Saturday, July 25, 2009

Al Qaeda, Terrorism, Long Island & Rep. Peter King

News Item: (NY Daily News, July 22, 2009) A Long Island man confessed to feeding Al Qaeda information about New York's subways and LIRR trains, triggering last year's Thanksgiving Eve terror alert, the feds say.

Bryant Neal Vinas, 26, the son of South American immigrants and a convert to Islam, was captured in November in Pakistan after he joined in a rocket attack on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, according to court papers unsealed Wednesday.

He confessed his treason almost immediately and began cooperating, offering information of potentially great value because he had met with high-level operational leaders, sources said.

Vinas is one of a handful of Americans charged with joining the terror network that took down the World Trade Center and has sworn to destroy America. A former truck driver who grew up Catholic in Patchogue, he converted to radical Islam and became a fighter known variously as "Ibrahim" or "Bashir el Ameriki" - Bashir the American…

Vinas began attending a mosque in Selden, L.I., and dressing in Islamic garb, but never explained his conversion to his Peruvian-born father, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Read more:

Is there any lesson or meaning to be gleaned from this sad episode? Do we assume that the Selden Mosque that Mr. Vinas attended is the cause of his radicalization?

“Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the Vinas case illustrates why mosques must monitor radicalism in their midst, one of his long-standing political talking points.

"There are a number of mosques under surveillance by law enforcement on Long Island and they've had radical speakers," said King. "I'm not saying they [the mosques] are involved in criminal activities, but they are not cooperating with law enforcement."
At the Islamic Association of Long Island mosque in Selden Wednesday its imam rejected him. "If he is al-Qaida, he should be arrested. He's a terrorist," said Imam Aziz. "Islam is a peaceful religion."
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Rep. King has often taken on “radical” Islam and depicted most mosques as being run by radicals.

In the past, “Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., told radio talk host Sean Hannity in an interview no American Muslim leaders are cooperating in the war on terror.

"I would say, you could say that 80-85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists," he said. "Those who are in control. The average Muslim, no, they are loyal, but they don't work, they don't come forward, they don't tell the police …"

King was promoting his new novel, "Vale of Tears," which he described as a "half truth and half fiction" story about future terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists in Nassau County, N.Y.

In the interview with Hannity, King criticized a mosque in Westbury, N.Y., which he accused of failing to adequately condemn terrorism.

Hannity asked King to confirm he was saying 85 percent of mosques in America are "ruled by the extremists."

"Yes," he replied, "and I can get you the documentation on that from experts in the field. Talk to a Steve Emerson, talk to a [Daniel] Pipes, talk to any of those. They will tell you. It's a real issue … I'll stand by that number of 85 percent. This is an enemy living amongst us..."

King said while most American Muslims are loyal to this country, "They won't turn in their own. They won't tell what's going on in the mosques. They won't come forward and cooperate with the police."

Go to and .

Is Rep. Peter King correct? Are 85% of American Mosques run by “radicals”?

It would help if someone, preferably Rep. King, stopped to define the word “radical.”

Is a radical someone who voiced support for a violent or terrorist organization (not to mention actually committing violence)?


“Like British Muslim support for Muslim extremist terrorism, Irish American support for Irish terrorism came in many forms. There were Irish Americans who waved the Irish flag once a year on St. Patrick's Day and admired the IRA's cause but felt queasy about the methods. There were Irish Americans who collected money for Catholic charities in Northern Ireland without condoning the IRA at all. There were also Irish Americans who, while claiming to be "aiding the families of political prisoners," were in fact helping to arm IRA terrorists. Throughout the 1970s, until Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher asked President Ronald Reagan to stop them, they were the IRA's primary source of funding. And even after that they were widely tolerated.

I concede there is one major difference: The Irish terrorists were setting off their bombs across the ocean and not in New York or Boston, which somehow made the whole thing seem less real. But in Britain the explosions were real enough. In 1982 -- the year an IRA bomb killed eight people in Hyde Park -- four IRA men were arrested in New York after trying to buy surface-to-air missiles from an FBI agent. In 1984 -- the year the IRA tried to kill the whole British cabinet in Brighton -- an IRA plot to smuggle seven tons of explosives was foiled, an action that led to the arrests of several Americans. As recently as 1999, long after the IRA had declared its cease-fire, members of an IRA group connected to an American organization, the Irish Northern Aid Committee (Noraid), were arrested for gun-running in Florida.

The range of Americans who were unbothered by this sort of thing was surprisingly wide. Some were members of Congress, such as Republican Rep. Peter King of Long Island, who stayed with IRA supporters on visits to Northern Ireland and drank at a Belfast club called the Felons, whose members were all IRA ex-cons.”
(Go to .)

Here is what the Irish Echo, an Irish-American newspaper, writes about Rep. King:

“He was for years dogged by charges that he was soft on terrorism because he would not join the chorus of condemnation of the IRA.

He was once accused of having blood on his hands by a British ambassador to Washington because of his refusal to disown the IRA's campaign…

Never stepping back from his support of Sinn Féin, King engaged in a dialogue with loyalist leaders such as Andy Tyrie and John McMichael.

"When pressed he acknowledged support for the IRA," Mulvaney said of King.
King toured Protestant neighborhoods that were very bit as economically blighted than their Catholic counterparts.

"With the exception of Paul O'Dwyer, no one had more meetings with the Unionist extreme than Peter King. Make no mistake, that was a dangerous undertaking in the 1980s," said Mulvaney…

"I don't believe King's personal stances changed at all, but he proved that he was willing to listen and to see both sides of a complicated issue. I still believe that King's meetings in the mid 1980s were pivotal in the peace process. When King, and others, cajoled President Clinton into action, King was the one who could speak first hand of the suffering of both sides."

Attorney and Democratic party activist Frank Durkan agrees.

"Pete has been an effective voice. It took a lot of courage to speak out in defense of the IRA when everyone else was killing them. And remember, his constituency was not particularly Irish," said Durkan.

But though he stuck his neck out for Irish Republicans when it was distinctly unfashionable to do so, the post-Sept. 11 Pete King would have found it far more difficult to defend the IRA's campaign had it stretched into this century, and up as far as that fateful day.

The Sept. 11 attacks were a turning point for King. The son of a New York City detective, he lost friends and constituents in the attack on the World Trade Center and his now-unequivocal hostility towards anything that even remotely smacks of terrorism can be clearly traced to that attack on America.”

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To be fair, Rep. Peter King later became instrumental in bringing peace to Northern Ireland during the Clinton Administration; in other words, his views and opinions and actions evolved to the point that he may have actually fully redeemed himself in this matter.

But shouldn’t he be more judicious in his condemnation of others, specifically American Muslims? Isn’t Rep. King in a perfect position to demonstrate an understanding of human nature and the tendency towards religious and nationalistic chauvinism that he once shared with the people he now chastises? After all, what percentage of Irish-American Catholics may have supported the IRA during those dark years? Could it be 80% to 85% or something approximate?

There is no doubt that ALL religions and dogmas open the door to radicalism; Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Fascism, Communism and so on are all easy examples of ideologies that have turned to unjustified violence at one time or another. When you hold a belief on faith or above question, you expose yourself to the possibility that you will hold dangerous beliefs. If you use reason, evidence and logic to guide you to a goal of improving the human condition, you may still make mistakes, but your chances of being a helpful person should be greatly improved! The alternatives of faith and dogmatism could lead to literally anything.

Rep. Peter King would be better served by denouncing faith and dogma – the real enemy. Although it is true that Islam can lead to radicalism and ultimately war, murder and terrorism, so has almost every other dogmatic religion and ideology including Rep. King’s own Irish Catholicism.

The real enemy within us is unreason and a lack of caring about others.

A Skeptical Look at the Economy

The last decade or so has been one giant roller coaster, economically speaking. It may seem like a long time ago, but in the late 20th Century, the United States actually had a balanced Federal budget. The head of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, actually had a moment of worry about the US having too large a Federal budget surplus! As we now know, he needn’t have worried about the surplus.

The stock market was booming and reached an inflation adjusted peak in the year 2000. Unemployment during the Clinton presidency fell to levels of about 3% - does anyone remember that? It seems to be just a dream to us now.

One of the reasons for the good economic fortune back then was absence of wars bleeding our treasury and distracting the US economy away from more prosperous endeavors as well as a balanced budget. Peace is good for the economy, war inevitably is destructive. Why?

The quick answer is that when a country is at peace, human effort and labor is more directed toward products that make life better; confidence is high among producers and consumers and the cycle of productivity grows, leading to an actual improvement in people’s lives and an increase in the wealth of a nation.

During a war effort, the end products are more often destructive and lead to misery for someone, somewhere. The wealth of nations is decreased by war because of the destruction inherent in wars. Wars may serve to preserve our freedom which is worthwhile of course; but war only serves at best to maintain a status quo economically and socially. At worst, wars destroy freedoms and liberty if they are unjustified. The righteousness of a war is everything; an unjust war is doom to a country, both morally and economically.

After 2000 the stock market experienced a “bubble”; the prices of stocks related to the Internet were valued beyond all reasonable expectation and the NASDAQ index reached the 5000 level. The bubble burst when many companies failed to turn profitable and could not justify such prices. Easy monetary policy from the Federal Reserve enabled the speculators who inflated the bubble – and much wealth was destroyed when the bubble burst. The NASDAQ still is over 60% lower today than it was then, which is almost 9 years ago.

With a new president in place, an ill-designed tax cut following the recession caused by the bursting Internet stock bubble was implemented; the major beneficiaries were the wealthiest taxpayers. That was the end of the surplus. Although the stock market partially rebounded, the bang for the buck was poor; employment and income for the non-wealthy lagged.

Then came 9-11 and we were on our way to a non-righteous war – in Iraq - that not only wiped away any semblance of fiscal sanity, but completely replaced it with economic delusion.

Ridiculously easy credit and lax regulation led to a housing bubble that peaked in 2007. When foreclosures started to become a big problem, banks and mortgage backed securities began to tank. Soon, literally no one could find a lender willing to lend and business and consumer spending came to a screeching halt.

The enormous deficits that have resulted from the ineffective tax cuts of the Bush Administration and the Iraq War, not to mention the Plan D Medicare giveaway to the major drug companies, have left us ill-prepared for the banking and housing crises that we are still suffering through. Ten percent unemployment is now a near certainty and the future looks grim.

Have we learned anything? Is the Obama Administration any better than the previous one?

There is no doubt that this administration is going after the problems more directly but unfortunately, for reasons of politics and popular sentiment, good solutions to difficult problems may elude us.

It must be admitted that the banking crisis which, if left unsolved would have led directly and swiftly into a depression, has been averted for now. The crisis is now just a lingering problem which will slowly return to “normal” unless a descent into a true depression occurs. Whether laws will be passed that will avoid future crises and banking abuses is unknown; if politicians were not involved, our chances would be better. Ideology is the enemy here as usual.

Similar comments could be made about all our other economic problems; health care, unemployment, the stimulus program, the federal deficit, and so on. In every case it seems that President Obama has the right idea; it also seems that in every case, Congress, to which the President has delegated the task of creating legislation addressing these issues, is not up to the task. Although the President highly values consensus and bi-partisanship, it may be that his preferences and ideas are better than consensus, the results of bi-partisanship or the ideas of the rest of his own party. His penchant for cooperation and delegation may not result in good health care reform.

This country desperately needs to reduce the cost of health care as a % of GDP while increasing the access of all Americans to healthcare (please note that it does not matter whether the solution is private or public). This may mean lower profit margins for the health care industry as they serve more people at a lower cost per person. Who has the nerve to publicly promote this kind of necessary policy?

The deficit MUST be reduced (please note that the amount of government spending is not the key issue, it’s the deficit). The government must stimulate the economy and increase employment while avoiding pork (please note that the stimulus must lead to productive labor, particularly involving infrastructure). This may mean higher taxes but if the budget is balanced and jobs created, and we are getting value for our taxes, ideology should not derail this solution. Are there elected officials who can balance all of these attainable goals?

It is hard to believe that most of our leaders are capable of putting ideology aside and doing what is most necessary. It is more likely that we will bounce from one emergency to another.
What do you think?