Archive for August 17th, 2006

Yes, calling New York House Representative Peter King a “creep” is like calling a Hummer a “car.” It’s too easy. But I have to, for his call to use ethnic profiling for airport screening:

Declaring that airport screeners shouldn’t be hampered by “political correctness,” House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King has endorsed requiring people of “Middle Eastern and South Asian” descent to undergo additional security checks because of their ethnicity and religion.

While the Missoulian might subscribe to this plan with its naive vision of vast “subpopulations” of Middle Easterners plotting to kill us all for the sheer joy of it, this is a terrible idea.

For starters, how do you identify someone’s religion by looking at them? And do you have time to give extra screening to every Muslim that passes through an airport terminal? There are, after all, a billion of them. Then there’s the awkward little fact that not all terrorism stems from the Middle East. Our country’s second worst terror strike was done by home-grown white right-wing extremists.

But the real idiocy behind this suggestion is that it doesn’t work.

To be fair to King’s fellow Republicans and the Bush administration, his little idea was met with widespread and near unanimous scorn. Some highlights:

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, a childhood friend of King’s whom the congressman calls one of the nation’s leading counter-terrorism officials, has previously called racial profiling “nuts” and “ineffective,” and eliminated the practice when he oversaw the U.S. Customs Service.

The U.S. Justice Department issued a policy three years ago banning racial profiling and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said yesterday that he doesn’t favor the practice.

“I think that, you know, taking action against someone solely because of their race and solely because of their religion I think is problematic,” Gonzales said.

To understand why ethnic profiling doesn’t work, read this fabulous essay by Malcolm Gladwell on pit bulls. Yes, pit bulls. His argument is that we have prejudice against certain groups, such as dog breeds, but, in the case of dogs, it isn’t the breed that’s responsible for vicious attacks, it’s always the owner, who through neglect or abuse or training created a killer dog.

That is to say the conditions which create a terrorist aren’t specific to the Middle East or Islam. That is, it isn’t a person’s ethnicity or religion that creates the terrorist. Gladwell:

“We have a policy against racial profiling,” Raymond Kelly, New York City’s police commissioner, told me. “I put it in here in March of the first year I was here. It’s the wrong thing to do, and it’s also ineffective. If you look at the London bombings, you have three British citizens of Pakistani descent. You have Germaine Lindsay, who is Jamaican. You have the next crew, on July 21st, who are East African. You have a Chechen woman in Moscow in early 2004 who blows herself up in the subway station. So whom do you profile?…

“You think that terrorists aren’t aware of how easy it is to be characterized by ethnicity?” Kelly went on. “Look at the 9/11 hijackers. They came here. They shaved. They went to topless bars. They wanted to blend in. They wanted to look like they were part of the American dream. These are not dumb people. Could a terrorist dress up as a Hasidic Jew and walk into the subway, and not be profiled? Yes. I think profiling is just nuts.”

Like the Missoulian’s rant against the Middle East and Islam, King’s view of terrorism and his desire to profile by ethnicity is born of a limited world view. Ascribing all the blame of terror to Islamic men of Middle Eastern descent represents an easy way of ordering the world. Believing that terrorism is utterly foreign and unfamiliar and a characteristic of race or culture avoids the sordid, ugly facts and confusing issues of poverty, nationalism, and alienation found not only in Palestine, Lebanon, and Iran but in Oklahoma.

It is simplistic and mean little minds like these that only exacerbate the danger of terrorism.

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Links…

Judge rules warrantless wiretapping unconstitutional and orders an immediate halt! Let’s see what the Bush administration does…will they obey the order or ignore the judicial branch? Are we headed for a Constitutional crisis? (Kos post.)

Sign up for Jon Tester’s email list.

Conrad Burns now denies he ever insulted firefighters. Weird. I guess he thinks we’re morons or something.

Of course, Rehberg thinks the whole thing was hilarious.

Montana Fem gets a letter from our Representative!

From the mouths of babes…or crayons, in this case.

Singer on the worker health care crisis. This is not an isolated case. Remember the woman who joined the army for the health care benefits?

Let’s see. If you kill two people, should you get the death penalty? Or be forced to teach a class?

Cheney campaigns for Lamont by denouncing him at an Arizona fundraiser.

Meanwhile, Lieberman’s support is overwhelmingly Republican. Let’s see…does the GOP have a bigger tent? Or are Joe’s true loyalties coming to the fore?

Matt Taibbi on David Brooks and the DLC.

Bush administration preparing to give up on democracy in Iraq after November? Should we start the betting lines on who’s dictator? Chalabi the current favorite at 3 to 1…

The BBC’s documentary on the illusion of an international terrorist network.

Speaking of illusions…a former UK ambassador questions how serious the terror plot was. Hm…did the fact that torture was used on one of the suspects cause bad information to be passed? This story’s worth watching…

The trifecta for the UK! UK Deputy Prime Minister: “Bush is crap.” Excellent analysis.

…some interesting tidbits on airport security…which appears to have more holes than Swiss cheese…

But the real threat to American security, apparently, isn’t from Islamic extremists, it’s from liberal peaceniks! Digby: “There’s no reason to make a big deal out of some white supremecist with a WMD in his living room when you have these SUV vandals on the loose.”




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