Thursday, April 30, 2009

Let's play, Spot The Hate Monger: Vote, with peaceful reasons, in comments

Contestant #1 (HT: Catfur) consistently refuses to acknowledge the Judeo-Christian roots of Western civilization, as we see in MEMRI: Special Dispatch - No. 2332
>In an interview published April 23, 2009 in the Saudi Daily 'Okaz, reformist thinker Ibrahim Al-Buleihi expressed his admiration for Western civilization. The interview was posted on the same day on the Elaph website.[1] Al-Buleihi calls on the Arabs to acknowledge the greatness of Western civilization, and to admit the deficiencies of their own culture. He states that such self-criticism is a precondition to any change for the better. Ibrahim Al-Buleihi is a member of the Saudi Shura Council. [2]
[...]
'Okaz: "I begin with the crucial issue which distinguishes your thought and which your opponents always raise against you - namely, your being completely dazzled by the West, while you completely belittle Arabic thought. Truly, this is the most outstanding feature of your writings. There is also extreme self-flagellation which many see [in your writings]. What is the cause of this?"

Buleihi: "My attitude towards Western civilization is an attitude based on obvious facts and great accomplishments; here is a reality full of wonderful and amazing things. [Recognizing] this doesn't mean that I am blindly fascinated. This is the very opposite of the attitude of those who deny and ignore the bright lights of Western civilization. Just look around… and you will notice that everything beautiful in our life has been produced by Western civilization: even the pen that you are holding in your hand, the recording instrument in front of you, the light in this room, and the journal in which you work, and many innumerable amenities, which are like miracles for the ancient civilizations.… If it were not for the accomplishments of the West, our lives would have been barren. I only look objectively and value justly what I see and express it honestly. Whoever does not admire great beauty is a person who lacks sensitivity, taste, and observation. Western civilization has reached the summit of science and technology. It has achieved knowledge, skills, and new discoveries, as no previous civilization before it. The accomplishments of Western civilization cover all areas of life: methods of organization, politics, ethics, economics, and human rights. It is our obligation to acknowledge its amazing excellence. Indeed, this is a civilization that deserves admiration. … The horrible backwardness in which some nations live is the inevitable result of their refusal to accept this [abundance of Western ideas and visions] while taking refuge in denial and arrogance."

'Okaz: "Sir, you can admire this civilization as much as you want, but not at the expense of others, especially our own civilization."

Buleihi: "My admiration for the West is not at the expense of others; rather, it is an invitation to those others to acknowledge their illusions and go beyond their inferiority and liberate themselves from backwardness. [Those others] should admit their shortcomings, and make an effort to overcome them; they should stop denying the truth and closing their eyes to the multitude of wonderful achievements. They should be fair towards those nations that achieved prosperity for themselves but did not monopolize it for themselves and instead allowed the whole world to share the results of this progress, so that other nations of the whole world now enjoy these achievements. Furthermore, Western civilization has given to the world knowledge and skills which made it possible for them, the non-Western nations, to compete with it in production and share markets with it. Criticizing one's own deficiencies is a precondition to inducing oneself to change for the better. Conversely, to glorify one's backward apathetic self is to establish and fortify backwardness, to strengthen the shackles of apathy, and to eradicate the capabilities of excellence. Backwardness is a shameful reality, which we should resent and from which we must liberate ourselves."

"Western Civilization is the Only Civilization that Liberated Man From His Illusions and Shackles; It Recognized His Individuality and Provided Him With Capabilities and Opportunities to Cultivate Himself and Realize His Aspirations"


'Okaz: "This may be so, and I'm with you in this demand but, sir, would you summarize for us the reason for your admiration of Western culture, so that we can have a basis for discussion?"

Buleihi: "There is no one reason, there are a thousand reasons, which all induce me to admire the West and emphasize its absolute excellence in all matters of life. Western civilization is the only civilization that liberated man from his illusions and shackles; it recognized his individuality and provided him with capabilities and opportunities to cultivate himself and realize his aspirations. [Western civilization] humanized political authority and established mechanisms to guarantee relative equality and relative justice and to prevent injustice and to alleviate aggression. This does not mean that this is a flawless civilization; indeed, it is full of deficiencies. Yet it is the greatest which man has achieved throughout history. [Before the advent of Western civilization,] humanity was in the shackles of tyranny, impotence, poverty, injustice, disease, and wretchedness.

"It is an extraordinary civilization, and it is not an extension of any ancient civilization, with the exception of Greek civilization, which is the source of contemporary civilization. I have completed a book on this great extraordinary civilizational leap, titled The Qualitative Changes in Human Civilization. Western civilization is its own product and it is not indebted to any previous civilization except for the Greek one … It has revived the Greek achievements in the fields of philosophy, science, literature, politics, society, human dignity, and veneration of reason, while recognizing its shortcomings and illusions and stressing its continuous need for criticism, review and correction."

'Okaz: "In your words here, you completely wipe out all the endeavors and creativity of previous civilizations such as the Islamic one, by stating that the West not indebted to it."

Buleihi: "Indeed, it is not, nor is it indebted to any other previous civilization. Western civilization has its foundation in Greece in the sixth and fifth centuries BC; then it stopped in the Middle Ages, but resumed its progress in modern times, when its benefits have come to include all nations. It is really extraordinary in every meaning of the word - excellence, uniqueness, and novelty… It has components and qualities which distinguish it from all previous and subsequent civilizations. It is the product of philosophical thinking invented by the Greeks. The Europeans have based themselves on this kind of thinking, especially on its critical aspect, which developed the capability of producing objective knowledge that is always open to review, correction and progress…"

'Okaz: "Some Western thinkers wrote that Western civilization is an extension of previous civilizations. How can you, a Muslim Arab, deny this?"

Buleihi: "When we review the names of Muslim philosophers and scholars whose contribution to the West is pointed out by Western writers, such as Ibn Rushd, Ibn Al-Haitham, Ibn Sina, Al-Farbi, Al-Razi, Al-Khwarizmi, and their likes, we find that all of them were disciples of the Greek culture and they were individuals who were outside the [Islamic] mainstream. They were and continue to be unrecognized in our culture. We even burned their books, harassed them, [and] warned against them, and we continue to look at them with suspicion and aversion. How can we then take pride in people from whom we kept our distance and whose thought we rejected?...
[...]
'Okaz: "A cog in a machine? Do you believe that this is true also of Islamic civilization?"

Buleihi: "We sharply distinguish between Islam in itself and what people do in its name. The great principles of Islam and its sublime doctrines that emphasize and uphold human value and dignity have not had a chance throughout history to establish themselves. Ever since the end of the period of the rightly-guided Caliphs, man's individuality was eradicated in Arab history and his value has been linked to his political, religious, regional, or tribal affiliation… The only civilization which acknowledges and respects man as an individual is Western civilization… Behavior in any field is not the outcome of teachings, as such, but rather of practice and actual experience...."

'Okaz: "Has this been the case throughout all of Arab history, in your opinion?"

Buleihi: "Yes, all of Arab history can be characterized in this gloomy way, except for the period of the rightly-guided Caliphs and discrete periods such as the reign of Omar ibn 'Abd Al-'Aziz. One should not confuse the sublime principles and doctrines of Islam with its history, which is full of mistakes, transgression, and tragedies. When the Abbasids overcame the Umayyads, they covered the bodies of the dead with rugs and held a feast over the bodies in a display of vengeance. When [Caliph] Al-Ma'mun defeated his brother Al-Amin, he flayed him like a lamb. This scene recurs throughout our history. Political power is the pivotal value in Arab culture. In our age, there have been recurrent military coups in the Arab world, in a struggle for power, but not in an attempt to bring about a change for the better. Each successive regime is worse than its predecessor."

'Okaz: "Mr. Buleihi, haven't you read in the history of your people about hundreds of scholars who had significance and impact and whose lives are studied to this day, even though they possessed no power, tribe, or religious affiliation, and who are valued for their scholarship?"

Buleihi: "This is a general statement which is not backed by fact. Arab history, with the exception of the period of the rightly-guided Caliphs, was dominated by politics. When the Fatimids took over Egypt and North Africa, these areas became Shiite, and when Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi [i.e. Saladin] put an end to the Fatimids, he drove out everything that had any relation to Shiism. The same happened when the Safavids converted Iran to Shiism, which then led the Ottomans to act the same way [in imposing Sunnism]. Thus Arab history, or Islamic history, in the wider sense, is the outcome of political ups and downs…."

"Those Exceptional [Arab] Individuals Were Not the Product of Arab Culture, But Rather Greek Culture... We Don't Deserve to Take Pride In Them, Since We Rejected Them and Fought Their Ideas"
So, no credit to Mohammed for learning from the Jews.

Now we turn to contestants #2 Youth for Western Civilization; and #3 Heidi Beria of the Southern Poverty Law Center:
A student group that bills itself as "America's right wing youth movement" focused on countering radical multiculturism, socialism and mass immigration is causing a stir on a growing number of college campuses across the country.

The conservative political group Youth for Western Civilization is currently organized on at least seven university campuses. According to its Web site, the group hopes to inspire Western youth on the "basis of pride in their American and Western heritage," counter and ultimately defeat "leftism on campus" and create a social movement in which a right-wing subculture is an alternative to what it calls a "poisonous and bigoted" campus climate.

"A great part of college is definitely meeting people of different backgrounds, but a multicultural ideology teaches that we should appreciate things just because they're different from our culture with no regards to the quality of the culture and that all cultures are inherently equal," said Trevor Williams, president of YWC's Vanderbilt chapter. "I absolutely disagree."

But students who lean left are not welcoming their new neighbor. Those opposed to YWC say its message teeters on hate speech and has no place at institutions of higher learning.

"'Western' is a veiled term that means 'white,'" University of North Carolina graduate student Tyler Oakley wrote in an e-mail to FOXNews.com. "I believe that our democracy is strong enough to allow extreme forms of speech, but YWC's message is essentially a negative one, an assault on not being white or non-Western, and is therefore hateful, if not blatant hate speech."

While its numbers are small, YWC members hope a well-publicized April 14 event featuring the group's honorary chairman — former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo — at UNC's Chapel Hill campus, will help mobilize conservative students and attract new members.

Tancredo's speech opposing in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants was shut down after a window was smashed and a banner reading "No One Is Illegal" was unfurled across the former Republican lawmaker's face. One UNC student, Helen Elizabeth Koch, was arrested for disorderly conduct in the incident, which was widely distributed on YouTube and is also featured on Youth for Western Civilization's home page.

Officials at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which identifies and tracks hate groups in the U.S., told FOXNews.com that the YWC is not currently on its list, but some of the group's views are "suspect," including the notion that Western civilization is somehow superior.

In February, following YWC's debut at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, SPLC linked the group's founder, Kevin DeAnna, to several posts on the Spartan Spectator, the Web site of Michigan State University's chapter of Young Americans for Freedom.

SPLC identified MSU-YAF as a hate group in 2007; DeAnna vehemently denies posting the material attributed to him.

"We're definitely monitoring them," said SPLC spokewoman Heidi Beirich. "We will look at them for hate group status."
[...]
Jesse Jones, a freshman at Vanderbilt, where YWC hosted former U.S. Treasurer Bay Buchanan last month, acknowledged the group's right to organize and share its views.

"But their fascist-like logo, their name echoing 'Hitler Youth,' and Tom Tancredo's call of 'this is your country — take it back' all quite frankly scare me," Jones wrote in an e-mail to FOXNews.com.

Jones said he's also disturbed by the group's call to restore a "curriculum that focuses on Western history, not political correctness," according to its Web site.

"They want to change the curriculum to emphasize 'classical learning' and get rid of 'trendy multiculturalism,'" Jones continued. "In practice this means firing professors with the wrong views and hiring those with the 'right' views.

"Even assuming there is a 'right' view on a given issue, the point is to get students to come to this opinion on their own, given the facts. In this way, YWC's views on education are inherently anti-intellectual."
[...]
"It's got nothing to do with racism, it's got nothing to do with extremism," Tancredo told FOXNews.com. "It has to do with celebrating the benefits Western civilization has brought to mankind, not the least of which is the concept of law. It's designed to bring attention to the issues, discussions and points of view that aren't readily available in the typical classroom on liberal colleges run by left-wing loonies."

Thursday Thoughts

Stories under contemplation on this sunny Thursday morning:
Chaos: Pakistan at war. At least 20 dead in Karachi: "Enraged mobs took to the streets indulging in aerial firing and torching vehicles and shops, witnesses and police said... As the clashes spread, there were reports from many parts of the city of firing and mobs setting vehicles ablaze as shops closed down and people rushed to reach home." ~~ Meanwhile, government forces launched a counter-attack against taliban positions north of the capital city, Islamabad: "Rather than fleeing, militants seized three police stations in the north of Buner on Tuesday and kidnapped 70 police and paramilitary troops..." ~~ Military spokesperson Major General Athar Abbas: `The militants are forcing local youth to join their ranks.'' ~~ In Kohat, taliban raze the homes of Sikhs for delaying their payment of "jazia": ‘Sharia had been enforced in the area and every non-Muslim had to pay protection money’. ~~ Editorializing against the leftist-islamist alliance: "...[A]mong the booty are also women whose families cannot refuse the marriage proposal of a Talib. This kind of redistribution of wealth is not exactly what Marx and Engels ordered, so any leftist, romantic idea that the Taliban’s is a revolution of the dispossessed is simply wrong. More to the point is the fact that one cannot survive for long cutting down trees and selling precious stones. Development is not possible under draconian and medieval regimes so the total number of people under the poverty line will increase in any Talibanised state."
Gratitude: Miami driver rescued from burning car returns to paramedics and firefighters on her birthday to thank them for saving her life. "To us, it's the biggest thank you we could receive in the world. No amount of money, no amount of anything could replace what she did for us today..."
Heroism: Passersby stop to pull couple out of burning car on Florida highway. "'I didn't even consider leaving her there,'' said Kelly... ''You could hear the metal bending in the heat'' .
Civility: Walter Williams on "Law Vs Moral Values". "To see men sitting whilst a woman or elderly person was standing on a crowded bus or trolley car used to be unthinkable. It was common decency for a man to give up his seat. Today, in some cities there are ordinances requiring public conveyances to set aside seats posted "Senior Citizen Seating." Laws have replaced common decency.
...
Policemen and laws can never replace customs, traditions and moral values as a means for regulating human behavior. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. Our increased reliance on laws to regulate behavior is a measure of how uncivilized we've become."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Some interesting swine flue notes, via Drudge

Only 7 swine flu deaths, not 152, says WHO | smh.com.au
A member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has dismissed claims that more than 150 people have died from swine flu, saying it has officially recorded only seven deaths around the world.

Vivienne Allan, from WHO's patient safety program, said the body had confirmed that worldwide there had been just seven deaths - all in Mexico - and 79 confirmed cases of the disease.
Meanwhile, in Egypt, further insight into the life of dhimmis in a time of fear:Egyptian Christians riot after swine flu cull - Times Online
Egyptian leaders ordered the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of pigs today to help protect against swine flu, prompting angry protests from the poor Christan farmers who feed their animals with a country's food scraps. The decision was also criticised as a "real mistake" by a senior UN food expert.

The Arab world's most populous nation has been been badly hit by the H5N1 bird flu virus in recent years and the move to cull up to 400,000 pigs - seen by Muslims as unclean animals - was designed to calm fears of an impending pandemic.

But it left Egypt's large Coptic Christian minority up in arms, especially the slum-dwelling "Zebaleen" rubbish collectors who rely on the hogs for their livelihood. Scores of them blocked the streets and stoned the vehicles of Health Ministry workers as they arrived to carry out the government's order at pig farms on the outskirts of Cario this afternoon.

“Our pigs are healthy. They are our capital and they have no diseases,” said Adel Ishak, who feeds his pigs from the rubbish he collects in Manshiet Nasser, northeast of Cairo.
[...]
Egypt has not had any confirmed cases of swine flu yet but government experts fear a pandemic flu strain could spread quickly through the country because most of its roughly 80 million people live in the densely packed Nile Valley, many in crowded slums in and around Cairo.

The World Health Organisation has repeatedly said, however, that the newly mutated H1N1 virus is not found in pigs - although the animals can be the vessels for the "genetic reassortment" that produces new strains - and that pork meat is safe to eat.

Joseph Domenech, chief veterinary office with the UN Food and Agriculture Officer in Rome, said the Egyptian order was "a real mistake".

"There is no reason to do that. It’s not a swine influenza, it’s a human influenza,” he said.
See also.

Ha Ha. Tricked You!

The Whitehouse first terrified and then humiliated New Yorkers with a recent p.r. stunt on Obama's behalf, and it only cost the people of the nation $329,000.00.

If you'd been in Manhattan and looked out your window to see a passenger plane being chased by two military jets, would you run like hell to get out of wherever you might be? Would you see those planes coming and panic and run? And then, maybe a few hours later, finding out it was our own government simply making some propaganda shots for the White House, would you go back to work and look at your fellows and see them as people like yourself who ran from danger in a state of terror only to find you'd been tricked and that you'd run away like a coward? Mightn't you feel humiliated? And next time? Maybe you'd think you won't be humiliated by running for your life again. But what about next time?

Obama Orders Review of $329,000 Air Force Flight Over New York

By Roger Runningen and Tony Capaccio

April 29 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama ordered a review of the decision giving the go-ahead to a $329,000 publicity-photo shoot over New York City with one of the planes that serves as Air Force One.

The aircraft rattled windows in New York’s financial district and prompted some office workers to flee buildings in fear it was a repeat of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks....

The estimated cost for all three aircraft was $328,835, Air Force spokeswoman Vicki Stein said in an e-mailed response to inquiries. That includes $300,658 for the VC-25, which flew a three- hour mission, and about $28,178 for the F-16 jets, which flew 1.8 hours each, Stein said. The total includes fuel used in flight, fuel needed to power ground equipment that helped prepare the aircraft, and ground maintenance, Stein said. The flights were a training mission and “the hours would have been flown regardless,” she said.

Picture Mission

[White House spokesman Robert] Gibbs said the flyover was “two training missions that became, in the end, a picture mission” ....

Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said ... “Obviously we’re caught in a communications mistake"....
http://news.yahoo.com/s/bloomberg/20090429/pl_bloomberg/aqgwcvt31_s0;_ylt=A0WTUdySjfhJeGsBGACog9IF

I'd think some puke in an office got so full of himself that he felt his job was the most important thing on Earth, and if people don't see that, well, they can run around making fools of themselves and he won't care. They can live with it. "I'm an important office-puke!"

Marcia Kramer, "FAA Memo: Feds Knew NYC Flyover Would Cause Panic," WCBS. Apr 29, 2009

[....]

Federal officials knew that sending two fighter jets and a 747 from the presidential fleet to buzz ground zero and Lady Liberty might set off nightmarish fears of a 9/11 replay, but they still ordered the photo-op kept secret from the public.

In a memo obtained by CBS 2 HD, the Federal Aviation Administration's James Johnston said the agency was aware of "the possibility of public concern regarding DOD (Department of Defense) aircraft flying at low altitudes" in an around New York City. But they demanded total secrecy from the NYPD, the Secret Service, the FBI and even the mayor's office and threatened federal sanctions if the secret got out.

[....]
http://wcbstv.com/topstories/air.force.one.2.996457.html

We tolerate so much crap that it literally kills us. We make excuses and blame ourselves. And for it we get murdered or maybe just humiliated for thinking this time we'll be murdered. Maybe many will just laugh it off and try to forget that they were terrified and ran away from a non-existent threat. Maybe some will blame themselves for over-reacting. That would be the most terrifying and humiliating aspect of the whole event.

Mid-Week Musings

Crossing from story to story on a chilly Wednesday morning:

Rebellion: Over 40 Labour MP backbenchers are planning to vote against Labour government's refusal to grant immigration status to the UK's Gurkha veterans.

Tasteless: Congenital amputee loses his first mixed martial arts fight. And yet, Kyle Maynard's dogged determination softens any blanket condemnation; the guy's got guts: “I accomplished everything I wanted to short of winning that fight”...

Blow-out: Fox News beat CNN and MSNBC combined in every hour from 6amET to MidnightET in both Total Viewers and the A25-54 demo for April 2009 .

Wild: Police chase car-jacked truck while desparate owner risks like to hang on to the back of the racing rig.

A new book for my Anti-Library: Thomas Sowell's "The Housing Boom and Bust". "[I]n politics, power trumps knowledge."

Bertonneau's latest at The Brussels Journal

Ideology and Literature: Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance (1852) and Dick’s VALIS (1981):
...The New Arcadians see themselves as a community of the morally pure, who must avoid contamination by the wicked external society. Culturally, if not politically, such a Puritanical vision of existence can fairly lay claim to being the founding vision of North American settlement, and probably more for worse than for better. One might hazard the hypothesis, indeed, that the social history of the United States consists in the regular recrudescence of an original Puritanism, which the rational politics of the Founding Fathers could never fully assimilate or suppress.
[...]
In Hollingsworth, Hawthorne has bodied forth the Satanic logic of puritanical doctrines, hence also of ideology, in simple. The existing radicalism always appears to someone among its late-arriving devotees as insufficiently radical; and its Puritanism appears as insufficiently pure.
[...]
Whenever the true believers gain power over others, as they sometimes do in cults and even in states, or when they establish themselves as the elites in a society, they act imperiously to suppress any articulation of the actual reality and they propagandize inveterately to impose their second reality. The term ideology refers to this simultaneous war on reality and campaign for unreality. Aware that ideology demands the surrender of common sense, of genuine subject-hood, and of one’s right to traffic in values and opinions as one sees fit, Dick has Fat sum up the nihilistic trend in the trope of the Black Iron Prison, whose other name is “Empire.” The Prison traps the individual in the system of lies, willingly adopted, that shields the frightened subject from the openness and unpredictability of existence. In the falsehood, not in reality, originates “entropy, undeserved suffering, chaos and death”; falsehood entails “the aborting of… proper growth and health.” In its character, falsehood is “deranged… tormented, humiliated” and its functions are “blind, mechanical, purposeless… processes.” Ideology is Ananke, dictatorial command, and its opposite principle is Logos, reason, openness, and love of truth for its own sake.
[...]
The Western Continuum exhibits a curious split, which Hawthorne and Dick have noted. From Plato, the Prophets, and the Gospel, it has inherited its acknowledgment of reality and aversion to ritual, coercion, and resentment. The market, which depends on truth as much as it depends on reciprocity, is an outgrowth of these things. This compounded “reality principle” seems to have inspired, from its beginning, an opposite “unreality principle” devoted to the cherishing, finally, of nothing, but rather to vilifying what its devotees see as the Trinity of Oppression – Philosophy, Judeo-Christian Ethics, and the Market. In the late Twentieth Century and in the incipient Twenty-First century, the characterless advocates of unreality have captured and perverted the institutions. They are now using the institutions to insist that we share their delusions.

Almost all Western governments now exhibit certain common, antinomian traits. They pontificate ceaselessly. They are averse to standing custom and local habit; they mistrust free transactions and lie in wait for opportunities to interfere in commerce and free trade. Judaism and Christianity irritate them and they seek to repress the symbols of those faiths while making common cause with dubious faiths hostile to Judaism and Christianity.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The thing is, a gift

Reid says Obama told him, 'I have a gift'
WASHINGTON – Everyone knows President Barack Obama can deliver a great speech, including the president himself, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The paperback version of Reid's book, "The Good Fight," is coming out May 5 with an epilogue called "The Obama Era." Reid said he was impressed when Obama, then a freshman senator from Illinois, delivered a speech about President George W. Bush's war policy.

Reid, D-Nev., writes: "'That speech was phenomenal, Barack,' I told him. And I will never forget his response. Without the barest hint of braggadocio or conceit, and with what I would describe as deep humility, he said quietly: 'I have a gift, Harry.'"
Connected? see also

Tuesday Tales

Some random news from random reading this fine Tuesday morning:


Survival: Thomas Sowell's latest column on political correctness. "Bending over backward is a very bad position from which to try to defend yourself."

Hapless: first the US President gives him the diplomatic cold shoulder, now UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown gets snubbed by Pakistan's President as well.

Discovery: Long lost Admiral Horatio Nelson battlefield memorial, commemorating his victory at the Battle of the Nile, finally re-located... through Google Maps!

The next step in "criminal law through the back door"

This blog has given much attention to the use and abuse of "human rights" commissions and tribunals in Canada. These have revealed themselves to be involved in pointing fingers of blame, and levying fines and various orders on supposed "human rights" wrongdoers, while avoiding some of the costly and careful procedures and protections we have come to expect for those charged under the criminal law. The idea of making justice cheaper and easier for putative victims has led to various scandals of cheapened justice, as recounted in books like Shakedown and The Tyranny of Nice.

A similar development is occurring with the passage of various provincial laws that allow government to confiscate property that it alleges to be proceeds of, or associated with, crime. This forfeiture of property can be achieved without need of a conviction in the criminal courts. These laws allow government to pursue property through civil trials where the tests proving wrongdoing that it has to meet are less demanding than in criminal court (where guilt must be proved "beyond a reasonable doubt") and where defendants cannot hope to be given legal aid.

The Supreme Court of Canada has recently upheld the Ontario Civil Remedies Act (BC has a similar law - the Civil Forfeiture Act) on a constitutional challenge contesting the province's jurisdiction in what the defendant argued to be an area of federal or national responsibility, i.e. the criminal law

Law Times - SCC backs Civil Remedies Act:
The criminal defence bar is condemning a Supreme Court of Canada decision backing Ontario’s Civil Remedies Act, saying the province now has an easier route to punishing alleged offences after failed criminal proceedings.

Toronto criminal defence lawyer Leora Shemesh calls the CRA a form of “double punishment” for accused.

“You go to court, the Crown knows full well that the charges are terrible and they can’t make out their case because the search was horrible, so they withdraw the charge, and then they bring a Civil Remedies Act application to keep the money that they found on the accused,” says Shemesh, who adds that she has at least two clients facing the prospect of losing their homes due to CRA applications.
[...]
The decision arises from Chatterjee v. Ontario. Robin Chatterjee was arrested in March 2003 for breach of probation, according to the decision.

Police searched his car during the arrest and found $29,020 in cash, an exhaust fan, light ballast, and light socket. Police said the items smelled of marijuana, but no drugs were found.
Chatterjee was never charged with any crimes related to the money, items, or any activity related to drugs.

The Attorney General of Ontario on May 13, 2003, was granted an order under the CRA to keep the seized money and equipment, and on May 16, 2003, applied under sections of the act for forfeiture of the money as proceeds of unlawful activity and the items as instruments of unlawful activity.

Chatterjee responded by arguing that the CRA is unconstitutional, saying it impinges on the federal criminal law power. The top court disagreed.

“The argument that the CRA is ultra vires is based in this case on an exaggerated view of the immunity of federal jurisdiction in relation to matters that may, in another aspect, be the subject of provincial legislation,” the court stated.
[...]
“It is true that forfeiture may have de facto punitive effects in some cases, but its dominant purpose is to make crime in general unprofitable, to capture resources tainted by crime so as to make them unavailable to fund future crime and to help compensate private individuals and public institutions for the costs of past crime,” the court wrote.

“These are valid provincial objects. There is no operational conflict between the forfeiture provisions of the Criminal Code . . . and the CRA. It cannot reasonably be said that the CRA amounts to colourable criminal legislation.”
[...]
“The instruments of crime section in the bill deals with a situation where someone may be the owner of a property where some drug transaction is going on, for example, and if the home were seized, that would be punishment, as opposed to seizing the drugs or the proceeds from them,” says Macklin.

“There’s an interesting issue left on proceeds, I suppose, where if the taking of a house that you own free and clear, because a drug transaction went on in there, then you’re being punished. And that seemed to be left open by the court.”

Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP senior associate Allison Thornton, who represented the intervener Canadian Civil Liberties Association in the case, calls the CRA “criminal law through the back door.”

Thornton says the Supreme Court “took a very broad view of property law, and basically from our perspective let the form of the law prevail over its substance.”

She says the decision is precedent setting in terms of courts’ interpretation of provincial jurisdiction “in suggesting that the provinces do have a very broad general ability to make law that has the objective of deterring and punishing crime.”

She adds, “Notwithstanding that, from our perspective, that is the heart and soul of what criminal law is and should be done at the other level of government, where individuals would have the protections they have in a criminal proceeding.”

Toronto criminal defence lawyer Peter Zaduk suggests the decision will further clog the province’s overburdened courts. He says the average case involving an alleged grow house lasts about seven days.

“There’s lots of people that might make a deal and plead guilty, who won’t do that now because they stand to lose their houses if they’re convicted,” says Zaduk. “So you’re going to have a big backlog in the courts.”
Canada has no constitutional guarantee of property rights, and, I have been informed, our courts have historically been reticent to interpret our Charter right to "life, liberty and security of the person" as conveying a right to protect property from government seizure or expropriation in various situations.

Some will see these civil forfeiture laws as targeting criminals and thus not being of general concern. But I fear this is indicative of an unhealthy reliance in our culture on the arts of holding up somewhat arbitrarily-chosen scapegoats to assuage people's resentments with the evils of our world. The problem is that those who are accused of being criminals can now be found "guilty" much more easily (or they can be punished twice by different courts), just as those who are accused of being "human rights" wrongdoers can now be exposed, without the full protection of the criminal law, to potentially lengthy, expensive "civil" procedures that result in fines and orders to change their behaviours, including those that involve a person's free expression of ideas deemed discriminatory.

Are these signs of a culture that is losing its regard for equal and fair treatment under a law applied universally?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Turning and Turning in a Widening Gyre...

There are some events that leave a mark on the man, 9-11 being one for many of us. One needn't have been there, been involved in any physical way, to be marked by the event. Nor does it have to resonate with past experience in any visceral way to have left a mark on the mind for the duration. But imagine you were there in New York City on the morning of 9-11 when the jihad came back to America in a big way. I was elsewhere that day, but because of the attacks on our nation and our people that day, the horror and the hatred live in my soul as deeply as does anything. Islam on that day and due to that event created at least one eternal enemy. Though I was not there, to this moment the sound of an approaching aeroplane brings my mind back to the murder of our people on 9-11. I will never forget, and I will never forgive. I'm likely not the only one. One would guess that many like me still live in New York City right now.

But things have changed in the nation since that transformative day. We have a new president. Some like him. Some will probably think it just right that he portray an image of greatness in the land. Please refer to the story below for more details.
Larrey Anderson, 'Air Force One Photo-op Terrifies New Yorkers," American Thinker. April 27, 2009

The current administration has no shame … and no concern for New Yorkers. Air Force One, accompanied by an F-16 fighter plane, buzzed NYC and the Statue of Liberty because, the White House says, it wanted to update the photo file for Air Force One.

Only problem is, the Obama administration forgot to tell New York’s citizens in advance that Air Force One would be buzzing the city. According to MSNBC:

It wasn't an attack, or even a drill -- it was a government-sponsored photo op.

The Pentagon did tell local authorities about the startling fly-over that sent a Boeing 747 and a F-16 fighter screaming over New York's scarred skyline, but officials said they couldn't share the information with the public. They couldn't even share the information with the mayor.

Mayor Bloomberg said he was "furious" and criticized both the feds and his own administration for failing to issue a simple warning to the public in a city that is still somewhat traumatized by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

An official from the Obama administration said the White House Military Office wanted to update its file photo of the president's plane near the Statue of Liberty.

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2009/04/air_force_one_photoop_terrifie.html

"[T]he White House Military Office wanted to update its file photo of the president's plane near the Statue of Liberty."



What matters to these people?

UK's Ingratitude To Gurkha Veterans: "It's Absolutely Shocking"

Another example of the UK's growing ingratitude towards its veterans. In February we blogged on Once-Great Britain's unwillingness to sponsor a group of surviving D-Day veterans in their hope to return to France one more time -- for many maybe the last time -- to the 65th anniversary of their great act of courage in participating in the liberation of Europe.

Last week, it was the turn of the loyal Gurkhas to see the current value placed on their service:

Thousands of Gurkhas were yesterday shut out of the UK in what was described as 'shameful betrayal' by the Government.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas claimed changes in the rules would allow 4,300 more former Gurkhas to settle here out of the 36,000 who served in the British Army before July 1997.

But lawyers battling for the Gurkhas said they believed only around 100 would benefit. Hundreds of former rank-and-file soldiers will face deportation while thousands more will be barred from entering the country.

Under the new rules, former Gurkhas must prove they have either served more than 20 years or have won one of the top four medals for gallantry: the Victoria Cross; the Distinguished Service Order; the Distinguished Conduct Medal; or the Military Cross.
...
Campaigners said it was virtually impossible for ordinary Gurkhas to meet those conditions.

The vast majority - 98 per cent - are rank-and-file soldiers who are permitted to serve for only 15 years. Only officers are allowed to serve for longer.

Top-level gallantry awards are given to a tiny minority of soldiers. Only one living Gurkha would qualify for entry on the basis of his medal alone.

Lawyer Martin Howe said that of more than 2,000 Gurkha veterans refused entry to Britain, only Military Cross-holder Lalit Bahadur Gurung would be eligible.

Mr Gurung, 81, who was awarded the cross in 1964, was refused entry to Britain for medical treatment last year.

Most Gurkhas who retired before 1997 were based in Hong Kong, so they will be unable to prove they have lived in Britain for three years, or that they have family settled here.

And for the oldest veterans living in poverty in Nepal - the fourth-poorest country in the world - it will be difficult to prove that their injuries and illnesses were caused by their Army service.

British actress Joanna Lumley , whose father fought alongside the Gurkhas in Burma during World War II, has taken a strong stand in support of the Gurkhas' cause, becoming the public face of the Gurkha Justice Campaign. Her disgust with the guidelines is palpable:




[1:30] "I'm sick of the insulting size of this ghastly little document. Most of the second page is just 'if you need more help or contacts...' This has taken them four months to come up with this, they've answered none of our letters, they've allowed us into no briefings. [pause] It's absolutely shocking."
The BBC offers the government's side of the story:

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas denied he had betrayed the Gurkhas, adding: "This improves the situation."

He said: "It has never been the case that all Gurkhas pre-1997 were to be allowed to stay in the country. With their dependants you could be looking at 100,000 people."
...
[P]rime Minister Gordon Brown insisted the new rules were fair and took into account "the responsibilities we have accepted" towards the Gurkhas.

"To go back 20 years from 1997 is something that's a major change in policy and will help a large number of Gurkhas if they wish to make the decision to come to Britain," he said.

"And remember that there are costs involved in that decision that we have got to meet."
It's too bad that the one cost referenced by Judge Justice Blake in his ruling last September, does not seem to weigh heavily on Gordon Brown's conscience:
The Home Office will doubtless wish to consult with the MOD [Ministry Of Defence], but if Home Office policy to discharged veterans does not impede military effectiveness, and there are no international law or foreign policy constraints, it is difficult to see why the MOD should not itself welcome clarity and the honouring of a historic debt. The court is conscious that at the heart of military life and the sacrifices that soldiers make in the discharge of their duties is the Military Covenant. This reads:

"Soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices – including the ultimate sacrifice – in the service of the Nation. In putting the needs of the Nation and the Army before their own, they forego some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces. In return, British Soldiers must be able to always expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals, and that they (and their families) will be sustained and rewarded by commensurate terms and conditions of service".

Rewarding long and distinguished service by the grant of residence in the country for which the service was performed would, in my judgment, be a vindication and an enhancement of this covenant.

Hitting The Right Note On Worship

Our pastor occasionally, and gently, chides us for our singing; not for singing poorly, but for how few of us in the pews participate in the expected singing at church.

In fufilling his request, we are virtually at war with ourself. We are all too painfully aware that we are not "great" singers, and this snapshot view leads us to be silent when we should be joining the choir. After all, we wouldn't want our failings to tarnish the success of others.
It's not that different from the challenge in trying to be a "great" person; we seem destined to fall short, so why try at all? Wouldn't our sorry example just end up discouraging those who need all the encouragement they can get?
Yet, when enough voices join in, an interesting phenomenon occurs; the less-than-angelic voices (like mine) not only get drowned out, they seem to actually add to the overall value of the experience. The individual notes may contain our failings, but they nonetheless also project our act of faith. We no longer hear the sour notes, the building instead echoes with the sound of earnest effort spent towards fulfilling a worthwhile mission. The louder the volume, the more likely the reluctant singer will add his voice to the choir... a reminder that the more that people try to follow the path of a good life, the more encouraged others will be to take their own small steps along the same trail.
When it comes to being good, we're all amateurs... which is one of the reasons I get a huge kick out of this witty video: "What if worship was like an NBA game?"



[Hat Tip to James at Sanctus]

Monday Mental Wanderings

Some stories that caught my eye this morning...





Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rescuer's Desperate Vow Saves Child From Flames: "I'm Not Going To Leave This Kid"

An amazing example of courage and self-sacrifice, as a clear-thinking New Zealand policeman witnesses a horrible car crash and springs into action :

[Inspector Mike O'Leary, operations manager for the Eastern Police District] said he heard screaming and jumped a fence, running around to the other side of the upturned wagon to see two children hanging out of the vehicle.
The wagon was engulfed in toxic smoke and flames, he said.
He grabbed a child in red clothing and ran about 10 metres from the burning vehicle. His daughter Sinead, 13, took over, comforting the hysterical boy.
He heard the other child, still trapped in the vehicle, talking to him. A man in the wagon called out "save the kids".
"I couldn't see into the van. I was pulling as hard as I could to free the child."
The wagon began making more exploding noises and he pushed [his 15-year son] Conor and the bystander Peter back.
"I had to make a decision - do I risk myself?
"I did step away but I thought, 'I'm not going to leave this kid'."
He called out for a knife to try to free the boy from his seatbelt or whatever was holding him inside and was given one by Peter. With the help of Conor and Peter, they eventually dragged him free.
The boy was badly burned and they stripped the clothes from his lower body, soaking him with water.

As it always seems with true heroes, their bravery is matched by their self-effacing humility:

Nursing a bandaged hand from burns received during his rescue of the children, he was modest about his efforts.
"It's not about me. Anyone would have done the same," he said, adding that he was proud of the way his family had acted during the incident.

... Debbie O'Leary said she was proud of her husband and his brave actions, despite his regret that the flames prevented him from getting anyone else out of the van.
"I'll never forget the look on his face when he said: 'I can't help these people'," she said.

The story has more layers of drama still; the inspector's family came upon the fiery accident while driving home from the funeral of a friend's son who had died from cancer:

As they drove, they were having a discussion about how life could sometimes be unfair and he told his family that some people get up in the morning "but never get home".

Godspeed to all involved, especially the two children now without at least one of their parents, and the hero forevermore struggling to reconcile the guilt haunting him for the five other lives he could not rescue, with the pride he should feel over the young souls his initiative allowed him to save.

May they all find peace.

Radio Memories: Listening To History

On April 26, 1865, 12 days after the murder of President Abraham Lincoln, his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, had been discovered and killed in Garret’s Farm, near Bowling Green Virginia.
In an age before today’s 24/7 media, before satellite communication and the other technological marvels that go with it, this important news traveled slowly indeed.

But what would have happened, that fateful day, if CBS had been there..?

Once upon a time radio offered an art form that explored this very idea. Before our current age of television drama there was radio drama, a gone-but-not-forgotten theater for the mind. And for this history buff, few other radio drama series are as fascinating as You Are There, a weekly show produced with the assistance of CBS’ news reporters as well as its stable of contract actors and writers.

For this week’s Radio Memories post, we remember the wonderful brainchild of CBS troubleshooter, Goodman Ace, and his uncredited effort to make history interesting to people who were unfortunately pre-disposed to think otherwise.

The gimmick for the series was to use the radio medium’s greatest strength, the fact that its images existed only in the imagination of the listener, to hold together the delightful fantasy that CBS’ news department could be present at various moments of historical significance, reporting history as “breaking news”. Over its 3-year run from 1947 to 1950, genuine reporters and the network's news analysts mixed with actors for “live coverage” of events as varied as the battle of Hastings, the trial of Socrates, the signing of the Magna Carta, Lincoln’s assassination, and this week’s episode, the attempted capture of Lincoln’s unrepentant assassin, the notorious John Wilkes Booth. What a great way to build a listener's curiosity for finding out more about "the real story"...

This particular episode was originally broadcast June 5th, 1949. You Are There eventually moved to television, where a young Walter Cronkite participated as one of the news reporters. After collecting the radio version over the last twenty years, the idea of putting You Are There on television seems as silly to me as putting a dialog soundtrack onto silent films… each medium has its strengths, why not play to them? Especially the delicate suspension of disbelief best practiced by closing our eyes in order to open our mind to the plausibility that, when CBS is there, YOU are there:

video

Previous Radio Memories posts:

Fort Laramie: War Correspondent
CBS Radio Workshop: Son Of Man
Great Gildersleeve: Easter Rabbits
Dimension X: Time And Time Again
An American In England: Women Of Britain
Cavalcade Of America: Bob Hope Reports
The March Of Time: Feb 10 1938 broadcast
Hear It Now: Coming Home From The Korean War
Escape: Vanishing Lady
Rogers Of The Gazette: Rewinding The Town Clock

Vancouver Bird Stories

This week I had the dubious pleasure of seeing an eagle drown a seagull.

The gulls try to dissuade the eagles from feasting on their nests, so whenever the predators fly into their neighborhood the seagulls usually take to the air to behave more like a swarm of bees than a flock of birds, hoping to annoy the eagle enough to leave them alone.
This time, however, it seemed that one seagull got a little too close during the swarming, and it wound up in the iron grip of the eagle's talons. The methodical eagle dunked the seagull below the unforgiving waters, again and again, sitting on him somehow to ensure that there would be no escape from being submerged at the eagle's whim.
The unexpected sight got me to thinking about how much we take our birds for granted, as decorations in our busy city. And so, a tableau dedicated to the fine feathered friends that we share our city with:
It's a sign of just how laid back things are in Vancouver that even the birds prefer walking to flying. The human residents aren't the only ones who enjoy a casual stroll along Stanley Park's Sea Walk.
Crows, pigeons and seagulls prefer solitary hikes, while the more social Canada Geese tend to walk as a family.
The very symbol of perseverence, these herons give all fishermen a new standard for patience.
If you happen to be watching one when they actually catch a fish, you're in for a treat, as they allow themselves a rare trace of emotion to flash across their otherwise resolutely stoic facial expression.
On the opposite end of the scale, we have our ducks, the squawking icons of impatience. Every encounter with a duck seems to involve them warning me: "Get away from there, mac, can't you see I may want to walk there soon."

As winter turns to spring, many birds turn northwards, their migratory season at an end. That is the fate of the snow chicken, destined soon to lay its eggs once again in the arctic tundra. Fare thee well, friend, fare thee well...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wow: Ultrasound Phones!

"Looking back on this 10 years from now, these are going to be used in places we never would have imagined:"
In a twist of engineering that could redefine mobile medicine, researchers have built an ultrasound device that can be plugged directly into a smart phone's USB port. The system can capture ultrasound images of pregnant bellies and blocked carotid arteries, display them immediately on-screen, and even use the phone's capabilities to send that data just about anywhere in the world.
...
The images themselves are smaller and less detailed than those from a full-size ultrasound. But while it has yet to undergo rigorous testing and comparisons, the researchers believe that its capabilities should be more than sufficient for many medical applications. They point to a number of potential uses: remote medicine for rural communities and developing nations, emergency imaging of patients en route to the hospital, battlefield medicine, and even home use in patients with chronic diseases.

Janet Napolitano's Apology to Canada: "More Anger Than Grief"

Rex Murphy takes a metaphorical axe to the credibility of Obama's Department of Homeland Security for her peculiar insistence earlier this week, that, "[to the extent that terrorists have come into our country or suspected or known terrorists have entered our country across a border, it's been across the Canadian border...":

It’s nearly 9 years since the crash of the twin towers, and Janet Napolitano still doesn’t know – still – that all of the hijackers that brought tragedy that day came into the U.S.A. through their own Customs and Immigration. Not one came down through the great forests of Toronto or over the tundra of Montreal, not one of them got access to the U.S. via what Ms Napolitano thinks of as “borderless” Canada.
...
What is Barack Obama doing appointing someone to head Homeland Security, who, eight years after the attacks, does not even now know where the hijackers came from and how they got into their country? Here, it’s not her ignorance about Canada which should be troubling. It’s her ignorance of the most publicized event in modern American history. How can anyone be head of Homeland Security and not know the history of the 19 men who killed nearly 3,000 Americans?

Ms Napolitano acknowledges there are some “slight” differences between the U.S.-Canada border, and the U.S.-Mexico border. To wit: "Yes, Canada is not Mexico, it doesn't have a drug war going on, it didn't have 6,000 homicides that were drug-related last year." To which she might have added, neither have 11 million or so “undocumented immigrants” flowed from Canada to the U.S..

Nonetheless, with this trivial differences in mind, she argues, if they're going to tighten the Mexican border, they must "fix" the Canadian one, too. Ah yes, if the bulb goes out in the kitchen, change the one in the garage. And Pearl Harbour was executed by the Romanian navy.

I’ve sometimes felt we Canadians are too hard on the Americans. We make fun of them for knowing so little of us. That we’re all igloos and Nelson Eddy yodeling-Mounties. Then along comes someone like Janet Napolitano, a former governor, now a major player at the highest levels of the most powerful government in the world, a one-woman storehouse of misconceptions, pseudo-facts, stale rumours and flat-out ignorance.

She says now she’s been misunderstood. She knows the hijackers didn’t come over the border. I take very little comfort from that. There’s probably more anger in Janet Napolitano now about being corrected than grief about being so wrong. That does not spell a happy time for traffic and business over the Canada - U.S. border.

If the man who promised Hope and Change, wants to give Canadians some Hope, he’ll Change the head of Homeland Security.

Since she probably never drove across the US-Canada border with her family for an over-the-border shopping trip, as so many millions of other North Americans have, Mrs. Napolitano may not appreciate that if someone is entering the US from Canada, they are screened by American border guards, not Canadian ones... which would put her complaints about lax security standards in a different light, even if the 9-11 jihadis had come from Canada.

UPDATE: "What's up with Arizona politicians?"
Arizona Sen. John McCain made the dubious claim Friday that Sept. 11 hijackers entered the United States through Canada -- just days after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, said the same thing.
...
[W]hen asked about the gaffe on FOX News Friday, McCain said: "Well, some of the 9/11 hijackers did come through Canada, as you know."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hamas' War On Hope

A new YouTube video by the IDF "explains the background to operation Cast Lead, specifically the terrorist tactics that Hamas employs. It shows how Hamas smuggles in weaponry in order to arm itself and how it employs the civilian population and infastructure in order to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel. Hamas' use of human shields during operation Cast Lead caused many civilian casualties."



As a teen I walked away from my religious faith for many reasons; a small one had to do with all the stories of demonic possession I would read in the New Testament. How improbable, I thought. Evil spirits jealous of human potential for goodness, taking over a body in order to rot the soul within, by continually making it act against it's own best self-interest... how ludicrous, declared my teenage mind.

Today, my older self wonders instead, how else to explain the motivation of the palestinian leadership to wage war as they do? If their objective isn't to corrupt the souls of good people, by trying to force their opponents to kill other people's children, by finding every means available to cause their opponents to stain their conscience as they try to live a holy life, well what other possible agenda could fully explain such hellish behavior?

I cannot understand hamas' actions, their tactics, if their goal were purely material, that is, the annihilation of the state of Israel. Increasingly it only makes sense to me when taken as spiritual warfare, as a war against Hope, a war on the very Covenant between God and the People He chose to teach the rest of us what it means to resist material temptations that cause temporary pleasure in order to see, long-term, how to lead a godly life that may bring eternal nourishment to the soul.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Roger L. Simon on hatred and Holocaust remembrance

Roger L. Simon » Durban II Diary - Part 4: The UN folds its cards
At 4PM Geneva time, the United Nations and its High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay announced that the responsible committee (hard to know exactly who that is) had approved the final outcome statement of the Durban Review Conference.

The odd thing is - it’s Tuesday and the conference is not supposed to end until Friday. Whazzup?

Ahmadinejad, of course. This was damage control at its most obvious - and totally predictable to many people here, myself included. The UN wants everyone to go away and forget this conference as quickly as possible. The institution has received a horrible dose of publicity that led even the usually idolatrous BBC to raise a skeptical eye.
[...]
Making matters worse for the UN today was a seemingly under the radar panel brought together in the Palais (only yards from the actual plenum) by the Touro Institute’s Ann Bayefsky in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day. This formidable panel consisted of Natan Sharanksy, Elie Wiesel, Jon Voight, Alan Dershowitz, Shelby Steele and Father Patrick Desbois. Father Desbois is the only name there that may be unknown to you. It shouldn’t be. He is an extraordinary man who has devoted his life to locating the remains of anonymous Holocaust victims in Eastern Europe and is the author of a book undoubtedly not high on Ahmadinejad’s reading list - The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews.

This panel was electric, even to jaded me, and should have been the true conference. (PJTV will have it in a day or so.) During it, the African-American Steele made some telling points that were taken up by the others - (paraphrasing here - I would recommend the author’s own work) implying that racism had diminished significantly and was now being used as an excuse for failure. It had become, in Steele’s words, a “distraction.” And that anti-Semitism was the biggest distraction of all, an obsession that turned people away from their own problems and prolonged them.

Meanwhile, an unbelievably high percentage of the UN’s time (and money, of course) has been devoted to the Palestinian-Israeli question with little or no time for anything else. This was underscored later in the day when a demonstration in support of Darfur was staged outside the Palais. There was little interest in this genocide inside, just as there was very little interest in Rwanda. For the UN, it’s “All Palestine All The Time”.
On that note, and since this Jew-bashing conference was supposedly an exercise in anti-racism, convened by some of the most race-conscious of people, let us remember that it is Israel that makes it illegal to have a bumper sticker that reads "No Arabs - no terror", while even in Israel chants of "Death to the Jews" go unpunished.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Remembering...

Jason Kenney, Canada's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, issued the following statement on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day:

"The extermination of millions of Jewish people during World War II was a crime against all humankind. In remembering the Holocaust and paying tribute to its victims, we renew our commitment to fight against the evils of racism, discrimination and anti-Semitism.

"The Holocaust stands alone in human history for its horror and its inhumanity. It is crucial that we learn from this experience, not only to ensure that such atrocities never take place again, but also to better enable us to build societies based on a respect for human dignity, in which such acts are not possible.

"Our government has taken a principled stance in combating Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. More than a year ago, I announced that Canada would refuse to participate in the racist Durban process because we had serious concerns that the failings of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, would be repeated at the 2009 Durban Review Conference. In 2001, the Durban Conference degenerated into open and divisive expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism. Yesterday's speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vindicated Canada's principled decision to lead the world in withdrawing from the conference. As a result of Canada announcing its withdrawal from the Durban Review Conference, Canada's seat will be vacant for the duration of the conference.

Under our government, Canada will support any international conference that combats racism; we will not, however, lend Canada's good name to those that promote it.

"The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that the Holocaust is not forgotten. To that end, Canada co-sponsored the UN resolution that led to the recognition of January 27th as the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. In 2007, Canada co-sponsored another UN resolution that condemned denial of the Holocaust. Canada has consistently voted against unbalanced resolutions within the UN. "

This commitment is also reflected in our ongoing efforts to attain full membership in the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. In 2008, we took another step forward and received liaison status in this Task Force and, in June, I will present Canada's formal application for full membership.

"As Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, I urge Canadians to learn about the Holocaust, to remember its victims, and to reject all forms of hatred and discrimination."

Just the kind of leader to headline the next UN Human Rights Conference...

Media Having Trouble Finding Right Angle On Obama's Double-Homicide | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
So far, the president's double-homicide has not been covered by any major news outlets. The only two mentions of the heinous tragedy have been a 100-word blurb on the Associated Press wire and an obituary on page E7 of this week's edition of the Lake County Examiner.

While Obama has expressed no remorse for the grisly murders—point-blank shootings with an unregistered .38-caliber revolver—many journalists said it would be irresponsible for the press to sensationalize the story.

"There's been some debate around the office about whether we should report on this at all," Washington Post senior reporter Bill Tracy said while on assignment at a local dog show. "It's enough of a tragedy without the press jumping in and pointing fingers or, worse, exploiting the violence. Plus, we need to be sensitive to the victims' families at this time. Their loved ones were brutally, brutally murdered, after all."

French Anti-Smoking Laws Snuff Out Mr. Hulot's Pipe

France's strict anti-smoking laws have stripped the iconic Mr. Hulot of his trademark pipe from a series of transit ads promoting the current Jacques Tati exposition in Paris' Cinematheque française.

Mr. Hulot's pipe was as inseperable from his comedy character as Charlie Chaplin's cane and bowler hat would be from the Little Tramp, but such cultural memories count for little, it seems, against the letter of the law.

Censorship of the unforgivable pipe was performed on all 2,000 posters by Metrobus, the advertising arm of the RATP, ("Autonomous Operator of Parisian Transports"), which oversees Paris' transit system. Their moral watchdogs have replaced the pipe with a preposterous pinwheel, the very type of modern "progress" that Jacques Tati skewered so relentlessly in his wonderful comedies.

"The law is the law", says the RATP with a gallic shrug [my translation of the original French article]:
"Our legal department judged that the ad was against the [1991 Evin law, which restricts advertising for smoking]. We have already modified several ad campaigns of this sort, such as when an alcoholic beverage had been highlighted. Why would we do otherwise when it comes to tobacco?"
The law in question prohibits "all propaganda or publicity, direct or indirect, in favor of tobacco or tobacco products".

The current Minister of Health and Sport, Roselyne Bachelot, whose predecessor Claude Évin was responsible for the strict anti-tobacco legislation, is blunt in her condemnation of the whole affair. "No, I am not in favor of taking away Jacques Tati's pipe!", she made clear to reporters at the Health ministry.

Even the CNCT ("Comité national contre le tabagisme", the National Committee Against Smoking) are in agreement that the transit company's well-intentioned censors have over-reacted in this case:
"This is a promotion for a cultural event, not for smoking. It's not because you're seeing Mr. Hulot on his bike, with his hat and his pipe that will make you want to smoke", explained CNCT president Yves Martinet.

Interviewed by the newspaper Le Parisien, Martinet goes on to say:
"..And the fight against smoking is not a call to rewrite history. Must we ban the Sherlock Holmes books under the pretext that he, also, smoked a pipe?"
The irony in all this, as any Jacques Tati fan will appreciate, is that at no point in Mr. Hulot's Holiday, My Uncle, Playtime, or any of his classic films does Mr. Hulot ever actually light his pipe..!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Radio Memories: At The Gallop, Ho!

I think we reach an important step in our learning when we turn a corner and realize, “there’s more to this subject than I first realized, there’s more here than first meets the eye”.

So much about learning involves un-learning, seeing new sides to the ideas we hold about old forms, struggling to accommodate the unexpected as well as the supposed, as our understanding grows from a premature, two-dimensional shallowness towards a fuller, three-dimensional point of view.

Probably the hardest lesson to learn of them all, is the unlearning that comes with humility, as the wisdom of age and experience make us realize that the true big picture is something to reach for, yet never achieve... much as our march towards the promised end of a rainbow just reveals a farther and eternally distant horizon, remaining within sight, while still beyond reach.

Listening to the radio in this day and age it’s hard to imagine the era that came before our own, where radio offered much more than music, talk and more music. Once upon a time radio offered an art form all its own: radio drama, a theater for the mind.

Every Sunday we take a break from blogging about more current stories to remember a broadcast from radio’s past, hoping that through these Radio Memories we may see something new about our own time.

This week’s offering revolves around a character "unlearning" much of his pre-conceived ideas about life on the western frontier, an experience I can relate to from visiting the real-life location featured on the show.

The old radio drama is entitled “War Correspondent”, and was first broadcast on Sunday May 13, 1956. It's from the somber series, Fort Laramie, an excellent radio western overshadowed in its day by the more popular, and long-running Gunsmoke, with whom it shared the same director and behind-the-mike production staff. A commonly-held opinion among modern-day listeners places Fort Laramie just below Gunsmoke as the greatest of old-time radio westerns, due to the tremendous attention paid to detail through their sound effects, the arresting performances by lead actor Raymond Burr (only months away from the title role that would bring him immortal fame as television’s supreme lawyer Perry Mason) and the dedication to historical accuracy that characterized much of radio’s final flirtation with the Old West… a far cry from the earlier singing-cowboy/Lone Ranger heroics that radio drama started off with.

After a childhood spent eagerly visiting eastern forts like Fort York, Fort Henry, and Fort Lennox, as well as growing up with a steady diet of old Hollywood cavalry movies, I sure didn’t expect to find the real Fort Laramie to be what it actually was, when a US history-loving child’s dream came true during my visit there a few years ago. My biggest surprise was the discovery that Fort Laramie had no fortifications; no wooden walls to huddle behind and find shelter from Sioux arrows or Arapaho bullets. While the initial fur trading post originally built there seems to have followed the romantic ideal of what a “western fort” would look like, the government military post that it soon became was just a bunch of buildings; a staging area to leave from, not a site to defend.

Chatting with the guide the day of our visit, he explained that at the time, since nobody knew what to expect, they were therefore unsure of what to build, that would prove effective in governing the immense area that the regiments based at the fort would be in charge of securing.

Another surprise awaited me when my renewed interest in the fort led me to learn that the last time the troops from Fort Laramie were marshaled into service, was not to combat any Indian uprising on the frontier, but rather to suppress a vengeful group of union thugs hell-bent on death and destruction during the infamous Rock Springs Massacre of 1885. Members of the Noble And Holy Order of the Knights Of Labor, the 19th Century organization known today as the muscle behind the birth of our annual Labor Day holiday, among other achievements, were decidedly less noble when it came to their reaction to the competition from Chinese immigrant labor.

The army was forced to keep a presence in the area for years following the massacre in order to keep the peace, eventually leaving a decade later for the Spanish-American War.

The scale of the violence, and the depth of the hatred that brought it to bear, was national news at the time, even earning a mention in President Grover Cleveland's end-of-the-year State of the Union address to Congress:

... In the application of the acts lately passed to execute the treaty of 1880, restrictive of the immigration of Chinese laborers into the United States, individual cases of hardship have occurred beyond the power of the Executive to remedy, and calling for judicial determination.

The condition of the Chinese question in the Western States and Territories is, despite this restrictive legislation, far from being satisfactory. The recent outbreak in Wyoming Territory, where numbers of unoffending Chinamen, indisputably within the protection of the treaties and the law, were murdered by a mob, and the still more recent threatened outbreak of the same character in Washington Territory, are fresh in the minds of all, and there is apprehension lest the bitterness of feeling against the Mongolian race on the Pacific Slope may find vent in similar lawless demonstrations. All the power of this Government should be exerted to maintain the amplest good faith toward China in the treatment of these men, and the inflexible sternness of the law in bringing the wrongdoers to justice should be insisted upon.

Every effort has been made by this Government to prevent these violent outbreaks and to aid the representatives of China in their investigation of these outrages; and it is but just to say that they are traceable to the lawlessness of men not citizens of the United States engaged in competition with Chinese laborers.

Race prejudice is the chief factor in originating these disturbances, and it exists in a large part of our domain, jeopardizing our domestic peace and the good relationship we strive to maintain with China.

But all this takes us further afield from the dry, windswept prairie surrounding the forlorn outpost of Fort Laramie, Wyoming, and the humbling exploits of Lee Quince, Captain of Cavalry, as he mentors a journalist in his struggle to unlearn myths about America's western frontier, helping him, and us, march one step closer to the truth.

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Previous Radio Memories posts:

CBS Radio Workshop: Son Of Man
Great Gildersleeve: Easter Rabbits

Dimension X: Time And Time Again
An American In England: Women Of Britain
Cavalcade Of America: Bob Hope Reports
The March Of Time: Feb 10 1938 broadcast
Hear It Now: Coming Home From The Korean War
Escape: Vanishing Lady
Rogers Of The Gazette: Rewinding The Town Clock