Archive for Free Speech

A-li! A-li! A-li!

What’s that? Is The Greatest making a comeback? Another “Thrilla in Manilla?”

More like a “Puss-out at Brandeis”. Aggie told you the story yesterday.

This is Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s take:

Yesterday Brandeis University decided to withdraw an honorary degree they were to confer upon me next month during their Commencement exercises. I wish to dissociate myself from the university’s statement, which implies that I was in any way consulted about this decision. On the contrary, I was completely shocked when President Frederick Lawrence called me — just a few hours before issuing a public statement — to say that such a decision had been made.

When Brandeis approached me with the offer of an honorary degree, I accepted partly because of the institution’s distinguished history; it was founded in 1948, in the wake of World War II and the Holocaust, as a co-educational, nonsectarian university at a time when many American universities still imposed rigid admission quotas on Jewish students. I assumed that Brandeis intended to honor me for my work as a defender of the rights of women against abuses that are often religious in origin. For over a decade, I have spoken out against such practices as female genital mutilation, so-called “honor killings,” and applications of Sharia Law that justify such forms of domestic abuse as wife beating or child beating. Part of my work has been to question the role of Islam in legitimizing such abhorrent practices. So I was not surprised when my usual critics, notably the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), protested against my being honored in this way.

What did surprise me was the behavior of Brandeis. Having spent many months planning for me to speak to its students at Commencement, the university yesterday announced that it could not “overlook certain of my past statements,” which it had not previously been aware of. Yet my critics have long specialized in selective quotation — lines from interviews taken out of context — designed to misrepresent me and my work. It is scarcely credible that Brandeis did not know this when they initially offered me the degree.

What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming. Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles. The “spirit of free expression” referred to in the Brandeis statement has been stifled here, as my critics have achieved their objective of preventing me from addressing the graduating Class of 2014. Neither Brandeis nor my critics knew or even inquired as to what I might say. They simply wanted me to be silenced. I regret that very much.

Not content with a public disavowal, Brandeis has invited me “to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.” Sadly, in words and deeds, the university has already spoken its piece. I have no wish to “engage” in such one-sided dialogue. I can only wish the Class of 2014 the best of luck — and hope that they will go forth to be better advocates for free expression and free thought than their alma mater.

I take this opportunity to thank all those who have supported me and my work on behalf of oppressed woman and girls everywhere.

A thorough and well-deserved evisceration.

Or, as Mark Steyn puts it:

As for Brandeis president Frederick Lawrence and the others who took this decision, nobody’s asking them to be as brave as Ayaan Hirsi Ali. They will never know what it’s like to have their associates murdered and to be forced into living under armed guard. They will never have to “share the risk” that Ms Hirsi Ali faces every day of her life. All that was required of President Lawrence & Co was that they not be total craven, jelly-spined squishes who fold like a cheap Bedouin tent at the first hint of pressure.

But Lawrence couldn’t even do that. Ayaan Hirsi Ali campaigns against female genital mutilation – that’s to say, the barbarous practice by which Muslim men deny women sexual pleasure by having their clitorises cut off. Lawrence and the other fellows who run Brandeis are in no danger of any equivalent procedure since it seems clear they’ve nothing down there to chop off anyway. The eunuchs of the American academy are the beneficiaries of western liberty, of the spirit of openness and inquiry that is the principal difference between us and the intellectually stagnant Muslim world. But they will not lift a finger to defend that tradition.

Remember when Islam put out a contract on Salman Rushdie? That flea-infested Assatollah Khomeini ordered zombie followers to bring him the head—the actual head—of the author of The Satanic Verses for daring to disparage the religion or the prophet or whatever. There was plenty of spinelessness then too, but I seem to recall people wearing “I Am Salman Rushdie” buttons in solidarity. (Though curiously I can’t find any images on line.)

At Brandeis, they’re wearing buttons that say “Ayaan Hirsi Who?” and “Clitorectomy For Thee, Not For Me”.

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FOIA? Phooey!

All your biases are belong to us:

It’s Sunshine Week, so perhaps some enterprising White House reporter will ask press secretary Jay Carney why President Obama rewrote the Freedom of Information Act without telling the rest of America.

The rewrite came in an April 15, 2009, memo from then-White House Counsel Greg Craig instructing the executive branch to let White House officials review any documents sought by FOIA requestors that involved “White House equities.”

That phrase is nowhere to be found in the FOIA, yet the Obama White House effectively amended the law to create a new exception to justify keeping public documents locked away from the public.

“FOIA is designed to inform the public on government behavior; White House equities allow the government to withhold information from the media, and therefore the public, by having media requests forwarded for review. This not only politicizes federal agencies, it impairs fundamental First Amendment liberties,” Cause of Action explains in its report.

The FOIA requires federal agencies to respond within 20 days of receiving a request, but the White House equities exception can make it impossible for an agency to meet that deadline.

In one case cited by Cause of Action, the response to a request from a Los Angeles Times reporter to the Department of the Interior for “communications between the White House and high-ranking Interior officials on various politically sensitive topics” was delayed at least two years by the equities review.

While we’re trying to peer into the most transparent administration ever:

The Associated Press has stepped up its attack on White House efforts to block coverage of events involving President Obama, warning that once access is cut, “we’ll never get it back.”

In the latest media charge that the White House has reneged on promises to be “transparent,” two of AP’s White House staff told a convention in Denver this week that the president’s team often bars coverage of Obama events because they are “hypersensitive” about his Image.

At the Newspaper Association of America’s mediaXchange convention in Denver, AP White House photographer Charles Dharapak said that instead of letting reporters and photographers in at major news events, like the president’s recent meeting with the Dalai Lama, it is issuing “visual press releases” on social media.

He suggested that in cutting reporters from events that have historically received coverage, the White House is limiting access to independent news organizations. “Once we lose access, we’ll never get it back,” he told convention participants.

His comments were the buzz in the crowd, eventually hitting Twitter.

“@Dharapak: We don’t fault @WhiteHouse for managing President’s Image but its no sub for independent journalism,” tweeted Maggie Murphy, editor of Parade magazine.

“@CharlesDharapak: It’s important for the public to understand that official White House photos are public relations,” tweeted Amanda Knowles, web and social media manager for the Newspaper Association of America. “@CharlesDharapak: How White House manages their message: Handout photos from closed events become visual press releases,” she added.

Are they implying that Official While House Photographer, Pete Souza, glamorizes his sole subject, Barack Obama?

Untitled

Final word about FOIA:

“Cause of Action is still waiting for documents from 16 federal agencies, with the Department of Treasury having the longest pending request of 202 business days.

“The Department of Energy is a close second at 169 business days. The requests to the Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services have been pending for 138 business days,” the report said.

With so little regard for the rule of law, I don’t expect these people to leave the White House on January 20, 2017. Why would they? And with such a mewling press corps, why should they?

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More Ways to Help Steyn

We posted here the other day about Mark Steyn’s legal harassment by Michael Mann, the wielder of the Hokum Hockey Stick.

Here’s an update:

I’m a little overwhelmed by your generosity in the wake of Judge Weisberg’s ruling in the Mann vs Steyn case. Readers from not only America but also Canada, Ireland, Norway, India and Australia, among others, have swung by the SteynOnline store to help prop up my unsought sojourn in the DC Superior Court by buying my book on free speech and various other products. However, Neil McNeill in Toronto writes:

Dear Mark,
The battle with Mann is critical to so many people. Let little guys like me support your fight. If I buy $100.00 worth of mugs, you only have the profit with which to pay lawyers. If you pass the hat, all of the $100.00 is available.

You have given me so much pleasure over the years. Let me and you get full legal bang for my buck.

Neil McNeill Toronto

Steyn has an answer (as when does he not?):

[A] couple of readers suggested we bring back our SteynOnline gift certificate, which we usually only offer during the Christmas season. So one way to help out is to buy a gift certificate for yourself (starting at $25 and going up from there). If you want to give us the “full legal bang for the buck” (as Neil puts it), that’s great. If you want to redeem part of it for a book and let SteynOnline have the rest, that’s also fine. If you want to hold on to it and load up with Christmas presents this December, that works, too. The gift certificates have no expiration date, so if, in ten years’ time, Neil has a sudden burning desire for $100 worth of SteynOnline mugs, he’ll still be able to load up.

The gift certificates are available online here, or US and Canadian customers can make a telephone purchase by calling 1-866-799-4500 toll free from 8am to 3pm Eastern time on weekdays. We also take checks (or cheques) drawn on US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and British banks, and in euros. Please make them payable to SteynOnline and mail to Box 30, Woodsville, NH 03785. Anyone purchasing a SteynOnline gift certificate will receive by way of thanks one of our SteynOnline “Liberty Stick” souvenirs, in which we reclaim the poor blameless hockey stick from its unfortunate association with Dr Mann.

You will be shocked to learn (ha!) that Steyn is not going gentle into that good night:

In a post at NATIONAL REVIEW’s website, I mocked Dr. Michael Mann, the celebrated global warm-monger, and his “hockey stick,” the most famous of all the late-Nineties global-warming climate models to which dull, uncooperative 21st-century reality has failed to live up. So he sued. We then filed an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss.

SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation” — i.e., using legal action to cow an opponent into silence, and withdrawal from the public square.

In fairness to Dr. Mann, the two-year anti-SLAPP hearing is not entirely his fault. We are now having to start all over from scratch, with a brand new complaint, brand new motions to dismiss, and a brand new judge — all thanks to the original judge’s remarkable incompetence and careless management of her case. I’m an immigrant and I’m told that in America one shouldn’t criticize judges, but I’ve done so in England and Ireland, Canada and Australia, and I don’t really see why a third-rate judge should be any more immune from criticism than a third-rate plumber. At the risk of oversimplifying, I wonder if in a republic a society’s natural monarchical reverence doesn’t simply wind up getting transferred elsewhere — in this case to omniscient robed jurists. At any rate, it seems to me that a fear of offending judges is unbecoming in a free people. So screw that.

Dr. Mann has been brandishing his hockey stick out on the campaign trail against Republican candidates. In Virginia, he appeared in the Democrats’ attack ads against Ken Cuccinelli, and helped get Clinton’s bagman Terry McAuliffe elected governor. When his candidate Mark Herring also prevailed over the GOP in the attorney general’s race, Mann crowed and published tweets from his acolytes congratulating him on “two fresh notches on your hockey stick.” That would seem, definitively, to move the hockey stick into the realm of political speech explicitly protected by the First Amendment — and perhaps one day, two or three or five years down the line, a D.C. court will agree. But it’s not much of a First Amendment that requires a bazillion dollars in legal fees and a half-decade vow of silence to enjoy the security thereof — all while the plaintiff’s using his freedom of speech to knock off your political allies.

Free speech is about the right to thrash out ideas — on climate change, gay marriage, or anything else — in the public square, in bright sunlight. And you win a free-speech case by shining that sunlight on it, relentlessly. As we embark on our second year in the hell of the D.C. court system, that’s what I intend to do.

Steyn has all but split from National Review—over this and other issues. He’s on his own, even serving as his own lawyer. Readers of this site (hi mom!) will know we tolerate being wrong (leading by example every day!). What we do not tolerate is left-wing bullying—Liberal Fascism, as another NR writer put it. Mark Steyn, Caroline Glick, James Taranto, and Dennis Prager have been my wise elders in my reeducation as a conservative. I’ve even written an unabashed fan note to Steyn, offering to buy him a drink next time he ventures down I 93 into Boston (his assistant thought I might have a shot). I hope he’ll take a rain-check on that drink and accept a contribution in its stead. I’ll buy a $100 gift certificate now, and redeem it when he publishes his prison memoirs.

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Barack Obama’s Evolving Stance on Gay Marriage

What’s the opposite of “evolve”? I’d say arresting (or participating in the arrest) of one reporter’s same-sex spouse—on association only—is the exact opposite of evolution on gay marriage:

Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who broke the news about secret U.S. surveillance programs said the authorities who took his partner into custody at London’s Heathrow Airport “are going to regret what they did.”

Greenwald’s partner, 28-year-old David Miranda, was held for nearly nine hours. He was reportedly passing through the airport on his way home to Brazil after leaving Berlin.

Miranda, also speaking to Globo TV in Rio, said agents were asking him questions “about my entire life.”

“I was in a room, there were six different agents coming in and out and talking to me,” he said. “They took my computer, video games, cell phone, everything.”

The detention was reported by The Guardian. Before releasing him, authorities seized Miranda’s laptop, cell phone, video game consoles and USB sticks, Greenwald wrote for The Guardian.

“This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism,” he said.

“It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It’s worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic. Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they felt threatened by.”

Brazil’s foreign ministry issued a statement Sunday expressing “grave concern” over the incident. Anger had erupted in Brazil when citizens learned of U.S. National Security Agency spying on Brazil.

“This measure is without justification since it involves an individual against whom there are no charges that can legitimate the use of that legislation. The Brazilian government expects that incidents such as the one that happened to the Brazilian citizen today do not repeat.”

“If the UK and U.S. governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded,” said Greenwald.

Okay, Britain detained him, but don’t insult yourself or us by thinking the US didn’t have some say in this. Detaining and interrogating someone’s partner in marriage: does it get any lower?

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Worse Than Nixon

To borrow from Maureen Dowd, “an absolute moral authority”:

Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst whose leak of the “Pentagon Papers” precipitated a landmark Supreme Court case, says President Barack Obama “has become an elected monarch” who is leading “an unprecedented campaign against unauthorized disclosure.”

“The government had used the Espionage Act against leaks only three times before his administration,” Ellsberg told The Washington Post in an interview published Wednesday. “He’s used it six times. He’s doing his best to assure that sources in the government will have reason to fear heavy prison sentences for informing the American public in ways he doesn’t want.”

“In other words, he’s working very hard to make it a government where he controls all the information,” Ellsberg added.

Ellsberg is particularly fierce in his support of Bradley Manning, a young soldier who released a large amount of classified information to WikiLeaks. Manning was arrested in 2010, and his military court-martial began this week. Ellsberg considers Manning a hero, and he argues that there is little difference between what Manning did in 2010 and what Ellsberg did four decades earlier.

Interestingly, after the AP revelations and the [revelations about] Fox News reporter [James Rosen], who was actually charged with aiding and abetting a conspiracy with a source, every journalist has suddenly woken up to the fact that they’re under the gun. That may actually have the effect of waking people up to the fact that, for example, Attorney General Holder has been violating the Constitution steadily, and that he should be fired. But fired for what? For doing what had the approval of the president.

Holder should be fired for a whole series of actions culminating in this subpoena for James Rosen’s cellphone records. I think that would be the first step of resistance in the right direction, of rolling back Obama’s campaign against journalism, freedom of the press in national security.

I think the newspapers really need to address the fact that they’re going to be put in the position of printing nothing more than government handouts. There will be in effect a state press, as in so many other countries that lack freedom of the press. I don’t think they have really awakened to that change. There would be a lot of newspaper people who would be comfortable with that. But there are a lot who would not.

I don’t know enough about Manning’s case to disagree with him, but I think I disagree with him. The rest is pure gospel.

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Move Over, AP

You got company (albeit from Fox News, so who cares, right?):

When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material.

They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.

The case of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, the government adviser, and James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, bears striking similarities to a sweeping leaks investigation disclosed last week in which federal investigators obtained records over two months of more than 20 telephone lines assigned to the Associated Press.

“Search warrants like these have a severe chilling effect on the free flow of important information to the public,” said First Amendment lawyer Charles Tobin, who has represented the Associated Press, but not in the current case. “That’s a very dangerous road to go down.”

“The latest events show an expansion of this law enforcement technique,” said attorney Abbe Lowell, who is defending Kim on federal charges filed in 2010 that he disclosed national defense information. A trial is possible as soon as 2014. “Individual reporters or small time periods have turned into 20 [telephone] lines and months of records with no obvious attempt to be targeted or narrow.”

The Obama administration has pursued more such cases than all previous administrations combined, including one against a former CIA official charged with leaking U.S. intelligence on Iran and another against a former FBI contract linguist who pleaded guilty to leaking to a blogger.

The article makes abundantly clear that the FBI has reason to suspect that Kim, the State Department advisor, leaked the story. But to come down so hard on the reporter who broke the story? To “pursue more such cases than all previous administrations combined”?

After all you media types have done for him, and he does this to you—over and over???

I would ask if the media are going to take this lying down, but I know they will. The only question is which direction they’ll face.

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Rogues Gallery

Hall of shame… shame… shame…

Fourteen days after Ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered by Islamists, President Barack Obama stood up in front of the United Nations and declared that the “message” of a movie virtually no one will ever see “must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity,” that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” and that we all should “condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims.”

It should give even Obama’s strongest supporters pause that the same administration so wary about characterizing Benghazi as a “terrorist attack” was simultaneously so eager to characterize an artistic provocation as a (potentially criminal) incitement.

What follows is a partial timeline of statements made in the first two weeks after the attack, from government officials and media commentators who lent credence to the now-discredited notion that Ambassador Stevens and three other U.S. personnel died because of a YouTube video. If we are to robustly defend the American culture of free speech, it’s important to remember those who so quickly chose to throw the First Amendment under a bus.

Sept. 11, 2012: U.S. Embassy in Cairo:

U.S. Embassy Condemns Religious Incitement

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.

Sept. 12, 2012: Anthea Butler, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania:

How soon is Sam Bacile going to be in jail folks? I need him to go now.When Americans die because you are stupid…

Sept. 12, 2012: Rev. Steven D. Martin, CEO of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good:

I have no sympathy for anyone who would assassinate a U.S. ambassador. But I have even less sympathy for filmmakers who spread hatred and for pastors who knowingly incite violence.

Sept. 13, 2012: Hillary Clinton, secretary of state:

I also want to take a moment to address the video circulating on the Internet that has led to these protests in a number of countries.

To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage.

Sept. 14, 2012: Jay Carney, White House press spokesman:

We also need to understand that this is a fairly volatile situation and it is in response not to United States policy, not to obviously the administration, not to the American people. It is in response to a video, a film that we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting.

This is in response to a video that is offensive to Muslims.

Sept. 14, 2012: Bill Press, radio host:

What, if anything, should happen to the people who made this video? I gotta tell you, I think they are as guilty, that’s my opinion, I think they are as guilty as the terrorists who carried out those attacks against our embassy in Libya.

Sept. 14, 2012: Anthea Butler:

The “free speech” in Bacile’s film is not about expressing a personal opinion about Islam. It denigrates the religion by depicting the faith’s founder in several ludicrous and historically inaccurate scenes to incite and inflame viewers. [...]

While the First Amendment right to free expression is important, it is also important to remember that other countries and cultures do not have to understand or respect our right.

Sept. 16, 2012: Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations:

[B]ased on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what – it began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo, where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy sparked by this hateful video. [...]

[T]his is a spontaneous reaction to a video, and it’s not dissimilar but, perhaps, on a slightly larger scale than what we have seen in the past with The Satanic Verses with the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Sept. 18, 2012: Sarah Chayes, former special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

I spoke to several experts who said the trailer may well fall outside constitutional guarantees of free speech. “Based on my understanding of the events,” 1st Amendment authority Anthony Lewis said in an interview Thursday, “I think this meets the imminence standard.”

“If the result is violence, and that violence was intended, then it meets the standard.”

Sept. 18, 2012: Tim Wu, The New Republic:

When Censorship Makes Sense: How YouTube Should Police Hate Speech

Sept. 20, 2012: President Barack Obama:

Here’s what happened. … You had a video that was released by somebody who lives here, sort of a shadowy character who — who made an extremely offensive video directed at — at Mohammed and Islam.

We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.

Sept. 25, 2012: Eric Posner, professor at the University of Chicago Law School:

The vile anti-Muslim video shows that the U.S. overvalues free speech. [...]

Americans need to learn that the rest of the world—and not just Muslims—see no sense in the First Amendment.

Here’s a tissue, people, to wipe the excrement off your face.

Why do we infantilize Muslims? Granted, some Muslims behave like infants when they feel slighted, but how is that relevant to us? The “unalienable rights” alluded to in the Declaration of Independence, granted by the Creator not the government, are reflected in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution. Which is our secular Bible. Yet these boys and girls would burn, flush, or pee on the Constitution without a second thought. I’m used to them trying to Liquid Paper over the Second Amendment—but the First?

If the Nazis were permitted to march in Skokie (though ultimately they did not), why can’t some goofy Egyptian Copt make a video offensive to Muslims? Both were hurtful, potentially incendiary, actions; both worthy (if that’s the word) of defense under the First Amendment. The Nazis won their case (holding a rally in Chicago rather than a march in Skokie); the goofy Egyptian Copt rots in jail.

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Maine Squeeze

As I’ve written ad nauseam, I support gay marriage, but I also support democracy. You know what else I support?

Freedom of speech, opinion even:

‘F**k! The Maine same-sex-marriage initiative passed!”

This is what someone who does not know me and happened to be passing my university office the day after the fall elections allegedly heard me say on the telephone.

He filed a complaint with my employer’s Equal Opportunity Office.

The complainant said that he found the allegedly overheard expression “offensive.” He said — or the director inferred — that he was gay, that the remark indicated a demeaning attitude toward his lifestyle and made him uncomfortable, and that believing that a senior professor felt vehement opposition to the passing of the Maine initiative created for him a “hostile work environment.”

Persevering, the director asked me again what I had said on the phone. I objected that she was inquiring about my political views. She denied that, saying she wanted to know what I had said only because a complainant’s knowing that a “senior faculty member” held a view different from his could make him “very uncomfortable.”

You might think, as I do, that a university should be the very place where different views are not only tolerated but welcomed, even encouraged—but you would be wrong. I’m not putting on an act when I ask what is learning without debate? What good is orthodoxy if it cannot be challenged?

Can a string theory physicist report a quantum gravity physicist for views that make him or her “very uncomfortable”?

What’s inarguable is that the threatened minority on college campuses is not homosexuals—or any other self-identified oppressed and protected group—but anyone more to the right than Michael Moore. Forget about RateMyProfessors.com. We need JaneaneGarofaloRatesMyProfessors.com

Just as Marxism lives on only in the museums that are university faculty departments, same goes for McCarthyism.

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France Is So Much More Sophisticated And Ethical Than The United States…

But they aren’t too into freedom of speech

A T-shirt worn by a 3-year-old nursery-schooler named Jihad has led to an unusual and politically charged criminal trial here that tests the limits of free speech — and common sense — in a France increasingly ill at ease with its growing Muslim population.

“I am a bomb,” the shirt said on the front. The back read, “Jihad Born Sept. 11.”

The prosecution and the defense both have predicted that the outcome is likely to become a legal precedent as the government and justice system handle recurring friction between France’s 8 percent Muslim minority and the majority of the country’s 65 million inhabitants who recognize their roots in an ancient Christian tradition.

The tensions have been increasingly visible as French soldiers combat Islamist guerrillas in Mali, in northwestern Africa, and anti-terrorism police scour the country’s poor suburbs in search of Muslim youths drawn by the call to jihad or revenge.

An Islamist cell broken up in nearby Marignane this month, for instance, was preparing to construct bombs for terrorism attacks in French cities, authorities declared. In another sign of the strain, France’s highest court, the Cour de Cassation, last week overturned a lower-court decision that endorsed the firing of a nursery school teacher who refused to remove the Islamic veil covering her hair. [Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite! - Aggie!]

The case in Sorgues, a small town just north of Avignon, where Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque pursued their cubist art, began Sept. 25 at an unlikely place: the Ramieres de Sorgues municipal nursery. As she dressed the children after a lunch break, a teacher there became alarmed when she saw Jihad’s T-shirt.

Although little Jihad was born on Sept. 11, the teacher saw an outrageous reference to Islamic war and the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, in which nearly 3,000 people were killed. Concerned, she spoke with the principal, who was equally upset and called in Jihad’s 35-year-old Moroccan-born mother, Bouchra Bagour.

Told of the indignation produced by Jihad’s shirt, the single mother, who works as a secretary, apologized for causing trouble and said she had no intention of conveying a political message via her toddler. The shirt, she pledged, would be put away for good.

But the issue did not rest there. The principal wrote a report to school district authorities. A copy of the report landed on the desk of Mayor Thierry Lagneau. The mayor, from the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, said in an interview that he regarded the T-shirt as a “provocation,” and he immediately stepped into action.

“I said to myself, we can’t let that go by,” Lagneau recalled. “I didn’t know what was behind it, but we could not let that go. We have to impose limits.”

Lagneau wrote a letter Sept. 29 to the region’s chief prosecutor, Bernard Marchal, asking for an investigation for possible criminal prosecution as well as a “thorough” investigation by child-welfare authorities to see if Bagour is a fit mother. If Jihad showed up again in the T-shirt, the mayor warned, the principal had orders to turn him away, “given the attitude of his parents, who cannot decently ignore the dramatic impact of their acts.”

So, go to the link for the rest, but the upshot is that France is taking both the mother and her brother to court for something like not hating crime enough. The potential penalties are $58,000 each and five years in the slammer. Yoohoo!! Lefties!! Are you listening? Why aren’t you out on the streets, protesting? Is it too cold outside? Cat got your tongue? Or are you afraid of terrorism and glad that the French government is going overboard, as only Europe can go overboard? Do you think this family will be deported?

- Aggie

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Remaking the World in His Image

It seems like only yesterday—day before, if we’re counting—that we reported on Mohamed Morsi’s persecution of his political adversaries.

Today, it’s the turn of the press:

President Mohamed Morsy has largely picked up where Hosni Mubarak left off in terms of media freedom.

In Article 215, the National Media Council is made responsible for regulating all forms of media including the digital press. Notably, amongst its duties is to “observe the values and constructive traditions of society.”

Karim Abdel Rady, a lawyer with the Arab Network for Human Rights, expresses concern that this could open the door to the imposition of restrictions on media freedom in the name of morals and Sharia.

“In Mubarak’s era, we faced the problem of insult crimes. It now seems that in the coming period we’ll also be facing problems such as blasphemy crimes. It will be easy to interpret any media content as being in conflict with society’s morals where individuals are criticized,” Abdel Rady says.

He expects increased restrictions on media freedom in the year to come, particularly if Islamist currents gain a majority in the upcoming People’s Assembly elections.

“The media is currently the target of Islamist groups. They will pursue it through legal cases, sieges and protests…

On the ground, restrictive moves have already been unfolding. In the summer, the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Shura Council has appointed the heads of 45 state newspapers.

Meanwhile, in October, and in an unprecedented move, the Shura Council dismissed Al-Gomhurreya editor-in-chief Gamal Abdel-Rehim after the newspaper published a story claiming that former members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had been banned from travel due to corruption investigations against them.

My attitude toward Egypt and the Arab Spring in general can be summed up by the great quote from the movie “Working Girl”.

Cyn: Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn’t make me Madonna. Never will.

Oops! wrong quote—though it’s a keeper.

Here we go:

Mick: Tess, will you marry me?
Tess: Maybe.
Mick: Ya call that an answer?
Tess: You want another answer, ask another girl.

Ya want press freedom and equal protection under the law? Elect a different government.

You can have all the elections and constitutions you want, doesn’t make you a democracy. Never will.

Another great quote:

“An orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now,” Mr. Obama said…

“To the people of Egypt, particularly the young people of Egypt, I want to be clear: We hear your voices,” the President said. “I have an unyielding belief that you will determine your own destiny, and seize the promise of a better future for your children and your grandchildren.

… the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country.”

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Finally!

It took long enough, but at last we have a member of the government willing to stand up and proudly articulate the values and beliefs of the country.

Why can’t we get leaders like that?

A Pakistan government minister has personally offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who kills the man who made the anti-Islam movie that is drawing ire throughout the Muslim world.

Railway Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour announced the bounty at a news conference Saturday, but he made clear to CNN he was speaking for himself and not as a government representative.

Asked whether he was concerned about committing or condoning a crime as a government official, Bilour said, “I am a Muslim first, then a government representative.”

He said he invited the Taliban and al Qaeda to carry out the assassination.

This is the Railway Minister, huh? What’s his equivalent over here, Ray LaHood? Or the president of Amtrak? And it would be like his inviting the Aryan Nation or the Gambino crime family to carry out a hit.

How come this guy is willing to put his money where his mouth is, and we can’t get anyone higher than a railway porter to remind the world that their blasphemy is our free speech? Why can’t Obama say he is an American first (unless he isn’t, wink-wink), then a government representative?

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Cheese-Eating Triumphant Monkeys

When the French demonstrate more testicular fortitude than us, we have a problem:

ter a week of deadly, international protests against an anti-Islam film, a French satirical magazine is fueling the debate between freedom of expression and offensive provocation.

The magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons featuring a figure resembling the Prophet Mohammed in an issue that hit newsstands Wednesday.

Magazine director Stephane Charbonnier said his staff is “not really fueling the fire,” but rather using its freedom of expression “to comment (on) the news in a satirical way.”

“It happens that the news this week is Mohammed and this lousy film, so we are drawing cartoons about this subject,” Charbonnier told CNN affiliate BFM-TV on Wednesday. “It’s more turning in derision this grotesque film than to make fun of Mohammed.”

The “lousy film” he’s referring to is “Innocence of Muslims,” an amateurish, 14-minute video that mocks the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and killer. The video drew international attention last week and spawned heated protests in more than a dozen countries.

Any depiction of Islam’s prophet is considered blasphemy by many Muslims.

Here’s my suggestion, Muslims: take a number.

Imagine: the answer to offensive speech is… more speech! Did Professor (racist codeword alert!) Obama not come across that concept in his studies of Constitutional Law?

“The aim is to laugh. We want to laugh at the extremists — every extremist. They can be Muslim, Jewish, Catholic. Everyone can be religious, but extremist thoughts and acts we cannot accept,” Leger said.

“In France, we always have the right to write and draw. And if some people are not happy with this, they can sue us and we can defend ourselves. That’s democracy. You don’t throw bombs, you discuss, you debate. But you don’t act violently. We have to stand and resist pressure from extremism.”

Zut alors!

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