Sunday, December 4, 2016

Backlash to Donald Trump's Twitter Messages

A Woman Just Stood Up To Trump’s Latest Outburst On Twitter – And America Is Cheering Her On

Donald Trump didn’t like Saturday Night Live last night very much.

During the show he tweeted out the following response, saying that the show was completely “unwatchable” and “not funny.”

When, in fact, it was actually very funny – and got a lot of fanfare for making fun of Donald Trump’s tweets, no less! Pretty ironic that he angrily tweeted about a show making fun of his tweets!

Well – with that said – one woman by the name of Danielle Muscato ended up going off on Donald Trump in his twitter feed in response to this latest outburst of his.

It was such a glorious beat down – that we had to write about it and share with you.

Her message was instantly received by thousands and rose to the top of the Twitter feed for all to see. No doubt, by the time this article is received – hundreds of thousands of people will be receiving her message – and they should. It’s worth every bit of your time to read.

Danielle Muscato just said what half of America has been thinking for months now.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Trump Is the New Reagan

That's right, Trump is another Ronald Reagan, someone whose aura of greatness has nothing to do with political leadership or statesmanship, but whose reputation and image is bigger than life. Television is the new "motion pictures" (that's the old term for movies) and his carefully crafted public persona has the pliability of an actor. Take it from there.

Combing through some old links I came across something Juan Cole wrote when Gerald Ford died ten years ago at the age of 93. Remembering back to the turmoil of the Nixon years -- followed, of course by Ford and Carter who faced the challenges and aftermath of that tawdry mess -- it seems in retrospect that they were little more than deck hands, mopping up the mess between two larger-than-life egotists whose appeals had more to do with vision than content. Their visions were great, but they were surrounded by subordinates who resorted to, shall we say, less than good principles.

Read this and let your imagination compare Reagan (and to some degree Nixon) with Donald Trump. The sad part is that if my analogy holds, Obama's two terms become "mopping up" intervals between world-class messes. 
All presidents make errors, and some abuses occurred on Ford’s watch, though they often were initiated by Kissinger. But Ford faced with no illusions the challenges of his era, of detente with the Soviet Union, continued attempts to cultivate China, the collapse of Indochina, the fall-out of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, and the beginnings of the Lebanese Civil War. Ford was right about detente, right about China, right about Arab-Israeli peace, right about avoiding a big entanglement in Angola, right to worry about nuclear proliferation (one of his worries was the increasing evidence that the Middle East had a nuclear power, Israel, and India was moving in that direction). 
Ford’s challengers on the Reagan Right were wrong about everything. They vastly over-estimated the military and economic strength of the Soviet Union (yes, that’s Paul Wolfowitz). They wanted confrontation with China. They dismissed the Arab world as Soviet occupied territory (even though the vast majority of Arab states was US allies at that time) and urged that it be punished till it accepted Israel’s territorial gains in 1967. They insisted that the Vietnam War could have been won. 
But despite its illusions and Orwellian falsehoods, the Reagan Right prevailed. Ford only momentarily lost to Carter. Both of them were to lose to Reagan, who resorted to Cold War brinkmanship, private militias, death squads, offshore accounts, unconstitutional criminality, and under the table deals with Khomeini, and who created a transition out of the Cold War that left the private militias (one of them al-Qaeda) empowered to wreak destruction in the aftermath. The blowback from that Reaganesque era of private armies of the Right helped push the US after 2001 toward an incipient fascism at which Ford, the All-American, the lawyerly gentleman, the great Wolverine, must have wept daily in his twilight years.

In the larger than life images of Nixon and Reagan it's easy to overlook the truly decent accomplishments of Ford and Carter. The sad and foolish current conventional wisdom is that Jimmy Carter was one of our worst presidents but that notion says more about "conventional wisdom" than about Jimmy Carter. Need I mention that conventional wisdom just allowed Donald Trump to be president? That stupidity speaks for itself. 

And Barack Obama, whose intelligence and deportment are unmatched in our lifetime, now steps out of the spotlight as another president who is more form than substance, a bigger than life persona with a gift for self-aggrandizement, takes his place in the Oval Office. 

So ends the era of self-deprecating wit in the presidency. It was a privilege to have been alive to enjoy it. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Newt Notes + One More

Newt Gingrich is once again in the news,
Here from my old blog are three posts and one other link for future reference. 

Newt on Healthcare

John Hawkins interviewed Newt Gingrich.
Transcript is online. [For some reason the link is now dated February 2012, but I copied the following excerpt in 2005. Hmm...]

John Hawkins: ... Health Care in this country is certainly expensive and a lot of people are uncovered. Briefly, what do you think we need to do to fix it?

Newt Gingrich: Well, I’m giving a speech today at the National Press Club on transforming the Medicaid system and I’m going to say that my goal should be for every American to have health insurance coverage. We should start by vouchering Medicaid money so that people who are the healthy poor can go out and buy insurance and be part of the insurance pool. We should then provide tax credits for the working poor and small businesses and then the current tax deductibility for everybody above that.
We should apply the same tax deductibility whether you personally want to buy your own insurance or whether you buy it through a company. Right now as you know the bias is against those who want to buy their own insurance and in favor of those who go to work for somebody else and I think everybody should have the same tax advantage in buying health insurance.
I also think that if you focus on health savings accounts where people have an incentive to save, an incentive to manage their own health, that you can dramatically bring down the cost of health care by giving people engaged in better health behaviors and better health activities. I think in that process that you have the right to know price and quality before you make a decision. Also you get to be an informed purchaser of health just as you are any other part of American life.

John Hawkins: What do you think about the idea that the Wall Street Journal recently brought up [link no longer this reference] about having health care companies from all around the country able to compete for the business of anybody in a single state?

Newt Gingrich: I think we should create a national health care market. You know, all the big companies exist under what’s called a (inaudible) in a national market and I think that you ought to have the same right to buy into that kind of market if you want to. I mean, if you want to stay in your state’s mandated requirements, that’s fine, but that ought to be a choice for you, (instead of being a) captive of your state legislature.

Ziiinng! Right over their heads! And Gingrich has been saying stuff like this for years. I am amazed that he keeps getting away with it. I suppose nobody thinks it has a chance so he can dance as much as he wants in an ivory tower. I can hear it now...Oh, that's just Newt, waxing poetic again.

National health care market...bigger incentives for the working poor...vouchers, already...federal authority over states' rights....If this is conservatism, then color me red!

An Interview With Newt Gingrich
08 Feb, 2012 [??? As noted above, my excerpt above was captured in 2005.]
by John Hawkins

John Hawkins:
You’ve criticized how the Bush administration has explained the war effort to the American people. If you were in the White House instead of George Bush today, what would you be telling the American people about what’s going on in Iraq and the War on terrorism?

Newt Gingrich: …Let me just say that I think it would be helpful for the country if the President were consistently reminding people that we have real enemies, that these enemies are the irreconcilable wing of Islam, that they’ve said publicly and clearly they want to kill us, and that anyone who thinks we should withdraw from Iraq without having won needs to be forced to answer the question, “What do you think Zarqawi would do?” Do you think he’s going to go home and declare victory and be happy the rest of his life or do you think he’s going to go to the next fight and at the next opportunity, kill Americans and try to destroy the Western world? We have to force the debate at the right historic level.

John Hawkins: Let me change gears here a bit. Health Care in this country is certainly expensive and a lot of people are uncovered. Briefly, what do you think we need to do to fix it?

Newt Gingrich: Well, I’m giving a speech today at the National Press Club on transforming the Medicaid system and I’m going to say that my goal should be for every American to have health insurance coverage. We should start by vouchering Medicaid money so that people who are the healthy poor can go out and buy insurance and be part of the insurance pool. We should then provide tax credits for the working poor and small businesses and then the current tax deductibility for everybody above that.

We should apply the same tax deductibility whether you personally want to buy your own insurance or whether you buy it through a company. Right now as you know the bias is against those who want to buy their own insurance and in favor of those who go to work for somebody else and I think everybody should have the same tax advantage in buying health insurance.

I also think that if you focus on health savings accounts where people have an incentive to save, an incentive to manage their own health, that you can dramatically bring down the cost of health care by giving people engaged in better health behaviors and better health activities. I think in that process that you have the right to know price and quality before you make a decision. Also you get to be an informed purchaser of health just as you are any other part of American life.

John Hawkins: What do you think about the idea that the Wall Street Journal recently brought up about having health care companies from all around the country able to compete for the business of anybody in a single state?

Newt Gingrich: I think we should create a national health care market. You know, all the big companies exist under what’s called a (inaudible) in a national market and I think that you ought to have the same right to buy into that kind of market if you want to. I mean, if you want to stay in your state’s mandated requirements, that’s fine, but that ought to be a choice for you, (instead of being a) captive of your state legislature.

John Hawkins: Back in 1994, when you led the GOP takeover of the House, one of the key issues was deficit reduction and the party was very serious about it back then. Today, there seem to be few people in Washington who are serious about fiscal restraint. Why have the Republicans in Washington lost their way on this and what do we need to do to get the country back on track towards fiscal responsibility?

Newt Gingrich: Well, let me say first of all that one of the most important achievements we had with the Contract With America was four consecutive years of a balanced federal budget. We paid off 405 billion dollars in national debt. We did that while cutting taxes, increasing economic growth, reforming Medicare, and reforming welfare. And we for only the second time since the Second World War, the other being 1981 under Ronald Reagan, we actually cut domestic discretionary spending in the Appropriations Committee which was a major achievement.

So, I very much believe in peace time you ought to have a balanced budget. I very much believe that means you’ve got to control spending, you’ve got to set priorities, and that means you have to transform the health system which is 26 percent of all federal spending. The federal government is the largest purchaser of health care in the world.

One of the reasons I founded the Center for Health Transformation is that you cannot possibly fix the health system and balance the federal budget unless you profoundly re-think it and transform it. So I would like to see the government make a commitment to get back to a balanced budget. I think that gives you lower interest rates, it gives you a lower burden on yourself and your children, it allows you to have more economic growth and I think that’s very important.

John Hawkins: There’s a battle going on in the Republican Party between people who are adamantly opposed to rewarding illegal aliens in any way, shape, or form and there are others who want to keep them here for cheap labor. How do you think we should be handling the illegal alien issue?

Newt Gingrich: Well, I think there are a number of absolute historic principles and that this deserves to be discussed among the country at the highest level of seriousness. The first principle is we have to have control of our borders and our coasts for national security reasons.

The Director of Central Intelligence warned publicly in congressional testimony that he fully believes a nuclear weapon could be driven across our border. Now after all the talk about 9/11 and learning the lessons of 9/11, how much clearer a warning could you get than to have the Director of Central Intelligence say publicly he’s worried that the border is so open that you could literally drive a nuclear weapon into the United States. Part One is — get control of the border; that means increasing the border control, it means establishing whatever technological and other systems you need to control the border…

John Hawkins: Newt, real quick, one thing – everybody seems to agree that we need to control the border, you would think. I mean, we hear that every time…

Newt Gingrich:
You don’t see a budget designed to do it, you don’t see a plan designed to do it, you don’t see a public commitment to do it…

John Hawkins: That’s what I was going to ask. Why aren’t we seeing it because theoretically everybody – Democrat, Republican – keeps saying we need to control the border…

Newt Gingrich:
I don’t understand it. I mean, you ought to call the White House press office and ask them. I don’t understand it. It seems to me, as a national security matter, we’re going to spend 9 billion dollars a year on a missile defense; we ought to spend some money on making sure they don’t drive the nuclear weapon in instead of flying it in a rocket.

John Hawkins: I agree 100%.

Newt Gingrich: So, Part Two of that is, I think, to have border control truly work, you have to have what I would call a Blue Card Guest Worker Program where they have to give you an iris scan, a thumb print, agree to obey the law, and sign a contract that says if they break the law, we can remove them from the U.S. in 48 hours.

Then I would say to everybody who’s come illegally in the U.S.: you have to go home to apply for the blue card. It’s not that we’re not going to be willing to give you a blue card, but we’re not going to allow you to start your career in the U.S. breaking the law for two reasons. First of all, it’s really sick for the person who’s broken the law (to gain an advantage) and second, it means that everybody who stayed at home in Guatemala City obeying the law and waiting for a visa was a fool. So I would make everybody go home to apply for a blue card for temporary workers and I would say — both to the businesses and anybody that thinks they’re going to stay as an illegal – once you create an honest, legal, temporary worker program – any business which hires a person who’s not an American citizen and doesn’t have a work permit – I would hammer, first, economically, and second, with criminal penalties.

At the same time I would say to anybody who’s in the U.S. illegally — once we’ve created this program – we’re going to take your iris scan, take your thumb print, kick you out of the U.S. and you will be on a computerized database and we won’t let you back in for a minimum of 10 years. So you really create a carrot and a stick pattern and then the last stage I would have is — I would have very open availability to learn English, special programs in English, something Chris Cox sponsored when he was in the Congress. I would have as a rule that you could apply to become an American citizen but you have to be able to pass a test in American history, in English, in order to become a citizen because I do think we want to say to people, “We’re very interested in having citizens who decide they want to become American, but we are not confused about the identity of being American.”

John Hawkins: You think the Supreme Court is misinterpreting the 1st Amendment with regard to religion?

Newt Gingrich: Totally. The Supreme Court study in 1963 with the school prayer decision has been imposing a cultural pattern which has nothing to do with the United States. The U.S. was founded by a group of political leaders who signed a document which says, “We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.” That means that all of your political rights come from God and you then loan some of your power to the State which is why the Constitution begins, “We, the People of the United States.”

Now if that’s the system, how can you possibly drive the source of our political liberty out of public life? I think this is a very, very profound mistake and I’ve said so quite publicly. In my book, Winning the Future, and also at my website, we have a walking tour to God in the national capital. I urge anybody who comes to Washington to get this and you can download it for free from my site. If you get really generous, you can buy the book.

The purpose of it is to start you at the National Archive with the Declaration of Independence, take you through the Washington Monument, on to the Jefferson Memorial – where you have 4 quotes referring to God – then taking you past the Lincoln Memorial where you have, “In God We Trust,” as part of the Gettysburg Address. You have in the Second Inaugural which is engraved on the memorial – in 732 words, you have 14 references to God and 2 quotes from the Bible and we walk you through this all the way up through Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Second World War memorial. When you get done with this walking tour you can’t conclude anything except that the Supreme Court is just wrong.

John Hawkins: Do you think we need a Constitutional Amendment to protect marriage?

Newt Gingrich:
Well, I think that the question is whether or not the Congress could pass a law which protected marriage or whether because of states’ rights Congress does not have the ability to then enforce that without a Constitutional Amendment. I certainly think that we have every right to defend traditional marriage…whether it’s by passing a law or a constitutional amendment. Given what the judges in Massachusetts did, they in effect single handedly by judicial fiat began to change what had been several thousand years of tradition and history. I think it’s a profound mistake for judges to engage in social engineering.

John Hawkins: Do you think DOMA would pass Constitutional muster and that’s even setting aside judges making gay marriage legal in states over the…

Newt Gingrich: I’m told that it might not. I’m not a lawyer so I would defer to sound conservative constitutional scholars on this. I favor something like DOMA if it can be done at the statute level, but if it is literally impossible to enforce except by amendment, then I would favor an amendment. John Hawkins: Let me ask you two quick questions: #1) John Roberts — you think he was a good selection? #2) Terri Schiavo: You think Bush and the Congress handled that the right way?

Newt Gingrich: Those are great questions. Let me say, first of all, that Chris DeMuth, the president of the American Enterprise Institute is one of the people I lean on for legal advice because he’s a great lawyer and a great scholar and he believes that John Roberts is one of the two best appeals court judges that were available to be on the Supreme Court and he thinks that on balance conservatives are going to be very, very confident that this was a good pick. So I rely on his judgment. He knows Roberts, he’s studied his work, and he believes that we’re going to be very pleased and I would take Chris’ judgment because I’m not an expert in that area.

The challenge with the Schiavo case wasn’t what they did; it was how they did it. If we had a 6 or 8 week build-up and the country had understood that if you’re a convicted murderer, you get to appeal from the state court to make sure that your rights as an American have been protected — and all that they were trying to do was insure that families in conflict situations on behalf of an innocent person would have the same right to have a review of their situation that a convicted murderer has — I think the country would have shrugged and said, “Well, that makes sense,” and not worried about it.

The way it happened was so startling, it looked like such an over-reaction on behalf of one case, that I think people thought they had lost their sense of perspective. So I think the way they did it was actually more controversial than what they were doing, if, in fact, they had explained what they were doing.

John Hawkins: So basically it was a good idea, but they just didn’t explain…..

Newt Gingrich: I mean, if you’re asking me – in situations where there’s a conflict, over the life of a human being and where the state is, in effect, being asked to eliminate that person’s chances of living, should it be possible to have judicial review beyond a local judge who may or may not be prejudiced, it seems to me that’s pretty self-evident. Because you’re talking about a very peculiar set of circumstances and in situations where the whole family agrees this would never come up, but here you had an allegation by the parents that the husband was systematically trying to block her recovery by putting her at risk. Does that make sense?

John Hawkins:

Newt Gingrich:
You need to recognize that we’re now entering a time of medical knowledge where the state in the form of the law is in effect making life and death decisions and having a bias in favor of life and in favor of caution strikes me as very reasonable because you know historically that there have been cases where people have manipulated the thing to kill somebody for insurance or to kill somebody for property. I think you have to establish a balance there.

John Hawkins: In your opinion, the 1994 Revolution you lead there in the House with the GOP, you know, we had huge wins that went very well — if you had to boil the success we had in 1994 down to its most crucial elements, what would they be? Why were we able to do that in 1994?

Newt Gingrich: Well, we had spent 16 years laying the ground work through GOPAC and through the congressional campaign committee and through hard work on the House floor so we had a very wide number of people who knew what we were trying to do. We had a country which was very unhappy with the way the Democrats were running Washington and we had a set of ideas which Ronald Reagan had popularized but not succeeded in passing.

So we could stand on Reagan’s shoulders, outline things like welfare reform, tax cuts, balanced budget, do so in a way that people could nod, “Yes,” and say, “That’s the right general direction,” and have enough candidates running with enough resources simultaneously to pull off what turned out to be the largest one-party increase in voting in the off-year in American history. We got 9 million additional votes, the Democrats dropped by a million, it was literally the biggest swing in an off-year in American history.

John Hawkins: So, in your opinion, it was just…

Newt Gingrich:
You had to have a positive message that the American people instinctively believed in as well as having the other team fail badly enough that people were eager for something. It’s a combination of the two of them and what I see with the Democrats is, you know, they know how to be anti-Bush and they know how to be anti-Republican, but I don’t sense that they have any substantial positive message yet, partly because they haven’t found (their) Ronald Reagan.

John Hawkins:
Just to get an idea of your priorities, let’s say you could get any three pieces of legislation you wanted passed – any three. Give us a quick run-down of what they’d be.

Newt Gingrich: That’s a very good question. I think there would be a 
  • comprehensive border control and immigration policy. There would be 
  • a position limiting the court’s ability to drive God out of the American public life and there would be 
  • a very dramatic overhaul of math and science education so that we could compete with China and India.  [format added]
Those would probably be my first three, but that’s a great question. Nobody’s asked me that and there are 5 or 6 other ideas floating around in the back of my head, clamoring for attention. …If you go to, you can see the beginning of a real outline of a legislative agenda that we think would make a huge difference.

John Hawkins: Are there any bloggers that you read at least semi-regularly?

Newt Gingrich: No, I flip around but I don’t read any one blog in particular.

John Hawkins:
Tell us a little bit about your new book, Winning the Future.

Newt Gingrich:
Well, Winning The Future is designed to say: what would a 21st century Contract with America be like. What are the great challenges? I have 2 grandchildren — Maggie who is 6, will be 6 in October, and Robert who is now 4 — and what kind of country are they going to inherit? What do you and I need to do to make sure they inherit a country that is as safe, as free, and as prosperous as the country that our parents and grandparents worked and fought to give us?

So we outline in there what we call the 5 great challenges of our generation and then I outline a series of steps toward solving and meeting those challenges — and it’s really an effort to outline how we might think if we wanted to write a 21st century Contract With America.

John Hawkins:
Is there anything else you’d like to say or promote before we finish?

Newt Gingrich:
No, but I’ve been delighted. This is a very intelligent, very interesting interview. John Hawkins: Well, thank you. I appreciate that.


Gingrich on North Korea

Newt Gingrich is one of my favorite conservatives. I have always thought of him as a progressive worm in a retrograde apple because of his cleverly-worded but well informed comments about a number of issues. He has a vision for the future that is larger than most. Here he shamelessly invokes the name of Ronald Reagan to advance what I would call a divide and conquer approach to North Korea that would pit its people against its leadership. This essentially non-violent approach would push the diplomatic envelope without sacrificing America's public image in the international community.
Our goal in North Korea should be peaceful regime change. Our model for leadership should be Ronald Reagan. 
President Reagan entered office in 1981 with a clear vision of allying with Prime Minister Thatcher of Great Britain and Pope John Paul II to defeat the Soviet Empire. Without firing a shot they worked to strengthen the Solidarity trade union in Poland, to increase the resources available to the Polish people, and to undermine the effectiveness of the Communist dictatorship. Within eleven years of Reagan’s inauguration the Soviet Union disappeared. The Cold War was over. We had won. 
North Korea is a vicious dictatorship in the middle of a famine. Its policies have shrunk the height of the average North Korean by over three inches over the last generation through malnutrition. There are over 200,000 North Koreans imprisoned in concentration camps. It is an evil regime grinding down the lives of its people. 
A Reaganite strategy would funnel every penny of help and every bit of food aid through a system of private activity consciously designed to undermine the dictatorship. A Reaganite strategy would isolate the government while helping the people. It would seek every angle to get humanitarian help to the people. Food might be parachuted into the country, delivered from submarines and small boats by clandestine services, shipped in from China and Russia through anti-regime middlemen and delivered in every way possible to divert energy and authority away from the government and toward an alternative organizing system of individuals dedicated to a better more prosperous life. Just as in Eastern Europe, we would rapidly discover a lot of people willing to subvert the regime for better lives for their families and we would find the regime beginning to splinter and fragment in the face of opportunities for food, goods, and prosperity.  [This is a serious leap of faith, but I like the hopefulness. JB]
And a Reaganite strategy toward North Korea would mean what it says, and say what it means. Last July, the entire civilized world said it would be “unacceptable” for North Korea to fire missiles. In response North Korea chose our Independence Day to fire seven missiles. They tested the “unacceptable”. It turned out to be acceptable. Is it any wonder that North Korea has now tested a nuclear weapon? 
Reagan would have found a variety of steps to make it extremely expensive for the North Koreans to display contempt for the entire civilized world.
For President Reagan “unacceptable” would have meant “unacceptable.”
This is not saber-rattling. This is rattling loose pocket change. The price would be a bargain compared with military alternatives. And compared with the loss of American lives in other places, the cost in human lives could be virtually nothing. And the rewards would be vast in public relations terms.

The years leading up to the invasion of Iraq were marked by one of modern history's harshest "sanctions" applications against Iraq. Sanctions are predecated on the really dumb notion that if the population of a country gets starved enough, deprived of material and economic resources enough, they will rise up with some kind of internal volition and throw off an oppressive regime. This may seem reasonable to well-fed Americans who have lived all their lives in comfort and spoon-fed the lofty ideals of the revolutionary fervor of the Eighteenth Century.

The now-famous "oil for food" program was nothing more than an official vehicle leading to corruption. Plenty of wealth was exchanged, certainly. But precious little in the way of food or medicine reached the people who needed it. Any programs aimed at helping oppressed people must be subversive, not official, to the regime doing the oppression.

The political realities of the modern era are plain. If oppressed peoples were willing and able to stage revolutions, then dictatorships would long ago have been replaced by benign and generous representative governments all over the world. The idea is absurd. No plainer example is necessary that that of North Korea, with its twin evils of a closed society and a despotic personality cult which controls every national resource.

When we furnish food to starving people there is no downside. None.


Feedback to Congress -- My Adventure

Inspired by last night's C-SPAN live broadcast of the Senate Finance Committee I wrote to a Congressman this morning for the first time in twenty-five or thirty years. As a Liberal in an overwhelmingly Conservative part of suburban Atlanta I gave up such efforts years ago. Bob Barr, Lester Maddox, the late Congressman Larry McDonald, Newt Gingrich and a rash of less notable local politicians have emerged from Cobb and surrounding counties. My opinions here are not welcome.

More recently Dr. Phil Gingrey, who takes pride that " in 2008 The National Journal ranked me the most conservative Member of the House of Representatives" has been taking care of the people's business in Washington.

I noticed this morning that Dr. Gingrey was mentioned in Politico for what struck me as excellent pushback aimed at Rush Limbaugh and the talk show crowd following Rush's now famous "I hope Obama fails" statement.

Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., did not take kindly to this assessment in an interview with Politico Tuesday.
“I think that our leadership, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, are taking the right approach,” Gingrey said. “I mean, it’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party. You know you’re just on these talk shows and you’re living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing. But when it comes to true leadership, not that these people couldn’t be or wouldn’t be good leaders, they’re not in that position of John Boehner or Mitch McConnell."
Wow! I couldn't have said it better. So my next move was to send him an email recognizing what he had said and telling him to keep up the good work.

The "contact" link at his website didn't call up my gmail account so I have no copy of what I sent. The substance of it was clear, however. I specifically recall mentioning that Limbaugh and his crowd are to talk radio what Jerry Springer and that crowd are to TV, appealing to the lowest common denominator of the audience. Here in Atlanta we have our own second-string version of Rush's crowd so I'm sure that Gingrey has no trouble recognizing the flavor of that koolaid.

I wish now that I had kept a copy because a few hours later I received a form letter reply clearly written to respond to the blizzard of complaints he is no doubt receiving from angry constituents.
With respect to my comments regarding commentators who each and every day speak out in defense of these values, I regret and apologize for that fact these comments have offended and upset not only my constituents but also listeners throughout the country. I am sorry to see how my comments have been reported and read much harsher than intended. I recognize it is my responsibility to clarify my own comments. 
Now more than ever,there is a need to articulate a clear conservative message for moving our nation forward. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, and other conservative giants are the voices of the conservative movement's conscience. Everyday, millions and millions of Americans-myself included - turn on their radios and televisions to listen to what they have to say, and we are inspired by their words and by their determination. At the end of the day, every member of the conservative movement, from political commentators and thinkers to elected officials, share an important and common purpose in advancing the cause of liberty, reigning in a bloated federal government, and defending our traditional family values.
Silly me. I thought my email might have been read, if not by a busy congressman, at least by someone on staff who might recognize immediately that he had won a few points with someone from across the aisle.

Well excuse me. I won't make that mistake again. I sent a reply to his response.
What? "regret and apologize" ?
Please, Dr. Gingrey. I appreciate that you must have a blizzard of complaints from your constituents this morning, but my email was not among them.
I wrote to thank, not reprimand you for what you said.
I suppose you may disregard my other communication.
Wouldn't you know it?
That email came back as undeliverable.
This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification
Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:
Technical details of permanent failure:
Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. We recommend contacting the other email provider for further information about the cause of this error. The error that the other server returned was: 550 550 5.7.1 Unable to deliver to <> (state 14).
I give up.
I feel like someone that got a teeshirt that says...


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

George Soros Notes

George Soros is in the news.
The name George Soros triggers a visceral hate and suspicion response in conservatives, but those of us who have paid attention to this guy over the years have a different opinion. I never heard of him til sometime in the late Eighties when he wrote something in a popular periodical -- Atlantic or something -- and I was very impressed. So for the last twenty-five years I have been paying attention. I know he is reviled by both traditional and neo conservatives, but to those of us on the left he is Mister Moneybags, one of the few pieces of heavy artillery we have fighting the Koch brothers.

Now approaching ninety, Soros is making news again for pledging funds to help ameliorate a tragedy -- the biggest human migration since WWII. As a backup to my old blog I'm reworking something I put together ten years ago when Rocket Boom's Amanda Congdon scored an interview with him. That video (along with most of Rocketboom, sadly) has since been deleted, but here are notes made at the time.


Really interesting. Rocketboom's Amanda Congdon scored big this time. And Soros comes across as the gentleman that he is. His view of global markets and how they fail to address global problems is very threatening to many people. He is one of the world's richest individuals, and when he puts his money where his mouth is he aims to get results. When a mouth like that is talking, only the most foolish among us would fail to pay attention.

I have great respect for Soros. His intellect seems to match his financial achievements and he has used his considerable financial power responsibly. As far as I know he hasn't had people killed, which is more than can be said for many powerful people.
When Amanda asked him about his "online habits" he responded by calling himself a dinosaur. He said "I have people helping me" take care of that. I bet. Asking Soros about online habits is like asking what brand of laundry detergent he prefers. Amanda is a sweetheart for that question. But as they say, a cat can look at a king.

When he speaks of world markets he says quite simply that there is an idea that "when markets 'do their thing' they will take care of all our problems...This is a misconception." When he says that he has my undivided attention. I am sick to death of the marketplace displacing -- among other values and institutions -- the church. The only thing that makes me sicker, is when I see churches going along with the notion.

The video time is not listed, but it's about five minutes or so. [As I said, it's now gone...]
There was a time that I believed in accidents, that many events were simply 'random" or "coincidental." Bierce's definition of accident as an inevitable event due to the interaction of immutable natural laws always amused me, but only because for a long time I didn't take into account what seem to be natural spiritual laws. In recent years I have noticed what some people call prophetic voices, words that bring forth understandings unexpected but edifying.

This morning's post by Dr. Bob [another vanished link] fits comfortably into the prophetic mold regarding the Soros interview just cited and my reaction to it. Remember, now, that Soros does not speak in religious terms. From a Christian viewpoint he may be pagan. But his message is not contrary to that of the church. Like Ghandi he might be able to say "give me your Christ, but keep your Christianity." I don't know. But reflect on what Soros says in light of these prophetic words from Dr. Bob.

Western culture has bankrupted the very treasure from which its greatness arose, leaving an increasingly fragile shell of process without principles, institutions without inspiration, governance without grace. Steeped in knowledge yet long in shortcomings, our culture increasingly dismisses the spiritual and transcendent as but mere ignorance or malign superstition, and thus strangles its own lifeblood in its frantic rush to solve problems of the soul with the prescriptions of science and sociology. Our sickness is deep, and pervasive, and ultimately deadly–and made even more dangerous by our peculiar denial that there exists any sickness at all. Such malady takes many forms: from evangelistic secularism, seeking to purge all thought or mention of religion from our collective consciousness; to the intellectual miasma of postmodernism, where the only absolute truth is the denial of absolute truth; to the grand charade, where lust for power or corrupt materialism masquerade in the mantle of religious devotion or a gospel of social justice–which is neither just nor good for society; to the spirituality of the self, which seeks to find God within having denied Him without, and ends up worshiping only ego, in all its hideous manifestations.

There are, it is said, many roads to God–a cozy notion for the intellectually lazy and spiritually slothful, a passing nod to a past glory still spoken of but no longer believed. It is a bromide fast dissolving in a world where religious zealots praise Allah while slaughtering women and children; where men sing of Jesus while drinking poison Koolaid; where televised con-men fleece the faithful while preaching love and generosity; where men of the cloth speak of killing the elderly and suctioning the young with soothing words of “mercy” and “freedom” and “choice.” We are tossed like ships in a storm because we have lost both rudder and mast: the principles which have steered us, and the power which gives us purpose and direction, have been swept away in the rolling swells of material prosperity and the saturating rains of empty information and worthless knowledge.

I claim no inside knowledge. All I know is what I read in the, what I come across on the blogs. Something here strikes me as prophetic.
Dr. Bob's excellent blog has since vanished. Last I looked he had joined the growing ranks of Christian political types now facing another dilemma about which devil with which to strike a deal. That's why I have become in recent years what Baptists once called a "backslider."

Monday, August 29, 2016

Trump Note -- June, 2016

Two and a half months later, a couple of people found this via Twitter and passed it along.
At least two people noticed.

The GOP is swallowing Donald Trump's bigotry hook, line and sinker. I just saw a link to National Review with the lede "Obama’s tortured euphemisms make the the U.S. look weak and unfocused." Even as his second term comes to an end, they cannot let go of the sneering animus that has driven their opposition from the moment McConnell announced his main mission was to insure that Obama would be a one-term president.

Never mind it was George Bush himself who called Islam a religion of peace long before Obama was ever on the scene. Never mind that the Arab Spring was a non-violent uprising in the Middle East. Never mind that Muslims are way more victimized by the extremists than non-Muslims. Never mind the world is facing the largest wave of human migration since WWII, driven in no small part by people escaping violent extremism and lawlessness.

None of that has any meaning in the eyes of Donald Trump and an ignorant subset of otherwise mostly good Americans, desperate to blame someone or some thing for horrible events they cannot otherwise explain. Frustrated people throughout history tend to blame leaders for tragedies over which they have little or no control. And when all else fails, their rage scapegoats targeted minorities...Jews, Kurds, gypsies, Christians, homosexuals, blacks -- whatever minority among them is visible and vulnerable.

In the aftermath of 9/11 Americans by the millions have been led to believe that a violence-prone segment of Islam is representative of the entire faith, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims live and work among us, serve in the military and are not importantly different from everyone else. This is the ignorant mindset of fear and hate. It's like believing the KKK represents all of Christianity.

So the trope continues that *strong leaders* must pronounce the magic code words "radical...Islamic...terrorism" to embrace once and forever the belief that Muslims -- ALL of them by association -- are the main source of terrorism. And anyone in a position of leadership, or aspiring to become a leader, must pass the magic language test.

But have no fear, America. Donald Trump is here. He will not allow a day to pass without reminding us all how strong he is as evidenced by a relentless stream of vile insults to foreigners in general and Muslims in particular. And the Republican Party, that Grand Old Party, has elevated this hateful man to the status of candidate to become leader of the free world.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

McCarthyism's Long Shadow

First published over three years ago, this post has received a few hits the last three weeks, so I'm republishing it. The anti-Iran animus has become worse since it first appeared. Perhaps this will help balance what can become runaway panic. The video at the end is priceless.
During my high school days McCarthyism had blossomed and wilted, but the blacklists, fears and public sentiments of the time remained fresh. The House Un-American Activities Committee had been formed in the Thirties to investigate and root out subversive Communist activity. And in the Senate Wisconsin's Joseph McCarthy carried the same banner effectively enough to brand the era with his name -- McCarthyism. HUAC was alive and well into the late Sixties and the list of subversive organizations remained a litmus test for anyone having to do with the government. When I was drafted I was required to read over that list and sign a document affirming that I had not been associated with any of them. Thanks to those years I recognize the exaggerated fear that  social and political paranoia produces when I see it. And I'm seeing it again today.

A very wise man of my parents' generation who was later instrumental in assisting me in getting a couple of low-interest college loans told me a story about the McCarthy Era. Sometime during the mid-Fifties a college professor he knew went into his classroom once afternoon and told the class to be quiet, he had something important to tell them. He checked the hall and closed the door and transom, went to the windows and pulled the blinds and told the ones in the back to move in a little closer so they could hear.
When all was quiet, he said in a very low voice, "Russian mothers love their babies."
He then went to the windows and opened the blinds, told those in the back to return to their seats, opened the door and transom for ventilation and began his lecture.
That was his way of commenting on the fears and paranoia of the time. It seems silly and may have been a made-up story. But in telling the story he was letting me know something important about the adult world I could expect as I finished high school and ventured into the world. The changes of the Sixties were still to come.

I'm retelling the story because since the September 11, 2001 with the destruction of the World Trade Center America has found it's way back to the same level of suspicion, fear and national paranoia that is the enduring legacy of McCarthyism. We have waged two actual wars and waved the flag as elected representatives added Wars on Drugs, Terror, Gangs, Cancer, Poverty, Pollution, Science and just about any trope imaginable.  Waging war has become a way of life, so much that we have accepted war as part of what normalcy looks like. Those of us who were conscientious objectors during the time when a military draft was in effect find ourselves surrounded by a generation that never heard the term. War seems no longer objectionable, having become a metaphor for achieving something good instead of the disagreeable duty it is, what some have called a necessary evil.


I'm putting these thoughts into words in response to a post by Juan Cole making reference to an excellent op-ed in Lebanon's Daily Star by the highly esteemed journalist Rami Khouri.  The proximate subject is Iran, but there is a larger picture. The way we as Americans look at Iran is typical of the simplistic way we see most other countries as well as political adversaries in our midst.
I give the reader credit for being smart enough to connect the dots when I refer him to the story above ending with the line "Russian mothers love their babies.

The pain of following Iran in U.S. media
By Rami G. Khouri, April 06, 2013
One of the most annoying aspects of spending time in the United States, as I have just done during a month’s working visit there, is to follow news coverage of Iran in the mainstream American media. Well, calling it “news” coverage is a bit of a stretch, because the mainstream media is not really reporting news about Iran, but rather repackaging ideological attacks and threats that emanate primarily from the American and Israeli governments. 
The main problem – evident in virtually every story about Iran in the mainstream media, including “quality” outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the leading television channels – is that the coverage is inevitably based on assumptions, fears, concerns, accusations and expectations that are almost never supported by factual and credible evidence. 
Two things in particular are wrong in the coverage. First is that most media stories about Iran view the country almost uniquely as being an adversary and a threat to the United States, Israel and Arab allies of the U.S., whether because of Iran’s alleged regional hegemonic aims or its terrorism links. Iran only exists for most American media as a threat to be beaten back at any cost. 
The second is that most media analyze Iran almost exclusively through the lens of its nuclear industry. This attitude sees Iran as secretly developing a nuclear bomb that it will use to threaten or destroy neighboring powers, including Israel and Arab oil-producing countries. For the U.S. media, Iran is first and foremost a nuclear threat. Little else about the country is deemed worthy of serious coverage. 
I have no doubt that any impartial assessment of the professional conduct of most American media outlets in covering the Iran situation would find it deeply flawed and highly opinionated, to the point where I would say that mainstream media coverage of Iran in the U.S. is professionally criminal. I base this on having learned my journalism craft and values in the United States, where quality press coverage of any issue ideally should be characterized by accuracy, balance, depth and context, and a rigorous attempt by the writer to remain impartial when reporting stories that include controversy or conflict. 
These professional qualities are usually absent from news coverage of Iran, and I say this is a criminal enterprise because the consequences of the flawed and aggressive coverage helps shape a public view that makes it acceptable to threaten and sanction Iran on the basis of mere suspicions and fears in the minds of American and Israeli politicians – all of whom, I would guess, have never visited Iran or spoken to any credible or “normal” Iranian not involved in political lobbying in Washington. The discussion of Iran in media outlets over the past two years has also been full of references to the possibility of attacks against Iran by Israel or the U.S., with little if any serious analysis of whether such attacks are permissible under international law. 
I am continuously amazed to see every accusation in every story about Iran’s alleged sinister and secretive nuclear bomb plans hedged with phrases such as “it is assumed” or “officials believe” or “analysts suspect” or Iran “may be” or “is thought to be” or is “suspected of” doing this, that or the other. There is no certainty, little credible proof, and few verifiable facts, only anger, assumptions and fear 
This same hollow and shoddy level of evidence presented in media portrayals of Iran could never be used to frame, say, the actions of young African-Americans, Hispanic teachers, or professional women bankers, because it would be opposed by both professional media standards and common human rights standards as being a bag of wild prejudices and stereotypes that are not supported by fact. 
The mass media gets away with disguising ideological venom as impartial news coverage in the case of Iran, though, because a different standard of professionalism is at work here, one which makes it permissible for media outlets to ignore their role as reporters of facts in favor of being ideological warriors that serve the purposes of assorted governments. We saw at great cost in Iraq what destruction, waste and criminality this sort of behavior can lead to. 
It will be fascinating now to see how media reports on possible signs of progress in the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) which are set to resume in Kazakhstan. I hope our American journalism colleagues will summon the moral and professional strengths within them to cover both sides of these talks in their full and accurate political and technical contexts, rather than continue to act as robotic cheerleaders for the American and Israeli governments.

It is for that reason that my Facebook timeline often shares links with Humans of Tehrana brave, quiet, civil photographic attempt to share glimpses of ordinary Persians from a variety of lifestyles that reflect the diversity and humanity of their country's culture and social diversity.

Check the collection of snapshots from that site.

And finally, take a look at this thirteen year old Persian girl and as she sings her heart out ask yourself out how well you think this image, and those above, conform to the impressions of Iran which Americans are being fed on a daily basis.

If the place we are living is not McCarthyism Redux I don't know what it is.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

"Smoke but no fire" She Said

Hillary Clinton's "smoke but no fire" soundbite was propellant on a fire for the hate-Hillary hit-piece cottage industry. 

One particularly salacious site (which uses "fart on hillary clinton" in the html code) came up with the portmanteau "SHitlery" by blending her name with both shit and Hitler.
Laissez les bon temps roulez (Let the good times roll) as they say in Louisiana!

Maybe someone can explain how a former vice-president got away with a far more obvious conflict of interest for two consecutive terms as media inquiries fell away like water on Teflon.

Dare I suggest a different gender standard at play?
Or is that playing "the woman card"?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hillary Clinton Copy & Paste Hit Piece

As election day approaches, the following screed maligning Hillary Clinton is making the rounds in comments threads:
If you are Gay, why are you voting for Hillary when she wants to bring in 1,000's of refugees that believe all Gays should be executed.
If you are Black, why are you voting for Hillary when she admires Margaret Sanger and defends Planned Parenthood when they want o abort as many black babies as possible. Exterminate the black race because they are like "weeds". Most of those clinics are in Black neighborhoods.
If you are a Christian, why are you voting for Hillary Clinton when she wrote her Senior thesis on Saul Alinsky who dedicated his book Rules for Radicals to Lucifer, The Devil. She says he was and still is her mentor.
If you are a Veteran, in the military, or closely related to a military member, why are you voting for Hillary when she left those men to die in Benghazi and had the nerve to lie about it over and over again. They called for help but the help was told to stand down.
If you have factory job, why are you voting for Hillary when she supported TPP and factory works are being laid off because jobs are going over sees. Don't forget the deals she made with china. She also welcomes open borders and illegals to get benefits with your tax money.
If you are poor, why are you voting for Hillary, when she is supporting Wall street and all the big banks. Big banks keep the poor, poor by destroying the poor man's credit by allowing medical bills and collections to affect your credit scores so you can pay higher interest rates than the rich. Taking as much of the little money you earn.
If you are a woman, how can you vote for Hillary when she has buried all of Bills rape victims under the rug including the little girl that was raped when she defended the rapist and laughed about it later.
If you carry a gun, believe in the Constitution, how can you vote for Hillary when she wants to eliminate the NRA, Take your guns, and abolish the second amendment.
If you breathe, why would you vote for Hillary when she has left a trail of dead people that did not agree with her or knew too much!
Who is left?
In other words, if you vote for this woman you must be the stupidest person who ever lived. I found this link to the Snopes Facebook discussion page which has the usual array of sniping and carping in the comments thread. The reader can go there for further information. I'm not wasting time and energy here to summarize how each of these so-called "points" has been worded to mislead. I'm making note of it for future reference.

Something of a cottage industry emerged during the first Obama campaign and first term aimed at creating and disseminating hateful agitprop about him. I suppose as his former Secretary of State and heir apparent to his two terms, Hillary Clinton is getting the same slings and arrows.
Incidentally, here is another link to more anti-Obama stuff. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

List of Syrian Factions

Following a break in the siege of Aleppo, The Guardian assembled a list of various elements of the Syrian civil war. Go to the link for more content, but this part jumps out to me.
Both sides are throwing everything they can at the four-year battle for the city – a fight that has come to define the Syrian civil war, because each believes the fate of Aleppo will decide the outcome of the conflict. 
“This battle’s results exceed simply opening the road for besieged people; it will overturn the balance of the struggle in the Levant,” said Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, leader of the powerful Jabhat al-Nusra faction that, until last month, was the official al- Qaida franchise in Syria. 
Last month, the faction severed those ties, changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and renounced international jihad, although observers said there was little sign of a parallel shift in ideology. Instead, experts reckoned the move was probably aimed at getting it off US airstrike target lists and easing coalitions with other factions. 
That rebranding put the group in a strong position to capitalise on last week’s campaign, particularly if it can consolidate a victory that casts it as a champion of Aleppo’s battered civilians. 
“We urge our people in Aleppo to remain steadfast,” Jolani added in the audio recording released on Friday. “The mujahideen will not fail you.” 
The contrast with western powers, which condemned the siege but said they were powerless to stop it, is unlikely to be lost on Syrians, analysts warned. 
“The world abandoned Aleppo; the jihadis came to the rescue. Al-Qaida’s rebranding could hardly have asked for more,” analyst Kyle Orton, from the Henry Jackson Society, said on Twitter.
Syria’s rebels unite to break Assad’s siege of Aleppo
A lifeline has been re-established to the opposition-held city. But will hardline jihadis reap the rewards for leading the successful offensive?

Assad and his allies

Regime forces
The Syrian army numbered 300,000 before the war but, after five years of fighting, it is barely a third of that.

Hezbollah began to support Assad covertly soon after violence broke out and, in 2013, its leader publicly declared it had joined the war. It is believed to have lost hundreds of fighters, including its top military commander.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards
Iran firmly supports Assad, whom it sees as a key ally in a regional power struggle, and is supplying arms, fuel and hundreds of soldiers. Last year, it released photos of its most celebrated commander on the ground in Syria.

Shia militias
Iranian troops are fighting alongside, and coordinating, Shia militias recruited from across the region, including from Iraq, Afghanistan and even Pakistan.

Russian air force
Last autumn’s Russian air campaign was key to turning the tide of the war in Assad’s favour. Its planes can fly in weather that grounds the Syrian air force and have more powerful and accurate weapons.

Anti-Assad forces in Aleppo

Free Syrian Army
The moderate FSA, made up of many smaller groups, was the dominant opposition force in the first two years of the war. It was initially backed by the Arab states and got cautious US support. After years of disunity and faltering advances, its influence and territory has shrunk, while Islamist groups have grown.

Jaysh al-Fateh
A broad coalition of Islamist factions that came together to fight Assad last year, when its advances forced Russia to come to his aid. Jaysh al-Fateh has been at the heart of the campaign to break the siege on Aleppo. The two most influential groups are as follows.

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) 
The reconstituted al-Qaida affiliate renounced its ties to the global terror group last month and changed its name, but few observers believe that will herald any change in its ideology.   [See quote above.]

Ahrar al-Sham
Formed by hardliners with Muslim Brotherhood links, who aim to establish a Sunni theocracy in Syria, Ahrar al-Sham fought with Nusra when it was still part of al-Qaida, but rejects international jihad itself. It has a strong support base in Syria.

 President Bashar al-Assad. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Monday, July 25, 2016

Dissection of the relationship between Gülen & Erdoğan

Translated from French, :

Middle East Eye provides a profile of Fethullah Gülen, its network and its conflictual relations with Turkish President Erdoğan.

July 25, 2016
Jillian D'Amours
July 25, 2016

TORONTO, Canada - Following the coup attempt on July 15 in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan quickly denounced the person he believed to be behind the insurgency.

The Turkish president said repeatedly that the coup leaders received orders "Pennsylvania", referring to rival the Justice and Development Party leader (AKP), Turkish religious living in the United States Fethullah Gulen.

In the days following the failed coup, Ankara has officially asked the US government to extradite Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.

"When we hand over the terrorist mastermind living in Pennsylvania, everything will be clear," said Erdoğan at the crowd in Istanbul on Saturday following the coup.

Gülen, meanwhile, denied any involvement in the attempted coup, accusing Erdoğan of using it as a pretext to attack him and his supporters. "It's ridiculous, irresponsible and wrong to claim that I have something to do with this horrible failed coup," said the monk in a statement released Tuesday.

"I urge the US government to reject any attempt to misuse the extradition proceedings in order to conduct political vendettas. "

However, major questions remain about the involvement of Gülen and the role of members of güleniste movement, also known by the name of movement Hizmet (service), in recent events.

Who is Gulen?
Fethullah Gulen was born in 1941 near Erzurum in north-eastern Turkey. It became known as Muslim preacher and intellectual in the 1970s, calling for interreligious dialogue, modern education and activism based on faith.

"The Gülen movement is different from other Islamic movements with its emphasis on the importance of ethics in education, the media, business and public life," wrote Gürkan Çelik, author of The Gülen Movement: Building Social Cohesion through Dialogue and Education , a work that has a very positive assessment of the ideology and activities of Gülen.

The Gülen movement told oppose the use of Islam as a political ideology and presents itself as a moderate force advocating cooperation and dialogue.

He is active in the fields of education, dialogue, humanitarian and media in more than 160 countries worldwide, according to the Center for Studies on Hizmet, a nonprofit organization based in London and affiliated with Gülen.

Several non-profit organizations affiliated with Gulen, including the Foundation of Journalists and Writers of the Turkish and the Alliance for common values, have been created, and the movement also organizes seminars and conferences. Gülen millions of followers worldwide, though the exact number is unknown.

But beyond the establishment of schools, charities and non-governmental organizations, supporters of Gülen also have a "dark side", recently wrote Turkish columnist Mustafa Akyol.

The reports and media investigations showed that gülenistes were behind a "secret organization within the state, a project that continues for decades to establish a bureaucratic control over the state," Akyol wrote.

Last year, Ankara has hired the law firm Amsterdam & Partners LLP to investigate the global activities of the Gülen movement and exposing his alleged wrongdoing.

"The activities of the Gülen network, including its infiltration of Justice and the Turkish police and political lobbying abroad, should worry all who care about the future of democracy in Turkey", said to time the founding partner Robert Amsterdam .

Turkey has officially registered the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization in May.

"We will not leave alone in this country those who divide the nation", said Erdogan at the time."They will be brought to account. Some fled, some are in prison and judged now. This process will continue. "

"A very bitter divorce"

However, relations between Erdoğan and Gülen has not always been as explosive.

Erdoğan was close to Gülen for decades and the two leaders were opposed to the secular Kemalist forces in Turkey.

They also shared the goal of transforming Turkey into a state whose essence would be a "Turkish nationalism with a strong conservative religiosity," said Ariel Salzmann, associate professor of Islamic and international history at Queen's University in Canada.

Erdoğan and Gülen were "partners seeking to take power for decades," Salzmann said.

These leaders shared the same opposition to the Kemalist forces in Turkey for many years and, even if it is not launched himself into politics, Gülen supported the AKP - and has mobilized its supporters - when the party was founded and later came to power.

The members of the Gülen movement have also been linked to two notable cases in Turkey: the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer investigations, which focused on alleged attempts to overthrow the government of the AKP and Erdoğan.

The Ergenekon case has led to the arrest of Ahmet Sik, a journalist who wrote a book about the Gülen movement and the alleged his influence in the Turkish security forces. Critics say the Ergenekon case was only a pretext to target dissidents.

"It's a modern Islamic brotherhood," said Salzmann to Middle East Eye on the debut of the relationship between Gülen and Erdoğan.

"They had common interests and were complementary in many ways," said Salzmann.

The links between Erdoğan and Gülen began to fray when supporters of Gulen in the police and justice "have become too independent," according to Salzmann, and they are aggravated when Gülen himself criticized Erdoğan for his handling of the Gezi park demonstrations in 2013.

Later that year, Erdoğan said that Gülen and his followers tried to bring down his government through a bribery investigation involving several officials and business leaders with ties to the AKP and led to the resignation of ministers of the AKP.

The government also accused members of the Gülen movement have tapped government officials.

Since then, Erdogan has repeatedly stated that Gülen runs a "parallel state" in Turkey and its government suppressed the Gülen-affiliated institutions, including the popular newspaper Zamanand Bank Asya.

"I think the idea that there would be someone who would question [Erdoğan], which was slightly disagree with him, with his ideas and methods led to this confrontation, which resulted in the decision State control of all entities linked to Gülen, "said Salzmann.

"It's really a very bitter divorce," she added.

güleniste Education Network

Gülen extended its influence significantly by establishing schools in Turkey and by progressively public and private academic institutions in other countries.

According to the university Bayram Balci, these schools have the same goal: "creating new modern elites capable of modernizing Muslim societies."

"The movement is very modern. They provide a modern and generally very secular education, but at the same time conservative, "said Balci at MEE , likening supporters of education linked to Gülen abroad to the Jesuits, known for their missionary work.

"They are elitist, modern, mysterious and they travel around the world to spread their values," he said.

Balci, an expert on the influence of gülenistes institutions in Central Asia and the Caucasus, toldMEE that Gülen had chosen to focus on the expansion of its movement in the region after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990.

At the time, countries such as Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian countries were more open to foreign influence - and in particular, Turkish "he explained.

The movement is also linked to about 150 charter schools - public schools that are managed by the private sector - the United States, although many of these schools deny any link with alleged Gülen or güleniste influence on their operations.

"This refusal of affiliation is not unique to these schools under contract," said Joshua Hendrick, a professor at Loyola University in Maryland and author of Gülen: The Ambiguous Politics of Market Islam in Turkey and the World .

"What is and is not an affiliate [...] with the Gülen movement has always been something without direct response from those who were asked this question. "

Hendrick told MEE that since these schools are technically public, they must offer the programs established by the districts in which they operate. Schools do not engage in direct religious teachings, but all offer Turkish language option and give students and parents a chance to make a trip sponsored by Turkey.

"They are much more Turks in what they are trying to present as an alternative. This falls under their Muslimness and their Turkish identity, "said Hendrick.

The Gülen movement aims to accumulate and influence, said Hendrick, in order to create social change in Turkey in the long term. However, gülenistes prefer to use their influence to support political actors rather than participating themselves directly in politics.

In the US, individuals affiliated with Gülen also extend beyond charter schools, and they can be found in the media, finance, retail, catering, law, accounting, businesses and even farms, said Hendrick.

"Schools are the element most blatant and so anchor of the community, but in no case [this influence] is not limited to schools," he said.

Behind the coup?
While Erdoğan has consistently dismissed the alleged Gülen sympathizers in the police, judiciary and the media, the Turkish army was "the last bastion remaining gülenistes in Turkey", recently wrote Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University.

He said Erdogan was preparing to purge the army of officers gülenistes, meaning they "had a pattern, and the time of the attempt [coup] accredits their involvement."

However, a violent coup is not a usual tactic of gülenistes, according to Hendrick.

"Whatever we want to say about the Gülen movement, he is not incompetent organizationally. They have the capacity to play the long game, be patient, be clear about their objectives for their constituents ... and the disorganization and fragmentation of it all, poor planning and the speed with which the coup was crushed seem curious, "he said.

"This does not look anything like their procedure. "

At the same time, Salzmann says that Gülen has become a "lure" Erdoğan used to justify the repression of all opposition perceived in Turkey and greatly limit freedoms.

Since the attempted coup, the Turkish government introduced a state of emergency for three months, during which he will suspend the European Convention on Human Rights.

Turkey banned the university to leave the country, closed hundreds of schools, suspended the annual leave of three million civil servants and arrested, dismissed or suspended at least 50,000 policemen, soldiers, judges, teachers and other professionals.

Impact "cataclysmic "
Erdoğan then repressed all that is linked to Gülen in Turkey, it was him until now difficult to close similar structures outside the country, according to Balci.

"It's hard to outlaw movement and its schools while you have supported them for over twenty years," he said.

"In Central Asia, for example, schools have started to form new elites in 1991, when the USSR collapsed, so for twenty years or more, many people went to these schools in perfect legality. "

Yet Hendrick added that if Erdogan could prove - in accordance with high legal standards to the international level - that Gülen was indeed responsible for attempting to overthrow his government, the impact on gülenistes activities around the world would be "cataclysmic ".

"It would immediately become what his critics said it was and is for 40 years," said Hendrick.

"Knowing that there is conclusive evidence that the organization operating in their country tried to overthrow their business partners, I do not see how that host country [the US] may continue to allow this entity to operate .

"It would be cataclysmic for their future on the existential level if this was correct. "

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Peter Birkenhead's Post

This post appeared in my Facebook timeline at the end of a week when social media has been aflame with the killings of Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile and six police officers in Dallas. Here is a description of slavery as seen by generations that followed.

Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re going to hunt you. We’re going to trap you. We’re going to tear you from the arms of your mother and call you cargo.

We’re going to beat you. We’re going to put you in a crouch under an all-day sun and deform you. We’re going to forbid you to read. We’re going to lash your skin with salted leather if you read. We're going to rape your daughter if you read, or if you ever dare to stand up. We’re going to tear your son from the arms of his mother, and we’re going to burn you alive if you look for him. We are going to kill you.

We’re going to kill your children. We’re going to leave your daughters to die in the mud after birthing our children. We’re going to crush the bones in your children’s hands with the weight of great buildings. We’re going to brand your children like beasts, raise great buildings on their backs and call them lazy. We’re going to celebrate those buildings as our accomplishment.

"The Half Has Never Been Told"
by Edward Baptist p. 22
We’re going to write laws in those buildings that make it impossible for your grandchildren to enter them, or vote, or read or keep a family together. We’re going to mock them for not being able to do those things. We’re going to kill them. We’re going to dare your grandchildren to vote, or love, or read. We’re going to pull their bowels from their bodies or drown them or hang them when they try to do those things. We’re going to tell stories of their ignorance and wickedness when they don’t try.

We’re going to kill your great grandchildren. We’re going to taunt them with dreams. We’re going to tell them what to dream, then mock them for dreaming those dreams. We’re going to shackle their hands with their bootstraps. We’re going to flail our arms and ball our fists and redden our faces in roaring incomprehension that they don’t have jobs, or know the value of an education.

We’re going to burden them with our fear. We’re going to drop the unmeasurable weight of our failures on them and laugh when they bend their spines. We’re going to insist they straighten up. We’re going to laugh at their names and erase their faces. We’re going to steal their expressions of pain and call them our own. We’re going to force them to deform themselves, to take the shape of our nightmares, to swell to the size of demons and make us fear for our lives instead of theirs. We’re going to sigh about this on occasion.

We’re going to pretend to not understand your great grandchildren. We’re going to wonder what their problem is, and then we’re going to kill them. We’re going to kill them by crooking our fingers. For putting their hands in their pockets. We’re going to wish we didn’t have to kill them, though, so that should count for something. We’re going to kill them yesterday, today and tomorrow. We’re going to hunt them, we’re going to trap them, and then we’re going to kill them.

And we’re going to want you to get over it.