Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Funnier than Guy Earle

But this may also be a problem with democracy.

Not so funny.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) is afraid that the U.S. Territory of Guam is going to "tip over and capsize" due to overpopulation.

Johnson expressed his worries during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the defense budget Friday.
Not making it up.

Guy Earle "Trial" - Part 7

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal hearing into the Guy Earle-Lorna Pardy incident at Zesty's has adjourned until Friday April 9 when closing arguments will be presented.

Just a few notes for now on the last witness, Samantha, whose last name I arrived too late to catch. She was a waitress at Zesty's on the night of the incident, May 22, 2007

Witnesses for Zesty's Defense - Guy Earle Trial Part 6

I arrived at the BCHRT after the first witness of the day - see report of Bulleproofcourier. Again, my report paraphrases the witnesses with my comments in parentheses (...)

Guy Earle "Trial" - Part 5

Just a quick note to say the hearing has adjourned to 3 pm when we will hear the last witness. Today we heard from other comedians who were present on the night in question. It will take me a little time to write up my notes, suffice to say for now that we heard evidence that contradicts Pardy's in various respects. Will post a.s.a.p. For now, see Bulletproof's first report.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lorna Pardy did heckle: witness - Guy Earle "Trial" Part 4

(Drawing of BC Human Rights Tribunal Hearing Room 4 - by Bulletproofcourier)

The pathetic thing about the BC Human Rights Tribunal is that they provide little room for public access to their "hearing". Normally, there probably isn't much of a demand and all kinds of "powerful" people can be run through the ringer by "victims" without the public ever knowing much about it - that's what I mean by pathetic. But the Lorna Pardy - Guy Earle - Zesty's case is receiving a lot of media attention. And since the BCHRT only provide 18 seats for the public AND the media, if the merely curious show up to take the seats, there are no seats for those intent on reporting the event. So far I can only find two reports on today's hearing (searching Google News and Blogs).

The Province
Ismail testified that he stepped out of the eatery for brief walk when the incidents took place which escalated to a point where Pardy threw two glasses of water at Earle and the comedian took the sunglasses off Pardy’s head, broke then in two, and threw them at her.

He also testified that Earle was not his employee, but rather a volunteer comedian who acted as MC.

“He was never employed,” said Ismail adding that he set up a tab of $50 for the comedians on open-mic nights.

The hearing, which continues Wednesday, also heard from two other witnesses. One testified that Pardy and her friends heckled Earle and insulted him, while another said Earle targeted the table where Pardy sat.
Pathetic journalism: the witness who contradicts Pardy's testimony (Pardy said she didn't heckle) isn't even named or described; we don't even know which side called him/her.

We don't learn much more from the discussion between Marcella Bernardo and Christy Clark on CKNW radio - audio here, starting at 37.25 minute mark. Christy and Marcella don't quite grasp the issues at stake, and they are themselves so offended by Guy Earle's words (as Lorna Pardy remembered them) that they just emotionally take the view that the "Human Rights" Tribunal needs to be around to punish him.

But we do learn one thing from Marcella's reporting: Lorna Pardy, in finishing her cross-examination today, had her back turned to both Sam (who was asking the questions) and Salaam (the restaurant owner) Ismail. I really don't know what that was about but if this were a real court and not the law-as-victim-therapy "human rights" hearing, I'd say she might have been hurting her case: would a real court take a person capable of such emotion or drama as a completely credible witness?

Bulletproofcourier and I will try to do some tag-team reporting if we can get a seat tomorrow (Wednesday).

UPDATE: See Brian Hutchinson's report on day two of the hearing to fill in the blanks.

Canadian Senators for Freedom!

Don't laugh! The spirit of freedom has enflamed (at least some of) the appointed members of the upper house of Canada's Parliament. Maybe this has something to do with PM Harper's decision only to appoint Senators who promise to work for democratic reform of that house.

Tory Senators call for changes to Canada's Human Rights Act

Blazing Cat Fur has the two great speeches from Senators Doug Finley and Mike Duffey, which I will reproduce after the fold.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Guy Earle "Trial" Part 3 - Lorna Pardy testifies

This afternoon at the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, Lorna Pardy continued her testimony, and began her cross-examination. Before giving my impressions, I'll just note what Pardy said. I am paraphrasing and adding a few of my own observations in parentheses (...)

Pardy's lawyer, Ms. Cousineau, began by asking Pardy about her contact with the police after the May 2007 incident at Zesty's restaurant and after Pardy's conversation, the day after the incident, with Zesty's owner, Salam Ismail. Pardy said she told the police what happened but asked them not to interview Mr. Ismail, as this would not get the result she wanted - what that was was left unsaid, other than that she wanted some record, an incident report. She said she preferred instead to speak to a lawyer.

She said she did not organize any boycotts against Zesty's

She did not talk about making money off this case. She filed a human rights complaint because she thought her human rights had been violated. She said this matter of factly as if we all know when our human rights are violated.

In June 2009, over two years after the incident, James Millar, Guy Earle's lawyer, sent her a cheque for the sunglasses Earle had smashed.

The incident at Zesty's took her relationship with her girlfriend to a low point. Guy Earle had taken their power away (what that is supposed to mean, I'm not sure) and they broke up in early 2008 several months after the incident.

Pardy's lawyer wanted testimony to the impact of the event. Pardy said she had felt very frustrated by a negative portrayal of her in the first media story in the paper, Xtra West - it made her feel terrible. Earle's comment/joke about her not being a lesbian, just fat and ugly, was actually directed at Pardy's then girlfriend. But the media in confusing this was making Pardy into somebody else. This was damaging her professional reputation - the appearance of being out drinking was not good for her (I didn't hear most of the morning testimony but it seems Pardy has an airport and weather-related job).

Talking next about the youtube video of Guy Earle being interviewed on the "Dave and Chuck show" - the audio portion of the video was played and the hearing room had to listen to Earle's sense of humour for 13 minutes - Pardy said that the first time she saw that video she felt sick, like she experienced the event over and over again. She didn't sleep for 2-3 days. She couldn't believe how Earle portrayed her, as if she wasn't adult enough to get his "jokes". She was devastated, sick to the stomach, sweated, ears rang, couldn't sleep, up so long she vomited next day. Physically, she felt she was back in the situation of the original incident at Zesty's.

The next summer, 2009, there was a batch of media coverage attending BCHRT Chair, Heather Macnaughton's ruling not to dismiss the complaint. That's when, said Pardy, Earle actively sought out media to paint her as a bad person, as if this justified his behaviour at Zesty's.

As she read the news stories, her feelings went lower and lower, as the deck was being stacked against her, publicly. She felt cornered and devastated given his portrayal of her provoking the incident. She wanted to hide from media even as his allegations were becoming more solid in the public mind. She wanted to crawl under a rock. She suffered the same physical symptoms as earlier and her doctor later diagnosed this as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There was a consequent impact on her employment as she had to call her boss to take her shift at short notice; her boss warned her her behaviour could lead to firing. But she couldn't yet tell her workmates what had happened to her.

Then, Pardy's lawyer entered as evidence a medical report on Pardy. (I am a little hesitant to go into this, and I started wondering here why Pardy was going through with this complaint). Pardy has suffered from some kind of anxiety condition before the incident with Earl, related to her parent's divorce and her feeling she couldn't be with them in their moment of need since they lived across the country. Her parents' advice led her to get better in the months before the Earle incident. But panic attacks again haunted Pardy after the Earle incident and when she had to attend the Supreme Court hearing on Earle's constitutional/jurisdictional challenge.

The Earle incident caused recurring nightmares of different types; she didn't have nightmares before the incident. She socialized less and didn't often go back to Commercial Drive even though she knew this kind of thing just doesn't happen often on the Drive (known in Vancouver as a gay-friendly place).

She has since healed mentally but there hasn't been a day since the incident when she hasn't thought about it. She has occurred numerous expenses because of the incident and the complaint process.


Under cross-examination by restaurant owner, Salam Ismail's counsel, who I believe is his brother and not a lawyer, Pardy returned to discuss the incident itself.

She and two friends had been drinking on the patio of the restaurant before entering the room with the comedy stage. She had had one and a half Corona beers. They came in when the patio closed around 11 pm and sat at the first table by the door.

Did Guy Earle get upset because you kissed your friend, she was asked. She said she thought this was not right though she didn't know what Earle was thinking. Her girlfriend had simply kissed her on her cheek because she was glad to see her out as this was not a common occurrence. They were not trying to make a scene (as previously reported by Earle).

She said she thought Earle thought they were causing a disturbance when they were talking to two waitresses about their patio bill.

Pardy said they had been sitting in the booth not even for five minutes when Earle "targeted" them and started picking on them. Earle told them not to disrupt the show and called them "fucking dykes" and "cunts".

The three women were not talking loudly or saying anything to Earle. Pardy said she only booed Earle.

Pardy had only been to Zesty's one time before and didn't know who the owner or manager was.

She said that when she talked to the police after the event, she was told that throwing water in Earle's face could possibly lead to a charge of assault, but she saw it as self-defense. A big man was coming off the stage towards her and saying things and she felt threatened.

"Were you afraid of him?" Pardy was asked. Yes. So why did you challenge him? Pardy said she didn't. He came to her table, not vice versa. The fact that she threw a second glass of water in his face 15-20 minutes after the first did not mean she wasn't scared and intimidated. She was scared; that's why she threw the water. The waitresses were not to be found (for help) and Pardy didn't see anyone in the place to ask for help.

Ismail was there (she later identified him) but didn't do anything to help them, said Pardy.

She felt threatened and her party was in shock. That's why they didn't immediately leave. (She later said they stayed up to 40 minutes after the incident.) Someone came out of the kitchen, picked up her crushed glasses, gave them to her, and then left without saying anything. She said she had just been assaulted, was in shock and only thinking of getting her friends and leaving - her friends were talking to the other comedians (I assume about the incident, though Pardy did not make this clear). Her friend went to Zesty's a lot and Pardy doesn't know why the friend didn't talk to owner Ismail. Pardy said her friends were both intimidated by Earle. The friend who had been the target of the fat and ugly comment had been driven into a shell and only told Earle he wasn't funny. Pardy wasn't sure why Earle "targeted" her. Guy Earle was being booed, maybe she was just an easy target.

She didn't believe it was part of Earle's act to attack lesbians. She didn't think Zesty's was anti-gay or anti-lesbian: it was on Commercial Drive so presumably it couldn't appear so.

Ismail's counsel then asked why she was claiming discrimination against lesbians. Pardy replied she was only claiming personal discrimination based on her being a lesbian. Counsel replied this was not logical. Pardy replied the incident was not about logic. Counsel pointed out that 50-60% of Zesty's clients were gay or lesbian.

Pardy said she sent no one to picket Zesty's, nor did she engage in any propaganda against the restaurant. She didn't tell lesbians not to go to the place. But the story was all over Commercial Drive anyway (hence the boycotts).

Pardy said the next day when she contacted Ismail, she expected from him an apology. She didn't get one. She secretly taped their face-to-face conversation because after the initial phone call she felt he couldn't be trusted given his conduct the previous day and on the phone. On the phone, he told her to visit him and he would pay for her glasses. She wanted to make sure he understood what had happened and he then reneged on his promise to pay for the glasses. He told her she wasn't a nice person and was possibly to blame.

Counsel then returned to the question of why she had stayed 30-40 minutes after the (first) incident - she couldn't say if they were the last to leave. (Note that Pardy said there were two run-ins with Earle, about 15 minutes apart, and it was not always clear to this reporter just which incident was being referred to.) They had spent the time listening to another comedy act, a short set, and talking to comedians. She went to the bathroom to gather herself, and on the way back Earle at the bar physically assaulted her. (I assume this was a reference to Earle snatching her glasses and smashing them.) Her party were in shock and stayed because they couldn't get up from the table. They left around 11.30.

That was the end of the testimony for the day; cross-examination continues tomorrow and then the first witness for both sides will be called.

My burning question is this: Pardy seems like a fairly sensitive person, so why is she putting herself through this public ordeal and invasion of her privacy? One spectator speculated she had maybe been encouraged by other lesbians to fight Earle legally, and so felt obliged to pursue the complaint.

Pardy again and again tried to convey the impression that she had been targeted and victimized. She knows how to make such a claim, evoking standard postmodern assumptions about what should not be allowed or tolerated in our society (i.e. "targeting"). This may well be sincere on her part. But it points us to consider how the Human Rights Tribunal has opened itself to consider an incident that might (I am speculating with little legal knowledge) have led to a criminal charge, but is now about, as one observer put it, "hurt feelings". Canadians need to consider carefully whether claims of public humiliations and the mental suffering that lingers after them, should be open to prosecution in a parajudicial setting where tens of thousands of dollars and much time and energy are at stake. Humiliation is a common thing, unfortunately, and a very subjective thing. Should we allow those in "protected groups" to ask for compensation? What kind of society would this encourage? Does it depend on context?

Or alternatively, if we agree with Pardy that she was physically and verbally assaulted - and whether we will hear Earle's taken on events, under oath, is now an open question after his lawyer walked out of the hearing on a point of principle, questioning whether this hearing is within the rule of law - should the Human Rights Tribunal be used to seek a remedy when the criminal or civil courts, for whatever reason, are not chosen? Is the "third way" of the Human Rights Tribunal serving justice or just the postmodern desire to claim and acknowledge victimhood, as if this is the most sacred thing to us? I discussed this in my first post yesterday.

I'm not sure I will have time to attend tomorrow. Keep an eye on the blog Downtown Eastside Enquirer for more, and also Bulletproofcourier.

See Parts 1 and 2

Guy Earle "Trial" Part 2

I showed up at the BCHRT this morning only to find the hearing room already packed. They have seats for about 20 people and the media is very interested in this hearing so I had to wait in the hall most of the morning. At around 10.30 Guy Earle's lawyer, James Millar walked out of the hearing saying that since the Tribunal refused to consider their jurisdiction in this case, in light of what the Supreme Court ruled when Earle asked the case be dismissed (I'm not sure who ruled, Supreme Court of BC or Canada - I couldn't find the ruling), he was taking the professionally difficult decision to walk out. He said he would like to respect the Tribunal but had serious doubts whether this hearing was within the rule of law given that the question of jurisdiction was not considered. He gave a lengthy statement to the media - look for video by BulletproofCourier. Millar suggested he is about to ask a court for a further ruling on whether this hearing can proceed.

I did not get into the hearing until late in the morning session. The chatter in the hallway was that Lorna Pardy denied that she provoked Earle's abuse. One journalist immediately drew a parallel to the Michael Richards case. When I got a seat, Pardy was just finishing describing what happened on the night in question. She described how she had left Zezty's and went to her friend and was left feeling shocked "what just happened?"

She said she wasn't drunk and had only one and a half Coronas. She said she felt physically and verbally assaulted.

Pardy testified that the next day she went to work at YVR and contacted the restaurant owner, Mr. Ismail, by phone to see if he would take responsibility. Over the phone he offered to pay for her broken glasses but he tried to minimize the incident and raise questions of who was to blame. After work, she went to the restaurant, with a tape recorder in her pocket, and Ismail again minimized the incident and suggested Pardy was at fault. He did not pay for her glasses.

Pardy said she announced in the restaurant that Ismail condones violence against women. She then said Ismail called her a bitch.

The tape recording was allowed as evidence, though it was almost inaudible. Pardy's lawyer said while the words are not clear, the tape speaks to Pardy's tone, which was moderate. Ismail (represented by his brother) said the tape was edited to exclude a "scene" that was, apparently, more histrionic.

The hearing will resume this afternoon and I will try to have more.

See my part 1
and part 3

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Guy Earle Trial

When people do not respect us we are sharply offended; yet deep down in his private heart no man much respects himself - Mark Twain

I'm not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I'm not dumb ... and I also know that I'm not blonde -Dolly Parton

Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it - Rene Descartes

My friends, being offended is one of the outgrowths of multiculturalism - Rush Limbaugh

No man lives without jostling and being jostled; in all ways he has to elbow himself through the world, giving and receiving offence - Thomas Carlyle

Men shrink less from offending one who inspires love than one who inspires fear - Niccolo Machiavelli

Justice consists of doing no one injury, decency in giving no one offense - Marcus Tullius Cicero

In seeking a Canadian community standard based on the average appreciation of art, the Court, in my opinion, is not limited to a settled national consensus. The average in community attitudes is better struck according to the range of exposure that particular art or art forms have had in the localities of Canada where art is exhibited. - Justice Bora Laskin, Canadian criminal cases, 1966, 304.

Earls and barons shall not be amerced except through their peers, and only in accordance with the degree of the offense - Magna Carta, 1215

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Jewish festival of Passover, and Guy Earle's quest to free himself from the comedy- and wallet-killing bondage of three years of waiting and preparing to go to trial on claims being made against him at the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. As time allows, I will attempt to do some reporting on the Lorna Pardy v. Guy Earle HRT hearing this week; and so I thought I might preface this now with some accounting of the interpretive bias I bring to the event, if anyone is interested.

To this untrained legal eye, it seems that what is at issue in the Pardy vs. Earle/Zesty's case (background here and here, and here, and here) are potentially two quite different things: a claim of "discrimination" attending the alleged "jokes"/insults of Guy Earle, and a claim of "discrimination" attending the altercation that followed from the parties' heckling/jokes/insults and that, if the reports we have had so far are correct, turned violent.

Ostensibly, this is a case that turns not on that now-famous part of the "Human Rights" Code that aims to ban "hate speech", but rather on that part that aims to ban discrimination in the provision of a commercial service. I have no idea how previous cases in "human rights" law have played out in determing what qualifies as discrimination in the provision of a service. As far as I can tell, the plaintiff in this case was not refused service at the restaurant in question. Rather, in the perfomance of the service, a comedy "act", she claims to have been treated in a "discriminatory" manner. Now, one might easily ask, as I imagine the defendants will, isn't the very point of comedy to "discriminate" to make jokes? (bad or good, does it matter?) If so, can one make a claim of "discrimination" against a comedy act if one in fact has been the butt of a joke (good or bad)? And, I imagine the Plaintiff will argue in response that the humiliation she received was not part of any legitimate comedy routine: it just wasn't funny (in her eyes).

As for the question of the violence and destruction of property that allegedly flowed from the nasty exchange of words, I have seen it stated, though I don't know how true this is, that the police investigated the matter before declining to lay criminal charges. The question that thus arises: what claim on justice is being made when someone is allowed to pursue a matter outside of the criminal (or regular civil) law, almost as a concession, given that the case does not meet the standard for a criminal charge?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Houses of the Holy

Ari, Covenant Zone's Israel member, sent in this video a few days ago:

All he wrote was "Who we are dealing with in EU". That kind of sounded to me like a challenge to watch the (unnarrated) video and "get" the vibe of this woman. After watching her - diplomatic smile, festooned in green, except when she dressed up like the Grim Reaper to visit a mosque (which gets me wondering if Western depictions of the angel of death are not in some degree a product of "orientalism"...) - I wrote back:
I thought this woman I had never seen before has a rather self-righteous bearing, the kind of "evil" that can't be good for understanding the bases of conflicts, and something that is easily manipulated by Palestinian victim theatre. Today I see Barry Rubin has this to say about her.
Check it out. Rubin provides a good analysis of the Western pathology that rebels against existentially discomfiting realities while dreaming of the Gnostic key - the necessary "solution" - that will open all doors to Peace, Love, and Holy Sibship. His opening statement strikes a mood:
The fact that she holds such a position—in effect, she's the European Union's first foreign minister—shows Europe is in serious trouble. For Ashton’s main previous claim to fame was as a leader in the Soviet-oriented movement for nuclear disarmament of the West.
If Ms. Ashton's only claim to fame is her involvement in that quintessential movement of the 1970s British left, the campaign to outlaw another difficult reality - the bomb - while sympathizing with a tyrannical empire - my mind wanders and wonders, could Robert Plant be singing to the the EUtopian empire's latest smile?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hugh Fitzgerald tears more strips out of Tarek Fatah, Steve Gilchrist, Michael Coren and Joan Crockatt

The Michael Coren Show: "Just As the Tamil Tigers Don't Define All of the Sri Lankans" (Part III) - Jihad Watch
Here is what Tarek Fatah might have said:

"Well, Steve, I'm afraid you've got it wrong. I'm afraid that in the Qur'an, and in many Hadith deemed by most authoritative muhaddithin to be the most authentic Muhammad's own behavior, his words and his acts, show that the message -- Kill the Unbelievers - certainly is there, explicitly in some places, and in many other places, it is the implicit message. And that, Steve, is exactly the kind of thing we have to know about, if we are to have any hope of convincing Muslims to re-interpret the Qur'an, to see it as a historical document, to put it back into history, and thus to truly "contextualize" what Muhammad said and did, as part of early seventh-century Arabia, as reflecting the mores and attitudes of that time, but not as if Muhammad himself were divine - Muslims like to mock Christians for believing in the divinity of Christ - and to convince themselves that to treat Muhammad as the Perfect Man, al-insan al-kamil, is to endow him with a quasi-divinity that comes perilously close to shirk, that is, polygamy. We must, Steve, if we are to save Islam, change its teachings, re-configure its meanings. I know this, I admit this, and that is what I am trying, nel mio piccolo, in my own little way, to do."
Now I take that "polygamy" to mean "polytheist"; it's the kind of copy error that creeps into a lengthy excoriation.

But, on reflection, it is kind of a useful "slip". The historical relationship between monogamy and (Judeo-Christian) monotheism, with its personal God, must be more than coincidental. If I'm a Christian, say, and if I'm not worshiping God, at least in part, when I love my wive - if my love for her is not modeled on some prior conception of the divine and its incarnation in each person - then my love must be idolatry. But if I presume to love (or ignore) several wives, then God indeed must be something unknowable, and/or the slippery slope to shirk must be all the more slippery however much I profess the oneness of God.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Radio Memories: Learning To Hate

After 11 years abroad Gregor Athalwin Ziemer finally returned home to the US, the possessor of an accumulation of ugly memories and sick souvenirs.

From 1928 to 1939 Ziemer had been the headmaster of a Berlin-based school for the children of American diplomats and businessmen stationed in Germany. This vantage point gave him a unique look at the changes that befell the German school system after Adolf Hitler's rise to power in 1932-1933, and the type of children that emerged from the "Nazi education" methods initiated by Bernhard Rust, Minister of Education who, according to journalist John Gunther, had shortly before "lost his teacher's job -- because he was incompetent!" [Inside Europe, 1938 edition, pg 60]

Gregor Ziemer had an eyeful of the awful transformation taking place in Gemany's youth outside the small oasis of his American Colony School.

At the age of four German boys were to take their first oath to die for their Fuhrer, repeating it with greater solemnity in two more rituals at ages 10 and 14. Songs, textbooks, math lessons, even art projects, all involved preparing young minds for dark thoughts of conquest, war, and especially... hate:

In Hamburg, a teacher displayed to his class a pamphlet, The Jews in the U.S.A., with pictures of New York City's Mayor LaGuardia beside a gorilla, "Jewish Judge Marcus Pecora" (presumably meaning New York Justice Ferdinand Pecora—who is a gentile), the "Jewess" Madam Secretary Frances Perkins. At lesson's end, the teacher asked: "And what do you think of a country like that?" The class roared the Nazi Party battle cry: Judah verrecke! ("Death to the Jews!").

Gregor Ziemer dutifully chronicled his observations in a book released to great success in November 1941:
Education For Death: The Making Of A Nazi.
In addition to carefully documented accounts of horrors witnessed in the classroom, Ziemer also introduced his American audience to the Nazi's forced sterilization and euthanasia programs then underway. Visiting one "woman's hospital" in Berlin, Zimer reported seeing women operated upon, willingly or otherwise, by doctors performing as if working on some ghastly assembly line: patient after patient wheeled in, and promptly wheeled out, courtesy of that once-esteemed "German efficiency", now gone mad.
The message spread: a whole generation of German youth were being turned into soulless monsters. Which begged the question: how to undo such zealotry, absorbed at such an early age, and reinforced so pervasively? Ziemer's book could only offer advice outlined in principle, rather than detail:

"If we are to combat the spirit of German youth with our own spirit of Democracy, it will have to be ... a spirit as fiery in its concentration as Naziism is in German schools. . . . Hitler is making fanatics. We should at least make believers. . . .

When war with Germany soon came upon them, American audiences not yet familiar with the contents of Ziemer's book would be greeted with not just one, but two movie adaptations.

The first treatment of Ziemer's book was, interestingly, made into animated form, by no less than the Walt Disney studio, in early 1943. Fresh from the artistic heights reached in Fantasia (1940) and Bambi (1942), the film showcases a realistic style seldom explored in their other, more humorous cartoons. Their adapation is not without humor: the studio's funniest animator, Ward Kimball, handles some comedy relief material illustrating der fuhrer in a symbolic fairy tale (revealing, I suspect, how the war inevitably coarsened popular culture at the time), while two of the company's best "actors with a pencil", Ollie Johnston and Bill Tytla, handle the touching classroom sequence between young Hans (animated by Johnson, suggesting the same innocence he brought to his work on the young rabbit Thumper in Bambi) and the overbearing schoolteacher (an exuberant performance by Tytla, surpassing the energy he brought to puppeteer Stromboli's similar tirades in the 1939 Disney film Pinocchio). The cartoon ends on a visual virtual kick-to-the-stomach... one imagines how powerful an impact the climax must have made upon the minds of audiences at the time, many with fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles and friends in faraway battlefields facing off against the very enemy the film portrays so grimly...

The "Hitler's Children" mentioned in the Disney film's title is an allusion to RKO's 1943 live action adaptation of the book, enlivened by its producer Ed Golden with what he thought would be a more marketable title. His financial gamble ("who wants to see a film with 'Hitler' in the title?", ran the conventional wisdom of the day) paid off handsomely: filmed on a shoestring budget of $175,000, the film went on to gross millions. By October 1943 the film's success made news, and Time Magazine estimated its return as between $2 and $3 million dollars, making it a bigger box office hit than any previous RKO release, including King Kong. In his autobiography the film's director Edward Dimitrik later estimated that by the end of the war the total gross for Hitler's Children was closer to $7 million! (At .30 cents a ticket, in those days, even the lower estimates make for a lot of customers...)

We examine this other cinematic adaptation of Gregor Ziemer's Education For Death in what may seem an indirect way, as the subject of this week's Radio Memories, our occasional Sunday foray into the bygone art form of Radio Drama.

Before the arrival of television, radio offered its listeners a wide variety of dramatic programming, plays performed not for the eye, as with tv, but for the ear, or more specifically: a theater for the mind.

One of the highest-rated, and longest-lasting dramatic radio programs was The Lux Radio Theater, spanning two decades from 1934 up to 1955. Their gimmick was adapting popular movies into radio plays, either "old" classics or fresh releases then making the rounds of regional theatrical markets. (Films were rolled out area by area in those economically-strapped days, rather than every screen all at once, as has been the modern practice for some time.)

Tonight's Radio Memories offering features the Lux Radio Theater adaptation of RKO's live action version of Hitler's Children, broadcast from a Hollywood at war, on May 24, 1943.

The battlefields change, but the battles go on, as whole generations today are still taught to hate, challenging us in our time to find the same resolve demanded by Gregor Ziemer in 1941:

"Young Germany is awake and ready to die. Let young America and its parents, its instructors, and advisers be awake and ready to live."

What explains the bully (pulpit) at the University of Ottawa?

Is Francois Houle, the University of Ottawa Vice-President who feels compelled to warn Ann Coulter that she could be guilty of a crime, should she open her mouth on campus, just another academic barbarian who pretends to value free expression but really values asserting, from on high, who is in the right and wrong, or who is and isn't in the realm of acceptable discourse, so that we all know our place, preferably in relation to some black-hatted "extremist" devil?

Who knows? Who knows in this day when an academic is standing on principle, however poorly conceived, or is an aspiring player in the knowledge-sector academic leaders value most - getting money - an endeavour which has recently taken several Canadian schools to recruit in Saudi Arabia? It no longer matters, it seems, that this is a country famous for exporting its supremacist, antisemitic, Wahhabi ideology (infecting many North American campuses) and for demanding a new global approach to "hate" laws that will ban criticism of Islam or speech that encourages Muslims to question their faith. Who knows in an age when getting public universities to take foreign money seems to be a priority of the Premier of Ontario? All we know is that Ann Coulter is famous for professing, among other things, the desire to "invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity."

Is that a reasonable position? In any degree or circumstance? Who knows, if we don't have the freedom, or show a willingness, to discuss our global conflicts from all angles, and get to know each other's deep loves and resentments? Houle knows!

The French national spirit reviving itself, sometime in the future...?

Wooster Collective: Nick Walker's "Coran Can"
via Islam in Europe

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mark Durie interview - highly recommended

I'm preparing a blog on Islamic antisemitism that will feature, among others, the work of the Australian scholar and Anglican minister, Mark Durie. So I happened across this interview of Durie by Pamela Geller. And I was impressed by Durie's clarity of mind, his learned understanding of Islam and his explanation of the struggle over world views that defenders of freedom in the West today have to engage. The man is a skilled communicator because he is a civilized man, one whose message for Muslims is not of hate. Yet that does not stop him from recognizing the need to speak frankly about opposing a belief system that widely engenders fear among both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Whether or not you like Pamela's style, don't miss this interview. Did you know that this Sunday is the UN's International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination? Do your duty!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Anthropologists go to great lengths to discover what some have long known by sitting in chairs and thinking

Markets make kinder, gentler societies: study
Free-enterprising, impersonal markets may seem cutthroat and mean-spirited.

But a provocative new study says markets have been a force for good over the last 10,000 years, helping to drive the evolution of more trusting and cooperative societies.

"We live in a much kinder, gentler world than most humans have lived in," says anthropologist Joe Henrich of the University of B.C., lead author of the study that helps topple long-held stereotypes.

The finding, reported today in the journal Science, suggests people trust and play fair with strangers because markets and religion -- not some deep psychological instinct inherited from our dim tribal past -- have helped shape our neural circuitry over the eons.

The 13 researchers on Henrich's international team spent time -- and played clever psychological games -- with more than 2,000 people in 15 different societies.

One researcher trekked to Bolivia to play the games with the Tsimane people who hunt and forage for food in the rain forest. Another anthropologist introduced the games to the Hadza living in small nomadic groups on the savannah in Tanzania. At the other end of the human spectrum, the researchers studied wage earners in Accra, Ghana, and Missouri, in the American Midwest.

In each of the 15 societies they recruited volunteers to play Dictator, Ultimatum and Third-Party Punishment -- games widely used by researchers to gauge people's willingness to share with strangers, and punish people who make unfair allocations.

The study found that the likelihood that people "played fair" with strangers increased with the degree people were integrated into markets and participated in a world religion. Participants in the larger-scale societies were also more likely to punish players who did not play fair.

The hunter-gatherer and tribal societies studied are known for sharing among family and close acquaintances. But the researchers found fair play in monetary transactions with strangers was almost an alien concept. People in the simpler societies treated strangers less fairly, and were less likely to punish people who kept most of the money for themselves.

Social scientists -- and economists in particular -- have long been baffled at the way people in large societies are so trusting and fair in dealings with strangers. Many academics have argued it is a throwback to a time when humans were hunter-gatherers.
This is because many social scientists have little conception of what a covenant is or how it works or how it can be renewed in the midst of modernity. There are certain things that prouldy empirical sciences and reasoning - and contemporary academic anthropology is largely empirical and anti-theoretical - just can't see, though it is important for us to note when, given the weight of historical developments, empirical sciences are encouraged in taking baby steps towards seeing or measuring what they can no longer readily ignore...
Henrich and his colleagues say their findings indicate playing fair with strangers is a behaviour that was favoured as the size of societies and populations grew.

The emergence and growth of markets allowed for the exchange of goods, skills and knowledge and enabled large complex societies to emerge and function, says Henrich, noting that humans in large societies are not nearly as selfish as some would suggest.

"There are all these aspects to our lives that just seem to work, because we are not actually baboons," says Henrich in an interview.

He says life -- and commerce -- would be much different without trust and fair play: "Shoplifting would be a constant threat. Fruit sellers couldn't put fruit in front of their stores. Cab drivers would have to take the money up front."

The study also suggests world religions, such as Christianity and Islam, were a potent evolutionary force, favouring the growth of complex societies by reinforcing fairness and trust.

"The problem with large, impersonal societies is there is lots of opportunity to cheat at the margins, and to do the wrong thing," says Henrich. Religion helped check bad behaviour.

"If you believe that there is a God watching that will send you to hell for all eternity, then you're less likely to take advantage of somebody."

Henrich says policy-makers and economists need to be more aware that fair play and altruism are powerful forces that motivate people to do things for the public good, such as donate blood, recycle or conserve energy.

"People will give blood freely as an altruistic act," he says. But he notes that blood donations can actually drop when people are paid money to give blood because the cash takes away the "warm glow of altruism."
But there is no mention of which of these "world religions" does a better job. Clearly, the (post)Christian world is economically more advanced that the Islamic world. Islamic antisemitism will be, I suspect, the subject of my next post. However, this is not to suggest that Islam is not a definite improvement, for Muslims, in comparison to the unmediated tribalism of old Arabia. But if one form of religion is better than another, then why not also say that some forms of the higher form are also better...?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Barry Rubin demonstrates how to rebut the leftist misrepresenations of history and the historical process

Have you ever been stymied arguing with someone deeply immersed in the idea that history is but  one conspiracy of the powerful after another, one crime after another, such that the most criminal nations and the most advanced nations are necessarily seen to be one and the same? Have you not known how to respond to the idea that since the USA was founded by slave holders and by people who violently replaced the aboriginal peoples of America, then the country and all the constitutional ideas of the American founding fathers must, perforce, be illegitimate? 

In showing us a much more sane way of thinking, Barry Rubin doesn't provide an analysis of the ultimate anthropological reasons why the historical process is never well understood in terms of a conspiracy of power. But he does provide an example of a straightforward way of rebutting the nihilism that currently rules the teaching of history in the West:
RubinReports: The Great Debate over America: Promise Achieved or Promise Broken?

Andrew Bostom responds to Tarek Fatah's identity dance

If you have missed the little brouhaha here in Canada caused by "moderate Muslim" Tarek Fatah's attack on ex-Muslim, Dr. Wafa Sultan, you might pick up the story here.

I would then invite you to listen to Fatah in a couple of clips from the Michael Coren show where he responded to the critics of his attack on Sultan. I am particularly miffed by comments he makes at 5.16-6.00 of the following video, which strike me as dissimulating. I believe him when he says the Saudi Korans that are widely distributed in the West liberally use the word "Jew" as the English translation for less specific epithets in the original Arabic. But he says this with the apparent desire to avoid the question of whether there are not passages in the Arabic Koran that are explicitly anti-Jewish. And this is what Andrew Bostom is calling Fatah to account for, as quoted below.

Also see Fatah's vague interpretation of why the prophet Mohammed's wife Aisha was not a little girl upon marriage, here (this is actually the first of the two videos):

And here is Andrew Bostom's rebuttal: Pajamas Media » Silencing the Jews. Let me quote a little of it:
A front-page New York Times story published on January 10, 2009, included extracts from the Friday sermon (of the day before) at Al-Azhar mosque pronounced by Egyptian-government appointed cleric Sheik Eid Abdel Hamid Youssef. Referencing well-established anti-Semitic motifs from the Koran, Sheikh Youssef intoned:
Muslim brothers, God has inflicted the Muslim nation with a people whom God has become angry at [Koran 1:7] and whom he cursed [Koran 5:78] so he made monkeys and pigs [Koran 5:60] out of them. They killed prophets and messengers [Koran 2:61 / 3:112] and sowed corruption on Earth. [Koran 5:33 / 5:64] They are the most evil on Earth. [5:62 /63]
At present, the continual, monotonous invocation by Al-Azhar clerics of anti-Semitic motifs from the Koran (and other foundational Muslim texts) is entirely consistent with the published writings and statements of Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi — Grand Imam of this preeminent Islamic religious institution from 1996 until his recent passing. Tantawi’s academic magnum opus, Jews in the Koran and the Traditions, a 700-page treatise, elucidates the classical, mainstream theology of Islamic Jew-hatred:
[The] Koran describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah [Koran 2:61/ 3:112], corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness … only a minority of the Jews keep their word. … [A]ll Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims [Koran 3:113], the bad ones do not.
Tarek Fatah, other so-called Muslim moderates of his ilk, and their non-Muslim promoters must be compelled to answer the following question: is it "Islamophobia” to quote such statements — rife with Koranic Jew-hatred, and made by authoritative Muslim clerics representing the Vatican of Sunni Islam — or are Mr. Fatah’s reactions, ignoring the existence of these commonplace, normative Islamic proclamations, and vilifying those who bring them to public attention, especially pernicious forms of taqiyya (religiously sanctioned Islamic dissimulation) and Islamic Jew-hatred?

Elaborating on the depth of Muslim hatred for the Jews in his era, Maimonides (in ~ 1172 C.E.) made this profound observation regarding the Jewish predilection for denial, a feature that he insists will hasten their destruction:
We have acquiesced, both old and young, to inure ourselves to humiliation. … All this notwithstanding, we do not escape this continued maltreatment [by Muslims] which well nigh crushes us. No matter how much we suffer and elect to remain at peace with them, they stir up strife and sedition.
The Jews and their communal leaders like Maimonides living under Islamic rule in the Middle Ages — vanquished by jihad, isolated, and well-nigh defenseless under the repressive system of dhimmitude — can be excused for their silent, submissive denial. There is no such excuse in our era for silently submitting to the threats of disingenuous, hateful Muslim bullies like Tarek Fatah, given the existence of an autonomous Jewish state of Israel and a thriving Western Jewish diaspora, particularly here in the United States, living under the blanket of hard-won protections for their religious freedom, physical security, and dignity.

Hugh Fitzgerald also took some shots at Fatah's recent comments, here.

But I think the most cutting recent remarks directed at Fatah were penned by David Solway, in the midst of a paean to Geert Wilders:
For what you [Wilders] are really saying is that moderate Muslims cannot be devout Muslims or, in truth, cannot be Muslims at all. What sort of Muslim remains after you have factored out shariah law, effectively compared Muhammed to Hitler, and contended that the Koran should be outlawed, or at least designated as a species of hate literature, as you proposed in your letter to the newspaper De Volkskrant on August 8, 2007?

You now find yourself uncomfortably situated, so to speak, between the devil and the deep Red Sea. Not being a Muslim yourself, you don’t have the option of polemical emphasis that derives from rejecting the faith, becoming an apostate-on-principle or converting to another faith, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, Wafa Sultan and Nonie Darwish, among others—all of whom took the second part of your logic to its inevitable terminus. They understood that one cannot honestly profess Islam without abiding by the decrees of the religion and its holy book, including the oft-repeated summons to kill or enslave the infidel, the structure of gender apartheid, the imposition of shariah, and a host of other draconian laws.

In other words, a “moderate Muslim” would have to live in a state of contradiction, and perhaps many do—as does, for example, freedom loving Tarek Fatah, Canadian author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, who calls himself a “hardened secular Muslim.” What exactly is a secular Muslim, whether hardened or soft? Similarly, what could a “secular Christian” conceivably be other than some sort of mythical chimera? (It is different for Jews, of course; a “secular Jew” remains a Jew because the world persists in regarding him as such. But that is another matter.) Fatah is a good man and an important voice in the ongoing debate concerning Islam, but he cannot extricate himself from a legendary infatuation or acknowledge disagreeable historical and theological facts. One cannot cherry pick the Koran or romanticize Islamic history, as so-called “moderate Muslims” are obliged to do, without falling into incoherence. As a character in Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album says, “our religion isn’t something you can test out, like trying out a suit to see if it fit! You gotta buy the whole outfit!” There is, to put it another way, no such beverage as Islam Lite. One drinks in the real thing or nothing; there is no substitute.

Bangladeshi author and former Muslim Abul Kasem, in a FrontPage Magazine interview, defines the majority of Muslims as believers “in name only.” Kasem is shockingly direct: the existence of a “moderate Muslim” is contingent upon a moderate Koran “since the life force of Islam is the Qu’ran.” But the Koran happens to be an extreme and violent document, and even if it is selectively ignored by practitioners of the faith, its fissile core can be activated at any time. For Kasem, as for the dissidents mentioned above, the term “moderate Muslim” or “secular Muslim” is an oxymoron. The use of the term “moderate Muslim,” he argues, is “truly misplaced” and muddles Western thinking in the attempt to defeat Islamic terror. I’m presuming this is an argument you too would candidly advance if the sociopolitical context were not so precarious, and if your place in Dutch society and as leader of a respectable political party permitted you to do so.

While I don't see great value in arguing that it is impossible to be a "moderate Muslim", as if one cannot be in many respects a Muslim without knowing or wishing to dwell on the violent wording of the Koran (many Muslims don't read the Koran in translation and don't know Arabic), or as if one cannot consciously choose to interpret the Koran and Hadith as documents that must be read in historical context (however heretical that sounds to some), it is obvious today that many Muslims take the Koran all too literally when it comes to the book's frequent cursing of non-believers; and so Solway has much reason to suggest Western thinking is hopelessly muddled by the liberal insistence that (moderate) Islam, in general, not be viewed as a problem.

But I disagree with Solway that a "secular Christian" cannot exist. I won't rehash my arguments now, but I see Western secularism as quite distinctively an outgrowth of Christianity. A Christian might well see many of the secular political religions as heretical; a Christian might well see many secular values as antithetical to the model of Jesus. Still, as thinkers like Rene Girard argue - a sincere Christian himself - the motivating drives of modern secularism are in many respects characteristically Christian, most notably in their rebellions against the established order that are conducted in the name of one or another sacred victim, or in the name of transcending our culture's need for victims once and for all.

So, long story short, to my mind, a secular Jew is someone who has adapted to the modern world by becoming somewhat more Christian, and somewhat less Jewish, in character. Still, a secular Jew, as long as he is aware of his Jewishness, carries with him many habits and ways of seeing that are characteristically Jewish.

But like Solway, I have asked in the past, in regards to Tarek Fatah, whether one can make any sense of the concept of "secular Muslim". A secular Jew at least remains part of a distinctive national and familial identity that is Jewish. Fatah, on the other hand, is a Pakistani-Canadian. In Fatah's secular identity, just what is residually Islamic, and what Pakistani, and what Western? I don't have a ready answer but it strikes me as a more interesting question that whether he is a "moderate Muslim". That "moderate" debate is overly fixated on the worship of mere words.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Jerusalem, c. 1932

Here we have some views of Jerusalem seldom seen today.

One could wonder: Where do all the people come from? How is it there are so many Arabs there?

Stills here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Canadian nation complicit in slavery

Immigration: 'Child bride' loophole can't be closed | Canada | News | Toronto Sun

Notice how these officials who say they can't do anything don't apparently have - if the reporting is good - the gumption to suggest Parliament set some new immigration regulations - and keep the whole family out? White guilt and cultural relativism... just another word for slavery. I guess it's up to us!

Friday, March 12, 2010

NDP reveal their inner nihilism

Just when you thought you could share a room with NDPers and not worry you might have to initiate vulture defensive tactics, along comes news of what that party now really believes.

John Donne and Barry Rubin on the Middle East

(Via Phyllis Chesler)

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
[Europe...] is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the [finger calls],
It tolls for thee.

If you have an hour or two, you might be interested in this video of a lecture by Barry Rubin on the rational-seeming delusions Western elites and their audiences tell themselves. We pretend to be pursuing peace in the Middle East, by focussing on one little island - Israel/Palestine - that is in reality of limited importance to the region and its future, to the greater regional and global conflicts of which it is but a part. One way of understanding Rubin's argument is that as long as we are thinking of bells tolling the end of the media and global elite posturing classes' favorite conflict, we are not dealing with huge swathes of human reality. Much better to think of the world in terms of the much larger complex of interlocking interests, and resentments (given the pressures that modernity poses to Islamic societies), resentments we must hope to mediate and defer in various ways but not presume to abolish in some Utopian fantasy. "Peace" means no kind of final solution but rather suggests the basis for holding lines and stopping really bad things from happening so that events can evolve, through the hard lessons that only long experience with failure can bring. These lessons, in Rubin's view, can only be minimally taught by outside interventions. The lesson that democratic societies - with their capacity to recognize more honestly and transparently the inter-relationships among a society's internal disputes and its external interests and conflicts - are going to be in time the only way forward, must be learned through observing internal failures.

Those obsessed with the present rise of revolutionary Islamism - something Rubin distinguishes from the conservative Islam of the established Middle Eastern regimes - those who believe Middle Eastern countries will never want democracy, do not have a sufficient regard, in Rubin's view, for the historical forces teaching failure after failure to those who resist liberal modernity, whether they are Arab nationalists or Islamists. It seems to me that either Rubin is more or less right, or the Islamists must somehow win and destroy modernity and return the world to some much more primitive place that can be controlled by Sharia and Islamic economics. Those who hold to the idea that Islam is what the Islamists say it is, or that Islam can never change, imply that the West must just give up on a billion plus people, and isolate them by force. But no one i have ever read with such ideas has convinced me that quarantining and maintaining the boundaries of an Islamic island is a very plausible strategy, for reasons we could go into.

The West must re-awaken to a proper regard for its own interests; and this may well entail some kinds of insular policies, in matters, for example, like immigration and defense of Israel, though it is also our interest to defend liberal freedoms, like free speech, everywhere. But it is a fool who thinks we can ever just isolate any large part of humanity and think we can forever control their tyrannical societies from being an unacceptable threat to freer societies. In this light, what seems impossible today cannot be forever, and so Rubin professes optimism. I might say, in the end, there really are only two serious options, two ways to point that finger.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sundry notes from competing narratives on "human rights"

Amnesty International Mainstreams the Jihad :: Islamist Watch
Amnesty International famously advocates on behalf of people persecuted just for expressing an opinion. However, last month the group suspended Gita Sahgal, the head of its gender unit, after she expressed an opinion of her own: that by working with Taliban supporter Moazzam Begg, Amnesty has betrayed its mission to advance human rights. Here is a look at the scandal that the American media — once known for championing whistleblowers — have all but ignored.

Begg, a British citizen, moved to Kabul in 2001, was captured in 2002 on suspicion of al-Qaeda links, and ended up at Guantanamo Bay after admitting that he had attended terror camps and was prepared to fight for the Taliban. Released without charge in 2005, he became the face of Cageprisoners, which implores that Gitmo be closed and displays a disturbing level of sympathy for terrorists, even convicted ones. Begg himself has called the Taliban "better than anything Afghanistan has had" in decades and cited positively jihad theorist Abdullah Azzam.

Begg's troubling past did nothing to dampen Amnesty's eagerness to team up with him; the two collaborated on a recent visit to Downing Street and a European tour urging countries to grant detainees "safe haven." But while Sahgal endorses his views of Guantanamo, she thinks that the partnership is severely misguided, writing to her organization's leaders in a January 30 email:
I believe the campaign fundamentally damages Amnesty International's integrity and, more importantly, constitutes a threat to human rights. … To be appearing on platforms with Britain's most famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights defender, is a gross error of judgment.
Hours after she made the contents of the email public on February 7, Amnesty suspended Sahgal. She fired back by slamming the organization for having "created the impression that Begg is not only a victim of human rights violations but a defender of human rights." Care must be taken, she says, in "maintaining an objective distance from groups and ideas that are committed to systematic discrimination and fundamentally undermine the universality of human rights." A leaked memo from a senior Amnesty executive reveals that Sahgal is not alone in such fears.

Left Turns On The Red Streets Of France

When I first moved to Vancouver I was struck by the street names of my new home. Some were named after battles of the Crimean War (“Alma St”, “Balaclava St”) and others from sources taken from British military history (“Trafalgar St”, “Hornby St”, “Bleinheim St”), attesting to the city’s ties to Mother England. There were several colorful names (“Dunsmuir St”, “Trutch St”, “Robson St”, “Cambie St”) that I would soon learn had their origin in local BC history. The city map itself provided a fun history lesson for this new guest, and I used it as a guide for more than just my navigation needs: it also gave me a sense of the history, the culture, the values, of my new home.

Fast forward to more recent times, and a revelation that occurred while blogging at Covenant Zone.

In what feels like another life, I used to blog regularly on the urban violence rocking France’s fractious suburbs. Early on I especially needed to rely upon internet maps to help me situate the scenes of the latest crimes I would read about, since “Seine-St-Denis” and “Clichy-sous-Bois” were place names I wasn’t yet familiar with.

I couldn’t help but notice that the neighborhoods I was researching seemed to contain several streets with familiar names indeed. I remember the first time this happened: “Avenue Salvador Allende?”, I read aloud from the tiny text on my computer screen. “The socialist Salvador Allende from Chile..? Well, France does have a left-leaning history…”

I didn’t know the half of it. Lately I’ve been indulging in some armchair traveling through the streets of Paris and its environs, thinking up historical personages and historical events and seeing if there's someone commemorating them in Paris' "banlieus rouges" ["red suburbs"]. Here’s a picturesque report highlighting the surprises that were in store for me, courtesy of GoogleMaps' mesmerizing street view feature.

What can we learn about a city, a people, from the names they choose for their streets? Let's take a left turn through the streets of some of the "sensitive zones" of suburban France, and look for some clues...

The future belongs to those who show up

Yitta Schwartz, Who Died at 93, Had 2,000 Living Descendants - After being moved by this story of a Holocaust survivor I couldn't help but wonder how many readers of the New York Times would have been apalled to read this article. It now reminds me of a party where a secular Jew/academic intellectual was shocked to find himself in the company of another academic who was also a sincere Christian; he then asked the man how many children he had. The sophisticate's face of utter astonishment to the response, "five" has stuck with me through the years.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Canadian Bloggers meet Israel

It's a semi-secret mission, at least it seems to have been in the planning stages. But I think our best bloggers are going to regale us with some reports from the frontlines of liberal democracy vs. the Global Intifada. So far, I'm only aware of these participants:
small dead animals

five feet of fury. (don't support the team.)

Blazing Cat Fur

and Vancouver's finest, Jonathan "New Media" Narvey.

It seems this blog - Rediscovering Israel | Dispatches from the holy land by travelers from the true north. - has been set up to carry the group's reports, though so far only Jonathan is blogging there, with three essays under his belt. Inspired!

Monday, March 08, 2010

The problem of inviting immigrants when you don't know who you are...

BBC News - Hardtalk - Bishop Nazir-Ali: 'Multiculturalism was a mistake'. A friend sends us this link to a video clip of Bishop Nazir-Ali. Short and sweet. However, while appearing to talk tough on "Hardtalk" his may be a charitable interpretation of the mistake of British multiculturalism now that we know it has been a conscious policy of the Labour party to destroy traditional British culture, the culture that is alleged by Labour to be the evil basis of the "right's" electoral support.

York University takes one small step...

As I have pointed out before, the defenders of free speech need to remember that it is wrong for those of us who are not government, those of us who are just involved in daily interactions and in control of our own rightful spaces, to allow people to misuse our shared freedom and to pollute our shared space in order to disrupt others' freedom to discuss the issues of the day. So I am happy to read that York University suspends student running anti-Semitic Website.

Maybe the alumni refusing to give money to York are having an effect. When one student fundraiser recently called me, he had a prepared speech explaining that it was only a small troublesome minority at York who are antisemitic (sound familiar?). I pointed out that whatever the case, it is the administration's siding with the thugs who shut down pro-Israel speech that insures (among other reasons) York will not be seeing my money.

But maybe York has now taken the first in a series of necessary steps. When the University sends an official apology to Frank Dimant, Daniel Pipes, Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Walid Shoebat, Rev. Majed El Shafie, and Faytene Kryskow, and invites them to York, all expenses paid, to give well-publicized public lectures, I will start to be impressed.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Who exactly is the English Defense League, what are these guys like?

Dag was asking this question at our meeting last night; and by jove, today Canadian-in-the-UK blogger Square Mile Wife has an answer. She reports on the two crowds attending Geert Wilders' visit to the British Parliament. Her first segment discusses the "anti-fascist" fascists: Square Mile Wife: Today in London - All Kinds of Crazy Part 1

And then in Part Two, we find her analysis of the EDL:
when 3 young kids (late teens) began taunting them from right beside where I was standing (why are these people always drawn to me???) the rear of the crowd went wild, yelling and screaming and clearly trying to push through the police line and engage with the youngsters. In the end, nobody broke through the police line and the march continued. (Sidenote: These three 'youths' were black and Arab - and had been in the anti-EDL crowds, I had seen them before and they were clearly looking for a fight. Of course the fact that some of the EDL crowd lashed out seemed to be undeniable proof to bystanders that they were racist thugs.) Which brings me to the trouble with the EDL. SMW read their website with regards to this protest, and read the instructions given to member that their signs would be screened and that chanting things like "who the f*ck is allah" were not appropriate, however after watching the EDL for several hours today I am still convinced that it is part of hooligan culture. I do believe that there are a number of people in the EDL who love England, love English culture (real English culture) and who want to preserve it, and who want to ensure that the increasing influence of Islamists in the UK is stopped. But after that they lose me. Many of these men (and there were some women there too) appear to be working class folk who are extremely frustrated with the current situation. who are turning to the EDL as their voice. [Sidenote: Unlike in the past where EDL protestors have worn balaclavas, I did not see a single one today, nor did I see more than a couple of people on either side of the protest who had their face covered with a scarf.]
The EDL's apparel is pretty familiar to some of the stuff you can for football clubs, they sing variations of football chants (as they did today), and they were also using various gestures today that are commonly used at football matches. What is the problem with this? Well, a little cheer is not a problem but when you are tapping into a culture that is based on street fighting and violence you are likely going to attract hooligans and people who are looking for a good fight. It really takes away from any legitmacy some of your arguments might have.

Once the EDL was stopped at their designated location in front of parliament they did their speeches and then there was basically a back and forth shouting match between a group of EDL and the anti-EDL protestors who remained on the other side of the street. It seemed that alot of people with the EDL were just standing around, while several dozen more louder protestors stood at the front engaging with the other side. They were giving the UK 2 finger salute (which means 'go f*ck yourself') with vigour, and chanting various football chants with modified wording.
Lately it appears the EDL has been trying to clean up its public image and gain more control of what is going on at EDL events - however until they completely back away from hooligan culture they are going to have a hard time finding anyone to take them seriously. Do I think the EDL gets a fair shake from the media? Absolutely not, but they are not a group I would feel comfortable associating with. Unfortunately as growing numbers of people become frustrated with the situation in the UK, and with no "serious" political party willing to tackle serious issues for fears of being labeled a racist, more people are likely to be picking up EDL signs reading: 'England needs a Geert Wilders.'

Geert Wilders at Westminster

An excerpt from the speech of Geert Wilders at House of Lords, March 5: "Freedom must prevail, and freedom will prevail" - Jihad Watch:
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe in another policy, it is time for change. We must make haste. We can't wait any longer. Time is running out. If I may quote one of my favourite American presidents: Ronald Reagan once said: "We need to act today, to preserve tomorrow". That is why I propose the following measures, I only mention a few, in order to preserve our freedom:

First, we will have to defend freedom of speech. It is the most important of our liberties. In Europe and certainly in the Netherlands, we need something like the American First Amendment.

Second, we will have to end and get rid of cultural relativism. To the cultural relativists, the shariah socialists, I proudly say: Our Western culture is far superior to the Islamic culture. Don't be affraid to say it. You are not a racist when you say that our own culture is better.

Third, we will have to stop mass immigration from Islamic countries. Because more Islam means less freedom.

Fourth, we will have to expel criminal immigrants and, following denaturalisation, we will have to expel criminals with a dual nationality. And there are many of them in my country.

Fifth, we will have to forbid the construction of new mosques. There is enough Islam in Europe. Especially since Christians in Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia are mistreated, there should be a mosque building-stop in the West.

And last but not least, we will have to get rid of all those so-called leaders. I said it before: Fewer Chamberlains, more Churchills. Let's elect real leaders.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Bicyclists and the Jews

The Wilders Momentum | The Brussels Journal:
Yesterday’s local elections in the Netherlands resulted in a victory for the Freedom Party (PVV) of opposition leader Geert Wilders. On June 9th the Dutch will again be called to the voting booths for the general elections. Yesterday’s outcome reinforces the PVV’s momentum, which may result in a political landslide next June with repercussions all over Europe.
From the center-right to the center-left Europe’s establishment parties share the consensus that Islamization and EU centralization are inevitable and must be facilitated if the parties want to survive and hold on to power. Wilders, however, is a politician who, in a Buckleyan tradition, “stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”

On international issues Wilders adopts positions which also go against those of Europe’s ruling political and intellectual establishment. He is an opponent of Turkey’s entry into the EU, an outspoken defender of Israel and an advocate of stronger American-European relations. This makes him unpopular with the media, but it has not harmed him with the electorate.
Wilders has carefully avoided international contacts with foreign anti-establishment and anti-immigrant parties who have been tarnished by anti-Semitic elements in the past. Wilders regards support for Israel as the litmus test to decide with whom he is willing to cooperate. His only official contacts so far have been with the Danish People’s Party (DF) and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
Wilders has succeeded in making Islamisation one of the major themes of the coming elections. Ironically, the Dutch authorities have helped him by taking him to court over Fitna. They have accused him of racism and incitement to hatred and discrimination against non-Western ethnic minorities. Although Wilders is an elected member of Parliament, he could be taken to court because the Netherlands, unlike some of its neighboring countries, does not grant politicians immunity from prosecution.

The Public Prosecutor argues that by stating his opinions on Islam, Wilders has “insulted” Muslims. The politician, however, emphasizes that he has never said anything negative about Muslims; he has always carefully restricted his criticism to the ideology of Islam and has done nothing else but state what he honestly sees as the truth. Wilders asked the court for permission to summon 18 expert witnesses in his defense. These include academics, former Muslims, but also Islamist apologists of terrorism. In early February the court brushed aside the request, allowing Wilders to summon only two Dutch academics plus the Syrian born American author and former Muslim Wafa Sultan. Moreover, to prevent the trial from turning into a trial about the nature of Islam – with Islam in the dock rather than Wilders – the court ruled that the three experts will only be heard behind closed doors. Finally, the court decided to postpone the case for a few months.

If the case is reopened before June 9th, it will seriously hamper Wilders’ electoral campaign because he is obliged to attend the court’s sessions. On the other hand, it could gain him the sympathy of additional voters and bring his ideas even more into the foreground as the major theme of the elections.

If the PVV manages to become the largest party in the Netherlands, Dutch Queen Beatrix is expected to ask Wilders to try to form a coalition government, although the Queen is not legally obliged to do so. It is the tradition, however, that the leader of the largest party becomes the nation’s next Prime Minister.

In Almere last week, Wilders announced that one of the first things a PVV led coalition will do is introduce a ban on headscarves for civil servants and for all institutions, foundations or associations that receive municipal subsidies. He added: “For all clarity, this ban does not include crosses or yarmulkes, because those are symbols of religions that belong to our culture and are not – as is the case with headscarves – a sign of an oppressive totalitarian ideology.”
In other words, Wilders is distinguishing his position from the French model where banning Islamic symbols is seen to require, in the name of equality, banning all other "religious" symbols. In doing so, Wilders is contesting the West's reigning ethos of cultural relativism and our nihilistic outlawing of any and every form of "discrimination". Clearly, Wilders, in insisting on preference for Western traditions, is demanding we wake up to the reality of what our societies are, and discuss what they can and cannot be.

There is no future in trying to be all things to all people. The future is built by people signifying difference, taking stands in which others can then find things to exchange. But that doesn't mean we don't have to try to maximize the freedom for people to turn away their resentments and to realize what is possible in our societies, the freedom for new forms of exchange that will genuinely strengthen, not weaken, the foundational order of our socieities. At this point, the debate rightly turns us away from metaphysical abstractions and towards consideration of the actual course of events in our socieities. Are events unfolding in ways that promise some shared understanding of differences going forward, so that we can find useful and meaningful and relatively non-violent ways of trading in our differences and building a freer order? Or do present events, or the lack of events being allowed to unfold, only promise a loss of our ability to engage with those around us?

It is for the (Dutch) electorate to know the answers, to insist that their common sense understanding of what is going on supersede any intellectual's or any bureaucratic elite's attempt at capturing the world in some formula. What is essential is that we have politicians who attempt to represent the various possibilities. It is a great evil that one part of the Dutch or European political class is trying to outlaw the speech of Wilders and his party. This is the kind of event that should well lead voters to doubt the current regime.

Wilders' dictum that support for Israel is his litmus test in choosing allies is also a sign that he realizes that the events by which we build free socieities require some people to inhabit the position of harbinger, like those who were once suspected as social misfits for eschewing horses and the pedestrian pace of life in favour of the bicycle. Have you ever tried to ride a Dutch bicycle? How they ever became a nation of riders I do not know.