Saturday, October 31, 2009

Come on, Mr. Fadden

There's a new sheriff in town. Fake leftist Terry Glavin ("Transmontanus") cites this dinosaur with respect--quite in keeping with his role as the policeman's friend. But he does capture the money-quote from the just-appointed boss of CSIS,
Richard B. Fadden:

Why then, I ask, are those accused of terrorist offences often portrayed in media as quasi-folk heroes, despite the harsh statements of numerous judges? Why are they always photographed with their children, given tender-hearted profiles, and more or less taken at their word when they accuse CSIS or other government agencies of abusing them? It sometimes seems that to be accused of having terrorist connections in Canada has become a status symbol, a badge of courage in the struggle against the real enemy, which apparently is government.

Fadden identifies no one by name, although elsewhere he refers to the Toronto 18. Certainly--let's admit it--those of us who saw this motley crew as a Muslim version of the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight underestimated the dangers that even the naive and the not-so-bright can cause.

But pay careful attention to one word in the above: "accused."

Of course, Fadden hastens to assure us:
“I … am not arguing that those accused of offences should be portrayed as guilty. In fact, a more balanced presentation is what I am hoping for.”

The problem is that I can recall no media images of any of the convicted Toronto terrorists posing with their children. (Readers are invited to link to any that they know of, but I've had a pretty good look around.) And that for me raises the question: to whom is Fadden specifically referring? Surely not the people recently given breaks in the Canadian courts by judges who have excoriated CSIS for its dubious tactics? "Harsh statements of numerous judges," indeed.

Come on, Fadden--name names. Then we might have something worth discussing. Until then, all we have is your innuendo, not only against those who have not been proven guilty of anything, but against all decent Canadians who have stood up, time and again, against arbitrary treatment and trial by implication. Hardly a good start to refurbishing the image of your frankly out-of-control organization.

The ambiguous dexterity of Adrian MacNair

Adrian Raphael Alexander MacNair, as many will know by now, has posted a retraction and an apology for calling me an "admitted supporter of the Taliban." One can quibble with the wording--it uses the passive voice, so that he doesn't make it plain that the libelous comment was his (comments don't simply "appear," Adrian). Of more consequence, two posts of his just previous to the apology undercut his sincerity and are seriously misleading and inaccurate in a number of respects. Further comments of his, like this one*, have not helped his cause either.

But the apology and retraction are substantially what I asked for from the very beginning, and I have received them without the necessity and expense of actually launching a lawsuit, which I was fully prepared to do. At this point, in my estimation, the law of diminishing returns applies, and I am also sensitive to the urgings of friends and supporters not to let this matter spiral out of control unnecessarily.

Hence, at this time I do not intend to proceed further, unless Adrian continues to undermine his own apology publicly--which, it must be said, he appears almost neurotically inclined to do.

Nevertheless, as there has been no settlement, I am advised that I am free to discuss the details of what has transpired so far. Accordingly, I wish to correct the public record, dealing in particular with the two recent posts referred to above.

1) The "financial compensation" that I requested:

Adrian made it sound in the first of the two posts as though I was attempting to seize his house, his wife and his children, and he put out an urgent plea for financial support to defend against a lawsuit that was supposedly being settled as he spoke:

As I’m a working class trade worker of extremely modest income who will likely go broke trying to fight this, any money you can help with my legal defence [any at all] would be extremely appreciated.

I can now reveal that his lawyer and mine, in discussions before that first post appeared, were indeed talking money. The sum involved was $1K. Yes, you read right.

What did that amount represent? Some of the costs incurred when Adrian attempted to evade service. I am advised that the sum I proposed was extremely reasonable, was completely avoidable if Adrian had reacted like an adult, and that I was (and still am) fully entitled to it.

Here in any case is what he had to say about that:

Nor did it seem necessary for Dr.Baglow to hire a private investigator to find my private address, to contact the B.C. Motor Vehicles department to seek where I lived, or to demand that information in a letter from his lawyer. Any costs he has incurred from this incident appear to be, using his words, largely self-inflicted.

Adrian is either sublimely ignorant of the way the law works, or he is being disingenuous in the extreme.

Most readers will know that, to serve a Notice of Libel (which is not part of a formal proceeding, but which sets out the alleged libel and allows for the possibility of settlement before an actual Statement of Claim is issued), one is
normally required by law to have it served personally on the respondent. Accordingly, as Adrian helpfully notes, an email was sent to him on September 21 requesting his address for service.

He refused to divulge it.

Instead, he responded by posting the email with the taunt, "Come and get me, Johnny." So much for always having been willing to retract and apologize, had I only sent him a personal email, as he now claims. (This would have been on top of four comments
I sent the day after the libel was published, requesting precisely that.) On September 26, he posted further, stating that he was being threatened with a lawsuit by a "coward." Still no apology and/or offer of retraction. Anything but.

Part of the problem might have been that Adrian was credulous enough to accept the "legal advice" of numerous benighted commenters. These were united in their dislike of me, but they were not exactly learned in the law--to put it mildly. His head might
also have been turned by the support of one or two vulgar bloggers. For whatever reason, he continued in his doltish behaviour.

Adrian seems to move house a lot, and it proved impossible for a bailiff to track him down in Vancouver. The Department of Motor Vehicles is not permitted to divulge the address of a licensed driver under provincial privacy regulations, so that Adrian's posted driver's licence proved to be of no help. Finally, I was forced to go to court to obtain an order for substitutional service. Successful in that, my lawyer served Adrian by email on October 10.

Please note that date. It was only two weeks later--October 24--that his "I'm being sued" post went up. By that time his lawyer and mine were, as noted, talking settlement. Adrian was NOT "being sued" at that time. And he knew full well what money was being discussed.

It seemed fair, and still does, that he pay at least a part of the funds that had to be expended because of his evasiveness. Adrian had been explicitly warned in the initial letter from my lawyer that such costs would be claimed, but still elected to engage us in a game of "where's Waldo," something no mature adult would do. In any case, no larger sum than the one asked for was ever contemplated.

2) My request for an apology:

In the second of the posts, Adrian makes a number of misleading comments:

But I need to clarify, for the record, what transpired. The very first public record I have of any comment from Dr.John Baglow was:

“Ah, I thought I had slipped up in posting my first comment. “Raphael”’s banned me–more evidence of his malice and bad faith.”

Not having any idea what he was talking about, I did not respond. 6 minutes later, he announced his intent to sue me:

“Four attempts to publish an earlier comment–all rejected by the Raphael entity.

OK, I have given fair warning, and will commence the action.”

For the record, none of these four comments were ever published on my blog for a simple reason. I never saw them. The very first indication I had that Dr.Baglow was in any way upset about the comment which is now a subject of a defamation suit is when he announced he was suing me. The four comments he refers to, I later found, wound up in a spam folder on WordPress. It was a folder I discovered for the very first time on that day. WordPress had selected his comment, among hundreds of others, for my spam folder of it’s own volition. I now routinely have to restore legitimate comments from that folder on a daily basis.


I repeat: I did not know that he wanted the comment removed until after he announced his intention to sue me.

Please note that this "announcement" of mine appeared on September 2. Alert readers will note that Adrian concedes that he discovered the existence of a spam filter "on that day." And he found therein several messages from me demanding a retraction and apology. Not one of these appears to have been "restored," but there is no question that he read them. His response, now excised from the thread, was this:

Don’t get cranky “Dawg”. I just found out today I had a spam folder! Seems you were selected for it. Very intelligent AI program this filter has.

I find it greatly amusing you would threaten to sue somebody because they defamed your pseudonym, “Dr.Dawg”.

But listen, Dawg, whether you support the Taliban from a philosophical standpoint, or whether you reject them outright, your writing on your blog undermines everything Canada is trying to accomplish in Afghanistan. In effect, since you support immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan without a security plan for the people left behind, you do “support” the idea of a Taliban-state.

So sue me. But you better get in line with Jack Layton, for every person who’s inferred the same idea.

In other words, he knew from the outset that I wanted a retraction and an apology. I leave it to the reader to judge whether his response above to my repeated request was an appropriate one.

There matters stood for nearly three weeks. The libellous words remained up. No hint of a retraction or apology was given. Accordingly, my lawyer sent Adrian an email on September 21, requesting his address so that a Notice of Libel could be served.

The libellous words abruptly disappeared. On September 29, Adrian anxiously emailed me directly, asking how far I was prepared to take this matter.
The contents of his email fell very short of the public retraction and apology that I wanted. On the advice of my lawyer, I gave a non-committal response.

On October 10, as already noted, Adrian was served with a Notice of Libel, and he retained counsel. But for reasons known only to himself, he put up his October 24 post while settlement negotiations were well underway.

Adrian's victimhood:

Adrian has managed to persuade himself, and evidently a few of his naive friends, that he's the victim in all this, and to gull some of the latter into sending him money. But let's have a look at his claims in that respect:

Three days after this incident, I traveled to Ontario for my brother’s wedding. During this time I was out of contact with most blogs and bloggers. Not once did I receive an email from Dr.Baglow asking me to retract, apologize, or delete the comment. Not ever have I received such an email.

Why would I be expected to email him, after having attempted on several occasions to post a comment to that effect at his blogsite? Comments that he admits having found in his spam filter on September 2, the same day that I sent them?

Only when I returned from Ontario to find I had been served a notice of libel, did I immediately delete the comment considered offensive by Dr.Baglow. Had he bothered to email me and ask me to delete the comment, I would have done so immediately.

"Three days after this incident" would have been September 5. He was served his Notice of Libel on October 10. During this lengthy fraternal wedding process, he was happily posting numerous entries on his blog. "[O]ut of contact with most blogs and bloggers"? Not so.

The moment I realized that Dr.Baglow was legitimately offended by the comment which is now the subject matter of a defamation suit, was when his lawyer served me notice of libel. I removed the comment immediately at that time.

As indicated, this is not the case. I had made it very clear, several times, that I was "legitimately offended" on September 2--one day after the libel had appeared. Furthermore, my lawyer's initial warning letter was sent to him weeks before Adrian was actually served with the Notice of Libel.


I hope that I have reassured most readers that my intentions from the very beginning were only to secure a public retraction and apology for a potentially very damaging allegation.

I fly frequently, and have done contract work for the federal government. A public claim that I am an "admitted supporter" of the Taliban simply could not go unchallenged, and only a full and unequivocal retraction and apology would do.

My views on Afghanistan are well-known. I support the withdrawal of our troops. But as even a cursory search of my blog reveals, I have no fellow-feeling whatsoever with the mediaeval-minded, gynocidal fanatics with whom the Canadian Forces are presently engaged.

As for the financial claim, which I will leave dormant for now, as I noted earlier it was a relatively modest amount intended to offset expenses that I was forced to incur because Adrian was childishly trying to evade service. His "poor me" bleating needs to be heard in that context.

Finally, now that I am free to say what I wish, I cannot let this go without thanking the numerous folks, including ideological sparring partners, for the considerable support that they gave me in various ways. It was a clear sign that, even in the rough-and-tumble world of the blogosphere, standards are possible.

And special thanks are due to my lawyer, who might even have set a legal precedent by managing to obtain a Substitutional Service Order that permitted service by email. His work on this file, and his advice--always helpful and direct--made him a pleasure to work with.

Comments are open: but please remain civil.

*UPDATE: Adrian has removed
the comment, and "redacted" both posts. Readers who want to follow along may find the latter cached here and here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Free speech follies: Maclean's smartens up

Well, well, well.

In this week's Maclean's magazine (no link on-line as yet):


In the Sept. 21 article "The CHRC tells itself to shape up" (National), we reported that Human Rights Commission staff hacked into the email account of a private citizen to post racist comments on a website. Maclean's is satisfied that there is no evidence to suggest that either Richard Warman or commission staff did so. We regret the statement.

Do the
Maclean's editors, then, regret this, still on-line after all this time? Wouldn't want us to doubt the sincerity of your "regret," now.

Stay thirsty, my friends: there's gonna be more.

Give peace a chance

...and show some support for Jon Stewart, who dared host a couple of Middle East peace activists, one Palestinian, one Israeli.*

His program, The Daily Show, is now under sustained attack. Nothing but unequivocal support for Israeli foreign policy, it seems, is to be permitted.

The interviews, and further information, can be found at the link. Please take a moment to send the letter requested.

*Reader Kevin notes, correctly, that Anna Balzer is not an Israeli. Her partial bio:
"Anna Baltzer is a Jewish-American Columbia graduate, former Fulbright scholar, the granddaughter of Holocaust refugees, and an award-winning lecturer, author, and activist for Palestinian rights. As a volunteer with the International Women's Peace Service in the West Bank, Baltzer documented human rights abuses and supported Palestinian-led nonviolent resistance to the Occupation."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Notice re libel action

As many of you are aware, I am pursuing legal proceedings for defamation against Adrian MacNair, a.k.a. Raphael of Unambiguously Ambidextrous, and also an occasional National Post guest columnist. Although we have both retained lawyers who are discussing the matter, Mr. MacNair has inexplicably began publicizing our confidential discussions on his blog under the guise of seeking funds from his supporters. He has made several comments in both his posts and comments about what has and has not transpired to date in discussions among us and our lawyers. I am advised this is extremely unusual, ethically questionable and makes efforts to resolve the matter without expensive litigation highly problematic.

Unlike Mr. MacNair, I have no intention of trying to divert the hearing of this case from the courts to the blogosphere. However, I cannot stand by and watch him make false statements about my position on the Internet without some response. I will not comment here or elsewhere about my action or discussions between our lawyers, but I wish to respond as follows to Mr. MacNair's most recent statements:

1) At no time has Mr. MacNair ever offered to apologize or made any other kind of offer. Nor is his claim that he was never given a chance to apologize correct, as careful readers of his blog will know. I am gratified, however, by the implication that an apology was called for.

2) His prediction that the litigation will probably "leave him broke" is not grounded in any realistic interpretation of what is currently being discussed by our lawyers. If such occurs, and whether it does is entirely in his hands, it will go down as one of the greatest self-inflicted legal wounds in history.

Comments are turned off on advice of counsel.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Plus ça change...

Why the Tories must never get a majority.

The latest disgusting behaviour by the Harper frat-pack (to use blogger Impolitical's felicitous phrase) reminds me of an incident in 1988 in the Ontario legislature*, when decent folks were suffering the excesses of the Mike Harris regime. And I suspect that some of the same players might have been involved.

On December 3, 1998, widows, dying workers and cancer survivors from "Chemical Valley" in Sarnia, Ontario, attended the Visitors Gallery in the Ontario Legislature. Asbestos dust in Sarnia used to be so thick that traffic would sometimes be halted. Holmes Insulation and Caposite, both Sarnia companies, created through negligence a massive death toll of workers from rare cancers such as mesothelioma, by refusing to clean up their sites. Even families of the workers, affected by the poisons in their clothing, suffered abnormally high rates of various cancers.

In 1995, the Harris government had slashed inspectors, closed down occupational health and safety labs, and abolished a committee about to issue regulations on workplace toxins.

The NDP labour critic introduced the widows and dying workers to the Legislature. Immediately, the Harrisites jeered them, cracking jokes and laughing, catcalling and mocking them. One widow wrote to Mike Harris conveying her anguish at her husband's death being found funny by the Tories. The letter was never answered. One of the worst hecklers was Janet Ecker, then the Minister responsible for Community and Social Services.

That's what the Tories were like then, and it's what they're like now. There's a timeless quality to their utter lack of human decency.

In any case, one video is worth a thousand words.

*No link. This is from some notes of mine at the time.

[H/t Impolitical]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dead Nazis Klub gets new member

I won't be losing any sleep over this.

ARC was all over the story before anyone else, by the way. Kudos.

West Bank water

Amnesty International is in the news today, with a report that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are being starved of water by Israel.

This reminded me of an old Globe and Mail article by Paul Koring, which appeared on May 8, 2002. It's no longer on-line, but I saved a copy of it, and I am reproducing it here in its entirety to show that this little problem has been around for a while.

Palestinian village is dying without reliable water source
The amount in settlers' pools would supply farming village for months, PAUL KORING is told


BEIT FURIQ, WEST BANK -- Working amid a fetid stench, Mohammed Nassara gathered the dead chickens from among the merely listless and dying yesterday, and threw them wearily on to a mounting pile, another grim symbol of the bitter clash of cultures in the parched land west of the Jordan River.

Beit Furiq, a poverty-stricken Palestinian village, has a timeless history of sheep herding and tending the olive groves that climb the rocky hillsides up to imposing Israeli settlements on the heights above. Beit Furiq is dying
of thirst.

The village's farmers need 50 truckloads of water a day during the summer, when their wells run dry, but their water shipments have been blocked by Israeli checkpoints for the past month.

"Yesterday, one truck made it, today none," Atef Hanini, the village mayor said as he used some precious spring water to make coffee for rare visitors to the town.

The settlements, he said, pointing to the modern houses of Itamar and Eilon Moreh on the heights above, "have swimming pools with enough water to satisfy Beit Furiq for two or three months." A thick Israeli pipeline lifts
water to the settlements.

Water, even more than land, has become a key battleground in the struggle being steadily lost by the Palestinians and won by the Israelis.

Although only 250,000 Jewish settlers live in scattered, fortified communities in the West Bank, among more than two million Palestinians, 80 per cent of West Bank water is consumed by Israelis.

For years, Mr. Hanini has begged the Palestinian water authority (which needs permission from the Israeli military) to dig deeper wells in search of ever-shrinking aquifers, so that the farmers of his village won't have to
buy it from Nablus and haul it in by tractor and truck.

Without trucked water, the 60,000 chickens that are the livelihood for about 50 of Beit Furiq's several hundred families will die within days. Then the sheep.

"I'm losing between 70 and 100 chickens a day," said Mr. Nassara, a 31-year-old stone mason who turned to raising poultry when he lost his job 20 months ago, as did hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians, when the current intifada (uprising) began and the economy began to collapse.

Last summer, the tensions between Beit Furiq and the settlements on the high ground nearly spun out of control.

A handful of Beit Furiq farmers tapped into the water pipe and secretly diverted water for days until they were caught by Israeli army patrols.

Mr. Hanini, 41, admits that the water problems can't all be blamed on Israeli consumption, although the settlements never run short.

"Fifty years ago, our population was much smaller, our grandmothers used to be happy with one bucket of water and now we want 40," he said.

What he finds galling is that his village is prohibited from drilling wells, is beholden to Israeli authorities about where it can go to buy water and, now, can't even get permission for its water trucks to move through Israeli

"The Israelis control every facet of our lives," Mr. Hanini said.

On good days, and there haven't been any for months, truck driver Saed Maktat can make seven round trips from Nablus to the village, driving 12 hours a day and clearing about $10 a trip.

"On bad days, when the checkpoints are choked or the Israelis are being difficult, I can spend 12 hours making one 15-kilometre round trip to Nablus," he said.

Eking out a living in the agrarian villages of the West Bank has never been easy.

But even those like Mr. Hanini, who left to go to university in Bethlehem but came back to work the land of his forefathers, refuse to consider leaving.

"This is where I was born, my family is here, my clan is here, everything related to my life is here.

"No matter how bad it gets, I'd rather die here than leave Beit Furiq," he said, adding that he hopes his four children will stay.

Mr. Hanini traces Beit Furiq's water troubles back to its refusal to co-operate when the first of the settlements was established in the 1970s, after Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

"We are being punished," he said.

Relations are hostile. Mr. Hanini has never spoken to a settler and none have come to the village.

Two years ago, after the most recent settlement expansion, he went to harvest the olives in a grove that now abuts the fortified fence surrounding Itamar. "A settler in long religious robes threw stones at me, and when I
refused to leave, he went to his car and came back with a gun." He has never gone back.

Mr. Nassara's family also has an olive grove, but he is too frightened to go there.

As he toiled among his dying chickens, trying to make a living for his own and his brother's family, he explained why.

"A settler shot and killed my brother, Farid Musa, when he went to pick the olives last October."

Fun with CATSA

I'm back from Iqaluit, contracts completed, having left -24°C temperatures with wind chill for balmy Ottawa.

On the way down, I happened to read an article in the Ottawa Citizen about the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (the federal agency running that on-going bad joke known as "airport security"). CATSA is crying poor:

CATSA's increasingly distressed and urgent pleas for more money are renewing questions about whether the Air Travellers' Security Charge, the passenger fee meant to support 100 per cent of the agency's costs, needs to be increased or even eliminated in favour of a new and more consistent funding scheme.

In other words, should airport screening security now paid for by passengers be considered public safety and paid for by all taxpayers?

Just say no.

Heading up north yesterday, I discovered yet another wrinkle in this agency's inventive and ever-expanding programme of torture for that miserable class of folk known as "airline passengers." I was way ahead of the game, I thought: I had my laptop conveniently separated from other things being sent through the X-ray machine, just as they like. I removed my hat, my boots, and even my belt (otherwise they ask you if you are wearing one, and make you unbuckle; on one memorable occasion in Dorval, a female CATSA officer shoved her hand down the front of my jeans). I pulled out every coin in my pocket, followed by my keys and my watch and my specs.

I sailed through the little doorway. Not a peep, not a beep.

And then I was called to one side by an officer wearing latex gloves. I kid you not.

Luckily for me CATSA has not yet adopted the practice of short-arm salutes in a public place. The man just wanted to feel me up (he called it "patting me down," but you get the idea). And he proceeded to do so. Why, I asked, did I just go through all that nonsense a few seconds earlier if you people are now doing this sort of thing? "Just security," he said.


I've seen bureaucracies feed on themselves in this way before, developing more and more complex and refined procedures to catch tinier and tinier errors. I was a grants program officer once upon a time; "reviewing officers" checked our work to ensure quality. As we got more and more experienced, we made (of course) fewer and fewer mistakes. So the reviewing officers began to get pickier and pickier. Where once in a very blue moon we wrote to applicants to ask for more information, this slowly became SOP. Our choices of assessors were now routinely challenged. Our draft letters were sent back again and again for style changes. Quality might have been improved by a hair, but I suspect that the final results of the competitions were
not affected. A variant of the Durkheim Constant was, however, maintained.

CATSA is no different. I would hazard a guess that they have not nabbed a would-be hijacker for aeons, but they've made life miserable for countless thousands of passengers, confiscating everything from salad dressing to nailclippers (the latter are apparently now permitted, no one having attempted to use one as a weapon recently), and getting, as noted, up close and personal.

Now they want more money. One shudders to imagine what it might be for.

My suggestion? Stop this thing in its tracks. Make CATSA use its existing budget sensibly. Don't give them another cent, either from passengers forced at the moment to pay for their own humiliation, or, gawdhelpus, the Taxpayer-General. Run your hat through an X-ray machine by all means, show your ID half a dozen times to various functionaries, package your eyedrops in little baggies, trot through a metal-detecting doorway, but let's have the government tell these people to back off at this point. Or the next time you see the man with the latex gloves, he may have more than a pat-down in mind. On your nickel, too.

UPDATE: (October 28) Welcome, CATSA, and I hope you got the message.

Referring Link No referring link
Host Name
IP Address [Label IP Address]
Country Canada
Region Ontario
City Ottawa
ISP Telus Communications Inc
Returning Visits 0
Visit Length 2 hours 57 mins 43 secs

Browser MSIE 7.0
Operating System Windows XP
Resolution 1024x768
Javascript Enabled


Date Time WebPage
28th October 2009 08:01:35 No referring link
28th October 2009 08:02:24 No referring link
28th October 2009 08:34:42 No referring link
28th October 2009 08:35:15 No referring link
28th October 2009 08:38:51 No referring link
28th October 2009 08:39:03 No referring link
28th October 2009 08:39:08 No referring link
28th October 2009 08:40:59 No referring link
28th October 2009 08:41:02 No referring link
28th October 2009 10:58:02 No referring link
28th October 2009 10:59:18 No referring link

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Modern Christian President

I have a friend - Jim Easter - who runs an interesting site called Some Are Boojums. It has been my pleasure to e-mail with Jim for the past several years and we once collaborated on a post looking at the science presented by one Dr. Jaworowski (which was one of the most fun posts I have worked on these years).

However Jim is a multi-talented individual and about 4 years ago wrote a piece which I found amusing at the time. I do not consider myself to be very political, however in my opinion the latter Bush administration represents one of the low points of Western Civilization in very many different way. So that might explain some of my liking Jim's work. But I think it actually has more to do with my liking of Gilbert and Sullivan and perhaps reading too much Mad Magazine in my youth. I think that Jim's crafting of this version is nothing short of brilliant. In fact, the only thing I can do is present it.

So here is "Modern Christian President". Offered for your enjoyment. I know that Jim sometimes lurks around here at Dawg's, so if you read this Jim, please note that this still has the prize place on my office door even after 4 years.

I am the very model of a modern Christian President,
My sanctified advisers are both transient and resident,
I know our planet’s history in milestones theological,
From Genesis to Malachi (but nothing geological).

I’m very well acquainted too with matters exegetical,
I parse the scientific into holy and heretical,
In embryonic stem cells, I see Satan’s plan to capture us,
But space-based X-ray lasers make me positively rapturous!

But space-based X-ray lasers make him positively rapturous,
But space-based X-ray lasers make him positively rapturous,
But space-based X-ray lasers make him positively raptu- rapturous!

I will not rest until our era cuts off at the Holocene,
And all our high school students have Intelligent Designer genes.
In short, with pious counselors both transient and resident,
I am the very model of a modern Christian president!


Pat Robertson’s advice for me has never failed to fascinate —
Especially which foreign leader we should now assassinate.
To pick Supreme Court justices, I never have to wait and see –
Pat puckers up his eyes and asks the Lord to make a vacancy!

For drilling in the Holy Land, I’ve always had a softer side,
Don’t tell me of the Hubbert Peak — it’s Providence that will provide.
My daddy and his daddy knew their bidness King Faroukh-ular,
But never bring it up with me, because I might go nucular!

But never bring it up with him, because he might go nucular,
But never bring it up with him, because he might go nucular,
But never bring it up with him, because he might go nucu- nucular!

I don’t believe in global warming; Kyoto is anathema.
I haven’t put the weather in my plans — and neither has FEMA,
But still, with pious counselors both transient and resident,
I am the very model of a modern Christian president!


When I can tell you what is meant by adenine or cytosine,
When I can tell by sight a PCR tank from a bread machine,
When I’ve acquired the rudiments of epidemiology,
And list the latex virtues with no hint of an apology,

When I know any factor that gives rise to tropical cyclones,
When I know more of physics than our mascot did at Skull and Bones,
When I have mastered any part of of basic science policy,
You’ll have a Christian president who clearly isn’t all at sea!

We’ll have a Christian president who clearly isn’t all at sea,
We’ll have a Christian president who clearly isn’t all at sea,
We’ll have a Christian president who clearly isn’t all-at-all-at-sea!

For, although in sacred matters I’m a walking, talking Pentium,
In science I have only reached the early first millennium.
But still, with pious counselors both transient and resident,
I am the very model of a modern Christian president!

Friday, October 23, 2009


Get a room.

As former U.S. president George W. Bush spoke to a Saskatoon audience, I stood in the wings, sneaking a peek through the curtains at the spectators beyond the footlights.

The crowd was friendly to be sure. But more than that, the relationship was like a musical virtuoso carrying the audience through every nuance, crescendo and dynamic of a composition.

With every pause, smile, laugh and down stroke of seriousness, Bush had the crowd in his hand.

--John Gormley

[H/t Cathie from Canada]

Boycott the Canadian Blog Awards

Misogyny runs deep in certain progressives. Once again, feminism is lumped in with GBLT issues, as though only "those people" could be interested in gender equality. Way to stereotype and actively discriminate. We know feminists are all lesbians, right?

Some well-wishers nominated me for an award last year. I believe I even won something, but declined it. Please don't waste your time nominating me again, and I mean that with the greatest respect.

Brothers (especially), let's do our part. No self-respecting progressive man can be anti-feminist. Send a message to the boyz running this show and take yourselves out of the swamp.

Put up a blogpost and be counted.

Meanwhile, play 'em off, Keyboard Cat!

CBA has, in the blink of an eye, changed the wording of its GBLT category to restrict it to, well, GBLT bloggers, and placed feminism in the "Best Political Blog" category. That's better, but it's still a cop-out. Here's CBA's over-all explanation--decide for yourselves:

Another change that those of us that are more politically active have probably noticed is: where are the best conservative, progressive, Non-partisan, and feminist blogs?

They have been removed. The only political category that there is now is the best political blog category itself. Why have we decided to take this step?

The main reason is that we have noticed that some political bloggers from different sides of the political spectrum have not treated the Canadian Blog Awards as a coming together and friendly competition of the Canadian blogosphere, but as an all-out war in which anything that is seen as, well, “serving the other side”, if you will, must be fought by trolling, subverting the nominations process, and negative campaigns. After a few years of trying to come up with a balance fair to all sides of the political spectrum, we have decided that the only fair action is the removal of most of the political categories themselves.

Rather than merely add the category "feminist?" Whatever you say.

Montebello, 2007: justice diverted?

Remember the three undercover cops caught out at Montebello in 2007 after attempting to incite demonstrators? They have just been found guilty of discreditable conduct by the Quebec Police Ethics Committee.

One of the unmaskers of this goon squad was David Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers' union, who was front and centre at the time (he's the older gentleman confronting the cops in the video). Here is CEP's press release, issued yesterday:

More than two years after they posed as protestors at a demonstration against the North American Leaders’ Summit in Montebello, three Quebec police officers were found to have “failed to respect the authority of the law by inciting persons to violence.”

The ruling by the “Comité à la déontologie policière”, released yesterday, also found that the officers were disrespectful or impolite, used obscene, blasphemous or abusive language, and refused to produce identification when asked.

“This is a victory for democracy and for the democratic right to peaceful protests, but I have the same question I had two years ago,” says Dave Coles, the man who unmasked the protestors.

“Who ordered them to do it? We need an independent judicial inquiry into the whole cover-up. When people show up to protest because they are concerned about an issue – and they are attacked by those who are supposed to be defending them... there is something wrong with the system.”

Mr. Coles, President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, made news headlines, when his attempts to stop three burly men, dressed in black, one armed with a rock, from infiltrating the peaceful protest, were caught on video and posted on YouTube. He called for a public inquiry immediately following the Aug. 20, 2007 incident.

“These officers did not make the decision on their own to pose as demonstrators and incite violence. “Police were used to try to turn a peaceful protest into a violent one. The public should be very concerned.”

The three police officers must now appear before the committee investigating their behaviour within the next two weeks.

Paul Manley, the independent filmmaker who caught the Montebello incident on video has included it in his recently-released documentary exposing the secretive, anti-democratic corporate agenda behind the Security and Prosperity Partnership. Screenings are underway in cities across Canada.

Coles raises an important point. Are these line cops being thrown to the wolves? Who ordered these agent provocateur tactics by the Sûreté du Québec? Were the RCMP involved?

The big fish may be getting away. A public inquiry is long overdue.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mainstreaming fascism

The BBC, skittish about showing the carnage wreaked in Gaza last year to the point of banning an appeal for civilian relief, has no qualms at all about giving Britain's fascist British National Party a podium for its odious views.

Britons' taxes paid for an appearance today by Nick Griffin, president of the
BNP. Griffin recently referred to Barack Obama as an "Afrocentric racist bigot" and called for the wholesale deportation of the American Black population to Africa.

The BBC defends its disgraceful decision here. BNP members, incidentally, were allowed to join the studio audience--but members of Unite Against Fascism were denied tickets. Fair and balanced.

The Beeb had its hands full, as it turns out. But my question: why was it up to left groups like United Against Fascism, the Socialist Worker and Stop the War Coalition to protest this disgusting attempt by a public broadcaster to mainstream fascism? Where are the ordinary people of Britain? Have they forgotten WWII?

High time, in any case, to turf the BBC senior management who made the decision before this kind of thing becomes a habit.

PS: BNP membership list, current as of last November, here.
It includes members in Canada.

Note to readers: blogging on my part has been light to non-existent for a few days, and will stay that way until next week. I have contract deadline pressures to deal with. Thanks in the meantime to John Cross and the commenters he has attracted for keeping this place alive.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Freedom of Speech?

I confess that I know very little in the way of general law, however I came across this the other day and would like to pose two questions to the wise and worldly readers of this blog.

1) Would this be illegal in Canada (my answer is I don't know)?

2) Should this be illegal in Canada (my answer is an absolute YES)?

Open for comments.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Detection of Hot CH3-CH2-OH in G34.3+0.15

This post is a departure from global warming, but it illustrates the need for science and specifically the space program. This article is an interesting review of how we look at molecules in space. In it the authors go looking for a particular molecule (CH3-CH2-OH) and find it.

Not only did they find it, but they found it in very large quantities - roughly 11.4 × 10^(16) cubic meters. Or to put it into simpler terms 11.4 trillion trillion litres of pure drinking alcohol.

Think about it! The average Canadian beer has about 5% alcohol, so this is enough for - roughly speaking - 228 trillion trillion litres. To put it into context, this is enough for every Canadian to have about 17 litres of beer every day for the next billion years. That is enough to forget the problems of the Harper Government and every government - Conservative, Liberal and even NDP - for the next while.

Can you come up with a better argument for funding a space program!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A comparison

...of two conservative reactions.

To this:

Here, and here, and here, and of course, here. And lots more where that came from.

And then, to this:

For the most part, silence.

Why would that be? Inconsistency? Or a consistency to which conservatives are too embarrassed to confess?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday pole-dancing

For James Morton.

[H/t my neighbour Richard]

Fernando Manuel Alves: "What you did, sir, was reckless...

...but not something that shows some pathological danger to the community; indeed, the contrary. It was an opportunistic event...".

Judge Gregory Rideout's Reasons for Sentence in the Fernando Manuel Alves case are now public. Thanks are due to a couple of commenters here who urged me onward, and a senior journalist with the Vancouver Sun who brought his newspaper's resources to bear.

The victim of the sexual assault to which Alves pleaded guilty suffered a broken nose, as well as the following:

She reported by way of injuries that her shoulders were tender and bruised. There was [sic] some bruises on her legs and the back of an arm. Her nipples were sore and bleeding. There was also significant pain and swelling to the vaginal area and there was some blood in the urine. It is indicated in Exhibit A that over the two weeks following the incident that her eyes became black. She had no recollection how the injuries were received which injuries are detailed in appendix B.

None of this warranted, in Judge Rideout's opinion, a single day in jail. He referred to the savaging of this woman as "rough play."

The floor is yours.

Engaging in Peer Review.

I have acted as both reviewer and the reviewed in the area of peer reviewed literature. However I have never been a reviewer of a Peer of the British Realm. So I am pleased to be able to look at a piece on YouTube (no, I'm not going to link to it) that has been making the rounds. It is an interview of Lord Monckton (3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley) by Michael Coren. In it he claims to present a scientific argument against global warming and this is the claim I want to review.

The interview was about 1 hour long and was unfortunately mostly made up of rhetoric. For example, he said that Al Gore could only answer simple questions like “what’s your name”. He consistently called the people who understand the science of global warming the “bed wetters”, claimed that the “left” overplayed it hand (in regards to global warming) for money, power and glory; and much more of the like. However, there was some science in there so lets plunge in and see what it boils down to.

The first bit that he presents comes from Part 1 of the YouTube broadcast at 7:15 where he states (and I am paraphrasing here) that 700 scientists from 400 institutions in the last 20 years have contributed to a number of papers that say that the MWP was real, global and noticeably warmer than the present. I am fairly familiar with the literature in regards to global warming and I am not aware of
anything that says the MWP was global and noticeably warmer than today. So I am calling him on that one.

In part 2 (at 4:00) he starts talking about outgoing radiation. Now, I could have been distracted by him doing strange things with Coren’s head (physically, not mentally - you really should watch it), but his argument seems a little confused. He asks what would happen to the outgoing radiation if the ocean and land warmed by 1 degree C – would it increase, decrease or stay the same? He claims that it would increase but that every computer model is programmed to show that it would decrease. That is flat out wrong in that the models are not programmed to show a decrease, instead they respond to the physics of the situation.
Whether the temperature goes up or down depends on the relation between the incoming radiation and the outgoing radiation. If the surface temperature was magically increased by 1C, you would indeed see more outgoing radiation until the Earth had cooled to its current temperature. However if you add more CO2, then part of the outgoing radiation will be inhibited and temperatures will go up. The earth will then radiate more energy in the parts not blocked and a new equilibrium will be reached. The models show this in both cases.

Tied in with this point was a rather strange claim that goes something like this. “The IPCC best estimate for increase of temperature for a doubling of CO2 is 3 ¼ degrees. However suppose it really turns out to be only ½ degrees, is that really worth worrying about?“ Seriously, that is what I got out of his argument. If someone can interpret it differently, please let me know.

In part 3, Monckton talks about a paper by Richard Lindzen and I am going to confess that this is the first time I have come across the paper so I can’t really comment too much. The paper uses satellite data to measure outgoing radiation and claims that the outgoing radiation does not match what it is supposed to do. My off the cuff comment is first, satellite data is very tricky to work with and second, we are not dealing with equilibrium temperatures, so there may be a time lag. If anyone is interested in this paper, let me know and it may be worth a post.

In the same section at 7:45 he talks about the oceans not warming. This of course is wrong since the
oceans are warming . He also talks about the lack of warming in the troposphere. This is a technical and complex issue so I will do the simple thing and outsource it to Chris Close (a good review of the topic).

Part 4 had a comment in it at 6:40 about how much effort it would take to reduce CO2. My only comment is that he appears to ignore the current sinks (as we produce CO2, a lot of it is being taken up by plants and absorbed into the Ocean).

In part 5 there was little about global warming but he did bring DDT into the discussion. I am generally aware of the issue of DDT, but instead will happily link to
Ed Darrell.

In closing, since Lord Monckton went to great lengths to say that both Al Gore and David Suzuki refuse to debate him, I am ready, willing and eager to debate him! You heard it here first.

So, there it is! All in all a very poor set of arguments, but I can now add another review-of-a-peer paper to my CV.
If you have come across a point of his that you think is worthy, then please let's hear it in the comments.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Your evening viewing

Tonight's episode of The Border, produced by White Pine Pictures, is about the repatriation to Toronto of a young Guantanamo prisoner.

Here is the show's website, where you can access past episodes. Tonight's show is #2 of Season 3, and begins at 9:00 ET.

Remember that watching TV is an excellent means of tearing yourself away from the computer!*

*Apologies to whomever I stole this from. I saw it recently on a blog, but darned if I can remember whose.

UPDATE: Reader P. Drano reminds me! His website may be found here.

On worth

Another security-certificate detainee, Adil Charkaoui, is off the hook, a free man, exhausted by six years of government harassment.

A brave diplomat, tearing off his gag, tells all--and shatters Stephen Harper's ruse: "Torture? What torture?" But the Conservative government's obsession with secrecy, and its determination to cover up its own evident malfeasance, continues apace.

A Mexican police officer of impeccable reputation and unimpeachable credentials is ordered back to Juárez to almost certain death by the Immigration and Refugee Board--a tribunal that recently granted refugee status to a white South African claiming persecution because of his race. A Globe and Mail letter writer asks: "Do I see a pattern here?"

I believe you do.

In one way or another, we've been having extended discussions and debates in the blogosphere for years about the worth of human beings. And if there is one generalization that seems to hold when we survey that admittedly overstated binary, "Left vs. Right," it is this: we on the progressive side take it as a given that all human beings have fundamental worth by virtue of their humanity alone. Our opponents, on the other hand, believe that some human beings are worth more than others.

Some of them think it's a matter of hard work and exercise. The lazy and dissolute will not prosper, the tough-minded individuals will. The fruits of their labours offer a comparative measure of their value as human beings. This yardstick measures poorly, though, and so an alternative presents itself: those with less worth are born that way.

Whether it's poor life-decisions, or has genetic or metaphysical origins, those who are at the bottom of the heap, morally, socially, economically, are pretty much doomed to be where they find themselves. If it isn't their poor, self-defeating attitudes (see the many variations on this theme with respect to First Nations people, for example), then it's literally what they are.

Viewed through this lens, it becomes easier to understand (if not forgive) the behaviour of so many conservatives. Charkaoui is--simply not like us. Neither are the dusky prisoners we take in Afghanistan, or Hispanics seeking safe haven among us, or, for that matter, the Canadian citizens we exile abroad and then defame when they force their way back.

Of course, racism/ethnocentrism is not the whole story, although they are more salient than many will admit. Conservatives have learned a thing or two from the past, and have realized that denial is their best defence when the r-word comes up. So long as they avoid outright racial slurs, they have discovered that they can get away with quite a bit. Even a white nationalist site like VDARE, with its squad of genetic racialists like Steve Sailer, gets alibied away as simply concerned about immigration. Racism wears a pretty new dress--"human biodiversity." Same ugly body inside.

We progressives jump up and down about these and other "isms"--sexism, heterosexism and so on--reflecting a sometimes poorly-articulated reaction to the notion, not just of differing innate qualities and capacities, but of differing innate worth--the latter being a moral, and hence political, judgement. Our vision of society and the social contract runs directly counter to a subterranean ideology that once legitimated such abominations as slavery and, pace Godwin, the Holocaust.

"There is no such thing as society," a prominent friend of Chilean dictator-torturer Augusto Pinochet once said. And when you assent to this "warre of all against all," putting it into bloody practice, life can truly become a nasty, brutish and short affair, in our communities, our country, and on the world stage--unless you're at the top of the heap, of course, with the help of armies and police officers and compliant serfs.

Within this paradigm, there are not merely "lesser breeds," or genders, or sexualities, or classes. If they kept themselves to themselves, as though they lived on Other planets, our own culture would not be suffused with images and discursive techniques that define, enforce and reinforce our complex social relations. It is because we are all brought into relation--manifested by
oppression, exploitation and other systemic forms of violence, such as incessant wars of intervention--that an ideology that frames these hegemonic relations as "natural" is essential.

Of course it can be argued that the progressive notion of human worth rests upon equally shaky ontological foundations. At its most superficial, it is merely a statement of faith. Yet it is saved, I think, by the notion of the social contract: since we all must live together, and each of us would like to grow, prosper and be happy, it is logical that we should treat each other as equals, or else those who don't may in turn be treated badly themselves--and we're back to Hobbes.

Why, then, do we have power-and-privilege hierarchies? Without going into how they arose--that ground has already been amply covered--there is no question that they are self-sustaining, and maintained to a large extent by force as well as persuasion. They are sustained by such things as the ability to speak blithely of holding the truths of human equality to be self-evident, while maintaining the institutions of slavery, class, and imperialism. All that has to be done to accomplish this trick is to argue or assert that we don't mean them, or to blame their misfortunes on themselves: to uphold, in other words, an exclusive view of the country of the We, to which some are admitted while others are not, and within which, as though by magic, everyone rises to their proper level.

If it is possible to speak, grosso modo, of a progressive paradigm and a conservative one, then we are forced to realize that they are simply incommensurate. We talk across a gulf. We use our insufficient reason to argue and contest, but we inhabit two (or more) realms. Victory is not solely about winning hearts and minds (which, some even suggest in all seriousness, are already spoken for). It's a matter of building our counter-institutions; articulating, shaping and giving force and effect to our counter-hegemonic impulses, and creating a revolutionary paradigm shift to pull us back from the abyss--of climate change, the exhaustion of energy resources, increasing poverty, and the deployment of more and more fearful weapons to shore up crumbling and outmoded class and imperial structures.

Those of us who reject outright the idea that our worthiness is to be found in our genes (or our jeans) must therefore make our case, again and again--and primarily to ourselves. Only thus can we find the collective will and new ways to organize, build capacities, and eventually bring about transformational social change.

I would suggest that our discussions and disputations with conservatives are primarily for display. Our opposition generates, in dialectical fashion, discursive expressions of our values and world-view that resonate among us, and, at least ideally, offer the potential of more than talk. I'm not advocating against dialogue--not at all--but merely suggesting that we should recognize that dialogue for what it is, and accept its limitations. How many people are persuaded to change from one value-system to a conflicting one by a good argument?

Perhaps it's my perpetual starry-eyed leftism, but I do believe that the fundamental value of human equality, from which everything else flows, will prevail. Yet, given the spectacular failure of some projects ostensibly promoting that value (Soviet Communism, as one egregious example), how do we do it?

Floor's open to one and all, as always.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

January 4, 1999--October 14, 2009

Our high-maintenance, independent, sometimes maddening, always loving and trusting dog Faro, the centre of our household, passed away early this morning.

A savage, fast-moving acute pancreatitis seized him on the weekend and played havoc with his insides. He had
surgery last evening and compassionate, attentive treatment at the Alta Vista Animal Hospital, where the medical team struggled to manage the widespread inflammation and the terrible pain that accompanied it. They thought he was improving overnight, but the fight was too much for our brave little dog, and his heart stopped a little before 5:00 am.

Goodbye, Faro, my dear old friend. The house feels truly empty without you.

UPDATE: (October 14) Many, many thanks to those who have commented here,
on Twitter and privately about the loss of my "person of fur" (a phrase I shall always treasure, psa, prompting my first smile in a couple of days). Your messages of friendship are comforting and deeply appreciated.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bloggers and defamation law: a primer

This summary of defamation law by my friend Ted Betts, which originally appeared at his blog (now sadly defunct) more than three years ago, seems a still-timely reminder to us all as we joust, fence, box, and occasionally land a low blow.

[Reprinted by permission.]


A blogger has been sued for defamation.

To my knowledge, this is the first high profile defamation lawsuit involving a Canadian blogger. Warren Kinsella, political consultant to Prime Ministers and Premiers and media “personality”, versus Marc Bourrie, sometime journalist, blogger and student. It’s not exactly David and Goliath, but it may be close. The fact that it involves a media personality and a journalist, and two bloggers, and the Gomery report, means that publicity could spread like wildfire across the Canadian blogosphere. And it seems it already has with Antonia Zerbisias already commenting and the report in the Ottawa Sun on February 15 and many of the Canadian blogosphere have piped in.

This raises serious questions that affects all of us bloggers. Is this an attempt at suppressing criticism? Is it therefore a threat to all bloggers and commenters? Should bloggers, given the context of blogging, somehow be exempt or subject to a lower or different standard than newspapers or individuals? The answer is, obviously, no.

The Charter of Rights guarantees the freedom of expression for all Canadians. But that right does not mean citizens should be exempt from the consequences of exercising that right. Libel laws do not just apply to the media and politicians. Every person is subject to the restriction of defamation laws and bloggers should be no different.

Sometimes it feels like blogging is more conversational, and also more naturally confrontational, and as a result many think we are off in our own little world, exempt from the rule of law that applies to everyone else. This will be a big wake-up call: defamation suits can stem from conversations too and so every post and every comment on a blog is subject to the same defamation laws. Context may go to mitigation but not exemption.

So I offer this post as a service and reminder to my fellow bloggers. Without making any comments on the merits - or demerits - of Warren Kinsella’s lawsuit (from what I read the first of many many threats to advance this far toward actual litigation), I offer the following summary of the law of defamation, libel and slander for the benefit of bloggers, and commenters (applies to you too). I’ve gone beyond the scope of this particular lawsuit because there are many legal holes into which I’ve seen bloggers fall, including the risk of defaming through: repetition of the defamatory comments of others, defaming through innuendo and the failure to properly retract and apologize in accordance with the statutes. Even direct quotations can give rise to a claim of defamation in certain circumstances.

So read and be careful and push the envelope with care.



Defamation consists of any written, printed or spoken words or of any audible or visible matters or acts which tend to lower a person in the estimation of others or cause a person to be shunned or avoided or exposed to hatred, contempt or ridicule. Thus an assertion which does not suggest discreditable conduct by the plaintiff may still be defamatory if it imputes to him or her a condition calculated to diminish the respect and confidence in which the plaintiff is held.

The law of defamation must strike a fair balance between the protection of reputation and the protection of free speech, for it asserts that a statement is not actionable, despite the fact that it is defamatory, if it constitutes the truth or is privileged or is fair comment on a matter of public interest, expressed without malice by the publisher. These defences are of crucial importance in the law of defamation because of the low level of the threshold over which a statement must pass in order to be defamatory.

One test of whether a statement is defamatory is accepted almost universally: Would the words tend to lower the plaintiff in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally? Subject to any available defences, everything printed or written, which reflects on the character of another, and is published without lawful justification or excuse, is a libel, whatever the intention may have been.

The scope of defamatory statements is very wide indeed. In all cases, except where actual malice is shown nevertheless, the impugned statement is not actionable if it is the truth or is fair comment or is protected by privilege. This is the reason why most defamation actions centre on the defences of justification, fair comment, or privilege. It is these defences which give substance to the principle of freedom of speech.”

Libel and Slander

At common law, defamation is of two kinds: libel and slander. Traditionally, libel consisted of written communications and was actionable per se. Slanders were spoken communications and usually required proof of actual damage. This distinction has been substantially undermined by modern forms of communication. Libel is now more often said to consist of any written or printed words or any visible or audible matter recorded in any form of a more or less permanent nature, including letters, newspapers, films, or television or radio broadcasts. Slanders are spoken words or other transitory forms of communication, such as sounds, looks, signs or gestures.


Defamation is usually said to consist of “falsely and maliciously” publishing defamatory statements concerning the plaintiff. This is also the usual form of pleading. However, there is no need to prove this element of legal malice in order to make out a prima facie case of defamation. Legal malice is implied from the mere publication of a defamatory communication. There is, however, another head of malice, usually referred to as express or actual malice, which must be specifically proved. Actual malice becomes relevant if either fair comment or qualified privilege is raised as a defence. Both are defeated by actual malice. Actual malice is also relevant to the quantum of damages.

Charter of Rights

The Charter is clear: Everyone has the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication, subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. Although the constitutional guarantee expressly applies to governmental action and does not directly affect civil actions between private litigants, the common law of defamation must be interpreted in accordance with Charter principles. Since the common law of defamation already involves a careful balancing of freedom of expression with the dignity of the individual and protection of reputation, the courts are justifiably unwilling to hold the common law of defamation inconsistent with Charter values.

Defamatory Statements and Acts

The courts have not committed themselves to any single test by which defamation is determined. A defamatory imputation may be simply one to the plaintiff's discredit, or one which tends to lower him or her in the estimation of others, or causes him or her to be shunned or avoided, or exposes him or her to hatred, contempt or ridicule. Words likely to damage the plaintiff in his or her business, trade or profession may be another category. The definitions should be regarded as cumulative, so that words that fall within any of them are actionable.

Words that are defamatory in one setting may not be so if used in another setting. Everything depends on the manner in which expressions are voiced and on the circumstances in which they are expressed. For instance, an otherwise defamatory statement made during a violent argument may be mere abuse and not actionable. Because they often insult the pride of the listener rather than disparaging his or her reputation, vituperative epithets that are intended as mere abuse and are understood as such by the hearer are not actionable in defamation, although other causes of action in tort may arise if the abuse is accompanied by physical aggression or psychiatric or other physical injury.

Direct quotations from the plaintiff may become defamatory if they are presented in a context which has the effect of inviting reasonable right-thinking viewers or readers to draw inferences about the plaintiff which lower him or her in their estimation.

Public Persons

A person's moral character in either a private or a public capacity is equally entitled to the protection of the law from defamatory attacks. In an action for libel for an alleged charge of personal corruption against a public person there is no distinction to be drawn between a right to be protected in one's public capacity and as a private citizen. If the allegations are proved, the mere fact that the plaintiff is holding a public office affords no defence.


Words imputing that a plaintiff has committed an offence which can subject him or her to imprisonment as a punishment are actionable whether the alleged offence is a breach of criminal legislation or of provincial penal enactments. It makes no difference whether a judge may impose a fine in addition to or as an alternative to the imprisonment; if the offence is only punishable by a fine or if the offender has the right to escape imprisonment by the payment of a sum of money, the statement is not one imputing crime, and proof of special damage is necessary to make a statement actionable if it is a slander. Words imputing conduct not constituting a crime are not an imputation of criminality, even if the conduct resembles a crime.

Principles of Interpretation - ‘Natural and Ordinary Meaning’

Before a court can decide whether words are defamatory, it first must decide what the words mean. Although a number of rules have been developed to guide this process of interpretation, none permits a purely mechanical approach to the issue. Prima facie the meaning to be attributed to words is the natural and ordinary one.

Differing Interpretations

One group may consider a statement innocuous that another considers defamatory. The diversity of beliefs and values in society may preclude the application of a single standard of “right-thinking people”. It may be sufficient to found liability if an allegation is calculated to arouse adverse feeling in a substantial and respectable group of the community. On the other hand, the enormous variation within the readership of a mass circulation newspaper is one justification for using the single standard of the “ordinary reader of that newspaper”. The courts have not finally committed themselves to any single test for resolving this, although the “right thinking person” test continues to predominate.


An innuendo is where the extended defamatory meaning of the words arises from inference or implication. An innuendo may be based on a meaning that is inherent in the words themselves, or on some extrinsic facts that make otherwise innocent words defamatory. These two distinct situations are frequently referred to as false innuendo and true innuendo.

A true or legal innuendo only exists if the extended defamatory meaning arises from facts known to the recipients of the words published but passing beyond general knowledge. As such, the plaintiff must plead the special meaning he or she contends the words to have and prove that the facts upon which that meaning is based were known to at least one of the persons to whom the words were published. The meaning resulting from those facts gives rise to a cause of action separate from that, if any, arising from the words in their ordinary and natural meaning because it is an extended meaning not present in the words themselves. Both the natural meaning and an innuendo may be pleaded in the same case.

Whether or not the words are defamatory in their natural and ordinary sense, it is always open to a plaintiff to allege by an innuendo that those to whom the words were published understood them in some secondary sense. The plaintiff may allege that the matter complained of was used in a defamatory sense, specifying the defamatory sense without alleging how the matter was used in that sense. The pleading is put in issue by the denial of the alleged defamation, and if the matter set forth, with or without the alleged meaning, shows a cause of action, the pleading is sufficient. The plaintiff need not prove the whole of the innuendo, but he or she must prove the gist of it.

In order to succeed in a defamation action, the plaintiff must prove that the defamation referred to him or her. It is not necessary that the defamatory matter refer to the plaintiff by name. The defendant is liable if the alleged libel was so published by the defendant that the world would apply it to the plaintiff. Conversely, even if the defendant had the plaintiff in mind when making use of the defamatory language, the action must fail if the words used were not such as to convey to the audience the idea that they were aimed at the plaintiff.[

Every republication of a defamation is a new publication and gives rise to a separate cause of action. This is equally true whether the republication is by the person who originally uttered the defamation or by some other person. At common law, every sale or delivery of every copy of a publication is regarded as a separate publication.

It is not a defence that the defendant merely reported a rumour. Neither can a defendant escape liability by showing that he or she was merely repeating a statement authored by someone else and that he or she mentioned that authorship at the time of making the statement in question.

Mitigation of Damages

In an action for defamation in which the defendant has pleaded a denial of the alleged defamation only or has suffered judgment by default, or in which judgment has been given against the defendant on motion for judgment on the pleadings, the defendant may give in evidence, in mitigation of damages, that he or she made or offered a written or printed apology to the plaintiff for the defamation before the commencement of the action or, if the action was commenced before there was an opportunity of making or offering the apology, as soon afterwards as the defendant had an opportunity.

In order to mitigate damages, any apology offered or made to the plaintiff must amount to a full and frank withdrawal of the charges conveyed and should be worded so that an impartial person would consider it reasonably satisfactory in all the circumstances.

In Ontario, a full and fair retraction of any matter alleged to be erroneous must be published either in the next regular issue of the newspaper or in any regular issue of it published within three days after the receipt of the notice of action and be published in as conspicuous a place and type as was the alleged libel, or be broadcast either within a reasonable time or within three days after the receipt of the notice of action and be broadcast as conspicuously as was the alleged libel. The limitation to recovering only actual damage does not apply to the case of a libel against any candidate for public office unless the retraction of the charge is made in a conspicuous manner at least five days before the election.

The purpose of an apology is to appease the injured feelings of the person defamed and to undo the harm done to his or her reputation in consequence of the publication. Although some legislation refers to the retraction and apology as separate elements or refers only to a retraction, they are commonly encountered together. An apology should invariably include a full and frank withdrawal of the charges or suggestions conveyed and, if it is to be regarded as adequate, some expression of regret that those charges or suggestions were ever published.

A retraction must be as conspicuous as the libel itself, but not as conspicuous as the entire original article in which the libel appeared.


The law will not permit a plaintiff to recover damages in respect of an injury to a character which he or she either does not, or ought not, to possess. Justification, or truth, is a complete defence.

The law presumes in favour of the plaintiff that the words complained of are false, and the defendant must disprove this. Justification must be as broad as the defamatory imputation itself. The defendant must prove the truth of all material statements contained in the libel. It is the imputation contained in the words that must be justified, not the literal truth of the words.

Fair Comment

A fair comment on a matter that is of public interest or is submitted to public criticism is not actionable, even if it is defamatory. The right to fair comment is one of the aspects of the fundamental principle of freedom of expression, and the courts are zealous to preserve it unimpaired. The jury are the guardians of public comment as well as of private character. It is only on the strongest of grounds that a court will set aside a verdict for a defendant when fair comment is pleaded.

The defence of fair comment requires the defendant to establish that: (a) the words complained of are recognizable by the ordinary viewer as comment, although the comment may consist of, or include inferences from, facts; (b) the comment is based on true facts set out in the article or broadcast or clearly indicated in it; (c) the comment is on a matter of public interest; and (d) the comment is one which a person could honestly make on the facts proven, and some authorities indicate must, at least if it imputes dishonourable motives, be fair, in the sense that a fair-minded person could believe it.

The defence fails if the plaintiff shows that the defendant was actuated by express malice. It is here that the question of actual belief in the comments made becomes an issue.

“Comment” does not mean merely “opinion”. Comment is something which can reasonably be inferred to be a deduction, inference, conclusion, criticism, remark, observation, or the like. Fair comment protects only comment or opinion; it does not protect statements of fact.

Fair comment must be a comment on a matter of public interest. In general this consists of two broad categories: matters in which the public in general has an interest, and matters submitted to public attention and criticism. Matters of public interest are very numerous. It is a matter of public interest on which everyone is entitled to make fair comment whenever a matter is such as to affect people at large, so that they may be legitimately interested in, or concerned at, what is going on, or what may happen to them or to others. “Public interest” is not to be confined within narrow limits.

Burden of Proof

The burden is on the defendant to prove the truth of the facts upon which the comment is based. The defendant must also prove that the subject-matter is one of public interest, that the words are a fair comment on it, and that the views expressed are ones which could honestly be held. The plaintiff has the burden of proving malice.

Source: Canadian Encyclopedic Digest.

[Disclaimer: The foregoing is provided as a summary and a service. The laws of defamation can be very complex. If you are concerned that a post or comment may defame someone, please speak with a lawyer and do not rely on this post. As a lawyer, I just had to do the lawyer thing and say that. For my own protection you understand. Don’t wanna get sued, after all. There are a lot of litigious people out there roaming the blogosphere.]


Addendum: Kinsella and Bourrie eventually settled out of court.