June 25, 2014

Ridiculous: NYT, Brookings Spin Student-Loan Debt as a Non-Problem — Using 2010 Data

On Tuesday, the Brookings Institution, with a David Leonhardt column at the New York Times serving as its de facto press release, published a study (full PDF here) entitled, “Is a Student Loan Crisis on the Horizon?” Unsurprisingly, their finding, in one word, was “No.” Their more qualifed finding: “[I]n reality, the impact of student loans may not be as dire as many commentators fear.” Their underlying “logic”: “typical borrowers are no worse off now than they were a generation ago.”

It’s bad enough that much of the data presented by Beth Akers and Matthew M. Chingos, the study’s authors, directly contradicts the sunshine they’re trying blow up our keisters. What’s even worse is that you don’t even need to dig into the detail once you learn which year’s data they used — 2010. For heaven’s sake, guys, total student loan debt has grown by between 50 percent and 60 percent since then.

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June 19, 2014

NBC/WSJ Poll Cooks Its Common Core Questions, Fabricates Claim of Strong Majority Support

Yesterday’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll garnered a great deal of attention, primarily because of its findings about President Barack Obama, particularly the one showing showing that “54 percent – believe the term-limited president is no longer able to lead the country.”

The poll also asked respondents a series of three questions on the Common Core standards which were clearly designed to elicit majority support for them and to then mislead the public into believing that those who the standards them are a noisy, anti-Obama minority which should be ignored. Stories covering the poll at both NBC and the Wall Street Journal indicated as much.

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June 17, 2014

AP (‘Struggled’ For ‘Traction’) and Delusional Bloomberg (‘Industry Stabilized’) Completely Disagree in Reporting on Today’s Homebuilding Declines

There must have been a double delivery of Obama administration koolaid over at Bloomberg News this morning.

The business wire service, which ordinarily is slightly less imbalanced in its business and economics reporting than the Associated Press, somehow interpreted a 6.5 percent seasonally adjusted decline in housing starts during May and a nearly identical percentage drop in building permits — with both figures lower than May 2013 — as evidence that “the homebuilding industry stabilized after a first-quarter swoon.” That’s ridiculous. The first quarter was supposedly as bad as it was because of bad winter weather; so there should have been an overcompensating bounceback. It hasn’t happened. Meanwhile, that second Bloomberg koolaid delivery must have been the one meant for AP, whose Josh Boak turned in a report noteworthy for its unusual sobriety (bolds are mine throughout this post):

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May 23, 2014

FT’s Giles Finds Piketty’s ‘Wealth Inequality’ Work Riddled With ‘Data Problems’ — And Wrong

French economist Thomas Piketty has become a darling of the left for allegedly “proving” that, as paraphrased by Chris Giles at the Financial Times, “wealth inequalities are heading back up to levels last seen before the first world war.” The Media Research Center’s Julia Seymour has described Piketty as a “‘rock star’ of the far-left,” an accurate assessment given praises heaped upon his book and especially his public policy prescriptions by the likes of Alternet and Vox’s especially gullible Matthew Yglesias. Seymour also notes that Piketty’s work has received a great deal of favorable notice in the establishment press, and that he has met “with the Treasury Secretary” and “(President) Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.”

Of course these “oligarch groupies,” as Jeffrey Lord describes them, love him. Piketty favors an 80 percent tax on incomes above $500,000 and a progressive global tax on real wealth (i.e., after subtracting debt). The problem is that FT’s Giles, having done a deep dive into the economist’s data and spreadsheets, has found serious problems in the professor’s work which nullify his conclusions.

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Comment of the Day: On Common Core

From a NewsBusters commenter:

I have a bachelor’s degree in Math. I read some of the common core math instruction. If you wanted to turn students off to math, if you wanted to make them hate it with all their being, if you wanted to make math so incomprehensible that few American students will ever be able to master it, you could not have done a better job than coming up with Common Core.

Addition and subtraction are simple concepts. Multiplication and Division are simple variations on the theme of addition and subtraction. By using a “new” and contrived language to teach basic math concepts you are promising American illiteracy in the subject.

As I wrote ten days ago (BizzyBlog mirror):

This garbage has got to go.

The default assumption has to be that anyone who still supports Common Core is uninformed, bought and sold, or an unapologetic statist.

May 21, 2014

Teacher Involved With Common Core Development: My White Privilege Motivated Me

At a website called Girard at Large in Manchester, New Hampshire, proprietor Richard Girard videotaped and reported on the proceedings of a debate held at St. Anselm’s College on the Common Core educational standards — something you’ll almost never see anyone in the establishment press deign to do.

Girard appropriately described proponents’ descriptions of and arguments in favor of the standards “revealing,” “enlightening,” and “well, frightening.” Perhaps no statement made during the two-hour event Monday contained more of all three adjectives than one made by Dr. David Pook, a teacher at The Derryfield School in Manchester, about what motivated him to get involved with having input into the English Language Arts standards. Brace yourself (HT BizPac Review; specific audio segment is at this link; bolds are mine throughout this post; May 22 Update: Mr. Pook’s comment was slightly revised at the original link for accuracy; that revision is now reflected below):

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May 15, 2014

Common Core: 2014′s Bipartisan Wedge Issue

Tuesday’s primaries unmasked intense opposition.

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This column went up at PJ Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Tuesday.

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Establishment Republicans and their pals in the press – at least until the general election campaigns begin (RINOs never learn) — are celebrating their defeats of tea party-sympathetic challengers in last Tuesday’s Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio primaries.

They would be well advised to hold the champagne. At least a half-dozen victorious candidates in GOP state legislative contests in those three states, including several who defeated party-supported incumbents, discovered that the key to motivating voters on their behalf was expressing genuine and vocal opposition to the federal government’s stealth imposition of the Common Core standards and testing regime in their schools.

Their success has national implications. You can rest assured that party leaders who have been doing all they can to hide from the issue, as well as all-in “Fed ed” proponent and current Republican establishment fave Jeb Bush, have noticed.

Nowhere was the anti-Common Core momentum more clear than in the Buckeye State. The entity I have dubbed ORPINO (the Ohio Republican Party In Name Only) and its legislative leaders are visibly shaken.

Although the state’s press will only acknowledge Common Core’s relevance in one of Tuesday’s state rep race results, a reliable longtime activist told me on Thursday that candidates’ opposition to Common Core tipped the balance in their favor in four instances. My review of Stop Common Core Ohio’s endorsements against actual election results confirms that contention.

The result that’s impossible to ignore is Tom Brinkman’s triumph over incumbent Peter Stautberg in Southwestern Ohio.

ORPINO thought they had ended “Tax Killer Tom’s” political career two years ago when he lost in a comeback attempt after being term-limited from the legislature four years earlier. Heavily aided by ORPINO, two-term incumbent Stautberg dished out a 22-point drubbing.

This time around, it was different, principally because Brinkman sincerely and strongly aligned himself with anti-Common Core activists. ORPINO doubled down on its smear campaign, spending huge sums on a radio blitz and baldly false campaign literature which, among other things, hysterically implied that the supposedly “radical” Brinkman sided with Democrats on critical matters. ORPINO also claimed that he opposed a 2005 “tax cut” that was really an initially revenue-neutral restructuring which gave birth to an ugly new gross receipts tax.

Brinkman’s trump card over the wishy-washy incumbent was his vocal opposition to Common Core. Stautberg claims to have not taken a position. My source calls BS on that; but in any event, convenient neutrality doesn’t cut it. It instead allows force-fed “Fed ed” to become a permanent fixture of the educational landscape.

In winning by seven points on Tuesday, Brinkman engineered a 29-point turnaround from 2012, inducing palpable fear and loathing at ORPINO and among GOP legislative leaders.

Suddenly, the same people who have spent well over a year blowing off, marginalizing, and in some cases insulting concerned parents and teachers feel that they must commission a poll to see if the rest of the state is as opposed to Common Core as voters in Southwestern Ohio.

I can save them the trouble. A late-April University of Connecticut poll showed that thanks to its undemocratic imposition, only 39 percent of Americans have heard of Common Core. But of those who have, only 38 percent across all ideologies support it, while 44 percent oppose. A scant 24 percent of conservatives favor it. In the Buckeye State, Common Core polled as the number one issue of concern in the GOP primaries, even ahead of Governor John Kasich’s authoritarian expansion of Medicaid.

Why oppose Common Core? Five videos posted at my home blog in March of 2013 take only 33 minutes to fully explain why. Here’s a quick boil-down:

  • These are standards which have been furtively pushed onto the states — i.e., not developed by the states, as proponents claim — through de facto federal government bribes contained in the 2009 stimulus bill and through the conditional granting of No Child Left Behind waivers. State legislatures had virtually no input into Common Core’s initial adoption.
  • Costly and rigid standardized national tests will force reluctant private schools, charter schools, and homeschooling parents to conform their curricula to Common Core to ensure that their students perform well on them.
  • One “feature” of Common Core is a national student data tracking system involving a reported 400-plus “data points” from pre-school through the workforce which will strip away students’ and families’ personal privacy. Personally identifiable and sensitive student and family data can and will be shared among government and private entities.
  • The bottom line is that Common Core strips the states of their constitutional authority over education, will end parents’ ability to influence what their children are taught, and will ultimately and illegally accomplish the far left’s long-time dream of giving the federal government full control over the nation’s school curricula.

In the intervening year, it has become dreadfully obvious that Common Core’s “standards” are a watered-down muddle of incoherence backing a curriculum which is frustrating the nation’s children, infuriating their parents, and driving down test scores.

As would be expected of a “progressive” contraption conceived in back rooms, it virtually “eliminate(s) American children’s core knowledge base in English, language arts and history.”

No radical-driven “reform” would be complete without heavy doses of deconstructive indoctrination. Examples of horrid items which have surfaced include Holocaust denial, portrayals of Barack Obama’s opponents as racistspresumptive submission to the state, and the “clear” human-caused “impacts” of “climate change,” now known as “climate disruption,” which yours truly prefers to call “globaloney.”

Several Common Core-approved texts subject high school students to pornographic passages which are so graphic and offensive that government officials have prevented outraged parents from reciting them aloud at public meetings, and newspapers have refused to publish them. But they’re okay for 14 and 15 year olds to read and discuss?

Common Core supporters who thought they had their fixed game in the bag but now find themselves losing are responding as arrogant people who have run out of arguments invariably do — with demonization and brute force.

Those like Education Secretary Arne Duncan who believe that the opposition is just a bunch of “white suburban moms” who are upset that “their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were” can’t explain why Huntsville, Alabama, which has the highest concentration of degreed engineers in the country, is a hotbed of anti-Common Core activism.

Fever-swamp leftists who characterize Common Core’s center-right opposition as a “wingnut … plot to destroy public schools” have failed to reconcile that assertion with the fact that “wingnuts” like the Chicago Teachers Union and two-thirds of Parent Teacher Association survey respondents in New York oppose it, largely because of the same federal intrusions to which the liberty movement objects.

Over their parent’s objections, school officials are routinely forcing kids to take standardized tests which are supposed to be optional. Teachers who refuse to sign agreements not to share test contents with parents, i.e., their customers, are being suspended or fired. Officials are treating parents who dare to speak out at public meetings like common criminals.

This garbage has got to go. The default assumption has to be that anyone who still supports Common Core is uninformed, bought and sold, or an unapologetic statist. The road to improved school standards is through decentralizing education so that parents and localities once again have control over what and how their children are taught. That worked quite well 50 years ago, when the average high school graduate was measurably more knowledgeable than today’s grads, three-quarters of whom are not ready for college.

In Ohio, that will mean a sea change in the go-along, Kasich-subservient legislature, which appears at long last to be heading in that direction. Kasich is a friend of Jeb Bush who nominally supports Common Core, but he also has 2016 presidential aspirations. Lawmakers need to pass repeal and force Kasich to unequivocally commit.

Mr. “Stand for Something,” who has surely noted that Common Core has become 2014′s bipartisan wedge issue, just might be cynical enough to do a 180. If so, we’ll take it.

May 12, 2014

Richard Dreyfuss Defends the Constitution and American Exceptionalism

In what many may see as a “pigs fly” moment, actor Richard Dreyfuss, long known for his involvement in leftist causes up to and including efforts to impeach George W. Bush, appeared on Mike Huckabee’s weekend Fox News program to promote the importance of U.S. citizens knowing “our constitution or our history.” He went further, noting that “the constitution is the most single greatest step toward humans improving civilization since the beginning of man’s sojourn on earth.” Those aren’t exactly the typical messages we  see delivered by the Hollywood or media elites these days. Instead, those groups seem to be doing all they can to ignore very significant encroachments on our fundamental freedoms originating in Washington.

Given the history seen at Dreyfuss’s NewsBusters tag, it would be wise to remain in “trust but verify” mode regarding his positions and activities. With that caveat, the goal of his Dreyfuss Initiative is to ensure that “Civics will be taught in America’s classrooms, starting in the elementary levels up through grade 12.”

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May 2, 2014

‘May Day’ …

Filed under: Education,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:36 pm

… as Ilya Somin reminds us, is better remembered as “Victims of Communism Day.”

Communism has the blood of over 100 million on its hands — yet it’s disgracefully still the professed system of choice in much of U.S. academia.

 

April 22, 2014

USAT Initially Fails to Identify 6-2 Majority in Supremes’ Mich. Racial Preferences Decision

In his story (saved here for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes — and in case it gets edited later today; Update: It did) on the Supreme Court’s decision this morning upholding Michigan voters’ 2006 approval of a ban on race-, ethic- and gender-based preferences in university admissions, USA Today’s Richard Wolf failed to identify the size of the court majority, which was 6-2. Justice Elana Kagan recused herself because she was previously the U.S. solicitor general before being named to the high court. The court’s decision effectively upholds such bans in seven other states.

Additionally, by focusing on Justice Anthony Kennedy as “the man to watch,” Wolf initially left many readers with the impression that only five justices, Kennedy and the four others usually describe as “conservative” (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito) made the ruling. The fact is that they were also joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the supposedly reliable “liberals.” Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine throughout this post):

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Positivity: A Tough Teacher’s Alter Ego

Filed under: Education,Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From near Los Angeles (HT Daryn Kagan):

FEBRUARY 14, 2014, 6:54 PM

As part of our continuing series “On the Road,” Steve Hartman meets the students of St. Francis High School near Los Angeles who thought they knew everything about their math teacher, Jim O’Connor. But what they found out at a local hospital taught them a life lesson.

April 21, 2014

Common Core: ‘This Is Dumbing Our Children Down’

Filed under: Activism,Education,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:12 am

The audio quality if far less than perfect, but the message is crystal clear:

Arkansas Mother Obliterates Common Core in 4 Minutes!

If you’re pressed for time, go to the 1:50 mark, where the parent goes through a Common Core problem, gets the two-step answer to the “What did they count by?” problem from Board of Education members (90 divided by 18 = 5), and then shows them how Common Core demands that fourth-graders solve it:

If they solve it in those two steps, they get it marked wrong.

They are expected to draw 18 circles with 90 hash marks solving this problem in exactly 108 steps.

The mother claims that Common Core’s “rigorous standards” include “skipping rote memorization of multiplication tables,” which is “hindering their ability to master long division and fractions later on in the semester.”

I’d like a confirmation of that deliberate avoidance of multiplication tables from someone who knows. (Update: Confirmed in a conversation this morning.)

This is indisputably a recipe, as the parent stated, for “dumbing our children down.”

I’ll leave it to readers to determine developers’ motivations.

Suggestion: Find out where politicians on the ballot stand on Common Core. If they’re for it, it’s hard to imagine why you would choose to support them in upcoming primaries and general elections.

April 16, 2014

Another Anti-Brinkman ORPINO Mailing, and Two More Reasons to Vote For Him

Filed under: Activism,Education,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:04 pm

ORPINO (the Ohio Republican Party In Name Only) has sent out another mailer attacking 27th District State Representative candidate Tom Brinkman, claiming that he was named one of the most ineffective legislators or some such nonsense based on his previous State Rep record.

News Flash: ORPINO’s and the Columbus political establishment’s definition of “effective” is “going along with the ever-expanding and ever-encroaching bureaucracy.” Yeah, Tom Brinkman never was a part of that crowd. He opposed all tax increases on principle. In other words, like our Governor, he was Tea Party before there was a Tea Party. Unlike Governor Kasich, he hasn’t betrayed the Tea Party’s core principles.

So the mailer constitutes Reason #2 to vote for Brinkman and to fire Pete Stautberg, his incumbent opponent. (Reason #1 was the first mailer.)

Lest anyone believe I’m solely motivated by dislike of ORPINO (which as a practical matter is enough anyway for those who are pressed for time to do detailed research), I decided to look into the candidates’ positions on Common Core upon learning that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has courageously changed his formerly supportive stance (courageous because the pressure from the Jeb Bush-Bill Gates axis to just keep going along must have been intense). Jindal now opposes it.

Since excising Common Core from Ohio’s classrooms is a very important matter, I emailed the Brinkman campaign and asked where the candidate stands and where his opponent stands.

The candidate responded within a few hours:

I am against Common core.

My opponent is for Common Core.

Thank you for the inquiry.

Please contact me with any other questions.

Thanks.
Tom Brinkman Jr.

So there’s Reason #3.

On the off-chance that the Stautberg campaign doesn’t like being down 0-3, I would welcome their official response.

April 14, 2014

Michael Graham: Brandeis Embraced Bill Ayers, Has Bred Terrorists

In one of a pair of Sunday posts at his web site, New England talk show host Michael Graham added an emphatic exclamation point to Brent Bozell’s and Tim Graham’s Saturday column condemning the cowardice and hypocrisy of Brandeis University’s decision to revoke its commencement invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In the other, Graham roasted the Boston Globe for backing Brandeis.

Bozell and Tim Graham rightly pointed to the university’s embrace of particularly nasty anti-Catholic and anti-Israel speakers. Michael Graham found yet another example adding toxic icing to an already rancid cake, and noted that three of its female graduates have achieved a unique level of infamy (links are in each original; bolds are mine throughout):

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April 11, 2014

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Brandeis Speech: ‘The Time Has Come for a Muslim Reformation’ (See Additional Items)

Filed under: Activism,Education,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:32 pm

Reproduced in full to shame a cowardly, reactionary university:

Here’s What I Would Have Said at Brandeis
We need to make our universities temples not of dogmatic orthodoxy, but of truly critical thinking.

By AYAAN HIRSI ALI
April 10, 2014 6:38 p.m. ET

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.

Associate books editor Bari Weiss on Brandeis University’s decision to withdraw its offer of an honorary degree to women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Photo credit: Associated Press.
I read an article recently that said many adults don’t remember much from before the age of 8. That means some of your earliest childhood memories may well be of that September morning simply known as “9/11.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ms. Hirsi Ali is the author of “Nomad: My Journey from Islam to America” (Free Press, 2010). She is a fellow at the Belfer Center of Harvard’s Kennedy School and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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RELATED: Roger Simon at PJ Media — “The President of Brandeis University Should Resign”

ALSO: A reminder from Caroline Glick (“Forgetting freedom at Passover”) —

Hirsi Ali is a former Muslim who suffered genital mutilation as a child in Somalia and at age 21 fled to Holland to avoid a forced marriage.

After liberating herself, Hirsi Ali could have settled into a quiet European life. Instead, she dedicated her life to championing the rights of women and girls in Islamic societies.

For the past decade, Hirsi Ali has lived under an Islamic death sentence for her work. She can go nowhere without bodyguards.