Trump gives white supremacists an unequivocal boost

The New York Times reports: President Trump buoyed the white nationalist movement on Tuesday as no president has done in generations — equating activists protesting racism with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rampaged in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.

Never has he gone as far in defending their actions as he did during a wild, street-corner shouting match of a news conference in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower, angrily asserting that so-called alt-left activists were just as responsible for the bloody confrontation as marchers brandishing swastikas, Confederate battle flags, anti-Semitic banners and “Trump/Pence” signs.

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth,” David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, wrote in a Twitter post shortly after Mr. Trump spoke.

Richard B. Spencer, a white nationalist leader who participated in the weekend’s demonstrations and vowed to flood Charlottesville with similar protests in the coming weeks, was equally encouraged. “Trump’s statement was fair and down to earth,” Mr. Spencer tweeted.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, a Democrat, wasted little time in accusing the president of adding to the divisions that put an unwanted spotlight on the normally peaceful college town.

“Neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists came to Charlottesville heavily armed, spewing hatred and looking for a fight,” Mr. McAuliffe said. “One of them murdered a young woman in an act of domestic terrorism, and two of our finest officers were killed in a tragic accident while serving to protect this community. This was not ‘both sides.’” [Continue reading…]

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Republicans cannot disown Trump without repudiating themselves

Edward Luce writes: Republicans are paralysed on two counts. First, the party cannot disown what Mr Trump is doing without repudiating themselves. His victory was the logical outcome of the party’s “southern strategy”, which dates from the late 1960s. The goal has been to siphon off southern whites from the Democratic party. Most Republicans have preferred to keep their tactics genteel. The signal of choice has been the dog whistle rather than the megaphone. Thus, in one form or another, most Republican states are reforming their voter registration systems. The fact that such laws disproportionately shrink the non-white electorate is an accidental byproduct of a colour-blind crackdown. Even without proof of widespread fraud, voter suppression has plausible deniability. Over the years, the same has applied to various wars on crime, drugs and welfare fraud, which were never discriminatory by design. Mr Trump has simply taken that approach into the open. He is the Republican party’s Frankenstein. The age of plausible deniability is over.

The second Republican problem is fear. Because of gerrymandering, most Republicans — and Democrats — are more vulnerable to a challenge from within their ranks than to defeat by the other party. As the saying goes, American politicians choose their voters, rather than the other way round. Unfortunately that gives the swing vote to the most committed elements of each party’s base. Though Mr Trump’s approval ratings are lower than for any president in history, he still has the backing of most Republican voters. Any elected Republican who opposes Mr Trump can be sure of merciless reprisal. It is a rare politician who would invite vilification from their own side. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s business of corruption

Adam Davidson writes: President Donald Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow recently told me that the investigation being led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed by the Justice Department, should focus on one question: whether there was “coördination between the Russian government and people on the Trump campaign.” Sekulow went on, “I want to be really specific. A real-estate deal would be outside the scope of legitimate inquiry.” If he senses “drift” in Mueller’s investigation, he said, he will warn the special counsel’s office that it is exceeding its mandate. The issue will first be raised “informally,” he noted. But if Mueller and his team persist, Sekulow said, he might lodge a formal objection with the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who has the power to dismiss Mueller and end the inquiry. President Trump has been more blunt, hinting to the Times that he might fire Mueller if the investigation looks too closely at his business dealings.

Several news accounts have confirmed that Mueller has indeed begun to examine Trump’s real-estate deals and other business dealings, including some that have no obvious link to Russia. But this is hardly wayward. It would be impossible to gain a full understanding of the various points of contact between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign without scrutinizing many of the deals that Trump has made in the past decade. Trump-branded buildings in Toronto and the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan were developed in association with people who have connections to the Kremlin. Other real-estate partners of the Trump Organization—in Brazil, India, Indonesia, and elsewhere—are now caught up in corruption probes, and, collectively, they suggest that the company had a pattern of working with partners who exploited their proximity to political power.

One foreign deal, a stalled 2011 plan to build a Trump Tower in Batumi, a city on the Black Sea in the Republic of Georgia, has not received much journalistic attention. But the deal, for which Trump was reportedly paid a million dollars, involved unorthodox financial practices that several experts described to me as “red flags” for bank fraud and money laundering; moreover, it intertwined his company with a Kazakh oligarch who has direct links to Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin. As a result, Putin and his security services have access to information that could put them in a position to blackmail Trump. (Sekulow said that “the Georgia real-estate deal is something we would consider out of scope,” adding, “Georgia is not Russia.”) [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s long history of racism

Jesse Berney writes: The moment that struck me in Trump’s make-up speech Monday afternoon wasn’t when he declared racism “evil” or finally name-checked the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. It was his remark about the flag. “No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws,” he said. “We all salute the same great flag.”

Maybe Trump should have watched the news a little more closely this weekend. If he had, he might have seen large numbers of Americans carrying and saluting flags that weren’t the Stars and Stripes. Confederate flags, obscure racist insignia and straight-up swastikas were all on display.

The racists and Nazis and white supremacists of all stripes who carried that flag were heartened by Trump’s failure to denounce them or their ideology in the immediate aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville and the murder of Heather Heyer. And his tepid, reluctant, TelePrompTer-fed denunciation of racism days later appears to have done little to discourage their belief that he supports them in the deepest, darkest, most wizened recesses of his heart.

Though it’s technically true that no one but Donald Trump knows what’s in Donald Trump’s heart, he’s given us some pretty good clues. He likely thinks swastika-toting Nazis and hood-wearing KKK members are bad guys – those are the easy targets everyone knows we’re supposed to denounce – but the entitled, clean-cut, polo-wearing, torch-bearing racists chanting about how they won’t be replaced? Those are the people who put him into office. They’re his people. And they know he’s their leader because they know Donald Trump is, like they are, racist.

Oh, they wouldn’t put it that way. They think the real racism is the affirmative action that gives people of color a chance in a world that hands people who look like me privilege from birth. They believe the real racists are the ones who declare black lives matter. (“What, ours don’t?”) But like the president they cheer, they’re racist as hell.

You don’t even have to look into Trump’s heart to see his racism. You only have to look at all the things he’s done and said over the years – from the early Seventies, when he settled with the Justice Department over accusations of housing discrimination, to Monday, when just hours after his speech news broke he is considering pardoning anti-immigrant sheriff Joe Arpaio. [Continue reading…]

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How social media helped organize and radicalize America’s white supremacists

Pacific Standard reports: White supremacy groups have a long history in the United States, yet some of the news around the groups’ most recent activity has featured a decidedly Millennial flavor. The leaders of this weekend’s demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia—during which a man drove a car toward counter-protestors, setting off a chain reaction that injured at least 19 people and killed one—had organized using a Facebook event.

Meanwhile, the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi news site, used memes to drum up enthusiasm for the demonstration. (The Daily Stormer’s domain name was originally provided by GoDaddy, before moving to Google; both companies eventually revoked the website’s registration.) And, just as the violence was unfolding in Charlottesville, the Guardian published a story about how young, white men are becoming radicalized through YouTube.

In other words, the tools of the Internet Age have helped white supremacists and other bigots to share ideas and organize. That’s the dark side of the rise of the Internet and social media, as University of California–Irvine political scientist Richard Hasen argued in a paper he posted publicly last week. Not yet peer-reviewed, the paper talks about how free communication over the Internet has undermined democracy in the U.S., in part by empowering extremist groups. Pacific Standard talked with Hasen about how violent racists—like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis—use online tools, and how we might curb those extremist groups without hindering free speech. [Continue reading…]

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Are men seen as ‘more American’ than women?

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Protesters hold signs at the Chicago Women’s March in January 2017.
John W. Iwanski, CC BY-NC

By Laura Van Berkel, University of Cologne; Ludwin Molina, University of Kansas, and Sahana Mukherjee, Gettysburg College

Women make up 50.8 percent of the U.S. population and have equal voting rights, yet are politically underrepresented. The country has never had a female president or vice president. Only 3.5 percent of Supreme Court justices have been women, and women make up only 20 percent of Congress.

Studies have shown that within a country, groups with more power often feel greater ownership over it. Because they control actual resources, like money, and symbolic resources, like writing history, they’re better able to shape the culture in their image. For example, because Christianity is the most prominent religion in the United States, Christmas is a federal holiday.

Because men hold more power than women in the United States, we wanted to explore a simple question: Would people tend to think of men as “more American” than women? And, if so, how does this influence the way American women identify with their country?

[Read more…]

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Why was an Italian graduate student tortured and murdered in Egypt?

The New York Times reports: The target of the Egyptian police, that day in November 2015, was the street vendors selling socks, $2 sunglasses and fake jewelry, who clustered under the arcades of the elegant century-old buildings of Heliopolis, a Cairo suburb. Such raids were routine, but these vendors occupied an especially sensitive location. Just 100 yards away is the ornate palace where Egypt’s president, the military strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, welcomes foreign dignitaries. As the men hurriedly gathered their goods from mats and doorways, preparing to flee, they had an unlikely assistant: an Italian graduate student named Giulio Regeni.

He arrived in Cairo a few months earlier to conduct research for his doctorate at Cambridge. Raised in a small village near Trieste by a sales manager father and a schoolteacher mother, Regeni, a 28-year-old leftist, was enthralled by the revolutionary spirit of the Arab Spring. In 2011, when demonstrations erupted in Tahrir Square, leading to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, he was finishing a degree in Arabic and politics at Leeds University. He was in Cairo in 2013, working as an intern at a United Nations agency, when a second wave of protests led the military to oust Egypt’s newly elected president, the Islamist Mohamed Morsi, and put Sisi in charge. Like many Egyptians who had grown hostile to Morsi’s overreaching government, Regeni approved of this development. ‘‘It’s part of the revolutionary process,’’ he wrote an English friend, Bernard Goyder, in early August. Then, less than two weeks later, Sisi’s security forces killed 800 Morsi supporters in a single day, the worst state-sponsored massacre in Egypt’s history. It was the beginning of a long spiral of repression. Regeni soon left for England, where he started work for Oxford Analytica, a business-research firm.

From afar, Regeni followed Sisi’s government closely. He wrote reports on North Africa, analyzing political and economic trends, and after a year had saved enough money to start on his doctorate in development studies at Cambridge. He decided to focus on Egypt’s independent unions, whose series of unprecedented strikes, starting in 2006, had primed the public for the revolt against Mubarak; now, with the Arab Spring in tatters, Regeni saw the unions as a fragile hope for Egypt’s battered democracy. After 2011 their numbers exploded, multiplying from four to thousands. There were unions for everything: butchers and theater attendants, well diggers and miners, gas-bill collectors and extras in the trashy TV soap operas that played during the holy month of Ramadan. There was even an Independent Trade Union for Dwarfs. Guided by his supervisor, a noted Egyptian academic at Cambridge who had written critically of Sisi, Regeni chose to study the street vendors — young men from distant villages who scratched out a living on the sidewalks of Cairo. Regeni plunged into their world, hoping to assess their union’s potential to drive political and social change.

But by 2015 that kind of cultural immersion, long favored by budding Arabists, was no longer easy. A pall of suspicion had fallen over Cairo. The press had been muzzled, lawyers and journalists were regularly harassed and informants filled Cairo’s downtown cafes. The police raided the office where Regeni conducted interviews; wild tales of foreign conspiracies regularly aired on government TV channels. [Continue reading…]

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Charlottesville attack shows homegrown terror on the right is on the rise

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James Alex Fields Jr., second from left, holds a black shield in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white supremacist rally took place.
Alan Goffinski via AP

By Arie Perliger, University of Massachusetts Lowell

The attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which a man named James Alex Fields Jr. used his Dodge Challenger as a weapon against a crowd of protesters, underscores the growing violence of America’s far-right wing.

According to reports, Fields was a active member of an online far-right community. Like many other far-right activists, he believes that he represents a wider ideological community, even though he acted alone.

My 15 years experience of studying violent extremism in Western societies has taught me that dealing effectively with far-right violence requires treating its manifestations as domestic terrorism.

In the wake of the Charlottesville attack, the Department of Justice announced it would launch a federal investigation:

“…that kind of violence, committed for seeming political ends, is the very definition of domestic terrorism.”

This acknowledgment may signal that a growing domestic menace may finally get the attention it deserves. While attacks by outsider Jihadist groups will probably continue, domestic terrorism still deserves more attention than it’s getting.

[Read more…]

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The seeds of the alt-right, America’s emergent right-wing populist movement

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Clockwise, from left: White nationalist William Pierce, domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh, white nationalist Richard Spencer, British journalist Milo Yiannopoulos, professor Kevin MacDonald, and Breitbart News founder Andrew Breitbart.
Nick Lehr/The Conversation, CC BY-NC-SA

By George Michael, Westfield State University

Over the past year, far-right activists – which some have labeled the “alt-right” – have gone from being an obscure, largely online subculture to a player at the very center of American politics.

On August 12, an amalgamation of far-right activist groups, ranging from Vanguard America to Identity Evropa, convened in Charlottesville, Virginia for a “Unite the Right” rally. The event took a tragic turn tragic when a 20-year-old white supremacist from Ohio plowed into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing one and injuring 19.

Long relegated to the cultural and political fringe, alt-right activists were among the most enthusiastic supporters of Donald Trump. Former Breitbart.com executive Steve Bannon – who declared the website “the platform for the alt-right” – is the President’s chief political strategist.

I’ve spent years extensively researching the American far right, and the movement seems more energized than ever. To its critics, the alt-right is just a code term for white nationalism, a much-maligned ideology associated with neo-Nazis and Klansmen. The movement, however, is more nuanced, encompassing a much broader spectrum of right-wing activists and intellectuals.

How did the movement gain traction in recent years? And has the alt-right already changed America’s political landscape?

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Why the Nazis came to Charlottesville

Siva Vaidhyanathan writes: “Should we go downtown?” my wife asked over breakfast on Thursday. “Remember, after the election, when we said we would stand with our neighbors when they were threatened? Are we being true to our commitments?”

For weeks, we had read reports from white supremacist groups that they were coming here by the hundreds or thousands to start a fight. They promised to come armed. The racist Daily Stormer website has been calling 2017 the “Summer of Hate,” and Charlottesville would be ground zero.

How should we respond? All summer, we and the other residents of this college town have been discussing our choices across tables, on Facebook, on local radio shows, in church groups and at community meetings.

We could join many of our neighbors for teach-ins at the university, discussing racial history, prospects for diversity and paths toward justice. The University of Virginia had arranged a slate of public programs to give people a safe place to convene, commune and debate while armed, angry white supremacists invaded our downtown, just a mile and a half from the university.

Or we could join thousands of our neighbors who had pledged to confront the Nazis, risking broken bones, pepper-sprayed eyes, arrest or worse. We had friends and neighbors on both sides of this choice. And we saw virtue in both actions.

One school of thought says we should deny these extremists attention, as if attention were the oxygen that feeds their flaming torches. The other calls for direct confrontation: Show them they are unwelcome, outnumbered, and that the community is bravely united in disgust.

Denying hate groups attention might work if everyone agreed to do so. But as long as television cameras — or even just regular people streaming on Facebook Live and posting to YouTube — were going to witness the events, and as long as others were committed to confronting the white supremacists, there would be oxygen.

Plus, as we had learned from previous such assaults on our community, the hate groups were not just after attention. They wanted conflict. They came to hear the sound of flesh being struck, bones being broken. So the idea of denying them attention seemed less significant as the event drew closer. Still, there were compelling reasons to avoid confrontation.

“They will have guns,” I said to my wife. “That’s the defining issue for me.” She agreed. The fact that we have a child who is committed to social justice and curious about politics tipped the balance. For her sake, we could not risk putting ourselves in danger, especially when we had an opportunity to enrich her experience with peaceful community engagement.

I now believe we made the wrong choice. [Continue reading…]

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If Trump goes down, Pence will too

Ronald A. Klain writes: In the 213 years since the 12th Amendment created our system of joint presidential-vice-presidential tickets, no vice president has been elected to the highest office after serving with a president who declined to seek, or was defeated in seeking, a second elected term. And as for coming to office via the president’s ouster, the only vice president to follow that path, Gerald Ford, lost when he campaigned to retain the office — and he had far less to do with President Richard M. Nixon’s scandals than Pence does with the mess around Trump.

This is the vice-presidential prisoner’s dilemma: There is no distance he can achieve, no political support he can muster, no congressional chits he can collect, no donor base he can assemble that can survive the fallout from a failed presidency. A vice president is either implicated as being in the loop or looks foolish if he insists that he was out of it. There’s too much video of any vice president praising, promoting and partnering with his boss to say, “President who?”

A vice president’s record behind the scenes in the administration is, by definition, obscure to voters. As a result, for better or worse, a vice president must run on the president’s record: If Trump’s record is bad enough to prevent him from running in 2020, it will flatten Pence as well.

If Pence seeks the presidency in 2020 because Trump has been forced out of office, or pressured not to run for reelection due to unpopularity, he will suffer the same fate as Hubert Humphrey in 1968, Ford in 1976, Walter Mondale in 1984 and Dan Quayle in 2000: defeat. Nothing Pence is doing now will break him out of a political imprisonment of his own creation. [Continue reading…]

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The massacre that ended the Arab Spring

Shadi Hamid writes: Four years ago today, the Arab Spring—or what was left of it—ended with a massacre. There were only two countries with largely peaceful democratic transitions. One of them was Tunisia; one of them was Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation and a bellwether for the region. On August 14, 2013, six weeks after a military coup against the Muslim Brotherhood-led government, over 800 people were killed near Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo. It was the worst mass killing in modern Egyptian history.

By then, there had been two formative political moments in my life, the September 11th attacks and the Iraq War. And now there was a third. Friends who’ve known me both before the Arab Spring and after tell me that my writing has become darker. They’re probably right.

The first time I set foot in Rabaa, just a week before the massacre, I was surprised at how self-contained everything was. Along with tens of thousands of supporters of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, there were kitchens, pharmacies, food stalls, sleeping quarters, and a “media center.” You couldn’t just casually stroll in. At the makeshift entrance, about 50 feet off the street, volunteer guards, standing next to piled-up sandbags, were hurriedly checking IDs. As I walked in, people sprayed me with water. This, apparently, was their way of welcoming me. It was the peak of the humid Egyptian summer. Like many Egyptian protests, this one teetered somewhere between panic and jubilation.

The killing hadn’t happened yet (although there had already been two “smaller” massacres on July 8 and July 27). Rabaa was where young Muslim Brotherhood members, some of them still in college, told me of that mix of adrenaline and dread they felt as they drafted their wills and bid their families goodbye. As Egyptians waited for a massacre, they debated just how many people the new regime would be willing to kill, and when it might do it. Beyond the personal stories of death, fear, and families torn apart, Rabaa, and the military coup that preceded it, told a remarkable, and a remarkably sad, story of a country that appeared intent on destroying itself. To the extent that Egyptians insist on feeling pride in their country, it is a pride tainted by the events that millions of them—including members of my own family—were complicit in. [Continue reading…]

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North Korea’s missile success is linked to Ukrainian plant, investigators say

The New York Times reports: North Korea’s success in testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that appears able to reach the United States was made possible by black-market purchases of powerful rocket engines probably from a Ukrainian factory with historical ties to Russia’s missile program, according to an expert analysis being published Monday and classified assessments by American intelligence agencies.

The studies may solve the mystery of how North Korea began succeeding so suddenly after a string of fiery missile failures, some of which may have been caused by American sabotage of its supply chains and cyberattacks on its launches. After those failures, the North changed designs and suppliers in the past two years, according to a new study by Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Such a degree of aid to North Korea from afar would be notable because President Trump has singled out only China as the North’s main source of economic and technological support. He has never blamed Ukraine or Russia, though his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, made an oblique reference to both China and Russia as the nation’s “principal economic enablers” after the North’s most recent ICBM launch last month.

Analysts who studied photographs of the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, inspecting the new rocket motors concluded that they derive from designs that once powered the Soviet Union’s missile fleet. The engines were so powerful that a single missile could hurl 10 thermonuclear warheads between continents.

Those engines were linked to only a few former Soviet sites. Government investigators and experts have focused their inquiries on a missile factory in Dnipro, Ukraine, on the edge of the territory where Russia is fighting a low-level war to break off part of Ukraine. During the Cold War, the factory made the deadliest missiles in the Soviet arsenal, including the giant SS-18. It remained one of Russia’s primary producers of missiles even after Ukraine gained independence.

But since Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was removed from power in 2014, the state-owned factory, known as Yuzhmash, has fallen on hard times. The Russians canceled upgrades of their nuclear fleet. The factory is underused, awash in unpaid bills and low morale. Experts believe it is the most likely source of the engines that in July powered the two ICBM tests, which were the first to suggest that North Korea has the range, if not necessarily the accuracy or warhead technology, to threaten American cities. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s cruel deportations

Kenneth Roth writes: Twenty-year-old Alexis G. was deported in June to Mexico, a country he barely knows. He told Human Rights Watch researchers who interviewed him at a migrant reception center, “My parents brought me [to the United States], and I grew up in [there]. If I were to sing an anthem right now, it would be ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ I don’t know the Mexican anthem.” He is one of millions of people deeply integrated into American life whom President Donald Trump has turned into “priority targets” for deportation, even though they cannot be removed without devastating their American families, businesses, and communities. With Trump due to name a new secretary of Homeland Security to replace John Kelly, these cruel policies should face renewed scrutiny during his successor’s confirmation hearings.

Alexis, whose wife Maryjo was born in the US, had temporary protection from deportation under President Barack Obama’s program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, but he said he couldn’t afford the $500 fee to renew it when it expired in 2016. After a scuffle involving his brothers at a small-town carnival in June, Alexis was arrested, handed over to immigration agents, and quickly deported. He told Human Rights Watch, “You feel like you don’t belong anywhere, you’re stuck in the middle… It hurts. Do I not count?”

Alexis isn’t a rapist or a killer, but President Donald Trump speaks as if he, along with the rest of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, is a threat to public safety. The vast majority of undocumented immigrants—an estimated 92.5 percent—have no criminal records, and studies have shown a correlation between higher levels of immigration and safer neighborhoods. Yet Trump and his supporters continue to argue that most unauthorized immigrants are actual or potential criminals. [Continue reading…]

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Why are the United Nations’ sustainable development goals stalling?

Pacific Standard reports: It’s the most ambitious project in the history of humankind. If successful, it would solve many of civilization’s most pressing challenges. But due to a single, fatal defect, it’s poised to fail—catastrophically.

“It” is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and as U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres recently reported, the efforts to meet the goals are lagging and must pick up the pace to hit the 2030 target. Fortunately, there’s still time to save the project, and it can be done by applying a straightforward fix.

But first, it’s worth slowing down and adding a bit of context to this endeavor. The goals—known as the SDGs—were adopted just two years ago by 193 nations, with the aim to guide global, regional, and national efforts to reduce poverty, address climate change, and build inclusive societies. They are, in a sense, the sequel to the blockbuster Millennium Development Goals, which was arguably the most successful anti-poverty initiative in history.

Why are the SDGs stalling? For one, it’s because, in their very conceit, they’re defective. While this list of 17 goals and 169 targets is longer than the Constitution, it’s not the goals’ breadth, depth, or even ambition slowing us down; it’s the absence of internal logic. The SDGs are a postmodern, deconstructed, Jackson Pollock-version of a to-do list.

The reason for this is simple. The U.N. reacted to legitimate critiques of the original Millennium Development Goals—that the goals were conceived by a too-small group with “relative casualness,” with insufficient input from the public, and from developing countries. Thus, the successor SDGs were informed, in contrast, by years of meetings, consultations, stakeholder forums, online input, and door-to-door surveys.

That was undoubtedly wise. But the U.N. stopped there, with an indiscriminate list of objectives. Virtually every perspective is reflected and no perspective is subordinated. The pithiest analysis came from an executive at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: “No targets left behind.” [Continue reading…]

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The alt-right stands at a crossroads

The Atlantic reports: Members of the alt-right like to depict their movement as an irreverent response to political correctness.

On Saturday, in Charlottesville, Virginia, James Alex Fields Jr. drove a car through that façade, in a terrorist attack that killed Heather Heyer and injured 19 others who had gathered in opposition to the white-nationalist movement.

It was a defining moment, but not a moment for a pause. More alt-right rallies are scheduled for the coming Saturday, in at least nine cities. These events will provide an important barometer for the future of this movement, depending on how many people turn out, who those people are, and how they conduct themselves. For the alt-right, the coming weekend represents a critical test—which may reveal it gathering force, dissipating, or changing in significant ways. By Saturday night, it may be clear where it’s headed.

The alt-right has become an umbrella community for the American far-right, a loosely defined movement with a strong center of gravity online and which encompasses a large number of subnetworks.

Some of these subgroups identify primarily as the alt-right, but many are affiliated with more specific strains of white-nationalist ideology—including the Ku Klux Klan, Odinists, Neo-Nazis, and more, many in full regalia lest anyone miss the point. [Continue reading…]

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Charlottesville and America’s long history of homegrown fascism

Joshua Zeitz writes: These people are not from here,” Rep. Thomas Garrett affirmed in the wake of an American Nazi and Klan rally that descended into smoke and violence in his Virginia congressional district on Saturday. “It blows my mind that this many racist bigots actually exist in this country.” White supremacists, he continued, do not reflect “who we are as Americans.”

It’s a little surprising that Garrett is surprised. Even as he spoke, a photograph circulated of the congressman meeting recently with Jason Kessler, a white supremacist from Charlottesville who organized the rally. The purpose of the meeting, Garrett’s office insisted, was unrelated to yesterday’s rally; the two men discussed a range of issues, including President Donald Trump’s anti-terrorism and immigration restriction initiatives.

To be fair, Garrett might not perceive the tight spectrum that runs between between racialist policies and white supremacist violence. He may also genuinely believe that aggrieved white men marching in lock step by torchlight do not reflect “who we are as Americans.” Indeed, many public figures on both the left and right—people like Sally Yates, Tim Kaine and Ana Navarro, whose anti-racist and anti-fascist credentials are unimpeachable—echoed this well-meaning sentiment.

But as the historian and New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb observed, “The biggest indictment of the way we teach American history is that people can look at #Charlottesville and say ‘This is not who we are.’” It is part of the myth of American Exceptionalism that blood and soil movements like Nazism are foreign to the United States—that jackbooted fascism of the variety that infects democratic institutions is an invasive weed that can be easily plucked out of our national garden.

To affirm that this is not who we are, one has to erase the history of American race relations from our very recent, collective past. [Continue reading…]

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