The Watering Hole, Monday, November 28th, 2016: Warning Signs of a Dictatorship

From November 23rd in Foreign Policy Magazine, “10 Ways to Tell if Your President is a Dictator”, by Stephen M. Walt, here’s a brief [believe it or not] summary. (You’ll need to register in order to be able to read the entire article. Registration is free, and allows you access to five articles per month.)

An excerpt from the opening:

“…if you live in the United States, what you should really worry about is the threat that Trump may pose to America’s constitutional order. His lengthy business career suggests he is a vindictive man who will go to extreme lengths to punish his opponents and will break a promise in a heartbeat and without remorse. The 2016 campaign confirmed that he has little respect for existing norms and rules — he refused to release his tax returns, lied repeatedly, claimed the electoral and political systems were “rigged” against him, threatened to jail his opponent if he won, among other such violations — and revealed his deep contempt for both his opponents and supporters. Nor does he regret any of the revolting things he did or said during the campaign, because, as he told the Wall Street Journal afterward, “I won.”[**] For Trump, it seems, the ends really do justify the means.

[**Tweet from WSJ: “When asked if he thought his rhetoric had gone too far in the campaign, Donald Trump told WSJ: “No. I won.”]

“Given what is at stake, one of the most important things we can all do is remain alert for evidence that Trump and those around him are moving in an authoritarian direction. For those who love America and its Constitution more than they love any particular political party or any particular politician, I offer as a public service my top 10 warning signs that American democracy is at risk.”

1) Systematic efforts to intimidate the media.

A free, energetic, vigilant, and adversarial press has long been understood to be an essential guarantee of democratic freedoms, because without it, the people in whose name leaders serve will be denied the information they need to assess what the politicians are doing.

If the Trump administration begins to enact policies designed to restrict freedom of the press, or just intimidate media organizations from offering critical coverage, it will be a huge (or if you prefer, yuge) warning sign.

Trump has already proposed “opening up” libel laws so that public figures can sue the press more easily. This step would force publishers and editors to worry about costly and damaging lawsuits even if they eventually win them, and it would be bound to have a chilling effect on their coverage.

His administration could deny access to entire news organizations like the New York Times if they were too critical of Trump’s policies or just too accurate in documenting his failures. Just because the First Amendment guarantees free speech doesn’t mean some parts of the media can’t be stampeded into pulling punches or once again indulging in “false equivalence.”

2) Building an official pro-Trump media network.

“…While trying to suppress critical media outlets, Trump could also use the presidency to bolster media that offer him consistent support. Or he could even try to create an official government news agency that would disseminate a steady diet of pro-Trump coverage.

In Trump’s ideal world, Americans would get their news from some combination of Breitbart, Fox News, and the president’s own Twitter feed…”

3) Politicizing the civil service, military, National Guard, or the domestic security agencies.

“One of the obstacles to a democratic breakdown is the government bureaucracy, whose permanent members are insulated from political pressure by existing civil service protections that make it hard to fire senior officials without cause. But one can imagine the Trump administration asking Congress to weaken those protections, portraying this step as a blow against “big government” and a way to improve government efficiency.

But if the president or his lieutenants can gut government agencies more or less at will, the fear of being fired will lead many experienced public servants to keep their heads down and kowtow to whatever the president wants, no matter how ill-advised or illegal it might be.

And don’t assume the military, FBI, National Guard, or the intelligence agencies would be immune to this sort of interference. Other presidents (or their appointees) have fired generals who questioned their policy objectives, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld did during George W. Bush’s first administration when he removed Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, who had the temerity to tell a congressional committee that the occupation of Iraq was going to need a lot more people than Rumsfeld had claimed. Other generals and admirals got the message and stayed out of Rumsfeld’s way for the rest of his disastrous tenure as defense secretary. There have also been fights in the past over control of the National Guard, but a move to assert greater federal authority over the guard would give Trump a powerful tool to use against open expressions of dissent.”

4) Using government surveillance against domestic political opponents.

“This step wouldn’t be entirely new either, insofar as Nixon once used the CIA to infiltrate anti-war organizations during the Vietnam War. But the government’s capacity to monitor the phones, emails, hard drives, and online activities of all Americans has expanded enormously since the 1960s.

As far as we know, however, no one has yet tried to use these new powers of surveillance to monitor, intimidate, embarrass, deter, or destroy political opponents.

…an ambitious and unscrupulous president could use the ability to monitor political opponents to great advantage. He would need the cooperation of top officials and possibly many underlings as well, but this only requires loyal confederates at the top and compliant people below. The White House had sufficient authority, under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, to convince U.S. government employees to torture other human beings.”

5) Using state power to reward corporate backers and punish opponents.

“A hallmark of corrupt quasi-democracies is the executive’s willingness to use the power of the state to reward business leaders who are loyal and to punish anyone who gets in the way. That’s how Putin controls the “oligarchs” in Russia, and it is partly how Erdogan kept amassing power and undermining opponents in Turkey…

…I know, I know: Corruption of this sort is already a problem here in the Land of the Free —whether in the form of congressional pork or the sweet deals former government officials arrange to become lobbyists once they leave office — so why single out Trump? The problem is that Trump’s record suggests he thinks this is the right way to do business: You reward your friends, and you stick it to your enemies every chance you get.”

6) Stacking the Supreme Court.

“Trump will likely get the opportunity to appoint several Supreme Court justices, and the choices he makes will be revealing. Does he pick people who are personally loyal and beholden to him or opt for jurors with independent standing and stellar qualifications? Does he pick people whose views on hot-button issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and campaign financing comport with his party’s, or does he go for people who have an established view on the expansiveness of executive power and are more likely to look the other way if he takes some of the other steps I’ve already mentioned? And if it’s the latter, would the Senate find the spine to say no?”

7) Enforcing the law for only one side.

“…given the nature of Trump’s campaign and the deep divisions within the United States at present, a key litmus test for the president-elect is whether he will direct U.S. officials to enforce similar standards of conduct on both his supporters and his opponents.

If anti-Trump protesters are beaten up by a band of Trump’s fans, will the latter face prosecution as readily as if the roles were reversed? Will local and federal justice agencies be as vigilant in patrolling right-wing hate speech and threats of violence as they are with similar actions that might emanate from the other side?…If Trump is quick to call out his critics but gives racists, bigots, and homophobes a free pass because they happen to like him, it would be another sign he is trying to tilt the scales of justice in his favor.”

8) Really rigging the system.

“…given the promises he has made and the demography of the electorate, Trump and the GOP have every incentive to use the next four years to try to stack the electoral deck in their favor. Look for more attempts to gerrymander safe seats for House Republicans and more efforts to prevent likely Democratic voters from getting to the polls in 2018 and 2020.”

9) Fearmongering.

“Stoking public fears about safety and well-being is a classic autocratic tactic, designed to convince a frightened population to look to the Leader for protection. Trump played this card brilliantly in the campaign, warning of “Mexican rapists,” foreign governments that “steal our jobs,” “scores of recent migrants inside our borders charged with terrorism,” and so on. He also hinted that his political rivals were somehow in cahoots with these various “enemies.” A frightened population tends to think first about its own safety, and forget about fundamental liberties, and would be more likely to look the other way as a president amassed greater power.

The worst case, of course, would be an Erdogan-like attempt to use a terrorist attack or some other equally dramatic event as an excuse to declare a “state of emergency” and to assume unprecedented executive authority. Bush and Cheney used 9/11 to pass the Patriot Act, and Trump could easily try to use some future incident as a — with apologies for the pun — trumped-up excuse to further encroach on civil liberties, press freedoms, and the other institutions that are central to democracy.”

10) Demonizing the opposition.

“Trying to convince people that your domestic opponents are in league with the nation’s enemies is one of the oldest tactics in politics, and it has been part of Trump’s playbook ever since he stoked the “birther” controversy over Obama’s citizenship. After he becomes president, will he continue to question his opponents’ patriotism, accuse them of supporting America’s opponents, and blame policy setbacks on dark conspiracies among Democrats, liberals, Muslims, the Islamic State, “New York financial elites,” or the other dog whistles so beloved by right-wing media outlets like Breitbart? Will he follow the suggestions of some of his supporters and demand that Americans from certain parts of the world (read: Muslims) be required to “register” with the federal government?

Again, these are the same tactics Erdogan and Putin have used in Turkey and Russia, respectively, to cement their own authority over time by initiating a vicious cycle of social hostility. When groups within a society are already somewhat suspicious of each other, extremists can trigger a spiral of increasing hostility by attacking the perceived internal enemy in the hope of provoking a harsh reaction. If the attacked minority responds defensively, or its own hotheads lash out violently, it will merely reinforce the first group’s fears and bolster a rapid polarization. Extremists on both sides will try to “outbid” their political opponents by portraying themselves as the most ardent and effective defenders of their own group. In extreme cases, such as the Balkan Wars in the 1990s or Iraq after 2003, the result is civil war. Trump would be playing with fire if he tries to stay in power by consistently sowing hatred against the “other,” but he did it in the campaign, and there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t do it again.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“This list of warning signs will no doubt strike some as overly alarmist. As I said, it is possible — even likely — that Trump won’t try any of these things (or at least not very seriously) and he might face prompt and united opposition if he did. The checks and balances built into America’s democratic system may be sufficiently robust to survive a sustained challenge. Given the deep commitment to liberty that lies at the heart of the American experiment, it is also possible the American people would quickly detect any serious attempt to threaten the present order and take immediate action to stop it.

The bottom line: I am by no means predicting the collapse of democracy in the United States under a President Donald J. Trump. What I am saying is that it is not impossible, and there are some clear warning signs to watch out for. Now, as always, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Or to use a more modern formulation: If you see something, say something.”

 

This is our Open Thread – feel free to talk about whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 27th, 2016: “You Keep Using That Word…”

To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, with the word in question being “Liberal” instead of “Inconceivable!” (you have to read “Inconceivable!” in Wallace Shawn’s voice, of course): “You [conservatives] keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The premise of the following three Christian Post articles is a discussion of recent books about the various authors’ [mistaken] ideas regarding liberals. I started out trying to keep this somewhat brief, but in the interests of keeping the salient points in context, it took on a life of its own. I’ll just share a excerpt of each.

In the earliest of the three articles, “Is Free Speech Just for Liberals?” CP guest contributor Susan Stamper Brown sez:

In the biography, “Churchill: A Life,” author Martin Gilbert writes how Winston Churchill loudly voiced his grave concerns about the apathy shared by those seemingly impervious to the malevolent National Socialist Movement’s intention to steam through Europe like volcanic lava, destroying everything in its way, including free speech.
In direct response, Hitler began warning Germans about the “dangers of free speech” and said, “If Mr. Churchill had less to do with traitors … he would see how mad his talk is …”

History revealed whose talk was really mad.

Truth is, Churchill’s words touched a nerve the annoying way truth always does. Hitler was incapable of engaging in intelligent debate, so he changed the subject, lied, and attacked Churchill’s character. Hitler knew his movement couldn’t stand on its own for what it really was, so the only alternative was to silence opposing views.

Throughout Germany books were banned and ceremoniously cast into blazing bonfires intended to squash divergence of thought and stifle man’s God-instilled unquenchable thirst for truth.

Historical accountings provide a glimpse into the warped psyche of those behind a movement that wrongheadedly believed they could build something worthwhile by shutting down debate, then dividing a nation by race and ethnicity.

They coldly chose their target, the Jewish race, and purged some of the greatest minds in history from all levels of teaching. Schools and universities suffered.

Before the movement decided to burn bodies as well as books, Historyplace.com cites that “Jewish instructors and anyone deemed politically suspect regardless of their proven teaching abilities or achievements including 20 past (and future) Nobel Prize winners” were removed from their professions, among them Albert Einstein.

I would’ve been one of those “purged professionals,” based on what I’ve heard lately from some disgruntled left-leaning readers. Because of my personal opinion about the president, one reader called me “a racist,” a “religious bigot,” and “a political terrorist.” While calling me a “political terrorist” is noteworthy at least, most telling is this poor man’s statement that my column, as offensive as it was to him, “was permitted” in his newspaper.

Apparently, free speech is just for leftists.

After that, the author continued to talk more about herself, so I tuned her out. I probably should have done so when she first mentioned Hitler, but her description of Hitler’s reaction, which I highlighted above, sounded so much like Trump that I had to share it with you.

In the next article, “If Intolerant Liberals Succeed, ‘Conservatives Should Be Very Afraid,’ Expert Says”, by CP’s Napp Nazworth, the breaking point came after this bullshit:

Conservatives would have much to fear if intolerant liberals succeed in their goal of transforming America, says Kim R. Holmes, author of “The Closing of the Liberal Mind: How Groupthink and Intolerance Define the Left.”
The illiberal, or intolerant, Left has come to define liberalism in the United States today, Holmes told The Christian Post, and if these liberals gain control of the Supreme Court and other levers of government, conservatives will be punished for their views.

Then these portions of the interview with the author:

CP: Why did you want to write this book?
Holmes: Like a lot of people I saw how closed-minded and intolerant progressivism had become. Whether it was speech codes or “safe spaces” on campuses, or attorneys general issuing subpoenas against so-called climate change “deniers,” abuses in the name of progressivism were getting worse.

I wanted to understand why. I wanted to tell the story of how a liberalism that had once accepted freedom of speech and dissent had become its opposite — a close-minded ideology intent on denying people their freedoms and their constitutionally protected rights.

CP: Liberalism was once defined by tolerance and open-mindedness, but liberals have become increasingly intolerant and closed-minded. We are beginning to see this phrase “illiberal liberal” more often, which gets confusing. How are we to make sense of what liberal means today?

Holmes: A classic liberal is someone who believes in open inquiry, freedom of expression and a competition of ideas. Its founders were people like John Locke, Thomas Jefferson and Alexis de Tocqueville. Among its most important ideas are freedom of conscience and speech; individual (as opposed to group) rights; and checks and balances in government.

Although progressives are sometimes referred to as “liberals,” they are not classic liberals in this sense. They are philosophically more akin to socialists or social democrats. Classic liberalism as defined here is actually closer to the views of American conservatives and libertarians than to progressives and leftists.

The term “illiberalism” is the opposite of this classic style of liberalism; it represents a political mindset that is closed-minded, intolerant and authoritarian. Although illiberalism can be historically found on the right (fascism) and the left (communism), it is today not commonly associated with American progressives. Nevertheless, it should be.

Progressives are becoming increasingly illiberal not only in their mindset but in the authoritarian methods they use to impose their views on others.

~~ and ~~

CP: Last week, President Barack Obama sent a letter to all public schools threatening to withhold federal funds if they don’t change their bathroom and locker room policies to allow use based upon gender identity rather than biological sex. Does the Left’s new intolerance help us understand Obama’s actions?

Holmes: Yes. Obama comes out of this illiberal strain of the left.

Last, this misleadingly-named piece of utter drivel written by CP’s Brandon Showalter, “Liberals Use Gov’t Power, Intimidation, to Silence Christians, Author Says.” It doesn’t take long to realize that by “Christians”, both the author of the article and the author of the book actually mean “conservatives”, and the complaint is about the fight against “Citizens United”:

WASHINGTON – Conservatives and Christians are being intimidated by the Left and an increasingly abusive government, says Kimberly Strassel, author of The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Waging War of Free Speech.
In a Thursday presentation at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., Strassel told The Christian Post that overt hostility and harassment of people of faith “is clearly a big issue.”

In light of the 2013 IRS scandal where it was discovered that conservative and Christian groups were unfairly targeted, CP asked Strassel how many people she interviewed had experienced an overt assault on their faith.

While “the people that I talked to generally felt as though all their views were under attack,” Strassel said, “they certainly felt as though one aspect of them, was in fact their faith.”

“We are seeing this a lot, obviously, in the war on faith out there that we have had with the battles over Obamacare and contraception,” she added.

In her book Strassel examines the Left’s penchant, particularly in the Obama years, for bullying their opponents and their use of government agencies to silence citizens from participating in the political process.

Although she touched on several facets of the Left’s intimidation game in her presentation, the core issue she covered was the right of Americans to form associations and participate in representative government. This the Left cannot abide when conservatives do it successfully, she argued.

“The reality is that money is a proxy for speech,” Strassel contended, and Americans have always formed groups to get their message out. To the incredulity of the Left, she argued we we need more money, not less, in politics. More money means more speech. More free speech yields a more vigorous debate and a healthier democracy.

Let me repeat those last two lines: More money means more speech. More free speech yields a more vigorous debate and a healthier democracy.”  What happened to the “FREE” part of “FREE SPEECH”?

Money CANNOT equal speech – the poorest man can still speak and vote – well, vote ONCE; on the other hand, the richest man can buy as many votes as he wants.  The whole argument of Citizens United was and is specious, and the Supremes fucked us over real good when they decided on that piece of shit.

Here’s a pretty picture to give your mind a break.
GLORY10

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it!

Sunday Roast: June 16, 2013 – Where’s the outrage?

I don’t get it. Seriously.

The news about the extensive data gathering by the NSA through Verizon‘s mobile phone records being outshone only a few days later with news about PRISM should have people out in the streets. Seriously.

I am not and have never been overly shy about internet use. I follow the usual dos and don’ts, but I am aware of the fact, that whatever you put out there is in everybody’s domain. If you shout it out on Times Square you have a smaller audience than when you put it on facebook, twitter, you name it. I know that by using it I have, sort of, agreed whatever I’m writing will be no longer private. Fair enough.

I’m fine that every time I read a New York Times article I will see in a sidebar which of my friends have read which article. It shows I have smart friends, not that I haven’t known that before, but still. I am even fine with the fact that for me all websites, be it news or other, which have commercial pop-ups are advising me how to get a flat stomach or how to ward off ageing. I take  the pop-ups as an punishment for having googled about weight-loss and heat-flashes and I stick out my tongue to them and just don’t buy whatever is advertised through them.

What I do not approve of, and I am royally pissed about that, is that a government, any government, is prying inside my personal communications. So I would, of course, go and vote accordingly. No party or candidate ever gets my vote, who supports this degree of spying into the personal communications of ordinary citizens. Period.

Hah! And now, when we Europeans are mad as hell, and believe me, virtually everybody I talk to is spitting mad over here, we’ll just vote them all out of office!!!!!

Wait!

We can’t. We do not have, nor will we ever have any say in this.

This is our Open Thread. Don’t be shy. All yours.

This is My Body, Not Yours

Transcript:

This is my body.
I do what I want with it.
This is my body.
I make my own choices.
This is my body.
I use it as a canvas, tattoo it, decorate it, and pierce it.
I take medicine if I want to and only undergo medical procedures I choose.
I eat what I want, exercise for my health, and wear what I like.
I fall in love with whomever, fuck/sleep with whomever and marry whomever I choose.
I decide when and how to become a mother.
This is my body, not yours

These decisions have nothing to do with you. If I’m not hurting you or stopping you from pursuing your inherent right to happiness, it’s none of your business. This is my body, not yours.

Almost one in eight women in the United States will have breast cancer, the most invasive cancer for women worldwide. If I am black or white, rich or poor, married or single, gay or straight, formally educated or not, I have the right to be screened for this killer of women, whether I go to my doctor or rely on the services of clinics like those run by Planned Parenthood. Your desire to stop the funding of abortions has nothing to do with my right to defend myself against cancer. This is my body, not yours.

If I choose to have sex, I have the right to birth control and to be spared your demeaning insults you’d never want leveled against your daughter or mother. My pursuit of orgasm is neither unnatural nor dangerous nor scary nor an infringement of your religious liberty. My sexual activity is for my benefit, not your pleasure. And it’s never my fault if you rape me. I am done being excluded from decisions about my sexual and reproductive health. This is my body, not yours.

I determine who or what goes inside of my vagina and when. I make all decisions regarding my pregnancy. I will access prenatal care whether or not you agree with the choices made resulting from that care. I have the right to an abortion without facing intimidation, harassment, burdensome parental consent laws, or prejudicial taxes. If I decide to have an abortion, I will not undergo unnecessary, invasive medical procedures for the purposes of your moralizing and personal edification. I’m entitled to all health information from my doctor. And allowing myself to be penetrated once doesn’t assume your right to do it again on your own prerogative, for your own reasons. This is my body, not yours.

It is time for you to accept that I am fully aware, capable, and accountable for myself. I don’t need a hero or saving because I’m not in distress. I’m not defined by my need of a man or partner, but I have the right to be made happy by one, in a safe and supportive relationship. I’m not defined by my weight, hair, make up, skin color, or breast size. I do not exist to be your play toy. I won’t wait my turn nor be quiet nor heed you. I know my physical and mental strength and I do not fear you. I’m beautiful, despite what you think, with or without your approval. This is my body, not yours.

This is my body.
I’m through with legislators telling me what to do with it.
This is my body.
Keep your salacious, aggressive, sexist insults to yourself. I’m not listening.
This is my body.
I have the right to marry my partner, woman or man.
To equal pay
To health care
To education
To divorce
To safety
To protection of the law
To respect and dignity
To complete equality
This is my body, not yours.

Do not be afraid of a world in which women know themselves, their voice, and their power. That world has arrived.

————

Don’t like it?  We aren’t asking you if you like it; we’re telling you how things are.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Does it really Matter?

Ok, so for the next few months, if you’re in a “swing” State, you’ll be inundated with SuperPAC commercials designed to get you to vote against your own best interests. We will also be systematically bombarded with messages from the Mainstream Media designed to influence our thinking.

IT’S ALL A SHOW. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

If the Powers That Be really want Obama out, all they have to do is raise gas prices to about $5.00/gallon. Instead, gas prices are going down, heading into the summer vacation season. That’s not to say they won’t go up between now and the election – but they are an accurate predictor of where our economy will head. So, pay attention to the pump, not the talking heads.

Ok, that’s my $0.0199 cents. And you?

OPEN THREAD
JUST REMEMBER
EVERYTHING I SAID
DOESN’T REALLY MATTER