Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It's Not Just About The Jews. It's About All Of Us

I ask this question: why is Ernst Zündel in a German prison and David Irving in an Austrian one? Because both those countries, based on well justified national shame, make it a law to deny the Holocaust.
Surely this is unacceptable.
That’s the debate my fellow columnist and esteemed colleague Rafe Mair has just set in motion in the Tyee. And quite possibly it would be unacceptable, as he argues, if it were entirely accurate. It isn’t.
In fact, Zündel is in a German prison because he was convicted on 14 counts of inciting hatred. He had engaged in anti-Semitic activities for years, and these activities included using his website to spread the foul and hateful lie known as "Holocaust denial" - which is indeed a crime in Germany.
It is also a fact that although he engaged in his disgusting activities for several years in Canada, Zündel is in a German prison because he is a German. He was found to be a dangerously undesirable non-citizen (notwithstanding the currently fashionable "No One Is Illegal" rhetoric) under Canada's Security Certificate law and he was lodged in a Toronto prison in 2003. His appeals were exhausted in 2005, at which point he was issued a one-way ticket back to his beloved fatherland.
Mair cites Zundel's successful battles against the "false news" provisions of Canada's criminal code and concludes: The fact that Zündel escaped the consequences of his filthy mind and actions tells me that Canadians are much inclined to regard freeing people like that as the insurance premium free people pay for the preservation of that freedom.
Again, that's not quite right. Zündel did not escape the consequences of his filthy mind in Canada, so Canadians deserve neither credit nor blame. It’s true that Zündel successfully fought his Criminal Code charges on the grounds that the crime of spreading “false news” was an unwarranted restraint on free speech, but in 2002 a Canadian tribunal found Zündel guilty on charges that he had violated Section 13 of Canada’s Human Rights Act.
That section prohibits the act of inciting hatred or contempt of a group identifiable by “race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for which a pardon has been granted.” Zündel was found to have quite clearly and unambiguously engaged in the act of inciting a hatred or contempt of Jews.
Zündel fled Canada prior to the finding, continued operating his website from the United States, then got deported back to Canada where he was locked up under a Security Certificate. He was then deported to Germany where he was tried, convicted and ultimately tossed into The Manheim Crowbar Hotel on February 15, to serve a five-year sentence.
Zündel’s German conviction rested partly upon the same evidence gathered against him for his 2002 Canadian Human Rights Act violations. So, if there some big debate Canadians should be having about this, as Rafe proposes, it should be about whether Section 13 of the Human Right Act is an unwarranted trespass upon free speech.
Section 13 states: “It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically [“including the Internet”] 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."
I’m not so convinced that this law unreasonably restrains free speech. Whether it does or not, it is most certainly not just about holocaust denial, and it is most certainly not just about a prohibition on the incitement to hatred of Jews.
It’s about prohibiting the incitement to hatred of Muslims, Catholics, Asians, gay people, and so on. We're Canadians, and that’s the way our law works.
It's about all of us.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

This Isn't About Islamophobia: It's About Solidarity

When a referee ordered 11-year-old Asmahan Mansour off the soccer field because she was wearing a hijab, her teammates protested by forfeiting the game. The referee was Muslim, by the way. Asmahan's mother, an Italian immigrant who'd married a Lebanese Muslim, says Asmahan started wearing the hijab of her own volition a couple years back.

In Australia a couple of years ago, a soccer player named Afifa Saad was also ordered to remove her hijab. She refused to remove it and her teammates - as well as the teammates of the opposing team - supported her.

Around the same time, in British Columbia, 17-year-old Gurinder Dah was ordered off the field and told he had to remove his "patka," one of those mini-turbans Sikh boys wear, and the entire team from Calgary’s Northwest United stood by him and walked out of the game.

It's about solidarity. So is this. The kids are winning. The rest is noise.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Monbiot: "Why do I bother with these morons?"

"Because they are destroying the movements some of us have spent a long time trying to build," George Monbiot writes in the Guardian today. It started here, and for his pains, this is what Monbiot heard:

"You did this hit piece because your corporate masters instructed you to. You are a controlled asset of the new world order ... bought and paid for." "Everyone has some skeleton in the cupboard. How else would MI5 and special branch recruit agents?" "Shill, traitor, sleeper", "leftwing gatekeeper", "accessory after the fact", "political whore of the biggest conspiracy of them all".

I'm all of these things and more, as I've learned from the responses to my Tyee column in recent weeks:

I'm an apologist and propagandist for European Jewry, an elite tool of the Zionists, a fomenter of hate, a warmonger ideologue, a peace-movement slanderer, a Ziocon creep and an infiltrator. I'm a diatribe-mongering Islam-despising, war-loving former girl named Teri who had a sex change operation, a Coulterian protege-provocateur, a friend of George Bush, a shill for the Israel lobby, a CIA agent, a secret advocate of Dershowitzianism, and "evidence of just how deeply the Israel Lobby has infiltrated every aspect of our media." I'm a gatekeeper to the Ziocon false-flag hegemony. I'm an "Aspernazi whore."

My favourite: According to George Galloway, I'm proof that "the degeneration of that part of what once might have been considered left has no limit."

Comrade Andrew has come up with a remedy: "My plan is to fight madness with madness. It's a battle the conspiracy nuts cannot hope to win. For I am the Moscow of madness, whereas they are merely the provincial weather stations."

This is the result:

UPDATE: Andrew's 9-11 Video and his accompanying essay is up on Tyee. Straightaway, the whackjobs were at him like a pack of rats. Andrew's nailed it: ". . .the real danger posed by the irrational in this Age of Reason is that, utterly disowned, it will wander the streets unrecognized, and then come up behind you and bite you on the ass. Geopolitically and metaphorically speaking, that's what happened with 9-11. . ."

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Sensible Ruling On The Security Certificates

Last week, I spoke with Alan Borovoy about his new book, Categorically Incorrect: Ethical Fallacies in Canada's War on Terror, and about that ongoing civil-rights dilemma that has been especially clouded by activist hyperventilation - security certificates.

"Security certificates authorize the deportation of would-be immigrants regarded as threats to national security. But they’ve resulted in a kind of detention without trial for individuals who choose to fight deportation. A key problem is the reluctance of intelligence agencies to fully reveal the evidence that triggered the certificate. Borovoy proposes a system of security­-cleared lawyers, fully informed of the evidence, who can then fairly and effectively argue their clients’ case."

And that's pretty well what the Supreme Court of Canada proposes in its long-awaited ruling on the law today. But just like last week's craziness, the news media is all over the map, as the National Post, sensibly for once, points out.

Get a grip, people.

Clonmult 1921: A Glavin Who Was "Not So Lucky"

"The men inside were outnumbered. There was only one exit from the house so, rather than make a run for it, they dropped their arms and surrendered themselves. As soon as they opened the door, the Black and Tans opened fire. Captain Aherne was shot in the heart and died instantly. Volunteer Glavin was not so lucky. He was riddled with bullets, shot a number of times in the face."

A great-uncle of ours. That's him, far left, second row. There were 12 killed and two were later executed. Lots of grisly stories about it when I was a kid.

The official version: "A sortie from the house was attempted in the hope that assistance could be organised from the local company. The acting O/C, Captain Jack O'Connell managed to break through but was unable to bring help on time. The Volunteers trapped inside made a desperate but unsuccessful attempt to escape through a narrow opening in the gable. With the farmhouse burning around them an attempt was made to surrender but many of the Volunteers were killed in a hail of bullets from the Black and Tan forces who had come to reinforce the British regulars." And James was killed "while trying to breach the gable."

The usual suspects came out in colours at last weekend's commemoration, I see.
The war is over, and it accomplished nothing. They should get with the program.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An Honest Critique of Nick Cohen, From The Left

It comes from Stan Crooke of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, a British Marxist group. You don't have to side with Crooke or with the Workers' Liberty crowd (I don't) to agree that Crooke has undertaken an honest engagement with the ideas in Cohen's book, What's Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way.

Where I do agree with Crooke, owing to my own personal experience (see the comments bedlam that followed my review of What's Left?, discussed here), is on the matter of the vile content of much of the "left" criticism Cohen's book has provoked. Crooke writes:

The reference to Cohen’s “Zionist buddies” was not unique. Some contributors to other discussion threads – “Comment is Free” carried several reviews of Cohen’s book – also homed in on Cohen’s “tribal loyalties” and the cover-up operation he was conducting for Israel.

As one well-read contributor put it: “I don’t want to dwell on Cohen’s book, having never read it. But I don’t have to – it is an old, dishonest argument. I can turn to Fox for a more entertaining version. The fear of ‘Islamofascism’ is simply a tactic to let Israel get away with crimes. This is so ridiculously obvious that it would be funny if the stakes weren’t so high.”

Contributors on other threads expressed themselves more openly. One of them explained that Cohen (“just a PR man for Israeli fascists”) supported the invasion of Iraq “for reasons closely connected to his Zionism,” while another asked the question: “It is suspect that no-one in the media has made the point of Cohen’s tribal loyalties, being a Jew he is of course an active Zionists as well. Yet this important fact is never discussed. I wonder why?”

In Australia, meanwhile, Julie Szego, writing in The Age, dives into the debate and makes an interesting point about the wisdom of hindsight that the "anti-war" left claims with respect to Anglo-American invasion of Iraq: "It doesn't answer why almost no one marched for the women oppressed by the Taliban, but plenty marched against a war that promised to liberate them. It doesn't answer why the streets weren't choked with protesters when Saddam gassed Kurds. It doesn't answer why they aren't choked now with protesters demanding an end to genocide in Sudan's Darfur."

Monday, February 19, 2007

February 20: The Day Canucks Curse Diefenbaker

It was on this day in 1959 that Prime Minister John Diefenbaker cancelled the Avro Arrow project, wrecking Canada's cutting-edge aeronautics industry and destroying 30,000 jobs in one fell swoop.
Just one result was the loss to Canada of more than 30 top scientists and engineers who were immediately scooped up by NASA for the Americans' Mercury, Gemini and Appollo manned space programs. The Canadians ended up playing leading roles in putting an American on the moon.
My pal the space nut and historian Chris Gainor tells the whole astonishing tale in his book Arrows to the Moon: Avro's Engineers and the Space Race. You can watch a CTV interview with Chris about it all right here, and he's taken a closer look at starstruck Canucks in his latest book, Canada In Space.
(Chris is on a break from his weird post-doc space studies at the moment. He's working for the New Democratic Party's communications staff, having survived the recent Potato-Head Purge.)
Damn you, John Diefenbaker!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Where North America's Gung Hay Fat Choy Began

A great day downtown Victoria today, in North America's oldest Chinatown. Never seen Fisgard Street so packed for the New Year's celebrations. Year of the Pig. Woo Hoo! Below, a marauding dragon, close up. . .

. . . and here's one of me and the lads (Eamonn & Conall) looking goofy:


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Aaronovitch on Nick Cohen, and a Related Matter

"Naturally, Cohen’s critics argue that he mistakes the excesses of the far Left for the attitudes of the mainstream, but if only that were true. Learned progressive journals will lend their letters sections to debate just how bad a liar Tony Blair actually is, while running articles seeking to absolve the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, from entirely justified accusations of antiSemitism.

"And it has become a fairly widespread notion on the Left that what counts is “antiimperialism”, that America is the greatest threat to world peace and the real terrorist state, whereas Islamism is an understandable, if occasionally regrettable reaction to Western provocation – a reactive movement of the downtrodden.

"Accordingly we are invited to disarm."

Which makes me wonder what, exactly, these protestors would put in place of Security Certificates, and how many of them believe the detainees are innocent, and how many believe they're guilty.

Friday, February 16, 2007

I Simply Cannot Believe This Is Really Happening

An NDP official in Victoria has been suspended by the party because of an e-mail he sent, describing the Liberal who defeated him in the last election as a "potato head."

You read that correctly.

Mike Hanson, on the New Democratic Party's communications staff, is being disciplined by NDP leader Carole James for his "inappropriate" use of the term potato head in reference to Liberal MLA Kevin Krueger, in a private e-mail to party members, that Krueger isn't even complaining about.

"That is, you know, the way that I do politics, the way that I will continue to do politics," James explained, giving us all more great politics to look forward to.

It gets better: Mr. Potato Head only recently took over the job of minister of state for mines from Bill Bennett, who was turfed from the job because of an e-mail that he wrote, which was the most straightforward, plain-spoken correspondence I have read from a politician in these parts for a long, long time.

It was in response to an absurd, insulting screed from the president of the Fernie Rod and Gun Club about "the rights of B.C. hunters" and how Americans are so much smarter than us in the way they allocate hunting rights. Bennett wrote: "It is my understanding that you are an American, so I don't give a shit what your opinion is on Canada or Canadian residents. . . I will continue to work for hunters and anglers in the East Kootenay as I always have and you will continue to be a self-inflated, pompous, American know-it-all. Have a nice day. Bill Bennett."

I'd have promoted Bennett. And given Hanson a raise.

My Guess: The Truth Lies Somewhere Between

This: "Canada taking steps back to sanity"

And this: "Canada court says bin Laden employee can be freed"

Both seem to be perfect examples of Alan Borovoy's thesis about ethical fallacies, which I was on about this week.

Whatever it is, something is getting lost in translation. Like this:

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Alan Borovoy: Ethical Fallacies In "Terror" Debates

By staking out a critical perspective at a safe distance from current fashions in left-wing thinking, Alan Borovoy, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, can see draconian elements in Canada's anti-terror law that have gone largely unnoticed.

Typical of the rare insight that Borovoy’s view allows is the identification of a glaring contradiction in the law that casts a wide net around any contribution to violent, anti-government activity, at home or abroad.
“This prohibition is formulated in such broad terms that it could now be a crime for Canadians to donate money to an armed indigenous insurrection against the governments of China, Iran or North Korea,” Borovoy writes disapprovingly, in Categorically Incorrect: Ethical Fallacies in Canada's War on Terror. “After all, certain repressive dictatorships are not likely to be removed without some amount of violence.”
Similarly, Canadian authorities are absurdly obliged to turn away asylum seekers who are legitimate freedom fighters from totalitarian regimes.
- - that's from my Chronicles column this week.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

We are Not Alone: Saddam, Kyoto, and Spacemen

Cairo, 7 Feb. (AKI) - A book claiming that executed former dictator Saddam Hussein is actually alive and well has become a best seller and is reported to have sold more copies than any other title at the Middle East's foremost literary event, the Cairo International Book Fair, which ended on Sunday.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa. . .

"Kyoto is essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

And who's that at this Council of Canadians event, sitting between Murray Dobbin and Maud Barlow? Nobody important. Just a fringe hanger-on (er, featured speaker) who likes to bang on about the "ruling network of terrestrial elites who have kept humanity ignorant of the existence of non-terrestrial civilizations for at least the past half-century."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Of the lot of them, the one that matters most of all

February 12, 1809 - April 19, 1882

"HE who wishes to decide whether man is the modified descendant of some pre-existing form, would probably first enquire. . ." and everything else written by Charles Darwin, now on-line, along with more than 170 ancillary texts.

I shall ever feel most thankful for the undeviating kindness with which I was treated, during our long voyage.

My Darwin Day resolution: Read these people more often.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Telling People Things They Don't Want To Hear

Fellow Canuck Irshad Manji fiercely condemns Israel's illegal settlements in the West Bank and other crimes against the long-suffering Palestinians, but she is also capable of defending Israel, especially against ridiculous charges that it is "an apartheid state." She points out that Arabs in Israel can vote, and are eligible for election, and in fact Israel granted voting rights to women and the poor for the first time in Palestinian history. Manji suggests that there's an important question that's extremely helpful in navigating through the weird mire of arguments about Israel: Who's willing to hear what they don't want to hear?

Elsewhere, philosopher Stephen Gimbel asks impertinent questions about how it came to pass that the Left ended up nearly incapacitated by its own contradictions in the challenge posed by the corporate-evangelical alliance in the great global-warming debates. Looking for answers, he's onto something: "Whether it was the rise of McCarthyism or a sense of displacement in their adopted home, the European scientific left stopped being overtly political. But the humanistic side, with the arrival of Herbert Marcuse, Max Horkheimer, and Theodor Adorno, continued to wage their side of the battle. With the scientific left quiet, the anti-scientific contingent won the day, largely shaping the character of the intellectual left after the first half of the 20th century."

More on the embattled "pro-science" Left in these exchanges; other stuff people don't want to hear can be readily found via Butterflies and Wheels, and in the Globe and Mail, Nigel Fisher, president of Unicef Canada, reports:

"In 2001, an estimated 30,000 Afghans (mostly children) died of measles. Thanks to an enormous increase in immunization efforts, supported by the Canadian government, measles deaths have markedly declined. More than 43,000 women are enrolled in literacy centres around the country, including almost 1,000 Kandahar-area women who recently graduated and are now able to apply for employment that was formerly beyond their reach. In 1999, under Taliban rule that banned girls from school, just 3 per cent to 6 per cent of girls were receiving an education, mostly in secret home-based schools. Enrolment increased by 30 per cent thanks to heightened efforts in 2002 and 2003, including public education, teacher training and the provision of school supplies. Despite recent security threats, enrolment levels now stand at 66 per cent for boys and 40 per cent for girls. Millions of girls and boys are now in school."

But it's an uphill grind, the CBC reports:

"Canada's military says it only has half the doctors it needs to serve in Afghanistan — 40 instead of 80. To fill the gaps, the military has been hiring local civilian doctors. In Canada, the military needs 150 family physicians, but only has 120. "There is a critical need for specialists right now, in particular in areas of general surgery and orthopedics," Lt.-Col. Randy Russell, who is in charge of recruiting physicians, told CBC News."

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Origins of Capitalism: 'We Needed Weenies'

The Economist dumbs things down a bit (thanks to Will for noticing), but the Anti-Christ bring things back into clearer focus in conversation with Anti-Sovietchik No. 1.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

George Sawchuk And His Magic, Battered Forest

"Mr. Sawchuk, 80, was a logger, fisherman, labourer and hobo until he lost his leg as the result of an industrial accident. With his first compensation cheque, he bought a chainsaw and began making notches in trees into which he inserted handmade wooden books that he filled with colourful quotations. He'd entered a new phase of his life.

"The forest gallery, which borders on his garden, blends with its surroundings. Some of the pieces are memorials to fellow labourers and artists; others are statements on humanity's dependency on oil, water and religion. Mr. Sawchuk refers to his creations as totems."

Another fine portrait of a working-class artist from Grant Shilling, in today's Globe and Mail.

I've wandered through George's forest with George and my kids. Astonishing place. And George's work is truly amazing. Can't be adequately captured in a gallery space, that's for sure. . .

No Black Helicopters, But It's Weird Nonetheless

It may be one of the strangest cases of backroom dealing, silent deregulation, legislation by stealth, and contempt for the legislature in British Columbia’s history. It may be a brilliant move that will add $4.8 billion and 78,000 jobs to the B.C. economy.

It has never been put before the B.C. legislature. Not even for review.

If it were a single piece of legislation, it would probably require an omnibus bill that you’d have trouble fitting into the back of a pickup truck. It will take at least two years to fully implement.

Despite its name, it actually has got practically nothing to do with trade.

That’s how weird it is.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Prophet Mohammed & His Mysterious Holiday

"I asked my wife not to come, it would just be too upsetting for her. And she's told my [three] daughters that I'm just on a trip, that I'll be home soon. The oldest is only 5; it would be hard for them to understand why their father is in jail."

The journalist Mohammed al-Asaadi still languishes in a Yemeni prison cell, and his daughters would likely find it just as hard to understand what's happening in France: The magazine Charlie-Hebdo and its publication's director, Philippe Val, are charged with "publicly slandering a group of people because of their religion." If convicted, the charge carries a possible six-month prison sentence and a fine of up to $28,530.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Monbiot On the "Sickness" of 9-11 Conspiracists

There is a virus sweeping the world. It infects opponents of the Bush government, sucks their brains out through their eyes and turns them into gibbering idiots. . . In the past fortnight, it has become an epidemic. Scarcely a day now passes without someone possessed by this sickness, eyes rolling, lips flecked with foam, trying to infect me.

Wander but a few paragraphs into the comments under that essay and you'll find George being instructed in the details of the great Zionist plot behind it all. You'll find yourself in the same general vicinity as here, in the comments, where I show up as a gatekeeper to the Ziocon false-flag hegemony and an "Aspernazi whore."

Speaking of the Aspers, one of their harder-working minions, an old drinking and sparring partner, says complimentary things about my book and about me in today's Vancouver Sun. I bet you think it's just a coincidence, don't you. . .

Monday, February 05, 2007

All Hands To The Airships! Avenge The Avro Arrow!

"About once every 30 to 40 years since the Industrial Revolution, new innovations in transportation technology have emerged that changed the world economy. Steamships and railways exemplified transport in the 19th century; trucks, airplanes and intermodal containers characterized 20th century transport. In the 21st century, the most-promising technological advance in transportation is the new generation of cargo airships."

So let's go. And let's not let this happen again.

Friday, February 02, 2007

"The `poor sod' has a name: It's Cpl. Paul Franklin"

"The gates of Auschwitz were not opened with peace talks. Holland was not liberated by peacekeepers and fascism was not defeated with a deft pen. Time and time again men and women in uniform have laid down their lives in just causes and in an effort to free others from oppression."

Another reason to like Rick Mercer.

Strange how things have gone. A newspaper columnist and academic whose c.v. cites stints as the head of a graduate program in women's studies and the chair of a sexual harassment advisory board demonstrates a weaker commitment to the struggle for internationalism and women's emancipation than a handful of ladies running quilting bees in Sooke.

Mercer writes: "In case you missed it Noreen, the Taliban was a regime that systematically de-peopled women to the point where they had no human rights whatsoever. This was a country where until very recently it was illegal for a child to fly a kite or for a little girl to receive any education.

"To put it in terms you might understand Noreen, rest assured the Taliban would frown on your attending this year’s opening night gala of the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival. In fact, as a woman, a professor, a writer and (one supposes) an advocate of the concept that women are people, they would probably want to kill you three or four times over. Thankfully that notion is moot in our cozy part of the world but were it ever come to pass I would suggest that you would be grateful if a “poor sod” like Paul Franklin happened along to risk his life to protect yours."

More of Mercer here.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

When Worlds Collide: Towards A Post-Punk World

This is Blacklist. Here's a video of their Language of the Living Dead, and some more of their music. They're a favourite of Mike Weiss down at Snarksmith.

Frontman Josh Strawn says here: “Music was originally about three chords and the truth, and that’s what made people so excited about the Beatles and U2. . . But I think we’re currently in a situation where people have been told so often that there is no correct truth, or that the truth is different for each person, that they wouldn’t even recognize [the truth set to] music anymore. Our band believes you have to search for and articulate the truth as best you can, because that’s where the passion [in great music] comes from.”

And here: "The song 'When Worlds Collide' is what I was saying about breaking down barriers. The idea of east meets west. The east was only called the east because it was east of Europe. The cross-pollination of intellectual traditions and philosophy makes those distinctions kind of bullshit to me. I'm very interested in various resistance movements and ways of resolving certain situations over there."

And check out Hack, out of Iran.

Brought to my attention by The Norman Conquest.

Meantime, you can keep up with the rumpus-making about Nick Cohen's What's Left? over here.