Tag Archives: Alex Massie

Boss Hogg Says Something Interesting

Ben Smith at Politico:

Here’s a major moment in the nascent Republican presidential primary: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour tonight became the first among the leading Republican candidates to suggest that the United States reduce its presence in Afghanistan and its spending on defense.

Barbour echoed the concerns of critics of the Afghan war effort when asked by reporters in Iowa about American involvement in the conflict:

He also said that the U.S. should consider reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan. “I think we need to look at that,” he said when asked if the U.S. should scale back its presence.

But he said his reasoning isn’t financial.

“What is our mission?” Barbour said. “How many Al Qaeda are in Afghanistan. … Is that a 100,000-man Army mission?”

“I don’t think our mission should be to think we’re going to make Afghanistan an Ireland or an Italy” or a Western-style democracy, he said.

Barbour’s leading Republican rivals have positioned themselves to President Obama’s hawkish right on a range of foreign policy issues. They’ve also resisted calls from some associated with the Tea Party movement for deep cuts to federal spending that would include defense cuts. In fact, two of the candidates — Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich — have in the past backed the Heritage Foundation’s “4 percent for Freedom” initiative, which would actually raise baseline defense spending.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

Ben Smith correctly identifies the first sort of interesting event in the Republican presidential primary race: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has had enough of Afghanistan and wants to start drawing down troops. No details about how many and when, of course–and, in the end, Barbour’s timetable may not be all that different from Obama’s, which, I expect will have lots of troops coming home next year. But this is Haley Barbour, folks–and we know two things about him: he’s not the world’s boldest policy thinker and he’s probably the smartest political strategist in the field. When Barbour decides that Afghanistan is a loser, you can bet that more than a few Republicans are heading that way–and that means interesting times for the trigger-happy neoconservatives who have dominated Republican foreign policy thinking in recent years. It also means that the foreign policy debate in the Republican primaries may be a real eye-opener.

J.F. at DiA at the Economist:

The interesting thing about Mr Barbour’s comments is not that he said them, but that he’s right: of course reining in defence spending has to at least be part of the conversation if people are going to take Republican promises of fiscal responsibility seriously. The depressing thing about his being right is that it doesn’t matter. There are plenty of other ways for Republicans to show their fiscal bonafides. Means-testing Social Security, for instance. Trimming Medicare. Backing the cost-saving measures in Obamacare. Letting the Bush tax cuts expire (sigh). Any takers, Republicans? No?

My two cents: Mr Barbour will get a pass on those comments for now—and may even get some lip service from the Romney-Gingrich camp—because his candidacy is such a long shot. If things start to improve for him, though, look for him to be pilloried as soft on national security.

Dan Amira at New York Magazine:

Of course, if Ron Paul runs, he would easily outdo Barbour on this front. But for now, Barbour is the only one, and Time‘s Joe Klein uses the opportunity to tout him as “probably the smartest political strategist in the field.”

Whether or not that’s true, you really don’t need to be a genius to know that Americans across the political spectrum are tiring of the war in Afghanistan. You just need the ability to read. According to a January Gallup poll, 72 percent of independents and 61 percent of Republicans want to “speed up withdrawal from Afghanistan.” And the sentiment is even stronger among tea partiers. According to a poll commissioned by the Afghan Study Group — in the words of founder Steve Clemons, “a bipartisan group of leading academics, business executives, former government officials, policy practitioners and journalists” — 64 percent of self-identified tea partiers want to reduce troop levels in Afghanistan or leave the country entirely. Considering the poll numbers, more surprising than Barbour taking a dovish position on Afghanistan is that the rest of his fellow candidates-to-be haven’t already done the same.

Alex Massie:

Barbour, the Boss Hogg governor of Mississippi, remains a long-shot for the GOP Presidential nomination but he’s not someone noted for policy boldness or imagination. True, his ideal timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan may not differ from the platonic ideal of withdrawal imagined by the Obama administration; that’s not the important thing here. What matters – though this is but a tea leaf into which too much should not be read – is the hint that Republican enthusiasm for the Afghan mission may be waning. That in turn may make the foreign policy debates during the GOP primary more interesting than seemed likely six months ago.

Barbour, of course, is an impeccably-connected member of the “elite” disguised as a southern good old boy. Doubtless that’s why he’s also able to argue that conservative claims to fiscal responsibility (an interesting concept in itself) are meaningless if the Pentagon’s budget is ring-fenced and protected from future budget cuts. Again, this is the sort of “Beltway” thinking disdained by talk radio and the populist right.

Yesterday James observed that it is “worrying” that ” the United State appears to have lost interest in its role as global policeman” but it’s also worth pointing out that this is a role it has performed fitfully and inconsistently in the past. Again, parts of the Obama administration’s foreign and security apparatus – notably but not only Bob Gates – owe something to the George HW Bush/Colin Powell approach to international affairs. Leadership is certainly important but the problems of foreign policy are something to be managed, not solved. Because often there are no solutions and even rarer still is the solution that doesn’t involve hefty, perhaps expensive, trade-offs.

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Filed under Af/Pak, Political Figures

Governors Are Doing All Kinds Of Things Out There

James L. Rosica at Miami Herald:

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have ended the automatic restoration of voting and other civil rights to nonviolent felons once their sentences are up.

Sitting as the Board of Executive Clemency, they voted 4-0 on Wednesday to change the panel’s rules and require at least a five-year waiting period before ex-convicts can apply to get their rights back.

“If you’re convicted … you lost those rights,” Scott said at a news conference later in the day. “There ought to be a process to get those rights back.”

Law enforcement officials and state prosecutors favored the change, saying people who have broken the law need a waiting period to prove themselves.

Civil rights advocates called the new rule a step backward, tantamount to double punishment.

The change is effective immediately and potentially affects anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 felons, experts said.

Now felons will have to wait five years after completing a sentence to apply for rights restoration. This will return Florida to the Jim Crow era, when such hurdles were created to prevent blacks from voting.

Make no mistake: This proposal has racial and partisan implications.

A disproportionate number of Florida’s felons are African American, and in this state, blacks overwhelmingly vote Democratic. The Cabinet has further alienated black voters by adopting these more-stringent restoration rules. What purpose does that serve the state or the Republican Party?

In the last decade, more than 20 states have eased the restoration process for people convicted of crimes. Florida should remain in this group of enlightened states. Instead it has gone back a century. It now has joined only two other states — Kentucky and Virginia — in requiring waiting periods and hearings before felons can get their rights restored.

If anything, the Cabinet should have considered more streamlining measures for clemency. The Florida Parole Commission investigates clemency applications, and it has always struggled with huge backlogs. For a time the Corrections Department even loaned some staffers to tackle the backlog.

Clemency application reviews still move at a snail’s pace, delaying justice for felons who have paid their debt to society. The Commission recently told the Legislature that it has a growing backlog of more than 100,000 cases.

Making felons who have served their time wait years to regain their rights has nothing to do with being tough on crime. By embracing this regressive proposal, the governor and Cabinet have sent Florida back to a shameful time of blatant racial prejudice.

Mansfield Frazier at The Daily Beast:

Cleveland State University Urban Studies Associate Professor Ronnie Dunn has written extensively on how, since the advent of the Jim Crow era, unfair laws have been enacted— particularly in Southern states—to deny blacks the right to vote. Writing in a soon-to-be-released handbook on prisoner reentry, he describes how poll taxes, literacy tests, and property ownership were devices routinely used to suppress the black vote and unfairly affect election outcomes.

Florida now joins two other states, Kentucky and Virginia, in having the most severe restrictions on former felons voting and other rights, such as serving on juries and holding certain professional licenses. Five black Florida lawmakers joined a chorus of civil-rights advocates in objecting to the rule changes, saying no evidence existed that the abandoned process, which was approved by former Gov. Charlie Crist and the former cabinet in 2007, was not working.

“It’s really not about what’s right or fair,” said Ken Lumpkin, an attorney and political activist in Cleveland. “This is about stealing elections and hurting an individual’s chances of starting over after prison. If felons had had the franchise in Florida back in 2000, over a million more people would have been eligible to vote, and the election would not have been close enough for the Supreme Court to give it to Bush. What this new governor is doing is rolling back the clock on minority rights. And with Republican governors and legislative majorities in states like Ohio and Wisconsin, no one should be surprised if they try to change the rules in those states also. If that happens, a Democratic candidate for president won’t stand a chance.”

Indeed, incoming Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, among other changes, wants to stop county boards of elections from mailing unsolicited absentee ballots to voters and limit the window of time they have to cast them. Democrats, however, charge that Husted’s proposals are designed to discourage voting, especially in big urban counties.

Ohio State Rep. Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus), the former director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, said it would be “bad public policy” to prevent county boards from soliciting and paying postage for absentee ballots. The service, he said, alleviated long lines at polling places (such as those that marred the county’s 2004 presidential election) that caused some elderly voters to walk away without voting.

Back in Florida, state NAACP Vice Chairman Dale Landry said that individuals who have completed their sentences have paid their debt to society in full and should be allowed to vote. “Why do we come back and impose a further penalty?” he asked. “What we’re saying is that… the state wants to impose further sentencing, an additional penalty. That’s exactly what was done here.”

Greta Van Susteren at Fox News on the Daily Beast story above:

This posting is about the HEADLINE (not whether you agree or disagree with the underlying law.  People can differ on whether the law is a good one or not, appropriate or not.)

Headlines are to grab attention — but there is a point when they are simply irresponsible and trying to stir up hate and problems.   I think the headline below “FLORIDA’S RACIST NEW LAW” is exactly that – irresponsible and trying to stir up problems and hate.  The headline DID catch my attention since for many, many, many years prior to TV, I represented a lot of poor African Americans and often in issues involving civil rights.

Upon reading the explosive (I think it explosive) headline, I wanted to know more about “FLORIDA’S RACIST NEW LAW”  — and so I read the article.  I bet many just read the article and stop there — thus left with the impression that Florida is racist (or those who support the law are.)   In actually reading the article, I see that the author writes “[b]ut whether the move was simply tough-on-crime posturing or something more nefarious remains an open question.

You have to dig deep into the article for the “open question” while the RACISM was in bigger, bolder letters in the headline. So what was a PRONOUNCEMENT of FACT in the headline of RACISM (and sure to cause many people to be deeply disturbed) now remains “AN OPEN QUESTION” as to whether the law was a “tough on crime posturing or something more nefarious” (eg racism.)  There is a big difference between being “tough on crime” and being a racist.

Roger Clegg at The Corner:

Florida governor Rick Scott and his cabinet have ended the policy of his predecessor, Charlie Crist, of automatically reenfranchising felons upon their release from prison. The ACLU et al. are outraged, but it’s the right decision: Those who have demonstrated that they won’t follow the law shouldn’t be allowed automatically to make the law for everyone else; rather, they should have that right reinstated only after they’ve shown that they have indeed turned over a new leaf, as I’ve discussed on NRO many times — for example, here. Kudos to Governor Scott.

Alex Massie:

Given the scale of the injustices and barbarism that characterise large parts of the criminal justice system in many, perhaps even most, American states denying former felons the right to vote once they have been returned to society may seem a minor concern. Nevertheless it is a telling one and something that should shame those states that still bar ex-cons from voting.I’d have thought it an obvious principle of natural justice that we take the view that once released a prisoner should be considered a free man or woman. True, there are certain limited caveats to this (sex offender registries being the most glaring) and some jobs may reasonably (or reasonably in many cases) be considered unsuitable for former felons but none of that has any bearing on the question of whether released prisoners should be permitted to vote.

Clegg links to a piece he wrote elaborating upon this view that ex-cons shouldn’t be permitted one of the most fundamental rights we have to grant. But this is all he has to say:

It is frequently asserted that felons released from prison should be able to vote because they have “paid their debt to society.” But the felon-vote movement will, if pressed, admit that they think felons in prison should be allowed to vote, too. And society is not obliged to ignore someone’s criminal record just because he has been released from prison. Felons are barred by federal law from possessing firearms, for example.

Is that it? Apparently so. Ex-cons can’t be permitted to vote because that’s the slippery slope to letting serving inmates vote too. Colour me unpersuaded. This argument, however, leads one to wonder whether it is in fact possible for felons to “pay their debt to society”? And if they have not done so – as the denial of voting rights suggests they must not have done – then why are they being released in the first place? That, at any rate, would seem to be the logic of this matter. It’s a grim and pitiless worldview.Of course there’s the possibility that other motives are at play, namely that for a number of reasons ex-cons may be more likely to vote Democratic than Republican. But let us put that unworthy thought to one side and simply note that denying ex-felons the franchise is a further punishment that’s above and beyond and entirely unrelated to the crimes which led to their incarceration. I’m amazed, actually, that it’s Constitutional to do so.

No, it’s just one more example of a criminal justice system that, alas, should shame the United States. This is not a question of liberalism or conservatism but of decency. There are many things the Americans do better than us but thank god we don’t have their criminal justice or prison systems.

Incidentally, anyone with any interest in these matters should follow Radley Balko’s work. (And actually the New York Times should have given him an op-ed column years ago.)

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Filed under Crime, The Constitution

Tucson

James Fallows:

After this horrible news from Tucson….

… let me amplify something I said half-coherently in a live conversation with Guy Raz on All Things Considered a little while ago. My intended point was:

Shootings of political figures are by definition “political.” That’s how the target came to public notice; it is why we say “assassination” rather than plain murder.

But it is striking how rarely the “politics” of an assassination (or attempt) match up cleanly with the main issues for which a public figure has stood. Some killings reflect “pure” politics: John Wilkes Booth shooting Abraham Lincoln, the German officers who tried to kill Hitler and derail his war plans. We don’t know exactly why James Earl Ray killed Martin Luther King, but it must have had a lot to do with civil rights.

There is a longer list of odder or murkier motives:
– Leo Ryan, the first (and, we hope, still the only) Representative to be killed in the line of duty, was gunned down in Guyana in 1978 for an investigation of the Jim Jones/Jonestown cult, not any “normal” political issue.

– Sirhan Sirhan horribly transformed American politics by killing Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, but Sirhan’s political causes had little or nothing to do with what RFK stood for to most Americans.

– So too with Arthur Bremer, who tried to kill George C. Wallace in 1972 and left him paralyzed.

– The only known reason for John Hinckley’s shooting of Ronald Reagan involves Jodie Foster.

– It’s not often remembered now, but Manson family member Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme tried to shoot Gerald Ford, again for reasons that would mean nothing to most Americans of that time.

– When Harry Truman was shot at (and a policeman was killed) on the sidewalk outside the White Blair House, the attackers were concerned not about Cold War policies or Truman’s strategy in Korea but about Puerto Rican independence.

– The assassinations of William McKinley and James Garfield were also “political” but not in a way that matched the main politics of that time. The list could go on.

So the train of logic is:
1) anything that can be called an “assassination” is inherently political;
2) very often the “politics” are obscure, personal, or reflecting mental disorders rather than “normal” political disagreements. But now a further step,
3) the political tone of an era can have some bearing on violent events. The Jonestown/Ryan and Fromme/Ford shootings had no detectable source in deeper political disagreements of that era. But the anti-JFK hate-rhetoric in Dallas before his visit was so intense that for decades people debated whether the city was somehow “responsible” for the killing. (Even given that Lee Harvey Oswald was an outlier in all ways.)

That’s the further political ramification here. We don’t know why the Tucson killer did what he did. If he is like Sirhan, we’ll never “understand.” But we know that it has been a time of extreme, implicitly violent political rhetoric and imagery, including SarahPac’s famous bulls-eye map of 20 Congressional targets to be removed — including Rep. Giffords. It is legitimate to discuss whether there is a connection between that tone and actual outbursts of violence, whatever the motivations of this killer turn out to be. At a minimum, it will be harder for anyone to talk — on rallies, on cable TV, in ads — about “eliminating” opponents, or to bring rifles to political meetings, or to say “don’t retreat, reload.”

Jack Shafer at Slate:

The attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and the killing of six innocents outside a Tucson Safeway has bolstered the ongoing argument that when speaking of things political, we should all avoid using inflammatory rhetoric and violent imagery.

“Shooting Throws Spotlight on State of U.S. Political Rhetoric,” reports CNN. “Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Vitriol in Politics,” states the New York Times. Keith Olbermann clocked overtime on Saturday to deliver a commentary subtitled “The political rhetoric of the country must be changed to prevent acts of domestic terrorism.” The home page of the Washington Post offered this headline to its story about the shooting: “Rampage Casts Grim Light on U.S. Political Discord.”

The lead spokesman for the anti-inflammatory movement, however, was Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, whose jurisdiction includes Tucson. Said Dupnik at a Jan. 8 press conference in answer to questions about the criminal investigation:

I’d just like to say that when you look at unbalanced people, how they are—how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths, about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.

Embedded in Sheriff Dupnik’s ad hoc wisdom were several assumptions. First, that strident, anti-government political views can be easily categorized as vitriolic, bigoted, and prejudicial. Second, that those voicing strident political views are guilty of issuing Manchurian Candidate-style instructions to commit murder and mayhem to the “unbalanced.” Third, that the Tucson shooter was inspired to kill by political debate or by Sarah Palin’s “target” map or other inflammatory outbursts. Fourth, that we should calibrate our political speech in such a manner that we do not awaken the Manchurian candidates among us.

And, fifth, that it’s a cop’s role to set the proper dimensions of our political debate. Hey, Dupnik, if you’ve got spare time on your hands, go write somebody a ticket.

Sheriff Dupnik’s political sermon came before any conclusive or even circumstantial proof had been offered that the shooter had been incited by anything except the gas music from Jupiter playing inside his head.

For as long as I’ve been alive, crosshairs and bull’s-eyes have been an accepted part of the graphical lexicon when it comes to political debates. Such “inflammatory” words as targeting, attacking, destroying, blasting, crushing, burying, knee-capping, and others have similarly guided political thought and action. Not once have the use of these images or words tempted me or anybody else I know to kill. I’ve listened to, read—and even written!—vicious attacks on government without reaching for my gun. I’ve even gotten angry, for goodness’ sake, without coming close to assassinating a politician or a judge.

From what I can tell, I’m not an outlier. Only the tiniest handful of people—most of whom are already behind bars, in psychiatric institutions, or on psycho-meds—can be driven to kill by political whispers or shouts. Asking us to forever hold our tongues lest we awake their deeper demons infantilizes and neuters us and makes politicians no safer.

Alex Massie:

So apparently a pretty stupid Sarah Palin poster from last year in which gunsights were slapped over 20 districts carried by John McCain from which the Democratic incumbent had voted for Obamacare, is now to be considered the inspiration for this atrocity. Mrs Palin has some influence, but let’s not get carried away. For what it’s worth – and readers know that I’m hardly her greatest fan – I do not think she is very much more responsible for this abomination than Jodie Foster was for John Hinckley’s attempt to murder Ronald Reagan. In any case, Palin’s poster was only a souped-up version of a campaign trope that both parties have been happy to employ in the past. (That said, Palin Presidential Futures, already worth shorting, took another dive yesterday.)

But the sordid temptations of politics are such that people who argue there’s little sensible connection between Hollywood “violence” and real-world violence now suddenly insist that it just takes a silly poster and plenty of over-heated rhetoric to inspire America’s Top Kooks to come out of the closet, all guns blazing. And of course the reverse is also true: people happy to blame Grand Theft Auto for just about anything now insist there’s no connection at all between the tone of political discourse (“Second Amendment Solutions!”) and some nut taking these notions just a little bit too seriously.

Clearly, things are a little more complicated than that. While you cannot legislate for lunatics there’s also little need to give them any encouragement. But the more we learn about Jared Loughner the more it seems probable – at this stage – that he’s the kind of mentally unstable person who neither needed nor took any inspiration from Palin or the Tea Party or anything other than powerful fantasies that were his own creation.

And this too is normal. Political violence of this type is almost definitionally unhinged but it’s striking how rare it turns out to be the case that the perpetrators can be fitted into one neat political profile or another. And even when they can their targets are frequently so at odds with the meaning of their supposed “philosophy” that trying to “make sense” of such matters becomes an even more frustrating task.

Anyway, we may think these are unusually turbulent times, fanned by unusual quantities of cheap and phoney populism, scaremongering and hysteria but this is not in fact the case. ‘Twas ever thus and the 1960s offer a perspective that might be worth looking at if only, despite all the huffing and puffing, to appreciate how calm and at peace America is these days. Remember McKinley and Garfield too, if you want to go still further back. America ain’t tearing itself apart these days, no matter how much Paul Krugman tries to persuade you it must be. The paranoid style has rarely lacked followers and, just as significantly, the centre has also always had a healthy paranoia of its own. Sometimes, as is the case today or in the aftermath of any other act of grim violence, this will seem unusually plausible.

Most of the time, however, the scare stories about a new era of Militiamen or whatever are seriously over-cooked. The temper of these American  times – despite what you will read everywhere today and tomorrow – is not unusually rebarbative or even uncommonly obtuse. (What might be said, mind you, is that the level of rhetoric is out of proportion to the stakes involved in the political game these days.)

The fact of the matter is that a country of 300 million people cannot help but be generously larded with oddballs, freaks, paranoids and assorted other nutters. Couple that with the American genius for self-realization and you soon begin to wonder why there isn’t more politically-themed violence than is actually the case

Radley Balko:

We’re going to hear a lot of talk in the coming days about putting an end to anti-government rhetoric. I’ve been listening to it all morning on the Sunday talk shows. Let’s get the obvious out of the way, here: Initiating violence against government officials and politicians is wrongheaded, immoral, futile, and counterproductive to any anti-government cause. As is encouraging or praising others who do. I ban anyone who engages in that kind of talk here.

But it’s worth remembering that the government initiates violence against its own citizens every day in this country, citizens who pose no threat or harm to anyone else. The particular policy that leads to the sort of violence you see in these videos is supported by nearly all of the politicians and pundits decrying anti-government rhetoric on the news channels this morning. (It’s also supported by Sarah Palin, many Tea Party leaders, and other figures on the right that politicians and pundits are shaming this weekend.)

I hope Rep. Giffords—and everyone wounded yesterday—makes a full recovery. It’s particularly tragic that she was shot while doing exactly what we want elected officials to do—she was making herself available to the people she serves. And of course we should mourn the people senselessly murdered yesterday, government employees and otherwise: U.S. District Judge John Roll, Dorothy Murray, Dorwin Stoddard, nine-year-old Christina Green, Phyllis Scheck, and Gabe Zimmerman.

That said, I long for the day that our political and media figures get as indignant about innocent Americans killed by their own government—killed in fact, as a direct and foreseeable consequence of official government policy that nearly all of those leaders support—as they are about a government official who was targeted by a clearly sick and deranged young man. What happened this weekend is not, by any means, a reason to shunt anti-government protest, even angry anti-government protest, out of the sphere of acceptable debate. The government still engages in plenty of acts and policies—including one-sided violence against its own citizens—that are well worth our anger, protest, and condemnation.

Michelle Malkin

Jonathan Martin in Politico

Keach Hagey in Politico

Nick Gillespie at Reason:

There’s no question that the GOP and its proponents are more than ready to play a similar game. Any moral lapse by a Democrat, for instance, is an ethical rot that stems directly from the malefactor’s stance on the minimum wage or Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, say, while hypocrites such as Sen. Larry Craig and Tom DeLay are ethical one-offs. The most-unbelievable response in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was longterm GOP activist Jerry Falwell’s announcement on Pat Robertson’s TV network that gays and women wearing pants etc. were responsible for radical Islamists killing 3,000 people (even more sadly, years after Falwell apologized for his self-evidently retarded statement, conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza blew out the thesis into a full-length book). I’m not trying to be “fair and balanced” here by bringing up GOP stupidity; I’m trying to point out that we’re in a decade of this sort craptastic instantaneous spin that latches on to everything in its path. I say this as someone who was fingered as broadly responsible for the culture that produced “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh.

Readers of this site know I’m no Sarah Palin fan, but to accuse her of complicity in the murderous spree of a clearly insane person is one of the main reasons that partisan political parties are losing market share. I had myself tweeted that blaming Palin for Jared Loughner’s mass killing would be like blaming J.D. Salinger for Mark David Chapman shooting John Lennon (and as Jesse Walker pointed out, in Chapman’s case, at least we could be sure Chapman had read Salinger). Given Loughner’s fixation on grammar and the supposed lack of literacy evinced by most Americans, maybe William Safire and S.I. Hayakawa should be held responsible.

Like Matt Welch and Jack Shafer, I don’t think that today’s political rhetoric is particularly overheated or vitriolic and, even if it were, I don’t think that would be a problem. I suspect that most people are like me in that they respond to folks who actually believe something and are willing to fight for it when it comes to a particular political issue. I don’t like bipartisanship, which usually means that all of us get screwed, but it’s easy enough to respect someone you virulently disagree with if you think they are arguing in good faith.

The problem isn’t with the current moment’s rhetoric, it’s with the goddamn politicization of every goddamn thing not even for a higher purpose or broader fight but for the cheapest moment-by-moment partisan advantage. Whether on the left or on the right, there’s a totalist mentality that everything can and should be explained first and foremost as to whether it helps or hurt the party of choice.

That sort of clearly calculated punditry helps explain one of last week’s other big stories, which is how both the Dems and the GOP have really bad brand loyalty these days. In its most recent survey of political self-identification, Gallup found that the Dems were at their lowest point in 22 years and that the GOP remains stuck below the one-third mark. The affiliation that has the highest marks for the past couple of decades on average and is growing now is independent. Faced with the way that the major parties and their partisans try to bend every news story, trend, box office hit or bomb, you name it, whether truly horrific (as Saturday’s shooting was) or totally banal, is it any wonder that fewer people want to be affiliated with the Dems and Reps? This is a long-term trend. Indeed, Harris Poll numbers that stretch back to the late ’60s show the same trend: Fewer and few folks want to view themselves as Democrats and the GOP has never been popular (even though far more people consider themselves “conservative” than “liberal”). And note what Gallup are Harris are talking about there is not party registration. It’s identification and self-affiliation; how you see yourself. It’s a cultural identity.

Paul Krugman at The New York Times

Ross Douthat at The New York Times

Tom Maguire on Krugman

Nick Baumann at Mother Jones:

At 2:00 a.m. on Saturday—about eight hours before he allegedly killed six people and wounded 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), in Tucson—Jared Lee Loughner phoned an old and close friend with whom he had gone to high school and college. The friend, Bryce Tierney, was up late watching TV, but he didn’t answer the call. When he later checked his voice mail, he heard a simple message from Loughner: “Hey man, it’s Jared. Me and you had good times. Peace out. Later.”

That was it. But later in the day, when Tierney first heard about the Tucson massacre, he had a sickening feeling: “They hadn’t released the name, but I said, ‘Holy shit, I think it’s Jared that did it.'” Tierney tells Mother Jones in an exclusive interview that Loughner held a years-long grudge against Giffords and had repeatedly derided her as a “fake.” Loughner’s animus toward Giffords intensified after he attended one of her campaign events and she did not, in his view, sufficiently answer a question he had posed, Tierney says. He also describes Loughner as being obsessed with “lucid dreaming”—that is, the idea that conscious dreams are an alternative reality that a person can inhabit and control—and says Loughner became “more interested in this world than our reality.” Tierney adds, “I saw his dream journal once. That’s the golden piece of evidence. You want to know what goes on in Jared Loughner’s mind, there’s a dream journal that will tell you everything.”

Peter Beinart at Daily Beast:

Liberals should stop acting like the Tea Party is guilty of inciting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting until proven innocent. That’s unfair. If someone finds evidence that violent anti-government, or anti-democratic, rhetoric helped trigger Jared Lee Loughner’s shooting spree, then the people making those statements should pay with their political careers. But so far, at least, there is no such evidence. Of course, Sarah Palin should stop using hunting metaphors to discuss her political opponents. She should stop doing that, and a dozen other idiotic things. But just as Tea Partiers are wrong to promiscuously throw around terms like “communist” and “death panels,” liberals should avoid promiscuously accusing people of being accessories to attempted murder. That’s too serious a charge to throw around unless you have the goods. I want Barack Obama to derail the congressional Republicans as much as anyone. But not this way.

The Giffords shooting doesn’t prove that Sarah Palin has blood on her hands. What it does prove is that when it comes to terrorism, people like Sarah Palin have a serious blind spot. On the political right, and at times even the political center, there is a casual assumption—so taken for granted that it is rarely even spoken—that the only terrorist threat America faces is from jihadist Islam. There was a lot of talk a couple of weeks back, you’ll remember, about a terrorist attack during the holiday season. And there’s been a lot of talk in the last couple of years about the threat of homegrown terrorists. Well, we’ve just experienced a terrorist attack over the holiday season, and it was indeed homegrown. Had the shooters’ name been Abdul Mohammed, you’d be hearing the familiar drumbeat about the need for profiling and the pathologies of Islam. But since his name was Jared Lee Loughner, he gets called “mentally unstable”; the word “terrorist” rarely comes up. When are we going to acknowledge that good old-fashioned white Americans are every bit as capable of killing civilians for a political cause as people with brown skin who pray to Allah? There’s a tradition here. Historically, American elites, especially conservative American elites, have tended to reserve the term “terrorism” for political violence committed by foreigners. In the early 20th century, for instance, there was enormous fear, even hysteria, about the terrorist threat from anarchist and communist immigrants from Eastern or Southern Europe, people like Sacco and Vanzetti. In the aftermath of World War I, large numbers of immigrant radicals were arrested and deported. Nothing similar happened to members of the white, protestant Ku Klux Klan, even though its violence was more widespread.

Similarly today, the media spends the Christmas season worrying how another attack by radical Muslims might undermine President Obama’s national-security credentials. But when Jared Lee Loughner shoots 20 people at a Safeway, barely anyone even comments on what it says about the president’s anti-terror bona fides. And yet Loughner’s attack is, to a significant degree, what American terror looks like. Obviously, jihadists have committed their share of terrorism on American soil in the last couple of decades—from the attempted bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 to the 9/11 attacks to Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan’s murder of 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009. But there have been at least as many attacks by white Americans angry at their own government or society. For almost two decades, culminating in 1995, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski sent mail bombs to people he considered complicit in industrial America’s assault on nature. (A surprising amount of recent American terrorism comes from militant environmentalists.) That same year, Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the second-largest recent terrorist attack on U.S. soil after 9/11. In 1996, Eric Rudolph bombed the Atlanta Olympics to protest abortion and international socialism. According to the FBI, opposition to abortion also played a role in the 2001 anthrax attacks (you know, the ones Dick Cheney were sure had been masterminded by Saddam Hussein). In 2009, Wichita, Kansas, abortion doctor George Tiller was murdered. (He had already been shot once, and his clinic had been bombed.) That same year octogenarian neo-Nazi James Wenneker von Brunn shot a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Last February, a man angry at the federal government flew a small plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas.

Instapundit at The Wall Street Journal

Ezra Klein:

None of this, of course, will ease the suffering of Giffords or her family, nor of any of the other individuals and families directly affected by this morning’s slaughter. For them, the process of grieving and recovering has barely begun. Loughner’s shooting might’ve been motivated by mental illness, but the people in that parking lot were motivated by democracy: It was a meeting between a congressional representative and those she represents. They were attacked for being good citizens, and nothing can ever put that right.

But one way that people might pay tribute is to follow their example and attend the next meeting held by their representative. It is so easy and safe to participate in the American political system that we sometimes take doing so for granted. Today was a horrifying look into a world in which that isn’t so, and it should leave us with renewed appreciation for, and determination to protect, the world we have. On this, Giffords was way ahead of us: When the 112th session of the House of Representatives convened to read the Constitution earlier this week, she chose to read the section guaranteeing Americans the right “peaceably to assemble.”

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The Clash Or The Sex Pistols Surely Would Have Written A Song About This

Sebastian E. Payne at The Spectator had a liveblog of the protests

Fraser Nelson at The Spectator:

The revolution may not be televised, but protests certainly are – and the process magnifies the drama. Since last night, the news broadcasts have all had footage of two thugs trying to smash the windows of the Treasury and, in the process, familiarising themselves with the properties of bombproof glass. The attack on Charles and Camilla’s royal limo is splashed across all this morning’s front pages.

The script is so well-rehearsed now that I hesitate to repeat it: the vast majority are peaceful protesters, infiltrated by vandals who soak up the attention. Many of the protesters yesterday looked like they’d get a cab straight back home to their Notting Hill trust-fund houses. This is not 1968 or the Poll Tax riots: it’s some produced-for-television protest at cuts which are 3.3 per cent over four years. Milder even than the now-forgotten post-1976 cuts.

Yes, there’s a budget deficit to fix – but did the universities budget really have to take such a knock? The Lib Dem error, in my view, is accepting the Tory pledge not to cut the wasteful NHS budget. Had its budget been shaved by the same amount as other government departments, there would be no need to cut the uni budget. The axe could have been wielded more evenly. The lesson from Canada’s cuts was that there should be no protected departments: if you protect a budget as massive as that of the NHS (which accounts for a quarter of departmental spending), then you concentrate pain elsewhere. Someone – in Britain’s case, undergraduates – gets it in the neck.

That said, British university funding is an anomaly. Look at the websites of the top ten world universities and those of Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial jump out with the tiny amount they are able to charge undergraduates. The elite American unis are about £30k each.

Bagehot at The Economist:

The newspapers were duly full of pictures of the royal couple, as well as images of the smashed window of their car and a great smear across its gleaming bodywork where somebody had thrown a can of paint. But of course, this was effectively an accident. The prince had been on his way to an annual charity theatrical extravaganza, the Royal Variety Performance (a duty which is already one of the trials of the royal year), when his car had been stuck in traffic near Oxford Circus, far from the centre of the student protests. By chance, a smallish breakaway group of protestors were in the same spot, apparently intent on smashing up some posh shops when suddenly the poshest car in Britain purred up next to them, bearing a prince in black tie. Some sort of attack on the car was more or less inevitable at that point. The prince was a victim of dreadful luck (and arguably poor reconnaissance and teamwork by the police and his protection officers, a question which is even now being investigated). But even as I watched I found myself thinking, this could so nearly have been so much worse. And luck has been at the forefront of my mind all along, during this first wave of unrest.

Let me explain. I’m pretty sure that if the occupant of the Rolls Royce last night had been the Queen, an elderly lady who also commands much more public respect and loyalty than her son, the country would have woken this morning in a much darker mood. What if the armoured glass of the Rolls Royce’s window had given way, injuring the prince (or the Queen)? What if a police bodyguard had been injured, or pulled his gun? (There are reports in some newspapers that the policeman in the prince’s chase car was bashing protestors away with his car door, which sounds a bit close for comfort if true). What if the royal car had injured someone when it finally made its escape at some speed? A different outcome to any one of these what-ifs would, I think, make Britain feel a markedly edgier country right now.

I thought the same at the first student protests that saw windows broken at the Conservative party HQ, and a fire extinguisher thrown from the roof, narrowly missing the police below. If the extinguisher had been a foot to one side and killed a policeman, the politics of austerity would have taken a quite different turn.

Is this a turning point? Regular readers will know that my hunch 10 days ago, during the last student protests, was that this was not a revolution in the making. I still think that. It does not take very many trouble-makers to create the sort of violent scenes seen yesterday.

Nor were all of them students, though when I was on the streets last week I did not see too many of the “rent-a-mob anarchists” being talked about in some tabloids this morning. True, there were some of the older, tough anti-globalisation types you see at things like G8 or G20 protests. But the people who worried me were more the young 16 year old kids from tough outer suburbs, many with scarves over their faces. They radiated some of the same sort of anger of the “casseurs” seen at Parisian demonstrations, from the grim housing estates around the French capital. Though at French protests it is true that casseurs are often a group apart from the main body of demonstrators, and spend as much energy attacking students and passers-by as they do fighting the police.

In contrast, if teenagers were behind some of the serious vandalism and trouble yesterday, I would guess there was a solidly political core to their anger. The small number of teenagers I spoke to last week were incensed that a government full of posh millionaires was—as they saw it—removing the public support that would allow them any hope of attending higher education. It is an under-reported detail that many of the demonstrators are not just angry about the idea of rising tuition fees in the future, they are also very angry about the planned abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance, a £30 a week bribe (for want of a better word) paid to pupils who turn up on time every morning at sixth form colleges. There are, as it happens, good arguments to be made for and against the EMA. But to the demonstrators, the only explanation was that a bunch of rich people in power are heartlessly taking something from poor kids, because they are selfish and do not care.

Michael White at The Guardian:

After watching last night’s TV news and reading this morning’s front pages about the attack on the royal Roller, protesting students, and their leaders, must be in despair. It elbows the purpose of their demo – condemnation of the coalition’s tuition fees hike – right out of sight.

Worse than that, it turns the whole agenda on its head. This morning, the BBC is talking all about security at public buildings and why the police were not protecting Prince Charles and his moll more effectively on their way to the Royal Command performance.

At least armed officers didn’t shoot anyone, the Met’s boss, Sir Paul Stephenson has just suggested on air.

It would be silly, as well as cynical, to imagine that David Cameron is privately pleased to see public indignation so easily deflected from his government’s controversial policy. Or that Nick Clegg is positively thrilled to have a day off from his new constitutional role as air raid shelter for the Tories.

Why? Because they’re not wicked or stupid. Trouble on the streets means political trouble and ill-affordable expense for the coalition. Two thousand coppers on overtime cost money.

Worse, today’s FT’s choice of page one photo is not Fleet Street’s obvious choice – Camilla looking as if someone has just pinched her bottom (Charles is in the clear, his right hand visible). No, it picked flames in Parliament Square. Feather-brained markets may push up interest rates on government debt if they see many more like that. Greeks will be shaking their heads as they sip their German-funded breakfast coffees.

I spent several hours on the streets yesterday, on both sides of the river and around Parliament Square. My impression was that the demo was mostly good-natured and that the police were on their best behaviour, certainly mostly cheerful and polite in my hearing on the Westminster Abbey corner of the kettle where a lot of the aggro took place.

When one officer slipped on grassy mud he got up and grinned. Students laughed too and shouted “Calmer”, or was it “Karma”? That incident was at least as typical as the student to whom I spoke after seeing him with a bleeding head. A truncheon did it, he said. The police pushed us “on the front line. We stood our ground”.

But what does a police commander do when faced with a small but determined cadre of people determined to smash property or provoke a fight? Were the troublemakers students? It’s not always easy to tell. Many students – including those still at school – struck me as well-dressed middle class kids who wouldn’t know how to hurt a fly.

There again, it’s sometimes to easy to dump all the blame on the feral youths who emerge from bad neighbourhoods in all great cities looking for a target for their anger. Old ladies or Damilola Taylor, royal cars, shatterproof Treasury windows. Student demos are a perfect cover for the mob.

Paul Pillar at The National Interest:

The attack by student protesters Thursday evening in London on a limousine carrying Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, offers some broader conclusions. None of them are, as some commentary has suggested, that we are on the verge of a new era of protest with students in the vanguard. My alternative lessons:

Security threats can emerge from just about anywhere. The main theme in commentary in Britain about the incident is recrimination over a breakdown in security. “How could this be allowed to happen?” is the most frequently asked question. Investigations and inquiries no doubt will retrospectively point to some error in judgment about the route selected, or some shortfall of communication between the royals’ security detail and other police elements. But even with terrorism—which this incident was not, although it could have been—the potential sources of threat are multitudinous. When non-terrorist agents of disruption such as rowdy students on a London street are factored in, the potential sources are essentially infinite. Even meticulous preparations cannot allow for them all.

Narrow self-interest can be behind wider trouble. Far from being the harbinger of a big new social movement, protesters who assaulted the royal limo and have been involved in other recent disruptions in Britain are overwhelmingly students upset about one very specific measure in the coalition government’s austerity program; the raising of university tuition fees. Similar issues help to explain why there have not been protests in the United States against its current wars that remotely resemble those forty years earlier over the Vietnam War. The different magnitude of the wars and the number of casualties is one difference, but the presence or absence of conscription—and how it affects the personal interests of college-age males—is clearly another.

Alex Massie at The Daily Beast:

The royal family was not the only unlucky target of protest. Rioting students and anti-capitalist groups smashed the windows of the Treasury building. Others urinated on the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, just across the street from the House of Commons, while one student was photographed swinging from the Union Flag that hangs from the Cenotaph—Britain’s principle memorial to her war dead.

This wasn’t some disadvantaged teenager from one of London’s tougher housing projects protesting against rises in university tuition fees but, rather, a bona fide “trustafarian” and history student named Charlie Gilmour—son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour.

Altogether now, every wag in the country quipped: “We Don’t Need No Education.”

Gilmour apologized today, but the damage had been done. It may have been just a minority of the 20,000 student protesters who captured the headlines, but they did more to discredit their cause than any argument the government could have produced.

The pictures and footage of violence were also a reminder of the role luck plays in politics. The riots led Thursday’s news bulletins and Friday’s newspapers, deflecting attention from the first serious parliamentary rebellion against David Cameron’s coalition. The government’s majority was cut from 84 to 21 as MPs voted on controversial—and painful—plans to triple university tuition fees.

(American readers are permitted a rueful smile at the fact that Britain’s leading universities will now be able to charge up to $14,000 a year.)

For Cameron’s coalition partners in the Liberal Democrats this was an agonizing moment. Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister, had campaigned on a slogan of “No More Broken Promises” and every one of his MPs had signed a pledge to vote against any rise in tuition fees.

Power is about choices, however, and the Liberal Democrats found themselves in deep, uncharted waters. While Clegg tried to muster support for the government line, fully half his MPs rebelled against him and voted with the opposition. Clegg put his credibility on the line and may reap an electoral whirlwind after one of the more spectacular political flip-flops in recent memory.

The rioters, however, may prove his best allies. “Middle Britain” was horrified by the scenes of violence and the half of the population that never attended college is unlikely to be impressed by the sight of well-off students disgracing themselves and defiling national monuments.

For the coalition government, however, it was also a warning of what may be to come. As the deep spending cuts necessary to rebalance Britain’s broken public finances take their toll, and as the young are radicalized by their perception of an uncaring government, such scenes, more reminiscent of Paris than London, may yet become a regular and disconcerting part of the British political landscape.

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Don’t Touch This Partisan Junk

Ross Douthat checks our heads in the NYT:

Imagine, for a moment, that George W. Bush had been president when the Transportation Security Administration decided to let Thanksgiving travelers choose between exposing their nether regions to a body scanner or enduring a private security massage. Democrats would have been outraged at yet another Bush-era assault on civil liberties. Liberal pundits would have outdone one another comparing the T.S.A. to this or that police state. (“In an outrage worthy of Enver Hoxha’s Albania …”) And Republicans would have leaped to the Bush administration’s defense, while accusing liberals of going soft on terrorism.

But Barack Obama is our president instead, so the body-scanner debate played out rather differently. True, some conservatives invoked 9/11 to defend the T.S.A., and some liberals denounced the measures as an affront to American liberties. Such ideological consistency, though, was the exception; mostly, the Bush-era script was read in reverse. It was the populist right that raged against body scans, and the Republican Party that moved briskly to exploit the furor. It was a Democratic administration that labored to justify the intrusive procedures, and the liberal commentariat that leaped to their defense.

This role reversal is a case study in the awesome power of the partisan mindset. Up to a point, American politics reflects abiding philosophical divisions. But people who follow politics closely — whether voters, activists or pundits — are often partisans first and ideologues second. Instead of assessing every policy on the merits, we tend to reverse-engineer the arguments required to justify whatever our own side happens to be doing. Our ideological convictions may be real enough, but our deepest conviction is often that the other guys can’t be trusted.

How potent is the psychology of partisanship? Potent enough to influence not only policy views, but our perception of broader realities as well. A majority of Democrats spent the late 1980s convinced that inflation had risen under Ronald Reagan, when it had really dropped precipitously. In 1996, a majority of Republicans claimed that the deficit had increased under Bill Clinton, when it had steadily shrunk instead. Late in the Bush presidency, Republicans were twice as likely as similarly situated Democrats to tell pollsters that the economy was performing well. In every case, the external facts mattered less than how the person being polled felt about the party in power.

This tendency is vividly illustrated by our national security debates. In the 1990s, many Democrats embraced Bill Clinton’s wars of choice in the Balkans and accepted his encroachments on civil liberties following the Oklahoma City bombing, while many Republicans tilted noninterventionist and libertarian. If Al Gore had been president on 9/11, this pattern might have persisted, with conservatives resisting the Patriot Act the way they’ve rallied against the T.S.A.’s Rapiscan technology, and Vice President Joe Lieberman prodding his fellow Democrats in a more Cheney-esque direction on detainee policy.

James Fallows was not impressed:

The TSA case, on which Douthat builds his column, is in fact quite a poor illustration — rather, a good illustration for a different point. There are many instances of the partisan dynamic working in one direction here. That is, conservatives and Republicans who had no problem with strong-arm security measures back in the Bush 43 days but are upset now. Charles Krauthammer is the classic example: forthrightly defending torture as, in limited circumstances, a necessary tool against terrorism, yet now outraged about “touching my junk” as a symbol of the intrusive state.

But are there any cases of movement the other way? Illustrations of liberals or Democrats who denounced “security theater” and TSA/DHS excesses in the Republican era, but defend them now? If such people exist, I’m not aware of them — and having beaten the “security theater” drum for  many longyearsnow, I’ve been on the lookout.

The anti-security theater alliance has always included right-wing and left-wing libertarians (both exist), ACLU-style liberals, limited-government-style conservatives, and however you would choose to classify the likes of Bruce Schneier or Jeffrey Goldberg (or me). I know of Republicans who, seemingly for partisan reasons like those Douthat lays out, have joined the anti-security theater chorus. For instance, former Sen. Rick Santorum. I don’t know of a single Democrat or liberal who has peeled off and moved the opposite way just because Obama is in charge.

A harder case is Guantanamo, use of drones, and related martial-state issues. Yes, it’s true that some liberals who were vociferous in denouncing such practices under Bush have piped down. But not all (cf Glenn Greenwald etc). And I don’t know of any cases of Democrats who complained about these abuses before and now positively defend them as good parts of Obama’s policy — as opposed to inherited disasters he has not gone far enough to undo and eliminate.

So: it’s nice and fair-sounding to say that the party-first principle applies to all sides in today’s political debate. Like it would be nice and fair-sounding to say that Democrats and Republicans alike in Congress are contributing to obstructionism and party-bloc voting. Or that Fox News and NPR have equal-and-offsetting political agendas in covering the news. But it looks to me as if we’re mostly talking about the way one side operates. Recognizing that is part of facing the reality of today’s politics.

Andrew Sullivan on Fallows and Douthat:

There is an understandable tendency for some of the sane right to keep pretending that there really is an equivalence in cynicism and partisanship between both Republicans and Democrats. But in truth, it’s the GOP that is now overwhelmingly the most hypocritical, inconsistent and unprincipled.

E.D. Kain at The League:

I’m quite certain that Obama did not in fact run on expanding the scope and intrusiveness of the TSA to include naked scanners and groping. I’m quite certain that many of the people defending the TSA and Obama’s various security efforts – from assassinations to drone attacks – would not be defending them were a Republican in the oval office. Furthermore, I’m pretty sure Obama himself wouldn’t support Obama policies if he were still a Senator rather than the Commander-in-Chief.

It would be one thing for Fallows to argue that folks like Krauthammer are hypocrites, or that Republicans in general are acting like hypocrites over this issue. That would hold water! But to exonerate liberals and Democrats – the very people who for years criticized the Bush administration’s overreach and security theater, and who are now directly responsible for the expansion of these policies – well, this strikes me as rather one-sided and biased on Fallows’s part. Accusing Douthat of false equivalency here doesn’t work. Both sides are responsible for this mess. If they weren’t, then the Democrats would have scaled back the security state. They haven’t. And now liberals are defending them in spite of that inconvenient fact.

Daniel Larison:

There are other ways to test Ross’ claim. PATRIOT Act renewal came up for a vote earlier this year. If the “partisan mindset” is indeed awesomely powerful, it should have been the case that Republicans voted overwhelmingly against renewal. Instead, renewal passed the House 315-97 with 90% of the nays coming from the Democratic side. The measure passed the Senate by unanimous voice vote after privacy reform amendments were stripped out at the insistence of some Senate Republicans. That tells me that aside from a handful of honorable exceptions, including Ron Paul, Walter Jones, and Jimmy Duncan, there simply aren’t very many Republican representatives who object to intrusive and authoritarian anti-terrorist legislation no matter which party controls the White House. For that matter, there aren’t enough Democratic representatives who object to this sort of legislation on principle, but there were 87. If the “partisan mindset” changed national security views as dramatically as Ross suggests, there should have been many more anti-Obama Republicans resisting renewal of the PATRIOT Act than Democrats.

We could go down the list of relevant issues, and the pattern would be the same. Partisanship does not change that much in terms of the positions taken by members of the two parties. What it can do is change the intensity of feeling. This means that antiwar activists and civil libertarians are caught in an odd bind: many of them are genuinely appalled by Obama’s continuation of Bush-era security policies on detention and surveillance (and especially by his outrageous new claim of assassination powers), they are disgusted that his administration is hiding behind the state secrets privilege to cover up for the Bush administration, and they object to escalating the war in Afghanistan. However, they know very well that the alternative to Obama is to have all of these things, plus torture, aggressive foreign policy in all directions, and possibly war with Iran.

Of course, people should be outraged by the intrusiveness of these new procedures (because the entire process is an absurd overreaction to a real, but limited threat), just as they should have been outraged by the damage done to constitutional liberties for the past decade and more in the name of anti-terrorism, but one of the reasons that there are so few members of Congress willing to cast votes against excessive anti-terrorist legislation is that their constituents do not value constitutional liberties as highly as they claim they do. More to the point, when it does not directly affect their constituents it is clear that there is even less concern for the constitutional liberties of others. Indeed, what we might conclude about a significant part of the backlash is that the slogan of the protesters is not so much “Don’t Tread On Me” as it is “Why Won’t You Leave Me Alone and Go Tread On Them?”

Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast disputes the idea that the left has been quiet on the TSA:

Forget about little blogs like this one, which have been all over this TSA nonsense like flies on horseshit. What are the Big Boiz doing? Yes, Josh Marshall seems far more willing to give the Obama Administration and the entire process the benefit of the doubt than I am. But Digby hasbeennoting the absurdity of it all. HuffPo has had a slew of articles which can hardly be said to defending the TSA. Over at the Great Orange Satan, there’s hardly a rush to defend the Obama Administration. The Big Blue Smurf, as is his wont, has his customary series of one-sentence posts, mostly about nonsense, but since this is nothing new for him, it hardly qualifies as a defense of, or even silence about, Obama’s TSA.

[…]

Karoli over at Crooks and Liars cites a much-publicized (and much maligned in the progressive blogosphere, which shows that we are far more willing to criticize our own than the right is) article in The Nation which pointed out Tyner’s role as a libertarian activist and accused him of being a shill for the Koch brothers. The C&L piece cites other commentary on the Nation article, commentary which blasted it as a smear — which it is.

What NO ONE on the left is doing is defending the use of x-ray equipment and genital-groping as a means of “keeping us safe” — not even Ruth Marcus, who seems to feel that this system may be crap but it’s all we’ve got. This is far more skepticism than we ever got from the right, which marched in lockstep to the notion that “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about” in the context of the Bush Adminstration’s appalling record on Constitutional protections.

And this is the difference between the so-called “liberal commentariat” — at least the commentariat you get if you stick your nose outside the beltway. On the left, we are having a conversation among many minds. On the right, we get only one theme: Republican Good. Obama Bad.

Glenn Greenwald likes the column.

Adam Serwer at American Prospect:

Yesterday, I made some distinctions between liberals and Democrats, but I think Douthat is largely right in the sense that the Democratic Party has been largely silent about the continuity between Bush and Obama on matters of national security.

The most egregious example of this, of course, was the debate over the PATRIOT Act. As I mentioned yesterday, you had Sen. Al Franken making a show of reading the Fourth Amendment to Assistant Attorney General David Kris before voting renewal out of committee. You have Attorney General Eric Holder, who prior to being AG said the Bush administration “acted in defiance of federal law” with its warrentless wiretapping program, only to narrow his critique when he became part of an administration eager to use the same powers. There’s Sen. Patrick Leahy, who voted against PATRIOT Act reauthorization in 2006 but worked with Dianne Feinstein to block Sen. Russ Feingold‘s mild oversight provisions during renewal last year. The president who once wanted to repeal the PATRIOT Act then meekly signed its extension.

Democrats have, of course, blocked funding to close Guantanamo, fallen almost silent about this administration’s aggressive use of state secrets to obscure government wrongdoing despite some early complaints, and have remained largely quiet about the administration’s use of indefinite detention, once decried as “illegal and immoral.”

To say that Democrats who criticized such things before aren’t cheering now sets an arbitrary standard. The point is that, inherited or no, Democrats have lost the urgency they once possessed regarding the expansion of executive powers in matters of national security. No where has this been more dramatic than with the president himself, who once campaigned on reversing many of the Bush-era policies that he has in fact kept in place. The fact that Democrats have meekly acquiesced to this change as opposed to cheering it wildly doesn’t speak particularly well of their integrity.

Yes, it’s facile and stupid when the media draws false equivalences between NPR and Fox News, between pre-2006 Democratic opposition and the unprecedented Republican obstructionism of the past two years. But the reality is that the supposedly tyrannical Bush-era national-security state is largely unchanged, and Democrats have mostly stopped caring because they aren’t going to accuse the leader of their party of shredding the Constitution, even though the 2006 version of him very well might have. In the process, the party has perhaps forever legitimized some of the worst aspects of Bush administration policy by giving them the prized Beltway stamp of bipartisan approval.

The GOP’s outrage over the TSA is more partisan politics than libertarian revolution, and while I’m against the new procedures, I don’t think they come close to something like legalizing torture. But Douthat is right that on matters of national security, it is accurate to say that Democrats have for the most part learned to live with policies they once found abhorrent.

Alex Massie

Douthat responds

More Larison here and here

More Kain

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Ah, Another Scandal In Another Sport, But This One We Americans Don’t Care About

Mazher Mahmood and Amanda Evans at News Of The World:

In the most sensational sporting scandal ever, bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif delivered THREE blatant no-balls to order.

Their London-based fixer Mazhar Majeed, who let us in on the betting scam for £150,000, crowed “this is no coincidence” before the bent duo made duff deliveries at PRECISELY the moments promised to our reporter.

Armed with our damning dossier of video evidence, Scotland Yard launched their own probe into the scandal.

Last night three players – captain Salman Butt, and bowlers Amir and Asif hade their mobile phones seized by officers.

Trevor Chesterfield at Island Cricket:

From the time they were exposed as cheats four years ago over the ball tampering issue at The Oval, there has been a growing stench about modern Pakistan cricket -which has developed the habit of eschewing openness and with it, integrity.

That was a moment when Darrell Hair, and the strict and fair umpiring levels employed, were questioned by those who knew they had been fiddling with the ball; then they lied about it to escape being shown up as villains in a dishonest caper, all against the tenets of fair play.

With such a background, it should surprise no one that such Luddites as these have again openly displayed how their management is as dysfunctional, maladjusted and incompetent as it has been since the early 1990s. Ijaz Butt, the current president of the Pakistan Cricket Board is as fundamentally flawed in his administration as he was over the disastrous terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team’s bus in Lahore in March 2009. In the latest series of events in England, bowlers are said to have been involved in a no-ball betting scam. It is the tip of an unsavoury pile of garbage that has been collecting on its doorstep unmonitored for years -that has only become worse post Ijaz Butt, a pretentious Test player whose one moment of fame on the field was as a substitute.

In Pakistan’s first tour of the West Indies in 1957-58, during the third Test in Kingston, Jamaica, Butt managed to run out Conrad Hunte for 260 in his partnership of 446 with Sir Garfield Sobers for the second wicket. Sobers went in to score the then world record of 365 not out in a West Indies total of 790 for three, declared. Recalling the incident, the warm-hearted Hunte said how he and Sobers had forgotten Butt had been brought on for Saeed Ahmed, who had temporarily gone off for minor finger injury repairs.

Butt, in his new avatar, says that without “proof”, there will be no suspension of players. Such an interesting premise he has adopted here, as Pakistan try to cover with bluff and jingoism their already tarnished image.

Geoff Lemon at The Roar:

Like ‘hero’, the word ‘tragedy’ is thrown around all too easily in modern sportswriting. But if, as seems likely, the damning allegations against several Pakistan cricketers prove to be true, it will be a genuine tragedy for their nation and the sport as a whole.

Pakistan’s most common tag in the media is ‘troubled’. Its decade of instability due to religious extremism, including the exile of international cricket, has been capped off by the massive floods of recent weeks. The millions left homeless would have been looking to their team’s performance in England for some kind of solace or escape.

Captain Salman Butt delivered a win in the third Test against England, and dedicated it to his people.

But a few days later that intent had been cast aside, as the fourth and final Test was subsumed by the latest and most wide-ranging match-fixing scandal in Pakistan’s history.

The News of the World may not be the last word in top-quality journalism (with other headlines on its homepage including “Peggy Mitchell’s best bits” and “Elephant plays harmonica”), but the photos and recordings its undercover reporters made while posing as representatives for a gambling cartel make compelling evidence.

Mazhar Majeed, the UK agent for a number of Pakistani players, promised the reporters three no-balls in a day’s Test play, two from Mohammad Amir and one from Mohammad Asif, as proof the players had been bought and would follow directions.

The reporters would then be invited to pay for advance notice of rigged results in future matches. Aside from the bowlers, Majeed claimed to have seven players in his pocket, naming skipper Salman Butt and keeper Kamran Akmal.

A specific over and delivery was nominated for each no-ball. The next day, each was duly delivered right on time. “[He] will bowl according to any situation, or in such a way that the team requires him to bowl,” said Amir of his strike partner Asif in a recent interview.

Unfortunately this looked true in exactly the wrong kind of way.

Alex Massie:

There are different kinds of cheating and some offend us more than others. Cheating to win, while regrettable and reprehensible, is one thing, cheating to lose quite another. Few sports are entirely free of the former but the latter form of cheating is vastly more insidious since it undermines the whole point of the competition in the first-place.

That is, cheating to gain an advantage doesn’t guarantee victory but conspiring to throw a game is both easier (in some sports anyway) and makes a mockery of everything. That’s one reason why match-fixing in cricket is more offensive than, say, drug-taking in cycling. The same is true in horse-racing: doping to win is reprehensible but it doesn’t rob the public as surely as a non-trier does. It’s easier, perhaps, to prevent people from cheating to win than to stop cheating by losing deliberately.

There’s a policy aspect to this latest crisis too: prohibition does not work. At least some of the problems associated with spot-fixing are intimately connected to the fact that gambling on sports is an underground industry in India and Pakistan. A legal gambling industry – that is, one less in hock to and controlled by gangsters – would surely be better placed to combat this kind of corruption. Prohibition is far from the only villain but it certainly exacerbates the problem.

Primary responsibility lies with the players, of course, but the problems associated with cricket and gambling cannot be divorced from the nature of the betting industry on the sub-continent. Fixing that won’t solve everything but it would be a good place to start.

Mark Austin at The Mirror:

The simple fact is the players come from a culture where corruption is ingrained.

I say all this to explain the alleged behaviour of the players NOT to excuse it. And I say it too because it highlights the scale of the challenge facing the international cricket authorities.

If the allegations are proven, of course the players should be dealt with harshly.

If they are found guilty there should be a life ban for the captain Salman Butt.

The younger bowlers, who will have been leaned on and manipulated by unscrupulous scumbag middlemen, should, I think, get shorter sentences.

But this is the point. Life bans and heavy fines won’t solve anything.

The match fixers operating in the shadows will merely find other vulnerable, relatively poorly paid young stars to exploit.

What should happen is that the Pakistan Cricket Board must be made aware that if they don’t clean up their act the entire national team will be banned from international cricket altogether. Full stop.

Osman Samiuddin at The Guardian:

They are not as educated as the players who went before and, even if they were, consider that the public education system ceased producing quality long ago. Asif and Amir, like many others before them, landed up in the big time without connections, without any push and no money, nothing but their skill. That talent was spotted in a system, no matter how decrepit, but a system nonetheless. Both have since made a life for themselves in the big city; if that is not one by-product of democracy, the spotting and rewarding of merit, then what is? This is cricket as the one equaliser in a land of vast disparity.

The standard tale is that they come into more money than their families have seen in a lifetime – and quickly, too. They have more power than players of the past ever did; the modern board administrator is a clown, the modern player a public hero. They have more people watching them. They now need to bling it up. A fancy car, or three, is bought, a big house, maybe one for the family as well, who are also brought to the city. Other celebrities multiply around them. A girl, or three, appears on the scene. Suits are at them, wanting to put their faces up in brighter lights. Entire entourages grow around them, of extended families and drop-out friends, who have to be fed, clothed, kept and entertained. Muhammad Ali knew about them a long time ago.

These are not unique stories. They are everywhere; ghetto basketballers, working-class footballers, slum-town cricketers. Maybe cricket, currently trying to work out how much money it can make for itself, brings its own context. Money-making has become too serious a business in this business for it to be steered by transparency and accountability.

Perhaps Pakistan brings its own context, too. The impermanency of life here breeds a peculiar hoard mentality: get in quick, get rich quicker because you never know when you will be out forever, from a job, from politics, from a team. Over the past 10 years particularly, rampant consumerism has eaten away at urban Pakistan, which has long been sweet on ostentation in any case. Just having wealth is not enough. Showing people you have it is more important.

Moreover, gambling, even though illegal, is fine by most people. It is, some will argue, ingrained to an extent. A friend conducted a focus group of boys and young men recently on cricket and was shocked to learn that they were happily taking and placing bets on street matches.

And the Pakistan Cricket Board cannot be relied upon to handle an email, so handling the life and career of a boy is out of the question. They will not protect them from anyone; if fans, journalists, politicians and bookies want a piece of a player, the PCB do not get in the way. Neither have players here ever helped themselves; thrice efforts have been made to form a players’ association and thrice they have failed. It is the strongest indictment of a culture where every one is out for himself.

Nobody is there to warn young players of the ways of this new world they inhabit, because stardom in Pakistan really is the loneliest pursuit. And maybe it is not even as much about the rural-urban shift as much as it is a class shift, from making money to live to making money for money’s sake. Their place in life, in the grand unwieldy scheme of society, shifts visibly and firmly.

Yet too much can be made of their condition and too little of individual greed. Cricketers have come from places much smaller than Asif and Amir, from poorer backgrounds, and gone through entire lives – let alone a career – without a scandal to stain them.

Pakistan’s players do not get paid as much as counterparts around the world, it is being said. This is true. They have also missed out on the life-changing riches of the Indian Premier League. But at 250,000 rupees (£1,900), 175,000 rupees and 100,000 rupees per month in the three grades of the PCB’s central contracts, they are not paid peanuts. They live in Pakistan, not India, Australia or England, and in this country that kind of salary is seen by very, very few.

Add on match fees – roughly the same again as the monthly retainer – and on‑tour fees, board and personal endorsements, salaries from their first-class sides (which are run by organisations such as banks, airlines and power companies, offering the option of a stable, secure job after retirement), deals with counties and league clubs and now Twenty20 domestic sides, and most elite players really are kings of this land.

This is why the alleged leadership of Salman Butt is the most difficult aspect to grasp. Amir’s errors can too easily be explained by his youth and his background, and Asif has previous, having failed a drug test. But Butt? Whenever there is talk of him it is inevitably of his English-speaking and educated ways. He is a truly urban product, to a degree polished. “He’s been brought up well,” Bob Woolmer once said of him. Had he not been a cricketer, he could have been nine-to-fiving somewhere and who knows, his floppy locks might have got him into the music gig.

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The Speaking Of The Rauf

Pam Geller:

The media frenzy to destroy good, decent Americans who oppose a 15-story mega-mosque on Ground Zero is rabid. Even for them. Despite red flags everywhere and the nationwide grief caused by this grotesque act of Islamic supremacism, why isn’t the media doing its job, investigative journalism?

Instead, the morally ill media is in full-on operational smear machine mode in the raging war of ideas, the information battle space, the objective of which is to erect the Ground Zero mega mosque. Tolerance is a crime when applied to evil (Thomas Mann). Whilst the NY Times front page spins interfaith yarns into PR gold faster than Rumpelstiltskin and accords godlike status to Imam Feisal Rauf, new audio surfaces. Here are a couple of soundbites of tolerance:

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf: “We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non Muslims. You may remember that the US-led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations. And when Madeleine Albright, who has become a friend of mine over the last couple of years, when she was Secretary of State and was asked whether this was worth it, said it was worth it.

No mention of the 270 million victims of over a millennium of jihadi wars, land appropriations, cultural annihilation and enslavement. No mention of the recent slaughter by Muslims of Christians, Hindus, Jews, non-believers in Indonesia, Thailand, Ethiopia, Somalia, Philippines, Lebanon, Israel, Russia, China……………. no candor, no criticism of Islam.

Andy McCarthy at The Corner:

At Atlas Shrugs, Pamela Geller has uncovered audio of imam Feisal Rauf, the man behind the Ground Zero mosque, making public statements in which he opines that “the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims.”

There’s more . . . and it’s here. YouTube video link is here.

The Jawa Report:

Once again, this is not evidence that Rauf is an extremist wolf in moderate sheep’s clothing. For Muslims, the idea that US foreign policy is hostile to Muslims and that Americans don’t care about the deaths of innocents is widely held. By definition, this makes Rauf’s opinion mainstream in most majority Muslim countries.

On other issues, Rauf would be considered quite liberal in the Muslim community.

But to equivocate between the intentional killing of civilians by al Qaeda and the unintended killing of civilians by the US is worse than wrong — it is evil.

Yes, we kill civilians sometimes. That is truly one of the many sad realities of warfare.

When al Qaeda kills civilians they not only do it intentionally, but they also celebrate it.

No one in the West praises the Predator drone operator who accidentally blows up a wedding party. We think of such acts as the regrettable but inevitable outcome of war.

But in many parts of the Muslim world “The Magnificient 19” — the men who carried out the 9/11 attacks — are praised as heroes and martyrs.

I heard someone on the radio today (Hannity or Rush?) make a good point about this. He mentioned that Rauf’s equivocation seemed very much in line with Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s theory of America. Which may be why Obama’s State Department has no problem with paying for this guy to go on a goodwill mission to the Muslim world. If these are the kinds of speeches he has been delivering, then of course they will like what he is saying!

Let me add that the SOB still has a right to build a mosque wherever the hell he wants. Even the Nazis have that right.

Jim Geraghty at NRO:

If someone wants to argue that the sanctions regime on Iraq was counterproductive, because Saddam’s regime simply seized the resources they needed and let the Iraqi people suffer and starve, that’s a fair point. Madeline Albright’s comment that containing Saddam was “worth it” — i.e., the death of Iraqi children — was idiotic. But to suggest that the indirect effects of a U.S. sanctions regime is remotely morally comparable to al-Qaeda’s deliberate mass murder — much less to suggest that they are morally worse — is to eviscerate one’s claim to be moderate, pro-American, or sensible. He says it is a “difficult subject to discuss with Western audiences.” Does he ever wonder why?

From this audio, we can conclude that Rauf has a gentle tone of voice. But that does not mean that his words are gentle.

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

[…] Rauf uses the word “innocent” only in the part about non-Muslim blood. But I doubt he would have drawn the comparison unless he believed that the U.S. is culpable in something like the same way as al Qaeda for wrongful killing.

Indeed, the Muslim blood Rauf refers to is that of “innocents”; specifically Iraqi children he says died as a result of American sanctions. Rauf not only fails to mention that the sanctions were designed to undermine one of the most unjust and bloodthirsty regimes of modern times, he proceeds to take the U.S. to task for “its contribution to injustice in the Arab world.” By overlooking the injustice of Saddam Hussein, and failing to acknowledge our efforts against that tyrant, Rauf reveals himself to be an anti-American ideologue, an apologist for al Qaeda, and a charlatan.

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:

Yes, U.S. taxpayers are spending $16,000 so Rauf can spread his “moderate” message.

Alex Massie:

I continue to be impressed by how thin the case against Faisal Abdul Rauf is. You’d have thought that by now the staunch defenders of liberty crazies would have found either a smoking gun or a ticking bomb. To be fair, Pamela Geller* certainly thinks she has found evidence that he’s just as bad as his critics would have us believe. Or maybe even – and this may make your (my!) weak dhimmi-flesh creep – worse

But, actually, all she has unearthed from a 2005 talk Rauf gave to, of all places, the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, is evidence that Faisal Abdul Rauf could be considered a neoconservative. That is, he shares a central neoconservative insight:

How many of you have seen the documentary: Fahrenheit 911? The vast majority – at least half here. Do you remember the scene of the Iraqi woman whose house was bombed and she was just screaming, “What have they done.” Now, I don’t know, you don’t know Arabic but in Arabic it was extremely powerful. Her house was gone. Her husband, I think, was killed. What wrong did he do? I found myself weeping when I watched that scene and I imagined myself if I were a 15-year old nephew of this deceased man, what would I have felt?
Collateral damage is a nice thing to put on a paper but when the collateral damage is your own uncle or cousin, what passions do these arouse? How do you negotiate? How do you tell people whose homes have been destroyed, whose lives have been destroyed, that this does not justify your actions of terrorism. It’s hard. Yes, it is true that it does not justify the acts of bombing innocent civilians, that does not solve the problem, but after 50 years of, in many cases, oppression, of US support of authoritarian regimes that have violated human rights in the most heinous of ways, how else do people get attention?

Emphasis added. This is a core tenet of neoconservative foreign policy thought (and, in my view, a salient point too). Condi Rice made a famous speech making exactly this point and acknowledging that there was a terrible disconnect between proclaiming the universality of human rights, self-determination and freedom of expression and yet also propping-up ghastly, coercive, dictatorial regimes across the middle east for fear something worse might succeed them were those great American ideals and principles given free expression.There were – and are – good, or to put it differently, expedient, reasons for US policy and true too the evangelism of the Bush administration might have been both too optimistic (or naive) and, in the end, awful precisely because in the end it accepted that the bastards we know, for all their bastardy, may be better than the bastard nutters that might follow them.

Nevertheless, Imam Rauf shares at least some of the Bush administration’s diagnosis of the pathologies afflicting much f the middle east.

So how does Pamela Geller characterise this statement? “And the Imam is conspiracy theorist – 911 was an inside job.” I don’t actually understand how you get from watching Fahrenheit 9/11 (for all its many faults) to here. Then again, Geller does seem to have a curious interpretation of these matters. So when Rauf says:

“We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non Muslims. You may remember that the US-led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations. And when Madeleine Albright, who has become a friend of mine over the last couple of years, when she was Secretary of State and was asked whether this was worth it, said it was worth it.

Well, you or I or any other ordinary person might think this a statement of the, alas, bleeding obvious, Geller thinks it needs to be glossed, thus: No mention of the 270 million victims of over a millennium of jihadi wars, land appropriations, cultural annihilation and enslavement. Never mind that it’s obvious that Rauf is talking about the post-9/11 world, not the 750 years before the United States even existed.Needless to say Andy McCarthy thiks this means Rauf is saying US Worse than al-Qaeda when, clearly, he’s not saying that at all. It is, I think, incontestable that the United States and its allies have killed more Muslim civilians than al-Qaeda have killed non-muslims since 9/11. Noting this has precisely zero impact on one’s views of the wars or their righteousness.

Rauf, in fact, seems to have some understanding that empathy – which is not the same thing as either agreement or, for that matter, “appeasement” – is a useful quality when it comes to foreign policy:

The West needs to begin to see themselves through the eyes of the Arab and Muslim world, and when you do you will see the predicament that exists within the Muslim community.

This, quite evidently, does not mean that the west need agree with the arab world and nor is it a call for “surrender” or any such nonsense. Nor is it any kind of endorsement – if this needs to be pointed out – of the Wahhabist worldview.I suspect that I’d disagree with Faisal Abdul Rauf on a good number of issues. But his opponents – who have had ample opportunity to discover all that’s bad about him – have, to my mind, singularly failed to produce any real and damning evidence against him. Surely they can do better than this and if, in time, they do then I’ll be happy to change my mind even if my understanding of the First Amendment would require me to support his plan even if I were more strongly disapproving of it.

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