The story of UMNO’s relationship with big money and private enterprise sits fidgeting between these fragments of reality. as a co-conspirator in large scale corruption are gradually overwhelming the idea of business as a critical source of growth for the country as a whole. The focus on a few who are really wealthy and their lifestyle …
The Associated Press recently reported
on know-your-rights trainings happening in New York City’s Muslim communities. This was one of the latest installments in the wire agency’s series confirming what Muslim New Yorkers had long suspected – that the New York Police Department has engaged in indiscriminate surveillance on ethnic and religious grounds, without concrete suspicion of criminal activity. Curiously, the AP’s latest story turns the series on its head, giving the dangerous impression that Muslim communities are refusing to share with law enforcement tips on actual criminal activity. This could not be further from the truth.
Through the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project at CUNY School of Law, we provide know-your-rights trainings in response to the NYPD and FBI’s broad-based surveillance of Muslim communities. We advise targeted communities about their rights when law enforcement knocks on their doors, asking questions about mosque attendance, political opinions and charitable giving that are unconnected to any suspicion of criminal activity.
We were therefore quite surprised to read the AP’s latest article, beginning with its headline, “Muslims Say: ‘Don’t Call NYPD’”. Our work focuses on a very different scenario: what to do when the NYPD calls you. And, in that context, the advice we offer is standard and uncontroversial fare, such as the rights to silence and to retain a lawyer, rights that apply to all within the United States.
The NYPD’s seeming suspicion of entire communities seems to be based on the notion that when Muslims live their faith and identity or associate with other Muslims, they pose a danger to American society. Like everyone else in the US, and especially given pervasive ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim communities, Muslims have a right to remain silent, and they have a right to retain attorneys.
This basic rights awareness message is important in Muslim communities where law enforcement has interrogated at least tens of thousands of people not suspected of any crime. The government seems most concerned about legally protected activity. Agents have attempted to question our clients about the mosques they attend, about what is said in those places of worship, about what they make of recent events in the Middle East, and about the websites they visit to get their news.
Of course, the government has no business prying into protected activity or fishing for opportunities to pressure people into sharing information about their families, neighbours and communities. Accordingly, we advise the clients and communities we serve to do what any American senator, president or public figure has done when law enforcement knocks: to exercise their right to remain silent and to retain an attorney.
The AP article misses an essential distinction between the reporting of criminal activity and participation in law enforcement’s indiscriminate efforts to collect information on the expressive and lawful activities of Muslim communities. To call Muslims “uncooperative” for exercising their rights in the face of such broad-based surveillance programmes is unfair and absurd.
In fact, there is no support for the claim that Muslims do not share information with law enforcement when they suspect criminal activity. It was a Muslim community in California, for example, that reported Craig Monteilh to the police when he started talking about blowing up buildings in the name of Islam. It turned out Monteilh was an informant on the FBI’s payroll. Taxpayer dollars were funding his efforts to collect the names, phone numbers, email addresses and licence plate numbers of Muslims in southern California.
The FBI and NYPD’s covert surveillance programmes in Muslim communities rely heavily on the deployment of undercover agents and informants such as Monteilh. Many informants are vulnerable community members themselves, who are pressured by the government to report voluminous amounts of information on the lawful activities of Muslims. In the cases that we know of, the government has used money, the threat of deportation or imprisonment and other forms of coercion to recruit its informants.
Though this may come as a surprise to a segment of the general public, informants are not typically sent into Muslim communities when law enforcement fears criminal activity is afoot. Instead, often without any suspicion of criminal activity, they are dispatched to countless mosques and community spaces around the country on fishing expeditions. Sometimes, as in the case of Monteilh, the informants actually promote violence.
A recent rally organised against NYPD surveillance in Manhattan signals that there remains great reason to hope. Even in this age of surveillance and fear, Muslims joined fellow New Yorkers to reject, collectively and publicly, the hallmarks of a police state. Together, they stood, prayed and chanted so that Muslims, too, can enjoy and exercise a full panoply of rights, including the right to express political opinions, to organise and, yes, to remain silent and to retain attorneys.
Whether you like his politics or not, there are two things about Newt Gingrich that almost all of us aren’t too happy about — he’s a cheater and he’s twice-divorced.
While numerous presidents have committed adultery, only one was divorced: Ronald Regan. If he wins the Republican nomination and makes it to the White House, Gingrich will be the only president who’s done both. It’s no notch on his bedpost.
We don’t like politicians who have been unfaithful, and the last few years have brought a spate of them: Schwarzenegger, Sanford, Edwards, Spitzer, Craig, Giuliani, McGreevey and, depending on your definition of unfaithful, Weiner.
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was already out of office when it was discovered that he had a son with a former family housekeeper, but many other politicians have resigned because of their indiscretions, including former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, after covering up a sexting scandal, and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, after it was discovered that he was with his Argentinean mistress during a mysterious six-day absence.
But many of those former politicians have reinvented themselves and been accepted, if not embraced, by the public that was at first so quick to shame them — Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer among them. I’m not sure why we insist politicians resign in the heat of the moment when we’re so willing to accept their foibles, and repentance, after the fact.
Is it any different for a divorced politician?
Pew didn’t ask how we feel about politicians who’ve been divorced twice, however, nor did it ask how we feel about why
a politician divorced. Gingrich has been fighting the story of his divorce from his first wife (his former high school math teacher) for years — he allegedly asked for a divorce while she was in the hospital being treated for cancer
. Oh, plus he was cheating on her at the time.
It seems especially callous to cheat on and divorce a partner who’s sick or suffering, as Gingrich did twice — he cheated on and divorced wife No. 2 after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis — but it isn’t all that uncommon. Women who are diagnosed with cancer or MS are six times more likely to find themselves separated or divorced shortly after their diagnosis than if they were a man, according to a 2009 study
So, does divorce matter?
“Sometimes relationships work out, and sometimes they don’t. Politics seems to be one of those sorts of professions that wears on marriages,” says Yahoo writer Sevastian Winters
. “We seek to judge the private lives of those who we choose from to lead, rather than the political agenda in play, and we fail to allow for humanity. Our leaders aren’t gods. They are men and women with public jobs who are as susceptible, if not more so, to difficulties in their private lives and their marital records have no bearing on political agenda.”
We just don’t like it when then they’re divorcing while in office. Former Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons was the state’s first incumbent governor to lose his party’s primary in 2008; many believe his nasty divorce and allegations of infidelity
may have had something to do with it.
“History shows that we Americans generally like to elect politicians who have a stable family life, or at the least the appearance of one: a spouse, perhaps a couple of children, etc,” writes Freakanomics journalist Stephen J. Dubner
. “Among candidates running for national and statewide office, the spouse is a pretty standard prop at campaign stops.”
The demands of being President of the United States are straightforwardly incompatible with being a model husband and father. The hours, the travel, and the stress just don’t make it add up. But it can’t be the case that all Presidents of the United States lack the requisite character to be President of the United States. It has to be the case that the kind of character that matters for a public official isn’t the same as the kind of character that matters to be a good husband and father. After all, you want a responsible public official to neglect his family and friends (“hard-working”), to display a certain kind of ruthlessness and cunning (“negotiation”), to be a bit of a phony in certain situations (“diplomacy”), and all kinds of other things that don’t carry over straightforwardly from personal life to public affairs.
As much as I won’t vote for Gingrich, it’s good to see him running: We need to see more candidates that look like us — gay, Latino, female, African-American, Asian, the 99-percenters, the adult children of divorce and those who are divorced. For the latter, it may help strip away the stigma that divorce is a “failure” (although those who divorce because of their own infidelities may have their own cross to bear).
With the country in such dismal shape, we may be getting weary of all the focus on candidates’ personal lives. “We want solutions to the larger problems,” says David Yepsen
, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
Until they get elected, that is, when we’ll inevitably make a fuss over any hanky-panky.