Monday, June 27, 2011

Reflections on the Greek And (Soon To Be) American Crisis

I came across an interesting interview in Der Spiegel with the Greek writer Petros Makaris, in which he discussed Greece's grave fiscal crisis.  Although we are not in as bad shape as Greece, there are quite a few parallels and there is quite a bit we can learn from their crisis. Why? Because, we are clearly on the same trajectory, that is, unless we enact drastic fiscal reform, we will go bankrupt.

The author's declaration that "if the country is to be reformed, the Greeks must suffer," equally holds true for the United States, but other than Dr. Ron Paul, no other politician is willing to publicly admit this. Instead most Republicans facetiously claim that the budget can be balanced without tax hikes and many Democrats present the bold faced lie that the crisis can be solved by "taxing the wealthy." In other words, both sides promise pain free solutions.

Makaris's most astute observation especially holds true for the United States, "The mentality in Greece needs to be radically reformed. I'm worried that only the symptoms of the crisis -- and not the causes -- will be cured now." As with Greece, our fiscal crisis will never be solved until we address its cultural roots; the insatiable spirit of entitlement and envy and the erosion of basic intellectual honesty and open discourse. The first and most difficult step is to cease blaming others and take responsibility for the state of our personal affairs and that of our nation. We chose the "crooked politicians" that are spending us into oblivion. We chose to accept loans from "greedy bankers," in order to live beyond our means. And while the Chinese and Koreans focused on education, saving and investing in the future, we took the path of instant gratification and unsustainable consumption. External forces may have been part of the problem, but they will not be the solution. Real "change we can believe in," must first come from within.

Interview with Greek Crime Writer Petros Markaris

'The Greeks Must Suffer'


"Swindlers in the Euro Family": Many in Greece are boycotting German companies like consumer electronics chain MediaMarkt, pictured here, over the heavy-handed treatment their country has been given by the media in Germany.

Greek author Petros Markaris has translated Goethe into Greek and written a series of best-selling novels on crime and corruption in Athens. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Markaris speaks about the "Balkan mentality," troubled German-Greek relations and why even respectable people are forced to pay bribes in everyday Greece.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Markaris, Greece is deep in debt and workers are striking to protest strict austerity measures. What's going on with the Greeks?

Petros Markaris: Things aren't just going bad for the Greeks. They have been shaken to the core and terrified, and they don't know how to go forward from here. The government also deserves some of the blame for this because, for six months, it only discussed the issues and has only now announced its reform measures. This lack of action has had negative effects on the population and also kept the Greeks in the dark about just how bad things really were in the country. Another result is that there is now only a single way out of the crisis: If the country is going to be reformed, the Greeks must suffer.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Between 2004 and 2008, the European Union gave tens of billions of euros to Greece. More than one-third of all Greek workers are government employees, and there are 14 public holidays, which is fairly generous. How is it that the Greeks were able to live beyond their means?

Markaris: Things haven't always been this way. I've lived in Athens since 1965. Until the end of the 1970s, Greece was a poor, though very respectable country. Then, in 1981, when Greek became part of the European Economic Community (EEC), it received a lot of money. The Greeks didn't know how to deal with it. People just didn't know what to do -- neither politicians nor ordinary people had a consciousness for it. From then on, various governments supported living on credit. Now we have reached a point where the population doesn't want to voluntarily do any belt-tightening and where the government can't manage its finances. I still doubt that the government seriously intends to implement the savings measures it has announced.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is Greece's population simply incapable of self-criticism?

Markaris: This isn't the first horrible crisis that Greece has gone through. But it is the most hopeless and, in any case, it marks the first time that the population, the media and politicians have spoken openly about the issues. There are no more illusions.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has called on the Greeks to do their homework, and German industry is worried that the crisis in Greece might spill over into their country. Is Germany handling the situation in Greece the right way?

Markaris: Just like most of the other EU member states, Germany is busy trying to convince Greece that it needs to change some things. This is the correct thing to do, because we urgently need these reprimands. Greeks have not been offended by the German government's behavior.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Still, Greek newspapers are warning that there might be anti-German hysteria. After the German newsweekly Focus ran an image of the Venus de Milo statue on its cover making an obscene gesture with the headline "Swindlers in the Euro Family," a Greek consumer advocacy group called for a boycott on German goods. And Theodoros Pangalos, Greece's deputy prime minister, has said that the Germans took Greece's money and gold during their World War II occupation of the country but have refused to pay reparations.

Markaris: The whole flap is only directed at Focus, which was the sole cause of the big blowout. I also find the magazine's front-page image a bit unpleasant, but the reaction of Greek politicians has been wildly exaggerated. In the end, it really only has to do with a report in the media and not with something that a German politician said. I've always been amazed that Greeks are more sympathetic toward the Germans, who once occupied their country, than they are to their liberators, the Americans and British. But now that's changing. I'm afraid that German-Greek relations have been damaged, and it's something I regret very deeply. Whenever the Greeks are distressed -- like now -- they grab on to nationalism. Unfortunately, that's just the Balkan mentality.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: According to Transparency International, the average Greek pays over €1,000 each year in bribes for personal reasons. Over the last two years, these figures have jumped sharply. Greek crime fiction also features a lot of fakelakis, envelopes bulging with bribe money. What role does corruption play in everyday Greek life?

Markaris: Corruption permeates all of Greek society. If the only way to get swift treatment in a Greek hospital is to bribe someone, it is really a problem of the state. Even the respectable citizen has given up hope and believes that evading taxes is justifiable. As he sees it, that is the only way to get his money back. From this arises a society in which everyone shares in the guilt. The mentality in Greece needs to be radically reformed. I'm worried that only the symptoms of the crisis -- and not the causes -- will be cured now.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What is there left for the Greeks to save?

Markaris: We need a completely new state apparatus, a well-functioning civil service and anti-corruption laws. The government's most recently announced reform measures do provide some cause for hope, but they need to be implemented in a strict fashion. Otherwise, we'll just have another crisis five years down the road.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where do things go from here?

Markaris: Greece is lucky that it still has a minority of active and productive people, who are to thank for the fact that the country didn't go broke earlier. But this minority is at the end of its rope. Either we are leaving, they say, or the EU must take drastic action and change something. The only way Greece is going to work its way out of the crisis is if the EU or the IMF succeed in rigorously monitoring it. In Greece, we need a drastic treatment.

Interview conducted by Anna Reimann

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Source of Corporate Welfare or Why Governor Quinn Stinks!

Pictured Above: Governor Quinn consulting with his economic advisor.

When Governor Quinn made Illinois even less attractive to businesses, by substantially raising taxes, predictably more employers started moving out. Rather than address this issue by making across the board tax and regulatory reform, that equally apply to all employers, Quinn offered $100 million in selective subsidies (i.e. corporate welfare) to Motorola and will presumably do so when other major firms threaten to leave. Even companies that do not intend on relocating will be able to leverage the state. Fundamentally, this means that the tax burden will be shifted towards companies and individuals who are not politically connected. Truly Governor Quinn you stink!

$100 million keeps Motorola Mobility in Illinois

Illinois boosts tax incentives in 10-year deal to keep smartphone company in Libertyville

May 06, 2011

By Kathy Bergen and Wailin Wong, Tribune reporters

Gov. Pat Quinn put up more than $100 million in financial incentives to persuade smartphone company Motorola Mobility to keep its corporate headquarters in Libertyville — the largest package he has offered a company to date and a signal of how badly the state wants to hold on to high-tech jobs

To persuade the maker of mobile devices and cable TV set-top boxes to stay, rather than move to California or Texas, state lawmakers sweetened terms of its tax-credit incentive program as it has for automakers, including Mitsubishi, and truck- and engine-manufacturers, including Navistar International Corp.

Navistar landed a $64.7 million package last year to keep its headquarters in Illinois, the second-largest deal during Quinn's tenure.

The Illinois packages are among a rash of retention deals cropping up nationwide as the economic malaise keeps unemployment at painful levels.

Motorola Mobility's tax-credit package comes in at $10 million annually over the next 10 years, assuming it meets job retention and investment goals. The company also will receive $1.25 million in job-training funds and a $3 million large-business development grant to assist with capital expenses.

The deal, announced Friday, breaks down to about $34,750 for each of the 3,000 jobs Motorola Mobility has agreed to retain, considerably more than the $15,000 to $20,000 per job that is more typical when the state awards tax credits to keep or attract businesses.

"These are higher skilled, higher paying jobs than most projects," said a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Motorola Mobility, one of two companies that previously formed Motorola Inc., pledged to spend more than $500 million on research and development over the next three years, essentially what the company already had planned to spend.

But there is potential to grow that amount, some of which might have gone elsewhere if Motorola Mobility had relocated, Chief Executive Sanjay Jha said.
The company's decision was announced amid much fanfare at Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.'s Libertyville offices. Employees and senior executives wore red T-shirts emblazoned with "Motorola Mobility Illinois" and packed an auditorium to see Quinn sign the legislation enhancing its tax-credit package.

"We don't want folks to leave," Quinn said. "We want them to stay and grow with great companies like Motorola."

The legislation Quinn signed also applies to some companies in the cable TV, wireless telecommunications and computing fields, as well as to makers of inner tubes and tires. The latter could indicate other deals may be in the works.

Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a tax policy group, called the deal a prudent investment for the fiscally struggling state. "The best way for the state to stabilize its finances is to grow its economic strength," he said.

As to the richness of the deal, economic development expert George Ranney said, "Yeah, it's a concern, but these are pretty good jobs." Ranney is president of Metropolis Strategies, a business-backed policy organization.

Other economic development experts took issue with the package.
Typically, the Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE, tax-credit program allows companies to use the credits against their state corporate income tax liability. But many companies pay no such taxes, partly due to difficult economic times and partly because an earlier revision in the tax structure slashed bills for multinational corporations.

Motorola Mobility's federal and state income tax liability represented less than 1 percent of its revenue in 2010, and it had no liability in 2009, according to estimates in company filings.

Under the legislation signed by Quinn on Friday, the company now has the option to use the credits against withheld employee income tax liability. In essence, the company can retain state employee income tax withholdings, said Warren Ribley, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a nonprofit that researches economic development subsidies, called the diversion of personal income tax revenue "an insidious recent development." About a dozen states have some form of it, and a couple more are debating the issue, he said.It is "like companies grabbing into employees' pockets," said LeRoy, adding that it also represents a new encroachment into state revenue streams.

"Shame on Motorola and other companies for asking for such big subsidies when they know governments are strapped," he said.

Liberal Lunacy At Its Best!

Liberal lunacy at its best: the courts forced the fire department to hire 111 African-Americans because given the fact that only 11% achieved the required score on a standardized test, the majority of those who were hired were white. It's one thing to use diversity and quotas to drive hiring practices for bloated bureaucracies like the DMV, but when we are dealing with life and death services (police, paramedics and firemen) it's essential that we hire the best and brightest candidates.

Chicago Firefighters: City Must Hire 111 African Americans, Pay Millions To Others


05/13/11 04:54 PM ET

CHICAGO -- A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that the Chicago Fire Department must hire 111 African Americans who passed a firefighters entrance exam 16 years ago and pay millions of dollars to thousands more who took and passed the same test.

The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling was the latest blow to the city, which has been on the losing end of court decisions regarding the 1995 test for years, including a 2005 ruling by a federal judge who said the test discriminated against black applicants and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that the candidates did not wait too long to sue the city.

An attorney for the black firefighter candidates said that the 111 jobs would be filled from the applicants who passed the 1995 test and their pensions would be adjusted as if they'd been firefighters since 1995. And, said Joshua Karsh, 6,000 others who also passed the test will divide "tens of millions of dollars" that would have been paid 111 firefighters from 1995 until today.

A spokeswoman for the city's law department called the decision a "partial victory" for the city because it reduced the number of African Americans the fire department must hire from 132 to 111. "Reducing the number of plaintiffs who are eligible reduces the damages," said Jenny Hoyle.

Hoyle said that the city was still calculating the damages as result of dividing the back pay of 111 firefighters among the 6,000 applicants, but that officials estimate the payout will be about $30 million.

The ruling stems from a test given in 1995 that was intended to measure an aptitude for firefighting. After the test, anyone who scored 64 or below was deemed not qualified, but officials told those who scored above that number that while they passed, they would randomly hire the top 1,800 who scored 89 or better.

Because only 11 percent of the African Americans scored 89 or better, the overwhelming number of applicants hired from that test were white.

Karsh said the test was discriminatory because there was no evidence that the applicant who scored 89 or better would be any better firefighter than another who scored a 64, and in fact in 2005 a federal judge said the test discriminated against black candidates. In her ruling the judge said the city knew the cutoff point was meaningless and would disproportionately exclude blacks from the pool of candidates most likely to be hired.

"If the city of Chicago had selected firefighters at random from all the people who passed the test it would have gotten a pool of equally capable firefighters and the pool would have been more integrated," said Karsh said. He said he did not know when the hiring might begin, but said that he expected it to start soon.

After the judge's decision, the city, which hadn't given another test since 1995 because of ongoing court challenges, gave another test in 2006. But that test was given on a pass/fail basis and that all passing applicants, and not just the top ones, were processed randomly for additional tests such as physical agility and background checks

Dogma vs Data at Duke University

While reading up on the Duke University Lacrosse Case, in which several white students were (wrongly) accused of raping an African-American woman, I came across an interesting side story. Soon after the allegations were made, 88 Duke professors placed an ad in The Chronicle referring to the circumstances surrounding the allegations as a "social disaster" and quoting primarily anonymous individuals citing racism and sexism in the Duke community. The advertisement concluded, "We're turning up the volume [...] To the students speaking individually and to the protesters making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard," and "These are the students shouting and whispering about what happened to this young woman." 

What is most interesting is the distribution of support for this document among different departments. At one end of the spectrum, the majority of faculty in departments focused on race and gender signed the document and a significant portion of other liberal arts departments did so too. At the other end NO faculty member in engineering, chemistry and the hard sciences signed it. In fact, 17 members of the economics department signed a document expressing support for the students. I believe this speaks a great deal about the general approach towards social, political and economic life and knowledge itself of different departments. Not surprisingly, professors in fact and data driven fields would be very reserved about passing judgement against students until all the facts and data were on the table. And conversely, more ideological driven departments viewed this incident through their ideological lenses and passed judgement based on their guiding narratives (white oppressor vs minority victim), before they possessed all of the fact. Shame on them for abandoning the democratic principle of affirming the innocence of the accused until they are proven guilty.

"The department with the highest proportion of signatories was African and African-American Studies, with 80%. Just over 72% of the Women's Studies faculty signed the statement, Cultural Anthropology 60%, Romance studies 44.8%, Literature 41.7%, English 32.2%, Art & Art History 30.7%, and History 25%. No faculty members from the Pratt School of Engineering or full-time law professors signed the document. Departments that had no faculty members sign the document include Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, Genetics, Germanic Languages/Literature, Psychology and Neuroscience, Religion, and Slavic and Eurasian Studies."

"Seventeen faculty members of the economics department sent a letter showing support for the players on January 6, 2007, saying, "We regret that the Duke faculty is now seen as prejudiced against certain of its own students," and telling the players that they are more than welcome to enroll in their courses."

Oh Where Art Thou Jesse Jackson?

The Duke Lacrosse Case, in which an African-American woman (falsely) accused several white lacrosse players of rape generated a huge amount of media coverage and of course the obligatory visit by Jesse Jackson. So, it comes as a surprise that a recent case in which a Latino street gang that sought to ethnically cleanse African-Americans from a town in southern California has generated very little media attention, no protests, no "dialogues on race and racism" and of course no visit by the good Reverend Jesse Jackson. Could this be that incidents of racism that do not conform to progressive narratives, i.e. white perpetrators and minority victims do not excite progressive and the civil rights cartel? While I am certain that these despicable racists do NOT represent ethical and culture norms in Latino communities, the incident does present the possibility that contrary to progressive narratives, the increase of diversity (and the decline of white demographic dominance) in Southern California and other regions may result in greater racial tension.   A worthwhile question to explore, but one that we are unlikely to here in the mainstream media and university campuses.

Azusa 13 Bust: Latino Gang Charged With Terrorizing City's Black Residents

06 / 7 /2011

LOS ANGELES — A Latino gang conspired to rid a Southern California city of its black residents through intimidation, threats and violence dating back to the early 1990s to exert its influence and show its loyalty to the Mexican Mafia prison gang, according to a federal racketeering indictment unsealed Tuesday.

More than 50 people were charged as authorities made early morning raids targeting the Varrio Azusa 13 gang. Federal prosecutors said the gang, which has about 400 members or associates, engaged in a host of crimes ranging from drug trafficking to hate crimes that have hobbled Azusa, a city of about 45,000 residents near Los Angeles.

"We hope that this federal case will signal the end of this racist behavior and will help vindicate all of the victims who have suffered over the years," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said.

Sixteen of the people named in the indictment were arrested Tuesday, while another 23 were already in custody, U.S. attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek said. Authorities were seeking another 12 suspects.

The crackdown is the latest effort by law enforcement to cripple Latino gangs that have targeted blacks in the Los Angeles area.

In 2009, more than 140 members and associates of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang were charged in connection with waging a racist campaign against black people. Four years ago, authorities arrested dozens of members of South Los Angeles' Florencia 13 gang in connection with the killing of blacks because of the color of their skin.

Tuesday's charges mirrored a similar effort taken by federal prosecutors against The Avenues, a gang from the Highland Park area northeast of downtown Los Angeles, where four gang members were convicted in 2007 of hate crimes for killing a black man.
In Azusa, six people have been charged with civil rights violations for allegedly harassing, and in some cases attacking, African Americans to drive them out of the city or to prevent them from relocating there. Most of the defendants named in the indictment face a minimum 10-year prison sentence.

More than two-thirds of Azusa is Hispanic, while roughly 3 percent is black. The city has tried to address the racial problem after the number of hate crimes peaked at 17 in 2000 then dropped to about one a year since 2006, said Azusa Police Chief Robert Garcia.
City officials have also created a human relations commission in the wake of the gang's attempt to drive black residents from Azusa.
"Crimes based upon hatred are intolerable in our society and represent the worst in human behavior," Garcia said.

The Rev. Logan Westbrook, who has been on the commission since its inception in 2001, said fear has subsided somewhat since 2000, when about a dozen parishioners concerned about the racially motivated violence opted not to follow him when his church moved to Azusa from nearby Monrovia.

Some black residents still worry about going out at night and feel trapped because they are unable to move out of town, he said.

"Those who are living there, if they get an opportunity to move on they would, but given the economic conditions, they haven't," Westbrook said.

Resident reaction to the gang bust "will be a big, big sigh of relief," he added.

In the indictment, prosecutors said Marty Michaels, known as "Casper," and another Varrio Azusa 13 member punched a black man in January 2000 while using a racial epithet. In April 2010, Manuel Jimenez yelled a racial slur at a black high school student returning home from a track meet, the document said, noting Jimenez and another man hit the student, chased him down the street and stole his items, prosecutors said.

Gang member Ralph "Swifty" Flores was sentenced to death in 2008 after he was convicted of four murders. A judge imposed three death sentences for three murders between 2002 and 2004 as well as a sentence of life without parole for the racially motivated murder of black teen Christopher Lynch in 1999. Flores was 17 at the time of the murder and not eligible for the death penalty because he was a minor.

Authorities also said the gang extorted payments from drug dealers to let them keep working in Azusa. The gang also drew up a business plan to monopolize the drug trade in the city, which included stockpiling an arsenal of weapons and plotting to kidnap relatives of wayward dealers, the 24-count indictment said.

Drug proceeds were then funneled to members of the Mexican Mafia who wielded control over the gang. The "13" in the gang's name – much like others in Southern California – stands for the letter `M' and shows the affiliation with the notorious prison gang

Jimmy Carter Prize For the Advancement of Douchebaggery: King Richard Daley II

We are proud to bestow the Jimmy Carter Prize for the Advancement of Douchebaggery to Chicago's own (ex)Mayor Richard Daley II. Although the mayor's administration does have some noteworthy achievements, such as the beautification of downtown, past and presents acts of nepotism are so blatant and over the top that the mayor is clearly a first class douchebag. Here are but a few:

The Hired Truck Scandal, in which connected trucking companies were handsomely paid to do little or nothing. Among those indited was city employee and known mob bookie, Nick LoCoco. Not surprisingly, the mayor's brother, John P Daley greatly profited by providing insurance to 25% of the trucking firms. In addition, his brother in law, John Briatta was convicted of taking several thousand dollars in bribes to steer trucking contracts. City Clerk Walter Kozubowski, was convicted in a ghost payroll scheme for paying a total of $476,000 to six "ghosts" for little or no work over a dozen years.

Patrick Daley earned over $700,000 in a deal to provide wi-fi to O'Hare & Midway Airports. Of course that had nothing to do with the fact that he is Richard Daley's son.

Patrick Daley and his cousin Robert Vanecko secretly invested in Municipal Sewer Services, a firm that received a $4,000,000 no-bid contract.

Vanecko's firm also gained a no-bid contract to manage $68,000,000 in city pensions.

In a blatant act of nepotism, immediately after retiring, the former mayor accepted a position with the law firm that pocketed $822,760 in the questionable privitzation of the Chicago Skyway and Parking Meters. In the short run this deal infused Chicago with needed capital, allowing Daley to postpone necessary budget cuts, but in the long run it will only exacerbate the city's fiscal health.

And Daley is now being employed by the University of Chicago, which of course has nothing to do with back room deals that occurred during his time as the mayor. We can be sure that King Richard II and his family will profit from his political connections for years to come. As we say in Chicago "fersure my friend, heez da biggest douchebag I know!"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Jimmy Carter Prize For The Advancement of Douchebaggery: President Obama!

With great pride the Chicago Freedom Forum has granted the Jimmy Carter Prize For The Advancement of Douchebaggery to President Barack Hussein Obama! "Why now," you ask, "since the beginning of his presidency you have criticized his policies, yet you are only now designating him as a prize winner?" Much of President Obama's early policies were an unavoidable continuation of Bush Era initiatives. For example, while I opposed the War in Iraq and the bailouts, the military, political and economic realities that he inherited made an abrupt u-turn virtually impossible. But, a recent string of bowel wrenching policies cannot be blamed on GW Bush, they reflect Obama's vision and response to new political developments. Here are a few:

In the face of our debt crisis, President Obama has declared his intention to forgive $1 Billion in Egyptian debt. As my astute mother pointed out, the broke cannot loan money to the broke.

He has committed the United States to contribute to the $80 Billion Greek bailout.

In spite of the clearl lessons that the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan present, of the perils of military intervention in the internal affairs of other nations, he has thrust us into the Libyan Civil War, whose cost has surpassed $750 Million.

Obama's public pronouncement that our ally Israel should return to the 1967 Borders has undermined Israel's negotiation position and will certainly embolden Israel's antagonists.

Even as federal debt mounted, his administration pledged $53 Billion towards high speed rail.

These are errors of action, while Obama's greatest failures are his errors of inaction, his unwillingness or inability to put forth serious plans for budget cuts and entitlement reform that are vital to turning back the tidal wave of debt and unfunded liabilities that looms on the horizon. My good sir, if you maintain your commitment to douchebaggery, you may well earn another prize, before your term is up!

Declining Employment Rate

Most news reports focus on the unemployment rate, which is questionable in its veracity, since it does not calculate individuals who are not actively seeking employment. A more appropriate figure to gauge economic welfare is the employment rate. A recent article stated that the employment rate for African-Americans is at a record low. For African-American males its down to 56.9% and the across the board (for men and women) it is down to 51.5%. Conversely for whites it's 68.1% and 59.5%. There is no debate that it is economically and politically unsustainable to have such a large segment of society not contribute to the productive economy. Commentators of all political persuasions are in agreement that job creation must be a priority. But, beyond that, there is little discussion on how we as a nation should approach the pathologically low employment rate.

Few politicians are willing to rub salt in the wounds of a growing number of voters by telling them the painful truth that they will either have to develop skills that the job market demands or lower their expectations and "do the jobs that Americans won't do." And fewer are willing to expedite this change by reducing welfare and unemployment benefits for able bodied workers. And with immigration policy stuck in autopilot for decades, there is little chance that it will be adjusted to address drastic changes in the supply and demand for labor. To do so would require the implementation of tough immigration enforcement measures, something that (outside of republican strongholds) few politicians are willing to undertake, out of the fear of alienating their perceived constituency. The reason I use the qualifier "perceived," is because (according to a Zogby Poll) a surprising number of Hispanics diverge from the progressive narrative of immigration: only 15% believe that immigration levels should be increased to fill unskilled positions, whereas 65% believe that there are plenty of Americans willing to do unskilled jobs and 52% believe that enforcement measures should be enacted to encourage undocumented immigrants to return to their nations of origin. Either way, it is unthinkable that we maintain the status quo in the face of declining employment rates and a surging national debt.

Tue May 10, 2011

Employment rate for black men at record low

By Zachary Roth

If the election of America's first African-American president was expected to give blacks an economic boost, it hasn't emerged yet. Indeed, the percentage of African-American men with a job has dropped to its lowest level since records began in 1972, according to the government's monthly jobs report released last week.

Even as the economy added a better-than-expected 244,000 jobs, the percentage of black males over 20 who are currently employed dropped slightly to 56.9, the Labor Department's April report shows. For whites, the equivalent figure is 68.1 percent.

Before this recession, the percentage of black adult men with a job had never dropped below 60 percent, according to Labor Department statistics.

And among blacks, it's not just men who are suffering. Just 51.5 percent of African-Americans across the board--compared to 59.5 percent of whites--have a job, the numbers show. That's the lowest level for blacks since 1984. (That group includes 16- to 19-year-olds, who are employed at a far lower rate than their elders.)

These employment rates are calculated differently from the top-line unemployment rate, which includes only those actively looking for work, and inched back up last month to 9 percent.

Heather Boushey, an economist with the liberal Center for American Progress, told The Lookout it's not just African-Americans who have been hit particularly hard. It's also other traditionally struggling groups, such as ex-offenders and those without a college degree.

"Anyone who would be last on an employer's list to get a job is really in bad shape" in the current downturn, Boushey said.

And employers' hiring practices may be making the problem worse. As we've reported, online job listings telling the unemployed not to apply have proliferated in recent years. The federal government is currently probing whether such listings illegally discriminate against African Americans, who are disproportionately likely to be among the jobless.

Nonetheless, much of the media has focused on the travails of educated white men--still a comparatively flourishing group--during the downturn.

(Faye McWilliams Pearson, a volunteer at Miami's Pass-It-On Ministries, left, works with Douglas Willock, center and Stephen Smith, both unemployed, giving them information about job fairs and a box of food that will last a week: J Pat Carter/AP)

Do Diversity and Multiculturalism Breed Intolerance?

Pictured above: Gary Smith, a British teacher savagely beaten for teaching his students about Islam.

Champions of diversity and multiculturalism pride themselves on tolerance, yet paradoxically, in some cases they have to led to greater intolerance. This is seen in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, in which homophobic attacks, harassment of secular Muslims and anti-Semitic rhetoric are on the rise, driven by the growth of fundamentalist Islam. In a recent incident, a school teacher was savagely beaten for teaching about Islam in a comparative religions class. Of course, this is NOT to say that all Muslims are dangerous fundamentalists. Rather, this clearly this is indicative of the failure of British multiculturalism, which eschews the value of assimilation into the majority culture and unconditionally defines diversity as a social good. 

Had the bureaucrats who determine England's selection of immigrants valued assimilation, they would have focused on the selection of individual Muslims who fit a profile (educated, secular, etc.) that indicated a high probability of rapid assimilation towards the values and norms of British society. And they would have sought to allow a number of Muslim immigrants that would be more conducive towards healthy assimilation. Or, if they dared breach the barriers of political correctness, they would have focused on admitting groups with a higher capacity of assimilation, such as Indian Hindus. Let's be honest, we have yet to see Hindu Immigrants blow up trains or planes. Secondly, the educational elites are to blame, because the multicultural curriculum that they propagate do little to encourage assimilation and address the bigotry, homophobia and antisemitism that are prevalent among segments of England's Muslim migrants. Nor have they promoted distinct British values and identity. And we even see that the police are reserved about even admitting the existence of such issues, in order to avoid being labelled "Islamaphobic." We know this to be true, because acts of intolerance committed by native born Brits elicits a strong official response.

The answer is not to exclude diverse populations from England, but rather to approach diversity and multiculturalism with a critical eye. Such an approach would honestly assess the values, norms and institutions that make England (and other western nations) places that are attractive to immigrants in the first place and seek to promote them among native born and newcomers alike. A daring and intellectually honest exploration of culture, would also ask what are the values and norms that have contributed to the endemic corruption, intolerance and poverty that make other countries (like Pakistan) places that so many people want to flee. It's essential to note that a critical approach to culture would draw a sharp distinction between individuals and cultures. In other words, prejudice against individuals would be staunchly opposed, while a rational critique of other cultures would not. Why? Because, while we can say with confidence that traditional Islamic Culture is hostile to freedom of speech, equal rights for non-Muslims and gay rights, we have absolutely no right to make assumptions about the values and conduct of an individual simply because he is a Muslim. A culturally confident England or United States would declare:

 "we respect the right of the people of all cultures to live by their values, norms, traditions laws and institutions, but if you choose to do so, it only makes sense that you remain in your nation of origin. But, if you come to our nation, we insist that you respect and adopt our culture and way of life, they are fundamental aspects of the peace, prosperity and democracy that draw you and millions of others to our shores. Since we are a liberal society, we welcome your right to adhere to any tradition that does not contradict our own. Celebrating Ramadan and your rites of passage, enjoy your wonderful cuisine and music, but leave the intolerance, corruption and excessive statism in Pakistan. Being part of our nation and culture means that you must tolerate speech that you find offensive, rather than slash the throat of Theo Van Gogh or other critics of Islam. If you agree to this and are committed to economically and socially contributing to our great nation, we welcome you aboard. If not, we ask that you take at least one of our progressive multiculturalists with you, because we trust that a year in your nation will help them gain an appreciation for their own civilization."

Police 'covered up' violent campaign to turn London area 'Islamic'

Police have been accused of “covering up” a campaign of abuse, threats and violence aimed at “Islamicising” an area of London.

By Andrew Gilligan

12 Jun 2011

Victims say that officers in the borough of Tower Hamlets have ignored or downplayed outbreaks of hate crime, and suppressed evidence implicating Muslims in them, because they fear being accused of racism.

The claims come as four Tower Hamlets Muslims were jailed for at least 19 years for attacking a local white teacher who gave religious studies lessons to Muslim girls.

The Sunday Telegraph has uncovered more than a dozen other cases in Tower Hamlets where both Muslims and non-Muslims have been threatened or beaten for behaviour deemed to breach fundamentalist “Islamic norms.”

One victim, Mohammed Monzur Rahman, said he was left partially blind and with a dislocated shoulder after being attacked by a mob in Cannon Street Road, Shadwell, for smoking during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan last year.

“Two guys stopped me in the street and asked me why I was smoking,” he said. “I just carried on, and before I knew another dozen guys came and jumped me. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in hospital.”
“He reported it to the police and they just said they couldn’t track anyone down and there were no witnesses,” said Ansar Ahmed Ullah, a local anti-extremism campaigner who has advised Mr Rahman. “But there is CCTV in that street and it is lined with shops and people.”

Teachers in several local schools have told The Sunday Telegraph that they feel “under pressure” from local Muslim extremists, who have mounted campaigns through both parents and pupils – and, in one case, through another teacher - to enforce the compulsory wearing of the veil for Muslim girls. “It was totally orchestrated,” said one teacher. “The atmosphere became extremely unpleasant for a while, with constant verbal aggression from both the children and some parents against the head over this issue.”

One teacher at the Bigland Green primary school, Nicholas Kafouris, last year took the council to an employment tribunal, saying he was forced out of his job for complaining that Muslim pupils were engaging in racist and anti-Semitic bullying and saying they supported terrorism. Mr Kafouris lost his case, though the school did admit that insufficient action had been taken against the behaviour of some pupils. The number of assaults on teachers in Tower Hamlets resulting in exclusions has more than doubled from 190 in 2007/8 to 383 in 2008/9, the latest available year, though not all are necessarily race-related.

Tower Hamlets’ gay community has become a particular target of extremists. Homophobic crimes in the borough have risen by 80 per cent since 2007/8, and by 21 per cent over the last year, a period when there was a slight drop in London as a whole.

Last year, a mob of 30 young Muslims stormed a local gay pub, the George and Dragon, beating and abusing patrons. Many customers of the pub told The Sunday Telegraph that they have been attacked and harassed by local Muslim youths. In 2008 a 20-year-old student, Oli Hemsley, was left permanently paralysed after an attack by a group of young Muslims outside the pub. Only one of his assailants has been caught and jailed.

Even during meetings of the local council, prominent supporters of Tower Hamlets’ controversial directly-elected mayor, Lutfur Rahman – dropped by the Labour Party for his links to Islamic fundamentalism - have persistently targeted gay councillors with homophobic abuse and intimidation from the public gallery.

The Labour leader, Josh Peck, was attacked with animal noises and cries of “Unnatural acts! Unnatural acts!” when he rose to speak. The Conservative leader, Peter Golds, was repeatedly heckled as “Mrs Golds” and a “poofter”.

Mr Golds said: “If that happened in a football stadium, arrests would have taken place. I have complained, twice, to the police, and have heard nothing. A Labour colleague waited three hours at the police station before being told that nothing would be done. The police are afraid of being accused of Islamophobia. Another Labour councillor said that the Met is now the reverse of what it must have been like in the 1970s, with a complete lack of interest when white people make complaints of harassment and hatred.”

In February this year, dozens of stickers appeared across Tower Hamlets quoting the Koran, declaring the borough a “gay-free zone” and stating that “verily Allah is severe in punishment.”

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that during a routine stop-and-search at the time police found a young Muslim man with a number of the stickers in his possession. He was released without charge on the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service. Police also had CCTV images of a second unidentified Muslim youth posting the stickers at a local railway station, but refused to release the pictures for several weeks.

Peter Tatchell, the gay human rights campaigner, said: “The police said no-one was allowed to talk publicly about this because they didn’t want to upset the Muslim community. We’ve made very clear the difference between the Muslim community as a whole and these particular fundamentalists, and the fact that the police wouldn’t publicly say what they knew was an absolute disgrace.”

When the CCTV footage was finally released, in early April, the culprit was quickly identified as 18-year-old Mohammed Hasnath, who last week pleaded guilty to a public order offence and was fined £100. Jack Gilbert, of the Rainbow Hamlets gay group, said a more serious charge should have been brought. “The vast majority of the community saw the material as threatening, but the police were not willing to accept it as threatening,” he said.

Hasnath’s “interests” on his Facebook page include Khalid Yasin, a hate preacher who describes Jews as “filth” and teaches that homosexuals must be killed. Yasin has spoken at least four times since 2007 at the East London Mosque, Tower Hamlets’ most prominent Muslim institution. Although the mosque claims to be against extremism, discrimination, and violence, it has hosted dozens of hate, extremist or terrorist preachers and also hosted a “Spot The Fag” contest.

In the same week that it issued a press release condemning the anti-gay stickers, the mosque was also due to host a “gala dinner” with Uthman Lateef, a homophobic hate preacher.

The mosque is controlled by a fundamentalist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe, which says that it is dedicated to changing the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed ... from ignorance to Islam.”

The IFE’s community affairs co-ordinator, Azad Ali, is chairman of the Muslim Safety Forum, an organisation officially recognised by the Met as its “principal [liaison] body in relation to Muslim community safety.” Mr Golds said: “This relationship may explain the police’s feebleness.” The IFE also has close links to the Tower Hamlets mayor, Mr Rahman.

There is no suggestion that any mosque official has been personally involved in any act of violence or intimidation. However, in an email obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, one IFE activist, Abu Talha, used the name of the group to threaten a local Muslim woman who ran a dating agency.

“I am asking you kindly to stop these activities as it goes against the teachings of Islam,” he wrote. “Let me remind you that I have a huge network of brothers and sisters who would be willing to help me take this further…If by tomorrow you haven’t changed your mind … then the campaign will begin.” The dating agency has now closed and the woman has left the area.

Mr Ahmed Ullah said: “There has been a gradual increase in these kinds of attacks, that’s for sure.” A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “When any allegation of crime is made to us, we investigate appropriately. We will always take action against hate crime in accordance with, and within the confines of, the law.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yes, I Am Embarrassed, But...

Yes, as a conservative I am embarrassed by some of the things that Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and some other social conservatives say. More than anything it provides ammunition for those who want to unscrupulously paint all conservatives in a negative light.

While I am not concerned about the religious beliefs of my fellow citizens, injecting them into politics, with few exceptions constitutes cheap marketing that distracts us from serious economic issues. While certainly respect the rights of parents to teach creationism to their children, it is not the job of the schools to do so and does come close to violating the separation of church-and-state.

And those who are faithful to the constitution recognize that the resolution of contentious social issues are best left to states and local communities. But, as obnoxious as Palinisms and other ill conceived marketing may be, they have little real impact on the welfare of the American People. This is because for good and for bad, very little socially conservative rhetoric is translated into realy, concrete policies. For  In contrast, the national debt, the trade deficit, unemployment and inflation are real threats to the well being of the nation.

What this means is that we must focus like a laser and let fiscal policy be the prime determinant of who receives our votes. In some cases this means that we have to overlook the distraction of a candidate's silly social rhetoric and focus on how their policies will impact economic life. This can be a vexing task, because indeed President Obama and many of his progressive compatriots are articulate and urbane and can run rhetorical circles around the likes of Palin. But, their policies have greatly aggravated our fiscal ills.

For example, in Illinois's last gubernatorial election, I voted for Bill Brady, even though I disagreed with many of his social positions. I determined that the chances of him imposing his social vision on the state were quite slim, yet he may have been able to positively effect Illinois's dire fiscal outlook. In contrast, given Quinn's fiscal policies, I was quite confident that debt and unfunded liabilities would increase under his watch. So far, my predictions have proven to be true. So, for the time being I will not get distracted by Palin and other clowns, while fiscal lions lurk in the shadows, ready to pounce on unsuspecting circus goers.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Can You Imagine What Would Happen If Israel Did This?

Since the onset of the "Arab Spring" two churches have been burned down in Egypt and attempts to reopen churches have assaulted in attacks by Moslem mobs. Not surprisingly, the majority of those who were arrested were the Christians who were defending themselves. Can you imagine what would happen if Israel did this to a mosque or a church? Can you imagine the protests that would erupt in the middle east and in university campuses across Europe and (to a lesser extent) the United States? Apparently the "free palestine crowd" is very selective in whose suffering is worthy of sympathy and whose misdeeds are worthy of censure.

Muslims Surround Church in Egypt, Prevent Its Reopening


(AINA) -- On the morning of May 19 two Coptic priests went to St. Mary and St. Abraham Church in Ain Shams and opened it together with some of the Coptic residents, but later in the day thousands of Muslims surrounded the church to protest its opening, hurled stones at the church building and the Copts, who responded by throwing stones. The army and the police stood there watching and did not intervene (video).

Unable to secure the church, the army and police closed it and arranged for a "reconciliation" meeting between the Coptic priest and the Salafi sheikhs. They also arrested eight Copts, one of them 13-years old, and three Muslims. They were all charged with rioting, violence and causing injury to citizens. Three Copts were also charged with having cartridges but no guns and one 15-year-old boy with possessing two knives. The 3 Muslims were charged with throwing stones at the army.

Father Filopateer Gameel, one of the organizers of the Maspero sit-in, said that during a meeting with the Minister of Interior he was told he cannot choose the churches to be reopened because it was all "planned with the Salafis and the security authorities so that when we go, there will be no problems." He confirmed the minister had himself suggested the names of the three churches to be reopened.

The "reconciliation" session was held in a tent by the Islamist imam Kerdassi, the main opponent of the reopening of the church, who also recently built a mosque facing the church. Next to the tent was another one hosting Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi sheikhs, among them the renowned Salafi sheikh Hassan and over 3000 guests all chanting "Islamic, Islamic."

The session lasted for 5-hour, and was attended by sheikhs, imams, priests, lawyers and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, in which the Muslims insisted the church was a factory and the Christians explained that it was a church, although it has no dome or bell, and has been used as a place for worship and has a consecrated alter.

The Coptic diocese bought the building, which used to be a clothes factory, in 2004 and used it for worship until November 22, 2008, when it was closed by State Security after nearly 3000 Muslims surrounded the church, pelting it with stones and terrorizing thousands of parishioners inside.

"The atmosphere of the meeting was belligerent," said attorney Ashraf Edward, "and one of the sheikhs threatened us by saying that should the church be opened without their permission it would end up like the church in Soul which was demolished by Muslims." He said the church was offered a larger place to relocate to away from the Muslim families as the imams said. "They presented us with a petition from the Muslim families against the opening of the church."

The representative of the Ministry of Endowment suggested the church be closed until permission is granted for its opening from the relevant authorities, to which all sides agreed.

At the end of the session a joint statement was read by the Imam Kerdassi, which said "It was decided to close the place and no Christian prayers is to take place there until permission is granted. If there is permission then we should respect it and since there is no permit at present then all parties agreed to close the place permanently, no one to approach it and no one of us to harm it until the authorities have issued a ruling. We all have to love each other, so that Egypt would remain strong and secure as Allah wanted it to be."

The Muslims demanded that should the church be reopened, it should be without cross and dome.

Coptic attorney Dr. Ihab Ramzy said the army and the police did not participate in the "reconciliation" meeting. "This shows the government is ignoring the problem. Am I there to get the Salafis' permission to open the church? If they say no, does this mean I should not open the church?"

"The joint statement linked the opening of the church with the consent of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces," said activist Mark Ebeid, "so the military council has to know that if the church is not opened, this means the dignity of the State has been lost in front of the Salafis. Everyone believes the government should have carried out its decision to open the church whatever the outcome. The big question now is will the government give us a written permission or not?"

By Mary Abdelmassih

© 2011, Assyrian International News Agency. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use.

The Turkish Two Step

In the last decade, Turkey has moved forward with significant political and economic reforms. But, at times it seems as if they are doing the a dance which I call the "Turkish Two Step," in which Turkey moves two steps forward and then two (and sometimes) three steps back. This is especially true with issues involving minorities. This was highlighted in a recent ruling by the Turkish Supreme Court that usurped a substantial portion of Mor Gabrield Monastary to the Turkish State. Founded in 397 AD, Mor Gabriel is one of the oldest monasteries in Christendom. Beyond that, it is a cultural remnant of the once great Syriac Christian presence in South Eastern Anatolia that was substantially reduced during the Assyrian Genocide. We hope that international pressure and more importantly the growing democratization of large segments of Turkish Society will help avert the disappearance of the 5,000 year Assyrian Presence.

MARCH 7, 2009.Defending the Faith

Battle Over a Christian Monastery Tests Turkey's Tolerance of Minorities.

KARTMIN, TURKEY -- Christians have lived in these parts since the dawn of their faith. But they have had a rough couple of millennia, preyed on by Persian, Arab, Mongol, Kurdish and Turkish armies. Each group tramped through the rocky highlands that now comprise Turkey's southeastern border with Iraq and Syria.

The current menace is less bellicose but is deemed a threat nonetheless. A group of state land surveyors and Muslim villagers are intent on shrinking the boundaries of an ancient monastery by more than half. The monastery, called Mor Gabriel, is revered by the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Battling to hang on to the monastic lands, Bishop Timotheus Samuel Aktas is fortifying his defenses. He's hired two Turkish lawyers -- one Muslim, one Christian -- and mobilized support from foreign diplomats, clergy and politicians.

Also giving a helping hand, says the bishop, is Saint Gabriel, a predecessor as abbot who died in the seventh century: "We still have four of his fingers." Locked away for safekeeping, the sacred digits are treasured as relics from the past -- and a hex on enemies in the present.

A Syriac Christian monk walks to attend a service at Mor Gabriel. The monastery is fighting over land it says it's had since the 4th century.

The outcome of the land dispute is now in the hands of a Turkish court. Seated below a bust of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, modern Turkey's secular founding father, a robed judge on Wednesday told the feuding parties that he would issue a ruling after he visits the disputed territory himself next month.

The trial comes at a critical stage in Turkey's 22-year drive to join the European Union. When it first came to power in 2002, the ruling AK party, led by observant Muslims, pushed to accelerate legal and other changes demanded by Europe for admittance into its largely Christian club. But much of the momentum has since slowed. France has made clear it doesn't want Turkey in the EU no matter what, while Turkey has seemed to have second thoughts.

A big obstacle is Turkey's continuing tensions with its ethnic minorities, notably the Kurds, who account for more than 15% of the population and are battling for greater autonomy. Also fraught, but more under the radar, is the situation confronting members of the Syriac Orthodox Church, one of the world's oldest and most beleaguered Christian communities. The group's fate is now seen as a test of Turkey's ability to accommodate groups at odds with "Turkishness," a legal concept of national identity that has at times been used to suppress minority groups.

Bishop Timotheus Samuel Aktas says Turkey's claim to Mor Gabriel's land is an attempt to rid the country of Syriac Christians entirely.

.The dispute over Mor Gabriel is being closely watched here and abroad. The EU and several embassies in Ankara sent observers to a court hearing in February, and a Swedish diplomat attended this week's session. Protection of minority rights is a condition for entry into the EU.

Founded in 397, Mor Gabriel is one of the world's oldest functioning monasteries. Viewed by Syriacs as a "second Jerusalem," it sits atop a hill overlooking now solidly Muslim lands. It has just three monks and 14 nuns. It also has 12,000 ancient corpses buried in a basement crypt.

The bishop's local flock numbers only 3,000. Mor Gabriel's influence, however, reaches far beyond its fortress-like walls, inspiring and binding a community of Christians scattered by persecution and emigration. There are hundreds of thousands more Syriac Christians across the frontier in Iraq and Syria and in Europe. They speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ.

"The monastery is all we have left," says Attiya Tunc, who left for Holland as a child and returned this February to find her family's village near here reduced to ruins and overrun with sheep, since most of the villagers abandoned it. Ms. Tunc says she came in response to telephone call from Bishop Aktas appealing to former residents to come back and show their support in the land battle.
Historical Claims

Turkish officials say they have no desire to uproot Christianity. They point to new roads and other services provided to small settlements of Syriac Christians who have returned in recent years from abroad.

Mustafa Yilmaz, the state's senior administrator in the area, says Turkey wants to clarify blurred property boundaries as part of a national land survey, something long demanded by the EU. He says the monastery could lose around 100 acres of land currently enclosed within a high wall, meaning a loss of about 60% of its core property. Some of that could be reclassified as a state-owned forest, with the rest claimed by the Treasury on the grounds that it's not being used as intended for farming or other purposes.

Mr. Yilmaz says none of this would affect the monastery's operations as the land targeted isn't being used by monks or nuns, and he notes that the court could yet side in part with the monastery. He says the government has no desire to hurt a monastery he describes as a "very special place" that, among other things, helps boost the region's economy by bringing in throngs of pilgrims and tourists.

Christian activists, says Mr. Yilmaz, have "blown up" a mundane muddle into a religious issue. "Look, everyone wants to have more land," he says.

Syriac Christians see a more sinister purpose. They say the Turkish state and Muslim villagers want to grab Christian land and force the non-Muslims to leave. "There is no place for Christians here" until Turkey changes in fundamental ways, says Ms. Tunc.

The dispute has spurred some Muslims in neighboring villages to launch complaints against the monastery. Mahmut Duz, a Muslim who lives near Mor Gabriel, lodged a protest last year to the state prosecutor in Midyat, a nearby town. Mr. Duz alleged that the bishop and his monks are "engaged in illegal religious and reactionary missionary activities."

Mr. Duz urged Turkish authorities to remember Mehmed the Conqueror, a 15th-century Ottoman ruler who routed Christian forces and conquered the city now called Istanbul for Islam. He said Turkish officials should recall a vow by the Conqueror to " 'cut off the head of anybody who cuts down even a branch from my forest.' " Bishops and priests, Mr. Duz told the prosecutor, can keep their heads, but "you must stop the occupation and plunder" of Muslim land by the monastery.

No one at the monastery has been prosecuted for the crimes alleged by Mr. Duz and other villagers. The monastery says these claims are ludicrous. It says it tutors 35 Syriac Christian school boys in Aramaic and religion but conducts no missionary activities.

Syriac Christians take an even longer view than Mr. Duz. They deride local Muslims as newcomers, saying Mor Gabriel was built two centuries before Islam was founded. "Mohammed did not exist. The Ottoman Empire did not exist. Turkey did not exist," says Issa Garis, the monastery's archdeacon.

A Long List of Raids

Syriac Christians have indeed been living -- and often suffering -- here for a very long time. Mor Gabriel's history is a "long list of raids, wars, droughts, famines, plagues and persecutions," says British scholar Andrew Palmer. "Time and again, they've had to start again from nothing."

In the eighth century, plague swept through the area and took the lives of many of Mor Gabriel's monks. Survivors dug up the body of Saint Gabriel, the monastery's seventh-century abbot, and propped him up in church to pray for help. The plague, according to tradition, passed.

When disease later ravaged a Christian center to the north, Saint Gabriel's right hand was cut off and sent there to help. One of the fingers was then removed and dispatched to avert another crisis elsewhere. The finger is now missing.

As Islam extended its reach, the monastery shut down repeatedly, but always reopened. It was attacked by Kurds, Turks and then Kurds again. In the 14th century, Mongol invaders seized the monastery and killed 40 monks and 400 other Christians hiding in a cave. Perhaps the biggest blow of all came in the modern era, when Turkey's slaughter of Christian Armenians during World War I led to massacres of Syriac Christians, too. The patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church later decamped to Syria.

Ms. Tunc, the woman now living in Holland, grew up with stories of massacred relatives. Her father "told us never to trust Turks or Kurds," and ordered her to master Dutch ways "because we could never go back."

Her family and many others left Turkey in the 1980s during a brutal conflict between Turkish soldiers and Kurdish guerrillas. Syriac Christians, viewed with suspicion by both sides, frequently got caught in the crossfire.

The exodus drained towns and villages of Christians, including Midyat, the town where the court is reviewing the land dispute. Midyat used to be almost entirely Christian but now has just 120 non-Muslim families out of a population of 60,000. The town has seven churches, but just one preacher.

Running a Tight Ship

As Christians fled, Bishop Aktas took charge of Mor Gabriel. He'd earlier studied in New York but found the U.S. too permissive. "I didn't like America. It is not for monks like me," he says.

By some accounts, he ran a very tight ship. Aydin Aslan, a student there from 1978 until 1983, says discipline was extremely strict, each day devoted to study and prayer. "It was like a prison," recalls Mr. Aslan, who emigrated to Belgium.

Alarmed by a spate of thefts and determined to keep Muslim neighbors from encroaching, Bishop Aktas started building a high wall around his land. When Muslims from the village of Kartmin planted crops and grazed livestock near a well on monastic property, monks and school boys filled the well with stones to keep them away.
Since 2000, Syriac Christian émigrés have poured money into rebuilding churches and putting up summer homes like those at top.

Muslim resentment grew against the monastery, which was being bolstered thanks to funds from abroad. Following a drop-off in fighting between the Turkish military and Kurdish guerrillas after 2000, Syriac Christian émigrés seized on the relative calm. They poured money in to rebuild old churches, expand the monastery compound and build summer homes.

A few decided to move back for good. Jacob Demir returned from Switzerland with his family to a new villa on the outskirts of Midyat. "They thought we would go to Europe and melt away," says Mr. Demir. Instead, he says, exile only made him more aware and assertive of his Syriac identity. (His older children are less enthusiastic: A daughter stayed behind in Europe and a son who came back to Turkey left when he discovered how low local salaries are.)

The return to Turkey of relatively prosperous Christians helped the economy and provided jobs in construction. But it also needled some Muslims, especially when returnees began to claim abandoned property occupied by Muslims.

Turmoil in neighboring Iraq added to the unease. After the 2003 U.S. invasion, hundreds of thousands of Syriac Christians in Iraq fled mainly to Syria and Jordan as security collapsed and Muslims turned on their neighbors. Iraq's most prominent Syriac Christian, Saddam Hussein's foreign minister Tariq Aziz, was arrested by the U.S. Acquitted this week in the first of three cases against him, he remains in jail on other charges relating to the massacre of Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s.

As uncertainty mounted about the future of the Syriac church, officials in Midyat were ordered to survey all land in their area not yet officially registered. Surveyors, armed with old maps and aerial photographs, began fanning out through villages trying to work out who owned what.

Last summer, officials informed the monastery that big chunks of territory it considered its own were actually state-owned forest land. The monastery wall was declared illegal. Surveyors also redrew village borders, expanding the territory of three Muslim villages with which the monastery had long feuded.

The monastery went to court to challenge the decisions. Three village chiefs filed a complaint against the monastery with the Midyat prosecutor. Bishop Aktas, they complained, had destroyed "an atmosphere of peace and tolerance" and should be investigated.

The monastery's émigré lobby swung into action. Late last year and again in January, Syriac activists organized street demonstrations in Sweden and Germany. Yilmaz Kerimo, a Syriac Christian member of the Swedish parliament, protested to Turkey's Ministry of Interior, demanding an end to "unlawful acts and brutalities" at odds with Turkey's desire to join the EU.

Ismail Erkal, the village head here in Kartmin, one of the three settlements involved in the dispute, blames Bishop Aktas for stirring tempers. "This bishop is a difficult person," says Mr. Erkal. Standing on the roof of his mud-and-brick house. Looking out towards the monastery, he points to swathes of monastic land which he says should belong to Kartmin. His village used to have a church but, with no Christians left, it is now a stable. Next door is a new mosque.

Mr. Erkel says Islam "does not allow oppression," and denies any plan to get the last Christians in the area to leave.

Bishop Aktas says the message is clear: "They want to make us all go away."

Write to Andrew Higgins at

While You Were "Marching For Palestine"...

Hey university douchebags; while you were "marching for Palestine," the 5,000 year presence of the indigenous Syriac Christians, Jews , Mandeans and other minorities of Iraq has nearly been extinguished by islamic fundamentalists. Sorry, I forgot, you only protest when America or a western oriented democracy, such as Israel, is the alleged persecutor and the noble people of the third world are the so called victims. Enclosed are excerpts from an interview with Peter Bet Basoo, an Assyrian journalist, for the full article, click on the following link:

Islamist Ethnic-Cleansing of Assyrians in Iraq

By: Jamie Glazov

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Peter BetBasoo, co-founder and director of the Assyrian International News Agency ( He was born in Baghdad in 1963 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1974. He obtained a B.S. in Geology at the University of Illinois Chicago (1980-1985) and a minor in Philosophy. In 2002, he worked in the State Department's Future of Iraq Project, in the Water, Agriculture and Environment group. In 2007, he authored the report, Incipient Genocide: The Ethnic Cleansing of the Assyrians of Iraq.

FP: Peter BetBasoo, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

BetBasoo: Thank you, Jamie.

FP: What has happened in the past 5 years?

BetBasoo: We are all aware of the sectarian violence that befell Iraq, the endless Shiite-Sunni violence, yet little reported was the plight of Iraq's non-Muslim minorities, the Assyrians and Mandaeans in particular, who have been driven out of Basra and Baghdad by both Shiites and Sunnis. Before 2003 Assyrians were estimated to be 8% of the population (1.5 million), now they are down to about 1 million. Of the refugees in Syria and Jordan, it is estimated that nearly 25-40% of them are Assyrians, though they only make up 8% of Iraq's population. This is no accident. They were driven out by the Islamists. The Mandaeans once numbered 60,000 in Iraq, now they are about 4,000. Most have fled the country because of Muslim persecution.

FP: Who are the Assyrians and other minorities? How did they receive the liberation of Iraq?

BetBasoo: There are five main minorities in Iraq: Assyrians, Turkmen, Yazidis, Shabaks and Mandaeans. Of these, the Assyrians are the only indigenous group, the only autochthonous group. The Assyrians are the descendants of the Assyrians you know from ancient history, the ones that build the Mesopotamian civilizations. Assyrians became Christians in 33 A.D. their language is Syriac (neo-Aramaic), and they have lived in their ancestral lands in north Iraq for nearly 7000 years. In recent times they moved to Baghdad and Basra. Assyrians are also present in Syria, Iran and Turkey and now the West, of course.

The Mandaeans are an ancient community, followers of John the Baptist. They are not Muslims, their language is Aramaic -- though this is being lost to Arabic. They historically lived in south Iraq.

The Yazidis live in north Iraq. They are erroneously called the "devil worshippers." Their religion is an amalgam of Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism and Judaism. It is not clear what their ethnicity is, but they consider themselves distinct from others. There are about 500,000 of them.

The Turkmen are of Turkish origin and are in general Sunni Muslims. They live in north Iraq.

The Shabaks are a Muslim group (70% Shiite, 30% Sunni) that also considers itself distinct from others. They live in north Iraq.

It goes without saying that these groups welcomed the liberation of Iraq. Though they were relatively safe under Saddam's regime, they were not free, they were living in a police state, and many suffered at the hands of Saddam's thugs. The promise of liberty was whole-heartedly received. But none of the groups anticipated what followed when Pandora's box was opened after Saddam's iron-grip regime was ousted.

FP: How did the Islamists treat these minorities?

BetBasoo: That depends on the minority. Non-Muslim minorities were targeted by both Sunnis and Shiites. The Assyrians and Mandaeans have suffered tremendously. As I document in the Incipient Genocide report, Baghdad and Basra have been essentially cleared of Assyrians.

After the liberation of Iraq in 2003 the murder of Assyrians was 2937% higher than for the years 1995-2002. The geographic distribution of the murders was 36.9% in north Iraq, 60.4% in central Iraq and 2.7% in south Iraq. Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites and al-Qaeda engaged in murdering Assyrians. Examples included:
• A 2 month old infant kidnapped, beheaded, roasted and returned to its parents on a bed of rice

• 14 year old Ayad Tariq decapitated because he is a "dirty Christian sinner"

• A 14 year old boy crucified in his own village in Mosul

• Fr. Paulos Iskander (Paul Alexander) kidnapped, beheaded and dismembered

5 priests were kidnapped and released after ransom was paid. 5 priests and 3 deacons were murdered, for a total of 12. 6 of these occurred in Baghdad, 7 in Mosul. 52 churches were attacked or bombed since June, 2004: 33 in Baghdad, 13 in Mosul, 5 in Kirkuk and 1 in Ramadi.

At least 13 young women were abducted and raped, causing some of them to commit suicide. Female students were targeted in Basra and Mosul for not wearing veils; some had nitric acid squirted on their faces. Elders of a village in Mosul were warned not to send females to universities. Mahdi Army personnel circulated a letter warning all Christian women to veil themselves.

Al-Qaeda moved into Dora, Baghdad (an Assyrian neighborhood) and began collecting the jizya and demanding that females be sent to the mosque to be married off to Muslims. Assyrian businesses were targeted. 95% of liquor stores were attacked, defaced or bombed. 500 Assyrian shops in a Dora market were burned in one night.

The Mandaeans suffered no less and proportionately have been hit harder. Nearly 90% of this community has fled Iraq. The full details of this horror are documented in a report by the Mandaean Human Rights Group. This community has been the object of murder, intimidation, threats and forced conversion.

The effect of this was to drive these communities into exile. Only 4000 Mandaeans remain in Iraq. About 500,000 Assyrians have fled to Syria and Jordan and 200,000 to the Assyrian areas in North Iraq.

FP: How did the Kurdish authorities treat them?

BetBasoo: The minorities living in or near Kurdish areas (in the north) are Assyrians, Yazidis, Shabaks amd Turkmen. The Kurds do not, in general, engage in religious violence, however, they are actively engaged in political violence and cultural oppression and denial of the rights of these groups in pursuit of their vision of a greater "Kurdistan." The Kurds are working on a subtler level.

Regarding Shabaks, Kurds insist this group is ethnically Kurdish and are aggressively attempting to annex their villages into the Kurdish region. The Shabaks categorically deny this. According to Dr. Hunain Al-Qaddo, General Secretary of the Democratic Shabak Assembly. "Shabaks enjoy different norms, values, traditions, recipes and clothes from Kurds and Arabs. They are neither Arabs nor Kurds and they do not intermarry with Kurds. Their language, Shabaki, is a mixture of Farsi, Arabic, Turkish and Kurdish and cannot be understood by Kurds." Shabaks have accused Kurds of killing one of their leaders. Muslims have also targeted this community.

The Yazidis face a similar situation.

The Assyrians are a special target of the Kurds because the Assyrians are the legitimate historical owners of north Iraq, which the Kurds are claiming as their own. Kurdish policy toward Assyrians is multi-faceted. There is the transparent attempt to buy the Assyrians through an Assyrian working for the Kurdish government, Sargis Aghajan. He is the Assyrian face of the Kurdish regime. He spends lavishly on Assyrians, building churches, rebuilding villages, but always delivering the Kurdish message and attempting to convince Assyrians to come under Kurdish Regional government rule. He has worked tirelessly to marginalize the legitimate representative of the Assyrians, the Assyrian Democratic Movement.

The Kurds blocked Assyrians from voting in the 2005 general elections. The Kurdish authorities charged with delivering ballot boxes to Assyrian districts in the north failed to do so. Assyrian election workers were fired on and killed.

The Kurds are engaged in historical revisionism. They claim that Arbel ("Howlar" in Kurdish) is their "capital" but it is not, Arbel is the oldest extant city in the world; it dates back to more than 4000 B.C., its name means "four gods" (Arb-El) in Assyrian. The Kurds base the beginning of their calendar on the fall of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. The current Kurdish year is 2620. Assyrian fell in 612 B.C. You do the math. The Kurds also assert that the Kingdom of Adiabene, an Assyrian Kingdom that was the first to accept Christ in 33 A.D., was "Kurdish", their historians and their apologists make this assertion. The purpose of this, of course, is to deny the legal right of Assyrians to claim their lands, which the Kurds want to incorporate into a greater Kurdistan. Assyrians have continuously lived in their ancestral lands, north Iraq, north-east Syria, south-east Turkey and north-west Iran, since about 4700 B.C. Kurds are from south-west Iran. They came to north Iraq circa 1100 A.D., when they were installed there to act as a buffer between the Turks and the Persians.

Assyrians are not seeking to re-establish Assyria, that is an unrealistic dream. Assyrians simply want to live in peace and freedom, to practice their religion, to teach their language and history. In the last 1400 years, thus has proven to be elusive, as every power that be wanted to assimilate Assyrians. We are called Arab-Christians, Iranian-Christians, Turkish-Christians and now Kurdish Christians, from a group who should know better, having suffered the same under Saddam. For many Assyrians, the Kurds are no different than the Arabs. The Arabs had their Ba'ath ideology, with its pan-Arabism, where everyone was an Arab, even if he wasn't, and the Kurds have their pan-Kurdism. Does no one learn from history?

The nexus of this tension and conflict is the city of Kirkuk, Iraq, a region rich in oil and coveted by Kurds. The Turkmen, Assyrians and Arabs vehemently contest that this is a Kurdish city and are not willing to cede it to the Kurds. For the record, Kirkuk

FP: What may the US departure precipitate? There is the possibility of an ethnic cleansing/genocide, no?

BetBasoo: With 140,000 US troops in Iraq, we witnessed the near eradication of the Mandeans from Iraq and the cleansing of Assyrians from Basra and Baghdad. The only Assyrian safe-haven now is in the ancestral Assyrian homelands in north-Iraq. If the US departs, leaving only one brigade in Baghdad, should we expect the situation for minorities to improve? Unless the Iraqi government reigns in the militias, makes political reform the top priority, engages in a massive reconstruction program and -- most importantly -- explicitly guarantees the protection of non-Muslim minorities through educational, civic and security measures -- the situation will probably get worse. With the US gone, the pressure on the Kurds would have been removed, and with their protectorate gone, they would very likely become defensive, assertive and bellicose.

I recently interviewed an Assyrian witness to the Muslim cleansing of Assyrians in the Dora district of Baghdad, between 2004 and 2007 (the interview will soon be published on AINA), and the overwhelming impression I came away with was this kind of ethnic cleansing can happen at any time and start frighteningly fast, within a day or two, and there is nothing that unprotected minorities can do to stop it.

FP: What can be done to protect these minorities?

BetBasoo: The best solution is let these vulnerable minorities protect themselves. The Assyrians, Shabaks and Yazidis must have their own local civil administration and police force, in accordance with article 125 of the Iraq constitution. The Turkmen are in less danger because they are backed by Turkey. For the Assyrians, this is slowly being realized in the push to establish an Assyrian administered area in the Nineveh Plain, the center of the Assyrian area. A police force of 700 Assyrians is now in training and it will be stationed in the Nineveh Plain.

The short term solution is to offer physical protection for these minorities -- they must be guarded with extra vigilance precisely because they are unable to defend themselves. The long term solution is to codify minority rights -- especially for non-Muslims -- into the laws of the land and to zealously enforce these laws. The culture has to be changed. This is admittedly difficult, but there is no other lasting way to achieve this. What is needed is affirmative action, not for jobs but for civil rights.

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at

Ludwig Von Mises & The Economic Calculation Problem

Those who followed the news in the 1980's recall the widespread shortages and misallocation of resources in the Soviet Union and other socialist states. But, few people understand the underlying causes of these failures. This is not just an academic discussion, but one that should hold great importance for anyone who follows contemporary political and economic debates. In 1920, with tremendous foresight, Ludwing Von Mises predicted and explained the fundamental economic problems that economic planners in socialist states would face. The Economic Calculation Problem  argued that even the most adept central planners could not rationally allocate goods, services, capital and labor, because at best they only commanded a small portion of necessary information. Paradoxically, the only successful means to rationally allocate resources was a free market price system. Prices serve as vital signals, driven by supply and demand, that provide essential information that allowed for millions of producers and consumers to coordinate their activities. Not only do shifting prices provide invaluable information of consumer needs, but also vital incentives to satisfy them. The same can be said of wages, which also are singals of relative supply and demand for different skills, in different localities. Planners that sought to mandate prices and wages from above always created shortages of most goods and surpluses of others. This is not to say that entrepreneurs and whole industries do not commit calculation errors, but unlike their government counterparts, these must rapidly respond to market corrections or face dire consequences.

Adherents to the Austrian School of Economics and a growing number of economics argue that the Economic Calculation Problem is increasingly seen with the Federal Reserve's efforts at economic planning and intervention.Specifically, arbitrarily mandating the rise and fall of the interest rate, rather than allowing the forces of supply and demand to do so, have contributed to irrational booms and busts and harmful misallocations of capital (i.e. the housing bubble). And those who propose that the government becomes more activate in mandating that health care and other services are "affordable," should also take heed, because this too is an example of central planning and price control.