Category Archives: Remarkable People

Democracy In Peril: Progressive Billionaires to the Rescue?? (Well, Maybe . . .)

“Money,” truthfully spake the legendary California pol Jesse Unruh, “is the mother’s milk of politics.”

And if money, rather than love, is All You Need (as spake, or crooned, the legendary Beatles), Democrats & their worried (“terrified” is more accurate) and beleaguered progressives ought to be breathing easier today, despite the fate of Roe.

The morning papers bring news that, busting through the encircling hordes of vote suppressors, election stealers and insurrectionists, the cavalry is coming. They’ve been sent by a pentagon of the biggest Dem billionaire campaign donors, and bear saddlebags stuffed with cash (and bitcoin?) to help the Dems fend off the MAGA assault:

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, one of the nation’s top political donors, gathered more than a dozen billionaires or their representatives over Zoom Friday to sound an alarm about the coming elections.

“MAGA leaders intend to use 2022 midterm wins to install Trump in 2024 regardless of the vote,” read a slide of the PowerPoint Hoffman presented to the group, which was obtained by The Washington Post.

He was pitching some of the nation’s wealthiest people on a doomsday idea that has become a growing obsession among the liberal donor community. Another slide, titled “How MAGA midterms can install Trump,” laid out a step-by-step hypothetical scenario: Republicans win statewide offices in key battleground states in 2022 and then change state laws in 2023 to give legislatures control over presidential electors. After the next presidential election, they declare votes from urban centers “tainted” and overrule the popular vote by sending their own slate of electors to Washington.

The goal [here] . . . was to raise tens of millions of dollars for groups that the PowerPoint described as being able to increase Democratic turnout, persuade swing voters to vote Democratic and “dissuade” Republican voters from going to the polls.

You get the idea. The plot to use 2022 as the stepping stone to a Trump or successor MAGA coronation will be familiar to most of us who can read, listen, or remember their nightmares. I for one am not a doubter.  The MAGA-orange drive is as real as Covid; and stopping it, if that can be done, will cost beaucoup bucks.

However. Continue reading Democracy In Peril: Progressive Billionaires to the Rescue?? (Well, Maybe . . .)

It CAN Happen Here, Like It Did In Zimbabwe

Washington Post — Opinion

I saw Mugabe wreck a democracy. The Jan. 6 hearings matter — a lot.
Opinion by Evan Mawarire
 — June 14, 2022

Evan Mawarire, an evangelical pastor and the director of education at the Renew Democracy Initiative, is the inaugural Agora Institute-RDI dissident in residence at Johns Hopkins University.

In 2008, the sitting president of my country, Zimbabwe, lost his bid for reelection but simply refused to leave office. Robert Mugabe, the dictator who went on to rule Zimbabwe for a total of 37 years, mobilized his party thugs to brutalize those who voted against him and proceeded to claim the presidency.

My countrymen and I watched helplessly as African leaders rewarded Mugabe by brokering a supposed shared-power deal that gave him the immense powers of the presidency and awarded a token, ceremonial prime minister role to Morgan Tsvangirai, who had actually won the election. (Tsvangirai died in 2018, Mugabe the following year.)

Evan Mawarire.

As members of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6., 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol hold televised hearings, it might be easy for many people to ignore the proceedings, chalking them up to Washington infighting. That’s understandable — millions of Americans are dealing with more immediate, pressing concerns, such as spiking inflation and chronic gun violence.

But the hearings represent much more than just the political jockeying that Americans have come to expect from Washington. These proceedings, in particular their focus on the role played by then-President Donald Trump on that terrible day, represent the very thing that Zimbabweans never had with Mugabe: accountability. These hearings seek to hold those people accountable who would have taken America down a path that I know all too well.

In Zimbabwe and in many other unfree countries, leaders are often able to avoid the accountability and transparency that Americans have come to take for granted. As has been widely noted, the Jan. 6 committee hearings are occurring as the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in arrives on June 17 — another event that ultimately showed U.S. democracy functioning exactly as it should.

For all of its flaws, scandals and mistakes, democracy in the United States has been remarkably resilient. Dissidents like me have often looked to it for inspiration.

The failure of democracy in our own countries helps us understand that a history of success shouldn’t make anyone complacent. All it takes for this tradition to crumble is for one leader or group to seize the reins of power and refuse to move on. The Jan. 6 hearings underline the difference between the United States and countries where sham elections make a mockery of democratic values.

What might not be obvious to everyday citizens is that the hearings are a testament to the rule of law. The stakes are high: Not only will the country as a whole see whether the wrongdoers of Jan. 6 are held accountable, but the world will also bear witness. Authoritarian governments that defy accountability for their anti-democratic actions — and long to see U.S. leaders do the same — are no doubt taking notice of how the hearings unfold.

Six years ago, when I launched the #ThisFlag citizens’ movement in Zimbabwe seeking to end Mugabe’s corrupt rule, our goal was to hold the country’s leaders accountable. Instead, I was jailed and tortured for my efforts. I moved to the United States in 2020 after escaping Zimbabwe, which remains a repressive state in the post-Mugabe era, and I am pleased to live in a country where the citizens enjoy collective rights to demand answers and justice from those in power.

The Jan. 6 hearings should command the attention of everyone who cares about living in a free and fair society. I hope — and, as a pastor, I pray — that they will reveal the integrity of my adopted home’s democracy in the face of a naked challenge to its very existence.

A public that neglects this process would risk telling the world that Americans can’t be bothered to care all that much about their own republic, and that accountability is elusive even in the United States.
That would send a dangerous signal. For if even the nation that is the leader of the free world can’t bring anti-democratic forces to justice, who will?

In my home country, the judiciary and parliament did nothing as Mugabe destroyed our institutions and what was left of our democracy. I’ve seen this happen once; I couldn’t bear to watch it happen again.

from Wikipedia: Evan Mawarire (born 7 March 1977) is a Zimbabwean pastor and democratic activist. He came to prominence during the 2016–17 Zimbabwe protests that challenged the rule of Robert Mugabe’s government. . . .

He worked in business for a number of years, while at the same time volunteering at his church, teaching Sunday school.He found the work at his church more fulfilling, and in 2002 he quit his job and went to Bible college.From 2002 to 2007, he was the young adult and youth pastor at Celebration Churches International in Harare, before serving as the church’s regional director in the United Kingdom from 2007 to 2010.In 2010, he established his own church, His Generation Church, in Harare. . . .


In July 2016, Mawarire was arrested on charges of inciting violence in Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Republic Police seized his phone. On 1 February 2017, Mawarire was arrested in connection with a charge of trying to overthrow Robert Mugabe at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airportin Zimbabwe on his way back from the United States.[16][17] In June 2017, Mawarire was arrested for praying with protesting students of the University of Zimbabwe.In September 2017, Mawarire was arrested for citing Zimbabwe’s economic problems by the Zimbabwe Republic Police at his church. Pastor Evan Mawarire was arrested again on 16 January 2019 after calling for and organising a national boycott against rising cost of living and misgovernance. Under the new president Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mawarire was charged with subversion.

Chelsea Manning: Survivor

NOTE: A long interview with the archetypal Iraq War era whistleblower, who served seven-plus years in prison (most in solitary) for lifting the lid on much of the u.S. torture program and other atrocities. Recently back from a week of volunteer relief work on the Ukrainian border, she’s working to put down roots and find stability in, of all places, Brooklyn. (Well, why not?)

The Daily Beast: Chelsea Manning Is Putting the Pieces Back Together
Marlow Stern — Mon, June 13, 2022

In February of 2019, just four months after undergoing bottom surgery, Chelsea Manning received a grand jury subpoena demanding she testify in the U.S. government’s case against WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. Her brave refusal to participate in the witch-hunt landed her $256,000 in fines and a year behind bars, which a top U.N. official determined had “all the constitutive elements of torture.”

On March 11, 2020, she attempted to take her own life once more in prison and was released back to her adopted home of Brooklyn, New York, the following day—only to then find herself at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, Manning has been trying to reclaim ownership over her life. Though only 34, the former Army intelligence analyst has spent nearly a quarter of her years behind bars, much of it in solitary confinement—persecuted by the U.S. government for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks that exposed a number of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the extent of U.S. spying on those at the U.N., among other things. She announced that she is female in 2013, transitioning into “the next phase” of her life whilst still imprisoned.

“Where is home now?” she asks herself. “I’m 34 years old, and I’ve lived outside the U.S. before where it’s felt not like home. And this is home. I’m so glad I have a relatively normal life now. I’m grateful for that. I just ride my scooter around town and do errands.”

She’s also been busy with speaking engagements, producing a film about the precariousness of crypto, doing consulting for the privacy startup Nym, and putting the finishing touches on her memoir, a “coming-of-age story” that’s scheduled to be released in October. Manning recently learned how to cook and has been known to cameo at the occasional Brooklyn rave—though she often finds herself getting recognized, even in a mask.

Last month, I sat down with Manning outside a Brooklyn coffee shop for a wide-ranging discussion on everything from her upcoming memoir and rise of the far-right to her public split from one-time confidant Glenn Greenwald back in September.

DB [Daily Beast]: I heard that you got COVID in September. Have you had any lingering effects?

CM [Chelsea Manning]:  I did have some lingering effects. I didn’t have anything nearly as serious as some of my friends—just lethargy, exhaustion, fatigue, those lingering things. By around December, I got the booster, and everything went away. Immediately afterward, no more symptoms. I got it again in March, but it was negligible.

DB: That’s great.

CM: In the springtime, I’ve tried to be more active. I’ve been traveling a lot. I don’t like traveling. I’m not a big fan.

DB: Do you have issues with being screened at the airport?

CM: Oh no, I’ve never had issues at the airport. I’m a normal traveler—I just can’t get TSA Pre, although TSA Pre is a scam anyway. But I’ve been in Europe quite a bit. One of the companies I work for [Nym] is based in Switzerland, and I’ve been to Paris, spent time in Berlin, and because the invasion of Ukraine popped off, I was at the border and did some volunteer work out there in March, so pretty early on. Continue reading Chelsea Manning: Survivor