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“Using The Government To Intimidate”: Here’s How Donald Trump’s Authoritarianism Would Actually Work

At various points in his career, Donald Trump has praised authoritarian rulers in places like Russia, China, and North Korea for having the ruthlessness to crush their political opponents. His worship of strength, contempt for reason, and appeal to base emotions has made many observers liken him to an authoritarian ruler, and even debate whether he is an actual fascist. But what would authoritarianism look like in the United States, as practiced by Trump? It would probably take the form of Trump using the powers of the federal government to intimidate his critics in the media — one of the key tools Vladimir Putin used to push Russia’s (far more fragile) democracy into outright despotism. In an interview Thursday night with quasi-official mouthpiece Sean Hannity, Trump responded to Washington Post investigations into his life by casually threatening retribution against its owner, Jeff Bezos:

It’s interesting that you say that, because every hour we’re getting calls from reporters from the Washington Post asking ridiculous questions. And I will tell you. This is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos, who controls Amazon. Amazon is getting away with murder, tax-wise. He’s using the Washington Post for power. So that the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed. He’s getting absolutely away — he’s worried about me, and I think he said that to somebody … it was in some article, where he thinks I would go after him for antitrust. Because he’s got a huge antitrust problem because he’s controlling so much. Amazon is controlling so much of what they’re doing.

And what they’ve done is he bought this paper for practically nothing. And he’s using that as a tool for political power against me and against other people. And I’ll tell you what: We can’t let him get away with it. So he’s got about 20, 25 — I just heard they’re taking these really bad stories — I mean, they, you know, wrong, I wouldn’t even say bad. They’re wrong. And in many cases they have no proper information. And they’re putting them together, they’re slopping them together. And they’re gonna do a book. And the book is gonna be all false stuff because the stories are so wrong. And the reporters — I mean, one after another — so what they’re doing is he’s using that as a political instrument to try and stop antitrust, which he thinks I believe he’s antitrust, in other words, what he’s got is a monopoly. And he wants to make sure I don’t get in. So, it’s one of those things. But I’ll tell you what. I’ll tell you what. What he’s doing’s wrong. And the people are being — the whole system is rigged. You see a case like that. The whole system is rigged. Whether it’s Hillary or whether it’s Bezos.

Obviously, one can debate Amazon’s antitrust practices (a case can be made it is a monopoly) or its tax levels. But Trump is making no pretense of evaluating these questions as public policies to be settled on their merits. His diatribe weaves in and out of Bezos’s finances and the Post’s coverage, and back again repeatedly, leaving no doubt that, in Trump’s mind, the two are one and the same.

Trump is making nice with the leaders of his party now, and the Republican holdouts have been reduced to a stubborn handful. But the GOP leaders going along with Trump should be under no illusion about the likelihood that the candidate they support, if elected, would turn the United States into at least a quasi-authoritarian state. And the ease with which he has brought other Republicans to heel gives every indication that they would help him do it.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 13, 2016

May 16, 2016 Posted by | Authoritarianism, Donald Trump, Federal Government | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Private Isn’t Always Better Than Public”: UPS Delivers Christmas A Day Late

It’s the day after Christmas, which means, for many holiday revelers, that their Christmas packages are just arriving today. Or maybe tomorrow.

United Parcel Service, the Georgia-based company that is the go-to package delivery option for millions of Americans, fell short – far short – of meeting holiday expectations this year. Apparently overwhelmed by the delivery demands of the season, UPS failed to get packages to customers in time to put them under the holiday tree.

The number of undelivered packages was not revealed by the company, but social media exploded with complaints from people who said they had ordered online specifically because they were guaranteed pre-Christmas delivery. In a statement, the company said:

UPS understands the importance of your holiday shipments. UPS is experiencing heavy holiday volume and making every effort to get packages to their destination.

It’s not an acceptable explanation, just as it wasn’t a good explanation when the Obama administration said its health care website wasn’t working right because it was overwhelmed with traffic the first day people could go online to sign up for insurance. It is – or should be – someone’s job to figure out that when one is in a big-demand season, there needs to be enough staff to handle it. No one put it better than Saturday Night Live: It’s like 1-800-FLOWERS being taken by surprise by Valentine’s Day.

But there’s another issue here, and that is the public/private bias. Why is Amazon using UPS instead of the U.S. Postal Service? I ordered two books and a CD from Amazon 10 days before Christmas, and my package arrived (thankfully) late afternoon on Christmas Eve. The packages I sent through the U.S. Post Office arrived exactly as promise: When I got two-day Priority delivery, it got there in two days. And (“free” shipping aside), the U.S. postal service is cheaper than the private alternatives.

There seems to be a persistent idea that a private entity is always better or more efficient than a public one. You have people who spent many tens of thousands of dollars to attend some private college which offers no better education than many of the public institutions out there. But the graduates behave as though they’ve gotten some superior level of instruction, just because they didn’t have to go to school with the socio-economic riff-raff. There is, of course, a difference between state universities and pricey private colleges, of course. You can’t buy your way into a public school.

My mail arrives every day it’s supposed to – on time, and delivered by a cheerful and dedicated public servant, a mail carrier who managed to get mail to my building during Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy and all kinds of bad weather. It’s a shame UPS didn’t get packages to people on time. Next year, two changes could fix the problem: the private company could hire enough staff to handle and deliver packages. Or consumers could just use the reliable U.S. Postal Service.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, December 26, 2013

December 27, 2013 Posted by | Private Companies | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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