Bored law agencies need to spy on you


Let’s put this another way, the war on terrorism is going so badly in the US, simply because there aren’t any terrorist, that all the law agencies set up to fight them have to now turn their attention to law abiding citizens!  That was always the plan, but they had to scare the population into supporting the establishment of so many law agencies, perhaps the highest per capita in the world.  Now, the chickens have come home to roost.

Fusion centers are collaborative law enforcement and intelligence organizations that were established all over the country after 9/11 to share intelligence and counterterrorism information. But in the absence of a widespread domestic terrorist threat, they have not consistently demonstrated their value, according to a recent study.

“Fusion centers emerged almost spontaneously in response to a need by state and local law enforcement for useful and usable intelligence related to the evolving terrorist threat,” observed Milton Nenneman, a Sacramento police officer, in a master’s thesis (pdf) based on a survey of California fusion centers.

But the terrorist threat has turned out to be “insufficient” to justify or sustain the new fusion centers.

There is, more often than not, insufficient purely ‘terrorist’ activity to support a multi-jurisdictional and multi-governmental level fusion center that exclusively processes terrorist activity,” said Lt. Nenneman.

As a result, “Fusion centers must consider analyzing or processing other criminal activity, in addition to terrorist activity, in order to maintain the skills and interest of the analysts, as well as the participation and data collection of the emergency responder community.”

Agencies with budgets approaching independent countries are now turning their attention on “criminal activity”, whatever that means, to keep the mental acumen of their analyst employees sharp.  What will agencies established to fight terrorist whose employees are responders to terrorism do to remain proficient when there are no terrorists to fight? Is anyone interested in that question?

More lies about Iraq


We blogged earlier about US plans to establish permanent bases in Iraqi and how some considered that an infringement on Iraqi sovereignty.  Naturally, Iraqis aren’t too enamored to the idea, as well they shouldn’t, so when things got out of hand one day recently, President Bush made a phone call to the Iraqi Prime Minister to assure him “Washington was not seeking to undermine Iraq’s sovereignty and that America would reconsider any contentious part of the agreement.” Obviously that’s diplomatic language used to diffuse a tense situation in Iraq as many Iraqis took to the street to protest the impending agreement.  However, America wants what it wants and uses a big stick to get it, Iraqi sovereignty be damned!

The US is holding hostage some $50bn (£25bn) of Iraq’s money in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to pressure the Iraqi government into signing an agreement seen by many Iraqis as prolonging the US occupation indefinitely, according to information leaked to The Independent.

US negotiators are using the existence of $20bn in outstanding court judgments against Iraq in the US, to pressure their Iraqi counterparts into accepting the terms of the military deal……The US is able to threaten Iraq with the loss of 40 per cent of its foreign exchange reserves because Iraq’s independence is still limited by the legacy of UN sanctions and restrictions imposed on Iraq since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in the 1990s. This means that Iraq is still considered a threat to international security and stability under Chapter Seven of the UN charter. The US negotiators say the price of Iraq escaping Chapter Seven is to sign up to a new “strategic alliance” with the United States.

So despite the fact Saddam is DEAD and a new government has been installed, supposedly with the full support of the United States, the Iraqi government can still be considered a threat to international security or they can sign the agreement the US wants and possibly get their money back. Doesn’t sound like respect for one’s sovereignty to me.

The difference between symbolism and substance


The House Democrats, some 50 plus of them want Bush investigated for war crimes, but are appealing to the Justice Dept’s Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor.  Given Mukasey’s contempt for this Congress, this move on the part of the Democrats is symbolism.  They know it won’t lead anywhere, except a mention in the Congressional Record perhaps, which can be removed later.  It would be interesting to know how many of the signatories to this  are also supporters of Dennis Kucinich’s articles of impeachment against the President.

Militarists in the Pentagon averted a strike against Iran last year, according to a news report, by asking the Administration just how far they were prepared to go in escalating a war.  By getting the Administration to commit and understand the gravity of their request, Pentagon officials were able to get the Bush admin to back down.  It seems Cheney was the chief agent provocateur. This was substance, because it led to a definite outcome that affected the lives of millions of people.  In a nutshell we see the difference between career politicians who get in the way, muddying up the waters and not really affecting change  and officials who take matters of life and death more seriously.

Duh!


The Washington Post, the very same newspaper that touted the disastrous Iraqi war, recently ran an article about Bush’s place in history. No doubt this was their way of expiation for their previous sin of mouthing the Administration’s line about the WOT, Iraq, et.al.

Historical analogies have become a staple of Bush speeches and interviews this year, whether he is addressing regional leaders in Egypt or talking to workers at an office park in suburban St. Louis. Bush will continue this historical focus in a visit to Europe this week, where he will commemorate the Berlin Airlift in Germany and deliver a speech in Paris marking the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan.

White House aides say Bush, who majored in history at Yale, likes to emphasize historical comparisons because they are easy for the public to understand and illustrate in dramatic fashion how differently future generations may come to view him.

Unfortunately for the president, many historians have already reached a conclusion. In an informal survey of scholars this spring, just two out of 109 historians said Bush would be judged a success; a majority deemed him the “worst president ever.”

“It’s all he has left,” said Millsaps College history professor Robert S. McElvaine, who conducted the survey for the History News Network of George Mason University. “When your approval ratings are down around 20 to 28 percent and the candidate of your own party is trying to hide from being seen with you, history is your only hope.”

Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz, who wrote a widely cited Rolling Stone essay about Bush in 2006 titled “The Worst President in History?,” said last week that the president’s historical arguments can be effective because they are difficult to disprove. “By just saying, ‘In the long run this is going to look great,’ it makes it very hard to respond to,” he said.

This still doesn’t let the Post off in my book.  Meanwhile that little spark plug, Dennis Kucinich has unleashed another series of articles of impeachment, but this time against the POTUS. Don’t count on his colleagues in Congress to come even close to this; but I wonder whether this too will become a part of Bush’s nefarious legacy?

Hamid Karzai can say some interesting things


In a recent interview with Spiegel, Karzai spoke of foreign interference in his country and his longing for the Taliban.  There are NATO troops in Afghanistan and the question is are these the foreign influences he speaks of and if not, then why aren’t these NATO and American troops able to interrupt the deleterious influence these foreign elements have on Afghanistan politics?  Or could that all be part of the plan? One could come to that conclusion when Karzai says certain Afghani groups are being paid to support outsiders and all this under the blessings of Karzai’s allies.

There is a lot of interference from abroad. The south part of the country has always been the center of the Taliban activity; they came from there. And there are also traces of the mujahedeen’s decades-long battle. These are all factors.

When we came back to Afghanistan, the international community brought back all those people who had turned away from the Taliban who then became partners with the foreign allies and are still paid by them today for their support.

SPIEGEL: Dirty deals are still necessary for the stability of Afghanistan?

Karzai: Absolutely necessary, because we lack the power to solve these problems in other ways. What do you want? War?

That last question is an unequivocal yes, by the way. Instability is a foreign policy objective for that part of the world because it insures a steady supply of drugs to the west and arms to the east.  Oh, and did you catch the part where Karzai said he wished he had the Taliban working for him?  I wonder how that made Laura Bush feel during her recent visit to Afghanistan?

Old dog, new tricks?


Hat tip to ‘The Angry Arab News Service‘ for finding this little gem about Bill Clinton in a NYT article about Hillary Clinton. After reading it I wondered aloud where were all those people who claimed during Bill Clinton’s presidency what a great supporter he was for the cause of African-Americans.

As for Mr. Clinton, he boiled with resentment that a candidate with as little experience as Mr. Obama was given what he considered a free pass by the news media. Yet his tone struck some as dismissive. When Mr. Clinton referred publicly to Mr. Obama as a “kid,” Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, recalled in an interview that a fellow black congressman said, “I don’t know why he didn’t just call him ‘boy’ and get it over with.”

In private, Mr. Clinton was making matters worse. On the night of the South Carolina primary, Mr. Clinton called and Mr. Clyburn said he told him to tone down his rhetoric against Mr. Obama. Mr. Clinton responded by calling him a rude name that Mr. Clyburn would not repeat in an interview. Mr. Clinton called back a few days later for what Mr. Clyburn called “a much more pleasant conversation,” but the damage was done. “Clinton was using code words that most of us in the South can recognize when we hear that kind of stuff,” Mr. Clyburn said.

It makes me wonder whether the real Bill Clinton is the one we find in this article without the trappings of the presidency spouting epithets that make even his supporters blush. You know when someone has exceeded the bounds of acceptable racism when his colleagues of the same race blush at his indecencies.

There is no freedom of speech in America when it comes to Jews, Israel and Palestine


More and more people are being denied the right to speak freely their opinions on what is happening in Israel and Palestine or the influence of the Jewish lobby on American politics. Here is another person weighing in on how they were denied the opportunity, which was extended to them and then taken away and then extended again, to talk about the situation in Palestine. Why is the lobby so against any opposition and why are people so afraid of it? What is it about American society that has made it almost impossible to speak about this force which shapes American thought and politics? Until questions like this are posed and answered the intimidation will only continue.

Why I Shed Bikini for Niqab: The New Symbol of Women’s Liberation


I am always heartened when I read stories like this that I must post it here.

I am an American woman who was born in the midst of America’s “Heartland.” I grew up, just like any other girl, being fixated with the glamour of life in “the big city.” Eventually, I moved to Florida and on to South Beach of Miami, a hotspot for those seeking the “glamorous life.” Naturally, I did what most average Western girls do. I focused on my appearance and appeal, basing my self-worth on how much attention I got from others. I worked out religiously and became a personal trainer, acquired an upscale waterfront residence, became a regular “exhibiting” beach-goer and was able to attain a “living-in-style” kind of life.

Years went by, only to realize that my scale of self-fulfillment and happiness slid down the more I progressed in my “feminine appeal.” I was a slave to fashion. I was a hostage to my looks.

As the gap continued to progressively widen between my self-fulfillment and lifestyle, I sought refuge in escapes from alcohol and parties to meditation, activism, and alternative religions, only to have the little gap widen to what seemed like a valley. I eventually realized it all was merely a pain killer rather than an effective remedy.

By now it was September 11, 2001. As I witnessed the ensuing barrage on Islam, Islamic values and culture, and the infamous declaration of the “new crusade,” I started to notice something called Islam. Up until that point, all I had associated with Islam was women covered in “tents,” wife beaters, harems, and a world of terrorism.

As a feminist libertarian, and an activist who was pursuing a better world for all, my path crossed with that of another activist who was already at the lead of indiscriminately furthering causes of reform and justice for all. I joined in the ongoing campaigns of my new mentor which included, at the time, election reform and civil rights, among others. Now my new activism was fundamentally different. Instead of “selectively” advocating justice only to some, I learned that ideals such as justice, freedom, and respect are meant to be and are essentially universal, and that own good and common good are not in conflict. For the first time, I knew what “all people are created equal” really means. But most importantly, I learned that it only takes faith to see the world as one and to see the unity in creation.

One day I came across a book that is negatively stereotyped in the West–The Holy Qur’an. I was first attracted by the style and approach of the Qur’an, and then intrigued by its outlook on existence, life, creation, and the relationship between Creator and creation. I found the Qur’an to be a very insightful address to heart and soul without the need for an interpreter or pastor.

Eventually I hit a moment of truth: my new-found self-fulfilling activism was nothing more than merely embracing a faith called Islam where I could live in peace as a “functional” Muslim.

I bought a beautiful long gown and head cover resembling the Muslim woman’s dress code and I walked down the same streets and neighborhoods where only days earlier I had walked in my shorts, bikini, or “elegant” western business attire. Although the people, the faces, and the shops were all the same, one thing was remarkably distinct–I was not–nor was the peace at being a woman I experienced for the very first time. I felt as if the chains had been broken and I was finally free. I was delighted with the new looks of wonder on people’s faces in place of the looks of a hunter watching his prey I had once sought. Suddenly a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I no longer spent all my time consumed with shopping, makeup, getting my hair done, and working out. Finally, I was free.

Of all places, I found my Islam at the heart of what some call “the most scandalous place on earth,” which makes it all the more dear and special.

While content with Hijab I became curious about Niqab, seeing an increasing number of Muslim women in it. I asked my Muslim husband, whom I married after I reverted to Islam, whether I should wear Niqab or just settle for the Hijab I was already wearing. My husband simply advised me that he believes Hijab is mandatory in Islam while Niqab is not. At the time, my Hijab consisted of head scarf that covered all my hair except for my face, and a loose long black gown called “Abaya” that covered all my body from neck to toe.

A year-and-a-half passed, and I told my husband I wanted to wear Niqab. My reason, this time, was that I felt it would be more pleasing to Allah, the Creator, increasing my feeling of peace at being more modest. He supported my decision and took me to buy an “Isdaal,” a loose black gown that covers from head to toe, and Niqab, which covers all my head and face except for my eyes.

Soon enough, news started breaking about politicians, Vatican clergymen, libertarians, and so-called human rights and freedom activists condemning Hijab at times, and Niqab at others as being oppressive to women, an obstacle to social integration, and more recently, as an Egyptian official called it–“a sign of backwardness.”

I find it to be a blatant hypocrisy when Western governments and so-called human rights groups rush to defend woman’s rights when some governments impose a certain dress code on women, yet such “freedom fighters” look the other way when women are being deprived of their rights, work, and education just because they choose to exercise their right to wear Niqab or Hijab. Today, women in Hijab or Niqab are being increasingly barred from work and education not only under totalitarian regimes such as in Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt, but also in Western democracies such as France, Holland, and Britain.

Today I am still a feminist, but a Muslim feminist, who calls on Muslim women to assume their responsibilities in providing all the support they can for their husbands to be good Muslims. To raise their children as upright Muslims so they may be beacons of light for all humanity once again. To enjoin good–any good–and to forbid evil–any evil. To speak righteousness and to speak up against all ills. To fight for our right to wear Niqab or Hijab and to please our Creator whichever way we chose. But just as importantly to carry our experience with Niqab or Hijab to fellow women who may never have had the chance to understand what wearing Niqab or Hijab means to us and why do we, so dearly, embrace it.

Most of the women I know wearing Niqab are Western reverts, some of whom are not even married. Others wear Niqab without full support of either family or surroundings. What we all have in common is that it is the personal choice of each and every one of us, which none of us is willing to surrender.

Willingly or unwillingly, women are bombarded with styles of “dressing-in-little-to-nothing” virtually in every means of communication everywhere in the world. As an ex non-Muslim, I insist on women’s right to equally know about Hijab, its virtues, and the peace and happiness it brings to a woman’s life as it did to mine. Yesterday, the bikini was the symbol of my liberty, when in actuality it only liberated me from my spirituality and true value as a respectable human being.

I couldn’t be happier to shed my bikini in South Beach and the “glamorous” Western lifestyle to live in peace with my Creator and enjoy living among fellow humans as a worthy person. It is why I choose to wear Niqab, and why I will die defending my inalienable right to wear it. Today, Niqab is the new symbol of woman’s liberation.

To women who surrender to the ugly stereotype against the Islamic modesty of Hijab, I say: You don’t know what you are missing.

Wasn’t one of the side effects of the occupation of Iraq supposed to be cheaper oil?


Well it’s not working out that way! Oil prices continue to spiral upwards with some analysts saying it will only go higher. Before the war on Iraq, oil prices were hovering around $30/barrel in 2003, and today they are four times that amount. When will the American public realize or its politicians point out that this war is not in their financial interests? Meanwhile, Osama bin Ladin is still free and the American administration doesn’t seem at all interested in ‘bringing him to justice’.

Iraqi sovereignty? What Iraqi sovereignty?


Word out of Iraq is there is a deal which will allow the US to establish “permanent” military bases there but somehow not affect Iraqi sovereignty.  Yet when you read the fine print, that notion falls flat on its face and Iraq, since the invasion has ceased to be a sovereign nation.

Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq’s position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country…

“It is a terrible breach of our sovereignty,” said one Iraqi politician, adding that if the security deal was signed it would delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American pawn.

The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases in Iraq but one Iraqi source said: “This is just a tactical subterfuge.” Washington also wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue its “war on terror” in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation.

The agreement in essence allows a foreign power the right to conduct military operations against its own citizens on its own soil.  Doesn’t sound like sovereignty at all, and certainly not something any American government nor its citizens would allow.  But what’s interesting is even the Iraqis see this for what it is, continued occupation of their territory, that leaves them utterly helpless to defend themselves and to rely solely on US help.  But what’s even more interesting are the political undercurrents involved that will influence this decision.

Although Iraqi ministers have said they will reject any agreement limiting Iraqi sovereignty, political observers in Baghdad suspect they will sign in the end and simply want to establish their credentials as defenders of Iraqi independence by a show of defiance now. The one Iraqi with the authority to stop deal is the majority Shia spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In 2003, he forced the US to agree to a referendum on the new Iraqi constitution and the election of a parliament. But he is said to believe that loss of US support would drastically weaken the Iraqi Shia, who won a majority in parliament in elections in 2005.

The signature of a security agreement, and a parallel deal providing a legal basis for keeping US troops in Iraq, is unlikely to be accepted by most Iraqis. But the Kurds, who make up a fifth of the population, will probably favour a continuing American presence, as will Sunni Arab political leaders who want US forces to dilute the power of the Shia. The Sunni Arab community, which has broadly supported a guerrilla war against US occupation, is likely to be split.

The US is playing both sides, it appears, and continued strife is the only way to insure American presence in Iraq.  Strife, not reconciliation is and has always been  the goal of US military presence in Iraq, not finding WMDs or removing Saddam from power, except to provide a power vacuum that allows strife.  This can only happen with the absence of Iraqi sovereignty.

A rationale approach to Israeli political influence on American politics


Some of the suggestions in this piece may be a bit over the top for a few readers, but none of them are existential threats to Israel. In fact some of them when applied in other cases have gone on to produce legitimate forms of government where there were none before, including perhaps, America?! I’d like to highlight just a few which I think are applicable to the goal of reducing Israeli hegemony and oppression, in America and the Middle East.

Organize a campaign to withdraw investments in US companies that supply the Israeli regime with weapons of mass destruction, construction equipment to extend Israeli colonization of Palestine………

Legislation should be passed barring individuals who hold dual-citizenship (Israeli-US), especially those connected with the military-intelligence networks from holding sensitive positions in the government or controlling the political party nomination process……..

Organize to eliminate Israel’s special privileges in tax exemption, trade, technology, and citizenship which burdens US taxpayers, increases Israeli competitiveness at the expense of US producers and facilitates Israeli emigration at the expense of other groups…….

Convert the issue of the US-Israeli claim of nuclear dangers resulting from Iranian uranium enrichment into a more consequential and general demand to turn the entire Middle East into a nuclear free zone….

Organize boycotts and campaigns to demand that local, regional, and national mass media outlets report and interview Israeli critics as well as its spokespeople….

Legislation should be supported which bars individuals with dual citizenship and therefore dual loyalties from holding executive or legislative positions in the government….

Support legislation revoking the citizenship of individuals who enlist or engage in military activity for a foreign government….

Legislation should be presented and veterans’ groups of all wars should be mobilized to demand Congressional hearings on the Israeli bombing of the US surveillance ship Liberty with prime witnesses among our naval survivors….

Unfortunately, the key to many of these proposals is “legislation” which involves a branch of government that is at the moment committed to the unquestionable support of the very government these proposals want to affect, making it highly unlikely any of these steps will see the light of day.

Is an attack on Iran imminent?


The conventional wisdom is such an attack will take place at anytime by either America, Israel, any other member of the world community or all of the above. However, look closely at the language used by a belligerent Israeli spokesperson.

An Israeli minister on Saturday accused the international community of failing to halt Iran’s nuclear drive and the West of being “resigned” to Tehran’s development of nuclear weapons.”My feeling is that the enlightened Western world — and I don’t know if it still is — is resigned to the development of a nuclear bomb in Iran,” Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told Israeli public radio.

He accused the international community of limiting its response to Tehran’s accelerating nuclear programme to “words” alone.He added that the Islamic republic “only understands one language” and that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly predicted Israel’s demise, is “laughing at the whole world.”

“We must tell them: ‘If you so much as dream of attacking Israel, before you even finish dreaming there won’t be an Iran anymore,'” he said.

Ben-Eliezer insisted he was not advocating a preventive military strike on Iran but said “Iran should know the price it will have to pay when it begins to think concretely about attacking Israel.”

Of course there was the usual linking of interests between Israel and the US and the accompanying sycophantic acknowledgment of America’s importance in this relationship, but the wiggle room is obvious and big enough to drive a tractor trailer through. Seeing such talk makes me think there is something to some people’s prediction there won’t be a war on the Iranian front.

The US and human rights


Since 911, many would argue the US has neglected the rights of its own citizens.  However, now there is rather ominous news it’s decided to disregard the rights of humanity in general, using as a pretext the absence of international bodies to bend to its will.  Recent saber rattling by the US and its allies vis-a-vis Iran as well as the American attitude about its occupation of Iraq don’t bode well for the international community and its observance of human rights.

We’ve moved


In an attempt to always remain “fresh”, we’ve moved to the pages of wordpress.com from http://www.miscellany-apropos.blogspot.com. We hope we can blog more about the news and opinions that matter to us and we hope you’ll come around and leave a comment or two.  There’s a lot of news to be covered on these pages that you won’t find in other places, and most likely you’ll find a regurgitation or two of things you’ve already seen.  Tell us all that if you are so disposed, or just read and lurk, as you see fit.  We hope to see you here.