Saturday, February 24, 2007

Child Abuse: Nine-Year-Old Canadian Held in Bush's Gulag

A nine-year-old Canadian child suffering from asthma is being held in a secure detention centre in Texas, under appalling conditions. Neither he nor his Iranian parents have been charged with anything at all. They were travelling to Canada, but had to make an emergency stop in Puerto Rico: US officials swept up the whole family and packed them off to jail. (This is starting to sound like a broken record, isn't it?)

If you follow the links, you will see that the father applied for refugee status ten years ago, under Canada's Old Government [tm]. He was sent back to Iran
to be tortured, with his spouse and his infant child. (One wonders just how many more of these stories are waiting to be uncovered. The notion that we don't deport people if they are likely to face torture at the other end appears to be a polite fiction, to put it mildly).

Perhaps Canada's New Government [tm] isn't interested in getting a young teenager out of Gitmo. But when the US starts jailing asthmatic nine-year-olds, won't a simple sense of decency move us to act?

We need to get a blogburst going on this one, folks. Send a politely-worded note to Peter MacKay, our Minister of Foreign Affairs. Remind him of Principle Two of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child:

The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.

Jailing sick children--jailing any children at all--is barbaric. Let's stand up together against this child abuse in the name of "national security." And let's demand that our government do the same.

h/t verbena-19.

UPDATE: (March 12) Annamarie of verbena-19, take a bow. Take another one. And everyone who followed up on this, and wrote, and did all those things that people who give a damn do, take one too. Kevin is coming home. h/t this time to Hope and Onions, and I'm not even a cat-lover. :)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Globe & Mail hypocrisy, and the presumption of innocence

After seven years in a Canadian jail, without being charged with anything, Mohammad Mahjoub is finally being released. He has been held for seven years under a security certificate, a star-chamber mechanism through which a person can simply be imprisoned indefinitely and mistreated, right here in Canada, without the inconvenience of a trial.

Canada's Old Government [tm] issued the security certificate in this case, and tried to deport Mahjoub in 2004, admitting that it knew he would be tortured in his native Egypt. (Many of the players from those days are currently rebelling against Stéphane Dion's move to roll back some of the more draconian aspects of anti-terrorism legislation that they rushed to impose after 9/11.) Canada's New Government [tm] finds nothing wrong with security certificates. And "Canada's National Newspaper," the Globe and Mail, continues its slimy support of them, in a chilling editorial, "Canada's no dark hole for terror suspects." (The Globe, one might recall, objected only once to the use of a security certificate, in the case of Ernst Zundel.) Perhaps the most objectionable sentence in this defence of arbitrary measures that the paper claims to oppose on its masthead* is this one: "Their arrival in Canada, where they are assuredly not wanted, places this country in a dilemma."

Just for whom does this anonymous writer imagine he or she is speaking? Why are these men, presumably innocent before being proven guilty (the latter being something Canadian authorities seem reluctant to set about doing), "not wanted?" (And why are convicted neo-Nazi hate criminals like Zundel "wanted," if it comes to that?) One cannot help but observe that just a tinge of racism might be discerned in commentary like that. Arab surname=terrorist, right?

Of course, presumed innocence makes some people impatient. Even in "progressive" ranks, we find the occasional swipe at this fundamental principle, as in Terry Glavin's latest Chronicles post (go find it--he shall get no link from me). "
[W]hat, exactly, [would] these protestors ... put in place of Security Certificates, and how many of them believe the detainees are innocent, and how many believe they're guilty[?]"

Easy. In answer to the first, a trial. In answer to the second, they are innocent until proven guilty. That should be clear enough, even to anonymous editorialists and gutter journalists.

UPDATE: (February 23) The Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously struck down security certificates as a violation of life, liberty and security of the person under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, no doubt leaving the aforesaid editorialists and journalists choking in its broad judicial wake. It will be interesting to see how this pusillanimous crowd reacts; I'll be following what they have to say closely. They might do well to reflect upon words I have quoted before, likely from Benjamin Franklin:

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

UPPERDATE: (February 26) Well, crowing can sometimes mean that you end up eating crow. Bob Tarantino has some comments here that should be read. And I probably owe Lord Kitchener a beer. I'll need one myself to get the carrion bird down, and I hope I don't get West Nile.

*The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate shall neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures. --Junius

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Progressives and conservatives

OK, OK, on "what is a progressive" I'm about to give up. The horse is dead, like our friend the parrot:

'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

But what is a conservative?

The word derives, obviously enough, from the verb "to conserve." But when we look at the words and deeds of so-called "conservatives," here is what we see (and please note that not all conservatives subscribe to any one of these positions):

  • Blatant disregard for the environment, to the point that ex-professors speaking for the oil and coal industries have more credibility than thousands of climatologists

  • Enthusiastic support of war, now in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no doubt someday in Iran and Syria. Many conservatives have supported in lock-step every single American imperial adventure in living memory

  • Anti-evolution thinking (sometimes risibly called "Intelligent Design") that entails a radical departure from two centuries of meticulous scientific observation, substituting blind faith and misrepresentation

  • The destruction of civil discourse, and its replacement with vilification and screechy namecalling

  • Opposition to the notion of human rights, to the point of defending security certificates, the Guantanamo concentration camp, permanent special measures and torture
One might be forgiven for asking what, precisely, these conservatives want to conserve.

Well, wait a minute, in all fairness: they do want to conserve traditional forms of marriage (to the exclusion of any other form), traditional forms of sexuality, and the dominant culture. But that's too easy--none of these need conserving, because they're not under attack in the first place. Claims to the contrary are just tactical: a man and a woman can still get married as easily as ever, heterosexuality looks like it will soldier on somehow, and the dominant culture, allowing of course for the fluidity of the notion of "culture," is not about to give way to one of mad mullahs, stoning and beheading, at least the last time I checked.

So perhaps we need to re-draw the political map. Conservatives, at least the ones I have been referring to here, don't want to conserve, but to destroy. It's leftists, at least the ones who are these conservatives' favourite targets, who want to conserve: the environment, human beings, respect, scientific inquiry and human rights.

Do we have here the key, perhaps, to resolving that "progressive" problem I mentioned? Let's call ourselves Canada's New Conservatives [tm] and really throw a spanner in the works--just in time for the next election.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Quote of the week

"In conservative Egypt, few are likely to stand up for the rights of a gay Israeli spy who quits Islam."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Progressive dirty pool

A cautionary word, first of all, to my readers: I am here departing from a position that I have argued for strongly on a number of occasions--namely, that progressive bloggers should go easy on each other in their blog-posts. Unique circumstances, which I shall describe, lead me to make an exception. I am, needless to say, posting this as Dr.Dawg, not as a ProgBlogMod.

Terry Glavin, a member of Progressive Bloggers, runs a blog called Chronicles & Dissent. (No link, sorry. Go look it up.
) He writes columns here and there, and he recently reviewed a new book by Nick Cohen in The Tyee. Cohen is worth reading, although exasperating on occasion: I once had a few words to say about him here. He raises uncomfortable questions that the Left needs to wrestle with, even if he does so in a style that resembles fingernails on a blackboard.

Glavin, however, is no gadfly on a lazy horse, more of a horsefly looking for blood. His weapon isn't puckish critique, but slander. You can get the measure of Terry pretty quickly, in fact, by reading a column of his that appeared a little while ago in the Georgia Straight. (My comments are in italics, in square brackets.)

Things started at a July 18 demonstration in Montreal, when a small group of young Lebanese showed up with a sign that read “Peace for Lebanon and Israel”. They were shouted at and shoved around and driven off. Their sign was torn up. The event then proceeded, with people carrying placards that bore the flag of the fascist organization Hezbollah and pictures of Hezbollah's rabidly anti-Semitic leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

[COMMENT: 1)A more balanced view of the give-and-take between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators may be found here:
Note that one of the counter-demonstrators adds a comment in the Comments section. There was no organized attempt to shove around or drive off counter-demonstrators. The peace demo was not monolithic: note the references to the “triumph of Islam” demonstrator, whom at least one peace demonstrator figured was a plant (Comments section). 2) One should be careful of applying Western concepts like “fascist” too loosely. It obfuscates, rather than clarifies. And one should also be wary of calling any Arab leader “anti-Semitic” without proof (see below).]

Before the month was out, you could fairly mark July 2006 as one of the most squalid months in the history of the “left” in Canada.

[COMMENT: Empty, insulting language.]

On July 22, at a Toronto rally sponsored by the Canadian Peace Alliance, there were Hezbollah flags, strapping young men in Hezbollah T-shirts, Nasrallah's fat, stupid face in placard-sized photographs, and pictures of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier and lyncher of homosexuals.

[COMMENT: 1) “fat, stupid face” – pointless namecalling. Does Glavin actually have anything of substance to say? 2) Without holding a brief for Ahmadinejad, and his latest antics, did pictures of him represent the CPA, or only the people who carried them? As noted, the demonstration was hardly monolithic.]

To be clear about the depths of this squalor: Hezbollah glorifies death and war to the point of making pornography out of it,

[COMMENT: “Pornography?” Examples? Or is this simply a “snarl-word” used for rhetorical effect?]

calls Jews the descendants of “apes and pigs”

[COMMENT: A reference to a 1998 speech by Nesrallah where he is alleged to have said this has some currency in anti-Hezbollah circles, but quotes like this prove elusive to track down. They seem to erupt exclusively in pro-Israel publications and websites; one has to ask why such things would not be proudly reported in certain Muslim ones. I am not stating that Nasrallah has never uttered such words, or harbours such sentiments; only that they appear to be reported only by his enemies. (Incidentally, Sura 5:60 of the Qur’an, whence all this “apes and pigs” talk keeps arising, does not refer to “the Jews.”)]

, and happily disseminates such fascist classics as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

[COMMENT: Nasrallah “happily disseminates” this rot (which certainly has some currency in some Muslim countries)? Do we have proof here, or simply more allegation?]

Nasrallah himself is helpfully unambiguous about his hatred of Jews: “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak, and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology, and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say 'the Israeli.'?”

[COMMENT: This oft-quoted statement has a somewhat mysterious origin. Its “primary” source may be found here: Saad-Ghorayeb, Amal (2001), Hizbu'llah: Politics and Religion, Pluto Press, p.170. But it appears from her footnote that she got the quote second-hand, from a Hezbollah ally, Mohammed Fnaysh. This is pretty shaky stuff, but it doesn’t stop pro-Israel groups from using it. CAMERA sources the quote to an article in the New Yorker: The article quotes Saad-Ghorayeb, quoting Nasrallah, a quote that had been, as indicated, quoted from somebody else. None of this, as noted, is to argue that Nasrallah might not indeed have all of the opinions and attitudes attributed to him. I just would have wanted stronger proof before joining in the demonizing.]

To be clearer: while the Canadian Peace Alliance has been busy with its “Don't Attack Iran” campaign, Ahmadinejad's regime, which is explicit about wanting Israel obliterated, has been busy funding and arming Hezbollah and trying to assemble a nuclear arsenal for itself.

[COMMENT: 1)“wants Israel obliterated.” This, too, has received wide circulation, although Ahmadinejad clarified this a little by stating recently that he expected Israel to go the way of the USSR. [] Whether we approve of this sentiment or not, it’s a far cry from calling for nuclear obliteration, which is the usual interpretation given in the Western media. 2)“trying to assemble a nuclear arsenal for itself.” This is a common charge, but where is the proof?]

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, on the same day that trade unionists and “peace” activists

[COMMENT: Note the shudder-quotes. Another cheap rhetorical trick.]

were marching under Hezbollah banners in Toronto,

[COMMENT: “Under” them? They didn’t have their own banners? This would be a first for the labour movement.]

about 300 people gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery for a rally cosponsored by Vancouver's StopWar Coalition. The rally's main speaker was Rafeh Hulays, who has openly declared in a letter to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers””the event that set off all the bloodletting in Lebanon””was “legal, moral, and necessary”.

[COMMENT: Is this all Glavin has got? A speaker at a rally once said something somewhere else, something that could not remotely be deemed anti-Semitic? In fact, the kidnapping of the soldiers occurred after a kidnapping the day before by the IDF, in Gaza, of two Palestinians thought to be members of Hamas, Osama Muamar and his brother Mustafa Muamar. Source:]

Shortly after his July 22 address to the Vancouver peace rally, Hulays was again writing to Haaretz, admitting that he didn't believe in peace anyway. “I no longer do,” he wrote. “There are many monsters that need to be dealt with. Israel happens to be the biggest, ugliest, and most dangerous.”

[COMMENT: By this time, Israeli forces had bottled up the entire population of Gaza, with the threat of massive civilian deaths looming (, and had killed more than 300 Lebanese civilians []. One can understand Hulays’ emotional state at that point. But in any case, this has little to do with the CPA rally.]

A week later, the StopWar Coalition held another demonstration on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery, this one to protest “Canadian complicity in Israeli war crimes”. This time the featured speaker was Hanna Kawas, who openly campaigned against Ottawa's 2003 decision to ban three notorious Palestinian terrorist groups. The StopWar Coalition joined him in that effort.

[COMMENT: Here is the full story (both sides):]

Odd thing for an antiwar group to do, you might say, since war is the reason these terrorist groups exist.

[COMMENT: Unpacking the assumptions in that sentence may be a waste of time. Suffice it to say that many so-called “terrorist” groups exist to defend against the terror imposed by states, e.g., the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, termed “apartheid” by Nobel Laureates Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter.]

But this isn't about peace at all. “Peace” is just code for opposing Israel. This is about war.

[COMMENT: No, “peace” is code for “peace.” Which will never be achieved so long as Israel continues to occupy Palestine.]

Actually, two wars.
One is the just struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom, for their own state, and for peaceful coexistence with Israel.

[COMMENT: Ah. A ray of light?]

The other is an Islamist war against modernity, against liberalism, and, as always, against the Jews. In that larger war, the Palestinian cause is a cover, the Palestinian poor are fodder, and there is no shortage of useful idiots to make light work of it all.

[COMMENT: Back to bluster, assertion and insult. Glavin has no real arguments, it appears.]

Take the famous British demagogue George Galloway, for instance. While Nasrallah's face was being paraded around downtown Toronto on July 22, Galloway, at a similar rally in London, fairly screamed these words: “I am here to glorify the leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.”

[COMMENT: Was that pompous idiot at the CPA rally? I must have missed something.]

Then there are Galloway's friends in the Socialist Workers Party, whose Canadian affiliates provide the key staff positions for the Canadian Peace Alliance, the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, and the War Resisters Support Group. And on it goes.

[COMMENT: Well, don’t stop now. First we got second or third-hand quotes attributed to Nasrallah. Now we get “key staff positions” in the peace movement, staffed by “affiliates” of the Socialist Workers Party, some of whom are apparently “friends” of Galloway (who is not a member of the SWP, in case anyone needs reminding). That’s a rather tenuous set of linkages.]

Still, StopWar is perfectly entitled to argue that pro-war, fascist Jew-killers should be allowed to raise money, propagandize, and otherwise operate freely in Canada. Argue away, you might say to StopWar. Just not in my name.

[COMMENT: Emotive language like this is always a good substitute for thought and facts when you have neither of the latter. Has StopWar ever argued any such thing? Or is “pro-war, fascist Jew-killers” just code for “anyone Glavin doesn’t happen to like?”]

But that won't quite do if you're a member of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, or the Hospital Employees Union, or the Vancouver Green party, or the New Democratic Party, or the United Church of Canada. If you belong to any one of about 160 organizations that StopWar lists as endorsing members, or if you simply happen to live in Vancouver or Burnaby, then StopWar is speaking in your name.

[COMMENT: In its own words, too, not in Glavin-speak. But Glavin doesn’t actually quote StopWar; he’s too busy slandering it.]

And don't you dare try to speak for yourself about these things. You will be told you don't know what you're talking about, or that you've “bought into” something called the neoconservative agenda, or, worse still, that you're a Zionist.

[COMMENT: By “speaking for yourself,” could Glavin mean supporting Israel to the point of calling its murderous Lebanon adventure a “measured response?” Do supporters of the Palestinian people never speak for themselves? These empty assertions raise far more questions than they answer. Who will be told such things; and by whom; and on the basis of what?]

So, in July 2006, while Israel was fighting for her very life,

[COMMENT: At this point Glavin is simply hallucinating. Anyone checking out the Lebanese civilian casualty count, the infrastructural damage, the sealing off of Gaza, must wonder what planet Glavin inhabits. Israel massively attacked Lebanon and Gaza, and caused enormous carnage, suffering and destruction--not the other way around.]

and Lebanon and Palestine were being ground to bits,

[COMMENT: By a country “fighting for its life,” I presume.]

and Iraq was descending deeper into a hell of throat-slitting and suicide bombing, Canada's “antiwar” left had openly opted for war.

[COMMENT: Not proven by a single part of this florid polemic.]

And the words on the placards left no doubt about which side it was on: “We Are All Hezbollah”.

[COMMENT: Ah. Was this on all the placards? Or is this a not-so-subtle attempt to suggest that the anti-war movement is "all Hezbollah?"]

So, to sum up: the Left is morally corrupt, hypocritical, and anti-Semitic. Got that?

Now, a sloppy, dishonest, yellow-sheet "journalist" would usually be easy to ignore--there are, after all, so very many of them. But not only is this one going that extra yard by posing as a "progressive"-- he also practises a form of moral cowardice that is exemplary, in its way. Over at his place, he referred to a commenter at The Tyee, recently banned by the Tyee's timorous and inconsistent editor, David Beers, as a "Jew-basher." Knowing Terry's proclivities, I asked for proof. Big mistake.

A short, rancorous exchange commenced, which spilled over into the comments section of another one of his posts, on Monbiot and the 9/11 conspiracy theorists. I quoted this short passage:

The war in Iraq was conceived by 25 neoconservative intellectuals, most of them Jewish, who are pushing President Bush to change the course of history. Two of them, journalists William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, say it's possible. But another journalist, Thomas Friedman (not part of the group), is skeptical.

I was attempting to make the point that one can offer observations like this without being a conspiracy theorist, or "anti-Semitic." (The quotation is from an article in Ha'aretz.) Indeed, I clarified this in my next post, noting Terry's propensity to paint the peace movement and the Left with overly-broad brush-strokes. But you won't find that post: he deleted it. And he went on to say

I certainly can't help you, and I'm not going to engage in a debate with you. You're the internet equivalent of serial crank-telephone caller, or an anonymous graffito artist. Hanging up on some nutcase on the telephone is not a denial of free speech, and graffiti is not debate. It's vandalism, so if you come back here and try to post anything short of an abject apology, I'll delete you. You are perfectly free to go and cry about it and tell more lies about me from the safety of your anonymous nickname somewhere else.

His concern about my "anonymous nickname" (no, he doesn't write very well either) would be more convincing if he weren't surrounded by panting acolytes with names like "ndude" and "Blazing Cat Fur" and "Bookmistress," whose "anonymous nicknames" don't seem to cause him any bother, but no matter. I don't do abject apologies on demand for the likes of him--that sort of thing smacks too much of the glory days of Stalin for my taste. I refused, therefore, and indicated my continuing problems with his mischaracterization of the Left, but that further post was deleted as well. Then his echo-chamber buddies jumped to, with their own crude slander, but no responses on my part were permitted. Osip Mandelstam, writing of the aforementioned Redeemer of the Masses, referred to such people:

And around him the rabble of narrow-necked chiefs--
He plays with the services of half-men

Who warble, or miaow, or moan.
He alone pushes and prods.

Let's be clear: this is Terry's combox, and he can do what he wants with it. If you can't be Czar of your own blog, after all, we've come to a sorry pass indeed. But you are still open to criticism if you use it as a platform for vilification (e.g., some egregiously inaccurate and silly comments about my former union), while refusing the right of rebuttal to the target. It's...a character thing.

Herewith, then, another contribution to our on-going debate about what it means to be "progressive." It has meant, in the recent past, lock-step support for the good citizens of Hérouxville and defence of the Chinese head-tax. Now it apparently means slandering the peace movement and offering up your blogspace to anti-union character assassins with a guarantee that they will froth unopposed. Perhaps a better question, then, for those still interested, is: what isn't "progressive"?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Targeting Professor Attaran

h/t to My Blahg for getting me riled.

Reading the right-wing blogs and the reams of abuse to be found in their comboxes, Professor Amir Attaran, in the faculty of law at the University of Ottawa, is the new Great Satan of the "rah rah" set. For daring to raise the possibility that prisoners, whoops, that's "detainees," have been abused by Canadian troops in Afghanistan, he has become subject to what Robert McClelland rightly calls a swiftboating. He has an agenda. He's inconsistent. He's a Muslim, so that should tell you something. He's a sneak who has managed to raise, once again, his original concerns about turning prisoners, whoops, there I go again, "detainees," over to the tender mercies of the ex-Northern Alliance types in charge of Afghanistan.

Well, just who is this guy? Actually he's not a Muslim, although so what if he were?
He's married to a practising Catholic. He's an academic with international credentials in law and public health issues. He's a human rights activist--he doesn't confine himself to scholarly articles and books--and one of his targets has been Robert Mugabe, as it happens. But he's just too brown for some folks--not a "real Canadian." (He was actually born in the US, and is a naturalized Canadian citizen.) This is the sort of repulsive racist calumny that he has been subjected to recently:

I have received a very great amount of hate mail, saying that I am not a real Canadian. Well, I am. And I have received quite a lot of other material attacking me -- and I won't use the real language because it's really vulgar -- as a damn Muslim. Use your imagination to substitute for damn.

And here's a small sampling of combox chatter:

Right out of Al-Qaeda's textbook. The fact that the claims are coming from a professor here in Canada is somewhat worrying though. Either he is a sympathizer for Islamic Terrorists or worse, a collaborator.


Another good leftist professor shilling for the enemy--I'd like to know what these "detainees" were up to when they were arrested?


It's quite obvious where the professor's loyalties lie.Not once was he questioned as to why he is so interested in this aspect of the Afghan operation, and why he would spend so much time and effort to bring this to light. His own history may bear some looking into.


Attaran.."you're busted" tell us who your accomplices the very least this punk should lose tenure.


Who told this prof wannabe about what happened over there....Send him over there with no protection and let him go out without a flak jacket. Don't let your kids go to that university.


What's Attaran's motivation? Well, he's a Muslim who has ingratiated himself into western politics in order to help achieve Islamist goals. Kitman is obvious in his deceptive cover as a 'humanitarian.'

Had enough? Believe me, these are just a few rancid drops spattering from the unsavoury racist stew that's a-boiling fast and furious on the starboard side of the blogosphere at the moment.

It is disappointing to see that even in relatively respectable right-wing blogsites, like Daimnation and The Torch, Attaran himself has become the issue, and the media who have given him prominence recently--not the issues of human rights abuses that he has raised. In a foetid fog of "patriotic" drivel, he has been accused of an agenda-revealing inconsistency: he has complained that the abuse of "detainees" has not until now been investigated by the military; but he had earlier cast some doubt upon the impartiality and thoroughness of the military investigating itself. I see little contradiction here. Even a biased investigation is preferable to sweeping the matter under the rug.

The brass, at least, are taking the possibility of abuse of "detainees" seriously. Now, if we could only track what's become of the "detainees" handed over to the Afghan government's torturers interrogators. That's a far larger question, of course, one that Professor Attaran has been pushing for a year or so. Maybe it's time some people stop fixating on the man's skin colour and start getting a mite curious themselves.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Five things that bug me

My memory could be deceiving me, but I recall that the redoubtable Canadian curmudgeon Gordon Sinclair--whose latter-day incarnation, Don Cherry, is but a poor imitation--once wrote a column with a similar heading. (For him, it was more likely ten things. Or fifty. But what the heck.)

Having officially achieved curmudgeonly status, at least in age, and just ask the kids, I thought I'd start modestly with five perennial blogospheric annoyances that call aloud for irritable comment. So here goes, in no particular order.
  1. Bloggers who don't allow comments. You read a really provocative piece, left, right, centre, it doesn't matter, and then you look for the comment button, and it isn't there. The blogger in question has committed the unspeakable sin of trolling you and then taping your mouth shut. Be it known that this qualifies as torture under the UN Convention. Aren't bloggers supposed to foster controversy? Then why the gag?

    I know that some people have good reason, or say they do. Kathy Shaidle sees comboxes as "occasions for sin," and, lacking her theological knowledge, how can I presume to argue? (I am assuming that she is referring to her own possible fall from grace, not that of her visitors, but I could be mistaken.) She has been known to venture out into the combox world herself, though, especially when trolled.

    But at least Kathy has offered us an explanation. Others simply post, and you can take it or leave it, but there will be no discussion unless you want to go somewhere else. That's dirty pool. It's censorship! It's a violation of the right of freedom of speech! At least, I'm sure I know people who would make that argument. Personally, I think it's just party-pooping, not a Charter violation. But it's irritating.

  2. Bloggers who ban commenters. Now, I think I'm a nice enough sort of fellow, not a troll, at least not all the time, but yesterday I managed to get banned from two blogsites. The word "echo-chamber" leaps to mind, but that's too simple. I think we have here a pathology, manifesting itself in various stages. Remember that I'm not talking about lumpen purveyors of abuse, profanity, all of those egregious violations of the rules of hospitality that call for immediate banishment. I had a couple of those once, and sent them packing. I'm talking about--wait for it--disagreement.

    I will forebear to name the two individuals involved. That would be rude, but, more important, pointless. In one case, I simply became an unperson: all posts of mine, innocuous as at least some of them were, vanished into the outer darkness. I would call that Stage Two, Stage One being the elimination of specific posts--a cyber-slap, rather than blogocide.

    Stage Three consists of the elimination of your own posts, but not of the posts that attack you. A visitor to the site might be put in mind of Osip Mandelstam's line about "just enough people for half a dialogue." There are accusations and rough commentary about someone or other, but the target has simply been removed, able to listen but not rebut. Perhaps out of my unfailing generosity of spirit, I insist on regarding this cyber-cowardice as a sickness, not a crime. It's just too obvious for there to be intelligent planning behind it.

  3. Blogrolls that fuss about their identity. I need to tread lightly here. Every blogroll has a theme, a commonality, a reason for affiliation. If it doesn't, then it's not really a blogroll, but an agora, and that's what the political blogosphere already is, isn't it? We don't really need mini-versions when we have all outdoors. So I don't expect to see Warren Kinsella trying to join the Blogging Tories, at least yet (joke, Warren, no writs please), or Stephen Taylor getting listed as a Blogging Dipper...well, you get my drift. And on Progressive Bloggers, whatever the heck a "progressive" is, I don't expect to find white supremacists, "men's rights" types, or people who complain about the Chinese moving in next door.

    But what to do if one of these surfaces right here at home? Being the good progressives that we are, we agonize about it. Blogging Tories, on the other hand, just kick people out. If I was ever critical of them for this (and I don't recall being so), I take it all back. There's something to be said for expediency on occasion. We could learn from them.

  4. One-trick ponies. Do you ever come across bloggers--I know you have--who really only have one issue, and beat it to death for post after post? The "Muslims are a danger to us all" crowd, for example, or "Jack Layton's moustache sucks," or "Onward to victory in Afghanistan," or "Androgenic global warming is a socialist hoax," or (my current favourite) "the Left are a bunch of anti-Semites." I mean, get a life! There are so many uncleared, untilled fields just waiting for ideological seeding. Kate McMillan runs a blog that really does cover the waterfront. It's interesting, damn it, even if it puts a progressive's teeth on edge. Ditto, closer to home, with Robert McClelland. (What is it with these Scots, anyway?) Incidentally, I'm just picking two sort of equal-but-opposite folks here as examples, so no one should feel left out. There are plenty of interesting blogs out there, right across the political spectrum.

  5. Shills. Again, naming no names, I am weary of blogsites that pop up like mushrooms whenever there's a political convention of some sort. They are so transparent, just a obvious way of avoiding campaign spending limits, and they're boring. Get yourself a real blogsite, like my friend Cerberus, and plug away by all means, but show a bit of imagination. And staying power. (Speaking of which--are you still there, Ted?)

Well, that's about it for me at the moment. Feel free to add your own items to the list. Such as--the propensity for bloggers to make lists?

UPDATE/CORRECTION: (February 9) It should be noted that Robert McClelland co-blogs with the excellent Paladiea. I apologize for having to be prompted on this.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Good Terrorist

Luis Posada Carriles is not exactly a household name, but it should be. He's a terrorist, a mass-murderer who engineered the bombing of a civilian airliner, along with his good buddy Orlando Bosch. George Bush père was CIA director when the murders were committed, making him Posada Carriles' employer. His administration nixed Bosch's deportation in 1990. If Posada Carriles' last name were Almrei, say, or Jaballah, or Mahjoub, he'd be a headliner. But he's one of ours, see. And the people he killed on Cubana Airlines flight 455 on October 6, 1976 were "seventy-three dogs."

Bosch is now living a quiet and contented life in Miami. Carriles, however, who escaped from Venezuela where he was to stand trial for terrorism and sneaked into the US in 2005, is sitting in a New Mexico jail on immigration charges. Venezuela has demanded his extradition, but Bush fils isn't about to give up his anti-Castro freedom fighter, who has applied to become an American citizen.

Meanwhile, back in Canada, three men who have been held in jail for years on "security certificates," odious Star Chamber artefacts that have no place in a democratic country
, are entering a critical phase in their more than two-month-long hunger strike. These men have not been charged with a crime, have not been permitted to see any evidence against them, have not even been allowed the routine access to their families that convicted murderers and rapists receive. They have been badly mistreated in prison--hell, let's call a spade a spade, tortured--denied medical care, and are now at the point of death.

All this is happening under the noses of the regular media, but not a whimper of outrage can be heard, except for the strong views of a couple of guests on CBC's The Current this morning. The fearless Globe & Mail, "Canada's National Newspaper," is against a security certificate when the person held under it is named Ernst Zundel, but stoutly defends them in the case of people called, well, Almrei, or Jaballah, or Mahjoub. Meanwhile, the starboard side of the blogosphere has already tried and convicted these guys--but it hasn't uttered a word about Posada Carriles.

And so the war on terrorism continues. Sleep tight.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


To: Margaret Wente, Rex Murphy
From: The Phraser Institute
Subject: IPCC Report

The just-released IPCC report on "global warming" could not have come at a worse time. Just when our Intelligent Design department is making serious headway in reforming school curricula, and our Planar Earth department is revving up to start demanding equal time with the "globe" partisans, this happens:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of hundreds of scientists from 113 countries, said that based on new research over the last six years, it is 90 percent certain that human-generated greenhouse gases account for most of the global rise in temperatures over the past half-century.

Even Stephen Harper and George W. Bush are bending in this wind. We need to get busy on this one right away, and we're counting on your assistance.

The language of the debate is, as always, of paramount importance. The other side has managed to sideline us by using terms like "enviro-sceptics" and, more damagingly, "global warming deniers." The first makes no sense, of course--we all know there's an environment, we've never questioned that. This is just another socialist smear. The second carries echoes of Holocaust-denial, as you, Mr. Murphy, have already astutely pointed out. We have to promote our own vocabulary, or turn theirs around--remember what we were able to do with "politically correct." So we respectfully make the following suggestions, which we hope you will take up in future columns.
  1. The word "enviro-nuts" is gaining currency. Find a couple of extreme statements or actions that you can point to and repeat often to justify the label, and use the word frequently. It works well adjectivally, too: "Are you enviro-nuts?" accompanied by raised eyebrows is worth a thousand IPCC reports. "Warmers" is good shorthand as well, suggesting that the enviro-nuts might even be the cause of their own imaginary crisis.

  2. We need to brand ourselves: we suggest "Ten Percenters." Note that the scientists, or politicians, or whoever authored that wretched propaganda document, admit that they are only "90 percent certain" that people have anything to do with so-called "global warming." We can quote their own leftist gurus in our support: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." That's Margaret Mead, another socialist. It's time to reclaim the word "change."

  3. What change are we after? A change back. We want to change back to common sense, change back to getting around in our SUVs without feeling under attack all the time. We're sick of trying to figure out if this week it's bottles or cardboard in those stupid recycling boxes. People are tired of being lectured by "green" types all the time. They just want to get on with their lives. Invite them to join the "Ten Percenters."

  4. We need to sound neutral, not antagonistic. We should describe ourselves as "weather-watchers," for example. That doesn't define us as blindly partisan in any way, but the very opposite: observant.

  5. And what are we observing? Take the Everyman approach. "It's just a little unusual weather, no biggie. There used to be palm trees in Greenland. What caused that? Mastodon farts?"

  6. Keep plugging away at the "socialist" thing. The word gets people upset, because it means "bad." Attach it to any comment from the "warming" crowd. It's great word-paint. "Eco-terrorism" works too. Explain that the warmers are causing far more damage than any isolated acts of log-spiking or other sabotage. The costs of the latter add up to a piddling $42.8 million. Contrast that with the costs of one year of Kyoto and you're home free.

  7. Mr. Murphy, we know you are fond of Shakespeare. So use this quotation:

    Since I was man,
    Such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid thunder,
    Such groans of roaring wind and rain, I never
    Remember to have heard; man's nature cannot carry
    The affliction nor the fear....

    These alarmists have always been with us.

  8. There has to be some connection with Islam that you can make. They claim to be in favour of "balance," and are full of the usual green nonsense. They sound, in fact, just like more environ-nuts. Make a joke or two about their green deserts. Refer to the Middle East and Afghanistan and 9/11 and terrorism and anti-Semitism. By this time you'll have the warmers on the ropes.
We wish you well, and look forward with some anticipation to your next articles. In the meantime, stay cool, as the kids say.