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On Fear: The Islam Edition, Or, Do You Know My Friend Wa’el? September 22, 2010

We last got together about ten days ago, when I put up a story that hoped to explain to the Islamic world that, Qur’an burning aside, we don’t really hate either them, or our own Constitution.

I pointed out that, just like everywhere else, about 20% of our population are idiots, that this means about 60,000,000 of us might, at any time, be inclined to burst into fits of random stupidity, such as the desire to burn Qur’ans to make some sort of statement, and that the same First Amendment that protects the freedom of stupid speech also protects the rights of Islamic folks to freely build mosques…and finally, that this apparent “paradox of freedom” is exactly why the US is the kind of country that many Islamic folks the world over wish they lived in as well.

I then went off to enjoy my Godson’s wedding, and I ignored the posting until the next Monday.

On the two dozen sites where it could be found, this was apparently considered to be a fairly innocuous message…with one giant exception, which is what we’ll be talking about today.

Long story short, some portion of this country’s population has some bizarre ideas about Islamic folks…but maybe if they knew my friend Wa’el, they might see things a bit differently.

This world is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those that feel

Horace Walpole, Fourth Earl of Orford, in a letter, August, 1776

So all of this took place at Newsvine…and if you’re not familiar with how things work there, users may “seed” a story that they find of interest, so that it may attract the interest of others. What happens is that the user reposts a shortened version of the original story, along with a link back to the source.

My original posting on the site had fewer than ten comments, but by Monday Newsvine user btco’s seeded version of my story had about 300 comments; today there are more than 625.

Those who were not liking the story basically came down to one of a few categories of responders; here’s one example…

…I live a few minutes from Dearbornistan in Michigan and I can tell you that, as a place with a great deal of Muslims, they barely speak out against the Islamofacists that kill. There is outrage; however, but that outrage is aimed at America instead of the Islamofacists that should be the target of the aforementioned outrage. In fact, Dearborn has seen Muslims verbally attack Christians and forbid them for handing out Christian pamphlets, their 1st amendment right to do so, as this goes against the @!$%#ed up Sharia Law. Until Dearbornistan demands that they will abide willingly with the constitution and ignore the racist and misogynic crap that is Sharia law, then Dearbornistan Muslims side with the enemy and that enemy is Islam.

…and here’s another:

Christianity underwent reformation and was tamed by enlightenment period (during which, BTW, was harshly criticized).

Islam is in its original forms, claws and all.

And people like you, who for some dubious reason think it should be allowed to be what it is are doing great disservice for Muslims whose minds are set for the reforms and who want to live like normal, 21 century people, but are forced to “submit” to medieval dogma.

The idea that all Islamic folks worship a Moon God, that neither democracy nor any other religion can co-exist alongside Islam, that after beating them, all Islamic men send their four wives out to distribute “terror tomatoes” among the infidel population, and that, for adherents of Islam, both the Bible and the Constitution are immoral and corrupt all seems to be accepted wisdom for a bunch of the commenters (except for the “terror tomato” part, which I made up myself); it all seems to come from an apparently long-circulating email that was posted in the comments over and over that purports to prove that Muslims can’t be good Americans.

So is all this true?

Well…let’s start with the question of whether Islamic people can co-exist with democracy…and to help answer that question, let me introduce you to my friend Wa’el.

Wa’el Nawara has been trying to advance the interests of democracy in Egyptian politics for many years now, in the form of his work for the El-Ghad Party, in the face of an Egyptian Government that has been ruled, since the end of King Farouk’s reign, by just one political party, the (secular) NDP. The founder of El-Ghad, Ayman Nour, was imprisoned and tortured for basically getting 8% of the vote in a 2005 Presidential election against the current President, Hosni Mubarak.

To prevent this from happening again, it is also alleged that the Egyptian Government helped to orchestrate a temporarily successful “takeover” of the party from within. (This is not uncommon; the Egyptians security apparatus has acted against numerous parties, including the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood.)

Shortly after Wa’el and I became acquainted (I had been researching a series of stories about Egyptian politics when we were introduced) he was inside the offices of his own Party, which were burned by a mob that was allegedly associated with Egyptian State Security (an event that was recorded, live, by people across the street). Afterwards Wa’el, along with many of the 30 other people who were in the building, were arrested and detained for…you guessed it…suspicion of arson.

It’s not just Wa’el, or the other members of his Party…nor the other members of other Parties, either.

If were to take the time, you’d find out there’s a Center for Democracy in Lebanon, you’d discover that Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and even Saudi Arabia have all held recent local elections, and you’d find out there’s even a debate in the UAE as to whether adopting democratic reforms might be appropriate.

Outside the Gulf, India’s current President is their third Muslim President, Indonesia, which is 80% Muslim, elects their Presidents (even as they struggle with sectarian violence)…and all of that tells me that anyone who thinks Islam and democracy are incompatible should do some more reading.

Can Islam accept the presence of other religions?

One answer can be found in what is today’s Spain, but what used to be Andalucía (or Al-Andalus, if you prefer Arabic), where Moors ruled for centuries over Jews with far more compassion and respect than they ever received under Christian dominion; another, in today’s Egypt, where Christian Copts and Muslims have lived together for thousands of years, even as tensions have increased recently between the two groups.

Does Wa’el beat his four wives?

Not as far as I can tell—and if his one wife ever found out he had three other wives…I’m guessing that wouldn’t go so well for Wa’el.

Is the Bible corrupt to those who follow Islam?

Those who follow “mainstream” Islam believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but they don’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God, or that He was crucified. Is that corruption? I don’t know, and I guess you’ll have to decide that one for yourself.

Now we need to be fair here, and acknowledge that one branch of Islam does indeed represent much of what my most conservative friends are afraid of: Wahhabi Ikhban. Here’s what the Library of Congress has to say about the sect:

Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab was concerned with the way the people of Najd engaged in practices he considered polytheistic, such as praying to saints; making pilgrimages to tombs and special mosques; venerating trees, caves, and stones; and using votive and sacrificial offerings. He was also concerned by what he viewed as a laxity in adhering to Islamic law and in performing religious devotions, such as indifference to the plight of widows and orphans, adultery, lack of attention to obligatory prayers, and failure to allocate shares of inheritance fairly to women.

When Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab began to preach against these breaches of Islamic laws, he characterized customary practices as jahiliya, the same term used to describe the ignorance of Arabians before the Prophet. Initially, his preaching encountered opposition, but he eventually came under the protection of a local chieftain named Muhammad ibn Saud, with whom he formed an alliance. The endurance of the Wahhabi movement’s influence may be attributed to the close association between the founder of the movement and the politically powerful Al Saud in southern Najd (see The Saud Family and Wahhabi Islam, 1500-1818 , ch. 1).

This association between the Al Saud and the Al ash Shaykh, as Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab and his descendants came to be known, effectively converted political loyalty into a religious obligation. According to Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab’s teachings, a Muslim must present a bayah, or oath of allegiance, to a Muslim ruler during his lifetime to ensure his redemption after death. The ruler, conversely, is owed unquestioned allegiance from his people so long as he leads the community according to the laws of God. The whole purpose of the Muslim community is to become the living embodiment of God’s laws, and it is the responsibility of the legitimate ruler to ensure that people know God’s laws and live in conformity to them.

So what have we learned today?

Well, we learned that there is a community of Americans out there who are profoundly afraid of Islam, or anything connected with it, and the odds are that they know very little about the religion, other than what they’ve seen and copied and pasted, over and over, in a particularly ignorant email.

My friend Wa’el, on the other hand, lives a life that disproves those myths: in addition to being the target of a mob, he’s been jailed, along with many of his friends and associates, for trying to create a more democratic Egypt, he has just the one wife, who lives as an equal in their house, and his own country, Egypt, is one of numerous Islamic countries that have other religions well-established within their borders.

We also learned that numerous countries with Islamic populations are countries with varying degrees of representative democracy…and that the world’s largest democracy just inaugurated their third Muslim President.

Now the question that we’re addressing today is whether Muslims can be good Americans—and the fact is that Wa’el and his family would make great Americans…even though they’re not…and if I can point to Muslims who would make great Americans and live halfway around the world…how much you wanna bet we can find tens of thousands more in the heart of Dearbornistan?

 

On Living With Idiots, Or, An Open Letter To Islam September 9, 2010

Dear Islam,

You know, it seems like every time I write a letter I have to begin by apologizing for not having written in so long, and that’s the case again today.

We only get a few days of real summer up here every year, and I was out having fun at golf tournaments and doing a bit of climbing around the local hills—and you know, I do love doing a bit of nothing at all from time to time—but while I was away, things have gotten even crazier than usual around here…and I’m sorry to say, you’ve been on the pointy end of the crazy stick, which is something that never should have happened.

Things have been so nutty that you’re probably thinking America has something against Islam—in fact, you might be wondering if we have something against our own Constitution.

Well, we don’t, most of us, and I’ll take a few minutes today to help y’all understand just what is going on in this country.

So you’re going to be hearing a lot about this disturbed guy in Florida who thinks that he can save the world by burning Qu’rans on September 11th—and you’re going to be asking yourselves: “Why would America allow anyone to do that?”

Well, the answer’s kind of paradoxical, and it has everything to do with the same Constitution that protects freedom of religion in the first place.

You see, it also protects the concept of freedom of speech…which, in itself, probably requires a bit of an explanation.

Freedom of speech, as you can imagine, isn’t absolutely free (for example, there is the famous “yelling fire in a crowded room” example), but to a far greater extent than you might think, we really are able to say things that would shock most of you not living here.

At the moment, just to illustrate the point, we have all kinds of people suggesting the President is taking the country in the wrong direction, or a secret Muslim (as if that were somehow bad)…or even that he’s some sort of weird mixture of Stalin and Hitler and Satan Himself who was born in Kenya…and every one of them is free to stand on any street corner and hold a sign proclaiming exactly that, just as much as they want.

Matter of fact, those are the same people that are mad at you, Islam, for the moment, even if they know nothing about Islam…and that brings me right to the next thing I need to tell you.

The only reason a lot of Americans are mad at you, Islam…is because there’s an election on, and the only way Republicans can win elections is to try to scare Americans into thinking that the United States will instantly collapse from whatever useful threat they think up—unless enough of us vote Republican.

Now in normal times, Islam, Republicans would be trying to scare us about gay people trying to eat our babies, or something equally stupid, but that hasn’t been working as well as it used to lately—and what they would really like to say this election cycle, they can’t (“Those Jesus-hating liberals elected a nigger and now they’re gonna impregnate your daughters and gay marry your sons!”)…and that leaves you, Islam, as the next most desirable overt target for Republican fear-spreading professionals.

(You and, of course, those “illegal aliens” who are busily beheading people in the Arizona desert every night.)

Now there is no doubt that a portion of our population is entirely ready to jump on this bandwagon with no encouragement at all, and that’s where we get the fools who think having a Qur’an BBQ party somehow makes some kind of sense.

My guess is that about 20% of us are that stupid—and based on our current population, that means about 60,000,000 fools are bumping and stumbling their way across the American landscape on any given day, struggling, as Aimee Mann says, “with the undertaking of simple thought”.

Apparently because it’s just hanging there, many of them sort of slide down and congregate in Florida, and sure enough, a few of them did gather together in that particular State to form into the human blood clot that planned this little 9/11 protest, and that’s how we got to where we are today.

Now I’m sorry that we can’t just bring this to a stop, but we do allow idiots to say their piece in this country, whether it’s a good idea or not…so they do, even if the Government and The Not Blindingly Stupid Among The Population don’t like it…and all I can really tell you by way of consolation is that as soon as Election Day is past, much of this will come to an end—unless it works so well that Republicans keep it up for a few more election cycles, until it fails to work any more.

Anyway, Islam, try not to let it upset you too much, try to keep in mind that this is really about American electoral politics and the desperate need to create fear (which is all the Republicans have left)…and most importantly, try to keep in mind that if good old-fashioned American racial segregation was back in style then no one would even be talking about you—instead, the same people that are on your back today would all be doing their best Dr. Laura impressions 60 or 70 times a day, and they’d go right back to assuming Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs are all the same people, just like they did in happier times.

So that’s what’s been up around here, and I hope to hear from you soon as well—and of course, if you’re in the neighborhood sometime, drop me a note and we’ll go grab a coffee and laugh as the fools walk by.

Your friend,

fake

 

On Saving 319,000 Jobs, Or, Legislation Keeps Teachers Teaching August 10, 2010

As I pick up the pace of work again, coming into the midterms, I have to get some stories cleared off the desk in order to make room for some others, and that’s what we’re about today.

We’ll be talking about saving more than 300,000 of this country’s most important jobs, and paying for it in a way that is not only good policy, but is a real problem for Republicans who are yelling “no new taxes!” once again while pretending they care about actually paying for actual spending and actually want to cut actual unemployment.

We have a bit of work to do today, but we want to keep it somewhat short…so let’s get going.

So across my desk have come documents that report how many jobs will be saved by the House coming back into session to vote out H.R. 1586 and send it to the President for his signature.

Long story short, after all the commemorative pens have been distributed about 319,000 more people will be working, including 161,000 more teachers who will be in class this year then there would have been there if it wasn’t for this bill…and as it happens, that many teachers is actually about 25,000 more people than the total number of workers in all of America’s coal mines combined.

It’s going to cost $10 billion for the “save the teacher’s jobs” part of the bill; another $16.1 billion will be paid to states to help them pay for their share of Medicare expenses this fiscal year, that will allow them to avoid laying off the remaining 158,000 workers, many of whom are working for someone like Child Protective Services or are State Troopers or are working for your State’s Department of Corrections…and about 80,000 of those jobs are private sector jobs, as contractors who work for the various states are also kept on the job.

To give you an idea of just how many teachers we’re talking about, Florida will have 9200 more this fall than they would have otherwise, Illinois will have 5700 more, Kentucky, 2200 more, and in California there’ll be about 16,500 more teachers in the classrooms this fall than if this bill wasn’t going to pass.

You can look up how many more teachers your State is estimated to have this fall at a handy page on the House Committee on Education and Labor’s website.

I don’t have a handy chart for the remaining workers, but if those jobs are more or less distributed the same way you could expect California, as an example, to save a total of about 33,000 jobs with just this one bill, and Florida to save about 18,000.

How badly do states need the money?

By an amazing coincidence, as I’m putting this story together I’m watching tonight’s “The Rachel Maddow Show”, and sure as life, she’s working the same story…and she’s reporting that Paul Krugman’s reporting that several states are literally unpaving their roads because they can’t afford to maintain them any more.

So here’s the best part: it’s all paid for by closing a variety of tax loopholes and recovering money that wasn’t being used from other programs, so no new deficit spending or additions to debt are required.

The tax loopholes?

They take aim at the various methods multinational companies are using to shield US income from US tax collectors; these mostly involve getting a Post Office box in the Cayman Islands, or something similar, and more or less claiming all your US business is derived from your new “regional office”, or that you believe you paid all your income taxes on your US income to some other government.

Our Republican friends are going nutty about this, claiming, as John Boehner just did on “Meet The Press”, that: “…they want to raise the taxes on the American people .”

This is particularly tough for Republicans because they’re dying to save The Bush Tax Cuts For The Really, Really Rich, all $800 billion worth of ‘em, without explaining how they would be paid for, all the while complaining about the much, much, lower cost of paying for saving these 300,000 jobs—and, in the very next sentence, saying they hate deficits…and if you check out the transcript from that “Meet the Press” interview, you’ll see that David Gregory asked Boehner about how he planned on paying for the $800 billion in tax cuts he wants, three different times, and he wouldn’t give a straight answer once.

So when people ask you: “What’s Washington doing about jobs?”, you can tell them they’re not only saving about a third of a million of the jobs that fight fires, and put criminals in jail, and teach your kids this fall—and paying for it, to boot—but those smaller classrooms are also making it more likely that your kids will have better jobs when they grow up; all of that without much help from our Republican friends, who’s biggest job right now seems to be figuring out how to borrow another $800 billion from you and China to give away to their wealthiest friends.

Which is its own special kind of job…and I’m pretty sure the word “snow” is somehow involved in the job description.

 

On Really Padding The Résumé, Or, “Vote For Me! I Died In Viet Nam” June 27, 2010

We have already seen some impressive efforts in this campaign season to do a bit of résumé padding, particularly as it regards things military; so far Illinois’ Mark Kirk has managed to turn himself into a kind of camouflage Austin Powers, while Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal’s trying to catch up with some “Vietnam” service of his own that no one else in the theater of operations exactly knew about.

But now, in the race for Alabama Governor, we may have seen something that takes us to a whole new level of “inflation”: the Republican candidate is running an ad that not only suggests that he served in Vietnam…it seems to imply that he actually died there, and has now come back to save the State.

Which is some serious irony indeed, considering that the candidate is actually a medical doctor.

And with that, let me introduce you to the either living…or undead…Dr. Robert J. Bentley.

“I have fought for Queen and Faith like a valiant man and true;
I have done my duty as a man is bound to do;
With a joyful spirit I Sir Richard Greenville die!”
And he fell upon their decks, and he died.

–From The Revenge, by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Now as regular readers know, I post far and wide, including at Left in Alabama, where our friend mooncat has been running with this story, which is how I became aware of the events we’ll be talking about today.

On Thursday, she was up with a post I particularly want you to see, and I’ll explain why in just a second, but before I do, I just wanted to acknowledge her excellent work.

So here’s the deal: the Bentley for Governor Campaign has been running an ad called “A Man’s Word”, which is one of two ads that give the impression that Bentley served in Vietnam, even though he did not serve there.

In this ad, a list of names appears about six seconds in, and remains visible for about three seconds, along with an image of a fighter aircraft and a banner that says: “Hospital Commander Vietnam War”; a reference to his three-month stint as the interim commander of the base hospital at Pope Air Force Base, in North Carolina.

Here’s the ad, for your perusal:

Now if you go and check out mooncat’s Left in Alabama posting, she’s gone to the time and trouble to do a screen grab of the “list”, along with pointing you to the second questionable ad.

It needs to be addressed further, but I’m going to ignore that other ad, for today…and that’s because, to me, the list of names, including the font, the background, and the method of writing branch of service and “conflict served” all looks just a little too much like either the panels used at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall or the design of a US military gravestone.

“If you want to use issues to define people as to where they stand on the issues, that’s fine,” Bentley said. “But you shouldn’t distort the facts.”

–Robert Bentley, to Michael Tomberlin of The Birmingham News, May 17, 2010

So if Bentley did actually die in Vietnam…could he still be elected?

As it happens, there is some precedent here. Mel Carnahan, who was dead at the time, put the whup on John Ashcroft pretty good in their 2000 Senate contest; unfortunately Missouri’s closed-minded Acting Governor Roger Wilson was not willing to let Carnahan actually serve in the office, appointing his wife instead.

Which brings us to the final question: could the undead actually serve in office?

Have you ever met my Congressman, Dave Reichert?
Steve King?
Louie Gohmert?
Michelle Bachmann?
Arizona Governor Ann Brewer?

Any one of those people could have appeared in Zombieland, and I’ll let you decide which is your favorite later.

They’re also all serving in elected positions today, suggesting the undead can in fact hold high office—and if you need an even better example, Dick Cheney has been undead at least a couple of times, which didn’t keep him from serving as the 43rd President of the United States.

And with that, we come to the “let’s wrap it up” part of the deal:

Dr. Robert J. Bentley, the Republican nominee for Governor of Alabama, is running ads that either intentionally or “accidentally” inflate his military record by making you think he served in Vietnam…or he actually died there and he’s now walking the Earth as one of the undead and a medical doctor, bringing his unique perspective on end-of-life issues to the People in the best way he knows how.

I wish I knew which it was; my efforts to obtain some sort of comment about any of this from the Bentley Campaign were unsuccessful…which is probably a good idea if you’re running ads that suggest you were in Vietnam, when you really weren’t, and you know you’ll eventually be facing some incoming fire of your own.

It’s already been a pretty hot summer in Alabama.

Let’s see if we can’t spread this story around and make it even hotter for Dr. Bentley…because if anybody deserves to be in a warm place, it’s someone who tries to take advantage of the way we feel about those who die for this country.

 

On Giant Loads Of Hooey, Or, You Should See My Inbox October 17, 2008

The McCain campaign is beyond desperate, at this point, and as you might expect, the emails are full of things McCain supporters would like us to know.

I had one of those emails cross my inbox yesterday morning…and I thought to myself:
“Self…since the author of this email asked me to look up her facts, maybe I should.”

So I did.

Next thing I knew, I realized I was looking at a giant load of hooey.
Follow along, and I’ll show you what I mean.

There’s a lot of talk about Obama and Tony Rezko in this email.
That Rezko made some sort of special deal when Obama purchased his home.

Here’s Obama’s side of the story:

Barack Obama bought his home the same way everyone buys a home, by making the best offer the sellers had. The details are that of a normal, boring real estate transaction by a young family buying the house they expect to raise children in. A couple named the Wondisford’s had two properties on the market, a house and an adjacent lot. Barack and Michelle Obama made the best offer on the house, which had been on the market for 8 months. Before the purchase, Obama asked Rezko, a local real estate developer, and for some advice on the purchase. While there, Rezko noticed the adjacent lot and decided to buy it. Neither got a break on the price, as confirmed by the Wondisford’s. The Wondisford’s requested to close on the same day to minimize their hassle. You can download the PDF where the Wondisford’s confirm all of this here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/acrobat/2008-03/36768343.pdf

Later, Obama purchased a strip of the Rezko’s property to give his kids more room to play, and he paid more than double the assessed value to avoid any claims of impropriety. The Rezko’s later sold the lot to another couple who are building a house on it. And that’s it. The whole thing is remarkable only for its utter lack of any drama or scandal…

This is what the “Chicago Tribune” was reporting, back in January of 2008:

JAN. — Between Jan. 15 and Jan. 23, Obama submits three bids: $1.3 million on Jan. 15; $1.5 million on Jan. 21; and $1.65 million on Jan. 23. He told the Tribune that he does not recall when he learned that Rezko was interested in buying the side lot, or how Rezko learned of the sale. But Obama raised the possibility that he was the first to bring the lot to Rezko’s attention. The senator’s campaign provided a copy of a previously released e-mail from the sellers. In response to questions from the Obama campaign, the sellers agreed that they “did not offer or give the Obamas a ‘discount’ on the house price” because Rezko paid their asking price for the yard.

“[Quoting Obama:] Tony asked me during the course of one of these conversations why I might not be interested in buying the lot and keep the property intact. And I said that, you know, it wasn’t worth it to us to spend an extra $600,000 or so on a lot next door when Michelle and I were really interested in the house. So, he said, ‘Well, I might be interested in purchasing the lot.’ And my response was, ‘That would be fine.’

“And my thinking at the time, and this is just to sort of flag this, this is an area where I can see sort of a lapse in judgment. Where I could have said, ‘You know, I’m not sure that’s a great idea.’ But my view at the time when he expressed an interest was that he was a developer in this area that owned lots, that he thought it was going to be a good investment. And my interest, or my motivation was here’s somebody that I knew who, if this lot was being developed, it’d be better to have somebody who knew, who I knew, who you know would give me schedules, keep me apprised of what was taking place and so forth. So I didn’t object.”

The email then goes on to make implications that because Valerie Jarrett, who might be Obama’s number one advisor (after Michelle) was born in Iraq, she is somehow a threat to National Security, and, presumably, that Obama is either a terrorist for knowing her…or, somehow, under terrorist control…

Vogue” Magazine disagrees:

Jarrett’s unlikely, unusual, unsumupable childhood began in Iran, where she was born in 1956. Not unlike Obama’s being “from” Hawaii or “from” Indonesia, that fact in and of itself is more misleading than it is illuminating. Her parents, both of whom are in their 80s and still working and writing and who live a block away from Michelle and Barack, are academics. Her father, James Bowman, a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago and an internationally recognized geneticist and pathologist, is from Washington, D.C.; her mother, Barbara, an expert on early childhood development, has deep roots and a big extended family in Chicago’s Hyde Park. In 1955, the couple moved to Shiraz, Iran, where they stayed for six years as part of a program that sent American doctors to developing nations. When Valerie, their only child, was five, they moved to London for a year and then resettled back in Hyde Park, a neighborhood that has historically been a bit hoity-toity and one to which the Obamas have now brought a whole new level of cachet and bragging rights.

More about Jarret’s “terrorist” past:

She comes from a long line of “firsts”: Her maternal great-grandfather Robert Robinson Taylor was the first black person to graduate from M.I.T.; he became an architect and the vice principal of the Tuskegee Institute. Her mother’s father, Robert Rochon Taylor, was a pioneer in public housing who was the first black man to head the Chicago Housing Authority, in the forties. Her father not only was the first black person to be given a residency at St. Luke’s Hospital but also was the first to be tenured in his department at the University of Chicago. “Every summer my father did research in population genetics, which required him to study diversities of genetic-based diseases across the world, and so we would spend summer vacations traipsing across Africa,” she says, as one of her two BlackBerrys vibrates on the granite-topped table we are sitting at with a delivered deli lunch. “One summer we went from Ghana to Nigeria to Ethiopia to Uganda to Egypt and then back to Iran. We would be out in the countryside visiting different tribes, and my father would draw blood and I would help get the syringes together. We spent a lot of time in Mexico, and then we’d go back to England. So it required me to be able to straddle a bunch of different cultures and worlds. It made me comfortable talking to anybody at a very young age, and because I was an only child I spent a lot of time with adults.”

The email goes on to claim that “The Times” reported Obama advisor Robert Malley was “fired” because of his contacts with Hamas.

That story seems to be entirely wrong.
The actual facts?

Here’s what “The Washington Post” had to say back in May of 2008:

An informal Middle East adviser to Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign resigned Friday after a newspaper reported on his regular meetings with members of the Hamas militant group.

Rob Malley said he wanted to stop being a distraction for the campaign after facing attacks from the blogosphere for months for allegedly being anti-Israel, a charge he denies. Malley is a former National Security Council aide to President Bill Clinton who is now with the International Crisis Group, a nonpartisan conflict-resolution think tank.

Malley’s departure comes at a sensitive time for Obama, who appears to be nearing the Democratic nomination but has struggled to win the support of Jewish and pro-Israel voters. Hamas, which won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, refuses to recognize Israel and is dedicated to its destruction.

In reporting analytic reports he wrote for ICG, Malley would interview Hamas officials, as well as Israeli, American, European and other Palestinian officials. The reports, which made clear he had met with Hamas, feature recommendations for key players in the peace process. Malley said he informed the State Department before he met with Hamas and then briefed State afterwards on what he had learned.

“To do my job, I have to meet with savory and unsavory people,” he said.

But Malley said that after he fielded a call this morning from the Times of London, which asked about the Hamas meetings, he decided he had had enough. “This was a distraction for me; this was a distraction for them,” he said Friday night. “It is absurd, but that is what this campaign is about.” (The links were added to the story.)

Yes, folks, you heard that correctly.

In order to learn about Hamas, so that he could inform the State Department about how to develop smart policy to deal with Hamas, which was his job, Malley actually took the time and trouble to talk to people involved with Hamas…and then Obama actually asked him to tell him what he knows, from time to time, so that Obama would, you know, know what he’s talking about; and all of that is, apparently, frightening to the McCain campaign.

And yet what did McCain tell David Letterman just last evening? That part of what he would do to catch Osama Bin-Laden would be to improve our human intelligence capabilities in Middle Eastern countries.

My friends, I could go on and on about this for another 2000 words; but instead, I’ll offer you an allegorical story that makes the point for me.

Imagine that you are diagnosed with cancer.

Would you prefer an oncologist who is so offended at any scientist who looks into a microscope at cancer cells that he refuses to even associate with such an individual…or would you prefer an oncologist who calls up a researcher over at the National Cancer Institute to ask that world-renowned expert, who has offered advice to this oncologist before, what to do about your case?

I know who I would pick…and I bet a lot of you would make the same choice.