Friday, April 11, 2014

Labeling Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Photo of Ayaan Hirsi Ali by Gianluca Colla/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a label attached to her.  It is “Women’s Rights Activist.”

She is in the news this week because she was scheduled to speak at the Brandeis University 2014 commencement ceremony in Waltham, Massachusetts, outside Boston.  The university wished to award her an honorary degree.

That all changed on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 when Brandeis withdrew its offer.  The university said that Ms. Ali makes statements that are inconsistent with the university’s core values.  They label Ms. Ali an Islamophobe.

I commented on the use of that label in a post titled “A New York Mosque.”  That was in 2010.  Here is where we are today…

Abdullah Antepli posted an article yesterday titled “Hats off to Brandeis University!”  Mr. Antepli is a Muslim chaplain at Duke University.  This is the concluding paragraph from his Duke Chronicle article:

From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Brandeis University, President Frederick Lawrence and all others who are behind this exemplary moral act. Thank you for not damaging already fragile, Jewish-Muslim relations any further. Thank you for not pulling the rug from under the feet of people who are admirably trying to repair the relationship and bridge the gap between these divided communities. As my Jewish brothers and sisters say, “Yashar Koach!” Well done, hats off to all of you and thank you.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a piece in The Wall Street Journal this morning.  It is titled, “Here’s What I Would Have Said at Brandeis.”  This is the complete text of Ms. Ali’s article:

One year ago, the city and suburbs of Boston were still in mourning. Families who only weeks earlier had children and siblings to hug were left with only photographs and memories. Still others were hovering over bedsides, watching as young men, women, and children endured painful surgeries and permanent disfiguration. All because two brothers, radicalized by jihadist websites, decided to place homemade bombs in backpacks near the finish line of one of the most prominent events in American sports, the Boston Marathon.

All of you in the Class of 2014 will never forget that day and the days that followed. You will never forget when you heard the news, where you were, or what you were doing. And when you return here, 10, 15 or 25 years from now, you will be reminded of it. The bombs exploded just 10 miles from this campus.

I read an article recently that said many adults don't remember much from before the age of 8. That means some of your earliest childhood memories may well be of that September morning simply known as "9/11."

You deserve better memories than 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing. And you are not the only ones. In Syria, at least 120,000 people have been killed, not simply in battle, but in wholesale massacres, in a civil war that is increasingly waged across a sectarian divide. Violence is escalating in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Libya, in Egypt. And far more than was the case when you were born, organized violence in the world today is disproportionately concentrated in the Muslim world.

Another striking feature of the countries I have just named, and of the Middle East generally, is that violence against women is also increasing. In Saudi Arabia, there has been a noticeable rise in the practice of female genital mutilation. In Egypt, 99% of women report being sexually harassed and up to 80 sexual assaults occur in a single day.

Especially troubling is the way the status of women as second-class citizens is being cemented in legislation. In Iraq, a law is being proposed that lowers to 9 the legal age at which a girl can be forced into marriage. That same law would give a husband the right to deny his wife permission to leave the house.

Sadly, the list could go on. I hope I speak for many when I say that this is not the world that my generation meant to bequeath yours. When you were born, the West was jubilant, having defeated Soviet communism. An international coalition had forced Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. The next mission for American armed forces would be famine relief in my homeland of Somalia. There was no Department of Homeland Security, and few Americans talked about terrorism.

Two decades ago, not even the bleakest pessimist would have anticipated all that has gone wrong in the part of world where I grew up. After so many victories for feminism in the West, no one would have predicted that women's basic human rights would actually be reduced in so many countries as the 20th century gave way to the 21st.

Today, however, I am going to predict a better future, because I believe that the pendulum has swung almost as far as it possibly can in the wrong direction.

When I see millions of women in Afghanistan defying threats from the Taliban and lining up to vote; when I see women in Saudi Arabia defying an absurd ban on female driving; and when I see Tunisian women celebrating the conviction of a group of policemen for a heinous gang rape, I feel more optimistic than I did a few years ago. The misnamed Arab Spring has been a revolution full of disappointments. But I believe it has created an opportunity for traditional forms of authority—including patriarchal authority—to be challenged, and even for the religious justifications for the oppression of women to be questioned.

Yet for that opportunity to be fulfilled, we in the West must provide the right kind of encouragement. Just as the city of Boston was once the cradle of a new ideal of liberty, we need to return to our roots by becoming once again a beacon of free thought and civility for the 21st century. When there is injustice, we need to speak out, not simply with condemnation, but with concrete actions.

One of the best places to do that is in our institutions of higher learning. We need to make our universities temples not of dogmatic orthodoxy, but of truly critical thinking, where all ideas are welcome and where civil debate is encouraged. I'm used to being shouted down on campuses, so I am grateful for the opportunity to address you today. I do not expect all of you to agree with me, but I very much appreciate your willingness to listen.

I stand before you as someone who is fighting for women's and girls' basic rights globally. And I stand before you as someone who is not afraid to ask difficult questions about the role of religion in that fight.

The connection between violence, particularly violence against women, and Islam is too clear to be ignored. We do no favors to students, faculty, nonbelievers and people of faith when we shut our eyes to this link, when we excuse rather than reflect.

So I ask: Is the concept of holy war compatible with our ideal of religious toleration? Is it blasphemy—punishable by death—to question the applicability of certain seventh-century doctrines to our own era? Both Christianity and Judaism have had their eras of reform. I would argue that the time has come for a Muslim Reformation.

Is such an argument inadmissible? It surely should not be at a university that was founded in the wake of the Holocaust, at a time when many American universities still imposed quotas on Jews.

The motto of Brandeis University is "Truth even unto its innermost parts." That is my motto too. For it is only through truth, unsparing truth, that your generation can hope to do better than mine in the struggle for peace, freedom and equality of the sexes.

I come down on the side of Ms. Ali.  I get to be labeled an Islamophobe by our American academic community.

UPDATE 4/14/2014:
Zev Chafets, writing for Fox News, Characterizes Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a "Victim of an honor killing, Brandeis Style."

Friday, February 14, 2014

Teaching the Hate

Anti-Republican graphic from the 2/8/2014 DSCC e-mail

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today is a day of caring for the people you love.  It is also a day that stands in contrast to the sentiments of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

The DSCC sends frequent e-mail messages to its subscribers.  The messages request money to help keep Democratic Party control of the United States Senate.

Here is a listing of the notes sent so far this year.  They are tabulated by date, showing the target of the campaign and some of the words used as descriptors for that person or entity.  It provides a glimpse of the tone favored by today’s Democratic Party:

Date                   Target                           Descriptors used by DSCC
01/03/2014      Republicans                stop Republican takeover
01/07/2014      John Boehner              (wants) people without food
01/10/2014      Donors                          happy birthday Michelle Obama
01/15/2014      Mitch McConnell        outrageous
01/15/2014      The Koch Brothers      brutal attacks
01/16/2014      The Koch Brothers      unusually aggressive; tearing down candidates
01/17/2014      The Koch Brothers      brutal attacks
01/18/2014      The Koch Brothers      they WILL take over the Senate
01/21/2014      The Koch Brothers      vicious attacks; barrage of attacks
01/22/2014      The Koch Brothers      every single disgusting Koch attack
01/22/2014      The Koch Brothers      every single revolting Koch attack
01/23/2014      The Koch Brothers      carpet-bombing…with absolutely vicious attacks
01/23/2014      The Koch Brothers      every single disgusting attack
01/24/2014      The Koch Brothers      outrageous attacks
01/24/2014      The Koch Brothers      outrageous attacks; despicable attacks
01/25/2014      The Koch Brothers      secret convention; scathing attacks
01/26/2014      The Koch Brothers      next onslaught of despicable attacks
01/27/2014      The Koch Brothers      viciously attack; scathing attacks
01/27/2014      The Koch Brothers      $6 million on despicable attacks
01/28/2014      Mitch McConnell        all the blame for 2013 dysfunction
01/28/2014      The Koch Brothers      UNPRECEDENTED early spending
01/28/2014      Mitch McConnell        outrageous gridlock; disgusting attacks
01/29/2014      The Koch Brothers      millionaire friends
01/29/2014      The Koch Brothers      scathing attacks
01/30/2014      The Koch Brothers      unprecedented early attack blitz
01/30/2014      Karl Rove                    dark and creepy; anonymous rich guys
01/30/2014      Republicans                 a sea of early attacks
01/31/2014      The Koch Brothers      unparalleled deluge of attacks; buy the Senate
01/31/2014      The Koch Brothers      attack onslaught; Republican takeover
01/31/2014      The Koch Brothers      nationwide attack onslaught
01/31/2014      The Koch Brothers      DOUBLED Democratic spending
02/07/2014      Mitch McConnell        477th time he’s led a filibuster; disgusting
02/08/2014      The Koch Brothers      producers of carcinogens

02/10/2014      The Koch Brothers      absolutely brutal attacks; disgusting attacks
02/11/2014      Mitch McConnell        outrageous political tactics
02/12/2014      Mitch McConnell        saturate the airwaves with negative ads
02/13/2014      Karl Rove                    $138,000 worth of vicious attacks

I’ve not yet received the DSCC missive for this Valentine’s Day.  Maybe it will be something like 1/10/2014, wishing Michelle Obama a happy birthday.

As you can see, the odds don’t favor it.

UPDATE 4/3/2014:
Eliana Johnson at National Review Online provides background on the Koch-funded ads that are creating the intense reaction at the DSCC.  Charles Koch explains why he has become active in politics.  Both articles provide balance to the DSCC attacks.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Weaponizing Catherine Engelbrecht


Megyn Kelly anchors a nightly show on the FOX News Channel.  On February 6, 2014 she featured the testimony of Catherine Engelbrecht (pictured above).  Mrs. Engelbrecht had appeared before the House Oversight & Government Reform Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs.  Her testimony was cited as evidence she had been targeted for intimidation by agencies of the federal government.

Mrs. Engelbrecht (at 2:50 in the following clip) characterized the investigations of her business and political activities as “the weaponizing of government:”
In the 21st century, our culture divides us.  Many Americans are invested in promoting the power and authority of the Democratic Party.  Mrs. Engelbrecht believes that as an individual, she is endowed with certain unalienable Rights, including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Mrs. Engelbrecht does not take kindly to intimidation.  She has filed an ethics complaint against Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and points to her testimony as justification:

Megyn Kelly, contrary to others in the field of political reporting, finds the experience of Mrs. Engelbrecht newsworthy.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Steven Hayward and The State of the Union

Illustration of Steven Hayward by Julian Puckett

Steve Hayward is the University of Colorado Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy.  It’s a title that smacks of academia and the attendant disdain, but it is a good thing for Colorado.

CU seems to acknowledge that conservative thought isn’t going away gently into the night.  The university has enlisted Dr. Hayward to teach undergraduate classes in the College of Arts and Sciences.  I imagine his classes are instructive and entertaining.

While not mentioned in the biographical information noted above, Dr. Hayward has roots in California (San Luis Obispo) and in the blogging community.  He regularly contributes articles to Power Line and has a particularly interesting post today.

Steve’s article highlights Kurt Vonnegut and the work of Bret Stephens.  The reference to Kurt Vonnegut is his short story “Harrison Bergeron.”  The reference to Bret Stephens is his column in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Stephens uses his column to predict the content of president Obama’s State of the Union address this evening.  He focuses on the equality theme that is sure to dominate the president’s remarks.

Dr. Hayward senses the historical impact, and provides background and visual context in the form of a trailer from Chandler Tuttle’s film.

This year’s State of the Union just might be an awakening for Americans!

UPDATE 4/4/2014:
Professor Hayward gets to experience those feelings of minority status so frequently visited upon Republicans.  The Chairman of the Boulder Faculty Assembly (Paul Chinowsky), the President of CU Student Government Student Affairs (Chris Schaefbauer) and the Director of Safety and Inclusion for CU Student Government (Caitlin Pratt) call out Dr. Hayward for not building a community where everyone is comfortable in the classroom, creating power dynamics where it is difficult for victims to express feelings of discomfort over unwelcome conduct, and failing to support all members of the university community.  They cite Dr. Hayward as being representative of a larger problem at CU where the rights of women (and LGBTQ individuals) are denied, dissected and refuted.  They declare that Dr. Hayward is bigoted and makes comments that border on hate speech.

They characterize their statements as being representative of the students and faculty at the University of Colorado and that the University of Colorado must never allow this behavior.  Dr. Hayward must be cast out!

This is what is "right and natural' at the University of Colorado.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Philomena and The Book of Mormon

Dame Judi Dench is an actress of fascinating ability.  She can play everything from the head of a spy agency to a little old lady.  Her latest movie “Philomena” has her playing the latter role with great sensitivity, depth and flair, and she does it while suffering from the real-life disability of age-related macular degeneration.

The Book of Mormon” (now on national tour) came to Denver this past month.  It is a send-up of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has received numerous honors.  When it opened on Broadway in 2011, it was awarded the Tony for Best Musical.

Both of these shows deserve acclaim for their creativity and entertainment value, but they also should receive notice for their political posturing.  “The Book of Mormon” leaves you with the notion that followers of the LDS faith are sexually na├»ve and cloistered in their understanding of national and international events.

That perspective created a powerful political theme leading up to the 2012 Presidential election.  Even now, one leaves the theater thinking, “Thank God one of those people didn’t become President of the United States!”

“Philomena” is a story about a personal search for reconciliation.  It deserves critical acclaim, but like “Julie and Julia” it takes a perfunctory swipe at Republicans, characterizing supporters of the Reagan presidency as homophobic.

Americans take these theatrical conventions in stride and without comment.

It’s just those with a more humanist view who are left wondering, “Why must these anti-Republican sentiments be so prevalent in American entertainment?”

Monday, November 18, 2013

Healthcare Messaging

Hugh Hewitt’s blog contains the Weekly Column from Clark Judge.  It covers Republican plans for reforming healthcare.  There are just four components:



--Tort Reform


How simple is that?  We have four straightforward ideas that are easy to communicate and relatively easy to implement.

Mobility means allowing insurance policies to be sold across state lines.  A policy approved in Maryland could be sold to people in Colorado.  Competition comes to healthcare!

Equality means evening out the tax treatment between employer-sponsored and individual policies.  Leveling the playing field!

Tort Reform means changing the legal system to reduce incentives for high-dollar medical liability suits.  Medical malpractice premiums go down!

HSA means continuing the ability for Americans to directly fund their own health expenses.  Healthcare becomes an IRA!

Yes, Republicans have four simple reforms contained in four simple ideas.

I don’t mean to sound like a rabble rouser, but Republicans should commit these four reforms to memory and spread the word!

UPDATE 11/19/2013:
After further thought, I think the slogan should be "Legality! Equality! Mobility! (and HSAs)."  That has an 8 beat cadence to it (if you pause after the "Mobility!") and puts things in their proper order.  Making healthcare legislation conform to the Rule of Law must be the first priority (to include tort reform), and then should come the leveling of the playing field between individual and employer policies.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

White House Down

White House Down” is now available on DVD, and it allows us to witness a plot against the president of the United States.  The bad guys have aspirations for nuclear conflagration and huge financial gain.

They just have to get past Channing Tatum.

The film has similarities to the “Die Hard” series, and Channing Tatum takes on the physical characteristics of a Bruce Willis.  The action is intense!

But that’s not why this movie gets a mention in Anti-RepublicanCulture.  It’s because of the political aspect that nobody notices.

Not one critic (not The Hollywood Reporter, not Richard Roeper, not sees the use of politics in the movie.  Nobody notices that the bad guys are characterized in a particular way.

The movie features “right wing” terrorists, a corrupt Speaker of the House, and Jamie Foxx as the heroic POTUS.  If you are paying attention, you might see a connection to Republicans, to John Boehner, and to president Obama.

Utilizing entertainment as a vehicle to characterize Republicans as the “bad guys” is a non-issue.  (Yes, I know, if Islamists were the bad guys, CAIR would be all over it.)

But Republicans cast as bad people?  Not a problem.

The political use of entertainment in America is not at the level we see in the indoctrination of Palestinian children, but it might be getting there.  (See my post on “Julie and Julia” for additional references.)

In the meantime, our culture tells us to move on.  Nothing to see here…