Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mark Green: 'But' Nothing: Why the Right to Build a Mosque Trumps the "Heckler's Veto"

Mark Green: 'But' Nothing: Why the Right to Build a Mosque Trumps the "Heckler's Veto": "

Many of those opposed to the proposed Islamic cultural center (and mosque within) say they're all for religious freedom -- and then comes the 'but.' But not Islam. But not there. But not if it offends 9/11 families.

'But' is un-American.

The entire point of the First Amendment's protections of freedom of speech, assembly and religion is that these rights can't be restricted based on their substance. Of course there are 'time, place and manner' restrictions on speech and prayer -- so people are not entitled to talk at 120 decibels in a residential neighborhood no matter their religion or views. Zoning laws can prohibit incompatible or dangerous activities, like a liquor store near a school. And obviously government can punish the bad conduct of anyone claiming to act in the name of a religion or group: For example, would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad or anyone conspiring with him.
What we cannot do, however, is condition speech or religion based on its content. That's the bedrock of the First Amendment.
Going further, courts have ruled against what's called the 'heckler's veto.' Whether a speaker is, say, for or against birthright citizenship, an audience member cannot shout him or her down; otherwise, speech would be contingent on the whim of any mob or critic. So, as painful as it was, our laws permitted Nazis to march though a community of Holocaust survivors near Skokie, Illinois in 1978.
Which brings us back to 'but.'

The opponents of the Park51 project claim this is not about rights -- it's about the difference between 'right and wrong.'

However, no group or momentary majority can be allowed to veto another's right, as Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in the protracted battle over same-sex marriage in California. If the proposed Islamic center is effectively shouted down because it's unpopular or the murderous acts of a few are attributed to an entire religion, then why can't community sentiment stop any religion with some members who've done awful things? 'But' is the exception that swallows the first amendment's rule.
Nor can there be a 'compromise' because of 9/11. Having been a city-wide official on that calamitous day, I am sensitive to the sensibilities of victims' families; they are sincere and upset. But while buildings fell that morning, our system of constitutional law did not. In America, legal questions are decided by juries or judges, not aggrieved parties.
But -- there's that word again -- what about 'hallowed ground'? Beyond the unarguable reality that the proposed center is north and out of sight of Ground Zero, even that sacred site now has a huge, new commercial building being erected on its footprint. The city could have tried to make the whole area a cemetery to commemorate that day and those deaths. But by rebuilding, Mayor Bloomberg -- and the city as a whole -- instead properly chose to focus on the future of lower Manhattan, not its past.

Frustrated that the law and the facts are not on their side, many prominent conservatives are now resorting to absurd analogies and hysterical assertions. Islam and this planned mosque, however, are not comparable to Nazis, Pearl Harbor, Saudi Arabia, Carmelite nuns at Auschwitz, or liquor stores near schools. When Fox's Glenn Beck declares that after 'you've killed 3000 people, you're going to now build your mosque?', Dick Morris concludes that it will be 'a command center for terrorism', and Sean Hannity nightly attempts to 'Sherrod' the Imam behind it with similar out-of-context attacks, they're all just assuming that those behind the mosque are terrorists. Any serious evidence? None of them has yet to explain why Bush 41's State Department (and now Obama's) chose to send Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to Arab countries because, as a New York Times profile last Sunday documented, his entire life has been as a bridge-building moderate Muslim between East and West.

(That eloquent accelerant, columnist Charles Krauthammer, on Friday finally blamed, of course, 'liberals' for playing the bigotry card. It's a verbal gimmick to blame the mirror for reflecting reality --if it's intolerant to point out intolerance, then civil rights workers in the '60s were apparently the racists.)

Here's the deal -- because of the values of the very first amendment, Fox News and Islam should both be allowed to say and pray as they wish without getting permission from offended dissenters. Curiously, they're alike in that both have about three million American followers as well as lots of angry critics.

Those who have been saying but-not-this-religion now have to be called out for their Muslim McCarthyism. Once again, demagogues and fear-mongers - Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Peter King, Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, Rick Lazio, Rush Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly, Krauthammer, et. al. -- are using guilt-by-association, innuendo, sophistry and sheer lies.

Now as anti-Muslim protests spread around the country far beyond the location of 9/11, two Republicans especially stand out with the potential to shift the axis of debate. With the credibility to have a Nixon-to-China moment.

One is Rupert Murdoch. He has the editorial choice of allowing Fox's slanderous attacks to continue or establishing a more fair and balanced approach that could help calm the hysteria. The other is George W. Bush, who as the President attacking two Muslim nations made clear that America was fighting al Qaeda, not all of Islam. This is the perfect moment for them to speak out and remind everyone why the new World Trade building at Ground Zero will be exactly 1776 feet tall.

Originally posted at

Friday, August 27, 2010

Geoffrey Dunn: AFL-CIO President Compares Palin to Joe McCarthy

Geoffrey Dunn: AFL-CIO President Compares Palin to Joe McCarthy: "

Two years ago this week, at the biennial convention of the Alaska AFL-CIO in Anchorage, then-Governor Sarah Palin was whisked off by her husband to Ted Stevens International Airport for a flight to Arizona, where Palin met, first with senior advisers to Republican presidential nominee John McCain, and finally McCain himself, in a haphazard, slipshod vetting process that resulted in her being selected as McCain's running mate.

Palin was a keynote speaker at the Alaska convention in 2008 and a darling of union leadership, as she used the AFL-CIO convention for a photo-op to sign House Bill 3001, which granted an exclusive pipeline license to Canadian-based TransCanada Corp. -- an agreement which promised, at least on paper, a barrelful of union jobs in the Last Frontier.

Two years later, after her failed bid for the vice-presidency and her abandoned governorship, Palin is a darling no more. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka -- whose speech attacking racism in the 2008 presidential campaign went viral on Youtube -- went after Palin directly today in Anchorage, comparing her to the American right-wing demagogue Joe McCarthy and referencing recent comments Palin had made at the Oil Palace in Tyler, Texas, about union 'thugs' and 'waving the Jones Act.'

Palin, of course, responded with yet another hyperbolic and self-serving posting to her Facebook page, thus elevating Trumka's comments to several spins in the nightly news cycle.

Here are some of the highlights of Trumka's remarks about Palin:

What is this crazy magnet that's pulling people to the right? I mean, look at your former governor... Who is she, anyway? Sarah Palin?

She used to have a job, your governor... You knew her... Or thought you did... I know I thought I did. She seemed like a decent person, an outdoorswoman. Her husband's a steelworker. She seemed to take some OK stands for working families.

And then things got weird. After she tied herself to John McCain and they lost, she blew off Alaska. I guess she figured she'd trade up... shoot for a national stage. Alaska was too far from the FOX TV spotlight.

I bet most of you, on a clear day, can see her hypocrisy from your house.
I think Sarah Palin quit so she wouldn't have to be accountable... so she wouldn't have a record that could be scrutinized...
Instead, she's hanging out on cable TV, almost a parody of herself, coming out with conspiracy theories about Obama and his 'death panels... ' Talking about 'the real America.' Talking about building schools in 'our neighboring country of Afghanistan.' Writing speech notes to herself on her hands.

Sometimes -- about Sarah Palin -- you just have to laugh... But it's not really funny. In this charged political environment, her kind of talk gets dangerous. 'Don't retreat... reload' may seem clever, the kind of bull you hear all the time, but put it in context. She's using crosshairs to illustrate targeted legislators. She's on the wrong side of the line there. She's getting close to calling for violence. And some of her fans take that stuff seriously. We've got legislators in America who have been living with death threats since the health care votes.

And down in Tyler, Texas, she's talking about -- and I quote -- 'union thugs.' What? Her husband's a union man. Is she calling him a thug? Sarah Palin ought to know what union men and women are.

Oh, she goes to great pains to talk differently about unions and the working people who belong to them, knowing full well we're one and the same.

But using the term 'union thug.' That's poisonous. There's history behind that rhetoric. That's how bosses and politicians in decades past justified the terrorizing of workers, the murdering of organizers...

To me, it just doesn't seem OK to go where she's going... It sits wrong with me... The Mama Grizzlies, Sarah Palin says, just sense when something's not right. Well... I wonder if those Mama Grizzlies can sense something's just not right with her.


Award-winning writer and filmmaker Geoffrey Dunn's book The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power will be published by St. Martin's Press.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Weekly Address: No Corporate Takeover of Our Democracy

Weekly Address: No Corporate Takeover of Our Democracy: "

The President calls out Republicans for blocking campaign finance reforms that would address the Supreme Court decision opening the floodgates of corporate money into elections.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chris Weigant: Obama Reframes Mosque Debate

Chris Weigant: Obama Reframes Mosque Debate: "

President Barack Obama, in a White House Ramadan address last Friday, expressed his thoughts on the 'Ground Zero mosque' debate, and in doing so not only got it exactly right, but also managed to change the debate in a considerable way which few have noticed yet. Because in his comments Friday (and in his off-the-cuff comment the next day), the president refocused the debate from the notion of 'should be allowed' to the question of 'should.' In doing so, Obama elevated the level of the debate for both him and the project's detractors.

The initial controversy over building an Islamic cultural center two and a half blocks away from 'Ground Zero' was cast in the harsh light of 'there oughta be a law' by most of the people who were outraged at the very idea. A mother who lost her child on 9/11 put it thusly: 'I think it's despicable, and I think it's atrocious that anyone would even consider allowing them to build a mosque near the World Trade Center.' Note that 'allowing them to build.' As I said, before the zoning board ruled, the argument was that the government should act, and prevent the mosque from being built. Unfortunately, this would have been impossibly unconstitutional -- the government cannot prevent a mosque from being built there, unless we're all ready to throw the First Amendment in the garbage can. This fact, though, didn't stop those opposed to the idea from demanding that the government 'do something' about the plans to build the mosque (Bill of Rights be damned!).

The entire controversy started from this basic position: the mosque should not be allowed to be built. But Obama has moved the framework of this debate, even though most in the media largely missed it this weekend (preferring to chase the 'news cycle' story about whether he had 'walked his support back' or not, which was pretty ridiculous). Obama showed that the argument is not a simple one, and in fact has two major segments that need to be addressed separately. The first is the question of whether or not the mosque 'should be allowed' to be built. The second is whether it 'should' be built.

It sounds like splitting hairs, which is why the media thought (much to their delight) that they had somehow caught Obama in some sort of contradiction. They hadn't. Obama, Saturday morning, merely separated the two issues for people who hadn't really grasped the implications of what he had said the night before.

Obama, who was (if you'll remember) previously a professor of constitutional law, came out very strongly against any sort of government interference in the decision to build a mosque anywhere that New York City had zoned appropriately. This really shouldn't be all that shocking, as it is truly the only position which can honestly be held in accordance with the Constitution. Any other position is to advocate for enshrining bigotry in our laws -- 'a church may be built here, but not a mosque.' This is, at its core, seriously un-American.

But there is a second issue here, one that Obama addressed in his remarks Saturday. This is the issue of whether a mosque 'should' be built on the site. And that is an issue which is fully open for debate. Even outright bigotry is still an acceptable position on this question, if by 'acceptable' one means 'faithful to our Constitution.' Every citizen is free to argue until they are blue in the face that a mosque should not be built at the site (for whatever their reason), and everyone is free to attempt to convince the imam not to build a mosque there, in any legal way they choose. That is the force of public opinion, and it can indeed be a mighty thing. Public opinion has already led to the imam deciding to include a memorial to the 9/11 victims in the plans, and has convinced him to change the name of the project. Of course, it's a free country, and he could indeed have remained firm and refused to do either -- without having to worry that he would 'not be allowed' to do so by law.

The real news was that Obama chose to insert himself in the debate, of course. Previously, the White House's position was that they had no comment on a 'local issue.' The fervor was even dying down a bit, ever since the planning board had ruled that the project could go forward, except in the right-wing media. Obama (as I heard one breathless reporter describe it this weekend) 'poured gasoline on the fire' by inserting his remarks into the fray.

But I have to say, Obama got this one right. He stood up for a principle, strongly. He didn't care whether public opinion agreed with him or not, because the principle was the important thing. And it's a pretty good principle to be standing up for. His whole speech is worth reading, if you've just heard excerpts (it's a very short speech). Every paragraph consistently says pretty much the same thing: the government does not discriminate on the basis of religion. Here is but one example:

But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.

Note that 'not be treated differently by their government' phrase. This was Obama's core argument, and it is indeed unshakeable.

The media, apparently, heard a different speech. Or maybe they just didn't take the time to read it or listen to it. Because when Obama pointed out the next day that he wasn't talking about 'the wisdom' of building a mosque there, the media went into feeding-frenzy mode, convinced that Obama was somehow 'walking back' his earlier remarks. He wasn't -- he was clarifying that he had been standing up for a basic constitutional right, and wasn't even addressing the overriding issue about whether it was a good idea or not. Which (again, read his speech) was exactly right.

As I said, this changes the tenor of the debate. Because it is not a contradiction -- or, if it is a contradiction, then it is one shared by many Americans -- to be supportive of the right to build the mosque but also to be against actually building it. A recent poll commissioned by none other than Fox News showed this in stark terms. While 64 percent of the people said it would be wrong to build the mosque there, 61 percent of the same people said the group has the right to build it there.

Rights, though, are thankfully not subject to the whim of the electorate, because they are guaranteed to all. Therefore public opinion polls are largely meaningless when it comes to basic rights. But the appropriateness of the project is another kettle of fish entirely. And it is a subject which while not subject to public opinion, is doubtlessly influenced by public opinion. Even bigoted public opinion.

The entire story, to me at least, seems to be somewhat overblown. There is another mosque a mere two blocks from the site under discussion. Using the logic of the detractors of the new project, this mosque should also probably be moved further away. But I have yet to see anyone advocating this position (although I fully admit, I don't read a whole lot of right-wing opinion, so I could very well be wrong). And -- horror of horrors -- Islamic services are held inside the Pentagon, which was also attacked on 9/11. Using the anti-mosque logic, there should also be loud cries to ban this worship from the 'hallowed ground' of a 9/11 attack site. So far, I haven't heard any (see previous qualification).There are also dark intimations about the whole project, and the imam in charge of it. The plan is to build a community center -- complete with a movie theater and other secular usage -- with a prayer room in it, two and a half blocks away from the World Trade Center site.

I have to digress here for a moment, because one tangent that bugs me is the phrase that detractors have latched upon for describing the 'hallowed ground' they are talking about: 'in the shadow of Ground Zero.' This is a really stupid phrase. I will give credit for the poetic nature of the imagery, but when actually examined, this concept is truly laughable. First off, 'Ground Zero' is a hole in the ground. Holes in the ground do not cast shadows, unless you count the shadows actually cast inside the hole. Literally, the phrase is meaningless. But even taking it at the intended meaning: 'in the shadow that used to be there from the World Trade Center twin towers,' it's still pretty silly. Because if that truly was the yardstick being used here, then we'd have to draw an arc (a little more than a half-circle) around the World Trade Center site, with the radius of the arc being dependent on what angle the sun reaches during the Winter Solstice (when the shadow's sweep would be greatest). I'm no civil engineer, so I cannot tell you how many blocks of Manhattan this would encompass, but the reason it's a silly metric to use is that the arc would only cut to the east, north, and west. Meaning you could build right next door to the site -- to the south -- and not be caught 'in the shadow' of any building built there.

But, to come out of the shadows (as it were), opponents of the project have been casting similar darkness upon Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, with all sorts of rumors and unfounded suspicions. Here is a fact seldom pointed out in all of this mudslinging -- Rauf has, quite obviously, gone through some background checks with the federal government. According to Hendrick Hertzberg of The New Yorker magazine, 'The F.B.I. tapped [Rauf] to conduct 'sensitivity training' for agents and cops.' He is about to embark on the third trip to the Middle East -- paid for by the American taxpayers -- to talk about religious tolerance in America. As a State Department spokesman said:

Imam Feisal will be traveling to Qatar, Bahrain, and the U.A.E. on a U.S. Government-sponsored trip to the Middle East. He will discuss Muslim life in America and religious tolerance. ... We have about 1,200 of these kinds of programs every year, sending experts on all fields overseas. Last year, we had 52 trips that were specifically focused on religious -- promoting religious tolerance. We will expect to have roughly the same number of programs this year. For Imam Feisal, this will be his third trip under this program. In 2007, he visited Bahrain, Morocco, the U.A.E. and Qatar. And earlier this year in January, he also visited Egypt. So we have a long-term relationship with him. His work on tolerance and religious diversity is well-known and he brings a moderate perspective to foreign audiences on what it's like to be a practicing Muslim in the United States.

Got that? Rauf not only helped the F.B.I. train agents and cops, but he's also participated in a State Department program to promote religious tolerance. And has been doing so for years. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, when sent on the first of these trips, George W. Bush was president.

This doesn't exactly fit in with the rumor and innuendo about the imam from those desperately trying to paint him as some sort of terrorist or terrorist-lover, does it? One assumes that either the F.B.I. or the State Department (or both) have done a full background check on this guy, and he came up squeaky clean. If he hadn't, I simply don't believe he would have been allowed to participate in any sort of official program from either federal department.But no matter where the debate about the 'Ground Zero mosque' goes in the next few weeks, even rumor and innuendo and wild-eyed conspiracy theories can all be seen as part of the normal flow of American public discussion. Even flat-out bigotry. As I said, it's a free country, and every citizen is free to espouse any view they wish.And there is indeed a rational argument, free of bigotry and innuendo, to be made to the imam to convince him not to build at his chosen location. This argument hinges on sensitivity. Disney famously backed down from plans to build a 'historical' theme park right next to a Civil War battlefield, due to overwhelmingly negative public opinion. And, while it didn't happen in our country, religious sensitivities can be taken into account as well, as when a group of nuns decided not to build next to a Nazi death camp, in deference to overwhelming public opinion against the project. I'm not saying I completely buy into the sensitivity argument myself, but it has to be seen as a valid reason to argue that the imam should consider moving his project.This is where the argument now lies -- in the realm of public opinion. Whether based on sensitivity or based on naked fear or hatred of Muslims, this is the arena these arguments will now be debated in. As they should be. Whether the arguments range into religious intolerance or not, they will all be about whether the mosque 'should' be built. Again, as they should be.What Obama managed to do this weekend was to change the whole framework of this debate. Even the critics of the mosque now are beginning to couch their language in phrases like 'well, we're not saying the government should stop it, we're saying the imam should rethink the idea.' This is likely why Obama inserted himself into the debate in the first place. As a constitutional scholar, he felt it was important to make the point that the government should never have the authority to make such a discriminatory decision, because those are the very freedoms we're fighting to protect against enemies who attack us. Saturday, without contradiction, he further pointed out that defending someone's rights is not the equivalent of defending their words or actions. Here is his full quote from Saturday morning:

I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about.

Rather than 'walking his support back' (as the entire media universe gleefully decided), Obama was pointing out the difference between the two concepts. Which is a healthy addition to the discussion. Reasonable people can disagree on the question of whether the mosque 'should' be built, in other words, but it goes against everything this country stands for to try to argue that the mosque 'should not be allowed' to be built by government decree.Personally, I see no contradiction at all. Even if the media read him wrong, President Obama forcefully changed the entire framing of the debate, and in a very healthy direction -- and he did so without interjecting himself into the raging public-opinion debate about whether the project was 'proper' or not. He showed true presidential leadership, and political courage. And now that he has done so, the debate will continue, but it will hopefully continue on a much different level than before.

Chris Weigant blogs at:


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Comic for August 11, 2010

Comic for August 11, 2010: "


The Myth of Idle Recovery Dollars

The Myth of Idle Recovery Dollars: "

John Boehner wants a lot of people to lose their jobs.

We were awfully surprised to hear Rep. Boehner come out for killing jobs en masse in his own state and district by stopping the Recovery Act on last Sunday’s news shows.

Though we’re sure he didn’t know it, the Congressman is advocating to kill the expansion of the Butler County Community Health Center and bring some of the twenty-five highway projects across the district to a grinding halt. Across the state of Ohio, he said that approximately 4 million working families should get an unexpected cut in their paycheck as the Making Work Pay tax credit disappears, unemployed workers should go without unemployment benefits, and major Ohio road projects like the US-33 Nelsonville Bypass project and the Cleveland Innerbelt Modernization project should be stalled or stopped. Oh, and some of the more than 100 clean energy Recovery projects employing workers across the state should be shut down.

read more


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Weekly Address: Medicare Officially Safer After Health Reform

Weekly Address: Medicare Officially Safer After Health Reform: "

The President discusses a new Medicare Trustees report showing Medicare to be on much stronger footing as a result of the reforms in the Affordable Care Act. In addition, seniors are also already getting help with prescription drug costs when they fall into the infamous “donut hole.”


Friday, August 06, 2010

Jeff Cohen: Colbert 1, U.S. State Department 0

Jeff Cohen: Colbert 1, U.S. State Department 0: "

On last night's Colbert Report, an amazing moment occurred when Stephen Colbert raised a major social issue that U.S. mainstream media assiduously ignore: the huge U.S. prison population. The issue quickly disappeared due to the apparent ignorance of Colbert's guest: Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, in charge of 'Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.'

In a sometimes jokey interview with Posner discussing China's various human rights abuses (including prisoners), Colbert tried to steer the conversation to human rights problems in our own country.

COLBERT: We've actually got more people in prison than China does.

POSNER: Well I'm not sure that's true.
Colbert's assertion is indisputably true. Posner's denial is false. Does the State Department's man in charge of human rights not know the facts?
According to statistics gathered by the authoritative International Centre for Prison Studies in London, the United States has by far the largest prison population in the world: almost 2.3 million people behind bars. China's prison population is second in the world: roughly 1.6 million.

The United States is also number one in the world in its 'prison population rate': 748 inmates per 100,000 citizens. Russia is third. China is tied for 114th.

This is a U.S. human rights problem of enormous proportions. Our bloated prison population has many causes including the 'drug war,' mandatory minimum sentencing, poverty, and racism. And there are corporate profits to be made from 'The Prison-Industrial Complex' -- as independent journalists like Eric Schlosser began documenting a dozen years ago.
Wouldn't it be great to see this issue tackled by some mainstream TV voices . . . other than Stephen Colbert?

Jeff Cohen heads the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Mort Zuckerman Is Not Incompetent

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Mort Zuckerman Is Not Incompetent: "

Mort Zuckerman's recent opinion piece in the Financial Times, 'Obama needs to stop baiting business,' is a tawdry, sorry spectacle. Paul Krugman's already explained how Zuckerman, the publisher of US News & World Report and the New York Daily News, distorted the President's words with a little Andrew Breitbart-style editing. While Zuckerman's proclivity for truth-twisting isn't a complete surprise, here's what is: If he's not lying about how he and his fellow CEOs are managing their businesses, then he and his friends are also incompetent executives.

In fairness to Zuckerman, let me be clear from the outset: I don't think he's an incompetent executive.

That would mean he's not telling the truth when he says that, for 'employers' -- that is, CEOs like Mort Zuckerman -- 'worries over taxes and increased costs of new regulation are holding back investment and growth.' Here's the implication of that statement: Businesses would hire and invest if not for Democratic policies. They have customers who want to buy, but they won't meet the demand because they're afraid of some hypothetical tax increase or new regulation.

The logic is ridiculous. Zuckerman's saying that corporate executives are refusing to make money because the President scares them. Any executive who misses an opportunity to make money should be fired on the spot.

Zuckerman's reportedly a friend and mentor to Daniel M. Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins. Their 'lack of confidence' didn't prevent Snyder from picking up Donovan McNabb, or Trent 'Silverback' Williams, or new coach Mike Shanahan. They're all big-ticket items. The Redskins - who were my hometown team long enough for me to develop a lifelong Dallas Cowboys allergy - are the second-highest grossing team in football, and I'll bet even a close friendship with Mort Zuckerman won't prevent Snyder from hiring all the vendors he needs to feed the fans.

The climate of fear Zuckerman describes is a hoax. To hear to him tell it, the titans of American enterprise are tremulously quivering in their boardrooms, unable to summon the courage to make money today because of what might happen tomorrow. In the real world, if CEOs really believed they were about to be buried under new taxes and regulations, they'd hire and invest like crazy so they can post as much profit as they can before the Bolsheviks seize the means of production.

Zuckerman's talking points echo those of a recent Fareed Zakaria piece (which we discussed here) in which he Zakaria allegedly interviewed a series of CEOs about the business environment. They all spoke with one voice ... a voice curiously like Fareed Zakaria's ...saying that they, like Zuckerman's cohort, had 'lost confidence' in the President.

Which means that at one point they had confidence in the President. But, where Zakaria's alleged informants remain anonymous, Zuckerman drops a few organizational names: The Business Roundtable, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business. These are the places where, says Zuckerman, 'disillusion has spread.'

The Business Roundtable and the US Chamber are shills for large corporations - and, in the memorable words of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, 'large corporate America is in very, very, very, very good shape.' It's hard to give much credence to Zuckerman's claims that these groups are 'disillusioned' and have 'lost confidence,' since there's no evidence they had illusions or confidence about Obama in the first place. Zuckerman's allegiance is clearly to these large businesses, too - and to Jamie Dimon, since Zuckerman serves on JP Morgan's National Advisory Board.

By choosing the National Federation of Business (NFIB) to represent smaller employers, Zuckerman decided to select a small business organization that stands to the right of many others. NFIB broke with the Main Street Alliance, a national network of small business groups, over that organization's support for health reform. Polling by groups like Small Business Majority paint a different picture of the business attitude toward Democratic policies. But even NFIB can't maintain the facade Zuckerman would have them maintain. It publishes a monthly 'Optimism Index,' precisely the kind of 'confidence' indicator you would think interests Zuckerman. Despite the NFIB's fierce antigovernment rhetoric, the actual figures in their latest report (July 2010) belies their own argument (and Zuckerman's): Only 12% of respondents based their negative 'expansion outlook' on the political climate, while 43% attributed it to 'economic conditions.'

Ultimately, even the right-wing rhetoricians who summarized the NFIB survey's findings were forced to acknowledge the obvious: 'What businesses need are customers, giving them a reason to hire and make capital expenditures and borrow ...' That's exactly right, the opposite of the conclusion Zuckerman would have us draw about the marketplace. Which raises the question, 'Who put the 'fib' in NFIB?'

What medium and small businesses also need is credit. As the NFIB survey reports, 'regular NFIB borrowers .. (are) at a record low (and) continued to report some difficulties in arranging credit.' That's not surprising, given that bank lending to small business has fallen 9% since TARP began. And Republicans supported by the US Chamber and the Business Roundtable just blocked a $30 billion program to aid lending to small businesses, even though they and not the Zuckerman/Chamber/Roundtable large businesses, are the engines of employment growth.

Zuckerman says some other silly things, too. He says 'America's get-up-and-go entrepreneurial culture outlived the frontier,' even though he represents the kinds of big business/government combines that attacked small businessmen and ranchers on our frontier. If we're all actors in a 21st Century Western, Zuckerman is speaking for the bad guys.

Zuckerman pushes some other old, tired right-wing canards, too. He says it's not fair that people 'lay all the blame for our difficulties on the business community and the financial world. This quite ignores the role of Congress in many areas, most glaringly in forcing Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration to make loans to people who could not afford them.' He's saying that the real problem is that liberals forced reluctant financiers to sell mortgages to low-income, unqualified black and brown people. Unfortunately for Zuckerman, the highest rate of mortgage default is for homes worth more than a million dollars. Oops.

There's more silliness, but you get the gist.

Want to know who corporations have really lost confidence in? Banks. The Wall Street Journal reported that 'In the darkest days of late 2008, even large companies faced the threat that they wouldn't be able to do the everyday, short-term borrowing needed to make payrolls and purchase inventory.' One of the reasons companies keep cash on hand is out of fear that could happen again. And it could -- if anti-regulation types like JP Morgan Advisory Board Member Mort Zuckerman get their way.

It's understandable when CEOs like Zuckerman push for the lowest taxes they can get. That's their job. But Zuckerman's s a newspaper and magazine publisher, and he shouldn't be allowed to let journalistic integrity become another one of those 'damaged traditions' he claims to lament. Zuckerman and his fellows mega-corporate leaders seem to have adopted the dishonest, cut-and-paste deception of the extreme Right. They're beginning to sound less like titans of industry and more like Tea Partiers with private jets. Remember, those private jets are purchased with company profits - profits that Zuckerman claims are being left on the table because of a lack of 'confidence,' as in 'I'm scared.' That kind of fear-driven leadership would be nothing more than managerial incompetence.

And I don't think Mort Zuckerman is incompetent.

Richard (RJ) Eskow, a consultant and writer (and former insurance/finance executive), is a Senior Fellow with the Campaign for America's Future. This post was produced as part of the Curbing Wall Street project. Richard also blogs at A Night Light.

Michael Winship: The Right Manipulates Muslims -- and Boy Scouts

Michael Winship: The Right Manipulates Muslims -- and Boy Scouts: "

I was never a Boy Scout but I was a helluva Cub Scout.

Pack 30, First Congregational Church. I rose through the ranks: Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, Lion. I accumulated Gold and Silver Arrow Points, the Cubs' junior varsity version of merit badges. My mom was a Cub Scout den mother and spent a lot of time teaching fake Indian campfire songs and decorating various arts and crafts with poster paint.But when the time came to transfer to the big guys, the Boy Scouts, I saw years of knot tying and helping little old ladies across the street ahead of me and opted not to re-up. Nonetheless, I feel my time served qualifies me to have an opinion about President Obama not appearing in person at this week's National Scout Jamboree in Caroline County, Virginia.

The Jamboree is a gathering of the clans that takes place every five years or so and this year's is especially significant as 2010 marks the centennial of the scouting movement in the United States. Congratulations. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is a wonderful organization.Truly.But the right wing of this country, with the aid of Fox News and other media outlets, has opted to ignore many of the qualities one usually associates with a good scout -- trustworthiness, honesty and especially cleanliness -- to sling mud at the president for not making a personal appearance at the Jamboree. Instead, he videotaped a message for the lads.

Not exactly a sin on the order of massive oil spills or ethnic purification. But to hear conservative commentators you'd think he had at the very least used the flag to buff Air Force One. All of this complicated by the fact that the president came to New York instead for some fundraisers and an appearance on The View.

'It's unfortunate that President Obama didn't take the time to promote the Boy Scouts this week, but they should be able to thrive, as they have for the past 100 years, without him.' So sniffed Eagle Scout Nik Nelson, writing in The Weekly Standard, where he's an intern.

What these folks fail to mention is that President Obama met with a group of scouts and their leaders just a little more than two eeks ago. In the Oval Office. In fact, the president does so every year, but this year, special attention was given to the centennial.

As Scouting Magazine's official blog reported, 'During the White House meeting, the president and the BSA delegation shared their mutual goals for addressing key concerns for our nation's youth: healthy living, service to the community, and environmental stewardship.'

Admitting this, of course, would mess with the conservative narrative. Nor, it turns out, is this the first time that elements of the right have shamelessly tried to use the Boy Scouts, of all organizations, to impugn the Obama White House. A whispering campaign via e-mail (in cyberspace, no one can hear you scream) alleged that unlike his predecessors the president has refused to sign Eagle Scout certificates. As it turns out, there was a gap between the Bush and Obama presidencies when blank certificates were sent out.

But, as the debunking website reports, 'Production of new Eagle Scout certificates bearing President Obama's signature... got underway in late 2009 for distribution to Scouts who obtained Eagle rank in Spring 2010. President Obama has also mailed over 13,000 personal letters of congratulation to individual Eagle Scouts, including a September 2009 case in which every single one of the five most senior members of Troop 182 in Palatine, Illinois, earned eagle rank.'

Now all of this would be simply silly if not for the fact that this is the pattern: find a bright, shining lie, an often trivial issue, reshape it to your agenda of attack and fear, distort and dissemble, bang it like a drum to rouse the media circus and distract the public - and its public servants -- from the critical work necessary to survive as a republic.

The Shirley Sherrod debacle at the Department of Agriculture last week is just one example. The current fight over building an Islamic 'mosque' near (not 'at') Ground Zero here in Manhattan is another and perhaps the loudest.

Once again, downtown New Yorkers are faced with outsiders telling us our business. Newt Gingrich: 'There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.' Sarah Palin: 'Many Americans, myself included, feel it would be an intolerable and tragic mistake to allow such a project sponsored by such an individual to go forward on such hallowed ground. This is nothing close to 'religious intolerance.' It's just common decency.'
But as developer Sharif El-Gamal told Jordana Horn of The Jerusalem Post, 'Those aren't my neighbors, my friends or my New Yorkers. A vocal minority have come out to amplify their own agendas of hate and bigotry that have nothing to do with my project.' He notes, too, as have many others, that calling it a mosque is an exaggeration. 'There will be a mosque component, which will be a separate not-for-profit component of the project,' Gamal said. 'It's going to be a small component in a community center, just like the 92nd Street Y has a synagogue.'
This is not to deny the emotions that always will be stirred by 9/11, especially by the friends and families of those who died there, but as Padraic O'Hare, director of the Merrimack College's Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations at Merrimack College, wrote in The Washington Post, 'Build a house which nurtures and cultivates less wounded, less ego-driven and more just and peaceful Muslims, people of real and healthy prayerfulness? Hand me the shovel.'
Meanwhile, as the citizenry has its attention diverted by xenophobic anti-Muslim harangues, on Thursday night, Republicans in Congress killed the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to help emergency workers and others near Ground Zero. As the New York Daily News reported, the bill 'would spend $3.2 billion on health care over the next 10 years for people sickened from their exposure to the toxic smoke and debris of the shattered World Trade Center. It would spend another $4.2 billion to compensate victims over that span, and make another $4.2 billion in compensation available for the next 11 years.'

GOP members called it a 'slush fund.' Is there a merit badge for classy?

Michael Winship is senior writer at Public Affairs Television in New York City.