Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Anti-Semitism in America

Anti-Semitism.  A subject that, unfortunately, has been recently politicized (against you know who) but still deserves comment, especially with these recent damnable Jewish cemetery desecrations.

Having spent last summer visiting many very old cemeteries in New England for Mary Beth's ancestry research, I can tell you that few things outrage me more, as I get older, than cemetery vandalism and desecration. To me cemeteries are a sacred place, no less so than a holy place of worship. And to damage or desecrate these places is a terrible, degenerate thing.

I am something of a amateur history buff, particularly concerning WWII, and so I've read a considerable amount about Hitler, the rise of Nazism with its extreme form of anti-Semitism, and the consequent experience of the Holocaust.

Also, when I was preparing for my role as Tevye in 'Fiddler on the Roof' a few years ago, I did a study of Jewish life in Christian Europe over the last two millennia, along with the accompanying anti-Semitism.

Finally, in my research on Islam over the last 2 years or so, I looked at the Muslim views of Jews and the widespread anti-Semitism to be found in the Islamic world today.

So I think I can safely say that I know a thing or two about anti-Semitism, at least from an historical perspective.  Furthermore, I think I can make an assertion here without fear of contradiction that, aside from Israel, the United States is the least anti-Semitic country in the world today. As a ethnic and religious group, Jews are more welcome in America than anywhere else, again except for Israel, the Jewish homeland.

Of course, that hasn't always been the case. Prior to WWII and the Holocaust, Jews were somewhat frowned upon in American life, much like they were in Europe. Despite that, however, millions of Jews emigrated to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries and made a life and a home here.  And since WWII, anti-Semitism has largely been pushed to those tiny nooks and crannies of American life where a few neo-Nazis hide away.

Now, in the last 6 months or so, claims have been made that President Trump is anti-Semitic, or that he has staff around him who are anti-Semitic, or that he has a significant group of political supporters who are anti-Semitic. These claims has been made, of course, by political opponents and (not too strong a word) enemies of Trump.

Of course, some of these critics are the same ones who were ready at the drop of a hat to call a good quarter of the US population (in the case of Hillary's 'deplorables') "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic--you name it".  (I'm actually surprised that she didn't add 'anti-Semitic' to her list, maybe because she knew it wouldn't sell?)

Needless to say, I'm not particularly inclined right now to give much credence to those accusations against the Trump administration, unless there is some significant evidence to go along with them. And frankly, there really isn't, at least that I've seen. To the contrary, from what I can see, the Trump administration is the most pro-Israel, pro-Jewish administration since the Reagan years.

Speaking now as a (somewhat reluctant) Trump voter, I can honestly say that I have only run across one other Trump supporter whom I would consider to be anti-Semitic. It was a young man who we met on the plane flying out to Colorado a year ago January. Sitting next to us, we got a chance to talk about things, and though he clearly was a 'country boy' from rural North Carolina, he was very smart and amazingly well-read, particularly in theology, which surprised me greatly. (Incidentally, he was on his way out West with a few friends to do some big-game hunting of elk.)

When I got back home, I friended him on Facebook to continue our dialogue, which we did. And then, all of a sudden, a few months later last spring, I started seeing some videos show up on his FB wall that were clearly anti-Semitic, and almost crudely so. (He had become a Trump supporter by this time, though separately from what I was now seeing.) So I messaged him to inquire about what I was seeing, to make sure he understood what he was posting, to make sure he wasn't being hacked or something, and, frankly, to express my distress at what I was seeing.

Turns out that indeed he had been posting the anti-Semitic videos and that he had been sucked into the anti-Semitic ideology they were pushing (and believe me, you know it when you see it, it's so obvious).   I was shocked to put it mildly and tried to persuade him that this was a very wrong direction to go. But that didn't work, for whatever reason, and so I told him that I could not be FB friends with a dedicated anti-Semite. So we parted ways and I've lost touch with him.

All this to say, I KNOW that there are susceptible individuals out there who can get sucked into an extremist ideology like neo-Nazism, and who can also support a conservative political candidate like Trump. BUT if my personal experience is any guide, these kind of people are very far and few between in America.

Whoever is committing these anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish cemeteries and synagogues needs to be caught and prosecuted. I hope law enforcement is committing resources to track them down.

Clearly, there are extremists on the Left--as we've seen with a number of 'black-bloc' anarchist riots--and extremists on the Right. Both extremes need to be condemned and corralled.  What we don't need to do is politicize these extremists and use them as weapons in our political and media campaigns against our public officials.





Monday, February 6, 2017

On the Comparison of Trump and Hitler

The picture below shows some of my collection of books on Hitler, the Nazis, and the Second World War. I think it's a pretty good collection, considering I'm neither a scholar on Adolf Hitler nor an historian of the Nazi era in German history.  Though you may not be able to make out the individual titles, they include several outstanding biographies of the F├╝hrer, along with an old copy of his primary manifesto, Mein Kampf.


I started gathering and reading these books decades ago, of course, but my interest definitely peaked after my father, Lennart Lindquist, died in 1998. At that point, my appreciation of what Dad had done in WWII--piloting a B-17 on 35 bombing missions over Nazi Germany--grew immensely, as did my interest in learning more about Hitler and his Nazis, the target of my Dad's 500 lb. bombs.  So I committed myself to learning as much as I can about those topics (again as an amateur), along with a similar interest in Communism and the Soviet Union, the other great totalitarian threat of the 20th Century.

My Dad in front of his B-17 Flying Fortress, 1944.
As I mentioned a few days ago, all this talk of our new President being a new American Hitler has led me back into rereading some of the books on that shelf.

Which leads me to say this: anyone who thinks there is any significant resemblance between Hitler and the Nazis on the one hand, and Trump and the Republicans, on the other, is talking sheer nonsense. And not only is it historical and political nonsense, it also is symptomatic of a political hysteria, an hysteria on the liberal-left which is not only quite offensive to everyone who ended up voting for the Republicans this year, but in its own extreme way, it is very dangerous to the country.

Though I really wouldn't need to do this in a country that had even a rudimentary understanding of American and world history, since that seems clearly not to be the case, let me share just a few of the distinctions and differences between Herr Hitler and our President to make the basic point here.

First, are there any similarities?  Well, yes, it is true that both men have German-sounding names, given that they both are of German ancestry:  Hitler/Trump.  They both abstain(ed) from alcohol and tobacco.  They both were interested in buildings: designing and building them (Hitler loved talking architecture with Albert Speer, his chief architect).  They both were effective public speakers (much like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, for that matter).  And they both managed to become the primary leaders of their respective countries, through a legitimate electoral process.  That's about it, in terms of what they might have in common, it seems to me.

Oh, and they both wrote a best-selling book, which described their larger goals.  Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, and Trump wrote The Art of the Deal.

In Mein Kampf, written in the early 1920s (about a decade or so before he gained power), Hitler described the basic elements of his worldview: Aryan Supremacy (his Racialist Doctrine of the Master Race), the sub-human and even Satanic nature of the Jews, and the need for the German people to conquer the lands to the East (slavic lands including Russia) in order to achieve continental, and eventually world, domination.

All this was to be achieved by eliminating parliamentary democracy in Germany and consolidating all national power--political, economic, and cultural--in the Nazi party.  And once Hitler gained power as Chancellor on January 30, 1933, over the next 12 years, he carried out the goals of his vision almost without deviation.  Fortunately for us, he was only defeated by the combined armed forces of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, (including my brave father).


Now, Donald Trump's book, The Art of the Deal, gives you an insight into his life goals.  Which has been to make great business deals, to build great buildings, and get rich.  That's about it.  And he was successful in fulfilling his goals in life.

While Trump talked occasionally about running for President over the years, it never seemed to be a serious ambition, until, it is said, President Obama goaded him into it by making fun of him in public, at the 2011 White House Correspondents dinner.  And even then, the campaign seemed totally quixotic until, well, against all odds he actually won.  And then half of America lost their minds.

Actually, I think I've made my point.  If you want to read more about Hitler and the Nazis, you can find dozens of biographies/histories around.  I recommend a very readable biography by John Toland, entitled simply Adolph Hitler, but there are others by Ian Kershaw, Alan Bullock, etc.

Or, on the other hand, if you want to continue to listen to political fools like Ashley Judd, with her moronic rantings about Trump's Nazi inclinations, well, it truly is a free country where a person can get up onstage within a mile or so of the President and make fun of him, and there are simply no consequences.  Madonna can even ruminate about wanting to blow up the White House, and yet no one is sent to jail, beat up, or put in a concentration camp.  God bless America.

Now, obviously none of what I have said here is meant to say that we all can't criticize Trump for his words and actions as President.  Of course we can, and I have routinely criticized every President, including our current one.  That's normal politics and that's good.  Free speech and assembly, checks and balances, frequent elections: all that good stuff that we all love about this stable constitutional republic we call the United States of America.

But the kind of apocalyptic rhetoric I'm seeing from the (hopefully) loyal opposition in our country is out of control.  People, get a grip, please.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Trump Doctrine: Turning the Clock Back to 1991

For those trying to make sense of Trump's controversial interview with The Times of London and the German newspaper Das Bild, it is important to combine his ideas about nationalism, mass immigration, Islam, and Russia.

In that interview, Trump spoke candidly about the European Union and its current troubles.
The president-elect is much less sanguine about the future of the EU itself. A combination of economic woes and the migrant crisis will, he believes, lead to other countries leaving. “People, countries, want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity. But, I do believe this, if they hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it . . . entails, I think that you wouldn’t have a Brexit. This was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. . . I believe others will leave. I do think keeping it together is not gonna be as easy as a lot of people think. And I think this, if refugees keep pouring into different parts of Europe . . . I think it’s gonna be very hard to keep it together because people are angry about it.”
Trump is clearly a Euroskeptic; in other words, he sees the project of the European Union--created for the purpose of forging a superstate not unlike the United States out of the many disparate nations of Western, Central, and Eastern Europe--as problematic.

The way the EU has developed, when a country joins the Union, that nation gives up a significant amount of its national sovereignty, including the right to establish and police its own borders.  Instead, the various bureaucracies of the EU makes those decisions.  That is the essential problem, as Trump views these things.  The 'natives' of the various European states are getting restless, as they see the power to make their own decisions about their own countries depleted and turned over Brussels bureaucrats.  This is especially true when it comes to mass immigration.
While he expresses admiration for Angela Merkel, Mr Trump believes that she made 'one catastrophic mistake' by welcoming an unlimited number of Syrian refugees. More than one million migrants from north Africa and the Middle East arrived between 2015 and 2016. He adds that he believes the West should have built safe zones in Syria — paid for by the Gulf — to limit the surge. 'I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know taking all of the people from wherever they come from. And nobody even knows where they come from.'
There is no rancour or glee in his prediction of the break-up of the EU, quite the opposite. His demeanour is warm and genial, the flame-throwing rhetoric of his rallies and press conferences replaced with showers of compliments. He describes Jean-Claude Juncker as a very fine gentleman, and says that he has great respect for Mrs Merkel.
His pessimism about the EU is rooted in his view of it as anti-jobs and anti-growth. And it springs, as so much of his world view does, from his experience as a businessman rather than any ideological preconception.
Mr Trump’s view is that Europe is dominated by Germany, and Britain was wise to extract itself: 'You look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out.'
President Obama was opposed to the Brexit vote, Trump was in favor of it.  The UK, to everyone's surprise, voted in favor of getting out of the EU.  Trump's position was vindicated by the British public, and so it should be no big surprise to anyone that he is now talking about working closely with the current UK leadership to forge a new and closer alliance.

The rest of the EU is creaking and groaning toward the future.  The Euroskeptical nationalist (so-called 'far-right') parties of the various EU countries are gaining in popularity and political power, again mostly because of their loss of power to determine such crucial issues as immigration and counter-terrorism.  Right or wrong, it seems clear that Trump is not opposed to a fragmenting of the European Union.

Trump is also opposed to mass, uncontrolled immigration, whether it's from Mexico and Central America into the US, or from the Muslim nations of the Middle East and North Africa into Europe.  Such immigration threatens the historical and national identity of the Western countries and given the importance of nationalism to his worldview, it's no wonder that he opposes it.  And when you add in the threat of Islamic jihadist terrorism, well, what more needs to be said?

But it's not just the EU, it's also the NATO alliance.  Trump has been openly critical of NATO, which has led to much gnashing of teeth both in Europe and in the American political Establishment.
Mr Trump’s hostility to the EU has been matched by his scepticism towards another pillar of the postwar order, Nato. But the president-elect was at pains to emphasise that he is committed to the defence of Europe and the West. His concerns are, principally, that Nato had not reformed to meet the main threat that we face — Islamist terrorism — and its members had relied too heavily on America. “I said a long time ago that Nato had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago. Number two the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay. I took such heat, when I said Nato was obsolete. It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror. I took a lot of heat for two days. And then they started saying Trump is right.

“And the other thing is the countries aren’t paying their fair share so we’re supposed to protect countries. But a lot of these countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying, which I think is very unfair to the United States. With that being said, Nato is very important to me. There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to. Five. It’s not much.”
Add to all this Trump's view on Russia and you have the makings of a sea change in American foreign policy (and I haven't even brought up China!).  One of Trump's long-standing views is that we need to try and normalize our relations with post-Communist Russia, given the fact that they have left their Marxist-Leninist ideology behind and restored their old Russian identity, which is (potentially) much less hostile to the US, Europe, and the world.

One of the least discussed realities of the last 20 years is how the US (and its European allies) pushed the NATO military alliance toward the new borders of Russia, in the process antagonizing the Russian leaders and causing them to become both defensive and increasingly hostile toward the West.  Trump has tried to reverse this process, though in the process infuriating the Western foreign policy Establishment.

Bottom-line, Trump's views are almost diametrically opposed to the foreign policy Establishment of both Republican and Democratic parties.  He has honestly earned their enmity.

It strikes me that if Trump could turn back the clock to around 1991--when we were still friends with Russia, before NAFTA, before the Iraq Invasion, etc.--and start over again, he would.  And perhaps that's exactly what he's trying to do.  He probably won't succeed, but hang on, because,one, he's starting to shake things up, and two, it doesn't pay to be too skeptical of the Donald.

Monday, January 9, 2017

On The Wikileaks Emails

With regard to the Wikileaks emails and the alleged Russian hacking of the election, here are some of my thoughts.

First, I always assume that all the world's major powers are conducting espionage and 'cyber-warfare' against each other all the time, to the best of their ability and in their own self-determined national interest.  That's just the nature of international politics.  First and foremost among those powers is the United States, China, and Russia.   But they are joined by many others, including the U.K., France, Germany, Israel, Iran, and so on.

Second, I'm not sure why it should be so surprising to anyone that Russia may have an interest in 'interfering' in our election.  We have certainly not hesitated to 'interfere' in their political system since the end of WWII, and that continued in a even more enhanced way after the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.

The best accounting of this US involvement in Russian politics that I've read is by Stephen Cohen, long-time professor of Russian History at, first, Princeton and now at NYU, both in his numerous articles for The Nation magazine and in his books, esp. 'Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia'.  What he shows is how extensive (and counterproductive!) our 'democracy-promotion' efforts in Russia have been in the last 25 years, actually causing the majority of Russians to move from a pro-US position to an anti-US one over the decade of the 90s and into the new century.  Add to this the efforts of the US to push the NATO military alliance to the borders of Russia, and you have all the ingredients necessary for a new and very dangerous Cold War, which is what Cohen says is going on now.

Furthermore, we conduct espionage and influence campaigns on our own allies, for God's sake.  In Germany in 2013, the US was caught wiretapping the phone calls of Chancellor Angela Merkel.  Israel does it to us all the time, and I assume we do it to them.  And Russia and China do it to all of the above.  It's just the way the real world works.

My sense of this recent post-election contretemps is that no one 'in the know' is really shocked about all this, except for some gullible Americans.   And that of course is the whole point, isn't it?  Keep the outrage and resentment about the recent election churning.

Third, why should the recent pronouncement of Messrs. Comey, Brennan, Rogers, and Clapper be considered as if it were objective, non-partisan, and, well, infallible?  If I remembered correctly, the Clintons were as recently as a few weeks ago blaming FBI Director James Comey for Hillary's loss.  I guess they don't figure that he is so infallible.  And wasn't DNI Director James Clapper being considered for perjury charges for having lied to Congress about NSA bulk data collection from Americans just a few years ago?  And isn't the CIA widely considered to be the private army of the President, with its director being under the direct control of the President and no one else?  Why would anyone necessarily think that CIA Director Brennan is totally and completely impartial when it comes to this very partisan issue?  I don't.

I for one will be very interested to see how the assessment of all this changes when Trump's people take over.  If they have a different take, then I guess it shows that the leaders of the Intelligence Community can't always be taken as totally objective, infallible, and non-partisan.  Which is what I happen to think now.

Fourth, for what it's worth (and I'm not sure how much it is), Julian Assange, the head of Wikileaks, has said that it was not the Russians who gave Wikileaks the Podesta emails.  And again, for what it's worth, it doesn't look to me like it would be all that difficult to have hacked Podesta's emails....or Clinton's for that matter, given she had her private server in her bathroom at home.  With such nonchalance and indifference to cyber security, why give the Russians any credit at all for having 'hacked' these emails?  It probably could have been any reasonably talented teen computer nerd of any nationality.

And finally, the Wikileaks emails, wherever they came from, were not the reason Hillary lost this election.  There were any number of reasons more important, starting with the fact that Hillary was just a really lousy and unpopular candidate.

In any case, the Wikileak emails, none of which by the way have been refuted or denied, just added a little pizzazz to the excruciating spectacle of the 2016 Presidential Election.  Indeed, far from being misinformation of any kind, the Wikileak emails were just a tiny, transparent window onto the actual operations of the Democratic party and the Clinton Campaign.  And it wasn't very pretty at all.  But who ever said democracy was pretty and neat, instead of ugly and messy?