Monthly Archives: September 2012

Muslim Rage, American Anxiety

Muslim Rage

You’ve seen the Newsweek cover, and laughed at the mocking twitter and gawker responses. But admit it. You’ve not actually read the article.

In lieu of reporting – the kind done by actual journalists – Newsweek opted for a personal essay to explicate the photo on last week’s Muslim Rage cover. Ayaan Hirsi Ali took the job. It was a rush job, and it showed.

Hirsi Ali’s is a short piece, starting with this premise:

The Muslim men and women (and yes, there are plenty of women) who support—whether actively or passively—the idea that blasphemers deserve to suffer punishment are not a fringe group. On the contrary, they represent the mainstream of contemporary Islam….In the age of globalization and mass immigration, such intolerance has crossed borders and become the defining characteristic of Islam.

And here is her sneering criticism of “the Western response”:

And the defining characteristic of the Western response? As Rushdie’s memoir makes clear, it is the utterly incoherent tendency to simultaneously defend free speech—and to condemn its results.

Hirsi Ali then spends most of the remaining space writing about her own experiences, and Salmon Rushdie’s life under fatwa. As a Somali born Dutch politician and writer, Hirsi Ali has lived under a death threat since 2004 for writing Submission, a short 2004 film that dramatized misogynistic interpretations of the Koran.  The director Theo van Gogh was publicly murdered in a knife attack, the assailant using the knife to affix a note to his body calling for the death of Hirsi Ali.

Let’s put aside for a moment any snarkiness about Hirsi Ali that might arise from the fact that she is now a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a darling of the hard right.  Whatever her current political affiliation (the Economist has taken note of Ali’s “talent for reinvention”), a note calling for your death knifed into the body of your colleague is scary as f*ck.

Knowing this about Hirsi Ali gives some much needed context, if not to Newsweek’s ridiculous “Muslim Rage” headline, at least to its subheading: “How I survived it. How we can end it.”

How to end it

So Hirsi Ali has something to say about the first person How-I-survived-it bit. What about the How-we-can-end-it part? Here, she runs into some trouble. A few years ago, in an interview in Reason magazine, Hirsi Ali’s solution was…total war.  The interviewer asked whether Islam can bring about positive social changes.  Hirsi Ali answered “Only if Islam is defeated.” The interviewer, trying to give her a way out, gently nudged her: “Don’t you mean radical Islam?” Hirsi Ali’s response is astounding in its candor. In her own words:

Continue reading

News Roundup: privacy is dead; the international drug war is on; pictures of your cat can save the day

If you didn’t have time to read the Office of Inspector General’s 500+ page report on Fast and Furious, here’s the summary: Attorney General Eric Holder told the truth, and did not personally know about the screw-ups until they were reported by the media. At fault were officials at ATF headquarters and the Phoenix field division.  And number six of the OIG’s six otherwise bland recommendations (review policies, create guidelines, etc.) was this: require high-level officials responsible for authorizing wiretap applications to actually read the applications they’re submitting. Ya think?

When GPS Tracking Violates Privacy Rights is the NYTimes opining the Sixth Circuit got it wrong when it held in U.S. v. Skinner that there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy in the data given off by his voluntarily procured pay-as-you-go cellphone.” But it’s no big deal, says Steven Rambam, who thinks it’s far too late to try and use privacy law to draw limits on government conduct. Rambam is a security who claims Everyone Who Attended OWS with a Cell Phone Had Their Identity Logged.  Truth or speculation?  Here’s Rambam’s Privacy is Dead – Get Over It presentation from last month. Judge for yourself.

The White House released its annual list of countries to put on its drug policy blacklist.  In a memo to Secretary of State Clinton, Obama huffs: “I hereby identify the following countries as major drug transit or major illicit drug producing countries: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.” Oh goodness, he forgot the United States. Bolivian President Evo Morales said as much, as reports in Bolivia, Venezuela Reject US Drug Criticism.  A few days before Obama issued his memo, the Caravan for Peace had ended their 25 city journey in Washington DC, where over 100 Survivors of Mexico’s Drug Violence Tell US Government ‘We Need a New Approach.’

The buttoned up Foreign Policy magazine wonders this week, Continue reading

What do we call this new era of policing?

A month before 9/11, William Bratton took to the New York Times to bemoan the Cloudy Future for Policing. The LAPD (and before that, the NYPD) Chief of Police was, at that moment, the champion of community policing, combining CompStat’s ability to track crime statistics with broken windows theory to justify large numbers of arrests for “quality of life” and petty drug offenses. The intent was to let communities know the police were invested in them.

Yet, wrote Bratton, “many of the nation’s police forces face intense scrutiny and criticism for corruption, racial profiling, racial insensitivity, brutality, unresponsiveness to community concerns and professional incompetence.” Bratton warned that this kind of negative talk made it hard to recruit good officers. Nevermind the corruption, racially profiling, brutality, or incompetence.

Then 9/11 happened, and the public relationships problems disappeared.

Though no one knew it at the time, 9/11 also signaled the beginning of the end of the era of community policing. A consensus formed that the attack could have been prevented, and the failure to do so had been a failure of intelligence. The solution was more information – get more and share more.

Even though recommendations for change post-9/11 were directed primarily at the intelligence community, operationalizing the solution required the participation of local police departments: the FBI has only 14,000 special agents, compared to the 700,000 sworn officers working for city, state, and other police agencies around the country. (The CIA insists on keeping mum about its total number of agents.) In the interest of national security, policing entered a new era. Continue reading

Monday News Roundup: checkpoints today at OWS, Hedges, and the border-industrial complex

Today is the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street today and PrivacySOS reports the NYPD will Set Up Checkpoints Around OWS Anniversary Events.  As you’re waiting in line to show an ID before being allowed to speak freely, peaceably assemble, and/or petition the Government for a redress of grievances, read Occupy Your Victories, where Rebecca Solnit takes the long (and hopeful) view.

If you get clear the checkpoint but get arrested, don’t count on Twitter to be on your side when the gub’ment goes looking for any incriminating tweets.  Twitter lost its white hat status last week when it gave up its fight against a subpoena: Twitter Gives Occupy Protester’s Tweets to U.S. Judge.

More in protest news, database integration came to life for James Ian Tyson when the Charlotte, NC man was slapped with a $10,000 cash only bond after being stopped for driving without a license during the DNC convention. Turns out, his name is on a terrorist watch list.  Papers, Please’s Secret “Watchlist” Used as Basis for Preventive Detention includes links to police and news reports.  Meanwhile, at the other convention, Police Outnumber Convention Protesters by 4-1 in Tampa.

Can the government hold you in indefinite detention for “substantially” or “directly” providing “support” to forces such as al-Qaida or the Taliban? Continue reading

From Downtown Atlanta, a room with a view (of the Future of Policing)

Two years ago, a group of planners devoted to “promoting walkable, mixed-use neighborhood development, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions” held their annual meeting in downtown Atlanta. This is a bit like a group of foodies discussing El Bulli while sharing a triple Whopper with cheese value meal.

The New Urbanists were quick with their jeers. James Howard Kuntsler was still speeding away in his taxi when he posted this photo essay The Horror of Downtown Atlanta. The author of The Geography of Nowhere knows a scary landscape when he sees one.

Of the (many) targets available to the (many) critics of downtown Atlanta, the favorite is the network of skywalks, which connect a total of 18 free-standing buildings across ten blocks: hi-rise luxury hotels, skyscrapers, a mall, and the massive AmericasMart complex.

Some of the skywalks from the outside:

The skywalks from the inside:

Continue reading

News Roundup: the tracker in your pocket, Vegas, and zombies

With school back in full swing, I wondered how many colleges are offering degrees in Homeland Security.  According to the Naval Postgraduate School, there are 354 programs in Colleges and Universities Offering Homeland Security Programs.   Of these, there are 88 bachelor’s degrees and 93 master’s degrees.

What will all these graduates holding homeland security degrees do? Maybe they will help secure the homeland by expanding the See Something, Say Something campaign to Wet Seal and Forever 21 stores near you, as Homeland Security Partners with Simon Owned Shopping Malls.  Or, they may find jobs reporting on people engaged in suspicious activities, like taking pictures in Los Angeles, now that Photographers in Los Angeles Considered Terrorists Under Official LAPD Policy.

Fantastic reporting in the New Yorker this week about The Throwaways, mostly young people coerced into going undercover as police informants.  If you’d rather listen than read, the journalist Sarah Stillman went on NPR to talk about the Use Of Confidential Informants Mostly Unregulated.  (Trust, the story is 10x more interesting than the NPR golf clap of a headline.)

So long as you’re listening to NPR, here is Why Your Cellphone Could Be Called A ‘Tracker’, with ProPublica’s investigative reporter Peter Maas.  ProPublica has been trying to get this story out for months, asking How Many Millions of Cellphones Are Police Watching? (more than the 1.3 million reported by the New York Times) and concluding That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker. Yikes.

When it comes to surveillance, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.  Continue reading

DNC Drinking Game, Safe for Alcoholics in Recovery


  1. Fill glass with your favorite adult beverage.
  2. During the President’s acceptance speech, drink every time he mentions any of the items on this list.

In the category of actions the President has direct, personal control over:

  • Kill list
  • Drone strikes

In the category of things where the final decision lies with the President:

  • Guantanamo Bay prison, military commissions, CIA renditions
  • Indefinite detention, National Defense Authorization Act of 2011
  • State Secrets Privilege

In the category of policies the President has control over as head of the executive branch:

  • Deportations, immigrant detention, Secure Communities
  • Domestic surveillance, electronic eavesdropping, warrantless wiretapping, sneak and peak, cellphone tracking, paid informants, entrapment, sting operations
  • Data sharing, biometrics, Suspicious Activity Reporting, NSA data center, Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System/IAFIS, Automated Biometric Identification System/IDENT, Combined DNA index System/CODIS, automated biometric identification system/ABIS, facial recognition
  • Whistleblowers, Espionage Act prosecutions, classified national security information
  • NSA, FBI, CIA, DHS, TSA, ICE, ATF, CBP, or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence

In the category of tragedies Continue reading