From The Final Call Newspaper

Blood & Politics: Incivility, vitriol, violence and American politics

By Askia Muhammad, Starla Muhammad and Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad | Last updated: Jun 20, 2017 - 1:36:36 PM

Bookmark and Share

What's your opinion on this article?
(L) In this Jan. 8, 2011, file photo, emergency personnel work at the scene where Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., and others were shot outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Ariz. Survivors of the mass shooting at a constituent event hosted by former U.S. Rep. Giffords said Wednesday's attack at a congressional baseball practice brought back painful memories of the day six were killed and 13 were injured in what was supposed to be a time for citizens to engage in the political process. (R)Crime scene investigators search for evidence on an automobile with a damaged driver's window at the scene of a multiple shooting involving a member of Congress during a Congressional baseball practice, June 14, in Alexandria, Va.

WASHINGTON - The blood sport of political rhetoric—which has led to wanton violence visited upon innocent Black people and Muslims around the country since the Trump political campaign—visited Republican members of the U.S. Congress in mid-June.

The encounter left the third-ranking House member seriously injured, four others hurt, and the reported shooter dead in Arlington, Va.

ATF at crime scene in Alexandria, VA where GOP House leader Steve Scalise is among 4 injured in Virginia shooting while practicing for charity baseball game. Photos: MGN Online
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who confessed in 2014 that he may have spoken at a 2002 rally organized by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, was critically injured by an angry purported supporter of the Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign, as Mr. Scalise and others practiced June 14 for a century-old charity baseball game to be held the next day. After four days in intensive care, and several operations, at presstime Mr. Scalise’s condition was upgraded from “critical” to “serious” by officials at the Washington Hospital Center.

The incident sent the Capitol into shock. Ironically, the Capitol Police Board and many in the congressional leadership commended two officers assigned to the Whip’s leadership security detail with praise for their “immediate and decisive actions” which prevented more injuries. Both of the officers who were injured when they returned the shooter’s fire, ironically, are Black.

“We are profoundly grateful for the heroism of the Capitol Police, whose bravery under fire undoubtedly saved countless lives,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “On days like today, there are no Democrats or Republicans, only Americans united in our hopes and prayers for the wounded.”

The call to tone down political sniping and rhetoric was espoused on both sides of the aisle soon after the shooting, even by those guilty of utilizing and benefiting from partisan vitriol, namely the current U.S. president.

A pattern of vitriol
Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL.) believes that there were hints of serious division as early as the 2016 presidential campaign. “There were lot of warnings during the campaign; one is that the vices, tactics, approaches were not good for the country,” he told The Final Call.

“There is tremendous division in America in terms of the split of those who fuse one thing one way. There is extremism on the right and to some degree extremism on the left. The people on the right are talking about taking back the country,” said the Chicago Democrat.

During the contentious presidential campaign, Mr. Trump promised to pay the legal fees of one of his supporters who sucker-punched a Black protestor who was in police custody, Democrats, Black people, and Muslims have been under relentless attack.

“We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans,” said Mr. Trump in remarks delivered from the White House in response to the Arlington shooting. “Our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace and that we are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good,” he added.

“We may have our differences, but we do well, in times like these, to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country,” said Mr. Trump. This is a far cry from the man behind the “birther” movement that attempted to discredit and delegitimize his predecessor and first Black U.S. president Barack Obama. And a candidate who famously stated he could stand in the middle of Times Square in New York City, “shoot anybody” and no one would care—and who egged on his audiences on the campaign trail to “lock her up” in reference to Hilary Clinton and verbally eviscerated his primary opponents with belittling and demeaning comments.
Ted Nugent
Even serial-Obama basher, Ted Nugent who once called the former president a “subhuman mongrel,” “a piece of s--t,” and compared him to a Nazi and who was invited to Mr. Trump’s White House—sang a different tune. On the June 18 airing of Fox & Friends, he pledged to be more “civil” in his political discourse.

“I just think in these heightened, exciting times politically, I am reaching out across the aisle, and I’m saying we must all unite to bring no violence, no harm to any of our fellow Americans,” said Mr. Nugent.

How long this bipartisan “time out” will last is anyone’s guess. There were already disputes resurfacing between the Democrats and GOP a few days after the congressional baseball game that went on as scheduled. Senate Democrats accused Republicans of not being transparent when it comes to finalizing new healthcare legislation. Democrats planned to object to routine requests to let the chamber operate—whether it’s scheduling votes or allowing committees to meet for extended hearings—in a move aimed at escalating the fight over health care, reported Manu Raju of CNN. Doing so could eviscerate any bipartisan atmosphere that existed after the shooting, he noted.

“Unfortunately this anger is a continuous part of a cycle of violence in the United States and represents decades of political waring. This shows the level, climate of political division in the country. Look at what happened with the election of Trump,” said Todd Shaw, assistant professor of Political Science and African Studies at the University of South Carolina.

“We see that political anger has boiled over. And we know that the American people want to see things better … . But it has to start from the grassroots efforts, with locals who can raise questions of concerns for the leaders to listen to what’s important to the masses,” he told The Final Call.

Violence and anger has not just been reserved for those on the far right. Several conflicts resulting in violence have erupted on the far left as well. Several college campuses have been flashpoints of resistance to far-right speakers. Heated protests forced the cancellation of speakers slated to present at University of California-Davis and other universities. 

Missouri State Senator Jamilah Nasheed spoke very candidly about the recent shooting and felt what is being seen is to be expected—unless the two parties work together. “Many Americans are angry and we are witnessing the political discourse that has occurred since the election of President Trump, I don’t care which party it is, I don’t condone anyone being shot or killed because of disagreements,” she said.

“We are feeling the impact of a partisanship of America. And until the two parties can see the common good of every citizen then can we stop the feuding. The way things are now only the rich and powerful are benefitting the most from our local and national level. Lastly, I have to say, there’s a really dark cloud over this country and something has got to give,” said the state senator.

History of violence 
It could be stated that violence in U.S. politics is as American as apple pie and is rooted in the very foundation of the country. It is nothing new.

The threat and execution of violence around elections has a long, sad history in American politics, noted Jesse Rhodes, associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Similar to the 2016 presidential election, much of the conflict revolved around issues of race and immigration and “efforts by disadvantaged (and often nonwhite) citizens to secure greater political influence have been met with violent repression by those already enjoying power (usually more affluent Whites) throughout American history,” he noted in his article, “Violence has long been a feature of American elections.”

“Violent conflict surrounding elections goes all the way back to the beginning of American history. The Founding Era—often portrayed as a period dominated by outstanding, level-headed statesmen who set the United States on a course toward inevitable greatness—was actually a chaotic period,” he opined.

In 2011, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) and killing six people, including a nine-year-old girl. Before that shooting, 2008 GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs, according to The New York Times.

“The sad thing is that these mass shootings have become the new normal,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) told “Democracy Now!” “I mean, the extraordinary thing about what happened to Steve Scalise is that he’s a member of Congress. But, of course, that’s not even the first time that happened. Gabby Giffords was shot as she was doing Congress on Your Corner in her district only a few years ago. So, even members of Congress getting shot somehow has not prompted us to take a look at what we’re doing, and what we’re not doing, when it comes to making the country safer.”

Rep. Ellison and other Democrats urge stronger regulations on access to automatic, military-style assault weapons. But one Republican congress member urged further relaxation gun laws in the District of Columbia, even though the Scalise assault occurred in neighboring Virginia.

“They brought this on themselves,” a senior staff aide for a member of the Congressional Black Caucus told The Final Call. “And it’s only going to get worse.”

Indeed, on the day of the congressional shooting, three people were killed by an angry shooter at a San Francisco UPS facility.

“I do think, you know, just the Wild West atmosphere that we have, in terms of regulating firearms, is ridiculous,” Rep. Ellison continued. “And other countries don’t do this. And, of course, as a result, they’re a lot safer, when it comes to this danger.”

That Wild West atmosphere has resulted in four of the 45 U.S. Presidents being murdered in office and even more have survived serious assassination attempts. No other modern, industrial country has a record of violence in high office that even comes close.

“I above anyone in here,” Rep. Pelosi said on the House Floor the day after the shooting, “and I can say that quite clearly, have been probably the target of more—I’m a political target and therefore the target of more threats than anyone, other than the president of the United States, Barack Obama.”

What does the future hold?
The shooting of Rep. Scalise shows a clear picture of political divisions now and in the future, said many analysts. The question remains whether civil discourse is even possible amid these strident differences.

Another concern is that both major political parties do not pay enough attention to the most prominent and important issues such as racism, poverty and human rights. Jared Ball, a professor of media and Africana Studies and at Morgan State University, noted the incivility between parties is based on competition and opposing interests.

“What we see now, as ever, are two parties taking turns using one or another incident to fraudulently reposition themselves as legitimate representatives of their claimed constituencies and in uncivil opposition to one another. But it’s phony,” said Prof. Ball.

“If we had a political party that actually represented Black, Brown, Indigenous and working people there would be beautiful civility between our party and those in existence now that represent only the truest minority ever; the rich, the White, the male.”

Following the Virginia baseball practice attack, violence against Muslims escalated in this country and in the United Kingdom.

Darwin Martinez Torres, a suspect in the murder of a 17-year-old Muslim girl
Also following the shooting, in suburban Virginia, 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen, a Muslim girl on her way home from Ramadan prayers at a Virginia mosque, was abducted, assaulted and murdered June 18, her body dumped in a pond.

And a van plowed into worshippers near a London mosque in the early hours of June 19, injuring 10 people, two of them seriously, in what Prime Minister Theresa May said was a sickening, terrorist attack on Muslims.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, patriarch of the Nation of Islam, wrote about what he called “outlaw action” permitted in America and “precautionary action” should be taken to protect those in high government positions because they do not always have the full support or backing of the people.

In his monumental book, “The Fall of America,” Mr. Muhammad spoke of the time period of over 60 years between the assassinations of Presidents William McKinley and John F. Kennedy.
“Again, it shows to the world that the government of America and its people are actually given to such outlaw and violent action,” he wrote.

“To take human lives at will, disregarding their own legal law against such action, makes the country be classified as a country or government of outlaws—where people have no safety of their lives under the law which claims to safeguard the lives of human beings,” continued Mr. Muhammad.
His National Representative, Minister Louis Farrakhan, expressed concern a year before the election regarding the tone and tenor of what was happening in U.S. politics, warning it was “dangerous for the future of politics and for the future of America when we become uncivil in our discourse.”

From the rise of the anti-Obama Tea Party to the rise of and election of Donald Trump and the subsequent Resist Trump movement, the battle lines have been drawn. Ugly rhetoric and demonization of opponents have also been a formula for political success—and it may be a formula that is too alluring to resist, despite the sweet talk about softening language. But at what cost to the country?

(J.A. Salaam contributed to this report.)

From The Final Call Newspaper

Foreign and domestic wariness of Trump, Russian ties and America's national security

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Jun 6, 2017 - 1:35:17 PM

Bookmark and Share

What's your opinion on this article?

WASHINGTON—Multiple federal investigations are pondering over ample evidence that officials in the Donald Trump presidential campaign colluded with top level Russian officials to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential race, and that President Trump himself may have committed impeachable crimes to cover it up. In just five months, Mr. Trump has managed to stir up as much impeachment fervor, as it took President Richard Nixon more than five years to generate.

For example, five “current and former U.S. officials” told NBC news “they are aware of classified intelligence suggesting there was some sort of private encounter” between Mr. Trump, his son-in-law and unpaid White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and other diplomats at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel in the spring of 2016.
Protesters rally near the Intrepid Air and Sea Museum where President Trump was expected to visit May 4, in New York. Photo: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

The officials acknowledged to NBC News that the evidence does not amount to proof of any wrongdoing, and they have declined to provide details of that encounter, which is only the tip of an iceberg of plots, sub-plots, intrigue and espionage swirling in and around the Trump White House and Moscow.

An FBI Special Counsel and two Congressional committees are investigating a number of former and current Trump associates who received millions of dollars from Russian, Turkish, and even Ukrainian operators; as well as reports that the President himself sought to stifle the investigations by improperly trying to influence fired FBI Director James Comey; Daniel Coats, the current Director of National Intelligence; and Michel Rogers, the National Security Director.

At the center of the storm, and the individual closest to the President is Mr. Kushner, an accused slumlord, who, like his father-in-law, is adept at manipulating the political-economic system to rescue his sometimes shaky, real estate ventures.

What troubles investigators is the suggestion that Kushner and Sessions; former National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn—who lasted less than a month in office before being forced to resign for purportedly lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his Russian contacts; former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort; and former campaign aide Carter Page; not only met with Russian officials throughout the 2016 campaign, but then after the election they seemed  to seek a secret “back channel” to correspond directly with Russian officials without the knowledge of their own U.S. government.
Anti-Trump demonstrations in Chicago.

The conduct suggests that the Trump campaign had something to conceal from U.S. intelligence officials—whom Mr. Trump criticized during the campaign—but that they undermined the principle that there is “only one president” at a time. The incoming Ronald Reagan administration manipulated the 400-some U.S. hostages held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, in order to guarantee Mr. Reagan’s electoral defeat of President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Mr. Kushner, who is only 36 years old, took over his family’s real estate empire 11 years ago when his father Charles Kushner was indicted, convicted, and sent to jail by then U.S. Attorney, and now Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, on charges of tax evasion, illegal campaign donations and witness tampering. At the same time, the younger Mr. Kushner purchased The New York Observer newspaper, but he made his mark with his ventures in real estate, often getting bailouts from questionable transactions with public money.

As a property manager, his tactics were cruel and heavy handed, according to published reports. “Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law, sues his Baltimore tenants for thousands of dollars in bogus debts, on which he also gets judgments allowing him to garnish their wages and drain their bank accounts,” Edward Ericson Jr. reported for the Baltimore City Paper, according to Richard Prince and his online column about the news media called “Journal-Isms.”
Benjamin Netanyahu, Jared Kushner and U.S. President Donald Trump are seen during their meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, May 22. Photos: MGN Online

“Pro Publica’s Alec MacGillis, who reports in a story for (the) New York Times Magazine that Kushner quietly bought-up thousands of modest and run-down apartment units in Essex and other Baltimore suburbs, whose tenants complain of poor maintenance, harsh rent collection techniques, and relentless pursuit of old and sometimes dubious debts generated after tenants moved out,” Mr. Prince continued. The majority of the affected tenants were Black.

“At one point in the story, a private investigator looking into Westminster Management, (Mr. Kushner’s) property management company says, ‘they’re nothing but slumlords.’” Ironically, Mr. MacGillis notes the private investigator is a Trump supporter and had no idea of the connection between Trump’s son-in-law and the firm he was investigating.

In another “deal,” Mr. Kushner took advantage of a federal program aimed at helping low-income communities to build a 50-story residential tower in a wealthy neighborhood in New Jersey. That’s according to The Washington Post, which reported that Mr. Kushner and his partners drew a map—similar to a gerrymandered congressional district—that falsely claimed the areas around the tower at 65 Bay Street in Jersey City were blighted.
(From left to right) Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, President Donald J. Trump and Sergey Kislyak, Russia's Ambassador to the U.S., May 10.

In fact, the map stretched miles into areas of south Jersey City, where poverty and unemployment are high, while avoiding affluent neighborhoods just blocks from the residential tower. The move gave Mr. Kushner’s company access to $50 million in low-cost financing under a program aimed at promoting investment in areas of high unemployment.

One of the most troubling of the labyrinthian threads in the Kushner drama is a secret meeting in December 2016 Mr. Kushner held with the chief executive of Vnesheconombank, a Russian state-owned bank that was under sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama.

Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State and former National Security Advisor under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford (left) shaking hands with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's Ambassador to the U.S. (right) with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in the back, May 11.
The bank maintained that the session was part of a new business strategy and was conducted with Mr. Kushner in his role as the head of his family’s real estate business. But the White House said the meeting was unrelated to business and was one of many diplomatic encounters the soon-to-be presidential adviser was holding ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration, according to The Washington Post.

“I would hope that the investigations of the Russia story focus on following the money, because as I’ve said to The Final Call before, I think that that’s really where the scandal lies, much more so than this question about hacking the elections which is the favorite hobby-horse of the Democrats,” Dr. Gerald Horne, professor of history and African American Studies at the University of Houston said in an interview.
“I think it’s more or less rampant greed. I think that many people do not like the United States that they’re seeing right now,” Dr. Horne continued. “It’s like they’re looking in the mirror and they don’t like the image that is staring back at them.

“But rather than coming to grips with that ugly reality, they are pointing the finger of accusation across the ocean, rather than come to grips with the fact that you have lots of backwards people in this country, which obviously comes as no surprise to readers of The Final Call, who are quite familiar with the history of slavery and Jim Crow. I would hope once again, that the Democrats in Congress focus on the ties between Mr. Trump and his family and Russian oligarchs, and move away from this story about hacking the election because I think that’s basically drilling a dry hole.”

Some progressive observers and even foreign policy experts are reluctant to talk about the Trump-Russia, can of worms. “I can’t think of anything I’d less like to talk about,” a retired U.S. ambassador to a Middle East country who did not want to be identified, told The Final Call. “It is appalling, a shattering tragedy with repercussions we can’t even imagine.”

“The scandals surrounding the Trump administration, particularly as it relates to Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner exhibits a culture of impunity and corruption, and it’s troubling for lots of reasons,” another foreign policy expert who did not want to be identified said in an interview. “It doesn’t bode well for our domestic and foreign policy, coming off the heels of the Obama administration where the U.S. already has foreign policy dictated by militarism and war. It seems like the Trump administration is only repeating that, shrouded in a new form of secrecy.

“Even if that’s not happening (selling state secrets to Moscow), what we do know about in the public in the Trump administration is already egregious enough that the public should be outraged. His financial conflicts of interest around the world; his very intimate and cozy relationship with (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu in Israel, perpetuating Israeli occupation; and trying to spend more on defense spending.

“Obviously there’s lots of concern about the connection between Trump’s people and Russia that we the public have the right to know about, and these investigations should reveal. But on the other hand, I think it’s very dangerous to be moving in this direction of ‘Russia is our enemy,’ creating a new Cold War,” the source said.

“So, I think for the Left, we have to define a very fine line, saying no to Trump; saying no to Trump’s private profiteering from the presidency; saying no to Trump’s obstruction of investigations; but recognizing that with all the problems there are in the world—the wars, the violence—we actually do need to be friends with the Russians, and find ways to work together, particularly to resolve the crisis in the Middle East.”

Woman holds anti-war sign.
Other progressive analysts agree. “I think there’s no, ‘national security risk,’. I think that what we’re witnessing is a full-scale witch-hunt against anyone who has contact with the Russians or says that they want to have improved relations with Russia—or even normal relations with Russia,” Brian Becker, with the International ANSWER Coalition told The Final Call. “We’re at a dangerous point in U.S. politics.

“Moreover, all we have is assertion and no proof. As you know, I am part of the grassroots resistance against Trump and its odious, racist, reactionary, xenophobic, misogynist policies, but that’s far different from what the Democratic Party elites are doing which is not fighting on the things that really matter to people, but instead asserting that Trump is a threat to national security, which is complete and absolute nonsense,” said Mr. Becker.

“I’d be more concerned about national security compromised by a system of government that is riddled with corruption, whether it’s Trump or not Trump,” Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, Women for Peace said in an interview.

“We just see Trump coming back from Saudi Arabia with a $110 billion arms deal. That’s compromising our national security,” Ms. Benjamin continued. “Saudi Arabia becoming, under Obama the largest purchaser of U.S. weapons in the world. Saudi Arabia, the country that spreads extremism, I would worry a lot more about that than I would, actually about connections with Russia.”

Even as the left-right axis has been turned on its head in this scandal, much suspicion of Russian aims and tactics remains. “The Russians are bad, alright. It doesn’t have anything to do with Communism,” Dr. David Bositis, a statistician and researcher said in an interview. “Vladimir Putin is a ‘klepto-crat.’ They steal money from the government. They kill people who try to defy the regime. He’s bad. Period.

“We don’t know what, but it appears that Donald Trump has something to do with him—he owes him something, he’s made money off of him. He is like Vladimir Putin’s best friend, and Vladimir Putin is not a person to have for a best friend.

“Look what happened to the Crimea. Look what happened to Ukraine. Those were independent countries that the Russians invaded and that Donald Trump and Kushner are perfectly happy to dump,” Dr. Bositis continued. “Obama spent almost all of his time in office punishing Russia, and Russia felt it.
“So (now) you have Obama who was tough with Russia, and Trump, who appears to be Vladimir Putin’s best friend. Here’s the thing: if Russia can do that with Crimea and Ukraine, he can do it—and he’s trying to do it—with the Baltic countries, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia. He’s trying to do it with some of the Eastern European countries. What Putin is trying to do is reassemble the old Soviet Union. It doesn’t have anything to do with ideology.

“Republicans used to fanatically anti-Communist. (Now) he is sucking up to Russia, and Russia is not an ally of the United States,” said Dr. Bositis.

But this country has its own aggressive military history to account for, according to Mr. Becker. “If we look at the wars that America has fought, they haven’t been defending our territory or our borders or our people,” Mr. Becker said.

“We’ve been in Korea. We were in Vietnam. We were in the Dominican Republic. We invaded Grenada. We invaded Panama. We invaded Iraq. We bombed Yugoslavia. We invaded Afghanistan. We invaded Iraq again. We bombed Libya. None of those wars, from my point of view, were about defending the country. They were wars of aggression.”

Bookmark and Share