Tag Archives: Michael Kinsley

I Have A Dream, You Have A Dream, Glenn Beck Has A Dream

Amy Gardner at WaPo:

When Fox News and talk radio host Glenn Beck comes to Washington this weekend to headline a rally intended to “restore honor” to America, he will test the strength – and potentially expose the weaknesses – of a conservative grass-roots movement that remains an unpredictable force in the country’s politics.

Beck, who is both admired and assailed for his faith-based patriotism and his brash criticism of President Obama, plans in part to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. as an American hero. He will speak on the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech, from the spot where King delivered it.

Some “tea party” activists say the event, at which former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is also scheduled to speak, will have a greater impact than last September’s “9/12” march along Pennsylvania Avenue. Though the attendance figures for that anti-tax rally are disputed, it was the first national gathering to demonstrate the size and influence of the tea party movement.

But with just a few days before the Beck rally, basic questions linger, including how big it will be and whether the event, which Beck says is nonpolitical, will help or hurt Republicans in November. Also unanswered is whether Beck can pull off the connection to King without creating offense – or confrontation with another event the same day led by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with a round-up

Kate Pickert at Swampland at Time:

Glenn Beck’s 8/28 Restoring Honor Rally has already drawn all sorts of criticism. It’s scheduled to take place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech – which he delivered on the steps of the memorial in 1963. Given that Beck has said President Obama has “a deep-seated hatred for white people,” some black civil rights feel the rally’s location and scheduling are offensive.

What’s gotten less attention, however, is the group that will financially benefit from the event, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF). All proceeds raised through Glenn Beck’s promotion of the event go to SOWF – once costs for the rally itself are covered.

The charity, founded in 1980, provides college scholarships for children of special operations personnel killed in action or in training. SOWF is very well-run, with low administrative costs and a four-star rating from the watchdog group Charity Navigator. Some 160 of its scholarship recipients have graduated from college in the past 30 years and there are more than 100 students in college now.

Joan Walsh at Salon:

Beck claims he didn’t know Aug. 28 was the anniversary of King’s most famous speech when he chose the day, and I’m not sure what’s worse — that he’s lying, or that he’s telling the truth. My gut says he’s full of crap: You don’t schedule an event at the Lincoln Memorial, on the same day of one of the most famous events ever held there, and not know of the coincidence. Besides, Beck has been comparing himself to King, and his acolytes to civil rights strugglers, at least since the Obama administration began. He’s too big a megalomaniac not to know the symbolism of his choice.

But let’s say he’s telling the truth: Can someone who purports to be knowledgeable about our political and social history really not know about the 1963 March on Washington? Was Beck even paying attention when Obama accepted the Democratic nomination in Denver just two years ago, and every news organization in the world noted it happened to be on the 45th anniversary of the King speech — that’s right, Aug. 28. It’s hard to believe.

When the “coincidence” was called to his attention, Beck exhibited his trademark megalomania and paranoia. It was “divine providence,” he said — and besides, he snarled, “black people don’t own Martin Luther King!” It seems a little tone-deaf to talk about “owning” someone when King was fighting to undo the legacy of slavery, when African-Americans were literally owned by white people. A final fun fact: Beck insists he only chose the date because that was the only open Saturday before 9/12, and of course he couldn’t ask people to rally on a Sunday, “the Sabbath.” Of course, Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, but I guess Jews weren’t high on the outreach list for Beck’s big event. But that’s our Beck, who has shown he subscribes to one of the ugliest anti-Semitic canards, that Jews bear the blame for killing Jesus.

Jillian Bandes at Townhall:

We can’t ignore the controversy: Beck is holding the rally at a time and place that is sure to draw scorn from a multitude of people. He’s doing it in the middle of election season, adding additional political weight to his avowed apolitical rally. Beck is a huge talker, and talks a lot about things that no one else does.

But that’s just one side of the coin. There are a multitude of people who believe that Beck is perfectly justified in holding the rally at that time and place, and even consider it an well-executed move. He’s got solid Christian credentials, so even if the rally does leak into politics, he’s built a firm foundation on which to honor our troops and focus on values. And Beck’s talking isn’t just background noise: his audience of over 3 million cable viewers are dedicated to his cause, and eager to spread the word.

Most importantly, lets not loose sight of the forest in the trees. Beck is motivating hundreds of thousands of Americans to get off their couch and get inspired. He’s providing a venue to praise our military and focus on what’s important, and no matter what your view of his political maneuverings, he’s doing a very effective job.

David Swerdlick at The Root

Greg Sargent:

Dems are gleefully noting to reporters that Beck intends to rally the faithful from the Lincoln Memorial — the very spot where King gave his speech 47 years ago. And with turnout estimates running as high as 300,000, Dems say they hope they can wrest some political advantage from what they hope will amount to a massive show of Tea Party force that’s rife with ugly Obama-bashing.

Though there are good reasons to wonder how effective it is, Dems have doubled down on a strategy of relentlessly elevating Tea Party whack-jobbery to turn moderates independents against the GOP. Several Dems cheerfully noted to me this morning that a raucus Tea Party rally staged on the anniversary of one of the turning points in the Civil Rights movement can only help in this regard.

To buttress the case that the rally is bad for the GOP, Dems are circulating a report in this morning’s Post claiming that officials with the Republican party committees are distancing themselves from the rally:

“In general, people coming to Washington, being organized and active is a good thing,” said Doug Heye, a spokesman for Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele.

“But I gotta be honest with you — I don’t know about any Glenn Beck event.”

Given the awful job numbers and the nation’s other myriad problems, it’s hard to imagine that using the Beck rally to tar the GOP will do much to alter the Dems’ electoral fortunes. But the sight of Beck trying to coopt the legacy of King while crazed Tea Partyers bash the first African American president in the ugliest of terms may well go down as an iconic moment in the history of this movement.

David Weigel:

Yeah, because bashing the tea party has done them so much good so far. I remember the Democrats begging, begging for Sarah Palin to endorse Scott Brown in the January 2010 U.S. Senate special in Massachusetts, in the apparent hope that she’d pass her crazy cooties on to him. How’d that turn out for Senator Coakley?

Beck isn’t stupid, and he’s trying to cut down on the easy shots from liberals with a rule: No signs.

Digby:

If the Triumph of the Wingnut rally does attract 300,000 people, keep in mind it’s because they believe this:

Media Matters describes it this way:

In a new promo posted on a “Producers’ Blog” at his website, Beck humbly places the rally in the context of the moon landing, the Montgomery bus boycott, Iwo Jima, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and other landmark historical events. It also not-so-subtly suggests that Beck is following in the tradition of Martin Luther King (which is a farce), Abraham Lincoln, most of the Founding Fathers, Martha Washington, the Wright Brothers, and other notable historical figures.

To give you some sense of the egomania on display here, it starts with the line, “Every great achievement in human history has started with one person. One crazy idea.”

And it’s “brought to you by Goldline.”

Greg Sargent says that Democrats are gleeful about the “I Have A Nightmare” gathering because they think these people will expose themselves to America as the kooks they really are and the people will reject them. But what if they don’t? There’s ample historical precedent for kooks to break through into the mainstream and it can lead to some very unpleasant outcomes. Yes, Beck is nuts. But he’s also the most important figure in the Tea Party movement, which in case anyone hasn’t noticed is in the process of taking over one of the two major parties in the most powerful nation in the world. You can deride these people, as I do every day. But it’s a mistake to not take them seriously or underestimate their appeal in times like these.

No one should ever count on the people naturally seeing through demagogues. Their power lies in their ability to be convincing even when it doesn’t make rational sense and the truly talented ones can change the world. It remains to be see if Beck and his fellow travelers have that kind of juice. But I wouldn’t be so sanguine that they don’t.

Anthony G. Martin at The Examiner:

In a demonstration of the overwhelming support of mainstream America for conservative principles, Glenn Beck’s ‘Restoring Honor’ rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. is drawing ‘hundreds of thousands,’ according to McClatchy Newspapers.

Early reports indicate that so large is the crowd that attendees were having difficulty hearing the speakers. A quick scan of mainstream news outlets that have done actual estimates this morning indicates that attendance at this point is between 300,000 and 500,000 people.

And attendees are still arriving at the rally, which began some 90 minutes ago.

Newsbusters is live-streaming the event.

Michelle Malkin reports that as early as 7:30 AM there were already 100,000 peope gathered at the site.

Reporters on the ground, however, state that the claim of 500,000 attendees is grossly underestimated. A more accurate assessment of the crowd may well turn out to be between 500,000 and 1 million.

Speakers at the event represent a broad cross-section of America–civil rights leaders who were present at the Martin Luther King, Jr. rally in 1963, baseball manager Tony LaRusa, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a host of black preachers, and Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., among others.

Update–Glenn Beck is speaking.  Passionate, eloquent, fervent defense of the Founders’ vision of America–faith, liberty, truth.

Update 2–Beck concludes by saying our hope as a nation is in God–a concept that is entirely consistent with the numerous writings of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin.  They may not have agreed on points of doctrine, but  in one accord they looked to God as the author and sustainer of LIBERTY!

Update 3–Country singer JoDean Messina sings ‘America the Beautiful.’

Update 4–More music from Messina and others.

Update 5–This aerial photo indicates the crowd may well number upwards of 1 million!

Updates on the rally will be reported as they become available.

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

The state-run media is predictably annoyed with this patriotic rally.

The rally is streaming live at the Restoring Honor homepage and is also playing on C-SPAN.

A crowd shot from C-SPAN


Freedom’s Lighthouse
has lovely Sarah Palin’s speech at the rally.
What an awesome speech!

Meanwhile, Al Sharpton’s counter freedom rally managed to attract only 3,000 supporters.

Doug Mataconis:

After listening to the Beck rally this morning, though, I think the charges of racism were clearly over the top. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a political rally, though. Regardless of whatever Beck might say, the political undertones were rather obvious, and the degree to which it mixed religion and politics should quite honestly be disturbing to anyone who believes in the value of secularism in politics.

I’m not sure what the impact of this rally will be. I’m sure Beck has something more planned, he always seems to, stay tuned.

UPDATE: Ross Douthat in NYT

David Weigel

Douthat on his blog

Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic

Adam Serwer at Greg Sargent’s place

UPDATE #2: Russell D. Moore

Joe Carter at First Things

Daniel Larison

Reihan Salam at Daily Beast

Adam Serwer at The American Prospect

E.D. Kain

UPDATE #3: Nick Gillespie at Reason

James Poulos at Ricochet

John Tabin at The American Spectator

More Larison

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Filed under Mainstream, Political Figures, Politics, Race

The Stem Cell Fight Begins Anew, A Return To 2001 For Me And You

Gardiner Harris at NYT:

A federal district judge on Monday blocked President Obama’s 2009 executive order that expanded embryonic stem cell research, saying it violated a ban on federal money being used to destroy embryos.

The ruling came as a shock to scientists at the National Institutes of Health and at universities across the country, which had viewed the Obama administration’s new policy and the grants provided under it as settled law. Scientists scrambled Monday evening to assess the ruling’s immediate impact on their work.

“I have had to tell everyone in my lab that when they feed their cells tomorrow morning, they better use media that has not been funded by the federal government,” said Dr. George Q. Daley, director of the stem cell transplantation program at Children’s Hospital Boston, referring to food given to cells. “This ruling means an immediate disruption of dozens of labs doing this work since the Obama administration made its order.”

In his ruling, Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia wrote that his temporary injunction returned federal policy to the “status quo,” but few officials, scientists or lawyers in the case were sure Monday night what that meant.

Dr. Daley was among those who said they believed that it meant that work financed under the new rules had to stop immediately; others said it meant that the health institutes had to use Bush administration rules for future grants.

Steven H. Aden, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which sued to stop the Obama administration rules, said the judge’s ruling “means that for now the N.I.H. cannot issue funding grants to embryonic stem cell research projects without any further order from the court.”

Officials at the health institutes said that lawyers at the Department of Justice would interpret the ruling for them. Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, wrote in an e-mail, “We’re reviewing the decision.”

The judge ruled that the Obama administration’s policy was illegal because the administration’s distinction between work that leads to the destruction of embryos — which cannot be financed by the federal government under the current policy — and the financing of work using stem cells created through embryonic destruction was meaningless. In his ruling, he referred to embryonic stem cell research as E.S.C.

“If one step or ‘piece of research’ of an E.S.C. research project results in the destruction of an embryo, the entire project is precluded from receiving federal funding,” wrote Judge Lamberth, who was appointed to the federal bench in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan.

Joe Carter at First Things:

The issue of research involving stem cells derived from human embryos is back in the news after a federal judge clarified that the government cannot use federal funds for such immoral research. Although the debate has been ongoing for almost ten years, the complexity of the issue and the peculiar terminology used often prevents many citizens from developing a fully informed opinion on the matter. To help, in some small way, redress that problem, I’ve compiled a brief primer, a “least you need to know” guide, that helps clarify and explain the questions most frequently asked about stem cell policy.

To those unfamiliar with the topic, this should provide brief non-technical answers to many of the important questions surrounding the policy. For those who are well versed in the controversy, I hope this will be a useful reference source to help you explain the issue to others.

What are stem cells?

The term stem cells refers to a diverse group of primitive cells that are themselves relatively undifferentiated and unspecialized. These cells are multipotent, meaning they can give rise to several other differentiated and specialized cells of the body (for example, liver cells, kidney cells, brain cells). All specialized cells arise originally from stem cells, and ultimately from a small number of embryonic cells that appear during the first few days of human development.

How are stem cells different than other types of cells?

Stem cells have two unique characteristics: (1) an almost unlimited capacity for self-renewal (they can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells for as long as the person is alive) and (2) they retain the potential to produce differentiated and specialized cell types. As stem cells within a developing human embryo differentiate within the cell, their capacity to diversify generally becomes more limited and their ability to generate many differentiated cell types also becomes more restricted.

Why are stem cells so important to research?

Stem cells are of interest to both scientific and medical research. First, stem cells provide a valuable tool for studying both normal and abnormal cellular processes. By learning how stem cells differentiate and become specialized, scientists hope to gain a better understanding of how cells in general work and what can go wrong. Second, stem cells may prove to be an indispensable source of transplantable cells and tissues for repair and regeneration. If stem cells can used to produce new and differentiated cells that are damaged because of disease (e.g., Parkinsons) or injury (e.g., spinal cord damage), it would transform regenerative medicine.

What are embryonic stem cells?

Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are stem cells taken from from the inner cell mass of a blastocyst, a preimplantation embryo of about 150 cells. (Embryos are humans in the stage of development between fertilization and the end of the eighth week of gestation whereupon it it referred to as a fetus until the time of birth.)

Where do the embryos for ESC come from?

Currently, all embryonic stem cell lines have been derived from “spare” embryos created from in vitro fertilization (IVF) (i.e., embryos that have been conceived by a combination of egg and sperm occurring outside the body). However, because there are not enough embryos in existence to carry out the research, some scientists have been pushing for the use of human cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer) to create the embryos that will then be killed and harvested for their cells.

What are adult stem cells?

The term adult stem cells simply refers to any non-embryonic stem cell, whether taken from a fetus, a child, or an adult. Adult stem cells are also referred to as somatic stem cells.

What is a stem cell “line”?

A stem cell line is a stem cell culture that can be grown indefinitely in the laboratory.

Why is there a controversy over ESC research?

The process of obtaining stem cells leads to the destruction of the human embryo from which the cells are taken. For those who believe that life begins at conception, embryo destruction is immoral even when it leads to beneficial research. Even those who do not believe that human embryos are deserving of full moral status worry about what the effects of normalizing such practices may have on society.

Advocates of ESC research, however, argue that it is unethical to impede potential advances that could heal disease and relieve the suffering of fully developed human beings. They believe that the moral status of a 150-to-200-cell early human embryo should not take precedence over scientific inquiry.

Didn’t the Bush administration ban funding of ESC?

No, but the Congress implemented its own ban. In 1995, Congress attached language to an appropriations bill prohibiting the use of any federal funds for research that destroys or seriously endangers human embryos, or creates them for research purposes. This provision, known as the Dickey Amendment, has been attached to the Health and Human Services appropriations bill each year since 1996. This law only prohibits federal funding of such research and does not affect either private funding efforts or private research that involves the destruction of embryos.

Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic:

OK, let’s go through this one more time.

Half of all pregnancies end in miscarriages, usually in the first couple of weeks, before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. A miscarriage destroys an embryo. If you believe that every embryo is the moral equivalent of a fully-formed human being, miscarriages are like a perpetual natural disaster like a flood or an earthquake, and you should be urging a massive effort to reduce miscarriages as the best way to save millions of human lives a year. As far as I know, there is no such effort going on in the United States or elsewhere.

But perhaps your concern is not the number of slaughtered embryos, but rather the morality of intentionally killing them or—worse, in your view—intentionally creating and then killing them. In that case, your attention should be directed to fertility clinics, which routinely create multiple embryos for each human baby they wish to produce. They pick and choose among the embryos that seem healthiest, and typically implant several in the hope that one—and not more than one—will survive. Every year tens of thousands of human embryos are created and destroyed (or pointlessly frozen) in the everyday work of fertility clinics. There is no political effort to stop this work. President George W. Bush even praised the work of fertility clinics in his speech announcing the policy that virtually halted stem cell research for eight years. Advanced fertility techniques have brought happiness to thousands of couples who otherwise would probably be childless. They are a godsend that no politician would dare oppose.

Of the tens of thousands of embryos discarded by fertility clinics every year, a few are used for stem cell research. Extracting the stem cells involves destroying the embryos, which would be destroyed anyway. True, the destruction of embryos used for research is purposeful, whereas the destruction of embryos in the everyday work of fertility clinics is incidental. But is that distinction really strong enough to support the difference between cavalier acceptance of tens of thousands of embryo deaths in fertility clinics and a legal ban on using a small fraction of these embryos to help develop ways to save lives? (Conflict-of-interest note: My life included. I have Parkinson’s.)

Allah Pundit:

The result: It’s Congress’s move now. They can either clarify Dickey-Wicker to okay funding for research on stem-cell lines derived from killed embryos, or The One and NIH can put their heads together to try to draft more clever language that will comply with the statute. Given the likelihood of a much redder Congress next year, they’d better hurry up either way. One thing I don’t understand, though: It sounds like the court’s decision would have found even Bush’s policy in violation of Dickey-Wicker. Bush didn’t cut off all funding for ESC research, remember, just for research on embryonic stem cells created after the date of his executive order. Weren’t the stem-cell lines already in existence on that date also based on killed embryos and therefore in violation of the statute?

Radley Balko at Reason:

Both the Clinton and Bush administrations had thought that they had artfully gotten around this restriction by regulatory interpretations. The National Institutes of Health concluded that while the government could not pay for the creation and derivation of embryonic stem cells federally funded researchers could use such cells once they had been derived.

The case had been brought before the court by the conservative Christian Alliance Defense Fund and Nightlight Christian Adoptions which wants to put embryos left over from fertility treatments up for “adoption.” Both argue that deriving human embryonic stem cells kills pre-born people.

Given that about 60 percent of Americans support stem cell research using embryos left over from fertility treatments, this ruling will surely spark the stem cell wars anew. While researchers eager to get federal funding will be disappointed and the confusion over the ruling will likely further delay research, the good news is that there is a lot private and state funding available for stem cell research.

Steve Benen:

Dr. Irving L. Weissman, director of the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, said the ruling was “devastating to the hopes of researchers and patients who have been waiting so long for the promise of stem cell therapies.” Amy Comstock Rick, immediate past president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, struck a similar note, calling yesterday’s news “absolutely devastating.”

“We were really looking forward to research finally moving forward with the full backing of the NIH. We were really looking forward to the next chapter when human embryonic stem cells could really be explored for their full potential. This really sets us back,” Rick said. “Every day we lose is another day lost for patients waiting for cures.”

Others can speak to the legal proceedings with more expertise than I can, and it was at least somewhat heartening to see one lawyer weigh in describing the judge’s order as “quite vulnerable; it’s not on solid ground at all.”

I’d just note as an aside, though, that the breakdown in the Senate’s ability to fill judicial vacancies often has sweeping national and international implications — in the matter of medical research, possibly even issues of life and death.

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

This kind of came out of nowhere. It doesn’t overturn the funding rules but allows the case to proceed, with a temporary injunction against implementation until the completion of the case. This ensures that a case on the high-profile issue will continue through the election, though in recent years, stem cell research has not been among the high-profile hot-button issues.

UPDATE: William Saletan in Slate

Jim Pinkerton

Adam Keiper at NRO

More Saletan in Slate

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Filed under Science, Stem Cell

There Are Cordoba Guitars And Cordoba Houses, Part II

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:

The Anti-Defamation League, which describes itself as “the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry,” released a statment this morning opposing the building of the 13-story mosque near Ground Zero.

“In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right,” says the ADL. Full statement here:

We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship.

We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.

However, there are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site.  We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001.

The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process.  Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.

Marc Tracy at Tablet:

The Anti-Defamation League has issued a statement opposing the construction of the Islamic community center a couple blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. (Earlier this week, a community board recommended that the Landmarks Preservation Commission allow the project to go through.) The release goes out of its way to grant Cordoba House’s organizers good intentions and to condemn the bigotry of some who oppose it. So what is the problem? “The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location,” the ADL argues, “is counterproductive to the healing process.”

It adds:

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.

Founded in 1913, the ADL, in its words, “fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.” Except when it does the precise opposite.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

I have explained my support for the Lower Manhattan mosque project before, but let me restate two points:

1) The organization behind the project, the Cordoba Initiative, is a moderate group interested in advancing cross-cultural understanding. It is very far from being a Wahhabist organization;

2) This is a strange war we’re fighting against Islamist terrorism. We must fight the terrorists with alacrity, but at the same time we must understand that what the terrorists seek is a clash of civilizations. We must do everything possible to avoid giving them propaganda victories in their attempt to create a cosmic war between Judeo-Christian civilization and Muslim civilization. The fight is not between the West and Islam; it is between modernists of all monotheist faiths, on the one hand, and the advocates of a specific strain of medievalist Islam, on the other. If we as a society punish Muslims of good faith, Muslims of good faith will join the other side. It’s not that hard to understand. I’m disappointed that the ADL doesn’t understand this.

Greg Sargent:

This is basically a concession that some of the opposition to the mosque is grounded in bigotry, and that those arguing that the mosque builders harbor ill intent are misguided. Yet ADL is opposing the construction of the mosque anyway, on the grounds that it will cause 9/11 victims unnecessary “pain.”

But look: The foes of this mosque whose opposition is rooted in bigotry are the ones who are trying to stoke victims’ pain here, for transparent political purposes. Their opposition to this mosque appears to be all about insidiously linking the mosque builders with the 9/11 attackers, and by extension, to revive passions surrounding 9/11. To oppose the mosque is to capitulate to — and validate — this program.

On this one, you’re either with the bigots or you’re against them. And ADL has in effect sided with them.

Paul Krugman:

So let’s try some comparable cases, OK? It causes some people pain to see Jews operating small businesses in non-Jewish neighborhoods; it causes some people pain to see Jews writing for national publications (as I learn from my mailbox most weeks); it causes some people pain to see Jews on the Supreme Court. So would ADL agree that we should ban Jews from these activities, so as to spare these people pain? No? What’s the difference?

One thing I thought Jews were supposed to understand is that they need to be advocates of universal rights, not just rights for their particular group — because it’s the right thing to do, but also because, ahem, there aren’t enough of us. We can’t afford to live in a tribal world.

But ADL has apparently forgotten all that. Shameful — and stupid.

Update: Times staff briefly removed the link to the ADL statement, because it seemed to be dead — but it was apparently just a case of an overloaded server, and I’ve put it back.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:

Humorist Will Rogers once said about the repeal of Prohibition, “Repeal is all right, but the wrong people are for it.” In this case, the wrong people are against Park51, and if Abe Foxman and the ADL can’t keep their personal feelings out of the issue, they should have just kept quiet instead of handing the Bigot Brigade a public relations gift. What a disgrace.

Adam Serwer at American Prospect:

Let’s be clear. This is not about the proposed Islamic Center. There is already a masjid in the neighborhood, and it’s been there for decades. This is about giving political cover to right-wing politicians using anti-Muslim bigotry as a political weapon and a fundraising tool. By doing this, the ADL is increasingly eroding its already weakened credibility as a nonpartisan organization.

I learned a very important lesson in Hebrew School that I have retained my entire life. If they can deny freedom to a single individual because of who they are, they can do it to anyone. Someone at the ADL needs to go back to Hebrew School.

J Street:

Today, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami released the following statement:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

During the high-tide of anti-semitism, and then again during the civil-rights movement, and often since, the Anti-Defamation League transcended its Jewish origins to stand as a courageous American voice against prejudice. But now, it’s making a mockery of its original mission and, in the process, it has sullied American Judaism’s intense tradition of tolerance and inclusion.  I miss the old ADL and so does America. Foxman should be fired immediately. (Meanwhile, hooray yet again for Michael Bloomberg.)

Peter Beinart at Daily Beast:

Had the ADL genuinely tried to apply its universalistic mandate to the Jewish state, it would have become something like the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) or B’Tselem (full disclosure: I’m on B’Tselem’s American board): Israeli human rights organizations that struggle against all forms of bigotry, and thus end up spending a lot of time defending Muslims and Christian Palestinians against discrimination by Jews. But the ADL hasn’t done that. Instead it has become, in essence, two organizations. In the United States, it still links the struggle against anti-Semitism to the struggle against bigotry against non-Jews. In Israel, by contrast, it largely pretends that government-sponsored bigotry against non-Jews does not exist. When Arizona passes a law that encourages police to harass Latinos, the ADL expresses outrage. But when Israel builds 170 kilometers of roads in the West Bank for the convenience of Jewish settlers, from which Palestinians are wholly or partially banned, the ADL takes out advertisements declaring, “The Problem Isn’t Settlements.”

For a long time now, the ADL seems to have assumed that it could exempt Israel from the principles in its charter and yet remain just as faithful to that charter inside the United States. But now the chickens are coming back home to America to roost. The ADL’s rationale for opposing the Ground Zero mosque is that “building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.” Huh? What if white victims of African-American crime protested the building of a black church in their neighborhood? Or gentile victims of Bernie Madoff protested the building of a synagogue? Would the ADL for one second suggest that sensitivity toward people victimized by members of a certain religion or race justifies discriminating against other, completely innocent, members of that religion or race? Of course not. But when it comes to Muslims, the standards are different. They are different in Israel, and now, it is clear, they are different in the United States, too.

More Goldberg

Mark Thompson at The League:

I don’t have any real problem with those who take offense at the decision to build this project a few blocks from Ground Zero, and particularly those who take such offense having had deep ties to New York on 9/11/01.

What I do have a problem with is those who have determined that this is an appropriate issue for political activism, and particularly those supposed advocates of “small government” who view it as appropriate that government would step in here to restrict the property rights of a private organization.  What I do have a problem with is those who claim to advocate for “states rights” and federalism insisting that it is the job of the federal government to make sure that what is effectively a zoning decision of the New York City government is overruled.  What I do have a problem with is those who are using this proposed building to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment by branding it a “9/11 Victory Mosque,” and who presume to know more about Muslims than Muslims themselves and in the process create an “inescable trap” wherein all Muslims are either lying about not being jihadi terrorists or are just “bad Muslims.”

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

The left continues to feign confusion (it is hard to believe its pundits are really this muddled) as to the reasons why conservatives (and a majority of fellow citizens) oppose the Ground Zero mosque. No, it’s not about “religious freedom” — we’re talking about the location of the mosque on the ash-strewn site of 3,000 dead Americans. The J Street crowd and the liberal defenders of the mosque seem very bent out of shape when Americans want to defend the sensibilities of their fellow citizens and when they look askance at an imam whose funding appears to come from those whose goal is anything but religious reconciliation. Again, no one is telling Muslims not to build or pray in mosques; we on the right are simply asking them not to do it in the location where Islam was the inspiration for mass murder.

It is interesting that the word mosque is not employed by those excoriating the mosque opponents. As a smart reader highlights, why is it described as a “cultural center”? Pretty dicey to articulate exactly what position the left clings to — namely, that we must allow a mosque at Ground Zero. Well, when you are that precise, it does highlight the vast gulf between the left’s perspective and that of average Americans.  (And for the record, my objections to J Street obviously aren’t limited to the Ground Zero mosque. And I certainly do believe “you are either for us or you are for them” — when it comes to Israel and to America. That this notion disturbs the left tells you precisely why it is estranged from the vast majority of Israelis and Americans.)

Dan Senor is not confused in the least. He pens an open letter to the Ground Zero mosque imam, which gets to the heart of the matter. Recalling the 9/11 attack “committed in the name of Islam,” he explains:

We applaud and thank every Muslim throughout the world who has rejected and denounced this association. But the fact remains that in the minds of many who are swayed by the most radical interpretations of Islam, the Cordoba House will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a Muslim monument erected on the site of a great Muslim “military” victory—a milestone on the path to the further spread of Islam throughout the world. …

Rather than furthering cross-cultural and interfaith understanding, a Cordoba House located near Ground Zero would undermine them. Rather that serving as a bridge between Muslim and non-Muslim peoples, it would function as a divide. Your expressed hopes for the center not only would never be realized, they would be undermined from the start. Insisting on this particular site on Park Place can only reinforce this counterproductive dynamic.

This is not some right-wing, extremist view. It represents the views of a large majority of Americans and of mainstream Jewish leaders like Malcolm Hoenlein — as well as Juan Williams. But the left – which has become obsessed with universalism and finds particularism and nationalism noxious – thinks it unseemly for Americans to look after the interests of Americans, and Jews to look after Jews (as to the latter, we can only be grateful that so many pro-Zionist Christians do as well).

Peter Wehner at Commentary

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

Joe Lieberman comes out against building an Islamic Center in lower Manhattan:

“I’ve also read some things about some of the people involved that make me wonder about their motivations. So I don’t know enough to reach a conclusion, but I know enough to say that this thing is only going to create more division in our society, and somebody ought to put the brakes on it,” he said. “Give these people a chance to come out and explain who they are, where their money’s coming from.”

Sounds like he’s deeply troubled by the hilariously elongated chain of guilt-by-association constructed by critics.

Meanwhile, former Bushie Dan Senor writes:

9/11 remains a deep wound for Americans—especially those who experienced it directly in some way. They understandably see the area as sacred ground. Nearly all of them also reject the equation of Islam with terrorism and do not blame the attacks on Muslims generally or on the Muslim faith. But many believe that Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials to the event itself and to its victims. They do not understand why of all possible locations in the city, Cordoba House must be sited so near to there.

A couple things are striking about this argument. First, Senor claims that “Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials.” But the Muslim center is not being built on Ground Zero. It’s being built two blocks away, in a site that doesn’t feel especially connected to Ground Zero. Senor is suggesting that nothing but memorials should be built within (at least) a two block radius of Ground Zero. Forgive me for feeling skeptical that such a standard is being applied to any other proposed construction.

Second, there’s a very weaselly relativism at work here in his not-prejudiced plea to relocate the center. Senor is arguing, I support freedom of religion, and I believe that your group doesn’t support terrorism, but other Americans don’t feel this way. Of course this is an argument for caving in to any popular prejudice or social phobia whatsoever. Hey, I’m happy to let a black family move into the neighborhood, but other people here think you’re probably crackheads who spray random gunfire at night, so in order to prevent racial strife you should probably live somewhere else.

Justin Elliott at Salon:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has emerged as the unlikely but passionate defender of the planned Muslim community center near ground zero, today traveled to Governors Island off the tip of Lower Manhattan to deliver a stirring plea for sanity in what he called “[as] important a test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes.”

The Daily News’ Adam Lisberg reports that Bloomberg choked up at one point as he delivered the speech surrounded by religious leaders of different faiths, with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

Rather than attack the bigotry of the opponents of the so-called “ground zero mosque,” Bloomberg made several positive arguments for building the center. He traced the struggle for religious freedom in New York and affirmed the rights of citizens to do as they please with their private property:

The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.

It’s worth noting that three Jewish leaders  — Rabbi Bob Kaplan from the Jewish Community Council, Rabbi Irwin Kula from the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and Cara Berkowitz from the UJA Federation — were present with Bloomberg during the speech, despite the Anti-Defamation League’s opposition to the project

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

Few events in recent memory have called up the resonant ideological debates of 9/11 as forcefully as the mosque being planned near the former site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. It appears these are debates we will keep having, as New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has voted to let the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement proceed with their plans. Along with those plans will come more discussion of religious freedom, taste, and the specter of a Western/Muslim cultural World War

Ann Althouse:

Writes the NYT, reporting the city’s 9-0 vote against designating the building on the site a landmark. Now, as a matter of freedom of religion, it really was crucial not to let religion (or political ideology) affect the question whether that building should be classified under the law as a landmark, thus limiting the property rights of the owner. The requirement of neutrality in decisionmaking like that is fundamental to the rule of law.

One by one, members of the commission debated the aesthetic significance of the building, designed in the Italian Renaissance Palazzo style by an unknown architect.

That is clearly the way it had to be done. But what should not be lost, in understanding that, is that the owner’s freedom means that the owner has a choice. The owner is certainly not required to build a Muslim center and mosque on that site. Because it is a choice, it’s not wrong for the community to ask: Why are you making this choice? Why are you doing something that feels so painful to us? The community isn’t wrong to plead with the owner to choose to do something else with that property. It’s not enough of an answer to say we are doing it because we have a right to do it.

UPDATE: Will Wilkinson

Allah Pundit

Greg Sargent

William Kristol at The Weekly Standard

UPDATE #2: Dorothy Rabinowitz at WSJ

Alan Jacobs at The American Scene

Conor Friedersdorf at The American Scene

Joshua Cohen and Jim Pinkerton at Bloggingheads

Mark Schmitt and Rich Lowry at Bloggingheads

David Weigel and Dan Foster at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #3: Alex Massie here and here

UPDATE #4: Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek, his letter to Foxman

Abe Foxman writes a letter to Zakaria

Steve Clemons

UPDATE #5: Christopher Hitchens at Slate

Eugene Volokh

UPDATE #6: Jillian Rayfield at Talking Points Memo

UPDATE #7: Charles Krauthammer at WaPo

Jonathan Chait at TNR

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard

UPDATE #8: Joe Klein on Krauthammer

Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic on Krauthammer

UPDATE #9: More Krauthammer

Kinsley responds

UPDATE #10: Adam Serwer at Greg Sargent’s place

Steve Benen

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Quote Of The Day: “I Have Already Canceled This CNN Show In My Mind.”

Steve Krakauer at Mediaite:

As has been speculated for about a week now, Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker will be paired up as co-hosts of a new 8pmET “spirited, nightly roundtable discussion program” on CNN.

The Crossfire-like show replaces Campbell Brown’s program – which she announced she was leaving last month.

Let’s take a look at the key players. Spitzer was a surprise regular guest on Dylan Ratigan’s new MSNBC show starting almost one year ago today. Over this past year he’s risen through the ranks at MSNBC and began anchoring occasionally a couple months ago during news hours. He also, of course, is the former Democratic Governor of New York…and Client 9.

Parker is a conservative columnist and regular pundit on a variety of networks. She memorably called on Sarah Palin to drop out as VP candidate during the 2008 election – a column that to this day has some conservatives calling her “Republican In Name Only.”

In a fairly exhaustive Google search to find anything Parker has written about Spitzer, this was all I could come up with.

It’s fun to joke about Spitzer’s journey from being Client No. 9 to CNN Rising Star No. 1, but really I’m not concerned with TV shows, news or otherwise, rewarding or punishing people’s moral behavior in their hiring practices. This is, after all, the business that employs Charlie Sheen. So if CNN decides that the route to primetime goes through the doors of the Emperor’s Club, I won’t criticize. There are too many other things to criticize.

The first is not that Spitzer has been chosen despite his sex scandal. It’s that he seemingly was chosen, at least in part, because of the scandal: that is, because of the short-term blast of notoriety and buzz that he will bring with him. Now, for all I know, CNN genuinely sees special and distinctive broadcasting talent in Spitzer, but if they do, it’s eluded me in his long recent history as commentator and guest-host on CNN and MSNBC, where—to my ears, anyway—he comes off grating and supercilious. If he didn’t come with the name and the headlines, I have a hard time believing he’d been chosen on the basis of ability alone.

(As for Parker, I’m not familiar enough to say whether she’s a good choice or not, though her résumé is strong enough. But I do have to guess that—call me cynical—given Spitzer’s history it would have been hard for CNN to even consider pairing him with a man. Not that the underrepresentation of men in cable news is exactly a problem, but the idea that pairing Spitzer with a woman makes his choice any better is just icky.)

Further, it seems like CNN is trying to answer a problem cable news doesn’t have, and fill a need viewers aren’t looking to fill. CNN hasn’t named the fall program, but it sounds as if, in some sense, it is essentially reviving Crossfire. I suppose that will be counterprogramming in a sense to Fox and MSNBC’s commentary shows headed by individual hosts, but it’s not exactly as if cable is starved for opinion.

Bill Carter at New York Times:

Eliot Spitzer described himself as “extremely thankful” to be getting an opportunity to revive his reputation as a television news host after the tawdry circumstances of his forced resignation as governor of New York.

In a telephone interview discussing his appointment Tuesday to the co-host role in a new prime-time hour on CNN, Mr. Spitzer acknowledged that he would have to deal with the continuing fallout from his admission of patronizing call girls as he tried to rehabilitate his image on the news program.

If the subject of the night’s news discussion touches in some way on behavior of public officials or sexual peccadilloes, Mr. Spitzer said simply, “We’ll deal with it.”

He acknowledged that  guests might try to turn the discussion back on him when he pressed them on questions of behavior or judgment. “So be it,” Mr. Spitzer said.

Nick Gillespie at Reason:

I like Parker, but Spitzer, yeesh.

Reason.tv’s interview with Spitzer’s former madam, who did time for supplying the “well respected political mind” with hookers even as he pushed for prosecution of prostitution rings. Kristin Davis is running for NY governor on a platform focused on legalizing sex work, pot and gay marriage and pointing out the inequities of a criminal justice system that, er, put her in jail and let Gov. Spitzer go on to CNN.

Allah Pundit:

Now, riddle me this. If the new show is all about creating an unpredictable alternative to the predictable ideological fare on Olbermann and O’Reilly at that hour — and for the record, O’Reilly ain’t always so predictable — what’s Spitzer doing here? Parker may be, ahem, “unconventional,” but apart from defending Israel from Glenn Greenwald’s broadsides, Client Number Nine’s a pretty doctrinaire Democrat as far as I know. They could have went and gotten our favorite liberal to co-host if they were really that bent on some sort of RINO/DINO centrist news show. As it is, James Poniewozik’s right — it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Spitzer was chosen because of his hooker problem, not in spite of it.

Exit question one: Aren’t they really just aiming for “Morning Joe” in primetime here, albeit with the partisan roles reversed? Exit question two: Worth tuning in to watch the debate whenever there’s a sex scandal in the news, just for the awkward pauses

Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic:

Why can’t CNN President Jonathan Klein have the guts just to admit he was wrong and call his new show “Crossfire”? Or at least to apologize to all the hard-working CNN employees working on Crossfire whom he insulted as he kicked them out the door? (Not me. By the time Klein killed Crossfire, I was long gone, out in Seattle starting Slate.) Crossfire, if you never saw it, was a CNN interview show with two “hosts,” a conservative and a liberal, and two or three “guests,” from the usual pool of camera-ready politicians. When I was involved (though not necessarily for that reason) it was the top show on the network many evenings, with an audience larger than Larry King himself and far larger than anything CNN attracts today.

But then, one fateful evening, Jon Stewart came on to push a humor book, and blindsided the hosts (at that time Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson) by going all gooey and high-minded, and declaring that Crossfire was “hurting America” with its strident argumentation. Klein, opining that audiences wanted information, not opinion, not only took Crossfire and several other CNN discussion shows off the air, but declared that he “wholeheartedly agreed” with Jon Stewart that his own subordinates were hurting their country.

Klein’s principled opposition to opinion lasted just a few months. Soon enough, Anderson Cooper was sobbing all over his black t-shirt in New Orleans and Lou Dobbs had completed his remarkable transition from corporate shill to snarling, pitchfork-bearing populist. And now this. Two hosts, one liberal and one conservative, newsmaker guests, a “spirited” discussion of the issues of the day. But oh no, not Crossfire. Heaven forfend!

And the difference? This show will be “organic,” not “artificial,” explained conservative host Kathleen Parker, a Washington Post columnist, to the Huffington Post. The liberal host, Eliot Spitzer, last seen hiking the Appalachian trail with fellow governor Mark Sanford, amplified: “Big issues, little issues, coming at it from different perspective, same perspective, agree, disagree…. Thoughtful, smart, funny, not boring, not predictable.” On Crossfire, of course, it never occurred to us to try to be thoughtful or smart or any of that pansy stuff. We were just a “simple left vs. right partisan shouting match.” But in the Huffington Post piece, Parker contradicted Spitzer on the partisanship point, saying that she and Spitzer “bring completely different perspectives…which is what this country is all about.” Maybe they can make this their first topic of discussion.

Wonkette:

Do you worry every time you leave your house about encountering Eliot Spitzer, who will attempt to pay you for sex, or Kathleen Parker, who will attempt to determine if you are a “full-blooded American,” and then bludgeon you with her Pulitzer Prize if you aren’t? Well, now at least the period from 8 to 9 p.m. every night will be safe, because these two will be busy making eyes at each other on CNN during that time period. Quick, scurry out and purchase supplies!

Spitzer and Parker’s Olde Time Politics Variety Hour will replace Campbell Brown, who was too good and pure for this world. Remember how CNN used to have shouty shows where political enemies would shout at each other, loudly, before Jon Stewart shamed them out of it? Well, that’s not what this show is about! Instead, it will offer “a lively roundup of all the best ideas.” ALL THE BEST IDEAS, ON ANY TOPIC. If your idea isn’t rounded up by this show, it is not the best, or even very good.

Choire Sicha at The Awl:

Starting in September, love guv Eliot Spitzer is now your TV chitchat host on the CNN at 8 p.m. every night (that hour when you don’t watch TV). He’s been partnered with a lady. That lady is Kathleen Parker. She is not bright, basically, though she has a Pulitzer, just like Jennifer Jason Leigh did in the Hudsucker Proxy. CAREER WOMEN, what can you do, etc. I have already canceled this CNN show in my mind.

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CW Watch: Arrows Down On Newsweek

Images from Instant History

Newsweek:

The Washington Post Co. announced Wednesday that it has retained Allen & Company to explore the possible sale of NEWSWEEK magazine. The newsweekly, which has struggled in recent years, was launched in 1933 and purchased by The Washington Post Co. in 1961.

Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham came to New York to tell the magazine staff at a 10:30 a.m. ET meeting on Wednesday. “We have reported losses in the tens of millions for the last two years,” he said. “Outstanding work by NEWSWEEK’s people has significantly narrowed the losses in the last year and particularly in the last few months. But we do not see a path to continuing profitability under our management.”

Graham said the company decided to go public with the news to invite as many potential buyers as possible, and said the sale could be completed within a few months. “Our aim will be–if we can do it–a rapid sale to a qualified buyer,” he said. “We’re a public company and we have to consider the price offered. But we’ll have a second and third criteria: the future of NEWSWEEK and the future of those who work here.”

In a later meeting, NEWSWEEK Editor Jon Meacham told the editorial staff that he continues to believe in the mission of the company. Meacham said he would do everything he could to ensure the continuation of the magazine, including personally pitching potential buyers. He also reminded the staff that NEWSWEEK wasn’t closed today, but was put on the market.

Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine

Colby Hall at Mediaite:

The writing was on the wall a few weeks back when news broke that Newsweek would be moving its staff, from its brand-new and cushy Tribeca offices, to its more mundane confines in Midtown Manhattan. These would be the offices that they JUST MOVED INTO last June, and the fact that Kaplan would be taking over…well, it just reinforced what everyone already knew. Kaplan is another subsidiary of the Washington Post company, that has become a cash cow best known for its higher education programs, professional training courses and test preparation products. So it would make sense for them to have the coolest offices.

But while moving was admittedly a pain, sources within the magazine spun this as a smart move, not just because it solved a serious space problem for Kaplan, but also saved Newsweek significant money each year. Cynics might see this as a “cheap” and effective way to quickly improve the bottom line, ostensibly to impress prospective buyers.

And what of prospective buyers? Who would want to buy a weekly title that lost a bunch of money last year? Well the truth is that the financial picture of Newsweek is much healthier than one might think. Last year was a big financial loss, which made a number of headlines. But as we said then, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it was reported.

It is true that Newsweek lost roughly $28 million in the last year. But to fully appreciate that number, one need remember that roughly two-thirds of that amount came in the the first quarter of last year, and included a write-down of over $6MM in severance packages. Further, Q2 of ‘09 saw roughly $5MM in losses, and Q3 roughly $4MM. Q4? Newsweek actually turned a small yet significant profit of $400k in Q4 of 2009.

Sources close to the title tell us that the first quarter of 2010 was also encouraging – ad sales efforts met their budget and print ad numbers for the months of March and April, perhaps owing as much to the end of the ad recession as anything else. The bottom line is that Newsweek is seeing ad revenues return to pre-recession levels, and combined with a rather dramatic reduction in losses, the weekly news title is moving very close to hitting their break even target for 2011.

Matthew Yglesias:

And I’m actually sort of surprised Graham took such a dour line. I would have just said that in a digital paradigm it doesn’t make sense for one company to own both a daily news product and a weekly news product. In an “ink on paper” world, there’s a big difference between a good Newsweek story and a good Washington Post story but in a “pixles on the internet” paradigm there isn’t. If the Washington Post Company is going to operate two different web products they would have to be differentiated along a different axis—one could be a local news site about the DC metropolitan area and one could be a site about about politics and national affairs. But the Post/Newsweek alignment didn’t make sense. The two print publications were supplements while the two websites are competitors.

Choire Sicha at The Awl:

In today’s meeting, at which the announcement was made that Newsweek was being put up for sale by the Washington Post Company, the magazine’s editor Jon Meacham said that he will be lining up financiers and trying to make a bid to buy the magazine himself. He has already had inquiries from some very well-off types this morning. Tonight’s “Daily Show” appearance—he’s been booked for ages—should be really something! Meacham is currently talking to reporters and juggling calls, so expect more soonish.

John Koblin at New York Observer:

Newsweek is up for sale, and editor Jon Meacham is going to explore the possibility of rounding up some bidders to buy the magazine himself.

“I believe this is an important American institution,” he said in an interview. “I just do. Maybe that’s quixotic, maybe that’s outdated, but it’s what I believe.”

He said he had two voicemails from “two billionaires” after the news was announced this morning that The Washington Post Company was going to try to sell the magazine. He said he had not called them back.

Mr. Meacham won a Pulitzer Prize last year and he has a new TV show that will debut on May 7 on PBS. In other words, he has plenty of options he can explore.

But for now, he said he’s dedicated to figuring out how to save Newsweek.

“We have to figure out what journalism is going to be as the old business model collapses all around us,” said Mr. Meacham. “And I want to be–I want to try to be–a part of that undertaking. Will it work? Who the hell knows. But I’m at least going to look at this.”

Jon Friedman at Market Watch:

I have another idea: Why can’t the Washington Post Co.  combine Newsweek and Slate, another of its well regarded media holdings, into one all-online operation?

The move would accomplish one big priority: saving money. Newsweek would go forward with a smaller staff and still preserve some of the jobs of staffers currently at the magazine.

The news that the Post Co. may unload the money-losing Newsweek should hardly come as a shock. All over the industry, big names, new and old, have been vanishing, such as Gourmet and Portfolio. BusinessWeek received a stay of execution when Bloomberg stepped in at the 11th hour and acquired the publication from McGraw-Hill.

Traditionalists have bemoaned the changes that Bloomberg has put in place. They seem to forget that without Bloomberg’s involvement, BusinessWeek would probably have disappeared by now.

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic:

The Washington Post Co. is looking to sell Newsweek, its vaunted but money-losing magazine jewel. Media analysts are in a frenzy, and many are envisioning a future in which Newsweek has no paper edition. Some are wondering whether the magazine should merge with Slate, an all-online magazine also owned by the Post. Others like Gabriel Sherman are worried about branding: will the company struggle to find buyers considering the words “news” and “week” don’t really work on the Web?

The sale and possible electronificiation of Newsweek just a year after its redesign is one of those stories that epitomizes the challenges of the media landscape. Newsweek is still one of America’s two most famous newsmags, the other being Time. Its rebranding effort last year tried to merge the soul of a weekly news digest with … well, something else. The first few issues looked as though a design team had been instructed to empty their brains onto all 50 of its thin pages. Large pictures peeked out of unexpected corners of the magazine, faint blocks of color invaded the feature section, and the back of the book looked more like a collage of design ideas than a unified theory of magazine layout.

[…]
Newsweek grew up learning how to tell people what happened. Today, everybody knows what happened. So Newsweek’s reinvention needs another reinvention. I wish them the best of luck.

UPDATE: Rod Dreher

James Fallows

UPDATE #2: Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic

UPDATE #3: Ross Douthat

UPDATE #4: Jim Newell at Gawker

UPDATE #5: Mike Allen at Politico

Meenal Vamburkar at Mediaite

Nat Ives at AdAge

UPDATE #6: Peter Lauria at Daily Beast

Stephen Spruiell at The Corner

Michael Calderone at Yahoo News

UPDATE #7: Jack Shafer at Slate

UPDATE #8: Chris Rovzar at The New York Magazine

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic

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Not, Of Course, That There’s Anything Wrong With That

Ben Domenech at The New Ledger (and CBS):

Update: The White House has seen fit to take the effort to respond to my description of Elena Kagan’s sexuality, and Howard Kurtz asked me to comment. Here’s how I responded:

Since the position opened on the court, there have been abundant numbers of commenters and bloggers on the Left arguing openly about the potential political reactions of appointing either Sullivan or Karlan as the first openly gay members of the court. The idea of history-making appointments always has great appeal, and it’s one reason I supported Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination, a lonely position for any conservative — and when the first openly gay nominee is advanced, it will be a true statement about how far we’ve come as a society. When that does happen, it will be an issue of political discussion, whether we like it or not. It obviously has nothing to do with whether they are a good nominee or not [Note: Sens. Cornyn and Sessions are right on this].

I offer my sincere apologies to Ms. Kagan if she is offended at all by my repetition of a Harvard rumor in a speculative blog post. But if I were her, I’d feel pretty good about the fact that the White House specifically responded to this — it seems like a clue as to who the pick will be, doesn’t it?

1. Elena Kagan (49), Solicitor General of the United States. The likeliest candidate, and it was somewhat of a surprise she didn’t get picked last time. Pluses: would please much of Obama’s base, follows diversity politics of Sotomayor with first openly gay justice (so would Karlan and Sullivan). [Update: While Karlan and Sullivan are open about it, I have to correct my text here to say that Kagan is apparently still closeted — odd, because her female partner is rather well known in Harvard circles.] [Update: see my apology to Ms. Kagan at Huffington Post] Minuses: Seen as too moderate by some on the left; people like Arianna Huffington and Glenn Greenwald strongly dislike her because of her positions on executive power and anti-terror activities. Could be seen as a thumb in the eye of the civil liberties folks.

Sources numerous and equally dismissible report that President Obama has a “Top Ten” list of potential SCOTUS candidates to replace the outgoing John Paul Stevens. Since no one can honestly claim to know what the president is thinking, here’s my stab at his top ten (after conferring with a few TNL friends) as potential choices, with pluses and minuses for each. Trust me – you’ll want to stick around for the 10th.

Howard Kurtz at WaPo:

The White House ripped CBS News on Thursday for publishing an online column by a blogger who made assertions about the sexual orientation of Solicitor General Elena Kagan, widely viewed as a leading candidate for the Supreme Court.

Ben Domenech, a former Bush administration aide and Republican Senate staffer, wrote that President Obama would “please” much of his base by picking the “first openly gay justice.” An administration official, who asked not to be identified discussing personal matters, said Kagan is not a lesbian.

CBS initially refused to pull the posting, prompting Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director who is working with the administration on the high court vacancy, to say: “The fact that they’ve chosen to become enablers of people posting lies on their site tells us where the journalistic standards of CBS are in 2010.” She said the network was giving a platform to a blogger “with a history of plagiarism” who was “applying old stereotypes to single women with successful careers.”

The network deleted the posting Thursday night after Domenech said he was merely repeating a rumor. The flare-up underscores how quickly the battle over a Supreme Court nominee — or even a potential nominee — can turn searingly personal. Most major news organizations have policies against “outing” gays or reporting on the sex lives of public officials unless they are related to their public duties.

Greg Sargent:

CBS unquestionably deserved to take a hit for this. But what’s more interesting than CBS’s role is the White House’s aggressive response. People who follow the ins and outs of nomination battles closely are interpreting it as a sign that Kagan has a very good shot at being picked. As one of these people put it to me this morning, this is the most hard-hitting pushback by the White House to misinformation being spread about any nominee.

A White House official told Kurtz that Kagan is not a lesbian. That won’t matter, of course; the whisper campaign from the right is likely to continue. But the White House has now signaled that they’re prepared to go to war against it.

Ben Domenech at Huffington Post:

I erroneously believed that Ms. Kagan was openly gay not because of, as Stein describes it, a “whisper campaign” on the part of conservatives, but because it had been mentioned casually on multiple occasions by friends and colleagues — including students at Harvard, Hill staffers, and in the sphere of legal academia — who know Kagan personally. And as the reaction from Julian Sanchez and Matt Yglesias shows, I was not alone in that apparently inaccurate belief.

Look, it’s 2010 — no one should care if a nominee to any position is gay. The fact that conservative Senators John Cornyn and Jeff Sessions have recently expressed openness to confirming an openly gay nominee to the Court is a good thing. Senators should look at things that actually matter — evaluating a nominee’s decisions, approach to the law, their judgment and ability — to see whether there are actually good and relevant reasons to oppose the nomination. That’s all.

But that’s about getting the job. As a political matter, there are ramifications for nominations to the Supreme Court, and the core elements of a nominee’s biography, like his or her family life, are inescapable when the nation focuses on such a high-profile life-tenured appointment. Making history is a noteworthy thing: many in the Latino community were pleased when Sonia Sotomayor (who I supported) was nominated, and many in the LGBT community would welcome the opportunity to confirm an openly gay justice. Glenn Greenwald and others agree with me on this point, and I can’t think why anyone would disagree.

That’s why I listed it as a positive: after so much frustration with the White House from the gay community on lack of action on other policy fronts, an openly gay nominee might serve to mend that strained relationship.

As I told Howard Kurtz, and I say again here, I offer my sincere apologies to Ms. Kagan if she is offended at all by my repetition of a Harvard rumor in a speculative blog post. It still seems odd to me that the White House would single out this statement for attack, adamantly slamming closed a door that nobody was trying to open, as opposed to issuing a mild correction. As Yglesias notes, “I’d like to think we’re past the point where saying someone’s a lesbian counts as a dastardly ‘accusation,'” and it certainly was not intended as such.

But on the other hand, if I were Ms. Kagan, I’d feel pretty good about the fact that the White House specifically responded to this, and did so in such an aggressive and forceful manner — after all, it seems like quite a clue as to who the pick will be, doesn’t it?

Sam Stein at Huffington Post:

Even before the CBS post, a top conservative religious group was already insisting that a nominee’s sexuality would play a major role in his or her confirmation process. This past week, the organization Focus on the Family abruptly reversed its position from the last Supreme Court confirmation battle by declaring it would oppose a gay Supreme Court pick, no matter who the nominee is.

“We can assure you that we recognize that homosexual behavior is a sin and does not reflect God’s created intent and desire for humanity,” said Tom Minnery, the group’s senior vice president. “Further, we at Focus do affirm that character and moral rectitude should be key considerations in appointing members of the judiciary, especially in the case of the highest court in the land. Sexual behavior — be it heterosexual or homosexual — certainly lies at the heart of personal morality.”

The fact that the rumor campaign surrounding Kagan has been settled doesn’t necessarily mean that the issue is off the table, Republicans still seem poised to make gay rights a prominent feature of the confirmation process — should she be chosen as Justice John Paul Stevens’ replacement. Already conservative websites are latching on to a brief signed by Kagan and 40 Harvard Law School professors in which they argued that the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was discriminatory against gay troops.

“Let’s just say that if somebody is gay, it clearly becomes political fodder,” said Navetta, when asked if the effort could damage Kagan’s chances for the court or confirmation. “And I’m not implying one way or the other that she is or is not [gay]. I’m just saying that its no myth that people’s sexual orientation can and does become an issue in political campaigns. We’ve seen it before.”

Moe Lane:

Having reviewed the completely voluntary decision of the White House to freak out over Ben Domenech’s mention in passing of now-probable USSC nominee Elena Kagan’s rumored sexuality – and before anybody freaks out in their turn, note this passage, please:

…as the reaction from Julian Sanchez and Matt Yglesias shows, I was not alone in that apparently inaccurate belief.

…one wonders what all the fuss was about.  After all, Ben, Sanchez, Yglesias, Glenn freaking Greenwald – and for that matter, myself – are all more or less in agreement that a strong reaction to this is at least a bit odd.  In a world where Senators Cornyn & Sessions can both readily and for the record state that sexual orientation is not a barrier for a Supreme Court spot, why would the White House jump on this issue with both feet?  And why did they, by the way, do so in a manner that explicitly and authoritatively denies that Ms. Kagan is gay?

Digby:

Everything I’ve heard is that Kagan is not a lesbian. Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, obviously, or anything shameful in being called that. But I know far too many straight, single women who are assumed to be gay simply because they aren’t married or don’t have an active dating life. It’s hurtful to them, and not because they have any prejudice against gay people but because it’s an assumption about them that isn’t true. Everyone deserves to be seen the way they really are, whether gay or straight.

Marc Ambinder, a blogger for the Atlantic, wrote Monday about what he called “a baffling whisper campaign” about Kagan “among both gay rights activists and social conservatives. . . .“So pervasive are these rumors that two senior administration officials I spoke with this weekend acknowledged hearing about them and did not know whether they were true. . . . Why is she the subject of these rumors? Who’s behind them?”

Why? Because every woman who isn’t married after a certain age is assumed to be a lesbian by some people, even if she isn’t, especially if she doesn’t look like a fashion model. And social conservatives and gay rights activists (for different reasons) have a vested interest in her being seen as gay. It’s not an insult but it is a misconception and one that isn’t entirely benign to the person who is the subject of it. If she says anything publicly to deny it, it sounds as though she has a prejudice against gay people and if she doesn’t deny it, she becomes known as something she isn’t. It’s not fair.

Ben Domenech is right wing hit man and always has been. And he’s succeeded wildly here. The rumors are now “out there” and Cokie’s Law is in effect. How a known plagiarist came to be employed by CBS is the more interesting story, actually. Especially for a man who’s known to hire hookers to powder and diaper him and then sing him to sleep. Or at least that’s the rumor. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan

Joe Conason at Salon

Allah Pundit

Amanda Terkel at Think Progress

UPDATE #2: Ben Smith at Politico

Digby

Jules Crittenden

William Saletan in Slate

UPDATE #3: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #4: Scott Johnson at Powerline

UPDATE #5: Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic

Kevin Drum

Andrew Sullivan

UPDATE #6: Richard Kim and Reihan Salam at Bloggingheads

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Filed under LGBT, New Media, Political Figures, Supreme Court

Evidence Of Inflation Unseen

Michael Kinsley in The Atlantic:

In short, I can’t help feeling that the gold bugs are right. No, I’m not stashing gold bars under my bed. But that’s only because I lack the courage of my convictions.

My fear is not the result of economic analysis. It’s more from the realm of psychology. I mean mine. The last time I wrote about this subject, The Atlantic’s own Clive Crook called me a “fiscal sado-conservative.” I would put it differently (you won’t be surprised to hear). Maybe, at least on economic matters, I’m a puritan. The recession we’ve been going through did not occur for no reason. Even though serious misbehavior by the finance industry triggered it, sooner or later it was bound to happen. For a generation—since shortly after Volcker saved the country, and except for a brief period of surpluses under Bill Clinton—we partied on borrowed money. We watched a real-estate bubble get larger and larger, knowing but not acknowledging that it had to burst. Then it did burst, and George W. Bush slunk off to Texas, leaving Barack Obama to clean up the mess. Obama has done the right things, mostly, pushing through a huge stimulus package and bailing out a few big corporations and banks. Krugman says we need yet another dose of stimulus, and maybe he’s right.

But this cure has been one ice-cream sundae after another. It can’t be that easy, can it? The puritan in me says that there has to be some pain. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been plenty of economic pain. But that pain has come from the recession itself, not the cure.

My specific concern is nothing original: it’s just the national debt. Yawn and turn the page here if you’d like. We talk now of trillions, not yesterday’s hundreds of billions. It’s not Obama’s fault. He did what he had to do. However, Obama is president, and Democrats do control Congress. So it’s their responsibility, even if it’s not their fault. And no one in a position to act has proposed a realistic way out of this debt, not even in theory. The Republicans haven’t. The Obama administration hasn’t. Come to think of it, even Paul Krugman hasn’t. Presidential adviser David Axelrod, writing in The Washington Post, says that Obama has instructed his agency heads to go through the budget “page by page, line by line, to eliminate what we don’t need to help pay for what we do.” So they’ve had more than a year and haven’t yet discovered the line in the budget reading “Stuff We Don’t Need, $3.2 trillion.”

There is a way out. It’s called inflation. In 1979, for example, the government ran a deficit of more than $40 billion—about $118 billion in today’s money. The national debt stood at about $830 billion at year’s end. But because of 13.3 percent inflation, that $830 billion was worth what only $732 billion would have been worth at the beginning of the year. In effect, the government ran up $40 billion in new debts but inflated away almost $100 billion and ended up with a national debt smaller in real terms than what it started with. Ten percent inflation for five years (if that were possible) would erode the value of our projected debt nicely—but along with it, the value of non-indexed pensions, people’s savings, and so on. The Federal Reserve is independent, but Congress and the White House have ways to pressure the Fed. Actually, just spending all this money we don’t have is one good way.

Compared with raising taxes or cutting spending, just letting inflation do the dirty work sounds easy. It will be a terrible temptation, and Obama’s historic reputation (not to mention the welfare of the nation) will depend on whether he succumbs. Or so I fear. So who are you going to believe? Me? Or virtually every leading economist across the political spectrum? Even I know the sensible answer to that.

And yet …

Matthew Continetti at The Weekly Standard:

Welcome to the team! Slight addendum: Contrary to Kinsley, one guy has put out a way to get out from under the national debt (though right now he might not be in “a position to act”).

Brad DeLong:

If Kinsley seriously believes that inflation is on the way, he and his wife could take their entire household portfolio and go short 20-year Treasury bonds @4.43% and long 20-year TIPS @2.11%. Each year over the next 20 that inflation is above 2.32% they make money.

I’m not one who pledges to always believe that markets have gotten it right. But I do believe that someone who doesn’t think that market prices are aggregating information needs to tell a story about why markets have gotten it wrong before they set pen to paper.

That is all.

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic:

First, inflation doesn’t just chew up the debt. It also swallows the value of non-inflation-indexed savings. For savings tied to inflation, like Social Security, inflation would in nominal terms cost tax payers more money down the line.

Second, inflation at a level high enough to quickly reduce fiscal deficits could spiral out of control back home. If you’re setting prices in an economy where future prices are expected to rise, your temptation is to set prices higher. In this way, inflationary expectations can outrun the Fed’s target.

Third, there’s a decent chance that inflation won’t actually reduce our deficit in the first place. If inflation begins to creep up, investors will demand higher interest rates on US debt to beat expected inflation in the future. As Anne Vorce, director for the Fiscal Roadmap Project of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget at the New America Foundation, told me this morning, “Our creditors would go nuts. The Chinese premier specifically said he was concerned about inflation in our debt. Inflation is tempting in the short run. In the middle or long it has costs.”

Matthew Yglesias:

So neither leading economists nor Michael Kinsley himself believe that hyperinflation is just around the corner, and yet the thesis of Kinsley’s piece is that “when and if the recession is well and truly over, there is a serious danger of another round of vicious inflation” and that “[t]his time, inflation will be a lot harder to stop before it turns into hyperinflation.”

I note that not only does Kinsley’s column explicitly discuss the lack of evidence for Kinsley’s thesis, but it also details the theoretical error Kinsley is making—thinking too moralistically about the economy. He says “on economic matters, I’m a puritan.” And also that “The recession we’ve been going through did not occur for no reason.” He feels, metaphorically speaking, that it was sent by God to punish us for our overindulgence. And that while we’ve had plenty of economic pain over the past 24 months, that’s not enough: “that pain has come from the recession itself, not the cure.” Kinsley’s view is that recovery has to come with some episode of ritual purging and mass suffering over and above the suffering caused directly by the recession. In his view, a greater punishment must be over the horizon for the sake of the moral order. And since recession is, by his lights, not enough the only other economic calamity on the menu is inflation. And so, he deduces, we must be heading for inflation, even though he himself recognizes the reasoning as so specious that he won’t use it as the basis for investment decisions.

Andrew Leonard at Salon:

Matthew Yglesias does such a scintillating job of eviscerating Michael Kinsley’s bizarre hyperinflation hyperventilation in the April issue of The Atlantic that it would be unsportsmanlike to pile on and offer my own line-by-line exegesis of his confounding nervous-nellyism. I’ll just note that it requires some very clever rhetoric to explain how you can’t sleep at night because of your inflation fears, even as you acknowledge that there is no evidence that your nightmare is something to worry about right now, and all the economists you respect don’t see it as a significant problem. Kinsley is a heck of a writer, but he’s not that good.

Paul Krugman:

Hyperinflation is actually a quite well understood phenomenon, and its causes aren’t especially controversial among economists. It’s basically about revenue: when governments can’t either raise taxes or borrow to pay for their spending, they sometimes turn to the printing press, trying to extract large amounts of seignorage — revenue from money creation. This leads to inflation, which leads people to hold down their cash holdings, which means that the printing presses have to run faster to buy the same amount of resources, and so on.

The kind of inflation we had in the 1970s, the famous era of stagflation — high inflation combined with high unemployment — was quite different. Deficits weren’t the issue — actually, US deficits were much smaller in the inflationary 70s than in the disinflationary 80s. Instead, what you had was a combination of excessively expansionary monetary policies, based on an unrealistic view of how low the unemployment rate could be pushed without causing accelerating inflation (the NAIRU), plus oil shocks that pushed up inflation across the board thanks to widespread cost-of-living clauses in contracts. There was never any risk of hyperinflation; the only question was whether and when we’d be willing to pay the price in high unemployment of bringing inflation back down.

Kinsley seems to be confusing the logic of the natural rate argument, which says that expected inflation gets built into price-setting, so you need an accelerating inflation rate to keep unemployment below the NAIRU, with the very different logic of hyperinflation, which is about people fleeing money.

Brian Doherty at Reason:

Those with reasonable doubts as to the stability of this whole freakin’ system are in the unenviable position of, if struggling to be “prudent,” making lots of big decisions that are going to seem really short-sighted, depending on whether or not things go seriously awry. That is, going gold will make you either King of the World or the nuttiest of chumps. Well, that’s what hedging is all about, I suppose, but most hedging is done within the ol’ dominant paradigm. Gold seems more like a “all bets are off” bet.

Kevin Drum:

I’m going to defend Kinsley a bit. One reason is that although he freely talks about the inner demons that prompted his heresy, he does, in fact, also offer up a concrete reason for his fears: “My specific concern is nothing original: it’s just the national debt….We talk now of trillions, not yesterday’s hundreds of billions.” This is not a completely nonsensical concern, even if it would be better expressed as a percent of GDP rather than in raw dollars. What’s more, if Kinsley had wanted to write something a little more sophisticated, he could have spent some time on the Fed’s likely problems unwinding its trillion dollar balance sheet over the coming years, something that has at least the potential for sparking inflationary pressures if it isn’t timed pretty delicately.

But that’s not the real reason for defending Kinsley. The real reason is this: I sort of agree with him. Is it because we were both around for the 70s and remember what happened then? Maybe, though Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong were around then too and they’re not worried. And intellectually, like Kinsley, I agree with them: inflation just doesn’t seem like a big issue right now. But what about a few years from now? It really does look as if our political system is going to find it next to impossible to control our long-term federal deficit, and at the same time the dollar is going to have to come down in value eventually. Both of these things, along with the Fed’s operations, pose inflationary potential. And I have a fairly healthy respect for the proposition that if the Fed loses its reputation as an inflationary hawk, it’s much harder to get back than you might think.

So here’s the question: if all the people you respect say that inflation isn’t a big issue; if all the market evidence points toward moderate inflationary expectations; and if your fears of inflation are almost certainly grounded in demons from your youth — if all that’s true, but you still feel the fear anyway, what should you do? Nothing? Or should you write about it, being honest along the way about what’s driving you?

UPDATE: Kinsley responds to Krugman:

Krugman says that I mistakenly conflate inflation and hyperinflation, although “textbook economics…makes a real distinction” between the two. I will confess that I was not aware of this distinction. I thought hyperinflation was inflation out-of-control. Mea culpa. However:

(1) Krugman should stop bullying people with accusations of economic ignorance. I would never pretend to know a tenth of economics Paul knows. But if he means, in calling this distinction a matter of “textbook economics [subtext: you idiot],” that economic textbooks make this distinction, he is wrong. Or at least no such distinction between inflation and hyperinflation is made, despite an extensive discussion of inflation, in the leading economics textbook, by Harvard Professor Gregory Mankiw.

(2) Krugman’s definition of hyperinflation–“when governments can’t either raise taxes or borrow to pay for their spending, they sometimes turn to the printing press”–is more or less precisely what I wrote that I was afraid of. I suppose there’s a difference between the government printing money to pay off its debts (Krugman’s definition) and the government printing money to reduce the real value of its debts (my fear). But not much of one.

(3) Krugman, Brad DeLong, Matt Yglesias and others make the point that there is no current economic evidence of inflation on on the horizon. I conceded as much in the original piece. But using Krugman’s definition, hyperinflation is the result of explicit policy choices by public officials. There is a “real distinction” between this and inflation ordinaire, which results naturally from the interplay of economic forces. Therefore, the fact that there is no sign of inflation today says very little about whether there may be hyperinflation tomorrow.There are reasons to worry that our political leaders may opt for inflation even if there is no economic evidence of it happening naturally. (Of course the interplay of economic forces can force the hand of public officials. But if we go down this road, we are muddying that key distinction between hyperinflation and inflation.)

I have been waiting for Paul Krugman to tell me how we are going to handle the debt, once we get this recession out of the way. No, really. There’s no economist whose judgment I trust more. (About economics, that is.) I’ve been all for the stimulus and the jobs bill and even, I guess, the sundry bailouts. But don’t we at some point have to start paying the money back? And how are we going to do that? Krugman’s failure (unless I’ve missed it) to give us an answer to that question is one of the things that makes me worry.

Ryan Avent at Free Exchange at The Economist:

Contra Mr Kinsley, there is a massive difference between printing money to pay off debts and printing money to erode the real value of debt. In the immediate postwar period, America experienced annual rates of inflation up to 10%, which eroded the value of America’s war debt by some 40%. Hyperinflation was never a problem. And there is a big difference between governments that are reluctant to opt for painful budget fixes and governments that absolutely cannot do it. Moreover, the pain of hyperinflation is every bit as bad as and worse than the pain of tax increases, or spending cuts, or default. No politician would risk it, and even if the politicians were willing to, America’s independent Fed wouldn’t let them.

The truth about hyperinflation is that it isn’t so much an economic phenomenon as a political one; it corresponds to the complete breakdown of a country’s political institutions. It is no coincidence that episodes of hyperinflation are typically associated with very poor developing nations, those exiting major conflicts, and those suffering from other major economic dislocations (like the end of Communism).

To get from America’s current situation to one in which hyperinflation is a realistic possibility, one must pass through an intervening step in which America’s political institutions utterly collapse. And I submit that if Mr Kinsley has reason to believe that such a collapse is imminent, he should be writing columns warning about that rather than the economic messes which might follow.

Felix Salmon:

The logic here is that simply running large fiscal deficits is an “explicit policy choice” by officials who “opt for inflation”. Just by spending money, the government is pressuring the Fed to, um, what, exactly? Keep interest rates too low? Print money?It’s true that the Fed isn’t looking particularly independent these days, but that’s largely because inflation isn’t a problem, and therefore the Fed is rightly concentrating on the second part of its dual mandate, which is reducing unemployment through loose monetary policy. Fiscal policy and monetary policy should both be pulling in the same direction right now — which is the direction of trying to extricate the country from the deepest recession in living memory.

It’s also hard to see the dynamics by which hyperinflation — or even plain old ordinary high inflation, for that matter — could emerge. If there’s a panicked run away from the dollar and dollar-denominated assets, that would hurt both the stock market and the bond market, hitting wealth hard. It would also send the cost of imports up. But the US doesn’t import so much that import-price inflation would pass through into domestic hyperinflation. And with the markets in turmoil, weak unions, and unemployment surely rising, I don’t think that workers would be in any position to ask for double-digit wage increases on an annual basis. In any case, to have any hyperinflation you need a maniac helming the printing press, and Ben Bernanke is not a maniac. Yes, he’s expanded the money supply significantly, but only when disinflation was the greatest risk facing the economy. It’s almost impossible to imagine the Fed continuing to print money once consumer prices start rising sharply on Main Street — and, frankly, it’s hard to imagine the Obama administration putting pressure on the Fed to do so.

As Krugman notes, it’s instructive to take a hard look at Japan, which ran enormous deficits for many years and which still has no sign of any inflation any time soon. Deficits, in and of themselves, do not cause inflation. And while Kinsley is right that there’s no obvious way out of America’s current fiscal problems, he’s wrong that politicians can simply choose inflation as an option. Just as the Treasury secretary does not control the value of the dollar, the president does not control the trajectory of consumer prices. So in order for his fears about hyperinflation to be remotely justified, Kinsley first has to explain how the Fed is going to transmogrify into the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. And he hasn’t come close to doing that.

(h/t Sullivan)

UPDATE: Paul Krugman responds

UPDATE #2: Kinsley again

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Filed under Economics, The Crisis