Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cruising the Web

What if the President gave an Arab summit and no one came? It's getting hard to hide how Obama has antagonized Middle Eastern countries by his kowtowing to Iran.
Ever since he decided to chase the mirage of a “Grand Bargain” with Iran, President Obama has pretended that the only opposition comes from Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu and “hardline” Republicans in the Congress.

He was to highlight that claim by hosting a summit for “key Arab allies” at Camp David this week.

Yet the exercise has instead shown the failure of Obama to sell his narrative to “key Arab allies” even before the first round of orange juice is served at Camp David.

Of the six heads of the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) only two, the emirs of Kuwait and Qatar, will attend.
I guess they are not comforted by Obama's assurances that there is nothing to concern anyone about his deal with Iran.
There are two reasons for the boycott.

The first is that the “key Arab allies” already know that Obama, who genuinely believes he is always right, does not listen to anybody.

The Camp David exercise, therefore, is designed only as an occasion to admire Obama’s strategy and celebrate his “historic achievement” in accepting Iran’s position as a “threshold nuclear power.”

The second reason is that Arabs already know what Obama is going to say.

“Obama made it clear he wanted an accord with Iran under any circumstances,” a senior Arab official recently told me, on condition of anonymity.

According to the official, Obama also claimed that President Hassan Rouhani’s team Iran had “made concessions that no other government in Tehran would ever offer again.”

Finally, Obama said he would be prepared to offer a “presidential statement” warning Iran not to threaten the security and integrity of its Arab neighbors....

“Obama is banking on the assumption that giving Iran everything it wants may help change its behavior,” the Arab official told me. “He may be right. We think he is wrong.”

Bret Stephens defends Pamela Geller.
Since when did the phrase “she was asking for it” gain respectability in the encyclopedia of American political correctness?

In 2011 Lara Logan was sexually assaulted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, after which several bloggers chimed in that the CBS correspondent somehow had it coming to her because she’s blonde and pretty and the demonstrators were frenzied and male. Respectable opinion, conservative and liberal alike, rose up as one to denounce the appalling suggestion.

Fast forward to the May 3 terrorist attack on the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, in which two jihadists attempted to shoot their way into a Muhammad cartoon contest organized by Pamela Geller and her organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Since the attack, Ms. Geller has been denounced from Fox News to Comedy Central as a provocation artist who needlessly and knowingly put people’s lives in danger.

“This is problematic to me, because I wonder whether this group that held this event down there to basically disparage and make fun of the prophet Muhammad doesn’t in some way cause these events,” commented Chris Matthews. “Well, not the word ‘causing’—how about provoking, how about taunting, how about daring?”

Taunting. Daring. In other words, asking for it....

In particular, Ms. Geller is hammering home the point, whether wittingly or not, that the free speech most worth defending is the speech we agree with least. That’s especially important when the enemies of free speech—in this case, Muslim fanatics—are invoking the pretext of moral injury to inflict bodily harm. A society that rejects the notion of a heckler’s veto cannot accept the idea of a murderer’s veto simply because the murderer is prepared to go to greater extremes to silence his opponents.

All the more so since the Islamist objection to depictions of the prophet—I say Islamist because there is a rich history of Muslim depictions of Muhammad—is far from the only Islamist objection to Western ways. Sayyid Qutb, spiritual godfather of the jihadists who attacked Ms. Geller’s event, spent the better part of 1949 in Greeley, Colo., and was scandalized by football, jazz and American womanhood, among other perversities. Should the polite consensus of American opinion concede the legitimacy of the complaint about cartoons, another complaint will follow.

What will it be? Daytime eating by non-Muslims in certain neighborhoods during Ramadan? Criticism of Islam in the form of writing rather than images? Bullies know that the key to dominion always lies in the first conciliating act of submission....

We live in an era where people like the idea of rights, so long as there is no price to their practice. We want to speak truth to power—so long as “truth” is some shopworn cliché and “power” comes in the form of an institution that will never harm you. Perhaps it was always so. But from time to time we need people to remind us that free speech is not some shibboleth to be piously invoked, but a right that needs to be exercised if it is to survive as a right.

Pam Geller may not be the most erudite scholar of the Middle East, or the most couth defender of the First Amendment. Then again, she’s defending it, at considerable personal risk. Can Chris Matthews make the same claim?

Hillary Clinton is running a rose-garden campaign without the flowers. Chris Cillizza examines her interactions with the press.
Welcome to day 29 of the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign!

In those 29 days – including April 12, the day she announced, and today – Clinton has taken a total of eight questions from the press. That breaks out to roughly one question every 3.6 days. Of late, she's taken even fewer questions than that. According to media reports, the last day Clinton answered a question was April 21 in New Hampshire; that means that she hasn't taken a question from the media in 20 straight days.
This provides an opportunity for Republican candidates such as Carly Fiorina who can contrast their openness to the media with Clinton. Fiorina's campaign is touting that she's been interviewed about 30 times in the last eight days and answered over 300 questions. The Clinton campaign's answer is that she's talking to regular voters. Cillizza is not impressed.
1. Making policy statements/opening statements does not remove the need to answer actual questions from reporters.

2. While answering questions from hand-picked audience members is not without value, no one could possibly think it is the equivalent of answering questions from the working press.
And it's all clear that she isn't answering questions because she knows that every time she does, she makes headlines with either her awkwardness or her evasions or her lies or all three.

Kirsten Powers, author of The Silencing, writes about how liberals have ruined college.
This Orwellian climate of intimidation and fear chills free speech and thought. On college campuses it is particularly insidious. Higher education should provide an environment to test new ideas, debate theories, encounter challenging information, and figure out what one believes. Campuses should be places where students are able to make mistakes without fear of retribution. If there is no margin for error, it is impossible to receive a meaningful education.

Instead, the politically correct university is a world of land mines, where faculty and students have no idea what innocuous comment might be seen as an offense....

In an article in the Atlantic, Wendy Kaminer—a lawyer and free-speech advocate—declared, “Academic freedom is declining. The belief that free speech rights don’t include the right to speak offensively is now firmly entrenched on campuses and enforced by repressive speech or harassment codes. Campus censors don’t generally riot in response to presumptively offensive speech, but they do steal newspapers containing articles they don’t like, vandalize displays they find offensive, and disrupt speeches they’d rather not hear. They insist that hate speech isn’t free speech and that people who indulge in it should be punished. No one should be surprised when a professor at an elite university calls for the arrest of ‘Sam Bacile’ [who made the YouTube video The Innocence of Muslims] while simultaneously claiming to value the First Amendment.”

On today’s campuses, left-leaning administrators, professors, and students are working overtime in their campaign of silencing dissent, and their unofficial tactics of ostracizing, smearing, and humiliation are highly effective. But what is even more chilling—and more far reaching—is the official power they abuse to ensure the silencing of views they don’t like. They’ve invented a labyrinth of anti-free speech tools that include “speech codes,” “free speech zones,” censorship, investigations by campus “diversity and tolerance offices,” and denial of due process. They craft “anti-harassment policies” and “anti-violence policies” that are speech codes in disguise. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) 2014 report on campus free speech, “Spotlight on Speech Codes,” close to 60 percent of the four hundred–plus colleges they surveyed “seriously infringe upon the free speech rights of students.” Only 16 of the schools reviewed in 2014 had no policies restricting protected speech. Their 2015 report found that of the 437 schools they surveyed, “more than 55 percent maintain severely restrictive, ‘red light’ speech codes—policies that clearly and substantially prohibit protected speech.” FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff attributed the slight drop to outside pressure from free-speech groups and lawsuits.

For many Americans the term “speech code” sends shivers up the spine. Yet these noxious and un-American codes have become commonplace on college campuses across the United States. They are typically so broad that they could include literally anything and are subject to the interpretation of school administrators, who frequently fail to operate as honest brokers. In the hands of the illiberal left, the speech codes are weapons to silence anyone—professors, students, visiting speakers—who expresses a view that deviates from the left’s worldview or ideology. Speech that offends them is redefined as “harassment” or “hate speech” both of which are barred by most campus speech codes
This trend has been talked about by conservatives for years, but it has now become so prevalent and oppressive that honest liberals like Kirsten Powers are rightly disgusted. What she details is what has happened when we ignore the slippery slope of censorship that has descended upon college campuses. Our places of employment will be next and it's already beginning. One day we'll turn around and realize that the freedom of speech has been eroded beyond all recognition without a shot having been fired. It is so very depressing. Our only hope is that the rightful derision some of the stories she details earns for university administrators or the cases they lose when challenged will start to reverse the trend. Though I have my doubts about such an optimistic outcome.

This is what political correctness has given birth to.
“Complaint says crosses at Catholic school offensive, prevent Muslim prayers,” reads the headline at BeliefNet.

It’s one of those headlines that sounds like a bad joke, but it isn’t. It’s not exactly a serious complaint, either, and it isn’t coming from actual Muslim students in any event. “Baffled Catholic University officials say they have never received a complaint from any of the schools Muslim students,” writes BeliefNet.

In fact, the university expressed its bafflement in a full-length statement: “Catholic University’s faithfulness to our Catholic tradition has also made us a welcome home to students of other religions. No students have registered complaints about the exercise of their religions on our campus. We understand that a professor unaffiliated with Catholic University has made public allegations claiming that we are discriminating against our students on religious grounds, but we have not seen any legal filing – and will respond to them if we do.”

The sixty-page complaint was filed with the Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights by a one-man nuisance-lawsuit factory, George Washington University Law School Professor John Banzhaf. Muslim students are but pawns in Banzhaf’s game against Catholics. Taken to its logical conclusion, his lawfare would wipe out mosques and Islamic learning centers as well. The rules of engagement in the Establishment’s War on Religion have a funny way of changing to accommodate Islam, however, so perhaps those hypothetical logical conclusions will never be reached.

Banzhaf’s complaint alleges that the large amount of Catholic imagery draping the halls of Catholic University creates an “offensive” environment in which Muslims are intimidated out of proper reverence for their own religion.

He further alleges the university “does not provide space – as other universities do – for the many daily prayers Muslim students must make, forcing them instead to find temporarily empty classrooms where they are often surrounded by Catholic symbols which are incongruous to their religion.”

Not only that, but Muslim students forced to make do with Catholic University’s chapels find their souls crushed by the oppressive spectacle of “the cathedral that looms over the entire campus – the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.” Banzhaf insists the Muslim students must be provided with facilities where they can conduct their five-times-daily prayers without having to look at anything Catholic, especially that immaculate-conception Death Star of Catholic piety.

Todd Starnes of Fox News has Banzhaf admitting “it may not be illegal” for Catholic University to forego special Catholicism-free rooms for Muslim students, “but it suggests they are acting improperly, and probably with malice.”

He explained that since Muslims must pray five times a day, it’s a tremendous burden for them to “look around for empty classrooms and to be sitting there trying to do Muslim prayers with a big cross looking down or a picture of Jesus or a picture of the Pope is not very conductive to their religion.”

It’s hard to keep a straight face while reading all that, but rest assured the rusty gears and chains of the bureaucracy began clanking as soon as Banzhaf’s thick complaint was dumped into the hopper of the anti-discrimination machine. “A spokesperson for the human rights office said they are investigating Banzhaf’s complaint — and the inquiry could take as long as six months,” writes BeliefNet.
Yup, our government administration is going to investigate that there is just too much Christianity at a school named Catholic University.

What was Mark Halperin thinking when he interviewed Ted Cruz and gave him a rapid-fire interrogation about his knowledge of Cuban culture? It comes off as if Halperin is implying that Cruz really isn't Cuban-American. Watch the video and see how uncomfortable the whole thing was. Daily Caller had some fun imagining the other uncomfortable questions Halperin could ask other candidates.

Ruben Navarrette is the one who brought this uncomfortable interview to public notice.
Imagine the following pep talk that a young Ted Cruz might have gotten from his father, Rafael, about 35 years ago.

"My son, I was tortured in a jail cell in Cuba, but I managed to come to the United States and build a life so that you could live your dreams. I grew up speaking Spanish, but I made sure you spoke English so you could go far. If you study hard, you can attend great universities. You can clerk for the chief justice of the Supreme Court, become a great trial lawyer and argue nine cases before the high court, get elected to the U.S. Senate, and someday run for president.

"Then, after all the family's efforts and sacrifices, one day, you can go on an interview program and be asked by a smug and clueless white journalist if you're authentically Cuban."

Watching Mark Halperin of Bloomberg Politics interview Cruz recently, I wasn't just uncomfortable. I was actually nauseated.

As a journalist, I felt embarrassed for Halperin. As a Hispanic, I felt like I was watching a college fraternity have fun with racial stereotypes, like when staging a "border party" where people show up in serapes and fake mustaches. And as someone who doesn't adhere to a party line to the point where I've been accused of being a "coconut" (white on the inside, brown on the outside), I was furious enough to -- as Sarah Palin once said approvingly about Cruz -- chew barbed wire and spit out rust....

I kept waiting for Halperin to ask Cruz to play the conga drums like Desi Arnaz while dancing salsa and sipping cafe con leche -- all to prove the Republican is really Cuban.

Just when I thought I'd seen the worst, it got even more offensive. Earlier that day, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, had entered the presidential race. So, Halperin said: "I want to give you the opportunity to directly welcome your colleague Sen. Sanders to the race, and I'd like you to do it, if you would, en español."

What nerve, treating a U.S. senator like a trained seal! Who does this guy think he is, trying to evaluate how well a Hispanic speaks Spanish? And what does that have to do with being authentic anyway?

You know who, by their own admission, don't speak espanol well? Housing Secretary Julian Castro and his twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, both friends of mine. You could bet Halperin would never put those questions to the Castros because, as Democrats, they're assumed to be closer to the masses than Cruz is.

I kept thinking to myself: "What if, instead of watching a Washington insider who is also an MSNBC contributor, I was watching Fox News' Bill O'Reilly demand that one of the Castros say a few words in Spanish so O'Reilly could determine if he is legitimately Hispanic?"

The left would go apoplectic. They'd call O'Reilly a racist, and they'd be right. In this case, the Hispanic advocacy groups didn't say anything.

I can believe that Halperin really thought he was having a cheerful little interlude exploring Cruz's Cuban-American heritage rather like a morning talk show. However, Halperin's demeanor as he drills Cruz on whether he ate Cuban food and then interrupts his answer to ask his favorite dish as if Cruz was faking his cultural background is more of a gotcha interrogation and then a light discussion of Cuban culture. No surprise, as Ed Morrissey reports, that even Think Progress has criticized Halperin and Halperin has apologized.

Are you ready for the GOP debates with who-knows-how-many candidates up on the stage? Ugh.