The American Bear


Anti-Immigrant Zealots Capitalize on Boston Bombings | Dispatches from the Underclass

Muslims, Arabs and more recently Chechens aren’t the only ones bearing the brunt of collective blame following the Boston Marathon bombing last week.

Since learning that bombing suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev immigrated to the United States as children, anti-immigrant zealots have capitilized on the moment to argue against immigration reform.

Right-wing talk radio host and frequent Fox News contributer Laura Ingraham insisted that the US block Muslim immigrants from entering the country, particularly from the ex-Soviet region of the world where the bombing suspects were born.

“I would submit that people shouldn’t be coming here as tourists from Chechnya after 9/11,” Ingraham said. “Dagistan, Checnya, Kergystan, uh-uh. As George Bush would say, ‘None of them stans.’”

You might be thinking: Who cares what Ingraham says? She’s nothing more than an inflammatory radio host with no power over actual public policy. But Ingraham isn’t alone.

For example, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx.) has demanded that the US government investigate and deport all Chechen immigrants with violent leanings.

Because the Boston Marathon attack came as the Senate began debating an immigration reform bill, certain politicians wasted no time in using the tragedy to pile on additional fear and hatred of immigrants.

Today, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined in the hatefest in a letter he wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calling for the bill to be delayed in light of the Boston bombings.

“Why did the current system allow two individuals to immigrate to the United States from the Chechen Republic in Russia, an area known as a hotbed of Islamic extremism, who then committed acts of terrorism?”, wrote Paul, who is now apparently an expert on Chechnya and ex-Soviet Muslims.

But the notion that stricter immigration policies could have prevented the Boston bombings is ridiculous given that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsaraev were 15 and 8 when they came to this country with their parents as asylum-seekers. As The Atlantic‘s Elseph Reeve explains, “The two individuals were allowed to immigrate because we don’t expect children to become terrorists just because people of their ethnicity live in a violent place.”

Nevertheless, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) used the bombings to denounce the immigration bill as well, expressing disgust to MSNBC host Martin Bashir that the bill bans law enforcement from racial profiling. In a creative mix of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric, Walsh said the following:

“We’re at war, and this country got a stark reminder last week again that we’re at war,” Walsh said to host Martin Bashir during an appearance on MSNBC. “And not only should we take a pause, Martin, when it comes to immigration, we need to begin profiling who our enemy is in this war: young muslim men,”

“The fact is, Martin, neither you or I or Jonathan knows of the 11 million, and it’s more than 11 million, how many are bad characters,” Walsh continued, addressing Bashir and fellow guest, columnist Jonathan Alter. “And what we’re going to do is replicate what we did in ’86, provide amnesty to all of them, which in essence is providing legal status to a lot of bad characters. You know, Martin, there’s also a piece of this legislation that bans our law enforcement officials of profiling. We need to profile even when it comes to our immigration policy.”

I wonder if these hate-mongerers know that Carlos Arredondo, the man in the cowboy hat being hailed as a hero for providing life-saving services immediately after the Boston bombings, was once an undocumented immigrant. Probably not. Facts don’t seem to be their forte.

More recently, the media has speculated that Adam Lanza was motivated by bullying he experienced during his time as a student at Sandy Hook Elementary. Conversely, not a single person has inquired about the mental wellbeing of the Boston Bombing suspects. Experts in psychology, violence and mass murder haven’t appeared on cable news or written op-eds for the New York Times and Washington Post with insight into what causes people to snap. No one has speculated about bullying that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar’s may have experienced, particularly Tamerlan, who was in middle school when he immigrated to the United States, an age when bullying is at its peak. Of course, all of these questions are rhetorical since we already know the answer: Adam Lanza and James Holmes are Christian white males whose names have the appropriate number of consonants. Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are Muslim (which cancels out white) males who immigrated to the US from a region of the world where names are difficult to pronounce (for us).

Rania Khalek, James Holmes, Adam Lanza, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Double Standards

h/t azspot

The Boston bombing produces familiar and revealing reactions | Glenn Greenwald

… One particularly illustrative example [of American ignorance to the frequency of such events abroad and our own role engaging in and perpetuating this type of violence] … yesterday was a re-tweet from Washington Examiner columnist David Freddoso, proclaiming:

Idea of secondary bombs designed to kill the first responders is just sick. How does anyone become that evil?

I don’t disagree with that sentiment. But I’d bet a good amount of money that the person saying it - and the vast majority of other Americans - have no clue that targeting rescuers with “double-tap” attacks is precisely what the US now does with its drone program and other forms of militarism. If most Americans knew their government and military were doing this, would they react the same way as they did to yesterday’s Boston attack: “Idea of secondary bombs designed to kill the first responders is just sick. How does anyone become that evil?” That’s highly doubtful, and that’s the point.

There’s nothing wrong per se with paying more attention to tragedy and violence that happens relatively nearby and in familiar places. Whether wrong or not, it’s probably human nature, or at least human instinct, to do that, and that happens all over the world. I’m not criticizing that. But one wishes that the empathy for victims and outrage over the ending of innocent human life that instantly arises when the US is targeted by this sort of violence would at least translate into similar concern when the US is perpetrating it, as it so often does (far, far more often than it is targeted by such violence).

Regardless of your views of justification and intent: whatever rage you’re feeling toward the perpetrator of this Boston attack, that’s the rage in sustained form that people across the world feel toward the US for killing innocent people in their countries. Whatever sadness you feel for yesterday’s victims, the same level of sadness is warranted for the innocent people whose lives are ended by American bombs. However profound a loss you recognize the parents and family members of these victims to have suffered, that’s the same loss experienced by victims of US violence. It’s natural that it won’t be felt as intensely when the victims are far away and mostly invisible, but applying these reactions to those acts of US aggression would go a long way toward better understanding what they are and the outcomes they generate.

… [In addition], the reaction to the Boston attack underscored, yet again, the utter meaninglessness of the word “terrorism”. News outlets were seemingly scandalized that President Obama, in his initial remarks, did not use the words “terrorist attack” to describe the bombing. In response, the White House ran to the media to assure them that they considered it “terrorism”. Fox News’ Ed Henry quoted a “senior administration official” as saying this: “When multiple (explosive) devices go off that’s an act of terrorism.”

Is that what “terrorism” is? “When multiple (explosive) devices go off”? If so, that encompasses a great many things, including what the US does in the world on a very regular basis. Of course, the quest to know whether this was “terrorism” is really code for: “was this done by Muslims”? That’s because, in US political discourse, “terrorism” has no real meaning other than: violence perpetrated by Muslims against the west. The reason there was such confusion and uncertainty about whether this was “terrorism” is because there is no clear and consistently applied definition of the term. At this point, it’s little more than a term of emotionally manipulative propaganda. That’s been proven over and over, and it was again yesterday. [READ]

Suburban Georgia on "the gay marriage" | The Marietta Daily Journal



My sister lives outside of Atlanta so I have this wonderful conduit to the goings on in the great state of Georgia. I’ve spent a majority of my life below the Mason-Dixon line unfortunately. Much of what I dislike has nothing to do with the people (weather, et al.). However, whatever this behavior is, whether its south-centric or not, is so far beyond ignorance I simply have no words for it. These aren’t some backwoods hillbillies from Appalachia here. These are presumably real people with real power in the state of Georgia; people holding public office. What in the actual fuck? I’ll copy my sister’s cut/paste highlights from the article (I added some bolding for emphasis, as if there were need).

Natural or unnatural?

“Lord, I’m going to get in trouble over this, but it is not natural for two women or two men to be married,” Everhart said. “If it was natural, they would have the equipment to have a sexual relationship.”

Everhart said while she respects all people, if same sex marriage is legalized across the country, there will be fraud.

“You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow,” Everhart said. “Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.”

Everhart said if she had a young child, she wouldn’t want them to have gay parents who would influence that child’s sexual orientation.

“You’re creating with this child that it’s a lifestyle, don’t go out and marry someone else of a different sex because this is natural,” Everhart said. “But if I had a next door neighbor who was in a gay relationship, I could be just as friendly to them as I could be to you and your wife or anybody else. I’m not saying that we ostracize them or anything like that. I’m just saying I’m against marriage because once you get the gay marriage you get everything else.”

How to Know and Not Know Stuff, by Sen. Marco Rubio | Jon Schwarz

You may remember that for Marco Rubio last month, there was just no way for mere humans like us to figure out the age of the earth:

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?

Marco Rubio: I’m not a scientist, man…I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there…I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

But today there is something he is qualified to talk about and does know for sure:

[Marco Rubio’s] response to Plan B [John Boehner’s planned bill to allow pre-Bush tax rates to return for people making over $1 million] underscored how unlikely it was to become law. “I continue to know that raising taxes on anybody is not a good way to generate economic growth,” said the Florida Republican.

This is the way cults “know” stuff. There’s total certainly about imaginary things they want to believe (slightly raising taxes on millionaires will hurt economic growth, Saddam has WMD!!!). Any “evidence,” they can find, no matter how shoddy, proves that they’re right.

Then if one of their treasured beliefs is shown to be catastrophically wrong, suddenly there’s just no way to answer this confusing question (we may never know how old the earth is, what happened to Saddam’s WMD is an unsolvable mystery).

Of course, all groups of people operate like this to some degree, but it’s usually not this bad, and most groups of people don’t have access to nuclear weapons.

Dear Mr. Romney: Palestinians are Poor Because You Stole from them and Kept them Stateless | Juan Cole

Mitt Romney, a privileged white man worth a quarter of a billion dollars who has sheltered his money from taxes in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Switzerland, and who never misses a square meal, stooped to a new obscene low in blaming the victim on Monday by slamming the Palestinians for not being richer. Palestinian politician Saeb Erekat characterized Romney’s remarks as “racist,” but even that was charitable. Evil, is more like it.

Romney in Israel: Palestinian Culture Is Inferior

Speaking to roughly four dozen donors at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, Mr. Romney suggested that cultural differences between the Israelis and the Palestinians were the reason the Israelis were so much more economically successful than the Palestinians. He also vastly understated the income disparities between the two groups. …

“Culture makes all the difference,” Mr. Romney said. “And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.”

“As you come here and you see the G.D.P. per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the G.D.P. per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” he said.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, called Mr. Romney’s remarks “racist.”

“It is a racist statement and this man doesn’t realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation,” Mr. Erekat said. “It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people.”

(Source: waitingonoblivion, via jayaprada)

We mustn't allow Muslims in public life to be silenced | Mehdi Hasan

"[T]he fact is that you can now say things about Muslims, in polite society and even among card-carrying liberal lefties, that you cannot say about any other group or minority. Am I expected to shrug this off?"

Have you ever been called an Islamist? How about a jihadist or a terrorist? Extremist, maybe? Welcome to my world. It’s pretty depressing. Every morning, I take a deep breath and then go online to discover what new insult or smear has been thrown in my direction. Whether it’s tweets, blogposts or comment threads, the abuse is as relentless as it is vicious.

You might think I’d have become used to it by now. Well, I haven’t. When I started writing for a living, I never imagined I’d be the victim of such personal, such Islamophobic, attacks, on a near-daily basis. On joining the New Statesman in 2009, I was promptly subjected to an online smear campaign, involving a series of selectively edited videos of speeches I’d delivered in front of groups of Muslim university students several years ago. I was accused of being a “secret” member of the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, and a “dangerous Muslim shithead” in the “same genre” as the Nazis. The post that sticks in my mind is from the blogger who referred to me as a “moderate cockroach” whose Islamic faith was “no different from the Islam of Abu Hamza, Abu Qatada, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Anjem Choudary or any of the ‘tiny minority’ of Islamic terrorists who believe that Islam must dominate, no matter what the cost”.

Three years later, as I leave the New Statesman to join the Huffington Post UK, little seems to have changed. “Huffington Post’s new UK political director brings pro-Iran baggage,” screamed the headline on the Fox News website back in late May. My “baggage”? I once publicly praised a fatwa from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, forbidding the production of nuclear weapons. Shame on me! Another ultra-conservative US news website, the Washington Free Beacon, referred to me as the “HuffPo’s house jihadi”.

The mere mention of the words “Islam” or “Muslim” generates astonishing levels of hysteria and hate on the web. As one of only two Muslim columnists in the mainstream media – the other being the Independent’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown – I have the dubious distinction of being on the receiving end of much of it. In August 2011, for instance, I wrote a light-hearted column in the Guardian on Ramadan, examining how Muslim athletes cope with fasting while competing. The article provoked an astonishing 957 comments, the vast majority of which were malicious, belligerent or both. As one perplexed commenter observed: “There is much we might criticise Islam for … but to see the amount of hatred being spewed on this thread on an article about something as innocuous as fasting really makes one wonder.” Indeed.

Read whole

I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools…Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion. We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana. In which a Louisiana Republican completely fails to comprehend that Islam is a religion… (via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity)

(via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity-deacti)

Romney incorrectly sees Muslim fundamentalism as all one thing, as though in Christianity you lumped Mormons, Evangelicals, ultramontane Catholics, and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army all together and accused them of working jointly for global political rule by the Pope. Romney wants to Fight Whole Muslim World, not Concentrate on Bin Laden | Juan Cole

Republicans obstruct Violence Against Women Act over LGBT, immigrant protections


The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is, in normal times, an uncontroversial bipartisan law that was originally passed by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The law was intended to buttress protections within the law for women affected by violence by stiffening sentences for perpetrators and enabling access by women to civil proceedings, even when prosecutors decline to pursue criminal charges. According to the Wall Street Journal, VAWA is encountering resistance for the first time since its inception. Republicans are obstructing the law’s renewal on the basis that it now includes language protecting Native Americans, immigrants and LGBT Americans.

All eight Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have voted against renewing the law, a move that has touched off a firestorm with Democrats. Vice President Joe Biden delivered an impassioned speech on the topic Wednesday at the White House. Attorney General Eric Holder called it “inconceivable” that passage of the law is up for debate. The Act was unanimously renewed in 2000 and 2005.

Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) held a press conference denouncing Republican obstructionism with regards the the law on Wednesday. Conservative objections arise out of new stipulations within the law that “expand efforts to reach Indian tribes, include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence and allow more battered undocumented immigrants to claim temporary visas.”

Half of Americans Getting Government Aid Swear They've Never Used Government Programs

Half of people getting federal student loans don’t think they’ve ever used a government social program. Forty percent of Medicare recipients have no idea their health insurance is funded by the state. And 25 percent of the people receiving that emblem of All That Is Bad About Big Government, welfare, don’t connect that paycheck to the “enemy.” Given the fact that one in six Americans use anti-poverty programs alone, there’s a hell of a lot of people who are deluded about how much the government helps them out.

(Source: azspot, via utnereader)

Politicalprof: Stupid polls


So a recent poll found that Americans are divided on the question, “should the US raise the debt ceiling”?

To which the only reasonable response is, so?

We’ve become poll obsessed in America. Polls are used as stand ins for “the will of the people,” and since polls are cheap and easy to do these days (although not in fact easy or cheap to do well), everybody seemingly polls on everything. Then, the results are held up to mean something about what American democracy ought to do, etc.

There are a lot of rants I could offer at the stupidity of this thoughtless poll-mongering, but I want to focus on one: the answer to the question, so?

It turns out that people answer questions pollsters ask even when they don’t know very much—if anything at all—about the issue being addressed. People know they’re supposed to know something about an issue, and if they are at all attentive to political and social life (something you cannot! assume), they feel social pressure to offer an answer. So they do. Even if they don’t know what they’re really opining about.

So let me ask a rhetorical question: how many people do you know (although, admittedly, tumblr might be a bad forum to ask this question) who can define what the debt ceiling is? Can describe why it matters? Can assess what the implications are for failing to raise it?

Unless you can answer these three questions, then a statement of preference in favor or in opposition to raising the debt ceiling is basically meaningless. Accordingly, the notion that public opinion on this matter should be a driver of US economic policy is silly.

More generally, the fact that our democracy seems to increasingly be driven by  immediate responses to questions asked of people who actually know almost nothing about the issues at hand has become a curse on the American polity.