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“Internment Camps Were A Travesty”: The Wrong Historical Example To Follow

Less than a week after the recent deadly attack in Paris, Roanoke Mayor David Bowers (D) tried to make the case against helping Syrian refugees, and cited an example from history. “I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor,” he said, “and it appears that the threat of harm to America from ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”

The idea that internment of Japanese Americans was a model worth following sparked an outcry; Democratic officials promptly condemned Bowers’ remarks; and the mayor himself apologized soon after.

The moral of the story is simple: internment camps were a travesty. Citing them as an example of sensible policymaking is ridiculous.

Three weeks later, Donald Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro (R), the co-chair of Trump’s state veterans coalition, defended the presidential candidate’s position last night, telling WMUR, “What he’s saying is no different than the situation during World War II, when we put the Japanese in camps.”

On MSNBC this morning, Trump himself drew the same WWII comparison. Asked if his proposal goes against long-held American values, the Republican frontrunner responded: “No, because FDR did it!” It led to this exchange between Trump and Mark Halperin:

HALPERIN: Did the Japanese internment camps go against American values?

TRUMP: We have to be smart, Mark, and we have to be vigilant.  And if we’re not going to be smart and vigilant, and honestly we also have to be tough. And if we’re not going to be those three things, we’re not going to have a country left.

HALPERIN: Did the internment of the Japanese violate American values?

TRUMP: We’re not talking about internment; this is a whole different thing.

Pressed on whether he believes internment camps were at odds with American values, Trump refused to say, telling Halperin, “Mark, what about Franklin Roosevelt’s presidential proclamations 2525, 2526, and 2527?  Take a look at it, Mark.”

Just so we’re clear, asked about his anti-Muslim plan, Trump initally pointed to FDR and internment. Pressed further, he insisted, “We’re not talking about internment.” And when pressed further still, Trump pointed for FDR’s executive actions on – you guessed it – internment.

In other words, when the Republican presidential hopeful says his anti-Muslim policy is “a whole different thing” from internment, he appears to mean the opposite.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 8, 2015

December 9, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Internment Camps, Japanese Americans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Terrorism Truths No Politician Will Admit”: Republicans Are Uniquely Immune To Learning From History

Here’s a truth that no politician, Democrat or Republican, is going to tell you: There is absolutely nothing that our government could have done to prevent the attack that took 14 lives in San Bernardino last week. If you’re looking for a lesson we can learn from it, that’s the one you ought to take. Universal background checks for gun purchases is a good idea, but it wouldn’t have stopped that couple from killing those people. Starting a new war in the Middle East is a terrible idea, but it also wouldn’t have stopped it.

We can’t stop an attack like the one in San Bernardino before it happens because our ability to do that is dependent on the plot coming to the government’s attention. In order for that to happen, knowledge of the plan has to leak out in some way—to someone who overhears the planning and tells the authorities, to an informant whom the attackers bring into their confidence, over an electronic medium like email or telephone that is being monitored. But what if all you have is a husband and wife working out the details over their kitchen table, and buying their tools of mayhem the same way a hundred million other Americans do, down at the local gun shop? There is no way to stop that.

Which brings us to another truth you won’t see politicians admit: terrorism will never be defeated or vanquished or eliminated or banished. It’s a technique, attractive to those with limited power precisely because it’s relatively easy to use.

Actually, there was a politician who once acknowledged that reality. In 2004, John Kerry said, “We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance.” He cited organized crime as a comparison of what we ought to seek: “It isn’t threatening people’s lives every day, and fundamentally, it’s something that you continue to fight, but it’s not threatening the fabric of your life.” His opponent was positively gleeful that Kerry would say something so weak and defeatist. “I couldn’t disagree more,” said George W. Bush. “Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance, our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying terrorist networks, and spreading freedom and liberty around the world.” His campaign rushed to make a television ad based on Kerry’s quote, and four years later, when he left office, Bush’s strength and resolve had ended the threat of terrorism for all time.

Just kidding—for some inexplicable reason, George Bush didn’t manage to “defeat terror.” But now the members of his party say they’ve got the plan that will take care of it. Donald Trump, who already promised to start torturing prisoners again (not that we have any Islamic State prisoners to torture, but whatever), now says if you want to defeat terrorism, “You have to take out their families.” Sure, it’s a war crime, but just think of the satisfaction we’ll get from killing a bunch of children! Ted Cruz is talkin’ the tough-guy talk too. “If I am elected president, we will utterly destroy ISIS,” he said on Saturday. “We won’t weaken them. We won’t degrade them. We will utterly destroy them. We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.” Yeehaw.

Republicans are uniquely immune to learning from history, and at the moment they’ve convinced themselves that once we crush the Islamic State, terrorism will no longer be much of a problem. But of course that’s just what we thought about Al Qaeda, and it’s what we’ll think about the terror group spawned by our next Middle East war. Let’s just kill these guys, and then the problem will be solved.

How many Americans actually believe that? It’s hard to know. But there’s no question the San Bernardino attack has ratcheted up Americans’ fear. The apparent futility of any practical solution to a threat like this one seems only to drive people into the arms of a hateful demagogue like Trump and the demi-demagogues who scuttle after him. Maybe people actually buy the absurd idea that if we just go after this one terrorist group with enough ruthlessness, no other terrorist group will ever emerge. Maybe people actually believe that if we subject American Muslims to enough suspicion and harassment, no American Muslim will become angry enough to want to kill his or her fellow citizens.

But let’s be honest: what the Republicans are selling isn’t a practical plan to solve a practical problem, because the problem defined that way—can we stop an attack just like this one?—has no real solution. So what they promise is an amplification of all the poisonous emotions swirling inside you. Are you afraid? I will validate your fears and shout that things are even worse than you think. Do you hate? I will give your hatred voice, point it outward, translate it into pledges of rage and violence visited upon the guilty and innocent alike.

In his Oval Office address Sunday night, President Obama tried to make a different argument, that “Our success won’t depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values or giving into fear. That’s what groups like ISIL are hoping for.” But he too insisted that “The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it.” It’s what any president would have to say, I suppose, to reassure and comfort and give hope. The truth—that no matter what we do there will always be the possibility of terrorist attacks, and some of them will inevitably succeed—isn’t something presidents are supposed to say.

The more important truth, also out of bounds for politicians, is that as horrifying as any one attack is, terrorism is a threat we can live with, just like we live with the threat of natural disasters or crime or the flu, all of which take many more lives than terrorism does. Somehow we manage to accommodate ourselves to those threats without losing our damn minds. Surely there’s a lesson there.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, December 7, 2015

December 9, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Mass Shootings, Politicians, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Assessing Strength And Weakness”: When The Only Card You Have To Play Is Fear

On a couple of occasions, President Obama has challenged the media’s assumption that Russian President Putin was acting from a position of strength. The first was in response to a question from Jonathan Karl at a news conference in The Hague not long after Russia’s incursion into Crimea.

Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors not out of strength, but out of weakness. Ukraine has been a country in which Russia had enormous influence for decades, since the breakup of the Soviet Union. And we have considerable influence on our neighbors. We generally don’t need to invade them in order to have a strong, cooperative relationship with them. The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more.

The President basically made the same point when Steve Kroft tried to insinuate that Putin’s involvement in Syria was a challenge to his leadership.

When I came into office, Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin. Syria was Russia’s only ally in the region. And today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria, which they’ve had for a long time, Mr. Putin now is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally…

Well Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we’ve got a different definition of leadership.

With those examples in mind, I think that Peter Beinart has done a good job of describing the difference between how Republican presidential candidates and President Obama assess the threat from ISIS.

Because the GOP candidates see violent jihadism as a powerful, seductive ideology, they think that many American Muslims are at risk of becoming terrorists, and thus that the United States must monitor them more aggressively. Because Obama sees violent jihadism as ideologically weak and unattractive, he thinks that few American Muslims will embrace it unless the United States makes them feel like enemies in their own country—which is exactly what Donald Trump risks doing.

Obama…believes that powerful, structural forces will lead liberal democracies to triumph over their foes—so long as these democracies don’t do stupid things like persecuting Muslims at home or invading Muslim lands abroad. His Republican opponents, by contrast, believe that powerful and sinister enemies are overwhelming America, either overseas (the Rubio version) or domestically (the Trump version).

All the chest-thumping coming from Republicans is based on an elevated assumption of the real threat posed by ISIS. But that’s what happens when the only card you have to play is fear. Behind all the bravado, their message makes America look weak and easily intimidated. President Obama isn’t buying into that for a minute.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 7, 2015

December 9, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Mainstream Media, Russia, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“What Else Is Trump Up To?”: Trump Only Loves Rich Muslims Who Give Him Money

Donald Trump clearly has issues with Muslims. The latest example is his vow to ban all Muslim immigration to the United States, declaring he wants a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Before that Trump had called for depriving American Muslims of civil liberties simply because of their faith by way of warrantless surveillance of Muslim Americans. And he has even gone as far as to indict all Muslims by declaring recently that “worldwide the Muslims were absolutely going wild” cheering on the 9/11 attacks.

But there’s one type of Muslim Trump really loves: The ones that make him big bucks. You see, if a Muslim can show Trump the money, then all those concerns he has with Muslims go right out the window of his private jet as he jets off to the Gulf to cash in.

For example, Trump loves Hussain Sajwani, head of the Dubai luxury real estate company Damac Properties. Trump has called the Muslim Sajwani a “good friend” and a “great man,” among other accolades. And in May 2014, The Donald even flew off to Dubai to spend time with his Muslim friend as they announced the massive real estate project they were teaming up to create in the United Arab Emirates.

And when I say massive project, I mean Trump-style “yuge!”  This 42 million-square-foot development (the Pentagon is 6 million-square-feet) includes 104 villas and mansions that begin at more than $1 million U.S. dollars and climb to over $10 million a pop. The development also boasts the “Trump World Golf Club,” which Trump has described as a course that “will be bigger and better and stronger” than any other in the region. Interestingly, Trump has used almost identical words to describe how the U.S. military will look if he’s elected.

So how did Sajwani get Trump to forget that Muslims “worldwide” celebrated on 9/11? Simple, Sajwani paid Trump enough money to go from a scary Muslim to a “great guy.”

As Sajwani explained to the Dubai media, “We went to see him [Trump] and he signed with us.” While Sajwani refused to reveal the exact dollar amount Trump was paid, it must be big given that the Trump-named golf course has been dubbed the “centerpiece” of the project, complete with a luxury spa, restaurants, stores, etc. And just a few months ago, “Trump Private Mansions” went on sale starting north of $1 million each and are being touted as “the most distinguished address in Dubai,” with a view “overlooking the Trump International Championship” golf course.

While no one can find video of “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheering on 9/11 in New Jersey as Trump claim happened, there’s plenty of video of Trump chilling with his Muslim BFF Sajwani. You can see the two laughing it up at the 2014 press conference in Dubai, riding in Trump’s special golf cart and posing for cameras as Trump gives a big thumbs up while praising Sajwani and Dubai.

Now while this may not trouble Trump, Sajwani was convicted in 2011 in an Egyptian court for getting an illegal sweetheart deal from an Egyptian government minster to buy government land he wanted to develop. Sajwani, who was tried in absentia, was sentenced to five years in prison, and the government minister who sold him the land was imprisoned for the crime of “squandering public funds.” Ultimately, however, the criminal conviction was “settled” in 2013 after a more receptive Egyptian government came to power.

But putting aside the criminal issue of Trump’s business partner, there are still questions about the working conditions for the migrant workers building these Trump homes. As most know, the working conditions for the migrant construction employees in Dubai can be horrific. Workers have been requited to work 14-plus-hour days in over 100 degree weather and live in barely habitable conditions.

In fact, at the 2014 press conference in Dubai announcing this project, a reporter from Vice asked about this issue point blank: “Mr. Trump, the workers who build your villas make less than $200 a month. Are you satisfied?” People in the room reportedly gasped at the question. Trump refused to answer, instead remaining stone-faced. The project’s publicist then told the reporter, “That’s not an appropriate question.”

But wealthy people in Dubai aren’t the only Muslims Trump adores. His company is looking at “multiple opportunities in Abu Dhabi, in Qatar, in Saudi Arabia.

Trump teaming up with Saudi Arabia and Qatar is especially surprising given Trump’s purported concerns about Muslim terrorists. After all, 15 of the 19 hijackers who attacked America on 9/11 and killed nearly 3,000 Americans came from Saudi Arabia. Plus we all know about Saudi Arabia’s policies of oppression of women, even banning them from driving.

And the government in Qatar has in the past publicly funded the terrorist group Hamas and even allowed Hamas leader Khaled Meshal to live in the small Gulf country. But when big money is in play, Trump seems to ignore these issues.

I wonder how Trump palling around with Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Qatar will play with the GOP base? Will some Republicans and the media want more details about Trump’s Middle East deals and assurance that none of his business partners have made contributions directly, or indirectly, to terrorist groups? (Hamas is not even labeled a terrorist group in Dubai, so his partners could have legally supported the group.) Will they at least want to know if any of Trump’s Muslim business partners were cheering after the 9/11 attacks? And does Trump’s avowed ban on Muslims entering the United States also apply to his wealthy business partners?

Maybe they won’t care. Trump is the consummate salesman so maybe they understand that Trump would say one thing to Muslims he’s courting for their money and another to American voters he’s courting for their votes. After all, telling potential buyers what they want to hear is just good business.

Regardless of their reaction, the lesson for Muslim Americans is simple. If we want Trump to like us, we simply need to make it worth his while financially. Anyone want to join me in starting a “huge” Kickstarter campaign to raise the money we need to get Trump to call us “good friends”?

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, December 8, 2015

December 9, 2015 Posted by | 9-11, Donald Trump, Hassan Sajwani, Muslims | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Down In The NRA Bunker”: NRA TV; A Day In The Life Of An American Gun Nut

Wayne LaPierre stood in front of an artificial backdrop the color of a cartoon midnight sky. He was dressed like a funeral conductor, in a black suit, white shirt and dark purple tie, but he looked like the corpse. Beneath his rimless glasses and permanently-furrowed brow, his face was hollow and his skin was gray, perhaps an effect of the grim topic he was preparing to broach.

“You and I didn’t choose to be targets in the age of terror,” he said.

“But innocents like us will continue to be slaughtered in concert halls, sports stadiums, restaurants and airplanes. No amount of bloodshed will ever satisfy the demons among us.”

As he spoke, an aria fit for a horror movie played in the background, making his message feel all the more dire, like an end-of-days commercial you might see on some far-flung channel in the middle of the night in between ads for Snuggies and home gyms.

“When evil knocks on our doors, Americans have a power no other people on the planet share: the full-throated right to defend our families and ourselves with our Second Amendment,” he said. “Let fate decide if mercy is offered to the demons at our door.”

LaPierre is the chief executive of the National Rifle Association, and this one-minute ad, released on November 30, after the Paris terror attacks, is part of the NRA’s effort to attract more members with commonsense fear-mongering as mass shootings—two in the last few weeks alone, in Colorado and California—and one-off, viral gun deaths—like the case of a 9 year old girl who accidentally shot her instructor in the head with an Uzi—threaten to tar the group’s reputation in the eyes of a incessantly-shaken public.

In 2014, the NRA unveiled plans to launch its own television network of sorts—a series of programs available “anytime and anywhere on your computer, tablet or mobile phone, or web-connected TV via browser, YouTube or Roku streaming player” that would allow people to see how empowering, fun and not-murderous gun culture can be.

NRA News, as it’s called, bills itself as “the most comprehensive video coverage of Second Amendment issues, events and culture anywhere in the world,” but it doesn’t feel of this world at all. It feels like how TV might be in a dystopian future where citizens hoard weapons inside their chrome hover-trailers, which they leave only to restock on Soylent and return to with a sunburn.

The network is broken up into different categories:

Commentary, from a varied cast including LaPierre, right-wing radio host Dana Loesch and Colion Noir (not his real name), a young black man who wears baseball hats, hates “political correctness and dishonesty” and, before being discovered by NRA News, had achieved minor YouTube fame with his pro-gun rants.

Investigative, which has a familiar-sounding show called “Frontlines” that covers things like how America’s energy infrastructure is vulnerable to terror attacks or, in the frantic words of NRA News, “The Fight For Light: The Coming Catastrophe.”

Lifestyle, which houses a vaguely-porny series called “Love At First Shot” that follows youngish women as they learn to shoot firearms for the first time with the instruction of other youngish women (sample description: “Julie Golob is about to show 21-year-old Kaytlin that with the proper instruction and safety in place, she can shoot large calibers with ease).

Profiles, home of “Armed & Fabulous” which, in episode 4, documented the life of Sandra Sadler, who looks like your average grandma except when she’s holding a dead animal by the antlers. She has, the narrator said, “a deep appreciation for the outdoors.”

Campaigns, another channel for the ads like LaPierre’s.

And History, which airs “The Treasure Collection,” the “Antiques Roadshow” of NRA News.

The videos are beautiful and slick, in the style of modern presidential campaign commercials or global warming documentaries. On YouTube, where over 200 of them are posted, they accumulate thousands of views. The clip of LaPierre has over 100,000. (The number of viewers for the shows on the NRA News website is not available, and the NRA did not immediately reply to a request for that information).

Aesthetics aside, the videos are attractive because in life inside NRA News, there are Good Guys and Bad Guys, Cops and Robbers, Freedom-Lovers Like Us and the godforsaken Them. Things are, apparently, simple when you are packing heat.

To the NRA, everything is black and white—but mostly white. Almost everyone featured on NRA News is white, except for Noir, David A. Clarke, a sheriff in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin who became a minor right-wing celebrity by attacking President Obama and Al Sharpton after the Ferguson protests and was featured in a video the NRA posted on 9/11 called “My Honor” (oddly, the NRA didn’t include Clarke’s name in the video, leaving it up to YouTube commenters to identify him), and an elderly woman whose name the NRA also did not include who, in a video titled “My Rights,” said she needed a gun because she lived in government housing where “gang-bangers walk down our halls every day.”

But it’s up against the NRA’s alternative universe of gun-slinging girls and mostly-white patriots in suits who want to preserve your rights that a different narrative is fighting competitively.

On Sunday night, from the Oval Office, Obama used an address about terrorism to condemn gun culture. “We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernardino,” he said. “I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures. But the fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies—no matter how effective they are—cannot identify every would-be mass shooter, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology. What we can do—and must do—is make it harder for them to kill.”

Obama’s speech came a day after The New York Times ran an editorial on its front page, titled “End the Gun Epidemic in America,” which called for the “outlawing” of “certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition.”

Conservatives reacted in fury. Erick Erickson, the right-wing radio host, sprayed his copy of The Times with 7 bullets and posted a photo of the remains on Twitter, where it currently has over 1,000 retweets.

The Times editorial came a day after The New York Daily News ran a cover with a photo of Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters, above a row of white men: 4 of them mass shooters, one of them LaPierre. Farook was a terrorist, the News conceded, “(But so are these guys…AND this guy).”

On NRA TV on Monday, Cam Edwards, the burly red-headed, bearded host of Cam & Co (sponsored by Nosler, the ammunition manufacturer) nearly filled 3 hours of airtime with talk of the anti-gun elites in the media.

With the Times op-Ed, Edwards said, “they’ve let the mask slip. They’ve let their intentions be known.”

Behind Edwards, there was a sign which read, “KEEP CALM AND EAT BACON.”

Only in the universe of NRA TV does such serenity—punctuated by bouts of paranoia—seem possible.

 

By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, December 8, 2015

December 9, 2015 Posted by | 2nd Amendment, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association, NRA News, Wayne LaPierre | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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