Newt Gingrich is an idiot


This is what Newt Gingrich has said

The folks who want to build this mosque – who are really radical Islamists who want to triumphally prove that they can build a mosque right next to a place where 3,000 Americans were killed by radical Islamists – those folks don’t have any interest in reaching out to the community. They’re trying to make a case about supremacy. That’s why they won’t go anywhere else, that’s why they won’t accept any other offer.

This is the reality

“Imam Feisal has participated at the Aspen Institute in Muslim-Christian-Jewish working groups looking at ways to promote greater religious tolerance.  He has consistently denounced radical Islam and terrorism, and promoted a moderate and tolerant Islam. Some of this work was done under the auspices of his own group, the Cordoba Initiative. I liked his book, and I participated in some of the meetings in 2004 or so. This is why I find it a shame that his good work is being undermined by this inflamed dispute. He is the type of leader we should be celebrating in America, not undermining.”

Isn’t it  clear that the Republicans are not grounded in reality?

Carpetbaggers and Scalawags


Minstrels is another name that comes to mind for these people in modern day America who travel the country inciting and inflaming people’s passions about Islam and Muslims in America.  I’m especially piqued at the prospect that a southerner from the state of Georgia who no doubt understands full well the historical role carpetbaggers played in  his state’s history, a role he no doubt would describe as detrimental,  would himself take up that calling.

I’m talking about Newt Gingrich, in another life he was a congressman from Georgia who had a rather ignominious reputation relating to personal integrity, who has gone on to New York City and weighed in on the Cordoba House which is slated to be built near the location where the World Trade centers stood before being destroyed on 9/11/01.  Nevermind the fact that this establishment in the heart of one of the most culturally diverse cities in America will have facilities for people of all faiths to pray, Muslims, Christians or Jews, or that it will have recreational facilities for all  an interfaith YM/YWCA, or that the democratically elected Mayor of New York city which will house Cordoba House has gone on record with a very constitutionally correct statement

I think our young men and women overseas are fighting for exactly this – for the right of people to practice their religion and for government to not pick and choose which religions they support, which religions they don’t

Gingrich has inserted himself in the debate with the really inappropriate analogy of the US and Saudi Arabia by saying

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.

Of course it didn’t take long for carpetbagger Sarah Palin to join in the fracas and with her appearance the usual scalawags, locals from among the New York landscape joined in with their unhealthy doses of Islamophobic paranoia.  If you remember anything about American history you would know that “carpetbaggers”, was a derogatory term applied to Northerners who moved to the South during the post Civil War era between 1865 and 1877  looking for opportunism and exploitation of the area in which they moved. The outsiders often formed alliances with freed slaves and southern whites of like mind  nicknamed scalawags who then  politically manipulated and controlled former Confederate states for varying periods for their own financial and power gains. Carpetbaggers were viewed as dubious outsiders whose objectives were to disrupt the status quo for their own political gain.  As time went on, the terms changed, so that people who came to an area of the South, especially during the Civil Rights era, were called outsider agitators, or communists.  (I assert there is no moral equivalency between the people who agitated for change brought on during the time post Civil War era to now and the Islamophobes of today; the former was inclusive in aspiration as well as participation while the latter is exclusive)

Gingrich comes from a place in America that knows all to well how people react to outside influences, positively and negatively and seizing on that experience has allowed himself to be swept up in the racism of the Islamophobic reactionaries.  It is especially relevant because he is considering running for President in 2012, and recognizing there is a tidal backlash against Muslims and Islam has gathered his surf board and is now riding that wave.  His co-partner in crime Palin, equally ambitious and cash crazed has joined him as has the scalawags of the movement, some of them you can find mentioned here.  They are all political opportunists, demagogues whose rhetoric appeals to a segment of the population they hope will catapult them to political power.  They are segregationists in the sense they envision a limited participation of certain segments of America’s population into the everyday affairs of the public.  Gingrich and his ilk are driven by a bloodlust that has seeped into America’s conscious, in part due to two wars being fought by American troops and in part by a war of propaganda that has permeated the airwaves attaching all the necessarily repugnant stereotypes of a people in order to influence public opinion.  The people of NYC and surrounding areas would do well to listen to the patriotism of Mayor Bloomberg, whose appeal is to the rule of law and social order.  Gingrich and his band of scalawags hold such noble callings in contempt and therefore should be dismissed.

A Return to Public Office, or Rags to Riches?


It’s in vogue these days to bash somebody, some ethnic group and doing so usually lands one on a grand public pulpit complete with enough money from a political action committee or think tank to either live comfortably for the rest of your life or seek public office and live comfortably for the rest of your life.  So the far right’s Newt Gingrich is back in the news again with this declaration

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over….

America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could.

No mosque.

No self deception.

No surrender.

With ruminations abound he will run for president in 2012, that is more likely the reason for this public rant and indulgence in Islamophobia.  Muslims, like Jews once were, and African-Americans are still today (just ask Shirley Sherrod) are the new whipping boys that you can tie to any stake (read that issue) and beat them to the great delight and pleasure of the general public, and even win yourself an accolade or two enough to get into public office and live off the public dole for the rest of your life. Why we aren’t sophisticated enough to see these charlatans for what they are and kick them to the nearest curb; their tactics are far too transparent and offensive to a society as rich and diverse as ours, but they keep coming back.  It’s interesting Gingrich comes from Georgia, home of the late Lester Maddox.  Perhaps you remember him don’t you?  He’s the one in the photo below with the pistol; Jr., of course his son, has the trademark pick ax handle.

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Netanyahu Speaks with Forked Tongue


It won’t make that much difference in people’s attitudes about Israel, although it should be extremely embarrasing to official Washington, the admission or rather revelation that Benjamin Netanyahu lied in order to sabotage the Oslow Accords back during the Clinton Administration.  It’s no small foot note that Netanyahu is now the Prime Minister of Israel and  no doubt still lies; it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, dontcha’ know.

What’s also interesting to this observer is the revelation comes from a news outlet other than the US main stream media, that darling of Israel and any US administration that is in power.  I don’t entirely agree with the reporter’s assertion in the piece that the video which contains the damning details was shot unbeknownst to Netanyahu; I think Netanyahu and most other Israeli officials don’t give a damn whether Americans or anyone else knows what they really think or believe, because they know it will be smoothed over for them by corporate media.  Witness the rather arrogant behavior of the Israelis during Joe Biden’s recent stop in Israel where they announced new settlements at a time it was hoped they would freeze settlements.  What Netanyahu admits to is

he deceived the US president of the time, Bill Clinton, into believing he was helping implement the Oslo accords, the US-sponsored peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, by making minor withdrawals from the West Bank while actually entrenching the occupation. He boasts that he thereby destroyed the Oslo process. He dismisses the US as “easily moved to the right direction” and calls high levels of popular American support for Israel “absurd”.

He also suggests that, far from being defensive, Israel’s harsh military repression of the Palestinian uprising was designed chiefly to crush the Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat so that it could be made more pliable for Israeli diktats.

Many within the Israeli leadership as well as the apparatchiks here in America were opposed to the Oslow Accords because they claimed, as usual, Israel was being asked to give up too much.  Netanyahu’s conniving position was no doubt taken so he could appear to be the more moderate and acceptable leader for Israel….a diplomatic version of good cop, bad cop, the bad cop being the bloodthirsty Ariel Sharon.  In reality Netanyahu is much worse.  The video which contains these statements by Netanyahu, which also appears below, has been circulating around in Israel for a period of time yet no one of the so called liberal Israeli public opinion, which we are told is far more open to criticism of  Israeli leadership because they get better media coverage and a more critical viewpoint  of Israeli government shenanigans; no one from this elite society of free thinkers has uttered a call for Netanyahu to resign.  No one seems the least bit concerned about the effect this news will have on Israel’s international relations.  One wouldn’t really expect them to be concerned at all; the Israelis have positioned themselves so far to an extreme nothing short of a war in which they are alone on one side facing everybody else would make them rethink positions they have come to hold so dearly today.   But it is interesting to this observer that the video appears after Netanyahu’s visit to the US just a few short days ago and is just one more ‘in your face’ statement made to belittle and demean the ‘world’s only superpower’.  Somehow, that expression- world’s only superpower,  just doesn’t have the ring to it it once did.

Perhaps this also gives people in the west, if they care to stop and reflect just once, an idea of the frustration the Palestinians have felt toward the Israeli government and people.  The leaders of Israel openly admit their signature on treaties, commitments, agreements aren’t worth the paper they are written on, and this deceit is carried out with the full knowledge and approval of Israeli citizenry.

Driving While White


During the height of L.A.’s Rampart scandal–in which a rogue unit of anti-gang cops orchestrated the deportation of hundreds of illegal immigrants and then used deportation threats to elicit all kinds of phony informant testimony and to cover up their own brutally criminal behavior in a heavily immigrant neighborhood–I happened to take a slow drive through the Rampart area to gawk at the few remaining Victorian mansions still standing amidst the graffiti-strewn stucco and open-air smack dealers. Through distracted confusion at a semi-tricky intersection I ended up running a red light, right in front of an LAPD patrol car.

“What are you doing in this neighborhood?” one of the cops asked. I told them, apologized for my mistake, and they…sent me on my way. “Be more careful next time!”, etc. It was the most memorable data point in something I’ve noticed ever since cutting off my hippie hair and losing all the terrible earrings: When you look “normal,” interaction with police–or “lawful contact,” in the Arizona parlance–tends to go much smoother. Better yet, it rarely takes place at all.

You can observe this phenomenon not just behind the wheel, but out on the street. I jaywalk probably every day (though only when the coast is totally clear), and frequently do so right in front of The Man (him being so prevalent in the District of Columbia). Though I got ticketed once during the longhair days, the only time a cop has said boo ever since was when I blatantly crossed over to the D.C. Convention Center in front of a half-dozen policemen standing there looking at me. “Use the light next time,” one said, and I was on my way. Good thing I wasn’t some dude walking in L.A.’s Skid Row.

I mention this trivia because Steve Chapman had an important point this morning about the question over what could constitute “legal contact” or probable cause in Arizona. “On the average car,” Chapman said a cop once told him, “he could find half a dozen reasons to write up additional citations if provoked. Any of those would serve equally well to justify a stop.” When you have thousands upon thousands of criminal laws, chances are non-trivial that you’re breaking one of them as we speak, or at least can be seen as possibly breaking one of them, in case you happen to cross paths with a motivated law enforcement officer. The “driving while black” phenomenon is not some Al Sharpton urban legend.

Of all the misguided apologia I’ve seen for Arizona’s papers-please law, chief among them has been the notion that somehow, some way, this won’t lead to selective enforcement based on personal appearance. For instance, American Spectator writer (and Reason contributor) W. James Antle III:

Far from authorizing local police officers to pull Hispanics from crowds at random and demand to see proof of legal residency, the law requires a prior “legal contact” — that is, there needs to already be something going on, like an arrest or a traffic stop. The law specifically bans race and ethnicity as the sole grounds for a “reasonable suspicion” of illegal presence in the United States.

Or the American Conservative‘s Daniel Larison:

[T]he only people who have reason to complain about this law are those who are here illegally and those who believe that immigration laws should simply not be enforced.

The whole only-people-with-reason-to-fear argument, to put it mildly, has not been a historical friend of liberty. Nor is it usually accurate. If you are a legal resident immigrant from Mexico, you have plenty of “reason to complain” about this law, because now it’s more likely that you are going to be pulled over by an Arizona cop. And every transaction with a cop, especially if you are viewed as non-normal, is an opportunity for a negative outcome, from detainment to car impoundment (even if you’re never charged with a crime!) to something worse.For those clinging to the fantasy that the law’s “may not solely consider race, color or national origin” provision will somehow prevent profiling of Mexican-looking people, three points: 1) Steve Chapman’s six likely infractions by every driver is a built-in workaround for that “may not solely.” When you have thousands of laws, it’s not hard finding one that justifies the profiling. 2) Even in jurisdictions that didn’t just pass new laws targeting illegal immigrants, when you lower the bar for “legal contact” you increase the likelihood of targeting minorities. In the police empowerment zone that is New York City, a “stop-and-frisk” policy that has averaged 1,260 legal contacts per day has been enforced thusly: “A disproportionate 84 percent of […] stops involved blacks or Hispanics; only 10 percent involved white people.”

But the biggest blind spot in conservatives’ trust-the-government approach concerning Arizona is the easily discoverable fact that local law enforcement has already been engaging in the behavior that the apologists say won’t happen. Here’s a Phoenix New Times story from two years ago:

[Maricopa County Sheriff Joe] Arpaio began sponsoring “crime suppression sweeps” earlier this year, bringing hundreds of deputies and volunteer posse members to heavily Hispanic areas. Residents were pulled over for minor traffic offenses and questioned about their immigration status.

I have sympathy for people who are freaked out by desperate immigrants and ruthless smugglers trampling over their property in southern Arizona, and as I’ve said elsewhere, us pro-immigrant types too easily skate over rule-of-law objections. Federal immigration policy is a failure, and poses real public policy challenges that no amount of righteous indignation and/or handwaving makes disappear.

But anti-illegal immigration crackdowns almost always end up restricting freedom for the rest of us. And giving cops more power is almost always felt more on the receiving end by people–including people just as law-abiding as you and I–who don’t look like the norm. Remember, the stated goal of the new law is “to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona.” Those who think you can surgically accomplish “attrition” without inflaming and driving out legal residents, too, are kidding themselves. I doubt that many Arizonans themselves believe it.

Matt Welch

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