Alabama–How Doug Jones Beats Roy Moore


December 14, 2017

Alabama–How Doug Jones Beats Roy Moore

Doug Jones beats Republican Cowboy Roy Moore, thanks to Black Alabamians, Barack Obama, Civil Rights Icon. John Lewis  and Charles Barkley

The Republican Party sold itself cheaply for the sake of an Alabama Senate seat—and it didn’t even get the win. On Tuesday night, Doug Jones, the Democrat, declared victory over Roy Moore, who is facing multiple allegations of predatory behavior toward teen-agers, by a margin of one and a half per cent. It was close, but, as President Trump, who had endorsed Moore and encouraged the Republican National Committee to rush funds to the campaign in the final stretch—which, to its shame, it did—said in a tweet, “a win is a win.” (Moore also had the full support of the Alabama Republican Party.) In particular, black Alabamians appear to have turned out in force for Jones.

His campaign had appealed for their support as a community. Charles Barkley, the retired basketball player and native Alabamian, campaigned for Jones, and President Barack Obama recorded a robocall. (Trump did one for Moore, in addition to tweeting for him.) Turnout was markedly higher in counties with large black populations.

These voters were the ones who defended the state’s respectability. Jones said, in his victory speech, that “this entire race has been about dignity and respect . . . This campaign has been about the rule of law. This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency and making sure everyone in this state, regardless of which Zip Code you live in, is going to get a fair shake in life.” But he wasn’t only talking about teen-age girls. Moore had made his bigotry explicit, and the Republican Party had tolerated it. Jones placed the full Moore in front of voters, and he won.

Image result for Obama and Barkley support Doug JonesCharles Barkley with Doug Jones

There had been a certain amount of amazement that any Democrat, even Jones, a respected former U.S. Attorney who had successfully prosecuted some of the murderers in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing case, had a chance, given how Republican Alabama is. But it is Moore who should never have gotten this close. There is no alibi in this story for the members of the Republican establishment who, after Moore defeated their preferred candidate, Luther Strange, sighed and supported him, only to back away when the Washington Post broke the story of Moore’s alleged molestation of a fourteen-year-old girl when he was a lawyer in his thirties, and his pursuit of others only slightly older. That was followed by more, similar accounts; Charles Bethea reported, for The New Yorker, about how Moore had been a notorious presence at a mall in Gadsden. (Moore has denied the allegations.)

Image result for roy moore on horseback ridingRoy Moore riding into political oblivion taking the RNC with him

But to have supported Moore before the stories of the teen-agers emerged, as the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, did, including with funds from PACs beholden to him, was to support Moore after he had confirmed that he did not believe that Muslims should be allowed to serve in Congress. That alone ought to have been disqualifying. How would Republican senators have looked their Muslim constituents in the eye (and there are Muslim Americans in every state)? How would they have looked at themselves in the mirror? The support from McConnell and others also came after Moore had talked about instituting criminal penalties for homosexuality. It came after Moore said that America had been great during the era of slavery when, he argued, family ties really mattered. It came after a rally at which he referred to Native Americans and Asian-Americans serving in the military as “reds and yellows.” It came after he mooted theories about birtherism and all manner of conspiracies, human and divine. (This included suggesting that the 9/11 attacks were God’s punishment for, among other things, America’s acceptance of reproductive rights and “sodomy.”)

In the last week of the campaign, CNN ran a story about a 2011 interview in which Moore said that many of the nation’s problems could be solved by getting rid of every amendment to the Constitution after the Tenth, which would include everything from emancipation and full citizenship for black Americans to the right of women to vote. For Republican leaders to act blindsided that such a man might have other character flaws is a dubious position.

Richard Shelby, Alabama’s other senator, and (since the end of the Dixiecrat era) a Republican, caused a stir by saying, on the Sunday before the election, that he could not vote for Moore because Alabama “deserves better.” Instead, he used his absentee ballot to write in “a distinguished Republican name,” which he declined to specify. Jones and others trumpeted Shelby’s position, and it may have made a difference; 1.7 per cent of the votes were write-ins, a proportion greater than Jones’s margin of victory and higher than what Alabama usually sees. Perhaps it also helped to keep some Republican voters home. And yet Shelby, when it comes down to it, was still encouraging a vote for someone other than Jones, the only person who could beat Moore; and he waited until two days before the election to do it. (He did get his say in before a final rally at which Moore’s wife, Kayla, decided to defend her husband against charges of religious bigotry by saying, “One of our attorneys is a Jew.”) Simply driving people away from electoral politics is not, in the long term, a healthy answer to the problem of candidates like Moore in a functioning democracy.

Image result for Screw you racist Steve Bannon

The Unkempt Racist Steve Bannon

The Republican Party had an opening, early on, to mount a real write-in campaign; it didn’t take it. There is little for anyone in the Party to take credit for now. Steve Bannon, the President’s former strategist and adviser, associated himself with the Moore campaign, and Tuesday was a significant loss for him, though it would be a mistake to underestimate what his prominence in the campaign also gained him, in terms of his efforts to position himself at the nexus of a political network. But, although Bannon was more visible, he was not alone, either in his proximity to Moore or in his raw opportunism. Or in his capacity for rationalization: on Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted, “The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!”

Moore lost because Jones beat him. He did so with the help of the national Democratic Party, and its associated resources, but also by presenting himself as a person who believed in certain principles and in the state of Alabama. He also, notably, won without backing away from his support for reproductive rights. He will have to run again in three years—since this was a special election for a seat left open by the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Trump’s Attorney General, Jones doesn’t get a full term. That will be a tough race, but, if nothing else, Jones will again have a better shot than any Democrat has had in a while. One of the criticisms that Barack Obama, among others, levied against Hillary Clinton’s campaign is that it did not work hard enough to persuade voters who weren’t already inclined to vote for her to change their minds. A Democratic win in red Alabama, as peculiar as this race was, may encourage more ambitious outreach in the midterms. It should.

The corruption of the Republican Party is not, or is not simply, one of tolerating candidates with personal flaws. (The Democrats have a measure of that, too.) It has been ideological. Doug Jones, with his hard-fought campaign, saved the Republicans from having to sit next to a gaudy incarnation of the present-day G.O.P. in the Senate chamber. But the ugliness is still there, and the Republicans can choose either to confront it or to debase themselves further. They might start in the coming days, as Moore, whose speech on Tuesday night, after the results came in, was a dark and Psalm-punctuated whine, said that he wouldn’t concede because he expected a recount. (The margin, though, was too large to trigger an automatic one.) For the moment, congressional Republicans appear busy trying to rush the tax bill through before Jones shows up and cuts their majority in the Senate to a single vote. McConnell indicated on Tuesday that he had a backup plan for that: stall on seating Jones until the new year. He did manage, after all, to kill Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court Justice by delaying it until Trump became President. But some reckonings can’t be put off forever.

  • Amy Davidson Sorkin is a New Yorker staff writer. She is a regular Comment contributor for the magazine and writes a Web column, in which she covers war, sports, and everything in between.

 

Malaysia’s Najib Razak fans the flames of Religious Intolerance


October 20, 2017

Malaysia’s Najib Razak fans the flames of Religious Intolerance

by Mariam Mokhtar.

http://www.sentinel.com

Image result for Chicken Najib Razak

Chicken Najib Razak fans the flames of religious intolerance

Malaysia has been thrown into a royal shambles by a growing rivalry between the country’s nine religiously moderate sultans and its conservative mullahs, considered by many to be “nouveaux royals” vying for the attention of ethnic Malay Muslims.

Political and social observers believe that if the controversy is left unchecked, it could undermine the position of the corruption-scarred Prime Minister, Najib Abdul Razak.

Image result for Tough Sultan of Johor

 

Johor people are proud of Major General Sir Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Sultan Abu Bakar, who ruled Johor for 64 years from 1895 to 1959 and his successors. Born on September 17th 1873, he ascended the throne on June 4th 1895 following the death of his father Sultan Abu Bakar. He was proclaimed on September 7th 1895 and was crowned on November 2nd of the same year. He celebrated his diamond jubilee of his accession on his 82nd birthday, a world record at that time. Sultan Sir Ibrahim also declined to become the first Yang Di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia in 1957 and so did the subsequent Sultan of Johor, Sultan Sir Ismail.Johor Mesti Sentiasa Jadi Johor

Image result for Tough Sultan of Johor

HRH Sultan Ibrahim Ismail Ibni Baginda Al Mutawakkil Alallah Sultan Iskandar Al-Haj, born on 22 November 1958 during the reign of his great grandfather Sultan Ibrahim, is widely admired and respected by all Malaysians

On October. 10, the Royals, who serve as the hereditary titular heads of nine of Malaysia’s 13 states and who even today have a deep reserve of loyalty from feudal rural Malays, called for unity and religious harmony after what they described as “excessive actions” in the name of Islam, a rare intervention into the public arena.

“It is feared that the excessive actions of certain individuals of late can undermine the harmonious relations among the people of various races and religions,” said the statement, signed by the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal, Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, according to a report in the state-run news agency Bernama.  “The Rulers feel that the issue of harmony has deep implications if any action is associated with and undertaken in the name of Islam.”

Najib is normally swift to act against members of the Malaysian public who condemn the royal households, the Islamic institutions, or his administration. But last week, after the Malay rulers issued the royal rebuke, Najib was silent.

Leaders of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the country’s biggest ethic political party, understand the potency of conservative Islam to manipulate ethnic Malays, who make up about 60 percent of the population. The other 40 percent are comprised of Chinese, Hindus, East Malaysian ethnic Bumiputeras, and others.

The nine royal households, who by tradition and the Constitution are the guardians of Islam in their respective states, are believed to oppose the implementation of hudud, or harsh Islamic law, and a bill before the parliament to enlarge the power of the Syariah Courts. They are also said to be alarmed about recent events like the banning of certain books and the arrest and deportation of authors and speakers including the Turkish academic, Mustafa Akyol.

Image result for mustafa akyol

 

A series of religious-related incidents has pitted the mullahs and the government against the royal households. Last month, the Kuala Lumpur City Council cancelled the annual Oktoberfest event, a Germany-inspired celebration of the passing of the seasons and of beer-drinking, and told the organizers that the event was a sensitive issue. They did not say who considered it sensitive or how it would affect Muslim sensitivities.

Days later, a launderette in Johor issued a statement saying that its services were only for Muslim patrons. The owner deemed that items belonging to non-Muslims would “contaminate” items of clothing worn by Muslims and invalidate their prayer.

The public were outraged by this act and HRH Sultan of Johor Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar waded in, warning the owner that the business would face closure by him if it did not stop operating as if it was in the Taliban portion of Afghanistan. After the dressing-down, the launderette owner apologized for his action and offered his services to people of different faiths.

The Royals have thrown the ball into Najib’s court, but he has refused to play. His relationship with the Sultans is increasingly tenuous, but his reticence to make a stand is regarded as weakening his own position.

The nature of the Sultans’ intervention is regarded as an indication that the royals are fed up and irritated as in fact are many of the country’s urban Malays by the erosion of community integration, as are many professionals among the Malay population, who say they are at the end of their tether with Najib and fundamentalist Islam. At a recent wedding, some even said they wouldn’t mind if a Chinese were to become prime minister, an astonishing heresy in the country. Many said they are openly encouraging their children to migrate. Nonetheless, the opposition as a political force remains splintered and a long shot against Najib and UMNO in an expected general election which must be called before the middle of 2018.

“The royals, too, feel their position is threatened. They may be Malay and act as the guardians of Islam, but many, when away from prying eyes, lead a very western lifestyle,” a political analyst told Asia Sentinel. “Some royals spend an appreciable amount of time in the west and enjoy a lifestyle that many of their Malay subjects can only envy. With rising Islamic conservatism, the ordinary Malays cannot emulate this western lifestyle in Malaysia.”

The Royals are compelled to speak out before extremism takes root and undermines their royal status, another social critic said. “In Islam everyone is considered equal, and only in Saudi Arabia are kings above the law. The Malaysian royals are taking the initiative and acting before their own existence is questioned by the extremists.”

As an example, he said, in April 2016, the Sultan of Terengganu, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin stripped the state’s chief minister Ahmad Razif of all state-awarded titles because Razif had presented a controversial Indian zealot, Zakir Naik, with three islands.

Najib is not known for issuing retractions, denials or affirmations, as he has normally depended on a coterie of loyal supporters, most of whom belong to his inner circle, to lash out on his behalf.

However, the Royal dressing down has thrown Putrajaya, the seat of government, into disarray and political observers wonder if Najib will order an immediate shakeup of the Department for the Development of Islam in Malaysia, known by its Malay-language initials JAKIM.

Image result for harussani zakaria

It takes a Siti Kassim to put Perak’s Chief Mullah Harussani Zakaria in his proper place

Several other religious experts including two influential muftis, Asri Zainul Abidin of Perlis and Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri of the Federal Territory also admonished the launderette owner in Muar and another “Muslim-only” launderette operating in Perlis.

The Royals are compelled to speak out before extremism takes root and undermines their royal status, another social critic said. “In Islam everyone is considered equal, and only in Saudi Arabia are kings above the law. The Malaysian royals are taking the initiative and acting before their own existence is questioned by the extremists.”

As an example, he said, in April 2016, the Sultan of Terengganu, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin stripped the state’s chief minister Ahmad Razif of all state-awarded titles because Razif had presented a controversial Indian zealot, Zakir Naik, with three islands.

Najib is not known for issuing retractions, denials or affirmations, as he has normally depended on a coterie of loyal supporters, most of whom belong to his inner circle, to lash out on his behalf.

However, the royal dressing down has thrown Putrajaya, the seat of government, into disarray and political observers wonder if Najib will order an immediate shakeup of the Department for the Development of Islam in Malaysia, known by its Malay-language initials JAKIM.

Several other religious experts including two influential muftis, Asri Zainul Abidin of Perlis and Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri of the Federal Territory also admonished the launderette owner in Muar and another “Muslim-only” launderette operating in Perlis.

In an unprecedented move, however, an Islamic preacher, Zamihan Mat Zain, fired back at the Johore Sultan and the Perlis and FT muftis for their stance, claiming that Muslims were only trying to lead good lives.

In a YouTube video, Zamihan termed Malaysia an “Islamic state” and said that being clean was Islamic. He was shocked, he said, that the small issue of the Muslim-only laundrette had been blown out of proportion, and become a worldwide sensation.

At a graduation ceremony at the Tun Hussein Onn University, the Johor Sultan called Zamihan “an empty tin with no brains,” adding that he was “very arrogant,” “haughty” and someone who believed he was the only one who had the right to scorn people of other races.

The Sultan of Johor’s criticism was swiftly followed by a similarly worded statement from the Perlis Crown Prince, Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Jamalullail. The other Sultans delivered the October 10 Royal rebuke, saying Malaysians should focus on tolerance, moderation, and inclusivity for life in a diverse, multicultural Malaysia.

The statement, signed by the keeper of the ruler’s seal, Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, said, “The rulers are of the opinion that the damaging implications of such actions are more severe, when they are erroneously associated with, or committed in the name of Islam.”

In a further development, the royal rebuke has finally forced Jamil Khir Baharom, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD), who also heads JAKIM, into the open. JAKIM is under the control of the Prime Minister’s department, with an annual budget of RM1 billion (US$236.7 million). Calls for the accounts to be audited and made transparent have been ignored.

Jamil was silent when the issue of safety, teaching quality and the mushrooming of illegal tahfiz, or religious schools cropped up, but Zamihan, who took potshots at the Sultan, has forced Jamil to seek an audience with the Johor Sultan, who in turn ordered the state religious authority, JAIJ, to sever ties with JAKIM.

Zamihan initially denied he was attached to JAKIM, but it was revealed that he is an “Islamic affairs officer” who has been seconded to the Home Ministry’s publications and Koranic text control division. His videos and talks are often inflammatory. It is also alleged that preachers are paid about RM20,000 per month.

Anyone who thinks that this battle royal is just another religious incident that will soon blow over is wrong. Najib knows that clipping the religious preachers’ wings would seriously erode his powerbase, but he is caught in a dilemma of his own making. Rural, feudal Malays are making it crucial that Najib’s political future be determined by his ability to conciliate the royal households and the demands of the power-hungry, conservative Islamic clerics whom he has fostered. Najib has unleashed a hydra which he may be unable to control.

Mariam Mokhtar is a liberal political commentator in Malaysia

 

Only Malaysians can save Malaysia


October 9, 2017

Only Malaysians can save Malaysia

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Mariam Mokhtar

Two Respected Malaysian Activists–Farouk A. Peru and Mariam Mokhtar

COMMENT | The Malaysian Special Branch is one of the most effective in the world. Its main role is intelligence gathering and the analysis of the information, for use by other government departments.

Predictions of the Special Branch about voting patterns and trends are highly respected. However, recently it was unable to tell Najib Abdul Razak and his cabinet the lie of the land, and how the rakyat will vote in the 14th general election (GE14). That does not augur well for the prime minister, who must call GE14 soon.

We are a divided nation, with Malays pitted against non-Malays, Muslims against non-Muslims, and East Malaysians against peninsular Malaysians. Fracture lines also exist within the communities, for example among the Malays.

The saying “Divide and conquer” has been used by successive Malaysian governments. Despite Najib’s boasts that the economy is doing well, and that everything is under control, he has delayed calling GE14? Why?

Image result for najib razak and zakir naik

Is Prime Minister Najib unable to contain UMNO extremists and Zakir Naik or is he fermenting unrest  by using race and religion so that he can declare Emergency Rule? 

The recent steep rise in religious and racial intolerance, which has resulted in events like the Oktoberfest being cancelled and deemed a national security risk, is indicative of Najib’s increasing loss of control over the overall situation in Malaysia.

The bigots in the various government departments need to control the masses. Religion is their answer and Najib has provided them the means. Enter Abdul Hadi Awang, the leader of PAS. They are like a tag-team. Hadi has provided Najib the legitimacy to act in the name of Islam. Take one away, and their grip on the Malays is rendered useless.

Rallying call to reject the opposition

On a daily basis, we find the Malays being fed an unwholesome diet of the lies that the non-Malays would conquer them, if the Opposition, in particular the DAP, were to triumph in GE14. The rallying call to reject the Opposition is that the Malays will be driven back to the kampung, Islam will cease to be the official religion, mosques will be removed and Malay will soon be a forgotten language.

Image result for najib razak and zakir naik

Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Zahid Hamdi  who refuses to be outdone by his boss also embraces Indian Fugitive Zakir Naik

You may laugh and wonder why anyone should believe this rubbish, but when you tell this to many so-called “educated” Malays, you will discover that they actually believe this inflammatory rhetoric.

So, why should the Malays feel threatened? They hold top jobs in the civil service. They have no problems obtaining government grants, government contracts and government licences. Education is tailored to their needs, especially after one former  UMNO education minister decided that the pass mark be lowered for Malays who sit for public examinations.

The Malays are  admitted into the civil service and the armed forces. The royal households are all Malays. You are correct to point out that only those with “cable” (connections) to the top will prosper. But then, who are these people? Are they not mostly Malays? In other countries, this knowledge would be seized upon, questions asked in Parliament and protests demanding swift action, but not in Malaysia. Are we that cowed?

More fearful of Jakim’s officials, than of God

The Department of Islamic Development in Malaysia, Jakim, with its RM1 billion budget, spends much of its time policing our morals and telling us how to live our lives. Many of the Malays who do as Jakim tells them, are more fearful of this department’s officials, than of God. The irony is that we ignore the Quran because we are too lazy to learn.

Malaysians who can afford the fees send their children to study in international schools. Malaysians buy properties overseas so that they can send their children to schools in that country. This shows that they have no faith in the Malaysian education. Instead of demanding that the government improves the situation, they simply allow the system to get worse.

Image result for Mat Rempits and Minah Rempits

Mat Rempit and Minah Rempit in Action and then this (below)

Image result for Mat Rempit killed in accident.

 

Why are many local graduates unable to get jobs? Why do many Malay teenagers drop out and end up being Mat Rempit in stead of finishing school?

Many Malaysians are rant and grumble about with the state of economy, the education system and the simmering tensions in the country, but they are too scared to do anything about it. Why do they leave it to a few activists  when they can take part in the movement for change?

You, too, have the power to change Malaysia. You can contribute your best. It may be in the form of one article, one poster, one talk, one interview, or one vote. It takes  a flutter of a butterfly to create a tsunami to  remove UMNO-Baru from the seat of government in Kuala Lumpur/Putrajaya, which it has held since Independence.

After the massacre in Las Vegas, nothing is set to change


October 9, 2017

THE ECONOMIST

A deathly silence

After the massacre in Las Vegas, nothing is set to change

 

But do not despair. Some progress on gun laws is possible in America

Print edition | Leaders

Image result for las vegas strip

Panoramic Photo of The Las Vegas Strip,Nevada

AFTER the worst mass shooting in recent American history, in which 58 people were killed and 489 wounded, both the president and the majority leaders in Congress sought to keep talk about new gun laws to a minimum. In Vegas that kind of reticence is called a tell. Had Stephen Paddock used a new technology—an armed drone, say—to kill from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, or had he been an immigrant from the Middle East, lawmakers would be rushing to legislate or tighten borders. But he was a retired white man who used some of the 49 guns he owned, so it is the price of freedom.

Image result for the mandalay bay resort and casino

There is a weariness to America’s gun debate and the familiar ritual after mass shootings, which are more frequent than in any other rich country. One study counted 166 of them in 14 countries in 2000-14; 133 were in America. Yet, nothing happens, partly because the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has evolved from an armed version of the Boy Scout movement into the foremost mouthpiece for a view of America in which everyone must be armed for their own protection, has a veto in Washington—including over banning “bump stocks” which make semi-automatic guns more lethal.

If America could not overhaul its gun laws after Sandy Hook, when 20 children aged six and seven were shot at school, then what chance is there now? And even if tighter laws on new guns were introduced tomorrow, there would still be a stock of 300m firearms to reckon with.

Such despair is unworthy of this week’s victims. There are plenty of down-is-up arguments about guns, but the Las Vegas shooting, in addition to being the most deadly, has shown up the old NRA line that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun as the most deceitful of the lot.

Granted, America has chosen permissive gun laws for itself. But the body count does not have to be as high as it is today. Research into murder and suicide suggests that making it just slightly harder to get hold of a weapon can reduce the number of killings, many of which are spontaneous and unplanned.

Image result for The National Rifle Association, Washington DC

The NRA has Senators and Congressman in its back pocket. No meaningful change in US Gun Laws is possible. Las Vegas is, therefore, not the last word on Gun Violence in the Land of the Brave and the Free.–Din Merican

It ought to be possible to write laws that respect the right to bear arms while banning weapons and modifications that make it astonishingly easy to kill a lot of people quickly. Most Americans favour such laws and would like universal background checks on gun purchases, too (though support for gun control is less fervent than for gun rights). Such a regime would still leave America with an unusually high number of murders, suicides and fatal accidents involving guns, but the disparity with other countries would be less glaring.

The road from Mandalay Hotel

Tired of waiting for Congress, some cities have introduced their own laws. In upstate New York, where plenty of people hunt, gun laws are permissive. In New York City those laws do not apply. Anyone who wants to carry a gun down Fifth Avenue must first obtain the permission of the NYPD. New York state tightened its laws after Sandy Hook, in effect banning assault weapons. Four other states did the same, though a further 16 responded by making guns easier to buy or carry.

Las Vegas, which sits in a state with some of the loosest rules in the country, should rewrite its own gun laws, too. Real conservatives, who champion local fixes for local problems, ought to cheer that. Of course it would not completely solve the problem. Cities like Chicago, near states with permissive laws, would still be flooded with guns. But in a country with 30,000 gun deaths a year, even small improvements would save a lot of lives. A rough calculation suggests that in the time between the Las Vegas shooting and the publication of this article, a further 320 Americans lost their life to a bullet.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Deathly silence”

 

Donald Trump–The First White President


October 6, 2017

Donald Trump: The First White President

http://www.theatlantic.com

The foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency is the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy.

Jesse Draxler; Photo: David Hume Kennerly / Getty
 by Ta.Nehisi Coates
 

It is insufficient to state the obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact. With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds. No such elegant detachment can be attributed to Donald Trump—a president who, more than any other, has made the awful inheritance explicit.

His political career began in advocacy of birtherism, that modern recasting of the old American precept that black people are not fit to be citizens of the country they built. But long before birtherism, Trump had made his worldview clear. He fought to keep blacks out of his buildings, according to the U.S. government; called for the death penalty for the eventually exonerated Central Park Five; and railed against “lazy” black employees. “Black guys counting my money! I hate it,” Trump was once quoted as saying. “The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” After his cabal of conspiracy theorists forced Barack Obama to present his birth certificate, Trump demanded the president’s college grades (offering $5 million in exchange for them), insisting that Obama was not intelligent enough to have gone to an Ivy League school, and that his acclaimed memoir, Dreams From My Father, had been ghostwritten by a white man, Bill Ayers.

It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true—his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power. Trump inaugurated his campaign by casting himself as the defender of white maidenhood against Mexican “rapists,” only to be later alleged by multiple accusers, and by his own proud words, to be a sexual violator himself. White supremacy has always had a perverse sexual tint. Trump’s rise was shepherded by Steve Bannon, a man who mocks his white male critics as “cucks.” The word, derived from cuckold, is specifically meant to debase by fear and fantasy—the target is so weak that he would submit to the humiliation of having his white wife lie with black men. That the slur cuck casts white men as victims aligns with the dicta of whiteness, which seek to alchemize one’s profligate sins into virtue. So it was with Virginia slaveholders claiming that Britain sought to make slaves of them. So it was with marauding Klansmen organized against alleged rapes and other outrages. So it was with a candidate who called for a foreign power to hack his opponent’s email and who now, as president, is claiming to be the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”

In Trump, white supremacists see one of their own. Only grudgingly did Trump denounce the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke, one of its former grand wizards—and after the clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Duke in turn praised Trump’s contentious claim that “both sides” were responsible for the violence.

To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies. The repercussions are striking: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughter is a “piece of ass.” The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.

For Trump, it almost seems that the fact of Obama, the fact of a black president, insulted him personally. The insult intensified when Obama and Seth Meyers publicly humiliated him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011. But the bloody heirloom ensures the last laugh. Replacing Obama is not enough—Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness. “Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.

The scope of Trump’s commitment to whiteness is matched only by the depth of popular disbelief in the power of whiteness. We are now being told that support for Trump’s “Muslim ban,” his scapegoating of immigrants, his defenses of police brutality are somehow the natural outgrowth of the cultural and economic gap between Lena Dunham’s America and Jeff Foxworthy’s. The collective verdict holds that the Democratic Party lost its way when it abandoned everyday economic issues like job creation for the softer fare of social justice. The indictment continues: To their neoliberal economics, Democrats and liberals have married a condescending elitist affect that sneers at blue-collar culture and mocks the white man as history’s greatest monster and prime-time television’s biggest doofus. In this rendition, Donald Trump is not the product of white supremacy so much as the product of a backlash against contempt for white working-class people.

“We so obviously despise them, we so obviously condescend to them,” the conservative social scientist Charles Murray, who co-wrote The Bell Curve, recently told The New Yorker, speaking of the white working class. “The only slur you can use at a dinner party and get away with is to call somebody a redneck—that won’t give you any problems in Manhattan.”

Myanmar’s resurgent nationalism shapes new political landscape


October 6, 2017

Myanmar’s resurgent nationalism shapes new political landscape

by Thant Myint-U

https://asia.nikkei.com/Viewpoints/Thant-Myint-U/Myanmar-s-resurgent-nationalism-shapes-new-political-landscape?page=1

Extreme sentiments fueled by social media highlight external, internal disconnect

Myanmar’s Buddhist nationalists shout slogans against the government during a protest in Yangon on Aug. 3, for neglecting the national interest by failing to hold off Muslim insurgency. © AP 

The United Nations Security Council in recent weeks has placed new focus on Myanmar through discussions about violence in the country’s western Rakhine state, allegations of “ethnic cleansing” and the exodus of hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighboring Bangladesh.

Missing though was the bigger picture in Myanmar, beyond Rakhine, which will not only shape future options for refugee return, but also regional stability, and any possibility of a better life for all the country’s peoples.

Aside from Rakhine, there are at least another half million internally displaced persons, around 20 ethnic-based armed groups (the largest with more than 20,000 soldiers), hundreds of militias in the rest of the country and no real peace in sight.

In addition, the economy is far from healthy, with the stability of the banking sector in question, investor confidence in decline, and prospects for millions of the poorest people in Asia in the balance. Meanwhile, Beijing is offering major infrastructure projects that would tie the country more closely with China’s interior provinces and essentially make Myanmar China’s bridge to the Indian Ocean.

The current constitution gives the Armed Forces crucial powers over security while allowing the elected civilian government free reign over economic issues and foreign relations. It has been a tense cohabitation and the success of the next elections in 2020 and further democratic reforms are far from guaranteed.

For Myanmar’s people, this is a time of anxiety. Millions are worried that the fast pace of change will leave them and their families destitute and without opportunity. These same millions are now on the internet. Over the past five years the proportion of people with mobile phones has gone from a few percent to more than 70%. A population that still largely lacks access to electricity, clean water or health care is now on Facebook, widely regarded as Myanmar’s only social media platform.

New dark currents

In this time of national anxiety, a neo-nationalism is taking shape, enabled by social media and fueled both by the unfolding crisis in Rakhine state and a sense that the outside world, in particular the U.N. and the West, are siding with Myanmar’s mortal enemies.

While world opinion is focused on the humanitarian tragedy along the border with Bangladesh and allegations of horrific human rights abuses mainly against the minority Rohingya, the view inside the country is not only different but diametrically opposite.

In Myanmar the overwhelming focus among not only by the government but also the general public has been on the threat from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and fears of Islamic extremism. Since ARSA’s attacks on Aug. 25, Myanmar social media has been brimming with reports of alleged ARSA atrocities against Buddhist and Hindu minorities, tens of thousands of whom have fled south away from the country’s Muslim majority areas.

Rohingya people escape from Myanmar to Teknaf, Bangladesh, on Sept. 8 after violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. © Sipa/AP Images

In late September, both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group called for action in Myanmar, heightening fears of impending terrorist attacks in Yangon or Mandalay. Eyewitness accounts from refugees are often dismissed as fabrications, and what is seen from outside as a Rohingya human rights tragedy is portrayed within Myanmar — especially by Rakhine Buddhists — as a foreign invasion by illegal immigrants turned terrorists.