Saturday, August 14, 2010

American Taxpayer, Financial Jihadist

Thanks to our takeover of AIG, we now are involved in Islamic finance.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
http://www.nationalreview.com/
August 14, 2010 4:00 A.M.

It is “financial jihad,” explained Yusuf Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s sharia compass — and the man Feisal Rauf, the brains behind the proposed Ground Zero mosque, admires as “the most well-known legal authority in the whole Muslim world today.” It was 2002 and Qaradawi, who endorses suicide bombing and the targeting of American personnel operating in Islamic countries, was giving a lecture on the need to use the international financial system to support Islamist goals — like Hamas’s war to destroy Israel.

The financial jihad has now achieved its greatest coup so far: It has co-opted the U.S. government as a partner. In fact, if you would like to see a contributor to the jihad, have a look in the mirror. Thanks to the Obama administration, every one of us is complicit. The bailout bonanza made each of us an owner of American Insurance Group (AIG). Under the stewardship of its real CEO, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, AIG proudly runs the world’s most lavishly funded sharia-compliant insurance business — and it is desperately trying to convince a federal court in Michigan that no one should have a problem with that.[1]

Sharia-compliant finance (SCF) is now a thriving American industry. Sharia is Islam’s authoritarian legal framework. It aspires to control not merely spiritual life but all aspects of society, including economic matters. The purpose of SCF is to advance that mission in two important ways.

First, SCF legitimizes the incorporation of sharia into our legal system, despite the fact that many features of Islamic law are anti-constitutional.[2] That is, once sharia governance is accepted in principle, Islamists shrewdly figure the skids are greased for imposing sharia tenets on other aspects of our national life (e.g., domestic relations, employment matters, criminal law, etc.). Second, because sharia is a discriminatory system, SCF promotes Islamist ideology and enriches Muslims at the expense of non-Muslims by controlling investments and “purging” interest.

Companies that practice SCF, including AIG, retain advisory boards of sharia experts. These boards, which often include Islamist ideologues, tell the companies which investments are permissible (halal) and which are not (haram). AIG’s “Shariah Supervisory Committee” includes a Pakistani named Imran Ashraf Usmani, who is the son and student of Taqi Usmani, a top cleric (a “mufti”) and a globally renowned sharia-finance authority. The mufti is author of a book that features a chapter urging Muslims in the West to engage in jihad against the countries in which they live.

In the insurance business, those who purchase policies pay premiums, which insurers like AIG then invest. To be sharia-compliant, investments must not be made in enterprises Islam forbids, e.g., finance (because it makes money off interest, which sharia prohibits), pork, gambling, alcohol, etc. Sounds harmless enough . . . except forbidden enterprises would also include businesses that support or otherwise work with the U.S. armed forces. Islamists consider our military to be an “infidel force” that is “at war with Islam.”

Because sharia bars interest (although it permits “profits” that Islamic authorities, in their infinite wisdom, deem reasonable), SCF requires that investments be constantly monitored and that any interest payments be purged. This is done by skimming off a percentage that is then channeled — at the direction of the advisory board — to an Islamic “charity.” Of course, as no one knows better than the Treasury Department, many such charities are merely fronts for the financing of terrorist organizations. This is not an accident. When Sheikh Qaradawi speaks of “financial jihad” as an Islamic obligation, he’s not kidding: In Islamist ideology, funding those who “fight in Allah’s cause” — e.g., Hamas — is one of the eight categories of permissible zakat, the Muslim obligation of almsgiving.

So, an American company that practices SCF is, wittingly or not, advancing the jihadist agenda: It will deny financing to enterprises that help our military combat terrorists while running the risk that its sharia advisers will steer funding to those same terrorists. That aside, the portrayal by President Obama and others of zakat as “charitable giving” is a misconception.[3] According to the most influential Islamic authorities, zakat can be given only to Muslims. It is not an extension of one’s hand to the world’s most needy; it is an insular duty to fortify the ummah, the notional Islamic nation. Consequently, the purging of interest is nothing more than a redistribution of wealth from non-Muslims to Muslims.

Like many bad ideas, SCF was vigorously promoted by the academy, particularly Harvard under then-president Lawrence Summers (former Clinton Treasury secretary and now National Economic Council director) and law-school dean Elena Kagan (Obama’s recently confirmed nominee to the Supreme Court). The Harvard scholars behind SCF were Samuel Hayes of the business school and Frank Vogel, director of the law school’s “Islamic legal studies” program. In 1998, Vogel and Hayes co-authored the seminal SCF textbook, Islamic Law and Finance: Religion, Risk, and Return.

The book relates that “the structure of Islamic finance is firmly rooted in the Qur’an and the teachings of Muhammad.” SCF, unabashedly, is the promotion of Islam. Its “central tenets” lie in “the religious law of Islam concerning commercial dealings.” Its advisory boards are there “to review all proposed transactions for conformity with religious law.” Indeed, the authors concede, “the raison d’etre for the practice of Islamic finance is undeniably religious.”

Moreover, given that Islam is not merely a religion but a comprehensive social system that rejects the separation of the spiritual realm from secular matters, SCF is necessarily a political mission. Hayes and Vogel state without apology that “the surge in Islamic banking and finance is part of the much larger phenomenon of Islamic reassertion.” SCF is “an assertion of religious law in the area of commercial life, where secularism rules almost unquestioned throughout the rest of the world.” It quite intentionally challenges both “the presumption that modern commercial mores are per se more efficient or otherwise superior” and “the secular separation of commerce from consideration of religion and piety.”

That is a big problem for AIG under Uncle Sam’s management. The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause has been construed to bar government action (including government underwriting of action) that is “pervasively sectarian.” Under our jurisprudence, the state is forbidden to act if its “secular purposes” are “inextricably intertwined” with a “religious mission,” as the Supreme Court put it in Bowen v. Kendrick (1988). SCF is Islamic proselytism, and our law prohibits the “active involvement of the sovereign in religious activity” — so said the high court in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971).

The Thomas More Law Center has filed a lawsuit against Secretary Geithner and the Treasury Department, seeking to shut down AIG’s SCF business while that business is owned by the taxpayers. In response, the Obama administration has hilariously denied that SCF is really an “Islamic religious activity.” Someone will need to break that news to Professor Hayes, the guy who wrote that “the raison d’etre for the practice of Islamic finance is undeniably religious.” When the Treasury Department co-hosted a Harvard SCF seminar less than two years ago, it chose none other than Hayes to preside.

Treasury also counters that the public money used for AIG’s SCF programs is trivial. That is specious. Geithner has committed $70 billion of our money to AIG. Of this amount, the lawsuit has demonstrated that nearly $1 billion was poured directly into AIG’s SCF businesses, and billions more are available for diversion. How much public money is actually promoting sharia finance may be impossible to say with certainty. AIG jointly operates many of its branch offices, using consolidated accounting and non-segregated bank accounts. Neither the government nor AIG has ever issued any regulations or created any firewalls to prevent American taxpayer money from underwriting SCF activities.

The Obama administration could have suspended AIG’s promotion of sharia finance in order to protect constitutional norms. But, of course, if it were interested in constitutional norms, it would neither be running private companies nor embracing Islamists and their law. So congratulations: You get to fund the jihad, while the jihad gets to target you.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.


Links:

[1] http://www.sonorannews.com/archives/2009/090617/webonlynews.html

[2] http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/243423/elena-kagans-dont-ask-dont-tell-sharia-policy-andrew-c-mccarthy

[3] http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/227673/material-support-ropes/andrew-c-mccarthy

Terror Ties: Ground Zero Imam Attended Hizb-ut Tahrir Conference

The Marxist-Leninist/Islamist terror group has been banned in Germany, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Saudi Arabia.

By Madeline Brooks
http://pajamasmedia.com/
August 13, 2010

In an earlier piece for Pajamas Media, I wrote about how the imam behind the Ground Zero mosque never said “no” to Malaysian jihadists who advocated suicide bombing in Israel and America.[1]

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf seems to have an irresistible attraction to extremists and terrorists, in spite of frequent declarations that he is a peacemaker and a “bridge builder.” He has stated that the Islamic community center and grand mosque he wants to build would be “about promoting integration, tolerance of difference, and community cohesion through arts and culture.”

So what was he doing at a 2007 conference in Indonesia of an international terrorist group seeking a global caliphate?

Hizb-ut Tahrir al Islami (Islamic Party of Liberation) has been banned in many countries — Germany, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Saudi Arabia — but not in the United States or Britain. This is a dangerous group. It is alleged to have attempted coups in Jordan, Syria and Egypt, which were defeated, fortunately. As we see in these photos [2], Rauf looks quite relaxed and happy at the Hizb-ut Tahrir conference, as do the other participants with him. In fact, there is a feeling of celebration in these photos. The language in the text accompanying the photos is Malay. Although the conference was held in Indonesia, there were many Malaysians attending, including Rauf, who has lived for a great part of his life in Malaysia. An English language website promoting the caliphate states that 100,000 people attended the conference.

Hizb-ut Tahrir is similar ideologically to the Muslim Brotherhood. Both seek worldwide Islamic supremacy and the imposition of Islamic law to replace the Constitution and democracy. But Hizb-ut Tahrir differs by also espousing Marxist-Leninist methodology, and is entirely open about its ambition to dominate the world, unlike the more discreet Muslim Brotherhood.

On two occasions, Hizb-ut Tahrir in America called for terrorism recruitment conferences in Chicago to establish their long-awaited caliphate, which would knock down capitalism, democracy, and equal rights for non-Muslims and women, and institute a Muslim-run society under sharia law. One conference, called “The Fall of Capitalism and the Rise of Islam” and scheduled for July 2009 in Chicago, actually did occur. But a follow-up conference slated for July 2010 at the Chicago Marriott in Oak Brook, titled “Emerging World Order: How the Khilafah Will Shape the World,” was canceled by the hotel.

What would living in this “Khilafah” be like for non-Muslims? According to Hizb-ut Tahrir’s position papers [3], we would not be able to serve in any ruling office, nor even be able to vote for any elected official. The rights of non-Muslims would be restricted to voicing “complaints in respect to unjust acts performed by the rulers or the misapplication of Islam upon them.” In other words, complete disenfranchisement and disempowerment. Not too surprisingly, apostates from Islam would be executed and women would have to be fully swathed in concealing clothing. Even Muslim women would be denied the right to shape policy by holding public office.

What would life be like for Jews living in the caliphate? Well, there probably wouldn’t be many left after a while — Hizb-ut Tahrir’s anti-Semitism is predictably strong. Ata Abu-Rishta, the international head of Hizb-ut Tahrir, is said to have “whipped the 100,000-strong crowd” at the August 2007 annual conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, “into a frenzy … by calling for a war on Jews.” Rishta has also declared that it is “permissible” to kill Jews in Israel, and by extension, everywhere: “There can be no peaceful relations with the Jews: this is prohibited by Islamic law.”

Hizb-ut Tahrir posted an article on its website in 2000 citing a well-known hadith calling for the wholesale murder of Jews: “The stones and trees will say: O Muslim, O Slave of Allah. Here is a Jew behind me so come and kill him.” In Germany in 2003, the group was barred from public speaking because it called for the killing of Jews.

If you are neither a woman nor a Jew, what might life be like for you? First of all, you might be confused by the discrepancy between Hizb-ut Tahrir’s public profession of non-violence and what the group actually intends. Hizb-ut Tahrir has produced such terrorists as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Musab Zarqawi. Plane hijackings and the mass killings of non-Muslims have been declared acceptable by them as means to achieve their ends. Hizb-ut Tahrir in Pakistan issued a leaflet in September 2008 urging Pakistan’s army to use nuclear weapons “to injure and bruise an already battered America to an extent to which she cannot afford to stomach right now.”

The literature of Hizb ut-Tahrir cites the Koran to validate using terrorism to spread Islam. They see Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Jama’ah Islamiyah as legitimate Islamic movements, not as terrorists. This may explain why Rauf refused to denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization on Aaron Klein’s radio show on June 20, 2010. Perhaps Rauf does indeed share Hizb-ut Tahrir’s belief that the primary struggle of a Muslim is to spread Islam and defeat the West.

Let’s turn to an American imam, Siraj Wahhaj, with whom Rauf is associated. Born into a religious Baptist family, Wahhaj disavowed Christianity and joined the Nation of Islam in 1969, preaching that “white people are devils.” Wahhaj spoke approvingly of Hizb-ut Tahrir’s use of violent jihad as the way to establish worldwide domination by Islam. After he attended a Hizb-ut Tahrir conference in London, he said that Hizb-ut Tahrir “is right in their pushing for the Khilafah,” and he raised no objection to their methods.

Wahhaj’s approval of the Hizb-ut Tahrir London conference is of a piece with his 1992 address to an audience of Muslims in New Jersey, in which he said he would like to see Muslims take control of the United States and replace its constitutional government with an Islamic caliphate. He was named as a possible co-conspirator to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in 1995 by U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White.

Wahhaj has been the vice president of the Islamic Society of North America since 1997. The Islamic Society of North America funds Hamas to the tune of many millions of dollars, which earned it a designation as an unindicted co-conspirator. And Hamas is committed by its charter to destroying Israel.

It was the Islamic Society of North America (along with the International Institute of Islamic Thought) that produced a “special, non-commercial edition” of Rauf’s book, with Rauf’s cooperation, as Andrew McCarthy shows us with a photo from the book’s frontispiece.[4]

Rauf’s book has two different titles, one for non-Muslims and one for Muslims. In English, it is called What’s Right With Islam: A New Vision For Muslims and the West.

But in Muslim-ruled Malaysia — a country whose language Rauf knows well since he has spent a great deal of time there — the book was published as A Call To Prayer From the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11.

The word “rubble” stands out. It means wreckage reduced to rubbish. Trash. Garbage.

An Islamic call to prayer is made by a muezein, the Muslim who ritually calls the faithful to prayer. The muezein issues his call from a tall minaret, high above the rest of the world. Now we get an image of Rauf in the position of a muezein standing tall in his fifteen-story mosque looking down at the rubble of the World Trade Center, the buildings reduced to rubbish by his own religious group (although he has denied that Muslims perpetrated the 9/11 attacks).[5] The image is of conquest — Islam over the West. If Rauf is indeed a “bridge builder,” as he calls himself, we must question where the bridge is going. Is it towards Islamic dominance over non-Muslims?

Rauf has been criticized as insensitive for positioning his project so close to Ground Zero, and for that reason, Governor Patterson recently offered to help him relocate his proposed mosque and community center.[6]

However, even if Rauf accepts the offer and moves his mega-mosque elsewhere, the matter is still not closed. Given the extensiveness of Rauf’s ties to violent and seditious elements, it might be prudent for officials to begin an investigation into the activities of Imam Rauf himself.

Madeline Brooks is a New York City resident and counter-jihad activist and writer.

Links:

[1] http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/imam-behind-ground-zero-mosque-silent-about-malaysian-governments-pro-jihad-statements/

[2] http://hizbut-tahrir.or.id/2007/12/27/imam-masjid-al-farah-new-york-city-konstitusi-as-sesuai-syari%E2%80%99ah/

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hizb_ut-Tahrir

[4] http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/243536/raufs-dawa-world-trade-center-rubble-andrew-c-mccarthy

[5] http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/05/why_the_ground_zero_mosque_mus_1.html

[6] http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/gov_offers_land_for_mosque_if_it_YKrG1nuNaSdMbNuoZ7IabM

Friday, August 13, 2010

Obama’s Ramadan Delusions

Posted By Robert Spencer
http://www.frontpagemag.com
August 13, 2010 @ 12:12 am


This year’s Ramadan message from Barack Obama is the latest in a long line of warmly complimentary communications that he has addressed to the Islamic world over the last eighteen months. Reciprocally warm and friendly greetings have yet to arrive from those to whom Obama has addressed these messages, but the President appears undaunted. Eighteen months into his presidency, he seems to be clinging more determinedly than ever to the idea that soft words about Islam will turn away the jihad – despite the total lack of confirming evidence.

Just as he did in his June 2009 address to the Islamic world in Cairo, where he used the greeting by which one Muslim is to greet another, as-salaamu aleikum (peace be upon you), Obama in his Ramadan message adopted Islamic terminology. “Ramadan Kareem,” he said near the beginning of the message, and ended it with “may God’s peace be upon you.” Clearly he is doing his best to give the impression that he comes in friendship. And he doesn’t stop there.

Again characteristically, Obama then retails a few platitudes lifted straight out of a ninth-grade World Religions textbook: “Ramadan is a time when Muslims around the world reflect upon the wisdom and guidance that comes with faith, and the responsibility that human beings have to one another, and to God. This is a time when families gather, friends host iftars, and meals are shared. But Ramadan is also a time of intense devotion and reflection – a time when Muslims fast during the day and pray during the night; when Muslims provide support to others to advance opportunity and prosperity for people everywhere.”

One may legitimately wonder how past Ramadans have resulted in any advancement of “opportunity and prosperity for people everywhere.” In reality, it contravenes Islamic law to give zakat, the almsgiving that is one of the pillars of Islam and is required of every Muslim, to non-Muslims. That’s why it is easy to find Western governmental agencies and Christian charitable organizations busy building and staffing schools and hospitals in impoverished parts of Africa and Asia, but oil-rich Muslim countries have never undertaken similar endeavors. With the sharp divide in Islam between believers and unbelievers, such that Muslims are commanded to be “merciful to one another, but ruthless to the unbelievers” (Qur’an 48:29), there simply is no basis in Islamic law for the idea that Islam fosters the advance of “opportunity and prosperity for people everywhere.”

Heedless, however, of the inaccuracy of his words, Obama charged ahead and compounded it. Ramadan’s rituals of fasting and prayer, he said, “remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.”

Here again, one wonders how the designation of non-Muslims as “the most vile of created beings” (Qur’an 98:6) advances human dignity, much less tolerance or justice. The command that Muslims must fight against Jews and Christians until they pay a religion-based poll tax, jizya, “with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” (Qur’an 9:29) likewise seems to militate against the idea of universal human dignity that Obama professes to have discovered in Islam.

Yet still his flights of fancy weren’t over. “Ramadan,” he claimed, “is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality.” Diversity? While it is undoubtedly true that people of all races and nations have embraced Islam, when they do so, they at least partially Arabize. Islam is an Arabic religion; the Qur’an, as it tells us about itself repeatedly, is an “Arabic Qur’an.” Muslims must pray in Arabic, and recite the Qur’an in Arabic, whether they’re weathermen from Minnesota or fishermen from Indonesia. Conversion to Islam led a black American to change his name to Muhammad Ali, a name he undoubtedly shares with innumerable Arabs, Pakistanis, Afghans, and others. A recent meeting of Southeast Asian dignitaries showed participants with names indigenous to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the other countries in the region. Only the Indonesian participant had a name that had nothing to do with the indigenous culture of the country of his birth, and everything to do with Arabia. What’s more, throughout Islamic history Arabs have claimed for themselves a privileged position within the Islamic community, and have regarded non-Arab Muslims as second-class. Racial equality? Not by a long shot.

“And here in the United States,” Obama continued, “Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America and that American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country.” Islam has always been a part of America? Really? Maybe Robert Gibbs will be so kind as to provide us with a list of the Muslim Founding Fathers, the Muslim heroes of the American Revolution, the names of the Muslims killed fighting in the Civil War (for the North, no doubt – you know, “racial equality”!), the Muslim Senators and Congressmen who served with distinction in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – I’m sure the Obama Administration will have no trouble coming up with all that, will they? And I trust it will also contain a list of those “extraordinary contributions” that Muslims have made to our country. Aside from being the impetus for some extraordinary innovations in airport security, I can’t think of any.

Writing helps Rosanne Cash stay focused

BY DAVID MENCONI - News & Observer Staff writer
http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/
August 13, 2010

It's fitting that Rosanne Cash's new memoir is titled "Composed." Cash is a superlative composer, whether she's writing songs or prose. But the more salient point is that, whatever the subject or medium, she exudes a sense of composed dignity.

Getting there wasn't easy. Growing up with Johnny Cash for a father would be a challenge for anybody, especially someone who followed him into music. But she has managed both quite well, earning hit records as well as accolades despite plenty of heartache and health problems.

Through it all, that composure has served Cash well and enabled her to keep focused on moving ahead. "A road is a lonely bodyguard," she writes in "Composed," a metaphor she first came up with as a young girl. It's one she frequently turns to in conversation.

"E.L. Doctorow said it very succinctly," Cash said in a recent phone call from her home in New York in advance of her reading tonight in Raleigh. "Writing is like driving at night in that you can only see as far as the headlights, but that can get you all the way home.

"You're not sure where you're going, and I was surprised at where this book took me. Delighted and sometimes shocked, too. You have to put yourself in the zone, that space where you're sitting before the paper. Just trust it and go there."

Q: Will you sing at your reading in Raleigh?

No, I don't think so. They're absolutely different things, which my manager and I talk about all the time. Putting this book tour together, I keep getting people asking, "Why not just get up and sing, too?" As if it's no big deal. But you wouldn't just ask an actor to do a couple of soliloquies from "Hamlet." It requires preparation, work, a level of artistry. It's not just something you can walk in and out of.

Q: So what do you do to prepare before a concert?

I'm not gonna tell you that! That's my secret thing. But there's some breathing exercises, warming up the voice, getting myself together and in the right frame of mind. It's a lot of energy to try to process and get ready for. Your nervous system definitely takes a jolt onstage.

Q: Your 2006 album "Black Cadillac" closes with a track called "0:71," which is 71 seconds of silence. Is that a tribute to your parents, who both died in 2003?

Yes. They both died at age 71, so it's one second for each year. A lot of people thought that whole record was a tribute, but it's not that at all. That is actually the only tribute track on it. It's like a little prayer or send-off, a meditation on respect. It only seems like a tribute because they were famous and people know the back story. If you didn't know that, you'd think it was about a woman traversing a map of her experiences of grief, mourning, anger, liberation, loss and death. But it's not specifically about them, no.

Q: When you're writing songs, do you tend to sit with a piece of paper? Or do they emerge when you're playing an instrument?

There are a lot of times where songs start by themselves when I'm nowhere near an instrument. Many times, I've written the lyrics to an entire song before any of the melody comes. And sometimes it happens when I'm playing around on guitar or piano. If there was a simple formulaic way it happened, I'd just do that all the time. But there is no formula other than what Somerset Maugham said when asked if he wrote every day or just when inspiration struck. "I only write when inspiration strikes," he said. "Fortunately, it strikes at 9 a.m. every day." Meaning, that's when he sat down in his chair to write.

Q: What will your next album be?

I'm doing one with Joe Henry and Billy Bragg. We became close doing a show together in Germany, and there was great chemistry. We got on so well that we decided to make an album together. For my own next album, I'm basically covering myself - revisiting older songs where the production of the original recording is dated. There are some songs from [1981's] "Seven Year Ache" that I wrote at 24 and would like to reinvent at 55. I like the idea of a covers record of my own songs, so I'm gonna try that.

Q: How about your next book?

At some point, I'd like to do volume two of the memoir. I've lived 55 years and "Composed" is just a 240-page book, so I left a few things out. I'm also hoping a few other things will still happen. I don't know what form a second volume would take. I'd like to take M.F.K. Fisher as a template. She did volumes and volumes of books, writing about her life by writing about food. I'd like to write about my life by writing about songs. There are a lot I didn't cover in this one.

david.menconi@newsobserver.com, blogs.newsobserver.com/beat or 919-829-4759



Who: Rosanne Cash reading from "Composed"

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Jones Auditorium at Meredith College, 3800 Hillsborough St., Raleigh

Cost: $5, or free with purchase of "Composed" from Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh

Details: 828-1588 or quailridgebooks.com

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Netanyahu, the anti-Obama

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Thursday, August 12, 2010; A15
http://www.washingtonpost.com


JERUSALEM

Two photographs adorn the office of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (pictured at right). Together they illuminate a portentous fact: No two leaders of democracies are less alike -- in life experiences, temperaments and political philosophies -- than Netanyahu, the former commando and fierce nationalist, and Barack Obama, the former professor and post-nationalist.

One photograph is of Theodor Herzl, born 150 years ago. Dismayed by the eruption of anti-Semitism in France during the Dreyfus Affair at the end of the 19th century, Herzl became Zionism's founding father. Long before the Holocaust, he concluded that Jews could find safety only in a national homeland.

The other photograph is of Winston Churchill, who considered himself "one of the authors" of Britain's embrace of Zionism. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 stated: "His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." Beginning in 1923, Britain would govern Palestine under a League of Nations mandate.

Netanyahu, his focus firmly on Iran, honors Churchill because he did not flinch from facts about gathering storms. Obama returned to the British Embassy in Washington the bust of Churchill that was in the Oval Office when he got there.

Obama's 2009 speech in Cairo, courting the Arab world, may have had measurable benefits, although the metric proving this remains mysterious. The speech -- made during a trip when Obama visited Cairo and Riyadh but not here -- certainly subtracted from his standing in Israel. In it, he acknowledged Israel as, in part, a response to Jewish suffering in the Holocaust. Then, with what many Israelis considered a deeply offensive exercise of moral equivalence, he said: "On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland."

"On the other hand"? "I," says Moshe Yaalon, "was shocked by the Cairo speech," which he thinks proved that "this White House is very different." Yaalon, former head of military intelligence and chief of the general staff, currently strategic affairs minister, tartly asks, "If Palestinians are victims, who are the victimizers?"

The Cairo speech came 10 months after Obama's Berlin speech, in which he declared himself a "citizen of the world." That was an oxymoronic boast, given that citizenship connotes allegiance to a particular polity, its laws and political processes. But the boast resonated in Europe.

The European Union was born from the flight of Europe's elites from what terrifies them -- Europeans. The first Thirty Years' War ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia, which ratified the system of nation-states. The second Thirty Years' War, which ended in 1945, convinced European elites that the continent's nearly fatal disease was nationalism, the cure for which must be the steady attenuation of nationalities. Hence the high value placed on "pooling" sovereignty, never mind the cost in diminished self-government.

Israel, with its deep sense of nationhood, is beyond unintelligible to such Europeans; it is a stench in their nostrils. Transnational progressivism is, as much as welfare state social democracy, an element of European politics that American progressives will emulate as much as American politics will permit. It is perverse that the European Union, a semi-fictional political entity, serves -- with the United States, the reliably anti-Israel United Nations and Russia -- as part of the "quartet" that supposedly will broker peace in our time between Israel and the Palestinians.

Arguably the most left-wing administration in American history is trying to knead and soften the most right-wing coalition in Israel's history. The former shows no understanding of the latter, which thinks it understands the former all too well.

The prime minister honors Churchill, who spoke of "the confirmed unteachability of mankind." Nevertheless, a display case in Netanyahu's office could teach the Obama administration something about this leader. It contains a small signet stone that was part of a ring found near the Western Wall. It is about 2,800 years old -- 200 years younger than Jerusalem's role as the Jewish people's capital. The ring was the seal of a Jewish official, whose name is inscribed on it: Netanyahu.

No one is less a transnational progressive, less a post-nationalist, than Binyamin Netanyahu, whose first name is that of a son of Jacob, who lived perhaps 4,000 years ago. Netanyahu, whom no one ever called cuddly, once said to a U.S. diplomat 10 words that should warn U.S. policymakers who hope to make Netanyahu malleable: "You live in Chevy Chase. Don't play with our future."

georgewill@washpost.com

LET'S PLAY 'SPOT THE DEMOCRAT'!

By Ann Coulter
http://www.anncoulter.com
August 11, 2010


In the greatest party-affiliation cover-up since the media tried to portray Gary Condit as a Republican, the media are refusing to mention the party affiliation of the thieving government officials in Bell, Calif.

There have been hundreds of news stories about Bell city officials' jaw-dropping salaries. In this poor city on the outskirts of Los Angeles, where the per capita annual income is $24,800 a year, the city manager, Robert Rizzo, had a salary of $787,637.

That's about twice what the president of the United States makes. (To be fair, Rizzo was doing a better job.)

A resident of Bell, Calif,. holds up a placard calling for the ouster of city officials during a special city council meeting, Thursday, July 22, 2010, in Bell, Calif. Council members emerged from an hours-long closed session at midnight Friday and announced that they'd accepted the resignations of Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo, Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia and Police Chief Randy Adams. Rizzo was the highest paid at $787,637 a year — nearly twice the pay of President Barack Obama — for overseeing one of the poorest towns in Los Angeles County. Spaccia makes $376,288 a year and Adams earns $457,000, 50 percent more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.
(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)


Rizzo was the highest-paid government employee in the entire country, not counting Maxine Waters' husband -- pending further revelations. With benefits, his total annual compensation, according to the Los Angeles Times, came to $1.5 million a year.

Alerted to the Bell situation, the White House quickly added the Bell city manager to the list of jobs saved by its stimulus plan.

Not only that, but Rizzo was entitled to 28 weeks off a year for vacation and sick leave. To put that in perspective, that's almost as much vacation time as public school teachers get!

Reached in Spain, even Michelle Obama was outraged.

Rizzo responded to the anger over his preposterous salary by saying: "If that's a number people choke on, maybe I'm in the wrong business. I could go into private business and make that money."

(If he wants to grab one of those private-sector jobs that pays $1.5 million for 24 weeks of work, may I suggest the entertainment industry?)

Good luck to him. After leaving Bell, Rizzo will be lucky to land a job at Taco Bell. Before being anointed the King Tut of Bell, Rizzo was the city manager of Hesperia, Calif., where he was overpaid only to the tune of $78,000 a year.

The police chief, Randy Adams, was making $457,000 -- $770,046 including benefits. The assistant city manager, Angela Spaccia, had a $376,288 salary, with a total compensation package of $845,960. Being just an assistant city manager, Angela had to pay for her own yacht.

After the Los Angeles Times reported the stratospheric government salaries in little Bell, and the people of the town revolted, the millionaire government employees all resigned.

That'll show 'em! Oops, except upon their resignations, they qualified for lifetime pensions worth, by some estimates, more than $50 million.

These insane salary packages were granted by the mayor and four city council members -- who also set their own salaries. As a result, all but one was making $100,000 a year for these part-time jobs. After the council members' salaries came to light, the four looters cut their salaries by 90 percent.

According to Nexis, there have been more than 300 news stories reporting on the Bell scandal. Guess how many mentioned the party affiliation of the corrupt government bureaucrats?

One. Yes, just one. Now guess if the government officials were Democrats or Republicans? Yes, that is correct.
Congratulations -- you've qualified for our bonus round!

The one newspaper to cough up party affiliations, The Orange County Register, admitted that the corrupt officials were all Democrats only in response to reader complaints about the peculiar omission.

Lots of news stories on the scandal in Bell used the word "Democrat" or "Democratic." But that was only to say that the DEMOCRATIC attorney general of California, Jerry Brown, who is running on the DEMOCRATIC ticket for governor, is investigating the Bell officials' salaries.

So we know the media are aware of party affiliations. They just chose not to mention it when it would require them to identify shockingly corrupt government officials as Democrats
.
Any day now, the media will start describing Maxine Waters as "the light-skinned congresswoman from California."

(But you might want to vote for that DEMOCRATIC attorney general who is apparently a great crusader against corruption ... despite his years of ignoring the public employee salary and pension looting that has driven the state into insolvency.)

Maybe Obama's Czar of City Managers' Salaries could investigate this.

Unlike political corruption involving sex or bribery, the outrage in Bell isn't a scandal that hits both parties from time to time -- it's how the Democrats govern.

Elected Democratic officials bestow ludicrous salaries and benefits packages on government employees, and, in return, public employee unions make sure the Democrats keep getting re-elected.

The scandal in Bell isn't a scandal at all for the Democrats. Au contraire! This is the governing strategy of the Democratic Party.

COPYRIGHT 2010 ANN COULTER

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Constitutional Amendments and Citizenship Rights

Central to the Constitution’s genius are the mechanisms to change it.

By Jonah Goldberg
http://www.nationalreview.com
August 11, 2010 12:00 A.M.

It’s like clockwork. Whenever conservatives propose a constitutional amendment, progressives suddenly rediscover the delicate gears of the Constitution and the horrible dangers of “tinkering” or “tampering” with its precision craftsmanship. Consider the sudden brouhaha over the idea of revising the 14th Amendment to get rid of automatic birthright citizenship (which would make us more like that alleged progressive nirvana known as “Europe,” by the way). Here’s Angela Kelley of the liberal Center for American Progress on Sen. Lindsey Graham, who started the amendment chatter: “He’s not one to tamper with the Constitution, so I’m surprised he would even suggest this.”

“While everyone recognizes that there are problems with our immigration system in this country,” Elizabeth Wydra of the progressive Constitutional Accountability Center tells NPR, “my perspective is: Let’s try to fix this through legislation and not tinker with the genius of our constitutional design.”

But wait a second. Progressives love to tinker with the constitutional design. They simply do it by stealth, appointing Supreme Court justices such as Elena Kagan, who, her testimony notwithstanding, everyone knows will treat the Constitution like Felix the Cat’s magic bag; when she searches the document hard enough, you know she’ll find what she’s looking for.

But when conservatives who talk about reverence for the Constitution also want to update it in a way that is actually consistent with the “genius of our constitutional design,” they are hypocrites and radicals.

Liberal devotees of the “living Constitution” always made a fair point. The Founding Fathers never envisioned a world with jet planes, split atoms, stem-cell therapies, one-click porn, or MTV’s Jersey Shore. Similarly, the ratifiers of the 14th Amendment would be stunned to learn, in July of 1868, that they had just created an adamantine right for homosexuals to marry one another and receive state benefits to boot, as a federal judge in California recently decided (overruling, I might add, the will of California voters).

Hence, liberals claim, we need an evolving Constitution that, as President Obama writes in The Audacity of Hope, “is not a static but rather a living document, and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world.” But as legal analyst Ed Whelan has noted, this “living document” argument is a straw man. Of course justices must read the document in the context of an ever-changing world. What else could they do? Ask plaintiffs to wear period garb, talk in 18th-century lingo, and only bring cases involving paper money and runaway slaves?

The issue is not whether the world is ever-changing, but whether judges should treat the Constitution as ever-changing to meet their own agendas and desires, often over the lawfully expressed preferences of voters, legislators, and the Founders.

Still, if the Constitution is unclear or inadequate, what’s a strict constructionist to do? Propose changes, and you’re dubbed a hypocrite and a radical for wanting to “tinker with the genius of our constitutional design.” Or else you’re guilty of hypocritical conservative judicial activism.

The relevant fact is that central to the genius of the Constitution’s design are the mechanisms to change it. That process is arduous, requiring long and deliberate debates at the national and state levels. (In over two centuries, thousands of amendments have been proposed, 33 have been approved by Congress, and only 27 have been ratified by the states. That’s not tinkering, that’s craftsmanship.)

When one discusses the Constitution on college campuses, students and even professors will object that without a “living Constitution,” blacks would still be slaves and women wouldn’t be allowed to vote. Nonsense. Those indispensable changes to the Constitution came not from judges reading new rights into the document but from Americans lawfully amending it.

From birthright citizenship and gay marriage to flag-burning and gun rights, I trust the American people to change the Constitution when necessary (after lengthy debate) more than I trust five out of nine unelected justices with lifetime tenure, hiding behind closed doors and away from TV cameras.

What are the opponents of “tinkering” afraid of? I suspect sullying the genius of the Founders takes a distant backseat to their real fear: losing a fair fight.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Director Mueller, Say No to CAIR

A Muslim Brotherhood tentacle targets Robert Spencer.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
http://www.nationalreview.com/
August 10, 2010 4:00 A.M.

At this point, the question about CAIR should be: Why does anyone care? Care about anything CAIR officials say, that is.

The notorious Council on American-Islamic Relations is back up to its old tricks. CAIR officials figure our ten-minute attention span has lapsed, and that we’ve probably forgotten by now that, in the 2007–08 prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) — a case in which several Islamists were convicted in a scheme that poured millions of dollars into the coffers of the terrorist organization Hamas — CAIR was named as, and shown to be, an unindicted co-conspirator. CAIR reckons that the heat is off, so it’s back on the “Islamophobia” soapbox, demanding an apology from FBI director Robert Mueller.

An apology for what? The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces had the temerity to invite Robert Spencer — one of the nation’s leading experts on Islamist ideology — to lecture federal agents on Islamist ideology.

Spencer’s lecture departed from the government’s “religion of peace” dogma, which holds that there is no Islamist aggression, that there is no civilizational jihad to destroy the West from within (never mind that CAIR’s progenitor, the Muslim Brotherhood, has bragged about its “sabotage” campaign), and that terrorism is not merely unconnected to Islam but, in fact, is anti-Islamic. According to this thinking, Islamist groups like CAIR have a monopoly on what Americans — including American law-enforcement and intelligence agents — are permitted to hear about Islam from academic, media, and government sources. No dissenting views are permitted, no matter how steeped the dissenters may be in Islamic doctrine and no matter how much these dissents accord with what your lyin’ eyes are seeing.

“When I speak with the American,” said Nihad Awad, “I speak with someone who doesn’t know anything.” Awad is now CAIR’s executive director. He made this statement at a Marriott Hotel in Philadelphia on Oct. 27, 1993, when he was the public-relations director for the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP). He and about two dozen other Islamist activists were meeting to brainstorm about how they might be able to continue supporting Hamas and to derail the Oslo Accords — the Clinton administration’s effort to bring a peaceful, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For Hamas supporters, there can be no peaceful two-state solution, because they deny Israel’s right to exist. That is why, to this day, the charter of Hamas (which was established at the start of the intifada in the late Eighties) calls for the elimination of Israel by violent jihad. But in 1993, the United States was cracking down on Hamas. It would soon be designated a terrorist organization, and providing material support to it would be made a crime.

The Philadelphia conferees realized they were “marked” men, as one of them put it. Omar Ahmad, then the IAP president and Nihad Awad’s boss, openly worried about U.S. government surveillance, counseling his confederates to use the inversion “Samah” in their conversations to avoid uttering the word “Hamas.” As it happened, the FBI was secretly bugging the meeting. It was thus able to record Ahmad calling himself “Omar Yahya,” the better to conceal his identity from Bureau snoops.

When later compelled to testify about the meeting, Ahmed said he couldn’t recall being in Philadelphia, though the tape captured his calling the meeting to order. Awad, too, had a bout of amnesia when asked about the meeting during a 2003 deposition. But the tape showed him to have been a very active participant. When he gave his cohorts the aforementioned advice about American ignorance, his point was that we are easy for Islamists to deceive. Speaking with Americans was different, he posited, from communicating with “the Palestinian who has a martyr brother or something.” A “martyr,” of course, is one who gives his life (often by suicide bombing) in the terror campaign against Israel.


Elaborating on the communications point, Omar Ahmad observed, “There is a difference between you saying, ‘I want to restore the ’48 land,’ and when you say, ‘I want to destroy Israel.’” If you confined yourself to saying the former, Palestinians would understand that you meant the latter, while unwary Americans would figure you were just making a political statement. Similarly, Ahmad suggested saying, “Yasser Arafat doesn’t represent me, but Ahmed Yassin does.” Palestinians would understand that this meant one was a supporter of Hamas (which Yassin founded), while clueless Americans would be in the dark.

Shukri Abu Baker, the HLF leader and a friend of Awad and Ahmad, concurred in that sentiment. The Islamists were at war, he reminded his confederates, and the prophet Mohammed had counseled that “war is deception.”

Deception is CAIR’s m├ętier. It was created precisely because the marked men at the Philadelphia meeting realized they needed a new vehicle: one that was not tainted by a prior history of Hamas support, one that had media savvy, and one that could set up shop in Washington and portray itself as a “civil rights” organization rather than just another Islamist mouthpiece. In America, when lobby groups complain that someone’s civil rights have been violated, opinion elites take notice.

At the Philadelphia meeting, Ahmad complained, “We don’t have influence over the Congress.” The organization he envisioned would accrue political influence “by infiltrating the American media outlets, universities, and research centers.”

CAIR was formed the following summer, with Omar Ahmad and Nihad Awad sliding over from IAP to run it.

There should have been no question, though, about where CAIR was coming from — even for unwary Americans. The IAP had been started by Mousa abu Marzook, the leading Muslim Brotherhood figure in the United States, and Sami al-Arian, a Brotherhood operative who went on to become a top leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another terrorist organization. When Israel apprehended Yassin, Marzook succeeded him as the head of Hamas, running the organization from his Virginia home until he was deported in 1994. Meanwhile, al-Arian turned his teaching perch at the University of South Florida into a PIJ outpost; in 2006, he was finally convicted of conspiring to support a designated terrorist organization.

Under Marzook, the IAP anchored the Palestine Committee. This committee was established by the Muslim Brotherhood to “increase the financial and moral support for Hamas.” At the HLF trial, an internal Muslim Brotherhood report, dated July 30, 1994, identified CAIR, along with the IAP, the HLF, and another Marzook creation, the United Association for Studies and Research, as members of the Palestine Committee. Ghassan Elashi, one of the defendants convicted for using HLF to underwrite Hamas’s terror war, had run an IAP office in California before starting CAIR’s chapter in Texas.

Elashi is just one example of a CAIR figure either convicted or deported as a result of terrorism investigations. There have been several others.


To no one’s surprise, CAIR vigorously opposed al-Arian’s prosecution and Marzook’s deportation, calling the latter “anti-Islamic” and “un-American.” As Daniel Pipes recounts, CAIR also referred to the terrorism conviction of Omar Abdel Rahman (the “Blind Sheikh” behind the cell that bombed the World Trade Center in 1993) as a “hate crime.” When Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States in 1998 and then bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, a Los Angeles billboard called him “the sworn enemy”; and CAIR demanded the billboard’s removal, calling it “offensive to Muslims” while denying bin Laden’s responsibility for the embassy attacks.

CAIR’s purpose is to further what the Muslim Brotherhood calls its “grand jihad” to destroy America from within. That is why it is consistently a cheerleader for Islamist terrorists and a thorn in the side of American national security, opposing every sensible measure to protect our homeland.

“Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant,” Ahmad is quoted as saying in 1998. “The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.”

A key tactic in carrying out this supremacist agenda is to suppress its critics. With their media acumen, CAIR operatives know there is nothing more debilitating for a public figure in America than to be portrayed as a racist or a bigot. Islamists have thus coined the phrase “Islamophobe” to stigmatize those who dare speak forthrightly about the extremely troubling aspects of Islamic scripture, particularly of sharia, Islam’s legal and political framework.

We are not, it bears emphasizing, speaking about people who lie about Islam or smear all Muslims as terrorists. Islamists are targeting the truth-tellers. If they can intimidate their critics into silence, they have inched yet closer to the goal of supplanting our First Amendment with their sharia, which condemns as “blasphemy” any speech or expression that casts Islam in a poor light. Blasphemy can be savagely punished — and, in contrast to the Western idea of defamation, truth is no defense.

Thus is CAIR trying to intimidate the FBI into ostracizing Robert Spencer. As he demonstrates daily at Jihad Watch, the invaluable site he founded, he is effective and immune to Islamist scare tactics. Because Spencer won’t quiet down, CAIR officials have concluded that it will be necessary to have the U.S. government silence him. They know the government, the FBI in particular, has a history of being overly solicitous toward Islamist apologists. They are banking on getting satisfaction out of Mueller, and they’ve brought out the big guns to turn up the heat. Their letter has now been signed by Grievance Industry eminence Jesse Jackson (who better to give sensitivity lessons than the guy who labeled New York City “Hymietown”?) and by such groups as the Islamic Society of North America (another unindicted co-conspirator in the Hamas case, but one for which Obama-administration majordomo Valerie Jarrett nonetheless gave the keynote address at its 2009 annual convention).

If any party is owed an apology or explanation from our government, it is the American people — over the government’s courtship of CAIR. For years, even though the Justice Department was in possession of information showing the key role CAIR officials played in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hamas-support network, government agencies, including the FBI, continued turning to CAIR for “liaison” duties. Top brass forced our law-enforcement agents to endure CAIR-prescribed sensitivity training, and, in the case of the Department of Homeland Security, even published a CAIR press release on an agency’s taxpayer-funded website, enabling CAIR to pass itself off as a civil-rights organization. This went on until finally, following the convictions in the HLF case (to say nothing of the emerging indications that CAIR itself may be under investigation), the FBI cut off ties with the group in 2009, citing its Hamas connections. That was a stand for which Mueller won strong bipartisan praise on Capitol Hill. Here’s hoping he sticks to his guns.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Eating Is No Fun Anymore

The new documentary Food Inc. gets it just about right.

By Julie Gunlock
http://www.nationalreview.com
August 7, 2009 12:00 P.M.

It’s depressing when formerly pleasurable pursuits become hot-button political topics: Suddenly your normal trip for a burger and fries becomes a question of morality, life, and death. Are those French fries prepared in heart-healthy olive or canola oil? Is that beef humanely raised and slaughtered, and should I even eat beef when there’s a super-delicious veggie burger on the menu? Are the onion, lettuce, and tomato toppings locally sourced and certified organic? Are the pickles made “in house,” the mustard by grinding mustard seeds with a mortar and pestle?

It is all so exhausting. It makes me just want to stop eating altogether.

It was with this attitude that I went to an afternoon showing of Food Inc. I was fully prepared to hate it, expecting another lecture from the food police, another horror story about fast food. I even entered the theater empty-handed — no popcorn or candy. I was ready to be grossed out.

To my surprise, I actually liked most of it. It had melodramatic moments, and the predictable “big business is bad” message became rather tiresome a half-hour into the movie, but there were — to use a popular Obamaism — some teachable moments in the movie and even a compelling political message too few have heard before: Farm subsidies create real problems for the average American eater.

Farm subsidies have been around for so long that only octogenarians have lived in a food subsidy–free America. The first subsidies — introduced by Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s — were marketed to the American public as a “temporary solution” to help the collapsing farm industry. Some 70 years later, it appears the United States is still in the recovery phase.

Food Inc. boils the subsidy issue down to the basics: Farm subsidies artificially reduce the cost of some food — mainly manufactured and unhealthy snack foods — and create incentives for farmers to produce massive amounts of some commodities no single nation can possibly absorb.

So, what happens? Well, as Food Inc. demonstrates with the help of an upbeat soundtrack and colorful pop-up images of ketchup bottles and batteries, people start getting pretty creative with how to put those commodities to use. Enter corn — lots of corn.

U.S. corn farmers are paid to produce more corn than people can eat normally. As a result of this overproduction, corn is everywhere. Corn derivatives can be found in nearly one-quarter of all the products in the grocery store — from peanut butter to Twinkies. And of course, corn subsidies led to the creation of a clear, liquid sweetener — HFCS, or high-fructose corn syrup.

It isn’t only corn subsidies making HFCS as popular as it is today, but also sugar tariffs. While the government reduces the price of corn, it simultaneously hikes the cost of sugar through a complex set of tariffs that make the price of cane and beet sugar more than three times the price of sugar in other nations. Food manufacturers naturally choose the lower-cost corn-based sweetener. Who can blame them?

But this toying around with prices comes with consequences, and Food Inc. connects the dots between farm subsidies and America’s growing health problems, such as obesity. A report by the Heritage Foundation examined this issue last year and came to the same conclusion:

There is a growing scientific consensus that HFCS likely contributes to the obesity and diabetes epidemics in America, both major contributors to the overall degradation of health in the U.S. The body metabolizes HFCS differently than cane- and beet-based sugars, leading to lower insulin production and an increase in triglyceride fats in the bloodstream (Bray, Nielsen and Popkin, 2004). Because of the lower cost associated with foods containing HFCS and hydrogenated soy-based oils (also a by-product of crop subsidies), this trend disproportionately affects low-income families and those trying to feed a family on a budget. While the real price of healthy fruits and vegetables increased by nearly 40 percent between 1985 and 2000, the price of an HFCS-rich soft drink decreased by 23 percent (Pollan, April 2007).

Food Inc. suggests how some of this works by focusing on a family of fast-food eaters. We’re introduced to them while they sit at the drive-thru, waiting for their order of burgers, fries, and large sodas. It might be obvious, and perhaps staged, but it gives a real-life example of one reason why people choose to eat unhealthy fast food and HFCS-laden snack foods and sodas — it’s cheaper to eat bad food. The family agrees that they should eat healthier, but they find the price of whole and natural foods, such as fresh vegetables, to be too high. The mother says she’s very worried about her children, one of whom is on the verge of developing diabetes — no doubt due to bad eating habits.

So what’s the solution? This is where Food Inc. fails miserably.

At the end of the movie, as the screen goes black, ten “simple things you can do” flash on the screen. Among them: Buy organic, shop local and at farmers’ markets, and tell Congress that food safety is important to you. These are just adorable little suggestions for most of the foodie types watching the movie. But what about those who can’t afford the farmers’ market vegetables?

How about suggesting the purchase of inexpensive fresh vegetables like carrots, cabbage, and celery? There are workable and achievable ways people can live and eat healthier. It’s simply insulting to suggest to people who have multiple jobs and very little income that they should purchase the highest-priced produce.

And where was the suggestion to tell Congress to chuck farm subsidies? Why wasn’t that on the list of ten things you can do?

On the bright side, this movie may encourage two very different groups — right-leaning think-tanks and politicians, and left-leaning environmental and food-watchdog groups — to come together in the cause of ending harmful farm subsidies.

It even ties in with the topic du jour — the future of America’s health-care system. Farm subsidies shouldn’t just offend economist types who want the free market to dictate prices. They should offend anyone who cares about Americans’ health, which should be just about everyone. Ultimately, this may be a more compelling argument to abolish the policy than straight economics.

Food Inc. shines a light on the dangers of farm subsidies. Let’s hope a few politicians make it to the movies.

— Julie Gunlock is a senior fellow at the Independent Women's Forum.

Mischief in Manhattan

We Muslims know the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation

By Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah, Ottawa Citizen Special
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/index.html
August 9, 2010


New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city council speaker Christine Quinn announce this week's decision to deny landmark status to the site of a planned Muslim centre near the World Trade Center site.
Photograph by: Michael Nagle, Getty Images


Last week, a journalist who writes for the North Country Times, a small newspaper in Southern California, sent us an e-mail titled "Help." He couldn't understand why an Islamic Centre in an area where Adam Gadahn, Osama bin Laden's American spokesman came from, and that was home to three of the 911 terrorists, was looking to expand.

The man has a very valid point, which leads to the ongoing debate about building a Mosque at Ground Zero in New York. When we try to understand the reasoning behind building a mosque at the epicentre of the worst-ever attack on the U.S., we wonder why its proponents don't build a monument to those who died in the attack?

New York currently boasts at least 30 mosques so it's not as if there is pressing need to find space for worshippers. The fact we Muslims know the idea behind the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation to thumb our noses at the infidel. The proposal has been made in bad faith and in Islamic parlance, such an act is referred to as "Fitna," meaning "mischief-making" that is clearly forbidden in the Koran.

The Koran commands Muslims to, "Be considerate when you debate with the People of the Book" -- i.e., Jews and Christians. Building an exclusive place of worship for Muslims at the place where Muslims killed thousands of New Yorkers is not being considerate or sensitive, it is undoubtedly an act of "fitna"

So what gives Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the "Cordoba Initiative" and his cohorts the misplaced idea that they will increase tolerance for Muslims by brazenly displaying their own intolerance in this case?

Do they not understand that building a mosque at Ground Zero is equivalent to permitting a Serbian Orthodox church near the killing fields of Srebrenica where 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered?

There are many questions that we would like to ask. Questions about where the funding is coming from? If this mosque is being funded by Saudi sources, then it is an even bigger slap in the face of Americans, as nine of the jihadis in the Twin Tower calamity were Saudis.

If Rauf is serious about building bridges, then he could have dedicated space in this so-called community centre to a church and synagogue, but he did not. We passed on this message to him through a mutual Saudi friend, but received no answer. He could have proposed a memorial to the 9/11 dead with a denouncement of the doctrine of armed jihad, but he chose not to.

It's a repugnant thought that $100 million would be brought into the United States rather than be directed at dying and needy Muslims in Darfur or Pakistan.

Let's not forget that a mosque is an exclusive place of worship for Muslims and not an inviting community centre. Most Americans are wary of mosques due to the hard core rhetoric that is used in pulpits. And rightly so. As Muslims we are dismayed that our co-religionists have such little consideration for their fellow citizens and wish to rub salt in their wounds and pretend they are applying a balm to sooth the pain.

The Koran implores Muslims to speak the truth, even if it hurts the one who utters the truth. Today we speak the truth, knowing very well Muslims have forgotten this crucial injunction from Allah.

If this mosque does get built, it will forever be a lightning rod for those who have little room for Muslims or Islam in the U.S. We simply cannot understand why on Earth the traditional leadership of America's Muslims would not realize their folly and back out in an act of goodwill.

As for those teary-eyed, bleeding-heart liberals such as New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and much of the media, who are blind to the Islamist agenda in North America, we understand their goodwill.

Unfortunately for us, their stand is based on ignorance and guilt, and they will never in their lives have to face the tyranny of Islamism that targets, kills and maims Muslims worldwide, and is using liberalism itself to destroy liberal secular democratic societies from within.


- Raheel Raza is author of Their Jihad ... Not my Jihad, and Tarek Fatah is author of The Jew is Not My Enemy (McClelland & Stewart), to be launched in October. Both sit on the board of the Muslim Canadian Congress.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Shut Up, He Explained

Mayor Michael Bloomberg to New Yorkers.

By William Kristol
The Weekly Standard
August 16, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 45
http://www.weeklystandard.com/

Last Tuesday, standing in front of the Statue of Liberty, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke on the subject of the proposed mosque at Ground Zero. His remarks will be read with curiosity by future generations of Americans, who will look back in astonishment at the self-deluding pieties and self-destructive dogmas that are held onto, at once smugly and desperately, by today’s liberal elites. Our liberation from those dogmas, and from those elites, is underway across the nation. But it’s worth taking a look at Bloomberg’s speech, if only to remind us of what we need to ascend from so our descendants can look back with curiosity at the ethos to which we did not succumb.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, center, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and local religious leaders voice their support for a proposed mosque near ground zero at a news conference on Governors Island in New York harbor with the Statue of Liberty in the background. Bloomberg has been unusually strong in his support for the controversial house of worship.
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)


As is the way of contemporary liberals, Bloomberg spoke at a very high level of abstraction. He appealed to the principle of religious toleration, while never mentioning the actual imam who is responsible for and would control the planned Ground Zero mosque. To name Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf might invite a consideration of his background, funding, and intentions. Do Rauf and his backers believe in the principles underlying the “inspiring symbol of liberty” that greets immigrants to the United States and before which Bloomberg stood? Bloomberg didn’t say. It apparently doesn’t matter. Toleration means asking nothing, criticizing nothing, saying nothing, about whom or what one is tolerating. This is the Sergeant Schultz standard of toleration: I know nothing.

Knowing nothing, or wishing to know nothing, about the mosque, Bloomberg took it upon himself to lecture his fellow New Yorkers on their obligation to be true to “the best part of ourselves.” That part is apparently the part of us that allows at once for intellectual obfuscation and moral preening. Bloomberg never acknowledged that sane and tolerant people might object to a 15-story Islamic community center and mosque right next to Ground Zero. He could not be bothered to take seriously the reservations and objections of a clear majority of his constituents. “In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists—and we should not stand for that.” So public sentiment be damned. There’s nothing to be learned from the ignorant and bigoted residents of New York.

Instead, Bloomberg lectured: “On September 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked ‘What God do you pray to?’ ‘What beliefs do you hold?’ ” True, certainly true. But Bloomberg did not permit himself to ask what vision of god, what set of beliefs, inspired those who set those buildings aflame. Bloomberg said that it was our “spirit of openness and acceptance that was attacked on 9/11.” But attacked by whom? Bloomberg wouldn’t say.

In fact, he denied the propriety of asking such a question. It would have been one thing—a more defensible thing—if Bloomberg had argued that there was little that could be done legally to stop the mosque and that New Yorkers should therefore make the best of a bad situation. But that was not his message. Instead, Bloomberg came to the Statue of Liberty not simply to accept the mosque, but to praise it: “Of course, it is fair to ask the organizers of the mosque to show some special sensitivity to the situation—and in fact, their plan envisions reaching beyond their walls and building an interfaith community. By doing so, it is my hope that the mosque will help to bring our City even closer together. .  .  . I expect the community center and mosque will add to the life and vitality of the neighborhood and the entire City.”

But have the real, existing organizers of the mosque shown much sensitivity to other New Yorkers? The answer is no—but if you’re a contemporary liberal, you don’t get into the actual, existing facts in order to make a judgment. You govern on the basis of what the organizers’ “plan” nominally “envisions,” you appeal to a hope and expectation that even Bloomberg can’t really believe in. But it allows him to avoid coming to grips with what is really happening and what lies behind the popular sentiment of disgust, even revulsion.

The conclusion of Bloomberg’s speech was odd: “Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure—and there is no neighborhood in this City that is off limits to God’s love and mercy, as the religious leaders here with us can attest.” Do the rest of us need Bloomberg’s hand-picked religious leaders to tell us that there are no limits to God’s love and mercy? We do doubt that encouraging this mosque to be built is an appropriate expression of respect for God’s love and mercy for those who were killed almost nine years ago. And we would note that no expression of New Yorkers’ love and gratitude for the victims of September 11 has yet been built at the site of Ground Zero during Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure.

It is likely, we believe, that civic pressure will cause the mosque to be moved elsewhere—Bloomberg’s lecture notwithstanding. But if Bloomberg were to have his way, it’s worth noting that he would presumably attend a dedication of Feisal Abdul Rauf’s mosque at Ground Zero before he would attend a dedication of a proper memorial to those who died there.

Contemporary liberalism means building a mosque rather than a memorial at Ground Zero—and telling your fellow citizens to shut up about it.