Friday, May 08, 2015

How the Clintons Get Away With It


The Clintons are protected from charges of corruption by their reputation for corruption.


By 
May 7, 2015

Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images


I have read the Peter Schweizer book “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.” It is something. Because it is heavily researched and reported and soberly analyzed, it is a highly effective takedown. Because its tone is modest—Mr. Schweitzer doesn’t pretend to more than he has, or take wild interpretive leaps—it is believable.
By the end I was certain of two things. A formal investigation, from Congress or the Justice Department, is needed to determine if Hillary Clinton’s State Department functioned, at least to some degree and in some cases, as pay-for-play operation and whether the Clinton Foundation has functioned, at least in part, as a kind of high-class philanthropic slush fund.
I wonder if any aspirant for the presidency except Hillary Clinton could survive such a book. I suspect she can because the Clintons are unique in the annals of American politics: They are protected from charges of corruption by their reputation for corruption. It’s not news anymore. They’re like . . . Bonnie and Clyde go on a spree, hold up a bunch of banks, it causes a sensation, there’s a trial, and they’re acquitted. They walk out of the courthouse, get in a car, rob a bank, get hauled in, complain they’re being picked on—“Why are you always following us?”—and again, not guilty. They rob the next bank and no one cares. “That’s just Bonnie and Clyde doing what Bonnie and Clyde do. No one else cares, why should I?”
Mr. Schweizer announces upfront that he cannot prove wrongdoing, only patterns of behavior. There is no memo that says, “To all staff: If we deal this week with any issues regarding Country A, I want you to know country A just gave my husband $750,000 for a speech, so give them what they want.” Even if Mrs. Clinton hadn’t destroyed her emails, no such memo would be found. (Though patterns, dates and dynamics might be discerned.)
Mr. Schweizer writes of “the flow of tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation . . . from foreign governments, corporations, and financiers.” It is illegal for foreign nationals to give to U.S. political campaigns, but foreign money, given as donations to the Clinton Foundation or speaking fees, comes in huge amounts: “No one has even come close in recent years to enriching themselves on the scale of the Clintons while they or a spouse continued to serve in public office.” The speaking fees Bill commands are “enormous and unprecedented,” as high as $750,000 a speech. On occasion they have been paid by nations or entities that had “matters of importance sitting on Hillary’s desk” when she was at State.
From 2001 through 2012 Bill collected $105.5 million for speeches and raised hundreds of millions for the foundation. When she was nominated, Hillary said she saw no conflict. President Obama pressed for a memorandum of understanding in which the Clintons would agree to submit speeches to State’s ethics office, disclose the names of major donors to the foundation, and seek administration approval before accepting direct contributions to the foundation from foreign governments. The Clintons accepted the agreement and violated it “almost immediately.” Revealingly, they amassed wealth primarily by operating “at the fringes of the developed world.” Their “most lucrative transactions” did not involve countries like Germany and Britain, where modern ethical rules and procedures are in force, but emerging nations, where regulations are lax.
How did it work? “Bill flew around the world making speeches and burnishing his reputation as a global humanitarian and wise man. Very often on these trips he was accompanied by ‘close friends’ or associates who happened to have business interests pending in these countries.” Introductions were made, conversations had. “Meanwhile, bureaucratic or legislative obstacles were mysteriously cleared or approvals granted within the purview of his wife, the powerful senator or secretary of state.”
Mr. Schweizer tells a story with national-security implications. Kazakhstan has rich uranium deposits, coveted by those who’d make or sell nuclear reactors or bombs. In 2006 Bill Clinton meets publicly and privately with Kazakhstan’s dictator, an unsavory character in need of respectability. Bill brings along a friend, a Canadian mining tycoon named Frank Giustra. Mr. Giustra wanted some mines. Then the deal was held up. A Kazakh official later said Sen. Clinton became involved. Mr. Giustra got what he wanted.
Soon after, he gave the Clinton Foundation $31.3 million. A year later Mr. Giustra’s company merged with a South African concern called Uranium One. Shareholders later wrote millions of dollars in checks to the Clinton foundation. Mr. Giustra announced a commitment of $100 million to a joint venture, the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative.
It doesn’t end there. When Hillary was secretary of state, Russia moved for a bigger piece of the world uranium market. The Russians wanted to acquire Uranium One, which had significant holdings in the U.S. That meant the acquisition would require federal approval. Many had reservations: Would Russian control of so much U.S. uranium be in America’s interests? The State Department was among the agencies that had to sign off. Money from interested parties rolled into the foundation. The deal was approved. The result? “Half of projected American uranium production” was “transferred to a private company controlled” by Russia, which soon owned it outright.
What would a man like Vladimir Putin think when he finds out he can work the U.S. system like this? He’d think it deeply decadent. He’d think it weak. Is that why he laughs when we lecture him on morals?
Mr. Schweizer offers a tough view of the Clinton Foundation itself. It is not a “traditional charity,” in that there is a problem “delineating where the Clinton political machines and moneymaking ventures end and where their charity begins.” The causes it promotes—preventing obesity, alleviating AIDS suffering—are worthy, and it does some good, but mostly it functions as a middleman. The foundation’s website shows the Clintons holding sick children in Africa, but unlike Doctors Without Borders and Samaritan’s Purse, the foundation does “little hands-on humanitarian work.” It employs longtime Clinton associates and aides, providing jobs “to those who served the Clintons when in power and who may serve them again.” The Better Business Bureau in 2013 said it failed to meet minimum standards of accountability and transparency. Mr. Schweizer notes that “at least four Clinton Foundation trustees have either been charged or convicted of financial crimes including bribery and fraud.”
There’s more. Mrs. Clinton has yet to address any of it.
If the book is true—if it’s half-true—it is a dirty story.
It would be good if the public, the Democratic Party and the Washington political class would register some horror, or at least dismay.
I write on the eve of the 70th anniversary of V-E Day, May 8, 1945. America had just saved the world. The leaders of the world respected us—a great people led by tough men. What do they think now? Scary to think, isn’t it?


Islam’s ‘Reformation’ Is Already Here


Posted By Raymond Ibrahim On May 8, 2015 @ 12:50 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | No Comments
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Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

The idea that Islam needs to reform is again in the spotlight following the recent publication of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now.  While Ali makes the argument that Islam can reform—and is in desperate need of taking the extreme measures she suggests to do so—many of her critics offer a plethora of opposing claims, including that Islam need not reform at all.

The one argument not being made, however, is the one I make below—namely, that Islam has already “reformed.” And violence, intolerance, and extremism—typified by the Islamic State (“ISIS”)—are the net result of this “reformation.”

Such a claim only sounds absurd due to our understanding of the word “reform.”  Yet despite its positive connotations, “reform” simply means [2] to “make changes (in something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.”

Synonyms of “reform” include “make better,” “ameliorate,” and “improve”—splendid words all, yet words all subjective and loaded with Western connotations.

Muslim notions of “improving” society can include purging it of “infidels” and “apostates,” and segregating Muslim men from women, keeping the latter under wraps or quarantined at home. Banning many forms of freedoms taken for granted in the West—from alcohol consumption to religious and gender equality—is an “improvement” and a “betterment” of society from a strictly Islamic point of view.

In short, an Islamic reformation will not lead to what we think of as an “improvement” and “betterment” of society—simply because “we” are not Muslims and do not share their first premises and reference points.  “Reform” only sounds good to most Western peoples because they naturally attribute Western connotations to the word.

Historical Parallels: Islam’s Reformation and the Protestant Reformation

At its core, the Protestant Reformation was a revolt against tradition in the name of scripture—in this case, the Bible.  With the coming of the printing press, increasing numbers of Christians became better acquainted with the Bible’s contents, parts of which they felt contradicted what the Church was teaching.  So they broke away, protesting that the only Christian authority was “scripture alone,” sola scriptura.

Islam’s current reformation follows the same logic of the Protestant Reformation—specifically by prioritizing scripture over centuries of tradition and legal debate—but with antithetical results that reflect the contradictory teachings of the core texts of Christianity and Islam.

As with Christianity, throughout most of its history, Islam’s scriptures, specifically its “twin pillars,” the Koran (literal words of Allah) and the Hadith (words and deeds of Allah’s prophet, Muhammad), were inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of Muslims.  Only a few scholars, or ulema—literally, “they who know”—were literate in Arabic and/or had possession of Islam’s scriptures.  The average Muslim knew only the basics of Islam, or its “Five Pillars.”

In this context, a “medieval synthesis” flourished throughout the Islamic world.  Guided by an evolving general consensus (or ijma‘), Muslims sought to accommodate reality by, in medieval historian Daniel Pipes’ words[3],
translat[ing] Islam from a body of abstract, infeasible demands [as stipulated in the Koran and Hadith] into a workable system. In practical terms, it toned down Sharia and made the code of law operational. Sharia could now be sufficiently applied without Muslims being subjected to its more stringent demands…  [However,] While the medieval synthesis worked over the centuries, it never overcame a fundamental weakness: It is not comprehensively rooted in or derived from the foundational, constitutional texts of Islam. Based on compromises and half measures, it always remained vulnerable to challenge by purists (emphasis added).
This vulnerability has now reached breaking point: millions of more Korans published in Arabic and other languages are in circulation today compared to just a century ago; millions of more Muslims are now literate enough to read and understand the Koran compared to their medieval forbears.  
The Hadith, which contains some of the most intolerant teachings and violent deeds attributed to Islam’s prophet—including every atrocity ISIS commits [4], such as beheading, crucifying, and burning “infidels,” even mocking their corpses [5]—is now collated and accessible, in part thanks to the efforts of Western scholars, the Orientalists.  Most recently, there is the Internet—where all these scriptures are now available in dozens of languages and to anyone with a laptop or iphone.

In this backdrop, what has been called at different times, places, and contexts “Islamic fundamentalism,” “radical Islam,” “Islamism,” and “Salafism” flourished.  Many of today’s Muslim believers, much better acquainted than their ancestors with the often black and white teachings of their scriptures, are protesting against earlier traditions, are protesting against the “medieval synthesis,” in favor of scriptural literalism—just like their Christian Protestant counterparts once did.
Thus, if Martin Luther (d. 1546) rejected the extra-scriptural accretions of the Church and “reformed” Christianity by aligning it exclusively with scripture, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (d. 1787), one of Islam’s first modern reformers, “called for a return to the pure, authentic Islam of the Prophet, and the rejection of the accretions that had corrupted it and distorted it” (Bernard Lewis, The Middle East, p. 333).

The unadulterated words of God—or Allah—are all that matter for the “reformists,” with ISIS at their head.

Note: Because they are better acquainted with Islam’s scriptures, other Muslims, of course, are apostatizing—whether by converting to other religions, most notably Christianity, or whether by abandoning religion altogether, even if only in their hearts (for fear of the apostasy penalty).  This is an important point to be revisited later.  Muslims who do not become disaffected after becoming better acquainted with the literal teachings of Islam’s scriptures, and who instead become more faithful to and observant of them are the topic of this essay.

Christianity and Islam: Antithetical Teachings, Antithetical Results

How Christianity and Islam can follow similar patterns of reform but with antithetical results rests in the fact that their scriptures are often antithetical to one another.   This is the key point, and one admittedly unintelligible to postmodern, secular sensibilities, which tend to lump all religious scriptures together in a melting pot of relativism without bothering to evaluate the significance of their respective words and teachings.

Obviously a point by point comparison of the scriptures of Islam and Christianity is inappropriate for an article of this length (see my “Are Judaism and Christianity as Violent as Islam [6]” for a more comprehensive treatment).

Suffice it to note some contradictions (which naturally will be rejected as a matter of course by the relativistic mindset):
  • The New Testament preaches peace, brotherly love, tolerance, and forgiveness—for all humans, believers and non-believers alike.  Instead of combatting and converting “infidels,” Christians are called to pray for those who persecute them and turn the other cheek (which is not the same thing as passivity [7], for Christians are also called to be bold and unapologetic).  Conversely, the Koran and Hadith [8] call for war, or jihad, against all non-believers, until they either convert, accept subjugation and discrimination, or die.
  • The New Testament has no punishment for the apostate from Christianity.  Conversely, Islam’s prophet himself decreed [9] that “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.”
  • The New Testament teaches monogamy, one husband and one wife, thereby dignifying the woman.  The Koran [10] allows polygamy—up to four wives—and the possession of concubines, or sex-slaves.  More literalist readings treat all women as possessions [11].
  • The New Testament discourages lying (e.g., Col. 3:9).  The Koran permits it [12]; the prophet himself often deceived others, and permitted lying to one’s wife, to reconcile quarreling parties, and to the “infidel” during war.
It is precisely because Christian scriptural literalism lends itself to religious freedom, tolerance, and the dignity of women, that Western civilization developed the way it did—despite the nonstop propaganda campaign emanating from academia, Hollywood, and other major media that says otherwise.

And it is precisely because Islamic scriptural literalism is at odds with religious freedom, tolerance, and the dignity of women, that Islamic civilization is the way it is—despite the nonstop propaganda campaign emanating from academia, Hollywood, and other major media that says otherwise.

The Islamic Reformation Is Here—and It’s ISIS.

Those in the West waiting for an Islamic “reformation” along the same lines of the Protestant Reformation, on the assumption that it will lead to similar results, must embrace two facts: 1) Islam’s reformation is well on its way, and yes, along the same lines of the Protestant Reformation—with a focus on scripture and a disregard for tradition—and for similar historic reasons (literacy, scriptural dissemination, etc.); 2) But because the core teachings of the founders and scriptures of Christianity and Islam markedly differ from one another, Islam’s reformation is producing something markedly different.

Put differently, those in the West calling for an “Islamic reformation” need to acknowledge what it is they are really calling for: the secularization of Islam in the name of modernity; the trivialization and sidelining of Islamic law from Muslim society. That is precisely what Ayaan Hirsi Ali is doing. Some of her reforms as outlined in Heretic call for Muslims to begin doubting Muhammad (whose words and deeds are in the Hadith) and the Koran—the very two foundations of Islam.

That would not be a “reformation”—certainly nothing analogous to the Protestant Reformation.
Overlooked is that Western secularism was, and is, possible only because Christian scripture lends itself to the division between church and state, the spiritual and the temporal.

Upholding the literal teachings of Christianity is possible within a secular—or any—state.  Christ called on believers to “render unto Caesar the things of Caesar [temporal] and unto God the things of God [spiritual]” (Matt. 22:21).  For the “kingdom of God” is “not of this world” (John 18:36).  Indeed, a good chunk of the New Testament deals with how “man is not justified by the works of the law… for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Gal. 2:16).

On the other hand, mainstream Islam is devoted to upholding the law; and Islamic scripture calls for a fusion between Islamic law—Sharia—and the state.   Allah decrees in the Koran that “It is not fitting for true believers—men or women—to take their choice in affairs if Allah and His Messenger have decreed otherwise. He that disobeys Allah and His Messenger strays far indeed!” (33:36).   
Allah tells the prophet of Islam, “We put you on an ordained way [literarily in Arabic, sharia] of command; so follow it and do not follow the inclinations of those who are ignorant” (45:18).
Mainstream Islamic exegesis has always interpreted such verses to mean that Muslims must follow the commandments of Allah as laid out in the Koran and the example of Muhammad as laid out in the Hadith—in a word, Sharia.

And Sharia is so concerned with the details of this world, with the everyday doings of Muslims, that every conceivable human action falls under five rulings, or ahkam: the forbidden (haram), the discouraged (makruh), the neutral (mubah), the recommended (mustahib), and the obligatory (wajib).

Conversely, Islam offers little concerning the spiritual (sidelined Sufism the exception).
Unlike Christianity, then, Islam without the law—without Sharia—becomes meaningless.   After all, the Arabic word Islam literally means “submit.”  Submit to what?  Allah’s laws as codified in Sharia and derived from the Koran and Hadith—the very three things Ali is asking Muslims to start doubting.

The “Islamic reformation” some in the West are calling for is really nothing less than an Islam without Islam [13]—secularization not reformation; Muslims prioritizing secular, civic, and humanitarian laws over Allah’s law; a “reformation” that would slowly see the religion of Muhammad go into the dustbin of history.

Such a scenario is certainly more plausible than believing that Islam can be true to its scriptures and history in any meaningful way and still peacefully coexist with, much less complement, modernity the way Christianity does.

Note: A version of this article first appeared on PJ Media in June 2014.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here [14].

LIKE [15] Frontpagemag.com on Facebook and Subscribe [16] to Jamie Glazov Productions [16].

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[4] including every atrocity ISIS commits: http://www.raymondibrahim.com/islam/the-islamic-state-and-islam/


[6] Are Judaism and Christianity as Violent as Islam: http://www.meforum.org/2159/are-judaism-and-christianity-as-violent-as-islam










Thursday, May 07, 2015

The Soccer Mom Revolt Against Common Core

The opt-out movement against taking the tests is growing, and so is the Obama administration’s ire.


By Jason L. Riley
May 5, 2015

President Obama, right, speaks about education accompanied by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
President Obama, right, speaks about education in 2011 accompanied by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The term “soccer mom”—political shorthand for the upscale suburban women President Clinton courted so successfully in the 1990s—may have fallen out of use with the Beltway set in more recent years, but this swing voting bloc is still around. Just ask Arne Duncan.
As President Obama’s education secretary and the administration’s head cheerleader for the new Common Core academic standards, Mr. Duncan has spent four years trying to convince the country that the biggest problem with K-12 schooling is insufficient federal intervention. His problem is that the more parents learn about this federal effort to impose uniform math and reading standards across state lines, the less they like the idea. And women, who are more likely than men to rank education as “very important” in political surveys, seem to harbor a special disdain for Common Core.
A national poll released by Fairleigh Dickinson University earlier this year put approval for the new standards at 17%, against 40% who disapproved and another 42% who were undecided. A breakdown by gender had Common Core support at 22% for men and only 12% for women.
Wealthier parents tend to be the most skeptical, and they are not satisfied with merely sounding off to pollsters. This year hundreds of thousands of students across the country are boycotting Common Core-aligned state exams, and this so-called opt-out movement has been growing. Preliminary estimates are that between 150,000 and 200,000 students skipped New York state’s mandatory English exams last month, up from the 49,000 in 2014.
The Obama administration is aware of these developments, though you might question how it has chosen to respond to critics. “It’s fascinating to me,” said Mr. Duncan in 2013, “that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who—all of a sudden—their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought.”
More recently, the administration has pivoted from insulting parents to threatening them. Mr. Duncan told an education conference in April that if the boycott numbers continue to rise, “then we have an obligation to step in.”
His spokesman later informed reporters that the administration is considering whether to withhold federal funding for districts with test-participation rates below 95%. Given that there is no political will or effective mechanism for punishing test opponents without turning them into martyrs, this is an idle threat. The districts doing most of the boycotting are affluent and not dependent on federal money, which in any case parents could easily replace out of pocket.
Nor is this backlash as “fascinating” as Mr. Duncan claims. For the purposes of opposing accountability measures in No Child Left Behind, the 2001 federal education law signed by George W. Bush, the Obama administration told these white suburban moms that their schools were just fine. For the purposes of imposing Common Core, Mr. Duncan is telling them the opposite.
No Child Left Behind had its shortcomings, but Congress went to great lengths to preserve local control. The law’s objective was to produce information—disaggregated data on the racial, ethnic and income groups that were struggling academically. Unlike the Common Core standards and tests, No Child Left Behind didn’t tell schools what to do and what not to do. States were still in charge of determining what to teach and how to teach it.
“The one thing upper-middle-class parents want and have grown accustomed to having is the ability to control their kids’ education,” Jay Greene, an education reform scholar who teaches at the University of Arkansas, told me by phone this week. “They will purchase private school if they have to. They will move to another neighborhood if they must. And they will boycott testing if they feel their control is being interfered with.”
Forty-five states initially signed on to Common Core in return for more federal education funding, but the tide is turning and opponents—including teachers unions who don’t want student test scores, or any other objective measures, used to evaluate instructors—have the momentum. California and Utah already allow parents to opt out of assessments, and CBS News reported in March that 19 other states “have introduced legislation to either halt or replace Common Core.”
This issue won’t go away when students head home for summer vacation next month. The presidential candidates will have to declare themselves. Labor will pressure Hillary Clinton to at least hedge any support for testing, and it is increasingly difficult to imagine a Republican nominee who hasn’t distanced himself from Common Core.
Prof. Greene thinks the administration’s education agenda has crossed the wrong voters. “They’re going to lose,” he said, citing White House hubris and overreach. “You can’t beat organized upper-middle-class people. They will fight back and you will lose.”
Mr. Riley, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and Journal contributor, is the author of “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed” (Encounter Books, 2014).

The Media’s Assault on the Defenders of Free Speech


Posted By Joseph Klein On May 7, 2015 @ 12:45 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | No Comments
2012-07-12-pamelageller_s640x427[1]An American jihadist associated with the Islamic State is reported to have posted a message on social media vowing that the Islamic State would “slaughter” Pamela Geller, the blogger whose American Freedom Defense Initiative sponsored a “Draw Muhammad” contest in Texas last week. Two jihadists were killed by a policeman guarding the contest site as they tried to storm the meeting and conduct a Charlie Hebdo-style massacre. ISIS has taken credit for the attack. The chilling message claimed that ISIS has “71 trained soldiers in 15 different states ready at our word to attack any target we desire.” The message warned that everyone hosting an event put on by Geller or giving her “a platform to spill her filth are legitimate targets.”

Pamela Geller is defiant. She declared that she has no intention of cowering and intends to hold another free speech event in the near future. “This threat illustrates the savagery and barbarism of the Islamic State,” Geller told the Daily News in a statement she later posted on her website. “They want me dead for violating Sharia blasphemy laws. What remains to be seen is whether the free world will finally wake up and stand for the freedom of speech, or instead kowtow to this evil and continue to denounce me.”

The reaction of the self-proclaimed non-violent Islamist group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), is no surprise. The Muslim Brotherhood-linked CAIR solemnly condemned the violent reaction to the event, but went after Geller and other prominent people associated with the Texas contest who dare to criticize Islam, such as Robert Spencer and Geert Wilders.  CAIR lumped them together with the “perpetrators” of the violent attack because, in CAIR’s words, they “all seek to provoke a downward spiral of mutual hostility and mistrust in America and around the world.”

Disappointing to say the least is that mainstream commentators on both sides of the ideological spectrum have parroted the CAIR talking points. They have ganged up on Pamela Geller for being the prime instigator of a foreseeable violent reaction to her provocative event. They blamed the victim rather than viewing this latest Islamist violence for what it is – an assault on free expression. They have self-righteously declared that, while Geller had the legal right to conduct the Draw Muhammad contest, she was irresponsible for exercising her right.

Bill O’Reilly, for example, said on his May 5th Fox News show: “By setting up a contest and awarding $10,000 for a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, the American Freedom Defense Initiative spurred a violent attack.”

Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham agreed with O’Reilly. She said on the same show that Geller and her group acted irresponsibly in hosting the Draw Muhammad contest. “There are a lot of things that we can say, that we have a right to say, that we shouldn’t say,” said Ingraham.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews mused at loud on his May 4th show whether, because Geller’s contest was set up “to basically disparage and make fun of the prophet Mohammed,” it actually caused the subsequent violent events. He settled for the word “provoking” rather than “causing.” Matthews’ guest, NBC terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann, asserted that the contest had nothing to do with defending the principles of free speech. Rather, he said, it was about “standing by the principle of hatred of other people.” The violent reaction was totally predictable, Kohlmann said, because when “you incite people, and you say nasty invective about people’s ancestors and their religious symbols, that there are a couple of crazy nutcases that are going to come out of the woodwork and are going to try to take action over it.”

At the Vox news site, Max Fisher wrote that the Draw Muhammad event “was not principally a free speech event; it was an anti-Muslim hate event.”

New York Times foreign correspondent Rukmini Callimachi tweeted: “Free speech aside, why would anyone do something as provocative as hosting a ‘Muhammad drawing contest’?”
Free speech aside? Free speech is the whole point! The First Amendment protects even the most offensive, hateful speech, so long as it does not incite the commitment of imminent violence by members of the intended audience against those being targeted by the offensive speech.

In a 2011 Supreme Court First Amendment case (Snyder v. Phelps), Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “[s]peech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and—as it did here—inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a Nation we have chosen a different course—to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”

The argument that Pamela Geller knew there could well be a violent reaction to the Draw Muhammad event seeks to cast blame on her for provoking the violence that occurred. She should have refrained from being so offensive, the argument goes. However, had she done so, those who seek to censor free speech they do not like would have won. Allowing the offended believers to be the arbiters of what can be said or published about their faith on the basis of whether they would be likely to react violently provides them with an effective veto power over free speech. The U.S. Supreme Court has referred to this as an impermissible “heckler’s veto.”  The potential for violence by those offended by speech cannot be taken into account in applying the “incitement to imminent violence” standard because to do so would effectively create a vicious cycle, allowing them to censor such speech by claiming its content would incite them to commit retaliatory violence.
Finally, some detractors of Pamela Geller use a variant of the non-discrimination argument by accusing her of selective bigotry in going after only one religion.

Ironically, even the top editor at Charlie Hebdo, the target of a jihadist massacre in Paris last January, distanced himself from Pamela Geller’s exercise of free expression. “We have nothing to do with Pamela Geller’s work,” GĂ©rard Biard said. “When Islam or the Prophet Muhammad jump out of the news, we comment on it, we mock it, maybe. But we are not obsessed about it. Out of 500 covers in the past 10 years, only seven were made about Islam. So it’s not our obsession. We’re dealing with politics, we’re dealing with other religions.”

Biard was in New York this week to receive an award for “freedom of expression courage” from the prominent literary organization, PEN American Center. In protest against what some members of PEN claimed was anti-Muslim bigotry being promoted by Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons, some pulled out of hosting tables at the gala at which the award was presented.  Other members wrote a stinging letter stating that the satirical magazine did not deserve the award because it would be seen as honoring the publication of “material that intensifies the anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the Western world.”

Biard took issue with the critics, but then turned around and threw Geller under the bus for exercising her right of free expression. His attempt to differentiate his magazine from Geller’s activities by saying that Charlie Hebdo satirizes a broad range of religions and political leaders, not just Islam, is lame at best.

True, Charlie Hebdo does not discriminate among religions in its satire. Its point is to expose the self-importance, extremism and hypocrisy that its editors believe afflict all religions. Pamela Geller is seeking to communicate a different message that seeks to expose what she sees as the Islamist supremacist ideology that uniquely threatens Western values such as free expression itself. By definition, Geller is focusing on one religion to the exclusion of others because she sees Islamic Sharia law creeping into various American institutions, already having the stealth effect of suppressing the free exchange of ideas. Terms like jihad, Islamic terrorism and radical Islam are banned from federal government law enforcement training materials. Political correctness freezes vibrant discussion and critique of Islam on college campuses. The epithet “Islamaphobia” is used like the race card to shut off debate. President Obama himself has given the Islamists a boost by declaring at the United Nations in 2012, shortly after the release of the anti-Muslim video that members of his administration initially blamed for the Benghazi attacks: “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

Trying to weigh what is and what is not permissible content, based on whom may be offended, is the road to tyranny. Pamela Geller’s methods may be disagreeable to some, but the lesson she is trying to teach is in the spirit of the Founding Fathers.

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Today's Tune: Lone Justice - Shelter

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

A very average take on Reagan

- - Sunday, May 3, 2015

Reagan: The Life

REAGAN: THE LIFE
By H.W. Brands
Doubleday, $35, 816 pages
Several years ago, I attended an average lecture by an average left-wing college professor about his average book about the anything-but-average George Washington.
At the event following the lecture, the average college professor’s spouse informed me that she was glad he’d written a new book because now it would be added to the syllabi of all their friends and associates around the country. I asked her to elaborate. She told me they’d become very comfortable over the years because each time he wrote a book, while it may have been a failure commercially, it didn’t matter because dozens of college professors mandated that tens of thousands of students had to purchase the book, guaranteeing the average college professor tens of thousands of dollars in royalties.
Collectivism? You bet.
Perhaps this was part of the motivation for H.W. Brands’ new but very average book on Ronald Reagan. College professors are good at giving awards and getting awards and lecturing from their ivory towers, but often they are not very good at writing history.
Mr. Brands is a run-of-the-mill liberal college professor who appears to never venture forth from the academy to actually witness or report on history. The writing itself is mostly fine, though he doesn’t go very far in his research.
Also, the problem with his book is not just that there are glaring gaps (more on this later) but also because he breaks no new ground in writing about the Gipper. The greatest of all the Reagan biographers, Lou Cannon, watched and observed and covered Reagan for 50 years. Mr. Cannon is still discovering and writing new facts about Reagan.
Others such as Arthur Schlesinger were also eyewitnesses to history.
David McCullough and Robert Caro marinate themselves in their subjects. Mr. Caro once slept on the ground of the Hill Country just to gain a better perspective on Lyndon Johnson. Mr. McCullough has traveled the world in search of elusive new facts.
Moreover, Mr. Brands relies heavily on Edmund Morris and his widely discredited book, “Dutch.” Fortunately, he also heavily relies on the superb “Reagan Diaries” edited by the estimable Doug Brinkley. There are also large holes in the Brands storyline. For instance, he spends only a few pages on the 1976 campaign. As anyone will tell you, ifReagan hadn’t made this race, he never would have run in 1980. Mr. Brands also completely overlooks the importance of 1977 to 1979, foundational years for the Gipper. (I am now writing a book on this important time.)
Mr. Brands did not use National Review, The American Spectator, Human Events or The Washington Times for research, and as the most pedestrian Reagan biographer will tell you, these publications were vitally important to the life and times of Ronald Reagan. His research relies on a narrow band of books and even narrower band of interviewees. The scholarship is thin, to say the least. He also says that Marty Anderson played a “less central” role in the life and times of Ronald Reagan, which is a profoundly wrong statement.
Mr. Brands is also is mistaken when he writes that Richard Nixon’s resignation cleared the path for Reagan. It did not. Reagan would have had a much easier time running for the nomination with a wounded Nixon still in office than facing Gerald Ford, who made much of the fact that he wasn’t a part of Watergate.
The author also oddly thanks Gary Sick. Mr. Sick is the weirdo who fashioned the totally fictitious account that had George Bush flying to Europe to meet personally with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to pressure him into keeping the hostages in Tehran in the summer of 1980. Yeah, right. Only candidates for an institution like Michael Moore believe in that version of the “October Surprise.”
And yet there is scant mention of Dick Schweiker, Paul Laxalt, John Sears and others who loomed large in the Reagan narrative, such as Peter Hannaford, David Keene or Frank Donatelli. He certainly never interviewed them or dozens of others who could have elaborated on the Reagan story. Mr. Brands also employs the annoying habit of almost never crediting another author from where his information is coming, as if Mr. Brands newly reports it. He rarely says, “As Lou Cannon recounted ” or “As Mike Deaver told .”
There is also too much restating of the obvious: “Weinberger became Reagan’s point man for the Pentagon buildup.” Everybody in Western Civilization knew this about Cap.
By this point, most know the basic Reagan story, from Tampico to Washington, and most Reagan scholars are now into deeper studies of the Gipper, new information and more nuanced analysis. This was a deep and thoughtful man who deserves deep and thoughtful scholarship.
Mr. Brands nonsensically writes that Reagan entered politics because he “wanted attention.” Reagan entered politics because he wanted to get things done.
• Craig Shirley, president of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, has written two books about Ronald Reagan and is the author of “December 1941” (Thomas Nelson). He is also the author of “Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan,” due out in October from Harper Christian.