Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quote Of The Day

In keeping with this unhappy analysis, Scarecrow laments the lack of any affect from the Obama White House these days that doesn't have to do with complaining about those ungrateful progressives:

And give up they have. They’ve quit. They’re barely making even a token effort. They don’t seem willing to do anything more to help the economy and 15 million unemployed– and please, don’t try to tell us that puny business tax proposal would make a serious dent in unemployment.
...
But unlike the case of Sarah Palin, who had the grace to leave when she quit, we’re still stuck with these quitters. Get off the mat, or get out of the ring.

Author! Author! Which WH Strategist Proposed “We Quit!” As the Way to Lead Their Administration and Party to Collapse?

When you can justifiably be compared unfavorably with Sarah Palin, you've been busted in grand fashion.

It's been sad to watch these ethical midgets at work. It's been sadder still to see what they've created.


Coming Home To Roost

Image credit: Cujo359

This is the transcript of the sound of chickens coming home to roost:

Republicans lead by 51% to 41% among registered voters in Gallup weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The 10-percentage-point lead is the GOP's largest so far this year and is its largest in Gallup's history of tracking the midterm generic ballot for Congress.

GOP Takes Unprecedented 10-Point Lead on Generic Ballot

And here's the graphic:
Image credit: Gallup Poll

This is what screwing your base in return for campaign dollars buys you:

Republicans are now twice as likely as Democrats to be "very" enthusiastic about voting, and now hold -- by one point -- the largest such advantage of the year.
...
Gallup's generic ballot has historically proven an excellent predictor of the national vote for Congress, and the national vote in turn is an excellent predictor of House seats won and lost. Republicans' presumed turnout advantage, combined with their current 10-point registered-voter lead, suggests the potential for a major "wave" election in which the Republicans gain a large number of seats from the Democrats and in the process take back control of the House.

GOP Takes Unprecedented 10-Point Lead on Generic Ballot

Historically, Republicans have been more enthusiastic voters than Democrats in mid-term elections. What's awe-inspiring is the size of this enthusiasm gap. Gallup goes on to caution that there was a change in relative enthusiasm this summer in favor of Democrats, and that such a change could happen again. There would have to be a huge change, though, to make this any less than a disaster for congressional Democrats.

Why do I say that? It is, after all, the generic ballot, which hardly ever matters in a race where a congressional incumbent is running. Still, as Nate Silver, Gallup, and Alan Abramowitz have shown, there is a definite correlation between this ballot and the number of seats Democrats (and Republicans) win during mid-term elections. Right now, that correlation looks very bad for the Democrats. Let's take a look at a chart Alan Abramowitz came up with that shows the popular vote for Republicans, which is roughly predicted by the generic congressional ballot, versus the number of seats the Republicans have in the House (click on it to enlarge):
Image credit: Alan Abramowitz/Pollster

Let's crunch a few numbers to see where this puts us. Suppose there are a thousand voters in the United States. Of those, based on the relative voter registration numbers in this Pollster graph:
Image credit: Screenshot of this Pollster chart by Cujo359

Our microcosmic electorate looks like this:

  • 373 will be Democrats

  • 352 will be Republicans

  • 254 will be independents


Of these, according to Gallup's numbers:

  • 373 * 0.25 = 93 Democrats will almost definitely vote

  • 352 * 0.50 = 176 Republicans will almost definitely vote

  • 254 * 0.28 = 71 independents would presumably vote


Assuming that all Democrats vote for Democrats, all Republicans vote for Republicans, and independents are split down the middle, that comes out to a 62 - 38 split (212 votes to 129) among voters who will reliably show up at the polls. That's a huge difference to make up, and my assumptions about who will vote for whom have favored the Democrats. Republicans tend to vote more reliably for Republicans.

This election will be toward the right-hand side of that Abramowitz graph. It might go off the chart. To me, what makes the issue of whether the GOP will take over the House this year a question is simply this - the Democrats have to lose a lot of seats before they lose a majority, roughly 41. I say "roughly", because at the moment, two seats are vacant. It would be more accurate to say the Republicans need to gain 41 seats they don't have right now. That's a lot of seats to lose, but with the unprecedented voter apathy they've managed to earn, the Democrats could manage.

This is what refusing to do what you were sent to Congress to do gets you. Refusing to support the Constitution. Refusing to speak out clearly or unequivocally against religious bigotry. Refusing to end the wars. Refusing to fix the economy. Refusing to fix our broken health care system. Refusing to help unions organize. Refusing to support gay rights. They refused to do all of these things.

Of course, we've been told about all the nasty Republican obstructionism. There's some truth to this. It made the job of running the country harder for President Obama, and it made the job of passing legislation much harder for Congress. That doesn't excuse all the things Obama could have done without congressional approval. It doesn't excuse congressional Democrats for not doing what they could do to either highlight Republican obstructionism or get around it. It doesn't excuse them for having accomplished nothing worthwhile. The plain fact is that Democrats have been running Congress for four years now, and they have nothing to show for it except a stimulus bill that was too small to do anything but blunt the depression we're now in, and a magnificently lousy health care bill that will only make things worse for people who are either self-employed or employed part time, and won't do a thing for the rest of us who don't qualify for Medicare.

Even during the time when the Senate Democrats had a "filibuster proof" majority, they couldn't get anything done. They let Senators Nelson and Lieberman, among others, hold up the process for their own petty purposes. They could have brought the hammer down on these folks, but they didn't. Hell, the only reason we have Joe Lieberman in the Senate is because of their enthusiastic support for him in the 2006 election. He owed them, and they didn't make him pay.

They didn't make the Republicans stand up and filibuster. Instead, they kept letting the GOP demand cloture votes at a record pace without ever making them filibuster against things like extending unemployment benefits, or any of the other things they supposedly blocked. They had the nuclear option, just like the Republicans did when they threatened to use it back in 2005.

The only logical conclusion is that the Democratic leadership wants things this way more than they wanted to support the people who vote for them.

They richly deserve their upcoming demise. We certainly don't deserve two more years of the GOP running the House, but we didn't deserve the craven opportunists we voted for last time, either.

UPDATE: Similarly inspired by today's news, Jane Hamsher wrote a telling chronology of her experience with the Democratic Party leadership regarding health care reform. It should be an eye-opener, but I suspect by now that too many in the Democratic camp consider Jane to be some sort of shrill crazy lady who is never happy. Those people are idiots, but idiots are sadly numerous in this political landscape.


Monday, August 30, 2010

A Great Diversion

Found this thanks to a comment at FireDogLake:

Cowboys and Indians: The Great Diversion from Danielle Agnello on Vimeo.



It's a little comedy of grammatical errors and bigotry. Inspired, I suspect, by actual events. Or maybe this actual event.

UPDATE: If, like me, you're using the NoScript extension to Firefox, then you may have to enable scripts from Vimeo to make the video appear on your screen.


Choosing Evil

There's something profoundly sad about this quote from Paul Krugman:

So what will happen if, as expected, Republicans win control of the House? We already know part of the answer: Politico reports that they’re gearing up for a repeat performance of the 1990s, with a “wave of committee investigations” — several of them over supposed scandals that we already know are completely phony. We can expect the G.O.P. to play chicken over the federal budget, too; I’d put even odds on a 1995-type government shutdown sometime over the next couple of years.

It will be an ugly scene, and it will be dangerous, too. The 1990s were a time of peace and prosperity; this is a time of neither. In particular, we’re still suffering the after-effects of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, and we can’t afford to have a federal government paralyzed by an opposition with no interest in helping the president govern. But that’s what we’re likely to get.

If I were President Obama, I’d be doing all I could to head off this prospect, offering some major new initiatives on the economic front in particular, if only to shake up the political dynamic. But my guess is that the president will continue to play it safe, all the way into catastrophe.

It’s Witch-Hunt Season

I don't disagree with this assessment very much. What disagreement there is would be in details like whether the government will come to a screeching halt, as it did during the Clinton Administration because Clinton at least had one or two principles, or that Obama will just go along with whatever the Republicans decide, because he really has none.

There are several lessons here that progressives have refused to learn.

The first is that Obama has done well fighting against progressives. That's because, with rare exceptions, most progressive organizations haven't demanded that Democratic politicians support our agenda or face consequences at the ballot box. What they have done instead, with tiresome frequency, is alter their expectations to whatever Obama and the Democrats want to do. Politicians who don't need to please their base won't bother. Think I'm just spinning nonsense here? Then answer this question - how many progressive organizations that are not FireDogLake or MoveOn.org, and the ACLU have criticized the Obama Administration's decision to assassinate American citizens? You'll have a hard time finding any. We don't even need to mention the comparatively minor offenses against the Constitution that were a problem while President Bush was in power, but are somehow not worth mentioning any more.

The second lesson is that, in stark contrast to liberal organizations, conservatives aren't intimidated by Rahm Emanuel and his phone list. As Jane Hamsher wrote during the controversy over her co-signing with conservative pundit Grover Norquist a letter demanding an investigation of Emanuel's dealings while he was on the board at Fannie Mae:

In this instance, the fact is that most “liberals” who work at institutions can’t step out and take a shot at Rahm, because Rahm would take it out on their organizations. That leaves the people on the right — those out of Rahm’s reach — who can be called upon to get the media “heft” you need to call attention to an issue.
...
Rahm Emanuel is destroying not only the Democratic majority but the Democratic Party. There isn’t enough pork in the world to hold his “Blue Dogs” in office with the legacy of bailouts that he has engineered, and that’s why his “big tent” is now collapsing in his wake. Parker Griffin, and now (possibly) Chris Carney, may blame Nancy Pelosi for their defections to the GOP, but that’s pure demagogurery. The mess they are fleeing — the corrupt back-room deals, the endless bailouts — belong to Rahm.

Why I Reached Out to Grover Norquist on Fannie/Freddie

Yet, it won't be too hard to find people who still, to this day, talk about how Emanuel is "our guy", a Democrat in other words, and how dare any of us criticize him? First of all, I'm not a Democrat. Even if I were, however, I'd be criticizing both this fool and the collection of sycophants, cowards, and mouth-breathing idiots who defend him. Jane's right, this guy, and his boss, have been killing the Democratic Party.

Which bring us to our next point, which Jane neatly summarized in a comment awhile back:

I would like to see [congressional Democrats] face consequences, I’d just like those consequences to be losing to progressives, not Republicans.

Writing About Politics Is Hard: Comment #95

There's the problem, in a nutshell. Democratic politicians won't do anything that progressives want, because progressives won't punish them for not doing it. I'm just quoting Jane here, because I like that she agrees with me. Anyone who thinks I hadn't come to that same conclusion a long time ago hasn't been reading here very long.

Which brings us to our final lesson. Voting against something you're afraid of, while sometimes smart and necessary, is a bad habit to get into. In the end, what you will do is lose to the people vote for people who will do what they want. Progressives, I'm sad to say, have that habit, and have for a long time. It wasn't last year that Ralph Nader said that when you choose the lesser of two evils, you still end up with evil. This is what decades of doing just that has bought us.

Evil, in the form of bad policy and societal decline abetted by the politicians we voted for.

Nothing about that is going to change until progressives do.

Afterword: I think it should go without saying that the picture of Dr. Evil, a character in the Austin Powers movies, is just a reference to something that's become a cultural icon. It does not represent an endorsement of this article by the producers, cast, or production staff of this movie.

It's humor. Get over it.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Quote Of The Day

Eli on the Blue Dog Democrats' impending demise this November:

Simply put, the best way to survive a backlash election is to not invite one.

Blue Dogs And Conservadems About To Reap The Whirlwind

How long have many of us out here in Left Blogistan been trying to tell these idiots that this is what would happen? Let's see, here's what I wrote last year:

Republicans are bound to win back some seats in 2010, just based on the fact that the Democrats have accomplished so little and have looked bad doing it. There's also the mid-year curse to consider, when Republicans tend to do better due to their voters' tendency to go to the polls more reliably.

So, Next Time They'll Do Better?

It was pretty clear even back then that most of the seats lost would be those of conservative Democrats. People voted for them at least partly because they expected that the war in Iraq would be wrapped up somehow, the economy righted, and the Constitution at least somewhat restored. They didn't do that. They basically did what Republicans would have done in their place.

Now that they're up for re-election it's the same old song - elect us or the GOP will really screw things up. It's a wonder anyone wants to go to the polls this fall.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Price Of Progress

Besides the more vibrant colors, there's another reason to mourn the passing of cathode ray tube monitors - cats find their warm, flat tops inviting places to hang out:



Image credit: I Can Has Cheezburger

Progress always comes at a cost.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Time For Our Better Selves To Show Up

This article has been temporarily post-dated to keep it at the top of the blog page until Friday. New content, if any, will be below until then. The article was originally published on Aug. 23, 2010.

Caption: Pakistan relief efforts continue

A Chinook in Company B, Task Force Raptor, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Falcon, flies over a bridge destroyed by flood waters, Aug. 11, in the Swat valley, Pakistan.


The extent of the devastation in this part of Pakistan is clearly visible.

Image credit: U.S. Army/Sgt. Monica K. Smith

In all the talk about "Ground Zero Mosques", a larger issue has been largely forgotten, as Princeton Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell said on The Rachel Maddow Show the other day:

I know that it‘s a midterm election. And so, yes, I think part of this is some GOP leaders trying to pull the last little bit of political capital they can out of 9/11. But it is Ramadan. It is a holy time for Muslims. And on top of that, in the Muslim world right now, there is an enormous tragedy. Fifteen million people in Pakistan are suffering.

And one thing that we could do as Americans is to say, OK, rather than being exclusionary , rather than fighting over a piece of ground—as sacred and hallowed as it may be in our national understanding—that instead, we will reach out to the millions of Muslims who are currently suffering, through no faults of their own, as a result of this horrifying natural disaster during a high holy moment—what that might that say about who we are as Americans instead of having this fight over this little parcel of land.

'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, August 16th, 2010

Caption: Flooding-Nowshera, Pakistan-August 5, 2010: This is a satellite image of Nowshera and the surrounding area that has been flooded.

Click on the picture to enlarge. Click on the image credit link to be taken to a much larger version.

Image credit: DigitalGlobe/Flickr

The flooding situation just keeps getting worse. It's still the monsoon season in southern Asia, as Reuters noted a few days ago:

The floods, which began in late July after heavy monsoon rains over the upper reaches of the Indus River basin, have ploughed a swathe of destruction from northern Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan province to the southern province of Sindh.
...
The monsoon season in Pakistan lasts until the first week of September.

Pakistan floods 2010

The devastation is immense, as the BBC reports:

The UN now estimates that the number of people who need basic shelter has gone from two million to six million.

Nearly 17 million people have been affected by the floods.

This week marks a month since the flooding started, and although the United Nations says it has raised close to 70% of the $460m (£295m) needed to provide emergency relief, many people have yet to receive any help, says the BBC's Jill McGivering in Sindh, the country's worst affected province.

Some $54m of that money is in uncommitted pledges. Resources available now total $263m.

Pakistan's Humanitarian Situation Critical - UN

Seventeen million people is nearly the population of Florida, which the U.S. Census reports, now has 18.5 million people. The CIA World Book's entry on Pakistan lists Pakistan's population as 177 million. That means that one Pakistani in ten is now affected by the floods.

Caption:
Andrew Mitchell in Pakistan

The Secretary of State for International Development walks through flood affected areas of Pir Sabak, near camps funded by UKaid.


To me, this says so much about our world - a government official going to a disaster location, as much to be seen as to see.

The other thing to note, of course, is that this is a tent city in a country that isn't known for a temperate climate. Millions of people will be in them for at least the next few months.

Image credit: Vicki Francis/Department for International Development

Units of the U.S. and United Kingdom militaries, among others, are in the area providing transportation and medical services. A whole slew of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are either on the ground, assembling relief supplies, or providing aid funds.

As Mary notes at Pacific Views:

Enough with the posturing and the fake outrage about the Cordoba House. It's time to live up to our better selves.
...
Here are a couple of organizations that are helping on the ground: Mercy Corp[s], Doctors without Borders. Please do something to help.

Time To Help

I couldn't have said it better. For international readers, the BBC has a list of websites that lead to various national and international organizations that are providing relief.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Midweek-ish Photo(s)

I haven't been keeping up with the Sunday Photos articles lately, so here's a midweek-ish photos special. The occasion is Dana Hunter sending me this photo of Lake Crescent:
Image credit: Dana Hunter (used by permission)

Those of you who have good monitors may be able to see a white speck in the middle of the picture. That's a sailboat. Unfortunately, Blogspot's picture server reduces big pictures to 1600 pixels wide, so you can't see all the detail that was there originally by clicking on the image. To be really impressed by this picture, check this detail of the photo that I cut from the original:
Image credit: Detail of previous image by Cujo359

It's crystal clear. That's partly due to Dana's steady hands, but I've taken pictures that sharp with her camera, too. It's a good little camera.

As you can see, Lake Crescent is a gorgeous place. Dana wrote an article last week that includes a few more photos. Here's a panorama of the lake as seen from the lodge, which is on the north side:
Image credit: Cujo359

This is roughly a 180 degree view of the lake.

This lake was formed by a glacier toward the end of the last ice age. It's about 600 feet deep in some spots. You can even see some of the rocks the glacier scraped away on the left side of this picture. They're just under the surface of the water.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Born In The USA

How is this for irony? A Gawker article on the anti-"Ground Zero Mosque" demonstration last Sunday includes this observation:

They even played "Born in the USA," Bruce Springsteen's famous anthem about how awesome the United States is!

Anti-'Ground Zero Mosque' Rally Freaks Out at Black Guy

The Gawker article is a study in sarcasm, and is perhaps best read to be understood. Nonetheless, if they are telling the truth about this, then this is yet more evidence that people who think this thing is worth protesting are mouth-breathing imbeciles. That is, it's more evidence besides this:

Reading comprehension is one of those skills we seem to have largely lost in America, so I'll try to make this simple by using "bullet points":

  • It's not a mosque

  • It's not at Ground Zero


...
It's a community center run by people of a particular religion, like a Jewish community center or a YMCA. It's two blocks from the World Trade Center, which given how built-up Manhattan is, might as well be in another city.

Obama On Religious Tolerance

Here's what "Born In The USA" has to say about American attitudes towards people who aren't like us:

I got in a little hometown jam
And so they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to Vietnam
To go and kill the yellow man.

Bruce Springsteen: Born In The U.S.A. Lyrics

Now doesn't that just sound so enlightened? Some kid screws up, so send him off to someplace he probably hasn't heard of to kill foreigners. Of course, as people who have actually listened to the lyrics know, it just goes downhill from there. No wonder people want to play it at a place where they tell us all how offended they are by people who are different from them.

So, we have people protesting a "Ground Zero Mosque" that isn't a mosque and isn't at Ground Zero, who love to play a song that demonstrates how pathetic their bigotry is.

It's like they never pay attention to anything.

There are days it's tough to remember that we're the country that went to the Moon. Oh, wait. That was our parents, wasn't it?


Old Photos

Here are a couple of photos I saw today that come from the Library of Congress' Prokudin-Gorskii Collection. They're from Russia back in the 1910s, the time just before World War I and the revolutions that turned Russia into the Soviet Union.

This guy ran a province, and yet he's just out sitting on the dirt near a lawn that clearly hasn't been mowed in a while. Times have changed.


Caption: Isfandiyar, Khan of the Russian protectorate of Khorezm(Khiva), full-length portrait, seated outdoors (between 1905 and 1915)

Image credit: Prokudin-Gorskii/Library Of Congress

This one interests me for obvious reasons. It's a long railroad bridge over the Kama River in Siberia. Note how the pylons have prows on one side, presumably the upriver side. This had to have been quite an engineering feat in its day, given both its size and how remote Siberia was from the rest of Russia at the time.


Caption: Trans-Siberian Railway metal truss bridge on stone piers, over the Kama River near Perm, Ural Mountains Region (1910)

Image credit: Prokudin-Gorskii/Library Of Congress

The Boston Globe-Times has an online article showing these and many other photographs. I must caution that all the images are on that one page, so it will take a while to download.


Directions

Hah, hah:



As you may have noted from my bio, I've made a living programming computers. I've also spent a lot of time testing them. That means I never quite trust them completely. There's always some bit of code or some component that can go wrong. Unless that code is tested like the avionics in a space shuttle or an airliner, I assume that it has at least a few bad moments in its future.

I've also noticed that GPS maps don't always know the best way to get somewhere. Occasionally, they don't even understand how the streets work. People who live or work in an area usually know these things.

Which is a long way of saying that, if you ever put me through a conversation like this, then have me cooling my heels or missing out on some time-sensitive thing because you didn't want to listen to directions, plan on spending some time when you finally do arrive discussing what a pure bred moron you are.

Backup plans aren't just for the insecure; they're also for people who know how things work.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Something Approaching Sensible

The Republican leadership in Congress finally said something intelligent today:

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called Tuesday for the mass firing of the Obama administration's economic team, including Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and White House adviser Larry Summers, arguing that November's midterm elections are shaping up as a referendum on sustained unemployment across the nation and saying the "writing is on the wall."

Boehner said President Obama's team lacks "real-world, hands-on experience" in creating jobs that are needed for a full economic recovery. The Republican lawmaker cited reports that some senior aides complained of "exhaustion," including the recently departed budget chief Peter Orszag.

Minority leader Boehner: Fire Obama's economic team, extend tax cuts

Of course, Boehner went on to blame the stimulus for our problems, and no doubt will be calling for tax cuts for the rich momentarily. Still, it's nice to hear someone in authority demanding that those two bozos be ejected from government. I'm sad to say that Boehner's mentioning of unemployment is going to be picked up by the press, and will play well to that segment of the public that's out of work, or worried about being out of work.

The Washington Post mentions in another article that there are several politically connected people who have called for the firing of these two, but nearly all come from the conservative side of the political spectrum. On the left, that job has largely been left to the "angry bloggers".

Once again, it's obvious that we really have no good choices if we want a good future in America. Neither party gives a damn about working people, and the nature of this debate is just more proof.

(h/t to Watertiger for finding this article.)


Monday, August 23, 2010

Some Get Well Wishes

I hadn't been to Pharyngula for a couple days and then I got there and read this:

I'm in big trouble. My wife is sending me pictures of cute puppy dogs to make me feel better.
...
Anyway, I've been trapped in the hospital overnight, and this morning they promise to finally give me the really good drugs and turn me into a vegetable for a few hours while they stick knives in my heart, which will be a welcome relief from the excruciating boredom. Then I get to wake up to the pain, which won't be fun at all. At any rate, this is the scary morning, and the rest is recuperation — I'll let you all know once I'm semi-functional again. Maybe this afternoon. Maybe tomorrow.

I Am Doomed

Apparently, there's a big operation in PZ Myer's future. So here is a more appropriate animal for the purpose of cheering up a biologist who studies cephalopods:
Image credit: Cujo359

A little octopus porn, courtesy of the Seattle Aquarium. Get well soon, perfessor.


Quote Of The Day

From Charles Hughs of Of Two Minds comes this, at the end of a long list of non-accomplishments of the Obama Administration and their enablers in Congress:

Nothing of any importance has changed. The engine of Empire is lugging a bit as the load increases, but the Empire's army of high-caste technocrats are hard at work, securing their perquisites and fat paychecks by keeping the sprawling global machine running.

Just as in the late stages of the Roman Empire, magical thinking abounds. This is America, the capital of can-do! We are audaciously hopeful because we always arise, newly envigorated by the unquenchable spring of American innovation, blah blah blah.

Nothing Has Changed

It's worth a look at that list, I think. While I might disagree on how important some items are, there's nothing in there that is fundamentally wrong that I can see. The record of this Congress and this President is one of missed opportunities, and repeated self-inflicted wounds.

The end of this government will be sad only for what it could have accomplished, if somehow it had cared enough to accomplish anything useful. The only thing good that I can say about this is that they richly deserve to lose power, because failure should have some consequences, and that the downfall of the people who led this version of the party should make it easier for a new one to be created.


The Census In A Table

Updated at 4:42 PDT

In researching the article on the floods in Pakistan, I happened upon the chart at the U.S. Census' website of changes to the population and the distribution of U.S. Representatives thanks to the recent census.

In a nutshell, the states that are losing representation are (with the number of U.S. Representatives they're losing in parentheses):

  • Illinois (1)
  • Iowa (1)
  • Louisiana (1)
  • Massachusetts (1)
  • Michigan (1)
  • New Jersey (1)
  • New York (1)
  • Ohio (2)
  • Pennsylvania (1)

Those gaining seats are (gains in parentheses):

  • Arizona (1)
  • Florida (1)
  • Georgia (1)
  • Nevada (1)
  • South Carolina (1)
  • Texas (3)
  • Utah (1)
  • Washington (1)

In short, our population is shifting from the Northeast and the Rust Belt to other parts of the country. The two most notable changes are Ohio's loss of two representatives, and Texas' gain of three.

It might seem that this represents a shift toward more conservatism in America, since most of the states that lost representatives are more progressive, and those that gained mostly aren't. Other than Texas, though, I think this can be viewed as further urbanization of America. Urban populations tend to be liberal, because they require more government than rural populations. At least, that's been the trend. Arizona, New Mexico, and Florida have shown tendencies in that direction. While I wouldn't count on Utah becoming a progressive nirvana anytime soon, the trend isn't entirely the bad news it might first appear.

[More observations are in the second update, below.]

Here's the entire table, which I lifted lock, stock, and HTML from the U.S. Census site:




 PopulationElectorsHouse Seats
State2010Change20002012
2016
2020
Change2004
2008
2012
2016
2020
Change2004
2008
Alabama4,708,708+247,5784,461,1309 97 7
Alaska698,473+69,540628,9333 31 1
Arizona6,595,778+1,455,0955,140,68311+1109+18
Arkansas2,889,450+209,7172,679,7336 64 4
California36,961,664+3,030,86633,930,79855 5553 53
Colorado5,024,748+712,8664,311,8829 97 7
Connecticut3,518,288+108,7533,409,5357 75 5
Delaware885,122+100,054785,0683 31 1
District of Columbia   3 3   
Florida18,537,969+2,509,07916,028,89028+12726+125
Georgia9,829,211+1,622,2368,206,97516+11514+113
Hawaii1,295,178+78,5361,216,6424 42 2
Idaho1,545,801+248,5271,297,2744 42 2
Illinois12,910,409+471,36712,439,04220-12118-119
Indiana6,423,113+332,3316,090,78211 119 9
Iowa3,007,856+75,9332,931,9236-174-15
Kansas2,818,747+124,9232,693,8246 64 4
Kentucky4,314,113+264,6824,049,4318 86 6
Louisiana4,492,076+11,8054,480,2718-196-17
Maine1,318,301+40,5701,277,7314 42 2
Maryland5,699,478+391,5925,307,88610 108 8
Massachusetts6,593,587+238,0196,355,56811-1129-110
Michigan9,969,727+13,8989,955,82916-11714-115
Minnesota5,266,214+340,5444,925,67010 108 8
Mississippi2,951,996+99,0692,852,9276 64 4
Missouri5,987,580+381,3205,606,26011 119 9
Montana974,989+69,673905,3163 31 1
Nebraska1,796,619+81,2501,715,3695 53 3
Nevada2,643,085+641,0532,002,0326+154+13
New Hampshire1,324,575+86,1601,238,4154 42 2
New Jersey8,707,739+283,3858,424,35414-11512-113
New Mexico2,009,671+185,8501,823,8215 53 3
New York19,541,453+536,48019,004,97330-13128-129
North Carolina9,380,884+1,313,2118,067,67315 1513 13
North Dakota646,844+3,088643,7563 31 1
Ohio11,542,645+168,10511,374,54018-22016-218
Oklahoma3,687,050+228,2313,458,8197 75 5
Oregon3,825,657+397,1143,428,5437 75 5
Pennsylvania12,604,767+304,09712,300,67020-12118-119
Rhode Island1,053,209+3,5471,049,6624 42 2
South Carolina4,561,242+536,1814,025,0619+187+16
South Dakota812,383+55,509756,8743 31 1
Tennessee6,296,254+596,2175,700,03711 119 9
Texas24,782,302+3,878,30820,903,99437+33435+332
Utah2,784,572+547,8582,236,7146+154+13
Vermont621,760+11,870609,8903 31 1
Virginia7,882,590+781,8887,100,70213 1311 11
Washington6,664,195+755,5115,908,68412+11110+19
West Virginia1,819,777+6,7001,813,0775 53 3
Wisconsin5,654,774+283,5645,371,21010 108 8
Wyoming544,270+48,966495,3043 31 1
Totals306,406,893+24,982,716281,424,177538 538435 435


Apologies for the fact that not all of the table's columns are appearing in this article. That's because this particular page format is limited to about 550 pixels across. That makes it all but impossible to get a wide table like this in it. If you set the font size of your browser to 12 pixels, you should be able to see what I'm talking about, and setting it to 10 pixels should show the whole thing.

Of course, you might not be able to read it.

UPDATE: For you Posix users, there's a utility called kmag that may help. Set the pixel size on your browser to 10, then you can use kmag to magnify the table.

UPDATE 2: Back to the subject matter ...

A couple of other interesting observations, just looking at the “Change” column:

- California gained over 3 million people, yet didn’t pick up another representative. Texas picked up 3.9 million, and picked up three.

- No states lost population this time. Going from memory, I think Wyoming and North Dakota lost population, according to the 2000 census relative to 1990.

- 306 million people divided by 435 reps averages out to 703,000 people per legislative district. California gained enough population for four congressional districts, yet gained none. New York gained 536k, nearly enough for one district, but lost a district.

- Every state gets at least one rep, whether it has 703,000 people or not. By my count, four states have fewer people than this (Alaska is just short at 698k).

The state’s population relative to the rest of the country is what counts, of course, and while California’s population increased quite a bit, it wasn’t enough to change its proportion of the country’s population.

UPDATE 3: Thanks to a tip from George.W in comments, I was able to create an Open Office spreadsheet of this table. I also exported it into Excel '97 format (XLS), but I can't vouch for the quality. I don't have Excel.

Anyone desiring a copy, I'll be happy to e-mail either version to you.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another Democratic Politician Punks Out

Image credit: National Park Service

Quick, don't look down at the paragraphs below this quote. Tell me who you think said this yesterday:

"I've gotta believe there has to be a compromise here. This isn't about the right of Muslims to have a worship center, or Jews or Christians or anybody else to have a place to worship, or any place around Ground Zero. This is something we ought to be able to work out with people of good faith. And we have to understand that it is a real affront to people who've lost their lives -- including Muslims. That site doesn't belong to any particular religion, it belongs to all Americans and all faiths. So I think a good, reasonable compromise could be worked out, without violating the principle that people ought to be able to worship as they see fit."

Transcript by Talking Points Memo

So, who was this guy? Was it:

  1. Barack Obama

  2. Newt Gingrich

  3. Harry Reid

  4. Howard Dean


This time, the answer that looks like the easy one you can eliminate right away is, in fact, the correct one.

Howard Dean said this.

Apparently, Dr. Dean thinks that a symbol of overcoming the sort of religious bigotry that was at the heart of the World Trade Center attacks would be a whole lot more poignant if it were relocated to New Jersey.

Are there any Democratic politicians left in DC who aren't afraid to use their minds?

Let me try to make clear for Dr. Dean, and anyone else who thinks this is something other than another example of Democrats pandering to bigots whom they should have learned to ignore years ago, why this is quite possibly the most egregiously stupid thing to come out of his mouth since he graduated from college.

First of all, there are plenty of Muslims who lost someone in the WTC pile, like the family of this young man:

Imagine being the family of Salman Hamdani. The 23-year-old New York City police cadet was a part-time ambulance driver, incoming medical student, and devout Muslim. When he disappeared on September 11, law enforcement officials came to his family, seeking him for questioning in relation to the terrorist attacks. They allegedly believed he was somehow involved. His whereabouts were undetermined for over six months, until his remains were finally identified. He was found near the North Tower, with his EMT medical bag beside him, presumably doing everything he could to help those in need. His family could finally rest, knowing that he died the hero they always knew him to be.

Muslim Victims of September 11th AttackMuslim Victims of September 11th Attack

In a nutshell, this story explains what this is really about - suspicion and ostracism of people who are different, both in their ethnic background and religious background. Salman Hamdani was doing something heroic - seeing if he could help out in a dire situation. He died trying to help his fellow New Yorkers in that disaster, but the first act of his government was to suspect him of being a terrorist, because he was from the Muslim world (he was born there, but his family moved here when he was one year old, according to Wikipedia), and because he was a Muslim. As one of Hamdani's friends wrote a year and a half later:

Salman illustrates for me the best about humans, but his story also illustrates the worst about us: the hostility, the suspicion that surrounded him because his name, nationality and faith were different. Today, American society has caved in under the shock of the World Trade Center attacks, while powerful opportunists have used our fear as a jumping off point for their pre-existing agenda to wage war and cancel civil liberty.

In Memory of Salman Hamdani

Those opportunists haven't gone away, and the so-called leaders who should be have learned to resist by now are still caving.

In the long history of immigrants coming to America, this has been a common theme. The Irish weren't accepted until the end of the 19th Century. Germans were discriminated against, sometimes violently, during World War I. One of the particularly ironic things about this is that there was a time when many Americans thought going to war on the side of Germany was better than siding with England, our old enemy. The Chinese and Japanese who lived in America until the latter part of the 20th Century have even worse tales to tell.

There's also no small irony in this: there are many synagogues within a few miles of the WTC. Israel's perpetual war with its neighbors was one of the underlying causes of the 9/11 attacks, as veteran foreign correspondent Peter Bergen wrote:

By Bin Laden’s own account, this is why al Qaeda is attacking America. His critique has never been cultural; he never mentions Madonna, Hollywood, homosexuality or drugs in his diatribes. US support for Israel, especially the support it gave to Israel’s invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982, first triggered Bin Laden’s anti-Americanism, which during the 1980s took the form of urging a boycott of US goods. He was later outraged by the “defiling” export of 500,000 US troops to Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

What Were The Causes Of 9/11?

Do you suppose there are WTC survivors who blame the Jews for the attacks? They are no less right than survivors who blame Muslims, if, indeed, there are any of either. Should we not honor their wishes, too? A member of my extended family was working not far from the WTC that day, and all religious institutions tend to remind me of the fanaticism that was behind the attack. If I were a New Yorker, wouldn't my feelings count?

Trying to not offend anyone is an impossible task. Sisyphus had an easy job, comparatively speaking. Sometimes, even when there are a lot of people who are angry about something, it's best to ignore them. Why are our "leaders" not doing that here? There are times when people just have to get over things, and this is one of those times.

Besides, why let terrorists think they've won? As a commenter to an article on Decrepit Old Fool wrote:

Let’s assume for the purpose of discussion that the proposed building would in fact be a mosque (it won’t be), and that it actually would be within sight of Ground Zero (it won’t be). Let’s further assume that rather than an antiterrorist Imam who plans to include a 9/11 memorial within the building, the prospective builder of the facility were a radical Wahabbi cleric from Yemen. Despite all that, it should still be allowed.

As many of my conservative friends have pointed out to me on numerous occasions, freedom requires sacrifice, and I totally agree. Sometimes that sacrifice is of a physical nature; sometimes it is emotional. There’s no question that the presence of such a structure will be, however irrationally, a source of pain for many 9/11 victims. But one of our fundamental freedoms, considered so vital by the founders that it was the first one named in the Bill of Rights, is freedom of religion. If preserving that freedom results in pain, that is simply part of its price.

Kathleen Parker, who is generally known as a conservative, summed it up very well in her newspaper column yesterday by writing, “The mosque should be built precisely because we don’t like the idea very much.” That’s the counterintuitive nature of a free country. As pornographer Larry Flynt once said, “If somebody like me can have freedom of speech, then we can be damn sure everybody does.”

I believe this building will send an important message to al-Qaeda, to the effect that whatever they do, we will continue to be a free country and proud of it.

Dismayed To Incoherence: Comment #23

You'd think that in the land of the free and the home of the brave, people would be proud to put a Muslim institution so close to the WTC, to tell those terrorists in the strongest terms possible You don't matter. We will not be afraid. Sadly, that's not where we live. At least, it isn't if you believe what our leaders seem to expect of us.

Besides, as The Daily Show mentioned the other night, how far away would this community center have to be for it to be OK? It's already two blocks away. You can't see the thing from the WTC unless you're at least ten floors up, I would imagine. At Ground Zero ground level, it might as well be in Brooklyn.

This isn't the first time that a politician has said "Can't we all just get along by having you people go elsewhere?", but usually they're the sort of spineless cretins we tend to think of when we conjure up a negative image of politicians. Howard Dean should know better, and in contrast to what his clarification of this statement says, he should be deeply ashamed.

That Dean isn't ashamed tells you a whole lot about why progressives aren't listened to by any "serious" people in politics. If you listen to our "leaders", we don't have the courage of our own convictions.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How Did It Turn Out?

Caption: The Galactica and her ragtag fleet. I suppose fans could say the ship never did make it home.

Image credit: screenshot by Cujo359

One of the things I've never had the heart to do was write about Battlestar Galactica's concluding episode, "Daybreak". To say it was a big disappointment, given the quality of the series to that point, has to reign as one of the all-time understatements of science fiction. In my wanderings around the Internet today, I happened on this one, which summarizes:

As I wrote at the start, I deem this the worst (most disappointing) ending based on how far the show fell in the last hour. There have certainly been endings with worse science, worse deus ex machina, worse characterization, worse mumbo jumbo and many other things.

I savage BSG’s ending because it began so well. Moore’s talent in making things up as he went along, hoping to find cool ways to resolve them, is actually a great one. He’s better at it than just about anybody else out there writing SF TV.

Battlestar's "Daybreak:" The worst ending in the history of on-screen science fiction

This review gets much of it right, from my perspective. I think it's well worth a read for any budding screenwriters or TV producers out there, because one of the sad facts of this show was that its ending just wasn't true to the series, in many, many ways. If you start out writing, say, Three's Company, The Next Generation, then the expectations your audience has would be very different from that which BSG's audience would have. It's fair to say that if someone had concluded such a series with what was a typical BSG episode, the audience would have said it sucked, and with good reason. Who wants dark, fatal events in a screwball comedy? No one that I'm aware of, at least among those who could be considered fans.

There are many other lessons in this review, though, and it's well worth a read if you're interested in that sort of thing. Spoilers abound there, of course, so be warned.


Reading Backwards

Today's xkcd cartoon:



I used to get a kick out of such a sign painted on one of the local streets where I grew up. Apparently, it was meant to caution drivers to slow down in a school zone. What it appeared to me to be saying was:

SLOW SCHOOL


Somehow, I doubt the students there were appreciative as the local department of highways might have believed.


Around The Internet Today

Guess what? The news didn't get any better while I was away. As Glenn Greenwald points out, the Democrats have begun the cowardly stampede away from defending the rights of Muslims in New York City to create a community center dedicated to greater understanding among different religions near one of the more egregious examples of how much we need such a thing:

Democrats -- following in the cowardly footsteps of Senate Majority "Leader" Harry Reid, whose book is one of the most ironically titled in history -- ran faster and faster away from the controversy. New York Governor David Paterson made it known that he wants to meet with Park 51's developers to encourage them to move to a new site. One Democratic official, Rep. Michael Arcuri of New York, actually attacked his GOP challenger, Richard Hanna, for having bravely broken with his own party to support the project; Arcuri's Gingrich-replicating attacks caused Hannah, one of the few Republicans in the nation to have defended Park 51, to reverse position by arguing today that it should move.

What Political Courage Looks Like

I'm starting to believe that there is no such thing as political courage. When you haven't seen something for as long as I haven't seen political courage among Democrats, then you really have to wonder if it hasn't gone extinct.

Arcuri actually had the nerve to try to justify this as based on his experience as a prosecutor:

This Dem Congressman from upstate New York has come out against it: "As district attorney, I spent my career protecting victims' rights, and to me, this is no different. The pain felt by many Americans from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is still very real, and I can understand how the thought of building a mosque near Ground Zero could reopen those wounds. For the sake of the victims and their families, I think another location should be chosen."

The Out-Of-Towners: Politicians From Far, Far Away Fight Muslim Center In NYC

The only good thing about this clown being a U.S. Representative is that he's no longer a prosecutor. He seems to have completely forgotten that the rights of the minority need to be protected, too. He also has forgotten, if he ever knew, the power of people working and playing together to overcome prejudice.

Meanwhile, it appears that Murcuri's constituents have a better idea how a democracy works than their congressman does:

A Siena College poll released Wednesday suggests 63% of New York voters oppose the project, while 27% support it.

But 64% of New York voters said the developers have the right to build the mosque under the Constitution, versus 28% who said they don't.

It appears New Yorkers support the right of developers to build the mosque at Ground Zero - but doubt the wisdom to do it.

Obama has 'no regrets' over Ground Zero mosque remarks; poll finds 63% oppose WTC location

Which I suppose is an example of the sentiment I expressed the other day - that part of being free is being annoyed at how others use their freedom. It would be lovely, though, if more voters recognized the spirit of the Cordoba House's goal, which is to reduce conflict between religions, rather than creating more. I'd love to see someone do a poll on how much that concept is supported by Americans. Reading to them the mission statement of the community center might be a good way of doing that, since I'll bet most don't know either the name of this project or its goals:

Park51 will be dedicated to pluralism, service, arts and culture, education and empowerment, appreciation for our city and a deep respect for our planet. Park51 will join New York to the world, offering a welcoming community center with multiple points of entry.

The Community Center At Park 51: Vision

I'm not a big fan of religion, but that doesn't sound like such a bad thing to me.

Meanwhile, Robert Reich wrote an article today about why Mitt Romney, even though he's about as serious a candidate as the Republicans have on economic matters, doesn't have a clue what's necessary right now:

Apart from the impossibility of simultaneously cutting taxes and balancing the budget without taking a meat cleaver to Social Security, Medicare, and defense spending (Romney delicately sidesteps this conundrum by urging we “reshape government programs” and “restructure entitlements”), his policies raise a more fundamental problem.

Call it the wet-noodle problem.

For Romney, the key to America’s recovery is to cut taxes on businesses and on people who invest in them. These steps, he says, are the “conditions that enable businesses of all sizes to grow and thrive.” In other words, if businesse get more capital at less cost, they’ll create jobs.
...
In other words, businesses have all the capital they need. They’re sitting on it or can borrow it more cheaply than ever. But they aren’t using it to create jobs.

Why not? Because there’s not enough demand for their products or services. Consumers aren’t buying.

Mitt Romney's Wet Noodle Economics

Habitual readers may recall that I wrote something similar about the current economic "thinking" of our leaders before I went on vacation. Reich's article is worth reading, because it provides a lot of details I either glossed over or relied on links to explain.

What continues to amaze me about both the Democrats' and Republicans' proposed solutions to our economic woes, austerity on the Democrats' and austerity plus tax breaks for the rich on the Republicans', is that they are so obviously wrong. What is missing right now is demand for products, and austerity won't help that. Anyone who understands the dictionary meaning of "austerity" should get that - austerity serves to kill demand, not strengthen it. Plus, as Reich has ably pointed out, capital isn't a problem right now, either, so tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations aren't useful measures, either.

So, yes, lots of depressing news, and I haven't even gotten into what the Democrats plan on doing to Social Security. In a diary at FireDogLake, Hugh points out why they're planning to cut Social Security, despite the fact that we've already paid enough into the fund to make it economically viable as is:

The real game here is that politicians, i.e. our elites, do not want to use general revenues, the discretionary side of the budget, to pay back Social Security Trust funds. In their view, the discretionary budget is theirs. This is also why you do not hear any serious talk of raising the income caps on the FICA. If our elites don’t want to use discretionary funds to this end, they certain don’t want to use their own wealth to that purpose either. Indeed the whole idea behind the surpluses in the first place was to give them "free" money to spend/loot. The object of cutting benefits is to limit or eliminate the need to pay back the Trust Funds and, in so doing, keep control of the discretionary budget in their hands.

Dean Baker Gets It Wrong

Want more of this? Then keep putting the same people who are doing this back in office.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Taking A Break

Caption: Artist's conception of me on vacation. See any Internet connections?

Image credit: derbon/Flickr

For the next couple of days, posting will be slow to non-existent. You'll have to get your depressing news about politics and the economy elsewhere. That shouldn't be too difficult, actually. There's lots to be had these days.


Sunday Photo(s)

Just a couple of photos from one of our stops at Mt. Rainier last week. This first one is one of the rock formations along the road from Paradise:
Image credit: Cujo359

While we were there, we saw this double rainbow:
Image credit: Cujo359

The rainbow is a little crooked because I actually created this panorama out of several photos, and they don't quite line up right.

It was a spectacular sight, and I was glad we were able to catch it when we did.

As always, click on the pictures to enlarge. Hope yours was a good Sunday.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Depression X-treme!

Caption: This is what our economy looks like when it's viewed through the lens of idiot savant economics.

Image credit: Found here.

According to my keyword list, this will be my 100th article on the economy. Fans of Stargate SG-1 may recognize the origin of the title. If you don't get that one, check out the picture.

Yes, this will be as gloomy as any post I've done on the economy, I'm sad to say.

So, how's that economy going? you might be wondering. A couple of articles may shed some light on that subject. The first article is by Calculated Risk, an economics blog that, like its title suggests, tries to figure out what economic risks are out there:

This morning, in the "Negative News Flow" post, I noted that the unemployment rate will probably start ticking up again soon.

Here are a few reasons why I think the unemployment rate will increase (some overlap):

1) The main reason is the general slowing economy. There is a general relationship between GDP and the unemployment rate (see Okun's Law), and since I expect a 2nd half slowdown (from a sluggish 1st half), I also expect few payroll jobs to be added in the 2nd half - and that suggests the unemployment rate will rise.

Why do I expect the unemployment rate to increase?

The article goes on to list four other things that will contribute to increased unemployment. This article concentrates on the most widely quoted unemployment rate, which is now at 9.5 % or thereabouts. What I call the "real" unemployment rate, the U-6, is now at 16.8 percent, and at least some of the reasons CR predicts the "official" rate to rise apply to it, also, particularly the one I quoted.

In short, right now one in six of us is either unemployed or underemployed. That number will increase soon, possibly to one in five. Why that number? Because when you subtract the effect of the census and the effect of the stimulus, you're at somewhere around nineteen percent. That, and the ripple effect, is going to get us to twenty percent before too long. Right now, I don't see anything in the way of that kind of number.

There's nothing I can see right now standing in the way of its going higher, either, but that should take longer.

Yet, as Robert Reich pointed out yesterday, the government continues to do next to nothing to deal with this situation. He outlines the current situation pretty well, and then gets to the point here:

The central problem is lack of demand — and that’s what has to be tackled.

Three of the four sources of demand have stopped working. (1) Consumers can’t and won’t buy because they’re still under a huge debt load, can’t get more credit, are afraid of losing their jobs (or already have), depend on two wage earners at least one of whom is working part-time and pulling in less, or have to save. (2) Businesses won’t invest and spend on creating more jobs if they don’t see consumers willing to buy more. (3) Exports are stalled because the dollar is so high they cost too much, much of the rest of the world is still struggling with recession, and American firms can make things for sale abroad more cheaply abroad.

That leaves only one remaining source of demand — government. We need a giant jobs program to hire people and put money in their pockets that they’ll spend and thereby create more jobs. Put ideology aside and recognize this fact. If it makes you more comfortable call it the National Defense Jobs Act. Call it the WPA. Call it Chopped Liver. Whatever, we have to get the great army of the unemployed and underemployed working again.

Forget a Double Dip. We’re Still in One Long Big Dipper

Nearly every economist who doesn't have his head up some oligarch's butt knows this is true. High unemployment creates lack of demand, and we have that. There's capital available, it's just not being lent out to businesses. That's at least partly due to Reich's point number 2 - businesses and banks know there's not much demand out there, so the businesses aren't expanding and the banks don't want to lend to businesses that may not have as much business as they need for a while.

And it's not all about ideology, either. Part of the trouble is that austerity is great for the rich, as I've pointed out before. At least, it is when government policy ensures that they don't suffer a loss, and that's what's happening now.

Reich's conclusion is correct - government is the only source of new demand in the near term, and if it doesn't get off its ass and do something soon, you can probably drop the "in the near term" part.

Before too long, we'll be calling this economic episode "Depression X-treme". Well, maybe not. Economists aren't completely without mercy.

UPDATE: Corrected my arithmetic on total unemployment. The effect of the stimulus bill on the unemployment was estimated to be about two percent, which will now largely disappear. That gets us to somewhere around nineteen percent, roughly.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Obama On Religious Tolerance

Caption: If these two can get along, why can't Christians and Muslims?. Oh, wait - different ecological niches...

Image credit: NapTiem


President Obama did something good last evening when he said this:

Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities - particularly in New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.

President Obama's Ramadan speech, 2010

It's astonishing how many people don't get this in America. Part of the price of freedom is being annoyed sometimes by how others exercise that freedom.

What's more, as religious symbols go, this is one that even I don't find annoying, for reasons explained by James Standish who, according to his bio, "Represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the United Nations. Deputy secretary general of the International Religious Liberty":

2) There is no "Victory" Mosque

The stated goal behind building the Muslim center in lower Manhattan is to recapture the spirit of mutual respect between Judaism, Christianity and Islam that existed in Cordoba, Spain, from 700 - 1200 AD. While Europe was trapped in the Dark Ages, marked by bloody religious repression, Cordoba thrived as a commercial and cultural center with what was, for the time, a high level of religious freedom. For example, in the 10th Century, Cordoba became the intellectual capital for Jews worldwide. The stated point of the project is creating a world where Jews, Christians and Muslims connect again in a way that builds mutual understanding and respect. This is precisely the opposite goal of the 9/11 terrorists.

The Great "Ground Zero Mosque" Hoax

In sharp contrast to what any of a number of purebred idiots have said and written on this subject, this center isn't Islamist gloating over the dead of 9/11. It's about trying to live together peacefully with each other. If the people making those claims weren't utterly ignorant of any history that occurred prior to their births, they might have understood that just from its name.

Unfortunately, though, educational standards have slipped markedly in this country in the last half century, and you don't need to look any further to find examples of this trend than in this debate. For instance, there's this fool:

Well, I think building a mosque just there is in bad taste, and deliberately provocative, like a big new Serbian Orthodox Church at Srebrenica. Out of consideration Imam Feisal should build it somewhere else. If he’s determined to go ahead, the government should not, and cannot legally, prevent it. Suggesting I am lumping all Muslims together is contrary to what I wrote. If you want to argue with some stereotype of your own, a Christian whose one-dimensional view of Muslims you can dismiss, I’ll withdraw and leave you to it.

Posted by Marcel on 08/14/10 at 11:16 AM

Dismayed To Incoherence: Comment 7

This was, naturally, after this commenter had been told explicitly that this site wasn't a mosque. Reading comprehension is one of those skills we seem to have largely lost in America, so I'll try to make this simple by using "bullet points":

  • It's not a mosque

  • It's not at Ground Zero


Caption: This is where the Cordoba Community Center will be located. The World Trade Center is that big open space to the south.

Image credit: Screenshot of Google map by Cujo359

It's a community center run by people of a particular religion, like a Jewish community center or a YMCA. It's two blocks from the World Trade Center, which given how built-up Manhattan is, might as well be in another city.

I realize all this is complicated facts and stuff, but sometimes it really does help to understand what you're arguing about. Maybe you won't get offended so fast if you do.

Meanwhile, I applaud President Obama's effort to wade into this intellectual quagmire, and try to answer the bigots who oppose this thing. He's got quite a bumpy road ahead of him, that's for sure. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out yesterday, there's not much political upside here, and there are plenty of people who don't know what they're talking about, but have firmly held ideas nonetheless. Assuming he knows that, which I think is a good assumption, it's the first genuinely courageous thing he's done since taking office. It's hard to square that with his running away from this issue, or this one.

Election day must be near.

UPDATE: Nate Silver has an interesting perspective on this, thanks to the only poll that asked whether the builders of the "mosque" should be allowed to build at that location:

Essentially, public opinion on this issue is divided into thirds. About a third of the country thinks that not only do the developers have a right to build the mosque, but that it's a perfectly appropriate thing to do. Another third think that while the development is in poor taste, the developers nevertheless have a right to build it. And the final third think that not only is the development inappropriate, but the developers have no right to build it -- perhaps they think that the government should intervene to stop it in some fashion.

Obama's remarks, while asserting that "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country," and that the "principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are," simply reflected the view that the developers had a First Amendment right to proceed with the project -- a view that at least 60 percent of Americans share.

Obama Defense of "Ground Zero Mosque" Less Risky Than it Seems

So, maybe not so Hopey Changey after all. And as I wrote already, I'm cynical enough about the President at this point to believe he's already aware of all that, too.

It remains true, though, that he's on the right side of this particular issue, at least rhetorically. Like his "courageous" speech about Iraq when he was in the Illinois Senate, it's pretty clear there's not much that he'll actually have to do about this in order to be taken seriously, simply because there's not a lot besides talking that he can do at this point. This is really a local matter, as long as it doesn't get to the federal courts.

UPDATE 2: OK, that's more like it. Obama walked back what he said last night today. I'm a lot less confused now.