‘It’s the end of the world as we know it,” sang the popular musical artistes R.E.M. many years ago. And it is. R.E.M. has announced that they’re splitting up after almost a third of a century. But these days who isn’t? The eurozone, the world’s first geriatric boy band, is on the verge of busting apart. Chimerica (Prof. Niall Ferguson’s amusing name for the Chinese-American economic partnership that started around the same time R.E.M. did) is going the way of Wham!, with Beijing figuring it’s the George Michael of the relationship and that it’s tired of wossname, the other fellow, who gets equal billing but doesn’t really do anything. The deeper problem may be that this is a double act with two wossnames.
Still, it’s the end of the world as we know it. Headline from CNBC: “Global Meltdown: Investors Are Dumping Nearly Everything.” I assumed “Nearly Everything” was the cute name of a bankrupt, worthless, planet-saving green-jobs start-up backed by Obama bundlers and funded with a gazillion dollars of stimulus payback. But apparently it’s “Nearly Everything” in the sense of the entire global economy. Headline from the Daily Telegraph of London: “David Cameron: Euro Debt ‘Threatens World Stability.’” But, if you’re not in the general vicinity of the world, you should be okay. Headline from the Wall Street Journal: “World Bank’s Zoellick: World In ‘Danger Zone.’” But, if you’re not in the general vicinity of . . . no, wait, I did that gag with the last headline.
I mentioned in this space a few weeks ago the IMF’s calculation that China will become the planet’s leading economic power by the year 2016. And I added that, if that provescorrect, it means the fellow elected next November will be the last president of the United States to preside over the world’s dominant economy. I thought that line might catch on. After all, we’re always told that every election is the most critical consequential watershed election of all time, but this one actually would be: For the first time since Grover Cleveland’s first term, America would be electing a global also-ran. But there’s not a lot of sense of America’s looming date with destiny in these presidential debates. I don’t mean so much from the candidates as from their media interrogators — which is more revealing of where the meter on our political conversation is likely to be during the general election.
On Thursday night, there was a question on gays in the military but none on the accelerating European debt crisis. It is certainly important to establish whether a would-be president is sufficiently non-homophobic to authorize a crack team of lesbian paratroopers to rappel into the Chinese treasury, break the safe, and burn all our IOUs. But the curious complacency about the bigger questions is disturbing.Greece is reported to be within weeks if not days of default.
There are two likely outcomes to this scenario:
Greece will default.
Germany and the Eurocrats will decide that default would be too embarrassing for the EU’s pretentions and will throw whatever sum of money is necessary into the great sucking maw of toxic ouzo to stave it off a while longer.
But Option Two doesn’t alter the underlying reality — that, if words have any meaning, Greece is insolvent, and given its rapidly aging population (100 grandparents have 42 grandchildren) is unlikely to be non-insolvent under any conceivable scenario, no matter how tightly German taxpayers are squeezed to pay for it. By the same measure, so are many other Western nations.On the other hand, attempting to postpone the Club Med welfare junkies’ rendezvous with self-extinction will destabilize internal German politics (which always adds to the gaiety of nations) and strain to breaking point what’s left of the European banking system. BNP Paribas, formerly Saddam’s favorite banker and Gallicly insouciant about who it climbs into bed with, was reported in recent days to be cruising the flusher sheikhdoms and emirates in search of a new sugar daddy.
Delivering French banks into the hands of Islamic imperialists seems a high price to pay for bailing out Athenian deadbeats.The question to ask is: What’s holding the joint up? In the case of the global economy, the answer is: Not much. The developed world’s combined economic-growth rate for 2012 is projected to be under 2 percent — and that’s a best-case scenario in times that don’t warrant much optimism. As its own contribution to the end of the world as we know it, the Obama administration has just released a document called “Living Within Our Means and Investing in the Future: The President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction.”
If you’re curious about the first part of the title — “Living Within Our Means” — Veronique de Rugy pointed outat National Review that under this plan debt held by the public will grow from just over $10 trillion to $17.7 trillion by 2021. In other words, the president’s definition of “Living Within Our Means” is to burn through the equivalent of the entire German, French, and British economies in new debt between now and the end of the decade. You can try this yourself next time your bank manager politely suggests you should try “living within your means”: Tell him you’ve got an ingenious plan to get your spending under control by near doubling your present debt in the course of a mere decade. He’s sure to be impressed.
As for the “Investing in the Future” part of the president’s plan, that means lots more government, lots more half-billion-dollar payoffs to pseudo-businesses cooked up by cronies, lots more $4.8 million–per–job taxpayer subsidies paid for with money borrowed from our unborn grandchildren. In a perfect snapshot of this administration’s witless banality, the president traveled last week to the Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River and claimed that, despite the fact that the structure connects the home states of the Republican House leader and the Republican Senate leader, the meanspirited GOP is going to kill the jobs bill and thus all prospects for a new bridge between their two states.
The bridge has nothing to do with the jobs bill. Work on a new bridge is not scheduled to begin for four years and wouldn’t be completed until 2022 at the earliest. Because in the Republic at twilight you can run up another seven-and-a-half-trillion dollars of new debt in less time than it takes to put up a bridge. Even as cheap political showboating the president’s photo op was a pathetic joke, with the laugh on you.
If this is the best America can do, there won’t be a 2022, not for the United States, or anything that would be recognizable as such. Like R.E.M. says, it’s the end of the world as we know it. And, as their split suggests, they no longer feel fine. And nor should you.
“There are two ways to conquer and enslave a country…..One is by the sword, the other is by debt.” – John Adams
Editor’s Note – Ten years after 9/11, another totally unacceptable revelation emerges where Islamic Terrorists, admitted terrorists this time, have been arrested and released, lost in our vast country of 310,000,000+ people, where anyone can hide for ages. There are so many documented refuges for such people, it is almost a certainty he will find solace and security.
How did one of them do it? He asked for asylum, was released, and disappeared. Do you trust our judiciary and bureaucrats now?
An admitted terrorist is let free to roam our streets and back yards!
This is very disturbing, especially after we lost Anwar Al-Awlaki after 9/11, despite his capture and subsequent release in New York City. Now we have Al Awlaki on a shoot-to-kill list, anywhere he is found. Agent Ray Fournier, a great friend of SUA, and as reported by Catherine Herridge of Fox News, have revealed our Federal Government’s ineptitude in such cases, and it defies all logic at best, or more importantly, shows us that we cannot trust our safety to bureaucrats and politicians.
With Eric Holder wanting to try terrorists in civil courts, after such egregious examples of ineptitude, is it any wonder we cannot trust the system. Yes the terrorists may be tried and subsequently convicted in our civilian court system, but one must ask, what buffoonery will rear its ugly head next? Will a jury mimic nullification ala O.J. Simpson? Will a buck private lawyer at DoJ screw up some paperwork? Will a liberal judge just flat out release the terrorist, or render a light sentence? Who can tell?
At SUA, it is clear, the answer is NO WAY! There is no trust left, NONE! Ideologues, inept federal employees, sheer stupidity, blind Political Correctness, and in some cases, possible complicity, have caused us to doubt anything said, or any action taken by our Federal Government, especially in this administration. Hold your breath and read the great article by another friend, Patrick Poole:
Two Bangladeshis who were caught by Customs and Border Protection illegally crossing the border in June 2010 admitted under questioning that they were members of a designated terrorist organization that signed on to a fatwa by Osama bin Laden pledging to wage war against Americans.
But amazingly, after one of the men requested asylum, he was released on bond. And now one Homeland Security official tells me, concerning the released terror operative, “We don’t have the slightest idea where he is now.”
The two men, Muhammad Nazmul Hasan and Mirza Muhammad Saifuddin, were intercepted near Naco, Arizona, not long after they had crossed the border on June 25, 2010. During their interrogation, one of the men admitted that they were members of Harakat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B), which was designated a terrorist organization by the United States in February 2008. Earlier this month the group claimed responsibility for a bombing a courthouse in New Delhi. That attack killed 11 and wounded at least 45 others.
A 2006 State Department report described HuJI-B’s goals and connections to other terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda:
The goal of HUJI-B is to establish Islamic rule in Bangladesh. The group’s core membership consists primarily of Bangladeshi veterans of fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Bangladeshi Government arrested a senior HUJI-B leader, Mufti Abdul Hannan, in October. HUJI-B has connections to the Pakistani militant groups Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami (HUJI) and Harakat ul-Mujahedin (HUM), which advocate similar objectives in Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir. The leaders of HUJI-B and HUM both signed the February 1998 fatwa sponsored by Usama bin Ladin that declared American civilians to be legitimate targets for attack.
Capturing two terrorist operatives illegally crossing the border would appear to be a big win for the Border Patrol. But in a stunning move, one of the men was released on bond after claiming asylum.
A Homeland Security official I met with last week in Washington, D.C., who was familiar with the case says that no government agency is tasked with monitoring those that are released pending asylum hearings, and that the terror operative’s whereabouts now are unknown.
That this guy was allowed out on bond is criminal. We don’t have the slightest idea where he is now. If he sets off a car bomb in Tucson or Phoenix, or shoots up a shopping mall or elementary school somewhere, there will be a lot of finger-pointing. But nobody seems that concerned about it now. And this is not the first time something like this has happened.
Back in March I reported here exclusively at PJMedia on a Department of Justice memo submitted in a court case of Ahmed Muhammed Dhakane, who ran a human smuggling ring out of Brazil on behalf of the Somali Al-Shabaab terrorist organization. Dhakane was nearly granted asylum, but was eventually charged with lying about his terrorist associations based on his conversations with a jailhouse informant. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Dhakane’s case was representative of the surging wave of Somalis who have been intercepted crossing the border over the past two years. And now some officials are worried that the case of Hasan and Saifuddin might be the tip of the iceberg of extremist Bangladeshis who are leaving their country under pressure from authorities there cracking down on HuJI-B and setting up terror-support operations in the United States. And the preferred transit route into the U.S. appears to be illegally entering over the southern border — the route taken by the two Bangladeshi terror operatives.
Editor’s Note – The business of the people does not include investing your tax dollars into venture capital incubation companies. But when it comes to the ‘Green Agenda’, this administration is using the Van Jones play book for the sake of jobs, at least that is what they are saying. Jobs is one thing but going green is not the solution to our dependence on fossil fuels, foreign or domestic, and never will be. Our energy demand far out strips any solar or wind output, especially in economic terms. The government is chartered with performing policy that adheres to the law, and cozy crony capitalism is anathema to the law, and this activity is following the “Rule-of-Men” not the “Rule-of-Law” our foundations are set upon. Our voices need to be heard that the private sector is our economic machine, not the government picking and choosing winners and the EPA and White House simply throw sand in the gears for others.
59% Oppose Government Loan Help for Alternative Energy Company Like Solyndra
Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Likely U.S. Voters think free market competition is more likely than government subsidies and regulation to help the United States develop alternative sources of energy. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 27% believe government subsidies and regulations are the better way to go. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
But then 71% of voters say private sector companies and investors are better than government officials when it comes to determining the long-term benefits and potential of new technologies. Sixty-four percent (64%) think it’s likely that if a private company which cannot find investors gets funding from the government, that money will be wasted.
If private investors aren’t willing to put money into a company, only 17% of voters think the federal government should provide loan guarantees or loans to help keep such a company in business. Fifty-nine percent (59%) say the government should not provide money for an alternative energy company after private investors refuse to invest in it. Twenty-three percent (23%) are not sure.
Solyndra received $535 million loan guarantees from the federal government after private investors refused to invest further. The company had strong political ties to the president including major campaign contributions. A plurality (47%) of voters agrees that when business owners support a winning politician, they get special treatment when applying for government loan guarantees. Twenty-nine percent (29%) do not believe that to be true, while another 23% are not sure.
While most voters oppose government funding help for “alternative energy” companies that can’t attract private investment, they’ve evenly divided when asked specifically about “companies that want to develop solar or wind power.” Forty percent (40%) say the government should provide funding for solar and wind power companies if investors will not invest in them, while an identical 40% oppose such government funding. Nineteen percent (19%) are undecided.
The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on September 24-25, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.
Just 39% of voters say they have followed recent news reports about Solyndra, with 19% who are following Very Closely.
Seventy-nine percent (79%) of Republicans and 59% of voters not affiliated with either of the major parties think free market competition is more likely than government subsidies and regulations to help the United States develop alternative sources of energy. Just 34% of Democrats agree. A plurality (41%) of voters in the president’s party have more confidence in government subsidies and regulations.
Fifty-five percent (55%) of Democrats and a plurality (44%) of unaffiliated voters believe the government should provide funding to companies that want to develop solar or wind power even if private investors will not invest in them. Sixty-three percent (63%) of GOP voters oppose such funding.
Given a case like Solyndra, though, 57% of unaffiliateds agree with 78% of Republicans that the government should not provide loans or loan guarantees to help keep the company in business if private investors refuse to get involved. Democrats agree by a much narrower 43% to 26% margin.
Nearly half (49%) of Political Class voters think the government should help an alternative energy company in a situation like Solyndra’s.Seventy percent (70%) of Mainstream voters disagree. But 53% of those in the Mainstream believe that when business owners support a winning politician, they get special treatment when applying for loan guarantees. Fifty-four percent (54%) of the Political Class think that’s not true.
The loan guarantees for Solyndra which are now unlikely to ever be repaid came from the $787-billion stimulus plan approved in early 2009 by the Congress, and voters have remained lukewarm on that package ever since the president first proposed it.
Editor’s Note – There has been a distinctive movement to track all the “under-the-radar” radical Islamic operations in the United States. Islamic connections within America that are tied to the Middle East is the objective, and it clearly begins in New York City since it holds the largest footprint of associations and partnerships with groups such as CAIR. The FBI, CIA, and NYPD have all had sensitivity training, but that does not slow down the mission call to track people, money, and weapons. But, New York has become a ground zero for another reason … investigating the movement. You can be sure, the protests against this profiling are in full steam. Civil war may be located on Wall Street, but 5th Avenue will be included as well.
New York becomes the Occupied Territories
As the US Security State grows and civil rights and liberties erode, Osama bin Laden gets the last laugh
Only two weeks before the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Associated Press has broken a story that reminds us of just how much America has changed during the last decade, and how the government – and as important, some of the country’s most powerful corporations – routinely intrude into the lives of communities and individuals in a manner that would few would have thought imaginable the day before the planes struck the World Trade Center.
After a lengthy investigation, the Associated Press has published a story detailing a highly secretive decade-long relationship between the CIA and the New York Police Department (NYPD), in which the two agencies have worked together in “a massive covert programme to monitor the Muslim communities” living in the New York metropolitan area and surrounding regions.
The program is troubling for a host of reasons. It involves potentially serious violations of federal law, including First Amendment protections. Morever, it bears a strong resemblance to programs launched during the Civil Rights and Vietnam era, which saw techniques, technologies and even personnel from the US military and intelligence communities deployed against citizens within the United States.
When military tactics and strategies drawn from the front lines of war are applied to radically different contexts, the results are rarely beneficial to the health of a democracy.
According to the AP report, “The [NYPD] has dispatched teams of undercover officers, known as ‘rakers,’ into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program, according to officials directly involved in the program. They’ve monitored daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Police have also used informants, known as ‘mosque crawlers,’ to monitor sermons, even when there’s no evidence of wrongdoing. NYPD officials have scrutinized imams and gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs often done by Muslims. Many of these operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD’s intelligence unit.”
A Troubling Partnership?
Despite such prohibitions on spying on Americans, the NYPD and CIA have built a “partnership that has blurred the bright line between foreign and domestic spying.” The relationship has included a senior, active-duty CIA officer being hired by the NYPD to set up its intelligence programmes and another senior officer working as a “clandestine operative” inside police headquarters, and the CIA training of at least one police detective at the agency’s spy school.
Having watched the World Trade Center fall with my own eyes and then had to cope with a newborn son breathing in the soot and toxin-tainted air for weeks after, it’s hard not to sympathize with the NYPD’s willingness to “push the envelope” of police procedures in order to protect New Yorkers from a similar attack. It’s also hard not to agree with the assessment by NY cops that they can never again rely on the federal government to protect New York and therefore must become an active player in gathering and acting on intelligence that might affect the city’s eight million citizens.
Indeed, the NYPD’s “success” in these operations points out the weakness that still hampers effective intelligence work by the American intelligence community: Most CIA officers are white men who could never blend into a Muslim community; but the NYPD’s 34,000 officers reflect the ethnic and religious mosaic of New York, providing it with a host of Arab and South Asian officers who speak the languages and intimately know the cultures, making it much easier for them, effectively, to spy on their communities.
And it’s clear that this is what the NYPD is doing, having become, in the AP’s words, “one of the country’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies.” Intelligence-read, spy-agencies spy; they aren’t set up primarily to look for evidence of crimes, but to gather intelligence, knowledge that might later be useful do shape policies or influence the behaviour of the groups or communities being surveilled.
Police are supposed to monitor citizens only to the extent there is evidence or sufficient suspicion of criminal activity or its planning. But the AP reports that in many cases members of the unit go out of their way not to have their information, or even their existence, brought to a court of law.
Simply put, if the intelligence that the NYPD intelligence unit is gathering is not useful to the judicial process, then it’s not police work, it’s spying. If Americans think being spied on by their government isn’t such a big deal, they can talk to the millions of Arabs who’ve rebelled in good measures because of decades of such practices, or the citizens of former Communist countries in Eastern Europe. All of these governments also justified spying with the need to “protect” the state and citizens from potentially dangerous people. But it always ends the same way.
Yes, the United States is not Mubarak-era Egypt, or East Germany under Erich Honecker. But Americans have already lost – or rather, given up-significant liberties since September 11, with the Patriot Act and the more aggressive tactics of the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies as well as the FBI. The average citizen might not notice or even care about these restrictions; indeed, a huge section of the American public supports even more intrusive monitoring of their fellow citizens and even the criminalisation of forms of dissent against what they deem to be the correct path.
Since 9/11 Federal agents have once again infiltrated the peace and and anti-corporate globalization movements in the US, something with brought far greater condemnation during the Civil Rights and Vietnam War eras than it has now. Moreover, a climate of fear has been created in the mainstream media and even academia as a result of the the delegitimation of any points of view that challenge the supposed national consensus on issues related to the war on terror. This has allowed the war and the trillions being spent to prosecute it to continue as planned for a decade, with no end in sight.
Violating the Law
Moreover, the NYPD Intelligence Unit, under the guise of its CIA handlers, has engaged in similar activities, in particular infiltrating and helping to detain protesters at the Republican National Convention in 2004 and the demanding that detainees answer questions about their political affiliations, activism and feelings about George W. Bush.
Even putting aside the clear cases of politicised policing, there are grave doubts about the legality of the operations of the unit. In 1985 the NYPD was put under a federal court order that prohibited gathering intelligence not directly related to criminal activities after it was discovered that the department had infiltrated anti-war groups that were not engaged in any suspicious behavior. But the CIA-loaned head of the intelligence unit, David Cohen, convinced a federal judge to loosen these rules, after which the unit violated its promise to abide by the FBI’s investigative guidelines in all its investigations, using “rakers” and “mosque crawlers” in the Muslim community that essentially trolled the community for hints not merely of criminal behaviour, but anti-government sentiment.
The Muslim community has long had problems with the FBI’s trolling activities, which continues to be so aggressive that, as one activist explained to me, just recently a Libyan was approached to be an informant by the Bureau and was so scarred by the encounter that he was prepared to return to Libya at the height of Gaddafi’s assault on his people. The harm to relations between the Bureau and the Muslim community from these actions is hard to overestimate, according to officials at the Council on American Islamic Relations. “The FBI’s best line of defense against terrorism is the Muslim community. These actions have only made that relationship harder to sustain.”
Indeed, even the FBI has refused to accept reports from the intelligence unit because of fears it has run afoul of the law; the AP report quoted one FBI official implicitly criticized the policy of mosque crawling.
The problem, according to CAIR attorney Gadeir Abbas is that: “the Privacy Act [which prevents political investigations] is a federal law that only applies to federal agencies. It makes it illegal for those agencies to maintain records about a person’s first amendment activities unless those activities are pertinent to an authorised law enforcement activity. But because the Privacy Act does not pertain to state or municipal agencies, the NYPD can’t violate the Privacy Act.”
This doesn’t mean that the NYPD is off the hook. Abbas continued, explaining that “the First Amendment protects our right to associate freely with one another. An investigation of a community (rather than of a crime or a particular person) unlawfully chills the rights of persons within that community. Furthermore, the Establishment Clause requires NYPD to maintain neutrality between all religions. Their intelligence unit appears to be failing to maintain that neutrality by institutionalising suspicion of all things Islamic.”
Is New York Occupied Territory?
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the intelligence unit’s activities is who and what it is modeling itself after: the activities of the Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank. The unit uses a “debriefing programme” that singles out “young Middle Eastern men” who’ve been arrested for any offense, even if it has nothing to do with terrorism, to try to turn him into an informer. It has even sent officers into Muslim neighbourhoods to look for any reason to pull over people, even the most minor traffic infraction like a non-working headlight.
Such practices are quite similar to the long-standing and much abused Israeli practice of arresting young Palestinians for meaningless offenses and then, once in detention, putting pressure on them to become collaborators – offering them money, medical help for sick family members or other incentives, as well as threats depending on whether or not they comply. This is precisely what the NYPD is today doing.
Essentially, the police department’s goal with such activities is to “map the city’s human terrain” along the model of “how Israeli authorities operate in the West Bank,” according to one former police official. What seems to be lost on the NYPD and even the AP report’s authors is that the West Bank is occupied territory, the Israeli intelligence agencies operating there systematically engage in actions – illegal detention, kidnapping and even murder – that violate international law.
If the way the Israelis manage an occupied population is a model for NYPD intelligence activities, we have to ask whether they are treating the city’s Muslim community as an occupied population, and if so, how long it might be before young, angry Muslim New Yorkers, start behaving like their Palestinian counterparts, and if that occurs, whether the NYPD would accept any responsibility for that development? Probably not; indeed, it would, as in Israel, just lead to even more intensive and intrusive spying on the community, perpetuating a vicious cycle that would benefit no one except the corporations who are raking in unprecedented profits supplying the technology and even personnel for these programmes.
Bush to Obama – Bad to Worse?
The activities of the NYPD’s intelligence unit can’t be understood outside of the context of the long and recently reactivated history of militarisation of American law enforcement. The 1947 charter of the CIA prohibited it from spying against Americans, in good measure because then President Truman feared political abuses by the agency. But despite that prohibition, the CIA did from spy on Americans during the Civil Rights and Vietnam eras in clear violation of its mandate. Among the most infamous programs we know about was the MHCHAOS program, also known as “Operation Chaos,” which spied on as many as 7,000 members of the peace movement during the 1960s and 1970s.
The FBI ran a similarly notorious series of program, dubbed “COINTELPRO” (short for Counter Intelligence Program), which conducted surveillance on, infiltrated and attempted to discredit and disrupt groups deemed politically subversive, or potentially so.
Today the CIA, FBI, and it seems, the NYPD, are involved in a tangled and troubling relationship that is bringing together the worst of these past programmes in a 21st century redux, using the Patriot Act, ideologically supportive courts, subservient lawmakers and a broadly incurious citizenry to achieve their aims.
From the local perspective, since 9/11 the transformation of part of the NYPD into an intelligence bureaucracy mirrors the increasing militarization of police forces across the country into a sprawling, almost unimaginably large system. Last year the Washington Post ran a four-part series titled “Top Secret America” which argued that “nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators. The system… collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of US citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.”
The system has become so large, secretive and unwieldy that it has created an “alternative geography” in the United State that comprised some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programmes related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States, with an estimated 854,000 public and private employees involved.
Besides Israel, another source of the “expertise” currently being utilized by the NYPD is the US military and intelligence forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are, to be sure, not the most promising models if one cares about civil liberties, the rule of law, and democracy. While initiated by President Bush, the system has grown substantially under President Obama, leading one civil rights leader to complain to me that “for many of us, the problem isn’t that Obama is as bad as Bush, it’s that in many ways his administration is actually worse than its predecessor, with more use of state secrets privilege to prevent parties to criminal or civil cases from accessing relevant information, and more use of FBI infiltrating communities.”
Where the Rule of Experts Leads
Most important, both he FBI and the NYPD have hired so-called “experts” on Islam and the Muslim world to train their personnel who are clearly Islamophobes with a record of extremist views and false claims about Muslims in the US and Islam more broadly, such as Ramon Montijo, who has taught classes on terrorism and Islam to law enforcement officers all over the country and believes that “most Muslims in the United States want to impose sharia law here. They want to make this world Islamic. The Islamic flag will fly over the White House… My job is to wake up the public, and first, the first responders.”
Other “experts,” some of them Muslim converts to the conservative wing of Evangelical Christianity or former intelligence officials with longstanding ties to the hard right of American politics, “teach” similar “expertise to American law enforcement personnel. They argue that Muslims are engaged in a “stealth jihad” against the US and that police “need to look at the entire pool of Muslims in a community,” through monitoring Muslim student groups and local mosques and tapping their phones. Former CIA director R. James Woolsey and former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin (who was roundly criticised for making inflammatory remarks against Muslim while in uniform) routinely offer their support for such experts.
Lest we assume that the NYPD has been safe from such infiltration, the reality says otherwise. Personnel have been shown films such as “The Third Jihad” a rank anti-Muslim piece of propaganda which had a strong influence on Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. More disturbing, however, are the policies that such beliefs help justify. As one of the main CIA officials presently working with the NYPD is Larry Sanchez, explained in 2007 testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, the key to spotting “signs of radicalisation” in New York Muslim communities was “viewing innocuous activity, including behaviour that might be protected by the First Amendment, as a potential precursor to terrorism.”
If the NYPD, which for all its faults is still one of the better police forces in the United States, can be supervised by someone who thinks free speech is a natural precursor to terrorism, we can only imagine what officials in far less cosmopolitan jurisdictions must be thinking. Indeed, when Sanchez gave his testimony, no one on the Committee took issue with that remark. Why should they, as the US government is today so involved in monitoring free speech and dissenting politics that Sanchez’s claim is not merely unremarkable, it’s not worthy of a second thought.
That such remarks have become unremarkable might be Osama bin Laden’s most enduring victory.
Mark Levine is a professor of history at the University of California, Irvine and author, most recently, of Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam (Random House 2008) and Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books, 2009).
Exit: George Soros. Enter: Warren Buffett, stage left.
Buffett, the investment mogul and Berkshire Hathaway CEO, is slowly drifting into the role Soros played during the first decade of this century: billionaire boogeyman to the right, and go-to example cited by the left to show that one can support Democrats’ economic policies and still be pro-business.
A frequent spot holder on Forbes’s list of the world’s wealthiest individuals, Buffett endorsed President Obama in 2008, but has not historically been an overly political figure – until now. In August, he penned an op-ed in the New York Times asking policymakers to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires like himself. He has claimed he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, thanks to a tax structure that favors those whose income comes from investments.
“My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress,” Buffett wrote. “It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”
With Obama struggling to persuade Republicans to accept a tax hike on the wealthy to pay for the deficit reductions that the GOP has demanded, Buffett has become a veritable stump speech line for Obama; he calls the tax hike the “Buffett Rule,” and mentions the billionaire now with the frequency that Republicans mention Reagan.
“All I’m saying is that those who have done the best in this country should contribute to its success,” Obama said Thursday during a jobs speech in Cincinnati, Ohio. “All I’m saying is that Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t be paying a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett.”
But now, some Republicans are mentioning Buffett with the frequency they used to mention Soros, the financier and philanthropist whose ardent support for left-wing causes and politicians made him Enemy No. 1 for Republicans for much of the last decade. Former Fox News host Glenn Beck called him a “puppet-master” for instigating world chaos and insinuated that Soros, who was born in Hungary, had collaborated with Nazis.
Now that Obama has seized Buffett as an emblem of big business supporting tax increases, Republicans are demanding that Buffett release his tax forms for public scrutiny. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said, “Frankly, Mr. Buffett needs to give his secretary a raise,” and freshman Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said Buffett had bitten off more than he could chew and was afraid to show proof.
“Conservatives tend to level ad hominem attacks against their ideological or policy opponents rather than deal squarely with the arguments that those opponents present,” said Michael Vachon, a spokesman for Soros. “To that extent, there is some similarity” between him and Buffett, he said.
Soros donated tens of millions of dollars to campaigns targeting President George W. Bush, but was less active on the political scene during the 2010 cycle and in the first months of the current cycle.
Yet Buffett may be a more difficult target for Republicans than Soros, because while Soros has seemed to relish being a partisan figure, Buffett’s role has been more limited to advocating for a particular economic policy, said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
“I think it’s going to be a lot harder,” he said. “Warren Buffett is a pretty respected guy in American life, whereas George Soros is a foreigner, and a person who has bankrolled sort of lefty causes for a long time.”
But there’s at least some evidence that wading into the fray of one of Obama’s signature policies can drag down even a political outsider.
Take entertainer Andy Griffith, who 56 percent of voters in his home state of North Carolina viewed positively in 2008 when asked by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, also based in North Carolina.
Then Griffith cut television ads in 2010 supporting Obama’s health care initiative, and his favorability fell to 44 percent by last September.
The former star of The Andy Griffith Show is down to 32 percent as of last week, and his unfavorable ratings have more than doubled since 2008, jumping from 9 percent to 23 percent.
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