“Like Trump, Meciar first rose to power by sidelining rivals in his own party and staging a flurry of media stunts that left his opponents paralyzed and divided.”

Dalibor Rohac:

To any fair-minded observer, President Trump’s authoritarian instincts, Twitter outbursts and divisive rhetoric should be greatly concerning. Americans might take comfort in the fact that the United States is not the first country to elect and live under such a leader. I would know.

Two and a half years after the fall of communism in 1989, the ruthless and charismatic Vladimir Meciar was elected as prime minister in my home country of Slovakia after a brief previous stint in the office. His larger-than-life personality and bombastic rhetoric filled much of the media space, often with lies and conspiracies. His opponents, many of them former dissidents from the old era, lacked the rhetorical skills, charisma and political acumen to compete.

[…]

Meciar’s demise was precipitated by the emergence of an effective opposition that coalesced around the questions that mattered the most: rule of law and Slovakia’s place among European democracies. Like Trump, Meciar first rose to power by sidelining rivals in his own party and staging a flurry of media stunts that left his opponents paralyzed and divided. At the time, Slovakia had a vast array of small, mostly center-right, parties, which differed in the emphasis they placed on economic reforms, family values and environmental protection. Meciar’s power was the greatest when the opposition was divided and mired in debates over irrelevant minutiae.

Growing up in Slovakia during that time, I would know too.

My country had its own Trump. Here’s how we beat him. [WaPo]

February 24, 2017  |  

“You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things.”

Well.. a press conference for the ages from the orange one today.

I won with news conferences and probably speeches. I certainly didn’t win by people listening to you people. That’s for sure. But I’m having a good time. Tomorrow, they will say, “Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.” I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But — but I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it.

And this line, coming out directly from the mouth of THE PRESIDENT of THE UNITED STATES himself, simply stunning:

You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things.

Let’s start the impeachment process already.

Full transcript here.

February 16, 2017  |  

“Cyberwarfare will be front and center in our lives in the same way that nuclear warfare was during the cold war.”

Fred Wilson:

Cyberwarfare will be front and center in our lives in the same way that nuclear warfare was during the cold war. Crypto will be the equivalent of bomb shelters and we will all be learning about private keys, how to use them, and how to manage them. A company will make crypto mainstream via an easy to use interface and it will become the next big thing.

Very likely scenario indeed.

What Is Going To Happen In 2017 [AVC]

January 1, 2017  |  

“A constant supply of news that make us afraid with little to instill trust in one another and in our institutions has always been the best press demagogues can hope for.”

Max Roser:

The story that we tell about ourselves is the most important story of all. Journalists and intellectuals who almost exclusively focus on what goes wrong risks us losing our faith in one another, and that faith is the essential foundation without which our ideal of a free and democratic society is impossible. A constant supply of news that make us afraid with little to instill trust in one another and in our institutions has always been the best press demagogues can hope for.

Freedom is impossible without faith in free people, and if we are not aware of our history and produce and demand only the information on what goes wrong, we risk to lose faith in one another.

Stop saying that 2016 was the ‘worst year’ [WaPo]

December 30, 2016  |  

“The post-Communist economic dream has disappointed many.”

Alena Krempaska:

It might seem that Central Europe, once home to Nazis and Stalinists, is slipping back into totalitarianism. It’s not that simple. People are not voting for the far right because of their fascism. They vote for these parties because they are looking for an alternative to a mainstream that has failed them. Twenty-seven years after the fall of Communism and 12 years after joining the European Union, the promised Western standards of living are nowhere in sight. The post-Communist economic dream has disappointed many. It took 15 years just for living standards to return to where they were before 1989. Poverty is soaring. In Hungary, 35 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

To prevent the entrenchment of the far right, Central Europe desperately needs a new progressive force with a vision for how to respond to people’s needs. Progressives should have a plan to fend off economic hardship and insecurity to stop people’s legitimate concerns being transferred into bigotry, xenophobia and hatred. If this alternative does not emerge, the consequences will be disastrous.

When Europe’s Far Right Came for Me [NYT]

December 30, 2016  |  

“Stacked up, the Stasi’s complete files reached 125 miles. They weighed fifty tons per mile; in total, 62,500 tons.”

Tina Rosenberg:

The Stasi complex on Normannenstrasse in the Lichtenberg district consisted of 41 brown concrete buildings. In addition, the Stasi possessed 1,181 safe houses, 305 vacation homes, 98 sports facilities, and 18,000 apartments for meetings with spies. The Stasi had a budget of 4 billion East German marks. It had 97,000 full-time employees—after the army, it was East Germany’s largest employer. There were 2,171 mail readers, 1,486 phone tappers, and another 8,426 people who monitored phone conversations and radio broadcasts. In addition, there were about 110,000 active unofficial collaborators and perhaps ten times that many occasional informants. The Stasi kept files on 6 million people. There were 39 separate departments—even a department to spy on other Stasi members. A master file with a single card for each Stasi employee, collaborator, and object of surveillance stretches for more than a mile—the cards for people named Müller alone reach a hundred yards. Stacked up, the Stasi’s complete files reached 125 miles. They weighed fifty tons per mile; in total, 62,500 tons.

The Haunted Land: Facing Europe’s Ghosts After Communism [Amazon]

October 31, 2016  |