Finally, the voting has started for the 2016 Presidential election. Finally, Americans can see some actual results as opposed to the never-ending analysis of polls (“Ted Cruz moved from 12% to 13% in South Carolina! What does this mean for Jeb Bush?” Wolf Blitzer was doing this for the past year.) And finally, Donald Trump has actually lost.
Yes, writing those words did feel wonderful. I’ve gone from feeling annoyed at Trump to revulsion at the carnival surrounding him and his nonsense. For months we’ve heard how everyone else is a fat/stupid/ugly/low energy/pedophile/cowardly loser except for him with his big beautiful wall keeping out those Mexican rapists and those evil Muslims. Finally, his big ugly bubble has been burst. Ignore all the facts, throw insults at everyone else, and brag about how awesome you are; this is political campaigning done by bratty 7 year olds or Venezuelan demagogues.
But Trump is certainly not done. He has a chink in his armor, but still stands at or near the top of the Republican field. Ted Cruz had a very good night in Iowa. Unfortunately, he’s not exactly a breath of fresh air compared to Trump. Cruz has been eager for much of the campaign to ride on Trump’s bandwagon, growling nuking the Middle East and how his Republican colleagues are sellouts for actually having doubts about suicidal political tactics. Fortunately, Marco Rubio came in a close third behind Trump last night. Out of these three men, I find Rubio to be the candidate who can actually win a general election and who has the best arguments about where to take the United States. I do think that some of the other candidates have a lot of positive elements, such as John Kasich and Rand Paul, but it’s hard to see much of a path to the nomination for them. Out of all the plausible candidates for the Republican nomination, I feel that Rubio is the best candidate.
Meanwhile, the Democrats have been having much more of an interesting race than expected. The more people are exposed to Hillary Clinton the less and less they like her. A grumpy old man from Vermont who never stopped living in 1968 has disrupted her long, grim march to the nomination. Sure, Hillary is qualified to be President and might be competent (or semi-competent.) But she is also unimaginative, dull, pandering, overtly scripted and weighed down with more baggage than any candidate in recent history. Also, she is highly secretive and ethically challenged, coming across as Richard Nixon in a pantsuit. She is ultimately a beatable candidate, as Barack Obama proved in 2008.
However, in 2016 Clinton’s opponent is Bernie Sanders. Sanders does genuinely believe in what he says, and is certainly authentic. Unfortunately, what he believes in is nonsense. As I said, 1968 never ended for him, and the revolution is always just around the corner. How will his revolution happen? The people will be so inspired by his promises of giveaways that they’ll magically flock to him and his comrades and put a nice red star over the White House and Capital Hill. And then, everyone will get free healthcare, college and everything else and live happily ever after. How will all of these trillions of dollars in goodies be paid for? “Wall Street! Corporations! Uhh, rich people bad!” It’s frightening that his drivel is doing so well. I had thought the Cold War had ended, and socialism was proven to be pretty awful. Never mind reality, though, Sanders magical land sounds nice. If this is the competition for the Democrats, vote for Hillary Clinton. Time to grow up.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks several weeks ago, the threat of terrorism has dominated discussions on both sides of the Atlantic. Specifically, how does the West tackle the problem of the Islamic State (referred to as IS throughout the rest of this posting.) However, I am worried that limiting our focus to IS isn't going to solve the much deeper and more complicated problem of Islamist extremism.
Yes, I said Islamist. This does not mean all of Islam or all Muslims. But it does mean that there is a significant strand within Islam that is effectively a death cult and threatens freethinking societies. Islamism is an ideology that seeks to implement the laws of Islam in society and governments. Islamist extremists, such as IS and Al-Qaeda, take Islamism to an extreme degree where they actively seek an eventual Caliphate to be ruled by an ideology that hasn't progressed much since the 9th century. Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist who now works to counter Islamist extremism in the UK argues that we must recognize that "Islam is simply a religion and that Islamism is a theocratic desire to impose a version of that religion over society."
Crucially, therefore, not all Muslims are Islamist extremists. Most victims of Islamist extremism are actually other Muslims, as illustrated in recent attacks by IS or IS affiliates in places like Lebanon, Iraq and Nigeria. IS, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, the Taliban and other groups have all caused horrific suffering for Muslims across continents. How can these monsters be tackled?
First of all, we must acknowledge that Islam is in deep turmoil across the world, and that some interpretations of Islam are fundamentally at odds with the values we hold dear. When President Obama talks vaguely of "violent extremism" and repeats platitudes of Islam being a "religion of peace," our cause isn't helped. Simply proclaiming that IS has nothing to do with real Islam doesn't cut it anymore. Maajid Nawaz notes that when Islamist extremism is not properly identified many people "may well assume that the ideology they must challenge is Islam and all Muslims, ergo the rise of current populist xenophobic trends within Europe and America." Some leaders, such as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and British Prime Minister David Cameron fortunately seem to grasp this concept and speak accordingly. Dismayingly, President Obama seems utterly hopeless and prefers to spout his platitudes. Others engage in xenophobia and nasty rabble-rousing, like Donald Trump here in the US and Marine Le Pen in France. They also fail to recognize the problem of Islamist extremism, and instead play to voters base emotions and thrive when we don't properly educate ourselves.
Acknowledging that Islam has extremely problematic elements to it that cannot co-exist within a 21st century society should be very basic and non-controversial. Like all ideologies, Islamism should be examined and challenged (and mocked if need be.) Doing so does not mean someone is "Islamaphobic." We have also got to stop with the nonsense of moral relativism, where people lamely bring up the Crusades to say "well, Christians did bad stuff too." Yes, but that was 800 years ago. Islamist extremists haven't had their beliefs challenged by an Enlightenment like Christianity has, and are carrying out atrocities in the name of their faith in the 21st century. By failing to recognize this fact, non-Muslims are also harming Muslims who are actively seeking to reform Islam. Instead of bolstering their arguments, some non-Muslims offer up nonsense (I'm looking at you President Obama) that only benefits the fundamentalists and Islamist extremists. That is simply shameful.
If we develop the correct mindset to tackle Islamist extremism, we can determine what tactics to use in order to defeat Islamist extremism. Soon, I'll have another posting on this subject, including the geopolitical issues concerning the fight against IS.
I am generally someone who avoids labeling an opponent as fascist. I've always thought that labeling all those who disagree with you as a fascist was a nasty habit of unintellegent bullies on the far left. However, with recent controversies on American college campuses, I cannot help but to make use of the fascist label.
I am specifically referring to the controversy at the University of Missouri (or Mizzou) of the past few days. To summarize, an African-American student reported being the subject of drunken racist verbal abuse from another student. That student is currently being disciplined. Neverthless, the Legion of Black Collegians (an African-American student group at Mizzou) wrote to campus administrators about other alleged incidents of racial discrimination. The group Concerned Student 1950 apparently was angered that Mizzou President Thomas Wolfe was not responsive enough to their demands. A mob formed and blocked Wolfe from leaving campus and then proceeded to make ever more absurd demands. The mob demanded that Wolfe read out an apology given to him and then resign his post. More demands included the usual "diversity training" and "social justice" funding that adds so much to administrative costs on college campuses today (and you wonder why your tuition is so high?)
Protests continued on campus, with one publicity-hungry student, Jonathan Butler, beginning a hunger strike on November 2. The protesters were eventually joined by the football team, who refused to play their upcoming game. This seemed to be the straw that broke the camels back, so to speak, and Wolfe resigned yesterday (along with Mizzou Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.) The mob won, with their targets laying down their heads on the guillotine.
The mob has been celebrating on the campus since yesterday. The indispensable academic freedom group FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) reported that the mob has turned their protests against journalists attempting to cover the event, proclaiming a "No Media Safe Space." So much for being inclusive and transparent. One particularly idiotic faculty member, Assistant Professor of Communications Melissa Click, tried to grab one reporters camera and called for "some muscle" to help drive the reporter away. The journalist, a student named Mark Schierbecker, correctly noted that he had a right to report on the event. The dim-witted Professor Click responed with "You need to go." Just to emphasize, this thug is supposed to be teaching journalism to students.
Click, Concerned Student 1950 and their accomplices in this mob are nothing less than modern Blackshirts. The Blackshirts, or squadrists, were the fascist thugs that Benito Mussolini used to stamp out opposition to his power-graps in 1920s Italy. I do not make this comparison lightly, but I do believe that it is appropriate. Academic freedom is under siege on American campuses today by so-called "social justice" advocates and their comrades. Schools should not have to set up free speech zones on their campuses-the US is a free speech zone! American college students are behaving like political gangs who seek to intimidate their opponents into silence, encouraged by the digital lynch mob of online activists. Yes, this is fascist behavior.
Recently, the Holocaust has been cited by two prominent politicians for political gains. Shamefully, both men presented historically absurd arguments.
The first politician was Dr. Ben Carson, running for the Republican nomination for President here in the United States. Earlier this month, Dr. Carson argued on CNN that "the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed" (Time, 10/11/15.) Dr. Carson made a similar claim in his recently published book A Perfect Union that "through a combination of removing guns and disseminating deceitful propaganda, the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance" (Time, 10/11/15.)
Dr. Carsons claims are ridiculous on several levels. First of all, it is not logically credible that an extremely small number of German Jews would have been able to fight back against the full might of the totalitarian Nazi German state. By 1939 there were only a little over 200,000 Jews remaining in Germany out of a total German population of almost 80 million people. Many of these remaining Jews were elderly and unable to leave Germany (as many Jews had done following the Nazi seizure of power in 1933.) How exactly were these German Jews going to successfully resist the regime that overran the militaries of Poland, France, Norway, the Netherlands and other states? That simply would not have been possible.
Also, while official discrimination had increased against German Jews throughout the 1930s, few (if any) Jews imagined that this would result in the full-scale extermination of European Jewry. This would have been unprecedented and almost impossible to imagine. Few Jews, or Germans for that matter, would have thought it possible to fully exterminate an entire people. Many Jews would also find it very difficult later on to accept that they were fated to die. Accepting this would go against human nature.
It is true that later on, some groups of Jews in Eastern Europe did resist the Nazis after it became clear that the Nazis intended to murder each and every Jew. However, these Jewish groups were realistic about their fates. For them, it was better to stand proudly and be killed fighting the Germans than to to be led compliantly to their deaths. As Abba Kovner, a Jewish resistance leader in Lithuania said, it was "better to fall as free fighters than to live by the mercy of the murderers" (www.HolocaustResearchProject.org.) The Jews who displayed extroardinary bravery fighting the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto and in other sites were ultimately defeated. Most were killed. The intent was to die proudly, knowing that they had fought back against evil.
Dr. Carson's comments insult the memory of these brave men and women who fell. Ultimately, he reveals his own lack of knowledge of the Holocaust along with a lack of understanding of broader human nature (especially how humans react when under tyranny.) I can't help but find that Dr. Carson, in many ways an intelligent and honorable man, has a simplistic understanding of issues of critical importance, coupled with an ignorance of a crucial point in history.
While Dr. Carson seems ignorant of history, another politician gets key facts of the Holocaust wrong in order to cynically further his career. I'll turn to this man later on.