Autocratic Regimes on the rise….
I post these excerpts below from China-silences-critics-of
Please be wary, we’re not that far off from China & Russia where once our First Amendment rights of Freedom of Speech & Freedom of the Press are gone, they’re not coming back. Trump has also shown an inclination to commandeer the legislative branch, courts, intelligence & security agencies, blatantly stocking the bureaucratic swamp with sworn loyalists, purging any signs of opposition. As we read these accounts of what is now happening in China, realize the factors are aligning which put America at risk too:
The day China’s ruling Communist Party unveiled a proposal to allow President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely as Mao Zedong did a generation ago, Ma Bo was so shaken he couldn’t sleep. So Ma, a renowned writer, wrote a social media post urging the party to remember the history of unchecked one-man rule that ended in catastrophe. “History is regressing badly,” Ma thundered in his post. “As a Chinese of conscience, I cannot stay silent!” Censors silenced him anyway, swiftly wiping his post from the internet.
As China’s rubber-stamp legislature prepares to approve constitutional changes abolishing term limits for the president on Sunday, signs of dissent and biting satire have been all but snuffed out. The stifling censorship leaves intellectuals, young white-collar workers and retired veterans of past political campaigns using roundabout ways to voice their concerns. For many, it’s a foreshadowing of greater political repression ahead. The result has been a surreal political atmosphere laced with fear, confusion, and even moments of dark comedy that undermines the picture of swelling popular support for the measure being peddled relentlessly by state media.
“There’s a lot of fear,” said Ma, who writes under the pen name Old Ghost. “People know that Xi’s about to become the emperor, so they don’t dare cross his path. Most people are just watching, observing.” Once passed, the constitutional amendment would upend a system enacted by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1982 to prevent a return to the bloody excesses of a lifelong dictatorship typified by Mao Zedong’s chaotic 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.
Others haven’t held back, driven by an urgent sense that their country is at a crucial point in its history. Li Datong, a former editor of the China Youth Daily state newspaper and one of the few voices of open opposition, said delegates know the amendment is wrong but no one has the courage to speak out. He compared Chinese citizens to Germans who allowed Adolf Hitler to seize power in the 1930s. “I know that just a few ordinary Chinese citizens coming out and expressing their opinion will not change anything, but I’m doing this so I can face future generations,” Li said.
“When they look back at this time, I don’t want them to say, ‘Not a single person in China stood up and opposed this.’ When people talk about Nazi Germany, they always ask why the people living during that time didn’t do anything about it,” Li said. “I want to be able to face my past.” In the run-up to the vote, congress delegates have lavished extra praise on Xi. The party boss of a northwestern province that contains a significant Tibetan population compared him to a living Buddhist deity.
It was just announced by the British Prime Minister that basically there was a Russian-sponsored terrorist attack against residents of her country: uk-blames-kremlin-for-
Earlier this week, during a freewheeling speech to Republican donors at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump cracked the following joke about Chinese leader Xi Jinping: “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.” If he was doing his best Don Rickles impression, only the most febrile members of his base seemed amused. Since Trump abruptly removed James Comey as FBI director last May, the United States has been slowly lurching toward a constitutional crisis. In January, we learned the president had ordered the firing of special prosecutor Robert Mueller last June, only to back off after White House attorney Don McGahn threatened to resign. (A New York Times report published Wednesday revealed that Trump has contacted several key witnesses in the collusion probe, directly disobeying his legal counsel). The following month, Trump lobbied the Justice Department to open investigations of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Meanwhile, his administration continues to stack the courts at a breakneck pace, trampling norms and procedures to accelerate the appointment of right-wing judges in a host of blue and purple states.
For Steven Levitsky, co-author of “How Democracies Die,” these are but two telltale signs of creeping authoritarianism. While violent coups have largely become a thing of the past, elected officials can dismantle a republic just as effectively as a military junta. Examples abound, from Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Hungary) to Latin America (Venezuela and Nicaragua) and Asia (Turkey, the Philippines and Singapore). As he writes in the book’s introduction, “Democracy’s erosion is, for many, almost imperceptible.” I think they’re still fundamentally holding for now. But there’s no question that the Trump administration has done what virtually every elected autocrat we’ve studied anywhere in the world has before him, which is go after the legal system, law enforcement and the courts in an effort to control the referees. That accomplishes two things: It creates a shield to protect the government from investigation and prosecution, and ultimately, it can be used as a weapon. You can use the legal system to “legally” go after your rivals, and both Trump and the Justice Department have made noise about doing just that. This is straight out of the authoritarian playbook. I’d say I’m more worried now than I was when we first wrote “How Democracies Die.” It once appeared that there was at least a handful of Republican senators who were willing to draw a red line, particularly in terms of protecting the FBI, law enforcement agencies and the Mueller investigation. That seems less likely now.
But things are so polarized now, and the Republicans have become so Trumpified, that there may not be enough votes even if Mueller uncovers egregious criminal activity. That would put us in uncharted territory, where impeachment becomes a truly double-edged sword. If Republicans actively oppose it, if it’s viewed as a coup by the Fox News wing of the Republican Party, which is to say the majority, then it could tear the country apart. It might be the right thing politically for Democrats, and the probe may well demand it, but it would further weaken our norms of mutual toleration and forbearance. The next Democratic president would have to watch their back. I want to be clear that the decline in power and prestige of the United States and the European Union, along with the rise and increasing self-confidence of Russia and China, clearly do not bode well for democracy across the world. The horizon is darker than it was 20 years ago. The challenges for new democracies in central Europe, in Africa, in Latin America are much greater than they once were, so there is real reason for concern.
Inside the link mathias-dopfner-freedom-o
The megatrend sweeping the globe can hardly be ignored: Moderate democracies are becoming increasingly weaker. Autocratic states and their representatives (who we trivialize when we refer to them as populists) are becoming increasingly stronger. And the strongest of all are the dictatorships, systems that are infiltrating and taking over the economies and societies of one country after another. At the same time, they sentence to death people whose opinions and lifestyles they disapprove of. In such an environment, journalism is not only becoming more important, it is also becoming more dangerous.
Rather than engaging in a political discussion with anyone, I often find it useful to first find out which networks or shows they tune into. If it can be revealed they listen to, for example, Hannity, Limbaugh or someone like them, that’s an immediate tip-off what their problem might be. So instead of arguing with someone who could be hopelessly brainwashed with that debate getting nowhere, it’s probably easier & better to recommend to them a far more rational & even-keel news source. Might I suggest giving out the blog site of that wise old sage, The Voracs. For some inside echo-land, a much preferred way in helping them escape their bubble is simply by exposing them to a fact-based, counter-messaging source. Those most at risk of being befuddled are those who only rely on one news source like Fox, so helping them see the truth may only take encouraging them to expand their horizons through exposure to real journalism, from which you could be the person rescuing them from their devotion to extremist propaganda.
So please peruse the group of links about Fox, which always show many of their hosts are just plain nuts! Hanging with such Fox extremists can influence the prez to be extreme himself: trump-dined-with-fox-news-seb-
Evangelicals gave President Trump a “mulligan” on his alleged affair with Stormy Daniels. If Trump’s attempt to disassociate himself from lawyer Michael Cohen’s hush-money payment proves untenable — and who believes Cohen paid for this out of the goodness of his heart? — will the religious mop-up squad give him a second mulligan for lying? Maybe they should find out how many paid-off women are out there before offering more absolution. Evangelicals, who thundered disapproval of Bill Clinton (and even Rudy Giuliani for multiple marriages), have turned a blind eye to each and every new Trump scandal, thereby forfeiting any claim to religious or moral leadership. (Their cult of resentment, their stunted and unattainable political agenda, and their disregard for public morality and culture are a dismal tale told brilliantly by my Post colleague Michael Gerson in an Atlantic piece.)
On a more comic level, Anthony Scaramucci (the former communications director for less than a fortnight) got taunted (and laughed at) by fellow CNN panelists when he insisted Trump was “very presidential” and for saying Cohen definitively (!) claimed it was he — and not Trump — who paid off Daniels. The price one pays for defending Trump is self-humiliation, as one aide and ex-aide after another have learned. Evangelical leaders, Mnuchin, the hordes of GOP apologists, Trump’s current and former White House staff — all of them — have chosen to ignore, minimize or even defend Trump’s vulgarities, lies, racism, misogyny and anti-democratic antics. If they think they can escape accountability by peers and by history — not to mention by future employers — because, well, “because Gorsuch” or “because corporate tax cuts,” they may be surprised. Their ongoing buffoonish defense of Trump may turn out to be the most memorable thing they have done in public life.