Friday, February 17, 2017

Trump Still Refusing to Address Post-Election Wave of Anti-Semitism, Hate Incidents

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

One of the truly disconcerting aspects of the wave of post-election hate incidents that followed Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency in November has been Trump’s near-complete silence on the matter – particularly given that many of the incidents appear to have been inspired by him and feature references to his name.

At Thursday’s press conference in Washington, the president was pressed once again – twice – on the subject, including direct question about the recent spate of phoned-in bomb threats at Jewish community centers. And both times, he failed to give anything resembling a coherent answer, let alone a clear statement opposing hate crimes committed in his name.

Late in the event, Trump called on reporter Jake Turx, who asked him:
So, first of all, my name is Jake Turx of Ami magazine and, I, despite what so many colleagues might be reporting, I haven't seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. However, what we are concerned about and what we haven't really heard you address is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how in this climate you're going to take care of it. There have been reports out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people who are committing anti-semitic acts or threatening to --
Trump cut him off:
You know he's said that he's going to ask a very simple, easy question. And it's not. It's not a fair question. Sit down. I understand the rest of your question. So here's the story, folks.

Number one, I'm the least anti-Semitic person you've seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person. In fact, we can very well relative to other people running as a Republican —

Quiet, quiet, he lied about getting up asking a straight, simple question, so, you know, welcome to the world of the media.

Let me just tell you something, that I hate the charge. I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me, and you heard the Prime Minister. You heard Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday. Did you hear him? Bebe, he said, "I've known Donald Trump for a long time. Then he said, forget it." So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question.
However, a short while later, as the conference was wrapping up, Sirius XM reporter Jared Rizzi asked the president: "I'll follow up on my colleague's question about anti-Semitism. It's not about your personality or your beliefs. We're talking about a rise in anti-Semitism around the country. Some of it by supporters in your name. What can you do to deter that?"

Trump blamed it on “the other side”:
And some of it — and can I be honest with you? And this has to do with racism and horrible things that are put up, some of it written by our opponents. You do know that? Do you understand that? You don't think that anybody would do a thing like that.

Some of the signs you'll see are not put up by the people that love or like Donald Trump. They're put up by the other side. And you think it's, like, playing it straight? No. You have some of those signs and anger that is caused by the other side. They'll do signs and they'll do drawings that are inappropriate. It won't be my people. It will be the people on the other side to anger people like you.
Earlier in the week, at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump was asked a similar question:
Mr. President, since your election campaign and even after your victory, we've seen a sharp rise in the anti-Semitic incidents across the United States, and I wonder, what do you say to those among the Jewish community in the states and Israel, and maybe around the world, who believe and feel that your administration is playing with xenophobia and maybe racist tones?
Trump replied with a rambling discourse on his Electoral College victory.

"Well, I just want to say that we are very honored by the victory that we had, 306 electoral college votes," he said. "We were not supposed to crack 220, you know that, right? There was no way to 221, but then they said there's no way to 270. And there's tremendous enthusiasm out there."

Trump proceeded to call for an end to racism and "every other thing that's going on."

"I will say that we are going to have peace in this country," he continued. "We are going to stop crime in this country. We are going to do everything within our power to stop long-simmering racism and every other thing that's going on. A lot of bad things have been taking place over a long period of time."

The SPLC has been tracking the wave of hate incidents that, one month after the election, totaled 1,094 cases. Of those, over 440 were directly connected to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign – either through the invocation of his name, as when violent perpetrators chant his name to intimidate minorities or leave it as a graffiti-styled threat, or through invocation of his campaign slogans, such as people shouting at immigrants: “Make America white again!”

“Mr. Trump claims he’s surprised his election has unleashed a barrage of hate across the country,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen in November. “But he shouldn’t be. It’s the predictable result of the campaign he waged. Rather than feign surprise, Mr. Trump should take responsibility for what’s occurring, forcefully reject hate and bigotry, reach out to the communities he’s injured, and follow his words with actions to heal the wounds his words have opened.”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Gaffney Proposes a Smashing Replacement for Flynn in NSA Seat: 'Jerry' Boykin

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Frank Gaffney, one of the unofficial advisers behind President Trump’s Muslim travel ban and a key right-wing voice on national security issues, has a nominee in mind to replace former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – a bold choice, someone he thinks can help the new chief executive overcome the Flynn debacle.

Ret. Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin.

On Tuesday, Gaffney tweeted his advice to Trump: “Retired Lieutenant General William 'Jerry' Boykin is that man. He can help Trump make America great again.”

Gaffney expanded the idea further in a column for the right-wing webzine Newsmax titled “Trump Must Channel Reagan on National Security Post.” He referenced Reagan’s 1986 selection of William Clark as national security advisory.

“Like Ronald Reagan, [Trump] needs a top hand who has the judgment and ability to staff up and guide a national security team to achieve victory over Jihad,” he wrote. “Retired Lieutenant General William "Jerry" Boykin is that man.”

Gaffney also appeared on the Breitbart News Daily XM Radio program and promoted Boykin further. “We need a similar guy. I have a candidate. I’m sure that’s the kiss of death, but I believe the guy who should replace General Mike Flynn is another retired Army lieutenant general by the name of William ‘Jerry’ Boykin,” Gaffney told host Alex Marlow.

He said Boykin has “that kind of clarity and courage under fire, most especially, of an extraordinary leader of men, one of our most decorated special operators.”

“This is the guy for this time, I think, and I hope that Donald Trump will think about bringing him in. He knows him, he worked with him in the course of the campaign, and he would, I believe, help him execute a strategy for victory over jihad, which is what we need at the moment,” he said.

However, if Trump is seeking to avoid controversy, Boykin might not fit the bill.

Boykin came to national prominence while still in the Army during the Iraq war, when he gave a speech about hunting down strongman Osman Atto in Mogadishu. "He went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, 'They'll never get me because Allah will protect me. Allah will protect me.' Well, you know what? I knew that my God was bigger than his," Boykin told the Los Angeles Times. "I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." He also told a religious group in Oregon that Islamic extremists hate the United States “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian.”

Alongside a history of many other controversial remarks, Boykin has said that “Americans need to have more babies” to counteract the world’s growing Muslim population, called President Obama a “Communist dictator” who is using psychological operations on Americans, claimed that the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” doctrine has led to the “absolute destruction” of the military, warned that Obama is “creating a Marxist nation” with an agenda “straight out of the Communist Manifesto," and even theorized that Obamacare is part of a conspiracy to create a “Brownshirt army.”

In 2014, Boykin was caught on a hot mic making an awkward attempt at humor by telling a reporter from Israel that “Jews are the problem” and the “cause of all the problems in the world.”

In 2015, he told a gathering of the extremist anti-LGBT organization Watchmen on the Walls that Christians in America were being persecuted, and that it was time for them to rise up “like an Army.”

“This SOGI [sexual orientation and gender identity] nonsense is an example of exactly what they’re trying to do us,” Boykin said. “They’re trying to put us in a situation where we’re going to lose our businesses, where we’re going to be forced to accept what Adolf Hitler forced the church to accept in Germany in 1937.”

“We’re at war,” Boykin said, as he declared that the push for gay rights is “evil” and cannot be compared to the fight for civil rights: “This is not about civil rights, this is about the evil that has come into our society and is trying to destroy our ability and our freedom to be able to worship our god as we choose.”

“We’re not rising up against evil,” he warned. “When we rise up against evil, we’ve got to rise up like an army. We’ve got to act like we’re in the military because, in fact, we are God’s army.”

Since 2012, Boykin has been executive vice president of the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBT hate group.

Gaffney himself is no stranger to extremism. His Center for Security Policy regularly demonizes of Muslims both abroad and in the United States. He travels around the country and holds daylong conferences devoted to promoting those smears, along with a heavy dose of conspiracy theories and crackpot claims. He is also credited with having helped foment a significant wave of Islamophobia in the U.S. that crested in 2016.

Nonetheless, Gaffney’s CSP has played a critical role in shaping the Trump administration's foreign policy regarding Muslims. Trump made headlines during the campaign when he cited dubious statistics generated by Gaffney’s group to defend his proposal for a ban on all immigration by Muslims into the United States.

Trump reportedly received advice on “national security issues” from Gaffney during his transition, but Gaffney said he did not have a formal position with the new administration.

Even with Gaffney's support, however, Boykin is unlikely to be chosen. According to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Trump has narrowed down the choice to replace Flynn to three candidates: Ret. Admiral Robert Harward, Ret. Gen. David Petraeus, and Ret. Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Why You Cannot Defend Orcas and Donald Trump Simultaneously

Donald Trump meets with Blackstone Group executive Jonathan Gray.

It seems almost counterintuitive that a person who spends their time advocating on behalf of killer whales might support a politician like Donald Trump.

For good reason: Trump is notoriously anti-empathetic -- particularly when it comes to LGBT people, Muslims, Hispanics, and other minorities -- and indisposed to even expanding civil rights for his fellow humans. It would be astonishing if someone who produced two big-game-trophy-hunting sons were ever to advocate on behalf of such entities so beneath him in the hierarchy of things as animals.

And yet, there are such folks. A few of them are my friends. So I'm here to explain to them why any support for the current occupant of the White House is support both for the current regime of enclosure in tiny tanks for the captive-orca population, as well as for the eventual extinction of the Southern Resident killer whale population, as well as inflicting harm on all the world's wild orcas generally.

You are being, in short, no friend of the orcas, either captive or wild.

First, it's important to know that the nemesis of orca captivity reformers -- SeaWorld -- is closely allied with Donald Trump.

SeaWorld's majority stockholder is the Blackstone Group, the onetime owners of the company who took its stock public and who have taken the biggest hit from the Blackfish effect. Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman has been one of Trump's biggest cheerleaders in the media. And the admiration is clearly mutual; Trump recently invited Schwarzman along for a ride on Air Force One.

(It was Schwarzman, you'll recall, who put his foot in the company mouth on national television by blaming Dawn Brancheau for her death when she was attacked by Tilikum: Challenged about SeaWorld's stock, Schwarzman told his CNBC host that the company had only "had one safety lapse -- interestingly, with a situation where the person involved violated all the safety rules that we had." The company quickly tried to backtrack, saying that Schwarzman had "misspoken," explaining that "his comments did not accurately reflect the facts of the accident or SeaWorld’s longstanding position on it.")

One of Trump's earliest rumored picks for Treasury Secretary was Blackstone Real Estate president Jonathan Gray. Instead, he chose Steve Mnuchin, the notorious "foreclosure king."

What Schwarzman is particularly hopeful of is that Trump will heavily deregulate business. For businesses like SeaWorld, that will mean potentially releasing them from OSHA regulations, not to mention those from APHIS.

Speaking of APHIS: Trump named Brian Klippenstein, the notorious puppy-mill defender, to the transition team making his choice for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The website of Klippenstein's organization, Mother Jones notes, "stresses the importance of 'defending our traditions,' and includes photos of performing elephants."

The man they chose -- former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue -- is close to agribusiness interests and a Confederacy fan to boot. He also has long been closely affiliated with the Georgia Aquarium, which has been fighting to keep cetaceans in captivity through their beluga collection. That is a fight it has been losing -- until now.

In early February, Trump's new USDA promptly blacked out all previously available information on puppy-mill operations. The agency released an Orwellian statement saying it removed the information “based on our commitment to being transparent … and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals.”

And those are just the concerns around captive cetaceans. Trump's ascension to the presidency is even more troubling, and likely devastating, to the wild killer whale population of the Salish Sea -- and for wildlife, particularly the endangered kind, in the USA and elsewhere generally.

Those who follow my work regularly, and particularly in the past year, are well aware that the Southern Residents are slowly starving to death. This trend reached its apotheosis this year, when we lost seven whales, including the century-old matriarch, J2 Granny, at the end of the year.

The orphaned J-54, starving after his mother's death, is supported in the water by family members shortly before his own demise.
It was truly a gut-wrenching experience this year, watching familiar orcas like the great J-28 slowly waste away from malnutrition. Then we saw her orphaned and unweaned calf, J-54, slowly starve to death too. At the end, he was so weak, he was being held up in the water by his sister, J-46 Star, and cousin, who were so desperate to keep him afloat they were raking him with their teeth. But he died anyway.

One of the keys to getting them the salmon they need, as most orca advocates are aware, will be removing the four dams on the Lower Snake River and restoring the salmon habitat behind them, to provide them with more Chinook at the mouth of the Columbia in the critical winter and spring months.

However, these dams have been held in place forever because they have been a political football of the rabid Republican right in Washington state since the 1990s, when they held rallies with bulldozers to defend their dams from the threat of those urban environmentalist liberals from Seattle who wanted to restore the salmon runs by tearing them down. That mentality has never abated.

One of their chief defenders, in fact, is Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers of Spokane, a sturdy Republican who wields considerable power in the House. McMorris-Rodgers not only defends the dams, she wants to pass legislation that will make them permanent. In other words, she is hoping to prevent a federal judge's impending order (that might take effect in as soon as five years) from removing the dams. Here's what she recently wrote:
There are some who believe the Snake River dams are not allowing for adequate salmon recovery. However, thanks to collaboration between states, tribes, federal agencies, and private property owners, our salmon are returning at record levels. Since 2014, more than 2.5 million adult salmon and steelhead passed Bonneville Dam, the highest returns since they began counting in 1938. The Sockeye, Fall Chinook, and Coho were also among record and near-record runs as well.
In reality, salmon runs on the Columbia have collapsed in the past two years; those "record" runs were not the result of rehabilitation measures, but rather reflected a short-term experiment on the river when the system was flooded with large numbers of salmon fry to see what the effect might be.

Cathy McMorris-Rodgers after meeting with Trump
It won't matter, however. Not only is McMorris-Rodgers one of the most powerful members of the Republican House now in control in Washington, she's also a close ally and longtime supporter of Donald Trump. He briefly considered her for his Interior Secretary position (and was even reported to be the choice in the press), but then went with Ryan Zinke instead, choosing to keep McMorris-Rodgers in her influential role in the Congress.

Afterwards, she said that Trump had asked her about federal lands policies: "He wanted to know what steps we could be taking," she said. "He’s very interested in more access on federal lands."

The dams, of course, are hardly the only front on which the Trump administration -- and the complete Republican control of the Congress -- are going to wreak havoc for wild orcas. Salmon-habitat restoration fights in the West have all revolved around entrenched business interests that would be harmed (or at least face added costs) by the steps required to bring back the fish.

So naturally, salmon -- and, consequently, orcas -- will be among the main species affected by the recent announcement that the Republican House intends to gut the Endangered Species Act. Another Republican actually has introduced legislation to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency altogether.

In the meantime, global climate change -- and the ocean acidification that accompanies it, which in turn is believed to be playing a major role in the decline of salmon populations -- will continue at full blast, because we the USA now has an administration led by a man who believes that global warming is a "Chinese hoax."

Look, it's hard to say what attracted any orca lover into the Donald Trump camp. Maybe you thought it would have no effect on the orcas you love. But as your friends, we're asking you to wake up and smell the coffee. You made a bad choice. You have empowered the very people who will do the most possible harm to our black-and-white friends. We all mistakes, right?

But moving beyond them entails a first, essential step: You have to cop to it.

And then let's move on to making a real difference for these orcas. That's going to entail real political awareness going forward. And knowing just who your enemies, and who your friends, really are.