Populism and the danger to Democracy: The Spanish example, Freedom of the Press and a Warning

Populism offers the promise of democratic renewal, bringing new actors and policies into the political system. Populist governments generally stand by three fundamental claims: (1) elites and “outsiders”work against the interests of the “true people,” (2) populist represent the “true people,” and (2) since populists are the voice of the “true people,” nothing should stand in their way. But while populist parties in power can make politics more representative, they can also undermine accountability when their lack of ability or interest in legislating shifts policymaking to other actors outside the ruling party. Populists in government can also erode the institutional checks on executive power inherent in a democracy that are necessary for a durable democracy, even in previously resilient advanced democracies. Historically, populist mobilization has precipitated democratic breakdown in the wealthiest democracies and have often reverted to autocracy: with examples such as Turkey, Venezuela, and Thailand.

When Hugo Chávez was first inaugurated as President of Venezuela in February 1999, he modified the oath of office to announce: “I swear in front of my people that over this moribund constitution I will push forward the democratic transformations that are necessary so that the new republic will have an adequate Magna Carta for the times.” He added: “the Constitution, and with it the ill-fated political system to which it gave birth 40 years ago, has to die.” Within hours of taking office, he would issue a decree calling for a new constituent assembly. Revising the Constitution was a key part of Chávez’s election campaign against the “corrupt” traditional parties, and would make good on his pledge to re-found the republic

Populists like Chávez offer the promise of renewing democracy and advancing social progress, bringing new actors and policies into the political system. But they also claim that their constituency represents all of “the people” rather than a portion of a diverse electorate, and—seeking to institutionally lock in their temporary political advantage—they frequently abuse the power of government to suppress their opponents.

The Danger of Populist Governments

Some scholars have warned that populists tend to be phenomenally corrupt, perpetuate their hold on power by delegitimizing the opposition, and inflict lasting damage on their countries’ democratic institutions. Others, including the historian Niall Ferguson, have suggested that populist governments are usually so incompetent that they prove short-lived. Yet others, including the political theorist Chantal Mouffe, have emphasized the positive potential of populism, and characterizes critics of these movements are simply defenders of the failed status quo.

However, history has shown that populist governments do not fulfill the promise of advancing democratic principles. In many countries, populists rewrote the rules of the game to permanently tilt the electoral playing field in their favor, often rewriting or amending their country’s constitution – such as is the case of Venezuela –when they gained power, frequently with the aim of eliminating presidential term limits and reducing checks and balances on executive power.

Some scholars draw a sharp distinction between left-wing and right-wing populists. While right-wing populists victimize unpopular minorities and weaponize public anger for illicit goals, left-wing populists are supposedly far more likely to correct elite failures on behalf of the poor and downtrodden. The best response to right-wing populists, according to this camp, is not a preference for parties and candidates that respect long-standing democratic rules and norms—but rather the election of left-wing populists.

The data do not bear out this argument. An empirical report by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change published in 2018 concluded that populist rule, whether left- or right-wing, leads to a significant risk of democratic backsliding (https://institute.global/policy/populist-harm-democracy-empirical-assessment) The authors examine the effect of populism on three major aspects of democracy: the quality of democracy in general, the checks and balances on executive power, and citizens’ right to politically participate in a meaningful way. They conclude that populist governments are four times more likely to cause harm to democratic institutions than non-populist governments. Also, more than half of populist leaders have amended or rewritten the countries’ constitution, frequently in a way that eroded checks and balances on executive power. Lastly, populists attack individual rights such as freedom of the press, civil liberties, and political rights. This suggests that left-wing populists are not likely to be a cure for right-wing populism; they are, on the contrary, likely to accelerate the speed with which democracy erodes at all levels.

The shift in the Spanish Government

Spain has become one of the latest examples of populism in governance. The 2008 Great Recession altered party allegiances in many countries, including Spain. In Spain, those changes brought a fully newly created radical-left populist party, Podemos, headed by a charismatic leader, Pablo Iglesias, that started as a grassroots movement and attracted sizeable support.

At the 2015 election for the national parliament, Podemos reached 20.65% of the vote and became the third largest party in the parliament after the conservative People’s Party (PP) with 28.71% and the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE) with 22.02%. Pedro Sanchez (PSOE) won a snap election in April of 2019 but struggled to form a government led by his party. As a result, another snap vote took place in November 2019, culminating with the first coalition government that Spain has seen in modern times.“A progressive coalition” – is how Pedro Sanchez described his deal with Podemos.

Podemos’, (now Unidas Podemos) success is partly due to its capacity to attract many former supporters of the established radical left, Izquierda Unida. Unidas Podemos’ supporters present a combination of elements – protest, anti-mainstream sentiment and unfulfilled expectations. Unidas Podemos highlights the need to regain popular and national sovereignty, as they interpret that both have been taken away by the caste and by unelected actors (the Troika, the German government, the European Central Bank, the elite, etc.) and emphasizes ‘the people vs the elite’ divide as their ideological defining element.

Since the Unidas Podemos became part of the coalition government, there are worrying signs that show signs of populists tendencies that curtail on democratic principles. In what some describe as an attack against freedom of the press, the ministerial order called “Procedure for Intervention against Disinformation,” approved last month by Spain’s National Security Council makes provisions for the possibility of carrying out communication campaigns to counter fake news stories, stopping short of censoring them. However, it leaves it up to the government to decide what exactly constitutes misinformation, with no representatives from the media or journalist associations involved in the process

Populist governments often seek to vilify the media and attempt to control the freedom of the press. To participate in politics in a meaningful way, a country must have freedom of the press, so that citizens can make informed choices; protect civil liberties, so that citizens are free to voice their preferences and organize around their interests; and maintain political rights, so that most adults have the right to participate in free and fair elections. On all of these counts, populist governments fall short.

Citizens of countries that are governed by populists may be concerned that similar governments have eroded checks and balances in a large number of cases. That should be a reason to be vigilant of populist measures proposed by the government and to fight for a more democratic system of governance.


The 2020 United States presidential election is the 59th quadrennial presidential election. The election was held on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. The Democratic ticket of former vice president Joe Biden and U.S. senator Kamala Harris defeated the Republican ticket of incumbent president Donald Trump and vice president Mike Pence. President Trump has not conceded and is requesting a recount in some states as well as alleging wholesale voter fraud in the election.

The electoral college meets on 14 December to cast its vote for president and most states use the statewide popular vote to allocate its electors.  Joe Biden is projected to win far more than the 270 electoral votes he needs to become president as he has likely insurmountable leads in Michigan, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona.

There is a long-shot legal theory advanced by Republicans that argues that if Republican-friendly legislatures in places such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania ignore the popular vote in their states and appoint their own electors, Trump might have a chance to win.

Federal law allows legislatures to do this if states have “failed to make a choice” by the day the electoral college meets. However, so far there is no evidence of systemic fraud of wrongdoing in any state and Biden’s commanding margins in these places make it clear that the states have in fact made a choice.

Athletes and Social Activism: Being a Good Person is more important than Being a Good Player

31-year-old German professional Soccer player Mesut Özil, has been described during his successful career as being the “Federer of Football, “assist king,” and “a genius with the ball.” He is a World Cup winner with Germany, and has played for some of the most prestigious clubs in the world, including Real Madrid and Arsenal. His coach at Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho, once said, “Özil is unique. There is no copy of him, not even a bad copy.” Former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, stated: “Mesut Özil is the dangerous one – he’s the one we need to keep the closest eye on.”

For the last 6 seasons Özil has played for Arsenal, but despite starting the first 10 Premier League games under Arsenal’s current club manager, Mikel Arteta, Özil has not played a minute since March 7. He has not even been named to a matchday squad since June 25. Last week, Arsenal submitted their 25-man squad for their Premier league match and it was made official that they were leaving out Özil, who also happens to be one of English football’s highest-paid players. What that means is that while he remains at the club, fit to play, available to train, and paid by the club, he will not play in a match.

Arsenal’s team manager Arteta has insisted that leaving Özil out was solely based on “footballing” reasons, however, Özil was a regular starter with Arsenal before the Covid-19 break. Per Mertesacker (Arsenal defender, 2011-18 and now a coach at the club’s academy) has said publicly that Özil has been training well. His teammates have said that he is one of their best players, and cannot understand why he was left off the s match squad. So, why is Özil left out of the Arsenal squad?

Some Arsenal fans have pointed to his comments in December 2019 about the mistreatment of Uighur Muslims in China and suggest a link to his current exile. In 2018, a BBC investigation revealed evidence that about a million people – mostly from China’s Muslim Uighur community – had been detained without trial in more than 85 high-security prison camps where they were interrogated and beaten because of their religion. On December 2019, Özil, who is Muslim, released a social media post calling Uighurs “warriors who resist persecution” and criticizing both, China, and the silence of other Muslims in response to the abuse. Arsenal distanced themselves from Özil’s comments, saying the club is “always apolitical as an organization.”

After his post, Özil was removed from China’s version of the Pro Evolution Soccer 2020 video game, and the club’s next game after the comments against Manchester City was removed from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV’s schedule. Clearly, Özil’s comments had resulted in a significant economic loss to his club who relies heavily on the Chinese market for revenue. Perhaps being left out of the Arsenal squad is not solely for footballing reasons after all.

Özil’s career as a player for the German national team also ended in controversy, he quit international football in 2018 citing the “racism and disrespect” he has faced in Germany over his Turkish roots. Making direct reference to Reinhard Grindel, president of the DFB (German Football Federation), Özil added: “[p]eople with racially discriminative backgrounds should not be allowed to work in the largest football federation in the world that has players from dual heritage families. Attitudes like theirs simply do not reflect the players they supposedly represent. In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win but I am an immigrant when we lose.”

Özil’s story is reminiscent of that of Colin Kaepernick and the protests by some American athletes against police brutality and racism by kneeling on one knee during the National Anthem. The protests began in the National Football League (NFL) after San Francisco 40ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem, before his team’s preseason games of 2016. During a post-game interview on August 26, 2016, Kaepernick stated, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” adding that he would continue to protest during the anthem until he felt like “[the United States flag] represents what it’s supposed to represent.” Kaepernick was essentially fired by the San Francisco 49ers and blackballed by the NFL. He has not been able to play in the league since the 2016 season.

Modern athletes raising their voice to injustice, although infrequent, is not something new. In fact, in 2012, the Miami Heat posed in hoodies for a widely circulated photograph meant to protest the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Two years later, athlete activism accelerated when the Los Angeles Clippers demonstrated against their team owner, Donald Sterling, for making racist comments. NBA stars wore T-shirts that said “I Can’t Breathe” to protest the killing of Eric Garner’s by police in New York. And five St. Louis Rams players raised their hands in “don’t shoot” poses to bring attention to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Most recently, on August 26, 2020, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take to the court for their NBA playoff game. In this case, however, the players didn’t just voice their concerns, the players’ protest marked a significant shift in the direction of activism on the part of the athletes.
By acting in concert –and all of them refusing to play– these athletes were, in effect, going on strike, and they showed the world just how much economic leverage they could wield.

In recent years, the prevailing media narrative about athletes who have routinely used their “platforms” to “raise awareness” or “bring attention” to a social issue has been positive. However, many argue that athletes are professionals who should focus on doing “their job” and not get involved in social activism. Furthermore, they argue that some of their actions – such as taking a knee during the National Anthem – is disrespectful and rarely does it lead to the kind of structural changes their actions demand.

The question for all of us is whether we prefer unquestioning athletes who play a game for our entertainment like robots, or individuals with a social conscience using their platform to raise awareness about injustices, and trying to have a positive impact on society. If we prefer the latter, then we cannot cover for injustice or else we become accomplices of the bad actors. Coach Mikel Arteta’s covering for his bosses by citing footballing reasons for leaving Özil out of the Arsenal’s squad, when he was clearly left out because of his social activism, is cowardly and wrong.



The Truth About Killer Robots, a 2018 documentary made by Third Party Films and directed by Maxim Pozdorvkin lays out the many ways that automation could affect us in the long term from labor to psychology to sexual encounters. In the context of international law, the issues being discussed relate to the use of unmanned technology during armed conflicts.
To date, twenty-six countries have called for an explicit ban that requires some form of human control in the use of force. However, prospects for an A.I. weapons ban are low as several influential countries including the United States are unwilling to place limits while the technology is still in development.

The following questions have been previously raised by UN experts in a 2013 report:

…is it morally acceptable to delegate decisions about the use of lethal force to such [autonomous] systems?
If their use results in a war crime or serious human rights violation, who would be legally responsible?
If responsibility cannot be determined as required by international law, is it legal or ethical to deploy such systems?

What are killer robots?

That depends on whom you ask. Manufactures of this technology would define a killer robot as, a robot that can make a decision to use lethal force without human intervention. However, Human Rights Watch broadens the definition to include any robot that can choose to use any type of force against a human, even if that force is not lethal. What is agreed is that all LAWS are already regulated by existing International Humanitarian Law (IHL). LAWS that cannot comply with IHL principles, such as distinction (from civilians and combatants) and proportionality (an attack must not be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated) are already illegal.

The phrase “meaningful human control” has caused some debate among diplomats. A great deal of the discussion in the LAWS debate is about humans and the term “loops”, which can be explained as follows:

-Human “in the loop”: the robot makes decisions according to human-programmed rules, a human hits a confirm button and the robot strikes.

-Human “on the loop”: the robot decides according to human-programmed rules, a human has time to hit an abort button, and if the abort button is not hit, the robot strikes.

-Human “off the loop”: the robot makes decisions according to human-programmed rules, the robot strikes, and a human reads a report a few seconds or minutes later.

Finally there is “robot beyond the loop”, where there is the largest concern. In this case, the robot decides according to rules it learns or creates itself, the robot strikes, and the robot may or may not let humans know.

What is the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW)?

Also known as the “Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects,” there are 120 nations that are ‘high contracting’ or state parties, including all five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The CCW was adopted in 1980 and contains five separate protocols on various weapons and explosive remnants of war, already covering non-detectable fragments, mines and booby traps, incendiary weapons, blinding lasers and the explosive remnants of war. The CCW also provided a useful incubator for efforts to address the humanitarian consequences of antipersonnel landmines in the 1990s and cluster munitions in the 2000s. A Protocol VI added to the CCW banning “off the loop” LAWS, might be an option.

The Case for and Against Killer Robots

There are already plenty of examples of how technology has changed warfare. For the military, war robots can have many advantages: They do not need food or pay, they do not get tired or need to sleep, they follow orders automatically, and they do not feel fear, anger, pain or remorse. Furthermore, no one would mourn if robot soldiers were destroyed on the battlefield. The most recent and controversial example of how new technologies have changed war is the rise of drone warfare. But even these aircraft have a pilot who flies it by remote control, and it is the humans who make the decisions about which targets to pick and when to fire a missile.

On behalf of not banning LAWS some argue that robots should be regarded more as the next generation of “smart” bombs. They are potentially more accurate, more precise, completely focused on the strictures of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and thus, in theory, preferable even to human war fighters who may panic, seek revenge or just make human mistake.

Meanwhile, a report by Human Rights Watch released before the last CCW meeting has argued that fully autonomous weapons would make it difficult to attribute legal responsibility for deaths caused by such systems. As the report notes: “[a] variety of legal obstacles make it likely that humans associated with the use or production of these weapons – notably operators and commanders, programmers and manufacturers – would escape liability for the suffering caused by fully autonomous weapons.”

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots (CSKR), an international coalition working to preemptively ban fully autonomous weapons formed by a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in October 2012, argues for a ban on LAWS similar to the ban on blinding lasers in Protocol IV of the CCW and the ban on anti-personnel landmines in the Ottawa Treaty. They argue that killer robots must be stopped before they proliferate, and that tasking robots with human destruction is fundamentally immoral. The biggest concern is the potential next generation of robotic weapons: “robots beyond the loop,” the ones that make their own decisions about who to target and who to kill without human control.

A ban on autonomous weapons is unlikely as defense contractors, identifying a new source of revenue, are eager to build the next-generation machinery. Last year, Boeing acquired Aurora Flight Sciences, a maker of autonomous aircrafts. The Company also reorganized its defense business to include a division focused on drones and other unmanned weaponry. Other defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and Raytheon are making similar shifts.





In a surprising decision, India’s top court has legalized gay sex partially striking down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a 158-year-old colonial-era law. The law criminalized intercourse “against the order of nature,” which was taken to mean same-sex relations even between consenting adults, and imposed a punishment of up to 10 years in prison. The judgment included not only decriminalization and an apology, but also recommendations for workshops in schools and police stations across India to try and change public perceptions of the LGBTQ community.

Although Section 377 was not often enforced, Arif Jafar, one of the petitioners whose case the Supreme Court ruled on, was arrested in 2001 under Section 377 and spent 49 days in jail. In the momentous decision, Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud wrote: “What makes life meaningful is love. The right that makes us human is the right to love. To criminalize the expression of that right is profoundly cruel and inhumane.”

Hinduism has traditionally maintained a flexible, non-prescriptive view of sexuality. However, in recent years hardline Hindu groups had taken a more conservative approach. Opposition to moves to overturn Section 377 had rested predominately on moral and religious objections. Furthermore, the Indian government had left the decision regarding the legality of Section 377 to the Supreme Court, saying it would neither fight nor directly support the five lead petitioners asking for Section 377 to be reconsidered.

The movement to decriminalize Section 377 has endured a long and arduous road. In 2009, the Delhi High Court ruled that the ban on consensual gay sex violated fundamental rights. However, the decision, which only applied to the Delhi region, was quickly overruled by the Supreme Court in 2013, following a petition launched by a loose coalition of Christian, Hindu and Muslim groups. In its 2013 ruling, the Supreme Court said that only a “minuscule fraction of the country’s population constitute lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders” and it was therefore “legally unsustainable” to repeal the act. Yesterday’s decision was a relief to those advocating for LGBTQ rights around the world.

Although this is a step in the right direction, the decision only decriminalizes sexual acts; India still does not permit same-sex couples to marry, adopt or inherit property. Now the broader issue of equality needs to be addressed as well as the need for further legal protections and rights for the LGBTQ community— such as rights to marriage and adoption.





Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, apologized for the Cambridge Analytica scandal with ads in multiple U.S. and British newspapers, and in an interview with CNN, saying the social media platform does not deserve to hold personal information if it cannot protect it.

The ads said a quiz app built by a Cambridge University researcher leaked Facebook data of millions of people four years ago. “This was a breach of trust, and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time. We’re now taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” the ads said. During his interview with CNN, Mark Zuckerberg suggested the question was not whether Facebook should be regulated so much as how best to do it.

Facebook’s privacy practices have come under fire after Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm affiliated with President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, obtained data inappropriately. The firm is alleged to have created psychological profiles to influence how people vote or even think about politics and society through micro-targeting of thousands (if not millions) of Facebook subscribers.

According to data from the FEC, the Trump campaign paid Cambridge Analytica nearly $6 million for services during the 2016 election cycle. Seventeen other Republican political organizations, including Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign and a super PAC headed by incoming National Security Adviser John Bolton, also paid the firm a combined $16 million for services that included research and micro-targeting of voters.

As social media becomes part of life and often an extension of our thoughts, it is time to question whether it is a tool to enhance or restrict our rights. Furthermore, now our concerns must go beyond governmental acts and extend to the actions of private parties who may use social networks for a profit or to influence us by exploiting our personal information.

Social networks implicate our right to free speech but also our right to privacy. To be clear, most rights are not absolute, and neither the right to free speech nor the right to privacy is an absolute right. The right to free speech means that we are allowed to express ourselves without interference or constraint by the government, and that the government can limit both the content of speech and the ability to engage in speech only when there is “substantial justification.”

Likewise, our right to privacy is not absolute, and governments can intrude into our right to privacy to protect society. However, governments generally have had to justify their intrusions in our privacy to achieve the higher goal of protecting society and have had to make use of legally mandated due process safeguards, such as obtaining a wiretap warrant to listen to our private conversations. This is no longer the case with social networks being given direct access to our information and even our most intimate thoughts, which they may then exploit for their own benefit or simply lose track—as in the Cambridge Analytica example.

We might think that social networks allow us to express ourselves in ways that we could not before, and to do it anonymously. But how much of what we post on social networks is private? How much of our information is used for profit? How much control do we even have over our data on social networks? Will social networks provide greater freedom for people to express ourselves and our thoughts, or will they turn out to be a weapon that allows our governments and even private agents to control and monitor our communications?  More importantly, how much of what we think is determined by what’s posted on social media? How much are we being influenced by our online social networks?

These are all questions that as a society we must consider to be able to maintain our individual freewill. The alternative would result if a society where we become puppets of our social media accounts.




On 26 and 27 May 2017, Italy will host the meeting of the G7 leaders. The G7 summit is a forum that plays an important role in shaping global responses to global challenges and complements the global economic coordination carried out by the G20. It brings together leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the EU. This summit follows the G7 Summit in Japan in 2016 and will focus on the global economy, foreign policy, security of citizens, and environmental sustainability.

World leaders expect President Donald Trump to announce this week whether the U.S. will remain in the landmark Paris climate accord as they gather for the summit. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman has not said when Trump would announce his decision. However, a White House spokesman had previously said the president would make his choice after meeting with G-7 leaders.


A U.N. panel of climate scientists found that it is at least 95 percent probable that man-made greenhouse gas emissions — especially burning fossil fuels — are the main cause of climate change since 1950. In each of the past three years, global average temperatures have hit record highs, and the continued warming of the planet is projected to cause worsening droughts, sea level rises, floods, heatwaves and extinctions of wildlife.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016. To date, 153 parties have ratified the Agreement.


On the campaign trail, President Trump repeatedly promised to “cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programs.” President Trump had called global warming a “hoax,” a “con,” and “a concept created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” Although recently President Trump has stated that he “has an open mind” on the Paris Agreement, there is a fierce debate within his administration on whether to withdraw.

Environmental groups have said that withdrawing from the global accord would have significant consequences. As the richest nation and the second-largest polluter, U.S. efforts are central to keeping climate change from hitting an irreversible tipping point, unleashing catastrophic floods, droughts and storms, according to researchers.

In its most recent Quadrennial Defense Review in 2014, the Pentagon predicted that climate change will increase sea levels, temperature and severe weather patterns, and concluded that “the pressures caused by climate change” would be “threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions — conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

Pressure has also come from a broad coalition of corporate leaders and business groups, including DuPont, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, BP, General Mills, Google, PG&E, The Hartford, GE, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Cargill, General Motors, Bank of America, Intel, American Express, AT&T, Monsanto, Procter & Gamble, Nike, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Walmart and NRG Energy, and 280 investors representing more than $17 trillion in assets who released a statement Monday saying climate change must be an “urgent priority” for all G-20 nations. Executives have warned that Trump would put U.S. companies at a disadvantage if he pulled out of the pact.

The Paris Agreement is also popular with the majority of American voters. In a nationally representative survey conducted last November after the election, The Associated Press found that seven in 10 registered voters say the U.S. should participate in the Paris climate agreement. Only 13 percent say the U.S. should not.

Trade analysts have noted that the risks of withdrawing from the Paris would also include the possibility of trade reprisals. Countries that tax emissions of carbon dioxide pollution could place a carbon tariff on imports of American-made goods. The EU currently charges polluters fees for carbon emissions, while China, Mexico and Canada are in the process of carrying out such programs.

There are still some who advocate for the US to withdraw from the Paris agreement. They argue that the Paris Agreement is based on a fundamental misconception of climate history and science. The key misconception is that all of the warming since the Industrial Revolution — 0.9 degrees Celsius — is a result of human activity, when in reality, it might be naturally caused. If that is the reason, the Paris agreement will have no effect on global warming.

Others argue that the Agreement does not go far enough in requiring countries (especially China and India) to lower emissions, and that in aggregate, the promised emissions reductions will barely affect anticipated warming. MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change calculates the improvement by century’s end to be only 0.2 degrees Celsius.  Comparing projected emissions to the baseline established by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change back in 2000 shows no improvement at all.

The mining industry in the US is also fiercely opposed to the Paris Agreement. The National Mining Association’s board of directors voted Tuesday to endorse a withdrawal from the climate agreement.

It is up to the current administration and Congress to decide whether to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. There are many supporters and as many detractors. The reality is that the true effect that the provisions of the Agreement will have on global warming remains to be seen. What is certain is that the consequences of whatever decision the administration makes, will be long lasting for the United States as a nation, and for the planet. The seriousness of the current situation in regards to global warning cannot be overstated, and it is vital that we demand and that our government gives the appropriate thought and consideration to such an important decision.


President Donald Trump recently signed an Executive Order denying federal funding to sanctuary cities – jurisdictions that choose not to cooperate with federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants. The order states that sanctuary cities “that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law.”

What is a Sanctuary City?

Sanctuary city is a name given to a city in the United States that follows certain procedures that shelters undocumented persons and do not permit municipal funds or resources to be applied in furtherance of enforcement of federal immigration laws. These cities generally do not permit police or municipal employees to inquire about a person’s immigration status.

Most often, sanctuary policies prevent or otherwise limit state and local officers’ ability to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests. A detainer request asks for local law enforcement agencies to notify ICE prior to releasing an individual from local custody, and to hold him for up to 48h, excluding weekends and holidays, so that ICE can arrange to take over custody enforcement. Some sanctuary policies allow for notification to ICE about an individual charged or convicted of certain offences or is a sex or arson registrant.

The sanctuary movement started in the 1980’s when about a million Central Americans, mainly from El Salvador and Guatemala, crossed the U.S. border-seeking asylum from their repressive governments and seemingly never-ending civil wars. The Reagan administration was supporting these governments’ (especially the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala) attempts to fight communist rebels and therefore, the administration would only characterize Salvadorans and Guatemalans as “economic migrants, not eligible for asylum.” Hundreds of churches in the U.S. openly defied the U.S. government and its immigration policy by providing safe havens for Central Americans.  Influenced by the sanctuary movement, San Francisco passed the “City and County of Refuge” Ordinance in 1989, which barred city money from being used to enforce immigration law. Hundreds of U.S. cities and counties have followed suit and adopted similar “sanctuary” laws or policies.

The procedures that establish a sanctuary city can be by law or by action (de facto). A sanctuary city is created by law when there is a written policy enacted by a local government body in the form of a resolution, ordinance, or administrative action. San Francisco currently has one of the most detailed written policies regarding its status as a sanctuary city.

Are Sanctuary Cities in Compliance with the Law?

Sanctuary cities exemplify the principle of separation of powers between the federal and state governments stated in the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution. The Tenth Amendment limits the power of Congress to regulate by directly compelling local jurisdictions to enact and enforce a federal regulatory program (New York v. United States (1992) 505 U.S. 144, at 161). Since the federal government has the exclusive authority to enforce the civil provisions of federal immigration law relating to issues such as admission, exclusion, and deportation, Congress is prohibited by the Tenth Amendment from passing laws requiring states to administer civil immigration.

In 1996, the federal government enacted two pieces of legislation which prohibit state or local governments from restricting voluntary communication with the federal government regarding the immigration status of any individual: § 434 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA, 8 U.S.C. § 1644) and § 642 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA, 8 U.S.C. § 1373). Both pieces of legislation were designed to authorize communication by state and local law enforcement agencies with federal immigration authorities regarding the status and presence of undocumented immigrants, but they did not mandate communication or reporting.

The Supreme Court has held that states can enact laws that promote cooperation between local law enforcement and the federal government on immigration matters. In 2012, the United States Supreme Court in U.S. v. Arizona upheld state legislation that requires state and local law enforcement officers to make a reasonable attempt to ascertain the immigration status of persons involved in a lawful stop when officers have a reasonable suspicion that the person is unlawfully present. The Court found that the state provision did not conflict with federal law, but instead fostered the cooperation expressly encouraged in federal law between federal officials and state and local officials.

Thus, although states can choose to cooperate with the federal government on immigration matters, they are not required to do so, and sanctuary cities, insofar as they refuse to cooperate with ICE on immigration enforcement, are in their legal right to do so.

The Constitutionality of the recently signed Executive Order

The new Executive Order signed by President Trump specifically mandates that “the Attorney General and the [Homeland Security] Secretary, in their discretion and to the extent consistent with the law, shall ensure that jurisdictions (sanctuary cities) that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 Communication between government agencies and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.” Section 1373 states that “a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.”

There are serious constitutional problems with conditioning federal grants to sanctuary cities on compliance with Section 1373, and in fact, unless interpreted very narrowly, the Executive Order might be unconstitutional. In the case of Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, the Supreme Court held that the federal government may not impose conditions on grants to states and localities unless the conditions are “unambiguously” stated in the text of the law “so that the States can knowingly decide whether or not to accept those funds.” Few if any federal grants to sanctuary cities are explicitly conditioned on compliance with Section 1373. That condition must be passed by Congress, and may only apply to new grants, not ones that have already been appropriated. The executive is not permitted to, at any time, make up new conditions and impose them on state and local governments without prior notice. Doing so undermines two constitutional principles that are basic to the US system of government, the separation of powers and federalism.

Resolution Sanctuary Status for Undocumented Immigrants in Brookline, MA


See full text: TownMeeting-Warrant-111406_201407011408347932

“RESOLUTION Reaffirming Sanctuary Status for Undocumented Immigrants:”
“WHEREAS: The Town of Brookline has been built and enriched by generations of”
“immigrants, and has a proud history since November, 1985, as a Sanctuary for refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Haiti;”
“WHEREAS: There are now approximately 12 million undocumented immigrants in the USA who have been systematically denied the opportunity enjoyed by past generations of immigrants to become legal permanent residents or citizens of this country; over the past two decades, immigration policy has become even more restrictive and punitive and closed off avenues previously available for immigrants to obtain legal permanent residency, while the US-Mexico border has been further militarized;”
“WHEREAS: While borders have been closed off to people over the past two decades, they have been simultaneously opened up to trade and capital; these same “free trade” economic policies have increased poverty and decreased opportunities for people to make a dignified living and support their families;”
“WHEREAS: In 2005, record numbers of migrants seeking to support their families, with no means to migrate safely into the USA, perished in the desert along the US- Mexico border, while countless others died in the journey; and the migration experience has adverse emotional and psychological effects on families, kept apart for many years due to unjust immigration policies and backlogs in visa applications; and undocumented immigrants are especially vulnerable to workplace abuses and housing discrimination;”
“WHEREAS: Current US immigration policy does not reflect the standards of Brookline residents regarding what is just, humane and moral; and both undocumented and”



“Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany – and it is only getting worse. The civilized world must change thinking!”

Donald Trump (Dec. 20, 2016)

“We will find the strength for the life that we want to live in Germany, free, with one another, and open.”

Angela Merkel (Dec. 20, 2016)

Earlier in the week, a terrorist attack carried out using a tractor-trailer to plow through a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin, left 12 people dead and injured 48 others. ISIS (or Da’ish) has claimed responsibility. After the various attacks recently perpetrated—in Orlando, Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad, Nice, Paris and now Berlin— there is still no effective international strategy to deal with terrorist attacks by ISIS, and with the support it receives, often by nationals of the countries where those attacks take place. To be clear, the vast majority of the world’s Muslims do not support ISIS, but there are enough who do—including citizens of France, Britain, Germany and the United States—so, we need to start thinking of viable strategies to fight terrorism at an international level that also addresses the problem at “home.” The strategies used so far are not working.

Governments have a number of possible responses to terrorist attacks, beyond the perfunctory initial show of solidarity, some might involve curtailing civil liberties in what is often interpreted as a benign exchange of personal freedoms for security. Other strategies might be more geared to attempting to give Muslim citizens everywhere a greater stake in the peace and prosperity of the countries in which they live, so that they do not feel like outsiders, and are able to develop lasting bonds with members of the community. These personal connections with our community are what make the fabric of a peaceful society, when those connections are made, there is little room for murderer terrorist plots to fester undetected.

In the United States, historically, repression has been the government’s reaction to threats to security. In 1798, in response to concerns about survival of the country, Congress enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts, which made it a federal crime to make false criticisms of the government or its officials. Likewise, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln’s dissidents were imprisoned for criticizing the way the government was handling the war, and the writ of habeas corpus was suspended. During World War II, 110,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly shamefully interned in

concentration camps. The McCarthy era ushered in a witch-hunt that resulted in the persecution of those suspected or merely accused of being communists. Even in more recent history, after 9/11, citizens of the United States suffered a substantial loss of their civil liberties with unprecedented claims of authority to detain American citizens, unprecedented secrecy, and unparalleled invasions of privacy. The Bush Administration established a system of military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees, bypassing Article III courts, which was struck down by the Supreme Court as a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (“UCMJ”).

Europe also has had significant experience with terrorism, and in those situations, European governments have also gone too far in curtailing human rights and personal freedoms. In the United Kingdom, terrorist attacks have been going on since about 1969 with the actions of the IRA which killed over 1,600 soldiers and civilians since the inception of hostilities. The conflict with Northern Ireland grew to its greatest heights between 1970 and the early 1980’s. As a result, the United Kingdom passed various legislative measures aimed at combating terrorism including internment.  The Detention of Terrorists Order of 1972 allowed anyone “suspected of having been concerned in the commission or attempted commission of any act of terrorism or in the direction, organization or training of persons for the purpose of terrorism” to be detained for twenty-eight days. After twenty-eight days, the detainee was released or referred to a commissioner, someone appointed by the Secretary of State. The commissioner would hear the case, but the hearing was primarily an executive procedure and not a judicial one. For example, the detainee could be excluded from the proceeding if national security was at stake, the hearing could be based on hearsay, and the accused did not have the right to call witnesses. In 1980, public criticism of the procedures resulted in the act being repealed.

In Spain, the Basque separatist organization Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA) fought for an independent homeland for Basques in four northern Spanish provinces since the 1960s, and their violent acts killed over 1000 people since 1968. Under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, authoritarian measures were used to suppress Basque dissidents, who were considered military enemies. To streamline prosecutions against the separatists, the crime of military rebellion was extended to political offenses, banditry, and other acts unrelated to the military to address the actions of dissidents through the use of military trials with significantly fewer procedural safeguards than regular courts. During the final decade of the Franco regime, a secret tribunal known as the “Tribunal del Orden Publico” was instituted to try in secret, and without counsel, those who opposed the regime and who were considered terrorists by the government. After Franco’s death in 1975, Spain transitioned to a democracy and people demanded an abandonment of such coercive practices.

The passage of anti-terrorist legislation affecting civil liberties following 9/11 was not limited to the United States. British anti-terror legislation allowed the government to detain without charge any terror suspect for a period of up to twenty-eight days. In addition to the 9/11 terrorist events in the United States, investigation into the bombings in the United Kingdom on July 7, 2005, the further attempted bombings in the same month, and in August 2006, and the Birmingham beheading plot in January 2007, were considered to justify the use of anti terrorist legislation to stop and search large numbers of people living in Britain. Between April 1, 2001 and March 31, 2005, the police and security services stopped and searched 111,900 of whom approximately 1.4% were subsequently arrested.

Fear and anger about terrorist attacks affect financial markets, consumer spending, air travel, and public opinion toward government. In France, Front National Leader Marine Le Pen was quick to exploit the wave of anger directed towards President Francois Hollande over his handling of the terror threat in last July’s attack at Saint-Etienne-du Rouvray. After the attack, she accused the entire French establishment, both Left and Right, of sharing “immense responsibility” for creating the circumstances in which Islamist terrorists can operate in France. She received a great deal of support following those comments. In times of crisis, people want their leaders to provide protection, thus, whomever articulates the strongest laws and measures that appear to offer safety and security, will receive public support as measured in opinion polls. Unfortunately, the measures often advocated by governments in times of crisis tend to inevitably result in the infringement of personal rights and freedoms without tackling the root problems of disaffection and disconnectedness. Thus, despite all the promises by new leaders, governments change and terrorist attacks continue.

At this juncture, and considering that a new year is about to start, perhaps we ought to consider new strategies to combat ISIS. It is important to keep in mind that despite the history of government’s invasions of liberty and curtailment of personal freedoms in those critical times, there is no evidence that society, as a result, has become any safer. And yet, we still have governments advocating for stricter measures of surveillance, detention, curtailing of immigration, etc.  Now, as the world faces a different threat created by a new generation of Islamist-inspired terrorists, with home-grown terrorists, our leaders must show intelligence and resolve if they are not to fall into ISIS’s trap of allowing the current wave of terror attacks to bring about a true political crisis worldwide. Further reflection and discourse is needed as to the best course of action and on the effect that excessively curtailing civil liberties has on society. If we learn from history, we would understand that a balance between security and respect for human rights and diversity, is necessary to achieve lasting security and long-term peace. Maybe the recognition of this fact could be a universal resolution for the new year: that merely building walls and ghettos will not solve the problem posed by terrorism.