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“Surprise! Another Christian Terrorist”: We Need To Understand That Terrorism Is Not Just A Muslim Thing

A Muslim American man carrying a duffel bag that holds six homemade explosives, a machete, and poison spray travels to a major U.S. airport. The man enters the airport, approaches the TSA security checkpoint, and then sprays two TSA officers with the poison. He then grabs his machete and chases another TSA officer with it.

This Muslim man is then shot and killed by the police. After the incident, a search of the attacker’s car by the police reveals it contained acetylene and oxygen tanks, two substances that, when mixed together, will yield a powerful explosive.

If this scenario occurred, there’s zero doubt that this would be called a terrorist attack. Zero. It would make headlines across the country and world, and we would see wall-to-wall cable news coverage for days. And, of course, certain right-wing media outlets, many conservative politicians, and Bill Maher would use this event as another excuse to stoke the flames of hate toward Muslims.

Well, last Friday night, this exact event took place at the New Orleans airport—that is, except for one factual difference: The attacker was not Muslim. Consequently, you might be reading about this brazen assault for the first time here, although this incident did receive a smattering of media coverage over the weekend.

The man who commited this attack was Richard White, a 63-year-old former Army serviceman who has long been retired and living on Social Security and disability checks. He was reportedly a devout Jehovah’s Witness.

Given the facts that a man armed with explosives and weapons traveled to an airport and only attacked federal officers, you would think that the word “terrorism” would at least come up as a possibility, right?  But it’s not even mentioned.

Instead, law enforcement was quick to chalk this incident up to the attacker’s alleged “mental health issues.” That was pretty amazing police work considering this conclusion came within hours of the attack. There was no mention by police that they had even explored whether White had issues with the federal government stemming from his military service, if there was any evidence he held anti-government views, etc.

Perhaps Mr. White truly was mentally ill. Interviews with his neighbors, however, don’t even give us a hint that he had mental problems. Rather they described White as a “meek” and “kind” man who a few had spoken to just days before the incident and everything seemed fine. You would think these neighbors would at least note that White had a history of mental illness if it was so apparent.

Now I’m not saying definitively that I believe Mr. White was a terrorist. My point is twofold. One is that if White had been a Muslim, the investigation into his motivation by the media and maybe even the police would have essentially been over once his faith had been ascertained. If a Muslim does anything wrong, it’s assumed to be terrorism. (Apparently we Muslims can’t be mentally ill.)

In contrast, when a non-Muslim engages in a violent attack, even on federal government employees, law enforcement and the media immediately look to the person’s mental history, not possible terrorist motivations.

No wonder so many parrot the line, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” When the press uses the word terrorism only in connection with the actions of Muslims, the average person would assume that’s the case. However, as I have written about before, in recent years overwhelmingly the terrorist attacks in United States and Europe have been committed by non-Muslims.

My second point is that this could have in fact been an act of terrorism. White clearly targeted only the TSA officers. He didn’t assault others in the airport, such as the passengers waiting on line at the security checkpoint. And for those unfamiliar, there has been a great deal of animus directed at the TSA by some conservatives and libertarians. Simply Google the words “stop the TSA” and you will see pages of articles denouncing the TSA as an organization hell bent on depriving Americans of our liberty.

For example, Alex Jones’ Infowars website is filled with anti-TSA articles claiming that the TSA’s goal is not to prevent terrorism but to “harass” travelers and get into “our pants.” Glen Beck warned in the pasthat the TSA was potentially becoming President Obama’s “private army” with the goal being to take away our liberties.

And in 2012, Senator Rand Paul lashed out against the TSA for what he viewed as the agency’s improper treatment of him. In fact after the incident, Paul penned an op-ed denouncing the TSA, writing that “it is infuriating that this agency feels entitled to revoke our civil liberties while doing little to keep us safe.”

Even more alarmingly, the attacks on the TSA have not been limited to words. In October 2012, Paul Ciancia traveled to LAX, where he took out a rifle from his bag and shot two TSA officers, killing one. Ciancia had written anti-government tracts in the past and was—to little media fanfare—actually charged months later with an act of terrorism.

Given this climate, how can the police not even mention that they investigated the possibility of terrorism and ruled it out? I spoke with Colonel John Fortunato, the spokesperson for Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office, which is the agency in charge of the investigation. Fortunato explained that due to state law, they couldn’t release any additional information regarding White’s mental illness or reveal information regarding any treatment he may or may not have undergone.

When I asked Fortunato if they had investigated White’s digital footprint to ascertain whether he had visited any anti-government websites or had searched his residence to see if he possessed an anti-government literature or made or written anti-government statements, he gave me what sounded like a boiler plate response that the investigation has revealed no affiliation to any outside groups. Fortunato expressed his confidence that White had acted alone and that no ties to any terror groups. But he added that we will never truly know what motivated White given he died before being questioned.

But part of me actually believes that there are some in the media and law enforcement who prefer to use the term terrorism only when it applies to a Muslim.

Why? Because it’s easy to do. Muslims are viewed by many as the “other,” not as fellow Americans. But discussing domestic terrorism carried out by fellow Americans is at best, uncomfortable, and at worst, undermines the narrative that some in our country have a vested interest in advancing.

I’m not sure what will change this mindset, but if we want to truly keep Americans safe, law enforcement and the media need to understand that terrorism is not just a Muslim thing.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, March 24, 2015

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Homeland Security, Muslims, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP To DHS; Governing Is Hard”: Republicans Are Edging Ever Closer To A Totally Predictable Shutdown

Weeks after winning the Senate, soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a nice thought:

“We will not be shutting the government down or threatening to default on the federal debt,” he said.

With less than two weeks before yet another government shutdown, chaos remains and dysfunction is still normal.

The latest manufactured drama is over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is scheduled to expire on February 27.

The scenario should sound familiar:

Much like the government shutdown over defunding Obamacare, House Republicans are refusing to pass any bill that funds DHS that doesn’t contain a provision overturning the Obama administration’s executive orders on undocumented immigrants and Senate Democrats are refusing to debate any DHS funding bill that has this language.

(Nevermind, the bill would be vetoed the minute it hit the president’s desk. This isn’t about the winning—it’s about the game.)

The result is a partisan stalemate in which neither side will blink.

And once again, this was all by design.

This showdown was set up at the end of 2014 with the debate over “the Cromnibus,” the controversial budget bill that funded the government for most of 2015.

Many conservative Republicans were loath to agree to any measure that funded the government didn’t overturn the executive orders.

Democrats refused to go along with anything other than a bill that funded DHS and omitted the executive order language.

The language would go beyond the controversial executive order that Obama issued in 2014 to allow 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States and also apply to the “DREAMers,” a subset of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States while they were underage and have clean criminal records. DREAMers were allowed to stay in the United States in an executive order that the administration issued in 2012.

To avoid another government shutdown, a compromise was reached before lawmakers went home for the holidays.

Most of the federal government would be funded for a year but the DHS would only receive sufficient appropriations to last through the end of February.

The idea was that conservatives could force their standoff on immigration then and surely, no one would want to let the government agency responsible for keeping the United States safe go dark.

But, of course, that is not the case.

To add more futility to their cause, the DHS will keep on running even without being funded. Workers in key agencies like the Border Patrol and the Transportation Safety Administration are considered “essential” and will report to work regardless—they just won’t be paid to do their jobs.

While many other DHS employees could be furloughed, this limitation prevents a shutdown from turning into an immediate crisis and reduces the cost.

On Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner seemed ready to embrace a potential shutdown and unwilling to consider a compromise.

He told Fox News, “The House has acted. We’ve done our job.” Boehner then said, “Senate Democrats are the ones putting us in this precarious position. It’s up to Senate Democrats to get their act together.”

But it’s not just Senate Democrats who think shutting down the DHS is a bad idea. Senate Republicans—John McCain, Jeff Flake and Mark Kirk, to name a few—also have expressed problems with using the DHS as a way to tweak the president.

The impasse is also handing Senate Democrats a powerful political weapon.

In a statement last week Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid said, “The Republican Congress is a mess, pure and simple. Democrats are happy to help our Republican colleagues resolve their problems but the first step is for Republican leaders to do the right thing and pass a clean bill to fund Homeland Security.”

The political dilemma for Republicans is that while a shutdown plays well with their base, it gives them relatively little leverage.

Most key functions of the DHS will be funded regardless and the result of past GOP brinkmanship is that Republicans are likely to bear the burden of the blame for any shutdown.

It also creates peculiar consequences in the 2016 presidential race as well.

It combines two delicate political issues of immigration reform and a government shutdown into one package and places more moderate GOP hopefuls in a bind.

Do they want to let what Republicans universally believe is an unconstitutional executive order by the Obama administration stand or do they want to be put in a position of cutting funding to the DHS in the aftermath of a wave of Islamist terror attacks against American allies and interests.

The result is a familiar dysfunction.

Democrats won’t yield on Obama’s executive orders—a move that would risk undermining one of the most important actions of the president’s second term and lead to the potential deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.

Republicans can’t alienate their conservative base yet again by compromising on what has become such a point of principle.

This latest episode might frustrating in the short term but, like the last shutdown, it has a predictable end:

It’s not a question of whether Republicans will cave and fund the DHS, but when.

 

By: Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast, February 17, 2015

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Dept of Homeland Security, GOP, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Fate Of The GOP Majority Is On The Line”: Even The Wall Street Journal Says Republican Congress Is Failing

This WSJ editorial is definitely NOT good news for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or Speaker John Boehner:

Republicans in Congress are off to a less than flying start after a month in power, dividing their own conference more than Democrats. Take the response to President Obama ’s immigration order, which seems headed for failure if not a more spectacular crack-up…

If Homeland Security funding lapses on Feb. 27, the agency will be pushed into a partial shutdown even as the terrorist threat is at the forefront of public attention with the Charlie Hebdo and Islamic State murders. Imagine if the Transportation Security Administration, a unit of DHS, fails to intercept an Islamic State agent en route to Detroit.

So Republicans are facing what is likely to be another embarrassing political retreat and more intra-party recriminations. The GOP’s restrictionist wing will blame the leadership for a failure they share responsibility for, and the rest of America will wonder anew about the gang that couldn’t shoot straight…

It’s not too soon to say that the fate of the GOP majority is on the line…This is no way to run a Congressional majority, and the only winners of GOP dysfunction will be Mr. Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.

Ouch! That one left a mark. When Republican leadership loses the Wall Street Journal editorial page, you can rest assured that they’re in big trouble.

And yet today Speaker Boehner told Chris Wallace that the House has already done it’s business and that he is prepared to let DHS funding expire at the end of the month.

Notice that Sen. McConnell didn’t appear on any of the Sunday news shows. But here’s how he explained his position earlier this week.

“I think it’d be pretty safe to say we’re stuck, because of Democratic obstruction on the Senate side,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters Tuesday. “I think it’s clear we can’t go forward in the Senate. And so the next move, obviously, is up to the House.”

If the WSJ is right and the fate of the GOP majority is on the line, it’s past time for these two Congressional leaders to face up to yet another embarrassing political defeat and get something done.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, February 15, 2015

February 18, 2015 Posted by | Congress, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Folksy Panderin’ In Bubba-Ville”: Huckabee 2016; Bend Over And Take It Like A Prisoner!

Great American leaders have long contributed profound thoughts of tremendous consequence to the public discourse.

Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Kennedy: “Mankind must put an end to war — or war will put an end to mankind.”

Reagan: “Trust, but verify.”

And now, similarly, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee: “Bend over and take it like a prisoner!”

Earlier this week, Huckabee ended his Fox News talk show so he could spend time mulling another bid for the Republican nomination. If the contents of Huckabee’s latest book – due out January 20th – are any indication, the overarching message of that campaign will be that the government is, um, having its way with the American public in a method that Huckabee, a Christian conservative, finds rather repulsive.

“Bend Over and Take it Like a Prisoner!” is the title of the 10th chapter of Huckabee’s 12th book, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy – which, as a whole, is an achievement in the genre of poorly written pandering.

The chapter, ostensibly about the TSA and IRS, is a soaring crescendo of latent homosexuality homoeroticism cloaked in almost libertarian – but not libertine! – conservatism.

It opens with Huckabee’s dramatic recollection of going through security at the airport. “Where else would I be ordered to stand still, put up my hands, and have my personal belongings taken and searched without a warrant or probable cause?” He asks. “After years of this indignity, much of the flying public thinks little of it, and they usually don’t complain. They just dutifully stand there, bend over, and take it like a prisoner.”

Clickbait title notwithstanding, Bend Over and Take It Like a Prisoner! is not devoid of substance. Although Huckabee’s condescending tone – like that of an elementary school history teacher – makes it difficult to take seriously.

He takes aim at the Department of Homeland Security and the USA Patriot Act: “…did anyone anticipate that not many terrorists would really get punished as a result of this act, but that American citizens would?”

He then quotes Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

“What would Ben say today?” Huckabee wonders. “Would he cheerfully go through a full-body scanner that electronically strip-searched him and then allow a federal agent to put his blue-gloved hands inside his pants and over his thighs, crotch, and upper body for the sake of domestic travel on a privately owned commercial carrier? I’ll bet you a Benjamin that he most certainly would not. (Come to think of it, though, kite flying Ben would definitely be in awe of this and every other use of…electricity! Also airplane flight, but I digress.)”

Huckabee then basically reprints – in full –  a few Politico Magazine articles by former TSA agent Jason Edward Harrington, because he has space to fill (later in the book, he writes out the lyrics to Simple Life by Lynyrd Skynyrd,).

He then provides some insight into his psyche – complete with Animal House reference.

While excoriating the IRS, Huckabee brings his readers along on a flashback to his youth.

“They remind me of a sadistic coach at my high school who used to enjoy ‘giving licks’ to teen boys for any infraction of his rules. Just so you know, ‘giving licks’ was the term used to describe the coach hitting the butt of a student with a short-handled boat paddle, riddled with holes to minimize wind resistance and enhance striking power…The coach had a rule that if you got a ‘lick’ you were required to say, ‘Thanks, coach, may I have another one?’ And most often he would say, ‘Sure,’ and pop you again. One might get three or four before the coach finally said, ‘No, I think you’ve had enough,’ and stop his twisted abuse of a helpless adolescent. Whenever I think of the IRS, I see that coach standing with his paddle, expecting em to say, ‘Thanks, IRS, may I have another one?’”

In closing, Huckabee condemns the current US government for being a “ham-fisted, hypercontrolling ‘Sugar Daddy,’ ” that has conditioned Americans “to just bend over and take it like a prisoner.” But, Huckabee writes, “In Bubba-ville, the days of bending are just about over. People are ready to start standing up for freedom and refusing to take it anymore.”

Now, the book does include a disclaimer on the back cover.

It is “not a recipe book for Southern cuisine, nor a collection of religious devotionals, nor a manual on how to properly load a semiautomatic shotgun.” Instead, “It’s a book about what’s commonly referred to as ‘flyover country.”

Clad in a blue, striped button-down, a silver watch adorning his left wrist, Huckabee beams on the cover. He stands, one assumes on a porch, which overlooks a prairie. “After you finish the book,” he writes, “you might just say, ‘Dang, those good ol’ boys ain’t so dumb after all.

 

By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, January 8, 2015

January 10, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Homophobia, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Not Like The TSA”: In The Scheme Of Things, Stop And Frisk Is Worse Than NSA Surveillance

My black friends in New York, particularly those who don’t live in the fancier precincts of Manhattan, have been harassed by the NYPD in a way that I, as a white guy, will never experience.

They’ve been stopped and frisked, for reasons known only to the officers. Almost every young black male I know has a story to tell.

The news today that a federal judge found this deliberate policing policy to be unconstitutional is a welcome one.

If you have never been stopped and frisked by a cop, it might not seem like a big deal.

So you lose, what, a few minutes of your time. You get frisked, there’s nothing on you, and you get sent on your way. It’s like the TSA.

Except that it’s not. It’s an encounter between powerless citizens and highly empowered police officers. It is scary. The confrontations are often aggressive, which is entirely appropriate from the perspective of the police officer: The person might be carrying. You’ve been singled out for your proximity to a place where a crime might be committed and because of the way you look, the way you move, the route you take. Your attitude towards the police will harden.

I think the NYPD is by and large an incredible organization and that its policing strategies have made New York City immeasurably safer; the city’s minority residents live with much less fear than ever before. But I think the “stop and frisk” policy is overzealous and counter-productive. And I think, in a small but tangible way, the practice harms those who come into contact with it.

The NSA’s surveillance capabilities and even its bulk collection programs do not damage or degrade Americans’ rights; they do not harm our ability to participate in the political process. (I think the FBI’s policies are MUCH more worrisome on that end.) To me, the symbolic harm is enough. I want the bright line to exist to prevent potential abuses by unsavory politicians.

There are many, many important debates to have about civil rights and liberties. Because of the NSA’s size, scope, and reach, I would be very concerned if the potential for willful abuse, and by extension, the potential to do something tangibly bad to Americans (and other innocents) was more than negligible. But it is negligible. Figuring out how to make sure NSA does everything right is important, but there is not one iota of evidence that the over-collection, even if it was broad, was (a) willful (b) not immediately reported and (c) ever detected by the Americans whose data passed through computers it shouldn’t have.

Yes, it would make me feel weird if I knew that an analyst somewhere was able to read my email; yes, I am totally and resolutely in favor of strong oversight procedures that are recognized by everyone as legitimate; but all the same, I am not being stopped by the police, or tortured, or arrested, or asked not to write something, or harassed, or, really, impacted in any way by that over-collect.

We have to make distinctions between what gives us the willies and what hurts or harms us. We have to make distinctions, fine ones, within topics; the NSA is not the CIA is not the FBI is not the NYPD.

Torture is evil. False wars are evil. Companies manipulating the data they collect to make you buy things and vote for people — that’s pretty wicked, too. What NSA does is not remotely close to that. To circle back to the point that’s obvious: They’re the government. They personify executive power. Our skepticism ought to be higher. I totally agree. But at the same time, we should not invent a caricature of what NSA does in order to polarize the debate about it. The facts don’t warrant that, just in the same way that the facts about the history of intelligence collection should absolutely force us to be vigilant.

In the scheme of things, the stop and frisk policy is a greater threat to civil rights than the NSA’s bulk collection programs.

 

By: Marc Ambinder, The Week, August 13, 2013

August 14, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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