An undemocratic Detroit EM

http://blogs.detroitnews.com/politics/2013/03/27/upholding-democracy-and-the-problem-with-emergency-managers/#comments

MAR 27, 2013, 9:30 AM LOCAL POLITICS | POLITICS | STATE POLITICS

An undemocratic Detroit EM

By Dawud Walid

We’re in our third day of emergency management in Detroit. No one knows the type of job that Kevyn Orr will do – or if a court challenge will unseat him. What many Michiganians do know is that the installation of an EM in Detroit was problematic in terms of process.

I don’t have trust in the capabilities of Mayor Bing to turn the city around, nor do I have a much confidence in City Council. That more clear cut, viable options for financial recovery have not been put forward is disconcerting, no doubt.

That in no way means that the installation of an EM is a sound democratic practice.

Last November, Michiganians voted against an emergency management for localities. Against the expressed will of the people, the lame-duck session of the state legislature passed a new emergency management bill. Some of those legislators were term limited – or voted out of office – and knew that there would be no accountability for voting against the will of the people. Knowing Michiganians’ disapproval, Governor Snyder signed the new EM bill anyway.

Keep in mind that Snyder is the only governor in America with the authority to appointment emergency managers, who then can make final fiscal determinations for cities, which can include liquidating assets.

I can’t think of anything less democratic in the U.S. in recent history where a people’s expressed will was completely ignored – and an executive decision was used to strip authority from elected officials who were voted in during a fair election. The closest travesty of voters being disenfranchised in my memory was when Vice President Al Gore lost Florida in the 2000 presidential election — and in which registered African-American voters were turned away from polls and votes were not counted properly due to “hanging chads.”

I agree that solutions need to be presented to fix Detroit’s woes. I also know that Detroit’s problems were decades in the making and that there’s merit in analyzing the history of the city’s revenue atrophy and governance issues.

However, I’m not a proponent of circumventing the desires of Michiganians through giving power to local czars over elected officials — even if the czars put on friendly faces and appear innocuous.

The courts will probably end up settling the EM issue in the short term. Snyder may pay during the next election for brazenly ignoring voters’ sentiments on emergency managers.

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Ten years after Iraq invasion, don’t make same error in Syria

http://blogs.detroitnews.com/politics/2013/03/21/ten-years-after-invasion-of-iraq-lets-not-make-same-error-in-syria/

MAR 21, 2013, 6:38 PM NATIONAL POLITICS | POLITICS

Ten years after Iraq invasion, don’t make same error in Syria

Ten years ago this week, the United States invaded Iraq based on false pretenses. We should be vigilant in making sure this does not happen again.

Very few in Congress asked difficult questions, much less challenged our military intervention, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of American military casualties. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 – and he had no weapons of mass destruction.

Our country does not invade and occupy others for the purposes of liberating people, stopping bloodshed, and establishing democracy.  If that were the case, we would have intervened a decade ago in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had a conflict that took over two million lives. Or we would have deployed troops to stop the genocide that took place in Rwanda and Burundi during the Clinton administration.

Don’t be fooled by those who justify military intervention with humanitarian or democratizing rhetoric. America intercedes militarily in others’ lands primarily based upon our national interests – not the interests of other people.

Some politicians and pundits are currently beating war drums regarding the conflict in Syria. Like Iraq, there are uncorroborated claims that Syria has – and may have used – chemical weapons. The Syrian government says rebels used gas against civilians while rebels say that the Al-Assad regime has. We don’t know the facts.

We need to ask some simple questions.

First, is Syria a threat to the American homeland?  No, it poses no direct military threat to America, nor do we have any reason to believe that they are planning on attacking us.

Second, will our military presence further destabilize the region? We can see right now that Iraq has more internal violence than in the final years of Saddam. There were no suicide bombings at houses of worship and in public markets during Saddam’s reign.  Our presence in Syria would invite more drama – primarily from non-Syrian players coming in based upon our presence.

Third, do the Syrian people want us on the ground there? Or carpet-bombing their country?  I think not.  Even the Syrian American Council, a group working for the removal of the Al-Assad regime, is not calling for direct American military intervention.  They want our nation to arm rebels – not just provide Syrians with food and blankets.

In Syria, it is clear that the resistance to the Al-Assad regime has unintentionally opened up the door to extremists, in particular Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra, to capitalize on instability. Reportedly, Iran’s Al-Quds Forces and Hezbollah have been involved in the fray. In other words, Syria is an extremely messy situation in which our military should not intervene. At the end of the day, regional players have to take the lead in enforcing a viable solution for peace and stability to Syria.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq caused too much loss of life and treasure. We simply cannot afford to get ourselves entangled in another war.

Most of us want Syria to have freedom and just governance. What we don’t have the stomach for is another American military intervention in the Middle East.

Limit Big Brother’s use of drones

http://blogs.detroitnews.com/politics/2013/03/12/limit-big-brother-and-peeping-toms-use-of-drones/

MAR 12, 2013

BY 

Michigan state Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, is proposing legislation that will place restrictions on state and local law enforcement – as well as private citizens – legal ability to monitor us via drones. We should all support McMillin’s effort as protection from intrusive Big Brother snooping.

The evolution of drone technology has evolved more quickly than our laws – among them the cherished right to privacy. For a minimum price, an unmanned aerial device can be outfitted with a high-powered camera and microphone to follow us and invade our private lives. Not only do police forces have the capacity to track (and potentially racially profile) people with drones, but there are also no current legal restrictions for private citizens to fly devices to follow and record others. This is beyond even Orwell’s “1984″ imaginings.

If police forces have warrants issued by judges to use drones to follow persons (or use them in emergency situations) – great. Such usage is more efficient than using old school helicopters. The problem is that law enforcement agencies have a history of overstepping their bounds, which could now include surveillance via drones.

All loopholes on unwarranted and non-emergency usage of unmanned aerial devices should be closed so that state and local police aren’t playing the role of information gatherers on law-abiding citizens in the name of crime prevention. Moreover, a signal needs to be sent to Peeping Toms that such technology cannot be used in Michigan to get kicks from following or stalking people.

Yes to responsible usage of technology – no to widespread use of drones.

Discussion of drones ‘long overdue,’ Metro Detroit Arab-American says

March 7, 2013 at 1:00 am

CAIR Michigan director: Discussion of drones ‘long overdue’

By Detroit News staff and wire reports

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s demand that the government vow not to use drones on American soil without an “imminent threat” reflects the view of some Arab-Americans in Metro Detroit, the leader of an Islamic advocacy group said Wednesday.

“We’ve been long overdue for having a national conversation about the abuse of drones in extrajudicial killings,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan. “It was just a matter of time before the conversation would turn to: Are we not going to use the drones here … the same as we do in Pakistan and Afghanistan?”

Walid spent hours Wednesday watching the Republican senator’s filibuster on the Senate floor, which delayed a vote to confirm John Brennan as CIA director as his continuous talking pushed into its 12th hour.

President Barack Obama’s choice of Brennan, 57, to head the Central Intelligence Agency has become entangled in growing tensions between Congress and the administration over its use of unmanned, armed drones to attack suspected members and allies of al-Qaeda. Brennan oversees the drone program as Obama’s counterterrorism adviser.

The Senate intelligence committee voted 12-3 behind closed doors yesterday in favor of Brennan’s confirmation after the administration allowed panel members a look at Justice Department documents making the legal case for using pilotless aircraft to attack U.S. citizens abroad linked to terrorism. The radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, and his 16-year- old son, Abdulrahman, who was born in Denver, were killed in suspected drone strikes in Yemen in 2011.

Earlier this year, Walid wrote in a The Detroit News opinion piece that such tactics raise anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world. “It becomes difficult to justify the deaths of so many civilians while claiming to be the world’s torchbearer of liberty and justice for all people,” he wrote.

Walid on Wednesday said others across Metro Detroit have also shown concern about the drone policy and are calling for a review.

“I believe that the Muslim community in metropolitan Detroit has had some issues with Sen. Paul’s politics — but not when it comes to this issue,” he said.

Paul, 50, of Kentucky in his filibuster focused on the hypothetical possibility that the administration might use drones to attack an American on U.S. soil.

“Nobody questions whether a terrorist with a rocket launcher or a grenade launcher is attacking us, whether they can be repelled. They don’t get their day in court,” Paul said, according to a transcript posted on PolicyMic.com.

“But if you are sitting in a cafeteria in Dearborn, Mich., if you happen to be an Arab-American who has a relative in the Middle East and you communicate with them by e-mail and somebody says, oh, your relative is someone we suspect of being associated with terrorism, is that enough to kill you? For goodness sakes, wouldn’t we try to arrest and come to the truth by having a jury and a presentation of the facts on both sides of the issue?”