Gary Langer of ABC News explains the "Obama is a Muslim"poll results, giving the same explanation as the AllahPundit. From Langer:
...People in fact may voice an attitude not as an affirmed belief – a statement of perceived factual reality – but rather as what my colleagues and I have taken to calling “expressed belief” – a statement intended to send a message, not claim a known fact.
It’s human nature. Some people who strongly oppose a person or proposition will take virtually any opportunity to express that antipathy. Offer a negative attribute, they’ll grab it – not to express their “belief,” in its conventional meaning, but rather to throw verbal stones at that which they so thoroughly dislike.
Or from the AP, with more flair:
Essentially, when polling people who dislike candidate X, the specifics of the questions are almost irrelevant. As long as they’re negatively inclined — e.g., “Is Obama a werewolf?” — you’ll get a certain core percentage willing to say yes. The news in this poll is that as much as 18 percent think being a Muslim is inherently negative.
To which I would say, yes, but... Saying Obama is a Muslim amounts to saying he is a liar. Hence, one might feel utterly neutral about Muslims and still use it as a club to beat Obama.
Just to belabor the obvious, folks who walk around saying that Tom Maguire is a Red Sox fan either don't know me or don't trust me (and clearly have far too much free time), but I don't suppose they are making much of a statement about Red Sox Nation.
I would also add this - Mr. Langer might want to reflect on why the media loves this "people think Obama's a Muslim" story so. I don't recall similar hand-wringing about polls showing support for the absurdly anti-Bush Truther theorizing (with which Howard Dean publicly flirted).
The obvious guess is that the media is comfortable bloviating about ignorant, conspiratorial right-wing nut-jobs, with a quick segue to the perils of Beck, Limbaugh and Palin; similar ruminations about the left take them out of their comfort zone.
Robert Goldman of ABC News wins the prestigious Sprint to Stupid, getting dumber faster than anyone on the topic of affirmative action in a Mississippi Middle School:
After 30 years of barring black students from running for class president, a Mississippi public middle school, reversed a Jim Crow era policy today and announced students of all races would be allowed to run for student government.
Students at Nettleton Middle School looking to run for class president, previously needed to maintain a B average, obtain 10 signatures from their classmates – and be white.
For heaven's sake - two seconds of reflection by anyone not utterly locked in on the notion that Southern whites are hopelessly racist would suggest that something is wrong in their interpretation of that memo.
A Mississippi school board today ended a 30-year-old policy that dictated the race of class officers in a particular year. The old guidelines, which rotated candidates' race each year, were intended to increase minority representation amid discrimination.
Or from the school's statement:
It is the belief of the current administration that these procedures were implemented to help ensure minority representation and involvement in the student body. It is felt the intent of these election procedures was to ensure African-American representation in each student office category through an annual rotation basis.
The district is currently about 70% white. It is possible that it has been gentrifying and getting paler over time, but assuming that it has been a white-majority district for the last thirty years, one might guess that many of the fifteen black former class presidents would not have won open elections.
But since the topic is race and the South, lib brainlock is inevitable. (As one example, the Huffers are outraged). No doubt they will soon denounce the whole concept of minority-majority districts, racial gerrymandering, and racial set-asides, after which they will mock that wise Latina, Sonia Sotomayor, for her views on the New Haven firefighters. As if.
NOBODY ASKED, BUT: My quick glance assures me that the liberal Justices like minority-majority districts. But so do Republican strategists - more Democrats packed into a few safe-for Dems districts means fewer Dems sprinkled around the remaining districts.
The Times reports on the Summer of Recovery:
Vacation Travel Recovers, but Frugality Is Focus
By CHRISTINE HAUSER
Vacations have become a luxury for many Americans trying to make ends meet in this economic downturn, but there are signs that people are slowly, even timidly, on the move again.
...The pent-up demand is starting to filter through, though it is more a trickle than a flood. With it, analysts said, comes a new level of austerity as vacationers search for frugal ways to get away by juggling their finances, taking shorter trips and even staying with relatives.
...People are traveling with “one hand firmly clasped to their wallets,” said Henry Harteveldt, a market researcher for Forrester Research. “The comments I get are that generally business is better, but no one is popping Champagne corks,” he said.
I want to salute the Times' discipline and restraint here. Just a few days back that they ran a story about the Obamas taking flak for their vacations to Martha's Vineyard and Spain. Yet today they heroically resisted what must have been a mad desire to take an obvious cheap shot at the President.
They are better men (and much better women!) than I.
Here is some headline fun from the WaPo:
Beck, Palin tell thousands to 'restore America'
Sharpton's 'Reclaim the Dream' event brings thousands to honor MLK
Apparently, those are both literally accurate. As to more specific estimates, the WaPo seems willing to concede hundreds of thousands to Beck. Their lead describes "a sea" of people". Later they try again:
Throngs of people crowded shoulder to shoulder for six city blocks, from the Lincoln Memorial past the reflecting pool to the World War II Memorial. From there, the ralliers spread out as they spilled onto the grounds of the Washington Monument.
The size of the gathering promises to be a subject of contention. Demonstrations on the Mall are notoriously difficult to estimate, with no official source for such figures. At one point, Beck joked he had "just gotten word from the media that there is over a thousand people here today." Later, he told he crowd he heard it was "between 300,000 and 500,000."
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), speaking soon after the Beck rally at her own impromptu event nearby, said: "We're not going to let anyone get away with saying there were less than a million here today - because we were witnesses."
And their description of the Sharpton event:
Thousands of people joined the Rev. Al Sharpton and other leaders Saturday to commemorate the anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington in 1963.
...At one point, a line was wrapped around the block near Dunbar High School because of a bottleneck to get through the door to the athletic field, which, along with the bleachers, was filled by rally participants.
Hmm. All the way around the block? Do tell! I guess either hundreds of thousands attend my local high school's football games on Saturday, or that was a very ordinary crowd.
Now let's cut to the Times for some three card Monte with the race card:
It has become an article of faith among Tea Party groups that any racist signs at rallies — “Go back to Kenya,” directed at President Obama, is just one example — are carried by Democratic plants sent in to make the Tea Party look bad.
"Go back to Kenya" is racist? Let's grant that this is birther-inspired and not simply a plea for Obama to get started now on the field research for "Dreams II - Visions From Grandpa". Let's further acknowledge that there is a subset of ardent libs who insist that birthers can only be motivated by racism, as opposed to, for example, political opportunism or Missouri skepticism. Surely the Times can see beyond those stale lefty talking points, yes?
Maybe no. Here is some more silliness:
Polls show that the movement has not attracted blacks proportionate to their representation in the larger population. And some Tea Party leaders acknowledge that.
But seriously (kind of). Roughly 90% of blacks backed the Democratic candidate for President in 2000 and 2004; in 2008 that percentage was higher (No, really!). Is it realistic to expect a conservative movement largely opposed to Obama to attract some sort of race-neutral level of black participation? Or is opposition to Obama in itself evidence of racism?
Coming next - the NY Times investigates the anti-Semitism of the NBA, the NFL and Major League Baseball, none of whom have a proportional number of Jewish coaches or players. (We eagerly await comments from NBA Commissioner David Stern).
The obvious racism of the Journolist will be explored as well. Grr.
The madness continues:
In the Tea Party’s talk of states’ rights, critics say they hear an echo of slavery, Jim Crow and George Wallace. Tea Party activists call that ridiculous: they do not want to take the country back to the discrimination of the past, they say, they just want the states to be able to block the federal mandate on health insurance.
CROWD SHOTS: The Boston Globe goes with "vast" and "tens of thousands"; they provide and AP crowd photo and description:
The crowd — organizers had a permit for 300,000 — was a sea of people standing shoulder to shoulder across large expanses of the Mall. The National Park Service stopped doing crowd counts in 1997.
The LA Times takes a stab:
Crowd sizes are difficult to estimate on the National Mall. Both federal officials and District of Columbia authorities refrain from making even informal estimates. Organizers estimated that 500,000 people gathered on the Mall, and said 120,000 more were watching the event streamed to a dedicated Facebook page.
Though there was no independent confirmation of the estimate, the crowd was densely packed and stretched for blocks, approximating events that have been estimated at 200,000 or more.
The WaPo headliners were safe with "thousands".
My first thought - the Chileans ought to contact NASA and the US navy submariners. My daughter's first thought - what are they using for bathrooms?
As of Saturday, my thoughts were more newsworthy. The Times lead:
SAN JOSÉ MINE, Chile — The government has consulted NASA about the extreme isolation of space. Chilean Navy officers have come to discuss the emotional stress of living in a submarine. Doctors stand at the ready with antidepressants. Even a tiny home theater is being funneled down in plastic tubes to occupy the 33 miners stuck in their subterranean home.
A home theater? I know a comedy classic that will resonate.
Apparently the mean are sharing 600 square feet, but it isn't that bad:
Health workers are organizing a special exercise and recreation program to keep the men fit during their long wait. And they are instructing the miners about the need to distinguish between daytime and nighttime activities. Beyond the immediate 600-square-foot chamber the miners have sought refuge in, there are ample tunnels in which to move around and find a little privacy, mining company officials said.
My third thought was to wonder about how the group is expected to deal with any medical emergencies, such as appendicitis (or, heaven forbid, dysentery.) The Times whiffs, but The Guardian is all over that:
The logistics of designing and sending supplies down a hole not much wider than a lemon has challenged engineers from Chile and from around the world as well as Nasa scientists and submarine commanders. The challenge of the rescue operation now is how to keep 33 trapped men healthy, sane and busy while a 40-tonne Australian-built drilling rig slowly rips open an escape tunnel.
Mañalich said his team was preparing for medical emergencies. "How do you treat appendicitis without surgery? Our staff is scouring the old medical texts to find ways these kind of conditions can be treated without intervention, only using painkillers and other remedies."
One miner, Johny Berrios, has been designated doctor, and given the task of taking urine and blood samples which will be carefully placed in the tiny tubes and shot up to ground level where a makeshift laboratory has been built to analyse and monitor the health of each man. Miners with skin ailments or lesions will be asked to parade before the video camera, allowing a team of doctors to first diagnose the problem and then design a solution that fits inside a "dove", a carrying pod that passes through the hole.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — When American and Pakistani agents captured Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s operational commander, in the chaotic port city of Karachi last January, both countries hailed the arrest as a breakthrough in their often difficult partnership in fighting terrorism.
But the arrest of Mr. Baradar, the second-ranking Taliban leader after Mullah Muhammad Omar, came with a beguiling twist: both American and Pakistani officials claimed that Mr. Baradar’s capture had been a lucky break. It was only days later, the officials said, that they finally figured out who they had.
Now, seven months later, Pakistani officials are telling a very different story. They say they set out to capture Mr. Baradar, and used the C.I.A. to help them do it, because they wanted to shut down secret peace talks that Mr. Baradar had been conducting with the Afghan government that excluded Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime backer.
In the weeks after Mr. Baradar’s capture, Pakistani security officials detained as many as 23 Taliban leaders, many of whom had been enjoying the protection of the Pakistani government for years. The talks came to an end.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s arrest of the top Taliban military commander may be a tactical victory for the United States, but it is also potentially a strategic coup for Pakistan, officials and analysts here and in Afghanistan said.
Pakistan has removed a key Taliban commander, enhanced cooperation with the United States and ensured a place for itself when parties explore a negotiated end to the Afghan war.
The arrest followed weeks of signals by Pakistan’s military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani — to NATO officials, Western journalists and military analysts — that Pakistan wanted to be included in any attempts to mediate with the Taliban.
Even before the arrest of the Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a senior Pakistani intelligence official expressed irritation that Pakistan had been excluded from what he described as American and Afghan approaches to the Taliban.
“On the one hand, the Americans don’t want us to negotiate directly with the Taliban, but then we hear that they are doing it themselves without telling us,” the official said in an interview. “You don’t treat your partners like this.”
And, in a bit pf prescience, the Times had reported similar Pakistani concerns prior to the announcement of the Baradar arrest:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan has told the United States it wants a central role in resolving the Afghan war and has offered to mediate with Taliban factions who use its territory and have long served as its allies, American and Pakistani officials said.
The offer, aimed at preserving Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan once the Americans leave, could both help and hurt American interests as Washington debates reconciling with the Taliban.
I don't know how prescient that really was, since the Times cooperated with the Pentagon and sat on the Baradar news for a while. And when was Baradar arrested? Good question. The current Times story open with this:
But the Feb 15 story has this:
WASHINGTON — The Taliban’s top military commander was captured several days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence forces...
A few days, a few weeks...
Shorter Frank Rich - support the Ground Zero mosque or the terrorists win.
Shorter Nick Kristof - support the Ground Zero mosque or the terrorists win.
Nick Kristof is seemingly unaware that many Democrats oppose the mosque:
President George W. Bush was statesmanlike after 9/11 in reaching out to Muslims and speaking of Islam as a religion of peace. Now many Republicans have abandoned that posture and are cynically turning the Islamic center into a nationwide issue in hopes of votes. It is mind-boggling that so many Republicans are prepared to bolster the Al Qaeda narrative, and undermine the brave forces within Islam pushing for moderation.
Some Republicans say that it is not a matter of religious tolerance but of sensitivity to the feelings of relatives to those killed at ground zero.
Frank Rich is aware that Harry Reid opposes the mosque, but appears to be in the dark about Howard Dean's opposition (maybe he limits himself to the Times coverage, although Dean gets a mention today).
So virulent is the Islamophobic hysteria of the neocon and Fox News right — abetted by the useful idiocy of the Anti-Defamation League, Harry Reid and other cowed Democrats — that it has also rendered Gen. David Petraeus’s last-ditch counterinsurgency strategy for fighting the war inoperative. How do you win Muslim hearts and minds in Kandahar when you are calling Muslims every filthy name in the book in New York?
Hmm, one might ask - how do we persuade Afghans that we will stand up to the Taliban in their village if we won't stand up to a Victory Mosque in our village? Evidently I lack the deep understanding of the Afghan psyche possessed by Mr. Rich.
Neither man bashes Obama's non-leadership, although Maureen Dowd does:
Now, after flipping about on some hot-button issues, most recently the plan for an Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero, he’s more likely to be painted by disillusioned supporters as Atticus Flinch.
The NY Times is so eager to defend the Ground Zero imam that they couldn't even talk to him, although they did meet with his wife.
They have seen one tape (more coming!?!) and are (believe it or not) comfortable spinning it:
For Imam in Muslim Center Furor, a Hard Balancing Act
By ANNE BARNARD
Not everyone in the Cairo lecture hall last February was buying the imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s message. As he talked of reconciliation between America and Middle Eastern Muslims — his voice soft, almost New Agey — some questioners were so suspicious that he felt the need to declare that he was not an American agent.
Muslims need to understand and soothe Americans who fear them, the imam said; they should be conciliatory, not judgmental, toward the West and Israel.
But one young Egyptian asked: Wasn’t the United States financing the speaking tour that had brought the imam to Cairo because his message conveniently echoed United States interests?
“I’m not an agent from any government, even if some of you may not believe it,” the imam replied. “I’m not. I’m a peacemaker.”
That talk, recorded on video six months ago, was part of what now might be called Mr. Abdul Rauf’s prior life, before he became the center of an uproar over his proposal for a Muslim community center two blocks from the World Trade Center.
The balancing act is convincing radicals he is sufficiently radical, apparently. The Times insists he is not. They may be right, but they are far too agenda-driven to have any credibility on this.
In any case, show us the money. Who is investing in this project? I doubt many moderate businessman will want to attract the sort of publicity swirling around this, but I bet there is plenty of Wahhabi money in Saudi Arabia that would love to get behind the Victory Mosque.
Libs pleading for George Bush to chime in the the Ground Zero mosque dispute get smacked by this bale of hay in the wind - Karen Hughes, long time advisor and Bush undersecretary of state for public diplomacy is probably on the same page with Bush, and she is calling for the imam to move the mosque.
Whew! The natural order is restored and libs can return to their regularly-scheduled Bush-bashing. This whole dogs and cats living together thing was troubling.
The Times reports on twenty-somethings and their delayed transition to adulthood:
We’re in the thick of what one sociologist calls “the changing timetable for adulthood.” Sociologists traditionally define the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had, by the time they reached 30, passed all five milestones. Among 30-year-olds in 2000, according to data from the United States Census Bureau, fewer than half of the women and one-third of the men had done so. A Canadian study reported that a typical 30-year-old in 2001 had completed the same number of milestones as a 25-year-old in the early ’70s.
AND WHILE ON THE TOPIC... Proper foul ball (and home run!) etiquette should not include beating down granny (Aug 18, Yankees 9 Tigers 5).
Scott Shane of the NY Times explains that opponents of the Ground Zero mosque are recruiting for Al Qaeda and endangering America:
U.S. Anti-Islam Protest Seen as Lift for Extremists
By SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON — Some counterterrorism experts say the anti-Muslim sentiment that has saturated the airwaves and blogs in the debate over plans for an Islamic center near ground zero in Lower Manhattan is playing into the hands of extremists by bolstering their claims that the United States is hostile to Islam.
Opposition to the center by prominent politicians and other public figures in the United States has been covered extensively by the news media in Muslim countries. At a time of concern about radicalization of young Muslims in the West, it risks adding new fuel to Al Qaeda’s claim that Islam is under attack by the West and must be defended with violence, some specialists on Islamic militancy say.
A quick fairness and balance check:
Others political leaders, including President Obama, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Gov. Christopher J. Christie of New Jersey, have defended the right of Muslims to build the center or warned against anti-Muslim hysteria.
Hmm. News that was not fir to print includes the tidbits that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former Presidential candidate and DNC chair Howard Dean have also come out against the mosque. Not to mention our Muslim Miss USA. And when she says "Move it", people move. (When she says "Too close", I do hope people move away...).
Let the bashing begin!
1. Do As I Say... Does anyone remember the Times reporting that anti-war protestors emboldened Saddam in early 2003, or have emboldened the Taliban in Afghanistan? The Times has reported that Obama's self-imposed July 2011 deadline for withdrawal undermined the credibility and perceived commitment of US troops in Afghanistan;will they bash the anti-war crowd for that? There was no such bashing in this recent editorial.
2. I Have A Feeling We Aren't In Kansas Anymore: Nor are we on the Upper West Side. Team Bush was criticized for misoverestimating the extent to which the values and aspirations of liberated Iraqis mirrored conventional Americans. Yet the Times 'experts' seem to think that moderate Muslims have some expectation that America ought to allow a Victory Mosque at Ground Zero, and that a failure to allow it can only represent anti-Islam fervor in the States.
A plausible alternative is that moderate Muslims in the Near East will have the same reaction to the proposed mosque as most Americans outside the Upper West Side (and the Huffington Post readership), which is "Why there?" The Times elicited just such reactions from their Muslim In The Street interviews in Manhattan; the CSM and WaPo note such reactions in editorials abroad.
3. Find Other Experts: Extremists will be free to point to this project as a Victory Mosque; since symbols mean what people think they mean, who will refudiate them? An Afghan village elder contemplating the Victory Mosque and weighing his choice between Karzai/Petraeus and the Taliban might be disheartened after the local Taliban leader explains that America won't stand up for itself in New York City, and surely won't stand up for the elder in some dusty village in Afghanistan.
Plausible? My insight into the psychology of Afghan village elders is on a par with my insight into the expectations of moderate Muslims in the Near East. Put another way, who knows?
Foreign policy savant Dan Drezner, mosque supporter, urged surrender to the terrorists in a recent post:
You know what? Let the terrorists win.
...I'm getting really sick of "the terrorists will win" line of criticism being levied against those wishing to prevent construction of the mosque.
You know, I remember oh so many years ago the constant use of "if you say X, or criticize policy Y, or challenge official Z, then the terrorists win" kind of discourse. It was horses**t then, and it's horses**t now. I'll be damned if I'm going to see debate in the United States circumscribed because of fears of how Al Qaeda will react.
But top Republicans including Sarah Palin, the former vice-presidential candidate, and Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, have already announced their opposition.
And in another story:
The proposed mosque has emerged as a national political issue, with prominent members of the Republican party like vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich voicing their opposition.
Sarah and Newt, just like the Times.
Unmosqued: Steve Emerson Unearths Tapes of "Moderate Bridge-Building" Imam Rauf
They have had these tapes for a month - how long does it take to find the Imam Wright saying "God Damn America"?
And post-Sherrod, they are wasting their time editing the tapes - people will be satisfied by a full release and nothing less.
We will hear soon enough, I hope.
Jennifer Rubin thinks Obama may have had his worst week ever yet:
Charles Krauthammer, as he is wont to do, makes a salient observation. On Obama’s Iftar speech at the White House, which begat arguably the worst week of his presidency...
It seems like only a few short weeks ago that the Gulf Oil spill and the President's somnambulistic response led to his worst week.
Or, cracking the archives, we find a nominee from March 2009, when Tim Geithner and the AIG bonuses were in the news and no one at the White House knew anything.
Let's have a "Clemens lied, who'd a guessed?" open thread.
And what do the numbers say? Hmm, this SABER sleuth is inclined to give Clemens a pass. Until I hear from the Baseball Crank I am at sea. I still love his Bonds v. Bonds study, which includes this line about the incredible aging of Barry Bonds:
Bonds absolutely towers over everyone else in his ability to . . . tower over himself.
Please Hammer don't hurt yourself.
Charles Krauthamer delivers a vigorous beatdown of President Obama's support for an Islamic Waffle House:
It's hard to be an Obama sycophant these days. Your hero delivers a Ramadan speech roundly supporting the building of a mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York. Your heart swells and you're moved to declare this President Obama's finest hour, his act of greatest courage.
Alas, the next day, at a remove of 800 miles, Obama explains that he was only talking about the legality of the thing and not the wisdom -- upon which he does not make, and will not make, any judgment.
You're left looking like a fool because now Obama has said exactly nothing: No one disputes the right to build; the whole debate is about the propriety, the decency of doing so.
However, The Hammer scored an "Own Thumb" with the claim that "No one disputes the right to build"; in fact, in an earlier column Mr. Krauthammer had clearly called for a government intervention curtailing that very right:
America is a free country where you can build whatever you want -- but not anywhere. That's why we have zoning laws. No liquor store near a school, no strip malls where they offend local sensibilities, and, if your house doesn't meet community architectural codes, you cannot build at all.
These restrictions are for reasons of aesthetics. Others are for more profound reasons of common decency and respect for the sacred. No commercial tower over Gettysburg, no convent at Auschwitz -- and no mosque at Ground Zero.
Build it anywhere but there.
I have no problem with moral suasion, boycotts, protests, letter-writing campaigns, and the many types of private protest well known to the Community Organizer in Chief in the White House. But bending the law to prevent the Ground Zero Mosque (which the AP can refer to as the Victory Mosque) would be wrong, as Mr. Krauthammer has belatedly acknowledged.
SHORTER SARGENT: Greg Sargent responds. His gist - yes, we should feel some passing empathy for the 9/11 families, but ultimately, we must be more worried abut giving offense to the Muslim world, since the 9/11 families won't blow us up and alienated Muslims might.
He wraps that in the Constitution, but still:
And the question here is not whether the wounds of 9/11 should be weighed as a factor. Rather, it's whether those senstitivities should ultimately dictate our position on whether the center should proceed.
The arguments in favor of the project have all been ably hashed out elsewhere by people who know far more about national security than I do. Allowing it to proceed is an important reaffirmation of American values that we must always support -- no matter what. Building it would send a strong signal about American democracy and religious tolerance to the Muslim world. Moving it would give terror recruiters a potent symbol to foment anti-American sentiment.
One American value is that different groups try to get along with mutual respect. Mutual.
As to the national security argument, who knows? I have said before that an Afghan village elder weighing his choice between Petraeus and the Taliban might blink at the notion that we have allowed what looks like a Victory Mosque in Manhattan. If this elder infers that an America that won't fight for itself at home probably won't fight for him in Afghanistan, then the job of Petraeus and his troops becomes more difficult.
In a similar vein, denying this mosque might not enrage moderate Muslims at all - it might strike them as utter common sense that we won't allow a Victory Mosque.
The Ace delivers the sort of news that makes you go 'hmmm' - the holdout on the Blagojevich jury was a retired state worker and earnest lib:
Juror # 106 [Jo Ann Chiakulas], a black female believed to be in her 60s, is a retired state public health director who has ties to the Chicago Urban League. She has handed out campaign literature for a relative who ran for public office. She listens to National Public Radio and liberal talk radio shows.
And from the Ace:
I don't think that there's some direct thing going on here -- but this is obviously a highly political woman, steeped in dirty Chicago machine politics. And she knows who gets hurt and who gets helped based on her verdict.
What. Was. She. Doing. In. The. Jury. Pool.
Department of Public Health Director John Lumpkin named Jo Ann Chiakulas of Chicago as the first special assistant for minority affairs, effective September 16. Chiakulas is charged with setting up and supervising the department's new Chicago-based Center for Minority Health Services. Created by H.B. 1216 (PA. 87-633), the center will evaluate the health needs of minorities in Illinois, provide training and technical assistance and improve coordination and communication with minority groups. According to the department, minorities are at greater risk for AIDs, infant mortality, lead poisoning, heart disease, stroke, homicide and high-risk behaviors such as smoking and alcohol use.
Chiakulas was director of the Chicago Urban League's Young Parents Center for over 10 years and was coordinator for the state's Parents Too Soon program. She has also worked with the Chicago Department of Mental Health and the Belden Manor Shelter Care Home in Chicago.
Here is a link to the bio of her boss, John Lumpkin. And if 1991 is ringing a bell, it might be because that is the year that White House consigliere Valerie Jarret hired a young Michelle into Mayor Daley's office.
Let a few years go by and we can find Mr. Lumpkin and Ms. Obama on the same page, literally if not metaphorically - on p. 36 of the annual report for the University of Chicago Hospitals, we see that Mr. Lumpkin is on the Board of Trustees and when Ms. Obama was Vice President for Community and External Affairs.
Which means what? Maybe nothing - Chicago is not that big a city if you restrict the world to black community activists such as Ms. Chiakulis or the Obamas. But it is the sort of coincidence that may or may not be a coincidence. Fortunately, we can rest easy knowing that our tireless watchdog press will ferret out the truth.
MY TIRED EYES FAIL ME... Time does not permit, but it seems from the picture and bio that Dr. Lumpkin may also be black. I only care because it increases the odds that he took a professional interest in both Ms. Obama and Ms. Chiakulis.
A REMINDER: From the Times:
As for the more serious counts against Mr. Blagojevich, the jurors, who had seemed during the trial to be a particularly attentive, studious bunch, had trouble right from the start of their deliberations in reaching much agreement, said one juror, Erik Sarnello.
The group was split 11 to 1, he said, in favor of convicting Mr. Blagojevich on charges that he tried to trade or sell the Senate seat, but was divided in various ways at various moments on the rest of the counts. On some of the charges, said Mr. Sarnello, who is 21 and a student, the jury was divided evenly. “We were all over the place,” he said.
The possible sale of the Senate seat was the most treacherous part of the trial for Valerie Jarrett and Barack Obama.
How about that Democratic leadership? Barack Obama says its OK for Harry Reid (or anyone else, i.e., two-thirds of the country) to disagree with him on the Ground Zero mosque. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi wants to investigate where mosque opponents (including Harry Reid?) are getting their funding. Hey, when does she commence her vigorous defense of my right to free speech?
I can't wait for tomorrow, because this clown show gets funnier every day.
Insight and ideas at Hot Air. Inshallah.
NY members in swing districts coming out against mosque
After almost total silence from New York elected officials over the weekend after President Obama's mosque speech (in which some members were out of town, or pocket), the reactions from members in swing districts are starting to come in — and they're almost all at odds with the president.
As I noted earlier, Rep. Michael Arcuri, a Democratic incumbent in NY-24, came out against the project.
NY-13 Democratic Rep. Mike McMahon comes out against, in a thoughtful statement I endorse.
And via Newsday, Rep. Steve Israel, the Democrat in NY-2, said, "While they have a constitutional right to build the mosque, it would be better if they had demonstrated more sensitivity to the families of 9/11 victims. I urge them to do so before proceeding further."
Rep. Tim Bishop [D-NY], whose NY-1 district has three GOP challengers duking it out, said, "As a New Yorker, I believe ground zero is sacred ground and should unite us. If the group seeking to build the mosque is sincere in its efforts to bring people together, I would urge them to seek an alternative location which is less divisive. I dispute the wisdom of building at that location, not the constitutional right."
Once again, having the right doesn't make it right.
And let me add - I do like the 'swing districts' qualifier in the headline. What are safe-seat Dems saying - the voters can go hang?
ALL OVER BUT THE SHOVELING: William Kristol finds this editorial from a Muslim leader in London:
I do not think that the majority of Muslims want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.”
This will be over soon. There will be no thirteen-story mosque near Ground Zero.
As to the argument over symbols - well, yes - symbols get hijacked all the time. Would the mosque be seen as a bridge to reconciliation bringing different cultures together, or as a Victory Mosque showing America's weakness before its enemies? Why not both?!? There is no reason to think that Upper West Siders can successfully project their values and interpretations onto people in other parts of the world.
Muslim extremists will join with Islamophobes in deeming it a Victory Mosque; moderates will insist it is not. And of course, given our Constitutional freedom of speech and worship, there will be no legal mechanism to ensure that today's moderate founders won't be replaced by tomorrow's extremists.
The LA Times editors joins the daily Dash To Dumb:
The Obama administration's attacks on the media
Cases brought against journalists who ferreted out confidential information appear to have little to do with protecting national security interests.
It is a popular conservative myth to suggest that the "mainstream media" is a liberal lapdog to the Obama administration, that reporters favor the president and that he returns the admiration. In fact, this administration has pursued a quiet but malicious campaign against the news media and their sources, more aggressively attacking those who ferret out confidential information than even the George W. Bush administration did.
Work with me now - why is the campaign "quiet"? I am just guessing that the Administration isn't advertising it and... the press isn't covering it!
Which ties in nicely with the conservative vision of a liberal lapdog media that would rather cower than cover Obama. As to the notion that conservatives think Obama returns the admiration of the press, well, I think the editors just made that up to paper over the absurdity of their own argument.
From my bunker in ConservaWorld, Obama was the cool kid the media was sucking up to; the cool kid wasn't sucking back (like, do they ever?).
In discussing the ground Zero Mosque, much of the commentariat thinks two blocks is a long way away. For example, here is Josh Barro of the National Review:
Second, the proposed mosque would not be located “at” Ground Zero, but two blocks north of it. So, any federal overlay that restricts development would have to cover not just Ground Zero but an area around it. Again, it is hard to come up with a policy rationale: this area is part of one of America’s busiest office districts, characterized by over a century of high-rise development and redevelopment, which we hope to see continue.
As an aside, I think that some of the concern over this mosque, especially among people who do not live in New York City, is based on a misunderstanding of the geography of Lower Manhattan. This is an area that had significant high-rise development before New York imposed setback requirements and floor-area ratio maximums (limits on how many square feet of building you can put on a lot). As a result, the area is denser and more canyon-like than Midtown.
This means you can be two blocks away from something without any sense that you’re near it. City Hall is four blocks from Ground Zero, but you’d never stand there and think “I’m right near Ground Zero.” There is even a strip club three blocks south of Ground Zero, but nobody seems to have noticed that it is sullying the memory of the place.
In most cities, including Washington, 13 stories constitute a very tall building. But in the environment of Lower Manhattan, Cordoba House will be just another structure—which is not exactly consistent with the view that it is a Towering Monument to Jihad. In short, people are overestimating the extent to which this building will interact with, or be noticeable from, the World Trade Center site.
I have spent years wandering the concrete wilderness down there, and Mr. Barro is superficially correct. However, yesterday Matt Drudge linked to a month-old NY Times story noting that the proposed site was actually put out of service by the 9/11 attack; if this was news to Matt Drudge, my guess is that it will come as news to others as well, and perhaps the site has a symbolic value greater than Mr. Barro realizes.
Let's hear about the symbolism from the imam leading the project (in last December's NY Times):
The location was precisely a key selling point for the group of Muslims who bought the building in July. A presence so close to the World Trade Center, “where a piece of the wreckage fell,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the cleric leading the project, “sends the opposite statement to what happened on 9/11.”
“We want to push back against the extremists,” added Imam Feisal, 61.
Well, pushing back against extremists is one interpretation. However, symbols mean what people think they mean (Yeah, I'm copyrighting that insight!), so one might just as plausibly argue that this is a Victory Mosque being built on territory destroyed in the attacks. That would jibe with the history of Muslim conquerors (as well as many other conquerors, obviously). As to how much other property near Ground Zero was damaged on 9/11 and has this potent symbolism I do not know, but the old Burlington Coat Factory is not just any old site in the financial district.
Now in a strict legal sense, the motivation of the imam counts for nothing - the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and worship to all people, not just government-approved moderates. However, I doubt that Mayor Bloomberg would be telling We The Rubes that we should be ashamed of ourselves for opposing this mosque if the imam was on record as getting in touch with his inner Jeremiah Wright and describing 9/11 in terms of "God Damn America".
PROFILES IN COWARDICE: The NY Times covers Sen. Reid's backpedaling and contrasts it with a local boy made good:
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader and a Democrat facing a difficult re-election fight, said through a spokesman that those who plan to erect the Islamic center should look elsewhere. That separates Mr. Reid from President Obama’s support of the developers’ right to build the center.
“The First Amendment protects freedom of religion,” said Jim Manley, a top adviser to Mr. Reid. “Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.”
That aligns Reid with his opponent, Sharron Angle. On to the Times' idea of wisdom and insight:
Representative Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat who represents the district that includes ground zero, said he doubted that the fight over the mosque would inflict much damage on fellow Democrats in the November elections.
Mr. Nadler, whose view is that the developers were entitled to build the mosque at the selected location if they choose, said, “Ultimately I suspect that once this simmers down in a few weeks, people will realize that everybody’s liberty is at stake here.”
Huh? Nadler respects their right to build there? So do Reid and Angle, and Sarah Palin, and plenty of critics. Having the right doesn't make it right.
Nadler and Rep Peter King, mosque opponent, air their views more fully here. From Nadler:
NADLER: Well, I certainly appreciate the sensitivities of some of the families of 9/11. There are others who have expressed support for it. The press has concentrated on those who have opposed it. But frankly, ground zero is hallowed ground. Two blocks away, first of all, is not so hallowed ground. Second of all, we should not -- government officials should not be in a position of pressuring people where to build their mosque or their church or whatever.
Third of all, as much as I respect the sensitivities of people, there is a fundamental mistake behind it, and that is how can you -- and I can quote any number of some of the people who have commented on it, and what they are saying essentially is how can you put a mosque there when, after all, Muslims attacked us on 9/11, and this is ripping open a wound? Well, the fallacy is that Al Qaida attacked us. Islam did not attack us. Islam, like Christianity, like Judaism, like other religions, has many different people, some of whom regard other adherents of the religion as heretics of one sort or another. It is only insensitive if you regard Islam as the culprit, as opposed to Al Qaida as the culprit. We were not attacked by all Muslims. And there were Muslims who were killed there, there were Muslims who were killed there. There were Muslims who ran in as first responders to help. And we cannot take any position like that.
Obviously, I disagree with his "two blocks away" comment. As to the rest, I agree, but that doesn't change my mind. We were attacked by Muslim extremists; this mosque would be a powerful symbol of victory for extremists, it may be financed by extremists, and it may be that, regardless of the motivations of the founder, it will be one day be run by extremists.
If the imam seriously wants reconciliation and bridge-building, he should relocate. If he wants to give offense (as is his right), he should stay on his current course, and we will see how the debate unfolds.
Personally, I doubt he can raise the money. Any investor will be calling attention to himself, his family, his business associates, and all past deals, all of which will go under a microscope. If there is a hint of a whiff of a suggestion of a link to extremists, we will read about nothing else. Who needs the publicity?
THE DEBATE SO FAR: Amidst the cacophony I hear my people from Jersey: "Yo, fool, reconcile yourself to this!" Yeah, I got something for you to tolerate right here, buddy."
My main man, Chris Christie, punted; I guess he doesn't have the body to tap dance.
LET'S PUT ALL THE 'PC' EGGS IN ONE BASKET... Maybe they can complete the mosque quickly enough that it will be available to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed during his NYC trial.
THE DAMAGE DONE: Here is more from the December Times:
There was no immediate sign of the fiery cataclysm that erupted overhead starting at 8:46. But out of a baby-blue sky suddenly stained with smoke, a plane’s landing-gear assembly the size of a World War II torpedo crashed through the roof and down through two empty selling floors of the Burlington Coat Factory.
The Sept. 11, 2001, attack killed 2,752 people downtown and doomed the five-story building at 45 Park Place, two blocks north of the World Trade Center, keeping it abandoned for eight years.
Mark Halperin lands at Ground Zero for stupidity with this baffler:
Obama's Islamic-Center Stance: Why the GOP Shouldn't Run Against It
First, I suppose it depends on the meaning of "it" - does anyone know what Obama's stance actually is? That would seem to be a precondition to running against it, or supporting it.
But after the Friday speech, the Saturday recalibration, and the "not backing off" clarification of the recalibration I think we are left with the message that Obama strongly supports the Constitution and Bill of Rights but has no opinion on the wisdom of building the mosque. Hey, leadership that's shirking!
But Halperin managed to find something to oppose in all of Obama's oatmeal:
Now Obama has given you an in. At a White House dinner on Friday celebrating the start of Ramadan, the President took a position. "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country," he said. "That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances." This remark opened the door so wide that walking through it will be effortless. Even your usually tone-deaf national chairman, Michael Steele, could not mess this one up. If you go full force on the offensive, every Democratic candidate in every competitive race in the country will have three choices, none of them good, when asked about the Islamic center: side with Obama and against public opinion; oppose Obama and deal with the consequences of intraparty disunity; or refuse to take a position, waffling impotently and unattractively at a crucial time.
I think Dems will waffle like their leader and hide behind Mayor Bloomberg. But let's press on:
Yes, Republicans, you can take advantage of this heated circumstance, backed by the families of the 9/11 victims, in their most emotional return to the public stage since 2001.
But please don't do it. There are a handful of good reasons to oppose allowing the Islamic center to be built so close to Ground Zero, particularly the family opposition and the availability of other, less raw locations. But what is happening now — the misinformation about the center and its supporters; the open declarations of war on Islam on talk radio, the Internet and other forums; the painful divisions propelled by all the overheated rhetoric — is not worth whatever political gain your party might achieve.
Say what? Even though there are good reasons to oppose the mosque, and even though Obama has refused to take a position, Republicans should not articulate the good reasons because they will be drowned out by the divisive ones?
I am trying to picture Mr. Halperin teaching a math class - "Hmm, Johnny thinks 2 plus 2 might 3. But if I try to explain that it equals 4, I might be drowned out by kids shouting out that it is 5. Better to just agree with him...".
My goodness, what an approach to democratic debate. I would suggest our leaders (and Obama should feel free to step in) might explain the legal and Constitutional rights of the property developers, acknowledge the sensitivities of mosque opponents, and urge putative bridge-builders to reconsider whether reconciliation is best achieved by slapping people in the face.
Mr. Halperin ends by playing the "terrorists will win!" card:
...a national political fight conducted on the terms we have seen in the past few days will lead to a chain reaction at home and abroad that will have one winner — the very extreme and violent jihadists we all can claim as our true enemy.
Doug Mataconis of OTB announces that "You heard it here first, the GOP will not gain control of Congress in 2010".
Hmm, I guess it depends on the meaning of "Congress". Since the launch point was comments by a Republican Senator, it seems very fair to presume we are talking about control of both the House and Senate.
Per the Iowa Electronic Markets, the betting public currently believes there is a 15% chance of the Republicans picking up both the House and Senate. A Democratic Senate and a Republican House is at 47%; Democratic control of both is at 37%. (A wave carrying Reps to Senate control but leaving Nancy in charge of the House is given a less than 1% chance.)
Over at Intrade there is no separate contract for the joint outcomes. However, the Reps have a 17% chance of controlling the Senate and a 66% chance of securing the House (those are in close agreement with the corresponding Iowa numbers, which are 15% and 64%).
By way of (obscure) comparison, the defending World Champion NY Yankees, currently with the best record in baseball, are estimated to have a 91% chance of making the playoffs; the surest thing in baseball right now is the Texas Rangers, with a 96% chance. Do I have a point? Maybe! If not even the Yankees are a lock, surely the House and Senate are up for grabs.
Back to politics - if voters focus on the good economic times from 1995 to 2001 under a Dem President and a Republican Congress, they will vote for the Reps for everything.
On the other hand, in 1994 the notion of Republicans running the House represented a major break from the past. Today, the current crop of Republicans can argue they aren't Pelosi/Reid, but collectively they have a recent track record which will not be remembered fondly.
OTHER SURE THINGS: OK, the Mets failing to make the playoffs is automatic, but we are focusing on positives here.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the Times packs her lead:
PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Faced with withering Republican criticism of his defense of the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near ground zero, President Obama quickly recalibrated his remarks on Saturday, a sign that he has waded into even more treacherous political waters than the White House had at first realized.
So - the President misread the politics, gave a fuzzy speech and is now backpedaling under fire. Mission Accomplished! If only someone would propose an Islamic Waffle House so Obama could give it his full support.
LOL: Google autocomplete.
I have an idea our President will love - maybe we can open an Islamic Waffle House in a building damaged in the 9/11 attacks. Obama can be the first customer.
On Friday night President Obama explained tolerance and the Constitution to We The Rubes, drawing this headline from the Times:
Obama Strongly Backs Islam Center Near 9/11 Site
With uncanny prescience AllahPundt explained that the media was reporting on their fantasies, and that Obama was actually splitting the difference:
So what’s a poll-readin’ president to do? On the one hand, he’s at a Ramadan dinner and doesn’t want to alienate either the audience or his base. On the other hand, he’s staring at supermajority opposition to the mosque. Hey, I know: How about a statement that mostly dodges the question of whether it should be built in favor of the easier question of whether the owners have the right to build it? Not a Bloombergian lecture, in other words (unlike Bloomberg, Obama’s not a lame duck and thus can’t afford to wag his finger like The Enlightened so enjoy doing), but rather a pat on the back for free exercise and a pat on the back for the mosque’s opponents by acknowledging their “emotions.” He’s basically voting present. But since the media is pro-mosque too and eager to leverage authority on behalf of its position, this’ll be spun tomorrow as some sort of stirring statement in defense of the right to … alienate everyone around you, I guess, in the ostensible interests of “dialogue.”
Obama Says Mosque Upholds Principle of Equal TreatmentBy SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
PANAMA CITY, Fla. — President Obama said on Saturday that in defending the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near Ground Zero he “was not commenting” on “the wisdom” of that particular project, but rather trying to uphold the broader principle that government should treat “everyone equal, regardless” of religion.
...White House officials said earlier in the day that Mr. Obama was not trying to promote the project, but rather sought more broadly to make a statement about freedom of religion and American values. “In this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion,” Mr. Obama said at the Coast Guard station. “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.
“And I think it’s very important as difficult as some of these issues are that we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about.”
That was quick. Gutless, but quick.
Just to reassure us that they weren't reporting from a dream state, the Times runs a paragraph citing those pesky aides. Here we go:
Aides to Mr. Obama say privately that he has always felt strongly about the proposed community center and mosque, but the White House did not want to weigh in until local authorities made a decision on the proposal, planned for two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.
So to be clear - the President has always felt strongly that he has no comment "on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there", but he wants to remind us all to read the Constitution. My goodness, since many people (but not Krauthammer!) are arguing the wisdom rather than the legality, I guess we can score this as Obama 1, Strawmen 0.
NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON'T:
Lib cheerleader Greg Sargent:
One of the finest moments of Obama's presidency
A few quick thoughts about Obama's forceful speech yesterday expressing strong support for Cordoba House, which will go down as one of the finest moments of his presidency.
Obama didn't just stand up for the legal right of the group to build the Islamic center. He voiced powerful support for their moral right to do so as well, casting it as central to American identity. This is a critical point, and it goes to the the essence of why his speech was so commendable.
Many opponents of the project have been employing a clever little dodge. They say they don't question the group's legal right to build it under the Constitution. Rather, they say, they're merely criticizing the group's decision to do so, on the grounds that it's insensitive to 9/11 families and will undercut the project's goal of reconciliation. The group has the right to build the center, runs this argument, but they are wrong to exercise it. In response, Obama could have merely cast this dispute as a Constitutional issue, talked about how important it is to hew to that hallowed document, and moved on.
...this couldn't have come at a better time for Obama. His core supporters, frustrated, were badly in need of a display of presidential spine. They got one.
Ben Smith, post-clarification:
Speaking to reporters today, President Obama drew a sharp line under his comments last night, insisting that his defense of the right to build a mosque does not mean he supports the project.
"I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding," he said.
...Obama's new remarks, literally speaking, re-open the question of which side he's on. Most of the mosque's foes recognize the legal right to build, and have asked the builders to reconsider.
It looks like Obama's finest hour lasted roughly an hour.
THEY CALL HIM DON...
Don Surber quotes Sarah Palin ("no, this is not above your pay grade") and works in a Four Season song. Donnie, Donnie, Donnie, you'll never know...
GREAT MOMENTS IN THEOLOGY:
Obama's Big Finish on Friday night:
For in the end, we remain “one nation, under God, indivisible.” And we can only achieve “liberty and justice for all” if we live by that one rule at the heart of every great religion, including Islam —- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Is the the Golden Rule really part of Islam? Over to Wikipedia, our go-to source for liberal group-think, which gives us the thumbs-up:
Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you.
OK, let's check that Farewell Sermon:
O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you.
Wait, the life and property of "every Muslim" is a sacred trust"? But I'm not Muslim!
IN THE NEXT CLARIFICATION...
What's next - Obama explaining that his speechwriters acted stupidly? His Friday night speech was not some off-the-cuff answer that went awry. He and his sppechwriters thought about this, one presumes.
The NY Times reports that the US military is preparing its Washington-based counterinsurgency in support of its Afghan counterinsurgency:
WASHINGTON — American military officials are building a case to minimize the planned withdrawal of some troops from Afghanistan starting next summer, in an effort to counter growing pressure on President Obama from inside his own party to begin winding the war down quickly.
...Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates signaled the military’s position recently when he said that the initial troop withdrawals next summer “will be of fairly limited numbers.” General Petraeus, who has kept a low profile for the past six weeks while conducting a countrywide assessment, is expected to amplify the message during the media offensive he will begin on Sunday, when he is to appear on the NBC News program “Meet the Press.” He is expected to say that the last of the 30,000 additional troops Mr. Obama ordered to Afghanistan last December will not arrive until later this month, and that the counterinsurgency strategy has not been given enough time to succeed.
The Times looks in an odd direction with their comments about funding:
Democrats in Congress are in no mood to hear about two-year clocks. In a vote last month to continue financing the war, those in the House were deeply split, with 102 — more than a third of the caucus — voting against the measure.
“The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have come at tremendous cost to the American people,” said the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who is pressing for substantial troop reductions beginning in July 2011. “Members of Congress and the administration will have to assess whether the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, and the resources we must invest to continue these efforts, are the best way to protect our national security.”
Some House Democrats are demanding that Mr. Obama and his national security advisers spell out a much more detailed timetable for withdrawal — something the military has steadfastly opposed, saying it aids the enemy — and narrow the strategy to combating Al Qaeda, in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Come January 2011 a lot of moderate democrats will have been replaced by moderate Republicans. I doubt they will get in front of Obama on the war, but they will surely vote him the money he requests.
Obama's real risk is that the Republicans might take over the House, thereby liberating the anti-war House Democratic leadership from any responsibility for governing. Obama could then look forward to endless posturing and preening principled anti-war debate likely to increase the odds of a primary challenge in 2012.
No tolerance for a gay bar at Ground Zero - my goodness.
Christopher Hitchens leaves me wondering what side he is on with this:
We need not automatically assume the good faith of those who have borrowed this noble name for a project in lower Manhattan. One would want assurances, also, about the transparency of its funding and the content of its educational programs. But the way to respond to such overtures is by critical scrutiny and engagement, not cheap appeals to parochialism, victimology, and unreason.
Does he imagine that Mayor Bloomberg is proposing those things in supporting the mosque? Who ,for example, is formally vetting the financial backers?
In a recent interview the developer gave this Swiss cheese promise:
Park51 will incorporate as a non-profit and seek federal tax-exempt status. We are pledging to pursue this fundraising campaign in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations. We have hired legal counsel and top-notch auditors to oversee this process from start to finish.
We will hire security consultants to assist us in the process of reviewing potential financiers and philanthropists as we begin to establish our fundraising strategy. We will refuse assistance, financial or otherwise, from any persons or institutions who are flagged by our security consultants or any government agencies.
Matt Yglesias points to a chart showing unemployment of college grads the less-educated and explains why everyone who's anyone is out of touch:
Virtually every single member of congress, every senator, every Capitol Hill staffer, every White House advisor, every Fed governor, and every major political reporter is a college graduate. What’s more, we have a large amount of social segregation in the United States—college graduates tend to socialize with each other. And among college graduates, there simply isn’t an economic crisis in the United States. This is not the best of times, but it’s perfectly rational in gradland to be balancing concern about the labor market situation with dozens of other concerns.
The chart he presents is a mere snapshot from this table showing July 2010 college grad unemployment at 4.5% and high school grad unemployment 10.1%.
Back in the dark Bush years, unemployment for college grads peaked at 3.2% in 2003; it was roughly 2% in 2006-2007, reached 5% in December 2009, and is now 4.5%.
For high school grads, the early Bush peak unemployment was at 5.7% in 2003; it was roughly 4.4% in 2006-2007, reached 10.5% in December 2009, and is now 10.1%.
So, should college grads be feeling pain and fear? Compared to high school grads, no; compared to past recessions or the 2006-2007 period, yes.
BONUS ANGST: Run the figures for male and female unemployment to check out the mancession. In the July 2003 downturn, unemployment was 5.9% for men and 5.3% for women. In July 2010, it is 9.7% for men and 7.9% for women.
And the big new federal initiative lauded by Matt?
If you did anything, you’d probably step in to prevent teacher layoffs, which is a clear and present danger to a large bloc of college graduates. But beyond that, no need to panic.
Yeah, that'll help the guys...
The default Dem debating dodge - everybody who disagrees with me is a bigot - is meant to end arguments, not win them.
Of course, having our 'leaders' tell us we are bigots might make us think we really are bigots. Or it might make us think we need new leaders. We'll find out in November.
Paul Krugman explains why some temporary spending hikes (such as unemployment insurance) can boost demand in a way that some tax cuts (e.g., for "the rich") cannot.
It's Christmas in August for me, since I had been railing about this very point recently. My theme was that a payroll tax cut ought to be roughly as stimulative as an increase in unemployment insurance. And today, Krugman clarifies his opposition to tax cuts a bit:
That’s why unemployment benefits are an effective demand stimulus: the unemployed are highly likely to be suffering a temporary income loss but be unable to borrow cheaply. It’s also why tax cuts for working-class families may have some traction: a fair proportion of those families will be people having a bad year, but without assets or borrowing capacity to draw on.
But temporary tax cuts for people with high incomes are likely to be highly ineffective: there are people with incomes over $250,000 who are having a temporary bad time and have neither assets to sell nor the ability to borrow, but they’re very much the exceptions to the rule.
We seem to agree that both unemployment insurance and payroll tax cuts will mostly be spent rather than saved, which is progress. I have no problem imagining that tax cuts for "the rich" are mostly saved, but I am less sure about why I care - the decreased public saving is offset by increased private saving, so the savings/interest rate feedback loop is not activated.
Now, if there was some other constraint on the size of the stimulus package (rather than on the size of the net increase in public and private borrowing), tax cuts for "the rich" would not provide as much apparent bang for the buck. And in the current political environment, I think the political/optical constraint is real, sensible or not.
As to Krugman's position on payroll tax cuts, he has had different but not irreconciliable positions. This is from a Jan 6, 2009 blog post:
How much do tax cuts and spending raise GDP? The widely cited estimates of Mark Zandi of Economy.com indicate a multiplier of around 1.5 for spending, with widely varying estimates for tax cuts. Payroll tax cuts, which make up about half the Obama proposal, are pretty good, with a multiplier of 1.29; business tax cuts, which make up the rest, are much less effective.
But a few days later, payroll tax cuts didn't make the cut in his Jan 11 2009 column:
First, Mr. Obama should scrap his proposal for $150 billion in business tax cuts, which would do little to help the economy. Ideally he’d scrap the proposed $150 billion payroll tax cut as well, though I’m aware that it was a campaign promise.
Money not squandered on ineffective tax cuts could be used to provide further relief to Americans in distress — enhanced unemployment benefits, expanded Medicaid and more. And why not get an early start on the insurance subsidies — probably running at $100 billion or more per year — that will be essential if we’re going to achieve universal health care?
Within five days payroll tax cuts went from "pretty good, with a multiplier of 1.29", to "ineffective". Hmm.
If I believed that (a) all public spending had a multiplier of 1.5 (despite a possible dearth of shovel ready projects); (b) that the payroll tax cut multiplier was "only" 1.29; and (c) that my total stimulus package was subject to some numerical bound regardless of the mix of tax cuts and spending, then I might drop the tax cuts as less effective. But ineffective?
But don't let me start whining! Since payroll tax cuts have now made it back to being possibly effective, I will settle for the progress made so far.
James Surowiecki thinks the tax brackets ought to be adjusted for the explosion in income inequality over the last thirty years. He notes that the current threshold for "rich" - an annual income of $250,000 - has not captured the current environment:
This means that someone making two hundred thousand dollars a year and someone making two hundred million dollars a year pay at similar tax rates. LeBron James and LeBron James’s dentist: same difference.
Nate Silver provides some revenue estimates:
In 2007, essentially the last non-recession year (although technically the recession began in December that year), there was $1,244 billion ($1.24 trillion) in taxable income reported from 390,820 filers earning $1 million or more. However, a millionaires' tax bracket would affect marginal income only, so we have to subtract out the income below $1 million earned by these filers, which is $391 billion. That leaves a pool of $853 billion per year from which to draw taxes. If you taxed it at 3 percent, you'd bring in $26 billion per year, or $256 billion over ten years. If you taxed income above $1 million at 5 percent, you'd produce $43 billion per year, or $427 billion every ten years.
And yes, he duly notes the possibility of productivity losses:
Let's say we go with the plan of taxing marginal income above $1 million at 3 percent, and marginal income above $5 million at an additional 3 percent. That would produce a theoretical $39 billion per year. However, there would be some productivity losses, and perhaps some additional offsets resulting from people finding ways to transfer their income into more tax-advantageous activities, so perhaps revenues on the order of $35 billion per year, or $350 billion per decade, are more realisti.
The White House was reluctant to discuss Mrs. Obama’s trip. The only official comment came from Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, at a briefing last week when he said that Mrs. Obama “is a private citizen and is the mother of a daughter on a private trip. And I think I’d leave it at that.”
However, the Times duly notes that Private Citizen Michelle is a secret Transformer:
The staff is with her because she will pay a courtesy call on King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía on the island of Majorca on Sunday before flying home to Washington.
Whatever. The Times mails in this tepid defense:
Laura Bush took vacations without her husband each year of George W. Bush’s presidency, traveling with her Secret Service detail on a government plane to meet friends for camping in national parks. But that never generated as much furor, in part because vacationing in the United States is not as politically delicate for American leaders and their families as doing so in foreign countries.
We have a President with a long problem establishing that he is in touch with those middle Americans bitterly clinging to their guns, their religion, their hopes for a better job, and so on. Now Michelle is jet-setting in five-star hotels while Democrats strategize on getting their message out. Point One:
Democrats are on the side of the middle class.
AN EXPLANATION THAT DOESN'T EXPLAIN MUCH:
Here we go:
Michelle Obama returned to Washington on Sunday from five days on Spain's Mediterranean coast, taking a mother-daughter trip with Sasha, 9, that stirred controversy. A White House source told me, however, that Mrs. Obama traveled to Spain to help a grieving friend deal with the death of her father.
...Mrs. Obama met two friends in Spain, who flew there on their own. The three women were joined by a total of four daughters. (Some news outlets reported Mrs. Obama was on vacation with 40 friends; that was not true.)One of the women is a longtime Obama friend, Anita Blanchard, an obstetrician who delivered Sasha and big sister Malia, 12. Her husband is Marty Nesbitt [link], a close Obama friend and treasurer of Obama's presidential campaign fund.
A White House source told me the Mrs. Obama was not able to attend the funeral for Blanchard's father at the beginning of July. Blanchard, who was taking her daughter on a promised trip to Spain, asked the first lady and Sasha to come to Spain with her. (Malia is at overnight camp.) "She felt it was important as a dear friend to do this," I was told.
Because nothing says "healing" like an international media circus with dozens of Secret Service agents, policeman and reporters around.
I accept that she could not dictate the venue to her friend. However, Ms. Obama could have politely declined, suggested an alternative site or time, or gone ahead and demonstrated that she both vacations and grieves in ways quite unfamiliar to most of us.
MORE: There is no question Ms. Blanchard and Michelle spend a lot of time together:
LYNN SWEET CHICAGO-CENTRIC FOOTNOTES:
1. Jarrett, the Whitakers, Nesbitt, Blanchard vacationed over the holidays with the Obama family in Hawaii. The same group also traveled to Oslo in December to see Obama pick up the Nobel Peace Prize. The same group was also at the Nov. 24 State Dinner.
That was in addition to celebrating Michelle's 46th together.
Megan McArdle makes the point that Paul Krugman has a highly selective (yet easily predictable) ability to spot flim flam.
In a lovely moment of arrogant pedantry meant to buttress his attack on Republican Paul Ryan's long term budget plan, Paul Krugman posted on "How To Read A CBO Report". He included timeless tips such as as "[don't] think you can just skim it and get the gist" and "go through the whole thing with a fine-toothed comb".
Bending The Curve
...the Medicare actuaries believe that the cost-saving provisions in the Obama health reform will make a huge difference to the long-run budget outlook.
Really? If Prof. Krugman had taken his fine-tooth comb all the way to the section titled "Statement of Actuarial Opinion", he would have found that the chief actuary believed no such thing. Instead, the chief actuary took the unprecedented step of refudiating the analysis based on legislated savings unlikely to materialize, and provided a minority report:
...the financial projections shown in this report for Medicare do not represent a reasonable expectation for actual program operations in either the short range (as a result of the unsustainable reductions in physician payment rates) or the long range (because of the strong likelihood that the statutory reductions in price updates for most categories of Medicare provider services will not be viable). I encourage readers to review the “illustrative alternative” projections that are based on more sustainable assumptions for physician and other Medicare price updates. These projections are available at http://www.cms.gov/ActuarialStudies/Downloads/2010TRAlternativeScenario.pdf.
So who are these Medicare trustees, and are they bending the curve or bending the spoon? The trustees are chaired by Timothy Geithner, tax cheat turned Treasury Secretary. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Michael Astrue and the controversial Donald Berwick hold the other spots (two public trustee positions are vacant).
So in brief, Obama's Cabinet members put out a report declaring their confidence in ObamaCare, the chief actuary squawked, and Krugman's flim-flam detector never flickered (presumably because it is only able to point towards the right).ERRATA: I am routinely giving props to Krugman for his titles; if you haven't seen The Flim Flam Man with George C.Scott, well, don't rush out to rent it if you were really hankering for LA Confidential. But it's pretty good, or at least, I thought so forty years ago.
Justin Elliot of Salon delivers a nearly perfect non-gotcha on the subject of the Ground Zero Mosque:
Why did no one object to the "Pentagon mosque"?
Muslims have been praying inside the Pentagon since Sept. 11 but right-wingers have been strangely silent
We are then advised of a Washington Times story that tells us that there is a mosque inside the Pentagon, and are assured by Mr. Elliot that conservatives are utter hypocrites for not denouncing this as well.
To which I say, "huh"?
Let's see why no one cares, or ought to:
1. Was there a mosque inside the Pentagon prior to 9/11? I'm sure there was. Which means the Pentagon mosque looks nothing like a new mosque built at the site of a Muslim victory, an important bit of symbolism in some parts of the Muslim world.
2. Was the Pentagon mosque funded by Islamic extremists? Only if they have taken over the Defense Department budget (possible!). In the case of the Ground Zero Mosque, of course, we have no idea who is funding it.
3. Is the Pentagon Mosque led by an imam sympathetic to terror? Hmm, I suppose that depends on whether one considers Muslim Navy chaplains to be terrorist sympathizers. At the risk of alienating some of my friends on the left and triggering an outburst of emails about civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, I will Boldly Assert that military chaplains are neither terrorists nor sympathetic to them. As to the imam leading the Ground Zero mosque project, well, Questions Have Been Raised.
If Mr. Elliot were more of a chess player it might have occurred to him that right-wing silence on the Pentagon mosque is convincing evidence that righties don't hate all Muslims everywhere, and in fact are quite capable of tolerance.
The National Review editors did not object to all Muslims in opposing the Ground Zero mosque - they objected to the specific imam leading the project. I expect they would agree that unanswered questions about the funding also weigh heavily against this project.
MORE: American Power makes some overlapping points, and some different ones; I will highlight two:
A: When is a mosque not a mosgue? Is there really a mosque at the Pentagon, or is there simply a space made available for prayer?
B: At a different sire there were conservative squawks when the Defense Department built an "Islamic Prayer Center". Intolerance lives!
I find James Taranto utterly persuasive:
Scalia Was Right
...we are prepared to offer up a prediction: When the Supreme Court takes up Perry v. Schwarzenegger--perhaps under the name Brown v. Perry or Whitman v. Perry--the justices will rule 5-4, in a decision written by Justice Kennedy, that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
This accepts the conventional assumption that the court's "liberal" and "conservative" wings will split predictably, 4-4. Yet while Kennedy cannot be pigeonholed in terms of "ideology," on this specific topic, he has been consistent in taking a very broad view of the rights of homosexuals. He not only voted with the majority but wrote the majority opinions in two crucial cases: Romer v. Evans (1996) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003).
This is the Scalia angle:
In his Perry ruling, Judge Walker cited both Romer and Lawrence, arguing that their logic leads inexorably to a finding that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. One jurist who agrees is Justice Antonin Scalia, who sharply dissented in Lawrence (citations omitted):
Today's opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned. If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is "no legitimate state interest" for purposes of proscribing that conduct, and if, as the Court coos (casting aside all pretense of neutrality), "[w]hen sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring," what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising "[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution"? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry. This case "does not involve" the issue of homosexual marriage only if one entertains the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court.
Those who see Justice Kennedy's position in Perry as difficult to predict in effect entertain "the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do" with his decisions on the court. Is this belief justified?
If anyone wants to try to persuade me that we are not on track for a judicial cramdown of gay marriage, go ahead.
In the previous post we caught Paul Krugman failing to correct for confirmation bias, the natural human tendency to embrace new information that affirms our predispositions. The Medicare trustees released a report with a headline lauding the fiscal impact of ObamaCare, and Krugman fell for it hook, line and sinker. Anyone who plunged into the report discovered that the chief actuary was much less optimistic that legislated cost savings could actually be achieved.
In their coverage of the same report, Robert Pear and Jackie Calmes of the Times don't seem to have deceived themselves, but they do open with a glaringly slanted lead:
Medicare Stronger, Social Security Worse in Short Run, Report Finds
WASHINGTON — Medicare will remain financially solvent for 12 additional years, until 2029, because of the cost-cutting measures in President Obama’s recently enacted health care legislation, the program’s trustees projected on Thursday.
Hmm - no caveats at all? Here is the AP coverage of the same report:
Medicare fund will last extra 12 years - maybe
WASHINGTON – Medicare is in better shape because of President Barack Obama's sweeping health care overhaul and will stay afloat a dozen years longer than earlier projected, trustees forecast Thursday. But that depends on cuts in care that the system's top analyst says are highly doubtful.
The annual report by the trustees who oversee Medicare and Social Security, led by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, gives backers of the new health care law evidence of a positive impact on government entitlement programs, but it also undercuts the findings with a host of caveats.
In what amounted to a dissenting opinion, top Medicare actuary Richard Foster warned that the report's financial projections "do not represent a reasonable expectation" for the hospital fund for America's elderly.
Did the two earnest toilers at the Times actually overlook those caveats? Not at all, but their casual readers will! After a segue to the implications for Social Security, we wait until the eighteenth paragraph for this conclusion:
The new law squeezes nearly a half-trillion dollars from Medicare spending in the next 10 years. The savings are based on an assumption that hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers will become more efficient, increasing their productivity to match productivity gains in the overall economy.
If that does not happen, the trustees said, Medicare will pay many hospitals and doctors less than the cost of the goods and services they purchase, and providers may “eventually become unwilling or unable to treat Medicare beneficiaries.”
The report also assumes that Medicare will cut payment rates for doctors’ services by 23 percent on Dec. 1 and by a further 6.5 percent on Jan. 1, as required under existing law.
This assumption is unrealistic, the report said, because “Congress is virtually certain to override” the scheduled cuts, as it has done in recent years.
The report makes clear that Medicare still faces major financial problems. If, as expected, Congress overrides the cuts in doctors’ fees, the cost of Part B of Medicare, which covers physician services, will grow about 8 percent a year in the coming decade, and Part D, which covers prescription drugs, will grow 9.4 percent a year — much faster than the economy, the trustees said.
About one-fourth of the people on Medicare, new beneficiaries and those with relatively high incomes, “will be subject to unusually large premium increases next year,” the trustees said. But, they added, the other three-fourths of beneficiaries will not face a premium increase in 2011.
Never do they mention that the chief actuary actually wrote that "the financial projections shown in this report for Medicare do not represent a reasonable expectation for actual program operations" and provided detailed alternative (and much less optimistic) projections.
I am not accustomed to the chief actuary providing a rebuttal to his own report, but this was news the Times did not see fit to print (and which has not yet reached Paul Krugman, we fear.)
For another comparison, the WaPo began the grim backpedaling from the Team Obama talking points with the third paragraph:
The relatively bright picture of Medicare's future triggered immediate debate over whether the forecast by the trustees, all members of President Obama's Cabinet, is realistic.
The trustees cautioned that the improved outlook for Medicare hinges on a sustained commitment by the government and the health-care industry to rein in medical costs.
The Medicare program's chief actuary was far more skeptical, contending that the report's predictions "do not represent a reasonable expectation" of its finances. In a two-page letter accompanying the trustees' report, Richard S. Foster, a non-partisan official who has been the Health and Human Services Department's top financial expert on Medicare for 15 years, said he doubted that health-care providers will become as efficient as the new law envisions. As a result, he said, the program is unlikely to slow payments for treating patients as much as the law anticipates and, as a result, will be unable to save as much money.
This is pretty funny, if mining the Trustees report on Medicare for big laughs is your cup of tea.
Economist and cheerleader Paul Krugman is ever so excited about the projected cost savings in the new report:
In other words, the Medicare actuaries believe that the cost-saving provisions in the Obama health reform will make a huge difference to the long-run budget outlook. Yes, it’s just a projection, and debatable like all projections. And it’s still not enough. But anyone who both claims to be worried about the long-run deficit and was opposed to health reform has some explaining to do.
Opponents of ObamaCare have some explaining to do? All they need to do is cite the actuary's opinion, found at the end of the Trustees report. The comedy gold (my emphasis):
...the financial projections shown in this report for Medicare do not represent a reasonable expectation for actual program operations in either the short range (as a result of the unsustainable reductions in physician payment rates) or the long range (because of the strong likelihood that the statutory reductions in price updates for most categories of Medicare provider services will not be viable).
To rephrase slightly the Excited Prof, in other words the Medicare actuaries don't believe that the cost-saving provisions in the Obama health reform will make a huge difference to the long-run budget outlook.
The actuary presents a much less encouraging but more realistic alternative scenario:
And here is the conclusion of the alternative scenario analysis, for those whose hearts are still fluttering at the huge cost savings attributable to Obama's hard-won reform (my emphasis):
The immediate physician fee reductions required under current law are clearly unworkable and are almost certain to be overridden by Congress. The productivity adjustments will affect other Medicare price levels much more gradually, but there is a strong likelihood that, without very substantial and transformational changes in health care practices, payment rates would become inadequate in the long range. As a result, the projections shown in the 2010 Trustees Report for current law should not be interpreted as our best expectation of actual Medicare financial operations in the future but rather as illustrations of the very favorable impact of permanently slower growth in health care costs, if such slower growth can be achieved. The illustrative alternative projections presented here help to quantify and underscore the likely understatement of the current-law projections shown in the 2010 Trustees Report.
In other words, the actuaries ran the numbers on the Team Obama dream, then ran numbers that are a bit more reality-based.
I KID YOU NOT: We have yet to see Paul Krugman update or modify his post to note that it is perpendicular to reality. However, he did have time to post this tutorial a day later:
How To Read A CBO Report
One thing that has been overwhelmingly obvious in the discussion of Paul Ryan’s roadmap is that lots of people who should know better — including, alas, reporters at the Washington Post — don’t know how to read a CBO report. They think you can just skim it and get the gist; and people like Mr. Ryan have taken advantage of that misconception.
What you need to realize is that the CBO is the servant of members of Congress, which means that if a Congressman asks it to analyze a plan under certain assumptions, it will do just that — no matter how unrealistic the assumptions may be. CBO will tell you what’s going on, but it will do so deadpan, doing nothing in terms of emphasis or placement to highlight the funny business.
So how do you spot that funny business? One way is to go through the whole thing with a fine-toothed comb...
Thanks for the tips! I guess that guidance does not apply to the Medicare Trustees report. But here is an extended snippet from the section titled "Statement of Actuarial Opinion", which (I'm just thinking out loud here) is the sort of thing one might take a moment to read before assuring the world that "the Medicare actuaries believe that the cost-saving provisions in the Obama health reform will make a huge difference to the long-run budget outlook".
Further, while the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended, makes important changes to the Medicare program and substantially improves its financial outlook, there is a strong likelihood that certain of these changes will not be viable in the long range. Specifically, the annual price updates for most categories of non-physician health services will be adjusted downward each year by the growth in economy-wide productivity. The best available evidence indicates that most health care providers cannot improve their productivity to this degree—or even approach such a level—as a result of the labor-intensive nature of these services.
Without major changes in health care delivery systems, the prices paid by Medicare for health services are very likely to fall increasingly short of the costs of providing these services. By the end of the long-range projection period, Medicare prices for hospital, skilled nursing facility, home health, hospice, ambulatory surgical center, diagnostic laboratory, and many other services would be less than half of their level under the prior law. Medicare prices would be considerably below the current relative level of Medicaid prices, which have already led to access problems for Medicaid enrollees, and far below the levels paid by private health insurance. Well before that point, Congress would have to intervene to prevent the withdrawal of providers from the Medicare market and the severe problems with beneficiary access to care that would result. Overriding the productivity adjustments, as Congress has done repeatedly in the case of physician payment rates, would lead to far higher costs for Medicare in the long range than those projected under current law.
For these reasons, the financial projections shown in this report for Medicare do not represent a reasonable expectation for actual program operations in either the short range (as a result of the unsustainable reductions in physician payment rates) or the long range (because of the strong likelihood that the statutory reductions in price updates for most categories of Medicare provider services will not be viable). I encourage readers to review the “illustrative alternative” projections that are based on more sustainable assumptions for physician and other Medicare price updates. These projections are available at http://www.cms.gov/ActuarialStudies/Downloads/2010TRAlternativeScenario.pdf.
For heaven's sake - the chief actuary pleaded with readers to ignore the phony numbers based on the statutes and look at realistic projections, but Krugman, the Sherlock Holmes of CBO reports, couldn't figure it out.
LEST YOU DOUBT: The WaPo was able to crack the Medicare code:
The Medicare program's chief actuary was far more skeptical, contending that the report's predictions "do not represent a reasonable expectation" of its finances. In a two-page letter accompanying the trustees' report, Richard S. Foster, a non-partisan official who has been the Health and Human Services Department's top financial expert on Medicare for 15 years, said he doubted that health-care providers will become as efficient as the new law envisions. As a result, he said, the program is unlikely to slow payments for treating patients as much as the law anticipates and, as a result, will be unable to save as much money.
And the AP:
In what amounted to a dissenting opinion, top Medicare actuary Richard Foster warned that the report's financial projections "do not represent a reasonable expectation" for the hospital fund for America's elderly.
Gay marriage continues its steady advance through the courts, despite its steady defeats at the polls.
I have modified my official editorial position slightly. As a matter of process I would prefer to see this move through state houses rather than courts. Instead, we will probably get a judicial cram-down.
At one time I fretted that this would lead to a new permanent front in the culture wars a la Roe v. Wade. However, I am resigning myself to the cramdown and persuading myself it may not be that big a deal, because the Roe analogy is flawed.
With abortion, experience is not much of a teacher - thirty-seven years after Roe we are no closer to resolving questions about when life begins or whether abortion is murder, and performing more abortions will bring us no closer to an answer. Consequently, the two sides are unlikely to move much.
But when gay marriage is imposed by the courts, a vast new social experiment will begin (Oh, frabjous day!). And over time, we will all find out whether gay marriage really does weaken traditional marriage.
Back in 2004 black ministers worried that persuading aspiring young gang-banga playas to put a ring on it would become even harder if marriage were re-branded as a gay thing. Who knows? The earnest middle class libs on the Upper West Side will surely endure, just as they endured the Lyndon Johnson's Great Society experiments, which included paying young women to have babies and then cutting off the check if they found work or a hubby.
As to how other groups will fare in the brave new world to come, we can't expect high minded libs to worry about that, now can we?
Well. With any luck, the skeptics will be proven wrong and gay marriage will evolve as No Big Deal. Here's hoping.
READING THE OPINION: Dan McLaughlin questions the internal logic of the opinion. I like this:
1) Judge Walker's decision is internally, logically inconsistent in its treatment of the worth of cultural values, arguing that morality and tradition are not a valid basis for supporting the legal status of marriage, but at the same time finding a Constitutional violation from the fact that the same-sex alternative (domestic partnerships) lacks the social and cultural status that marriage has...and which it derives from its grounding in longstanding moral, cultural and religious traditions;
The Ground Zero Mosque has become ground zero for stupidity and misrepresentation.
Let's start with Alan Jacobs, who gets off to a reasonable start:
Of course Mayor Bloomberg is right — of course. It’s sad that there should even be debate about the core legal principles involved. Whether the building of a mosque so near Ground Zero is a good idea — whether it promotes the health of the city, as some of the proponents of the scheme say they want to do — is a completely different question, a matter of social prudence. About this reasonable people will disagree.
Dorothy Rabinowitz of the WSJ chimes in on behalf of reasonable people. Back to Mr.Jacobs:
But legally the situation is simple, as the mayor points out: “with or without landmark designation, there is nothing in the law that would prevent the owners from opening a mosque within the existing building. The simple fact is this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship. The government has no right whatsoever to deny that right – and if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.” He could delete the “almost” in that last sentence.
Mayor Bloomberg could have said this mosque is a terrible idea, it insults many members of the community, it is dividing people rather than bringing people together, but he is not going to twist the law to stop it. Instead, he chose to celebrate it.
Let's press on with the misrepresentation by Mr .Jacobs:
But the really sad thing is that people who call themselves conservatives — Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin — should be crying out for apparatuses of the state to limit and police voluntary religious association.
Sarah Palin called on "peace seeking" Muslims and "peaceful" New Yorkers to 'refudiate' it. Was that a call for government intervention, or an exhortation for people to exert their right of peaceable assembly? Mr. Jacobs seems to know, but I do not.
Mayor Bloomberg made two tiny nods towards the notion that having the right does not make something right:
But we also recognize that part of being a New Yorker is living with your neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance. It was exactly that spirit of openness and acceptance that was attacked on 9/11.
"Mutual respect" could be read to mean that the developers should take note of the fact that their community outreach has fallen a bit short. And later:
"Of course, it is fair to ask the organizers of the mosque to show some special sensitivity to the situation – and in fact, their plan envisions reaching beyond their walls and building an interfaith community. By doing so, it is my hope that the mosque will help to bring our City even closer together and help repudiate the false and repugnant idea that the attacks of 9/11 were in any way consistent with Islam. Muslims are as much a part of our City and our country as the people of any faith and they are as welcome to worship in Lower Manhattan as any other group. In fact, they have been worshipping at the site for the better part of a year, as is their right.
Uh huh. We have no idea who is funding this Victory Mosque, but even if it is BinLaden's family in concert with Wahhabi extremists from Saudi Arabia, Bloomberg has no problem; in fact, he has no questions at all.
The Mayor leaves us scratching our heads over this:
"On September 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked 'What God do you pray to?' 'What beliefs do you hold?'
"The attack was an act of war – and our first responders defended not only our City but also our country and our Constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very Constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights – and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.
OK, so I could honor the many policemen who died that day by staging daily protests about Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima. I assume the Mayor would defend my right to do so, but wold he really describe it as honoring the memory of New York's Finest?
Or let's analogize to the recent "Everybody Draw Mohammed" day. I see no reason why the Victory Mosque protestors couldn't exercise their free speech rights by appearing with placards depicting Mohammed throughout the Ground Zero area. I understand that would be offensive to Muslims, but it is the sort of free speech and opportunity for tolerance that the Mayor seems to laud, yes?
Or no. The Constitution provides the right to be a jerk, but that right need not be embraced. And unlike the Mayor, I have no intention of applauding a group of Muslims, financial backers unknown, who are intent on seizing their right to be offensive.
THE PICTURE I SEE: In my artistic vision I see the World Trade Center with Mohammed's face covering one tower as a jetliner crashes into the building. Was the attack inspired by Mohammed, or was it an attack on Mohhamed and his ideals? Ahh! Provocative art, and I know the Mayor would welcome such a billboard in the Ground Zero neighborhood.
SPEAKING OF PROJECTION: Tom Friedman provides a pure view of one strain of nonsense infecting the debate:
When we tell the world, “Yes, we are a country that will even tolerate a mosque near the site of 9/11,” we send such a powerful message of inclusion and openness. It is shocking to other nations. But you never know who out there is hearing that message and saying: “What a remarkable country! I want to live in that melting pot, even if I have to build a boat from milk cartons to get there.”
Sure it will send a message of inclusion, especially if the world shares the values of the Upper West Side. The ability to turn the other cheek is an admirable virtue but (believe it or not!) in some parts of the world it is interpreted as weakness, not strength. People who will naturally prefer the strong horse may not gravitate towards a country that won't even defend its own cities.
Somewhere in Afghanistan or Iraq is a village elder being asked by an American commander to put his trust in American strength and resolve. This is not a village elder who will be moving to the Upper West Side anytime soon, but he might end up beheaded by the Taliban or AQI if he chooses unwisely. Will the news that America allowed a mosque to be built on property destroyed in the 9/11 attacks persuade him that America will stand up to extremists? Maybe! Or maybe the old guy will fall down laughing and solve his problem that way.
Friedman describes the mosque as "Park51", which is its rebranded name. It is still also known as the Cordoba Initiative; Cordoba was the seat of the Muslim empire in Spain, where Christians and Jews were tolerated as second class citizens. But don't take offense.
In a helpful contribution to the lefty faith-based initiative backing this project, Jeffrey Goldberg explains that "If He Could, Bin Laden Would Bomb the Cordoba Initiative", since Bin Laden is opposed to moderate Muslims. Of course, it may be that Bin Laden and his family are building this project, since the developer won't tell us about his financial backers. Would this project still be a tribute to tolerance if it were funded by Wahhabi money from Saudi Arabia mixed in with some neo-Nazi cash from Europe?
Oh, well - the developer has promised it will be all right, so of course we have no worries:
Another contentious issue was how the center would raise the needed $100 million to finance the project, giving rise to speculation that the money could come from extremist groups.
Sharif El-Gamal dismissed such allegations, saying the money would come from a mix of equity, bonds, grants and contributions. He also called the building's proximity to the World Trade Center site accidental and said it was purchased to meet the needs of a growing Muslim community.
Accidental? The building was damaged in the 9/11 attack, so its historic tie to Ground Zero is much stronger than mere "proximity". I'm not fuly up to speed on downtown Manhattan rel estate, but if radical Muslims wanted to buy property destroyed in the 9/11 attack and put up a Victory Mosque, this is might well be the only property. I doubt even Bloomberg and the Times would agree to a mosque at Ground Zero itself.
WHEN ANALOGIES FAIL: Peter Beinart went with the "be tolerant, not a bigot" defense of the mosque and kept typing long after his brain turned off:
The ADL’s rationale for opposing the Ground Zero mosque is that “building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.” Huh? What if white victims of African-American crime protested the building of a black church in their neighborhood? Or gentile victims of Bernie Madoff protested the building of a synagogue?
Hmm - I get the difference between building a mosque near Ground Zero and building a mosque at a respectful remove from Ground Zero; it's sort of like saying that I don't mind people dancing, but please, not on my grave.
However, I can't make the leap to Beinart's analogy of "victims of black crime". Were the criminals motivated by religious extremism? And can Beinart's victims associate some clear geographic region with the crimes, or would the idea be to ban black churches anywhere near anyone who has ever been victimized by black criminals? That is absurd in a way that the Ground Zero issue is not.
Is there a Shinto Temple at Pearl Harbor? That would show our tolerance, as well as make a bit of amends for the Japanese internment during WWII and a couple of nukes we dropped. But apparently the nearest temple is five miles away. What kind of a country are we living in?
THE CARMELITE NUNS: The story of the Carmelite Nuns at Auschwitz is an interesting analogy.
In the 1980s, Carmelite nuns moved into an abandoned building on the edge of the former Nazi death camp to pray for the souls taken there. As with the dispute over the mosque near Ground Zero, the convent's presence escalated into a clash not only between different faiths but between competing historical narratives. As with today's clash too, it seemed intractable until the Polish pope stepped in.
For Jews, Auschwitz is a symbol of the Shoah, and the presence of a convent looked like an effort to Christianize a place of Jewish suffering. Suspicions were further aroused by a fundraising brochure from an outside Catholic group, which referred to the convent as a "guarantee of the conversion of strayed brothers." The protests mounted over the course of several years and various interfaith agreements, and pointed to the real strains that remained between Poles and Jews over a shared history with very different perspectives.
Many Catholics, not just in Poland, could not understand how nuns begging God's forgiveness and praying for the souls of the departed could possibly offend anyone. There was also a nationalist element. Many members of the Polish resistance had also been murdered at Auschwitz. And again like our present controversy at Ground Zero, intemperate reactions and statements from both sides only inflamed passions.
So what did Pope John Paul II do? He waited, and he counseled. And when he saw that the nuns were not budging—and that their presence was doing more harm than good—he asked the Carmelites to move. He acknowledged that his letter would probably be a trial to each of the sisters, but asked them to accept it while continuing to pursue their mission in that same city at another convent that had been built for them.
From contemporaneous NY Times reporting we see that Catholic nuns were not utterly out of place at Auschwitz:
As news of the drive spread, many Jewish groups in Europe issued statements demanding that Auschwitz be preserved as a monument to the mass killing of the Jews. The establishment of a convent, they said, insulted the memory of the Jews killed in Auschwitz. About 2 million to 2.25 million Jews and 1.25 million to 1.5 million non-Jews, mostly Polish Catholics, died at the camp, according to a spokesman for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
If I were splitting hairs, I would argue that the Jews were killed for being Jews; the Polish Catholics were killed for being Polish.
Virginia Heffernan of the NY Times blasts the dissolving Science Blogs as a sophomoronic snark-pit:
It started last month when 20 or so high-placed science bloggers angrily parted ways with an extremely popular and award-winning online collective called ScienceBlogs because it starting running Food Frontiers, a nutrition blog that PepsiCo paid to have on the site. (Several of the collective’s contributors, including some who left in protest, have written for The Times Magazine.) In farewell posts, the bloggers charged that the advertorial was deceptive and undermined the purpose of the collective.
But the bloggers’ eek-a-mouse posturing wasn’t the most striking part of the affair. Instead, it was the weird vindictiveness of many of the most prominent blogs. The stilted and seething tone of some of the defection posts sent me into the ScienceBlogs archives, where I expected to find original insights into science by writers who stress that they are part of, in the blogger Dave Munger’s words, “the most influential science blogging network in the world.” And while I found interesting stuff here and there, I also discovered that ScienceBlogs has become preoccupied with trivia, name-calling and saber rattling. Maybe that’s why the ScienceBlogs ship started to sink.
Recently a blogger called GrrlScientist, on Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted), expressed her disgust at the “flock of hugely protruding bellies and jiggling posteriors everywhere I go.” Gratuitous contempt like this is typical. Mark Hoofnagle on Denialism Blog sideswiped those who question antibiotics, writing, “their particular ideology requires them to believe in the primacy of religion (Christian Science, New Age Nonsense) or in the magical properties of nature.” Over at Pharyngula — which often ranks in the Top 100 blogs on the Internet— PZ Myers revels in sub-“South Park” blasphemy, presenting (in one recent stunt) his sketch of the Prophet Muhammad as a cow-pig hybrid excited about “raping a 9-year-old girl.”
Clearly I’ve been out of some loop for too long, but does everyone take for granted now that science sites are where graduate students, researchers, doctors and the “skeptical community” go not to interpret data or review experiments but to chip off one-liners, promote their books and jeer at smokers, fat people and churchgoers? And can anyone who still enjoys this class-inflected bloodsport tell me why it has to happen under the banner of science?
Hammering away at an ideology, substituting stridency for contemplation, pummeling its enemies in absentia: ScienceBlogs has become Fox News for the religion-baiting, peak-oil crowd.
Fox News? Why not think of it as Olbermann/Maddow for the peak oil crowd?