City of Brass

The Republicans are furious with President Bush for agreeing to use TARP funds to bail out the auto industry:

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), one of the architects of the $700 billion
Wall Street bailout, thinks Bush may be skirting the Troubled Asset
Relief Program rules.

“These funds were not authorized by Congress for non-financial
companies in distress,” Gregg said, “but were to be used to restore
liquidity and stability in the overall financial system of the country
and to help prevent fundamental systemic risks in the global

McConnell said he realized the Bush auto bailout was coming, and is insisting more strings be attached.

“I have strong objections to the use of Troubled Assets Relief Program
(TARP) funds for industry specific bailouts. And I do not support this
action,” McConnell said. “But since the administration has chosen to
use these funds to aid the automakers, it is important that the
date-specific requirements on all the stakeholders be enforced.”

House conservatives are railing against the bailout, but it’s clearly too little too late.

“Using TARP funds to bail out failing companies is incredibly risky and
poor public policy, and was not the designated intention of the program
when Congress approved it,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), a
leading voice for House conservatives. “I fear that a devastating
precedent has been set that the federal government will now be
pressured to bail out every failing company in America — something that
taxpayers and future generations cannot afford.”

Interesting how when it’s a middle class, blue-collar industry like the auto workers on the line, these Republicans fall over themselves to portray it as the end of the fiscal universe. But when it comes to big banks and financial executives, they sang a different tune.

At any rate, House Republicans have only themselves to blame; they could have worked to pass the auto industry loan package – a package that was VERY strict indeed and used no new funds only re-allocated funds that the automakers were going to get anyway for various environmental initiatives. Instead the GOP scuttled that deal for essentially trivial quibbles over policy: As Kevin Drum says,

This is nuts. If you’re just flatly against the bailout, fine. Vote
against it. But if the wage cuts, along with the debt-for-equity swap
that was also part of the bill, were enough to bring you around, why
would you cavil at the cuts happening in 2011 instead of the end of
2009? It’s only about an 18 month difference, and cutting wages makes a
lot more sense in 2011 than it does in the middle of a massive
recession anyway.

Another shining moment in the history of the modern GOP. Ideology uber alles.

Given how petty their reasoning was in walking away from last week’s legislation, crying about using TARP funds now is just childish. This is why the Republicans are out of power and in the political wilderness – all they have to offer is mindless ideological obstruction rather than any coherent desire to sit down and make the compromises needed to move things forward.

Related – NYT article about the loan that the GOP refused last week for the automakers.

We are having a fascinating debate at Talk Islam, relating to whether muslims in America are morally culpable for the actions of our nation when those actions result in the deaths of innocent muslims. The argument is that muslims are forbidden from killing other muslims, and there have been many innocent muslim victims of the War on Terror (collateral damage, wrongly accused in Abu Ghraib, etc). I take issue with this however and argue that the proscription against killing muslims is irrelevant in this case. Take a look at the thread for the details.

This is the inaugural video for Queen Rania’s YouTube channel. Her purpose is to invite people to send her stereotypes so she can talk about them. Her work on building these bridges is why she was awarded the YouTube Visionary Award.

Watch the video. And pay attention to what she’s saying. I know it’s difficult 🙂

Rick Warren is not your typical Christian evangelist pastor. Still, according to progressive left standards, he’s persona non grata for his views on homosexuality (identical to Obama’s himself). Obama’s decision to invite Warren to give the invocation at the Inauguration in January has therefore rubbed a lot of progressive feathers the wrong way:

Barack Obama’s choice of a prominent evangelical minister to perform
the invocation at his inauguration is a conciliatory gesture toward
social conservatives who opposed him in November, but it is drawing
fierce challenges from a gay rights movement that – in the wake of a
gay marriage ban in California – is looking for a fight.

Rick Warren, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church in southern
California, opposes abortion rights but has taken more liberal stances
on the government role in fighting poverty, and backed away from other
evangelicals’ staunch support for economic conservatism. But it’s his
support for the California constitutional amendment to ban same-sex
marriage that drew the most heated criticism from Democrats Wednesday.
Obama opposes same-sex marriage, but also opposed the California
constitutional amendment Warren backed. In selecting Warren, he is
choosing to reach out to conservatives on a hot-button social issue, at
the cost of antagonizing gay voters who overwhelmingly supported him.
“It’s a huge mistake,” said California gay rights activist Rick Jacobs,
who chairs the state’s Courage Campaign. “He’s really the wrong person
to lead the president into office.

“Can you imagine if he had a man of God doing the invocation who had
deliberately said that Jews are not going to be saved and therefore
should be excluded from what’s going on in America? People would be up
in arms,” he said.

The problem with the logic of the gay lobby here is that Proposition 8 was not even remotely comparable to anti-Semitism. Proponents of gay marriage often make the fallacious comparison to civil rights when arguing for gay marriage, but the simple truth is that civil unions provide the equality that they seek in their legal relationships. The gay lobby is simply pushing against the grain by insisting that civil unions be legally labeled “marriage” when in fact they would have every right that married heterosexual couples enjoy under civil unions. Insisting on the label has nothing to do with being denied those rights, but everything to do with provoking backlash and in effect slowing down acceptance of gay marriage in the mainstream. Comparing their push fo rgay marriage to the civil rights struggle – with Jim Crow, the Klan, and the Freedom Ride – is just tone-deaf and insulting to the memory of people who fought against genuine evil for freedom.

Rick Warren’s position on gay marriage is perhaps not “progressive” but progressives need to understand that they are  far outside the mainstream, center-left majority. It’s a foolish waste of their political capital to insist that Obama make any accomodation to their entire platform, just because Obama is “progressive” on some issues.

As far as Obama’s decision goes, it is indeed a olive branch to social conservatives but it is also a slap in the face of the old-guard conservative evangelist leadership:

If you followed the internal politics of evangelical and fundamentalist
leaders, you’d see this for what it is–not an elevation of Warren, but
a slap in the face of the old guard leaders like Dobson and LaHaye.
They’ve been fighting to see who gets to be the spokesman for the
movement, and lately it’s been a tie. Obama just broke it.

And let’s be clear, there is a difference between those groups.
Warren may not be progressive on gay rights, but he’s been out front on
a number of issues of global justice–traveling from Davos to Damascus,
and working hard to get rank-and-file evangelicals invested in
“creation care” environmentalism and the fight against global HIV/AIDS.

If he were put in charge of HHS
or listened to on gay policies, I’d be pissed. But what Obama is doing
here isn’t that. It’s a move that marginalizes the worst on the
religious right, elevates a guy who’s more progressive than most
religious leaders on a number of issues, and earns him some moderate
cred at the outset.

Steven Waldman also makes an impassioned case for Rick Warren :

First, Warren has used his fame and fortune primarily to help the
most destitute people in the world. He reverse tithes, giving away 90%
and keeping 10%. Please contemplate all the religious figures who have
gotten rich off their flock and pocketed the money. Who among you
reverse tithe or would if you were rich? I know I don’t, and every time
I think about what Warren has done it makes me question whether I’m
giving enough. That is a Christ-like example.

Second, he’s worked hard to get other conservative evangelicals to
care more about poverty. Some on the left had hopes that Warren would
somehow move evangelicals to the left on social issues. They were
confusing temperamental with political moderation. Just because Warren
is a nice guy, greets you with a hug, used to wear Hawaiian shirts, and
cares about the poor, doesn’t mean he’s a political liberal or even
moderate. He’s not. But it’s in part because he’s conservative on everything else that his views on poverty carry such weight in the evangelical community.

Third, he has voiced his own spiritual doubts.
This is hugely important. So many religious leaders view expressions of
doubt as signs of weakness at best and heresy at worst. By admitting
his own doubts, and explaining how he worked through them, Warren gives
permission to the rest of us to have an intellectually honest spiritual

A lot of this, especially the reverse tithe, is something that you would think liberals (and especially progressives, who usually are more diligent about helping the poor than mainstream liberals) would laud Warren for.

All that said and done, on balance I have to take issue with Warren’s selection, solely because Warren has demonstrated the kind of blind sterptype about the muslim world that is frankly dangerous to our national interest. I am speaking specifically of Warren’s endorsement of assassinating the President of Iran:

Hannity: Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, wants to wipe Israel off the map, is seeking nuclear weapons…I think we need to take him out.


HANNITY: Am I advocating something dark, evil, or something righteous?

WARREN: Well, actually, the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with. It has to just be stopped. And I believe…

HANNITY: By force?

WARREN: Well, if necessary. In fact, that is the legitimate role of government. The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers

This is really quite ignorant and borderline Islamophobic. Given that Obama will wisely be pursuing the carrot and stick approach with Iran – including a nuclear umbrella for Israel, as deterrence – Warren’s invocation sends a signal that such rhetoric remains acceptable in American discourse and politics. Labeling Iran as evil is straight out of the Bush foreign policy playbook, after all.

It seems that Rick Warren’s invocation will be a slap in the face to two different kinds of mullahs.

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