Path to Dictatorship: Things That Have Happened, Things That Haven’t

Trump-Dictator-big global research

Are we on a path to dictatorship? Things that have happened that make us worry about the state of our democracy.

Media/Facts v Lies

The campaign by our president to confuse fact and lies is similar to the ways all  leaders in a dictatorshipweaken the media.

The campaign to denigrate journalists.

There is a campaign to choke media outlets with right-wing news – by buying out local news channels and pushing right-wing messaging –  which enhances all the other propaganda outlets that already present viewpoints and brain manipulating materials that once came from the right, but now come from the right on behalf of the president. (For example: Sinclair Broadcasting provides local backup for the international Fox News – which is not news.)

Immigration

Our president is rounding up immigrants more aggressively than we have seen in our lifetimes and is separating children from parents.

He has harangued his faithful followers to stoke hate for people who do not conform to their image of a “real” American.

Even citizens who were naturalized are being deported.

Workers who come into the country to help farmers with time sensitive tasks like planting and harvesting are not as available as they once were.

Praise for Dictators

Our president admires dictators.

A dictator like Kim Jung Un who put his people in prison camps doing hard labor if they try to listen to an unapproved radio station or sell something on the black market to feed their family. Our leader thinks that it is amazing that Kim held on to power in N. Korea when he was so young, but it really only shows how well his father and grandfather prepared the ground for him and how well he learned his lessons. He learned to kill to stay in power. Kim Jung Un may be young but he knows how to use fear to stay in power. Why is this admirable?

Our president likes the Duterte solution for drug users, just shoot them.

He likes that Xi in China is now dictator for life, sees that as a strong move, when it is actually backed up by the threat of the loss of freedom (imprisonment) if permission is not given.

He insists that Putin should be readmitted to the G7 to make it once again the G8, despite the obvious aggressive moves Putin makes against Europe, his interference in US and other elections, his backing of the Assad beast in Syria.

He insults our allies.

We worry that he will adopt more of the strongarm methods used by the strong men he admires.

Lying to America

He lies to the American people. He lies with a smile on his face. We can’t always tell whether he is lying or not and that is exactly how he wants us to feel. Confusion is his friend.

Changes Role of America in the World

He does not react to crises around the world caused by extreme weather, geologic events, or wars by offering American aid to those who suffer.

He has no humanitarian urges.

It is all about America’s bottom line.

Even in the case of Puerto Rico, practically an American state, his reactions were cold and accusative.

He does not admire people who live in a weak economy. As a white supremacist he feels no compunction to assist people with darker skin or who practice a religion other than Christianity.

This all represents a change in how America interacts with the world. This takes away a source of succor for people who are less fortunate.

Isolationist Stances

This isolates America.

We recall our isolationist position before World War II which may have emboldened Hitler and assisted his rise.

We have been anything but isolationist since World War II, in fact we have been so interactive we have been accused of meddling.

There is no World Council of Dictators, so admiring these supposedly strong men is just another isolating factor.

He rules alone, by decree

He circumvents any part of our Constitutional government that he can find a way to circumvent.

He surrounds himself with sycophants.

He requires loyalty oaths from his aides and advisors.

He operates on his own, leaving Congress swinging in the wind, a broken limb of a once-rule-based standard for making laws.

He turned a House investigative committee into a farce.

He defies all checks or balances.

He demands that Congress do his bidding.

Stuffing the Courts

Dictators often change the composition of the courts as one of their first concerns.

Republicans were already trying to ensure that our Supreme Court and our Federal courts were stuffed with Conservatives. They would not even consider letting Obama chose a new judge to fill Judge Alito’s seat. That allowed Trump to fill that seat with a rather moderate Conservative. If another seat opens up it will most likely be filled with a Trump loyalist.

Our president has Congress at work stuffing the federal courts with Trump loyalists, often without any experience in the law.

Fixing Elections

Between claiming loudly and often that others are fixing elections it is easy to imagine that Trump has people who are busily fixing elections. He often accuses the Democrats of doing what he or the Republicans are actually doing. The Republicans also used this tactic before Trump was elected.

We are not sure, but we suspect that the Russians may be able to fix our elections and that they have already done so. While we wait for the report from the Mueller investigation, Trump threatens loudly and often (he likes this strategy) to end it.

Trump has made us question the value of our own founding documents which seem to have no teeth to defend our republic against a tyrant.

He boasts that he can pardon himself. He reminds us that a sitting president cannot be indicted. He tells us often that he can end the Mueller investigation if he wants to. Experts think that he can do all of these things.

Again, he loved it when Xi in China was declared president for life, as if his people had any choice in the matter.

Insults as Weapons

We now see insults used as weaponry to rob those who disagree with our leader of credibility.

We see how crass this is and we see how well it works. Apparently insults repeated loudly and often (again) work very well with his loyal followers who have meager knowledge of the character of those that are being insulted.

It is just a spectacle, as if these people are in the stands at the Coliseum in Rome watching a slave fight a lion while they cheer.

There is fascism afoot in these verbal attacks, thuggery, brutalism, especially when it comes from a man who is contending that he, as president, has unlimited powers.

The Economy

We suspect that the Tax Plan passed by the 115thCongress will eventually have negative effects on our economy but we have no proof for skeptical people because it was planned to postpone those negative effects until it can be claimed that other factors caused the economic fallout.

Our leader can lay claim in the present to an economy that is sort of thriving, although not for everyone and not to the standards of our boom economies.

Dictators often have less trouble dictating in strong economies. But they also often rip off the government and the nation to line their own pockets, which eventually ruins the once-healthy economics.

Ignoring the Emoluments Clause and Interdictions against Nepotism

Trump has been enriching himself and his family right before our eyes by acting as if any previous leaders who put their businesses in trusts and kept from favoring family members were wienies.

He continues to use his hotels and golf courses for personal gain even though he signed an agreement in the case of the hotel in DC that prohibited him from doing just that.

He won’t show us his taxes.

In a financial disclosure this week Ivanka and Jared admitted to profits of $147 million dollars during their tenure in the White House.

Once again Trump proves that our laws have no teeth and our documents cannot really rein in a president.

Destroying Faith in US Intelligence Apparatus

Questioning the Neutrality of the FBI

Firing Comey and McCabe from their positions at the FBI.

Making people believe that the FBI is biased.

Trying to test the loyalty of our intelligence agencies to the president.

Trying to turn intelligence agencies from being loyal to the country and the Constitution; to make them the president’s personal spies.

He asked every state to turn in every voter record to the federal government. Fortunately they refused to comply. This info could still be in the process of being collected in secret. We don’t know.

Destroying Faith in Social Media

The exposure of the Russian use of social media to skew the 2016 election has rocked the faith of the nation. We cannot trust that social media is actually a good source of news information or even of American cultural memes.

The Russia “Covfefe”

Representative Eric Swalwell said on MSNBC “Every time you shake a tree in this Trump forest, a Russian falls out.”

Just a coincidence?

Why, when you know everyone thinks you might have accepted help from our enemy to win the election, would you continue to praise the authoritarian leader of that nation so often and so loudly (a rather repetitive tactic) (annoying isn’t it).

Didn’t he ever hear what Shakespeare had one of his characters say, “Methinks [he] doth protest too much,” when he repeats the phrase “no collusion” over and over again.

(The odd thing is that when you think you have made a very comprehensive list of the danger signs we see daily in this Trump version of the United States, as soon as you wrap it up you begin to see all the symptoms you missed.)

King Trump bigCapital Hill Blue

There are some things that happen in a dictatorship that haven’t happened here yet.

Things we should watch for.

So far no one in the media has had their life threatened or been arrested and jailed.

The immigration tactics we see are bad, but so far only a difference of degrees from past administrations, except for the separating of mothers from their children. No mass roundups, no using fear to get people to tell on their neighbors, no railroad cars full of deportees headed for Mexico whether they came from Mexico or not. (Where else could we send them?)

So far citizens can still speak up to criticize our government and our president when they think it is appropriate. Our current president has such loyal followers that they fight back for him.

Demonstrators are not being jailed or beaten by policemen or sent home or to prison at the point of a gun.

Our Congress hasn’t been disbanded, just annexed.

We almost still believe we can hold a fair election in 2018.

Some of the people still have faith in the president’s ability to boost the economy.

We haven’t lost our health care yet.

We haven’t lost our social security yet.

We haven’t lost the safety net programs yet, although they have been cut.

Our schools still function.

We do not have to teach our children secretly at home.

Although the president does not shut down his private businesses or keep his children from profiting from proximity to power, he does not seem to have stolen outright from our tax dollars, except to try to bribe businesses to come back to America so he can get credit for that with that outrageous tax plan that gave money to all the people who already had too much money and none of the people who had too little money.

Although the president stokes our fear of attack by gangs and terrorists and lone wolves, he does not seem to stage attacks to keep our fears at their peak.

I think we will all know if we are in imminent danger of becoming the next dictatorship if it takes any of the forms we already recognize, but I also think we could slow-walk our way to a society that appears to resemble the America our founders designed, but is, in actuality not a free and democratic society at all. For some we are already there. Some don’t see the danger at all. For most of us we wait breathlessly to see if we will need to act and when.

This is a view from the cheap seats. Here was a meme that generated lots of discussion on Facebook this week:

Why aren't we marching in the streets - Kenny DeLong on Facebook

Graphic from the Other 98%

 

Know Your Dictators 4

Freedom House 2018 big

I have been writing about dictators recently but I want to take some time out for an overview. In fact two of the nations that I looked into are not yet classified as dictatorships. They still hold marginally valid elections and maintain some order according to their founding documents. They still perceive themselves as free nations, but the world is beginning to see them as less free than they have been in the past. Poland and Hungary are making moves towards authoritarianism. There are a number of online articles on this topic. I summarized a few of them in my series called Know Your Dictators. It is fairly easy to judge for yourself what could happen in these two nations if they continue in their current direction. Venezuela has been on the list of dictatorships for two years.

If you go to the site “planet rulers” you can get a true graphic picture of which nations are still classified as free and which as less than free. The data for this year claims that 49 nations are dictatorships. https://planetrulers.com/current-dictators/

“As of today, there are 49 dictatorships in the world (19 in Sub-Saharan Africa, 12 in the Middle East and North Africa, 8 in Asia-Pacific, 7 in Eurasia 2 in Americas and 1 in Europe). “

There are currently 195 nations in the world. Do the math. Although 75% of nations still meet the Freedom House criteria for being mostly free, that means that 25% of nations are run by dictators. Some countries may move towards freedom and come off the list. The list is not static. Notice that two nations have been added to bring the number to 51.

NOT FREE Countries In 2018:

  1. Afghanistan – Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, President of Afghanistan
  2. Algeria – Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Algeria 
  3. Angola – João Lourenço, President of Angola (since Sept 26, 2017; replaced Jose Eduardo dos Santos)
  4. Azerbaijan – Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan
  5. Bahrain – King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain
  6. Belarus – Aleksandr Lukashenko, President of Belarus
  7. Brunei – Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah
  8. Burundi – Pierre Nkurunziza, President of Burundi
  9. Cambodia – Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia
  10. Cameroon – Paul Biya, President of Cameroon 
  11. Central African Republic – Faustin Archange Touadera
  12. Chad – Idriss Deby, President of Chad
  13. China – Xi Jinping, President of China 
  14. Congo, Dem. Rep. of – Joseph Kabila, President of Congo
  15. Congo, Rep of (Brazzaville) – Denis Sassou Nguesso, President
  16. Cuba – Raul Castro, President of Cuba 
  17. Djibouti – Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, President of Djibouti
  18. Egypt – Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President of Egypt 
  19. Equatorial Guinea – OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO, President
  20. Eritrea – Isaias Afwerki, President of Eritrea 
  21. Ethiopia – Girme Wolde Giorgis, President of Ethiopia
  22. Gabon – Albert-Bernard Bongo, President of Gabon
  23. Gambia – Adama Barrow, President of Gambia
  24. Iran – Hassan Rouhan, President of Iran 
  25. Iraq – Muhammad Fuad Masum, President of Iraq 
  26. Kazakhstan – Nursultan Nazarbaev, President of Kazakhstan
  27. Laos – Bounnhang Vorachith, President (elected on Apr 19, 2016)
  28. Libya – Nouri Abusahmain, President
  29. Mauritania – Mohamed Ould Abd Aziz, President of Mauritania
  30. North Korea – Kim Jong-un, President of North Korea 
  31. Oman – Qaboos bin Said Al-Said, Prime Minister of Oman 
  32. Qatar – Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani
  33. Russia – Vladimir Putin, President of Russia 
  34. Rwanda – Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda 
  35. Saudi Arabia – King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, King of Saudi Arabia 
  36. Somalia – Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, President of Somalia
  37. South Sudan – Salva Kiir Mayardit, President
  38. Sudan – Omar H.A. Al-Bashier, President of Sudan 
  39. Swaziland – Mswati III, King of Swaziland 
  40. Syria – Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria
  41. Tajikistan – Emomalii Rahmon, President of Tadjikistan
  42. Thailand – Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand
  43. Turkey – Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey – ADDED
  44. Turkmenistan – Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW, President of Turkmenistan 
  45. United Arab Emirates – Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  46. Uzbekistan – Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of Uzbekistan 
  47. Venezuela – Nicolás Maduro, President of Venezuela
  48. Vietnam – Tran Dai Quang, President of Vietnam
  49. Western Sahara – Brahim Ghali, President of Western Sahara – ADDED
  50. Yemen – Ali Abdallah Salih, President of Yemen
  51. Zimbabwe – Robert (Gabriel) Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe

This data is collected by an NGO called Freedom House which is described in this way in Wikipedia:

Freedom House is a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) U.S. government-funded non-governmental organization (NGO) that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights. Freedom House was founded in October 1941, and Wendell Willkie and Eleanor Roosevelt served as its first honorary chairpersons.

Freedom House offers a more detailed look at freedom around the world in this graphic:

Freedom in the world Freedom HOuse

https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2018

Expect to see me continue my researches into dictators, although with 49+ strong men around the planet my coverage will not try for any great depth. This is something that I want to keep an eye on because, at this moment, the trend towards authoritarianism is on the upswing; and because I am seeing signs that America, to my astonishment, is also making the kinds of moves that often foreshadow that one person may be insinuating his way into dominance, a dominance that could destroy democracy in our own nation.

You can also find my articles @Tremr.app

Know Your Dictators

jaroslaw-kaczynski_big Super Express

This is the first in a series of articles I call, “Know Your Dictator”.

Poland

Jaroslaw Kaczynski (PiS – Law and Justice Party is the man making the moves in Poland.

A commenter on quora.com– Piotr Szafranski – calls him a “dictator-in-waiting”.

“Much of the difference between authoritarian and liberal democratic in the political system is based on tradition and custom, not hard law,” says Piotr.

He tells us that the PiS has been throwing out tradition and common decency whenever possible.

Civil Service

  1. They abolished the law prohibiting party membership of career civil servants and fired all the current ones (are loyalty tests next?)
  2. Thousands out of jobs
  3. Jobs will be arbitrarily (without exams) given to PiS’s own party members by way of another new law.

Media

Michal who lives in Poland tells us, “On December 14 the chancellery of the Sejm presented a proposal to change the organization of the media in the Parliament (e.g. creating a modern Media Center, a TV studio in the Sejm (the lower house of the Polish Parliament…”

Michal supports these changes, others see it as an attempt by government to control the message in the media.

https://www.quora.com/Has-Poland-become-a-dictatorship-in-2016

After Trump’s visit in July, 2017 authoritarian moves seem to have accelerated says Oskar Gorzynski in the Daily Beast.

Courts

The government decided the country’s supreme court is corrupt and needed to be purged completely.

(Funny how often this happens as countries’ leaders move towards dictatorship.)

“A bill is introduced that will force all the court’s judges to retire and be replaced – and it is pushed through with lightning speed and without regard for procedures.”

(Is Trump leading up to this?)

Back in Poland,

“the amendment, widely considered unconstitutional and yet to be signed by the president Andrzej Duda (PiS) would give the government virtually unrestrained control over the body – and therefore much of the judicial system.

On the same day “a bill was introduced that amounts to a total purge of all 83 judges in the country’s supreme court, giving Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Ziobro, a virtually free rein in appointing their successors.”

[Kaczynski] had a meltdown and accused the parliament of killing his brother. Talking to the other party, the PO party, Zaczynski revealed that all those reforms are not really about reforming society or the state,” says a political scientist to the Daily Beast, “every one of PO’s (liberal Modern party) MP’s will end up in jail.” (Lock her up. – different circumstances, same refrain)

Political Prison

PiS MP Krystyna Pawlowicz says she dreams of re-instituting the old pre-war prison for political prisoners called Bereza Kartuska.

She also says that when they finish with the courts they will go after the journalists.

(It often sounds as if wanna-be dictators have a play book.)

Eliminate Constitutional Safeguards and the System of Checks and Balances

This has already been done in Poland, the Daily Beasttells us, when the PiS Party paralyzed the Constitutional Tribunal and then took it over.

“Two words describe what is happening in Poland right now: It’s a “hybrid dictatorship,” says Migalski to the Daily Beast, “We no longer deal with a liberal democracy, but it is not yet a full-fledged dictatorship like that of Putin’s Russia or Erdogan’s Turkey.”

Plans to Make Next Election Impossible to Lose

“Democracy differs from authoritarianism in that the rules of elections are certain, while the outcome is uncertain. In a dictatorship it is the other way around,” says a former PiS politician.

The thorn in Zaczynski’s side may end up being his colleague, President Andrzej Duda.

(Who is the thorn in Trump’s side?)

Citizen protests have been larger than expected.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-trump-set-poland-on-the-path-to-dictatorship

Karolina Wigura, writing in The Guardianin May, 2018 tells us that, “Despite fears over Law and Justice, Poland is not sliding into dictatorship.”

“Poland is not stuck in its current predicament, it is an evolving scene. It’s obvious that Law and Justice has trampled on the constitution, assaulted the independence of the judiciary, and put pressure on women in ways no other government has dared since 1989. But to draw the conclusion that Poland is inexorably sliding into a new brand of authoritarianism is wrong. It misses the nuances and the behind-the-scenes efforts to seek solutions.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/04/law-and-justice-poland-dictatorship

Even as I write this the activities in Poland concerning their possible decisions to leave the EU (or get kicked out) are sending stocks tumbling.

Delving into another country’s politics without historical context has its limitations. However, relying on the analysis of citizens and writers offers good insight.

Sharknado Live, Death Throes of the Dominant Male

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The sharks are circling all around the world. Are these the final death throes of the dominant male? Have most men evolved so much that there are only a few of these critters in existence? Are they fighting against their inevitable extinction? The list is long. We have Kim Jong un in North Korea, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi with ISIS, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines; all sharks, all circling, all trying to preserve a style of government (male dominated dictatorship) that is becoming increasingly obsolete (and good riddance). Even in America we have Donald Trump who wants to swim with the sharks and has a few dictatorial moves of his own waiting to be implemented right here in the heart of our Democracy.

We have plenty of smaller sharks lurking close to home in the tepid waters of the American Congress, still very much dominated by men, some of them scarily un-evolved, most for some reason lurking around in the GOP. These men have made it clear that they like their women submissive or focused on the next life, waiting for the Rapture. They form all male committees to discuss issues that deeply affect the lives of women and they do not find this the least bit unnatural or sexist.

Are the sharks so nervous at the idea of having a woman as the President of the United States that they feel the need to circle closer and closer trying to unnerve the unlucky first applicant for the position? How long ago did they start working on the various conspiracy theories that they have circulated in order to take big bites out of that first hapless female candidate? Of course, you may argue that the sharks had an easy job of it because the Clintons lived in such a target-rich environment, but at least the Clintons have tried to accomplish good things out in the world, even while they also focused on winning the 2016 election. What have the sharks in suits, who have spent the past 8 years sitting in the US Congress pining for power and whining at the loss of it, done for you lately, or for anyone? They have obstructed, that’s what they have done and it has cost Americans lots of tax dollars and, I’m thinking, a good deal of  potential job growth.