Is Charlottesville our Night of Broken Glass?

In November 1938, mobs of Germans and Austrians destroyed synagogues and Jewish businesses, and committed acts of violence against the Jewish people. “Kristallnacht”, meaning “Night of Crystal” is remembered throughout the world as the “Night of Broken Glass”- due to the vandalism of hundreds of synagogues and Jewish owned businesses that left broken glass throughout the streets over a couple of days.

Importantly, the German government blamed the Jews- both in the cause of the riots and in the aftermath.  A German embassy official had been assassinated in Paris by a distraught Polish Jew. Hitler surrogate and Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels spoke to blame the Jews, and stated that the government would not hamper “spontaneous” demonstrations against the Jews. Taken as encouragement by the Nazis and even apolitical competitors of Jewish business owners, the scale of destruction and violence was enormous, even by standards of 1930s anti-Semitic Europe. After the destruction, the German government BLAMED THE JEWS. Approximately 30,000 Jewish males were arrested during the violence. The German governments’ formal response:

“In the immediate aftermath of the pogrom, many German leaders, like Hermann Göring, criticized the extensive material losses produced by the antisemitic riots, pointing out that if nothing were done to intervene, German insurance companies—not Jewish-owned businesses—would have to carry the costs of the damages. Nevertheless, Göring and other top Party leaders decided to use the opportunity to introduce measures to eliminate Jews and perceived Jewish influence from the German economic sphere.

The German government made an immediate pronouncement that “the Jews” themselves were to blame for the pogrom and imposed a fine of one billion Reichsmark (some 400 million US dollars at 1938 rates) on the German Jewish community. The Reich government confiscated all insurance payouts to Jews whose businesses and homes were looted or destroyed, leaving the Jewish owners personally responsible for the cost of all repairs.” As described on the online website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

I would be remiss to imply that the immense and widespread suffering of the Jewish people in Europe was by any means an equivalent to what occurred in Charlottesville, VA this past week. Must we wait for it to be equivalent? What we can compare is the context. The Night of Broken Glass occurred in 1938 Germany and Austria, in a time of great and long festering anti-Semitism. It was considered the turning point for the Nazis, a test of whether their agenda could move forward without significant opposition. Again, from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, as published online and referenced herein:

“The events of Kristallnacht represented one of the most important turning points in National Socialist antisemitic policy. Historians have noted that after the pogrom, anti-Jewish policy was concentrated more and more concretely into the hands of the SS. Moreover, the passivity with which most German civilians responded to the violence signaled to the Nazi regime that the German public was prepared for more radical measures.”

Context: In the United States of America, land of the free and equality for all, in 2017, hundreds of Americans, many of whom were visibly and significantly armed, carried lit torches, walked through public streets, shouting Nazi slogans, and chanting hate slogans against Jews, people of color, and other minorities.  Media interviews of participants show people proudly proclaiming their agenda, to rid the United States of all of these groups, to create a white, Aryan nation. The leader of the United States placed equal blame, at best, on the targets of this hate demonstration and those that stood with them.

Are they taking over the country? Not right now, no. But, should we not be concerned that their numbers and prominence are growing? The Nazi party began in Germany as a fringe element. This demonstration was a test. A test of their power, a test of how the government would respond, and a test for planning the next steps. The next white nationalist demonstrations are already being organized- will they continue to grow? When will be our turning point? This is an equivalent moral turning point for the leaders of our nation.  Action must be swiftly taken so that this group does not believe it has friends in the White House, and they do not continue to gain momentum and influence.

We always say “never again”. But, we are strongly criticized for invoking that past when we see the same agenda of hate and prejudice. I’ll take the criticism. The alternative is silence, which is equivalent to collaboration, and we know how that turned out for so many innocent victims of the SAME. EXACT. AGENDA. It may not have been the Night of Broken Glass, but it certainly was a Night of Broken Hearts.



Trump’s view: “Everything is negotiable”- including slavery.

I think we all know which side of The Civil War Donald Trump would have been on.  Individual rights do not seem to be his strong suit. His governing style is to press forward forcefully by majority rule, or even more often, by unilateral decree. Although he convinced so many hard-working Americans to vote for him, he has shown no indication that his presidency will help them. His presidency will help big business and billionaires.  Trumps’ lack of compassion for immigrants, refugees, and even animals, shows us his ease in putting the dollar ahead of right and wrong.

Always sympathetic to business and the bottom line, would he not sympathize with the slave owners and their need for “affordable” labor? His actions show that he would. His own clothing line and his daughters’ are made in China. Why? Because Trump does not value human rights and the standards of labor set by this country.  It was just reported that Ivanka Trumps’ clothing line is manufactured in a factory where Chines workers are paid the equivalent of $62 for a 60-hour workweek, below even China’s standards. According to CNN, who ordered and traced pieces from Donald Trumps’ fashion line, products were all manufactured outside of the United States in countries where he could pay very low wages. CNN discovered Trump shirts made in a Honduras factory where workers earned $1.30 per hour.  Even worse, Trump products were also found to be manufactured in Bangladesh, where the average worker earns 33 cents per hour.  Working conditions in Bangladesh are some of the worst in the world.

Trump justifies this use of cheap, often abusive, labor. You may be thinking- sure, this is bad, but they are getting paid- slavery is different. Ok. Trump has made a huge point of comparing himself to and praising President Andrew Jackson. In fact, he just said that Jackson, had he been President at the time, would have successfully avoided the Civil War.  I don’t doubt it.  Jackson was a slave owner. Some have portrayed him as a benevolent slave owner, but the facts indicate that he was a slave owner, a slave driver, and a vicious one.  On one occasion, he supplemented a reward for his runaway slave with a bonus for anyone who also gave him 100 lashes.  He spoke violently against abolitionists, vowing to protect the Southern way of life much as Trump vows to protect their guns.

The South overwhelmingly supports Trump- some of his loudest and most visible supporters are Confederate flag wavers/wearers, and white supremacists. Trump idolizes Andrew Jackson. Trump avoids health, safety, and wage laws to protect workers by going where they are not protected. Trump justifies it all. Trump would justify the allowance of slavery to preserve the union, if not for it’s own sake. Trump has said “Everything is negotiable.” Does anyone believe that Trump would have refused to negotiate the issue of slavery? How many Trump supporters still do not disavow slavery? Why are Confederate memorials honoring those who fought to keep slavery and white supremacy still standing, an issue passionately defended by many in the South? Why are they proud of the Confederate flag? They are not ashamed of their past- Germany is ashamed of the Nazi flag, Trump supporters are nostalgic for theirs. These are the people who elected Trump. Trump would have saved the U.S. from the Civil War. Think about that, and what the world would look like today had he been President then.  Now think about what the world is going to look like in the future, because he is President now.

Syria: What’s your solution?

The humanitarian crisis amidst civil war in Syria shows no sign of waning.  Having Jewish grandparents survive WWII Hungary (while most in their family were not so lucky), I have found it deplorable that the world has not stepped in. However, this issue takes a lot more than news sound bites and twitter feeds demanding we aid the #syrianrefugees.  How do we actually do that?  Empty the country of Syria into the U.S.? Empty the country of Syria into a conglomerate of countries? Take a military position to end the civil war? Which side do we take? If that were only a simple question.

On the surface, it seems obvious.  Assad, with help from Putin, has been committing atrocities against his own people for years.  This is only the latest time he has been accused of using chemical weapons against civilians. (I say accused because Assad denies responsibility for the attack, and blames one of the many other groups fighting in this war.  By all accounts, it is doubtful that Assad is innocent of the charge- none of the insurgent groups are believed to have access to chemical weapons or the warplanes that were seen dropping them.)

This Civil War arose from the turbulent “Arab Spring”, when the people rose up against their oppressive leaders, including Assad, in 2011.  That would have been the time to support the overthrow of this long oppressive government.  The Free Syrian Army, comprised of defecting Syrian military, were the primary group seeking to tip Assad from power.  The uprising began in Syria when a group of teenagers who had graffitied revolutionist sentiments were arrested and tortured.  Hundreds of protestors were killed in the governments’ swift and harsh reaction.  When sent to put down more protests, military personnel began refusing to open fire, defecting, putting loyalty to the people above the regime.  The FSA, through primarily guerrilla warfare and attacks on the military, took control of more and more areas.

Foreign governments, including the United States did supply significant ammunition to the FSA.  However, two years into the unresolved war, many other factions and foreign interests had been looking to hijack control of Syria’s future.  Foreign combatants poured into Syria. Competing opposition groups, such as Islamic al-Nusra Front broke off from and/or infiltrated the FSA.  One key group to do so was ISIL.  By 2014, FSA was believed to have devolved to a mere secular front for ISIL, siphoning Western aid and weapons to ISIL.  At this point, it is unclear who or what is the real FSA, and where its interests are now aligned.

FSA and its affiliated opposition groups have been themselves called out by human rights watch groups and the U.N., for committing war crimes- including kidnappings, tortures, and executions. The U.N. has verified FSA’s use of child soldiers.

Russia has backed Assad and justifies their support by pointing to the terrorist groups such as ISIL that have become a significant part of the revolution against Assad’s regime.  Their bombings, alleged to be aimed at ISIL forces, have hit ISIL as well as anti-government forces not associated with terrorists, causing the world to question whether the quelling of terrorism is Russia’s interest, versus the propping up of Assad.  Syria’s dependence on Russia has created an uncomfortable power dynamic in the always delicate region. The United States and other Western governments do not want Assad or Putin to control this sensitive area- but have cringed when called upon to take direct military action to aid their opponents.

Why? Most importantly- we have learned the hard lesson that the tyrants of today can appear quite moderate in contrast to their replacements. It is an enormous challenge to take responsibility for assisting any religious-based group into power, not always clear on which group will turn out to instill an even more extremist regime.  This is not a country where the majority of the country demands a secular democracy, and we can simply provide the tools to rid them of their oppressors.  Most of these groups are far from secular, and their rise to power could lead to a simple substitution of abusive power, or an even worse, a terrorist-affiliated government.

Why else? Russia has picked their side, making it clear that Assad’s is the legal government, and they are merely assisting in stabilizing that government and putting down criminal factions. Already unclear as to who we would be fighting for on the opposing side and their intentions for the future of Syria, we do know who we would be fighting against- Russia.  While we no longer live in a constant state of dread of nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, many have not forgotten, and are loath to jump into a potentially devastating world war, and potential destabilization of the fragile semblance of peace between world powers, including China.

What is the right answer? Syria is filled with many religious extremists and terrorists.   It also is home to so many ordinary civilians, who simply want to live in peace. How do we tell them apart? How can the U.S. participate in stabilizing this country? Do we try to save the “good” people and take them to safety and abandon the country? Do we back an opposition group and hope that they are not tomorrows’ enemy? Do we take control of a country that cannot govern itself?  What would that look like? We tried it in Iraq. Would Russia allow that and are we willing to go to war if they don’t? Do we allow the country to be divided up among the different religious and world factions- could that ever bring peace, and would we be sentencing so many to doomed lives under extremists or dictators? I don’t know.  I don’t have much faith in Trump on an easy issue, so I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know the answer to this one. Do you? Let’s hear it- #speakup #worldpeace doesn’t come easy.

Will Trump simply handpick the next President? Why running mate selection, or lack thereof, has never been more important.

It was just announced that Ted Cruz has chosen Carly Fiorina as his running mate.  With all due respect for Fiorina, an intelligent woman, Cruz stuck with what he is good at- unlikeability.  These two together are the aunt and uncle that you threaten your kids with punishments to go give Uncle Ted and Aunt Carly a kiss.  Blech.  Although I try to remain somewhat objective for this blog, I am not fond of Ted Cruz.

More importantly, however, is the overall importance of vice presidential choices in this campaign.  It’s impossible to avoid the implications in re: The Donald.  As a nation, we should be paying attention to who Donald Trump tells us he is- essentially, an unabashed opportunist.  He has made no apologies for taking full advantage of tax and bankruptcy rules, and seems even proud that he is savvy enough to do so.  He has likewise admitted to supporting any candidate who could help achieve his financial objectives.  Donald Trump has survived multiple bankruptcies and corporate failures, while walking away without a scratch.  The same cannot be said for his business partners, lenders, vendors, or shareholders.  He has refused to release substantive tax returns, and refused to commit to placement of his financial assets into a blind trust to avoid conflicts- as the President of the free world, his decisions will surely impact his business holdings.  He has not indicated any willingness to put his own benefit behind anyone else’s, even that of the country.

I’m guessing that Trump will be last to announce a running mate, and will do so only when pressed.  This is an important choice, and the greatest position of power that Trump has ever held in his little hands (sorry, couldn’t resist)- the opportunity to potentially appoint the next President of the United States.  I’m not talking about him dying in office.  I have great reason to wonder whether Trump actually wants to be President- no doubt, he wants to win the Presidency, but does he actually want to govern this country for four years?  Is he truly willing to walk away from his own financial interests and the many companies he operates?  Or- could he simply resign on day 2 of his administration, leaving his hand-chosen appointee as President?  

Day 1 would be used to appoint other positions of power, issue pardons to friends and business associates, etc., the usual.  I shudder to think of the executive orders.  Of course, the press has speculated that he would choose Christie or Carson, who sold their principals faster than a meth-addled hooker.  But, close your eyes and wonder.  What if.  What if Trump names his daughter, Ivanka, as running mate?  Or his goofy son, but for this reel, let’s stick with Ivanka, who he constantly and creepishly lavishes with praise as both the most brilliant and most beautiful woman on earth.  It was widely reported a few months back that Ivanka had refused to rule out the possibility of exploring her own political aspirations.  I would like to say that this was just a fun musing, and to now explore serious possibilities, but with Trump, I can’t rule out the wild card.  However, one could certainly argue that his choice would be less dramatic, yet still critically tied to his train- a board member from one of his companies, a protege, a decision maker in a lucrative business deal.  Not to be gauche, but could he sell the presidency for a development opportunity- hotel and golf course rights on a billion dollar coastline?  Of course to do so outright would be illegal.  But ask yourself how you feel about Donald Trumps’ objectives and ethics in choosing his running mate, and his willingness to govern the country, ignoring self-interest for 4 years.  Ask yourself.

Across the board, running mates have the potential to make or break this election.  Both Clinton and Sanders seem to have an eye on Elizabeth Warren.  Her brilliance, practicality, and likeability would go a long way in boosting Clintons’ unlikeable, untrustable image, and for Sanders, could offset both his age and the perception of him as a hippie dreamer  unable to carry through on any substantive matters of policy.  As to Kasich, who easily wins the award for most persistent, an amazing, popular choice could bolster his comparably bland personality- but, he’d probably need to choose Caitlyn Jenner at this point for some press.  Just, please, no-one drag Sarah Palin back into this.  I beg you.  And ask John McCain how important a running mate choice can be.

Do you know where your local bomb shelter is?

You would want to know if you were aware of North Korea’s recent threats.  Why has the mainstream media not given more significant coverage to North Korea’s outright threat to use a nuclear weapon against the U.S.?  Yes, North Korea has a history of sabre rattling, mostly used as propaganda for its own population.  However, tensions are certainly high in the region, with the regime issuing repeated warnings to South Korea and the United States, punctuated with missiles fired.  The USA article, linked herein, includes a video released by North Korea, depicting a nuclear attack directly on the U.S., with a warning of “Last Chance”.  North Korea has stated that it is both willing and able to drop a hydrogen bomb on the U.S., specifically referencing New York and/or Washington, D.C., and their willingness to do so as a pre-emptive strike without military provocation.

President Obama is scheduled to host a meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tomorrow at the White House.  The agenda is the North Korean threat.  Simultaneously, world leaders are gathering for a  Nuclear Security Summit, also in D.C. tomorrow and Friday.  North Korea does not like this.  The summits have been part of a continued international effort to reduce the risk of nuclear war, including the use of nuclear weapons by terrorist organizations.  This summit will not ignore the immediate and escalated threat of North Korea, with meetings scheduled between China, South Korea, and Japan.  Russia has refused to participate, in protest of the perceived leadership of the United States in hosting the summit.  But, even Russia, a N. Korea ally, has denounced the threats of preemptive attack on the U.S.

North Korea is threatening to drop a bomb on the United States.  There may be no further warning.  Do we wait?  Wait for their “preemptive strike” against us, and then retaliate?  Is this threat itself an act of war? Could these threats be mere barking, and unlikely to result in any action, as has happened in the past?  With North Korea now having the ability to carry out these threats with long range missiles, can we take the chance?  While nothing would be gained by mass hysteria, it seems we should all be worried.  Yet, I look around and everyone is going about their business.  Government officials are releasing statements that they are taking this seriously, but I don’t see anything on a local level.  It seems irresponsible that local governments in at least New York and D.C. are not taking steps to  prepare for the possibility, and warning the population.  I would not want my family to be in D.C. in the coming weeks.

The fear of nuclear war has faded into distant memory with the end of the Cold War.  We, as a people, took that threat very seriously.  It was part of the national dialogue, and a major concern, with bomb drills in schools, building of bomb shelters, and quite a few movies made on the subject.  I see none of that in response to the same threat made by North Korea.  Maybe this threat seems less real because it is made by an unstable leader that we don’t take seriously, and that most people probably have little awareness of what we are fighting about.  It’s similar to terrorism in its feeling of arbitrary, unprovoked violence, where we have all been forced to live our lives and just hope it doesn’t happen where we are.

We need to talk about this.  We need to know how we will be protected if this threat is carried out.  We need to respond when we are threatened with destruction of our cities, and massacre of our citizens.  We need to be outraged. We need to be ready.  We need to squash this threat and do so before we have suffered the unimaginable losses that would be sustained if North Korea makes good on it.


Wrong Lesson- it’s Trumps’ (perceived) honesty that resonates with voters- the insults are merely a bonus.

The Republican campaign has deteriorated into quite a sad state of affairs.  The shock of watching Donald Trump hurl insults, and make grandiose claims of achievement, has warn off and stunningly become the norm.  As if in a warped response to the medieval age ISIS has dragged the world into, our political campaign is rising to the level of Roman gladiators, with the crowd only satiated by more blood, and the willingness of all sides to fight to the death.

You think I exaggerate?  Explain the almost universal praise by pundits of Marco Rubio’s debate and other public performances, when he finally rolled up his sleeves, gave into the crowd, and fought with the same viciousness, insults, and mocking that Trump has used to rise in popularity.

When Vicente Fox and others say Donald Trump reminds them of Hitler, they are not far fetched.  He has the same ability to use hate and paranoia to work his followers into a frenzy, even a cult following.  Watch Hitlers’ speeches.  Watch the crowd.  Trump himself has stated that his supporters blindly follow him, and that even should he shoot someone in the middle of Time Square, he would not lose a single follower.  Are you not afraid?

I refuse to believe that the American people are all this blind or hateful.  What I take from that blind following is that the public does not care about what he says, but how he says it.  He could be completely off party lines, as with many of his past actions and even current remarks (see support of Planned Parenthood.)  I believe that it is not as much the extremist statements of Trump that the voters are responding to, but his perceived honesty that so contrasts with the conventional political campaigning, always afraid to say anything that has not been well vetted or remotely out of party lines.  Rubio and Cruz have somewhat missed the call of the public.  Sure, they love a good fight.   However, in this battleground, Trump will retain his edge- he is good at mud throwing.  You must use your intellect- throw those punches that actually have meaning and weight, not just “You are a liar”.  That’s all Trump has, but you have far more than that to work with.

The real missed lesson is not how to come up with insults.  It’s breaking the format- speaking off the cuff, answering questions without looking to your campaign managers for the appropriate answer.  You need to say out loud what you are thinking- the truckload of reasons that Trump will not make a good President- why the U.S. cannot afford to be his next business.  We can’t afford to fail, as some of his companies and business deals have.  We can’t just leave and get cheap labor elsewhere.  We can’t break our promises in relationships with allies or wives, trading in for new ones on a whim.   We can’t risk Donald Trump running the United States in the way that most benefits Donald Trump- a consistent approach to everything he has touched.  He has admitted that his political support goes wherever the wind blows, and that his principals change as benefits his financial interests.  Isn’t this really just his biggest business deal?  Can anyone doubt that he will shamelessly use the presidency to obtain his biggest financial advantages yet?  Ask the questions.  Out loud.  Again and again.

Do what should have been done unapologetically from the start- don’t just say that Trump has filed bankruptcies, tear those bankruptcies and lawsuits apart.  Bring out the nice old people from Scotland that Trump viciously and unrelentingly called stupid, publicly shaming them in an effort to obtain their land for a golf course.  Look at the environmental reports on that.  Don’t allow him to stand up there and claim he is supported by environmentalists- trot them out.  Rubio’s rightful criticism of a candidate being sued for FRAUD- where have you been for all of these months- these are not a few complainers, they are joined by the New York Attorney General.  How often and to what extent was Trump paying illegal workers?  How much?  I want to know.  Let’s send someone to his factories in China, and explore the working conditions.  Spend your advertising money showing his exploitation of the working class- will he really support unions?  Not if it hurts his bottom line.  There is a wealth of obtainable information to be evaluated.  Why are you not doing so?  Why is the media not doing this to inform the people?

Here’s a place to start- read Wayne Barretts’ 2011 article discussing Trumps’ decision to drop out of the 2012 Presidential race due to the magnifying lens into his businesses and alleged associates, even alleged ties to organized crime. His public excuse, that he was offered too good of a deal to renew his TV show, should give one pause.

Say what everyone is thinking.  That is what the public wants.  No more politicians, full of dishonesty and double speak.  If you changed your mind, say so.  The ridiculous attempts to claim you haven’t only make you look foolish when you sheepishly attempt to turn it around. Don’t criticize spelling on tweets- is that the best you’ve got?  How about interviewing Marla Maples?  Let’s point out the lack of integrity, the inherent dishonesty exposed by his affair.  Where is Tiffany Trump?  Has no one noticed that Melania Trump has posed naked and provocatively- is she an appropriate first lady and role model?  How about that she speaks in broken English?  Is that acceptable for a first lady that must communicate well with heads of state and their wives- or is it everything that this country is about?  Why don’t you interview her?????  As always, the point is to ask the questions.  When interviewed, Trumps’ followers have said they follow him because he speaks the truth, not many cite his political platform.  Point out his dishonesty, not his spelling errors.  Rubio, Cruz, even Kasich, that’s what you learn from this- you don’t need the comedy writers- rip up the speeches, and just talk. #SpeakUp  and Speak Loudly.   Answer questions without canned responses. The old style of being overly careful not to offend any constituents is dead.  Just go for it.   This is what the public is clamoring for.  Listen.



American Terrorist-Why Don’t you Know About This?

Take a look at this Justice Department release- regarding a 21-year old Kansas resident named John T. Booker, who was in the process of enlisting in the U.S. army to support ISIS with an attack from the inside.  His plan to detonate a bomb at an Army post was thwarted, and a terrorist attack averted.  Right here in the U.S.  An American. A Muslim.

Why did most media outlets not report on this story?  I couldn’t find it on the Fox News website.  It was reported on CNN and CBS, but not given “front page” status.  I found it on page 7 of the Los Angeles Times, a 3-paragraph tidbit under “National Briefing”.  It was not reported because the story does not fit the media and political agenda- had Booker been an immigrant, there would have been something to wave flags and rant about.  Keep the Muslims out.  Now it’s about freedom of religion (and potentially mental health) and no-one wants to touch on those issues.

Does the very topic-  U.S. citizens supporting ISIS out of faith in Islam- hold a key to dealing with the problem?  Does this support the need for DeJihadification of Islam, as described in my earlier post?  Can or should the United States participate in the censorship of religion?  Incitement to violence is an exception to the rights of the First Amendment.  Censorship goes against everything we stand for, and government censorship of the Quran would be a tough sell.  So what can we do?  Can we put a terrorist tax on the Quran and any other books that advocate violence?  Can we pressure religious leaders in conjunction with publishers to only sell the Quran in the U.S.  with an annotated or amended version outlawing its illegal provisions calling Muslims to jihad?  This article is not intended to be controversial, but is intended to be thought provoking.  What are your ideas?  Please don’t let the party or media agenda stop us from protecting our country and working on solutions rather than useless rhetoric or hateful grandstanding. #SpeakUp

DeJihadification of Islam-What can we learn from DeNazification?

Yes, I know I could be writing about the primaries, and I will.  However, what I hope to do here is bring constructive discussions of topics in ways that the soundbites and memes that seem to serve as the political education of the masses, are lacking.  I’ve been working on various forms of this post for a while, and kept hitting the roadblock when it came to how to resolve it.  I’m not suggesting this is the only solution, but I simply don’t hear of enough ideas so I’m going to give mine.  In every conversation I have had with those who are unapologetically Anti-Muslim, the “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim” crowd, there is no meaningful solution other than to close our borders, cover our eyes, and let the Middle East fight to the death, hoping that we can successfully isolate ourselves from the carnage, wake up one day and see who won.  I believe that there are other options.  There must be.  Too many people are dying- we must not only care when we fear a terrorist attack, we must care always when such masses of people are suffering- we made the mistake of remaining uninvolved in WWII for too long- we must not repeat history, and we know this time for certain what is happening.

This article began as one on Islamic Reformation.  There are many within and outside the community of Islam arguing for its reformation- these are voices that need to be heard- the media and politicians need to assist them and put a megaphone to those voices.  My research and analysis brought me back to the very foundation of the unsuccessful attempts to substantively reform Islam.  Why has every other major religion gone through reformations of some kind, but not Islam?  No respected religious leaders or scholars, other than of Islam, advocate the punishments similarly described in their own texts- death or maiming for various crimes against the religion.  Most world religions have evolved their policies, even at their beginnings- to adapt to changing times.  (Christianity, for example, in order to gain converts to the new religion, declared that circumcision and certain kosher practices, would not apply to new converts.)

The reason that Islam has not been able to issue new, updated policies or ideologies, is that the Quran expressly prohibits any amendment, and to do so is a crime against Islam.

Where the world sees hope when Muslims point to the early, peace-avowing, religious tolerance of Mohammed’s writings (the Quran consists of a series of Mohammed’s writings over a 22-year period), the Quran states that wherever there is contradiction within its writings, the later writings shall be taken as law.  Mohammed’s later writings are those that ISIS, other extremists, and too many nonviolent believers follow.  They will never be convinced that the Quran is fallible or amendable.  An analogy in U.S. terms- conservatives who oppose gun control based on the existence and infallibility of the Constitutions’ Second Amendment (ironically, since it is, in fact, an Amendment, by nature an admission of the ability and necessity to make changes) will never be convinced that the right to bear arms is anything but a firm constitutional, even God-given right, not subject to regulation, let alone abolition.  Even more progressive Americans are reluctant to disavow that recognized part of our Constitution entirely.  This is how the majority of even non-extremist Muslims see the Quran- although the masses may denounce terrorism, an alarming number of Muslims do believe in those core ideologies- death to apostates, adulterers, etc.

What can be done?  This is a problem that faces the entire world.  Carpet-bombing sounds fun, but will that be the end of it?  Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.  There is no easy solution.  At the end of WWII, the Allies constructed and enforced a new policy- Denazification.  In occupied Germany, as well as across much of Europe, various laws were put in place to make Nazism illegal.  How do you illegalize an ideology?  The Allies made it illegal to belong to the Nazi party, all emblems and symbols were prohibited, and still are in some European nations.  All forms of Nazi support were evaluated and punished accordingly, from active proponents to lesser collaborators, to even those guilty through inaction.

The enforcement of the criminality of an entire ideology, which Islam clearly is, or even just aspects of it, would be no easy task.  Allied enforcement became an overwhelming task in Germany,  Enormous caseloads became unmanageable- consisting of trial and execution of the worst war criminals to barring Nazi party members from obtaining work permits.  The Allies each monitored zones, and it became imperative to gradually turn the governing over to Germans.  That took time- meanwhile, the Allies censored media, and the German people were forced to see the atrocities that many did not know of or support, in a misguided policy of collective guilt, but also to cement the condemnation of Nazism.  Conventional wisdom decries the effectiveness of DeNazification- but I disagree.  Eventually policing internally, no country continues to have stronger policies prohibiting the Nazi ideology, and its flag remains illegal.

Can or should such a policy be applied to Muslim extremism?  Would it be possible for a new group of Allies to institute and enforce a policy of Anti-Jihadism?  Can we learn from the failures and trials of Denazification to do it better now?  The United Nations already has laws, via resolution, outlawing genocide on the world stage.  U.N. Resolution 260 (III) Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article II, defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, or religious group”.  Islamic leadership and groups, not just as political parties, but as nations, that call for death to apostates or non-believers of Islam, clearly fall into that category.  Am I suggesting that the United Nations (ha) or a group of Allies formed against Muslim extremists, invade Middle Eastern countries, pass this law and enforce it?  Not necessarily, but if this was the only way, why wouldn’t we consider it?

Who is best situated to eradicate extremism?  The nations that advocate on their behalf and/or allow these groups the freedom to exist.  As there is no recognized leader of Ialam, we must start from a civil perspective.  I believe that Iraq and Afghanistan were squandered opportunities to formally and uncompromisingly insist on absolute enforcement of laws to criminalize the ideologies within Islam of jihad, genocide of non-believers, including honor killings, and other aspects of Sharia law that violate human rights.  Pakistan has surprisingly been cracking down on ISIS, making necessary arrests.  However, any nation assisted by the U.S. through financial aid, trade, or diplomatic alliance, should be required to unequivocally restate the Quran and its interpretation/enforcement regarding positions recognized as illegal and genocidal throughout the world.

What does that look like from within?  Those governments would need to support the voices of reform, reflect the reform as established part of official religion and civil law.  Yes, there are many degrees to be negotiated in reform-legal and religious amendment of the Quran to denounce murder, religious intolerance- should they be required to abolish child marriage (Pakistan declined to recently pass a law banning child marriage), blasphemy laws, adultery, punishments of physical abuse or maiming.  There is much to be discussed.  What do we as a world insist upon as a baseline for human rights?

Let’s start with Saudi Arabia- statistics lead us to believe that a majority of IS followers are living and thriving within their borders.  Once a U.S. ally, those ties have considerably broken down, and power within the nation is tenuous. However, the U.S. provides financial aid to Saudi Arabia, even as the nation fails to meet the financial transparency regulations required for that aid, and denies reports that indicate that ISIS’s most significant donors are within their borders.  (Please don’t write comments that it’s all about oil dependency- the U.S. has significantly decreased any dependence on Saudi Arabia for oil.)  Why don’t we DEMAND allegiance from nations to whom we provide financial aid???  Is it unfair to at least require that they not support our enemies?  That we not finance the continued existence and rise of those enemies to power?  U.S. humanitarian aid is the primary source of aid to Sudan, a nation with one of the worst records of violations of human rights, and a strong enforcer of Sharia law.

You will not find a stronger advocate for the victims of Islamic extremism, humanitarian abuses, or corruption.  But we must do more to ensure that we are not feeding the people to give them strength as soldiers against us or against the innocent of their own people.  We also must find a way to rescue those that are innocent from genocide. We must be unmovable in our treatment of countries that support extremism or fail to enforce laws against it.  Why should a U.N. coalition not engage to prevent genocide in Syria?  There is ample evidence that the government used chemical weapons against its own people.  Hundreds of thousands are fleeing Syria, most are innocent, and some just looking for a more comfortable place to conduct IS operations.  Why not have a U.N. or allied coalition take control of the Syrian government (which one, you might ask-fair question), provide safety for its people, integrate reformist, peace-advocating Syrians, and provide them the manpower to eradicate the extremists and enforce laws that denounce Jihad and its interpretation within the Quran.

If we do not create and foster a policy of De-Jihadization, the future may look much like the present, maybe worse.  It is in the Quran.  Islam is prohibited from amending the Quran, so do we need to do it for them?  Not give them a say in this?  Despite the inevitable and substantial carnage that enforcement and a retaliatory rise in initial war against it, would it not be worth it for worldwide good?  Do we, as a nation, have the patience we didn’t even have with Germany, to stick this out for a generation or two until self-governance is possible?  Why or why not?  Would we create an opportunity for Russia or China to step in?  How can that threat be mitigated?

Is a global policy of De-Jihadization what we need?  Can it come from within or must the individual nations be strong-armed?  Can they be influenced by strong diplomatic and financial sanctions?  Do you believe that such an approach would only strengthen their movement?  What solutions do you advocate?  I don’t pretend to have the world’s solutions.  But, I won’t be quiet.  I will always speak up because this is not OK.  The suffering of innocent people daily within these nations is not OK.  Worrying whether my son’s school will be blown up by terrorists is not OK.  So, we must all work together, think together, and demand solutions.  This is just one forum to do so.  Thanks for reading.  Please share, comment, and discuss, whether you agree or disagree.


Ask The Emperor About His New Clothes

I had another post prepared, but I just couldn’t help it.  How can we not discuss Donald Trump? So, we may as well get the discussion of this candidate out of the way first.

In a past debate, Megyn Kelly challenged Trump to explain his disrespect of woman, citing his degradation of Rosie O’Donnell during a publicized feud, his willingness to bash women by criticizing their looks, etc..  Trump has responded by trying to villify Kelly-he has done all he can to tear her down- from insulting her professional abilities to “not” calling her a bimbo.  Did she ask a question that was inappropriate?  I don’t think so.  Donald Trump has himself asked questions of candidates that were uncomfortable, in fact he has had quite a go at Bill Clinton regarding his alleged infidelities.  Journalists and debate monitors have the  obligation to ask all of the questions necessary so that we may all best evaluate the candidates.  Megyn Kelly’s question was valid- and I still want to hear the real answer.

Now here is why this is important- there are a lot of questions that we should all want answered that are appropriate when “The Donald”, a businessman and entertainer with a full, and some might say sordid, professional and personal history, runs for the most powerful political office in the world.  The traditional questions of how he can stand for the party of family values when he famously cheated on his wife and left her for his mistress, with whom he had a child out of wedlock (he did eventually marry her)- have not been asked.  Why?  Especially of the candidate who urges us to not stand on political correctness, and seems to have no boundaries in his own, often brutal, evaluations of people, why shouldn’t we expect open conversations?  These questions are not of lurid curiosity- these questions are asked to help the public, and each of us, evaluate the character of someone who may represent us all to the world, and seeks to be the nominee for the party espousing religious and family-oriented values.

I am not judgemental regarding affairs of public officials- personally, I believe they are relevant only to the extent they create conflicts and/or crimes.  A government official who engages in affairs makes themselves vulnerable to extortion or blackmail.  So why haven’t these and other questions really been addressed?  If the feud with Megyn Kelly is an indication, have the press simply been bullied into submission and are afraid to address these issues for fear of repercussions?  Are they intimidated by Trump, the ruthless business mogul?  When even the most obvious issues seem to be brushed under the rug, I find myself looking around, wondering if no-one else cares to ask, or remembers, or if I’m the only one that notices the Emperors’ pants are down?  If they won’t ask the questions, we need to.  Please share yours, as well.

We may be too far down the page for me to tell you that this is not intended to be an anti-Trump story- I grew up in Brooklyn, where Donald Trump was a legend and an inspiration.  I have certainly thought at times that a good businessperson is what is needed to run this country.  I remember when Donald Trump took over construction of the Central Park Ice Skating Rink because he was so outraged that the City couldn’t complete it, despite work taking many years and approximately $12M- he vowed to complete the project in 6 months.  He did- he finished in less time, and under budget.  He took no financial gain.  We all cheered and wondered if he shouldn’t be in charge of everything.

A lot has happened since then in the story of Donald Trump, and I have questions- not accusations, they are legitimate and serious questions that I need him to answer in this job interview we all call a political campaign.  If he does so honestly and thoughtfully, he could well satisfy concerns.  Don’t call your bankruptcies business successes.  You put your business into bankruptcy as a last alternative, in order to stay alive despite not being profitable.  Mr. Trump- will you truly run our country in the same fashion as your companies?  Why should we see it as a good thing that despite four separate bankruptcies, you have personally walked away unscathed?  We, the people, want you to have skin in the game here, be in it with us.  His answer so far has been that the lenders/creditors in those bankruptcies were sophisticated and knew what they were doing.  I don’t accept that as an explanation as to why, in running your businesses, did you consistently borrow more money than you could repay, and not by a little, but by the billions? My concern is the potential for you to do the same to the U.S.  What information can you give to the public that shows you are capable of balancing a budget, and running the country within its means?  Like the bondholders to your businesses, will you say that the American public knew what they were doing when they elected you?  Will we be another enterprise that you divest yourself from as things get tough, and go on with your life, having proudly reaped the benefits of the Presidency?

Each of Donald Trumps bankruptcies resulted in some loss of control over the bankrupt entity.  Generally, it seems that Trump would take advantage of the bankruptcy laws to strip down debt of a company that’s losing money, protect himself from personal liability, restructure, and distance himself from the sinking ship, either voluntarily or not.  As Trump would tell it, it was voluntary, all a part of his masterful business plan.  In fact, he has bragged that he got out of Atlantic City before it fell apart, and that he made lots of money there before he saw troubles arising, and quicker than my dog will steal the sandwich you left on the table, he left Atlantic City and its troubles in the dust.  Mr. Trump- how, if at all, do you think that your casinos contributed to the fall of Atlantic City at the time?  Did you feel no loyalty to the people of Atlantic City, the many people you employed there, the industry that brought you such riches?  You have said “My whole life I’ve been greedy greedy greedy, But now I want to be greedy for the United States.”   How will you translate and adjust that ruthless business mindset to running a nation- where  good business and financial prowess are needed, but must be balanced with so many other factors?  The Federal Government is not “in business”, and its goal is not to make a profit.  What challenges do you anticipate in making that transition?

What do we know about your character- you’ve said that you keep your word, but those contractual debts and obligations were entered into on your promises, on behalf of your businesses.  You have vowed to be a faithful husband until death do you part 3 times now with no dead bodies to show for it.  Are your promises only worth keeping when it suits you?  Will that be true of your campaign promises?

Another significant question which has been touched upon in the media is whether Donald Trump has just too many and/or too vast business interests to protect himself from influence and conflicts of interest?  There has been discussion of whether he would agree to put his assets into a blind trust- he said yes, but that it would be overseen by his children, which makes it the exact opposite of a blind trust.   While not mandatory for elected officials, it is the only way to protect against appearances and allegations of corruption or undue influence for personal gain.  Trumps’ presidency would likely be besieged by such challenges.  How can a man who has thrived in business turn his back on his financial empire, even in the hands of his children?

Most begging the question, in my mind, is his unapologetic explanation for past support of Democrats, and specifically, The Clintons.  Not because it is contradictory-but, because he seems to be admitting that he obtained personal favors in exchange.  He has admitted that he “got along with everybody” so that when he “needed something from Washington”, he “got it”.  Getting along seems to also include incredible amounts of campaign contributions.  This exemplifies the improper influence of public officials by private financial interests, something the public overwhelmingly despises.  For a presidential candidate to suggest that he obtained favorable treatment from politicians, that such behavior is just smart business, and that he would now like to be on the other side of that table- is certainly something that should raise eyebrows, and make you wonder what ethics mean to this candidate.

Trump clearly believes that it is ok to exchange political favors.  He believes in interpreting and taking advantage of the law to get out of business debts and promises, in breaking promises promises if they are no longer beneficial to him.  What kind of character or integrity does he bring to the White House?  Yet, noone has seriously challenged him to respond to these concerns.  It’s as if all are afraid to point out that the emperor is wearing no clothes.  If the mainstream media isn’t pressing him on these issues, and even his opposition candidates are treading lightly, we need to be the ones to ask.  Do you agree?  Do you have an opinion or a question that we should put to the candidates?  Use the Comment section to share your thoughts and engage in discussion.  Speak Up.

WELCOME #BreakTheAgenda

Political Ravings is not just my voice.  It’s the voice of everyone who questions the canned, often biased, summary reporting that now passes for journalism.  This is the place for people who really want to know what’s going on- people who want to evaluate the issues based on more than a meme, a poll, a soundbite, or a headline.  Do I hold myself out as an expert?  No.  I am passionate about politics and our country.  We are all disappointed by the current political climate. But, it’s not enough to be disappointed or disillusioned- now, more than ever, it is critical that We The People get involved and step in.  The loudest voices are not the rightest.  (Well, maybe they are if you like a pun.)

There are people telling us what to think right and left.  Literally, right and left.  That seems to be the only two ways of thinking.  Rightwing, religious, Republican or Left-leaning, socialist, liberal Democrat.  What if you don’t fall into those batches?  What if you agree with one candidate about a few issues, but not on others, and think another candidate on the other side of the ring has the right idea on some issues?  Where do you go?  Where do you go to get unbiased information that does not serve a particular agenda?    Must you vow to deport Muslims and ban gay marriage because you favor conservative fiscal policies?  If you look at the Republican presidential candidates, it would appear to be the case.  No room for grey.  The Agenda, the Party Line, is a mantra, and if you stray from that mantra, the rest of the group will viciously pounce on you like the hamster in my middle school classroom that ate her young, leaving only their heads to serve as a reminder to others who step out of line, and traumatizing me for life, but that’s another story for another time.

The Democrats have their agenda, as well.  Don’t even think of suggesting that our capitalist market holds the key to economic well-being, or that corporations should maybe not be taxed and regulated all the way to China.  (Who else doesn’t see the irony- U.S. companies leaving the home of the free because they can flourish in communist China?)  With little exception, the leading source of news for most people, television, operates well in line with these two defined agendas.  Turn on Fox News, and you will generally be given the perspective from the right;  CNN the left.  Sure, they have their talk shows meant to foster “debate”, but those debates seem intended simply to provide another forum for the host to support their agendas.  Turn on network news, and they will tell you all you need to know about a complex international issue with far-reaching worldwide consequences in a 1 minute 39 second piece. There are certainly some excellent news sources out there- I personally love The Huffington Post for their prolific and in-depth reporting.

I am going to share my opinions, ask questions, and continue to learn.  Whether it’s within our smaller communities, our country, or our place in the world, there are many issues that need to be talked about- because they need solutions, not slogans.  So Speak Up, Break The Agenda, and let’s talk about it and learn.  Let’s ask questions- I will try to get the answers from our politicians and from within our community.  What’s important is they see we are asking the questions.  Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your contributions.