Daily Archives: June 28, 2021

The Graphic Truth: Did the war on drugs work? – GZERO Media

Posted: June 28, 2021 at 10:53 pm

That's an interesting development. Precisely because I remember when I used to study the Soviet Union, there was such profound sense of they pretend to pay us, we pretend to work. Everyone gave lip service to the system, but the system was incredibly and profoundly inefficient. Now it is certainly true that state-owned enterprises in China are less profitable and less efficient in deployment of capital and productivity than the private sector in China is. And yet, we are seeing with authoritarian surveillance, that the ability of the Chinese government to align individual citizens' behavior with what is considered patriotic goes so much more deeply into day-to-day living than it ever could have in the Soviet Union.

And this is something I think that is creating much more confidence on the part of the communist party, that they're getting it right, that their system works. And certainly, coming out of the pandemic faster than other major countries in the world, even though it started in China, even though they covered up the original human to human transmission. The fact that they could engage in surveillance and lockdowns that allowed the economy to get back up and running, over a year ago at this point, well ahead of that of the United States, of Europe, of other countries in the world, is providing a lot of optimism and enthusiasm that 100 years on, the Chinese Communist Party is not just robust, but it's actually a system increasingly to be emulated.

And in this regard, it was really interesting to see this new state council white paper that just came out on the party's 100-year quest for human rights protection as they call it. It's an important theme that I suspect we will see mentioned by President Xi in his upcoming speech as a General Secretary of the Communist Party. And we're increasingly seeing numbers of high-level officials calling for China to share its governance model internationally because it's so successful. Something that we have not seen from China historically. And that's one of the things I'm going to find most important about the events of the coming week, is whether or not we end up in a greater ideological confrontation as opposed to just an economic or technological one. Which is what we've seen of course from the US and China intensifying, but nonetheless limited over the course of the past years.

So I think that if you're looking at this from China's perspective, your saying we've had extraordinary economic growth, our political system is very consolidated, the West doesn't really know what it stands for. Coming out of the pandemic, we feel good about where we stand. Issues like Hong Kong, the Uyghurs, Taiwan, which are extremely controversial and leading to a lot of criticism, rightfully in my view, from the United States and other democracies. Inside mainland China, the average Chinese citizen actually is very aligned with what the Chinese government is saying. And that's not only because they control the media. I mean, if you look at the treatment of the Uyghurs and the fact that their rights have been stripped away, and there's been forcible cultural assimilation, integration, antinatalist policies of late, even sterilizations. And of course, these reeducation camps with over a million Uyghurs in place.

The average Chinese, and I've spoken to a lot of Chinese citizens about this, say this is a group that had radicals in their midst. They would engage in irredentist sentiment to break up mainland China. They had a secessionist movement, they supported terrorism, there was violence against Chinese citizens, and we needed to react. And how was the reaction where you have those reactions, there's clearly going to be, if you want to make an omelet, you're going to break some eggs. Of course, there were probably people that were caught up in all of this. But ultimately there's no longer threat from the Uyghurs to China. And how is that different from what the Americans did say after 9/11? How's it different from Guantanamo Bay? I would argue it's quite different in the sense that the scale is staggering, it's happening inside Chinese territory. But again, it's important to understand that from the perspective of Chinese citizens, it is seen as a legitimate Chinese government response. So I think the first big point is we think about the 100th Communist Party plenum is just how strong Chinese domestic patriotism presently is.

There's two other points I would mention. There's also the lionization of Xi Jinping himself. If you look at the official textbooks on the history of the Communist Party, Xi has personally been elevated well beyond that of any leader since Mao. And there's increasingly a white washing of the cultural revolution. There is increasingly this sense that the Great Leap Forward, which was a policy disaster inside China of the level of those we saw with the Great Famine under Stalin, is now something that you really can't criticize anymore. So this sense that history should be rewritten to support the domestic victors, something that is downright Orwellian, but is increasing the table stakes inside China is something I find disturbing. Not only because I think it's bad for the harmonious rise of Chinese society over time, but also because it will lead to more confrontation between China and those of other countries around the world that have a broader and more or open policy debate and media debate and political debate.

And then finally, there's the question of, to what extent China's next five, 10 years are going to be as easy to continue to grow as we've seen over the course of the last 50. 100 years you can't really use that as a benchmark because before China started globalizing, there was much more profound difficulty inside China. It was a low-income country with massive human depredation and war. But when I see where China is heading in the next 10 years compared to the last 50, it feels like there is a lot more winds of change against China's progress.

What do I mean by that? Well, the last 50 years, China was interested in integrating more into the global economy. It embraced globalization. At the same time, the West, the United States and allies, wanted China to integrate into the WTO, integrate into a global supply chain where China was increasingly the factory for low-cost labor and goods to export all over the world. And both of those things rowing in harmony made it so much easier for China to grow, on average, almost double digits over the course of the last 30, 40 years. Unprecedented in the history of humanity for an economy of that scale.

Now, as I think about the coming five, 10 years, neither of those two things apply. Globalization is starting to turn inward, low-cost labor no longer so low cost in China. The United States focusing more on industrial policy, on insourcing, on supporting American labor. Not on China being the factory of the world. So the massive advantage that China had is not only less of an advantage in a post-industrial revolution, but also the West is increasingly not aligned with China's integration and economic success. Now, there certainly are actors in the West that are very aligned with it. There's a big difference between a lot of American corporates that are still betting more and more over time on China's economy than the US government and many allied governments in the Quad, in Asia, the UK, many Europeans in Europe. But still, structurally, this is going to be a lot harder for China going forward.

And the fact that the five-year plan is now all about dual circulation, which is focused more on Chinese demand and focused more on Chinese control of supply chain is the opposite of what China was able to prioritize to get to the economic power that it presently accumulates. The fact that that is happening in an environment where Chinese demographics are more constrained and Chinese debt is growing to levels that have been unsustainable for middle income economies over the course of the last 50 years, for me, makes the risks to China in the next five, 10 years skew more to the downside than the upside. A lot of uncertainty, but as I'm thinking about how to assess Xi Jinping's big plenary speech coming up this week, that's what I'm thinking about.

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The Graphic Truth: Did the war on drugs work? - GZERO Media

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Has the war on drugs been won yet? – GZERO Media

Posted: at 10:53 pm

It's been fifty years since the United States declared one of the costliest wars in its history a trillion-dollar campaign waged at home and abroad, which continues to grind on today.

In June of 1971, President Richard Nixon, alarmed by the rise of permissive hippy culture and drug use, unleashed what would become known as the "war on drugs," a tough-on-crime approach that melded law enforcement, military action, and a public messaging campaign that both scared and scolded.

Aiming to reduce American drug use, it severely criminalized consumption in the US, while attacking international cartels' capacity to produce and export illicit narcotics, in particular from Latin America.

Did it work? We take a look at three of the war's major "battlefields" today.

The producer: Colombia. In the 1980s Colombia became the center of the global cocaine trade, which helped fuel the decades-long conflict between FARC guerillas, drug cartels, paramilitaries, and the Colombian government.

In 2000, Washington and Bogot inked the multibillion-dollar Plan Colombia, in which the US trained and equipped Colombian soldiers to crush militants and quash the drug trade. To its credit, Plan Colombia helped force the FARC to negotiate a landmark peace deal in 2016 but there has been no discernable success against drugs. Coca cultivation is near all-time highs, vastly surpassing levels seen even during the heyday of Pablo Escobar. And Colombian authorities are still making record cocaine busts.

The political problem is that the government hasn't met pledges to help farmers replace coca crops with legal ones. Doing so would mean providing security and economic opportunity in remote regions where the FARC dissolved but narcos filled the vacuum. Instead, the state has focused on US-backed eradication programs: wrecking coca crops either with environmentally-hazardous aerial spraying or, more recently, sending troops in to tear up coca fields, plant by plant. The trouble is, it doesn't work. Congress found in a 2020 report that eradication has produced "dismal results" -- it creates tension between farmers and the state, without diminishing coca cultivation for long.

If the 2016 peace deal is to have any meaning at all, this circle still needs to be squared. In Colombia, the war on drugs is still an obstacle to peace.

The middleman: Mexico. After US feds in the 1980s busted up the Caribbean transit hubs linking Andean producers and American consumers, overland routes through Mexico took off. By one FBI estimate, some 93 percent of drug flows from South America to the US now go via Mexico. These routes are controlled by the murderous and mind-bogglingly well-armed Mexican cartels that effectively run huge swaths of northern Mexico themselves today. Despite some joint US-Mexico successes, like taking down notorious kingpin El Chapo in 2014, the cartels are as powerful as ever.

What's more, cooperation between the DEA and Mexican officials has broken down under the administration of Mexico's prickly nationalist President Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador.

All of this has contributed to Mexico's soaring homicide rate, one of the world's highest. And that's a big problem for Lpez Obrador. He was elected in 2018 partly on pledges to tackle the violence but so far his "hugs not bullets" approach has yielded more lead than love.

In sum: the US war on drugs has failed to cut the enemy's biggest supply chain.

The consumer: the United States. "Just say no," former US First Lady Nancy Reagan told us. This sizzling egg is your brain on drugs, we learned. And still, decades later, rates of illegal drug use -- of all kinds -- remains high and rising.

Meanwhile, a raft of laws from the 1980s and 1990s -- some written by then-Senator Joe Biden -- heavily criminalized drug possession, causing the prison population to explode. That helped to make US incarceration rate the highest in the entire world. Black and Latino Americans have suffered disproportionately: drug convictions are more frequent and sentences harsher than for whites, though drug use rates are similar across racial groups.

But the politics are shifting. More than 80 percent of Americans of both parties now say the war on drugs has failed, and two-thirds believe it should end. A big majority favors decriminalization of drug offenses.

So far, more than half of US states have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana for personal consumption, and Oregon has done the same even with harder stuff. One of the thorniest debates now is how to ensure that profits from legal drugs go towards helping the communities of color ravaged for decades by drug enforcement.

And on Tuesday the Biden administration -- taking a Trump-era criminal justice reform even further -- endorsed an important bill that would finally eliminate disparities in sentencing between powdered cocaine, a more elite drug, and crack, whose generally-poorer (and Blacker) users have suffered harsher punishments for decades.

Still, the US pours billions into drug-oriented law enforcement annually. A drug arrest is made every 23 seconds, activists say. And overdose deaths have more than tripled in the past twenty years amid a raging opioid crisis kickstarted not by distant cartels, but by American drug companies, including those owned by the now-disgraced Sackler family.

The last line (so to speak): After 50 years, the war on drugs has not, by any reasonable standard, been won. Is there a better way? Let us know here


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ICC begins accepting information on Dutertes drug war – ABS-CBN News

Posted: at 10:53 pm

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued the call for families of victims of the Philippine governments war on drugs (WoD) to submit their concerns and views in connection with the request of the prosecutor for authorization to proceed with an investigation, a recently-retired ICC judge said on Friday.

Raul Pangalangan, who ended last March his six-year term as a judge at the ICC, shared this information during an online forum Crimes Against Humanity and the ICC, organized by the UP Institute of Human Rights and UP Institute of International Legal Studies, together with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

Pangalangan said, If you go to the ICC website, theres already a call for the victims to step forward. The call is for the submission of information to the court regarding the governments WoD that, in the words of just-retired prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, has unlawfully killed between several thousand and tens of thousands of civilians. (See Gov't officials, police conspired to carry out Duterte's war on drugs -- ICC prosecutor - Vera Files)

Bensouda, who retired last June 15, conducted a preliminary examination on the extrajudicial killings associated with the drug war from the start of the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte on July 1, 2016 up to March 16, 2019 when the Philippines withdrew its membership from the ICC.

Pangalangan also said Bensouda made the request to the Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) for an authority to investigate as early as May 24 but was made public only on June 14, the day before her retirement.

If the PTC grants the request, the new prosecutor, Karim Khan will handle the investigation.

Elaborating on ICCs call for victims to come forward, Pangalangan said: Please note that a cornerstone of the Rome Statute is focused on the victims. Both in terms of the victim reparations and also in terms of victims participation.

The ICC website said: Victims of the alleged crimes have the right to submit representations as per the ICC legal framework; this means that victims may provide their views, concerns and expectations regarding the Prosecutor's request to the ICC Judges for their consideration.

It further said: The Victims Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS) of the Registry is responsible for assisting victims in the process of submitting representations.

Deadline for the submission of victim representations, which is voluntary and free of charge, is on Aug. 13.

Lawyer Ruben Carranza, reparations expert at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and one of the speakers in the forum, made the distinction between representations to express their views at this stage [and] representations at the pre-trial stage.

This is underscored in the website for the call for victims to come forward, saying: Please also note that this is not (yet) an application process for participation in court proceedings against an accused person or for obtaining reparations before the ICC. The process initiated by the Prosecutor is limited to the submission of victims' views, concerns and expectations on the Prosecutor's request to open an investigation regarding alleged murder and other crimes which are sufficiently linked to the war on drugs campaign as set out above.

The ICCs victims booklet provides that their family members who suffered harm, such as emotional suffering or material loss, due to the killings can be considered as victims by the courts judges.Filipinos who consider themselves victims of the war on drugs can fill out this form. NGOs that have helped Filipinos who have been victims in the war on drugs can also help fill out this form. Now, imagine how many Filipinos those will be?, Carranza said.

In the case of Ugandas Dominic Ongwen, a former child soldier and commander of one of the brigades of the Ugandan guerilla group Lord's Resistance Army, who was convicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity, Carranza said there were at least 5,000 victims representations.

Its possible that in the Philippine situation, we will have far more than what has been the largest number of victims in the ICC case, he said, noting the description used by Bensouda of the scale and gravity of Dutertes war on drugs.

Socorro Reyes, womens rights advocate and regional governance adviser for the Center for Legal Development, urged the families of drug war victims who are reluctant to submit sworn statements or affidavits to tell their true stories. She said the documentation of their suffering is not only for reparations but also for truth-telling and to give face to the numbers.

Para magkaroon ng kuwento iyong totoong nangyari sa inyo ...at para iyan ay hindi malimutan. Kung hindi man magamit sa reparations, sa investigation ng pre-trial chamber, ng trial chamber. Kailangan masabi ang katotohanan at maging aware sila sa kanilang karapatan, said Reyes, who served for six years as chief of the Asia-Pacific and Arab states of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

Reyes, who conducted research into the impact of extrajudicial killings to Filipino households, noted each victim of extrajudicial killings in the country leaves one woman and at least four children. She said the number of these women and children could have reached 60,000 to 100,000 who were adversely affected by the killings of 12,000 to 20,000 suspected drug personalities in Dutertes drug war.

Forms for victims who wish to submit representations to the ICC can be accessed here (PDF file).

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for true.)

ICC, International Criminal Court, crimes against humanity, murder, war on drugs, Rodrigo Duterte, human rights, EJKs, extra-judicial killings

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ICC begins accepting information on Dutertes drug war - ABS-CBN News

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Punjab Diary: DSP Raghbir Singh wages war on drugs – The Tribune

Posted: at 10:53 pm

Fatehgarh Sahib: DSP (Investigation) Raghbir Singh has written several books to educate the youth and students against the baneful effects of drugs which have physical, economic and social impact. Encouraged by SSP Amneet Kondal, he has initiated a campaign against drugs in the district by holding seminars, camps and corner meetings. His epoch-making campaign and oratorical skills were recognised by the DGP and the CM as he was invited to make his presentation on the eve of International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. His views were appreciated by the public in large on social media.

NGO working for a green cause

Abohar: The Abohar Wellness Society has adopted the Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan Park Road for environmental beautification. The lane that connects Nai Abadi to Sriganganagar Road had faced neglect for more than a decade. The Municipal Corporation recently replaced all old-type streetlights that had been damaged by drug addicts while returning from the park at night. Society president Dr Vishal Taneja on Sunday led a team in planting saplings near Government Basic Elementary School boundary wall on this road. The members said they would water and protect the trees. We want to enrich the environment and protect people from future pandemics, said NGO secretary Ashok Garg.

Entry of politicians is banned here

Fazilka: Farmers of the Ladhuka village have displayed a board imposing ban on entry of political leaders to the village till the farmers agitation is going on against the three agriculture laws. Bhartiya Kisan Union (Daukonda) district president Harish Nadha, who hails from Ladhuka village, alleged that political leaders were trying to take mileage of the agitation to achieve their political motives without contributing towards the agitation.

SC lawyer finds her calling in farming

Moga: A woman lawyer practicing at the Supreme Court in Delhi and Congress leader Perpeet Kaur Brar recently came back to her hometown in Moga after months to help the farming community. She had also participated in the farm agitations at Delhi. After coming to know that the farming community was facing problems in sowing paddy due to shortage of manpower, she held meetings with women MGNREGA workers and apprised them to help farmers in transplantation. She herself drove tractor to plough the fields and transplant paddy in Talwandi Bhangerian village. When I was a child, my mother and other female members of the family used to work side by side with men in the fields, she said.

Vax hesitancy smashed to smithereens

Abohar: An appeal to Radha Soami Satsang Beas by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to cooperate in gearing up Covid prevention drive has given a boost to Covaxin and Covashield vaccination that faced poor response till the middle of this month. Elaborate arrangements were made by the RSSB centers (Satsang Ghar) that included a helpline to pick up and drop back elderly people from their homes. Vaccination camps were organised on Sunday at the centers located on Killianwali Road, Hanumangarh Road in Abohar, Bakayanwala and Chuhariwala Dhanna villages. The camps saw a good number of 18 plus category youth who were earlier feeling hesitant in approaching the centers run in govt schools.

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PNP reviews dismissed drug cases for better operations, accountability – Philstar.com

Posted: at 10:53 pm

MANILA, Philippines Leadership of the Philippine National Police disclosed Monday that itordered the accounting of all dismissed drug cases since 2016, when the government launched its "war on drugs", and see where adjustments can be made in police anti-drug operations.

Having data and information on these dismissed drug cases since the war on drugs started in 2016 would truly help the PNP leadership determine the interventions needed so that the junking by the courts of drug cases filed by the police would be avoided in the future, Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP chief, said.

The police chief said thatthe PNP is aiming to improve the conviction rate, particularly in drug-related cases, noting that a higher conviction rate would reflect the success of the campaign against illegal drugs.

He added that the PNP also wants to identify police personnel who caused the dismissal of the cases by committing irregularities in the conduct of anti-illegal drugs operations and weakening the prosecutions evidence.

Eleazar admitted to the possibility of some police officersbeing involved with the accused and causing the dismissal of the drug cases.

"If we have good accounting of dismissed cases, we will be able to trace who among our personnel is involved in corruption," he said.

ANYARE?: War on drugs and ICC's possible probe vs Duterte

This comes after the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 64 dismissed the drug case against FlipTop rapper Marlon Peroramas, also known as Loonie,over the unjustified deviation from the chain of custody rule by the arresting officer.

Following the dismissal of the drug case, Peroramas said he was considering filing counter-charges against the police, stressing that drugs that police said they recovered were planted on him.

Eleazar said he welcomed the move, saying Peroramas has the right to do that.

In a video message posted to his official page, the rapper challenged the PNP toprobe the police officers who filed drug charges against him.

"What we humbly and respectfully ask from your office is give these issues attention and action and I hope an investigation will be launched against those involved in our case," Loonie said.

READ:Court clears FlipTop rapper Loonie, 3 others of drug charge

Eleazar pointed out that since the "war on drugs" started in July2016, more arrests of drug offenders have been recorded. Government data shows that 289,622 drug suspects have been arrested in 200,632 anti-illegal drug operations.

However, the police's own figures also acknowledge over 6,000 deaths in operations. Rights groups estimate that the actual number of drug-related killings could reach as high as30,000.

Of cases handled by the police Internal Affairs Service,only 53 that are marked as solved have been surrendered to the Department of Justice for investigation. The PNP organization says this is proof of its willingness to cooperate.

The conviction of all these arrested drug suspects would prove we are winning the war on drugs and that it has been effectively curbing the further proliferation of illegal drugs in the country,Eleazar went as far as saying.

In 2020, though, crystal methamphetamines or shabu was still found to be behind the most arrest and treatment admissions in the Philippines, theUnited Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found in a report.

Citing figures from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Dangerous Drugs Board, the UNODC said that shabu "remains the main drug of concern in the Philippines" with just a year left underthe Duterte administration.

According to the government's Real Numbers PH info campaign, 13,400 barangays are yet to be classified as "drug-free" out of 42,045.

The president's landslide win in 2016 was founded on, among other things, ambitious promises of ending drugs and criminality within the first six months of his term. He later asked for a six-monthextension that he also later failed to meet.

READ:With a year left in Duterte's term, UNODC says shabu still a major problem in the Philippines

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A rare investigation into a police killing in the Philippines – The Economist

Posted: at 10:53 pm

THE RASHOMON stories recounting the death of Jhondie Maglinte Helis are typical of the Philippines war on drugs under President Rodrigo Duterte. The police claim that officers found Jhondie (pictured), 16 years old, in the company of an adult drug suspect, Antonio Dalit, when they went to arrest Mr Dalit on June 16th in Laguna, a province on the southern edge of Manila. The officers say they shot and killed the pair after both of them drew guns in an attempt to resist arrest.

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Civilian witnesses tell a different, if depressingly familiar, story: that the officers captured and summarily executed Mr Dalit. Jhondie happened to be nearby, and witnessed the killing. The officers are then alleged to have caught and handcuffed him, shoved him face-down into the mud and, as he pleaded for mercy, shot him dead, too.

What happened next, however, was far from typical. The official tally of killings in the drug war stands at 6,117 by the most recent count. Most such stories end when the authorities close the case without even attempting to uncover the truth. But in the case of Jhondie the police restricted the movements of the ten officers involved. They also started an internal investigation, which will run independently of inquiries by the Commission on Human Rights, an all-bark-and-no-bite public institution. The national chief of police, General Guillermo Eleazar, voiced his determination to rid the force of what he called rogues who are unfit to wear the uniform.

Even the presidential spokesman, Harry Roque, promised that police officers who broke the law would be investigated, prosecuted and punished. Mr Duterte has repeatedly urged law enforcers to kill drug suspects, usually adding as an afterthought that such killings are lawful only if the suspects try to use deadly force to resist arrest. His spokesman notes, however, that the president had also repeatedly said that police officers would be on their own if they broke the law.

The official protestations of determination to prosecute killer cops followed the announcement by prosecutors from the International Criminal Court (ICC) that they had asked for permission to investigate Mr Duterte and his subordinates on suspicion of committing crimes against humanity in the war on drugs. Monitors of human rights think the campaign has killed thousands more people than the official tally suggests.

During a televised address, Mr Duterte reacted to the prospect of being hauled before the ICC with the subtlety that has characterised his presidency. Bullshit! he said. Why would I defend or face an accusation before white people? You must be crazy. [They used to be] colonisers, they have not atoned for their sins against the countries that they invaded, including the Philippines.

Mr Dutertes dismissal of the court is based on three arguments. The flimsiest is that the ICC never had any jurisdiction because the treaty by which the Philippines joined it was never published locally in print, as required by law. A stronger argument is that the court has anyway had no jurisdiction since the Philippines withdrawal from the treaty took effect in March 2019. The third is that the ICC can intervene in a sovereign country only if the system of justice in that country fails to function, and that the Philippine justice system is still working well enough.

If the authorities professed determination to establish what happened to Jhondie is meant to prove that the justice system is in fine fettle, it is unconvincing. The justice minister, Menardo Guevarra, attempting to explain why his ministry has prosecuted so few killer cops, bemoaned the lack of witnesses for the prosecution. Unless they come forward and testify, it would be extremely difficult for our investigating agencies to build up cases against erring law enforcers, he said. Mr Guevarra was speaking, apparently without any irony intended, just six days after Jhondie was killed. If the prosecutors of the ICC do end up investigating the blood-letting Mr Duterte has instigated, they are unlikely to be so easily discouraged.

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline "Silenced witness"

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GOP operatives trained by ex-spies infiltrated liberal groups: NYT – Business Insider

Posted: at 10:51 pm

An ultrawealthy Republican donor and a former British spy spearheaded an effort to train GOP operatives to go undercover and infiltrate liberal organizations, The New York Times reported Friday.

The donor, Erik Prince, is a hardline Trump supporter who founded the private military contractor Blackwater, now known as Academi. Prince worked with a former British spy, Richard Seddon, on a conservative operation to "infiltrate progressive groups, political campaigns and the offices of Democratic as well as moderate Republican elected officials during the 2020 election cycle," The Times reported, citing extensive interviews and documents.

The outlet reported that Prince first recruited Seddon at the beginning of the Trump administration and asked him to hire ex-spies to train Republican operatives in the art of political sabotage on his Wyoming ranch, adding a new layer to the term "ratf---ing."

Two of the undercover operatives were Beau Maier and Sofia LaRocca. They embedded themselves in the Democratic operation in Wyoming, and targeted both progressives and moderate Republicans they believed were a threat to the Trump administration. According to The Times, Maier and LaRocca were based in Wyoming but ingratiated themselves in Democratic politics in Arizona and Colorado as well. Neither Maier nor LaRocca responded to the NYT's requests for comment.

And in retrospect, many of the personal details LaRocca offered to her new friends in Wyoming politics didn't add up: she claimed that she had to live in Colorado and not Wyoming because of her dog, and that she went under a fake name because of a stalker but changed it back because the police told her the stalker had "reformed."

The outlet reported that Seddon secured financial backing from Susan Gore, the wealthy Gore-Tex heiress, by the end of 2018 and began recruiting operatives from the right-wing group Project Veritas. The organization frequently traffics inmisinformationandpropagandaand is known for deceptively editing videos as part of its sting operations against mainstream-media outlets; its CEO, James O'Keefe, defended the group's work in a previous statement to Insider, saying that "not a single one of our videos has been deceptively edited or taken out of context."

One of the targets of the undercover GOP operation was the progressive group Better Wyoming. The head of the group, Nate Martin, told The Times that he believed the operation's goal was to "dig up this information and you sit on it until you really can destroy somebody."

After becoming deeply enmeshed with the Democratic party infrastructure in Wyoming, Maier and LaRocca got their feet in the door to a higher level of Democratic politics with sudden, substantial contributions to other western Democratic candidates like Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, raising questions about the duo's campaign finance activities.

"Sometimes when you're looking at patterns of contributions, you start to see people with relatively limited resources making sizable political contributions," Brendan Fischer, director of the federal reform program at the Campaign Legal Center told The Times. "That can be a red flag."

George Durazzo Jr., a Democratic fundraiser in Colorado who secured sizable donations from Maier and LaRocca, was outraged when The Times told him of the two operatives' true goal.

"If they are indeed Benedict Arnold and Mata Hari, I was the one who was fooled," he said.

The extent of Prince and Seddon's effort underscores the Republican Party's push to dominate national politics by taking over at the state and local level. Indeed, since the 2020 election and Trump's failed efforts to nullify Joe Biden's legitimate victory, Republican state legislatures across the country have passed a slew of lawsthat would not only make it more difficult for voters to cast ballots, but alsomake it easierfor partisan forces to control and potentially overturn states' election results.

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Conservative panelist pushes back against liberal voting law narratives on ‘Meet the Press’ – Fox News

Posted: at 10:51 pm

Danielle Pletka, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, pushed back against misleading comments on recent election laws on NBC's "Meet the Press."

On Sunday, Pletka, the lone conservative member of a liberal panel, challenged assertions from PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, NBC chief Washington correspondent Andrea Mitchell, and NBC's "The Week" host Joshua Johnson. The panel discussion began with host Chuck Todd playing a clip of Attorney General Merrick Garland announcing a plan for the Department of Justice to sue certain states over their election laws.


Alcindor quickly attacked Republicans over the election laws, asserting they are creating an "existential crisis."

"This is an existential crisis in America" Alcindor claimed. "Who can actually get the access to vote? Republicans in state legislatures are saying if you- essentially, and critics would say, that if you, if we don't like the way that you voted, we will take away your vote. And that, I think, is a real problem."

Pletka quickly reminded the panel that many of the laws the Justice Department appear to be tackling in Republican-leaning states are overlooked in more Democrat-leaning states.

"You know, there are going to be problems if, at the federal level, they decide that they only need to go after Republican states, that they need to go after Republican-run states for laws that mirror, for example, things that exist in Delaware or New York or Connecticut or New Hampshire."


Pletka also added that more people than ever have voted in the last presidential election, proving that the country has "unbelievable voter engagement." However, the other panelists denied this perspective and continued to claim that the new voting laws had racial motivations.

Mitchell fired back at Pletka stating, "No, I'm sorry, it is specifically aimed at people of color, at people who have voted in this last election, people who had access because of the changes, because of COVID. They had more access. It's taking away, in Texas, taking away Sunday voting, you know, Souls to the Polls. It's exactly aimed at minority voters."

Despite Pletka responding that the new Georgia laws do, in fact, allow Sunday voting, Alcindor pushed back claiming that the laws were only based on a "conspiracy theory" prompted by former President Donald Trump.

"But it was BS, that President Trump didn't like that he lost and then he said the election was stolen. And he said that he won when he didn't," Alcindor explained. "And then Republicans, who are keepingwho are letting him continue to have power, understanding that he has a lot of influence with the base, that, that they are following suit in this conspiracy theory."

Johnson agreed with Alcindor saying the "whole voter suppression big lie thing" feels "like a Hail Mary" for the Republicans "to try to take votes away from people because you didn't like the way the election is going."

Near the end, Pletka further reminded viewers that Georgia laws actually expanded voting access, despite constant backlash from the media.


Pletka said, "On the other hand, I think there, I think that part of the argument that we're making about places like Georgia is unjust, you know? They, they're allowing Sunday voting. They've expanded access. So, and the very hero against Trump, Brad Raffensperger, who was Secretary of State, is now a villain."

Mitchell was given the last word commenting on the Democrats failure to pass their most recent elections reform bill.

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Conservative panelist pushes back against liberal voting law narratives on 'Meet the Press' - Fox News

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Liberal Agenda Simply Doesn’t Have the Votes – Bloomberg

Posted: at 10:51 pm

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Senate Democrats are attempting to begin debate on their voting-rights legislation. Republicans are expected to successfully defeat itby filibuster not the bill itself, but consideration of the bill.

Its not clear what the next step for Democrats might be. There are several different bills in play. The one the Senate will now consider or, more likely, fail to consider is the sprawling For the People Act, which tackles a bunch of liberal and good-government policies. Theres also Senator Joe Manchins voting-rights compromise bill, which is far more focused. Theres another bill, named after former Representative John Lewis, that would restore the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court knocked out key provisions. And then theres a new one that would address the possibility of election subversion. Alsotheres the related possibility ofmaking Washington a state.

None of these effortshave anywhere close to the support from 10 Republicans that would be needed to defeat filibusters. And as of now, at least Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema have saidthey wont vote to change the filibuster in order to pass any of them.

To say that Democrats have no real back-up plan is only to say that they simply dont have the votes. I wouldnt put a lot of stock in the increasingly improbable arguments Manchin and Sinema give for supporting the filibuster (and Sinemas new op-ed on the topicis particularly underwhelming). The truth is that marginal Democratic senators arent on board with some of the liberal agenda and that the filibuster protects those senators from tough votes. Theres nothing new or unusualabout politicians using procedural mumbo-jumbo to get out of no-win situations. For that matter, while Republican obstruction in the Senate has beenextreme by historical standards, the basic idea of the minority party using the rules to their advantage when possible and succeeding because some inthe majority areless than eager to bend those rules to satisfy the party agenda is an old and frequently told story.

What could change the situation? Two things. So far, Manchin and Sinema havent found something they truly care about something they consider must-pass that Republicans are blocking. That might or might not change. Ive suspected that voting-rights bills, no matter how important, werent the most likely to strike marginal Democrats as must-pass; they just dont fireup enough constituents. Ive thought all along that the bills most likely to lead toprocedural change would be those that could produce cleareconomic effects if they were blocked.

If must-pass bills (in the eyes of those senators) are the most likely to produce filibuster reform, the other possibility is that Manchin and Sinema just get fed up with Republican actions.Manchin, in particular, has been actively involved in negotiating compromises on infrastructure and on voting rights. Its plausible that if he eventually perceives that knee-jerk Republican obstruction means that hes been wasting his time, he might eventually turn against the filibuster, even against his better interests.

About that op-ed: I doubt that the specific public arguments that Manchin and Sinema make are all that important. Elected officials are obligatedto give reasons for their actions that are based on the public good; they arentobligatedto actually believe those explanations, or to give the real reasons for their actions. Thats basically a good thing. We dont want senators to just tell us that they voted for a givenbill because it wouldhelp them get re-elected, even if thats what theyre thinking. Its good that they have to tell us why what they do is good for the nation or for their districts. And because they in effect have to do that, they also need plausible stories to tell. So while it might not matter whether Manchin and Sinema believe the reasons they give for supporting the filibuster, it could nevertheless matter if events keep undercutting the stories they tell because it might make them look foolish. In other words: One of the ways that Manchin and Sinema might get fed up is if the Republicans keep them from getting things they want; another way is ifthe Republicans make it increasingly difficult for them to justify not getting fed up.

Will it happen? Five months into unified government, I still dont know, and I dont think anyone else does either.

1. Keneshia N. Grant and Sheena Harris at the Monkey Cage on Juneteenth.

2. Dan Drezner on returning to the Iran deal.

3. At Bloomberg Opinion, Taylor Branch on Joe Manchin.

4. David Dayen on the infrastructure bill.

5. And Kevin Drum cautions, sensibly, against reacting too quickly to economic indicators always, but especially after the pandemic.

Get Early Returns every morning in your inbox.Click here to subscribe. Also subscribe toBloomberg All Accessand get much, much more. Youll receive our unmatched global news coverage and two in-depth daily newsletters, the Bloomberg Open and the Bloomberg Close.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:Timothy Lavin at tlavin1@bloomberg.net

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Liberal Agenda Simply Doesn't Have the Votes - Bloomberg

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The revolt against liberalism: what’s driving Poland and Hungary’s nativist turn? – The Guardian

Posted: at 10:51 pm

In the summer of 1992, a 29-year-old Hungarian with political ambitions made his first visit to the US. For six weeks he toured the country with a coterie of young Europeans, all expenses paid by the German Marshall Fund, a thinktank devoted to transatlantic cooperation.

America had long fascinated Viktor Orbn, but he seemed disengaged and unaffected as the group walked around downtown Los Angeles, which was still reeling from the Rodney King riots two months earlier. One Dutch journalist on the trip recalled that the eastern Europeans in the group preferred to spend their daily stipends on a Walkman and other electronics rather than on food or fancy hotels. The free market and cutting-edge technologies certainly appealed more to Orbn than American debates and struggles over equality, justice or the rights of people of colour.

Orbns indifference to the plight of western minorities became more apparent during a tour of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon. Orbn and one of his travel companions, the Polish journalist Magorzata Bochenek, listened to local complaints about economic injustice. He responded with questions about land distribution. Why didnt the native tribes draft a strategy to monetise their common lands? After all, this was what Hungarian smallholders like his parents had been doing with local collective farms since the end of communism. Orbn began to sketch a business plan for the reservation, but when his Umatilla interlocutors didnt respond with enthusiasm, he quickly lost interest.

What fascinated Orbn most during the rest of the trip was high politics. The group tour finished in New York City in July, where he attended the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden and watched Bill Clintons nomination to the sounds of Fleetwood Macs Dont Stop. The excitement of the occasion was not lost on Orbn. Visiting the US reaffirmed his own desire to become prime minister of Hungary.

At the time, the nature of the wests appeal to young eastern Europeans was changing. In 1989, when Orbn studied at Oxford University on a Soros Foundation fellowship, the western consensus of the late cold war deregulated capitalism, social stability, and national traditions still held sway. These were the values he wanted to bring back to his home country. Three years later, by the time of his trip to the US, a shift was palpable. While free markets still reigned supreme, European and north American culture had moved into a more introspective mode. Orbn liked Clintonism as an approach to administration and economics, but had little interest in western human rights discourse, discussions of gender and race, or the legacies of colonialism and the Holocaust.

Orbns enthusiasm for American economics and indifference to American cultural concerns was a sign of the direction Hungary and Poland would eventually take in the coming decades. In the 1990s, the two countries led eastern Europe in economic shock therapy, pushing market reforms beyond what their western advisers demanded. But in cultural terms, the Polish and Hungarian right chose a more conservative course. The result is that both countries have continued to see themselves as deeply European, even as they have steered further away from EU-style liberalism.

A decade after she visited the Umatilla reservation in Oregon with Orbn, Magorzata Bochenek became an adviser to Polish president Lech Kaczyski, who together with his brother, Jarosaw, founded the conservative nationalist party Law and Justice, which now has the support of nearly 45% of the Polish electorate. Orbns Fidesz party commands a supermajority of two-thirds of the seats in the Hungarian parliament. Both parties have enacted similar policies: filling the courts and media with pro-government judges and journalists; driving out leftwing and liberal NGOs, academics, and universities; violating the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights by restricting or banning access to abortion and denying legal recognition to transgender people; and ignoring attempts by European institutions to hold them accountable for these provocations.

At the same time, four out of every five citizens of Poland and Hungary support their countrys EU membership. For the anti-liberals in Budapest and Warsaw, the goal is autonomy within Europe, not independence outside of it.

How did the revolutionaries of 1989 become the nativists of the 2010s and 2020s? There are a number of ways to answer this question. Depending on the narrator, it can be told as a story of gradual estrangement, or a forced reversion to self-interest brought on by external shock, or the adolescent rebellion of pupils against their former teachers.

In their 2019 book, The Light That Failed, Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev and US law professor Stephen Holmes made the case for the rebellion hypothesis. They argue that the transition from communism to capitalist democracy was driven by copycat liberalism. Eastern Europeans took it upon themselves to adopt the habits, norms and institutions of the western world, whose prosperity and freedoms they wanted to enjoy. The problem, according to Krastev and Holmes, was that submission to this imitation imperative was inherently stressful and emotionally taxing. Modelling oneself after an external ideal was bound to produce feelings of shame and resentment when the outcome fell short of an unattainably perfect original. Faced with the humiliation of perpetual inferiority, Orbn and Kaczyski used the 20082015 economic and migration crises to reject western liberalism and advance an illiberal alternative.

Krastev and Holmes see emigration from central eastern Europe as a key factor in the appeal of nationalist politics. Decades of brain drain have caused a demographic panic, which, they suggest, heightens fears about the arrival of Middle Eastern and African migrants. Especially in Hungary, anti-immigrant politics have indeed gone hand in hand with efforts to stem population decline through low birth-rates and emigration. Orbn has unfolded an ambitious and popular family policy involving the nationalisation of IVF clinics and generous loans and tax breaks for newlyweds and large families. Orbn has also granted citizenship to more than one million ethnic Hungarians living in Slovakia, Romania, Croatia, Serbia and Ukraine, creating a Fidesz-led diasporic civil society in what Hungarian nationalists see as a Greater Hungary.

Yet other countries have seen millions of citizens emigrate and not swung towards illiberalism. Between 1989 and 2017, Latvia lost 27% of its population, Lithuania 22.5%, Croatia 22%, and Bulgaria 21%. But the Baltic and eastern Balkan states have not changed in the same way as Poland and Hungary. Although nativism is present, it has not become the dominant tenor in national politics. In Bulgaria, a pro-EU protest movement became the second-largest party in parliamentary elections this spring, and the countrys departing prime minister, Boyko Borisov, has emphasised that he wants the countrys Euro-Atlantic orientation to be seen clearly. Romania, a fifth of whose inhabitants have left the country since 1990, has been gripped not by strongman politics, but by fervent anti-corruption efforts and pro-Brussels protests. By contrast, Poland and Hungary, where illiberalism has advanced the farthest, have some of the lowest net emigration rates in the region.

Migration shapes nativist politics, but does not fully explain the wider crisis of liberalism. Exclusionary policies on immigration are being pursued in most European countries. Yet despite general anti-immigrant sentiment, it is only in the UK, Poland and Hungary that nationalist governments have departed from the European Union or turned their back on its values, and only in Budapest and Warsaw that open season has been declared on liberal civil society and the rule of law. Kaczyski and Orbn are special among Europes nationalists not for their chauvinism, but for their authoritarian actions against domestic opponents and European and international institutions.

Poland and Hungarys ruling parties pursue what they see as a truer break with the past than the mirage transition of 1989. Anti-liberal nationalism in eastern Europe is more than an outburst of uncontrollable passions. Common to both is the belief that a historic task has befallen them, and that the end of communism was only the beginning of the road to national liberation. The fact that these ideas were formed during the transition decade also suggests that illiberal democracy is a purposive project something not just reactive, but with clear ideological goals of its own.

The revolt against liberalism began to stir in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as growing fractions of the Polish and Hungarian right started demanding a harder break with the past. Orbns first premiership, from 1998 to 2002, when Fidesz ruled together with the agrarian conservative Independent Smallholders Party, promoted Holocaust revisionism, racism against Roma populations, and support for Jrg Haiders far-right government in neighbouring Austria. But since Hungary kept recording solid economic growth and entered Nato in 1999, the cabinets rightwing policies were quickly forgotten in western capitals.

In 2002, his narrow election loss to the socialists left Orbn embittered and convinced that reformed communists throughout Hungarian society had conspired to prematurely end his tenure. When Hungary entered the EU in 2004, massive European funds flowed to a group of liberal politicians around centre-left prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsny, an economist who had been head of the Hungarian Young Communist League in the 1980s. During the transition from communism to democracy, Gyurcsny and his old comrades had made a small fortune running pop-up consulting firms with names such Eurocorp International Finance Inc. By the mid-2000s they were regulars at Davos. While this kind of shapeshifting and economic opportunism was common everywhere in eastern and central Europe, these links made it easier for Orbn to portray Soviet communism and European liberalism as successive forms of external rule.

As in Hungary, the role of reformed Polish communists in smoothing the political transition to liberal democracy ultimately radicalised the right. In 1997, conservative thinkers first began to call for a fourth Polish republic to replace the third iteration that had followed the end of communism. Four years later, Lech and Jarosaw Kaczyski founded Law and Justice, promising a radical purification and political renewal of Polish society. The Kaczyskis aim was to use the full force of executive and legislative power in pursuit of a final reckoning with the contaminants of state socialism. For many years, Polands constitutional court restricted efforts to purge state institutions and civil society of anyone with communist associations, a process known as lustration. This protection received support from EU laws protecting personal dignity and privacy.

When Law and Justice first came to power in 2005, however, it took lustration to a new level. A law was proposed that would have required 350,000 civil servants, journalists, academics, teachers and state managers to declare past political associations, no matter how mundane, on pain of losing their jobs. Widespread resistance from Polands progressive elite against this deeply intrusive purge helped push the Kasczyskis out of power in 2007 in favour of the liberal pro-European Civic Platform led by Donald Tusk.

This failed first attempt at a wholesale purification of Polish society forms the backdrop to Law and Justices renewed assault on the countrys judiciary since 2015, which has attracted more international attention. But Law and Justices illiberal agenda was not, as Krastev and Holmes would have it, a reaction against western imitation. It is precisely the desire of Polish illiberals for a more thoroughgoing expunging of the communist past, at the cost of ignoring EU protections, that has led them to stack the countrys courts and attack progressive civil society. As in Hungary, the very thing that made the transition from communism to liberal democracy so peaceful its negotiated character has provided an insurgent nationalist right with a powerful accusation of original sin. In this turncoat myth, 1989 was not a clean handover but a massive elite whitewash. What is at stake is not western identity something about which Poles have never been in doubt but rather who is fit to join a purified Polish nation-state.

Ultimately, Polish and Hungarian opposition to EU norms and civic rights has not produced, as it has among Brexiteers, a corresponding desire for economic sovereignty. Brussels financial faucet has simply been too lucrative to resist. Even as Orbn has dismantled liberal institutions, he has drawn vast amounts of EU funds to feather the nests of a loyal oligarchy of tycoons and agro-entrepreneurs tied to Fidesz. Conservative nationalists in Poland have also raked in material support from a political and economic union whose influence they routinely attack.

This insensitivity to political behaviour is the result of how the EU disburses funds to its members. Money is allocated in large tranches that are sent over many years in accordance with pre-arranged spending and investment plans; short-term political friction between national governments and Brussels does not alter these long-term entitlements. Between 2007 and 2020, eastern European member states received 395bn, half of which went to Hungary and Poland.

Just how difficult it has become to restrain illiberalism within the EU became clear at the end of 2020. As EU leaders prepared an unprecedented 1.8tn budget and stimulus package in response to the pandemic, Budapest and Warsaw nearly derailed the negotiations. Objecting to a mechanism that would tie funding to their observance of the rule of law, Poland and Hungary threatened to veto the entire EU budget for the next six years.

As member states, Poland and Hungary argued that they were fully entitled to their chunk of the funding; illiberal governments turned out to be fluent speakers of the language of law and treaty rights. Ultimately the standoff was defused through a last-minute interpretative declaration ensuring that the rule of law sanctions mechanism must be approved by the European Court of Justice before it can be applied. It is uncertain if such measures will be taken soon, if at all.

For the time being, funding will come with relatively few strings attached. The struggle between liberals and illiberals in eastern Europe will continue on its main battlefield: political, legal and cultural institutions. As the nationwide womens strike against Law and Justices abortion ban in October 2020 showed, this is an acute and important fight. What is not in dispute, however, is the character of the regions economic model. Liberals and illiberals both agree that after the end of communism, the only developmental path that remains for their societies is a capitalist one.

If Krastev and Holmes see Poland and Hungarys backlash against western liberalism as a psychological reaction, the renowned German historian Philipp Ther puts forward a different explanation. In his view, the new nationalism is a reaction less against imitation than against the exposure of entire societies to the vicissitudes of the world market. In his book Das Andere Ende der Geschichte (The Other End of History), he writes that the nativist right has a coherent worldview, which can be characterised as a cluster of promises of protection and security.

Ther argues that the rapid transition from state socialism to free-market capitalism triggered an impulse towards self-protection. Signs of popular distress became visible in elections in several countries in 1993 and 1994. Polish and Hungarian voters elected centre-left cabinets with substantial ex-Communist personnel, but this brought little protection. Polish privatisation slowed but never ceased. In Hungary, the new government soon pushed through a more savage austerity package. A different course was taken in Slovakia, where prime minister Vladimr Meiar didnt just break with the neoliberalism of his Czech colleague Vaclav Klaus, but split the unified Czechoslovak state into two parts. In every respect, the years of Meiars rule in 1990s Slovakia were a harbinger of contemporary illiberalism combining populism, nationalism and protective welfare to mask an increasingly autocratic government. It was due to Meiars arbitrary rule that Slovakia was deemed unfit for Nato membership in 1999; the country joined the organisation five years later than its Central European peers.

The eastern European transition to free markets in the 1990s was made difficult by the local weakness of liberalisms preferred agent of capitalist transformation, a property-owning bourgeoisie. Sociologists Ivn Szelnyi, Gil Eyal and Eleanor Townsley described this challenge as one of making capitalism without capitalists. Western European funds initially prioritised market expansion over democratisation: from 1990 to 1996, just 1% of the European Unions international aid mechanism for former socialist states went towards funding political parties, independent media and other civic organisations. But as markets advanced, the middle class remained anaemic.

Thirty years later, the benefits of the free economy have been very unequally divided; income gaps between city and countryside are wider in eastern Europe than anywhere else on the continent. Yet the ubiquity of free-market thinking in the region is an accomplished fact. In the famous July 2014 speech that set out the need for Hungary to adopt illiberal democracy, Orbn predicted that societies founded upon the principle of the liberal way to organise a state will not be able to sustain their world-competitiveness in the following years, and more likely they will suffer a setback and announced, we are searching for the form of organising a community, that is capable of making us competitive in this great world-race.

Yet it would be wrong to ascribe this conversion to global capitalism entirely to westernisation. In their book, 1989: A Global History of Eastern Europe, James Mark, Bogdan Iacob, Tobias Rupprecht and Ljubica Spaskovska leave no doubt that eastern European elites interest in capitalism preceded their embrace of democracy. Reformist bureaucrats under late socialism looked above all to east Asia. The successes of Deng Xiaopings China were an example for Gorbachevs later economic reforms. In the 1980s, Polish and Hungarian market-oriented reforms were modelled partly on South Korea, whose authoritarian capitalism had achieved high levels of economic growth.

Eastern Europe didnt just take other regions as its end goal. Its transition in the 1990s became a new global script for African, Latin American and Asian countries to follow. Ruling elites and oppositionists from Mexico to South Africa took eastern Europes political democratisation and economic liberalisation as a guiding light. In time, eastern Europeans graduated into a position where they could offer their own experience as advice to others. In 2003 the architect of Polands neoliberal reforms, Leszek Balcerowicz, toured Washington DC to suggest how the US should overhaul the Iraqi economy. During the Arab Spring, Lech Wasa visited Tunisia to tell them how we did it in the words of Polands then-foreign minister Radosaw Sikorski, who flew to Benghazi to provide counsel to the Libyans overthrowing Gaddafi.

The fact that eastern Europeans eventually acted as ambassadors of the west solidified the belief that 1989 was a long overdue return to a natural cultural home. But that turn had been initiated long before the end of communism. In the 1970s and 80s Czechoslovak, Polish and Hungarian elites and dissidents steadily abandoned anti-imperialism and socialist solidarity with the Third World, and emphasised their common European heritage instead.

This focus on high European culture had clear anti-African as well as anti-Islamic overtones. In 1985 the Hungarian minister of culture declared that Europe possessed a cultural heritage a specific intellectual quality the European character. On a visit to Budapest two years later, the Spanish king Juan Carlos was shown the ramparts that Habsburg troops had seized from the Ottomans in the 1686 a Communist celebration of Christian Europes fight against Islam. Observing the ferocity of the Afghan mujahideen, the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauescu warned that the Islamic world was a billion-strong and they are fanatics. A long-term war can be the result.

Meanwhile, Romanian exiles attacked Ceauescu himself as a foreign ruler who had foisted a tropical despotism on their country. The dissident Ion Vianu wrote in 1987 that Romania today resembles an African country more than a European one. He railed against the disorganisation of public life, the administrations inability to maintain its activity at the level of one from the old continent; the state of roads, the squalor in the streets empty stores, the generalised practice of graft; the polices arbitrariness. All this, he wrote, reminded him of Haiti. Romanians with western ideals are some sort of silent majority in todays Romania.

Before communism ended, a new sense of cultural belonging had taken hold among many eastern Europeans. This growing identification of their countries as European and Christian explains why during the last decade, anti-immigrant rhetoric about a Fortress Europe to keep out African and Middle Eastern migrants has found fertile soil in the region.

In the long run, the year 1989 therefore marked a moment when eastern Europe both closed itself off from old influences and opened itself up to new ideas. Socialist planning and international solidarity with the developing world were abandoned, while identification with a narrower European civilisation went hand in hand with integration into the liberalised world economy. Eastern European countries still display this combination of open and closed characteristics today. Hungary is the prime example of this hybrid approach: under Orbn it has repudiated the liberal idea of an open society, but has nonetheless remained firmly connected to the transnational European car industry as well as the military networks of Atlanticism through EU and Nato membership.

Orbn has further complicated the question of his international allegiance by sustaining close ties with Moscow and Beijing. Russia supplies Hungary with energy, while Chinese state capitalists have made Hungary the regional hub for Huaweis efforts to expand 5G technology across Europe. Budapest is also the terminus of the new Balkan railroad that runs from the Greek port of Piraeus through Belgrade part of Chinas sweeping Belt & Road initiative, a vast infrastructure construction spree across the world to boost trade. The construction of this freight railroad costs 2% of GDP, making it the largest investment project in Hungarian history.

In mid-March 2020, as the coronavirus spread across Europe, Hungary closed its borders to entry by all non-citizens. While Hungary was under lockdown, the only foreigners allowed into the country were 300 South Korean engineers tasked with completing the accelerated opening of the countrys second plant producing batteries for electric vehicles.

Korean conglomerates have recently moved into Hungary and Poland, establishing themselves as the main battery suppliers to the European car industry. With VW, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Renault clamouring for batteries, the Polish government also waived its quarantine requirement to let specialists from the Korean chemical company LG Chem continue work on a massive plant near Wrocaw, a 2.8bn project backed by the European Investment Bank. Thirty-five years after eastern European economists looked to Seoul as a model of authoritarian capitalism, South Koreas industrial giants are entering the region in force.

Since the start of the pandemic, liberal commentators have frequently warned about the risk that nationalism and great-power conflict will cause a collapse of the international political and economic order. But instead of such dramatic deglobalisation, what is more likely is that we will see nationalist leaders around the world construct politically closed societies undergirded by open economies: a globalisation without globalists.

An earlier version of this article originally appeared in n+1

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The revolt against liberalism: what's driving Poland and Hungary's nativist turn? - The Guardian

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