Friday, December 30, 2016

Heaven or Hell - You Decide

Suppose you woke up one day and you were given a choice of two options - a jaunt through Heaven led by tour guide Monte or a walk through Hell with Maurice. Would you say - quick, tell me more about Monte and Maurice so I can make an informed choice. Will Monte wear purple shorts? Will Maurice speak with an Australian accent. No, of course not. You are familiar with the concepts of Heaven and Hell and choose based on your understanding of those two. The tour guide is pretty much incidental.
Yet, in our presidential election, the mainstream media ignored the stark difference between the policy choices-diametrically opposite across the board-between Trump and Clinton. No matter who you prefer, no matter why - this is crazy. If you just voted for someone whose policy is contrary to your interests, if you are already beginning to regret your vote, then this is a time for some soul searching.

Memories of Killenworth

The Obama administration action to shut down Killenworth, the Russian country manor in Glen Cove, N.Y. brings back memories of the Cold War. According to news stories about local reaction, some residents had no idea the Russians even owned the facility, but in the late 1950's and 1960's, it was the talk of the town. The Soviet delegation to the UN was known to unwind there. We would drive past from time to time and peer at the compound hoping to catch a glimpse of the enemy. The Pratts had owned this house and the Pratt name was well known in the area for multiple estates and their contributions to charity. So there was something eerie about the takeover of one of those estates by the Russians, even if it was a simple purchase. Read more.

New Year's Resolutions

Time for New Year's Resolutions for this blog in 2017:

-More special features, like fun facts or pointers to other blogs of interest, with commentary.
-More progress toward a unified theory that encompasses how different people think and why they do  and why political discussion goes where it goes - drawing on theorists like George Lakoff and Kahneman/Tversky.
-More personal anecdotes, many of which will illustrate and substantiate the arguments being made here. Some will just be personal stories.
-More posts and pages that draw from my actuarial or retirement consulting experience, but with applications to policy choices.
-Progress toward development of a detailed model for journalistic reporting in context.
-Progress toward a clear tie-in of statistical thinking with all of the above.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What's Wrong With Fake News

Interesting that we have a new term this year - fake news - that became an important factor in the presidential election campaign, though we heard a lot more about fake news and the actual sources generating fake news post-election than we were hearing pre-election. Now it can be told. The true story of the election and the candidates. Were the mainstream news outlets holding back on their DT reporting for fear of appearing biased because he had no chance of winning? So holding back was supposed to be best of all possible worlds - being as fair as possible to candidate DT who was going to lose anyway. Except he didn't.
Josh Marshall has a good take on fake news with the unfortunate insulting title "Why You're Fooling Yourself About 'Fake News". Consumption of fake news is a choice people make, like Diet Pepsi. Consumers know they are choosing fake news, information that may be demonstrably false, but choose not to select news sources based on veracity.  The problem with letting that situation just exist in society is that matters only become much worse. For example, if fake news exists side-by-side with real news, that is, accurate information, then fake news can drive out the real news. Fake news helps sow confusion, which benefits alt-government, i.e. autocracy, kleptocracy or any form of diminished democracy. So the problem is not just the impact on the consumers of fake news, but on the real news that gets lost in the confusion.
Back to Marshall's text:
"But again, I think we realize that this isn't really how people's mind's work. People's political beliefs don't stem from the factual information they've acquired. Far more the facts people choose to believe are the product of their political beliefs. In fact, I think it even goes beyond this. I think there's a legitimate question about how much many people actually 'believe' what we call 'fake news'. In many cases, 'fake news', the latest manufactured outrage, functions as a kind of ideational pornography, ideas and claims that excite people's political feelings, desires and fears and create feelings of connection with kindred political spirits."I agree with the last part (to some extent) , but not the first. Not "Far more the facts people choose to believe are the product of their political beliefs". Not necessarily and more importantly, much of the misunderstanding between people who disagree in their political beliefs is attributed to bias. But bias does not explain beliefs. Political leaning does not explain perception of the world. Rather, perception of the world may help explain poltical belief. People who do not understand how other people think because the way they think differs sometimes attribute their lack of understanding to the bias of the others. We can understand the world in which we live better if we keep trying to understand the political arguments of others assuming they are not biased. At the moment we attribute their understanding of the world solely to bias, we have given up on understanding.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Fun Facts

We will be sharing more fun facts and fun stuff in the coming year on a separate page, but first a sneak preview.
Retraction Watch reports on academic papers that need to retracted for a variety of reasons, many of which could be called "bad science". Retraction Watch maintains a leader board, similar to a professional golf tournament. Since this is a down time for golf fanatics, at least those who stay home for the holidays, you may want to check out the leader board. Spoiler alert: Yoshitaka Fujii is ahead by a wide margin with 183 retractions. While there, you don't want to miss the top 10 most highly cited retracted papers.

Advice from a Comedy Writer

TV comedy writer Ken Levine shares his best advice for trimming your scripts - Kill your babies. Not as bad as it sounds. He continues:
"What it means of course is that you have to cut stuff you love. In comedy scripts that usually means laughs. Why? Because story is most important. If you take out story steps the audience might no longer be able to follow the narrative. Jokes are the tinsel and ornaments we hang on the tree."
So it's a one-two punch. Story first. Next comes the comedy. Not exactly intuitive.
Political campaigns are like that, at least in some ways. A successful campaign needs to tell a great story about the candidate that appeals to people. If not, at the very least, the candidate needs to control his or her narrative and not let the narrative slip into the hands of the forces of the opposition.

Electoral College Sham

Massachusetts maintains a governmental balance of sorts with a consistently Democratic legislature and, more often than not, a Republican governor who is moderate by today's national Republican party standards.
The current version of this phenomenon is Republican governor Charlie Baker, who, like many Republicans trying to maintain support at home with two eyes on a national stage, has been doing something of a dance around the issue of the Trump phenomenon- not voting for either Trump or Clinton.
But he has extended the tortured logic this week in his expressed support for the electoral college:
"If we really played this game on a popular vote only, literally half the states in the United States would be disenfranchised, and no one would campaign there, and no one would care. I think that would be a huge problem."
Baker's claim, an echo of other Republicans is a classic case of drawing a conclusion based on partisan advantage, but reaching for a plausibly sounding principle.
This fails in a few ways. First, only people have a right to vote and can be disenfranchised, not states. In fact, Republican voters in Baker's home state of Massachusetts have felt disenfranchised for decades by the electoral college, which he, as a Republican voter in other election years, conveniently ignores. So that argument makes no sense.
Second, Baker conflates being disenfranchised- losing the ability to vote or to have a vote count- with having a campaign pay attention to voters by visiting the state, which is two different things. And, of course, the presidential candidates ignore Baker's home state of Massachusetts in the general election as they often flock to neighboring New Hampshire, so -ahem- he must be more concerned about other states than he is about Massachusetts.
No, Baker is more likely excited about the prospect of America being ready for a sane candidate as early as the next cycle, someone who even Democrats perceive to be a reasonable person with appropriate background and temperament, and yes, someone who has a chance to win under the existing structure of the electoral college.

Monday, December 19, 2016

War on Democracy

I ran a search on "War on Democracy" expecting to encounter many hits on articles about our current situation in America. After all, this blog has described something of a "War on Democracy" all year, but without calling it that. But no, there were few hits other than the 2007 book about the U.S. waging a "war on democracy" in other countries.
Is there any doubt we have been witnessing a war on democracy? If you wanted to destroy democracy in America, would you go about it by stating your mission? No, you would make other claims time after time after time. And other players with the same mission would join you in the effort, but all of these bad actors (pun intended) would claim untrue reasons for their actions.
So the public record would be riddled with false justifications. The false justification is a red flag that tells us that the broad strategy of deny, deflect, distract, accuse is being applied in order to sow confusion about reality. Remember, we are only in a post-truth universe if we do not call out the tactic of false justification.
-Ignore the president's nominee to the Supreme Court. War on democracy. But call it the "Biden rule."
-Ignore the president's annual budget proposal in Congress for the first time in living memory. Therefore, no one will discuss that and the Republicans do not have to compare and contrast their proposals with the president's. No problem with this one. No need to concoct a false justification. People will hardly notice.
-While running for president, behave in all ways like an ally of the Russian autocrat, but deny you are working together for the same goal. Does it matter? Does a conspiracy require working together secretly if you are both public figures working together in plain sight?
-As president-elect, deny that Russia was behind the Wikileaks emails or that they were calculated to help you win the election, despite the clear advantage to Russia for that outcome.

The FBI intervention in the election in multiple ways is a clear example, making them appear to be more the secret police of the new regime than an independent agency.

The North Carolina coup this past week to strip the newly elected Democratic governor of the ordinary powers of the office is the latest and most dramatic example of the success of this war on democracy in a state with severe gerrymandering in place and election laws designed to impede voting by democrats.

Real News

We are hearing a lot now about fake news from multiple sources. But many of our most reliable news stories now come from nontraditional sources. Comedy Central does not see themselves as a straight news source, but their adherence to real life as a source of comedy makes them just that.

At the NYT, a cautious organization that can not speak the truth to lies for fear of appearing biased, the opinion page cohort is mostly a stale group who have all been there for too many years (Dowd, Brooks, Douthat, Kristoff, Bruni, Friedman) saying too little of value.

But Krugman is in a different category. Hired for writing about economics, he writes plainly in most articles about politics instead, most recently today in How Republics End. When Frank Rich was at the Times, he wrote for years about politics, more perceptibly than most of the NYT stable, though he was hired as an Arts and Entertainment guy. So it is, for some reason, that the so-called writers on politics often can not see the forest for the trees. The gap the political writers leave is filled by others.
Springing up to take their place is, you guessed it, BuzzFeed and, more recently, Teen Vogue.

Huh? Teen Vogue? Really? Yes, it has come to this. And not just their GasLighting story.
The current issue of Teen Vogue (and, yes, it is difficult to even write that...) has a great article entitled Russian Hacking Poses a Threat to American Security and the Presidency which gets right to the point and is not tldr.

The Teen Vogue article centers the story in the actual context - what is really happening, not the he/said she said Trumpworld of denial. Unlike the prestigious New York Times, Teen Vogue refuses to tie one hand behind their back. They just report the truth. And so Teen Vogue, who you would think worry too much about appearances, does not, at least in this situation, while the New York Times, whose editorial policy claims they only worry about reporting "without fear or favor", does worry too much about appearances. That approach to journalism leaves us with a worrisome reality. Today.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Threat to Democracy?

Steve Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt ask "Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?"
Their answer is "Yes" and, in an otherwise on-the-money piece,  they conclude,

American democracy is not in imminent danger of collapse. If ordinary circumstances prevail, our institutions will most likely muddle through a Trump presidency. It is less clear, however, how democracy would fare in a crisis. In the event of a war, a major terrorist attack or large-scale riots or protests — all of which are entirely possible — a president with authoritarian tendencies and institutions that have come unmoored could pose a serious threat to American democracy. We must be vigilant. The warning signs are real.

If you follow the train of thought in the piece, the conclusion reads as a nonsequitur, possibly the result of a watchful editor wanting to tone down the piece. Why? Well, that is what they do. Water down the conclusion because the reality is too alarming. Alarming, but not alarmist. This tone-it-down approach was used consistently throughout the primary and general election season as DT trampled the opposition with his no-holds-barred attacks on reality that were never met head on in the weak-kneed media.

The logical consequence of the arguments set forth in the editorial would have been this:

American democracy is not in imminent danger of collapse. If oOrdinary circumstances no longer prevail. We can not just assume our institutions will most likely muddle through a Trump presidency. It is less clear, however, how democracy would fare struggle in a crisis. In the event of a war, a major terrorist attack or large-scale riots or protests — all of which are likely entirely possible — a president with authoritarian tendencies and institutions that have come unmoored cwould pose a serious threat to American democracy. We must be vigilant and be ready to act decisively as a people when the crisis comes. The warning signs are real.

Or, for easier reading:
American democracy is in collapse. Ordinary circumstances no longer prevail. We can not just assume our institutions will muddle through a Trump presidency. It is clear democracy would struggle in a crisis. In the event of a war, a major terrorist attack or large-scale riots or protests -- all of which are likely---a president with authoritarian tendencies and institutions that have come unmoored would pose a serious threat to American democracy. We must be vigilant and be ready to act decisively as a people when the crisis comes.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

All Tactics All The Time

In a well written and thoughtful piece in the NYT, Masha Gessen points out that the "disagreement" between CIA/FBI and Trump/Putin on whether Russia intervened in the American election on behalf of DT "can feel deceptively substantive" and "when journalists are busy proving the obvious, they ignore the important questions. Arguing abut facts is, in fact, the ultimate distraction." No kidding!

The piece proceeds to describe what a meaningful discussion would look like, which is fine on the surface. But the key point here is the pattern of denial that Trump, Pence and their minions use as a tactic to stymie the functioning of democracy. They bring meaningful discuss to a hard stop by denying truths or making up stories that are outright lies. For them, Deny, distract, deflect, accuse is always on the menu. Denying obvious facts, which Trump has been doing for months,  is a tactic difficult to combat effectively. He says something, anything to distract from the issue at hand, makes a statement that deflects to a different issue entirely-though a rough connection in the mind can be made- and finally turns the entire discussion into an accusation against an opponent. To Trump, any observer who is truly objective, by the way, is considered a dangerous opponent. Unfortunately, the NYT has been slow to catch on to this reality.

Now It Can Be Told

"Now It Can Be Told" is the title of a song and several books, but for some of us Now It Can Be Told was always the title of the science fiction novel written by Kurt Vonnegut's fictional character Kilgore Trout about the origins of the universe. The catchy name can be taken to mean either that we previously knew the story and could not bring ourselves to speak it or we did not have enough details to put together the true story. The latter explanation could mean - we did not have the details because we did not try hard enough, did not care, or simply had other priorities.

Whichever the explanation - and I believe the regular media (NYT and others could not bring themselves to come forward due to an antiquated model for objective journalism), today "Now It Can be Told" is the story of the 2016 presidential election in the United States and the failure of the media to tell the true, correct, and complete story.
So now we have "How a Putin Fan Overseas Pushed Pro-Trump Propaganda to Americans" and the FBI joining the CIA to finally admit they know that Putin was behind the stolen emails and carefully timed distribution to the "objective" media to cause maximum damage to Democrats Hillary Clinton and Congressional candidates.
"Now It Can Be Told" can also refer to the story finally emerging in the objective press of the stark difference between the America with D. Trump as president and the America with Hillary Clinton as president. Only after the election of November 8th, after the "horse race" is over do we finally find serious discussion in the press of the vast difference in the life of the country that we now must fully expect in the coming kleptocracy.
The twisted logic is that if the press accurately reported the coming horrors while the campaign was in full swing, they could have been accused of bias and needed to avoid accusations of bias at all costs, while other unscrupulous actors like that Putin fan could infiltrate the information bubble with his propaganda. Only now, when it is too late to do any good, now it can be told.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

BiPolar Disorder

The model for our politics has morphed over recent decades into a full-scale war footing, though leaders among Democrats and the mainstream media have been slow to recognize the evolution. For the leaders, pre-election we say President Obama saying, to paraphrase, "We are all on the same team.", but Republican leaders do not see it that way and have not for a long, long  time. Republican leaders have regarded their political opponents not only as political enemies, but just plain enemies for many years.

Our democratic institutions have been reeling from the propensity of Republican leaders to stretch them to their limits without regard to the survival of those institutions and no apparent concern with the precipitous declines great powers have seen throughout history. Only recently did we hear the common refrain"Are We Greece?", which was ridiculous, when the better question was "Are We Rome?".

As we have been saying, T rump is nothing new, but is a more extreme case of Republican electoral strategy carried to its logical limit. The damage to the electoral process rendered by his success this year is almost beyond comprehension. If he had lost, the message may have differed. Instead, his success reinforces the clear message that a political leader how tries to be clear, direct and forthcoming makes a serious mistake. The formula for success is to be evasive and destructive, demeaning and crass, unknowledgeable and vague.

For the Senate majority leader, the calculus is clear. Having taken over the management of Supreme Court appointments, he now has his wife at cabinet meetings. The division of the spoils will allow McConnell to divide real political power with Paul Ryan, while they appease T rump by permitting him to amass as great a fortune as he desires without interference. This devil's bargain will continue until and unless Trump takes some action that they find unacceptable, which is unlikely. As president, he is likely to enrich himself in ways that could prompt Congressional action towards impeachment. But this run-up in his wealth will be the bargaining chip Ryan and McConnell need to keep in him line. They get the legislation they want and T rump gets the personal fortune he wants.

Before 2000, the Electoral College was long viewed as an odd institution that works just fine because... it doesn't do anything!  The outcome generally agrees with the popular vote totals. Defined as functioning well by not functioning at all is a dangerous proposition. With all of the other institutions of democracy in the U.S. at risk or failing , the electoral outcome in 2016 is one more blow at democracy, leaving the government in the hands of an uncompromising ruling minority.

The Republican model for governance shows through in North Carolina today as a microcosm of the U.S. The Democratic candidate for governor won a close election over the incumbent who has called a special lame duck session of the Republican legislature to pass laws designed to limit the powers of the newly elected governor. The pretext for the special session - the pretense- was to pass legislation for hurricane relief. So again, the ends justify the means. Lying about the reason for the special session is just another expediency which can be denied. The legislators who resort to these tactics are putting short term political gain ahead of the survival of democratic institutions that are in jeopardy of failing if citizens lose faith in democracy as a result.

And so the battle lines are drawn across political institutions at the federal and state level with Democratic officeholders set to employ tactics that Republicans have made their standard operating procedure to grasp and maintain power.

This is all very sad as it dawns on Democrats that Republicans have been fighting an all-out war for years with Dems mostly saying "we need to work together". Though we often hear that the electorate is polarized now as never before, that overstates the case. The actual polarization is at the political level in the willingness to employ scorched earth tactics which the Republican strategists long ago understood would give them the power to craft policy, even as a minority than they would have if they were willing to compromise. By adopting this approach, they made substantive campaigns a distant memory, plowing a path for a Trump candidacy. They made Democrats the enemy rather than their political opponents. Put those two outcomes together and no wonder we have Putin, the kleptocrat, an enemy of America and progressive democracies worldwide, becomes a close ally of the president-elect. Doesn't this mean that our president-elect, who assails our democratic institutions, has set himself up to be our enemy?

Monday, December 12, 2016

What's All This About Gaslighting?

In a series of articles here and here and elsewhere,  observers have been calling the Trump/Pence strategy "gaslighting" after the old Boyer/Bergman film "Gaslight".
source: wikipedia
But it's not gaslighting if you know the perpetrators are constantly lying as a strategy using false positive claims on their own behalf, while using a strategy of deny, deflect, distract, accuse when called out on the lies. That sends the fact checkers digging into reality, which the reporters dutifully report to little attention, while the perpetrator has already moved on to the next lie. Our elite media did not quite see this coming, labeling DT "not a normal candidate" much of this year and, falling into the false equivalence trap, the campaign between two presidential candidates was labeled "not normal".
So the normal candidate lost in the Electoral College which is the system we have.
Even as the accusations and counter accusations fly over the role of the FBI and Russia, some of the simple evidence is quickly forgotten, lost in the miasma.

Back to "gaslighting". We are talking about a populace divided between two types of nonbelievers - those who care about the lies and see this behavior of national leaders like DT and McConnell as destructive of national institutions of democracy and those who just do not care about the lying.

The willingness of conservative leaders to be mendacious in order to win elections and achieve policy goals without fear of retribution, without concern about the devastating impact on the political system is not unprecedented with DT, but the scale is unprecedented. DT beat them at their own game in the primaries and he had valuable assistance from the FBI and Russian agents to plow over the top. Had DT lost the election, he would not have been the leader of the Party. The Party leaders would have continued with the stonewalling of the Obama years, combined with a ratcheted-up opposition to Clinton - endless investigations culminating in impeachment hearings calculated to weaken her Presidency mercilessly ( "merciless" to us, the American people they say they care so much about.). The thinking on the best Republican strategy would have been, OK, Trump was a little over the top, we need to pull the strings of the primary system to make sure the non-establishment candidate does not win next time. Instead, Republican strategists have decided, OK, so this is what we need to do to win - not only elections, but in the court of public opinion as we govern. So lying about everything is the best tactic we have. Anyone who accuses us of lying is being "political", so we can swat down any accusation by labeling it biased. We can do whatever we want without fear of repercussions that we care about.

So it's not "gaslighting". The big mystery that requires a better explanation is - why do the supporters, the Republican base, just not care about the truth? About reality?  Why do they not see that mendacity in leaders can destroy a political system, what was once the best political system in the world? Why do they not care about that? Well, for the same reason that they care more about the American flag - a symbol - than they care about America - a country, their country. More on that in a future post.

Meanwhile, easily forgotten in the focus on the Comey role as head of the FBI to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump is the other FBI push made in the final week of the campaign - the posting of documents about the Clinton presidential pardon of fugitive Marc Rich. These actions, together with Republican suggestions that they would limit the Supreme Court to eight justices, or fewer if Justices started to die off with Clinton as president, along with advertising the planned investigations of a president Clinton - all made emphatically during the final weeks of the campaign - were designed to let the American people know - "If you elect Clinton as your president, we will make your life hell!" That warning to American citizens was the shot across the bow which succeeded. If you are a business person who leans Republican, why would you vote against a party that is inclined to enact policies that favor you - lower income taxes on the wealthy, eliminating estate taxes on the wealthy, lower Social Security taxes on the wealthy, lower Medicare taxes on the wealthy, lower corporate income taxes making your stocks more valuable, and so on? Why would you go against all that only to have Republicans in Congress not only continue the scorched earth tactics of the Obama years, but intensify those efforts.

So it's not gaslighting. We all know what is happening. We just have trouble believing the extent of the cynicism about the political system. And the shortsightedness. Do they not see?
These destructive tactics have destructive ends.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Man Who Would Be King

Republican strategists have discovered that T Rump is everything they always wanted after all. As a narcissist, he cares only about himself and, by extension, his immediate family. In the evolving symbiotic relationship, he will let them have anything they want on policy, provided he receives the utmost respect and reverence to which he feels entitled. That means they need to leave his business relationships alone and, ideally, let him expand his business influence around the globe, making billions. In return for fostering the trumpian self-aggrandizement,  the Repubs get the foreign policy they want - really any policy they want. Even a traditional Republican president would have policy preferences, but not this one. Together, the new president and Republican dominated Congress need only make the optics work - to fool the base of support among white working class rural voters into thinking that somehow their goals mesh with the capitalist class of business owners.

Worker and Owner interest align in certain limited cases, especially domestic industries that are fixed in place and do not require cheap immigrant labor for competitiveness. Think coal mining and oil. If the price of oil continues to rise, fracking once again could become profitable in the U.S.

The story becomes more complicated and troublesome in the auto industry. Calls to slap tariffs on imports promise a simplistic solution, but ignore the reality of multi-sourcing of auto parts. We can expect a dramatic move away from hybrids and alternative energy in favor of SUV production.

Regulation of industry will be scaled back dramatically, which lowers cost, thus feeding profits in the short term. The negative effects on workers and consumers is only felt over time and can be easily denied in an atmosphere of "our facts vs. your facts".

But how does the tactical stance of deny, deflect, distract, accuse translate from the campaign to the administration of policy. Quite easily. By winning through intimidation. The two most recent examples - the attack on Boeing and the attack on the union leader show us the way. Remember, this is a man in business for himself with a long history of attacking organizations he worked with and stiffing them at every opportunity. He will not change his stripes, but will adapt them to his new powers.The Boeing tweet singles out the constituency of corporations, serving as a warning to anyone who dares criticize from corporate America. The Indianapolis union leader is singled out in a tweet and receives anonymous threats, which is creepily similar to the threats to the pizza shop owner who supported Democrats in the election, as made clear by the wikileaks stolen emails. So three type of organizations are to be brought in line by a variety of threats, either in business or at a personal level - corporations that dare speak up, unions that dare speak up, and individuals, as business owners or otherwise, who dare participate in a democracy on the "other side".

And Trump has attacked the free press consistently and often viciously including personal attacks on individual reporters at his rallies. He has combined personal attacks on reporters with accusations of bias as a tactic to deflect attention from substantive coverage of his behavior and potential policies.

The common theme is the chilling effect on the regular functioning of a democracy which requires that political leaders act in good faith. And none of these examples is as chilling as the Putinesque threats to opposing political leaders - to "lock her up" with the active participation of the FBI to sabotage the election - our own secret police now, as never before.

Of course, all of this intimidation is the way a minority government attains and maintains power when democratic institutions are considered secondary to wielding power and dictating policy.

So who is left to be intimidated, after corporations, unions, a free press, and ordinary citizens in the normal course of their lives, and opposing political leaders? Well, that would leave ordinary citizens in the course of voicing their concerns in a normal functioning democracy, such as by protest marches or other venues. We will see how the crackdown is applied on January 20th. None of this is good.