Truck Owner Wants DEA to Pay After Botched Sting

By Dane Schiller

The Houston Chronicle
July 29, 2012

The phone rang before sunrise. It woke Craig Patty, owner of a tiny North Texas trucking company, to vexing news about Truck 793 - a big red semi supposedly getting repairs in Houston.
"Your driver was shot in your truck," said the caller, a business colleague. "Your truck was loaded with marijuana. He was shot eight times while sitting in the cab. Do you know anything about your driver hauling marijuana?"
"What did you say?" Patty recalled asking. "Could you please repeat that?"
The truck, it turned out, had been everywhere but in the repair shop.
Commandeered by one of his drivers, who was secretly working with federal agents, the truck had been hauling marijuana from the border as part of an undercover operation. And without Patty's knowledge, the Drug Enforcement Administration was paying his driver, Lawrence Chapa, to use the truck to bust traffickers.
At least 17 hours before that early morning phone call, Chapa was shot dead in front of more than a dozen law enforcement officers - all of them taken by surprise by hijackers trying to steal the red Kenworth T600 truck and its load of pot.
In the confusion of the attack in northwest Harris County, compounded by officers in the operation not all knowing each other, a Houston policeman shot and wounded a Harris County sheriff's deputy.
Still Waiting
But eight months later, Patty still can't get recompense from the U.S. government's decision to use his truck and employee without his permission.
His company, which hauls sand as part of hydraulic fracturing operations for oil and gas companies, was pushed to the brink of failure after the attack because the truck was knocked out of commission, he said.
Patty had only one other truck in operation.
In documents shared with the Houston Chronicle, he is demanding that the DEA pay $133,532 in repairs and lost wages over the bullet-sprayed truck, and $1.3 million more for the damage to himself and his family, who fear retaliation by a drug cartel over the bungled narcotics sting.
"When you start a new business, there are obvious pitfalls you go through, a learning curve," said Patty, who before buying his two trucks worked in the pharmaceutical industry. "But who would ever be ready to deal with this?
"How am I — a small businessman, father of three, American Joe from Texas — supposed to make a claim against a federal agency that has conveniently shrouded itself behind a red, white and blue cloak of confidentiality and secrecy?"
Copies of letters and emails from Patty's insurance company state that it won't pay for repairs because the truck was part of a law-enforcement operation. Patty drew from his 401K retirement fund to repair the truck, which was out of operation for 100 days.
"I was not part of this," he said. "I had absolutely no knowledge of any of it until after it happened."
For its part, the DEA has not admitted that it was using Chapa as a spy because its official policy is not to comment on whether someone was an informant.
Lisa Johnson, a spokeswoman for the DEA Houston Division, confirmed that Patty's demand had been received and noted that it would be investigated by the agency. But the Chronicle established Chapa was an informant based on interviews with multiple law-enforcement officials who spoke on the condition they not be named, and later by courtroom comments of prosecutors.
Patty's request chronicles much of what he's been through, including the operating costs for his trucks and everything repaired or replaced due to the attack. Among other disturbing chores was the need to hire a Spring-based company to clean up the mess in the cab caused by the killing.
Houston lawyer Mark Bennett, who is advising Patty, said if Patty's initial claim is not resolved, the next step would be to sue.
1,000-mile detour
Patty hired Chapa five weeks before the shooting and now wonders how many of the trips in the $90,000 rig included DEA work. GPS information from the truck reveals an unauthorized trek to the Rio Grande Valley in the days before Chapa was killed. He took a 1,000-mile round trip detour from the route he was supposed to travel.
Perhaps most unnerving, Patty says, is that drug mobsters now likely know his name, and certainly know his truck.
Panic at the Patty home these days can be triggered by something as simple as a deer scampering through the wooded yard or a car pulling into the driveway. One morning as his wife made breakfast, one of his young sons suddenly bolted across the house yelling, "Get the guns!"
A Bronco sport utility vehicle had pulled into the driveway past a broken gate. The dogs were barking in the darkness. Patty grabbed a pistol and headed for the front yard.
The Bronco pulled away, leaving a shiny object by the front walkway. It turned out to be the morning newspaper wrapped in a plastic bag reflecting a neighbor's floodlight.
The whole ordeal has forced his children to grow up more quickly than he'd like, Patty said.
"I wanted to keep them young as long as I could," he said. "I've gone to great lengths to keep my son believing in Santa Claus, and now I'm talking to him about death, mayhem and drug cartels.
"That is a huge canyon between the two."
The truck has a new driver, but there's still one bullet hole inside the truck's cab. A chunk of seat cushion, sliced out as evidence, has been covered with a patch.
"I really do not worry about driving it," said driver Norman Anderson - as long is it doesn't involve a trip to South Texas.
"I feel like if I go there, I should put an 'X' on each side of my neck, draw a dotted line between them, and write, " 'cut here.' "

Brotherhood’s American defenders

Why is the Obama administration shunning potential allies and empowering enemies? Why has the administration gotten it wrong everywhere?

The Jerusalem Post
26 July 2012

On Wednesday, John Brennan, US President Barack Obama’s assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism, made a quick trip to Israel to discuss Hezbollah’s massacre of Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria last week.

Hopefully it was an instructive meeting for the senior US official, although his Israeli interlocutors were undoubtedly dumbstruck by how difficult it was to communicate with him. Unlike previous US counterterror officials, Brennan does not share Israel’s understanding of Middle Eastern terrorism.

Brennan’s outlook on this subject was revealed in a speech he gave two years ago in Washington. In that talk, Brennan spoke dreamily about Hezbollah. As he put it, “Hezbollah is a very interesting organization.”
He claimed it had evolved from a “purely terrorist organization” to a militia and then into an organization with members in Lebanon’s parliament and serving in Lebanon’s cabinet.

Brennan continued, “There are certainly elements of Hezbollah that are truly a concern for us what they’re doing. And what we need to do is find ways to diminish their influence within the organization and to try to build up the more moderate elements.”
Perhaps in a bid to build up those “moderate elements,” in the same address, Brennan referred to Israel’s capital city Jerusalem as “al Quds,” the name preferred by Hezbollah and its Iranian overlords.

Brennan’s amazing characterization of Hezbollah’s hostile takeover of the Lebanese government as proof that the terrorist group was moderating was of a piece with the Obama administration’s view of Islamic jihadists generally.

If there are “moderate elements,” in Hezbollah, from the perspective of the Obama administration, Hezbollah’s Sunni jihadist counterpart – the Muslim Brotherhood – is downright friendly.

On February 10, 2011, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made this position clear in testimony before the House Select Committee on Intelligence. Clapper’s testimony was given the day before then Egyptian president and longtime US ally Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign from office. Mubarak’s coerced resignation was owed largely to the Obama administration’s decision to end US support for his regime and openly demand his immediate abdication of power. As Israel warned, Mubarak’s ouster paved the way for the Muslim Brotherhood’s ascendance to power in Egypt.

In his testimony Clapper said, “The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ is an umbrella term for a variety of movements. In the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaida as a perversion of Islam. They have pursued social ends, betterment of the political order in Egypt, etc.”

Watching Clapper’s testimony in Israel, the sense across the political spectrum, shared by experts and casual observers alike was that the US had taken leave of its senses.

The slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood is “Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Koran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the path of Allah is our highest hope.” How could such a high-level US official claim that such an organization is “largely secular”? Every day Muslim Brotherhood leaders call for the violent annihilation of Israel. And those calls are often combined with calls for jihad against the US. For instance, in a sermon from October 2010, Muslim Brotherhood head Mohammed Badie called for jihad against the US. As he put it “Resistance [i.e. terrorism] is the only solution against the Zio-American arrogance and tyranny, and all we need is for the Arab and Muslim peoples to stand behind it and support it.”

Badie then promised his congregants that the death of America was nigh. As he put it, “A nation that does not champion moral and human values cannot lead humanity, and its wealth will not avail it once Allah has had His say, as happened with [powerful] nations in the past. The US is now experiencing the beginning of its end, and is heading towards its demise.”
The obliviousness of Brennan and Clapper to the essential nature of Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood are symptoms of the overarching ignorance informing the Obama administration’s approach to Middle Eastern realities.
Take, for instance, the Obama administration’s policy confusion over Syria. This week The Washington Post reported that the Obama administration lacks any real knowledge of the nature of the opposition forces fighting to overthrow the Syrian regime. Whereas one senior official told the paper, “We’re identifying the key leaders, and there are a lot of them. We are in touch with them and we stay in touch,” another official said that is not the case.
As the latter official put it, “The folks that have been identified have been identified through Turkey and Jordan. It is not because of who we know. It’s all through liaison.”
The fact that the US government is flying blind as Syria spins out of control is rendered all the more egregious when you recognize that this was not inevitable. America’s ignorance is self-inflicted.
In the 16 months that have passed since the Syrian civil war broke out, the administration passed up several opportunities to develop its own ties to the opposition and even to shape its agenda. Two examples suffice to make this clear.
First, in October 2011, according to the Beirut-based Arabic news portal al Nashra, Dalia Mogahed, Obama’s adviser on Muslim affairs, blocked a delegation of Middle Eastern Christians led by Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai from meeting with Obama and members of his national security team at the White House. According to al Nashra, Mogahed canceled the meeting at the request of the Muslim Brotherhood in her native Egypt.
The White House canceled the meeting days after Rai visited with then French president Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris. During that meeting Rai angered the French Foreign Ministry when he warned that it would be a disaster for Syria’s Christian minority, and for Christians throughout the region, if the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is overthrown. Rai based this claim on his assessment that Assad would be replaced by a Muslim Brotherhood- dominated Islamist regime.
And nine months later it is obvious that he was right. With Syria’s civil war still raging throughout the country, the world media is rife with reports about Syria’s Christians fleeing their towns and villages en masse as Islamists from the Syrian opposition target them with death, extortion and kidnapping.
Then there are the US’s peculiar choices regarding the opposition figures it favors. Last August, in a bid to gain familiarity with the Syrian opposition, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with opposition representatives at the State Department. Herb London from the Hudson Institute reported at the time that the group Clinton met with was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Members of the non-Islamist, pro-Western Syrian Democracy Council compose of Syrian Kurds, Alawites, Christians, Druse, Assyrians and non-Islamist Sunnis were not invited to the meeting.
Clinton did reportedly agree to meet with representatives of the council separately. But unlike the press carnival at her meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood members, Clinton refused to publicize her meeting with the non-Islamist opposition leaders. In so acting, she denied these would-be US allies the ability to claim that they enjoyed the support of the US government.
The question is why? Why is the Obama administration shunning potential allies and empowering enemies? Why has the administration gotten it wrong everywhere? In an attempt to get to the bottom of this, and perhaps to cause the administration to rethink its policies, a group of US lawmakers, members of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees led by Rep. Michele Bachmann sent letters to the inspectors-general of the State, Homeland Security, Defense, and Justice departments as well as to the inspector-general of the office of the director of National Intelligence. In those letters, Bachmann and her colleagues asked the Inspectors General to investigate possible penetration of the US government by Muslim Brotherhood operatives.
In their letters, and in a subsequent explanatory letter to US Rep. Keith Ellison from Rep. Bachmann, the lawmakers made clear that when they spoke of governmental penetration, they were referring to the central role that Muslim groups, identified by the US government in Federal Court as Muslim Brotherhood front organizations, play in shaping the Obama administration’s perception of and policies towards the Muslim Brotherhood and its allied movements in the US and throughout the world.
That these front groups, including the unindicted terror funding co-conspirators, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), play a key role in shaping the Obama administration’s agenda is beyond dispute. Senior administration officials including Mogahed have close ties to these groups. There is an ample body of evidence that suggests that the administration’s decision to side with the hostile Muslim Brotherhood against its allies owes to a significant degree to the influence these Muslim Brotherhood front groups and their operatives wield in the Obama administration.
To take just one example, last October the Obama administration agreed to purge training materials used by US intelligence and law enforcement agencies and eliminate all materials that contained references to Islam that US Muslim groups associated with the Muslim Brotherhood had claimed were offensive. The administration has also fired counterterrorism trainers and lecturers employed by US security agencies and defense academies that taught their pupils about the doctrines of jihadist Islam. The administration also appointed representatives of Muslim Brotherhoodaligned US Muslim groups to oversee the approval of training materials about Islam for US federal agencies.
For their efforts to warn about – and perhaps cause the administration to abandon its reliance on – Muslim Brotherhood front groups, Bachmann and her colleagues have been denounced as racists and McCarthyites. These attacks have not been carried out only by administration supporters.
Republican Senator John McCain denounced Bachmann from the floor of the Senate. Republican Senator Marco Rubio later piled on attacking her for her attempt to convince the administration to reconsider its policies. Those policies again place the most radical members of the US Muslim community in charge of the US government’s policies toward the Muslim Brotherhood and other jihadist movements.
It is clear that the insidious notion that the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate and friendly force has taken hold in US policy circles. And it is apparent that US policymaking in the Middle East is increasingly rooted in this false and dangerous assessment.
In spearheading an initiative to investigate and change this state of affairs, Bachmann and her colleagues should be congratulated, not condemned. And their courageous efforts to ask the relevant questions about the nature of Muslim Brotherhood influence over US policymakers should be joined, not spurned by their colleagues in Washington, by the media and by all concerned citizens in America and throughout the free world.

Blowing the whistle on the federal Leviathan

The Washington Post
July 27, 2012

Nancy Black (right) navigates the Sea Wolf II while Tony Lorenz keeps a lookout for whales in the open waters.  Photo: Chad Ziemendorf, The Chronicle / SF

The huge humpback whale whose friendliness precipitated a surreal seven-year — so far — federal hunt for criminality surely did not feel put upon. Nevertheless, our unhinged government, with an obsession like that of Melville’s Ahab, has crippled Nancy Black’s scientific career, cost her more than $100,000 in legal fees — so far — and might sentence her to 20 years in prison. This Kafkaesque burlesque of law enforcement began when someone whistled.

Black, 50, a marine biologist who also captains a whale-watching ship, was with some watchers in Monterey Bay in 2005 when a member of her crew whistled at the humpback that had approached her boat, hoping to entice the whale to linger. Back on land, another of her employees called the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to ask if the whistling constituted “harassment” of a marine mammal, which is an “environmental crime.” NOAA requested a video of the episode, which Black sent after editing it slightly to highlight the whistling. NOAA found no harassment — but got her indicted for editing the tape, calling this a “material false statement” to federal investigators, which is a felony under the 1863 False Claims Act, intended to punish suppliers defrauding the government during the Civil War.

A year after this bizarre charge — that she lied about the interaction with the humpback that produced no charges — more than a dozen federal agents, led by one from NOAA, raided her home. They removed her scientific photos, business files and computers. Call this a fishing expedition.

She has also been charged with the crime of feeding killer whales when she and two aides were in a dinghy observing them feeding on strips of blubber torn from their prey — a gray whale.

To facilitate photographing the killers’ feeding habits, she cut a hole in one of the floating slabs of blubber and, through the hole, attached a rope to stabilize the slab while a camera on a pole recorded the whales’ underwater eating.

So she is charged with “feeding” killer whales that were already feeding on a gray whale they had killed. She could more plausibly be accused of interfering with the feeding.

Never mind. This pursuit of Black seems to have become a matter of institutional momentum, an agent-driven case. Perhaps NOAA, or the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, has its version of Victor Hugo’s obsessed Inspector Javert.

In any event, some of the federal government’s crime-busters seem to know little about whales — hence the “whistle-as-harassment” nonsense.

Six years ago, NOAA agents, who evidently consider the First Amendment a dispensable nuisance, told Black’s scientific colleagues not to talk to her and to inform them if they were contacted by her or her lawyers. Since then she has not spoken with one of her best friends.

To finance her defense she has cashed out her life’s savings, which otherwise might have purchased a bigger boat. The government probably has spent millions. It delivered an administrative subpoena to her accountant, although no charge against her has anything to do with finances.

In 1980, federal statutes specified 3,000 criminal offenses; by 2007, 4,450. They continue to multiply. Often, as in Black’s case, they are untethered from the common-law tradition of mens rea, which holds that a crime must involve a criminal intent — a guilty mind. Legions of government lawyers inundate targets like Black with discovery demands, producing financial burdens that compel the innocent to surrender in order to survive.

The protracted and pointless tormenting of Black illustrates the thesis of Harvey Silverglate’s invaluable 2009 book, “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.” Silverglate, a civil liberties lawyer in Boston, chillingly demonstrates how the mad proliferation of federal criminal laws — which often are too vague to give fair notice of what behavior is proscribed or prescribed — means that “our normal daily activities expose us to potential prosecution at the whim of a government official.” Such laws, which enable government zealots to accuse almost anyone of committing three felonies in a day, do not just enable government misconduct, they incite prosecutors to intimidate decent people who never had culpable intentions. And to inflict punishments without crimes.

By showing that Kafka was a realist, Black’s misfortune may improve the nation: The more Americans learn about their government’s abuse of criminal law for capricious bullying, the more likely they are to recoil in a libertarian direction and put Leviathan on a short leash.

Huma Abedin’s Brotherhood Ties Are Not Just a Family Affair

By Andrew C. McCarthy
July 27, 2012

Senator John McCain’s claim that concerns about Huma Abedin (pictured above) are a smear based on “a few unspecified and unsubstantiated associations” proves more embarrassing by the day. In fact, to the extent it addressed Ms. Abedin, the letter sent to the State Department’s inspector general by five House conservatives actually understated the case.

The letter averred that Abedin “has three family members — her late father, her mother and her brother — connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations.” It turns out, however, that Abedin herself is directly connected to Abdullah Omar Naseef, a major Muslim Brotherhood figure involved in the financing of al-Qaeda. Abedin worked for a number of years at the Institute for Muslim Minority Affairs as assistant editor of its journal. The IMMA was founded by Naseef, who remained active in it for decades, overlapping for several years with Abedin. Naseef was also secretary general of the Muslim World League in Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most significant Muslim Brotherhood organization in the world. In that connection, he founded the Rabita Trust, which is formally designated as a foreign terrorist organization under American law due to its support of al-Qaeda.

You ought to be able to stop right there.

A person is not required to have done anything wrong to be denied a high-ranking government position, or more immediately, the security clearance allowing access to classified information that is necessary to function in such a job. There simply need be associations, allegiances, or interests that establish a potential conflict of interest.

Government jobs and access to the nation’s secrets are privileges, not rights. That is why the potential conflict needn’t stem from one’s own associations with hostile foreign countries, organizations, or persons. Vicarious associations, such as one’s parents’ connections to troublesome persons and organizations, are sufficient to create a potential conflict.

In this instance, however, before you even start probing the extensive, disturbing Brotherhood ties of her family members, Huma Abedin should have been ineligible for any significant government position based on her own personal and longstanding connection to Naseef’s organization.

Specifically, Ms. Abedeen was affiliated with the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, where she was assistant editor of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. The journal was the IMMA’s raison d’etre. Abedin held the position of assistant editor from 1996 through 2008 — from when she began working as an intern in the Clinton White House until shortly before she took her current position as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff.

The IMMA was founded in the late 1970s by Abdullah Omar Naseef, who was then the vice president of the prestigious King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia. The IMMA’s chief product was to be its journal. For the important position of managing editor, Naseef recruited his fellow academic Zyed Abedin, who had been a visiting professor at the university in the early 1970s.
To join the IMMA, Dr. Abedin moved his family, including infant daughter Huma (born in 1976), to Saudi Arabia from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Zyed’s wife, Saleha Mahmood Abedin (Huma’s mother), is also an academic and worked for the journal from its inception. She would eventually take it over after her husband died in 1993, and she remains its editor to this day. Huma Abedin’s brother Hassan, another academic, is an associate editor at the journal.

The journal began publishing in 1979. For its initial edition, Abdullah Omar Naseef — identified in the masthead as “Chairman, Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs” — penned a brief introduction relating the IMMA’s vision for the journal. Zyed Abedin appeared as managing editor in the journal’s second edition in 1979, proclaiming in a short introduction his “deep appreciation to H.E. Dr. Abdullah O. Naseef, President, King Abdulaziz University, for his continued guidance, support, and encouragement.” (I am indebted to the Center for Security Policy, which obtained some copies of the journal, going back many years.)

Not long after the journal started, Naseef became the secretary general of the Muslim World League, the Saudi-financed global propagation enterprise by which the Muslim Brotherhood’s virulently anti-Western brand of Islamist ideology is seeded throughout the world, very much including in the United States.

We are not talking here about some random imam in the dizzying alphabet soup of Islamist entities. In the pantheon of Islamic supremacism, there are few positions more critical than secretary general of the Muslim World League. In fact, one of the MWL’s founders was Sa’id Ramadan, the right-hand and son-in-law of Hassan al-Banna, the Brotherhood’s legendary founder.

The MWL manages the “civilization jihad” — the Brotherhood’s commitment to destroy the West from within, and to “conquer” it by sharia proselytism (or dawa), as Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the Brotherhood’s top sharia jurist, puts it.

Nevertheless, the MWL has a long history of deep involvement in violent jihad as well.

It was under MWL auspices in 1988 that Naseef created a “charity” called the Rabita Trust. The scare-quotes around “charity” are intentional. To direct the Rabita Trust, Naseef selected Wael Hamza Jalaidan. A few years earlier, Jalaidan had joined with Osama bin Laden to form al-Qaeda.
This would surprise you only if you waste your time listening to John McCain, Version 2012 — as opposed to John McCain, Version 2011, who professed himself “unalterably opposed” to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Under the Brotherhood’s interpretation of sharia, which is explained in such works as Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, all Muslims are supposed to donate a portion of their income. This obligation, known as zakat, is usually referred to as “charity” by Islamists and their Western pom-pom waivers. But it is not charity; it is fortification of the ummah – the notional global community of Muslims.

As Reliance instructs, zakat can only be given to Muslims, and one-eighth of it is supposed to be donated to “those fighting for Allah, meaning people engaged in Islamic military operations for whom no salary has been allotted in the army roster.” Remember that the next time you hear the ubiquitous claim that Muslim charities are being misused as “fronts” for terrorism. This is not a “misuse” and they are not “fronts.” Under sharia, the streaming of donations to violent jihadists is quite intentional.

A month after the 9/11 attacks, Naseef’s Rabitah Trust was formally designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States government. Ultimately, branches of the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and the International Islamic Relief Organization – other “charities” with roots in the MWL — were also designated as foreign terrorist organizations under federal law. This, too, should have not been a surprise. In 2003, in connection with a terrorism prosecution in Chicago, the Justice Department proffered that Osama bin Laden had told his aide Jamal al-Fadl that the Muslim World League was one of al-Qaeda’s three top funding sources. (Fadl later renounced al-Qaeda and cooperated with federal prosecutors.)

Throughout the time that he ran the MWL and the Rabita Trust, Naseef kept his hand in at the IMMA. In fact, he continued to be listed on the masthead as a member of the “advisory editorial board” at the IMMA’s journal until 2003. We might hazard a guess why his name disappeared after that: in 2004, he was named as a defendant in the civil case brought by victims of the 9/11 atrocities. (In 2010, a federal court dropped him from the suit — not because he was found uninvolved, but because a judge reasoned the American court lacked personal jurisdiction over him.)

Huma Abedin was affiliated with the IMMA’s journal for a dozen years, from 1996 through 2008. She overlapped with its founder, Naseef, for at least seven years — it could be more, but I am assuming for argument’s sake that Naseef had no further involvement in his institute once his name was removed from the masthead.

The case against Ms. Abedin’s suitability for a high-level position with access to the nation’s secrets gets much worse if you add in her family ties.

To summarize what I’ve already outlined here at Ordered Liberty: her parents were recruited by Naseef to head up the IMMA; her mother is an active member of Muslim Brotherhood organizations — including the Muslim Sisterhood and two entities that are part of Sheikh Qaradawi’s Union of Good, another designated terrorist organization; there is persuasive evidence that her father was a member of the Brotherhood — e.g., the intimate tie to Naseef and his widow’s membership in the Muslim Sisterhood (which is substantially comprised of wives and female relatives of prominent Muslim Brothers); her mother is a tireless advocate of sharia law as preached by Qaradawi and the Brotherhood; and her brother, who is also affiliated with the IMMA’s journal, was a fellow at an Islamist institute (the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies) on whose board sat both Naseef and Qaradawi.

Nevertheless, the family ties to the Brotherhood only further elucidate what is already patent: Huma Abedin’s connection to Abdullah Omar Naseef, by itself, would have been more than enough justification to deny her a security clearance. That would have made it inconceivable that she could serve as deputy chief of staff to the secretary of state.

Ms. Abedin has very disturbing connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. Though she is not a policymaker, she is an important adviser, and during her three-year tenure, federal government policy has radically shifted in the Brotherhood’s favor, to the point that the Obama administration is not only embracing the previously shunned Brotherhood but issuing visas to members of formally designated terrorist organizations.

The question is not whether the five House conservatives were off-base in asking for an investigation into ties between administration officials and Islamist organizations. The question is why the other 430 members of the House haven’t joined them — and why John McCain, John Boehner, and other Republican establishment luminaries are championing the Muslim Brotherhood’s side of the dispute.

Don't cross the forces of tolerance

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
July 27, 2012

To modify Lord Acton, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, but aldermanic power corrupts all der more manically. Proco "Joe" Moreno is Alderman of the First Ward of Chicago, and last week, in a city with an Aurora-size body count every weekend, his priority was to take the municipal tire-iron to the owners of a chain of fast-food restaurants. "Because of this man's ignorance," said Alderman Moreno, "I will now be denying Chick-fil-A's permit to open a restaurant in the First Ward."

"This man's ignorance"? You mean, of the City of Chicago permit process? Zoning regulations? Health and safety ordinances? No, Alderman Moreno means "this man's ignorance" of the approved position on same-sex marriage. "This man" is Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, and a few days earlier he had remarked that "we are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives" – which last part suggests he is as antipathetic to no-fault divorce and other heterosexual assaults on matrimony as he is to more recent novelties such as gay marriage. But no matter. Alderman Moreno does not allege that Chick-fil-A discriminates in its hiring practices or in its customer service. Nor does he argue that business owners should not be entitled to hold opinions: The Muppets, for example, have reacted to Mr. Cathy's observations by announcing that they're severing all ties with Chick-fil-A. Did you know that the Muppet Corporation has a position on gay marriage?
Well, they do. But Miss Piggy and the Swedish Chef would be permitted to open a business in the First Ward of Chicago because their opinion on gay marriage happens to coincide with Alderman Moreno's. It's his ward, you just live in it. When it comes to lunch options, he's the chicken supremo, and don't you forget it.

The city's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, agrees with the Alderman: Chick-fil-A does not represent "Chicago values" – which is true if by "Chicago values" you mean machine politics, AIDS-conspiracy-peddling pastors and industrial-scale black youth homicide rates. But, before he was mayor, Rahm Emanuel was President Obama's chief of staff. Until the president's recent "evolution," the Obama administration held the same position on gay marriage as Chick-fil-A. Would Alderman Moreno have denied Barack Obama the right to open a chicken restaurant in the First Ward? Did Rahm Emanuel quit the Obama administration on principle? Don't be ridiculous. Mayor Emanuel is a former ballet dancer, and when it's politically necessary he can twirl on a dime.

Meanwhile, fellow mayor Tom Menino announced that Chick-fil-A would not be opening in his burg anytime soon. "If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult," said His Honor. If you've just wandered in in the middle of the column, this guy Menino isn't the mayor of Soviet Novosibirsk or Kampong Cham under the Khmer Rouge, but of Boston, Mass. Nevertheless, he shares the commissars' view that in order to operate even a modest and politically inconsequential business it is necessary to demonstrate that one is in full ideological compliance with party orthodoxy. "There is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail," Mayor Menino thundered in his letter to Mr. Cathy, "and no place for your company alongside it." No, sir. On Boston's Freedom Trail, you're free to march in ideological lockstep with the city authorities – or else. Hard as it is to believe, there was a time when Massachusetts was a beacon of liberty: the shot heard round the world, and all that. Now it fires Bureau of Compliance permit-rejection letters round the world.

Mayor Menino subsequently backed down and claimed the severed rooster's head left in Mr. Cathy's bed was all just a misunderstanding. Yet, when it comes to fighting homophobia on Boston's Freedom Trail, His Honor is highly selective. As the Boston Herald's Michael Graham pointed out, Menino is happy to hand out municipal licenses to groups whose most prominent figures call for gays to be put to death. The mayor couldn't have been more accommodating (including giving them $1.8 million of municipal land) of the new mosque of the Islamic Society of Boston, whose IRS returns listed as one of their seven trustees Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Like President Obama, Imam Qaradawi's position on gays is in a state of "evolution": He can't decide whether to burn them or toss 'em off a cliff. "Some say we should throw them from a high place," he told Al-Jazeera. "Some say we should burn them, and so on. There is disagreement ... . The important thing is to treat this act as a crime." Unlike the deplorable Mr. Cathy, Imam Qaradawi is admirably open-minded: There are so many ways to kill homosexuals, why restrict yourself to just one? In Mayor Menino's Boston, if you take the same view of marriage as President Obama did from 2009 to 2012, he'll run your homophobic ass out of town. But, if you want to toss those godless sodomites off the John Hancock Tower, he'll officiate at your ribbon-cutting ceremony.

This inconsistency is very telling. The forces of "tolerance" and "diversity" are ever more intolerant of anything less than total ideological homogeneity. Earlier this year, the Susan G. Komen Foundation – the group that gave us those pink "awareness raising" ribbons for breast cancer – decided to end its funding of Planned Parenthood on the grounds that, whatever its other charms, Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with curing breast cancer. Within hours, the Komen Foundation's Nancy Brinker had been jumped by her fellow liberals and was strapped to a chair under a light bulb in the basement with her head clamped between two mammogram plates until she recanted. A few weeks back, Mark Regnerus, a sociology professor who "says he's never voted for a Republican presidential candidate," published a paper in the journal Social Science Research whose findings, alas, did not conform to the party line on gay parenting. Immediately, the party of science set about ending his career, demanding that he be investigated for "scientific misconduct" and calling on mainstream TV and radio networks to ban him from their airwaves.

As an exercise in sheer political muscle, it's impressive. But, if you're a feminist or a gay or any of the other house pets in the Democratic menagerie, you might want to look at Rahm Emanuel's pirouette, and Menino's coziness with Islamic homophobia. These guys are about power, and right now your cause happens to coincide with their political advantage. But political winds shift. Once upon a time, Massachusetts burned witches. Now it grills chicken-sandwich homophobes. One day it'll be something else. Already in Europe, in previously gay-friendly cities like Amsterdam, demographically surging Muslim populations have muted Leftie politicians' commitment to gay rights, feminism and much else. It's easy to cheer on the thugs when they're thuggish in your name. What happens when Emanuel's political needs change?

Americans talk more about liberty than citizens of other Western nations, but, underneath the rhetorical swagger, liberty bleeds. When Mayor Menino and Alderman Moreno openly threaten to deny business licenses because of ideological apostasy, they're declaring their unfitness for public office. It's not about marriage, it's not about gays, it's about a basic understanding that a free society requires a decent respect for a wide range of opinion without penalty by the state. In Menino's Boston, the Freedom Trail is heavy on the Trail, way too light on the Freedom.


‘Military-Style Weapons’

Function, not cosmetics, should govern gun policy.

By John R. Lott Jr.
July 27, 2012

Semiautomatic AK-47 variant designed for civilian use

"AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not on the streets of our cities,” President Obama told the National Urban League on Wednesday. After the deadly attack in Colorado last Friday, the president’s concern is understandable. However, even — or perhaps especially — at such a time, distinctions need to be made.

The police in Aurora, Colo., reported that the killer used a Smith & Wesson M&P 15. This weapon bears a cosmetic resemblance to the M-16, which has been used by the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. The call has frequently been made that there is “no reason” for such “military-style weapons” to be available to civilians.

Yes, the M&P 15 and the AK-47 are “military-style weapons.” But the key word is “style” — they are similar to military guns in their aesthetics, not in the way they actually operate. The guns covered by the federal assault-weapons ban (which was enacted in 1994 and expired ten year later) were not the fully automatic machine guns used by the military but semi-automatic versions of those guns.

The civilian version of the AK-47 uses essentially the same sorts of bullets as deer-hunting rifles, fires at the same rapidity (one bullet per pull of the trigger), and does the same damage. The M&P 15 is similar, though it fires a much smaller bullet — .223 inches in diameter, as opposed to the .30-inch rounds used by the AK-47.

The Aurora killer’s large-capacity ammunition magazines are also misunderstood. The common perception that so-called “assault weapons” can hold larger magazines than hunting rifles is simply wrong. Any gun that can hold a magazine can hold one of any size. That is true for handguns as well as rifles. A magazine, which is basically a metal box with a spring, is also trivially easy to make and virtually impossible to stop criminals from obtaining.

Further, the guns in a couple of recent mass shootings (including the one in Aurora) have jammed because of the large magazines that were used. The reason is simple physics. Large magazines require very strong springs, but the springs cannot be too strong, or it becomes impossible to load the magazines. Over time, the springs wear out, and when a spring loses its ability to push bullets into the chamber properly, the gun jams. With large springs, even a small amount of fatigue can cause jams.
If Obama wants to campaign against semi-automatic guns based on their function, he should go after all semi-automatic guns. After all, in 1998, as an Illinois state senator, he supported just such a ban – a ban that would eliminate most of the guns in the United States.

But despite Obama’s frightening image of military weapons on America’s streets, it is pretty hard to seriously argue that a new ban on “assault weapons” would reduce crime in the United States. Even research done for the Clinton administration didn’t find that the federal assault-weapons ban reduced crime.

Indeed, banning guns on the basis of how they look, and not how they operate, shouldn’t be expected to make any difference. And there are no published academic studies by economists or criminologists that find the original federal assault-weapons ban to have reduced murder or violent crime generally. There is no evidence that the state assault-weapons bans reduced murder or violent-crime rates either.
Since the federal ban expired in September 2004, murder and overall violent-crime rates have actually fallen. In 2003, the last full year before the law expired, the U.S. murder rate was 5.7 per 100,000 people. Preliminary numbers for 2011 show that the murder rate has fallen to 4.7 per 100,000 people.

In fact, murder rates fell immediately after September 2004, and they fell more in the states without assault-weapons bans than in the states with them.

Nevertheless, the fears at the time were significant. An Associated Press headline warned, “Gun shops and police officers brace for end of assault weapons ban.” It was even part of the presidential campaign that year: “Kerry blasts lapse of assault weapons ban.” An Internet search turned up more than 560 news stories in the first two weeks of September 2004 that expressed fear about ending the ban. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the fact that murder and other violent crime declined after the ban ended was hardly covered in the media.

If we finally want to deal seriously with multiple-victim public shootings, it is about time that we acknowledge a common feature of these attacks: With just a single exception, the attack in Tucson last year, every public shooting in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed since at least 1950 has occurred in a place where citizens are not allowed to carry their own firearms. The Cinemark movie theater in Aurora, like others run by the chain around the country, displayed warning signs that it was prohibited to carry guns into the theater.

So President Obama wants to keep guns like the AK-47 “in the hands of soldiers.” But these are not military weapons. No self-respecting military in the world would use them, and it is time for Obama to stop scaring the American people.

John R. Lott Jr. is a contributor. He is an economist and the author of More Guns, Less Crime, published in a greatly expanded third edition by the University of Chicago Press (2010).

Syria's chemical weapons arsenal

By Melanie Phillips
The Daily Mail
25 July 2012

Syrian General Ali Abdullah Ayub, right, is pictured meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus (Getty Images)

There is a degree of panic, and rightly so, over whether the Syrian tyrant Basher al Assad will use chemical weapons against either his own people or foreign attackers. His regime has this week threatened to do the latter, thus finally confirming what was long suspected but never openly admitted, that Syria possesses chemical weapons. It is believed to have mustard gas as well as nerve agents such as tabun, sarin and VX. The fear is either that the Assad regime uses them or that they fall into the hands of Hezbollah, al Qaeda or other Islamic terrorist groups. Either prospect is utterly nightmarish. Even Russia says it has told Syria it is unacceptable to threaten to use them.

In the last few days, this has been much discussed. What has not been raised, however, is the question of how Syria managed to develop such a chemical weapons stockpile in the first place. No-one in the western media seems remotely curious about how Syria has managed to arm itself to the teeth with them beneath the radar of international scrutiny.

Dr Danny Shoham, at the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, is an expert in chemical and biological warfare. In a Middle East Quarterly article in 2002, Guile, Gas and Germs: Syria's Ultimate Weapons, he set out the extraordinary history of Syria’s chemical weapons programme.

It first received chemical weapons from Egypt, he says, as far back as 1973. By the late eighties, it was saying it possessed an ‘answer to Israel’s nuclear threat’; people who read between the lines understood this meant Syria now possessed non-conventional weapons. In 1992, Syria refused to commit itself to the elimination of chemical weapons. From the 1970s onwards, wrote Shoham, Syria covertly developed a chemical weapons programme, aided by a wide variety of European and Asian suppliers including the Soviet Union, West Germany and middlemen and brokers located in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Britain, and Austria.

Shoham concluded:

‘Syria now possesses the most formidable CBW capabilities of any Arab state. Its arsenal probably even exceeds that of Iran in quantity and quality. Yet in building it from scratch, under the rule of Hafiz al-Asad, Syria has always managed to stay just outside the spotlight of international scrutiny. It did so by diffusing its efforts, and by playing its political cards with supreme skill—entering (and exiting) the Arab-Israeli "peace process" at just the right times, joining the Kuwait war coalition, cutting back at the last moment on its support for Kurdish separatism in Turkey, and so on. The West has always had some reason not to include Syria on its blackest list. Other regional problems have also drawn attention away from Syria. The United States is still preoccupied with Iraq and Iran, alongside which Syria appears benign.

But at this moment in time, it is a fact: Syria has more destructive capabilities than either of them. The West is often accused of a double standard—of tolerating Israel's possession of WMD, while preventing those same weapons from coming into the hands of Arabs or Muslims. But if there is such a double standard, then how does one explain the West's silence, if not complicity, in the building of Syria's CBW capabilities? A simple explanation would be to say that Syria outwitted the world. But that explanation may be too simple. Many parties profited from the Syrian build-up, and foreign strategists thought that a strong Syrian deterrent might give Hafiz al-Asad the confidence to make peace.'

That, however, was back in 2002. In 2003 the US, Britain and others went to war in Iraq to make the world safe from Saddam Hussein and his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Ever since, however, we have been told that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the proof of that is that none was ever found – surely one of the most profoundly illogical and imbecilic formulations ever to have fallen from human lips.

At the time, however, there were a number of reports that enormous truck movements across the border from Iraq into Syria suggested that some of these WMD had been moved there. Saddam’s Air Vice-Marshal Georges Sada, whom I interviewed, said he was absolutely certain that WMD had been moved from Iraq to Syria. All of this was however brushed aside for, as the bien pensant world has never stopped intoning with positively religious fervour, ‘we were taken to war in Iraq on a lie’.

But now we know that Syria possesses an arsenal of chemical weapons. So could any of this have come from Saddam’s Iraq, just as it was transferred from Egypt two decades previously?

In a more recent paper published in 2006 in the International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence , An Antithesis on the Fate of Iraq’s Chemical and Biological Weapons, Dr Shoham wrote that the two official reports – Duelfer and Carnegie in 2004 – that supposedly exonerated Saddam of still having WMD by the outbreak of war ignored much information that indicated the smuggling of chemical and biological weapons from Iraq into Syria. Although the most knowledgeable and experienced individuals tracking Iraq’s WMD were members of UNSCOM, they were largely excluded by the US intelligence community. Ill-trained soldiers would go to a site, find something suspicious, return 48 hours later and find it had disappeared.

In October 2003, the US intelligence community publicly pointed for the first time to transfers of WMD from Iraq to Syria. The Director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, James Clapper, said it linked the disappearance of Iraqi WMD with the huge number of Iraqi trucks entering Syria before and during the US invasion; based on satellite imagery, it assessed that these trucks contained missiles and WMD components. Shipments to Syria were supervised by Saddam’s most loyal intelligence agents. Once the shipments were made, these agents would leave and the regular border guards resumed their posts.

Moreover, captured Iraqi documents record that the Russian ‘spetsnaz’ moved many of Saddam’s weapons and related goods, including chemicals used to make chemical weapons plus missile components and MIG jet parts, out of Iraq and into Syria in the weeks before the 2003 invasion.

In 2004 Nizar Najoef, a Syrian journalist who defected from Syria to Europe, claimed he had received information from contacts in Syrian intelligence that:

  • Tunnels dug under al Baida near Hama in northern Syria were an integral part of an underground factory, built by the North Koreans, for producing Syrian Scud missiles. Iraqi chemical weapons and long range missiles were stored there;
  • Vital parts of Iraq’s WMD were stored in the village of Tal Snan, north of Salamija where there was a big Syrian air force camp;
  • Iraqi WMD was also stored in the city of Sjinsjar on Syria’s border with Lebanon.

Shoham concluded:

‘Apparently, then, the prevailing perception of the “failure” to find Iraq’s CBW arsenal ought to be rethought...Strategically, Iraq’s enduring arsenal may affect Syria’s CBW capabilities, provided that the transfer did in fact take place...’

Might some of Basher al Assad’s chemical (and possibly biological) arsenal have Saddam Hussein’s name on it?

Huma Abedin’s Muslim Brotherhood Ties

Michele Bachmann has every right to ask questions.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
July 25, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receives a note from her aide Huma Abedin as she testifies about the State Department's fiscal year 2012 budget during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 10, 2011. (Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)

Despite mounting evidence of close ties between the Muslim Brotherhood and Huma Abedin, Secretary of State Clinton’s close aide, Republican congressional leaders — particularly Senator John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner — continue to target their ire not at the State Department but at Representative Michele Bachmann.

Representative Bachmann is one of five House conservatives who have raised concerns about Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of our government. Glenn Beck reported Tuesday that GOP leadership is trying to extort an apology out of Bachmann by threatening to boot her from the House Intelligence Committee if she fails to submit.

That got me to wondering: Any chance Speaker Boehner might take just a couple of minutes out of his busy jihad against Bachmann to focus on how the State Department — during Ms. Abedin’s tenure — has cozied up to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief sharia jurist?

Sheikh Qaradawi is a promoter of jihadist terror. His fatwas endorse terrorist attacks against American personnel in Iraq as well as suicide bombing — by both men and women — against Israel. He is a leading supporter of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch. He also runs an umbrella organization called the Union for Good (sometimes referred to as the “Union of Good”), which is formally designated a terrorist organization under American law. The Union for Good was behind the “Peace Flotilla” that attempted to break our ally Israel’s blockade of the terrorist organization Hamas (the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch) in 2010.

That’s rather interesting — at least to me, though apparently not to Speaker Boehner — because Huma Abedin’s mother, Saleha, who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s female division (the “Muslim Sisterhood”), is a major figure in not one but two Union for Good components. The first is the International Islamic Council for Dawa and Relief (IICDR). It is banned in Israel for supporting Hamas under the auspices of the Union for Good. Then there’s the International Islamic Committee for Woman and Child (IICWC) — an organization that Dr. Saleha Abedin has long headed. Dr. Abedin’s IICWC describes itself as part of the IICDR. And wouldn’t you know it, the IICWC charter was written by none other than . . . Sheikh Qaradawi, in conjunction with several self-proclaimed members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In McCainWorld, these are what are known as “a few unspecified and unsubstantiated associations.” But I digress. Clearly, these significant Muslim Brotherhood connections are of scant interest to Speaker Boehner, who has decided the problem is not the Brotherhood connections but the people who are shedding light on the Brotherhood connections. Nevertheless, since Boehner purports to be all about cracking down on wasteful government spending, at least when he’s not signing off on deals to extend President Obama’s credit card by another trillion or three, I thought I might ask whether the State Department’s Fulbright Scholar Program aroused his curiosity ever so slightly.

Fulbright, by its own account, is “the government’s flagship program in international educational exchange,” promoting “mutual understanding” between the U.S. and other countries. In the 2010–2011 academic year — the year of the Union for Good’s “Freedom Flotilla,” if you need a time marker — one Fulbright scholarship was awarded to a lucky chemistry student from Qatar. Her name is Siham al-Qaradawi, and she just happens to be the daughter of Sheikh Qaradawi.

Now, besides despising America and having lots of global academic connections (at least in countries where he’s not banned), the sheikh happens to be a very wealthy man — the sharia-advisory business can be very profitable. And while the sheikh’s daughter is said to be an exceptional chemist, the world is full of exceptional chemists. How is it that Qaradawi’s daughter gets the State Department prize? I’m just wondering, and wondering if Speaker Boehner is wondering.

Oh, one last thing. Obviously, Huma Abedin does not make Obama-administration or State Department policy. Policy is made by President Obama and Secretary Clinton, and they hardly needed Ms. Abedin in order to have pro-Islamist leanings.

Nevertheless, since Secretary Clinton’s tenure began, with Huma Abedin serving as a top adviser, the United States has aligned itself with the Muslim Brotherhood in myriad ways. To name just a few (the list is by no means exhaustive): Our government reversed the policy against formal contacts with the Brotherhood; funded Hamas; continued funding Egypt even after the Brotherhood won the elections; dropped an investigation of Brotherhood organizations in the U.S. that were previously identified as co-conspirators in the case of the Holy Land Foundation financing Hamas; hosted Brotherhood delegations in the United States; issued a visa to a member of the Islamic Group (a designated terrorist organization) and hosted him in Washington because he is part of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary coalition in Egypt; announced that Israel should go back to its indefensible 1967 borders; excluded Israel, the world’s leading target of terrorism, from a counterterrorism forum in which the State Department sought to “partner” with Islamist governments that do not regard attacks on Israel as terrorism; and pressured Egypt’s pro-American military government to surrender power to the anti-American Muslim Brotherhood parliament and president just elected by Egypt’s predominantly anti-American population.

So I was hoping maybe the speaker could explain to us: Hypothetically, if Huma Abedin did have a bias in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, and if she were actually acting on that bias to try to tilt American policy in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, what exactly would the State Department be doing differently?

— Andrew C. McCarthy is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

The Killers Rock From Deep Within the Uncanny Valley at Webster Hall

By Andy Greenwald
July 24, 2012

The most celebrated rock band of 2012, at least critically, is Japandroids, a Canadian duo that, in the words of Chuck Klosterman during a recent B.S. Report, “synthesize[s] the best parts of classic rock and makes it the whole song.” It’s a sped-up style perfectly suited to our short attention span times, an era in which the very idea of seeding an album with “difficult” deep cuts seems almost as fossilized as the idea of an album. But Japandroids are neither the first nor the best purveyors of Fast Forward Rock. That distinction goes to the Killers, the glittery Las Vegas quartet that returned to the stage last night in New York City.

Kicking off promotion for September’s Battle Born — their first release since the last time America cared about Michael Phelps — the grandiose group downsized themselves to the relatively modest Webster Hall for an evening, the better to connect with their synth-starved fan base (and the Amex execs huddled over VIP tables in the balcony). Amid a hyperactive light show, the band emerged with “Runaways,” their strident new single. At once it was everything great about the Killers: overstuffed and overconfident, unable — or merely unwilling — to distinguish between cliché and ambition. With its big-screen bombast, “Runaways” — like “When You Were Young” before it — is already being compared to Bruce Springsteen, but this is, of course, wildly inaccurate. First, the Boss rarely gave in so completely to a hook this huge. But, really, even with its talk of “blonde hair blowing in a summer wind” and nights that “get wild,” “Runaways” sounds nothing like Bruce Springsteen. Rather, it sounds like what someone staying up all night reading about Bruce Springsteen on Wikipedia might imagine Bruce Springsteen sounds. It’s buffed up and shiny, a perfectly constructed delivery system for all the fist-pumping parts of Born in the USA you think you remember and none of the grouchy Realpolitik you’ve been trying to forget. It takes Bruce’s blue-collar heroes and airlifts them to the popped-collar fantasyland of the Strip; all of the glory, none of the daze.

And this is, I think, the key to the Killers. Their best songs exist — no, thrive — in this uncanny valley between reality and nostalgia, between ham and cheese. Like all great rock stars, these guys are totally self-made outsiders, but their success is even more surprising: They’re a bunch of goofy Mormons from the middle of the desert. The skyline they grew up in the shadow of wasn’t Manhattan — it was New York, New York. They understand gambling like the locals: Even when you’re down, success is only a roll of the dice away. So that’s probably why their set last night felt like one long hot streak. No one had to wait long for the hits — all of the songs were hits. After “Runaways,” singer Brandon Flowers — who, perhaps in a nod to turning 30, has swapped the mascara for a tight-fitting guayabera — slid effortlessly into “Somebody Told Me” and “Smile Like You Mean It,” megajams from 2004, back when wanting to be the biggest band on MTV was both attainable and desirable. Then he paused and addressed the crowd for the first time: “We’re gonna pick it up a little bit.” The band launched into the ecstatically dippy “Spaceman” and Flowers emerged from behind the blinking backward lightning bolt that had been soldered to his Casio and preened; a big fish tossing $1,000 chips away like birdseed. Critics had a field day with the mangled Esperanto chorus of “Human” — “are we human / or are we dancer?” — but no one in the audience seemed to mind, as they tossed back shots of Ron Ron juice and beat up the beat with suburban abandon. “I hope our next album is as shitty as Day & Age,” Flowers sneered at one point, his business savvy smearing into his ego.

Even the new songs sounded like radio staples. A slow jam by autobahn standards, “Miss Atomic Bomb” seemed to melt away midway through as shaggy guitarist Dave Keuning picked out the melodic threads of “Mr. Brightside.” I was ready to give the group credit for stagecraft — Seamlessly transitioning into a crowd favorite! What a way to sugar the pill! — before I realized the band was merely quoting itself. Such self-imagining is central to The Killers' story, of course. Flowers wanted to be in a band before it was clear to anyone that he could sing, and even the group’s name is a winking nod to the impossibility of authenticity: “The Killers” were a fake band playing in the background of a New Order video. (And not even good New Order! Late period, “Hey, kids, please get back on our lawn” New Order!)

There’s a line in “This Is Your Life,” a great, stomping song from the aforementioned Day & Age, that goes, “You gotta be stronger than the stories,” and this is something The Killers figured out years ago. But it seems particularly relevant now. There’s no such thing as rock radio anymore; the biggest movement in music is primarily about glow-sticks, not moving units. The Killers have always wanted to be legendary, but, more important, they never stopped believing in the legends: You know, the one about the small-town kids who conquered the world or the one about the guitar-based band that sold more than 200,000 copies in 2012. God bless ’em. They’ll keep giving the people want they want, even if it’s not clear anyone wants it anymore.

NCAA hammers Penn State, but victims still haunt program

By Mitch Albom
Detroit Free Press
July 24, 2012

Penn State football players leave the Lasch Football Buliding following a team meeting after the announcement of the NCAA penalties and sanctions on the Penn State campus in State College, Pa., July 23. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

As penalties go, it felt like a guillotine.

That was the idea.

Here is what the NCAA's ruling does to Penn State. It costs it $60 million, plus mountains of scholarships and any bowls for the next four years. It wipes out every football victory since 1998. It officially shrinks Joe Paterno's legacy and his place in college football's record books.

It also lets the NCAA feel righteous about attacking a "sports is everything" mentality -- even if that's the same mentality it spends most of its time cultivating.

Here is what the ruling does not do.

It does not remove a single victim's nightmare.

It does not give them back years of private anger, depression or embarrassed silence.

It does not aid those who pleaded for help while the horrors were happening.

And it does not give much thought to the thousands of football players who honestly and honorably busted their hides for the glory of old PSU -- with no idea what Jerry Sandusky was doing -- and who now, in the record books, never won a single game.

Nor does it make life easy for players currently on the team, partway through degrees, who have a choice of uprooting to another school or staying and playing for a shell of a program.

So it does not fix everything. But that's because there are two trains running here, on two different tracks. The one labeled "college sports" just blew its horn loudly, but the one labeled "life's tragedies" kept on going straight.

NCAA's new brand of justice

"We needed to act," Oregon State president Ed Ray, the chair of the NCAA's executive committee, told reporters in Indianapolis announcing the punishment Monday, "and we needed to act quickly and effectively."

Most people applaud that statement. The Penn State saga is so morally offensive that just speaking about it brings blood to the eyes.

But that can make it hard to see. We all desire to punish those who destroy children's innocence. We call for their heads. We want no mercy. But there's no denying the NCAA leapfrogged its usual authority here, and so swiftly and viciously swung the bat into Penn State's gut that it will be years before we know the precedents that have been set.

If it's $60 million and all victories for pedophilia, what happens, for example, if a future coaching staff member commits rape -- and it's covered up? What if coaches get involved in a drug ring? These are crimes, too. How do you determine which are more heinous? And when does the NCAA jump in -- and how fast?

Normally, this is why we have a court system. And that court system will be used plenty in the victims' future suits against Penn State. But the NCAA, heretofore charged with determining fairness and level playing fields, recruiting issues, competition infractions, has now slapped on a new badge.

What exactly is it the sheriff of now?

The collateral damage

Please understand, none of this questions the seriousness of Sandusky's actions, and the unforgivable silence that Paterno and his staff chose in their wake. And maybe that's why the NCAA itself admitted it had never done anything like this before, but was doing it now.

NCAA president Mark Emmert previously had said he had "never seen anything as egregious" as Sandusky's crimes and the subsequent cover-up. This was why he dismissed the usual, long committee and referral process and went right for the gavel. And all of us agree, the crimes were horrific. Who doesn't want fast justice?

But the perpetrators of those crimes are already gone. Paterno is dead, unable to even speak for himself. Sandusky, convicted, likely will be in prison for the rest of his life. The president, vice president and athletic director are disgraced and dismissed, and the latter two are facing perjury charges and failing to report child abuse.

Meanwhile, this tidal wave of punishment will bury the institution, but it also will drown innocent parties who bear no ties to the bad guys except the color of their sweatshirts. It is often the problem with NCAA punishment. It is particularly acute when the punishment comes for moral behavior that, as heinous as it was, arguably had no effect on victories.

The money machine

Now. The easy thing would be to shout "Hooray." Even easier would be to scream "Not enough!" Who would argue with you? No one wants to appear soft on pedophile behavior -- even though the actual number of kids molested every year that goes unreported is staggering. And the Nittany Lions playing in September with no action taken was a disturbing thought to many fans.

But the Penn State saga should not just be about the easy. For one thing, this same NCAA that is decrying how large sports have become is the very organization that makes them huge. Who do you think negotiates the billion-dollar TV deals for college sports? Who, if not the college presidents, lords over the gargantuan Final Four and the upcoming college football playoffs? I don't see the NCAA or the presidents telling networks and advertisers, "Sorry, we need to keep things in perspective. Too much money might drive some of our teams to do bad things in a desperation to win."

The NCAA never turned down a bigger spotlight. So when Emmert tells the media, "Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people," he's being, at best, naïve, and at worst, hypocritical.

But he and the other presidents have acted -- with unusual speed -- and few are sympathetic to Penn State these days.

Two trains running, two different tracks. There's football. There's life. The ruling was a giant warning to other schools, and, yes, it makes people feel that justice has been served, the way a guillotine once did.

But when it comes to the real crimes, the head already has been cut off. And the ghosts are still out there, haunting the victims.

Sadly, the NCAA can do little about that.

Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or His new novel, "The Time Keeper" (Hyperion, $24.99, 224 pages), will be released Sept. 4. Catch "The Mitch Albom Show" 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch "Monday Sports Albom" 7-8 p.m.

Gaslight Anthem charts new territory

By ,QMI Agency
Toronto Sun
July 23, 2012

Joe Strummer said the future is unwritten. For The Gaslight Anthem, it’s Handwritten.

The New Jersey heartland punks’ fourth album marks some major turning points for the six-year-old band — and its title reflects how it was conceived and crafted, says frontman Brian Fallon.
“I really did write the lyrics in a notebook; they were all literally written by hand,” explains the 32-year-old singer-guitarist. “Around the time I started writing these songs, a friend of mine gave me a letter and a poem he wrote. And that just sparked me; what if a record was a letter sent straight to the listener? It hit me that it was the most heartfelt thing I could do.”

It’s just one example of how the critically respected band — which also includes guitarist Alex Rosamilia, bassist Alex Levine and Benny Horowitz — has become more hands-on and direct in both its music and career. With Handwritten due Tuesday July 24, there’s no better time for us to count the ways life had changed for The Gaslight Anthem lately:

1 | They wrote these songs together

On the band’s first three albums — Sink or Swim (2007), The '59 Sound (2008) and American Slang (2010) — Fallon was chief songwriter, bringing fully formed tunes to be fleshed out by the band. Not this time. “I refused to do that anymore,” he says.

“That is not how bands operate, and we’re a band. I had to say, ‘You guys need to start writing with me, or else it’s the Brian Fallon show, and that’s not what I want … Either we’re going to do this a new way or I’m out.’ ” The transition wasn’t easy — the band penned nearly 50 songs for Handwritten — but having everyone chip in paid off, he believes. “It sounds more unified. Not to say anything bad about our previous records, which I love. But at this time in my life, I need something different.”

2 | Fallon’s lyrics are more revealing

Along with asking more of his bandmates, Fallon also challenged himself, stepping out from behind the narratives and pop-culture references that usually characterize his lyrics. “There’s no guard this time — no more stories, no more characters, no more New Jersey, no more nothing. Whatever I feel in my heart is going straight on the page. Because that’s what matters to a kid who’s listening, and what matters to me when I’m singing it every night. So I’m throwing it all out there.” This transition was easy, he insists. “It’s really freeing. I feel like a weight has been lifted off. Because people compare us to other bands constantly, but my story is not anyone else’s story. So you can’t compare that to anything.”

3 | They worked with Brendan O’Brien

Speaking of comparisons: Fallon knows that hiring superstar studio whiz Brendan O’Brien — co-producer of four Bruce Springsteen albums — will only reinforce the belief that he’s got a serious Boss fixation. “Yeah, I knew people were going to say we did it because Bruce Springsteen did it; apparently I also eat eggs in the morning because Bruce does. That’s a total joke. I’m from New Jersey; I know the guy; I’m the Springsteen expert. I’ll tell you when I’m copying him and when I’m not.” Truth is, he was actually copying Pearl Jam. “I skipped class to go buy Vs. the day it came out in 1993,” he says. “This is a guy who shaped our lives when we were kids growing up listening to grunge. Plus he’s the best musician I ever met in my life.”
4 | They’re playing in the big leagues

Getting O’Brien is only one of the benefits of the band’s new major-label deal, which comes as the music biz implodes and artists trumpet DIY as the future. Fallon knows he’s swimming against the hipster tide.

His response: So what? “We’ve never cast ourselves as this DIY punk band. We’ve never championed that cause. We’ve always said we were a rock ’n’ roll band and if people like us and we get big, that’s awesome. I’m not going to say no because of what somebody thinks. And so far, we haven’t done anything we didn’t want to do.” So we won’t see him in a spangly jacket on American Idol? “No, I’m doing that next week,” he cracks. “When they brought that up, I said, ‘Spangly jacket? Yeah!’ Why wouldn’t I do that?”
For the record: That was sarcasm.

5 | They don’t care what you think

Fallon’s defiance mirrors the most crucial change to the GA’s MO: They’ve stopped paying attention to what anyone says. Fallon no longer reads interviews like this. He no longer lets his heroes influence his work. He doesn’t care how many online followers or friends he has.

“We’ve been a band for so long, and we spent so much time defining who we were and where we came from and blah blah blah,” he says. “Well, I’ve decided that my life is not going to be dictated to me by what’s going on outside of my world. I don’t do this for everybody else. I do this for the kids who listen to our band, and for us — mainly for us. This is something we’re chasing. So I’m just going to put my head down and keep moving forward.” Into the unwritten future.

New Music Review: The Gaslight Anthem's 'Handwritten' is best rock record of 2012

The Gaslight Anthem, "Handwritten." The Gaslight Anthem’s “Handwritten" is the best rock album of 2012, and it very well still could be at the top of the heap come December.
The New Jersey band isn’t doing anything it hasn’t done before. They’re still channeling Bruce Springsteen and their parents' 1960s and 1970s records through the punk rock of The Clash and the 1980s heartfelt rock ‘n’ roll of The Replacements -- a combination that yields sincere, anthemic working-class rock.

“Handwritten” is Gaslight Anthem’s Mercury Records debut after releasing two excellent albums, “The ‘59 Sound” and “American Slang,” on SideOne Dummy. The album is given major label polish by Brendan O’Brien, the studio pro who’s done records for Springsteen and Paul Westerberg as well as Lincoln’s own Matthew Sweet.

Lyrically, singer/writer Brian Fallon is telling stories set around the radio and 45s, which seem out of time in the Internet/digital download era. But they’re somehow in the right place today.

Fallon pours out his heart -- literally in his recurring references to blood, and, figuratively, to radio, where he hopes, I’m sure, some of these songs will end up. But they don’t sound calculated for airplay. Rather, they’re a natural extension of what has come before.

There’s no Celtic or Caribbean influence and far less soul influence this time around -- more of a return to 2008’s “The ‘59 Sound” than 2010’s “American Slang.”

“Handwritten” drops the needle with “45,” a fist-pumping ode to records, engines and heartbreak; sticks a grungy power ballad, “Too Much Blood,” smack in the middle of its 11 tracks; and slides off side two with the gorgeous acoustic and strings “National Anthem” that would fit on a Springsteen record.

In between are stick-in-the-ear hooks; the “oh sha la las” of “Here Come My Man"; a straight-ahead love song by a Jersey boy writing about “Mulholland Drive"; a look back with pain and regret in “Keepsake"; and the album’s gem, the ‘Mats-like “Howl,” a rockin’ meditation on what it means to grow up.

It remains to be seen whether “Handwritten” will attract the larger audience The Gaslight Anthem deserves. No matter what happens, they’ve made a fine rock record -- an increasingly rare occurrence these days. Grade: A

Reach L. Kent Wolgamott at 402-473-7244 or, or follow him on Twitter at

Why Michele Bachmann Is Right About Keith Ellison

By Robert Spencer
July 23, 2012

Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) was keynote speaker at the Muslim Youth Leadership Symposium, hosted by the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. (April 5, 2008).

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has accused Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) of having a “long record of being associated” with the Hamas-linked Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Evoking the days of McCarthyism, a common charge being leveled at Bachmann these days, Ellison responded: “I am not now, nor have I ever been, associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.” He accused Bachmann of religious bigotry:
“I think she has a very narrowly prescribed definition of who belongs and who doesn’t. And there’s a whole bloc of people she don’t like. I think she thinks that we’re evil because we don’t understand God the way she does….It’s also about marginalizing and alienating a certain group of Americans who she does not view are American enough.”
Not content with that, he accused her of petty attention-seeking:
“But you have to ask yourself, you know, why did she make this so public? Why did she seem to be seeking public attention for these allegations she was making? If she really had actionable intelligence, why wouldn’t she go to the agencies that investigate these things? I think the answer is clear that she wanted attention. That was her goal all along.”
The only problem with Ellison’s wounded-martyr stance toward Bachmann’s accusations is that what she said is true: Ellison really does have a “long record of being associated” with Hamas-linked CAIR and the Muslim Brotherhood.

As long ago as 2006, Ellison’s closeness to Nihad Awad, co-founder of Hamas-linked CAIR, was a matter of public record. Awad, who notoriously said in 1994 that he was “in support of the Hamas movement,” spoke at fundraisers for Ellison, raising considerable sums for his first Congressional race. According to investigative journalist Patrick Poole, Ellison has appeared frequently at CAIR events since then, despite the fact that CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case — so named by the Justice Department. CAIR operatives have repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas and Hizballah as terrorist groups. Several former CAIR officials have been convicted of various crimes related to jihad terror. CAIR’s cofounder and longtime Board chairman (Omar Ahmad), as well as its chief spokesman (Ibrahim Hooper), have made Islamic supremacist statements. Its California chapter distributed posters telling Muslims not to talk to the FBI.

Poole explains that “according to Justice Department, Awad is a longtime Hamas operative. Multiple statements made by federal prosecutors identify Awad as one of the attendees at a 1993 meeting of US Muslim Brotherhood Palestine Committee leaders in Philadelphia that was wiretapped by the FBI under a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant. The topic of discussion during that 1993 meeting was how to help Hamas by working in the U.S. to help sabotage the Oslo Peace Accords.” But none of that fazed Ellison.

CAIR is also linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. Awad and CAIR’s cofounder, Omar Ahmad, were officials of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) before founding CAIR. A captured internal Muslim Brotherhood document lists the IAP as one of the Brotherhood’s allied groups in the U.S.
And as for the Muslim Brotherhood itself, in 2008 Ellison accepted $13,350 from the Muslim American Society (MAS) to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. What is the Muslim American Society? The Muslim Brotherhood. “In recent years, the U.S. Brotherhood operated under the name Muslim American Society, according to documents and interviews. One of the nation’s major Islamic groups, it was incorporated in Illinois in 1993 after a contentious debate among Brotherhood members.” So reported the Chicago Tribune in 2004, in an article that is now carried on the Muslim Brotherhood’s English-language website, Ikhwanweb. The Muslim American Society, according to Steven Emerson, director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, “is the de facto arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. The agenda of the MAS is to … impose Islamic law in the U.S., to undermine U.S. counterterrorism policy.”

Weirdly, Mahdi Bray, Executive Director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, denied that MAS had funded Ellison’s hajj: “Keith Ellison is a member of Congress who knows that congressmen don’t take trips sponsored by nonprofits. That would be a breach of congressional ethics.” Bray apparently failed to check with Ellison’s office before issuing this statement, as his office issued its own statement saying: “The trip, funded by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, was fully reviewed and approved in advance by the House Ethics Committee.”

Imagine if a conservative Congressman had taken a trip that had been paid for by a Christian group that was, according to one of its own internal documents, dedicated to “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house” so that Christian law would replace the U.S. Constitution. I expect we would hear more of an outcry than we ever heard about Ellison’s Brotherhood-funded hajj.

Ellison has also retailed the Muslim Brotherhood-invented concept of “Islamophobia,” which was cooked up in a Brotherhood think tank, the International Institute of Islamic Thought, as a weapon to intimidate Americans into being afraid to resist jihad terror and Islamic supremacism. And in March 2011 he famously began weeping during Congressman Peter King’s (R-NY) first hearings on Islamic jihad terrorism, as he read what turned about to be a false report about a Muslim who went missing on 9/11 and was suspected of terror ties until he turned out to have been killed in the jihad attacks of that day. Ellison’s crocodile tears stole the show on that day, and successfully diverted media attention from what should have been the focus of the hearing: Islamic jihad activity in the United States.

Michele Bachmann is right: Keith Ellison’s Brotherhood ties should be investigated. That he and so many others on the Left have had such a furious reaction to her mere call for an investigation is only an indication that they have something to hide. John Boehner and the rest of the Republican Congressional leadership should be defending her and joining her call for investigations into Muslim Brotherhood influence in the Government. Instead, to their shame, they have joined Ellison in throwing her to the wolves, demonstrating that mainstream Republicans are no better than mainstream Democrats in confronting the threat of Islamic supremacism. And meanwhile, the Islamic supremacists continue to advance.

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