True reformers ignored
Bret Stephens’ recent column in The Wall Street Journal (below, highlights added) is a must-read. Thanks to the controversy surrounding the Ground Zero Mosque, more and more Americans, as well as many in the media, are beginning to focus on the threats radical Islam poses to America beyond those who are the actual terrorists.
In a recent appearance on the Michael Savage radio program, ACT! for America president Brigitte Gabriel went into great detail about the “moderate Muslim” problem Stephens discusses below. We have seen this “moderate Muslim” song and dance many times before, where government officials ignore the true Muslim reformers while spotlighting the likes of Imam Rauf. Think Abdurahman Alamoudi, touted as a paragon of moderation, feted at the White House—until he was convicted on terrorism related charges. He is now serving a 23 year prison sentence.
Here’s a question for those insisting Ground Zero Mosque Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a “moderate.” Why won’t he sign the “Freedom Pledge” sent to him by Former Muslims United? All it asks is that Muslim leaders oppose retaliation against Muslims who leave Islam. Rauf’s refusal to sign a pledge opposing any kind of retaliation against “apostates” proves that his words about “tolerance” are a sham designed to fool the gullible.
There are true Muslim reformers in America. Rauf isn’t one of them.
Our 'Moderate Muslim' Problem
The Ground Zero mosque imam earns wide congratulations while true reformers go ignored.
• By BRET STEPHENS
Items of interest in the news media's coverage of "moderate Muslims":
• The New York Times, Oct. 19, 2001: "Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki, spiritual leader at the Dar al-Hijra mosque in Virginia, one of the nation's largest. . . . is held up as a new generation of Muslim leader capable of merging East and West."
• NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, Dec. 9, 2004: "It's the TV industry's newest experiment, 'Bridges TV,' billing itself the 'American-Muslim lifestyle network,' featuring movies, documentaries, cartoons. . . . It's the brainchild of Aasiya Hassan, an architect, and her husband, Muzzamil Hassan, a banker, who are disturbed that negative images of Muslims seem to dominate TV, especially since 9/11."
• Boston Globe editorial, Aug. 4, 2010: "The simple fact is there's nothing threatening about the proposed Islamic center, which is being spearheaded by Feisal Abdul Rauf, one of the most respected moderate Muslim leaders in the country."
See where this is going?
Most readers probably know of Awlaki as the U.S.-born imam who presided over the mosque attended by two of the 9/11 hijackers. Awlaki also served as theological mentor to Fort Hood killer Nidal Malik Hassan, would-be Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. President Obama has authorized the military to assassinate Awlaki, now thought to be living in Yemen.
Al Qaeda Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, former poster child of moderate Islam.
As for Bridges TV, the saccharine story told by Brian Williams and reporter Ron Allen (complete with scenes of the family's domestic bliss in their modest home in Buffalo, N.Y.), came to an abrupt end in February 2009, when Mr. Hassan beheaded his wife after she had filed for divorce, evicted him from their home, and won an order of protection. Last week, Mr. Hassan's attorney defended her client on the grounds that he was, of all things, a "battered spouse."
Now we have the controversy over the Ground Zero mosque, opponents of which are being widely branded as bigots. As, no doubt, some of them are: There are bigots in any crowd.
Then again, is it bigoted to oppose bigots? Consider an interesting historical antecedent. In 1993, a controversy similar to the current one unfolded when residents of a Washington, D.C., suburb sought to use zoning laws to shut down the local mosque, ostensibly on grounds that it was a traffic nuisance. "Worshipers of many faiths said closing the popular mosque . . . would amount to discrimination against one of the area's fastest growing religions," the Washington Times reported at the time.
The mosque in question? None other than the Dar al-Hijra, later to be known as the "9/11 mosque." So were the petitioners who sought to shut it down bigots? Or is it that they got a whiff of its extremism, and didn't like the smell? "We are appalled at the ill will and friction," the paper quoted one Sylvia Johnson, "who said mosque-goers have yelled at her and blocked her driveway."
Here, of course, the argument will be made that, unlike Awlaki, Mr. Rauf really is a moderate. And that might well be so—by the standards of his native Kuwait. But a man who claims to condemn all forms of terrorism yet refuses to call Hamas a terrorist group is not a moderate by American standards, which happen to be the relevant ones when you're trying to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. Mr. Rauf still has a perfect legal right to go ahead with his scheme. But his supporters need to choose between defending him on grounds of his alleged moderation (in which case his views are relevant), or on the principle of religious liberty (in which case they're not). They can't have it both ways.
Which brings me to the fundamental problem with too many self-described moderate Muslims. A few years ago, my friend Irshad Manji made the point to me that "moderate Muslims denounce terror that's committed in the name of Islam but they deny that religion has anything to do with it." [Editor’s Note: Exactly what CAIR representatives do.] By contrast, she noted, "reform-minded Muslims denounce terror that's committed in the name of Islam and acknowledge that our religion is used to inspire it."
That's a distinction worth pondering. It's also a considerable comfort to know that there are Muslims in the U.S. like Irshad who are working, tirelessly but mainly out of view, toward the cause of reform. They could use more support and recognition. As for the professional charlatans and secret radicals who claim to be moderate, it would be well if their cheerleaders in the media could inspect their credentials a little more carefully before lavishing them with praise. Because, when it comes to heralding the arrival of the long-awaited moderates, there's nothing more embarrassing than a case of premature congratulation.
Two UCLA economists say they have figured out why the Great Depression dragged on for almost 15 years, and they blame a suspect previously thought to be beyond reproach: President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
After scrutinizing Roosevelt's record for four years, Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian conclude in a new study that New Deal policies signed into law 71 years ago thwarted economic recovery for seven long years.
"Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump," said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA's Department of Economics. "We found that a relapse isn't likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies."
In an article in the August issue of the Journal of Political Economy, Ohanian and Cole blame specific anti-competition and pro-labor measures that Roosevelt promoted and signed into law June 16, 1933.
"President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services," said Cole, also a UCLA professor of economics. "So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies."
Using data collected in 1929 by the Conference Board and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Cole and Ohanian were able to establish average wages and prices across a range of industries just prior to the Depression. By adjusting for annual increases in productivity, they were able to use the 1929 benchmark to figure out what prices and wages would have been during every year of the Depression had Roosevelt's policies not gone into effect. They then compared those figures with actual prices and wages as reflected in the Conference Board data.
In the three years following the implementation of Roosevelt's policies, wages in 11 key industries averaged 25 percent higher than they otherwise would have done, the economists calculate. But unemployment was also 25 percent higher than it should have been, given gains in productivity.
Meanwhile, prices across 19 industries averaged 23 percent above where they should have been, given the state of the economy. With goods and services that much harder for consumers to afford, demand stalled and the gross national product floundered at 27 percent below where it otherwise might have been.
"High wages and high prices in an economic slump run contrary to everything we know about market forces in economic downturns," Ohanian said. "As we've seen in the past several years, salaries and prices fall when unemployment is high. By artificially inflating both, the New Deal policies short-circuited the market's self-correcting forces."
The policies were contained in the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which exempted industries from antitrust prosecution if they agreed to enter into collective bargaining agreements that significantly raised wages. Because protection from antitrust prosecution all but ensured higher prices for goods and services, a wide range of industries took the bait, Cole and Ohanian found. By 1934 more than 500 industries, which accounted for nearly 80 percent of private, non-agricultural employment, had entered into the collective bargaining agreements called for under NIRA.
Cole and Ohanian calculate that NIRA and its aftermath account for 60 percent of the weak recovery. Without the policies, they contend that the Depression would have ended in 1936 instead of the year when they believe the slump actually ended: 1943.
Roosevelt's role in lifting the nation out of the Great Depression has been so revered that Time magazine readers cited it in 1999 when naming him the 20th century's second-most influential figure.
"This is exciting and valuable research," said Robert E. Lucas Jr., the 1995 Nobel Laureate in economics, and the John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. "The prevention and cure of depressions is a central mission of macroeconomics, and if we can't understand what happened in the 1930s, how can we be sure it won't happen again?"
NIRA's role in prolonging the Depression has not been more closely scrutinized because the Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional within two years of its passage.
"Historians have assumed that the policies didn't have an impact because they were too short-lived, but the proof is in the pudding," Ohanian said. "We show that they really did artificially inflate wages and prices."
Even after being deemed unconstitutional, Roosevelt's anti-competition policies persisted — albeit under a different guise, the scholars found. Ohanian and Cole painstakingly documented the extent to which the Roosevelt administration looked the other way as industries once protected by NIRA continued to engage in price-fixing practices for four more years.
The number of antitrust cases brought by the Department of Justice fell from an average of 12.5 cases per year during the 1920s to an average of 6.5 cases per year from 1935 to 1938, the scholars found. Collusion had become so widespread that one Department of Interior official complained of receiving identical bids from a protected industry (steel) on 257 different occasions between mid-1935 and mid-1936. The bids were not only identical but also 50 percent higher than foreign steel prices. Without competition, wholesale prices remained inflated, averaging 14 percent higher than they would have been without the troublesome practices, the UCLA economists calculate.
NIRA's labor provisions, meanwhile, were strengthened in the National Relations Act, signed into law in 1935. As union membership doubled, so did labor's bargaining power, rising from 14 million strike days in 1936 to about 28 million in 1937. By 1939 wages in protected industries remained 24 percent to 33 percent above where they should have been, based on 1929 figures, Cole and Ohanian calculate. Unemployment persisted. By 1939 the U.S. unemployment rate was 17.2 percent, down somewhat from its 1933 peak of 24.9 percent but still remarkably high. By comparison, in May 2003, the unemployment rate of 6.1 percent was the highest in nine years.
Recovery came only after the Department of Justice dramatically stepped enforcement of antitrust cases nearly four-fold and organized labor suffered a string of setbacks, the economists found.
"The fact that the Depression dragged on for years convinced generations of economists and policy-makers that capitalism could not be trusted to recover from depressions and that significant government intervention was required to achieve good outcomes," Cole said. "Ironically, our work shows that the recovery would have been very rapid had the government not intervened."