Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hope For A Better Year

Hoping for better things to come, while finding rays of light beyond the headlines on a quiet Thursday morning.

The six million members of the Church of God in Christ have an unexpected, but welcome, newly ordained minister: Ex-KKK leader to minister in black majority church

[Johnny Lee Clary] had joined the KKK at the age of 14 after his father committed suicide and his mother abandoned him. And for 16 years, Clary advanced in the white supremacist organization, all the way up to becoming an imperial wizard.
After going through a time of torment, anger, and disgust, however, Clary left the KKK and struggled to make an honest living. He turned to God after feelings of guilt led him to depression and on the verge of committing suicide.
He has since become a guest speaker at numerous schools and churches across the nation, and lectures on occasion for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, educating officers on the mindset of white supremacists and how to best fight against domestic terrorism.
“Yes I made mistakes in life, and a person cannot go back in time and change the past, but he can certainly do something about today in order to build a better tomorrow,” Clary says today.
Heroism year-in-review: CNN finds 5 little-reported stories of heroic co-workers whose quick-thinking and initiative earlier this year deserve greater acclaim. Despite the 2009-in-review framework CNN sets for their article, their first candidate was in the news for an action she actually performed the previous year, back in 2008, as she brought a North Carolina co-worker back to life from no less than five heart attacks:
...Everyone in the office rushed to Marlowe's side. Knowing he was a diabetic, they were looking for ways to get his blood sugar up, thinking he had just passed out. But cashier [Debi] Coffman looked at Marlowe and knew it was much more serious. "I knew that he was dead," Coffman said. "I knew he was."
Coffman and another co-worker, Larry Garrett, began performing CPR on Marlowe. "[Garrett] couldn't get any pulse," Coffman said, "and he hit him in the chest and started compressions." Coffman and Garrett are not sure how long they worked on Marlowe before they revived him.
... Coffman would revive him three times before emergency crews arrived on the scene. "I told him, 'I will not let you go,'" Coffman said.
Coffman says she isn't a hero, but she is proud she knew what to do. Proud and glad that she doesn't have to think about what would have happened if she hadn't put her training to use.
Their second story is really full of heroes, but singles out the actions of Arizona's Daniel Anderson, whose initiative helped raise sufficient funds to buy his co-worker, one-legged cancer survivor Gregory Lewis, the new prosthetic leg he so desperately needed:
"He has been walking on what looked like a stick and a brick for close to 30 years. It was starting to crack and part of it was held together with electrical tape," Anderson said.
Anderson found Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics in Chandler and a sympathetic employee, Tyler Ritchey. "When I met the guy, I knew we had to do something," said Ritchey, who also is an amputee. "I don't know how he (Lewis) did it for so long. When he walked he dragged [the artificial limb] on the floor to keep it from coming off."
After Anderson raised a $1,000 down payment from friends and family members, Ritchey arranged a partial donation by the company and manufacturer.
David Hyatt, manager of the Fiesta Mall Dillard's, spearheaded fundraising at the store, which included employee donations and proceeds from the sale of surplus store fixtures. One worker contacted Ecco Shoes, which donated a pair to Lewis.
"I saw the lights coming down the tunnel, and I had to do something," said the third hero, Houston Transit worker Eliot Swainson, as his volunteer work in a Washington DC train station saved a woman's life, when she fell onto the tracks right in front of an oncoming train:
[Swainson] was able to direct the woman to safety on the track while a train passed overhead, preventing her from being struck and allowing her to be extricated safely a short time later.
[H]e explained to the woman -- as he had been trained to do just the day before by Metro officers -- to stay as close to the edge of the track as possible, under the overhang adjacent to the platform in order to avoid being hit by the train. Metro authorities then cleared the platform and the train, cut the power to the tracks, and eventually got the woman to safety. She was transported to a local hospital "with non life-threatening injuries," according to a Metro spokesman.
"This was a new world for me. You still have that fear factor about what's down below there, and what not to mess with. But we had to do something to get her to safety," he explained. Swainson will now head home to his wife and daughter, who turned three years old today. "I'm just happy to have had the opportunity to see somebody safe," he said of the incident.
A series of wonderful coincidences underline the fourth hero's story, as hair stylist Carol Morgan is shocked to see her co-worker collapse to the ground. Reflexes kick in, and she draws upon years of CPR training... even though she had never before performed CPR in an emergency situation:

Morgan repeatedly delivered chest compressions and rescue breathing to Sue’s unresponsive body. When performing CPR, Morgan said one worry is that you will hurt the person. She said there is always a possibility of breaking a rib or bruising the person, but it is better they have a broken rib and still be alive.
"I wasn’t scared until it was all over,” said Morgan. Afterward, she wondered if she had done everything right.
“I feel in my heart the Lord put me in the right place at the right time,” she said. “He helped me remember all those steps.”
Morgan said “it was strange how everything fell into place.” She normally does not work past noon on Wednesdays. She happened to have the day off from her other job, which is why she stayed later at Innovations.
“I still think that God was watching over us that day,” she said.

The article explains her long-time CPR training:
In addition to being a hair stylist, Morgan works at Central State Consumer Services of Oklahoma. Because she works with persons with disabilities, she is required to know CPR. She has to take the course annually to keep her Red Cross certification current.Morgan had just taken her refresher course in May. She first learned CPR in 1998, when she worked for the Cherokee Nation headstart for a couple of years.
Morgan said she wants to encourage people to become CPR certified. She said you never know when you might need to use it.
The fifth heroic act, out of Trinidad, ends on a sad note. Who can imagine the thoughts racing through the mind of young Shiva Jagroop as he says goodbye to his co-worker, at his funeral.

[Earl Rampersad, married father of a two-year old boy] pushed Jagroop out of harm’s way and took the full blow of the glass panes which fell on them at their Caroni workplace on Wednesday. Rampersad was already dead when paramedics pulled him from under the broken glass some time later.
Gaitri Hosein, an employee at Delta Glass Ltd, where he was employed, described Rampersad as a pillar of strength and a hardworking man.
’He was willing to do anything to make a person happy. He was a humble man who did more than what he was expected to do,’ she said.
Doing more than expected of us, making the ordinary extra-ordinary, seems as good a New Year's Resolution as anyone could look for. I adopt it as mine for this coming year... just like I did last year. Only this time, I hope to keep it...

Happy New Year to all our readers, and Best Wishes for a happy, healthy and successful 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Palestinians, Fascism, and the new Canadian Left

Gil Bailie finds a Cardinal Ratzinger quote from the 1980s:
I learned that it is impossible to discuss with terror and on terror, as there are no premises for a discussion -- and such a discussion becomes collaboration with terror ... I think that in those years, I learned where discussion must stop because it is turning into a lie, and resistance must begin in order to maintain freedom.
Which is why it is crazy for Canadian taxpayers to be funding an organization whose members have a desire to wave Hezbollah flags and make Nazi salutes on the streets of Canada. Write your MP.

More from Jonathan Narvey

Wednesday Wandering

Shining light on obscure news stories trickling by under the recent headlines, on a wet Wednesday morning:

Jonah Goldberg Reviews Avatar: He reviews it from an intriguing angle: Avatar And The Faith Instinct:
"[W]hat I find interesting about the film is how what is 'to the most people' is so unapologetically religious."
Criminals "Living In Fear": Crime is plummeting on the Isle of Man ever since the opening of Europe's first completely non-smoking prison:
One former prisoner, who spent six months there, said the smoking ban had cons 'crawling up the walls' in desperation for a nicotine fix.
... "As soon as word got round that it wasn't a joke and that all smoking was banned, even in the exercise yard, a lot of people I know started having second thoughts about committing crimes.
"It was something they genuinely feared. Not prison itself, but the idea of being forced to give up smoking.
"Some of my mates have simply given up crime, whether it be stealing cars, shoplifting to order or burglary, as a direct result of the smoking ban."
Belgian Tragedy: Sad, sad story... can't imagine the pain the family must be going through right now. Belgian media site 7sur7 reports that an 81-year old woman from Stekene struggles to stay alive after having been attacked by her son's doberman Monday night. Police say that the elderly woman was seemingly bitten a hundred times. The mother lives with her son, who owns three dobermans. At least one of them had attacked her, biting her scores of times. There will be an inquiry to determine whether any of the other dogs also attacked her. A doctor has been assigned to establish the exact number of dogbites the victim endured. It is expected that she will have to have her left arm amputated due to her injuries.
[Roughly translated from French article]

Book Scouting: Yesterday I heard co-author Daniel Senor in a fascinating interview on Dennis Prager's radio show about the recent new book Start-Up Nation: The Story Of Israel's Economic Miracle. As the interview was underway I soon realized I had very little knowledge about Israel's economic history, so I found the talk (and many subsequent interviews that can be seen at both the book's and the publisher's website) about the entrepreneurial spirit that makes Israel "not just a country but a comprehensive state of mind", to be very interesting indeed. Looking forward to reading the book:

Start-Up Nation addresses the trillion-dollar question: How is it that Israel—a country of 7.1 million people, only sixty years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources—produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada, and the United Kingdom?

Drawing on examples from the country’s foremost inventors and investors, geopolitical experts Dan Senor and Saul Singer describe how Israel’s adversity-driven culture fosters a unique combination of innovative and entrepreneurial intensity.

... Whereas Americans emphasize decorum and exhaustive preparation, Israelis put chutzpah first. “When an Israeli entrepreneur has a business idea, he will start it that week,” one analyst put it.
Eagle Spotting: Our intrepid parks correspondant recently benefited from splendid timing as his trail-walking explorations coincided with him arriving upon the scene of a 20-minute nature show: an eagle feasting on a salmon snatched from an ice-cold mountain river.

Our parks correspondant offered us minutes of gory video footage of the dining experience, but I prefer to share the more G-rated conclusion, as the majestic eagle exits stage right:

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Radio Memories: Christmas Wonder

Merry Christmas! I hope all our readers have a joyful day today with their family and friends. May we all recognize the rich treasures we already possess, before we open a single package.

We conclude our Christmas countdown of old radio Christmas broadcasts with an adaptation of a story that has come to be associated with this time of the year as much as Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol: the classic It's A Wonderful Life.

We're accustomed, in our day and age, for movies to make their way to television, as the final resting place after their initial arrival at our neighborhood theater. There was precedent for this on radio, where it was common to "play" the film through that medium as well!

Today's selection is from the radio series The Lux Radio Theater, which was the most popular showcase for film adaptations on radio. A listener today might wonder, "what's the point to listening if I've already seen the movie??" Well, I admit that used to be my reaction, when I first began discovering the world of radio drama. It took me a while to realize the great time machine that these adaptations represent; we may have seen the film before (and in the case of It's A Wonderful Life, maybe enough times to know most of it by heart) but we've never seen it with a live audience from the time it was made. It is like eavesdropping on the past, lifting back a curtain, to compare their reaction to our own.

I had read about the 1946 film's poor performance at the box office upon its original release, and no wonder: it wasn't able to reach most theaters until January of 1947! Bad timing. The film doesn't get much more of a break in this radio adaptation, as it was broadcast in March. (March 10 1947, for those keeping score at home)

But if you have an hour to spare, waiting for company to arrive, or wrapping gifts in anticipation of a family visit, I hope you find it a helpful way to pass the time today. Maybe the tough year has meant fewer gifts to wrap, less family able to visit. Just remember, as the story teaches us:

No one is truly poor if they have friends.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Radio Memories: Thursday Gift

"Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men" has proven an elusive goal for mankind; maybe that's why the expression touches us as it does. Like the admonition to "act your age!" that gets thrown at very young children, we are bidden to reach up and out beyond our self, towards something imagineable while still being unseen.

I've often wondered what the prayer meant to those who heard it said during Christmas 1945, the first post-war Christmas. With all those memories of war, did a vision of Peace seem easier, or harder, to imagine?

As Christmas Eve promises us a day of Peace come the dawn, we slip in yet another Christmas Radio Memory, from that memory-filled 1945 Christmas. Today's episode in our countdown to Christmas was originally broadcast Christmas Eve, 1945, and features the happiest comedy series on radio, The Great Gildersleeve. This series in particular, dealing as it did with day-to-day life on a micro-scale few other shows ever matched, offers us today a wonderful window back to that wartime era, leaving us echoes of a world reaching for a measure of peace after so many years of conflict.

Christmas 1945 must have been a joyous occasion for some, yet to others a time when their loss would be more keenly felt than ever. And so it was, a century and a half before tomorrow, when a father heard the news of his son's injury placing him on death's door, and tried to channel his sorrow towards a message of peace, so that someone else could come just that much closer to finding a way to live, as we should, in joyful hope.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing
Like a choir they're singing
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing
Like a choir singing
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they're ringing
Like a choir they're singing
And with our hearts we'll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they're ringing?
The life the angels singing
Open up your heart and hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men

Merry Christmas!

One of the bloggers who regularly amazes me but whom I rarely mention is Mr. Binks. Have a look at his latest collection of Christmas blogging.

Here's a video Christmas card sent by Mika, a look at my grandmother's hometown:

Prague: Canon 1DMKIV from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Radio Memories: Wednesday Timing

Only a short wait to Christmas..! I thought I'd make the time go faster by reprising the Christmas Radio Memories feature we ran last year at this time, where we devote a post a day to old radio dramas originally broadcast at Christmas-time, back in the day when radio, and not television, held center stage in the hearts and minds, and ears, of families.

The week leading up to Christmas seemed to always bring out the best in radio's creative staff, and one of the series that could always deliver above-average performances at Christmas-time was the Jack Benny program.
Jack's later television work survives in syndication in most cities, on cable somewhere or other, but I've never warmed to his visual comedy in the same way that I enjoy his radio work.
It's fitting to recognize Jack Benny's comedy at Christmas-time, a time of giving, as Jack himself had to be one of the most charitable gentlemen to ever work in the entertainment field. In this sense: even though he was the star of his own comedy show, he frequently gave all the punch lines to his cast. (This was definitely not standard procedure among the giant egos inhabiting the entertainment field, then or now!) He made himself the target of ridicule, put-downs and insults galore; he was penny-pinching, he was vain, he was selfish... except he wasn't, and even though he never explained otherwise, somehow the audience always seemed in on the joke.

Shortly after his start in radio in 1932, Jack Benny began experimenting with the medium; unlike many contemporary vaudeville stars who made the risky move from stage to radio, he saw radio as a new art form, and pioneered a style that he would call "picture jokes", painting funny images with words and sounds, where audiences would laugh at what they saw in their own minds as much as what they heard over the air.

I hope every Jack Benny fan gets the chance to read the eventual form of his unfinished autobiography; had he lived it would have been called I Always Had Shoes, but in truth-is-stranger-than-fiction fashion, fragments of it were later published within another book, a 1990 biography written by his daughter Joan: Sunday Nights At Seven: The Jack Benny Story. Among the amusing stories and intriguing behind-the-scenes details, there lurk the occasional moments of analysis and insight into the mystery of comedy itself. I particularly appreciate his analysis of his characteristic timing:

It has many times been written that I am a master of timing. I would agree to some extent. I am a master of my kind of timing. Critics are sometimes more conscious of my timing because I have a slow paced delivery. Bob Hope, on the other hand, has a fast, Gatling gun style. Hope is as much a master of timing as I am. But it's his timing.

I'll tell you what timing is. Timing is not so much knowing when to speak, but when to pause. Timing is pauses. The closest to the kind of timing a comedian has to learn to master is the timing of hitting a golf ball, where your swing has to be perfect, otherwise you will hook or slice the ball or -- if you're a real duffer like George Burns -- even miss the ball altogether.

The episode we present today was originally broadcast back on December 8th, 1946, when his program was riding high: his show's popularity was such that no less than three of his cast members had sufficient appeal to win radio shows of their own. Singer Dennis Day, bandleader Phil Harris (better known to younger folks like me as the voice of Disney's animated bears in both The Jungle Book and Robin Hood), and Mel Blanc, who fitted the Benny program in-between voice work for virtually every single Warner Brothers cartoon made through the 1940s and 50s. When Phil Harris' program switched time slots, Benny's real-life generosity revealed itself yet again: he made a point of scripting Harris' role so that he would only be heard during the first half of each week's program, in order to allow his employee a decent amount of time to rush over to another recording studio in time to participate in the live broadcast of his own show.

A few running gags would be developed for the annual Christmas programs, and many were carried over into his television run, so perhaps some of the material heard below may have a familiar ring. Yet: surely surly floorwalker Frank Nelson could not be as funny as when you, the listener, could imagine his annoyed expression at having to deal with his least favorite customer; surely no visual image could be as ticklish as an imagined one of a racetrack tout giving tips in a department store on what floors to shop at and which elevators to ride to get there; and no matter how many times I saw Jack Benny on television, resting his hands on his chin in trademark fashion as his long drawn out signature line, "Well-l-l-l...", it never seems as funny as when it gets triggered in one's mind's eye, courtesy of the master of timing, Jack Benny.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dresden resurrected

This is quite an amazing panorama shot of Dresden. Zoom in to best appreciate.

Barbara Kay on David Solway

Pajamas Media has published Barbara Kay's review of David Solway's new book, Hear, O Israel!.

It sounds like a great book, but how many Jews will hear the call? Perhaps anyone who retains respect for national identity and high cultures as the particular achievements of Western history are the book's potential audience:
He is fiercely critical of intellectuals who permit ideology to trump scholarly integrity, coming down particularly hard on corrupted Jewish and Israeli academics. To illustrate the insanely convoluted lengths to which post-Zionist Israeli ideologues will go to vilify their country, for example, he contemptuously cites a thesis (accepted, even lauded) by Israeli sociologue Tal Nitzan, claiming that “the absence of military rape of Palestinian women is no different from military rape itself, since it ‘strengthens the ethnic boundaries … just as military rape would have done’ — Palestinian women are obviously humiliated and relegated to inferior status in being so loftily shunned by Israeli soldiers.” That this self-loathing perversion of reason — “non”-rape by Israelis equals racism! — today passes for scholarship is a damning indicator of leftist academic culture.

Solway’s high-octane writing snaps, crackles, and pops with savage but disciplined indignation. He’s been criticized for his habit (far more prevalent in The Big Lie than here) of using $50 words where $10 ones would do, but I usually find his more recondite vocabulary has been chosen for precision, not pretension: I found “proprioceptive hatred” a deliciously original and evocative description of an English Jewish academic’s revulsion for Israel.

Solway brings a staggering litany of supportive data and citations to his argumentation, at once a strength and a weakness. It can be argued that because the anti-Zionist juggernaut — academic unions, Israel Apartheid Week apparatchiks — depends so heavily on a seductive cocktail of lies, distortions, and emotive “narrative,” the world needs the strong antidote. On the other hand, his mountains of evidence swathed in fulminatory prose will intimidate sensitive peaceniks, political fence-sitters, and cultural relativists — which is to say, the kind of people who think Obama is The One. Which explains why Solway’s most respectful readers are hawkish Americans who cluster for comfort and motivation around U.S. conservative websites such as Pajamas Media and FrontPage Magazine, where Solway has found a congenial niche.
But what kind of hawks cluster for comfort?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Watch out kids, here comes Kenney

Denyse O'Leary has some spirited commentary on Jason Kenney's speech to the Global Forum for Combating anti-Semitism in Jerusalem. Among other things we learn that Kenney, Canada's Minister of Citizenhip, Immigration, and Multiculturalism reports that
We have articulated and implemented a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism.
For now this just seems to mean a de-funding of certain leftist, Arab and Muslim organizations. But why stop there? Real zero tolerance would entail some de-funding of universities, among other bodies, and perhaps a new election law that penalizes parties that pander to the "anti-Zionists". But maybe that wouldn't be such a good idea, from a pragmatic point of view. Kenney is doing a good job but perhaps his tongue is getting ahead of certain realities, given the widespread nature of antisemitism. The victim-worshiping ideologies of our times are, at best, incipiently antisemitic as a general rule. But this is just to suggest that antisemitism is not ultimately about Jewish people, in any specific sense, but about what the Jews, in general, represent to Western and world history as the first serious developers of monotheism and national (not ethnic) identity. Antisemitism, most generally, is the hatred of the "firstness" that creates a difference between one historical innovator and another less notable party. Such differences are necessary to humanity but they are so often the source for the scandals of victim mongers.

Another sign that Copenhagen is destructive of the possibility of a human covenant

Lord Monckton reports:
Outside, in the real world, it was snowing, and a foretaste of the Brave New World being cooked up by “world leaders” in their fantasy-land was already evident. Some 20,000 observers from non-governmental organizations – nearly all of them true-believing Green groups funded by taxpayers – had been accredited to the conference.

However, without warning the UN had capriciously decided that all but 300 of them were to be excluded from the conference today, and all but 90 would be excluded on the final day.

Of course, this being the inept UN, no one had bothered to notify those of the NGOs that were not true-believers in the UN’s camp. So Senator Steve Fielding of Australia and I turned up with a few dozen other delegates, to be left standing in the cold for a couple of hours while the UN laboriously worked out what to do with us.

In the end, they decided to turn us away, which they did with an ill grace and in a bad-tempered manner. As soon as the decision was final, the Danish police moved in. One of them began the now familiar technique of manhandling me, in the same fashion as one of his colleagues had done the previous day.

Once again, conscious that a police helicopter with a high-resolution camera was hovering overhead, I thrust my hands into my pockets in accordance with the St. John Ambulance crowd-control training, looked my assailant in the eye and told him, quietly but firmly, to take his hands off me.

He complied, but then decided to have another go. I told him a second time, and he let go a second time. I turned to go and, after I had turned my back, he gave me a mighty shove that flung me to the ground and knocked me out.

I came to some time later (not sure exactly how long), to find my head being cradled by my friends, some of whom were doing their best to keep the police thugs at bay while the volunteer ambulance-men attended to me.

I was picked up and dusted me off. I could not remember where I had left my telephone, which had been in my hand at the time when I was assaulted. I rather fuzzily asked where it was, and one of the police goons shouted, “He alleges he had a mobile phone.”

In fact, the phone was in my coat pocket, where my hand had been at the time of the assault. The ambulance crew led me away and laid me down under a blanket for 20 minutes to get warm, plying me with water and keeping me amused with some colorfully colloquial English that they had learned.

I thanked them for their kindness, left them a donation for their splendid service, and rejoined my friends. A very senior police officer then came up and asked if I was all right. Yes, I said, but no thanks to one of his officers, who had pushed me hard from behind when my back was turned and had sent me flying.

The police chief said that none of his officers would have done such a thing. I said that several witnesses had seen the incident, which I intended to report. I said I had hoped to receive an apology but had not received one, and would include that in my report. The policeman went off looking glum, and with good reason.

To assault an accredited representative of a conference your nation is hosting, and to do it while your own police cameramen are filming from above, and to do it without any provocation except my polite, non-threatening request that I should not be manhandled, is not a career-enhancing move, as that police chief is about to discover to his cost.

Nor does this incident, and far too many like it, reflect the slightest credit on Denmark. We must make reasonable allowance for the fact that the unspeakable security service of the UN, which is universally detested by those at this conference, was ordering the Danish police about. The tension between the alien force and the indigenous men on the ground had grown throughout the conference.

However, the Danish police were far too free with their hands when pushing us around, and that is not acceptable in a free society. But then, Europe is no longer a free society. It is, in effect, a tyranny ruled by the unelected Kommissars of the European Union. That is perhaps one reason why police forces throughout Europe, including that in the UK, have become far more brutal than was once acceptable in their treatment of the citizens they are sworn to serve.

It is exactly this species of tyranny that the UN would like to impose upon the entire planet, in the name of saving us from ourselves – or, as Ugo Chavez would put it, saving us from Western capitalist democracy.

A few weeks ago, at a major conference in New York, I spoke about this tendency towards tyranny with Dr. Vaclav Klaus, the distinguished economist and doughty fighter for freedom and democracy who is President of the Czech Republic.

While we still have one or two statesmen of his caliber, there is hope for Europe and the world. Unfortunately, he refused to come to Copenhagen, telling me that there was no point, now that the lunatics were firmly in control of the asylum.

However, I asked him whether the draft Copenhagen Treaty’s proposal for what amounted to a communistic world government reminded him of the Communism under which he and his country had suffered for so long.

He thought for a moment – as statesmen always do before answering an unusual question – and said, “Maybe it is not brutal. But in all other respects, what it proposes is far too close to Communism for comfort.”

Today, as I lay in the snow with a cut knee, a bruised back, a banged head, a ruined suit, and a written-off coat, I wondered whether the brutality of the New World Order was moving closer than President Klaus – or any of us – had realized.
In case you are wondering who Lord Monckton is, check out this interview with Michael Coren. Note that Monckton is man of good cheer, the opposite of the "scare tactician" discussed by David Warren in my previous post.

Richard Fernandez at Belmont Club has some provocative thoughts on the dystopian future that may be our fate if we sign on to the belief that our economies need to be ruled and taxed by an unaccountable international elite who claim authority in the name of "climate change".

Friday, December 18, 2009

Proud to be Canadian!

CBC: The citation called Canada "the absolute worst country at the talks." (HT: Scaramouche)

I think David Warren's latest column is right on. (I was amazed to see it in print in the Vancouver Sun today, given our local rag's history of David Suzuki worship - they let the man, whom blogs are now calling "Scarezuki", take over editorship of a recent special greenmail edition). Warren:
...The parties are already working on "acidification of the oceans"; there were loose ends from Rio '92 on "biological diversity"; and there will always be fresh water supply issues to play with. The threat from asteroids was briefly considered, then dismissed: too hard to blame that on the free market. But the activists will come up with something, for their livelihoods depend upon it. And as the world's climate is constantly changing, and has been doing for the past 4.54 billion years, "climate change" itself will provide new opportunities.

For this reason, I think we need, after thorough public inquiries, to bring criminal prosecutions against some of the major scientific players exposed by the recent release of e-mails and papers at the centre of the "global warming" scam. The more any percipient reader pours through those "hacked" documents, the clearer he will see the criminal intent behind the massaging of the numbers; for the masseuses in question stood to benefit directly and personally from getting "the right results." This is by its nature an issue for the criminal courts.
Even before examining, objectively, details of the claims environmentalists are making, the public needs to be put on its guard. A successful representative democracy requires an electorate armed against politicians of any stripe or kind (elected or otherwise) who make claims to personal sanctity: for this is an infallible mark of grave hypocrisy. Genuinely good people do not advertise their goodness; genuinely humble people do not advertise their humility; genuinely truthful people do not claim to be messengers of "settled science," when there is no such thing.
There are real cultural failures here -- running right through our postmodern societies -- that allow the scare tacticians to flourish. In a sense it is an environmental catastrophe, although the environment in question is a psychic, rather than a physical, landscape. People have become unattuned to the most basic warning signals our ancestors used, to protect themselves against human predators. We are anyway removed by modern technology from the possibility of looking them straight in the eye. (What comes through a television screen is in no way intimate; it is instead a form of "virtual reality.")
The real environmental problems are solved by inculcating supple cultural traits in the people themselves -- which the State cannot do. It can only be done from parents to children. Individual human beings must be raised to eschew waste, luxury, and personal display. They must be raised to prefer good to evil, truth to falsehood, beauty to ugliness. There are no quick fixes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

There is no such thing as justice on the cheap; the attempt to provide the poor with "cheap" justice necessarily cheapens justice for all

Michael Coren is a smart guy; yes, some of the things he says get my blood pressure up because he has a habit of playing devil's advocate with his guests and thus, in apparent seriousness, logically controverts positions he has previously adamantly held. But still, he says a lot of wise things.

Yet I just watched a youtube of his recent discussion of the Alberta Court's decision on the Stephen Boissoin/Alberta "Human Rights" Commission case - that great travesty of justice, perhaps the greatest scandal to legal due process and justice in Canadian history - and the common sense of Coren and his guests (well he does have one righteous guest, described as an "activist",  without the sense to think other than that she knows just which kind of "hate" speech should be sanctioned with fines, as if she could never be on the wrong side of the powers that be in Canada, but I digress...) strikes me as nonsense.

Their common sense goes like this: well, sure we've now (in the light of Boissoin, Steyn, Levant, et. al.) learned the lesson that Human Rights Commissions should not be allowed to go anywhere near the policing of freedom of expression, because the Commisisons have been proven to be staffed by ideologues, arbitrarily asserting the power of the state in their official pronouncements, and with no ability to respect legal due process (for both personal and institutional reasons). But nonetheless, the argument goes, Human Rights Commissions are a good thing if they stick to their original purpose, which was, supposedly, to protect people who have been "discriminated" against in the pursuit of empoyment of housing.

Now even if one believes that business owners and rental property owners should not have the right to "discriminate" (whatever the many things that can mean in practice) in the exercise of their property rights (which don't exist in any full sense in Canada, I'll admit) -  I don't believe we should hold this as any kind of general rule but this is a topic for another day - why is it that much of Canadian public opinion maintains the common sense that Commisions and Tribunals, which they admit are incapable of providing justice or due process in respect to "hate speech" or "free speech", are nonetheless at least minimally capable of doing so in other areas?

People like Coren argue that people who have been discriminated against in fields of employment or rental housing can't go to the courts because it's too expensive for them, in most cases, so there needs to be free recourse to "human rights" commissions.  I'm wondering why, if people are so concerned about the rights of the poor, they don't just argue well, instead of publicly funding the large "human rights" industry in Canada, with its thousands of employees, we don't just hire a few more judges and lawyers and provide those with prima facie plausible  complaints of "discrimination" free legal representation to make their case in a proper court of law, with all the protections of due process and all the standards of evidence and logic the courts uphold? It's assumed this would be much more expensive, but I'm not sure that this wouldn't turn out to be cheaper to the taxpayer than the present "human rights" bureaucracies, given the amount of invidious discrimination in Canada; but even if it weren't cheaper, why are we not willing to pay the price for full and proper due process for all?

I think people don't raise this kind of question because, at the end of the day, "common sense" in Canada remains of the view that poor people, and - in the awful PC expression - "people of colour", who feel victimized should have an easier time attacking businesses and the propertied classes than the latter should have defending their interests.   It's ok if a McDonald's franchise owner gets his property rights (such as they are in Canada) lynched by some "human rights" official who gets to adjudicate an employee's complaint, based on the whims of her victimary "common sense" (I won't try to argue the point now, but I think it would be foolish to believe that our "human rights" law has developed a truly disinterested system of adjudication and procedure); but yes, it is a supreme scandal if Stephen Boissoin is told he can't make any "disparaging" remarks about homosexuals for the rest of his life.

Why is this "common sense", even on a "conservative" talk show like Michael Coren's? The despairing side of me thinks it is because those public "conservatives", or classical liberals, who have gotten used to appeasing the gods of our reigning victimary ideologies, still feel they can hold on to some more rigorous defense of freedom of expression. Perhaps they don't find this so difficult to do because "free speech" is still for some on the left a respectable rhetorical cause - the left who forever frill in declaring themselves, amidst the ideological near conformity of the universities, "public service" unions, and "activist" "communities", brave enemies/victims of some mythical "McCarthyism". This would be notwithstanding that, in much daily practice, political correctness and victimary ideology is pretty much all that the left ever any longer talks about and so its authority in such matters is something fiercely defended. And so the idea that maybe, say, a Jewish business owner should have the right to choose not to employ a Muslim (given fears, reasonable or not, of Islamic antisemitism) is yet unimaginable.  How dare I even imagine it!!

Or maybe what I'm talking about is just the pragmatic common sense that in this day and age you can't really shut people up on the internet - and it's best just to ignore all those with bad ideas, as we are mostly all so instantly forgettable nowadays  - unless you're going to sign on to the most appallingly transparent forms of arbtrary "justice", and use sledge hammers against ants; and that kind of performance just isn't good for anyone's political causes.

More generally, I think the problem is that few in Canada today have any coherent conception of what a human right is or where it comes from. Of course we're not alone, at a time when we hear about Germany imprisoning fathers who refuse to send their children to "sex education" classes that the state, with no sense of humour, no sense that it has become the all-consuming Nanny - calls "My Body Belongs to Me" (HT: Walker). Or when we hear about the great expense to which the Australian "human rights" authorities have gone to rule that a woman does not have the right to offer women-only vacation tours, (HT: Catfur) on the grounds that these would be discriminatory to men (as if that weren't their very point, as if discrimination might not sometimes be a good thing, an idea they seem to have been programmatically incapable of considering).

But again I digress. We have no hard conception of where human rights come from absent some conception of how any aspect of culture is generated, anthropologically. The great value of Generative Anthropology, as I have variously suggested at this blog, is that it provides a rigorous hypothesis (or now, perhaps, hypotheses) of how language or culture could ever have come into existence in the first place, and how this necessarily shared, public, scenic process of our coming into being is re-presented through time, giving us the historical processes in which we have come to discover or develop things like "human rights".

The basic idea of GA is that all culture is engendered as the means by which humans defer their conflicts, in order that they not turn unnecessarily violent. In other words, culture, freedom, rights, come into being because we collectively renounce, or defer appropriation, of some common object of desire. Freedom emerges from collective restraint, from equal sharing in the signs of desire/restraint. We have "human rights" to the extent we have developed the due processes by which no individual, nor any institution of state, can stop us from exercising them. Due process is not some mere means to the provision of justice. It is absolutely integral to it.  If we think the case of some poor "victim" is so compelling that we can do away with expensive and time-consuming legal processes, what are the chances that our resulting Lynch mob will ever develop a firm understanding of justice as a process for deferring everyone's violent desires, instead of just a way of buying into one or another scapegoating myth of who is good and who is evil?

But when we begin to imagine a state that should promise us things the state cannot in reality possibly provide, such as an "end to discrimination" (as if our lynching of McDonald's franchisees, or "homophobes", or "hatemongers" were not itself an arbitrary or mythic form of disrimination) or "equality of outcomes" or "personal fulfillment", we are developing a notion of "human rights" that is not grounded in any rigorous conception of anthropological realities. We are instead developing a Gnostic religion that rejects the normal, the established "hegemony", rejects this fallen world, as somehow insufficient to the perfect vision we must somehow bring into being, by hook or by crook. The fact that "a world without discrimination" is a Utopian idea that can make little sense of any imaginable reality (we can change the bases for discrimination in society, but we must always discriminate in some ways among people) is not of interest to the present "human rights" crowd.

This is all by way of recommending you take a look at how John Robson has argued such a point about our indulgence in "metaphysicial madness", at the recent Free Speech and Liberty Symposium in Ottawa (ht again to The Blog of Walker):

John Robson for Vimeo - Computer from Vlad Tepes on Vimeo.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Smile Time

"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly; devils fall because of their gravity."
___ G.K. Chesterton

If you've had a rough week of bad news and bad breaks, if you accidentally made a fool of yourself in front of other people because of a silly mistake you could have avoided, then this is a video for You..!

Any one of these vignettes serves as an accurate metaphor for my recent stumblings at work lately, so I consider the laughs they provoke very helpful medicine, and a timely reminder to smile at myself more often, if I am to bear my self-initiated problems with good grace. And hopefully to remember, once and for all, that the moment I declare "I know what I'm doing" is usually the moment right before things fall apart!

Rarely will you see such comedy timing, and poetic justice, outside of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon:

"Whoa, Nellie!"

Monday, December 07, 2009

What, no donkeys in the new Jerusalem (Copenhagen)?

IsraCast: Dec. 1917 - General Allenby Enters Jerusalem:
On the first day of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah in December 1917, the Battle of Jerusalem resulted in the city of Jerusalem falling to British forces led by General Allenby, after 400 years under Turkish rule.

Allenby was an accomplished horseman and it would have made sense for him to ride triumphantly into the city. However on 11 December Allenby entered on foot out of his great respect for the Holy City, becoming the first Christian to control the city in centuries.
According to Wikipedia:
In both Jewish and Christian traditions, the messiah (Jesus Christ in the later case) was often described as riding on a donkey. As noted, in the context of the Hebrew Bible this connoted wealth and affluence befitting the House of David, as at the time commoners are described as simply going on foot. However, in later times when the aristocracy used horses, depicting the messiah as riding a donkey came to have an opposite connotation, as indicating a simple, sober way of life and avoiding luxury. The same connotation is evident in the description of saints such as Francis of Assisi as riding donkeys.
This is all preface to the latest news on the great religious festival now unfolding in Copenhagen: Copenhagen climate summit: 1,200 limos, 140 private planes and caviar wedges - Telegraph:
On a normal day, Majken Friss Jorgensen, managing director of Copenhagen's biggest limousine company, says her firm has twelve vehicles on the road. During the "summit to save the world", which opens here tomorrow, she will have 200.

"We thought they were not going to have many cars, due to it being a climate convention," she says. "But it seems that somebody last week looked at the weather report."

Ms Jorgensen reckons that between her and her rivals the total number of limos in Copenhagen next week has already broken the 1,200 barrier. The French alone rang up on Thursday and ordered another 42. "We haven't got enough limos in the country to fulfil the demand," she says. "We're having to drive them in hundreds of miles from Germany and Sweden."

And the total number of electric cars or hybrids among that number? "Five," says Ms Jorgensen. "The government has some alternative fuel cars but the rest will be petrol or diesel. We don't have any hybrids in Denmark, unfortunately, due to the extreme taxes on those cars. It makes no sense at all, but it's very Danish."

The airport says it is expecting up to 140 extra private jets during the peak period alone, so far over its capacity that the planes will have to fly off to regional airports – or to Sweden – to park, returning to Copenhagen to pick up their VIP passengers.

As well 15,000 delegates and officials, 5,000 journalists and 98 world leaders, the Danish capital will be blessed by the presence of Leonardo DiCaprio, Daryl Hannah, Helena Christensen, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Prince Charles. A Republican US senator, Jim Inhofe, is jetting in at the head of an anti-climate-change "Truth Squad." The top hotels – all fully booked at £650 a night – are readying their Climate Convention menus of (no doubt sustainable) scallops, foie gras and sculpted caviar wedges.
And this being Scandinavia, even the prostitutes are doing their bit for the planet. Outraged by a council postcard urging delegates to "be sustainable, don't buy sex," the local sex workers' union – they have unions here – has announced that all its 1,400 members will give free intercourse to anyone with a climate conference delegate's pass. The term "carbon dating" just took on an entirely new meaning.
I'm not sure, but I sense this gives a whole new meaning to allegations of "raping the planet." In any case, we can forgive Bruce Bawer for being confused, in an otherwise first-rate piece of reporting on "Hopenhagen" ("Barf"):
Well, here I am at the Vatican in Rome, where thousands of pilgrims from every corner of the earth crowd St. Peter’s Square, their eyes trained on the glorious basilica within which the College of Cardinals is gathering in secret conclave to settle the all-important question: Who will stand in the shoes of the fisherman?
I despair at what is going in Copehagen, as the left seeks to gain control and put serious breaks on economic freedom and legitimate human aspirations to escape from poverty and the nanny state. Yet as I tell my friends, it's time to get used to this kind of "new" religion. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe much in the religion of AGW, to the extent it is a form of scapegoating Carbon Dioxide in the support of the leftist desire to control and limit economies, instead of seeking, if it proves necessary, other forms of mitigating or adapting to climatic change. And I condemn the many in the "climate science" field who have proven themselves, as the latest CRU scandal further emphasizes, just too keen to corrupt science to religious ends.

But it is the very nature of science that it can't have the final word, that its work is but a series of discrete empirical observations and not complete knowledge of complex systems. These observations well may, and in many cases should, allow us to construct models of larger systems; but it is the nature of science that we realize that these models can never be complete, that we must remain open-minded as to the unending chain of causes and consequences on that which we are now modeling, and not discretely observing.

This means that science cannot enter into political calculations without some element of religion creeping in, for religion is inherently that which mediates the specifically human, self-interest in the meaning of causes and consequences. Ultimately, what the global warming debate teaches us is not science's final word - the religious belief that the "science is settled" is ridiculous - but rather what the various sides in "debate" want to believe of sciences, as a basis for their political and economic desires, be these of a relatively totalitarian or libertarian bent.

We live in a time when the growing number of discrete observations of science are, whatever they may prove to be, only going to add up to more complex models of the interactions of human behaviour and larger geo-physical systems. In turn, these models, one way or another, are inevitably and increasingly going to be used in political and economic arguments.

At the same time, human beings cannot live without something akin to a religion, some kind of shared belief in what we should hold together as sacred. All language, all consciousness, depends on shared scenes of desire, focussed on some central object of desire (hence made "sacred") whether we desire to imagine a world without cars, or without prostitution, etc. etc.

Those of us who would defend science from religious corruption must keep this need for religion in mind: one way or another religion and politics in future is inevitably going to use science to buttress its accounts of humanly-significant causes and consequences. Our task is not to pose facile oppositions of science vs. religion, presuming the twain should never meet: we should reject both the polemics of Richard Dawkins, and the Carbon-Dioxide-Witch Burners, but also some of their polemical opposition, all for similar reasons. Rather, we need to become much more sophisticated about how to relate our understanding of real human religious needs to cool, disinterested, reason. As Eric Gans argues:
The predicted catastrophic consequences of global warming, however distant, are no more or less hypothetical than those of an Iranian nuclear device. Politics exists to adjudicate the respective degree of gravity of such dangers, which cannot be determined in the formal rationality of a judicial procedure but only through the negotiation of personal and collective resentments. What is both fascinating and frustrating about such debates is the impossibility of maintaining the "objective" basis of the issue, that is, the projected significance of global warming for humanity in general, outside the sphere of political debate. The real question at stake is not whether the Earth is getting warmer or even whether human activity is the cause, but how much industrial productivity should be sacrificed for how much reduction in "greenhouse effect." The Left sees global warming as a weapon in its critique of the market system and its values; the Right sees its opponents as mere resenters of a system they consider fully capable of dealing with environmental issues in its normal course of operations. If tomorrow it is discovered that the production of CO2 actually reduces global warming, within a few days all the positions will have switched around, but all the underlying resentments will remain the same.

Although the coming and passing of the postmodern era has posed challenges to the market system, it has not put an end to the modern political dichotomy of Left and Right. On the contrary, the recent evolution of virtually all the major European countries, which were dominated during the Cold War by shapeless "center-right" coalitions as bulwarks against communism, suggests that if anything this opposition has been sharpened--as witness the just-concluded French election. If "politics" is an indispensable feature of the market system, it is because it has proved effective at releasing energy from the deferral of violence into the economy at large. Today, as the modern world confronts its Other [i.e. Islamic Jihad] in what appears to be their "final conflict," it is easy to grow impatient with a political debate that seems so irresolute in the face of the fanaticism of transcendentally guaranteed resentment. And the critique of this lack of resolution is an important element of the debate itself. But whether its outcome be reason or folly, the only alternative to the uncertainty of politics is not the certitude of "science," whether of climatology or of Generative Anthropology, but the dogmatic truth of our enemies.
See also:
Religion is about faith, and faith is about supporting a hypothesis—making a bet. To believe in global warming is to bet on the veracity of a set of hypotheses. More specifically, the kind of faith that deserves even metaphorically to be called a religion is one that is focused on deferring the violence that threatens to destroy the human community. Indeed, the belief in global warming and the catastrophes it is presumed to entail makes explicit that the deferral of violence is the primary object of faith, a truth masked in traditional religion by the mediation of supernatural powers. Global warming is like a divine punishment for our sins of excess energy consumption—sins against "Gaia," if you like, but the divinization is altogether optional because the punishment is the wholly natural consequence of these sins. Global warming is comparable to the self-generated sufferings of a drug addict rather than the externally inflicted punishment of a murderer, except that, as its name implies, it takes place on a global scale, and its cure, assuming this is even possible, will preoccupy all of humanity for decades, not to say centuries, to come.

But this emphasis on the deferral of external violence is not the only, nor even the principal deferral effected by the belief in global warming. Its most important feature is that it provides its believers with an externally-directed goal that can in principle defer human violence. Violence and disaster—même combat. By turning our desires away from what might be thought more pressing dangers—Osama with an H-bomb—toward reduced energy expenditure, we work for the benefit of humanity as a whole. More precisely, by focusing our efforts on global warming, we not only diminish its effects, but we also demonstrate the possibility of action toward a goal that can in principle be shared by all—Osama reducing his "carbon footprint." Like the "Aranda" religious rituals described by Durkheim, the global warming praxis serves to promote solidarity. But where traditional religions, however "universal," have concrete historical roots that, involuntarily or not, exclude others, the science-driven behavior demanded by the fight against global warming obeys no such constraints. It would not be an outrageous exaggeration to claim that global warming is the first global religion—which makes its principal spokesman, independently of all politics, a perfectly fitting candidate for the Peace Prize.

The religion of impending disaster transforms the nature-centered apotropaic rites of "paganism" into rational, goal-directed activity. Instead of sacrificing an animal to appease Neptune or Apollo, one rides a bike to work to lower one’s gasoline consumption. The nonbeliever may scoff, but this activity makes a fully rational appeal to natural forces. Nor is global warming comparable to the Enlightenment-derived secular religions of Communism and its Fascist antithesis, whose worship of unaided human powers leads inevitably to their concentration in a quasi-deified Supreme Leader. Al Gore is closer in spirit to Jesus or the Buddha than to Stalin or Mussolini.

Is the sea level really fated to rise twenty feet? (At its present rate of 3mm per year, this will take place in about 2000 years.) There are moments when the religion of global warming overreaches itself into apocalyptic fantasy not all that different from cultist predictions of the end of the world. One might say in their defense that these extreme possibilities are evoked to dramatize the urgency of conversion. Yet these apocalyptic tendencies reveal in this new embodiment of the sacred a potentially fatal flaw.

The traditional objects of faith are, ultimately, hypotheses concerning the divinely approved forms of human interaction; such hypotheses can be discredited only by the failure of the faithful to maintain a viable society. This is equally true of political religions such as Communism; had Khrushchev really "buried us" under Communist productivity, it would have been the USSR who won the Cold War without firing a shot. In contrast, faith in global warming is adherence to a scientific hypothesis independent of human activity, even if it concerns this activity as an important parameter. This makes global warming vulnerable to disconfirmation independently of the benefits the fight against it may confer on global human society. If next week or next decade the climatologists revise their models of climate change, the common goal that was to have preserved us from the selfish incentives of the Prisoner’s Dilemma will vanish. If they do not, bringing climate change within acceptable limits would have the same result.

Rene Girard and the mimetic theory of desire

For those who haven't yet had the time to delve into the groundbreaking anthropological works of Rene Girard, this week Peter Robinson of NRO TV is presenting a five-part interview with Girard. Since desire is the foundation of human consciousness, this is well worth some thought:

UPDATE: see the complete interview here (HT: maccusgermanis):

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Official Jews and Levantian Jews

I attended the forum last night sponsored by the Canadian Jewish Congress, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, and the Temple Sholom: Responding to Antisemitism: Are we too thin-skinned?

There may have been 2-300 people there - I didn't attempt a count - most of whom were Jews and I would guess members of the reform Temple Sholom. Almost everyone had reached middle-age and I was quickly joined by some (judging from accents) German Jewish ladies who put me me in nostalgic mind of my grandparents, people who could never solve the mystery of antisemitism in their day and who consequently didn't know whether to run away or remain identified with the Jewish community.

My feeling was there was an assumed consensus in the temple about the answer to the evening's official question. No, we are not too thin skinned, though the question was rarely directly addressed and there was no questioning of the question itself, which I see as acknowledging a little too openly the mindset of the “anti-Zionists” who accuse neurotic Jews of using their supposed victim status to do nasty things to the Palestinians.

Mark Freiman

First to speak was the CJC's national President, Mark Freiman (the CJC's CEO, Bernie Farber had also been scheduled to attend but, we were told, he is suffering from laryngitis and the doctor wouldn't let him travel).

Freiman began by lauding both the government of Canada for announcing that it will host an international conference on antisemitism and the Parliamentary coalition that has set itself up to study antisemitism. Clearly, Freiman thinks antisemitism is a growing problem. He then offered a little history lesson, pointing to various assumed causes of historical antisemisitm (economic, theological, etc.) reminding us of the day when pseudo-scientific “antisemites” were proud of coining the name and racial theory. But he left the ultimate nature of antisemitism unspoken, as an apparent mystery. Today, he says, no antisemite wants the name, and in polite society everyone wants to appear anti-antisemitic.

Freiman, who generally impresses as having the mind of a highly-disciplined, poker-faced, lawyer then offered one of his few moves to sarcasm, rejecting those who tell us today we only have to (not) worry about kooks and crackpots typing on the internet in their parents' basements.

Let me interject that this was a cheap shot at those who love the (is it originally Mark Steyn's?) “basement Nazi” metaphor. Our argument is that while having a “human rights” speech police is for various reasons a bad or impracticable idea in the age of the internet, there nonetheless really is a growing antisemitism given today's left-Islamist alliance focused, nominally, on hating Israel. We further argue that it is the likes of the CJC who, in encouraging the Canadian state to assume censorship powers, only have the courage or desire (like generals fighting the last war) to focus prosecution on the non-Islamic, i.e. poor white, anachronistically “Nazi”, margins of antisemitism, knowing full well the problems that would ensue if official Jews and official Muslims in Canada went full-tilt in trying to silence alleged Jewish and/or Islamic “hate speech”. This in turn leads to charges that the “official Jews” don't have the courage of their convictions, and by extension to claims that our “justice” on questions of freedom of expression in Canada is becoming dangerously arbitrary, guided by the whims of a political correctness that can always backfire on Jews.

But, as I say, Mr. Freiman speaks like a lawyer dilligently arguing his side of the case, not that Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act was the central issue of the night (though it was clearly closely under the surface of the discussion). One might keep in mind that anti-group defamation law has been a central concern of organized Jews in Canada; groups like the CJC have been leaders in lobbying for such laws, going back to the 1930s. And it appears it is the CJC's intent to focus the recent moves by Canada's government and Parliament, to study antisemitism, on the new forms of left-Islamist, or “anti-Zionist”, antisemitism. But after this study happens, it was not made clear to me if Freiman wants our so-called “human rights” or “administrative” law to be the lead agent in trying to shut up the new antisemitism on the internet and in other public media.

Freiman went on to suggest that anti-Zionists are telling the Parliamentary inquiry on antisemitism that its existence is not necessary. Freiman then suggested that the age-old hatred of Jews is always in search of an alibi. Judeophobia survives like an organism by successfully mutating over time.

Freiman then attempted to explain when criticism of Israel becomes a problem of antsemitism. Briefly, his point was that when this criticism of the state of Israel has as its intent, at least in part, to convey some more general comment about the badness of Jews or Judaism, to convey some lesson on Jewish evil, then “anti-Zionism” is just another example of antisemitism or Judeophobia looking for respectability.

Accordingly, Freiman says the CJC will ask for a “broad and realistic” definition of antisemitism by the Parliamentary committee, one that includes anti-Zionism; and it will seek measures to monitor, assess, and combat antisemitism, but he did not specify. He concluded that this is being done not because we (the CJC) are over-sensitive, but because we are asserting Canadian values of tolerance, decency, and intellectual honesty.

Robert Daum

The floor was then turned over to Rabbi Robert Daum, the newly-appointed, founding director of the Iona Pacfic: Inter-Religious Centre of the Vancouver School of Theology, at UBC. Rabbi Daum, raised and educated in the USA, contrasted the lawyer Freiman by speaking like a postmodern liberal academic whose principle purpose in taking the stage is somewhat less to assert oneself in conveying a series of tightly logical propositions, than to assert the importance of our giving much consideration to some supposed basis on which all sides can fairly contribute to the debate.

One of Daum's main points was that we have to be sensitive to the difference between intentional and inadvertent antisemitism. Our response to antisemitism must be sensitive to context; we have good reasons to be thin-skinned, given recent historical contexts, but still we must try to get inside the mind or world view of the other.

Speaking about today's “political” antisemitism, evidenced in charges of “Israeli Apartheid”, Daum said we are witnessing a devolution of discussion into a dangerous Manicheanism of simple-minded black and white, good and evil. Daum on the one hand declared he is repulsed by the current focus on boycotts of Israel; but he is also repulsed by Jews who, in heated debate, call other Jews names like “self-hating” or “kapo”. For Daum, such names are a refusal of a Jewish need both to guard jealously the use of language associated with the Nazis and the Shoah, and to understand the genuine motivations of our political opponents and the true complexity of our conflicts. The discourse that reduces all to a battle of heroes and villains is the central problem of our times, for it is only from within such a mindset that one can find the reason to excuse, for example, suicide bombing as simply a “misdemeanor” in a larger “heroic” struggle.

Daum thus, in supposedly rejecting binary thinking, falls into the postmodern trap and performs a yet bigger binary: that which pits the sensitive postmodern discourse theorist – Daum recommends we read the work of Bernard Harrison – against the simplistic Manichean. The message is ultimately Utopian for, in fact, there is no escape from binary thinking but only a perennial challenge to deepen our understanding of its basis in the origin of language. But I'll try not to use this reporting as an excuse to lecture on this central point of Generative Anthropology.

Daum then discussed the recent devolution, at Kelowna, of the United Church of Canada's national congress into a discussion of “Israeli apartheid”. He suggested that a need to respond to this was one of the motivating reasons for the evening's forum. However he then blamed the UCC fiasco only on fringe elements within the church and on rules that allow a single local presbytery to circulate egregiously offensive materials and resolutions.

He then made some comment which I did not entirely catch, about how the circulation of hate speech was a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for the Shoah. He concluded by invoking the need to embrace “teachable moments”: when people within or without our (jewish) community inadvertently shame our community we need to respond not with arched backs but with an eye to building mutually respectful personal relationships.

Philip Bregman

The moderator for the evening, Temple Sholom's Rabbi Philip Bregman, then took the floor joking that he was less kind that Daum; “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...”

Rabbi Bregman then told a story about how he had just taken Barbara Kay's recent column on the rising antisemitism in Canada with him to the local Jewish day school. He said the column provoked from the students their own stories of antisemitism. He suggested this was something quite new in recent memory. Vancouver kids had in recent decades not reported, or only occasionally reported, antisemitic incidents to Bregman. And yet all of a sudden this week he had heard from five students, with more hands raised in the class, who had received antisemitic slurs. Bregman said these insults came from kids from a variety of racial backgrounds. He typified the incidents in terms of a tussle on the hockey rink or basketball court which results in a charge of “dirty Jew”. I thought he was probably re-presenting the actual language used: how many kids in Vancouver today would know to preface Jew with the classical “dirty” and not, say, the f word? One can imagine perhaps only those raised in particularly clean-obsessed religions, or with “old-fashioned”, Jew-as-market-cheat, antisemitism; but Bregman suggested his recent experience is evidence that the new antisemitism is a widespread political agenda “filtering down” now to youth. In any case, the invocation of the “dirty Jew” left me with the impression that something ritualistic was going on, whatever the basis in today's lived reality for the ritual's re-performance tonight.

Robert Matas and Barbara Yaffe

Two Jewish journalists were then invited to the podium to offer their own thoughts, partly in response to the prepared presentations of Freiman and Daum. First off, Robert Matas of the Globe and Mail revealed a deeply conciliatory intent, though as with Daum, I don't think he can escape from binary thinking. He did not deny the recent rise in antisemitism that the Parliamentary committee is discussing, but he also noted official statistics that suggest a decline in specific hate crimes, of which Blacks in Canada are twice as often the target as Jews (on a per capita basis?). He remarked on how the Calgary police, in responding to recent antisemitic graffiti attacks in that city, were notably pro-active in denouncing this vandalism as hate crime. He suggested this reveals a new sensitivity in Canada, one partly attributable to the efforts of the CJC.

He then went on to defend the media against accusations of bias, particularly in regard to reporting on Israel. He suggested there is a great desire among his colleagues to be neutral and accurate and to get the story right, though he had to admit that the number of corrections his paper has had to publish, concerning stories on Israel, suggested there was often incompetence, which is not to be confused with antisemitism; the corrections also reveal a genuine desire to get it right. He was not happy that the media are accused of bias when they do their job, as he understands it, in providing a range of opinions on Israel. He suggested that when Jews shout “antisemitism” at the media, it just sounds to journalists like name calling, and it is thus counter-productive. Many "ethnic" communities have declared war on the media he said, but like Obama declaring war on Fox news, doing so only hurts them in the battle for public opinion. The solution, he suggested, is for people to engage the media which in turn will just hold up the mirror.

I will leave it to readers to judge to what extent such a journalistically orthodox desire to escape the binaries of us and them is self-deceiving.

Next up was Barbara Yaffe of the Vancouver Sun who was the only speaker to confront directly the question posed in the chosen title for the forum. She said we Jews have exactly the right thickness of skin, apparently well-adjusted by experience. She suggested that in her 30-plus years as a reporter she has encountered no community that is as sophisticated in dealing with the media as is the Jewish community.

And yet she said there is no question that Israel is vilified in this world - and so also in the media, a listener might assume - way out of proportion to its size as a country.

Speaking in point form, she said the challenge for the Jewish community is to know where to draw the line with legitimate criticism of the media. What is at stake is freedom of speech, and a Jewish community appearing to attack this freedom in combatting antisemitism could be the target of a serious backlash. We must be very specific where we draw the line, though she did not go into details.


There was then a little time for questions from the floor. Questions had to be submitted, handwritten, on pieces of paper the organizers had provided and they were then filtered and handed to the speakers; only a small number of the submitted questions were asked.

Mark Freiman answered two questions, the first dealing with what is legitimate criticism of Israel. Freiman suggested any criticism that entails, as its likely solution, that Israel commit suicide or lose its specifically Jewish identity, needs to be rejected as antisemitic. He then answered the only question on the topic that is probably of most interest to readers of this blog. The questioner said s/he had been convinced by attending the recent Jewish Book Festival (i.e. Ezra Levant's presentation - see my piece here) of the need to do away with Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and for Canadians to rely only on the criminal code to police hate speech.

Freiman replied by saying the Human Rights Commissions and the criminal code serve two different functions and target two different problems. He argued that the criminal code is designed to punish the evil doer and hence it has the highest evidentiary and procedural standards to insure protection of the innocent. On the other hand, “human rights”, and/or “administrative” law is aimed at the message itself (not the messenger) and is meant to condemn misuses of our public media and means of communications. He said explicitly that the purpose of the HRCs is not to punish but to denounce hateful messages.

Those who have been sent through the HRC kangaroo court mill and fined and suffered court orders that they not speak publicly, forevermore, on certain issues, would no doubt laugh bitterly at such a bald statement of legal theory that paid no respect to actual experience with the inevitably corrupting, i.e. politicized, attempts to apply such a law. But it was not clear if Freiman was offering a comment on the history of the HRCs or on the future direction the CJC will be lobbying for, as if it might one day be possible to have HRCs that don't punish those they target. He acknowledged there are difficulties and problems with the HRCs, but then seemed to discount these by saying there are problems with the courts as well. If we get rid of Section 13, he said, we give up our commitment to combat hateful messages.

I will take this last statement as the moment to offer some concluding observations on the event. It will seem ridiculous to many "free speechers" for someone to suggest that we necessarily give up our commitment to combat (illegitimate?) resentments, or “hate”, if we give up Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. One can be publicly active in denouncing and marginalizing sundry hatreds, without desiring for there to be an ultimate state arbiter deciding - only G-d knows how this could ever be done apolitically - just whose resentments deserve public denunciation and whose not. But that Freiman said this, to this kind of forum, in all sincerity, and, I suspect, touched a chord in doing so, is something we should maybe consider in the spirit of Rabbi Daum's call to get inside the head of the other.

What those of us who are battling against the existence of Section 13 inevitably confront is the nature of Jewish experience, and some of its established “common sense”, which has something to do with Barbara Yaffe's observation that Jews have the most sophisticated forms of “ethnic” organization in Canada. I am talking, I suspect, about a common sense rooted both in modern Jewish historical experience and in the very founding nature of Judaism itself.

Historically, Jews have of course lived as the other, as the minority within various societies. But this, in my understanding, has not been simply a two-way relationship of majority vs. minority, but a variously triangular relationship in which Jews have often had to contend, and sometimes ally, with either or both the aristocratic and official, or the plebeian or popular elements and resentments in their society.

Now is not the time to attempt any serious historical analysis, but i'll just note that in the experience of Jews in Western Christian nations, there developed from the eighteenth century the opportunity to become enfranchised co-participants in secular national cultures. Jews could now identify not only with Judaism but with a shared secular high culture. While the potential for scapegoating violence and discrimination that the Jews faced often came not simply from either aristocratic/official or from plebeian elements, but from both when it became convenient for the system as a whole to attempt to bond itself against “the Jew”, especially the jew of the marketplace (a bonding in which some secular Jews, or nominal converts to Christianity, like Karl Marx, attempted to participate), Jews could not simply live nonchalantly with a “pox on both your houses”. One had to place bets with one side or another.

Inevitably, as Jews became educated and had access to bureaucratic jobs in Western Europe, they were more likely to associate with aristocratic and official elements within their societies, and perhaps more often with high, and not popular, culture – and they could, indeed, in their often highly educated, and idealized procedural neutrality, be variously useful to those official elements. At the end of the day, it may be that no one is going to save you, as the rise of the Nazis demonstrated; but in the Europe of old, I think Jews did sometimes have a better chance of being saved from antisemitic violence by having a relationship with official society than by attempting, as perhaps did many a Jewish communist, the more difficult challenge of transforming popular culture away from its antisemitic resentments (of course communism had ambitions to also control high and official culture and not just popular culture).

In any case, respect for the law, and not so much for unconsidered popular resentment, is fundamental to Judaism. The point being, historically many Jews have had little reason to put their faith in nothing but a free-wheeling freedom of speech. It was not a realistic, immediately available, option in most places outside North America.

Still, I am one of those of who can't but look at the Nazi experience as proof of anything other than the idea that Jews may only be safe in a society that goes out of its way to maximize individual freedom, even if this means having to keep the state away from policing hate speech, and spending our own individual time and energy to encourage other individuals to take up the task of defending each other's freedom. Accordingly, one wonders how well does the founding logic of the secularizing, state-associating Jew of Europe work in the context of modern North America? I think a study of the Canadian Jewish Congress might allow one to claim that something of the attitudes of middle-class German and perhaps English Jews was transferred to North America in its development of an “official Jewry”.

I observe a speaker like Mark Freiman and genuinely admire his mind but it is nonetheless clearly the mind of a lawyer. If there is a problem, he looks for a legal solution, just as Rabbi Daum looks for an academic solution to the problem of antisemitism. I am not sure, whatever arguments the Ezra Levants of the world put in front of the Freimans that the two are ever really going to connect in a shared common sense, or whether that is necessary. A “Levantian” might try to invoke the idea that the only real solution can come within a maximally free civil society, with unfettered free speech. But, as I am suggesting, this is deeply counter-intuitive to one kind of Jewish experience rooted not just in modern history but perhaps in the very nature of Judaism itself.

To be a Jew is to carry the sign of the people who, depending on whether you favour a religious or an anthropological account, were either the first chosen by God, or the first to discover fully, through their own humanistic genius, the (idea of) the One God. The Jews were thus the first to define, or systematically explore, the idea of there being fundamentally only one kind of (human) Being, however variously represented that Being is by different cultures. Jews took a lead in transforming the polytheist understanding of our humanity. But, the point is, as Eric Gans argues, they could only do this, and remain Jews, by assuming a certain kind of legalistic identity.

What does it mean to remember Moses' revelation on Mt. Sinai of the G-d who does not offer his people a name to be called, but only a paradoxical statement: I am what I am?

If I take on the task of communicating my understanding of the meaning of that revelation to the entirety of humanity, I might well think that it best that I become a Christian for therein lies a means or reason to evangelize the world and not just my fellow Jews. But while Christianity may be a fine and great thing for most people, one that genuinely furthers the Jewish revelation, if I, as a Jew, take that route, do I entirely remember the human nature and meaning of the Mosaic, or indeed any, revelation into our common humanity? Does remembering the nature of this or any story well require there to remain some Jews walking about on this earth?

This is the paradox that every Jew has to face. It may well be – I believe it is – that essential to the meaning of our discovery of the one God, or his equivalent role in a secular anthropology, is the knowledge that someone had to go first in signing a covenant with this God, or someone had to go first in making more systematic what can only be intuitive, unstated, in the polytheist world - the idea that there is ultimately only kind of human Being, and a purely transcendent God who can't be named and invoked at will to change our fate in the worldly world as we seek, in our conflicts, to gain the upper hand over other children of God.

In short, in order to say "we're all the same", someone has to go first, someone has to be different, refusing, unlike everyone previously in human history, to have a special name for G-d.

Jewish chosenness is not a sign of G-d's favouritism; Jews believe, with experience, that they will be both rewarded and punished according to their conduct in keeping the covenant and that their G-d is eveyone's G-d. Rather, chosenness is fundamentally a sign of G-d's willingness to restrain himself, in order to make a deal with humans, and hence to assert the fundamental nature of human freedom to discover a world that need not be understood as infused with unknowable animal spirits.

Humanity will forget something about that which happened at Sinai – someone being chosen to go first - if everyone becomes a Jew or everyone a Christian, or Muslim. Jewish survival is a living reminder of the distinctive nature or burden of firstness, a reminder that is realized or renewed through the various distinctive forms of Jewish identity today. It's not particularly heroic this identity, but generally a simple sign of faith in the given law, as the basis of freedom through learned discipline that the humanly-consistent Creation offers to us. There are thus "official Jews" and their supporters who genuinely believe in the possibility of a "hate speech" law that could be administered in a way that treated all people equally, without politicizing the definition of unacceptable speech, without these laws being one day corrupted and used to promote antisemitism. I think they're wrong, but sincere.

As noted, the keeper of the sign of firstness, a Jew, cannot be an evangelizing knight or a soldier of Allah without ceasing to be a Jew. Since he cannot readily be a dashing hero to the gentile, Jewish identity often takes refuge in respect for the law, a sign of solidarity with both fellow Jews, and humanity. But today a Jew can also remember the lesson laid down at Sinai by furthering the spirit of Exodus and discovery for all humanity by involving oneself in the opportunities the secular world provides for going first in some new kind of human discovery, be this in science, the arts, the law, etc.

In any case, whatever you think of my analysis, one of the claims made a few times at the forum is that we need to attend to the problem of communications as it is so easy for miscommunication of our genuine intent to occur in passionate debates over antisemitism. And it is perhaps true, as I have been suggesting, that there are not a lot of ways for Jews to speak, as Jews, to the rest of humanity without risking a slippery slope on which they might stop being distinctively Jewish and disappear in a common, forgetful, mission to evangelize the world. Thus the Jewish community, while involving itself today in all arenas of civil society, tends, when it looks for a representative Jewish voice or position, to defer to the learned and to the law, to an “official Jew”. Ezra Levant, in contrast, may be good example of someone who is remembering Sinai by extending the meaning of Exodus in our times.

An inclusive perspective may entail realization that neither the Freiman, nor the Levant, can simply do away with the other if we are to sustain Jewish identity. This may be a paradox we cannot solve, which is a happy realization for an irresolvable paradox is one that never dies; but if so, it is a paradox with which we will simply have to fight, hopefully in productive ways, forever.

So perhaps Jewish organizations, by their very nature, are always going to attract lawyers who are going to tend to seek legal solutions to the problems they feel they have to confront. And so there needs to be “Levantian Jews” to question “official Jews”, forever. The happy thing is, every Canadian gets a vote on the issue currently in play. Contact your MP and tell him or her what you think of Section 13 and whether we need government to police antisemitism, and by extension any other form of prejudice some group may hold against you, though of course we could have "hate speech" laws that targeted only antisemitism. I wonder how well that would work.

Don't miss Jonathan Narvey's pre-forum comments.