Tag Archives: Trump Administration

USA Protests by the Numbers

New Orleans     The New York Times print edition featured a two-page spread overlaying the map of the United States in a special Black Lives Matter section.  Across the map were the names of the 2000 cities and towns where there had been protests in a recent two-week period against racism and police brutality.  This was a powerful expression of this surge of Americans confronting this persistent disease in our country and demanding change.  Wow!

As impressive as the mapwork was, I was more intrigued about who or what was doing the counting.  The small print said, Count Love.  Ok, I’m game.  Let’s look under the hood.

Count Love turns out to be a website protest tracker working only in the US.  The creators are clear about their motivation:  relief from the election.  They are more measured, saying…

We are Tommy Leung and Nathan Perkins, engineers and scientists with a keen interest in civic responsibility and public policy. We started Count Love in catharsis to 2016, and we continue active development during our free time. We met during overlapping stints at MIT while working on our Masters in Technology and Policy.

Good for them.  And, for all of us.  Whenever you might feel we are somehow sucking all of the oppression down, you can click on the statistic link and bam, find that …

Since January 20th, 2017, we’ve learned about 19,326 protests with over 12,533,319 attendees—individuals demonstrating for inclusion, human rights and the environment.

Our fellow traveling brothers, Tommy and Nathan, don’t gild the lily on the numbers as the president is want to do.  Their rules for counting the love are pretty rigorous.  They use a crawl algorithm to scour newspapers and television news.  They don’t count fluff.  They round down on generalities:  about a dozen, they record as 10, dozens they record as 20, hundreds they list only as 100.  The rookie organizer’s attempt to count children as part of the crowd can’t make it past these guys.

Not only are they conservative in the counting house, but they also leave the windows wide open so that anyone can see what they are doing.  They encourage people to use their numbers.  They link you to explanations more MIT than me and you, but that’s OK, too.  Although transparent, some of their site is clunky.  Open the home page and you find yourself looking at a random district in some state like Washington or California.  I’m not sure why that is, but it’s offset by some good overall graphic representations and categorization of protests that not only include civil rights and the environment, but also collective bargaining, i.e. union work, and legislative protests.

They are missing community actions, but that can be fixed.  Maybe the best thing about their effort here is that they also have an anonymous way that you can submit your own protest to the mix and have it become a part of the data.  I like that.  It’s not the same as front page news, but I like the fact that your action is part of the collective force for change, more than simply a picture on Facebook.

Good work, guys!  Sending some love over to the Count Love crew!

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Please enjoy Change is Gonna Come by Los Coast Feat Gary Clark JR.

Thanks to WAMF.

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Autocrats Fall When Military Support Disappears

New Orleans     All around the world this is a familiar story, often marking the beginning of the end for dictators, autocrats, and even elected leaders that have outstayed their peoples’ welcome.  There’s a direct correlation, approaching an iron law, in so many countries that when popular support disappears, such leaders depend on the support of the military to maintain power.  When it disappears, then time’s up.

President Bolsanaro of Brazil whose support has imploded over his handling of fires in the Amazon, the coronavirus, and many other issues, is now raising the specter of a coup by the military to fan the flames.

Evo Morales, the elected president of Bolivia, was re-elected in a controversial election marked by accusations, for a fourth term, but left within weeks when the military indicated that their support was gone.

Repeat this story in Libya, Pakistan, absolutely North Korea, the Philippines, not infrequently in African countries in the past.  We may not know the full story in China, Iran, and Russia, but there are few doubts that control of the military is central in the current status quo within these regimes.

Now, we see this unfolding in another failed state, the United States.

The scandalous military action to clear Lafayette Park across from the White House so that President Trump could have a ridiculous photo-op in front of the nearby church with a bible in his hands has divided his evangelical base, but it has shaken the military from top to bottom.  Add that to his hiding in a bunker, fearful of protests in front of the White House, his new fence around the White House perimeter, and, especially his attempt to mobilize troops around the country to stop the protests, and there is no way to not conclude that this is one wannabe autocrat scared to his toes and running for cover with only Twitter to protect him.

The Secretary of Defense publicly opposed mobilizing troops against civilians with the right to protest.  Former generals and defense officials have publicly condemned Trump’s actions this time.  The military is conducting an assessment of the DC National Guard’s activities in an exercise common in after-battle assessments in our wars.  The helicopter pilots who buzzed the crowd are likely facing discipline.  The New York Times reports that everyone was scrambling behind the scenes to shore up the DC National Guard, normally used in disaster recovery and relief operations, and 60% black, with recruits from other cities, often unhelpfully gung-ho Republican governors looking for a fight as well.  The reports include demoralized soldiers having to face friends, neighbors, and relatives protesting.  The National Guard lieutenant reportedly countermanded the top dogs by insisting that his charges not “dominate” the area as others were ordering.

President Trump needs to learn what other autocrats know by heart.  When you lose the military, it’s time to pack your “go” bag.  The writing is on the wall, and just keeping the names of Confederate generals on ten Army bases will not be enough to win the military back after you have tried to use our soldiers against civilians.

Even the military is drawing a line that the president cannot cross.

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