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The Counterterrorism Division of the FBI had existed for only a couple of years when President Bush took office. It had been set up during the Clinton administration and was focused on terrorist threats. The task was not just investigation. It was threat assessment. Trends and capabilities were the focus. Figure out what the bad guys will do before they even know. It was a small fledgling effort.
One item of interest was the hijacking of a French airliner and a failed attempt to fly it, and its passengers, into the Eiffel Tower. Could something similar be tried elsewhere?
Republicans mocked the idea of a terrorism analysis division and disbanded the office as the Bush administration moved in. After all, the FBI was supposed to be the Federal Bureau of Investigation, not the Federal Bureau of Analysis. Ha Ha Ha.
In 2009, President Obama had not been in office for 3 months when his very new Secretary of Homeland Security announced a new report that had been in the works for over a year. It had mostly been prepared during the Bush administration. The FBI had helped put it together.
It dealt with domestic terrorism. It was an intelligence assessment of economic and social conditions that might lead to threats, and an assessment of capabilities.
The report was explicit in stating that it was not the result of an investigation and that it was not a warning about a specific threat: "...no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence..."
But the assessment did go back to the closest previous period during which such threats had materialized. It had been during the Clinton administration a decade and a half before: Economic problems, the winding down of war, social change, and a liberal Presidential administration. This time we could add a black President.
Extremist groups back then had tried to recruit returning troops. Right wing rhetoric had gone to incidents of violence, then escalated until a bombing in Oklahoma City killed 168 people, and injured 680 more. Many of the dead were little kids.
The 2009 report warned that analogous conditions were coming together again.
[The division] has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.
- Homeland Security,
Extremism and Radicalization Branch (pdf)
Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division, April 7, 2009
Conservative reaction was swift:
By contrast, the piece of crap report issued on April 7 is a sweeping indictment of conservatives.
- Michelle Malkin, April 14, 2009
Janet Napolitano continues to thrash around for any rationalization she can find for the DHS report that painted political organizing on abortion, federalism, and immigration as potential national-security threats and called returning military vets a danger to the country they served.
- Ed Morrissey, April 20, 2009
Conservatives could read between the lines. They perceived a message the went far beyond what most of us saw as words on paper. We read about a risk assessment based on economic conditions. Conservatives read out name calling. Where many of us saw the words "domestic rightwing terrorists," Conservatives saw ... well... conservatives.
Republicans in Congress joined in. The most prominent was House Minority Leader John Boehner.
Furthermore, the Secretary of Homeland Security owes the American people an explanation for why she has abandoned using the term ‘terrorist’ to describe those, such as al Qaeda, who are plotting overseas to kill innocent Americans, while her own Department is using the same term to describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation.
- John Boehner, now Speaker of the House of Representatives, April 14 2009
American citizens who disagree with Democrats? Really?
Let's apply John Boehner's vocabulary to what has happened since.
Dean Obeidallah summarized a few days ago what those American conservatives who disagree with Democrats have managed since the report was issued.
American conservatives who disagree with Democrats concocted a plot in 2011 in Georgia to bomb a federal building and release deadly ricin in Atlanta;
American conservatives who disagree with Democrats attacked a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that killed six people;
American conservatives who disagree with Democrats placed bombs along the route of a Martin Luther King parade in Seattle;
American conservatives who disagree with Democrats killed a TSA officer and wounded another in November 2013
Two American conservatives who disagree with Democrats executed two Las Vegas policemen and then draped the Gadsden flag used by the Tea Party onto the dead officers’ bodies.
- American conservatives who disagree with Democrats launched numerous plots against, or actual killings of, law enforcement officers.
And on and on.
In fairness, Dean Obeidallah did not ascribe any of these incidents to conservatives or to American citizens who disagree with Democrats. Nor did the report warning us about conditions conducive to rightwing extremist violence. Obeidallah used words like
- members of a Georgia militia group
- a white supremacist on a Sikh temple
- another white supremacist
- the anti-government LAX gunman
- Jerad and Amanda Miller
Similarly, the Homeland Security report back in 2009 did not warn us about
- returning military vets
- political organizing on abortion,
- those who are against federalism
- opponents of immigration
or even American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats.
The report was a warning about domestic rightwing terrorists
and rightwing extremists.
So can anyone dispute the fact that the actual report, the warnings in 2009 about rightwing extremists and domestic terrorists, came true?
Let's ask John Boehner today. What about the the murders of police in Las Vegas? Where the murderers draped the Tea Party flag over the bodies? The killers who, as they stood over the police they had just shot to death, shouted their hopes for the start of a revolution? Was this domestic terrorism?
I -- I'm not sure how I'd describe it. But clearly we had a couple of sick individuals who engaged in a horrific crime. And our hearts go out to those families, especially the families of those two officers who went down.
- Speaker John Boehner, June 10, 2014
Our hearts do go out to the victims. Especially since resources were not appropriated and directed to heed the warnings issued back in 2009.
The warnings about domestic terrorism.
From Times Daily:
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge ordered Ohio's elections chief Wednesday to set early voting hours on the three days before elections in a ruling that gives Democrats a victory going into the fall election.
The order from U.S. District Judge Peter Economus comes in a dispute that began before the last presidential election. The fight was especially intense because of Ohio's role as a swing state rich with electoral votes.
President Barack Obama's re-election campaign and Democrats filed a lawsuit in July 2012 against Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, over an Ohio law that cuts off in-person, early voting for most residents three days before Election Day.
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From KFOR, Oklahoma:
I think we would be totally in the right to do it. That goes against some parts of libertarianism, I realize, and I’m largely libertarian, but ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss.
- Scott Esk (R-OK), candidate for State Senate, June 10, 2014
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For decades, we have seen a slow decline of the Republican Party. In the 1980s, all the talk was how the party of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush had obtained an electoral lock.
Democrats began a painful introspection after President Reagan won a second term. Even then, Dukakis lost in 1988. It was discouraging. The self-examination continued.
Bill Clinton eventually became a viable candidate, winning the Democratic nomination in 1992. He had to defend his credentials. Was he a real Democrat? Even after he was elected President, he had the same response:
"My grandfather thought he was going to go to Roosevelt when he died."
Elections have come and gone. Sometimes Republicans win, sometimes Democrats. Lately, Republicans seem to get a majority only in years not divisible by 4. In non-Presidential election years, a lot of traditionally Democratic groups don't vote in the same numbers as they do when Presidents are elected. So older, more male, more white, more "culturally" conservative voters hold greater sway.
But with each oscillation of modulus 4 years, Republicans win, when they win, by a smaller margin. When they lose, they lose by an ever widening gap.
The reason is that Republican politicians face an increasingly conservative electorate in Republican primaries. They lose to extremists, as Mike Castle did in Delaware in 2010, or they adopt extreme views themselves to get past primaries. They then have to face a general election with a less conservative set of voters.
As the Republican Party grows more conservative, less extreme conservatives leave. Those that remain are more conservative than those who leave. That means the party is more conservative than before. So some conservatives who can't quite go as far as the new standard then leave as well. Rinse and repeat.
I thought of the chaotic show the national party put on in 2012 as a delegate from Puerto Rico tried to present a scheduled report. The crowd jeered. For a time, she was drowned out by shouts that alternated between "USA" and "You must go!"
I never expected to see the sort of exhibition we all thought had disappeared by the 1950s.
I have a few close friends who are Republicans. I figure nobody is perfect. We should overlook deeply ingrained character flaws where possible. Okay, so I'm not above a bit of snark.
But that Party exhibition in 2012 reminded me that the main problem I have, that many of us have, with the Republican Party is Republicans.
This week proved to be a week of illustration. For the first time in American history, a Majority Leader of the House of Representatives was defeated for re-election. It happened in Virginia. It wasn't even close.
Eric Cantor is simply way too liberal for today's permutation of the Republican Party. The defeat is being described as a political revolution.
Kind of fits my own perceptions. Republicans are increasingly seen by voters as revolting.
From the Las Vegas Sun:
Hours after a man and woman killed two police officers at an east Las Vegas pizza restaurant and then gunned down another victim at a nearby Wal-Mart before killing themselves, a picture of the shooters began to emerge.
Residents at an apartment complex where it appeared the two lived together said they had a reputation for spouting racist, anti-government views, bragging about their gun collection and boasting that they’d spent time at Cliven Bundy’s ranch during a recent standoff there between armed militia members and federal government agents.
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From the Huffington Post:
Two days after a tractor-trailer crashed into Tracy Morgan's limousine, killing a passenger, road safety advocates hammered Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and other lawmakers on Monday for efforts to peel back recent reforms aimed at curbing trucker fatigue.
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Is it possible not to have an opinion about the unfortunate Bowe Bergdahl?
Colonel David Hunt, longtime contributor to Fox News: "We don’t know yet whether he joined the Taliban or not. But, there’s no question he deserted."
One report said Bergdahl had left a note saying he was leaving to start a new life. Fox News went further, reporting the note as saying he wanted to renounce his citizenship.
Fox also reported, from what they said were secret documents, that the captured soldier converted to Islam and declared jihad on the United States.
Sarah Palin condemned his failure to stick to English while in captivity.
Does anyone remember abused POWs like John McCain, Tom Moe, James Stockdale, Tom Kirk, and other American troops forgetting the English language during their years and years of brutal, inhumane captivity? Seems these war heroes returned to their beloved country not speaking Vietnamese, but speaking KickAss against those who would destroy the red, white, and blue.
- Sarah Palin, on Facebook, June 4, 2014
Some reports indicate it was not unusual for Bergdahl, when he had free time, to take walks off base alone. He had returned safely each time until he was captured. The extent to which walking off base after guard duty violates permissible military conduct is unclear. Was walking alone and unarmed a serious violation?
His appearance upon release did conform to the account he was reported to have given later. He was beaten and kept for weeks at a time alone in a darkened cage as punishment. The punishment was for his habit of trying to escape from his captors.
Which of several versions of his captivity will turn out to be accurate? It is at the moment, or ought to be, permissible not to know.
One obvious point can be lost amid the news analysis and punditry of the lost soldier's personal character. As policy, we don't determine whether each captured soldier deserves rescue from the enemy.
This point was not always lost on Republican critics. In fact, before his release, some conservatives were uninhibited in condemning President Obama for failing to obtain the release of the captive soldier.
In January, conservative news outlet PJMedia encouraged readers to sign a petition:
The petition asks the Obama administration to "take action to secure the release, or rescue, of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, using all means available, including force."
It needs 100,000 signatures by Feb. 16 to prompt a White House response. As of this writing, more than 2,800 have signed the petition.
Add your name to the petition here.
- PJMedia, January 21, 2014
In 2009, Sarah Palin, who was then Governor of Alaska, offered her support. Texans for Sarah Palin quotes a press release from the Governor:
Todd and I are praying for Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, his family, and all of his fellow soldiers who are putting their lives on the line to defend our freedom and protect democracy abroad,” Governor Palin said. “The capture of Private Bergdahl and the bombings in Jakarta prove that we have not defeated terrorism, and that radical extremists will stop at nothing to attack Westerners and our ideals.
A major objection to the exchange is that it amounts to bargaining with an organization of terrorists to release 5 highly dangerous individuals.
The accusation that we were negotiating with terrorists has two answers. One is technical. The Taliban have never been considered terrorists, although they did harbor and shield terrorists. The other is more basic. America has been negotiating with terrorists back to Ronald Reagan. In fact, we have negotiated for hostages going back to the earliest part of our history.
More troubling is the objection to allowing dangerous individuals to go free. John McCain has made this point.
So what we're doing here is reconstituting the Taliban government, the same guys that are mass murderers. One killed thousands of Shiite Muslims.
Senator John McCain on CNN, June 8, 2014
Actually, the 5 seem to have been, not so much actual fighters, but rather office holders in the Taliban government before it was overthrown. In fact, Senator McCain had joined other conservatives in supporting variations of the same exchange, all involving the same five prisoners.
Now this idea is for an exchange of prisoners for our American fighting man. I would be inclined to support such a thing depending on a lot of the details.
Senator John McCain on CNN, February 18, 2014
Senator McCain later insisted that he had qualified his support, saying it depended on those details. However, one of the details he explicitly supported was the release of the same five former Taliban government officials.
The most significant issue is the law. Can President Obama break the explicit law he signed? The law said the administration had to give Congress 30 days notice before releasing prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay prison. It was, to be sure, part of the year's military appropriation. He couldn't very well veto it. He did say all the time that he considered the notification requirement unconstitutional.
Some news outlets say that President Obama is ignoring the law. Jack Goldsmith, Assistant Attorney General for George W. Bush, is joined by other legal experts when he points out that disregarding a legal requirement that the President considers unconstitutional is quite different from ignoring the law.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says intelligence reports indicated that the Taliban were likely to immediately execute their captive if word of a deal got out. Perhaps they were also worried about internal objections to the deal.
Members of Congress were notified days or hours ahead of time, rather than 30 days. Secretary Hagel says this was "substantially" in compliance with the disputed requirement. The secrecy was not arbitrary. Notifying Congress would have endangered Bergdahl's life.
It is possible to view this as an implied insult to Congress. It makes it seem as if Congress could not be trusted to keep a life-and-death secret. How does Congress answer that? Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), says he would have gone public:
I’d have raised holy Hell. Absolutely. I did last time and I would again.
The administration had to make a decision. They determined that the desire not to have a soldier die was more important than adhering to an unconstitutional law.
Conservatives, at one time, wanted the captured soldier rescued. On the other hand, they hate President Obama. They too had to make a decision as to which was more important.
Changes that keep keep minority voters and the elderly from voting for the other side are necessary. If voting rights are violated, that's just the price you have to pay. The campaign activist locked alone with the ballots? Let's not make a big deal over every little thing.
Depending on our level of ignorance or on our philosophy, we either negotiated for a hostage, or we negotiated for a prisoner exchange.
The meaningful question is whether either one will encourage other enemies to take prisoners for the purpose of negotiation.
Perverse Incentives in the Veterans Administration (4:36) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
Eric Shinseki's management techniques work in combat. In a non-combat organization, a narrow focus on motivation works about as well as overfilling a gas tank in response to a dead battery. Perverse incentives are a recognized enemy in the private sector.
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Tommy Christopher, at the Daily Banter, brings us a new wrinkle in the Edward Snowden saga. As related by his lawyer, Snowden's flight to China, then Russia, is pretty much like the Underground Railroad of slave days. In fairness, he quickly said that he wasn't saying what he had just said.
At The Moderate Voice Dr. Ben Carson tries to explain how Obamacaer is the worst thing for America since slavery. Deadier than 9/11. More shocking than than Pearl Harbor. More devastating than the Great Depression.
Infidel 753 correctly points out the evil of the caste system. He expands the point to a more general criticsm of Hinduism, then of all religion. I suspect Mohandas Gandhi would agree with the criticism of placing people into castes, but would be more muted about religion. He was, after all a devout follower of Hinduism who believed in the transcendent truth of all religion, and who campaigned against caste until his assassination.
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A short time ago, a 92 year old Texas woman, a lifelong resident, was told she will no longer be allowed to vote. Up to now, she has been voting in Texas since 1944.
Texas has a new restrictive voter ID law. You can't say she didn't try. She took her Medicare card and her Social Security card and eventually found the right office where she could get a photo ID.
They said no. Feeling a responsibility to public safety, she had stopped driving a long time ago. She let her drivers license expire. In a bit of good luck, she found the expired license. Officials said no. She couldn't vote.
A 93 year old who has been voting in Alabama since World War II was told he can no longer vote. He no longer drives and can't get the documentation to get a substitute ID.
These are not isolated cases. The Brennan Law Center has done extensive work on the issue. They have found that 5 million eligible voters are likely to lose the right to vote.
These are mostly minority or elderly voters, who have no vehicle and live more than 10 miles from an office open more than a couple days a week that can give them a photo ID. Even then they have to find documents that are often long gone. Students trying to vote for the first time are also hit hard by the new rules.
The reasoning for the restrictions is that keeping all these folks from voting is the only way to prevent abuse: voters who would vote more than once, or people who are not voters who would try to vote anyway.
If there was a way to keep voter fraud from happening and yet would also allow these eligible voters to keep their rights, why not do that?
For example, we could accept substitutes, common IDs that most folks already have. A statewide database could avoid duplication. A signature comparison could work. Requiring in voters to say aloud who they are and where they live would make it dangerous for someone to try to vote where they shouldn't. Too great a chance some neighbor will know something's not right.
One tried and true method is strict, very strict, penalties.
In fact, most of those steps are done now, and they work. Actual fraud by voters, the kind a Photo ID will catch, is pretty much non-existent.
Voting fraud does happen, but it almost never involves voters. It happens behind the scenes. Someone changes totals, or stuffs ballot boxes, or throws ballots away while nobody is looking.
What new restrictive laws do accomplish is to keep the wrong kind of voters from voting. The wrong kind of voters are the voters that elected officials don't want to see on election day, voters who might vote for the other candidate.
What the restrictive laws don't do is prevent actual vote fraud, the kind that happens when campaign workers find unlocked doors and spend time alone with ballot boxes.
In Mississippi, Republicans put into effect some of the harshest voting restrictions since Jim Crow days. There has never been a problem of voters voting fraudulently in Mississippi. But you can't be too careful about the future.
A recent election may decide whether there will be a new United States Senator from Mississippi. It will result in a runoff. It is the first election with the tough new voter restrictions.
On election night, after hours, a Republican official in the Tea Party movement found an unlocked door to the building where the ballots are stored. She was alone with those ballots for hours. Nobody else was in the building.
The campaign activist locked alone with all those ballots did call for help after several hours. And officials do say the ballots were secure. So all is well.
Changes that keep keep minority voters and the elderly from voting for the other side are necessary. If voting rights are violated, that's just the price you have to pay. No voter fraud has been discovered, but we have to be alert for the future.
The campaign activist locked alone with the ballots? Let's not make a big deal over every little thing.
For more than two decades, Chester Nez kept silent about his role as one of the original Navajo code talkers responsible for developing an unbreakable code during World War II.
His death Wednesday at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at age 93 was lamented by the Marine Corps as the end of an era -- for both the country and its armed forces.
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Utah will not recognize, at least for now, the marriages of gay couples who rushed to wed after a federal judge's ruling briefly legalized gay unions in the conservative, predominantly Mormon state, the governor's office said on Wednesday.
The state's decision comes as a blow to roughly 1,400 same-sex couples who tied the knot after U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled on December 20 that a state ban on gay marriage violated the U.S. Constitution. His ruling was later put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court pending an appeal.
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