Sunday, December 4, 2016

Study: Elite scientists can hold back science - Vox

Image result for copernicus theory
This is data to back up Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions. See also Deadly Dust~ silicosis and the politics of occupational disease by Rosner and Markowitz. Scientists swept away by the power of Koch's identification of the tubercle bacillus, they insisted that granite cutters had tuberculosis, rather than a dust disease.
Similar resistance was seen in the asbestos struggle. University of Pittsburgh epidemiologist Philip Enterline demonstrated that no researcher who was a skeptic about carcinogenicity ever changed his mind.
It is, I suppose, human nature. It is a rebuttal of the argument that scientists remain skeptic and seek evidence that their previously formed conclusions were incorrect. Who does that? Not me, and, I would wager, not you. - gwc
Study: Elite scientists can hold back science - Vox
Max Planck — the Nobel Prize–winning physicist who pioneered quantum theory — once said the following about scientific progress:
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
Shorter: Science is not immune to interpersonal bullshit. Scientists can be stubborn. They can use their gravitas to steamroll new ideas. Which means those new ideas often only prevail when older scientists die.
Recently, researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) released a working paper — titled, "Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?" — that puts Planck's principle to the test.
Sifting through citations in the PubMed database, they found evidence that when a prominent researcher suddenly dies in an academic subfield, a period of new ideas and innovation follow.
The NBER team identified 12,935 "elite" scientists — based on the amount of funding they receive, how many times they've published, how many patents they invented, or whether they were members of the National Academies of Sciences or the Institute of Medicine. Searching through obituaries, they found 452 of these elite researchers died before retirement. Because science leaves a dense paper trail of citations, publish dates, and author bylines, it's (relatively) easy to track changes in publishing patterns after a prominent death.
Here's the pattern: After the unexpected death of a rock-star scientist, their frequent collaborators — the junior researchers who authored papers with them — suddenly see a drop in publication. At the same time, there is a marked increase in published work by other newcomers to the field:

Saturday, December 3, 2016

‘Don’t play identity politics!’ The primal scream of the straight white male | Hadley Freeman | Opinion | The Guardian

Donald Trump supporter
It is not the Democrats or the Clinton campaign that played the race card, the woman card, etc.  Theirs ws the traditional language of our civic religion.
Where race came in is the moment Trump began his campaign - screaming about Mexican rapists and murderers.  That was soon followed by the white mobs screaming for blood at Trump's wildly successful rallies.  They knew who they are: white men, not ***Blacks, Mexicans, etc. -gwc
‘Don’t play identity politics!’ The primal scream of the straight white male | Hadley Freeman | Opinion | The Guardian
by  Hadley Freeman
An intriguing theory has recently taken hold, fast calcifying into received wisdom. Hillary Clinton, so it goes, lost the US election because she “played identity politics”.
This idea has been enthusiastically endorsed by, among others, Bernie Sanders(“It is not enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me,’” he said, as if Clinton ever – even once – argued this), and Mark Lilla in the New York Times (who described as “a strategic mistake “Clinton’s tendency “to slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, LGBT and women voters at every stop”).
Like I say, it’s a fascinating theory, in its underlying insinuations and its demonstrable wrongness. (To point out that – in the vast, vast main – the identity politics sceptics are white men, whose articles are filled with quotes from other white men, doubtless sounds like I’m playing the identity game, too; and yet it is one of those awkward things   called “facts”.)
Leaving aside that far more people voted for Clinton than Donald Trump (an inconvenient truth for any sweeping argument about why Clinton lost), the real issue is not that Clinton lost the election. On the contrary, it’s that playing identity politics is precisely how Trump won the election. Anyone who can’t see that is revealing that they think the white straight male as the baseline norm. Thus anyone else – women, people of colour, LGBT people – is merely a niche distraction, a gimmicky aberration, a game (“as if the centuries’-long push toward enfranchisement, civil rights, equal pay, and reproductive autonomy, and against domestic, sexual, and police violence were a game”, Rebecca Traister recently wrote). They are not, as the political phrasing goes, real people.
It boggles my brain that this even needs pointing out: political elections have always played identity politics. The difference is that the game was heretofore entirely weighted towards the white straight male, which I guess is why it comes as such a shock to that demographic when they are not at the absolute forefront of every single political discussion now.
Lilla, for example, in his much-discussed article, suggested that the politicians who “very skilfully” bridged identity divides were – wait for it – Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Ah yes, this would be Reagan, who enthusiastically blew the racial dog whistle by referring to “a Chicago welfare queen” and “a strapping young buck” who used food stamps to buy steaks. And Clinton, who to prove that he was tough on crime interrupted his own 1992 campaign to return to Arkansas to preside over the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, an intellectually impaired black man. Both reinforced discrimination against LGBT people.But this was not divisive identity politics, apparently, because white straight voters don’t have an identity – they are just people. This, I guess, is why some seem unable to see that Trump (and his new BFF, Nigel Farage, this country’s most expert practitioner in the sport) ran campaigns this year entirely predicated on identity politics.
No, no, Trump’s campaign was about the economy, his defenders cry! And indeed it was, in that Trump promised the old manufacturing jobs would come back to the overwhelmingly white rural areas (which almost certainly won’t happen), and massive tax cuts to the white super-rich (which almost certainly will). See if you can spot the common denominator in those demographics.
Discussions about identity politics are the new arguments about political correctness, which, as Moira Weigel detailed at length in this paper this week, have long been a means for the male, white and right mainstream to shut down any suggestion that others are worthy of a voice. For Clinton even to acknowledge that she was the first female candidate of a major political party – which is very different from saying people should vote for her because she is a woman – was, according to the sceptics, to play the identity game.

The Scourge of Racial Bias in New York State’s Prisons - The New York Times

The Scourge of Racial Bias in New York State’s Prisons - The New York Times

The racism can be felt from the moment black inmates enter New York’s upstate prisons.
They describe being called porch monkeys, spear chuckers and worse. There are cases of guards ripping out dreadlocks. One inmate, John Richard, reported that he was jumped at Clinton Correctional Facility by a guard who threatened to “serve up some black mashed potatoes with tomato sauce.”
“As soon as you come through receiving, they let you know whose house it is,” said Darius Horton, who was recently released from Groveland Correctional Facility after serving six years for assault.
It is also measurable.
A review by The New York Times of tens of thousands of disciplinary cases against inmates in 2015, hundreds of pages of internal reports and three years of parole decisions found that racial disparities were embedded in the prison experience in New York.
In most prisons, blacks and Latinos were disciplined at higher rates than whites — in some cases twice as often, the analysis found. They were also sent to solitary confinement more frequently and for longer durations. At Clinton, a prison near the Canadian border where only one of the 998 guards is African-American, black inmates were nearly four times as likely to be sent to isolation as whites, and they were held there for an average of 125 days, compared with 90 days for whites.
A greater share of black inmates are in prison for violent offenses, and minority inmates are disproportionately younger, factors that could explain why an inmate would be more likely to break prison rules, state officials said. But even after accounting for these elements, the disparities in discipline persisted, The Times found.

Friday, December 2, 2016

ADL v. Keith Ellison by Josh Marshall

With Howard Dean's withdrawal Keith Ellison is the odds on favorite to head the Democratic National Committee - the fundraising arm of the Party.  No one else speaks for the party the way its National Committee does.  Every candidate - even the leaders in Congress - is protecting his or her own electoral future.  Only the DNC speaks for the whole unwieldy coalition.

Unless you are Jimmy Carter who as a peacemaker accomplished more than every other President combined it is nearly impossible in the American universe of discourse to speak with candor.   Peace cannot come without recognition and resolution of the plight of the Palestinians.  (See Ben Ehrenreich - The Way to the Spring - Life and Death in Palestine.)  It is plain that Benjamin Netanyahu is not interested in finding that way. Donald Trump is incapable of it.

This awkward quote from Ellison is cherry picked by a notorious Islamophobe.   If you click through to his reply to the ADL you will find Ellison affirms in a dignified way the necessity of our commitment to protect Israel.
But there is a deeper issue  - because this quote - which will live in its current form - is a problem because it clouds the debate and raises fear that he will be careless in a position which requires the utmost balance.  - gwc

Keith Ellison
by Josh Marshall
I wanted to share a few thoughts about Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) who is running for DNC Chair and is now at the center of a growing storm of criticism in large part because the ADL put out a statement saying statements by Ellison recorded in 2010 are "disturbing and disqualifying." The latter, categorical word "disqualifying" is the key one. We reported the ADL comments yesterday.
Here are my thoughts.
Here is the Ellison quote, apparently from a Q&A at some event ...
“The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people," the ADL's statement quotes Ellison as saying at the time. "A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million. Does that make sense? Is that logic? Right? When the Americans who trace their roots back to those 350 million get involved, everything changes.”
I find this whole development profoundly unfortunate.
The quote itself, dug up by one of the most scurrilous and tendentious Islamophobes in Washington, make me wince a bit. But the quote is also true to a significant degree. Do we really think US policy on Israel isn't significantly impacted by the activism of American Jews and even more in recent years by that of Christian evangelicals? Do we also think the Cuban embargo has nothing to do with the power of the Cuban emigre community? Ellison says the recording is edited and taken out of context - here's his reply to the ADL. (The guy who released it, Steve Emerson, is the dirtiest, most tendentious kind of player out there. He should release the entire recording.) But I'm talking about the quote as is. Ellison is not an anti-Semite. He's not anti-Israel. I think the ADL is wrong to call the comments "disqualifying" and wrong about how it's treating this entire issue.
I think this is profoundly unfortunate because truly the last thing the Democratic Party needs right now is a toxic internecine fight over Israel. And equally important, we are in an era when real anti-Semitism has been rearing its head in the United States in a way it has not done in 80s. That makes the ADL more important than it has been in a very long time. (Since the election, I've been reminding myself that I want to send checks to the SPLC and the ADL.) So it pains me in a very deep way to see a misfire like this.
China: Supreme Court Exonerates Man Executed in 1995
 by Michael Forsythe
HONG KONG — China’s Supreme Court on Friday exonerated a man who had been executed for murder in 1995, in a dramatic example of the inequities in the country’s legal system and the authorities’ halting attempts to come to grips with them.
The man, Nie Shubin, was 20 when he was convicted of killing Kang Juhua, a woman who was raped and murdered in the northern province of Hebei in the summer of 1994. The local police arrested Mr. Nie soon after her body was found, and he confessed to the killing after days in detention. He was executed by gunshot in April 1995.
In 2005, another man, Wang Shujin, confessed to murdering Ms. Kang. But it took Mr. Nie’s family 11 more years of campaigning to clear his name before the Supreme Court did so on Friday. The court ruled that there had not been enough evidence to convict Mr. Nie and cast doubt on the authenticity of his confession.
Mr. Nie is not the first person to be posthumously exonerated by a Chinese court years after execution, but it is impossible to estimate how many have been wrongly put to death. Even the number of annual executions is a state secret; Amnesty International estimates that it is in the thousands, more than in any other country. They seem to have declined since 2007, after the Supreme Court began reviewing the implementation of the death penalty, the rights group said in a 2015 report.
Under President Xi Jinping, the government has been making efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system, with the overturning of wrongful convictions a key part of that effort. Prosecutors in China almost always secure a conviction, and confessions are often made under duress.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Two Point Five Million //Josh Marshall//Talking Points Memo

Image result for trump crowd cheering
white militants cheering Trump

The big picture is that American voters divide roughly in half between the get tough resentful glass half empty white party and the racially diverse glass half full Democrats.   But if Democrats are to recover from the debacle of all three branches in the hands of the GOP, and 31 of the fifty state governorships in the same hands they are going to have to find a way to turn some old reliables back to blue, or turn red states purple.  It's a difficult problem.  I am deeply convinced that racial fear and resentment of the "poor" are not going to be eradicated.  Fueling fears and resentments one looter in Ferguson costs us some indeterminable number of votes.  But that's not all: the whitest state in the country - Maine- has a Trumpian governor in this second term.  Resentment of recipients of Medicaid, welfare, etc. is that state is far less racial than elsewhere (though Gov. Paul LePage periodically goes there).

What conclusions to draw from this year's federal elections: by popular vote the Democrats won the presidency...but the electoral college which strongly favors rural voters sank them.  For a lot reasons.  Hillary's limitations and errors, ad Trump's astounding strength and success in stirring up a white backlash and a surge of support generated by his nursing of grievances.  The net result is more people voted for GOP members of Congress than for Democrats.

The GOP majorities are due to structural factors, of course.  The nine states with populations under 1 million got 18 Senators which the 37 million Californians got 2.  Democratic voters are concentrated in the cities.  e.g. only Staten Island in NYC went for Clinton.  The lowest county otherwise was Archie Bunker's home county of Queens which gave Clinton 75% of its votes.  Staten Island, of course, is a suburb in the city with a long history of resentment of Black people.

Two Point Five Million
by Josh Marshall
***Here's your semi-recurring update: Hillary Clinton's popular vote lead has now reached 2.52 million votes. In percentage terms that's a 1.9 percentage point margin. It will rise at least a bit more. We can likely be confident that her final margin will be at least 2 percentage points. To compare, that's 5 times the margin of Al Gore's popular vote win in raw vote terms and 4 times his margin in percentage terms. At this point, not only did Clinton win the popular vote. It wasn't even all that close. When George W. Bush had another bite at the electoral apple in 2004 and finally did win the popular vote it was by 2.5 percentage points. Barack Obama's margin in 2012 was 3.9 percentage points.
Presidents are determined by the electoral college. We know this. But there are many reasons why this does matter, some good, some not good at all. David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report and 538 is my favorite election numbers counter at this point. Last night on Twitter he noted that in the last four House elections, Republicans have consistently won 4% more seats than votes in the last three House elections.
2012: 49% of 2-party vote, 53% of seats 2014: 53% of vote, 57% of seats 2016: 51% of vote, 55% of seats
Needless to say, that consistency isn't happenstance. It's structural.
A significant amount of this is due to the GOP's extremely effective 2010 gerrymandering. But it's not just that and probably not mostly that. Democrats are geographically concentrated in ways that hurt them in federal elections. This is one reason it is absolutely critical for Democrats to focus on state legislatures and governorships in 2018 and 2020. Geographical concentration creates inherent problems in our system. When you add the exacerbating effect of gerrymandering you can get close to a lock in a still roughly evenly divided polity.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

World, Show Trump (and the Kids) the Money!


Trump towers, Trump golf courses, trump steaks would be valueless if separated from DJT.  He, his gaudy bragadoccio are the brand,are the value.  And now as he has said "the brand is hot".  The Trump presidency goes beyond conflict of interest.  It is monetizing the presidency. - gwc

World, Show Trump (and the Kids) the Money!

by Josh Marshall

The point is that there's no way to sell this operation to Larry Stein and have these gaudy monstrosities become Stein Towers. The value disappears or almost entirely disappears once the name goes. The value of this business is inextricably tied to Trump's (or his immediate family members) owning them and using his name. As we speak he's doing precisely the same thing, just with the value of the Trump name turbocharged with the new "President of the United States" brand which generations of Americans have been building up for almost a quarter of a millennium.

Fei Chang Dao: Court Upholds Jail Time for Statements Critical of the Dead Heroes of Wolf Tooth Mountain

Fei Chang Dao: Court Upholds Jail Time for Statements Critical of the Dead Heroes of Wolf Tooth Mountain

As previously noted on this blog, on October 19, 2016, China's Supreme People's Court published a piece on its website entitled "People's Courts Come to the Defense of the 'Five Heroes of Wolf Tooth Mountain' and Other Model Cases Involving the Right of Human Dignity of Heroic Figures" (人民法院依法保护“狼牙山五壮士”等英雄人物人格权益典型案例). That article explained why People’s Courts in Beijing had been correct in holding Hong Zhenkuai liable for defaming two dead soldiers. The defamation took place in two articles written by Hong and published in 2013 on the Caijing website and in the Yanhuang Chunqiu magazine. For more on this, see Supreme People's Court Website Explains Why Courts Found Author Guilty of Defaming Dead Heroes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The People Chose Hillary Clinton. Now We Need To Stop Donald Trump From Trashing Our Democracy. - The Daily Beast

The People Chose Hillary Clinton. Now We Need To Stop Donald Trump From Trashing Our Democracy. - The Daily Beast
by Michael Tomasky

As Yale scholar Akhil Reed Amar wrote before the election in Time, the Electoral College was a compromise over slavery. In a system of direct election, votes in the North would vastly outnumber votes in the South, because the North had more propertied white males and the South had more slaves, who of course couldn’t vote. But the Electoral College in effect gave slaves three-fifths of a vote. Consequently, writes Amar, Pennsylvania had 10 percent more white males right after 1800 but 20 percent fewer Electoral College votes. As David Frum tweeted the other day, “‘The people’ wanted Hillary. The compromises of 1787 got us Trump.” The thread tying 1787 and Trump together? Four letters, starts with “r,” rhymes with disgrace.

A Reflexive Liar in Command: Guidelines for the Media - The Atlantic

A Reflexive Liar in Command: Guidelines for the Media - The Atlantic
by James Fallows
***Being back in China in the U.S.-election aftermath naturally leads to thoughts about how societies function when there is no agreed-on version of “reality,” public knowledge, or news.

We take for granted that this was a challenge for Soviet citizens back in the Cold War days, when they relied on samizdat for non-government-authorized reports and criticisms. Obviously it’s a big issue for China’s public now. But its most consequential effects could be those the United States is undergoing, which have led to the elevation of the least prepared, most temperamentally unfit, least public-spirited person ever to assume the powers of the U.S. presidency.

The United States is seeing both a chronic and an acute new version of this public-information problem. The chronic version, recognized but nowhere close to being solved, is the rise of separate fact-universes into which different segments of society silo themselves—occurring at the same time as the “normal” news media are struggling against economic and other pressures.

The acute version is the emergence as president-elect of a man whose nature as a liar is outside what our institutions are designed to deal with. Donald Trump either cannot tell the difference between truth and lies, or he knows the difference but does not care. Tiniest example: On a single day during the campaign, Trump claimed that the National Football League had sent him a letter complaining that the presidential-debate schedule conflicted with NFL games (which the NFL immediately denied), and then he said the Koch brothers had begged him to accept their donations (which they also flat-out denied).

Most people would hesitate before telling easily disprovable lies like these, much as shoplifters would hesitate if the store owner is looking at them. Most people are fazed if caught in an outright lie. 
But in these cases and others Trump never blinked.***

Socialism for white people – Political Orphans

Image result for home mortgage interest tax deductionImage result for home mortgage interest tax deduction
Middle class and working class people (to use inadequate prevailing terms), especially if they're white see their government benefits as no burden.  My home mortgage interest deduction is not a cost - just a break from supporting "them"; same for my untaxed health insurance ).   Those are just earned benefits - not like those Section 8 and food stamp payments to the lazy, etc. Chris Ladd, a conservative refugee from the GOP views it in highly racialized terms - which I think are mostly right since the `middle class' is mostly white and we are now suffering from a white voters uprising.  - gwc
Socialism for white people – Political Orphans
by Chris Ladd
*** When it seems like people are voting against their interests, you have probably failed to understand their interests. We cannot begin to understand this election until we understand the power and reach of socialism for white people.
Like most of my neighbors I have a good job in the private sector. Ask my neighbors about the cost of the welfare programs they enjoy and you will be greeted by baffled stares. All that we have is “earned” and we have no use for government support. Nevertheless, taxpayers fund our retirement saving, health insurance, primary, secondary, and advanced education, daycare, commuter costs, and even our mortgages at a staggering public cost. Socialism for white people is all-enveloping, benevolent, invisible, and entirely reserved for the “deserving.”
My family’s health insurance costs about $20k a year, of which we pay only $4k. The rest is subsidized by taxpayers. You read that right. Like virtually everyone else on my block who isn’t old enough for Medicare or employed by the government, my family is covered by private health insurance subsidized by taxpayers at a stupendous public cost. Well over 90% of White households earning over the white median income (about $75k) almost universally carried health insurance even before the Affordable Care Act. White socialism is nice.
Companies can deduct 100% of the cost of their employees’ health insurance. That results in roughly a $500bn annual transfer of funds from the state and federal treasuries to insurers to provide coverage for the Americans least in need of assistance. America pays about as much to subsidize my private healthcare as we spend annually on Medicaid. This is one of the defining features of white socialism, the most generous benefits go to those who are best suited to provide for themselves. Those benefits are not limited to health care.
When I buy a house for my family, or a vacation home, the interest I pay on the mortgage is deductible up to a million dollars of debt. That costs the treasury about $75bn a year, about what we spend to fund the food stamp program. My retirement savings are also tax deductible, diverting another $75bn from government revenues. Other tax preferences carve out special treatment for child care expenses, college savings, commuter costs (your suburban tax credit), local taxes, and other exemptions.
By funding government programs with tax credits rather than spending, we create an enormous social safety net that grows ever more generous as household incomes rise. It is important to note though that you need not be wealthy to participate. All you need to gain access to socialism for white people is a good corporate or government job. That fact helps explain how this welfare system took shape sixty years ago, why it was originally (and still overwhelmingly) white, and why Trump voters backed their candidate instead of Bernie Sanders. Blue collar voters are not interested in democratic socialism. They want to restore their access to a more generous and dignified program of white socialism.
In the years after World War II, the western democracies that had not already done so adopted universal social safety net programs. These included health care, retirement and other benefits. President Truman introduced his plan for universal health coverage in 1945. It would have worked much like Social Security, imposing a tax to fund a universal insurance pool. His plan went nowhere.***

Monday, November 28, 2016

Conway Continues Public Attack On Mitt Romney (VIDEO)

Conway Continues Public Attack On Mitt Romney (VIDEO)
by Caitlin McNeal
Subjugation's Latin root  is "under the yoke".  The Roman army made the officers of defeated armies crawl under the yokes of oxen to make clear that they were completely defeated: just beasts of burden now.
What Kellyanne Conway fails to understand is that Trump here has a chance to subjugate his predecessor - the "choke artist" Mitt Romney.  In this case the ritual is the oath of submission Romney must take in order to be the United States Secretary of State - a job he surely craves. It is not ideology but the need to subjugate that drives Trump.  Coway, speaking out of turn, endangers her own position.  That is what Conway, et al. fail to grasp.  - GWC

Sunday, November 27, 2016

El Yuma: Trump v. Obama v. Trudeau

El Yuma: Trump v. Obama v. Trudeau
by Ted Henken (Professor at Baruch College/CUNY)
Trump v. Obama v. Trudeau: Three very different statements on Fidel Castro's passing 

This Is Not the Natural State of Things

Not your ordinary journalist, Josh Marshall - founder and editor of Talking Points Memo - is a prolific writer and thinker of broad scope.  This piece which he just republished captures the dangers of the current moment.  It may not last only a moment, but be the beginning of a period of profound discord. - gwc
This Is Not the Natural State of Things//Talking Points Memo
by Josh Marshall  first published July 14, 2016

***I believe generally in what Democrats believe in rather than what Republicans believe in. It informs almost everything I've written in almost twenty years as a professional writer about American politics. But both have been able to govern the country within a broad consensus of what we consider acceptable behavior. Trump represents something quite different. The kind of menace he represents is amplified by the rise of complacent instability and reckless behavior we see today in Europe, in the conflagration in the Middle East and the still distant but rising specter of great power confrontation on the borders of Russia and in East Asia. The belief that we can roll the dice with no consequences, that we can provoke and act out with no consequences is a dangerous illusion. We are indulging that illusion along with many other peoples across the globe. But there are consequences. They can come upon us suddenly, like a mugger in the dark and then multiply and spin out of control.

The Guardian view on Fidel Castro: man of history | Editorial | World news | The Guardian

The Guardian view on Fidel Castro: man of history | Editorial | World news | The Guardian
Recovering the figure of Fidel Castro from the legacy of the failures of communism, his own chequered reputation, the hours-long flights of rhetorical bombast and hipster beard is no easy task. One should situate him in the political and intellectual setting of 20th-century Latin American anti-colonialism rather than seeing him through the eyes of the 21st century. Castro’s passing sees the departure of one of the giants of the cold war era and a revolutionary guerilla leader. He must be judged by the conditions that made him possible, but not indulged by them. He emerged victorious in a battle against a brutal and corrupt US-friendly regime at a time when democracy had yet to reach most of the Caribbean or indeed what we now know of as the developing world. Although his brother Raul assumed presidential powers in 2006 before getting the official title in 2008, modern-day Cuba was built by Fidel Castro. The early years saw him embrace faraway Soviet Union and reject the United States next door, expropriating American assets in the name of his revolution. Castro’s alliance with Moscow brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962. Yet he survived – and thrived on – the brinkmanship, even if the world very nearly did not.

The slow-motion decline: Resisting the gradual erosion of democratic institutions under President Trump -

The slow-motion decline: Resisting the gradual erosion of democratic institutions under President Trump -
by Simon Maloy

***The bulk of Donald Trump’s political life prior to capturing the presidency was devoted to undermining the established institutions of democracy: from the campaign to destroy Barack Obama’s legitimacy as president to his unrelenting hostility towards the press to his pernicious insistences that the election was being “rigged” against him. Now he will have all the levers of the presidency available to him to continue this crusade to erode public confidence in the very political and social institutions that are supposed to keep him in check.
There have been numerous entreaties from politicians of both parties to give Trump the benefit of the doubt and afford him a chance to govern responsibly. But there is nothing in his background to indicate that he is interested or capable of behaving as a responsible chief executive. And nothing he’s done as president-elect should reassure anyone that he’s planning to change.
Trump is sitting on an unprecedentedly massive conflict of interest in the form of a sprawling business empire from which he has so far refused to disassociate himself. The Trump transition team’s work to set up the incoming administration has already been compromised by Trump’s business interests. The advisers and lieutenants Trump is appointing to positions of authority have two common traits: They are loyalists, and they enable Trump’s worst instincts. His chief strategist is a champion of white nationalism, and his potential Homeland Security secretary has plans to reinstitute a registry of Muslim immigrants. Trump’s national security adviser considers the Islamic faith — all of it, not just the radicalized fringes — to be illegitimate and akin to a “cancer.” Even the supposedly “mainstream” staffers Trump has appointed, like chief of staff-designate Reince Priebus, are giving a soft embraceto this extremism.***