31 December 2011

Detroit: A Model for America's Future?

Rico says his friend Tex sends along this, by Frosty Wooldridge:
For fifteen years, from the mid 1970's to 1990, I worked in Detroit, Michigan. I watched it descend into the abyss of crime, debauchery, gun play, drugs, school truancy, car-jacking, gangs, and human depravity. I watched entire city blocks burned out. I watched graffiti explode on buildings, cars, trucks, buses, and school yards. Trash everywhere!

Detroiters walked through it, tossed more into it, and ignored it. Tens of thousands, and then hundreds of thousands, today exist on federal welfare, free housing, and food stamps!
With Aid to Dependent Children, minority women birthed eight to ten and, in one case, one woman birthed two dozen children as reported by the Detroit Free Press, all on American taxpayer dollars.

A new child meant a new car payment, a new television, and whatever mom wanted. I saw Lyndon Baines Johnson's Great Society flourish in Detroit. If you give money for doing nothing, you will get more hands out taking money for doing nothing.
Mayor Coleman Young, perhaps the most corrupt mayor in America outside of Richard Daley in Chicago, rode Detroit down to its knees... He set the benchmark for cronyism, incompetence, and arrogance. As a black man, he said, "I am the MFIC." The IC meant "in charge". You can figure out the rest...

Detroit became a majority black city with a 67 percent African-American population.
As a United Van Lines truck driver for a summer job from teaching math and science, I loaded hundreds of American families into my van for a new life in another city or state.
Detroit plummeted from 1.8 million citizens to 912,000 today. At the same time, legal and illegal immigrants converged on the city, so much so, that Muslims number over 300,000. Mexicans number 400,000 throughout Michigan, but most work in Detroit. As the whites moved out, the Muslims moved in.

As the crimes became more violent, whites fled. Finally, unlawful Mexicans moved in at a torrid pace. Detroit suffers so much shoplifting that grocery stores no longer operate in many inner city locations. You can cut the racial tension in the air with a knife! Detroit may be one of our best examples of multiculturalism: pure dislike, and total separation fromAmerica.
Today, you hear Muslim calls to worship over the city like a new American Baghdad with hundreds of Islamic mosques in Michigan, paid for by Saudi Arabia oil money. High school flunk out rates reached 76 percent last June, according to NBC's Brian Williams. Classrooms resemble more foreign countries than America. English? Few speak it! The city features a fifty percent illiteracy rate and growing.
Unemployment hit 28.9 percent in 2009 as the auto industry vacated the city. In Time magazine's October 2009 issue, The Tragedy of Detroit: How a great city fell, and how it can rise again, I choked on the writer's description of what happened. "If Detroit had been ravaged by a hurricane, and submerged by a ravenous flood, we'd know a lot more about it," said Daniel Okrent. "If drought and carelessness had spread brush fires across the city, we'd see it on the evening news every night." Earthquake, tornadoes, you name it, if natural disaster had devastated the city that was once the living proof of American prosperity, the rest of the country might take notice.

But Detroit, once our fourth largest city, now eleventh and slipping rapidly, has had no such luck. Its disaster has long been a slow unwinding that seemed to remove it from the rest of the country.
Even the death rattle that in the past year emanated from its signature industry brought more attention to the auto executives than to the people of the city, who had for so long been victimized by their dreadful decision making."

As Coleman Young's corruption brought the city to its knees, no amount of federal dollars could save the incredible payoffs, kickbacks, and illegality permeating his administration. I witnessed the city's death from the seat of my eighteen-wheeler tractor trailer because I moved people out of every sector of decaying Detroit.
"By any quantifiable standard, the city is on life support. Detroit's treasury is $300 million short of the funds needed to provide the barest municipal services," Okrent said. "The school system, which six years ago was compelled by the teachers' union to reject a philanthropist's offer of $200 million to build fifteen small, independent charter high schools, is in receivership. The murder rate is soaring, and seven out of ten remain unsolved. Three years after Katrina devastated New Orleans, unemployment in that city hit a peak of 11%. In Detroit today, the unemployment rate is 28.9%. That's worth spelling out: twenty-eight point nine percent.

At the end of Okrent's report, and he will write a dozen more about Detroit, he said: "That's because the story of Detroit is not simply one of a great city's collapse, it's also about the erosion of the industries that helped build the country we know today. The ultimate fate of Detroit will reveal much about the character of America in the twenty-first century. If what was once the most prosperous manufacturing city in the nation has been brought to its knees, what does that say about our recent past? And if it can't find a way to get up, what does that say about America's future?"
As you read in my book review of Chris Steiner's book, $20 Per Gallon, the auto industry won't come back. Immigration will keep pouring more and more uneducated third world immigrants from the Middle East into Detroit, thus creating a beachhead for Islamic hegemony in America. If fifty percent illiteracy continues, we will see more homegrown terrorists spawned out of the Muslim ghettos of Detroit. Illiteracy plus Islam equals walking human bombs.
You have already seen it in Madrid, Spain, London, England, and Paris, France, with train bombings, subway bombings, and riots. As their numbers grow, so will their power to enact their barbaric sharia law that negates republican forms of government, first amendment rights, and subjugates women to the lowest rungs on the human ladder. We will see more honor killings by upset husbands, fathers, and brothers that demand subjugation by their daughters, sisters, and wives. Muslims prefer beheadings of women to scare the hell out of any other members of their sect from straying. Multiculturalism: what a perfect method to kill our language, culture, country and way of life.

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." Benjamin Franklin

Nice comment

I've been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be much more useful than ever before. 
Posted by Anonymous on 30.12.11

30 December 2011

Life is trouble, only death is not

Rico says the post title is a quote from Zorba. It's appropriate, however, about what passes for the plans for Rico's birthday. (Which will be on 12 April 2012.) Hoping to emulate Rico's 50th in Key West, and trying for another warm-weather destination, it was originally scheduled for the San Juan Water & Beach Club in San Juan in Puerto Rico. (The last time Rico was there, he was two...) But that wasn't working out, so Rico moved it to New Orleans, which Rico last visited quite a few years ago. But that's too expensive, and didn't allow for a lot of people to attend (like the ladyfriend, which is unacceptable). So we're punting, yet again, and it'll now just be a dinner in the Philly area, and a visit with whoever shows up. Hopefully more people will be able to attend. Details to follow here...

Reading too fast...

Rico says that the title for the article is, properly, How To Wear The Cilt In The Welsh Fashion. However, if you're Rico, you'd read it as "clit", which is a different thing entirely...

A good start to another EU year

The Royal Navy is proud of its new fleet of Type 45 destroyers. Having initially named the first two ships HMS Daring and HMS Dauntless, the Naming Committee has, after intensive pressure from Brussels, renamed them HMS Cautious and HMS Prudence. The next five ships are to be named HMS Empathy, HMS Circumspect, HMS Nervous, HMS Timorous, and HMS Apologist.
Costing £850 million each, they meet the needs of the 21st century and comply with the very latest employment, equality, health & safety and human rights laws.
The new user-friendly crow's nest comes equipped with wheelchair access. Live ammunition has been replaced with paint balls to reduce the risk of anyone getting hurt and to cut down on the number of compensation claims. Stress counsellors and lawyers will be on duty 24 hrs a day and each ship will have its on-board industrial tribunal.
The crew will be 50/50 men and women, and balanced in accordance with the latest Home Office directives on race, gender, sexuality and disability. Sailors will only have to work a maximum of 37 hours per week in line with Brussels Health & Safety rules, even in wartime. All the vessels will come equipped with a maternity ward and nursery, situated on the same deck as the Gay Disco.
Tobacco will be banned throughout the ship, but cannabis will be allowed in the wardroom and messes. The Royal Navy is eager to shed its traditional reputation for "Rum, sodomy, and the lash", so out has gone the occasional rum ration which is to be replaced by sparkling water. Although sodomy remains, it has now been extended to include all ratings under 18. The lash will still be available but only on request. Condoms can be obtained from the Bosun in a variety of flavors, except Capstan Full Strength.
Saluting officers has been abolished because it is deemed elitist and is to be replaced by the more informal, "Hello Sailor". All information on notices boards will be printed in 37 different languages and Braille. Crew members will now no longer be required to ask permission to grow beards or moustaches; this applies equally to women crew members.
The MoD is working on a new "non-specific" flag, because the White Ensign is considered to be offensive to minorities. The Union Flag had already been discarded.
The newly re-named HMS Cautious is due to be commissioned soon in a ceremony conducted by Captain Hook from the Finsbury Park Mosque who will break a petrol bomb over the hull. She will gently slide into the water as the Royal Marines Band plays In the Navy by the Village People. Her first deployment will be to escort boatloads of illegal immigrants across the channel to ports on England's south coast.
The Prime Minister said: "While these ships reflect the very latest in modern thinking, they are also capable of being up-graded to comply with any new legislation coming out of Brussels." His final words were, "Britannia waives the rules!"

English, the New Euro Language

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.
As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English".
In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. 
Tenthusiasm growing enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.
In the 3rd year, akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.
Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.
Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the anguag is disgrasful and it should go away.
By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".
During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl.
Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.
Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

Spiders' webs

Rico says that his friend Kelley sends this:

An unexpected side-effect of the flooding in parts of Pakistan has been that millions of spiders climbed up into the trees to escape the rising flood waters. Because of the scale of the flooding and the fact that the water has taken so long to recede, many trees have become cocooned in spiders webs. People in this part of Sindh have never seen this phenomenon before but they also report that there are now far fewer mosquitoes than they would expect, given the amount of stagnant, standing water that is around. It is thought that the mosquitos are getting caught in the spiders web thus reducing the risk of malaria, which would be one blessing for the people of Sindh, facing so many other hardships after the floods.

New comment

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Another movie review for the day":
Nizza Farbwahl auf dem Blog. Es ist wirklich einfach auf meine Augen und ich habe schlechte Augen zu, so dass ein wirklich gross Kompliment lol

28 December 2011

Another movie review for the day

Rico says he and his sort-of son-in-law Kevin went to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie. Jude Law was good, again, as Watson, and Robert Downey, Jr. was fabulous, again, as Holmes. The special effects were incredible. Rico says you need to see it.

Fwd: The Muslim Brotherhood in America

Sent from my iPhone

Mark Seymour

Begin forwarded message:

From: Richard Seymour <dickseymour1929@gmail.com>
Date: December 28, 2011 2:51:32 PM EST
To: dave <dcastel@ucsd.edu>, markw <mseymour@proofmark.com>
Subject: The Muslim Brotherhood in America

Very long --- but worth the time



by Lorenzo Vidino

December 19, 2011

Lorenzo Vidino, Ph.D., is an academic and security expert
who specializes in Islamism and political violence in Europe
and North America. Currently a visiting fellow at the Center
for Security Studies, ETH Zurich, and a lecturer at the
University of Zurich, he previously held positions at the
RAND Corporation, the Belfer Center for Science and
International Affairs, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard
University, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the Fletcher
School of Law and Diplomacy. He has taught at Tufts
University, the University of Maryland, and the National
Defense University. He is the author of two books (his
latest, The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West, was
published by Columbia University Press in the fall of 2010)
and frequent articles in several prominent newspapers (The
International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, The
Washington Post, The Boston Globe) and academic journals
(Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, The Washington
Quarterly, Terrorism and Political Violence). He has
testified before the U.S. Congress and consults with
governments, law firms, think tanks and media in several
countries. A native of Milan, Italy, he holds a law degree
from the University of Milan Law School and a doctorate in
international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and
Diplomacy. This essay is a revised version of the Templeton
Lecture he delivered in Philadelphia on May 19, 2011.

Available on the web and in pdf format at:
Audio and video available at:
Previous Templeton lecture available at:



                    by Lorenzo Vidino

A story is illustrative of many of the dynamics I am going
to address.  It is the story of Abdul Rahman Alamoudi, an
Eritrean-born biochemist, a member of the upper class in his
country, who came to the United States in 1980 for graduate
school at Boston University. After earning his degree, he
moved to Washington, D.C. and became involved in several
mainstream Muslim organizations. He began to develop an
impressive network of contacts within the upper echelons of
the U.S. political establishment. In 1990, Mr. Alamoudi co-
founded the American Muslim Council and soon became a
regular visitor to the White House, establishing good
relationships with both Republican and Democratic
administrations. He held frequent meetings in Congress, and
even managed to lobby Congress successfully to host the
first opening invocation from an Islamic leader in Congress.

The Department of Defense put Mr. Alamoudi in the powerful
position of training and vetting the imams who attend to the
religious needs of Muslims in the military.  His
organization was praised by the FBI as the most mainstream
Muslim group in the United States. The State Department
appointed Mr. Alamoudi as Goodwill Ambassador, asking him to
travel throughout the world representing American Muslims.
Washington's establishment clearly considered Mr. Alamoudi a
successful representative and moderate Muslim leader who
could be a spokesman and model for the American Muslim

In 2003, however, an unexpected discovery during a routine
customs inspection at London's Heathrow Airport undid
Alamoudi's accomplishments.  He was found to have concealed
more than $300,000 in a suitcase. The investigation that
followed revealed that Alamoudi had been smuggling cash from
Libya illegally since 1995.  That specific amount of money
was intended to support a murky plot linked to al Qaeda to
assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.  A year later, Mr.
Alamoudi pled guilty to all charges and is currently serving
a 23-year sentence in jail. The investigation also showed
that Alamoudi had financial dealings with Hamas and al
Qaeda, among other organizations.

Interestingly, to many people in Washington, Alamoudi's ties
did not come as a complete shock.  Since 1990, in fact, law
enforcement had been monitoring Alamoudi's links to
suspected terrorist elements in the United States and
abroad.  In addition, over the years, Alamoudi often made
comments that displayed his sympathy and ties for Islamist
groups banned in the United States. Once Mr. Alamoudi was on
the phone with an interlocutor and said that the 1998
bombing of the U.S. Embassies in East Africa were to be
condemned,  but only because "Many African Muslims had died
and not a single American had died." But Alamoudi also
expressed his political views in public venues. In October
2000, speaking at Washington's Lafayette Park, only a block
from the White House, Alamoudi proudly proclaimed, "Hear
that, Bill Clinton, we're all supporters of Hamas.  I wish
they added that I'm also a supporter of Hezbollah."

Now, the case of Alamoudi and the American Muslim Council
(AMC) raises several questions. In 1996, AMC claimed to have
5,000 members, out of a population of American Muslims it
estimated quite generously to be seven million. (The numbers
in reality were actually much lower than that.)  How could
the head of an organization that by its own calculations
represented no more than .07 percent of the American Muslim
population, whose leadership had never been elected by the
Muslim community, and whose leaders were known to the
intelligence community as tied to terrorist groups, become
the de facto spokesman  for the American Muslim community
for Washington's establishment?

The height of Mr. Alamoudi's fall makes his case unique.
But the issues raised by this story are not limited to him.
It tells us about three interrelated issues. First, there is
the nature and the modus operandi of the Muslim Brotherhood
globally and here in the United States.  The second issue
relates to the organizational dynamics of the Muslim
community here in the United States.  And finally, there is
the issue of the U.S. government's attitudes regarding the
Muslim community and the Muslim Brotherhood-two very
different issues.

The Muslim Brotherhood is the oldest and most influential
Islamist movement.  It was founded in Egypt in 1928. And,
like most of the grassroots movements that appeared in Egypt
at the time, it was strongly opposed to colonial rule and
advocated Egyptian independence. But while most of the
movements that opposed British colonialism at the time in
Egypt took from Western ideologies, the Brotherhood based
its discourse on Islam. Creating what would become the model
of generations of Islamists, the Brotherhood saw in Islam
the answer to Western military, political, economic, and
cultural influence over the Muslim world.

Hassan al-Banna, the Brotherhood's founder, viewed Islam as
a complete, all-embracing system governing all aspects of
life-both private and public. For him, Islam was not just
"empty acts of frustration, but politics, society, economy,
law and culture." Solutions to all problems of Egypt and
more broadly of the entire Muslim community world-wide could
be found in this system, according to the Brotherhood.

In its ideology, the Brotherhood was looking at a mythical
past as a solution for its current problems. Yet its modus
operandi was very modern, and used many methods of modern
political movements to both spread its ideas and mobilize
support. The Brotherhood sought bottom-up Islamization of
society for the creation an Islamic state, through
proselytizing, spreading the ideas of the group, and
convincing people to buy into this interpretation of

If grassroots Islamization was the main method that the
Brotherhood used from the beginning, it must also be said
that violence was part of the original equation. From the
1930s and 1940s, the Brotherhood used violence against its
opponents, whether the British, the Jewish community or the
Egyptian government.  For decades, the Brotherhood was
subjected to very harsh persecution by the Egyptian
government. The worst time was in the 1960s, at the hands of
Gamal Abdel Nasser. This time included torture camps,
executions, and, for the lucky ones, deportations.

This heavy suffering at the hands of Nasser led to three
developments. First, one wing of the Brotherhood decided to
embrace violence completely.  Proselytizing was impossible.
The Brotherhood had to use violence to overthrow the
Egyptian regime and any other regime that was not Islamic
enough. So when we hear that the Muslim Brothers are the
forefathers of al Qaeda, it is a simplification, but it's
partially true. The belief that only violence can achieve
the goal of creating an Islamic state has its origin in the
thinking of  Brotherhood theoretician Sayyid Qutb in the

Second, a wing of the Brotherhood in the 1960s decided that
violence wasn't going to achieve any success.  The
Brotherhood was too weak to confront Nasser and the Egyptian
regime. Only grassroots activities-"bottom-up
Islamization"-was the way forward. The Brotherhood we see
today in Egypt, participating in elections, comes from this
wing of the Brotherhood.  They decided to find a modus
vivendi with the Egyptian regime, although technically
outlawed for decades in Egypt. Nevertheless, they
participated in political life and most importantly in
social life, providing social services and working on this
bottom-up Islamization.

Finally, the third development, that took place the 1960s,
was that some members migrated to other countries. Rather
than opting for violence, or participation in the system,
they chose to leave Egypt for other countries.  Many went to
the Arab Gulf, to Saudi Arabia and other countries where
they held leading positions in government and the education
system.  But quite a few actually came to the West and
received political asylum, whether in Europe or in North

Today, groups in more than 80 countries trace their origins
to the Muslim Brotherhood and have adopted different forms
and tactics according to the environment in which they
operate.  In a country like Jordan, they can participate in
elections. This has been true for a long time so they are a
political party. In Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood has been
outlawed for many decades and survives underground.  And the
Brotherhood in Syria may well be reemerging.  In the
Palestinian territories, it took a peculiar turn and became
Hamas.  Entities belonging to this global movement succeeded
based on an informal but very sophisticated network-with
personal, financial, organizational, and most importantly
ideological ties. There is a global Muslim Brotherhood in
which organizations work according to a common vision but
with operational independence.

Every branch, in every country, is free to choose its
tactics and goals independently. There are consultations and
constant communication but there is independence.  It is not
a monolithic organization.  As noted, this global movement
has a presence in the West-including the United States. The
formation of these networks in the United States, as in most
Western countries, follows a similar pattern.  The small
number of Brotherhood refugees who escaped persecution in
Egypt and Syria, and other countries, and came to the West
started interacting with more students from upper-middle
class of their home countries. These latter students came to
the United States and to Europe to study as graduate
students like Mr. Alamoudi in European and American

These small milieus formed in the 1960s and '70s bore
immediate fruit, as they formed the first Muslim
organizations in Europe and North America.  In the United
States, the Muslim Student Association was created in 1963
at the University of Illinois.  The West's freedoms allowed
the Brotherhood to do what was prohibited back home.  Their
activism soon attracted other Muslim students and small
numbers of Muslim immigrants who had had no contact with
Brotherhood ideology in their home countries. It is
important to note that the first Brothers coming to America
or to Europe were not part of a concerted plot to Islamize
the West. Yet, the small organizations that spontaneously
formed in the 1960s and '70s soon developed beyond the most
optimistic expectations of their founders.

Today, thanks to ideological flexibility, unrelenting
activism, and access to large funding, the networks
originally established by the Brotherhood have grown
exponentially. Although their membership has remained small,
the "Western Brothers" have shown an enormous ability to
monopolize the Islamic discourse, making their
interpretation of Islam and political events the most
readily available. Moreover, in many countries, the Western
Brothers have positioned themselves at the forefront of the
competition to be the main interlocutors of local
establishments. Mr. Alamoudi is a good example.  It is
apparent that no other competing Islamic movement has the
visibility, the political influence, and the access to
Western elites that the Western Brothers have obtained over
the last 20 years.

In the United States, the nucleus that started with the
Muslim Student Association in the 1960s spawned a myriad of
organizations like the Islamic Association of North America
(ISNA) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Each has its own magazine, website, annual conference, and
regional branches. But their unity is shown by common
financial sources, interlocking board of directors, and
occasional participation in common initiatives. The few
hundred individuals who run them form a small social network
united by family, business and most importantly ideological

Affluent, well-connected, highly educated and motivated,
they are a clique of leaders with few followers but ample
clout.  They are often the people U.S. authorities reach out
to when seeking to engage the Muslim community, as the story
of Mr. Alamoudi showed. They are not the only ones. It is
not a monopoly, but certainly something close to it. Why is
this? I think it's a combination of three reasons.  The
first is organizational skills. They are visible, vocal, and
they lobby.  They have offices a few blocks from Capitol
Hill; and are Washington based. And they are very active.

Secondly, competing Islamic organizations don't share these
strengths. The American Muslim community tends to be very
well integrated.  Most live in suburbs, scattered throughout
a huge country. They are extremely divided in terms of
ethnicity and origin.  Most American Muslims do not have
affiliations.  Some might belong to mosques, but simply at
the local level.  They have little reason or incentive to
organize at the national level.  Islamists do because they
have a political agenda.  So it's fair to say that a well-
organized minority has managed to position itself as the
unappointed, yet de facto, voice of a largely unorganized
and silent majority. These organized minorities have views
and positions that are not necessarily shared by most of the
people they claim to represent.

Third, the Brotherhood organizations have this quasi-
monopoly with access to government due to dynamics inside
the U.S. government.

We cannot really speak of the Muslim Brotherhood in America
if we seek to identify offshoots of any Middle Eastern
branch of the Brotherhood, whether Egyptian or any other.
There is no "Muslim Komintern," with Cairo in the place of
Moscow, as one scholar has expressed it. The organizations
here have historical, organizational, and most importantly
ideologically ties to the Middle East but they are
independent. I think we should take a non-formalistic
approach.  In the United States we have organizations with
ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. As such, we can call them
American or Western Brotherhood organizations.

Over the last 20-30 years, these organizations have
significantly readjusted their tactics and goals. The
Brotherhood is a pragmatic movement that would not blindly
apply what the Brotherhood and its founder had prescribed
for Egypt in 1930 to modern London or Philadelphia.
Undoubtedly, Western offshoots of the Brotherhood support
the formation of Islamic states in the Middle East.  But
their goals for the West are different. Critics argue that
Western Brotherhood organizations have the goal of
establishing Sharia Law in the West. I do believe that the
prospect looms in their imagination.  But introducing Sharia
in the West is hardly the Western Brothers' goal at this

Pragmatic and keenly aware of what they can and cannot do,
the Brothers' priorities lay elsewhere. And foremost among
their goals is the preservation of an Islamic identity among
American and Western Muslims in general. But unlike some
other conservative Muslim organizations, like Salafis for
example, Brotherhood organizations seek to strengthen the
Islamic identity of Western Muslim not by isolating them
from mainstream society. What they advocate is a sort of
conservatism without isolation, an openness without melting,
which of course, is not an easy task.

The second goal that is common to all of these organizations
is to be designated as official representatives of the
Muslim community of their country. Despite their unrelenting
activism and access to ample resources, the Brothers have
not been able to create a mass movement and attract the
allegiance of large numbers of American Muslims.  The
majority of U.S. Muslims either rejects or simply ignore the
message coming from Brotherhood organizations. So the
Brothers understand that a preferential relationship with
American elites could provide them with financial and
political capital, and legitimacy. This would allow them to
significantly expand their reach and influence inside the
community. They would be the ones, like Mr. Alamoudi, who
would be in charge of appointing imams in the prison system,
and in the military. They would be the ones the media would
call when seeking the "Muslim opinion," if there is such a
thing.  They would, in some cases, receive subsidies to
administer different social services.  This is a more common
practice in Europe than in the United States.

So making a clever political calculation, Western
Brotherhood organizations are seeking to be recognized as
representatives of the Muslim community in order to actually
become it.  And, of course, they would use this position of
preferential access to government to lobby government on
anything that has to do with Islam, whether it is domestic
or foreign policy.

There is a divide within the policymaking community that
mirrors the divide we see when it comes to the Muslim
Brotherhood and Islamist movements overseas.  So, we have
two extremes-the optimists and the pessimists. On one hand,
we see the optimists who argue that Western Brotherhood
organizations are essentially a socially conservative force
that encourages the integration of Muslim communities,
offers a model in which Muslims can live there faithfully
and maintain a strong Islamic identity while becoming
actively engaged citizens.  So, according to optimists,
governments should not view these organizations with
suspicion, but rather harness their grassroots activities
and cooperate with them on common issues, including
terrorism and radicalization.

Pessimists, on the other hand, see a much more sinister
nature in the Western Brotherhood. In this view, Western
Brotherhood organizations are engaged in a slow but steady
social engineering program aimed at Islamizing Western
Muslim populations. Ultimately, they will compete with
Western governments for their allegiance. The fact that
these organizations are not engaging in violence but
participate actively in the democratic process is seen
simply as a cold calculation on their part. According to
pessimists, officials of Brotherhood-linked organizations
have understood that infiltrating the system rather than
attacking it head on is the best way to get what they want.
After all, the tactics used by al Qaeda are not really going
to work here. Instead, a slow, steady infiltration of the
system will. And the pessimists see significant evidence
pointing to duplicity in the tactics of Brotherhood
organizations. It might be useful to make a comparison to
the tactics used by the Communist party in the United
States, 50-plus years ago.  In fact, one significant example
comes from Philadelphia.

Some may be familiar with the largest terrorism financing
case in American history. It was a case tried four years ago
in Texas against a charity called the Holy Land Foundation.
This charity was collecting millions of dollars allegedly
for orphans in the Palestinian territories, but in reality
for Hamas. The money was clearly going to finance terrorist
operations in the Palestinian territories and in Israel.
During that trial, the Department of Justice introduced
ample evidence of the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood
behind this charity and their activities inside the United
States.  Some of the most interesting documents come from a
meeting at a Marriott Hotel, close to the Philadelphia
International Airport. There, about 20 top Hamas and Muslim
Brotherhood officials met in 1993. This was right after the
Oslo Agreements had been signed. They talked about how their
organization could continue their activities as they knew
Hamas was about to be designated as a terrorist
organization. This meeting had been bugged by the FBI. It's
a fantastic spy story because the FBI has the tapes of
everything these individuals said during the meeting. It's a
fascinating read. Those gathered were debating their two
conflicting directions: supporting Hamas but at the same
time not looking to Americans as if they were supporting
terrorism.  Obviously, they faced a difficult situation.
But they argued that the Brotherhood in the United States
should have opted for a two-pronged approach that
differentiated between its internal and external strategy.

Within the Muslim community, the group vowed to maintain its
support for Hamas by collecting funds, hence the formation
of the charity the Holy Land Foundation. Yet, at the same
time, they sought to spread hatred of Israel and Jews among
the American-Muslim community. And one participant was
intercepted as saying, "We don't want the children of the
American-Muslim community, who are raised here in our
Islamic schools, to grow up surrendering to the issue of
peace with the Jews."  Participants discussed how to
camouflage such views to the American public and influence
policies and opinions. As one attendee argued, "This can be
achieved by infiltrating the American media outlets,
universities, and research centers, by working with Islamic
political organizations and the sympathetic ones."  One
participant agreed that hiding the group's real aims when
dealing with the American public was a necessary tactic. "I
swear by Allah that war is deception.  Deceive, camouflage,
pretend that you're leaving while you're walking that way."
Another stressed the importance of tailoring the discourse
to the American sensitivity.  He said, "Let's not hoist a
large Islamic flag."  And he argued that organizations
should have nice sounding names, like Holy Land Foundation.

The one document that the pessimists have really used is an
internal memorandum that was also introduced as evidence by
the Department of Justice during the trial. It was written
by a senior member of the Brotherhood in the United States,
and in one of its points stated, "The process of settlement
in America of the Muslim Brotherhood is a civilization,
Jihadist process, with all the word means. The Brothers must
understand that their work in America is a kind of grand
Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization
from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their

There is a divide between the United States and Europe when
it comes to government.  The FBI and the Central
Intelligence Agency in the United States tend to be neutral
regarding these organizations. The Europeans tend to be very
vocal about their concerns. The Dutch Domestic Intelligence

    Not all Muslim Brothers or their sympathizers are
    recognizable as such. They do not always reveal
    their religious loyalties, an ultra-orthodox
    agenda to outsiders. Apparently moderate in their
    attitude toward Western society, they certainly
    have no violent intent.  But they are trying to
    pave the way for ultra-orthodox Islam to play a
    greater role in the Western world. This is
    accomplished by exercising religious influence
    over Muslim immigrant communities and by forging
    good relations, with relevant opinion
    leaders-politicians, civil servants, mainstream
    social organizations, known Islamic clerics,
    academics, journalists and so on. This policy of
    engagement has been more noticeable in recent
    years and might herald a liberalization of the
    movement's ideas. It presents itself as a widely
    supported advocate and legitimate representative
    of the Islamic community. But the ultimate aim,
    though never stated openly, is to create then
    implant and expand an ultra-orthodox Muslim block
    inside Western Europe.

Pretty tough words. They come from a government entity and
Dutch Intelligence is quite well respected. But in the
Netherlands, as in any other Western country, including the
United States, there is no common assessment. There is no
white paper coming from the top and telling all branches of
government, all agencies, and all government officials how
to identify, assess and engage Brotherhood organizations.
Positions swing erratically from the optimist to the
pessimist point of view based on personal views, which in
many cases are not informed by facts. And for a variety of
reasons, politics also comes into play often, as you can
imagine, creating a very chaotic situation.

In the United States, this chaotic dynamic is exemplified by
the FBI's relationship with CAIR. This organization is
arguably the most visible and controversial of the U.S.-
based organizations that trace their origins to the Muslim
Brotherhood. Opinions about CAIR could not be more divided
within the FBI. On the one hand, we have FBI officials who
have gone on  record and publicly thanked CAIR for its role
in "keeping the nation safe" and praising it for "its
commitment to maintaining a dialogue leading to the frank
and honest exchange of ideas." In 2006, the Washington, D.C.
FBI sent CAIR a commendation letter praising it for its
"dedication in representing the heart of the Muslim-American
community." These officials are optimists. At the same time,
top officials in the FBI, individuals like Steve Pomerantz,
who was the former Assistant Director and former Chief of
Counterterrorism at the FBI, has publicly stated that:

    It is clear from a review of CAIR statements and
    activities that one of its goals is to further the
    agenda of radical Islamic terrorist groups by
    providing political support. By masquerading as a
    mainstream public affairs organization, CAIR has
    taken the lead in trying to mislead the public
    about the terrorists and their feelings of
    militant Islamic movements.

In the wake of the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing
trial in 2008, the FBI formally cut its ties to CAIR.

I'm singling out the FBI, but I could take examples from
other organizations within the U.S. government-and within
any Western government. The FBI specifically, unlike the
Dutch Intelligence Agency mentioned earlier, has a very
narrow mandate. The FBI looks at criminal cases. If you are
breaking the law, the FBI opens a file on you and they are
extremely tough. However, if you're not breaking the law,
they don't look at you.

The Dutch Intelligence Agency has a broader mandate. It
reviews all kinds of threats to society. It has a broader
institutional mandate and approach. While Western
Brotherhood organizations may not be engaged in criminal
activities, they might have an agenda that is in the long
term subversive. But in the United States, there is no
agency that really looks at organizations that can be seen
as subversive. By mandate the FBI doesn't look at anything
that is not specifically a threat to national security.
Several European intelligence agencies do look beyond
national security threats and take a broader view. In the
FBI, it is either black or white-criminal or good.  In
European intelligence, there is a gray area.

There is also the fact that CAIR, specifically when it comes
to terrorism, plays games. In some cases they are extremely
uncooperative. The hearings of Rep. Peter King in March 2011
were, of course, very controversial. Yet they highlighted
one very interesting story of a Somali community leader in
Minneapolis. Al Shabab, the al Qaeda affiliate from Somalia,
has been targeting the Somali community in Minneapolis. Some
20 American Muslims of Somali descent have been going to
Somalia to fight, and a few have actually died fighting
there. So this community leader who testified before
Congressman King's panel recounted how, when he reached out
to the FBI to work with them, to stop this recruitment
taking place in the community, CAIR and the other
organizations ostracized him and started a smear campaign
against him.

At the same time, we have had cases in which CAIR has been
cooperative with the FBI. There was the case of five kids
from Northern Virginia who went to Pakistan to obtain
training from al Qaeda affiliates there. CAIR was contacted
by individuals in the Muslim community and CAIR went to the
FBI. Put yourselves in the FBI Director's shoes: you don't
want to burn bridges with CAIR. Consequently, there is a
kind of understanding that as much as they are not the ideal
partners for the FBI when engaging the Muslim community,
they are a necessary one.

How should governments interact with this organization?
First, the issue is very complex. Conceptualizing a movement
that mixes politics and religion, particularly a religion
about which most policymakers know very little, is extremely
complicated. There is a lot of sensitivity in the United
States, in particular, but in the West generally, about
dealing with religion from a political point of view.
Moreover, in some cases Brotherhood organizations display
the kind of moderation and pro-integration stance that
Western governments are so desperately seeking in their
Muslim interlocutors. In other cases, it is apparent that
they harbor an agenda and embrace values that are opposed to
those of a Western liberal democracy. So policymakers
understandably find themselves in a bind. Again, we go back
to the pessimists and optimists, and what the extremes of
the debate suggest.

Many pessimists call for policies that would exclude Western
Brotherhood organizations from any engagement. They consider
the Brotherhood deceitful actors seeking to destroy the same
freedoms that have allowed them to flourish. Critics argue
that these organizations should be marginalized or even
outlawed. In this view, they are considered the political
wing of a global Islamist insurgency. I think that, while
this position highlights some troubling aspects of the
Western Brotherhood organization's nature and agenda, this
position is unrealistic and arguably dangerous. Western
Brotherhood organizations do represent a cross section of
the Muslim community. If the government's aim is to hear all
voices, it makes little sense to exclude an important one.
Talking only to those Muslim leaders whose positions square
with the government's is not a constructive policy. When
these groups act outside of the law, as when they provide
financial support to organizations designated as terrorists,
like in the case of the Holy Land Foundation, they should be
prosecuted. However, since most of their activities are
within the law, these organizations are a reality that
cannot be ignored and should be engaged.

Now the optimists argue that Western Brotherhood
organizations are reliable partners that should be engaged
in order to favor integration and stem radicalization. This
approach is also very problematic. There is ample evidence
showing that the aims of the Western Brothers do not
necessarily correspond to those stated in public. So
assigning an almost monopolistic control of the community to
a handful of self-appointed leaders, whose aims are at best
unclear, seems naive. I think there's a better way.

There is a preferred way that lies in between the optimist
and the pessimist approach. It is what I call "engage but
don't empower." This approach is developing to some degree
in Europe; in the United States only to a lesser degree. It
involves three steps. First, understanding that assigning a
monopolistic control of the community to these organizations
is mistaken. The Muslim community is extremely diverse.
Speaking only to the most visible and vocal self-appointed
representatives, the lowest hanging fruits, is a mistaken
policy. Governments should be proactive and seek out many
other organizations, many other voices, which might not have
the structure, the sophistication that Brotherhood
organizations possess. Yet they represent important cross
sections of the community. So the activism and visibility of
Brotherhood organizations should not be mistaken for
universal representativeness.

Secondly, we need a more refined approach. There are indeed
advantages in not isolating Western Brotherhood
organizations. Although nobody can really predict the long-
term developments, engagement could lead to a moderation of
the movement. That is the approach taken for example in
France. Isolation, in contrast could have negative
repercussions, further radicalizing the movement and also
allowing it to use the "martyr card" in the community. But
this engagement needs to be based on a firm understanding of
the history, characteristics, connections, modus operandi,
and most importantly, aims of Brotherhood organizations. So
only an informed engagement can lead to a realistic and
constructive approach.

I think many policymakers are increasingly aware of the
difference between engagement and empowerment. So
establishing a permanent dialogue, and even occasionally
limited forms of partnership with Western Brotherhood
organizations, can produce some positive
outcomes-particularly in the security field. I know that's
controversial. Striking the right balance between engagement
and empowerment is not easy, but necessary not to give an
undue advantage to these organizations.

Finally, as we look ahead, no organization is static and
Brotherhood networks are evolving. The networks that were
created some 40-50 years ago have changed with time. The
first generation of pioneers, who created these networks, is
slowly being replaced by a second generation of Western-born
activists who will inevitably add their perspectives in
guiding these organizations. So, today the debate is more
moderate, more in line with Western attitudes and
sentiments. These organizations' language is increasingly
striking a chord with Western interlocutors. Is a genuine
change taking place inside these organizations? Some
scholars, especially French scholars, would argue that these
organizations are like the Euro-Communists: in the 1950s
they wanted a dictatorship of the Proletariat, they wanted
to turn France into a Communist country linked to Moscow;
yet, by the 1970s, they just desired fair wages and a good,
cushy 35-hour-a-week work week. They were no longer dreaming
of a Communist state. Some scholars argue this is what is
going to happen with these organizations. They no longer
want to implement that civilizational Jihad that the
pioneers of these organizations talked about. They are just
going to be a socially conservative force. Other people
contend that this pro-democracy, pro-integration statement
of the new generation is just a carefully devised
smokescreen for the movement's more nefarious aims.

Only time will tell what's going to happen with these
organizations. It is likely that, in this milieu, some of
the organizations will go in one direction and others in a
different direction. But for the time being, I think, given
this uncertainty, a policy of cautious and informed
engagement appears to be the most appropriate.

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Getting out

Rico says it was only two days, but hospitals are never fun...

The Great POW Escape

This is a true story.
On 24 December 1944, the German version of the Great Escape occurred in Arizona, very similar to the American and British version that happened in Germany and resulted in the movie "The Great Escape".
In 1943 the US Army opened a POW camp in what is now Popago Park in Phoenix. Today the City surrounds the Park, but at that time it was about six miles to the city limits. All the POW's were German Navy, most U-boat sailors. The officers had nice apartments and the enlisted men were required to work off the camp grounds, mostly picking citrus.
All POWs have an obligation to escape. One enlisted sailor was able to steal a map of Arizona from a barn wall; not a road map but a map of the state. From this map the leader of the escape attempt, a U-boat captain, developed a plan. They would dig a tunnel out, which was eventually 184 feet long. They constructed collapsible canvas boats. The plan was to travel to the Salt River, which does pass through Phoenix, and was about ten miles from the camp. The map showed that the Salt River crosses the desert and connects to the Colorado River. They would then take the Colorado into Mexico.
Using a holiday party as cover, 25 men successfully escaped into the desert during the night. They broke up into groups and headed for the Salt River. One seaman chose to surrender to Phoenix police the next morning. When informed of his absence, the camp CO had no idea an escape had occurred.
Now the funny part of the best laid plan took place. As the escapees arrived at the Salt Rive,r they were dumbfounded to find a large dry river bed. They were great seaman, but had no knowledge of the desert. Within a week, all but three were back at the camp. All were captured within a month. Two got to within ten miles of the Mexican border. Unlike the Germans after our Great Escape, we did not shoot them.

Movie review for the day

Rico says that he and the ladyfriend went to see The Artist. Imagine, in this day and age, someone putting up the money to make not only a black-and-white movvie, but a silent one... Now imagine that it's a big hit... Amazing. (Especiaaly when Rico needs less than a hundred grand to make Zone of Fire...)

More history for the day

Eva Weisel, who lives in Los Angeles and is retired from the banking industry, has an op-ed column in The New York Times about World War Two:
In December of 1942, when I was thirteen years old, German troops occupied my home town. Within days, our house was commandeered as an officers’ mess hall. I soon had a yellow star on my dress, setting me apart from many of my childhood friends. The men of our family were ordered into forced labor. My happy life had vanished.
Luckily, an influential local man knew of our difficult straits and generously offered his protection. One night, he ferried the women, children and old men in our family to a farm he owned about twenty miles outside of town. There, he said, we would be safe. Though the stables he provided us for lodging were modest, with just a drape across the door to protect against the elements, we were relieved to be behind the thick, high walls of his property. We were deeply grateful.
As luck would have it, however, a German unit arrived in the area not long after we did. Our host told us to get rid of our yellow stars, stay inside the farm walls, and keep far away from the main house. He had his own strategy for dealing with the Germans. A bon vivant and world traveler, he invited German officers for evenings filled with food and drink. While nearly two dozen of us were hiding in one part of the farm, he protected himself from the prying eyes of the Germans by entertaining them on the other side of the farm.
Our host’s strategy worked well, until the night a couple of drunken German officers wandered away from the main house.
 In the courtyard outside the stables, they started banging on the courtyard door and shouting: “We know you are Jews and we’re coming to get you!”
My grandmother started screaming Cachez les filles! (Hide the girls!). I remember being shoved under the bed, trembling and sobbing as I tried to hide under a blanket.
At that moment of unspeakable fear, as our hearts pounded and tears poured from our eyes, a guardian angel came to the rescue. Out of nowhere, our host appeared. A strong, powerful man who projected authority and commanded respect, he stopped the Germans and managed to lead them away.
The next day, our host came to the stables. We rushed to express our thanks to him, but he was more eager to apologize to us. He said he was sorry that we had to face the terrifying ordeal of the Germans’ threats, expressed relief that he had intervened in time to prevent a horrible tragedy, and promised that it would never happen again. We never found out how he fulfilled his promise— perhaps he bribed the Germans— but he did. We passed the rest of the German occupation at our host’s farm, without incident.
During the horrors of the Holocaust, non-Jews saved many thousands of Jews from death and depravity at the hands of Germans and their allies. Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial museum, has recognized more than 23,000 of these brave men and women as The Righteous Among the Nations. Our family’s rescuer deserves to be among that number. And, in his case, the impact of recognition would have powerful reverberations, striking a blow against Holocaust denial in a part of the world where such denial is widespread.
That is because my hometown is Mahdia, on the eastern shore of Tunisia, and our rescuer, Khaled Abdul Wahab, was an Arab Muslim. (He passed away in 1997.) So far, however, Abdul Wahab has been denied the recognition he deserves. Nearly five years ago, in January of 2007, the Department of the Righteous at Yad Vashem nominated him to be a “righteous”, the first Arab ever to be formally considered for this honor. This nomination was based on witness testimony from my late sister, Anny Boukris. In March of that year, however, the official Commission for the Designation of the Righteous, a body presided over by a retired Israeli judge and created by Israeli law to decide who merits recognition as a “righteous”, voted to reject the nomination. That decision was kept secret for two years.
In 2010, that same jurist, Justice Jacob Tuerkel, sent the Abdul Wahab file back to the commission for a second review. This time, the case was bolstered by two fresh testimonies— a video interview of my cousin Edmee Masliah, who was with me at the farm and now lives outside Paris, and a notarized letter I wrote recounting my own experience. Yad Vashem now had three firsthand accounts of the story. But to my complete dismay, the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous once again voted to reject the nomination. Abdul Wahab was a noble man, I was told by Yad Vashem, but his actions did not rise to the statutory level required to merit the “righteous” designation — that is, he didn’t “risk his life” to save Jewish lives.
While that may be the wording of the law, I am told by experts that Abdul Wahab would not be the first rescuer of Jews not to have suffered physical harm, let alone life-threatening danger. Many in France who have won that designation were honored because they acted to save Jews without knowing for sure what fate would await them if they were caught. In addition, some of the famous diplomats honored as righteous were never arrested, injured or threatened with death for aiding Jews.

I refuse to believe that Yad Vashem has one standard for “righteous” in Europe and another for “righteous” who performed their sacred duty on the other side of the Mediterranean, in an Arab country.

Sixty-nine years after pinning a yellow star to my chest in my native land, I know that I was able to enjoy a long, full life because Abdul Wahab confronted evil and saved me, as he saved other fortunate members of my family. I hope that Yad Vashem reconsiders his case before no one is left to tell his story.
Rico says WHAT

History for the day

On 28 December 1981, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, the first American test-tube baby, was born in Norfolk, Virginia.

27 December 2011

Shoulda had one, too

Michael Luo has an article in The New York Times about concealed carry:
Alan Simons was enjoying a Sunday morning bicycle ride with his family in Asheville, North Carolina two years ago, when a man in a sport utility vehicle suddenly pulled alongside him and started berating him for riding on the highway. Simons, with his four-year-old son strapped in behind him, slowed to a halt. The driver, Charles Diez, an Asheville firefighter, stopped as well. When Simons walked over, he found himself staring down the barrel of a gun. “Go ahead, I’ll shoot you,” Diez said, according to Simons. “I’ll kill you.”
Simons turned to leave but heard a deafening bang. A bullet had passed through his bike helmet just above his left ear, barely missing him.
Diez, as it turned out, was one of nearly a quarter-million people in North Carolina with a permit to carry a concealed handgun. If not for that gun, Simons is convinced, the confrontation would have ended harmlessly. “I bet it would have been a bunch of mouthing,” he said. Diez, then 42, eventually pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.
Across the country, it is easier than ever to carry a handgun in public. Prodded by the gun lobby, most states, including North Carolina, now require only a basic background check, and perhaps a safety class, to obtain a permit.
In state after state, guns are being allowed in places once off-limits, like bars, college campuses, and houses of worship. And gun rights advocates are seeking to expand the map still further, pushing federal legislation that would require states to honor other states’ concealed weapons permits. The House approved the bill last month; the Senate is expected to take it up next year.
The bedrock argument for this movement is that permit holders are law-abiding citizens who should be able to carry guns in public to protect themselves. “These are people who have proven themselves to be among the most responsible and safe members of our community,” the federal legislation’s author, Representative Cliff Stearns, a Republican from Florida, said on the House floor.
To assess that claim, The New York Times examined the permit program in North Carolina, one of a dwindling number of states where the identities of permit holders remain public. The review, encompassing the last five years, offers a rare, detailed look at how a liberalized concealed weapons law has played out in one state. And while it does not provide answers, it does raise questions.
More than 2,400 permit holders were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, excluding traffic-related crimes, over the five-year period, The Times found when it compared databases of recent criminal court cases and licensees. While the figure represents a small percentage of those with permits, more than two hundred were convicted of felonies, including at least ten who committed murder or manslaughter. All but two of the killers used a gun.
Among them was Bobby Ray Bordeaux Jr., who had a concealed handgun permit despite a history of alcoholism, major depression, and suicide attempts. In 2008, he shot two men with a .22-caliber revolver, killing one of them, during a fight outside a bar.
More than two hundred permit holders were also convicted of gun- or weapon-related felonies or misdemeanors, including roughly sixty who committed weapon-related assaults.
In addition, nearly nine hundred permit holders were convicted of drunken driving, a potentially volatile circumstance given the link between drinking and violence.
The review also raises concerns about how well government officials police the permit process. In about half of the felony convictions, the authorities failed to revoke or suspend the holder’s permit, including for cases of murder, rape, and kidnapping. The apparent oversights are especially worrisome in North Carolina, one of about twenty states where anyone with a valid concealed handgun permit can buy firearms without the federally mandated criminal background check. (Under federal law, felons lose the right to own guns.)
Ricky Wills, 59, kept his permit after recently spending several months behind bars for terrorizing his estranged wife and their daughter with a pair of guns and then shooting at their house while they, along with a sheriff’s deputy who had responded to a 911 call, were inside. “That’s crazy, absolutely crazy,” his wife, Debra Wills, said in an interview when told that her husband could most likely still buy a gun at any store in the state.
Wills’ permit was revoked this month, after The Times informed the local sheriff’s office.
Gun laws vary across the country, but in most states, people do not need a license to keep firearms at home. Although some states allow guns to be carried in public in plain sight, gun rights advocates have mostly focused their efforts on expanding the right to carry concealed handguns.
The national movement toward more expansive concealed handgun laws began in earnest in 1987, when Florida instituted a “shall issue” permit process, in which law enforcement officials are required to grant the permits as long as applicants satisfy certain basic legal requirements.
The authorities in shall-issue states deny permits to certain applicants, like convicted felons and people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health institution, unless their gun rights have been restored. North Carolina, which enacted its shall-issue law in 1995, also bars applicants who have committed violent misdemeanors and has a variety of other disqualifiers; it also requires enrollment in a gun safety class.
Today, 39 states either have a shall-issue permit process or do not require a permit at all to carry a concealed handgun. Ten others are “may issue”, meaning law enforcement agencies have discretion to conduct more in-depth investigations and exercise their judgment. For example, the authorities might turn down someone who has no criminal record but appears to pose a risk or does not make a convincing case about needing to carry a gun. Gun rights advocates argue, however, that such processes are rife with the potential for abuse.
For now, the permits are good only in the holder’s home state, as well as others that recognize them. The bill under consideration in Congress would require that permits be recognized everywhere, even in jurisdictions that might bar the holder from owning a gun in the first place.
In recent years, a succession of state legislatures have also struck down restrictions on carrying concealed weapons in all sorts of public places. North Carolina this year began allowing concealed handguns in local parks, and next year the legislature is expected to consider permitting guns in restaurants.
Efforts to evaluate the impact of concealed carry laws on crime rates have produced contradictory results. Researchers acknowledge that those who fit the demographic profile of a typical permit holder— middle-aged white men— are not usually major drivers of violent crime. At the same time, several states have produced statistical reports showing, as in North Carolina, that a small segment does end up on the wrong side of the law. As a result, the question becomes whether allowing more people to carry guns actually deters crime, as gun rights advocates contend, and whether that outweighs the risks posed by the minority who commit crimes.
Gun rights advocates invariably point to the work of John R. Lott, an economist who concluded in the late 1990s that the laws had substantially reduced violent crime. Subsequent studies, however, have found serious flaws in his data and methodology.
A few independent researchers using different data have come to similar conclusions, but many other studies have found no net effect of concealed carry laws or have come to the opposite conclusion. Most notably, Ian Ayres and John J. Donohue, economists and law professors, concluded that the best available data and modeling showed that permissive right-to-carry laws, at a minimum, increased aggravated assaults. Their data also showed that robberies and homicides went up, but the findings were not statistically significant.
In the end, most researchers say the scattershot results are not unexpected, because the laws, in all likelihood, have not significantly increased the number of people carrying concealed weapons among those most likely to commit crimes or to be victimized.
Gun advocates are quick to cite anecdotes of permit holders who stopped crimes with their guns. It is virtually impossible, however, to track these episodes in a systematic way. By contrast, crimes committed by permit holders can be.
The shooting at the Hogs Pen Pub in Macclesfield, North Carolina in August of 2008 took place after when two men, Cliff Jackson and Eddie Bordeaux, got into a scuffle outside the bar. John Warlick, who was there with his wife, helped separate them, only to see Eddie’s brother, Bobby Ray, fatally shoot Jackson in the back of the head. Bordeaux then shot Warlick in the upper torso, wounding him.
Bobby Ray Bordeaux had obtained a concealed carry permit in 2004 and used to take a handgun everywhere. He was also an alcoholic and heavy user of marijuana with a long history of depression, according to court records. He had been hospitalized repeatedly for episodes related to his drinking, including about a year before, when he shot himself in the chest with a pistol while drunk in an apparent suicide attempt. Bordeaux, then 48, started drinking heavily at age thirteen. He had been taking medication for depression but had not taken it the day of the shooting, he later told the police. He also said he had fifteen beers and smoked marijuana that night and claimed to have no memory of what occurred. He was eventually convicted of first-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.
John K. Gallaher III, a permit holder since 2006, was also an alcoholic with serious mental health issues, said David Hall, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted him for murder. In May 2008, Gallaher, then 24, shot and killed a friend, Sean Gallagher, and a woman, Lori Fioravanti, with a .25-caliber Beretta after an argument at his grandfather’s home. The police found 22 guns, including an assault rifle, at his home. Gallaher pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder last year.
Among the other killings: three months after receiving his permit in July 2006, Mark Stephen Thomas killed Christopher Brynarsky with a handgun after an argument at Brynarsky’s custom detail shop. In 2007, Jamez Mellion, a permit holder since 2004, killed Army Captain Paul Burton Miner III by shooting him ten times with two handguns after finding him with his estranged wife. William Littleton, who obtained a permit in 1998 and was well known to the police because of complaints about him, shot his neighbor to death with a rifle in 2008 over a legal dispute.
More common were less serious gun-related episodes like these: in July of 2008, Scotty L. Durham, who got his permit in 2006, confronted his soon-to-be ex-wife and another man in the parking lot of Coffee World in Durham and fired two shots in the air with a .45-caliber Glock. Antoine Cornelius Whitted, a permit holder since 2009, discharged his semiautomatic handgun during a street fight in Durham last year. Jerry Maurice Thomas, a permit holder since 2009 whose drinking problems were well known to the authorities, held a gun to his girlfriend’s head at his house in Asheville last year, prompting a standoff with the police.
Gun rights advocates in North Carolina, as well as elsewhere, often point to the low numbers of permit revocations as evidence of how few permit holders break the law. Yet permits were often not suspended or revoked in North Carolina when they should have been.
Charles Dowdle of Franklin was convicted of multiple felonies in 2006 for threatening to kill his girlfriend and chasing her to her sister’s house, where he fired a shotgun round through a closed door. He then pointed the gun at the sister, who knocked it away, causing it to fire again. Dowdle was sentenced to probation, but his concealed handgun permit remained active until it expired in 2009. Dowdle, 63, said in a telephone interview that although he gave away his guns after his conviction, no one had ever done anything about his permit. He said he “could probably have purchased” a gun with it, but had not done so because federal law forbade it.
Besides felons like Dowdle, The Times also found scores of people who kept their permits after convictions for violent misdemeanors. They included more than half of the roughly forty permit holders convicted in the last five years of assault by pointing a gun and nearly two-thirds of the more than seventy convicted of a common domestic violence charge, assault on a female.
Precisely how these failures of oversight occurred is not clear. The normal protocol would be for the local sheriff’s office to suspend and eventually revoke a permit after a holder is arrested and convicted of a disqualifying crime, the authorities said. The State Bureau of Investigation, which maintains a computerized database of permits, also tries to notify individual sheriffs when it discovers that a holder has been arrested for a serious crime, according to a spokeswoman, but the process is not formalized.
In Ricky Wills’ case, he not only threatened his wife and daughter last May with a handgun and a rifle, but he shot at their house while a Union County sheriff’s deputy was inside. It led to convictions on two charges: assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and assault on a police officer. Soon after the shooting, Wills’ wife obtained a restraining order, which also should have led to his permit being suspended.
Sergeant Lori Pierce, who handles concealed handgun permits in Union County, said no one ever notified her about Wills, who was released from prison in November. And as the sole person handling permits in her county, she said, she does not have time to conduct regular criminal checks on permit holders, unless they are up for a five-year renewal. As it is, she said, she can barely keep up with issuing permits. She has granted about 1,300 this year.
Rico says that this is definitely a problem...

History for the day

On 27 December 1979, Soviet forces seized control of Afghanistan. President Hafizullah Amin, who was overthrown and executed, was replaced by Babrak Karmal.

25 December 2011

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2012 resolution

Rico says that Bill Austin-White gets appointed 'arch-perv for the day' for this:
Over the past few months I have forwarded some inappropriate pictures and jokes to friends who I thought shared the same sense of humor. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case, and I seem to have upset quite a few people, who have accused me of being sexist and shallow. If you were one of these people, please accept my sincerest apologies. In 2012 and onward, I will only post or send email with cultural or educational content, such as old monuments, nature, and other interesting topics. Below is a picture of the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris. It is the oldest bridge in Paris, and took 26 years to build. It was completed in 1604.
Oh, crap, where did she come from?

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