Thursday, May 29, 2008

Plastic Piety

The LCBO announced this week that it will no longer be providing customers with plastic (and, I hasten to add, handled bags) to carry away their purchases. David Caplan, the smug jerk-off who is the Ontario Public Infrastructure Minister, and who is therefore in charge of the LCBO, had this to say by way of explanation:

We try as a government to demonstrate the kind of behaviours that we want others to emulate ... Here, with a government agency taking this bold step, we're certainly laying down a challenge for other retailers to take similar kinds of steps.

Note that the other behaviours that this particular government agency would like us to emulate include increased annual alcohol consumption from already record-setting highs, and underage drinking.

But let's be absolutely clear about the stakes involved in this effort of the LCBO's to "improve its environmental image."

1. The LCBO will be saving a bucket-load of cash on the cost of providing free plastic bags for every purchase.

2. The LCBO also stands to make a profit on the sale of its new line of so-called Enviro bags at four bucks a pop. (Given that the average person is not going to remember to bring it with him every time he runs an errand, the LCBO are ensured repeat sales to the same guilt-ridden but deep-pocketed customers.)

3. The LCBO further stands to profit, I contend, from people making repeat purchases of the same bottles because the damn things slipped from their fingers and smashed on the parking lot tarmac outside because they forgot their stupid fucking cloth bags at home, finally refused to go on feeding the racket by buying another, and accepted the totally impractical paper variety instead.

That the LCBO also has succeeded in villifying the poor plastic bag manufacturers is but icing on their soy and recycled toilet paper cake. (That the Plastic Bag Lobby makes a rather good case for using plastic rather than paper is beside the point. In the end it's more about the optics--I mean the symbolism--don't you know.)

'Thing is, I'm just not buying this reasoning that sturdy bags with handles are a luxury item. They are, for a not inconsiderable number of people, an absolute necessity.


ADDENDUM (May 30th)

Jay Currie emails me the obvious point which I managed to miss:
Bags without handles leave those of us who walk struggling with our daily needs. The assumption underlying the silly new rule is that people will have to struggle to their car and drive home. Very green that. It does not take much in a Toronto winter to say, "The Hell with walking, I'll fire up the car." The handleless bags would do it for me - if I owned a car.

Dubya's Bequest to the Left

Imagine this, if you will:
OTTAWA (June 23, 2008) In response to a series of controversies over the war in Afghanistan, the government has tabled an outright ban on any organizations that are opposed to Canadian participation in that conflict. They do so three days after the summer adjournment of the House of Commons.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said organizations will be free to discuss the war in Afghanistan in public space, as long as they do it "within a pro-troop realm," and that all organizations will be investigated to ensure compliance.

"You have to recognize that the troops have a choice over their own bodies," the Minister said. "We think that these pacifists, these dissenters, they're anti-troop in nature ... The way that they speak about the brave men and women who choose to serve this country is demoralizing. They call them murderers, all of them do ... Is this an issue of free speech? No this is an issue of troop's rights."

And when you've finished laughing, take a little gander at this.

Yes; stuff of God-awful dime-store fiction though the above would appear to be, it's the real deal--if only on the scale of student politics, and involving that more unacceptable brand of controversy known as abortion.

And did I hear you guffaw particularly loudly at that "Is this an issue of free speech? No this is an issue of troop's rights" line? Brilliant, wasn't it? Again: not mine. I wish that I could have come up with a line as ripe as that! Here's the original:
Is this an issue of free speech? No, this is an issue of women's rights.
Yeah, because they're, like, totally mutually exclusive categories!

You know what this style of argument is called, right? You know what this is called! And it's gotta satisfy you as much as it does me, because you know that odds are the speaker thinks Stephen Colbert is just about the funniest thing that's ever gone on TV (after Jon Stewart and Bill Maher of course). This is classic, classic argument from truthiness!

And where else are we hearing arguments exactly like this? Arguments of the 'Is this an issue of free speech? No, this is an issue of human rights' variety?




Damian Penny turns up this gem re. the above-quoted Gilary Massa:
“It’s an interpretation, which is fine,” Massa remarked in response to Moran’s statement.

“People should be allowed to have different opinions and try to convince each other and have a dialogue in a respectful manner. As student union representatives, we think that creating a safe space on campus means allowing people to use their freedom of speech, of course without being hateful or discriminatory. But they should also be able to use these words without fear of being clamped down on.”
... But only if we're talking about the right to use the phrase "Israeli Apartheid".

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I am Mark Steyn ...

... and so are you. And whatever gets stuck on him is gonna stick to you too, so:
The Covenant Zone bloggers will be demonstrating in support of Mark Steyn and Maclean's magazine, and against the ludicrous operation of "human rights" law in this country, when Mark's hearing in front of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal kicks off, next Monday, June 2 ... We welcome all bloggers, readers, and informed and outraged citizens to join us.
Failing your being able to attend, your creative talents are needed chez Zone.

A very worthy cause.

Fair Weather Activists

How long has it been? A year, maybe two, since the bamboozled masses declared that they were ready to make considerable changes to their lifestyles in order to save the world from the consequences of man-made climate change? I remember this call reaching a particular shrillness from our Estuary-inflected neighbours over the pond.

Polls show that 70% of gas-rattled British voters are now unwilling to pay higher taxes to combat climate change.
And all it took was a little gas price hike.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, it's true! Oil is our friend! It always has been, and it is impossible that we should be what we are--that even David Suzuki or Al Gore should be what they are (whatever it is that they are)--without it.

The only possible calamity that should concern us on this front is the possibility of its running out.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Surrounding the Wrong Building

David Miller has tabled a plan that, if passed, will make all handguns in Toronto illegal, "shut down gun ranges and make it all but impossible to manufacture, assemble or store firearms within city limits."
“I want a safe city,” the mayor told reporters. “The truth is, guns are too easily available and if you talk to some kids in some neighbourhoods they tell you they want a gun to protect themselves.’’
This state of affairs reminds me of an anecdote of Thomas Sowell's from a not wholly unrelated context:
There is a story, which I hope is apocryphal, that the French police were chasing a criminal who fled into a building in Paris. Their first thought was that they would surround the building. But then they realized that the building was so large, and had so many exits, that they didn’t have enough policemen on the scene to do that. So they surrounded the building next door, which was smaller and had fewer exits.
Make no mistake about it, David Miller is surrounding the wrong building--even as he admits that he is doing so. Perhaps Mr. Miller could be persuaded of the gross irresponsibility of his actions if he actually, himself, personally talked to some of these "kids" in some of these "neighbourhoods".

When exactly is hell set to freeze over?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Chinch and Cherniak

Remember, Jason: inside the chest of every--

beats the heart of a--

(Click images for relevant links.)


ADDENDUM (May 30th)

I see that the first link I gave there, to a cached page (as the original post had been pulled), has itself somehow been redirected. I have no idea how to retrieve the cached page, so the best that I can do is refer you to this thread at Free Dominion and point out that the "you" in--
It's young guys like you, Taylor, Janke, Bowie, Calgary Grit, Big City Lib. You have all become big political players, whether you realize it or not.
--refers to Cherniak, and is the first line of the now vanished post.

I wish I could say that I'm amazed at the fiddling depths to which this man is willing to stoop.

Who Loses, Wins!

Hillary Clinton's supporters are absolutely gobsmacked at the apparent consensus within the mainstream media that their candidate's vagina is nothing, no nothing!, as compared to Barack Obama's tan:
"I'm horrified with the mainstream," said Shannen Davis, 52, a social worker. "Until Senator Clinton ran for office, I had no idea that they were misogynist, biased, women-haters who have been waiting for this chance to throw all their jabs at a woman."
But, you see, the problem with such a verdict--i.e. that the mainstream media must be filled with "women-haters" because it gives Hillary Clinton a hard time--is that it doesn't really follow from the given premises.

For if it is the case that Ms. Davis, after a half-century of existence on this planet (indeed, in as media-saturated a country as the USA), "had no idea", none whatsoever, that the MSM was as misogynist as she is now claiming that it is, then odds are ... it isn't! That is: odds are that the media's problem with Hillary Clinton has absolutely nothing to do with her gender and absolutely everything to do with the substance, or lack thereof, veiled so thinly by her womanly bits.

Logic! Why don't they teach logic at these schools?

Of course, what Ms. Davis is really lamenting is Senator Clinton's impending loss of the decisive power game of our age: the Who's The Minority-er? game.

My fellow countrymen will swell with pride (... that doesn't sound right, does it? Better call it gay pride just to be safe) to know that this, along with hockey, is the definitive Canadian sport. And while our neighbours to the south might've 'zazzed it up with a lot of tinsel and gloss, as they do with everything, we remain to be the innovators and--I am convinced!--the true practitioners.

Take all this hullabaloo in the news over the Reasonable Accommodation Commission. Here we have the province of Québec, the ne plus ultra of entitled victimhood--with its draconian language laws and its own separatist party represented federally--losing the battle of wounds to the only opponent in a stronger position than it: a handful of Orthodox Jews and Muslim immigrants. (The incredible disparateness of this particular mix is but a spicy new gravy on a fry-and-curd-optional dish that will continue, nonetheless, to call itself poutine.)

Now, the Americans may have made some headway in earnestly debating whether a black man's gas is stronger than a white woman's, but they have yet to reach quite the level of sheer sense-deprivation that we have attained to: the conviction that these are the winds of change, and that their smell is sweet!

This Is Radio Clash

Don't miss Jay Currie's outstanding commentary on Section 13, Global Warming, and CPC cowardice at the Al and Mike Show. His voice may be a little high-pitched, but he's all man! (And if you listen closely you'll notice some Oak Bay wildlife coercing him into a mid-show smoke.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Unreasonable Accommodation

Far be it from me to give a hoot about the little nation within our nation, but I'll admit to finding the (ahem!) progress of the Bouchard- Taylor Commission on reasonable accommodation extremely entertaining.

Unaware, apparently, of the monotonous refrain coming from multiculturalism's critics (i.e. that it is naive to think that such a project can have no worse consequences than a more realistic looking Model UN at the local high school) Messrs. Bouchard and Taylor present us with this prize platitude as though it were a profound and novel insight:
The hijab should be greeted in day-to-day life as a possibility to connect with someone with a different way of life ...
Oh, how precious!

Of course it would never occur to a pair of geniuses like Charles Taylor and Gérard Bouchard that their gooey advice contains a granite filling of old-school prejudice--namely: that it is apparently inconceivable to them that these simple, be-hijabed women could ever be as close-minded and quick to mistrust as normal people; or that they might think little of the suggestion that their arms (by virtue of their headscarves, somehow) are perennially outstretched in an effort to embrace The Other.

But I just love this idea that while the commission's findings openly acknowledge that some of the meanings attributed to the hijab by Muslim women "don't jibe with the dominant values of our society," it is still the Québecois--comprised of 'radical feminists', 'republican egalitarians', and the 'intolerant'--that are expected to do the leg-work.

I mean: surely if the anti-hijab folk are expected to interpret this symbol (which, to repeat, the commission admits is controversial) as an invitation "to connect with someone," then it must follow that the hair in every militant feminist's armpits is an invitation to the pro-hijab folk "to connect" as well. How, after all, is it fair to privilege the outward displays of backwardness of one person over those of another?

But alas! This too is beside the point. For even if the commission did find that tolerance (to say nothing of intolerance) goes both ways, they'd still have managed to avoid addressing the central problem: that well-meaning (if rather strange) invitations do not a culturally-harmonious-party make.

Just ask the UN.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Double Standard

This week's episode: EMG makes the mistake of lighting a cigarette in EMG's room. A blast of righteous passion follows that no amount of reasonable argument can withstand. (Click image, press play)

(Run time is 7 minutes. One bullshit.)

A smaller format can be found here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Illegitimacy of HRCs

A very good summing-up here of the fundamentally subversive nature of Human Rights Commissions:
These HRCs are dangerous (and illegitimate) because they defy hundreds of years of British legal tradition and history. The British legacy of the rule of law is one of the greatest legacies of British culture in all of history. Around the world in former colonies and protectorates, the traditions that stem from British courts often continue today even if those nations no longer consider themselves as part of the Commonwealth. The defiance of history observed by the HRCs and plaintiffs against Steyn are exemplified by a brief review of the time tested legal principles of standing, evidence, and damages.

The legal concept of standing requires an individual to show they have a personal interest in the case in question. American, Canadian, and British courts prevent third party standing in most incidents because such a plaintiff cannot prove a wrong has been committed against them. This prevents an individual from bringing a generalized complaint before the court. The HRC's have no requirement for standing. So anyone, can sue for any reason, whether or not they have been offended, discriminated against, humiliated, or if nothing happened to them at all.

There are also no rules of evidence. There is no "proof" required, and hearsay abounds within a HRC trial. The lack of evidentiary rules makes most lawyers cringe. Everything, including the kitchen sink, can be included in a complaint for the HRC to examine without any fact finding, witnesses, or proof. The HRC members will then determine what is admissible, important, and "true", which commonly means everything alleged.

Finally, damages are not required to be proven or quantified. Any civil suit in a "real" court requires damages to be proven so that a settlement or judgment can be reached after the evidence is weighed. The plaintiff must prove to the court and/or jury that the wrong has resulted in an injury or damages to their person, reputation, etc. HRCs don't require such finicky items like "real" damages. A complaint is proof in itself for damages.


Steyn does not advocate violence or hatred, he writes to warn the west of the danger that looms because of an ideology that opposes the values the West has held dear for hundreds of years: freedom of speech, equality of opportunity, the rule of law, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. Steyn's book has warned us of the threats to our Western values, the law suit against him exemplifies that the threat is real and immediate.
That line, "everything, including the kitchen sink, can be included in a complaint for the HRC," put me in mind of some of the phrasing to be found in the Statement of Claim for this civil suit*, namely (my emphasis):
As a result of their human rights work, the plaintiffs have endured extensive efforts by white supremacists and neo-Nazis at retaliation including repeated death threats and virtually anything else that they can think up including using the internet to defame them and attempt to undermine their credibility.
Never mind the serendipitous ambiguity of the subject "they" in the emphasized phrase--it would appear that the kitchen sink might be making appearances in proper courts of law too!

"May it please the court, council for the plaintiffs would like to submit Exhibit A: Virtually Anything Else That They Can Think Up."


*This exact phrasing, not surprisingly, is also to be found in this suit.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Post-Conservative Conservatives

Well here's an utterly depressing thought from New York Times columnist, David Brooks:
It used to be that American conservatives shaped British political thinking. Now the influence is going the other way.
Not quite certain how that's supposed to work, given that--as of David Cameron's leadership of the Tory party--conservatism has simply ceased to exist in Britain.

But I guess that's Mr. Brooks' point: that, to the extent that "[British] Conservatives have successfully 'decontaminated' their brand," they have shaken off the very thing that distinguishes them from their New Labour opponents. The irony is lost on him that this terrifying political homogenization has been accomplished amid endless lip-services paid to that monolith of postmodern credulity, diversity.

(For a very good illustration of this phenomenon in action see that prize fop, Boris Johnson, give his acceptance speech after the London mayoral race. Notice that he apologizes for his conservatism both to the "vast multitudes" who voted against him, and to those who voted for him. It's like he's just entered rehab or something!)

This is such a fascinating state of affairs: that the right has actually got to the point where it earnestly accepts the most fatuous of leftist lines, that 'the thing that's wrong with your point of view is that it's wrong.' We run around, a bunch of chickens with our heads cut off, trying desperately to make amends for this, without once thinking: Hang on! No it isn't!

But let there be no doubt that the face of conservatism as presented by David Cameron's Tory Party is a thing for all people to run screaming from. Peter Hitchens, vox clamantis in deserto, has been tireless in his insistence that David Cameron is the true "heir to Blair"--that is, that Cameron's principle has no political or ideological allegiance, but that it is naked opportunism. Conservatives in particular would do well to bear in mind that, to the extent that "conservative"--in the current reckoning--is interchangeable with "bad"; that, to take an example, Tony Blair's only mistakes as Prime Minister were made as a consequence of his shifting right; that if this brazen opportunist, Cameron, takes power, his inevitable failures will not be blamed on his taking his cues from that prince among hollow men, Blair, but still on his (ostensible) political affiliation.

Conservatism, of itself, is not the problem here. It is the knee-jerk perception of it by hysterics, idiots and, of course, self-seekers.

Changing the American brand along Cameron's lines may, in the minds of some American right-wingers, accomplish the self-mutilation they feel necessary to satisfy the Gods of public opinion. But they do so, not because of any flaws that exist in conservatism, but because they themselves have ceased to be conservative.

David Brooks suggests that if the American right doesn't go down this path that it might end up spending "a decade or so in the wilderness." Well that, no doubt, would be unfortunate. But so long as the voice crying therefrom remains true to its principles, then conservatives will have done everything that they can in a world overwhelmingly hell-bent on its own undoing.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Of the Limit of Limits

What the post-religious often fail to grasp is that faith (particularly Christian faith) is borne as much of rational skepticism as it is of the requisite dollop of irrational hope.

The hope, as you'll know, is in the existence of a loving and a moving God. The doubt--that is to say: the skepticism, the intellectual rigour--is of the absolute authority (nay, the tyranny) of the material.

As with all attempts to make sense of an infinite universe, this is probably crude, simplistic, naive.

But the question remains: which is the more unreasonable? A humble acceptance of the essential (and indisputable) mystery of things? Or the hubristic presumption that because man is the measure of all things, it follows that he is also somehow in control of them?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Big Tobacco ... Gouge

National Post columnist John Ivison is, of course, very amusing in his analyses of the government's ineffectual attempts at curbing the contraband tobacco trade--but I'm having a lot of trouble getting past the numbers here:
Stockwell Day launched a new contraband tobacco control strategy yesterday that could only work in Canada: He appealed to Canadians to please, please drive past smoke shacks selling 200 cigarettes in clear, plastic resealable bags for as little as $6 and instead fork over $75-$90 for legal cartons.
Wait a second ... You're telling me that somebody can sell a carton's worth of cigarettes for six bones and still make a profit? You're telling me that, like, 90% of the price of a pack of non-contraband cigarettes is tax?

Sorry, but are we absolutely certain who the criminals are here?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Yesterday in Steyn

Attended last night's interview and book signing at the Manulife Indigo and thought I'd relay a couple of observations as they relate to the Steyn-in-Toronto phenomenon thus far:

The moment at which I realized the interview between Heather Reisman and Mark Steyn was going to be, shall we say, an odd one, occurred within the first twenty seconds of the event. Ms. Reisman's opening palaver ran something like this:
Can we, for a moment, set aside the discussion of your book and the various controversies that you are involved in to talk about the Democratic Nomination Race? It is, I think you'll agree, one of the most exciting times ever in the United States, indeed in the whole history of the world, and I was just wondering how much you, Mark Steyn, admire the two candidates?
This is to exaggerate very, very little. A palpably uneasy feeling ran through the audience at this point: does this woman have any idea who she's talking to?

Well, suffice it to say that she very clearly didn't, as the talk went on and on pretty much in that vein--resulting in one of the more unintentionally funny interviews I've ever seen (if extremely annoying given that I came more for what was intended). When Mr. Steyn was given the opportunity to speak--between the rambling, paper cut-out insights delivered semi-intelligibly by Ms. Reisman in her best approximation of Oprah Winfrey--he was engaging and enlightening. But the event would've been far more accurately described (at least for the first forty minutes) as an interview between Heather Reisman and herself, with Mark Steyn standing-in in a kind of Ed McMahon capacity.

Kathy Shaidle sums it up fairly handily thus: "[Heather Reisman]. Does. Not. Get. It."

No she doesn't. But I thought this extraordinary demonstration of just how much people like Heather Reisman don't get it extremely instructive. The thing to be taken from this--and the thing to be taken from the outstandingly moderated debate between Steyn and the Osgoode 3 on Tuesday night--is not that the bog-standard of left-liberals disagree with the arguments put forward by such as Mark Steyn, but that they don't understand them at the most basic level.

How else to explain Ms. Reisman's--not disgust, not principled disagreement--but utter mystification at Steyn's suggestion that the EU be dissolved? Pace Seraphic Single, Ms. Reisman's wasn't outrage at the suggestion, it was complete incomprehension.

This will, of course, strike some people as depressing--it certainly did me at first--but I think there is something to be hoped for from it too. I doubt I'm the only person thinking that the shining light from Tuesday night's Agenda was not Mark Steyn, but Steve Paikin. Now, Mr. Paikin, as I understand it, is not a conservative in any sense of the term, but he is that very rare breed (amongst liberals, and even conservatives): a man of discernment. Put the wounded feelings of such as the Osgoode 3 (whose ignorance--like Ms. Reisman's--might better be described as bewilderment) next their source in the cold, hard selection of facts presented by Mark Steyn, and somebody like Mr. Paikin is going to see the imbalance and make it clear to his audience.

Which he did!

Which is to say, it would appear that conservatives still have more to have faith in in the quality of their arguments than they do in the meagre consolations offered by partisanship. And the more people hear the likes of the Osgoode 3 and Heather Reisman broadcast their basic ignorance of the rules of reasonable debate the better. For it is not conviction that we are battling here, so much as it is mere vacancy. And so long as there are Steve Paikins in the world, the imbalance between rational and non-rational argument (as distinct from irrational argument) will be evident.

So, really, it is the dearth of Steve Paikins about that should be the focus of our concern. To wit:

Shortly after Mark Steyn's appearance at Indigo, the CBC broadcast its interview between him and George Stromboul- opoulos on The Hour.

It seems to me that the most that can be said about that exchange is: 1) that Strombo managed to read as far as page 5 of America Alone; 2) that he is very very concerned that Steyn's criticisms of mass immigration "make it sound like a bad thing." God forbid that little George recognize that immigration, of itself, is a totally indifferent thing until it is made (by the participants) either "bad" or "good". And 3) failing his capacity to formulate and deliver a clear and coherent question in the form of a grammatical sentence, he was only too willing to let Mark Steyn bail him out of his blitherings, only to then smirk back perfunctory insinuations that his guest was just one of those dubious and scary right- wingers.

Canada's preoccupation with diversity, it would appear, stretches far beyond the categories of race, culture and creed. Apparently idiots should be given equal preference with competents for t.v. hosting jobs too.

But plod on, oh nation of mine. Plod on. I am, for the first time in a long time, full of hope.

UPDATE (May 9th): Got a bit of a ticking-off here, which I accept. But the point wasn't so much to give Ms. Reisman a hard time, as it was to point out that default left-liberals aren't, strictly speaking, what they appear to be. But yes, touché.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Charism of Irrelevance

So Warren Kinsella has fallen so low that he is now trying to resurrect his all-but-dead career by putting it about that he is Mark Steyn's equal and opposite.

I can't even bring myself to call it shameless opportunism, it's so mind-bogglingly pathetic!

One wonders, though: how could a person debate in the Osgoode Law students' stead, and not be defending the "hater" Mohamed Elmasry?

Monday, May 05, 2008

The View from Cloud Cuckoo Land

Ghomeshi strikes again!
Whatever your politics, [Barack Obama's] inspiration to the Jay-Z generation is unarguable.
Oh. My. God. How the ef did this make it into print?!

I mean: whatever your politics?! How do you figure, Jian? ... The sentence somehow manages to be both preposterous and utterly meaningless all in one go.

And why is it any less impressive that other politicians appeal to the various non-Jaz-Z generations? Because those generations, by comparison, tend to be informed, educated, intelligent, cultured? If Barack Obama had widespread appeal amongst the illiterate, the incarcerated, the pre-pubescent, and the lobotomized should we then, whatever our politics, also be impressed?

(Stupid question ... And for the sake of my sanity, don't answer. Please don't answer!)
If Obama loses the nomination in the coming days or weeks, the loss won't be tragic for him. But it might be for those millions of newcomers inspired to give organized politics and participation a try.
You'll forgive me, Jian, if--when this happens (God willing)--I consider it a good thing. Even if a frighteningly close one.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Little Fly in the Ointment

Much as I wish I hadn't remember- ed this, I feel it necessary to remind everyone that Heather Reisman-- the, ahem, Chief Booklover of Indigo Books, who will be discussing America Alone with its author, Mark Steyn, this Wednesday in Toronto--has herself been the purveyor of a bit of controversy over the banning of speech.

That being so, I should point out that 1) Heather Reisman is entitled to do whatever she wants with her own private business, and 2) that she did not involve Human Rights Commissions in this matter, nor indeed did she try to compel anyone outside of the jurisdiction of her business to follow suit. (Hers may be folly, but it is, at the very least, a responsible folly as compared with more recent events.)

'Thing is, a lot of the language being used here is just too eerily familiar. Voltaire's maxim carries a very heavy burden, and it shouldn't escape our notice that it is one that Ms. Reisman has refused to accept.

(And, yes, I am aware that I risk perpetuating a tacit comparison of America Alone to such nonsense as Mein Kampf. Not the intention, obviously, but it simply can't be helped. All banned speech becomes of a piece where the spirit of the law has been excised from (and, indeed, by) the letter.)

Reisman bans Mein Kampf from Chapters and Indigo

Globe and Mail

Heather Reisman has ordered all copies of Mein Kampf pulled from the shelves of Chapters and Indigo bookstores and deleted from the company's on-line ordering service.

In an action praised in some quarters and criticized in others, Ms. Reisman, the Toronto-based chairwoman and CEO of Indigo Books and Music Inc., confirmed Wednesday that she banned the controversial title from all 200-plus Indigo and Chapters outlets after she spotted a display of the 694-page book earlier in the week while touring a Chapters outlet.

Ms. Reisman said Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf is inappropriate for sale in her stores.

"We consider it hate literature," she said. "With freedom of expression, the line is drawn on hate literature. It's a corporate decision. It's what we stand for. It's our point of view.

"It isn't written down, but I would have no difficulty writing it down."

She said that even before Indigo assumed control of the Chapters chain earlier this year, Mein Kampf was a banned title in her view.

It "got ordered accidentally, I don't know how," she said. "It might have been part of Chapters's database.

"All of them have been returned and are en route back to the publisher," she said, adding that she did not know how many copies were involved. (As of Wednesday evening, however, Chapters' flagship store in downtown Toronto still had three copies in its European history section for sale.)

Tracy Nesdoly, media-relations spokeswoman for Indigo, acknowledged Wednesday that Mein Kampf, which retails as a trade paperback for $31.95, is "not technically and legally hate literature.

"It is, in fact, dissemination of hatred and as such does not belong in our mix."

Reaction to Ms. Reisman's action was predictably mixed. Louis Gentile, executive director of PEN Canada, agreed that while Mein Kampf -- published in 1925, eight years before Hitler's Nazi Party began its 12-year dictatorship of Germany -- "is an ugly document by an ugly person," it is nevertheless "a very useful learning tool about how hatred is begun and promoted. A lot of people have learned about the evils of nazism from it."

Calling Ms. Reisman's stand "disturbing," Franz Donker, owner of Book City, a four-store chain in Toronto, suggested Ms. Reisman is seeing shadows. "She might as well not carry the Koran now, if you believe we're in a holy war, if you want to carry that kind of logic on."

Mr. Donker's stores carry Mein Kampf as "a historic item" in their history/politics section "where it belongs." So far this year he's sold a total of nine copies -- "that's next to nothing" -- of the title, distributed in Canada by Thomas Allen and Sons for New York's Houghton Mifflin, which has published the North American edition for 68 years.

Michael Marrus, a University of Toronto history professor and author, said he couldn't comment on Ms. Reisman's motives, but suggested the book had its place.

"It's an important thing to have access to this book. For instance, I would expect students who are knowledgable about nazism to have read Mein Kampf.

"Let us suppose Osama bin Laden has written his memoirs," he added. "Wouldn't we want to read these?"

The Canadian Jewish Congress by contrast, applauded Ms. Reisman's stand. "This is an act of a responsible bookseller who's exercising her right and freedom to sell any book that she desires," said Keith Landry, national president of the congress.

It is not an issue of free speech, or of censorship, he said. Mein Kampf is readily available in many libraries and other bookstores for those who wish to read or buy it. Mr. Landry said he can't remember the Jewish Congress ever launching a campaign to have Mein Kampf banned. "This decision was clearly of Ms. Reisman's own volition."

Mein Kampf has had a controversial publishing history in the 56 years since Hitler's death in Berlin near the end of the Second World War.

It remains banned in Germany where it cannot be legally obtained even via the Internet or at auction.

More recently, the state of Bavaria, which claims it owns world copyright to the title except for North America, the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth countries, has quashed efforts to have it published, in translation, in Turkey, Croatia and Sweden.

From the mid-1940s through 1979 royalties from sales of the North American edition -- totalling about $140,000 (U.S.) -- were confiscated from Houghton Mifflin by the U.S. government's War Claims Fund. Houghton Mifflin regained full rights for the title in 1979 for about $35,000. A media-relations representative of Houghton Mifflin said yesterday her firm sells a total of about 15,000 copies of Mein Kampf in the United States and Canada each year.

Last year Mifflin agreed to start donating its Mein Kampf royalties to three unidentified charities after reports that Mein Kampf's publisher in Great Britain, Random House, had, for almost 25 years, quietly donated an estimated $500,000 in royalties to a little-known London-based charity called the German Welfare Council.

Last June the Welfare Council board voted not to have anything more to do with the royalties and is still attempting to determine how it should dispose of the $250,000 from Mein Kampf that it has in its possession.


ADDENDUM: I should point out that Mr. Steyn dealt with this issue in some depth (if indirectly) here.

Release Barabbas!

I read with great amusement this story in this weekend's National Post:

There is a Bible on a pedestal in Gretta Vosper's West Hill United Church in Toronto. She would prefer it did not have a special place, she said, because it is just a book among other books. In a similar way, the cross that is high above the altar has no special meaning, but there are a few older congregants for whom the Bible and the cross are still nice symbols so there they remain.

Though an ordained minister, she does not like the title of reverend. It is one of those symbols that hold the church back from breaking into the future -- to a time "when the label Christian won't even exist" and the Church will be freed of the burdens of the past. To balance out those symbols of the past inside West Hill, there is a giant, non-religious rainbow tapestry just behind the altar and multi-coloured streamers hang from the ceiling.

No denying it, that rainbow tapestry is far from religious ... It might be the tiniest bit political though.

One wonders if Gretta Vosper also looks forward to a day when kitchens will have evolved beyond their function in the preparation of food?


The image comes courtesy of The London Fog.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Middle-Class Woes

Someone recently expressed to me his concern that he had a drinking problem. He said that he consumed between two and three glasses over the course of an evening. I told him that I thought chronic drunkenness the more likely indicator of genuine alcoholism; that he was being silly. He conceded this with a shrug, then whined: "I guess it bugs me because it's just so middle-class."

Ah me! Would that he could understand that it doesn't get any more middle-class than moaning on about being middle-class. Would that he could grasp that if there is, in fact, anything wrong with the middle-class, it is exactly this sort of self-important preoccupation that middle-class individuals have with the middle-class as a whole. Their shameful inability to recognize that any hypocrisy that they might be guilty of does not begin with the personal enjoyment of modest privileges, but with the knee-clattering worry that they are a collective--a conspiracy! a hive!--of hypocrites.

For the sake of his pride, this fellow would no doubt prefer if I called his belief in the apparent decadence of the average, perversity. Alas, no, not even that. His is just ignorance and dreadful, dreadful irresponsibility. To that extent, at least, I guess he can boast that his aren't middle-class values.