Saturday, April 30, 2016
Donald Trump now looks set to be the Republican presidential nominee. So for those of us appalled by this prospect — what are we supposed to do?
Well, not what the leaders of the Republican Party are doing. They’re going down meekly and hoping for a quiet convention. They seem blithely unaware that this is a Joe McCarthy moment. People will be judged by where they stood at this time. Those who walked with Trump will be tainted forever after for the degradation of standards and the general election slaughter.
The better course for all of us — Republican, Democrat and independent — is to step back and take the long view, and to begin building for that. This election — not only the Trump phenomenon but the rise of Bernie Sanders, also — has reminded us how much pain there is in this country. According to a Pew Research poll, 75 percent of Trump voters say that life has gotten worse for people like them over the last half century.
Trump’s success grew out of that pain, but he is not the right response to it. The job for the rest of us is to figure out the right response.
I was surprised by Trump’s success because I’ve slipped into a bad pattern, spending large chunks of my life in the bourgeois strata — in professional circles with people with similar status and demographics to my own. It takes an act of will to rip yourself out of that and go where you feel least comfortable.
Up until now, America’s story has been some version of the rags-to-riches story, the lone individual who rises from the bottom through pluck and work. But that story isn’t working for people anymore, especially for people who think the system is rigged. I don’t know what the new national story will be, but maybe it will be less individualistic and more redemptive.
We’ll probably need a new definition of masculinity, too. There are many groups in society who have lost an empire but not yet found a role. Men are the largest of those groups. The traditional masculine ideal isn’t working anymore. It leads to high dropout rates, high incarceration rates, low labor force participation rates. This is an economy that rewards emotional connection and verbal expressiveness. Everywhere you see men imprisoned by the old reticent, stoical ideal.
We’ll also need to rebuild the sense that we’re all in this together.
|Anti-LGBT bigot Rep. Steve Russell|
The measure, introduced by freshman Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) at 12:30 a.m. as the House Armed Services Committee prepared to pass the defense bill, would require the government to give religious organizations it signs contracts with exemptions in federal civil rights law and the Americans Disabilities Act.Those laws do not ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. So the legislation would effectively override the executive order President Obama issued in 2014 prohibiting federal contractors from such discrimination.
The amendment provides an exemption for “any religious corporation, religious association, religious educational institution or religious society” contracting with the government. It quickly prompted heated exchanges between Russell and committee Democrats, who said it was purposefully unclear.
The measure, approved 33-29 on a mostly party-line vote at 2 a.m., could signal that the backlash in numerous states against LGBT anti-discrimination laws is now moving to Congress.
Stacy said that defeating the amendment on the House floor and in the Senate is now one of Human Rights Campaign’s top priorities. By late Thursday, a coalition of 42 civil rights groups called the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination had sent the committee a letter opposing the amendment.
It “would authorize taxpayer-funded discrimination in each and every federal contract and grant,” the letter said of the measure. “The government should never fund discrimination and no taxpayer should be disqualified from a job under a federal contract or grant because he or she is the ‘wrong’ religion.”
Stacy said the language in the amendment also would apply to organizations that receive federal grants. “If the government says, we’re going to fund a homeless shelter, they can refuse to hire an LGBT person to staff it even if 40 percent of the people they’re serving are LGBT,” he said.
Democrats accused Russell of trying to mask what his amendment would really do: Allow federal contractors to discriminate against LGBT employees.
“The way this amendment is written, it doesn’t matter if you are a religious organization,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the committee’s ranking member.
“You can basically be a private contractor and this just gives you the right to discriminate if you decide you just don’t want to do business with gay people or with anybody else for that matter on a discriminatory basis within a protected class.”
Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert is going to prison for violating federal banking laws.But at his sentencing yesterday, Hastert acknowledged that he sexually abused students during his time as a wrestling coach in far west suburban Yorkville.
Hastert's high-profile disgrace has renewed questions about the nature of sexual predators and what parents and communities should know about them.
Char Rivette is the executive director of the Chicago Children's Advocacy Center, which coordinates the efforts of child protection staff, law enforcement professionals and medical experts in dealing with an average of more than 2,000 child sexual abuse reports each year.
“In general, a common profile is that the perpetrators are known to these children. Over 90 percent of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know,” Rivette said. “It’s not rape by a stranger, it’s generally someone who has developed a relationship with this child, and usually their parents also, and who creates scenarios and contexts within which they can successfully groom and find situations where they can act out against these children.”
According to Rivette, Hastert might not fit the description of an outright psychopath or pedophile. But his apparent state of denial at Wednesday’s sentencing is common for an abuser.
“Obviously Hastert was a coach, a teacher, a citizen of the community and he had to know that deep-down what he was doing was wrong and harmful and inappropriate,” she said. “Yet he was still compelled to do these things, so he must have come up with rationalizations to just kind of get him through this and allow him to do this without the guilt, without the shame, without the understanding that what he was doing was harming these children.”
When it comes to the survivors, Rivette said, it’s also common for them to not speak out and to feel shame or guilt.
“If you are able to disclose and someone believes you, it’s a big key to actually getting trauma treatment and actually moving on. If you don’t, what I see is a lot of emotional struggles throughout life, a lot of inability to form healthy relationships as an older adult, really a lot of struggles with substance abuse,” she said.
But Rivette said the good news is that we’re getting better at addressing these issues in the wake of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal and now Dennis Hastert.
Friday, April 29, 2016
A companion bill to the House's Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act — an effort to ban LGBT "conversion therapy" introduced last year by California congressman Ted Lieu — was introduced in the Senate on Thursday.Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Patty Murray, of New Jersey and Washington State, respectively, are behind the Senate's version of the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act. If passed into law, the bill would consider all efforts to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity an "unfair or deceptive act or practice" under the Federal Trade Commission Act. Such efforts, sometimes called "reparative" or "ex-gay" therapy, have been denounced as ineffective and harmful by every major medical and mental health organization in the United States.
Considering so-called reparative therapy a form of "medical malpractice," the FTC would be tasked with monitoring and ending such practices nationwide. The bill's House version would allow private citizens to file federal lawsuits against any practitioners engaging in "conversion therapy" and charging money for their services.
The federal effort to ban "ex-gay" services follows in the wake of several states making the practice illegal, including New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and California. The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act would go further than the bans in these states by banning the practice in its entirety, where the statewide bans only prohibit licensed therapists from using the debunked practice on minors.
The damaging effects of so-called conversion therapy garnered national attention in 2014, when the suicide note of 17-year-old Ohio trans girl, Leelah Alcorn, went viral, detailing the harm she suffered under the “Christian” therapist she was sent to by her parents to “cure” her of being transgender. A petition on the government’s We the People platform calling for a nationwide ban, to be called “Leelah’s Law,” garnered more than 100,000 signatures, prompting a response from the White House where the administration expressed its “concern” over the use of the discredited treatment. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a public statement condemning the practice.
This February, a coalition of LGBT groups filed a groundbreaking federal complaint with the FTC, alleging that practictioners of so-called conversion therapy were guilty of fraud.
I and others have repeatedly said that the rise of Donald Trump is something that was created by the so-called Republican establishment which for decades now, especially over the last 15+ years, has used calls to racism, homophobia and other forms of hatred to dupe voters into voting for a party's whose agenda is diametrically opposed the the economic interests of those voters. Moreover, in order to win short term electoral victories, every kind of right wing extremist - nasty, ignorance embracing people my Republican grand parents would never have affiliated with - were welcomed with open arms into the GOP. Now, the so-called establishment has lost control of the monster that it nurtured and unleashed on the nation. A column in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon and contrasts it with the Democrat experience. Here are excerpts:
Both parties make promises to their bases. But while the Democratic establishment more or less tries to make good on those promises, the Republican establishment has essentially been playing bait-and-switch for decades. And voters finally rebelled against the con.
First, about the Democrats: Their party defines itself as the protector of the poor and the middle class, and especially of nonwhite voters. Does it fall short of fulfilling this mission much of the time? Are its leaders sometimes too close to big-money donors? Of course. Still, if you look at the record of the Obama years, you see real action on behalf of the party’s goals.
Above all, you have the Affordable Care Act, which has given about 20 million Americans health insurance, with the gains biggest for the poor, minorities and low-wage workers. That’s what you call delivering for the base — and it’s surely one reason nonwhite voters have overwhelmingly favored Mrs. Clinton over a challenger who sometimes seemed to dismiss that achievement.
Maybe you think Democrats could and should have done more, but what the party establishment says and what it does are at least roughly aligned.
Things are very different among Republicans. Their party has historically won elections by appealing to racial enmity and cultural anxiety, but its actual policy agenda is dedicated to serving the interests of the 1 percent, above all through tax cuts for the rich — whicheven Republican voters don’t support, while they truly loathe elite ideas like privatizing Social Security and Medicare.
What Donald Trump has been doing is telling the base that it can order à la carte. He has, in effect, been telling aggrieved white men that they can feed their anger without being forced to swallow supply-side economics, too.
Yes, his actual policy proposals still involve huge tax cuts for the rich, but his supporters don’t know that — and it’s possible that he doesn’t, either. Details aren’t his thing.
Establishment Republicans have tried to counter his appeal by shouting, with growing hysteria, that he isn’t a true conservative. And they’re right, at least as they define conservatism. But their own voters don’t care.
If there’s a puzzle here, it’s why this didn’t happen sooner. One possible explanation is the decadence of the G.O.P. establishment, which has become ingrown and lost touch. Apparatchiks who have spent their whole careers inside the bubble of right-wing think tanks and partisan media may suffer from the delusion that their ideology is actually popular with real people. And this has left them hapless in the face of a Trumpian challenge.
Probably more important, however, is the collision between demography and Obama derangement. The elite knows that the party must broaden its appeal as the electorate grows more diverse — in fact, that was the conclusion of the G.O.P.’s 2013 post-mortem. But the base, its hostility amped up to 11 after seven years of an African-American president (who the establishment has done its best to demonize) is having none of it.
The point, in any case, is that the divergent nomination outcomes of 2016 aren’t an accident. The Democratic establishment has won because it has, however imperfectly, tried to serve its supporters. The Republican establishment has been routed because it has been playing a con game on its supporters all along, and they’ve finally had enough.
And yes, Mr. Trump is playing a con game of his own, and they’ll eventually figure that out, too. But it won’t happen right away, and in any case it won’t help the party establishment.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
On Wednesday founder and CEO stood before the cameras and droned on in support of his client, Alabama Chief Justice . Moore is under attack by the Southern Poverty Law Center and others for his actions surrounding the Supreme Court's marriage decision and his instructions to Alabama magistrates to not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The SPLC filed a complaint.Staver, and later at the podium, Moore claimed the complaint was "politically motivated." At stake: whether or not the complaint leads to official ethics charges by the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama.
But it was their other language and attacks that were especially revealing and offensive.Staver referred to one of the people who filed the complaint against Moore as an "admitted transvestite."
Moore slammed his critics as "atheists, homosexuals and transgender individuals." At one point he referred to a trans woman as "her," but "corrected" himself, calling her, "him."
At another point, Moore said “transsexualism is a known mental illness,” or was, until 2013, and suggested it still should be classified as such.
“We’re in a serious time in our country," Moore told the few reporters who attended his press conference. "We are at a time in our country when people who just a few years ago would have been ascribed a mental illness, a mental disorder.
Moore claims that despite publishing an order directing Alabama magistrates to not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, “There is nothing in writing that you will find that I told anybody to disobey a federal court order. That’s not what I said.”
That will be for Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama to decide.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott struck hard Wednesday at Republicans who accused Gov. Terry McAuliffe of trying to help the Democrats win the presidency when he issued an executive order last week restoring voting and other civil rights to 206,000 felons.
State Republican leaders have said McAuliffe’s executive order last week that allows felons who have served their sentences and probation to vote, run for office or serve on juries was a way to register more voters for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November presidential election. They also objected to his restoring rights to those who committed violent crimes.
Scott, an attorney and civil liberties expert, argues the governor is correcting a suppression effort that goes back 115 years.
“The right to vote is a right. It’s not a privilege. You have Republicans who at every opportunity are trying to deny people the right to vote,” he said in a conference call with reporters.
He noted Virginia’s ban on felons voting originated in the early 1900s as part of a package of new state laws designed to suppress blacks. Those restrictions, including the now-banned literacy tests and poll taxes, at the time had forced the removal of 85 percent of black voters from the rolls.
McAuliffe’s order could return to the voting rolls as much as 20 percent of the state’s black population that have felony convictions, Scott said.
“If there is such an advantage to Democrats, it means the Republicans were enjoying a huge advantage all these years because they could deny 20 percent of the African American population the right to vote,” the Newport News Democrat said.
Virginia remains one of four states that strip voting rights from felons for life after their convictions. Before McAuliffe’s action, felons could get the right restored only by individually applying to the governor. Governors, both Republicans and Democrats, have restored rights to thousands in recent decades.
Donald Trump today completed one of the presidential rites of passage – he gave . Because he’s Trump, expectations were set abysmally low and, because he’s Trump, he still failed to clear them. The speech was notably un-Trumplike in that it was pre-prepared and delivered with the assistance of a teleprompter, but it also somehow managed to retain the incoherence and inconsistency that are the hallmarks of Trumpian discourse.
The whole thing was plagued with internal contradictions. One of his key points was the idea that America’s allies “are beginning to think they can’t depend on us,” and his primary piece of evidence was the nuclear agreement with Iran and our unwillingness to walk away from it. Had we actually walked away from the Iran deal, we’d have , which might lead them to believe they can’t depend on us. And, just a few moments after endorsing the retroactive abandonment of multilateral Iran negotiations, Trump said our “friends need to know that you will stick by the agreements that you have with them.” He claimed to have a plan for defeating the Islamic State, but refused to divulge it because “we must as, a nation, be more unpredictable.” Shortly thereafter he said the “best way” to achieve our foreign policy goals “is through a disciplined, deliberate and consistent foreign policy.”
For these reasons and because he , Trump was resoundingly mocked, especially by and who still can’t come to grips with the fact that Trump will, in all likelihood, be their presidential nominee. But here’s the fun little secret about Trump’s speech – in most respects it wasn’t that different from the nonsense the “acceptable” Republican presidential candidates served up.
His speech was peppered with criticisms that America has become weak, our military is falling apart, our international alliances are breaking down, and our enemies no longer cower in fear of us. You’ll find the same exact themes in the foreign policy speeches of Marco Rubio, seen by many inside the GOP as a foreign policy wunderkind, who the “deterioration of our physical and ideological strength” that “has led to a world far more dangerous than when President Obama entered office.”
The running theme of Trump’s speech is that there’s nothing wrong with American foreign policy that can’t be fixed with a little toughness and “strength.” How will Trump best China? With “strength.” How will he get the better of Russia? Yet more “strength.” This is a standard-issue Republican position – Rubio and and pretty much every other Republican presidential contender reduced their foreign policies down to a question of showing greater “strength” than Barack Obama, usually by telegraphing their eagerness to use more military force than the president has been willing to. Trump also endorsed the that Obama refuses to use the magic words “radical Islam.”
Keep all this in mind when you see Republicans or even mainstream reporters complaining that Trump’s speech shows that he is “unserious” about foreign policy or put forth a foreign policy vision that doesn’t make sense. They’re attacking Trump because he’s Trump and he’s an obvious dolt, but they’re deliberately sidestepping the fact that much of what Trump said reflects in the incoherence and unreality of “respectable” Republican politicians when it comes to foreign affairs.
At this point, Bernie Sanders is the figurehead of a living idea and a zombie campaign. The issues his campaign has raised are likely to resonate with the progressive left for decades, if not forever, but his path to becoming the Democratic nominee is now narrower than a cat’s hair.
It’s over. He knows it and we know it. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Sanders “is planning to lay off ‘hundreds’ of campaign staffers across the country and focus much of his remaining effort on winning California.”
And yet he continues to carry the torch and keep the flame alive so that his supporters — or more appropriately, the supporters of the causes he has advanced — have an opportunity to cast protest votes in the few remaining contests. He has gone from leading a revolution to leading a wake.
I think people have mischaracterized the choice being made between Sanders and Clinton. It is not necessarily a clean choice between idealism and pragmatism, between principle and politics, between dynamism and incrementalism — though all those things are at play to some degree. But to me, it is more about where we peg the horizon and how we get from here to there.
The ideals are not in dispute. What’s in dispute is whether our ideals can be reasonably accomplished by a single administration or a generation. Sometimes you have to cut deals to reach ideals. That’s politics.
Now, you could argue that our politics are broken, as Sanders has, and you would be right. Moneyed interests — that of industries and individuals — have far too much influence. Our two-party system is heavily skewed to favor establishment candidates, although Sanders’s success and Donald Trump’s offer strong evidence that the party apparatuses are not inviolable.
What requires less debate is the often-repeated refrain that Sanders’s supporters are the future of the Democratic Party. In state after state, often whether he won it or not, he carried youth vote by wide margins. [
P]art of it is what Harry Enten pointed out on Friday: The Democratic electorate turning out in 2016 has been a lot more liberal than it was in the last competitive Democratic primary, in 2008.”
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the moderate/conservative portion of the Democratic primary electorate become a minority in the next 10 years. It’s the youngest Democrats who are more to identify as “very liberal.” It could very well be that someone matching Sanders’s ideological outlook will be more successful down the road.
First we have to see what comes of the general election, in a contest that at this point seems to pit Clinton against Trump. Although current polling shows Clinton with an overwhelming edge, making political predictions seven months in advance is a fool’s errand.
[W]hile current polling favors Clinton, history does not. The last time a Democratic president succeeded a multi-term Democratic president was when Harry Truman succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945.
However the election breaks in November, the Sanders coalition — largely young, liberal and white — will not likely be satisfied. Either Clinton will win, and it will simply feel like a lesser of two evils, a subsuming of a righteous cause into a waffling contrivance; or Clinton will lose, and the Sanders coalition will feel vindicated that the wrong Democratic candidate won the nomination.
Either way, the cause lives. Universal health care becomes no less attractive. Neither does free public college, or campaign finance reform, or a more pacifist foreign policy.
The Democratic Party, for better or worse, is likely to move further toward progressive purity in Sanders’s wake. This may backfire, and encourage a nominating process that pushes otherwise moderate and widely attractive candidates to adopt increasingly extreme policies that make them nearly un-electable, as has happened with the Republican Party.
That, to me, seems to be at least part of the Democratic Party’s future. Whether that is a utopian or dystopian future, only time will tell, but the reckoning is coming. This, I believe, will be a fixture of the Sanders legacy: Drag a center-left party further left — whether one calls that True Left or Extreme Left.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
"We know visitors will enjoy looking at the beautiful flower arrangements in the five houses on tour. We hope they will visit The Casemate Museum, Chapel of the Centurion and Old Point Comfort Lighthouse, as well.
"And, The Marketplace, in the former Arsenal Building, will offer artwork, garden accessories, home décor, jewelry and clothing for sale."
As you walk along Fort Monroe's sidewalks, or stand inside the bayside bandstand, you can just imagine yourself living the life that so many military personnel enjoyed during their assignments at the scenic fort. Now that the property is no longer a major military command, the site is taking on its own brand of community for the families who occupy residences where generals and colonels once lived [one can lease homes and other housing options] .
"Additionally, everything is walkable at Fort Monroe. Residences are close to beaches, office spaces for work, restaurants, Hampton Community Center, YMCA fitness building, marina, soccer and ball fields, churches and the opportunity to walk the top of the fortress. Additionally, the retail portion of Phoebus is just over the bridge and also is in easy walking distance."
Historic Garden Week in Virginia, April 23-30, features 250 private homes and gardens open for public tours statewide. Sponsored by the Garden Club of Virginia — gcvirginia.org — since 1929, the annual event raises funds for the restoration and preservation of public gardens at historic sites, including Monticello, Mount Vernon and Montpelier.
The garden club estimates the cumulative economic impact of the country's only statewide home and garden tour for the past 45 years is $425 million, according to a news release. The event attracts 30,000 visitors, and includes local residents and out-of-state tourists.
|The beautiful Hutchinson Home|
|The Chamberlain - formerly owned by dear friends|
|Tiffany windows in the Chapel of the Centurion|
|Dennis Hastert pictured at right|
Dennis Hastert has just been sentenced in a hush money case involving his past sexual molestation of teenaged boys while he was a wrestling coach decades ago. A federal judge, calling the former Republican Speaker of the House a "serial child molester," sentenced him to two years of supervised release and 15 months jail time – not for his actions of sexual abuse, but for evading bank reporting requirements and making false statements to federal authorities.
In sentencing Hastert, Judge Thomas M. Durkin of the Northern District of Illinois also said the former Speaker should participate in a sex offender treatment program, CNN reports.
"I'm deeply ashamed to be standing before you here today," Hastert said in court during his sentencing. "I know I'm here because I mistreated some of my athletes as a coach."
The court received dozens of letters of support from former [GOP] colleagues of Hastert, including one from Tom Delay, the former Senate Majority Leader who is now an anti-gay Christian activist.
"He is a good man that loves the Lord," DeLay wrote to the judge. "He gets his integrity and values from Him. He doesn't deserve what he is going through. I ask that you consider the man that is before you and give him leniency where you can."
Right Wing Watch reports that "days after the Supreme Court delivered its landmark marriage equality decision, DeLay claimed that he knew of 'a secret memo coming out of the Justice Department' that would legalize '12 new perversions,' including 'having sexual with little boys.'"
There really is no other way to put this. Free thinkers in Bangladesh are being serially hacked to death in their homes. An infamous hit list appeared in 2013 naming 84 “atheist bloggers.” By the end of 2015 there had been seven such murder sacross the country, and, tragically, this past week alone claimed three more victims.
Rezaul Karim Siddique, a professor of English at Rajshahi University in the country’s northwest, was set upon outside his house as he left for work. Siddique founded a literary magazine called Kamolgandhar and wanted to start a music school in his village as a way to involve his students in extra-curricular activities. But instead he died where he fell, succumbing to severe wounds after he was hacked in the back of the neck by cowards on a passing motorbike.
Only two days later, U.S. embassy employee Xulhaz Mannan, who was one of Bangladesh’s top gay-rights activists and editor of the country’s only LGBT magazine,Roopbaan, was murdered by machete in his home. His friend, another gay rights activist Tanay Mojumdar was also killed. Xulhaz and Tanay were behind the annual “Rainbow Rally,” held April 14 on the Bengali New Year.
The so-called “Islamic State in Bangladesh” has claimed responsibilityfor the killing of Professor Siddique. Its media mouthpiece, called Amaq, stated ISIS fighters “assassinated a university professor for calling to atheism in the city of Rajshahi in Bangladesh.”
And despite the Bangladeshi government’s rejection of this claim, ISIS English-language magazine Dabiq carried an interview earlier this month with their purported leader in Bangladesh, Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif, who claimed that the country had become its base of operations in South Asia.
Whether or not ISIS was behind this attack is secondary. The effect is the same. Jihadist terrorists are systematically hunting down leading free thinkers in Bangladesh—one by one—and hacking them to death.
It is “open season” on atheists in Bangladesh.
And though Professor Siddique’s daughter, Rizwana Hasin, has said that her father was not in fact an atheist, among jihadists that definition is incredibly broad.
Anyone who advocates liberal secularism, free inquiry, arts and culture, is considered an “atheist” or “apostate.” Anyone who “supports” or “sides” with atheists, supports freedom of religion as well as from religion, and anyone who maintains the primacy of free speech, including and especially the human right to “blaspheme,” is deemed an atheist, whether they declare themselves to be or not.
So beleaguered is this minority that you can be put to death for atheism in no less than 13 countries around the world. In 39 countries the law mandates a prison sentence for blasphemy, and six of these are Western countries.
Saudi Arabia [America's false ally] has even declared being an atheist a terrorist offense. Nobel Prize Nominee and Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience Raif Badawi still languishes in jail there “accused” of atheism.
Meanwhile Bangladesh’s best-known blogger, Imran Sarker—who led major secular protests in Dhaka against Islamist leaders in 2013—said that he had received a death threat on Sunday from a U.K. number saying he would be killed “very soon.”
By visibly killing off dissenters in such a public way, extremists seek to scare us all into silence. The targeting starts with atheists and “blasphemers,” but almost always moves on to the sexually diverse, liberals, secularists, and minority sects—Muslim or otherwise—that rely on such pluralism to flourish.
The killers’ aim is to elicit our fearful compliance, like Charb’s super-surveillance camera. Those who murder in the name of the Master of the Universe lay claim to what came before life, what comes during life and what is to come after life.
No totalitarianism can be more total than that claimed in God’s name. This is why no resistance is more urgent than that waged to protect the right to our own individual conscience. For ISIS, we are all atheists.
Plato, who was Aristotle’s mentor, thought otherwise — that rhetoric, or the art of persuasion, in the wrong hands was dangerous and likely to be abused to appeal to people’s base motives. He foresaw the unethical, dishonest uses that a skilled but immoral speaker could put his persuasive powers to, with credulous people eager to believe or buy whatever he was selling.
Which brings us unavoidably to Donald Trump, as if you hadn’t guessed.
We at least owe Trump thanks for bringing these two ancient philosophers out of history’s woodwork and back into the conversation. Trump also has inspired reconsideration of rhetoric’s rightful place in the classroom, where it was once considered an essential component of “a gentleman’s” education.
One such classroom can be found at the University of Virginia School of Law, where I was recently a guest lecturer. What better time to be reviewing rhetoric’s ancient rules and modern applications than during a presidential election that features one of the most blazing examples of unsavory rhetoric . . . .
So, the question for today’s class: Is Trump the huckster that Plato predicted would someday organize an angry mob into a proud army of anti-intellectual patriots inoculated to facts and reason?Why, yes! But don’t take my word for it. Consider instead the appraisal of U-Va. law professor Robert Sayler, who has co-written a book with Molly Bishop Shadel, “Tongue-Tied America,” as a template for would-be high school rhetoric teachers. Using Aristotle’s aforementioned framework, Sayler divined the Greek philosopher’s answer to the question: “Trump’s buffoonery and unhinged chatter reduces to utter catastrophe.”Let us count the ways.
First, in the matter of ethos, or earning the trust of one’s audience, Trump is as big a prevaricator as he accuses “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz of being. PolitiFact gave Trump its 2015 award for the most fibs. In distrust do us part.
Second is pathos, which Sayler defines as the sparing appeal to emotions. For The Donald, another “F.” Says Sayler: “Trump routinely rages, flush-faced, anger-spewing, sputtering, especially when challenged.” He has spoken of people leaving his rallies “on stretchers” or deserving a “punch . . . in the face,” while promising to pay assailants’ legal fees.
Third and last, Trump also flunks logos. Channeling Aristotle, Sayler opines that Trump’s logic, common sense and factual argumentation are “a minefield of chaos.” Rather than advance positive proposals, Trump spends most of his time railing against what he opposes: the Geneva Conventions, NATO, world trade, the United Nations, the president, “experts” and, of course, “the establishment.”
Otherwise, he operates in a substance-free zone of narcissistic fantasy. “They love me,” he insists. “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” . . . . Trump, concludes the professor, is a world-class demagogue and blunderbuss.
It is also highly unlikely that Trump supporters give a hoot. Plato, Aristotle and Sayler are all elitists, aren’t they? But what should be plain to everyone else is that the study of rhetoric is essential to an educated populace, lest rising generations fall prey to future demagogues and the perilous fates that await the unwitting.