With Pence, Trump Is About To Go Full Jesus

This is how Trump plans to win: evoke nostalgia for when 1950s white American Christians (Protestant and Catholic) roamed and ruled the Earth. It’s his non-retreat strategy.

Call it Jurassic Park 5: Return of the McCarthy Era.

In place of compromise, Trump promises revival. Even though just 45% of the country now fits the white Christian label, demographic decline is going to be ignored for the rest of this election cycle.

In other words, Trump is going to play pretend–and hope it works. Not governed by reality, he means to make his own reality.

There will thus be no negotiated truce with secular, feminist, and nonwhite America–and certainly no terms of surrender.

This is what Trump means by “Make America Great Again”–and why he thrills the Republican base in ways that no other politician could touch in the 2016 primaries. It’s also why he is so painfully and evidently unsuited for navigating the black-white divide in the country today (as illustrated by his response to the recent shootings).

So in terms of political governance, “Make America Great Again” is code for “I won’t power share. I mean to take power back for white Christian America.” Trump’s hope is that this subtext will light-up more than half of American voters. It is Trump’s Hail Mary pass for the general election: achieve unprecedented turn-out among white Christians. It’s what’s coming into focus as his plan for victory.

Put another way, Trump appears to have concluded that the secular and nonwhite demographic trends of the country as a whole can be overcome by appealing hard to the demographics of Indiana (treating the country as if it had the demographics of Indiana), and this is why Trump is most likely to pick the shark-eyed and Lego-hairdoed homophobe Mike Pence as his VP pick.

If it is Pence, we’ll discover in November whether the Trump-Pence strategy worked. I seriously doubt it will. (O me of little faith.)

Can the era of white Protestant dominance in America be recovered?
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I know it’s going to take time to sink in, but today’s news on the FBI not recommending Hillary Clinton’s prosecution is big. Really big. Benghazi and the emails are now off the table. The Fox News crowd took its very best swift-boating shots, and they’ve fallen short. Hillary Clinton is stronger now–and it’s because of the far right. She looks like the survivor of an ordeal. She has gravitas in age and experience. This contrasts with Donald Trump, who has never risked himself in life, ever. He skirted Vietnam and has lived the life of a rich man behind walls, protected from consequences by a team of ruthless lawyers. But Hillary has exposed herself to life and public shame, and has never given up. She’s fought men at their own political games, and won. People admire that. If the far right now harps on Benghazi and the emails anyway, and Trump dredges up old stuff from the 90s, it’s going to look very, very small of them; like sour grapes. They will be treating a strong woman unjustly, and I think voters will punish that. Hillary could blow the lay-up, of course, but it’s now a lay-up.

santi lia aria playing chess

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Hurricane Hillary and Nietzsche’s “Whatever doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger”

Nietzsche famously wrote, “Whatever doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.”

How does this apply to Hillary? Well, the Fox News crowd has tried to destroy Hillary for literally decades, but it has now reached a culminating and catastrophic failure today in the good news for Clinton: no FBI prosecution recommendation.

Let that sink in. Clinton is off the hook. She is now a force of Nature; a political hurricane of one, gathering power to herself.

Hurricane Hillary.

Think about it. On Benghazi, the Republican-led congressional investigation yielded nothing to harm her presidential candidacy, and now the FBI is done with its investigation as well. This is via The New Republic this morning: “In a press conference today, FBI Director James Comey ended Clinton’s legal troubles by saying that ‘no reasonable prosecutor’ would bring criminal charges against her for using a private email server.”

So Clinton’s path to becoming the first woman President of the United States has basically been cleared, and because it was against great odds and resistance, she’s all the more strong for it.

Hillary has earned this. She’s fought through a maze of obstacles to get to the top of the political heap, and now all that stands between her and the presidency is a temperamental fascist. I think she can handle that. Her fierce toughness, intelligence, and optimism is a match for Donald Trump’s fear, cupidity, and pessimism.

Indeed, the next four months constitute the trial run of her presidency; it’s essentially the first four months of it, and then we’ll all decide if we want it to continue: “Yes, more of this,” or “No.” The next four months will show us all how she manages to work her way around an authoritarian personality to achieve a goal. If she can handle Trump effectively, slicing and dicing him into oblivion, she can handle Putin, Ted Cruz in the Senate, et al.

And now that her path is cleared, power is going to gather to her very fast. People like a winner, and she’s a winner. A very tough, very strong winner. Hurricane Hillary.

I’m looking forward to voting for her.

In a press conference today, FBI Director James Comey ended Clinton’s legal troubles by saying that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring criminal charges…
Posted in Bernie Sanders, donald trump, feminism, hillary clinton, Politics | 2 Comments

Trump’s Antisemitic Hillary Tweet

71 years ago, the Allies liberated the Nazi death camps, and, aghast in the knowledge of what had transpired in them, there seemed to be a fresh collective resolve globally to “never again” generate the sorts of conditions that might lead to genocide (antisemitic demonization, collective silence in the face of growing evils like fascism, etc.).

Fast forward to 2016. On the very day the death of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel was announced, the Republican candidate for President of the United States tweeted an antisemitic trope against his opponent, affiliating her supposed corruption with, you guessed it, Jewish finance. Would anybody have imagined, even a year ago, that an American candidate for President could put forward such an antisemitic trope and still remain a viable candidate?

Trump is inuring us to fascism.

Visuals matter—and one shared on Trump’s Twitter account on Saturday quickly drew criticism.
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Hillary, Iago, the FBI–and Wittgenstein

This is where it gets real. It’s now the FBI’s call, and the investigators will probably make it before the Republican convention starts on July 25th. Sometime over the next two weeks Hillary either reaches orbit on her way to becoming the first woman President of the United States–or she utterly crashes and burns, forced from the race in disgrace, under indictment. I have no idea which way it will go. It’s like that scene in No Country for Old Men, where the killer flips a coin in the country store of an old man and says, “Call it.” And I think of Iago at the end of Act 5:1 of Othello: “This is the night / That either makes me or fordoes me quite.”

So this raises an issue of language games (in the Wittgensteinian sense). Sometimes our languages are merely imaginative, indifferent or irresponsive to facts on the ground (think of a sci-fi novel or a cult group in cognitive dissonance). Other times, our language games derive their plausibility from direct appeal to facts, and if those facts change, the language game we’re playing has to adjust–or even be abandoned altogether. Here’s Wittgenstein on this latter sort of language game:

Certain events would put me into a position in which I could not go on with the old language game any further. In which I was torn away from the sureness of the game. Indeed, doesn’t it seem obvious that the possibility of a language game is conditioned by certain facts? (On Certainty, aphorism 617.)

This is one of those moments for the Hillary-candidacy language game: it’s possibility being “conditioned by certain facts.” All along, the Hillary narrative has been that the email controversy is a Fox News-generated faux controversy. This narrative is now getting its stress test. How responsive is the Hillary narrative going to be to this sort of reality testing? Can the language game that has built up around the Clinton candidacy go on sustaining itself in the face of whatever new facts the FBI now brings forward?

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Trump Used Charity Money To Buy Himself A $12,000 Helmet

This is really, really bad behavior. The Washington Post has traced down an image of Trump posing with a $12,000 helmet that he purchased with money explicitly raised for charity:

Four years ago, at a charity fundraiser in Palm Beach, Donald Trump got into a bidding war at the evening’s live auction. The items up for sale: A Denver Broncos helmet, autographed by then-star quarterback Tim Tebow, and a Tebow jersey. Trump won, eventually, with a bid of $12,000. Afterward, he posed with the helmet.[…] But Trump didn’t actually pay with his own money. Instead, the Susan G. Komen organization — the breast-cancer nonprofit that hosted the party — got a $12,000 payment from another nonprofit, the Donald J. Trump Foundation.

Trump Foundation paid $12,000 for the helmet, which Trump later posed with, at…
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GMO Wars: 107 Nobel Laureates vs. Greenpeace

Can my fellow liberals, who too frequently count themselves among the idiotic “No GMO!” constituency, please get off the science-denial bandwagon now, leaving it to the far-right, with its young Earth creationists and global warming denialists?

It’s the latest sign of a rift between the scientific establishment and anti-GMO…
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The Difference Between Having An Ideology And Having An Agenda

It’s one thing to have an ideology, another an agenda. An ideology is a habit of mind, often not wholly conscious to its possessor. It functions as subtext for behavior.

The ideology of consumption, for example, takes it for granted that consumption is a good thing. Part of Greenpeace’s ideology is that fundamentally altering nature is bad, and so Greenpeace adherents take for granted that genetically modified foods (GMOs) are bad–even if they’re perfectly safe to eat.

In ideology, one leans, say, left or right, but may also swing center, or, on occasion, to an opinion actually inconsistent with one’s underlying ideology. One has a bias, to be sure, but it’s not a disciplined bias. It’s not wholly predictable.

By contrast, an agenda is driven in a wholly disciplined and predictable manner. It is strategized, as when a religious believer, in possession of a traditional monotheistic ideology (Islam, Judaism, Christianty), drives it with systematic apologetics (“an intellectual defense of the faith”).

And think of a career court prosecutor. S(he) has an agenda. S(he) strategizes in advance what themes will be brought into court. These will be presented to a jury with repetition, manipulation (rhetorical appeals), appeals to evidence, etc. A prosecutor’s role is to make a case. S(he) possesses a point-of-view. It is undergirded by ideological assumptions; it is driven. The prosecutor is an advocate on behalf of a client, and is under no obligation to provide a positive case for the other side. Balance is provided by the defense attorney. A court room is adversarial.

Another example. NBC and The New York Times have an ideology that is center-left, but their executives do not strategize in advance an agenda that will be driven by repetition and manipulation of an audience. Fox News, by contrast, functions much like a prosecuting attorney. It has at once an ideology (far-right) that they treat as a client, and an agenda that is relentlessly executed by repetition and manipulation on behalf of that client.

For instance, if Donald Trump comes onto Fox News’s Hannity program, Sean Hannity functions as akin to the friendly defense attorney speaking to the defendant on the stand, leading his client with softball questions before the jury. The questions are designed to lead the audience to certain conclusions. Hannity gives Trump opportunities to walk back or clarify statements he might want to clarify, limiting damage that Trump might have inflicted on himself in other contexts (as in a botched interview with an adverserial journalist, or a loose comment while campaigning, etc.). Hannity’s interview is not adversarial, but driving an ideology and candidate.

So Fox News is Fake News. It’s not really news, it’s advocacy.

Fox News, by repetition, calls itself fair and balanced, but it is, in fact, the opposite. It is not attempting to be either fair (in the sense of giving competing ideologies equal time) or balanced (in the sense of making room for competing advocates on the other side). And when Fox News, on rare occasion, goes off-message, it is for purposes of bolstering credibility–or because a host or guest went rogue–in which case, there is a quick wrap-up and cut to commercials.

So wherever Fox News goes off message, you can generally bet it’s a head fake. And that head-fake into the realm of calculation, manipulation, presentation, and insincerity is the difference between merely having an ideology that is tugging on you as a subtext in your life, and having an agenda.


Here’s a wonderful clip of Zizek on ideology as subtext.




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For Lower Taxes (His Own), Trump to Sue D.C.!

This is crazy. Trump is so selfish and narcissistic. He’s in the midst of running for President, and yet he won’t show his tax returns–and now, smack dab in the middle of an election cycle, he appears to be filing suit against D.C. to get his tax bill dropped even lower!

Wow. That’s chutzpah.

Trump wants to enjoy police protection, etc., but have others pay for it. He is really taking his followers for a ride.

Here’s the key quote from the just-posted Politico article:

If Trump moves forward with the hotel-related tax battle, it would be another potential distraction for his presidential campaign. His failure to release his own personal tax returns has generated numerous news stories, as has his claiming of a $302 property tax break on his Manhattan apartment. That relief is available only to taxpayers who make less than $500,000 a year. Trump is also suing two restaurateurs who backed out of plans to open dining establishments at the planned Washington hotel after Trump lashed out at Mexican immigrants last year.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/…/…/donald-trump-taxes-hotel-224956…
Follow us: @politico on Twitter | Politico on Facebook

GOP candidate prepares to sue city over tax bill for his luxury development on Pennsylvania Avenue.
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Elizabeth Warren for VP

Elizabeth Warren on The View yesterday was awesome. She would make a terrific VP for Hillary. Oddly, when I watch her, she makes me want to live (to live larger and enjoy each day). She seems to love life. She reminds me of Yoda in Star Wars. She’s charming and emanates hope and optimism. Her enthusiasm is contagious; you feel problems can be solved with her in the room. I think that this subtext is what excites people, perhaps unconsciously, about her. She can’t be bought, she’s not afraid of the powerful or bullies, she’s quick on her feet, she speaks her mind. And yet she’s also not an overbearing narcissist, drawing attention to herself. Instead, she points enthusiastically to solutions and uplifts others, without apparent jealousy for the spotlight to turn back upon her. She seems to know how to focus on what’s important. She’s passionate, yet also thoroughly in control of herself: calm, centered, and thoughtful. What great qualities!

The Massachusetts senator blast Donald Trump on “The View.”
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More Trump Racism: Trump is Afraid to Trade with Asians and Mexicans. Notably, He Says Nothing in His Speech Today about Trading with Russia or Tearing-up Trade Agreements with White Europeans.

Today, Trump has made tearing-up trade agreements with both east and south center pieces of his idiotic economic policy–actions no serious economist appraises as valuable or urges. Such moves as Trump proposes would tank the economy, killing domestic jobs (as both the Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers rightly and quickly noted). What a fool Trump is. Voting for him would be as catastrophic for the United States as Brexit has become for Britain. He is a walking Brexit referendum in the flesh–and with a tinge of selective racism against trading with Asians and Mexicans. I vote no.

Opposing trade deals is disconnected from the decades-long direction of the United States economy.
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Brexit and Trump vs. The Big Blue Marble in Space

Brexit and Trump. The Brexit vote and the Trump movement suggest to me that the anti-globalization right in the West is ever more evidently on the ropes. The broken wheel squeaks loudest. The right’s Christian fundamentalism card doesn’t seem to work, so now it’s playing, in Trump’s movement and in the Brexit vote, the protectionist nationalism card.

Protectionist nationalism and fundamentalist religion are essentially two ways to play the same game. Nationalist religion is what’s left of religion after actual religion is intellectually discredited.

In this sense, the Japanese imperialism and European nationalism of the 19th and early-20th century varieties were forms of reactionary tribalism that replaced old-school religious tribalism. They were the movements that dominated life and thinking after the the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, and Darwin set religion on its heels.

So nationalism was the Herderian reaction to the stresses of modernity up and until its reductio ad absurdum in Adolf Hitler. By the end of World War II, the Holocaust and Hiroshima finally gave everyone serious pause about the value of imperialist and protectionist nationalism and chauvinism.

Then, in the summer of 1969, we landed on the moon, and saw Earth from space.

So religion was intellectually discredited in the 19th century; nationalism in the 20th; and the possibility of a world civilization was given a concrete visual symbol when humanity first saw the Earth from space.

Communism then, Islam now. In the 20th century, it was the Russian revolution and international communism that played the anxiety-provoking excuse for hunkering down in conservative nationalism. In the 21st century, it’s 9/11 and fundamentalist Islam. Militant forms of Islam, and the tip-to-toe covering of immigrant women brought by Islam to the West, spur the sorts of anxieties that make Western people want to hunker down in suspicion as opposed to trust. Hitler would have never reached power save for fear of Communism, and likewise, Trump and Brexit are fueled by fear of Islam.

My prediction. As compared with populist and protectionist nationalism, Brexit will bring to the fore the natural superiority, in the 21st century, of globalization, trade, and multiculturalism. The real-time experiment Britain is now conducting is going to alarm everyone–most especially the Brits. You don’t know how good you’ve got it, till it’s gone.

So I predict that the sheer shock of the Brexit vote’s economic consequences is going to result in a counter-reaction that forges Britain to Europe even more indissolubly. It’s going to completely discredit protectionist and nationalist movements. There will be no Brexit follow-through. Britain’s leaders will drag their feet, and another vote will be taken a year from now. And there will be no Donald Trump presidency because Brexit will scare shit out of the majority of Americans. Before entering voting booths in November, they’ll see what populist simplicities applied in practice look like. Trump’s fatal error was nonchalantly saying in Scotland that Brexit is a good thing. It’s the rope Hillary will hang his candidacy from.

Illegal aliens and space aliens. Younger voters especially don’t want to blow up the evolving global civilization, for they are increasingly urban-dwellers, and urban-dwellers have far more in common with their urban peers across the globe than they do with, say, those living in rural areas, divorced from technology, and devoted to traditional forms of life, religion, and patriotism.

So while it’s true that humans are tribal animals, and human nature doesn’t change quickly from an evolutionary point of view, it is nevertheless also true that the notion of the tribe is being imaginatively transformed into the inhabitants of the planet as a whole. Against the noisy protectionist, nationalist, and anti-immigrant reactionaries, and their psychologically shut-in monotheist cousins (“There is no god, but mine“), the circle of empathy of people actually braving movement about in the larger world is widening every day. In ever greater numbers, people are coming to see our human fate as a collective one; we’re all in the same boat. We sink or swim together.

The global collective threat of poisoning the commons, and the problem of rising sea levels from global warming, helps us envision our collective fate. And what might also help an expanded and empathic global consciousness is if SETI discovers a signal from an alien civilization over the next couple of decades. Then it can be “us” over here on this tiny planet, and “them” out there in the very far (and fortunately, unreachable) distance. Focusing on illegal immigration narrows vision; focusing on SETI broadens it.

The big blue marble vs. the tangerine tornadoes (Trump and Boris Johnson). The Sesame Street song, Big Blue Marble, has far more good sense in it than any speech by Donald Trump or Brexit politician like Boris Johnson. The lyrics to the song pretty much explicate the megatrend that will swamp in due course all contemporary efforts at revived protectionist nationalism and fundamentalism:

The earth’s a Big Blue Marble
When you see it from out there
The sun and moon declare
Our beauty’s very rare

Folks are folks and kids are kids
We share a common name
We speak a different way
But work and play the same

We sing pretty much alike
Enjoy spring pretty much alike
Peace and love we all understand
And laughter, we use the very same brand

Our differences, our problems
From out there there’s not much trace
Our friendships they can place
While looking at the face
Of the Big Blue Marble in space

Notice that last stanza–and most specifically the third line of that stanza (“Our friendships they can place”). The “they” in that third line suggests imagined aliens. Aliens seeing the Earth from space would see that those living there share a rare and beautiful home (oikos; ecology), and would infer that, if there is a civilization on the planet, it is evolving toward an ethos of: (1) not wrecking Earth; (2) recognizing the shared fate of its inhabitants; and (3) valuing integration and friendship.

Posted in beauty, brexit, climate change, donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Fish

Buddhist mandala meets Jackson Pollock: how one obsessive-compulsive fish gets another fish to notice him, bringing her under his spell. The Japanese puffer fish signals sexually by making art circles. The pattern tells the female: “Lay your eggs in the center of the fancy circle I’ve obsessively spent a week constructing for you”–and if she does this, he then Jackson Pollocks (Jackson Bollocks?) all over them (dashes his sperm all over them), fertilizing the eggs. Isn’t that crazy?

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Tony Blair vs. Donald Trump

In the link below, Tony Blair analyzes, clearly and succinctly, the Brexit fallout. What an indulgent, tragic, and self-inflicted wound the majority in Great Britain has inflicted on its country–and the world. Will this function as an object lesson for November with Trump? Or will it be yet another reason a majority will vote for him? (“For shits and giggles, let’s blow up our country too! Hand it over to a temperamental fascist–you know, just to see what happens. See whether it’s really so bad, after all.”) I’m thinking of Samson bringing the temple down on his own head. This is the politics of reckless abandon, where experience, reason, scientific and economic expertise, trade, and otherness are disdained, not just by the far right, but by the left (“Long live death!” was the nihilistic clarion call in fascist Spain in the 1930s).

(By the way, disdain without distinction for the rich is as bigoted as disdain without distinction for immigrants. It is the politics of segregation that divides the fates of Americans. We are all in the same boat. As are the people of the world, generally. We swim together, or sink together.)

So I pray, in their self-indulgent, simplistic, and casual hatreds–for Hillary, the rich, etc.–that Bernie’s voters don’t combine with Trump’s to bring down a similar nightmare on the head of our own country in November. This is a very dangerous moment for all of us; a moment when trust, multiculturalism, and global trade integration may start to unravel, replaced with new and revived forms of segregation, suspicion, xenophobia, protectionist and fanatic nationalism, religious fundamentalism, and economic contraction. Of these is concocted the witches’ brews of future wars.

We can stall this momentum, perhaps even reverse it–or feed it–by the way we vote in November.

And Bernie needs to learn from this as well. He needs to be a full-throated opponent of Trump in autumn. If he truly doesn’t want Trump, the lesson of the Brexit is that he better not send mixed signals to his followers on the left. Far-right populism needs left defectors–and the left disaffected, who vote third party or stay at home on election day–to win a majority. So he needs to say, in no uncertain terms, something to the effect of the following: “I’m voting for Hillary. Full stop. I’m voting for Hillary. And I’m eager to do so. I want you to vote for Hillary. You’re no follower of my movement if you vote for Trump.”

Unless the political center finds new resolve, populist movements of left and right will rush in to fill the power vacuum.
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The Clash of Fundamentalisms

As I see it, there are two very large megatrends that are crossing in the 21st century: the decline of religion (in terms of credibility and the number of serious practitioners it attracts) and the urbanization of humanity.

Demographers tell us that, by the end of this century, only 10% of of humanity will live in rural/agricultural areas, and 90% will live in cities. 150 years ago, of course, these numbers were reversed. The traditional religions evolved out of the logic of patriarchal and agricultural low-tech societies. The feminist, urbanized, high-tech world is a shock to the traditional systems of meaning. It results in religious fundamentalism as reaction.

Fundamentalism is to religion what Trump is to politics: a simplifier in the midst of crisis.

The irony is that, in their emotional and intellectual narrowness and fear, religious fundamentalists don’t find solidarity with one another, but clash. The clash between fundamentalist forms of Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam is a product of urbanization and globalization. They are ill-adapted to their new environments, and so they are eating one another in a zero-sum game, defaming and imploding their credibility even as the secular trends progress.

The broken wheels squeak loudest. That’s why I say there is not a dime’s worth of difference between the fundamentalist religions; that their fighting is a product of the narcissism of small differences. On the same grounds of irrationality and tribalism, they’ll go on demonizing, fighting, and cannibalizing each other. The rest of the world, meanwhile, will continue to evolve toward a more science-oriented, urban, and multiculturally tolerant future.



Posted in atheism, david hume, donald trump, feminism, Politics, Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Brexit and Trump

Who’s to blame for calling this idiotic up or down Brexit vote in the first place?

David Cameron.

He thought remain would be a slam dunk. Against the advice of professional economists everywhere, he wagered Britain’s long-term economic growth rate for short-term political gain (appeasing Trump-like conservative populists within his own party)–and he lost. He lost.

This is exactly what Republicans like Paul Ryan are doing, as we speak, with Donald Trump: by supporting him, they are recklessly exposing the United States to a needless hazard in the name of short-term political gain, appeasing the most extreme, right-wing elements within their own party.

So now the question has become the following: is Brexit the foreshadowing of an equivalent populist electoral folly in the United States in November?

The British leader promised an in-or-out referendum on the European Union to solve a short-term political problem. The consequences could be enormous.
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Islam vs. Christianity, and the Mark of the Beast

Some Christians claim that Allah represents the Mark of the Beast; that the Greek letters for 666 resemble the way Allah is written in Arabic.

I’m no fan of Islam, but demonizing Islam as Satanic and prophesied as the cipher for the Mark of the Beast is paranoid in the sense that it makes Islam’s appeal as a global religion greater than it is.

In Revelation 13, the Mark of the Beast is something everyone receives–but Islam has zero appeal to the Chinese; zero appeal to Christians; zero appeal to Jews; and zero appeal to atheists. It has no power (either financial or ideological) to force its way on others, however ambitious its mission project is.

If anything, Islam is a religion in crisis, struggling for relevance in a world that is rapidly leaving it behind. The broken wheel squeaks loudest.

Islam will always be a religion with more or less one to two billion adherents, at best, and as the 21st century progresses, its violent elements will increasingly peter out.

So one of the grave tragedies of the 21st century is that Christians, Muslims, and Jews demonize one another. Islam is, after all, a product of monotheism. It is yet another iteration on monotheism. In a sense, you can thank Judaism and Christianity for giving us Mohammad. He didn’t hit upon his ideas in a vacuum. They were all around him in his encounters with Judaism and Christianity.

So Islam is a form of fundamentalist and authoritarian monotheism stripped to bare bones for gentiles (God’s words are in a holy book; no image making; women must be under the thumb of men; there is one God, not a trinity; the names for God are the same as those found in other monotheistic holy books generally: Lord of Hosts, Protector, Righteous, etc.).

It was also Islam, it should be recalled, that saved Aristotle for Aquinas, thereby lending support to the intellectual foundations for traditional monotheism.

Thus, from the vantage of a secularist like myself, the clash between Christianity and Islam, aside from being spectacularly dangerous in a world with nuclear weapons, amounts to little more than the narcissism of small differences.


Posted in atheism, donald trump, Genesis, God, God, philosophy, Politics | 1 Comment

Radical Islamic Populism and Donald Trump

Follow this recent sequence of events in Pakistan: A Christian was accused of blasphemy; a Muslim governor defended her in the media; he was murdered; the man who murdered him was given the death penalty; 100,000 people came out to mourn.

Who did they mourn? The Christian terrorized by Sunni blasphemy laws? The governor who stood up for religious diversity? No, the governor’s killer.

What this suggests to me is that Trump, much as I loath him, has raised a fair issue as to whether, say, a Western democracy should ever want to admit for citizenship (or even just a visit) anyone attending this funeral. This isn’t a matter of a religious test for entry, but of whether one has broken the international social contract or not. If one went to a funeral of this nature, it would suggest that your values are simply not compatible with those of Thomas Jefferson or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see video below). It breaks the social contract between diverse people.

And yet how would you know, from an immigration standpoint, whether someone applying for entry into the West had been in this crowd?

Imagine, for instance, that, in the United States during the Civil War, the South had actually won its independence. Imagine further that, in the South, great crowds gleefully attended, a couple of times a year, the lynchings of black people as part of their affirmation of white Christian and Southern monoculture. Now imagine someone from the South seeking to immigrate to the secular and democratic North. Wouldn’t you want evidence that the Southerner didn’t participate in such grotesque displays–and, ideally, even actively opposed them?

By virtue of a person cooperating with and supporting slavery and lynching, the social contract with the people of the North would have already been broken. That applier for immigration shouldn’t get in. It isn’t a matter of Southern Christian values vs. secular values; it’s not a religious test. Religion is beside the point. It’s whether the applier for immigration shares the baseline values of fundamental tolerance on which the social contract in a diverse and secular democracy is based.

If you attend a lynching, burn a cross on somebody’s lawn, walk through a Jewish neighborhood denying the Holocaust, jack-booting, and hailing Hitler–or march in a funeral procession for the assassin of a governor defending social tolerance for a Christian, you’ve broken the social contract of the secular democracies. You want the benefits, but not the obligations, entailed in that contract. Your inclination is to seek rights, but not extend them. And if you live outside of the West, and can do that–if you can toy with intolerant ideologies in a callous manner–or worse, embrace them publicly and enthusiastically–then you shouldn’t get to enter the United States, or any other Western country.

But how do we know absent evidence? That’s Trump’s question. When such large numbers in a foreign country appear to be enthusiastic for reactionary values that break the international social contract among groups of people, what can we do to really know who we’re letting in?

Trump says shut down all immigration from those parts of the world where 100,000 people can come out and enthusiastically embrace the murder of dissidents.

But I say: let’s try something calmer. How about something less blanket, like this: let’s put the existential onus on the immigration applicant, and how he or she has lived his or her life heretofor. That is, require evidence from immigration applicants that they actually stand-up for values of tolerance; evidence that an immigration officer can verify before proceeding with any application. Evidence before entry.

That might well spur democracy and diversity globally, for people contemplating Western immigration would then have to ask themselves: what am I doing for democracy and diversity where I live now? What evidence can I provide, on the days of such funeral processions, that I was elsewhere–or spoke against them? Maybe aspiring immigrants could keep freedom journals to show immigration officials their embrace of tolerant values.

Yes, evidence can be falsified, but officials would no doubt develop skills for discerning the quality of the evidence presented, and a paper trail would thereby be generated on the applicant’s life.

Good idea?


Tens of thousands turned out in the streets of Pakistan to mourn the radical Islamist who assassinated my father.
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Donald Trump Is Going Nowhere Because The Missing White Voter Doesn’t Exist

I think of Donald Trump as a hamster on a wheel; a bicyclist on a stationary bike. (Pick your metaphor.) There’s lots of feverish spinning, but he’s actually going nowhere. It’s like the plane image laid on the ground by a cargo cult. It looks like a plane, it’s trying to signal to planes overhead, it has lots of passengers around it ready to go, but it doesn’t actually fly.

Trump doesn’t actually fly. For all the Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) of Trump’s neo-white power movement, with its high-energy mass rallies, Trump is probably playing a zero-sum game with the white vote.

For every non-college educated white voter Trump energizes beyond the white vote that Romney got in 2012 (57% to Obama’s 40%), Trump probably turns-off a college educated white voter. So he’s peddling or running–or cargo cult signalling (again, choose your metaphor)–in place.

And that means that if Hillary can get roughly the same (not better, just the same) percentage of the black, Hispanic, and Asian vote as Obama did in 2012, it stands to reason that she’ll win.

So we need to break the spell here. What we’re witnessing in Trump is a cult of personality that has emerged out of (white) Republican despair. It is premised on a false idea: that the Republican Party doesn’t need to become more gender balanced, multicultural, and multiracial; that there’s room for growth in the white vote if a Republican nominee just goes harder white and harder right. Trump is a dream-candidate for the Limbaugh, Hannity, and alt-right wings of the party–and it’s a false dream. Call it the Trump delusion.

Trump has probably reached a ceiling with the white vote. Like Romney, Trump can no-doubt get to about 57% of the white vote–but that won’t be enough. (Trump is so offensive and idiotic, he might even manage to get less of the white vote than Romney.)

So after he loses in November, then what?

Then we’re in Leon Festinger territory; the territory of cognitive dissonance, rationalization, and recriminations. Like a cult that predicts the end of the world, and it doesn’t happen, the issue for Republicans after the election will be the following: Hannity, Limbaugh, Alex Jones, et al. have long claimed that a candidate like Trump could bring out untapped reserves of white voters–a new silent majority–and win in a landslide, returning America to a more familiar, white dominated past. When this doesn’t happen, what next?

If the Republican Party is in the realm of the rational (which it appears not to be at this moment, but might be after November), the vast majority of Republicans will draw the following conclusion: The missing white voter is like the missing or absent messiah who never actually shows up. He is a fantasy. The Republican Party expects this Great White Hope–anticipates him, longs for him to come and save it–yet he never comes. The party obviously needs to diversify.

But what actually tends to happen to prophets when their prophecies prove false? The movement just keeps on going, but slowly drifts ever further to the margins of society. “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Trump is Wallace 2.0. Wallace never went away, and when Trump fails, there will probably be a Wallace 3.0, just weaker next time.

walden books closes lancaster ca feb 2010


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Turn That (Jerry) Brown Upside Down

Correlation isn’t causation, but something at least appears to be up. Conservative economic theory doesn’t seem to be matching the real world right now.

Under liberal Governor Jerry Brown, California’s economy grew 4.1% in 2015, tying Oregon for the highest growth rate in the nation. Kansas, by contrast, ran through the wish list of the contemporary conservative agenda (tax cuts for the rich, no minimum wage hikes, no extension of Obamacare to the poor, etc.), and its economy is now in recession. Way to go, Trump-supporting Kansas Governor, Sam Brownback!

And for all ye wall-building Trumpeters out there who think the multicultural and multiracial Californication of the US population foreshadows long-term economic decline, kindly explain why heavily white states like Kansas aren’t “naturally” whooping crap, economically, out of those states (California, Florida, Texas, and New York, etc.) that are browner, more inclusive, and more diverse.

Might 21st century trust, cooperation, and openness trump whiteness, walls, and isolation?

These two states must seem really bizarre to conservatives.
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