By Robert A. Vella
With few exceptions, the world’s great democracies are disintegrating from within. This isn’t hyperbole. After decades of neoliberal economic policies widened the gap between rich and poor, after a corporatized rush towards globalization without regard to social consequences, and after perpetual warfare driven by imperialism, we see the populaces of western nations intensely divided over politics, culture, economics, ethnicity, and other issues. Furthermore, the rise of authoritarianism is acting quickly and skillfully to exploit this internal polarization of the West. The situation is getting worse with time; and, if not reversed expeditiously, it can end only one way.
The post-World War II centrist establishment and inwardly-focused citizenries cavalierly dismissed such warnings for a very long time and some still do today. For them, if the danger wasn’t knocking hard on their front door, then it didn’t exist. But, such shortsightedness then meet the cold realities of Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, as well as other developments, which triggered an awakening of sorts epitomized by the U.S. 2018 midterms – a day of elections marked by a substantial increase in voter participation.
Whether or not this awakening, which is still in its infancy, will be strong enough and persistent enough to turn the tide back towards democracy remains to be seen. For humanity’s sake, it must be enough because we know the autocratic alternatives would be frighteningly inhumane.
Here is today’s news:
Polarization in Europe
After months of simmering tensions between Rome and Paris, the battle for the soul of Europe just got a lot uglier. On Thursday, France recalled its ambassador to Rome for the first time since 1940, when fascist leader Benito Mussolini declared war. This time the French foreign ministry blamed a war of words — “the repeated accusations, baseless attacks and outlandish claims” of Italy’s populist government.
The barbs between Italy’s populist politician Matteo Salvini and the French President Emmanuel Macron have been regular and personal. Last month Italy’s far-right Interior Minister said he hoped the French people would soon manage to rid themselves of a “terrible president.” Macron, for his part, has likened rising nationalism to leprosy, declaring that if the populist nationalists regard him as their enemy, “they are right.”
But the straw that appears to have broken the camel’s back came in the shape of a meeting between Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the populist Five Star Movement, and France’s own populists, the yellow vests. The meeting, which took place on Tuesday on the outskirts of Paris, led Di Maio to declare that the winds of change had now crossed the Alps.
Trump breaks the law
The White House on Friday signaled President Donald Trump will ignore a request from a bipartisan group of senators to investigate and report on Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal killing.
Senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October invoked the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016 in response to Khashoggi’s killing, which gave the president 120 days to report back to Congress on his findings and how he plans to react.
Rosenstein memo revelation
On Friday, The Guardian reported that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s upcoming book gives new insight into how Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was pushed, against his will, to help President Donald Trump justify former FBI Director James Comey’s firing with a controversial memo:
Questions about the Supreme Court
Many observers of the U.S. Supreme Court have been trying to understand how it might act on various contentious issues – since the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh – such as overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade precedent which legalized abortion in America. The only indications which are clear at this point is that the court has steered away from controversial cases and that Chief Justice John Roberts has been actively working to maintain SCOTUS’s image as an impartial and non-partisan arbiter of the law. However, as the following article details, Roberts’ vision is likely to be severely tested going forward as the court is forced to make some difficult choices. See: Abortion, death penalty, religion: Late-night rulings show new alliances at Supreme Court
If you need a rabbi, an imam or other non-Christian spiritual advisor to accompany you into the death chamber in Alabama, God help you. Because the U.S. Supreme Court won’t.
On Thursday night, the justices granted a request by Alabama’s prisons chief, Jefferson S. Dunn, to allow the state to proceed with the execution of Domineque Hakim Marcelle Ray, for the 1995 murder of a 15-year-old girl in Selma. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had put the execution on hold not because there was any lingering question about Ray’s guilt, but because Alabama wouldn’t allow Ray, a Muslim, to have a cleric of his faith in the death chamber in place of the prison’s Christian chaplain.
The Supreme Court lifted the stay late Thursday by a 5-4 vote, and Alabama executed Ray shortly thereafter.
“Under that policy,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a powerful dissent, “a Christian prisoner may have a minister of his own faith accompany him into the execution chamber to say his last rites. But if an inmate practices a different religion — whether Islam, Judaism, or any other — he may not die with a minister of his own faith by his side. That treatment goes against the Establishment Clause’s core principle of denominational neutrality.”