Sunday, November 30, 2008

When law is cool, would you pay $300/hr for it?

...For an apparent lack of basic reading comprehension (or is it intellectual dishonesty?) on the part of the famous Wasgoode Hall graduates. Apparently they have been obsessively berating Steyn for noticing that the Ayatollah Khomeini and the rest of the Mullahs have a certain obsession (where does that come from?) with dividing the world into the clean and the polluted. And yet when it comes to making their accusation against the man who proves repeatedly that high school drop outs can be much smarter than university graduates, they can't even read what he is saying...

Via Mark Steyn:
Just to recap, said “kerfuffle” arises from this passage in a review I wrote for Maclean’s of Oriana Fallaci’s final book The Force Of Reason:
Signora Fallaci then moves on to the livelier examples of contemporary Islam -- for example, Ayatollah Khomeini's "Blue Book" and its helpful advice on romantic matters: "If a man marries a minor who has reached the age of nine and if during the defloration he immediately breaks the hymen, he cannot enjoy her any longer." I'll say. I know it always ruins my evening. Also: "A man who has had sexual relations with an animal, such as a sheep, may not eat its meat. He would commit sin." Indeed. A quiet cigarette afterwards as you listen to your favourite Johnny Mathis LP and then a promise to call her next week and swing by the pasture is by far the best way. It may also be a sin to roast your nine-year-old wife, but the Ayatollah's not clear on that.
A cheap joke en passant. Indeed, insofar as I dwelt on the ovine fornication, it was to suggest to La Fallaci that, even for us flagrant Islamophobes, it was not perhaps the most useful avenue of attack:
I enjoy the don't-eat-your-sexual-partner stuff as much as the next infidel, but the challenge presented by Islam is not that the cities of the Western world will be filling up with sheep-shaggers. If I had to choose, I'd rather Mohammed Atta was downriver in Egypt hitting on the livestock than flying through the windows of Manhattan skyscrapers. But he’s not.
And that’s it. That’s all I said. And no one would remember had not El Mo’s sock puppets included the sheep-shagging line in the dossier they submitted to the Canadian “Human Rights” Commission.
Via
John Miller’s Open Letter to Mark Steyn : Law is Cool:
Citing factually inaccurate information as authoritative is actually just as bad as saying it yourself. He has yet to cite a single academic journal that uses the quote he references. He does go beyond simply citing Fallaci, suggesting that rising Muslim immigration would be accompanied by beastiality [CZ's emphasis],
This, it seems to me, is the most valuable contribution of Oriana Fallaci’s work. I enjoy the don’t-eat-your-sexual-partner stuff as much as the next infidel, but the challenge presented by Islam is not that the cities of the Western world will be filling up with sheep-shaggers.[emphasis added]
We expect this from high school dropouts, but not from Canada’s national news magazine.
Need I say more?
-----------------

Anyway, the real targets of Steyn's latest revelations of gross stupidity in public are actually John Miller and "Big City Liberal". Blazing Cat Fur quotes Iowahawk:
Having just read Steyn's rebuttal in its entirety, I must say congratulations. You and "Doctor" Miller have just immortalized yourselves as the bumbling self-inflicted subjects of the single most exquisite literary evisceration in the history of the internet, nay, the world.

In fact, scratch "evisceration." Make that vaporization. At this point your next of kin will be lucky to find intact bits of "Doctor" Miller's reputation quivering in the treetops of Ryerson, let alone complete dental records.

No mind though, for your immortality is secure. For centuries to come students will study this marvelous episode: the pompous, clueless PC prof and his eager internet buttlick attempt to bell the famous cat Steyn, with completely predictable results.
...
Sometimes it's fun to be cruel:)

Jack Layton: he'll sleep with the Islamists, he'll sleep with the separatists

Apparently, he'll even sleep with Stephane Dion....

CTV.ca | NDP, Bloc in coalition talks before fiscal update: tape
The New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois held talks to form a coalition party well before the opposition's uproar over the government's fiscal update, CTV News has learned.

NDP Leader Jack Layton was in talks with Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe for a "considerable period of time," reported CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife on Sunday.

Layton held a telephone-conference meeting with his caucus Saturday morning that was recorded by a Conservative member. According to the audio tape, Layton appears to take credit for the possibility of a coalition.

"Let's just say we have strategies. This whole thing would not have happened if the moves hadn't been made with the Bloc a long time ago and locked them in early," Layton says. "Because, you couldn't put three people together in one or three hours. The first part was done a long time ago."

He then goes on to say that the NDP "spotted and prepared for the opportunity and had taken the steps that were required, so that when the opportunity arose, which was when Mr. Harper made his disastrous strategic error by not providing stimulus to the economy and instead playing political games, we were able to move and things began to move very quickly."

Layton also says about the Bloc: "Nothing could be better for our country than to have 50 members who have been elected to separate Quebec...actually helping to make Canada a better place."
First of all, let's remember that Parliamentary democracy means that the government only sits at the pleasure of the House of Commons. The parties there have every right to challenge the government, and to replace it if a majority see fit. But if they do this for overwhelmingly self-interested reasons, if they don't wait for a decisive issue to emerge, they deserve to be punished by voters when they reveal, especially by way of bragging to their own caucus, that all they care about is being good power players. This is what Jack Layton has just done in revealing that he has been talking with the separatist Bloc Quebecois about overthrowing the government ever since the election and its revelation that most Canadians don't take Layton seriously when he preens about being Prime Ministerial.

The problem with electing dweebs to Ottawa, in the name of having a "strong opposition" is that they are likely to give in to their mimetic desire and not be happy with being in opposition. They want the spotlight, the bigger salaries, offices, power, the ministerial cars. They get tired of being the noble opposition, which they come to equate with being losers, and will soon enough be corrupted by the desire for power.

I recall my sister telling me during the last election a story from a neighbour. Sis lives just off the Danforth, in Toronto, in Jack Layton's riding. The neighbour tells of one day walking over to attend a Layton rally. A few blocks from the rally, an SUV pulls over and neighbor claims to see Jack exiting vehicle with his bike and proceeding to the rally to impress the green-orange worshipers.

I don't know if it's true. But I do know that my sister and her lefty-artsy friends in the riding are getting more and more sick of Jack Layton as a man and shifting votes away from the NDP. I don't know if that's a sign of anything much: Jack still managed to get himself elected. But maybe the "great" man is about to have his tragic fall. We live in a great age when pretty much any man can experience hubris.

The Other

Could be anywhere, could be anyone, could be sometime.

Doctors working in a hospital where all the bodies, including that of the terrorists, were taken said they had not seen anything like this in their lives.

"Bombay has a long history of terror. I have seen bodies of riot victims, gang war and previous terror attacks like bomb blasts. But this was entirely different. It was shocking and disturbing," a doctor said.

Asked what was different about the victims of the incident, another doctor said: "It was very strange. I have seen so many dead bodies in my life, and was yet traumatised. A bomb blast victim's body might have been torn apart and could be a very disturbing sight. But the bodies of the victims in this attack bore such signs about the kind of violence of urban warfare that I am still unable to put my thoughts to words," he said.

Asked specifically if he was talking of torture marks, he said: "It was apparent that most of the dead were tortured. What shocked me were the telltale signs showing clearly how the hostages were executed in cold blood," one doctor said.
http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/023716.php
Could be some indefinite event, but we know it's not. We know that there lays in the mind the capacity to do great evil; but seldom does it arise in this unrestrained mode, and then it has to be raised consciously by training and practice. Even savages have an innate restraint.

Islam is a training for jihad. Islam is only one form of politically motivated violence one among many, to be sure, but today it's the most lethal and the most common. Islam is an immediate menace to Humanity. Islam as poligion has the deepest potential for the practice of unrestrained violence. For the most part, Islam is a mere programme for conquest by Muslims. No other religion has such a programme for its adherents. The core of Islam is jihad. The history of Islam is jihad. The essence of Islam is jihad and islam, the latter being "slavery." There is nothing else like it. Savage violence is common enough. Islam is unique.

Islam is unique as a violent poligion. It creates its own counter-forces, though. There's nothing unique in that.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What is the covenantal spirit?

Historian Donald Harmon Akenson writes in God's Peoples. Covenant and Land in South Africa, Israel, and Ulster (1992):
Just how difficult it is to escape the influence of the ancient scriptural grid is best illustrated by the development of early Christianity. Although we know much less than we would like to know about the historical Jesus, it is generally (if not quite universally) agreed among biblical critics that the most radical parts of the New Testament, the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-46) are for the most part authentically representative of Jesus' views, if not his exact words. It is impossible to read the Beatitudes without recognizing that Jesus was rejecting the covenant. He was truly revolutionary... [But] The church was unable to follow his example in breaking free of the covenantal grid. So, although on the surface they appeared to reject Judaism, Jesus' successors interpreted the life and teachings of Jesus within the context of that grid. His successors transformed him into a covenantal figure... though claiming to have broken free of the Hebrew covenant, the Christian Church did not. Why? Because the Hebrew conceptual grid was not simply a conviction or a belief, but rather something lying so deep within the mind that it ultimately determined the possibilities of conviction and belief. (41)
Although Akenson is one of Canada's finest historians (he is one of our American imports) I am not yet convinced, only forty pages into his book, that he fully grasps how a covenant may ever be renewed (does his metaphysics offer him a satisfactory understanding of why and how humans are historical beings?). Is Jesus a "revolutionary" figure in the sense of someone who makes a definite and (at least in intention) complete break with the old covenant, or someone who is recovering the necessarily radical moment, those rare moments in history when (re)new covenants are first proposed to a people desperately in need of them (again) because they have fallen away from the old? What are we to do with the passage from the Gospel of Matthew that immediately follows the passage referred to by Akenson? The beatitudes, Jesus' declarations of the blessedness of the meek, hungry, persecuted, etc., in Matthew 5:3-12 are followed in the now canonical text by
13Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

19Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

20For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
BibleGateway.com - Passage Lookup: Matthew 5;

Is that a rejection of the old covenant or a recognition of the spirit in which it must be renewed? Only a way of thinking that is enamored of the need to recover our Judeo-Christian traditions for covenanting in ways appropriate to our own times will provide answers. To this end, I recommend two things: 1) the recent post at the GABlog: Victimary Modernity and Covenantal Modernity and 2)joining in some conversation about how we can renew our commitments to sharing in a nation founded in covenants that requires each of us to act as guarantors of each and every other's individual freedom to share in a collective self-rule. If you can join us some Thursday in Vancouver, we can be found at the Downtown Library, 7-9 pm, in the atrium in front of Blenz Coffee (with blue scarves).

As Adam writes:
The only answer is freedom–to act as free men and women, engaging in free speech, free inquiry, free creation, free association, because covenants can only be generated amongst the free. Maybe the most basic thing to do now is distinguish these modes of freedom from their victimary doppelgangers: speech, inquiry, creation and association mired in “resistance” to the “hypocrisy” of “domination.”

Mumbai Terrorists Attack Hospital Maternity Ward

Just when you think that there's no lower point to reach on the scale of human evil, the stories coming out today from this week's Mumbai massacres reveal the limits of your imagination. What kind of bestial mind can conceive plans like this one, to launch an armed attack on a hospital's maternity ward:
Two terrorists had entered the hospital from the back entrance with hand grenades and AK-47 assault rifles at around 0230 hours killing two security personnel, Bhanu Narkar and Baban Ugade, eyewitnesses said.
The terrorist duo, while continuing to fire indiscriminately, went up to the fourth and fifth floors, which house the maternity ward at the five-storey hospital.
One of the two maternity wards was locked from the inside while the terrorists tried to break into another which had been fastened by the women occupying it using a cloth.
Twenty-five women, along with their newborn babies and three other men locked themselves inside a safety room within the maternity ward, refusing to open despite several threats by the terrorists.

The choir of crying babies born that day, lying innocently in their beds as heroic hospital staff improvised their survival, serve as a reminder to us all of the unfathomable chasm existing between the culture of death that has declared endless war on our side, the culture of life. Separated as we are by oceans and language and history, we still clearly share a common tapestry of humanity with the cloth-bearing defenders whose love of life proved stronger than the nihilists' lust for death.

In a story so steeped in villainy, it's good to also reflect on the acts of sacrificial love emerging in its shadow, in the shadows of all tragedies and nightmares, and, today of all days, to be grateful for them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Terror Attacks In India, Again

My God, here we go again: there's been yet another large-scale terrorist attack in India. Mumbai was hit by seven simultaneous (and particularly cold-blooded) attacks; this time the butcher's bill starts at 80 dead and 250 injured. The tactics used are quite different from the recent terror bombings in Delhi, Assam, and the numerous other attacks that have taken place in India over the last year or so, maybe due to the wave of arrests of potential suspects that took place in the aftermath of those previous serial bombings. No more sneaking around planting remote control bombs in crowded markets or parks, this time the terrorists are simply showing up in person and shooting at people:

Armed with AK-47 rifles and grenades, a couple of terrorists entered the passenger hall of CST [Chhatrapathi Shivaji Terminus railway station] and opened fire and threw grenades, Mumbai General Railway Police Commissioner A K Sharma said.

Three persons were killed in a bomb explosion in a taxi on Mazegaon dockyard road and an equal number were gunned down at Taj Hotel.
...

The lobby of the Oberoi hotel was on fire and the hotel evacuated, eyewitnesses said.
...
Commandoes were rushed to the CST which wore a deserted look and train services suspended. The NSG commandos were on standby and national disaster response force unit is being rushed to Mumbai, the Ministry of Home Affairs officials said.

Some people were injured in the firing in Oberoi hotel, and taken to a nearby hospital in police vans and ambulance. Firing was also reported in Taj hotel.

Firing was reported at Colaba, Nariman Point and near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal, formerly Victoria Terminus and it was still continuing.
...

Godspeed to the families in India forced to endure carnage and murderous deviancy on such a scale that it becomes a weekly occurance. A friend of mine over there told me in a recent email that she has given up reading the daily newspaper, it had become too traumatizing to learn of such massacres at such a frequency. Godspeed especially to her, to find the courage to continue to live in hope...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two excellent analyses of the Moon Report

Canadian Me Too-ism

I've touched briefly on "Holocaust Envy" here and elsewhere, and below we see something similar expressed in a Front Page Magazine interview with Kathy Shaidle on the Human Rights Commissions of Canada.

"[W]hen Canadian leftists saw the Civil Rights Movement in the US, they were actually jealous rather than relieved that Canada had been "left out" of this great noble romantic cause. So they invented the idea that Canada was just as "racist" as the US (without a trace of irony btw -- Canadian leftist are vicious anti-American bigots.)" Kathy Shaidle.

Short and to the point interview.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Moon report

The bottom line is that the Canadian Human Rights Commission's hand-picked investigator, law professor Richard Moon, is recommending repeal of s.13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. His argument is mostly pragmatic, mostly in dialogue with the wording of past legal decisions and existing legislation and international "human rights" codes. While seeing various practical limits to existing law, the Moon report, not surprisingly, does not provide any kind of serious challenge to the reigning orthodoxies of postmodern thought, what some of us call the "human rights" world view.

While recommending repeal, Moon also recognizes that Jenniffer Lynch and the rest of the gang at the CHRC need not promote his recommendations to government, and so he has provided them with a variety of alternative arguments, such as changing s. 13 so that "hate speech" cases under the Human Rights Act will be dealt with more like criminal prosecutions, and encouraging Internet Service Providers and Press Councils to do more on their own to police and silence what they deem to be hate speech. The impracticalities of such suggestions are already being noted.

I want to finish reading the report before commenting further. Many other bloggers are already providing good first reactions to the report. If I can add anything it will be after a leisurely read and an analysis of Moon's way of thinking through the human problem of "hate" and the reasons why humans need freedom of expression.

You can find the report here (pdf), summarized by the CHRC here.

Deborah Gyapong has many useful posts up, including response from Ottawa politicians, as does Jay Currie. Looking at the impractical side of Moon's recommendations is Mark Steyn.  Meanwhile, Ezra Levant is analyzing Jennifer Lynch's response as an attempt to throw Moon's report under the bus.

Sadly for this blog, Blazing Cat Fur sees this to be a moment of apparent victory and thus time for a blogging hiatus. She has worked with amazing energy to provide us daily coverage of the "human rights" and free speech debate, often attracting the unwanted attention of disparate traders in hate and victimhood, and my best wishes go out to her.
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On the other side of this debate, Bnai Brith has issued a press release (via email):
TORONTO, November 24, 2008 – B’nai Brith Canada has reacted with mixed reviews to the release today of the Report to the Canadian Human Rights Commission Concerning Section 13 of the Canadian Human Right Act and the Regulation of Hate Speech on the Internet prepared by University of Windsor law Prof. Richard Moon.

“Doing away with section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act governing hate speech, a key suggestion put forth by Prof. Moon in his Report, would be a step in the wrong direction,” said Marvin Kurz, National Legal Counsel to B’nai Brith Canada. “However, we do favour in principle the type of middle approach also outlined by Moon, which opens the door to necessary reform of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

“The Moon Report proposes amendments to both section 13 and the Criminal Code that have the potential to dramatically alter existing standards for combating hatred. A careful review of the recommendations of the Report and their potential public policy implications is essential before any action is taken.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Change I can believe in...

At first, the cynical, no-good side of me was thinking Barack Obama might have been building Hillary Clinton up for another humiliation as a rejected job seeker. But it looks pretty final now that she will become Secretary of State. Maybe Ms. Clinton can do a better job than was evidenced by the President Clinton's foreign policy team failings in places like Rwanda and al Qaeda land. But I am inclined to equate Obama's idea of creating a "team of rivals... that would be modeled after that of President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War" with a desire to have ready scapegoats at hand.

I guess a lot of people will be fighting to have their agenda on President Obama's desk; one wonders how much will actually get done. I do not yet have an idea of a man with his own clear sense of direction. But then I always figured "the One we've been waiting for" wasn't the Messiah. Too bad for the Kos kids.
Clinton to accept top diplomat job

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Taking A Second Look At Intelligence

Everything old is new again, to the new mind. I would expect that for as long as there have been leaders, there has been an accompanying argument about how to measure the intelligence of these leaders, and how to even agree on what is being measured when we talk about a leader’s “intelligence”.

The recent US presidential campaign brought forth many attempts to explore and possibly define terms we tend to view too narrowly, words with worlds of meaning behind them; for example, “expertise”, “intelligence”, and “wisdom”. It seemed to me that one common ingredient in these articles was the admonition to stretch the subject into a large enough frame so that the search for a mutually agreeable definition would be one that lassos a three-dimensional point of view, succeeding in seeing all that there is to see.

Thomas Sowell’s November 11 column, “Intellectuals”, is the latest article I was reading on this topic. Citing fellow columnist Bill Kristoff’s definition of an “intellectual” as “[someone] interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity," and as someone who "read the classics”, Dr. Sowell lists several political leaders who were painted as “intellectual” or “anti-intellectual” through superficial and selective observation. People saw only what they hoped to see, rather than what was truly there to be seen:

Historian Michael Beschloss, among others, has noted that [Adlai] Stevenson "could go quite happily for months or years without picking up a book."

As for reading the classics, President Harry Truman, whom no one thought of as an intellectual, was a voracious reader of heavyweight stuff like Thucydides and read Cicero in the original Latin. When Chief Justice Carl Vinson quoted in Latin, Truman was able to correct him.

Yet intellectuals tended to think of the unpretentious and plain-spoken Truman as little more than a country bumpkin.

Similarly, no one ever thought of President Calvin Coolidge as an intellectual. Yet Coolidge also read the classics in the White House. He read both Latin and Greek, and read Dante in the original Italian, since he spoke several languages. It was said that the taciturn Coolidge could be silent in five different languages.
Sowell’s short list brought back up to the surface some half-submerged early childhood memories of my own mother, after a hard day of housework, cooking, and child-rearing, curled up in her favorite chair to end her day reading Josephus on some occasions, Thomas Aquinas on others, and C.S. Lewis for the times when we kids had really wore her out and her mind needed rest. Who would have imagined that the quiet lady tending her garden on sunny days would study such books on rainy ones?

His examples also reminded me of another personal anecdote. Once upon a time I participated in a Toronto Scrabble tournament, where the money from my ticket of entry went towards a charity for literacy. There were to be four of us per table, and the enticement was that among the four we would get to play against a “Canadian Celebrity”. My ticket led me to the assigned table, and upon sitting down we all introduced ourselves to each other. First up was our “celebrity”, a novelist and journalist of many years experience. Next was a middle aged psychiatrist, followed by his wife, a magazine editor (names all withheld to protect the innocent.. :). Last in the group was myself, in my mid-twenties at the time, happily employed as a laborer in a warehouse, loading boxes onto trucks for a living. I was forthrightly excused from much of the rest of the ensuing conversation, as they discussed the books and articles and plays that they all shared common interest in, and the colleges and universities they had attended. At the appointed time, the game began, and guess who won.....? Me, the only one who hadn’t graduated from college or university. If they had bothered to ask me I could have told them that my family had played Scrabble together at least once a week from the time I could read to the time I moved out on my own, in fact it remained a fun family ritual we enjoyed whenever we found ourselves re-united at holidays and birthdays. I’ll forever smile at pairing the memory of the eye-rolling that greeted my introduction at this charity Scrabble game, with the incredulous looks in those same eyes when the final score was announced. “Why are you working in a warehouse??”, one of the losers couldn’t resist asking me after the game, as if such a position was an embarrassing curse, rather than a reasonable and honorable occupation.

That was a demonstrated lesson in humility that I go back to whenever I sense myself failing similar temptations to be presumptuous today; is my initial reaction really an informed one? What is involved in coming to an informed judgment about a problem that requires a decision? What is everything that should be observed, when I’m trying to size up a worthy applicant for my team at work, or who should be promoted, or who should be let go during the inevitable downsizing. What do I really know about this other person, and what is it that I believe without sufficient observation? What will I learn if I think about a situation a second time?

Presumptions seem to be as common a malady to the human mind as the common cold is to the human body. It’s a simple matter to look at something and presume that a first glance at a part is actually a complete scrutiny of the whole. It’s no accident that all great art rewards a second look, all great books offer renewed meaning through repeated reading, all great music grows on us as we dare add to our first impression.

Watching the anecdotal collection of Obama voters in the John Ziegler video that Truepeers wrote about this morning, there’s some good lessons for our side to learn from, as we watch confident people confronted with so much new information that it challenges their self-perceptions as “intelligent” citizens. What to do about the holes that such revelations bring about? Dismiss them, as the voters seem to do in this video, or struggle to embrace them, as we would wish them to? I concur, in principle, with a point that regular reader na makes in the comments thread: how much more successfully would John McCain supporters do in such a test of perception? Can it really be said that one side does indeed possess a more rounded understanding of what that long civic debate was meant to resolve? Does one side have the full picture and the other side have all the holes?
I think Ziegler's addition to the ongoing measurement of "intelligence" is to reveal how common an ailment it has become to not even know how to determine what we don't know. Evidently these voters don't spend a lot of time talking to people who disagree with their views, otherwise how else to explain that so much of this information was "news" to them, on the day of their vote? Is it really so humiliating to talk to someone who sees things differently than they do, and to ask them why that is? And how are they to handle the humbling that should come with the revelation that there is more to a subject than may at first meet the eye..?

Well, I'd like to think I know how I would handle it, because I undergo it each and every week, at our Thursday night gatherings in the Atrium of the Central branch of the Vancouver Public Library. We three Covenant Zone bloggers meet in front of the Blenz coffee shop from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm once again to debate the issues we blog about, wearing our blue scarves in solidarity with our French colleagues in France who, in their own way, try to test and sharpen their understanding of how they perceive the challenges of the world as they see it. We don't agree about much, which is what always makes it a learning experience.

Sufficiency of perception, achieved through the cultivation of the humility to observe the limitations of our understanding, and an appreciation (rather than dismissal) of the “holes” that allow for continued growth of that understanding; there’s my long-winded, three-sided contribution to the challenge of proposing a three-dimensional definition for intelligence.

Your sons say, “Daddy, I want to be pathetically correct when I grow up.”

Our sons say,
Father, I want to be a Wal-martyr when I blow up

Great line from your poet terrorist for tonight:

POETENCY & APOETASY: THE WAL-MARTYR: DEDICATED TO BARBARA HALL & JENNIFER LYNCH

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Media and academic bias, or unofficial and unregulated agents of Democratic Party campaign spending?

Media bias largely unseen in US presidential race | Special Coverage | Reuters:
McCain partisans were roused to anger by a perception that mainstream news organizations routinely gave Obama preferential treatment en route to his election as the first black U.S. president.

But media scholars, including a former top aide to McCain, disagree. They said campaign coverage often did lean in Obama's favor, though not -- as many conservatives have suggested -- because of a hidden liberal agenda on the part of the media.

Instead, academic experts said, Obama benefited largely from the dynamics of the campaign itself and the media's tendency to focus on the "horse race," emphasizing ups and downs in the polls and political tactics.

As Obama's poll numbers rose in response to events, so did favorable press coverage for him, not the other way round.

"Winning begets winning coverage," said Mark Jurkowitz, an author of a study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism that tracked campaign coverage.

Dan Schnur, communications director for McCain's 2000 presidential bid and now head of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, agreed.

"I don't think there's partisan or ideological bias because the mainstream media tries not to take sides in policy disagreements," he said. "Favorable news coverage is ... more a function of favorable poll numbers."

FINANCIAL CRISIS BOOSTS OBAMA

Some scholars acknowledge that Obama also generated good press by virtue of his charisma, and his place in history as the first black presidential candidate of a major political party.

"He was fresh-faced, his candidacy was historic and he had a campaign that seemed to transcend politics," said Robert Lichter, head of the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University. "Reporters are suckers for candidates who don't seem like ordinary politicians."

But Kelly McBride, who teaches at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, said journalists should not be labeled as star-struck for reporting on the "mania" surrounding Obama.

"When you have a very attractive candidate, and you have people swooning for him, the reporters then report on the fact that people are swooning," she said.
Yet as Richard Fernandez of Belmont Club notes:
The Zogby polling organization has been criticized for conducting a survey which indicates that an astounding level of ignorance among voters for the positions and factual circumstances of Barack Obama....The poll was conducted for John Ziegler, who is writing a book accusing the media of malpractice.
Belmont Club links to this video that claims to illustrate the ignorance of many Obama voters on matters that should have led to a negative perception of Obama, while these same voters know well the negative talking points on Sarah Palin:

The Queen's own speech enforcers

Back in my student days, we used to wonder what to make of the Queen's University students who would visit us for football games, decked out in kilts and showing a rather too disciplined interest in marching bands, as opposed to getting drunk and disorderly.

My how times have changed:
Your friend's new fuchsia fedora might be hideous. But don't call it gay, or you might get a language lesson from the conversation cops.

Students at Queen's University who sprinkle their dialogue with an assortment of "homo" or "retarded" could find out the hard way that not everyone finds their remarks acceptable.

The Kingston university has hired student facilitators to step in when they overhear homophobic slurs, remarks bashing women or racially tinged insults, along with an array of other language that could be deemed offensive.

That means tête-à-têtes in the residence hallways may no longer be just between friends.

"If people are having a conversation with offensive content and they're doing it loud enough for a third person to hear it ... it's not private," said Jason Laker, dean of student affairs at Queen's.

"If you're doing anything that's interfering with what other people need to be doing, that's not cool."
[...]
"Having a program like this in place could stifle public discussion if people are worried their private conversations are being monitored," said Angela Hickman, managing editor of the Queen's Journal, a campus newspaper. "For a lot of people, their opinions get formed in conversations and so stifling that is dangerous."

The newspaper published an editorial last week criticizing the program as a "lacklustre" attempt to deal with social issues that could actually create hostility among students.
[...]
But some students wish it would remain a discussion between friends, rather than a dialogue with a university-appointed facilitator.

If the facilitators jump into a group conversation, "they risk hostility from students who don't want to be approached in what they consider private social settings," said the editorial published in the campus newspaper.

Intergroup dialogue programs are well established at many universities in the United States. But many of those consist of credit courses taught by faculty members or student facilitators who have received rigorous training over several semesters in a classroom environment.

The Queen's facilitators went through an intensive 11-day training course that touched on a variety of social issues and possible scenarios.

Patricia Gurin, professor emeritus of psychology and women's studies at the University of Michigan, is one of the founders of the intergroup dialogue concept.

While she didn't comment specifically on the program launched at Queen's, she warned that such activities could backfire if they are not carried out by highly trained individuals who have experience with a variety of conflicts and social issues.

"It takes a lot of skill to do this work," Ms. Gurin said in an interview yesterday.

She said that facilitators who haven't been trained properly could end up reinforcing defence mechanisms of privileged students.

"White males say 'This is more white-male bashing.' What are they learning from that? Reinforcement of defensiveness rather than opening up and exploring is the consequence."
[...]
A sampling of some behaviour that could warrant attention from university-appointed student facilitators, tasked with policing students' offensive language at Queen's:

If a student uses the phrase "That's so gay" in conversation.

If a student calls someone or something "retarded."

If a student writes a homophobic, racist or other derogatory remark in a public space, such as on a residence poster or classmate's door.

If a student avoids a classmate's birthday party for faith-based reasons.
Are universities now so infantilized that one feels pressured to attend birthday parties?

It's one thing to freely contest someone's words, quite another to be employed as a busy-bodying intervenor to do it. Those who go looking for bits and pieces of conversation to scapegoat for the failure of Kingston to be a Utopia are truly a sign of the collapse of what used to be known as the liberal arts. But that's so straight of me...
globeandmail.com: Conversation cops step in to school students

Thoughts on Warren Kinsella and Bernie Farber's arguments in last night's Michael Coren show debate on free speech and Section 13

Unfortunately, video of last night's Michael Coren show debate is not yet up on the internet, as far as I am aware. I saw some of the debate, a friend's clip, featuring mostly Warren Kinsella talking. And so here are some general thoughts on how I would approach Warren Kinsella's and Bernie Farber's arguments in favour of retaining Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Basically, Kinsella and Farber's arguments are only convincing if you assume a certain context for them. Their arguments, as most people know, are rooted in the response to the Holocaust, to the assumption that the normal culture of a normal modern Western society is not only capable of, but there is a sizeable risk of, turning into the kind of society where every class and profession will make its willing contribution to building the next Auschwitz.

If we lived in that kind of society, we wouldn't be having this debate about "free speech", in the first place. But if I thought we did live in such a society, I wouldn't hold quite the same positions I hold. (Most obviously, I probably wouldn't be trying to argue with the state, but rather undermine it or run away.) So it seems to me that our debate ultimately rests on how we apprehend our shared reality today.

K & F's post-Holocaust assumption is that our differences - all those for which "discrimination" is supposedly outlawed in Canada's "human rights" codes - are non-negotiable, except by the judiciary and in the highest backrooms of the government. It is a belief in the impossibility of normal society itself dividing the things or issues at stake, a belief in a non-negotiable indivisibility that affects so many of our debates, from abortion to schooling to employment law to "hate" speech.

Yet believing we do live in such a potentially genocidal society has all kinds of negative implications for those who must defer to Kinsella's and Farber's expert class, instead of fighting things out in freer less centralized arenas. It makes all of us less free. And ultimately that is the challenge we need to put to people: do you realize that only greater freedom can solve certain kinds of post-postmodern problems - the problems now posed by our previous "solutions" to the Holocaust - and that we are not in the 1930s? If we live forever with Farber's thoughtless "genocide starts with [bad] thoughts" then we can be sure that we will remain trapped in a world where all kinds of discussions can't be had. To question gay marriage, e.g., is to threaten a queer Holocaust... But how is such an understanding really liberating for anyone?

And so K and F should be questioned not largely in some abstract philosophical world but in terms of pragmatic realities in Canada today. (That is what K and F's opponents in the debate, Noa Mendelsohn Aviv and Mike Brock were starting to get at in the clip I saw.) I don't think you can tell people whose lives are genuinely threatened to grow a thicker skin; but you can tell people that there are many downsides to playing the group whose lives are ostensibly threatened - as if that's the only way your leaders and patrons can get "heard" - and who are thus in need of the state to put a chill into their "enemies".

Taking this step almost guarantees these opponents will become enemies and not potential interlocutors in a debate that can hope to find a basis - i.e. the ongoing debate whose healthy existence continually renews the basis - for mutual co-existence, either nationally or internationally. It may be true that there can be little accommodation or dialogue with those who hold to some more primitive understandings of what is sacred and non-negotiable to their group. But to the extent there is any hope for finding something sacred that individuals in a free society or global economy can share and divide, we don't get anywhere near there under our present victim-worshiping discussions and regulations in Canada, it seems to me.

Kinsella is the quintessential liberal, with a great faith in implementing expert/"judicial" processes to mediate problems of "hate". That sounds good to a lot of people because it is what we have been told for a century or so now and especially in the last forty or fifty years. But it is not enough to defer to the experts; at the end of the day there has to be some acknowledgment of reality: can our experts and "judges" today really achieve the task the Kinsellas want them to achieve? Do their careful processes get results? Do they create a sense of justice? Or do all the best laid plans no longer work? Does justice appear arbitrary and political no matter how much careful mediation is attempted? Does justice become indebted to a need for victims to wave around?

Many of us in Canada today no longer have faith in the post-war system. That's the reality. The basic problem, as I see it, is that our expert class mediation - e.g. mediation of some words alleged "likely" to harm - in pretending to appear fair and disinterested, actually requires highly involved and interested "investigations", i.e. bureaucrats engaging in lengthy politically correct talk sessions, in mediating a now politicized law, that go on for years and never really provide a sense of just closure. Offensive words by nobodies can take up years and millions of taxpayer dollars. All kinds of writing is chilled because no one knows if they can say what they want to say, e.g., about Islam as a political religion. If all the experts and "human rights" officials in Canada can't help us transcend the debates and conflicts we're having, which I think to be evidently the case on many issues of "multiculturalism", then we need a new way of mediating our rivalries. But it will take some shared good faith to go there.

When Kinsella offers an emotive argument - "what about the kid who comes out of his house and finds a racial slur on his mailbox"? - I would say well that kind of thing should probably be dealt with under the criminal law of making threats, or possibly vandalism. But for Kinsella to then drop that personal context and go into the abstract world where we should prosecute anyone who makes racially derogatory comments on the internet is to say that a) we believe there really is a threatening "normal" and potentially Auschwitzian culture out there (except this time the state is on the good side), and not just a few mentally ill or terminally resentful people best ignored; and that b) the members of racialized group x cannot but escape their racialized status and stand up as free individuals not too worried about the racists out there and not wanting a victim-championing cure that is worse than the disease. But that all depends on the reality out there in Canada today; and that is what we have to make the Kinsellas debate.

But in order to really win that debate we have to do more to use this debate in a way that is truly liberating for all involved (keeping in mind that some sacred things, in certain political religions, just can't continue to exist and be at peace with the modern world that now sustains us all). We too have to argue in ways that help us move towards creating the reality in which fear of Auschwitz makes less and less sense; that is what the present debate should really be about. Debate on section 13 needs to become the sign of a new and freer shared order that we are ever trying to build.

The other side only wants to trap us in a limbo of fears. Kinsella and Farber want to throw out red herrings like "what about child pornography?", knowing full well that people will allow for those who have, say, certain literary fantasies, but will not stand for those who abuse children. Ultimately these invocations of an evil that, according to K and F, needs a new and improved expert/speech limiting class to redeem the expert/speech limiting class of the Nazi state, are shoddy ways to make an argument about our shared reality. It is to ignore, most of all, that Auschwitz required much more than bad words: it required a people committed to a state of total war against some imagined evil. Auschwitz may have started with the first guy to hate Jews, but it required World War II to really happen.

It is not enough to invoke that first moment of hate as a justification for state action, especially since resentment of the other is a universal human necessity or inevitability, fundamental to our fallen human reality. We need also to be worried, rather more worried, about justifying the state's righteous calls to war against "the normal" - that evil other within us all. That is what the other side in this free speech debate is doing. They are the righteous (Kinsella's manner on tv is rather supercilious!) defenders of the state and expert class against evil norms. So I'd argue it is they who are taking the first steps to the next genocide. Yes, that's (only) a little hyperbolic, but at least I'll admit it.

I call Farber and Kinsella's position as potentially conducive to genocide in order to insist on some proper symmetry in our claims on a sacred, but I believe infinitely divisible and exchangeable object of common national interest - individual freedom. We need that symmetry to allow for the truly free exchange we can have without undue fear, and that I have faith will best mediate both side's present fears. Kinsella and Farber don't want that symmetry; they want to be the superior experts of a tv-mediated elite with a privileged access to and role in defining the sacred things of our nation. They want to patronize and institutionalize a victim class in the name of "human rights". Time to move on.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why Obama?

Change - How Political Eras End and Begin - Ron Suskind - NYTimes.com
“I don’t have much time to reflect on what’s happening — to ask the ‘why’ questions — and Barack doesn’t, either,” Axelrod said. But then, pacing the carpet, he thought back on what he called the original why question, what got all this started, back in December 2006. Barack, Michelle and eight others were in Axelrod’s office in downtown Chicago. If Barack was going to run, he had to decide quickly, a point the group made by laying out primary schedules and game plans for fund-raising and building an organization. Insights were offered from around the room.

It was Michelle, Axelrod remembers, who stopped the show. “You need to ask yourself, Why do you want to do this?” she said directly. “What are hoping to uniquely accomplish, Barack?”

Obama sat quietly for a moment, and everyone waited. “This I know: When I raise my hand and take that oath of office, I think the world will look at us differently,” he said. “And millions of kids across this country will look at themselves differently.”

Good Thinking Weather

You walk on the trail and your foot sinks in the mud, you see your breath from the cold, and that's about all you can see because of the fog.

But it's a great time to be out hiking, at least if it's an easy trail you've taken a few times before. You can let your mind drift, float over ideas as the river dances over stones and sunken logs. You can settle for half-formed thoughts as vague as the view to the other shore. You may be struggling at a crossroads but neither path entails the true end of the trail, each offers just another turn, one more curve to negotiate along the journey. Sometimes it takes a damp foggy day to see things clearly... and to find peace.
You kneel down to offer a playful dog a moment of your time, and you share a smile with the owner who soon follows from down the trail. No words are needed; anyone can understand the benefit of letting the mind dance once in a while, letting it wander from thought to thought just to see what's on the other side.

That's what comes with good thinking weather.

It's not just a popularity contest...

Thankfully, you can vote as many times as you wish. Watch out for a rampage of censorious green lizards to come.

But seriously, it's one thing to be a blogger with a major "pro-censorship ass hat" problem, another to have that malady along with state power! Well that's my two cents on what is shaping up to be the most hotly contested category. I shall attempt to influence your voting no more!
The Infidel Blogger Awards: Nominations for "The Georgies" aka The Infidel Blogger Awards have been finalized and voting is now open. Vote early and often!

Anarcho-tyranny, part three.

We might have expected from Samuel Francis more than this apercu of "anarcho-tyranny" but we have that alone to my knowledge. In spite of the brevity, I believe it is worthy of our consideration. I've dealt with this same insight at some length under the rubric of "Velvet Fascism." However we call it, such is the temper of our times.

Kathy Shaidle and Peter Vere wrote The Tyranny of Nice, and Jonah Goldberg wrote Liberal Fascism, both titles on the topic of benign intervention into the privacies of the people by the force of state-- for the good of the people. I often end my own writings on this topic with the line: "Lord, save us from those who would save us from ourselves."

I write of Velvet Fascism. Francis writes of Anarcho-tyranny. Regardless of how we phrase it, all of us interested in the preservation of Human freedom and its growth across the world are working toward the negative freedom of individual choice in the life of privacy. That sounds negative, doesn't it? And who likes negative? It's so... negative. That negative freedom is the freedom from rather than the freedom to is lost in the phraseology. That you might be free from government control of the minutia of your daily details isn't so romantic-seeming as having the freedom to. But let's look for a moment: If you are free from, for example, government control, then you do not need permission from outside. You are free to, let's say, walk and talk. If you are free to walk and talk, then you must know this is so because the government has told you so. The mind of free to is the mind of control. The mind of free from is the mind of freedom.

Even within an anarchist/libertarian world of free from there might be an infinite number of categories in which the person is not free to. You would not be free to do harm to others, and probably not be free to harm yourself if that harms others as well. Yes, there oughtta be a law. And usually there is. Few if any of us would choose freely to live in a world of fantasy computer games, violent worlds of lawlessness and sudden death. We do have laws. Many of our laws are Natural, based on the experience of living in the real world; and some of our laws are Positive, based on tradition and experience from others over time as codified. Laws are often good for the orderly working of the lives of the majority most of the time. The fewer the laws and the less tightly they bind people to the opinions of orthopraxy, the better. Our intuitive sense of right and wrong is often a better a judge than the laws of scholars from centuries long past and far gone. When it fails, then we have laws, as we must have. Chaos is a bad thing in our social life. So too though is hyper-control, even if it is-- for our own good.

Lord, save us from those who would save us from ourselves.

Samuel Francis presents us with a veiw of a world of the worst of both worlds, a world of anarcho-tyranny:
"Anarcho-tyranny" - a form of government that seems to be unknown in history until recently. Anarcho-tyranny is a combination of the worst features of anarchy and tyranny at the same time.

Under anarchy, crime is permitted and criminals are not apprehended or punished. Under tyranny, innocent citizens are punished. Most societies in the past have succumbed to either one or the other, but never as far as I know to both at once.

In the United States today, lawmakers worry far more about drivers who don't wear seat belts, run red lights or play their stereos too loud than they do about the thousands of rapists, thieves, and killers who prowl about as free as wolves in the woods. If the Maryland legislature spent any time this year increasing the penalties for real crimes, I haven't heard about it, nor did it make much effort to improve enforcement of the laws it already has.

One danger of the new laws is that, once Maryland starts enforcing them, other states will tend to adopt similar ones. The reason anarcho-tyranny flourishes is that it gets lawmakers off the hook. The legislators can pass such laws and then brag to their constituents about how tough they are on crime and how devoted to public safety they are. Once a lawmaker gets an anarcho-tyrannical idea under his belt, you can be sure the idea is headed for the law books.

But of course such laws do nothing to impede real criminals. The anarcho-tyrants create new laws that merely criminalize the innocent and ignore real criminals. The result is that law-abiding citizens catch it twice: once from the real criminals to whom the state is oblivious and once from the laws that criminalize the law-abiding.

Yet Maryland's little adventure in anarcho-tyranny did not spring full blown from the legislators' heads this year. A couple of years ago, the state government outlawed smoking in most restaurants, an unprecedented statewide invasion of privacy. Is it surprising that similar invasive laws were passed this year?

And will it be surprising if such laws spread? Well, no. Five days after the Maryland lawmakers adjourned from their labors to make their state safer from loud radios and lightless windshield wipers, the national anarcho-tyrant-in-chief himself unbosomed his own contribution to new statecraft.

The Clinton administration announced that it is proposing federal legislation to allow police to stop drivers who are not wearing seat belts. Big Business, those lovers of liberty, in the form of the insurance industry, is all for it, and together with its Siamese twin, Big Government, it's busy contriving schemes to enlarge state power yet more.

The secret of tyranny - whether anarcho or the plain vanilla version with which the world is all too familiar - is that it never sprouts full-blown from anything. It always starts small and then gets bigger. So if you think these laws are good ideas, you shouldn't be too surprised at the arrival of an era when state power has grown so big that it starts
knocking at your door - if, that is, it bothers to knock at all.

The Samuel Francis Letter. P. O. Box 19627. Alexandria, Virginia, May 1997
But! But! But! all these things are for our own good, obviously. How can a reasonable person object to the state demanding that one wear seat-belts or refrain from killing others with second-hand smoke or polluting the planet? There oughtta be a law. And if there isn't one today, rest assured that there will be one soon. You are free to.... But you are not free from....

I'll continue next time with more from Sam Francis.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Something you're not likely to see at just any party convention

People voting overwhelmingly for the freedom inherent to real human rights; their number included the Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson (whose department has until now been producing some horrendous legal arguments in defense of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act):

From:Stephen Taylor - a blog on Canadian politics » Blog Archive » Rob Nicholson on section 13a

More from Ezra here (one of his friends counted 99% of the floor in favour of the resolution) and here.

Conservative Party of Canada votes overwhelmingly to repeal Section 13 of Canadian Human Rights Act

News just came in via email that the Conservative Party, in today's plenary session of their party's convention, voted overwhelmingly to support resolution P-203 calling for repeal of s. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Here is what Ezra had to say about yesterday's "policy workshop" vote: Update from Winnipeg:
I received a phone call from a cabinet minister's aide who is at the Winnipeg Conervative convention. He clarifies that yesterday's vote on party resolution P-203 (to repeal s. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act) passed by a margin of nine to one. He said that was in the "policy workshop", and that today it proceeds to the "convention plenary". My friend advises that the workshop session was so supportive of reform that there was a line-up to speak in favour of the resolution (including Rob Moore, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, though I don't think he managed to get to the front of the line to speak). I'm also told that opponents of the resolution (people in support of s. 13) couldn't even muster enough people to fill the three guaranteed "no" speaking slots. This is very encouraging, and I'm told to expect that two more Parliamentary Secretaries are expected to speak for P-203 today. (It is unconventional for full-fledged cabinet ministers to speak for or against resolutions.) This is all encouraging to me -- and should give momentum to supporters of reform within the caucus, cabinet and PMO.

Anarcho-tyranny, part two.

Rational? Normal, sensible, decent, people do all kinds of self-harming things. So what? Those very same people do things to others that they shouldn't. An example of the latter: they put out the trash when they're not supposed to, thereby mucking up the garbage collection system for everyone. We have to ask what is to be done in cases of both private and public harm. It's damned near urgent.

Two prominent visions of social life are these: that man is an individual who makes his own decisions in his own best interest, he knowing better than others his own needs. And if a man acts in his own interests, usually that will benefit others in that he will act in such a way as to gain good for himself rather than run the risk of the harm of being lynched by angry neighbours, for example. He will not always act in his own self-interest to his own benefit, we know this, sometimes he acting irrationally. We usually accept this as the nature of things, allowing for the fallibility of man and assigning to him the responsibility of the man's own actions. If the man does well, he is rewarded by his efforts; and if he does poorly, he suffers for it all of his own account. Each person is, in such a world-view, an individual, adult, free, independent and self-interested within a group of co-operative others doing much the same as he. Society and the state exist because of other banding together in a daily referendum on nationhood, as Ernest Renan puts it. We decide every day to live together as a people. We choose to live as a democratic people, each giving up a bit of freedom for the greater freedom to live more freely than in an anarchic melee of all against all. Most famously it's a Hobbesean vision of society. Unrestrained "liberty," is, according to Hobbes, what most of us would term anarchy: "During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.

To this war of every man against every man, this also in consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law, where no law, no injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the cardinal virtues.

[....]

"Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; No knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short."

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan.

Regardless of the misty origins of Social Contracts or their equivalents in the real world, we do, most of us, have The Laws. The Laws conflict with our individual freedom, which we accept so long as they are the minimum necessary to maintain order. Oh: that is, if were are individualists rather than Communitarians.

Clarice Feldman, "Dustbin Stasi," American Thinker. 01 Nov. 2008

The marvelous writer whose work appears under his pen name Theodore
Dalrymple has long argued that in statist regimes like that in the UK
local authorities do little to prevent or punish real crime but use
every law at their disposal to beset and harass the honest, law
abiding citizens -- because it's much easier work. The end result is
that the big issues of right and wrong get no attention as honest
citizens are reduced to scurrying around complying with
ever-increasing and ever more stupid petty regulations on their every
action.

Nothing illustrates his point better than this story:

More than half of town halls admit using anti-terror laws to spy
on families suspected of putting their rubbish out on the wrong day.

[More:] http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2008/11/dustbin_stasi.html

If memory serves, it is Schiller who writes that no one is a whole but is rather a fragment of the whole, a splinter or a sliver of the whole, and that alone he is nothing of worth at all. His is the Communitarian vision of Man, quite typical of Europeans. There is much to be said in favor of such a vision: that those who live alone are feral, are animals, some of whom can't even walk upright, having learned from birth to walk like wild beasts. The feral man has no language. He has no articulate ideas. Man alone is, in short, not a man. It is society that gives man the boundaries that make him part of something rather than the boundless nothingness of freedom as individual. It is to others that every individual owes his being and sense. It is not merely to the living, it is to the past that one owes as well: one owes the past for traditions and laws and customs and livelihood and family and so on. Because no one man is important in comparison to the whole, no one is important as an individual in himself but only the collective is important. Selfishness, therefore, is a harm beyond repair. Individualism is a sin irredeemable. Putting out your trash against the greater collective, against the General Will is so wrong it requires that the whole of the community take action, in the case above by having some of them watch to ensure that those who violate the collective rights have a chance to prevent the individual person from such violations of the common good. The state must spy on the individual to ensure he doesn't do wrong against the whole, and that if he does, that he is corrected. The common interest before the personal interest. It makes sense in a Utilitarian view. We're all in this together.

"She's [Sarah Palin] not my role model. I don't identify with her. And it scares me because I feel she's not going away -- win or lose," says [Obama supporter Eileen] Limas. "She will go back, she will educate herself on things and re-tool herself and she is going to be around a while. I think she is going to be a substantial political player for the Republicans for a long time to come." CNN.

There are a couple of ways of understanding the nature of the meaning of life, separate and conflicting, that lead to our currently divided society: there is the collectivist vision, that we are all one; that people are nothing without other people to give them meaning and identity; that people who need people are the luckiest people in the world. Yes, we are the children of the world. And there is the vision that man is himself, makes himself according to what he decides is better for him by his own lights than what is demanded or even commanded of him by the state, by experts in how to live another's life. The latter one might call Gnostics, those who feel they have a greater insight into what is a good life for all, and who gather the powers of the state to enforce their visions onto the personal lives of the "masses."

When you were a child, your guardians, whether parents or not, probably had some better idea of how you should live your life than you did as a child. They, in turn, had less an idea than the rulers of the state and nation, i.e. those in charge of maintaining the order of society, e.g. politicians, university professors, journalists, and so on, those one might dismiss today as Philosopher Kings. Yes, some experts certainly do know much and valuable much at that. Your parents knew too much and valuable about your life when you were a child, no doubt. But they none of them knew enough to live your life for you. Sometimes the experts, government or even your parents, just don't get it, thinking they know your needs better than you can ever know anything about anything at all. Your life is held "in loco parentis," in the place of the parent by surrogates. Comes a time you should grow up and live your own life. Should come a time when you leave them, and they leave you alone. Often that doesn't happen: you become, as an adult, infantalised by the state and its minions. At adulthood, you are removed from the controls of schools and put into the control of the world by direct government. You never grow up to be mature adult. You never become a full individual: you are made into one sliver of the masses.

How many times have you heard from the social minders a slogan such as this: "The common good before the individual good"?

One hears this, or variations of, at any meeting of Povertarians: Give back to the community. We are all one big family. No one is more important that the group.

"Gemeinnutz vor Eigennutz."

You might want to look up that slogan to see where it comes from and why you just might not like it.

To give you a head start, I'll give a hint: It is the slogan of the Nazi state.

If you don't like the way thing go, it could be that you don't like this "Velvet Fascism" of the Povertarians taking care of all your needs. Maybe you really don't want to be a part of the herd of Human farm animals the minders would make you part of. Maybe you're an adult.

"Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice."*

Conformity hippies will lead us astray from our own intuitions of the Good. Who are these religious fanatic Povertarian communalists to know our lives better than we who live them? Walk away.

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."*

"Gemeinnutz vor Eigennutz."

Your choice.

*Quotation above come from Henry David Thoreau. [Reprinted from comments section at Downtown Eastside Enquirer.]

After roughly 300 pages of intense Germanic philosophizing, Fitche sums up with the line: "It depends on what kind of person one is."

Communalist Povertarian or Palinite?

Among roughly the same number of pages, though of terrible tedium, Ruth Benedict sums up with this: "In reality, society and the individual are not antagonists. His culture provides the raw material of which the individual makes his life. If it is meagre, the individual suffers; if it is rich, the individual has the chance to rise to his opportunity. Every private interest of every man and woman is served by the enrichment of the traditional stores of his civilization." Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture. Boston: Houghton Mifflin; 1934; rpt, 1959; p.p. 251-52.

Some people have managed to become both kinds of person, both the totalitarian and the champion of individuals: they allow license to some and exercise total control of trivialities among others. This is what Samuel Francis calls "Anarcho-tyranny," to which I will return at a later time, having first weighed the chances of successfully dumping the trash without being caught.

Friday, November 14, 2008

B'nai B'rith dares to question hatemongering in the universities?

Via email, a press release from B'nai Brith on the arrest of Ottawa professor Hassan Diab for a 1980 Paris Synagogue bombing (HT Catfur for the links):
“The relentless pursuit of justice by French authorities in this terrorist bombing spanned decades and crossed continents,” said Frank Dimant, B’nai Brith Canada’s Executive Vice President. “It is precisely this kind of determined resolve to fight terrorism, backed by international partners, which should be emulated by all jurisdictions.

“This case raises wider concerns regarding the potential for professors who harbour ideologies of hate to import their extremist views into a classroom setting and to influence young susceptible students.”
But do you have to let off bombs at synagogues to be considered an extremist? Surely Frank Dimant has some idea of the never-ending (anti-American, anti-Western, and Judephobic) conspiracy theories that pass for historical interpretation in our universities. Maybe it's time for B'nai B'rith to help set up a serious organization for professor watching in Canada?

Taking A Second Look At Self-Esteem

Seeing is believing, as the old saying goes. We believe what we think we are seeing. As we age our observation skills may grow alongside our other abilities, and with that growth comes the likelihood that increased perception, especially our self-perception, will demand a change of our beliefs.

How do we handle this sudden recognition, how does our self-esteem negotiate the obvious need for self-criticism, this self-adjustment to new revelations?
How terrifying is the question, "what if I've been wrong..?"

As I approached my fortieth birthday a few years ago, I started realizing how much there was to look back on; one fascinating perspective was to see how many times I had been wrong in my life up to that date, wrong about deeply-held beliefs that had once been vitally important to me. So many times, the awareness that I had been mistaken about something came long before the acceptance of it; I could see it, but didn't want to believe it. This delayed acknowledgment seemed to come from the can't-live-with-it, can't-live-without-it baggage we human beings lug around within ourselves, called "self-esteem".

Self-esteem, like so much else about life, seems at best a mixed blessing; without self-esteem, how would we care enough about ourselves to improve ourselves? Yet with self-esteem, how do we dare change ourselves for the better, since the revelation that we even had room for improvement, the honest assessment of just how much room for improvement there may be, this courts the risk of obliterating our self-regard.

It seems to be a never-ending struggle to maintain a balanced self-esteem, as we individually grope in the dark for a way of understanding the contradictory belief that we're worth improving, no matter how pitifully small we shall forever remain. For myself the balance only came late in life, through my religious faith; it massages the pain that comes with increased observation skills, just as it humbles the pride that can also accompany more thorough self-perception. An article this week in Yahoo Health leaves me hoping that the same happy ending can be found for the next generation, the one currently overflowing with self-esteem:
Today's American high school students are far likelier than those in the 1970s to believe they'll make outstanding spouses, parents and workers, new research shows.

They're also much more likely to claim they are "A" students with high IQs -- even though other research shows that today's students do less homework than their counterparts did in the 1970s. The findings, published in the November issue of Psychological Science, support the idea that the "self-esteem" movement popular among today's parents and teachers may have gone too far, the study's co-author said.

"What this shows is that confidence has crossed over into overconfidence," said Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University.

She believes that decades of relentless, uncritical boosterism by parents and school systems may be producing a generation of kids with expectations that are out of sync with the challenges of the real world.

"High school students' responses have crossed over into a really unrealistic realm, with three-fourths of them expecting performance that's effectively in the top 20 percent," Twenge said. For the study, she and co-researcher W. Keith Campbell, of the University of Georgia, pored over data from the Monitoring the Future study, a large national survey of thousands of U.S. high school students conducted periodically over the past three decades.

The researchers compared the answers kids gave in 1975 and 2006 to 13 questions centered on students' "self-views." These questions solicited students' opinions on such things as how smart they thought they were, or how likely they were to be successful as adults.

"When we look at the responses of the students in the '70s, they are certainly confident that they are going to perform well, but their responses are more modest, a little more realistic" than teens in 2006, Twenge said.

For example, in 1975, less than 37 percent of teens thought they'd be "very good" spouses, compared to more than 56 percent of those surveyed in 2006. Likewise, the number of students who thought they'd become "very good" parents rose from less than 36 percent in 1975 to more than 54 percent in 2006. And almost two-thirds of teens in 2006 thought they'd be exemplary workers, compared to about half of those polled in 1975.

As for self-reported academic achievement, twice as many students in 2006 than in 1976 said they earned an "A" average in high school -- 15.6 percent vs. 7.7 percent, the report found. Compared to their counterparts from the '70s, today's youth also tended to rate themselves as more intelligent and were more likely to say they were "completely satisfied" with themselves. ...

Twenge stressed that youthful confidence isn't necessarily bad. "Young people have always had some degree of starry-eyed optimism, and that's probably a good thing," she said. "And setting goals for yourself is a good thing. It's just when those goals are wildly unrealistic, then that can cause trouble for everyone."

For example, young people entering the workforce may score well in job interviews if they exude self-confidence, she said, but that can quickly sour if a new employer doesn't provide them with the perks or promotions they feel they deserve. "They don't set the right goals for themselves, because they are overconfident -- and that's when it blows up in their face," Twenge said. The blame for all this may lie with well-intentioned adults, she suggested.

"These kids didn't raise themselves, they got these ideas from somewhere," Twenge said. With Mom and Dad handing out endless praise, kids today readily believe they are somehow superior, she said. And teachers aren't blameless, either: According to Twenge, research shows that high school teachers now give out an "A" grade more easily than their counterparts did in the 1970s, even though today's high school students report doing less homework than students from that era.
...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Happy People Don't Watch As Much Television As Unhappy People

Is television the new opiate of the masses? An interesting study from the University of Maryland suggests that happy people don't watch nearly as much television as unhappy people:

...Examining the activity patterns of happy and less happy people in the General Social Survey (GSS) between 1975 and 2006, the authors found that happy people were more socially active, attended more religious services, voted more and read more newspapers.
In contrast, unhappy people watched significantly more television in their spare time. These results also raise questions about recent and previous time-diary data, in which television rated quite highly when people were asked to rate how they felt when they engaged in various activities in "real time" in these daily diaries.
"These conflicting data suggest that TV may provide viewers with short-run pleasure, but at the expense of long-term malaise," said Professor Robinson. ...
Well, that's a big part of where true happiness lies, isn't it; thinking and acting with an eye for the long-term, not for merely the short-term.

This next point reminded me of a comment made once upon a time by science fiction author Ray Bradbury in a retrospective interview I can vaguely recall from the dusty corners of my failing memory. A jovial Bradbury described himself not as an optimist, but as "an optimal behaviorist". He would work, he would do things, and at the end of a day he could look back and see many things accomplished, day after day. This made him feel good about himself, which in turn led to more productivity, and then more pride of accomplishment. Someone who never did anything, Bradbury said, would find it harder to feel as good about himself. That cycle of strength, built from actions, is interesting when contrasted against the cycle of passivity undertaken by the unhappy television viewers cited in the report:

The authors also noted the many other attractions associated with TV viewing in relation to other free-time activities. Viewers don't have to go anywhere, dress up (or at all), find company, plan ahead, expend energy, do any work-or even pay anything - in order to view. This becomes an unbeatable combination when added to its being quite enjoyable in the short run. This probably accounts for TV taking up more than half of Americans' free time.
This link of happiness to being purposefully engaged in meaningful actions gets further confirmation with the news that, for the unhappy individual, extra time was harming them more than a lack of time:
Unhappy people were also more likely to have unwanted extra time on their hands (51 percent) compared to very happy people (19 percent) and to feel rushed for time (35 percent vs. 23 percent). Of the two, having extra time on their hands was the bigger burden.
The whole story also brings to mind the wisdom of mothers (like mine) who used to tell their kids to shut off the television, go outside, and play. Thanks Mom..!

Freudian slip?

I received a second letter in as many days from Michael Ignatieff. I think it's no secret Iggy was in a hurry to see Stephane Dion go. So I chuckled at the spelling of the following:
Now more than ever, we need a Liberal Party that can counter Stephan Harper's conservative agenda for our country.
Well, they do say he hates to be called Steve.

By the way, once again Mike's letter makes the ritualistic nod to bilingualism in English, but not in French.

Thoughts on reading Walker's latest...

Maybe we should start sending them pints of writers' blood, gratis...
..Their squeamishness hasn't stopped them from maligning Ezra's civil rights. CHRC investigator Natalie Dagenais actually blacked out the portions of his submitted legal defense which she deemed unfitting for CHRC commissioner eyes. At least they didn't spend $500,000 to censor him this time. I mean, even with a higher cost of living, what does a marker cost these days? A buck?
But do the new Masters of he Universe shop at dollar stores like normal people? Are they not more carefree with with the fruits of the seigneury? Or do they demand blood from their stationery suppliers too?
I'll spare you the speech about how such bureaucracies undermine our freedom, as I've said it before, but I will add that the HRC bureaucracy is inefficient, ill-run, illiberal, and unnecessary in the realms of journalism or speech. That they have the audacity to pursue writers and publications, and how they fold when pressure is brought to bear against them, evidences a predatory nature which is ill-suited for the well-being of the citizenry beneath them.

To steal the words from Ezra Levant's mouth: "Fire. Them. All."

But don't bother to send a letter first. They've got markers.
Free speech under attack

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monsieur Iggy

During the last Liberal Party of Canada leadership campaign in 2006, I wrote Michael Ignatieff to ask what he had to say about his Quebec lieutenant, Denis Coderre, attending what was a de facto Hezbollah rally in Montreal. Iggy's office gave me the run around, and put me on their mailing list (figuring, I guess, that there must be a few genuine Liberals pissed off about Hezbollah).

So, I received a note an hour ago telling me that Michael wanted me to be among the first to know he was again throwing his hat in the leadership ring. I have always thought it strange that a man who has spent most of his adult life outside of Canada wants to be our Prime Minister. Then again, maybe it is his mission in life to save us from Bob Rae. Anyway, I see Iggy is giving off signs that he has initiated himself into the Liberal Party view of Canada. To quote from the letter:
...we need to listen to each and every Liberal. Indeed, we need to listen to each and every Canadian. [OK MIKE: no more sucking up to terrorists, or even just ideological Islamists!] We must let everyone know that this campaign is really more about them than it is about me.
[...]
Tous ensemble, riding by riding, person by person, we can renew our Party and bring Canada back.
That's the last paragraph of the letter. The French version follows. Here's the last paragraph of that:
Tous ensemble, comté par comté, personne par personne, nous pouvons renouveler notre parti et retrouver notre Canada.
I'm just curious, is it normal in the Liberal worldview to make the ritualistic nod to bilingualism only in the English version? There's no English in the French version.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Support Resolution P-203: Repeal Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act

A lot of bloggers did some quick work, co-operating in the kind of loosely organized freedom that the internet encourages, to put together a flyer for this week's Conservative Party of Canada convention in Winnipeg. At the convention, a resolution (P-203 - pdf here) proposed by the Victoria and Kelowna-Lake Country riding associations, calling for repeal of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, will be discussed.

My great thanks to all the bloggers involved. And a vote of full support from Covenant Zone (where at least a few possible CPC votes are up for grabs!) for any and all motions to repeal Section 13 (and the provincial equivalents).

Here are some jpegs of the flyer (click to enlarge).





Anyone wanting more in this line might check out the leaflets (here and here) we handed out at the Maclean's/Mark Steyn trial before the BC Human Rights Tribunal.