Sorry I’ve been a bit absent. I’m very busy, and also very discouraged. The Democratic nomination process is still a mess. The situation in Iraq is deteriorating. Civil liberties are still eroding. George Bush is still President. What else is new?

The Rev. Wright story won’t go away. Apparently the Rev. has made some public appearances that made him look crazier and, by association, Senator Obama look worse. The wingnuts, the Clintonistas and the media generally are eating it up. Conventional wisdom is shaping up that Obama had better make another statement about Wright that puts more distance between them. I don’t have much else to say that Steve Benen didn’t say already.

While American media obsesses about the Wright non-issue, the rest of the world is still reeling from Hillary Clinton’s outrageously irresponsible threat to “totally obliterate” Iran if Iran attacked Israel. Bill Kristol reveals the GOP’s Dem nominee preference by praising Hillary Clinton. See also Gary Younge, “Hillary has cynically turned to the one argument she has left: race.”

Here is a terribly sad story in today’s New York Times. Right-wing bigots are doing everything they can to alienate Muslim Americans and push them toward becoming jihadists.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, critics of radical Islam focused largely on terrorism, scrutinizing Muslim-American charities or asserting links between Muslim organizations and violent groups like Hamas. But as the authorities have stepped up the war on terror, those critics have shifted their gaze to a new frontier, what they describe as law-abiding Muslim-Americans who are imposing their religious values in the public domain.

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

The danger, Mr. Pipes says, is that the United States stands to become another England or France, a place where Muslims are balkanized and ultimately threaten to impose sharia.

So his answer to this is to balkanize and marginalize Muslim Americans and make them feel like strangers in their own country. Brilliant.

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

Mr. Pipes refers to this new enemy as the “lawful Islamists.”

First of all, this ought to demonstrate for the dittoheads why separation of church and state is important. As long as the establishment clause of the Constitution is in effect and extended (through the 14th Amendment) to apply to the states, “sharia law” could not be imposed on American citizens even if a Muslim majority were around to impose it. But since we’re talking about the same clueless wonders who think that “separation of church and state” is a liberal plot to destroy Jesus, I suppose we’re asking to much to get them to, you know, think.

This reminds me of an article by James Fallows in the September 2006 Atlantic, “Declaring Victory.” Fallows interviewed several antiterrorism experts, and some said one of the reasons there has been no serious acts of Islamic terrorism in the U.S. since 9/11 is that Muslim Americans are not, on the whole, interested.

The dispersed nature of the new al-Qaeda creates other difficulties for potential terrorists. For one, the recruitment of self-starter cells within the United States is thought to have failed so far. Spain, England, France, and the Netherlands are among the countries alarmed to find Islamic extremists among people whose families have lived in Europe for two or three generations. “The patriotism of the American Muslim community has been grossly underreported,” says Marc Sageman, who has studied the process by which people decide to join or leave terrorist networks. According to Daniel Benjamin, a former official on the National Security Council and coauthor of The Next Attack, Muslims in America “have been our first line of defense.” Even though many have been “unnerved by a law-enforcement approach that might have been inevitable but was still disturbing,” the community has been “pretty much immune to the jihadist virus.”

Something about the Arab and Muslim immigrants who have come to America, or about their absorption here, has made them basically similar to other well-assimilated American ethnic groups–and basically different from the estranged Muslim underclass of much of Europe. Sageman points out that western European countries, taken together, have slightly more than twice as large a Muslim population as does the United States (roughly 6 million in the United States, versus 6 million in France, 3 million in Germany, 2 million in the United Kingdom, more than a million in Italy, and several million elsewhere). But most measures of Muslim disaffection or upheaval in Europe–arrests, riots, violence based on religion–show it to be ten to fifty times worse than here.

The median income of Muslims in France, Germany, and Britain is lower than that of people in those countries as a whole. The median income of Arab Americans (many of whom are Christians originally from Lebanon) is actually higher than the overall American one. So are their business-ownership rate and their possession of college and graduate degrees. The same is true of most other groups who have been here for several generations, a fact that in turn underscores the normality of the Arab and Muslim experience. The difference between the European and American assimilation of Muslims becomes most apparent in the second generation, when American Muslims are culturally and economically Americanized and many European Muslims often develop a sharper sense of alienation. “If you ask a second-generation American Muslim,” says Robert Leiken, author of Bearers of Global Jihad: Immigration and National Security After 9/11, “he will say, ‘I’m an American and a Muslim.’ A second-generation Turk in Germany is a Turk, and a French Moroccan doesn’t know what he is.”

However, leave it to the usual knuckleheads on the Right to do what al Qaeda couldn’t — turn Muslim Americans into jihadists.

See also “Obama Team Remains Unshaken.”

23 thoughts on “Discouraged

  1. I am really in a bad mood; and, will try to not take my anger out on any one here. But, I am tired of dealing with idiots. Erica Jong has a good article at Common Dreams talking about Bill Moyers’ interview of Jeremiah Wright; the link is:


    Her best comments are as follows:

    “Our idiotic press prefers to play orphaned excerpts and force Barack Obama to apologize for words he never spoke. What is this apology stuff? Everyone has to apologize for their pastors, their doctors, their mothers, their fathers, their churches, their social affiliations. Why? Apologies are cheap. Inspiration is hard to find.

    Just because a man is inspired by his pastor doesn’t mean he agrees with every word his pastor says. Duh. Even a moron knows that. But inspiration remains important. And you will never be inspired by running stuff out of context and playing gotcha.

    Our press has become a sea of triviality, meanness and irrelevant chatter.” In the words of Edith-Ann, “and, that’s the truth!”

    Let’s move on, every one. If Hillary and Obama burn each other up, let’s have John Edwards for our candidate.

  2. Barbara –

    I understand that you might be discouraged. We have not lived in times this dark since Nixon was in the WH. But I found a lot of reason for hope – without looking beyond your post. You know I was unhappy thet Congress did not shut down the war a year ago. Like it or not, it’s a major campaing issue, and it’s not going well. Bad news about the war is good news for the election.

    The economy sucks. Well, Bush dismantled all the regulation & oversight and we have toxic toys and the housing market and banking in a shambles. It will behard to blame on the Dems & the argument against federal regulation will be hard to make.

    Oil prices and oil profits are way up, and the Republicans are eager to defend tax breaks and subsidies to the oil companies. Righties are trying to spin this into an argument to drill the Gulf and Arctic, but I do not think that dog will hunt, either.

    I am really looking forward to the Obama McCain debates. IMO, the contrasts will be staggering and Obama can make persuasive arguments on all the major issues. And the circumstances of all the major issues, favor Obama. I am not callng the election a done deal – there’s a lot of campaigning between now & November.

    But I am more optimistic than I have been in a lot of years.

    Cheer up, my friend.

  3. Honestly, Maha, my feelings are that Reverend Wright is doing exactly what needs to be done.

    If he can destroy Obama, then he”d already done it before now. If he can’t, if people can listen and learn that he’s not the demon they think he is, then he has to be public.

    Obama can’t win this by hiding part of what he is. They’re already playing that game, trying to turn what he is into some awful caricature. “He can’t care about you because he mentions the price of arugula!” and bullshit like that. And the fact of the matter is, Wright was his pastor for 20 years. Continued association with Wright is part of what makes Obama Obama.

    I’m going to hate it if he loses, especially if he loses over Wright, because I don’t think it’s fair. It’ll make me feel America deserves George W. Bush, because it’s the same forces that gave us Bush that are trying to crush Obama.

    But in all honesty, I think that if this is going to crush him, it should crush him *before* the nomination. And if it doesn’t, I think that the Wright controversy will be that much further in the shadows. People will have decided that they could accept Obama, Wright and all.

    I have hope. Not a lot, but some.

    I see the people jumping on Wright, and they’re saying the same old racist bullshit. They’re not listening to him; they’re not even thinking about him. They’re just hating him because they have an excuse.

    But I’m also seeing people starting to come around, to admit that what he said was worth listening to. He’s changing some people’s minds.

  4. Much of this will be over with in a month or so, when the last primary will be completed, and the two Dems will be forced to make peace with each other. I would love to be a fly on the wall, in whatever dark and smokey room the decision will be made to write the ticket as either Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama. I’d love to see the promises or money that will be exchanged to seal that dark and ugly deal.

    Once unified, I don’t think McCain will be hard to defeat. Not a cakewalk perhaps, but certainly doable. If you think our side says dumb things… Normally the incumbent party jiggers the economy to produce flush times for the election, but I say the economy will be significantly worse by November.

    And yes, the fight will be brutal and vicious. In some ways it’s good that we and our candidates have seen a taste of it already.

    The real challenge will begin on January 20, 2009. This to me is the occasion to be really depressed about. One day of celebration – we threw the fascists out – followed by the worst hangover imaginable, as the truth of our situation hopefully becomes evident, assuming we have a President perceptive enough to see what’s going on and honest enough to be straight with us. Hopefully the Democratic winner will be able to put the brakes to the worst of a generation of conservative abuses, but I have no illusions about where our country is and its prognosis. As someone said today, whoever wins in November could be winning the biggest booby prize ever.

    As for the moronic press, I don’t watch TV and rarely see a paper or even pay much attention to the MSM’s outlets on the internet. I don’t get caught up in the day to day froth – which is only going to get worse – and instead try to keep focused on the big picture, as well as the minor task, travails, and joys of the day to day. The fact that our media is so corrupt and moronic is a symptom of how sick our country really is, and I have no need to steer into that certified cesspool. The more energy that goes into creating a fiction and selling it to the masses, says all you need to know about how serious and shameful our problems really are.

  5. Maha, you are always my first stop online, and that is because I trust your take on issues more than that of any other blogger. Sanity reigns and remains at the Mahablog and that is partly due to your firm approach to comments, as well. You brook no nonsense from strolling flamers.

    As well, I trust my first waking thoughts and impressions at that moment of dawn when my brain is poised between right and left hemispheres. This morning, I awoke with a deeply relieved realization/understanding: The Rev. Wright issue will be a key lever in providing a great service to raise the level of American thought………much as [and dovetailing with the fact that] Obama has raised that level by treating voters as, er, adults.

    We who have long recognized and watched and lamented the dumbing down unchecked power of the corporate media are going to be watching that power receive its karmic cleansing [in full view of the public who has been subjects of that unchecked power]. Here a perfect situation is unfolding. The media, soon after executing its usual and thorough hit job on someone [the grossly untrue manufactured, by selective editing, characterization of Rev. Wright generated 3,000+ stories] now faces, while that issue is still hotly front and center, the instance of the Rev. himself going public and proving to be so very much the opposite of the poison penned about him. Yes, there will be lots who have swallowed that poison who will struggle to hold onto that poison running inside their souls, because it helps them stay hateful [which feels like being powerful]. But, Maha, the media tried to poison folks about a man who is actually amazingly God centered, amazingly articulate, and amazingly charismatic himself, not to mention thoroughly a patriot.
    I watched a clip yesterday of a Catholic priest defending Wright against the inanity of a reporter who works for Fox News’ O’Reilly. That reporter was so blatantly stupid in trying to get a ‘quote’ from that priest which could be used by O’Reilly…….but the reporter himself was no match for that articulate priest.

    In short, we will be seeing a lot of powerful folks, especially religious leaders speaking out now that Rev. Wright has been on Moyers show and given his Detroit speech, and done that press conference. The wheat will be separated from the chaff.

  6. Great post, Maha. It made me think of something that’s been on and off in my mind for a while. I don’t read blogs that often, but it seems that there an awful lot of blogs like TalkLeft and NoQuarter and Tennessee Guerilla Women, that have just gone off the reservation as far as Obama goes. I used to trust them, but now they’ve become almost toxic. And yet, they also make a lot of good points — like the misogyny that’s rampant in the media whenever they talk about Hillary. Yet they fail to see how the negativity has been led by the Clintons.

    I was wondering what your thought on this were? Do you give any credence to their claim that Obama has injected race into the campaign, and that he has used the right-wing argument against Hillary, that she will do or say anything to win?

  7. I wish I could be like Moonbat and not watch TV but I can’t. At least I discipline myself.
    As far as Rev. Wright coming out and proving himself to be articulate, charismatic, etc. I can’t see it. True, I just watched part of what he put forth but my impression is he is performing, wants his 15 min. of fame and I wish he would go away. I’m not impressed. He’s not doing all this to help Obama and I honestly don’t know if it helps or hurts but this is not an issue I want explored in the election process.

  8. I have to disagree about the Rev. Wright looking “crazier.”
    I’ve had a couple of friends who said that if he were their pastor, they’d consider going to church again. (Jon Stewart said something similar on the Daily Show last night.)
    I think that his appearances (though I would have preferred that he stop with the Moyers interview) have diffused the “controversy” somewhat. The guy was entertaining and that became obvious.
    And I loved the things he said about “the people who took us into this war” never having served.

  9. Donna, I so hope you’re right. It is frightening that the side of good could still easily blow it. Nonetheless, I saw that same brilliant clip of the Catholic priest defending Wright – many more need to see this, I think there is a link to it in Avedon’s blog from a few days/a week ago.

  10. You say you’ve been busy, so I assume you haven’t actually listened to or seen the National Press Club speech and Q&A. Links here.

    Wright is being excoriated by a press that refuses to share the context of his remarks. This is journalistic malpractice. As for Bob Herbert and Eugene Robinson Jr., given their columns today I am very much ashamed for them.

    Three cheers for the Rev. Wright! Just because it’s impossible to get air time to say what he’s been saying doesn’t mean it isn’t all true, every word of it.

    Hell, If I keep watching his speeches and sermons, I might even come back to the church.

  11. Well Obama came out and threw Wright under the bus (rightly so in my opinion). While I agree with much of what Wright says, he should not be saying it now and with such a reckless delivery that is so easily pick over and misused by the racist Zionist corporate media. Electing Obama is not going to be easy, he pretty much has every special interest against him, it would be the safe bet for us democrats to just back HRC and move on. But that would be giving in to the establishment corporate and media interests. I’m a liberal and am not going to give one inch, if Obama goes down then so be it. I’ll just look for Naders name on the ballot, and if it’s not there then?

  12. Bob Herbert has it exactly right. Wright is a narcissist who is using his sudden media attention to show that he can hurt Obama. It is hard to read his NPC transcript and conclude anything other than he is also a crackpot and a racist. Well, congratulations to him: he has sunk Obama and set back race relations. Mission accomplished.

    Anyone who cheers this malicious, self-aggrandizing person is the one who should be ashamed.

  13. Eh, no need for discouragement, I think.

    If Obama manages to win IN on May 6, the primaries will be effectively over then. If not, they will be over within a month.

    Right now, at this moment, Obama is being attacked by a unified and encouraged Vast Right Wing Hate Machine, AND by the HRC campaign and all her supporters, AND by a MSM which is following its usual pattern of “build the guy up, then tear him down again”. All of those factions are ALSO currently praising and defending both HRC and McCain. Obama can’t even depend on the democratic establishment to defend him, because they have to pretend to be neutral between him and HRC. With the forces against him, he SHOULD be getting slaughtered, and yet he’s still doing remarkably well, polling even or better against both HRC and McCain.

    Once HRC finally goes down, it will take a little while, but the democratic party WILL unify again (with probably a few inevitable holdouts, but mostly). The entire democratic leadership, establishment, and base will be defending and supporting him, ands within a few months the press will be in a new cycle. Since they are currently in the “build the guy up” phase for McCain, they’ll eventually get into the “tear the guy down” stage, which will most likely necessitate at least more fair handling of Obama.

    I think this, right now, right before NC and IN primaries, is Obama’s darkest hour … and it’s really not all that dark.


  14. Here are my two cents:

    First of all (and this is why the media has become so idiotic in recent years) this whole thing is meaningless. Not to sound like Ron Paul – but have you read the constitution? People are aware it makes it pretty clear that religion should play no part in the Presidential election process right? What Obama provides myself and many people like me is inspiration. He is the perfect representation of what I think of as an American in todays age: multi racial, rational. secularist, and above all open minded and tolerant. People in the media appear to be somewhat afraid of having to improve the level of discussion to the level Obama will bring.

    The second thing I feel compelled to write about is Las Vegas, where I am attending the American Planning Association national conference. Now, given my rural background I have never been to this cartoon city, but this is a place Americans flock to like Mecca. Obviously the buildings are utterly beyond tacky and the place is meant to trick as much money out of our wallets as it can. The point that is relevant to this discussion is this: if Las Vegas is considered a nice vacation spot by typical midwestern folk – all of whom appear to be offended by Wright’s words – are these people even intelligent enough to merit an opinion? This city is a cesspool and I’m looking forward to the end of the conference on Thursday.

    As always Barbara your comments are spot on, thanks.

  15. Barbara, you never disappoint. I saw the same story in the NYT today and, for reasons I can’t explain, decided to wander by. Bang! There you are, dissecting it and peeling back the multiple layers of racism and bigotry and manifest stupidity.

    Bravo, Barbara! Spot on and perfectly said!

  16. In re: separation of church & state, if there was a Muslim majority in America, how long do you think it would take for them to change that? Just sayin’…

  17. Connie, dear, it takes more than a simple majority to amend the Constitution. And, anyway, if we’ve managed to hang on to the establishment clause (by a thread, at times) for 217 years, in spite of the nearly constant efforts by conservative Christians to destroy it, I’m not too worried about Muslims.

  18. Hey swami give the mahablog some words.

    I think this will be a defining election. This year will tell all. Who we let win will expose our soul. No hiding after this………hello.

  19. Too bad Obama made the mistake of responding about Wright’s recent comments.. The whole Wright nonsense can only survive with Obama’s participation( and he just accommodated the nonsense). Obama made a clean break from the political tar baby… but he went back to get soiled in an effort to stay clean, and in doing so he inadvertently claimed a responsibility for Wright’s views by renouncing them.

  20. “I think this, right now, right before NC. And Indiana is Obamas darkest hour. And it is not really all that dark.”

    Comment by Ian!

    Does it really matter if Obama wins? The MSM have laid down the markers. It comes down to the state of Indiana. We will decide if we have a soul. Indiana will decide who us liberals believe in. Indiana is a red state but we will decide who becomes blue. Don’t blame us 40 states have come before, if you wanted a liberal you would have said so.

    My best guess us Hoosiers are Hill by 5%. Why because of the Zion racist corporate cable media.

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