Tag Archives: Mexico

Commentary—The Bad Seed(s)– Elections and Repression

 

Turkey and Poland are two geographically unrelated countries. The roots of their history and the present state of their governments are unrelated. They do form an emerging political mosaic that allows us to see into the future: an unhealthy nationalistic surge, and a domestic repressive political climate, and a “me” mentality. These conditions have created a danger to the dynamics of any form of democracy not only for the citizens of these two countries but will be the seeds seized upon to impact their neighbors and ultimately our own national security interests.   We see that moment in the rhetoric of our President and the acts of his ministers.

In Poland, during and after the German occupation in WWII, neither the people nor its government were anything but hostile toward minority groups. Some thought that when Lech Walesa came to govern in 1980, the country was on a path to democratic reform. Democracy ebbed and flowed during which the Country became a member of the EU and NATO. In 2015, the picture changed. As in the United States presidential election, Poland moved hard right and, in doing so, turned the Polish democracy on its head. In its latest move, the ruling party –Law and Justice—did the unthinkable in a democracy and ended the Country’s judicial independence. In a decisive move, the governing political party purged an overwhelming number of judges. It is tantamount to the Republican party dismissing those Justices on the Supreme Court they found to be counterproductive to their platform. In Poland, Judges who were not considered loyal to the ruling party were dismissed and replaced by those who were. Sound familiar?

Turkey, Istanbul, was once a beautiful country and city to visit. A country that was known for its marvelous array of spices, food and antiquities of wonder. A country that has moved from a democratic state to what could be defined as a dictatorship wrapped in a democratic election. Notwithstanding its present political stance and leadership, it is embraced by the United States because of geopolitical necessity in a troubled area of the world.

When we visited Turkey, it was a democratic nation-state. Today it is not. How did the country move so dramatically away from its democratic roots? What prompted its people to change their chant from democracy to embracing a man who was permitted to destroy an open, independent press? Turkey became a hard right Muslim nation and experienced a childish, attempted coup that failed. 150 members of the press have been arrested, and the working conditions of the press were best described in a report from Reporters Without Borders. Just three years ago, it ranked Turkey 149 out of 189 countries that support a free press. That ranking placed Turkey between two countries– one a failed state (Congo) and the other where journalists are regularly utilized as targets for murder (Mexico).

Turkey is a country where judges are indiscriminately rounded up and arrested by the Government. Where thousands of high ranking officers in the military either escape to another country or are arrested for alleged treason. Where thousands of police officers and hundreds of academicians were fired from their jobs with their passports confiscated. The Guardian has reported that the Turkish President has dismissed thousands of state employees under a so-called emergency decree for alleged connection to terrorist groups. At last count 130,000 people have been dismissed from their jobs with their passports confiscated during this period

The Associated Press has reported, as I am writing this commentary, that the state of emergency declared by newly reelected President Erdogen, after the failed coup and that has been in place for two years will be lifted. The emergency rule allowed the government to bypass parliament on all key issues. The latest nail in the democratic life of the people of Turkey is that the so-called “democratically” elected president’s role will be transferred to that of an “executive presidency” (no checks and balance in his authoritative control).There will be a completely revamped charter providing him greater authority as its president. In his latest decree the President has abolished the office of the Prime Minister. He will draft the budget and, as noted, chose the judges and have the ability to dismiss the Parliament at will. All this occurring as 12 non-governmental organizations, three newspapers and one television station were shuttered.

Despite the government’s decision to lift the state of emergency, a close look at the proposed statutes that will replace the emergency decree does nothing more than maintain the repressive status quo. The new laws would still allow the government to detain its citizens for an extended period without a criminal charge. The pending legislation would also give the government the power to stop people from leaving the country or traveling freely within the country. And to tighten control further, if you were “considered” a threat, you could be removed from your state job with your passport confiscated. To tighten control even further, if a person’s rights were revoked, the government had the right to penalize one’s spouse.

Clearly, the history in Poland, in the specifics, differs from that in Turkey. That is not the point. The point is that individual rights in both countries are being circumscribed by an elected government. The individual citizen, in both of these countries, has forfeited their rights through an election process. A process that has been cherished for generations, and that has been the method by which we elect a person who will respect and protect all of us. Where their story converges, is the lack of civility and spear point of those running for elected office. The aim of their political campaigns was to target the lowest common denominator—the masses. To demine and ridicule those least able to defend themselves. To promise anything and all things, rational or not for one voting group after another. Civility and truth was not a hallmark, and when a candidate’s approach was lacking in civility and honesty, it became permission for all to act similarly. The elections in Poland and Turkey did not become a debate about values but one of intolerance, bigotry, self-interest and in the end dishonesty. The mob won.

It matters not which way I turn, the sign posted is held high: “Me First”. What does that mean and at what cost to each of us? Why has the vocal majority become so angry and in turn vengeful? Why do we tell people— “go back to where you came from” — based on their language or color of their skin, their tribe or religion? All of us, at one time or another, other than the American Indian (and even they did not somehow materialize out of nowhere on this continent), came from “somewhere” else. Seventy years ago, my father told a black person, who was ill and could not afford to consult with a private physician, that a good alternative would be a doctor in an emergency room of a very fine nearby hospital. He was admonished: “I aint gonna sit on any bench next to a spick!” Why the anger and why the disgust? And that was seventy years ago.

The mob language today is often accompanied by threats of violence. What little civility and tolerance that exits is mocked and ridiculed by our leaders and chanted by the crowd turned mob. We are discarding and crippling the usual barriers that were a natural support of civility. The barriers that held us within permissible conduct are ignored by those in power and that conduct filters down to those who feel empowered, or believing they have been rejected or ignored thru the decades, and its “now their turn”. The crowd then becomes the catalyst for greater unacceptable behavior by the leaders. So, in Poland, the latest attack is against an independent judiciary, and it is destroyed; in Turkey, unless you are likeminded your rights and freedom are evaporated.

One is hard pressed to look at the international scene and find a country that is welcoming without conditions. And as we turn inward and view our own political system, there are those among us who today, and this is difficult to comprehend, openly support the candidacy of an avowed Nazi, a holocaust denier and a white nationalist, each running for elected office under the banner of an American flag and a national political party. How did that happen?

Two countries, Poland and Turkey, two different histories and cultures, and yet the more they are different, the more they seem the same, and the deadly infection they breed is spreading. And it is here.

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

Commentary: Freedom of the Press, National Security and the Right to Know

Although the great Barnum and Bailey Circus is folding its tents, American politics under our new President is opening its and I fear for our society—at least the lions at the circus were in cages. Please, let me explain.

The press, and I am referring to both the newsprint and electronic mode of expression, in the United States is under attack, and at the same moment we are all aware that our national security has been and is under attack. There is an additional impediment to our daily living and there is developing disconnect in our daily language between truth, lies and distortion. There is a distinction unless, of course, you are George Costanza who aptly told Jerry Seinfeld: “it’s not a lie if you believe it.” The issue today is the press, its place in our daily lives and its impact on national security.

The press has a twofold mission; to inform us of the facts and to have a place where people may discuss their opinions. Nothing new in that thought but it bears repetition.

The press has always been a vital instrument in American history and its development as a strong and lasting democratic society. As a matter of law, the press cannot be censored by the government. And yet the press is subject to libel laws for infringement upon individual truth. All else is fair game “but for” the rules of common decency.

For myself and my education and to find insight and overview in the thinking process, I read the foreign press, and foreign opinion magazines such as Prospect from the UK and the newspapers of record in the United States.

With the presidential election, I find we have we have three types of politically oriented people in the U.S.: the Democrat and two types of Republican. The first type of Republican who in any conversation listens, discuss and doesn’t call either you or the press liars when they disagree. The other type of Republican, doesn’t know or care how to enter into a civil conversation, and finds his or her facts in an alternative means of information gathering and employs an alternative use of the English language. I have one such Republican friend and relative on each side of that equation. Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s chief White House strategist, has just told the press “to shut up”. And Kellyann Conway said that calling out President Trump’s lies is –“Dangerous to the democracy.”

Actually, there is a fourth type of person in this country: the person who believes that he or she is above it all, who disdains all, who thinks they have no choices worthy of their most vaulted vote. So they sit back, do not vote and then complain when their secret choice is not victorious. A Republican member of Congress has informed us that it is probably “better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.” And, the silencing of the press continues with the Trump administration mandating that any studies or data from scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency undergo review by political appointees before they can be released to the public. Political review of data from scientists, not scientific review, and not objective review before any data is shared with the public. Why?

My charge today is not to argue a brief on the historic heritage of freedom of the press. I never taught a constitutional law class, and only litigated one major constitutional issue in all my years of practice. My fear…not concern…my fear is for our security and that our national security is in jeopardy when the press cannot report to us what they see, what they learned, who is manipulating our lives and facts so that our physical well-being is placed on a dangerous path.

Because we are a nation in jeopardy—the terrorist cares less of our democratic process– it is crucial that the press has the access that makes news gathering and reporting transparent so that we – the people who ride the subway—are fully informed. There is a trite saying: if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. That is true when it comes to whom we trust with our security, how they function and what are their motives. In the end it is our lives. The secret service does not protect me, nor does it protect you.

Today our security is being placed in jeopardy in more than one area of our lives. Not merely the potential bomb on the truck or subway. The NATO Secretary General warns of a sharp increase in cyber-attacks against our military alliances that will have profound effect if fully effective and that will breach into our daily lives. It doesn’t end at the military front. He announced that in ” the latest evaluations, there was a monthly average of 500 threatening cyber-attacks last year against NATO infrastructure that required intensive intervention … That’s an increase of 60 percent compared to 2015. “

Our newly elected president calls NATO obsolete. They, he alleges, are “not paying their fair share” of the cost for defense. BUT can we, as a country, go it alone in a very dangerous world. The answer clearly is: no. The answer historically has been no.

The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans have not been our walls of national defense for decades. A wall along the Mexican border will not protect us from the terrorist only the Mexican day laborer. ISIS employs other paths. It is not a question of NATO and its financial support (a profit and loss statement of who pays what) it is about lives, yours and mine and not the cost for us and our children to “live” to tomorrow. NATO is a real, not imaginary line of defense to an historical enemy of the United States who is not a supporter of democratic action. Russia has a present history of “internationally destabilizing” activities. That is reality. A collapse of NATO because of our failure of financial support would be a security disaster for the people of the US.

 

A second reality that must be kept under national press vigilance is that it is almost certain that this Administration will ultimately have to turn the spotlight away from a serious domestic issue and will, given its history, do so with a grand gesture or as the commentator Edward Lucas said—a “grand bargain with Putin”. An announcement of a “deal” with Putin only to be revealed and unveiled to the press by the President at the time of a self-congratulating signing ceremony and, not during any period of discussion or negations. Lucas has suggested that President Trump will enter into a “grand bargain” – a deal– to distract the American people from a domestic failure and agreeing to “a Russian troop removal from its western military district in return for America pulling its forces out of a strategic European frontline of defense.” “I think” he wrote “that would be absolutely catastrophic.” The “Art of the Deal” does not work with a known dictator who has no sense of international integrity. Only an open and free press is our hope of protecting the American people from the misadventures of any administration. A press that is unafraid of an Administration, who is unafraid of asking questions, is unafraid of stepping on bureaucratic toes including that of the President of the United States. And who will not “keep its mouth shut and just listen”.

With a management style that has been describe by one GOP strategist as “deliberate chaos”, one can only wonder what tomorrow will bring. Therefore, once again, it is the press that will bring us “the facts”, and must do so at a time the President has said he was in a ‘running war” with the media calling journalist “among the most dishonest people on earth”.

A final thought: I have intentionally stayed politically neutral when discussing security issues in my commentaries, whether they be domestic or international. With the election of Mr. Trump as president, security issues take a 180 degree turn. The security question is: To what direction will the President ultimately turn when viewing the rest of the world. “History” appears to make no difference in his equations and he appears to approach life on an ad hoc basis. The fear then becomes in the “not knowing” and the further fear is does he himself know which way he will turn and, last, the fear of our partners not knowing what he will do or say and that will impact our and their national relations and security.

Will he bail on NATO, will he stop talking to China and merely employ our naval guns, and will he allow his new friend and our historical enemy Putin to move in any direction he chose in the hope of getting some sort of deal that will appeal to his base supporters?

The ultimate issue is: what strategy is The President of the Untied States taking to the White House, and how do we, the people, know without a press reporting?

             Richard Allan,

                          The Editor

 

 

 

 

Commentary– No Carpet Bombs and No Walls: Security & Elections

I am fast approaching my 85 birthday, and this election cycle has left me with an uncomfortable taste never before experienced.

On the Republican side it’s leading contender, Donald j, has used the type of profanity best left to the gutter and not for the ears of our children. What sort of presidential model could he be?  His marriages and extramarital bragging do not promote any sort of values, and his bashing of everything from women to immigrants is from some other time — and whose values have long been interred, and not among our more cherished memories. Those with a rational thought in his party are killing each other.

Hillary, has been with us for a long time, and is a known entity – with all her warts–from her days in the White House, seeking what is today our healthcare heritage and traveling to China and announcing that women’s rights are human rights. What you see is what you get and you’ve seen her a long time.

Hillary became New York State’s Senator and then Secretary of State using, it seems, the same laptop as Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. So much for state secrets and violations limited only to Democrats.

Then we have Bernie.

If elected he will be the oldest president to ever hold that office, and at 75 years of age he has a life expectancy of less than 10 years. Who will be his V.P.? Cause that’s who will finish out his two terms in office, if he lasts that long. Sitting in the US Senate is like not standing in the Oval Office. Just look to what has happened to Obama. He looks worn and very gray.

Bernie until 2015 (that’s just last year) touted he was an independent and identified himself, when he first entered the race, as a socialist. He is the junior ( can that be at age 75) senator from his state with not one (!) piece of legislation introduced by him and adopted in all the years he keep this senate seat warm. Stellar performance —-can you see the Republican nominee handle that along with his self-proclaimed socialism–in the general election.

Bernie thinks that Bill Clinton’s behavior (the sex) is unacceptable! But he is “not throwing stones”. First, Bill Clinton is not running for president and Bernie should not throw stones. His own marital (or maybe not so marital) conjugal relations have had divorces, children born (it is uncertain if in or out of marriages) along with a partner overlapping his escapades.

And although, he alleges, he is not in bed with the banks –that’s true, but in bed he is. In recent years, Sanders has been billed as one of the hosts for a Senatorial Campaign Committee’s retreats for the “Majority Trust” — an elite group of top donors who give more than $30,000 per year — at Martha’s Vineyard in the summer and Palm Beach, Florida, in the winter. One major network obtained invitations that listed Sanders as a host for at least one Majority Trust event in each year since 2011.

In the same breath we can say has absolutely no foreign policy experience. Zippo. Period.  He also came not merely tardy but very late to the VA crises.

But there are two additional considerations somehow held below the radar: His present wife, it is alleged,  used her position as the wife of a sitting US Senator to get a fraudulent loan that nearly bankrupt a small college in his very own state of Vermont. She was its president, and then—follow this– she walked away while under investigation with a very sizable severance package.  And Bernie wants Hillary to release the receipts for her speaking engagements? It was alleged the Bernie’s wife is to have committed a pretty sophisticated crime in the process, but walked away with lots of money in her pocket by quietly departing from the college campus and its presidency. I am sure they share pockets and household expenses, how else can a small town mayor cum senator amass a 1.2-1.5 million dollar bank account.

Second, Bernie obviously has forgotten that there are two other branches of government.  One of them is called “The” Judiciary. That’s the Supreme Court. And there is congress. Oops, forgot — right now both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans. Now how does Bernie give us all that he promises –while they are all giving him the finger? He can’t and he doesn’t even know how to talk to “them “;   which is evident by his legislative record.

In addition, again, forget about how he is going to pay for all he promises with his magic equations and tax hikes.

Last, and probably the most important point in my slow process of thought is, how do you elect a candidate—Bernie–who doesn’t even own a comb? Please. Someone help him. And help the American Electorate clear the air of its political pollution.

Most important: In November, you must vote. But you cannot write-in “Donald Duck”. Trust me, I check that out.

Richard Allan,

The editor