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Posts tagged “Donald Trump

Biden ou Trump?

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Antes de abordar a questão é necessário dizer algo sobre as particularidades do sistema político e eleitoral norte-americano.

Primeiro, não é possível fazer uma transposição directa entre o que os norte-americanos e o que os europeus, no caso os portugueses, entendem por liberal. Os contextos culturais e históricos são distintos e, mesmo a nível académico, o sentido norte-americano da palavra “liberal” não tem nada que ver com o habitualmente entendido na Europa.

Segundo, se um português disser que votará sempre republicano ou democrata, independentemente do Estado e do candidato (quer seja para um senador, quer seja para um congressista) está, na minha opinião, a dar um sinal de desconhecimento dos condicionalismos inerentes ao sistema político norte-americano. Contudo, a polarização e até a cegueira ideológica não é um fenómeno exclusivo da política norte-americana. Curiosamente, tendo em mente os pressupostos atrás referidos, há uns tempos fiz um pequeno exercício e, na maioria dos casos, votaria republicano. Porém, as eleições presidenciais, até pelas suas características (um poder federal exercício por uma pessoa), são diferentes.

Terceiro, as escolhas não dependem apenas de motivos racionais. Aliás, na maioria das vezes, resultam de decisões emocionais, sendo a preferência e a simpatia – baseada na percepção que cada um tem relativamente às características e crenças dos candidatos – determinante para a escolha. E, não surpreendentemente, muitas decisões são tomadas no momento.

Expressos estes pontos, para responder a esta questão é necessário tentar estabelecer alguns paralelismos nas dimensões política, económica e social, assumindo, para além da democracia e do Estado de Direito, limites ao poder do Estado, economia de mercado e direitos individuais inalienáveis. Entre Biden e Trump existem pontos em comum. Nem um, nem o outro, defendem a abolição do regime democrático ou o fim do Estado de Direito, e ambos, embora em pontos distintos, defendem limitação ao poder do Estado. Assim, as diferenciações principais encontram-se nas restantes vertentes. Por exemplo, os republicanos defendem um Estado menor e menos impostos, mas também defendem a limitação da escolha individual em questões como o aborto. O proteccionismo e a guerra comercial com a China é um factor de diferenciação face a Biden. E os subsídios que Trump dá aos agricultores norte-americanos também é um factor a ter em mente.

Ora, não posso ignorar que no panorama político norte-americano, Trump é uma excepção. Foi eleito sem qualquer experiência política e militar. Não é difícil perceber o porquê? Representava alguém que, apesar do narcisismo e egocentrismo que o caracteriza, vinha de fora do sistema. Podem dizer que passados quatro anos, as características e crenças pessoais do Trump já são conhecidas e, como tal, estão validadas. Não concordo. Principalmente quando a falta de humildade continua a ser evidente. Porém, penso que é indiscutível que o Trump – que considero que nem sequer é um RINO (Republican In Name Only) – foi coerente com a políticas tradicionalmente conotadas com o partido republicano. Contudo, também demonstrou decisões com as quais não podia estar mais em desacordo. Privilegiou o poder executivo em detrimento do poder legislativo, como se aquele fosse suficiente por si só. Questionou as decisões dos tribunais que não lhe foram favoráveis, levantou suspeitas e insinuações sobre tudo o que não lhe agrada e promoveu o nepotismo.

Como liberal, defendo a meritocracia. Assim, reprovo a prática do nepotismo. Considerando que é inaceitável o que os socialistas fazem, posso aceitar que Trump faça o mesmo? Por outras palavras, é aceitável criticar o nepotismo da esquerda e apoiar o nepotismo da direita? Poderão dizer-me que o Trump quer pessoas à sua volta em quem possa confiar. É compreensível. Porém, é precisamente esse o argumento que os socialistas apresentam para justificar as nomeações que fazem. Ainda me recordo do Almeida Santos a utilizar o argumento da confiança.

Poderão dizer-me que os democratas têm a mesma prática. Aceito. Mas a prática que é questionável nos outros é justificável quando é praticada por nós? Para mim, não. Da mesma forma que condeno o nepotismo dos democratas, condeno o nepotismo dos republicanos. E da mesma forma que condeno o nepotismo dos socialistas portugueses, condenarei o nepotismo dos liberais portugueses. Não é possível que o Trump só confie na sua família. Para além disso, tantos membros da família na Casa Branca, ainda por cima em posições chave, alimentam suspeitas de procura de benefícios em negócios privados.

Para mim, o que está em causa é um princípio. E dentro dos limites da minha capacidade de análise e postura individual, não estou disponível para prescindir dos meus princípios. Não há liberdade sem responsabilidade. Não há responsabilidade sem coerência.

Assim, argumentar que um liberal deve votar Trump, ou Biden, é uma falácia. Não há razões objectivas para tal e a escolha está basicamente dependente da preferência individual. Eu, como liberal, não encontro razões para votar em nenhum dos dois. Claro que, no limite, existe sempre a possibilidade do voto por exclusão.

Se tivesse de votar entre o Biden e o Trump, só tomaria a decisão no momento. Virgílio, o poeta latino, tinha razão: “(…) raramente sabemos do que somos capazes até nos depararmos com as situações”.

P.S. – Expressei apenas a minha opinião. Respeito opiniões diferentes. Discutir preferências e gostos é algo interminável. Não existem gostos melhores do que os outros. E foi precisamente o Supremo Tribunal de Justiça norte-americano que melhor se pronunciou sobre esse assunto.


The Coronavirus Could Reshape Global Order

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China Is Maneuvering for International Leadership as the United States Falters
By Kurt M. Campbell and Rush Doshi, March 18, 2020

With hundreds of millions of people now isolating themselves around the world, the novel coronavirus pandemic has become a truly global event. And while its geopolitical implications should be considered secondary to matters of health and safety, those implications may, in the long term, prove just as consequential—especially when it comes to the United States’ global position. Global orders have a tendency to change gradually at first and then all at once. In 1956, a botched intervention in the Suez laid bare the decay in British power and marked the end of the United Kingdom’s reign as a global power. Today, U.S. policymakers should recognize that if the United States does not rise to meet the moment, the coronavirus pandemic could mark another “Suez moment.”

It is now clear to all but the most blinkered partisans that Washington has botched its initial response. Missteps by key institutions, from the White House and the Department of Homeland Security to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have undermined confidence in the capacity and competence of U.S. governance. Public statements by President Donald Trump, whether Oval Office addresses or early-morning tweets, have largely served to sow confusion and spread uncertainty. Both public and private sectors have proved ill-prepared to produce and distribute the tools necessary for testing and response. And internationally, the pandemic has amplified Trump’s instincts to go it alone and exposed just how unprepared Washington is to lead a global response.

The status of the United States as a global leader over the past seven decades has been built not just on wealth and power but also, and just as important, on the legitimacy that flows from the United States’ domestic governance, provision of global public goods, and ability and willingness to muster and coordinate a global response to crises. The coronavirus pandemic is testing all three elements of U.S. leadership. So far, Washington is failing the test.

As Washington falters, Beijing is moving quickly and adeptly to take advantage of the opening created by U.S. mistakes, filling the vacuum to position itself as the global leader in pandemic response. It is working to tout its own system, provide material assistance to other countries, and even organize other governments. The sheer chutzpah of China’s move is hard to overstate. After all, it was Beijing’s own missteps—especially its efforts at first to cover up the severity and spread of the outbreak—that helped create the very crisis now afflicting much of the world. Yet Beijing understands that if it is seen as leading, and Washington is seen as unable or unwilling to do so, this perception could fundamentally alter the United States’ position in global politics and the contest for leadership in the twenty-first century.

MISTAKES WERE MADE

In the immediate aftermath of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease now referred to as COVID-19, the missteps of Chinese leaders cast a pall on their country’s global standing. The virus was first detected in November 2019 in the city of Wuhan, but officials didn’t disclose it for months and even punished the doctors who first reported it, squandering precious time and delaying by at least five weeks measures that would educate the public, halt travel, and enable widespread testing. Even as the full scale of the crisis emerged, Beijing tightly controlled information, shunned assistance from the CDC, limited World Health Organization travel to Wuhan, likely undercounted infections and deaths, and repeatedly altered the criteria for registering new COVID-19 cases—perhaps in a deliberate effort to manipulate the official number of cases.

As the crisis worsened through January and February, some observers speculated that the coronavirus might even undermine the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. It was called China’s “Chernobyl”; Dr. Li Wenliang—the young whistleblower silenced by the government who later succumbed to complications from the COVID-19—was likened to the Tiananmen Square “tank man.”

Yet by early March, China was claiming victory. Mass quarantines, a halt to travel, and a complete shutdown of most daily life nationwide were credited with having stemmed the tide; official statistics, such as they are, reported that daily new cases had fallen into the single digits in mid-March from the hundreds in early February. In a surprise to most observers, Chinese leader Xi Jinping—who had been uncharacteristically quiet in the first weeks—began to put himself squarely at the center of the response. This month, he personally visited Wuhan.

Even though life in China has yet to return to normal (and despite continuing questions over the accuracy of China’s statistics), Beijing is working to turn these early signs of success into a larger narrative to broadcast to the rest of the world—one that makes China the essential player in a coming global recovery while airbrushing away its earlier mismanagement of the crisis.

Beijing is working to turn early signs of success into a larger narrative to broadcast to the rest of the world.

A critical part of this narrative is Beijing’s supposed success in battling the virus. A steady stream of propaganda articles, tweets, and public messaging, in a wide variety of languages, touts China’s achievements and highlights the effectiveness of its model of domestic governance. “China’s signature strength, efficiency and speed in this fight has been widely acclaimed,” declared Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. China, he added, set “a new standard for the global efforts against the epidemic.” Central authorities have instituted tight informational control and discipline at state organs to snuff out contradictory narratives.

These messages are helped by the implicit contrast with efforts to battle the virus in the West, particularly in the United States—Washington’s failure to produce adequate numbers of testing kits, which means the United States has tested relatively few people per capita, or the Trump administration’s ongoing disassembly of the U.S. government’s pandemic-response infrastructure. Beijing has seized the narrative opportunity provided by American disarray, its state media and diplomats regularly reminding a global audience of the superiority of Chinese efforts and criticizing the “irresponsibility and incompetence” of the “so-called political elite in Washington,” as the state-run Xinhua news agency put it in an editorial.

Chinese officials and state media have even insisted that the coronavirus did not in fact emerge from China—despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary—in order to reduce China’s blame for the global pandemic. This effort has elements of a full-blown Russian-style disinformation campaign, with China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman and over a dozen diplomats sharing poorly sourced articles accusing the U.S. military of spreading the coronavirus in Wuhan. These actions, combined with China’s unprecedented mass expulsion of journalists from three leading American papers, damage China’s pretensions to leadership.

CHINA MAKES, THE WORLD TAKES

Xi understands that providing global goods can burnish a rising power’s leadership credentials. He has spent the last several years pushing China’s foreign policy apparatus to think harder about leading reforms to “global governance,” and the coronavirus offers an opportunity to put that theory into action. Consider China’s increasingly well-publicized displays of material assistance—including masks, respirators, ventilators, and medicine. At the outset of the crisis, China purchased and produced (and received as aid) vast quantities of these goods. Now it is in a position to hand them out to others.

When no European state answered Italy’s urgent appeal for medical equipment and protective gear, China publicly committed to sending 1,000 ventilators, two million masks, 100,000 respirators, 20,000 protective suits, and 50,000 test kits. China has also dispatched medical teams and 250,000 masks to Iran and sent supplies to Serbia, whose president dismissed European solidarity as “a fairy tale” and proclaimed that “the only country that can help us is China.” Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has promised to send large quantities of testing kits and masks to the United States, as well as 20,000 test kits and 100,000 masks to each of Africa’s 54 countries.

Beijing’s edge in material assistance is enhanced by the simple fact that much of what the world depends on to fight the coronavirus is made in China. It was already the major producer of surgical masks; now, through wartime-like industrial mobilization, it has boosted production of masks more than tenfold, giving it the capacity to provide them to the world. China also produces roughly half of the N95 respirators critical for protecting health workers (it has forced foreign factories in China to make them and then sell them directly to the government), giving it another foreign policy tool in the form of medical equipment. Meanwhile, antibiotics are critical for addressing emerging secondary infections from COVID-19, and China produces the vast majority of active pharmaceutical ingredients necessary to make them.

Beijing’s edge in material assistance is enhanced by the fact that much of what the world depends on to fight the coronavirus is made in China.

The United States, by contrast, lacks the supply and capacity to meet many of its own demands, let alone to provide aid in crisis zones elsewhere. The picture is grim. The U.S. Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s reserve of critical medical supplies, is believed to have only one percent of the masks and respirators and perhaps ten percent of the ventilators needed to deal with the pandemic. The rest will have to be made up with imports from China or rapidly increased domestic manufacturing. Similarly, China’s share of the U.S. antibiotics market is more than 95 percent, and most of the ingredients cannot be manufactured domestically. Although Washington offered assistance to China and others at the outset of the crisis, it is less able to do so now, as its own needs grow; Beijing, in contrast, is offering aid precisely when the global need is greatest.

Crisis response, however, is not only about material goods. During the 2014–15 Ebola crisis, the United States assembled and led a coalition of dozens of countries to counter the spread of the disease. The Trump administration has so far shunned a similar leadership effort to respond to the coronavirus. Even coordination with allies has been lacking. Washington appears, for example, not to have given its European allies any prior notice before instituting a ban on travel from Europe.

China, by contrast, has undertaken a robust diplomatic campaign to convene dozens of countries and hundreds of officials, generally by videoconference, to share information about the pandemic and lessons from China’s own experience battling the disease. Like much of China’s diplomacy, these convening efforts are largely conducted at the regional level or through regional bodies. They include calls with central and eastern European states through the “17 + 1” mechanism, with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s secretariat, with ten Pacific Island states, and with other groupings across Africa, Europe, and Asia. And China is working hard to publicize such initiatives. Virtually every story on the front page of its foreign-facing propaganda organs advertises China’s efforts to help different countries with goods and information while underscoring the superiority of Beijing’s approach.

HOW TO LEAD

China’s chief asset in its pursuit of global leadership—in the face of the coronavirus and more broadly—is the perceived inadequacy and inward focus of U.S. policy. The ultimate success of China’s pursuit, therefore, will depend as much on what happens in Washington as on what happens in Beijing. In the current crisis, Washington can still turn the tide if it proves capable of doing what is expected of a leader: managing the problem at home, supplying global public goods, and coordinating a global response.

The first of those tasks—stopping the spread of the disease and protecting vulnerable populations in the United States—is most urgent and largely a question of domestic governance rather than geopolitics. But how Washington goes about it will have geopolitical implications, and not just insofar as it does or does not reestablish confidence in the U.S. response. For example, if the federal government immediately supports and subsidizes expansion of domestic production of masks, respirators, and ventilators—a response befitting the wartime urgency of this pandemic—it would both save American lives and help others around the world by reducing the scarcity of global supplies.

While the United States isn’t currently able to meet the urgent material demands of the pandemic, its continuing global edge in the life sciences and biotechnology can be instrumental in finding a real solution to the crisis: a vaccine. The U.S. government can help by providing incentives to U.S. labs and companies to undertake a medical “Manhattan Project” to devise, rapidly test in clinical trials, and mass-produce a vaccine. Because these efforts are costly and require dauntingly high upfront investments, generous government financing and bonuses for successful vaccine production could make a difference. And it is worth noting that despite Washington’s mismanagement, state and local governments, nonprofit and religious organizations, universities, and companies are not waiting for the federal government to get its act together before taking action. U.S.-funded companies and researchers are already making progress toward a vaccine—though even in the best-case scenario, it will be some time before one is ready for widespread use.

Yet even as it focuses on efforts at home, Washington cannot simply ignore the need for a coordinated global response. Only strong leadership can solve global coordination problems related to travel restrictions, information sharing, and the flow of critical goods. The United States has successfully provided such leadership for decades, and it must do so again.

That leadership will also require effectively cooperating with China, rather than getting consumed by a war of narratives about who responded better. Little is gained by repeatedly emphasizing the origins of the coronavirus—which are already widely known despite China’s propaganda—or engaging in petty tit-for-tat rhetorical exchanges with Beijing. As Chinese officials accuse the U.S. military of spreading the virus and lambaste U.S. efforts, Washington should respond when necessary but generally resist the temptation to put China at the center of its coronavirus messaging. Most countries coping with the challenge would rather see a public message that stresses the seriousness of a shared global challenge and possible paths forward (including successful examples of coronavirus response in democratic societies such as Taiwan and South Korea). And there is much Washington and Beijing could do together for the world’s benefit: coordinating vaccine research and clinical trials as well as fiscal stimulus; sharing information; cooperating on industrial mobilization (on machines for producing critical respirator components or ventilator parts, for instance); and offering joint assistance to others.

Ultimately, the coronavirus might even serve as a wake-up call, spurring progress on other global challenges requiring U.S.-Chinese cooperation, such as climate change. Such a step should not be seen—and would not be seen by the rest of the world—as a concession to Chinese power. Rather, it would go some way toward restoring faith in the future of U.S. leadership. In the current crisis, as in geopolitics today more generally, the United States can do well by doing good.


Trump goes to Davos

Trump Davos

Photo: https://www.letemps.ch/images/chappatte

 

Get out of the way.

America first!


Mexicans. Omnipresent.

Mexicans

They are everywhere!


At the end of the line

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The President of a country, whatever it may be, must, first and foremost, always keep in mind the fundamental text that regulates the society to which it belongs. If this condition already is essential for a citizen, as holder of a public office the observance of constitutional precepts acquires an increased responsibility. Furthermore, the Constitution must not only be known but must also be respected regarding political action and the conduct of the executive branch.

Secondly, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Americans chose as President a citizen who is unaware of the Constitution’s contente.
Donald Trump not only disrespects the US Constitution, but also attacks the values that have always characterized the United States.

One must ask: Is this the new America?

Freedom requires plurality and divergence of opinion.

Decidedly, Trump has a distorted notion of what freedom is and what should be the behavior of a President

And, unfortunately, in the United States, the spirit of democracy is getting darker and darker.

 


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House of Kemlin

House of Kemlin


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Three hours and three minutes to finish a sentence!?

TRumps


The costs of making America great again!

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Trump campaign slogan was “Make America Great Again”. His inauguration speech was all about “America first, America first”. Evidently, these are catchy words that echo in peoples minds. And there’s nothing that prohibits Trump of expressing such kind of ideas. But, how exactly does Trump plan to do it? How will America be great again? And what are the costs inherent to such endevour? The future!

President Trump advocates that only a wall will enable American grandeur. And in order to finance the wall construction, Trump is cutting nearly $18B in medical research, infrastructure and community development grants. If this is his understanding on how to make America great again, I pity the american people. They got more than they bargained for and their future looks sad.

Even after discovering that unlike Trump’s campaign promise, Mexicans aren’t going to pay the wall I’m sure that americans prefer pay the building of a border wall instead of benefit from medical advances or scientific discoveries that will improve its lives. Why shouldn’t they?

But, hey, like Trump’s usually says “I’m the President and you’re are not!”. This phrase alone is enough to silence anyone and to solve any discussion or question. It’s magic! It’s “yugly” magic. All that Trump has to do is say it and immediately all problems will vanish. Just like that!

The main problem is that Trump deeply believes that this is true. Pure and simply, he isn’t aware of his own ignorance. As such, President Trump acts as if he knew everything and could do everything. The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the courts, the law, the american people happiness and future are nothing but obstacles that he must remove from his path. Why? Because America has to be great again. And an America with medical and scientific progress, with several infrastructures rather than solely a border wall, with community development grants, and with social development can’t be great.

Finally, America will once again be first, mainly because it will lose its natural environment. Forests, flowers, bears and wolves, who needs that? Climate change is just a hoax! Just ask President Trump. He will tell you!


“Dear Mr. Putin, Let’s Play Chess”

There have not been a series of attacks on America and Europe by Vladimir Putin. There has been one single operation; it is the same operation.

Read here: Dear Mr. Putin, Let’s Play Chess

One must also consider field operations such as Russia’s annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Georgia, 2008) and of Crimea (Ukraine, 2014). It’s not a espionage move, but it’s also a chess move on a board of another level within the same operation.

If it is proven that the US presidential election were rigged by the Russians, can Mike Pence take office as President?
After all, he also was elected with such sabotage.


“Alternative facts” strikes back (again)!

Trump wiretaps

Sean Spicer just said President Trump wasn’t referring to wiretapping when he tweeted about “wires tapped”. According to the White House Press Secretary, “wire tapped” doesn’t have anything to do with wiretapping.

It’s just a mere “alternative fact”, one with the potential to become a fake news.

Furthermore, despite having used the following expression “Bad (or sick) Guy!”, he (Trump) also wasn’t referring Obama personally. No, Trump meant to say the Obama administration. In both cases!

Two observations must be made:

First, if Trump doesn’t know how to correctly write what he wants or desires, I wonder why he still uses twitter? If he isn’t capable of doing it in 140 characters …

Secondly, what is the extent of Sean Spicer’s linguistic knowledge? And why does he persists in pushing “alternative facts”?


Fake news! And the source is … ?

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Yesterday, at Florida rally, the US President mentioned that Sweden was shaken by a terrifying terrorist attack which was carried out by immigrants and refugees.

No terrorist attack happened in Sweden.

Most likely, Trump mistaken Sweden with Sehwan, in Pakistan. But, be that as it may, as no correction was made, Trump was the real source of fake news. Is it irony or plain stupidity?

Within the US administration, “alternative facts” are really kicking in.
All the way to the top!


Backing Into World War III by Robert Kagan

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Backing Into World War III by Robert Kagan

Think of two significant trend lines in the world today. One is the increasing ambition and activism of the two great revisionist powers, Russia and China. The other is the declining confidence, capacity, and will of the democratic world, and especially of the United States, to maintain the dominant position it has held in the international system since 1945. As those two lines move closer, as the declining will and capacity of the United States and its allies to maintain the present world order meet the increasing desire and capacity of the revisionist powers to change it, we will reach the moment at which the existing order collapses and the world descends into a phase of brutal anarchy, as it has three times in the past two centuries. The cost of that descent, in lives and treasure, in lost freedoms and lost hope, will be staggering.

Where exactly we are in this classic scenario today, how close the trend lines are to that intersection point is, as always, impossible to know. Are we three years away from a global crisis, or 15?

Americans tend to take the fundamental stability of the international order for granted, even while complaining about the burden the United States carries in preserving that stability. History shows that world orders do collapse, however, and when they do it is often unexpected, rapid, and violent. The late 18th century was the high point of the Enlightenment in Europe, before the continent fell suddenly into the abyss of the Napoleonic Wars. In the first decade of the 20th century, the world’s smartest minds predicted an end to great-power conflict as revolutions in communication and transportation knit economies and people closer together. The most devastating war in history came four years later. The apparent calm of the postwar 1920s became the crisis-ridden 1930s and then another world war. Where exactly we are in this classic scenario today, how close the trend lines are to that intersection point is, as always, impossible to know. Are we three years away from a global crisis, or 15? That we are somewhere on that path, however, is unmistakable.

And while it is too soon to know what effect Donald Trump’s presidency will have on these trends, early signs suggest that the new administration is more likely to hasten us toward crisis than slow or reverse these trends. The further accommodation of Russia can only embolden Vladimir Putin, and the tough talk with China will likely lead Beijing to test the new administration’s resolve militarily. Whether the president is ready for such a confrontation is entirely unclear. For the moment, he seems not to have thought much about the future ramifications of his rhetoric and his actions.

China and Russia are classic revisionist powers. Although both have never enjoyed greater security from foreign powers than they do today — Russia from its traditional enemies to the west, China from its traditional enemy in the east — they are dissatisfied with the current global configuration of power. Both seek to restore the hegemonic dominance they once enjoyed in their respective regions. For China, that means dominance of East Asia, with countries like Japan, South Korea, and the nations of Southeast Asia both acquiescing to Beijing’s will and acting in conformity with China’s strategic, economic, and political preferences. That includes American influence withdrawn to the eastern Pacific, behind the Hawaiian Islands. For Russia, it means hegemonic influence in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which Moscow has traditionally regarded as either part of its empire or part of its sphere of influence. Both Beijing and Moscow seek to redress what they regard as an unfair distribution of power, influence, and honor in the U.S.-led postwar global order. As autocracies, both feel threatened by the dominant democratic powers in the international system and by the democracies on their borders. Both regard the United States as the principal obstacle to their ambitions, and therefore both seek to weaken the American-led international security order that stands in the way of their achieving what they regard as their rightful destinies.

It was good while it lasted

Until fairly recently, Russia and China have faced considerable, almost insuperable, obstacles in achieving their objectives. The chief obstacle has been the power and coherence of the international order itself and its principal promoter and defender. The American-led system of political and military alliances, especially in the two critical regions of Europe and East Asia, has presented China and Russia with what Dean Acheson once referred to as “situations of strength” that have required them to pursue their ambitions cautiously and, since the end of the Cold War, to defer serious efforts to disrupt the international system.

During the era of American primacy, China and Russia have participated in and for the most part been beneficiaries of the open international economic system the United States created and helps sustain; so long as that system functions, they have had more to gain by playing in it than by challenging and overturning it.

The system has checked their ambitions in both positive and negative ways. During the era of American primacy, China and Russia have participated in and for the most part been beneficiaries of the open international economic system the United States created and helps sustain; so long as that system functions, they have had more to gain by playing in it than by challenging and overturning it. The political and strategic aspects of the order, however, have worked to their detriment. The growth and vibrancy of democratic government in the two decades following the collapse of Soviet communism posed a continual threat to the ability of rulers in Beijing and Moscow to maintain control, and since the end of the Cold War they have regarded every advance of democratic institutions — especially the geographical advance of liberal democracies close to their borders — as an existential threat. That’s for good reason: Autocratic powers since the days of Klemens von Metternich have always feared the contagion of liberalism. The mere existence of democracies on their borders, the global free flow of information they cannot control, the dangerous connection between free market capitalism and political freedom — all pose a threat to rulers who depend on keeping restive forces in their own countries in check. The continual challenge to the legitimacy of their rule posed by the U.S.-supported democratic order has therefore naturally made them hostile both to that order and to the United States. But, until recently, a preponderance of domestic and international forces has dissuaded them from confronting the order directly. Chinese rulers have had to worry about what an unsuccessful confrontation with the United States might do to their legitimacy at home. Even Putin has pushed only against open doors, as in Syria, where the United States responded passively to his probes. He has been more cautious when confronted by even marginal U.S. and European opposition, as in Ukraine.

The greatest check on Chinese and Russian ambitions has been the military and economic power of the United States and its allies in Europe and Asia. China, although increasingly powerful, has had to contemplate facing the combined military and economic strength of the world’s superpower and some very formidable regional powers linked by alliance or common strategic interest — including Japan, India, and South Korea, as well as smaller but still potent nations like Vietnam and Australia. Russia has had to face the United States and its NATO allies. When united, these U.S.-led alliances present a daunting challenge to a revisionist power that can call on few allies of its own for assistance. Even were the Chinese to score an early victory in a conflict, such as the military subjection of Taiwan or a naval battle in the South or East China Sea, they would have to contend over time with the combined industrial productive capacities of some of the world’s richest and most technologically advanced nations and the likely cutoff of access to foreign markets on which their own economy depends. A weaker Russia, with its depleted population and oil- and gas-dependent economy, would face an even greater challenge.

For decades, the strong global position enjoyed by the United States and its allies has discouraged any serious challenge. So long as the United States was perceived as a dependable ally, Chinese and Russian leaders feared that aggressive moves would backfire and possibly bring their regimes down. This is what the political scientist William Wohlforth once described as the inherent stability of the unipolar order: As dissatisfied regional powers sought to challenge the status quo, their alarmed neighbors turned to the distant American superpower to contain their ambitions. And it worked. The United States stepped up, and Russia and China largely backed down — or were preempted before acting at all.

Faced with these obstacles, the best option for the two revisionist great powers has always been to hope for or, if possible, engineer a weakening of the U.S.-supported world order from within, either by separating the United States from its allies or by raising doubts about the U.S. commitment and thereby encouraging would-be allies and partners to forgo the strategic protection of the liberal world order and seek accommodation with its challengers.

The present system has therefore depended not only on American power but on coherence and unity at the heart of the democratic world. The United States has had to play its part as the principal guarantor of the order, especially in the military and strategic realm, but the order’s ideological and economic core — the democracies of Europe and East Asia and the Pacific — has also had to remain relatively healthy and confident.

In recent years, both pillars have been shaken. The democratic order has weakened and fractured at its core. Difficult economic conditions, the recrudescence of nationalism and tribalism, weak and uncertain political leadership and unresponsive mainstream political parties, and a new era of communications that seems to strengthen rather than weaken tribalism have together produced a crisis of confidence not only in the democracies but in what might be called the liberal enlightenment project. That project elevated universal principles of individual rights and common humanity over ethnic, racial, religious, national, or tribal differences. It looked to a growing economic interdependence to create common interests across boundaries and to the establishment of international institutions to smooth differences and facilitate cooperation among nations. Instead, the past decade has seen the rise of tribalism and nationalism, an increasing focus on the Other in all societies, and a loss of confidence in government, in the capitalist system, and in democracy. We are witnessing the opposite of Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history.” History is returning with a vengeance and with it all the darker aspects of the human soul, including, for many, the perennial human yearning for a strong leader to provide firm guidance in a time of confusion and incoherence.

The Dark Ages 2.0

This crisis of the enlightenment project may have been inevitable, a recurring phenomenon produced by inherent flaws in both capitalism and democracy. In the 1930s, economic crisis and rising nationalism led many to doubt whether either democracy or capitalism was preferable to alternatives such as fascism and communism. And it is no coincidence that the crisis of confidence in liberalism accompanied a simultaneous breakdown of the strategic order. Then, the question was whether the United States as the outside power would step in and save or remake an order that Britain and France were no longer able or willing to sustain. Now, the question is whether the United States is willing to continue upholding the order that it created and which depends entirely on American power or whether Americans are prepared to take the risk — if they even understand the risk — of letting the order collapse into chaos and conflict.

That willingness has been in doubt for some time, well before the election of Trump and even before the election of Barack Obama. Increasingly in the quarter century after the end of the Cold War, Americans have been wondering why they bear such an unusual and outsized responsibility for preserving global order when their own interests are not always clearly served — and when the United States seems to be making all the sacrifices while others benefit. Few remember the reasons why the United States took on this abnormal role after the calamitous two world wars of the 20th century. The millennial generation born after the end of the Cold War can hardly be expected to understand the lasting significance of the political, economic, and security structures established after World War II. Nor are they likely to learn much about it in high school and college textbooks obsessed with noting the evils and follies of American “imperialism.” Both the crises of the first half of the 20th century and its solution in 1945 have been forgotten. As a consequence, the American public’s patience with the difficulties and costs inherent in playing that global role have worn thin. Whereas previous unsuccessful and costly wars, in Korea in 1950 and Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, and previous economic downturns, such as with the energy crisis and crippling “stagflation” of the mid- to late 1970s, did not have the effect of turning Americans against global involvement, the unsuccessful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the financial crisis of 2008 have.

The Obama administration responded to the George W. Bush administration’s failures in Iraq and Afghanistan not by restoring American power and influence but by further reducing them.

Obama pursued an ambivalent approach to global involvement, but his core strategy was retrenchment. In his actions and his statements, he critiqued and repudiated previous American strategy and reinforced a national mood favoring a much less active role in the world and much narrower definition of American interests. The Obama administration responded to the George W. Bush administration’s failures in Iraq and Afghanistan not by restoring American power and influence but by further reducing them. Although the administration promised to “rebalance” American foreign policy to Asia and the Pacific, in practice that meant reducing global commitments and accommodating revisionist powers at the expense of allies’ security.

The administration’s early attempt to “reset” relations with Russia struck the first blow to America’s reputation as a reliable ally. Coming just after the Russian invasion of Georgia, it appeared to reward Moscow’s aggression. The reset also came at the expense of U.S. allies in Central Europe, as programs of military cooperation with Poland and the Czech Republic were jettisoned to appease the Kremlin. This attempt at accommodation, moreover, came just as Russian policy toward the West — not to mention Putin’s repressive policies toward his own people — was hardening. Far from eliciting better behavior by Russia, the reset emboldened Putin to push harder. Then, in 2014, the West’s inadequate response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and seizure of Crimea, though better than the Bush administration’s anemic response to the invasion of Georgia (Europe and the United States at least imposed sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine), still indicated reluctance on the part of the U.S. administration to force Russia back in its declared sphere of interest. Obama, in fact, publicly acknowledged Russia’s privileged position in Ukraine even as the United States and Europe sought to protect that country’s sovereignty. In Syria, the administration practically invited Russian intervention through Washington’s passivity, and certainly did nothing to discourage it, thus reinforcing the growing impression of an America in retreat across the Middle East (an impression initially created by the unnecessary and unwise withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq). Subsequent Russian actions that increased the refugee flow from Syria into Europe also brought no American response, despite the evident damage of those refugee flows to European democratic institutions. The signal sent by the Obama administration was that none of this was really America’s problem.

In East Asia, the Obama administration undermined its otherwise commendable efforts to assert America’s continuing interest and influence. The so-called “pivot” proved to be mostly rhetoric. Inadequate overall defense spending precluded the necessary increases in America’s regional military presence in a meaningful way, and the administration allowed a critical economic component, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to die in Congress, chiefly a victim of its own party’s opposition. The pivot also suffered from the general perception of American retreat and retrenchment, encouraged both by presidential rhetoric and by administration policies, especially in the Middle East. The premature, unnecessary, and strategically costly withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, followed by the accommodating agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, and then by the failure to hold the line on threats to use force against Syria’s president, was noticed around the world. Despite the Obama administration’s insistence that American strategy should be geared toward Asia, U.S. allies have been left wondering how reliable the U.S. commitment might be when facing the challenge posed by China. The Obama administration erred in imagining that it could retrench globally while reassuring allies in Asia that the United States remained a reliable partner.

Nature abhors a vacuum

The effect on the two great revisionist powers, meanwhile, has been to encourage greater efforts at revision. In recent years, both powers have been more active in challenging the order, and one reason has been the growing perception that the United States is losing both the will and the capacity to sustain it. The psychological and political effect of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the United States, which has been to weaken support for American global engagement across the board, has provided an opening.

It is a myth, prevalent among liberal democracies, that revisionist powers can be pacified by acquiescence to their demands. American retrenchment, by this logic, ought to reduce tensions and competition. Unfortunately, the opposite is more often the case. The more secure revisionist powers feel, the more ambitious they are in seeking to change the system to their advantage because the resistance to change appears to be lessening. Just look at both China and Russia: Never in the past two centuries have they enjoyed greater security from external attack than they do today. Yet both remain dissatisfied and have become increasingly aggressive in pressing what they perceive to be their growing advantage in a system where the United States no longer puts up as much resistance as it used to.

The two great powers have differed, so far, chiefly in their methods. China has until now been the more careful, cautious, and patient of the two, seeking influence primarily through its great economic clout and using its growing military power chiefly as a source of deterrence and regional intimidation. It has not resorted to the outright use of force yet, although its actions in the South China Sea are military in nature, with strategic objectives. And while Beijing has been wary of using military force until now, it would be a mistake to assume it will continue show such restraint in the future — possibly the near future. Revisionist great powers with growing military capabilities invariably make use of those capabilities when they believe the possible gains outweigh the risks and costs. If the Chinese perceive America’s commitment to its allies and its position in the region to be weakening, or its capacity to make good on those commitments to be declining, then they will be more inclined to attempt to use the power they are acquiring in order to achieve their objectives. As the trend lines draw closer, this is where the first crisis is likely to take place.

Russia has been far more aggressive. It has invaded two neighboring states — Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 — and in both cases hived off significant portions of those two nations’ sovereign territory. Given the intensity with which the United States and its allies would have responded to such actions during the four decades of the Cold War, their relative lack of a response must have sent quite a signal to the Kremlin — and to others around the world. Moscow then followed by sending substantial forces into Syria. It has used its dominance of European energy markets as a weapon. It has used cyberwarfare against neighboring states. It has engaged in extensive information warfare on a global scale.

More recently, the Russian government has deployed a weapon that the Chinese either lack or have so far chosen not to deploy — the ability to interfere directly in Western electoral processes, both to influence their outcomes and more generally to discredit the democratic system. Russia funds right-wing populist parties across Europe, including in France; uses its media outlets to support favored candidates and attack others; has disseminated “fake news” to influence voters, most recently in Italy’s referendum; and has hacked private communications in order to embarrass those it wishes to defeat. This past year, Russia for the first time employed this powerful weapon against the United States, heavily interfering in the American electoral process.

Although Russia, by any measure, is the weaker of the two great powers, it has so far had more success than China in accomplishing its objective of dividing and disrupting the West.

Although Russia, by any measure, is the weaker of the two great powers, it has so far had more success than China in accomplishing its objective of dividing and disrupting the West. Its interference in Western democratic political systems, its information warfare, and its role in creating increased refugee flows from Syria into Europe have all contributed to the sapping of Europeans’ confidence in their political systems and established political parties. Its military intervention in Syria, contrasted with American passivity, has exacerbated existing doubts about American staying power in the region. Beijing, until recently, has succeeded mostly in driving American allies closer to the United States out of concern for growing Chinese power — but that could change quickly, especially if the United States continues on its present trajectory. There are signs that regional powers are already recalculating: East Asian countries are contemplating regional trade agreements that need not include the United States or, in the case of the Philippines, are actively courting China, while a number of nations in Eastern and Central Europe are moving closer to Russia, both strategically and ideologically. We could soon face a situation where both great revisionist powers are acting aggressively, including by military means, posing extreme challenges to American and global security in two regions at once.

The dispensable nation

All this comes as Americans continue to signal their reluctance to uphold the world order they created after World War II. Donald Trump was not the only major political figure in this past election season to call for a much narrower definition of American interests and a lessening of the burdens of American global leadership. President Obama and Bernie Sanders both expressed a version of “America First.” The candidate who spoke often of America’s “indispensable” global role lost, and even Hillary Clinton felt compelled to jettison her earlier support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. At the very least, there should be doubts about the American public’s willingness to continue supporting the international alliance structure, denying the revisionist powers their desired spheres of influence and regional hegemony, and upholding democratic and free market norms in the international system.

The weakness at the core of the democratic world and the shedding by the United States of global responsibilities have already encouraged a more aggressive revisionism by the dissatisfied powers.

Coming as it does at a time of growing great-power competition, this narrowing definition of American interests will likely hasten a return to the instability and clashes of previous eras. The weakness at the core of the democratic world and the shedding by the United States of global responsibilities have already encouraged a more aggressive revisionism by the dissatisfied powers. That, in turn, has further sapped the democratic world’s confidence and willingness to resist. History suggests that this is a downward spiral from which it will be difficult to recover, absent a rather dramatic shift of course by the United States.

That shift may come too late. It was in the 1920s, not the 1930s, that the democratic powers made the most important and ultimately fatal decisions. Americans’ disillusionment after World War I led them to reject playing a strategic role in preserving the peace in Europe and Asia, even though America was the only nation powerful enough to play that role. The withdrawal of the United States helped undermine the will of Britain and France and encouraged Germany in Europe and Japan in Asia to take increasingly aggressive actions to achieve regional dominance. Most Americans were convinced that nothing that happened in Europe or Asia could affect their security. It took World War II to convince them that was a mistake. The “return to normalcy” of the 1920 election seemed safe and innocent at the time, but the essentially selfish policies pursued by the world’s strongest power in the following decade helped set the stage for the calamities of the 1930s. By the time the crises began to erupt, it was already too late to avoid paying the high price of global conflict.

In such times, it has always been tempting to believe that geopolitical competition can be solved through efforts at cooperation and accommodation. The idea, recently proposed by Niall Ferguson, that the world can be ruled jointly by the United States, Russia, and China is not a new one. Such condominiums have been proposed and attempted in every era when the dominant power or powers in the international system sought to fend off challenges from the dissatisfied revisionist powers. It has rarely worked. Revisionist great powers are not easy to satisfy short of complete capitulation. Their sphere of influence is never quite large enough to satisfy their pride or their expanding need for security. In fact, their very expansion creates insecurity, by frightening neighbors and leading them to band together against the rising power. The satiated power that Otto von Bismarck spoke of is rare. The German leaders who succeeded him were not satisfied even with being the strongest power in Europe. In their efforts to grow still stronger, they produced coalitions against them, making their fear of “encirclement” a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Give ‘em an inch, they’ll take a mile

This is a common trait of rising powers — their actions produce the very insecurity they claim to want to redress. They harbor grievances against the existing order (both Germany and Japan considered themselves the “have-not” nations), but their grievances cannot be satisfied so long as the existing order remains in place. Marginal concession is not enough, but the powers upholding the existing order will not make more than marginal concessions unless they are compelled to by superior strength. Japan, the aggrieved “have-not” nation of the 1930s, did not satisfy itself by taking Manchuria in 1931. Germany, the aggrieved victim of Versailles, did not satisfy itself by bringing the Germans of the Sudetenland back into the fold. They demanded much more, and they could not persuade the democratic powers to give them what they wanted without resorting to war.

Granting the revisionist powers spheres of influence is not a recipe for peace and tranquility but rather an invitation to inevitable conflict.

Granting the revisionist powers spheres of influence is not a recipe for peace and tranquility but rather an invitation to inevitable conflict. Russia’s historical sphere of influence does not end in Ukraine. It begins in Ukraine. It extends to the Baltic States, to the Balkans, and to the heart of Central Europe. And within Russia’s traditional sphere of influence, other nations do not enjoy autonomy or even sovereignty. There was no independent Poland under the Russian Empire nor under the Soviet Union. For China to gain its desired sphere of influence in East Asia will mean that, when it chooses, it can close the region off to the United States — not only militarily but politically and economically, too.

China will, of course, inevitably exercise great sway in its own region, as will Russia. The United States cannot and should not prevent China from being an economic powerhouse. Nor should it wish for the collapse of Russia. The United States should even welcome competition of a certain kind. Great powers compete across multiple planes — economic, ideological, and political, as well as military. Competition in most spheres is necessary and even healthy. Within the liberal order, China can compete economically and successfully with the United States; Russia can thrive in the international economic order upheld by the democratic system, even if it is not itself democratic.

But military and strategic competition is different. The security situation undergirds everything else. It remains true today as it has since World War II that only the United States has the capacity and the unique geographical advantages to provide global security and relative stability. There is no stable balance of power in Europe or Asia without the United States. And while we can talk about “soft power” and “smart power,” they have been and always will be of limited value when confronting raw military power. Despite all of the loose talk of American decline, it is in the military realm where U.S. advantages remain clearest. Even in other great powers’ backyards, the United States retains the capacity, along with its powerful allies, to deter challenges to the security order. But without a U.S. willingness to maintain the balance in far-flung regions of the world, the system will buckle under the unrestrained military competition of regional powers. Part of that willingness entails defense spending commensurate with America’s continuing global role.

For the United States to accept a return to spheres of influence would not calm the international waters. It would merely return the world to the condition it was in at the end of the 19th century, with competing great powers clashing over inevitably intersecting and overlapping spheres. These unsettled, disordered conditions produced the fertile ground for the two destructive world wars of the first half of the 20th century. The collapse of the British-dominated world order on the oceans, the disruption of the uneasy balance of power on the European continent as a powerful unified Germany took shape, and the rise of Japanese power in East Asia all contributed to a highly competitive international environment in which dissatisfied great powers took the opportunity to pursue their ambitions in the absence of any power or group of powers to unite in checking them. The result was an unprecedented global calamity and death on an epic scale. It has been the great accomplishment of the U.S.-led world order in the 70 years since the end of World War II that this kind of competition has been held in check and great power conflicts have been avoided. It will be more than a shame if Americans were to destroy what they created — and not because it was no longer possible to sustain but simply because they chose to stop trying.


Democracy Requirement(s)

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To President Trump, as it was to his predecessors, all that is, or should be, obligatory are decisions in accordance with his own conscience and within the limits of the law. Nothing more is required. He is entitled to decide as he sees fit and not as we would prefer.

I do accept his democratic victory. However, such acceptance does not mean that I must endorse his decisions. In fact, regardless of my political affiliations, I consider my foremost duty not to blindly accept every political decision.

Question our elected leaders, either the President, Senators, or Congressmen, is a fundamental prerequisite of democracy. And especially the leaders of our own political party and/or affiliation should and have to be questioned.

So, when facing a decision with which I disagree, I will always express my viewpoint without ever trying to impose it.

Ao Presidente Trump, tal como com os seus predecessores, tudo o que é, ou deve ser, exigido são decisões de acordo com a sua consciência em conformidade com os limites da lei. Nada mais é exigível, pois ele pode decidir como entender e não como nós preferiríamos.

Eu aceito a sua vitória eleitoral. Contudo, a minha aceitação não implica um apoio às suas decisões. Na verdade, independentemente das minhas posições políticas, considero ser o meu maior dever não aceitar cegamente toda e qualquer decisão política.

Questionar os nossos representantes eleitos, seja o Presidente, o Primeiro-Ministro ou os Deputados, é um pré-requisito essencial da democracia. E devem particularmente ser questionados os líderes do nosso próprio partido ou afiliação política.

Assim, perante uma decisão com a qual discordo, expressarei sempre a minha opinião sem nunca a impor.


Trumpism. “Alternative fact”?

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I know what are alternate realities or parallel universes. But, “alternative facts”? What the hell are “alternative facts” supposed to be?

Should we prepare ourselves for a new order? “The” Real New Order! Where reality is fiction and “alternative facts” constitute the only valid way to understand the world or to be part of it?

Or are we just reliving the past? Does anyone remember the Second Red Scare, the troubled period better known as McCarthyism, that plagued the United States of America from 1950 to 1957? McCarthyism, defined as “the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism”, and which still represents today an undeniable regression in terms of civil liberties and individual rights, began to wither away due to the courage and posture of several persons, including journalist Edward R. Murrow, who, at the time, stated: “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.”

Trump is in open war with the press. But not only. Trump confronts and discards all those who disagree with him. Trump is not available to the plurality of opinions. Hence, he prefers twitter, where there is no dialogue, but rather a monologue. Although this behavior is not new to Trump, the truth is that it became more pronounced since the announcement of his candidacy for the presidency of the United States and that, after his election, it seems that it will be established as a norm of conduct.

Will Trumpism have the same consequences of McCarthyism? The question is pertinent. Unquestionably, both practices of unfounded accusations and demagogic offenses against the character of opponents, whether political or not, are visible. In addition, we have to remember that times are different and that the breadth of individual freedoms and of the civic rights was considerably limited with the Patriot Act. Finally, as we are not seeing the execution of a planned strategy but rather the application of a distorted way of understanding democracy, and considering the fractured posture of “either with me or against me” or “leave, or you will be expelled”, trumpism, and its rules, does not augur a good future to the American democracy.

Negative circumstances which represented significant social setbacks and that were overcome in the past now seem to be rising from the grave. Compared with the populism that is now being asserted, the communism of the 1950s appears as a lesser threat. Finally, as if populism were no longer dangerous, elite populism, practiced and endorsed by Trump, contains in itself the seeds of even more harmful political and societal effects.

There is indeed a tendency for the repetition of certain historical cycles. I hope that advocates of plurality and difference of opinion will not fade away, that the press can persist, and that the truth will not vanish.

Only in this way can the definitive establishment of the corpocracy be averted. Not the one considered by Derber, Sachs, or Winters, among others, but rather a distorted oligarchy who would be nothing more than the capitalist version of Trotsky’s vision.

One thing is for sure. Trumpism is not an “alternative fact.” It’s both real and dangerous.

 

P.S. – Make no mistake. Trump is anything but a Republican. Trump is an egocentric narcissist devoid of moral principles.


Trumpismo. Facto alternativo?

maccarthy-trump

Eu sei o que são realidades alternativas ou universos paralelos. Mas, “factos alternativos”? Que diabo são “factos alternativos”?

Devemos prepararmo-nos para uma nova ordem? A Verdadeira Nova Ordem! Onde a realidade é ficção e os “factos alternativos”, definidos propositadamente, constituem a única maneira de entender o mundo ou de a ele pertencer?

Ou estaremos apenas a reviver o passado? Alguém se recorda da segunda ameaça vermelha, o conturbado período, mais conhecido por macartismo, que assolou os Estados Unidos da América nos anos de 1950 a 1957? O macartismo, que foi definido como a “prática de fazer alegações injustas ou utilizar técnicas investigativas injustas, especialmente para restringir o dissenso ou a crítica política” e que ainda hoje representa um indubitável retrocesso no que respeita às liberdades civis e aos direitos individuais, começou a definhar devido à coragem e postura do jornalista Edward R. Murrow, que, à época, afirmou: “Não devemos confundir dissidência com deslealdade. Devemos lembrar-nos sempre que a acusação não é prova e que a convicção depende de provas e do devido processo legal”.

Trump está, como bem observou a Helena Coelho, em guerra aberta com a imprensa. Mas não só. Trump agride e descarta todos aqueles que não concordam com ele. Trump não está disponível para a pluralidade de opiniões. Daí que prefira o twitter, onde não há diálogo, mas monólogo. Ora, apesar de este comportamento não ser uma novidade em Trump, a verdade é que se acentuou a partir do anúncio da sua candidatura à Presidência dos EUA e que, após a sua eleição, parece que se irá estabelecer como a norma vigente.

Terá o trumpismo as mesmas consequências do macartismo? A pergunta é pertinente. Inquestionavelmente, verificam-se não apenas as mesmas práticas de acusações parcamente fundamentadas, como também as ofensas demagógicas ao caráter dos adversários, sejam estes políticos ou não. Para além disso, convém não esquecer que os tempos são outros e que a amplitude das liberdades individuais e dos direitos cívicos foi consideravelmente limitada nos EUA com a entrada em vigor do Patriot Act. Finalmente, não se verificando aqui a execução de uma estratégia pensada, mas somente a aplicação de uma maneira distorcida de entender a democracia e considerando a atitude fracturante do «ou estás comigo ou contra mim», «se não estás bem, muda-te» (ou serás expulso), o trumpismo, e as suas regras, não auguram um bom futuro para a democracia norte-americana.

Circunstâncias anteriormente erradicadas, que representaram retrocessos sociais significativos, parecem estar a reerguer-se do túmulo. Ao lado do populismo que hoje se afirma, o comunismo dos anos 50 do século passado não passa duma ténue ameaça. E como se o populismo já não fosse perigoso, o populismo-elite, praticado por Trump, contém em si efeitos ainda mais nefastos.

Existe, efectivamente, uma tendência para a mimética que reproduz determinados ciclos. Oxalá os defensores da pluralidade e da diferença de opinião não desvaneçam. Oxalá a imprensa persista. Oxalá a verdade não desapareça.

Só assim poderá ser evitada a instituição definitiva da corporacia. Não a considerada por Derber, Sachs ou Winters, entre outros, mas antes uma oligarquia travestida que mais não seria do que a versão capitalista da visão de Trotsky.

Uma coisa é certa. O Trumpismo não é um “facto alternativo”. É real e perigoso.


Trump’s Decalogue

 

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.

Judging by Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway reactions

as well as Steve Bannon´s attitude,

nowadays these are the ruling commandments!

.


Trump inauguration – The same as it ever was!

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Trump inauguration address was no surprise to me. Unlike many of my friends, I always paid close attention to non-verbal language and to psychologic profiles. As such, and as expected, President Trump will be just plain old Trump. Nothing more, nothing less.

In its core, Trump’s speech is not new. Every President’s primary concerns are internal and not external. Should we strange a patriotic speech? Of course not. Similarly, an isolationist speech is not a novelty. Although being rarer among republicans discourses today, there are many historical moments where patriotism and isolationism were the main republican topics. However, what is really innovative is Trump’s willingness to a closer relation with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, none of the past republican Presidents expressed such will or desire.

Donald Trump is not a Republican. He never was. And he is not a Rino either. Like most things throughout his life, the Republican party is simply an instrument, a tool to achieve a goal or to close a deal. Trump is a “Trumplican”. In fact, as he himself would say: “I’m the real trumplican, the only real trumplican. Which is yuge and bigly!”

Does Trump embody what we understand as a bully, a nationalist, a populist, a xenophobe? Yes, he does. However, the question must be: Is he aware of that? You see, sometimes is not just about perception. And if by any small probability Donald Trump is mindful of his own behavior, he simply does not consider such characteristics as negative and/or reprehensible.

As a political science and international relations researcher, in a certain way and to some extent, I’m looking forward to see what Trump’s presidency will bring. Both internally as externally.

Despite we can safely affirm that Trump will not fulfil most of his campaign promises, avoiding, to a certain degree, clashes with the Senate and the House of Representatives, we also can assert that unpredictability will be the rule. As such, the relation between the executive and legislative branches will be very interesting to follow. Furthermore, the same can be expected about Trump’s international stances.

Lastly, but certainly not least, in a significant reversal, Wall Street took over the White House. What’s next? What will happen to the balance between the political and economic spheres? What will happen to democracy?

For better or for worse, a new spectrum of possibilities emerges.

[If, in a sense, Trump is the same as he ever was, should we let the days go by?]


We Are the Last Defense Against Trump by Daron Acemoglu

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We Are the Last Defense Against Trump: America’s institutions weren’t designed to resist a modern strongman. That leaves civil society.

In the second half of the 20th century, the main threat to democracy came from the men in uniform. Fledgling democracies such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Thailand, and Turkey were set back by dozens of military coups. For emerging democracies hoping to ward off such military interventions into domestic politics, Western European and American institutions, which vested all political authority in the hands of elected civilian governments, were offered as the model to follow. They were the best way to ensure that democracy, as Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan famously put it, became “the only game in town.”

Far from most thinkers’ minds was whether Western institutions might be inviting a different threat to democracy — personal rule, in which civilian state institutions such as the bureaucracy and courts come under the direct control of the executive, and the lines between the state’s interests and those of the ruler begin to blur. Most believed personal rule was something that applied only to the worst of the tin-pot dictatorships, such as that of Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire, Daniel arap Moi in Kenya, or Sani Abacha in Nigeria. The checks and balances built in the fabric of Western institutions, the thinking went, would withstand any such usurpation.

Yet today we are coming to discover that contemporary democracy has its own soft underbelly — not so much a weakness against a cabal of colonels conspiring a violent takeover of government, but the gutting of state institutions and the incipient establishment of a variant of personal rule. Examples of personal rule include Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, Russia under Vladimir Putin, and Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These differ from the Mobutus, arap Mois and the Abachas of the world, because they are engineered by democratically elected leaders and maintain a much higher degree of legitimacy among some segments of the population But they still showcase how this process can irreparably damage institutions and hollow out democracy. Now, these examples are poised to include America under Donald Trump.

Trump appears to share several political goals and strategies with Chavez, Putin, and Erdogan. Like them, he seems to have little respect for the rule of law or the independence of state institutions, which he has tended to treat as impediments to his ability to exercise power. Like them, he has a blurred vision of national and personal interests. Like them, he has little patience with criticism and a long-established strategy of rewarding loyalty, which can be seen in his high-level appointments to date. This is all topped by an unwavering belief in his abilities.

What makes America vulnerable to being blindsided by such a threat is our unwavering — and outdated — belief in the famed strength of our institutions. Of course, the United States has much better institutional foundations and a unique brand of checks and balances, which were entirely absent in Venezuela, Russia, and Turkey. But many of these still won’t be much help against the present threat. Not only are America’s institutions particularly ill-equipped, in this moment, to stand up against Trump; in some cases they may actually enable him.

The first bulwark against any sort of personalizing threat to U.S. institutions is the country’s vaunted separation of powers. The legislature, elected separately from the executive, is supposed to stop in its tracks any president attempting to exceed his authority; it has indeed acted in this fashion during frequent periods of divided government, and when lawmakers on the Hill could follow their own constituencies’ wishes and their own principles.

Their capacity to do this, however, is much less true today, thanks to a historic rise in polarization between Republicans and Democrats and a pronounced shift toward party discipline. Consequently, as political scientists Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole, and Howard Rosenthal document in their book Polarized America, House members and senators are now very unlikely to deviate from their party line. Such a rise in partisanship comes at the worst possible time, just as these protections are needed most. But given how quickly the Republican Party has regrouped around Trump on most issues, it would be optimistic to imagine a principled resistance to his appointments and most policy initiatives from a Republican-dominated Congress.

And so it follows, in turn, that the check on presidential power from an independent judiciary, the second leg of the separation of powers stool, is also unlikely to hold up. In truth, judicial independence in the United States has always been somewhat precarious, dependent on norms much more than rules. The president not only appoints justices to the Supreme Court and top federal judges (a prerogative Trump appears set to fully utilize), but also controls the Department of Justice through his attorney general. Any institutional resistance to inappropriate nominees would only be offered up by Congress, which, as discussed, seems poised to take Trump’s machinations lying down. And so the judicial institutions, too, are headed toward pliancy.

America’s weakest point when it comes to resisting personal rule may lie in the executive’s unique relationship with the institution that makes up the very heart of government: the bureaucracy itself.

But America’s weakest point when it comes to resisting personal rule may lie in the executive’s unique relationship with the institution that makes up the very heart of government: the bureaucracy itself. In many other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, where most of the bureaucracy and high-level positions in the judiciary are non-partisan civil servants, state institutions can go about the business of governing while remaining mostly immune to executive attempts to establish personal rule. Not so much in the United States, where Trump is appointing his people to oversee 4,000 high-level posts in the civil service and the judiciary, essentially shaping a bureaucracy ready to do his personal bidding. This is the sort of power that the likes Chavez, Putin, and Erdogan had to acquire more slowly. (Erdogan, for example, is still locked in an epic struggle to change the Turkish Constitution to officially assume the powers of an executive presidency, even if he has already acquired many of those powers in practice.)

Why is the United States so defenseless in the face of the Trump threat? Because, to a large extent, the Founding Fathers wanted it this way. As Woody Holton recounts in Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution, despite the emphasis on the separation of power in the Federalist Papers, the main struggle that Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and George Washington were engaged in was to build a strong federal government and reduce the excessive powers granted to the states in the Articles of Confederation, which had left the country in close to complete chaos. The separation of powers was meant only as a counterbalance to this strong presidency.

In this, they succeeded, but only partially. The U.S. president is indeed hugely powerful in the extent to which he can shape not only foreign but also domestic policy, especially if he can get Congress behind him. However, his hands are tied when it comes to the states’ rights, a concession that the framers had to give to powerful state representatives to garner enough support for the Constitution. This is the reason why some of the strongest resistance shaping up to Trump’s policies is already coming from states like New York and California, where governors have pledged to stand against his immigration policies.

But over time, the federal government has grown, as it has accrued, by necessity and choice, ever more responsibility in domestic and international politics. States, by contrast, have far less power than they did at the end of the 18th century. Massachusetts and Vermont can resist federal policies, creating, perhaps, little liberal policy bubbles. They can have very little impact, however, on the personalization of the country’s most powerful levers of government, including the federal judiciary, dozens of major agencies, trade and fiscal policy, and foreign affairs. Nor can they do much to influence the perception of the new direction of U.S. politics in the minds of Americans and the world.

This leaves us with the one true defense we have, which Hamilton, Madison, and Washington neither designed nor much approved of: civil society’s vigilance and protest. In fact, this is not unique to the United States. What is written in a constitution can take a nation only so far unless society is willing to act to protect it. Every constitutional design has its loopholes, and every age brings its new challenges, which even farsighted constitutional designers cannot anticipate.

The lack – and in fact active discouragement — of direct social participation in politics is the Achilles’ heel of most nascent democracies. Many leaders of newly emerging nations in the 20th century, who professed as their goal the foundation of a democratic regime, all but prevented the formation of civil society, free media, and bottom-up participation in politics; their only use for it was mobilizing core supporters as a defense against other leaders seeking to usurp or contest power. This strategy effectively condemned their democracies to permanent weakness.

We saw this at work in Venezuela, Russia, and Turkey, where decades, if not centuries, of unfree media and prostrate civil society ensured there was no effective defense against the rise of personal rule. The U.S. tradition of free, rambunctious journalism, exemplified by the muckrakers and vibrant protest movements going back to Populists and Progressives should help us.

Yet there are reasons to be concerned that this last brake on executive power may, too, fail. Trump is in the process of being accepted and legitimized by American elites and the wider public. Just the knowledge that he will be the country’s next president confers upon him a huge amount of authority and respect. We avidly follow his appointments, his interviews, and his stream of consciousness on Twitter. Many pundits and public intellectuals are trying to see the silver lining, hoping against hope that he will govern as a moderate Republican. Many of my fellow economists are eager to give him advice so that he does not follow through on his disastrous pre-election economic plans.

When the previously unthinkable becomes normalized, it is easy for many to lose, or at the very least ignore, their moral compass. How quickly Trump’s brand of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, off-the-cuff foreign policymaking, and systematic mixing of family and state are becoming accepted is more than a cause for passing concern.

We have to keep reminding ourselves that we do not live in normal times, that the future of our much cherished institutions depends not on others but on ourselves, and that we are all individually responsible for our institutions. If we lose them to a would-be strongman, we have only ourselves to blame. We are the last defense.


Yuge!

donald-trump-twitter-follow

Trump is not going to govern.

No, Sir.

He is going to TWIVERN!

.

(which is much more yuge!)


On the trapeze!

transfer-of-power-usa

No words needed!


The day after the day after

tump-pence

Trump’s election, which must be respected as it is a democratic manifestation, does not offer a sense of security.

However, my main worries are related with the day after the day after.
This may just be the beginning of a even more profound change. Much worse will be Trump’s impeachment. And the hypothesis is not implausible.

Mike Pence is a committed creationist and an tea party element. Can you imagine his type of presidency?


45th US President

trump

I was not a Trump supporter. Actually, I also wasn’t a Hillary supporter. But I will always be a supporter of democracy.
The US will change. Particularly, internally. That seems clear. I only hope that US foreign policy will not change much.

With this election, the Republicans control the Presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Trump has the possibility of making Tea Party affiliates and the like irrelevant. Let’s see if this possibility materializes.


Trump will win!

michael-moore

Michael Moore predicts Trump’s presidential victory and advances five reasons for that outcome.