Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Least Suprising Poll Results On Earth

After nearly eight years of constant demonization and dehumanization of Muslims, Islam, and countries in the Middle East...surprise! Americans have a dismal opinion of countries in the Middle East.
Hours before President Barack Obama departs for a trip to the Middle East, a new national poll suggests that only one in five Americans has a favorable view of Muslim countries.

That compares to 46 percent of the people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey who say they have an unfavorable opinion of Muslim countries. That's up five points from 2002, when 41 percent indicated they had an unfavorable view.

Three in ten meanwhile say they have a neutral opinion of Muslim countries.

The poll also suggests that most Americans think people in Muslim countries don't think highly of the United States. Nearly eight in ten questioned say people in Muslim countries have a unfavorable opinion of the U.S., with 14 percent saying Muslims hold a favorable view.

But the poll indicates Americans seem to be split on whether such negative opinions by Muslims matter. Fifty-three percent of those questioned say they think Muslim views of the U.S. matter a great deal or a moderate amount, with 47 percent saying that Muslim opinions of the U.S. don't matter very much or at all.

Obama clearly has his work cut out for him, as does the Muslim world. But reconciliation has to start somewhere.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

William Saletan over at Slate asks:
Is it wrong to murder an abortionist?

If abortion is murder, the most efficient thing you could have done to prevent such murders this month was to kill George Tiller.
That's him, verbatim.

Is Saletan arguably the largest asshole on Earth today, or what? More verbatim.
Is that statement wrong? Is it wrong to defend the life of an unborn child as you would defend the life of a born child? Because that's the question this murder poses. Peaceful pro-lifers have already tried to prosecute Tiller for doing late-term abortions they claimed were against the law. They failed to convict him. If unborn children are morally equal to born children, then Tiller's assassin has just succeeded where the legal system failed: He has stopped a mass murderer from killing again.
I give up. Honestly. If you're a mainstream journalist and you're saying "Well, yeah, it's okay to question whether or not a doctor like this should have been killed but you really shouldn't kill people" you no longer have credibility at all. But here's his big finish:
If you don't accept what he did, then maybe it's time to ask yourself what you really believe. Is abortion murder? Or is it something less, a tragedy that would be better avoided? Most of us think it's the latter. We're looking for ways to prevent abortions—not just a few this month, but millions down the line—without killing or prosecuting people. Come and join us.
Yes, join us in preventing the next murder of the next abortionist by helping us outlaw all abortion! No abortions, no doctors getting murdered.

See how remarkably reasonable Saletan is?

Al Versus Norm, Part 1102

So, Minnesota's Republican Gov, Tim Pawlenty, is not running for re-election.

Pawlenty has remained a relatively popular chief executive of a state that is trending blue. But his "my-way-or-the-highway" stance on tax hikes may diminish his standing by the end of his term. His unflinching opposition has earned him plaudits from conservatives, but it has frustrated his Democratic state legislature. Pawlenty's name is now attached to $3 billion in budget cuts, resulting in praise from the Wall Street Journal and Americans for Tax Reform. Without re-election pressure, he's free to experiment even more.

57% of Minnesotans say they'd be open to someone else as governor, a sign that Pawlenty, although still personally liked by the voters, has worn out his welcome. Fairly conservative on most issues, Pawlenty has taken centrist stands on environmental legislation and health care; he is very frustrated with the tone his party has adopted; if, at some point before 2012, he decides to retire from politics altogether, I wouldn't be surprised.

As Josh Marshall points out, that's actually bad, bad news for Democrat Al Franken.
That's because the most probable next step in the endless Franken-Coleman drama is that the Minnesota Supreme Court will rule in Franken's favor and it will fall to Pawlenty to issue the certificate of election that will get him seated in the senate. The details are sort of murky. But the upshot is that Pawlenty will likely have just enough wiggle room to refuse to do so, if he wishes, perhaps using the excuse of possible litigation on Coleman's behalf in the federal judiciary.

As long as he was going to run for governor and had to face Minnesota voters again, there was good reason for him not to completely stick his finger in the eye of the election process. But now that's not holding him back. And since he's probably running for president, he'll have tons of incentive to pander to the hardcore tea-bagging wing of the GOP and keep Franken out of the senate as long as he can.

In other words, if Pawlenty doesn't have to worry about pleasing Minnesota's moderates anymore, he can earn points with primary voting GOP hardliners and earn 2012 primary cred by giving Al Franken the big screw you and refusing to sign off on Franken becoming a Senator until Norm Coleman exhausts all federal avenues, up to and including the US Supreme Court.

It's possible that worst case scenario may be Franken is denied his seat until well into 2010. And should the Supremes actually take up this case, it could end up setting a precedent where basically every election in 2010 is challeneged by the GOP.

The Pushback Begins

All I gotta say is "Called this on Saturday."

And lo and behold, the AIPAC lobby Democratic pushback on Obama is underway.
As President Barack Obama prepares to depart for his first trip to the Arab world, the administration’s escalating pressure on Israel to freeze all growth of its settlements on Palestinian land has begun to stir concern among Israel’s numerous allies in both parties on Capitol Hill.

“My concern is that we are applying pressure to the wrong party in this dispute,” said Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.). “I think it would serve America’s interest better if we were pressuring the Iranians to eliminate the potential of a nuclear threat from Iran, and less time pressuring our allies and the only democracy in the Middle East to stop the natural growth of their settlements.”

When Congress gets back into session the administration is going to hear from many more members than just me,” she said.

Yeah, that's not an open threat. Jesus.
Presidents from Jimmy Carter to George H.W. Bush saw attempts to pressure Israel draw furious objections from Congress, but members of Congress and observers say Obama will most likely prevail as long as he shows that he’s putting effective pressure on Israel’s Arab foes as well.

But even a key defender of Obama’s Mideast policy, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), is seeking to narrow the administration’s definition of “settlement” to take pressure off Obama. And the unusual criticism by congressional Democrats of the popular president is a sign that it may take more than a transformative presidential election to change the domestic politics of Israel.

Other Democrats, in interviews with POLITICO, raised similar concerns. While few will defend illegal Jewish outposts on land they hope will be part of a Palestinian state, they question putting public pressure on Israel while — so far — paying less public attention to Palestinian terrorism and other Arab states’ hostility to Israel.

In other words, Dems are privately admitting that Israel is making things worse with the settlement issue, but publicly they are saying that Obama isn't allowed to call Israel on it.

The issue is always how horrible and evil the Palestinian terrorists are, not how Israel is making things worse. The message for Obama is clear: "Why are you wasting America's bully pulpit with Israel's settlements when you should be railing against Iran? Do you not know what your job is as President?"

What Comes Around, Goes Around

Over at Eunomia, Dan Larison makes one of those Good Points I keep mentioning in passing, this on Sotomayor (emphasis mine)
It is questionable whether “color-blind justice” is actually in danger here, or at least it is questionable whether it is in danger because of a judge such as Sotomayor. More to the point, it is much less likely that Americans will be able to “celebrate their rootedness in unique, decentralized communities,” if they are going to be able to do this at all, if Americans of all backgrounds are confronted with social stigma and ostracism for expressing pride in their roots and communities. The question, then, is why those conservatives who presumably could see some virtue in “rootedness in unique, decentralized communities” should be so scandalized by statements that reflect positively on particularity and diversity. Indeed, one of the main things that is so deeply troubling about official celebrations of diversity is that they are so very often wedded to programs of political centralization and uniformity.

As for the other point, it is true that refraining from making baseless charges of racism against Sotomayor will not stop other baseless attacks against conservatives from being made. However, it does seem all but certain that making such baseless charges one of the main lines of attack against Sotomayor will make it far more likely that even those conservative arguments that were once given the benefit of the doubt will be willfully misread in just the same way that critics seem to have been misreading Sotomayor’s statements. If there are already some conservative arguments on immigration, affirmative action or other policy questions that are frequently dismissed and ridiculed as racist, how many more will be tarred with this label as a result of conservatives’ having dramatically lowered the standards of what counts as a racist statement? How many conservative pundits and radio talk show hosts will wind up on the wrong side of the sweeping, unreasonably broad defintion of racism that conservatives are now employing to try to trip up Sotomayor? Perhaps most telling of all, this smear on Sotomayor will not advance conservative causes one inch, but will boomerang and harm them significantly, and those who recklessly flung these charges should not be surprised if they come back to haunt them later on.

And he's got a point: there are legitimate arguments for example that affirmative action is not an optimal solution to institutionalized racism, and it is flawed (but necessary) solution to a pervasive problem. I think everyone realized affirmative action is flawed, the argument is "do these flaws render the good that affirmative action tries to accomplish moot or not?" As an African-American, I can see both sides of that argument.

But if you're willing to lower the bar on what qualifies as racism to include people expressing pride in their culture or race, then yes, it's going to bite you in the ass.

I'm going to argue in fact that it already has bitten conservatives in the ass.

Fear Will Keep The Systems In Line

Dick Cheney and Fear have won the Gitmo debate, hands down.
Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to closing the detention center for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and moving some of the detainees to prisons on U.S. soil, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds.

By more than 2-1, those surveyed say Guantanamo shouldn't be closed. By more than 3-1, they oppose moving some of the accused terrorists housed there to prisons in their own states.

The findings underscore the difficult task President Obama faces in convincing those at home that he should follow through on his campaign promise to close the prison in Cuba, especially in the absence of a plan of where the prisoners would go.

In many parts of the world, however, Gitmo has become a symbol of U.S. arrogance and abuse, and Obama has cited its closure as a way to lay the foundation for better relations. He is scheduled to deliver a major address aimed at the Muslim world on Thursday from Cairo.

Despite the fact American prisons house more terrorists then ever (especially the Supermax facility in Florence, Colorado) the Village and the GOP have effectively killed Obama's plan to close Gitmo. Milions of Americans are now convinced that closing Gitmo will mean whatever facility in the US houses terrorists will make the cities and towns around that prison target number one for legions of jihadi killers.

Eight years of abject, constant fear is a hard drug to quit cold turkey, but Obama's lack of a distinct plan to present the American people also had just as much to do with the failure of the initiative.

Obama fumbled this one badly...but then again, now he's under no political pressure to close Gitmo.

And maybe that was the plan all along.

Domestic Terrorism Reminder

And just to remind everyone that while the shooting murder of George Tiller in church was a prime example of domestic terrorism, yesterday's shooting murder of Pvt. William Long outside a Little Rock Army recruiter's office also most certainly qualifies as domestic terrorism as well.
An Arkansas man was arrested Monday in connection with a shooting at a Little Rock military recruiting center that killed one soldier and wounded another, authorities said.

Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad -- a 24-year-old Little Rock resident formerly known as Carlos Bledsoe -- faces a first-degree murder charge and 15 counts of engaging in a terrorist act, Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas said. The terrorist counts stem from the shots fired at an occupied building.

While authorities continued to investigate a motive, Thomas said Muhammad is a Muslim convert and, based on preliminary interviews with him, investigators believe there were "political and religious motives" in the shooting.

Military officials initially believed the shooting was a random act, but Thomas said police believe the shooter acted alone "with the specific purpose of targeting military personnel."

Make no mistake, this is just as vile and horrific as Tiller's murder on Sunday. It was done with the intention of keeping people out of military recruitment centers the same way Tiller's murder was done with the intention of keeping women out of abortion clinics. It was done for a political motive. That makes it terrorism.

Neither murder is justifiable in any way, shape, form, or fashion. Both the extreme Left and the extreme Right have crazies, and they both kill people. There are "Wingnuts" on the Left, too...and they are pretty insane.

Domestic terrorism is still a problem in this country. Extremism on both sides is evident this week.


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