Sunday, January 29, 2017

Foreign Digest: Gambia, Italy, United Kingdom, Turkey

Update: The Defeated Gambian President Has Left Power
            After being defeated in the recent Gambian presidential elections, Gambia’s longtime President, who had refused to accept the results of the election, has left power.  He made the decision after much international pressure was applied, including a military invasion by neighboring Senegal and the forces of the West African regional organization.  The election winner has returned from exile to take power.  It is hoped that Gambia will remain peaceful and will return to representative government and enjoy liberty.

Italy: Upholding Family Values; the Supreme Court Affirms the Election Law
            The European Court of Human Rights ruled Italy did not violate the rights of a couple who claimed parental rights over a child with whom they had no biological ties who was born of a surrogate mother.  The ruling also prevented the recording of the couples’ names as the parents on the child’s birth certificate.  The Court ruled that children have a right to biological parents. 

            The Constitutional Court upheld the parliamentary voting law, except for the runoff provision, maintaining the large bonus of seats in Parliament for any party bloc that received at least 40% of the votes, giving that party a majority, enabling it to form a government.  The law maintains differences between how members of the upper and lower chambers are elected.  Parliament may decide to amend the law before elections are held, which the populist party, who leads in the polls, prefer to be held now, as the law could enable them to attain a parliamentary majority without having to from any coalition government with any other party.  Other major parties prefer to vote in a few months, only after amending the law to reduce the bonus of parliamentary seats for the leading party to necessitate the formation of a coalition government, instead of one led by a party with only a plurality of popular support.

United Kingdom: Updates on the European Union Exit
            The British economy has returned to the level of economic growth the United Kingdom had been enjoying before the referendum in June of last year was approved to leave the European Union, which is contrary to the predictions of supporters of remaining in the EU that the UK’s economy would suffer if the referendum passed.

The British Supreme Court ruled that a parliamentary vote was required to require the withdrawal.  The conservative British Prime Minister has announced plans to negotiate the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. 

Turkey: Updates on the Turkish Government’s Crackdown
            The Supreme Court of Greece has ruled in favor of the asylum requests of eight Turkish servicemen who defected after the failed military coup in Turkey.  The authoritarian Islamist Turkish Government had requested their extradition.  

           An international group of Nobel Prize for Literature winners has written a letter sharply criticizing the Turkish Government for detaining over 100 writers and journalists as political prisoners as part of its post-coup crackdown on all dissent.  Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru is the most famous of the group.

The 44th Annual March for Life

           The 44th Annual March for Life was held in Washington, D.C. on Friday, as it has every year since the 1973 Roe v. Wade United States Supreme Court decision legalized abortion throughout the States.  The march was attended by hundreds of thousands. 

In addition, there were pro-life demonstrations in other American cities, as usual. 

            The theme of this year’s March for Life was “the Power of One,” which emphasized how even one person can change the course of history, such as toward the promotion of the right to life.

            There was some optimism among pro-life activists because of the increase in pro-life majorities in Congress and in most of the States, which reflect public support for greater restrictions on abortion, such as have been enacted by the federal and state governments.  There is hope especially of an overturning of Roe v. Wade.  

However, there is uncertainty as to the pro-life commitment of Donald Trump.  The march was attended by Vice President Mike Pence, a Republican, the first time a Vice President has attended, but media reports that he was the highest-ranking officer of the Administration were misleading, as a vice president is, as President of the Senate, not a member of the Administration.  His appearance was thus only as an unofficial representative of the President.  Past Republican Presidents have addressed the March for Life by audio message, as did Pope Francis.

            Trump’s recent, partial conversion to the pro-life cause is suspect, like that of his other policy position changes, because he lacks credibility, having repeatedly cheated his spouses, business investors and contractors.  Furthermore, he supports crimes against humanity and war crimes, such as the targeted slaughter by Syria and Russia of civilians, including even the deliberate bombing of hospitals—positions that are not consistent with a pro-life ideology.  Even though the March for Life coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump issued an anti-life executive order the same night to exclude selectively refugees, including permanent residents reentering American territory, from certain predominately-Muslim countries from which immigrants and refugees are not relatively a significant threat for terrorism.  President Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, had excluded refugees attempting to flee the Nazi German Holocaust who were subsequently massacred.  Therefore, the pro-life cause, risks being set back by being associated with Trump’s misogyny instead of support for women, with hate, instead of love, and with fascism instead of the most basic liberty of the right to life and the dignity of all human beings, no matter how small.  

           The defense of the right to life has made progress over the decades, but risks disaster with victory in sight.  Supporters of the right to life will have to advance the pro-life cause by emphasizing love and freedom even more than before, instead of being too closely tied to or dependent upon any politician or political party.  

Friday, January 20, 2017

The “Never Trump” Conservative Movement Must Transition to “Resist Trump”

           Although the “Never Trump” movement was not successful in preventing Donald J. Trump from being inaugurated President of the United States of America, it was successful in some respects and remains at the vanguard of liberty and representative government.  Already having been vindicated before Trump is even sworn into office, it is now well-positioned to lead the resistance to authoritarianism and to promote good government.

            The Never Trump efforts afforded an opportunity for principled constitutional conservatives to preserve their honor and integrity by taking a public stand against Trump and to force those who favored him to make a public stand in support of him, as well as to allow many on the center-right who opposed Trump to vote for a principled conservative without having to violate their consciences.  Moreover, the Never Trump movement accomplished two more significant political goals. 

            The first goal the Never Trump movement was successful in achieving was in drawing a clear distinction between Trumpism (i.e. populism, protectionism, nativism/white nationalism, isolationism, authoritarianism) and conservatism.  Related to making this ideological distinction was maintaining consistency between conservative beliefs and practices through adherence to the conservative belief that public servants must be of good character by opposing a candidate who was morally unfit.

            The second political achievement of the Never Trump efforts was to deny Trump a popular mandate.  Most Republicans in the GOP primaries and caucuses did not vote for him, there were an unusually-high number of votes from Convention Delegates for other candidates, a large majority of votes in the General Election were not for the Republican and Trump-Pence Electors and even some of those Electors who were elected either resigned to avoid voting for him or did not vote for him.  This lack of popular support continues to be observable in public opinion polls.  Although poll responses are not nearly as significant as votes, they are important to Trump, a narcissist who craves public adulation, as well as to Republican members of Congress, as Trump’s unpopularity may encourage them to check and balance the Chief Executive to resist autocracy and harmful policies.

            The efforts of Never Trump conservatives did not undermine the legitimacy of the presidential election, which does not require majority support.  It was instead the deception, intimidation and foreign interference that made Trump’s election illegitimate.  The efforts of those on the center-right and others to oppose Trump were partly a reaction against Trump’s personal and political fraud, but would have been justifiable even his election had been legitimate.  The illegitimacy of his presidency only provides validation for the resistance to him, in addition to his lack of qualifications and heterodox policies.

            It is prudent to pray for Trump, to encourage him to make good decisions, to discourage him from making bad ones and to oppose harmful policies.  However, it is necessary to avoid normalizing or legitimizing his illegitimate presidency or his aberrant behaviors and undemocratic policies.  The arguments being made by some conservative and Republicans that everyone should “give him the benefit of the doubt,” “wait and see,” and “give him a chance” sound like the arguments of liberal Democrats who were defending Bill Clinton, but the risks to the Republic are too great.  It is always prudent to oppose bad government and to be vigilant for liberty and representative government, but it is especially necessary under Trump to be vigilant against authoritarianism and its evil daughter, kleptocracy, because the warning signs for both have been abundant.  Furthermore, it is vital to thwart the Russian-fostered coup d’etat that has resulted in the election and inauguration as President of the United States of the Communist Russian Federation’s preferred candidate by denying the Russians the fruit of this unprecedented interference in the election.  It is better to be too vigilant than not to be vigilant enough.  If the Republic is saved, it will have been through deterrence by the resistance to Trump.

            Conservatives should not let down their guard because they may favor some of Trump’s policies.  Indeed, it is easy to overlook authoritarianism while one agrees with the policies of the authoritarian.  It would be wise for conservatives to consider that demagogues do popular things, or at least things that are popular among the targeted audience of their demagogy, and to remember that even tyrants do some good things like making the trains run on time.  Demagogues and tyrants must do these things to maintain popular support, but these things cannot legitimize their autocracy.  Even liberal Democratic Presidents do some good things, either because of sharing universal principles, agreeing with conservatives on particular issues or especially because of being forced to compromise with a conservative Republican-led Legislative Branch. 

Conservatives should also consider that whatever good Trump does could have been accomplished by nominating one of the other leading Republican presidential candidates, who would likely have defeated the liberal Democratic nominee—without having to rely upon deception, intimidation and foreign interference to be elected President.  And conservative policies could have been implemented without authoritarianism.  There is a risk that whatever conservative things an authoritarian Trump does, even if achieved democratically, would later be associated with fascism by the Left and be undone by liberals if they return to power immediately after him.  Therefore, only principled support for any conservative policy from the center-right opposition to him could spare such policies from being thrown out by liberals, along with his usurpations.  Such support from the conservative opposition to Trump would likely be essential for those particular proposals to be approved by Congress. 

As Trump and his supporters dismiss the arguments of the Left, only the principled center-right opposition to Trump can effectively lead the American resistance to authoritarianism.  Support for or opposition to Republican members of Congress from the conservative opposition to Trump would be more effective in encouraging the Legislative Branch, in which they are the majority, to check and balance him, than would opposition from liberal Democrats alone.  It is also imperative that the center-right not concede the resistance to Trump to the Left, lest conservatives be left out of any post-authoritarian governance. 

Conservatives can and must save the Republic by defending liberty and representative government through resistance to Trump’s authoritarian proclivities and by defending American independence through opposition to pro-Russian Federation policies.  In an upcoming post, I shall advise how effectively to resist authoritarianism and kleptocracy.    

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Conservatives Should Not Trust in Safeguards against Authoritarianism If They Are Unwilling to Use Them

           Some conservatives who are focused on those issues with which they believe Donald J. Trump agrees with them are ignoring the warning signs of authoritarianism by rationalizing that he would be held in check by various safeguards after he is sworn into office as the President of the United States.  Such safeguards against authoritarianism are necessary for the protection of liberty, but the political will necessary for their effectiveness has been lacking, even among many conservatives and Republicans.

These conservatives’ trust in moral, ethical, political and even constitutional safeguards is misplaced, not only because Trump respects none of these, but because these safeguards are only effective if those with the authority to hold the Chief Executive accountable are courageous enough to make use of these safeguards.  However, these same conservatives heretofore have opposed every safeguard out of ignorance, expedience, or cowardice.  Now, as I detailed in my last post, there is only one constitutional safeguard remaining before Inauguration Day on January 20, that of Congressional objection on January 6 to the counting of the electoral votes for Trump because of their fraudulent election through deception, intimidation, ballot access denial and foreign influence.

Many conservatives and Republicans who supported Trump, or at least acquiesced to him, opposed a contested Republican Convention or freeing the Convention Delegates to exercise their judgment and to vote their consciences.  They opposed the imposition of requirements such as the disclosure by candidates to release their federal tax returns or to pledge to eliminate the appearance of conflicts of interest by divesting themselves adequately in order to be nominated for President.  The proposal to allow the Delegates to choose the vice presidential nominee themselves was similarly rejected.  After the Convention, these same conservatives and Republicans opposed replacing the presidential nominee and the independent Republican presidential candidacy.  After the General Election for the presidential and vice presidential Electors, they opposed freeing the Electoral College to fulfill its constitutional duty to exercise its best judgment in good conscience. 

Each of these safeguards were dismissed by these conservatives and Republicans who supported Trump, oftentimes as if these safeguards were novel or radical even though several were common practices or at least have been used when necessary.  These protections against populism and demagoguery were opposed on the grounds that they would be anti-democratic, despite the opposition of the Founding Fathers of the Republic and of the Republican Party to democracy precisely because of their fear of populism and demagoguery, the safeguards against which are necessarily anti-democratic.  These safeguards also exist to prevent someone not in agreement with the party from being nominated, someone unfit from being nominated or elected, and from foreign interference from being elected.  They exist also to prevent kind of demagoguery and authoritarianism evident in Trump.  Those of us conservatives and Republicans who courageously spoke out in favor of using these safeguards were insulted or threatened—in a Trump-inspired style of authoritarianism—as illegitimate excuses were made in every case as to why an unfit demagogue with authoritarian proclivities supported by a hostile foreign state should be nominated and elected.

The opposition by conservatives and Republicans to using any of these safeguards—on the grounds they are unnecessary because, once in power, Trump will be held in check by safeguards is unconvincing rationalization and seems contradictory and foolish, for if a presidential candidate cannot be checked, it will be even harder once he has all the powers of the presidency.  Because of partisanship or too much focus on defeating the liberals while allowing the Communist Russian Federation to achieve its goals at the expense of American interests by effectively carrying out a coup d’etat, these conservatives and Republicans will use the same illegitimate excuses then, that holding Trump in check is contrary to the will people who voted for him or advantageous to the Left, etc.—excuses they would rightly reject as contrary to liberty if the liberal Democrats were in office and similarly abusing their power.  Authoritarians and hostile foreign intelligence services use such beliefs and divisions to their advantage in order to advance toward their goals. 

Whatever conservative policies Trump might implement are secondary to the loss of representative government and liberty and that these policies, which could have been implemented by someone else or without authoritarian methods, would afterward be tainted as “fascist” in any post-authoritarian restoration of liberty.

With the warning signs abundant and obvious that Trump intends to govern as an authoritarian and as an asset of the Russian intelligence services, it is vital that conservatives and Republicans avail themselves of every legitimate means of resistance to authoritarianism, including the fail-safe of Congressional objection tomorrow to the counting of Trump’s Electors.  Conservatives and Republicans should unite, not only with other conservatives and Republicans, but all those who recognize the danger, against Russian interference and authoritarianism to avoid regretting their failure to defend the United States and liberty and to avoid ceding the resistance to the Left and, therefore, being left out of sharing in the post-authoritarian governance. 
There are many of us conservatives and Republicans who have held fast to our principles and our numbers are growing as the danger becomes clearer.  Let us make our stand for independence, representative government and liberty for the United States of America, “the last best hope of earth.”

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The United States Congress Should Object to the Votes of Trump-Pence Electors

           The United States Congress should object to the certification of the election of the Republican and Trump-Pence Electors on January 6 when it convenes to count the votes of the Electoral College.

            The Twelfth Amendment grants power to Congress to count the votes, which effectively means the certification of the election of the Electors.  Congress has an implied power, which it has used many times, to object to the election of the Electors.   

There are ample grounds to object to the election of the Republican Electors for Donald J. Trump and Michael Pence for President and Vice President, respectively, such as deception, intimidation and ballot access denial that rendered fraudulent the results of the General Election for Electors on November 8, but the most significant was foreign interference.  In addition, there was bribery and intimidation of the Electors by the Republican Party and the Trump campaign.  Each of these measures alone may have altered the outcome of the election, but collectively have swayed it undoubtedly.

As I have posted previously, the deception came in many forms, such as Trump’s false portrayal of himself as a successful businessman, to his myriad lies, half-truths and false statements.  His campaign and supporters also widely spread fabrications and other false statements favorable to his candidacy and unfavorable to opponents and critics.  In addition to Russian disinformation, which Trump and his supporters eagerly disseminated, there was a massive dissemination of fake news and generated by Trump supporters to his benefit. 

Like the deception, the intimidation also took various forms and was aimed at many targets.  Continuing to the present, those who criticize Trump typically face the threat of lawsuits, public ridicule and professional disadvantage Death threats have become normalized.  The notorious con man is known to employ private investigators, the fear of which the selective Russian hacking and leaking on his behalf only reinforced.  There was not only an unusual degree of physical violence at his rallies, but some critics were even attacked with seizure-inducing means via the Internet.  Many of Trump’s business and sexual assault victims were afraid to speak out or to sue him for fear of legal retaliation and a public backlash.  Reporters were afraid to lose access or, like other commentators, to lose ratings for reporting or expressing the truth.  Other candidates for the Republican nomination were afraid to criticize him or to withhold their endorsements of him after he was nominated.  Many who considered seeking election as independents were similarly intimidated.  GOP Convention Delegates were threatened by Republican officials with political retribution and worse for supporting the Delegates’ freedom to vote their consciences.  Republican members of Congress were afraid to speak out against Trump, let alone withhold their endorsements of him.  The climate of fear created by Trump and his supporters, typical for the rise of an authoritarian, was extraordinary in the history of American presidential elections and carried over to the vote of the Electoral College.

The ballot access denial to independent conservative candidate Evan McMullin, who received nearly 706,000 votes across the Union, despite his name appearing on the ballot in only 11 States, was most noticeable in Florida, where he was nominated by the State’s largest third party, the Florida Independent Party, but removed from the ballot illegally by the office of Florida’s Trump-supporting Governor.  The 29 Trump-Pence Electors won the State by only around 2% of the vote.  As I noted in my last post, nearly 8 million Americans voted for other candidates, while another 2 million skipped the top of the ballot.  These unusually-high numbers suggest many votes would have been cast for other preferred candidates besides the Democratic and Republican nominees in Florida, as elsewhere.  Although the denial of ballot access tainted the election in many States and overall, the best grounds for Congress to object to the election of Electors would be to those of Florida.

The foreign interference in the election is still being investigated fully by the Administration, while Congress is about to being its own investigations.  Because the degree of foreign interference is not fully understood, Congress should conduct its own investigation, as it has in past presidential elections and routinely does for contests for congressional seats, until it is fully informed and can determine either that the interference did sway the outcome of the election, and pursue the appropriate remedy of objecting to the election of Electors who were not duly elected, or that the election results were not swayed, which would restore confidence in the result.  From what is known from various sources, the Russian Federation, led by a hostile, tyrannical Communist KGB agent, not only hacked and leaked information, but engaged in a massive propaganda and disinformation campaign to help elect Trump.  Their hacking of Democratic e-mails and leaking of such information, some of which could have been forged, which is a typical Russian spycraft, was designed particularly to discourage supporters of Bernie Sanders from voting for the Democratic nominee, as well as to embarrass her and her party, but the “active measures,” as the Soviet/Russian KGB calls their technique, of propaganda and disinformation was probably even more significant.  These ranged from overt propaganda from Russian state media to the dissemination of propaganda and lies through anonymous Russian social media account-holders posing as Americans opposed to the Democratic nominee or supporting Trump.  These accounts, the number of which also made Trump seem much more popular than he was, helped spread quickly any information favorable to Trump and unfavorable to his opponents and critics, whether true or not.  Although it is unlikely the Russians, who did hack several state election offices, were successful in hacking voting machines, an audit of the paper records of those machines that produce paper records should prove or disprove this theory.  Regardless, the Russians effectively will have pulled off a coup d’etat against the U.S. by helping to elect their preferred candidate, unless Congress exercises its constitutional authority.

Despite the deception, intimidation, ballot access denial and foreign interference, Trump barely succeeded in electing a majority of Electors.  If the Electoral College were to have fulfilled its constitutional duty to exercise its best judgment in good conscience to avoid the election of someone unfit, demagogic and under foreign interference, Trump would not have received a majority of the votes of that body.  The Republican Party felt compelled to bribe some of the Electors with dinners while the GOP and the Trump campaign intimidated the others with threats of political retribution, while Trump supporters threatened violence against the one Republican Elector who courageously announced beforehand his intention not to vote for Trump.  Two other GOP Electors who could not vote for Trump in good conscience were pressured to resign. 

If Congress objects to the election of Trump’s electoral votes until it can conduct a full investigation, at least from the closest States, where the outcome was surely swayed by deception, intimidation, ballot access denial and foreign interference, no candidate would have a majority of the electoral votes.  Then, the House of Representatives, voting by state delegation, may choose from the three candidates who received the most electoral votes.  As a compromise, they may elect Colin Powell, as he received the third most electoral votes.  If there is still no majority for any candidate by January 20, (Inauguration Day), then the current Vice President shall act as President until a majority is attained.  

Congressional objection to Trump’s electoral votes would be the last constitutional safeguard before Inauguration Day against an authoritarian foreign agent taking office as the President of the United States of America.