Two Beers and Terra Firma

Thomas Frank, in my view the smartest cultural commentator with a regular column, leaves the WSJ.  He founded the Baffler, a cutting edge leftie magazine, but with great writing.

As the right howled “socialism,” President Obama took pains to demonstrate his loyalty to the exhausted free-market faith. On trade issues and matters of economic staffing, he loudly signalled continuity with the discredited past. On the all-important issue of regulatory misbehavior—a natural for good-government types—he has done virtually nothing.

The real audacity has all been on the other side. Many Republicans chose to respond to the crisis not by renouncing the consensus faith of the last 30 years but by doubling down on it, calling for more deregulation, more war on government.

That they have partially succeeded with such a strategy in these years of financial crisis, mine disasters, and oil spills is testimony to their political brilliance—and to Democratic dysfunction. As is the burgeoning populist movement that now stands beside the GOP, transforming anger over unemployment into anger over the auto bailout and the good pensions enjoyed by public workers.

He’s moving to Harper’s.  Of course, he was one of the few columnists who drove conservatives absolutely livid with rage.

Notes on the Cultural Center

Over the last few months the construction of a cultural center has taken a lot of press time.  Abdul Rauf is going to found Cordoba house.  Abdul Rauf has served the US under the Bush Administration by going throughout the world telling how Muslims enjoy rights in this country.   Cordoba refers to a time in the Muslim world of great intellectual ferment, of an empire where religious differences were treated with some tolerance.

Trinity Church has, rightly, expressed support for the cultural center; Mayor Bloomberg gave an impassioned and brilliant speech expressing the importance of religious liberty.

Obama, Bloomberg and Nadler acknowledge that this is also an issue of property rights, that government officials should not use a heavy hand to cloak any sort of bigotry.

Of course, there is some bleating about and sensitivity and wisdom, but Krugman demonstrates the problem with that argument.

Second, the opposition seems to imply that Islam is a crucial aspect of terror and violence.  This is a complicated assertion.  Muslims, empirically speaking, have never had a monopoly on violence.   Both Muslims and Christians an ambivalence toward weakness.   A more precise question is:  what will this community center teach?

It’s useful to affirm that for some, the cultural center provides a lot of political fodder.  Those who oppose it benefit from stirring up passions and fears.  They strengthen their sway and authority by bravely protesting inconsequential projects, puffing themselves up as saviors and defenders of piety.

And I doubt that this is really about proximity to the World Trade Center.  All over the country people are opposing the construction of Mosques.  It’s fear, plain and simple.

Bashraat Peer wrote an article that describes, in detail, persons in the narrative.   Michael Kinsley writesIs there any reason to oppose the mosque that isn’t bigoted, or demagogic, or unconstitutional? None that I’ve heard or read.”

What is not understood is that by enabling tolerance, we represent a way of living together that is still new to some Muslim countries.   By seeking understanding, perhaps others will also seek to understand.