Saturday, April 28, 2012

Detroit’s ‘SOS’ Stands for ‘Sink Our Ship’

The Detroit News article reporting on President Barack Obama’s campaign appearance at the Henry Ford Museum last week (“Obama makes Michigan campaign stops, says rivals out of touch”)  noted that he gave his speech “[j]ust steps way from the museum's "Driving America" exhibit and the presidential limousines used by Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy.”

It would have been more fitting to note that he was just steps away from the Titanic centennial exhibit, and just a few miles from where Detroit, his particularly dedicated constituency, is slipping beneath the waves.

Aside from sinking with few survivors, Detroit’s comparison with the Titanic ends there. The crew of the Titanic used everything they had available to alert nearby ships of their need for help, without success, most notably when the nearby steamer Californian failed to respond to the Titanic’s distress rockets. Unlike the Titanic’s crew, Detroit’s leaders, mover, shakers, clergy and other civic megaphones have been doing everything they can think of to keep help from arriving.

It’s not that they want the ship to sink, exactly. They just want all the city’s ingrained inefficiencies, corruptions, and sweetheart deals, the very things that give them their power, to remain off-limits. Put another way, they’re Pro-Iceberg. Not only don’t these guys have no alternative ideas for how to save the city, but they’re more than willing to see it all go down the drain rather than relax their grip on power in the slightest.

At this bleak moment in the city’s life help is coming in the form of the appointment of an emergency manager to save the city from bankruptcy. Appointed by the governor, an EM can break contracts, privatize long-neglected basic city services, and force the city to live within its means.

On Thursday a Board of State Canvassers split along party lines to reject a petition to put a repeal of the EM law on the ballot in November. The Board ruled that the petition failed to substantially comply with Michigan election law requiring a minimum font size for the headline.

Immediately after the vote, opponents swarmed [Jeffrey ]Timmer and [Norman] Shinkle, pointing fingers inches from the Republicans' faces and shouting their disapproval.

More than 140 repeal supporters chanted "shame, shame, shame" and shouted down board members who tried to explain their decision.

"I was pushed and shoved and spit at," Timmer said later. "I was expecting that there would be protests but I wasn't expecting the mayhem."

Detroit NAACP president Reverend Wendell Anthony declared that “The Constitution was not judged on the basis of font size," and vowed the repeal effort is “not over.”

Even Rashid Baydoun, now executive director of the Arab-American Civil Rights League, reportedly “struggled to contain his emotions after the vote.” Since the ACRL’s civil-rights mission, according to the group itself, is combating defamations of the Arab-American community on the Internet and other forms of media,” we don’t see what investment Baydoun would have in the repeal of Public Act 4, as it is of little or no interest to Detroit’s tiny Arab-American community. We pegged Baydoun as a political climber from the get-go, and figure he was most choked up about getting his name in the paper.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Elephant in the Room

Reuters reporter Chris Francescani has provided some welcome journalistic rigor to a story, excerpt below, about George Zimmerman’s background. Now that the tribunal has been transferred from the  partisan media to a criminal justice system where at least part of the business has to do with facts, evidence,  and a rational process of determining truth, we’re expecting many of  those voices that were clamoring “I am Trayvon”™ a month ago to be replaced with some serious silence.

As reported Wednesday by Reuters:

a more nuanced portrait of Zimmerman has emerged from a Reuters investigation into Zimmerman's past and a series of incidents in the community in the months preceding the Martin shooting.

Based on extensive interviews with relatives, friends, neighbors, schoolmates and co-workers of Zimmerman in two states, law enforcement officials, and reviews of court documents and police reports, the story sheds new light on the man at the center of one of the most controversial homicide cases in America.

The 28-year-old insurance-fraud investigator comes from a deeply Catholic background and was taught in his early years to do right by those less fortunate. He was raised in a racially integrated household and himself has black roots through an Afro-Peruvian great-grandfather - the father of the maternal grandmother who helped raise him.

A criminal justice student who aspired to become a judge, Zimmerman also concerned himself with the safety of his neighbors after a series of break-ins committed by young African-American men.

Though civil rights demonstrators have argued Zimmerman should not have prejudged Martin, one black neighbor of the Zimmermans said recent history should be taken into account.

"Let's talk about the elephant in the room. I'm black, OK?" the woman said, declining to be identified because she anticipated backlash due to her race. She leaned in to look a reporter directly in the eyes. "There were black boys robbing houses in this neighborhood," she said. "That's why George was suspicious of Trayvon Martin." 

Read the rest of this very detailed story, “George Zimmerman: Prelude to a shooting”.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Jersey Voters Prefer ‘Crazies’ To Christie

ChristieI haven’t been able to share Ann Coulter’s enthusiasm for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – not since he attacked as “crazies” critics in New Jersey disenchanted with his appointment of an Islamist Sohail Mohammed to the state bench.

“Sharia law has nothing to do with this at all, it’s crazy!” he snapped, adding that this “Sharia-law business is just crap . . . and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.” (“Christie’s ‘Crazies’”).

As we in Dearborn know, we can hear that kind of language from Mayor Jack O’Reilly, who is equally adamant that Sharia doesn’t exist in Dearborn, nor hardly any place else on Earth.

So it wasn’t surprising when Christie was so critical last month of the job NYPD was doing rolling up terror cells – even if it meant crossing the river into target-rich New Jersey. (“Christie Lashes Out At NYPD, Ray Kelly Over Surveillance Of Muslims In New Jersey”).

Which makes it all the more interesting that a study released last week shows that most of New Jersey’s voters are glad the NYPD is so aggressive. Andrew G. Bostom reports this:

Quinnipiac University polling data released today (4/11/12) indicate that by a wide margin, 71% to 20%, New Jersey voters the affirm that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) is "doing what is necessary to combat terrorism" by gathering information on Muslim organizations and activities in the Garden State. And by another wide margin, 62% of New Jersey voters believe the NYPD treats Muslims appropriately, while only 18 percent indicate that Muslims are targeted unfairly by the NYPD. Moreover, New Jersey voters disagree, substantially, 56% 32%, with Governor Chris Christie's criticism of New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's tactics to combat jihadism.

The questions addressing and responses these issues are reproduced from the survey, below:

32. "Do you think the New York City Police Department has unfairly targeted Muslims to combat terrorism or has acted appropriately?"

Appropriate: 62%

Unfair: 18%

Don't know: 20%

33. "As you may know, in an effort to combat terrorism, the New York City Police Department has gathered information on Muslim organizations and individuals in New Jersey since 9/11. Do you think the New York City Police Department has crossed the line by gathering information on Muslims in New Jersey or are they doing what is necessary to combat terrorism?"

Necessary: 71%

Crossed line: 20%

Don't know: 9%

34. Recently Governor Christie has criticized New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly for the way that the New York City Police Department has conducted information gathering on Muslims in New Jersey. In general, do you agree or disagree with Chris Christie's criticism of Ray Kelly?

Disagree: 56%

Agree: 32%

Don't know: 12%

(“New Jersey Voters Support NYPD Tactics on Jihadism, Reject Christie's Criticism”).

No Squishy Middle

When it comes to protecting religious liberty from the encroachments of an increasingly anti-Christian government, author George Weigel makes it crystal clear that there’s no refuge available in some unreal non-partisan“middle”:

The HHS mandate did not come from nowhere. It came from an administration that (as the bishops also point out) had signaled a shrinkage in its understanding of “religious freedom” as applied to international human rights policy. It came from an administration that . . . has persistently and willfully ignored the expressed concerns of thoughtful citizens about the coercive path it was treading.

Would that we had two political parties that honored religious freedom in full. But we don’t. And this argument will not be resolved at some mythical 50-yard line where all of us learn to just get along. Someone is going to win this debate over the future of civil society, and someone is going to lose it. And while the HHS mandate will most likely be struck down by the federal judiciary on [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] grounds, the larger argument over Leviathan vs. civil society will be determined politically. To suggest otherwise is either disingenuous or na├»ve.

As for the Commonweal editors’ worries about the complexities of religious-freedom issues that require “the careful weighing of competing moral claims,” enough is enough: Sandra Fluke has no “competing moral claim” to have her readily available contraceptives subsidized and provided by fellow citizens, and it is a degradation of both moral argument and political theory to suggest that she does. (“Framing the Religious-Liberty Issue").

Read Weigel’s complete article here

Sunday, April 08, 2012

New York, New York, Sister City of Dearborn, Michigan

And while on the subject of nuance, Reuters reported last week that investigation by the staff of Representative Peter King, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, has determined

that "hundreds" of people he described as "Iranian and Hezbollah terrorists" were in the United States. But interviews with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials, as well as private experts, about the Iranian-sponsored group paint a more nuanced picture. There is a threat, though whether it is imminent or extensive is far from clear, they say. (“U.S. officials debate virulence of Iran-backed Hezbollah's threat”).

As for the part of the picture that’s not so nuanced, Reuters explains it this way:

An alarming part of the officials' assessments focuses on the apparent surveillance missions that Iranian diplomats and possible Hezbollah operatives have been seen conducting at sensitive targets such as New York subways and bridges, and at nuclear power plants and tunnels elsewhere in the United States in the past 10 years.

The Reuters report then goes on to list only a sample of incidents that have been the cause of concern.

One factor heightening U.S. officials' concern about Hezbollah-related attacks is the accumulation of accounts of alleged attempts by Iranian operatives to "case" potential U.S. targets.

According to a New York law enforcement source, there have been several notable incidents of this nature involving individuals who turned out to be accredited to Iran's U.N. mission.

In a 2003 incident, New York police patrolmen observed a group of men videotaping the tracks out of the front window of a subway train traveling between Queens and Manhattan at 2 a.m. The Iranians were arrested, but later released after they produced diplomatic credentials. The law enforcement source said they were asked to leave the country.

In a 2006 incident, the captain of a sightseeing boat became suspicious after a group of Iranians taking his cruise along the East River broke into two smaller groups and started snapping pictures of the undersides of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. The six men all turned out to be covered by diplomatic immunity, the law enforcement source said.

In September 2008, three more Iranians with diplomatic status were observed taking pictures of rail tracks going into Grand Central Station that are not routinely accessible to members of the public.

And in a 2010 incident, security personnel at a heliport near Wall Street observed a group of men who claimed to be affiliated with an Iranian broadcasting network taking pictures of the framework supporting the heliport deck which was cantilevered over the river.

A federal official said that similar surveillance incidents had been reported in other cities such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Targets under observation included nuclear power plants, tunnels and casinos.

And then there is this:

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials, along with private experts, say there is little doubt Hezbollah has an extensive network of supporters, fund-raisers and potential operatives in the United States.

A law enforcement official said that the New York Police Department, whose monitoring of Muslim communities has prompted political controversy, believes that between 200 and 300 Hezbollah sympathizers live in New York City. Between 10 and 20 of those are relatives of Hezbollah leaders or fighters who were killed in action, said the official.

The NYPD's knowledge of Hezbollah's infrastructure is sufficiently detailed that it has identified three Lebanese towns - Bint Jbeil, Yanoun and Yatar - to which suspected sympathizers of the group have ties. At least a handful of people in New York connected with Hezbollah have also undergone military training in Lebanon, the official said.

But didn’t Reuters mention that too much of an alarm may not be the best thing, because some other very smart people put all this information together to form “a more nuanced picture”?:

U.S. officials caution that Hezbollah, a Shiite militia based in Lebanon, has largely avoided attacking U.S. targets since it carried out mass-casualty bombings in the 1980s against the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut. One reason may be that it does not want to endanger its lucrative North American fund-raising operations.

Read the article for yourself, and that’s pretty much all the nuance you’ll see. We’re cautioned against being too upset about Hezbollah because they’ve “avoided” attacking us since the Beirut bombing.   (But we did some avoiding ourselves by evacuating Lebanon shortly afterwards, never to return).

I don’t think they’ve avoided attacking us at all.  We know Hezbollah was active in killing our guys in Iraq, (read here, here, and here.) And in 1983 they were attacking us in their own backyard, in Lebanon, at a time when no jihadists were attacking us on our own soil. That changed on 9/11, and ever since jihadists have grown in sophistication and capability.  Now jihadis would rather martyr themselves killing us at home than anywhere else – if they can only figure out how to do it. And unlike 1983, according to Small Wars Journal, in the intervening years since 1983 “Hezbollah's operatives have infiltrated the Western Hemisphere from Canada to Argentina.”

And will Hezbollah fighters in America really abstain from attacking us just to spare their fund-raising? Again, according to Small Wars Journal, fund-raising is only a “second-tier priority” to Hezbollah cells, which are first and foremost committed to conducting terrorist operations.

Jihad is a duty of Hezbollah's operatives and according [to Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan] Nasrallah, no one is excused, including its parliamentary representatives. "Hezbollah cells are frequently involved in fundraising activities, even if they are primarily operational cells.” Hezbollah's cells are versatile, though people in those cells may have diversified roles. "[T]he idea that they are coming over here simply to make contacts with a mosque in order to get a few thousand dollars, I think, has been counterproductive to the FBI and intelligence." Improperly assessing the Hezbollah's intent clouds the knowledge of its severity. It is a mistake that is easily avoided if one just sees its history or tactics.


Can We All Just Subtle Down?, or, Everyone Knew Him as Nuancy

The New York Times again shows its willingness to run interference for President Obama whenever he needs it – which is often. Even liberal media sources are calling Obama “wrong” for his audacious statement last Monday that if the Supreme Court overturns his health care law it would “be an unprecedented, extraordinary step.”

Here’s how the NYT explains it:

Mr. Obama, himself a constitutional lawyer, never tried to defend the literal meaning of his own words; apparently he meant either to express a more subtle thought or merely to voice some commonplace campaign oratory about how judges sometimes overreach.

“Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress," he said on Monday, answering a question at a Rose Garden news conference.

Naturally, the Times appreciates that when Obama tries to be “subtle,” the great mass of dumbbells over whom he reigns are bound to misunderstand his point. The same thing happens when Obama resorts to “nuance.”

‘The Messages of Toulouse’

Clifford D. May writes at NRO:

The Messages of Toulouse

To those who proclaim themselves jihadis, Mohamed Merah is a hero and a martyr. He became a hero last month when he attacked a Jewish school in Toulouse, murdering Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two young sons, Gabriel and Arieh, and a seven-year-old girl, Myriam Monsonego, whom he pulled by the hair and then shot in the head. He became a martyr when, after a 33-hour standoff, he was killed by French commandos.

This part of the story has received too little attention: Merah, the 23-year-old son of Algerian immigrants, began his killing spree by gunning down French paratrooper Sergeant Imad Ibn Ziaten and, four days later, two more uniformed paratroopers, Corporal Abel Chennouf and Private Mohamed Legouad. All three were Muslims.

The clear message Merah was sending his co-religionists in France and other Western nations: “If you are good citizens of the infidel lands in which you have settled, if you are not waging war against the unbelievers or supporting those who do, you are traitors. And one of these days, Allah willing, you too will get the justice you deserve.” In France, graffiti in support of Merah characterizes those he slaughtered as “Zionists” and “false Muslims.”

Merah’s connections to well-known terrorist organizations are sketchy — perhaps by design. A strategy paper produced by al-Qaeda’s senior leadership was recently uncovered by German authorities. As summarized by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Daniel Trombly, researchers at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, it “outlines the group’s war-of-attrition strategy: a combination of both complex, multi-member operations and also smaller attacks, perhaps executed by so-called ‘lone wolves.’”

Gartenstein-Ross and Trombly note also (in a study soon to be published) that less than a year ago, al Sahab, al-Qaeda’s media production arm, “released a one-hundred-minute video urging Muslims to undertake individual jihad” against infidels.

Extremist websites call upon Muslims to take up the sword against Jews, Christians, and those Muslims who do not toe the jihadi line. Such appeals are made as well in mosques — some, not all. Think, for example, of Anwar al-Awlaki: Born in the U.S.A., he ran the Dar al Hijrah mosque in Virginia, where he posed as a moderate. Eventually, he took off for Yemen, where he became an al-Qaeda leader with a global online presence. (His career was cut short by a U.S. drone strike in September 2011.)

A growing list of lone-wolf terrorists includes Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, who shot and killed two Israelis at the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport; Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, who shot two soldiers who were on a smoke break outside a military-recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas; Major Nidal Hasan, who carried out the most deadly shooting spree on a U.S. military base in history; wannabe-car-bomber Faisal Shazad, whose explosive device malfunctioned in New York City’s Times Square; and “underpants bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who, thanks to courage and quick thinking by passengers on his flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, succeeded only in damaging his own crotch.

Imagine you are a young American Muslim wondering what to make of all this. You might go to the websites of some of the well-funded and well-connected organizations that claim to speak on behalf of Muslims in America. And there you would find . . . next to nothing. For example, on the website of ASMA (the American Society for Muslim Advancement), led by Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam who has vowed to build an Islamic center at Ground Zero in New York City, I find no mention of Merah. What is highlighted instead is the dubious assertion that “Islamophobia is America’s real enemy.” I also find not a word about Toulouse on the CAIR(Council on American-Islamic Relations), ISNA (Islamic Society of North America), ICNA (the Islamic Circle of North America), and MSA (Muslim Students Association) websites.

The leaders of these organizations will indignantly object that they should not be held accountable for terrorists who happen to be Muslims. That’s right, but it misses the point: Surely, America’s Muslim leaders have an obligation to warn against the hateful, homicidal, and genocidal ideology that drives terrorists such as Merah — an ideology that, its proponents insist, is simply Islam in its purest form. And if three French Muslim paratroopers had been murdered by a Jew or a Christian, do you think they’d have nothing to say about it?

In France, Mohammed Moussaoui, the president of the French Council for the Muslim Faith, said: “These acts are in total contradiction with the foundations of this religion.” But he then used the occasion to object to the term “Islamism,” saying its use “feeds the confusion between Islam and terrorism and brings suffering to millions of Muslims who feel it important to defend the dignity of their faith and their religion.” In fact, the term is meant to distinguish Islamic supremacists from Muslims who have no interest in forcing non-Muslims to submit to Islamic law. Similarly, former French justice minister Rachida Dati told a radio audience that using the word “jihadist” to describe Merah risked “stigmatizing our [Muslim] French compatriots.” Isn’t it terrorists who claim to be “soldiers of Allah” who stigmatize Muslims?

Most of the Muslims of Toulouse surely do not regard Merah as a hero. But he was not the only extremist in town. There is a jihadi network known as the Toulouse Group. And Merah’s older brother, Abdelkader, has been linked to Salafis — ultra-fundamentalist Muslims — and he has now been indicted as an accomplice. And someone arranged for him to travel abroad — including to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he may have received terrorist training.

If one understands this context, one also must grasp that it is not Islamophobia that impels those charged with preventing terrorism to keep an eye on what is going on within Muslim communities. Yet Daisy Khan, the wife of Imam Feisal, recently condemned such intelligence gathering by New York City police officers, calling it an “aggressive policy of spying on American citizens.” In the same article, Khan asserted that American Muslims want to be “full and equal partners in the fight against extremism.”

Would that not require, at a minimum, some candid commentary from her and the imam when such extremism leads Muslims such as Merah to massacre patriotic French Muslims along with Jewish children? Should they not be drawing lessons for the Islamic communities whose interests they claim to champion and the more diverse communities they seek to influence? Are they afraid to do so? Or is there another explanation for their conspicuous silence?


Ikhwan on Pennsylvania Avenue


Muslim Brotherhood Meets in the White House

By Katie Pavlich

A year after the Egyptian uprising, Hosni Mubarak's fall and the Muslim Brotherhood's rise in the country, the White House held talks with the radical Islamist group this week. This is the same Muslim Brotherhood that has called for the "review" of the Egyptian peace treaty with Israel and the same Muslim Brotherhood pushing Shariah law in their position of new leadership in Egypt.

White House officials held talks with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood in Washington this week, as the Islamist group threw itself into the fray in Egypt's presidential election.

The meeting on Tuesday with low-level National Security Council staff was part of a series of US efforts to broaden engagement with new and emerging political parties following Egypt's revolution last year, a US official said.

"We believe that it is in the interest of the United States to engage with all parties that are committed to democratic principles, especially nonviolence," said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.


One might wonder how an organization can be thought to have renounced violence when it has inspired more jihadists than any other, and when its Palestinian branch, the Islamic Resistance Movement, is probably more familiar to you by the name Hamas — a terrorist organization committed by charter to the violent destruction of Israel. Indeed, in recent years, the Brotherhood (a.k.a., the Ikhwan) has enthusiastically praised jihad and even applauded — albeit in more muted tones — Osama bin Laden.

No surprise, the usual Republican suspects have also been in talks:

The White House pointed out that Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, and other US lawmakers and officials had also met with Brotherhood representatives in Egypt and elsewhere in recent months.

Somewhere, the people at CAIR are smiling.


Thursday, April 05, 2012

Jones Leads O’Reilly, 3-Zip

Here it is. Either Terry Jones is incredibly smart, or Dearborn’s leaders are incredibly dumb.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Federal judge rules in favor of Quran-burning pastor Terry Jones

A federal judge ruled today in favor of Quran-burning pastor Terry Jones, saying he can protest this Saturday outside a Dearborn mosque without having to sign a legal agreement from the city of Dearborn.

U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood ruled in favor of Jones, who intends to hold a protest against Islamic extremism at the biggest mosque in metro Detroit. The city of Dearborn has said it wanted Jones to sign a “hold harmless” agreement that would require the Florida pastor to forfeit all legal rights stemming from any possible incident at the planned protest.

Earlier this week, the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative Christian group in Ann Arbor, filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of Jones, saying his constitutional rights were being attacked by the city because of the requirement to sign the “hold harmless” agreement.

Judge Hood said the requirement “violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas Law Center said today in a statement about the judge’s ruling: “Dearborn has a history of discriminating against Christians who want to speak out against the internal threat of Sharia law and Islam. And every time the City attempts to curtail the Constitutional rights of Christians, we will confront them in a court of law. There is no doubt in my mind that the City knew the Hold Harmless agreement they were trying to get Jones’s organization to sign was unconstitutional.”

The city of Dearborn has said it respects the free speech rights of all. Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly has said that the claim that the city is under sharia is ridiculous.

City spokeswoman Mary Laundroche said earlier this week that “the city has asked Mr. Jones and his group to sign a hold harmless agreement because the grassy area he would like to demonstrate on is not developed for pedestrian use. The hold harmless would protect the city from potential injuries. The city offered the group a chance to write its own hold harmless agreement for the city’s review. It has not done so.”

Jones tried to rally last year outside the Islamic Center, but was blocked by a judge who ordered him to stay away from the mosque for three years. That decision was later overturned by a Detroit judge.