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“Meatless Mondays”: Republicans’ Fowl Response To The Orlando Terrorist Attack

This is how the sausage is made:

After last weekend’s terrorist attack in Orlando, the people’s representatives in Washington scrambled to counter the growing threat to national security . . . from vegetarianism.

A nearly 15-hour filibuster by Senate Democrats to force action on keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists produced little: They’ll get a vote, but the measure is likely to be defeated by Republicans on Monday.

House GOP leadership, meanwhile, killed a Democratic effort to extend non-discrimination protections for gay people — the demographic targeted in the Orlando shooting.

But the House on Thursday did pass a plan to block the spreading menace to the U.S. military posed by Meatless Mondays.

“I rise to ensure that our men and women in uniform have options on their menu when they seek nutrition in the cafeteria,” Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) proclaimed. “Ideologically motivated activists are working to take meat off the menu in institutions across the country.”

But Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.) had a beef with that argument. “I appreciate the gentleman’s concern about ideological activists attacking the menus at the Department of Defense, but I do trust they will have the intestinal fortitude to resist those particular attacks,” he said. He assured his cattle-state opponent that “there is no policy under consideration to eliminate meat from the nutritional programs for our military services.”

Indeed, a Pentagon spokesman investigating the matter had found no evidence of an anti-meat campaign by Thursday night. But Smith was bullheaded in his advocacy. “Meat contains vitamins and nutrients not readily available in a plant-based diet,” he argued. “In fact, creatine, which supplies energy to muscle cells and aids in their recovery, is only found in animal products.”

The Democrat would not be branded anti-carnivore. “I did have meat at lunch yesterday. I ate meat last night,” he said. But he objected to Republicans, who like to complain about regulatory overreach, attempting to legislate menus.

“Should we start considering whether we should be using diced tomatoes in our various food service areas, or should we do whole tomatoes?” he asked. “Should we, when we serve tuna fish, have chunk white or solid white?”

Thus was the response to the Orlando atrocity. Lawmakers declined to keep guns and explosives out of suspected terrorists’ hands. They refused to extend equal protection to gay Americans. But they bravely repelled an imaginary threat to hamburgers.

Never mind that the Pentagon is attacking neither red meat nor fish nor fowl. The pro-meat forces prevailed in a voice vote.

And this was part of a profoundly depressing reaction to one of the worst mass killings the country has seen. Donald Trump implied that President Obama was in cahoots with the Islamic State and then tweeted an article from a right-wing publication saying the administration “actively supported” the terrorist group.

Even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Obama was “directly responsible” for the attack in Orlando, before clarifying that Obama wasn’t “personally responsible.”

In the House, Republicans aped Trump’s anti-immigration histrionics by allowing votes on measures to block the “dreamers” — immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children — from serving in the military. The attempt failed by the thinnest of margins.

GOP leaders refused to vote on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would protect LGBT employees of federal contractors from discrimination. But they allowed an amendment to the same bill that would protect service members from the invented scourge of Meatless Mondays.

“I am not willing to allow activist groups to tell members of our military, who risk their lives to keep us safe, they cannot enjoy a hamburger or steak on certain days of the week,” Smith said in a statement.

On the floor, he noted an “agenda to remove meat” by the U.S. Coast Guard, which has cut meat consumption by cadets at its academy. The Coast Guard wasn’t covered under the defense bill, but Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) still went hog wild. “Our military — we’d starve them for meat? We need them to be aggressive,” he said. He held up a photo of Norwegian troops who, he says, have Meatless Mondays and therefore can’t eat their beloved reindeer meat that day. “Let’s have a strong military,” King said. “Let them have a lot of protein.”

The House vote by itself did not protect the troops from the fanciful threat of creeping vegetarianism. The Senate, in its version of the defense bill, refused to take up a similar amendment by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who spoke of castrating hogs in her famous campaign ad. Ernst said, “The push for Meatless Mondays in our military is misguided.”

But this “push” is bull. The dangers our leaders won’t address — terrorists getting guns, and legal discrimination against gay people — are real.

 

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, June 17, 2016

June 20, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, House Republicans, Orlando Shootings, Terrorist Attacks, U. S. Military | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Counter To The Facts”: Pushing For Mosque Surveillance, Fox News Is Fighting The Last War

Reaching for one of its favorite War on Terror talking points, Fox News is leading a charge in the wake of the Orlando gun massacre to push for surveillance of mosques in America. Convinced that a pressing response to the attack on a gay nightclub is for law enforcement to keep close tabs on Muslims at prayer, Fox News continues to hype the initiative as a solution to pending terror threats in the United States — and specifically, to stem the tide of ISIS recruitment in America.

But there’s no indication domestic mosque surveillance uncovers useful terror information. Just ask the New York Police Department, whose extensive, post-9/11 Muslim surveillance program turned out to be a “failure by any reasonable standard,” according to the Cato Institute.

And now with ISIS focusing its recruitment online and hoping for self-radicalization among converts, the notion that law enforcement can round up ISIS sympathizers meeting and plotting inside American mosques runs counter to the facts.

Nonetheless, Fox News is pushing for the divisive, Bush-era tactic to be revived and embraced. “How stupid is it to pull police officers out of the mosques? Absolutely stupid,” Rudy Giuliani complained on Fox News this week, while Greg Gutfeld compared Islam to biker gangs and suggested both needed to be watched closely to head off crime sprees.

Not surprisingly, Fox News is echoing allegations often made by members of the Republican Party about how mosques are a breeding ground for homegrown terrorism and need to be spied on.

“I want surveillance of certain mosques if that’s OK,” Republican Party presumptive nominee Donald Trump told a crowd in Birmingham, Ala. last November. That same week Trump announced he’d “strongly consider” shutting down mosques in the U.S. Trump raised the idea again earlier this week at a rally in Atlanta, saying, “We have to maybe check, respectfully, the mosques and we have to check other places because this is a problem that, if we don’t solve it, it’s going to eat our country alive.”

For years, New York Republican Congressman Peter King, with the help of Fox News, led an anti-mosque crusade, complete with congressional hearings that were denounced as being McCarthy-like.

Today’s endorsement of mosque surveillance represents Fox News’ long-running attempt to collectively criminalize Islam in America and to often portray Muslims as would-be terrorists. (Recall the open hysteria Fox News helped foment in its opposition to the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in 2011.)

But Fox News’ advocacy for mosque surveillance, and its suggestion that it would help ferret out dangerous ISIS sympathizers, runs counter to recent events and counter to research that indicates those handful of American Muslims who embrace deadly violence are mostly self-radicalized and they become that way online, not by listening to sermons from radical Imams in U.S. mosques.

In the wake of recent terror attacks in Boston, San Bernardino and Orlando, there were no findings that the bombers and gunmen were radicalized in their local mosques or planned their attacks there; that the mosques were in any way directly connected to the acts of violence. There were no sweeping indictments made by law enforcement.

In fact in Boston, bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been threatened with expulsion from his mosque after he angrily interrupted a speaker who compared Prophet Muhammad with Dr. Martin Luther King. “The congregation shouted him out of the mosque,”said a spokesman for the mosque.

And that fits what researchers have been reporting in recent years.

Last December, George Washington University’s Program on Extremism issued a report, “ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa.” It showed “how social media plays a crucial role in the radicalization and, at times, mobilization of U.S.-based ISIS sympathizers,” according to the university.

Key points from the report included:

  • “Several thousand Americans consume ISIS propaganda online creating what has been described as a ‘radicalization echo chamber.’ “
  • “Twitter is ‘by far the platform of choice’ for American activists to connect. Other routes include Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr, along with messaging services like ‘Kik, Telegram, surespot, and the dark web.’”

Additionally, the report noted that jihadist radicalization in the United States is “significantly smaller” than in most European countries, in part because of fewer “radicalizing agents” in America, such as “radical mosques, extremist preachers, and recruiting networks.”

Also last year, Scott Atran, co-founder of the Center for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford University, reported his research indicated, “More than 80 per cent who join the Islamic State do so through peer-to-peer relationships, mostly with friends and sometimes family. Very few join in mosques or through recruitment by anonymous strangers.”

The Associated Press reported that Atran told a meeting of the United Nations’ Security Council’s counter-terrorism committee that “radicalization rarely occurs in mosques.”

Meanwhile, a 2010 study by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that the number of radicalized Muslims in the U.S. was relatively low and that Muslim-American communities effectively prevent radicalization.

Rather than being a spawning ground for extremism, there are indications mosques are actively working to thwart it. That same 2010 study found “48 of the 120 Muslims suspected of plotting domestic terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, were turned in by fellow Muslims, including parents, mosque members and even a Facebook friend,” The New York Times reported.

Last year, the Times examined ISIS’ recruiting efforts in the United States and detailed one example of a local Imam dissuading a possible convert named Amir:

Amir then had some long talks with Imam Magid, who pointed him to passages in the Quran that forbid killing other Muslims, innocent women and children. Amir concluded that the Islamic State was only sowing chaos and hatred, which the Prophet Muhammad abhorred.

That kind of pushback against extremism from mosque leaders might be one reason why the NYPD’s massive surveillance program produced so little useful information. The operation, which remained secret for years, not only infiltrated mosques, but assigned detectives to map out entire Muslim communities, as well as track Muslims’ daily activities, and investigate college students.

The goal was to “sniff out would-be terrorists before they could launch attacks,” according to the Cato Institute.

Fox News likes to pretend it was an intelligence success, which is why it must be resuscitated. “We broke so many, so many plots by eavesdropping on these radical mosques,” Fox News’ Bo Dietl claimed last year.

In fact, the exact opposite was true.

“In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department’s secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday,” the Associated Press reported.

Correct. Six years of mosque surveillance in New York City in the wake of 9/11 did not produce a single lead or trigger one terrorism investigation for the NYPD.

But now Fox News thinks in an age of online recruiting, snooping on U.S. mosques is the answer to unearthing terror threats?

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, June 16, 2016

June 20, 2016 Posted by | American Muslims, Fox News, Orlando Shootings, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Problematic Unhinged Rhetoric”: John McCain; President Obama Is ‘Directly Responsible’ For Orlando

When Donald Trump said yesterday that President Obama was “directly responsible” for the deadliest mass-shooting in American history, it was the latest evidence of a candidate who’s abandoned any sense of propriety or decency.

Wait, did I say Donald Trump? I meant John McCain.

Republican Sen. John McCain on Thursday blamed President Barack Obama for the deadly shooting in Orlando that killed 49 club goers.

He said the president is “directly responsible for it because” of his “utter failures” in Iraq.

“Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria and became ISIS and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures, utter failures by pulling everybody out of Iraq thinking that conflicts end just because we leave,” McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill, according to audio obtained by NBC News.

The senator added, “So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies.”

It wasn’t long before McCain realized this kind of unhinged rhetoric might be problematic, so the senator soon after issued a follow-up statement saying he “misspoke.”

That’s probably not the right word. When someone says “Iraq” when they meant “Iran,” that’s misspeaking. When the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee delivers a 65-word rant blaming the president for a mass murder, that’s more than a slip of the tongue.

McCain added, by way of a “clarification,” that he was blaming the president’s “national security decisions” for the rise of ISIS, “not the president himself.”

How gracious of him.

The clumsy walk-back notwithstanding, what’s wrong with McCain’s argument? Everything.

Right off the bat, let’s not forget that the lunatic responsible for the Orlando massacre was not a member of ISIS. He may have been inspired in some way by the terrorists, and he may have pledged some kind of allegiance to them, but there’s no evidence at all that ISIS was somehow involved in planning and/or executing this attack.

It may be politically convenient to blame a foreign foe for an American buying guns in America and then killing Americans on American soil, but giving ISIS more credit than it deserves is a mistake.

Second, McCain’s broader point is hard to take seriously. Here’s the senator’s logic: Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2010, which eventually and indirectly led to the creation of ISIS, which eventually led lunatics to identify with ISIS, which eventually led to the Orlando mass-shooting.

Even putting aside the bizarre leaps of logic necessarily to adopt such a thesis, McCain is overlooking the fact that (a) he celebrated Obama’s troop withdrawal in 2010; (b) the troop withdrawal was the result of a U.S./Iraq Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the Bush/Cheney administration; and (c) by the senator’s own reasoning, given his enthusiastic support for the war in Iraq, McCain would have to hold himself “directly responsible” for the Orlando slayings, too.

Look, I’m aware of the broader circumstances. McCain is facing a tough re-election fight in Arizona, including a competitive Republican primary. He has an incentive to say ridiculous and irresponsible things about the president, and perhaps even try to exploit a tragedy for partisan ends.

But if these are the final months of McCain’s lengthy congressional career, is this really how he wants to go out? Using the kind of rhetoric more closely associated with Trump than an ostensible Republican statesman?

Postscript: Earlier this month, a college in Pennsylvania awarded McCain a “civility” prize. Perhaps college administrators can ask for it back?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 17, 2016

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Iraq War, John McCain, Orlando Shootings | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How To ‘Make It Stop'”: A New Assault Weapons Ban, Written For The Realities Of 2016

Almost four years ago in Newtown, the victims were mostly children – first graders. Last weekend, the victims were mostly LGBT adults at a night club. But the one thing they all had in common is that their deaths were the result of an assault weapon in the hands of a deranged killer. Today the Boston Globe – in a bold statement – says simply, “Make it Stop.”

In this country, the federal government limits duck hunters to weapons that carry only three shells, to protect the duck population. But you can buy an assault weapon in seven minutes and an unlimited number of bullets to fire with it. For every McDonald’s in the United States, there are four federally licensed gun dealers and an untold number of unregulated private dealers who can legally sell an unlimited number of guns out of their homes, backpacks, and car trunks without requiring a criminal background check or proof of ID.

These weren’t the guns, and this wasn’t the America, that the Founders foresaw. That is why we need a new assault weapons ban, written for the realities we face in 2016.

For those of us who were already convinced, the Globe also asserts that any action on an assault weapons ban is likely to begin in the Senate. They give us the names of 6 senators who stand in the way:

Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)

Richard Burr (R-NC)

Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)

Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Rob Portman (R-OH)

Of course there are other (mostly Republican) senators who would vote against an assault weapons ban. It’s clear that these 6 were chosen by the Globe because they are the most likely to be either convinced to change their position or defeated. That’s where it starts.

I am reminded of a commitment President Obama made back in January in an op-ed titled: Guns Are Our Shared Responsibility.

Even as I continue to take every action possible as president, I will also take every action I can as a citizen. I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform. And if the 90 percent of Americans who do support common-sense gun reforms join me, we will elect the leadership we deserve.

All of us have a role to play — including gun owners. We need the vast majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us after every mass shooting, who support common-sense gun safety and who feel that their views are not being properly represented, to stand with us and demand that leaders heed the voices of the people they are supposed to represent.

We can chose to remain cynical that anything will ever change, or make this a priority and keep fighting. I think about our historical heroes of reform. Some of them didn’t even live to see the fruits of their efforts – for example, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But that certainly didn’t stop them.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 16, 2016

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Assault Weapons Ban, Orlando Shootings, Senate Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trump’s Apocalyptic Message”: Obama Just Ripped Into Donald Trump’s Nightmare Vision Of America. He’s Right

This afternoon President Obama offered his most detailed and comprehensive attack on Donald Trump, not just the particular things Trump proposes but his entire worldview. He was particularly contemptuous of the idea that once we speak the magical words “radical Islamic terror” the entire effort against terrorism will be transformed.

But for the moment I want to focus on this part of his critique of Trump, referencing Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from the country and his placing blame on all Muslims for individual acts of violence:

“We’ve gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear and we came to regret it. We’ve seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history. This is a country founded on basic freedoms, including freedom of religion. We don’t have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights are clear about that. And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect: the pluralism, and the openness, our rule of law, our civil liberties, the very things that make this country great. The very things that make us exceptional.”

Obama then went on to talk about how inspired he was by the cadets he saw at the Air Force Academy when we spoke at their commencement. “That’s the American military. That’s America. One team. One nation.”

There’s a formula presidents usually follow when they speak to the country after a tragedy, whether it’s a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, or an accident like a space shuttle blowing up. Express the sorrow and pain people are feeling. Praise those whose lives were lost. Emphasize the common purpose we all share (or ought to). Invoke fundamental American ideals that bind us together. And promise that out of the darkness we will become stronger, our future even brighter than our present or our past.

Some presidents weave those elements together more skillfully than others, but nearly all try to both mirror the public’s emotions and give them reason to hope. But not Donald Trump.

At moments like the Orlando shooting, we’re reminded of just how bleak and miserable Trump’s vision of America is, even when we haven’t just suffered a tragedy. It’s been said that presidential elections are usually won by the most optimistic candidate, and that will certainly be tested this year. That’s because there may never have been a candidate who sees America as such a dystopic nightmare of gloom and despair.

It’s not that Trump doesn’t say things will be great when he’s president, because he does. But his critique of the current state of the country goes far beyond what opposition candidates ordinarily say. A challenger will always argue that the party in power has been wrong about everything as they instituted disastrous policies. But Trump’s argument goes deeper, into the very heart of the nation as a whole. “When was the last time we’ve seen our country win at anything?” he says. “We don’t win anymore.”

Try to imagine, for instance, what would happen if Hillary Clinton said, “This country is a hellhole. We are going down fast.” It’s difficult to contemplate, because a careful politician like Clinton would never say such a thing in a million years. But Trump did, and he says similar things all the time. “America is being taken apart piece by piece,” he said a week ago. “We’re broke…Our infrastructure is a disaster. Our schools are failing. Crime is rising. People are scared.” And that was in a victory speech. Or as he’s said before, “Our country is going to hell.”

When he looks at a non-Trump future, he sees outright apocalypse. “If we don’t get tough, and we don’t get smart – and fast – we’re not going to have a country anymore,” he said in his speech yesterday on terrorism. “There will be nothing left.” What does that mean, “nothing left”? Are we all going to be dead? Will America itself cease to exist, wiped off the map like Yugoslavia? It’s hard to tell, but it sure won’t be good.

That’s not to mention that, like his assertion about crime (which is at historic lows), so much of what Trump says about the living nightmare that is America is just false. We’re not “the highest taxed nation in the world.” There are not “tens of thousands” of terrorists streaming into the country. GDP growth is not “essentially zero.” The unemployment rate is not “42 percent,” and we don’t have “93 million people out of work.”

And don’t forget that when he wrote his campaign book, instead of giving it a title like “Into the Future” or “America Ascending” or “Greatness Awaits,” Trump called it “Crippled America.”

That’s not to say that Trump’s apocalyptic message doesn’t resonate with some people. He has tapped into a vein of discontentment, particularly among those who feel like they’re being left behind by demographic changes and a modernizing, diverse society. If you feel profoundly unsettled when you hear two people speaking Spanish on the street, Trump is your guy. He regularly laments the fact that we don’t know “What the hell is going on” on some topic or other, often immigration or national security. That notion — of being confused and bewildered by a world that doesn’t seem to make sense in the way it did back when you were young — is obviously powerful for some voters.

Trump may promise that once we elect him we’ll find ourselves living in a paradise of winning-ness, where the most serious question that confronts each of us is which 20-something Slovenian supermodel we want to make our fourth or fifth spouse. But his unceasing descriptions of our nation’s allegedly endless suffering also says something profoundly miserable about not only our country but ourselves.

You might find the typical politician’s paeans to America’s optimistic spirit overdone or trite, but when someone like George W. Bush says that “Americans live on the sunrise side of the mountain,” even if you don’t agree with him politically, you want that to be true of yourself and your country. It’s part of a politician’s job to not only promise greatness, but to assure the country that we have it in us to reach it. When Donald Trump talks, on the other hand, he tells us that only he can change our ghastly condition, and we ourselves will have barely any part of it. “I will give you everything,” he promises. “I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years. I’m the only one.”

The clear message is that if we don’t pick him, we won’t just be making the wrong choice, we’ll doom ourselves to sink further into the unending torment we’ve made for ourselves. And we’ll deserve it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, June 14, 2016

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fearmongering, Orlando Shootings | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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