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On Homeland Security, Or, We Visit A Terrorist Gathering Place August 23, 2010

They better not build that mosque down by Ground Zero, we’re being told, not just because it’s insensitive, but because we have no idea what they’ll be up to down there.

I mean, where did the money come from?

Who does this Imam hang out with, anyway?

And, at a time when our Nation faces more threats than ever, why would we let these Muslim madmen situate their “terror command posts” anywhere?

Well, I don’t know about all of that…but I do know a place where lots of these Islamic terrorists go to obtain the equipment and supplies they need to support their particular craft, and I decided to make a bit of an undercover visit to the spot, so that I might “observe and report” on what goes on at this specific location.

So put on your dark glasses…and let’s go see what we can find out.

I can’t give away too many details, for security reasons, but I can tell you that this particular distribution center is located about three miles from the Boeing Company’s Renton, Washington, manufacturing site. (The assembly lines for the 737 family of aircraft and the US Navy’s P-8A Poseidon antisubmarine patrol aircraft are all located on the property.)

Off to the southwest of the Boeing plant are dozens of nondescript commercial buildings, all one or two stories tall—including some that store, produce, or process components and subassemblies that will eventually make their way over to that Boeing plant.

We approach the unmarked building that interests us from the west, and even as we enter the parking lot we can see the terrorists gathering and going up the ramp to get inside—and it’s already clear that one of the warnings I was given has already come to pass: they’re operating under deep cover.

I didn’t let their cover fool me, though: it only takes a quick glance to know these are hardened veterans of jihad, and before I went in, I made sure I had taken every precaution.

You can see terrorists coming out of the building with large sacks of what I can only assume must be ammonium nitrate; to protect their cover they’re carrying the bags in what look like ordinary shopping carts.

I could see that everyone who enters grabbed one of these carts first, presumably as a signal to the guards (who are hidden from view as I enter) that they belong there; I grab one of them as well and pass through the portals to the inner sanctum.

Once inside I can see that there’s no further pretense of trying to hide their presence; terrorists are everywhere, in costume, wandering about freely…and for the moment, at least, they seem unperturbed by my presence.

The effort to maintain a cover story, however, even continues inside, as terrorist “sleeper cells” group up in what look like ordinary families, with a male and female, often accompanied by “terror children” and the occasional older terrorist “mentor”, who were apparently disguised to look like grandparents.

As I went inside the gathering of terrorist supplies continued, even in my presence—and it was amazing to see how effectively even ordinary looking objects could be “reinvented” as tools of terror.

At least 1/3 of the facility is devoted to devices that appear to resemble ordinary produce but have obviously been repurposed for terrorist purposes; in that area I saw terror tomatoes, terror shallots, and even terrorist-enhanced pineapples openly on display…and the costumed devils who had come to this location were grabbing them up as if they were…well, pineapples.

“Terror Tea” is evidently required if you hope to overthrow the infidels, and at least 20 different varieties of what must have been explosive materials (some of it was actually described as “gunpowder tea”) were on display, some in tiny bags small enough to smuggle on aircraft; other “bulk” packages were as large as 400 grams.

For those who seek to formulate their own materials, there is an entire “island” in the center of the store covered with bags of various powders that can be mixed together to achieve various effects; to maintain cover these were also innocently labeled as though they were exotic spices, unknown on this continent. I saw “turmeric”, “fenugreek”, and “cardamom” among the nonsense names that are obviously being used to throw off the English speaker.

They had strange fuels available as well, including “cooking” oil that they claimed was made from the seeds of grapes and some sort of what I assume was liquid explosive that was labeled “ghee”.

All sorts of “canned goods” and bizarre objects in jars were available, obviously intended to allow terrorists to infiltrate decent American homes and plant “booby traps”…but just as Japanese clothing designers seem to have trouble getting the English just right, there were subtle differences that can be observed by a real American.

For example, the word “ZerGüt”, which would never be used on an American product, appears on many of the jars (I couldn’t confirm this on the scene, for reasons of personal safety, but I assume ZerGüt means “Die, haters of Islam!” in Arabic).

Those large bags: they were stacked around the building, and as I approached some of them I saw even more patently ridiculous English labels, clearly intended to throw off Customs and Border Protection inspectors, such as “Brown Jasmine Rice” and “Red Cargo Rice”…and based on how much inventory they had on hand, there’s no doubt that the ruse was working.

The most insidious part of the story I saved for last: the use of cookies and candies as a mechanism for distributing certain unknown pastes that were concealed inside the cookies and candies, and the fact that this type of weapon is especially targeted toward American children.

You could see it from 50 feet away, as the “children” of the sleeper cells would gather around the cases of weapons, often choosing the most brightly colored packaging in what must have been a tactical decision to use that packaging to attract other children later when the cookies are handed out to innocent victims.

Mind control pastes?
Novel explosives?
A means to bankrupt us by spreading diabetes?

It’s impossible to say, but whatever their plot is, it must be diabolical to use such weapons as these.

In an effort to determine exactly what was going on, I obtained several of these packages of weapons. Disassembly and sampling have not enabled me to fully discern exactly what properties these unknown pastes might exhibit, but I do know that they contain high levels of sugar, which could be helpful if you’re looking to make “formed explosives”.

Due to the variety of hues encountered when examining the pastes, I assume there is some sort of color code that I have not yet figured out.

Obviously, I’ll continue to sample the various packages obtained until the scientific data within is more fully revealed.

Despite the fact that I was not dressed as the others in attendance were, I was moved through the money-changing process efficiently, in English (that’s how good they are…), and I was able to return to my vehicle and leave the area without being tailed.

An analysis for active and passive sensing and sending devices (on my vehicle and among the objects obtained) seems to offer no new data compared to a baseline analysis I conducted before visiting this site, so I’m fairly confident I escaped without the potential for future incident…which means the biggest issue remaining is probably assuring the safe disposal of the samples that were collected; as we’ve noted, that process is already underway.

So what did we learn?

We now know that an active distribution network exists to put various booby-trap weapons and other devices in the hands of terrorists—and we know that this activity is occurring within just a few miles of a commercial aircraft assembly facility that also does work for the militaries of this Nation and several others.

The devices are astounding in their similarity to actual items that might be seen in American households…and the terrorists are so good at maintaining cover that, in my presence, they kept themselves in the characters they were taught by their handlers, even to the point of the “children” keeping up the appearance of sticking with their “parents”.

But the most important thing we learned is that we can not take any chances on allowing these terrorists to gain any more footholds in our Homeland.

We don’t know what their diabolical plan is, but we have to act now to stop any further command centers from coming on-line—and most importantly of all, we have to make sure that these terrorists don’t get a chance to take their sleeper cells to a “Community Center” anywhere near Ground Zero, where they might try to play Terror Basketball or cook up “recipes” in a Terror Kitchen…and if we have to throw out the Constitution to make that happen, well, what’s more important, being free, or being safe from being free?

 

On Saving 319,000 Jobs, Or, Legislation Keeps Teachers Teaching August 10, 2010

As I pick up the pace of work again, coming into the midterms, I have to get some stories cleared off the desk in order to make room for some others, and that’s what we’re about today.

We’ll be talking about saving more than 300,000 of this country’s most important jobs, and paying for it in a way that is not only good policy, but is a real problem for Republicans who are yelling “no new taxes!” once again while pretending they care about actually paying for actual spending and actually want to cut actual unemployment.

We have a bit of work to do today, but we want to keep it somewhat short…so let’s get going.

So across my desk have come documents that report how many jobs will be saved by the House coming back into session to vote out H.R. 1586 and send it to the President for his signature.

Long story short, after all the commemorative pens have been distributed about 319,000 more people will be working, including 161,000 more teachers who will be in class this year then there would have been there if it wasn’t for this bill…and as it happens, that many teachers is actually about 25,000 more people than the total number of workers in all of America’s coal mines combined.

It’s going to cost $10 billion for the “save the teacher’s jobs” part of the bill; another $16.1 billion will be paid to states to help them pay for their share of Medicare expenses this fiscal year, that will allow them to avoid laying off the remaining 158,000 workers, many of whom are working for someone like Child Protective Services or are State Troopers or are working for your State’s Department of Corrections…and about 80,000 of those jobs are private sector jobs, as contractors who work for the various states are also kept on the job.

To give you an idea of just how many teachers we’re talking about, Florida will have 9200 more this fall than they would have otherwise, Illinois will have 5700 more, Kentucky, 2200 more, and in California there’ll be about 16,500 more teachers in the classrooms this fall than if this bill wasn’t going to pass.

You can look up how many more teachers your State is estimated to have this fall at a handy page on the House Committee on Education and Labor’s website.

I don’t have a handy chart for the remaining workers, but if those jobs are more or less distributed the same way you could expect California, as an example, to save a total of about 33,000 jobs with just this one bill, and Florida to save about 18,000.

How badly do states need the money?

By an amazing coincidence, as I’m putting this story together I’m watching tonight’s “The Rachel Maddow Show”, and sure as life, she’s working the same story…and she’s reporting that Paul Krugman’s reporting that several states are literally unpaving their roads because they can’t afford to maintain them any more.

So here’s the best part: it’s all paid for by closing a variety of tax loopholes and recovering money that wasn’t being used from other programs, so no new deficit spending or additions to debt are required.

The tax loopholes?

They take aim at the various methods multinational companies are using to shield US income from US tax collectors; these mostly involve getting a Post Office box in the Cayman Islands, or something similar, and more or less claiming all your US business is derived from your new “regional office”, or that you believe you paid all your income taxes on your US income to some other government.

Our Republican friends are going nutty about this, claiming, as John Boehner just did on “Meet The Press”, that: “…they want to raise the taxes on the American people .”

This is particularly tough for Republicans because they’re dying to save The Bush Tax Cuts For The Really, Really Rich, all $800 billion worth of ‘em, without explaining how they would be paid for, all the while complaining about the much, much, lower cost of paying for saving these 300,000 jobs—and, in the very next sentence, saying they hate deficits…and if you check out the transcript from that “Meet the Press” interview, you’ll see that David Gregory asked Boehner about how he planned on paying for the $800 billion in tax cuts he wants, three different times, and he wouldn’t give a straight answer once.

So when people ask you: “What’s Washington doing about jobs?”, you can tell them they’re not only saving about a third of a million of the jobs that fight fires, and put criminals in jail, and teach your kids this fall—and paying for it, to boot—but those smaller classrooms are also making it more likely that your kids will have better jobs when they grow up; all of that without much help from our Republican friends, who’s biggest job right now seems to be figuring out how to borrow another $800 billion from you and China to give away to their wealthiest friends.

Which is its own special kind of job…and I’m pretty sure the word “snow” is somehow involved in the job description.

 

On Organized Fearmongering Revealed, Or, “Lock Up The Kids…It’s The Gay!” August 7, 2010

The airwaves (and the print and blog waves, for that matter) are filled with the news that a Federal Judge in California has declared that State’s Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional, which could clear the way for the resumption of same-sex weddings in the State.

Ordinarily, this would be the point where I would present to you a walkthrough of the ruling, and we’d have a fine conversation about the legal implications of what has happened.

I’m not doing that today, frankly, because the ground is already well-covered; instead, we’re going to take a look at some of the tactics that were used to pass Prop 8, as they were presented in Judge Vaughan’s opinion.

It’s an ugly story—and even more than that, it’s a reminder of why it’s tough to advance civil rights through the political process, and what you have to deal with when you’re trying to make such a thing happen.

So first things first: one of the sites where my postings are to be found is The Bilerico Project, and over there Dr. Jillian T. Weiss has gone to the time and trouble of explaining the nuts and bolts of this ruling in a very accessible way; I’d commend to all of you who are looking for that background a visit to her story.

With that out of the way, here’s what I want you to know about how Prop 8 was presented, promoted, and defended: the entire process was designed to use ignorance, fear, disinformation, and God to make same-sex couples a national threat to you and your babies—and when it came time to defend this proposition in court, those who supported Prop 8, frankly, ran away and hid, which had a lot to do with the eventual outcome of the findings of fact, and, of course, the findings of law.

(If you weren’t aware, a court’s opinion will often present as a narrative of the evidence, followed by “findings of fact”, then “findings of law”. In the appeals process, findings of fact are rarely overturned; findings of law are frequently overturned.)

The “Defendants and Defendant-intervenors” (to use the exact language of the Court) who support Prop 8 intended to call 10 expert witnesses to explain why Prop 8 fulfills some sort of rational purpose.

Some of them were “deposed” (a sort of “pre-interview” conducted under oath before trial)…and that did not go well: by the time the trial came around only two of the original 10 were actually called to testify. Of the missing eight, two had their deposition testimony offered into evidence by the Plaintiffs, who were able to use the testimony of the Defendant’s expert witnesses to show the Judge that Prop 8 deserved to be overturned.

After that process was over, here’s what the Judge had to say about the Prop 8 campaign’s tactics:

The Proposition 8 campaign relied on fears that children exposed to the concept of same-sex marriage may become gay or lesbian. The reason children need to be protected from same-sex marriage was never articulated in official campaign advertisements. Nevertheless, the advertisements insinuated that learning about same-sex marriage could make a child gay or lesbian and that parents should dread having a gay or lesbian child.

One of the two defense experts who did testify was David Blankenhorn; he’s the founder and president of the Institute for American Values. Here’s what the Judge had to say about that testimony:

Blankenhorn was unwilling to answer many questions directly on cross-examination and was defensive in his answers. Moreover, much of his testimony contradicted his opinions. Blankenhorn testified on cross-examination that studies show children of adoptive parents do as well or better than children of biological parents. Blankenhorn agreed that children raised by same-sex couples would benefit if their parents were permitted to marry. Blankenhorn also testified he wrote and agrees with the statement “I believe that today the principle of equal human dignity must apply to gay and lesbian persons. In that sense, insofar as we are a nation founded on this principle, we would be more American on the day we permitted same-sex marriage than we were the day before.”

Blankenhorn’s opinions are not supported by reliable evidence or methodology and Blankenhorn failed to consider evidence contrary to his view in presenting his testimony. The court therefore finds the opinions of Blankenhorn to be unreliable and entitled to essentially no weight.

Just so everyone knows…in this story, I’m editing the Judge’s opinion to remove various notes (example: “Tr 1900:13-18”) in order to make things more readable.

There were four defendants who were there by virtue of their being the “official proponents” of Prop 8 (other defendants included the Governor, State Attorney General, and certain Public Health officials and County Clerks, each in their administrative capacities); one of those was Hak-Shing William Tam, and, again, I’ll let the Judge handle this one:

Proponent Hak-Shing William Tam testified about his role in the Proposition 8 campaign. Tam spent substantial time, effort and resources campaigning for Proposition 8. As of July 2007, Tam was working with Protect Marriage to put Proposition 8 on the November 2008 ballot. Tam testified that he is the secretary of the America Return to God Prayer Movement, which operates the website “1man1woman.net.” 1man1woman.net encouraged voters to support Proposition 8 on grounds that homosexuals are twelve times more likely to molest children, and because Proposition 8 will cause states one-by-one to fall into Satan’s hands. Tam identified NARTH (the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) as the source of information about homosexuality, because he “believe[s] in what they say.”. Tam identified “the internet” as the source of information connecting same-sex marriage to polygamy and incest.

(The links were not part of the original text.)

The Judge referred specifically to a letter Tam sent to the “friends” of his website during the Prop 8 fight which really shows what these folks are thinking:

“This November, San Francisco voters will vote on a ballot to ‘legalize prostitution.’ This is put forth by the SF city government, which is under the rule of homosexuals. They lose no time in pushing the gay agenda —— after legalizing same-sex marriage, they want to legalize prostitution. What will be next? On their agenda list is: legalize having sex with children * * * We can’t lose this critical battle. If we lose, this will very likely happen * * * 1. Same-Sex marriage will be a permanent law in California. One by one, other states would fall into Satan’s hand. 2. Every child, when growing up, would fantasize marrying someone of the same sex. More children would become homosexuals. Even if our children is safe, our grandchildren may not. What about our children’s grandchildren? 3. Gay activists would target the big churches and request to be married by their pastors. If the church refuse, they would sue the church.” (as written)

You can gain more insight into Tam’s thinking from his own trial testimony. Again, from the opinion:

Tam supported Proposition 8 because he thinks “it is very important that our children won’t grow up to fantasize or think about, Should I marry Jane or John when I grow up? Because this is very important for Asian families, the cultural issues, the stability of the family.”

Are these the views of just one very disturbed citizen, caught up in hyperbolic campaign frenzy?

Apparently not…because here’s what the Catholic Church was saying a year after the Prop 8 vote:

Catholics for the Common Good, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, Excerpts from Vatican Document on Legal Recognition of Homosexual Unions (Nov 22, 2009): There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be “in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”; “homosexual acts go against the natural moral law” and “[u]nder no circumstances can * * * be approved”; “[t]he homosexual inclination is * * * objectively disordered and homosexual practices are sins gravely contrary to chastity”; “[a]llowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children”; and “legal recognition of homosexual unions * * * would mean * * * the approval of deviant behavior.”

Plaintiff’s witnesses, without exception, were found to be credible, and among those was Dr. Gary Michael Sagura, a Stanford University Professor of Political Science:

“[T]he American public is not very fond of gays and lesbians.” Warmness scores for gays and lesbians are as much as 16 to 20 points below the average score for religious, racial and ethnic groups; over 65 percent of respondents placed gays and lesbians below the midpoint, below the score of 50, whereas a third to 45 percent did the same for other groups. When “two-thirds of all respondents are giving gays and lesbians a score below 50, that’s telling elected officials that they can say bad things about gays and lesbians, and that could be politically advantageous to them because * * * many parts of the electorate feel the same way.” Additionally, “the initiative process could be fertile ground to try to mobilize some of these voters to the polls for that cause.”

“[Proponents’ expert] Dr Young freely admits that religious hostility to homosexuals [plays] an important role in creating a social climate that’s conducive to hateful acts, to opposition to their interest in the public sphere and to prejudice and discrimination.”

“[T]he role of prejudice is profound. * * * [I]f the group is envisioned as being somehow * * * morally inferior, a threat to children, a threat to freedom, if there’s these deeply-seated beliefs, then the range of compromise is dramatically limited. It’s very difficult to engage in the give-and-take of the legislative process when I think you are an inherently bad person. That’s just not the basis for compromise and negotiation in the political process.”

As the Judge notes, all this hating has had an effect on actual crime and violence:

“[O]ver the last five years, there has actually been an increase in violence directed toward gay men and lesbians”; “gays and lesbians are representing a larger and larger portion of the number of acts of bias motivated violence” and “are far more likely to experience violence”; “73 percent of all the hate crimes committed against gays and lesbians also include an act of violence * * * we are talking about the most extreme forms of hate based violence”; the hate crimes accounted for “71 percent of all hate-motivated murders” and “[f]ifty-five percent of all hate-motivated rapes” in 2008; “There is simply no other person in society who endures the likelihood of being harmed as a consequence of their identity than a gay man or lesbian.”

So what can we make of all this?

How about this: there’s a community of people who feel that Teh Gay poses an imminent danger to their marriages, their children, and their way of life—but when it comes time to actually explain why, in a court of law…they can’t offer a bit of evidence, except to say “it’s on the Internet” or “because God told me so”.

In the meantime, the group who isn’t actually a threat to anybody is the group most likely to be targeted for violent attacks—because some people are just so sure they’re such a threat to our marriages, our children, and The Good Ol’ American Way.

Political compromise is not likely—and political courage isn’t either, which may be why there’s still so much “not asking” and “not telling” going on these days.

Whether this opinion is upheld or not, its deeper truths remain for all to see; I’ll close today’s discussion with a deeper truth of my own:

If you belong to a political or racial minority…or if you’re a “plain old White American”, facing the prospect of soon becoming a minority group…you better figure out, and quickly, that those same forces of prejudice you’re directing at these people can be turned against you, too (as they were, against the Chinese, not so very long ago, and as they are, against Blacks and Hispanics and Arabs, to this very day), just as soon as it’s convenient for the political needs of another.

The reason we fight prejudice isn’t just to protect the group being affected…but to protect us all from the people who will manipulate this stuff for their own use—and if you don’t think the fear of The Gay Baby Molester, and the Scary Hispanic Border Jumper, and the New Black Panthers isn’t being used by Conservatives, right now, to keep you from thinking about the problems they created as November draws nigh…well, then, Gentle Reader, you’re missing out on Politics 101.