Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Still Thinking About Supporting the Green Party? Meet the Party’s Nominee for Vice President

I know that some people on the left don’t like Hillary Clinton. I’d generally argue that these people are essentially rewarding the right wing for its efforts at character assassination over the last 20 or more years and accepting as truth the vast panoply of lies and outright conspiracies directed at Clinton. That isn’t to say that she is a perfect person or perfect candidate; she isn’t. But then who is? Sadly, some people don’t want to engage in actual conversation and dialogue about Clinton and have, instead, elected to simply reject her..

However, those on the left who reject Clinton now have a choice to make. If they can’t bring themselves to vote for her, then who can they vote for? My suspicion (hope?) is that few people on the left of the political spectrum who choose not to vote for Clinton would cast a vote for Donald Trump. And I doubt that many of those people would vote for a libertarian candidate either (at least not once they learn about more about the libertarian’s positions beyond legalization of marijuana). So that leaves Jill Stein and the Green Party.

I’m going to take a slightly different approach to discussing that last option. Today, I’m not going to discuss why Jill Stein or the Green Party aren’t really viable. I’m not going to discuss how a vote for a third party can, in essence, be viewed as a vote for Trump. And I’m not going to delve into the positions advocated by Stein or the Green Party (including fears about vaccines or WiFi). Instead, I’m going to focus on one decision made by Stein to demonstrate just how bad a vote for the Green Party would be.

Ajamu BarakaIt is often said that the first important decision that a Presidential candidate makes is the selection of a running mate. After all, if the President dies or is otherwise incapable of executing the duties of President, then the Vice President takes over. One would presume that the President would select a Vice President whose judgment and advice the President would seek and value. So, with those concepts in mind, let’s meet Jill Stein’s choice to be the Green Party’s candidate for Vice President: Ajamu Baraka.

So what does Baraka have to say about certain important issues? What sort of advice might be offer President Stein? What policies would he pursue were he to become President?

As a starting point, try this paragraph from an essay of Baraka’s that can only be described as being hostile (and I’m being charitable here) to the leftist foreign policy ideas expressed by Bernie Sanders (emphasis added):

It means that if today leftists in the U.S. can find a way to reconcile the suffering of the people of Yemen and Gaza and all of occupied Palestine for the greater good of electing Sanders, tomorrow my life and the movement that I am a part of that is committed to fighting this corrupt, degenerate, white supremacist monstrosity called the United States, can be labeled as enemies of the state and subjected to brutal repression with the same level of silence from these leftists.

It’s worth noting that the essay was published in Counterpunch, a far left, anti-Israel, conspiracy-focused website that has been known to publish essays from people who are not just anti-Zionist, but also outright anti-Semites (but that is a topic for another day).* Anyway, go back and read that paragraph again. Then ask yourself if someone who thinks that the United States is a “corrupt, degenerate, white supremacist monstrosity” should really be Vice President of the United States. Ask yourself whether someone who believes that, essentially, anyone to the right of his extremely far left position on the political spectrum (from Bernie Sanders and his supporters rightward) would label Baraka and his “movement” as “enemies of the state”? Does he really believe that those who harbor opposition views in America are subject to “brutal repression”? If so, how is that he is on the ticket to be Vice President and not in jail, Guantanamo, or dead in a ditch?

Or perhaps we should consider that Baraka has an essay in the book Another French False Flag?: Bloody Tracks from Paris to San Bernardino edited by Kevin J. Barrett, a noted anti-Semite, Holocaust denier, and 9/11 “truther” (who also blames Israel for the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando along with virtually every other evil in the world). As you can tell from the title, Barrett’s book takes the position that many of the terrorist attacks that we’ve witnessed in recent years were not actually perpetrated by the Islamic terrorists upon whom blame has been leveled. Besides the essay from Baraka, Barrett’s book also includes essays by authors such as noted anti-Semites Gilad Atzmon and Ken O’Keefe (who once made a video called “Hitler was Right” [to which I obviously will not link]). To be fair, Baraka claims that he didn’t know which other authors or views Barrett would include in the book:

When Kevin Barrett, someone who has interviewed me in the past, contacted me to ask if he could include my piece in a compilation on the Paris Attacks, I didn’t see any problem with it,” Baraka said in a statement to Gawker in which he stridently disavowed Holocaust denial. “I didn’t inquire as to the other authors and don’t know much about some of them or their positions on various issues. I stand by everything I wrote in that article and would be happy to discuss the details.”

But… really? You agree to allow your essay to be included in a book being edited by someone you know takes controversial positions, but don’t ask what other essays will be included alongside yours? Hmm. I wonder if Baraka even bothered to learn the title of Barrett’s book; it isn’t exactly subtle. I sure hope that as Vice President, Baraka would bring that attention to detail to the job. Oh, and the essay by Baraka that was included in Barrett’s book should also give you an idea of Baraka’s worldview: The Paris Attacks and the White Lives Matter Movement (originally published in Counterpunch).

Recall that Baraka claimed not to know about the positions of other authors, suggesting that Barrett was simply someone who had interviewed him in the past. Hmm. Well, given the tenor of Barrett’s radio program (on which Baraka has apparently appeared more than once) and the sorts of discussions that they’ve had, it seems unlikely that Baraka would be unaware of the point of view that Barrett and those included in his book might offer. Witness, for example, this exchange (about the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine a few years ago):

“What do you think of this plane — Malaysian plane shootdown?” Barrett asks. “The U.S. media is putting out the possibilities of this being done by the Russians or by the pro-Russian Ukrainians, but President Putin’s plane was flying through there shortly before this plane was shot down—it looks like Putin’s plane may have been targeted. If so, obviously that wouldn’t have been done by the Russians or pro-Russian separatists quote unquote, that would have been done by the Kiev Zio-Nazi government. Which is what it is—these Zionist Jewish oligarchs, billionaire criminal dons, are funding Nazi street thugs. These are the people who overthrew the legitimate democratically elected government of Ukraine and created a fascist junta, and they are the ones who would be the suspects, at least in my opinion — somebody shooting at Putin’s plane, and yet the media doesn’t even raise that as a possibility.”

Baraka immediately engages with the idea and agrees.

“And when it’s raised, it’s raised as a conspiracy,” Baraka responded. “I think that this is a — I was trying to find the citation, I remember reading, I can’t remember who it was, someone wrote about three weeks ago that we should expect false flag, a major false flag operation in eastern Ukraine that’s going to be blamed on the Russians. And that’s exactly what has happened.”

Note that not only does Baraka appear to agree with the notion of a “false flag” attack being behind the downing of the aircraft, but he doesn’t challenge Barrett’s claim that the Ukrainian government was a “Zio-Nazi” government comprised of “Zionist Jewish oligarchs … funding Nazi street thugs” who created a “fascist junta”. (For those who are blissfully unaware, the shorthand “Zio” is a epithet used mostly on the far left to describe Israelis, Zionists, and, often, Jews.) Note further that both Barrett and Baraka (like Donald Trump…) seem to be taking the side of Russia its dispute with Ukraine.

Baraka views President Obama as an “Uncle Tom President”. He described President Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch as “black petit-bourgeoisie who have become the living embodiments of the partial success of the state’s attempt to colonize the consciousness of Africans/black people”. Baraka even tears into Bernie Sanders and his supporters claiming that Sanders promises “continued war crimes from the sky with drone strikes and Saudi led terror in support of the Western imperial project” and that Sander’s program is a “tacit commitment to Eurocentrism and the assumptions of normalized white supremacy”. Baraka does, at least, attempt to soften these attacks by noting that his criticisms are “not to suggest that everyone who might find a way to support Sanders is a closet racist and supporter of imperialism”. No, not everyone

Baraka is also, apparently, a Boko Haram “truther”, claiming among other things that the number of schoolgirls kidnapped by the group had been inflated and that the US didn’t have real humanitarian concerns for the plight of those schoolgirls; instead, he apparently claimed that the US was interested in Nigeria only as a means to Nigerian oil. Of course given that his entire worldview seems to come from a lens of the evil, white American empire looking for ways to subjugate or at least tolerate the destruction of people of color, then we shouldn’t be too surprised, should we?

I was also not surprised to learn that Baraka opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership (the TPP). It faces strong criticism from both the far left and the far right (and pockets in between). Criticism of the TPP in the US has largely focused on whether it would be good for Americans generally and American jobs in particular. Baraka approaches the issue from a slightly different perspective (emphasis added):

The TPP is a weapon to maintain U.S. global hegemony by denying the fundamental economic, social and cultural rights of millions of people in order to benefit a parasitic white minority ruling class in the U.S. And for that fact alone, African Americans and all people of conscience should opposed [sic] it.

A “parasitic white minority ruling class in the U.S.”? Yep, this man should be Vice President, shouldn’t he?

Baraka described the “Je Suis Charlie” rallying cry that followed the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine (and a Jewish market) as “an arrogant rallying cry for white supremacy”. Really.

I’m often critical of those on the right who claim that the “real racists” are African Americans (or Latinos) who raise the issue of race. I’m sympathetic to the notion of the need to recognize so-called “white privilege”. And, while I don’t think that racism is to blame for everything, I do think that racism is an important issue that needs to be addressed. However, the way Baraka seems to see everything through race-tinged lenses only serves to feed the view from that right that racism emanates from minority communities. His racism and racist rhetoric weakens efforts by those who desire to engage in real discussion and dialogue on the problems of racism and on the problems caused by racism. In other words, Baraka’s rhetoric will not lead to lessening of racism or improve the lives African Americans or other people of color at home or abroad; he is just pouring jet fuel on the fire.

Oh, and Baraka thinks that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has legitimacy as a democratically elected leader. He also argues that the story being told about the civil war in Syria is propaganda designed to conceal the truth about the surrender of Syria’s “national sovereignty to the geo-strategic interests of the U.S. and its colonial allies in Europe and Israel.”

Finally, one last issue on which Baraka has been quite vocal. I know that many readers who are thinking about voting for the Green Party may be critics of Israel (and I’m sure you view yourselves only as anti-Zionists and not as anti-Semites, but that is a discussion for another day). So calling out some of Baraka’s views on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not matter much to you. But for my readers who do support Israel and its right to exist as a democratic Jewish state within safe and secure borders, a quick summation of Baraka’s views on Israel are worthwhile. These views can be readily summarized by the findings of the African Heritage Delegation to Palestine/Israel (from April 2015; and note that the group renamed itself Zaynah Hindi African Heritage Delegation “in recognition of and in solidarity with our delegation’s co-leader, a Palestinian American”) on which Baraka participated.** Among that group’s findings (after meeting with early leaders of the Israeli Black Panther party, which I must admit, I didn’t know existed):

  • Israeli policy of settlement expansion amounts to ethnic cleansing and 21st century colonialism.
  • We condemn the campaign Israel’s government has waged to court black religious and political support and call on the Black community to give unconditional support and solidarity to Palestinian Liberation.
  • The global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement is an essential tool in the struggle for Palestinian liberation.
  • We call on activists and non-activists alike to join initiatives in their communities that support and work in solidarity with Palestinian resistance movements.

(Emphasis added.) There’s more, both from the Delegation and from Baraka in his other writings, but that should give you a good idea. Note that the phrase “resistance movements” is often used to describe … terrorists. You know, like Hamas, which is the acronym for “Islamic Resistance Movement”. In other words, Baraka signed a statement calling for support for and work in solidary with terrorist groups. And, if you’re curious, I did come across a statement by Baraka equating Israeli treatment of Palestinians in Gaza as a form of genocide.

Yep, he would make a great Vice President. Before casting a ballot for the Green Party, think about Baraka’s views on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ask whether he would be good for those on either side of the issue who hope for a just and lasting peace.

In conclusion, let’s turn our attention back to Stein and the Green Party. I’m not well versed in many of the platform planks of the Green Party. I’ve heard some of the things that Stein has said, but frankly haven’t paid too much attention. But I couldn’t ignore her choice for running mate. After all, it is the first important decision made by a presidential candidate. So go back and review some of the positions that her chosen running mate has taken and then think about how well those positions reflect your own views on the issue. Ask yourself why, among all of the other possible voices on the left of the political spectrum, Jill Stein and the Green Party chose Baraka. What does that choice say about Stein? What does it say about her understanding of the positions of her supporters? Does she share Baraka’s views on these issues? In any event, it seems that by this one choice alone, Stein has demonstrated how poor her judgment is and has essentially disqualified herself as a viable candidate for President. John McCain hurt himself greatly with his choice of Sarah Palin but Stein’s choice of Baraka makes that prior blunder pale in comparison (or would if Stein was a viable candidate…).

Please recognize that Stein is not a viable candidate for President. I understand (kinda) opposition to Clinton, but please don’t cast your vote for the Stein-Baraka ticket and, perhaps, do as Ralph Nader did in 2000, and hand the Presidency to the Republicans and Donald Trump.

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*While I don’t really suggest that you waste your time looking (sadly, I did), just a quick review of the titles of the essays that Baraka has published on CounterPunch will certainly give the impression that the only issue of importance to him is the treatment of people of color and his expression of concern about that treatment is blatant racism directed against whites.

**It’s interesting to note that Baraka is identified as a signatory of the report as a member from Cali, Colombia, and not from the United States; all of the other members of the Delegation are identified as being from the United States. So, a man who wants to be Vice President serves on an international delegation but doesn’t identify himself as being from America. Good to know.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Beware Terrorists (or Russia or Wikileaks) Giving Trump His October Surprise

Those who follow politics, and presidential politics in particular, are familiar with the idea of an “October Surprise”. Put simply, an October Surprise is an event that occurs very late in a political campaign (i.e., in October immediately prior to the November election) that will sway votes, usually without an opportunity for the candidate hurt by the event to respond. An October Surprise can be a neutral event to which each candidate’s reaction can be judged (think Hurricane Sandy in 2012) or it can be intentional, targeted to hurt or help a particular candidate. Often, candidates and their campaigns worry about any sort of October Surprise that the other side (or those supporting the other side) might be planning.

While I don’t really intend to drive conspiracies (you know what I think of conspiracy theories…) or fear-monger, I want to offer three possibilities of an October Surprise that would, sadly, not come as a great surprise but which could have a profound effect on the outcome of the election and the future of our nation and the world.

First, I think that we need to be seriously concerned about a significant terrorist attack by ISIS in America or against American interests in the days leading up to the election. Now, I’m sure many of you are saying, “But wouldn’t a terrorist attack help Trump”? Yes, it probably would. And that is likely precisely what ISIS wants. You see, while many people may be arguing that Trump will be “tougher” on terrorists than Clinton, I think that in the part of the Muslim world that is either sympathetic to ISIS or susceptible to the ISIS message, a Trump victory would be a good thing … for ISIS.

Yes, really.

Sure, we might drop more bombs on parts of Syria, Iraq, and Libya. And we might kill more jihadi fighters. But one of my biggest fears of a Trump presidency is that he would give ISIS precisely what it wants: A clash of civilizations and religions, pitting the wealthy, decadent, Christian West against the poor, pious, Islamic world. Think of it this way: When the US drops a bomb on a village in Syria, does that tend to dissuade more young Muslims from joining ISIS or does it serve as a recruiting tool to radicalize even more people to the call of radical Islam? If America tortures Muslims it accuses of terrorism, does the torture act as a deterrent or a clarion call to other Muslims susceptible to radicalization? If you read what experts on the subject have been saying ever since Trump first suggested that we ban Muslims from coming to America (or resume the use of torture or kill the families of terrorists), you’ll see just this fear being one of the core concerns being raised. We know that ISIS (like al-Qaeda, Hamas, and other terrorist groups) is not afraid to sacrifice “martyrs” for the larger “good” that their deaths may bring. If ISIS can goad Trump into a much broader war in which more and more Muslims will die at the hands of “infidels”, then ISIS may be even closer to the realization of their basic goals. And sadly Donald Trump doesn’t seem to understand that we can’t fight a war against a a few million Muslims by alienating or fighting against a billion Muslims who haven’t yet taken up arms.

Thus, a terrorist attack that would put fear into the American populace, bring about the election of Donald Trump, and from there the alienation and radicalization of more of the Muslim world, might be a perfect game plan for ISIS.

Yet if there is a terrorist attack that seems to benefit Trump, we can’t presume that ISIS is responsible. In any normal and sane universe, it would be difficult to imagine an violent October Surprise in which a candidate was complicit or that was conducted by a state actor. But this is not a normal year and I have my doubts as to whether Donald Trump is sane (at least in the classic sense of the word of being able to understand the difference between right and wrong).

What am I talking about? Russia.

We’ve already seen the apparent warm relations (bromance?) between Trump and Vladimir Putin. We’ve seen Trump praise Putin’s leadership (and by “leadership” I mean the killing of opposition journalists). We’ve seen Trump talk about abandoning our NATO allies and essentially ceding the Baltic countries to Russia. We’ve seen Trump talk about reversing the US (and global) position on Russia’s annexation of Crimea. And we’ve seen Trump ask Russia for help in hacking into Clinton’s computers (oh, wait, that was just sarcasm, right?). Earlier this week we heard Trump tell the world that he doesn’t trust American’s intelligence agencies. Seriously. Moreover, I suspect that from the Russian perspective, the internal chaos, dissension, and isolationism that a Trump presidency would cause in the US would be an enormous boon to Russia’s efforts to reassert its own global influence.

If Russia’s spy agencies are willing to try to subvert American democracy via hacking and disclosure of information, what else might they be willing to do? Might the Russians be willing to aid ISIS, especially if in doing so, they were able to keep the focus of ISIS directed westward instead of northward into the Muslim republics of Russia? Or might the Russians even be willing to risk a direct action if it could be plausibly blamed on ISIS (a so-called “false flag” attack)? Again, while I would usually scoff at such a notion in normal times … these are not normal times.

Finally, recall the release by WikiLeaks of documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee, most likely by the Russian spy agencies. So what happens if WikiLeaks releases other damaging (or potentially damaging) documents closer to the election? How would that play out? At least one of Trump’s supporters and occasional advisors, Roger Stone, seems to think that is precisely what is going to happen. Just imagine a WikiLeaks document dump in the days immediately prior to the election that confirms any of a host of conspiracies about Clinton. Just imagine the results. And if such a release is timed properly, Clinton might have no time to respond.

Now, given the likely involvement of the Russian spy agencies in the theft of information, why should we presume that any damaging information is accurate? For example, imagine a document dump two or three days before the election that supposedly demonstrates that Clinton accepted bribes from Wall Street or foreign leaders or that she had been diagnosed with some ailment or that she was actually Saul Alinsky’s love child. Can you imagine the last minute swing such news might play in the election? But think for a minute how simple it would be for anyone to create a fake document. We’ve seen it before with the fake military records of George W. Bush. Now, imagine for a moment what would happen if, after Trump was elected because of fraudulent documents, it could be conclusively proven that the documents were, indeed, fraudulent. The results of the election and our entire electoral process might be thrown into a state of turmoil. And who would benefit from an America paralyzed by internal turmoil or a constitutional crisis? Russia. And China. And maybe ISIS. But definitely not the American people.

Just to muddy these particular waters a bit more, don’t forget that veteran political observers have been puzzled by the Trump campaign’s failure to do those things that are ordinarily required for a successful electoral strategy. The lack of a “ground game” (and associated get out the vote efforts), the failure to engage in major fundraising efforts (at least until recently), and the failure (until yesterday, apparently) to spend money on television ads could all be put down to Trump being Trump and simply bucking tradition and political wisdom. Or, if you’d like to climb down the conspiracy rabbit hole, it could be because Trump knows that he’s got something to shake things up before votes are actually cast.

Yeah, I know. I probably sound a bit like Alex Jones. Sigh. That’s not my intent. Maybe I’ve just read too many well-written thrillers. I’m not sitting here telling you that any of these things are going to happen. Rather, I’m simply suggesting that we be prepared for the unexpected, the October Surprise. And I’m suggesting that given the stakes, given the people and countries involved, given what we’ve already seen, and given the ramifications of the possible outcomes of the election, that we be careful in jumping to any conclusions should any sort of unexpected event occur.

I fear what could happen if Donald Trump is elected President. I fear for our country and for our world. And I fear that Donald Trump, a man seemingly without any moral convictions whatsoever, will do quite literally anything to get what he wants. And what he wants is to win.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Donald Trump and Second Amendment People

Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know.

— Donald Trump, August 9, 2016.

There is so, so much to say. So I’ll start at the beginning.

First, notwithstanding what Donald Trump may say (and say over and over), Hillary Clinton does not want to abolish the Second Amendment. Nor does she even want to essentially abolish the Second Amendment. This one is easy. Let’s look at Politifact (the second time they have reviewed the claim by Trump, this time after he began using the word “essentially” to describe what he claims Clinton wants to do):

We found no evidence of Clinton ever saying verbatim or suggesting explicitly she wants to abolish the Second Amendment. The bulk of her comments suggest the opposite: She wants to enact stricter gun control, but has no objection to responsible gun ownership.

Note that Politifact originally reviewed and found the claim that Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment to be false in May 2016 (before Trump added the adverb “essentially” to his claim). Yet here we are, three months later, and Trump is still making the false claim. But lying about what your political opponent intends is standard political operating procedure, so it’s hard to get too worked up over that, though most politicians when called out on perpetuating a falsehood will usually drop that attack and pivot to another issue. But Trump can never admit to being wrong, so…

But that brings me to the next point in my analysis of Trump’s comment. He says that Clinton wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment. I wonder if Trump has any understanding of how the process to amend the United States Constitution even works. I ask that because, if he did, he would know that while the President may have a loud voice he (or she) has literally no role to play in the amendment process. None.

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

United States Constitution, Article V. See any role for the President in the text of Article V? I didn’t think so. So even if Clinton did want to abolish the Second Amendment, she couldn’t without a whole lot of help from Congress and three-quarters of the states.

Then Trump doubles down on the fact that he doesn’t understand how the Constitution works when he says that there is “nothing you can do” if Clinton “gets to pick her judges”. Apparently, besides having never read Article V of the Constitution, Trump is also unaware of the provisions of Article II Section 2 of the Constitution:

[The President] shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.

Trump seems to have forgotten the fact (or perhaps never knew) that after the President nominates a candidate to be a judge, the Senate must consent to the nomination. Of course, it’s somewhat hard to believe that Trump doesn’t know this given that one issue in this electoral contest is the fact that President Obama exercised his constitutional right and obligation to nominate a judge to replace Justice Scalia but the Senate has refused to take up that nomination with Republicans arguing that the American people should elect a new President to make that nomination. In other words, the Senate is preventing President Obama from appointing the judge that he picked. So tell me again, Donald, why it is that there will be “nothing you can do” if President Clinton were to pick her judges? Elected Senators could vote down the nomination or be like today’s Republican-led Senate and refuse to even consider the nomination (and thus avoid their constitutional responsibility). So perhaps we should take Trump’s claim of “nothing you can do” as an admonition against the Senate for refusing to consider the President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland. Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

Which of course brings us to the final part of Trump’s statement. I’ll repeat it:

if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know.

(Emphasis added.) Now I think that it is important to consider the temporal arrangement of words and thoughts here. Trump begins the thought with the hypothetical statement “if she gets to pick” before moving on to what can be done. So if she gets to pick then nothing you can do. But then he modifies that. If she gets to pick then nothing you can do but maybe Second Amendment people can do something. I mention this because one of the responses from the Trump campaign and Trump supporters is that what he meant was for gun rights advocates (Second Amendment people) to unify as a voting block to vote to elect Trump. But that formulation doesn’t really work with Trump’s actual words because the way he framed things was with regard to what could be done if she gets to pick her judges. He didn’t frame it in terms of stopping her from becoming President and thereby preventing her from picking judges; rather, he framed it as what could be done after she is the President and has the right to nominate judges: “[N]othing you can, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is…”. In other words, if we read what Trump said and not what his campaign or supporters want us to think he said, then it should be obvious that he was talking about what people can do once she is President. And his answer was, at first, “nothing” only to be modified by “maybe” — for the Second Amendment people.

Thus the question becomes what, precisely, could Second Amendment people do, after Clinton has become President and picks judges. Add to the query the further question of what it might be that Second Amendment people could do that others (like First Amendment people or Nineteenth Amendment people or just people) could not? What differentiates Second Amendment people from the larger body politic or of groups who may frame and focus their issues around other amendments or provisions of the Constitution. Hmm. What could it be? What is different about the Second Amendment?

Guns.

Or, perhaps expressed differently, guns and the desire to hold and use them to stop the paranoid fear of government tyranny. (Consider my previous posts Do I Have the Right to Take Up Arms Against the Government? or Guns in America (part 2) [sorry for the missing images…].)

Trump’s comment, no matter how his supporters may want to spin things, was a dog whistle (belling of the cat?) to those who oppose any reasonable gun regulations. In our supposedly civil society, we are (or should be) reluctant to believe that anyone would use exhortations to violence as a part of a political campaign. But we’ve seen repeated examples of violent rhetoric from Trump (not to mention actual violence playing out at and around Trump rallies with Trump acting as cheerleader- or instigator-in-chief). You and I may not want to hear Trump’s words as an incitement to violence, but to those who believe that that Kenyan Muslim Barrack Hussein Obama or Hillary “Lock Her Up” Clinton are coming to take their guns, that is exactly how Trump’s words are likely to be perceived.

References to “Second Amendment remedies” and similar gun-based or violent rhetoric have become more and more common on the right. It was just back in 2011 when Sarah Palin said to her supporters, “'Don't Retreat, Instead – RELOAD” and included Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on a list of legislators to be targeted. Rep. Giffords, you’ll recall, was the target of an assassination attempt. Perhaps the best known example was the statement by Sharron Angle who was running for Senate in Nevada when she said, “if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.” Or there was the statement by Joni Ernst during her successful bid to be elected to the Senate from Iowa (before she made Trump’s short list for vice presidential nominees), talking about her right to defend herself “from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important”. There is a strong undercurrent among Republicans (and, I presume, Trump supporters) that violence may be necessary to stop a government with which they disagree. Trump’s dog whistle politics won’t do anything to calm the situation (especially not when he is also telling his supporters, in advance, that the election will be “rigged”).

And it is to this last point that Trump was really … um … aiming. As I’ve referenced numerous times on this blog, there is a cohort of Americans that really believe that the government is tyrannical (or will soon become so) and that it is coming for them. Now Trump is adding to that fire by telling them that the election will be rigged and that once elected, President Clinton will be coming for the guns when she abolishes the Second Amendment. These people believe, in essence, that they need to keep their guns to prevent the government from coming to take their guns. Or something.

Brett Lunceford, a former professor who has researched the political discourse around guns, said these sort of remarks and actions feed into a belief that “the Second Amendment was put in place to overthrow the government if need be."

“[Trump’s] throwing a bone to that mythology, that, if the government is tyrannical, ‘Well you guys are the ones that can do something about it,’” Lunceford told TPM. “There’s this idea that they’re the ones that can stop tyranny. It’s not about self defense, it’s about defense from the government.”

Gun control advocates say that purveyors of such language take their cues directly from gun industry lobbying groups. Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, pointed to NRA Board member Ted Nugent—who has said President Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats should “suck on my machine gun” — and to Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt, who in June said voters may “resort to the bullet box” if they don’t like Supreme Court decisions.

“We have seen the radicalized behavior of the NRA leadership, also impact lawmakers and other gun extremists to speak in rhetoric that is dangerous,” Watts said. “The Second Amendment is not a suicide pact. It’s not a manual for vigilante justice.”

For victims of gun violence themselves, Trump's comment had a very specific and acute connotation.

"Responsible, stable individuals won't take Trump's rhetoric to its literal end, but his words may provide a magnet for those seeking infamy. They may provide inspiration or permission for those bent on bloodshed," former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) said in a statement with her husband, Mark Giffords.

Trump Just The Latest On Hard Right To Call For ‘2nd Amendment Remedies’, Talking Points Memo, August 11, 2016.

After receiving condemnation for his comments, and not just from Democrats, Trump and his supporters tried to “fix” his comments with all sorts of explanations (some discussed above), including suggesting that it was a “joke gone bad” (according to Speaker Paul Ryan). The problem is that this fits into a pattern with Trump; one day he says something outrageous and totally unacceptable and then, when criticized or called out for the statement, he claims it was a “joke” or “sarcasm” or misunderstood or simply blames the media. Today he used the defense of sarcasm to try to walk back his repeated claim that President Obama was the “founder of ISIS” (even after he had repeated that statement several times and even after a conservative radio host had given him a chance to walk back that claim yesterday, a chance Trump took to, instead, repeat his claim and express that it was, indeed what he meant). Or remember when Trump appealed to Russia to hack into Clinton’s computers only to suggest that it was a joke when the nearly universal response was condemnation of his call for a foreign power to become involved in the American electoral process?

Trump never apologizes, never acknowledges mistakes, never accepts blame or takes responsibility; rather, in virtually every case in which he crosses one proverbial line or another, he blames the listener for not understanding that it was a joke or sarcasm or blames the media for reporting on what he said. But query what happens if this sort of language is used by a President. What happens if President Trump says, “The Chinese are killing us in trade; killing us. We should bomb their factories to level the playing field.” Saying, “Gee, I was only joking” a few days later after isn’t going to fix the problem that his flippant and dangerous words may have caused.

Words have meanings, but that is a lesson apparently lost on Donald Trump.

Again and again and again, Donald Trump has demonstrated that he has no respect for the political process. He has no respect for civility. He has no respect for the truth. And he certainly has no understanding of the Constitution or the effects that words can have. The man is completely unfit, both in terms of mental stability, intellectual capacity, and general temperament to be allowed anywhere near the White House.

Please help me be sure that he doesn’t win in November.

Please.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The DNC Emails … And Russian Involvement in American Politics

My personal Twitter troll has asked (demanded? challenged?) me to comment on the revelation that the staffers at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) engaged in email discussions regarding the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders that included strategizing against his campaign. While I ordinarily like to follow a “don’t feed the trolls” approach, I thought that this issue was at least worth discussing (and, hey, it’s pretty cool that I have my own Twitter troll, isn’t it?). Before diving into the issues, let me offer one major caveat: I haven’t read the emails. I’ve read a few news stories and brief excerpts, but I’m sure that I don’t know all of the facts and, as always, I’m willing to reconsider my views as additional facts are learned or as mistakes that I make (as if!) are identified.

So, on to the emails…

It is my understanding that, at the heart of the matter, were discussions or even actions by some DNC staffers to either help Hillary Clinton’s campaign and/or hinder Bernie Sanders’ campaign together with some … er … less than generous descriptions of Sanders. Now, there is a part of me that says, “Gee, that’s not fair” and I certainly would like to think that the DNC would always play fair. But then there is the part of me that remembers that this is the Democratic National Committee and that, until he needed the ballot access that the Democratic Party had, Sen. Sanders was not a Democrat. Or, to phrase it differently, why shouldn’t the DNC work to help its own members to the detriment of an outsider? That point is even more compelling given the work that Hillary Clinton has done over the years both for the Democratic Party and for other Democrats. (And let’s not forget that Sanders endorsed the primary challenger for the House seat held by DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, so I think she can be forgiven at least a bit of pique directed toward Sanders.)

As to the notion that the primary system was rigged, the only answer is “bullshit”. The primary system was in place long before Sanders announced his candidacy. He knew what the system was; he didn’t have to run and he didn’t have to run as a Democrat. But he did. He could have sought the nomination of the Green Party or run as an independent, but that wouldn’t have given him the ballot access he needed or the ability to get the sort of news coverage that helped propel his campaign. And let’s not forget the allegations from several months ago that the Sanders campaign was, itself, hacking into the DNC database to obtain information improperly. I guess that was OK, right? Look, I’m not saying that the democratic primary system is a good system or that it shouldn’t be modified. But the system was the same for Martin O’Malley, Lawrence Lessig, Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb, and others, and I don’t recall hearing their supporters whining about the system or booing the party’s leaders at its convention.

I also find it interesting that so many of the people who are almost giddy about the disclosure of these emails from the DNC seem to so quickly gloss over the apparent source. The emails were released by WikiLeaks. Now, first, we should think back to what people had to say about WikiLeaks when it was responsible for other document dumps; I recall hearing plenty of people call for criminal prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (and accusations that he was a “traitor” even though he isn’t American). I wrote about the massive WikiLeaks disclosure of US diplomatic cables in December 2010 (Wikileaks? I’m Not Sure). Yet apparently, if the information WikiLeaks discloses harms those who you oppose on political grounds then that disclosure is peachy keen. if would be interesting to see how people would react if WikiLeaks were able to obtain and disclose Donald Trump’s tax returns (especially if they included something damaging). But I digress.

More important is the source from which WikiLeaks itself apparently received the emails in the first place. WikiLeaks doesn’t do the hacking; rather WikiLeaks discloses documents obtained by hackers. And in this case, there is apparently ample evidence that the hackers who took the emails from the DNC are part of the Russian intelligence services, in particular the FSB (the successor to the KGB) and the GRU (military intelligence), both under the control of Vladimir Putin … you know, the same man to whom Donald Trump, just a few days ago, gave a green light to invade our NATO allies (Did Trump Just Give Putin Carte Blanche to Invade Eastern Europe?). As Arsenio Hall once said, “Things that make you go ‘Hmm.’” Don’t forget the extent to which Trump has praised Putin, so much so that the phrase “bromance” has been used to describe Trump’s relationship with Putin (or maybe it’s just a mancrush). So was the release of the emails to WikiLeaks the quo for Trump’s quid suggestion that he might abandon NATO and the Baltic states?

Think back to when Edward Snowden stole data from the NSA before fleeing, eventually to Russia. How many of you called him a traitor? How many of you worried about Russia having access to the information he obtained? Yet now, some people (mostly those opposed to Democrats in general or Hillary Clinton in particular) are practically cheering over Russia hacking into data belonging to a political party (including, donor data, opposition research, and the personal email accounts of Democratic staffers)? Really? I seem to recall that the last time criminal activity was aimed at obtaining private information from one of the political parties, things didn’t end so well. For those of you who aren’t sure what I’m talking about, here is a hint: The data one party tried to steal was located in an office located at the Watergate hotel. Ring any bells?

One thing, however, that really troubles me about the information in the emails is the apparent discussion about using Sanders’ religion (or atheism, perhaps) as a weapon against him. That sort of conduct is reprehensible. Period. The saving grace, I suppose, is that it doesn’t appear that this discussion evolved into actual action; rather, from what I’ve read, it appears to have been a suggestion made as part of a strategy discussion that was not followed up. But to even discuss using a person’s religion against them (or their lack of faith, as the case may be), is simply un-American and wrong.

A critical thing that must be recognized about this entire mess is that the chairwoman of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned. And then the interim chairwoman of the DNC, Donna Brazile apologized. Publicly and sincerely. While people cannot go back and change what happened, they can take responsibility, apologize, and learn from mistakes. So far, that appears to be what the DNC is doing in the wake of these disclosures.

Of course, noting that the chair of the DNC resigned and that the DNC’s new chair apologized does make me wonder when we’ll see similar actions from Republicans in regard to the xenophobia, bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, and so forth being spewed by the Republican Party’s candidate and his supporters. I’m not holding my breath.

I do hope that over the next days and weeks we will learn more detail about possible Russian involvement in the hack of the DNC servers. Perhaps more importantly, I hope that we’ll learn more about whether the Trump campaign had any knowledge about that hacking or any involvement in the decision to disclose the emails (I certainly hope that not even Trump would stoop that low…). But even if the Republicans and the Trump campaign were completely in the dark and innocent, we should have a serious national discussion about why Russia might want to harm Democrats or Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. What did Russia hope to gain by hacking the DNC servers and what did Russia hope to gain by releasing the stolen emails to WikiLeaks for public dissemination. And ask yourself if you’re comfortable knowing that another country, and especially Russia, is inserting itself, via its intelligence agencies, into the American political system and presidential election. Does that scare you as much as it scares me?

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Did Trump Just Give Putin Carte Blanche to Invade Eastern Europe?

In January 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson gave a speech to the National Press Club in which he articulated the United States’ defense perimeter in Asia. However, when Acheson described the defense perimeter, he excluded South Korea. Several months later, North Korea (backed by the USSR) invaded South Korea. Most historians cite Acheson’s exclusion of South Korea from the defense perimeter as one of the important factors that led the decision by North Korea and the USSR to invade the South, operating under the perception that the United States would not intervene militarily because South Korea was outside the Asian defense perimeter.

In July 1990, April Glaspie, the United States Ambassador to Iraq, told her Iraqi counterpart that the United States did not have an opinion on Iraq’s escalating dispute with Kuwait (over oil) and that the United States would not start an economic war against Iraq. Most historians cite Glaspie’s comments as one of the important factors that led Saddam Hussein to conclude that the United States would not intervene in an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Why do I cite these two historical examples of comments that led to war? Consider what Donald Trump told The New York Times yesterday:

SANGER: I was just in the Baltic States. They are very concerned obviously about this new Russian activism, they are seeing submarines off their coasts, they are seeing airplanes they haven’t seen since the Cold War coming, bombers doing test runs. If Russia came over the border into Estonia or Latvia, Lithuania, places that Americans don’t think about all that often, would you come to their immediate military aid?

TRUMP: I don’t want to tell you what I’d do because I don’t want Putin to know what I’d do. I have a serious chance of becoming president and I’m not like Obama, that every time they send some troops into Iraq or anyplace else, he has a news conference to announce it.

SANGER: They are NATO members, and we are treaty-obligated ——

TRUMP: We have many NATO members that aren’t paying their bills.

SANGER: That’s true, but we are treaty-obligated under NATO, forget the bills part.

TRUMP: You can’t forget the bills. They have an obligation to make payments. Many NATO nations are not making payments, are not making what they’re supposed to make. That’s a big thing. You can’t say forget that.

SANGER: My point here is, Can the members of NATO, including the new members in the Baltics, count on the United States to come to their military aid if they were attacked by Russia? And count on us fulfilling our obligations ——

TRUMP: Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.

HABERMAN: And if not?

TRUMP: Well, I’m not saying if not. I’m saying, right now there are many countries that have not fulfilled their obligations to us.

How do you think Vladimir Putin will view those comments by Trump? How do you think our NATO and other treaty allies will view those comments?

From my perspective, Trump just told our allies that they may not be able to rely upon the United States and essentially gave our adversaries (or potential enemies) carte blanche to take aggressive actions without fear of intervention by the United States. Trump’s statement is even more dangerous than the statements of Acheson or Glaspie because in those instances, the United States wasn’t suggesting that it would ignore treaty obligations. Moreover, those statements dealt with Korea and Kuwait, not Europe and not America’s most important defense alliance.

Perhaps Trump isn’t aware that Article 5 of the NATO treaty provides that an attack on one NATO member is deemed to be an attack on all NATO members and obligates the other NATO members to assist the country that was attacked. And perhaps Trump doesn’t understand that a treaty has the force of law; complying with treaty obligations isn’t optional. But if he isn’t aware of such a cornerstone element of our national defense structure, then he certainly isn’t qualified to be the Commander-in-Chief. And if he is aware of what Article 5 means and he is still willing to suggest that it might be ignored, then he is … well … dangerous isn’t quite a strong enough word. Perhaps his machismo is spoiling for an armed confrontation with Vladimir Putin and the Russian bear. I just hope America is ready to pay the bill of blood and treasure when Trump’s statements or inaction lead to the armed conflict.

Look, I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t make efforts to have our NATO allies fulfill their treaty obligations. They should and we should try to hold them to the terms of the treaty. But to suggest that failure to pay a bill is reason enough to abandon that country to a Russian invasion is lunacy. Dangerous lunacy. (Of course, Trump’s business modus operandi appears to be to leave bills unpaid, so this is something he should be quite familiar with…)

When Donald Trump opens his mouth, what we hear is hate, bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and a complete lack of understanding of the complex issues facing our nation and the world. He’s already suggested that nuclear proliferation to South Korea, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, might be a good idea. These statements about NATO are just the most recent example. And you can bet that Vladimir Putin and the people of Europe heard Trump loud and clear. I just wonder how far into Europe Russian tanks will be permitted to drive during a Trump presidency.

And I wonder whether any country would ever trust America again.

Is that what Trump means when he talks about making American great again?

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Is Brexit the Beginning of the End of the UK … or of Other Countries?

So citizens of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Good or bad? Right or wrong? I’m not sure and I’m not sure that I really know enough to make an informed judgment. That being said, my instinct is to view the decision to leave the European Union as a bad decision (and the fact that both Donald Trump and Sarah Palin think that Brexit is good is almost enough reason for me to believe that it isn’t). I must admit that I find interesting the exit polling that showed apparent strong correlations between both age and education and the choice of whether to remain or leave (more education and younger voters tended to vote to stay, while older and less educated voters tended to vote to leave). But what the long term effects will be for the UK economy, for the European economy, for the global economy … I have no clue.

I do, however, have some concerns about what Brexit may mean both with regard to the stability of nation-states and to relations between them.

Let me address the latter of those two points first. One of the principal motivations for the original formation of what eventually evolved into the European Union was the notion of finding ways to avoid future conflicts within Europe and by and among European countries. The European Union has been largely successful in that ambition. But consider how things might look once the United Kingdom is fully divorced from those European nations that remain a part of the European Union. For example, what sort of hard feelings may exist by and between Britons and Europeans? If Europe’s economy stagnates and the United Kingdom’s flourishes (I have my doubts…), won’t many Europeans have a sense of … well, anger, I suppose, toward the United Kingdom? Similarly, if the UK’s economy stagnates and Europe grows, then how will Britons feel when they look across the Channel?

Perhaps more importantly, what sort of cooperation existing today might become strained or even cease? For example, think of the large migrant camps in northern France, populated by refugees and immigrants seeking to make their way to England. France has worked hard to try to keep those migrant camps stable and to help the UK keep mass waves of immigrants and refugees from making their way across the Channel. Part of the reason for that is good relations between the UK and France and part of the reason for that was the pan-European approach to dealing with immigration and refugees. But if the UK is no longer part of the European Community, what, if any, duty to does France have (let alone Italy or Spain or Greece) to help the United Kingdom deal with “unwanted” immigrants and refugees? Likely, none. Given that a motivating factor for many Britons who voted to leave the European Union was the desire to deal with immigration without interference from the European Union, then how ironic will it be if France chooses to cease its efforts to prevent immigrants and refugees from embarking on journeys across the Channel to England? (And it seems just as likely that those countries might actually opt to find ways to help immigrants transit their territory for Britain, in order to try to lessen their own refugee and immigrant burdens.)

I can also see other possibilities for European countries to sort of lash out in petty revenge against the United Kingdom if Brexit is viewed as damaging those countries. For example, I wouldn’t be surprised to see countries adopt tariffs or other fees on British goods or even travel by Britons within Europe (which could come as a real shock to Britons who have purchased vacation properties in Spain). Or, just imagine if FIFA (the world body governing soccer … er … football) were to decide that because the United Kingdom no longer views itself as being a part of Europe, that soccer clubs from the United Kingdom would not be eligible to play in the European Champions League or the UEFA Euro Cup?

Based on the last millennia or so, anything that gives one European country a reason to act in anger against another European country is … um … not good.

I also worry that the Brexit vote may, over time, begin a slide into the fracturing of stability within Europe and elsewhere.

In September 2014, Scotland voted, 55% to 45%, to remain a part of the United Kingdom. There were many factors at play in that vote, but one that appeared to play prominently was the role an independent Scotland would be able (or perhaps unable) to play within the European economy and global markets. It was pointed out that an independent Scotland would not be a part of the European Union and would, thus, not be able to avail itself of free trade and the other benefits of membership in the European Union (at least until going through the difficult and multi-year process of joining the EU). Thus is probably isn’t surprising that last week Scotland voted to remain in the European Union. Each of Scotland’s voting districts voted to remain and the results weren’t terribly close (62-38 to remain, compared to 53-47 in England). But the United Kingdom voted to leave. So where does that leave Scotland?

The leader of Scotland’s Parliament (the “First Minister”, I believe) has already called for a second Scottish referendum on independence. I suspect that such a referendum will be held and I also suspect that in a post-Brexit vote, Scots will, indeed, vote to make their own way.

Is that good or bad? I don’t know.

But if Scotland votes to leave the United Kingdom, what then of Northern Ireland? Like Scotland, Northern Ireland also voted to remain a part of the European Union (56-44 to stay). So, were Scotland to leave the United Kingdom, might Northern Ireland contemplate doing the same and, perhaps, even seeking to unify with Ireland which is a part of the European Union and with which many Irish have a closer bond that the government in London?

Those actions would, quite obviously, have a significant impact on the United Kingdom, reducing it down to just England and Wales (and who knows how long Wales would want to stick around…). But how might the democratic dissolution of the United Kingdom impact independence movements elsewhere in Europe? Consider Belgium which is essentially divided into two distinct communities (roughly dividing the country in half geographically, south and north), one French-speaking (Walloons) and the other Dutch-speaking (Flemish). The divide between the French and Flemish within Belgium has risen to near-crisis levels in the past. Query whether watching the disintegration of the United Kingdom might, once again, prompt calls for Flemish independence.

Or consider Catalonia, the northeastern part of Spain, with its capital in Barcelona. Catalans speak a different language from the rest of Spain, they don’t permit bullfighting, and, perhaps even more importantly, find themselves in a much different economic condition than the rest of the country. Might the rending of the United Kingdom give further impetus and strength to the already quite vocal and popular Catalan independence movement?

Of course if Catalonia were to become independent, that might reinvigorate the independence desires of the neighboring Basque region of Spain and France. Or, just to the southeast, perhaps the independence movements of Corsica and Sardinia (from France and Italy, respectively) would find succor in the example of Scotland.

In fact, the number of independence movements across Europe is almost too numerous to count and includes both large areas (Bavaria in Germany, South Tyrol in Italy) and tiny (Faroe Islands in Denmark, Venice in Italy); I even came across a reference to a independence movement for the Åland Islands, a tiny chain of islands between Sweden and Finland that presently belongs to Finland, but whose 28,000 inhabitants speak Swedish (but an acquaintance of mine who lives in Åland assures me that it is merely a “romantic protest”).

In any event, I think that the concern (or hope, I suppose, depending on your perspective) of the tearing asunder of European countries and the reformation into something … well … different, is worth contemplating. The goal of the European Union was a form of European unity, but that is splintering and it is quite likely the first breach of the unity of the European Union may also lead to the splintering of the United Kingdom. And as people across Europe — or even the world — watch Scotland and perhaps Northern Island pressing for independence, then it seems quite likely that independence movements will be strengthened and, quite possibly, the political structures of the world will see dramatic changes.

One commonly used phrase to describe the breaking apart of countries into smaller nations is “Balkanization” and that word is used for a reason. However, consider if you will, the history of the Balkans and whether that worked out for the best or not.

I don’t know what the results of Brexit will be for the United Kingdom, Scotland, Europe, or the world. But I have concerns that this will be the first act in a drama that may result in a period of chaos and contention.

But please, don’t get me started on the discussion of Texit (Texas exiting the United States). Just … don’t.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Some of My Previous Posts on Guns and Gun Control

In the days and months following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, I spent a lot of time writing about guns. In the wake of the most recent shooting in Orlando, I thought that I’d gather the links to some of those and other posts on gun control. I really hope that finally there will be enough public anger to compel Congress to do something, but if nothing else, perhaps linking to these prior posts will offer a chance for a discussion and debate about the issues.

Of particular interest should be the post Guns in America: Background Check System Excludes Those on the Terrorist Watch Lists (April 24, 2013) which is obviously highly relevant to the current debate.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Trump’s Racist Attacks on the Federal Judiciary

Donald Trump is, quite rightly, being excoriated for his racist attacks on the judge presiding over one of the lawsuits against Trump University. However, that criticism has been largely limited to the straightforward racism of Trump’s attacks and has, sadly, ignored his broader attack on the federal judiciary in general, his threats against judges who Trump doesn’t like, and the implications of his suggestion of conflicts-of-interest on the basis of race or other motivational interest. Trump’s attacks aren’t just limited to a particular judge; rather, he is attacking one of the co-equal branches of government and attempting to subvert its independence and ability to function. One must, therefore, wonder — if not fear — what a Trump presidency would look like were a federal judge (or the Supreme Court) to rule against Trump or a Trump policy.

Criticism of judges is fine and there is certainly a long precedent of American citizens, politicians, and elected officials doing so. One of the most famous recent criticisms of a judicial decision came from President Obama during the 2010 State of the Union speech, in which President Obama expressed his views of the recent Citizens United decision:

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that, I believe, will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.

That criticism by President Obama was, itself, subject to intense debate and critique. But note that President Obama did not question the integrity of the justices or impugn their reputations or motivations. He criticized the decision and what he perceived the effects would be, but he didn’t accuse them of ruling the way that they did because of their skin color, ethnic heritage, religion, or animus to Hillary Clinton (who, if you’ll recall was the target of the video at issue in Citizens United).

Now, compare that sort of criticism to the way Trump attacked the judge presiding over a Trump University case (internal links omitted):

“I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel,” Mr. Trump said, as the crowd of several thousand booed. “He is not doing the right thing. And I figure, what the hell? Why not talk about it for two minutes?”

Mr. Trump spoke for far more than two minutes about Judge Curiel and the Trump University case–he devoted 12 minutes of a 58-minute address to the litigation….

“We’re in front of a very hostile judge,” Mr. Trump said. “The judge was appointed by Barack Obama, federal judge. Frankly, he should recuse himself because he’s given us ruling after ruling after ruling, negative, negative, negative.”

Mr. Trump also told the audience, which had previously chanted the Republican standard-bearer’s signature “build that wall” mantra in reference to Mr. Trump’s proposed wall along the Mexican border, that Judge Curiel is “Mexican.”

“What happens is the judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that’s fine,” Mr. Trump said.

Judge Curiel was born in Indiana.

Mr. Trump told the crowd he looks forward to returning to San Diego for the trial in November and asked for an investigation into Judge Curiel for reasons he did not specify.

“I think Judge Curiel should be ashamed of himself,” Mr. Trump said. “I’m telling you, this court system, judges in this court system, federal court, they ought to look into Judge Curiel. Because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace, OK? But we’ll come back in November. Wouldn’t that be wild if I’m president and I come back to do a civil case? Where everybody likes it. OK. This is called life, folks.”

Recognize that this wasn’t a one-time event, either; Trump has repeated these sorts of criticisms multiple times, including this (emphasis added):

I think the judge has been extremely hostile to me. I think it has to do with the fact I'm very, very strong on the border, and he happens to be extremely hostile to me. We have a very hostile judge. He is Hispanic, and he is very hostile to me.

See a difference? President Obama criticized the decision of the Supreme Court, and discussed his concerns about the effects of that decision, but he did not suggest that individual justices were biased or “haters” and he certainly didn’t suggest that any of the justices was unable to act impartially because of race or religion. And President Obama did not offer an implicit or veiled threat against any of the justices. But Trump has done all of that and more. Repeatedly.

There has been plenty written and discussed about just how wrong and un-American are Trump’s attacks against the judge on the basis of race and ethnicity. Yet we can’t forget that Trump went even further and also claimed that Muslim judges might also be biased against him:

Mr. Dickerson asked Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, if a Muslim judge would be similarly biased because of Mr. Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim immigrants. “It’s possible, yes,” Mr. Trump said. “Yeah. That would be possible. Absolutely.”

But rather than focusing simply on Trump’s unabashed bigotry, I want to focus first on the suggestion that race, heritage, or religion can create inherent conflicts of interest among judges. Let me begin by quoting myself in my post Addressing a Few Red Herrings (August 5, 2010) written following the original challenge to California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage when some argued that the judge who decided that case had a conflict-of-interest because he was gay.

Why is it that when it comes to litigation involving social issues, straight, Anglo-Protestant white males are never seen as being biased, but a judge who is black or Jewish or female or gay is biased, often for no other reason that the fact that the judge is black or Jewish or female or gay?

Or think of it this way: Must every woman judge recuse herself from a rape case? Must every Jewish judge recuse himself from a case involving church-state issues? Must every Hispanic judge recuse himself from an immigration case? Must a black judge recuse himself from every lawsuit alleging racial discrimination? And with your answer to that last query in mind, must every white judge recuse himself from a case alleging racial discrimination if one of the parties is … um … white? And, by all of that reasoning, shouldn’t any straight judge have been forced to recuse himself precisely because he wasn’t gay?

Those who argue bias of this sort are either so blinded by their own bias and bigotry or simply cannot recognize that, in order for our system to work at all, we must all have faith in the impartiality of our judiciary. That a judge disagrees with us doesn’t mean bias; it means that judge judges a particular issue differently that you or I might. It doesn’t mean bias. But if we start seeing bias in every judge solely on the basis of that judge’s color or religion or DNA, then it won’t be long before our judicial system becomes a joke and the respect for the rule of law on which the foundations of our country are supported will rot away.

Donald Trump doesn’t understand any of that. Rather, it would seem that in the America that he envisages, the only judges who can be relied upon to offer impartial rulings and justice would be judges who share race, religion, heritage, and political viewpoints with those being judged. Or maybe good Aryan (or at least male White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) judges would be exempt from being scrutinized from conflicts-of-interest because of their majority status, right? Of course one has to wonder whether that Aryan or WASP might have a predisposed bias in favor of Trump; after all, shouldn’t we expect that all whites would be supportive of his positions of wanting to keep American racially pure out Latino immigrants and those of disfavored religions? I mean, if we can presume that judges of Mexican heritage or of the Muslim faith would be biased against Trump because of his political positions, then shouldn’t we presume that those of European heritage or of the Christian faith would be biased toward Trump for the same reason? Isn’t that really the argument that he is making? As Philip Klein noted in The Washington Examiner:

Trump could just as easily be arguing that a Jewish judge is against him because he refuses to be beholden to Jewish donors. Or an American Asian judge is against him because he wants to get tough on China. Or an Irish Catholic judge is against him because of his attacks on Pope Francis. Effectively, anybody who isn't a white Protestant of European ancestry can be a target of Trump's ethnic and racial attacks.

So let’s tease out the ramifications of Trump’s argument that judges can’t be relied upon to be impartial based on their race, heritage, religion, or reactions to the political views of a party appearing before the judge. Essentially, the ramifications become quite simple: Our entire judicial system ceases to function and the rule of law, for which our system is an absolute model and light among the nations, becomes but a quaint relic of bygone days. If Americans are taught that they can’t trust the impartiality of judges, especially judges who look different or pray to a different god, then the rulings of those judges may never be accepted. People will refuse to recognize decisions from “biased” judges and those ruling may, thus, become not worth the paper they are printed on. How long before someone says, “I’m not going to follow the judge’s order because he was biased against me?” In our hyper-polarized present, how long before some legislature or sheriff buys into this sort of viewpoint?

You see, one of most important responsibilities of our elected officials is to help provide to the public the sense that our system works. Sure, there may be bumps. Politics may get ugly and messy. Judges may get things wrong and legislators may not always reflect the will of the people. Executives may direct their offices and agents to do things that some will object to. But on the whole, there remains the notion that the system as a whole works. But now we have a situation where one of the major party’s candidate for President is essentially arguing that one of the co-equal branches of the government, the same branch that we rely upon to stop the unchecked power of the executive branch, doesn’t work because of racial or religious bias. The idea of a major party candidate arguing, not that the policy goals of the other party are wrong, but that a branch of the government can’t properly function because of bias, is absolutely unprecedented. And scary.

Consider the comments of David Post, a retired law professor:

“This is how authoritarianism starts, with a president who does not respect the judiciary,” Mr. Post said. “You can criticize the judicial system, you can criticize individual cases, you can criticize individual judges. But the president has to be clear that the law is the law and that he enforces the law. That is his constitutional obligation.”

“If he is signaling that that is not his position, that’s a very serious constitutional problem,” Mr. Post said.

Then, as if all of that wasn’t enough, we also have Trump’s threat against Judge Cureil.

Wouldn’t that be wild if I’m president and I come back to do a civil case? Where everybody likes it. OK. This is called life, folks.”

I’m not really sure what Trump meant here (for that matter, Trump’s … um … creative grammar often leaves me a bit befuddled, but that’s a blog for another day), but it does seem like some kind of threat against the judge. Is Trump saying that, after the election, he would sue the judge? Or is he talking about impeachment (“where everybody likes it”)? It’s hard to know. But the notion that a candidate for President is suggesting, even implicitly, that he might try to use the power of the office to retaliate against a member of the federal judiciary should be absolutely chilling to anyone who values the functioning of our system. We need judges who are unafraid to issue difficult rulings and who aren’t influenced by the politics surrounding them. That is one of the reasons that federal judges are appointed to a lifetime term. Now we have a candidate for President who seems willing to throw politics into the functioning of the judiciary. And note that we’re not talking about a case like Citizens United that deals with constitutional issues and the election process; rather, Trump’s concerns arise from a case against one of his businesses for fraud.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, disgruntled farmers and members of the early version of the militia movement (and later so-called “sovereign citizen” movement) began taking actions against judges (both state and federal) who, among other things, issued decrees of foreclosure. These actions often took the form of fake liens against the judges’ properties, thus making it difficult for the judges to sell or refinance their houses. Citizen “grand juries” popped up to issue “warrants” against judges. States like Indiana that fell prey to these shenanigans had to enact laws to protect judges (and others). And now Donald Trump seems to be suggesting that if he doesn’t get his way, it will once again be open season on judges … or at least on judges who don’t rule the way Donald Trump thinks that they should.

As I was thinking about this subject last night, I wondered about the precedent that Trump seems to be setting without necessarily realizing it. Think of it this way: Let’s say that I become party to a lawsuit following a traffic accident. And let’s say that the judge presiding over that case is Asian. Now, when that judge issues a ruling with which I disagree, rather than appealing that ruling or otherwise acting within the bounds of the legal system, if I follow Trump’s lead, I should argue that the judge is a “hater” who is a “disgrace” that only gives me “negative” rulings. But then, when the judge refuses to reverse course or to recuse himself, I guess I should start making bigoted anti-Asian comments after which I should argue that the judge has an inherent conflict-of-interest or bias against me because of what I’ve said. Or, to put it even more simply, if I have a judge that I don’t like, I should walk up to that judge and tell him that he is an ignorant asshole who should go fuck his mother, and then I should demand that he recuse himself because my comments and actions may have biased the judge against me. Isn’t that really Trump’s argument here? That judges of Mexican heritage will be inherently biased against Trump because of Trump’s political views? It will be nice to know that if I’m ever sued, I can use my political views to be sure that only a Democratic Jewish judge will be able to preside over my case.

I also want to touch briefly on one other red herring argument that seems to be getting some traction, namely that Judge Curiel’s membership in a Latino bar association group (note that the group to which he belongs is the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association and not the national National Council of La Raza (an advocacy organization)) is enough to demonstrate bias and some sort of implicit reverse racism (as if by being a member of a Latino organization implies racism against non-Latinos). Of course, that argument ignores the existence of groups like the Italian American Bar Association, German American Bar Association, Chicago Irish American Bar Association, Asian American Bar Association of New York, American Catholic Lawyers Association, J. Reuben Clark Law Society (a Mormon organization), or the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists. And yes, I could go on and on. For the record, I’ve occasionally attended a luncheon (well, really an opportunity to each a Shapiro’s corned beef sandwich) under the auspices of the Jewish Lawyers Luncheon group in Indianapolis. Judges are also people. They are part of their community and that community may include their religion, their ethnic heritage, or their kids’ soccer team. But to suggest that a judge is inherently biased because he is an active member of his community is itself a sort of racist dog whistle to those who argue that the “real racists” are members of minority communities and not the white or Christian majorities.

Donald Trump can criticize judges all he wants. That’s fair. But his criticism shouldn’t — can’t — be based in racism or bigotry, it can’t — not if Trump believes in our system of government — call into question the actual functioning of the judicial branch or the belief in the rule of law, and it absolutely can’t include threats, implicit or explicit, that he will use the power of the office of the President to retaliate against judges who don’t agree to jump to Trump’s tune. Yet the continued exhortation to racism and bigotry and attacks against the functioning of our governmental system just makes ever more clear that Trump really is nothing more than a fascist. And I, for one, am not willing to risk the America that I know for the whims of an egotistical, narcissistic, racist, fascist like Donald Trump.

Please help me make sure that he is not elected President.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Trump Implicitly Condones Anti-Semitism (part 3): The Hate Continues

I wonder how Donald Trump will respond when, sometime in the not too distant future, one of his grandchildren asks him, “Zadie* Donald, why do some of your supporters hate Jews … like me?” I wonder how Ivanka will answer her children when they ask why Zadie didn’t tell his supporters to stop saying anti-Semitic things. It could make for some uncomfortable Passover Seder conversation in years to come, don’t you think?

Earlier this month, I posted Trump Implicitly Condones Anti-Semitism and Trump Implicitly Condones Anti-Semitism (redux): The Use of Stereotypes. Sadly, since publishing those posts, the situation has only gotten worse.

My initial post came on the heels of an outpouring of anti-Semitic abuse directed at a reporter who wrote an article about Melania Trump. I wrote about Donald Trump declining an offer to give a message to his “fans” about the anti-Semitism they were spewing in his name. Since then, not only has the situation not gotten better, it has gotten demonstrably worse. For example, when asked, indirectly, about anti-Semitism directed at the reporter who interviewed and wrote about her, Melania Trump didn’t do much to repudiate the anti-Semitism (emphasis added):

“I don’t control my fans,” Melania says, “but I don’t agree with what they’re doing. I understand what you mean, but there are people out there who maybe went too far. She provoked them.”

Now to casual readers, this may seem a fairly innocuous statement, but Jewish readers are most likely very familiar with Melania’s final claim of provocation. You see, Jews have been blamed for causing or provoking anti-Semitism for millennia. Literally. Read any anti-Semitic hate site and you’ll quickly come across charges that Jews bear the blame for anti-Semitism (see, for example, one of the images posted below, asking why Jews have been expelled from countries over the millennia). The best that Melania can say is that she doesn’t “agree” with what her fans are “doing” (you know, like making death threats or posting images of Julia Ioffe as a prisoner at Auschwitz) and that such people “maybe went too far”. Maybe. Or maybe not, I suppose, right? And Donald? He told Megyn Kelly that anti-Semitic and other abuse directed at reporters and others is “in response to something that they did.” In other words, in Trump’s view, anti-Semitism and other verbal abuse is acceptable if it is in response to something he (or his fans) view with disfavor.

Is that the kind of country we want? One in which someone who expresses an opinion contrary to that of a particular demagogue politician becomes the target of vicious hate?

Ah, but that is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of the continued failure by Trump and his inner circle to try to stop the virulent anti-Semitism being spewed in Trump’s name. For example, consider the following:

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Josh Greenman is an opinion editor for the New York Daily News. He posted some graphs of analysis from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center about Trump’s tax policy proposals. In response, an apparent Trump supporter (with an avatar that included a “Make America Great Again” hat and a profile that includes “MAGA” [the acronym for Make America Great Again]) responded simply:

Jew

Greenman replied, asking the Trump supporter not to “hold back” and received this reply:

Your time as the gate keeper is up. Bolshevik propagandists like yourself are a blight on America. Move to Israel.

In other words, for the horrible act of posting an tax policy analyst’s results of an examination of the tax policy articulated by a major party candidate for President, a reporter was labeled “Jew” (and clearly that was meant as an epithet) and communist and targeted with the classic anti-Semitic canards of undue influence and control, causing harm to the country in which he resides, and dual loyalty with Israel. One reporter. One tweet. And not even his own tax analysis. Just retweeting what a respected tax analyst published. What might have happened if Greenman said something really critical about a Trump policy? What might happen if a reporter like Greenman were to publish something critical of a President Trump? Kind of chilling to think about, no?

Then we come to perhaps the most extreme incident (at least of the last few weeks). On May 18, 2016, The Washington Post printed a column by Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Post entitled “This is how fascism comes to America”. The column, and Kagan’s warnings and conclusions, make for interesting reading. The column concludes (internal link omitted):

This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.

Jonathan Weisman, a deputy Washington editor for The New York Times tweeted a link to Kagan’s column, including a sentence from that conclusion. The flood of hate was not long in coming. It began with a Twitter user who, like the person described above who interacted with Josh Greenman, also has an avatar with a “Make America Great Again” hat and a nearly identical profile (which is common among a certain class of Trump supporters) who simply tweeted to Weisman:

Hello (( Weisman ))

Weisman apparently didn’t recognize that the use of multiple parenthesis around a name or term is a popular meme within the anti-Semitic and white supremacist movement to denote a Jew or a supposedly Jewish-controlled business or institution. So Weisman took the bait:

Care to explain?

So the Trump supporter did just that:

What ho, the vaunted ashkenazi intelligence, hahaha! It's a dog whistle, fool. Belling the cat for my fellow goyim.

(I had to look it up, but apparently “belling the cat” as used here describes the “collective action problem” or “the situation in which multiple individuals would all benefit from a certain action, but has an associated cost making it implausible that any individual can or will undertake and solve it alone. The ideal solution is then to undertake this as a collective action, the cost of which is shared.”)

Weisman then spent the next eight hours or so retweeting some of the anti-Semitic hate directed his way from a number of different people. Here are just a few of the tweets and images Weisman highlighted with his retweets (see The Washington Post and Haaretz for additional details):

  • all kike-americans that would put Israhell first should be dropped from a helicopter over Tel Aviv
  • Poor @jonathanweisman is 4 open borders, sexual degeneracy, and turning the US into 3rd world shithole. Elite Jews went 2 far and have 2 go.
  • Real conservatives principles demand ovening the jews.
  • Savagery is their nature; being from Central Asia they were selected for sociopathic cutthroatedness.
  • I’m not anti-Semitic. I love Semitic groups like SSNP and Hezbollah that kill filthy Jews
  • in fact, Jews are the biggest murderers of Levantines, so it’s pro-Semitic to hate them.
  • Roughly 85% of #Jews consistently vote as #progressives, hence aren’t fit to be American citizens.
  • after the Mexicans and Muslims you filth are next.
  • you must be very thirsty without your daily feeding of blood.
  • Parasites don't know any better. Its just in their nature. You have to get rid of them to survive.
  • You’ve been indoctrinating Jews and goyim with guilt and milking the “Holocaust” for 7 decades.
  • Jews have foisted debt, immigration, & war upon us for 100 years. The pendulum has begun to swing back, and it is glorious.
  • Yeah I don’t mind that a bunch of pornographers, moneychangers and 5th columnists got what they had coming.

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The following exchange sort of neatly summarizes how the exchanges went. At one point, Weisman tweeted about the outpouring of anti-Semitism flooding his Twitter feed:

Generations of American Jews did not believe this still existed til now.

That tweet was in response to one that said:

FAR better to welcome #Facism here than to continue along the #JEW created #Marxism road

And the response to Weisman’s tweet about the continued existence of anti-Semitism:

get used to it you fucking kike. You people will be made to pay for the violence and fraud you’ve committed against us.

So now that the expression of virulent and repulsive anti-Semitism from Trump supporters is being talked about on Twitter and, more importantly, in periodicals like The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Review, The Atlantic, Haaretz, and others, you’d expect some kind of response from Trump, his campaign, and/or his more mainstream supporters. Yet Trump has said … nothing. Still. Given how rapidly Trump usually responds (especially on Twitter) to stories that he disagrees with or which anger him, it seems almost impossible that he isn’t aware of either the discussion of anti-Semitism among his “fans” or the criticism of him for failing to repudiate that anti-Semitism. Don’t forget that Wolf Blitzer gave Trump a chance to say something. And yet … silence.

And it is a dangerous silence because Trump’s anti-Semitic “fans” take that silence as acceptance of or even incitement for more of that behavior. And query whether, sometime soon, that silence will become a matter of incitement for … something worse. Query what happens if Trump is elected and has the power of the government at his disposal.

It seems that almost every day I come across more examples of anti-Semitism from Trump supporters, often aimed at members of the media (who, you’ll recall, Trump regularly lambasts as “dishonest” or worse). For example, Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted about an email that he received telling him that if Trump is elected, Goldberg will be “sent to a camp”. ThinkProgress reported on a number of its reporters who received anti-Semitic comments from Trump supporters:

Kira Lerner and Alice Ollstein — both political reporters and both Jewish — say they have encountered anti-Semitic remarks online while covering Trump.

“I immediately blocked them,” Ollstein said. She pointed out that the attacks were unique to this election season, noting, “I’ve been reporting in Washington, DC for six years, and this is the only time it’s ever happened to me — either in person or online.”

The same is true for Bryce Covert, ThinkProgress’ economics editor. Covert says she received a deluge of anti-Semitic tweets in May after she published an op-ed in the New York Times decrying Trump’s policy agenda as disproportionately benefiting white men. The tweets personally attacked her for being Jewish and referenced her family — even though she never mentioned her Jewish heritage (she’s half-Jewish) in the story.

“The Trump supporters had to really dig deep to figure out that I’m Jewish,” Covert said. “They unearthed this tweet of mine from months ago referencing my Jewish grandma.”

“I haven’t gotten any anti-semitism in my mentions for writing about any other candidate,” she added.

ThinkProgress made this further observation:

The connection between Trump and internet-based anti-Semitism has gotten so bad that The Donald’s name and image is now brandished as an excuse to unleash insults whether or not he is being discussed. In mid-May, a Twitter account sporting an image of Trump attacked a Jewish reporter at the Charleston Post and Courier for commenting on shifting opinions regarding the Confederate flag, tweeting, “I guess daddy didn't love her enough to get her a nosejob for her Bar Mitzvah.” The account’s bio notes that liberals should be sent “straight to the ovens.”

Jake Tapper, John Podhoretz, Noah Rothman, Dana Milbank, and others have all reported increased anti-Semitism directed their way, apparently from Trump supporters.

And before you tell yourself that this vitriolic hate is directed only at the “liberal media” consider the experiences of Ben Shapiro (I can’t believe I’m quoting him here…), one of the more notorious “journalists” on the right (he is a former editor of Breitbart), published in National Review:

I was wrong.

I’ve spent most of my career arguing that anti-Semitism in the United States is almost entirely a product of the political Left. I’ve traveled across the country from Iowa to Texas; I’ve rarely seen an iota of true anti-Semitism. I’ve sensed far more anti-Jewish animus from leftist college students at the University of California, Los Angeles, than from churches in Valencia. As an observer of President Obama’s thoroughgoing anti-Israel administration, I could easily link the anti-Semitism of the Left to its disdain for both Biblical morality and Israeli success over its primary Islamist adversaries. The anti-Semitism I’d heard about from my grandparents — the country-club anti-Semitism, the alleged white-supremacist leanings of rednecks from the backwoods — was a figment of the imagination, I figured.

I figured wrong.

Donald Trump’s nomination has drawn anti-Semites from the woodwork.

I’ve experienced more pure, unadulterated anti-Semitism since coming out against Trump’s candidacy than at any other time in my political career. Trump supporters have threatened me and other Jews who hold my viewpoint. They’ve blown up my e-mail inbox with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. They greeted the birth of my second child by calling for me, my wife, and two children to be thrown into a gas chamber.

Yes, seriously.

This isn’t a majority of Trump supporters, obviously. It’s not even a large minority. But there is a significant core of Trump support that not only traffics in anti-Semitism but celebrates it — and god-worships Trump as the leader of an anti-Jewish movement.

Shapiro continues on before concluding:

Now, this doesn’t mean that Trump is an anti-Semite. No politician is responsible for all those who follow him.

But politicians become responsible for movements when they pat those movements on the head. Trump has done that repeatedly. When Trump refused to condemn David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan days before the Louisiana primary, then blamed it on his earpiece, that was a signal to his anti-Semitic base. When Trump retweets accounts heavily connected to white supremacism, his anti-Semitic base celebrates. When he appears on national television and refuses to condemn his supporters’ anti-Semitic death threats against a reporter (“I don’t know anything about that … I don’t have a message to the fans”), his anti-Semitic base takes note. When his wife, Melania, states in an interview that that same reporter “provoked” anti-Semitic death threats, Trump’s anti-Semitic base nods.

Trumpism breeds conspiracism; conspiracism breeds anti-Semitism. Trump is happy to channel the support of anti-Semites to his own ends.

The anti-Semitism on the right may slink back beneath its rock when Trump is defeated. Or perhaps it will continue to bubble up, fed by the demagoguery of bad men willing to channel ignorant rage toward their own glorification.

For even more of the anti-Semitism directed at Shapiro from his fellow travelers on the right, please see his post The Anti-Semites Are Out In Force For Trump. It’s sickening.

Or there is this from journalist Bethany Mandel (an Orthodox Jew who writes for The Federalist and The Forward “usually from a conservative perspective”):

As any high-profile Twitter user with a Jewish-sounding last name can tell you, the surest way to see anti-Semitism flood your mentions column is to tweet something negative about Donald Trump. My anti-Trump tweets have been met with such terrifying and profound anti-Semitism that I bought a gun earlier this month. Over the coming weeks, I plan to learn how to shoot it better.

I implore my fellow Jews … no, I implore my fellow Americans: Do not let Donald Trump get anywhere near the White House because to do so would be to legitimize and elevate this vile hate that has taken hold within some of his supporters. Trump may not be Hitler, but it certainly seems that some of his most ardent supporters wish that he was. We cannot elect a fascist who draws support from racists and bigots and refuses to repudiate hate expressed in his name. That way lies danger … for all of us.

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*“Zadie” is Yiddish for grandfather and is a term of endearment used by many Jewish children.

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