Global Research - April 10, 2012
Civil liberties in America: Big brother is getting bigger
By Jack A. Smith
Government surveillance and attacks on the privacy of American citizens were bad enough under the Bush regime but they are getting even worse during the Obama years.
In addition to retaining President George W. Bush's many excesses, such as the Patriot Act, new information about the erosion of civil liberties emerges repeatedly during the era of President Barack Obama from the federal government, the courts and various police forces.
The Supreme Court added judicial insult to personal injury April 2 when it ruled 5-4 that jail officials may strip-search anyone arrested for any offense, even a trifle, as they are being incarcerated, even if they are awaiting a hearing or trial. The four ultraconservative judges were joined by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
According to the ACLU's Steven R. Shapiro, the "decision jeopardizes the privacy rights of millions of people who are arrested each year and brought to jail, often for minor offenses. Being forced to strip naked is a humiliating experience that no one should have to endure absent reasonable suspicion."
A day before the strip-search outrage, the New York Times reported that "law enforcement tracking of cellphones... has become a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight, documents show.... One police training manual describes cellphones as 'the virtual biographer of our daily activities,' providing a hunting ground for learning contacts and travels."
Other abuses of civil liberties are taking place with increasing frequency, but the public outcry has mainly been muted, an enticement for the authorities to go even further. On March 23, the American Civil Liberties Union reported:
"The Obama administration has extended the time the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) can collect and hold on to records on U.S. citizens and residents from 180 days to five years, even where those people have no suspected ties to terrorism. The new NCTC guidelines, which were approved by Attorney General Eric Holder, will give the intelligence community much broader access to information about Americans retained in various government databases....
"Authorizing the 'temporary' retention of non-terrorism-related citizens and resident information for five years essentially removes the restraint against wholesale collection of our personal information by the government, and puts all Americans at risk of unjustified scrutiny. Such unfettered collection risks reviving the Bush administration's Total Information Awareness program, which Congress killed in 2003."
The news, evidently, was underwhelming. Tom Engelhardt wrote April 4: "For most Americans, it was just life as we've known it since September 11, 2001, since we scared ourselves to death and accepted that just about anything goes, as long as it supposedly involves protecting us from terrorists. Basic information or misinformation, possibly about you, is to be stored away for five years — or until some other attorney general and director of national intelligence thinks it's even more practical and effective to keep you on file for 10 years, 20 years, or until death do us part — and it hardly made a ripple."
A week earlier, new information was uncovered about Washington's clandestine interpretation of the Patriot Act. Most Americans are only aware of the public version of the Bush Administration's perfidious law passed by Congress in a virtual panic soon after 9/11. But the White House and leaders of Congress and the Justice department have a secret understanding of the Patriot Act's wider purposes and uses.
Alex Abdo of the ACLU's National Security Project revealed March 16:
"The government has just officially confirmed what we've long suspected: there are secret Justice Department opinions about the Patriot Act's Section 215, which allows the government to get secret orders from a special surveillance court (the FISA Court) requiring Internet service providers and other companies to turn over 'any tangible things.' Just exactly what the government thinks that phrase means remains to be seen, but there are indications that their take on it is very broad.
"Late last night we received the first batch of documents from the government in response to our Freedom of Information Act request for any files on its legal interpretation of Section 215. The release coincided with the latest in a string of strong warnings from two senators about how the government has secretly interpreted the law. According to them both, the interpretation would shock not just ordinary Americans, but even their fellow lawmakers not on the intelligence committees.
"Although we're still reviewing the documents, we're not holding our breath for any meaningful explanation from the government about its secret take on the Patriot Act."
The Senators involved were not identified, but they were Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), both of whom went public about the secret Patriot Act last May. Wyden declared at the time: “When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.” Udall echoed, “Americans would be alarmed if they knew how this law is being carried out.”
The Obama Administration has not sought to mitigate much less abandon the Patriot Act. Indeed, in the 10 ½ years since the act was passed the law has only become stronger, paving the way for other laws assaulting civil liberties and increasing government surveillance.
Three months ago, for example, Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) containing a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention law allowing the U.S. military to jail foreigners and U.S. citizens without charge or trial.
Just last month, Wired magazine revealed details about how the National Security Agency "is quietly building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah."
Investigative reporter James Bamford wrote that the NSA established listening posts throughout the U.S. to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within America or overseas. The Utah surveillance center will contain enormous databases to store all forms of communication collected by the agency. The NSA previously denied domestic spying was taking place.
In his article Bamford quoted a former NSA official who "held his thumb and forefinger close together" and said: “We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”
The Associated Press has been dogging the New York City police department for several months to uncover its domestic spying activities. On March 23 it reported that "Undercover NYPD officers attended meetings of liberal political organizations [for years] and kept intelligence files on activists who planned protests around the country, according to interviews and documents that show how police have used counterterrorism tactics to monitor even lawful activities." Some of these snooping activities took place far from New York — in New Orleans in one case.
Commenting on the new guidelines allowing Washington "to retain your private information for 5 years," the satirical Ironic Times commented March 26: "If you're guilty of no crimes, never owed money, don't have a name similar to that of someone who has been in trouble or owed money and there are absolutely no computer glitches in the government's ancient computer system during the next five years, then you have nothing to worry about."
The American people, of course, have a lot to worry about since both ruling political parties are united in favor of deeper penetration into the private lives and political interests of U.S. citizens. The only recourse for the people is much intensified activism on behalf of civil liberties.
AlterNet - April 13, 2012
13 ways you can be tracked by the US government
By Bill Quigley
Privacy is eroding fast as technology offers government increasing ways to track and spy on citizens. The Washington Post reported there are 3,984 federal, state and local organizations working on domestic counterterrorism. Most collect information on people in the US. Here are thirteen examples of how some of the biggest government agencies and programs track people.
1. The National Security Agency (NSA) collects hundreds of millions of emails, texts and phone calls every day and has the ability to collect and sift through billions more. WIRED just reported NSA is building an immense new data center which will intercept, analyze and store even more electronic communications from satellites and cables across the nation and the world. Though NSA is not supposed to focus on US citizens, it does.
2. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Security Branch Analysis Center (NSAC) has more than 1.5 billion government and private sector records about US citizens collected from commercial databases, government information, and criminal probes.
3. The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Times recently reported that cellphones of private individuals in the US are being tracked without warrants by state and local law enforcement all across the country. With more than 300 million cellphones in the US connected to more than 200,000 cell phone towers, cellphone tracking software can pinpoint the location of a phone and document the places the cellphone user visits over the course of a day, week, month or longer.
4. More than 62 million people in the US have their fingerprints on file with the FBI, state and local governments. This system, called the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), shares information with 43 states and 5 federal agencies. This system conducts more than 168,000 checks each day.
5. Over 126 million people have their fingerprints, photographs and biographical information accessible on the US Department of Homeland Security Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT). This system conducts about 250,000 biometric transactions each day. The goal of this system is to provide information for national security, law enforcement, immigration, intelligence and other Homeland Security Functions.
6. More than 110 million people have their visas and more than 90 million have their photographs entered into the US Department of State Consular Consolidated Database (CCD). This system grows by adding about 35,000 people a day. This system serves as a gateway to the Department of State Facial Recognition system, IDENT and IAFSIS.
7. DNA profiles on more than 10 million people are available in the FBI coordinated Combined DNA index System (CODIS) National DNA Index.
8. Information on more than 2 million people is kept in the Intelligence Community Security Clearance Repository, commonly known as Scattered Castles. Most of the people in this database are employees of the Department of Defense (DOD) and other intelligence agencies.
9. The DOD also has an automated biometric identification system (ABIS) to support military operations overseas. This database incorporates fingerprint, palm print, face and iris matching on 6 million people and is adding 20,000 more people each day.
10. Information on over 740,000 people is included in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) of the National Counterterrorism Center. TIDE is the US government central repository of information on international terrorist identities. The government says that less than 2 percent of the people on file are US citizens or legal permanent residents. They were just given permission to keep their non-terrorism information on US citizens for a period of five years, up from 180 days.
11. Tens of thousands of people are subjects of facial recognition software. The FBI has been working with North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles and other state and local law enforcement on facial recognition software in a project called “Face Mask.” For example, the FBI has provided thousands of photos and names to the North Carolina DMV which runs those against their photos of North Carolina drivers. The Maricopa Arizona County Sheriff’s Office alone records 9,000 biometric mug shots a month.
12. The FBI operates the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (SAR) that collects and analyzes observations or reports of suspicious activities by local law enforcement. With over 160,000 suspicious activity files, SAR stores the profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who are not accused of any crime but who are alleged to have acted suspiciously.
14. The FBI admits it has about 3,000 GPS tracking devices on cars of unsuspecting people in the US right now, even after the US Supreme Court decision authorizing these only after a warrant for probable cause has been issued.
The technology for tracking and identifying people is exploding as is the government appetite for it.
Soon, police everywhere will be equipped with handheld devices to collect fingerprint, face, iris and even DNA information on the spot and have it instantly sent to national databases for comparison and storage.
Bloomberg News reports the newest surveillance products “can also secretly activate laptop webcams or microphones on mobile devices,” change the contents of written emails mid-transmission, and use voice recognition to scan phone networks.
The advanced technology of the war on terrorism, combined with deferential courts and legislators, have endangered both the right to privacy and the right of people to be free from government snooping and tracking. Only the people can stop this.
Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. He is also a member of the legal collective of School of Americas Watch.
New York Times - April 01, 2012
Police are using phone tracking as a routine tool
By Eric Lichtblau
WASHINGTON — Law enforcement tracking of cellphones, once the province mainly of federal agents, has grown into a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials as well, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight, new documents show.
The practice has become big business for cellphone companies, too, with a handful of carriers marketing a catalog of “surveillance fees” to police departments to determine a suspect’s location, trace phone calls and texts or provide other services. Some departments log dozens of traces a month for both emergencies and routine investigations.
With cellphones now ubiquitous, the police describe phone tracing as an increasingly valuable weapon in a range of cases, including emergencies like child abductions and suicide calls, and investigations into drug cases, sex crimes and murders.
One California police training manual describes cellphones as “the virtual biographer of our daily activities,” providing a rich hunting ground for learning someone’s contacts and travels.
But civil liberties advocates say the widening use of cell tracking raises legal and constitutional questions, particularly when the police act without judicial orders. While many departments require court warrants to use phone tracking in nonemergencies, others claim broad discretion to get the records on their own, according to 5,500 pages of internal records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union from 205 police departments nationwide.
The internal documents, which were provided to The New York Times by the ACLU, open a window into a cloak-and-dagger practice that police officials are wary about discussing publicly. While cell tracking by local police departments has received some limited public attention in the past few years, the ACLU documents show that the practice is in much wider use — with far looser safeguards — than officials have previously acknowledged.
Supreme Court decision
The issue has taken on new legal urgency in light of a Supreme Court ruling in January finding that a Global Positioning System tracking device placed on a drug suspect’s car violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches. While the ruling did not directly involve cellphones — many of which also include GPS locators — it raised questions about the standards for cellphone tracking, lawyers say.
The police records show many departments struggling to understand and abide by the legal complexities of cellphone tracking, even as they work aggressively to exploit the technology.
In cities in North Carolina, Nevada and elsewhere, police departments have gotten wireless carriers to track cellphone signals back to cell towers as part of nonemergency investigations to identify all the callers using a particular tower, records show.
In California, state prosecutors advised local police departments on ways to get carriers to “clone” a phone and download text messages while it is turned off.
In Ogden, Utah, when the Sheriff’s Department wants information on a cellphone, it leaves it up to the carrier to determine what the sheriff must provide. “Some companies ask that when we have time to do so, we obtain court approval for the tracking request,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a written response to the ACLU.
And in Arizona, even small police departments found cell surveillance so valuable that they acquired their own tracking equipment to avoid the time and expense of having the phone companies carry out the operations for them. The police in the town of Gilbert, for one, spent $244,000 on such equipment.
Cell carriers, staffed with special law enforcement liaison teams, charge police departments from a few hundred dollars for locating a phone to more than $2,200 for a full-scale wiretap of a suspect, records show.
In Nevada, a training manual warned officers that using cell tracing to locate someone without a warrant “IS ONLY AUTHORIZED FOR LIFE-THREATENING EMERGENCIES!!” The practice, it said, had been “misused” in some standard investigations to collect information the police did not have the authority to collect.
“Some cell carriers have been complying with such requests, but they cannot be expected to continue to do so as it is outside the scope of the law,” the advisory said. “Continued misuse by law enforcement agencies will undoubtedly backfire.”
Another training manual prepared by California prosecutors in 2010 advises police officials on “how to get the good stuff” using cell technology.
The presentation said that since the Supreme Court first ruled on wiretapping law in 1928 in a Prohibition-era case involving a bootlegger, “subtler and more far-reaching means of invading privacy have become available to the government.” Technological breakthroughs, it continued, have made it possible for the government “to obtain disclosure in court of what is whispered in the closet.”.....
ICH - April 02, 2012
Understanding The Slave Mentality
By Brandon Smith
We are on the threshold of total despotism, where the naysayers who shrugged off the threat of rogue government yesterday suddenly embrace it and support it today. When Stewart Rhodes first formed the Oath Keepers organization, the same talking point was consistently used in an attempt to derail it; “The orders you would refuse to obey could never occur in this country…” And yet, many of the warnings of Oath Keepers have come to pass, including the unlawful disarming of peaceful U.S. citizens during the disaster in New Orleans, the institution of government directed assassination programs of U.S. citizens under Bush and Obama, the passing of NDAA legislation which includes provisions for indefinite detainment of Americans without trial, warrantless wiretapping, surveillance, and even home invasion by authorities is becoming common, and the Obama Administration has put into place several executive orders (including the The National Defense Resources Preparedness EO) which pave the way for Martial Law to be declared.
The cold hard reality is, the Oath Keepers were right, and Sgt. Stein is right.
And, now that this is becoming undeniable, the opponents of their tenets are switching gears to fight for the implementation of unconstitutional laws which they used to deny were even possible. Can this situation be any more insane? Oh yes…
There are no limits to the surrealist hell that can be unleashed when dealing with what I like to call the “Slave Mentality”. The slave mentality takes many shapes. It is pervasive in times of social distress, and, it can be infectious. The psychologist Carl Jung wrote in his book ‘The Undiscovered Self’ that the cruel sociopathy seen in the populations of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia is actually latent in many of us. All it needs is the right set of sociopolitical circumstances and a weak enough will, and the shadows in the hearts of lesser men are given license to come out and play. This is just as true in America, where people now operated on assumptions that the state is an absolute provider in the event of national calamity.
But what are the signs of this unconscious desire for collectivism and control? What makes a slave do what he does? Here are just a handful of explanations to consider…
The True Slave: The true slave is not a person who has been shackled, beaten, tortured, and made to comply under threat of death. As long as that poor soul has the spirit of rebellion and is ever seeking freedom, they are not imprisoned fully. The true slave is a person who enjoys their subservience, who is weighted with fear by the very idea of independence from the system, and who would actually fight and die to maintain the establishment which enslaves them. The true slave is not able to imagine living any other life beyond his micro-managed existence.
The Facts Lose Value: The worst flaw of the slave is not necessarily his ability to overlook the truth, but his ability to see it, comprehend it, and then shrug it off anyway because it is contrary to his mission to fulfill his private delusions. For the slave, the truth exists, but is no longer useful. Lies make his universe turn, and facts are a tool to be used or cast aside at his leisure.
The Obsession With The Law: The slave mentality, though illogical and psychotic, still requires a certain foundation to hold it together. The laws of governments tend to suffice. These laws may go completely against the force of inherent conscience, but because the slave has already abandoned listening to his inner voice of reason, this does not bother him much. If you have ever wondered why modern tyrannies always feel the need to put their horrific enforcements in writing first, THIS is why. Oligarchs understand that the law provides the slave with a means to rationalize his participation in the crimes of the state. After all, if some gut-bloated bloodthirsty elitists in government etch their mad inbred ramblings into law, then we have no choice but to follow them, right?
The Need To Be Accepted: A slave seeks harmony not within, but without, even when that “harmony” is with a system that is designed to destroy him. The viciousness of collectivism lay in its ability to comfort converts with atrocity. As long as the slave feels as though he is a part of the machine, and accepted by the group, he cares not what the machine does to others. Common arguments include; “We all have to live together, and so we must sacrifice our selfish individualism for the greater good…” or “Governments are here to protect us and we should do everything we can to make their job easier…” Rarely if ever do they question if the system is legitimately helpful or harmful. The system just “is”, it fulfills their need to be coddled, and that is good enough for them. For all their talk of "unity" and the "greater good", collectivists are for the most part deeply selfish. They do not support or participate in the collective for the sake of others. They do it to satiate their personal desires.
The Need For Control: I suppose it’s ironic, but the average slave loves tyranny because it affords him a perceived seat at the table of power, perhaps for the first time in his entire life. Collectivist slaves are often people who have felt weak and inadequate since childhood. While honorable human beings fight this personal uncertainty by strengthening themselves physically and mentally, and improving upon their own character, the slave takes the easy route by joining with bureaucracy and living vicariously through its conquests. Through the state, the hollow, cowardly, and stupid, have the ability to “show the world who’s boss”, and get revenge for a life filled with meaninglessness.
The Need For Structure: An individual takes responsibility for himself, learning over time to provide his own structure which works at his pace and serves his unique needs. A slave does not have the energy or the drive to do that, and so, he asks the establishment to tell him how he should live. He will hold at face value the word of nearly anyone in a position of petty authority. When confronted with those who go their own way, or who rebel against the cookie-cutter template for social participation, the slave sneers in disgust. Independent rebellion is abhorrent to him, because the system provides him with his very identity. To insult the fabric of the system is to insult who he is. It’s pathetic, but common…
The Need For Vindication: Sometimes it is not enough for certain people to have their own world view. The slave seeks approval for his world view at every turn, even if that world view is twisted by bleary eyed logic, and will go so far as to force others to agree with it so that they can feel safer in their beliefs. It is natural for people to seek out others with similar views and ideals, but, it is not natural or healthy for those same people to use the government apparatus as a weapon to frighten the rest of us into submission just so they can become more confident in their ludicrous slapdash philosophies. Slaves want a world without contradiction. Laughably, everything they do is a contradiction.
OpEdNews - April 4, 2012
Conservatives love to hate Islam:
evidence from a questionable Newsmax article
By Don Smith
Evidence that conservative website Newsmax distorted the facts in an article critical of Muslims.
I monitor some conservative blogs and email lists, and I notice that they often publish hateful anti-Muslim stories meant to show how uncivilized and cruel Muslims supposedly are, and to promote war on Islam, no doubt.
For example, Newsmax recently published
Muslim Marriage Guide OKs Wife Beating
29 Mar 2012 by Steve Emerson
A popular marriage guide that has sold out in one Toronto bookstore is gaining media attention because of the book's controversial focus--how to beat and control your wife.
The book, titled "A Gift for the Muslim Couple," is written by Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, who, according to the book's foreword, is a "prolific writer on almost every topic of Islamic learning." "
I was suspicious because I know that Newsmax is a neo-con blog, so I did some research. I found out that the book A Gift for Muslim Couples was written 100 years ago -- a fact not mentioned in either the Newsmax article or in the Tornoto Sun article that the Newsmax article references. Furthermore, I found out that the Toronto Sun is a neo-con tabloid.
I had received an email about the Newsmax story on an email list and responded thus:
Note that Newsmax Media is a conservative website. I'd be skeptical of material you find there. It is likely to be anti-Muslim and pro-war. I monitor some conservative email lists, and they often go out of their way to find hateful anti-Muslim material.
According to the wikipedia article on newsmax: "Christopher W. Ruddy started Newsmax.com on September 16, 1998, supported by a group of politically conservative investors, including the family of the late Central Intelligence Agency Director William J. Casey. Later, Richard Mellon Scaife, Ruddy's former employer at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and a supporter of conservative causes, invested in the fledging company. One of the initial board members was author James Dale Davidson who edited a financial newsletter, Davidson's co-editor, Lord Rees-Mogg, former editor of The Times and Vice Chair of the BBC, later became chairman of Newsmax Media."
I later got an email from a conservative: "The message here is that (GASP) "conservative' websites who dare to point out non-touchy-feely aspects of Muslim culture are somehow more reprehensible than wife-beating. Unless the referenced article can be proved wrong, you are a prime example of bleeding-heart-liberal BULLSHIT." Fair enough. So I researched the issue.
I found that the Toronto Sun (which published the article Book tells Muslim men how to beat and control their wives that the Newsmax article references) is well-known to have a conservative bias. According to Wikipedia, "Editorially, the paper frequently follows the positions of neo-conservatism in the United States on economic issues and traditional Canadian/British conservatism. Editorials promote individualism, self-reliance, the police, and a strong military and support for troops." The article mentions a Toronto bookstore but does not give its name, making it hard to verify the claims.
But this article Islamic bookstore sparks controversy has revealing details.
The book was written by Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, an Islamic scholar from the late 19th century who passed away in 1943.
"I didn't read the book, I only bought because of the title," Ahmad [the bookstore owner] said. "It's a hundred-year-old book and I don't know what was inside."
Imam Shaykh Yusuf Badat of the Islamic Foundation of Toronto feels that the book, originally written in the South Asian language of Urdu, has been taken out of context.
"There's a whole chapter just on kindness towards women," he said.
The Toronto Sun article says the book is "sold out", but does that just mean there are no copies left? In fact, according to the video of an interview with the store owner, he only ever had one copy of the book. And it's also a 100 year old book (recently republished) -- something not mentioned in the Toronto Sun or Newsmax articles.
In the video a (moderate) Muslim leader quotes a Bible verse which says, "you must then amputate her hand" (Deuteronomy 25:1-19). The full quote is "In case men struggle together with one another, and the wife of the one has come near to deliver her husband out of the hand of the one striking him, and she has thrust out her hand and grabbed hold of him by his privates, 12 you must then amputate her hand. Your eye must feel no sorrow"!
I stand behind my statement that conservatives love to hate Islam. There are Christian groups that sanction corporal punishment of children and male domination of the household. The more interesting question is whether wife beating and such tactics are rejected by mainstream Muslims and whether such issues warrant waging a religious war against them. (No!)
Don Smith is DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere.
MPAC – April 6, 2012
US gov't must engage all relevant actors
As countries in the Middle East and North Africa make their transitions from revolution to creating and stabilizing a new form of government, faith based political movements have emerged as the front runners in post revolutionary governance. As these changes happen abroad, we are seeing a shift in our foreign policy here as well. These political movements were generally isolated from conversations in the past. Now, the United States is making a more concerted effort to engage these groups as legitimate actors in their countries. An interesting aspect of the current emerging trend of opening dialogue with these groups is that it seems to many to be a novel idea. In fact, civil society groups such as the Muslim Public Affairs Council have advocated for such inclusion and dialogue for decades.
In the early 1990s, MPAC Senior Adviser, Dr. Maher Hathout was invited by the State Department to give a speech titled “Emerging Political Trends in Islamic Movements.” The critical speech on emerging trends coming from an American Muslim organization was eye-opening to policy makers and diplomatic practitioners. Among the foundational values addressed in Dr. Hathout’s lecture was for Islamic political groups to establish democratic governance, rights of minorities and the role of women’s participation in political and civic life.
Recently, we have seen an increase in interaction between the United States government and members of Islamic political parties. Delegations from the an-Nahda party in Tunisia and the Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt are two recent examples of groups visiting civil society organizations, federal agencies, think tanks and academic institutions in Washington.
MPAC has long advocated that as long as these groups work within the rules of democratic governance, they should be allotted a seat at the proverbial table. What other way is there to hold leaders accountable if we continue to marginalize them from the conversation? As such, MPAC has worked tirelessly to bring to fruition this very phenomenon we witness today. The role of MPAC and other civil society organizations is incredibly important in playing the role of the convener creating a shift from dialogues to “trialogues.” It is imperative that civil society organizations remain just as much a part of the conversation as government and political actors are in maintaining a civic component of a check to all leaders.
From the very beginning however, those seeking to create a divide, such as the ilk of Robert Spencers, Steven Emersons and Daniel Pipes, kicked and screamed as they perceived Islamic political groups gaining political legitimacy from these meetings. As they sought to marginalize these relevant actors, policy makers began to see the utility in engaging Islamic political groups in dialogue; and in an interesting turn of events, the Islamophobes became sideliners in the conversation. Indeed, when dealing with those who seek to pedal the myth of a fifth column of American Muslims, we must rely on the Quranic verse that states: The true servants of (God) the Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, reply with (words of) peace (25:63). It has become obvious that the cottage industry of Islamophobes were indeed addressing the American public with ignorance.
In sum, the presence of Islamic political groups in Washington or around the world as relevant actors should not be a surprise. This is not the time to fall back on old ideas of marginalizing certain groups; in order to move forward and remain part of the conversation happening globally, American foreign policymakers should shift policies to more inclusivity.
OpEdNews - April 1, 2012
Women voters abandon GOP in key battleground states
President Obama has emerged with an impressive lead in swing states around the country — thanks to women voters abandoning the GOP in droves, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll showing President Obama leading among women voters in the top dozen battleground states by a whopping 18 points — greater than the 12-point gender gap he won with in 2008.
One month ago, the same poll showed Mitt Romney leading the president by 2 percentage points; but Sunday, the newest poll gave Obama a 9-point lead, 51 percent to 42 percent. The change, the poll indicates, comes from women:
“The biggest change came among women under 50. In mid-February, just under half of those voters supported Obama. Now more than six in 10 do while Romney’s support among them has dropped by 14 points, to 30%. The president leads him 2-1 in this group.”
Both Democrats and Republicans point to the battles over contraception coverage as a reason for the shift. Republican strategist Sara Taylor Fagen, a former political adviser to President George W. Bush, told USA Today that “The focus on contraception has not been a good one for us … and Republicans have unfairly taken on water on this issue.”
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina likewise pointed to the GOP’s hang-up on social issues. Most notably, Romney endorsed the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed employers to deny coverage of contraception, among other services, on moral or religious grounds. A poll commissioned earlier this month by EMILY’s List, the PAC dedicated to electing pro-choice, Democratic women, found that 48 percent of voters — including 53 percent among Independents and 40 percent among Republicans — would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported the amendment.
Romney pollster Neil Newhouse told USA Today that the numbers would narrow and that the drop was not Romney’s fault. He chalked the difference up to a partisan gender gap. That’s historically true — but not at the levels found in the poll. It showed: By 41 percent to 24 percent, women call themselves Democrats; men by 27 percent to 25 percent say they’re Republicans.
It may be a party-wide problem, but if the poll is any indication, Romney’s comments about getting rid of Planned Parenthood and have not done him any favors with women voters, either.