Myanmar Protests Show an AR-15 Will Protect a Lot More Freedom than a Slingshot

“What good is an AR-15 against an oppressive government armed with tanks and bombers? That’s the question gun owners often get asked, as if the destructive power of the modern state is a mic-drop argument against private weapons ownership. That might be a bit more convincing if resistance fighters didn’t repeatedly go up against well-armed troops with whatever weapons they can make or scavenge in hopes of gaining breathing room and forcing change. Sometimes, they even win, and their chances would undoubtedly be better if they had better tools at hand to begin with.”

“Despite endorsement for resistance efforts from the pro-democracy shadow government facing off against the ruling junta, Reuters emphasized that a loosely organized group “[a]rmed with a few hunting guns made by village blacksmiths, catapults, some airguns and Molotov cocktails … were no match for forces hardened by decades of conflict and equipped with combat weapons.”
But, despite the paucity of their arms and training, the fighters gave government forces a day-long battle. They had to turn, at least for the time being, to makeshift weapons because the regime spent years trying to keep the population disarmed so that it wouldn’t have to face serious resistance.

“In Myanmar, civilians are not allowed to possess any firearms,” notes the University of Sydney’s GunPolicy.org.”

“A Formula for Tyranny and More Racism”

“group-egalitarians claim that, absent injustice, we should have equal representation of groups in every human enterprise. But how can that be? If groups matter, some people are going to bounce a basketball 100,000 times a month and other people are going to bounce it 10,000 times a month. If groups matter, their members will not do the same things, believe the same things, think the same things, or act and react in the same ways. Groups have their own integrity, expressing themselves in how they live their lives, raise their children, and spend their time. This will inevitably result in a different presence of groups across various human activities. They will not have similar occupational or professional profiles. They will not be present in the same proportions as members of the National Academy of Sciences, as tenured faculty members, as tech entrepreneurs, hedge-fund managers, small shopkeepers, single parents, or petty criminals.

It follows that respecting groups’ integrity while demanding group equality is simply a contradiction. Attempting to impose equality despite that contradiction will only lead to disappointment, tyranny, and more racism.”

US ratchets up pressure on Myanmar’s military after its bloodiest weekend since the coup

“The Biden administration is stepping up its actions to punish Myanmar’s ruling military junta in the wake of a bloody weekend targeting civilians protesting against the February military coup.

On Saturday, the military commemorated Armed Forces Day by killing about 140 people — including six children — in 44 cities and towns amid nationwide peaceful protests, according to local reports and activists. One of the children, 11-year-old Aye Myat Thu, was buried with her drawings and toys as her family mourned beside her.

Thousands of people also fled into neighboring Thailand to escape the violence.

It’s the largest number of people killed in a single day since the military ousted the country’s democratic government in a February 1 coup. Some 500 people have been killed in total since the military seized control.

Pressure from the international community on Myanmar’s military to relinquish control has been growing, with the United Nations special rapporteur for the country recently calling the junta’s campaign “mass murder.””

“On Monday, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that the Biden administration would “suspend all US trade engagement” with Myanmar that occurs under a 2013 bilateral trade agreement. That won’t stop all $1.4 billion in trade between the two countries, but it will curb the trade relationship, namely by ending US support for initiatives that helped Myanmar integrate back into the world economy.

That may not seem like much, but experts on Myanmar’s conflict like Cornell University’s Darin Self say the move “will sting” because “cutting off trade is meaningful.””

Iran’s execution of journalist Ruhollah Zam, briefly explained

“Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam, whose reporting helped spur large anti-government protests, was executed by Iran”

“Zam, 47, was found guilty of “corruption on earth” and sentenced to death”

“The vague charge of “corruption on earth” is often used “in cases involving espionage or attempts to overthrow Iran’s government,” Al Jazeera reported Saturday.

Zam ran the site Amad News and coordinated a Telegram channel, both of which helped spread information during a wave of anti-regime protests that shook Iran in 2017 and 2018. He was living abroad in Paris at the time, but returned to the Middle East in 2019 and was arrested in Iraq by members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

Half a million Muslims forced to pick cotton as scale of Chinese slave labour exposed

“China is forcing hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other minorities to pick cotton by hand in the western region of Xinjiang, a key source of the world’s cotton, according to a report by a Washington-based think tank.

Rights activists have estimated that Chinese authorities have detained more than one million Uighurs and other, mostly Muslim, minorities in detention camps in Xinjiang since 2017. Beijing denies that Uighurs’ rights are abused and says re-education centres provide vocational training to help people gain employment, and are necessary to curb extremism.

Now, information from Chinese government documents and state media reports provides evidence that at least half a million people have been forced to pick cotton through a coercive state-mandated labour transfer and poverty alleviation scheme, the Center for Global Policy says.”

No, Flynn’s Martial Law Plot Isn’t Sedition. But It’s Not Necessarily Legal Either.

“Flynn had recently appeared on the far-right outlet Newsmax suggesting that Trump could order “military capabilities” to “rerun an election” in swing states, and that “[m]artial law has been instituted 64 times.” Meanwhile, Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward urged Trump to “Cross the Rubicon” and impose martial law to claim an election that the Electoral College, not to mention several dozen court rulings, has now certified he lost.

Public reaction to Flynn’s “coup” proposal — which he’d shared previously through a press release on Twitter from the right-wing group “We The People” (tagline: “Freedom never kneels except for God”) — have been furious and damning.”

“There’s a buffet of sedition statutes (18 U.S.C., sections 2383 through 2385) which have some potential relevance here. Section 2383 makes it a crime to incite or assist in a rebellion against the United States or give comfort to those who incite an insurrection. Section 2384 carries a 20-year jail term for seditious conspiracy, which requires an agreement between two or more people to “overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States … or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States.” The third provision, 2385, makes it a crime to “knowingly or willfully advocate, abet, advise, or teach the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States.” The statute goes on to criminalize the intentional publication or circulation of any printed matter advocating the desirability of overthrowing the U.S. government. (Thirteen states also have their own laws banning “criminal anarchy.”)

Historically, sedition laws have been used to target critics of the government, and some of those prosecutions have run afoul of First Amendment protections. But the First Amendment does not uniformly protect speech if it incites violence.

Was Flynn inciting violence by proposing the military be used to seize voting machines? During the now-infamous Oval Office meeting, chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone protested vehemently, but were there two or more people in agreement to overthrow the government? Was Flynn’s social media campaign a violation of the rule against circulating any printed matter advocating the overthrow of the government?

This is where the current sedition laws begin to seem inadequate to the task of responding to Flynn’s unprecedented proposal.

First, there is the problem of “sedition against what?” Usually, it’s the sitting government, which means that one could make a strong argument that it’s impossible for Trump to be involved in a seditious conspiracy so long as he’s the sitting President. Second, no one has ever been successfully prosecuted under the sedition statutes for exhorting a sitting president to perform an illegal act, with or without the president’s connivance.”

“The First Amendment protects free speech, but in 1969 the Supreme Court held in Brandenburg v. Ohio that “the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” (Emphasis mine.)

Martial law is not mentioned in the Constitution. Nor is it authorized by any act of Congress. The Supreme Court has never directly held that the federal government has the power to impose martial law. Although the Insurrection Act allows the president to use armed forces to “suppress” an insurrection and restore immediate law and order upon the request of a state legislature or governor, an 1878 law called the Posse Comitatus Act otherwise forbids the use of the military for domestic law enforcement. A criminal statute puts members of the military who prevent or attempt to interfere with voters “exercising the right of suffrage” at risk of going to prison for up to five years.”

Study: Trump’s tweets can lead Republicans to lose faith in elections

“President Donald Trump’s tweets attacking the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election might not sway the outcome — but they might sway Americans’ faith in democracy.

A study by political science researchers from Stanford and five other universities found that exposure to those tweets “erodes trust and confidence in elections and increases the belief that elections are rigged among his supporters.” However, among those who oppose the president, the study found that their trust in elections actually increased after seeing his tweets, albeit by a slightly smaller magnitude.”

“people’s self-reported views may have less to do with their actual opinions and more to do with staying in line with their party. Previous research has shown that survey respondents often follow partisan cues: Politico, for instance, found that Republicans’ and Democrats’ views on whether the economy was improving flipped after Trump’s 2016 win, but that those shifts in reported attitudes only sometimes affected people’s actual behavior.”

The American right’s favorite strongman

“After winning Hungary’s 2010 election, the prime minister systematically dismantled the country’s democracy — undermining the basic fairness of elections, packing the courts with cronies, and taking control of more than 90 percent of the country’s media outlets. He has openly described his form of government as “illiberal democracy,” half of which is accurate.

Since the coronavirus, Orbán’s authoritarian tendencies have only grown more pronounced. His allies in parliament passed a new law giving him the power to rule by decree and creating a new crime, “spreading a falsehood,” punishable by up to five years in prison. The Hungarian government recently seized public funding that opposing political parties depend on; through an ally, they took financial control of one of the few remaining anti-Orbán media outlets. In May, the pro-democracy group Freedom House officially announced that it no longer considered Hungary a democracy.”

“Religious conservatives find Orbán’s social policies to be a breath of fresh air. Orbán has given significant state support to Hungary’s churches, officially labeling his government a “Christian democracy.” He provided generous subsidies to families in an effort to get Hungarian women to stay at home and have more babies. He launched a legal assault on progressive social ideals, prohibiting the teaching of gender studies in Hungarian universities and banning transgender people from legally identifying as anything other than their biological sex at birth.

Conservative nationalists focus on the Hungarian approach to immigration and the European Union. During the 2015 migrant crisis, Orbán was the most prominent opponent of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open borders approach; he built a wall on Hungary’s southern border with Serbia to keep refugees from entering. He has repeatedly denounced the influence the EU has on its member states, describing one of his governing aims as preserving Hungary’s national character in the face of a globalist onslaught led by Brussels and philanthropist George Soros.

For Western conservatives of a religious and/or nationalist bent, Orbán is the leader they wish Donald Trump could be — smart, politically savvy, and genuinely devoted to their ideals. Hungary is, for them, the equivalent of what Nordic countries are for the American left: proof of concept that their ideas could make the United States a better place.

Yet while the Nordic countries are among the world’s freest democracies, Hungary has fallen into a form of autocracy.”

“Orbán and much of his inner circle are lawyers by training; they have used this expertise to set up a political system that looks very much like a democracy, with elections and a theoretically free press, but isn’t one. This gives intellectually sympathetic Westerners some room for self-delusion. They can examine Hungary, a country whose cultural politics they admire, and see a place that looks on the surface like a functioning democracy.”

“If these thinkers continue to insist that Hungary is just another democracy — despite copious evidence to the contrary — how can we expect them to call out the same, more embryonic process of authoritarianism happening at home? If American conservatives won’t turn on a foreign country’s leadership after it crosses the line, what reason would we have to believe that they’d be capable of doing the same thing when the stakes for them are higher and the enemies more deeply hated?”

National Guardsman Contradicts Trump Administration’s Account of Use of Force Against Protesters

“A National Guard officer will testify Tuesday at a congressional hearing that the June 1 clearing of protesters outside the White House was “an unnecessary escalation of the use of force” and “deeply disturbing to me, and to fellow National Guardsmen.”

“From my observation, those demonstrators—our fellow American citizens—were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights,” Adam DeMarco, a major in the D.C. National Guard, will tell the House Natural Resources Committee, according to his prepared remarks. “Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.”

DeMarco’s testimony directly contradicts several of the Trump administration’s shifting explanations for what happened on June 1, when law enforcement violently dispersed a crowd of protesters in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House. After police cleared the crowds, President Donald Trump conducted a photo shoot of himself holding a Bible outside St. John’s Church.”

“DeMarco testifies that around 6 p.m., Attorney General William Barr and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived.

“As the senior National Guard officer on the scene at the time, I gave General Milley a quick briefing on our mission and the current situation,” DeMarco writes. “General Milley told me to ensure that National Guard personnel remained calm, adding that we were there to respect the demonstrators’ First Amendment rights.” (Milley has since apologized for appearing in Lafayette Square. “I should not have been there,” he said. “My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created the perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”)

At around 6:20 p.m., DeMarco continues, verbal warnings were given to the crowd to leave. But from where he was standing, about 20 yards away from the line of protesters, the warnings “were barely audible and I saw no indication that the demonstrators were cognizant of the warnings to disperse.”

Law enforcement rushed the crowd at around 6:30 p.m. Videos showed law enforcement assaulting an Australian TV crew. Media and other observers also reported being tear gassed.

The Trump administration says that protesters were throwing items at law enforcement, which DeMarco testifies he did not see. Park Police also emphatically denied they fired tear gas, claiming that officers instead fired smoke canisters and pepper balls, the latter of which are also a chemical irritant. But DeMarco says that tear gas was indeed used.”

Trump’s Actions in Portland Mesh With His Political Message

“Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania who was the first person to serve as secretary of Homeland Security, also condemned Trump’s actions.
”The department was established to protect America from the ever-present threat of global terrorism,” Ridge, a Republican, told the radio host Michael Smerconish. “It was not established to be the president’s personal militia.”

Ridge said it would be a “cold day in hell” before he would have consented as a governor to what is taking place. “I wish the president would take a more collaborative approach toward fighting this lawlessness than the unilateral approach he’s taken,” he said.”

“The focus of the Trump administration in recent days has been on Portland, where there have been nightly protests for weeks denouncing systemic racism in policing. In the last few days, federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Marshals, traveling in unmarked cars, have swooped protesters off the street without explaining why, in some cases detaining them and in other cases letting them go because they were not actually suspects. The protests have increased in size since the arrival of federal officials.

Trump’s deployment of federal law enforcement is highly unusual: He is acting in spite of local opposition — city leaders are not asking for troops — and his actions go beyond emergency steps taken by some past American leaders like President George H.W. Bush, who sent troops to quell Los Angeles in 1992 at the request of California officials.”