(CNN) -- I'm an American-Muslim and I despise Islamic terrorists. In fact, despise is not even a strong enough word to convey my true feelings about those who kill innocent people in the name of Islam. I hate them with every fiber of my being.
I'm not going to tell you, "Islam is a religion of peace." Nor will I tell you that Islam is a religion of violence. What I will say is that Islam is a religion that, like Christianity and Judaism, is intended to bring you closer to God. And sadly we have seen people use the name of each of these Abrahamic faiths to wage and justify violence.
The unique problem for Muslims is that our faith is being increasingly defined by the actions of a tiny group of morally bankrupt terrorists. Just to be clear: The people who commit violence in the name of Islam are not Muslims, they are murderers. Their true religion is hatred and inhumanity.
The only people terrorists speak for are themselves and the others involved in their despicable plot. They do not represent me, my family or any other Muslim I know. And believe me, I know a lot of Muslims.
We hate these terrorists more than non-Muslims do. How can I say that? Because they harm innocent people in the name of our religion and consequently we suffer a backlash because of their acts. It can be anything from a spike in hate crimes to people viewing Muslims as less than fully American because of our faith. We are the ones called to answer for the sins of people we detest.
(CNN) -- If someone today argued for laws to legally bar interracial marriage that person would universally be labeled a bigot.
But in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage, 73% of Americans still supported them. Did that mean that more than 70% of Americans at that time were bigots? No. But there certainly came a time that you were one if you continued advocating for such discriminatory laws.
Are we at that point yet with gay marriage? Is it fair to label a person a bigot simply for arguing that marriage should only be between a man and a woman?
That's the first issue we discussed in Episode 2 of the new weekly CNN Radio podcast "The Big Three," co-hosted by CNN opinion contributors Margaret Hoover, John Avlon and myself. Each week we look at three big issues making news. (For those catching up, our first episode is here.)
To listen to this episode of "The Big Three," click on the Soundcloud audio player on this page. Or you can find us on iTunes.
In the new episode, here are the three topics we chose to discuss/fight/yell/joke about:
1. Are you a bigot if you oppose gay marriage? Margaret Hoover raised the issue of whether we throw the word "bigot" around too quickly. She also posed the thought-provoking question: Would we would have called President Obama a bigot a year ago before he embraced marriage equality?
My response is "Yes" with an asterisk. The asterisk being that I won't yet call anyone who opposes marriage equality a bigot simply because they believe marriage should be between a man and woman. (If you demonize gays, than I will call you one now.) But in time, that label will be accurate for those who continue to advocate discrimination. John Avlon, being the centrist that he is, made a very fair point that this is a process and it will take time.
To continue reading or to hear the podcast please click HERE to go to CNN.com
(CNN) -- Barack Obama would make a great stand-up comic, not because he's the funniest president ever but because he uses jokes the same way many of us comedians do: As a weapon.
Traditionally, the (intentionally) funny lines by our presidents have had one thing in common: They were self-deprecating. Sure, some presidents have used jokes to take jabs at their opponents, but not to the extent of Obama.
During his tenure, he has increasingly unleashed biting comedic barbs against his critics and political adversaries. These jokes are intended to do more than simply entertain you. They have an agenda.
Obama's humor is often delivered the way a comedian dealing with a heckler would do it. He tries to undermine his opponents with it and get the crowd -- in this case the public -- on his side. I can assure you that having a crowd laugh at your critic/heckler is not only effective in dominating them, it's also very satisfying.
Let's look at some of the more typical self-deprecating jokes made by presidents at past White House Correspondents' Dinners, where press and president unleash their biting wits on one another. In 1988, Ronald Reagan joked about his advanced age by commenting that his staff had claimed that "preparing me for a press conference was like reinventing the wheel. Not true. I was around when the wheel was invented, and it was easier.
President Clinton, at the 2000 Correspondents' Dinner, mentioned that he was a fan of that night's comedian, Jay Leno: "Because, together, we give hope to gray-haired, chunky baby boomers everywhere."
To continue reading please click HERE to go to CNN.com.
All Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan had to do was keep his radical views hidden for two more days--actually, less than 48 hours. Perhaps then less voters would be aware of how extreme and divisive he really is.
But Ryan couldn’t wait. Maybe it’s because he was “under duress” as recent polls show President Obama’s lead in Ohio growing. Plus a new Pew Poll indicates President Obama now has a three point national lead.
Maybe it was because he thought his views would remain private, like Mitt Romney believed when he made his infamous comments dismissing 47% of Americans?
But I don’t think those are the reasons. I believe Ryan had simply been waiting for an opportunity to confess his real views to a receptive audience.
For those unaware, yesterday Ryan told thousands of Evangelical Christians by teleconference that President Obama’s policies threaten our nation’s “Judeo-Christian” values. Ryan also raised the specter of “a clash of civilizations” by warning listeners that Obama’s polices compromise, “western civilization values that made us such a great an exceptional nation in the first place.”
Obviously this statement tells us a great deal about Ryan, the person Rush Limbaugh described as “the last boy scout.” Although to be honest, I was a boy scout and we never learned that our laws must be based on anyone’s religious scripture nor should we use fear to scare people to support political candidates.
Up until this point in the campaign, I was actually relieved that Romney and Obama had focused on policy issues, not religious values like we heard time and time again during the Republican presidential primary. I thought that the concept that our laws must comport with the Bible disappeared with Rick Santorum’s failed presidential bid. But Ryan just couldn’t help himself. Ryan’s statement made me think of the “Godfather III” when Michael Corleone remarked: “Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in.”
Ryan’s comment that President Obama’s policies are threatening Judeo-Christian values is clearly intended to send two messages to the Evangelical voters. One, if elected, Paul Ryan will work to ensure that our laws and regulations are in compliance with the Bible. This really shouldn't be a surprise because Ryan has made it clear he opposes abortion even in the case when a woman is raped—thus, sentencing a rape victim to carry the child of the rapist in her womb for nine months.
Ryan is a man who actually stated that “Roe versus Wade” was similar to the infamous “Dred Scott” Supreme Court decision which upheld slavery. Who could actually compare the concept of owning a human being with a women’s right to have control over her own body?!
There’s also clearly a second reason Ryan told these conservative Christians that Obama does not share their religious values. Anyone guess? This one is easy: Because President Obama is not a Christian like them but actually…a Muslim. (Cue scary music.)
This is not only false since Obama is a Christian, but appalling because Ryan is a Catholic and is undoubtedly aware of similar smear tactics used by people to scare voters about John F. Kennedy’s presidential candidacy. Kennedy’s political opponents argued that too was a threat to American values.
This issue dogged Kennedy until his famous speech in 1960 to a group of Evangelical leaders where he stated: “Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.”
However, when Paul Ryan was given a chance to address Evangelicals, he didn’t follow the lead of John Kennedy, trying to end divisiveness based on religion. Instead, Ryan fed the very same bigotry John Kennedy was seeking to combat.
It’s my hope that Mitt Romney denounces these statements by Paul Ryan. Of course we know that won’t happen. Often in presidential campaigns Vice Presidential candidates act as a “pit bull” and say combative or extreme things which the presidential candidate actually agrees with but doesn’t want to say publicly. Lets hope that isn’t the case here, but sadly I fear it is.
Sociopath: a person who has “no social conscience.” We often hear this term used to describe criminals who commit heinous acts but show no signs of remorse. These people lack the ability to discern between right and wrong.
Look, I’m in no way saying that Mitt Romney is a sociopath in the sense it’s applied to serial killers. But Mitt Romney might just be a new strain of this malady: a “political sociopath.” How else do you explain how Romney can change positions so frequently on key issues with no sense of remorse or guilt?
Or does Mitt have a split personality, sorta of a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Romney”? Or is it “Dr. Mitt and Mr. Hyde”? In either case, is it possible there are two Mitt Romneys. And like in the famous Jekyll and Hyde tale, it seems that one has no memory of what the other has said or done.
I’m not even referring to Romney’s earlier “evolution” on issues from years ago which gave us "Romney 2.0." By now most are familiar with these Olympic quality flips: Mitt being unabashedly pro-choice when Governor of Massachusetts, but a few years later when seeking the Republican presidential nomination, he suddenly become a hardcore pro-lifer. Or his reversal on gun control: when Governor, he signed into law a ban on assault weapons but now opposes similar gun control measures. And, of course, his championing a health care plan that was the first in nation to impose an individual mandate but now opposing that very same element of Obamacare.
No, I’m talking about Romney 3.0. This Mitt seems to have no recollection of his prior statements made just a few short months ago. For example, when Mitt Romney was the scary Mr. Hyde, he tried to appeal to conservative voters in the Republican primary by promising a tax break for, “…everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent.”
But in the first presidential debate with President Obama, that Mr. Hyde was nowhere to be found. Instead we only saw a moderate, reasonable “Dr. Romney,” who now pledged: "I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans."
Even President Obama sensed there was two Romneys, stating the day after that debate: “When I got onto the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney, but it couldn't have been Mitt Romney." This led Obama to coin his own diagnosis: Romensia.
And Romney’s split personality has become more acute in the closing days of this campaign. For example, Dr. Romney continually claims that when he was Governor, he worked in a bipartisan manner with the Democrats who controlled the Massachusetts Legislature. But what Mitt doesn't tell us is that his Mr. Hyde used his veto over 800 times in a four year period to block Democratic legislative initiatives.
And now Dr. Romney argues that he did not oppose using government funds to help bail out the auto industry. However, Mitt ‘s Mr. Hyde had stated the opposite in a Republican primary debate: “…with regards to the bailout…whether it was by President Bush or by President Obama, it was the wrong way to go….My plan, we would have had a private sector bailout…with the private sector guiding the direction as opposed to what we had with government playing its heavy hand."
And Mitt’s Mr. Hyde – obviously unable to predict that a massive hurricane would strike the Eastern seaboard a week before the election – stated in another Republican primary debate that he would take the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from the federal government and give it back to the States. The result would be that when a massive disaster occurs impacting more than one State- as they often do-there would be no umbrella organization coordinating the effort.
But now Dr. Romney says he wouldn’t abolish FEMA. Instead, in times of emergency, people should get “help from the federal government and FEMA” in coordinating where disaster assistance is most needed.
And amazingly, Dr. Romney has in the last few days started billing himself as the“change” candidate. It’s just a mater of time before we see a poster of Romney colored in red, white and blue, emblazon on the bottom with the words: “Hope.”
While obviously there are voters who are not fans of President Obama’s polices, at least they know what he stands for. In the case of Mitt Romney, not only don’t we know what his stands for, we don’t know even know which Mitt Romney would serve as President.
(CNN) -- A Catholic priest, a rabbi, an evangelical minister, a Sikh, a Greek Orthodox archbishop and two Mormon leaders walk into the Republican National Convention.
It sounds like the beginning of a joke. But the Republican Party's decision to invite representatives from all of these faiths to speak at this week's convention, but to exclude a Muslim-American imam, is anything but funny.
The Republican Party has a problem with Muslims. Of course, American Muslims can take some solace in the fact that we are not the only minority group that the Republican Party hardly welcomes.
Let's be honest, if you don't like Muslims, blacks, gays, immigrants or other minorities, which political party would make you feel most comfortable? Sure, some Republican officials are minorities, but a recent Galllup survey found that 89% of the Republican Party is white.
To be clear, I don't believe that most rank-and-file members of the Republican Party hate Muslims. The problem is that certain Republican leaders have stoked the flames of hate toward American Muslims, and other minorities, as a political tool to motivate people to support their cause.
To continue reading, please click HERE to visit CNN.com
James Holmes is a terrorist.
You would think this would be undisputed. But it’s not. Why? Two reasons keep coming up: 1. He had no overt political agenda for his attack and/or; 2. He is not a Muslim.
I’m sure some are saying: Why does his religion matter? Let us be honest: If James Holmes had instead been named Jalal and was Muslim, the response by the media and most Americans would be different. The presumption would be that he’s a terrorist. The political reason for the attack many say is currently missing would be a given simply because of his Muslim faith.
There would be calls to increase police surveillance of American-Muslims and justifications offered for racial profiling. People like Representative Michelle Bachmann would likely claim that the attack was part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s campaign to destroy America. After all, just last week Bachmann claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood was infiltrating the US government. (I personally wish that Bachmann’s brain would be infiltrated by intelligence.)
But the facts are clear that the greatest threat to the lives of Americans is not Muslim terrorists. Indeed, in 2011, approximately 14,000 Americans were murdered on US soil. How many were killed by Islamic terrorists? Zero.
Despite this fact, Representative Peter King, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, continues to solely focus on the “radicalization” of American-Muslims, instead of the radicalization of any American. It’s about time that Peter King stop demonizing Muslims for political gain and start using his committee’s work to save American lives.
So why do I believe Holmes is a terrorist? First and foremost, because of Holmes extensive planning. The Aurora, Colorado police chief described the attack as being designed with "calculation and deliberation." Several months ago, Holmes apparently put his plan into action when he purchased a handgun and shotgun from a local store. Holmes later purchased a third weapon–-an AR-15 assault rifle--from another store about one mile from the theater where he committed his bloody assault.
Holmes also purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet. In addition, on the night of his terrorist attack, he donned a Kevlar helmet, a gas mask, a tactical bullet-resistant vest, bulletproof leggings, a neck and groin protector and special tactical gloves.
And Holmes, not content to just kill the people in the theater, even rigged his apartment with jars of liquids, explosives and chemicals. The intention being to kill or maim any person who entered his residence after the attack.
This is truly Terrorism 101. It is as evil as the people who attacked our nation on 9/11.
Finally, I don’t subscribe to the view that you need an overt political agenda to be labeled a terrorist. In fact, neither does US law.
Federal law defines the term "domestic terrorism" to mean activities that:
(A) Involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended -
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by Intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
Consequently, a person can be found guilty of “domestic terrorism” if he/she: 1. Engages in acts dangerous to human lives which violate US/State law – in this case shooting people; and 2. The action “appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.”
There is a strong argument that James Holmes goal was to achieve just that. He wanted to instill terror in the hearts of Americans. To make us all fear that in the friendly confides of our neighborhood movie theater, another killer could be lurking in the darkness waiting to open fire.
Some say in Holmes defense that he was crazy. I honestly think we would prefer to believe that as opposed to labeling a fellow American a terrorist.
But there are simply no signs of insanity. Holmes has shown no prior incidence of mental illness. He has no prior criminal history. He has been described as a brilliant young man who excelled at science. The only blemish in the glowing description of Holmes was that he was a loner.
While it’s painful for some, we must as a nation come to the realization that terrorism does not come from just one religion, race or ethnicity. Terrorism knows no such bounds.
However, there is, of course, still a chance that Holmes is insane. Most undoubtedly would prefer to give Holmes the benefit of the doubt on that issue. However, I doubt most would apply that same standard if Holmes were Muslim.
Could Mitt Romney be “stupid”?
That’s the question CNN’s Erin Burnett posed on her show this past Monday when discussing Romney’s refusal to release his past income tax returns. Actually, she hypothesized that there were three possible reasons Mitt refused to release them:
“One, he had a lot more money in tax shelters in prior years than he does now."
"Two, he did something shady.”
“Or, three, he's stupid."
Could Mitt’s refusal to release these documents--which are clearly hurting his campaign—be because of stupidity?
Look, there’s no doubt Mitt is very book smart. He earned two graduate degrees from Harvard--an MBA and Law degree-which he received after cramming 5 years of studying into 4 years. Only about 12 people per year achieve this feat at Harvard.
But in the immortal words of “Forrest Gump:” “Stupid is as stupid does.” Which means that even if you have the best education in the world, and are a multi-millionaire, if you do stupid things, you’re stupid. It’s that simple.
Maybe the dictionary can help us decide this issue. Merriam-Webster dictionary.com’s tells us that the most appropriate definition of the word “stupid” is: “Given to unintelligent decisions or acts.”
So, is withholding tax returns an “unintelligent decision” aka "stupid"? It would seem to be when polls indicate that 61% of Independent voters think Romney should release his returns from the last 12 years. (To date, Romney has only released his 2010 returns and an estimate for 2011.)
Add to that, Republican leaders have been increasingly calling for Romney to release these returns, including Congressman Ron Paul, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.
And, add even to that, well-known conservatives in the media such as George Will, Bill Kristol, and “The National Review” have, too, called upon Romney to be more forthcoming and release returns for additional years.
It's true that presidential candidates are not legally mandated to release their tax returns. Yet candidates since FDR have voluntarily released them. These candidates--Democrats and Republicans alike--understood that this is about transparency. We, the people, are entitled to know how our possible future president made their income, how much taxes they have paid as well as to know what and where they have invested.
That is why Mitt Romney’s own father--George Romney--released 12 years of his tax returns when he was seeking the 1968 Republican Presidential nomination. Bob Dole--the Republican presidential nominee in 1996—released 30 years of his past returns, while George W. Bush released nine years and Barack Obama seven.
And when presidential candidates refused to be forthcoming in releasing tax returns, such as in the case of Democratic presidential candidates Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton, the media hammered them until they were released.
Lets state the obvious to make the stakes clear: Mitt Romney is seeking to be the head of the biggest economy and most lethal military in the world. He will in essence be the leader of the free world and one of the most powerful people on this planet. Thus, we deserve to know as much as possible about him and certainly information regarding facts which are solely within his possession--like his tax returns.
This growing controversy is reminiscent of the one started by the right that President Obama was not born in the United States. These “birthers” kept pressing this issue until it became a distraction to President Obama’s agenda. Consequently, President Obama had no other way to put the issue to rest than to finally release his long form birth certificate in April 2011.
Mitt Romney is obviously aware of both the birther issue and the past “taxer” issues. And just as in those instances, this issue is becoming a distraction to his campaign and an ever-expanding albatross around his neck.
This brings us back to the original question: Could Romney be stupid? Very doubtful. But not releasing his tax returns is stupid. It will plague him through the campaign until Election Day. However, despite this obvious downside, Romney still refuses to release the returns.
To quote another iconic line from "Forest Gump:" “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Well, only Mitt Romney knows what’s in his income tax returns and he’s certainly fully aware of what he’s “gonna get” in response if he releases them.
It appears that Romney would prefer to be labeled “stupid” than release his past tax returns. Could it be that the consequences of releasing his returns are far worse?
(CNN) -- "This is a man without a core, a man without substance, a man that will say anything to become president of the United States."
Rudy Giuliani uttered these harsh words when describing Mitt Romney eight months ago. But then, four months later, Giuliani endorsed Romney.
Is Giuliani correct? Is Romney truly a man "without a core"? The simple answer: No. Romney has a distinct core -- not that of a politician, but of a CEO.
What do I mean? We have become accustomed in these highly partisan times to politicians who adhere rigidly to their ideological positions. They don't change their views to attract supporters. Rather, they want voters to agree with the positions they advocate.
In contrast, a CEO is not shackled by ideology. A CEO's success is measured by the bottom line, not by how many principles he or she sticks to.
To the CEO, if a product is not selling, you don't stick with it until the product destroys your business. Instead, you tweak it. You rebrand it. You try a new slogan or new packaging. And if people are still not buying it, like New Coke, you drop it. You regroup, come up with a new product and then start selling again.
To continue reading this article, please click HERE to visit CNN.com
The rich and powerful just got more powerful--and most likely richer.
While all eyes have been focused on the Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling, the Court quietly released a decision last Monday that could impact even more Americans.
The Supreme Court had a chance with this new case to reverse its infamous 2010 Citizens United decision. By way of brief background, the Citizens United ruling, together with the federal appeals court decision in Speechnow.org vs. FEC, gave birth to the monstrosity known as Super PACs--independent political action committees which advocate for or against a specific candidate. And worse yet, these rulings ended restrictions Congress had imposed on the amount of money corporations, unions and wealthy individuals could contribute to these "independent" political committees.
But instead, the Supreme Court decided to increase the flow and influence of corporate money in our political system by striking down Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act, a law which had been enacted in 1912 to end the corruption caused by the “copper kings”--the big mining companies--which had been essentially buying politicians with large donations and bribes. This Montana law had banned corporate donations to political organizations for 100 years until the Court struck it down and declared that States--in addition to the US Congress--could not enact legislation barring corporations from contributing to Super PACs.
Who could oppose guarding our political system from potential corruption and increase corporate influence over our political system? Well, at least the five Justices who voted to strike the Montana law down. (Anyone surprised that these five Justices were all appointed by Republican Presidents?)
There are currently 640 Super PACs and, in 2012 alone, these groups have already raised over $240 million. In this year’s election cycle, millions of dollars are being thrown around like a drunk stock broker in a high-end strip club “making it rain” by tossing fifty dollar bills at strippers.
Lets be honest: How can a politician supported by millions from a wealthy individual or corporation ever say “no” when asked by them to vote a certain way or take a position on an issue? If you say they can't, then you're among the 77% of Americans who believe politicians will stand with the big money contributors over the public interest.
Where is this heading? Can you say: “Citizens-gate”? (Okay, I’m not sure of what we will actually call the scandal, but I'm pretty sure the suffix will be "gate.") Our politicians are dangerously in peril of returning the dark days when they were up for sale to big money donors like the crooked “Nucky Thompson” in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”
And this development has not gone unnoticed by American voters. A recent poll found that 70% of Americans believe that the current Super PAC system will lead to corruption. And just last week, Senator John McCain echoed this gloomy prognosis when speaking of the Citizens United decision: "I think there will be scandals as associated with the worst decision of the Supreme Court in the 21st century.”
What’s astounding to me is that opposition to Super PACs is one of the few things that unite people from both political parties. Indeed, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 69% of Americans want Super PACs to be illegal.
The rise of Super PACs is also resulting in a very alarming consequence: polls indicate that 65% of Americans now trust the government less because big donors have more influence than the average voter. And worse, 26% percent of Americans now say they are less likely to vote because of Super PACs. That number will undoubtedly increase as more Americans feel that that our political system is being controlled by the wealthy and big corporations.
The stakes are clear: the Super PACs are a threat to our democracy. I’d say a “clear and present” danger but I don’t want to be overly melodramatic--but it's truly close to that. The pitfalls of the current Super PAC system are clear: Increased chances for corruption, undermining confidence in our political system and Americans checking out of the process because they feel the system is unfairly rigged in favor of the wealthy and big corporations.
The question is what can be done? We have few options:
1. Amend the US Constitution to impose limits on these types of contributions. This could work but would take years;
2. Stop paying the Supreme Court Justices until they reverse their decision. Okay, I’m kidding with this one but I bet it would have an impact; or
3. The most immediate and practical solution is Congress imposing a tax on the Super PACs. And not just any tax, but a Super tax. (There would no doubt be a court challenge to this tax, but as we observed this past week with the healthcare ruling, the Supreme Court is very deferential to Congress' power to impose taxes.)
Did you know that Super PACs don’t pay taxes on the contributions they receive? Unbelievable, isn’t? These Super PACS are no doubt businesses but the contributions are not taxable because they are considered “gifts” under federal tax law. C’mon, a gift is a bouquet of flowers or a tie, not $2 million with the hope of changing public policy to help your corporation or personal investments.
The contributions to Super PACS should be deemed income. The money is given for a service, namely that the Super PAC will use the funds to lobby the American people on behalf of the donor. And for contributions over the current limit an individual can contribute to a federal political candidate – $2,500 – I propose a fifty percent flat tax be imposed which doesn’t allow deductions.
The funds raised from this “super tax” can be used to reduce the deficit or to increase the amount presidential candidates are offered for public financing.
At some point there will again be limits imposed on contributions by wealthy individuals and corporations–-the question is do we first need another “Watergate” type scandal to make that happen?