Monday, March 31, 2008

Fitna of pique

Fitna, if I may be forgiven the pun, is all the rage on the starboard side of the blogosphere at the moment. No, I'm not about to put up a link to this miserable little propaganda effort, any more than I'd link to Der Ewige Jude. But I have seen it--twice--and I've been challenged by regular commenter Peter to say a few words about it, and so I shall.

Fitna is a film produced by the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders. Its thesis is simple, not to say simple-minded: recent
frightful acts of Islamic terrorism are scripted and mandated in the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an. It's the religion, stupid. Tear out the pages of the book, he concludes, that promote terrorism.

Needless to say, the conservatives are having a field day with this one. And some Islamist nutcases have been making things easier for them, trying to threaten the film off the Internet. (Good luck with that one, fellas.)

Some holy books do have a certain tone to them in places, no mistake. But anyone can seize on a verse or two as an excuse for mayhem. It is not surprising that, in the charged and complex context of the Middle East today, there are strains of violent fanaticism that emphasize verses such as those quoted by Wilders, but not (for example) like these:

Say, 'O ye misbelievers! 2 I do not serve what ye serve; 3 nor will ye serve what I serve; 4 nor will I serve what ye serve; 5 nor will ye serve what I serve. 6 Ye have your religion, and I have my religion!' (Sura 109, Qur'an)

But fundamentalism, of course, is not restricted to Muslims. One-quarter of Americans thought the Rapture was going to happen last year; a majority of them reject the theory of evolution. Luckily we do not live in a world in which American Christians are subject to the same misery that has been visited upon Middle Eastern Muslims, or else we might see people acting on such Biblical verses as these:

Psalms 137:9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

Leviticus 20:12-14 If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Matthew 10:34-36 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

Deuteronomy 7:2 And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them.

Psalms 58:10 The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.

1 Samuel, chapter 15, verse 3: Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.

Hosea, chapter 13, verse 16 The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.

Numbers, chapter 31, verses 17-18: So now put every male child to death, and every woman who has had sex relations with a man. But all the female children who have had no sex relations with men, you may keep for yourselves.

Isaiah chapter 13, verse 16: Their young children will be broken up before their eyes; their goods will be taken away, and their wives made the property of others.

To blame terrorism on religion rather than on a series of circumstances in which religion becomes an alibi for violence is a grossly simplistic variant of root cause theory. Folks, the Qur'an is the wrong target. You're going to have to take a hard look at geopolitics today to unravel the causes of terrorism, and the appeal to religion is certainly a strand, if not the most significant one, in that sorry tale. But attacking the faith of hundreds of millions of people* because a relatively small handful of fanatics uses it as an excuse for atrocities is no more logical than attacking Christianity because of the excesses of Jerry Falwell and Fred Phelps.

In fact, it's hateful and counterproductive. Wilders' attempt to portray Islam and its followers as a whole by the barbaric acts and mouthy fanatics shown in his film is hardly worth the trouble of refuting. But I do like to please my commenters. Follow-up comments, as always, are welcome.

*UPDATE: (April 1) In fact, there are 1.3 billion Muslims today--one-fifth of the world's population.


My, Kathy Shaidle and Jay Currie are oddly quick to side with a notorious neo-Nazi when he makes claims on the Internet. Erstwhile Heritage Front chief Marc Lemire is challenging the authenticity of a photograph that has appeared here as well as at many other sites, identifying him as the fellow standing to the left of Ernst Zündel, his former employer. I hope that his conservative buddies, reflexively jumping to his defence, are more critical about his Holocaust revisionism, but at this point I'm afraid to ask.

The source of the photo is the well-respected Nizkor site, dedicated to rebutting--with a mountain of facts and documents--the claims of Holocaust-deniers. It has been displayed there since at least 1999, without a hint of complaint from Lemire. We have only his word for the alleged date of the photograph, and for his claim that he did not know Zündel at the time. (There is an odd resemblance, one might note in passing, between the photo of Lemire as a teenager that he posted at his site, and the fellow to the right of Zündel.)

The alacrity with which conservatives and the, uh, far right link arms has been noted here before (in my "Sympathy for the Devil" series).
Lemire worked for one of the most notorious neo-Nazis in recent history, he has lied about the Holocaust, he has quoted Adolf Hitler approvingly, he has been the leader of a neo-Nazi party, but hey! Don't call me a Nazi! Nazi-schmazi! I'm a free-speech martyr! And his conservative allies just lap it up.

Some folks have been "pwned" all right, Jay. Just have a look in the mirror to see one of them for yourself.

UPDATE: (March 31)

Jay Currie, inquiring about the photo, elicited this response from the legendary Ken McVay of Nizkor:

Lemire may be right, and I no longer identify the image as his because of his insistance that it isn't him.

I haven't seen Marc for 11 years, so cannot contest his assertion that it isn't him.

In that case, I can no longer insist that it is. Note to that effect at my earlier post, and, I hope, we can now all move on to better things.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Public justice and private bludgeons

It's probably almost time to wrap up the discussion of Human Rights Commissions at this point: the issue has been well canvassed, here in the comments and elsewhere, and the major arguments,both pro and con, have been articulately made.

But there is a loose end--a very big end, and very loose. And that is the question of the (mis)use of civil courts to crush the little guy's freedom of expression. Whether we are talking libel, slander, copyright or trademark, an ordinary person of relatively modest means simply cannot afford to defend him- or herself against individuals and corporations with deep pockets and vindictive attitudes.

Before getting into the substance of this, I need to note that some of the self-same people absolutely shocked, appalled and otherwise outraged by the benign wording of Section 13(1) of the
Canadian Human Rights Act* are the first to defend the rights of the rich and powerful to hammer ordinary people into the ground for exercising their freedom of expression. Only Darcey Jerrom over at Dust My Broom has indicated any signs of alarm when St. Ezra of Free Expression uses the courts to persecute a small community newspaper and a former employee. (For information on the latter, Google "Dust My Broom" and "Merle Terlesky.) Other intrepid defenders of racists and neo-Nazis appear to be utterly disingenuous on this point: "It's not the same thing." "People who are sued can always get their costs back." Etc.

Of course we know that most people at the ass-end of such grossly unequal contests choose to settle and shut up from henceforward. A grovelling apology is extracted, money flows in its usual direction (from the poor to the rich), and natural order is restored. Conrad Black used to amuse himself in this manner quite a bit, major corporations like Daishowa have tried to shut down social activists, and now Canwest is going after a peacenik.

I have long suspected--and their untenable defence of the suppression of free expression when it's the wealthy who are doing it simply reinforces my suspicions--that the real agenda of the speech-warriors is to get rid of Human Rights Commissions altogether. The current controversies are just skirmishes in a wider war. In the great libertarian jungle, where the state is all but nonexistent and the strong are free to prey upon the weak, there is no place for a concept like "human rights," much less state institutions to mediate human rights complaints by citizens against other citizens. Why have that, when we have a crushingly expensive legal system that only the rich can afford? The real objection is that, with the establishment of Human Rights Commissions, those of modest resources can seek redress at comparatively little cost. They can fight back. For some, this is simply too much to bear.

The Human Rights Commission set-up, admittedly, is badly in need of tweaking. The respondent, who might end up considerably out of pocket, should be made whole if the complaint is dismissed. And, perhaps more important, the bar for accepting a complaint in the first place needs to be set relatively high, with a rigorous screening process to weed out trivial or unfounded complaints. (Oddly, though, when screening does take place--Shirleen McGovern's investigation into the validity of the complaint against Ezra Levant, for example, or Dean Steacy's initial investigation of complaints against Free Dominion--the worst possible construction is placed on it by the speech-warriors.) But this is a side-conversation. For the speechists, it's the baby and not the bathwater that needs to be tossed.

What, then, of defamation (libel and slander), copyright and trademarks? I am not arguing that any of these areas of law be abolished: but I am arguing for a much higher bar against prosecution, let alone conviction, and for a system that allows easier access to the average joe. Clearly we should not have an unfettered right to defame each other, or appropriate the intellectual work of others
to reap their rightful rewards. But by the same token, the wealthy and powerful should not have the right to misuse the law to squelch dissent. And when they do, one might reasonably expect the speech-warriors to be offended, if you take what they say at face value. But reason has nothing to do with it, and we shouldn't be surprised when they do a neat 180° turn, for all of the reasons given above.

Space does not permit a thorough discussion of current slander and libel laws. Suffice it to say that, in the province of Ontario, one doesn't even have to prove damages to succeed in a defamation action. Suing people is far too easy, and defending against it, far too difficult. But let's take a closer look at copyright and trademark legislation.

In the case of Canwest's vengeful pursuit of a Jewish anti-Zionist, the law is clearly being misused. A trademark is established to protect a company's commercial interests. The pirating of the trademark by other commercial enterprises threatens those interests. The law was never intended to be used against parody or fair non-commercial use. But the latter exceptions do not exist in current copyright legislation. They should.

Bob Tarantino was kind enough to direct my attention to two articles by legal scholar Carys J. Craig on the copyright issue. (As I indicate below, there is some blurring of the boundaries between copyright per se and trademark rights, which are really a subset of the former.**
) The first, "Putting the Community in Communication: Dissolving the Conflict between Freedom of Expression and Copyright" (University of Toronto Law Journal, v.56 [2006]) makes a strong case that copyright and freedom of expression stem from the same interests and the same mutual goals--the maximizing of social communication, interaction and participation.

She argues that court decisions against parody and fair use have been marred by a moralistic view of property as trumping all other concerns, including the right to freedom of expression as set out in Sn.2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The die was cast, she notes, with the 1996 decision of the Federal Court Trial Division in Michelin & Cie. v. CAW-Canada, since followed or cited in numerous other cases, even before the Supreme Court.

The defendants were attempting to organize the workers at Michelin plants in Nova Scotia, an uphill battle as usual, one that had already been the subject of government-Michelin complicity in the past. They produced some campaign literature showing the Michelin Man stomping a worker. Michelin countered with an action alleging infringement of copyrights and trademarks.

Almost needless to say, the court found in favour of Michelin, even ruling that the unauthorized use of the Michelin Man did not fall within the ambit of S.2 of the Charter. The author analyzes this decision in detail. The Court erased the differences between physical property and intellectual property. Yet, as she points out, these differences are profound. She makes the obvious point that subordinating freedom of expression to copyright law, a regulatory regime that according to the Supreme Court is neither tort law or property law, is tantamount to permitting state regulation to restrict freedom of expression in general. Any such restriction, she argues, should be subject to evaluation under Sn.1 of the Charter, not excluded from Charter scrutiny altogether.

But her key point, treated at greater length in an earlier paper, "Locke, Labour and Limiting Author's Right: A Warning against a Lockean Approach to Copyright Law" (Queen's Law Journal, v.28 [2002]), is that the concept of intellectual property itself is deeply flawed. The purpose of copyright, as noted, is to maximize public communication. Without allowing an author some protection, fewer intellectual works would be produced and circulated.
The author argues, as mentioned earlier, that there is a common interest in copyright law and in constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression: both aim to enhance the public flow of ideas. When copyright is used simply to stifle new production, therefore, its own basis is undermined.

Copyright, she maintains, should not be confused with private property. It serves a social, not individual function. A vital aspect of communication is an audience--the right to freedom of expression doesn't mean much if that expression is not public. Copyright, then, intended to provide incentives for the circulation of ideas, cannot be reduced simply to an individual property right. Copyright is in the public interest; hence it resides in the public sphere.

There is no authorship ab initio; every author uses ideas, forms, language, etc. that are already in the public sphere. What is authorship? The more closely one tries to grasp the concept, the slipperier it becomes. But without delving further into that question, surely we can agree that the reinscription of a trademark or a copyrighted work within a new context, one that in no way jeopardizes the rewards accruing to the original copyright holder, should not be subject to legal suppression.

Yet at this point it is. "What is the complacency with which courts today regard the silencing of critical speech through the tool of copyright and accept the chilling effects that naturally accompany it," Craig writes. It is hard to disagree. This area of the law should be a target for comprehensive reform for those with an interest in freedom of expression. But don't expect the speech-warriors to lead the charge--they're over there on the other side of the barricades, vigorously defending privilege and power against the ordinary citizen, and a spurious, exclusively private "ownership" of expression over the public interest.

It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Actions with respect to alleged trademark infringement alone do not tend to succeed if the purpose is non-commercial (h/t here to truewest); copyright law, however, makes no such distinctions.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


I dunno. Sometimes even halfway-intelligent folks like Jay Currie simply lose their minds.

Look, I'm a bit of a cynic myself--gestures like Earth Hour do raise awareness, but in my opinion it will take some serious if not catastrophic environmental crises to wake people up to the point that anything serious is done. Why do I say that? Because even people with a few brains--Jay Currie, for example--are so blinded by ideology and prejudice that they think it's funny to try to sabotage a mild little effort like this. It's rather like deliberately scattering garbage when the neighbourhood is going on a clean-a-thon, or taking a dump in your local river when locals are lobbying for anti-pollution measures.

What, I sometimes wonder, would it really take to break through the layers of self-deception and obstinacy that make conservatives think it's cute to put high-wattage lamps on during Earth Hour? I'm not even sure about serious environmental crises, come to think of it. We're in one, after all, and the assorted hicks and rubes (with their smart-ass vanguard) are still snickering and guffawing. I can imagine this sorry handful of know-nothings in the days of the Great Flood, sitting around drinking beer, laughing at Noah and hiding the unicorns.

I guess all we can do is plow gamely on, as the science progresses, and the climatological equivalents of Peter Duesberg shriek against the increasingly obvious, and the yahoos turn up their lights and rev their motorcycles and engage in all kinds of nutty "dissent." That kind of blind reaction, as we know, never grows old.

I'm glad we beat smallpox into the ground, and I'm kind of hoping we do the same with global warming. I would like my great-grandkids to live to see the denialists archived in Wikipedia, their scribblings and foamings, their pseudo-science and conspirazoid thinking, preserved only there and in yellowing pamphlets and long-defunct blogsites, more grist for the mill of historians of anti-ideas and ideologically-driven fads. And for that alone, I'll make the token gesture tonight.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Don't hold your breath...

Here's a case to put the speech-warriors on their mettle.

Ezra? Mark? Mike? Deborah? Jay? Kate? Kathy? Connie? Terry? John of the unravelling onion?



(H/t Bread and Roses)

UPDATE: (March 28)

Mike Brock, at least, has risen to the challenge...sort of. He sees a difference--do you see a difference?

UPPERDATE: (March 28)

Jay Currie thinks there's a difference, too. The debate turns out not to be about freedom of speech at all, but about that holiest of conservative icons, privatization. CHRC, bad. It's the state. Canwest, and by extension, Conrad Black, Ezra Levant et al., just fine. It's private citizens and corporations. One of the latter goes after you, just mortgage everything you own to defend yourself. Hey, after a few years of paying lawyers you might even get some of your costs back. That's why most people settle, and take a smaller hit from the bully.

I can see a difference, come to think of it. Human Rights Commissions are set up to allow ordinary citizens the opportunity to fight against discrimination and hatred, through a tribunal process. The civil court system offers the rich and powerful the opportunity to hammer the little guy into the ground. Both fora, of course, are equally part of the state apparatus. Guess which one the conservatives defend? While alleging that they're in favour of freedom of speech?

The Human Rights Tribunal process needs some tweaking, no argument there. Successful respondents should be made whole. The bar should be higher for screening complaints at the intake stage. But our libel and slander laws are a disgrace, and our copyright laws too, and they all require a substantial overhaul. You won't get any support from the speech warriors for that, though, by the looks of it.

(And for a sorely-needed comedic interlude in the midst of all this serious talk, Kate McMillan shows up to accuse me of intellectual dishonesty. I nearly sneezed my beer through my ears.)

West Bank apartheid

Don't take my word for it. Argue with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel:

For the first time, Israel's Supreme Court, albeit in an interim decision, has accepted the idea of separate roads for Palestinians in the occupied areas.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel told the court that what was happening on the highway could be the onset of legal apartheid in the West Bank.

Built largely on private Palestinian land, the road was first challenged in Israel's Supreme Court in the early 1980s. The judges, in a landmark ruling, permitted it to be built because the army said its primary function was to serve the local Palestinians, not Israeli commuters.

In recent years, in the wake of stone-throwing and several drive-by shootings, Israel has blocked Palestinians' access to the road.

This month's decision calls on the army to give a progress report in six months on its efforts to build separate roads and to take other steps to compensate Palestinians for being banned from the road. It is the acceptance of the idea of separate road systems that has engendered commentary.

"There is already a separate legal system in the territories for Israelis and Palestinians," said Limor Yehuda, who argued the case for the civil rights association on behalf of six Palestinian villages.

"With the approval of separate roads, if it becomes a widespread policy, then the word for it will be 'apartheid'."

UPDATE: (March 28) More. (H/t POGGE)

It's worth the money

Love your enemies. :)

UPDATE: (March 28)

Kathy's a tad upset, but let's correct the record a little. 1) I don't know how one goes about "parsing" the "ancient etymology" of the word "freedom," but were I to source the word's derivation, it wouldn't take me "hours on end." 2) This was only supposed to cost $5, but it cost me $10, so I think there's an issue of false advertising here. 3) Kathy knows I'm not "anonymous," except to people who can't do ten second's worth of computer searching. 4) I love Clint Eastwood flicks: I hope she enjoys her collection when she gets it.

UPPERDATE: (March 29)

Wow, there's been an amazing response to my new ad format, the Top Spot link display at the right.

And why not? You get a highly visible link from my 3000 uniques/day blog for a whole week, for only $10!

If there's a delay in your order appearing, it won't be a long one. I have to approve the link requests before they appear.

Looks like I'll have to spend my $10 next week on this. Whatever happened to the old adage, "Money has no politics?" Sheesh.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Assault on a blind man

Whenever I get the bizarre idea that conservatives--or some conservatives, at least--are carbon-based life-forms, endowed with common humanity, their own disgusting antics prove me wrong. Every time.

Their latest sport is making fun of, and viciously attacking, a person for his blindness. The man in question? Dean Steacy, the competent, professional investigator of Internet hate who works for the Canadian Human Rights Commission. He was the star witness at Tuesday's hearing, another chapter of Warman v. Lemire.

Let's see what the mob are saying over at Small Dead Animals, 2007 Best Weblogs Winner:

Boys are warned that if they play with themselves, they will go blind. How did Steacy lose his vision?

Blind?? I thought he was just stupid.

In fairness, other commenters thought this was crossing the line. But let's have a look at Ezra Levant, the King of Konservative Kraziness and speech-warrior hero. He does character assassination with much more panache. And blind people, according to him, shouldn't be allowed to be investigators. (No doubt he'd prefer to see them selling pencils on Bank Street.)

I quote:

Which brings us to the matter of Steacy himself. He's blind, and he has an assistant help him function -- no doubt a double-expense that the CHRC regards as a source of pride and a symbol of how the rest of society ought to work. I think it's great that Steacy is still working despite his handicap. But being an investigator, especially where the matters investigated are words and symbols and intricate websites, requires eyesight.

Keeping a lead investigator who is blind isn't just an act of supreme political correctness, it's an act that so obviously risks the integrity of the commission's work. Again, if it helps, imagine if an investigator hunting real crimes, not thought crimes, were blind. It's inconceivable that any defence lawyer wouldn't immediately object to any of the evidence that such an investigator collected, on the grounds that it was flawed; I can't imagine any criminal judge accepting such evidence -- if it related to anything important, it would simply provide "reasonable doubt" to any charge, and yield an acquittal. It's so ridiculous, it wouldn't even fly in a fictional TV show, even the most politically correct of the Law and Order series just wouldn't be able to have a blind investigator without fans jeering "yeah, right".

How so? Steacy has the services of an assistant, up-to-the-minute computer reading software and other aids that permit him to do his job perfectly well. Precisely what in his work or in his testimony would have required eyesight? Ezra doesn't specify, but the answer is--nothing at all.

It also raises the interesting question, posed by Jay Currie, about Steacy's office helper. Why wasn't she examined, too? She was clearly involved with every step; it would be fascinating to compare her testimony to that of her boss, to find discrepancies. In a real court, that would be done, and Steacy's assistant would be excluded from court as he was answering his questions, so as not to skew her answers. But this isn't a real court.

Why didn't Barbara Kulaszka, acting for Marc Lemire, just subpoena her, then? Was she
simply supposed to show up on her own and demand a chance to speak?

Look, I think it's great that Steacy's still working after going blind -- the fact that he was the CHRC's union boss probably ensured that his lower productivity and need for another assistant wouldn't even be considered.

Leaving aside the fact that the President of a small PSAC Local is hardly a "union boss" except in the febrile imaginations of the über-hysterical Levant and far-right propagandists like Kate McMillan, what's the basis for this allegation of "lower productivity?" That sounds (and is) actionable, and in a perfect world Steacy would go after Levant in civil court. One can dream. One can hope.

I'm sure that, if the CHRC could, it would require all Canadian businesses to go to such lengths and costs. But even the nuttiest anti-discrimination advocate would acknowledge that there are some jobs where vision is necessary. Being a pilot is one of them; being an investigator is another. Unless, of course, accuracy, comprehensiveness and fairness are optional -- which is why the CHRC permits it.

As noted, Levant advances not a shred of evidence to back up his proposition that blind persons cannot be human rights investigators. All he does, in his hateful way, is suggest that such people are a burden on society, and that reasonable accommodation in the CHRC workplace is provided on the basis of a person's union office.

This disgraceful commentary reveals more about Levant's pustular character than anything else. But his words don't really surprise me. Kicking a guy with a white cane is quite in keeping with that repulsive strain of conservatism that makes alliances with neo-Nazis not just possible, but probable.

Yet there are still folks who take this bigot seriously--in fact, they fawn on him. One wonders, indeed, if such people even understand what human decency is, let alone possess any. But at least one doesn't have to wonder in the case of Ezra Levant.

UPDATE: (March 27)

To its credit, Free Dominion isn't having any part of this.

What is to be done?

What's left of parliamentary politics in Canada? The pun is intentional. Stéphane Dion's Liberals have gutted almost everything that remained of a legitimate political process in the House of Commons, which, under Chrétien and now under Harper, admittedly wasn't much.

It is bad enough that two successive Prime Ministers have concentrated so much power in the PMO that even the Cabinet is little more than a focus group. But until Dion came to power, there has been,
at least, a noisy and sometimes effective opposition. The last nail in the coffin of parliamentary democracy has been the neutering of that opposition by Dion. The Liberals are so deathly afraid of the electorate that they have simply abdicated. Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition? More like Her Majesty's scared rabbits.

The Ottawa Citizen gives us the hard, cold numbers on its front page this morning. There have been 76 votes in the House during this session of Parliament. Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe cast 73 votes. PM Stephen Harper cast 49.

Stéphane Dion voted 33 times. The Liberals have participated in only 49 of the 76 votes. When they did bother showing up, they supported the government 60% of the time. They supported the budget. They supported extending our involvement in the Afghanistan quagmire. They've given the government a de facto majority.

The Liberals are so so white-faced, pants-crappingly frightened of facing the voters that Harper is pushing the envelope beyond all reasonable bounds, attaching bits and pieces of his agenda to unrelated omnibus bills and daring the Liberals to bring him down. And it's getting easier and easier for him, as he (and we helpless onlookers) discover that there is no line in the sand for Dion, there is no Rubicon, there is no point of honour. Dion's strategy, if you can call it that, is to keep propping up the Conservatives until his prayers for a miracle are answered. But there are no miracles in politics. The voters are unimpressed, and the numbers prove it. Why vote Liberal when you can vote for the folks that the Liberals support?

Jack Layton calls this "truancy." But that's a word reserved for kids who skip school. This appalling behaviour by the Liberals is a threat to the very core of parliamentary democracy, which is all the national democracy we've got. Nothing less. "Truancy?" Let's not mince words here, Jack. What about "
collaboration?" What about "subversion?"

So long as there was some hope for social change, for progressive measures, for realizing, in however distorted a form, the popular will, Parliament as an institution was worth preserving. Yes, it artificially restricts political options with the fossilized first-past-the-post voting system, and with two major entrenched parties that are little more than institutions for distributing the spoils of war to their hacks and trained seals. Yes, even the simplest, most common-sense reforms can't seem to find their way through the vast Rube Goldberg political machine that we call Parliament. Yes, it's all smoke and no fire most of the time, it's jockeying for advantage, it's stagey speeches and playing to the ever-diminishing gallery. But it's not just the structure that's the problem--it's the culture. Change the culture (somehow) and maybe the old wagon will get you somewhere, I thought. (Hey, I've been a Jack Layton supporter. I live on blind optimism.)

But today, thanks to the Citizen, I've been awakened from my torpor with a needed bucket of cold water. Folks, we're in real trouble here. The system is headed for disaster, and nearing the point of no return.
We had a shot, once, even if that was largely an illusion: every few years we could take part in, well, something, and hope for the best. Politics was based upon a (mild) adversary system, and the opposition actually stood for, well, something. Once in a while we might even win a modest victory or two, allowing us to imagine that we counted. But I've never seen anything like this. I think it's historically unprecedented. The Liberals have turned tail, and the NDP is running after them, hurling insults. The Conservatives must be wetting themselves laughing.

Perhaps it's time to raise some more workable version of the New Politics Initiative once again. The NPI was what got me into the NDP, although the latter proved to be a bit of a straitjacket, as is the case, I hasten to add, with all parties that play the game. I still play it a bit. I like my MP, Paul Dewar, very much, and may well work for him during the next election, whenever Harper's mandate runs out. Call it political somnambulism. But I have really given up hope in Parliament as a change agent. It's
interminable bad theatre, it's comedy, it's melodrama. And now it's tragedy.

The NPI fell apart for a number of reasons. Somehow our projects died right after the meetings that birthed them. We couldn't agree, couldn't coordinate, and worst of all, couldn't organize. Some of us tried to keep things together across the country through regular information-sharing, and we ended up being derisively called a "Central Committee" by suspicious local activists. We stopped going to meetings. I couldn't stand the smell of vegan hotdogs, myself.

But, for all that, we (and by that I don't simply mean progressives, but ordinary citizens of all stripes) do need a radically different approach. We need local, daily politics: continual, genuine citizen engagement, democracy at the grassroots. We need to build our own democratic institutions and capacities. We need a bottom-up approach, which means overcoming the deep social conditioning that encourages our passive acceptance of top-down rule. We need to create our spaces of freedom, in which we can flourish.

I'm not calling here--just to avoid any misunderstanding--for the overthrow of the Parliamentary system. I'm suggesting, rather, that we simply ignore it. Let it fade into well-deserved obscurity. Put it in a museum. It doesn't meet our needs.

And I've deliberately chosen very vague phrasing indeed to project an alternative. I'm not sure that it's even an sketch, in fact--just a canvas; I don't believe in blueprints and Maximum Programs. Critique offers the opportunity for new imaginings. So, in that spirit, I invite commenters, left, right, middle, whatever, to contribute their thoughts:

Is there an alternative to the current political system, now seemingly in end-game? And, if so, what might it look like?

Over to you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

National Post "reporting": Warman v. Lemire

[T]he Tribunal appeared to wrongly out an innocent person as a Commission operative, thus exposing her to the unwanted attention of the vast army of bloggers who support Mr. Lemire, owner of the far-right FreedomSite.

For a government agency that has fought for months to protect the personal security of their own staff, even going so far as to (unsuccessfully) invoke national security to keep them off the witness stand, their handling of the "Nellie xxxxxx" question is remarkable. [Elision mine--DD]

Was Joseph Brean even there? Here is the truth of it: the Bell Canada official had been subpoenaed by Marc Lemire's lawyer, Barbara Kulaszka. He required the official request of the Tribunal to divulge the confidential details of his findings. This is pro forma, and the Chair gave his OK. The testimony followed. Then Margot Blight, from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, rose to suggest that such information should be protected, due to privacy considerations.

The Chair agreed, and, if memory serves, ordered that this information not be promulgated. Of course it immediately appeared on Marc Lemire's blogsite. When that became known in the afternoon, the Chair ordered that the information (identity, street address) be removed. It remains posted as of this writing.

Way to let the bad guys off the hook, Joe. Nice work.

UPDATE: (March 26)

My memory of the Chair's ruling is supported by conservative commentator Jaeger:
"A Jadewarr post (a CHRC account) was traced to an IP address owned by a woman entirely unconnected to the CHRC. The chair requested that the woman's identity not be disclosed".

UPPERDATE: (March 26)

More of National Post's "reportage" exposed. (H/t Mordechai.) What's left when Brean stops spinning? No need to answer that.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Anticlimaxing in Ottawa: Warman v. Lemire

A packed room; hundreds turned away. Sweating tension in the faces of cowering, pallid operatives of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, wrenched from their burrows. Fearless defenders of free speech, the gleam of righteousness in their eyes, lightning flashing outside, as though in sympathy. China, gnawing on the bones of Tibet, pauses for a moment, raises her head and shivers. The hour of reckoning is at hand.

Well, umm, not quite. Let me set the scene, because that was far more interesting than the substance of the hearing (scroll down if you want to cut to the chase). And just before that, one note--today's non-event was liveblogged by Kady O'Malley, and by Marc Lemire, who shall have no link from me. If you want pitiless detail, that's where to go. I'm going to keep it all down to one post.

Today, dear readers, was an anti-climax from start to finish. Jay Currie turned out to be remarkably prescient this morning. The hearing was a one-day event to permit Marc Lemire's team to ask questions that had been disallowed at the hearing last year under section 37 of the Canada Evidence Act. These centred on the way that CHRC employees carry out their duties. Think the six or so weeks of hearings are done? Guess again. The next meeting is in June, location to be confirmed.

I was one of the first to arrive, followed by John Pacheco of SoCon or Bust, and then Mark Steyn, with a two-man entourage. The group of them got into a happy conversation, and like a pot set vigorously aboil, the waiting room was soon splattered by the frolicsome four: "radical secular left," "cultural relativism run amok," "post-modern world," "the mushy middle," etc.

Steyn did not disappoint, by the way. All of my prejudices and preconceptions were borne out. He is an insufferably smug man, his sense of self-importance positively oozing from his frame. He mentioned something about "Kinsella's cameraman": "Not me," I said. (Hey, Warren, I would have come close to winning a consolation prize, though, had cameras been permitted on the floor. Steyn shook hands with Paul Fromm. And he shook hands with Doug Christie.)

The hearing room was only a little over half-full. The place was a veritable Who's Who of Canadian fascists and assorted far-right propagandists. Fromm and Christie were part of the Lemire team. They sat together and wore matching black cowboy boots. Lemire himself--surprisingly corpulent, I suspect his Aryan warrior days are over--didn't utter a word all day. Why bother? His mouthpiece Barbara Kulaszka was never at a loss for words, and Christie, who looks eerily similar to the Walkin' Dude, thundered and hectored. Besides, as Fromm noted for the record, Richard Warman wasn't even present, and in fact hadn't attended the last twenty days of the hearings.

The affable old coot beside me, holding a handsome book about Ottawa that he had published himself, turned out to be Ian Verner Macdonald. He gave me his card. (He presented the book to Marc Steyn. On leaving, Steyn shook hands with him, too.) Sitting behind Macdonald, unless my eyes were playing tricks on me, was local Holocaust-denier Philip Belgrave. Alex Kulbashian was there as well, and the Free Dominion website moderators owners, Connie and Mark Fournier. Compared to them, spectators Deborah Gyapong and frequent commenter Peter seemed quite moderate and charming, and indeed I suspect they are, even without the comparison.
We had some good conversation. In fact I rather liked them--reasonable, civil, pleasant, wrong-headed....Most of the other people present were sitting with the former crowd. They all seemed to know each other.

But then, I knew quite a few people as well, as it happened. The head of security turned out to be a former labour liaison from the Ottawa Police; we've sparred with each other
in a friendly way for years. Dean Steacy, the CHRC investigator in the hot-seat for most of the day, was the President of the CHRC PSAC Local not that long ago, and we'd crossed paths quite a few times when I was a PSAC official. It was nice finally meeting the sprightly Kady O'Malley in person, who told me she was already receiving hateful mail from the Small Dead Animals crowd in response to her liveblogging. Quelle surprise.

Security was tight. Uniformed officers were stationed strategically, and some plainclothes folks with those little curly ear-thingies. (What are those plastic tubes for? Delivering nutrients?) All of us were frisked each time we entered the hearing room. But there was no need to worry: there were a couple of muscle-bound skinheads around, but the older generation of Nazis sported
love-handles and a goodly amount of grey hair. Portly Paul Fromm wore a pinstripe suit. Doug Christie removed his black cowboy hat in the august chamber. The skins behind me stopped chattering when the presiding Tribunal member, Athanasios Hadjis, took his place on the bench. Yes, the good grey system has a way of disciplining even the wilder and woolier elements of Canadian politics. (Michel Foucault had a thing or two to say about that.)

So, then, what happened?
Kulaszka started things off. Her first witness was the Director of the Law Enforcement Support Team at Bell Canada, who was able to provide the name and address of the person with an IP address matching "Jadewarr" at the same time as the latter posted to a far-right website. It wasn't Dean Steacy, though, who readily admitted later that he was "Jadewarr." Indeed, it was someone that no one in the room had ever heard of--and this mystery never did get solved. Trust the bone-headed Marc Lemire, though: he put up her name and address at his blogsite, exposing her to God-knows-what antics from the local neo-Nazi contingent. Later in the afternoon, when this became known, he was ordered to remove this information, but last I looked, it was still there.

Her second witness was Hannya Rizk, a diffident CHRC staffer. The aim was to try to show that she had been "trained" by Richard Warman while he was a CHRC investigator, and that she kept in touch with him about cases subsequently. Turns out he showed her how to use a couple of software packages, freely available on the Internet, to find out how to track down the owners of websites.

Marc Lemire was her first full investigation. Had Warman mentioned the Lemire case to her during her "training?" No. Doug Christie then took a turn at it. Did Warman tell her he and others were posting messages to "target sites?" No. The same question, asked again. No. And no. And no. He was fishing in an empty pond. No more questions.

Third witness, the low-key, completely unflappable Dean Steacy. Kulaszka and Christie went after him like tigers for the rest of the day. They didn't leave a mark on him.

Yes, he was "Jadewarr." This was short for "Jade Warrior," the protagonist of a novel he liked as a teenager. He posted on several right-wing sites in the course of investigations. He did so to try to elicit information. He had to register on the sites, because public access was restricted. He would monitor websites when a complaint had been received, or if there was the potential for one--when he had been notified by a would-be complainant that a complaint was in the works. No, he wouldn't name people who did not end up submitting a formal complaint. They had an expectation of confidentiality, and he was going to honour that, period. Margot Blight, counsel for the CHRC, rose to his defence, citing the four-prong Wigmore test. That was the end of that.

The day wore on. On occasion,
the legally blind Steacy would ask his interrogators to show a little courtesy and explain what documents they were referring to. (Fromm had a go at him, demanding to know how he could do his Internet work when he was blind.) When questions had already been asked and answered, Steacy would point it out. He brooked no nonsense, in his understated way. No, he didn't discuss any cases with Warman. Yes, his manager knew about his postings. No, he didn't work on any file with Warman.

Then the conversation turned to what the respondent's team thought could be collusion between various police forces and the CHRC.
Christie thought he was onto something, and kept plugging away, but for all his casts he kept reeling in old shoes. Information is indeed shared between the Commission and the police. Steacy and other investigators have the power to issue warrants, so that it wasn't a case of improperly relying on police powers to accomplish what they could not do legally themselves. Does the CHRC "orchestrate" criminal prosecutions? No.

The session mercifully ended around 6:00 pm. Conclusion? No smoking gun. No solid indication that CHRC investigators had done anything wrong at all. No collusion with Richard Warman. No Perry Mason moment. Anti-climax. I can't wait until June. I'm thinking of heading up to Oakville, or Mississauga, or wherever the next session is held. Have blog, will travel. There might even be an ending to this saga someday.

UPDATE: (March 27)

I have been reminded that Mark and Connie Fournier are no longer the owners of Free Dominion. There's a bit of a saga there--but I'll let them explain.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Help yourself, Fur

Happy to be of assistance.

UPDATE: (March 26)

Mark Collins, in the comments, makes a good point, and from concrete experience, too. My throwaway reference to a "lame" post was entirely (and perhaps inappropriately) metaphorical.

Kate's Konfusion

I'm going to be the spoiler here. My fellow bloggers, let's not go too far, calling Kate McMillan a Holocaust-denier and such. She's nothing of the kind.

Her post yesterday has already attracted so much contumely that the latter might well serve as an object lesson to her--she's over-fond of calling people anti-Semites, is our Kate, and the biter is now well and truly bit.

But Kate is no Holocaust-denier. She merely published a stunning example of political illiteracy.
The post is actually about her arch-enemy Warren Kinsella, written in her usual offhand manner. Kinsella had ventured the opinion that people went to war in 1939 to fight Nazism, and we should perhaps remember that, rather than putting up with young neo-Nazi thugs in Calgary and sucking up to the Right's current victime du jour, Marc Lemire. Something along those lines. So Kate responds by alleging that Kinsella is in bed with Hezbollah. And she quotes someone even more boneheaded (go chase up the link for yourselves) who says, referring to Kinsella, "You're just as elitist, just as tyrannical, and just as much a dictator as those you profess to despise." Calling Mike Godwin...

But this tiresome hyperbole ("Heil Kinsella" doesn't have the same, er, ring to it, but maybe that's just me) isn't what's interesting about the post. It's the first part that has everyone talking, and rightly so. Here it is:

The Nazis Didn't Carry Out The Holocaust. The German state did that. National Socialism just gave the machinery of state censorship and oppression a new brand name and game plan.

The link here is to Mike Brock, who says,

Nazis used secret courts, secret judges and secret evidence to dish out the terror they did on the Jewish people of Western Europe. Certainly, Human Rights Commissions in Canada have not committed the same atrocities that were committed in the Nazi courts. But I suppose my point is—as is the point of many free speech advocates and libertarians—is that it's only a matter of degree.

Good grief. "A matter of degree." And the man's serious. This, brothers and sisters, is conservatism on acid. And he's obviously been passing the purple mikes around with a generous hand.

has dropped a tab or two, it seems. Needless to say, she's cheered on mindlessly by her ditto-heads, but Mark Collins (of Daimnation and The Torch) knows enough history to put up a dignified opposition, and he has sufficient conservative street cred to avoid the usual trashing that dissenters routinely get over there. He notes, quite rightly, that a lot of the killing of Jews was done by Nazi Party members operating outside the state.* A further commenter decries her post as "ahistorical," and takes what we might call the commonsense view: states don't kill people; people kill people. The nub of Kate's argument, on the other hand, is the very reverse: Nazis didn't kill people--the German state killed people.

I don't agree with either position.

Let's start with "the state." A state is not a thing. Rather, it is an ever-changing set of relationships between people and institutions. States don't think; they don't feel; they don't kill. Where a state is run by a latter-day sovereign like Adolf Hitler, if I might use Giorgio Agamben's terminology, the machinery of the state is in his hands, and in those of other people permitted to wield power in his name. He's not so much above the law as he is the giver of the law. And his state institutions will, if he so decides, enable people to murder. In that sense they are themselves weapons.

But that is really as far as one can stretch things. In any case, the Third Reich wasn't some generic "state" that fell into the wrong hands. It was a Nazi state, run by and for Nazis, its institutions shaped by Nazi ideology. Canada isn't the Third Reich, our Human Rights Commissions (which oversee a process that mediates complaints between citizens) are not Nazi constructs, and Kinsella is not Hitler. I'm amazed I should have to make these points, but I guess I shouldn't be.

Nazis killed people, and the state gave a lot of them the authority to act. We, on the other hand, have separation of powers, responsible government (I refer to the governance structure, not to the Harper regime), elections, a
Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and--thank goodness--Human Rights Commissions. Nazis don't like Human Rights Commissions. Oh, I know, a lot of other folks have taken a dislike to them, too. And I wouldn't say they're all Nazis, of course not. But could it be, at least in some cases, that--it's only a matter of degree?

Collins stands corrected, I believe, by another commenter, who points out that a number of people other than Jews--Roma, gays, Poles, political dissenters--perished in the Holocaust as well. Indeed, the Holocaust consumed twelve million people, of whom six million were not Jewish.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


"I think it is no coincidence that the Chinese firewall suppressing information about the Tibetan uprising is happening on the eve of the Lemire case."

--Deborah Gyapong


Warman v. Lemire: the Right gets twitchy

A certain amount of backpedaling and nervousness has been cropping up in the hitherto rock-solid righteous ranks of the anti-HRC crowd, as BigCityLib has noted.

Mark Steyn, who began by fawning all over Marc Lemire's mouthpiece, Barbara "crowds of hostile Jews" Kulaszka, added a huge postscript to his original words of praise, distancing himself, or trying to, from Kulaszka's "unsavoury associations" (although not from her own writings). Now, in a further backpedaling exercise, he writes, "
I don't spend my time hanging out on white-supremacist websites, and I get a little queasy at some of the e-mail correspondence I wake up to in the morning."

Well, I for one don't blame Steyn, who appears to be getting a bit rattled--he must know, for example, that contrary to what he claims, the "Levant prosecution" had nothing to do with the hated Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (different jurisdiction). Let's have a looky-see at the fellow the Right has been busting a gut for (remember, the anti-Nazi Richard Warman is the enemy here, folks)--a former leader of the Heritage Front.

Lemire, seen in the photo above* (and **) with his erstwhile employer Ernst Zündel, has made a practice of denying he is anything but a freedom-loving citizen:

Is Marc Lemire a “white supremacist” / “Neo-Nazi”? Of course the answer is no, but the best response I can ever give is that after being under the microscope of the CHRC (and even the police thanks to Richard Warman) for at least 6 years, they have YET TO FIND A SINGLE WORD I HAVE WRITTEN THAT IS “HATE”. All they can claim is me posting articles from newspapers, House of Commons Hansard and even the human rights act itself as “Prima Facie” evidence that I somehow promote hate.

Lemire, in fact, has been doing the old "Nazi-schmazi" routine from the beginning. Here's some of his stuff from the bad old Usenet days, h/t Nizkor:

NOW OVER 50 MEGS OF REVISIONIST PICTURES AND TEXT FILES!!! including picture files of ERNST ZUNDEL'S house which was lit on fire by the Jewish Armed Resistance

I hold the Jewish press in Canada partly to blame because they have truned [sic] Mr. Zundel into the devil. They have defamed his character forquite along [sic] time. Which after time brings these type of actions.

Lest your mind automatically reject the words of Hitler out of some political reflexive habit, remember that he witnessed the decline and fall of another multi-cultural state, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so
he knows what he's taking [sic] about...

Wade through this stuff if you must. As he publishes cartloads of the vilest stuff imaginable, he insists all the way through that he's no Nazi, no white supremacist, no Holocaust-denier. A classic case, it seems to me, of having his cake and eating it too.

None other than Connie Fournier of Free Dominion saw him for what he really was some time ago and even banned him from her site--but has no compunctions about working with him.

Lie down with dogs, they say, and get up with fleas. And there's sure a lot of scratching going on about now.

*UPDATE: (March 30) The authenticity of this photo is now disputed. The source is the well-respected Nizkor site. The photo has been displayed at that site since at least 1999 with no complaint from the former Heritage Front chief.

**UPDATE: (March 31) As noted here, Nizkor cannot vouch for the authenticity of the photograph. Obviously, in that case, neither can I. I withdraw, therefore, the assertion that Marc Lemire is pictured in the photograph above.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Power trip: OC Transpo

Something is badly broken at Ottawa's municipal bus service, OC Transpo. A big hat-tip to apply-liberally and to the Ottawa Sun's Ron Corbett for this story. It's one that deserves wide circulation, so I thought I'd do my bit.

Readers will remember my run-in with ill-trained rent-a-cops at the Greater Toronto Airport not long ago. The increasing use of contracted-out uniformed goons in North America is a serious cause for concern, in fact. It is hard enough to make regular police forces accountable, as the killing of Robert Dziekanski, at the hands of RCMP officers who are still on active duty, graphically illustrates. But, imperfect as they no doubt are, there are public complaints processes that at least permit the semblance of accountability: and, when they fail, as they so often do, to punish police abuses, they become in themselves the subject of public scrutiny and pressure.

We know, in other words, where to go if a police officer misbehaves. Without these minimal and imperfect safeguards, we might end up with routine practices somewhat more like this recent OC Transpo outrage. A disabled man, trying to find his way home, was accosted by rent-a-cops, who held him, handcuffed him, and possibly robbed him as well. Lines of accountability, in such cases, are far less clear.

Obviously the victim in question seems to have a sterling civil case for false arrest against OC Transpo and their hired muscle, if a lawyer is willing to take it on pro bono. (A former government scientist, he is now struggling to live on a disability pension.) But my question is this: are the Ottawa Police involved in this case? Because they should be.

If the story holds, the rent-a-cops in this case, who have had the status of "special constables" since April 1, 2007 (allowing them to make arrests), appear to be guilty of
forcible confinement, assault and possibly theft. A person is guilty of forcible confinement, as set out in Section 279(2) of the Code, "who, without lawful authority, confines, imprisons or forcibly seizes another person" [emphasis mine--DD]. Assault is defined in Section 265(1) of the Code: "A person commits an assault when (a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly."

So, are the Ottawa police all over this case? They ought to be. Not only does the matter, as reported, clearly warrant their involvement; it is surely in the interests of proper law enforcement that private security agents, "special constables" or otherwise, not be permitted to usurp and exceed legitimate police authority. I shall not be alone, I suspect, in expecting the Ottawa Police Services to commence an immediate investigation.

The dumbing of America continues

'nuff said.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Sympathy for the devil

Mark Steyn has a new friend. "I was unfamiliar with the sterling work of Marc Lemire's lawyer, Barbara Kulaszka. But she's awful good," he gushes.

The name rang a bell. Oh, yes, the lawyer who made a career out of defending far-right nutbars like Ernst Zündel-- the one who edited a book called
Did Six Million Really Die? Report of the Evidence in the Canadian 'False News' Trial of Ernst Zündel -- 1988. A foreword is provided by Robert Faurisson. A Holocaust-denying pamphlet is included as an Appendix.

In her editor's preface, Kulaszka writes:

Zündel was being portrayed in the media as a man of hatred; but the man I saw in the courtroom was calm and always gracious to everyone he dealt with. When he testified, he did not repudiate his belief in Germans or Germany or Adolf Hitler. He expressed clearly his admiration for their accomplishments and his disbelief that they had committed what is known as the "Holocaust". Perhaps I had never really known what it meant to be courageous before that trial; but I knew what it meant after I watched Ernst Zündel testify to his true beliefs notwithstanding his knowledge that the voicing of those beliefs would almost certainly seal his conviction.

And everyday as I watched defence attorney Douglas Christie, his legal assistant Keltie Zubko and the various defence witnesses make their way through crowds of hostile Jews, some of whom spat on them, as I watched them being savaged by a hysterical media, as I experienced the lynch-mob atmosphere of that trial day after day, I learned again and again what real courage was and what real dedication to the principles of a free society meant. It affected me profoundly. When the second Zündel trial began in 1988, it was no accident that I had also become part of the defence team.

Ah, the courageous Aryan Ernst Zündel, beset by "crowds of hostile Jews." One can only be inspired by such an example of bravery. Right?

Strange bedfellows in the war on Human Rights Commissions? Or just bedfellows? You decide.

UPDATE: (March 22)

Steyn has added a PS longer than his original post, an apologia of sorts: "Yes, yes, I know Ms Kulaszka has unsavoury associations - Ernst Zundel et al. But I'm not looking for a date, I'm admiring her pushback against an out-of-control state agency."

Ah. Jetzt ist alles klar. My seething brain is constructing a PPS already: "Albert Speer sure could design a mean public building. And Hitler--well, besides that, he was a hell of a public speaker, wasn't he? And that Eichmann guy--what a head for figures he had!"

The wrath of God: transcript

Listen up, idiots! You don't speak for Me!

And, frankly, I'm not about to get on speaking terms with you anytime soon. So don't give us this "the Lord is talking to me" crap all the time. The Lord is out of town. The Lord wouldn't be caught dead with you, even if I could die. The Lord has better things to do. The Lord is busy turning water into wine and hanging out and chilling with His buddies. And even when I do talk to you, you thick bastards, you don't listen unless I yell. Like I'm having to do right now.

You know who you are: so-con bigots who never met a woman you didn't hate and a fetus you didn't love, Jesus-on-toast/bathroom walls/couches nutbars, One Nation Under Godders, In God We Trusters, Allah-u-akhbar beheaders, wide-stance homophobes, racists, young earth creationists, Eretz Israelites, prudes,
dribbling televangelists complete with boring, godawful© Christian "music," Republicans, snivelling Biblical inerrancy illiterates, Baptists (damn, I hate Baptists)...

Intelligent Design? Hell, I've made a boo-boo or two in My time. Can you say "Fred Phelps?" Oh, yeah, and the upward-draining sinuses. And the testicles outside the body, loaded with nerve-endings. Not one of My best days. I'm not perfect, you know. (What, you didn't? Morons! I made you, didn't I? Case closed.)

Lookit, I went to a fair bit of trouble for this shindig. I gave you a pretty good planet, lots of finger food, bodies ripe for lovin', real shit-kicking music of the spheres, enough intelligence to get this party started, and you went and trashed the place. And now you want to speak in My name? And run governments in My name? And fight wars in My name? Who the hell do you think you are, you dumb, ignorant dickwads?

Oooh, I'm starting to get pissed off. Better pray I don't go all the way with that.

I should have known better when I saw what you did to My kid. Forget the Second Coming of Christ, assholes, you're not gonna get a chance to do that again. And it's the last time I send Jizreel to talk to some guy in a cave, too. Neither of them could get a damn thing straight. Next time I'll go Myself. As for those stupid I am, giving the whole of the dispensation, what I thought was a not-half-bad bit of revelation, by the way, and that half-wit Moses is trying to take notes with a friggen chisel. You know, I'm thinking of pouring out the seven vials right now. How would you like them apples, Pastor Hagee, you dumb shithead?

Better take a deep breath and try not to create anything new here.

OK, I'll do you a deal, and if you're halfway brighter than a housefly (I know, not one of my better moves, I had Creator's block there for awhile, best I could do) you'll take it. I don't smite you with emerods, you stop talking about me. I don't hurl down a thunderbolt or two, you stop telling other folks how to live. I don't blow out the sun like a friggen match, asswipes, and you get the hell out of politics. In fact, get the hell out of My sight. (Well, that's impossible, come to think of it. But do your best.)

Don't, do not, mess with me, dudes. Falwell knows what I'm talking about. Let's put it this way--he's no longer the fat dumbass you used to gawp at. I have no idea what we'll do with the grease. Back off. Shut up and try to look pretty. Do something halfway useful. And maybe--just maybe--I'll let you live. And when you finally shuffle off those hideous mortal coils of yours, maybe--just maybe--I'll spare you the pork barbecue. But I'm not gonna tell you twice.

[This has been a blogpost against theocracy. And believe Me, I know what I'm talking about.]

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wright and wrong

"Incendiary." "Racist." So what did Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright say, exactly?

Consider the following a kind of counter-fisking. I've read what he said, and you know what? I agree with most of it. I'll go further--the comments of "in the fold" white preachers who happen to support John McCain and the Republican Party are true examples of horrendous bigotry--but no one's going after them. Hypocrisy. Double standards. Racist American media and pols rush to "judge" (politically assassinate) Barack Obama because of comments that his pastor made, comments that are, in fact, pretty mild compared to the evil outpourings of the Falwells and Buchanans of this world.

Pastor Wright has delivered 5,000 sermons. Two minutes have been extracted by the Obama-haters. Here they are:

1) "The government gives them [African Americans] the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

After Contragate, who can doubt that the US administration is, well, equivocal on the drug issue, depending on circumstances. Drugs are a scourge in America, especially amongst the poor. But the cynicism of the Powers That Be is truly extraordinary. A man who has seen the results of crack cocaine in his community might be forgiven--one would have thought--for being passionately angry about an administration that preaches against drugs and facilitates their circulation at the same time.

2)After September 11, 2001, Pastor Wright said: "We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."

There's nothing very new here: this is standard root cause theory. One looks for compassion, of course, for the victims of this crime against humanity--but we don't know what the pastor said on that matter. As for the motivations behind it, though--who can argue against the proposition that, before 9/11, the US thought its home territory was in a different galaxy, not part of this world, a world where children die because of US sanctions, and a Secretary of State says, "We think the price is worth it." A world where civilians are routinely slaughtered, where US-led wars have killed, not thousands, but hundreds of thousands. Perhaps the pastor was not tactful. Perhaps he did not express the proper degree of sympathy for the victims of an atrocity that killed Blacks and whites indiscriminately. But was he wrong?

3) "It just came to me within the past few weeks, y'all, why so many folks are hating on Barack Obama. He doesn't fit the model. He ain't white, he ain't rich, and he ain't privileged. Hillary fits the mold. Europeans fit the mold, Giuliani fits the mold. Rich white men fit the mold. Hillary never had a cab whiz past her and not pick her up because her skin was the wrong colour. Hillary never had to worry about being pulled over in her car as a black man driving in the wrong… I am sick of Negroes who just do not get it. Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single parent home, Barack was. Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain't never been called a nigger. Hillary has never had her people defined as non-persons."

Does this paragraph really need a defence? These truths are self-evident. Anyone who argues that US politics aren't racialized is living on another planet. Of course they are. The extreme reaction to Wright's comments, dare I say it, is just another manifestation of this.

4) Bill Clinton "did the same thing to us that he did to Monica Lewinsky."

A throwaway line like this is hardly worth dealing with. It's part of the rhetorical the stock-in-trade of those, on both sides of the political spectrum, who want to comment negatively about their opposition. Big deal. Should such a comment cost Obama the presidency?

5) "In the 21st century, white America got a wake-up call after 9/11/01. White America and the Western world came to realize that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just “disappeared” as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring Black concerns. The hundreds of thousands who have been killed in Rwanda, in Angola, in Zimbabwe, in Mozambique and in Kenya are still invisible. There has been no international uproar about the thousands of Black lives lost, just about the loss of white life, American life and British life!"

Well, is this essentially true or is it not? The killing of brown people simply doesn't appear to garner the same concern in the North American public mind. One million (not hundreds of thousands) of Rwandans died--but what was the West's response? Ethnic cleansing outrages of the same kind but considerably less in scale in the former Yugoslavia warranted a multi-country offensive.

6) “The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. The government lied.”

Here the good pastor is simply retailing a hoary old piece of urban folklore still current in the Black community. It's obviously not literally true. But does the claim convey any meaning at all? Well, there was the infamous Tuskagee experiment. And the practice of experimenting on Third World people remains to this day; the anti-AIDS antiviral drug AZT was first tested on Third World women--half of them, unbeknownst to them, were given a
placebo. This grossly unethical conduct, which happened under the Clinton administration, was the subject of protest at the time. More than a thousand babies may have died because of this criminal act.

Jeremiah Wright, God help him, was essentially telling it like it is. Obama's subsequent speech, certainly, was a masterpiece of political skating, positively artistic. But, if the US campaign were not so fraught with half-thought thoughts, prejudices, knee-jerk reactions and omnipresent racism, neither he nor his pastor would have anything to apologize for. "Make it plain," Malcolm X used to tell his supporters. Now, in case we didn't know already, we have learned the cost of doing that in present-day America.