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“This Joke’s Not Funny Anymore”: Donald Trump’s Talk Of Registering Muslims And Closing Mosques Is Deeply Un-American

Donald Trump is no longer funny.

For the last several months, the former reality TV star has provided comic relief as the front-runner in the Republican presidential field – especially if, like me, you have remained in the camp that believes that Trump is not going to be the GOP nominee, let alone president of the United States. Granted, his antics have been juvenile, offensive and reflected an unappealing seam in the national character, but his focus on dumb insults and general oafishness kept Trump’s pronouncements for the most part in the realm of clumsy diversion. As The New Yorker’s John Cassidy wrote yesterday, “Since so much of what Trump says is hot air, it’s tempting to dismiss all of it as mere rabble-rousing or showboating.”

But things have changed.

Trump’s rhetoric since last week’s Paris attacks has taken a dark turn and, as Greg Sargent writes in The Washington Post today, it’s spiraling downward: “[I]n the endless Trumpathon that the GOP primaries have become, every idea, no matter how startling at first hearing, must always be superseded, or Trumped, by a new, yuuuger idea.” So in a matter of days he went from entertaining the idea of shutting down houses of worship to saying that we have “absolutely no choice” but to do so; he doesn’t dismiss appalling notions like forcing certain religious groups to register or carry special religiously based identification. The fact that the religion in question is Islam is beside the point – this sort of targeting and discrimination is fundamentally un-American as is his apparent belief in “security” uber alles. (“Some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,” he told Yahoo News this week – and surely the trains will run on time as well.)

Trump told Yahoo News that “certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy.” As my colleague Emily Arrowood noted this morning: “It can’t happen here used to be a warning that it really can if we’re not careful – not a campaign promise that it will.”

And Cassidy again:

Trump must know that his proposals don’t make sense, but he’s pushing on regardless. He has moved from rabble-rousing to demagoguery, or something even uglier. And this time, sadly, we have no option but to take him seriously.

I am deeply uncomfortable with comparisons to the Nazis. They are thrown around too lightly and inherently cheapen the sheer scope of the evil acts committed by Hitler and his henchmen. But that doesn’t give lesser nods to fascism a pass until they rise to Holocaust levels; and this talk of religious registration and identification flirts with fascism in a way that should be deeply upsetting to Americans of all political stripes.

Trump should explain himself – let him hoist himself on his own petard. And every other candidate in the race should be put on the record as to whether they’re with the GOP’s unhinged front-runner or with basic American values of liberty and justice for all.


By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U. S. News and World Report, November 20, 2015

November 21, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“All The Rage In Parts Of Southern Virginia”: Inside Virginia’s Church-Burning Werewolf White Supremacist Cult

Viking-inspired white supremacists trying to terrorize black Christians in the South: not as rare as you think.

News broke yesterday that the FBI arrested two young men under the suspicion that they were planning to start a race war by bombing black churches in their home state of Virginia. The men, Robert Doyle and Ronald Chaney, allegedly ascribe to an Icelandic pagan faith called Asatru that has a disturbingly large following among white supremacists.

The faith itself doesn’t seek to endorse or promulgate racist or anti-Semitic views. But you could be forgiven for thinking it does, given its strange appeal to Nazis and other sundry bigots.

Asatru is a pagan religion that draws on Norse mythology. It is related to Odinism, according the Southern Poverty Law Center, and some use the terms interchangeably. Its defenders say the religion itself isn’t inherently bigoted. But many white supremacists find it appealing because, unlike Christianity, it isn’t influenced by Judaism. If you think the KKK is soft on the Jews because it’s Christian-friendly, Asatru might be for you.

The SPLC notes that Odinism, which has ties to Asatru, played an important role in some corners of Nazism.

“Its Nordic/Teutonic mythology was a bedrock belief for key Third Reich leaders,” the group noted in a 1998 write-up, “and it was an integral part of the initiation rites and cosmology of the elite Schutzstaffel, which supervised Adolf Hitler’s network of death camps.” Asatru apologists seem to recognize that it has a bit of a PR problem.

Nazi affection for Asatru wasn’t a fluke. David Lane, a white supremacist terrorist who died in prison, promoted the religion while incarcerated. And it has gained significant traction in the prison population; the Anti-Defamation League wrote in a 2002 report that it was one of the faiths that incarcerated white supremacists found most often. The men arrested for allegedly trying to start a race war “may have met in prison, where all were des­ig­nated by prison offi­cials as white suprema­cists while in cus­tody,” the ADL notes.

“Accord­ing to the FBI, the sus­pects were adher­ents of a white suprema­cist vari­ety of Asatru­ism,” the group added.

And they aren’t the only young white men to target black churches in Virginia.

In 2012, Maurice Thompson Michaely pleaded guilty to arson—specifically, to charges of Unlawfully Entering Property of Another with the Intent to Damage and Maliciously Destroying or Defacing Church Property, according to the Bristow Beat. Michaely tried to burn down a historic black church, the 135-year-old Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. The fire didn’t injure anyone since the building wasn’t occupied when he attempted to burn it down. However, the fire caused about $1 million of damage, according to ABC affiliate WJLA and he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

According to social media screenshots on the Fools of Vinland blog, Michaely goes by the name Hjalti and is part of a group based outside Lynchburg, Va., called Wolves of Vinland.

When The Daily Beast reached out to the group via Facebook message, the person who runs the  account replied, “It doesn’t matter who we are, what matters is our plan.”

Matthias Waggener, one prominent member of the group, described it as an “Odinic Wolfcult.”

He also said the group practices animal sacrifice.

“It is a tool that can heighten the function of the human mind to a state where it can open doors that appear closed or non existent to the normal state of observation,” he said, according to Hunter Yoder’s book 9 Worlds of Hex Magic. “In this type of ritual you are ’sacrificing’ the life of the animal to achieve this state in order to gain the wisdom beyond those doors. With this wisdom we increase the effectiveness and potential of our actions that will in turn bring glory to ourselves and our Gods. This reconciles the practice back to one of Odinic sacrifice of Blood, and life for the attainment of knowledge to increase the life of those sacrificing.”

Waggener’s brother, Paul Waggener, visited Hjalti while he was incarcerated. And at least one prominent white supremacist, Jack Donovan, is affiliated with their group. Donovan, who recently spoke at the white supremacist National Policy Institute’s event in Washington, D.C., instagrammed a picture of a dead sheep, tagged #wolvesofvinland.

“Wolves and prospects preparing to butcher the sheep we sacrificed this afternoon at moot,” he wrote.

Animal sacrifice, Norse mythology, wolf-themed weekends—it all sounds like something out of a heavy metal music video or a Live Action Role Play convention. But as yesterday’s arrests evince, viking-inspired white supremacy is alive and well and weird in Southern Virginia.


By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, November 11, 2015

November 13, 2015 Posted by | Black Churches, Race War, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Whispering ‘Sweet Nothings’ In Conservatives Ears”: How Ben Carson’s Snoozy Demeanor Masks His Bonkers Views

Ben Carson is calm — calm like a cool spring breeze, or a long nap on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The Republican presidential hopeful speaks softly and slowly. He doesn’t wave his arms about. He shows barely any emotion at all. But Ben Carson is also the possessor of ideas that are positively bonkers, not just about policy questions, but about the world and how it works.

This odd combination of a gentle manner and extremist ideas seems to be just what a healthy chunk of the Republican electorate is looking for. Carson is running a close second to Donald Trump nationally, and leading in Iowa. As The New York Times recently reported, Iowa voters in particular are enraptured with Carson’s manner. “That smile and his soft voice makes people very comforted,” said one farmer. “I believe someone as mild-mannered and gentlemanly as Ben Carson is just about the only kind of person that could” get things done in Washington, said another Iowan.

You’d think they were talking about someone with moderate views who’d be able to get along and work with anyone, not someone who wants to outlaw abortion even in cases of rape and incest, thinks we should ditch Medicare, and holds to all manner of weird conspiracy theories. And that’s not to mention all the stuff the retired neurosurgeon says about slavery and Nazis, his belief that Muslims should be barred from the presidency unless they offer a public disavowal of their religion, or his latest proposal to turn the Department of Education into something that sounds like it comes out of China’s Cultural Revolution, in which he would have students report professors who displayed political bias to the government so universities’ funding could be cut.

Most of the time, we expect that when politicians take radical stands, they do it with raised voices and fists pounding on lecterns. “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” Barry Goldwater thundered in his 1964 convention speech, and “moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” We assume that ideologues will be the angry ones, while moderates will come across as sensible and ordinary.

In primaries, though, it’s often the loud candidates who burn brightly, at least for awhile. Deliver a stem-winding denunciation of the other party, and you can get at least some of your partisans to rally to your war banner. The mild-mannered don’t tend to have as much success, which is part of what makes Carson’s candidacy so unusual. But maybe his supporters are on to something. Mike Huckabee used to say that he was a conservative, he just wasn’t angry about it — an acknowledgement that to lots of voters in the middle, conservatism is associated with disgruntlement and contempt, as though the GOP were a party built on the fundamental principle that you damn kids better get off my lawn or else.

For the last eight years, conservatives have been angrier than ever before — mostly at Barack Obama, but also at a world that continues to change and evolve in ways they don’t like. Of late their anger has turned most particularly on their own party, which many of them view as feckless and cowardly.

In that context it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Donald Trump has done as well as he has. If nothing else, he’s untainted by any association with GOP leaders. Carson can say the same, but instead of grand pronouncements about how super-luxurious America will be once he’s in charge, he whispers sweet nothings into conservatives’ ears, at a volume so low they have to strain to hear.

But there’s no question which one is the more ideologically radical. It’s hard to tell how many primary voters understand that, particularly since most Americans don’t have a fine-grained understanding of where everyone in politics stands ideologically. Many don’t even have a particularly good grasp on what the ideological differences that distinguish the two parties are.

One thing we do know is that Ben Carson’s string of offensive and bizarre statements hasn’t hurt him at all with primary voters; if anything, they’ve helped. So it’s unlikely that too many people are being fooled by his calm into thinking he’s some kind of moderate; perhaps they think other people might be fooled. But if any of them actually think that he could change the way business is done because he’s gentle and genteel, they haven’t been paying much attention to politics in America lately.

Of course, Carson’s chances of becoming the GOP nominee are still less than great, even if he is doing surprisingly well now. Whoever that nominee is, when the general election begins he’ll claim to represent the soul of mainstream thinking, while his opponent is a dangerous extremist whose beliefs and proposals are strange and frightening. That opponent will say the same about him. And one of them might be right.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, October 27, 2015

October 28, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Conservatives, GOP Presidential Candidates, Iowa Caucuses | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“If I Only Had A Gun…”: It’s Clear To Me Now, Jewish Civilians With Revolvers And Hunting Rifles Would Have Made All The Difference

Of course. It makes perfect sense. Why couldn’t I see it before?

There could never have been a Holocaust had the Jews been armed. Granted, the Nazis swept aside the armies of Poland and France like dandruff, and it took six years for Great Britain — later joined by Russia and the United States — to grind them down. But surely Jewish civilians with revolvers and hunting rifles would have made all the difference.

Much as I’d love to take credit for that insight, I can’t. No, it comes from presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson in a recent interview with CNN. “I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed,” Carson said.

This has become a recurrent theme on the political right, the idea that unarmed victims of violence are to blame for their own troubles. And not just in the Holocaust. Rush Limbaugh said two years ago that if African Americans had been armed, they wouldn’t have needed a Civil Rights Movement. The founder of so-called “Gun Appreciation Day” said, also two years ago, that had the Africans been armed, there could have been no slavery.

There’s more. When nine people recently died at a mass shooting in Oregon, Ted Nugent declared that any unarmed person thus killed is a spineless “loser.” Carson seems to agree. “I would not just stand there and let him shoot me,” he said. Or, as Clint Eastwood says in Unforgiven when Gene Hackman complains that he just shot an unarmed man: “Well, he should’ve armed himself…”

It’s so clear to me now. Guns don’t take lives, they save them. Guns make everything better. Carson is a surgeon, not an optometrist, but golly gosh, he’s sure opened my eyes.

As a friend recently observed, what if Trayvon Martin had had a gun? Then he could have killed the “creepy-ass cracker” who was stalking him. Surely, the court would have afforded him the same benefit of the doubt they gave George Zimmerman, right?

And what if the men on Titanic had been armed? That tragedy might have had a happier ending:

Iceberg dead ahead!

No time to port around it. Get your guns, men! We’re making ice cubes out of this sucker!

Jack, is that a Colt in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?

It’s a Colt, woman. Now, stand aside.

Hey, what if Jesus had been armed?

“Thou wisheth to nail me to what? I think not. Come on, punks. Maketh my day!”

The possibilities are endless. So I’ve taken the liberty of composing a new campaign song for Carson, to the tune of “If I Only Had a Heart” from The Wizard of Oz:

When a man’s an empty holster, no courage does he bolster
No confidence is won
What a difference he’d be makin’, he could finally stop his quakin’
If he only had a gun

He could stand a little straighter with that ultimate persuader
And wouldn’t that be fun?
He could put an end to static with a semiautomatic
If he only had a gun

Can’t you see, how it would be?
Woe would avoid his door
The crazy guy would pass him by
Or else he’d shoot — and shoot some more

Oh, the shootin’ he’d be doin’, and all the ballyhooin’
The way the folks would run
His life would be so merry in a world of open carry
If he only had a gun

If you think Carson might like the song, I would not mind at all if you shared it with him:

What’s that? You think I’ve lost my mind? You’re calling me crazy? Boy, that makes me so mad I can hardly control myself!

If I only had a gun…


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, October 19, 2015

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Civil Rights Movement, Gun Violence, Holocaust | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“The Conspiracy Theorists And Doomsday Preppers”: Ben Carson, American Gun Advocates, And The Fantasy Of Individual Heroism

Chances are that you are not a hero. That is to say that you do your job and live your life, but seldom if ever are you called upon to do something extraordinary in a life-or-death moment, some spectacular act of bravery that calls upon otherworldy cunning and physical skill. Compared to a Hollywood action film, your life is rather mundane and ordinary. You don’t begin your week on Monday knowing that by Friday you will have leaped from explosions, taken down ninja death squads, or battled supervillains.

It’s fun to indulge those fantasies from time to time—with enough money, time, and training, maybe I could be Batman!—but most of us are level-headed enough to realize that they are just fantasies. They certainly shouldn’t be the source of judgments we make about our fellow human beings, let alone the basis for policymaking.

But not everyone agrees. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, for instance, has recently attracted a great deal of attention for saying that unlike those cowering sheep who were killed by a gunman in Roseburg, Oregon, he would have quickly organized his fellow victims-to-be and rushed the shooter. In the ensuing discussion, Carson’s similar views about the Holocaust came to light—that if the Jews had more guns and more gumption, they could have stood up to Hitler and, if not stopped the genocide entirely, at least … well, at least done something or other.

As a piece of historical analysis, this is positively deranged, as any historian will tell you. But it’s also widely shared on the right, not just when it comes to World War II in particular but as a way to understand the broader relationship between the individual and government. Take, for instance, this execrable op-ed on from frequent on-air contributor Keith Ablow, which basically argues that the Holocaust happened because German Jews were too wimpy to rise up, find some guns, and do the job.

As Jacob Bacharach reminds us, plenty of Jews did fight back, not only in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising but among resistance forces spread throughout Europe in the places Germany occupied. And what happened to them? They mostly got slaughtered, because they were fighting against a vastly stronger force, the Wehrmacht. It took the combined might of the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and about 20 smaller countries to actually defeat the Nazis. But Carson and others want to believe the Jews could have done the job, too, if only they had some guts and a few bolt-action rifles.

And why might they think that? I’d suggest that it’s because their ideas are shaped by a particular kind of Hollywood fantasy, one in which individual heroism and ample firearms are the means by which enormous, sweeping problems can be solved.

Though it hasn’t gotten as much attention as it should in the coverage of his candidacy, Carson is succeeding in part because he is the candidate of a particular portion of the Republican fringe, the conspiracy theorists and doomsday preppers who watch Glenn Beck, listen to Alex Jones, and know that the apocalypse is around the corner. One of the key components of the ideology these people imbibe is not just that you’re on your own, but that on your own you can do anything. Society will disintegrate, vast conspiratorial forces are arrayed against you, jackbooted government thugs are about to come knocking at your door—but if you’ve got your AR-15 and a strong will, you can turn them all back and maintain our freedom. Not only that, the only reason it hasn’t happened yet is because the government knows and fears your potency.

This fantasy—at once maniacally paranoid and looking desperately forward to the day the opportunity for heroism comes—is fed by the gun industry, the NRA, and gun advocates like Carson. It tells people they need to have lots of guns stockpiled at home, and to always carry their gun everywhere they go. Because today could be the day when everything depends on your willingness to use deadly force.

Now think for a moment about how Hollywood action films work. They’re seldom about large armies facing off, with the individuals within them each playing their small but important role. Instead, they show us a solitary hero or small band of comrades doing spectacular things against far superior forces. Arnold Schwarzenegger mows down hundreds of faceless enemies who never manage to lay a hand on him; Liam Neeson cracks the necks of dozens of thugs on his way to save his daughter; Sylvester Stallone single-handedly defeats the entire North Vietnamese army; Jennifer Lawrence overthrows a brutal dictatorship with a few friends and some well-aimed arrows.

If you don’t appreciate that these are fantasies, it might make perfect sense to think that Germany’s Jews could have stopped the Holocaust by being more gutsy. In real life, though, that’s not how it works. Armies aren’t defeated by a lone hero with a gun and a ready quip; armies are defeated by bigger, better armies (or in some cases by organized, decades-long insurgencies). Dictatorships aren’t brought down by a single act of defiance; more often it takes years or even decades of protest, organizing, and arduous work.

All of the Republican candidates would probably tell you that owning a gun (or two or twelve) is a good idea to protect your family. This happens to be wrong; a gun in your home is far more likely to wind up killing one of your family members than it is to defend you from a home invasion. But at least it’s possible. And you might, someday, commit an act of heroism that saves people’s lives, even if most of us never do. But the chance that you will buy a gun and use it to stop a fascist takeover of America is precisely zero, not only because there won’t be a fascist takeover, but because if there were, you and your gun wouldn’t stop it from happening.

Ben Carson imagines himself a Hollywood hero. If he were in that classroom in Oregon, no one might have died. And if he were a Jew in Germany in 1939, he would have hidden away a revolver, stood up to the SS, and before you know it, Hitler would have been taken care of. Right now, he’s speaking for everyone who shares his fantasy. And it looks like there are plenty of people who do.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, October 11, 2015

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Conspiracy Theories | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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