Tau Kē Tēnei Wiki: GOP Disavows Trump

Trump vs GOPIt’s about time really. Ever since he entered the race to become the Republican party’s candidate for the 2016 presidency, Donald Trump has been abusing and insulting just about every demographic imaginable. Despite that, he has continued to mostly lead the polls and dominate the media coverage. It seems that no matter what he says, he just keeps getting more popular.

Initially, he wouldn’t even promise not to run as an independent, which would have destroyed any chance of the GOP regaining the White House. He finally signed a pledge promising not to do that, but in the wake of recent events, has renewed his threats to go rogue.

From the time he announced his candidacy, he’s had it in for Mexico and Mexicans in the US illegally. He continues to assert that he’s going to build a wall the entire length of the border between the United States and Mexico, and that he’ll make Mexico pay for it. From his announcement speech for his presidential bid:

I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.

When he says “wall” he doesn’t mean a couple of strands of No. 8 wire either, he means Great Wall of China style for it’s approximately 3,200 km (2,000 mile) length. He’s a supporter of eminent domain laws, so violating the property rights of USians whose properties are on the border with Mexico won’t trouble him. Unlike most Republicans he’s also said he supports tax increases, and that’s effectively what he’ll be doing if he wants Mexico to pay for the wall – there will have to be some sort of tax or tariff on every trade deal with Mexico. I’m assuming that will breach NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), and it will also increase the cost of all goods from Mexico for USians, and by a lot. An excellent CNBC article about his proposed wall, estimates that it will likely cost $15 billion to $25 billion. Trump tells everyone he’ll make Mexico pay, but as a businessman I’m sure he knows that that cost will go directly on any goods sold to the US, so it would actually be USians that pay ultimately.

He’s got plenty to say about the Mexicans he’s trying to prevent getting into the country too:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.

Following these remarks he insisted “the Mexicans love me,” and he has “thousands” working for him. They love him, he tells us, because he gives them jobs. That sounds more to me like they’re beholden to him. If I was a Mexican working for Trump, I don’t think I’d feel able to speak out against him. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you, after all.

He also insists he’s going to deport all undocumented immigrants currently in the US within eighteen months of obtaining the presidency, and those US children whose parents aren’t legally entitled to stay in the country will have to go too. These comments are cheered on by a crowd who clearly have no idea that this is logistically impossible, even if the government knew who and where all those people were. We’re talking at least 12 million people. That means deporting almost 22,000 people per day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, for those eighteen months. Every single one of them is entitled to apply to stay in the country legally (e.g. as a refugee), and to remain while the legal process plays out, and it’s the US that pays the legal costs of refugees, not the refugees themselves. The system would be overwhelmed before the first day was over, and the cost would be prohibitive. Trump’s response when challenged? “Believe me, it can be done.” There’s never any explanation how.

His next target was veterans. He said he didn’t like senior Republican senator John McCain because he was captured, and he preferred soldiers who weren’t captured. (McCain was a prisoner in Vietnam for five years, during which time he was tortured, and has permanent injuries as a result.) Insulting veterans should be a guaranteed way to destroy your candidacy in the US, especially with the GOP base. It had pundits announcing Trump’s poll results would tank. Instead they continued to rise. He has though been careful to constantly say ever since how much he “loves veterans.” I think he realized he couldn’t get far with that one.

Fiorina, Carly carlyforamerica

Carly Fiorina (Source:

There have been several occasions when he’s made insulting and derogatory remarks about women. He has a running battle with fellow candidate Carly Fiorina. Vanity Fair reports:

At CNN’s Republican debate, and ever since, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina have been attacking each other’s business records—which is sort of like a fight between asbestos and thalidomide, i.e., sad and pointless.

He made nasty remarks about her appearance just before the second Republican debate in September, then lied about it, insisting he was talking about her demeanour, not her appearance. This gave her the opportunity to remark that all women “… had heard exactly what he said.” It got her enormous applause and shut Trump up for a short time.

The earlier Fox News Republican debate was another occasion that revealed Trump’s anti-women stance. He didn’t like a question from moderator Megyn Kelly who asked him: “You have called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs’, ‘dogs’, ‘slobs’, and ‘disgusting animals.” His initial response was, “Only Rosie O’ Donnell,” as if that made it okay. He later said that the reason he had a problem with Kelly’s question was he didn’t recognize any of the quotes as his. (The Huffington Post found them all and more.) Then he insinuated that the reason for what he considered bad questions was she must be menstruating. He tried to lie his way out of that one too by mumbling about nose bleeds.

As well as Kelly and Fiorina, he’s also made negative personal insults about Angelina Jolie, Cher, Bette Midler, and Sarah Jessica Parker. The Huffington Post article linked to above also has several examples of more general anti-women comments.

On 24 November he reached a new low with his mocking of reporter Serge Kovaleski’s disability. When called out on it, he denied it, but anyone who doubts that’s what he was doing is deluding his- or herself. Thus, we again have a lie and an inability to admit he was wrong on top of the initial insult.

Trump has also attacked almost every one of his running mates, breaking the so-called 11th commandment of the revered Ronald Reagan. The notable exception is Ted Cruz. Cruz was last week caught making negative comments about Trump behind closed doors, but has denied them publicly, and instead tweeted that he thinks Trump is fantastic. (I’m not positive “fantastic” is the word Cruz used – he appears to have since deleted the tweet, perhaps because he’s been caught in a lie about what he said about Trump.) The reason is obvious; as I’ve said from the start, Cruz doesn’t want to alienate Trump’s voters because he wants them to come to him when Trump is finally defeated. The Republican establishment will not let Trump win their nomination if they can possibly avoid it, and Cruz’s policy positions and the demographic he attracts are closest to Trump’s.

This brings us to Trumps comment’s that all Muslims should be registered like the Jews were in Nazi Germany and then this week, that no more Muslims should be allowed to enter the US for the time being.

That’s lead to the gloves of the Republican Establishment finally coming off. Trump’s latest outrage actually puts the country at risk, although they’re denying that, and as was pointed out, there are plenty of other reasons to oppose what he said anyway. In a rare move, the most powerful elected Republican, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, stepped up to denounce this latest overreach (although without actually mentioning him by name) on 8 December:

Ryan, PaulThis is not conservatism. What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for and more importantly it’s not what this country stands for. Not only are there many Muslims serving in our armed forces, dying for this country, there are Muslims serving right here in the House working every day to uphold and defend the constitution. Some of our best and biggest allies in this struggle and fight against radical Islamic terror are Muslims, the vast vast vast majority of whom are peaceful, who believe in pluralism and freedom, democracy and individual rights.

So why is it a good thing that the Republicans are denouncing Trump? Because it’s important for democracy that the Republicans field a strong candidate in the presidential election. It’s supposed to be a contest of ideas, with the best person persuading a majority of the voters that they are the right person to lead the country.

There’s another important reason though. Personally, I would prefer to see a Democrat win the presidency. Because of their stupid electoral system, which too many of them are sure is the best in the world simply because of the myth of American exceptionalism, when it comes to voting, there are effectively only two candidates – one from each of the major parties. At this stage the only Democratic candidate who’s capable of getting enough votes to win is Hillary Clinton. As much as many of the left like Bernie Sanders, he’s simply not capable of carrying the country. But what happens if something happens to Clinton? What if everything the Republicans thinks about her is true and she’s charged with a crime? What if she has a debilitating accident or worse? Then the Republican candidate wins by default, and what if that is Donald Trump? That’s a disaster for the whole planet, not just the USA.

Perhaps with that scenario, Pliny the Inbetween’s vision is the best we can hope for:

Trump Whitehouse

As it stands, Trump can’t win a presidential election, and he will struggle to retain his lead once the field whittles down. Within the Republican and Republican-leaning demographic, his appeal isn’t as strong as current poll results would indicate. Recent analysis by Gallup shows that outside men without a college education, he has little appeal, and adding positives and negatives, he has zero appeal with college educated women. There is now talk of a brokered convention as a result, with votes having to be traded to decide the eventual nominee. This hasn’t happened for decades, and is also unlikely to produce a candidate popular enough to carry the country. Which would all be good news for the Democratic Party, except all their eggs are in one basket.

200 Responses to “Tau Kē Tēnei Wiki: GOP Disavows Trump”

  1. Ken says:

    Nice rant, Heather. Trump is truly odious. The Republicans aren’t clear of him yet, though. They are bound to support him if he’s the nominee and I’m not so confident people are coming to their senses even if the Rep leadership is. A brokered convention is also risky, a last desperate gasp to stop him, which is not at all guaranteed to do so. Essentially, if he’s supported by the most people, they are stuffed. If they finagle an alternate candidate in such circumstances, it would likely tear the party apart.

    And I think any of the Dem candidates could beat Trump. There are polls showing Sanders would at least. Maybe not someone like Rubio or Bush, but Trump, while dividing his own party, will have the least crossover appeal of any Rep since Goldwater.

    The wildcard that could even win it for Trump is, of course, terrorism and how far the fear card can be played to his advantage. Pretty far, I expect, and don’t be surprised if Daesh and al Qaeda go all out in the next ten months to help bring it about.

  2. Ken says:

    I should add how pleased I am that the Republican leadership and presidential candidates have denounced Trump so strongly. The main feature of the last 35 years of American politics for me is of the Reps moving ever rightward and the Dems vainly chasing them to the right, mistakenly thinking they would stop at some point. In doing so, they became just as wholly owned by the corporate oligarchy as the Reps are. Now we see there actually is a limit after all and that should be celebrated.

    • Yeah. It’s been quite scary watching the deterioration over the last few years in US politics. Every time you think it can’t get worse it does to the extent that the Dems often aren’t much better than the GOP.

      It’s probably partly my personal prejudice, but my opinion is that religion often seems to teach that it’s so important for your own team to retain control that there are situations where the end justifies the means. As religion dominates politics so much in the US, especially on the right, that has meant that feeling has become normal in politics too.

      • Paxton marshall says:

        This makes me a little defensive, Heather. How have US politics deteriorated? The Bush theft of the 2000 election was a low point, and his reelection in 2004, when his folly was already evident, was a great disappointment. But Obama’s election and reelection have somewhat restored my faith in American democracy. And I think there has never been a clearer distinction between the Dems and Repubs. Go Bernie.

        Also, IMO, US politics are not as dominated by religion as you seem to think. It’s not a big issue at all among the Dems. The Republicans are an uneasy alliance between big business and the Christian Right (tea party etc). It is inherently unstable. It took someone like Reagan to pull them together. W Bush did it too, but I don’t see anyone able to do that now. Perhaps Rubio, but he has baggage, and is not really an insider in either group. But I think current US politics is doing just what democracy is supposed to do. Getting the issues out there and selling them to the people. The biggest danger is stirring up fear combined with this idiotic notion of American exceptionslism, as Bush did to get us to invade Iraq.

        • When Obama was elected I had no on-line presence, but I wrote on my computer anyway that it gave me hope for the US. It really was a wonderful feeling. Then the first thing Mitch McConnell said is the number one goal of the GOP is to make him a one-term president, and most of that party has gone out of its way to make things as difficult as possible for Obama. It’s got worse since he won re-election, but now many Dems are doing the petty stuff too.

          The Tea Party took over and a small number of members were able to shut down government because of their inability to compromise. The whole party has gone further right. Some Dems have gone further right to try and capture the middle, others have reacted by going further left.

          Caucus voters tend to be the more committed and are therefore more right or more left than the general popn, so candidates have to go further left or right to get the nomination, then back to the middle for the general election and they therefore look like flip-floppers.

          The GOP are trying to (and succeeding in many cases) introduce legislation making it more difficult for people who are more likely to vote Democrat to vote at all. I’ve heard of at least one left-leaning organisation that was engaged in illegal election practices that would have increased the Dem vote if they’d succeeded. They actually had good motives in increasing enrolments, but some people got carried away. This is what’s given the GOP their excuse for their stuff.

          Religion is rarely mentioned in our politics. The idea of our PM saying “God Bless You and God Bless New Zealand”? – it just wouldn’t happen, not least because he’s an atheist. If he did, people would think he’d lost the plot and he’d lose heaps of support overnight. Most people don’t even know what religion their candidate is here, or even if he/she has one. Religion is a bigger deal in your politics than you realize I think. Everyone knows the religion of candidates, and there’s no way an atheist could get elected in the current climate.

          Politicians seem to go to the House and Senate to get rich. Even your insider trading laws specifically don’t apply to senators/congress. Do you recall the Michael Moore film about the US health system that showed how much everyone on both sides was making from health industry companies? It was shocking.

          There are still good guys, and Bernie seems to be one of them, but I just can’t see him getting majority support. Too many USians don’t realize they’re already living in a socialist country, that socialism is a spectrum, and that it’s not the same as communism. They also see the countries in Europe that have failed economically recently, and think that’s because of socialism. I don’t know if Economics is taught as part of the high school curriculum there, but it appears not to be.

          If someone was criticizing NZ, I’d be defensive too, and this is all just opinion anyway. It certainly doesn’t mean I’m right! I think you’re right about how unstable the GOP is – there are several forces fighting for control, and none are currently strong enough to pull them together. Rubio is their best bet as you say, and as I’ve said before, I think he could be president one day. I don’t think the GOP can win the 2016 election though. It’s the Dems to lose.

          The American exceptionalism thing scares the sh*t out of me. I hope a rational voice is able to drown out Trump et al.

        • Ken says:

          Until the early 70’s, citizens could have a major impact on public policy. Nixon is considered to be the last environmental president not because things like the EPA and the Clean Air Act was part of his agenda, but because citizen groups made it happen. As Ralph Nader has described so well in various places, this all changed due to Republican efforts by the mid-70’s and Democrats did little to resist. By 1980 and the Reagan revolution, Dems had become scared of their shadows as they have largely been since, giving the Reps all the room they needed to shift the centre ever rightward.

          I found nothing at all in candidate Obama’s platform to be excited about. His rhetoric was sublime and yes, the historic moment of the US electing an African-American also brought a lump to my throat, but on paper he was little different than the rest and his administration does not stand out either. It’s easy to appear successful when you follow someone like Bush. The main thing favouring Dems for the foreseeable future is not anything about themselves, but is the demographic changes that benefit them, and the fact that several Republican chickens are coming home to roost that will continue to make them ineffective for a while yet.

    • paxton marshall says:

      What’s the limit, Ken? The Republicans are denouncing Trump because he is too liberal for them, and they don’t think they can control him. Not because he wants to keep the Muslims out. Most of them do too, but they don’t think it’s prudent to say so.

      • Ken says:

        Sure they do and I expected several other candidates to follow him there, given how popular that position is with Republicans. It’s a small victory, not to be overstated, but at least they drew a line for the first time in 35 years.

  3. paxton marshall says:

    I hope Trump is the nominee. It’s important for Dems to win congress, especially the senate, and a fractured Republican party is our best chance. I think Bernie could beat Trump. But I agree that terrorism and the “fear factor” is the wild card.

  4. j.a.m. says:

    Trump has no roots in the GOP, has repeatedly switched parties and positions, and is a Clinton buddy and benefactor, including contributing to Hillary’s prior presidential run. He is not going to be the nominee. And Republicans will be totally united and focused on liberating humankind from the Obama nightmare.

    As per the pattern of recent presidential elections, the outcome will turn on which set of unmotivated, relatively uninformed voters show up in a few swing states, and which side of the bed they happen to get up on.

    And if Trump runs as an independent, all bets are off.

    • Paxton marshall says:

      How can anyone who lived through the W Bush administration say that Obama has been a nightmare. Compare Employment, economic growth, stock market, people with health insurance, Americans not dying in wars and if still too interventionist, wreaking less havoc on the world than Bush did. If illegal immigration from Mexico is your bugaboo, it’s actually been negative under Obama after surging under Nush. Remember the Great Recession that threatened to become a depression? Bush got us in, Obama got us out. Kept us safe? Bush was asleep at the wheel on 9/11. Nothing comparable during Obama term. Obama didn’t lie us into any wars like Bush. Stopped torture which Bush approved. Promoted legalization of gay marriage. Are you a child who just came of age after 2008, or a Rip Van Winkle who slept through the Bush nightmare?

      • Yakaru says:

        Yes, a transition from deep sleep to REM is the only explanation I can think of too!

      • Ken says:

        Clearly, one man’s nightmare is another man’s good dream.

        • Paxton marshall says:

          Do you think Bush is not having nightmares about what he did? I think he is, and probably always will. Johnson realized the terrible thing he had done and it killed him.

          • Ken says:

            Who knows? The neocons argue that the current mess is because Obama pulled out before the job was done. I think Johnson was much more pragmatic. He realised it was a mistake almost right away but didn’t know how politically to change course. Bush’s character is very different. He may well believe he was right forever, no matter the verdict of history.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            They’re still saying that about Vietnam too. We didn’t lose but we quit. Once again we are rewriting the history of the war.

      • Paxton, I’d rather you didn’t call fellow commenters “a child.” Your arguments are good without the personal insults.

        • Paxton marshall says:

          I’m sorry Heather. My use of the word “child” was strictly in the sense of him being too young to remember the Bush misdeeds. He/she may be a knowledgable, gifted young student, but still only 5 years old when Bush invaded Iraq, and ten years old when the Bush recession hit. That’s why I posed the other alternative of RVW sleeping though the 8 years of Bush.

          So “child” didn’t mean I thought his comment was childish, though he provided no support for it, but merely Referred to his chronological age.

          But I’ll try to be more respectful in future. I believe in being respectful, but also in making a point. And the two aims sometimes conflict. Thanks again for the interesting discussions, in which I will continue to be an eager, though chastened participant.

    • I think Trump has supported whichever politicians he thought could help him. As Jeb Bush has proven, he tried to bribe him too, but the media are by in large too scared of upsetting him to talk about it too much. In the past he’s always been socially liberal and economically conservative. His anti-choice position his clearly just about getting votes.

      I think you’re right about the result being largely about who doesn’t turn up. The constant low voter turnout in US elections is something that’s pretty bad, and a problem for getting a candidate that actually represents the electorate. However, low voter turnout always favours a conservative party because they are better at voting. In NZ 80% is a low voter turnout. We don’t have compulsory voting either, but our elections are held on Saturdays, so more people are able to get there without missing work. Still for us, a low voter turnout (of 80%) means more conservative parties are likely to do well. I would imagine that effect is much greater at 50%.

      And yes, if Trump runs as an independent, the Dems will win. The main reason I don’t think he will do that is that he won’t win. I think if he could win without the backing of the GOP, he’d go for it. He doesn’t want anyone else controlling him. If he was president, he’d run the country like a company. He has less idea about how to cooperate with his fellow politicians than Ted Cruz, which is saying something.

      • Ken says:

        And in NZ, we don’t have one party actively looking for ways to deny certain people their right to vote. And electorate boundaries are set by an independent group, instead of by gerrymandering parties. And we have MMP, which means that many more votes make an actual difference than in the States.

        • Paxton marshall says:

          I would just note that it is much easier to enact change when the stakes aren’t so high. Fortunes are made and lost around the world depending on who is President of the US.

        • Yes – I really like our system, although it could do with one or two tweaks.

          The Electoral Commission setting boundaries so there’s no gerrymandering is such an important one. Many countries have a similar system, and it wouldn’t be that hard to introduce into the US. The only problem is the will to do it – too many rely on the power they get from having a system where corruption is possible.

          • Ken says:

            Actually, it would probably need an amendment to the Constitution to implement independent boundary authorities across the board, as it is a State’s right to manage all aspects of elections.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Fourteenth amendment. Equal protection clause? If the intent is to reduce the representation of one group vis a vis another, then that clause is violated. Letting partisan politicians decide electoral districts guarantees that will be the case.

          • That’s a shame 🙁 I had no idea it would be so difficult to do the right thing!

          • Ken says:

            Yes, there are a few cases being heard now, in fact, but they will at most declare that the process for establishing electorate boundaries in those states is unconstitutional, requiring that the same state politicians to have another go. A good thing, but won’t establish an independent authority in even one state, let alone all 50.

          • j.a.m. says:

            Actually, a few states including California do use independent commissions to draw both Congressional and legislative districts. In other states there are various schemes with varying degrees of partisanship. State and federal courts can and do impose boundaries in some cases.

            Although current federal law requires single-member Congressional districts, that was not always the case (and there is precedent for states simply ignoring such provisions anyway since they’re uneforceable). So there is nothing inevitable about district voting.


          • Ken says:

            Thanks, I didn’t know that.

  5. Yakaru says:

    Here’s a fine article by Nick Cohen on Trump

    Fox makes $1bn a year by painting every moderate republican as a sellout and every liberal opponent as a monster. There’s no evidence that it makes undecided voters turn into headbanging conservatives. On the contrary, it helps the Republicans lose by creating the atmosphere in which a bloated billionaire with a flabby tongue and rancid mind can pose as the defender of the “little guy”.

    He makes some astute observations about left wing political activism too.

    Since the 1960s, liberal societies have replaced old laws censoring sex and violence with new laws censoring racism, sexism and homophobia. You cannot say that they have slowed the growth of far-right parties and movements across the developed world. On the contrary, censorship has made reactionary politics seem like honest dissent….
    At the root of this self-inflicted liberal defeat is an inability to understand how argument works….

    • paxton marshall says:

      Good article Yakaru. I didn’t know anyone was trying to ban or censor Trump. It’s the opposite here. Everything he says is spread over the news, and not just Fox. The other candidates can only dream of getting so much free publicity.

      I think it is a fallacy to compare “Since the 1960s, liberal societies have replaced old laws censoring sex and violence with new laws censoring racism, sexism and homophobia.” We have laws against inciting hate and violence against anyone, but where are the laws censoring racism, sexism and homophobia? Justice Scalia didn’t break the law by saying that blacks are better off going to easier colleges where they will have more chance of success. Former President of Harvard didn’t break the law when he said women can’t do science as well as men. Cruise any internet religious discussion and see how many people are calling homosexuals an abomination who will burn in hell. All this is legal. Some of us, called PC types, just think it’s gauche, hurtful and exhibiting poor manners to sat racist, sexist, or homophobic things. Others say this kind of political correctness is destroying the country, or even civilization.

      Cohen makes a good observation when he notes what one loses when being too aggressive against one’s opponents: “Go too far down that hard road, however, and you lose sight of their lukewarm supporters and potential converts” I think that applies to atheists who are too condemning of religions and religionists, forgetting that many of lukewarm supporters are potential converts. Same is true of our reaction to Islam and Muslims. Yes, they do things we don’t approve of. But too broad a condemnation drives the moderates into the arms of the extremists.

      But he is wrong in his assertion that “And everywhere, whether in Europe or America, established politicians have yet to say how long their electorates should cope with falling incomes for the working and middle classes, or how they will offer hope of a future where children have better lives than their parents.” Bernie Sanders is addressing that very thing, and Hillary is starting to address it too. I don’t know much about Jeremy Corbin, but my understanding is that he is addressing these things also, reversing the policies of austerity. No?

      • Yakaru says:

        There’s a big partition in the UK calling to ban him from entering the country – that’s what the article was referring to. They also have hate speech laws in the UK that we don’t have here in Germany or in the US, as far as I know.

        Sanders and Hilary C do seem a lot better than many they have in the UK. Here in Germany, politicians are generally very decent. Mostly they seem like a kind of well dressed version of Bernie Sanders, and Merkel is pretty much in a class of her own (in good way, in my opinion). I can’t comment at all on UK politics apart from expressing general horror.

        • paxton marshall says:

          Yakaru: another interesting observation of Cohen’s, speaking of Corbyn, who he obviously doesn’t like: ” if you forget to add when you bring up his closeness to antisemites that the Palestinians have a non-negotiable right to a state of their own, you will not deserve a hearing.”

          If you try to explain Palestinian violence and you don’t bring up 50 years and counting of Israeli occupation, or if you try to explain ISIS and you don’t provide a background of UK/France/US/Israeli intrusions, invasions, and indignities over the past century, you will not deserve a hearing. (Speaking in general, Yakaru, not at you. I too think Merkel is exceptional.)

          • Speaking politically, any liberal should dislike Corbyn, even if you agree with specific views of his. Having him as leader has effectively destroyed the British Labour Party. There’s no way they can even be an effective opposition with him as leader, and they will be destroyed in the next election. The Conservatives will win without even having to maintain a strong policy platform unless there’s a huge change within about eighteen months – two years.

            As I said in this post in reference to the US, it’s important to democracy for there to be a genuine choice and debate of ideas. If nothing else, it keeps everyone on their toes and keen to please the voters. They should have to present a case to be the best person for the job. That can’t happen when one of them is incapable of appealing to a majority of voters under any circumstances.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            I’d like to hear more about why we should dislike Corbyn. Any Brits on here?

          • There are several British subscribers, and at least one I know is a member of their Labour Party, but none are in the comments on this post.

            Corbyn has made many anti-Semitic remarks. I’ve no problem with him supporting Palestine – it’s a perfectly understandable position – but he makes remarks that aren’t just legitimate criticism of Israel but are virulently racist.

            He’s made comments in support of Putin re Crimea. I pretty anti-Putin at the best of times, but surely even his fans can see there’s absolutely no excuse for his takeover of Crimea.

            And I just think Corbyn’s an idiot.

            I can see why he was elected though. The party wasn’t offering any positive choice. He’s a protest vote, and one the party needs to take note of, which they don’t seem to be doing.

          • Ken says:

            Heather, I can think of nothing more self-defeating then this approach, which effectively says to Labour that you don’t care how bad they get so long as they appear electable. The UK Labour party, like it’s counterpart in NZ, has the primary problem that they no longer stand for anything that the electorate can discern and fight for. The result is that people stay home instead of vote. The Blairites sold out Britain both by increasing inequality at home and committing war crimes abroad. They should not be allowed back. Certainly doing so will not win them the next election anyway. Once a party gets this low, they need to take the time to sort out what they stand for again, even if it takes more than one election cycle. The knee jerk get rid of Corbyn crowd seek to deny such a debate and that will only prolong their suffering.

          • I agree about the NZ Labour Party. They’re trying to be everything to everybody and don’t really stand for anything, and that’s why they’ve lost so much support imo. Those Labour supporters who can’t bear to vote for a party other than Labour are staying home, and I think that’s why we’ve been having low turnout (for us) elections recently.

            I don’t think the Blairites should come back – they wrecked the party in the end, and that chapter needs to close. The party needs to have a debate within itself about what it really stands for, but no-one seems willing to do that honestly. I really can’t stand Corbyn, but I don’t think they should just get rid of him; he’s a symptom, not the disease. Once they’ve sorted themselves out, if they can, that’s the time to decide who should lead them. If there was an obvious choice to lead the process that needs to happen, that person would have been elected when Corbyn was.

            I don’t think anyone is electable here or the UK unless they can present a positive platform, so I’m not saying they should just appear electable as that wouldn’t work anyway, but I can seen why it sounds like I’m saying that.

          • Ken says:

            I thought NZ Labour were trying to be nothing to nobody 🙂

            What disease is Corbyn a symptom of? He had overwhelming support among the party membership, so much so that the huge establishment ABC cabal that formed against him didn’t have a chance.

            I agree it’s all about platform, which has to be grounded in some set of principles that people can relate to. At the moment, the alternative to Corbynism would best be called Austerity Light. It is not very saleable. Corbyn represents the popular reaction to that. If they don’t like him, they either need to find another way to package Austerity Light, or another way to genuinely represent and channel people’s aspirations for a more fair Britain. Neither project will be easy.

          • Lol on NZ Labour 😀

            I’ve mixed up my replies a bit – I think my comments about what I think of Corbyn are in a reply to Paxton. I agree with your analysis re the British Labour Party. They’ve proved very poor at developing, let alone presenting, a coherent and viable platform. I’m not surprised that Corbyn was elected given the choice and the timing of the election.

          • Yakaru says:

            (Yep, not taken personally!)

            I think Cohen’s point is to say that one should be able to discuss the simple fact of Corbyn’s ties with anti-semites in Iran without having to re-affirm Palestinian rights. He is implying that injustices against Palestinians do not excuse Corbyn’s ties to anti-Semites.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            I guess I got his point exactly backwards. I agree that you don’t have to bring up the whole history of the world every time you make a point. But some things are so relevant that to leave them out would be dishonest. Like my examples above.

          • Yakaru says:

            I agree entirely about the importance of giving at the very least a nod to the other side in the Israel / Palestine issue, by indicating awareness that opposing arguments do exist, and that one side is disproportionately disadvantaged… I’ve never come across any other issue where one can read literature from either side and barely recognize that they are both speaking about the same country.

            (Incidentally, in case you haven’t seen The Promise – a 4 part drama, I highly recommend it! (Many see it as too pro-Palestine, but it’s a brilliant account of various viewpoints.)

            Also, while I’m here, a good article about Merkel’s speech today in German Parliament convincing her party not to put a cap on refugee numbers.


          • Ken says:

            Heather, you want to write Corbyn off as an aberration, but I don’t think his election was such an accident. Certainly I don’t think he was a protest vote in the sense of people just giving the fingers to the other candidates. I think he was a positive vote for anti-austerity and anti-imperialist policies.

            I haven’t seen anything I’d call “virulently racist” from him – have you a link? As for Putin, I’m no fan either, but I can understand his Crimea move even so.

          • Yeah, what I’m writing about his election is probably wishful thinking on my part – the strength of his win can’t really be written off as a protest vote except as a protest vote against austerity measures. I’m not so sure the majority cared so much about anti-imperialism, but I’m sure it was a factor for some.

            I can understand why Putin thinks Crimea should be his, but that doesn’t make him right, and even if it did, his method of taking over Crimea was completely unacceptable in any circumstances. His actions there, and in the other territories he’s moved into, cannot be justified.

            Looks like he’s overstretched himself though. He made a speech to the nation about belt-tightening the other day:

          • Ken says:

            A disclaimer that I’ve not followed the Ukraine situation nearly closely enough. But two things do not sit well with me. The first is that it does seem the West was playing games toppling the Ukrainian regime after what were declared to be free elections and this has lead to a legitimate grievance that Putin has taken advantage of. Second, whatever you think the Soviet Union was promised or not re Nato expansion during German reunification talks, there there is no doubt Russia’s natural security concerns have been hugely exacerbated by the recent inclusion into Nato of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania, with talk of further expansion into the Ukraine and Georgia. Isn’t it obvious what this looks like to the Russians? Particularly the Ukraine would seem to be a very sensitive line to cross indeed. I don’t think any Russian leader would allow Sevastopol or any part of the Crimea become part of Nato and so it didn’t surprise me at all that Putin grabbed it when he could. His justification is at least in part simple survival as the Russian leader, and that would seem uncontroversial too. I really wonder what Western strategists are thinking sometime.

          • The reason those nations wanted to join NATO was because Russia was (and still is incidentally) encroaching on them, not the other way around. While no-one in NATO except the US was contributing the amount to national defence they agreed to, and all were actually reducing their armed forces, Russia was increasing theirs and becoming increasingly belligerent. NATO was NOT a threat to Russia. Putin however has made it clear on several occasions that he thinks that the break up of the Soviet Union was the biggest disaster in Russian history, and he wants all those countries back in Russian hands.

            He also tried to do this economically by developing a trading union. The problem was he wouldn’t let countries be part of the Russian union as well as having a relationship with the EU. In eastern Ukraine, he cut off the media from Western sources, including Kiev, and pumped in a whole lot of propaganda that Nazi were taking control. In fear (and for many older people loyalty to the old USSR), they voted for the Russian customs union. The truth was, Nazi candidates received less than one percent of the vote.

            Also, former president Yanukovych of Ukraine was a Putin puppet. He received billions from Putin, and ran the country exactly as Putin told him to. Ukraine was effectively a Russian province. When the people found out what he (and a few other well placed ministers and officials) has been doing, he was forced to flee to Russia. As a result of that time, there is still huge corruption in Ukraine, although they are slowly working on improving the situation. Pres Poroshenko has even gone to the extent of appointing a former pres (or PM?) of Georgia in charge of eastern Ukraine because he has such a poisonous relationship with Putin from when Putin tried to take over Georgia that he feels sure he can’t be bought by Putin.

            Yes, there are faults on NATO’s side too – but the main cause is Putin himself, and his desire to restore the Soviet Union to what he sees as its former glory. He thinks the way to do that is by controlling territory. As a result he is actually destroying Russia economically, and that is made worse because of the rampant corruption. The scale of the corruption is unbelievable, and Putin himself is the biggest crook of all.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            I’ve never understood the breakup of the Soviet Union. Why did it strip away from Russia, land that had been Russian for centuries, such as Byelorussia and Ukraine? When were these ever countries before? Why?

          • I’ve got a book called Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire by Victor Sebestyen which is apparently outstanding on the subject. I have’t got around to reading it yet, but when I have perhaps I’ll be able to answer your question.

            From what I remember, those regions wanted to be separate at the time, or at least their politicians did. Some of it does seem to be imposed as there are regions within some countries that later wanted to go back. That seems to me to be economic. I think people imagined their lives would be magically better economically following the dissolution, but corruption and poor governance often meant that wasn’t the case. So they hankered for the old Soviet times when they at least has a reliable pension. The average income in Russia is three times that of Ukraine, so the grass is greener for those in the east. Those in the west of the country that benefit more from closer ties with the EU are wealthier and don’t see the same imbalance. There’s a big east-west imbalance in Ukraine re the popularity of Russia.

          • Ken says:

            Just saw this. Relates to the Corbyn situation and does not make an honest debate on the future of the Labour party look very likely.

          • Ken says:

            Heather, thanks for the info on NATO/Putin, etc. I don’t know enough to comment on most of the specifics, so will take your word for it.

            I wasn’t saying Putin is justified, only that he’s acting much as you’d expect re the Crimea and wanting to maintain a buffer against NATO. Those nations have every right to join NATO if they want. At the same time we know now that there were discussions about NATO expansion with the Soviets and apparently undertakings not to shift Eastward, though these were not written down. So it’s not straight forward and I’m also not sure why NATO shouldn’t be seen as a threat to Russia. Aren’t all the nukes still pointed at them these days?

          • Sorry for not making it more clear – I did realize you weren’t saying Putin is justified.

            Putin has valid excuses for his actions. It does look like he’s being encircled. However, he’s being paranoid. I think I’m justified in saying there’s no way NATO would ever try to take over Russia by force, which is what Putin implies. He says he’s taking the actions he’s taking in the interests of Russian security, but Russia isn’t threatened.

            Imo, this is all about Putin’s character, and almost as much, his foreign minister Sergey Lazarov, who’s paranoia is also very high. Both still operate like KGB officers. They’re a product of Soviet Russia, and have never moved on.

          • Ken says:

            I’m not sure what moving on means. The cold war may be over, but Russia isn’t an ally of the West and encirclement still seems like a big deal to me. Certainly if Russia was newly active in Canada and Central America, the US would be freaking out, not moving on. It doesn’t have to be about taking over Russia, but adversely effecting them by constraining their ability to act. That’s why the Crimea is so important. They are already are constricted by the Turkish Straits. There is just no way any Russian leader will ever give up their main navy port in the south. I have no solutions to offer, I just think the issues are less about a few individuals, but would apply to almost whoever was leading Russia, not that there wouldn’t be differences too.

          • By moving on I meant being less militaristic and more cooperative.

            I take your point about how the US would act if Russia moved into Mexico of something. The US doesn’t seem to know what to do about China building islands in the South China Sea. China knows the US won’t go to war and they therefore get away with it. It’s what Putin largely counts on too.

            You’ve put your finger on it re Russia being desperate for a warm water port. They had an agreement with the Ukraine but I assume once they lost their puppet president, they felt insecure there. Personally I’m sure it’s the reason they invaded, and not for any of the other reasons they’ve given.

            I do think though a different leader could have a different relationship with the West. Putin thinks the only way the be great is to occupy territory and to be feared militarily. The G7 was made the G8 to give Russia face, and now it’s the G7 again because of his behaviour. Russia has enormous potential, but he keeps trying to increase the country’s wealth the easy way, such as by trying to steal Afghanistan’s. If he’d handled Russia’s oil wealth in the way Norway did, for example, instead of enriching himself and the oligarchs, Russia would be an economically powerful country now. Instead it’s getting worse and worse. They relying on their (huge but dwindling) reserves to survive and continuing to squander money on useless military campaigns. Building economic wealth is a slow and steady thing, and he’s trying to fast track it and is making it worse. Also, as I’ve already said, the destruction of the Soviet Union is a huge tragedy to him, and he wants to be the one to re-establish it.

          • Ken says:

            Not all of this is Putin’s fault of course. The US has become more militaristic in the same period, as Russia has well noticed. I can’t believe he actually thinks he can re-establish Soviet era territory for Russia given NATO expansion is now a fact on the ground. I also remember reading even by the mid 90’s that the international community had blown it’s best opportunity to assist Russia’s transition to capitalism and democracy to be more stable and fair, in part by diving in to take advantage of the opportunities to make huge money. As for Putin and the G8, this is also a failure of Western imagination. Why couldn’t strategists see what Putin would do in the Ukraine? It’s as though they also don’t care enough about the benefits of Russian economic integration by moving too fast in other areas. I do agree that things could be different when the next generation of Russian leaders come to power that haven’t come from the Soviet system, but I think the West has taken too much for granted.

          • Ken says:

            Heather, this is an interesting update on the Ukraine.


          • Interesting article. From what I know, there’s nothing inaccurate there. The only thing I would say in Ukraine’s defence is that they’re dealing with the costs of a civil war, which is a huge drain on their finances. They’re also being hit by Russia vastly increased energy prices, and energy being cut off completely in some cases, in retaliation for joining the EU customs union rather than the Russian one. (Russia wouldn’t let them join both; I don’t know if the EU took the same position.) And I suspect that corruption isn’t actually getting worse, it’s awareness of corruption that’s getting worse.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Excellent piece Ken. It’s hard to know who is worse in the Ukraine, but you’d never see a MSM report in the US that didn’t just harp on the dangers of Russian aggression and ignore the misdeeds of the other side. Political correctness I guess. Just like it’s not politically correct to blame Israel for the slaughter of Palestinians, or the US/UK for the slaughter of Iraqis. Or the ongoing Saudi Arabian slaughter of Houthis with US weapons. Not politically correct to criticize our allies, no matter how vicious.

    • Excellent article Yakaru! Thanks for posting. 🙂

  6. Jason says:

    From his TV show you get the impression that Trump is a man who likes to surround himself with sycophants who tell him his every word is genius and his every decision the right one. That does not seem to have changed on campaign. Virtually all of his policies are unconstitutional, or would violate domestic and international laws and agreements or at best are completely unrealistic and impractical. You have to wonder who are these advisors who are telling him ‘great idea boss!’. Trump as president would be surrounded by such ‘yes men’, he would be an anti-Lincoln, and only the separation of powers would prevent him from being the closest thing America had had to the dictator their system hopes to prevent.

    • It’s quite funny really – the GOP are constantly going on about Obama’s executive orders, but Trump would rule entirely by executive order if he could, and many of his so-called ideas could only be enacted that way. They think there are too many EOs now (even though Obama actually does less than previous presidents), but the number would go through the roof with Trump in charge.

      I agree with your comment about sycophants too. A great leader has the ability to hear the truth, including about himself, without firing or abusing the messenger.

      I just heard about another of his “great” ideas yesterday, which though appallingly bad I’m sure is a vote winner – he wants to make the death penalty compulsory for all cases where a police officer is killed. SMH.

      • j.a.m. says:

        “Obama is on track to take more high-level executive actions than any president since Harry Truman…”

        As for Trump, unless and until he wins some actual delegates, there is no reason to believe he is supported by any actual Republicans.

        • There’s a national Monmouth poll out today that gives him 41% support among Republican and Republican-leaning voters. In almost all polls among that demographic, his support has increased since his remark about banning all Muslims. It makes it seem like GOP voters really do fit that ignorant red-neck stereotype many have in the rest of the world.

          The first few primaries are proportional I understand, so there will be other candidates with delegates, but he definitely will have some from those elections even if it’s not a majority. Like you I prefer to think GOP voters will come to their senses by the time they enter the voting booth.

  7. Yakaru says:

    In response to your request to Heather above, here’s my choice for an article on Corbyn that lays out a fairly critical perspective on him (from Nick Cohen, who I am reading and linking to a lot at the moment).

    • Ken says:

      Thanks. I haven’t had a chance to read your first Cohen article yet either, but hopefully soon.

    • Thanks Yakaru – excellent imo.

      I remember reading Cohen’s articles on another subject (can’t remember what it was – maybe atheism) and disagreeing with him, but I like the two you’ve posted recently.

    • paxton marshall says:

      Yakaru, I don’t know that much about Corbyn or British politics in general, but this Cohen article seems like no more than a poor excuse for liberal bashing. “Deceitful” campaign, “Like many from the Left’s dark corners”, ” concerned only with the rights of those whose oppression is politically useful. If the oppressed’s suffering can be blamed on the West, he will defend them. If not, he is on their enemies’ side”, “a sickness on the Left has spread from the fringes to the mainstream,”, “The malaise on the modern Left”, “Opposition to the West is the first, last and only foreign policy priority of many on the Left”, “much of the liberal Left announce their political correctness and seize on the smallest sexist or racist “gaffe” of their opponents”, “the far Left shades into the far Right”, “the hypocritical, and in my view despicable, strain of thought that Corbyn represents has been dominant in the universities, the arts, political comedy and much, but not all, of the left-wing media. In what passes for liberal culture it is commonplace to condemn Western crimes while ignoring or excusing the crimes of anti-Western regimes and movements”, “the ugly turn much of left-wing thought has taken”, “Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs who pander to anti-Semitism or writers who cheer on Islamists while hounding Muslim liberals”, “a paradox as grotesque as the Left’s support for reactionary movements”, “wing of the Labour Party latched on to equally powerful and equally malign anti-Western movements which hate not just the worst of our society but its best: democracy, human rights and sexual equality”

      Oh is that all? Scarcely a fact to support these slurs, except that Corbyn and allies have spoken too favorably of countries and regimes Cohen dislikes. The only coherent part of the article was his criticism of Blair and others of selling out to corrupt regimes to enrich themselves. That seems like a fair accusation. The rest is just a spasm of anti-liberal bile.

      • The facts that support this critique are probable fairly well known in Britain I think. They’re been thrashed out quite a bit since Corbyn came to prominence.

        I called Putin homophobic in a comment the other day. I didn’t need to provide support for that – everyone knows about the laws he’s introduced to Russia.

        • paxton marshall says:

          Well maybe there are facts to support his critique, Heather, but his accusations are so broad and general that it would take a book of facts to support them. What facts are needed to support a charge like ““a sickness on the Left has spread from the fringes to the mainstream”?

          What is this sickness of the “regressive” left? Simply that we don’t use terms like “fanatical islamist terrorist”? Cohen thinks the left is: ”concerned only with the rights of those whose oppression is politically useful. If the oppressed’s suffering can be blamed on the West, he will defend them. If not, he is on their enemies’ side”. I guess the facts that support this are too well known to require mention?

          Cohen claims “In what passes for liberal culture it is commonplace to condemn Western crimes while ignoring or excusing the crimes of anti-Western regimes and movements” I guess that includes pointing out the nearly continuous western imperialism in the middle east for the past century? This is the sickness of the left? It seems to me it is commonplace among western politicians, the media, and some new atheists, to focus on Islamic terrorism without so much as a mention of western imperialism, even the very recent Iraq and Gaza invasions. Is it sick to try to bring some facts to the discussion? Many liberals have pointed out the crimes of our “ally” Saudi Arabia. It’s hardly necessary to point out the crimes of Iran and ISIS since everyone hears about them daily. We don’t deny them, but we feel that it is the west’s contribution to the chaos that is being minimized, not those of the Muslims.

          The natural human tendency is to blame others rather than ourselves. If we want to form a just assessment of a situation, we have to try to counteract this bias by making sure we look at the facts that make us look bad as well as the facts that make the other side look bad. This is something we seldom do. The best example is probably Germany’s acceptance of responsibility for WWII and the holocaust.

          The US has never fully accepted responsibility for the crimes of slavery and genocide against the natives. School textbooks still ignore or minimize facts that detract from our self image as exceptional and a beacon to the world. Here’s an interesting petition concerning the whitewashing of the history of the California missions in school textbooks. (and by Pope Francis who just canonized Junipero Serra, in spite of his enslavement and abuse of the natives).

          So again, just who are the regressive left and why is there so much animosity from people like Cohen and the NAs against them?

          • Yakaru says:

            I understand your criticisms. Cohen has been writing about this stuff for years, so I think he has maybe under-emphasized the points you raised in order to cover things he sees more needing of attention.

            If I’m right about that, then I suppose he should take a moment in his writings to indicate that. Or I should take a moment to provide more context when recommending an article!

          • Good petition. I signed it with a comment something along the lines of “knowing the truth about history is what stops us making the same mistakes in the future.”

            The regressive left are those that put other social justice issues ahead of freedom of speech, and who, with Islam in particular, seem to have a racism of low expectations. To me, freedom of speech underpins everything else. The regressive left are OK with shutting down freedom of speech to advance particular social justice causes. This leads to the rash of ex-Muslim atheists being uninvited from speaking engagements because of security threats from Muslim extremist groups, for example, and those extremist groups being supported by liberals.

            Most of we NAs are liberal too – I certainly am. I have a problem with Islam because it teaches that homosexuality, apostasy, and adultery are sins punishable by death, and women are not seen as equals. Not all Muslims accept these teachings of course, and I have no problem with those who don’t, but I have no time with those who do. Just like I have no time for the same opinions when they belong to anyone from any other religion or no religion.

            Comment by Yakaru on 13 Dec on the Jeff Sparrow post:

            I think you have missed the point, Paxton. There’s no “war on liberalism”. It’s not about denying that western aggression and imperialism exist and are harmful, but rather about a double standard. Regressive liberals are those (it is argued) who judge Arabs and Muslims by lower ethical standards than we judge our own actions.

            As Maajid Nawaz calls it, the racism of low expectations. Saying that suicide bombings are a result of Western actions, assumes that Arabs are incapable of exercising the same degree of self control as, say the Vietnamese or Tibetans.

            We argue for equal treatment and equal application of ethical standards, regardless of culture, race, religion, etc. Those who opposed the #ExMuslimBecause campaign, as “hateful and poorly timed” judge that Muslims are incapable of accepting that some will leave the faith, and that those who have left should not talk about it.

            This kind of liberal ideology does exist and can be identified clearly enough to deserve a label, to make it clearer who we are criticizing.

            Comment from Ken the same day:

            As most NAs self-identify as liberals, a term is needed to distinguish the good liberals from the bad. The bad are those that, according to the good, have forgotten the plight of individuals that are persecuted, particularly where Islam is dominant, in their belief that persecution based on religious dogma is trumped by the goal of changing imperialist foreign policies.

          • Ken says:

            I’ve caught up with these articles now and have a similar critique to Paxton re Cohen, though the one on Trump is mostly ok. I have also read other articles by him that I thought were good, but he does seem to have an axe to grind and doesn’t always make much sense to me. More so than these articles, though, it’s his recent interview with Dave Rubin that made me wonder about him, about them both actually. It covers this supposed malaise of the Left and starts with Chomsky. First, he repeats the old false charge that Chomsky denied the Srebrenica massacre ever took place. Yet his own paper made this claim in 2005 and had to fully retract it and apologise to Chomsky for essentially making it up. After that, they dump on Chomsky for being a complainer with no solutions. Rubin says he used to be an adherent but found this aspect too difficult to deal with. Cohen says this Chomsky left can’t take positions on what to do about problems because all positions piss someone off and solidarity seems more important than actually fixing things.

            WTF? First, Chomsky is happy to discuss solutions as well as problems, as anyone who pays attention should know. Second, they both seemed to write Chomsky off because of this supposed exclusive focus on problems, as though his critiques somehow have no value on their own. And last, what the hell group are they talking about who can’t support specific solutions for fear of making some other part of the Left angry Jeez, surely the opposite it true. If anything, a major problem of the left is its factionalism and inability to come together at important moments (like the 2014 NZ election).

            I admit I only got through 15-20 minutes of this hour long talk. Perhaps they say something later that balances the weirdness, but I just couldn’t be bothered to find out. What I think is that Cohen, who supported the Iraq war and still thinks it was the right decision, isn’t really concerned that the Left don’t want to be unpopular with each other, but that they don’t mind being unpopular with the Left establishment in the form of political parties like UK Labour, who have such a terrible record in the ME. That’s a very different thing and makes me not trust many of his comments on Corbyn as well. As for Rubin, after this and the Ali interview, I’m starting to really wonder about him too.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            Thanks for the clear description of the “regressive left”. I have a number of comments, but I’m traveling and have only my phone, so I’ll reply in parts.

            First on freedom of speech and censorship. Censorship is when certain topics are banned by law. Dis inviting someone or even disrupting a speech is not censorship. The ex-Muslim atheists can still spread their message in any number of venues. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean everyone is required to provide you a venue. Protesting and even disrupting speeches is actually an exercise of freedom of speech.

            I think there is little legal censorship in western countries. The closest thing to censorship today is exercised by news outlets who decide who gets heard and who doesn’t. College groups uninviting or protesting speakers is insignificant compared to the censorship exercised by the producer of The Five, in deciding what stories to accept and who to invite.

            Yes, there is censorship in Muslim countries, as there is in China, Russia, Myanmar, India and other countries. Why is it only Muslims and liberals that NAs attack for not supporting freedom of speech? When liberals oppose incitement and hurtful speech against traditionally oppressed minorities, is not so much opposing free speech as supporting civil dialogue. Can you identify some of the regressive liberals who oppose free speech?

          • Ken says:

            Speech really is the bedrock of political freedom and needs to be respected. There is an argument for limiting speech when incitement is involved, but not just when it makes some people uncomfortable. Speech that criticises religion is bound to make many uncomfortable and as most people believe in belief, even if not the specific beliefs themselves, it is very easy to let this majority just have their way, but it isn’t right. Chomsky gets slammed for supporting holocaust deniers right to publish even though he is clear he disagrees with them and that the matter is simply the right to speak.

            It seems odd that a university should ever be other than a forum for the free debate of ideas. I think the choice of commencement speakers should be made very carefully because the audience is captive, but just giving talks that anyone can choose to attend or not attend should be open to almost anyone. Protesting a talk is fine, shutting it down is generally not unless there is an immediate danger to someone as a result. This is rarely the case.

            NAs complain most vocally when they’re told their own ideas are not suitable for a talk in their own countries. I don’t see anything unusual in that. It’s no different to when the Left justify their focus being on their own countries foreign policy because that’s what they have direct responsibility for and the most influence over.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            Heather, Ken, can’t sleep so I’ll move on to the second part of Heather’s case against the regressive left: that when we don’t join in the denunciation of Muslims, we’re engaging in “racism of low expectations” And I make the same point as Ken made in his last comment.

            Countries are like children. You’re responsible for your own, but not for others. If you chastise the neighbors kids for shoplifting, while yours are robbing banks, you are a hypocrite and are interfering where it’s not your business. Even if you say nothing about either, it’s your own kids, not those of your neighbors to the racism of low expectations. We have killed far more Muslims than they have killed westerners. When we condemn them and say nothing about our own crimes, we’re not holding them to lower ethical standards than ourselves, but just the opposite. We obsess over the dozens they kill and ignore the thousands we kill. That’s the double standard. Besides, other countries have harsh punishments for homosexuality, adultery, etc. why don’t the NAs condemn China or India like the do Islam. So again, who are these regressive liberals, and what are the consequences of their “racism of low expectations against Muslims? Does it discriminate in housing and hiring as traditional racism does? Does it provoke violence against them? If anything it’s the NAs and others constantly denouncing Islam and Muslims that provokes more violence and discrimination against Muslims at home and abroad. Witness the Republican debates. So I still don’t get it. Just what is regressive about the “regressive left”? Or is it just name calling by NAs who can’t take criticism?,

          • You keep saying that NAs are “constantly denouncing Islam and Muslims.” That’s precisely what we don’t do. We criticize Islam, but not Muslims unless they engage in the type of behaviour we’re denouncing that is the reason we’re criticizing Islam e.g. unequal treatment of women, homophobia.

            And we don’t “say nothing” about the faults in the West. Various NAs have different opinions about how much the fault lies with the West’s actions, and many of us criticize Sam Harris for not criticizing the West enough. The point is, we’re all different, and have our own views about where the problems lie. We sure as hell don’t ignore the West’s contribution, as you say. We do get annoyed that some seem to ignore the faults on the side of those in the Middle East, including the contribution of Islam to the problem. The fight between Sunni and Shi’a has been going on for centuries and since long before the West got involved in the region.

            It’s not a competition about who’s killed the most either, and to bring it down to those terms is simplistic. If you judged all wars by that metric, there’d have to be a vast rewriting of history.

            I have condemned China and India, though not much, and not as particular posts on this website. I’ve got a draft post about India that’s about eight months old, but it’s unlikely to ever get finished now as it’s dated. China is simply not a country that interests me enough to write about. I don’t write about South America for the same reason. I’m simply more interested in Africa, the Pacific, the Middle East, GB and Europe, the sub-continent and the US. I’m not responsible for what other NAs write about, and it actually pisses me off a bit that anyone thinks they have the right to tell me what I should write about.

            I’m not responsible for my country. I’m responsible for speaking out when I don’t like what my country is doing, and for, among other things, making sure I’m informed on the issues, always voting, and casting my vote in the way I think is best. I think sometimes you conflate the USA and New Zealand a bit too much. We’re very similar in lots of ways, but we’re very different too. NZ didn’t get involved in the war in Iraq – a decision I supported. The main opposition party (which I’m pretty sure I actually voted for) thought we should be in that war, so I was extremely pleased they’d lost the previous election. NZ is also much more egalitarian and homogeneous that the US. If you asked a NZer, they’d say inequality is a problem. but we actually have one of the lowest rates of inequality in the developed world. They’d probably say racism is a problem too, but anyone who has traveled knows we’re a racial paradise compared to most countries. We’re considered a #1 destination for gay travelers, because they can be open about their relationship here, though NZers recognize there are still plenty of people who need to work on their attitudes re homophobia too. My point here is that though we’re proud of our country, we don’t have this idea of exceptionalism. We know there are always improvements we can make.

            It’s not that NAs can’t take criticism, it’s that we feel some of the criticism is unfair.

          • Ken says:

            Paxton, might as well get it from the horse’s mouth. In this video, Maajid Nawaz describes what he means by “regressive left” and the racism of low expectations.


            He focusses on the vulnerable individuals within the wider Muslim community and says liberals should want to “prioritise individuals over the group, heresy over orthodoxy, the dissenting voice over the status quo”.

            In another interview he says that his working maxim is “No idea is above scrutiny and no people are beneath dignity”. As Heather says, critiquing Islam as a dogma isn’t the same as the “denunciation of Muslims” (or when it is, the person isn’t doing it right).

            The other thing to realise is that Maajid and Sam often conflate the issue of terrorism against the West with the issues of Muslims living as minorities in the West and the sectarian issues within Muslim-majority countries. These things overlap of course, but are different too. I personally don’t think they should be so easily conflated, that we should be quite specific about which we’re referring to. The point is, as you’ll see in the video, Maajid is focussed less on terrorism than the other issues.

            I totally agree that some of their rhetoric provides support for Islamophobes. This is one big reason why their critique can’t stop at Islamic dogma, but must stress our own role in the creation of and solutions to the problems. This is the thing they don’t seem to get.

            Heather, re “I’m not responsible for my country. I’m responsible for speaking out when I don’t like what my country is doing, and for, among other things, making sure I’m informed on the issues, always voting, and casting my vote in the way I think is best.”

            When I say we’re responsible for our countries, I mean exactly what you say here, so the sentences are equivalent to me. I also think the number killed on each side does matter very much given how hugely different it is, and that some historical revision is also incredibly important given that most in the West don’t even know how many Muslims have been killed and what part this plays in their response.

          • Although I still say there’s always a lot more to it than the number killed, you’re right in that last paragraph about most not being aware of just how many Muslims have been killed by the West, and the damage done over there by Western military activity. It is “incredibly important,” and I too wish more people knew about it. In fact, I think people would be beyond shocked if they found out just how many civilians were killed in the war in Iraq, and many wouldn’t believe it.

          • Ken says:

            Ok Paxton, I just listened to this and strongly recommend it to you. Please listen beginning to end. It is Dave Rubin with Peter Boghossian talking about their frustrations with the “regressive left”. It covers many of the questions you’ve raised, including criticism of Islam, though not specifically terrorism. I don’t agree with everything said, but fundamentally agree that the problem they describe exists and is a very bad thing for progressive discourse.


          • Ken says:

            Sorry, one more, this of Sam and Maajid, as it does a good job of putting you inside their heads. No more videos tonight for me!

          • paxton marshall says:

            Ken, I listened to the Maajid Nawaz video. He is a Muslim focused on reforming Islam, a worthy objective. But in this video he is telling western liberals they should focus on his reform objectives rather than what the western imperialists are doing to many of his co-religionists. Those who don’t buy into his program he calls the “regressive left” who in opposing their own governments’ continued attacks on Muslim countries are actually harming individual Muslims because of “the racism of low expectations”. This suggests certain other scenarios:

            Think of a Frederick Douglass, in the 1850s, telling liberals in the US not to focus on what the institution of slavery was doing to his people, but to focus on the misogynistic domestic abuse, the homophobia, and the racism within the black community. Blacks enslaved blacks when they had the chance, so you white “regressive left” abolitionists should quit focusing on the evil of slavery and the governments support of it, and instead join me in reforming the black character. Not to do so would be to subject them to the “racism of low expectations”

            Or maybe a reformed Jew in 1936 telling the German “regressive left” to quit focusing on what the Nazi government was doing to his people, but on the superstition, the misogynistic separation of the sexes, the homophobia, the racism within Judaism. Support the government, he would say, and join me in reforming my backward people, especially the Hassidim and other backward ultra-orthodox groups. Not to do so would be to subject them to “the racism of low expectations”.

          • Ken says:

            Paxton, I don’t see how you can conclude any of this from that video. What he’s saying is that it requires all of society to take on reform by naming the problems and saying they won’t be tolerated in a free society. He gave reasons why not doing so will make it much harder to achieve, such as the critical need for oppressed Muslim minorities like LGBT within the larger Muslim communities to be directly supported. You know I agree that this is not enough and that a focus on reducing Western imperialism is even more important as a first step at least, but we should have no problem supporting him in this goal too. It really isn’t an either/or situation.

            And no, the regressive left are not those who simply choose to focus on Western imperialism, but are those who go out of their way to attack people like Maajid for making the points he does and try to shut down that debate by charging him with racism against his own people. How on Earth can that be acceptable?

            Further, the racism of low expectations is again not a charge against those who think Western imperialism is an important issue, but against those who deny that supporting vulnerable Muslims in their own communities is also an important issue.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Ken, reform must come from within. We in the west still have plenty of racial, sexual and sexual orientation discrimination that we can work on with much greater effect than condemning Muslims for the same things. The NAs audience is largely western. Do you really think their criticisms of Muslim society are helpful in Muslim reform efforts? What is the “all of society” that Maajid Nawaz is trying to mobilize for reform of Muslim society. Does he really think that getting more liberals to focus on the faults of Islam, rather than the faults of their own society is not going to enable the warmongers who want to attack Muslims and instead is going to lead Muslims to a more thoughtful criticism of their own society. I don’t think so.

            It is Nawaz who called western liberals like me (and I think you) racists for focusing our efforts more on opposing western imperialism than on Muslim violence, misogyny etc. In trotting out the tired old trope that the “regressive left’s” focus on western misdeeds rather than Muslim misbehavior reflects some kind of self-loathing, Nawaz implicitly supports those in the west who want to continue and increase western imperialism against Muslims. The charge of racism against him seems just as legitimate as his charge of racism against us. And who’s trying to shut down the debate? He seems to have the right to say most anything he wants to say, in my country at least, and I think in yours and his also. Criticism is not censorship.

            I am all in favor of “supporting vulnerable Muslims in their own communities” but I fail to see how invading their countries and propping up totalitarian dictators accomplishes that. His remarks about individual rights vs social welfare rings hollow when he shows no concern for the Muslim individuals whose lives have been ruined by western imperialism. In fact it seems like something out of the Ayn Rand, neocon playbook.

            I’m sorry, but I find Nawaz totally unconvincing and somewhat reprehensible. If he made his case without engaging in name calling, I would still be unconvinced but not find him reprehensible. Note I am not trying to censor him or end the debate, and I doubt if anyone else is either, except maybe in places who suppress dissent like Russia or China, although his anti-Islamic message is probably welcomed there as support for their own repression of their Muslim minorities.

          • In Britain, Nawaz suffers not just a lot of abuse, but frequent death threats. He is called things like “porch monkey” and worse for even talking to Sam Harris. I have been on the left all my life, but I abhor this recent tendency of the regressive left to shut down debate they don’t like, or people they don’t agree with. For me freedom of speech is the most important and effective thing we have in the West, and it is by proving the falsity of arguments against things like sexism, racism and homophobia that has reduced bigotry in those areas. Now, the regressive left wants to shut down all debate that doesn’t agree with their positions. People aren’t even allowed to talk about particular subjects. As Ken has pointed out, even Noam Chomsky has been criticized for saying Holocaust deniers should be able to speak. I agree with him – the way to counter such ideas is with better ideas and evidence, not by shutting it down.

            Did you read Jerry’s post yesterday about the food at Oberlin College in Ohio? This is the kind of ridiculous stuff we’re seeing now from those to whom I apply Nawaz’s term “regressive left.”

            The regressive left are trying to shut down the speech of NAs. Instead of arguing against our opinions, they think we should just shut up and go out of their way to try and make sure we do. My site has been brought down, even though I’m a nobody who lets just about anyone say their bit. Prominent NAs are disinvited, or their talks made impossible because of the level of protest. (I’m not saying people can’t protest of course, just not to the extent of stopping a speaker.) A few days ago a reporter got more than fifty students at Yale to sign a petition to ban the first amendment within an hour (that amendment, as well as freedom of speech and religion also, as I’m sure you know, includes the right to petition).

            Almost all NAs are on the left when it comes to being against theocracy, racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, Muslimophobia, transphobia, and just about any other form of ignorance or bigotry you can come up with. We are not anti-Muslim, we are anti-the parts of Islam that encode those things and by extension, Muslims that impose (or try to) those things on other people. That “anti” is not limited to Muslims who do those things, but anyone else who does those things.

            Nawaz doesn’t have an anti-Islamic message. He is opposed to the extremists within his religion, just like there are plenty of Christians who speak up against the Westboro Baptist Church, or indeed any Christian denomination that preaches a homophobic message. No-one has a problem making the distinction when Christians (or NAs) speak out against the extremists within their ranks, but because of the ignorance in the West about Islam, they do when it’s Muslims or NAs. NAs want people to understand about Islam, and direct their criticism where it’s deserved – the Islamists. Regressives want all criticism of Islam to stop, and are prepared to shut down freedom of speech to do it.

            The way I see it, because of their obsession with stopping any criticism of Islam, regressives don’t even notice when NAs talk about things like Western Imperialism. They’re so busy focussing on what we say about Islam they don’t hear anything else.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Ken, let me add that IMO not only is Nawaz not going to achieve reform within Islam by enlisting western liberals to join him in his criticisms of its misogyny etc, he has sacrificed any influence he might have had by working on reform from within. Who’s going to cooperate with a turncoat? Just what is Nawaz hoping to achieve?

          • Nawaz has done some outstanding work, as have other in the Quilliam Foundation, which he heads. I recommend any of the reports produced by them. This latest one, for example, Caliphettes: Women and the Appeal of the Islamic State is excellent.

            You can find other reports here.

          • Ken says:

            “Ken, reform must come from within. We in the west still have plenty of racial, sexual and sexual orientation discrimination that we can work on with much greater effect than condemning Muslims for the same things.”

            Nawaz is talking about minority Islamic communities, i.e. communities in Western countries. Liberals don’t hesitate to condemn prejudices against gays, or misogyny, in other communities in their own countries and I don’t see why Islamic communities should get a pass.

            “The NAs audience is largely western. Do you really think their criticisms of Muslim society are helpful in Muslim reform efforts?”

            It is certainly relevant to what happens within those western countries. The same argument could be made substituting Christian society, yet we wouldn’t dream of holding back criticism of them.

            I would go further and say that I would love to hear the US govt critise the Saudis for their abuses, rather than sell them arms which they use to stoke sectarian violence in Yemen, for instance. They will never do so unless we demand it.

            “What is the “all of society” that Maajid Nawaz is trying to mobilize for reform of Muslim society.”

            Those are my words. He’s just saying that the minorities within the minorities in Western countries need as much support as they can get from the larger societies they live in.

            “It is Nawaz who called western liberals like me (and I think you) racists for focusing our efforts more on opposing western imperialism than on Muslim violence, misogyny etc.“

            Listen again to his definition of the regressive left at the beginning. He’s certainly not describing me.

            But fair enough, I’d prefer neither side accuse the other of racism unless it very clearly applies. And even though it was first used against people like Sam and Nawaz for criticising Islam the dogma (he only coined the term after being called a “porch monkey” by some white supposed liberal), they should not do the same. Their point about double standards due to cultural relativism can be made regardless.

            As I argued in another thread, I think throwing the word “racist” around is indeed used to shut down debate, because it is often just used as a personal attack. It is usually meant to imply, not just that the opponent is wrong, but that they have bad intent. Surely you can see what that does in a debate. People play it as a trump card. Once the debate becomes about my good intent verses your bad intent, all other issues go unexamined, because you have to defend yourself from this charge to maintain any credibility as a sincere participant. Have you seen the clip of Ben Alfleck and Sam Harris on Bill Maher’s show? It’s a classic example. Harris is arguing that there’s a difference between criticising Islam the dogma and Muslims as people. Instead of engaging with that honestly, maybe saying why he feels the two can’t be separated, Alfleck yells “that’s racist!”. It is a very effective way to change the subject, because if you can establish that someone has bad intent, or even cast doubt on their motivations, it is then easy to dismiss the issues they raise without further examination. It is akin to a political debate where one candidate accuses the other of being unpatriotic, because they feel their policy will lead to a bad outcome. Instead of debating the policy, they attack the person.

            “In trotting out the tired old trope that the “regressive left’s” focus on western misdeeds rather than Muslim misbehavior reflects some kind of self-loathing,..”

            The only time Nawaz mentioned western misdeeds was to say “I find liberals are very good when it comes to criticising mainstream society, being introspective about our own foreign policy mistakes and rightly so”. Is that enough? Certainly not, but how can you possibly interpret it as an accusation of self-loathing? I’m starting to think we didn’t watch the same video.

            “Nawaz implicitly supports those in the west who want to continue and increase western imperialism against Muslims. The charge of racism against him seems just as legitimate as his charge of racism against us. “

            “implicitly” means he means to do so. I don’t think you have any basis on which to make that claim.

            “His remarks about individual rights vs social welfare rings hollow when he shows no concern for the Muslim individuals whose lives have been ruined by western imperialism.“

            You assume he knows what you know and is purposely ignoring it. I’m not so sure, because my experience is that most people don’t know the truth about our interventions and even upon hearing it, can’t believe it, partly because they think it would be talked about more if true. So then you have to explain why the “liberal media” isn’t actually, but instead blacks out this sort of information, and their heads start to spin. The best example is still the 500k to 1m children under five killed by Iraq sanctions. To my knowledge, this was only ever aired one time and very briefly by US mainstream media. It takes a long time for people to accept they live in the Matrix. It is understandable that they find it difficult to accept. So I don’t know what Nawaz is aware of and what he is not. Certainly, as a former Islamist, I would expect him to know more than most, which is why I’m critical of him not speaking out on Faux News about it. But I don’t know what motivated his Islamism and until someone puts those questions to him, we shouldn’t make assumptions about his intent.

            “In fact it seems like something out of the Ayn Rand, neocon playbook.”

            Well the main thing neocons want in the ME is more boots on the ground and all the people we’re talking about, with the exception of Ayaan Hersi Ali are on record against that, so saying this just seems silly to me. We need to bring people like Nawaz around, but we’ll never do it like that. I say again, his mistake is that he doesn’t take the role of western imperialism nearly seriously enough, not that he thinks we should better support persecuted Muslims within Muslim communities in the West. Our response shouldn’t be to argue his focus should come off one and onto the other, but that it should expand to include both.

    • Ken says:

      All I can see are mentions that Corbyn met with some controversial people, for instance one who later became a holocaust denier. There’s no real suggestion that Corbyn is so himeself, nor have I found any racist comments by him.

  8. paxton marshall says:

    Heather, you wrote: “It’s not a competition about who’s killed the most either, and to bring it down to those terms is simplistic. If you judged all wars by that metric, there’d have to be a vast rewriting of history.”

    If we don’t measure the cost of war by human suffering, what do we measure it by? Often the number of killed is the best measure we have. Yes, there needs to be a vast rewriting of history. History is mostly written by the victors, and glorifies the victories while ignoring the enormous costs. It is also written by upper class folks who represent those who profit from war rather than the “cannon-fodder” sent to fight it. How often do we hear about the heroism of those storming the Normandy beaches, versus the ignominy of the fire-bombing of Dresden? Howard Zinn, in “A People’s History of the United States” has documented the resistance of people to every US war and the propaganda and coercion used by the warmongers to get them to fight.

    When the media and their enablers obsess over a dozen people killed by Muslims in a terrorist attack, and never account for the thousands killed in our bombing attacks, then yes, such a metric badly needed. Some of the NAs are scientists. In their work they demand data to support their conclusions. In their reporting on terror, they ignore the data and rely on anecdotal accounts, of the same kind the rest of the MSM are using to inflame the public against Muslims. The reporting in the west on “the war on terror” is deeply dishonest. You can say the NAs have no intention of contributing to this islamophobia, and maybe they don’t. But they have become part of the chorus justifying ever more military attacks on Muslims.

    You watched the Republican debates. When asked how to keep Americans safe, no one said a word that most of the mass killings in the US were by right wing white racists. They focused only on Islam and for almost all of them, their answer was more and larger military attacks on Muslims. In this time of widespread public hysteria, the drumbeat of NAs proclaiming that Islam is an inherently violent religion, only exacerbates the problem.

    No one is telling you what to write about, and my comments are not aimed at you personally, But when a group of people largely ignore the misogyny, homophobic behavior, and violence against minorities all over the world, to focus almost exclusively on Muslim violence, while ignoring or denying our violence against them, one is entitled to conclude there is some kind of bias at work and there conclusions are not to be taken seriously.

    • I don’t know how WWII was taught in US schools, but just about the only poem I remember from high school, by NZ poet James K Baxter, includes the verse:
      When the fire bombs fell on Dresden
      It was alright by the Yanks
      20,000 feet up they couldn’t hear
      The kids and women screaming in the boiling water tanks.

      And as I’ve pointed out in this post, NZers in general (not just on the left) have a completely different response to Syrian refugees than their US counterparts.

      The problem we NAs have with what we term the regressive left is that they do, in fact, ignore misogyny and homophobic behaviour on the part of some Muslim groups in their efforts not to appear racist. It’s what lead to Goldsmith U’s feminist and LGBTQ+ groups to support the Muslim Brothers in opposing Maryam Namazie.

      Much as I abhor the stance of the GOP candidates, which you know, you really can’t expect them to refer to most mass killings being carried out in the US by right-wing racists when they’re trying to get themselves elected.

      What exacerbates the problem of hatred against Muslims is the denial that there is a problem with violent extremism with some in the religion. It is failing to talk about that problem. It is failing to make sure people recognize that not all Muslims are the same, that there are different belief streams within Islam, and there is one in particular, called Wahhabism exported from Saudi Arabia that is a poison. They are right-wing extremists, just like the right-wing extremists that commit most of the mass shootings in your country. You have no problem noting the difference between them and your liberal Christian, and it is ignorance that fails to notice the difference between Islamists and other Muslims.

      I have never ignored or denied violence against Muslims. It should also be noted that in the US there is at least three times as much violence against Jews as there is against Muslims. Perhaps it’s because NAs focus on Islam, not Muslims. Christians, however, focus on the people rather than the ideas. That’s why they, unlike NAs, gun down people in black churches, gay bars, abortion clinics etc. They develop hate for people. We argue against ideas. It is NOT NAs who are responsible for violence against Muslims. You yourself have mentioned several times you think it’s a Christian war, and dislike how little that idea has been developed.

      • Ken says:

        I agree with pretty much all that, Heather, except the very end. I think anyone who enters into this debate, but ignores or minimises the impact of Western imperialism, does bear some responsibility for it’s continuation. Maajid has a golden opportunity when he’s on Faux News to take it to the neocons as well. That he doesn’t, but instead only focuses on the issues they use to create fear against Muslims and support for more violent intervention, does in fact provide them additional cover, even if not direct support, whether he intends that or not.

        • Maajid Nawaz usually does a pretty good job on Fox, but he is limited by what questions he’s asked. (Unlike politicians, he actually answers the questions he’s asked, and doesn’t just say what he wants to.) I’ve heard him several times there mention the Voldemort Effect as he tried to educate viewers about 1.5 billion people being as different as Christians are within Christianity.

          • Ken says:

            Sure that’s my point. They want him on because he will criticise Obama for not naming radical Islam. And that’s fare enough as they both agree on that. I just wish he’d also say “but while Islamism is a problem, if you lot really wanted to reduce terrorism, you would also tell your govt to stop killing thousands of innocent Arabs”.

          • paxton marshall says:

            I wish he’d say, “You westerners have done terrible things to the Muslim people, not in the distant past, but in recent times and continuing. Yes, the Muslim cultures are often harsh, misogynistic and homophobic, but killing us, and stealing our resources, and interfering with our governments, is not helping us absorb enlightenment rationalism. Until you back off, remove your troops, and quit meddling in the affairs of Muslim countries, jihadist terrorism will no doubt continue.”

          • That’s justifying/making excuses for the terrorism and putting all the blame on the West, when it’s not all the Wests fault. This is what he means by the racism of low expectations. There has been Western imperialism all over the world, and other people haven’t resorted to the kind of thing we see from the Islamists.

            For example, the centuries low vicious battle between Sunni and Shi’a has nothing to do with the West.

            The West leaving will not cause them to absorb enlightenment ideals. Those with the power who are prepared to use it to brutalize people will continue to dominate the majority. The Iraq war was wrong, and exacerbated problems that were already there. The region would not be some kind of paradise if it had never happened though.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Heather, no the middle east would not be a paradise had not the French and Brits gobbled it up after WWI, or had not the US and UK propped up dictators and overthrown elected governments, and bombed and missiled and drone them with their laser guided weapons, killing and destroying the lives of millions. But isn’t it time we pulled out and let them work out their problems themselves? I don’t know if they will adopt enlightenment values, but then I don’t know if we will either. Yes, NZ is a remote paradise and you have little blood on your hands. But US, UK, France, and the international oil and military industries are deeply enmeshed in using the middle east for our benefit. Until we stop, I say they are justified in striking back. It is arrogant to think we can solve their problems, when our interventions have repeatedly made things worse.

          • In my opinion there is never an excuse for terrorism. They, as well as we, would make a lot more progress if they committed to solving the issues diplomatically.

            I think we shouldn’t be there, but religion prevents those in the region from cooperating no matter what we do. Sunni and Shi’a have been arguing since the seventh century, and aren’t likely to suddenly start trusting each other now.

            Of course, elsewhere in the world, Sunni and Shi’a get on perfectly fine, but elsewhere power isn’t an issue. In the Middle East, it’s about power, so it won’t change unless they lose Sharia and become more secular imo.

          • Ken says:

            That would be absolutely fantastic.

          • Ken says:

            Oooo, I get to be on Paxton’s side again for a bit 🙂

            I feel like we’re going around in circles again, because this has all been said before, but certainly he isn’t claiming anything about what the region would do or be like if the West stopped it’s violence, other than terrorism against the West would likely stop. We have 100% responsibility for our actions. That is the flip side of saying there is no justification for terrorism, which I agree with, but there is the need to understand of what causes it and the main driver is our own violence, as Paxton says. The Sunni v Shia issue doesn’t come into that (except maybe in that we’ve taken side in that conflict). Further, we’re in no position at all to criticise their actions unless we first take responsibility for our own with the intention of actually changing what we do (and particularly since we’ve done 99% of the killing). AND, our actions are the only ones we have definite control over.

          • Fair enough, I got a bit carried away going down that track again. I completely agree we need to acknowledge the problems our intervention has caused.

      • paxton marshall says:

        Heather, just who denies there is a problem with violent extremism within Islam, or that some Muslims are misogynistic and homophobic? I think you could say the same thing about any large group, including Americans, French or atheists. Has misogyny and homophobia been eliminated by atheist regimes in Russia and China? And who denies that not all Muslims are extreme or misogynistic or homophobic? I think these are straw men and the claim that liberals are implicating all Muslims by not being more vocal in our criticism of those who are misogynists and homophobes, is not only false but dishonest. No matter how much NAs and others insist on the distinction between Muslims and radical Islamists, that distinction is lost on most people. To say that those who don’t focus on Muslim misogyny and homophobia, rather than western, or Russian, or Indian, or Chinese misogyny and homophobia are condemning Muslims with the “racism of low expectations”, is cover for the Islamophobia of those who want to ignore these things in the rest of the world and just focus on the faults of Muslims.

        I do like the ditty about Dresden, but you can be sure it is seldom heard in the US. We are little prone to self criticism.

        • Ken says:

          “Heather, just who denies there is a problem with violent extremism within Islam…?”

          The right-wingers who want to kick all Muslims out of the US.

          “I think these are straw men and the claim that liberals are implicating all Muslims by not being more vocal in our criticism of those who are misogynists and homophobes, is not only false but dishonest.”

          She’s not claiming liberals are implicating all Muslims, but that right-wingers like Trump do. And that it is made easier for them to do this when people like Obama won’t name radical Islam or say that Daesh isn’t Islamic, because people know that’s crap. The right-wingers think he’s hiding a larger Muslim problem, which he can’t effectively argue against because he’s decided to ignore the religious aspect of the situation that would be his defence.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Ken, surely you have misspoken in saying “The right-wingers who want to kick all Muslims out of the US”, deny “there is a problem with violent extremism within Islam”. On the contrary they emphasize it constantly.

            And I don’t think Trump much cares whether Obama uses the terms “radical Islam” or “DAESH is Islamic” or not. They are going to claim he is soft on terror and leading from behind whatever he says. Like Bush (one of the few things he got right IMO), Obama is trying to avert hatred and discrimination against western Muslims by focusing that its the terrorists that’s the problem and not the religion. Maybe that’s something of an evasion, but I think it’s the prudent thing to do. I don’t get the point of going on and on about the words he uses. Criticize his policies, yes. I’m critical of the western aggression in Libya and the demand for regime change in Libya. Others are critical that he hasn’t put troops on the ground. But surely things wouldn’t be different if he used different words to describe the terrorists.

            And again, what is the objective of this criticism of Obama’s wording. You and Heather seem to say that if he used these words he would make it clear that all Muslims aren’t the enemy. Has he ever suggested that all Muslims are the enemy? I say if he keeps injecting ‘Islamic” or “islamist” into the conversation that the effect will be exactly to arouse hatred against all Muslims. Criticism of Obama’s language just plays into the hands of the warmongers who criticize him for being soft.

          • Ken says:

            They want to treat all Muslims the same, as though they are all dangerous. By not talking about what makes the dangerous ones dangerous, that is easier to do. If you deny the influence of Islam, why shouldn’t someone else deny the influence of western imperialism? One untruth leads to another.

            And it’s more than evasion, it’s more like outright denial. It makes other conversations harder too, like having a rational discussion about the Saudi role in spreading the fundamentalist form of Islam that leads to Islamism. We can’t really talk about how the US is supporting the very thing it says it is at war with if we’d won’t admit terrorism has something to do with Islam; also that there’s a fair case to make that the US helped create modern militant Islam by funding and and training bin Laden to fight in Afghanistan. Truth is always the best policy.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            Ken, who wants to treat all Muslims the same as if they are all dangerous? Wouldn’t that be the right wing neocons? Surely that is not the position of the regressive left? We want to treat each individual Muslim as we would treat anyone else.

            I don’t think Obama or any other regressive liberal doubts that most members of DAESH are Muslim zealots, and I think he recognizes that many Americans equate all Muslims with ISIS. I think he has tried to calm people’s fears on that point by assuring people that the majority of Muslims are peaceful citizens and not so different from anyone else. No doubt Obama is also aware that the military leadership of DAESH, and probably much of the organizational leadership as well are former Saddam Hussein Basthists, and Iraqi military officers. Should he be calling DAESH Saddamist zealots or Baathist zealots? Never mind that DAESH is fighting against the Baathist regime in Syria. People’s motives are usually complex. To label DAESH as “Islamist extremism” is to oversimplify the situation.

            I’m in total agreement about criticizing and denouncing the US’ cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia. I have done it for years. But what criticism you do hear comes from liberals like Chomsky. It certainly doesn’t come from the right. But it’s the right that agrees with you and Heather, and some NAs, that Obama is somehow exacerbating the problems of Muslims in the west, currently beleaguered by suspicion and mistrust, by not saying certain , almost ritualistic, words. Yes, truth is always the best policy and truth is usually not so simple as to be captured by a few magic words.

          • Ken says:

            “Ken, who wants to treat all Muslims the same as if they are all dangerous? Wouldn’t that be the right wing neocons?”

            That’s what I said, yes.

            “Surely that is not the position of the regressive left? We want to treat each individual Muslim as we would treat anyone else.”

            That’s also what I said, but their actions in this instance don’t effectively support that goal, imo.

            “I don’t think Obama or any other regressive liberal doubts that most members of DAESH are Muslim zealots, and I think he recognizes that many Americans equate all Muslims with ISIS.”

            Not claiming otherwise.

            “I think he has tried to calm people’s fears on that point by assuring people that the majority of Muslims are peaceful citizens and not so different from anyone else.”

            I know what Obama is trying to do, but it’s just not effective when there’s an obvious mistruth involved, imo.

            “No doubt Obama is also aware that the military leadership of DAESH, and probably much of the organizational leadership as well are former Saddam Hussein Basthists, and Iraqi military officers. Should he be calling DAESH Saddamist zealots or Baathist zealots?”

            They don’t seem like either, but as nothing urgent hangs on it, I don’t care right now.

            “Never mind that DAESH is fighting against the Baathist regime in Syria. People’s motives are usually complex. To label DAESH as “Islamist extremism” is to oversimplify the situation.”

            If that’s all you do, yes. But that’s not what I advocate.

            “I’m in total agreement about criticizing and denouncing the US’ cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia. I have done it for years. But what criticism you do hear comes from liberals like Chomsky. It certainly doesn’t come from the right.”

            Isn’t that the point? Condemnation of Saudi needs to go much wider than Chomsky. Plenty of the left ignore it.

            “But it’s the right that agrees with you and Heather, and some NAs, that Obama is somehow exacerbating the problems of Muslims in the west, currently beleaguered by suspicion and mistrust, by not saying certain , almost ritualistic, words. Yes, truth is always the best policy and truth is usually not so simple as to be captured by a few magic words.”

            Paxton, the words aren’t magic or ritualistic and they are not the only words that need to be said. You know me better than to imply that’s what I mean. Truth is important as a principle and to establish and maintain one’s credibility. I can’t help that it’s inconvenient in this case. We should be able to apply our intellects to deal with that and not have to “evade” anything.

        • The fact it is lost on many in the US that not all Muslims are the same is not a reason to give up explaining the difference. Most of the rest of us aren’t reacting to Muslims the way the US is, especially those vote for the GOP.

          It’s not about whether or not misogyny or homophobia exist in a large group, it’s about what they do about it. Those who want to impose Sharia want to make homosexuality illegal, and impose the death penalty for it. They want it to be legal to treat women as less than equal in multiple ways.

          You can argue that Putin has enacted homophobic laws too. I’ve written anti-Putin posts on this blog and elsewhere. The difference is, no liberals in the West are defending Putin’s stance. The regressives are defending those Muslims who want to enact Sharia.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Heather, you are an historian. Remember that women’s rights to vote are very recent, and homosexual rights are even more recent in the most enlightened countries. Shouldn’t you expect it will take a while for less advanced countries, especially those that have lived under the yoke of foreign domination for hundreds of years, and have not developed an advanced economy, or universal education, to adopt enlightenment values. It’s not just Putin’s homophobia. Homophobia is endemic in most of the world, even in countries that have legislated some degree of equal rights. And that has been the case for most societies as far back as we have evidence. Cultural change takes time, although there can be very fast tipping points as there has been with gay rights in the west.

            Islam has no attraction for me. I have read the Quran and found it rather derivative of the Tanakh (old testament) although not quite as gruesome. But when my country is invading and bombing and droning Muslims for no good reason, and Muslim US citizens are being harassed and intimidated, I am certainly not going to join the chorus of those who single out Islam for criticism and act as if this misogyny, homophobia etc is something peculiar to Islam and not something widespread throughout the world. That is not truth; that is Islamophobia.

          • I’m obviously not making my point clear. It’s NOT about singling out Islam for criticism.

            What the NAs see happening is that particular Muslim groups that oppose Enlightenment values are being supported in opposition to those who support Enlightenment values.

            Some Muslim groups, for example, oppose Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She receives frequent death threats has to have round the clock armed security because of that opposition. Why do they oppose her? Because she’s an apostate Muslim who speaks out against Islam. Whatever you think of her views, as an American citizen her right to speak is protected by the first amendment. On at least two occasion (and I think there are more) she has been invited to speak at US universities because of the work she does in trying to stop FGM and child marriage. The Muslim societies at those universities oppose her right to speak because they say she promotes hatred of Muslims. On that basis, all sorts of other groups join in their opposition to here, including feminist, atheist, and humanist groups. She then gets disinvited.

            The problem is that these groups are prepared to shut down freedom of speech in certain circumstances. Any speaker who is perceived to be anti-Muslim (it’s arguable whether or not Hirsi Ali is – she’s certainly made some very strong anti-Islam statements) is simply not allowed to make their case. In at least one of the circumstances where Hirsi Ali was disinvited, she was barely going to mention religion because that wasn’t the topic she was invited to talk about, but assumptions were made. This is a tactic that is used a lot against speakers who say things in opposition against Islam – they are called racist or Islamophobic and end up having to defend themselves against that.

            We do NOT single out Islam. Muslim groups make a point of shutting down the speech of anyone who speaks against them, so these cases become well known. For years, International Muslim groups have been trying to get a binding resolution through the UN making it illegal to criticize Islam. They want an international blasphemy law, but only for Islam. Very few countries have had the courage to speak against that, but the US has been staunch in its opposition.

            This is the whole point here: freedom of speech MUST remain paramount. The regressives are prepared to shut down freedom of speech for ideas they don’t like. I will continue to oppose that.

          • Ken says:

            Paxton, they are not acting as if misogyny, etc. are peculiar to Islam. They’re reacting to the fact they get slagged only when they criticise Islam for these things, but never when they criticise anyone else.

            No one is asking you to single out Islam. I think the argument you make in your first para is the sort that needs to be made to Sam and others as to why they have their emphasis so dreadfully wrong. Doing so doesn’t require that we “evade” the problem we all admit exists. Proper context is what is needed, while just calling them racist makes them dig in completely and sets the whole discussion back.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Ken, you said “they are not acting as if misogyny, etc. are peculiar to Islam. They’re reacting to the fact they get slagged only when they criticise Islam for these things, but never when they criticise anyone else.”

            But how often do they want to criticize someone else? How often do they talk about domestic violence in Russian, Hispanic, Indian and American families? Or censorship in China? Here’s where we could use some data on NAs focus on Muslim countries vs other parts of the world.

            And Ken, much as respect your powers of reason, your defense of Nawaz, that he might not know the damage the west has inflicted on Muslim societies, was pitiful. If he doesn’t know he damn well ought to know. And that goes for anyone who is speaking about western relations with Islam and Muslim countries. If they don’t know, or refuse to recognize the basic facts, they should keep their mouths shut. I thought the same thing when Jerry Coyne wrote in his blog that he had never known a Muslim, except an ex-Muslim. Then what the hell are you doing out in public, speaking before prestigious conferences, writing books about the dangers of Islam. I’m thinking Nawaz is better informed than you give him credit for, which improves his intellectual stature, though it diminishes his moral stature.

          • Ken says:

            “But how often do they want to criticize someone else?”

            I know they do, but not how often, because there’s no reason you’d even hear about it if you weren’t looking for it. Only talking about Islam seems to causes such a level consternation. Sam’s first book was 99% about Christianity, with a few pages on Islam, yet the whole book but that one bit is pretty much ignored today.

            “And Ken, much as respect your powers of reason, your defense of Nawaz, that he might not know the damage the west has inflicted on Muslim societies, was pitiful. If he doesn’t know he damn well ought to know.”

            I agree. All I can say is that I’m constantly gobsmacked at people’s ignorance, but there it is. Call them out for that all you want, but it doesn’t justify misrepresenting their statements or just yelling “racist” at them.

      • j.a.m. says:

        “most mass killings being carried out in the US by right-wing racists”

        Facts, please?

        “That’s why [Christians], unlike NAs, gun down people in black churches, gay bars, abortion clinics etc. They develop hate for people.”

        Facts, please?

    • j.a.m. says:

      “most of the mass killings in the US were by right wing white racists”

      Facts, please?

  9. paxton marshall says:

    Heather, you wrote “The regressives are defending those Muslims who want to enact Sharia”

    Can you name some names? Are you saying the regressives want to enact Shariah or just that they are defending these Muslims from attacks?

    • I don’t know their names – they’re usually in groups. People like CJ Werleman, Reza Aslan, and Glenn Greenwald come to mind though.

      I don’t think the regressives want to enact Sharia themselves. I think they’re so busy thinking that disagreements with Islam are racist attacks on Muslims, they haven’t realized what they’re doing. Because it’s recent, I’ll go back to the Goldsmith U example. The Muslim Brothers want Islam to be dominant, and for Sharia to be implemented. They oppose Maryam Namazie because in their eyes, as a former Muslim, she’s apostate and a blasphemer. She speaks out against the treatment of women and LGBT people in Iran in particular (her birthplace). Despite that, the Goldsmith U feminist and LGBTQ+ groups sided with the Muslim Brothers against her. They were convinced by the MBs that she was racist and spreading hatred against their religion. This is the sort of thing that’s happening on university campuses all the time, and, as I’ve said before, it horrifies me.

  10. j.a.m. says:

    So that would make a grand total of two (2) persons, both of whom would be more accurately and usefully described as mentally deranged individuals.

    • This is the article I was thinking of when I said it. It’s from Time: Study Says White Extremists Have Killed More Americans Than Jihadists Since 9/11.

      • j.a.m. says:

        Thanks. Sadly this has become a trope among exactly the kind of leftists who minimize jihadism and attack people like Sam Harris.

        The so-called “study” is by a Soros-funded far left group. The first thing to notice is that it EXCLUDES 9/11. That helps tip the scales a bit!

        The “study” tallies body counts for “Violent Jihadist Attacks” (currently 45) versus all other incidents, which it provocatively labels “Far Right Wing Attacks” (currently 48).

        Now, if all jihadists are Muslim, and all non-jihadists are non-Muslim, then a group that comprises less than one percent of the population includes the killers of 45 people, while the other 99% (>300 million) produced the killers of 48 people. Clearly, that’s an absurd comparison.

        Needless to say, most of the non-jihadist perps are merely whack jobs. Not surprisingly, many are white (in a population where more than 7 in 10 persons are white), and/or Christian (in a population where nearly 8 in 10 persons are Christian).

        And what is considered “far right”? It includes things like complaining about taxes or the police, but mostly it means being anything other than a jihadist (but of course ignoring eco-terrorists, animal rights extremists, and other leftists).

        The final irony is that the so-called “study” is meant to undermine support for anti-terror measures — but without those very measures, the “violent jihadist” side of the ledger would surely be far higher.

  11. paxton marshall says:

    This seems like a more constructive approach, both for alleviating the fears of non-Muslims and for reinforcing to Muslims that Islam is a religion of peace. Instead of attacking people who are trying to be your allies and siding with people who are trying to condemn your religion.

    • Ken says:

      That’s a great story. And in Tennessee too. Good on them all.

      I note that Dr Ali disagrees with Mr Issa when he says “We can’t ignore the fact that violent extremists use an interpretation of the very same books and texts that we use”. Mr Issa tries to do just that when he says “What’s happening right now is not religious, even though ISIS and Al Qaeda are covered as a religious thing…In reality, it’s political”. He says this despite the fact that “Investigators found that [Abdulazeez] had viewed extremist videos and that in the days before the attack, he searched the Internet to learn whether martyrdom would allow him to be forgiven for his sins”.

      Is Dr Ali being a self-loathing racist for taking this position? Or does he realise that denying the obvious doesn’t help the Muslim community’s plight, but makes their response less credible.

      Why not say, of course Islam has extremists, just as other religions do, but that isn’t enough to explain why he killed. To ignore the even larger political issues involved in this situation (and/or his depression, drug problems, unemployment or debt) would be to ensure nothing will change to keep it from happening again. The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and we want violence against Muslims and non-Muslims to stop as much as anyone.

      “This seems like a more constructive approach, both for alleviating the fears of non-Muslims and for reinforcing to Muslims that Islam is a religion of peace.”

      Islam is not a religion of peace, just as it is not a religion of war. Why even invite such an unhelpful debate? All religions are what the faithful make of them. There is no canonical version. I think even Reza Aslan admits this.

      “Instead of attacking people who are trying to be your allies and siding with people who are trying to condemn your religion.”

      This is hyperbole, Paxton. People like Dr Ali and Maajid Nawaz are certainly not condemning the religion they practice, for goodness sake. They just don’t think a false pollyannish view of their religion helps in addressing these problems either.

  12. paxton marshall says:

    Another indication that the Israeli government will not accept a two-state peace and plans to continue appropriating the west bank. Recipients should throw these “gifts” in the trash in front of his face. The US should cut off all aid to Israel until settlement building ceases and disbanding begins. We discussed the need to stand up to Saudi Arabia. We must do the same to Israel. How long will we continue to aid and abet the injustice of holding the Palestinians in captivity for going on 50 years now.

    • Ken says:

      Agree. What’s just as bad is that the House will vote soon on legislation that would recognise the settlements as legal. I don’t think there is a chance of it becoming law, though (unless Trump wins).

  13. paxton marshall says:

    For those who blame Islam for Muslim violence: Is brutality and suppression of freedom of speech worse in Islamic countries than in atheist China.

    • It’s not a competition about who is the worst.

      • Paxton marshall says:

        Not a competition, but a comparative perspective often helps. Like not judging Islamic terrorism in isolation, but in relation to western terrorism against Muslims. Too often judgments are made lacking either historical or comparative perspective. Ignoring these things leads to biased judgments.

        • Who’s ignoring them? From my pov, I see the regressives excusing bad behaviour because other people do stuff that’s as bad or worse. This is a great video:

          • Ken says:

            Boy, that is NOT a great video, Heather. It does exactly what Paxton complains of in the previous comment, which is to judge Islamic terrorism in isolation from western terrorism against Muslims. This sort of thing is very effective at feeding the extremely dangerous clash of civilisations meme. It really is not something that deserves to be promoted.

          • Perhaps I should have said “grate” video. 🙂

            I’m not exactly sure why I described it as “great” because it’s not what I meant, and I should have expanded on my comment. It’s good for describing some of the issues on one side. However, you all know my views, so you know I recognize and in no way deny the culpability of the West. The issues are multiple times worse because of what we did in the region.

          • paxton marshall says:

            As far as I can determine both Maajid Nawaz and Raheel Raza both claim to be Muslims and to be opposing the radical interpretation of Islam held by the Islamists, jahadis, and their supporters. This is a noble goal and I wish them well.

            But both made videos directed not at fellow Muslims, urging them to adopt the more peaceful aspects of Islam, but at westerners emphasizing the dangers of Islam, and in Nawaz’ case, castigating those “regressive liberals”, who ignore, or make excuses for Islamic violence, thus exhibiting the “racism of low expectations”, as if brown-skinned Muslims are not capable of behaving civilly.

            The main purpose of the Raza video that Heather linked, seems to be to show that the danger in Islam is not just the few who engage in terrorism, but the much larger number of Islamists who support the jihadists, and the even larger number of Muslim fundamentalists, who may not directly support violence, but whose religious views are in accord with the Jihadists.

            What was their goal in making these videos for westerners? Raza’s goal would seem to be to heighten westerners fear of Muslims, because it is not just a tiny minority, but hundreds of millions of people who hold these violent views. The video could easily be used by the Trump campaign to keep out Muslim refugees.

            The Nawaz video would also be useful for Trump or any of the Republicans in castigating their liberal opponents for not denouncing the barbarities of Islam more forcefully. It never seems to occur to Nawaz, that maybe the “regressive left’s” main concern is not to excuse stoning, chopping off hands etc, but to oppose using these things as pretexts for the west’s military and imperialistic attacks on Muslim countries. Does Nawaz really think that regressive liberals approve of stoning adulterers?

            Tellingly, there is not a single mention in either video of the violence and brutality the west has inflicted on Muslims. No mention of the Sykes-Picot treaty appropriating the whole middle east for western rule, no mention of the founding of the state of Israel against the wishes of the majority of the population. No mention of the Iraq invasion leading to the deaths of at least 100,000 Muslim civilians. The Raza video is all about numbers, but is there a single mention of Muslim children slaughtered by jets, bombs, missiles and drones?

            So I have to think these are deeply unserious analyses of western-Muslim violence. But why? What is there purpose? I see that the Clarion project that made the Raza video has made a whole series of videos on the dangers of radical Islam, of the Iran deal, and of the so-called political correctness of people like Obama and Hillary for not denouncing the Islamists more directly. According to Wikipedia, one of the funders of the Clarion project is Sheldon Adelson, the radically pro-Israel, and Islamopobic, casino magnate. Much of Nawaz’ organization, Quilliam’s funding was initially from the British government, a leading initiator of western imperialism against Muslim countries from 1916 until today. Quilliam claims not to have received UK government funding since 2011. It would be interesting to know who it’s funders are. There are plenty of right wing war-profiteers, and warmongers like Adelson, who would be happy to fund videos like these, vilifying not only large numbers of Muslims, but any regressive liberals opposing their imperialistic aims. IMO, any westerners, whether they be liberals, conservatives, or new atheists, who buy into this anti-Muslim propaganda are either being duped by the warmongers, or are Islamophobes themselves.

          • If Sheldon Adelson is backing the Clarion project, I want nothing to do with it. That alone is enough to convince me.

          • Ken says:

            Happy holidays, all! It is Christmas morning here, so I write this as I wait for my kids to arrive.

            I agree with the thrust of this, Paxton, though I can’t wish Raza well, as I don’t find her goal noble for the reasons you state. I’m not convinced Nawaz is unsalvageable yet so I still have time for him. A few points, though.

            “… and in Nawaz’ case, castigating those “regressive liberals”, who ignore, or make excuses for Islamic violence, thus exhibiting the “racism of low expectations”, as if brown-skinned Muslims are not capable of behaving civilly.”

            And doing so in despicable fashion with personal attacks against those like Nawaz who question them. You have complained about Nawaz’s name calling in response to being labelled a “porch monkey” and “informant” by people who won’t even debate the issues he raises, and even called him a “turncoat” yourself. That troubles me. It seems so unlike you not to reject this sort of thing and makes no sense if you really think his goal is noble.

            “The Nawaz video would also be useful for Trump or any of the Republicans in castigating their liberal opponents for not denouncing the barbarities of Islam more forcefully.”

            Surely that Trump might find some aspect of a debate useful can’t be the criteria for having the debate or not. Also, in that video, Nawaz also calls out Western Orientalist caricatures of Muslims, which is exactly what Trump bases his racism on. There’s really no way this video could be used to support Trump’s call to kick Muslims out of the US.

            “It never seems to occur to Nawaz, that maybe the “regressive left’s” main concern is not to excuse stoning, chopping off hands etc, but to oppose using these things as pretexts for the west’s military and imperialistic attacks on Muslim countries.”

            Perhaps when people prefer to call you a porch monkey instead of debating the issues, their lofty goals and principles are not immediately obvious.

            “Does Nawaz really think that regressive liberals approve of stoning adulterers?”

            He’s asking, if they don’t approve of stoning adulterers, why stand with groups that do? Like the Feminist and LBGT groups at Goldsmiths U who supported the Islamic society in their attempt to prevent Maryam Namazie from speaking, despite the fact that the leaders of the Islamic society are on record talking about the scourge of feminism and LGBT and how to end it!

            “So I have to think these are deeply unserious analyses of western-Muslim violence. But why? What is there purpose?”

            Remember, Nawaz’s focus in his video is almost entirely internal to Western countries, on “the bigotry that can occur within minority communities”. He raises a perfectly reasonable issue, whether in Western societies, the priority should be to protect the wider Islamic group identity via promoting cultural tolerance over the rights of even more marginalised groups (say LBGT) within the Muslim minority. This is not an “unserious” issue at all. In fact, if it were debated, a lot of light could be shed on the other aspects we care so much about. Why do the lefties opposite Nawaz or Harris, or Namazie, never argue why it is important that they’re ignoring the impact Western imperialism? Instead they attack them personally as though they’ll somehow win that way. It’s a stupid and self-defeating tactic.

          • The last three paragraphs from Ken pretty much encapsulates the issues I have with the regressives.

            I’m stupid enough to have woken up sick on Christmas Day. Perhaps God is real after all? I’m delaying going to join people, but since I’m preparing the first course of the meal, I can’t leave it too long.

            Happy holidays to you all! If you have a celebration of Christmas Day, I hope it’s an enjoyable one!

          • Paxton marshall says:

            Hope you’re feeling better, Heather, and that you enjoyed the day. My daughter and family don’t arrive until the 27th so we will lay low tomorrow (it’s still Xmas eve here). I like to avoid Christians this time of year as much as possible. Some of my best friends are Christian and they are usually pretty cool about it, but people get sentimental and a little unhinged at Christmas.

            It’s been abnormally warm here all fall, and we’re having record breaking heat the next few days, apparently the result of a strong El Niño down your way somewhere. Has your weather been unusual?

          • It’ll be nice to have your family around. One thing about this time of year, there are plenty of public holidays so everyone gets a chance to be with family, whatever their religious leanings are. We have Christmas Day and Boxing Day, plus New Year’s Day and the day after, and if any of those days falls on the weekend, we still get four weekdays of public holiday.

            We’re getting unusual weather too. It’s much hotter than usual. It’s 4.40pm at the moment and 25 C (77F). It was 29 (84) earlier. That’s hot for where I live (central North Island) at this time of year. Last week the Christchurch (South Island) was seeing temperatures up to 36 (97), which was the hottest on record for this time of year. We’re getting a lot more droughts than usual along the east coasts of the two main islands. It’s been noticeable all this century that it’s getting hotter, but this summer is looking set to be particularly bad, and yes, it’s the result of the el Niño weather pattern. We get it from time to time, but it’s more common than it used to be. We’ve started getting cyclones (southern hemisphere version of tornadoes) too, which we never used to, because tropical weather patterns have moved further south. They’re still rare, and not like you guys get them, but NZ never used to have them at all because we’re too far south.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            And a Merry Xmas to you, Ken, Heather, and other contributors to this site. It’s a blessing to be able to participate in intelligent discussion.

            Ken, I think that all of us agree that name calling denigrating one’s race is unacceptable and boorish. Who was it that called Nawaz a “porch monkey”. I’ll write him off my list.

            My own reference to turncoat was “Who’s going to cooperate with a turncoat?” It was a rhetorical question, though the context suggested Nawaz. But also “turncoat”, while an opprobrious term, is also subject to empirical verification. I wish I had substituted a less censorious term.

          • Hi Paxton. Thanks again for all your contributions on the site, and I hope you are having a great break. I’m assuming you’ll be going back to work long before the uni professors in NZ, who finished about six weeks ago and who’ll start back about mid-February! 🙂

            It was Murtaza Husain, who is a supporter of Glenn Greenwald, who used that term to describe Maajid Nawaz. Here is an article written by Nawaz about how he feels about the situation:

          • paxton marshall says:

            It’s even better than that Heather, I’m retired. I’m on endless break. I retired 2 1/2 years ago and left my engineering world behind to study history and religion. It’s a great luxury to have the time and freedom to read and say what you please. The internet and google are revolutionary tools. But I have not found it so easy to have in depth discussions on the internet, and I enjoy the discussions you spark and make possible.

          • paxton marshall says:

            As usual, your comments are appropriate and well-made Ken. I’ll just address the last and select your example of LGBT rights. In the US, as you know, we have two large minority groups, Blacks and Hispanics (both mainly Christian), and many smaller groups, including Muslims. All of these three groups have problems with LGBT rights. They may express their beliefs and even enforce them within their own communities to the extent it doesn’t conflict with the civil law. They can’t imprison someone against their will, or physically or mentally abuse them, but they can shun them or excommunicate them or declare that in the eyes of their religion, a marriage is invalid. Ideally, the same rules should be applied equally to people of all races, religions, or ethnicities. Or course the deck is usually stacked in favor of the majority, but free speech can call out the most egregious abuses.

            So just who is Nawaz trying to protect from regressive liberals? Gay and lesbian Muslims?Transgender Muslims? Liberal Muslims? Regressive liberals should not be calling him names, but is that all this about: his personal grievance? The Muslim community is treating him badly so he wants liberals to stand up for him and assert that liberal Muslims are real Muslims too? As if any Muslim is going to listen to me on who is a real Muslim. I still don’t get what he is trying to achieve.

            I’m not drawing any comparisons, but as you know, statistically there is a certain level of disfunctionality within black families in the US. A prominent black American for many years chided and scolded the black community for their failure to live up to the middle class values he portrayed in his television shows. For this he was lionized by right wing racists who could quote a black about the failures of other blacks. As I’m sure you’ve concluded by now, that was Bill Cosby.

          • I remember when Bill Cosby put that statement out, and quite a few people I know (including my home help, which was awkward) were going on about what a wonderful statement it was. Personally I thought it was pretty ignorant and judgmental, and that’s when I went off Cosby, so his bubble was well and truly burst with me before he turned out to be a (likely/alleged) serial rapist.

            I think the Daily Beast article I linked to pretty much sums up what Nawaz wants. My impression is he basically wants to be able to speak freely. As a liberal Muslim, he gets it in the neck from both liberals and Muslims – both of whom say he’s betraying Islam, but for different reasons, and neither of whom have the right to tell him what to think/feel etc.

            He’s not trying to “protect” anyone “from regressive liberals,” it’s more about getting regressive liberals to see that they are often being used by Muslim groups that in any other circumstances they would be opposing. There are several Muslim groups who play the Islamophobia card (which doesn’t mean there isn’t genuine Islamophobia and Muslimophobia, because there is) for ALL criticism of Islam, and regressive liberal groups who then back those groups up. Then the regressive liberals end up supporting Muslim groups that are opposed to equality for women and LGBT people, and support laws opposing blasphemy and apostasy. Equality for women and LGBT people, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion, are values all liberals should be supporting no matter what. Opposing Muslim groups has become conflated with racism for many regressive liberals, and in their keenness to oppose racism (which is a good thing of course), some liberals end up supporting groups they shouldn’t be.

          • Ken says:

            Cheers, Paxton.

            It was Nathan Lean who said that and Murtaza Husain was just as bad. The problem is that there are too many others who use similar tactics, if not the same extreme language, instead of engaging in honest debate.

          • Ken says:

            Paxton, I think Heather has it right re what Nawaz wants. I doubt he and others would have ever noticed these people if they weren’t trying to shut the debate down, and doing so with personal attacks. I don’t know that I can explain things any better than I have. This whole thing seems to have started as another reaction to religion being criticised. In this case, it leads to a conflict within the liberal ideal that marginalised minorities should be supported. There are two marginalised groups here, Muslims within Western societies and, say, LGBT Muslims within the same Muslim minorities. In the Goldsmith university case, feminist and LGBT groups have deemed it more important to take a stand for the wider cultural tolerance of Muslims than to support Muslim gays and feminists being targeted by (in this case the very same) intolerant Muslims.

            Maybe there is some context where I might agree this was appropriate, but the bar is pretty high. Maybe where the risk to the wider Muslim group was immediate and greater than to the smaller sub group. But in the present context I think it is misguided at best, if for no other reason than that their desire to prevent public discussion I don’t feel helps Muslims. This is party on principle; open debate should be encouraged and people should be able to speak without being attacked. But is it also because the debate is already too restricted and narrow. People who really care about these issues should be seeking out opportunities to widen the debate so that other relevant factors are included. Instead, these groups seem to want less debate. Perhaps that is partly because if they entered the debate, they would have to defend their homophobia and misogyny just for starters. The fact is this particular group demands tolerance that it will not provide itself. There would need to be a very good reason to support them in this and I’m not seeing it here.

            I don’t see that there is a good parallel with blacks and Hispanics either, because while they may also display personal prejudice (as happens in literally every community), they are not as a group proclaiming it as part of some dogma and asking that it be respected and out of bounds for criticism. And we don’t have LGBT groups saying that blacks should be left to practice their prejudice because they will otherwise be further marginalised in society.

            That’s as good as I can do, but there are two other points points I’d like to make. Nawaz recently tweeted his support for women wearing a veil, or not, so long as it was their choice. This brought a reaction from a woman who said he if he supported women’s choice, he should just butt out altogether; that this was a discussion between women only and men were not welcome. I see an analogy with the Goldsmiths case and the question you have raised about non-Muslims getting involved in the reform of Islam. I can see where this woman was coming from, that ideally, women should just be able to get on with it. But that’s not the case when there are so many men actively subverting women’s rights. Surely men have a responsibility here and it seems ill-advised at least to refuse support from them. Likewise, the reform of Islam very largely needs to be an internal thing, but the rest of society shouldn’t ignore what’s happening in their midst, particularly when it involves the systematic structural marginalisation of sub groups, and/or if society wishes to maintain the principles it is based on.

            Because finally, as I engage with a few true right-wing Christian neocon Islamophobes, I’m aware that the arguments I make with them need to be consistent with those made here, but also address their specific concerns. This brings the enlightenment principles that the US is supposed to be based on into focus in a different way, because their main concern is that these will be eroded by Muslims who seem to these people not to value them very much at all. I find I have to state very clearly that Muslim communities need to not just follow, but also accept the basis for our laws as much as any other group; the separation of church and state being non-negotiable, for instance. I can’t say that they should have a more relaxed standard applied because they are a vulnerable minority. Also, it is important to be explicit about upholding enlightenment values with this group, because they don’t fully subscribe themselves, but if allowed, some would impose their own form of Christian theocracy in the US. But they can hardly argue against our founding principles, so grounding the discussion there is very important for both consistency and coherency.

            Hope this helps. And hope you’re having a good holiday season. I’m away in a few days for a week, so don’t take silence as apathy! Cheers and happy new year too.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Hey Ken, are you a yank trying to flee your former identity? If all the new atheists spoke in a fair and balanced manner as you do, I would sign up, but most of the leading spokesmen are quite strident, and sometimes strident about issues that they don’t have an adequate background to speak as authorities, and using evidence and methods they would not countenance in their scientific work.

            I was going to be nice and praise Nawaz for supporting women’s right to wear the veil, but what good liberal would deny her that right? It’s absurd that some intelligent liberals even want to ban the Hijab, which is indistinguishable from a plain old headscarf. But he’s an interesting guy, and people shouldn’t call him names, though a Muslim calling a Muslim an insider name, is different from a white using it on a Muslim.

            I don’t share your fear of the debate being shut down. Thanks to the internet there are more opportunities to be heard than ever before. The trick is to get an audience.

            Maybe I’m speaking from ignorance, but it seems that too much is being made of this Goldsmiths thing. Are these the kids that go on jihads?

            I appreciate the usefulness of the (American) founding fathers when arguing with rabid Christians, but our founding principles, while remarkable and important, were not perfect. But if anyone can be consistent in discussions with “true right-wing Christian neocon Islamophobes” and with regressive liberal atheist like me, it is you. Hope you comment on the Harris article. Have a great trip.

          • As Ken says, we have it a bit different in New Zealand. Extremists of all types are in a minority, and most people have a fairly laid back attitude. About 42% of the population is atheist. Of the 47% who are Christian, most are your middle of the road types who don’t force their beliefs on others. So we don’t get strident in return.

            I listened to the Sleepwalking Towards Armageddon podcast when Sam first posted it, but I can’t remember it that well now. I’ll have to listen again before I can discuss it. The impression I recall is he got a bit carried away, but he also made some good points. I find the title of the podcast extremist. (Ken, you probably couldn’t find the link because the comment was stuck in moderation until this morning as it had more than one link in it.)

            “Does Harris really believe Islam is a greater threat to civilization and world peace than the US, China, and Russia.”

            As I say, I’ll have to listen again. However, although there is a lot to criticize about the US, I’d have to say Islamism (not Islam) is nowadays a greater threat than the US. These days, the US is more likely to be reactive than proactive, though that could change with the wrong president. The US public is reactive. I think that’s proven by Cheney having to create a reason to go to war in Iraq – he couldn’t just move in there like he might have in the past. Because of that disaster, the US public is really war-weary, and that’s only changing because of the threat of Islamism. Of course, that’s exactly the response the Islamists want, and few politicians seem able to see that.

            Internationally, I consider Russia a bigger threat short-term and China a bigger threat long-term than Islamism or the US.

          • Ken says:

            “Hey Ken, are you a yank trying to flee your former identity?”

            No more than you, I would say. I expect if I still lived in the States, I’d be even more radical due to having to deal with the shit up close every day. Even with the current right-wing govt here in NZ, we don’t have anything like the political (or religious) attitudes that exist in the US, though the cult of the individual is more noticeable here now then a few decades ago and that is a worrying trend.

            “If all the new atheists spoke in a fair and balanced manner as you do, I would sign up, but most of the leading spokesmen are quite strident, and sometimes strident about issues that they don’t have an adequate background to speak as authorities, and using evidence and methods they would not countenance in their scientific work.”

            Thanks for that. I have big issues with the leading spokesmen too as I hope is clear. So while I reject that NA is identical to whatever these people are saying at present, I do understand why some would conclude that. I relate much more to the original definition of NA from ten years ago, which is also based on them, so I guess that’s just how it is.

            “I was going to be nice and praise Nawaz for supporting women’s right to wear the veil, but what good liberal would deny her that right?”

            I doubt he was seeking praise, but expect he was surprised when he was told to shut up. I don’t think I like a definition of “feminist” that excludes men.

            What liberals want to ban the headscarf?

            “But he’s an interesting guy, and people shouldn’t call him names, though a Muslim calling a Muslim an insider name, is different from a white using it on a Muslim.”

            I don’t there’s much difference when the debate is taking place entirely in western media among mostly non-Muslims.

            “I don’t share your fear of the debate being shut down. Thanks to the internet there are more opportunities to be heard than ever before. The trick is to get an audience.”

            Yea, but it’s a trick made more difficult when someone derails conversations with ad hominem attacks. And that’s why the tactic is employed.

            “Maybe I’m speaking from ignorance, but it seems that too much is being made of this Goldsmiths thing. Are these the kids that go on jihads?”

            I don’t know. It’s just a a recent example. But other issues than jihad are important too. Even if terrorism wasn’t a thing, most of the problems that exist both for Muslim communities and because of Islamic dogma would still be there.

            “… our founding principles, while remarkable and important, were not perfect. “

            I would say the principles were very good, but imperfectly applied by design. And we have added to them since. But the point is that if you give up on enlightenment principles, the whole structure supporting human rights crumbles.

            “But if anyone can be consistent in discussions with “true right-wing Christian neocon Islamophobes” and with regressive liberal atheist like me, it is you.”

            Well I don’t believe you are a regressive liberal! You’ve rejected RL tactics and I don’t really believe you think all the prominent NAs are racists either. You challenge them to look at their priorities and are suspicious of their motives if they won’t. That’s extremely close to my position. I think I just give them the benefit of the doubt a bit more than you that their motives are good until shown otherwise.

            “Hope you comment on the Harris article. Have a great trip.”

            Thanks. Which Harris article do you mean? I can’t find anything in this thread.

          • Ken says:

            Heather, Paxton, isn’t it interesting that in global opinion surveys the US is believed to be the biggest threat to world peace. This is true among a majority of Europeans too, despite that Russia is so much closer, and I don’t think it has changed through Obama. Perhaps it is because Russia is seen as a regional threat only, while the US, with it’s 750 military bases around the world and past record of aggression is just too much to ignore.

            It’s easy to say that Islamism is a bigger threat to Western countries than the US or Russia, but it is not an existential threat. I can’t even see that it will become one. Not to minimise the tragic loss of life, but the biggest damage from terrorism is what countries like the US do to itself in response.

          • This is from Fox Business, which we don’t get in NZ. I’ve said before that Juan Williams is someone I like most of the time. Eric Bolling (the host) is someone who thinks carpet bombing is a good idea and has been saying it for more than a year. This is the sort of thing that is getting Americans worked up into thinking that DAESH is a bigger threat than it really is.


            Internationally, I can see why the US would be judged the biggest threat. They’ve got by far the biggest military, and they’re everywhere. I agree it’s the potential US response that’s the biggest threat to loss of life, and within the US the fear-mongering is unbelievable. I’ve heard Fox commentators saying there’s nothing wrong with fear-mongering in this case because there really is something to be afraid of. In the same breath they mock accepting climate change science. Of course, with an election coming up, creating an enemy is always a good tactic, so I can’t see the debate there becoming more rational.

          • Ken says:

            Once again Heather, thanks for watching this crap so I don’t have too 🙂

          • j.a.m. says:

            It’s not fear-mongering, it’s deserved criticism of Obama’s policies and performance — with the perception made far worse by his maddening bizarre self-absorbed lackadaisical attitude. Terrorism bores him. He reserves his ire for Republicans.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            A general condemnation doesn’t lead to a discussion. How about some specifics of Obama’s destructive practices and policies?

          • j.a.m. says:

            You can view the clip yourself, or read the newspapers. The immediate subject is the most recent failures to prevent terrorist bloodshed on American and French soil. The more general context is the abject failure of a security “strategy” that has led to massive refugee crises, burgeoning terror networks, ayatollahs with nukes, power vacuums ceding significant territory to head-chopping fanatics, delusional sabre-rattling by ex-KGB thugs, misery everywhere, ad nausem.
            Obama finds all this a crashing bore. It’s beneath him. Don’t expect him to shed a tear, or to rethink his facile faculty-club ideology.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Do you really think ant President can prevent every terrorist attack, foreign or domestic? Bush had plenty of intell about 9/11 and failed to take simple measure that would have saved 3000 lives. You must have really hated him?

            Obama may have contributed to the Syrian refugee crisis by calling for regime change there. But ISIS is a direct result of the Bush invasion of Iraq. That was the mistake that set the whole region in chaos.

            The ayatollahs don’t have nukes. How can a President prevent another world leader from sabre rattling. What do you want us to do, attack Russia? Misery everywhere? I don’t see it. The US and world economies may not be great, but they are a hell of a lot better than when Obama took office. Look at all the measures: stock market, unemployment rate. Corporate profits have never been better. Fewer people without health insurance. Home foreclosures way down. Illegal immigration way down. Where’s the misery?

          • 1. Preventing terrorist attacks on French soil is not Obama’s responsibility.

            2. There have been a lot of terrorist plots intercepted on US soil. The one’s that haven’t been are lone wolf types that are notoriously difficult to prevent. One that should have been prevented is the Fort Hood shooter. There was a lot of evidence Major Hasan was going off the rails. However, I blame army culture for that, not the Obama administration. There is an argument that the FBI doesn’t have enough money (which I’m not sure I buy, but it’s there), but that’s down to the Republican Congress, not Obama either.

            3. Many people in the US have an idea that the US president is far more powerful than he really is. They think “Leader of the Free World” means he can control everything around the world. He can’t. The responsibility for the Syrian refugee crisis is Assad’s. It was fairly obvious is was going to happen, and there are things that could have been done to at least ameliorate it, such as put a lot more money into the refugee camps. However, USians already think that they give too much money on foreign aid, and again the appropriation would have to get through a Republican congress. Incidentally, USians are also wrong about how much foreign aid they give. It’s only a fraction of what they think it is.

            4. Everything the GOP candidates are saying is almost exactly what Obama’s is already doing. Obama is actually doing more than any other country in the Middle East. His big problem is he has failed to communicate his strategy. I agree that’s because he’s not really that interested in it. It’s not his passion, and that shows. No GOP candidate however, has been able to come up with a coherent strategy that would work. Only two or three have demonstrated that they even understand the situation.

            5. Obama isn’t responsible for Putin’s behaviour either. It was GWB that said he looked into Putin’s eyes and trusted him. Obama’s actions have at least made it obvious that he doesn’t trust Putin. He has engaged with the Russians and had a good relationship with Medvedev when he was president. Medvedev did lots of good stuff, such as tackling a lot of the corruption. Then in 2012, Putin pulled a swifty and was president again, even though he’d already served two terms, and the situation was what it was before, with a corrupt, ex-KBG thug in charge.

            6. The terror networks are expanding because there is political space for them. In Iraq there are multiple reasons. One of them is that Obama didn’t keep any troops in Iraq at the end of the war. However, then PM al-Maliki refused to sign a SoFA. Republicans argue that Obama could have made him, and I agree that Obama wasn’t much interested in pursuing it because he believes that the Iraqis should be responsible for their own country and it’s not up to the US to run the place ad infinitum. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t have got the SoFA if he’d tried to insist, and a loss would have looked diplomatically much worse than walking away with the moral high ground of not interfering in the running of another country. It at least kept diplomatic relations good. However, it was the Shi’a Iranians who were pulling Shi’a al-Maliki’s strings and insisting that they could give him all the help he needed. As a result both the Kurds and Sunnis were progressively shut out of government more and more. The Kurds had their own leaders to turn to. The Sunnis had no one except terrorist groups.

            7. Obama is far more interested in environmental issues, it’s true. However, climate change is an extremely important issue, and the fact that the Republicans not only deny it, but often don’t even admit it’s a real problem is a problem. As Obama says, they are the only major political group in the world that takes this stance, and they are what has delayed the planet coming to an agreement for so long. They are the reason the Paris agreement is less than perfect. Things that everyone wanted to put in there couldn’t be because it was essential for Obama to be able to get it through the Republican Congress.

          • j.a.m. says:

            I do see it somewhat differently. Agreed, Obama is not directly responsible for terrorist attacks that occur outside the USA. However, he is responsible for directing the resources, capabilities and influence that the American people have placed at his disposal to mitigate the global terrorist threat, especially against allies (most especially our oldest ally).

            Assad operates under the aegis of Iran, so if he’s responsible, the Ayatollah is more responsible, and he’s now Obama’s best buddy (mate, if you prefer). Besides, Obama informed us years ago that Assad was on his way out. In any case, the need for refugee camps is a symptom, not the problem.

            There are three basic things that most of the GOP candidates would do differently out of the gate: [1] Act like peace and security are important priorities; [2] Stop saying we have the right strategy when there is no evidence of that, and make it clear that the strategy will be calibrated as needed; and [3] For Pete’s sake, stop announcing at every opportunity what you’re NOT going to do.

            Do you think that Obama’s weakness and passivity have not emboldened Putin? That seems a stretch. What would have happened if Obama had not thrown Iraq under the bus? Perhaps the situation today would not be any better. But no one can seriously say it would be worse.

            As for the fact that Obama faced an opposition party after his first half-term: It all comes down to leadership. To get anything done you must either be loved or feared. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty. You may have to hold your nose. And the buck stops with you. It is not apparent that Obama ever learned these basic life lessons.

          • Hi j.a.m. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond.

            Just as Obama isn’t responsible for France, the Ayatollah of Iran is not responsible for what happens in Syria. Assad is. It is true that it is Iranian (and Russian) leadership that has enabled him, but they couldn’t have done that without his cooperation. They are each responsible for their own actions.

            Obama informing us Assad is on his way out is irrelevant. That’s either an incorrect prediction or a prediction that hasn’t happened yet. Unless you want us to return to the days when the US assassinated foreign leaders, there’s not really that much Obama can do about it. If Syria operated like a normal democracy, he’s be gone. It doesn’t, and he’s still there. Assad actually has a lot of support within Syria – much more than Saddam Hussein, for example, ever had. He’s an appalling leader who has murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people, but many of those same people are more fearful of the alternative. Shi’a, Christians, and Sunni Muslims who prefer a secular government are all sticking with Assad. Most people on the West don’t realize that he actually has a fair bit of support in his own country. This can be seen by the fact that there have been almost no defections from his side since the civil war started.

            I don’t think you can say that Obama doesn’t think peace and security are important. He’s been more involved in the ME than any other Western leader. As I’ve already said, he has done a really bad job of communicating what he’s doing there, and why he’s doing it. That’s on him. I think he’s finally realized this, and is trying to change.

            I saw a (very poorly conducted) interview with the Iraqi ambassador to the US on Fox a few says ago. The ambassador said they had learned from their mistakes, one of which was refusing to give the US a SoFA. He was of the opinion that neither side wanted the US in Iraq, and were not amenable to an agreement. It seems that my opinion that the US couldn’t have got a SoFA even if they’d tried harder is correct.

            I don’t think it’s about being loved or feared. It’s about building relationships, and Obama has failed to build relationships both within his own party and with Republicans. He clearly has the ability, as most leading Republicans admit they like him personally. He hasn’t worked on that. He clearly doesn’t like doing the schmooze thing (and who can blame him) but he should have made the effort to do more of it. He relies on Joe Biden to do a lot of that, but he’s had other issues to deal with in his personal life and there’s been no one to pick up the slack.

          • j.a.m. says:

            On the other hand, the NYT reports (12/28) that Obama now has Special Ops forces on the ground in 85 countries, doing Lord knows what (presumably installing solar panels and kidnapping polluters).

  14. paxton marshall says:

    Freedom of speech warriors, here’s a question: the professional football team in Washington DC is called the Redskins, an insult applied to native Americans, much as ni**er is applied to blacks. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has revoked the teams trademark on the grounds it is offensive to native Americans. This does not stop the team from using the name, but they no longer have trademark protection for it. Now a court ruling on a separate case suggests the Patent and Trademark office overreached, saying “It is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment that the government may not penalize private speech merely because it disapproves of the message it conveys.”

    Questions: Should the trademark be restored? Should they allowed to use the name at all? Would it be ok to call teams the “slants”, the “wops”, the “towel heads”, the “yellow peril”, the “jihadists”, the “white man’s burden”? Is there ever any justification for restricting the rights of the majority to insult and degrade a minority?

    • paxton marshall says:

      Here’s another Freedom of speech issue. A cartoon depicting Ted Cruz as an organ grinder and his kids as dancing monkeys was posted on the Washington Post web page, but then taken down by the editor after complaints. Was the cartoonist’s freedom of speech violated? How does this compare with Ayaan Hirsi Ali being invited to speak and then disinvited, which I believe some have considered censorship or violation of her freedom of speech?

      • I think the cartoonists freedom of speech was violated, but I think I wouldn’t have published the cartoon anyway. Kids are off-limits.

        I think she could have done a cartoon about Cruz using his kids without actually picturing the kids. It’s sinking to his level.

        Cruz using his kids in this way shows just what an a-hole he is.

        • Paxton marshall says:

          Does the Washington Post have an obligation to post her cartoon? She can post it on her own blog or social media, or copy it and hand it out on the street. Does Jerry Coyne violate my freedom of speech by blocking me from commenting on his posts? I don’t think so. I think freedom of speech is violated only when the law or other coercion is used to prevent speech from entering the public sphere by any means.

          • Ken says:

            That’s correct legally, but is that really where you want respect for speech to end? You have strongly criticised Coyne for being a hypocrite in professing to pursue open scientific inquiry while deleting inconvenient points of view on his blog. You are totally correct in this, but would have to shut up if your respect for speech was to stop at the law.

          • I agree – I think that’s what I said? Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

      • Ken says:

        The paper is and should be legally free to unpublish the cartoon, just as the university is and should be legally free to uninvite a speaker. The difference with the cartoon is that it was published in a broadcast medium. It makes sense that different editorial standards apply there than to a talk that no one has to attend. An editorial line will always be drawn somewhere in broadcast media. The same is not true of a talk, particularly when given in a place that is supposed to champion learning and the open debate of ideas.

    • Ken says:

      I agree with the ruling. It isn’t appropriate for the Trademark Office to be determining what words can be used. It’s good that The Slants can now trademark their name.

      The Washington team should and will eventually change their name, but it shouldn’t be a legal matter.

      • Paxton marshall says:

        What if they were to call themselves the Washington Nazis, or the Washington Jihad?

        • Ken says:

          That would be stupid and wrong, of course. But do you really support legislating against them doing so?

          • And just to make the point, this is the whole thing about being prepared to make restrictions to free speech (beyond incitement to violence) to support your point of view.

            Of course “The Redskins” is a revolting and offensive name. The way to change it isn’t to ban it, but to persuade people they would rather call their team a different name, educate them why it’s wrong to use it, etc.

            Changing hearts and minds is the only way to sustainable improvement long term.

            Legislation banning denial of the Holocaust in France and Germany has just lead to prejudice and conspiracy theories. It’s better to openly refute bad ideas and information.

            We don’t ban telling kids the world is flat, we educate them otherwise.

        • j.a.m. says:

          Isis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ticker symbol ISIS) just changed its name to Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Entirely voluntary.

          The most offensive phrase among the PC crowd these days is, “All Lives Matter”. So you definitely couldn’t call your team that. Otherwise, anything goes.

          • Ken says:

            “All lives matter” is offensive because it’s obvious those saying it don’t believe it. They insist on widening the phrase out to include everyone as a way of saying that black lives don’t particularly matter when it comes to addressing the institutionalised racism in the police force that contributes to so many black deaths.

          • j.a.m. says:

            With respect, I’m afraid that’s got it exactly backwards. The BLM rallying cry is offensive because it’s obvious those saying it don’t mean it. They don’t care about the thousands upon thousands of black lives that are saved by selfless police officers who keep the peace in thousands of neighborhoods day in and day out. This year in Baltimore we saw what happens when BLM bullies get their way: More people die at the hands of criminals, and the most vulnerable always are the victims. You can’t say black lives matter and then hinder effective public safety. Nor can you say black lives matter and then focus only on supposed racial bias, which is at most an incidental factor in the overall level of violent deaths.

            Moreover, BLM wrongly conflates two separate issues. Racial bias should be eliminated whether or not the use of lethal force is involved, and the use of lethal force should be minimized whether or not racial bias is involved.

            That all lives matter should go without saying.

          • The BLM movement seems to me to be a bit confused about what it wants. As you say, there is an epidemic of gang violence in the US and that is where most murders of blacks occur.

            However, there does also seem to be a problem with corruption within law enforcement in your country. Most police officers are good, and we should appreciate and value the work they do protecting the community. There are some that take advantage of the uniform they wear though, and they need to be rooted out of the profession.

            We’ve been through this in NZ too, although as our police don’t carry guns, at least it was extremely rare for death to be a result of their bad behaviour. There have been plenty of lives ruined though. We have one police force for the entire country, and all divisions come under one leadership, so the change could be lead from the top which made it easier. They recognized there was a problem and made a plan to change and improve things. The type of people who are recruited is a big one – the bully boy types are not given jobs for example. There is a big focus on professionalism and training. A woman who was raped over several years by several police officers now provides training to the police on how to handle sexual violence victims. Our police are also pretty well paid. It’s taken time, but there has been a big improvement in the culture of the police force, and the attitude of the public to them.

            When I see situations like Ferguson, where the police officer concerned actually didn’t do anything wrong, but there was an immediate assumption he had, you know there is a problem with the way the police are viewed in that community. And there have been several incidents where police have literally murdered suspects, and there is video evidence that proves it. Police officers don’t just start murdering people out of the blue – there must have been evidence of the bad behaviour of rogue cops for some time that they had got away with for some time before it got to murder. Worse, some of the incidents were in front of other police officers, so they clearly had no fear that their actions would see them get in trouble – it was only that a member of the public was standing by with a cell phone that exposed them. And, the violence against suspects by police officers does seem to be more prevalent against black suspects.

            All live matter should go without saying, but for some people in poor black communities, it seems to them that their lives don’t matter as much, and it’s perfectly understandable that they should feel that way. Yes, there is too much crime and violence in those communities, and yes they need the police to keep them safe. But not all police treat the people they protect as equals, and something has to be done about that.

          • Ken says:

            That’s right, Heather. There are certainly lots of good cops. My nephew is one, in Baltimore. But there certainly is institutional racism as well. If you know any cops who will speak openly, they will tell you they’re between a rock and a hard place, that most of their mates want to do a good job, but that there is racism and corruption in the police force that they find almost impossible to challenge. There’s a good article from a former cop on this, I think from Baltimore as well. Of course there are other problems, but there’s no excuse for the white majority to pretend no racism exists when the evidence for it is so strong.

          • A cousin’s husband in the town I live in is a cop, and he’s one of the good guys. But there are too many locals on the local force, and there are things that aren’t done properly. Another cousin of mine got a violence conviction after defending herself when her stalker ex-boyfriend attacked her because two local police officers, who were friends of the stalker, lied under oath at her trial. (The judge could see she wasn’t at fault and gave her 8 months home detention for a charge anyone else would be inside for two years for after the jury said guilty.) Another really good cop has just left town because he got sick of the cliques here. He did an outstanding job as youth constable, but the job was taken off him and given to a local because she wanted better hours.

          • Ken says:

            I meant to add that NZ isn’t out of the woods yet either, as the police commissioner just recently admitted there was institutional racism in the force. It’s great he did so as that is critical to effectively addressing the problem.

            NZ’s rape culture is still alive and well in the force too, despite admirable police efforts, as cases like the roast busters show. These problems are extremely difficult to eradicate and require constant effort.

          • Yeah, as Ken said, we’ve still got more work to do. But the important thing is that the issues are acknowledged, because they can’t be fixed until that happens. That’s why I worry about the US – there’s one side saying there are no problems, and the other side is about revenge on the perpetrators rather than fixing the problem. In that atmosphere, there can be no improvement.

    • I don’t like the name, and I think it will change eventually.

      I agree with the ruling though – you can’t ban stuff just because it’s insulting etc.

      I see race relations in the US in about the same place they were in NZ in the 1970s. A very big chuck of the population were still pretty racist, especially in a patronizing way, but if you asked them, they would be sure they weren’t.

      Yesterday I was watching Fox News (yes, again) and it was unbelievable to me to see two co-hosts of The Five, Kimberley Guilfoyle (she was the worst) and Eric Bolling insisting there was no racism in any of the negative comments directed against Obama. Guilfoyle thought anyone saying there were large numbers of Republicans who believed that Obama was a Muslim was delusional. (I was tempted to send her some of the links to the websites on the subject, but she wouldn’t have looked if she’d even got the e-mail.)

      • j.a.m. says:

        Obama has held the most powerful office in human history for nearly seven full years now, and yet he’s STILL whining that some kids don’t like him because of his daddy. But what did he do with that power, which the American people had worked so hard and sacrificed so much to accrue? Obama will leave the nation more divided and the world more miserable. But that can’t be his fault. We must be racists for failing to recognize his true greatness. As one of the media sycophants observed, the world disappoints him. Sorry to let you down, Barry.

        • I don’t think that’s how it went down at all. He was interviewed on PBS, and they kept pushing the issue, and eventually he agreed that there were some people that didn’t like him because of his colour, and made up stories about him. He didn’t whine about he, he just said, basically, that it goes with the territory. Others have said he whined, but that was not the feeling I got from seeing the interview. If I thought he was being whine-y, I would say so – I don’t wear rose-coloured glasses even with people I love.

          It is only the right in the US who fail to recognize what he has done for climate change for the planet. The GOP, like he said, are the only major political party with significant power in the world that denies that this is an important issue. He’s not perfect, but history will judge what he’s done here as a major achievement.

          If the US eventually gets single-payer healthcare, which is better both economically and health-wise, Obamacare will be seen as the forerunner of that too.

    • Ken says:

      Don’t be shy. If you think there’s no such thing as Western imperialism and oppression, let’s hear your case.

      • j.a.m. says:

        Actually, I was hoping someone would be able to spell out for us the specific acts of imperialism and oppression that caused the privileged son of a Silicon Valley CEO to aspire to glorious martyrdom. After all, it is an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence, without which it may be summarily dismissed.

        Don’t get me wrong — I’m know that the terrorists have a point, that they’re just misunderstood, that it’s somebody else’s fault, that it’s tit for tat. It’s just that this one particular case does seem a tad perplexing. (Maybe we need to get Chomsky on the horn and let him explain it to us?)

        • Ken says:

          Given that absolutely no one here has said either that there is only one cause of terrorism, or that there is ever any justification for terrorism, or that individual terrorists shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions, perhaps you could explain why you would embarrass yourself by suggesting otherwise?

          • j.a.m. says:

            Thanks for clearly stating those principles, but I’m not embarrassed in the least by my failure to recognize them in all the back and forth in the above thread.

            I’ll take your word for it if we’re agreed on a rational basis for further discussion: No excuses, no blame-shifting, no false equivalences, no meta-narratives.

          • Ken says:

            That’s total bullshit. If you think you can sit on the sidelines for entire discussions, then expect anyone to agree to adopt your passive-aggressive engagement style, you’re sadly deluded. If you want to join in, then go for it. No one is stopping you. But it’s pretty obvious you don’t wish to engage in good faith. This is the definition of trolling and if you’re not embarrassed, you certainly should be. Honestly, why waste your own time let alone ours.

  15. paxton marshall says:


    I wanted to find out more about the war between the regressive liberals (“Islamophiles”) and the new atheists (“Islamophobes”), so I googled Nathan Lean and Murtaza Husain (as Heather noted, it was actually Husain, not Lean who called Nawaz a “P M”). I read a little of their stuff, and almost everything referred to Sam Harris.

    I read The End of Faith on my initial pilgrimage through the four horse-tomes, and was favorably impressed, (as I was of all of them), but I can’t remember much of the details. Since I have known of Harris largely through the Why Evolution Is True (WEIT) website, which is excellent in clarifying the fascinating complexities of evolutionary thought. I have read none of his other books or followed him on-line.

    In looking around his site I was drawn to a blog post from 2014 “Sleepwalking toward Armageddon” followed by a podcast from November 2015 “Still Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon”. The podcast includes Harris reading the earlier piece, so you can get both in one, or if you prefer print like me you can read the original post. It is these pieces I am hoping we can discuss.

    I was struck by the apocalyptic tone, especially of the first part of the podcast, as of course is implied in the title. “Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon” is essentially what Trump is saying the US is doing. It reminded me of the Communist scare of my youth that among other things resulted in the McCarthy hearings, blacklisting, and the Korean and Vietnam wars. It was fearmongering of this type that gave Bush/Blair the support for the Iraq invasion, and keeps Netanyahu in power. Does Harris really believe Islam is a greater threat to civilization and world peace than the US, China, and Russia. Does he believe fanaticism and bigotry are worse in Islamic countries than in India? Can he not acknowledge the impact of western imperialism on Islamic societies? Does he believe the death of one identifiable western reporter is more horrible than the death of a dozen unknown (by us, they were known to their parents, siblings etc) children in a cruise missile strike? Does killing at a distance with planes, bombs, drones, and missiles make the deaths and suffering less awful? Harris doesn’t address these questions.

    The original article was written after the murder of a journalist. Harris asks: “Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas—jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy—reliably lead to oppression and murder?” As usual there is no comparison with the oppression and murder we (the west, primarily US/UK/France/Israel) have, and continue to inflict on Muslims. No attempt to provide comparative data on oppression and murder of journalists by Muslims relative to Chinese, Russians etc.

    There is much more, but I’d like to get the reactions of some other readers before addressing the rest of the blog posting and podcast. What do you think? Has Harris presented a balanced and fair analysis of oppression and murder in the world today?

    • Ken says:

      Paxton, do I have to? I’m on Sam’s mailing list so have known about this podcast since it came out. I decided pretty much from the title that it wasn’t worth more than an hour of my time. I’ve listened to Sam a lot, so think I know his position pretty well now. As I’ve said elsewhere, he is getting sucked into the clash of civilisations meme and once that happens, a person is no longer capable of being part of the solution, imo. This wasn’t always obviously the case, but I think he’s becoming a lost cause regarding this matter at least. Not that there aren’t things I’ll continue to agree with Sam on that are probably in the podcast as well, but I think I can agree to all your objections with out even hearing it. The reasons are the same as we’ve noted before: unfounded Western exceptionalism, inconsistent analysis and yes, Islamophobia, all of which enable him to ignore more than half of the story.

      • paxton marshall says:

        Continuing my comments on “Sleepwalking towards Armageddon” by Sam Harris. (OK, Ken. You don’t have to respond, but I hope this is provocative enough that you’ll want to.) Harris seems to have a large following so I hope some of those followers will take issue with me.

        Harris says: “these experts [academic social scientists] claim that one can’t take Islamists and jihadists at their word: Their incessant declarations about God, paradise, martyrdom, and the evils of apostasy are nothing more than a mask concealing their real motivations. What are their real motivations? Insert here the most abject hopes and projections of secular liberalism: How would you feel if Western imperialists and their mapmakers had divided your lands, stolen your oil, and humiliated your proud culture?”

        First, why should we take Islamists and jihadists at their word? But more seriously, how can anyone dismiss, without even feeling it necessary to argue the point, ongoing western imperialism and slaughter of Muslims as a cause of Muslim attacks on us? It’s only the “abject hopes and projections of secular liberalism” that see the thousands of innocents killed in the Iraq and Gaza invasions as a motivation for retaliation? Dismissing these provocations as “obscurantism” suggests a deep cultural bias. This bias is confirmed by the following astounding claim:

        Harris: “Despite all the obvious barbarism in the Old Testament, and the dangerous eschatology of the New, it is relatively easy for Jews and Christians to divorce religion from politics and secular ethics. A single line in Matthew—“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”—largely accounts for why the West isn’t still hostage to theocracy.”

        Does Harris really believe a single line of scripture has such power? How does he account for the fact that until the enlightenment, Christianity and Judaism were integral to politics and secular ethics, and still are today for many. Unless he can cite some actual historical studies supporting his assertion, Harris is exhibiting not only ignorance of history, but rejection of historical interpretation. His claims for the overwhelming influence of religious texts, and insignificance of actual historical events flies in the face of both evidence and reason. He admits that Jewish and Christian scriptures are as violent and misogynist as Islamic scripture, but thinks a single passage of scripture is what has saved the former from jihadism? Oy!

        Harris: “But today, we won’t even honestly describe the motivations of our enemies. And in the act of lying to ourselves, we continue to pay lip service to the very delusions that empower them.”

        No, the real lie to ourselves, Sam Harris, is that we won’t (or can’t) honestly describe our own motivations. If we can’t recognize the greed of the oil companies and war profiteers in motivating our invasions, and yes, the influence of Christian and Jewish religious beliefs in anti-Muslim bigotry and justifying bombing, occupation, appropriation and other atrocities, how can we claim to understand the motives of our enemies?

        It is this failure to understand his own motivations that leads me to conclude Harris is an Islamophobe. He claims (elsewhere) that the self isn’t real, and devotes himself to spiritual exercises to transcend the ego. I think he is deluding himself in thinking that he has accomplished this and his condemnation of Islam is purely objective. And what is his purpose for writing articles like this? Presumably, to wake westerners from our slumber to take action to prevent Armageddon. And what kind of action does he prescribe. He says not war, but what else can we do? The practical result of Harris’ apocalyptic fearmongering can be nothing else but to alarm the public into supporting the militarists whose assessment of Islam is the same as his.

        • Ken says:

          Hi Paxton. There’s nothing here I would want to defend Sam on. These are exactly the problems I have with his analysis.

          But the point I would make about taking seriously what people say are their motivations is that it is just as wrong to entirely ignore what they say as it is to base one’s analysis entirely on what they do say. What people say about what they do is a very important part of the picture that any conclusions need to be consistent with, either by logically incorporating their stated reasons, or by explaining why it is more likely another set of reasons was at work.

          So my gripe with Sam here is that he doesn’t understand this, and further, he is not consistent in applying his own rule. He will point to bin Laden’s statement that a motivation for turning on the US was permanent US bases in the Saudi holy lands as evidence of religious motivation (which it is), while denying or ignoring other bin Ladin statements that he also turned on the US for killing a million Iraqi children with sanctions and for supporting Israeli oppression of Palestinians, which is valid evidence that he had political motivations too.

          In this case, I tend to accept what bin Laden says in all three statements as true, so technically I’m agreeing more with Sam over the academics that we should take him at face value. But Sam is so blatantly self-serving in cherry picking only what supports his story that any credibility is destroyed.

          I’m away now for a week, so this is probably my last comment until then. Happy New Year everyone and play nice!

        • Paxton. Because you’ve put all your opinions in the comments, probably not that many people will read them. If you want to write a proper article about Sam’s podcast, I’ll post it. E-mail it to me.

          I would, of course, state up front that these are your opinions not mine. 🙂

          • paxton marshall says:

            Thank you Heather. That is very generous of you. My daughter and family are still here, but I’ll try to work my comments into better shaper in the next few days. But I can’t figure out how to email you. Could you send me your address? Thanks, and Happy New Year.

  16. Most admired men and women in the world:

    1. Hillary Clinton
    2. Malala Yousafzai

    1. Barack Obama
    2=. Pope Francis, Donald Trump

    See more here:

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