Sunday, December 30, 2007

The origin of an anti-choice scare story

The wonkier parts of the blogosphere are all alight with the story of one Ed Snell, a veteran harasser of pregnant women at abortion clinics, who was allegedly thrown off a car from which perch he was "counselling" women, and seriously injured. "He got what he deserved!" a clinic receptionist was alleged to have screamed.

There's no trace of this incident in Google News, other than a second-hand report from a Catholic house organ and another from the far-right, proving once again, of course, the existence of a widespread anti-anti-abortion conspiracy. A web search turns up several such second- and third-hand reports, all of which can be traced back to one source: the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.


The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) was born of a group of Catholic Americans concerned about the multiple crises shaking every aspect of American life. Founded in 1973, the American TFP was formed to resist, in the realm of ideas, the liberal, socialist and communist trends of the times and proudly affirm the positive values of tradition, family and property.

This is the American chapter of an organization concocted by the Brazilian extremist Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in 1960. Given that we have been discussing fascism in a previous thread, it seems opportune to take a closer look at this organization. Indeed, one can learn more than one might want to know about this sordid outfit by reading Penny Lernoux. Readers will forgive, I hope, this lengthy quotation, exposing the vicious activities of TFP in Latin America:

Though dangerous, the Fatherland and Liberty fanatics were less influential than their counterparts in the Chilean branch of a right-wing Catholic movement known as Tradition, Family, and Property (TFP), principally because TFP's militants had an intellectual base that appealed to a large number of officers in the armed forces. Founded in the early 1960s by the Brazilian philosopher Plinio Correa de Oliveira, TFP has followers in most Latin American countries, including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and l Brazil. While akin in some respects to twentieth-century fascism, particularly to Mussolini's corporate state, TFP is really a throwback to eighteenth-century Europe, as yet untouched by the French Revolution, when the Catholic Church defended aristocratic privilege as a divine right. Indeed, TFP's insignia is a medieval lion. Most of its members are from the wealthy, propertied classes and yearn for an earlier time when the Latin-American Church upheld the right of a few patrones to rule a mass of peons.

TFP's first commandment is the utter sanctity of private property, and in countries with progressive bishops, such as Chile and Brazil, this has forced it into repeated clashes with the hierarchy on the issue of agrarian reform. The movement's members tend to be narrow-minded nationalists with a xenophobic reaction to any suggestion by foreigners that there might be something wrong with their country, particularly if the government is running the country for the benefit of the wealthy, as in Pinochet's Chile. They are also blindly anti-communist, seeing subversion in anything remotely resembling reform, and are convinced that reds lurk everywhere in Latin America's new, socially conscious Church. Thus TFP divides the Catholic Church into "our" Church, which is a class Church, rooted in another century, and "their" Church, which is a classless Church and therefore subversive.

While the organization exists primarily to maintain the privileges of the rich, that goal has been disguised by jargon about "degenerate political systems," which TFP claims have caused the Western countries to succumb to Marxist penetration. Society is to be purified, along the lines of Mussolini's corporate state, by replacing traditional political parties with special-interest groups, to which people are assigned according to job and social class. This is supposed to produce a society in which everyone knows his place and is happy to keep it. What TFP doesn't say is that its model of government effectively nullifies any social or economic gains made by Latin America's middle and lower classes.

TFP's activities in Chile, Brazil, and elsewhere are an important part of the CIA story in Latin America, because its members were the intellectual and financial backers of military coups supported by the agency. After the military took over, TFP members and fellow travelers were active in these regimes' persecution of the Catholic Church, as in the case of police agent Adolfo Centeno and the smear campaign against priests and bishops in Uruguay. In some countries-Brazil, for example, where TFP established a series of training camps near Rio de Janeiro- members were instructed by the Army and the police, who, in turn, received military training and political orientation from the CIA, the Pentagon, and AID. But there were still closer ties: in Chile and Brazil the evidence points to both financial and political links between TFP and the CIA in plotting the overthrow of the Allende and Goulart governments.

When it supported right-wing Catholic groups, the CIA had principally in mind the political objective of removing left-wing governments by military intervention, but one result of the collaboration was to strengthen such organizations as TFP, which emerged as religious vigilante squads for the military regimes. Thus the CIA could be accused-and was accused by a number of prominent Catholic leaders, including Brazil's Archbishop Helder Camara-of inciting one sector of the Church to attack another. Moreover, in some countries, Bolivia being one, this collaboration extended to persecution of U.S. citizens when the CIA provided military governments and right-wing Catholic organizations with confidential dossiers on American priests and nuns.

A good example of TFP's connections with both the CIA and the military is the branch in Chile, which supplied the Chilean armed forces with a social philosophy-the generals had none - and a religious basis for the regime's political witch-hunts.

In the last months of the Allende government, TFP, the gremios, Fatherland and Liberty, and other right-wing opposition groups merged in a common front. The National Agriculture Society, for example, was controlled by Fatherland and Liberty and received CIA funds through an organization called the Congress for Cultural Liberty. The society, in turn, worked with the Association of Manufacturers, whose president, Orlando Saenz, was one of the directors of the TFP-backed gremios as well as a secret leader of Fatherland and Liberty. A month before the coup Saenz publicly thanked the president of the Agriculture Society for "the services lent earlier by you to our cause." Both groups had close ties with El Mercurio, Santiago's largest newspaper, which was financed by the CIA and used as an outlet for anti-Allende propaganda, according to U. S. Senate investigations. They also shared important Brazilian connections. Fatherland and Liberty obtained arms from Brazil through a Chilean coffee-importing firm which brought in, via the port of Valparaiso, crates of guns disguised as raw material for the manufacture of instant coffee. Saenz was in close touch with the financial and ideological backers of Brazil's TFP, which had been in at the kill of Goulart's regime. (Several of the tactics used in Chile were tested by TFP in Brazil. With CIA help, TFP sponsored in Sao Paulo a march of several thousand middle- and upper-class women that was psychologically crucial to the coup ten days later. Similarly, women's groups sponsored by TFP and Fatherland and Liberty held their largest demonstration five days before Allende's overthrow.

I have blogged before about the dalliance that elements of the conservative movement are presently having with neo-Nazis and their assorted kindred. This marks the first time that I am aware of, however, that a fascist organization has actually planted a news story, retailed, as it turns out, by its very own assistant web editor, and had it picked up uncritically by various extreme elements in the conservative blogosphere to attack the pro-choice movement. Useful idiots--or willing collaborators?

Further discussion on the invisible wall that supposedly separates fascism from conservatism is welcome, as always.

UPDATE: (January1)

Something did happen in front of the clinic, it seems. At last one of the "MSM" has broken their collective vow of silence and reported. Left unexplained is how the young man managed to "scale" an eight-foot fence, land on the car roof and push the right-to-lifer to the ground. (Why didn't he just use the door?) As the facts come out, perhaps at the young man's trial if there is one, I suspect we'll be hearing another side or two of this story.

None of this contradicts my earlier point: that a lurid tale of alleged pro-choice violence from a suspect source was leaped upon in an utterly uncritical fashion by people who are looking for anything, anything at all, to distract our attention from the killings, arsons, bombings and assorted vandalism perpetrated by the, uh, "pro-life" movement. Moral equivalence? I don't think so.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Bring it on, Kate

I'm apparently guilty of libel for posting the following over at a moderate conservative website I like, Daimnation. It was a response to a poster's complaint about comments found in a Globe & Mail comments thread about Harper and Afghanistan.

I think, with respect, that looking for ideological "character" in comboxes is a fool's errand. I could point to the spittle-flecked comments over at Kate's, or Malkin's, or Free Dominion, and maybe indeed I already have, and drawn some rhetorical conclusions, too. But one New Year's resolution I am making is not to do that sort of thing any more.

I actually asked Mark to point to some comments that qualified as "hateful," because I had only read the first few, and found them unexceptionable. The ones that 2Sheds quotes are run-of-the-mill angry. Hateful? Not so much. If you want hateful, check out Small Dead Animals, or Stormfront, or Shaidle's current stuff, which is well off the deep end. If you want sober conservative commentary, on the other hand, this is a good spot, and so are half-a-dozen other places I could name--Tarantino, Selley, Coyne, Thompson (who says he's not a conservative, but no matter).

There are shrieky people right across the political spectrum. It's just too easily to move from ideological critique to moral judgement about those with whom you disagree. I'm an offender too, so consider this in part a piece of self-criticism. Lucky I have you guys around to remind me of the error of my ways.

A poster took exception to my Stormfront reference. He appears to believe that some kind of invisible force-field walls off fascism from conservatism. Maybe he's bought into that "liberal fascism" baloney. Who knows.

In any case, this time Kate didn't send one of her winged monkeys, but showed up herself, in full pointy-hatted, black-caped regalia:

"Your comparison of Stormfront and Small Dead Animals is not only odious and tragically wrong in its delusion..."

It's also demonstrably false and libelous.

But remember, this is John Baglow, who finds no problem with hanging out at Canadian Cynic - a site that has actually posted my address together with an explicit invitation to do me harm.

In their progressive, respectful world, there are only two types of women - those who agree with them, and c*nts. No wonder they can't recognize hate when they see it - it feels like home.

The simply breathtaking, staggering hypocrisy of this post is, well, breathtaking and staggering. This from the blogger who posted Belinda Stronach's phone number after the latter defected to the Liberals. This from the blogger who celebrated National Aboriginal Day with this comment:

Mark my words - the moment is approaching when a bandana [sic] prowling these police protected barricades will end up in the crosshairs of someone's high powered rifle.

And who allows comments like this one:

maybe we need a couple of more duddly georges

and this one:

dawg you and all the muslims in this country belong in the same place, AT THE END OF A ROPE!!!

And who rushes into battle to defend European neo-Nazis. And who refers to Islam as "the religion of detonation."

Even a cursory read of her commenters, who have found themselves a nice, welcoming home over there, is like taking a bath in warm cobra venom.

As for Kate's comments about my recent visits to Canadian Cynic's house, she has managed to take guilt by association to an entirely new level. Indeed, the phrase "quantum leap" comes to mind. I know nothing of CC's alleged misdeeds vis-à-vis Kate: I had nothing to do with them, nor with him at the time they supposedly occurred. Nor do I use words like "c*nt" to describe political opponents. Never have. Not my style.

But back to the "libellous" part, buried in her post.
She can send the writ at her leisure--she knows where to find me. I would respectfully suggest, however, that she ruminate on the fate of a certain Oscar Wilde, who once overplayed his hand in like fashion. In the meantime, let her return to her attacks on Human Rights Commissions for infringing upon freedom of speech.

"Liberal fascism" and the record

It was only a matter of time before some nutty conservative "pundit," eager to smear the trail, wrote a book that claimed that liberalism and fascism were the same. Let's examine the current and historical record and see for ourselves. By the way, I'm not a liberal. (Perhaps this allows me to see the obvious more clearly.)

Recently we have none other than Little Green Footballs, a conservative website of no little renown, discovering that fascists and unreconstructed Nazis have made a snug home on the right.

More than one Canadian conservative blogger has made sympathy for the Nazis nothing less than a priority. The poor dears are being persecuted. Let's weep a tear, shall we?

Then there's always the conservative pin-up girl Ann Coulter. Any liberals or further-to-the-lefts support this sort of thing?

[Since 9/11] I am often asked if I still think we should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity. The answer is: Now more than ever!

Then we have David Duke, former KKK leader. Sure, he's against the war in Iraq. But here's what he stands for. Sound familiar?

Finally, here's Adolf Hitler, doing his Ayn Rand thing:

Therefore not only does the organization possess no right to prevent men of brains from rising above the multitude but, on the contrary, it must use its organizing powers to enable and promote that ascension as far as it possibly can. It must start out from the principle that the blessings of mankind never came from the masses but from the creative brains of individuals, who are therefore the real benefactors of humanity. It is in the interest of all to assure men of creative brains a decisive influence and facilitate their work. This common interest is surely not served by allowing the multitude to rule, for they are not capable of thinking nor are they efficient and in no case whatsoever can they be said to be gifted. Only those should rule who have the natural temperament and gifts of leadership.

I love it when these crypto-fascists try to cover their tracks. But can't they be...less obvious about it?
Fascism, in fact, is just conservatism with the gloves off. It's been that way from the beginning. But we knew that.

UPDATE: (December 28)

Praise pours in for Liberal Fascism:

Goldberg has produced a scattershot comic book history of liberal manias, fast food for the faithful, perhaps, but pages that will quickly yellow and flake. No surprise, really. Goldberg's lightweight mind is incapable of heavy lifting, too dull for sharp satirical swipes. Of course his book is a laughable mess. That the guy enjoys a professional writing career in this diseased environment is all one needs to know. --Dennis Perrin

Liberal Fascism is such a transparently sloppy, shifty, intellectually rinky-dink endeavor that a show of anger would be a larger expenditure of emotion than a book this second-rate deserves. --James Wolcott

It’s like Jonah’s never talked to a liberal in his entire life. He reminds me of Steve Carell in the 40-Year-Old Virgin describing a woman’s breast as a bag of sand. --Sadly, No

Shorter National Review: “Charles Murray, who proved that Blacks are born stupid, likes this book so I just can’t wait to go out and buy it, ‘cos it must be really good." --Jack Fowler

I can't wait to read the book (and I'm already feeling less guilty about my Godwin's Law violations.) --Commenter "Eric" at Dr. Helen's place

Apparently, Goldberg unearths for the first time shocking similarities between
Nazis and liberals. For example, Nazis wanted to clean up the environment. So do liberals! Nazis wanted to cure cancer. So do liberals! Nazis liked organic food and many were vegetarians. So are many liberals! A lot of Nazis were gay and a lot of liberals are, too! Nazis made Volkswagens and liberals love to drive them! Hitler loved dogs and so do many liberals! --Jon Swift

Tuesday, December 25, 2007



In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates. –Michael Foucault

and it was in these bare sands
that you fell,


rain was a legend;
dust in the basins,
bones in their skin tents—
we made do,
we two

in such heat
that we were haze,
ablaze in the still air
while the curious
tunneled inside
to the four corners of you,
bearing questions and threats

until the dune-ship furrowed up
to take you aboard,
or so i thought.
i woke, i saw the distant wake
in the mirage.

i knew nothing of boats
until the first breeze
set me adrift.

a cracked heart
keeling over the grains
to the dream of water,
hot wind in the sails.

Christmas, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas fragments

My best for Eid (ul-Adha), I say to the Muslim fellow who works in the best damned shawarma place in all of Ottawa.

Merry Christmas, he says back.

There, now, that wasn't so difficult, was it? Especially when I'd forgotten the "ul-Adha" part?

Canada. I simply love this place.


It was pouring rain in Ottawa yesterday, and well above freezing. Today it's a skating rink.


Almost done the prep for tomorrow's fiesta. One Vegan--separate dishes, using margarine. One Muslim--no pork, no alcohol. One nephew--doesn't like turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry...his parents bring his meal in a box. All of us will enjoy the day. And that's an order.


Today's Ottawa Citizen carries a number of pictures of children sitting on Santa's lap, most of them apparently screaming with fright. He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake.


To my friends and sparring partners in the blogosphere--Merry Christmas. Over the past year I've found good company and less of the other than one might imagine in that odd, roiling, agitated space known as the blogosphere, a subset of cyberspace, a space that has no "here" or "there," a space without place. Thank you for the sometimes fine discussions and the rant/counter-rant self-indulgence on all sides.

Now, must...complete...the tasks...

Have a good one, everybody.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


OK, I'm feeling frivolous and light-headed, having nearly completed my Christmas corvée. Best oxymoron, please.

Let me get things started, while thinking about the revolting Tony Blair's conversion (I wonder how many Hail Marys he'll say for the Iraqi civilian hecatomb he co-authored) and a bigoted Canadian publication (although now under new management and perhaps new direction):

1) Christian love

2) Western Standard

Surely you can do better than this.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

That darned f-word

The Canadian Blog Awards are up in the air and the progressive left is demonstrating its usual solidarity and unity, and that last bit is sarcasm. I wish I could do sarcasm the way Canadian Cynic does sarcasm, but this will have to do. And it's all about--

[cover the children's ears, please]

Feminism. There, I said it. God strike me dead, I said it. Feminism. Feminism. Woo-hoo!

Funny. Nothing happened. No lightning bolts, nada. Hmm.

The story has been overtold by now, so I won't repeat it. Suffice it to say that in 2007, nearly 2008, there are so-called progressive men who still flinch when they hear the f-word. And all that word means, dammit, is women striving for equality with men. There's been movement after movement to implement this idea, which, as Chet Scoville points out, began more than two hundred years ago with Mary Wollstonecraft. And it still hasn't been implemented, not by a long shot. Women are still raped, beaten and killed--because they're women. They are denied access to abortion. They get paid less. They still do most of the housework and parenting, besides working for wages. They get disrespected in a thousand ways, large and small.
And they can't even count on men on the left to be allies.

So some of them continue to fight back. They self-identify as feminists. They start blogs. They develop networks and chat boards. They are, to put it mildly, a presence in cyberspace. There are good feminist blogs and bad ones, and a whole lot in between. If best blog categories are to be created, this one's a natural.

Ain't gonna happen.

Know why? Because some proud progressive boyz made an error in judgment, and instead of simply saying, Whoops, we goofed, they stood their ground like men. They will not be bullied, nosiree. Hey, just throw the girls in with the GBLT folks, they'll be at home there. We all know that "feminist" is just a code-name for lesbian, right? Well, OK, if the chicks don't like that, what about an "activist" category? That's so big they'll just disappear, and the sooner the better.

But these women are still not satisfied with all that compromising and outreach by the boyz. Odd, that. Sure, they could have come at this a little more gently, perhaps--I recall getting raked over the coals myself a couple of times over the issues, tact not always being their strong point--but are they right or wrong about this? That's the only question worth considering, isn't it? And aren't we, er, men enough to to answer it correctly?

Good grief, Suzanne Fortin must be having the time of her life about now. And for that alone, these progressive men ought to be strung up by the nads.

This is not my Christmas message. Just let me calm down a bit.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ottawa: first day of winter

Sorry about the hiatus, folks--term papers for this returning student, plus four or five days of earache have taken their toll. But the papers are in; the exams are marked; and...what's that? Christmas?? In four days?? Yikes! Gotta go. I'll be back when I've done a little shopping.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

There are no neutrals there

I'm still scratching my head over this one. Let me declare interest, first: I'm a former union activist and elected leader, and my commitment didn't stop when I stepped down. I'm stickin' to the union, sisters and brothers, till the day I die. But even in the toils of the union machine, I kept my critical stance well fed and watered.

And maybe
that's just as well. Because this union initiative in Quebec needs to be boiled in oil: it's so staggeringly misplaced, foolish and offensive that it's taken all morning (and a nudge from Sketchy Thoughts) for the penny to drop. And like my fellow blogger, it's the word "neutral" that has me on the ceiling, reaching down to type this. Have we learned nothing, absolutely nothing at all, from our own union history?

There's no such thing as "neutral"--never has been, never will be. "Neutral" is a fake, it's a fabrication of the smug, it's taking sides by stealth, and the side that's taken is always the side of those with the most power.

Quebec union centrals bloody well know it, too. They've been around the block quite a few times, in fact probably too often. Cynicism and pandering have replaced the spirit of working people's solidarity that long ago--and it seems like aeons now--was summed up in the simple slogan, An Injury to One is an Injury to All. Not, it seems, if you wear a khimār (hijab) or, for that matter, a yarmulke or a turban. Nor a cross, a defender of the proposed "Charter of Secularism" might retort. But the thing about lay Christians in Canada is that they don't wear obvious religious garb. And their crosses, if they wear them, tend to be so unobtrusive that one doesn't for the most part even notice them. This isn't about Christians, folks. This is about les autres.

Yes, one might look to France, with its militant secular traditions that go all the way back to the French Revolution. And this is clearly a thread in the debates that must have taken place before the unions appeared in front of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on reasonable accommodation. But another thread--in fact, a greasy, knotted rope--is rank-and-file hérouxvillisme. There's quite the backlash going on in the land of the Quiet Revolution, fuelled to some degree by patently unreasonable requests for accommodation, but motivated in very large part by a seemingly ineradicable pure laine racism and ethnocentrism.

This call for secularism, after all, didn't just erupt out of the blue. It's part of a many-faceted debate about culture that makes the latter a venerated object instead of a set of ever-changing practices performed by people as they interact with each other and with the world. Remember the great tablespoon incident? The Kirpan Kontroversy? More sites of struggle in the culture wars. And for what?

Just as there are unreasonable demands for accommodation, there is unreasonable unwillingness to accommodate. And what "accommodation," after all, does it take to allow a little kid to eat his meal undisturbed in a school cafeteria, or another older kid to carry a tiny, ceremonial piece of metal securely sewn into his clothing? Or a teacher to wear a headscarf? Or a yarmulke? Or a turban? Are pure laine lifeways so endangered that rules must be made to prevent les autres from wearing a hat? Are they so fragile that unions, whose fundamental duty it is to fight for the rights of their members, are willing to betray their members' very livelihoods, solely on the basis of what they choose to wear? Is this what we've come to, after a hundred and fifty years of labour history, much of which consisted of life-and-death struggles for human rights?

There is a debate to be had about secularism--a good debate. I have long opposed separate school systems. I believe Ontario did the right thing by removing religion from arbitration processes. There can be real, harmful consequences flowing from the inappropriate injection of religion into education and the judicial system. But what consequences can there possibly be from an article of clothing that tells us simply what the wearer believes?

And now the unions have piled on. The unions. Solidarity forever, but only for the bare-headed. I'd be tempted to laugh if it weren't so all-fired sickening and disgraceful. If I were a union member in Quebec who happens to wear a religious article of clothing, I'd feel utterly devastated today. Come on, mes chers confrères et consoeurs. Give your own heads a good shake, and try not to rattle.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

On "reasonable accommodation"

*Rant alert.*

Let me start by saying that I don't like the title phrase. It's too much like "tolerance." My relations with other human beings run a little deeper than "accommodating" them or "tolerating" them. Confine society to that, and they aren't "them" at all. They're Them. We're all Them. With me so far?

So let's put it out there: there are many cultural differences I'll embrace, but some things I wouldn't do for, or put up with from (ouch, three prepositions in a row), my friends and neighbours and co-culturalists, and I won't put up with them from anybody else. Murder. Rape. Torture. Crazy religious mania that makes people (oh, crap, they aren't "made" to do anything, they have agency) do all of the preceding. Wear veils and ceremonial knives or kipas or turbans or crosses, throw coloured powder at each other on Holi, run around the block with suitcases on New Year's, enrich my drab, wretched life in any of a thousand ways. I'm good with that. Just don't tell me what I ought to do, or not do, in the same vein. Live and let live. The operative word being "live."

The conservatives make hay with outrageous cases, which they claim are merely examples. They aren't. The average Muslim doesn't give a damn about Piglet or teddy bears or seeing-eye dogs. He or she just wants to get on with life, do a decent job of it like anyone else, and stay out of harm's way. Wild and crazy folks are different, but surely, by now, we've seen enough wild and crazy people in the blogosphere to know that "Them" have no monopoly on it. It stops being funny, though, when it becomes lethal, or even, frankly, when it gets obsessive. That's when we need to say to Them (and the group in question is a fairly disparate, diverse, multicultural one, held together only by the glue of our imaginations), "Hold on!" "No way!" Or, "Lighten up!"

I hate agreeing with some of the conservatives on this, even if I do so (must maintain political purity and distinctness here) for different reasons. But aggrieved law students have no business telling editors of national magazines to run unedited pieces by themselves. Well they do, come to think of it, but they ought to brace themselves for pithy responses. I'd love that super-editorial privilege myself, especially with the local rag, but it's not going to happen. Sure, Mark Steyn is a pompous idiot who skirts decency when it comes to Muslims, and by all means bring him to account under the law if he's gone too far. But where on earth do you get off telling editors to run unedited pieces, at least unedited except for spelling and grammar, which would be amusing if I weren't so royally pissed off by this?

And then there are the easily offended souls who don't want Christmas trees, or Merry Christmas, or Santa's regular greeting, or the aforesaid piglets or teddy bears named Mohammed (although any whiny brat of the male persuasion can be called such, without fear of sword-bearing demonstrators). Indeed, I think one shows more respect for the Prophet (pbuh) by naming a toy after him rather than giving his name to some of these goons and knife-wielding hooligans and hate-preaching mullahs and imams.

Yes, yes, I know there are many sites of struggle in the culture wars, and that a mere comment, image or act can be a metonym for the whole enchilada, but come on, folks, this is Canada. We're polite to a fault, we bend over backwards not to be offensive (most of us), but don't tell us to say Happy Holidays or burn our Winnie-the-Pooh books, and we'll fight the good fight against the proposed amendments to the Canada Elections Act. OK? (Well, people of principle would do the latter anyway, but you catch my drift.)

Nope, I'm not going to stop there. Crazy Muslims aren't being singled out here. Crazy people
generally, the ones who want to run people's lives, are my cible-du-jour. What about the book banners who want "The Golden Compass" thrown on that same bonfire? The anti-choice bigots who try to tell women what they should be allowed to do with their bodies? The drum-beaters who insist that we "Support The Troops" regardless of what US-inspired mission they've been sent on? The haters who are still fighting against same-sex marriage--indeed, same-sex anything? The hypocrites who only discover gay rights and women's rights when they're being violated in Iran or the Sudan or Saudi Arabia? The wingnuts who tell us we're not allowed to criticize Israel unless we want to wear the "anti-Semite" label?

Let them all go forth in fornicating fashion, as a friend of mine put it. It's enough to make me consider becoming a libertarian. Sheesh. Pass the roast pork, make out shamelessly, gay or straight, have an abortion, get the troops home safely, stand up for the meaning of December 6, read whatever the hell you like, worry aloud about Gaza and the West Bank, and Merry bloody Christmas to you, too.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Parole Board insanity

In a fit of what can only be described as judicial savagery, the National Parole Board has just denied Robert Latimer day parole. He will not be eligible to apply again for two years. "The Board was struck by the lack of insight you have developed in your seven years of incarceration," declared the Board chairperson, Kelly-Ann Speck.

Here (quoted from the links indicated) are some National Parole Board decisions for comparison:

  • In 1998 while on parole for the sexual assault of an Abbotsford woman, Dean Zimmerman was sent back to jail for severally beating his pregnant wife. In 2005, after being granted early release once again by the Canadian National Parole Board, Zimmerman sexually assaulted a 24-year-old Edmonton woman by holding her captive, tying her up and sexually assaulting her for nine hours.
  • In 1999 Trevor James Fontaine was sentenced to 5 years in prison for sexual assault and attempted murder. Out on parole four years into his sentence, Fontaine befriended Vanderhoof woman Misty Franklin. He then stabbed her in the back of the neck. The 24 year old mother of two is now a quadriplegic and is kept alive by a ventilator.
Parole is supposed to be granted on the basis of the offender's risk of re-offending. The National Parole Board has had no difficulty at all putting murderers and rapists back on our streets to kill and rape again. But when it comes to a genuinely compassionate man like Robert Latimer, who presents absolutely zero risk of re-offending, he gets a school-marmish lecture and back to the pen he goes--after seven years of hard time imposed because he loved his daughter too much to see her suffer in constant, irremediable agony.

More light needs to be shone upon the workings of the obviously dysfunctional NPB. This shameful decision, in the meantime, makes me somewhat less than proud to be a Canadian.

Why not let the Parole Board bureaucrats know how you feel? Send polite notes to:

When propaganda bombs

It's been a week of disappointments for conservatives--and it's only Wednesday. First, Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan Vandal, narrowly lost a referendum on constitutional change, and gracefully conceded defeat. Then a report emerged that unstable, warlike Iran gave up its atomic ambitions way back in 2003. (Ouch. That must have hurt. Why couldn't they have discovered this after the invasion?)

Dubya, looking for all the world like Tweety telling a sceptical audience that he did, he did, he did taw a puddy-tat, is now saying that Iran could re-start the program anytime, and so the US will continue its push for more sanctions. Can't people smell the danger?

U.S. President George W. Bush refused to be deterred by an intelligence report that suggests Iran has halted its bid to build nuclear weapons, insisting that the new information only proves how much of a threat Iran is. (H/t Canadian Cynic.)

This is like making a kid stand in a corner for his whole life, because he might just do something bad otherwise. Call it pre-emptive punishment.

In any case, there's nothing worse than an enemy who fails to live up to expectations. It just goes to show how sneaky those varmints really are.

Take Hugo Chávez: that fire-breathing dictator, who wanted to change the constitution so he could run in more democratic elections than is currently permitted. Yes, he wanted a lot of other stuff too, but oddly, this appeared to be the main concern of the media. One might have expected some nimble footwork on the part of conservatives here, trying to explain away the electoral aspects of Chávez' ambitions. But actually, no footwork was in evidence at all. Abolishing term limits was denounced, in true Orwellian fashion, by commentators hailing from countries without term limits of their own--like Canada.

The difficulty, of course, was not with
Chávez, but with the darned Venezuelan electors who saw this monster through eleven successful electoral contests since he came to power, properly supervised by teams of international observers. But you can't come right out and say that, and talk about democracy in the same breath. So the focus has to be on the rascal himself, indeed a right-winger's worst nightmare--a socialist with lots of money to back his plans, a crude fellow, too, not polite enough and not white enough.

But despite right-wing desperation since his ascension to the Venezuelan presidency,
Chávez has held off sprouting the requisite horns and tail. Not even a short-lived coup changed that. When the then anti-Chávez Venezuelan Supreme Court let the coupsters go, he simply accepted the result. A brief attempt by the usual suspects to play the "anti-Semite" card blew up when the full text of a Christmas Eve speech by Chávez became available. One could hear the stamping of tiny feet across the blogosphere and in editorial rooms everywhere in North America, as he stubbornly refused to morph.

Here is a small sample of headlines in recent days. Remember that
Chávez lost his referendum by a razor-thin margin, and conceded defeat in statesmanlike fashion. Try not to laugh out loud.

Venezuelans Bring Chavez to His Knees

Chavez reels from vote defeat

Why Venezuelans
Turned on Chavez

Chavez isn't finished: Voters' rejection of the Venezuelan leader's reforms doesn't mean the threat from his policies has ended.

Venezuelan voters refused to sell out to Hugo Chavez

Voters reject Chavez's attempt to become president for life

Democracy fights back

Venezuela's Lame-Duck Dictator

Chavez's hopes of extending his rule could prove disastrous for US

and my personal fave (roll of drums):

Rumsfeld says Venezuelan democracy threatened by Sunday's vote

What are poor right-wingers and corporate hacks and flaks to do when their propaganda shatters into tiny pieces before their very eyes? As we can see, make a whole lot more of it. And the starboard side of the blogosphere is alight as well, with frankly bizarre claims, my favourite being variations of "he rigged the election to minimize his loss." They may be running out of milk in Venezuela, but there could be tinfoil shortages right here at home if that sort of thing keeps up.

So what can we conclude about all this? "
Chávez" and "Iran nukes" are constructs, lovingly assembled by right-wing pro-US spinmeisters, and they've taken a direct hit. Two Great Satans have unaccountably failed to perform. But these ghoulish figures will be patched and jury-rigged soon enough. Smoke will belch forth anew, and a thunderous and fearful voice will be relayed to us once again by the quaking commentariat. Enjoy your increased chocolate ration, and pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Monday, December 03, 2007

¡Venezuela si! [updated]

Well, I'm going to bed cautiously happy, once I've marked a bunch of first-year assignments, that is.

More later this week about the shameless propaganda to which we've been subjected for weeks--consisting mostly of newspaper headlines that remind me a bit of Le Moniteur on the progress of Napoleon after his escape from Elba. But here is a ripe one, from CTV:

If Chavez wins, the victory would allow him to run for office as many times as he wants, strengthening his grip on the oil-rich country of 26 million people.

Good God, we can't have this! Run as often as he wants? What kind of democracy is that? "Strengthening his grip?" Oh, yes, and "oil-rich": nice resonances there--as though the monster is about to seize what's rightfully ours.

And this has been typical, absolutely typical, of press coverage here. I can't wait to get into all the polls that showed him losing by a healthy margin, too. Later.

Quick UPDATE: (December 2)

Paulitics lists some of the major reforms just approved
that could have been approved.

UPDATE: (December 3) Damn. Should have waited until later this morning. The No side won, by less than 2%. Just announced a few minutes ago. Ah, the bitter taste of words being eaten. But not all of them, by any means. My comments about propaganda stand: I'll enlarge on them later in the week.