Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Repentant ex-wingnut John Cole asks:

Where do these wingnuts come up with this perception ... that Obama supporters are somehow unaware that Barack Obama is GASP a politician[?]

He is a United States Senator. He is running for the highest political office in the land. He is a politician. We are aware of this.

One reason might be that many Obama supports seem demonstrably unaware of the kind of politician he is --- one who seems to be every bit as inclined towards "triangulation" on domestic economic issues as Clinton's husband, and who is, on some issues, clearly to her right.

The key example is health care, where Clinton supports a general mandate, and Obama doesn't --- a position he holds firmly enough that, for instance, it reportedly cost him an Edwards endorsement a few months back. (Elizabeth Edwards apparently has a lot to say about this, and she'll be a health care maven for as long as she can, for obvious reasons.) Mind you, Obama's position isn't even coherent --- in one debate, he whined about the difficulty of enforcing a mandate, even though (as Hillary pointed out) his own plan has a limited mandate, for kids, to which the same objections would apply.

What's really telling is the outrage from the more, well... devoted Obama supporters when liberal commentators like Paul Krugman call him on this sort of thing. Krugman in particular was subjected to, among other things, a ridiculous rumor that he was a closet agitator for Hillary because his kid was working on her campaign staff. He doesn't have kids. And his cats, he claims, are completely non-partisan. But you'll just have to take his word for it.

To be sure, Obama himself wasn't directly putting out this sort of nonsense. But his supporters were, and Krugman is prominent enough that past a certain point, the candidate ought to have known about it. He could have certainly, at least, damped down the volume by putting out a statement highlighting the importance of respecting differences of opinion across the ideological spectrum, including more liberal commenters and colleagues --- but so far, at least, he's using that kind of language mainly when he's trying to ingratiate himself with, for instance, Republicans who are touting a phony social security "crisis" as an excuse for dismantling the program completely.

And you're reading all this on the blog of a guy who regards Obama as the best available candidate. Hillary's engaged in plenty of flim-flam of her own (and Krugman's called her on some of it), including the much-ridiculed Walter Mitty tale of dodging snipers in Tuzla, and her flat misrepresentation of her own position on NAFTA during her husband's administration. Her foreign policy positions are notably more hawkish, and her record in some respects is scary. (Like the vote to authorize use of force in Iraq --- she keeps saying "if I knew then what I know now", and that just doesn't cut it. Half her Democratic colleagues did know enough to oppose it then. Why didn't she? Perhaps because she didn't even read the National Intelligence Estimate?) And even on health care, she's an advocate of good policy, but not clearly an effective one. As I've said before, the single most important fact about her effort during her husband's administration is that it failed.

But Obama is, at best, the better of two imperfect choices. He's not the magic negro from some cheesy hollywood thumb-sucker, whose mere ascendance to office will, by itself, change, well... whatever pisses you off. People who have convinced themselves he's that, or even some kind of economic progressive in the Edwards mold, are setting themselves up for disappointment.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Today in the New York Times, the story of Debbie Almontaser, who had a dream of a school named for the Lebanese Christian writer Khalil Gibran, in which students of all ethnicities and faiths would learn Arabic language and culture.

Naturally, this got her branded a fundamentalist jihaddist by the mob that forced her out of the job.

If spreading fundmentalist doctrine was, in fact, Almontaser's intent, it really wasn't working out. Accounts of the school's discipline problems during Almontaser's brief tenure include a non-Muslim student calling a Muslim teacher a "terrorist". And, to be fair, those discipline problems do suggest something about the school's leadership had gone awry.

But, say the critics, that's not the point. The point is that she's Muslim, and Muslims are the Borg, and if we don't watch out, we will be assimilated. Or something like that. As Daniel Pipes, the intellectually credentialled thug (Ph.D., Harvard, 1978) who led the charge, explains:

Mr. Pipes and others reel off a list of examples: Muslim cabdrivers in Minneapolis who have refused to take passengers carrying liquor; municipal pools and a gym at Harvard that have adopted female-only hours to accommodate Muslim women; candidates for office who are suspected of supporting political Islam; and banks that are offering financial products compliant with sharia, the Islamic code of law. ...

“It is hard to see how violence, how terrorism will lead to the implementation of sharia,” Mr. Pipes said. “It is much easier to see how, working through the system — the school system, the media, the religious organizations, the government, businesses and the like — you can promote radical Islam.”

Never mind that the real radical Muslims in New York had been thoroughly put off by Ms. Almontaser's ties to Jewish groups. And why should anyone mind that? Pipes certainly didn't care much:

In [Pipes's] article in The Sun, he referred to Ms. Almontaser by her birth name, Dhabah, and called her views “extremist.” He cited an article in which she was quoted as saying about 9/11, “I don’t recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims.” (As The Jewish Week later reported, Mr. Pipes left out the second half of the quote: “Those people who did it have stolen my identity as an Arab and have stolen my religion.”)
You know, I can't even figure out how the first half of the quote can possibly be read as support for the attacks, or militancy of any kind, but then again, I don't have the credentials of a Pipes. (Or the family history; his father was Richard Pipes, who built a fine career exaggerating the Soviet threat. Windmill-tilting may run in the blood. Or it may just be the family business.)

But, on the other hand, the critics do have a point. Muslims who come here have to adapt themselves to America --- a land where religious advocacy on points of law and "faith based" governance generally may only be practiced by radical fundamentalist Christians.

Swept by the Rays. What the devil?