Friday, January 22, 2010

A Look at Domestic Terrorism

Recently on Good Morning America, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani made the statement that, "We had no domestic attacks under Bush; we've had one under Obama." One finds it difficult not to stagger under such a dizzying intellect. Take a moment to analyze this statement.

"We had no domestic attacks under Bush." We can start with this part. First, it is grammatically incorrect. The verb have (of which had is the past singular first person conjugation) denotes possession. The addition of the word no negates this and therefore the phrase as a whole is without meaning. It is nonsense to say that you have something that you do not have. The sentence should read, "There weren't any domestic attacks under Bush" but no one ever gets this correct, so we can forgive Rudy this slight transgression.

Second, and more importantly, September 11 was a domestic terrorism attack that happened under Bush. As Mayor of New York City on the day of the attack, you would think Rudy would realize this, but apparently his memory is failing. Next, he stated that we had one attack under Obama. What attack was that? If he is referring to the so-called Underwear Bomber (Christmas day 2009), then one must remind him of the so-called Shoe Bomber (December 22, 2001), which would be the same type of incident. If that's the case, then he would be incorrect because neither of these can truly be called attacks. Both were attempts and both failed.

Apparently Rudy was speaking of the November 5, 2009 attack on Fort Hood, Texas. This attack was perpetrated by Nidal Malik Hasan, who was soon to be sent to Afghanistan and retaliated by opening fire on the military base where he was employed. Rudy is right that this happened under OBama, but is it domestic terrorism?

According to the Department of Justice, domestic terrorism is "the unlawful use of force or violence, committed by a group(s) of two or more individuals, against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives." This was an act performed by an individual and therefore is not domestic terrorism under this definition.

The U.S. Patriot Act defines domestic terrorism as "activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, and appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States." By this definition the Fort Hood attack is not domestic terrorism as none of these objectives were attempted by this attack.

Rudy Giuliani seems to be confused as to what constitutes domestic terrorism. One must wonder why shows like Good Morning America would continue to ask for his opinion.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Loss in Massachusetts

It's sad to say, but the Democrats have lost a seat in the Senate. The Massachusetts seat held by Ted Kennedy for decades was won tonight by a Republican. This disrupts the precarious balance of the Democratic majority in the Senate, and puts into serious question what the outcome of healthcare reform will be.

Why did the Democrats lose the seat? There will undoubtedly be a lot of finger-pointing and excuses, but the Democrats in office need to take long, hard looks at themselves and the work they have been doing.

A year ago (or slightly more than) we elected a new president. This new president was supposed to bring us sweeping changes. We elected him for this because we were tired of the old ways. We wanted fresh. We wanted new. We wanted change.

We did not get it.

We want healthcare reform. We need this reform, and when it was first introduced, Americans supported it, but in the interim Republicans have lied about what it is, what it is not, and what it will do to hard-working Americans. They successfully scared the public enough that support fell drastically. What was the Democratic response? Nothing.

Republicans dug in their heels and resisted every attempt by the Democrats to create a working bill. They rallied their troops, stormed town hall meetings, lied to the American people over and over again, and successfully halted this legislation from becoming a reality. What did the Democrats do? Nothing.

Now the Democrats have lost a seat, and probably due to their own actions, or lack thereof. Had the Democrats shown any backbone at all, they would have stood up to these attacks. They would have fought back in the place where the Republicans are winning; on Fox News. They would have pushed through their legislation without any support from the Republicans, and made their case that the Republican party wants America to fail.

Hopefully, this loss will be a wake up call to the Democrats currently in office. If you're not going to give us what we want, we're going to replace you with people who will. We, the people of the United States, are fed up with wishy-washy representatives who fail to show any concern for our wants and needs.

Give us healthcare reform, or get out of our way.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Don't Believe Bill O'Reilly

On a recent episode of his fictional program, "The O'Reilly Factor," host Bill O'Reilly stated that the majority of Americans support torture in cases where it is necessary for our countries safety, and that he agrees with them. He then used this as a springboard to get to his equally ridiculous point.

Pundits like O'Reilly and his ilk often do this. They make a false statement as if it's a fact, and then use it to prove their point. What this statement lacks, however, is a citation to show its credibility. You'll never find these people citing their claims because they can't. In fact, they often distort the truth to win over viewers.

Fox News/Opinion Dynamics conducted a torture poll and asked the question "Do you favor or oppose allowing the CIA, in extreme circumstances, to use enhanced interrogation techniques, even torture, to obtain information from prisoners that might protect the United States from terrorist attacks?"

Favor 43%
Oppose 48%

This was on O'Reilly's own network, yet he seems to be unaware of the actual results. It should be noted that a similar question was asked, but specifically asking if torture were allowed to be used on Osama bin Laden and for that the majority concurred, but that was for one man, not torture in general.

A Washington Post/ABC News Poll asked the question this way:

"Obama has said that under his administration the United States will not use torture as part of the U.S. campaign against terrorism, no matter what the circumstance. Do you support this position not to use torture, or do you think there are cases in which the United States should consider torture against terrorism suspects?"

58% stated that torture should NEVER be used compared to 40% who favored the use of torture.

Also, Gallup conducted a poll and asked the following question:

"Would you be willing -- or not willing -- to have the U.S. government torture suspected terrorists if they may know details about future terrorist attacks against the U.S.?"

Yes 38%

No 56%

Note that unlike Bill O'Reilly, I have cited my sources. So, when Bill O'Reilly states that most Americans favor torture, he is lying. Obviously most Americans do not favor torture, and the polls indicate this quite clearly, yet Bill O'Reilly states the opposite. This is the definition of a lie.

It's Time for Someone to Step Down

Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader has been quoted as saying that Obama could win the election due to his "light-skinned appearance and speaking patterns with no negro dialect." Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, has called for Reid to step down as Majority Leader because of his "racist" comments. It should be noted that Michael Steele is African-American.

First of all, this comment was made in 2008, before the presidential election, so it's not a new comment. Second, Harry Reid has apologized for the remark, stating that his choice of words was unfortunate, but more importantly, consider what he said carefully, because in analysis it's not a racist remark. At least, not in the way Steele is making it out to be.

Reid stated that Obama would be able to win because he is a) African-American, but with lighter skin, and b) has a speech pattern that does not indicate he is African-American (meaning, he sounds white). In other words, Reid is stating that the population of America (largely white) will only vote for someone who is white, or who is close to being white.

Is this racist? Yes. Is it racist against African-Americans? No. It's racist against whites. It says that whites are inherently racist and that only by presenting us with a choice of someone who is like us or at least close to being like us will we vote for them. This does not say anything against African-Americans. It slams all white people. If anyone should be offended by Reid's remarks, it should be those of us who are of the Caucasian persuasion.

Michael Steele, however, is Chairman of the Republican National Committee. The Republicans have made abortion one of their key agenda items, claiming that they are against the practice. Yet, under Michael Steele the medical insurance plan for members of the RNC specifically allowed abortion. Michael Steele stated that the democrats are practicing a double standard when it comes to Reid's comments, yet he ignores his own actions.

Yes, someone should step down, but it's not Harry Reid. Reid is doing a fine job of leading his party in the Senate, but I have to wonder why the Republicans are keeping Steele in a job for which is is obviously unqualified.