US Needs to Promote Democracy At Home!
About a week before the world witnessed the storming of the US Capitol by an angry mob on January 6, 2020, the US Congress allocated $15 million for "democracy programs" in Pakistan as part of its latest Coronavirus Relief Bill. Should charity start at home? Should America prioritize democracy at home? With 64% of Republicans supporting Trump's false claim of "stolen election", has pro-Trump extremism gone mainstream in GOP? How to deal with the fervent believers in QAnon conspiracy theories while promoting a fact-based democratic discourse? How can deep divisions in American society be healed? These questions are beginning to be raised after recent shocking events in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, the US government-funded think tanks such National Endowment for Democracy (NED) are very active in many developing countries, including Pakistan. Cato institute says that what NED does "would otherwise be possible only through a CIA covert operation". NED's 2019 recipients include Balochistan rights activists, women and minority rights groups, media groups, data journalism, digital rights, social justice, etc. All of these groups and the money they have received can be seen on National Endowment for Democracy's website.
|Storming of the US Capitol|
Storming of US Capitol:
Egged on by the outgoing US President Donald J. Trump who lost the 2016 presidential election, the world saw an angry violent mob of tens of thousands attack Capitol Hill as the lawmakers met to certify the victory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. This was a shocking development for many in the United States and abroad who look up to the United States to set an example of peaceful transfer of power. Violence on Capitol Hill resulted in the death of five Americans, including a protester and a policeman. It is now being characterized as an attempted bloody coup.
Those involved in the Capitol Hill attack come from all walks of life, including off-duty police officers, firefighters, state lawmakers, teachers, municipal workers and at least one active-duty military officer. About 64% of Republicans support Trump's false claim of "stolen election". Some of them fervently believe the QAnon conspiracy theories claiming that Democrats are evil. They see Democrats as demonic pedophiles bent upon destroying the United States for their own selfish motives. The QAnon conspiracy theory appears to adapt itself to new events and personalities with time. It is a clear sign of deep and growing divisions in the American society.
The recent allocation of $15 million for democracy in Pakistan is a small part of America's promotion of democracy abroad. There are also US government-funded think tanks and hundreds of non-government organizations (NGOs) tasked with promoting democracy abroad.
The most audacious of the Washington DC think tanks promoting democracy abroad is the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Cato institute says that what NED does "would otherwise be possible only through a CIA covert operation". NED website agrees with this description. Here's how NED describes its origins:
"In the aftermath of World War II, faced with threats to our democratic allies and without any mechanism to channel political assistance, U.S. policy makers resorted to covert means, secretly sending advisers, equipment, and funds to support newspapers and parties under siege in Europe. When it was revealed in the late 1960’s that some American PVO’s were receiving covert funding from the CIA to wage the battle of ideas at international forums, the Johnson Administration concluded that such funding should cease, recommending establishment of “a public-private mechanism” to fund overseas activities openly".
South Asia Investor Review
NGO-ization of Pakistan
America's "We Are the Good Guys" Narrative
Social Media Tribalism
Social Media: Blessing or Curse For Pakistan?
Planted Stories in Media
Indian BJP Troll Farm
Kulbhushan Jadhav Caught in Balochistan
The Story of Pakistan's M8 Motorway
Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel
I think we here in the US need to worry about the potential for civil war at home. Trump has left the United States deeply divided. We may end up reaping what we have been sowing abroad.
Read this response I got someone who read my post:
It's no secret that there are powerful forces in the U.S. that support the Hong Kong protests. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have all publicly waded in on the side of anti-Beijing protesters. Senior U.S. diplomat Julie Eadeh has been caught meeting the "pro-democracy" activists.
Out of the spotlight, active U.S. interference takes place through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NED is bankrolling Hong Kong "pro-democracy" and anti-Beijing groups such as the Solidarity Center (SC), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor to the tune of millions. In 2018 alone the NED reports giving 155,000 U.S. dollars to the SC and 200,000 U.S. dollars to the NDI.
The NED is a sham NGO founded in 1983 to replace functions previously carried out by the CIA. Philip Agee, a former CIA agent and author of "Inside the Company: CIA Diary" details how the CIA would set up front organizations and funnel money into destabilization campaigns.
After destabilization would come the coup-d'etat. The Brazilian 1964 coup that overthrew President João Goulart and the Chilean 1973 coup against Chilean President Salvador Allende were both backed by the CIA. In both instances, left-wing parties were deposed and replaced by right-wing military forces compliant to U.S. interests.
In today's world of espionage using the CIA to fund "independent" groups would lead to accusations of imperialism. Consequently, the funneling of money and the setting up of front organizations go through the NED. According to Allen Weinstein, who was responsible for setting up the NED during the Reagan administration: "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."
Nicolas Guillhot from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique says the NED creates "a non-governmental crusade for human rights and democracy which avoided accusations of imperialism by presenting itself as a direct response to the needs of dissidents and reformers worldwide."
The Department of State funds the NED. As such, the NED must act in accordance with U.S. geopolitical aims. For example, the NED's president must appear before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee every year to account for its activities.
The NED has continued the CIA's work to further U.S. interests abroad. In this game, democracy and the vague language of freedom is merely instrumental. William Blum, author of "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since Word War II," describes how the NED had successfully manipulated elections in Nicaragua in 1990 and Mongolia in 1996 and how it helped to overthrow democratically-elected governments in Bulgaria in 1990 and 1992.
In recent history, in 2018 nearly 1,000,000 U.S. dollars was proportioned to Bolivia for funding think tanks, news agencies and political parties. This funding is for the purpose of thwarting Evo Morales, who nationalized Bolivia's gas reserves.
Lindsay French, 40, an evangelical Christian from Texas, flew to Washington after she had received what she called a “burning bush” sign from God to participate following her pastor urging congregants to “stop the steal.”
“We are fighting good versus evil, dark versus light,” she said, declaring that she was rising up like Queen Esther, the biblical heroine who saved her people from death.
Before self-proclaimed members of the far-right group the Proud Boys marched toward the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, they stopped to kneel in the street and prayed in the name of Jesus.
The group, whose participants have espoused misogynistic and anti-immigrant views, prayed for God to bring “reformation and revival.” They gave thanks for “the wonderful nation we’ve all been blessed to be in.” They asked God for the restoration of their “value systems,” and for the “courage and strength to both represent you and represent our culture well.” And they invoked the divine protection for what was to come.
Then they rose. Their leader declared into a bullhorn that the media must “get the hell out of my way.” And then they moved toward the Capitol.
The presence of Christian rituals, symbols and language was unmistakable on Wednesday in Washington. There was a mock campaign banner, “Jesus 2020,” in blue and red; an “Armor of God” patch on a man’s fatigues; a white cross declaring “Trump won” in all capitals. All of this was interspersed with allusions to QAnon conspiracy theories, Confederate flags and anti-Semitic T-shirts
Oren Orr, 31, an arborist from Robbinsville, N.C., where he goes to Santeetlah Baptist Church, rented a car to drive to Washington. He carried his American flag right up below the officers on the bleachers, and his wife had a Christian flag. Mr. Trump could be the last president to believe in Jesus, he said. (Mr. Biden speaks often about his lifelong Catholic faith, and unlike Mr. Trump, attends church services frequently.)
Abigail Spaulding, a stay-at-home mother of 15 who traveled to the rally with friends from her church in South Carolina, broke down in tears as she spoke about her fears for her children under a Biden administration. She said her husband had explained to their children that when Mr. Biden is sworn in as president, “they can take the Bible and call it hate speech and throw it out.” And she had other worries about Mr. Biden, drawn from Facebook and Twitter — all of which were false.
He lied about the election being fixed. He incited an attack that left five dead at the U.S Capitol. He got impeached. Twice. But polling indicates Republicans still have his back — and views — by vast majorities.
Why it matters: Anyone who thinks Trump is a politically dead man walking appears pointedly dead wrong.
Just look at the numbers:
Two-thirds of House Republicans voted to decertify the election results — in the hours after an insurrection.
93% of House Republicans voted against impeachment yesterday.
In an Axios-Ipsos poll taken Tuesday and yesterday:
64% of Republicans said they support Trump's recent behavior.
57% of Republicans said Trump should be the 2024 GOP candidate.
Only 17% think he should be removed from office.
House and Senate Republicans tell me they strongly believe Trump will remain a force in the party's 2022 and 2024 races — even if he were to be convicted in the forthcoming Senate trial, and barred from holding federal office himself.
One reason he may escape conviction is that some top Republicans believe that would make him a martyr and actually empower him. They'd rather let him fade away.
Fox News' Tucker Carlson said last night: "By impeaching the president during his final week in office, Congress will not succeed in discrediting Trump among Republican voters. In fact, it will enhance Donald Trump among Republican voters. Obviously!"
Between the lines: A majority of Republicans in the poll — 56% — consider themselves traditional Republicans; 36% call themselves Trump Republicans.
That's a formidable base for Trump, who also controls the $150 million+ he has raised for his super PAC since the election.
The modern Republican Party has long harbored several factions that lived together uncomfortably — libertarians, evangelicals, states’ rights advocates and (let’s be frank) racists. They have been able to paper over the divides for decades. But in recent years, two factors have propelled the party into crisis. The first is that the Iraq War and the global financial crisis broke the back of the Republican establishment, opening the way for Trump, who appealed not to discredited party elites but to the base, with the help of raw cultural and racial rhetoric.
The second factor has been the increasing awareness of its leaders that it is really not a majority party. In the past eight presidential elections, the Republican candidate for president has won the popular vote only once — in 2004, in the wake of 9/11 and the early days of the Iraq War — a trend unprecedented in U.S. history.
Nonetheless, the electoral college and the Senate, along with gerrymandering and voter suppression, have enabled the party to win power without winning a majority. That has made it less responsive to the demands of the majority, national elites and the mainstream media. It has found a way to thrive by cultivating its own smaller ecosystem, creating its own facts, theories and heroes.
But that ecosystem is splintering. Fox News, central to the party’s ability to indoctrinate its base with myths, half-truths and falsehoods, is losing market share. (Disclosure: I host a weekly show on CNN.) The newcomers — Newsmax and One America News — are willing to enter a fantasy world where even Fox News will not go. Perhaps most important, the Republican base is shrinking, not by a huge amount but significantly. Partly, this is a matter of long-term demographics; partly, it is Trump. Polls suggest that Trump’s approval rating has now descended into the 30s, with about 50 percent of independents supporting his removal from office. Republicans in swing districts across the country may find themselves in an impossible situation: unable to get nominated unless they embrace Trump but unable to get elected if they do.
If these trends persist — a big “if” in a country where party loyalties remain very strong — we might see a dangerous dynamic. Some Republicans, both at the elite level as well as among ordinary voters, will defect from the party, unwilling to sign on to the Trump family cult. The rump Republican Party will become a minority party in more of the country. But it will be dominated by people who reject American democracy and are enamored of conspiracy theories, enraged by their powerlessness and increasingly willing to support extreme, even violent means to achieve their ends. In other words, the future Republicans in Congress may look a lot like the mob that stormed it last week.
As rioters scaled scaffolding outside the U.S. Capitol, Roxanne Mathai held up her cell phone to record the sea of supporters of President Donald Trump storming America’s bastion of democracy.
“We’re going in,” said the 46-year-old Texas jailer, “tear gas and all.”
Mathai, a jail lieutenant and 8-year veteran of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, approached the Capitol steps last Wednesday as rioters in front of her breached barricades.
Wearing a red, white and blue face mask with a Trump flag hanging from her back, she posed for selfies. “Not gonna lie,” said the mother of three on her Facebook page, “aside from my kids, this was, indeed, the best day of my life.”
The next morning, her boss reported her to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was seeking information on any participants in the Jan. 6 insurrection that left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said Mathai also was placed on unpaid leave pending results of a separate investigation into her involvement.
“I was oblivious to everything,” including the violence, Mathai told Reuters on Tuesday. “I was watching everything as a spectator.” She said she was bound by a confidentiality order that prohibited further comment.
From off-duty police to firefighters, state lawmakers, teachers, municipal workers and at least one active-duty military officer, dozens of public servants from across the United States joined the protests in Washington that turned into a siege on the U.S. Capitol. The mob’s violent effort aimed to block Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s election as president.
Since returning home, many have confronted harsh criticism from angry constituents or employers - often because of their own posts on social media.
At least 50 elected officials and others in public sector jobs are facing internal inquiries or investigations that, in some cases, have resulted in temporary suspensions pending investigations, based on a Reuters examination of public statements, news reports and video footage.
At least two Capitol police officers have been suspended and more than a dozen others are under investigation for alleged dereliction of duty or aiding or abetting rioters.
For some public employees caught on video or social media rioting inside the Capitol, the consequences have been swift, including arrests and job termination. Two off-duty police officers from Virginia faced criminal charges Wednesday after posting a picture of themselves on Jan. 6 in front of the Capitol’s statue of John Stark and bragging about their behavior, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in the District of Columbia.
This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope of renewal and resolve through a crucible for the ages. America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge. Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The people, the will of the people, has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.
We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed1.
From now, on this hallowed ground, where just a few days ago, violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power, as we have for more than two centuries.
As we look ahead in our uniquely American way: restless, bold, optimistic, and set our sights on the nation we can be and we must be.
I thank my predecessors of both parties for their presence2 here today. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. And I know, I know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation. As does President Carter, who I spoke with last night, who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime of service.
I’ve just taken the sacred oath each of those patriots have taken. The oath, first sworn by George Washington. But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us, on we the people who seek a more perfect union.
This is a great nation. We are good people. And over the centuries, through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we've come so far. But we still have far to go. We'll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities, much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain.
Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now. A once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice, some 400 years in the making, moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.
The cry for survival comes from the planet itself, 3a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.
The director of a big-budget Amazon web series has bowed to pressure from Hindu nationalists and cut several scenes that they had deemed offensive, demonstrating the sway of a powerful political movement that strives to reshape Indian society.
Ali Abbas Zafar, the director of “Tandav,” a gritty political drama, made the edits amid an intensifying outcry about the show and calls for a boycott.
Hindu nationalists, including members of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., have accused Mr. Zafar of insulting Hindu deities and stirring up animosity between Hindus and Muslims and between upper castes and lower castes.
Mr. Zafar said on Twitter on Tuesday that the show’s cast and crew had decided to “implement changes to address the concerns raised,” and since then, several scenes have been excised. But on Friday, some critics continued to drum up opposition, calling for Mr. Zafar to be put in jail.
The creators of “Tandav” have been caught up in the sweeping political and social changes in India driven by a Hindu nationalist movement. Led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has shouldered aside significant opposition, the movement champions India as a Hindu nation that pushes other groups, including its significant Muslim minority, to the margins.
The pressure has extended into culture. In recent years, Hindu nationalists have heavily criticized Bollywood, the central Indian filmmaking industry, for depictions that run counter to their beliefs.
Among the cuts made to “Tandav” was a scene in which a university student is seen playing a cursing Lord Shiva, a Hindu god, on a stage. In another scene that was taken out, a fictionalized prime minister speaks derisively to a member of a lower caste.
But on Friday, Ram Kadam, a B.J.P. state lawmaker who had filed a criminal complaint against the show’s creators, said the edits were not enough.
“This is a fight against the type of people who hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus,” he said. “They must go behind bars.”
At least three criminal complaints have been filed, including one that accuses the show of promoting hatred between different religions, a serious crime in India. Already investigators in Uttar Pradesh State, run by one of Mr. Modi’s closest allies, have summoned Mr. Zafar to speak to them.
But the true reason for the complaints against “Tandav” may be that the show holds up a mirror uncomfortably close to Indian society and some of the problems blamed on Mr. Modi’s administration. In the opening episode, the show features protesting students and disgruntled farmers, echoing events that have taken place in recent months. (Mr. Zafar has said the show is a work of fiction.)
"Tandav” is just one of many recent productions that have provoked the ire of Hindu nationalists. A journalist filed a criminal complaint this week against the makers of “Mirzapur,” another Amazon web series and the name of a midsize town in northern India. The journalist said the series hurt religious and regional sentiments and defamed the town.
In recent months, similar pressure has been exerted on Netflix. Several of the platform’s productions have come under attack, including a show that featured a Hindu woman kissing a Muslim man, with a Hindu temple in the backdrop, which Hindus denounced as offensive to their beliefs. Hindu nationalists have tried to shut down interfaith marriages, and recent laws in several of India’s states have targeted interfaith couples.
A number of members of Congress have links to organizations and movements that played a role in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.
The video’s title was posed as a question, but it left little doubt about where the men who filmed it stood. They called it “The Coming Civil War?” and in its opening seconds, Jim Arroyo, who leads an Arizona chapter of Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia, declared that the conflict had already begun.
To back up his claim, Mr. Arroyo cited Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, one of the most far-right members of Congress. Mr. Gosar had paid a visit to the local Oath Keepers chapter a few years earlier, Mr. Arroyo recounted, and when asked if the United States was headed for a civil war, the congressman’s “response to the group was just flat out: ‘We’re in it. We just haven’t started shooting at each other yet.’”
Less than two months after the video was posted, members of the Oath Keepers were among those with links to extremist groups from around the country who took part in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, prompting new scrutiny of the links between members of Congress and an array of organizations and movements that espouse far-right beliefs.
Nearly 150 House Republicans supported President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims that the election had been stolen from him. But Mr. Gosar and a handful of other Republican members of the House had deeper ties to extremist groups who pushed violent ideas and conspiracy theories and whose members were prominent among those who stormed the halls of Congress in an effort to stop certification of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.
Their ranks include Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, who like Mr. Gosar was linked to the “Stop the Steal” campaign backing Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the election’s outcome.
Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado has close connections to militia groups including the so-called Three Percenters, an extremist offshoot of the gun rights movement that had at least one member who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory, whose adherents were among the most visible of those who stormed the building, and she appeared at a rally with militia groups.
Before being elected to Congress last year, Ms. Greene used social media in 2019 to endorse executing top Democrats and has suggested that the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was a staged “false flag” attack. The liberal group Media Matters for America reported on Thursday that Ms. Greene also speculated on Facebook in 2018 that California wildfires might have been started by lasers from space, promoting a theory pushed by followers of QAnon.
Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida appeared last year at an event also attended by members of the Proud Boys, another extremist organization whose role in the Jan. 6 assault, like those of the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, is being investigated by the F.B.I.
Senator Mitch McConnell said on Monday that the “loony lies and conspiracy theories” embraced by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene amounted to a “cancer” on the Republican Party, issuing what in effect was a scathing rebuke to the freshman House Republican from Georgia.
In a statement reported by The Hill, Mr. McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, never named Ms. Greene, but he referred to several of the outlandish and false conspiracy theories she has espoused and warned that such statements were damaging the party.
“Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality,” Mr. McConnell said. “This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party.”
House Republican leaders in the past week have been mostly silent as pressure mounted to respond to the cascade of Ms. Greene’s problematic social media posts and videos that have surfaced in the past week, in which she endorsed a seemingly endless array of conspiracy theories and violent behavior, including executing Democratic leaders. At the same time, they are weighing calls within their ranks by loyalists of former President Donald J. Trump to strip Representative Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican, of her leadership post as punishment for her vote to impeach Mr. Trump.
In a separate statement reported by CNN, Mr. McConnell weighed in on behalf of Ms. Cheney, who represents Wyoming’s sole congressional district, calling her “a leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on them.”
Mr. McConnell, who is said to believe that Mr. Trump committed impeachable offenses, has made it clear he is open to voting to convict the former president for “incitement of insurrection,” although he voted with the vast majority of Republicans last week to dismiss the case as unconstitutional.
The twin statements by Mr. McConnell amounted to a rare step by the most powerful Republican in Washington to insert himself into an increasingly ugly intraparty feud.
They have intensified pressure on Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, who is to meet with Ms. Greene later this week amid calls from outside Republican groups and some members of his own party to revoke the Georgia freshman’s committee assignments. This leaves Mr. McCarthy on an uncomfortable middle ground after Ms. Greene over the weekend said she spoke with Mr. Trump and received his support, essentially framing any action Republican leaders might take against her as defying him by proxy.
Ms. Greene offered her own retort in response to Mr. McConnell on Twitter, saying “the real cancer” on the party was “weak Republicans who only know how to lose gracefully.”
Rights groups and campaigners say the crackdown on civil society organizations and the government's attempts to silence rights activists are part of the authorities' broader plan to silence dissent.
"The way Khan's government banned several international NGOs and took measures to create problems for local NGOs is alarming. We have never experienced this situation before. The government also wants to control the media," Mohammad Tahseen, executive director of the South Asia Partnership Pakistan organization, told DW.
The government denies the suppression claims and argues that it is necessary to monitor NGOs' funding.
"Pakistan has recently upgraded its laws to ensure that the movement of funds follows legal channels and the money is used for the right purposes," Zafar Yab Khan, a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, told DW.
"Pakistan greatly values the work done by local and international NGOs and will always facilitate them. At the same time, it will be cognizant of its international obligations that require proper checks and balances for these organizations," he added.
Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, says that there have long been conspiracy theories in Pakistan that International NGOs are "essentially a front for intelligence operations."
"In a country where foreign intelligence agencies, especially the CIA, have long made a mark, it's an easy narrative to sell. Many in Pakistan believe that Save the Children was involved in the CIA-sponsored fake vaccination campaign that helped track down Osama Bin Laden. Longstanding suspicion about foreign NGOs was heightened after the Bin Laden raid, and it has remained strong today," Kugelman told DW.
Rights activist Tahseen believes it is easier for the government to target NGOs than to work for the welfare of the citizens.
"There is no evidence that NGOs are working against the country. NGOs are actually performing a very important role to enhance human development, fundamental rights and social justice in Pakistan," he underlined.
Political analyst Qamar Cheema says there is a lack of trust between state authorities and civil society groups. "The state fears that these organizations might create national disorder. It hopes to manage the situation," he told DW.
Conservative groups, which have a big influence on the state apparatus, also allege that NGOs promote liberal values that go against the teachings of Islam.
Some, including Asian movie stars and celebrities, have called for greater recognition of the racism that targets Asian Americans. Some have demanded quick police action. And some have pointed the finger, not at the white political leaders who have long trafficked in xenophobic rhetoric, but at another minority group.
The suspects in some of these attacks were Black men, and some Asian Americans have responded with stereotypes of their own, blaming supposed anti-Asian sentiment from the Black community for the crimes. This narrative, which has not been supported by evidence, has nevertheless shoved a new wedge into age-old cracks between Black and Asian immigrant communities in the US.
“People want to have a Black villain and scapegoat,” said Carroll Fife, a longtime San Francisco Bay Area activist and Oakland city councilmember, who is Black. “People are right and justified to feel beset upon because Asian folks are othered in America. But you can’t fight racism with racism.”
Organizers in the Asian and Black communities have been quick to denounce this rhetoric and call for solidarity. Last weekend, hundreds gathered in the Bay Area to call for solidarity and pay homage to the victims, wearing shirts emblazoned with “Black and Asian unity”.
“Supporting our Asian community is not about dividing us. This support is for all of us suffering under white supremacy. We need to understand that so we can triumph and have public and personal safety,” said Eddy Zheng, an Oakland organizer and youth counselor.
But the issue is complicated and plucks at years of racial divisions.
Some Asian Americans are frustrated that discussion of attacks on Asians are being used as a teachable moment to discuss anti-Black racism. Others agree with Black Lives Matter activists that calling for more policing is the wrong approach to increasing community safety, and poses a threat to people of color.
Organizers in both communities are now battling to balance the pursuit of justice for the crime victims with the broader goals of fighting racism in the US and increasing understanding and solidarity between Asian and Black communities.
“We all need to understand that it is possible to hold multiple realities at once,” said Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action in San Francisco. Communities can uplift and support the survivors of these attacks, she said. They can acknowledge complicated – and, at times, racist – feelings and educate people on the origins of racial divisions within each community without pitting communities of color against one another
The backlash began with the sheriff spokesman’s statement to reporters that the mass shooting suspect was having a “bad day.”
“He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” Cherokee County sheriff’s office Capt. Jay Baker said Wednesday. He was describing the 21-year-old man accused of killing eight people, mostly Asian and almost all women, in a rampage across three Atlanta-area spas.
Then — as the violence stirred fears in an Asian-American community that already felt under attack — Internet sleuths and journalists found Baker’s Facebook posts promoting shirts that called the novel coronavirus an “IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA.”
One person’s reaction on Twitter: “I think Capt Jay Baker is going to have a really bad day.”
Baker’s comments and social media history fueled long-running concerns about racism in law enforcement, capping a year in which many warned that phrases like “China virus” were inciting sometimes violent prejudice against Asian Americans. For critics, they undermined trust in authorities’ work on an attack that seemed to many inseparable from the race and gender of its victims, even as authorities say the motive remains unclear. And they downplayed the actions of a White suspect who, according to Baker, may have visited the spas before, claimed to have a “sexual addiction” and said he wanted to eliminate a “temptation.”
Baker is not just any employee of the sheriff’s department, some noted, but its spokesman, who shapes public knowledge of the attacks that unfolded Tuesday in his county and then at two businesses in Atlanta.
“All of us have experienced bad days,” tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). “But we don’t go to three Asian businesses and shoot up Asian employees.”
Baker, whose Facebook profile is public, did not respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment, nor did Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds.
Reached by the Daily Beast, Reynolds, who is friends with Baker on Facebook, said he did not know about the post.
“I am not aware of that,” Reynolds told the outlet. “I will have to contact him but thank you for bringing that to my attention.”
Baker posted photos of the shirts blaming China for the pandemic in March and April, as Asian American leaders and advocacy groups were already sounding alarms about rhetoric tying the coronavirus to China and Chinese people.
“Covid 19,” the shirt reads in a font resembling the logo of Corona beer. “IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA.”
The words echoed those from politicians and especially from former president Donald Trump, who used offensive terms like “kung flu” and went out of his way to use the phrase “Chinese virus.” At one point, a Post photographer snapped a picture of the president’s notes in which “corona” was crossed out.
Half the people surveyed (48%) say the power of big tech companies, as opposed to the simple existence of social media, is a threat to democracy in their country. Among democracies, the US is the most concerned about big tech (62%), but wariness is growing in many countries compared with last year, reflected in broad support for greater regulation of social media.
Voters in Norway, Switzerland and Sweden are most confident their country is democratic, but so are the Chinese, where 71% agree that China has the right amount of democracy. In Russia only 33% think their country is democratic. Global support for Joe Biden’s plans to stage a Democracy Summit is high in every country save China and Russia.
The US faces an uphill task presenting itself as the chief guardian of global democracy, according to a new poll that shows the US is seen around the world as more of a threat to democracy than even Russia and China.
The poll finds support for democracy remains high even though citizens in democratic countries rate their governments’ handling of the Covid crisis less well than people in less democratic countries.
Inequality is seen as the biggest threat to global democracy, but in the US the power of big tech companies is also seen as a challenge.
The findings come in a poll commissioned by the Alliance of Democracies Foundation among 50,000 respondents in 53 countries.
The results will make stark reading for the G7 foreign ministers as they hold a final day of talks in London in which they have collectively assumed the role as bulwarks of democratic values determined to confront autocracy.
The survey was carried out by the Latana polling company between February and April, so a hangover effect of Donald Trump’s “America first” foreign policy may linger in the findings. Overall the results show perceptions of the US starting to improve from last year.
Whereas in the spring of 2020 people in both more democratic and less democratic countries were equally satisfied with their government’s pandemic response (70%), a year later the approval ratings have dropped down to 65% in less democratic countries, but in more democratic countries the rating has fallen to 51%. In Europe the figure is 45%. Positive ratings reach 76% in Asia.
In perhaps the most startling finding, nearly half (44%) of respondents in the 53 countries surveyed are concerned that the US threatens democracy in their country; fear of Chinese influence is by contrast 38%, and fear of Russian influence is lowest at 28%. The findings may in part reflect views on US comparative power, but they show neither the US, nor the G7, can simply assume the mantle of defenders of democracy.
The list includes several journalist organizations.
Media Matters for Democracy
To strengthen the knowledge and capacity of information producers, journalists, and the public to identify and counter online disinformation. The grantee will conduct research on digital disinformation and develop a toolkit and an online resource hub. The organization will conduct trainings to help participants identify disinformation online and teach techniques to verify information and detect digital manipulation. The project will also involve the creation of an alliance of journalists and academics that will organize initiatives to counter digital disinformation such as fact checking and media and information literacy campaigns.
Global Neighbourhood for Media Innovation
To strengthen journalists’ skills in fact-checking, investigative journalism, and their ability to identify and counter disinformation in both traditional and digital media. The organization will develop an online media capacity-building project to increase journalists’ skills to counter disinformation and carry out responsible, ethical fact-based reporting. In addition to training for media practitioners, the group will also organize webinars on the dangers of disinformation in digital media and produce videos to promote freedom of expression and independent media.
Digital Rights Foundation
To strengthen digital security and safety for journalists and promote gender sensitive media. The organization will provide trainings on digital security for journalists and advocate for stronger legal protections for journalists and freedom of expression. The project will also include online trainings to promote ethical media reporting on issues such as gender-based violence, discrimination, and harassment. To amplify women’s voices, the group will also produce an online magazine featuring content produced by women on issues of freedom of expression.
Promoting Democracy through Citizen Journalism and Digital Storytelling
Interactive Resource Centre
To cultivate the capacity of youth and civil society activists to use digital storytelling and citizen journalism for the promotion of human rights, civic engagement, and democratic values. The grantee will conduct citizen journalism and visual arts trainings for youth; organize an annual documentary film festival and a conference for political cartoonists; and produce video content that promote democratic values and civic participation as well as highlight human rights issues.
Freedom of Information
To promote freedom of expression and enhance media freedoms through independent reporting and citizen journalism. The project will support a media platform that features independent media reporting, investigative journalism, and digital content produced by citizens. The content will focus on issues of human rights, government accountability, and gender equality that are censored or ignored by mainstream media outlets. In addition, the media outlet will launch digital campaigns on public interest issues such as women’s rights.
Naya Daur is a propaganda outfit setup by NED (CIA front) operative Raza Rumi in order to promote the narrative of “democracy under threat” & pave way for foreign interference in Pakistan.
Trump’s election claims and the Jan. 6 riot damaged U.S. reputation, but that view shifted toward the positive since President Biden took office
When President Biden began last week’s trip through Europe that culminated in a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said a main mission was to prove the power of democracies over dictatorships: “We have to discredit those who believe that the age of democracy is over, as some of our fellow nations believe,” he said.
Which raises the question of how America is doing as a democratic model for the rest of the world. And on that front, there is some work to do. The model is tarnished—badly tarnished by some measures.
The good news, though, is that some of the old shine is still there, despite all the U.S. has done to diminish it in recent years. Indeed, the democratic model’s enduring power actually may be breaking through.
Both the short-term damage and long-term hope are on display in a remarkable survey released this month by the Pew Research Center. Pew compiled the results of interviews on perceptions of America with more than 16,000 citizens from 16 advanced economies in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
The most depressing findings are the ones showing the damage done by recent years’ vicious polarization, former President Donald Trump’s ongoing claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged, and the actions of the violent mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. In 14 of the 16 nations surveyed, majorities of respondents said democracy in the U.S. used to be a good example, but hasn’t been in recent years. And that sentiment was nearly a majority opinion in Italy and Greece, the only countries where it fell just below 50%.
The reality, though, is that neither Russia nor China has much in the way of real friendships around the world. The Russians intimidate their neighbors into acquiescence, and the Chinese use their economic power to buy ad hoc alliances, as they have with Pakistan and in Africa.
As former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel points out, nobody is in the streets of foreign capitals clamoring for the adoption of a Russian or a Chinese model of authoritarian rule in their land.
By contrast, people are still clamoring for democracy. When police in Hong Kong, acting to enforce a Chinese-inspired security law, last week arrested five top editors and executives of a pro-democracy newspaper, citizens of Hong Kong lined up to buy the newspaper in a demonstration of support. The Apple Daily increased its press run fivefold to keep up with the popular demand, the Associated Press reported.
So, while U.S. politicians seem to be doing their best to diminish the American model, it may be enduring anyway.
Despite the newfound glut of vaccine information, Kennedy has made it his mission to spread “awareness” firsthand through his website, and at private fundraising events like the one held at the Malibu Fig Ranch near Point Dume—an area he knows well. In 2014, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. married former Curb Your Enthusiasm star (and longtime Los Angeleno) Cheryl Hines at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, in a ceremony attended by various family members, including Kennedy’s brother Joe and mother Ethel, as well as Larry and Cazzie David, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The bridal party included Kennedy’s six children and Hines’s daughter. Kennedy had previously lived in the Mount Kisco area of Westchester, New York. Soon after their wedding the couple purchased a Point Dume compound comprising a four-bedroom primary residence, two guesthouses, a pool house, and a two-story treehouse, in a community that includes Julia Roberts and Chris Martin, where residents bump down manicured streets on golf carts to the keyed-access beach Little Dume. When they sold that home three years later for more than $6 million, it was described as “reminiscent of a Connecticut compound with mature trees and beautiful landscaped flat grounds.” Their new house in Brentwood, reportedly purchased for $5.2 million, is a “Monterey colonial.” Hines, while active in fundraising for cerebral palsy research—and a one-time star of a pro-whooping cough booster vaccine PSA—has seemingly remained quiet about her husband’s stance on vaccinations. Through a representative, Hines declined to comment.
“It is imperative for us to come together as we face the loss of so many of our personal freedoms,” wrote Denise Young, the executive director of the Children’s Health Defense’s California chapter, in an email to Malibu Fig Ranch event attendees, obtained by V.F. Those freedoms, she wrote, include “our choice over what we put into our bodies, uncensored media, and the right to transparency on the full effects of 5G and wireless products.” (The last is one of Kennedy’s newer crusades.) Malibu was a bastion of anti-vax sentiment long before COVID-19; in 2014, a local whooping cough outbreak aligned with a seriously lowered rate of vaccinations among children at Santa Monica and Malibu schools; that year and the next measles outbreaks also hit California hard. (For context: From 1956 to 1960, before the introduction of the measles vaccine, an average of 450 Americans died of the virus each year, at a rate of about 1 in 1,000 reported cases. Between October 1988 and May 2021, just 19 petitions for compensation for an alleged measles vaccine-related death were filed.)
“The way we promote health, and the way public health agencies promote health, is to really focus on individual level solutions,” says Jennifer Reich, a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Denver, and the author of the 2016 book Calling the Shots: Why Parents Reject Vaccines. “People are told that their personal behaviors can mitigate disease risk. What I’ve heard from parents a lot was, We’re really healthy. We eat organic food, I breastfed my children, which provided immune protection. This idea that somehow personal behaviors and hard work—or even vigilance to pay attention to who might be seemingly infected—could successfully prevent infectious disease is just scientifically untrue.”
Americans view the constitution as a sacred text, even as its flaws are becoming more glaring
The electoral crisis, the decline of trust in government, and gross income inequality in the United States may seem like separate issues. But they have a surprising, common origin: the US Constitution, or more accurately, its shortcomings. Indeed, the depth of multiple crises in our nation in 2020 — if not their existence entirely — are all rooted in our flawed Constitution and the judicial decisions that it has facilitated.
If you don't believe us, consider the following:
The electoral crisis would not have occurred if the Presidential winner was based on the popular vote instead of the Electoral College — an institution born of slavery.
The human impact of the pandemic would be less severe if health care, food, housing and income were deemed inalienable constitutional rights.
Declining public trust in government, a political situation caused by candidates being more beholden to wealthy funders than voters, is due to the Supreme Court ruling that political money in elections is First Amendment–protected "free speech."
Corporate influence in federal politics, including disproportionate receipt of CARES Act funds by large corporations and rules that let corporations get away with not having to list toxic chemicals on food labels, would have been impossible if courts didn't grant multiple constitutional rights over decades to corporate entities ("corporate personhood").
The social justice crisis of ongoing police brutality against people of color and mistreatment of immigrants on our border would not have happened if the "We the People" line in the constitution actually included all people.
The Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett would have been less contentious if Supreme Court Justices weren't constitutionally appointed for life and had not granted themselves the ultimate power of "judicial review" – to review any legislative or executive action.
And the fires, floods, hurricanes and other increasing destructive impact of human-caused climate change would have been far less severe if our constitution affirmed basic rights to nature.
And that's just the beginning.
Constitutions at their best reflect national inspirations and aspirations. They define the legal framework of how people structure their societies. Moreover, constitutions are moral or ethical documents — designating what is right and wrong — with profound implications on literally every aspect of people's lives, their communities, country and the natural world.
Americans view the the US Constitution and its framers with a reverence that is almost religious, as if it were a stone tablet delivered by Moses descending from Mt. Sinai. The constitution's perceived sacredness implies that it is only to be minimally and periodically amended, overseen by legal priests with exclusive knowledge of what should and should not be altered.
Overlooked in the centuries-long myth and lore of the perceived hallowed document has been the fact that the white, male, property-owning (including enslaved human beings) framers originally established rules favoring property rights over human rights – and made it nearly impossible for the public to change the rules.
Yet, our Constitution's most democratic features, the ones that reflect our highest collective moral aspirations – the Bill of Rights, and expanding inalienable rights to freed slaves and women through various Amendments – were the result of successful social movements organized by people who weren't so-called Founding Fathers.
The Fox News star came under fire for framing the Trump-incited Capitol attack as a false flag operation, with colleague Geraldo Rivera calling “bullshit” and Liz Cheney urging Rupert Murdoch to step in.
BY CALEB ECARMA
“The helicopters have left Afghanistan, and now they’ve landed here at home.” While discussing the three-part series on Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox’s most popular host said that he believes “it answers a lot of the remaining questions” regarding the Capitol riot. “Our conclusion? The U.S. government has in fact launched a new war on terror. But it’s not against al-Qaida, it’s against American citizens,” he added.
On this week’s edition of Carlson’s Fox Nation program, he went as far to say that “you can see why the people who showed up in Washington on January 6 were mad,” and in September, he said that “the vast majority of people inside the Capitol on January 6 were peaceful. They were not insurrectionists, they shouldn’t have been there. They weren’t trying to overthrow the government. That’s a total crock.” Carlson’s remarks echo those of Republican lawmakers who have tried to downplay the deadly attack perpetrated by Trump’s supporters and fueled by his lies—with one congressman even characterizing the riot as a “normal tourist visit.”
In an interview with The New York Times, Fox News host Geraldo Rivera criticized his colleague’s new project. “Tucker’s wonderful, he’s provocative, he’s original, but—man oh man. There are some things that you say that are more inflammatory and outrageous and uncorroborated,” he said. “I worry that—and I’m probably going to get in trouble for this—but I’m wondering how much is done to provoke, rather than illuminate.” He continued: “Messing around with January 6 stuff…. The record to me is pretty damn clear, that there was a riot that was incited and encouraged and unleashed by Donald Trump.” When asked whether or not he would advise the network against airing Carlson’s series, Rivera declined, saying, “That’s not my job. He’s my colleague. He’s my family. Sometimes you have to speak out about your family.” Though Rivera was willing to call “bullshit” on Carlson’s false flag claims in a Thursday-morning tweet.
Fox News did not respond for comment on criticism of Carlson’s series, which was flowing on Twitter.
In Arizona, a stay-at-home dad and part-time Lyft driver told the state’s chief election officer she would hang for treason. In Utah, a youth treatment center staffer warned Colorado’s election chief that he knew where she lived and watched her as she slept.
In Vermont, a man who says he works in construction told workers at the state election office and at Dominion Voting Systems that they were about to die.
“This might be a good time to put a f‑‑‑‑‑‑ pistol in your f‑‑‑‑‑‑ mouth and pull the trigger,” the man shouted at Vermont officials in a thick New England accent last December. “Your days are f‑‑‑‑‑‑ numbered.”
The three had much in common. All described themselves as patriots fighting a conspiracy that robbed Donald Trump of the 2020 election. They are regular consumers of far-right websites that embrace Trump’s stolen-election falsehoods. And none have been charged with a crime by the law enforcement agencies alerted to their threats.
They were among nine people who told Reuters in interviews that they made threats or left other hostile messages to election workers. In all, they are responsible for nearly two dozen harassing communications to six election officials in four states. Seven made threats explicit enough to put a reasonable person in fear of bodily harm or death, the U.S. federal standard for criminal prosecution, according to four legal experts who reviewed their messages at Reuters’ request.
“This might be a good time to put a f‑‑‑‑‑‑ pistol in your f‑‑‑‑‑‑ mouth and pull the trigger ... Your days are f‑‑‑‑‑‑ numbered.”
ANONYMOUS THREAT TO VERMONT ELECTION OFFICIALS
These cases provide a unique perspective into how people with everyday jobs and lives have become radicalized to the point of terrorizing public officials. They are part of a broader campaign of fear waged against frontline workers of American democracy chronicled by Reuters this year. The news organization has documented nearly 800 intimidating messages to election officials in 12 states, including more than 100 that could warrant prosecution, according to legal experts.
The examination of the threats also highlights the paralysis of law enforcement in responding to this extraordinary assault on the nation’s electoral machinery. After Reuters reported the widespread intimidation in June, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a task force to investigate threats against election staff and said it would aggressively pursue such cases. But law enforcement agencies have made almost no arrests and won no convictions.
In many cases, they didn’t investigate. Some messages were too hard to trace, officials said. Other instances were complicated by America’s patchwork of state laws governing criminal threats, which provide varying levels of protection for free speech and make local officials in some states reluctant to prosecute such cases. Adding to the confusion, legal scholars say, the U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t formulated a clear definition of a criminal threat.
For this report, Reuters set out to identify the people behind these attacks on election workers and understand their motivations. Reporters submitted public-records requests and interviewed dozens of election officials in 12 states, obtaining phone numbers and email addresses for two dozen of the threateners.
Reuters was able to interview nine of them. All admitted they were behind the threats or other hostile messages. Eight did so on the record, identifying themselves by name.
In the seven cases that legal scholars said could be prosecuted, law enforcement agencies were alerted by election officials to six of them. The people who made those threats told Reuters they never heard from police.
Not only these three statements, but several other actions by the highest in the land as also by the political leaders need to be put under the scanner.
By Admiral (retd) L. Ramdas, former chief of the Indian Navy.
The (Indian) NSA (Ajit Doval) is among those seen to be closest to the ‘Powers that Be’. While addressing IPS probationers at a passing out parade in the Police Academy at Hyderabad on November 11, he reportedly said that “the new frontier of war was civil society”, and equated this to the ” fourth generation warfare”. The freshly minted young police graduates are being openly told that since “civil society can be suborned, manipulated, subverted and divided and thus hurt the interests of the nation”, it is their duty to deal with them. He also implied that the ‘electoral process’ is not paramount, and what is important are the laws made by lawmakers which the police must enforce ruthlessly.
This sits uneasily in the context of the address from the NSA to police trainees when he openly suggests that civil society is the real threat and must be dealt with ‘ruthlessly’. Already we have seen sub-divisional magistrates telling the police to “break the heads of protesting farmers”. A recent report by the National Campaign Against Torture – a platform for NGOs working on torture in India – has highlighted how torture continues to remain a favoured tool in the hands of the police to extract information and confessions, or sometimes just to victimise oppressed sections of society.
"We're not in a great position right now to preach the virtues of democracy." My
big read on the upcoming summit of democracies.
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If you could boil down Joe Biden’s foreign policy to its essentials, two things would stand out: competition with China, and the return of American values after the “aberration” of Donald Trump. Both are prevalent, although in tension, in Biden’s Democracy Summit, which the White House will host this Thursday and Friday.
The virtual gathering will feature the heads of 111 governments and exclude China, Russia and most other autocracies. Even in America’s long history of proselytising freedom, nothing like this has been tried before.
“It tells the world that America still believes in democracy and wants to put it back on the menu,” says Michael Abramowitz, head of Freedom House, which has registered a shrinkage in global freedom in each of the last 15 years. “The risk is that it is seen as a talking shop which could deepen cynicism about democracy.”
Biden’s grand online gathering could hardly be more dramatically timed. It coincides with a formidable Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s eastern border and in the wake of escalating Chinese military activity around the island of Taiwan.
On Tuesday Biden held a two-hour video conference with Vladimir Putin in which he threatened a drastic step up in western sanctions if Russia breached Ukraine’s borders. Whether Biden’s warnings have any effect on Putin’s territorial revisionism, which have so far appeared impervious to economic pressure, is an open question.
Tensions in the South China Sea appear to have subsided a little following a call between Biden and Xi Jinping last month. It is a safe bet that the words “democracy” and “summit” did not dominate Biden’s discussion with either Putin or Xi. The contention that the world is in a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism is nevertheless at the heart of Biden’s foreign policy — and one that he hopes will reboot America’s alliances.
Controversy over the usefulness — and wisdom — of the summit flared up last month when the White House released the guest list. It included 29 countries that Freedom House defines as “partly free”, such as Colombia, Indonesia and Kenya, and three that it classifies as “not free” — Iraq, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This exposed Biden to criticism of smuggling realpolitik into a summit that was meant to be about values. Each discrete choice can be justified in geopolitical terms. As the most important potential bulwark against China, for example, India, which Sweden’s V-Dem, a research institute that measures levels of democracy, recently downgraded to an “electoral autocracy”, could not be kept off the guest list. Once India was on it, however, its arch-rival Pakistan had to be added too, even though it is a military-dominated state and a close ally of China.
If curbing Beijing’s influence was a guiding aim, why were Singapore and Thailand left out? Israel could not be the sole country in the Middle East to be invited, which is why “not free” Iraq was included. Having suffered a coup earlier this year, Tunisia ruled itself out. It is hard to see any grounds to invite Angola and the DRC other than concern over China’s stranglehold on their resources, including materials that feed into lithium batteries and the iPhone.
The White House is also dealing with a much more pressing and existential hurdle than remote logistics and the guest list as it plans this summit, though: the fact that as the summit convenes, democracy seems to be more under more of a threat in the United States than at any time since the Civil War.
Steven Levitsky, a political scientist who co-wrote a 2018 bestseller on the issue that a Biden reportedly regularly referenced throughout his presidential campaign, says he has grown "more worried" about the fate of American democracy in the years since publishing How Democracies Die.
Young Americans are raising alarms about the state of U.S. democracy in a new poll
Young Americans are raising alarms about the state of U.S. democracy in a new poll
Democracy is declining in the U.S. but it's not all bad news, a report finds
Democracy is declining in the U.S. but it's not all bad news, a report finds
Former President Donald Trump's false denial that he lost last year's presidential election has taken hold among a majority of Republican voters. As next year's midterm elections draw closer, Trump has pushed to establish that lie as a central organizing principle for Republican candidates.
Republican legislatures across the country have responded to Trump's lies about 2020 by passing new voter restrictions and by giving partisans more power over certifying ballots and election results.
And, of course, a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol, a global symbol of democracy, on Jan. 6, in an unsuccessful attempt to block the certification of the Electoral College votes electing Biden as president.
"Democratic parties — small-d democratic parties — have to be able to accept defeat. That's the first criteria for making a modern democracy work," Levitsky told NPR. "If a party that's big enough to win elections cannot lose elections — cannot accept losing elections — democracy is in trouble."
Defense spending by the United States increased by $44 billion from 2019 to 2020, according to recently released figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). That increase outstripped growth in spending from other countries, and as a result, the United States now spends more on defense than the next 11 countries combined (up from outspending the next 10 countries combined in 2019).
SIPRI’s definition of defense spending is broader than the definitions that are most frequently used in fiscal policy discussions in the United States, and according to their calculations, the United States spent $778 billion on national defense in 2020. SIPRI includes discretionary and mandatory outlays by the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of State, and the National Intelligence Program. By contrast, the typical budget category of defense discretionary spending ($714 billion in 2020) excludes outlays by the Department of State and all mandatory spending. Nonetheless, the SIPRI comparison provides useful insights on the sheer scale of U.S. defense spending relative to other nations.
Although the United States spends more on defense than any other country, the Congressional Budget Office projects that defense spending as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) will decline over the next 10 years — from 3.3 percent of GDP in 2021 to 2.7 percent in 2031. That is considerably lower than the 50-year average spending on defense of 4.4 percent of GDP.
Defense spending accounts for a sizable portion of the federal budget and the United States vastly outspends other nations. In determining the appropriate level of such spending in the future, it will be important to evaluate whether it is being used effectively and how it fits in with other national priorities.
In light of the US democracy summit,
% who think US is a good model of democracy:
S Korea 16%
New Zealand 8%
US 19% (at least we’re honest)
-Pew (Spring '21)
The US military launched at least 251 foreign interventions from 1991 to 2022.
This is according to a report from the US government's own Congressional Research Service.
I went through the data and created a map showing just how vast the meddling is: https://multipolarista.com/2022/09/13/us-251-military-interventions-1991/ https://twitter.com/BenjaminNorton/status/1569800676678696960?s=20&t=YnIgUPmGWNRNOFxTpqKvCQ
Sach’s argues that what matters is a country’s unique governance culture: classifying countries in political systems (“liberal democracy or not”) is oversimplifying.
He doesn’t hold back when describing the US governance culture: “A semi-democratic white-dominated hierarchical racist society that aims to preserve privilege by the elites [and founded as] a slave-owning genocidal country”. Ouch!
That’s why he argues that “the biggest mistake of president Biden was to say ‘the greatest struggle of the world is between democracies and autocracies’.”
He adds: “The real struggle of the world is to live together and overcome our common crises” under thunderous applause.
He says “the solution in [this world] is to speak with each other more […] Our political elites in the US do not speak with Chinese political elites except to point fingers or to yell at them. […] If we would seat down to speak with each other, we’d actually get somewhere.”
Last but not least, he destroys the myth that “democracies” are more peaceful: “the most violent country in the world in the 19th century was the most democratic, Britain. The most violent country in the world since 1950 is the US”.
And he gets shockingly shut down by the host.
Here is the full video from the Athens Democracy Forum. (Use the toggle on the red line to skip to Jeffrey Sachs, who starts at 15 minutes).
Former President Donald Trump on Saturday morning raged on his anti-Twitter app Truth Social about non-existent "fraud and deception" in the November 8th midterm elections – and he proposed scrapping the United States Constitution as a means to reinstall himself into the presidency. Trump also called for a do-over of the race that he lost in a landslide to President Joe Biden.
"So, with the revelation of MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION in working closely with Big Tech Companies, the DNC, & the Democrat Party, do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution," Trump "truthed."
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in either the 2020 or 2022 elections, let alone that which was pervasive enough to affect the results.
"Our great 'Founders' did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!" Trump added. The authors of the Constitution – many of whom were traffickers of enslaved human beings – only wanted white male landowners to vote.
Sachs said, "The most violent country in the world in the 19th century was the most democratic, or perhaps the 2nd most democratic, was Britain. You can be democratic at home and ruthlessly imperial abroad. The most violent country since 1950 has been the the United States. It's been by far involved in more wars...". That's where he was interrupted by the moderator who said, "Stop. I'm your moderator and it's enough".
"...India, which is jailing its opposition leader on a trumped up defamation charge; Netanyahu, who wants to quash Israel's independent courts; & Mexico, where Obrador aims to end free & fair elections. With pals like these, democracy needs no foes." Me.
President Joe Biden’s second summit for democracy, which is taking place this week, is both virtual and surreal. Among the participants are India, which is in the process of jailing opposition leader Rahul Gandhi on a trumped up defamation ruling; Israel, whose leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, wants to shut down judicial independence; and Mexico, whose leader, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is trying to end free and fair elections. With friends such as these, democracy hardly needs enemies.
Biden’s aims are noble, and it is noteworthy that neither Hungary nor Turkey, regarded in Washington and western Europe as illiberal democracies, was invited. But the president’s means are open to doubt. According to V-Dem, a Swedish research institute, almost three quarters of the world’s population now live in autocracies against less than half a decade ago. That vertiginous shift justifies the term “democratic recession”.
It is difficult to believe a liberal democratic Russia would have invaded Ukraine. It is equally hard to imagine the people of an autocratic Ukraine fighting as fiercely for their freedom as they are doing now. It is thus reasonable for the US to think that spreading democracy is in its national interest. The problem is that America is not very good at it.
Nowhere has the US expended more guns and butter than in the Middle East. The democratic returns have been almost uniformly negative. The Arab world’s only recent convert, Tunisia, was recently lost to a coup d’état. Israel’s democracy, meanwhile, hangs in the balance. That is without mentioning the fact that the Jewish nation state is not exactly democratic with the Arab territories it occupies.
Sarah Margon, whom Biden named to lead his administration’s efforts on democracy and human rights, withdrew her name in January after senators objected to her criticisms of Israel. Having a record of arguing for democracy seems like an odd rap against the person whose job that will be.
As India’s foreign minister, S Jaishankar, put it last year: “Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.” What Jaishankar really meant, of course, was the west as a whole. But he was careful to exclude the US, just as Biden is careful not to mention India’s democratic backsliding. Each needs the other to counter China.
Here it gets even muddier. India’s treatment of its Muslim minorities is arguably as bad as China’s policies in Xinjiang. The US State Department has labelled the latter “genocide” — the gravest charge possible. Yet barely a peep is heard from Washington about what is going on in Kashmir.
When the west can be bothered to listen, the global south’s consistent refrain is for more dollars to help their shift to clean energy, better infrastructure and modern healthcare. Which of the two great powers, China or the US, helps the most is likeliest to shape their political future and foreign policy alignment. One of the by-products of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is that it has brought this pressing question to the fore.
Biden’s White House is trying to come up with a coherent US approach to the global south, but officials admit it is a work in progress. China has pumped more money into the developing world than all the west combined — with both good and bad effects. Whether the Malis, Cambodias and Bolivias of this world become democracies lies in their hands. The best way of nudging them down that path is to lecture less and listen more.