Myth debunked


The number of people employed by the federal government has shrunk under the Obama administration.

It was the summer of 1966. Lyndon Johnson was in the White House and the Great Society was roaring. In August, the federal government had 2,721,000 employees.

Now it is the fall of 2013. There are complaints from Washington about a bloated federal government. Another Democrat, Barack Obama, is president.

In September, before the government shutdown, the government had 2,723,000 employees, according to the latest job report, on a seasonally adjusted basis. That is the lowest figure since 1966. Until now, the lowest figure for the current century had been 2,724,000 federal employees in October 2004, when George W. Bush was seeking a second term in the White House.

Now, the federal government employs exactly 2 percent of the people with jobs in this country. In 1966, the figure was more than twice that, 4.3 percent.

All these figures, by the way, are for civilian jobs. Members of the armed forces are not counted. If they were included, the contrast would be even sharper. In 1966 the Vietnam War was going on, and around 2.6 million people were on active duty. This year the figure is around 1.4 million.

 

I’ve tried to make this point several times here, so I’ll let someone else do it more eloquently than I could


Radically Wrong: Misstated Threats – Terrorism isn’t an American-Muslim Problem

By Dena Sher, ACLU Washington Legislative Office

blog-muslimprofiling-500x280-v01None. Zero. That’s the number of fatalities or injuries from terrorist acts by American Muslims over the last two years, according to a recent report from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. Here are some other numbers from the report worth noting: In the United States in 2012, there were nine “terrorist plots” by American Muslims—only one of which led to violence. Of those nine plots, only 14 suspects were indicted. Separately, six suspects were indicted for support of terrorism.

Terrorism is not a “Muslim” phenomenon. Indeed, last year, the author of the report called terrorism by American Muslims “a minuscule threat to public safety.” Yet far too many policymakers assume the opposite is true, and too many policies are predicated on the false and bigoted assumption that Muslims are more likely to engage in terrorism than other Americans. The numbers above show how false the premise is. So why are we willing to undermine civil liberties, target an entire religious community, and devote countless resources to this “minuscule threat?”

The answer: a widely debunked “theory” on describing the “process” that drives people to become terrorists. This “theory” is based on the mistaken notion that adopting “radical” ideas (which, under the theory, includes religious beliefs) is a dangerous first step toward committing terrorist acts. Countering terrorism, the thinking goes, begins with countering “radicalization.”

Although it’s been refuted, the “theory” continues to drive policy. Recent Congressional Research Service reports cite it, and the White House issued a plan to counter violent extremism based on it. While the White House deserves some credit for using more careful language and for emphasizing the need for community engagement, it still perpetuates the notion that “how individuals are radicalized to violence” is something we can and should study and understand. And the number of agencies, task forces, working groups, and committees across government that are engaged in the White House’s plan is, well, staggeringly high.

Not surprisingly, when flawed theory drives policy, implementation of the policy is flawed too. If counterterrorism officials believe that adopting radical beliefs is a necessary first stage to terrorism, they will obviously target religious communities and political activists with their enforcement measures.

Take for example, the practice of “preventive policing” by which law enforcement doesn’t focus on crime, but rather tracks legal activities. It has a real and negative impact on individuals: the FBI conducts “assessments” or uses informants, conducts interviews, and surveils people based on their ideas or religious beliefs, or whether they are a certain religion, race, or ethnicity rather than information suggesting they might be involved in criminal activity. Preventive policing also affects entire communities. Through “domain management,” the FBI monitors and tracks entire religious, ethnic, and racial communities based on false stereotypes that ascribe certain types of crimes to entire minority communities. Targeted groups include Muslim- and Arab-Americans in Michigan, and also African-Americans in Georgia, Chinese- and Russian-Americans in California, and broad swaths of Latino-American communities in multiple states.

The FBI has increasingly relied on another tactic based on this flawed theory: the agent provocateur. Remarkably, most of the nine terrorist plots carried out by American Muslims uncovered in 2012 involved informants and undercover agents. According to a recent investigation, undercover agents and informants have targeted “Muslims who espouse radical beliefs, are vocal about their disapproval of American foreign policy, or have expressed sympathy for international terrorist groups”—otherwise known as First Amendment-protected activity. The investigation shows that these targets are fairly unsophisticated and “clearly pose little real threat” on their own. With all essential materials (like money and weapons) coming from government agents and informants, these plots are more manufactured by the government than interdicted.

It’s also clear that preventive policing won’t be tied to an empirical analysis of where significant violence occurs. According to West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, violent acts by far-right extremists significantly outnumber those by American Muslims, but have been virtually ignored by policy makers (though the report has its own problems). While there have been multiple congressional hearings on so-called radicalization of Muslims, there have been none on political violence emanating from the Far Right.

When we implement law enforcement practices that say those who hold “radical” political ideas or religious beliefs, for instance, are dangerous, we could all be in danger. What’s a “radical” idea or belief? It’s one that “reject[s] the status quo.” It’s not hard to imagine that almost all of us hold some “radical” beliefs, which is why it’s not surprising that so many groups come under government suspicion. Anti-government militiamen, misfit anarchists, PETA, Greenpeace, and the Catholic Worker have already been targeted. Who’s to say the group you belong to won’t be next.

Congratulations America!


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You’ve done your job and done it magnificently! You said no to the haters and doubters among us; those who preferred division to unity and common purpose and interest.  Too many of us wanted to point fingers at evils that didn’t exist or at groups of people who are just like us except in gender or skin color or religious belief or the lack thereof.  We too quickly threw off the mantle of our own innate divinity and instead embraced hatred and rancor.  Somehow, through all that…..we overcame.  Now that we have done what we are supposed to do as a Nation….make Obama do what he’s supposed to do as a President.  Hold him to his promises, make sure you call his attention to mistakes in decisions or errors in policy; push your local elected officials to do the same.  Your ballots are just the first step in this process called democracy.  It doesn’t end with the election of any one official, it is an on going process.  Choose the high ground of civility in the national discourse; don’t give in  to the forces of darkness, hatred and FoxNews. This is only the beginning.  Celebrate it but move on to the real work at hand of re-building America or if you like, improving it. At some point in the very near future…I’d like to think at the end of this week, we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and get busy.  For now, enjoy the moment.

Obama-Biden-sworn-in-for-second-term

America’s gun culture has gone wild


I am an owner of firearms and the holder of a concealed carry permit for the state in which I reside, but the recent national discussion on guns has me convinced those who oppose any and all gun legislation are mildly racist and vehemently insane. President Obama has been forced by recent events to make a statement about the need to have some sort of regulation regarding gun ownership and you’d think he was instituting martial law and  the sky was falling.  As a result of a very tepid response by the Obama administration, we’ve got Americans walking around looking like Rambo with clothes on

Utah shopper carrying an AR-15 in a local mall

Utah shopper carrying an AR-15 in a local mall

but let’s not equivocate here, the issue of the 2nd amendment and the right to bear arms is couched,  steeped in  blatant racist rhetoric that is being resurrected because America finds itself with a black president at the helm.  That’s not to say 2nd amendment types haven’t always been rabid about their desire to have unlimited access to firearms; just ask members of the Reagan and Bush I administration who took stands against the gun lobby after people were slaughtered by those who owned lethal weapons while the gun proponents demanded the government give their weapons of mass destruction a pass when it came to public/governmental scrutiny.

The pro-gun rhetoric has taken a life of its own.  Charlton Heston proclaimed to Michael Moore in the latter’s film ‘Bowling for Columbine’ that guns were responsible for more killings in America because of the country’s ‘mixed ethnicity’.  It’s hard to tell if he means mixed ethnicities kill more people than non-mixed ethnicities or mixed ethnicities have to be killed because they are mixed ethnicity and thus a threat to non mixed ethnicities. Heston’s very public pronouncement about what ails our country almost a decade ago has been repeated more recently by the Ann Coulter, who said  using equally coded language as Heston that ‘gun crime is a demographic problem’ which again raises the ugly specter of a divisive America under its first black President.  They are the heart of the 2nd amendment supporters….folks like Coulter and Heston before her have their pulse on the majority of gun owners who feel their need to own guns is for protection from ‘ethnicities’ and demographics that are different than their own.

There were some who tried to sugar coat the issue of gun control, trying to remove the racially divisive language of the Coulters, et.al…The chairman of Gun Appreciation Day went so far as to say slavery may never have happened in the United States if African-Americans had owned guns.  What Larry Ward fails to recognize is there would have been no 2nd amendment if there wasn’t slavery, for as is pointed out here, the 2nd amendment was a by product of white southerners fears of black insurrection in states that legalized slavery.  In other words, the 2nd amendment was ratified to enforce slavery and the fears of whites of a ‘demographic’ problem are at the heart of gun ownership.

The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says “State” instead of “Country” (the Framers knew the difference – see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia’s vote.  Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that.

In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the “slave patrols,” and they were regulated by the states.

In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, laws were passed in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their male white employees to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state.  The law defined which counties had which armed militias and even required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who may be planning uprisings.

Thus, the 2nd amendment was crafted to allow white southerners limitless access to firearms irrespective of federal government regulation to arm their ‘slave patrols’ and keep people, black people enslaved. It was not then meant to be inclusive of any but a white gentry class and most gun owners even today are more than a little suspect of people of color who embrace the notion of free access to firearms.

The alarm bells being rung by 2nd amendment advocates ring hollow when they make the point the 2nd amendment is a part of a holy notion of the Constitution that firearm ownership is nothing short of divine…..when in fact it is nothing short of subversive and was intended as an instrument of slavery. Not many raised the specter of the 2nd amendment as a tool to oppose Bush II era assaults on citizenship rights; to have done so would have been met with cries of treason and resisted in the most strident of ways, however, a black president, leading a revolt against gun ownership is viewed in much the same way as a slave leading a revolt against slavery, especially at a time when the firearm industry is perhaps more profitable than the agricultural industry of an agrarian South of the 18th or 19th century.  It is very easy to match the imagery of that time to this with an African-American in the White House.

But America is indeed a violent country, is there any doubt about that and that too has spurred the gun debate so that now the dastard peoples of color aren’t black they are immigrants; they aren’t slaves they are  terrorists, and the rationale for unlimited gun access is just as vapid now as it has ever been.  Indeed, too many Americans are dying from handguns.  Why anyone would advocate armed guards, administrators and teachers in schools is irrational……even trained armed guards can commit lapses that could lead to disastrous results.  In Michigan a trained firearms instructor left his unloaded hand gun in a bathroom for an unspecified time and one can only ask what are the risks for the uninitiated.  When I first read that news two things immediately leapt to mind; why was his firearm unloaded and why was it not on his person?  If a trained firearms instructor could make such a egregious mistake what are the expectations for one not so well trained?  But such examples don’t deter 2nd amendment types; this type of news is too easily dismissed and forgotten.

As in all things that deal with race, we have an aversion to deal with it except in the most tangential terms; preferring to sweep it under the rug entirely.  People with mental health issues, psychiatric, domestic or medical problems should not have access to firearms.  Gun shows and other dealers should institute instant background checks with a data base that is updated as quickly as people are entered in the “system” and people who use firearms in a violent crime should bear the full force of the law and be ‘brought to justice’. (Now you can interpret the brought to justice part any way you want!)  Magazine capacities can be discussed and negotiated but I’m certainly averse to having anyone walking around with two 30 round mags strapped to his/her semi-automatic long gun in plain view of people just to make a point of the right to own firearms….such displays are immature, sophomoric and  might prompt me to draw my  concealed weapon in fear of my life with no obligation to retreat, nay the right to stand my ground!  Can you not see how far this thing can go?  America, fix this!

Glen Greenwald’s definition of terrorism is right on the money, really


He nails it and has nailed it for some time.  This is what he says

I’ve often written that Terrorism is the most meaningless, and thus most manipulated, term in American political discourse.  But while it lacks any objective meaning, it does have a functional one.  It means:  anyone — especially of the Muslim religion and/or Arab nationality — who fights against the United States and its allies or tries to impede their will.  That’s what “Terrorism” is; that’s all it means.  And it’s just extraordinary how we’ve created what we call ”law” that is intended to do nothing other than justify all acts of American violence while delegitimizing, criminalizing, and converting into Terrorism any acts of resistance to that violence….

it’s not remotely criminal that the U.S. attacked Iraq, spent 7 years destroying the country, and left at least 100,000 people dead.  To even suggest that American officials responsible for that attack should be held criminally liable is to marginalize oneself as a fringe and unSerious radical.  It’s not an idea that’s even heard, let alone accepted…..

The U.S. repeatedly tried to kill Saddam at the start of the Iraq War, and — contrary to Obama’s early pledges — has done the same to Gadaffi in Libya. NATO has explicitly declared Gadaffi to be a “legitimate target.”  But just imagine if an Iraqi had come to the U.S. and attempted to bomb the White House or kill George Bush, or if a Libyan (or Afghan, Pakistani, or Yemeni) did the same to Obama.  Would anyone in American political circles be allowed to suggest that this was a legitimate act of war?  Of course not:  screaming “Terrorism!” would be the only acceptable reaction.

I applaud Greenwald’s courage in taking a stand against the very obvious racist application of the terrorist term.  It’s use is meant to conjure up images of a ‘clash of civilizations’ where no such clash exists.  When one hears the term it can only mean one thing, the destruction of the values that we hold so dearly by Muslims who want to impose Sharia law on an unwitting population.  Quite frankly it is demagogic, designed to elicit a fear and loathing response that it’s hoped will drive America to systemically oppress a group of people based on their race and religion.  I renew my call for all good people of conscience to reject such grandstanding and bigoted behavior and to call it what it is, just like Greenwald, whenever the opportunity presents itself.

 

Stick and Carrot diplomacy


The wingnut “right” does have a place in American politics.  If one is perceptive enough you can vaguely see an outline of the foreign policy objectives of Washington spewing from the mouthpieces of right wing pundits/racists. Despite the apparent “hate” relationship between the present occupant of the White House and those on the vociferous “right” the pundits of insanity, plunder and racism give government an idea of just how far it, government, can go in its never ending battle for empire and dominion. It is not necessary for diplomacy or policy to be carried out in just the same way the racist homo/Islamophobes express but it probably comes close.  Case in point, Sean Hannity’s latest imperialistic diatribe.

With rising gas prices and a stagnant economy, Hannity’s solution of taking over another country’s natural resources because we can most likely strikes a chord in the minds of many a besieged listener who wants to settle scores with the Islamic/Muslim hordes they’ve so assiduously been warned about this last decade.  Current Washington probably has entertained the same ideas while former Bush administration officials said as much when making their case for war with Iraq.  The Obama administration on the other hand, supposedly carries a carrot not a stick, unlike its predecessor.  It must have the appearance of  remaining true to the kinder, gentler prescription for diplomacy, hence this from the Secretary of State, Clinton.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a scalding critique of Arab leaders here on Thursday, saying their countries risked “sinking into the sand” of unrest and extremism unless they liberalized their political systems and cleaned up their economies.

Speaking at a conference in this gleaming Persian Gulf emirate, Mrs. Clinton recited a familiar litany of ills: corruption, repression and a lack of rights for women and religious minorities. But her remarks were striking for their vehemence, and they suggested a frustration that the Obama administration’s message to the Arab world had not gotten through.

Secretary Clinton, taking a page from the wingnuts, makes many in the Middle East who are victims the cause of their victimization.  Lest one forget, there were no WMDs in Iraq which was invaded after a decade long blockade that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis; Gaza is an outdoor prison camp, with the West Bank merely an enclave within the modern state of Israel with no territorial sovereignty or integrity and the second largest recipient of US aid is a 30 year long dictatorship.  Notice the tone of the above article.  Words like “vehemence” and “frustration” are designed to send signals that unless things change diplomacy may give way to something harsher.  Let’s not forget that in the 80s Saddam Hussein was Washington’s leader of choice for Iraq, but only 20 years later encouraged and cheered on his execution.  That shouldn’t be lost on the leaders of oil producing countries that serve an insatiable American public the oil which fuels the American economy.  Hannity’s arrogant bluster and frustration regrettably is probably  an outline for future American policy.

Obama, the enabler


Picture of Rudy Giuliani

Image via Wikipedia

Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge, former White House adviser Frances Townsend and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, flew to Paris to speak in support of an Iranian exile group there — one that’s been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and that very act of appearing before such a group is a felony under US law.  What’s amazing is Mukasey and Ridge, former Bush appointees in high cabinet level posts should have known that yet completely disregarded the illegality of their act.  That it is illegal is clearly established by the US Departments of State and Justice and material support has been even more narrowly defined to include ‘not only cash and other tangible aid, but also speech coordinated with a “foreign terrorist organization” for its benefit’. A former presidential candidate, and secretaries of Homeland Security and Justice Department took a trip to Paris to address an organization on the US Dept of State’s terrorist list, and in doing so committed a felony and you don’t think for a minute they didn’t have the approval of the current administration?  How can one account for the fact that these individuals have not been indicted for clear criminal behavior were they not acting on behalf of the Obama Administration?  Once again, we have the spectre of a US administration walking back on laws it has either signed on or weighed in in a manner reminiscent of the Bush administration with the result that it could have deleterious effects on American interests before the international court of opinion.