Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Weak Economy Dims Americans Hope In Obamanomics

By W. MICHAEL COX AND RICHARD ALM , FOR INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY
Posted 07:05 PM ET
Campaigning for president in 2008, Barack Obama vowed to deliver "Change We Can Believe In."
In stump speeches and interviews, the candidate hammered home the message that an Obama administration would bring change — although he wasn't always so clear on what kind of change it would be.
Four years later, with Obama running for re-election, it's time to ask Americans: How's that change workin' out for you?
Let's see how Obama's policies are changing the economy — after all, it affects nearly all of us.
In the past four years, recession ended but growth has been anemic, averaging 2.3%, the slowest recovery in modern times.
After the recession of the early 1980s, the economy roared ahead at a robust 6.1%. Deep recessions usually yield big bouncebacks — not this time, though.
As for employment, in December 2008, the month before Obama took office, 143,328,000 people had jobs in the U.S.
In August, 142,101,000 people did — 1.227 million fewer. Three years into recovery, the U.S. unemployment rate still lingers above 8%.
The Obama presidency has been particularly hard on black workers, who this year face jobless rates 7.8% higher than whites, up from 4.9% in 2008 (see charts, above).
Losing a job hurts more. The share of the unemployed out of work for a year or more jumped from 11.8% in the first quarter 2009 to 29.5% in the first quarter 2012 (see charts).
In raw numbers, that's an increase in long-term unemployed from 1.6 million in early 2009 to 3.6 million today.
Many Americans have simply given up hope of finding jobs — the share of the population actively in the labor force has fallen from about 66% in early 2009 to less than 64% today.
Job creation has been slow, averaging 129,000 a month since the low point in December 2009.
It would take an average of 136,000 net new jobs a month to restore the employment situation of December 2007 and absorb the subsequent population growth — so at the Obama pace of job creation, we'd never get back to where we were.
Obama's change hasn't been good for families' pocketbooks.
According to Sentier Research, real median household incomes have fallen from $55,587 at the end of 2008 to $50,964 in June 2012. Real median net worth has plunged 40% (see charts).
That's what you get with high unemployment, stagnant wages and low interest rates.
In the Obama years, government spending and borrowing have gotten out of control. In the past four years, America's fiscal deficits have ballooned to 8% to 10% of GDP — levels exceeded only in fighting WWI and WWII.
The country is plunging into debt, with 2009-12 borrowing hitting $5.86 trillion.
It took 205 years for America to run up its first $5 trillion in national debt; it's taken less than four years for the most recent $5 trillion.
A few years ago, America's deficit of 2% of GDP and debt of 60% of GDP was similar to that of Germany, the European Union's bastion of fiscal rectitude; now, this country looks more like Greece, the EU's basket case.
Our debt-to-GDP ratio is now rising above 100%, a level where it begins to burden growth.
Some may argue that Obama took office in the midst of an epochal financial crisis, with an economy hurtling downhill. Fair enough — as far as it goes.
But after four years, that excuse rings hollow. Obama's record suggests he won't put into place policies that foster economic growth and job creation.
Even worse, Obama gives us scant hope for better times on his watch. He's the godfather of big government policies that burden the economy — a new health care system that will add punishing costs to hiring and small business and financial regulations that will stifle lending.
Obama promised change. And indeed the economy has changed.
How's that change workin' out for you?



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Myth of the Failure of Capitalism

by

[This essay was originally published as "Die Legende von Versagen des Kapitalismus" in Der Internationale Kapitalismus und die Krise, Festschrift für Julius Wolf (1932)[1]]
The nearly universal opinion expressed these days is that the economic crisis of recent years marks the end of capitalism. Capitalism allegedly has failed, has proven itself incapable of solving economic problems, and so mankind has no alternative, if it is to survive, then to make the transition to a planned economy, to socialism.
This is hardly a new idea. The socialists have always maintained that economic crises are the inevitable result of the capitalistic method of production and that there is no other means of eliminating economic crises than the transition to socialism. If these assertions are expressed more forcefully these days and evoke greater public response, it is not because the present crisis is greater or longer than its predecessors, but rather primarily because today public opinion is much more strongly influenced by socialist views than it was in previous decades.

I

When there was no economic theory, the belief was that whoever had power and was determined to use it could accomplish anything. In the interest of their spiritual welfare and with a view toward their reward in heaven, rulers were admonished by their priests to exercise moderation in their use of power. Also, it was not a question of what limits the inherent conditions of human life and production set for this power, but rather that they were considered boundless and omnipotent in the sphere of social affairs.
The foundation of social sciences, the work of a large number of great intellects, of whom David Hume and Adam Smith are most outstanding, has destroyed this conception. One discovered that social power was a spiritual one and not (as was supposed) a material and, in the rough sense of the word, a real one. And there was the recognition of a necessary coherence within market phenomena which power is unable to destroy. There was also a realization that something was operative in social affairs that the powerful could not influence and to which they had to accommodate themselves, just as they had to adjust to the laws of nature. In the history of human thought and science there is no greater discovery.
If one proceeds from this recognition of the laws of the market, economic theory shows just what kind of situation arises from the interference of force and power in market processes. The isolated intervention cannot reach the end the authorities strive for in enacting it and must result in consequences which are undesirable from the standpoint of the authorities. Even from the point of view of the authorities themselves the intervention is pointless and harmful. Proceeding from this perception, if one wants to arrange market activity according to the conclusions of scientific thought — and we give thought to these matters not only because we are seeking knowledge for its own sake, but also because we want to arrange our actions such that we can reach the goals we aspire to — one then comes unavoidably to a rejection of such interventions as superfluous, unnecessary, and harmful, a notion which characterizes the liberal teaching. It is not that liberalism wants to carry standards of value over into science; it wants to take from science a compass for market actions. Liberalism uses the results of scientific research in order to construct society in such a way that it will be able to realize as effectively as possible the purposes it is intended to realize. The politico-economic parties do not differ on the end result for which they strive but on the means they should employ to achieve their common goal. The liberals are of the opinion that private property in the means of production is the only way to create wealth for everyone, because they consider socialism impractical and because they believe that the system of interventionism (which according to the view of its advocates is between capitalism and socialism) cannot achieve its proponents' goals.
The liberal view has found bitter opposition. But the opponents of liberalism have not been successful in undermining its basic theory nor the practical application of this theory. They have not sought to defend themselves against the crushing criticism which the liberals have leveled against their plans by logical refutation; instead they have used evasions. The socialists considered themselves removed from this criticism, because Marxism has declared inquiry about the establishment and the efficacy of a socialist commonwealth heretical; they continued to cherish the socialist state of the future as heaven on earth, but refused to engage in a discussion of the details of their plan. The interventionists chose another path. They argued, on insufficient grounds, against the universal validity of economic theory. Not in a position to dispute economic theory logically, they could refer to nothing other than some "moral pathos," of which they spoke in the invitation to the founding meeting of the Vereins für Sozialpolitik [Association for Social Policy] in Eisenach. Against logic they set moralism, against theory emotional prejudice, against argument the reference to the will of the state.
Economic theory predicted the effects of interventionism and state and municipal socialism exactly as they happened. All the warnings were ignored. For 50 or 60 years the politics of European countries has been anticapitalist and antiliberal. More than 40 years ago Sidney Webb (Lord Passfield) wrote,
it can now fairly be claimed that the socialist philosophy of to-day is but the conscious and explicit assertion of principles of social organization which have been already in great part unconsciously adopted. The economic history of the century is an almost continuous record of the progress of Socialism.[2]
That was at the beginning of this development and it was in England where liberalism was able for the longest time to hold off the anticapitalistic economic policies. Since then interventionist policies have made great strides. In general the view today is that we live in an age in which the "hampered economy" reigns — as the forerunner of the blessed socialist collective consciousness to come.
Now, because indeed that which economic theory predicted has happened, because the fruits of the anticapitalistic economic policies have come to light, a cry is heard from all sides: this is the decline of capitalism, the capitalistic system has failed!
Liberalism cannot be deemed responsible for any of the institutions which give today's economic policies their character. It was against the nationalization and the bringing under municipal control of projects which now show themselves to be catastrophes for the public sector and a source of filthy corruption; it was against the denial of protection for those willing to work and against placing state power at the disposal of the trade unions, against unemployment compensation, which has made unemployment a permanent and universal phenomenon, against social insurance, which has made those insured into grumblers, malingers, and neurasthenics, against tariffs (and thereby implicitly against cartels), against the limitation of freedom to live, to travel, or study where one likes, against excessive taxation and against inflation, against armaments, against colonial acquisitions, against the oppression of minorities, against imperialism and against war. It put up stubborn resistance against the politics of capital consumption. And liberalism did not create the armed party troops who are just waiting for the convenient opportunity to start a civil war.

II

The line of argument that leads to blaming capitalism for at least some of these things is based on the notion that entrepreneurs and capitalists are no longer liberal but interventionist and statist. The fact is correct, but the conclusions people want to draw from it are wrong-headed. These deductions stem from the entirely untenable Marxist view that entrepreneurs and capitalists protected their special class interests through liberalism during the time when capitalism flourished but now, in the late and declining period of capitalism, protect them through interventionism. This is supposed to be proof that the "hampered economy" of interventionism is the historically necessary economics of the phase of capitalism in which we find ourselves today. But the concept of classical political economy and of liberalism as the ideology (in the Marxist sense of the word) of the bourgeoisie is one of the many distorted techniques of Marxism. If entrepreneurs and capitalists were liberal thinkers around 1800 in England and interventionist, statist, and socialist thinkers around 1930 in Germany, the reason is that entrepreneurs and capitalists were also captivated by the prevailing ideas of the times. In 1800 no less than in 1930 entrepreneurs had special interests which were protected by interventionism and hurt by liberalism.
Today the great entrepreneurs are often cited as "economic leaders." Capitalistic society knows no "economic leaders." Therein lies the characteristic difference between socialist economies on the one hand and capitalist economies on the other hand: in the latter, the entrepreneurs and the owners of the means of production follow no leadership save that of the market. The custom of citing initiators of great enterprises as economic leaders already gives some indication that these days it is not usually the case that one reaches these positions by economic successes but rather by other means.
In the interventionist state it is no longer of crucial importance for the success of an enterprise that operations be run in such a way that the needs of the consumer are satisfied in the best and least expensive way; it is much more important that one has "good relations" with the controlling political factions, that the interventions redound to the advantage and not the disadvantage of the enterprise. A few more marks' worth of tariff protection for the output of the enterprise, a few marks less tariff protection for the inputs in the manufacturing process can help the enterprise more than the greatest prudence in the conduct of operations. An enterprise may be well run, but it will go under if it does not know how to protect its interests in the arrangement of tariff rates, in the wage negotiations before arbitration boards, and in governing bodies of cartels. It is much more important to have "connections" than to produce well and cheaply. Consequently the men who reach the top of such enterprises are not those who know how to organize operations and give production a direction which the market situation demands, but rather men who are in good standing both "above" and "below," men who know how to get along with the press and with all political parties, especially with the radicals, such that their dealings cause no offense. This is that class of general directors who deal more with federal dignitaries and party leaders than with those from whom they buy or to whom they sell.
Because many ventures depend on political favors, those who undertake such ventures must repay the politicians with favors. There has been no big venture in recent years which has not had to expend considerable sums for transactions which from the outset were clearly unprofitable but which, despite expected losses, had to be concluded for political reasons. This is not to mention contributions to non-business concerns — election funds, public welfare institutions, and the like.
Powers working toward the independence of the directors of the large banks, industrial concerns, and joint-stock companies from the stockholders are asserting themselves more strongly. This politically expedited "tendency for big businesses to socialize themselves," that is, for letting interests other than the regard "for the highest possible yield for the stockholders" determine the management of the ventures, has been greeted by statist writers as a sign that we have already vanquished capitalism.[3] In the course of the reform of German stock rights, even legal efforts have already been made to put the interest and well-being of the entrepreneur, namely "his economic, legal, and social self-worth and lasting value and his independence from the changing majority of changing stockholders,"[4] above those of the shareholder.
With the influence of the state behind them and supported by a thoroughly interventionist public opinion, the leaders of big enterprises today feel so strong in relation to the stockholders that they believe they need not take their interests into account. In their conduct of the businesses of society in those countries in which statism has most strongly come to rule — for example in the successor states of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire — they are as unconcerned about profitability as the directors of public utilities. The result is ruin. The theory which has been advanced says that these ventures are too large to be run simply with a view toward profit. This concept is extraordinarily opportune whenever the result of conducting business while fundamentally renouncing profitability is the bankruptcy of the enterprise. It is opportune, because at this moment the same theory demands the intervention of the state for support of enterprises which are too big to be allowed to fail.

III

It is true that socialism and interventionism have not yet succeeded in completely eliminating capitalism. If they had, we Europeans, after centuries of prosperity, would rediscover the meaning of hunger on a massive scale. Capitalism is still prominent enough that new industries are coming into existence, and those already established are improving and expanding their equipment and operations. All the economic advances which have been and will be made stem from the persistent remnant of capitalism in our society. But capitalism is always harassed by the intervention of the government and must pay as taxes a considerable part of its profits in order to defray the inferior productivity of public enterprise.
The crisis under which the world is presently suffering is the crisis of interventionism and of state and municipal socialism, in short the crisis of anticapitalist policies. Capitalist society is guided by the play of the market mechanism. On that issue there is no difference of opinion. The market prices bring supply and demand into congruence and determine the direction and extent of production. It is from the market that the capitalist economy receives its sense. If the function of the market as regulator of production is always thwarted by economic policies in so far as the latter try to determine prices, wages, and interest rates instead of letting the market determine them, then a crisis will surely develop.
Bastiat has not failed, but rather Marx and Schmoller.
Notes
[1] This essay was translated from the German by Jane E. Sanders, who wishes to gratefully acknowledge the comments and suggestions of Professor John T. Sanders, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Professor David R. Henderson, University of Rochester, in the preparation of the translation.
[2] Cf. Webb, Fabian Essays in Socialism.… Ed. by G. Bernard Shaw. (American ed., edited by H.G. Wilshire. New York: The Humboldt Publishing Co., 1891) p. 4.
[3] Cf. Keynes, "The End of Laisser-Faire," 1926, see, Essays in Persuasion (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1932) pp. 314–315.
[4] Cf. Passow, Der Strukturwandel der Aktiengesellcschaft im Lichte der Wirtschaftsenquente, (Jena 1939), S.4.

Terrorist? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Posted By Matthew Vadum

On September 25, 2012 @ 12:55 am

FBI agents aren’t allowed to treat individuals associated with terrorist groups as potential threats to the nation, according to a startling, newly discovered FBI directive.
The fact that a terrorism suspect is associated with a terrorist group means nothing, according to the FBI document, “Guiding Principles: Touchstone Document on Training.” The “touchstone” document, dated March of this year, is available online but hasn’t been reported on by major media outlets.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents are to be instructed that “mere association with organizations that demonstrate both legitimate (advocacy) and illicit (violent extremism) objectives should not automatically result in a determination that the associated individual is acting in furtherance of the organization’s illicit objective(s),” the touchstone document states.
This is a bizarre kind of procedural fairness as viewed in a funhouse mirror, applying something akin to a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard to an FBI investigation. Such an evidentiary threshold may be appropriate for a criminal trial, but it sets the bar far too high for mere investigations. This new rule no doubt provides aid and comfort to the much-investigated phony civil rights group known as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
After first handcuffing FBI agents investigating terrorism, the touchstone document also invokes the gods of political correctness by making FBI agents afraid of being called “racist” – even though almost all Islamic terrorism suspects come from the same part of the world.
“Training must emphasize that no investigative or intelligence collection activity may be based solely on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religious affiliation,” the touchstone document reads. “Specifically, training must focus on behavioral indicators that have a potential nexus to terrorist or criminal activity, while making clear that religious expression, protest activity, and the espousing of political or ideological beliefs are constitutionally protected activities that must not be equated with terrorism or criminality absent other indicia of such offenses.”
The touchstone document is examined in The Project, a film about the Muslim Brotherhood’s plan for America that is airing this week. (The movie was produced by The Blaze’s documentary unit. Part I of The Project premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. Eastern, followed by Part II the next evening at the same time. Dish subscribers may watch it on channel 212.)
One of the movie’s arguments is that Americans’ civil rights and political correctness are weapons of infiltration used by our Islamofascist enemies. This happens to be consistent with Saul Alinsky’s fourth rule of “power tactics”: “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.” In other words, Islamists are using Americans’ goodness, their sense of fair play, including an aversion to being accused of racial stereotyping, against America.
Five congressmen sent a letter in June to Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General at the Department of Justice, about the touchstone document, protesting that it and other Obama administration “policies and initiatives strike us as deeply problematic with respect to our national and homeland security.” The letter was signed by Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Thomas Rooney (R-FL), and Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA).
The touchstone document brings to mind the 1995 memo written by Bill Clinton’s “Mistress of Disaster,” then-Deputy Attorney Jamie Gorelick. Gorelick’s directive, titled “Instructions on Separation of Certain Foreign Counterintelligence and Criminal Investigations,” provided proof of the Clinton administration’s distaste for fighting Islamic terrorism and hindered investigations, according to DiscoverTheNetworks:
Because the memo created a barrier for U.S. intelligence agencies to share information with the FBI, one of its unintended consequences might have been to prevent the FBI from receiving the necessary intelligence to stop the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the worst in American history.
While two George Soros-funded nonprofits, the Center for American Progress and Media Matters for America, use the Alinsky playbook to try to convince Americans that “Islamophobia,” a make-believe mental illness, is a threat to American democracy and pluralism, the embattled Obama administration is currently in full-time damage control mode as the president’s foreign policy aimed at appeasing totalitarian Islamic theocrats collapses. The administration has been sucking up to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a 57-state (56 sovereign states and the Palestinian Authority) group that considers itself the Caliphate reborn. The Obama administration may even be planning to promote Saudi-style anti-blasphemy laws at the behest of Islamists, as Rep. Trent Franks discovered.
News of the touchstone memo comes amidst reports that the Obama administration is considering releasing 55 terrorist detainees from the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp. One of those former detainees is thought to be behind the recent torture-killing of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, Libya.
The news also comes amidst reports that the Obama administration is working on sending the “Blind Sheikh,” convicted terrorist Omar Abdel-Rahman, back to Egypt where that country’s new rulers would hail him as a hero for orchestrating the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Hani Nour El-Din, a member of Abdel-Rahman’s terrorist group, Jamaa Islamiya, visited the Obama White House in June. He asked the Obama administration to free Abdel-Rahman, saying such a move “would be a gift to the revolution” in Egypt. Hillary Clinton’s State Department had granted El-Din a visa to travel to the U.S. even though as a member of an officially designated terrorist group he is clearly ineligible.
Samuel Tadros, an Egyptian citizen and research fellow in Egyptian politics at the Hudson Institute, was astonished that El-Din was allowed into the U.S. “It would have taken the State Department five seconds to Google his name in Arabic and realize he is a member of a designated terrorist organization,” he said in June.

Israel: Syrian Mortars Accidentally Land in Golan

By BASSEM MROUE
Associated Press
BEIRUT
Syrian soldiers fought rebels Tuesday in a firefight that killed nine people and sent several mortars sailing across the border into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Israeli military said nobody was hurt in the shelling and that the spillover was believed to be accidental. But Israel filed a complaint to the United Nations peacekeeping force that patrols the tense region between Israel and Syria.

Over the course of the 18-month-old uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad, violence has spilled into neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. In July, mortar shells fell about one kilometer (half a mile) from the Golan boundary.

The spillover is among the most worrying developments from the Syria crisis, which has the potential to enflame the entire region.

Activists said Tuesday that the clashes between troops and rebels inside Syria killed at least nine people.

On Tuesday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded international action to stop the war in Syria, telling a somber gathering of world leaders that the 18-month conflict had become "a regional calamity with global ramifications."

"The international community should not look the other way as violence spirals out of control," Ban said.

Also at the United Nations, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the U.N.'s new Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi discussed ways to unite Syria's opposition and advance a political transition.

A senior U.S. official said the two discussed new strategies for dealing with the Assad regime. The official demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

An Israeli defense official said the military believes Tuesday's incident in the Golan Heights was a mistake and the mortars were not aimed at the Jewish state. It was not the first time shells from Syria exploded in Israel since the uprising began, the official said on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to brief the media.

There have been concerns in Israel that the long-quiet Israel-Syria frontier area could become a new Islamist front against the Jewish state. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed the plateau 14 years later.

Syria and Israel are bitter enemies and have fought several wars, including the 1973 war. Despite the animosity, the border with Syria has been Israel's quietest since then.

The defense official said Israel is concerned that the border region could become as lawless and deadly as Israel's frontier with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has become since the fall of longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last year.

The Israeli news site YNet quoted a resident near the border as saying the mortars struck an area filled with apple trees.

"All in all there has been a lot shooting and mortars really close to the border," Dudi Mored, resident of Kibbutz Elrom, an Israeli settlement in the Golan, told Ynet.

Although the uprising against Assad has been an unprecedented challenge to his family's four-decade ruling dynasty, the regime has managed to keep its grip on power. Neither side of the conflict has been able to deal a decisive blow, leading to a grinding and deadly stalemate. Activists estimate that the conflict has killed some 30,000 people since the revolt began in March 2011.

On Tuesday, several bombs went off inside a school in the Syrian capital that activists say was being used by regime forces as a security headquarters. Ambulances rushed to the area and an initial report on state media said seven people were wounded.

An amateur video posted online showed smoke billowing from several spots in an area near a major road. The narrator said: "A series of explosions shake the capital Damascus." The authenticity of the video could not be independently confirmed.

Over the past few months, rebels have increasingly targeted security sites and symbols of regime power, particularly in the main cities of Damascus and Aleppo, in a bid to turn the tide.

In July, a bombing in the heart of Damascus killed four senior security officials including the defense minister and Assad's brother-in-law. Other large blasts have targeted the headquarters of security agencies in the capital, killing scores of people this year.

Abu Hisham al-Shami, an activist based in Damascus, told The Associated Press via Skype that the "Sons of Martyrs School" had recently been turned into a regime security center. He said government forces use the school as a base to fire mortars at rebellious neighborhoods.

State-run television quoted the director of the school, Mohammed Amin Othman, as saying that two bombs exploded inside the school, wounding seven people and causing minor damage. State TV said the bombs were planted by "terrorists," the term the government uses for rebels.

Othman said in a statement carried by the official SANA news agency that no students were at the school at the time of the blast because it does not open until next week. Although the school year started last week in Syria, Othman said the boarding school opens later.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 people were wounded, some of them seriously, in several blasts at the school. It said most of the wounded were members of the military.

A worker outside the school, who refused to be identified, said two diesel tankers exploded inside the school compound, wounding at least four people, one of them seriously. He added that the wounded were rushed to nearby hospitals.

He said a thick plume of smoke billowed over the area and fire reached the fifth story of the building. A nearby theater for the school's students was partially damaged and the blast caused its ceiling to collapse.

Also Tuesday, Syrian rebels released Lebanese citizen Awad Ibrahim, who was one of 11 Shiite Muslim pilgrims abducted in May shortly after entering Syria from Turkey on their way to Lebanon, the Lebanese state-run National News Agency reported.

Ibrahim, who crossed into Turkey Tuesday afternoon and expected to fly home later, is the second to be released. The nine others are still being held in northern Syria.

His release came after two Turkish citizens and several Syrians were set free in Beirut after being abducted by Lebanese tribesmen to press for the release of Lebanese. Turkey hosts leading Syrian opposition figures and rebel commanders.

In Jordan, dozens of Syrian refugees angry over harsh living conditions in their desert tent camp clashed with Jordanian police, hurling stones and smashing charity offices and a hospital, officials and refugees said Tuesday.

The rioting late Monday in the Zaatari camp was the worst violence since the facility opened in July near the Jordan-Syria border. More than 25 policemen were injured by stones thrown by the refugees, a police official said.

A Syrian refugee in the camp, Abu Nawras, said police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters who were demanding improved conditions, better food and education for their children.

The camp, which hosts about 32,000 Syrians who fled the civil war at home, has seen smaller protests in the past weeks as refugees mostly complained about snakes and scorpions, and demanded their tents be replaced with trailers so they can better protect themselves from the scorching sun, cold nights and ubiquitous dust.

Hundreds of thousands have fled the chaos in Syria as the uprising against President Bashar Assad turned increasingly violent. Jordan alone has taken in some 200,000 Syrians _ the largest number in the region _ while Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq have taken in the rest.

____

Associated Press writers Daniel Estrin and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem, Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, and Bradley Klapper in New York contributed to this report.

The Persuasive Force of an Avalanche

By Daren Jonescu


Preaching to the choir, which has spiritual value as an expression of camaraderie, must temporarily take a back seat to the urgent task of persuading the hitherto disengaged. For while there is a large portion of the American electorate that seems irremediably committed to Barack Obama's promise of a food stamp in every pot, there is also, one must hope, a smaller segment of the population that remains inattentive to, or ignorant of, what is happening to America.
These are people of good faith who simply do not see what you see. They have refused to listen to the evidence thus far; they have been educated to believe in the kind of euphemisms the left uses to mask its true intentions; they cannot accept that real live men and women could possibly have aims so antithetical to the interests of humanity, civilization, and decency, let alone that such people could have risen to the highest positions of government, education, the press, and the arts.
(Before you scoff at the possibility that there might be such "people of good faith," consider the Tea Party. I have read the self-descriptions of many people who say they were politically disinterested all the way into their 50s, but have had a violent awakening within the past few years. What happened to them can happen to others.)
Though it may be difficult to muster the patience to argue with those who have chosen to remain under the rock of everyday life during this time of tectonic shift, if ever there was a moment for forbearance in the name of a greater good, this is it. The stakes could not be higher. The time could not be later.
The practical problem, however, is that merely being correct is not enough to win an argument. You must also make your interlocutor see your case, and take it seriously. But the world has reached such an extremity of degradation that for those who have not been paying attention, even calling the dangers by their right names seems "over the top." And if someone dismisses your argument as ridiculous on its face, they will not finally be swayed by it.
This problem cannot be ignored. Those frustrating "undecideds" to whom the obvious appears far-fetched must be won over. If they cannot finally be persuaded, then the only other way out of this crisis may simply be to watch civilization die, and hope that reason and humanity may be reborn in some distant future.
How to overcome this barrier? Consider how you yourself arrived at your conclusions regarding modern leftism in general or Barack Obama in particular. You got there through inference and synthesis after exhaustively examining the verifiable facts. Without the facts, you would never have believed those inferences and syntheses either -- nor should you have. The accumulated evidence comes first. Inescapable conclusions follow.
This is the solution for dealing with the disengaged. Wave your arms in front of their televisions and newspapers until you have swept away "Dancing with the Stars," Peggy Noonan, and the rest of the veil of life-as-usual that blinds them to the danger all around. Then overwhelm them, forcefully but without exaggeration or hyperbole, with the documented facts. Merely say what you know, and what can be proven incontrovertibly, without scaring them away with inferences they are not yet able to understand. If they are reachable at all, they will draw their own inescapable conclusions, just as you did.
This modern version of the Socratic Method might just avert catastrophe. It is fitting that Western civilization's most time-honored model of education should be the most valuable tool in rescuing Western civilization.
Persuade them with an avalanche of undeniable facts.
Barack Obama was raised by a committed leftist mother who clearly displayed a predilection for men of similar inclinations, fathering Obama with one, and later marrying another.
Both his father and stepfather were Muslims. Obama spent a significant portion of his early formative years being raised and educated among Indonesian Muslims. His mother was, on his own account, opposed to organized religion on principle. In short, he was not raised in a Christian household or atmosphere.
The only church to which Obama is known to have belonged is Jeremiah Wright's. Wright, a black liberation theologian, sermonizes about the fundamental evils of America, and is vehemently anti-Jew and pro-Palestinian. Obama has claimed that he heard none of this over his twenty years in Wright's church, and has publicly disowned his pastor. (Wright has since described himself as a close political and spiritual mentor of Obama's, and claimed that in 2008 an Obama surrogate offered him $150,000 for his silence.)
One of the most influential male role models in his youth was Frank Marshall Davis (see Paul Kengor's work on this), a radical activist, card-carrying member of the Communist Party USA, and pornographer. Obama's first autobiography, Dreams from My Father, written before he ran for public office, discussed Davis in some detail. The audio version of the book, which Obama recorded in 2005, excised all references to Davis.
Obama's political career began with a "meet the candidate" coffee klatch in the Chicago home of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. Ayers and Dohrn are founding members of the Weather Underground terrorist group, dedicated to the communist overthrow of the American system of government. They have remained openly devoted to undermining American "capitalism" and "imperialism" to this day, though they have traded in the ineffectual methods of their youth for more subtle and gradual forms of cultural re-education.
They are not the sort of characters who would blindly support just any old Democratic candidate for the state senate, let alone host his campaign kick-off party. That is, they would not have supported Obama without feeling very certain that they knew who and what he was, and that his views and agenda were consistent with their subversive aims. Ayers has subsequently spoken with his unique brand of leftist lyricism about the excitement and promise of Obama's 2008 presidential victory.
When Obama was publicly questioned about his relationship with Ayers, he famously dismissed this associate, mentor, and probable ghost writer of Dreams (see here) as merely "a guy who lives in my neighborhood."
Throughout his presidency, Obama has been strongly supported by the Communist Party USA. The language of the CPUSA's 2012 endorsement includes a simple litany of all the same policy achievements and principles that Obama himself touts in his own defense. It is the official position of the CPUSA that Obama's policy agenda is consistent with and conducive to the Party's goal of establishing a communist state in America. They ought to know.
As president, Obama has appointed to important posts avowed communists, people with Communist Party affiliations, and admirers of Mao Tse-tung. (See here, here, and here.)
For several years (we do not know how many), beginning in high school, Obama was a heavy user of illegal drugs, ranging from marijuana -- in his high school yearbook, he thanked his dealer by name -- to cocaine. During his 2008 presidential bid, he repeatedly exploited his drug use to attract young voters by appealing to their desire for the "cool" candidate. (See here.)
Obama admits to having been a bad student, due to being frequently absent from classes as a "loafer" and dedicated partier; and yet he was somehow able to wend his way up the American education food chain, from Occidental to Columbia to Harvard. His academic records have been withheld from the public to this day. (A valuable clue to the mystery of Obama's academic upward mobility may have just been discovered.)
His first literary agent promoted him using a short bio which claims he was born in Kenya. This bio was changed in other ways over the course of seventeen years, but continued to say he was born in Kenya until 2007. The agent's official explanation for this is a whimpered "fact-checking error." As many have pointed out, however, a publisher does not create an unknown author's bio for him. (How could they?) They print the information they are given by the author. Does this prove that Obama was born in Kenya? Only if we assume he was telling the truth when he provided or approved his biographical information. Perhaps he was. My assumption is that he was not. So Obama is either constitutionally ineligible to be president or a dishonest careerist who is prepared to promote his career with convenient lies about the most basic facts of his personal history, à la Elizabeth Warren, his fellow Harvard leftist and presidential appointee. Take your pick.
Obama was a featured speaker at a dinner in honor of Rashid Khalidi, a pro-Palestinian academic who has made a career of defending the PLO and the Muslim Brotherhood, while spewing venom at the "occupiers" of Jerusalem. We know that in his speech, Obama spoke of Khalidi as an intimate friend and mentor. We also know that anti-Israeli sentiments abounded at this event, and that attendees apparently included Ayers and Dohrn.
That, however, is about all we know, because the Los Angeles Times possesses the only known video of the event, and has refused to release it on the grounds of respecting the wishes of their source. In plain English, they refuse to release it because they respect their source's desire to protect Obama from the video's incriminating evidence, as is apparent from the damage control story the Times published about this event.
In 2008, asked about his relationship to Khalidi, which, according to the Times' own "nothing to see here" story, Obama himself described as deeply influential, Obama said, "To pluck out one person who [sic] I know and who [sic] I've had a conversation with who has very different views than 900 of my friends and then to suggest that somehow that shows that maybe I'm not sufficiently pro-Israel, I think, is a very problematic stand to take."
Obama has 900 "friends," all of them pro-Israel, but just one anti-Israeli vague acquaintance -- "one person who I've had a conversation with." So there, Professor Khalidi. Yet another long-time Obama mentor and confidante thrown under the campaign bus.
On the other hand, there is his administration's renunciation of the Mubarak government in Egypt. The pro-Muslim Brotherhood and pro-Palestinian forces (to which Khalidi prominently belongs) hated Mubarak, not as an authoritarian, but as an Arab who tried to work with, rather than annihilate, Israel. Thus it is clear why those forces cheered Mubarak's ouster in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood's takeover of Egypt, personified by Mohamed Morsi.
Now Morsi -- whose campaign for Egyptian president was introduced by a cleric promising that Morsi would lead a "march on Jerusalem" -- is boldly setting the terms of U.S.-Arab relations, while the Obama administration trips all over itself to certify that, Obama's shaky words notwithstanding, they really do regard Morsi's government, and by implication the "civilization jihad"-seeking Muslim Brotherhood, as an ally. (When Michele Bachmann and others raised the issue of Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. government, the Washington establishment convulsed in melodramatic outrage -- without refuting the claims.)
Furthermore, the Democratic Party tried to remove the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital from its 2012 platform, along with language condemning the Brotherhood's offspring group, Hamas. Facing public scrutiny, and against the will of their own convention delegates, the Jerusalem language was reinserted into the Democrats' platform. The Hamas language, however, was not.
Then there is Obama's private plea to Dmitri Medvedev, caught on tape, that Vladimir Putin needed to give him "space," i.e., stop making public demands of him before the election, after which time Obama promised he would have more "flexibility" to give Putin what he wants regarding missile defense.
This, of course, is merely a beginning of the avalanche of facts -- not speculative inferences, but facts -- that can and must be presented to those who have not yet come to terms with what is at stake.
Supplement this bombardment as needed. Your ammunition will last at least as long as the 1.4 billion rounds the Department of Homeland Security purchased this year. Consider: adding 50% to an already irredeemable national debt; supporting infanticide; violating Catholics' freedom of religion in the name of a "student" who claims she needs enough birth control to supply the Mustang Ranch; declaring himself a proponent of single-payer (i.e., socialized) health care achieved incrementally (but then denying that the signature legislation of his first term is exactly that); giving the most perfunctory and unfeeling "sad day" speech in history in response to the barbaric assassination of a U.S. ambassador, before racing to Vegas for a fundraiser; mocking every human being's pride in his own achievement ("You didn't build that"), thereby completely inverting the actual relationship between private success and "public works"; EPA drones flying over your farm; and so on ad infinitum.
You could not invent someone less suited to being president of the United States. Just lay it out for the undecided, verifiable step by step, and dare them not to draw the only conclusion reason permits.
And never forget that just as Obama is, for the radical left, merely the public symbol of their agenda, so he is, for your argument, merely the thin edge of a wedge. Having set the disengaged to thinking on this one score, a whole world of corruption and impending catastrophe will open up for them. Once one has begun to see reality, there is no turning back.

Obama's Unholy Mess in Libya

By Jan LaRue


Islamic terrorists murdered the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans during an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11. President Obama, promising "to bring to justice the killers," dispatched the FBI to investigate.
Why did he send the FBI rather than the 82nd Airborne or Navy SEALs? Inquiring minds like Late Show host David Letterman want to know.
After determining Obama's weight and that he's feeling "great," even though Muslims are attacking our embassies around the world, Letterman on Sept. 19 asked Obama if the Benghazi attack was "an act of war[. A]re we at war now?"
"No," Obama assured him.
He told Letterman that there is this "shadowy character" who made a highly offensive video mocking Mohammed, which highly offended highly sensitive "extremists and terrorists." They used it as an excuse, according to Obama, to attack the consulate, but "they do not represent what the Libyan people think." Obama said he is going to make Muslim countries understand that they have to protect our people.
Consider it the soft side of soft-headed diplomacy. We know it works -- just ask Iran.
In case you missed it, the State Department declared victory some time ago. According to Michael Hirsh, writing for the National Journal on April 23:
"The war on terror is over," one senior State Department official who works on Mideast issues told me. "Now that we have killed most of al Qaida, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism."
Hirsh updated his column the next day because "White House spokesman Tommy Vietor clarified that while the 'war on terror' concept has been dropped, 'we absolutely have never said our war against al Qaida is over. We are prosecuting that war at an unprecedented pace.'"
You might get a migraine, but let's review:
  • According to the State Department, the "war on terror is over" because we've "killed most of al Qaeda."
  • According to the White House, we're prosecuting "our war against al Qaida," but it's not a "war on terror."
  • According to Obama, we're not at war.
You get the feeling that the left hand at Foggy Bottom doesn't know what the left hand on Pennsylvania Avenue is doing. It's why Obama prefers explaining it to Letterman rather than Charles Krauthammer. But then, if Obama had opted for the latter, we'd be left guessing his weight.
Obama's "we ain't gonna learn war no more" theory was undercut by testimony of Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, before the Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on Sept. 19. Olsen admitted the possibility of al-Qaeda involvement:
We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda's affiliates, in particular Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Apparently, Olsen hasn't heard that al-Qaeda is mostly dead. Neither has al-Qaeda.
Because of Obama's it's a crime, not a war doctrine approach, the burned-out, bloody consulate is a crime scene -- an unsecured crime scene with lost and contaminated evidence because it wasn't secured by our Keystone Cops at Hillary Clinton's State Department.
According to CNN, three days after the attack, CNN reporters walking through the unsecured consulate walked out with the journal of our murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens, who wrote about his concerns over the lack of security at the consulate.
For CNN, the ambassador's writings served as tips about the situation in Libya, and in Benghazi in particular. CNN took the newsworthy tips and corroborated them with other sources.
A source familiar with Stevens' thinking told CNN earlier this week that, in the months leading up to his death, the late ambassador worried about what he called the security threats in Benghazi and a rise in Islamic extremism.
CNN says it returned the journal to Stevens' family. You can see how well-established the evidence chain of custody is working for the FBI.
Other sensitive documents reportedly are missing from the Benghazi compound.
According to Obama's official White House statement released Sept. 12: "Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety, and they carried Ambassador Stevens's [sic] body to the hospital, where we tragically learned that he had died."
Thus far, the administration hasn't released anything to support Obama's statement. But videos taken inside the consulate immediately after the attack reveal a mob dragging out Stevens' dead body on the ground.
With a million-to-one chance that anybody is ever charged for the attack on the consulate, the defense attorneys will salivate over the prospect of introducing Obama's statement praising Libyans as rescuers who carried the ambassador to the hospital.
Obama's "overseas contingency operation" has been reaffirmed by the crime commissioner in chief. Attacking America on our soil isn't an act of war.
Obama, the self-proclaimed "constitutional scholar," assured the Arab world in Cairo in 2009 that he ended torture. He has also ended Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights of accused perpetrators of "crime" who are supposed to enjoy due process before he has them officially whacked.
The New York Times called it Obama's "kill list," from which he personally selects those "extremists and terrorists" on the receiving end of drone-fired missiles sans Miranda warnings and legal counsel.
With the "crime" scene contaminated in Benghazi, the drones are probably painting a target on some random Islamists about to be added to the "kill list."
If Obama actually thinks that a laughably bad movie trailer is an excuse to set off attacks against American embassies across the globe, you would think that he would have been sufficiently prescient not to have given insider access to a major Hollywood production company documenting how Obama killed Osama.
The message from around the world is, "Obama, Obama, there are still a billion Osamas!"
It appears they've identified the "shadowy character" for themselves.
Jan LaRue is senior legal analyst with the American Civil Rights Union.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Barack Obama shrugs, but the debt keeps mounting

A fiscal horror is unfolding on the president’s watch, yet few seem concerned , writes Jeff Randall


7:03AM BST 24 Sep 2012
 
For those of us who admire the United States and are hoping it will rediscover economic virtue and the road to recovery, last week was particularly unsettling. Both sides in the fight for the White House displayed an ignorance of fiscal issues more usually associated with contestants in a pub quiz. It was intriguing, however, that while Mitt Romney’s blunder made headlines across the globe, Barack Obama’s seemed not to disturb America’s mainstream media and went largely unreported beyond the US. The difference was that, whereas Mitt Romney impugned the integrity of millions of fellow citizens, dismissing 47 per cent of them as scroungers, the president merely insulted the nation’s collective intelligence – and almost no one seemed to care.
Romney’s observation was ridiculous: his group of alleged entitlement junkies includes pensioners, students, the disabled, many serving in the military and those on incomes too low to be taxed. For this, he was rightly pasted. By contrast, aside from the opprobrium of professional budget-watchers and diehard opponents, the man in charge of the world’s biggest economy emerged virtually unscathed from his casual confession on CBS that he did not know how much the US owes. It was a triumph of style over substance.
Asked by David Letterman on The Late Show to explain all those zeros on America’s debt clock, displayed at the Republicans’ convention, Obama replied: “I don’t remember what the number was, precisely.” Offering the president a clue, the veteran chat-show host suggested “about $10 trillion”, at which point Obama switched effortlessly to praising the budget surplus of Bill Clinton and sailed off to safety. It’s not as though America’s debt is a minor twinkle in a constellation of more serious problems. But not only was the president unable to recall the big number, he readily – perhaps deliberately – conflated the debt and the deficit.
For the record, US debt hit $5 trillion under Clinton, even though, to his credit, the 1999 federal budget was $76 billion in surplus. Not since Andrew Jackson, in 1835, has America been debt-free. A cynical man might conclude that Mr Obama knew all these details, but found dissembling a more convenient route out of trouble than discussing the fiscal horror that has unfolded on his watch.
The White House website boldly claims: “President Obama has led the way on structuring the government to live within its means.” This is not even remotely true. By any measure, the US continues to spend way above its income and, as a result, its debt position is deteriorating apace.

Islam: Antithetical to Religious Freedom

By Janet Levy


Freedom to Believe: Challenging Islam's Apostasy Law
By Patrick Sookhdeo, Isaac Publishing, 2009
179 pp., $11.75.
The religious allegiance of Barack Hussein Obama has been the subject of intense debate across the United States. Is Obama, who was raised a Muslim, a committed Muslim or a Christian convert? A Harris Poll conducted in March of 2010, revealed that fully 57% of all Republicans and 32% of Americans overall believe that Obama is a Muslim. In 2008, a University of Texas survey found that 23% of Texans were convinced that Barack Obama is a Muslim.

The American public has been confused by Obama's statements and actions that bring into question the Christian faith he professed prior to his election. It is certainly confounding that Obama would recite the Muslim call to prayer in Arabic during a New York Times interview in 2007 and call it the "prettiest sound on earth." In an infamous September 2008 interview on ABC's "This Week," host George Stephanopoulos corrected Obama's ostensible slip of the tongue when the candidate stated, "John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith." In addition, following the election, it was quite puzzling to hear the leader of a Judeo-Christian nation refer to the "holy" Koran, publicly proclaim civilization's debt to Islam, and avow that "America is not and never will be at war with Islam."

Barack Obama's religious practices have raised questions about his affiliation with Christianity. For twenty years, he attended the church of controversial former Muslim Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In 2007, Wright, who wrote his University of Chicago Master's thesis on "Islam in West Africa," honored Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan with Trinity Church's Man of the Year award. Since becoming president, Obama stopped attending church, even on Christmas day, and specifically requested that no religious decorations grace the White House tree, which featured an ornament with the image of Mao Tse-Tung. In 2009 and 2010, much to the consternation of American Christians, Obama canceled the White House National Day of Prayer ceremonies.

Obama's official actions while president have fueled speculation about his continued allegiance to the Muslim world. As president, his first phone call as the nation's highest foreign statesman was to Abu Abbas, the terrorist leader of Fatah who was responsible for financing the Munich Olympic massacre in 1972. Obama's first television interview was with Dubai-based Al-Arabiya. In it he emphasized the importance of engaging with Iran and explained how the Israelis recognized the importance of achieving peace and would be willing to make sacrifices. No mention was made of any Arab-Palestinian sacrifices, the Arab-Palestinian vote to install the terrorist group Hamas as their official government, or the barrage of rockets they were directing toward Israel from Gaza. One of Obama's first speeches as president was at Cairo University, where he greeted the audience with "assalaamu alaykum," a greeting typically reserved for Muslims to extend to their fellow Muslims. In his speech, he focused on the wrongs committed by the West against Muslims and never once referred to the Islamic doctrine of jihad and its threat to the West. Curiously, Obama explained that as president, it was his responsibility to combat negative Islamic stereotypes, yet he remained silent about the protection of other religious groups. He did not describe his duty to fight Islamic terrorism or the threat of jihadist attacks on America. At the G-20 summit in April 2009, Obama bowed to Muslim Saudi King Abdullah, a shocking and unprecedented departure from U.S. presidential protocol.

In his book, Freedom to Believe: Challenging Islam's Apostasy Law, Patrick Sookhdeo contemplates a future in which Muslims extend to apostates the respect he believes they conferred on Barack Obama when he was invited to speak at Cairo University in 2009. However, Sookhdeo may be mistaken. Obama's religious status is ambiguous, and it is unclear if he is truly an apostate. The president may quite possibly be inappropriately labeled a Christian, and thus his case is unrepresentative of the dilemma posed by Islamic apostasy and cited by Sookhdeo. Nevertheless, as Islamic apostasy law is explicit and historically incontrovertible, Sookhdeo's dream of freedom of religious affiliation, that he imagines is now enjoyed by Obama, is probably out of reach for the majority of Muslims.

Patrick Sookhdeo is a British Anglican canon who serves as the director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity. A Christian convert from Islam, he is a spokesman for persecuted Christian minorities in Islamic nations worldwide. Sookhdeo has authored several books on Islam, including Global Jihad: The Future in the Face of Militant Islam and Understanding Islamic Terrorism.

In Freedom to Believe, Sookhdeo describes how freedom of religion is not recognized in the Muslim world because Islam is viewed as a way of life with both political and religious implications. Religion and adherence to Islamic doctrine is not viewed as a personal or private matter, but a function of the state. Any concept of an autonomous individual expressing free will is absent from Islam. Leaving Islam is viewed as treason and betrayal of the umma, or Muslim community, and disruptive to the social order. Muslims may also be accused of apostasy if they are not orthodox enough in their observance of Islamic doctrine.

Although conversion to Islam from other religions is actively encouraged, the reverse does not hold in Islamic doctrine. Sookhdeo cites all five main schools of shari'ah, or Islamic law, that consider apostasy from Islam a severe crime punishable by death. No disagreement exists about whether an apostate should be put to death; the only debate is whether the individual should be allowed a period of repentance. The death penalty for apostasy is brutal and can include decapitation, crucifixion, burning, strangling, drowning, impaling, and flaying. Muslims who participate in the killing of apostates are rewarded by a place in paradise. The humiliation of apostates continues into the afterlife, and those who leave the religion are denied a decent burial.

In actual practice, observes Sookhdeo, apostates usually lose all civil rights. Their marriages may be dissolved, they may lose their families, and they may forfeit their inheritance rights. Apostasy accusations are often accepted uncritically with scant or no evidence. Apostates are often framed for spurious charges, arrested, tortured, and jailed. They may be dismissed from their jobs by their employer and suffer severe harassment, plus shame is visited upon their families and communities. Often family members try to have apostates declared insane to spare their lives, or they may even attempt to kill them or drive them away.

In Freedom to Believe, Sookhdeo also reviews the law of apostasy. It is based on the shari'ah and founded in the Koran and the practices of Mohamed, or the Hadith. The Hadith is very clear on the requirement to kill apostates, Sookhdeo writes. In Bukhari, the most authoritative of the Hadith collection, Mohamed is recorded as saying, "Whoever changed his religion, then kill him" (9:84:57). Whether or not the apostate is given a chance to repent is unclear, as there are verses that support either position. No designated punishment exists in Islamic doctrine for killing an apostate.

Ostensible contradictions in the Koran -- illustrated in the verses "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (2:256) and "Fight and slay the non-believers wherever you find them" (9:5) -- are discussed by the author. He explains that this apparent discrepancy is an example of abrogation, a method of interpretation that imposes the precepts of later-day verses over earlier ones. More violent and definitive later-day verses, written after Mohamed had been victorious in Medina and Mecca, take precedence over earlier, milder verses written when Mohamed lacked sufficient power.

Sookhdeo also explains that apostasy is linked with blasphemy -- the cursing or insulting of Mohamed -- under the category of kufar, or unbelief. In contravention to Western principles of freedom of expression, the 57 Muslim states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have called for criminalizing religious defamation. Their goal, cites Sookhdeo, is to give Islam a privileged place among the world's religions. It would seem to be working. Non-Muslims are increasingly self-censoring to avoid charges of Islamophobia and to prevent actual violence, such as that which occurred with Cartoongate -- the protest against cartoons of Mohamed published by the Jyllands-Posten in 2005, which resulted in over one hundred people killed and embassies destroyed. Of course, Muslim violence against others, such as the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world, Muslim anti-Semitism, and slavery in the Sudan, are off-limits.

The OIC has been trying to use the United Nations to support incorporation of shari'ah-based, anti-blasphemy prohibitions into international human rights law. In 2008, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution against the defamation of religion, specifically mentioning Islam four times to the exclusion of all other religions. In March 2009, Pakistan put forth a draft resolution on behalf of the OIC to combat the defamation of religions, specifically mentioning Islam and Muslims but no other religion or religious groups. The effect of such a law, Sookhdeo believes, will be to stifle religious freedom, outlaw conversions to other faiths, and persecute non-Muslims.

He contrasts Western tolerance of religious freedom with various religious restrictions in Muslim countries. For example, in Saudi Arabia, non-Islamic religious worship is strictly forbidden. Individual judges are able to make decisions regarding apostasy in secret proceedings. In Pakistan, the desecration of the Koran carries a sentence of life imprisonment. Oftentimes, charges of apostasy and blasphemy are spurious and used to settle a personal vendetta. In Malaysia, non-Muslims are prohibited from using the word "Allah" in their publications. In the Maldives, all citizens must be Muslim, and the public practice of any other religion is not allowed.

Sadly, recounts Sookhdeo, Muslims who immigrate to the West in search of religious freedom are gravely disappointed. Apostasy still remains a problem for Muslims who convert and move to countries where religious freedom is guaranteed. Such immigrants are often at risk from their own families as well as radicals in their communities. Many are harassed with death threats and find it necessary to keep a low profile or even go into hiding. Often their adoptive countries lack an understanding of the risks they face and are unsupportive of their plight. If refugees, they also face the threat of deportation to a death sentence in their home countries.

Sookhdeo concludes that Islamic apostasy law stands in direct contrast to Western principles of human rights and religious liberty. He sees scant hope for change -- that Muslims will be able to freely change their religions -- as Muslims remain shocked and repulsed by apostasy and believe harsh punishment is justifiable. Further, dissent invites blasphemy charges, which effectively silences opposition, and criticism, which, in turn, stifles reform. Given the conclusions in Sookhdeo's book, it is likely the respect shown by Muslims to President Obama is simply acceptance of a Muslim brother, not a foretaste of a future in which Muslim apostasy is tolerated and accepted.

Stephens: Muslims, Mormons and Liberals

Why is it OK to mock one religion but not another?

'Hasa Diga Eebowai" is the hit number in Broadway's hit musical "The Book of Mormon," which won nine Tony awards last year. What does the phrase mean? I can't tell you, because it's unprintable in a family newspaper.

On the other hand, if you can afford to shell out several hundred bucks for a seat, then you can watch a Mormon missionary get his holy book stuffed—well, I can't tell you about that, either. Let's just say it has New York City audiences roaring with laughter.

Related Video

Why is it OK to mock one religion but not another? Columnist Bret Stephens joins Opinion Journal.


The "Book of Mormon"—a performance of which Hillary Clinton attended last year, without registering a complaint—comes to mind as the administration falls over itself denouncing "Innocence of Muslims." This is a film that may or may not exist; whose makers are likely not who they say they are; whose actors claim to have known neither the plot nor purpose of the film; and which has never been seen by any member of the public except as a video clip on the Internet.

No matter. The film, the administration says, is "hateful and offensive" (Susan Rice), "reprehensible and disgusting" (Jay Carney) and, in a twist, "disgusting and reprehensible" (Hillary Clinton). Mr. Carney, the White House spokesman, also lays sole blame on the film for inciting the riots that have swept the Muslim world and claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his staff in Libya.

So let's get this straight: In the consensus view of modern American liberalism, it is hilarious to mock Mormons and Mormonism but outrageous to mock Muslims and Islam. Why? Maybe it's because nobody has ever been harmed, much less killed, making fun of Mormons.

Here's what else we learned this week about the emerging liberal consensus: That it's okay to denounce a movie you haven't seen, which is like trashing a book you haven't read. That it's okay to give perp-walk treatment to the alleged—and no doubt terrified—maker of the film on legally flimsy and politically motivated grounds of parole violation. That it's okay for the federal government publicly to call on Google to pull the video clip from YouTube in an attempt to mollify rampaging Islamists. That it's okay to concede the fundamentalist premise that religious belief ought to be entitled to the highest possible degree of social deference—except when Mormons and sundry Christian rubes are concerned.

 
image
Associated Press/Boneau/Bryan-Brown
'The Book of Mormon' performed at New York's Eugene O'Neill Theatre

And, finally, this: That the most "progressive" administration in recent U.S. history will make no principled defense of free speech to a Muslim world that could stand hearing such a defense. After the debut of "The Book of Mormon" musical, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded with this statement: "The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ."

That was it. The People's Front for the Liberation of Provo will not be gunning for a theater near you. Is it asking too much of religious and political leaders in Muslim communities to adopt a similar attitude?

It needn't be. A principled defense of free speech could start by quoting the Quran: "And it has already come down to you in the Book that when you hear the verses of Allah [recited], they are denied [by them] and ridiculed; so do not sit with them until they enter into another conversation." In this light, the true test of religious conviction is indifference, not susceptibility, to mockery.

The defense could add that a great religion surely cannot be goaded into frenetic mob violence on the slimmest provocation. Yet to watch the images coming out of Benghazi, Cairo, Tunis and Sana'a is to witness some significant portion of a civilization being transformed into Travis Bickle, the character Robert De Niro made unforgettable in Taxi Driver. "You talkin' to me?"

A defense would also point out that an Islamic world that insists on a measure of religious respect needs also to offer that respect in turn. When Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi—the closest thing Sunni Islam has to a pope—praises Hitler for exacting "divine punishment" on the Jews, that respect isn't exactly apparent. Nor has it been especially apparent in the waves of Islamist-instigated pogroms that have swept Egypt's Coptic community in recent years.

Finally, it need be said that the whole purpose of free speech is to protect unpopular, heretical, vulgar and stupid views. So far, the Obama administration's approach to free speech is that it's fine so long as it's cheap and exacts no political price. This is free speech as pizza.

President Obama came to office promising that he would start a new conversation with the Muslim world, one that lectured less and listened more. After nearly four years of listening, we can now hear more clearly where the U.S. stands in the estimation of that world: equally despised but considerably less feared. Just imagine what four more years of instinctive deference will do.

On the bright side, dear liberals, you'll still be able to mock Mormons. They tend not to punch back, which is part of what makes so many of them so successful in life.

ISLAMISTS IN GOVERNMENT

This section of DiscoverTheNetworks features profiles of Islamists who have secured positions of influence in federal, state, and local government. Some of these individuals were elected to their offices by the voting public; others were appointed by elected officials.

It is important to emphasize that the men and women profiled in this section are not included here merely because they are Muslims. Indeed, many Muslims in government positions perform their duties competently and in a manner that is consistent with America's national-security needs. As journalist Andrew C. McCarthy, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and author of The Grand Jihad, puts it:

“I don’t know how many Muslims work in the U.S. government, but I feel pretty safe saying there are thousands. As a federal prosecutor on terrorism cases, I had the privilege of working with several of them. These were patriotic American Muslims, and a number of Muslims who may not be Americans but who have embraced America and the West. Without them, we could not have infiltrated jihadist cells in New York and stopped terrorists from killing thousands of people. Without them, we could not have translated, understood and processed our evidence so it could be presented to a jury as a compelling narrative. Pro-American Muslims serve honorably in government, in our military, in our intelligence services, and in our major institutions.”

Such individuals are to be distinguished from Islamists, who, to varying degrees, support and/or whitewash the radical and supremacist agendas of Sharia Law and jihadism, be it of the violent or the stealth variety, and of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations.

A number of the Islamists featured in this section participate in events hosted and sponsored by organizations with ties to Islamic extremism, jihadism, and terrorism. They refuse to unambiguously condemn the actions and objectives of such entities as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood. And they are apt to ascribe Islamic terrorism not to any particular doctrines that are central to Islam itself, but rather, to objectionable Western “policies” that allegedly antagonize Muslims and constitute a veritable “war against Islam.”

In June 2012, five Republican lawmakers (most prominently, Rep. Michele Bachmann) sent letters to the inspectors general at the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and State, asking that they investigate whether the Muslim Brotherhood was gaining undue influence over U.S. government officials. One letter, noting that Huma Abedin's position as a close aide to Hillary Clinton “affords her routine access to the secretary [of state] and to policymaking,” expressed concern over the fact that Abedin “has three family members—her late father, mother and her brother—connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations.”

Few political figures of either major party were able to see, or were willing to acknowledge, the legitimacy of the concerns raised by Bachmann, et al. President Barack Obama, for one, defended Huma Abedin as “a good friend … who has worked tirelessly … in the White House, in the U.S. Senate, and most exhaustingly, at the State Department, where she has been nothing less than extraordinary in representing our country and the democratic values that we hold dear.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi likewise dismissed the “baseless accusations” against Ms. Abedin. Similarly, prominent Republicans such as John McCain and John Boehner firmly disavowed the concerns articulated in the aforementioned letters.

This section of DiscoverTheNetworks was established to provide the pertinent facts about the influence on American policy of Muslims who argue that concerns over radical Islam's inroads constitute “Islamophobia” that leads inevitably to violations of civil rights; who have Islamist commitments of their own, or sympathies for others who hold such views; or who seek to advance the agendas of groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.