Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Media distortion of Indiana’s religious freedom bill

By Joseph Curl
Sunday, March 29, 2015

‘Indiana Governor Signs Anti-Gay ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill At Private Ceremony,” blared the headline in the Huffington Post. “Lawmakers To ‘Clarify’ Anti-Gay Law,” screamed National Public Radio. “Indiana’s Pence tries to defend new anti-gay measure,” barked MSNBC. “Pence: Indiana ‘not going to change’ anti-LGBT law,” bellowed CNN.

Suddenly, Indiana hates gays. Thousands rushed into Indianapolis to protest the gay haters, the NCAA bashed the legislature for its homophobia, and big businesses like Angie’s List declared they would shun the state.

Never mind that the new law — the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed in a bipartisan vote — isn’t anti-anything, gay or otherwise. And forget that 19 other states have passed identical laws, and that President Obama supported just such a law when he was a state senator in Illinois. And don’t even think about the fact that President Bill Clinton signed into law a federal version with nearly identical language in 1993.

No, the media has made up a story that Indiana hates gays, that the new law will allow lynching of homosexuals in the streets, and there’s no stopping the liberal onslaught now.

“Yes or no, if a florist in Indiana refuses to serve a gay couple at their wedding, is that legal now in Indiana?” George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week” and a former Clinton flunkie, asked Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Sunday. In fact, he asked the governor the same question a half-dozen times, often interrupting him as he demanded Mr. Pence simply admit that he hates gays.

“There’s been shameless rhetoric about my state,” Mr. Pence said, “and about this law and about its intention all over the Internet. People are trying to make it about one particular issue. And now you’re doing that as well.”

Mr. Pence explained that “the law does not apply, George, to disputes between individuals unless government action is involved. And in point of fact, in more than two decades, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never been used to undermine anti-discrimination laws in this country.”

He pointed out that the federal law “lays out a framework for ensuring that a very high level of scrutiny is given any time government action impinges on the religious liberty of any American.” And he said all the ruckus of discriminating against gays is a “red herring,” declaring that the law is about “government overreach.”

But none of that stopped the former press spokesman for President Clinton from pursuing his line of questioning: “Does that mean that Christians who want to refuse service or people of any other faith who want to refuse service to gays and lesbians, that it’s now legal in the state of Indiana? That’s the simple yes or no question.”

At least, that’s the question for the knee-jerk media that doesn’t bother to do its homework. For the record, here’s the language of the federal law: “Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

Here’s the language of the Indiana law: “A governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

Um. Nearly identical.

But great minds still find the state law objectionable. Miley Cyrus called Mr. Pence an “a**hole,” and brilliant thinker Ashton Kusher wondered if Indiana would “allow Christian establishments to ban Jews from coming in?” Even Star Trek’s Sulu weighed in, saying he was “outraged.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton also jumped into the fray, saying it is “sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today.” And New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who co-sponsored the federal legislation as a young member of the House, tweeted to the NCAA that his great state doesn’t “discriminate.” Asked by the Weekly Standard to explain his new objection to the law, he said, “Not right now.”

Let’s be clear: The new Indiana law does not legalize discrimination against anyone. No business can refuse to serve a patron because he or she is gay, black, Muslim, left-handed or anything else. The state law simply mirrors the federal law so that cases can be handled within Indiana — now the 20th state with such a law.

Those 20 laws have nothing to do with discriminating against gays — or any minority. They simply ban the government from discriminating against religious Americans.

Still, the aftermath is clear: Democrats and liberals, especially in the media, have no problem discriminating against religious Americans.

And as always with both, the ends justify the means.

No, Making a Joke About a Transgender Person Is Not the Same as ‘Transphobia’

By Katherine Timpf
Monday, March 30, 2015

Jamie Foxx is facing accusations of transphobia because he made a joke about Bruce Jenner during the iHeartRadio Music Awards last night — despite the fact that he’s a comedian and making jokes about other people is kind of what comedians do.

During his opening monologue, Foxx joked that Jenner, who is rumored to be undergoing a male-to-female gender transition, would be “doing a his and hers duet by himself.”

“Look, I’m just busting your balls . . . while I still can,” he added.

Immediately, swarms of social-justice heroes took to Twitter to let Foxx know just how not okay his “transphobic” comment was. Even Perez Hilton (who once called a Miss USA contestant a “dumb bitch” for disagreeing with his stance on gay marriage) got in on the action.

Now, I’d agree that Foxx’s joke wasn’t all that funny. It was pretty hack, and if I was going to perform standup on television I would try to make sure that my material hadn’t already been worn out at open mics in bar basements across the country. But Hilton’s saying that what Foxx did here was “be transphobic on national television” isn’t just hypersensitive — it’s a logical fallacy. “Being transphobic” and “making a joke involving a transgender person” are not interchangeable phrases. Making fun of someone does not automatically mean you hate or have a phobia of that person — and if we lose sight of this seemingly obvious distinction we’re going to lose comedy altogether.

Honestly, it doesn’t seem like we’re that far off. Just a few months ago, Margaret Cho faced outrage over her impression of a Korean war general at the Golden Globes because apparently making fun of even your own community is unacceptable in the eyes of the PC Police. 

Look, people. Comedy is not supposed to be a “safe space.” That’s what’s so special about it. The implicit permission to offend is what distinguishes it from other forms of communication and makes it a unique part of our cultural dialogue that we can’t afford to lose. If you can’t handle it, fine. Go watch a politician’s speech or an evening newscast or any one of the other 9 billion bleached forms of communication out there — but please, for the love of God, don’t think you’re so special that our entire society needs to change to make you feel more comfortable

The Latest Bombshell from Mrs. Clinton’s Lawyer

By Shannen W. Coffin
Monday, March 30, 2015

Hillary Clinton’s lawyers confirmed what many have suspected since her remarks at a U.N. press conference earlier this month: She has wiped her server clean of any e-mails that she didn’t turn over to the State Department. In so doing, Mrs. Clinton has given her critics more reason to suspect that she is up to no good and yet further reason that Mrs. Clinton should keep those lawyers on speed dial.

In the ongoing saga of Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of a private server at her Chappaqua, N.Y., home, the latest bomb was thrown by her lawyer, David Kendall (of Bill Clinton impeachment fame). Late last week, Mr. Kendall wrote a lengthy letter to the Benghazi Select Committee to respond to Chairman Trey Gowdy’s demand that she turn over her server for inspection and analysis by a “neutral detached and independent third-party.” Mr. Kendall flatly refused the demand, suggesting that the committee lacked the authority to request it. But for good measure, Kendall explained that review of the server would be fruitless. After her personal lawyers reviewed the e-mails to determine which records Mrs. Clinton should return to the State Department, she “chose not to keep her non-record personal e-mails and asked that her account (which was no longer in active use) be set to retain only the most recent 60 days of e-mail.”

To “avoid prolonging a discussion that would be academic,” Mr. Kendall adds, “no e-mails from hrd22@clintonemail.com for the time period January 21, 2009, through February 1, 2013, reside on the server or on any back-up systems associated with the server.” Thus, he concludes, “there are no hrd22@clintonemail.com e-mails from Secretary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State on the server for any review, even if such review were appropriate or legally authorized.”

Lawyers are not usually this bold when disclosing evidence that suggests potential breaches of criminal law. I say “potential” because it is impossible to know for sure — unless, of course, you, like most congressional Democrats, are willing to take Mr. Kendall’s (and Mrs. Clinton’s) word for it. But the destruction of any record while a person is subject to a congressional-committee investigation is a reason for humility, rather than hubris, on the part of that person’s lawyer. This is so because a number of federal laws prohibit obstruction of such investigations.

And several federal criminal statutes might be implicated here. (The Congressional Research Service has been kind enough to pull them together: PDF here.) The Sarbanes-Oxley statute — enacted (with the support of Senator Clinton) in response to alleged document destruction by accounting firm Arthur Anderson in the Enron fraud investigation — prohibits just the sort of conduct here if, in fact, Mrs. Clinton destroyed any official records to avoid disclosure in a federal investigation. The statute provides the following: “Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States . . . or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.” (That statute may not be directly implicated by congressional investigations, since Congress is not a “department or agency of the United States.” But a strong argument could be made that the State Department’s response to such a congressional investigation is a “matter” within the scope of the law.)

Other statutes directly address obstruction of a congressional investigation. For instance, 18 U.S.C. § 1505 provides: “Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede . . . the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress — Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years . . . ” Similarly, other statutes I have previously discussed make it a crime for the custodian of an official federal record to conceal or destroy it, without regard to whether it has been demanded in a federal investigation.

It bears repeating that we don’t know, for certain, whether Mrs. Clinton has done anything that violates these statutes. If you accept Mr. Kendall’s word at face value, her lawyers have conducted a careful review of 60,000-plus e-mails and returned to the State Department anything that even arguably could be classified as an official State Department record. If true, then the discussion of criminal-law violations for destruction of documents is probably moot (though we don’t know whether Mrs. Clinton has saved any “official” e-mails in their original electronic form — a question whose answer is obscured by Mr. Kendall’s letter).

But whether or not she destroyed records, there is certainly evidence that she willfully concealed the existence of these e-mails during her tenure as secretary of state, because they were never searched in response to either congressional-committee requests or citizen FOIA requests while she was in office. We now know, by virtue of the State Department’s recent release to the Benghazi Select Committee of 850 pages e-mails from Mrs. Clinton’s private server, that she did, in fact, withhold records responsive to a federal inquiry for more than two years from their first request in 2012. Were it not for the State Department’s request that she return any official records on her private e-mails, would she ever have disclosed these records?

Putting aside the question of concealment, however, if what David Kendall says is true, we’re left mostly with a debate about Mrs. Clinton’s compliance with federal civil-records laws and regulations designed to protect and preserve a record of the business of the State Department. With regard to this, for reasons I have discussed at some length, there is every reason to conclude that Mrs. Clinton’s conduct was not only bad form but also a pretty blatant violation of the law. Mr. Kendall goes to some length to argue that Mrs. Clinton complied with the State Department’s governing regulations, but he elides the obvious fact that she took everything with her when she left the Department — without giving State Department records officials the opportunity to review and retain official records. This is a privilege otherwise unknown to the rank-and-file employee at the State Department and in obvious conflict with governing rules.

All of this raises the ultimate question: Given her wholesale failure to comply with her obligations as the highest ranking official of the State Department, why on earth would anyone be ready to accept Mrs. Clinton’s representations — carefully made through her private legal counsel — that she has fully complied with the law? The admission that Mrs. Clinton has deleted documents while she is subject of several congressional document demands (both by subpoena and less formal letter requests) at least gives rise to a reasonable suspicion that something is amiss. Normally, in those circumstances, a prosecutor would not simply rely on the deleter’s representations that she has acted in good faith. Instead, a reasonable prosecutor would want to verify that she complied with her obligations to turn all of her responsive records to the State Department — which it might be able to do through forensic analysis of her server. So rather than laying to rest the controversy of Mrs. Clinton’s server, Mr. Kendall has only amplified it.

Max Blumenthal’s Latest Despicable Deception

By Daniel Mael
Monday, March 30, 2015

In a recent article that has been widely circulated online by an unholy alliance of Islamists and extreme Leftists, the notorious anti-Israel propagandist Max Blumenthal has accused women’s-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali of “deception.” Unfortunately for Blumenthal, it is his own latest deception that has now come to light.

Blumenthal claimed that a statement by Hirsi Ali — that “at least 70% of all the fatalities in armed conflicts around the world last year were in wars involving Muslims” — was “suspect.” His evidence was an email from a spokesperson for the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, whose Armed Conflict Database is the basis for Hirsi Ali’s calculation. Triumphantly, Blumenthal tweeted that the IISS had “totally disowned her abuse of its data.”

However, it turns out that the IISS did nothing of the kind. Reached for comment on Friday, Nicholas Redman, the IISS’s director of editorial, said:

    At no point did Max Blumenthal request an official quotation or statement from the IISS. Therefore, none was provided. Some of the remarks made were then reported out of context. Any information was provided on the understanding on our part that it was a research request. We have asked him to remove it from the article.

The IISS does not subdivide its conflict data according to the religions of combatants. It is, however, unambiguously clear from the Armed Conflict Database that fatalities from armed conflict last year were disproportionately caused by wars involving Muslims. If anything, Hirsi Ali’s 70% figure is too low.

A new report by the Project for the Study of the 21st Century (PS21), based on data from the IISS and others, concludes that:

    “Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan remained the three deadliest wars” in the world last year.
    “Nigeria was the fourth deadliest, its number of deaths almost tripling on the previous year as the conflict with militant group, Boko Haram, intensified.”
    “Many of the most violent conflicts involved radical Islamist groups – particularly Islamic State, the Taliban, Boko Haram and various Al Qaeda franchises.”
    “Sudan and South Sudan remained amongst the world’s bloodiest wars.”

A number of the experts quoted by PS21 acknowledge the role of Islamic extremism in a large number of the world’s bloodiest conflicts. Here, for example, is Jack Goldstone, professor of public policy at George Mason University:

    One [reason for rising death tolls from violent conflicts] is a revival of religion as the prime factor of personal and social identity, including a revival of millenarian beliefs; these have led to fierce sectarian battles among religious sects for control of lives and territory in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Nigeria. This is largely Sunni vs. Shi’a but also involves fights against other religions and sects, e.g. Muslim vs. Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Bahai, and others.

    Second, also driven by the revival of religion as a primary identity, is the conflict between the ideal of organizing society primarily on the basis of religious belief and holy writ, vs. the ideal of society as secular and individualist with religion limited to voluntary and private or communal activities that do not impinge on society’s primary legal/organizational framework. In Europe and North America, this conflict has played out mostly peacefully in agitation over abortion and gay marriage; but in Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan and Egypt the conflicts between authorities seeking to preserve a secular government and those determined to impose religion on social order have involved violence and terrorism. This force also fuels terrorism within Europe, as those committed to religious primacy (mainly jihadists) attack those who exemplify secular freedom (e.g. Charlie Hebdo).

    The third factor producing rising violence is the conflict within the few remaining multi-national empires between imperial control and repressed nationalism . . .

This should be compared with Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s statement in the Wall Street Journal:

    According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, at least 70 per cent of all the fatalities in armed conflicts around the world last year were in wars involving Muslims on one or both sides. In 2013 there were nearly 12,000 terrorist attacks worldwide. The lion’s share were in Muslim-majority countries, and many of the others were carried out by Muslims. By far the most numerous victims of Muslim violence — including also the executions and the lynchings not captured in these statistics — are Muslims.

    Not all this violence, to be sure, is explicitly motivated by religion. But a great deal of it is. And I believe that it is foolish to insist, as our leaders habitually do, that the violent acts committed in the name of Islam can somehow be divorced from the religion itself.

So there is in fact nothing “suspect” about Hirsi Ali’s assertion. What is suspect — highly suspect — is Max Blumenthal’s integrity. This will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his abysmal record of journalistic malpractice.