Debate: Who’s Keeping Birtherism Alive?

Alex Knepper and Cinzia Croce from New American Perspective debate who is responsible for the continued existence of Birtherism in American Politics.

Why Won’t Birtherism Die?

By: Alex Knepper

America’s Worst Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a petty despot with a cruel streak to rival that of Roy Moore, has jumped into the Arizona Senate race. It is — or should be — common knowledge that Arpaio wasted five years blowing through taxpayer money on a wild goose chase for President Barack Obama’s ‘real’ birth certificate (the one produced by the White House is fake, of course; any evidence that Obama was born in Hawaii is to be rejected a priori). Arpaio just yesterday declared once again that the former president’s birth certificate is ‘phony.’ Why today, with Obama out of office forever, is Arpaio still fixated on the ‘Birther’ question? What difference, at this point, does it make?

The prevailing narrative on the right about President Obama is that he was a leftist infiltrator who doesn’t love his country and is bitter and resentful toward white people. Let us recall what Marco Rubio was repeating as Chris Christie murdered his campaign during that New Hampshire debate two years ago: the problem with Obama wasn’t, as John McCain alleged in 2008, that he was inexperienced and unready for the job on Day One, he said. No: the problem was that Obama knew exactly what he was doing, and he did it because, in a word, he doesn’t love America. For Sen. Rubio, as for Fox News, Breitbart, talk radio charlatans like Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, President Trump, etc., Obama wanted to ‘fundamentally transform’ this nation the image of leftist ideology because he’s not a ‘real’ American, whether literally or ideologically.

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Trump’s Racist Comments on Africa Obfuscate a Domestic Political Struggle in America​

By: David O. Monda

Presidents Trump’s racist comments on Africa obfuscate a deeper political struggle in America. Africa finds itself at the center of a tricky political play by an American president desperate to consolidate his base via blatantly racist comments. President Trump criticized immigration from Africa by calling African nations “shithole countries” at a meeting with US Congress members.  He suggested the United States focus its immigration policy on entry of immigrants from countries like Norway. Africa is not a collection of “shithole countries”. However, the American President’s comments illustrate a complex play at consolidating his political base through racist rhetoric.

A background of historical context is necessary in contextualizing Mr. Trump’s comments. The legacy of the transatlantic slave trade remains a problem in dealing with race relations in America. This is because people of African ancestry were repeatedly considered as less human in the United States than people of European ancestry. In addition to this, the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade devastated African economies and went a long way in creating the modern state of marginalization of the continent in global trade and commerce.

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Performing a Seduction: Performance Art Houston’s “Political Seducer’s Diary”

By: By Jeanette Joy Harris and Steven Martz

“The Political Seducer’s Diary,” is an Instagram-based performance art exhibit by Performance Art Houston that ran from November to December 2017 on @PerformanceArtHouston. Inspired by Kierkegaard’s “The Seducer’s Diary,” the exhibit delved into the question of how “what is beautiful” might determine “what is just” and ultimately affect politics.

Jeanette Joy Harris, the organizer of the project and one of the contributing artists, reflects on it below:

The Instagram handle @kimkierkegaardashian has six posts, most of which would certainly make the great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard cringe. One is a picture of one elephant giving another a bouquet of daisies, saying, “Some people won’t love you no matter what you do and some people won’t stop loving you no matter what you do. Go where love is!” Appropriate for Kim Kardashian’s very public romantic life, but ironic for a man who abandoned romantic love for a lifetime of philosophy. In short, @kimkierkegaardasian has used celebrity appeal to promote a philosopher. In this context, it is hard not to envision Kardashian in a tight designer dress, seducing people into attending a Kierkegaard lecture by using the type of banal pick-up line that a hostess would use to woo you into a sidewalk cafe.

As an artist, curator, and writer based in Houston, I am interested in this combination of the aesthetic and seduction, and especially in how it overlaps with public dialogue and politics. This is the goal of my recent Instagram-based, performance art exhibition, “The Political Seducer’s Diary.” Using social media as a platform, I invited eight artists from around the world to consider how aesthetics and seduction affect public life.

Julia Claire Wallace, director of Experimental Action, invited me to participate in the organization’s larger project that explores how performance art interacts with social media. Like me, Wallace is interested in the political possibilities of Instagram, particularly since its image-based platform would seem to make political speech a difficult endeavor. After conversations with Wallace and a recent reading of Kierkegaard’s “The Seducer’s Diary,” I asked my artists to delve deeper into how “what is beautiful” might determine “what is just” and ultimately affect politics. This resulted in the two-month exhibition, “The Political Seducer’s Diary,” which ran from November to December 2017 on @PerformanceArtHouston. Each artist took control of the handle for one week and looked at topics from assault to consumerism.

My project had two goals: First, to use the term ‘political’ in the classical sense, broadening it to a description of issues that are shared in community. This opened up the possibility for artists to look at social issues beyond party politics. Second, to use Kierkegaard’s articulation of aesthetics in “The Seducer’s Diary” as a starting place to ask the question: what if aesthetics not only guided our personal actions but political actions, as well?

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Israel’s Outreach in Africa Continues at the Kenyan President’s Inauguration

By: David O. Monda

The presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at festivities surrounding the inauguration of President Uhuru Kenyatta illustrates Tel Aviv’s continuing diplomatic offensive to gain allies on the African continent. The history of Israel and Africa has been frosty at best. The Yom Kippur War and the resultant Oil Crisis in 1973 forced many African countries to sever relations with Israel or face economic ruin. However, the close association of Israel and the apartheid regime in South Africa did the most to sour relations between Africa and the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has brought a reevaluation of Israel’s foreign policy priorities in relation to Africa. Israel has sought to reengage the African continent and specifically the Sub Saharan region where it is likely to have more fruitful returns on its diplomatic efforts relative to the Northern African states. In July 2016, the Prime Minister met the heads of state of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia in Entebbe, Uganda. At the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) conference in Monrovia Liberia in June this year, Netanyahu stressed Israel’s ability to provide technological and military support to African countries.

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Canada’s Transgender Rights Bill is incoherent—and that’s a concern

By: Hendrik van der Breggen

Canada’s Bill C16, a.k.a. Transgender Rights Bill, attempts to add gender identity and expression to human rights and hate-crime laws. Below I argue (with Jordan B. Peterson’s help) that the bill is incoherent. I also show why, logically, that’s a concern—for everyone.

Jordan B. Peterson, a psychology professor at U of Toronto and an outspoken critic of Bill C16, appeared in a Senate hearing on Bill C16. He expressed concern that the bill compels speech, and thus is a threat to free speech. He also testified to Bill C16’s incoherence—my interest here.

Peterson’s testimony correctly points out that the appropriate context of interpretation for C16 is constituted by the policies of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), as was indicated by a link at the website of the Department of Justice. (The link was later taken down, which is a discussion for another time, a discussion having to do with this question: Are Bill C16 proponents hiding something?)

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The Grand Trumpeter

By: Philip James Villamor (Many Thanks to Fyodor Mikailovich Dostoevsky)

Trumpeter (from Dictionary.com) – 4) A person who proclaims, commends, or extols something loudly or widely. And, interestingly, 5) Any of several large South American birds… related to the cranes and rails, having a loud, harsh, prolonged, cry.

Even this immediately recognizable plagiarism of ideas from Dostoevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor” must have a preface, although I am a poor hand at making one. Nonetheless, as in that incomparable poem, the story to be told here imagines heavenly powers interacting with mankind – albeit something short of the second coming – which allows for some insight into the motives or rationale of otherwise incomprehensible others. In this case, however, you will be spared the insight of characters discussing the merit of those arguments, partly because this is not the middle of a book where those characters’ personalities have already been established and mostly because this author lacks the commitment and actual talent to do so.

The action of the story to be told does not occur in the sixteenth century, where it was customary in poetry to bring down heavenly powers to earth, but in the twenty-first century, where the prospect of heavenly powers -let alone the Messiah- materializing on earth is so far from expected as to no longer merit a poet’s ponderings. Nonetheless, this story is told in the spirit of those sixteenth century tales and one notable nineteenth century one. In an effort to parallel that nineteenth century tale, as well as bring hope to the heart, the story is told as if what is being described is in the distant past and the days described are long behind us.


He came to the United States of America at a time quite different than that of the Catholic Crisis which Dostoevsky had observed in Spain. The prevailing perversion of many Americans was, making use of their democracy as a godly tool, purporting to protect their way of life they viewed as threatened by forces both from without and within by demonizing and pre-judging those forces. The forces being Bad Hombres who immigrate illegally to the country bringing with them crime and drug addiction (not to mention infidels from Muslim nations that want to kill all Americans), and loose laws by tolerant administrations that allowed for morally degenerate groups like homosexuals, transsexuals, and others to claim better or near equal footing in business and government relations.

And so, as different as the circumstances and nature of the institutions involved in the sixteenth and twenty-first centuries might be, the choice between security and happiness or complete freedom was still the conflict of the day. The difference, an important one to be sure, was that it was no longer one or a few members of an institution making the choice to take away freedom and provide security and happiness but the masses themselves proclaiming the virtues of this argument, hoping for and then electing a politician brazen enough to take on the task. Such was the situation when He came again.

And, behold, He came once more in a human shape similar to that in which He walked among men for thirty-three years twenty-one centuries ago. He came down to the hot pavements of the streets of Yuma, Arizona, the very same as which, on the day before, almost a hundred illegal immigrants had, Ad majorem Trump gloriam, been rustled up by a local town’s sheriff and deported back to Mexico. And, as luck – or fate – would have it, He came on a day that President Trump was to hold a rally at the local arena for the Trump faithful – those neglected, tried and true Americans who had for too long waited for a leader to bring law, order, and patriotism back to the United States of America. He came on a day when Donald Trump was locked and loaded, ready and willing to expound on how to Make America Great Again.

He came, at least in appearance, as an undocumented Mexican American, moving through the crowds of Trump supporters as comfortably as might a white representative of Breitbart News. He wore beat up jeans and a stained tee-shirt. His face was unshaven, with a week’s growth, and His hair was slightly disheveled, thick as if with dirt from recent labors. At first glance, one might assume that He had come straight from the fields, but the grace with which He moved through the crowd and the steady gaze of His eyes belied the aforementioned details. The masses parted for Him as he made His way from the back end of the arena towards the front, as the presence they felt was not that of a common field worker. He was unrecognizable, yet somehow entirely different from anyone with whom they had ever come into contact with, and many seemed to know exactly who He was…

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Why Yoweri Museveni’s Retirement is Key to Uganda’s Democratization

By: David O. Monda

Uganda is romantically idealized as the Pearl of Africa. The reality is that in the field of democratization, the Pearl of Africa metamorphoses into the Peril of Africa. This is because the example of Museveni’s mockery of Uganda’s constitution is being replicated in many African countries. African presidents have discovered ways to amend their national constitutions to perpetuate themselves in power at the expense of democratization in their countries. These constitutional amendments have the effect of institutionalizing the individual in power rather than building the institutions that will safeguard the nation long after the individual president is gone. Yoweri Museveni’s retirement is key to Uganda’s democratization.

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Battle of Ideas

This is your invitation to enter the fray. To attack or defend ideas that matter.

Political Animal Magazine is running a contest for short op-ed style articles that look at politics in terms of the ideas that underlie them.

We are looking for articles that take a philosophic argument or claim, explain why it matters to politics today, and make a case why it is right or wrong. Winning submissions will clearly and compellingly articulate the meaning and merit of the ideas in question. Pieces should be no more than 2000 words, written in an op-ed or blog style that is accessible to intelligent general readers, and highlight the role of ideas in politics.


Theme: Net Neutrality

The theme of the contest is Net Neutrality. On December 14 2017, the FCC is scheduled to vote on repeal of the net neutrality rules put into place by the Obama administration.

We want articles that explore the deeper theoretical implications of the issue. Examples of questions might be: Is net neutrality a challenge to the free market? Is the internet a public good, on the terms articulated by economists such as Paul Samuelson and James M. Buchanan? Does the internet protect our liberties with the access it provides, or compromise them, by restricting the sorts of exchanges we can engage in, and what role should government have in shaping its future?

Award

The two submissions judged best will each receive an award of $50. We will publish all submissions of note, including crosslinks to any other sites on which the pieces appear, should you request this.

Deadline

The deadline for submissions is Jan 30, 2017. Submissions should be sent to submissions@politicalanimalmagazine.com, with the email subject “Contest”.

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Why Doug Jones Matters

By: Caleb Mills

It was September in Birmingham, crisp northern winds rolling down from Appalachia to meet the heat of the American South. It was clear fall was coming. And with fall came hopes of a new year, and perhaps a more peaceful time for the African-American community living in one of America’s most violent cities.

Whatever doubts many had about the direction of the nation – one that seemingly had no place for a black man seeking equality – children still played, schools still taught, and church bells could still be heard.

One of those children was Cynthia Wesley. Cynthia was a pretty girl, her dimpled face in pictures are caressed with dark lavish curls and a toothy grin that, sadly, seems out of place on someone who grew up in those times. Her eyes were large and dark, almost always dancing off the smile on her face every time the camera went snap.

Wesley grew up in a town charged with animosity based on color and sex, so for the little 9th grader in that historic year of 1963, the innocence of childhood probably did not completely shield her from the struggles her community faced. Certainly with friends like Denise McNair, her 11-year-old Sunday school buddy who dreamed at a very young age of fighting for Social Justice, she must have heard the stories of those killed and persecuted for the color of their skin; the color of her skin.

However, Cynthia wasn’t into all that. She wanted to help in different ways. Watching her parents example growing up, Cynthia longed to teach like her father and mother. She wanted more than to be defined by centuries of racial prejudice. She wanted to be more than a little black girl.

Birmingham couldn’t stop her from dreaming; but it could do something far, far worse.

The 15th was a Sunday, and just like every Sunday in Birmingham, bells were ringing across the city, calling finely-clad church-goers, black and white, were on their way to attend worship services. In the 16th Street Baptist Church, Cynthia and three other girls, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, and Carole Robertson, were in the basement changing into their choir robes, tying each other’s dress sashes, maybe giggling at gossip, maybe chatting about schoolwork.

Whatever they were doing, they never finished.

The room erupted into a hellish landscape of screams, fear and terror as 15 pieces of TNT blew a hole in the church’s basement. Fire enveloped the room, and the dreams 4 little girls were crushed forever. Science class had lost their best student. The world was deprived of a future teacher. And 8 parents lost one of the few things that provided them with a glimmer of light in those dark times.

There was nothing special about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. It was the latest in a heinous string of bombings that had earned the city the nickname Bombingham. And although it shocked the nation, very little changed. This was just another day in Birmingham, Alabama.


As Alabamians prepare to go to polls on December 12th to elect a new senator, it’s easy to get caught up in the mindset that nothing ever changes: Alabama is a place filled with racial tension, poverty, and a sad history representing America’s ultimate sin. And in terms of day-to-day politics, the Republican has it in the bag. After all, it is Alabama.

However, the race between civil rights lawyer Doug Jones and former State Supreme Court judge Roy Moore is tighter than expected according to recent polls and analysis. This is historic in several ways. It’s the first time in decades a Democrat has a chance of winning. And the race’s tone harkens back to days long past, with Moore clearly appealing to a mindset molded by Nixonian southern politics.

To see why Doug Jones really matters, you have to understand what he’s running against. And that means revisiting the 1960s, when southern politics realigned, creating the worldview in which Roy Moore operates.

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Why Computers are not Intelligent: An Argument

By: Richard Oxenberg

I. Two Positions

The strong AI advocate who wants to defend the position that the human mind is like a computer often waffles between two points of view that are never clearly distinguished, though actually quite distinct. Let us call them ‘position A’ and ‘position B.’ Position A argues that human minds are like computers because they are both ‘intelligent.’ Position B argues that human minds are like computers because they both lack intelligence. The reason these positions are often confused is because of an ambiguity or vagueness in the understanding of what intelligence itself is. But, if we are to consider this question in such a way as to make it relevant for an investigation into the nature of the human mind then we must define intelligence in a way that captures what we mean when we say that a human being is intelligent. I propose the following definition: a being is intelligent to the extent that it is able to knowingly make decisions for the fulfillment of a purpose. Again, this definition of intelligence is based on the effort to capture what we mean when we say that a human being has ‘intelligence.’

Let us, then, consider the two AI positions with this in mind.

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