October 23rd, 2010
Toby Harnden's American Way
So what is the closing argument of Barack Obama's Democrats before next Tuesday's midterm elections? The President is no longer the self-proclaimed "hope-monger" of 2008, who vaingloriously declared that his vanquishing Hillary Clinton marked "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal".
He has stopped patting voters on the back for choosing, by voting for him, to listen not to their doubts or fears but to their "greatest hopes and highest aspirations". Instead, he is berating Americans (most of whom now do not believe he deserves a second term) for not being able to "think clearly" because they're "scared".
Having failed to change Washington or, as he promised that night in St Paul, Minnesota in June 2008, to provide "good jobs to the jobless" (unemployment was 7.7 per cent when he took office and is 9.6 per cent now), Obama is changing tack.
Boiled down, the new Obama message to Americans is: you're too stupid to overcome your fears. To be fair, it's not entirely new. During the 2008 campaign, Obama was caught on tape at a San Francisco fund-raiser saying it was not surprising that voters facing economic hardship "get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them".
At a fund-raiser in Massachusetts this month, Obama spoke of Democrats having "facts and science and argument" on their side. As opposed, presumably, to the lies, superstition and prejudice that Republicans rely on.
This year, Democrats have embraced with gusto the notion that Republicans, and by extension anyone thinking of voting for them, are dimwits. Their mirth over the likes of Tea Party figures like Christine O'Donnell, the former anti-masturbation activist who once she had "dabbled" in witchcraft and is now a no-hoper Senate candidate in Delaware, seems to know no bounds.
The most chortling of all about the populist Tea Party and its anti-tax, anti-government uprising against the Republican establishment can be found on the shows of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, the edgy liberal satirists on Comedy Central. Mocking Republican candidates last week, Stewart declared the midterm elections as "the best chance ever for a bowl of fresh fruit" to be elected.
Three days before the elections, Stewart will hold a "Rally to Restore Sanity" in Washington on the same day as Colbert, who adopts the character of a Right-wing talk show host, leads a "March to Keep Fear Alive". The thinly-disguised message: Republicans are crazies who trade on fear.
In choosing California and Massachusetts, two of the most liberal states in the union, to demean ordinary Americans during election campaigns, Obama did not display a whole lot of his much-vaunted intelligence. But Obama's decision to plug Stewart's rally approvingly and appear on his show three days beforehand is even more foolish.
In the 1990s, Democrats managed to get away from their image as "eggheads" in the 1950s or "pointy-headed liberals" in the 1970s. Bill Clinton spoke like a Good Ol' Boy from the Deep South, ate junk food and enjoyed trashy women. He was clever, but he did not look down on people.
Obama, by contrast, has become a parody of the Ivy League liberal smugly content with his own intellectual superiority and pitying the poor idiots who disagree with him. It is an approach that shares much with the default anti-Americanism of British and European elites, who love to mock the United States as a country full of gun-toting, bible-clutching morons.
David Cameron has made nods to this sniffy condescension, speaking of the Sarah Palin phenomenon as being "hard for us to understand" (how about giving it a go, Dave?) and describing American conservatism, inaccurately, as moving in a "very culture war direction". This might be part of the reason why he seems to have hit it off with Obama.
The problem for Obama and the Democrats is that belittling the Tea Party movement, which is taking hold of much of Middle America, merely fuels the popular sense that the party in power is out of touch. It also highlights the reluctance of Obama and the Democrats to discuss the Wall Street bail-out, economic stimulus and health care bills because they know they are not vote winners.
Joining the Europeans in mocking ordinary Americans for their supposed idiocy may play well at big-dollar fund-raisers. In adopting this as a political strategy, however, the Democrats could be the ones who end up looking stupid.
October 23rd, 2010
President Barack Hussein Obama, in a determination letter to Congress, has announced that he will allow an additional 80,000 immigrants – – mostly from Islamic countries – – to resettle in the United States during fiscal year 2011.
Mr. Obama says that the increase in Muslim immigrants “is justified by humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest.”
The following “goals” for new immigrants has been set as follows:
Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15,000
East Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19,000
Europe and Central Asia . . . . . . . . . . 2,000
Latin America/Caribbean. . . . . . . . . . . 5,500
Near East/South Asia. . . . . . . . . . . 35,500
Unallocated Reserve . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,000
Refugee Resettlement Watch and other organizations have expressed grave concern that Mr. Obama is allowing so many immigrants into the country while so many Americans remain out of work and living in poverty.
According to the US Department of Labor, 14.8 million Americans remain unemployed. 6.1 million have been out of work for 27 weeks or over.
This figure has been challenged by the Union of the Unemployed who provide statistics that the actual number of unemployed Americans is 31 million.
The U. S. Census Bureau shows that the median household income for Americans has fallen to $49,777 – – a decline of 0.7% in the past year.
One in seven Americans no longer can feed themselves.
According to The Wall Street Journal, 14.3% of the American people live in abject poverty.
A refugee is defined by The US Department of Immigration and Naturalization as someone who has left one’s country due to persecution or a fear of persecution.
This accounts for the sharp rise of Somali communities throughout the country.
However, the definition of refugee is ‘fudged’ in several cases. “Refugees” who have not left their country due to persecution, according to Mr. Obama’s determination letter, can still be called “refugees” if they are from Iraq, one of the Islamic countries of the former Soviet Union, or Cuba.
According to Section 413 (a) of the Immigration and Nationalities Act, the Office of Refugee Resettlement is required to submit an annual report to Congress on the activities of the refugees.
The report is supposed to include the number who are on public welfare programs.
But no report has forthcoming from the Office of Refugee Resettlement since 2007.
October 23rd, 2010
Adding to the Obamas’ busy schedule is Michelle’s likely visit to Kamathipura, where she will meet commercial sex workers on the invitation of an NGO. The highprofile visit is likely to inconvenience the citizens, as there could be a complete clampdown on traffic on some main roads of south Mumbai and sanitisation of buildings flanking them.
The Obamas will stay at the Taj Mahal Hotel, and his itinerary practically means Marine Drive will be shut for vehicular traffic on the day of the President’s visit, while buildings flanking it will be sanitised with security personnel manning them until Obama has left the place. Same would be the case with Obama’s visit to Mani Bhawan and Michelle going to Kamathipura.
An officer with the security establishment said, “Several other arterial roads in south Mumbai will also see restricted traffic movement, with tight security all around. The Obamas are not expected to schedule any engagements in the night due to security reasons.”
Since Obama is expected to arrive in the afternoon on November 6, and will travel by road to the Taj Mahal Hotel, the entire stretch from airport to the hotel will be under heavy security. The officer said, “There will be no vehicular movement on Western Express Highway at that time. Traffic on roads leading up to the highway will also be stopped. All buildings flanking the entire stretch will be sanitised. However, there is no threat from the snipers as the President will travel in a bullet-proof car with 4.5-inch thick sheets, which are impenetrable for any gun.”
Obama’s personal security staff itself will be huge, and it has already started making its own arrangements in Mumbai. “A team of secret service agents has already arrived, and has surveyed the areas of his stay and the roads and places on his itinerary,” the officer said.
To ensure fool-proof security, the President’s team has booked the entire the Taj Mahal Hotel, including 570 rooms, all banquets and restaurants. Since his security contingent and staff will comprise a huge number, 125 rooms at Taj President have also been booked, apart from 80 to 90 rooms each in Grand Hyatt and The Oberoi hotels. The NCPA, where the President is expected to meet representatives from the business community, has also been entirely booked.
The officer said, “Obama’s contingent is huge. There are two jumbo jets coming along with Air Force One, which will be flanked by security jets. There will be 30 to 40 secret service agents, who will arrive before him. The President’s convoy has 45 cars, including the Lincoln Continental in which the President travels.”
Since Obama will stay in a hotel that is on sea front, elaborate coastal security arrangements have been made by the US Navy in consonance with the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard. “There will be US naval ships, along with Indian vessels , patrolling the sea till about 330-km from the shore. This is to negate the possibility of a missile being fired from a distance,” the officer said.
The President will be accompanied by his chefs, not because he would not like to savour Indian cuisine, but to ensure his food is not spiked.
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are scheduled to land in Mumbai on November 6.
October 23rd, 2010
Shachtman analyzes the Wikileaks trove. There's no evidence, however, that they were part of any ongoing program as claimed by the Bush administration:
Remnants of Saddam’s toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict — and may have brewed up their own deadly agents...
In August 2004, for instance, American forces surreptitiously purchased what they believed to be containers of liquid sulfur mustard, a toxic “blister agent” used as a chemical weapon since World War I. The troops tested the liquid, and “reported two positive results for blister.” The chemical was then “triple-sealed and transported to a secure site” outside their base...
Even late in the war, WMDs were still being unearthed. In the summer of 2008, according to one WikiLeaked report, American troops found at least 10 rounds that tested positive for chemical agents. “These rounds were most likely left over from the [Saddam]-era regime. Based on location, these rounds may be an AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] cache. However, the rounds were all total disrepair and did not appear to have been moved for a long time.”
The WMD diehards will likely find some comfort in these newly-WikiLeaked documents. Skeptics will note that these relatively small WMD stockpiles were hardly the kind of grave danger that the Bush administration presented in the run-up to the war.
But the more salient issue may be how insurgents and Islamic extremists (possibly with the help of Iran) attempted to use these lethal and exotic arms. As Spencer noted earlier, a January 2006 war log claims that “neuroparalytic” chemical weapons were smuggled in from Iraq. That same month, then “chemical weapons specialists” were apprehended in Balad. These “foreigners” were there specifically “to support the chemical weapons operations.” The following month, an intelligence report refers to a “chemical weapons expert” that “provided assistance with the gas weapons.” What happened to that specialist, the WikiLeaked document doesn’t say.
I know of no incident when these weapons were actually used against US troops. And the irony, of course, is that it was the invasion that gave insurgents and Islamists access to these remnants.
Other Articles from the Atlantic:
October 23rd, 2010
An Open Letter to Juan Williams
Sorry to hear you got fired by National Public Radio for saying on Fox that you get nervous when you see Muslims on a plane with you. It was dumb to say such a thing, but I don't think saying one dumb thing should be a firing offense. (I do think an NPR journalist wanting to take money from Fox News to be a regular commentator should be a firing offense, but that's another story).
But there's more to this -- and some important things that everyone is missing.
For instance, what you said about Faisal Shazad, the Pakistani immigrant who wanted to bomb Times Square. When he was being sentenced this month, he claimed, according to you, that his attempted attack was just "the first drop of blood." We can't let political correctness blind us to this, you explained.
I guess Shahzad made a big impression on you, because after being fired you went back on Fox and told them, "You can't ignore the fact what has recently been said in court with regard to 'this is the first drop of blood in a Muslim war against America.'"
Sadly for you (and this is also why you shouldn't be working for a real news organization like NPR), Shahzad never said that. If you were a real journalist, you would have quoted him accurately. What he actually said was that he was the "first droplet of the flood," not blood. But I know how easy it is to mishear things when scary Muslims are talking. And I guess it's not a huge difference anyway.
What really matters is that you're 100% right: We shouldn't let political correctness stop us from paying close attention to what people like Shahzad say. The problem is you just haven't taken it far enough.
So Juan, I'm asking you to join me on a crusade -- whoops! scratch that, let's call it a "mission" -- to publicize these statements by Faisal Shahzad as widely as possible. Because most of the media have not spent much time on what he had to say.
Here's what he said at his recent sentencing (after talking about being a droplet in a flood):
[Saladin] liberated Muslim lands... And that's what we Muslims are trying do, because you're occupying Iraq and Afghanistan... So, the past nine years the war with Muslims has achieved nothing for the U.S., except for it has waken up the Muslims for Islam. We are only Muslims trying to defend our people, honor, and land. But if you call us terrorists for doing that, then we are proud terrorists, and we will keep on terrorizing until you leave our land and people at peace.
And this is what Shahzad said when he plead guilty back in June:
I want to plead guilty, and I'm going to plead guilty 100 times over, because until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims, and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking U.S., and I plead guilty to that.
Then there's email that Shahzad sent to a friend in 2006:
Everyone knows the current situation of Muslim World... Friends with peaceful protest! Can you tell me a way to save the oppressed? And a way to fight back when rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows? In Palestine, Afghan, Iraq, Chechnya and else where.
And then there's what Shahzad was telling friends and relatives even before that:
Mr. Shahzad had long been critical of American foreign policy. "He was always very upset about the fabrication of the W.M.D. stunt to attack Iraq and killing non-combatants such as the sons and grandson of Saddam Hussein," said a close relative. In 2003, Mr. Shahzad had been copied on a Google Groups e-mail message bearing photographs of Guantánamo Bay detainees, handcuffed and crouching, below the words "Shame on you, Bush. Shame on You."
So what do you say, Juan? Now that you have a new $2 million contract with Fox, let me come on with you for some in-depth discussions about the terrorists' real motivations. We can't let another day go by letting the PC brigade stop us from telling the truth: Terrorists aren't trying to kill us because they hate our freedom. They're killing us because we're in their countries killing them.
P.S. If you want to understand suicide bombings, be sure to read the new book that studied every instance of it for the past 30 years. It's been used by many groups of many religions, not just Arabs and not just Muslims. And almost all such terrorism has one motivation in common: occupation by foreign militaries.
P.P.S. Here's something else that I'd sincerely love to talk about with you: what do you think when you see rich middle-aged white men talking on TV about how they get nervous around African Americans on the street? And then they explain that we can't let political correctness stop us from talking about black-on-white crime?
Does it drive you crazy that they say this without even being conscious of the history of far greater violence by white people toward blacks? And do you maybe understand now how those middle-aged white guys get it so wrong?
UPDATE: Juan, you probably remember in 1986 when the Washington Post Magazine ran a Richard Cohen column defending jewelry store owners who wouldn't buzz in young black men. It caused such a big controversy that the New Republic ran a bunch of responses to it, including one by you. You might find it interesting to go back and read what you wrote then -- for instance, "Racism is a lazy man's substitute for using good judgment... Common sense becomes racism when skin color becomes a formula for figuring out who is a danger to me."