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What The Civil Protest in America Really Means

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Credit: Fibonacci Blue / flickr

The spark of this USA  turned global movement was another episode of racial injustice in America. George Floyd another Black man murdered by a White police officer with others watching the homicide. Reminiscent , it is horribly enough,  of the traditional lynch mob days where  white crowds would gather with their picnic baskets and cameras anxious to take home little pieces of the anticipated murdered  Black usual body for souvenirs indeed heirlooms.

But there has been something different about this lynching episode with a white limb on the Black neck rather than hanging the Black neck from the limb of a tree. The expected at best local Black uproar with conciliatory  neo-liberal White and Black elected officials declaring as they usually do saying justice will be done which seldom happens to murdering cops today or historically became the unexpected. The lynching this time became a national and now global event of massive protests everywhere. The President in the White House is dangerously pandering to his White nationalist base rather than paying attention to what people of all ages, classes, and ancestries in the streets in America and around the world. Police chiefs are kneeling and holding hands with protesters and so did the Prime Minister of Canada. Retired military commanders more than likely the mouthpieces of those on-duty forbidden to speak are urging reconciliation and justice. Their urgings are counter to the sterner military measures  President  Trump  threatened to employ though thank goodness in recent days is beginning to pivot from more than likely due to behind the scenes resistance from the military high command and from members of his own party and his own political base who  too are out there marching.

It is the first time this has ever happened in American history and global history at that have ao massively taken to the streets demanding justice for Blacks and for all of us. Superseding what we saw going on in the 1950s and 1960s.People are just sick and tired. Younger generations have nothing to look forward to since Baby boomers have left them with  virtually nothing except debts and now this virus thing devastating the little crumbs left for then to squander. We older people having nothing to boast of either strapped with meager pensions and healthcare and no decent housing and our support systems are lousy. At best we are like the 70 something year old protestor in Buffalo, New York the other day knocked down to pavement by the police left there bleeding. Only a video clipped made it clear he did not as the cops said fell down you know as we older people are habitually supposed to do. We older people in America these days are disposable as the virus sweeping through nursing homes is saying in a society with young people who are tired of not knowing which way they are going. 

Every one out there on the streets and their supporters off the streets where ever they are expressing not having enough to make ends meet and even when you do have means be it taxes or high consumer prices we are barely scrapping. Meanwhile the wealthy few even have the nerve to grab pandemic government funds allocated to the poor. They pay little tax and live like kings and queens while most of us are honest hard working people or hard at looking for work to live lives below poverty. Graduates working their heads off and their hearts out burning midnight oil lanterns until they melt or corrode find nothing like  job waiting for them. Youth and older people in America used to have factories and places like gas stations to work in are now finding robots and off shore phone and online laborers taking their places. 

Be it Democratic or Republican our two party system is torn to threads with the two Presidential contenders Trump there  in the White House and Biden wanting to be there posing as symptoms of the rotting White Supremacy electoral constitutional laws and traditions. Both sides like the founding fathers of this now declining White Supremacy Male nation state are desperately holding on to traditions, to rules, and regulations assuring White Male Supremacy with White women and Non-White men and women being used as their beck and call. Those days are over as the street filled marches are occurring even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic virus. Assuring speeches for peace on both sides of the aisle are doing no good. That includes the soothing words of  Republican Condi Rice  and Democratic Barack Obama who  as Black national political leaders when they were in office did not so as much as they could do about racial justice. So hardly no one is listening to them now  as well as the bleeding  white neo- liberal types, especially the young with no model of courageous racial justice leadership in sight in either of the two traditional parties. 

What the street protests which will not soon end are all about  are possibly five  things. First some  retired military and intelligence and prominent media commentator  are drawing comparisons between  the near collapse of politically traumatized nations around the world and what has been going on in America the last two weeks. The fear is Trump’s erosion of military independence through installing his yes people in the Pentagon is at a point now the military will buckle under and agree to deploying military troops to be used against protesting American citizens.  

Second , some say Trump’s tough law and order stance is a  re-election  strategy to feed his base. If he wins the protests  will more than likely continue more than likely exacerbated by a second wave of COVID-19 pandemic virus, Trump will further push the military into becoming a dictator.  If Trump  loses , he could  refuse to leave office challenging the results in court  throwing the country into a novel constitutional crisis. 

Third , related to the second possibility is Trump using the military to postpone November  elections  with the strategy to bully his way into a second term. This would allow him to tighten his grip  on the military and continue to stack the Supreme Court and the entire federal system. That is, if the Republican Party continues to hold on to the Senate after November which controls federal  judicial appointments and checks Presidential military powers.

Four, others speculate that the convergence of the COVID-19  pandemic and massive racial justice and police reform movements  are sowing the seeds for a  third party  with winning capacity; In  a declining White Supremacy Male nation. 

Even if probable Democratic Party Presidential nominee Joe Biden  chooses moderate Kamala Harris or another African American woman as his running mate as predicted it will continue to destroy the party from within with its elitist neo-liberal inclinations. Even if he wins his old fashioned White Supremacy Male neoliberalism will not be enough to sustain a coalition of the growing power of younger white and especially non-white Democratic and independent voters along with disgruntled Republicans and usual nonvoters. 

 If Trump wins re-election, it will be because  in the face of Democratic  Party nonvoters ,he is able to fire up his Mid-Western and Southern White bases along with his non-White evangelical and conservative supporters enough to  , as in 2016, win  the Electoral College vote while not necessarily the popular vote not needed to win the Presidency in the American system.

Whoever wins in November 2020 , some speculate, will represent one of the two traditional parties which will face a third party in mid-term 2022 and in the Presidential 2024 year. This party will be a Post-White Supremacy galvanizing presently composed of Americans disillusioned by the  marginal and failed  racial and class reform policies across Democratic and Republican administrations since the 1990s creating a deepening disenfranchised multiracial impoverished underclass and middle class in a nation becoming nonwhite with no traditional Party leadership in sight with skills to lead an authentic post-White Supremacy nation. Its dress rehearsal was the 2018 Midterm election which dramatically changed the gender and racial demographics of the House of Representatives. The White Supremacy attitudes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the left towards younger women of color in her caucus along with the conformity leanings of the older Blacks and Latinos House leaders actually paved the way for White Supremacist Trump to attack them from the right. This is certainly creating conditions for third party breakaways especially if Trump wins and moves further to the right with the Democratic Party standing by hopeless and toothless. The fifth view is this  civil rights movement we are now experiencing in America is not just about America. This is more than apparent in its massive presence in other big Western  and Non-Western cities and  in rural areas. In this respect something  bigger than “race” is going on.It is global soul searching and the redemption of our societal souls. It is  a global movement atonement for the sociological sides of societal sins- slavery both historical and modern, colonialism, environmental destruction, racism, the dehumanization of girls and women, poverty induced by the greed of the wealthy, and other massive forms of degradation and suffering though we human beings are one made in the image of God. It is this fifth meaning of this  civil rights movement birthed by COVID-19 pandemic which needs most our undivided attention as a world since searching our souls and recovering our singular humanity is going to be the only way we human beings will not only survive but prosper. This includes Africa where like Asia is now in the centerfold of global power and prestige though still needs to be awakened and contend with such serious forms of structural inequalities which need more transparent discussion and effective intervention and positive transformation.  

Otherwise no matter what we say with such eloquent words and powerpoints in our fancy conference and corporate suite  garments remain irrelevant trinkets of nothingness as the soul searching world leaves Africans  behind…once again.

Director Institute for Advanced Study of African Renaissance Policies Ideas ( ASARPI) SSR Chair of African Studies University of Mauritius

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Americas

In Praise of the Lioness of Law: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her Jurisprudence

Punsara Amarasinghe

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image credit: Wikipedia

The death of the US Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg has created an abyss in the court for the liberal voice where justice Ginsburg was seen as the linchpin of the liberal block of the Supreme Court at a time when that block was shrinking. Especially late judge had vociferously advocated for women ‘rights, environmental issues and often came up with unique dissents in delivering her judgements which were propelled by her jurisprudence which embodied the solemn ideal in American legal system “Equal Protection under the Law “. She was on a quest to defend the delicate balance between honoring the timelessness of American Constitution and recognizing the depth of its enduring principles in new centuries and under new circumstances.

She grew up in an era where men held the helm in every aspect of social life and especially the legal profession was utterly dominated by men. Recalling her legal studies at Harvard law school in the 50’s judge Ginsburg had stated later how she was once asked by the Dean of Harvard law school to justify her position as a law student that otherwise would have gone to a man. Yet she had the spunk to overcome all the obstacles stood on her way and excelled as a scholar becoming the first female member of the Harvard Law Review.

In tracing her legal career that it becomes a salient fact, Judge Ginsburg marked her name in American legal history even decades before she joined the bench. While at the American Civil Liberties Union in the early seventies she made an upheaval in American in legal system in famous Supreme Court Case Reed Vs Reed. In Reed Vs Reed the brief drafted by Ginsburg provided an astute analysis on the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause. Ginsburg’s brief changed the aged long practice existed in the State of Idaho on favoring men over women in estate battles by paving the path for a discourse on gender equality rights in the USA.

Judge Ginsburg’s appointment to the Supreme Court in 1994 during Clinton administration marked the dawn of new jurisprudential chapter in the US Supreme Court. Two terms later, in the United States v. Virginia (VMI), Justice Ginsburg applied her lucid perspective to a sharply disputed constitutional claim. The United States challenged Virginia’s practice of admitting only men to its prestigious military college, the Virginia Military Institute. Writing for six Justices, Ginsburg held this policy unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. In reaching this result, Ginsburg adroitly cut away potentially confounding issues about women’s participation in the military or the advantages of single-sex education.

Her robust activism in securing gender equality often attracted the admirations of the feminist scholars and activists, but it should be noted that her contribution was not only confined to the protection of gender equality. She was a robust critique of racial dissemination which still pervades in American society and she frequently pointed out how racial discrimination has marred the constitutional protections guaranteed to every citizen. Especially in the case of Gratz Vs Bollitnger, she stressed on the commitment that the state ought to fulfil by eliminating the racial biases existing employment and education. Moreover, disabled citizens. In Olmstead v. Zimring, she held that “unjustified institutional isolation of persons with disabilities is a form of discrimination” violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.45 She elaborated a two-fold concept of discrimination, noting that unneeded institutionalization both “perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life”.

In remembering the mortal departure of this prudent judge that one cannot forget her keenness in incorporating international law into her judgements regardless of the disinclination shown by conservative judges like Antony Scalia. Going beyond the mere textualism approach to the law, Ginsburg’s jurisprudence was much more akin to using international law to make substantive decisions. For instance, in her concurring verdict in Grutter Vs Bollinger, Justice Ginsburg relied upon international human rights law, and in particular upon two United Nations conventions, to support her conclusions.

Indeed, the demise of Ruth Ginsburg is a major blow for the liberalists in the USA, especially in an era where liberalist values are at stake under the fervent rise of populist waves propounded by Donald Trump. Especially late judge had been one of the harsh critics of Trump even before ascendency to the Oval office. The void created by the demise of judge Ginsburg might change the role the US Supreme Court if the successor to her position would take a more conservative approach and it will fortify the conservative bloc in the US Supreme Court. Trump has already placed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh and the third pick would more deeply entrench the conservative views in the US Supreme Court, which would inevitably undermine the progressive policies taken during Obama’s administration towards issues such as the environment. The political storm appeared after the death of the late judge has already created a tense situation in US politics as president Trump is determined to appoint a judge to fill before the presidential election in November.

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Americas

The Politics of (In)security in Mexico: Between Narcissism and Political Failure

Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza

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Image credit: Wikimedia

Security cannot be that easily separated from the political realm. The need for security is the prime reason why people come together to collectively form a state. Providing security is, therefore, one of the most basic functions of the state as a political and collective entity.

Last Friday, the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) laughed during his daily morning press briefings over a national newspaper headline about 45 massacres during his presidency. This attitude summarises in a macabre way his approach to insecurity: it is not his top priority. This is not the first time that AMLO has showed some serious and deeply disturbing lack of empathy for victims of crimes. Before taking office, he knew that insecurity was one of Mexico’s biggest challenges, and he has come to realise that curbing it down will not be as simple as he predicted during his presidential campaign.

Since the start of the War on Drugs in 2006, Mexico has sunk into a deep and ever-growing spiral of violence and vigilantism as a result of the erosion of the capacity of the state to provide safety to citizens. Vigilantism is when citizens decide to take the law into their own hands in order to fill the vacuum left by the state, or to pursue their own very particular interests. Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Tabasco, Tamaulipas and Veracruz have over 50 vigilante organisations that pose substantial danger to the power of the state.

Vigilantism is not the only factor exacerbating the security crisis in Mexico: since 2006, young people have also started to join drug cartels and other criminal organisations. There are important sectors of the population who feel that the state has failed to represent them. They also feel betrayed because the state has not been able to provide them with the necessary means to better themselves. These frustrations make them vulnerable to the indoctrination of organised crime gangs who promise to give them some sort of ideological direction and solution to their problems.

As a result, it is not enough to carry out a kingpin arrest strategy and to preach on the moral duties we have as citizens as well as on human dignity. People need to be given enough means to find alternative livelihoods that are attractive enough to take them out of organised crime, Mexico can draw some important lessons from Sierra Leone who successfully demobilised and resettled ex-combatants after the armed conflict. Vigilantism, recruitment by organised crime, and insecurity have also flourished because of a lack of deterrence. The judicial system is weak and highly ineffective. A large proportion of the population does not trust the police, or the institutions in charge of the rule of law.

A long-term strategy requires linking security with politics. It needs to address not only the consequences but also the roots of unemployment and deep inequality. However, doing so requires decisive actions to root out widespread and vicious corruption. Corruption allows concentration of wealth and also prevents people from being held accountable. This perpetuates the circle of insecurity. Mexico has been slowly moving towards a borderline failed state. The current government is starting to lose legitimacy and the fragility of the state is further perpetuated by the undemocratic, and predatory governance of the current administration.

Creating a safer Mexico requires a strong, coherent, and stable leadership, AMLO’s administration is far from it. His popularity has consistently fallen as a result of his ineffective policies to tackle the pandemic, worsening insecurity, and the economic crisis. Mexico has reached over 72,000 Covid-19 deaths; during his initial 20 months as incumbent president, there has been 53,628 murders, among them 1800 children or teenagers, and 5888 women (11 women killed per day) This criminality rate is double than what it was during the same period in the presidency of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012); and 55% higher than with the last president, Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). Mexico is also experiencing its worst economic recession in 90 years.

Insecurity remains as the issue of most concern among Mexicans, seeing the president laughing about it, can only fill citizens with yet more despair and lack of trusts in the government and its institutions. AMLO’s catastrophic performance is not surprising, though. Much of his failures and shortcomings can be explained by both ideology and a narcissistic personality. Having someone with both of those traits ruling a country under normal, peaceful times is already dangerous enough, add an economic crisis and a pandemic to the mix and the result is utter chaos.

AMLO embodies the prototypical narcissist: he has a grandiose self-image; an inflated ego; a constant need for admiration; and intolerance to criticism. He, like many other narcissists, thinks about himself too much and too often, making him incapable of considering the wellbeing of other and unable to pursue the public interest. He has a scapegoat ready to blame for his failures and mistakes: previous administrations, conservatives, neoliberalism, academics, writers, intellectuals, reporters, scientists, you name it, the list is long and keeps getting longer.

AMLO keeps contradicting himself and he does not realise it. He has been claiming for months that the pandemic is under control: it is not. He declares Mexico is ready to face the pandemic and we have enough tests and medical equipment: we do not. He says Mexico is on its way to economic recovery: it is not. He states corruption is a thing of the past: it is not. He says Mexico is now safer than ever before: it is not. When told the opposite he shrugs criticism off and laughs, the behaviour of a typical narcissist.

AMLO, alike narcissists, due to his inability to face criticism, has never cared about surrounding himself by the best and brightest. He chose a bunch of flunkies as members of his cabinet who try to please and not humiliate their leader. A further trait of narcissistic personalities is that they love conflict and division as this keeps them under control. The more destabilisation and antagonism, the better. AMLO since the start of his presidency has been setting states against states for resources and for pandemic responses, instead of coordinating a national response. He is also vindictive: playing favourites with those governors who follow him and punishing those that oppose him.

Deep down, narcissistic leaders are weak. AMLO is genuinely afraid to lead. He simply cannot bring himself to make decisions that are solely his. This is why he has relied on public referendums and consultations to cancel projects or advance legislation. He will not take any responsibility if something goes wrong: It was not him who decided, it was the people, blame them. He inherited a broken system that cannot be fixed during his term, blame the previous administrations, not him.

AMLO is a prime example of a textbook narcissist, unfortunately he is not the only one: Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Recep Erdogan, Rodrigo Duterte are only a few more examples of what seems to be a normalised behaviour in contemporary politics. Every aspect of AMLO’s and other leaders presidencies have been heavily marked by their psychopathology. Narcissism, however, does not allow proper and realistic self-assessment, self-criticism, and self-appreciation therefore such leaders will simply ignore the red flags in their administration and have no clue how despicably and disgracefully they will be remembered.

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Americas

Minor Successes And The Coronavirus Disaster: Is Trump A Dead Duck?

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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That reminder from the Bible, ‘He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone’ may give us pause — but not journalists who by all appearances assume exemption.  And the stones certainly bruise.

Evidence for the bruises lies in the latest poll numbers.  Overall, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump 50 to 43 percent, a margin that has continued to increase since January.  It is also considerably wider than the few points lead Hillary Clinton had over Trump four years ago.  It gets worse for Trump. 

In the industrial states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, which Trump in 2016 won by razor thin margins, he is losing by over 4 percent.  Also key to his victory was Wisconsin where, despite his success in getting dairy products into Canada, he is behind by a substantial 7 percent.  Key states Ohio and Florida are also going for the Democrats.

Trump was not doing so badly until the coronavirus struck and during the course of his news conferences he displayed an uncaring persona larded with incompetence.  Dr. Anthony Fauci, the man he fired for correcting Trumpian exaggerations became a hero and Trump the bully.

If that bullying nature won him small rewards with allies, he hit an impasse with China and Iran … while bringing the two closer to each other.  Then there is the border wall, a sore point for our southern neighbor Mexico.  President Lopez Obrador made sure the subject never came up at the July meeting with Trump,   Thus Mexico is not paying for it so far and will not be in the foreseeable future.

The United Arab Emirates, a conglomeration of what used to be the Trucial States under British hegemony. have agreed to formalize its already fairly close relations with Israel.  In return, Israel has postponed plans to annex the West Bank.  Whether or not it is in Israel’s long term interest to do so is a debatable question because it provides much more powerful ammunition to its critics who already accuse it of becoming an apartheid regime.  However, it had become Prime Minister Netanyahu’s sop to the right wing who will have to wait.  Of course, the reality is that Israel is already the de facto ruler.

If Mr. Trump was crowing about the agreement signed on September 15, although it is akin to someone signing an agreement with Puerto Rico while the United States remains aloof.  As a postscript, the little island of Bahrain also signed a peace deal with Israel.  Bahrain has had its own problems in that a Sunni sheikh rules a Shia populace.  When the Shia had had enough, Saudi and UAE troops were used to end the rebellion.  Bahrain is thus indebted to the UAE.

How many among voters will know the real value of these historic (according to Trump) deals particularly when he starts twittering his accomplishments as the election nears?

There things stand.  As they say, there is nothing worse than peaking too early.  Bettors are still favoring Trump with their money.  The longer anyone has been in politics the more there is to mine, and for an opponent to use to his/her advantage.  Time it seems is on Trump’s side.  

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