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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A "Depression" for Black America: Bold Responses Needed!!

This Washington Post report is not as surprising as it is sobering. Black America is mired in a depression. While that is not true for ALL of Black America but the marginalization and attacks on young African American males is unsustainable for a civil society. After 30 years of the right wing rule, including their creation is the economic disaster, it is time to institute recovery economic policies -- jobs, jobs, jobs. Now that healthcare is about to be a done deal, economic policies must take center stage. RGN

Blacks hit hard by economy's punch
34.5 percent of young African American men are unemployed

By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

These days, 24-year-old Delonta Spriggs spends much of his time cooped up in his mother's one-bedroom apartment in Southwest Washington, the TV blaring soap operas hour after hour, trying to stay out of the streets and out of trouble, held captive by the economy. As a young black man, Spriggs belongs to a group that has been hit much harder than any other by unemployment.

Joblessness for 16-to-24-year-old black men has reached Great Depression proportions -- 34.5 percent in October, more than three times the rate for the general U.S. population. And last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that unemployment in the District, home to many young black men, rose to 11.9 percent from 11.4 percent, even as it stayed relatively stable in Virginia and Maryland.

His work history, Spriggs says, has consisted of dead-end jobs. About a year ago, he lost his job moving office furniture, and he hasn't been able to find steady work since. This summer he completed a construction apprenticeship program, he says, seeking a career so he could avoid repeating the mistake of selling drugs to support his 3-year-old daughter. So far the most the training program has yielded was a temporary flagger job that lasted a few days.

"I think we're labeled for not wanting to do nothing -- knuckleheads or hardheads," said Spriggs, whose first name is pronounced Dee-lon-tay. "But all of us ain't bad."

Construction, manufacturing and retail experienced the most severe job losses in this down economy, losses that are disproportionately affecting men and young people who populated those sectors. That is especially playing out in the District, where unemployment has risen despite the abundance of jobs in the federal government.

Traditionally the last hired and first fired, workers in Spriggs's age group have taken the brunt of the difficult economy, with cost-conscious employers wiping out the very apprenticeship, internship and on-the-job-training programs that for generations gave young people a leg up in the work world or a second chance when they made mistakes. Moreover, this generation is being elbowed out of entry-level positions by older, more experienced job seekers on the unemployment rolls who willingly trade down just to put food on the table.

The jobless rate for young black men and women is 30.5 percent. For young blacks -- who experts say are more likely to grow up in impoverished racially isolated neighborhoods, attend subpar public schools and experience discrimination -- race statistically appears to be a bigger factor in their unemployment than age, income or even education. Lower-income white teens were more likely to find work than upper-income black teens, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, and even blacks who graduate from college suffer from joblessness at twice the rate of their white peers.

Young black women have an unemployment rate of 26.5 percent, while the rate for all 16-to-24-year-old women is 15.4 percent.

Victoria Kirby, 22, has been among that number. In the summer of 2008, a D.C. publishing company where Kirby was interning offered her a job that would start upon her graduation in May 2009 from Howard University. But the company withdrew the offer in the fall of 2008 when the economy collapsed.

Kirby said she applied for administrative jobs on Capitol Hill but was told she was overqualified. She sought a teaching position in the D.C. public schools through the Teach for America program but said she was rejected because of a flood of four times the usual number of applicants.

Finally, she went back to school, enrolling in a master's of public policy program at Howard. "I decided to stay in school two more years and wait out the recession," Kirby said.

On a tightrope

The Obama administration is on a tightrope, balancing the desire to spend billions more dollars to create jobs without adding to the $1.4 trillion national deficit. Yet some policy experts say more attention needs to be paid to the intractable problems of underemployed workers -- those who like Spriggs may lack a high school diploma, a steady work history, job-readiness skills or a squeaky-clean background.

"Increased involvement in the underground economy, criminal activity, increased poverty, homelessness and teen pregnancy are the things I worry about if we continue to see more years of high unemployment," said Algernon Austin, a sociologist and director of the race, ethnicity and economy program at the Economic Policy Institute, which studies issues involving low- and middle-income wage earners.

Earlier this month, District officials said they will use $3.9 million in federal stimulus funds to provide 19 weeks of on-the-job training to 500 18-to-24-year-olds. But even those who receive training often don't get jobs.

"I thought after I finished the [training] program, I'd be working. I only had three jobs with the union and only one of them was longer than a week," Spriggs, a tall slender man wearing a black Nationals cap, said one afternoon while sitting at the table in the living room/dining room in his mother's apartment. "It has you wanting to go out and find other ways to make money. . . . [Lack of jobs is why] people go out hustling and doing what they can to get by."

"Give me a chance to show that I can work. Just give me a chance," added Spriggs, who is on probation for drug possession. "I don't want to think negative. I know the economy is slow. You got to crawl before you walk. I got to be patient. My biggest problem [which prompted the effort to sell drugs] is not being patient."

The economy's seismic shift has been an equal-opportunity offender, hurting various racial and ethnic groups, economic classes, ages, and white- and blue-collar job categories. Nevertheless, 16-to-24-year-olds face heavier losses, with a 19.1 percent unemployment rate, about nine points higher than the national average for the general population.

Their rate of employment in October was 44.9 percent, the lowest level in 61 years of record keeping, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment for men in their 20s and early 30s is at its lowest level since the Great Depression, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies.

Troubling consequences

Unemployment among young people is particularly troubling, economists say, because the consequences can be long-lasting. This might be the first generation that does not keep up with its parents' standard of living. Jobless teens are more likely to be jobless twenty-somethings. Once forced onto the sidelines, they likely will not catch up financially for many years. That is the case even for young people of all ethnic groups who graduate from college.

Lisa B. Kahn, an economics professor at Yale University who studied graduates during recessions in the 1980s, determined that the young workers hired during a down economy generally start off with lower wages than they otherwise would have and don't recover for at least a decade.

Elections Have Consequences: A Stroke for the Working Class

The Obama Labor department has struck a blow FOR the working class, specifically aspect of the working class that is the most exploited. We can only assume that this is a step towards reversing 30 some years on the workers. RGN

November 20, 2009
Labor Department Targets Wage and Hour Violations
The Department of Labor is cracking down on wage and hour violations.

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced yesterday that the department has hired an additional 250 wage and hour investigators, boosting staffing by one third to respond more quickly to complaints and undertake more targeted enforcement.

"There is no excuse for employers who disregard federal labor standards – especially those that are designed to protect the most vulnerable in the workplace," said Solis in a statement. "The failure to comply with these basic labor standards means that workers are not receiving the money they have earned."

In the past three months, the Labor Department has brought two enforcement cases that resulted in the recovery of nearly $2 million in back wages for 500 workers.

The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour division administers the Fair Labor Act, which sets standards for minimum wages, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor. The act applies to companies with at least $500,000 in annual business.

It also covers domestic service workers, such as day workers, housekeepers, chauffeurs, cooks, or full‑time babysitters, if they receive at least $1,700 in 2009 in cash wages from one employer in a calendar year, or if they work a total of more than eight hours a week for one or more employers.

Next year, the department plans to launch a national public awareness campaign titled "We Can Help" to inform workers about their rights.

Posted by Jenna Greene on November 20, 2009 at 11:43 AM | Permalink

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Kileen and Kabul: The connection

In the Op-Ed piece by Frank Rich below, a strong case is made to show the diabolical logic of conservatives when it comes to Islam. By making the link between an all out assault on all Muslims as a result of Maj. Nidal Hasan's slaying of 13 people at Ft. Hood and wining the hearts and minds of the Afghans in Kabul, Rich shows the contrdictions in their logic. In Rich's "connecting of the dots," we see a far more complex picture than that articulated by the white nationalist right. RGN

November 15, 2009
The Missing Link From Killeen to Kabul

THE dead at Fort Hood had not even been laid to rest when their massacre became yet another political battle cry for the self-proclaimed patriots of the American right.
Their verdict was unambiguous: Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born psychiatrist of Palestinian parentage who sent e-mail to a radical imam, was a terrorist. And he did not act alone. His co-conspirators included our military brass, the Defense Department, the F.B.I., the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and, of course, the liberal media and the Obama administration. All these institutions had failed to heed the warning signs raised by Hasan’s behavior and activities because they are blinded by political correctness toward Muslims, too eager to portray criminals as sympathetic victims of social injustice, and too cowardly to call out evil when it strikes 42 innocents in cold blood.

The invective aimed at these heinous P.C. pantywaists nearly matched that aimed at Hasan. Joe Lieberman announced hearings to investigate the Army for its dereliction of duty on homeland security. Peter Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, vowed to unmask cover-ups in the White House and at the C.I.A. The Weekly Standard blog published a broadside damning the F.B.I. for neglecting the “broader terrorist plot” of which Hasan was only one of the connected dots. Jerome Corsi, the major-domo of the successful Swift-boating of John Kerry, unearthed what he said was proof that Hasan had advised President Obama during the transition.

William Bennett excoriated soft military leaders like Gen. George Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, who had stood up for diversity and fretted openly about a backlash against Muslim soldiers in his ranks. “Blind diversity” that embraces Islam “equals death,” wrote Michelle Malkin. “There is a powerful case to be made that Islamic extremism is not some fringe phenomenon but part of the mainstream of Islamic life around the world,” wrote the columnist Jonah Goldberg. Islam is “not a religion,” declared the irrepressible Pat Robertson, but “a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world.”

As a snapshot of where a chunk of the country stands right now, these reactions to the Fort Hood bloodbath could not be more definitive. And it’s quite possible that some of what this crowd says is right — not about Islam in general, but about the systemic failure to stop a homicidal maniac like Hasan in particular. Whether he was an actual terrorist or an unfathomable mass murderer merely dabbling in jihadist ideas, the repeated red flags during his Army career illuminate a pattern of lapses in America’s national security. Whether those indicators were ignored because of political correctness, bureaucratic dysfunction, sheer incompetence or some hybrid thereof is still unclear, but, whichever, the system failed.

Yet the mass murder at Fort Hood didn’t happen in isolation. It unfolded against the backdrop of Obama’s final lap of decision-making about Afghanistan. For all the right’s jeremiads, its own brand of political correctness kept it from connecting two crucial dots: how our failing war against terrorists in Afghanistan might relate to our failure to stop a supposed terrorist attack at home. Most of those who decried the Army’s blindness to Hasan’s threat are strong proponents of sending more troops into our longest war. That they didn’t mention Afghanistan while attacking the entire American intelligence and defense apparatus in charge of that war may be the most telling revelation of this whole debate.

The reason they didn’t is obvious enough. Their screeds about the Hasan case are completely at odds with both the Afghanistan policy they endorse and the leadership that must execute that policy, including Gen. Stanley McChrystal. These hawks, all demanding that Obama act on McChrystal’s proposals immediately, do not seem to have read his strategy assessment for Afghanistan or the many press interviews he gave as it leaked out. If they had, they’d discover that the whole thrust of his counterinsurgency pitch is to befriend and win the support of the Afghan population — i.e., Muslims. The “key to success,” the general wrote in his brief to the president, will be “strong personal relationships forged between security forces and local populations.”

McChrystal thinks we might even jolly up those Muslims who historically and openly hate America. “I don’t think much of the Taliban are ideologically driven,” he told Dexter Filkins of The Times. “In my view their past is not important. Some people say, ‘Well, they have blood on their hands.’ I’d say, ‘So do a lot of people.’ I think we focus on future behavior.”

Whether we could win those hearts and minds is, arguably, an open question — though it’s an objective that would require a partner other than Hamid Karzai and many more troops than even McChrystal is asking for (or America presently has). But to say that McChrystal’s optimistic — dare one say politically correct? — view of Muslim pliability doesn’t square with that of America’s hawks is the understatement of the decade.

As their Fort Hood rhetoric made clear, McChrystal’s most vehement partisans don’t trust American Muslims, let alone those of the Taliban, no matter how earnestly the general may argue that they can be won over by our troops’ friendliness (or bribes). If, as the right has it, our Army cannot be trusted to recognize a Hasan in its own ranks, then how will it figure out who the “good” Muslims will be as we try to build a “stable” state (whatever “stable” means) in a country that has never had a functioning central government? If our troops can’t be protected from seemingly friendly Muslim American brethren in Killeen, Tex., what are the odds of survival for the 40,000 more troops the hawks want to deploy to Kabul and sinkholes beyond?
About the only prominent voice among the liberal-bashing, Obama-loathing right who has noted this gaping contradiction is Mark Steyn of National Review. “Members of the best trained, best equipped fighting force on the planet” were “gunned down by a guy who said a few goofy things no one took seriously,” he wrote. “And that’s the problem: America has the best troops and fiercest firepower, but no strategy for throttling the ideology that drives the enemy — in Afghanistan and in Texas.” You have to applaud Steyn’s rare intellectual consistency within his camp. One imagines that he does not buy the notion that our Army, however brilliant, has a shot at building “strong personal relationships” with a population that often regards us as occupiers and infidels.

In a week of horrific news, it was good to hear at the end of it that Obama is dissatisfied with the four Afghanistan options he has been weighing so far. The more time he deliberates, the more he is learning that he’s on a fool’s errand with no exit. After Karzai was spared a runoff last month and declared the winner of the fraud-infested August “election,” Obama demanded that he address his government’s corruption as a price for American support. Only days later the Afghan president mocked the American president by parading his most tainted cronies on camera and granting an interview to PBS’s “NewsHour” devoted to spewing his contempt for his American benefactors.

Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and, until recently, a State Department official in Afghanistan, could be found on MSNBC on Thursday once again asking the question no war advocate can answer, “Do you want Americans fighting and dying for the Karzai regime?” Hoh quit his post on principle in September despite the urging of colleagues, including our ambassador there, Karl W. Eikenberry, that he stay and fight over war policy from the inside. But Hoh had lost confidence in our strategy and would not retract his resignation. Now he has been implicitly seconded by Eikenberry himself. Last week we learned that the ambassador, a retired general who had been the top American military commander in Afghanistan as recently as 2007, had sent two cables to Obama urging caution about sending more troops.

We don’t know everything in those cables. What we do know is that American intelligence continues to say that fewer than 100 Qaeda operatives can still be found in Afghanistan. We also know that the Taliban, which are currently estimated to number in the tens of thousands, can’t be eliminated. As McChrystal put it to Filkins, there is no “finite number” of Taliban, so there’s no way to vanquish them. Hence his counterinsurgency alternative, which could take decades, costing untold billions and countless lives.

Perhaps those on the right are correct about Hasan, and he is just one cog in an apocalyptic jihadist plot that has infiltrated our armed forces. If so, then they have an obligation to explain how pouring more troops into Afghanistan would have stopped Hasan from plotting in Killeen. Don’t hold your breath. If we have learned anything concrete so far from the massacre at Fort Hood, it’s that our hawks, for all their certitude, are as utterly confused as the rest of us about who it is we’re fighting in Afghanistan and to what end.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Muslim Soldiers Show Loyalty...

In the wake of the Ft. Hood Massacre, the right wing attacks on Islam poses a threat to Muslims in the armed services. This Detroit Free Press article shows some of the strains for Muslims in the service. RGN

Muslim troops aim to build trust in U.S. military

Forces contend with cultural pressures, allegiance questions



When Jamal Baadani, a native of Dearborn and U.S. Marine, was visiting his nephew a few years ago, he noticed the 5year-old boy didn't want to play with him as usual.

"What's the matter?" Baadani said he remembers asking him.

"You kill Arabs," replied the boy, apparently repeating what he heard adults around him utter.

It was a cold reminder to Baadani that some in Arab-American and Muslim communities are reluctant to have their children serve in the U.S. armed forces, partly because they would have to fight fellow Muslims.

But that attitude pushed Baadani to continue his effort to bridge the gap between the military and his community. He founded the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military, APAAM, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. His mission was to help educate people about the importance of serving your country.

It wasn't always easy. Baadani started out going door to door in Dearborn dressed in his Marine uniform. Some ignored him, others gave him concerned looks, but slowly, he earned their trust, paving the way for the military and other federal agencies to actively engage Middle Eastern communities.

Today, the U.S. military has robust programs - especially in the Army and National Guard- that try to recruit Muslims and Arab Americans.

"The military has done a tremendous job to reach out," said 1st Sgt. Baadani, 45, now a Marine reservist who lives in Virginia. "The U.S. Army really respects our community and goes above and beyond to understand our community."

There are about 3,500 Arab Americans in the U.S. armed forces, both Christian and Muslim. And there are about 3,500 Muslims of various backgrounds - Arab, Pakistani, African American, among them- who serve. They make up a small percentage of the 1.4million members of the U.S. military. But as the U.S. military engages in a wide swath of the Muslim world - from east Africa to the Middle East to central Asia - their views and language skills are needed more than ever.

At home, some Muslims who serve face pressure from family or their peers about fighting against Muslims in other parts of the world. And after the Nov. 5 shootings at Ft. Hood, Texas, by a Muslim major, they face scrutiny from some who are questioning their loyalty to the United States. And so they are caught between two worlds, trying to carve out their own identity during a time of war.

"We're getting so much criticism from our own community for serving," Baadani said. "The No. 1 question I used to get was, 'Why do you want to serve a government that's going to kill your own kind?' " Baadani's response was: "The U.S. military did not go over there to kill your kind. They went over there to attack a threat that came to this country to attack us."

Moreover, Baadani stresses the importance of duty, of serving your country, even if you happen to disagree with the policies of an elected official. That sense of patriotism was seen last week inside Masjid Wali Muhammad, a mosque in Detroit that has the oldest African-American congregation of any Islamic center in Michigan. With a backdrop of U.S. flags and a picture of Islam's holy book, the Quran, the mosque held a Veterans Day celebration that was a vivid illustration of how Muslim veterans reconcile their two worlds.

The mosque had planned for a Veterans Day event before the Ft. Hood shootings, given that many of its members are U.S. veterans. Many of them had converted to Islam during the 1950s and 1960s, a time of racial and political change that compelled some African Americans to explore different religions and belief systems. At times, that clashed with the U.S. military, most notably in the case of champion boxer Muhammad Ali who - after converting to Islam in 1964 - refused to join the Army to fight in Vietnam. Ali had joined the Nation of Islam whose leader, Elijah Muhammad urged members of his black nationalist group not to serve in the U.S. military.

"Why am I going to fight over there for freedoms that you deny me here?" was the attitude among some at the time, said Ajib Rashadeen, 66, of Detroit, a veteran of the Army.

But those views softened over time with racial progress and the new leadership of the Nation of Islam upon Muhammad's death in 1975. Many of the veterans at the Detroit mosque were followers of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, who replaced Muhammad, became an orthodox Muslim and said it was OK for Muslims to fight for the United States.

The new leadership allowed them to see that there was no conflict between being good Muslims and good American soldiers.

In March 2003, Sgt. Hasan Akbar, a Muslim, killed two of his fellow 101st Airborne soldiers and wounded 14 in a grenade attack near the start of the Iraq war; afterward, he reportedly said he feared Americans were going to kill and rape Muslims.

Muslim veterans say they're horrified by such violence.

"Islam has nothing to do with that," said Abdul Ali Sharrieff, 82, of Detroit, a Marine veteran. "Islam doesn't preach that."

Abdul (Ace) Montaser, 27, of Brighton agrees. Today a DJ with WKQI-FM (95.5), Montaser was with the Marines for six years, serving in Iraq in 2003.

Born to the son of Yemeni immigrants, Montaser said he was taught to respect all cultures and faiths.

While in Iraq, Montaser felt he was part of an important mission to stop a deadly dictator and help free a country. But at the same time, he said, he was reluctant to kill anyone, Muslim or not.

"Islam is a peaceful religion," he said. But there are some Muslim extremists who "have their own political agenda and use religion as an excuse ? because the religion doesn't preach killing."

There have been reports that the Ft. Hood shooting suspect, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, had expressed concerns about Muslims in the U.S. military going abroad to fight other Muslims in what some of them see as unjust wars.

Local Muslim veterans said his analysis was misguided because Muslims, like any other group, can break laws.

May photo by Jamal Baadani

Members of the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military march in the Dearborn Memorial Day

Parade. Jamal Baadani said he founded the group to help educate people about service to their country.

Nidal Hasan: Connecting the Dots????

Below is a balanced treatment of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. Obviously, the event at Ft. Hood raises many questions as to what led this killer to do what he did. The racism of the white nationalists reduces Hasan's actions "Islamic terrorism." The report below by Scott Shana and James Dao provide an excellent overview of Hasan's development, including the contradictions and complexities in this tortured soul.

It is interesting that Dylan and Klebold of Columbine were kids gone wrong. The killer at Virginia Tech had serious psychological problems. But when it comes to a Muslim who was troubled by war and his faith, we have a case of "Islamic terrorism." A closer look does not support such a simplistic, bigoted reductionism. RGN

November 15, 2009
Investigators Study Tangle of Clues on Fort Hood Suspect


WASHINGTON — When Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan took his two handguns and headed for Fort Hood on Nov. 5, he left behind in his spartan apartment his new business cards. Now they are one more clue for investigators of the 13 killings he is charged with, hinting at the road not taken.

On the cards, ordered over the Internet after Major Hasan was transferred to the sprawling Texas base in July, the 39-year-old psychiatrist omitted the rank he had achieved in the Army he had served for most of his adult life. Instead, he included the cryptic abbreviation “SoA,” apparently “Servant of Allah” or “Soldier of Allah,” perhaps marking a symbolic shift of allegiance from his military profession to his increasingly consuming faith.

But a man plotting mass murder does not ordinarily plan to open a business. Whether Major Hasan hoped to moonlight as a private therapist specializing in Muslim patients or imagined that he might be permitted to exit the Army early, the cards and many other clues will be studied by Army and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents trying to answer the same questions that many Americans have debated over the last 10 days:

Was Major Hasan a terrorist, driven by religious extremism to attack fellow soldiers he had come to see as the enemy? Was he a troubled loner, a misfit who cracked when ordered sent to a war zone whose gruesome casualties he had spent the last six years caring for? Or was he both?

In his weekly address, President Obama vowed on Saturday that the administration would discover the full story of the massacre. “That investigation,” he said, “will look at the motive of the alleged gunman, including his views and contacts.”
Mr. Obama said investigators would also look for any missteps. “If there was a failure to take appropriate action before the shootings, there must be accountability,” he said.

Whatever led Major Hasan to act, it is clear that he felt under intense pressure. He had told family members for years about his fears of being sent to war, and his work at Walter Reed Army Medical Center had exposed him daily to the horrors combat could produce. He appears to have had few social ties; one fellow psychiatrist remembers him as “a man out on the periphery.”

In recent years, Major Hasan had focused intently on the conflict he believed some Muslim soldiers felt between their religion and their country’s wars in Muslim lands — though what some co-workers saw as a productive academic interest, others detected as a personal struggle.

Law enforcement officials who have been examining Major Hasan’s writings, including a Web posting on suicide bombing they have tentatively concluded was his, say he appears to have been grappling with a question widely discussed among Muslim militants since the Sept. 11 attacks: When, if ever, is the death of innocents morally justified?

The trail of evidence investigators are following suggests, so far at least, that both emotional problems and nascent extremism spurred Major Hasan, who survived the bullets of the police officers who stopped him and now is charged with 13 counts of murder.

Depression and stress alone can set off lethal attacks. In Baghdad last May, for instance, a despondent Army sergeant was accused of killing five fellow soldiers at a clinic.

But Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist in New York and an expert on mass murderers, said the emerging picture of Major Hasan suggests that militant religion “seemed to provide answers to a lot of the psychological problems already stirring around in him.”


Some experts on terrorism say Major Hasan may be the latest example of an increasingly common type of terrorist, one who has been self-radicalized with the help of the Internet and who wreaks havoc without support from overseas networks and without having to cross a border to reach his target.

Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University professor who studies terrorism, said such cases had appeared at a growing rate in the last year, most of them involving people with no direct ties to foreign terrorists. The trend of self-radicalization, which leaders and allies of Al Qaeda have encouraged with a steady stream of inflammatory messages on the Web, is gaining momentum, he said.

“You’ve had all shapes and sizes, which is a challenge for law enforcement,” Mr. Hoffman said, citing a shooting at a Little Rock military recruitment center, synagogues targeted for attack in the Bronx and foiled bombing schemes in Illinois and Texas, among others.

While investigators are combing intelligence files for any foreign contacts Major Hasan may have had, the only significant connection the authorities have confirmed so far are a dozen or so e-mail messages he sent to a radical cleric now in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki.

While officials have described the messages as involving questions about Islamic interpretation, they presumably reflected the psychiatrist’s familiarity with Mr. Awlaki’s voluminous sermons and texts on the Web supporting violent jihad. But a counterterrorism analyst who examined the messages shortly after they were sent decided that they were consistent with authorized research Major Hasan was conducting and did not alert his military superiors.

Mr. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and served as an imam in two mosques attended by three of the Sept. 11 hijackers, is known as a compelling speaker in English and Arabic whose influence has been documented in several recent cases of homegrown terrorism, including a plot to bomb government buildings in Canada and another to shoot up Fort Dix, N.J.

By December 2008, when he sent Mr. Awlaki his e-mail inquiries, Major Hasan appears to have been deeply engaged with applying religious values to violence. In the Web posting investigators believe was his, Major Hasan suggested that a suicide bomber might have just as noble a purpose as a soldier who throws himself on a grenade to protect his comrades.

“Your intention is the main issue,” the writer concluded.

Trouble Connecting

Major Hasan had spent a decade in the world of military medicine in and around Washington. He attended medical school and had a fellowship at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and he did his psychiatric residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

It was a scholarly life on leafy campuses, very different from his gritty childhood — his parents ran a notoriously rough bar in downtown Roanoke, Va. — and from the hard routine of an enlisted soldier. He often struggled, but just as often got academic counseling or other support.

His seeming inability to connect with people sometimes undermined his work. More than one patient said of him, “He meant well, he was kind, but he didn’t get me,” one former colleague at Walter Reed recalled. When co-workers went out to socialize, Major Hasan went home or to the mosque in Silver Spring, Md., where he regularly attended services.

“You could see who was buddy-buddy, and he just seemed definitely quieter and not part of that,” said Nancy Meyer, a social worker who was a contractor at Walter Reed.
When he did engage, he often seemed argumentative. When instructors or peers tried to offer advice that conflicted with his own views, he would become “passively rigid,” said the colleague, who asked not to be named because the Army is still investigating the case. Major Hasan opted out of the personal psychotherapy offered to residents as a routine part of psychiatric training.

“That was Nidal,” the colleague said. “He seemed to want to do things, but there was this hesitation there always, this avoidance.”

He told others he liked “the consistency” of the Army. But he was so concerned about being sent to war that at Walter Reed, relatives said, he began researching ways to get an early discharge. He abandoned the effort when he decided he could not succeed.

Part of his disenchantment was his deep and public opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a stance shared by some medical colleagues but shaped for him by a growing religious fervor. The strands of religion and antiwar sentiment seemed to weave together in a PowerPoint presentation he made at Walter Reed in June 2007. In that presentation, Major Hasan argued that the Koran forbids Muslims to kill other Muslims, placing Muslim American troops in an impossible position. Such soldiers should be allowed to receive conscientious objector status, he concluded.

If they are not, he warned, there might be “adverse events,” citing the case of Sgt. Hasan Akbar, who was convicted of killing two soldiers in Kuwait and wounding 14 others by throwing grenades into their tents and then opening fire on them in 2003.

The presentation created a buzz among residents, some of whom were shocked and angered by what they thought was evidence of radical Islamist views. But other residents and faculty members said they considered it a useful analysis of the dueling pressures on Muslims in the American military, and some were wary of appearing insensitive toward Muslim culture.

For a master’s program in public health, Major Hasan gave another presentation to his environmental health class titled “Why The War on Terror is a War on Islam.” Some fellow students found it inappropriate and troubling, and at least one complained to the professor, former students said.

By 2008, some senior faculty members at Walter Reed were questioning not only Major Hasan’s abilities as a psychiatrist, but also his loyalty to the country, people who know him said. It is unclear if anyone took the concerns to senior military officials. Others argued that with the proper guidance, he could become not just a capable psychiatrist, but a valuable researcher for the Army, given his understanding of the pressures facing Muslim troops.

From March to May this year, Major Hasan was sent back to work in an inpatient psychiatric ward at Walter Reed in what colleagues saw as a remedial stint. Lt. Eric Notkin, a nurse, often joined him on rounds, seeing patients who had been evacuated from Iraq or Afghanistan after suicide threats or attempts.

“The worst we saw were the patients who had shot themselves in the head or face and survived,” Lieutenant Notkin said. “They’d be stabilized and come to us.”

Lieutenant Notkin grew fond of the quiet, unpretentious psychiatrist, who did not have a desk like other doctors and did his paperwork at a long table with nurses and technicians. After a trip to Israel, the nurse said, he recalled chatting with Major Hasan about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Sept. 11 attacks and bias against Muslims. He detected no trace of radicalism.

Even at his mosque, Major Hasan formed no lasting friendships. Debbie Shankman, a non-Muslim who volunteers there, recalled spending an hour with him trying to calm a distraught woman who had just immigrated from India and spoke no English.

“At the time he seemed intelligent, compassionate and willing to help,” Ms. Shankman said. “What I thought was odd is that he never spoke to me again.”

A New Life at Fort Hood

In July, Major Hasan was sent to Fort Hood, the largest Army post, bustling with the work of war and surrounded by the scruffy trappings of an Army town: pawnshops and payday loan outlets, beer joints and tattoo parlors.

In his first weeks, Major Hasan seemed to be making long-term plans. He applied for a job as a liaison to Muslim soldiers. He printed up the business cards with his Fort Hood address for his moonlighting job as a therapist, permitted by Army rules as long as his superiors approved.

He became a regular at a Killeen mosque, frequently expounding on his view that Muslim soldiers should not be required to fight in Muslim lands. He prayed five times a day, people who knew him said. At some point, he learned he would be sent to Afghanistan.

By September, Major Hasan had purchased a handgun and had begun to visit the strip club next to the gun shop. The club’s general manager, Matthew Jones, said he stayed for six or seven hours the handful of times he visited, paying for lap dances in a private room.

The day before the shootings, Major Hasan began giving away belongings, including food, clothing and furnishings. To one neighbor, Patricia Villa, he gave two sport coats and a business suit still in a dry cleaning bag. “You should sell these,” he suggested. The rest, he said, should be given to the Salvation Army.

On the morning of the shootings, he stopped by the home of another neighbor, Lenna Brown, as she was sharing coffee with a friend. He gave them both brand new copies of the Koran and suggested that they read the verses on Maryam, Muhammad’s rendering of the Virgin Mary story.

“I asked him where are you going, and he said Afghanistan,” Ms. Brown said. She asked him how he felt about that, and he paused before answering.
“I am going to do God’s work,” he replied.

Reporting was contributed by Benedict Carey and Erica Goode in New York, David Johnston and Janie Lorber in Washington, and Serge F. Kovaleski and James C. McKinley Jr. at Fort Hood.

Friday, November 13, 2009

More than FDR, LBJ... Obama's Record

President Obama has been so savaged by the pundits, one would get the impression that his presidency is in jeopardy. This discourse is no more than a caving in to the Republicans and the white nationalists for measures of the president's success. The real importance is that these are the very people who "want Obama to fail." Of course the real problem is that know his success exposes their failed ideology. Below Robert Watson corrects this gross distortion. RGN

The author is Professor Robert Watson of Lynn University who was once a writer for the New York Times.

Professor Watson writes:

Hi friends,

I am always being asked to grade Obama's presidency. In place of offering him a grade, I put together a list of his accomplishments thus far. I think you would agree that it is very impressive. His first six months have been even more active than FDRs or LBJs the two standards for such assessments.
Yet, there is little media attention given to much of what he has done. Of late, the media is focusing almost exclusively on Obama's critics, without holding them responsible for the uncivil, unconstructive tone of their disagreements or without holding the previous administration responsible for getting us in such a deep hole. The misinformation and venom that now passes for political reporting and civic debate is beyond description.

As such, there is a need to set the record straight. What most impresses me is the fact that Obama has accomplished so much not from a heavy-handed or top-down approach but from a style that has institutionalized efforts to reach across the aisle, encourage vigorous debate, and utilize town halls and panels of experts in the policy-making process.

Beyond the accomplishments, the process is good for democracy and our democratic processes have been battered and bruised in recent years.
Let me know if I missed anything in the list (surely I did).

1. Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut spending

2. Ordered a review of all federal operations to identify and cut wasteful spending and practices

3. Instituted enforcement for equal pay for women

4. Beginning the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq

5. Families of fallen soldiers have expenses covered to be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB

6. Ended media blackout on war casualties; reporting full information

7. Ended media blackout on covering the return of fallen soldiers to Dover AFB; the media is now permitted to do so pending adherence to respectful rules and approval of fallen soldier's family

8. The White House and federal government are respecting the Freedom of Information Act

9. Instructed all federal agencies to promote openness and transparency as much as possible

10. Limits on lobbyist's access to the White House

11. Limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration

12. Ended the previous stop-loss policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date

13. Phasing out the expensive F-22 war plane and other outdated weapons systems, which weren't even used or needed in Iraq/Afghanistan

14. Removed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research

15. Federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research

16. New federal funding for science and research labs

17. States are permitted to enact federal fuel efficiency standards above federal standards

18. Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants) after years of neglect

19. Funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access to K-12 schools

20. New funds for school construction

21. The prison at Guantanamo Bay is being phased out

22. US Auto industry rescue plan

23. Housing rescue plan

24. $789 billion economic stimulus plan

25. The public can meet with federal housing insurers to refinance (the new plan can be completed in one day) a mortgage if they are having trouble paying

26. US financial and banking rescue plan

27. The secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere are being closed

28. Ended the previous policy; the US now has a no torture policy and is in compliance with the Geneva Convention standards

29. Better body armor is now being provided to our troops

30. The missile defense program is being cut by $1.4 billion in 2010

31. Restarted the nuclear nonproliferation talks and building back up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols

32. Reengaged in the treaties/agreements to protect the Antarctic

33. Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions

34. Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office

35. Successful release of US captain held by Somali pirates; authorized the SEALS to do their job

36. US Navy increasing patrols off Somali coast

37. Attractive tax write-offs for those who buy hybrid automobiles

38. Cash for clunkers program offers vouchers to trade in fuel inefficient, polluting old cars for new cars; stimulated auto sales

39. Announced plans to purchase fuel efficient American-made fleet for the federal government

40. Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care for 4 million more children

41. Signed national service legislation; expanded national youth service program

42. Instituted a new policy on Cuba, allowing Cuban families to return home to visit loved ones

43. Ended the previous policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions

44. Expanding vaccination programs

45. Immediate and efficient response to the floods in North Dakota and other natural disasters

46. Closed offshore tax safe havens

47. Negotiated deal with Swiss banks to permit US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals

48. Ended the previous policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs; the new policy is to promote in-sourcing to bring jobs back

49. Ended the previous practice of protecting credit card companies; in place of it are new consumer protections from credit card industry's predatory practices

50. Energy producing plants must begin preparing to produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources

51. Lower drug costs for seniors

52. Ended the previous practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug manufacturers for cheaper drugs; the federal government is now realizing hundreds of millions in savings

53. Increasing pay and benefits for military personnel

54. Improved housing for military personnel

55. Initiating a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses

56. Improved conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital and other military hospitals

57. Increasing student loans

58. Increasing opportunities in AmeriCorps program

59. Sent envoys to Middle East and other parts of the world that had been neglected for years; reengaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy

60. Established a new cyber security office

61. Beginning the process of reforming and restructuring the military 20 years after the Cold War to a more modern fighting force; this includes new procurement policies, increasing size of military, new technology and cyber units and operations, etc.

62. Ended previous policy of awarding no-bid defense contracts

63. Ordered a review of hurricane and natural disaster preparedness

64. Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient

65. Students struggling to make college loan payments can have their loans refinanced

66. Improving benefits for veterans

67. Many more press conferences and town halls and much more media access than previous administration

68. Instituted a new focus on mortgage fraud

69. The FDA is now regulating tobacco

70. Ended previous policy of cutting the FDA and circumventing FDA rules

71. Ended previous practice of having White House aides rewrite scientific and environmental rules, regulations, and reports

72. Authorized discussions with North Korea and private mission by Pres. Bill Clinton to secure the release of two Americans held in prisons

73. Authorized discussions with Myanmar and mission by Sen. Jim Web to secure the release of an American held captive

74. Making more loans available to small businesses

75. Established independent commission to make recommendations on slowing the costs of Medicare

76. Appointment of first Latina to the Supreme Court

77. Authorized construction/opening of additional health centers to care for veterans

78. Limited salaries of senior White House aides; cut to $100,000

79. Renewed loan guarantees for Israel

80. Changed the failing/status quo military command in Afghanistan

81. Deployed additional troops to Afghanistan

82. New Afghan War policy that limits aerial bombing and prioritizes aid, development of infrastructure, diplomacy, and good government practices by Afghans

83. Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production

84. Returned money authorized for refurbishment of White House offices and private living quarters

85. Paid for redecoration of White House living quarters out of his own pocket

86. Held first Seder in White House

87. Attempting to reform the nation's healthcare system which is the most expensive in the world yet leaves almost 50 million without health insurance and millions more under insured

88. Has put the ball in play for comprehensive immigration reform

89. Has announced his intention to push for energy reform

90. Has announced his intention to push for education reform

Oh, and he built a swing set for the girls outside the Oval Office!

Robert P. Watson, Ph.D.Coordinator of American Studies
Lynn University

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fox Noise DISSED!!!

The White House is taking a strong stand on appearances on Fox News. It is amazing that authentic news organs are defending Fox News as if it was truly a news organ. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why should the administration have to itself defend the from lies and distortions committed to bringing down the presidency? The White House is right. The Tea-baggers were a creation of Fox. That's not news. That is agitation and propaganda. All of the information that Fox gets from the White House should be second hand. They are going to just make up what they want to say anyway. The research is clear, the more people watch Fox News the less they know. It was Fox that fanned the flames of racism is the Jeremiah Wright clips. On the weekend of Senator Kennedy's death Chris Wallace, that straight news anchor, equated the contribution of misanthrope Jesse Helms to Senator Kennedy!!! Let them rot in HELL. RGN

Democratic consultant says he got a warning from White House after appearing on Fox News

'We better not see you on again,' the strategist says he was told by a White House official. The White House communications director denies that officials urge such a boycott.

By Peter Nicholas
November 8, 2009
Reporting from Washington

At least one Democratic political strategist has gotten a blunt warning from the White House to never appear on Fox News Channel, an outlet that presidential aides have depicted as not so much a news-gathering operation as a political opponent bent on damaging the Obama administration.

The Democratic strategist said that shortly after an appearance on Fox, he got a phone call from a White House official telling him not to be a guest on the show again. The call had an intimidating tone, he said.

The message was, "We better not see you on again," said the strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to run afoul of the White House. An implicit suggestion, he said, was that "clients might stop using you if you continue."

White House Communications Director Anita Dunn said that she had checked with colleagues who "deal with TV issues" and that they had not told people to avoid Fox. On the contrary, they had urged people to appear on the network, Dunn wrote in an e-mail.

But Patrick Caddell, a Fox News contributor and former pollster for President Carter, said he had spoken to Democratic consultants who said they were told by the White House to avoid appearances on Fox. He declined to give their names.

Caddell said he had not gotten that message himself from the White House.

He added: "I have heard that they've done that to others in not too subtle ways. I find it appalling. When the White House gets in the business of suppressing dissent and comment, particularly from its own party, it hurts itself."

Some observers say White House officials might be urging consultants to spurn Fox to isolate the network and make it appear more partisan. A boycott by Democratic strategists could help drive the White House narrative that Fox is a fundamentally different creature than the other TV news networks.

White House officials appear on Fox News, but sporadically and with their "eyes wide open," as one aide put it.

David Axelrod, senior advisor to the president, appeared on Fox News Channel last week to talk about the results of Tuesday's off-year elections. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also appeared on the network last week.

Still, the White House has on occasion avoided or taken an adversarial position toward Fox. When President Obama appeared on five talk shows one Sunday in September, he avoided Fox.

Last month, Dunn told CNN that Fox has acted, in effect, as an "arm" of the Republican Party. "Let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is," she said.

As the dust-up played out, Fox's senior vice president of news, Michael Clemente, countered: "Surprisingly, the White House continues to declare war on a news organization instead of focusing on the critical issues that Americans are concerned about like jobs, healthcare and two wars."

Fox's commentators have been sharply critical of the Obama administration.

After the president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Sean Hannity, who has a prime-time show on Fox, said he got the award for "trashing America."

Fox's audience is by far the largest of the cable networks, with an average of more than 2.1 million viewers in prime time this year, according to the Nielsen Co. CNN is second, with 932,000 prime-time viewers.

The White House's critical stance toward the network leaves some Democrats troubled.

Don Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, said in an interview: "This approach is out of sync with my conception of what the Obama administration stands for and what they're trying to do.

"I think they'll think better of it and this will be a passing phase."
Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

Joe Lieberman: Being True to Himself

Joe Lieberman has been a problem since he was first elected to the Senate in 1988. He defeated Lowell Weicker, a Republican, who was hated by the right wing because he stood up against Reagan and his war mongering. In Weicker's place the Democrats got a right winger in the person of Joe Lieberman. His conservatism was borne out by his support of Republican John McCain not Democrat Barack Obama for the presidency in 2008. Lieberman, after having been defeated by the Democrats in 2008 primary, was elected as an Independent and he behaves in that manner. After stating that he will filibuster the health care reform, he is now escalating the tragedy at Ft. Hood from a personal act of inexplicable violence to be an act of political terrorism, or as he states Islamic extremism. To make the sad case of Hasan into an act of al-Qeada is disgraceful. Has this man not embarrassed to Democrats enough His own Zionism clouds his judgement at every turn. His religion stands between him and a sense of democracy. It is time he was stripped of his rank in the Democratic caucus. RGN.

Authorities scrutinize links between Fort Hood suspect, imam said to back al-Qaeda

By Spencer S. Hsu and Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 9, 2009

Federal investigators are examining possible links between Fort Hood shooting suspect Maj. Nidal M. Hasan and an American-born imam who U.S. authorities say has become a supporter and leading promoter of al-Qaeda since leaving a Northern Virginia mosque, officials said.

Hasan attended the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church in 2001, when its spiritual leader was Anwar al-Aulaqi, a figure who crossed paths with al-Qaeda associates, including two Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers, one senior U.S. official said.

Since Aulaqi left in 2002 and settled in Yemen, his lectures promoting the strategies of an al-Qaeda military leader have shown up in computer files of suspects in terrorism cases in the United States, Canada and Britain, officials said. It is not clear whether Hasan knew the preacher well then or only later through his lectures on the Internet.

A federal law enforcement official said Sunday that investigators' operating theory remains that Hasan acted alone and without provocation or exhortation from an overseas person. However, new leads are being pursued based on information gleaned from a methodical review by investigators of Hasan's computer and his multiple e-mail accounts. Those include visits to Web sites espousing radical Islamist ideas, another senior official said.

A challenge for investigators is sorting out a potential thicket of psychological, ideological or religious motivations behind Hasan's alleged actions. Hasan's possible contact with extremists such as Aulaqi would complicate matters, suggesting that U.S. authorities may have missed chances to prevent the cleric from instigating this incident and others. But if it turns out that Hasan acted in the throes of an emotional breakdown, his questionable ties could be misinterpreted in ways that damage U.S. outreach to the Muslim world or provoke an overreaction that divides Americans.

"There's a massive effort here to look at the Web sites he visited," the law enforcement official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing probe. "That's part of what's ongoing: what you learn from it, then you've got to figure out what it means." He added: "The important thing is, the jury's still out on motivation."

A former senior U.S. counterterrorism official said that "connections to Aulaqi would be problematic on many levels," calling him "a radicalizer of the first order" with many al-Qaeda ties.

"That said, many people attended that mosque who are not terrorist suspects," the official said. "The question will be whether the shooter kept in contact with Aulaqi and sought spiritual guidance from him. If that is the case, then this changes the complexion of this case a bit."

Shaker Elsayed, the senior imam at Dar al-Hijrah -- a long-established mosque whose thousands of worshipers form one of the largest traditional Muslim congregations on the East Coast -- said Hasan had prayed there since 2008 and sought his help to find a wife. But he could not verify whether Hasan ever met Aulaqi.

However, supporters of the mosque, who have spoken often with law enforcement authorities and reporters, note that Aulaqi spent only a year there, publicly condemned the Sept. 11 attacks and was not known to give radical speeches at the time. "If anybody knows about Aulaqi, it should be the FBI, and I applaud them" for their efforts, Elsayed said.

On Sunday, Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey Jr. cautioned troops against jumping to conclusions about what might have motivated Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, to allegedly shoot and kill 13 people and wound 38 Thursday at the nation's largest Army post.

"I'm concerned that this increased speculation could cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers. And I've asked our Army leaders to be on the lookout for that," Casey told CNN's "State of the Union."

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he planned an investigation to determine whether the shootings constituted a terrorist attack and whether the Army missed warning signs about Hasan's ideological views. The House Armed Services and intelligence committees are also likely to investigate, an official said.

Investigators, intelligence analysts and forensic psychologists remain particularly keen on conducting their own psychological assessment of Hasan. A key to understanding his possible motive will be piecing together accounts from co-workers and neighbors, as well as his own writings, to determine the relationship between his emotional state and any attraction to more militant ideologies, even those justifying suicide attacks, officials said.

Hasan, 39, the unmarried child of Palestinian immigrants who was born in Arlington, attended Dar al-Hijrah at the time of his mother's May 2001 death, an event that acquaintances said led to his increased religiosity. In recent years, he worshipped regularly at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, which is regarded as moderate.

People who know him have said that his alleged actions at Fort Hood may have been triggered by a number of factors, including the Sept. 11 attacks and the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, Hasan's counseling of returning veterans with psychiatric problems, reported anti-Muslim harassment from Army colleagues and his moral doubts about his upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

Aulaqi has been identified as a spiritual adviser of 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi; the 9/11 Commission Report and a subsequent congressional report noted that they met with Aulaqi at a mosque in San Diego in 2000 and after he moved to Dar al-Hijrah in 2001.

The FBI investigated Aulaqi nearly a decade ago, after he briefly served as vice president of the U.S. branch of a Yemeni charity that federal prosecutors later described as a front organization used to support al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The FBI learned that he also may have been contacted by a bin Laden "procurement agent," who served as fundraiser for a charity that the Treasury Department designated a bin Laden financier, and said that Aulaqi's group was its Yemeni partner.

The FBI also learned that Aulaqi was visited in early 2000 by a close associate of Omar Abdel Rahman, the man known as "the blind sheik" who was convicted in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. But the FBI reported that it did not have reason to prosecute or detain Aulaqi, who left the United States in 2002 and has lived in Yemen since 2004.

Yemeni authorities detained him in mid-2006 at the request of the U.S. government, then released him at the end of 2007. Since then, Britain has barred him from speaking there, and U.S. authorities have called him an al-Qaeda supporter who has worked with its networks in the Persian Gulf and plotted attacks against the United States and its allies.

Aulaqi "targets U.S. Muslims with radical online lectures encouraging terrorist attacks from his new home in Yemen," Charles Allen, then-chief intelligence officer for the Homeland Security Department, said in October 2008, calling him an "example of al-Qaeda reach into" the United States."

Aulaqi "speaks to North Americans better than anybody else" overseas, Allen added in an interview. Aulaqi's listeners include small extremist elements in the United States and Canada, including at least one Somali American youth from Minneapolis who joined al-Shabab, an extremist Islamist insurgent group that has pledged fealty to bin Laden.

Current and former lawmakers, including former Senate intelligence committee chairman Bob Graham, who led the congressional inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks, have accused the FBI of bungling investigations of Aulaqi before and after the strikes.

But investigators are being cautious and pragmatic. Hasan's contacts a decade ago at a mosque attended by thousands may not prove meaningful. Similarly, people may hear fiery rhetoric or extremist views from a pulpit or online but may not be motivated to act on it.

Still, terrorism experts say they expect future cases of conflicted individuals who become radicalized and take up violence. "I don't see any conspiracy, and I don't see at this stage any real tie to 9/11 per se," Allen said. However, he added, Hasan "seems to me to be very much a self-radicalized or inspired individual. . . . I feel this will be our problem over the next five years."

Staff writers Joby Warrick, Ben Pershing, Mary Beth Sheridan and Ann Scott Tyson contributed to this report.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company

Historic Vote Threatened by Church by Stand on Abortion!!!

The historic vote of the House on health care reform is being threatened by the Catholic Church's stand on abortion. The progressives in the House had to bite their tongues or hold their noses whichever to get the support of the anti-abortion forces within the House. The word is that the Catholic bishops more or less wrote the language to the anti-abortion amendment. Whatever happened to the separation of church and state? The Hyde amendment prohibiting any government funding of abortion, which has been the law of the land for decades, was not strong enough for these "right-to-lifers." Their action and purpose is to outlaw all abortions. They want the government to stand between the woman and her doctor. How hypocritical and how disgraceful? Surely this provision will not stand when health care reform becomes law. RGN

Abortion an obstacle to health-care bill: Some Democrats vow to block final passage if amendment stays

By Alec MacGillis
Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, November 9, 2009

President Obama and Senate Democrats sought on Sunday to generate momentum from the House's passage of health-care legislation, even as a new hurdle emerged: profound dismay among abortion-rights supporters over antiabortion provisions inserted into the House bill.

The House passed its version of health-care legislation Saturday night by a vote of 220 to 215 after the approval of an amendment that would sharply restrict the availability of coverage for abortions, which many insurance plans now offer. The amendment goes beyond long-standing prohibitions against public funding for abortions, limiting abortion coverage even for women paying for it without government subsidies.

The abortion issue had been rumbling within the House Democratic caucus for weeks, but Saturday's votes revealed the depths of the fault lines. The amendment passed with the support of 64 Democrats, roughly a quarter of the party caucus.
But abortion-rights supporters are vowing to strip the amendment out, as the focus turns to the Senate and the conference committee that would resolve differences between the two bills.

Although House liberals voted for the bill with the amendment to keep the process moving forward, Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.) said she has collected more than 40 signatures from House Democrats vowing to oppose any final bill that includes the amendment -- enough to block passage.

"There's going to be a firestorm here," DeGette said. "Women are going to realize that a Democratic-controlled House has passed legislation that would prohibit women paying for abortions with their own funds. . . . We're not going to let this into law."

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is waiting for cost estimates of provisions of the bill he is cobbling together, and he hopes to bring it to the Senate floor before Thanksgiving. The battle over abortion has been more muted in the Senate, but Jim Manley, Reid's spokesman, predicted that would change.
"The debate in the House highlighted some of these issues that we're going to have to face here in the Senate, and on this issue in particular, it's something [Reid] is going to have to talk with his caucus about," Manley said.

Obama left the abortion issue unmentioned Sunday when he appeared in the White House Rose Garden to give brief remarks congratulating the House on its "courageous" passage of the bill. "Now it falls on the United States Senate to take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people," he said. "And I'm absolutely confident that they will."

Other issues remain unresolved. The House bill's primary new revenue source to pay for the bill is an income tax surcharge on families earning more than $1 million; the Senate bill will probably rely on a proposed new excise tax on costly insurance plans. The House and Senate also differ on a government-run insurance plan to be offered on the new marketplace where small businesses and people without employer-provided coverage -- about 30 million in all -- would buy coverage.

The Senate version would limit this "public option" by allowing states to opt out of it, but even in that form, the bill's prospects are unclear. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), whose vote Democrats will probably need to break a filibuster, warned again Sunday on Fox News that he will withhold his support if the bill includes a public option.

The bills also differ in their requirements for employers to provide coverage -- the House's language is tougher -- and in the subsidies for those who cannot afford coverage, which are larger in the House version. Both bills deny subsidies to illegal immigrants, but the Senate version goes further by also barring them from buying coverage on the new marketplace with their own money.

On CBS's "Face the Nation," Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said the fact that more than 30 conservative House Democrats voted against the bill bodes poorly for it in the Senate, where conservative Democrats have more power. "The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate," he said. "It was a bill written by liberals for liberals."
The abortion debate in the House has centered on how to put the bill in compliance with the ban on taxpayer funding for abortions. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) proposed that a government-run plan and private plans offered in the new marketplace for people without employer-based coverage could offer abortion coverage but that payments for abortions would come out of premiums, not the government subsidies for those who need help buying coverage.

Antiabortion groups argued that such a segregation of funds would be a mere accounting gimmick. After a compromise foundered, the amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) emerged as the leading alternative, with the strong backing of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The amendment would prohibit abortion coverage in the government-run plan and any private plan on the new marketplace that accepts people who are using government subsidies to buy coverage.

Under that language, abortion coverage would be unavailable not only to working-class women buying coverage with government subsidies, but probably also to women buying coverage on the new marketplace without federal assistance. The amendment suggests that women could buy separate "riders" covering abortions, but abortion-rights supporters say it is offensive to require a separate purchase for coverage of a medical procedure that for most women is unexpected.

Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life Action, hailed the wide margin for the amendment. "I said all along that the inclusion of abortion as health care was going to be a political conflagration," she said.

But Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL-Pro Choice America, said that although the vote was "extremely disappointing and outrageous," the "fight isn't over." DeGette said she remains hopeful that the amendment will be dropped as more Democrats who voted for it -- and their constituents -- realize it goes beyond the status quo of limiting federal funding for abortions. Some of those House Democrats are not against abortion rights, just against federal funding, and she surmised that they may have misunderstood the amendment.

She said her House allies have requested a meeting with Obama, saying they "need him to back us up" after lying low on the issue.

"This would be the greatest restriction on a woman's right to get an abortion with her own money in our lifetime," she said. "The stakes could not be higher."

2009 The Washington Post Company

Monday, November 2, 2009

FDR Economic Bill of Rights

What we should be fighting for. RGN

Franklin D. Roosevelt
“The Economic Bill of Rights”
Excerpt from 11 January 1944 message to Congress on the State of the Union


It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.


source: The Public Papers & Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt (Samuel Rosenman, ed.), Vol XIII (NY: Harper, 1950), 40-42