands or asks them to do?
Mr. Kushner’s business background, and the well-publicized
financial woes of his family’s real estate empire, have long raised
concerns in American security agencies that foreign governments might
try to gain influence inside the Trump White House by trying to do
business with the president’s son-in-law.
Anyway... I agree with the decision, though I do not know we have heard
the last about it. And this is a recommended article.
Jinping Dreams of World Power for Himself and China
This article is by The Editorial Board of The New York
Times. It starts as follows:
Jinping of China has played his
boldest political card yet, maneuvering
to extend his rule indefinitely so that he can maintain control of
the country’s complex system long enough to achieve the dream of
great-power status, asserting economic and political influence across
began to open to the West in the
late 1970s, the United States and its allies have tried to integrate it
into the political and economic system they built after World War II,
hoping that economic progress would lead eventually to political
Ahem. I agree
that Xi Jinping has gotten a lot more power than he should have
getting the Communist Party to remove the limit of ten years on his
presidential powers, but otherwise this sounds more like propaganda
than like fact:
What Xi Jinping
wants his personal power for does not seem to be "asserting economic and political influence
the globe" (he could have done
that just as well without getting far more powers) but - more
more directly - simply to give him the supreme power in China
(where this amount of power was frowned upon since the death of
Also, to say
that the USA was trying "to integrate" China "into the political and economic system" that the USA and the West "built after World War II" completely fails to mention that
Reagan onwards the policies of the USA were rather different
Truman till Carter, inclusive.
But OK. Here is
Mr. Xi’s move
proves that policy has failed and
that China will set its own path, challenging the liberal order based
on the rule of law, human rights, open debate, free-market economics
and a preference for elected leaders who leave office peacefully after
a fixed period. Despite increasing concerns about China’s evolution,
the West has yet to come to grips with this threat.
office in 2013, Mr. Xi has
amassed power assiduously, taking control of not just the government
but also of the Chinese Communist Party, the military and the press. He
has imposed his views on the educational
system and culture, hardening an already authoritarian system that
ruthlessly controls social media and wields law enforcement to crush
dissent. The obsession with control hints at a deeply insecure state,
not a global power.
I think this is
more or less correct, although I tend to disbelieve the
I don't think that the Chinese state is "deeply insecure" after
having had more or less absolute power for 70 years now,
indeed this also has varied with the leaders that the Chinese Communist
Party anointed. But the power has been in the hands of the Chinese
Communist Party since 1948, and I grant this has been quite totalitarian
from the beginning.
Here is more on
what Xi Jinping achieved:
Nevertheless, he has
persuaded the party to effectively make him emperor for life by
announcing plans to amend the Constitution to abolish term limits,
which would have ended his presidency in 2023.
The changes seem to
ensure that Mr. Xi will continue pursuing his agenda, which has begun
to lift millions of people out of poverty, reformed state-owned
enterprises, protected the environment and built strategic industries.
If all goes according to plan, he could preside over the transition
when China eclipses the United States as the world’s largest economy in
absolute terms within two decades.
"Mr. Xi" is getting a rather good press from the NYT, indeed
because he could have done the same - "to lift millions of people out of poverty,
[to] reform(..) state-owned
enterprises, [to] protect(..) the environment and built strategic
industries" - without
making his personal powers far greater than they were before.
also is some criticism from the NYT:
down on the strongman model is risky. By moving from an
autocratic collective to one-man rule, Mr. Xi has upset the political
norms that were put in place to erase the personality cult of Mao and
make political transitions more predictable.
The system Mr.
Xi has created also makes it
less likely he will receive sound policy advice or be challenged on
decisions in ways that could avoid mistakes. That’s because he
solidified his power base during the first term by waging an aggressive
campaign against corruption and dissent, silencing political rivals and
stacking the ruling Politburo with loyalists reluctant to speak up.
indeed. And he did make a major change
in the policies
of the Chinese Communist Party, and this major change gave him much
more power than he had already. And this is a recommended article.
the United States Search Data Overseas?
This article is by Craig A. Newman from The New York Times. It starts
Should the United
States government be able to conduct a search of your emails if they
are stored on a server in another country, or does the government’s
right to examine digital evidence stop at the border?
That is a
central question in United States v. Microsoft, a case
scheduled to be argued on Tuesday before the Supreme Court.
Both sides in
the case have legitimate concerns. If the court sides with Microsoft
and declines to allow searches for data stored in another country, the
government will be hampered in investigating crimes like terrorism,
child pornography and fraud.
I say?! To
the best of my meanwhile quite extensive knowledge, the factual
since 9/11 is that the secret services of the USA, of which there seem
to be no less than 17, have been gathering all e-mails from anyone
living anywhere, and have been abled to do so by being shielded
by laws that mostly kept what they did in secret, and by being
overseen by a very special court, the FISA
Court, that allows the secret services, usually in full
or partial secrecy, to do whatever they please.
grant that I am going further than "the United States" allows
it has gone, but I think that I am in good company, and that one cannot
distrust the mostly secret businesses of any
from any country too much.
while I grant that it might be true that the U.S. "government will be hampered in investigating
crimes like terrorism, child pornography and fraud", there is a question that ought
to go before this factual
What rights does any government have to investigate
those they suspect of crimes-in-their-own-local-terms if those
investigated are not
inhabitants of their own country?!
to me they should have no such
rights, though indeed I also
think I know that in real fact the secret services of any
do more or less what they want, mostly for the reason that the secret
services work in - strongly protected - secrecy in their own countries
(that may vary a lot per country).
If the court
sides with the government and rules that it may demand data stored
overseas by American companies, those companies will find it much
harder to do business abroad. This is because many foreigners fear that
United States warrants authorizing such searches will disregard privacy
protections afforded by their country. The government of Germany, a
country with stringent privacy laws, has already indicated it will not
use any American company for its data services if the court decides to
this is more or less correct, but I am "a foreigner" (to the
USA) who does
fear that the "United
States warrants authorizing such searches will disregard privacy
protections afforded by their country".
In fact, I
think that the laws that should have
guided the doings
and non-doings of any secret service anywhere are
completely out of
date, only partially known outside of the secret services,
and seem to be in
real fact mostly neglected by the secret services,
from anywhere, indeed: It seems as if each and every secret service
tapping the internet as it pleases.
the last bit that I quote from this article:
Yes, but the Court of
Appeals - that made the correct judgement from the point of
this non-inhabitant of the USA - made a legal decision (which
the U.S. government appeals) and did not say anything about the
factual practices of the secret services of the USA.
At the center
of this case is the Stored Communications Act, which was written when
there was no modern global internet or cloud storage. It provides
Fourth Amendment safeguards to prevent unreasonable searches of
electronically stored communications — but says nothing about data held
The Court of
Appeals concluded that the Stored Communications Act was not intended
by Congress to allow searches outside the country. The ruling followed
the well-established principle that American courts generally do not
apply United States law beyond its borders unless Congress intended so.
And I am sorry, but the factual
situation - wholly apart from whatever laws apply - seems to be
that in practice the U.S. secret
services can do for
the most part just as they please, and especially as regards anyone who
is not an inhabitant of the USA.
Supreme Court Side with Koch Brothers in Their War Against Organized
This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on
Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
On Monday, the U.S.
Supreme Court heard arguments in a key case that could deal a massive
blow to public unions nationwide. The case, Janus v. American
Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, deals with whether
workers who benefit from union-negotiated contracts can avoid paying
union dues if they opt not to join the union. The lead plaintiff, Mark
Janus, is a child support specialist who argues that a state law in
Illinois allowing the union to charge a fee for collective bargaining
activities violates his First Amendment rights. Numerous right-wing
groups have trumpeted his claim in their latest attempt to weaken the
political power of public unions. The groups include the Koch brothers’
Americans for Prosperity, the State Policy Network, ALEC—American
Legislative Exchange Council—and the Bradley Foundation. We speak to
Amanda Shanor, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union,
which filed an amicus brief in Janus v. AFSCME
in support of AFSCME.
Quite so, and here is Amy
This is all quite correct,
and in fact I agree with Lee Saunders. And here is Amanda Shanor:
GOODMAN: Over the weekend,
union members gathered in cities across the country for a Working
People’s Day of Action to speak out against the case. This is AFSCME President Lee Saunders speaking Saturday at
a rally here in New York City.
SAUNDERS: They are not
making a legal argument in front of the Supreme Court. They’re making a
political attack on all of you. That’s what this is about. It’s a
political attack. They don’t care about the First Amendment. They all
care about making more money and having more wealth, at the expense of
all of you. And they’re not just going after unions. They’re coming for
everyone who threatens their power, who threatens their privilege. All
of us who want to unrig that economy so it’s fair, they’re coming after
GOODMAN: Janus v. AFSCME follows a similar case the Supreme
Court heard in 2016, Friedrichs v. the California Teachers
Association. The court deadlocked 4 to 4 in the case, after
conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly. It’s now expected
that Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch will break the tie. During
Monday’s proceedings, Gorsuch did not ask any questions.
SHANOR: (..) So, Janus is
a public sector worker in Illinois, and he has brought a First
Amendment claim against an Illinois law that authorizes unions to
collect dues not only from members, but from people who are nonmembers,
but employees that the union must legally provide services to. So, for
instance, if a nonunion employee has a grievance, the union still has
to represent that person in grievance procedures. And so, what the
Illinois law does is permit the union to charge those fees to the
nonmember workers, but a lower fee called an agency fee or a fair-share
fee. And what Janus has done is brought a First Amendment case,
claiming that he has a First Amendment right not to pay for those
services that the union is legally required to provide him.
So, what he’s looking for is essentially to get—under the First
Amendment, to get something for nothing. So, he would like to have a
First Amendment right to benefit from the union, but not to have to pay
for the costs of the functions that the union performs on his behalf
and on behalf of all the other workers.
I more or less agree
with Shanor, although my own point of view probably is a bit
In fact, I guess it is not so much that Janus "would like to have a First Amendment right to
benefit from the union, but not to have to pay for the costs of the
functions that the union performs on his behalf" but - much more simply - that he abuses the First
Amendment to try to stop the unions from getting money from non-members.
And I fear that for the
reasons stated by Amy Goodman in the previous quotation, Janus and his
friends may very well succeed. There is more in the article, that is
Asylum Seekers Can Be Jailed Indefinitely Without Bail Hearing
This article is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet. It starts
The U.S. Supreme Court has
issued what may become one of the most consequential anti-immigrant
rulings in the Trump era, declaring that asylum
seekers—non-citizens—are not entitled to bail hearings and can languish
in jail for years.
The majority’s ruling in Jennings
v. Rodriguez, written by Justice Samuel Alito, reverses and
remands a ruling by the California-based Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals, which said a non-citizen could not be held for longer than six
months without a bail hearing.
“The noncitizens at issue
are asylum seekers, persons who have finished serving a sentence of
confinement (for a crime), or individuals who, while lacking a clear
entitlement to enter the United States, claim to meet the criteria for
admission,” wrote Alito, summarizing the case. The court’s majority
concluded that several immigration statutes “do not give detained
aliens the right to periodic bond hearings during the course of their
detention. The Ninth Circuit misapplied the canon of constitutional
avoidance in holding otherwise.”
I say?!?! This sounds completely
crazy to me: If you are not
a citizen of the United
States, then the United States may lock you up for ever, without even allowing you to
ask for bail.
That sounds utterly
crazy, and not just to me:
In late 2017, federal
immigration authorities held approximately 40,000 asylum seekers in
various detention centers around the country, Human
Rights First reported. Asylum seekers are a subset of the estimated
11 million visa-less immigrants in the U.S.
Alito's conclusion was
slammed in a dissent from the court’s more liberal justices as turning
a blind eye to American legal history, from its founding documents to
previous Supreme Court rulings dating to the 19th century. As
Justice Stephen Breyer noted, the majority’s conclusion was at odds
with the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the British
Magna Carta—which influenced those founding documents—and centuries of
subsequent American Supreme Court rulings.
Yes indeed: I completely
agree with Breyer. Here is some more:
Breyer’s dissent, which
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor signed (Justice Elena
Kagan recused herself), said, “The Fifth Amendment says that ‘[n]o
person shall be...deprived of life, liberty, or property without due
process of law.’ An alien is a ‘person.’ To hold him without bail is to
deprive him of bodily ‘liberty.’ And, where there is no bail
proceeding, there has been no bail-related ‘process’ at all. The Due
Process Clause—itself reflecting the language of the Magna
Carta—prevents arbitrary detention. Indeed, ‘[f]reedom from bodily
restraint has always been at the core of the liberty protected by the
Due Process Clause from arbitrary governmental action.’”
Quite so. Here
is yet more:
“The bail questions before
us are technical but at heart they are simple. We need only recall the
words of the Declaration of Independence, in particular its insistence
that all men and women have ‘certain unalienable rights,’ and that
among them is the right to ‘liberty.’ We need merely remember that the
Constitution’s due process clause protects each person’s liberty from
arbitrary deprivation. And we need just keep in mind the fact that,
since Blackstone’s time and long before, liberty has included the right
of a confined person to seek release on bail."
Yes indeed. And again I
completely agree - although it seems as if the present
can undo laws that go back to the 1200s in England.