We can’t blame Greene County officials if they are feeling a little giddy lately concerning some positive economic development news....
It’s divided communities like nothing else before.
Cities and towns are carved up street by street and house by house.
But enough about the hotly contested “Backyard Brawl” that pits the football teams of West Virginia University and the University of Pittsburgh every November. Another heated rivalry is playing out right now about 3,400 miles from here that will reach its denouement Thursday when voters in Scotland decide whether they want to remain part of the United Kingdom or go their own way, jettisoning rule from London and charting their own course.
The polls, late in the game, are painfully close, suggesting that it could be a tense night of watching returns for citizens of Scotland, as well as their counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and other observers around the world. If Scotland decides it wants to create its own government, though it will likely retain Queen Elizabeth II as the ceremonial head of state, its impact on the United Kingdom will, it goes without saying, be of seismic proportions. Wales and Northern Ireland might well take up the mantle of independence, leaving the United Kingdom not united but balkanized. The same goes for other parts of Europe. If Prime Minister David Cameron is perceived as having “lost” Scotland, it could well doom his chances of continuing his residence at 10 Downing St. following the next British general election, which must happen by next May.
So, while it makes for interesting spectatorship for Anglophiles and political junkies, you might be tempted to think that the vote and the possibility of an independent Scotland will have about as much meaning in the grand American scheme of things as whoever has control of the ball in the fourth quarter of the Panthers-Mountaineers match-up. But not so fast. David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, pointed out on the website of The Atlantic magazine Monday that the divorce between Scotland and the rest of Great Britain would be profoundly messy, as the leaders of the new nation fight it out with London over who gets what in terms of the good stuff (North Sea oil) and the not-so-good stuff (public debt). In Frum’s estimation, a “Yes” vote by the Scots “would immediately deliver a shattering blow to the political and economic stability of a crucial American ally and global financial power … the British political system would be plunged into a protracted, self-involved constitutional crisis. Britain’s ability to act effectively would be gravely impaired on every issue: ISIS, Ukraine, the weak economic recovery in the European Union.”
Though President Obama has mostly stayed on the sidelines in this debate, a spokesman said the other day that “we have an interest in seeing the United Kingdom remain strong, robust, united and an effective partner,” which would seem to imply that Obama really does not want to be making a congratulatory phone call to new Scottish leaders Friday morning.
Even as Scotland has been given more autonomy in recent years, with its own parliament and final say-so in such areas as health, social services, tourism, transportation and education, it has been promised even more if it remains part of the United Kingdom. Once you clear away the rhetoric and the chest-thumping nationalism, the Scots seem poised to get a good chunk of what they want even if they vote against breaking off their 300-year union with England. To go ahead with independence would, in the words of a front-page editorial in The Financial Times, be “a fool’s errand.”
Despite the hair’s-breadth polls, some people believe there’s actually a cautious “silent majority” of Scots who will emerge Thursday and cast a vote against independence. For their sake – and ours – we hope their voices will be heard with the same volume and clarity as a decent set of bagpipes.
The greatest terrorist threat facing Americans are the barbarians in ISIS, who are marauding across Syria and Iraq, spouting pre-Enlightenment doggerel about establishing a caliphate and menacing Western hostages and anyone who opposes their warped brand of religiosity.
Well, maybe not. While the threat from ISIS shouldn’t be shrugged off – after all, there were a lot of savvy people before Sept. 11, 2001, who blithely assumed that Middle East terrorism would stay safely confined to that region of the world – it turns out that the most urgent terrorist threat in this country comes not from crazed ISIS recruits who are jacked up on blood and ideology, but from people who could well be your neighbors.
Over the weekend, The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia reported on how law enforcement officials in that state are being trained to spot adherents to the “sovereign citizen” movement. Peddling an idiosyncratic brand of anarchism, they refuse to adhere to state and federal laws, even down to the license-plate level, and spurn any form of taxation.
The Gazette detailed how, when a “sovereign citizen” was pulled over by police earlier this year in West Virginia’s Morgan County for not wearing a seat belt and driving a vehicle without an inspection sticker, the man explained that “he did not need a valid registration plate and that he was a ‘noncitizen U.S. national’ and therefore did not need to abide by the laws of the United States and the State of West Virginia.”
But lest you think this gentleman is a solitary loon pursuing his own oddball obsessions, other “sovereign citizens” have argued that elected officials need to be made obedient through “fear of the people,” apparently forgetting that we have these things that happen periodically called elections, and that “common law courts” should be established, which sounds to us like some combination of “Let’s make up our own laws!” and “Let’s gather up some pitchforks and torches!”
And it turns out that, according to one study, the “sovereign citizen” movement poses the greatest terrorist threat within the United States. The latest survey by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland found sovereign citizens to be the top terrorism concern of law enforcement officials around the country, ranking higher than Islamic extremists. In fact, most of the other groups that worry law enforcement can be found on the far-right fringes, particularly patriot and militia groups, neo-Nazis and adherents to Christian Identity, which serves up a bizarre, white-supremacist interpretation of Christianity.
It’s also useful to recall that, almost 20 years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, it was widely assumed that the crime must have been perpetrated by Middle Eastern terrorists, and some in the media took up that drumbeat. Within hours, though, it became apparent that the horrific deed was pulled off not by some follower of Osama bin Laden, but by homegrown terrorists who could be found in all-American corners of upstate New York and rural Michigan.
Of course, it’s helpful to keep the terrorist threat in perspective – no matter the source, you probably have a greater chance of being killed by a can opener than a terrorist. But it’s helpful to keep in mind that the terrorist might not be, say, a demented Yemeni who wants to impose some kooky variation of Sharia law, but the boy next door who supports what amounts to lawlessness.
We spend a lot of time on this page taking whacks at the actions of our governmental bodies, whether they be local, state or federal, but there are times when they deserve credit for making solid, common-sense decisions, and the recent action by members of Allegheny County Council to reject a......
Were it not for horribly misguided Islamic religious fanatics in northern Nigeria and tribal Pakistan, the World Health Organization might have been able to eradicate polio this year. And in fact the organization and its health care allies have succeeded in eliminating rinderpest, a disease......
The city of Washington’s plan to raze four buildings – two of them on Main Street – is welcome news. For too long, quite a few structures in the city’s business district were allowed to deteriorate to the point at which they pose a threat to public safety....
After months of negotiating, the Corbett administration and the federal government have agreed on a kind of privatized Medicaid expansion for low-income Pennsylvanians. That’s good news, but it’s hard to view this as a win-win situation when so many poor, mostly working people were......