We Must Turn The Country Around

I attended a symposium on authoritarianism a week or so ago. Two of the presentations implicitly compared Trump to Adolf Hitler and Hugo Chavez. The parallels are striking. Jay West, retired from teaching Russian history at Middlebury College, spoke about Nazi Germany and the temptations of fascism, something that naturally accompanies Russian history. Charles Shapiro, American ambassador to Venezuela during the Chavez years, spoke about his experience with Chavez.

Hitler, Chavez, and Donald Trump were all elected. Portions of the electorate disapproved of them for one reason or another, but they supported them because they thought they shared common goals and that those elected would be controllable. West and Shapiro gave much longer lists.

Trump has removed the people who might have braked his worst inclinations: the generals and legal staff and cabinet members who have carried out his orders imperfectly in his judgment. He has hollowed out government agencies designed to provide the president with information. He is behaving increasingly erratically; he now opposes his own State Department on Libya. Policy on North Korea and Russia is equally confused. This is the way wars start. Trump has threatened legal action against his enemies. Mitch McConnell is packing the courts with judges who will approve Trump’s agenda. Trump’s rhetoric uses hate and fear to divide the country.

We are in a sequence of events similar to those of the 1930s in Germany or the early 2000s in Venezuela. We must do something that the Germans of the Weimar Republic and the Venezuelans failed to do: stop the progress toward fascism and destruction.

I can’t think of a historical example of a country this far down that road that turned back, but that may be my limitation. Populism had some successes in the United States in the late 19th century, so there may be some examples there. If you’ve got an example, please send it along; we need to look at the historical successes as well as the disasters that rivet our attention.

Today’s situation, while analogous to points along the way to those historical disasters, has significant differences. The courts have struck down a number of Trump’s initiatives, most recently Trump’s reversal of a moratorium from the Obama administration on federal coal leasing. According to the Mueller report, members of the administration have slowed or thwarted actions Trump desired. Voters mobilized sufficiently in November 2018 to turn the House of Representatives Democratic. The system is partly holding.

With the Mueller report, the press seems to be turning from its reflexive “both sides do it” and the overwhelming desire to see Trump become a “normal” president. It’s not clear whether this change in direction will last.

Trump is far from giving up. He has shown extreme persistence in trying to find a way to build a wall along America’s southern border, legal or not. As French Ambassador to the US, Gérard Araud, said

[Trump] once criticized the French president [Emmanuel Macron], and people called me from Paris to say, “What should we do?” My answer was clear: “Nothing.” Do nothing because he will always outbid you. Because he can’t accept appearing to lose. You have restraint on your side, and he has no restraint on his side, so you lose. It is escalation dominance.

Trump and his minions are now touting the Mueller report as a success for them. How far that fiction will go is not clear.

A segment of the population will continue to support Trump no matter what; they will see information unfavorable to him as a test of faith. Another segment has been strongly opposed to him since he began his presidential campaign. A middle segment that supported him may have reservations about his behavior in office that are now reinforced by the Mueller report. Elected Republicans are totally committed to him or have felt that they need to support him to avoid primary challenges.

Most analyses of the possibility of impeachment look at those divisions and commonplace sentiments about how voters are likely to behave. There is no reason to believe that any of that basis is lasting. It is very early for polls, but an Ipsos-Reuters poll shows a decrease in Trump’s support. The Mueller report is wide-ranging over Trump’s malfeasance. It will continue to make news, which is likely to continue to erode his support. Senators Mitt Romney and Susan Collins have expressed concern about Trump’s behavior. Yes, they have expressed concern before in empty ways. Let’s see how this goes.

My point is that a static analysis of impeachment is a mistake. Opinions will change as investigations continue in the House of Representatives. Trump will likely become more incoherent and unhinged in his tweets, which even many of his fans express doubts about. Opinions will change.

We don’t know the direction of that change, of course, but I suspect it would be largely against Trump. It’s possible there would be a reaction in his favor, although that seems unlikely as more of his malfeasance is revealed. There will be little change if things continue as they are. But if we are to stop the descent into fascism, we must change direction.

 








Our Long National Nightmare is Over! Now Go Outside and Play!

Also, Jared Kushner can’t text with Muhamed bin Salman in violation of the National Records Act until this service outage ends.

Open thread.








Hey @aravosis! Check This Out!

Earlier today John Aravosis decided to rightly tear the bark off of Waleed Shahid:

Since I don’t tweet, I thought I’d link to and reprise some of my takedown of Shaheed’s attempt to misrepresent Senator Feinstein’s actions back in February, which was fresh on the heels of his attempt to do the same thing to Senator Harris. In both cases he barbered video footage until he got the out of context material he wanted and then weaponized it on Twitter. And I’d appreciate it if those of you who do tweet would tweet this at Aravosis.

Anyhow, as I wrote back in February:

Earlier today Waleed Shahid, fresh off of getting dragged for posting barbered and highly edited clips of Senator Harris from her town hall on his twitter feed several weeks ago, decided it was time to set his sights on the senior senator from California. As I suspected in the comments to an earlier post, Shahid had once again posted heavily edited videos on his twitter feed to go after someone that doesn’t measure up to his purity fanaticism. Fortunately, just like the last time, someone came along to set the record straight.

Shahid was once again full of shit, imagine that!!!!

Unfortunately, for all too many, Shahid’s lies will have already been taken as the gospel truth. It is bad enough that Democratic candidates and Democratic officeholders, as well as the organizations and individuals who support them, are going to be subjected to influence operations from the Russians, as well as a host of other state and non-state actors as we move into the 2020 elections, they shouldn’t have to also worry about being targeted by ideological fanatics like Shahid.

And as for the Justice Democrats, apparently they are running a protection scam where they require the candidates they endorse to send them funds rather than raise funds and send them to the candidates they’re endorsing! 

These fanatics aren’t interested in making things better, they are interested in promoting themselves, fleecing their donors, and ultimately tearing down the people that have the only real chance of ending the current President’s reelection chances and then beginning the long, hard, slow, and frustrating work of fixing all of the messes that the President, his administration, and his Republican Party and conservative movement enablers have created. I’m all for opening up the debate and pulling the center back somewhere closer to where it should be from where the Republicans and the conservative movement have pulled it for over the past 40 years. Waleed Shahid, the Justice Democrats, his fellow travelers, and their attempt to create an ideological inflexible Tea Party and Breitbart of the left is not the solution to any of these problems.

As I’ve been writing here for almost three years, we were attacked and are still being attacked by a hostile foreign power! We are at war! But rather than everyone that isn’t supporting the domestic beneficiaries of the ongoing attacks – the President, the Republican Party, and the conservative movement that supports them –  pulling together to fix our problems, Shahid and his fellow travelers would rather do the enemy’s work for them and pull us apart. With “friends” like these, Democrats, liberals, progressives, the center left to left of center Americans don’t actually need enemies.

Many more tweets and links exposing Shaheed’s and the Justice Democrats’ scam at the original post.

Open thread!

 








The Assassination of Congresswoman Omar Has Already Been Planned, Many Times Over, and One of The White Christian Men Who Have Planned Her Assassination Will Carry It Out

I wish that headline was hyperbole, but it isn’t. And I wish I didn’t have to write it, but somebody does. And I want to make it clear that it is unacceptable that there are several men, all of them white, who self describe themselves as “patriots” and good “Christians”, and unfortunately, probably a few who self describe as “good Jews”, who are right now thinking about assassinating Congresswoman Omar, including how they would personally go about doing it. Unfortunately the simple truth is that in the United States, in 2019, this is most likely happening. The only good news, if you even want to call it that, is that the vast majority of these political snuff fantasies are just that: snuff fantasies. They will never be attempted. Unfortunately, there will be at least one, if not more than one, of the men who are fantasizing about striking a blow for America, the flag, mom, apple pie, and God in order to cleanse the Republic of the Islamic menace that they believe Congresswoman Omar poses who will actually try. And unlike Patrick Carlineo, the self described “patriot” and lover of the President, they won’t call in a threat first and, because they’re considerate in regard to the busy lives of the US Capitol Police Department, give their names to whichever staffer happens to answer the phone.

Congresswoman Omar is a target right now because one of her colleagues, Congressman Dan Crenshaw, decided to retweet a fake imam who both took Congresswoman Omar’s quote out of context in order to amplify and weaponize it against her and other Muslims and who, because he does this type of thing regularly, has become a darling of hard right politicians who would normally not give him the time of day.

Mohamed Tawhidi never completed his clerical training, he isn’t even a Hujat al Islam, which is the lowest rank of cleric within Twelver Shi’ism, but he does have a really big turban* He is, however, a self righteous fraud used by non-Muslim politicians to beat up on Muslims. Basically, Mohamed Tawhidi is the Candace Owens of Stephen Millers. (emphasis below is mine)

In the space of just 12 months, a man called Mohammad Tawhidi has come out of nowhere to become one of the most prominent Muslim voices in the Australian media.

Imam Tawhidi claims to be a Muslim leader — and a brave Muslim reformer.

Through his appearances in the mainstream media, Imam Tawhidi has warned that Australia is being “infested by extremist Muslims”.

“When I am worried about what I see is happening from my community and religion, trust me that there is something going on,” he told the Seven Network’s Today Tonight program on February 27, 2017.

On social media, his supporters, some from right wing groups, support his calls to shut down Muslim schools and ban Muslims from the Middle East coming to Australia.

But strangely for a Muslim leader, he has very few supporters in the Muslim community.

He has no mosque, and only a handful of followers. And just as curiously, he only appeared in the media for the first time just over a year ago.

So who was he before he became a media star?

This is what Imam Tawhidi claims about his educational qualifications:

“I travelled to Iran, to the holy city of Qom, in 2007, and I engaged in my Islamic studies from there. I received my bachelor’s degree and my master’s degree in Islamic theology from the Al-Mustafa University.”

– Mohammad Tawhidi, 2GB, May 25, 2017

But Al-Mustafa International University in Iran says Imam Tawhidi has no bachelor’s degree from their university, let alone a master’s.

He started at the university, but dropped out.

In a letter, Al-Mustafa International University said:

“In spite of given warnings and notifications, the above-named person did not take heed of them each time and had not satisfactory academic record in his courses … he was placed on probation and [dropped] out on March 27, 2012 … the aforesaid person has no educational degree (or any given score) in his profile … Al-Mustafa University does not recommend Mohammad Touhidi for lecturing in any way. Accordingly, he has no competency to do religious activities or to preach sermons.”

His own teacher seems to contradict his teachings

Imam Tawhidi says he is a moderate Muslim reformer — but his very recent past shows he has connections to a religious leader who is anything but moderate.

After Imam Tawhidi dropped out of university, he fell in with a fringe seminary school in Iran, run by a controversial religious family known as the Shirazis.

Imam Tawhidi studied under its senior cleric, the Grand Ayatollah Sayid Sadiq Husseini Shirazi, and later went to work in one of the Shirazi-run TV stations in Iraq.

In February 2016, when Imam Tawhidi set up his Islamic Association of South Australia in Adelaide, Ayatollah Shirazi put out a press release in Iran claiming a connection with Imam Tawhidi and this new Australian-based organisation.

However, the beliefs of Ayatollah Shirazi are not at all aligned with the moderate brand of Islam that Imam Tawhidi calls for when he appears on Australian television.

For example, central to Ayatollah Shirazi’s teachings is the insistence on an Islamic system of government, not a secular democracy.

Ayatollah Shirazi also teaches that women should be covered head to toe, and are not suited to holding positions in government, and that it is permissible for a girl to marry from the age of nine.

There is much more exposing the fraud that is Mohamed Tawhidi at the link. Unfortunately, all Congressman Crenshaw saw was someone claiming to be a Muslim cleric bashing Congresswoman Omar for saying something she didn’t say, which gave him both an excuse and a rhetorical weapon to go after Congresswoman Omar to score political points. This was, unfortunately, all Congressman Crenshaw was actually interested in.

So what did Congresswoman Omar actually say? Not the barbered clip taken out of context, but the actual remarks? I’m glad you asked. Here are the full set of the remarks before the barbered clip put out by Tawhidi and then amplified by Congressman Crenshaw. This portion of her remarks begin around the 12 minute mark of her speech and immediately follow Congresswoman Omar discussing how Muslims, in regard to fully claiming their civil liberties, can liberate themselves.

Muslims for a really long time in this country have been told that there is a privilege. That there is a privilege in that we are given and it might be taken away. We are told that we should be appropriate. We should go to school, get an education, raise our children, and not bother anyone. Not make any kind of noise. Don’t make anyone uncomfortable. Be a good Muslim. But no matter how much we have tried to be the best neighbor people have always worked on finding a way to not allow for every single civil liberty to be extended to us.

(Aside to someone in the audience: you can clap for that…)

So the truth is you can go to school and be a good student. You can listen to your dad and mom and become a doctor. You can have that beautiful wedding that makes mom and dad happy. You can buy that beautiful house. But none of that stuff matters if you one day show up to the hospital and your wife, or maybe yourself, is having a baby, and you can’t have the access that you need because someone doesn’t recognize you as fully human.

It doesn’t matter how good you were if you can’t have your prayer mat and take your 15-minute break to go pray in a country that was founded on religious liberty. It doesn’t matter how good you are if you one day find yourself in a school where other religions are talked about, but when Islam is mentioned, we are only talking about terrorists. And if you say something, you are sent to the principal’s office. So to me, I say, raise hell; make people uncomfortable.

Because here’s the truth — here’s the truth: Far too long, we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen, and frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties. So you can’t just say that today someone is looking at me strange, that I am going to try to make myself look pleasant. You have to say, “This person is looking at me strange. I am not comfortable with it. I am going to go talk to them and ask them why.” Because that is a right you have.

And here’s the video so you can watch the entire speech and draw your own conclusions:

It is well documented that Muslim Americans, as well as those mistakenly identified as Muslims in America, such as Sikhs and non Muslim Arab Americans and non Muslim Americans whose families originated on the sub-continent/southeast Asia and from parts of sub-Saharan Africa, faced serious threats to and violations of their civil rights and liberties from all levels of government and law enforcement after 9-11. The NY Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights actually conducted an investigation into these issues. Among their conclusions were (emphasis mine):

1. In the aftermath of 9/11, it was important that law enforcement authorities at all levels of government take steps to respond to the threat of terrorism. However, some actions have adversely affected the civil rights of immigrants and nonimmigrants, particularly members of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities. Policies of particular concern are the federal government’s expanded authority to detain nonimmigrants without charge, to hold detainees with no possibility for release on bond, and, when final deportation orders have been issued, to subject detainees to prolonged confinement. Other policies of concern are the federal government’s Call-In Special Registration program and sharing of national databases on immigration status with state and local police.

2. There are parallels between the racial profiling of Japanese Americans during World War II, pre-9/11 profiling of African Americans and Hispanic Americans, and post-9/11 profiling of Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians. Racial profiling has been statistically proven by government studies, including the New York State Attorney General’s 1999 study of stop-and-frisk practices, to be an ineffective law enforcement tool for identifying criminal conduct. Much racial profiling of African Americans and Latinos continues unnoticed in the post-9/11 law enforcement environment. Beyond law enforcement acts of racial profiling related to drug prevention and street crime, racial profiling has taken on new dimensions targeting Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians regarding business license violations, financial transactions abroad, and international travel at airports.

3. There is a perception that local law enforcement authorities did not take seriously the complaints of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian residents who were subjected to hate crimes in acts of misplaced retaliation for the events of September 11. This has been an issue in the taxi industry, where many drivers are South Asian in origin. In the immediate months following 9/11, South Asian taxi drivers found themselves particularly vulnerable to attacks and in need of police protection.

4. The federal Call-In Special Registration program requiring male nationals 16 years and older from predominantly Muslim countries to register is seen by some as a form of racial profiling, targeting Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians. The program ceased after nationals from predominantly Muslim countries had registered.

5. In New York City, implementation of the Call-In Special Registration program was marked by a lack of community education on the program’s requirements, excessive processing times lasting 14 hours or more, lack of sufficiently trained interviewers and translators, and inconsistent application of policies.

6. Persons required to undergo special registration in New York City were deprived of the right to counsel while interrogated by the investigations unit of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service), when they were most vulnerable. If registrants were placed in detention, families were not informed of their whereabouts.

In sum, the law enforcement policies and practices described above pose a threat to civil rights and civil liberties, especially within New York’s Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities. These programs may be counterproductive. They fuel distrust of law enforcement authorities among many members of affected communities, hinder local reporting of crimes, and diminish the cooperation between local police and community members necessary to identify and thwart future terrorists.

The entire report is at this link.

Unfortunately Congressman Crenshaw’s political and rhetorical attack was picked up and transmitted by Brian Kilmeade, the left boob of Fox News’ morning show A Blonde with Two Boobs on a Sofa, which is also doing business as the President’s Daily Briefing. And that’s how it got to the President who then decided to take the gasoline pump, turn it on, pump gasoline all over, light a match, and throw it in. Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post decided that wasn’t a visible enough conflagration, so they threw a crate of fire crackers onto the pyre.

All of this, from the fake imam who conservatives and extremists on the right love to quote to Congressman Crenshaw doing exactly what you’d expect him to do in amplifying and weaponizing Tawhidi’s rhetorical hit job to the President finding a way of making it all about him because he cannot stand it if anyone else is getting any coverage to Rupert Murdoch’s minions making it worse, the die has been cast. Right now, somewhere in the United States, at least one white man who most likely describes himself as both a “patriot” and a “good Christian”, but possibly a “good Jew”, is planning to assassinate Congresswoman Omar in order to save the Republic from her. And at least one of these white men will be smart about what they are doing. They will hold their planning close. They will not make a threatening phone call and leave their real names with a staffer. They won’t tweet that they’re going to shoot her or cut her throat or whatever other snuff fantasy gets them off. They will, instead, quietly plan all while stewing in their own juices until their own internal pressure has built to the point where they decide to take action. And that day, which will, unfortunately, eventually come, will be a very, very, very bad day for America.

Finally, this is the creed of the Navy Seal. The creed that Congressman Crenshaw adopted professional fealty too as a Navy Special Warfare Officer. It might be a good idea for Congressman Crenshaw to reread the creed and take it to heart. (emphasis mine)

SEAL Ethos/Creed

In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life. I am that man.

My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes that have gone before, it embodies the trust of those I have sworn to protect. By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day.

My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own.

I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men. Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.

We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.

I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.

We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me – my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete.

We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required yet guided by the very principles that I serve to defend.

Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed. I will not fail.

Congressman Crenshaw: you have failed!

Open thread.

*  Having a really big turban is a common insult within the Twelver Shi’a community regarding clerics who have an overinflated sense of themselves and their authority. Drawings of Twelver Shi’a clerics with enormous turbans are often used in political cartoons lampooning them and their pronouncements.

 



Breaking: Suspect in Custody For Burning Down Three African American Churches in Louisiana

Glad they got him, but the description of the suspect in custody does not surprise me in the least.

From The Daily Beast (emphasis mine):

A 21-year-old named Holden Matthews has been arrested in connection with fires that destroyed three Louisiana churches in the span of two weeks, local news outlet KATC reports.

Throughout the end of March and in early April, three churches in rural St. Landry Parish were burned down. Matthews is reportedly the son of a St. Landry Parish Deputy, and he was booked into St. Landry Parish jail at about 5:30 this evening. Holden’s family declined to comment to The Daily Beast.

On a Facebook page that appears to belong to Matthews, he was active in black metal and pagan pages. Although both scenes are predominately apolitical, both have large neo-Nazi fanbases. Matthews commented on two memes about Varg Vikernes, a far-right (and self-described former neo-Nazi) metal musician who served 15 years in prison for burning churches in Norway and killing a fellow metal musician.

Matthews commented on two memes about Vikernes. Neither comment was particularly revealing, but they indicated his familiarity with the fringe figure. The pagan circles Matthews and Vikernes frequented can be popular with neo-Nazis. Matthews frequently posted about pagan beliefs, and recently uploaded a picture of a gun and a knife with the caption “I carry this…..maybe not legally but I only truly follow the law of Odin….. which says as you said,arm yourself…… Odins advice> modern law.” Odin is a pagan Norse god.

One of the pagan pages Matthews was active on specifically forbade racism and “nazi stuff.” Matthews also appeared aware of the religion’s white supremacist associations. In one post, a group member noted that a drawing of a pagan figure had a swastika-like design on his belt. “well yea the belt gives him extra strength and power…..white power lmao jk jk I had to,” Matthews wrote.”

From KATC Channel 3 (video and picture of Matthews at the link):

The Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, in collaboration with the ATF, FBI, Louisiana State Police, Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office and several other local agencies have been investigating suspicious fires at three churches in St. Landry Parish.

US Attorney David Joseph released the following statement on the burnings.

“A suspect has been identified in connection with the three church burnings in Opelousas, Louisiana, and is in state custody.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office, ATF, and FBI are working with state and local law enforcement and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the victims and those St. Landry Parish residents affected by these despicable acts.  A special thanks to St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz, Louisiana State Fire Marshal, H. “Butch” Browning Jr., Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s Cybercrime Unit, the Louisiana State Police, and the Florida State Fire Marshal for working seamlessly with federal law enforcement agents in this investigation.”

The first fire occurred on March 26 at St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre. The second occurred at Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas on April 2. The third occurred on April 4 at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas.

I’m sure Candace Owens will be along any time now to explain that these African American churches didn’t burn down and this isn’t domestic terrorism and/or a hate crime and/or the result of white supremacy, because white supremacy is a hoax. She wouldn’t lie to us, would she?

Also, obligatory:

Open thread!