March 1, 2018

Crisis: Chinese Censors, Indefinite Detention, The NYT, On Economics, On Healthy Bees


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 1, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, March 1, 2018.

1. Summary

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.

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.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from March 1, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. China’s Censors Ban Winnie the Pooh and the Letter ‘N’ After Xi’s Power

2. ACLU Denounces SCOTUS Ruling Approving Indefinite Immigrant
3. The New York Times Newsroom Is Openly Revolting Against Its Editorial
     Page Editor

4. Why We Need Rise-Up Economics, Not Trickle-Down
5. Boosting Hopes for Total Ban, EU Regulator's New Assessment Confirms
     Neonics' Harm to Bees
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. China’s Censors Ban Winnie the Pooh and the Letter ‘N’ After Xi’s Power Grab

This article is by Javier C. Hernández on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
Liu Jin, a 27-year-old teacher in central China, is the kind of young nationalist that President Xi Jinping can typically count on. Mr. Liu shares propaganda photos of the president in battle fatigues online and reverently calls him “Uncle Xi.”

But Mr. Liu was dismayed this week when he heard that the ruling Communist Party was changing the Chinese Constitution, allowing Mr. Xi to stay in power indefinitely.

“I disagree,” Mr. Liu wrote on Weibo, a microblogging site, listing examples of power-hungry emperors and autocrats. Censors immediately deleted the post.

During his more than five years in power, Mr. Xi has cultivated an image as a man of the people — a centered, sympathetic leader who lines up with workers to buy pork buns while also guiding the world’s most populous nation to growth and global influence.

But the move to abolish term limits, announced on Sunday, has resurrected deeper fears in Chinese society, where memories remain of the personality cult of China’s founding father, Mao Zedong, and the fevered emotions and chaos that it conjured.

Yes, this seems all correct and I can add three general remarks which may add some background knowledge.

The first remark is that Mao Zedong died in 1976, that is 42 years ago today. Since the Chinese Cultural Revolution he instituted lasted approximately from 1966 till 1976, it means that the people who can recall the Cultural Revolution are at least 50 years old, and probably older, which means that they are in a minority. This may have helped Xi Pinjin's plans, but it also is a guess.

And the second remark accounts for the - truly frightening - totalitarian character of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, namely by pointing out that it seems as if between 1966 and 1976 only a minority of the Chinese could read Chinese: The majority could not read, or could read only a little.

Both are remarks by myself, and I admit that while I am interested in China and in the Chinese, and read a fair amount about both, I do not read Chinese at all.

And my third remark is that while currently "the literacy rate" among the Chinese is above 95% I do not know what this means in more or less precise terms, seeing also that to learn to read and write proper Chinese seems to take some 10 years and the knowledge of up to 10,000 characters.

The brief of it is that literacy has been much expanded over the last 40 years, but it also is still probably true that real literacy in China is considerably behind real literacy in Europe, which also is very much easier to achieve.

Here is the censorship that arose after Xi Jinping succeeded in removing the ten years' limit on his exercising the supreme power in China:

Anxious to suppress criticism, and maintain an appearance of mass support, the Communist Party’s censors have scoured the internet and social media for content deemed subversive. The sanitizing has included many images of Winnie the Pooh — Mr. Xi is sometimes likened to the cartoon bear — and search terms like “my emperor,” “lifelong” and “shameless.”

For a short time, even the English letter “N” was censored, according to Victor Mair, a University of Pennsylvania professor, apparently to pre-empt social scientists from expressing dissent mathematically: N > 2, with “N” being the number of Mr. Xi’s terms in office.

All of this sounds ridiculous in Western ears, but it also is the exercise of totalitarian powers. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Retirees who endured the trauma of Mao’s Cultural Revolution are warning of a return to dictatorship. University students are posting quotes from George Washington’s farewell address online. Business executives, concerned about the Communist Party’s growing grip on private enterprises, are hastening plans to relocate overseas.

Li Datong, a former journalist and critic of the government, has circulated an open letter calling on the Communist Party to block Mr. Xi’s plan or risk “once again planting seeds of chaos in China and causing untold damage.” He said that Mr. Xi’s power grab would overturn the very stable and predictable system for peaceful transitions of power set up decades ago after the chaos of Mao and succession struggles under Deng Xiaoping.

“It’s going to break the chains placed on the system,” Mr. Li said in an interview. “It’s going to be very dangerous.”

I think I agree with Li Datong. And this is a recommended article.

2. ACLU Denounces SCOTUS Ruling Approving Indefinite Immigrant Detention

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that federal authorities can continue to indefinitely detain some immigrants and asylum seekers without a bond hearing. The 5-3 ruling overturned the rulings of two lower courts that found immigrants facing prolonged detention must be given a custody hearing. But Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision does not end the battle over indefinite detention. The justices sent the case back to the federal appeals court to evaluate the constitutionality of the practice. Tuesday’s decision came a day after the Supreme Court dealt a blow to President Trump’s efforts to rescind DACA, the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives at least 700,000 young immigrants permission to live and work in the United States. The court refused to hear a White House appeal of lower court rulings saying Trump’s move to cancel the program was unconstitutional. We speak to Michael Tan, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
I say, and have been reporting on this before, for the simple reason that this seems more like an - early - medieval law than a modern law: This allows the USA to lock up people forever, without any right on even being heard on whether they are willing to pay bail.

Here are the two opinions that were in the Supreme Court:

Writing in the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito Jr. said, quote, “Detention during those proceedings gives immigration officials time to determine an alien’s status without running the risk of the alien’s either absconding or engaging in criminal activity.”

Justice Stephen Breyer read his dissent from the bench. He said, quote, “I would find it alarming, to believe that Congress wrote these statutory words in order to put thousands of individuals at risk of lengthy confinement all within the United States but all without hope of bail.” Justice Breyer was joined in his dissent by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. Elena Kagan recused herself.

Clearly, I agree for 100% with Breyer. Here is the explanation by attorney Michael Tan, who belongs to the ACLU:

MICHAEL TAN: (..) So, Rodriguez is a case challenging one of the cruelest practices in our detention and deportation system: the government’s practice of indefinitely detaining thousands of immigrants in jails across the country, for months or even years, while they fight their deportation cases, without ever letting them have a bond hearing, that basic process where you get to see a judge who determines whether you need to be locked up in the first place. On any given day, there are thousands of immigrants in situations like Alejandro Rodriguez, as you said, someone who’s lived here since he was an infant, a green card holder, a dental assistant, who ended up being put in the detention and deportation system and spent three years locked up.
And so, what our case seeks to establish is that basic right to a hearing before a judge, where they can look at your facts, see if you’re a flight risk and danger, and determine whether you need to be locked up or not. The 9th Circuit sought to put an end to the government’s detention practices in its ruling in 2015, holding that the immigration laws actually require a bond hearing for immigrants in long-term detention at six months. And the Supreme Court reversed that decision yesterday, holding, in an opinion written by Justice Alito, that Congress in fact authorized detention during the length of people’s deportation proceedings. But the fight’s not over. We’re now back in the 9th Circuit to litigate the constitutional issue, specifically whether due process entitles people to that basic right to a bond hearing.

Yes, that is all correct to the best of my knowledge. And clearly I think that "due process entitles people to that basic right to a bond hearing": Without it a government can simply lock up whomever it pleases while refusing to hear either them or their lawyers at all.

Next, here is the background - which in fact dates back to Bill Clinton:

MICHAEL TAN: (..) So, to be clear, this practice of indefinite detention dates from the late Clinton administration, was carried forward by the Bush administration, was carried forward by the Obama industry, defended by the Solicitor General’s Office, and certainly carried over as a legacy to the Trump administration. I will say, in this moment, when we have an administration in the office that’s committed to locking up more immigrants than ever before, it’s all the more important that people have access to court process to ensure that they’re not locked up arbitrarily. But this is a legacy or sort of—you know, this has been bequeathed to the Trump administration by prior administrations.

Yes indeed, and this is a fine article that is recommended, and in which there is more.
3. The New York Times Newsroom Is Openly Revolting Against Its Editorial Page Editor

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

Since Donald Trump was elected president, the New York Times editorial page has waged a frontal assault on its readers' intelligence. Just this month, it has published pieces defending Woody Allen and Aziz Ansari against allegations of sexual abuse, and another scolding liberals for not being sufficiently respectful of gun owners in the wake of the latest mass shooting. In between, the paper hired and fired its leading commentator on technology after learning she counts a prominent neo-Nazi among her close friends.

Subscribers are taking notice, and they're not alone. According to a Vanity Fair report, Times reporters have grown increasingly frustrated with the paper's op-ed section and fear it may be undermining their work.
Well... yes and no. Yes, because this seems more or less correct, and no because it would have been also correct to say at least rather similar things about The NYT since 9/11.

Here is some more:
What emerges from this latest report is an editorial page rife with internal contradictions, "a case study in how essentially liberal institutions are undermined by the tools of their own liberalism." Bennet professes that the section is humanist and universal, yet recognizes select forms of ethnic cleansing as worthy of consideration; he "proudly forswears the idea of right answers," but insists capitalism is the "greatest anti-poverty program and engine of progress the world has ever seen"; he claims climate science is "settled," but is nonetheless willing to indulge Bret Stephens' skepticism. Meanwhile, Bennet deems Richard Spencer unworthy of publication not because he's a white nationalist but because he represents a fringe movement.
None of that seems very sound, but I can't take this very seriously were it only because it is not clear to me what "this latest report" is supposed to be.

Then again, here is the opinion from someone I know and take serious:
“If your goal were to wage war on media diversity in all of its forms, and to offer the narrowest range of views possible, it would be hard to top the roster of columnists the paper has assembled," the Intercept's Glenn Greenwald wrote in August. "Beyond the obvious demographic homogeneity, literally every one of them fits squarely within the narrow, establishment, center-right to center-left range of opinion that prevails in elite opinion-making circles...None is associated with or supportive of the growing populist left or the populist right; they all wallow in the vague, safe, Washington-approved middle ground, members in good standing of the newly overt neoliberal-neoconservative alliance.”
This seems OK, but it still is not enough to take this article very serious.
4. Why We Need Rise-Up Economics, Not Trickle-Down

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows (and I rephrased the All Capital Title: I don't like only capitals, just as I don't like italics):

How to build the economy? Not through trickle-down economics. Tax cuts to the rich and big corporations don’t lead to more investment and jobs.

The only real way to build the economy is through “rise-up” economics: Investments in our people – their education and skills, their health, and the roads and bridges and public transportation that connects them.

Trickle-down doesn’t work because money is global. Corporations and the rich whose taxes are cut invest the extra money wherever around the world they can get the highest return.

Rise-up economics works because American workers are the only resources uniquely American. Their productivity is the key to our future standard of living. And that productivity depends on their education, health, and infrastructure.
I agree, but I also like to point out that (i) "trickle-down economics" has been a species of - completely false - propaganda that has been quite popular since Reagan became president of the USA in 1980; that (ii) this completely false - propaganda has been embraced by many of the none too intelligent or none too knowledgeable billions who were given permissions to publish on Facebook (and elsewhere); and that (iii) meanwhile very many of the real jobs that were available in American industries of many kinds have in fact been sold to India or China, for the twin reasons that (a) those selling these jobs to countries were the wages were very much lower than in the USA were officially permitted to do so, though indeed not before Reagan became president, and (b) these real American jobs will never become back.

At least that is what I think. Here is the end of this brief article:

In the three decades following World War II, we made huge investments in education, health, and infrastructure. The result was rising median incomes.

Since then, public investments have lagged, and median incomes have stagnated.

Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush’s tax cuts on the top didn’t raise incomes, and neither will Donald Trump’s. 

Trickle-down economics is a hoax. But it’s a convenient hoax designed to enrich the moneyed interests. Rise-up economics is the real deal. But we must fight for it.  
I am sorry, but not in these terms, for the simple reason that the false propaganda that was and is trickle-down economics has worked for nearly forty years, and the very many jobs that were sold to much cheaper countries than the USA has finished most of these jobs in the USA.

And while I agree with Reich that was a bitter shame, it also is a fact, and while "being against trickle-down economics" may look nice, it should have been done forty years ago, when it still could have made a major difference.

5. Boosting Hopes for Total Ban, EU Regulator's New Assessment Confirms Neonics' Harm to Bees

This article is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams. It starts as follows, and it is here (like some previous articles on the same topic) because without bees nearly all of humankind will soon be dead:

Boosting hopes for a strict EU-wide ban on the pesticides, a new report by the European Union's food safety watchdog confirms that neonicotinoids, also known as neonics, pose a threat to bees.

The report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which upates its assessment from 2013, and draws from over 1,500 studies, looks at the impacts of three specific neonicotinoids—clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam—on honeybees and wild bees.

"The availability of such a substantial amount of data as well as the guidance has enabled us to produce very detailed conclusions," said Jose Tarazona, head of EFSA's pesticides unit.

"There is variability in the conclusions, due to factors such as the bee species, the intended use of the pesticide, and the route of exposure. Some low risks have been identified, but overall the risk to the three types of bees we have assessed is confirmed," he said.

I say, which I do because I did not know this, and for once it seems this news is good, at least for Europe.

Here is some more:

The British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) weighed in as well, saying, "until there is convincing independent scientific evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides are not harmful to honey bees, we will support the continuation of the EU moratorium on their use."

"While it is good news that the regulators have definitively concluded that neonicotinoids pose a high risk," added Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife, "it is a tragedy that our bees, moths, butterflies, and flies have been hammered by these toxins for over 15 years, causing severe declines in wild pollinators and the pollination services they undertake. Not only should EU countries now ban their use entirely, they should also urgently approve and implement EFSA's bee risk assessment process so that the blunder is not repeated."

I agree completely, and there is more in the article, that is recommended.


[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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