8th August, 2011

Did EDL ally Pamela Geller already know about Norway terrorist ?

by Jai at 8:00 am    

Pickled Politics senior editor Sunny Hundal briefly mentioned the following subject in his recent article discussing the fact that the atrocity in Norway highlights “a new form of prejudice”, but it’s worth providing further details. Pamela Geller is the American author of the virulently anti-Muslim blog Atlas Shrugs and the executive director of the organisation “Stop Islamization of America”; like SIOA’s co-founder Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch, Geller was repeatedly cited in the 1500-page manifesto of the Far-Right Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik (described by the Norwegian police as a “Christian fundamentalist”).

Geller herself, who is originally from a Jewish background but describes mainstream liberal Jews as “lost souls” and “self-hating wretches”, was given a huge public platform by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News last year during the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy. She has consistently been at the forefront of promoting extremely bigoted anti-Muslim propaganda; you can read a comprehensive list of examples via Media Matters for America here and here, and via The American Muslim here.

It turns out that Pamela Geller received an email in 2007 from a Norwegian contact who sounds disturbingly similar to Breivik. Geller approvingly published the email on her Atlas Shrugs blog on 24 June 2007 without naming the author; in response to a query from one of the commenters there, Geller confirmed that she was deliberately hiding the author’s identity so that he would not be investigated and prosecuted. After the recent massacre in Norway, Geller quietly edited her article in order to remove the email’s explicit references to weapons, ammunition and equipment; unfortunately for Geller, her actions have been noticed by multiple readers and the original unedited version of the article had already been cached elsewhere. (More details, including relevant URL links, can be found here).

Therefore, this has the following possible implications:

1. Pamela Geller had personally been in contact with Anders Breivik and even promoted his email on her own website, but she deliberately hid his identity in order to protect him (and did not report him to the authorities) despite being aware of Breivik’s extremely violent rhetoric and the fact that he was stockpiling weapons & ammunition;

2. Alternatively, Geller was not emailed by Breivik himself but there is currently another violent Norwegian out there with aims and attitudes which are disturbingly similar to those of Breivik, and whose identity Geller is deliberately hiding.

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28th May, 2011

How Asians in the USA are doing

by Sunny at 10:20 am    

There’s an interesting study into the demographics of the different Asian communities in the USA.

Jeanne Batalova examined the size, distribution, demographics and socioeconomic characteristics of immigrants from Eastern Asia, South Central Asia, South Eastern Asia, and Western Asia.

Using the most recent government data available, it was found that:

· Immigrants from Asia number more than 10.6 million, accounting for 27.7 percent of all foreign born currently residing in the United States. The largest groups of immigrants from this region are from the Philippines, India, China (including Hong Kong), Vietnam, and Korea.

· While California, New York, and Texas are home to nearly half of all Asian immigrants in the United States, nearly or more than half of the immigrant population in Hawaii (78.2 percent), Alaska (51.6 percent), West Virginia (51.6 percent), Michigan (45.5), and Virginia (41.4) are from Asia.

· Immigrants from Asia are more likely than the overall foreign-born population to be proficient in English and be naturalized US citizens, and are more likely than both the foreign born and the native born to have a Bachelor’s degree.

· Asian immigrants accounted for about 58 percent of immigrant physicians and surgeons and for roughly 60 percent of immigrant registered nurses practicing in the United States.

· South Eastern Asians made up the largest proportion of the Asian-born population, followed by those from Eastern, South Central, and Western Asia.

What is with Asians and becoming doctors huh? And why are so many of them settling in Texas of all places?

4th May, 2011

Victim forced to pay compensation for refusing to cheer attacker

by Rumbold at 7:01 pm    

This case from America was truly shocking. A high school cheerleader has lost a court case against her school and will have to pay the school $45,000 (£27,300) in compensation.

What was worst was not the case itself, but how it came about. The unnamed cheerleader (‘HS’) was sexually assaulted by Rakheem Bolton, an athlete at her school. He pleaded guilty to the assault, but the charge of rape against him was dropped, so he was allowed back onto the basketball team (because being convicted of sexual assault isn’t a bar to representing a school it seems).

In a subsequent game, ‘HS’ refused to cheer her attacker when his name was mentioned, which prompted her expulsion from the cheerleading squad. The school deserves plenty of criticism for this, but so do the courts, especially given the way in which they dismissed her appeal by branding it “frivolous”. Whatever the merits of awarding ‘HS’ compensation, the anger of a sexual assault victim at being punished for failing to cheer her attacker is not some ‘frivolous’ gesture. The court said:

“As a cheerleader, HS served as a mouthpiece through which [the school district] could disseminate speech – namely, support for its athletic teams,” the appeals court decision says. “This act constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, HS was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily.”

So the school wasn’t at fault for allowing a sex attacker to represent them, rather it was the victim for trying to rebuild her life by taking part in something which mattered to her? Disgraceful.

23rd January, 2011

Haggis to save the USA?

by Rumbold at 6:40 pm    

After the recent shootings in Arizona, many theories have been posited about the worsening political discourse in the US. Both left and right have been blamed, whilst others question how much impact the atmosphere had on the shooter. However, maybe the root cause is the fact that no one over there has access to haggis:

The iconic Scottish dish is been barred in the US for more than 20 years because its food safety department prohibits the use of sheep lungs in food products.

Haggis, much maligned, is at its best a very tasty dish, which I would heartily recommend.

Filed under: Humour,United States
3rd January, 2011

Now the Wikileaks sh*t is really hitting the fan

by Sunny at 10:30 am    

The US government is stepping up security in Afghanistan to stop smuggling, after WikiLeaks cables embarrassingly showed that millions of dollars were leaving the country by nefarious means.

According to a secret cable released by WikiLeaks, Ahmed Zia Massoud, a former Afghan vice president, visited the United Arab Emirates last year carrying $52 million in cash. Mr. Massoud has denied the report. Beyond the flow of money to Dubai, millions of dollars more are believed to be smuggled through border crossings, and American officials fear at least some of the money is being funneled to Afghan insurgents taking shelter in Pakistan’s tribal regions.

You’d think right-wingers in the US would be happy that someone is exposing their tax dollars being wasted, no? But that’s not even the big story….

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9th December, 2010

Obama is not triangulating, he’s being realistic

by Sunny at 10:42 am    

Obama’s made a deal on the whole ‘tax cuts’ issue and every leftie in the USA (and some here, who just echo their leftie cousins there) is screaming betrayal. Oh, and triangulation.

But is it? Greg Sargent writes:

The reason Obama’s attacks on the left smack of triangulation is that he persists on painting the left and the right with the same brush: He presents himself as the last reasonable man trapped between two sides blinded to reason by ideology. Hence his insistence yesterday that he won’t be held to any unreasonable “ideal.” But as irksom as this is, it isn’t really the same as positioning oneself ideologically by arguing that the left is wrong on policy substance, as Bill Clinton did.

Obama’s argument with the left, at bottom, is more a dispute over what’s achievable, and less an argument over what is desirable to achieve. Obama opposes extending the high end tax cuts, just as the left does. His disagreement with the left is over whether there’s another way to achieve the goals Obama and the left agree on: Extending the middle class cuts and extending unemployment benefits.

I suspect I’ll have to repeatedly point out to lefties in the UK for the next two years that Republicans control the lower house and can easily block legislation in the Senate. Well, not yet, from January they will, but the point still stands that Obama could not pass the ‘Bush tax cuts’ legislation without some Republican support.

That is the reality. And there is no point pretending that as President he can just be in a stand-off with the Republicans all the time, because real people would be hurt by not getting unemployment benefits. The problem, it seems to me, is that Democrats just don’t have the discipline or backbone to hit back at Republicans. That isn’t just an Obama problem – it’s a problem with many Democrats.

But what can you do? At this stage, all Obama can do is compromise, push bits through, get re-elected, and push more stuff through. Who said governing was easy? But he is not disagreeing with the left in order to triangulate – like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did. That was triangulation; this is pragmatism.

7th December, 2010

Hilarious – FBI agent tries entrapment, gets reported

by Sunny at 3:21 am    

The news report is self explanatory. What’s funny is that he tried entrapment, clearly failed, and is now suing the FBI!

27th November, 2010

How Gandhian Are Obama’s Politics?

by guest at 12:01 pm    

This is a guest post by Rita Banerji

The news of President Obama’s admiration for Gandhi preceded his visit to India. How Gandhi has inspired his life, and how a portrait of his hangs in his Senate office. He told the Indian Parliament that he owes his own Presidency to Gandhi. So how closely does Obama follow in his mentor’s footsteps?

To sum up Gandhi’s ideologies, they included the rejection of all of the following: war and weaponry, capitalism, large-scale industries, and science and technology. On the eve before his departure President Obama assured an economically depressed U.S., “I’m going to be leaving tomorrow for India, and the primary purpose is to take a bunch of US companies and open up markets so that we can sell in Asia and some of the fastest-growing markets in the world.” And he did exactly that by striking some hard, billion dollars sales deals with India on the purchase of weapons, warfare systems and Boeing aircraft.

Though it might seem like Obama is contradicting Gandhi’s ideologies, he isn’t doing anything that Gandhi himself didn’t.

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7th November, 2010

What is Obama’s strategy going forward?

by Sunny at 10:01 am    


President Obama was quite downbeat in his conference the day after the mid-term election. A bit more downbeat than was required actually, which really struck me. Sure he’s tired, but does he have to sound that downcast? After all, other major Presidents had setbacks like this and they came back.

On reflection, it might be a strategy. To a lot of angry independents, Obama has to show that he has learnt the lesson they wanted to send to Washington. If he sounds like he doesn’t care, then they’ll continue staying angry. So he deliberately looks like he’s been “shellacked” and says he will listen to and work with the Republicans going forward.

It’s worth noting he didn’t make any concession on policy. Of course, trying to pass any more major legislation is out of the window until 2012 – the Republican dominated House of Representatives will reject him and they’ll stall him in the Senate (and he no longer has the magic number of 60 to bypass them).

One of my frustrations with the left in the UK and USA is that they completely ignore how much legislation Obama has already pushed, and keep chiding him for not delivering more without looking at the electoral math. Is he meant to conjure environmental legislation out of thin air when almost all Republicans are now climate-change deniers?

Sure he made mistakes, but he’s also delivered a lot. See: whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com.

The trick now is this. He has to force Republicans to take the bait and make policy decisions. That would not only expose they have no plan, other than to scream ‘no’ at whatever Obama says, but also lead to infighting.

He has to get the Republicans to share some of the blame for the 2012 election too, and get independent voters to think: ‘well, we gave Republicans a chance in 2010 and they were just as bad as Bush!’. Which is why, if Obama doesn’t sound like he’s taking on board the Republican win, he won’t win back those voters.

I’m not the biggest fan of this line of thinking. Obama has tried to look bipartisan all the way through (meanwhile pushing some highly partisan legislation) and he lost control of the message. On the other hand, his personal approval rating has remained higher than Reagan or Clinton were at this stage. So maybe it works.

No doubt this will enrage many liberals. But the proof will be in the pudding. I’m betting that while Obama talks compromise and bipartisanship on a national level – behind the scenes he will make lots of small decisions that will push his agenda forward anyway. I’ll be happy with that.

30th October, 2010

Neo-con asks why Julian Assange isn’t dead yet

by Sunny at 4:44 am    

Jonah Goldberg is a regular contributor to Fox News, editor-at-large of National Review Onlien (right-wing US mag) and one of those highly rabid neo-conservatives. In an article for the Chicago Tribune, he asks: Why is Assange still alive?.

These people stop at nothing in order to silence anyone who exposes their projects (the Iraq war) as one massive scandal.

4th October, 2010

Glenn Beck: Indians, desire to commit multiple murders, whitewashes slavery

by Jai at 4:45 pm    

Further to the recent PP article about the influential Fox News anchor Glenn Beck, there has been an interesting article in the New York Times providing more information about Beck’s background and his activities. As previously discussed on PP, his fellow Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly has described Beck as “the leader of the Tea Party movement”. The Tea Party itself has of course recently been exposed as being bankrolled & manipulated right from the start by the Right-wing billionaire Koch brothers, who have links to both the Republican Party and Fox News. Beck himself also has ties with the Republican politicians & potential 2012 presidential candidates Newt Gingrich (whose own racist remarks about President Obama were discussed on PP here) and Sarah Palin.

Readers are strongly advised to familiarise themselves with the previous PP article about Beck if they have not done so already. One of the best ways to further understand the various problems with Beck’s worldview and behaviour is to view footage from both his Fox News show and his various radio shows. Some of the following videos are very disturbing indeed.

1. Glenn Beck’s racist diatribe about Indians

He begins by attacking Indian doctors, and follows it with a lengthy bigotry-and-stereotype-riddled sneering rant about India itself, at one point even describing the River Ganges (sacred to hundreds of millions of Hindus) as a name that “sounds like a disease”.

Beck’s remarks may be placed into further context by the fact that he has unashamedly promoted viciously racist books by two Nazi-sympathising authors, one of whom (Elizabeth Dilling) not only attended Nazi party meetings in Germany along with speaking at rallies by Nazi groups in the US, but also described non-white, non-Christian people as “savages” along with calling Hinduism and Islam “debasing and degrading”. Beck himself has explicitly described Dilling as one of his ideological predecessors, ie. “people who were doing what we’re doing now”.

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28th September, 2010

The escalating extremism of Fox News’s Glenn Beck

by Jai at 11:45 am    

This article follows directly from the PP article yesterday focusing on Newt Gingrich. Readers are therefore advised to read that part first before continuing below.

Fox News anchor & Tea Party icon Glenn Beck, who has described himself as a “borderline schizophrenic”, increasingly reminds me of Ron Perlman’s “right-wing media icon” demagogue in the 1995 film The Last Supper. Anyone who has seen that movie will understand exactly what I mean. And like his fictional counterpart, Beck has even started holding huge rallies with exactly the type of audience Perlman’s character was shown as being such a dangerous influence on. Life disturbingly imitating art, 15 years later.

A selection of examples focusing on Glenn Beck, Fox News and the Tea Party

· Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly has stated that Glenn Beck is the leader of the Tea Party movement. Beck has repeatedly declared that his aim is to oppose progressivism, which he calls a “cancer” in American society. Beck has also repeatedly claimed that there is currently a vast, secular, liberal, progressive conspiracy underway to seize control of America and destroy the republic in its present form by manipulating the democratic system and subverting the Constitution.

· As previously discussed on PP, an in-depth investigation by Jane Mayer of the New Yorker has revealed the huge scale of the Right-wing billionaire Koch brothers’ involvement in bankrolling & manipulating the Tea Party movement from the very start, with the deliberate intention of furthering their own agenda (also summarised by the New York Times). The Koch brothers have direct links to both Fox News and the Republican Party. Not only have the Koch brothers been doing everything they can to destroy Obama’s presidency, but one of their main aims is to destroy progressivism itself.

· Glenn Beck has an extensive history of extremely violent rhetoric. He has also openly stated that he is going to spend the rest of his life hunting down and “exposing” progressives. Furthermore, he has repeatedly made bizarre comments about his opponents potentially “shooting him in the head”, along with suggesting that the Obama Administration plans to kill 10% of the American population and is deliberately pushing the US towards a civil war.

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27th September, 2010

The escalating bigotry of Newt Gingrich

by Jai at 11:45 am    

Tea Party icons Newt Gingrich and Glenn Beck have recently been going into overdrive in terms of the scale of their extremism. During the past few weeks, there has been considerable controversy over Fox News contributor, senior Republican politician, and potential candidate for the 2012 presidential election Newt Gingrich in particular due to the following remarks he made about US President Barack Obama:

Via Media Matters for America:

Citing a recent Forbes article by Dinesh D’Souza, former House speaker Newt Gingrich tells National Review Online that President Obama may follow a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview. Gingrich says that D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama’s behavior — the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”

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22nd September, 2010

This is why discipline in politics is sometimes necessary

by Sunny at 11:09 am    

The Senate today blocked the start of debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, with Republicans objecting to a provision that would repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The vote was 56 to 43, with 60 votes needed to break the filibuster. Two Democratic senators, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, both from Arkansas, voted with Republicans to block the bill. — reported by Talking Points Memo.

This is of course intensely annoying to supporters of Obama, but I highlight this to make two points. First, a lot of people criticised Obama for not moving on DADT quickly enough. He had good reason to: the Democrats didn’t have enough votes to pass it. And even now they don’t.

Secondly, and more importantly, it once again highlights why sometimes discipline is useful and important in politics. I bet there are more Democrat senators who did not like the idea of passing DADT. And I bet there were Republicans who wanted to. But the Republicans are extremely disciplined, which means they can block legislation and restrict Obama’s agenda. This also helps them electorally.

Democrats on the other hand are badly disciplined, and because some don’t buy Obama’s progressive agenda, continually shoot the party in the foot by stopping their own legislation.

This is worth noting when people use the voting records on TheyworkForYou.com to make a point about how terrible Labour cabinet ministers or MPs were. Their voting record doesn’t tell you anything other than what the leadership wanted. You might argue of course that these means Labour (or Tory MPs) are spineless. Perhaps. But there clear political advantages too in such a strategy. My only regret is that Barack Obama can’t threaten / whip his Democrat senators harder and get them to stand in line.

Filed under: United States
18th September, 2010

Deepak Chopra writes a new book about Muhammad

by Jai at 8:00 am    

The musician Salman Ahmad (from the Pakistani Sufi rock group Junoon; previously discussed on PP here and here) and Deepak Chopra, who has previously written the bestselling books Buddha and Jesus, will be discussing his latest book Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet, where he shares the life and insights of Muhammad.

Dr Chopra was recently interviewed by the New York Times about the book’s contents and his motivations for writing it. It’s a very interesting article, and indicates that as a “semi-fictionalised biography”, the nature of the book may not necessarily be quite what many people may expect. The article also includes some comments about Sufism and current issues such as the ongoing controversy surrounding the Sufi Imam Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative’s Park51 (the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”). Three quotes in particular stand out:

Are you concerned someone will issue a fatwa against you?

I wrote the book factually and with respect. Beyond that, I can’t control anyone’s reaction.

You refer to Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is overseeing the planned Islamic center in Lower Manhattan. Are you saying Sufism represents the reform branch of Islam?

Yes. Traditional Islam is a mixture of all obedience to Allah, and if that requires militancy, so be it. Whereas Sufism exalts beauty, intuition, tenderness, affection, nurturing and love, which we associate with feminine qualities.

If someone asks what religion you are, what do you say?

I say God gave humans the truth, and the Devil came and said, “Let’s organize it, we’ll call it religion.”

15th September, 2010

American church in Memphis welcomes neighbouring Islamic Centre

by Jai at 11:45 am    

As is now known worldwide, there has been a huge amount of publicity about the now-cancelled “Quran-burning” by Terry Jones, a pastor in Florida who not only attempted to link his own anti-Islam agenda to the ongoing “Ground Zero Mosque” issue involving Park51/Cordoba House in New York, but also views Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism as being literally “from the Devil”. In fact, if he’d wanted to “send a message to radical Islam” as he’d claimed, it would have made far more sense for him to burn a bonfire of photos of Osama bin Laden instead. It’s also worth remembering that by far the largest numbers of victims of Islamist militants have actually been ordinary Muslims; tens of thousands have been killed during the past decade alone.

In relation to the Quran-burning issue in particular, Pickled Politics recently discussed the inordinate weight that many sections of the mainstream media have given to the extremists on all sides; the need for moderates everywhere to oppose the latter has also been emphasised by the Sufi Imam Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative. Readers may also be interested to hear that Imam Rauf was interviewed at great length by CNN last week, and a wide range of relevant issues were discussed in considerable detail (full transcript here).

There are some horribly ironic facts in this situation: Not only has Imam Rauf been actively assisting the US Government with anti-Islamist-extremism efforts for a number of years (both the Bush Administration and now the Obama Administration), but Salafi-Jihadists like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban actually violently hate Sufi Muslims, because they regard Sufis as “heretics” who are “excessively liberal” and “excessively benevolent” towards non-Muslims. Therefore, we now have Sufis being persecuted by fundamentalist Christians, the American “conservative Right”, and militant Islamist extremists, aided and abetted by Fox News and their allies in the Republican Party.

However, a more encouraging development in America which has unfortunately received comparatively little publicity is the following: During the course of the past year, members of a church in Memphis, Tennessee, have gone out of their way to welcome the presence of a neighbouring Islamic Centre which is in the process of being built. This has very recently been covered by CNN and MSNBC as a positive counterexample to the rising wave of anti-Muslim bigotry in other sections of American society.

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12th September, 2010

EDL members go to New York protest

by Rumbold at 8:45 pm    

Members of the English Defence League (EDL), perhaps confused about what their moniker actually means, have been in attendance at the anti-mosque protest in New York. Richard Bartholomew reports:

A few specific groups and individuals could be identified; LGF shows a picture of several English Defence League members, and TPM picture 11 shows EDL activist Kevin Carroll (I previously blogged on Carroll here) [UPDATE: Apparently Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who heads the EDL as "Tommy Robinson", was refused entry at JFK Airport].

Filed under: EDL,United States
11th September, 2010

Qur’an burning: Where does Freedom of Speech fit in?

by guest at 11:32 am    

This is a joint post by Shamit and Rumbold

Global news media have had one common headline over the past few days – a Christian pastor wanting to burn the Qur’an. World leaders, including the Vatican, have condemned the proposed event in Gainesville Florida, yet violent protests have erupted in parts of the Muslim world.

Pastor Terry Jones is an unpleasant individual. The minister behind the now-suspended Qur’an burning lives in luxury, yet forces his followers to live in accommodation he owns and work long hours for his business unpaid. His own daughter labelled his group a ‘cult’ which had no more than fifty followers until this whole controversy got the oxygen of 24×7 media publicity around the globe.

Book burning is never right. It is not only vulgar, but also invokes memories of totalitarian regimes trying to destroy ideas they do not approve of. Furthermore, it indicates a failure of the burner to combat what is written, leaving them with no option but to try and erase what they could not challenge intellectually. And, in secular societies, such as the United States, a man of god should respect rights of others to practice their religion as they see fit.

This proposed Qur’an burning has been widely condemned by plenty of prominent people; no doubt many of those share the aversion to book burning. But some have condemned the proposed actions of an unknown, leading a handful of people, not because of the hurt it causes to ordinary Muslims worldwide, but the expected violent reactions of a small community of criminals within the Muslim world that would attack and kill innocent people.

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3rd September, 2010

Right-wing billionaires exposed as financing “Tea Party” movement

by Jai at 1:00 pm    

Further to my recent articles about Fox News’s bankrolling of the Republican Party and Jon Stewart’s exposé of the connections between Fox News and the “Ground Zero Mosque’s” alleged Saudi financier, some more information is continuing to come to light about the sheer scale of what is actually going on behind the scenes.

Firstly, let’s start with Fox News’s connection with the Republicans. It goes far beyond the $1 million which the channel’s parent company News Corp has now been confirmed to have donated to the Republican Party:

Via ‘Media Matters for America’:

“In recent years, at least twenty Fox News personalities have endorsed, raised money, or campaigned for Republican candidates or causes, or against Democratic candidates or causes, in more than 300 instances and in all 50 states. Republican parties and officials have routinely touted these personalities’ affiliations with Fox News to sell and promote their events.”

The rest of the Media Matters article gives a detailed breakdown of exactly who has been involved, what activities they’ve undertaken, dates & locations etc.

Comprehensive details about the exact amount of money involving people associated with Fox News during the 2010 election cycle alone can be read here. Apparently it comes to nearly $50 million to date, with far more pending.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. During the past few days, both the New York Times and the New Yorker have published articles revealing the billionaires who are actually bankrolling the “Tea Party” movement and doing everything they can to destroy Barack Obama’s presidency. The details below expand considerably on Sunny’s recent PP article which also mentioned the matter, although that article focused on environmental issues.

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1st September, 2010

Fox News confirmed as bankrolling Republican Party

by Jai at 11:45 am    

As recently discussed on Pickled Politics, last week Jon Stewart and The Daily Show brilliantly exposed the fact that the unnamed person Fox News had been repeatedly claiming was allegedly financing Park51/Cordoba House (aka the “Ground Zero Mosque”) and with implied ties to radical Islamist extremists was actually the Saudi Arabian Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, the second-largest shareholder of Fox News’s parent company News Corp and an individual closely affiliated with News Corp’s primary owner Rupert Murdoch himself. Fox News have subsequently completely dropped their stories about the shadowy “unnamed financier”, and are apparently also refusing to respond to post-Daily Show queries about the matter. Nevertheless, the issue raises the following questions:

· Why is Prince Al-Waheed continuing to work closely with an American news channel which is a) actively involved in pandering to negative stereotypes about Muslims en masse and b) is simultaneously playing an active role in damaging relations between the West (especially the United States) and Muslim populations overseas ?
· Why are Fox News violating the principles of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, considering that the latter was signed in 1797 directly by the Founding Father & 2nd US president John Adams and ratified & unanimously approved by Congress, and explicitly states that “as the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion….it has in itself no character of enmity towards the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen [ie. Muslims]” ?
· Why are Fox News effectively promoting militant Wahhabism as the “default” version of Islam ?
· Why are Fox News persecuting Sufis, the Muslim group which is the most forcefully opposed to Islamist extremism (particularly militant Wahhabism) and whom both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have a murderous level of hatred for ?
· In summary, why are Fox News effectively doing Al-Qaeda’s dirty work for them ?

Some further facts about Fox News have also subsequently come to light. Despite the channel’s claims of being “fair and balanced” and their repeated denials of any bias towards, or association with, any of the major American political parties, the channel’s parent company, News Corp, has now been confirmed as making a $1 million donation to the Republican Party. This is actually the single largest donation by any corporation, and has a number of ramifications, as summarised in the extracts below:

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27th August, 2010

Alleged “Ground Zero Mosque” financier is Fox News co-owner

by Jai at 11:45 am    

Fox News have recently been at the forefront of whipping up hysteria about the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”. This is actually quite a major turnaround for them, considering that Fox had previously interviewed both Imam Rauf (the head of the Cordoba Initiative) and his wife Daisy Khan, and their attitudes towards these individuals and their efforts were very positive indeed. Park51/Cordoba House was even explicitly discussed with Daisy Khan during an interview in December 2009, and the Fox anchor at the time stated “I can’t find many people who really have a problem with it….I like what you’re trying to do.”

With the exception of the upbeat interview with Daisy Khan on Fox News after the New York Times published a detailed front-page article on 9th December 2009 about the plans for Park51/Corboda House, there was no reaction from the “conservative Right” and no newspaper articles about the subject at all for the next five months…..until Fox News began taking a stridently hostile view towards the building in May 2010.

Someone who has been a particularly vociferous opponent – and an individual who has subsequently been provided with considerable public exposure by Fox News — has been Pamela Geller of “Stop the Islamization of America”, who is allied with racist white supremacists in South Africa and has also openly praised the English Defence League/EDL on a number of occasions, to the extent that she’s repeatedly been in contact with the EDL’s leadership; apparently she also firmly believes that US President Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim.

Fox News’s own promotion of consistently anti-Muslim stories has of course become an established characteristic of the channel. And most recently, Fox News have run multiple news segments making sinister insinuations about a shadowy Saudi Arabian figure with alleged ties to radical Islamist extremists who owns the “Kingdom Foundation” (aka Kingdom Holding Company) and has allegedly been a major financier of Park51/Cordoba House. Fox News have never named this person on-air.

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25th August, 2010

The billionaire brothers waging war against Obama and the environment

by Sunny at 11:30 am    

This is an excellent article in the New Yorker: An excerpt:

The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests.

In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups.

Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.
….
” The Kochs have given millions of dollars to nonprofit groups that criticize environmental regulation and support lower taxes for industry. Gus diZerega, the former friend, suggested that the Kochs’ youthful idealism about libertarianism had largely devolved into a rationale for corporate self-interest. He said of Charles, “Perhaps he has confused making money with freedom.”

These are also the guys who founded the US libertarian think-tank Cato Institute. When President Obama, in a 2008 speech, described the science on global warming as “beyond dispute,” the Cato Institute took out a full-page ad in the Times to contradict him.

The article also goes on to say that though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently issued a report concluding the evidence for global warming is unequivocal, more Americans are convinced than at any time since 1997 that scientists have exaggerated the seriousness of global warming. “The Kochs promote this statistic on their company’s Web site but do not mention the role that their funding has played in fostering such doubt.”

In a 2002 memo, the Republican political consultant Frank Luntz wrote that so long as “voters believe there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community” the status quo would prevail.

It is perhaps the biggest myth that “libertarians” buy into – that the people they look up to are free-wheeling intellectuals who have no ties to the corporatist world that libertarians actually claim to hate. The Cato institute, the climate change denial industry – everything is funded by these mad-men. They don’t care for rationality, evidence or the planet – only their own bottom line.

The other point I wanted to make was… once you read the article you understand the kind of entrenched money and vested interests he is up against. Shifting the system is neither easy nor quick.

21st August, 2010

The “Ground Zero Mosque”: Ignorance, Prejudice and Historical Precedents – Part 2

by Jai at 7:00 pm    

(This article is an immediate continuation of Part 1. Readers are therefore strongly advised to read that part first before continuing below).

Indian history and “the Sikh 9/11”

Firstly, during India’s “Great Mughal” era, the 6th Sikh Guru actually had a mosque built for the ordinary Muslims who had settled in the town he had founded in Punjab – despite the fact that his own father had been severely tortured over a period of several days upon the orders of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, and ultimately died of his horrific injuries. In fact, that same mosque was very recently jointly renovated by Sikh and Muslim volunteers in India as part of a major restoration project. There are even mosques in Amritsar itself, the “holy city” of the Sikhs. It’s certainly a far cry from Newt Gingrich’s “no mosques until there are churches in Saudi Arabia” rhetoric, given that he’s effectively recommending that the United States should duplicate fundamentalist Wahhabi Saudi Arabian attitudes towards places of worship; furthermore, the notion of holding your own country’s citizens hostage to – and penalising them for – the actions of a foreign government because they happen to be affiliated with superficially the same religion (despite being from very different “denominations”) isn’t just irrational and barbaric, it’s also morally bankrupt.

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19th August, 2010

The “Ground Zero Mosque”: Ignorance, Prejudice and Historical Precedents – Part 1

by Jai at 7:15 pm    

“It is rash to condemn where you are ignorant.”

Much has recently been said about the proposed Cordoba House facility in New York, dubbed the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”. As is now widely known, CNN anchor and Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria returned his award to the ADL and explained his rationale extremely well (he’s subsequently also summarised Sufism and the reasons for Al-Qaeda’s hatred of it); Alex Massie also recently discussed the issue and made a number of brilliant points. This article in the New York Times by the acclaimed historian William Dalrymple about the Cordoba Initiative’s Sufi connection is excellent too, as is this article by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post. This segment from MSNBC by Keith Olbermann forcefully argues against the escalating bigotry towards Muslims and also discusses the potential ramifications for America if these attitudes are allowed to continue. US President Barack Obama himself has now emphatically voiced his support for the right of the founders of Cordoba House to build the proposed centre (also see here). Even Christopher Hitchens has been demolishing the arguments of many of the people opposed to Cordoba House (including Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin) and has condemned their sectarian prejudice and often staggering level of ignorance. The quote at the top of this paragraph by the Roman philosopher Seneca clearly still has great resonance 2000 years later; coincidentally, the great man was born in Cordoba himself.

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Is Ground Zero Mosque really a “provocation”?

by Sunny at 12:11 pm    

Once again, Alex Massie is spot on:

One of the recurring arguments against the plan is that, however well-intentioned its backers may be, it represents an unfortunate and unnecessary “provocation”. Even if those involved mean no harm and don’t mean to “provoke” they should have been wise enough to appreciate that their proposal was bound to provoke a hostile reaction. Which means they should think again.

That’s certainly an argument; I just don’t think it’s a very good one. It is a familiar one, however. Cast your mind back 20 years and remember the rumpus that erupted when Salman Rushdie had the temerity, the gall, the bare-arsed effrontery to publish The Satanic Verses. There were those – including plenty of so-called liberals – who effectively sided with the book-burners and maniacs who protested against Rushdie (and the Penguin group) calling for the book to be banned.

Rushdie, you see, should have appreciated that publishing was bound to provoke people and, this being so, he should have been wise enough to pulp his novel. Yes, yes, of course we all believe in the right to freedom of expression but, in this instance, is it really sensible to insist upon it in such a provocative fashion? If there’s a backlash, well, poor Rushdie has brought it upon himself hasn’t he? He should have known better.

You will not be surprised to hear that most people now complaining that GZM is a “provocation” were also arguing earlier that Muslims should learn to provocative works like Rushdie’s books. There is no reasoning with such people really.

Meanwhile – the Democrats have lost any spine they had. I am now officially depressed with the Obama administration for doing exactly what they accused previous Democrat administrations of doing – leading by polls and ineffective triangulation rather than taking strong stances and having the strength of their convictions. I hope the Labour party will learn from this, but I doubt it will.

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