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Tag: liberal

Asking Trump Voters, Does Truthfulness Matter?

This piece will be appearing in newspapers in my conservative congressional district (VA-06). ***************** Liberals are debating how to understand the millions of Americans who voted for Trump. Since many of us see Trump – putting aside the usual liberal/conservative issues – as having demonstrated clearly that he is a dangerously defective person, it seems important to understand what his supporters did or didn’t see about him, or did or didn’t care about. So while one concern is whether a Trump presidency will be as disastrous for America as we fear, the other big worry concerns the millions of our fellow citizens who supported Trump. What do their votes tell us about them? One question centers on bigotry. Clearly, Trump expressed bigotry in a way we haven’t heard at center stage of American politics in more than half a century. People are debating: for how many was Trump’s expression of bigotry part of his appeal? And how many supported him in spite of the bigotry? My biggest concern lies elsewhere. I’m wondering: Is truthfulness something Trump voters care about? A propos of which, let me ask you: Was the election rigged against Trump? On those many occasions that Mr. Trump made that accusation, did you believe him? Did…

The Final Solution:The Sunny Side of a Republican Controlled Congress

If those who wanted Hillary to win had gotten what they wished for, they would have simply gone back to everyday life, with its petty insults, snubs and petty defeats. Now they are bonded together against the threat to all the things they hold dear whether it be the Supreme Court, the dream of universal health care, subsidized college education or globalization. So there’s good in the bad. One door closes and another opens. The glass may have been emptied, but it’s still half full. There’s a sunny side of the street that occurs when you share a struggle with somebody. Soldiers in the trenches all have one thing in common: the adversary. Talk to anyone who attends AA meetings. People have their differences but they’re united in one cause which transcends all their other woes, the desire to stop drinking. “Our primary purpose it to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety,” reads the AA preamble. So now that the initial shock has passed and Democrats face the depressing reality of a Republican controlled congress and executive, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and that rests in the prospect of comradery with fellow sufferers. Instead of hatred and frustration why not enjoy the strength that can come in unity? It’s one of the reasons people like to congregate at houses of worship, whether they be temples, churches, mosques or simply sports stadiums or concert venues. “So, let the sun shine in, face it with a grin” or just mediate.

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy’s blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}

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Wednesday’s Morning Email: Trump Announces He’s Completely Stepping Away From His Company


TRUMP ANNOUNCES HE’S OFFICIALLY STEPPING AWAY FROM HIS COMPANY Turns out being the president is a full-time job. [Reuters]

INSIDE DONALD TRUMP’S PICKS FOR COMMERCE AND TREASURY Trump is going with hedge fund titan Wilbur Ross for Commerce Secretary and second-generation Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary. And the internet cannot get enough of the awkward photo of Trump and Mitt Romney at dinner Tuesday night talking about that potential, ever-elusive secretary of state job. [Ben Walsh, HuffPost]

TENNESSEE FIRES GLIMPSE INTO ‘VISION OF HELL’ The photos andvideo of the massive wildfire that has killed three and ravaged Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are unbelievable. [Ed Mazza and Hayley Miller, HuffPost]

ISLAMIC STATE: OSU ATTACKER WAS A ‘SOLDIER’ The terrorist group’s statement does not indicate that Ohio State University student Abdul Razak Ali Artan was directly in contact with the group. [USA Today]

‘CONGRESS IS ABOUT TO PASS A BILL THAT SHOWS CONGRESS AT ITS WORST ― AND MAY FIX THE OPIOD CRISIS AND CURE CANCER’ “The 21st Century Cures Act has some incredible upsides to go along with a shady underbelly. There’s a reason lawmakers both love and hate it.” [Sam Stein, Matt Fuller and Ryan Grim, HuffPost]

NORTH KOREAN PRISON CAMPS APPEAR TO BE EXPANDING The gulags, which North Korea denies exist and have been compared to Nazi concentration camps, appear to be growing. [CNN]

LOOKS LIKE THE DRAFT WON’T BE EXPANDED TO INCLUDE WOMEN AFTER ALL The issue is being sent back to perpetual limbo ― Congress has commissioned a study. [Jenifer Bendery, HuffPost]

A HISTORY OF SPORTS TEAMS’ HORRIFIC PLANE CRASHES The crash Tuesday that killed almost the entire Chapecoense Brazilian soccer team is one of many that has wiped out whole athletic teams. [NYT]


THE END OF REDDIT? “Reddit, in its goal to be a laissez-faire haven of (relatively) free expression, has been overrun by nationalist trolls. Its staff of volunteer moderators is losing hope in the site’s future.” [Gizmodo]

WE LOVE THIS YEAR’S PIRELLI CALENDAR And its “feminist flair” photographs featuring top actresses of all ages without makeup.  [HuffPost]

‘HOW I ENDED UP IN A PYSCH WARD ON ELECTION NIGHT’ A Hillary Clinton supporter talks about his nervous breakdown. [HuffPost]

BECAUSE LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA KNOWS NO BOUNDS He’s now developing a fantasy series about a wizard with the talent for magic andmusic. [Vulture]

‘KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS’ WON’T STOP FILMING AFTER ALL Previous reports stated production had been halted in light of Kanye West’s hospitalization. [HuffPost]

TALK ABOUT A MASTER CLASS Tom Hanks and Viola Davis open up about their craft. [Variety


~ There have been 900 hate incidents since Trump was elected president.

~ This is not an Onion headline: Two grandmas ended up in a shootoutafter arguing in a Texas Walmart parking lot.

~ Anderson Cooper’s takedown of Trump’s latest Twitter freakout is life. And The New York Times addresses the “quandary” of a Tweeter-in-Chief.

~ This is what a whale looks like in the Hudson River. Yes, this actually happened.

~ Congrats to Amanda Seyfried, who is expecting her first child with fiancé Thomas Sadowski. 

~ Ivanka Trump’s lemonade stand had a bit of a different clientele than yours did. 

~ We are vaguely creeped out by the passage of time (and you know, our own mortality) watching this gif of President Barack Obama aging.

~ This year’s top Oscar contenders talk their toughest scenes.

~ We love that these newlyweds made the best of being stuck in traffic on the way to their reception by having their first dance on the highway

~ Could “Moonlight” win all of the Oscars?

~ This is what it looks like to rock your 117th birthday.

~ And you thought your holiday decorations were snazzy? Check out the Obamas’ final Christmas decor in the White House.



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Kazakhstan jails activists, plans a Great Firewall to stifle online dissent

Protests in April and May galvanised the government to crack down on dissent. Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

Nurseit Niyazbekov, KIMEP University

In Kazakhstan, the power of citizens to resist authoritarianism has been dealt a significant blow. On November 28, two major Kazakh land activists, Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanboth, were sentenced to five years in prison on charges of organising unsanctioned protests and inciting social discord.

Bakoyev and Talgat were arrested following large-scale land protests in the country in April and May. Normally very cautious, in this instance, the regime failed to spot the potential threat of online activism in time, and therefore let protests unfold.

The jailing of the two men shows the government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev well understands that it can no longer underestimate the power of new forms of civic activism.

The growth of online activism

The Central Asian authoritarian state has not tolerated political opposition for years. It jails journalists, frequently violates citizens’ civil liberties and stifles every other form of liberal democracy.

The Kazakh people often watch the regime get away with this behaviour, partly because they enjoy the status quo, and partly because they feel powerless to affect politics.

But beneath the surface, a new era of civic activism has been growing since 2010, coming to fruition in the land protests of April 2016.

Developments in technology, increasing access to the internet, and the growing popularity of social media equipped Kazakh civil society groups with tools to even out the battle against an overly centralised and corrupt government.

Long gone are the days when there were a handful of civic activists in the republic; no longer is there a minority of people who use the internet only for entertainment purposes. Political apathy has been rapidly waning and being replaced with political cynicism.

Nowadays, you do not have to be affiliated with any organisation or social movement to defend your rights to freedom of information, protection of environment or access to public health. A computer with internet access and a social media account is enough for raising public awareness, articulating interests, and mobilising discontent.

People are more aware of the government’s limitations, and their own lack of rights. One recent survey showed that the majority of people in Kazakhstan evaluate the government’s fight against corruption as poor. Another survey among young people indicated that more than 60% of respondents do not believe in their own ability to influence power.

All of these developments mean that more and more people have become engaged in politics through signing online petitions or participating in protests. An anti-pension reform movement in 2013 involved all of these forms of political participation and mobilised masses that were previously politically alienated.

Political memes have also boomed in Kazakhstan, making politics more accessible to ordinary people. The pension reform protests gave birth to numerous memes showing that government did not have a valid reason to increase women’s pension age from 58 to 63. These memes went viral and pension reform became the most discussed issue of the day.

– ‘Why does my grandma have to work until the age of 63?’ – ‘Because, boy, because …’

Land-reform protesters blaze a trail

The success of this new form of activism was never clearer than in the wave of protests that hit Kazakhstan’s cities and towns in April and May 2016, and which have now landed two organisers in jail.

Protesters were concerned that amendments to the land code would let foreigners, particularly Chinese businesses, rent agricultural land for 25 years. Many perceived this as a threat to national sovereignty. Alarmed that the situation could get out of control as it did during the 2011 Zhanaozen oil-workers’ protests, the president intervened and announced a moratorium on land reform.

The government sent this message in May, informing the population that land code amendments had been put on hold.

Protest mobilisation began online and significantly benefited from WhatsApp. The use of mobile phones for civic activism expanded the movement’s support base by directly appealing to individual users. It’s telling also that the government announced its u-turn on the land reform policy by texting citizens directly.

The land reform protests were unprecedented in scale, taking place simultaneously in several cities, an unusual feature of demonstrations in Kazakhstan.

Ultimately, civil society celebrated a major victory when authorities officially responded by changing the policy, a very rare occurrence in Kazakh politics. Even the arrested activists admit that the protest campaign was successful in making people’s voices heard.

The regime strikes back

But this new online movement could be under serious threat.

A set of amendments to the country’s media legislation in 2012 and criminal code in 2014 has already put severe restrictions on material posted on social media and blogs.

The publication of materials libelling the president and his family members, and materials that could cause inter-ethnic and social discord are strictly forbidden. As a result arrests and prosecutions of bloggers and online activists have become the norm.

Now, following the land reform protests, the government has been devising new legislative and technological barriers to “clean” the Kazakh internet. The Ministry of Development and Innovation is planning to launch a Great Firewall (named after China’s Great Firewall) that will allow national law enforcement to monitor and block all internet traffic on desktop and mobile devices.

If these plans materialise, Kazakh internet users will not be able to access websites such as Facebook and Google.

On the other side, the government has established a new Ministry of Information and Communications, with the novel responsibility of informing society of state policies.

Kazakh authorities have gone online, creating accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Almaty City’s Instagram account tries to connect with its constituency by responding to citizens’ concerns and demands. Meanwhile, activists are under threat of jail for using these same platforms.

The cycle continues

Ultimately, it was a no-brainer for the Kazakh regime to sentence Bokayev and Ayan.

The government needed to save face after a humiliating defeat in passing the land code amendments. And the prosecution of activists is supposed to send a message to others that the authorities have no intention of opening up the political system.

With its Great Firewall initiative, the regime is only getting more serious about eliminating new forms of activism.

Supporters of jailed activists intend to protest the court’s verdict. But activists have not yet elaborated a strategy for coping with the Great Firewall. As usual in Kazakhstan, the cycle of protest and repression continues.

The Conversation

Nurseit Niyazbekov, Assistant professor, KIMEP University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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We Can’t Afford to Ignore Donald Trump’s Tweets

One important, if meta, story that has arisen since the election of Donald J. Trump is this one: How should the media cover the soon-to-be president in an era when neither truth nor shame hold any sway? A few indispensable pieces by James Fallows (“The news media are not built for someone like this“) and Jack Shafer (“Think three steps ahead of Trump! Improvise! We need to play our best game, not his”) show that, unless we figure this mess out swiftly, journalists—and more importantly, the American people—will continue to be played by Trump.