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These are all the Blogs posted on Friday, 11, 2014.
Friday, 11 April 2014
Why futurologists are always wrong – and why we should be sceptical of techno-utopians

Brian Appleyeard writes in the New Statesman:

In his book The Future of the Mind, the excitable physicist and futurologist Michio Kaku mentions Darpa. This is America’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, the body normally credited with creating, among other things, the internet. It gets Kaku in a foam of futurological excitement. “The only justification for its existence is . . .” he says, quoting Darpa’s strategic plan, “to ‘accelerate the future into being’ ”.

This isn’t quite right (and it certainly isn’t literate). What Darpa actually says it is doing is accelerating “that future into being”, the future in question being the specific requirements of military commanders. This makes more sense but is no more literate than Kaku’s version. Never mind; Kaku’s is a catchy phrase. It is not strictly meaningful – the future will arrive at its own pace, no matter how hard we press the accelerator – but we know what he is trying to mean. Technological projects from smartphones to missiles can, unlike the future, be accelerated and, in Kaku’s imagination, such projectsare the future.

Meanwhile, over at the Googleplex, the search engine’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, Ray Kurzweil has a new job. He has been hired by Google to “work on new projects involving machine learning and language processing”.

For two reasons I found this appointment pretty surprising. First, I had declined to review Kurzweil’s recent book How to Create a Mind – the basis for Google’s decision to hire him – on the grounds that it was plainly silly, an opinion then supported by a sensationally excoriating review by the philosopher Colin McGinn for the New York Review of Books which pointed out that Kurzweil knew, to a rough approximation, nothing about the subject. And, second, I am not sure a religious fanatic is quite the right man for the job.

OK, Kurzweil doesn’t say he is religious but, in reality, his belief system is structurally identical to that of the Southern hot gospellers who warn of the impending “Rapture”, the moment when the blessed will be taken up into paradise and the rest of us will be left to seek salvation in the turmoil of the Tribulation before Christ returns to announce the end of the world. Kurzweil’s idea of “the singularity” is the Rapture for geeks – in this case the blessed will create an intelligent computer that will give them eternal life either in their present bodies or by uploading them into itself. Like the Rapture, it is thought to be imminent. Kurzweil forecasts its arrival in 2045.

Kaku and Kurzweil are probably the most prominent futurologists in the world today. They are the heirs to a distinct tradition which, in the postwar world, has largely focused on space travel, computers, biology and, latterly, neuroscience.

Futurologists are almost always wrong. Indeed, Clive James invented a word – “Hermie” – to denote an inaccurate prediction by a futurologist. This was an ironic tribute to the cold war strategist and, in later life, pop futurologist Herman Kahn. It was slightly unfair, because Kahn made so many fairly obvious predictions – mobile phones and the like – that it was inevitable quite a few would be right.

Even poppier was Alvin Toffler, with his 1970 book Future Shock, which suggested that the pace of technological change would cause psychological breakdown and social paralysis, not an obvious feature of the Facebook generation. Most inaccurate of all was Paul R Ehrlich who, in The Population Bomb, predicted that hundreds of millions would die of starvation in the 1970s. Hunger, in fact, has since declined quite rapidly.

Continue reading here.

Posted on 04/11/2014 2:17 PM by Geoffrey Clarfield
Friday, 11 April 2014
Releasing Palestinian Prisoners should not be a Condition for Peace Talks

Secretary of State John Kerry, awakening to the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process needs a “reality check,” must now face the dilemma he has ignored. This is the result of the aggressive unilateral move by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in signing a set of 15 international conventions and agreements in defiance of Palestinian obligations not to take such action. No peace agreement is possible nor can be a Palestinian state be achieved by such unilateral actions.

Secretary Kerry can understand that Abbas, now in the tenth year of his four-year term of office as President of the Palestinian Authority, has been defying the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995, and has been making any excuse to avoid the continuation of peace negotiations with the State of Israel.

At first that Palestinian excuse was based on refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, though UN General Assembly Resolution 181(II) of November 29, 1947, the partition resolution of which Abbas now approves, clearly calls for such a state as well as an “Arab state.” Then, it was a demand for all construction to end in Israel settlements, though the ten-month freeze in 2010 on such activity imposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not induce Abbas to start negotiations.

Now it is the release not only of the last batch, 26 in number, of Palestinian political prisoners agreed to by Israel, but also the release of Marwan Barghouti who is serving five life sentences for crimes of murder, as well as Ahmad Sa’adat, the secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who was accused of ordering the assassination of the Israeli Tourist Minister in October 2001. 

The now 54-year-old Barghouti was convicted of being responsible for three attacks that killed Israelis: in June 2001 in the settlement town of Ma’ale Adumin; in January 2002 in Givat Ze’ev; and on March 5, 2002 the bombing by Tanzim in the Seafood Market in Tel Aviv that killed three and wounded fifteen.

Barghouti, reputed to be today the most popular Palestinian politician, was the leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a principal figure in both of the two Intifadas, and a founder of Tanzim, the armed branch of Fatah. He had been a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council since 1996, was reelected in 2006, and on that basis claimed diplomatic immunity from prosecution. 

On the basis of this claim Barghouti refused to defend himself at his trial, arguing that it was illegal and illegitimate. Others in the international community have sought to defend him, or call for his release. The most well-known group includes those who signed the Robben Island Declaration issued on October 28, 2013. This Declaration is a symbolic reference to Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 18 years on that island off the coast of South Africa, and indeed the ceremony of the signing took place in the prison cell he occupied.

The Declaration, organized by Ahmed Kathrada, a former fellow prisoner with Mandela, was signed by some of the usual anti-Israeli critics.  Let’s be reminded of a few of them. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa has long referred to Israel as an apartheid state and urged boycotts and sanctions against Israel. Angela Davis, the well-known political activist, in recent speech in January 2014 in London called for assisting the Palestinians in their battle against Israeli apartheid and for expanding the boycotts. Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the Irish peace activist who won the Nobel Prize in 1976, has spoken of “Israeli ethnic cleansing against Palestinians.”

The views of the 84-year-old Kathrada about Israel are well known. In a letter of May 6, 2013 to the actor Morgan Freeman, urging him not to participate in a Hebrew University function in Toronto, he wrote, “The Palestinians are living under worse forms of colonial rule, under Israel as a Colonial power, ruling under permanent conditions of Martial Law. Israel is indeed an apartheid state. And in certain respects it is worse than (South African) apartheid.”

It is ironic that the Robben Island group in calling for the release of Barghouti, and all Palestinian political prisoners, is caught in their own bias and bigotry. In complete ignorance of the actual ability of Palestinians to express themselves freely politically and socially, the Robben Declaration speaks of the “deprivation of freedom that the Palestinian people have, and continue, to endure.”

Moreover, the Declaration speaks of “the treatment of Palestinian prisoners… violates norms and standards prescribed by International Law.” The signers seem to be totally unaware of Barghouti’s treatment. He has acknowledged in an interview posted on May 28, 2013 that he goes for an hour-long walk twice a day, that he reads four Israeli newspapers a day, that he is able to read 8-10 hours a day, that he reads 8 books a month, including Arab and international novels, that he watches television on 10 satellite channels, and sees his wife twice a month. While in prison he negotiated in June 2003 a truce between quarrelling militant Palestinian groups.  Do the bigoted critics of Israel call this a “violation of international law?”

Even more important, Barghouti has been able to issue political statements and give interviews, one of which was published in the Washington Post on the “ending of the Israeli Occupation.” In March 2012, he called for resistance against Israel and for the Arab nations to engage in a comprehensive boycott, political, economic, and diplomatic, of Israel. He urged resisting the occupation by all means and methods, and specifically for the Palestine Authority security services not to prevent terrorist attacks against Israel.  Most recently, on April 6, 2014 he issued a statement that the liberation of the (Palestinian) prisoners should be considered a core national priority of the march of resistance to the occupation.

If Barghouti, together with the fourth batch of prisoners, is released, he will almost certainly be chosen to replace Abbas as the next president of the Palestinian Authority and of the PLO.  His statements from prison imply that he is committed to a two-state solution, not a single, binational state, and to peaceful coexistence. He also seems to favor peaceful popular resistance rather than call for a Third Intifada. Perhaps this is true, but it is also possible that an image of Barghouti is being manufactured for popular international consumption. Already a number of towns in France, following a similar action toward Nelson Mandela, have granted Barghouti honorary citizenship. The growing parallel being made between Barghouti and Mandela appears to be an attempt to cast the future Palestinian leader as the symbol of civil rights rather than of one likely to ignite the role of the militant Al-Aqsa Brigades.

Whatever one makes of the sincerity of Barghouti’s statements in favor of a peaceful solution, and whether his behavior is really similar to that of Nelson Mandela in the transformation from militant and terrorist to advocate of coexistence with old opponents, his release should not be linked to the continuation of peace talks. It may well be that Mahmoud Abbas is in a wily way calling for the release of Barghouti for a political reason.  This is to prevent his great enemy Mohammed Dahlan, former Palestinian national security advisor and the man who Abbas has accused of poisoning Yasser Arafat, from succeeding him as president.  In any case, Barghouti’s release should not be linked to or made a condition for the continuation of peace negotiations. With or without his release, the Palestinians to show good faith must remain at the negotiating table.

Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East.

First published in the American Thinker.

Posted on 04/11/2014 2:11 PM by Michael Curtis
Friday, 11 April 2014
Why Do So Many Leftists Want Sex Work to Be the New Normal?

Katha Pollitt writes:

On the left, prostitution used to be seen as a bad thing: part of the general degradation of the working class, and the subjugation of women, under capitalism. Women who sold sex were victims, forced by circumstances into a painful and humiliating way of life, and socialism would liberate them. Now, selling sex is sex work—just another service job, with good points and bad—and if you suggest that the women who perform it are anything less than free agents, perhaps even “empowered” if they make enough money, you’re just a prude. Today’s villain is not the pimp or the john—it’s second-wave feminists, with their primitive men-are-the-enemy worldview, and “rescuers” like Nicholas Kristof, who presume to know what’s best for women.

The hot new left-wing journals are full of this thinking. Right now on the New Inquiry website, for example, you can take a satirical quiz called “Are You Being Sex Trafficked?” Of course, if you are reading the New Inquiry, chances are you’re not being sex trafficked; if you’re a sex worker, chances are you’re a grad student or a writer or maybe an activist—a highly educated woman who has other options and prefers this one. And that is where things get tricky. Because in what other area of labor would leftists look to the elite craftsman to speak for the rank and file? You might as well ask a pastry chef what it’s like to ladle out mashed potatoes in a school cafeteria. In the discourse of sex work, it seems, the subaltern does not get to speak.

Melissa Gira Grant’s Playing the Whore, published by Verso and co-edited by Jacobin, is a good example of this phenomenon. It’s got a lot of Marxist bells and whistles—OK, OK, sex work is work, I get the point!—and is much concerned with the academically fashionable domains of language and representation, the portrayal of sex workers in movies and ads. “Sex workers should not be expected to defend the existence of sex work,” Grant writes, “in order to have the right to do it free from harm”—whether arrest or violence or the stigma of a fixed identity that can never be escaped. School teacher Melissa Petro discovered that when she lost her job after theNew York Post got hold of an essay she had written about her time as an escort.

All fair enough, but the real world is more complicated. Grant has a great time beating the dead gray mare of 1980s anti-porn feminism but doesn’t seem to notice any difference between those vanished crusaders against smut—was any cause ever so decisively defeated?—and today’s campaigners against commercial sexual exploitation, who include former sex workers. Supporters of the “Swedish model” of outlawing the purchase but not the sale of sex—arrest johns, not sex workers—are “carceral feminists.” Women who fight sex trafficking are in it to build nonprofit empires, “jobs for the girls,” and are indistinguishable from paternalistic rescuers like Kristof.

Tellingly, Grant says barely a word about the women at the heart of this debate: those who are enslaved and coerced—illegal immigrants, young girls, runaways and throwaways, many of them survivors of sexual trauma, as well as transwomen and others cast out of mainstream society. Poor people, like the Chinese- and Korean-speaking women who are bused every morning from Queens to work in Nassau County massage parlors, or drug addicts doing survival sex in the Bronx, or the Honduran teenagers trafficked by a popular, politically connected New Jersey restaurateur—these girls and women are nowhere to be found in her pages. Nor does Grant concern herself with women like those Liberty Aldrich of the Center for Court Innovation told me she works with, the vast majority of whom would like to leave sex work but need help to do it—to get a GED, a place to live, connections to people who care about them.

The “sex work is work” cliché is that prostitution is much like any other service job—being a waitress is the usual example. I dunno how many waitresses would agree with that, and I don’t think anyone at Jacobin is asking them. But seriously, is it just prudery or fear of arrest or attack or stigma that keeps the vast majority of women working straight jobs? Maybe there’s a difference between a blowjob and a slice of pie—one that is occluded when all types of service work are collapsed into one, a difference that today’s young left feminists don’t want to think about. To acknowledge that sex work is exploitative—that it involves a particularly intimate form of male privilege, which bleeds into other areas of life—would be too sentimental, and too disturbing. It would mean, for example, thinking not just about the exhilarating figure of the sex worker but about the customer. This faceless man could be anyone: your colleague, your boyfriend, your father, your husband. Theoretically, if it’s OK to be a sex worker, it’s OK to be a john—after all, sex workers would be jobless without them. Do pro–sex work feminists really think that, though? I’d like to see an issue of Jacobin devoted to first-person accounts of buying sex. But men of the left seem content to let women fight the commercial sex battle for them. It’s chicks up front all over again.

It’s one thing to say sex workers shouldn’t be stigmatized, let alone put in jail. But when feminists argue that sex work should be normalized, they accept male privilege they would attack in any other area. They accept that sex is something women have and men get (do I hear “rape culture,” anyone?), that men are entitled to sex without attracting a partner, even to the limited extent of a pickup in a bar, much less pleasing or satisfying her. As Grant says, they are buying a fantasy—the fantasy of the woman who wants whatever they want (how johns persuade themselves of this is beyond me). But maybe men would be better partners, in bed and out of it, if they couldn’t purchase that fantasy, if sex for them, as for women, meant finding someone who likes them enough to exchange pleasure for pleasure, intimacy for intimacy. The current way of seeing sex work is all about liberty—but what about equality?

I thought the left was about that, too.

Posted on 04/11/2014 2:03 PM by Geoffrey Clarfield
Friday, 11 April 2014
Déjà Vu: Reuters’ Fabricated Facts; John Kerry’s Abject Dishonesty

An excellent article by John Podhoretz of the New York Post, on the folly of John Kerry’s recent attack on Israel, rightly describes Kerry’s behaviour as “contemptible”, and at substantive variance with very obvious truths. Past evidence demonstrates that Kerry’s modus operandi was always likely to be thus.

Along with arguably deceptive behaviour, which undermined trust, Kerry went as far as to threaten Israel with a Third Intifada, perhaps forgetting his role as an intermediary. It is surely a testament to Israel’s desperation for a solution, and its extreme willingness to keep the US happy, that it went along with such an overtly prejudicial “peacemaker”, whose bullying went as far to incite an Arab-Palestinian terrorist revolt!

Kerry’s criticisms have been carried by the International media without critique, and, of course, substantively focused on settlement construction, despite these being areas that are to be retainedin any envisaged two-state peace agreement. Meanwhile, Abbas’ refusal to acknowledge Israel’s Jewish identity, his continued insistence upon a ‘right of return’, which would of course nullify Israel’s existence, and his refusal to even commit to an end of the conflict, is somehow unworthy of substantive criticism!

Reuters on settlement construction

Kerry’s remarks were reinforced in numerous media reports, with particular reference to data released by the Israeli governmental authority, the ‘Central Bureau of Statistics’. Their report last month, which gained international coverage, noted that settlement construction, in Judea and Samaria (AKA the West Bank), and East Jerusalem, increased by 123 or 124 percent in 2013, compared to that of 2012.

The data was of course a gift to both the Palestinian Authority and an assortment of anti-Israel NGO’s, with the timing of the announcement used to undermine a critical meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama, despite the fact that the percentage increase merely reflects a movement from the lowest average construction rate since the 1990’s.

Of particular note is a prominent claim that the move to increase settlement construction began during face-to-face peace talks. A typically prejudicial Reuters article, entitled “Israeli minister urges Netanyahu to annex settlements”, by one Crispian Balmer, notes that:

“Settlements have been a constant source of aggravation between Israelis and Palestinians, with construction of new Jewish homes in the West Bank rising 123 percent year-on-year in 2013, a surge that coincided with the resumption of talks.”

However, the Central Bureau of Statistics’, upon which Crispian Balmer relied for his percentile claim, noted that the increase in settlement construction began in the earliest months of 2013, prior to the resumption of talks. Face to face talks began in August 2013, after Israel agreed to the release 104 pre-Oslo prisoners, guilty of some of the most heinous acts of murder.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the Central Bureau of Statistics’ data affirms that:

“full recovery did not occur until 2013, due in part to the authorization of new housing tenders in West Bank settlements. In the first quarter of that year, ground was broken in West Bank settlements for 970 new homes. Since then, there has been a marked decline, with 736 housing starts in the second quarter of 2013, followed by 592 new units in the third quarter and 238 in the fourth quarter”

Clearly the figures demonstrate that construction slowed quite dramatically as the talks began, with a reduction of almost 40 percent from the early 2013 rate. As talks continued into the final quarter of the year, the rate of new homes reduced to a quarter of the early 2013 figure. Surely this is significant?

Interestingly, shortly before talks began, the media made a fuss that Israel was publishing plans for new housing units. Netanyahu refused demands for a total settlement freeze. However, this rejection was not utilised to undermine the talks but more likely to keep the pro-settler elements within Netanyahu’s coalition happy. A compromise solution was offered, whereby the housing rate would be reduced substantially. Israel also agreed to US demands for an informal freeze outside the larger settlement blocks. These conditions appear to have been met.

The data presented by the Central Bureau of Statistics does not undermine any notion that Netanyahu genuinely wished for the talks to succeed. In fact, it indicates that a substantive cut in construction was used to appease Arab-Palestinian demands. Unfortunately, this would never be enough for Palestinian Authority, just as anything other than complete submission to these demands would not appease Kerry.

First published on Crethi Plethi.

Posted on 04/11/2014 4:56 PM by Robert Harris
Friday, 11 April 2014
A Small Step for Brandeis – a Giant Step for Dhimmitude

I left a five minute message yesterday on the office telephone of President Lawrence of Brandeis University explaining why his decision to rescind the proposal to award Aayan Hirsi Ali an honorary degree was “A small step for Brandeis but a giant step for dhimmitude” (a dhimmi is a non-Muslim individual subject to numerous restrictions and forced to acknowledge the superiority of Islam in every walk of life in a Muslim majority state). I sent a notice to more than one hundred friends and colleagues and urged them to do the same.

Brandeis will NEVER recover its reputation from this abject surrender to CAIR and a disgruntled minority of faculty and students at what pretends to be an elite “Liberal Arts” college whose “core values” would have been violated by the appearance of one of the most notable and admired women in the world for self-empowerment who rose above a primitive tribal society to become an eloquent defender of the basic human rights of individuals, women, gays and minorities oppressed and persecuted in most Muslim majority cultures.

I told him that as a Professor of Hebrew, I would do everything in my power to shun Brandeis, reject any of its instructional material, and alert my colleagues, students and friends to do what they can to express their opposition to his craven surrender to what in effect is the constant threat of intimidation and bodily harm – the same threats hanging over other Muslim and ex-Muslim women such as Nonie Darwish (author of the aptly named  “Cruel and Usual Punishment” and Canadian Irshad Manji (author of “The Trouble with Islam”). All three have received death threats and must be accompanied by body guards. It matters not a whit that Manji still regards herself as a Muslim and has called for the reform of Islam rather than its total rejection. Her open admission that she is a lesbian is enough to put her life in danger from those who would enforce Sharia law (which CAIR would like to see adopted in the United States).

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was the victim of genital mutilation at age five in her native Somalia and of enforced marriage to a much older cousin – not because of “Radical Islam” but traditional Islam, as are millions of other girls. She had been impressed by the Koran before she could even read, and due to a religious education in Saudi Arabia, had lived "by the Book, for the Book" throughout her childhood and even supported the fatwa against Salman Rushdie calling for his death for having written the Satanic Verses. Later she nevertheless rejected Islam and sought to live in the West. She mastered both Dutch and English and is an accomplished speaker and writer in both languages. In 2005, she was named by Time Magazine as one of the “100 most influential people in the world.” United States Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick stated in May 2006 that "we recognize that she is a very courageous and impressive woman and she is welcome in the US." Since 2013, Hirsi Ali is a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a member of The Future of Diplomacy Project.

It is worth quoting the opening paragraph of Nonie Darwish’s book for all those who may still not understand how President Lawrence’s decision based on what he calls the contradiction between “Brandeis University’s core values” and certain of  Ali Hirsi’s offending statements (not specified in the original statement). By siding with CAIR and its view on Sharia for Muslims in America, Lawrence endorses what is the code of sharia for women  ….,”For the first thirty years of my life, I lived as a virtual slave in a cage; a second-class citizen who had to watch what I said even to my close friends. Under Islamic law I had to live in a gender-segregated environment and always be aware that the legal and social penalty for “sin” could end my life. This is what it is to live as a woman under Sharia law.”

The Jewish worship for learning continues to venerate what so many Liberals regard as “Our finest academic Ivy League Institutions” such as Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Vassar, Barnard, and first of all Brandeis. The American-Jewish infatuation with academia is ignorant that these very same Ivy League “Liberal” institutions they imagine as the picture of perfect Ivory Tower respectability were among the most anti-Semitic in their enrollment restrictions against Jewish students between 1920 and 1940 and that some of their most prominent faculty members including presidents and deans defended “warmer” foreign relations with Nazi Germany and opposed any anti-German economic boycott (see Rebecca Bynum’s excellent book review “Fashionable Fascism” in the November, 2009 issue of NER of Stephen H. Norwood’s The Third Reich and the Ivory Tower; Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses; Cambridge University Press, 2009). The elite schools all had policies in place (either officially as at Harvard or unofficially as at the elite girls’ schools) to keep Jewish enrollment to a minimum. A poll taken by the Student Opinion Survey of America in December, 1938 (after Kristallnacht), revealed an overwhelming majority (68.8%) of students believed that “Jewish refugees should not be admitted into the United States in great numbers.”

Of course, Brandeis was founded in 1948 in part, as a means of affording Jewish students an academic environment of high standards in which they would also feel comfortable. It was named for the late Louis Dembitz Brandeis, the distinguished associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, who more than any other prominent American Jew, lent his fervent support to the Zionist cause. He could not have imagined in his worst nightmares how his name would come to be abused.

In January 2006, Hirsi Ali used her acceptance speech for the Reader's Digest "European of the Year" award to urge efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. She called on the world to accept and test Iranian despot Ahmadinejad’s proposal to "…Organize a conference to inquire about what actually happened in the Holocaust.” She wrote then,  "Before I came to Europe, I'd never heard of the Holocaust. That is the case with millions of people in the Middle East. Such a conference should be able to convince many people away from their denial of the genocide against the Jews.” She also visited Israel and had many positive things to say as a woman about her experience there as well as criticism of the Ultra-Orthodox.

The minority of students and faculty at Brandeis who pressured the president to withdraw the invitation to Ali Hirsi are totally out of touch with those Jews who have retained an ounce of pride in their heritage and who regard the State of Israel with affection and are really appalled by the persecution of minorities, women and gays in the Muslim world.

The president’s number is   (781) 736-3001

Posted on 04/11/2014 12:40 PM by Norman Berdichevsky
Friday, 11 April 2014
Internecine Warfare On The Syrian Border With Iraq
Posted on 04/11/2014 10:28 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 11 April 2014
Florida ALAC passes final hurdles for floor votes

Shortly after 9:00AM CST today, I received a text message from Sen. Alan Hays, Florida Senate sponsor of American Law for American Courts (ALAC) indicating that the House Version 903 passed on a 13 to 6 partisan vote.   On Wednesday, the Florida Senate Rules Committee passed the Senate Version SB 386 on a 7 to 6 vote.  Two Rules Committee Republican members, Senators Lizbeth Benacquisto  and Tom Lee, Senate Majority and deputy leaders,  were absent for the crucial vote, although they both voted for its passage in the Judiciary Hearing. One South Florida Republican Senator, Diaz Miguel de la Portillo voted against it.   

There were two votes of significance in the House Judiciary Committee Hearing today. One was Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz from Okaloosa County here in Florida’s Northwest Panhandle. He is the son of current Senate President, Don Gaetz.  The younger Gaetz had previously been a co-sponsor of the ALAC legislation.The other is  previous  Democrat supporter of ALAC, Rep. Daphne Campbell.  She voted no along with her Democrat colleagues on the Judiary Committee.

 Educated at a Christian university in South Florida, Ms. Campbell had been a supporter of the social issues agenda of the Christian Family Coalition (CFC) led by its effective executive director, Anthony Verdugo, an important ally in the fight to obtain passage of ALAC.  The CFC  has made passage of ALAC a major  legislative priority in 2014 .  Apparently this time, Ms. Campbell decided to ropt out of her CFC  support and reversde her previous commitment.

Together with the passage at the Senate Rules Committee, the stage is now set for floor votes in both chambers.  These votes culminate a four year effort to pass ALAC in the sunshine state.  We commend both Senator Hays and Rep. Neil Combee, for navigating ALAC to possible floor votes.

These legislative hallmarks in both the Florida Senate and House for ALAC are welcome signs that possible victory may be achievable the fourth time out for ALAC in the Sunshine State.  As Yogi Berra was wont to say, "it ain't over till its over".   Meaning that both Houses pass SB386/HB903 and Governor Scott either signs it into law or pockets it and allows it to become law. 

To that end, there are rumblings that ALAC’s opponents will make a last stab at trying to convince Florida legislators with blast emails attacking the bill as CAIR wrote in a letter this week suggesting that SB386/HB903 were “bullying legislation”.  CAIR specifically attacked Sen. Hays, the stalwart Senate sponsor of the legislation.  What the opponents of ALAC didn’t reckon on was the theme and evidence that legislation was emblematic of American values and fundamental Constitutional rights protecting women and children against the intrusion of foreign laws. That was evident in research that showed nearly two dozen instances in which both lower  and appellate courts  have recognized foreign law “in certain cases”..   Then there was the witness testimony of former Arkansas State University Professor Margaret McLain presented at the CFC Annual Leadership Prayer Breakfast about her daughter Heidi abducted at the age of five by her Saudi ex-Husband in violation of state, federal and international law.  That was bolstered by the graphic interview we published with Floridian Yasmeen A. Davis whose Saudi father absconded with her at age 11 to suffer physical and mental abuse until she was rescued through the resources of her family at age 13.  We understand that this theme will shortly be picked up in an endorsement by a major Republican women’s group in Florida.  See, An American Child Kidnapped in Accordance with Shariah  and Rescue from An Abduction to Saudi Arabia: Interview with Floridian Yasmeen A. Davis

Clearly, the Florida ALAC legislation is still a work in progress and further diligence must be employed to assure its ultimate passage on the floors of both the Senate and House in Tallahassee for ultimate enactment by Governor Scott.  Nevertheless clearing these important legislative hurdles this week was a significant achievement.

Posted on 04/11/2014 11:59 AM by Jerry Gordon
Friday, 11 April 2014
Hirsi Ali: Here's What I Would Have Said at Brandeis

From the Wall Street Journal:

On Tuesday, after protests by students, faculty and outside groups, Brandeis University revoked its invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree at its commencement ceremonies in May. The protesters accused Ms. Hirsi Ali, an advocate for the rights of women and girls, of being "Islamophobic." Here is an abridged version of the remarks she planned to deliver.

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.

Associated Press

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.

Posted on 04/11/2014 7:14 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 11 April 2014
Raymond Ibrahim: Taqiyya Explained
A very good article on religiously-sanctioned deception in Islam, by Raymond Ibrahim, here.
Posted on 04/11/2014 6:29 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 11 April 2014
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: The Trouble Is The West
She gave this interview to Reason Magazine in 2010. It does not date. The miscomprehension and pusillanimity she worried about then was on display just  the other day in Waltham, Massachusett, at a university that, having bent over backwards for Muslims (its most famous Musliim graduate is Aafia Siddiqui) suddenly finds them -- faculty and student --  attempting to prevent the appearance at a commencement of one of the most piercing and articulate critics of Islam.  
Posted on 04/11/2014 6:39 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 11 April 2014
Muslim Whining About The "Prevent" Program For "Unfairly Targetting Muslims"

Lots of talk, too, about a loss of trust that Muslims once had, and so on and so forth.

You get the picture, It could  be an article in The Guardian. But this one happens to be in Al Jazeera, whose operatives are banned in many Arab states for working too closely with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Posted on 04/11/2014 7:13 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 11 April 2014
A Musical Interlude: Oh Look At Me Now (Lee Wiley)
Listen here..
Posted on 04/11/2014 7:38 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 11 April 2014
A Radio Interlude: Judy Holliday And Tallulah Bankhead

Listen here.

Posted on 04/11/2014 9:00 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 11 April 2014
Samuel Westrop: The Muslim "Charity Workers" Who Support ISIS
Posted on 04/11/2014 9:31 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 11 April 2014
Indian Airlines Flight 814: How Three Terrorists Went Free

Through the hijacking of an Indian Airlines Airbus that, after many Taliban-enforced frolics and detours, ended up in Kandahar.

You may well have forgotten that hijacking. Or perhaps you never heard of it. It was long ago -- in 1999. And it was in another country.

Details here.

Posted on 04/11/2014 9:47 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 11 April 2014
Fitzgerald: What Max Boot Cannot Comprehend (re-posted)

First put up two years ago. It's about Syria, and the wisdom of wanting to bring that conflict to a close through American intervention. A few things have changed. Mohammed Morsi, for  example, is no longer ruling Egypt, and members of  the Muslim Brotherhood there are being hunted down. But nothing that affects the argument.

Here.

Posted on 04/11/2014 10:31 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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