undermining democracy

significance

It is significant that the Russian government looked at America, and decided that it would interfere with our elections to promote and support Republicans with its hacking, and social media bot farms.

It’s difficult to ignore that Russia must have determined that a Republican majority would undermine democracy and America’s global leadership position more effectively than a Democratic majority.

It also says something about the Republican base that they don’t seem to care.

The fact is, there is no highly organised network of jihadis working to ceaselessly undermine Western democracy from within the ‘Muslim community’. Such a simplistic understanding, imported from the Bush-era ‘War on Terror’, only serves to perpetrate endless cycles of international warfare, racist backlash and domestic political repression.

Are we really surprised that kids from dirt-poor, ghettoised communities -

- who watched the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan on the TV when they were young,

- who grew up experiencing racism and discrimination at school,

- who see images of people with the same colour skin as themselves routinely degraded in the media,

- who have had vital public services, youth clubs and social services taken away by successive austerity administrations,

- can fall into the clutches of opportunist recruiters on Internet forums and chat rooms in their own bedrooms, away from any stabilising influence in their faith community,

- and feel the need to claw some kind of power back by committing horrific acts of violence against the society which has made their lives a misery?

It’s a comfortable fiction to convince ourselves that there is ‘no motive’ for the awful acts committed in Manchester and in London. Flooding Britain’s streets with military personnel and sliding towards a police state is stupefyingly insufficient: if we can’t understand the underlying social conditions which motivate these violent, grotesque, twisted individuals - and address them head on - then we cannot even hope to truly fight terrorism.

RIP the victims of the London attacks

An Important Note for Liberals from a Non-Democrat Leftist

1. Criticizing a Democrat is not an endorsement of Trump.
2. Criticizing a Democrat does not undermine democracy.
3. Criticizing a Democrat does not make someone a Russian stooge.
4a. Democrats are not the only or last line of defense of democracy. We, the citizenry, are.
4b. We also have bureaucracy, the courts, leaks, political norms and customs, the media, and more, as the last several months have proven.
5. Saying that both parties or representatives of each party are bad does not necessarily equate to equivalence. There are varying shades of badness.
6a. No politician is beyond criticism, whether it be Barack Obama or Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.
6b. The same goes for the media. Sometimes, The Washington Post is wrong. Glenn Greenwald is not beyond reproach, nor is Rachel Maddow. I’ve been wrong, too.
7. Critiquing Democrats will not cost them the 2018 or 2020 elections. The elections are far away, and politicians can use frank feedback to run stronger campaigns.

There is a certain rigid, authoritarian mindset in some liberal circles that you either support Democrats and their surrogates 100% or somehow, you’re the enemy. I would strongly request that if you yourself are in one of these circles, you take into consideration the points above. People like me who criticize Democrats, most of us want a better America and the best party possible with the strongest candidates possible to represent ‘the left.’ You can demonize us, you can stonewall and smear us, you can dismiss us, or you can accept us as part of the clan…or at least consider alternative viewpoints to the liberal mainstream. Like most humans, most of us just want to be heard and respected. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Peace and love,
That guy who writes stuff good

“The Obama campaign greatly impressed the public relations industry, which named Obama ‘Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008,’ easily beating out Apple computers. A good predictor of the elections a few weeks later. The industry’s regular task is to create uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices, thus undermining markets as they are conceptualized in economic theory, but benefiting the masters of the economy. And it recognizes the benefits of undermining democracy in much the same way, creating uninformed voters who make often irrational choices between the factions of the business party that amass sufficient support from concentrated private capital to enter the electoral arena, then to dominate campaign propaganda.”
- Noam Chomsky, ‘Hopes and Prospects’

reuters.com
Vladimir Putin says can prove Trump did not pass Russia secrets
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump had not passed on any secrets to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a meeting in Washington last week and that he could prove it.

Here we go.

Putin is positioning himself against the US intelligence community and the US media, the two institutions that leaked and then broke the story of what Trump did. And Trump DID do it, he’s admitted to it. 

So Putin is framing the whole thing as a ridiculous sham in which the intelligence people involved are lying, in which the media are lying, and, in a roundabout way that trump is not going to understand since this is presented as a defense of him despite the fact that it claims to put the lie to his own words, that Trump is an untrustworthy clown. 

His message is that your government can’t be trusted. Further, that people CAN trust him. 

And that fits in perfectly with his agenda of undermining Western democracies. 

independent.co.uk
Donald Trump is a pathological liar working to undermine US democracy, says Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders has launched a scathing attack on Donald Trump, who he described as a "pathological liar" with authoritarian ambitions. Speaking to The Guardian, Mr Sanders, who challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, said he believed Mr Trump's lies were an attempt on the President's part to "undermine the foundations of American democracy."
A slight deviation from my usual posts.

Grow the fuck up. All of you. Every single whining, mewling pathetic millennial on this gods-forsaken platform. What you have just taken part in (or if you’re American and didn’t vote, declined your right to do so) or witnessed from other countries is democracy. A nation stood up and was counted and a vote came in and it didn’t go your way. Clinton didn’t win. Trump did. It’s that simple. Not that difficult to understand.

How dare you blame your elders for being more conservative than you. They have the same rights as you and exercised them alongside you. You had equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

The same goes for people blaming white people or rural voters, calling them racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, whatever, are you that narrow minded that you cannot consider that these people had their own legitimate concerns and interests to vote for, exactly the same as you? These people who thought Trump offered job security, trade security, internal security and placed their faith in him and made what they believed was the best choice for their country? You have your own interests and agendas and you made that clear when you voted, but how dare you complain that theirs is somehow worth less than yours or is somehow evil from your perspective?

As a British man, we had a similar vote earlier this year for Brexit. I won’t say how I voted as I believe strongly in secret ballots, but in school the next day, we had students from Hong Kong saying how they envied us, being able to vote and challenge a system rigidly put in place by others. Voting is more than a right, it’s a privilege, damn near a blessing when there are many parts of the world where elections are either blatantly rigged, disrupted or just simply don’t happen. You’re fucking blessed to live in a country where voting is damn near sacred.

You whine about how Trump is “literally Hitler”. Shut the fuck up. The only person who is “literally Hitler” was Hitler himself and even he had to participate in elections (notably, he never won one). To throw around terms and compare every politician you don’t like to a monster like that is trivialising every atrocity that man committed. Oh yeah Trump said mean things, but he hasn’t fucking annexed several nations and initiated a mass murder of Jews, disabled, gays, gypsies, slavs etc.

“Oh I’m scared for my LGBTQ+, Muslim, Hispanic, Jewish and black friends”. Oh fuck off. America is an industrialised, modern, mostly secular, media dominated country, what do you think Trump is going to do, initiate a pogrom? You’re frightening yourselves over nothing. After an election, why the fuck would any new leader try to isolate entire groups and risk alienating not only other Americans, but countries watching his every move? This isn’t Tsarist Russia, he’s not going to initiate pogroms on every group he’s insulted. He’ll tone down pretty damn quickly. To consolidate leadership, Trump wants unity and order, not fucking mob rule.

And finally, how dare you even think to undermine democracy by refusing to accept the result, advocating violence, rioting, looting, revolution because you didn’t get your way and so someone else has to pay? suggesting votes should be stripped from certain groups or somehow making them worth less than other groups? Who the fuck do you think you are, thinking that your opinion or vote is worth more, infantilising your fellow countrymen who exercised the same fucking right as you but chose a different outcome?

You’re not going to live in some fantasy, fascist dystopia because there’s something called the status quo that all Governments want to maintain. People work, children go to school, people pay taxes, services run etc. None of that will change. Grow the fuck up.

Every one of you should be ashamed. In years to come, when you’ve grown up and realised how childish you’re being, you will be utterly embarrassed by what you’re posting now.

“The public relations industry, which essentially runs the elections, is applying certain principles to undermine democracy which are the same as the principles it applies to undermine markets. The last thing that business wants is markets in the sense of economic theory. Take a course in economics, they tell you a market is based on informed consumers making rational choices. Anyone who’s ever looked at a TV ad knows that’s not true. In fact, if we had a market system an ad, say for General Motors, would be a brief statement of the characteristics of the products for next year. That’s not what you see. You see some movie actress or a football hero or somebody driving a car up a mountain or something like that. And that’s true of all advertising. The goal is to undermine markets by creating uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices and the business world spends huge efforts on that. The same is true when the same industry, the PR industry, turns to undermining democracy. It wants to construct elections in which uninformed voters will make irrational choices. It’s pretty reasonable and it’s so evident you can hardly miss it.”
- Noam Chomsky, from lecture titled ‘The State-Corporate Complex:A Threat to Freedom and Survival’, at the The University of Toronto, April 7, 2011

Some movies are a master class in how to make a good movie. Some are a master class in cinematography, or the use of soundtrack and score. Some are a master class in shot construction and editing. Some are a master class in screenwriting structure.

“The Circle” is a master class in how not to make a simple genre film.

Spoilers will follow, though if you find yourself surprised by anything in “The Circle,” you’re not really ready for a master class in film. You’re probably still stuck in Introduction to Cinema 101.

Here’s the genre “The Circle” belongs to:

A naive, callow twenty-something is hired for a too-good-to-be-true dream job at a secretive company led by a charismatic father figure and learns there’s a sinister reality behind the charming facade. Complications ensue as the twenty-something decides to expose the illegal doings of the firm, putting herself and those she loves at risk.

That’s a liberal summation of “The Circle” because the second sentence in that paragraph is only weakly implied in the film itself. It’s also, you might notice, a plot summary of the book and movie which exemplified, rather successfully, the genre “The Circle” is trying to fit into (a genre I call “Had I But Known”).

The film “The Circle” wants to be is “The Firm,” with Emma Watson in the part of naïve and callow young Tom Cruise, who discovers the secretive law firm he’s working for has one client: the Mob. A comparison of these two movies, working in the same genre with basically the same plot, provides us with a master class in how not to do a genre film.

Whatever you may think of its basic worth, as a piece of genre entertainment, “The Firm” delivers the goods. We’re introduced to a relatively likeable young lawyer, played by Tom Cruise, a recent graduate with tons of student debt, who’s offered a high-paying job at an obscure Southern law firm run by charismatic Gene Hackman. Tom and his lovely wife relocate to their new city, where they’re isolated from the support of old friends and family, and become both socially and economically dependent on Tom’s new job at The Firm. But all is not as it seems and soon Tom realizes that the supportive and enriching company to which he’s attached himself is actually a money-laundering and law-manipulating front for the Mob. Tom’s discovery puts his life and the life of his wife at risk. With pressure from outside and inside the Firm threatening Tom and his loved one, he must come up with a plan to expose the Firm while protecting himself and his wife from retaliation by the Mob and prosecution by the government. He works out a dangerous and elaborate plan to do so, ending in a climactic confrontation with the Firm’s charismatic leader in which Tom’s clever plan triumphs thanks to both his and his wife’s bravery and ingenuity.

It’s a basic pot-boiler plot, and for it to be successful only a handful of key ingredients are required, all of which “The Firm” provides:

1) A likeable, intelligent but naïve hero with a sympathetic goal.

2) An intriguing, not-all-what-he-seems villain.

3) A simple, easily explained crisis (the law firm you’re working for turns out to be a Mob front).

4) Jeopardy to the hero’s life and loved ones.

5) A clever plan developed by the hero to escape the villain’s clutches and turn the tables on the bad guys.

On the surface, “The Circle” also seems to contain all five ingredients– but only if you interpret each ingredient very very liberally.

1) A likeable, intelligent but naïve hero with a sympathetic goal:

Emma Watson plays May, a nondescript millennial in a dead end temp job. We’re supposed to find her sympathetic because anyone stuck in a dead end temp job is supposed to be sympathetic. But what, exactly, makes her likeable and intelligent? (Emma Watson is obviously likeable and projects intelligence, but I’m talking about the character she plays, May, not Emma Watson.) We know nothing about May’s goals or interests other than that she enjoys kayaking. She’s dismissive of the one non-family member who shows interest in her as a person, a childhood friend named Mercer. Her father has MS and May feels bad about that. As far as character development goes, that’s pretty much it. May is a nobody, not particularly distinguished in her ambitions or talents, not particularly likeable. She is, apparently, reasonably good at customer service. Yay for May. If she were played by anyone other than Emma Watson she’d be instantly forgettable. Tom Cruise’s character, on the other hand, is specific, if not particularly exciting: he’s a freshly minted lawyer with student debt and a lovely wife, well-educated and obviously smart, with ambitions and a goal. He may not be original but he has potential and character resources to draw upon. May is a customer support rep with a bad attitude toward one potential friend and a single hobby, kayaking. No potential, no character resources. When she discovers The Truth about her company she has no particular skill set to draw upon to accomplish point five (which will lead to the greatest failure of the film).

2) An intriguing, not-all-what-he-seems villain:

Tom Hanks plays Bailey, the Steve Jobs-esque charismatic leader of the Google-Facebook-Apple tech company “The Circle.” He’s presented as a socially forward-thinking tech entrepreneur whose main skill set, apparently, is the ability to give tendentious speeches to an audience of happy employees. At no time is he shown to be anything other than a lightweight con artist at worst. Despite the film’s heavy handed message that social media unchecked is Bad, and the assertion of one character that The Circle is up to something nefarious, and an unbelievable public display of callously poor judgment, Bailey never does anything on screen that can be described as villainous. He doesn’t threaten May’s life or the lives of her loved ones (in fact, the “villainous” tech that May comes to distrust actually saves her life, and the company’s free health care saves her family from financial ruin and provides her father with treatment for his MS). We are told (again, by a character other than May, who learns and does nothing of consequence on her own) that The Circle and its leaders are up to No Good, but exactly what that No Good consists of, other than exposing the illegal actions of a hostile Senator, we have no idea. As a villain, Tom Hanks’ Bailey is, like May, not much of anything.

3) A simple, easily explained crisis (the law firm you’re working for turns out to be a Mob front).

The Circle, the company May works for, is, on the surface, a typical successful and grandiose Silicon Valley tech firm. Its corporate culture is obnoxiously self-satisfied and myopic. Its employees are happy worker bees who believe they’re on a Mission. There’s a vaguely cult-like atmosphere. The employees are naïve, the bosses are manipulative and probably amoral, though that’s implied more than displayed. But that’s the surface reality. Underneath the surface, however, and providing the crisis that propels our hero to take her life in her hands and risk everything to expose The Truth, is the revelation that The Circle is– exactly what it appears to be on the surface: a typical successful and grandiose Silicon Valley tech firm. Wait, what? It isn’t making deals with authoritarian countries to control the citizenry through technology? Its master plan to undermine American democracy is to make it easier and a requirement that all citizens vote? Its worst crime is the enabling of amateur paparazzi leading to the accidental death of a possibly deranged young man? I may be missing something here, but while all of this is irresponsible and potentially dangerous, none of it is actually, ah, criminal. And none of it puts our heroine’s own life or the lives of her loved ones or her future happiness at risk. Which brings us to ingredient four…

4) Jeopardy to the hero’s life and loved ones.

So, once May “discovers” The Truth that The Circle is, in fact, exactly what it seems to be, what jeopardy does she face? What risk is she exposed to? What danger confronts her and her loved ones? In a tense scene, when Bailey and his apparent dark enforcer, Patton Oswalt (yep, Patton Oswalt is Bailey’s “menacing” corporate henchman) recognize that May is no longer a happy employee, they threaten her with– a better job, more money, more freedom. Or, heck, May can just keep doing what she’s doing. Whatever works best for her. We’re just here to see you get back on your feet. It’s a devastating and frightening confrontation. Yeah, no. But it’s completely on a par with the rest of the film. From one point of view, given the behavior of The Circle toward May, she’s the psychotic villain, not Bailey. There is literally no threat to May, no personal or family jeopardy, not even a hint of possible negative consequences if she decides to quit. She isn’t even reminded of legal issues regarding corporate NDAs, though in fact May doesn’t actually have any corporate secrets to expose, good, bad, or otherwise, because remember SHE’S JUST A CUSTOMER SERVICE REP. Which brings us to the last and most disastrous missing ingredient…

5) A clever plan developed by the hero to escape the villain’s clutches and turn the tables on the bad guys.

Before I get into this one, I’ll digress to share a comment a friend of mine once made about “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” a movie that is the Exception That Proves The Rule of genre pictures. According to my friend, you can take Indiana Jones out of “Raiders” and the ending of the movie would be exactly the same. It’s true: if Indiana never became involved in the search for the Lost Ark, how would the ultimate outcome be different? The Nazis would have found the Ark, would have opened it as they did, and would have been consumed by the Wrath of God. Indiana’s involvement changed nothing. To be fair, he did save Marion Ravenwood’s life. She probably would have been killed if Indy hadn’t shown up in Tibet. So that’s something. And maybe the Ark wouldn’t have ended up stored in Area 51. Not that it’s ever mattered. But, essentially, Indiana Jones is irrelevant to the outcome of “Raiders,” and while it works in “Raiders” because everything else is so damned marvelous, normally a genre story in which the hero’s presence is irrelevant to the outcome is what we in the business call A Bad Thing.

May, in “The Circle,” is completely irrelevant to the outcome of the movie. Why? Because in fact she isn’t the real protagonist of the story– she’s at best a supporting character, at worst a minor cog in the arc of the actual protagonist, the man the movie should have been about, the only empowered character in the film who has a functional choice to make and an actual risk to take: Tyler.

Tyler? TYLER?

Who the hell is Tyler? Why haven’t we mentioned this guy before? What does he have to do with all this?

Tyler is a supporting character introduced toward the end of Act One, played by John Boyega in a total of three full scenes, a mysterious and close-mouthed “tech engineer” who for some unexplained reason decides to reveal the Deep Secrets of The Circle to customer rep May. The Deep Secret of The Circle is that they have a lot of underground space for server farms, i.e.: they have room to expand their data storage. Apparently this is a Bad Thing and she mustn’t tell anyone she knows. Oh, and by the way, Tyler is the tech engineer who designed the software/hardware/program/magic that makes The Circle a tech powerhouse. But these days he just wanders around the company campus getting upset by storage space and taking naïve young customer reps into his confidence. Tyler is an enigma. He’s also the Deus Ex Machina who gives May the opportunity to make a Big Speech at the end of the movie while he does the actual work of exposing the Bad Things the company is doing.

(What bad things, exactly? We never find out, but they must be Bad, because they upset Tyler, who’s also upset by storage space.)

Yes, that’s right: Tyler is the one who first discovers The Circle is doing Bad Things (they’re planning to fill storage space with data) and Tyler is the one who puts his cushy non-job at risk when he decides to expose those Bad Things, something he can do because he has the skill set necessary to take action to resolve the crisis. It isn’t even clear May’s own turn against The Circle has any influence on Tyler’s decision. In a scene obviously rewritten and re-voiced in post production, there’s an attempt to show that May persuaded Tyler to act, but it’s unconvincing. Tyler doesn’t need May to persuade him; he was previously trying to persuade her. Tyler acts for Tyler’s own reasons. May’s presence in the story is irrelevant. Through her own actions May has no fundamental impact on the story’s outcome. And unlike “Raiders,” there’s no compensating fun to be had in the rest of the film.

So, there you have it– a master class in how not to make a thriller in the Had I But Known genre. Wait till “The Circle” is on Netflix or Amazon Prime, then watch it back to back with “The Firm.” You’ll learn something.

Whether what you learn is worth the time invested is entirely up to you.

i got tagged for this one by @ryanjjohn so here we go

5 things you love:

  1. gardens/gardening
  2. cycling or hiking in new places
  3. creating community
  4. trying new dishes either cooking or prepared for me
  5. when strangers bond over little things that brightens up dull moments

5 things you hate:

  1. how car-centric our public spaces are designed & how it leads to aggressive driving where our fellow humans are dehumanized by it
  2. how our democracy is undermined by a select ultra-wealthy few & companies have more leverage than citizen’s voices so often
  3. getting a sliver under your fingernail because holy hell
  4. wet socks
  5. the feeling that achieving equality for all is moving at a glacial pace despite our efforts to confront injustices, & there will always be people violently opposed to giving up their privilege & senseless hatred

5 things you’re looking forward to in the future:

  1. someday having a bed and breakfast and making it fucking awesome
  2. getting a dogggggggg 
  3. a woman getting elected president of the united states
  4. meeting more of you lovely babes in real life
  5. all of the bangin’ parties* i’m going to throw

5 shows you like to watch:

  1. the office (US)
  2. parks and recreation
  3. rupaul’s drag race
  4. law and order
  5. a chef’s table

5 facts about yourself:

  1. i have a hard time verbalizing left & right: like giving driving directions in real time, if i say right, i mean right 100% of the time, but if i say left, i mean right about 50% of the time, but i’ll still be pointing left. i have no idea why.
  2. i am excellent at spatial relations
  3. i will give you a run for your money at boggle & scrabble & gin rummy
  4. i have relative pitch (once i hear a note or series of them, i have a forever memory of it & will recreate it in the same key, even in recalling people’s speech patterns)
  5. my heart is on the right side of my body

i always feel weird tagging people as there is no pressure & i’m not sure if you’ve already done this, but how about @wallofdis @iamdawt @mistavybe @oceanicsteam @aplague0fbitches

*on reread, i realized it sounded like i was throwing sex parties, & uh, probably not. meant just like parties that are bangin’!

Two Weird Tricks To Prevent The Rise Of Nazis

1. Oppose Nazism through ordinary political channels, winning people to your side and supporting non-Nazi politicians.

2. Make sure you have both the means and the will to oppose an actual, literal coup.

Because the Nazis DID IN FACT GAIN POWER ONLY AFTER A COUP and NEVER GAINED A MAJORITY OF THE VOTE. So the actual problem that led to Nazi takeover was not the lack of street brawls and sucker punches, but the inability to properly defend from violence in in an immediate sense AFTER the enemy had already initiated violence. Unless the rising tide of Nazism is even stronger than it even was in Weimar Germany, you do not in fact need to undermine the principles of democracy to protect yourself from Nazi takeover.

So if you feel the need to stock up on rifles and canned goods, fine. Because those are the actual things you would need to defend against a coup or fight back after one has taken place. But please, stop weakening the norms of democracy in the name of short-term purity.

Shitty shit is happening, okay. Shitty, terrible, scary political shit. 

But I just……can’t bring myself to care? At least not in the way social media wants me to care. Because social media has become an echo chamber in which all my leftist/progressive friends are screaming their feelings. WHICH IS LEGITIMATE. You are entitled to your feelings and the expression of your feelings and your fear and your anxiety and your worry. 

But it’s just not doing anything for me anymore. At this point, I want a plan. I want cohesive, well-thought-out tactics and strategy. Not for punching Nazis when I see them, not for an occasional victory of one-upmanship. No, I want a long-term strategy. I want to know what it’s going to take to win against these motherfuckers. I want to know what we’re all going to have to do, cohesively and within the constraints of a functioning democracy, to undermine this shit and win the fucking war. I want to win the war for the public, I want to win the war for local and state and federal governments, I want to win so hard that this kind of ideology thinks twice the next time it dreams of digging itself out of the grave I want to put it in and crawling across the earth again. 

I need people to stop being surprised and outraged that Nazis exist and start stepping up to the plate to develop strategies for undermining their socio-cultural influence and growing political power.

2

Once upon a time, the Internet was viewed by its creators as the ultimate tool for democratic empowerment–a decentralized platform providing a forum where thoughts and ideas could logically discussed. Well, things didn’t quite turn out as those visionaries had hoped. In his new book, Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, Jonathan Taplin explores how these three companies in particular have used the Internet to make enormous profits, erode individual privacy, and propagate social inequality. Or, to quote The Guardian

“…[A] timely and useful book because it provides an antidote to the self-serving narrative energetically cultivated by the digital monopolies. They have had an easy ride for too long and democracies will, sooner or later, have to rein them in. The first step down that road is to stop viewing them through rose-tinted spectacles and see them for what they really are: enormously powerful corporations that move fast and break things, while minimising their tax bills and shirking the responsibilities that come with their media power.”

Poland defies EU with court overhaul

Polish politicians have passed a bill which allows parliament to appoint Supreme Court judges, defying objections from lawyers, opposition leaders and the European Union which says the move undermines democracy and the rule of law.

The vote on Thursday came a day after the EU gave its largest formerly communist member state a week to shelve judicial reforms that Brussels says would put courts under direct government control.

If Warsaw’s ruling nationalist-minded conservatives do not back down, they could face fines and even a suspension of voting rights, although other eurosceptics in the EU, notably Hungary, will likely veto strict punishment.

In the best-case scenario, Poland will see its clout in Brussels wane further, damaged by mounting frustration among its EU peers about disagreements over issues such as migration, nature conservation and EU reforms.

It will go to parliament’s upper house, where he ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) also has a majority, on Friday. President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, will have to sign it before it can become law.

PiS says the changes are needed to make courts accountable and to ensure state institutions serve all Poles, not just the “elites” it says are the support base for the centrist opposition.

But critics say the legislation is part of a creep towards authoritarianism by the government.

Political opponents, rights groups and the EU also say the changes undermine the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, a fundamental democratic principle.

European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish centrist prime minister and arch-rival of PiS, said it was backward, went “against European standards and values”, harmed Poland’s reputation and risked marginalising the country.

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, another nationalist critic of Brussels, wrote a letter to his Polish counterpart to express Budapest’s support.

The problem with the “the Supreme Court undermined all these voters!” argument is that it ignores what the Supreme Court’s job is. The Supreme Court is supposed to determine if legislation is constitutional or not.

Did eliminating segregation through Brown v. Board undermine the voting wishes of a majority of Southern voters? Certainly.

Did ruling anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia remove a long-standing set of laws that governed what marriage was “supposed” to be? Of course.

When Lawrence v. Texas overturned Bowers v. Hardwick, were there still thousands of people who agreed with the Bowers decision and thought that legalizing sodomy “cast aside millennia of moral teaching”? Definitely. But that’s the point of the Supreme Court.

You think this decision undermines democracy? Not Citizens United v. FEC? Not Burwell v. Hobby Lobby? THIS is the one you take issue with? Because it lets people get married? What, exactly, does your idea of “democracy” entail?

i actually do kinda think that putin’s goal was not just get trump elected but to undermine the US’s democracy (or faith in it) by helping to get trump elected and then making sure everyone knew about it afterward

so then it’s like, talking about this at all and questioning the legitimacy of the presidency is exactly what russia wants, but it’s not like we can stop doing it and pretend this is normal, so like…uh, good move @ the kremlin, i guess??

this is horrible but i am learning a lot, is what i am saying, i guess. 

Poland Defies EU, Passes Bill That Puts Supreme Court Under Political Control
Warsaw: Polish lawmakers passed a bill on Thursday that would allow parliament to appoint Supreme Court judges, defying objections from lawyers, opposition leaders and the European Union that the move undermines democracy and the rule of law.

The vote came a day after the EU gave its largest formerly communist member state a week to shelve judicial reforms that Brussels says would put courts under direct government control.

If Warsaw’s ruling nationalist-minded conservatives do not back down, they could face fines and even a suspension of voting rights, although other eurosceptics in the EU, notably Hungary, will likely veto strict punishment.

In the best-case scenario, Poland will see its clout in Brussels wane further, damaged by mounting frustration among its EU peers about disagreements over issues such as migration, nature conservation and EU reforms.

The bill submitted by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) was passed by parliament’s lower house after three days of rowdy debate and protests that drew thousands of people across Poland.

It will go to parliament’s upper house, where PiS also has a majority, on Friday. President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, will have to sign it before it can become law.

During the debate, Poland’s human rights ombudsman, Adam Bodnar, told parliament that the legislation, together with two other bills that will change the way judges are appointed, would “deprive citizens of the right to an independent court”. “We are planting an explosive under our judiciary,” he said.

PiS says the changes are needed to make courts accountable and to ensure state institutions serve all Poles, not just the “elites” it says are the support base for the centrist opposition. But critics say the legislation is part of a creep towards authoritarianism by the government, which espouses nationalist rhetoric coupled with left-leaning economic policy.

Since being elected in 2015, PiS has tightened government control over courts and prosecutors, as well as state media, and introduced restrictions on public gatherings and the activity of non-governmental organisations.

Last week, parliament passed another bill which ends the terms of current members of the National Council of the Judiciary, one of the main judicial bodies, and gives parliament powers to choose 15 of its 25 members.

STANDARDS AND VALUES

Political opponents, rights groups and the EU say the changes undermine the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, a fundamental democratic principle. While PiS remains broadly popular among many Poles, particularly poorer and older voters from the countryside, there have been widespread protests against the plans.

European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish centrist prime minister and arch-rival of PiS, said on Thursday he had asked Duda for an urgent meeting about the “political crisis” in the country. Tusk said in a statement that PiS moves on courts were backward, went “against European standards and values”, harmed Poland’s reputation and risked marginalising the country.

“The European Union is not only money and procedures. It is first and foremost values and high standards of public life. That is why a wave of criticism of the government is rising in Europe and in the whole West,” Tusk said.

A senior aide to Duda, Krzysztof Szczerski, said Tusk should instead focus on explaining Poland’s stance in Brussels. “The president is surprised that there has been such increased engagement in this matter by European institutions because everything is in accordance with the Polish legal order,“ Szczerski told Reuters in an emailed statement.

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, another nationalist critic of Brussels, wrote a letter to his Polish counterpart to express Budapest’s support. "We stand by Poland, and we call on the European Commission not to overstep its authority,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in a statement.

The bill passed on Thursday calls for replacing all Supreme Court judges except those elected by a judicial panel that is to be chosen by the parliament. The Supreme Court’s tasks include validating elections. Tusk called on Duda - whose signature is required to enact the law - to find a different solution.

PiS has offered no concessions despite the pressure, instead presenting the criticism as unacceptable foreign meddling in the domestic affairs of the country, which overthrew communism in 1989 and joined the EU in 2004.