Conservatives in the United States are very happy that a Mosque is being built in the loose vicinity of ‘Ground Zero’. Hence the Ground Zero Mosque ‘controversy’. So yesterday the wingnuts thought of a brilliant way to get back at Muslims.
They’d build a gay bar next to the Mosque! LOLZ! ROFL!!!!1! etc
What a great idea! Even libertarians like Megan McArdle think its “brilliant”. Muslims hate gays right, so why not test their tolerance? It’s not like Republicans have anything against gays… *cough*. Fox News loved it. They invited their host Greg Gutfield – who came up with the plan – to talk about it all over other shows.
There’s only one problem, which hasn’t quite penetrated the wingnut world yet….
I know it sounds like I’m making excuses for Obama’s unwillingness to keep to his promises on counter-terrorism. Maybe I am. But here is a sobering though: America’s military-industrial complex is out of control.
That’s the only conclusion you can derive from reading this detailed Washington Post investigation. Here are their headline findings:
* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.
* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.
* Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.
* Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year – a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.
These are not academic issues; lack of focus, not lack of resources, was at the heart of the Fort Hood shooting that left 13 dead, as well as the Christmas Day bomb attempt thwarted not by the thousands of analysts employed to find lone terrorists but by an alert airline passenger who saw smoke coming from his seatmate.
They are also issues that greatly concern some of the people in charge of the nation’s security.
“There has been so much growth since 9/11 that getting your arms around that – not just for the DNI [Director of National Intelligence], but for any individual, for the director of the CIA, for the secretary of defense – is a challenge,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an interview with The Post last week.
In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials – called Super Users – have the ability to even know about all the department’s activities. But as two of the Super Users indicated in interviews, there is simply no way they can keep up with the nation’s most sensitive work.
“I’m not going to live long enough to be briefed on everything” was how one Super User put it. The other recounted that for his initial briefing, he was escorted into a tiny, dark room, seated at a small table and told he couldn’t take notes. Program after program began flashing on a screen, he said, until he yelled ”Stop!” in frustration.
“I wasn’t remembering any of it,” he said.
That shit is scary.
All I can say is that lefties get easily frustrated with Obama not keeping his promises. They have a right to. But after reading that I can’t say I’m surprised.
What Bush did was create the conditions and infrastructure for a situation that makes it almost impossible for any US President to keep control of national security. In that environment it makes it impossible for him even to be a dove. The only way out is for Obama to tear this entire operation down.
There is a view in some quarters, including here in the UK, that modern-day Western societies are free of some of the caricatures often associated with some non-Western cultures; in recent times, negative comparisons have been drawn with Islam and Muslims in particular.
Similarly, there are uninformed arguments being made that, whilst – for example – it would be highly inaccurate to assert that the most ultraconservative, tyrannical and bigoted historical versions of Catholicism or some of the more fanatical and regressive versions of Christianity in general prevalent in some parts of the United States should be extrapolated to stereotype & denigrate Christianity and its diverse followers all over the rest of the world, Islam and Muslims do not demonstrate the same level of diversity either in the modern day or historically. The logic (not to mention the gross ignorance) of claiming that one particular religion and its followers encompass the spectrum of interpretations from liberalism & moderation to the ultraconservative opposite extreme, and that other religions and their followers do not, is patently faulty.
Matthew Harwood has recently written an excellent article for Comment is Free on the Guardian demonstrating this perfectly, titled ”America’s Paranoid Religious Right”. He specifically discusses the ‘Call 2 Fall’ movement in the United States. A few extracts, as follows:
The Call 2 Fall movement captures the mood among Christian nationalists – that God is punishing America for its sinful ways.
Palin has smartly positioned herself as the champion of the conservative counter-revolution. By December, she will almost certainly be the de facto front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination.
By the time the Establishment GOP wakes up to this reality, it may be too late for them to do anything about it. Their view of Palin is that she’s useful to the party because she can help keep “the Tea Party types inside the tent.” And maybe she can serve coffee while she’s at it. Palin’s view is that (1) “the Tea Party types” are the party, (2) she is their standard bearer and (3) anyone who thinks “the Tea Party types” are there to lick envelopes and knock on doors should think again. They’re there, she asserts, to take back their party and to take back their country.
via Andrew Sullivan. I can’t wait for the Republican implosion. I’m also going to look forward to Nick Cohen telling us how great Sarah Palin is, for the second time.
Also worth noting: Liberal Groups in the US are organising themselves to get Obama to move on his promises, and regenergise the base so they can come out and vote. The danger for Democrats in the mid-term elections is that Republicans are far more fired up to go out and vote than Democrats.
For the first time since 1984, a turbaned Sikh, Captain Rattan, has graduated from officer training to become a captain in the US army. For the past twenty six years Sikhs had to choose between their turbans (and beards) and joining the military, though prior to this it wasn’t such an issue. There has been no policy change as such, but the army is entitled to grant individual officers waivers. Captain Rattan, a dentist, was given one, probably in part because his skills are in short supply on the front line. Another Sikh, due to graduate as a doctor, has also received a waiver. Potential safety issues were also resolved through testing and modification:
During training, Rattan wore a helmet over the small turban, which he doesn’t remove, and was able to successfully create a seal with his gas mask despite the beard, resolving the Army’s safety concerns, said Harsimran Kaur, the Sikh Coalition’s legal director.
Rattan worked with an Army tailor to create a flash, the insignia patch worn on soldiers’ berets, that could be affixed to his black turban, she said.
We covered this a while ago, and I am glad that they received exemptions. I hope that this will eventually lead to a wider policy change, as Captain Rattan has shown that there isn’t any operational disadvantage to having a turban and beard. Nor would such a change bother non-Sikh soldiers in the US military, if the British experience is anything to go by.
To quote the British general Sir Frank Walter Messervy:
In the last two World Wars 83,005 turban-wearing Sikh soldiers were killed and 109,045 were wounded. They all died or were wounded for the freedom of Britain and the World, enduring shell fire with no other protection but the turban, the symbol of their faith.
Six years after using the Patriot Act to revoke the visa of a prominent Muslim academic, the United States State Department reversed itself and said Wednesday that it would no longer bar the scholar from entering the United States.
Civil rights campaigners have long argued that the two cases were particularly blatant examples of how the Bush administration used the Patriot Act as a way to bar people whose political views were at odds with its own.
These achievements will have real world impact. By 2011, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, P.L. 111-5, will double the generation of renewable electricity from the wind, sun, and earth. ARRA will also lead to energy efficiency retrofits in 1 million homes by 2012. And President Obama’s new fuel economy standards would save 1.8 billion barrels of oil. Additional benefits will accrue as the president and Congress finish some 2009 clean-energy initiatives and additional efforts are launched in 2010.
Ezra Klein has an excellent article at the Washington Post on what a hypocritical and mendacious Senator Joe Lieberman is, as he tries to gut healthcare reform. The administration have bent over backwards to accommodate the two ‘independent’ (meaning conservative) Democratic Senators – Nelson and Liberman – and both aren’t giving an inch.
In contrast the Republicans are toeing a tight line, making sure not one Senator crosses over. The result? Obama is in deep shit. If healthcare reform fails then his administration will be labelled as a failure. And all because of one Senator who doesn’t want to give easy access to abortion (Nelson) and the other because he wants to see Democrats fail (Lieberman). And that, in many ways, is why I have a problem with agreeing that allowing politicians plenty of independence is a good thing: you end up with an American system that can’t get much done at all unless discipline is imposed.
There’s a point of clarification here. I generally don’t have problems with independent MPs who attack to defend the base, as people like Howard Dean are doing. I abhor independents who betray the people who turn out to campaign and vote for them and the party that represents a certain set of values.
This was forwarded to me in an email, so I can’t take credit for its compilation. But it offers a list (I’ve taken out some small ones) of how the Obama administration has been different to the Bush administration. For all the haters out there… etc etc.
Beginning the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq
The secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere are being closed
The US now has a no torture policy and is in compliance with the Geneva Convention standards
The missile defense program is being cut by $1.4 billion in 2010
Restarted the nuclear nonproliferation talks and building back up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols
The prison at Guantanamo Bay is being phased out
Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office
Deployed additional troops to Afghanistan
Science / Environment
Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions
Removed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research
Federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research
New federal funding for science and research labs
Ended the previous policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions
Energy producing plants must begin preparing to produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources
Ended previous practice of having White House aides rewrite scientific and environmental rules, regulations, and reports
Instituted enforcement for equal pay for women
Ended media blackout on war casualties; reporting full information
The White House and federal government are respecting the Freedom of Information Act
Limits on lobbyist’s access to the White House and on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration
Negotiated deal with Swiss banks to permit US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals
The FDA is now regulating tobacco
Built a swing set for the girls outside the Oval Office!
I’ve followed Ali Eteraz’s writing closely since he started what I think was his first wordpress blog. I remember commenting on one of his first posts, which didn’t have anything to do with politics or religion, but was an assertion of Pete Sampras’ superiority over Roger Federer (naturally I disagreed). The thing which characterised Ali’s work was the sheer energy with which he was tackling issues. He was debating Islamic conservatives, challenging right-wing writers who were scared of or bigoted towards Islam, while at the same time trying to build a broad-based coalition for Islamic Reform.
As a result, while I was desperately trying to hold on to the few readers I had on my old website, Ali managed to build up a huge readership in a remarkably short period of time. In many ways, my blogging output declined when I realised that Ali was already expressing most of what I wanted to say. Therefore, I was disappointed when eteraz.org suddenly disappeared. There was still content on the US presidential elections and his series on Islam for Comment is Free, but the constant desire to write, challenge and engage seemed to have disappeared.
‘Children of Dust’ gives the back story of Eteraz. From growing up in a dusty village in a remote region of Punjab, to crisscrossing America through high school, college and work, while trying to come to grips with Islam. The tagline for the book says, ‘A Memoir of Pakistan’ which I suspect was the work of some marketing person. Pakistan definitely plays a crucial role in Ali’s journey and his life allows us to see some of the ways in which it has changed over the years. However fundamentally, this book is about a personal journey. What inspired Ali to become so passionate about his religion, the ways in which this manifested itself, the contradictions it caused in his personal life, why he burned out and how he found salvation (i think).
I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then â€” a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.
And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin â€” he must have heard, â€œGod will be on your sideâ€ â€” and so he did.
Of course he’s drawing parallels with what is happening now and pointing out that an atmosphere is being created where someone will try to assassinate Barack Obama. It doesn’t surprise me. Media Matters for USA points out that a popular right-wing website this week published an article essentially stating that a military coup was needed to solve “the Obama problem”. These people are not only nutjobs, they are now mainstream Republicans.
What’s all the more interesting in this ongoing saga is that all those people who screamed about “anti-Americanism” for the vitriol that was hurled at Bush are now keeping very quiet on Obama even though he’s not started any wars. Double-standards? Of course. Initially I used to dismiss notions that people would kill Obama just because he was black. Now I’m not so sure. These people are seriously unhinged. And there are a lot of them out there.
Actually this isn’t very uncommon. When people say that ‘British culture’ or ‘native culture’ is under attack from the ‘multi-culturalists’ – they can never define what they’re supposedly trying to protect, nor give solid examples of what they mean.
I wish someone here put Nick Griffin, or even Richard Littlejohn, on the same spot.
1: Public opinion can be shifted. Think of strategies and stunts that could do that. The atmosphere started with the public fairly positive to Obama’s plans. But the wingnut Republicans started shouting at meetings and talking about ‘death panels’. At this point most liberals though – hah, this will never work. The public will see through how absurd this is‘. Wrong. People thought ‘no smoke without fire’ instead, and public opinion started shifting against Obama.
2. Facts don’t always work. Emotion does. And the media always follow a circus. Exploit that to your advantage.
Following on from above – the left thought that the public would never buy the idea of ‘death panels’ or the people who turned up to townhalls with assault rifles. But people are influenced by their fellow citizens getting angry over something. And the media follows the circus – with the result that angry townhalls dominated coverage, and people started thinking all of America was angry at Obama’s healthcare. Result – public opinion shifts.
The point isn’t that you push lies, like Sarah Palin has done. The point is that thinking that just by debunking right-wing nonsense will do the job is not good enough. The media plays the game of ‘journalistic equivalence’, which means that a lying Republican will be offered equal space to someone debunking it. People assume that both are simply two sides of a debate, and they’ll believe with their guts than facts.
3. Don’t defend the status quo even if you want to retain it. Go on the offensive. Obama should have said that healthcare is broken, and that insurance companies were fleecing people. He started off by telling people they could keep what they had, instead of telling them they were paying too much for healthcare. Bad strategy.
4. Discipline on your side is necessary, and so is a clear message. Keep repeating the basic message. Those who want nuance can find it.
The Democrat Blue Dogs should have been taken outside and shot. I kid, only half-heartedly. If the bill doesn’t get passed it will be thanks to conservative Democrats who don’t realise it will kill their re-election chances too. Obama should have forced discipline from day one rather than letting everyone pile in.
And you thought the hard-left was crazy? Here is the latest ad by a right-wing American lobby group.
And there’s plenty more examples of right-wing nutjobs in America trying to paint Obama as Hitler or Stalin. A lot of this is driven by racism, especially since it ties closely with the Republican “birther” movement who refuse to believe Obama was born in America. I wonder if the far-left in the UK will also buy into that racism by equating Obama with Hitler too.
The Obama administration has opened the way for foreign women who are victims of severe domestic beatings and sexual abuse to receive asylum in the United States. The action reverses a Bush administration stance in a protracted and passionate legal battle over the possibilities for battered women to become refugees.
There are still strict criteria but the move is to be celebrated nevertheless.
It also struck me that in addition to foreign policy, the environment and a whole rage of domestic issues like healthcare and science – Obama really is trying to eke out a different agenda despite the establishment inertia. And yet there are still hard-left ranters who keep saying there’s little difference between Obama and Bush. It boggles the mind.
Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska just announced she is resigning as governor for Alaska. What the fuck? Now, no one resigns just like that as governor, especially someone as ambitious as Palin.
Is she planning to start a campaign for president? I think that’s a bit premature. Governors don’t usually resign this far in advance and start campaigning. I have a feeling that something is going to come out of Palin’s closet and she’s just resigning in advance.
Of course this is quite annoying as I was hoping Palin would run in 2012 and help the Democrats win again. Dammit!
Jamie Foxx, the host of the Black Entertainment Television music awards, was unequivocal on Sunday night. â€œWe want to celebrate this black man,â€ Mr. Foxx said of Michael Jackson. â€œHe belongs to us and we shared him with everybody else.â€
Mr. Jackson was to music what Michael Jordan was to sports and Barack Obama to politics â€” a towering figure with crossover appeal, even if in life some of Mr. Jacksonâ€™s black fans wondered if he was as proud of his race as his race was of him. But since his death on Thursday, many African-Americans have embraced Mr. Jackson without ambivalence. In scores of interviews across the country over the weekend, few expressed the kind of resentment some once had for his strangeness, his changing appearance, his distance from the cherubic Michael of the Jackson 5.
I can understand the sentiment behind this – Michael Jackson was the first big black icon. So naturally African Americans feel a sense of ownership. But there is a danger here isn’t there? If every black person represents or belongs to the community then you end up defending the bad (OJ, Mike Tyson) along with trying to claim the good (MJ).
This happens a lot in the UK too. For the longest time, in the national newspapers, if one Muslim or black person did something bad then it was seen as representative of the entire ‘community’. Taking that cue from the papers – the same people end up trying to police everyone and condemning anyone from their community who steps out of line as bad.
I think it’s time to kill this attitude. Even the words ‘community’ or ‘communities’ should be banned. Who says white people belong ‘to communities’? And yet you see journalists now refer to minorities as belonging to ‘communities’ instead of one community. That’s not really an improvement is it. They should use ‘families’ or refer to them as individuals.
“I like to go to the sources of the problem not around it,â€ he said, adding that giving the speech in Indonesia would be â€œalmost like cheatingâ€ because Indonesia and the US have generally very strong ties and that because of his background having lived in Indonesia and having a sister who is half Indonesian, he would have â€œhome groundâ€ advantage and he did not want that.
Here are some reactions positive, negative and insane (video included)…
You may know that Barack Obama is giving a speech today in Cairo, addressed to the ‘Muslim world’. In an earlier statement he said:
And one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, weâ€™d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.
Guess what Spectator Magazine’s Melanie Phillips had to say?
Just what planet is this US President on? Or is this not a statement but an aspiration?
Oh yeah, whoops! Barack Hussein Obama mistakenly blurts out his plan to convert America to Islam by stealth! Phillips is so absurd that even fellow blogger Alex Massie couldn’t help but mock her:
This is intriguing and I’d be interested to learn how the President might make the United States an islamic nation. Surely this was something he should have mentioned on the campaign trail? Clearly, his reticence about this confirms the seriousness of his intent. All the most dangerous plots are kept secret, dontcha know? Only the bravest and wisest can penetrate the conspiracy and sound the necessary alert.
The kind of conspiracy loons that Melanie Phillips now attracts is evident by the comments. One says:
It’s because he is a Muslim.
Born as one, educated in early years at a maddrassa, pictured in muslim dress. Even, gasp named Hussein. What’s not Islamic about any of that?
Then the missing records. The birth certificate. The education records.
Not forgetting that grovelling bow.
I felt that the idea of a black potus was extremely laudable. However of all the suitable black people in the US they pick this marxist, racist and divisive product of the Chicago machine.
Nothing will surprise except for the fact that the US is still in thrall.
Pajamas Media, Atlas Shrugs and Family Security Matters are good places to start if anyone needs a little education outside the MSM.
It’s more amusing that the Spectator Magazine is happy to continue publishing such conspiracy loons.
Sikhs wishing to join the US military have long been barred from joining if they refused to cut their hair and discard their turbans. A 1981 regulation banned ‘conspicuous’ religious symbols in the military (though there had been some exemption for the turban) while in 1999 new regulations forced Sikhs (apart from those who had enlisted prior to 1984) to choose between the five Ks and the military. Now two Sikhs who enlisted are being told, despite previous assurances, that they will have to remove their turbans, cut their hair and shave their breads when their training is finished.
You wouldn’t know it from the non coverage but today is the 6th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
I’m not going to write a lengthy tirade, re-regurgitating past opinions about the rights or wrongs about the invasion, the lies we were told to sell us on the venture or the horrendous number of people killed as a result.
Nor am I going to lay in to the former lefties who backed this war. I figure a thread for reflection and remembrance and perhaps a little hope of what may be possible for the future might suffice.
Where were you on the night the bombing started? What were your thoughts? Do you see a better future for the country and it’s people?
Since entering office Mr Obama has overturned a number of policies that religious conservatives hold dear, such as a ban on government aid for family-planning groups that promote abortion in poor countries. Plans are also in the works to rescind a regulation enacted in the dying days of the Bush administration that gives health workers a â€œright of conscienceâ€, protecting them from the sack if they refused to co-operate in certain medical procedures (mainly abortions). Social conservatives are also upset with Eric Holder, the new attorney-general, for confirming that the federal government will no longer take action against medical-marijuana clubs, which are legal in some states.
None of these reversals is a surprise, but conservatives have been taken aback at the unflinching speed of the changes. Mr Obama may be emboldened by his solid victoryâ€”he does not need the support of religious conservatives to govern. And for all the talk of bipartisanship and Mr Obama’s courting of religious voters during his campaign, their voting patterns did not change much at all, so he owes them little.
Obviously, I’m overjoyed. All those people who said Obama was nasty and bad for reaching out to conservatives and wouldn’t really be liberal-left in power are now eating their words. On domestic policy his record is stellar: pro-union, pro-science, pro-civil rights, pro-civil liberties and pro-feminist. On foreign policy: not so good. As many generals have already said, the new administration has placed a firm emphasis on diplomacy over military action. But not much action has followed. For a start he should have gone further in embracing Cuba. That the neoconservatives will be crying into their cornflakes will be amusing to watch; I also want to know what British neocons, who constantly accused the left of “anti-Americanism”, will say now.
This also raises some questions about political positioning. Frank Rich thinks the cultural warriors on the right have lost because of the recession. But it’s also undeniable that Obama neutered a lot of criticism by sounding genuinely non-partisan during his campaign. He didn’t make a big song and dance about being on the left or right – he simply laid out what he believed in. Nevertheless, religious conservatives still didn’t really vote for him. What does that say about his pragmatic strategy?
Added:Interesting…the columnist with the best access to the prez is a conservative, who can neutralise or convince the very audience you need to reach out to while pushing effectively a leftwing agenda. Obama is as smart as I thought he was.
According to Shamit at eGov monitor, Obama has appointed a new Chief Information Office for the United States. Yes, he’s brown.
President Obama said, “Vivek Kundra will bring a depth of experience in the technology arena and a commitment to lowering the cost of government operations to this position. I have directed him to work to ensure that we are using the spirit of American innovation and the power of technology to improve performance and lower the cost of government operations. As Chief Information Officer, he will play a key role in making sure our government is running in the most secure, open, and efficient way possible.”
The only other South Asian person to be offered a role was the Surgeon General position! Being medics and geeks, is that all we’re good at?? Well, at least the American tech industry are ecstatic. Heh.
This isn’t just one of Jon Stewart’s best rants; it actually illustrates the emptiness of the American financial punditry, who basically refused to believe the shit was about to hit the fan. This isn’t just a few bolshy investors trying to make a quick buck. This is a microcosm of the entire system enveloped in that corruption. Watch it in full.