Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Foreclosure Induced Madness

Joe Queenan is a free lance writer specializing in parody. His irony is so subtle at times that his byline in the Wall Street Journal is accompanied by a warning that he is a satirist. The Journal always provides the occupations (or ex-occupations) of its op-ed contributors, but only Queenan is deemed deserving of having his style described.
Queenan's latest WSJ op-ed in last Saturday's issue (5/8) is not especially subtle. It is, however, very funny. He lampoons the recent suggestions that the would be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, was driven to commit his act because of foreclosure proceedings on his home. Noting that the most infamous tyrants in history were compelled to great violence because of personal humiliations they suffered, Queenan writes,

Hitler, it is widely known, was so devastated by his failure to win acceptance to art school that he drifted into fascism and ultimately mass murder. Stalin, with his peasant roots and comically rustic accent, never really felt part of the Soviet in-crowd, which may have accounted for his otherwise puzzling decision to butcher 50 million of his countrymen. Napoleon, a short foreigner from Franco-Podunk was saddled with a coarse Corsican accent, strange hair and very poor orthographic skills. Many psychologists believed that he waged his lifelong war against the English merely to avenge a youthful slight, when the Brits turned him down for a position in the Royal Navy upon his graduation from military school.

Queenan then turns to historical figures that may have turned to terror because of real-estate deals gone bad.

Obviously, the inept Shahzad's crime pales in comparison with those of the totalitarian fiends of the 20th century. Yet it doesn't take a whole lot to unleash the evil that forever lies slumbering in the deepest recesses of the human heart. And in an astonishing number of cases, a real-estate deal that went south is the cause of all the trouble.

On this point, the historical record is clear. Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, roommates in medical school, only became bloodthirsty revolutionaries after the title-search company handling their lease-purchase of a Mexico City duplex ran off with their deposit, taking their life's savings.

Lee Harvey Oswald's decision to assassinate John F. Kennedy was almost certainly triggered by a $30,000 beating he took on the sale of his suburban Dallas condo.

Augusto Pinochet, who presided over Chile from 1974 until 1990, decided to depose his rival Salvador Allende after a Santiago-based Real Estate Investment Trust went belly-up. Recalls a retired junta member: "Augusto was a klutz when it came to real estate. When that REIT blew up, he just went ballistic."

The library of Alexandria, with a collection that included scores of irreplaceable Aeschylus manuscripts, was burned to the ground in A.D. 642 by eight silent partners in a downtown Luxor redevelopment project that imploded.

The sack of Rome, in A.D. 476, was ordered by a barbarian named Odoacer, who had squandered the inheritance left him by his grandfather Attila on a Helvetian buy-leaseback garrison conversion deal brokered by a cabal of shady Brigantes.

And the assassination of Julius Caesar was almost certainly triggered by Brutus's getting scammed on a Transalpine Gaul timeshare deal by Marc Antony. As Cicero said at the time: "This is a reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don't make headlines but do ruin lives. The evil that men do dies with them. The crummy real-estate deals live on for centuries."

Mark Steyn also weighed in on the foreclosure as motive silliness.

Incidentally, one way of falling behind with your house payments is to take half a year off to go to Pakistan and train in a terrorist camp. Perhaps Congress could pass some sort of jihadist housing credit?

Steyn doesn't mention it but airfare costs alone for Shahzad's thirteen trips to Pakistan would certainly have wreaked havoc on his ability to make mortgage payments. Steyn also comments on the danger inherent in the government's politically correct squeamishness in disregarding the true source of terrorism. Or its view of the (would be or actual) perpetrators as belonging to the "lone wolf" or incompetent terrorist category.

Last year, not one but two “terrorism task forces” discovered that U.S. Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan was in regular e-mail contact with the American-born, Yemeni-based cleric Ayman al-Awlaki but concluded that this was consistent with the major’s “research interests,” so there was nothing to worry about. A few months later, Major Hasan gunned down dozens of his comrades while standing on a table shouting “Allahu Akbar!” That was also consistent with his “research interests,” by the way. A policy of relying on stupid jihadists to screw it up every time will inevitably allow one or two to wiggle through. Hopefully not on a nuclear scale.

Fortunately we do have serious thinkers who understand and are willing to investigate and explain the true nature of the threat. The Weekly Standard's dynamic duo of terrorism reporting - Steve Hayes and Tom Joscelyn - wade through the evidence of Shahzad's recruitment and training by the Taliban in Pakistan. (link below)

And in a WSJ op-ed today, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey warns that treating Shahzad and other jihadists as common criminals reverts back to the pre-9/11 anti-terror model that failed so miserably. He also admonishes those who feel they have the right and/or the responsibility to expose anti-terror intelligence efforts. The following excerpt indicts the notorious periodical that inspires Ann Coulter's fitting epithet, "The Treason Times".

The Shahzad case provides a reminder of the permanent harm leaks of any kind can cause. An Associated Press story citing unnamed law enforcement sources reported that investigators were on the trail of a "courier" who had helped provide financing to Shahzad.

A courier would seem oddly out of place in the contemporary world where money can be transferred with the click of a mouse—that is, until one recalls that in 2006 the New York Times disclosed on its front page a highly classified government program for monitoring electronic international money transfers through what is known as the Swift system.

That monitoring violated no law but was leaked and reported as what an intelligence lawyer of my acquaintance referred to as "intelliporn"—intelligence information that is disclosed for no better reason than that it is fun to read about, and without regard for the harm it causes. Of course, terrorists around the world took note, and resorted to "couriers," making it much harder to trace terrorist financing.



Hayes, Joscelyn


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