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stone space

stone space's Journal
stone space's Journal
November 26, 2014

Omniscience and Religion.

Meet the Muslim-American Leaders the FBI and NSA Have Been Spying On

By Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain

The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies.

According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the list of Americans monitored by their own government includes:

• Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush;

• Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases;

• Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University;

• Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;

• Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.


In one 2005 document, intelligence community personnel are instructed how to properly format internal memos to justify FISA surveillance. In the place where the target’s real name would go, the memo offers a fake name as a placeholder: “Mohammed Raghead.”





Ghafoor with President George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton (photos courtesy Asim Ghafoor)

Agha Saeed (Julie Plasencia/San Francisco Chronicle/Corbis)


Hooshang Amirahmadi (Julia Cortez/AP)

November 26, 2014

Omnipotence and Religion.

U.S. Military Taught Officers: Use ‘Hiroshima’ Tactics for ‘Total War’ on Islam

By Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman 05.10.12

The U.S. military taught its future leaders that a “total war” against the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims would be necessary to protect America from Islamic terrorists, according to documents obtained by Danger Room. Among the options considered for that conflict: using the lessons of “Hiroshima” to wipe out whole cities at once, targeting the “civilian population wherever necessary.”

The course, first reported by Danger Room last month and held at the Defense Department’s Joint Forces Staff College, has since been canceled by the Pentagon brass. It’s only now, however, that the details of the class have come to light. Danger Room received hundreds of pages of course material and reference documents from a source familiar with the contents of the class.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently ordered the entire U.S. military to scour its training material to make sure it doesn’t contain similarly hateful material, a process that is still ongoing. But the officer who delivered the lectures, Army Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley, still maintains his position at the Norfolk, Virginia college, pending an investigation. The commanders, lieutenant colonels, captains and colonels who sat in Dooley’s classroom, listening to the inflammatory material week after week, have now moved into higher-level assignments throughout the U.S. military.

For the better part of the last decade, a small cabal of self-anointed counterterrorism experts has been working its way through the U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement communities, trying to convince whoever it could that America’s real terrorist enemy wasn’t al-Qaida — but the Islamic faith itself. In his course, Dooley brought in these anti-Muslim demagogues as guest lecturers. And he took their argument to its final, ugly conclusion.

“We have now come to understand that there is no such thing as ‘moderate Islam,'” Dooley noted in a July 2011 presentation (.pdf), which concluded with a suggested manifesto to America’s enemies. “It is therefore time for the United States to make our true intentions clear. This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction.”

Dooley could not be reached for comment. Joint Forces Staff College spokesman Steven Williams declined to discuss Dooley’s presentation or his status at the school. But when asked if Dooley was responsible for the course material, he responded, “I don’t know if I would classify him [Dooley] as responsible. That would be the commandant” of the school, Maj. Gen. Joseph Ward.

That makes the two-star general culpable for rather shocking material. In the same presentation, Dooley lays out a possible four-phase war plan to carry out a forced transformation of the Islam religion. Phase three includes possible outcomes like “Islam reduced to a cult status” and “Saudi Arabia threatened with starvation.” (It’s an especially ironic suggestion, in light of today’s news that Saudi intelligence broke up the most recent al-Qaida bombing plot.)

International laws protecting civilians in wartime are “no longer relevant,” Dooley continues. And that opens the possibility of applying “the historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki” to Islam’s holiest cities, and bringing about “Mecca and Medina['s] destruction.”


November 25, 2014

What do Christians have against libraries?

Ashley Serfozo, a junior from Cocoa Beach, said she hadn’t slept since she heard the sirens around 12:30 a.m. She was at her home off campus.

“I was considering going to the library,” Serfozo said. “Thank God I didn’t.”


Is this just another example of Christian anti-intellectualism?

Or is there something deeper going on here?

I mean, I sure don't want to be an atheist Wolf Blitzer and put words in this woman's mouth.

Why in the world would a Christian thank God she didn't go to the library?

November 21, 2014

President Obama bashed for quoting Scripture in Immigration address.

Now Fox & Friends Is Upset That Obama Is Quoting Scripture

Hours After Attacking The President For Not Expressing His Faith, Fox Attacks Obama For Quoting The Bible

The hosts of Fox & Friends were incensed that President Obama quoted scripture in a primetime address detailing his upcoming executive action on immigration, challenging him to a "scripture-showdown" and claiming it's "repugnant" for Obama to "lecture us on Christian faith." But just 48 hours earlier, the Fox hosts were lamenting that Obama doesn't make public expressions of his Christian faith often enough.

Obama quoted lines from the Bible in a November 20 address, explaining the nation's responsibility to reform unfair immigration enforcement policies. He declared, "Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger -- we were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too."

His use of scripture did not sit well with the hosts of Fox & Friends the next day. Co-host Tucker Carlson called it "repugnant" and argued, "For this guy specifically, the president who spent his career defending late-term abortion, among other things, lecturing us on Christian faith? That's too much. That is too much." Elisabeth Hasselbeck attempted to rebut the scripture Obama used with scripture of her own, quoting verses from Proverbs and saying she is "going to get into a scripture-showdown." According to Hasselbeck, Obama used the Bible to guilt people into supporting his executive action, and that's "not what the scholars behind the Bible would interpret as proper use, perhaps."


(video at link)

November 21, 2014

This is what ethnic cleansing looks like

Interpreting after the Largest ICE Raid in US History: A Personal Account
Erik Camayd-Freixas, Ph.D.
Florida International University


I arrived late that Monday night and missed the 8pm interpreters briefing. I was instructed by phone to meet at 7am in the hotel lobby and carpool to the National Cattle Congress (NCC) where we would begin our work. We arrived at the heavily guarded compound, went through security, and gathered inside the retro “Electric Park Ballroom” where a makeshift court had been set up. The Clerk of Court, who coordinated the interpreters, said: “Have you seen the news? There was an immigration raid yesterday at 10am. They have some 400 detainees here. We’ll be working late conducting initial appearances for the next few days.” He then gave us a cursory tour of the compound. The NCC is a 60-acre cattle fairground that had been transformed into a sort of concentration camp or detention center. Fenced in behind the ballroom/courtroom were 23 trailers from federal authorities, including two set up as sentencing courts; various Homeland Security buses and an “incident response” truck; scores of ICE agents and U.S. Marshals; and in the background two large buildings: a pavilion where agents and prosecutors had established a command center; and a gymnasium filled with tight rows of cots where some 300 male detainees were kept, the women being housed in county jails. Later the NCC board complained to the local newspaper that they had been “misled” by the government when they leased the grounds purportedly for Homeland Security training.

Echoing what I think was the general feeling, one of my fellow interpreters would later exclaim: “When I saw what it was really about, my heart sank…” Then began the saddest procession I have ever witnessed, which the public would never see, because cameras were not allowed past the perimeter of the compound (only a few journalists came to court the following days, notepad in hand). Driven single-file in groups of 10, shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles, chains dragging as they shuffled through, the slaughterhouse workers were brought in for arraignment, sat and listened through headsets to the interpreted initial appearance, before marching out again to be bused to different county jails, only to make room for the next row of 10. They appeared to be uniformly no more than 5 ft. tall, mostly illiterate Guatemalan peasants with Mayan last names, some being relatives (various Tajtaj, Xicay, Sajché, Sologüí…), some in tears; others with faces of worry, fear, and embarrassment. They all spoke Spanish, a few rather laboriously. It dawned on me that, aside from their Guatemalan or Mexican nationality, which was imposed on their people after Independence, they too were Native Americans, in shackles. They stood out in stark racial contrast with the rest of us as they started their slow penguin march across the makeshift court. “Sad spectacle” I heard a colleague say, reading my mind. They had all waived their right to be indicted by a grand jury and accepted instead an information or simple charging document by the U.S. Attorney, hoping to be quickly deported since they had families to support back home. But it was not to be. They were criminally charged with “aggravated identity theft” and “Social Security fraud” —charges they did not understand… and, frankly, neither could I. Everyone wondered how it would all play out.

This was the immediate collateral damage. Postville, Iowa (pop. 2,273), where nearly half the people worked at Agriprocessors, had lost 1/3 of its population by Tuesday morning. Businesses were empty, amid looming concerns that if the plant closed it would become a ghost town. Beside those arrested, many had fled the town in fear. Several families had taken refuge at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, terrified, sleeping on pews and refusing to leave for days. Volunteers from the community served food and organized activities for the children. At the local high school, only three of the 15 Latino students came back on Tuesday, while at the elementary and middle school, 120 of the 363 children were absent. In the following days the principal went around town on the school bus and gathered 70 students after convincing the parents to let them come back to school; 50 remained unaccounted for. Some American parents complained that their children were traumatized by the sudden disappearance of so many of their school friends. The principal reported the same reaction in the classrooms, saying that for the children it was as if ten of their classmates had suddenly died. Counselors were brought in. American children were having nightmares that their parents too were being taken away. The superintendant said the school district’s future was unclear: “This literally blew our town away.” In some cases both parents were picked up and small children were left behind for up to 72 hours. Typically, the mother would be released “on humanitarian grounds” with an ankle GPS monitor, pending prosecution and deportation, while the husband took first turn in serving his prison sentence. Meanwhile the mother would have no income and could not work to provide for her children. Some of the children were born in the U.S. and are American citizens. Sometimes one parent was a deportable alien while the other was not. “Hundreds of families were torn apart by this raid,” said a Catholic nun. “The humanitarian impact of this raid is obvious to anyone in Postville. The economic impact will soon be evident.”

But this was only the surface damage. Alongside the many courageous actions and expressions of humanitarian concern in the true American spirit, the news blogs were filled with snide remarks of racial prejudice and bigotry, poorly disguised beneath an empty rhetoric of misguided patriotism, not to mention the insults to anyone who publicly showed compassion, safely hurled from behind a cowardly online nickname. One could feel the moral fabric of society coming apart beneath it all.

November 21, 2014

The difficulties of cross cultural communication.

Lately, I've been getting the strong feeling that some of the miscommunication between religious folks and atheists may result from this.

Sometimes, cross cultural communication can be like learning a new language.

As an atheist, I try to listen to what Christians and others say in their own religious language.

For an example, I'll take a recent post of mine.

I remember a Thanksgiving story.

It was back in 2006, I believe.

A small boy was riding with his mother in a car on Thanksgiving Day, when they got into a terrible accident.

The mother was killed, and the boy survived the crash, but was stranded all alone in the Arizona desert.

At some point, an undocumented immigrant named Jesus who was crossing into this country passed by, and stayed with the boy and protected him while trying to flag down somebody to help.

Eventually, he was able to get the attention of a Border patrol agent, and the boy was saved, and Jesus was deported.

I remember the boy's Aunt on TV thanking God (and Jesus!) while calling it a miracle.

Now, you're an atheist like me, so we both have to put on our thinking caps when we hear religious language. Just like we have to do in any other sort of cross cultural communication.

What do you think the boy's Aunt was calling a miracle?

Her nephew being saved by Jesus, or her sister being killed in an accident?

Accurate cross cultural communication requires a little bit of thoughtfulness and good will.

Otherwise, one can miss-translate things very badly.

The question is in bold.

How one answers may depend on ones ability to understand and comprehend religious language. It's an exercise in cross cultural communication and language skills for us atheists.

I'll be the first to admit that, as a mathematician, this is not my specialty.

But I think I know the correct answer.

November 20, 2014

Jesuits call for repeal of 2nd Amendment

The National Catholic Review

February 25, 2013 Issue


Repeal the Second Amendment

Plagued by rising levels of violent crime, in the autumn of 1976 the District of Columbia enacted one of the nation’s toughest gun control laws. The law effectively banned handguns, automatic firearms and high-capacity semiautomatic weapons. Police officers were exempt from the provisions of the law, as were guns registered before 1976. Over the following decade, the murder rate in Washington, D.C., declined, then increased, shadowing a national trend. Overall, however, the new law helped to prevent nearly 50 deaths per year, according to one study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. “We knew there were problems we couldn’t wipe out,” said Sterling Tucker, chair of the district council at the time, as he reflected on the law 22 years later. “But we had a little more control over it.”

On June 26, 2008, in a closely watched, far-reaching decision, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the D.C. law, ruling that it violated the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” In the court’s majority opinion, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: “We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the many amici who believe that the prohibition of handgun ownership is a solution.... But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.”



November 20, 2014

Episcopal Church in Michigan passes gun resolution

(crossposted from religion)

Episcopal Church in Michigan passes gun resolution

Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press 9:41 a.m. EST November 3, 2014

The Episcopal Church in Michigan has passed a controversial resolution calling for stiffer gun control, drawing sharp criticism from conservative members who say it violates the right to bear arms.

The dispute is part of a larger debate among Episcopalians and other mainline Protestants about the future of their churches as they face sharp declines in membership.

Some conservatives say the gun resolution is the latest example of the Episcopal Church focusing on promoting liberal social issues such as gun control and same-sex marriage instead of the gospel, alienating congregants. But liberals say that their views are in line with the teachings of Christianity.

By a clear majority, members of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan — which consists of southeast Michigan and the Lansing and Jackson areas — voted recently to approve a resolution calling for universal background checks on all gun purchases, banning all sales of semiautomatic weapons, high-impact ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and making gun trafficking a federal crime.


Rick Schulte, director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, did not comment on the resolution. Supporters say it was a necessary move and one that reflects the views of the Episcopal Church and Christianity. They noted last week's shooting in a Washington state high school as the latest example of gun violence.

"We work to bring God's peace to the world," said the Rev. Chris Yaw, rector of St. David's Episcopal Church in Southfield. "God's kingdom is not of violence; it's of peace."



November 20, 2014

What is your favorite Bible quote?

You don't have to be Christian to play!

(In fact, I'm an atheist, myself.)

I'll start with my own personal favorite.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not rise up against nation. Nor shall they study war any more.

Here's some Christians illustrating the meaning of this prophesy from Isaiah 2:4.

I think that they do a pretty good job, with poise, grace, humor, and a red tricycle and garden mattock:

What's your favorite Bible quote?

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