Trump And The World

Donald Trump Could Usher In A Female Revolution In Congress

Arizona Representative Kyrsten Sinema
Arizona Representative Kyrsten Sinema
Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON — How many times have we heard that this is the year of the woman?

Let's just say, several. Each decade for the past century or so seems to have presented a fresh feature to justify yet another proclamation of historic import.

From suffrage (1920) to the pill (1960) and legalized abortion(1973) to Gloria Steinem and Ms magazine (1972) to "Reviving Ophelia" (1994) — fast-forwarding to the recent pink-capped Women's March (2017) and the #MeToo movement (2017) — women have been pushing their way forward to reach parity with men.

Many of the original goals have been reached. Women now outnumber men in college, graduate school, and medical and law schools; three of the nine Supreme Court justices are female; and, incrementally, women are reaching the dubious objective of serving alongside men in combat roles.

But one area where women remain underrepresented is in state legislatures, governor's offices and the U.S. Congress, the final frontiers for the battles that matter most.

If intentions become reality in November, then 2018 really may be the Year of the Woman. And to whom should we pay homage?

None other than President Donald J. Trump.

Thanks to a series of issues and comments underscoring his apparent contempt for women who aren't subservient to his appetites, political or otherwise, the weaker sex is fighting back. At least 431 women are running or are likely to run for the House this year — 339 Democrats and 92 Republicans, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. Two years ago, the number at this point was 212.

On the Senate side, an astonishing 50 women are running or are likely to run, twice the number as in 2016. In some states, the deadline for filing hasn't occurred yet.

More staggering still, Emily's List, a Democratic organization that supports only pro-choice women, reports having received 34,000 requests this year for information about running for public office. Let me say it again: 34,000. In 2016, only about 920 made similar queries — and that was record-breaking.

Melania and Donald Trump at the Presidential Inauguration — Photo: DoD

Republicans have plenty to worry about with this range of interest and momentum. If women can flip 23 seats from red to blue, Democrats can take back the House. Given the level of intensity, this seems every bit as likely in 2018 as it was for Republicans in 2010, when the midterms saw a surge of tea party candidates who ran primarily against "Obamacare" — and won.

The Republican-led Senate could also be in jeopardy. If Democrats can keep all 11 of their female senators up for reelection this year in place and also win two seats with candidates being backed by Emily's List — Rep. Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — the Senate could also turn blue.

That's a lot of ifs. But again, intensity favors women this year. And candidates such as Rosen, a former computer programmer currently in a dead heat with incumbent Sen. Dean Heller, makes clear that she is running against Trump.

"We can find smart solutions in Washington," she says in a fundraising plea on her campaign website, "but only if we stand up to Donald Trump's hatred, bigotry, and narcissism."

Sinema, however, has taken a different approach, crediting her hard work as well as help from "family, church and, sometimes, even the government" for her rise from childhood homelessness to the House of Representatives.

If she secures the Senate nomination, she would probably face a tough opponent in Republican Kelli Ward, who touts herself as "very conservative" and whom John McCain defeated last time around. But Ward is also known for her brashness. When McCain's brain tumor was discovered, Ward said that he should retire and that she should be considered as his replacement.

Although the national momentum is being driven primarily by Democrats — and Republicans aren't as likely to criticize the president — Republican women aren't twiddling their thumbs. The Center for American Women and Politics reports 92 GOP women are running for the House, 21 for the Senate and 31 for governorships. And with candidates such as Rep. Martha McSally, a retired pilot and commander in the U.S. Air Force (who loves dogs), the conservative female stereotype has been forever shattered.

In a perfect world, voters would choose candidates without consideration of gender. But clearly, we do not live in such a world, which has been made worse by the current occupant in the White House and his supporters in Congress. The scope and magnitude of Trump's offensiveness to many women cannot be overestimated.

Nor would it be wise to underestimate women's determination to clean House (and Senate). They've had it. The swamp ain't seen nothing yet.

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Geopolitics

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.


But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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