Could the threat from Jihadists be overstated?

Despite a lot of rhetoric from Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, the threat from Jihad is overstated (at least in the United States which is far more of a target than Canada).

The slaying of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, S.C., church last week, with an avowed white supremacist charged with their murders, was a particularly savage case. But it is only the latest in a string of lethal attacks by people espousing racial hatred, hostility to government and theories such as those of the “sovereign citizen” movement, which denies the legitimacy of most statutory law. The assaults have taken the lives of police officers, members of racial or religious minorities and random civilians.

Non-Muslim extremists have carried out 19 such attacks since Sept. 11, according to the latest count, compiled by David Sterman, a New America program associate, and overseen by Peter Bergen, a terrorism expert. By comparison, seven lethal attacks by Islamic militants have taken place in the same period.

If such numbers are new to the public, they are familiar to police officers. A survey to be published this week asked 382 police and sheriff’s departments nationwide to rank the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction. About 74 percent listed antigovernment violence, while 39 percent listed “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence, according to the researchers, Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina and David Schanzer of Duke University.

“Law enforcement agencies around the country have told us the threat from Muslim extremists is not as great as the threat from right-wing extremists,” said Dr. Kurzman, whose study is to be published by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security and the Police Executive Research Forum.

I am going to assume the same can be said in Canada that hate groups are a far bigger threat to our security than ISIS.

Leaving Scientology…

Every once in a while I go into Wikipedia and start to read about Scientology.  It reads to me like a religion that The Onion made up (maybe all religion seems like that to a non-believer) but still I find it so bizarre and so celebrity driven (okay, if you are going to comment that there are churches in Dallas, Atlanta and other places that have VIP seating for the rich and professional athletes, I just beat you to it).  So with that out of the way, here is a tale of actress Carmen Llywelyn leaving Scientology.

I got a horrible feeling in my stomach that first day at the Celebrity Centre. Jason and I had spoken about Scientology many times. Our relationship was serious; we had just moved in together. Eventually, I started to feel like he was forcing Scientology on me, past the point where I didn’t want to go any further. He would never stop talking about it. It became a source of contention and I realized that unless I accepted Scientology the way he did and the way he wanted me to, we would most likely cease to know each another.

I didn’t want to go inside the Centre, but Jason was so excited for me. He had set up a tour of everything. A very nice Sea Org staff member showed us around, taking us to the different levels and departments and explaining how Scientology worked. Of course, Jason had been there before and it wasn’t lost on me that the tour was all for my benefit. It was unnerving to know that my reaction to what was happening could be a dealbreaker in our relationship. I think I was too young to even understand the impact this had on my decision making.

We walked over to a room where a couple of people were reading and waiting to be taken into “session,” as it was described to me. As we kept going, it occurred to me how unreal and expensive Scientology was to going to be. (I’m not exactly sure, but I know with all the auditing, books and courses I took, the cost of Scientology added up to more than $50,000. This includes the cost of my lifetime membership to the International Association Of Scientologists, which is thousands of dollars and a requirement that must be paid before any services can be started. This amount does not include the donations the church asked us for over the years.)

To me, Scientology seemed more of a surreal lifestyle for the privileged than a kind of belief system. Our tour guide showed us the auditing part of the grade chart, then the training part. She asked us, wouldn’t we like to become clear one day and was that something we could imagine ourselves doing? I remember saying I did, but that I would most likely only do the auditing side since it seemed impossible for me to finish both sides. I joked that I had no idea how I’d ever have time to do anything else.

She surprised me when she abruptly cut me off me mid-sentence in order to say that I would finish both sides, like every other Scientologist is required do. Her quick personality shift from accommodating to controlling shocked me. I didn’t expect to be belittled by our tour guide, given that it was my choice to do anything concerning Scientology—if I was going to do it at all. I wondered how she could see it any other way. But she didn’t back down from what she said. It made me feel stupid. And then she just moved on with the tour as if nothing had happened. I didn’t like it and I didn’t understand it. Worse, Jason seemed to not notice.

After I left Scientology I came to know this type of communication very well, if you can call it that—it’s too one-sided for it to be called an actual communication cycle because it’s more like being talked at. Hubbard created a complicated emotional tone scale and used it to teach Scientologists how to “deal with people.” This specific way of talking was called “speaking with tone 40 intent.” This was all learned in a very low-level course, all under the guise of having better communication skills. We practiced speaking this way with each other. Two of the training routines taught us how to deal with a person who was doing something wrong by basically ordering them around. In this routine you spoke to the person in a commanding way and you didn’t offer them a chance to reply. This was how people in the church talked to me after I left. I regrettably admit to speaking to people that way myself when I believed it was called for. It was also how Jenna Elfman and Gay Ribisi treated me when I became known as a “Suppressive Person.” More on that later.

Jenna Elfman being mean is not how I want to remember Dharma and Greg.

A Suppressive Person is the worst thing you can be in Scientology. This label is reserved for anyone who is opposed to, speaks out about, or leaves the religion. Scientologists believe that such a person, like an ex-Scientologist who speaks out about their former beliefs and/or who doesn’t disconnect from one who has, will make everyone around them sick. They’ll ruin everyone’s lives with whom they come into contact and must never be socialized with again. According to the written doctrine of Scientology, Suppressive Persons must be destroyed if the religion is to continue saving the world. This is why it’s difficult to look at these nice and sweet celebrities and ever imagine they could be full of such rage and hate. But they’ve actually been hardwired, slowly and over a long period of time, to fanatically believe in this.

I remember when I tried telling one faux friend how the writings of L. Ron Hubbard felt too convoluted for me to absorb. About a sentence into my opinion, she cut me off. Before I knew it, she had totally whitewashed what I’d said. But it was like she thought she was doing me a favor by not letting me express myself. I found myself agreeing with her in the hope that I wouldn’t cause any more problems. Anything I said or even thought that was considered a deviation from the general Scientological (an actual word we used) teachings was seen by others as an error on my part—something that needed correction. Or it meant something was horribly wrong with me.

Jenna ElfmanShortly after I left Scientology, I ran into one of my former faux-friends, Jenna Elfman, at Fred Segal in L.A. She walked up to me and said “Hi” and stared in my face for a second in a semi-confrontational way. I was shocked for a second but said hello, how are you, thinking it was going to be a normal conversation. But rather than telling me how she was, she went on a rant about all the courses she was working on and finishing in Scientology to let me know that nothing other than religion mattered. She didn’t ask me how I was. She didn’t wish me well or ask me about my life. She wasn’t interested. I was just supposed to listen to her while she lectured me in that tone-40 type of voice and told me I needed to get back on “the bridge.” Then she walked off without saying goodbye. It was a very cold encounter. (Honestly, even when I was a Scientologist, I thought the Elfmans—Jenna and her husband, Bodhi, who married me and Jason—were cheesy people. They sent out a monthly newsletter in the mail to everyone they knew called “The Elfman Empire” listing all their Hollywood projects and Scientology work they were doing. It was funny.) Anyway, Jenna thought she was being a good Scientologist by talking to me that way. Of course, they’re trained to act like that.

I so need to send out a monthly newsletter called The Cooper Empire.  If only I had Hollywood projects to write about….

Okay, this is getting really weird.  This is what happens when you read the wrong book.

Scientology has a sophisticated intelligence agency known as the Office of Special Affairs, which is essentially a complex system dedicated to ruining the lives of those it sees as enemies in any way possible. Those who work for the OSA do not follow the law. I didn’t believe any of this was real until I left and started to research it in the attempt to figure out the strange things that were happening to me and my family—like how and why my former best friend suddenly knew about everything about my personal life, and why she felt compelled to involve herself in it.

There was more. Vicious rumours were being spread about things I had said only while in session, which I was made to believe were private. Some rumors I knew could only come from certain people, like Jason. I got followed all the time. People in public would loudly discuss a conversation I had just had in private, word for word. Similar things occurred on social media.

Scientologists have no boundaries and their cruelties exclude no one. From my experience, Fair Game’s main tool is mind games. They’re very good at it and they play with your emotions. I’ve found they skirt the law and use methods like electronic surveillance and cell phones to monitor a person’s every word and every move.

So yeah, pretty weird.  Even weirder is that it looks like that once her divorce and shunning from Scientology, she hasn’t been able to work in Hollywood.

Darren Hill: “We’ve screwed this up completely”

No, it’s not Darren Hill’s re-election slogan, about Cosmo, the North Bridge, or about rising crime in Mayfair.

A Spadina Crescent home where author Farley Mowat once lived will not receive heritage designation, which could have brought the owner up to $84,400 in tax abatements to cover ongoing renovations.

Although the city had given the homeowner the green light to start his renovations a year ago and appeared poised to grant his application for heritage designation this spring, the provincial board that oversees heritage properties recommended last month that the application be denied. Council on Monday voted to accept that recommendation.

“We screwed this up completely,” said Coun. Darren Hill, who was alone in voting against the province’s recommendation.

“There’s no doubt that this was a comedy of errors from the start of that application process.”

Mayor Don Atchison disagreed.

“If the province wasn’t prepared to go that direction at all, I don’t know why we’d be going there either,” he told his colleagues before the vote.

So let me get this straight.  The City of Saskatoon told a homeowner to go ahead with renovations (that I assume they approved) and now that the province disagrees, the city walks away and leaves the homeowner with a $84,000 hole in his budget and no one on council cares.

I know this house in in Hill’s ward but it seems a little cold, even from a council that doesn’t often care about individual homeowners.

Charlie Clark wants more civilian oversight of Saskatoon Police

It’s a worthwhile idea

Coun. Charlie Clark wants city council to explore the idea of adding two additional civilians to the city’s board of police commissioners.

“Police boards are set up with the intent of providing a buffer between politicians and police,” Clark said.

The board currently consists of two members of the public, two city councillors and the mayor. If Clark’s idea is adopted, the addition of two additional citizens would mean politicians would be outnumbered by members of the public.

Clark said the board is meant to act as a independent body — not simply a “creature” of city council.

He said having members of the public outnumber politicians on the board would bring another “layer of independence” to the commission.

A couple of years ago the police commission met for a total of five minutes in public before heading in-camera.  Any change to that would be welcome as well.

Horray for the High Bridge

I like this article in City Journal about the High Bridge in New York City.

The restored High Bridge, New York City’s oldest standing span, not only has great views and a high-quality path connecting two largely minority neighborhoods, it also serves a social purpose; kids from the Bronx will now have easy access to the High Bridge Pool in Manhattan.

The histories of great cities are replete with stories of Herculean efforts to supply them with clean water. New York is no exception. Originally dependent on surface and groundwater supplies, early New Yorkers dealt with water that was insufficient in quantity and frequently polluted. Diseases were common. An 1832 cholera outbreak, followed by a lack of water to fight the Great Fire of 1835, prompted the city to take action: it built the original Croton Aqueduct system, including the High Bridge, to carry clean water 41 miles into the city.

Completed in 1848 and constructed as a series of masonry arches in the form of a Roman aqueduct, the High Bridge is, in effect, a pre-industrial artifact. While it was in use, water flowed across the bridge not in an open trough, but in twin, three-foot, cast-iron pipes. The top was a pedestrian walkway. After it was decommissioned as an aqueduct in 1917, the city planned to demolish the bridge to improve navigation. Protesters wanted it preserved, so the city replaced the spans over the Harlem River with a steel arch section in 1928. The arch span replacement was built for what was basically an obsolete bridge, making the High Bridge an early historic-preservation success, if only a partial one.

In the mid-twentieth century, the walkway attracted crowds, often just for a see-and-be-seen pleasure stroll. “New Yorkers from either side would put on their Sunday best and parade from one borough to another. It was far more than an aqueduct, it was the center of a social world,” Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver noted at the reopening. But the High Bridge and its social life fell into decline, along with much of New York City, as the century progressed. The structure decayed, and there were reports of people throwing stones at passing ships from the walkway. The Parks Department isn’t sure when it was closed or why, but by 1970 the High Bridge was off-limits to pedestrians.

Over the years, various groups called for the High Bridge’s restoration. In 2006, the Bloomberg administration took up the task in earnest as one of eight major regional parks investments in the PlaNYC initiative. This included a commitment of $50 million in city money toward the $61 million total project cost. While Mayor de Blasio treats his predecessor as He Who Shall Not Be Named—and failed to attend the bridge opening—the High Bridge restoration was in fact a good handoff of the baton.

The restoration—including masonry repairs such as tuckpointing—was complicated by needing to be performed on a bridge spanning two freeways, a river, and an active Metro-North rail line. The faded and peeling lead-based paint had to be removed. While before-and-after photos show a sharp contrast in appearance, the bridge was actually repainted the same color as the original. “We sent the paint chips off to the lab for matching,” says the Parks Department’s Ellen Macnow.

The fiscally conservative City Journal asks if it is worth it?

It’s worth asking whether, with its $61 million price tag, the High Bridge project was really needed. Strictly speaking, the answer is: No. The structure was in no danger of falling down. And, just a half mile to the north, the Washington Bridge provides a functional, if unpleasant, pedestrian crossing over the Harlem River. Yet, the High Bridge is an important part of New York history and deserves its loving restoration. Spending serious money on outlying neighborhoods that are mostly minority and heavily poor to give their residents a humane environment instead of a minimalistic one shows that New York does care about all its citizens. Great cities don’t just do great things in a sanitized downtown Green Zone for visitors. They create greatness in their workaday neighborhoods, too, with projects that speak not merely to the pragmatic, but to the human spirit. The High Bridge restoration again shows what great commercial success allows a city to do for its citizens.

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