Right-wing terrorism

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Today, an anti-semitic terrorist attacked the Holocaust Memorial in Washington D.C. (I’ve been there, and yes, one visit is enough for a lifetime). Last week, an anti-abortion terrorist assassinated a doctor.

Why is the media so afraid to use the word “terrorist” to accurately describe right-wingers engaged in the act of terrorism? Is it that whites can’t be terrorists? Only Arabs?

Until we call it what it actually is, we can’t address it properly.

And since right-wingers were so keen on using water-boarding against terrorists, do you think they’d mind if we tortured these home-grown right-wing terrorists?

Why the William Ayers “controversy” keeps failing to gain traction

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

Pardon my dumb-foundedness, but I just don’t understand why the McCain/Palin campaign and other Republicans keep on pushing the “he associates with former terrorist William Ayers” attack line against Barack Obama. Okay, that’s not quite true; I understand why they’re pushing this line of attack — they’re out of any good ideas for America’s future, and it does work on their rather ignorant base — but what I don’t understand is how they think this line of attack will be successful in the greater scheme of bringing more undecided voters into the fold and win the election. Let’s look at the charge objectively, okay?

William Ayers committed his terrorist attacks when Obama was eight years old and living in Indonesia. Obama hadn’t even heard of him at that point, let alone supported his philosophies. They wouldn’t go on to meet for another twenty-seven years, by which point William Ayers had long since stopped being a terrorist and had become a respected university professor. The two met when they served on the board of a non-profit education-focused community group. And as a potentially mitigating factor in defense of Ayers, the US government wasn’t exactly on a hot streak during the Vietnam War; the Weather Underground has to be understood in the context of the larger anti-war movement that rose up to oppose it. Yes, the Weather Underground used tactics that are never acceptable — but so did the government at the time. No ones hands are clean in this.

The American public overall isn’t being persuaded by this line of attack. Calling Obama a terrorist sympathizer as an attempt to paint him as un-American (how McCarthyist!) is too sleazy for all but the most rabid conservative. It simply isn’t gaining any traction; when McCain started pushing this narrative, Obama started gaining in the polls. But the silliest part of this line of attack is that, if it actually held any merit, it could just as easily be used against me, to disqualify me from ever holding any elected office. What’s that? I’m connected with a former terrorist? You betcha!

I went to Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, a notoriously liberal area. One of my best and most memorable teachers was my eleventh grade history teacher. She would frequently get distracted during lessons and start recounting stories of her anti-war activities during the Vietnam era, and we all loved her for it. We learned more from her than from any textbook. And her life story was amazing, leaving her with a wealth of personal stories that never left us bored: after her anti-war activism, she became a Catholic nun, then ended up leaving religion altogether, married a black man in a time when that was very uncommon and looked down upon, had a mixed-race child, ended up getting divorced, then ultimately became a teacher. We all respected her greatly because, unlike most other teachers, she treated us like adults and told us the unfiltered truth. At one point when she was telling us a story of how her, her husband, and their child were racially discriminated against, she and half the class were crying. But it was her activities during the Vietnam War that I’d like to focus on now.

My teacher was involved in a radical anti-war group. The very pinnacle of her activism occurred when she, along with a group of college students, broke into an Agent Orange munitions factory at night and destroyed a lot of the manufacturing equipment. Attacking the machineries of war during wartime? That easily qualifies as terrorism, probably even treason. They were caught on their way out and spent awhile in jail. Finally, thanks to an amazing bout of luck and a sympathetic judge, my teacher got off with a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony (her co-conspirators weren’t so lucky), which was very fortuitous because a felony would’ve precluded her from ever becoming a teacher.

So, yes, I personally knew a “terrorist”, and what’s worse, unlike Obama with Ayers, I don’t even disagree with her actions. Unlike the Weather Underground, which targeted and killed people, my teacher targeted the equipment involved in making a chemical of war that was used in extremely unethical ways by our military against a civilian population. I can’t really fault her for that. So you can excuse me for not feeling sympathetic for McCain’s line of attack on Obama, not even by one whit.

Letting the terrorists win

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

It really pains me to see how easily we’re letting the terrorists win. We’ve done more damage to ourselves in reactionary blind fear than they ever did to us with their singular large successful attack on American soil. All it took was to have an opportunistic president in power willing to respond to the attack not in an appropriate way, but in the way that maximized his own power.

And so we have to deal with nonsense at the airport every day. It’s not making us safer, but it makes the less smart amongst us feel safer, and it also serves to keep Americans under a “healthy” level of fear. After all, you can be convinced to vote against your own interests if you’re scared out of your mind.

I read a good article in the Washington Post today called “Here’s How America Looks to the World” by Josef Joffe. He covers not only the nonsense that goes on in airports, but also the very real ways in which America is only hurting itself by making it harder for foreigners to visit. In turning into Fortress America, we’re dissuading many foreign tourists and students from coming here, and large international conventions are switching to places like Canada because it’s become so difficult for people to gain even temporary access to the United States.

This article is incredibly important, but unfortunately the Washington Post is one of those backwards newspaper sites that hides content behind a registration wall, so here’s the full text:

Read the rest of this entry »

Decrying publicly funded Islamic education in Minnesota

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

An investigative reporter out in Minnesota has uncovered a publicly funded Muslim charter school that is promoting the religion of Islam on the publics dime. The charter school is collocated with a mosque, and all students go over for “voluntary” prayer and Islamic education immediately after school, after the ritual washing of hands and feet, of course. As if all this didn’t make the religious nature of the school obvious enough, the building the school is located in is also the headquarters of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, whose mission is to “establish Islam in Minnesota.”

This is a clear violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. No public funds should be going towards promoting any particular religion, especially not to a captive child audience. It doesn’t matter that attending the school is entirely voluntary (for the parents, anyway; the children likely have no say in the matter). It’s entirely unconstitutional. Minnesota hasn’t been doing a good job of regulating this school, having only visited it thrice in the past five years. All manner of illegal things have been going on right under their noses.

It is the state’s duty to provide a secular education. Any promotion of religion should not take place in public schools. I wonder what in the world Minnesota was thinking when they established a separate public school just for Muslims; how is this justified or appropriate?! America has always been a melting pot. Our strategy is to assimilate immigrants into our culture, and schools are the best way to do that. So establishing a separate school to prevent that assimilation, and then promote religion on top of that, is absurd. Just like we have no public schools that promote Christianity, there should be none that promote any other religion.

I think we’re heading down the very dangerous road of the British and the French who, in the name of “cultural diversity”, are allowing large segments of their population to remain isolated and cut off. In Britain they even allow Muslim men with multiple wives to get government benefits for each wife — so long as he married them before immigrating! And this is even though bigamy is illegal for all other British citizens. The results of this kind of appeasement of immigrants are devastating: witness the large Muslim immigrant riots in the banlieues of Paris in recent years, leaving thousands of cars torched, hundreds of police officers injured, and millions in damages. Or look at the extremist imams in Britain who actively preach hate and condone violence against “heathens”, providing the breeding grounds for such plots as the July 7 London bombings.

So far, America has done much better. We don’t have the problem of home-grown terrorists like the United Kingdom because we’ve purposefully liberalized and integrated our immigrants into our culture. Children who receive a secular modern education generally do not grow up to be extremists. So we shouldn’t be shooting ourselves in the foot here and using taxpayer money to subsidize non-secular education that only serves to actively prevent assimilation and could potentially foster more extremism down the line. Our current strategy is working; don’t deviate from it! Get rid of all public schools that segregate out children by religion. There’s absolutely no place for it in America.

Prescient BBS posting regarding oppressive governments and terrorism

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

My friend sent me this old manifesto he dug up from a long time ago today and it was so apt I just had to post it. He recalls downloading it from a BBS sometime in the year 1994. The essay is by a group calling themselves the “Underground eXperts United”. It reads like anarchist paper literature, except this was out and breeding on the web, and is chillingly accurate regarding terrorism and the state’s response to it. You almost can’t help but think “Yeah, that happened” as you go through reading it. So here it is:

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Cheerleading for another war

Sunday, February 11th, 2007

The rhetoric has increased substantially in recent months regarding Iran. It’s making me think “shades of Iraq … shades of Iraq.” Are we really going into yet another war? We already took our eye off the ball with Afghanistan by invading Iraq for no reason, and now it looks like Bush and cronies are trying to get our attention off our failures in Iraq and Afghanistan with another war? Ridiculous. I really do hope (and expect) that the American people will not stand for this.

Fox News (snort) reports that the Iranians are supplying Iraqis with weapons to kill U.S. troops. I don’t if we’re supposed to take this on their word, of course (remember the whole “Iraq had WMDs” things?). But even assuming that it’s true, it’s no different than what the United States did with over a half dozen countries during the Cold War. Hell, look at how much support we gave to the Afghanis in their war against the Russians. And look at where it got the Russians, spending large fractions of their GDP on a pointless, unwinnable war. They ceased being a superpower nation due in no small part to exhausting themselves in Afghanistan.

Look at where the United States is headed these days. It’s not good. Debt is out of control, the current wars are costing billions of dollars per week, and our administration is making noises and greasing the wheels to get into a war with a third country?! Have they no shame? To think what they wanted to impeach Clinton over, but apparently, impeachment “isn’t an option here”. Why, exactly, isn’t it?

Evolution causes terrorism

Sunday, February 4th, 2007

Evolution causes terrorism! Or at least that’s what the lunatic Turkish creationist Harun Yahya claims. PZ Myers has more of the details, but basically, this creationist loon sent books to tens of thousands of French schools that make false and unsubstantiated claims like so:

The book features a photograph of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center with the caption: “Those who perpetuate terror in the world are in fact Darwinists. Darwinism is the only philosophy that values and incites conflict.”

Yes, really, it was evolution that caused the World Trade Center attacks. Not, God forbid, Islam. Hell, being fundamentalist Muslims, I’m sure those terrorists were all indoctrinated with evolution and went down praising Darwin, right? How can Harun Yahya blame a scientific theory for terrorism, especially when the actual terrorists don’t even believe in said scientific theory? It’s absolutely stupid. I’m sure even a fundamentalist Christian in the deep South would see the flaw in these claims. Science just explains how the world is. It would make just as much sense as a family of a suicide jumper blaming Newton and the laws of physics.

One thing to note is that Harun Yahya is actually the pen name of Adnan Oktar. I guess he’s so proud of what he’s doing he doesn’t want his real name too closely associated with it, huh? I first ran into Harun Yahya years back on talk.origins, when his followers would post his anti-evolution screeds verbatim, without attribution, using his pen name. Of course, these people often didn’t stick around to try to defend the writing when it was inevitably demolished by the talk.origins regulars, nor did they really understand enough of evolution to be able to offer up any coherent arguments. Harun Yahya’s followers just became known as losers on the local landscape, and were frequently derided and ignored rather than taken seriously. It’s too bad the same doesn’t happen with Harun Yahya in meatspace. It’s really a shame that millions of people are buying these books and believing in this nonsense.

The State of the Union

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

Well, if you trust Bush, the state of the union is swell indeed. However, I don’t trust him, and history shows us that he is wont to make grand promises in these State of the Union addresses, and then completely fails to follow them up. For instance, in this speech he said some words about making sure that all children have cheap and affordable health care, which of course, is something that he actually opposes. The Republicans have given insurance companies money hand over fist, even fighting to prevent the federal government from negotiating medication rates with drug companies for Medicare. In Bush’s world, the only way children have access to health care is if their parents can afford it. Of course, the only real way to give all children access to health care is by socializing health care and creating a national system a la Canada, but of course, Bush isn’t proposing anything of the sort.

Bush also made some meaningless noises about education and No Child Left Behind. He also delivered pretty much the same speech he’s given about terrorism for four years in a row now. The American people aren’t buying this crap anymore. Sorry Bush, but not only do we not think your way is the only way, we also, by and large, don’t think it’s the best way. It’s time to try something else. Like, you know, not torturing, not invading countries on false and manufactured rationales, not indefinitely imprisoning people without charge, not violating the privacy of Americans without a warrant, etc. We’ve had enough of this nonsense, and this speech doesn’t even give a hint that anything is going to change, except for his suggestion of creating a bipartisan group to deal with terrorism. I see this as nothing more than an attempt to have Democrats share in the blame for this current mess we’re in. Because we all know how much attention Bush paid to the most recent bipartisan commission, the Iraq Study Group.

So nothing in this speech impressed me. I heard lots of big promises and few indications that anything is actually going to be done about them. He didn’t really cover the Iraq War in much depth, and isn’t really offering a plan for victory other than this continued unrealistic pipe dream about how we’ll leave once the Iraqis are in control of their country. The situation has only been getting worse over there with time, however. At this rate we’ll be there indefinitely. Twenty thousand more troops sure as hell isn’t enough to make a real difference and fix this deteriorating civil war.

Update two hours later: Wow, it’s worse than I thought. It’s not that Bush doesn’t actually have a real plan for health care; he does have a plan, it’s just absolutely terrible. He wants to start taxing people on health care benefits and then give that money to the health care industry. Supposedly this will some how help everyone get health care; because if the health care industry is making more money, they can help more people, am I right? In actuality, this would just result in higher health care costs and more unemployed Americans. It has nothing at all to do with giving health care to more adults and children and everything with giving a large bald-faced handout to industry. Is this ridiculous or what?

Update 2007-01-25: Okay, it looks like I didn’t understand Bush’s plan on health care from what I heard in the speech. He’s going to offer tax breaks, not tax hikes, on health care. Still, this isn’t really going to help the problem of the large number of uninsured people in this nation because the majority of uninsured people are poor, who are already pay very little taxes, if any. This proposed tax break basically amounts to a large give away of the government’s money to the health care industry, and it would mainly only affect people who are wealthy enough to be paying considerable taxes.

Iraq: Do we even care anymore?

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

Here’s the latest story about the violence and carnage in Iraq:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — More than 100 people were killed in Baghdad on Tuesday in bombing and shooting incidents, most of them in neighborhoods where the militia of a powerful anti-American Shiite cleric holds sway.

A suicide bomber and a car bomb killed at least 70 people and wounded 169 more at entrances to a once-prestigious university in Baghdad.

So the question is … do we even care anymore? How many years of this stuff can one pay attention to before it just slips below the radar as “situation as usual”? How scary is it that a hundred deaths in a single day now qualifies as below the radar?

There’s only one solution to this mess. And it’s not escalation. We already won the war before Bush ever announced “Mission Accomplished”. Now we’re dealing with an occupation, and occupations only end in two ways: withdrawal or annexation. It’s time to withdraw. We can’t stop this civil war and we shouldn’t be chaperoning it. We already made a huge mess in Iraq and we are incapable of fixing it. So it’s time to take our hat out of the ring. Hopefully tensions will decrease as United States troops decrease. The Iraqi people already overwhelming support US withdrawal in nationwide polls; why not just give them what they and we want and leave?

Why do we pay attention to televangelists?

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

CNN has an insipid front page article right now talking about how Pat Robertson predicts a massive terrorist attack on the United States in 2007.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia (AP) — Evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson said Tuesday that God has told him that a terrorist attack on the United States would cause a “mass killing” late in 2007.

“I’m not necessarily saying it’s going to be nuclear,” he said during his news-and-talk television show “The 700 Club” on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“The Lord didn’t say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that.”

Robertson said God told him about the impending tragedy during a recent prayer retreat.

God also said, he claims, that major cities and possibly millions of people will be affected by the attack, which should take place sometime after September.

Why does this make the front page news? Pat Robertson has just as much standing to make these predictions as the homeless loony who proclaims “The end times are near”. Who honestly believes that God is personally talking to Pat Robertson and giving him some kind of special information? Why is this reported on the front page as if it matters? By sheer virtue of acting as if these ridiculous prophecies as newsworthy, CNN is giving Pat Robertson undue credibility.

The article also points out that Pat Robertson made the (utterly false) prediction that 2006 would be a bad hurricane/tsunami year, but gives some weight to his hand-waving rationalization.

In May, Robertson said God told him that storms and possibly a tsunami were to crash into America’s coastline in 2006.

Even though the U.S. was not hit with a tsunami, Robertson on Tuesday cited last spring’s heavy rains and flooding in New England as partly fulfilling the prediction.

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to rationalize away a false prediction of a terrorist attack. Pat Robertson has frequently gotten these “predictions” of his dead wrong, and it is obvious to any logical observer that he has no more predictive power than the average person making an educated guess. So why is he paid so much heed? One word: faith. Some idiots actually believe this nonsense.