Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Final Prediction

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Using their traditional model for the generic preference between Democrats and Republicans, Gallup finds a 15% advantage for Republicans as of 2010 Nov 1. This result is outside the experience of Gallup polling in previous elections. However, using a linear fit between Gallup generic poll and outcomes for all midterm elections since 1950, we make the following prediction:

Republicans gain 69 seats in the House. The standard deviation on this estimate is 59 to 79 seats. That is, there is a 60% chance the final value will fall in this range. The 95% range is 39 to 99 seats.


Sunday, October 31st, 2010

A wit once told a story that is perhaps apocryphal, but the nonetheless instructive, of a visitor to Princeton University. After some political discussions with a sample of students, the visitor remarked to his friend and professor at the university that the Conservative students seemed somehow sharper and more thoughtful than their Liberal counterparts. The professor responded that all Princeton students are smart, but Conservative students had to swim upstream against the general political flow of campus life had developed stronger rhetorical upper body strength than their Liberal friends.

Not only are Conservatives, particularly, those who live in “blue’’ states, forced to more deeply consider their political positions, they also learn the important lesson that those that differ with them politically are not generally enemies or adversaries. They are probably friends with whom one may have important disagreements.

One to the disadvantages of President Barack’s political life in Chicago is that he was not blessed with many friends with whom he could have robust and amicable disagreements on fundamental political issues. Instead, he spent too much time with the likes of 60s radical and bomber Bill Ayers and radical Pastor Jeremiah Wright.

Obama is generally moderate in demeanor if not political philosophy. Every once in a while he apparently reveals a deep animosity with political competitors. In a speech before Hispanic votes, he exhorted, “We’re going to punish our enemies [emphasis added] and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.’’ Presumably, Obama was arguing that the majority, or at least a significant minority, of Americans that disagree with him on immigration issues are “enemies.’’ This is particularly alarming since Obama is reluctant to refer to America haters like Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Mahmoud Ahmadineja of Iran as enemies.

It is certainly true that the term “enemy’’ is bandied about too often in political discourse. However, a president, more than others, needs to be far above this. This is particularly true after President Richard Nixon’s “enemies list’’ was used o be badgered with IRS audits and other abuses of executive power. The president is the only elected official that represents all Americans. He needs to use less incendiary rhetoric, and it seems that the press has largely given Obama a pass.

In September 21, 2001, President George W. Bush said, “And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.’’ It was a call for those nations that try to have good relations with the US and at the same time deliberately harbor terrorists, that they would have to chose which side they are on.

The statement was not that those Americans who had disagreements with the manner in which the War on Terror is conducted were “either with or against us.’’ Nonetheless, for the next eight years this statement was used by the Left to suggest was trying to suppress dissent. Conspicuous Conservatives generally don’t do such things because they know that they will be roundly criticized in the Left-leaning press. Obama, by contrast, has not been so taught.

Predictions for the House Election 2010

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

This year is particularly difficult to assess because of the obvious political passion of the new Tea Party Movement. Whether one agrees with the current Administration and Congress or not, the last two years have been consequential, with nearly a trillion dollars of stimulus spending and a complicated and copious health care reform bill. This, coupled with the pain of nearly 10% unemployment that seems stubbornly fixed and a depressed housing market has dramatically changed the political landscape. A president who once enjoyed an approval rating of nearly 70% has seen that approval sink to below 50%.

Typically most Republicans will vote for Republicans, most Democrats will vote for Democrats. The questions are: How motivated these partisans are to vote,? What is the self-identification with the parties? Toward which party will the unaffiliated voters break? These questions make it difficult to model who will be the “likely” voter this year.

Rasmussen was the was the most accurate poll in predicting the presidential outcome in 2008, and is consequently highly respected. trys to average out poll biases by publishing a running average of major polls. Nate Silver of is a statistician who during the last election cycle generated accurate predictions using multiple polls and averaging the results of thousands of computer simulations.

Although I yield to these full-time organizations and professionals for their noble work in making these assessments, I wonder how predictive a simpler approach might be. The Gallup Organization is over 70 years old and has a long track record with respect polling. Whatever its virtues and deficiencies the Gallup poll has existed for a long time.

One important bellwether for mid-term elections is the generic preference poll: what fraction of likely voters prefer an unnamed Democratic or Republican candidate. The horizontal axis below is the Gallup-measured Democratic advantage in the generic poll, for the mid-term elections since 1950. If this value is 2, it means the Democrats are preferred over Republicans by a 2% margin. The vertical axis is the margin, either positive or negative, that the Democrats earned in the actual House vote. For example, the value of 1 means that the Democratic margin in the actual vote for the House of Representatives is 1%.

A linear fit to these points is y = 0.8901 x – 0.0354, where x is the Democratic advantage in the generic poll and y is Democratic advantage in the House vote. The 0.8901 slope indicates that, in general, Democrats slightly under perform their poll numbers. Also note that the correlation coefficient sqaured, R2, equals 0.88, meaning that 88% of the observed election-to-election variations can be accounted for with the linear fit.

Election Prediction

As of this writing, Gallup is uncertain as to its likely voter model. If there is a low turn out, this usually means proportionately more Republicans turn out, the generic poll value is -17% (the negative sign means the Democrats poll less well than Republicans). With a high turn out election, Gallup’s likely voter model produces a smaller -11% value.

Given the high energy level on the part of Tea Party members (likely to vote for Republicans), it is not clear that a high voter turnout is to the advantage of Democrats this year. Nonetheless, if we use the -11% value, the simple linear model suggests that Republicans could expect to gain 64 seats for a total of 242. Republicans need 218 to take the House. The 95% confidence limits suggested by the model predict a range of gains from 57 to 70 seats. If we used the -17% value for the likely voter generic preference for Democrats, the gain for Republicans would be an enormous 73 seats, for a total of 251, with 95% confidence for a gain of between 64 and 78 seats.

At present, the average gives Republicans a certain 220 seats with with 37 toss ups. Apportioning the toss ups evenly would give Republicans 239 seats for net gain 61 seats. Nate Silver predicts a Republican 51-seat gain. The proposed linear model clearly is more favorable to Republicans than more sophisticated ones. Since the Republicans have never before had a generic poll in their favor by more than 7%, we are predicting outside the range that this simple linear model has experienced.

There is still one week before the election. We will update the predictions using the latest possible generic poll and see how well this first-order model performs.

There is much that is opaque to the casual outside viewer of polls. In baseball, a spectator is not always able to tell that whether a well hit ball to the outfield has enough power to make it out of the park. However, astute students of the game will watch the outfielders who have a better perspective and likely a keener eye. By watching how they respond to the ball, one can get a indication of where the ball will go. If the outfielder starts to run toward a particular point, one can be assured that the ball will remain in the park. If the outfield doesn’t move much, he likely sees that the ball will fly over the fences. Whatever the public and private polls are indicating, Democrats are rapidly pulling funding out of key districts, indicating they are retreating to protect their core in close raises where additional spending could have an effect. This is certainly indicative of what they believe is happening.

Freedom of Association and Privacy

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was once considered far out of the political mainstream, especially in the South of the first half of the Twentieth Century. In that era, the non-profit organization employed political means to seek elimination of segregation in the South and political rights for black Americans. Some state governments attempted to put legal obstacles in the way of the NAACP.

There were laws with regard to the registration of out-of-state entities operating within some states. In 1956, the state of Alabama claimed that the NAACP was violating state law and demanded its membership list. The organization was reluctant to provide such a list. Some members might suffer repercussions because of their membership.

Despite some lower court losses for the NAACP, the case was ultimately heard by the Supreme Court. In a seminal decision the Court found in favor of the NAACP, concluding that forcing the organization to reveal its membership would violate the right of association by members of the NAACP. Specifically, the Justices found that “…immunity from state scrutiny of petitioner’s membership lists is here so related to the right of petitioner’s members to pursue their lawful private interests privately and to associate freely with others in doing so as to come within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment.’’ In other worss, via the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause, the NAACP could assert is First Amendment rights against the state of Alabama.

This history makes the Obama Administration’s recent attacks against the US Chamber of Commerce ironic. The US Chamber of Commerce like other non-profits such as the Sierra Club keeps its membership lists private, invoking the rights secured in the NAACP v. Alabama case. The Democratic Party has put out an ad asserting that the US Chamber of Commerce is using foreign money to influence campaigns. President Barack Obama has echoed the charges in his stump speech. According to CBS News, the Chamber has $200M budget, with only about $100,000 from foreign dues. This money is sequestered and the sequestration is monitored with audits. When questioned about whether the Administration had any evidence that there was foreign money diverted to elections, Presidential Advisor David Axelrod countered by asking if there was any proof that they did not. In addition, he demanded that the Chamber release its membership list.

Hence, in the short breath of a paragraph, Axelrod managed the Herculean tasks of ignoring the the presumption of innocence and violating the spirit of protection offered by the NAACP v. Alabama decision. No wonder he is such an valued political operative. This newly found concern about the hygiene of political contributions is made even more poignant by the fact that in 2008 the Washington Post ran a story headlined “Obama Accepting Untraceable Donations.’’ They reported:

“Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor’s identity, campaign officials confirmed.’’

It is clear that the accusations of foreign influence charged in a Democratic Party campaign ad and by Axelrod’s statements represent a desperate political smear in the late stages of the mid-term election political campaign that does not appear to be going too well. However, the demand for the release of the membership lists of private organizations smacks of the same type mean-spirited political bullying in the South against Civil Rights Movement. When running for president, then Senator Barack Obama boasted, “I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution.’’ It is time that he demonstrate more the rhetorical support for Constitutional sensitivities.

Equal Protection

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

On November 4, 2008, uniformed Black Panther members stood in pace at the entrance of a polling place in Philadelphia with night sticks. One can click here and decide for yourself whether the individuals were attempting to intimidate voters. If such an incident had occurred 10 year ago, it is unlikely that with conflicting testimony as to what really happened could be definitely sorted out. In this age, eye-witness testimony is more persuasive gi given the video evidence.

The Bush Administration response to the incident was not as aggressive as it could have been, pursuing civil as opposed to criminal sanctions against the individuals involved. Nonetheless, the Department of Justice won a default judgment against the individuals, a judgment that the Obama Department of Justice gave up when it inexplicably dropped the case.

In response to the Obama Administration decision, Christian Adams in the Department of Justice Civil RIght Division resigned. He later testified before the US Civil Rights Commission that the case was dismissed because of a disinterest in pursuing Civil Rights cases directed against minorities. Adams’ accusation while damning, was difficult to prove. He could be dismissed as a disgruntled, politically-motivated holdover from the Bush Administration. Some argued that there was no proof that voters were actually intimidated by the Black Panther thugs despite the actions. Nonetheless, the civil case had already been won, and the Department of Justice refused to accept victory.

The issue has been resurrected with the testimony of the Christopher Coates, the former head of the Voting Rights Section of the Department of Justice, before the US Department of Civil RIghts Commission. He had been directed by the Justice Department not to not comply with the subpoena, but complied nonetheless.

Coates justified his decision to testify:

“I did not lightly decide to comply with your subpoena in contradiction to the DOJ’s directives not to testify,… If incorrect representations are going to successfully thwart inquiry into the systemic problems regarding race-neutral enforcement of the Voting Rights Act by the Civil Rights Division, problems that were manifested….in the New Black Panther Party case that end is not going to be furthered or accomplished by my sitting idly or silently by at the direction of my supervisors while incorrect information is provided…. I do not believe that I am professionally, ethically, legally, or morally bound to allow such a result to occur.’’

Coates largely corroborated Adams’ testimony. The Holder Justice Department had decided not to pursue cases against minority defendants “until we reached the day when the socio-economic status of blacks in Mississippi was the same as the socio-economic status of whites living there.’’

It is impossible to paint Coates as a political partisan bent of causing problems for the Obama Administration. He was originally appointed by President Clinton, worked for voting rights for the American Civil Liberties Union, and received awards for his efforts by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. If he is concerned about selective, race-based civil rights enforcement, he brings with that concern a cache of credibility

Even more important that any particular economic or social policy, the election of President Barack Obama represented a seminal event, The US could be said to have overcome is original sin of slavery and racial discrimination. It is not that bigotry would cease to exist or disparate conditions equalized, but Obama’s election and his inuaguration with nearly 70% approval, proved that the United States had crossed an important threshold in race relations.

The case in Philadelphia is a small one. No election outcome depended on what happened there, but it is still potentially damning. If the Justice Department proves not to be committed to equal protection of the law, it is denying a fundamental promise of America. Presuming President Obama is committed to an America undivided be race, he should determine who in his Justice Department refuses to believe in equal protection of the law and dismiss them. His legacy may be threatened.

What Would Buckley Say?

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Practical politics and principle often chafe against one another. A well-functioning democracy rarely secures its entire trust in any single political party or faction. Adherence to principle is important, but sometimes even the most ideologically devout must reluctantly yield to compromise. A smug ideologue boasting political purity is self-indulgent. A political sail who responds instantly to the political winds is untrustworthy. A statesman pushes a polity when he can, accepts those times when he can’t, and has the wisdom to know the difference.

In 1967, the sainted Conservative William F. Buckley supported the Vice-President Richard Nixon over Senator Barry Goldwater, despite Buckley’s narrower political differences with Goldwater. Buckley followed what has come to be known as Buckley’s rule:

“The wisest choice would be the one who would win. No sense running Mona Lisa in a beauty contest. I’d be for the most right, viable candidate who could win. If you could convince me that Barry Goldwater could win, I’d vote for him.’’

Given the Nixon presidency, both its end in disgrace and Nixon’s domestic movement toward the Left, one wonders whether Buckley would have liked to reconsider his decision to support Nixon. Would a second Goldwwater loss in 1968 be better than the Nixon victory?

A chance to apply the Buckley rule cam last week in the Republican primary contest. If I were a Delaware resident, I would most probably have voted for Congressman Mike Castle in last week’s Republican primary. Although I would disagree with many of Castle’s vote, I know he would vote for a Republican Senate Majority leader. National Review, the magazine Buckley started, also endorsed Castle. Besides pure tactical considerations, they were also concerned about personal baggage that burdened Christine O’Donnell.

There is outside possibility that Republicans can takeover the Senate this fall and one Republican Senatorial victory could make the difference. Mike Castle almost certainly would have won the general election. O’Donnell, who bested Castle in the Republican primary, has moved the open seat to the probable-Democratic-victory column.

In fairness, despite a late endorsement from Governor Sarah Palin, O’Donnell did not so much win the race, a be the last person standing as Castle let the nomination slip away in the grease of arrogance. Castle exhibited the “I’m entitled’’ attitude that has angered the public. He did not make a sufficient effort to address concerns that Conservatives had with some of his votes. He did not have to. He thought he was a sure winner.

Public anger is not unreasonable. In the last two years, many ordinary Americans have suffering economically, while rich bankers were bailed out by the government. Many ordinary Americans worry about their jobs with unemployment uncomfortably close to 10%, while the government bails out union jobs at GM. Many ordinary Americans struggle to make the mortgage payments, while those who recklessly borrowed far more than they could afford are relieved of some of their obligations.

In this political environment, Castle represented the out-of-touch elite, while O’Donnell’s ordinary resume made her an “every man’’ standing up to the elite. Ironically, the very act of dismissing her qualifications reinforces her symbolism as a member of the beleaguered classes.

O’Donnell does not appear to have the political skills to usher her past this race in a very peculiar election year. This very much like when comedian and failed talk-show hostAl Franken was elected to the Senate, during the anti-Republican 2008 elections. O’Donnell’s election to the Senate — a long shot — would probably be a one-election exception.

WIlliam Buckley also once remarked:

“I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.’’

Given O’Donnell’s educational and professional pedestrian past, perhaps we can argue that she represents someone selected from those names in the phone book. If she manages to win election to the Senate, we will have an opportunity to test Buckley’s hypothesis.

Does Dowd Miss Bush Now?

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

It is hard to remember the euphoria, particularly on the part of the Left and the Left’s spokes people when President Barack Obama was inaugurated into office in 2009. There was weariness and apprehension after President George Bush’s eight years and the new president came into office amid hope and approval percentages approaching 70%. With a struggling economy, an unpopular health care program, and a number of missteps, Obama’s approval has quickly submerged below 50%.

When Obama was inaugurated there was every reason for the Left to walk with a cheerful step in their gait, and little reason to be snarky. Some could not resist. Appearing on a news program, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, could not help but nod in knowing agreement with the interviewer that the “nightmare” was over. She compared Bush’s leaving office to the feeling of lightness and relief when an exorcist manages to cast away evil spirits. According to Dowd, Bush was the president who let New Orleans drown and trumped up the Iraq War.

Post-presidency, Bush has exhibited more class than his critics, remaining largely silent, letting the current president govern without the second-guessing of a previous president. Bush showed this admirably restraint even as Obama has been quick to blame current economic woes on his predecessor, after more than eighteen months and a trillion dollar stimulus package that hasn’t seemed to jump start the economy as promised.

Now that Obama has grossly mismanaged the controversy about the potential construction near ground zero, with a muddled message, Dowd wants Bush to pull Obama’s bacon out the political flames. Dowd writes:

“The war against the terrorists is not a war against Islam. In fact, you can’t have an effective war against the terrorists if it is a war on Islam. George W. Bush understood this. And it is odd to see Barack Obama less clear about this matter than his predecessor. It’s time for W. to weigh in. This — along with immigration reform and AIDS in Africa — was one of his points of light. As the man who twice went to war in the Muslim world, he has something of an obligation to add his anti-Islamophobia to this mosque madness. W. needs to get his bullhorn back out.’’

It would have demonstrated more charity than Dowd can apparently could muster to have made similar acknowledgments as Bush was leaving office. Now it just appears as uncharacteristically obsequious praise to urge Bush to do Dowd’s bidding. Perhaps she can increase the praise ante by also agreeing that the recent removal of combat troops from Iraq, on Bush’s negotiated schedule, was a consequence of the successful surge strategy. This was a strategy she previously mocked as a “girdle,’’ and once “Peaches Petraeus, as he was known growing up in Cornwall-on-Hudson, takes the girdle off, the center will not hold.’’

Dowd is tone-deaf if she believes that the opposition to the mosque is anti-Muslim. In this way, she mimics Obama’s style in always assuming the worst motives for those who disagree with her. Could there not be people legitimately concerned that the mosque was built as a trophy of the 9/11 attacks as people as reputable and knowledgeable and with as much moral authority as Ayaan Hirsi Ali suggest? Is it not legitimate to ask, if the purpose of the mosque and community center is to encourage healing and reconciliation, that mosque backers be sensitive to the feelings of people who they are ostensibly building a bridge to?

In the 2009 interview, Dowd made one accurate observation. The American people look to their leaders to represent their values and are displeased when the leaders do not. In the case of the mosque, most are not pleased with Obama. Dowd blames the two-thirds of Americans who wish that the mosque be built a littler further away from the place where radical Islamists killed more 2700 in the name of Islam.

Will the Economy Recover in Time for Obama?

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

While most Democrats will concede in moments of honesty that this year’s Congressional elections are likely to be very tough on Democrats, many like console themselves by citing President Ronald Reagan’s experience in his first term. Reagan came to office in difficult economic times with unemployment rising to double digits. In the first Congressional elections (1982) after Reagan’s election, Congressional Republicans paid the political price for poor economic times. Democrats gained 27 seats in the House. Republicans faired better in the Senate with the balance between the political parties remaining essentially the same. The analogy most heartening for supporters of President Barack Obama is the fact that as the economy recovered, Reagan’s popularity exploded as he won re-election in 1984 in a landslide taking every state except Minnesota, the home state of his opponent Walter Mondale. Reagan even came within 0.18% of the popular vote of winning Minnesota. Mondale was able to carry the District of Columbia, as Reagan secured the electoral college 525 to 13.

For history to repeat itself in Obama’s favor will require more than the poor a Congressional showing in the mid-term election. That’s the easy part. The economy will have to enjoy a strong recovery. It is interesting to determine if the pace of current recover with match itself in speed and magnitude with Reagan’s 1983-1984 recovery. A political potent measure of the economic recovery (though a lagging indicator) is the unemployment rate. Below is a table of the unemployment rates for the Reagan and Obama. The table begins on the data of the highest unemployment for each of the presidents.

Reagan   Obama  
Date Unemployment Rate Date Unemployment Rate
Nov-82 10.8 Oct-09 10.1
Dec-82 10.8 Nov-09 10.0
Jan-83 10.4 Dec-09 10.0
Feb-83 10.4 Jan-10 9.7
Mar-83 10.3 Feb-10 9.7
Apr-83 10.2 Mar-10 9.7
May-83 10.1 Apr-10 9.9
Jun-83 10.1 May-10 9.7
Jul-83 9.4 Jun-10 9.5
Aug-83 9.5 Jul-10 9.5
Sep-83 9.2 Aug-10
Oct-83 8.8 Nov-10
Nov-83 8.5 Dec-10
Dec-83 8.3 Jan-11
Jan-84 8.0 Feb-11
Feb-84 7.8 Mar-11
Mar-84 7.8 Apr-11
Apr-84 7.7 May-11
May-84 7.4 Jun-11
Jun-84 7.2 Jul-11
Jul-84 7.5 Aug-11
Aug-84 7.5 Sep-11
Sep-84 7.3 Oct-11
Oct-84 7.4 Nov-11
Nov-84 7.2 Dec-11
Dec-84 7.3 Jan-12
Jan-85 7.3 Feb-12
Feb-85 7.2 Mar-12
Mar-85 7.2 Apr-12
Apr-85 7.3 May-12
May-85 7.2 Jun-12
Jun-85 7.4 Jul-12
Jul-85 7.4 Aug-12
Aug-85 7.1 Sep-12
Sep-85 7.1 Oct-12

Interestingly, for both Reagan and Obama unemployment fell to 9.5% about eight months after the peak. However, unemployment had to fall from 10.8% rather than 10.1% for Reagan. At this point after the peak unemployment for Reagan, GDP was growing at at rate of 9% with the economy rapiding regaining jobs. The growth now rate is at best 3% and probably lower. In order for unemployment to abate at the same rate for Obama as during the Reagan recovery unemployment would have to fall to 8.5% by the end of this year. No one anticipates this. Indeed, the latest estimates from the Obama Administration suggests an employment rate over 8% when Obama stand for re-election. By contrast, on election day 1984 unemployment stood at 7.2%, over 3% points below its peak.

Obama has more about one more year than Reagan did for his recovery to take hold before his bid for re-election, but Obama’s recovery thus far has been at a lower rate. Obama will at best have an unemployment rate a full percentage point above what Reagan faced on election day.
To maximize chances for re-election, Obama needs to implement policies to increase economic growth. Thus far, high levels of government spending have done more to spook business than encourage it.

Thoughts on the Mosque Near “Ground Zero”

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

The controversy surrounding the decision build a mosque 600 feet from where Islamic terrorists flew planes into and destroyed the World Trade Center Towers killing over 2,000 people on September 11, 2001 calls for a few observations:

  1. It is unlikely that those building the mosque are simply moderate Muslims who just happened to need a mosque and community center in this area. It is more likely that those behind this particular mosque at this particular place view it as a political statement.
  2. However, political statements, beautiful and ugly, are protected. It is probably not possible or even desirable for an intervention by the state to block construction of the facility. The most appropriate response is for community pressure — legal and open pressure — to dissuade construction.
  3. There is more than a little idiocy involved in the defense of the decision to allow the mosque’s construction.


From a distance, it is impossible to determine with certainty the motivations of those who are building the mosque. However, there are several negative indications.While Fiesal Abdul Rauf, the inman behind the he construction of the mosque, is reputed to be a moderate devoted to reconciliation, he can’t quite get himself to concede that Hamas is a terrorist organization and holds the United States an “accessory” by its foreign policy to the attacks of 9/11.Rauf has not revealed the sources of funding for mosque construction. While not required to do so, his refusal suggests a lack of openness that would be consistent with reconciliation.

Ayann Hirsi Ali, was a Somali woman, who escaped what she considers the tyranny of Islam over women as Islam is traditionally practiced. She escaped her planned marriage to a Canadian, and managed to get elected to the House of Representatives of the Dutch parliament after receiving asylum. She has since moved to the United States, but is still under death threat from Islamic zealots. She published the books Infidel and Nomad, based on her experiences. She has earned credibility on issues regarding the relationship between Islam and the West.

On a recent Washington area radio show Ali explained how Muslims have traditionally built mosques at the scenes of its conquests and victories. She believes the proposed mosque near ground zero is one such trophy.

It is possible that despite the above evidence, that the Muslims building the mosque are really well-intentioned and misunderstood. If that is the case, the should consider building the mosque elsewhere out of an abundance of goodwill.

An appropriate analogy is the case in the 1980s where a group of Carmelite nuns moved into a unused building near Auschwitz, where over a million Jews where killed by the Nazis. No one doubted the good will of the nuns, but many Jews considered their presence so close to Auschwitz to be hurtful.  Pope John Paul II, after consultation and thoughtful prayer, decided to ask the Carmelite nuns to move. Catholic-Jewish reconciliation would not be served, if Catholics pursued an unnecessary course of action hurtful to Jews, even if no bad intent was involvedA large number of the relatives of victims of 9/11 have expressed such hurt, and Inman Rauf could demonstrate his good will by honoring and respecting those feelings.

State Intervention

It appears that the construction of the mosque as passed all the local zoning restrictions. There was an attempt to use landmark preservation laws to preserve a building at the proposed site of the mosque as a means to prevent the mosque’s construction.Conservatives should be a little reticent about the use of such tactics, usually abused by the Left. Although local zoning boards many times make reasonable decisions based upon the evidence, the broad discretion allowed these authorities are invitations to petty politically-based decisions. Conservative should not encourage such a use.

The state and city of New York, probably have no legitimate recourse but to allow construction of the mosque. It is, however, in the power of individuals to dissuade construction. Among other things, they can stage protests at the construction sites. Local unions and contractors could refuse to participate in the construction. If the feelings against the perceived insult to the victims of 9/11 is strong enough, such approaches might prevail.  Of course, care should be taken to make it extremely clear that it is the symbolism of this particular mosque in this particular place less than a decade after 9/11, and not mosques and Muslims in general, that are at issue.

Idiots (Useful or Not)

There is a difference between conceding that the local government is prohibited from stopping the construction of this particular facility in this particular place, and trying to make smugly self-aggrandizing boasts about it.New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a case and point. He boasted about tolerance and openness in allowing the placement of a mosque so close to ground zero, neglecting to acknowledge that the people who suffered loses on 9/11 could legitimately feel pain from such losses. Such feelings were not important.

Perhaps Bloomberg should be forgiven. His ability to make judgements in times of stress has not been well vindicated. In the immediate aftermath of the attempted bombing of New York Times Square when no one knew the motivations of the bomber, Bloomberg volunteered  that the culprit could have been “somebody with a political agenda who doesn’t like the health care bill or something. It could be anything.” Ultimately Islamic extremist Faisal Shahzad, who wanted to “plead guilty 100 times over,” is believed to be the guilty party. Fortunately, we know now from where Bloomberg sees the real threats arising.

Going From a Black President to Racial Discord

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

It was perhaps too much to hope for. With the election of the first American black president who began his term with a near 70% approval rating, it could be argued that Americans had largely overcome their original sin of racism. No one would ever argue that racism has disappeared, but we could hope that we would only have to suffer under residual remnants in isolated pockets.However, 18 months into the Obama presidency, it appears that race has once again bedeviled us. There have always been voices like Janeane Garofalo who seems to believe that any opposition to President Barack Obama must be rooted in latent racism, as if no legitimate criticism is possible. This argument can be easily refuted by considering a thought experiment. If President Barack Obama were white and the current political and economic conditions were identical would the opposition be as great?

It would probaby be more intense, not restrained by fear of charges of racism. Indeed, one could argue that with Obama’s approval at about 50%,  with a 9-plus percent unemployment rate extending over many months, and with severe public anxiety about record deficits, Obama enjoys unprecedented goodwill. By contrast, President Ronald Reagan’s approval rating during the recession of his first two years fell to the mid-40’s.

It was perhaps too much to hope for. With the election of the first American black president who began his term with a near 70% approval rating, it could be argued that Americans had largely overcome their original sin of racism. No one would ever argue that racism has disappeared, but we could hope that we would only have to suffer under residual remnants in isolated pockets.

However, 18 months into the Obama presidency, it appears that race has once again bedeviled us. There have always been voices like Janeane Garofalo who seems to believe that any opposition to President Barack Obama must be rooted in latent racism, as if no legitimate criticism is possible. This argument can be easily refuted by considering a thought experiment. If President Barack Obama were white and the current political and economic conditions were identical would the opposition be as great? It would probaby be more intense, not restrained by fear of charges of racism. Indeed, one could argue that with Obama’s approval at about 50%,  with a 9-plus percent unemployment rate extending over many months, and with severe public anxiety about record deficits, Obama enjoys unprecedented goodwill. By contrast, President Ronald Reagan’s approval rating during the recession of his first two years fell to the mid-40’s.

Race as a policitcal argument in the recent context has largely been introduced by the Left. Congressional black leaders claim derogatory racial references were made as they walked by Tea Party activists to cast a health care vote. Despite the presence of press cameras, ubiquitous cell phones, and a reward for a video or other recording demonstrating such language, no evidence has surfaced.In response to charges of racism, Tea Party activist Andrew Breitbart dug up a video of Obama Agricultural Department employee, Shirley Sherrod. She  suggested in a portion of the the video that she she treated a white farmer differently than black farmers. The complete story revealed by the entire recording was that Sherrod had overcome this feeling decades ago. While Sherrod was treated unfairly when the Obama Administration initially fired Sherrod, the NAACP audience in the video seemed amused by the thought of a white farmer being treated dismissively. While such comeupance might be understandable given centuries of similar treatment at the hands of whites, it is surely not the act of well-meaning  people ostensibly devoted with racial reconciliation.

This issue could spiral out of control and make the legacy of Obama with regard to race divisive. Obama needs to exercise leadership that only he can. He needs to calm the roughned waters of racial feelings before they grow to destructive waves of anger. Obama needs to restrain his supporters from using racial allegations. If he shows such leadership, any racial divisiveness by those who oppose him will be more conspicuous and more easily dismissed.