Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 16, 2011

State Department Funds Anti-American Propaganda

Leave it to the State Department: While other U.S. departments and agencies waste tax payer money, no other department does it with quite the counter-productive flair of our friends in Foggy Bottom. First, there was the issue of U.S. money going to pay salaries to jailed Palestinian terrorists, including those who murdered Americans.

Now, it turns out that the State Department is paying money to the United Nations Development Program which is turning around and funding the Inter Press Service (IPS), a media outlet which seeks to be “a communication channel that privileges the voices and the concerns of the poorest and creates a climate of understanding, accountability and participation around development, promoting a new international information order between the South and the North.” In effect this means shilling for Venezuela, Zimbabwe, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah. For example, in this story, IPS appears to be advocating for a renewed Palestinian uprising.

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Leave it to the State Department: While other U.S. departments and agencies waste tax payer money, no other department does it with quite the counter-productive flair of our friends in Foggy Bottom. First, there was the issue of U.S. money going to pay salaries to jailed Palestinian terrorists, including those who murdered Americans.

Now, it turns out that the State Department is paying money to the United Nations Development Program which is turning around and funding the Inter Press Service (IPS), a media outlet which seeks to be “a communication channel that privileges the voices and the concerns of the poorest and creates a climate of understanding, accountability and participation around development, promoting a new international information order between the South and the North.” In effect this means shilling for Venezuela, Zimbabwe, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah. For example, in this story, IPS appears to be advocating for a renewed Palestinian uprising.

Let’s put aside the question of why the United Nations feels it must fund a media outlet effectively to compete with the private sector. Now, both with terrorist salaries and now incitement, the State Department can argue that money is fungible and that they cannot control all the activities of their grantees. Fair enough. But if a grantee has money to waste, then it doesn’t need subsidies from American taxpayers.

As an aside, I see that frequent IPS writer Ali Gharib, now on staff at Think Progress, complains in a somewhat snarky post that the State Department has given a grant to MEMRI. He does not reveal his own conflict of interest as, in an era of declining resources, IPS and MEMRI must compete for the same pot.

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Dems Hope Warren Can Beat the ‘Unbeatable’ Scott Brown

In late March, Salon’s Steve Kornacki wrote an article called “The unbeatable Republican?” It may still come as a surprise that Kornacki was referring to Scott Brown, the GOP’s rising star and current occupant of Ted Kennedy’s old Massachusetts Senate seat.

Democrats would love to have the seat back, but had commissioned a poll and found that Brown’s approval was at 73 percent and that he would beat Democratic challengers without breaking a sweat. Then Democrats got some good news—sort of. Congressional Republicans had successfully blocked Harvard professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren from being appointed to run the new federal bureaucracy she crafted, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Though a personal setback for Warren, it left her with an opportunity to challenge Brown—something that at first seemed to be wishful thinking on the part of liberal groups, but which now may be taking shape.

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In late March, Salon’s Steve Kornacki wrote an article called “The unbeatable Republican?” It may still come as a surprise that Kornacki was referring to Scott Brown, the GOP’s rising star and current occupant of Ted Kennedy’s old Massachusetts Senate seat.

Democrats would love to have the seat back, but had commissioned a poll and found that Brown’s approval was at 73 percent and that he would beat Democratic challengers without breaking a sweat. Then Democrats got some good news—sort of. Congressional Republicans had successfully blocked Harvard professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren from being appointed to run the new federal bureaucracy she crafted, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Though a personal setback for Warren, it left her with an opportunity to challenge Brown—something that at first seemed to be wishful thinking on the part of liberal groups, but which now may be taking shape.

Warren posted a blog on the liberal website Blue Mass Group that hinted at her interest in the seat. She hired advisors, contacted party officials, and now a liberal advocacy group has announced it raised $100,000 for her campaign:

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee said Monday more than 53,000 people have joined its online effort to draft Warren and pledged tens of thousands of volunteer hours.

Of the money raised, $75,000 would go directly to Warren’s campaign, while $25,000 would pay for online ads in Massachusetts promoting the draft effort.

Brown has shown some concern about facing Warren; his office commissioned an internal poll that showed him winning a landslide against her. The timing of the poll seems clearly intended to nudge her away from a run by making it look like she’ll have to climb a political mountain to get there. Some Democrats scoffed at the poll, but it reflects what Kornacki has been saying: the Democratic primary field for that seat is crowded and Brown is polling well and has $10 million in the bank. “It’s hard to see a Senate race being anything but frustrating for her,” he wrote in May.

Ezra Klein’s instincts were the opposite of Kornacki’s, but both were writing while there was still some chance Warren would head the CFPB—perhaps, at last resort, through a recess appointment. That is no longer on the table. Plus, as one Democratic strategist told the Boston Herald, “She can raise money nationally. If she gets in, the money that will come into the race on the Scott Brown side will be astounding.”

My sense, though, is that Massachusetts Republican chairwoman Jennifer Nassour’s line of attack is probably on the money: “If the Massachusetts Democratic primary were decided by Washington insiders and policy wonks in ivory towers, Professor Warren would likely be the front-runner.”

A Harvard professor-turned-political activist doesn’t make the strongest candidate anywhere, even Massachusetts. There were many reasons for Scott Brown’s victory in 2010, but his pickup truck campaign appeared infinitely more in touch with the state’s voters than his opponent’s grumbling entitlement. Warren may learn from Martha Coakley’s mistakes, but perhaps the best lesson she could learn is not to challenge Scott Brown.

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Newest Conspiracy Theory: Christian Manchurian Candidates

We don’t know yet whether Rick Perry will ultimately be the Republican who faces off against Barack Obama next year. But he is the subject of a conspiracy theory that bears a strange resemblance to the ones that some on the right have put forward against the president. While some liberals are wasting their time trying to argue that he should get no credit for Texas’ booming economy, others are honing in on Perry’s least attractive characteristic from the liberal frame of reference: his stance as a devout and very public Christian.

For the Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg, it isn’t enough to slam Perry for taking the separation of church and state too lightly. Instead, she attempts to link him to various church groups and beliefs that she claims are the Christian equivalent of Islamists. In this reading Perry isn’t merely an over-the-top evangelical, he is part of  “Christian Plot” to take over the country and impose a theocracy. This goes beyond the now typical liberal trope of smearing opponents such as the Tea Party as “terrorists” for their tactics. For the Daily Beast, Perry and Michele Bachmann are part of a fantastic conspiracy theory to do nothing less than destroy American democracy.

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We don’t know yet whether Rick Perry will ultimately be the Republican who faces off against Barack Obama next year. But he is the subject of a conspiracy theory that bears a strange resemblance to the ones that some on the right have put forward against the president. While some liberals are wasting their time trying to argue that he should get no credit for Texas’ booming economy, others are honing in on Perry’s least attractive characteristic from the liberal frame of reference: his stance as a devout and very public Christian.

For the Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg, it isn’t enough to slam Perry for taking the separation of church and state too lightly. Instead, she attempts to link him to various church groups and beliefs that she claims are the Christian equivalent of Islamists. In this reading Perry isn’t merely an over-the-top evangelical, he is part of  “Christian Plot” to take over the country and impose a theocracy. This goes beyond the now typical liberal trope of smearing opponents such as the Tea Party as “terrorists” for their tactics. For the Daily Beast, Perry and Michele Bachmann are part of a fantastic conspiracy theory to do nothing less than destroy American democracy.

Goldberg echoes a theme taken up by Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker’s scathing profile of Bachmann in which he attempted to conflate the candidate’s beliefs with those of various teachers and writers she has either encountered or befriended over the years. Gold berg does the same with Perry upon whom she tries to make him responsible for everything said or written by any pastor who ever prayed over him.

Goldberg’s point is that both Perry and Bachmann are closet adherents to Dominionism, a theory that holds that Christians have a duty to bring their faith with them not only into the public square but also into public office where their values and beliefs must infuse every act of government. Interpreted in a more benign manner, one could view this as a mission to fuse spiritual values with public policy. But since from the left’s frame of reference evangelicals are, by definition not benign, such beliefs are painted as nothing less than a call for theocracy.

Let’s stipulate first that there is nothing in their long record of public service that either Bachmann or Perry has done to make anyone believe they want a theocracy. Let’s also stipulate that trying to hold politicians responsible for the beliefs of every religious leader they are in any way associated with is not something that liberals believed was appropriate during the last presidential election cycle. Barack Obama sat in Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s church for 20 years listening to radical anti-American sermons but to even raise this as a question was considered to be in bad taste in 2008.

It would be one thing if Perry could actually be shown to be directly part of a radical Christian theocrat group in the way that Obama was associated with Wright. But working off of a piece on a similar theme previously published in the Texas Observer, the best Goldberg can do to prove her thesis is to note that several pastors associated with a movement that she calls theocratic were part of Perry’s national prayer day gathering in Houston last week. While that event was rightly criticized for its non-ecumenical makeup, it was no threat to democracy or even the separation of church and state.

Whether those pastors can fairly be labeled the moral equivalent of Islamists is debatae. Considering that they have murdered no one and have done nothing that anyone has reported to actually undermine our democracy the charge seems to have more to do with distaste for their faith than any actual threat to American liberty

But to jump from that unsubstantiated claim to one in which either Perry or Bachmann can be seen as a sort of Manchurian Candidate covertly acting at the behest of these radicals who would impose a radical Christian theocracy on America is more than merely an absurd smear. It is, in fact, the moral equivalent of those on the right who persist in seeing Barack Obama as another “Candidate” who wants to impose Islam on the country.

Rather than worrying about Christians plotting to take over America, we ought to be more concerned with liberal journalists resorting to religious bigotry to smear conservatives.

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Re: Rick Perry’s Serious Unforced Error

I agree with John’s post about Rick Perry’s statement about Ben Bernanke about entirely. People shouldn’t throw around the words “almost treasonous” loosely; and certainly a person running for president shouldn’t do such a thing. To say someone is treasonous means he is a traitor to his country. In the long catalogue of crimes an individual can commit, there are not many that are worse than treason.

While I don’t pretend to be an expert on monetary policy, I do find persuasive the case laid out by the businessman and investor whom Bill Kristol and John cite. Other economists whom I respect share these concerns. But Perry should offer a substantive critique of Bernanke’s policies, not libel the man. What Governor Perry said is part of a broader pattern we find ourselves in these days. One side accuses the other of being terrorists or treasonous, of patterning themselves after al Qaeda or the Nazis. Whatever is driving these outbursts — whether it’s evidence of rage or shallow thinking or something else — it’s not helpful to our country.

Governor Perry’s announcement over the weekend was skillfully orchestrated, and he looks to be a man in possession of some impressive political skills. But what the Texas governor said about the Federal Reserve chairman is the kind of blustering, unthinking comment that Perry’s critics expect of him. Why he would play to stereotype is hard to fathom. Or, perhaps he’s simply being himself. We’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime Perry ought to offer a retraction and apology — and then offer a serious intellectual critique of why he believes Ben Bernanke is pursuing injurious policies.

I agree with John’s post about Rick Perry’s statement about Ben Bernanke about entirely. People shouldn’t throw around the words “almost treasonous” loosely; and certainly a person running for president shouldn’t do such a thing. To say someone is treasonous means he is a traitor to his country. In the long catalogue of crimes an individual can commit, there are not many that are worse than treason.

While I don’t pretend to be an expert on monetary policy, I do find persuasive the case laid out by the businessman and investor whom Bill Kristol and John cite. Other economists whom I respect share these concerns. But Perry should offer a substantive critique of Bernanke’s policies, not libel the man. What Governor Perry said is part of a broader pattern we find ourselves in these days. One side accuses the other of being terrorists or treasonous, of patterning themselves after al Qaeda or the Nazis. Whatever is driving these outbursts — whether it’s evidence of rage or shallow thinking or something else — it’s not helpful to our country.

Governor Perry’s announcement over the weekend was skillfully orchestrated, and he looks to be a man in possession of some impressive political skills. But what the Texas governor said about the Federal Reserve chairman is the kind of blustering, unthinking comment that Perry’s critics expect of him. Why he would play to stereotype is hard to fathom. Or, perhaps he’s simply being himself. We’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime Perry ought to offer a retraction and apology — and then offer a serious intellectual critique of why he believes Ben Bernanke is pursuing injurious policies.

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