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August 25, 2010


Neil Gabler is wrong. He asserts that "Obama being a Christian" is a "verifiable truth." As an epistemological matter, the only way we can know to whom someone prays is to don Brendan's well-worn swami turban and look into that person's mind.

We can know as a verifiable truth what faith someone professes. We can know which church he attends. That is all. (St. John's Church, just north of the White House, has a plaque that says every president since James Madison has attended services there. Attended services, not worshipped. Because whether the man worshipped there is something only he could know.)

That's why Hillary Clinton's answer to the question whether Obama is a Christian was correct: "As far as I know". That's why Mitch McConnell's answer was equally correct: "The president says he's a Christian. I take him at his word." If Obama says he's a Christian, he's entitled to be taken at his word. But as with any profession of faith, all any of us can do is accept someone's profession as genuine. It's not verifiable.

Newsweek foolishly says it's a mistake to believe health reform will include a panel that makes decisions on end-of-life care. In reality, there will be a panel that makes decisions on how much coverage to provide for all care, including end of life care (not that there's anything wrong with that.)

The real problem with "Death Panels" is that it's a name looking for a meaning. One early meaning was a provision encouraging terminal patients to get professional counseling. Such counseling might lead a patient to give up on trying try more and more unlikely treatments, but instead to use hospice care. In order to try to prove that their bill didn't include "Death Panels", the Dems removed this provision. That's too bad, because such counseling can be enormously helpful.

A recent New Yorker article, Letting Go by Atul Gawande is excellent on this subject. Among other points, Gawande persuasively shows that hospice care is often more desirable than hospital care for the patient and family.


Brendan – Thanks for the Gabler link. It’s hilarious. I found this passage particularly ironic:

“The problem for the right is that facts are stubborn, so when you disagree with them — whether it is global warming or evolution or the effect of tax cuts on economic growth “

Gabler thinks these are “facts”? All are theories with various facts either supporting them or not. In believing these are facts, Gabler is indeed “creating his own reality.”

Also tiring is the screed against the internet. - “everyone has to be his or her own fact-checker — another way of saying that there isn’t much fact-checking.”

As with any tool, the WWW can either be used or mis-used. It can allow you to try and get closer to the truth (instead of just believing whatever has been fed you by whomever) or you can use it to harden your biases. The end results depends on the intent of the user.

Brendan chose from Gabler's article to highlight the sentence,
GW Bush "helped legitimize the idea of individual truth"

Gabler's article provides no examples or explanations of how Bush supposedly did this. Gabler's comment is just an ugly bit of free-floating Bush-bashing.

I may have overlooked Brendan's link back to several earlier posts allegedly showing that Bush helped legitimize the idea of individual truth. IMHO Brendan's evidence isn't particularly convincing.

Regarding the tax rate cuts having led to increased tax revenue: As we've discussed before Bush's tax rate cuts passed in 2003 were indeed followed by increases in tax revenue. Tax revenue increased slightly in 2005, then sky-rocketed in 2006 and 2007.
http://www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/250.html Despite (or because of) the lower rates, more income tax was collected in each of tax years 2006 and 2007 than in any Clinton boom year.

Brendan might be able to show that this delay was too long to be related to the tax rate cut, although I don't think so. I don't think the lower tax rates were expected to turn the economy around instantly.

However, IMHO it isn't right to ignore the enormous amount of income tax collected beginning in 2006 and attempt to prove one's point via articles written before the tax bonanza was apparent.

Furthermore, Bush should be evaluated in comparison to other Presidents. Mr. Obama said that unemployment would rise to 8% without Stimulus. He said that his Stimulus would keep unemployment below that figure. Was this "individual truth" or simply getting an economic projection wrong?

President Clinton assured us that Saddam had WMDs. I wouldn't call that individual truth. I think President Clinton was right to believe his spy agencies, even though they turuned out to be wrong in this case.

If Brendan thinks that Bush lied more than Obama and Clinton, I would take the other side of that debate.

P.S. Here's an idea of why human beings may tend to see their adversaries as liars. Gabler wrote: Steven Colbert has jokingly snarled that facts are liberal. ISTM that Colbert's quote essentially is a tautology. He's saying my world view is my world view.

E.g., whatever you think about global warming, that's what you think. You believe your view is based on the facts. You think people with a different view are wrong. Thus, you automatically think the facts are on your side.

More important than Obama's religion is the policies he follows. Unfortunately, although he's not Islamic, he seems to be following an extreme anti-Israel policy. His IRS has now been sued for punishing organizations favorable to Israel by means of discriminatory income tax treatment.


COMES NOW the Plaintiff, Z STREET, a pro-Israel Pennsylvania nonprofit organization, by its undersigned counsel, and alleges as follows:


The plaintiff in this case, Z STREET, is a nonprofit organization devoted to educating the public about the facts relating to the Middle East, and that relate to the existence of Israel as a Jewish State, and Israel’s right to refuse to negotiate with, make concessions to, or appease terrorists. The case is brought because, through its corporate counsel, Z STREET was informed explicitly by an IRS Agent on July 19, 2010, that approval of Z STREET’s application for tax-exempt status has been at least delayed, and may be denied because of a special IRS policy in place regarding organizations in any way connected with Israel, and further that the applications of many such Israel-related organizations have been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization's activities contradict the Administration's public policies.” These statements by an IRS official that the IRS maintains special policies (hereinafter the “Israel Special Policy”) governing applications for tax-exempt status by organizations which deal with Israel, and which requires particularly intense scrutiny of such applications and an enhanced risk of denial if made by organizations which espouse or support positions inconsistent with the Obama administration’s Israel policies, constitute an explicit admission of the crudest form of viewpoint discrimination, and one which is both totally un-American and flatly unconstitutional under the First Amendment.


I don't know which is more shocking: using the IRS to punish "enemies" or considering an organization to be an enemy because they're pro-Israel. Hasn't Israel been America's closest Middle Eastern ally for many decades?

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