Friday, September 24, 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Anti-Defamation League Seeks Variance

The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) took a stand for defamation this week, crossing the line into terminal self-denial and issuing a statement opposing the construction of the Cordoba House Islamic Center on the site the old Burlington Coat Factory building in Manhattan, a couple of blocks away from where the World Trade Center was attacked on 9/11.

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.
Cordoba House is a project of the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA).  The Cordoba Initiative takes its name from the medieval Spanish city, seeking to renew its "atmosphere of interfaith tolerance and respect that we have longed for since Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in harmony and prosperity eight hundred years ago."  ASMA Executive Director Daisy Khan and Cordoba Initiative Chairman Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf envision a 15-story building with a performing arts center, culinary school, child care facilities and a swimming pool.  Cordoba House would also include a prayer center, but this would not constitute a mosque which would otherwise prohibit the serving of food and the playing of music that are to be integral features among the activities of the center.  Nevertheless, opposition has rallied around its characterization as the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque." 

"It's a house of worship, but we are at war with al-Qaeda," said Representative Peter King (R-NY), ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee.

"There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Meanwhile, elements among local Jewish leadership have assisted and expressed support for the Cordoba House development, as reported in the New York Jewish Week.

Khan and her husband, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, both said they have received assistance from the JCC [Jewish Community Center] as they draw up plans for their center, comments confirmed by Rabbi Joy Levitt, the JCC’s executive director.
“They came to us because they felt the values we represented — diversity, dialogue, the education of children — were values they wanted to espouse,” Rabbi Levitt said. “They have the same kind of diversity in their community that we have in ours, and they were looking for strategies to bring [those different segments] together.”
“I have no illusions about anything,” said [Yehezkel] Landau, a faculty member at the Hartford Seminary who, for many years, lived in Israel. “We have enemies. ... But Daisy Khan and Imam Feisal are not enemies of anyone.”

In raising "a question of what is right," the ADL could have stood by its own charter, "to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens."  Instead it shamelessly caved to cynical demagoguery and mob rule.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Talking Point

Even as Republican congressional leadership maintains a hold on Pres. Obama's TSA administrator appointment and votes in lockstep against DHS funding for TSA explosive detection systems and other aviation security measures, the GOP nevertheless has the stones to claim national security supremacy against the Obama administration.

Meanwhile, Republicans and conservative media celebrities claim security superiority with a particularly broad stroke against Muslims:

Rep. Peter King (R-NY):  "100 percent of the Islamic terrorists are Muslim, and that is our main enemy today."

Steven Emerson, FoxNews analyst and executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism:  "One hundred percent of all the terrorist attacks against the U.S. last year were carried out by Muslim jihadists."

With the standard set by this talking point, shouldn't someone argue that since 100% of all murderers of OB/GYN surgeons who perform abortions are fundamentalist Christians, medical facilities ought to start profiling Christians?  Or would that be too "politically incorrect"?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Strange Fruit

Minnesota Republican Congressperson Michele Bachmann has been making a national name for herself by openly resisting 2010 US census efforts, warning the countryside from her split screen at FoxNews about the evil designs of the US Census Bureau.

BACHMANN: "If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the census bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations, at the request of President Roosevelt, and that’s how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps. I’m not saying that’s what the Administration is planning to do. But I am saying that private, personal information that was given to the census bureau in the 1940s was used against Americans to round them up."

Got that?  She's not sayin', she's just sayin'.  And now this weasely populist demagoguery has likely gotten a good man killed.

The FBI is investigating whether anti-government sentiment led to the hanging death of a U.S. Census worker near a Kentucky cemetery. A law enforcement official told The Associated Press the word 'fed" was scrawled on the dead man's chest.

The body of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and teacher, was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky. The Census has suspended door-to-door interviews in rural Clay County, where the body was found, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Investigators are still trying to determine whether the death was a killing or a suicide, and if a killing, whether the motive was related to his government job or to anti-government sentiment....

Any bets about how that investigation turns out?  This much we know. One cannot present dark conspiracy theories about census bureau field workers in particular, or our federal government in general, from a platform like FoxNews and expect to be considered a productive public servant, let alone a responsible legislator.

This was Bill Sparkman --

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Georgia On My Mind

As Tea Party conservatives passionately demand their country "back," it remains a relatively abstract and unclear point to many others.

Meanwhile, amid the historical revisionism and fevered conspiracy theories emanating from these rallies we also find alot of flags including, but hardly limited to, our Stars and Stripes.  For example, the marginally familiar yellow Gadsden flag with its snake graphic and "Don't Tread On Me" motto and the slightly more familiar Confederate battle flag.

Considering the latter and the controversy it has continued to generate, it is well worth remembering that as recently as the turn of the century Georgia's state flag included the Confederate battle flag in its design.

The state ultimately acquiesced to concerns over the display of such a potent and polarizing symbol of historic violent separatism by adopting a new and improved flag design...


...which will not look at all like the more familiar Confederate battle flag to the casual consumer of historical trivia.  But it strongly resembles the original Confederate flag nevertheless.

Say what you will about these latter day separatists, they know their history and they know how to use it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Between Gay Pride Day & The 4th of July

It is no secret that military recruitment has recently had its share of difficulties. Even to the point where gang members and neo-Nazis are able to enlist in our Armed Forces.

Yet, here we are right now, between Gay Pride Day and Independence Day where as of this writing 13,000 US military personnel have been kicked out of the US Armed Forces for being gay and somehow violating the Pentagon's Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell policy. By the way, only one of the more lazy eras of American history could produce official policy with so many contractions. Still, the question comes to mind if as many Armed Forces personnel are drummed out of service for the "Don't Ask" policy as for the "Don't Tell" part.

As Matt Kennard recently reported for, a neo-Nazi skinhead explained the enlistment screening process he had gone through, including questions about his body art. "They just told me to write an explanation of each tattoo, and I made up some stuff, and that was that." The recruit's girlfriend even tried to sabotage his enlistment by sharing photos of him at white supremacist rallies. "I just denied them and said my girlfriend was a spiteful bitch," he said. "They knew what I was about. But they let it go because I'm a great soldier."

Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach was born on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. As part of the 366th Operations Support Squadron he helped protect Washington, DC, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and was among the forces that took Baghdad Airport in 2003. Lt. Col. Fehrenbach has flown 400 combat hours and earned nine medals, including one for heroism. None of it matters now as he fights to keep his job because of his intimate relationships.

In 2001 the US Army had filled only half its authorized positions for Arabic translators, and continues to fall short of its goals today. By the end of 2002, the Army had dismissed six Arabic linguists under Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Ironically, perhaps, the military has a Don't Ask Don't Tell policy [links to pdf] regarding hate groups and street gangs, too. But Matt Kennard spoke to former military investigator Carter F. Smith who explained, "When you need more soldiers, you lower the standards, whether you say so or not. The increase in gangs and extremists is an indicator of this. But they have a war to fight, and they don't have incentive to slow down."

Lt. Dan Choi of the New York National Guard is fluent in Arabic and served in Iraq. Lt. Choi's case differs in that he openly challenges Don't Ask Don't Tell. Lt. Choi helped start the organization Knights Out for gay and lesbian West Point alumni, and declared who he was on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show.

Yesterday, the last day of June, the National Guard Federal Recognition Board heard from members of Lt. Choi's unit and his commanding officer defending his service. But ultimately the Board found none of it material to the case, and recommended that Lt. Choi be discharged from service.