Posts Tagged ‘Authoritarianism’

And The Creep Goes On

April 12, 2020

Man-made climate change is not news. The scientific community has been studying it and notifying the world about it for nearly a half century. Geologists label the current era as the Anthropocene to designate the effects of man on the environment. Geologists talk in terms of large periods of time, with sudden occurrence evidencing change being rare (volcano, meteorite strike, etc.). The change within “climate change” is slow and, for the most part, barely noticeable. Referencing historic records, natural records (ice cores, etc.), and statistical data makes the change jump out and allow for projections. Analogous change takes place when a democracy slides into authoritarianism though there are no records or statistical data to reveal the movement. Any history is always the history of current time being made (news). The change taking place is likewise so slow as to be barely noticeable. In the US the current national conversation on mail-in voting gives a stark illustration of the authoritarian creep taking place within America today. Free market capitalism frames the debate as a competition, a partisan “free choice.” Nothing could be more obfuscating. In Ohio, as in other states, the dominant GOP has relied on mail-in voting as the “compromise” to the Dems demand for early voting, wide spread polling places, Sunday voting, and same day registration/voting. The authoritarian creep comes to the fore when what actually occurs is considered, not the rhetorical cover meant to obfuscate the factual change. In the past week’s propaganda briefings, Dear Leader has reiterated his opposition and disdain for mail in voting, returning to the voter fraud mantra that his earlier administration’s defunct, disbanded and discredited voter fraud commission could not reveal (but like the Emperor’s clothes, the Emperor is sure it is there). “The president fiercely criticized mail-in voting as “horrible” and “corrupt” during the White House coronavirus task force’s daily news conference Tuesday [4-7-20], but also conceded that he voted by mail in Florida’s primary last month. Trump offered no legitimate explanation for the discrepancy between his position on mail-in voting and his personal voting habits, but insisted “there’s a big difference between somebody that’s out of state and does a ballot, and everything’s sealed, certified and everything else.” In other instances of mail-in voting, however, “you get thousands and thousands of people sitting in somebody’s living room, signing ballots all over the place,” Trump claimed. “You look at what they do, where they grab thousands of mail-in ballots, and they dump it. I’ll tell you what — and I don’t have to tell you, you can look at the statistics — there’s a lot of dishonesty going along with mail-in voting, mail-in ballots,” he continued, adding: “I think if you vote, you should go.”” (Trump: GOP should fight mail-in voting because it ‘doesn’t work out well for Republicans’, Quint Forgey, Politico, 4-8-20). How is one to grasp such a contradiction (especially in light of the same Dear Leader advocating Americans wear masks but he himself will not)? White House rejects bailout for Postal Service battered by coronavirus by Jacob Bogage for the Washington Post contributes more factual evidence of authoritarian activism. “Trump threatened to veto the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or Cares, Act if the legislation contained any money to directly bail out the postal agency, according to a senior Trump Administration official and a congressional official. “We told them very clearly that the president was not going to sign the bill if [money for the Postal Service] was in it,” the Trump Administration official said. “I don’t know if we used the v-bomb but the president was not going to sign it, and we told them that.”” Funding would run out by the end of spring without a loan provision included in the CARES Act. “Without the loan, which still has not been approved by the Treasury Department, USPS would be “financially illiquid,” by Sept. 30, according to estimates provided to lawmakers.” “And while the Trump Administration and Mnuchin pushed through private-sector bailouts in the Cares Act — $350 billion to the Small Business Administration loan program, $29 billion to passenger airlines and air cargo carriers, and economic incentives for the construction, energy and life sciences industries, among others — Mnuchin has signaled any postal relief funds in a “Phase IV” stimulus package currently under negotiation would amount to a poison pill.” Nothing would benefit Dear Leader’s authoritarian aspiration better than privatizing the USPS (particularly during the start up of the fall Presidential balloting). Akin to the demise of net neutrality, various “competing” mail delivery services would make for all the more reasons to invalidate a mailed in vote (limited service, hierarchical pricing,  uncommitted and insecure service, etc.). Though not privatized, the recent primary election in Wisconsin gave clear evidence to what patchwork requirements and deadline commitments result in. Analysis finds further evidence of authoritarian creep when the Republican Governor of Ohio shut down the March 17 primary and was challenged by the Democrats  over the legality of his move, the Trump appointed SCOTUS refused to hear it and let Mike Dewine have his way. When the Democratic Governor of Wisconsin opted to do the same, the SCOTUS deigned to consider the Republican challenge and voted 5-4 to allow the election to proceed. Oho is left with a pretend election at the end of April (all mail-in balloting). To vote in said pretend election requires multiple mail-in documentation hoops to jump through. The actual ballot itself is rife with opportunities of invalidation on grounds the envelope was not sealed properly, enough information/verification was not or incorrectly provided, lacking correct postage, etc. Like the hanging chad election outcome in the 2000 SCOTUS decided presidential race, there is ample grounds for ambiguous interpretation of outcome. In short, mail-in voting offers no panacea for the future of Democracy in America. It does, however, open a window on the continuous creep of authoritarianism within the current workings of the established, two party reliant system.

 

The Wartime President

March 22, 2020

Anyone tuning in to catch the evening news Sunday, March 22, 2020, couldn’t help but view the latest episode of The Wartime President. Analysis isn’t interested in critiquing this episode, or the show itself. However, granted that The Wartime President usually airs daily around noon, it was quite curious that the Sunday edition entirely displaced the evening news so precisely, same time, all channels. In these days of self-isolation, the evening news is one of the view real time connections left on television (everything online is always available as now but rarely real time). The Wartime President show is complete political kabuki, all the way down to its “spontaneous” press conference incorporated to look genuinely informative. Analysis finds that in addition to the immense propaganda value of fabricating creation myths and rewriting history to serve the purpose of the Committee to Re-Elect the President, the show itself gives added value in uniquely powerful ways. Not only does it “make” itself the news but it gives the incumbent candidate for President free prime time air play. Sunday’s episode of The Wartime President had not a single commercial break for over an hour! The entire thing could compete with a paid for TV product infomercial. Where was Anthony Fauci? Short of mobilizing the War Powers Act, it likewise effectively took over complete control of all the nation’s Television News outlets. It determined what the nightly news would be, and how it would be presented. Analysis fears this may become a regular nightly show placing the nation’s media outlets on notice that they either displace their regular nightly news for the Dear Leader or face the consequences of being ostracized for failing to inform their viewers about what will keep them safe, officially, in this time of war. Analysis (along with multiple other critical thinkers) has cited Arendt’s admonition of an authoritarian regime’s need for a state of war to underwrite its legitimacy. Though brought to you by the same folks who gave us The Apprentice, the production of The Wartime President is a reality show that implicates an ongoing and tacitly accepted state of war.

Knowledge, Preoccupations, And Distractions

August 6, 2019

We all know what the news headlines have been and currently are. Indeed, the saturation point on “the news” must have been reached. The news has again become “the news” (a curious twist of vulture capitalism where the system feeds upon itself!). USA Today headlined: ‘Unbelievable’: New York Times slammed for front page headline after Donald Trump speech (Jordan Culver, 8-6-19). The furor regards the headline (“Trump urges unity vs. racism.”) deceptively portraying the president’s response to tragedy without noting his own implication in the violence (“Very fine people on both sides”). Or at least that is what outrages the critics. The headline gave a synopsis of what occurred (the President’s post massacre address). Isn’t that the stuff of newspapers and the media? The critics insist on context (What implicates Donald Trump in the killings while cloaked in official immunity). The context of this news story being “the news” is likewise not given. 8-5-19 The Wall Street Journal (amongst others) reported: GateHouse Media Parent to Buy Gannett for $1.4 Billion Deal combines largest owner of U.S. newspapers by titles and the largest newspaper group by circulation (Cara Lombardo, Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg). Who’s their competition? Who’s the competition in Ohio? Gatehouse will now control just about ALL the local news services in Ohio, including Newark and Columbus (Gatehouse already owns The Dispatch while Gannett owns the Newark Advocate and papers in surrounding towns). Monopoly will dictate where we pay attention (i.e., on the NY Times’ headline). Already there is no local “office” of Newark’s only local news service. Now all editorial decisions re: content and layout will ultimately be located outside the community ostensibly covered. Benjamin Lanka may be “the editor” of The Newark Advocate. Readers can’t help but notice how many stories have his name in the byline as the reporter. Too much time on his hands? Justifying the management paycheck? Analysis finds that when it comes to big services, big news items, readers and subscribers of Gatehouse publications will be more than adequately served. As we see with the Murdoch family’s Fox News (and News Corp which includes Wall Street Journal), the product and service will be supplied with priority given to brand over content. Analysis shows the local will become fluff, filler (Newark is a top Ohio hometown, Newark is addressing what civic leaders deem to be problems, the need for more development, etc.). Just as there are no longer any local phone calls (all require an area code designation), so there will no longer be any local news, local investigative reporting, local interest stories, unless it will tie in with the corporate brand emphasis. The reporting will no longer go where the story takes us but where the brand requires us to be. Analysis finds this to further indicate the encroachment of authoritarianism in a culture with a history of democracy. Hong Kong isn’t an island of enlightenment. In a Democracy, the local authorizes the city, state or nation. In an authoritarian nation, state or city, the authorities determine the local, what it should think, believe and focus on, what it should know. News media monopolies evidence that trend.

Reruns

October 9, 2018

We’ve all seen this movie before, at least once. Casino gambling is legal in Ohio because of an initiative that finally succeeded, after many variations were defeated. It is ensconced in the Ohio Constitution. OMG, say it ain’t so. With the run up to every election (prior to each attempt’s defeat, as well as ultimate success), the line up of usual suspects was paraded out saying how unnecessary the initiative is, and that it is more appropriate for the legislature to handle this, and not enshrine it in the state’s constitution. Ditto for gerrymandering state legislative districts and medical marijuana. Remember the great lines from that much anticipated block buster – how the legislature would take care of it? And they did, back in September of 2016. Who could forget the scene from the thriller, House Bill 523 (the medical marijuana “fix”), and the unforgettable line from the script – “Requires the system to be fully operational by September 2018.” Such a tear jerker (September 2018 has come and gone and still no system, let alone operation). And who doesn’t remember that year’s classic comedy hit – “Newark voters approved decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana Tuesday, but Newark officials said they will not follow the new city law.” And Newark law Director Doug Sassen’s side splitting one liner — “The passage of this initiative really isn’t going to change anything in the manner in which we prosecute possession of marijuana,” (Newark to ignore newly passed pot decriminalization Maria DeVito, The Newark Advocate, 11-11-16)  Ah, citizen initiatives, ya gotta luv ‘em. Then there was the dark knight suspense drama from that same season. At a Newark Think Tank “meet the candidates” citizen “job” interview (10-8-16) “Mr. Hayes is not keen on the Newark PD program in that, as prosecutor, he stresses following the letter of the law. He would like to see any drug protocol changes across the board so that one municipality is not arresting a suspect that another municipality would be referring for treatment.” (Licking County Prosecutor Race, This blog, 10-11-16). The trailer for that hit came out at the end of August at the FED UP rally where the Newark Police Department enthusiastically touted their NARI initiative. Initiatives are sooo cool if promoted by the proper authorities. Sigh. The current batch of remakes headlines County officials united in strong opposition to Issue I (Craig McDonald , The Newark Advocate, 10-8-18). The previously experienced line up of usual suspects appeared with stirring scenes like “As earlier reported, in part, State Issue 1 would eliminate prison sentences for possessing or using smaller amounts of drugs, making the offenses misdemeanors rather than fourth- or fifth-degree felonies. It would also allow people previously convicted of these crimes to petition to have their charges reclassified as misdemeanors. It calls for the state to use the money saved by sending fewer people to prison on increasing drug treatment.” “Hayes said while the Issue is being pitched as one of concern and support for those struggling with substance addiction and local agencies struggling with overcrowded jails, as written, Issue 1 would instead unleash a flurry of perhaps unintended consequences which would hobble law enforcement and upend local court dockets and procedures.” Definitely a contender for best actor in this years rerun would go to Prosecutor Hayes for his heart wrenching ““If this becomes law, it is in stone unless there is a new constitutional amendment,” Prosecutor Hayes said. “The unintended consequences of Issue 1 are pretty incredible,” Hayes continued. “If this passes, all possession felonies would become misdemeanors. The result of that shift in scale would flood municipal courts,” he said. Issue 1 would also effectively nullify the ability for courts to enforce probation unless a person committed some new crime [Gasp!], Hayes said. “If Issue 1 passes, we will have about 10,000 felons released from prison,” Hayes said, because those currently incarcerated would be able to petition for 25 percent reductions in their current prison terms.” Best supporting actor must go to Lt. Paul Cortright of Licking County Sheriff’s Department’s Code Task Force and Enforcement for his original “Cortright said that the state legislature is already taking its own steps and new laws are coming in the near term aimed at easing criminal consequences for low level offenders to ease prison population concerns and further help with offender substance use recovery.” Don’t mess with our authority seems to be one of this country’s most successful genres. Analysis finds citizens never tire of the remakes. Or perhaps they lack the initiative to try something different.