A Rush to Judgment

In the wake of would-be terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to bomb Northwest Flight 253 last week, what I find most disturbing is the collective urge to rush to judgment. Instead of thinking rationally about how to prevent the next attack, many Americans seem more concerned with finding someone, anyone, to blame for the egregious security breach that occurred on Christmas day.

There have been many calls for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to fall on her sword and resign, based largely on her assertion on CNN last Sunday that, “the system worked.”

While that ill-advised statement is obviously false, as Napolitano herself later acknowledged, firing her will not make us any safer. Especially since, as counter-terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke noted on ABC’s Good Morning America earlier today, Homeland Security wasn’t even responsible for the oversight.

According to Clarke, who served under four presidents both Republican and Democrat, the responsibility lies with the intelligence community, specifically the CIA, who never passed the relevant information along to DHS. So, while Napolitano’s dismissal might make some of us (especially those on the Right) feel better, it would accomplish absolutely nothing.

A much more reasonable approach would be to come together as a nation and support our President as he leads the effort to find out what went wrong on Christmas day and fix the problem(s). That being said, I’m not suggesting that we let anyone off the hook. On the contrary, we must make sure our government lives up to its responsibility to keep us safe. But giving in to reactionary impulses and calling for “heads to roll” before all of the facts are in won’t accomplish that goal.

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The GOP’s DeMint-ed Strategy

Here’s the latest example of Senate Republicans’ twisted logic: Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) claimed today that the Obama Administration’s policy of engagement was responsible for last Friday’s attempted terrorist attack, ““[S]oft talk about engagement, closing Gitmo, these things are not going to appease the terrorists…They’re going to keep coming after us, and we can’t have politics as usual in Washington, and I’m afraid that’s what we’ve got right now with airport security.”

What DeMint failed to mention is that he’s the one who’s been putting politics above our nation’s airline safety. According to Politico.com, DeMint himself placed a “hold” on the Senate confirmation of Errol Southers, Obama’s nominee to head the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). His reason? Southers won’t commit to blocking future TSA unionization. As DeMint’s spokesman Wes Denton put it, the TSA is “better off headless than with ‘big labor’ running the nation’s airports.” Try telling that to the passengers of Northwest Flight 253.

So, there we have it. Once again, neo-conservative ideological purity (union-busting, in this case) trumps airline safety and national security. Yet somehow, it’s Obama and his fellow Democrats who get blamed for being weak, ineffective “appeasers.”

This is just the latest in a long line of attempts by the Republican Party to willfully deceive the American people on a wide range of issues. And the most arrogant and offensive aspect of the GOP’s cynical strategy is their assumption that we’re dumb enough to believe them.

Read More @ http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1209/31016.html

Welcome to Armchair Firebrand

The title of this blog, a seeming contradiction in terms, alludes to the Internet’s renowned convenience as well as its formidable power as an informational and organizational tool. Armchair Firebrand seeks to affect positive social change by disseminating information and facilitating online discourse with an eye towards cultivating a more well-informed public, all from the relative comfort of its editor’s own living room.

Founding Father James Madison once declared that, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance.” Unfortunately, in today’s society, the elements of that axiom often seem reversed. Over the last decade, we’ve seen one of our major political parties engage in an Orwellian campaign of propaganda, disinformation and outright lies. Currently, that same party’s cynical strategy of blind obstructionism threatens to bring the wheels of our government to a screeching halt. Meanwhile, our media is more concerned with covering celebrity transgressions and sensationalized scandals than reporting objective facts about the many vital issues confronting our democracy. And the vast majority of us are content to remain blissfully ignorant.

It is the responsibility of every American citizen to understand how our government operates, to be aware of its actions (or lack thereof) and to hold our elected officials accountable (to a reasonable extent). Those are the fundamental principles of our republic. As Madison put it, “a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives.” Recently, we seem to have lost touch with that ideal. Armchair Firebrand seeks to help restore it.

So, in that spirit, I dedicate Armchair Firebrand’s inaugural post to James Madison.

Portrait of James Madison