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.

Once upon a time, an argument over whether such drone strikes were legal or not might have had some heft to it. After all, the United States was once hailed, above all, as a ‘nation of laws.’ But make no mistake: today, such a ‘debate’ will, in the Seinfeldian sense, be an argument about nothing, or rather about an issue that has long been settled. The drone strikes, after all, are perfectly ‘legal.’ How do we know? Because the administration which produced that 50-page document (and similar memos) assures us that it’s so, even if they don’t care to fully reveal their reasoning, and because, truth be told, on such matters they can do whatever they want to do. It’s legal because they’ve increasingly become the ones who define legality.

Paying the Bin Laden Tax

Tom Engelhardt:

It would, of course, be illegal for Canadians, Pakistanis, or Iranians to fly missile-armed drones over Minneapolis or New York, no less take out their versions of bad guys in the process. That would, among other things, be a breach of American sovereignty. The U.S. can, however, do more or less what it wants when and where it wants.  The reason: it has established, to the satisfaction of our national security managers — and they have the secret legal documents (written by themselves) to prove it — that U.S. drones can cross national boundaries just about anywhere if the bad guys are, in their opinion, bad enough. And that’s “the law”!

State Threats to International Election Observers Symptom of American Exceptionalism | Kevin Gosztola

"…Texas will not be inundated with foreigners ‘interfering’ at every polling place. At most, we will see a few highly professional and experienced observers who will watch and not interfere in the election process in any way…

"I’m left to wonder, however, why anyone would be worried about a few folks wandering around watching an election.

"Vibrant democracies should not worry about conducting elections in the open for all to see. If Abbott is, as he says, proud of the “measures Texas has implemented to protect the integrity of elections” he should be equally proud to have any and all come watch the process firsthand…" - Cynthia Aikon, an associate professor of law at the Texas Wesleyan University

Goddam ferners:

Multiple states, including Arizona, Iowa and Ohio, plan to make certain international election observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) go nowhere near state polling places on Election Day. At least three states, Arizona, Iowa and Texas, have warned observers they could be criminalized for being within one hundred feet of polling places.

The OSCE is a body, which the United States is a founding member. Observers have been sent to the United States to observe US elections since 2002. But, now, Republicans in states where voter suppression could potentially occur are suggesting to Americans these people are here to violate American sovereignty as part of some left-wing ACORN conspiracy.

On October 23, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote a letter to the OSCE informing them that Texas would use state codes and the law to ensure observers were prevented from accessing polling places. Abbott stated, “It may be a criminal offense for OSCE’s representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance. Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE’s representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law.”

The motivation for threatening observers stemmed from Abbott’s disgust with the fact that OSCE had met with Project Vote in April, a group “closely affiliated with ACORN, which collapsed in disgrace after its role in a widespread voter registration fraud scheme.” Project Vote challenged Texas’ voter registration regulations but that challenge was rejected. OSCE identified “Voter ID laws as a barrier to the right to vote” and Project Vote wrote a letter urging OSCE to “monitor states that have taken steps to protect ballot integrity by enacting Voter ID laws.” He called the international observers’ opinion “legally irrelevant” in the United States,

Naturally, the threat prompted a response from Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The ambassador stated the threat was “at odds with the established good co-operation between OSCE/ODIHR observers and state authorities across the United States, including in Texas.” The threat ran contrary to Texas’ obligations as a participating state.

In a letter to the State Department, Lenarčič said, “The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable. “The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”


The Paranoid-Critical Method | Rob Horning

Most of my conjectures lately have to do with the systemic paranoia induced by social media and its surveillance capacity. The horrendous ramifications for privacy are obvious to everyone at this point, yet they have not deterred anyone from using social media and allowing social media to embed themselves ever deeper into everyday-life practices. Where is the paranoia? Is it so omnipresent to have become invisible? And why hasn’t it stopped people from signing up?

Rather than avoid the intensifying social threat, we appear to be adjusting our inner paranoia to accommodate these unprecedented levels of vulnerability. This suggests an unthinking and ongoing transvaluation of values is occurring, whereby the invasive and exploitive possibilities inherent in social media are recoded as an expression of basic human impulses, as realizations of long-held dreams of connection and freedom of expression, of collective self-discovery or the discovery of long-suppressed collectives. Somehow we can look at something like Facebook and see it as a tool for building trust rather than obviating it.

Part of this transvaluation takes the natural yearning for recognition and inflates it an unchecked hunger for indiscriminate fame, as though attention were like money, fungible and hoardable, and more of any kind of it is automatically good. Fame has no limits and can’t really be rationalized on the scale of what had been routine life; those who have been saturated with the amount of attention fame brings have almost always been psychically destroyed by it. It is the opposite of being appreciated for what you do in the moment, or what sort of person you are to the people you are close to, and eventually precludes those humbler forms of appreciation, which are impossible in the context of fame. Your own notoriety becomes the explanation for everything anyone says to you; it’s all obligatory homage being paid to fame, and the relation of all that attention to how you actually are in the world can’t be verified. It becomes a paranoid condition, in which no approval or recognition is genuine but instead must be interpreted as having been calculated to achieve some other aim.

Another way of describing that species of paranoia is that all human relations are instrumentalized, which is, of course, what “networking” is all about. The paranoia of social media, the paranoia of unchecked exposure, can be recast as a fantasy of becoming ubiquitously useful, the fulfillment of being ever ready-to-hand, like Heidegger’s hammer (Heidegger’s Hammer should be a band name; I’m picturing a bunch of philosophy Ph.D. students playing doom metal covers.), and, in that way, paradoxically invisible, safe. You are never analyzed for how you are, but are always seen instead of how you might be deployed.

At the same time, we see others in the same way — perpetually useful, worth “following” and reporting on — verifying our own safety. As Koolhaas notes, “The paranoiac always hits the nail on the head, no matter where the hammer blows fall.” [++]

Within the foreign policy elite, there exists a pervasive belief that the post-Cold War world is treacherous place, full of great uncertainty and grave risks…There is just one problem. It is simply wrong. The world that the United States inhabits today is a remakably safe and secure place. It is a world with fewer violent conflicts and greater political freedom than at virtually any other point in human history…The United States faces no plausible existential threats, no great-power rival, and no near term competition for the role of global hegemon. The U.S. military is the world’s most powerful, and even in the middle of a sustained downturn, the U.S economy remains among one of the world’s most vibrant and adaptive…[Yet] this reality is barely reflect in U.S. national security strategy or in American foreign policy debates. Clear and Present Safety

Local police stockpile high-tech, combat-ready gear | America's War Within

If terrorists ever target Fargo, N.D., the local police will be ready.

In recent years, they have bought bomb-detection robots, digital communications equipment and Kevlar helmets, like those used by soldiers in foreign wars. For local siege situations requiring real firepower, police there can use a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret. Until that day, however, the menacing truck is mostly used for training runs and appearances at the annual Fargo picnic, where it’s been displayed near a children’s bounce house.

“Most people are so fascinated by it, because nothing happens here,” said Carol Archbold, a Fargo resident and criminal justice professor at North Dakota State University. “There’s no terrorism here.” 

Fargo, like thousands of other communities in every state, has been on a gear-buying spree with the aid of more than $34 billion in federal government grants since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.  

The federal grant spending, awarded with little oversight from Washington, has fueled a rapid, broad transformation of police operations in Fargo and in departments across the country.


Every community in the country has some explanation for why it needs more money, not less, to protect against every conceivable threat. It could be a shooting rampage at an amusement park, a weapon of mass destruction hidden at a manufacturing plant, a nuclear device detonated at a major coastal port. Nothing short of absolute security seems acceptable. 

“The argument for up-armoring is always based on the least likely of terrorist scenarios,” said Mark Randol, a former terrorism expert at the Congressional Research Service. “Anyone can get a gun and shoot up stuff. No amount of SWAT equipment can stop that.”

Law enforcement leaders nonetheless bristle at the word “militarization,” even if the defense community itself acknowledges a convergence of the two.

“I don’t see us as militarizing police; I see us as keeping abreast with society,” said former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, now chairman of Kroll Inc., the security consulting firm. “And we are a gun-crazy society.”