Terrorist Sympathizer, Liar and Bigot: Rep. Peter King

11 Mar

The Lyin’ King

Yesterday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, held a four-and-a-half hour hearing titled, “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response,” which targeted the entire Muslim American community for supposedly aiding and abetting domestic radicalization. Many in the civil rights community urged King to not focus exclusively on American Muslims, noting that doing so would not only serve to shore up animosity against America’s law-abiding Islamic community and empower extremists, but that it would also ignore the deep threat to America from non-Muslim terrorists. But King ignored these criticisms and continued with his hearing anyway, using it as a platform to claim that Muslims are failing to cooperate with law enforcement and homeland security officials. Yet Democrats on the committee, as well as several of the witnesses testifying, turned the tables on King, debunking his smears and demonstrating the fact that the Muslim American community is an ally in the fight against terrorism, not an enemy.

THE BACKGROUND:  King, who became the  chairman of the House Homeland Security committee in January, announced the hearings months ago. Since then, a broad coalition of civil rights  advocates, national security experts, and other Americans who want an America that is both secure, free and tolerant have come together to condemn the hearings and the singling out of the Muslim American community. As time went along, panelists chosen by King began to drop like flies, as Americans realized the extremism that these figures represented. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who asserted that “we are at war with Islam,” was the first to go. Next, Walid Phares was dropped from the witness list following an investigation of his past as a member of a violent Lebanese Christian militia that was implicated in atrocities. And of course, King himself was a vocal supporter in the past of the Irish Republican Army, which engaged in terrorism that led to the deaths of countless people, including one American. Throughout the process of putting together his panel, King claimed that his goal was to single out the Muslim American community because “it makes no sense to talk about other types of extremism, when the main threat to the United States today is  talking about al Qaida.” Yet a January 2011 terrorism statistics report from the Muslim Public Affairs Council compiled using publicly available data from the FBI and other crime agencies — finds that terrorism by Muslim Americans has only accounted for a minority of terror plots since 9/11. Since the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, Muslims have been involved in 45 domestic terror plots. Meanwhile, non-Muslims have been involved in 80 terrorist plots. King’s hearing failed to look at some of the root causes of Muslim radicalization, like the   exploitation of Muslim grievances about U.S. foreign policy by extremists, the social marginalization of extremists, and ways to prevent radicalization — which involve  close cooperation and introspection within and between Muslim American communities and law enforcement.  By excluding such issues, King’s hearing exposed itself as nothing more than a witch hunt before it had even begun.

KING’S FALSE CLAIMS:   King’s own words at the hearing were full of misstatements and outright lies. In his opening statement to the committee, King claimed that the reason he decided to single out Muslim Americans is because the threat from them was particularly unique. He explained, “Indeed, by the Justice Department’s own record, not one terror-related case in the last two years involved neo-Nazis, environmental extremists, or anti-war groups.” King’s statement would be surprising to residents of Fall River, MA. This past December, white racist and neo-Nazi sympathizer Justin Vieira “broke a natural gas line and threatened to blow up a three-decker” house and was arrested shortly after by police. Additionally, there have been  at least four other neo-Nazi or neo-Nazi sympathizer terror plots since September 2009. Throughout the hearing, King’s Democratic colleagues — including Reps. Bennie Thompson (MS), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX), and Laura Richardson (CA) — brought up the fact that the congressman said in 2007 that there are “too many mosques in this country,” prompting him to say that he “never said” such a thing, a clear lie as ThinkProgress documents in a video fact check.

TOLERANCE FIGHTS BACK:  Throughout the hearings, King’s Democratic colleagues and the witnesses called before the committee spoke eloquently on behalf of the American Muslim community and its contributions to battling radicalism. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim ever elected to Congress,  made headlines when he gave his emotional testimony in which he recounted the story of  Muhammad Hamdani, a Muslim first responder who gave his life saving people trapped in the Twin Towers on 9/11. “Muhammad Salman Hamdani was a fellow American who gave his life for other Americans. His life should not be defined as a member of an ethnic group or a member of a religion, but as an American who gave everything for his fellow citizens,” said Ellison. Hamdani’s mother, Talat Hamdani, told Politico last week that she along with two other family members of 9/11 victims had been promised a meeting with King — where she planned to urge him to cancel the hearings — but that  he failed to show up at the meeting. In addition to pointing out that King himself has expressed extreme anti-Islamic sentiments before, many of King’s Democratic colleagues expressed solidarity with American Muslims. Jackson Lee said the effort was nothing more than “an effort to demonize” Muslims. Rep. Richardson said the hearings were “discriminatory” and “questioned why other House committees weren’t holding hearings on threats to American children involving other religions, a veiled but some say clear reference to the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.” One of King’s own handpicked witnesses, Abdirizak Bihi, who was an uncle of a radicalized Muslim son, essentially debunked the chairman’s assertion that Muslim Americans are not cooperating with law enforcement, recounting one story of how the Somali Muslim community stepped forward to report its own radicalization, saying, “We the Somali community should get the credit!”

Embattled Dictators: Walker, Gadaffi, Mubarak, Isa Al Khalifa

23 Feb

Earlier this month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) “sent shockwaves across the state” when he unveiled a budgetary bill that would strip most of the state’s public workers of collective bargaining rights, essentially devastating state government employees’ ability to negotiate for fair wages, benefits, and working conditions. At the time, many local news observers thought the bill would easily pass. After all, Republicans won commanding majorities in the legislature during the last election and stood united  in support of the bill. Yet on the eve of the bill’s certain passage, all 14 state Senate Democrats  fled the state, denying the Senate the quorum needed to proceed and freezing the anti-labor bill in its tracks. Tens of thousands of Wisconsinites then took to the streets in support of the “Wisconsin 14,” invigorating a nascent progressive movement. And all around the country, Americans inspired by Wisconsin’s example are taking action and battling attempts by conservative-led state governments to attack organized labor, slash education and environmental funding, and to make America a country where only the privileged and well-connected can prosper. While conservatives may believe that the last election gave them a wide mandate to decimate the social safety net and enact policies that will make us an even more unequal country, it appears that Americans disagree. By trying to enact their radical agenda, conservatives have stirred America’s Main Street into action. The progressive protests that are sweeping the country are defending the American Dream itself, the idea that anyone, no matter what their socioeconomic background, can succeed and prosper.

ASSAULT ON THE MIDDLE CLASS: While Walker’s assault on his state’s public employees’ labor rights is the most visible assault on the middle class, conservative governments across the country are waging similar campaigns. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich (R) is backing legislation similar to Wisconsin’s in that would  gut the organizing rights of public employees. Kasich has already killed his state’s federally-funded high-speed rail project, which will cost Ohio  $400 million in infrastructure investment and thousands of jobs. While he justifies these moves by claiming he’s tackling his state’s deficit, he also is championing a slew of tax cuts that could actually  double the state’s deficit. New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie (R), who previously vetoed progressive efforts to raise taxes on his state’s millionaires, is trying to ram through steep cuts to education funding and municipal assistance. In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has unveiled cuts to the state’s treasured subsidized college tuition program, HOPE, which would lead to hundreds of thousands of college students paying thousands of more dollars out-of-pocket in order to be able to get a higher education. Deal is also cutting overall education spending by  seven percent, and he simultaneously plans to dramatically reduce the corporate income tax rate, further reducing the state’s revenue coffers. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) has dismissed tax increases while simultaneously slashing funding for K-12 education, because, he argued, “That’s where the money is.” Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has  unveiled a spending plan that includes “$1.2 billion in cuts to schools, universities, local governments and other areas while asking public employees for $180 million in concessions” while at the same time giving $1.8 billion in tax cuts to businesses.

WORKING AMERICA FIGHTS BACK: To the chagrin of right wingers like Walker, Americans have decided that they don’t want to live in a country where their labor rights are destroyed and their children grow up in the most unequal era since the 1920s. All over the country, ordinary Americans are fighting back, because they understand that if you want a strong middle class you need organized labor and important social services. Yesterday, Indiana House Democrats inspired by Wisconsin’s example fled the state to prevent the passage of a bill that would enact “right-to-work” policies that would cripple the right to organize in the state. After the departure of the House Democrats,  hundreds of unionized workers and students marched into the state capitol and began a sit-in in solidarity with the state’s labor unions. Meanwhile, as many as  10,000 union workers and other Ohioans demonstrated both inside and outside the state house in Columbus, as former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) joined the rally to show their support for the protests. So many people showed up that the Ohio Highway Patrol was ordered to lock the doors of the state capitol to stop more demonstrators from getting into the building. At least   2,000 demonstrators rallied in Olympia, WA, against state budget cuts and in solidarity with the Wisconsin protests. In Montana, hundreds of “conservationists, sportsmen, firefighters, teachers, correctional officers and others” gathered at the state capitol to defend the state’s environmental laws and protest budget cuts. Hundreds of teachers in Idaho marched against legislation that would layoff 700 teachers and leave schools severely understaffed. Emboldened, the South Central Federation of Labor, a Wisconsin union federation consisting of 97 unions and representing 45,000 workers,  voted on Monday to endorse a general strike if the state’s anti-union law is passed by the legislature. Although the strike would be restricted by federal law thanks to the  1947 anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act, it represents a courageous act of civil disobedience and solidarity.

CONSERVATIVES BACKING DOWN: There is evidence that the massive groundswell of legislative disobedience and grassroots protests that have erupted all over the country have started to succeed in forcing conservative governments to back down. Despite the passage of Indiana’s right-to-work bill out of a House committee, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) “signaled [yesterday] afternoon that  Republicans should drop the…bill that has brought the Indiana House to a standstill for two days and imperiled other measures.” Conservative Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) refused to endorse Walker’s anti-union bill for his own state, saying, “My belief is as long as people know what they’re doing,  collective bargaining is fine.” Right-wing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) also said he has no plans to enact a Wisconsin-style law. Although in Michigan, Gov. Snyder does plan to take aim at public worker compensation, he so far has said he’s “not interested in making Michigan a right-to-work state, or going wholesale after the bargaining rights of unionized workers.” One reason these conservatives may be backing down is because they realize Main Street America is against their anti-middle class agenda. A USA Today/Gallup poll found that  61 percent of Americans oppose a Wisconsin-style anti-labor law and only 33 percent favor such a law.

DEFENDING THE AMERICAN DREAM: As CAP Senior Fellow Van Jones writes, this new Main Street progressive movement seeks to “renew and redeem the American Dream.” “It’s time to draw a line in the sand — nationally,” he writes. “Someone has to stand up for common sense and fairness.” A coalition of progressive groups and organizations is taking up this call to “Save the American Dream” by announcing rallies at every single statehouse in the country on Saturday at noon. The groups, led by Moveon.org, are calling for Americans to “[d]emand an end to the attacks on workers’ rights and public services across the country. Demand investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. And demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share.” It is up to Americans to ensure that states do not balance their budgets by gutting important services and attacking public workers in order to deal with the effects of a recession  caused by Wall Street’s misdeeds —  not those of policemen, firefighters, teachers, students, and other hard-working middle class Americans.

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Israel Holds US Hostage. Again.

14 Nov

Israel’s prime minister has briefed his cabinet on a package of incentives the US has proposed if it renews a partial freeze on settlement construction.

According to diplomats, the US has said it will:

  • Not ask Israel to extend the new freeze when it expires
  • Provide 20 F-35 fighter jets worth $3bn (yes, $3bn)
  • Veto or oppose any initiatives at the UN Security Council critical of Israel
  • Sign a comprehensive security agreement with Israel at the same time as any peace deal is finalised.

In return, Israel would stop building for 90 days in the occupied West Bank.

Yeah. Another great piece of negotiating by the Obama team. (That’s irony).

Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967, settling close to 500,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements. They are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this. There are about 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Israeli settlements on occupied land:

  • More than 430,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, alongside 2.5 million Palestinians
  • 20,000 settlers live in the Golan Heights
  • Settlements and the area they take up cover 40% of the West Bank
  • There are about 100 settlements not authorised by the Israeli government in the West Bank

 

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Republican Thugs – Rand Paul Should Be Ashamed

26 Oct

Is this what we have come to?

An ugly scene took place outside the Kentucky Senatorial debate Monday night as what appeared to be a supporter of Republican candidate Rand Paul was captured by a local news affiliate literally stomping the head of a member of the progressive-activist organization MoveOn.org.

Rand Paul was unapolagetic.

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Tea Party Poopers

15 Sep

In the final round of primaries last night, the Tea Party movement enjoyed stunning wins over the GOP establishment in contests for House and Senate seats from Delaware, the governor’s mansion in New York, and possibly a Senate seat from New Hampshire, capping off a tumultuous summer of intra-party clashes. Ultra-conservative insurgent Christine O’Donnell won a surprise victory in the Republican Senate primary in Delaware, defeating Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), a well-respected moderate with the firm backing of the Republican establishment. Yesterday’s primaries were the latest battles in the year-long GOP civil war, but it was also perhaps the most heated, with both sides taking nasty swings at each other. Most observers agree that O’Donnell has no chance of beating Democratic nominee Chris Coons in November, so for Republicans, an O’Donnell win means failing to gain a Senate seat, and thus likely losing any chance of taking control of the upper house. O’Donnell was not seen as viable in the primary until the last weeks of the campaign, and so the GOP establishment — along with some more mainstream Tea Party groups wary of O’Donnell’s delusions — lined up squarely behind Castle, who had served nearly 20 years in the House and two terms as governor. However, after polling showed O’Donnell posed a real threat to Castle, the state GOP opened fire on her with everything they could muster, questioning her competence, honesty, and even sanity. For their part, O’Donnell supporters used the attacks to bolster her anti-establishment credibility, and fired back with their own ugly attacks on Castle’s sexuality and masculinity, while some even physically threatened the head of the Delaware Republican Party.

RAGE FROM THE MACHINE: The Delaware GOP — which refused to list O’Donnell on their website of candidates — pulled no punches, calling O’Donnell “reckless,” “hypocritical,” and “dishonest.” State GOP Chairman Tom Ross blasted O’Donnell as a “troubled perennial candidate” who is “not electable in Delaware or anywhere else for that matter,” even for the position of “dog catcher.” He also accused her campaign of running on “half-truths and outright lies.” Later, Ross implied O’Donnell was “delusional,” and on Monday, Ross called her “kooky,” and said most voters are “laughing” about her candidacy. That’s a “good thing,” Ross added. The state party even recorded a “robocall” with O’Donnell’s disillusioned former campaign manager accusing the candidate of “living on campaign donations — using them for rent and personal expenses, while leaving her workers unpaid and piling up thousands in debt.” National Republicans have been equally skeptical of O’Donnell, though perhaps more discrete. Republican officials in Washington “have said privately they intend to write off the seat if O’Donnell is victorious against Castle,” and not waste any money or resources there for the general election. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the man tasked with electing Republicans to the Senate, told CNN before the election that O’Donnell’s electability was a “serious issue,” and that he wasn’t sure if he would support her if she won. Meanwhile, establishment conservative pundits also generally sided with the GOP, with the Washington Examiner’s Mark Hemingway writing, “William F. Buckley, the godfather of the modern conservative movement…would not vote for Christine O’Donnell.” The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes both came out against O’Donnell, with Kristol dismissing her as “no Sarah Palin.” Former Bush White House adviser Karl Rove — who generally provides sunny electoral outlooks for Republicans — told Fox News host Sean Hannity last night after the winner was called, “This is not a race we’re going to be able to win” in November. Even FreedomWorks, the mega Tea Party organizer run by former House Speaker Dick Armey, refused to back O’Donnell. Ironically, O’Donnell condemned “Republican cannibalism” this morning on Good Morning America, saying she doesn’t need the GOP establishment to win in November.

CIVIL WAR: The intra-party battle over O’Donnell reflects a much larger civil war within the conservative movement about the future of the Republican party. The GOP establishment had tried to fend of Senate Tea Party challenges from Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Mike Lee in Utah, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Ken Buck in Colorado, Joe Miller in Alaska, and Marco Rubio in Florida, among others. While RNC Chairman Michael Steele earlier this year promised that the “Republican Party will not to meddle in local races — especially GOP primaries featuring candidates backed by Tea Party activists,” political action committees controlled by current GOP members of Congress had spent at least $2,162,790 through June on establishment-picked candidates in primaries against Tea Party candidates. For its part, the group Tea Party Express spent $300,000 in support of O’Donnell, reflecting an explosive proliferation of outside conservative groups that have spent huge sums of money backing Tea Party candidates across the country. Meanwhile, The Progress Report identified 17 GOP primary contests that pitted establishment and Tea Party candidates in which the losing candidate has refused to endorse the winner. Indeed, Castle said he would not endorse O’Donnell and showed a “lack of traditional campaign courtesy by choosing not to congratulate O’Donnell by name” during his concession speech last night, prompting at least one pundit to speculate that Castle may chose to back Democrat Coons over the GOP nominee. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who lost her primary after Tea Party Express came in and spent heavily against her, called Castle to warn him to “be careful” about the group, because they are “certainly not above misrepresentation.” Last night, she had even harsher words, calling the Tea Party Express “an outside extremist group” that “hijacked” the Alaska GOP. On the other hand, Castle seemed more in awe of the group’s prowess, telling the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, “The Tea Party Express, which claims it’s not a political party, is in reality a pretty good political operation. This is a more sophisticated political operation than they’ve been given credit for.”

TEA PARTY SENATE: O’Donnell’s win, and that of other like-minded insurgent candidates, mean the Senate could have a sizable contingent of far-right tea partiers when the new session begins in January. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has already started a Tea Party Caucus in the House, and has hinted at a bid to overthrow the GOP leadership with true “Constitutional conservatives.” Meanwhile, Joe Miller, who defeated Murkowski in the Alaska Senate primary, was more blunt, warning Senate GOP leaders to “catch the wave” of the new right-wing uprising. “The leadership has to embrace that message or else there will be real problems,” Miller said in an apparent threat. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin seemed to endorse this takeover, saying, “mark my words…Joe someday will help lead the United States Senate.” Ultra-conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) has been leading the effort to remake the Senate in his image, using his Senate Conservatives Fund to circumvent the Party leadership and spend hundreds-of-thousands of dollars on behalf of right-wing anti-establishment candidates from Alaska to New Hampshire. Politico’s Mike Allen dubbed DeMint “Enemy No. 1 in his caucus” for his activities, and a senior GOP aide told Politico, “in Jim DeMint’s world, the ‘principles of freedom’ are more important than a candidate who pays their taxes, is honest with voters and who isn’t a complete fraud,” referring to allegations about O’Donnell.

Text from ThinkProgress

Photos from Paul Boylan

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Boehner’s Tax Bungle

13 Sep

It’s common knowledge that the best the GOP and its de facto leader John Boehner are ideologically bankrupt and bereft of ideas. The best they can do is gainsay anything the President proposes. He naturally vehemently opposed the restructuring of the tax cuts (of course he did – they would have affected his constituents and paymasters – the rich). Now the orange-faced one has buckled.

While much of the weekend was devoted to remembrances–political or not–of the 9/11 attacks, House Minority Leader John Boehner made headlines for a policy statement. Speaking to Bob Schieffer of CBS, he said that while he thought tax cuts instituted by President George W. Bush should be extended for all Americans, he would support a package that extended them only for people earning less than $250,000.

I guess he was against it before he was for it …

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Park 51: America’s History of Fear

5 Sep

Interesting piece in today’s NYT: “America’s History of Fear
“We have a more glorious tradition intertwined in American history, one of tolerance, amity and religious freedom. Each time, this has ultimately prevailed over the Know Nothing impulse. Americans have called on moderates in Muslim countries to speak out against extremists, to stand up for the tolerance they say they believe in. We should all have the guts do the same at home.”


Op-Ed Columnist: America’s History of Fear (nytimes.com)
Is Islamophobia the New Hysteria? (kristof.blogs.nytimes.com)
David Bromwich: Cordoba House and Religious Freedom (huffingtonpost.com)
Timothy A. Ridout: Anti-Muslim Agitators Are Today’s Know Nothings (huffingtonpost.com)
Prejudice against Muslims reaching fever pitch (ctv.ca)

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